Why I Don’t Reduce A Fever- And What I do Instead

With school just getting started, and the increased incidence of illness in the cooler months, I’ve gotten several emails and Facebook questions lately about natural ways to bring down a fever, especially in young children. My personal solution is somewhat unconventional, but it has helped my family fight illness more quickly and usually prevent recurring infection… Here’s what we do:

[Note: I am not a doctor, nurse or medical professional and do not play one on the internet. Always check with a doctor or medical professional if a medical need arises]

What Causes A Fever?

Fever is a natural response to infection or illness. Many illnesses thrive at normal body temperature, and a fever (even a high one) is a good indication that the immune system is functioning to ward off the infection. In fact, a fever is a good sign as it means that the body is responding to fight the infection, and in most cases it is part of a natural bodily response that should be allowed to continue.

Fever can be caused by bacterial or viral illness, or in rare cases by poisoning, heat stroke, environmental toxins, or a malfunctioning hypothalamus. For the majority of us, fever is caused by a simple infection (most often a virus) and will fade on its own as the body heals. In fact, in most cases, a fever less than 103 will not cause brain damage, and a fever stemming from an infection will usually not go above this unless other factors (hot environment, etc.) are present. In many cases, those who suffer brain damage or other problems from an illness suffer this from the illness itself, not the fever. Even Medicine Plus, as service of the Natural Institutes of Health and U.S. Library of Natural Medicine states that a fever less than 107 is unlikely to cause brain damage or other problems unless accompanied by more serious symptoms (though I don’t like letting them go this high and have never had a child with a fever anywhere near this high).

Even fevers high enough to cause Febrile Seizures do not indicate a severe problem in themselves: From this article: “However, most febrile seizures are over quickly, do not mean your child has epilepsy, and do not cause any permanent harm.” I highly recommend the book How to Raise a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor for a more detailed explanation about the benefits of a fever and why reducing it can be harmful.

If one of my family members has a fever less than 103-104 degrees that I know is not the result of poisoning, severe bacterial infection, heat stroke, or toxins, I personally find it best to wait it out, monitor symptoms and take measures to make the person more comfortable. This is my personal preference in this situation, and while I’ve never found temperatures at this point or lower to be harmful, it is always important to do your own research and talk to a medical professional if you feel the situation warrants it. In my experience, the majority of fevers from illness hover in the 101-103 range and are an effective part of the body’s response to illness.

Why Reducing A Fever Can Be Counterproductive

There are several reasons it is better not to reduce a fever. Since fever is part of the body’s natural way of fighting illness or infection, reducing the fever can actually make the illness last longer, as it lets the cause of the illness live for a longer time.

Additionally, most conventional methods of lowering a fever can do more harm than good. Tylenol and Advil (the two medications most often given to children to reduce fever) both have side effects and cause liver failure in adults and children each year, especially when given regularly. Medications are also foreign substances in the body, which must be metabolized and filtered by the body and this takes energy the body could be using to fight the illness.

While a fever can be uncomfortable, it is possible to comfort the person who is ill without reducing the fever. Often, the medications that reduce fever also get rid of body aches or uncomfortable symptoms, so the two are thought to go hand in hand. While certainly, medical intervention and medicine are absolutely warranted at times, they aren’t my first line of defense for most fevers.

When Medical Care is Critical

In the majority of cases, a fever is a natural healthy response that should be allowed to run its course. There are exceptions and in these cases it is important to seek medical care and make sure there is not a more serious problem. While I personally let the majority of illnesses run their course in our home, I don’t hesitate to seek medical help immediately if the situation warrants it.

In general, these are the times I seek medical care for a fever, but a parent’s intuition/research and conversation with your own doctor are important for determining when a fever is serious. I seek help when:

  • A child under three months has a fever over 100.4 or exhibits any serious symptoms
  • A child has a fever over 104 as this can signal a more serious infection or poisoning
  • A child has a fever for more than two consecutive days
  • The ill person has other symptoms like stiff neck, listlessness, or sensitivity to light
  • The person is unable to hold down food for more than a few hours or shows any signs of dehydration
  • Person exhibits any sign of respiratory distress (Seek immediate help)
  • Person has been exposed to toxins or poisons that may have caused the fever
  • My mother’s intuition says there is something more serious going on, even if the child appears fine

What I Do Instead

While I don’t use conventional methods of treating illness, I’m also not in favor of letting an ill person suffer any more than is necessary. Fortunately, there are some easy, natural ways to comfort the afflicted without drugs or medicine. For most illnesses, this is my protocol:

  • Lots of fluids to ward of dehydration and help the body flush the illness. We stick to water, herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, or catnip.
  • Double doses of Fermented Cod Liver Oil, which seems to greatly reduce the duration of the illness and also gives the ill person important immune boosting nutrients. We use capsules for adults and gel for kids who can’t swallow pills. I also give this daily to all family members to help boost immune function so the body is ready to handle illness more quickly.
  • Probiotics- You’ve probably heard the saying “All disease begins in the gut” and I give probiotics to support immune and gut health. We take these all the time, but especially during illness.
  • Homemade elderberry syrup to boost immune function and make the ill person more comfortable. Here’s a recipe to make your own much less expensively than store bought options.
  • Lots of bone broth and homemade soups to nourish and provide nutrients that aid in healing.
  • Small doses of coconut oil mixed in to food or smoothies for its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
  • We do warm baths with epsom salts or magnesium and a sprinkle of powdered ginger to help alleviate muscle aches. Peppermint tea also works for head/muscle aches associated with an illness.
  • If the person is achy or having trouble resting comfortably, I’ll sometimes give a natural sleep tincture or chamomile tincture to help soothe achy muscles and promote relaxing sleep.

