Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Overview 

When I was in high school, I took a typing class where the main objective was to keep on typing since ‘practice makes perfect’. Back in the day, considering possible harm to your hand was as foreign as the former planet Pluto is today. Needless to say, the term ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’ was not in anyone’s vocabulary at the time. 

But, in truth, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common conditions of the hand. It’s a major nerve, called the median nerve, which travels through the wrist. The carpal tunnel is the path through which the median nerve passes. The nerve provides sensation to the inner side of the thumb, and to the index, middle, and part of the ring finger. The little finger is usually not affected by this condition. When the median nerve is compressed, it leads to numbness in fingers, and weakness in some parts of the hand. It also causes pain in the hands and the wrist. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressive condition that worsens over time. Also if the nerve continues to get compressed, it can lead to permanent damage. So it is important to treat it as soon as possible.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

There are many factors that contribute to developing this condition. Some of which includes the following:  

Repetitive Motion

Repetitive motion of the wrist makes a person more prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Professional typists, assembly line workers, and weight lifters are at a higher risk of this condition. 

Medical Conditions 

Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. A development of cyst in the carpal tunnel can also lead to compression of the median nerve. 

Pregnancy 

Fluid retention in the body during pregnancy is also one of the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Heredity 

Genetics can play a role as well. Some people may have a smaller carpal tunnel. This leaves little space for the median nerve and results in compression. 

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

Since the condition affects the nerve, it can lead to one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Tingling, numbness, and burning sensation in the palm, thumb, and fingers.
  • Fingers may feel heavy and swollen despite no apparent swelling.  
  • Decrease in grip strength along with pain in the wrists. 
  • The symptoms are more severe when the person wakes up. As the condition progresses, people continue to experience tingling, numbness, and pain throughout the day. 

The condition can affect one or both hands.

Risk of Developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

The condition is three times more common in women compared to men. This is because the tunnel is naturally narrower in women’s bodies. People with medical conditions like diabetes are more likely to develop it. This is because metabolic disorders like diabetes directly affect a person’s nerves. Assembly line workers involved in manufacturing, sewing, and meat packaging, along with professional typists, are at a higher risk of developing this condition. It is rare among adults younger than 20 years of age. However, the chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome increase with age.  

Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

Since it is a progressive condition, early diagnosis plays an important role in effectively treating carpal tunnel syndrome. A physical exam of hand, shoulder, elbows, and the arm can help determine a person’s ability to perform day to day tasks such as gripping. Routine lab tests include an x-ray, which helps rule out the possibility of a fracture or arthritis. More specialized techniques for diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome include electromyography and MRI scans. An electromyography is a recording technique that detects the nerve’s ability to send signals to the muscles. This helps indicate the severity of the damage to the median nerve. An MRI scan is very detailed imaging of the carpal tunnel, however, it is not considered very useful in the diagnosis of this condition. 

Treatment Options 

Treatment should start immediately after the diagnosis. A professional doctor can recommend the right treatment depending upon the age and overall health of the patient. Usually, doctors opt for non-surgical treatments but in case of more severe symptoms, surgery is often the last resort. 

Non-Surgical Treatments 

Splinting 

One of the first treatments recommended to treat carpal tunnel is splinting. Doctors recommend wearing a splint at night. This helps reduce the pressure on the nerve. It is also one of the best ways to manage symptoms of tingling and numbness, especially at night. 

Medication 

Doctors often recommend the use of painkillers along with anti-inflammatory properties. This helps reduce the swelling of the nerve, which in turn helps manage the symptoms of carpal tunnel. 

Corticosteroids Injections 

If pain and other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome do not subside with the use of oral medicines, doctors recommend injecting corticosteroid in the wrist. This helps reduce the inflammation on the nerve due to compression. It is one of the most effective non-surgical treatments of carpal tunnel syndrome.  

Lifestyle Changes 

If the condition is caused by repetitive motion, doctors often recommend taking frequent breaks during the day. They may also suggest certain stretching and muscle strengthening exercises that help relieve the pressure from the nerve. 

Surgical Treatment

Carpal tunnel surgery is one of the most common hand surgical procedures in the US. It involves cutting a ligament around the wrist. This procedure helps reduce the pressure on the median nerve. The surgery is often performed as a daycare treatment under local anesthesia. Doctors may choose one of the following methods of severing the ligament. 

Open Release Surgery 

The procedure involves an open incision which can be up to two inches in the wrist. It is followed by cutting the ligament which helps open up space in the tunnel.  

Endoscopic Surgery 

This surgery is performed using a laparoscopic camera. The camera helps identify the location of the nerve and the ligament. A small knife is inserted through a tube which then cuts the ligament. This procedure has a higher risk of complications and the need for another surgery. Thus it is not a preferred method by doctors.  

Seven Simple Ways to Boost Energy

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As life gets busy, most people regularly feel tired and drained. Fatigue is a very common condition. People often associate low energy levels with stress, pressure at work or college, or pressures at home. However, there are many factors that affect your energy levels.

If you constantly feel drained and lethargic, you don’t need to gulp down energy drinks. You simply need to make a few lifestyle changes. Below are some simple ways to boost your energy levels:

Get Enough Sleep 

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According to research, 50-70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep is a natural process to restore energy. It is the time during which the body repairs from the wear and tear of daily life. It is also during sleep when the brain processes information and rewires itself. Lack of sleep can make you feel lethargic and tired in the short term. But persistent lack of sleep can have serious consequences in the long run. 

An average person should get between 6-8 hours of sleep. Individual needs may vary where some people need more sleep than others. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, you can try winding up your day in a relaxing way. Try to avoid the use of cellphones, televisions, and laptops in your bedroom. A warm bath, a good read, and a comfortable room temperature will all help you fall asleep easily and more peacefully. 

