How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Body?

Popped open a bottle of champagne to celebrate a milestone recently? Or raised your glass to make a toast? Concerts, dinner parties, neighborhood gatherings, girls’ nights out, poker night, sporting events―all include the option to consume alcoholic beverages. That’s troubling, considering that alcohol has zero health benefits and can be highly toxic and addictive. It makes you wonder: Why do we keep drinking alcoholic beverages? April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Fact: alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in our country, with 17.6 million people either dependent on alcohol, abusing it or binge-drinking regularly. Whether it’s happy hour with friends, wine to unwind or mimosas at brunch, casual drinking can lead to more serious consumption patterns—and put you at risk for health complications and injuries. Consuming alcohol affects every bodily system, including your liver, brain, nervous system, heart and emotions. In a 26-year global study on alcohol intake in 195 countries, The Lancet found that no amount of alcohol is beneficial to your body and in fact, consuming alcohol lowers immune system function, increases systemic inflammation, wreaks havoc on hormone levels and is a leading risk factor for disease. Here are 7 ways consuming alcohol negatively impacts your body:

  1. Alcohol Increases Cancer Risk

Drinking alcoholic beverages is a known factor in increasing your risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, breast, liver and colon. The more you drink, the higher the risk: Heavy drinkers (more than four drinks per day) have five times the risk of developing oral and throat cancers, and 50% increased risk for breast and colorectal cancers. Even one alcoholic beverage per day increases your risk of oral and throat cancers by 20% and elevates risk for breast cancer. And smoking along with drinking heightens risk even more.

  1. Alcohol Leads to Weight Gain

Calorie-wise, hooch, vino and brewskis can really pack a punch. Check out the average calories in a single serving of the three main types of alcohol:

  • 5 ounces of liquor: 98 calories
  • 5 ounces of wine: 120 calories
  • 12 ounces of regular beer: 150 calories

Alcohol’s calories can add up—along with any mixers you add. And check your pour level on wine—large glasses hold up to 30 ounces—that’s 720 calories! Drinking alcoholic beverages stimulates appetite, causing you to eat more. It also lowers inhibitions, so you’re more likely to say yes to poor food choices. (Hello, midnight hoagie!)

  1. Alcohol Causes Liver Problems

Your liver is an amazing organ, carrying out over 500 essential functions. One is detoxification, processing waste from bodily functions and the things we consume, including alcohol, medications and other toxins. Overconsumption of alcohol is a significant contributor to liver disease. Alcohol is toxic to liver cells and can cause the liver to develop excess fat cells. “Fatty liver disease” decreases liver function. If alcohol abuse continues, scar tissue, or liver fibrosis, can occur. As this advances, cirrhosis―severe scarring of the liver―can lead to liver failure and death. Cirrhosis is often irreversible, requiring a liver transplant. Quitting alcohol altogether is the only way to prevent alcohol-related fatty liver disease from progressing.

  1. Heavy Alcohol Consumption can be Detrimental to Cardiovascular Health

Drinking causes stress on your heart. When you drink heavily, blood platelets are more likely to clump together, forming blood clots, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Because blood alcohol levels peak two to three hours after consuming your last drink, these problems might occur while you’re asleep, raising your risk of a cardiac event or stroke in the middle of the night. There is evidence that light to moderate drinking can lower blood pressure and decrease the rate of blood coagulation, which would prevent clot formation. But overall, when it comes to alcohol and your health, less is better.

  1. Alcohol Contributes to Depression

In the short term, alcohol depresses the central nervous system, slowing communications between brain cells and impacting the limbic system with lowered inhibitions. So you may find yourself doing things you otherwise wouldn’t―which may explain the popularity of karaoke but could also mean dangerous behaviors such as driving while intoxicated or engaging in risky sexual behaviors. According to WebMD, nearly 33% of people suffering from major depression also have an alcohol problem. There’s a chicken-or-egg debate on which came first when it comes to alcohol consumption and depression, but there’s no debate on the fact that alcohol abuse can intensify depression symptoms, lower the effectiveness of depression medications and even contribute to suicidal thoughts.

  1. Alcohol Increases Risk for Short-Term Injuries

Consuming alcohol impacts your brain and central nervous system, resulting in slurred speech, blurred vision, balance problems, impaired memory and slower reaction times. Lowered inhibitions may lead to make risky decisions including driving under the influence or going for a midnight swim. The Centers for Disease Control list unintentional injuries including burns, falls, drowning, firearms injuries and motor vehicle accidents as problems associated with alcohol consumption. Alcohol can also increase violent tendencies and result in spousal abuse, mistreating children―even murder.