TIP: I highly recommend printing out a version of this and keeping in on hand in a cabinet with the remedies in case you become ill. While I am prepared to help a family member who doesn’t feel well, I’m often not the best at remembering to do these things myself if I am ill. This way, my husband can help me remember to do these things when I’m not feeling well.

What are the benefits of ginger?

Ginger is a herb that is used as a spice and also for its therapeutic qualities. The underground stem (rhizome) can be used fresh, powdered, dried, or as an oil or juice. Ginger is part of the Zingiberaceae family, as are cardamom, turmeric and galangal.

This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It highlights the history of ginger, its therapeutic benefits, and some important precautions you should be aware of before taking the herb.

According to the National Library of Medicine1, part of the NIH (National Institutes of Health), ginger is widely used throughout the world for treating loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting after surgery, nausea resulting from cancer treatment, flatulence, stomach upset, colic, morning sickness and motion sickness.

Some people find ginger helps them with the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis, cough, menstrual cramps, arthritis and muscle pain.

In some parts of the world, ginger juice is applied to the skin to treat burns.

Ginger is also used as a flavoring by the food and drinks industry, as a spice and flavoring in cooking, and for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.

Ginger contains a chemical that is used as an ingredient in antacid, laxative and anti-gas medications.

According to Kew Gardens2, England’s horticultural royal center of excellence, ginger has a long history of usage in South Asia, both in fresh and dried form.

What are the therapeutic benefits of ginger?

Below are examples of some scientific studies on ginger and its current or potential uses in medical treatment.

Inflammation of the colon

A study carried out at the University of Michigan Medical School found that Ginger Root Supplement administered to volunteer participants reduced inflammation markers in the colon within a month.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

Experts say that inflammation of the colon is a precursor to colon cancer. Co-researcher Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., M.P.H., explained that by reducing inflammation in the colon a person reduces their risk of developing colon cancer.

Zick said „We need to apply the same rigor to the sorts of questions about the effect of ginger root that we apply to other clinical trial research. Interest in this is only going to increase as people look for ways to prevent cancer that are nontoxic, and improve their quality of life in a cost-effective way.“

Muscle pain caused by exercise

A study involving 74 volunteers carried out at the University of Georgia found that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%.

Patrick O’Connor, a professor in the College of Education’s department of kinesiology, and colleagues carried out two studies on the effects of 11 days of raw and heat-treated ginger supplementation on exercise-induced muscle pain.

The volunteers consumed the ginger supplements for 11 consecutive days. On the 8th day they performed 18 extensions of the elbow flexors with a heavy weight. The aim was to induce moderate muscle injury to the arm. Each participant’s arm function, inflammation, and pain levels were assessed before exercise and three days afterwards.

The researchers noted that the pain-reducing effect was not enhanced by heat-treating the ginger.

Nausea caused by chemotherapy

Ginger supplements administered alongside anti-vomiting medications can reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea symptoms by 40%, a PhaseII/III study carried out at the University of Rochester Medical Center found.

Lead researcher, Dr Julie Ryan, presented the study findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Orlando, Florida, in 2009.

Dr. Ryan explained that about 70% of cancer patients who receive chemotherapy experience nausea and vomiting. The vomiting is usually easy to control with effective medications. However, the nausea tends to linger.

Dr. Ryan said „By taking the ginger prior to chemotherapy treatment, the National Cancer Institute-funded study suggests its earlier absorption into the body may have anti-inflammatory properties.“

Ovarian cancer

A study found that exposing ovarian cancer cells to a solution of ginger powder resulted in their death in every single test.

The cancer cells either died as a result of apoptosis (they committed suicide) or autophagy (they digested/attacked themselves).

The researchers, from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center added that the ginger solution also prevented the cancer cells from building up resistance to cancer treatment.

The study findings were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Washington D.C., 2006.

Asthma symptoms

A team at Columbia University carried out a study to determine what effects adding specific components of ginger to asthma medications might have on asthma symptoms.

Team leader, Elizabeth Townsend, PhD, explained „In our study, we demonstrated that purified components of ginger can work synergistically with β-agonists to relax ASM (airway smooth muscle).“

The scientists took ASM tissue samples and exposed them to acetylcholine, a compound that causes bronchoconstriction (narrowing of the airways).

They then mixed the β-agonist isoproterenol (asthma medication) with three different components of ginger:

6-gingerol
8-gingerol
6-shogaol

Contracted ASM tissue samples were exposed to each of the three mixtures as well as isoproterenol on its own.

The team found that ASM tissues exposed to isoproterenol combined with the purified ginger components exhibited greater relaxation than those treated with just isoproterenol.

Ginger component 6-shogaol had the greatest impact in enhancing the effects of isoproterenol.

Dr. Townsend said „Taken together, these data show that ginger constituents 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol and 6-shogaol act synergistically with the β-agonist in relaxing ASM, indicating that these compounds may provide additional relief of asthma symptoms when used in combination with β-agonists. By understanding the mechanisms by which these ginger compounds affect the airway, we can explore the use of these therapeutics in alleviating asthma symptoms.“

The study findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Liver damage caused by acetaminophen

Acetaminophen, known more commonly as „Tylenol“ in the USA and „paracetamol“ elsewhere, is a popular painkiller and antipyretic (reduces fever). However, acetaminophen is also associated with a higher risk of chemically-driven liver damage (hepatotoxicity), especially among patients with liver disorders.

Scientists at the National Research Centre in Egypt wanted to determine whether ginger pretreatment might reduce the incidence of acetaminophen-induced liver damage in rats.