Eat a Healthy Diet 

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You are what you eat. Your diet is one of the biggest influences on how you look and feel. If you have low energy levels, have a look at your diet. A healthy diet is all about having a balanced intake of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You also need to incorporate dairy products. Relying too much on a certain food group can have negative effects on your energy levels.  

Consuming a balanced diet is important, but you also need to make sure that you do not skip meals. Most people skip breakfast while they are running late for work. In fact, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A healthy breakfast helps maintain energy levels throughout the day. Another important consideration is adding nutritional snacks in between meals. A handful of nuts, granola, or yogurt will give you an energy boost while you are waiting for the next meal.  

Move More 

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We are all aware of the benefits of exercise. It helps us maintain body weight, improve muscle strength and flexibility, and reduces the risk of various diseases and exercise is one of the best ways to boost energy levels. While exercise burns calories, it gives a boost to your metabolism. An active metabolism, in turn, helps maintain energy levels.  

Lower Your Stress Levels 

Stress is one of the most undesirable effects of today’s busy lives. The constant pressure at work, home, and relationships makes it difficult to concentrate. People today are more stressed, frustrated, and anxious than ever before. 

A certain amount of anxiety can be good. It keeps us moving towards our goals. However, constant high levels of stress can seriously affect a person’s physical and mental health. It is also one of the biggest causes of why people feel drained. Thus, in order to boost energy levels, it is important to reduce stress. 

Some of the strategies used include lifestyle changes. Sleep hygiene helps lower stress levels. Meditation and spending some time in nature or going for a walk alone are all helpful when it comes to reducing stress. If you want to get rid of troubling thoughts, writing down your thoughts in a journal also helps lower stress levels.    

Stay Hydrated

Water is life. 70% of the human body is made up of water. Throughout the day, we tend to lose water from the body. Loss of water in the form of sweat and urine can cause dehydration. By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. This can have a compound effect on your brain function and energy levels. 

Girl Drinking Water After Aerobics Exercise

A daily intake of ten glasses of water is enough to keep you hydrated. Unfortunately, people are often so preoccupied with work that they forget to drink water. One simple solution to this problem is to drink at regular intervals throughout the day. Make a conscious effort to drink more water every day and you should notice a lift in your energy levels.   

Reduce Sugar Intake 

Humans have a natural inclination towards sugar. When looking for a snack, we automatically reach for something sweet. Though the intake of sugar gives an instant energy boost, its effect is short-lived. This is because the body releases a large amount of insulin to digest the sugar. Thus, people often experience high energy levels followed by a dip. 

To boost your energy levels in a more sustained manner, it is a good idea to rely on complex carbohydrates. They are released more slowly into the bloodstream and are ideal for maintaining energy levels. 

Avoid Smoking 

Doctor breaking cigarette

Smoking can have detrimental effects on your health. While it increases the risk of respiratory problems and heart diseases, it can also affect your energy levels. Regular smoking interferes with the amount of oxygen that flows to the body’s organs. When insufficient oxygen is supplied to your body, this makes you feel tired. Passive smoking can have similar effects on the body. 

If you are a smoker, one of the best ways to boost your energy is to avoid smoking. You can start by reducing the number of cigarettes every day and gradually avoid it altogether.   

Feeling low? You don’t need an energy drink to boost our energy levels. Trying some of the above-mentioned methods that will surely help lift up your energy. 

Children’s Oral Health – A Few Common Dental Problems in Children

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Childhood is a period of curiosity, growth, and exploration. During these early years of discovery, children often tend to try foods that aren’t necessarily the best selection when it comes to good dental care. Gummy candies, sugar-laden sweets, ice cream, irregular brushing, and missing visits to the dentist all lead to oral health problems. 

As a parent, knowing some of the common dental issues will help you identify the potential problem and improve the oral health of your children. Some of the most common dental health issues in children include the following. 

Tooth Decay 

Around 20% of children in the US between the ages of 5 and 11 suffer from tooth decay. And the untreated and persistent condition continues well into adulthood among 13% of adolescents. In Australia, the problem is much more severe. Half of all 12-year-olds have decay in their permanent teeth. This dental problem accounts for more than hundreds and thousands of lost school days throughout the world. 

Tooth decay is caused by poor oral hygiene. This includes irregular brushing and not seeing a dentist regularly. Unhealthy, carbohydrate-rich diets which include soda, juices, and canned fruit is also one of the main culprits of tooth decay. All these factors allow a certain type of bacteria to thrive in the mouth. As a result, a sticky build-up known as plaque can be seen in the mouth. Over time, when exposed to food, plaque produces acid which erodes the outer layer of the tooth (known as enamel). Eventually, the inner layers of the teeth continue to get affected by the plaque, which gradually leads to tooth decay. 

On a positive note, tooth decay is a preventable condition. Proper brushing, flossing, gargling with a germ-killing product, a healthy diet, and regular visits to a dentist can help reduce the chances of a child developing this condition. It is important to brush properly twice a day with a fluoride-rich toothpaste. Also, ensure that children as young as two years old floss their teeth regularly. As a parent, you need to make sure that your child avoids sugary foods, especially before bedtime. 

Bad Breath 

Bad breath is another common dental issue. This is not only common among children but affects people of all ages. Often, bad breath is a result of the foods we consume. Foods with a strong smell such as garlic can lead to bad breath. But if this is a persistent issue, it is an indication of some other underlying issues. 

Bad breath, medically known as halitosis, is caused by bacteria that resides in the mouth. These bacteria live in colonies and survive on leftover food particles and plaque. As they eat food, they produce hydrogen sulfide which results in bad breath. The problem is most common in children in the morning. But in case bad breath is a cause of concern throughout the day, it is an indication of some larger issue. Sometimes, it can be a result of other oral conditions, such as gum problems, poor hygiene and problems of the digestive system. 