  1. Alcohol Impacts Your Brain and Nervous System

Ever had an extra drink or two and suffer from memory loss the next morning? Drinking is associated with memory and learning problems, poor performance in school and can contribute to dementia. Consuming alcohol causes ethanol to build up in your brain, inhibiting the formation of memories. Over time, alcohol can cause your brain’s hippocampus to shrink. The hippocampus is a critical organ in your limbic system that enables memories, long-term memory and spatial navigation—when it shrinks, it is strongly associated with dementia and depression.

How to Minimize Your Body’s Heavy Metal Load

If you’re struggling with fatigue, brain fog, digestive troubles or anxiety, and you suspect foul play from a toxic level of heavy metals trapped in your cells, it may be time to take steps to lower your exposure to heavy metals with some level of heavy metal detox.

If you suspect heavy metal toxicity, consider being tested for metals by your health care professional to gain clarity around your body’s heavy metal load.

Benefits of Lowering Your Body’s Heavy Metal Load

 

Given that almost everyone has some level of heavy metals accumulating in our bodies from the food, water, environment and products we use, taking steps to lower your individual level is beneficial.

Lowering your heavy metal load supports the body’s systems and cellular functionality. Making daily steps and changes that support natural detoxification pathways often results in higher energy levels, better sleep, smoother digestion, weight loss, clearer skin and lower levels of inflammation in the body overall. Thanks to a reduction in the level of free radicals, your gut health may improve, supporting a stronger immune system. Your mental abilities will likely sharpen, and you may find it easier to pay attention, learn and retain information.

The more quickly or aggressively you jump into a detox plan, the more likely you are to experience significant side effects which can include nausea, headaches, diarrhea and even a metallic, sour taste in the mouth.

To support your body through the process, it’s best to detox slowly and gradually. More aggressive tactics that involve chelation therapy or specific supplements should be conducted under your doctor’s guidance.

Natural Ways to Lower Your Body’s Heavy Metal Load

If you’re ready to detox and are seeking a low-intensity approach to support overall health and wellness, here are our four favorite ways to naturally lower your heavy metal load:

  1. Eat the right foods

There’s no doubt that what you put in your mouth matters, but what you don’t put in your mouth matters, too. When you’re ready to lower your exposure to heavy metals, avoid most processed foods. Your body will need extra hydration to flush out the toxins you release, so skip caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea, and steer clear of sugar-heavy sodas and store-bought juices. Instead, aim to consume eight ounces of water or vegetable juice every two hours.

In terms of what you should put on your plate, there are plenty of detox-friendly foods. Given that pesticides can contribute to heavy meal toxicity, choose organically grown foods whenever possible. With their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, spinach, parsley, cilantro and beet greens are top choices. Herbs and spices including basil, oregano, thyme, turmeric and ginger are excellent for the same reason. And foods high in vitamin C―citrus fruits, berries, cruciferous veggies and bell peppers―can help heal the damage caused by heavy metals.

  1. Clean up your environment

Because it is so difficult to purge the body of heavy metals, the best approach to long-term health is to avoid exposure whenever possible. This means starting at home. Here are three easy swaps to make:

  • Replace toxic air fresheners with essential oil diffusers.
  • Swap out toxic personal care products—makeup, soap, deodorant, lotions—with items made from organic ingredients that are heavy metal-free.
  • Buy a trio of wool dryer balls, an easy and cost-effective swap for chemically scented dryer sheets.

In addition, Dr. Bronner’s line of soaps can be used for just about every household need from laundry detergent to toothpaste. Filling your space with safer, cleaner, eco-friendly products is a strong step toward supporting good health.

  1. Work it off

While eating the right foods will encourage your body to let go of heavy metals, you still have to flush out those accumulated toxins. Regular exercise is an excellent way to sweat them out while also offering the added benefit of reducing overall body fat—this is especially beneficial, because many heavy metals are stored in fat cells.

  1. Sweat it out

And speaking of sweating, you can enjoy the same detoxing benefits with an infrared sauna, as long as it’s hot enough to make you sweat profusely. Whether you opt for the sauna approach or the gym to help you sweat toxins out, be sure to shower immediately afterward so toxins aren’t reabsorbed through your skin.

Though we may not be able to see heavy metals nor avoid them in some circumstances, your body will thank you for taking steps to reduce your heavy metal load and restore homeostasis.

Heavy Metal Toxicity: Are You At Risk?

For many of us, the term “heavy metal” conjures up images of long-haired rockers wearing thick eyeliner and dark clothes, but heavy metals are naturally occurring elements that can accumulate in our bodies due to the foods we eat, environmental pollution and the personal care and cleaning products we use.

What are Heavy Metals?

Heavy metals earn their name because of a high atomic weight and density that is at least five times greater than water.