The researchers wrote in the Journal of Dietary Supplements4 „Our results demonstrated that ginger can prevent hepatic injuries, alleviating oxidative stress in a manner comparable to that of vitamin E. Combination therapy of ginger and acetaminophen is recommended especially in cases with hepatic (liver) disorders or when high doses of acetaminophen are required.“

High blood pressure (hypertension)

A study reported in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology5 found that cassumunar ginger extract was more effective than prazosin hydrochloride in reducing blood pressure in hypertensive laboratory rats.

The researchers, from Chiang Mai University in Thailand wrote „The cassumunar ginger extract exhibited the maximum decrease of mean arterial blood pressure at 39.83 ± 3.92%, which was 3.54-times that of prazosin hydrochloride.“
Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)

Ginger can help reduce the symptoms of pain in primary dysmenorrhea (period pains), researchers from the Islamic Azad University in Iran reported in the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association6.

Seventy female students were divided into two groups:

The ginger group – they took capsules containing ginger
The placebo group – participants took capsules containing placebo

The participants took their capsules for three days at the beginning of their menstruation cycles.

The researchers found that the 82.85% of the women taking the ginger capsules reported improvements in pain symptoms compared to 47.05% of those on placebo.

Migraines

There is some evidence to suggest that ginger powder may help relieve migraine symptoms.

A study performed at the VALI-e-ASR Hospital in Iran and published in the journal Phytotherapy Research7 found that ginger powder is as effective in treating common migraine symptoms as sumatriptan. Sumatriptan is a common medication for migraine treatment (Imitrex, Treximet, Imigran, Imigran).

The double-blind, randomized clinical trial involved 100 participants. They all suffered form acute migraine without aura. They were randomly selected to receive either sumatriptan or ginger powder.

The study authors concluded „Efficacy of ginger powder and sumatriptan were similar. Clinical adverse effects of ginger powder were less than sumatriptan. Patients’ satisfaction and willingness to continue did not differ. The effectiveness of ginger powder in the treatment of common migraine attacks is statistically comparable to sumatriptan. Ginger also poses a better side effect profile than sumatriptan.“

How to Start an Exercise Program

It’s not enough for us to know that we should be exercising to tone our bodies and improve our health. It seems we need specific strategies to help us start an exercise program – and keep it going. Or so say experts who gave WebMD some fitness tips to help motivate exercise beginners or drop-outs.

In fact, a recent study showed that when adults with chronic illnesses were given behavior-changing strategies, they significantly increased their activity levels. That was not the case when they were given information intended to change their knowledge and beliefs about exercise, according to researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Simple, action-oriented strategies are the way to get exercising, says Vicki Conn, professor and associate dean of research in the Missouri University Sinclair School of Nursing. For example, by writing down and tracking your activity over time, you can boost awareness of and motivation for exercise.

Here are more get-moving strategies suggested by Tonya Gutch, senior personal trainer at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas:

1. Set Specific, Manageable Goals. For example, plan to exercise for 20 minutes, three times a week. And don’t forget to track your progress by writing it down.

2. Use a Variety of Daily Reminders. Schedule your exercise sessions on your calendar like any other appointment. Also make sure you have your gym bag in the car, or leave your walking shoes by the door to remind you to get moving.

3. Set Up a Non-Food Reward System. To reward yourself when you accomplish one of your fitness goals – such as staying on track with your exercise for a full week or month – treat yourself to a movie, massage, or pedicure.

4. Invest in a Good Pair of Workout Shoes. Make sure they have good cushioning and arch support and feel so good that you’ll look forward to putting them on. Sales associates at many of the sports stores can help you find a good pair, say Gutch. She suggests staying away from high-top shoes because too much ankle support over time can actually make the joints weaker.

And don’t forget to replace them when the old pair starts to lose their support – probably about every three to six months, says Gutch. Another option is to buy two pairs of shoes and switch off between them.

5. Find a Buddy, a Class, or a Group. „Humans desire companionship,“ says Gutch. When someone is depending on you and striving for the same goals, this helps motivate you. Not only that, it just makes exercise more fun, Gutch says.

6. Start Slowly. Most people try to do too much when they start exercising, says Gutch. It’s OK to break up your exercise into segments throughout the day. „Even small quantities of exercise and activity add up to big benefits,“ says Gutch. She suggests beginning with 10-15 minute chunks of activity, several times daily. Just fit it in whenever you can.

7. Just Walk. One of the easiest ways for most people to work in exercise is to walk. Wearing a pedometer adds extra motivation by keeping you working toward a goal each day. Gutch says this works particularly well for people who have a sit-down job or live a generally sedentary lifestyle. Although you could aim for 10,000-15,000 steps a day, many people will want to start with 5,000 steps or less, and work their way up over time. And you don’t need to use weights on your arms or legs when you walk, Gutch says. „Your body should not be doing continuous movement with added weight to the joints,“ she says.

8. Get Back to Basics. Don’t think youneed fancy equipment to get a great workout.Gutch believes the gyms of the future will move away from elaborate exercise machines. Fitness trainers are going back to basic equipment like medicine balls, free weights, Swiss balls, and kettle bells.

9. Use Multiple Muscle Groups. When you work more than one muscle group at a time and use full-body movement as much as possible, it takes less time to do a thorough weight-training workout, Gutch says. For example, try doing squats (lower body) combined with dumbbell shoulder presses (upper body). The bonus? „Using full-body movements burns tons of calories in a short amount of time,“ says Gutch.