One of the best ways to prevent the problem of bad breath is regular and proper brushing. It is important to brush the tongue as well to remove the bacteria in the mouth. The use of antibacterial mouthwash can also help reduce this problem. If the problem persists throughout the day, you should get a dentist’s appointment for your child. 

Tooth Sensitivity 

Another most common dental issue in children in tooth sensitivity. This happens when the top layer of the tooth gets damaged by bacteria.

This layer is known as enamel which helps to protect the inner parts of the tooth and nerves from getting damaged by the bacteria. When the enamel gets eroded away by this bacteria, it can expose the inner parts and nerve endings of the teeth. As a result, the tooth becomes more sensitive to cold and heat. If a child has tooth sensitivity, hot and cold food and drinks will cause irritation and discomfort. But in more severe cases where teeth are extremely sensitive, even breathing in hot and cold air can cause pain. 

Anyone regardless of age can have tooth sensitivity, but the problem is more common among children. This is because their enamel is thinner compared to adults. Also since their diet includes too many carbohydrates, it results in damage to the enamel along with a buildup of plaque. While tooth sensitivity is primarily caused by damage to the enamel, other problems such as cavities can also lead to tooth sensitivity. 

Just like most other dental problems, tooth sensitivity can be treated. However, this time good oral hygiene practices alone won’t help much and you will need to see the dentist. Dentists often recommend the application of fluoride sealant to the teeth. This helps reduce sensitivity and strengthens tooth enamel. Also, it is recommended that children use a toothbrush with soft bristles. Using a toothbrush with hard bristles can damage the surface of the teeth over time. 

Keeping Your Child’s Teeth Healthy 

The solution to all dental issues in children lies in maintaining proper oral hygiene and visiting the dentist on a regular basis. Regular brushing and other oral hygiene practices such as flossing and the use of mouthwash will help you keep dental problems to a minimum. But in case something arises, a visit to the dentist can certainly allow you to diagnose and treat the potential dental problem.    

What You Need to Know About Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a commonly occurring chronic joint condition that is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse with time. It’s also known as degenerative joint disease, degenerative arthritis, wear-and-tear arthritis

When two bones come together at a point, they form a joint. The end of each bone is covered with a protective tissue known as cartilage, similar to oil in a car engine, acting as a buffer between the bones. People who suffer from OA have worn out cartilages, which allows the bones to rub against each other. This results in pain, inflammation and stiffness in the joints. It can lead to a slow breakdown of the joints as well. 

Older people are usually the ones who suffer from this condition; however, adults of any age can have this condition. Although there’s no cure, regular treatments can be quite useful to reduce the pain and swelling and help a person stay active and mobile.

Causes

OA mostly occurs when the body fails to repair the cartilage. The joint is damaged over time, which is why age is a major contributing cause of OA. As people in the old age have joints that have undergone more wear and tear.

At times, genetics can also play a role in the increased risk of the development of this condition. In case the condition is hereditary, even people who are just 20 years old can be victims of OA.

The condition can also occur as a result of a traumatic injury, surgery or overuse of the joints due to certain jobs and sports that require repetitive movements. As this doesn’t allow the body to carry out regular repairs, it eventually leads to OA. It might take years after an injury for the symptoms to be evident. 

Some other diseases and conditions that increase the chances of developing OA are inflammatory arthritis, septic arthritis, Paget’s disease, obesity, poor posture, misalignment of the hip, knee, and ankle, unequal length of the legs, or by birth joint and cartilage abnormalities.

Gender is also among the risk factors, where females are more likely to suffer from OA as compared to males.

Symptoms

OA can occur in any joint of the body, but it typically occurs in the hand, fingertips, spine, hips, and knees. A person suffering from an early stage of OA may not experience any symptoms. They may appear gradually, and the condition might cause pain, stiffness or inflammation in one or more joints.

As the condition develops, the pain and stiffness also intensify due to limited movements of the joint. In addition, swelling, loss of muscle bulk, warmth and tenderness, and difficulty in movement of the joint may occur. You might also observe a grating or crackling sound in the joint, known as crepitus.

It may also cause synovitis – a mild inflammation of the tissue surrounding the joint, damage and loss of cartilage, and bone spurs or osteophytes – bony growths that form around the edges of joints.

The condition can be managed more effectively if the symptoms are diagnosed at an early stage of OA.

Diagnosis

As OA usually develops over time, it can be quite difficult to diagnose it, unless the pain or impairing symptoms appear. The doctor asks you regarding the symptoms and carries out a physical examination. However, there’s no definitive test that can diagnose the condition.

Some tests can show if the joint is damaged and help rule out other conditions. An x-ray or MRI scan can help to reveal bone spurs around the joints or a narrowing within the joints, which indicates a broken cartilage. An accident that might require an x-ray may help reveal an early-stage OA.

Another test called joint fluid analysis involves drawing fluid from the inflamed joint, which is analyzed. It helps to rule out the possibility of an infection or gout. Blood tests can help reveal whether rheumatoid arthritis is the cause of joint pain.

Treatment

Even though none of the treatment options can reverse the damage of OA, a number of them can reduce the symptoms and allow movement of the affected joints. This involves medication, exercise, manual therapy, and lifestyle modification.

Medication

Several medicines can help to ease the pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)is effective for people with mild to moderate symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are a stronger pain reliever, which might include aspirin, ibuprofen, or diclofenac. It can be taken orally or topically, applying the medication directly to the skin.

Capsaicin cream contains active compounds found in chilies. It creates a heat sensation that reduces pain. Intra-articular cortisone injections are effective for severe pain, inflammation, and swelling. 

Physical Therapy

There are various types of physical therapies, such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which involves passing an electric current through the skin that reduces the ability of the nervous system to transmit pain signals.

Thermotherapy helps to reduce pain and stiffness in the joints with sensations of heat and cold. Physical therapist do manual therapy to keep the joints flexible and supple.

