Direct and Immediate Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health


”Smoke
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Air pollution might appear to be a temporary inconvenience when you are outside and soon as you get inside your home or any other building, you forget about it. This has been our attitude towards these toxins for a long time and subsequently, due to our negligence, we are now witnessing a variety of world-wide effects not seen in our previous history. 

Air pollution has a direct and immediate impact on human health in multiple ways. Lethality of outdoor contaminants can be gauged by the fact that it causes approximately three million deaths annually around the world. In this article, we will discuss the different short and long-term implications of what some of these toxins can do to our bodies.  

Loss of Bone Density

Bones with thin density are more prone to fractures. In medical terms, the condition is called osteoporosis and usually affects elderly people. But a recent study indicates that there might be a link between osteoporosis and air pollution.

Car Emissions can Reduce the Levels of Parathyroid Hormone

Researchers have noted that individuals (regardless of age), who are more exposed to automobile emissions, experience a drop in their parathyroid hormone levels. This hormone is responsible for the construction and protection of bone mass.

A direct measurement of bone density also indicates that people living in a heavily polluted neighborhood, such as in some communities in China and India, experience rapid drops in their bone densities as compared to the residents of less polluted areas. In the U.S., pollutants from vehicles are more controlled due to the high set of federal regulations placed on the automotive indstry.

Poor Quality of Sperm

According to a research published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine, air pollution is somehow linked to lower quality sperm. Scientists have found out that solid matter particles suspended in the outside air have adverse effects on the shape and size of human sperm. Low sperm quality can lead to infertility. It is worth mentioning that these toxins from the air can affect the male reproduction activity within the span of 90 days.  

Renal Issues

Air pollution also has an adverse impact on the physiology of kidney. According to a study conducted in the domain of Nephrology, kidneys are even sensitive to low levels of pollution which is often not classified as hazardous by Environmental Protection Agency.

The research also looked into the pollution level in the areas where the veterans had previously served to find the effects of increased level of pollution. The report concluded with a very alarming verdict that no level of air pollution can be called safe for kidneys health.

Risk of Stroke

According to CDC, strokes are one of the leading causes of deaths in the U.S. It also results in a large number of long-standing disabilities. Scientists have gone through a large medical record accounting more than six million deaths in different countries over the course of 66 years to find a correlation between air pollution and stroke.

They have discovered some loose and tight pointers regarding the association of pollution and its adverse results of strokes (deaths and disabilities).

Hypertension and High Blood Pressure

A study conducted in five European countries concludes that air pollution can be a reason behind more cases of hypertension and high blood pressure. All the 41,000 people who were part of the study were not suffering from any cardiovascular complication at the start of the study. But over a short time period, around 15 percent of the individuals who participated in the study had developed the issue of hypertension.

Complications of Pregnancy

A research study has been conducted on a mouse to find the impact of air pollution on pregnancy. Researchers have found out that particulates of burning fossil fuel can increase the risks of premature births and low birth weight. Even though the subject of the study was mice, it still provides another underlying reason for premature births in the human population.

Psychological Issues

A report indicates that air pollution also has its detrimental effects on our mental well-being. The study has taken a survey in different cities regarding mental health and matches it with respective air qualities. It indicates that, in the cities with increased levels of air pollution, more people have reported the instances of mental distress.

Air pollution is our collective problem and hence we can only tackle it through a joint effort. However, on an individual level, using air pollution masks while commuting through rush hours, having better air quality at home (through more vegetation around and different HVAC measures), a healthy diet and regular exercise might help in balancing out the toxic effects of these contaminants.

Perils of Chronic Inflammation

In general, inflammation is one of the human body’s first line of defense triggered by the immune system when it detects an anomaly in its physiology. From localized allergies to viral diseases to physical injuries, inflammation plays a crucial part in the healing processes. For that reason, this reaction is deemed healthy from a medical point of view, since it is considered a warning to the body. However, it is not considered healthy and beneficial anymore if it persists for an extended time period.  

The inflammation that we experience following an injury or disease, lasting for few days or a couple of weeks, is called acute inflammation. This physiological phenomenon is good or rather necessary for our well-being. On the other hand, the same bodily response is bad for your health if it lingers, which is termed as chronic inflammation.

Why is Chronic Stress Bad for Your Health?

Inflammation is the body’s high alert state where it’s trying to maintain the security and defense of the body by different physiological responses. But when this state continues to exist for months or years, then instead of doing any good it starts to act against one’s own body.  

Chronic inflammation can lead to different medical conditions. Arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s can commence due to persisting inflammatory state of the body. Chronic inflammation is not as evident as the acute type. Therefore, one should be aware of some of the signs that might indicate that you are suffering from chronic inflammation.  

Depression

Depression is one of the signs of chronic inflammation. Researchers have noted that cardiovascular patients, who are feeling depressed, show signs of higher and persisting inflammation as compared to the patients not having the same psychological turmoil.  