The group includes arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminum, nickel and others. These elements are found all over the world; they permeate the earth, our food supply, and our water. There is no way to avoid them completely. Though we don’t intentionally ingest them, heavy metals are present in all of our bodies simply because of the environment we live in.

However, exposure to these elements, even in low concentrations, can be very dangerous because heavy metals replace beneficial minerals such as zinc and iron on a cellular level and cause cells to malfunction. The presence of heavy metals in our bodies can impact cellular respiration and our cells’ ability to reproduce effectively. Even at low levels they can cause multiple organ damage and DNA damage.

Fat cells often absorb heavy metals, trapping them inside of our bodies. Not only do heavy metals accumulate and linger for decades, but also the side effects from carrying toxic levels of heavy metals can be dire.

What Problems Do Heavy Metals Cause?

Heavy metals affect numerous biological systems, and the symptoms of toxicity range greatly. While some people experience low energy, mood disturbances and cognitive changes, others may display no symptoms at all for many years. On the inside, though, the body’s major systems are bearing an increasingly heavy load.

As heavy metals reach toxic levels, the effects grow more concerning. Mental abilities may decline, and damage occurs to the central nervous system as well as vital organs including the heart, kidneys and liver. Heavy metals are considered to be human carcinogens; studies show a correlation of toxicity levels and cancer in both humans and animals.

If exposure continues, and the heavy metal load continues to grow, the constant weight of these environmental elements trapped in the body can lead to physical, muscular and neurological degeneration. For example, mercury is a known neurotoxin that collects in spinal and brain tissue and can cause neurological problems. Lead can negatively impact a child’s developing nervous system, contributing to behavioral and learning disorders.

Chronic fatigue, brain fog, autoimmune diseases, digestive issues, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety and insomnia may be caused or at least worsened by too many heavy metals.

Because the symptoms of aging often mimic those of heavy metal poisoning―less stamina, memory loss, aches and pains―many older adults may mistake their symptoms as a natural part of the aging process. While growing older may be partially to blame, heavy metals are often a contributor. At its worst, heavy metal toxicity can resemble Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.

Are You at Risk?

Researchers have identified at least 23 different environmental metals that can contribute to heavy metal toxicity, or “poisoning,” including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, nickel and others. Not everyone is equally exposed, and tolerance levels differ by individual.

Some of the highest risk factors for heavy metal toxicity include:

  • Repeated exposure to traffic fumes, cigarette smoke, or radiation.
  • Eating a low-quality diet that includes high amounts of processed foods, non-organic foods, farm-raised fish (versus wild-caught), or canned goods.
  • Drinking contaminated water that contains trace amounts of metals.
  • Getting a tattoo.
  • Using products that contain heavy metals, including household, personal care, cleaning, lawn care and pet care products. Common culprits include air fresheners, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, toothpastes, insecticides, antiperspirants, plastic toys, some baby formulas, stainless steel cutlery, aluminum foil and cosmetics.
  • Having metal amalgam dental fillings, because silver fillings slowly release mercury into the body. Many dentists are now able to remove and replace them safely.

You can also carry heavy metals passed down in utero from mother to baby, so even family history plays a role.

Curious about your body’s specific heavy metal load? Hair analysis and blood tests are widely available if you suspect you may be suffering from heavy metal toxicity.

Hope for the Future

With the abundance of heavy metals in our environment, is there any hope of actually escaping their toxic effects? Or are we raising our children in a world too toxic to tolerate?

The bad news is that kids likely have a higher risk for heavy metal toxicity than adults due to their smaller size and still-developing bodies. Some studies have indicated a connection between heavy metal exposure and behavioral challenges such as autism and ADHD.

Still, there is hope for a less toxic future. The human body is remarkably resilient, and the sooner heavy metal toxicity is addressed, the sooner the body’s systems can begin to recover.

The Sugar-Cancer Link

The Sugar-Cancer Link 

Since sugar has become a staple of the American diet over the past 100 years, rates of obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and numerous other chronic diseases have skyrocketed. A whopping 70% of Americans are now overweight, and by 2030, that number is expected to rise to 86%.

It’s safe to say we’re facing an epidemic, and all signs point to the same sneaky villain: sugar.

The real culprit

In the U.S. today, the average person consumes roughly one-third a pound of sugar every day. Many people eat more than twice that amount. Disturbingly, the single-largest source of calories for Americans is now sugar.

Each time food enters your mouth and is broken down on its way through your digestive system, nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. When we eat sugar, the same thing happens ― but there’s a limit to how much sugar the human body can tolerate.

Our bodies are designed to handle no more than one teaspoon of sugar in the bloodstream at any given time. When there’s more than that, our systems must work overtime to keep up.

To compensate for the overwhelming flood of fructose and glucose that hits your bloodstream when you eat sugary or processed foods, your pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream, which lowers blood sugar by converting sugars into fats that can be absorbed by your cells.