There is also yoga. Studies have been made that show how Yoga improves bone density. It can improve posture and coordination and anxiety. With yoga, there are no side effects, and you can do it for as long as you live.

Assistive Devices

People with OA can use different tools for physical support. Special footwear or insole helps to evenly distribute body weight which is beneficial if the condition affects the feet, hips or knees. Shock-absorbing insoles may also reduce the pressure on the joints.

Using a cane on the opposite side of the body to the affected area, it helps transfer the bodyweight of the joints and limit the risk of a fall. Leg braces, splints and other support materials help to rest a joint.

Surgery

In case the condition is severe, and the therapy isn’t effective anymore, the doctors recommend surgery. Some of these surgeries are arthroplasty, arthrodesis, and osteotomy.

Make sure to consult for a physician before trying any of these methods. 

Essential Oils 101: What You Need to Know

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Essential Oils

Essential oils are liquid compounds extracted from various plant parts such as leaves, herbs, barks, and rinds. These oils hold the essence of the plants they’re extracted from and have a stronger smell than the plant itself.

The method of preparation is either through distillation or a mechanical method known as cold pressing. The concentrated extract is then added to any carrier oil so it’s ready to use, but it no longer remains pure.

Types of Essential Oils

Several plants contain potentially active compounds. These plants are used in large quantities to utilize the plant oils inside to form essential oils. Essential oils are available in more than 90 types. Each one with a unique scent, chemical compounds, and health benefits.

We’ve listed below ten of the most well-known essential oils and the health benefits that they’re known to offer. 

  • Lavender oil: Relieves stress.
  • Lemon oil: Improves moods, headaches, digestion, and more.
  • Peppermint oil: Helps in digestion and provides a boost of energy.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Stimulates immunity and fights infections.
  • Rose oil: Boosts mood and relieves anxiety.
  • Sandalwood oil: Aids in calming nerves and helps with concentration.
  • Jasmine oil: Effectively helps with depression, childbirth, and libido.
  • Bergamot oil: Eases stress and aids to cure skin conditions like eczema.
  • Chamomile Oil: Helps to improve mood and calm down.
  • Ylang-Ylang Oil: Treats headaches, nausea, and various skin conditions.
Herbal Medicine Tincture with Flowers
Herbal Medicine Tincture with red lilies in the background”

Use

It should be noted that essential oils are for external use (unless otherwise noted). Not for digestion. They are used in many different products, and the beauty industry utilizes them to create perfumes, scent creams, and body washes. Additionally, these liquids are used as a source of natural antioxidants in beauty care products.

It can also be used as an air freshener for the home, to scent the laundry, or as a natural mosquito repellent.

Aromatherapy

One of the popular methods of using essential oils is through aromatherapy. This practice has been used for centuries for therapeutic benefits, which involves inhaling the oils through different methods. The essential oils diffused into the air are inhaled, and the scent molecules travel from the olfactory nerves to the brain.

The fragrance of the essential oils stimulates certain parts of the limbic system, the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions, behavior, survival instincts, sense of smell, and memory. The limbic system also regulates various unconscious physiological functions like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. For this reason, people believe that these oils can affect our bodies physically.

The oils can also be combined with carrier oils, and be used by massaging them on to the skin. The chemicals in the oils are absorbed by the skin. The active compounds in the oils help to relax the muscles when a mixture of oils is rubbed on the skin, or when the oil is added to bath salts to give a stress-relieving soak.

Relaxed young beautiful woman laying on massage table
Relaxed young beautiful woman laying on massage table

However, it’s advised that these oils should not be applied directly onto the skin unless directed by a healthcare professional. Essential oils without dilution are highly concentrated and can irritate sensitive body cells.

Although these oils are not supposed to be swallowed, at times people do consume oral capsules with essential oils inside. But it is only wise to do so when recommended by a medical practitioner. Besides that, the oils shouldn’t be applied in areas such as the mouth, ear, eye, anus, or vagina, from where it can enter the body.

Benefits

Essential oils are widely used as people believe that they can naturally cure different problems and have favorable effects on the body. The active compounds in the oils can be effective for particular reasons.

However, there’s little research that supports that essential oils can help in treating health conditions. We’ve listed a few of the particular health problems that essential oils can be used to treat.

  • Stress and Anxiety: People, who deal with stress or anxiety, tend to use alternative therapy methods for relief. The fragrance of the essential oils during aromatherapy can help to treat stress and anxiety. Using these oils during massaging may also effectively relieve stress.
  • Headaches and Migraines: Combinations of essential oils particularly, chamomile and sesame oil mixture, peppermint and lavender oils, or peppermint oil and ethanol combination, when applied on the forehead and temples can help cure headaches and ease migraine pain.
  • Sleep and Insomnia: Studies have found the smell of essential oils can help induce sleep. Lavender oil, in particular, helps women after childbirth, heart patients, and insomniacs sleep better.
  • Reduced Inflammation: It is believed that these oils may have anti-inflammatory effects. Mixtures of thyme and oregano oils and rosemary and caraway oils can aid in soothing abdominal pain.
  • Antibiotic and Antimicrobial: Few essential oils like peppermint oil and tea tree oil might have antimicrobial effects.

Safety

Oil bottle next to a rose

As essential oils are made using plants, they also contain bioactive compounds that can be harmful to your health. Even though they are natural, in order for them to be safe for use, they need to be combined with a base oil when applied on the skin or inhaled. Additionally, you must be careful about the others in the environment, particularly children, pregnant women, and pets who might also inhale the oils.

The side effects that these oils may have on the human body include headaches, asthma attacks, rashes, or allergies. Some of the oils that are known to have side effects are tea tree, ylang-ylang, peppermint, and lavender.

