Thursday, November 17, 2016

What Does Gratitude do for Me?

Especially at this time of the year, we stop to reflect upon what we are thankful for. But know that cultivating an attitude of gratitude can do more than make you happier! Adopting a grateful mindset as your default can also deliver both mental health and physical health benefits that can greatly improve your life.

Opt to maintain a positive attitude to:

CALM DOWN — Cultivating gratitude and other positive emotions can reduce stress hormones like cortisol by as much as 23%.A study of 400 people, 40% of whom had sleep disorders, shows making nightly lists of things they are grateful for can also improve the duration and quality of sleep.2

KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY — Recalling feelings of appreciation and listing things for which you’re grateful can protect your heart by decreasing blood pressure and lowering heart rate variability.3

SLIM DOWN — In a study of undergraduate students, those who were grateful were shown 
to spend an average of 36% more time exercising per week—they also took better care of 
their health overall.4

BOLSTER YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM — Gratitude is linked with optimism, which can improve the body’s immune response in certain situations, resulting in an increase in white blood cells needed to fight disease.5

LOWER RISK OF DEPRESSION — Scientists say that shifting your thinking from negative outcomes to positive ones elicit a surge of feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, and help you build more enduring personal connections. These things, in turn, can help ward off depression.6

To reap the benefits, you first need to cultivate practices that will help you build your gratitude “muscle”! Here are three things to try, starting today:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. All it requires is noting one or more things you are grateful for on a daily basis. You don’t need a fancy notebook to do this as it’s more about the ritual of writing down daily the positive things you appreciate.
  2. Replace negative self-talk with positive comments to condition yourself to be kind to yourself. Bashing yoiurself takes a toll on your health.
  3. Uplift someone else by doind something kind and notice how it impacts your energy and mood.
[1] The Impact of a New Emotional Self-Management Program on Stress, Emotions, Heart Rate Variability, DHEA, and Cortisol. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science
[2] Effects of Constructive Worry, Image Distraction, and Gratitude Interventions on Sleep Quality: A Pilot Trial. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being
[3] The Effects of Emotions on Short-Term Power Spectrum Analysis of Heart Rate Variability. The American Journal of Cardiology.
[4] Counting Blessings Versus Burdens. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
[5] Optimism, Goal Conflict, and Stressor-related Immune Change. Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
[6] Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology.

~Thanks to Karen Malkin

Many Uses for Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is a popular remedy for many ailments.
People use it to ease health problems such as muscle soreness and stress. It’s also affordable, easy to use and harmless when used appropriately. 
Salt on a Wooden Spoon
Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulfate. It’s a chemical compound made up of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. 
It gets its name from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where it was originally discovered. Despite its name, Epsom salt is actually a completely different compound than table salt; it was most likely termed “salt” because of its chemical structure. It has an appearance similar to table salt and is often dissolved in baths, which is why you may also know it as “bath salt.” 
While it looks similar to table salt, they taste distinctly different. Epsom salt is quite bitter and unpalatable. Still, some people consume it by dissolving the salt in water and drinking it. Since its flavor isn't good, you probably wouldn’t want to add it to food.
There are many different ways of manufacturing and packaging Epsom salt, but the contents are all exactly the same, chemically speaking. For hundreds of years, this salt has been used to treat ailments such as constipation, insomnia and fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, its effects on these ailments are not well researched. Most of the reported benefits of Epsom salt are attributed to its magnesium, which is a mineral that a lot of people do not get enough of.
You can find Epsom salt at most drug stores and grocery stores. It is typically located in the pharmacy or cosmetic area.

Bottom Line: Epsom salt, otherwise known as bath salt or magnesium sulfate, is a mineral compound believed to have many health benefits.

How Does It Work?

When Epsom salt is introduced to water, it dissolves and releases magnesium and sulfate ions. The idea is that these particles can be absorbed through the skin, providing the body with magnesium and sulfates, minerals with important functions in the body. 
The most common use for Epsom salt is in baths, where it is simply dissolved in bath water. However, it can also be applied to the skin as a cosmetic product or taken by mouth as a laxative.
Reported Health Benefits and Uses of Epsom Salt
Many people, including some healthcare professionals, claim Epsom salt is therapeutic and use it as an alternative treatment for several conditions. 

Better Magnesium Absorption

Epsom Salt in a Wooden Bowl with a Scoop
Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in the body, the first being calcium.It is involved in more than 325 biochemical reactions that benefit the heart and nervous system.
Many people don't consume enough magnesium, and factors such as dietary phytates and oxalates can interfere with how much your body absorbs (1). Some people claim that magnesium may be better absorbed via Epsom salt baths than when taken by mouth.
This claim is based on a study that was conducted on 19 subjects, in which all but three showed higher blood magnesium levels after soaking in an Epsom salt bath (2). Average blood magnesium levels went up about 10 ppm after the first salt bath. When subjects took baths for the next seven days, average magnesium levels increased from 105 ppm to 141 ppm. 
While this study is promising, it is important to take it with a grain of salt since it is the only one of its kind and has several limitations. More research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of using Epsom salt to increase magnesium levels.