10. Use Whatever Gets You Going. Some of us need a little something extra to keep usexercising from week to week.For some, this could be working out with an mp3 player. „iPods have been a big hit with our clients here at the Cooper Fitness Center,“ says Gutch. For others, it could be listening to books on tape as you walk, or watching favorite TV shows while you use the treadmill or stationary bike. The point is, use whatever gets you going.

How often should you eat?

In our race to be the biggest loser, most of us go after different diets. The trusted and age-old three-meals-a-day concept works for some, while others swear by the new-age eight-meals-a-day. Most of us have been brought up on the notion that having untimely in-between meal snacks, is one of the major causes of weight gain. Of late, however, a number of trainers, nutritionists and dieticians have come up with the ‘six-to-eight-meals-a-day’ plan. And many Bollywood actors and actresses claim that following such diets have made them the biggest losers. They believe that in-between snacks help them stay slim and this regular intake also boosts metabolism. However, there are health gurus and trainers who believe that eating too many meals may just work against you and increase your weight. Read on to find out what the experts have to say…

Eat six to eight meals a day

Eat to burn! This can be one of the easiest and most reliable ways to ensure fat loss. Digestion itself is a calorie-burning activity. For every calorie you ingest, your body uses some to burn what you are eating. The question is, how do you make this wonderful feature of your body work for you? This is the essential principle behind the practice of frequent eating where eating at shorter intervals (six to eight meals a day or more!) enables your body to use more calories to aid digestion. When you constantly provide fuel to your body, it means you are also tickling your body to work. Keep working, keep burning. This is called the thermogenic effect of food and it is not only an incredibly smart way of losing weight, it also helps you increase your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).

I like to call this the Internal Workout — because by continually making it work for digestion, you’re giving your body a workout. And while you may not be able to see the furious digestive activity going on in your body at any point in time, trust me, your body is working way harder than if you eat at longer intervals (three-to-four meals a day).

- says Pooja Makhija, Consulting Nutritionist and Clinical Dietitian

More meals means less stored fat

Eating six to eight meals a day rather than three, is better because it boosts metabolism, controls blood sugar levels and helps in weight management.

Consuming three meals increases the likelihood that one will start an exercise regime with a low blood sugar level. For instance, if we eat lunch around noon, generally our second meal of the day, we would not have much energy for an optimal, calorie-burning workout in the evening.

On the other hand, if we follow a six-meal-a-day plan and have a small meal around noon and another meal around 3 pm, our blood sugar level would be more stable, providing us with more energy for our workout. Cortisol, a hormone, breaks down body fat. However, if we eat a large, high-calorie meal, cortisol is produced in large quantities, but transports the fat from under the skin to deep within the abdominal cavity. This increases the risk of chronic diseases including abdominal obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Incorporating a six-meal-a-day plan into one’s routine decreases the magnitude of cortisol production.

Eating within 30 minutes of every exercise session enables our muscles to maximally replenish the glucose we used during the workout. Consuming another meal two hours after the post-workout meal further enhances post-exercise recovery and replenishment.

Eating every three-to-four hours can ward off hunger and prevent binges that lead to weight gain. It also maintains metabolism and can help regulate proper digestion to prevent gastrointestinal discomfort.

When people consume the same number of calories in one single daily meal rather than three, they show significant increase in blood pressure, total cholesterol levels and levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

Eight meals increase our energy levels, accelerate muscle growth, and speed up our metabolism without storing fat. In fact, frequent eating will actually allow us to eat up to 50 per cent more calories without storing an ounce of it as fat.

- says Dr Shikha Sharma, MBBS Doctor and Wellness Expert

Follow your hunger, don’t eat mechanically

It is very important to understand the circadian rhythm of the body. As per our ancient science, Ayurveda, it is all about appropriate time for appropriate food in appropriate quantity.

It is also important to understand that the body needs time to utilise the fuels released from our food. Our body has its own natural rhythm which is as follows:

- 12 pm to 8 pm is the ideal period for human digestive capability. So, most nutrients must be consumed at this time.

- 8 pm to 4 am is assimilation time, where the body begins to slow down.

- 4 am to 12 pm is elimination time/detox time, if you are following a proper and disciplined lifestyle.

The body’s digestive process slows down after sunset as the energy on that side of the earth is ebbing. So, all the food eaten post sunset becomes difficult to digest. The later you eat, you must make sure to choose your food sensibly.

The thumb rule of eating small meals six to seven times a day, which occidental science suggests is rooted only in the shallow system of addressing the BMR / calorie counting.

Even the book Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond suggests the vedic principles of food discipline.

Always remember, to never eat by the rule of the thumb. Go by the bio-feedback and follow your hunger needs. Hunger is the need of the body, and appetite for more meals, is the greed of the body. Eating mechanically should never be the case. Eat with awareness as you are not only consuming cosmic energy but cosmic intelligence too.

- says Mickey Mehta, Holistic Health Guru

Our body was always accustomed to being fed at regular intervals

There is this common perception that I have come up with this radical idea of multiple meals a day. But most of us, apart from the three main meals, have always eaten in between, just that we never thought of those as „meals“, a terminology of the new age nutrition. By default, the body was and is accustomed to being fed at regular intervals as evident in newborn babies who need to be fed constantly. At the basic physiological level, this ensures a steady level of blood sugar in our body and sends a signal that ‘all is well’ and it can continue with its regular processes. On the other hand, not eating for long hours sends the body into a state of panic and it reacts by converting food into fat for any eventuality (read — scarcity of food).

The act of eating often during the day can only happen when communication is established with the stomach, the biggest diet guru on earth. This process is facilitated by the four principles of eating right.

Eating as soon as we are awake kickstarts our metabolic rate and signals our bodies that our nightly fast is broken. Tea, coffee, or any other stimulant, does the exact opposite by suppressing the signals of hunger.