Cinnamon oil and other oils that have high concentrations of phenols result in skin irritation and should only be used on the skin when mixed with a base oil. On the other hand, the skin’s reaction to sunlight and burns might get worse with the use of essential oils made from citrus fruits.

Swallowing essential oils is extremely dangerous and it might also result in death. Young children, pregnant women, and new mothers are advised to avoid using essential oils.

Ten Health Benefits of Including Honey in Your Diet

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No food beats better health than the one that’s straight out of nature! Just like fruits and vegetables, eating these naturally developed substances sure beats processed and manufactured foods. And this includes honey. The naturally occurring sweet amber-colored honey is liquid gold. Honey bees use nectar from the flowers to make pure and raw honey. It’s not only used as food but throughout history, people have used it for the various health benefits it offers and for its medicinal purposes.

Here are ten health benefits of honey, which you can benefit from:

Rich in Nutrients

A bee collects sweet nectar from flowers and processes it in the beehive. The result is sugar-rich thick golden liquid. The form of honey produced by the bees differs in taste, color, and smell, depending on the type of flowers from which the nectar was collected.

The nutritional liquid has no fat, protein, or fiber, but also contains low concentrations of vitamins and minerals. However, as the liquid is made from plant nectar, it is full of phytonutrients. These compounds occur in plants and help to protect the plant from harm. These phytonutrients are also quite beneficial for humans.

Good Replacement for Sugar

Instead of using refined sugar that is chick-full of calories, honey can prove to be a healthier alternative. Its benefits will only be evident if it replaces an unhealthy sweetener. But keep in mind that honey is only a ‘less bad’ sweetener, and should be consumed in moderate amounts as it is still rich in calories and sugar.

The idea that honey is beneficial for diabetic patients has varied proof. While it’s known to reduce the risk factors for heart disease in people with type-2 diabetes, it can also result in raised blood sugar levels; much less compared to refined sugar. So it’s better the intake of honey in the diet is limited.

Natural Source of Energy

Honey can be a good source of all-natural energy. It contains a moderate quantity of carbohydrates, and the natural sugar it contains can help provide an instant energy boost. This can help you during your workouts as a short-term energy source.

However, if the workout is intended to increase muscle mass, you should avoid having this drink.

Contains Antioxidants

High-quality unprocessed honey contains a range of plant chemicals that act as antioxidants. The antioxidant properties of honey are due to the combination of organic acids and phenolic compounds. This protects the body from free radicals that can cause cell damage.

The free radical compounds speed up the aging process and lead to different chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Has Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties

Honey has been used as a natural remedy since ancient times for treating infections and other illnesses. Now, there is proof that supports its use as an antibacterial and antifungal medicine. Studies have found that honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which plays the role of an antiseptic.

A report published in the FASEB Journal in 2010 stated that honey has the ability to kill bacteria due to the presence of a protein called defensin-1. Another research published in The Scientific World Journal showed data that confirmed that honey could be used in place of a usual antiseptic solution for treating wounds.

Helps to Heal Wounds and Burns

People in ancient times not only used honey as a remedy for internal illnesses but also to treat wounds and burns. Typical application of honey effectively heals infected wounds and first-degree burns post-surgery, as it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

It can help cure diabetic foot ulcers that might result in amputations. It’s also effective in treating skin conditions like psoriasis and herpes lesions.

Manuka is medical-grade honey that boosts healing and reduces infection. It has the ability to kill germs, and assist in tissue regeneration.

Eases Cough and Cold Symptoms

A home remedy for a sore throat, honey is also effective as a cough suppressant. It’s commonly believed that it triggers nerve endings, which protects the throat from incessant coughing. The World Health Organization’s recommendation is enough proof for its effectiveness.

Research conducted revealed that honey can replace dextromethorphan, an ingredient in most over-the-counter cough medicines. It has also been recommended for children with upper respiratory infections to prevent coughing and to help get a peaceful night’s sleep. However, it isn’t recommended for children younger than the age of one. 

Provides Relief for Digestive Problems

Honey can be used to treat diarrhea, reducing its duration and severity. It helps boost water and potassium intake in the body, and block pathogens that cause diarrhea. It can also prevent acid reflux, which reduces the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

It can also assist in fighting the H. pylori bacteria, which can lead to stomach ulcers. Additionally, honey is a powerful prebiotic, which promotes the presence of good bacteria in the intestines which helps in digestion and in maintaining overall health.

Improves Cholesterol Levels

Research has shown that honey might help to maintain cholesterol levels in the body. It is known to decrease bad LDL cholesterol while increasing good HDL cholesterol. Many studies have also proved that honey consumption as a replacement to sugar on a regular basis can lead to lower triglyceride levels.

Honey contains phenols and several antioxidants and can aid in reducing the risk of heart diseases. It helps the arteries of the heart to dilate, resulting in increased blood flow. They can also prevent blood clotting, which is often the reason for heart attacks and strokes.

Enhances Memory

Honey is rich in antioxidants that can help to reduce cellular damage and loss in the brain. It is believed that honey has the ability to promote the absorption of calcium in the body as well. Calcium is essential for the brain as it helps in thought processing and making a decision.

Activities and Exercises for Kids with Autism

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As a parent, you want your child to be successful in all fields of life. Children with autism usually struggle to communicate, are shy in public, and are known to have repetitive behaviors.

In order for them to improve their communication and social skills, there are different activities and exercises that could be practiced with them. It would help them learn to pick up on social cues, be empathetic, and learn basic life skills, which would assist them in reaching their academic potential.

Research has also proved that vigorous actions can lead to a decrease in stereotypical behaviors, violent behaviors, and hyperactivity in kids with autism. It can help promote body awareness, coordination, endurance, and strength. It’s not only better for social interactions, but aids in weight loss and improved overall health.

Activities and Exercises for Kids with Autism

We have listed a bunch of fun activities and exercises that you could do at your home with your child to help them develop their skills.