Disturbed Digestive System

Diseases related to the digestive system are one of the telltale signs of chronic inflammation. If you experience sporadic cramps and pain in your abdomen, suffering from constipation or diarrhea without any apparent reason, then it might be a sign of chronic inflammation. Intolerance for gluten-based food items and irritable bowel syndrome are also the subsequent health complications of chronic inflammation.

Exhaustion and Fatigue

Feeling tired after getting done with an entire workday is a regular phenomenon and every healthy individual experiences it. However, if you are feeling exhausted and fatigued all the time even after getting good sleep and a healthy diet then inflammation might be lingering within your body.  

Underlying Reasons of Chronic Inflammation

There are several reasons that might lead to the development of chronic inflammation.

Dietary Habits

Meals rich in processed oils, sugar and fats have become a staple diet in today’s lifestyle. However, the digestive system is not intrinsically designed to process this highly enriched food and has to work too hard to do its job. This increased burden on the stomach, the digestive tract, and metabolism provokes the immune system resulting in the onset of chronic inflammation.  

Physical and Psychological Stress

Stress is also body’s inherent tool that is there for its better survival. But persistent and heightened stress levels can be bad for health in many ways. Chronic inflammation is one of the detrimental byproducts of stress. Psychological stress is highlighted by the release of cortisol, a hormone which puts the body into flight or fight mode. The release of cortisol in blood circulation also put immune system on high alert.  

People with constant emotional stress inadvertently exhaust their immune system, which results in the development of chronic inflammations.

If you are skipping meals, not consuming sufficient nutrients then it moves your body into panic mode, internally causing an inflammatory response. But if you have developed a habit of neglecting your dietary needs and skipping meals, then a prolonged phase of physical stress can also bring about chronic inflammation.  

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal imbalance in the body for any reason could also lead to chronic inflammation. It has been often witnessed that menopausal women (imbalance of estrogen and progesterone) often develop the problems of obesity and acne due to chronic inflammation.  

Allergy to Synthetics and Chemicals

People working in an environment decked with different synthetic materials also experience inflammatory responses from their body. This is often caused due to a reaction to the synthetic materials. Moreover, cosmetic products and any airborne chemicals can also cause chronic inflammation.  

A good lifestyle adorned with a healthy diet, plenty of nutrients and stress-free functioning is very helpful in protecting yourself from a detrimental aspect of the immune system called chronic inflammation.

A Guide for Daily Water Consumption


Glass
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For years, there has been an ongoing debates regarding the amount of water our bodies should consume on a daily basis.  For an average person, it has only become more convoluted to identify the right amount of water to drink everyday in order to maintain a healthy regimen. ? There is no dispute on the vitality of water for human existence and survival and experts agree that the more water you drink, the better it is for you and yes, water is the healthiest nutrient you can consume, but how much is too much (if there is a too much constraint at all)? So let’s take a more detailed look at just how much water the average individual should consume each day.

Prevalence of the 8×8 Rule and Its Shortcomings

We all have heard the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day and it is good advice, especially if you are looking to lose weight.  If we delve into the details of this recommendation a bit more, a single glass of water should be eight ounces (around 230 millimeters), hence the term “8×8”. This suggestion roughly entails the consumption of around two liters of H20 every day.

Even though this recommendation is extensively boasted by drinking-water companies in their marketing and promotions, the truth of the matter is that there is no substantial evidence and research to validate this widespread advice.

In contrast, studies suggest that drinking this much water might not be healthy for the majority of the individuals. For instance, one of the major flaws with this claim is that it doesn’t account for the other ways to hydrate the body aside from directly drinking water from a glass or a bottle. We humans fulfill a significant amount of our daily water intake through foods and beverages.  

Water Intake Through Foods  

Like every hard organic item, the foods we eat also contain a proportion of water. Vegetables and fruits are particularly rich in H20, with some of them (strawberries, watermelons, etc) having more than 90 percent of their weight contributed to the presence of water.  

Even though every food item defers in its water content, all of our meal plans contain a considerable amount of water. As per the data furnished by The National Academies of Sciences (Health and Medicine Division), the average US citizen consumes around 20 percent of his/her daily healthy water need through chewable foods.

The “eight glasses of water a day” doesn’t take into consideration this one-fifth daily fulfillment of water consumption through meals.  

Water Consumption Through Beverages

The 8×8 formula is also flawed because our bodies get hydrated with various other liquids other than pure water. Even if alcoholic beverages are excluded, we get a lot of water in the form of juices, tea, coffee, carbonated drinks and milk. There is no truth to the belief that coffee induces dehydration in the body. Caffeine drinks certainly have other side effects on the human body, but dehydration is not one of them.

The Right Amount of Water Intake

It is quite clear that water should not be consumed through definite measured values because we continue to hydrate ourselves inadvertently through foods and other drinks throughout the day. Moreover, water needs of the body can be altered due to several factors:

  • Weather: Our body dehydrates profusely in hot and humid weather so we have to increase water intake in this type of environment.
  • Physical Activity: The intake of water varies with every individual depending on the levels of their physical activity.
  • Health Condition: Your health also dictates the amount of water you need to consume. There are some medical conditions (fevers, diarrhea, kidney stones and bladder infections) which require increased water intake.