Therefore, the more sugar you eat, the more insulin you produce. And the more insulin you produce and force your cells to process, the more fat your cells absorb and the more overweight you become. Obesity has been linked to chronic metabolic diseases ranging from Type 2 diabetes to heart disease to dementia ― and now to cancer as well.

The sugar-cancer connection

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has officially reported that those who are obese and/or diabetic are at greater risk for cancer, largely due to increased insulin resistance and mitochondrial dysfunction caused by eating excess sugar.

Here’s why: As sugar consumption rises, your body releases more and more insulin to mop up the excess sugar in your bloodstream. During this process, large amounts of free radicals, which cause damage to cells, are also released. This unhealthy cellular environment opens the door for cell mutations to occur, and the longer the toxic conditions remain, the higher the likelihood of mutations.

In a nutshell, the more sugar you eat, the more toxic your body becomes ― and the more you increase your risk of developing cancer.

But the story doesn’t end there. Sugar also serves as the fuel source for the mutated cells, encouraging further mutations and cancerous cell growth.

Thus far, the National Institutes of Health have investigated the link between sugar and 24 different types of cancer. While studies will undoubtedly continue, the results are already compelling. Added sugars were shown to increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and excess fructose (such as in high fructose corn syrup) appears to increase cancer risk in the small intestines and colon. Refined sugars and fructose are also linked to breast cancer, and the same studies have even shown that too much sugar can increase the likelihood of cancer spreading to other organs.

What’s the solution?

Think there’s nothing you can do about it? Think again. You can take steps to support healthy cell function.

Since cancer cells need sugar to thrive, the first step is to cut out (or at least drastically cut back) added sugars. Simple carbs (devoid of any fiber) should also be removed or restricted, since they convert to sugar in the bloodstream. Lastly, processed foods should be avoided, since the vast majority of such foods are filled with added sugars.

To help make the transition to a diet that supports healthy cells, focus on eating whole foods like fresh fruits and veggies. Keep your diet as colorful as possible, and incorporate healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil and ghee.

While various studies have found that sugar is addictive ― some even claiming it’s as addictive as cocaine ― the good news is that when you cut sugar out of your diet for just a week or two, you’ll stop craving it altogether.

Feed your body what it needs (not just what’s quick and convenient), and your happy, healthy cells will thank you for years to come.

Less Sugar – More Chocolate

Healthy Hearts Eat Less Sugar ― And More Chocolate

It’s February, and you know what that means: You need only venture into the closest store to find an abundance of heart-shaped cards, balloons and candies. But this month’s heart-a-palooza is about more than just Valentine’s Day.

February is American Heart Month, a reminder that heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

In addition to celebrating your sweetie this month, why not take steps to ensure that you’re living a heart-healthy lifestyle? One way to start is by skipping over the vast majority of heart-shaped, sugary treats lining retail shelves this month.

Eat less sugar for heart health

While there’s no question that high sugar consumption is linked to obesity, sugar is also a significant factor in heart health. Eating sugar increases triglycerides ― a type of fat ― in your arteries, and too much dietary sugar also increases blood insulin levels. Over time, the excess sugars and fats in the bloodstream can damage blood vessels and organs, causing problems like high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and diabetes ― all of which are associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Some sugars occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, but those foods are not the sugar culprit. Plant-based foods are high in antioxidants, minerals and fiber, which help the body digest slowly and steadily, providing you with a steady, healthy energy supply.

Added sugars, however, do the opposite, dumping large amounts of nutrient-deficient calories into the body at once and causing blood sugar spikes that are followed by dips in energy. To avoid this unhealthy pattern, steer clear of candy, cookies, cakes and other sweets. It’s also best to stay away from soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts and cereals ― most of which are also loaded with sugar.

In fact, most processed foods contain added sugars, including soups, breads, cured meats and ketchup. Read your labels carefully, and watch out for sugar aliases such as sucrose, dextrose, cane juice, agave, honey, and corn syrup, just to name a few. No matter what you call them on food labels, to your body, they’re all sugar.

What about my box of chocolates?

Feeling like you might as well forego Valentine’s Day altogether? Good news: Not every item on those red-and-pink holiday shelves is entirely unhealthful.

For many of us, Valentine’s Day is synonymous with chocolate, and, as it turns out, chocolate is actually good for our hearts. In 2011, widespread research that pooled the results of seven published studies with over 100,000 participants revealed that people who consumed the highest amounts of chocolate had a 37% lower risk of heart disease and a 29% lower risk of stroke than study participants who ate minimal amounts of chocolate ― either milk chocolate or dark chocolate.

Before you take that as a green light to gorge yourself on heart-shaped chocolates, remember that many chocolates are laden with sugar and fats and can cause weight gain. Moderation is still key.