Keep in mind that while carrying out these practices, you must stay calm and show your support to them. Encourage them using positive reinforcement, and use verbal or physical cues to guide them with the actions and to prevent them from being upset and frustrated.

Arm Circles

Arm-circle is an exercise that helps to decrease repetitive behaviors in children with autism, like clapping or arm flapping. It involves the upper-body, which increases strength and flexibility in the shoulders and back. The best part is that it can be done anywhere without the requirement of any additional equipment.

First, stand in a position with your feet shoulder-width apart with the arms by your side. Stick your arms out straight to the sides, keeping them at shoulder level. Start to make small circles with your hands while keeping the arms in the same position. Slowly start to make bigger circles, causing the movement from the shoulders. Do this 20 times in both directions.

Bear Crawls

Bear crawls assist in developing body awareness, improving coordination, and motor planning. It strengthens the trunk and the upper body.

Begin by kneeling on your hands, spreading your fingers, and knees, with your legs extended in such a way that they are slightly bent. Walk on all-fours across the room for about 10 to 20 feet. Then try doing the same thing while walking backward. You can change the speed and direction for better results.

Medicine Ball Slams

Throwing medicine balls helps promote inner strength and balance. It also assists in improving coordination. It might result in a therapeutic effect, and stimulate brain centers while improving short-term memory.

Stand while holding a medicine ball in both your hands and raise it over your head, keeping your arms straight. Slam it down to the floor with all the force. Bend at your knees to pick up the ball and do this 20 times.

Mirror Exercises

Mirror exercises help to improve body awareness, social skills, and coordination as it involves a child to mimic the other person.

Stand in front of your child with your hands at the sides. Start to move your arms, making slow circular movements, and gradually progress to complex patterns. Ask your child to copy your actions when they feel ready, in a manner that it seems like mirroring your movement. Touch hands for added feedback and continue this for about two minutes. Involve other body parts and repeat it three to five times.

Star Jumps

Jumping engages the entire body, which is why it improves cardiovascular endurance and body awareness, and it helps to strengthen the legs and core. It can be done anywhere, once or multiple times.

Start by squatting, keeping your feet flat on the floor, with your knees bent, and arms tucked in towards the chest. Jump up from that position, stretching both arms and legs wide, making an X. When you land back, get back into the squatting position and repeat it for at least 20 times.

Sorting Snacks

This activity helps children with autism to learn math.

You can use snacks of different colors, shapes, sizes, or textures and ask your child to group similar ones together according to different characteristics. It could also be used to teach them basic math functions such as counting, addition, or subtraction. Let them eat the snack as a reward for doing well on the task.

Vegetable Painting

Using vegetables as paint stamps is a fun art activity that helps to develop their senses of touch and sight.

Cut out slices of vegetables like okra, bell peppers or cucumbers, and hand them out to your kid with a cup of paint. Teach them to dip the bottom part of the vegetable slice in the paint and then press it on a piece of paper. The child would enjoy the colorful patterns of the vegetables, and could even finger paint to make it more decorative. You can display these art pieces prominently in your home to help boost your child’s confidence.

Calming Activities

As kids with autism can sometimes be sensitive to sights, sounds, or other sensory information, you need activities that would help them calm down.

Tactile toys can help your child relax when stressed and can help to neutralize overwhelming emotions. Hand them toys like stress balls, play dough, fidget toys, weighted blankets or aromatherapy pillows.

Before starting any activity or doing any exercise, make sure you consult with their doctor first. Also, ensure that the child is well-rested and hydrated. Start off at a low intensity, and slowly work your way up. Keep monitoring the child, so they are not overworked at any point.

Seven Simple Ways to Boost Energy

As life gets busy, many people can feel tired and drained. People can associate low energy levels with stress, work or school or even the strain of raising kids. However, there are many other factors that affect your energy levels. 

If you constantly feel drained and lethargic, you don’t need to gulp down energy drinks. You just need to make a few lifestyle changes. Of course there may be medical factors that can contribute to fatigue; such as, influenza, immune deficiency, heart issues and other common diseases or physical reasons. But in this article, we are going to concentrate on people who are not affected by these conditions and lead a fairly healthy lifestyle. With that said, below are seven simple ways to boost your energy levels:

Get Enough Sleep 

Woman sleeping with blindfold

According to research, 50-70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep is a natural process to restore energy. It is the time during which the body repairs from the wear and tear of daily life. It is also during sleep when the brain processes information and rewires itself. Lack of sleep can make you feel lethargic and tired in the short term. But persistent lack of sleep can have serious consequences in the long run. 

An average person should get between 6-8 hours of sleep. Individual needs may vary where some people need more sleep than others. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, you can try winding up your day in a relaxing way. A warm bath, a good read, and a comfortable room temperature will all help you fall asleep easily and more peacefully. 

Eat a Healthy Diet 

You are what you eat. Your diet is one of the biggest influences on how you look and feel. If you have lower energy levels, have a look at your diet. A healthy diet is all about including all food groups in your diet on a daily basis. This means you need to have a balanced intake of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You also need to incorporate dairy products. Relying too much on a certain food group can have negative effects on your energy levels. 

Consuming a balanced diet is important, but you also need to make sure that you do not skip meals. Most people skip breakfast while they are running late for work. In fact, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A healthy breakfast helps maintain energy levels. Another important consideration is adding healthy snacks in between meals. A handful of nuts, granola, or yogurt will give you an energy boost while you are waiting for the next meal.  

Move More 

We are all aware of the benefits of exercise. It helps us maintain body weight, improve muscle strength and flexibility, and reduces the risk of various diseases. However, exercise is one of the best ways to boost energy levels. While exercise burns calories, it also gives a boost to your metabolism. An active metabolism helps maintain energy levels. 