Apart from these factors, age, weight and lifestyle also differentiate the need for water. Don’t look elsewhere for the ideal recommendation of your water needs. Your own body can guide you better in this regard instead of some arbitrary suggestion.  

In a healthy individual, the body naturally starts to feel thirsty as its hydration levels drop. So drink whenever you feel thirsty. Furthermore, the color of your urine can also tell you about your water needs. Urine of darker yellow color indicates that you are dehydrated.

Sweating is another sign to hydrate yourself, even if you are not feeling thirsty. The crux of this discussion is not to exhaust yourself in counting the number of glasses of water you are imbibing every day. Follow your body and drink whenever you feel like it. You would be successful in hydrating your body.

In conclusion, even with the additonal sources of water contained in foods, the 8×8 recommendation is still a good reference for the average individual, but consulting with a medical professional on the amount of water needed for your specific body requirement is always the best course of action to take!

Daily Habits That Might Not Be Good for Your Well-Being – Part 1

 

 

Daily Sign
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Some of our daily habits and routines, which we think are harmless and possibly healthy, might possess hazards that we are just not cognizant of. Even though the health risks associated with these everyday routines are not of extreme proportion, since we, for the most part, are not often aware of them, they can potentially transform into full-blown health complications.  

In this article, we will shed light on some of these seemingly non-hazardous habits that might lead to some serious health concerns.  

Going Fully Gluten-Free

In recent times, adopting gluten-free diets have become a trend. For some people, avoiding gluten has become a part of their survival routine. However, that is not the case at all. Gluten-laden food does contain certain proteins which are essential for the human body and cannot be acquired from other foods.

So, if you are neither suffering from celiac disease or have a wheat allergy, then it is not prudent to cut off all the gluten-based foods. Even if you are wheat intolerant, eating the minor amount of gluten foods won’t significantly affect your digestive system.

If you are under medical supervision regarding associated with the consumption of gluten foods, speak with your medical professional before making any changes to your diet.

Taking Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin supplements are considered a healthy regimen by many and therefore we see over-the-counter vitamin products in great demand. The majority of the population consume vitamin supplements due to these reasons:

  • To compensate for the nutritional deficiency of daily diet
  • For the advance prevention of chronic diseases

A research study from a couple of years ago has concluded that taking micro-nutritional supplements won’t help in reducing the chances of getting chronic diseases. 27 clinical trials were conducted in this regard and it was found out that vitamin supplements didn’t have any significant effects on cognitive deterioration and other chronic issues such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

The FDA has even issued a warning regarding the use of biotin, a vitamin complex, popular for its beneficial effects for skin and hair because it can distort the results of the lab tests conducted for diagnosis purposes.

There is no harm in taking vitamins, but don’t rely on vitamins only as your daily supplement for nutriential health. Nothing beats eating the actual foods that contain these nutrients!

Sitting for Long Hours

An expression that is becoming common these days is Sitting is the New Cancer. Today, desk jobs are one of the leading places where many white-collar employees spend their time. The majority of our urban population have jobs that require several hours of sitting behind a desk. It is a well-known fact that desk jobs add up to the prevalence of obesity along with other unhealthy lifestyle habits. Type 2 diabetes also comes into play by sitting for too long.  

Some new research studies have further highlighted the dangers of sitting for too long, especially for women. According to a research report from two years ago, sitting for more than six hours a day can put women at more risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer.

Another study indicates that sitting for long hours results in the development of destructive and unhealthy behavior.  

To shed the negative effects of sitting for too long, get up about once every 15 – 30 minutes. Walk around the office and at lunchtime, take a long stroll. This is also recommended as a healthy routine for your eyes and when you return to your desk, try working while standing, at least for a while. Make that blood flow!

Excessive Use of the Smartphone

Let’s address the elephant in the room by discussing the unhealthy effects of excessive use of a smartphone. Now, it seems impossible to function without these handheld gadgets. Just ask your kids and cutting out their use entirely is not even doable because many daily life chores now depend on the connectivity provided by them.

It has been found out that people who regularly use their phones in their bed find it difficult to fall asleep. The use of phones before falling asleep also affects the quality of sleep.   It usually happens because the light emitting out of the screen represses the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for good night sleep.  

Another study indicates that excessive use of a mobile phone also disrupts the neuronal chemical balance in young people. The production of GABA, a neurotransmitter, responsible for neuronal communication gets increased in teenagers with excessive use of the smartphone. Aside from sleep and neurological disorders, excessive use of smartphones is also linked to provisional vision loss.  

In next article of this series, we will further expand our discussion to some of the routine activities deemed harmless but contain a significant potential threat to the well-being of an individual.