Research seems to show that the antioxidants in chocolate offer a beneficial influence despite the sugar and fat that so often accompany them. The specific antioxidants in chocolate are called flavonoids, and they’re found in many foods including tea, blueberries, red wine, apples, cherries, pears and nuts.

Flavonoids are especially abundant in cacao beans, which are used to make the cocoa powder that gives chocolate its characteristic dark flavor and color. These flavonoids are powerful heart-helpers that work to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart and brain, fight cell damage and prevent blood clots. That’s about as heart-healthy as it gets!

“Appy” New Year: Part 2

“Appy” New Year: 8 Apps to Get Organized, Learn New Skills and Live Life to the Fullest

As you settle into 2019, we hope you’re enjoying success in keeping your New Year’s resolutions. After resolutions involving losing weight and exercising more, the next three most popular New Year’s resolutions are:

  • Getting organized
  • Learning a new skill or hobby 
  • Living life to the fullest

If any of these are on your list, why not utilize technology to achieve your goals? Following are a variety of apps that support efforts to improve organization, keep learning and living your best life.

3 Apps to Get You Organized

If organization is your goal, and depending on which area of your life needs structure, try these:

  1. Evernote is the one-stop spot for notes, lists, ideas and reminders that you can leverage for both business and personal use. You can manage big projects, small tasks, keep deadlines top-of-mind (or top-of-screen) and track projects across team member to-dos. It’s free to get started, with paid upgrades for business and premium accounts.
  2. If you’re organizing a family calendar, try the Picniic app. It features a shared family calendar and location tracking for each family member in real-time so that you’ll never again have to hear your spouse say, “Oh no! Did I forget to pick up Susie from soccer practice again?” You’ll even get alerts when your spouse and kids arrive or leave their destinations, which makes planning regular family dinners at least a feasible possibility.
  3. If you need a productivity boost, try 24me, an award-winning personal assistant app. With a user-friendly interface that syncs across all devices and enables voice notes and commands, it automatically generates task, meeting and errand reminders to increase productivity on the go. With smart alerts, a navigation feature to get you there on time and even a micro-gifting function, this could be the organizational app you’ve been seeking.

3 Apps That Teach a New Skill or Hobby

Want to learn a new skill or hobby? Your brain is wired to learn―and doing so you can keep your mental faculties sharp as you grow older. Whether you’re travelling to another country and want to learn the language or have some extra doodle time during your commute, try these apps:

  1. If languages are your thing—or you wish they were—try Duolingo. With 80 unique language courses offered in 37 languages, you can learn casually (in just 5 minutes a day) pick up a few words in the language you choose or go hard-core and study for 20 or more minutes each day. Used by Hollywood stars and public schools alike, Duolingo is a fun, effective learning tool that motivates you to learn.
  2. Studies show that the hand-eye coordination and repetitive motions of drawing can help lower stress levels by eliciting a relaxation response. Learn to draw with the How to Draw – Simple Lessons app. With no prior experience, you’ll soon be drawing animals, planes, dragons, cartoons, flowers and anime creatures thanks to simple, step-by-step instructions. Explore different styles of drawing, get your kids involved, and save your pictures of that hedgehog, unicorn or turtle to share and enjoy.
  3. Looking for a simple, satisfying creative experience? Consider How to Make Origami.  The origami app provides easy-to-follow, fold-by-fold instructions for 80 paper-folding creations that will quickly immerse you in a creative mindset! And it’s free for the first month.

2 Apps to Help You Live Life to the Fullest

Good news: if you’re exercising more, eating healthfully to lose weight, getting organized and learning a new skill or hobby, you’re already making great strides toward living life to the fullest!

One addition that can increase your enjoyment of life every day is a regular mindful meditation practice. Just sitting in silence and breathing deeply for 10 minutes per day can have a significant impact on your ability to remain calm during pressure-filled situations and become more productive in everything you tackle.

  1. If you’re new to meditation and aren’t completely sold on the idea, try the  Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier app—based on the book of the same name written by ABC news anchor Dan Harris. The app aims to help you “learn how meditation can help you feel happier, sleep better and tame the voice in your head.” You’ll find videos and quick, guided meditations you can complete during lunchtime or your commute to ease you into the practice, led by some of the most respected meditation “experts” on the planet.
  2. Another useful app to try is Aura, which provides short, 3- to 20-minute guided meditations in addition to inspiring stories, calming music and even life coaching sessions all geared toward helping you feel more focused and grounded to achieve your best life.

We wish you a happy, healthy new year!

Make 2019 an “Appy” New Year: Part 1

Make 2019 an “Appy” New Year: 9 Apps to Support Exercise and Weight Loss

Happy New Year! Chances are, like millions of people worldwide, you have resolved to make some changes in your life for the fresh year ahead. That’s fantastic!