Promotes Sleep and Stress Reduction

Adequate magnesium levels are essential for sleep and stress management likely because magnesium helps the brain produce neurotransmitters that induce sleep and reduce stress (3). Magnesium may also help the body produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep (4). Low magnesium levels may negatively affect sleep quality and stress. Many report that taking Epsom salt baths can reverse these issues. The calming effects of Epsom salt baths could simply be due to the relaxation caused by taking hot baths.

Helps With Digestion

Epsom Salt in a Terracotta Bowl
Magnesium is often used to treat digestive issues, such as constipation.
It appears to be helpful because it draws water into the colon, which promotes bowel movements (56). Most often, magnesium is taken by mouth for constipation relief in the form of magnesium citrate or magnesium hydroxide. The FDA lists it as an approved laxative. It can be taken by mouth with water, according to the directions on the package. Adults are usually advised to take 2–6 teaspoons of Epsom salt at a time, dissolved in at least 8 ounces of water and consumed immediately. You can expect it to have a laxative effect in 30 minutes to six hours. Know that consuming Epsom salt may produce unpleasant side effects, such as bloating and liquid stool (6). It should only be used occasionally as a laxative and not as a long-term solution. 

Exercise Performance and Recovery

Some claim that taking Epsom salt baths can reduce muscle soreness and relieve cramps — both important factors for exercise performance and recovery. Like the digestive effects of Epsom salts, this effect is also attributed to magnesium. It is well known that adequate magnesium levels are helpful for exercise because magnesium helps the body use glucose and lactic acid (7). Magnesium deficiency is more common in athletes, so health professionals often recommended they take magnesium supplements to ensure optimal levels. 
While magnesium is clearly important for exercise, the use of Epsom salt to enhance fitness is not well researched. At this point, the benefits are anecdotal. 

Reduced Pain and Swelling

Sea Salt In Wooden Plate
Another common claim is that Epsom salt helps reduce pain and swelling. Many people report that taking Epsom salt baths improves symptoms of fibromyalgia and arthritis. 
One study on 15 women with fibromyalgia concluded that applying magnesium chloride to the skin may be beneficial for reducing symptoms (8). The participants applied magnesium to their lower limbs every day for four weeks. After using the solution, women reported less pain and tenderness, as well as increased quality of life. 
While this finding is promising for forms of magnesium that can be applied to the skin, such as Epsom salt, it must be interpreted cautiously since there isn’t any more research available on the topic. 
How to Use Epsom Salt
Here are a few of the most common ways to use Epsom salt.


Orchid and Sea Salt
The most common use is taking what’s called an Epsom salt bath. Simply add 2 cups (about 475 ml) of Epsom salt to the water in a standard size bathtub and soak your body for at least 15 minutes.
You can also put the Epsom salt under running water if you want it to dissolve more quickly. 


Epsom salt may be used as a beauty product for skin and hair. To use it as an exfoliant, just place some in your hand, dampen it and massage it into your skin. Some people claim it’s a useful addition to facial wash, since it may help cleanse pores. Just a 1/2 teaspoon will do the trick. Simply combine it with your own cleansing cream and massage onto the skin.
It can also be added to conditioner and may help add volume to hair. For this effect, combine equal parts conditioner and Epsom salt. Work the mixture through your hair and leave for 20 minutes, then rinse.

As a Laxative

Epsom Salt in a Wooden Bowl
Epsom salt can be taken by mouth as a magnesium supplement or as a laxative. Most brands recommend taking 2–6 teaspoons (10–30 ml) per day, dissolved in water, as a maximum for adults. Approximately 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 ml) is generally enough for children. 
Consult with your doctor if you need a more individualized dosage, or if you want to increase the dose to more than what is listed on the package.
Unless you have the consent of a doctor, never ingest more than the upper limit of intake stated on the package. Taking more than you need could lead to magnesium sulfate poisoning. 
If you want to begin taking Epsom salt by mouth, start slowly. Try consuming 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 ml) at a time and gradually increase the dose as needed.
Remember that everyone’s magnesium needs are different. You may need more or less than the recommended dose, depending on how your body reacts and what exactly you are using it for.
Additionally, when consuming Epsom salt, make sure to use pure Epsom salt that does not have any added scents or coloring.
~Thanks to Brianna Elliott