Health Benefits and Possible Side Effects of the Paleo Diet

”Paleo DietPhoto by Wavebreakmedia – yayimages.com

In our 
previous article, we have talked about premises of the Paleo Diet and the list of foods that are allowed and prohibited in the diet routine. Here, will shed some light on the benefits and side effects associated with this diet.

The purpose of this article is to give you a comprehensive picture of the Paleo Diet in order to make you aware of all the related aspects if you are going to adopt its diet recommendations.  

Benefits of Adopting Paleo Diet Plans

There is a whole range of health benefits associated with the Paleo diet and endorsed by scientific research.

Ensures Health Body Cells and Functions

Foods prescribed in the Paleo diet have a perfect balance of healthy fats which is rare to be seen in other diet plans. Some diet routines increase the ratio while others cut down the consumption of healthy fats.

Let’s take the example of omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fats and an integral part of intracellular communication, in the formation of hormones regulating blood clotting. They also play important role in the better function of arteries (contraction and relaxation). Omega-3 fatty acids are also important for balancing the homeostasis associated with inflammation.  

The human body is able to produce other fats but it can’t make omega-3 fatty acids on its own. Therefore, one must get them through foods. Seafood, vegetable oils, leafy vegetables and nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and all of them are essential food items of any Paleo diet chart. Getting ample amount of omega-3 fatty acids helps in improving the overall physiological functions to ensure healthy state of the body.

Accelerates Metabolism, Helps in Maintaining Healthy Weight

The Paleo diet increases the metabolic rate of an individual by simply increasing the muscle content of the body. Lean cuts of all red meats, crammed with proteins, are permissible to eat in the Paleo diet, unlike most of the diet plans.

High intake of protein in your daily diet helps in increasing the muscle mass of your body. Muscle cells are very active and therefore needs more energy to function. By adopting any Paleo diet plan, you will naturally replace fat cells with muscle cells which will help you in maintaining your weight in healthy BMI levels.  

Guarantees Healthy Digestive System

Most of the contemporary food items are loaded with processed sugar and fats which overwhelm our stomach and digestive tract because they are not designed to process such dietary items. Excessive use of these foods usually ends up on the onset of ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.

The Paleo diet prohibits all such manmade foods so that your digestive system can function at its best.  

Ensures Sufficient Consumption of Micronutrients

By allowing leafy and non-starchy vegetables and nuts in its menus, the Paleo diet ensures that you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy functioning of the body.

Side Effects and Criticism of the Paleo Diet

With all its benefits, the Paleo diet is also criticized due to some of its shortcomings and side effects.

Cutting Down the Entire Range of Dairy Products Leads to Osteoporosis

Many nutritionists heavily criticize the Paleo diet because it excludes all the dairy products from the dietary consumption. Low-fat dairy items are necessary to fulfill the body needs of Vitamin D and calcium. Cutting down the dairy products for a long time can result in the development of osteoporosis.  

Renal Damage

Consuming high amount of proteins and very low carbohydrates has detrimental effects on kidneys.

High Levels of Cholesterol

People who are already susceptible to cholesterol problems and heart diseases can face complications with more consumption of red meat even if it’s lean.

Body Fatigue

Low amount of carbohydrates and sugar in the diet can also lead to body fatigue in some individuals, especially during increased physical activity.  

In order to get the maximum benefits out of a Paleo diet plan, it is important to have it devised with moderate consumptions of every food item. Eating excessive red meat in the name of the Paleo diet will surely get you in trouble.

Similarly, you can have a modified Paleo diet plan by including healthy dairy products in it. Finally, it is necessary to consult your physician or any seasoned nutrition before getting on any diet plan.

Ketosis and Ketogenic Diets – How To!


”Ketogenic
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Human body uses carbohydrates as the primary source of energy. Therefore, the body normally uses glucose and breaks into ATP to fulfill the levels of energy needed for its everyday functioning. However, it doesn’t mean other macronutrients such as proteins and fats can’t be used to realize the energy need of the body.

In case of glucose (produced when carbohydrates are digested in the body) deprivation, the body will resort to consuming fat as the main energy source. This metabolic process burns fat and results in accumulation of carbonyl group organic compounds in the body called ketones.  

Even though ketosis is a regular metabolic process within the human body, it has become popular among people in recent years due to a weight loss diet that is based on the natural feature of human metabolism.

What is ketogenic diet?

Ketogenic diet, more commonly known as keto diet or low carb diet, is the one in which a person intentionally limits his or her’s consumption of carbohydrate-based foods to very minimal levels and replaces them with fat-based meals. This change in the dieting pattern directs the body in the metabolic state of ketosis. When body is only available with fats to burn to get the adequate energy, it becomes significantly efficient in burning fat. This change in the metabolic process can result into various health implications for the body that are mostly beneficial in nature.  

In other words, by reducing carbohydrate intake, more fat will be utilized converted into energy.

Classifications of Ketogenic Diets

 

Balance chart for Ketogenic Diet
Not all individuals should partake in a a Ketogenic Diet, but if you do decide to, speak to you doctor first. Then if you are given the green light, determine which category of these diets would be best for you.