Eating at regular intervals post this reassures our bodies that nourishment is readily available and that it no longer has to convert every meal into future fuel i.e. fat.

Eating more when we are more active and less when less active will happen naturally once we are in tune with our appetite. Everybody is unique so we can’t standardise the number of meals a day. For most of us there is the call of hunger every two-three hours. It is up to us whether we want to listen to it or ignore it.

Of course, as all good things come to an end, eating the last meal of the day a few hours prior to bedtime allows our body to digest and assimilate all the nutrients it needs before focusing on its essential function of recovery during our sleep. If the last meal is too heavy or eaten too close to bedtime, the body will be unable to carry out its recovery and thus will leave us feeling uncomfortable the next day.

- says Rujuta Diwekar Celebrity nutritionist and author

‘Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism’ is utter nonsense

London-based personal trainer Venice A Fulton negates the notion of six-to-eight meals a day and says that one should only eat three good meals a day and no in-between snacks. In his book Six weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends. Venice (real name Paul Khanna), claims he can help you lose upto around 10 kgs in six weeks. Venice states that the belief — „each time we eat we boost our metabolism and our chances of losing weight’ — is wrong and just wishful thinking“. He adds that our snacks have become meals and we eat more than we realise during the in-between-meal times.

There is no point in eating six or more times a day because just sticking to three meals also controls our appetite as it releases leptin (a chemical that tells our brain we are full). Venice says in an interview on a video-sharing website, „The belief ‘breakfast kickstarts you metabolism’ is utter nonsense“, and goes on to state that metabolism begins the moment you wake up. A cold bath or shower in the morning helps burn calories too.

- says Venice A Fulton, Personal Trainer and author

Why no more than three meals

- You will end up in the toilet more often.

- You will be fatter because your in-between snacks may be much bigger.

- All that food will make you visit your dentist more often!

5 Superfoods You Should Eat—but Probably Don’t

What makes a food „super“? If you believe what you see in the grocery store, superfoods are everywhere these days: goji berries, acai juice, wheatgrass, seaweed—many of them exotic ingredients pitched with promises of weight loss, smoother skin, an energy boost, or even a healthier heart. But despite the marketing, there’s little to no proof that the food fad of the moment will improve your health. Most people will do best with a diet that derives nutrients from a variety of whole food sources.

Still, there are some foods that deserve the superlative treatment because they have been scientifically shown to contain high amounts of the good stuff—like vitamins, minerals, and proteins. The following five are all proven sources of nutrients your body needs, no gimmicky mumbo jumbo required.

Beets

If vegetables were judged solely on looks, deep purple-red beets would be a perennial favorite. The root veggies’ jewel-toned flesh is popular with restaurant chefs because it adds excitement to a dish. „They’re beautiful [and] they dress up a plate, and you know we eat with our eyes,“ says Joan Salge-Blake, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical associate professor at Boston University and author of Nutrition & You: Core Concepts to Good Health. Buy firm beets with the greens intact (they’re edible, too, and keep the bulb fresh) and they’ll last a week in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook them, wash the bulbs under water to remove dirt—but keep the skin on. After you bake and cool the beets, you can rub or peel the skin right off.

Why They’re Worth It: Beets are high in vitamin C and folate. Plus, they’re a great source of the antioxidant lipoic acid. „Recent research shows it can be helpful in healing nerve damage in people with diabetes,“ says Salge-Blake.

How to Cook: The easiest way to cook beets is to roast them in the oven, which brings out the vegetable’s natural sweetness. To roast, cut the greens from the bulb, leaving about an inch of stem. After washing, place the beets in a baking pan and add 1/4 of an inch of water. Cover with aluminum foil, and roast at 400 to 450 degrees until you can easily insert a knife in the beet. Once the beets are cool, peel the skin away. (Beets tend to bleed, and the juice can stain, so use caution.) Slice roasted beets and put them in a salad. Or cut them into cubes and toss with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dill, and crumbled goat cheese, as Ryan Hutmacher, chef and owner of Centered Chef Food Studios in Chicago, does. He also likes to incorporate beets into traditional foods. „If somebody doesn’t like beets, you can introduce beets to people through pancakes,“ Hutmacher says. Shred roasted beets finely with a grater (or use a food processor), then add to the batter.

Sardines

If you’ve given salmon and tuna a try, why not taste sardines? For starters, sardines are an environmentally sound alternative to overfished salmon and have lower mercury levels than larger fish like tuna. You can buy the small, silver-fleshed fish fresh, but if you don’t plan to eat them soon, opt for canned.

Why They’re Worth It: Like other fatty fish (such as salmon), sardines contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. „[You] want to be having two fish meals per week because that’s going to lower your risk for heart disease,“ says Salge-Blake. Sardines are also high in protein, so they’re a great add-on to veggie-heavy dishes. When it comes to canned sardines, you can pick between those packed in water and those in oil. The only difference: Oil adds more calories. (Some sardines are packaged in mustard, with lemon or chili peppers, or in tomato sauce, which might add additional calories; check the label.)

How to Cook: Sardines are cheap and versatile. The most adventurous eat them whole—head and all. You can remove the head, scale and gut the fish, then grill or barbecue it as a main dish. Some canned sardines are already scaled and deboned. For a simple meal, clean the sardines and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake the fish for 10 to 12 minutes in a 350-degree oven. When done, the sardines will be crispy and perfect as a salad topper. If you’re new to sardines, Hutmacher recommends „hiding“ them: Mince the fish and add them to pasta sauce, stews, or three-bean soup. „It’s going to add a really nice depth of flavor to that sauce,“ he says.