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What to Eat When You're Sick to Feel Better ASAP

natural cold and flu rememdies
The medicine cabinet can provide quick relief when you’re suddenly slammed with a nasty cold or a pounding headache, but healing and long-term health don’t start at the pharmacy. A hearty immune system begins in the kitchen—which is good news, really, because vitamin-rich foods like pineapple go down a whole lot easier than cough syrup.
What you put in your mouth can have an enormous influence on the digestive tract and the balance of healthy gut flora, which has been scientifically proven to affect all kinds of conditions from mental health to immune response.
What exactly is a clinical nutritionist, you ask? The certified professionals work with doctors to help patients optimize their health through diet and lifestyle changes.
While there will be times your body needs antibiotics and other physician-prescribed treatments, produce-aisle staples can be powerhouses, too. Even a simple, everyday vegetable like cabbage is loaded with vitamin C. The beauty of these nutrients occurring abundantly in our commonly available foods is that often, nutrients are packaged together and work synergistically to have positive effects on the body.
natural multivitamin leafy greens

Your daily multivitamin: leafy greens

If you’re looking to sustain long-term health, leafy greens are incredibly nutrient-dense, offering maximum nourishment—they’re full of fiber, vitamins A and C, and B vitamins. And if they’re bitter, even better, as they aid in digestion by increasing hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach, reducing heartburn, and supporting the second phase of liver detoxification.
natural immune booster red pepper

Your Emergen-C replacement: red pepper

In my humble opinion, red peppers are one of the finest raw foods to eat. Snacking on red peppers with hummus or adding them to salads provides your body an immunity boost via a mega dose of vitamin C (not to mention carotenoids, fiber, and vitamin E). You’ll still get benefits if you eat your peppers cooked, but too much time over heat can cause nutrient loss, so it’s best to stick to a quick stir fry or char on the grill. Fill your fridge with extra peppers during cold and flu season—the vitamin C will help boost your immune system and ward off unwanted illness.
natural stress relief parsnips

Your stress aid: parsnips

Parsnips are the new carrot! The complex carbohydrate aids in brain function  and serotonin production, which may help you to reach a state of calm more quickly. Do you usually reach for a plate of fries in times of stress? You’re in luck. Roasted parsnip wedges taste just as good as the spud version—with added health benefits. (And they cook quickly.) The mineral-rich veg also supports healthy bones, blood cells, and (bonus!) clear skin. 
natural flu remedy coconut oil

Your flu remedy: coconut oil

No one wants to be hit by the flu, so stopping it in its tracks is crucial. And while a doc may prescribe antibiotics, the flu is a virus, so you’ll want to load up on antivirals, too. That’s where coconut oil comes in. The healthy fat is incredibly heat-stable, so it maintains its antiviral properties whether you are roasting veggies in it or adding a teaspoon to a cup of tea. A teaspoon of coconut oil in a cup of herbal tea is wonderfully soothing while beneficial for whatever ails you. Have a sore throat or nasty cough? Coconut oil can help to soothe and lubricate your throat, too. 
natural nausea relief ginger

Your nausea relief: ginger

If you have an upset stomach, ginger just might come to your rescue faster than you can get your hands on over-the-counter relief. Ginger is powerful! Studies have shown ginger to be a strong remedy for nausea, including sea sickness and morning sickness. And there’s no need to limit your ginger relief to a stomach ache. The zingy root contains a powerful compound called gingerol, which reportedly helps with quelling period cramps, bloating and indigestion, and keeping bacterial infections at bay. Whether you’re adding it to stir fries and  salad dressings, or pureeing it into juices and smoothies, a little bit of ginger can go a long way when it comes to your health.
natural headache cure lemon water

Your headache cure: lemon water

There are many causes of headaches, but dehydration is most often the culprit. Adding lemon juice  to a bottle of pure water for effective relief. Not only does the added flavor encourage you to drink more, but the bitter citrus helps detoxify the liver and aid digestion.
natural cold medicine alternative pineapple

Your cold medicine: pineapple

Who needs a spoonful of sugar when you can replace less-than-tasty cold medicine with fresh pineapple? The fruit’s candy-esque flavor, is a knock-out its vitamin profile is the clincher—it’s packed with vitamin C. Another feather in pineapple’s cap? It is the only naturally occurring source of bromelain, an antioxidant, super anti-inflammatory enzyme. The combo of vitamin C and bromelain may make pineapple a grab-and-go when it comes to sinus and respiratory inflammation. Just top raw pineapple slices with finely grated ginger for a snack that your body will love just as much as your tastebuds do.
~Thanks to Sophie Manolas & Willa Tellekson-Flash

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Our Inner & Outer Lives

Best keep your eye on the interior life; let it be first and foremost. If the direction of outer life interferes with the awareness of the inner, follow the inner. Better they marry, but never allow what is outer to have precedence over the inner... and should this be so, if you're not yet able to do otherwise, then let this (state) be as a sorrow to you until, from out of it, comes the discipline needed to put first things first.

~Thanks to Guy Finlay

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