There are several variants of the ketogenic diet adopted by people according to the result they want from the diet. The classifications are based on the proportion of intake of three major macronutrients in the daily diet.

Standard ketogenic diet

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) is the most prevalent version and most of the people who go with keto diets follow SKD to lose weight. SKD diet plans are rich in fats, with moderate consumption of proteins and very low carbohydrate intake. The proportion usually goes as:

  • 75% fats
  • 20% proteins
  • 5% carbohydrates

Cyclical ketogenic diet

As its name suggests, this diet has cyclic patterns where the amount of carbs in the diet are increased temporarily in a periodic manner. Usually a week is divided into 5 ketogenic days and 2 high carb days.

Targeted ketogenic diet

In this pattern of ketogenic diet, carbs are usually consumed around the workout sessions. People who are involved in body building exercises usually follow targeted ketogenic diets.

High-protein Ketogenic diet

It is same as standard ketogenic diet, but with more portion of protein-based foods in the plan. The amount of protein intake goes to 30% in this keto diet.

Ketogenic Diets: How Healthy are They?

Ketogenic diets have several proven health benefits. We all know it is popular for its ability to bring on a significant weight loss in a person. For instance, it has proven to be a better weight losing results than a low-fat diet. It is also effective because unlike calorie-restricted diets, you don’t have to exhaust yourself in counting the calories of consumed foods all the time.

A simple design

The weight loss method is very simple in ketogenic diets. The body becomes efficient in burning and consuming fats which helps in reducing the weight by burning up the excessive adipose tissues. Decreased glucose levels in blood due to decreased consumption of carbs and decreased insulin resistance also assist the weight losing process.

Beneficial for type 2 diabetes patients

Type 2 diabetes entails changes in metabolism where body sugar levels always remain high with declined insulin activity. A research study has found out that only adopting ketogenic diet by type 2 diabetic patients can reduce their medication intake. Out of 21 participants in the study, 7 were succeeded in controlling their blood glucose level without the help of any diabetes prescription.

May Help with Bipolar Disorder

A preliminary study suggests that a low-carb diet may be advantageous to persons suffering from bipolar disorder, as they maintain higher of sodium inside their bodies than people who do not have this illness. One of the functions of the medications used to maintain mood stabilization is to lower the individual’s sodium levels. By default, ketogenic diets also lower sodium levels.

Additional studies performed also suggest that people with epilepsy may also benefit from this diet.

Watch out for some possible side effects

Due to a radical change in the eating pattern, one might experience an upset digestive system through diarrhea, constipation, nausea or vomiting.

Ketogenic diets can also result in a temporary fatigue in the transition period during which body is setting and adjusting itself in a newly developed ketosis-influenced environment.   

In addition, ketogenic diets are very particular and consequently, deficiencies of vitamins B, C, and D, as well as calcium, magnesium and iron could result. These deficiencies may continue the cycle of the the digestive issues mentioned above. Sometimes, but rarely, abnormal heart rhythms, pancreatitis, weakened bones and kidney stones may develop.

Be sure to speak to a medical professional before starting any diets!

How Do I Start?

Provided you got the proper clearance from your doctor or medical professional, you can start here or run a Google search for “ketogenic diets” and look for how to start websites that will  guide you through the process. Another method would be to contact a nutritionist or other expert in dieting and begin with them.

REMEMBER: BE SURE TO ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE TRYING ANY OF THESE DIETS! 

What are free radicals and how to counter them with antioxidants?

Chemical Illustration of an atom with a missing electron
Chemical Illustration of an atom with a missing electron, causing it to become a free radical

Many of us have often heard about the negative effects of free radicals on human health. However, very few of us know what free radicals are and how they work against the human body to inflict harm.

In this informational piece, we will discuss how free radicals affect our health and how we can alleviate their harmful effects with the help of antioxidants.

What are free radicals?

Free radical is the name given to any molecule, atom or ion that possesses an unpaired electron. Electrons, when not paired in their atomic orbits are highly unstable and reactive. To achieve stability, free radicals try to pair their unpaired electron through the process of oxidation.

In oxidation, free radicals try to attract or rather steal electrons from other stable atoms and molecules. If they are successful in this attempt, it sets off an oxidative chain reaction which can affect hundreds of millions of molecules and atoms.

Let’s see how free radicals operate in the environment of the human body.

Reactions of free radicals in our body

When free radicals are formed or enter into our body, they try to get electrons from different molecules, be it proteins, fats, cell membranes or genetic molecules; in other words, they try to steal electrons from the atoms of the nutrients that work to keep us healthy. The removal of an electron from any such molecule within the body changes its basic structure and triggers an oxidative chain reaction. This phenomenon caused by free radicals is also known as the oxidative stress.

What is the free radical theory of aging?