Brussels Sprouts

You could mistake brussels sprouts for mini heads of cabbage, but the tiny green globes are really a close relative. Pick sprouts that are about an inch thick, bright green, and firm—and skip those that are yellow, squishy, or wilted. Stored in the refrigerator, your sprouts will last a couple of weeks, says Hutmacher. When you’re ready to eat, peel back the first few leaves, which can be wilted or damaged, then soak them in cold water to remove any residue or dirt before cooking.

Why They’re Worth It: Brussels sprouts are low in sodium and cholesterol free. „They are a good source of fiber,“ says Salge-Blake. „And we also have some studies to show vegetables in the cruciferous family have phytochemicals [plant compounds that have protective health benefits] in them.“

How to Cook: You may remember the boiled brussels sprouts Mom used to make, but there are tastier ways to enjoy the veggie. Hutmacher loves to roast his sprouts with olive oil. First, boil the brussels sprouts in water for 15 to 20 minutes to soften the hard heads. Then roast them with olive oil and salt and pepper at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Roasting and adding fat in the form of olive oil will help cut through the vegetable’s bitterness. Add zip by topping the sprouts with lemon slices before baking. Hutmacher also uses brussels sprouts in place of lettuce to create a nutrient-packed salad. To make your own, chop your raw sprouts into thin strips, then toss them with pomegranate seeds, shaved fennel, toasted pine nuts, crumbled feta cheese, and a vinaigrette dressing made of lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and herbs like parsley. If you do opt for boiling, be careful not to overcook; you’ll lose water-soluble vitamins. Salge-Blake’s rule: Cook them with only a small amount of water, until they’re tender—and no longer.
Pumpkin Seeds

If you’ve ever carved a jack-o’-lantern, you’ve most likely baked or toasted pumpkin seeds. But there’s no need to wait till October to enjoy the nutrient-packed seeds. The bagged variety (pick a low-sodium kind, either with or without shells) is just as nutritious as home cooked.

Why They’re Worth It: Pumpkin seeds are a good source of fiber, vitamin K, and iron. Plus, they’re loaded with protein, so they’re the perfect addition to vegetarian dishes. „This could be a good way of having a meatless meal,“ says Salge-Blake.

How to Cook: You can snack on a handful of pumpkin seeds between meals—just don’t eat the whole pack at once; a 6-ounce bag can have more than 500 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 90 grams of carbs. Or add them to your morning cereal or oatmeal, as Salge-Blake suggests. Hutmacher uses a Mexican technique to incorporate pumpkin seeds in his meals: Start by toasting the pumpkin seeds. Next, add chicken or vegetable broth, and let the mixture come to a boil. Add thyme, garlic, and sesame seeds to the mix, then blend it all until it’s emulsified. Hutmacher uses this mixture (which is a bit runnier than hummus) as a sauce for fish or poultry.

Kale

The dark green vegetable looks something like lettuce with its ruffled leaves, but, just like brussels sprouts, it’s a member of the cabbage family. Fresh kale is coarse with dark leaves. Avoid bunches that are yellow or brown and have a rubbery texture. Kale will last three to five days in the refrigerator if you store it loosely in a plastic bag. Before you cook the leaves, rinse them and trim off the thick stems. And keep in mind: Two cups of raw kale will cook down to about a cup’s worth.

Why It’s Worth It: Like its cousin broccoli, kale is packed with vitamin C. (Two cups have twice as much vitamin C as a medium orange.) It’s also a good source of vitamin A (beta carotene), calcium, and potassium, which has been shown to lower high blood pressure.

How to Cook: You can eat kale raw, in place of lettuce in a salad, but the classic cooking method is braising. Hutmacher chops his kale into strips (smaller pieces cook faster) and adds it to a pan of turkey bacon sautéed in olive oil with onion, celery, and carrots. To cut the kale’s bitter flavor, he adds lemon juice or cider vinegar to the mix, then steams the kale in the broth. Once the kale has stewed in the covered pan for half an hour (the kale will look dark and wilted), he removes the lid and lets the liquid reduce. That’s when Hutmacher grabs a big serving, spoons sauce over the kale, and digs in. Another option? „I like stir-frying it,“ says Salge-Blake. She cooks it in olive oil with garlic and then uses it as a bed for grilled scallops or chicken.

The main reason to add some superfoods to your meals? The nutritional benefit. „There isn’t one perfect vegetable that has everything. There isn’t a perfect food,“ says Salge-Blake. „The more variety in your diet, the more chance you’re going to consume all the nutrients your body needs.“ And remember, there’s no need to spend half your paycheck on mysterious fruit drinks from South America. The best superfoods can all be found close to home.

A Taxonomy of Tummy Bloating: Your Symptoms Explained

Among the many matters of dietary and digestive distress, my patients most commonly complain of gas and bloating. Given how often I encounter this problem, one would think I’d have developed a magical dietary prescription to fix it, fast. But alas, I have not.

Here’s why: Bloating is in the eye of the beholder. To some, it means excessive belching. To others, it means passing gas excessively. Some people define bloating as feeling like their stomach is distended; this type of bloating may or may not be accompanied by constipation. And then there are those to whom bloating is an appearance thing—the tummy that wakes up flat but looks „pregnant“ later in the day, or the belly protrusion that persists despite weight loss.