Lower Your Stress Levels 

Stress is one of the most undesirable effects of today’s busy lives. The constant pressure at work, home, or in relationships makes it difficult to concentrate. People today are more stressed, frustrated, and anxious than ever before. 

A certain amount of stress can be good. It keeps us moving towards our goals. However, constant high levels of stress can seriously affect a person’s physical and mental health. It is also one of the biggest causes of why people feel drained. Thus, in order to boost energy levels, it is important to reduce stress. 

Some of the strategies used to reduce stress include lifestyle changes. Sleep hygiene helps and meditation, yoga and spending time in nature are all welcome stress reducers. You can try to make it a point to always do something you like doing, like going to the city if you live nearby, dining out or going to the movies. If you want to get rid of troubling thoughts, writing down your thoughts in a journal also helps lower stress levels.    

Stay Hydrated 

Water is life. 70% of the human body is made up of water. Throughout the day, we tend to lose water from the body. Loss of water in the form of sweat and urine can cause dehydration. By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. This can have a compounded effect on your brain function and energy levels as well. 

A daily intake of eight glasses of water is enough to keep you hydrated. Unfortunately, people are often so preoccupied with work that they forget to drink water. One simple solution for this problem is to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day. Make a conscious effort to drink more every day and you should notice a lift in your energy levels.    

Reduce Sugar Intake 

Humans have a natural inclination towards sugar. When looking for a snack, we automatically reach for something sweet. Though the intake of sugar gives an instant energy boost, its effect is short-lived. This is because the body releases a large amount of insulin to digest the sugar. Thus people often experience high energy levels followed by a dip. 

To boost your energy levels, it is a good idea to rely on complex carbohydrates. They are released more slowly into the blood. Thus they are ideal for maintaining energy levels. 

Avoid Smoking 

Smoking can have detrimental effects on your health. While smoking increases the risk of respiratory problems and heart diseases, it can also affect your energy levels. Regular smoking affects the amount of oxygen which flows to different organs. When insufficient oxygen is supplied to your body, this makes you feel tired. Passive smoking can have similar effects on the body. 

If you are a smoker, one of the best ways to boost your energy level is to avoid smoking. You can start by decreasing the number of cigarettes each day and gradually avoid it altogether.   

Feeling low? Trying some of the above-mentioned methods will surely help lift up your energy. 

Dehydration – How Does It Affect the Body?

What is Dehydration?

”Woman
Photo by Brendan Delany, Yayimages

Everyone on this planet has at some point felt thirsty. This is the body telling you that you need water to replenish your physical system, but if you go long enough without compensating for your thirst, you can fall into the category of dehydration and that is not a good prospect for your body to be in to. 

Around 70% of the human body is composed of water. Water helps our system to perform all its vital functions, including the transportation of blood. It aids in digestion, lubricates the eyes and mouth and helps flush out toxic waste from the body. 

Dehydration is a condition in which the body loses more water than it replaces. Normally, we tend to lose water from the body regularly. We lose some water in the form of water vapor as we exhale, but most water is lost as sweat, urine and stool. Along with H2O, the human body contains a certain amount of salt (known as electrolytes).

Water and electrolytes together help the body perform all its vital functions. When excessive water is lost from the body, it can create an imbalance of electrolytes. This, in turn, can affect many all the vital functions of the human body. 

Symptoms of Dehydration 

One of the first symptoms include changes in the color of the urine. Clear urine is an indication that you are well hydrated. While darker urine indicates dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration vary with age. Infants often experience the following symptoms:

  • A sunken fontanel – It is the soft spot in the middle of the skull 
  • No tears when crying  
  • Dry mouth 
  • No wet diaper for more than three hours

Infants are at a much higher risk of dehydration due to their lower body weight. While some of the symptoms of dehydration are the same in adults as in infants, others vary.  Symptoms of dehydration in adults include the following: 

  • Dry mouth 
  • Fatigue/lethargy 
  • Headache 
  • Dizziness 

As the condition progresses, it can lead to the following symptoms: 

  • Low blood pressure 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Unconsciousness 

Causes of Dehydration

There are many causes of dehydration. One of the most important causes is drinking less water. People are often so tied up with their schedule that they do not drink enough. Athletes or people who spend more time outdoors in warmer climates are also likely to suffer this condition. 

However, there are some medical issues that can lead to this. 

Diarrhea and Vomiting 

In case of severe diarrhea and vomiting, the body ends up losing most of its fluids. This loss of water can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. 

Fever 

High-grade fever is another important cause of dehydration. The body tends to lose more water in cases such as this.

Increased Urination 

Uncontrolled or chronic diabetes can lead to excessive urination and can cause dehydration. 

How Does It Affect the Body?

Water is an integral part of the human body and there is a reason for it. It allows the body to perform all important functions including transportation of blood, brain function, attention, and excretion of toxic waste. According to research, even slight dehydration can negatively affect your mood, memory, attention and coordination. Some of the effects of dehydration on the human body include the following: 

Strains the Heart 

Since water is an integral component of the blood, lack of water results in the thickening of the blood. When the blood becomes more concentrated, its volume reduces and subsequently, your heart needs to pump faster to compensate for the missing liquid volume. This is the reason why dehydration results in a faster heartbeat, which can cause you to become lightheaded and even faint. 

Affects Brain Function 

Electrolytes play an important role in performing cognitive functions, including attention and motor skills. When the body is dehydrated, there is an imbalance of electrolytes and that can affect brain function. 

Can Lead to Kidney Failure 

Kidneys perform an important role in filtering out toxic waste from the body in the form of urine. When the body is dehydrated, it becomes harder for the kidneys to perform their functions. Severe dehydration can lead to a buildup of waste in the body, which can form clogs in the kidneys. This is the reason why dehydration is considered to be a leading cause of kidney stones and urinary tract infections. 