According to the free radical theory of aging, organisms age because their biological cells accumulates oxidative damage of free radicals over time. Even though the debate on the authenticity of this theory is still ongoing,  research studies have agreed on the fact that the oxidative stress can lead to much degeneration. For instance arthritis, heart problems, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy and many other health complications can be caused by the prevalence of free radicals.

According to the free radical theory of aging, if oxidative destruction caused by free radicals can be capped, then it can provide longevity to any living being.

Have we found the fountain of youth?  Most likely not, but have we found a way to keep us healthy to the point that we may live longer? Absolutely.

Sources of Free Radicals

To counter the effects of free radicals, it is imperative to know the sources of free radicals. Either they are produced within the body or we get exposed to them from external sources. Whatever the case, knowing where they come from, holds the key to getting rid of them.

Internal sources of free radicals

  • The human body needs the energy to survive and grow. This energy comes from breaking down the food that we eat into ATP molecules with the help of oxygen. This chemical reaction also produces free radicals as a byproduct.
  • Apart from metabolic byproduct, free radicals are also produced when the body undergoes severe stress levels or inflammation.

External sources of free radicals

There are lots of harmful environmental resources that can expose the human body to free radicals.

  • Industrial pollution (including chemicals and smoke)
  • Radiation
  • Pesticides
  • Toxic Metals
  • Cigarette Smoke

It is practically impossible to get rid of external free radicals altogether since they are all around us, in the air we breathe and in the food and water we consume. The best practice is to try and minimize their levels in your body.

How to do this? Read on for more information.

Antioxidants: Crusaders against free radicals

As the name suggests, antioxidants are substances that inhibit the process of oxidation. Introducing antioxidants in the body means that you can stop the process of oxidative stress triggered by free radicals.

Antioxidants usually stop free radicals from inflicting damage to biological molecules by donating the electron they are looking for.

Like free radicals, some antioxidants are produced within the body, while others can be consumed through dietary products and supplements. Usually, fruits and vegetables are the best sources of some very effective antioxidants.

There are three main antioxidants that are synthesized in different organs of the body and have different reactions.

  • Glutathione
  • Uric acid
  • Ubiquinol

There are several other antioxidants, which although not as vital as the above three, are also necessary for combating the negative effects of free radicals.

  • Lycopene
  • Vitamin C and E
  • Anthocyanins
  • Selenium
  • Polyphenols
  • Curcuminoids

What Foods Contain the Highest Amounts of Antioxidants?

Coffee has been known to contain high levels of antioxidants. As far as food is concerned, you can’t go wrong with any types of fruits and vegetables, but the ones with the highest amounts of antioxidants are:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Artichokes
  • Elderberries
  • Kidney beans
  • Cranberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cilantro (Chinese parsley)

Making Sense of it All

In general, you can make sure that your body has access to antioxidants by adjusting your dietary habits around fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods are one of the richest sources of micronutrients and antioxidants, and both of these substances are necessary to rid the body of free radicals.

Bottom Line: Keep free-radicals at bay by consuming foods and drinks rich in antioxidants daily.

 

Improving Your Quality of Life With the Help of Meditation

Meditation can calm the mind and body
Woman in seawater at sunset meditating

Stress and anxiety have become a norm of the modern-day lifestyle. Unfortunately, for a very long time, people didn’t consider these psychological problems as worthy of attention. We were more focused on keeping our bodies physically healthy, and lost focus on the importance of mental hygiene and keeping a healthy mind. However, over time, the perception of various mental issues have changed. Now more people strive to find the solutions for these problems, because they are aware of the fact that without the healthy state of mind it will be difficult to achieve the improved quality of life.  

What is quality of life?

The term ‘quality of life’ is outlined by a set of different parameters like physical health, financial stability, education, family and religious beliefs of an individual. All of these parameters, which determine the quality of life, are strongly associated with one’s mental health. It is safe to assume that no matter how well you are doing with all the mentioned aspects, if you don’t have mental peace then you can’t able to appreciate the quality of life.

If mental problems persist for long, it can negatively affect all those characteristics necessary to attain the improved quality of life.

What is the solution?

In the previous section, it has become quite clear that how important mental health is to lead a happy life. So how one can get rid of all those mental ailments that make it difficult for us to cherish our lives? The answer lies in the mental exercises carried out by humans being for thousands of years. According to ancient Hindu scripts, meditation was nearly started 5000 years ago.

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware. It is also known as the exercise in which person observes his train of thought without judging and interrupting them. The mindfulness achieved through meditation helps you to focus on the present moment instead of getting distracted by the ever-persisting clutter of thoughts.

There are several benefits of meditation to the mental health that can help you to improve the quality of life.

Meditation: The stress killer

Reducing stress through meditation is the best gift you can give to yourself. Our modern day lives are crammed with so much stressor that our mind gets overwhelmed by all that negativity of the stress. Different stressors basically fires up neurons, the constant stimulation of nerve cells results in agitation. You can tackle this mental agitation by practicing meditation.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness helps you to shape up the responses of your brain to the incoming stressors. When you are more in control of your brain, it is less likely that brain will go haywire all of a sudden by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. It has been reported that mediators takes less toll of the stressful conditions as compared to other people. Shedding considerable amount of stress from your everyday life automatically contributes to improve the quality of it.