Following are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions:

  • Exercise more
  • Lose weight
  • Get organized
  • Learn a new skill or hobby 
  • Live life to the fullest

But it’s not always easy to keep resolutions. In fact, depending what source you read, at least half of us fail in keeping our New Year’s resolutions by February.

Technology to the rescue: The following apps—most of them free–will help you engage with your resolutions and motivate you to achieve your 2019 goals.

6 Apps that Encourage Exercise

  1. If your resolution is to exercise more, try the Nike Training Club app, which is like having a personal trainer in your pocket. You’ll choose from more than 185 free workouts that include everything from endurance, mobility, strength and yoga. And if you don’t have hours a day to workout, this app has you covered with short, intensive exercises that use your bodyweight only—perfect while travelling or when you can’t get to the gym. With personalized workout picks based on your ongoing app usage and workouts for every level of fitness, this free app might just cause a resolution revolution!
  2. The Freeletics Bodyweight app is ideal for people who travel a lot or don’t enjoy going to the gym and using equipment. It provides 5- to 30-minute workouts that you can do using only your body weight as exercise equipment. Promoting exercise anywhere and at any time, this app guides you via audio and video through short,  intense workouts to increase your fitness level fast and efficiently.
  3. Help your children get a jump on good fitness habits with the  7-minute Workout for Kids app. Based on the principle that short bursts of interval training can provide a similar level of benefit as longer workouts, the app guides you through intense activity with short rests in between. Including strength, endurance and flexibility exercises, it’s a great way to get your kids in a healthy habit early—and burn off some of their endless energy!
  4. A similar high-intensity workout geared toward adults is found on the Keelo app, with exercises that can be performed at home with bodyweight only or in the gym using equipment such as free weights and kettlebells. Get ready to improve your fitness level with jumping jacks, mountain-climbers and jump squats!
  5. Are you a runner or walker looking for new routes in cities you visit? Try Map My Fitness, an app that will point out local routes and exercise courses anywhere in the world. Want a challenging running route in Paris or Alaska? This app has you covered.
  6. What’s your favorite exercise: Yoga? TRX? Zumba? Barre? Why join one gym or fitness studio when you can access them all? If you want to try a variety of exercise classes, ClassPass is a great way to do it. The app allows you to book classes at a variety of gyms in cities nationwide using credits. Take advantage of ClassPass’s introductory offer: a free month, including 27 credits to book up to 8 classes.

3 Apps that Support Weight Loss

  1. If your goal is to lose weight, Lose It “ the world’s most fun and effective weight loss app,” analyzes your profile information and weight loss goals to provide a daily calorie “budget,” then tracks calories effectively with features that include a barcode scanner and the ability to log food choices by taking a photo. You can connect other trackers, apps and devices—including Fitbits—and the app even helps plan meals and stay on track with meal targets that suggest ideal calories-per-meal.  The app itself is free, but offers in-app purchases to boost your experience and functionality.
  2. Weight Watchers has been around for 50+ years and has held the “Best for Weight Loss” title for nine years in a survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report. There’s a reason: it works. Using smart points to track your food, activity level and weight, the Weight Watchers app helps you take control of food intake to achieve your ideal weight. The app provides more than 4,000 recipes that you can filter by dietary concern. It even features a barcode scanner to scan foods at the grocery store to determine their points value!
  3. If you want to empower your diet journey by learning about the foods you eat, Fooducate is for you. The Fooducate Nutrition Tracker App can help you track not only your food intake and exercise, but also the quality of calories and the actual nutrition value of your recipes. You can scan labels to discover additives you may want to avoid including added sugars, trans fats, artificial food colorings and sweeteners. You’ll receive free diet and health tips from nutrition professionals as well as weight loss motivation from the Fooducate community.

As you tackle your New Year’s resolutions and become a healthier version of yourself, we wish you a happy, healthy new year!

8 Natural Ways to Avoid Colds and Flu This Winter

With up to 20% of the population reporting flu-like symptoms every year, it’s easy to see why doctors’ offices and drugstores promote getting a flu shot as soon as flu season starts. But whether you choose to get a flu shot or not, there are several highly effective natural steps you can take to minimize your risk of contracting winter colds and flu.

Most of us are aware that flu season begins in the fall and continues throughout winter. But why are cold temperatures associated with higher rates of illness? There are several likely reasons.

First, colder temperatures and dry winter air allow viruses to live longer outside the human body. Second, clinical trials have proven an association between low vitamin D levels and reduced immunity. A lack of regular sun exposure means that most people’s vitamin D levels drop in winter. Combine that with the longer-living viruses, and it’s no surprise there’s an increase in illness this time of year.