To complicate matters, not all of these perceptions correspond to a clinical diagnosis of bloating, which is more narrowly defined as the presence of gas trapped in the abdomen or actual abdominal distension as observed by a doctor on physical examination. And even in the case of bona fide distention, not all bloating has a dietary cause at its root; several medical conditions can bring about these same symptoms. As a result, some detective work is required to truly understand the nature of an individual’s bloated belly and to narrow down what dietary factors, if any, may be involved. Here are some common possibilities:

1. A carbohydrate trigger. With regard to this type of bloating, the common refrain is that people feel fine after breakfast, but the bloating starts up soon after. Within an hour of lunch, the stomach distends to the point where pants need to be unbuttoned, and it remains this way for the rest of the day. It is often only relieved upon waking up the next morning. Sometimes, veterans of low-carb dieting will say that that their bloating problem improved on a low-carb diet. In these cases, I’m often on the lookout for poorly-digested carbs—what we’ve referred to here as FODMAPs—as the culprit. Figuring out if symptoms seem to arise from ingesting certain types of sugar (lactose or fructose), sugar alcohols, dietary fibers, or so-called resistant starches (like those found in beans) can help patients avoid food triggers.

2. Constipation. Whether someone complains of a rock-solid belly or abdominal pain that builds as the day progresses, I ask if their symptoms are relieved when they poop. If so, we’re probably looking at constipation as our fall guy. The reason? Normal intestinal gas gets trapped behind slow-moving poop and builds up as a result. The trick to eliminating (pardon the pun) this belly bloat is a very gradual increase in dietary fiber. Too much additional fiber too quickly can actually make the bloating worse, so the key is to ramp up slowly. Focus on insoluble fiber from bran, seeds, and fruit and vegetable skins rather than soluble fiber, like inulin, from processed, high-fiber cereals and snack foods. The former is much more likely to speed up the intestinal transit of poop while limiting the amount of gas produced as a byproduct.

3. Undiagnosed Celiac Disease. When patients tell me they look seven to nine months pregnant soon after eating a specific food, I often suspect Celiac disease or an intolerance to wheat or gluten. In these cases, I probe further to see if bread, pasta, flour, or beer seems a likely trigger. Often, a Celiac-related bloated belly can take some time to deflate—up to a day or two after eating the trigger food. Celiac-related bloating may also be accompanied by foul-smelling flatulence and diarrhea, though it’s not unheard of to endure constipation instead. A simple blood test will tell your doctor whether further diagnostic testing is warranted.

4. Acid reflux or dyspepsia. Does you feel uncomfortably bloated in the upper belly region, particularly after eating? Are you uncomfortably full or nauseous after a normal meal? Do you burp excessively within an hour or so of eating? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your distress may be related to acid reflux or dyspepsia, aka indigestion.

I’ve found that this type of bloating is especially bad when someone eats a big, raw salad on an empty stomach; there’s just something about dumping all that roughage on an acid-prone tummy that seems to churn up unpleasantries. With regard to (non-acid) dyspepsia, smaller, lower-fat meals are generally better tolerated, and a glass of seltzer may work wonders. In fact, despite the common belief that avoiding carbonated beverages will help prevent bloating, the opposite is generally true. Fizzy drinks can induce belching, which helps relieve the pressure from gas buildup in the stomach. Carbonated water has been proven to be more effective than tap water in easing symptoms of indigestion.

5. Excess tummy fat. If an otherwise thin person complains of bloating but denies constipation, discomfort, or excess flatulence, he or she may be carrying extra tummy fat. There are several reasons this can happen. Cigarette smoking can influence where fat is deposited, and it tends to favor the tummy. Chronic alcohol intake also favors fat deposition in the abdominal area—more so in men, but to a lesser degree in women, too. This has to do with an increase in the enzyme system designed to metabolize substantial alcohol intake; these enzymes are concentrated in the abdominal area and convert alcohol into storage-ready fats known as triglycerides. While beer has a reputation of being more likely to produce this type of effect—hence the term, „beer gut“—excess intake of any alcohol is equally likely to induce this phenomenon.

In some cases, natural body type can be a factor. Among women, so-called „apple shapes“ are much more likely than „pear shapes“ to retain fat in the midsection. This is, unfortunately, Mother Nature’s mysterious plan for you. The best way to address this is overall weight loss from whatever diet plan works best for you. Eventually, some fat will come off the midsection—even among the apples. So-called „belly fat“ diets do not disproportionally target abdominal fat, and no matter what popular TV doctors claim, dietary supplements don’t do so either.

If belly bloat plagues you, consider whether any of the descriptions above fit your brand of bloating. Then, keep a written journal for one to two weeks that details foods eaten, symptoms experienced, and bowel movements passed (including times of day for everything noted). Include it all, no matter how inconsequential it may seem! Note your vitamins, alcohol and water intake, salad dressings, and even the M&M you snagged while passing a co-worker’s desk. This record will be an invaluable diagnostic resource to your doctor or dietitian to help you pinpoint the exact cause of your bloating woes.

How to Sleep Better

From having occasional difficulty sleeping to insomnia, there is a lot you can do to get a better night’s sleep, feel refreshed when you awake, and remain alert throughout the day. It’s called „sleep hygiene“ and refers to those practices, habits, and environmental factors that are critically important for sound sleep. And most of it is under your control.

There are four general areas important to sleep hygiene:

  • Our circadian rhythm, or 24-hour cycle
  • Aging
  • Psychological stressors – those factors can cause difficulty falling asleep and disturb the quality of your sleep
  • Common social or recreational drugs like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol

Circadian Rhythm

We all have a day-night cycle of about 24 hours called the circadian rhythm. It greatly influences when we sleep and the quantity and the quality of our sleep. The more stable and consistent our circadian rhythm is, the better our sleep. This cycle may be altered by the timing of various factors, including naps, bedtime, exercise, and especially exposure to light (from traveling across time zones to staring at that laptop in bed at night).