Meditation gives you a less distractive mind

We are living in an era where we have been distracted by a plethora of things in every given moment of the day, thanks to the technological innovations. Our concentration levels and attention spans are greatly affected by those distractions. Loss of attention and concentration contributes to the poor grades for students and less productivity of the working professionals. Quality of life is strongly connected to good education and professional success.

Since meditation is about ‘focusing’ on the present, it helps in increasing the capability of mind to focus and concentrate which assist person in different life affairs.

Meditation makes you more self-aware

Meditation also increases the level of self-awareness in a person which helps him in becoming less harmful to himself. Simply put, highly self-aware person tries to adopt healthy lifestyle. People start to eat healthy and many people quit smoking and excessive drinking after regular practice of meditation.

Meditation helps in accepting oneself

Accepting one’s self is the hardest thing many people come across with. Meditation helps you to accept yourself with all the faults and shortcomings. People can’t able to experience the feel of present moment just because they don’t want to accept their present self and they keep continue to chase the illusion of perfection. Meditation helps people to accept themselves with ifs and buts and that helps them to experience and feel the happiness of the given instant.

It is given that all the discussed benefits of mediation can certainly increase the quality of your life and also of the people around you.

A Short Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Checking WaistlineObesity has become a worldwide concern due to the multiple health complications associated with it. People living in the developed countries are especially affected by the problem of weight gain. To address the issue of obesity, nutritionists have introduced many different diets and eating patterns. There are experts advocating to adopt the eating habits of the Stone Age in the form of paleo diet. Then there are some who are in favor of fat-based diets to curb the malevolence of obesity.

The one common denominator with all these eating plans is to eat healthily. Among all these diet programs, intermittent fasting* has gained much popularity among the weight loss aspirants. However, it seems as if many people still don’t know exactly what intermittent fasting is and therefore, they hold certain reservations and misconceptions about the concept.

What is intermittent fasting?

Simply, it is an eating model in which an individual goes through alternative cycles of eating and fasting. Intermittent fasting is not about what you eat, rather it’s concerned with when to eat. There are several sub-categories of intermittent fasting, all of which depend on the duration of fasting and eating periods.

Misconceptions regarding intermittent fasting

Misconceptions often hold us back from adopting the right habits. Here are some of the widespread misconceptions about the functioning of intermittent fasting.

You are allowed to binge eat during the eating period

Many people think that intermittent fasting is all about going extreme with your eating routine i.e. for a period you have to starve and then for a time slot you are entitled to non-stop eating. That’s not the case at all; otherwise, you won’t be able to get any benefits from this eating pattern.  

Only water is allowed during the fasting period

This is another false fact associated with intermittent fasting that you are only allowed to drink water during the fasted phase. You can consume caffeine products (green, black tea and coffee) during the fasting period. Supplements and other drinks with zero calories can also be used during the non-eating phase.

Longer fasting periods are better

No, this is not true. Fasting for more than 20 hours can become counterproductive. Remember that a fasting phase doesn’t entail starving yourself.

Feeling hungry is bad for health

There isn’t any substantial body of research behind this claim that feeling hungry is harmful to your health. So don’t get worried that a mere feeling of starvation will result in the loss of vital mass (muscles) of the body, no such thing happens during the fasting period.

Benefits of intermittent fasting

Now let’s’ delve into some of the proven benefits of perfectly carried out intermittent fasting.

Losing abdominal fat

Losing abdominal fat in order to reduce weight and to get back into shape is the primary reason many start intermittent fasting. There are certain characteristics of intermittent fasting that helps in losing excessive fat:

  • Overall, you consume fewer calories during the complete cycle of fasting. Fewer calories mean there will be less amount of residual fats produced from the excessive calories.
  • Fasting helps in enhancing different beneficial hormone functions of the body resulting in revved-up metabolic rate which also helps in burning more calories.

It means intermittent fasting is a two-pronged method of reducing weight. It limits the average calorie intake of an individual while simultaneously increasing the metabolic rate.

Preventing and lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes

In recent years, type 2 diabetes has become one of the most prevalent diseases all around the world. Type 2 diabetes is a condition where blood sugar or glucose levels exceed their normal limits in the bloodstream due to lower insulin levels in the blood. A research study indicates that intermittent fasting can improve insulin resistance which helps in reducing blood sugar levels.

Health concerns related to intermittent fasting

While with its benefits for the people facing obesity and type 2 diabetes, there are certain downsides of intermittent fasting as well that can affect certain individuals.

Dehydration

In some instances, the fasted phase can result in dehydration. It usually occurs because people practicing intermittent fasting are not getting the fluid portion of the solid food items.

High-stress levels and headaches

During the initial phase of intermittent fasting, one can experience increased stress levels resulting from disturbed sleep pattern and headache.