Seasonal stress levels may also play a role: Worrying about holiday preparations, stressing over travel plans, and exposing yourself to unusual bacteria and viruses by mingling with strangers at holiday events can tax your immune system, leaving you vulnerable.

So what’s the solution?  

NATURAL WAYS TO AVOID COLDS AND FLU

Take health into your own hands this season with these natural immunity boosters:

  1. Wash hands thoroughly. 

    This one is obvious, but warrants repeating. Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly is one of the most effective tactics at preventing illness and infection. Here’s how to do it right: Using soap and clean water, lather up for a solid 20 seconds, ensuring that you cover your palms, backs of hands, between fingers, and under fingernails.

  2. Disinfect shared surfaces.

    Just because you wash your hands doesn’t mean everyone else does. Shared surfaces ― bathrooms, countertops, coffee pot handles, phones, computers and even fridge door handles ― can all harbor infectious viruses. Regularly disinfecting such surfaces can significantly improve your chances of staying well: Up to 80% of infections are transmitted via contact with surfaces that have been sneezed on, coughed on, or touched by an infected party.

  3. Breathe out, not in.

    Have you ever walked by someone right as they let out a huge sneeze or cough, only to find yourself sick shortly thereafter? If so, you’ll appreciate this practical tip: Gently and slowly breathe out as you walk by. By waiting to inhale until you’re eight to ten feet away, you’ll avoid the heavily contaminated air immediately around them, hopefully keeping sickness at bay.

  4. Increase your vitamin D levels.

    Lowered levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced immunity. To boost your immune system, choose a vitamin D supplement that delivers at least 600 and up to 2000 IU per day. Alternately, increase vitamin D levels through regular use of a full-spectrum light during darker months.

  5. Reduce stress through massage.

    Treating yourself to regular massage is as therapeutic as it is relaxing. Massaging the body increases circulation and brings oxygen to the tissues, encouraging healthy immune response. The de-stressing effects of massage are immune-boosting, too.

  6. Sleep on it.

    According to a 2012 study, skimping on sleep is as disruptive to your immune system as stress. Not only does your body repair and renew itself during sleep, research has shown that our bodies need seven to eight hours a night in order to stimulate the immune system’s “natural killer cells,” which allow the body to fight viruses.

  7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

    The human body is made up of between 50% and 75% water. With dry winter air outside and artificially heated air inside, hydration is a major contributor to winter health. Without sufficient moisture, immune cells cannot function properly, so do yourself a favor by topping off your internal levels of H2O.

  8. Laugh it off.

    Bust out your favorite comedy this winter, and raise your infection-fighting antibodies with a good old-fashioned belly laugh! Studies have shown that laughing has similar effects on the body as exercise; both boost immune cell activity, promoting better health overall.

Ready to kick flu and cold season to the curb the natural way? Choose the techniques that best suit your lifestyle, and practice them regularly. Your immune system will thank you!

7 Ways to De-Stress Your Holiday Season

While many of us look forward to the fun and festivities of the holidays, there’s no denying the season also brings its fair share of stress. Juggling travel plans, financial burdens, and family gatherings is enough to put even the most stable among us on rocky ground; add the inevitable fear of gaining weight due to over-indulgence, and it’s no surprise nearly 25% of Americans report feeling “extreme stress” over the holidays, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association.

But this season doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly stressful. Whether you’re traveling cross-country, gearing up for a big family celebration, or simply trying to stave off loneliness, there are plenty of ways to combat holiday triggers:

  1. Plan ahead.

    The holidays happen every year, so if you know it’s a difficult season for you, take steps to prepare yourself as early as possible. Determine which holiday activities are most important to you, prioritizing those that bring you the most joy. Whether you love shopping, cooking, visiting friends or partaking in holiday-specific events, go ahead and assemble your shopping lists, put together menus, and write to-do lists. Then start scheduling these activities, so you’re sure to have time to enjoy them. Being proactive will give you time to relax and appreciate the season in your favorite ways.

  2. Manage your expectations.

    Every advertiser wants you to believe your holidays won’t be complete without their product or service, but how do you define a successful season? Rather than going with the advertising flow, take a few moments to unplug from the noise and look within for answers. What are you expecting of yourself and others this season? Are those expectations realistic, or will you likely be disappointed? If you find your bar may be set too high, commit to keeping an open mind and going with the flow this year.

  3. Practice saying “no.”

    Feeling overwhelmed by commitments? You’re not alone. One study showed that 69% of people cite “lack of time” as a major holiday stressor. This year, instead of caving to holiday peer pressure, remember: You don’t have to show your face at every single event. If a party or holiday activity doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, thank the person who invited you, and let them know you’re unavailable.