Hampers the Body’s Ability to Regulate Temperature 

The skin is one of the most vital organs when it comes to maintaining the body’s internal temperature. When the body temperature rises due to exercise, the skin allows the body to release excess heat in the form of sweat. When the body is dehydrated, it can affect the skin’s ability to regulate temperature. This can cause a condition known as hyperthermia, which is an overheating of the body. 

Tips for Staying Hydrated 

An average adult in a temperate climate needs between 2-3 liters of water every day. Now that you know how dehydration affects the body, here are a few tips for staying hydrated:

Keep a Water Bottle 

Try and keep a bottle of water along with with you all the time. A bottle at your desk, in the car or your bag and on the table will remind you to drink frequently throughout the day. 

Add Natural Flavor

If you find plain water tasteless, adding natural flavors can help. A slice of lemon, few mint leaves or berries can give color and taste to your water. 

Start Your Day by Drinking Water

A few sips or a glass full of water as soon as you wake up will help you stay hydrated throughout the day. It is also one of the best ways to reduce excess body fat. 

Add Fruits and Vegetables in Your Diet

Fresh fruits and vegetables including cucumber, watermelon, berries and oranges have high water content. Adding such fruits and vegetables to your diet will help replenish lost water from the body. 

Other Forms of Water
No doubt, pure natural water is the best for your body, but drinking other liquids is not out of the question. Coffee, tea, juice and milk (an excellent source of hydration) are great sources to keep your system plenished. Soda also, but be careful because they do have negative factors, such as weight gain. 

And alcohol? Now that’s a loaded question (yes, pun intended). Be wary, some alcoholic drinks can cause dehydration, but there is more to it than that. Low alcohol drinks are better at hydration than high alcohol ones, so the best thing to do is make sure you are still gulping down that plain, fresh natural H2O when you go out to drink the happy juice. 

How Stress Affects the Human Body?

In our previous article on anxiety and stress, we discussed the many ways you can work to alleviate or at the very least, reduce your anxiety. Now, let us discuss how stress affects you and what it can to do to your body, should it prolong. It is our hope that having this basic understanding of stress and anxiety will help you build on eliminating it.

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

This human body’s response to environmental factors has many benefits. It helps us to keep going, face challenges, and overcome danger. This is due to the body’s built-in “fight or flight” which we react to when we are confronted with potential danger.

While occasional triggering of the fight or flight response has positive effects, prolonged engagement of this state can lead to a condition called chronic stress and it happens when a person goes through a series of prolonged challenges without any relief.

This condition is dangerous because the body’s fight or flight response is active all the time, which can subsequently disturb our system’s internal balance and can lead to wear and tear in the body – both emotional and physical. 

Effects of Stress on the Body

Man displaying frustration in front of a desk

Chronic stress is not something to ignore. As this disorder prolongs, more damage can occur in your body, both physically and mentally. According to the American Psychological Association, the following transformations can occur: 

Changes the Function of the Nervous System

This is because chronic stress alters the brain’s neurons by causing too much cortisol to be created. Cortisol exists naturally in the brain, but too much of it can disrupt the synapses (the electrical connections) between neurons and as a result, cognitive processing can be inhibited.

In other words, an abnormal abundance of cortisol can cause degradation of memory since the connections (of the synapses) equate to the transfer of information and if those connections are broken, so is the transfer of information.

Neurons in the Brain
Synapses in the brain connect with each other allowing information to build. Too much cortisol can disrupt this transfer of knowledge and memory.

The effects of chronic stress are obvious when a person experiences difficulty in retaining and processing information (although there could be other factors involved as well). This can subsequently result in decision issues as well. 

Chronic Pain 

man-suffering-from-neck-pain-isolated-on-white-background

Anxiety can cause the muscles to be in a state of alertness, which is due to our fight or flight condition. While this helps us to become more active in stressful conditions, it can lead to chronic (persisting) pain in the long run.

This is because chronic stress causes tension in the body. If the muscles continue to be in this state for too long, it can lead to stiffness, particularly in the areas of the neck, shoulders and head. Sometimes pain can be felt in the chest, but chest pains can be a sign of something even more significant and should not be taken lightly. People experiencing muscle pain from stress are also prone to migraines and stress-related headaches.  

Cardiovascular Diseases 

When in this fight or flight condition, the heart and the blood vessels work harder to provide more oxygen to the body, in turn producing stress hormones. This exposes your body to unhealthy, elevated levels of adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, which increases heart rate and blood pressure, and happens so that the body can make quicker decisions in case of danger.

If the condition becomes chronic, the heart and blood vessels need to work even harder on a continuous basis; subsequently, the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases increases.  Additionally, the constant presence of stress hormones in the blood can enhance the production of cholesterol. 

Secondary effects of stress-related heart disease could result from overeating, lack of exercise and the potential to drink and smoke more.

Affects the Respiratory and Digestive Systems

The respiratory system in the human body supplies oxygen to all parts of the body. In case of stress, the heart rate increases which, in turn, pushes the lungs to supply oxygenated blood to the body. This causes shortness of breath and rapid breathing. For people who do not have any respiratory condition, shortness of breath may not be a problem but it can be a serious concern for someone who has asthma or some other respiratory condition. Research also suggests that chronic stress can trigger respiratory conditions like asthma. This is because of a continuously overworked respiratory system. 

Stress is also closely linked with the digestive system. It not only gives you “butterflies” but can influence the overall health of your entire digestive system. Since stress increases metabolic activity, the processes taking place in your digestive system also speed up. As a result, it can lead to many conditions that are associated with improper digestion. This includes acid reflux, vomiting, nausea, and inconsistent bowel movements. 

Conclusion 

While some amount of stress is important to keep you going, too much can have detrimental effects on the human body. There is an abundance of ways to control stress, but in a nutshell, make sure you eat the proper stress-reducing foods, get a good seven-eight hours of sleep, exercise regularly and seek medical attention if necessary.