Aging

Aging also plays a role in sleep and sleep hygiene. After the age of 40 our sleep patterns change, and we have many more nocturnal awakenings than in our younger years. These awakenings not only directly affect the quality of our sleep, but they also interact with any other condition that may cause arousals or awakenings, like the withdrawal syndrome that occurs after drinking alcohol close to bedtime. The more awakenings we have at night, the more likely we will awaken feeling unrefreshed and unrestored.

Psychological Stressors

Psychological stressors like deadlines, exams, marital conflict, and job crises may prevent us from falling asleep or wake us from sleep throughout the night. It takes time to „turn off“ all the noise from the day. No way around it. If you work right up to the time you turn out the lights, or are reviewing all the day’s events and planning tomorrow (sound familiar?), you simply cannot just „flip a switch“ and drop off to a blissful night’s sleep.

One must develop some kind of pre-sleep ritual to break the connection between all the stress and bedtime. This is perhaps even more important for children. These rituals can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. Some find relief in making a list of all the stressors of the day, along with a plan to deal with them, as it serves to end the day. Combining this with a period of relaxation, perhaps by reading something light, meditating, or taking a hot bath can also help you get better sleep. And don’t look at that clock! That tick-tock will tick you off.

What is a spring fever?

The simplest explanation for the spring fever would be the imbalance in our bodies after the long winter months. Our immune system is weakened by the lack of sunlight and the small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables we eat during that time.

The lack of exercise and unhealthy eating leads to toxins accumulating in our bodies. During the colder months the metabolism slows down and it is harder to process food. That is why when spring comes we often feel tired and unable  to work.

The first symptoms of the spring fever are: lack of appetite, insomnia, headache, constant fatigue and loss of sense of humor.

Here are a few tips on how to fight the spring fever:

apple

Eat healthy. Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. We all know how important that is but we often ignore it. Start by eating at least one apple a day.

For breakfast choose pasta-like products. They will give you the energy boost to get you through out the whole day. You will be surprised with the effect this will have when combined with an apple. Eat wholewheat bread, dry figs and beans. At the same time try to eat less sweets but drink at least a liter and a half of water a day.

You can contact your GP about prescribing you vitamins and minerals especially to fight the fatigue. Usually those are vitamins В12, В6, В1, В2, С and D and magnesium.

It is important to be able to fully relax during this time of the year. If you can, take small naps during the day, listen to music all the time, read your favorite book one more time, make love before going to sleep.

Don’t work too hard. :) This will make you more nervous and will affect you and your co-workers in a bad way.

Make an appointment for a massage. If you don’t have the time or the money for that, ask your loved one.

Always refresh the air in the room you are in.

Change your wardrobe. Even though it’s still chilly, try to pick more colorful clothes. It is a proved fact that the color orange brightens the mood, never mind if it is in the color of your clothes or the color of your juice in the morning.

Last but not least – enjoy life and smile! :)


How to fight autumn depression

sadness in the rainSome tips for the bad mood in gloomy weather

Autumn always brings up different feelings to people. Some enjoy the season, some dread it. In autumn a lot of people suffer from depression, and the rain, cold and bad weather make it even worse. The days are shorter and the body reacts to the lack of sunlight.

Here are some tips that will help you fight depression or just the bad mood during autumn:

1. Plan your winter and spring vacation ahead. Choose your destination, find out more about it – places to see, things to do.

2. Plan a weekend away from home or a short trip somewhere.

3. Shopping might also be a solution, especially for women –  walking around malls and shops often brings back the smile.

4. Change something about your appearance – clothes, haircut, perfume. Brings back a lot of positive energy – guaranteed!

5. Make sure that your working area is always well-lighted. Bright light will help your good mood and boost your efficiency.

6. Start doing something new – dances, aerobics, swimming, etc. Sport will maintain your good shape and help your body during the cold winter months.

7. Meet up with friends more often – go out for walks, have fun. Generally – avoid lonely nights.

sad woman8. Pamper your body with scented bath oils and salts.

9. Indulge in delicious food but be careful. It is not worth it to overeat with sweets as it often happens when in depression or bad mood.  Buy different kinds of fruit and prepare yourself a tasty and healthy fruit salad.

10. Wear clothes in bright and fun colors. Dark colors bring back dark and depressive mood while the bright ones fill you up with energy. This also applies to the rooms you live and work in.

11. If you can’t live without the DVD player, you don’t have to but make sure you watch funny and unengaging movies. When the days are shorter your mind needs less stress.


Good night sleep = healthy body

People that go to bed late are most likely to have an unhealthy diet.

healthy sleep„Good night sleep is the first step towards a beautiful and healthy body“, claim researchers in the nutrition field.

However, they pay special attention to the fact that the sleep has to be not only long and peaceful, but the time of the day that we go to sleep is also very important.

Recent study results showed that people that eat late dinners and tend to go to bed late, are more likely to gain weight because the body can’t process the food the right way. This kind of a diet is often unbalanced because most of the meals are concentrated in the late hours of the day.

Using this data, scientists from the American School of Medicine at Northwestern University Faynberg found a special relation between the time that people prefer to go to bed and the change in their weight depending on different life situations.

The test study was following the condition of 51 volunteers. 23 of them were going to bed late at night and respectively were getting up late, while the rest preferred to go to bed earlier. The scientists were recording the food preferences and the time intervals each person would normally eat. The participants were wearing special equipment that measured the different phases of their sleep during the entire experiment.

The results of the conducted experiment led to the fact that people who go to bed late have far more unhealthy diet, eat less fruits and vegetables and drink more soft drinks.

They were having dinner later than 8pm and that researchers pointed out as the main cause for the change in their body weight.