If carried out properly, intermittent fasting can provide you with its benefits. However, it is always better to consult a nutritionist before adopting a new eating pattern.  

* Note: You should always confer with a health professional prior to beginning any weight loss program!

Why are Whole Grains Preferred Over Refined Ones?

Man Eating Biscut
Maintain a healthier lifestyle by being vigilant as to what are processed foods and what is not.

With a prevalence of obesity in this country, where complications of diabetes and other health ailments occur as a result, people look for ways to control their dietary habits. People are more inclined to now focus on dietary items that are raw and less refined. Among these natural healthy food options, whole grain top the list in terms of popularity. However, many experts suggest that there is still a long way to go.

A worrying statistic indicates that nearly 60% of calorie consumption is from ultra-processed food; that is, extra ingredients that are placed into the food in order to make it taste better and sometimes “to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product,” as per a study by Carlos Augusto Monteiro, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.  These foods contain high amounts of sugars, saturated fat and sodium, which can present such medical dangers as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

Health risks of refined grain

Wheat Grain in a FieldMany of us have become overly reliant on ready-made food items, such as products that are processed with refined wheat, rice and barley. Flour, for example, is crushed into fine powders, which then form the basis for many types of bread and a large variety of processed foods, from cereals, crackers and pizza dough to cookies and cakes.

Apart from having less nutritional value, refined grains also pose significant health risks to the people consuming them on a daily basis.

Following is a list of just some of the health hazards that can be acquired when eating refined products.

Accumulation of abdominal fat leading to heart problems

Refined grain, as the main source of getting nutritional values in your diet, accumulates layers of adipose tissues (fat) around your organs. It results into inflated waste along with complications of heart health.

Development of atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the condition in which artery walls get thickened. Thick arteries can result into hypertension and in worse conditions culminates into heart attacks. It has been found out that consumption of refined grains for a long time can lead to this ailment. 

Diabetic conditions

Due to its lack of fiber, minerals and other micronutrients, refined grains can make the human body more vulnerable in acquiring diabetes, especially in people with a genetic history of the disease.

How Do We Know Which Foods are Ultra-Processed?

Boxes_of_cereal_in_a_supermarket
The decision to buy non-processed foods can be confusing if you don’t know what to look for
Whole Grain Stamp
Foods with the whole grain stamp label on its packaging indicate that the bran, germ and endosperm are still present in the grain.

Read the label. If it says the food contains artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, there is not much doubt they are processed with ingredients that can be harmful to your health.

Conversely, foods that still contain the bran, germ and endosperm, and subsequently, the nutrients that accompany them will have a label on its packaging indicating that the food within contains whole grains.

Those foods that have been processed organically will have a clear label indicating this.

What are whole grains?

Simply put, whole grains are natural grains present in their untreated form. They are edible plant seeds usually known as the term ‘kernel’. The grain kernel consists of three distinctive edible parts that are enclosed in a shell, a natural protection for grains from excessive sunlight, insects and crop diseases.  Let’s break down the three individual parts of whole grains to understand the nutrients within them.

Bran

Bran is the outermost layer of kernel consisting of many layers.
Nutritional Benefit: It is full of fibers, vitamins B and vital antioxidants.

Germ

Germ is the nucleus of the kernel and acts as the plant’s embryo.  Nutritional Benefit: Germ of the whole grain is loaded with proteins, healthy fats and micronutrients in the form of minerals and vitamins.

Endosperm

Endosperm is the area of kernel surrounding the germ. It provides the plant’s energy through its abundance of nutrients.
Nutritional Benefit: Endosperm contains almost all of the carbohydrates of the kernel, with a portion of proteins and some micronutrients.

Whole grain is more nutritious because the germ and bran, which is part of the kernel are not destroyed and excluded in the process refinement. To get yourself more acquainted with the usefulness of whole grains, the following are some of its advantages:

Improved digestion

We all know that how much of our adult population is bugged with digestive issues. The rich fiber content present in whole grains improves the bowel movement which means you don’t have to rely on laxatives. The presence of lactic acid in whole grains helps the growth of good bacteria in the large intestine. Presence of good bacteria in the intestine helps in rapid nutrient absorptions and strengthened immune system.

Instills the feeling of satiation

Whole grains are famous to keep your appetite low with their satiating effect. It takes longer for the digestive system to digest whole grains which means your brain will not signal you for untimely eating. This innate quality of whole grain can help people who are striving to lose weight.  

Blood sugar regulator

Whole grain helps in controlling the spiked up levels of blood sugar. With its low glycemic index as compared to refined grains, less glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, helping in maintaining the blood glucose levels.

Whole grains are also proved to be beneficial in reducing the inflammation within in the body. Medical sciences tell us that inflammation is the root cause of many chronic diseases. Antioxidants present in whole grains can also reduce the risk of different types of cancers. In general, increasing the quantity of whole grain in our daily diet can ensure a healthy lifestyle.