  4. Acknowledge your feelings.

    The holidays can be a time of joy, but seasonal festivities can stir up deeper emotions, too, especially if it’s been a rough year. If you recently lost a loved one, went through a divorce, moved away from friends and family, or experienced another major life upheaval, it’s okay to feel sadness and grief. Don’t force yourself to be happy for the benefit of others. Instead, acknowledge how you’re feeling, and give yourself time to work through your emotions.

  5. Be flexible to change.

    It’s okay if this year doesn’t look like last year. As families grow and change, holiday traditions often morph as well. Rather than holding yourself to an old way of doing things or feeling resentful when traditions shift, choose to be present in the moment. If you can’t uphold the same traditions as you used to, find new ways to celebrate the season and convey the same feeling of togetherness.

  6. Swap gratitude for wishes.

    Feeling like there’s not quite enough to go around this year? Instead of wishing for what everyone else is displaying, doing or giving, focus on raising your awareness of all the good things already in your life. Be grateful for what you have, and you’ll find abundance and richness this season.

  7. Prioritize self-care.

    With so much going on throughout the holiday season, it’s easy to put everyone else’s needs before your own. But if you want to make it through the month with your head on straight, it’s important to prioritize your individual needs. Spending just fifteen minutes a day practicing mindfulness meditation can reduce stress significantly by slowing your breathing and calming your mind.

This year, don’t let the holidays overrun you. If you take steps to proactively address your triggers and shift your mindset, you’ll soon discover you can find peace and joy this holiday season.

Intermittent Fasting: Is It for You?

Intermittent Fasting: Is It for You?

The leaves are falling, the weather is cooling, and the mouth-watering spread of Thanksgiving dinner is calling. But before you fill your plate, determine whether you’re willing to suffer the side effects of America’s favorite binge-eating holiday.

With most Americans downing over 4,500 calories and 230 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day alone, indigestion, heart attacks, and dangerous blood sugar spikes are common. This year, consider an alternative approach that will rev up your metabolism instead of inspiring a nap.

WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?

While most of us are aware that fasting plays an important role in many major religions (for example, Muslims observe Ramadan by fasting from dawn to sunset every day for a whole month), we may not realize that non-religious fasting is already an integral part of our daily existence.

No matter how many hours it lasts, going without food for any period of time is, by definition, a fast. Whether that means waiting several hours after lunch to eat dinner or fasting overnight while you’re sleeping (your morning meal is called breakfast because you literally break your fast), fasting isn’t necessarily an extreme practice.

Intermittent fasting” is an eating trend that incorporates regular, intentional periods of fasting into a daily or weekly eating pattern. Unlike a diet, fasting doesn’t require eliminating certain foods, counting calories, or restricting portion sizes. It’s less about what you eat and more about when you eat. For those who have unsuccessfully tried dieting in the past, intermittent fasting offers a new way of thinking about food, and it comes with health benefits as well.

FAST TO LIVE LONGER

Studies show that intermittent fasting can support healthy weight loss, improve heart health, balance blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and improve cognitive function. Simply shifting the timing of meals and extending the overnight fast seems to significantly benefit metabolic health, which underscores every system in the human body.

In case that’s not enough, intermittent fasting also showed that fasting protected mice from strokes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and consistently extended their lifespans by a whopping 30 percent!

READY TO GIVE IT A TRY? HERE’S HOW

There are numerous approaches to intermittent fasting; if you want to give it a try, consider which methods best fit your schedule and eating preferences. Don’t be afraid to play around with options to see which one suits your body best.

  1. The 16/8 Method involves daily fasts of 16 hours for men and 14-15 hours for women (studies have shown women tend to do better with slightly shorter fasts). Every day, you restrict food intake to an 8-10 hour “eating window” that can contain two, three or more meals and snacks.
  2. The 5/2 Method, sometimes called the “Fast Diet,” allows you to eat normally for five days of the week. On the other two days, the quantity of food is restricted to around 500-600 calories each day.
  3. The Eat-Stop-Eat Method takes the 5/2 Method to the next level, involving one or two complete 24-hour fasts per week.
  4. The Alternate-Day Method ups the ante again with fasts every other day. Fasts may be complete, with no food, or restricted to only a few hundred calories.
  5. The Warrior Method mimics the eating patterns of our ancient ancestors. Those who follow it eat only small amounts of vegetables and fruits during the day, then they finish it off by eating one huge meal at night.
  6. The “Natural” Method is perhaps the easiest of all. Simply skip a meal or two when you don’t feel hungry or don’t have time to eat.

 

Intermittent fasting can be rewarding, but it’s not for everyone. Before diving into a new diet or fasting protocol, discuss your plans with your healthcare professional, and remember that even though fasting is not a diet, choosing healthy foods should still be a top priority.