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health expert Dr John

General Health

  • Natural remedies that relieve constipation

    Having less than one to three bowel movements in a day is a sign of constipation. Such symptoms should not be ignored, as they might cause a number of other bowel related ailments. In this article we will discuss four natural treatments for constipation that are safe and very effective. These are:

    • Oats
    • Opening of the Ileocecal Valve
    • Flax
    • Senna

      Taking oats and oatmeal regularly works wonders for people suffering from constipation. Oats are rich in both soluble as well as insoluble fiber; you get as much as 8 grams of fiber from one cup of uncooked oatmeal. Oats contain nearly 55 percent soluble and 45 percent insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber, the part of the plant that cannot be broken down by our digestive system, absorbs water and swells. This makes the stool bulky, soft and easy to pass, thus relieving constipation. So, it is advisable to increase your water intake when you are on a fiber rich diet.

      While buying oats, you should go for the “old-fashioned oats” rather than the instant oatmeal, which is often partially cooked and contains sugar and other ingredients. Though the traditional oats take a bit longer to cook, they give better results. Also, you should avoid buying oats in large quantities, as their essential fats go rancid when stored for a long duration. If stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry area they can last for about two months.

      Opening of the Ileocecal Valve

      One of the common reasons for constipation is the malfunction of the ileocecal valve, which is located between the small and large intestine.   The ileocecal valve acts as a block that prevents the toxic contents of the large intestine from entering the small intestine. It does not allow the food products in the small intestine to pass into the large intestine until the digestive process is complete. At times this valve sticks shut and as a result, the feces cannot move from small intestine to the large intestine. This condition causes constipation.

      The ileocecal valve may not function properly due to several reasons. Spicy and roughage-type foods may irritate the valve resulting into its malfunction. Mental stress and emotional trauma also hamper the functioning of ileocecal valve. People who have got their appendix removed often have problems with the valve. However, the good news is that you can easily open up the ileocecal valve by following some simple routines.

      Massaging the ileocecal reflex points:

      Simply rub the points illustrated in the picture, to unstick your ileocecal valve. Massage the illustrated areas with firm pressure of about 10 to 20 seconds to get the desired effect. Make it a point not to massage the points any longer than that, as it may negate the effect.

      Detoxify: Some toxic food products get stuck in your intestines and cause constipation symptoms. To detoxify these products you can use chlorophyll, which is easily available at any health food store. Take either two capsules or tablets or half teaspoon of chlorophyll every two hours for about six to eight hours. Take the same amount with each meal for the next three to four days. This routine will detoxify your intestines to a large extent.

      Change your eating habits: To get rid of constipation, abstain from spicy foods, alcohol, cocoa, chocolate and caffeinated products for at least a week. Taking additional calcium and vitamin D also helps in relieving constipation.

      Flax

      Flaxseed is one of the best remedies for constipation. It has been used for centuries to treat bowel related problems. About six to 12 percent of the whole seed is mucilage, which is a slimy, gum-like compound that provides a soothing and protective coating inside our digestive tract. It adds bulk and softness to stool and thus relieves constipation. These properties of Flaxseed also make it a potent healer of stomach and intestinal inflammation.

      Flaxseed is easily available at your nearest health food store and the good thing is that it is not very costly. Before using the seeds make sure to crush, grind or break them; otherwise they pass through your digestive tract intact without giving you any benefit. You can use small coffee grinders or blenders to crush these seeds. Grind the seeds as and when you use them. If you store the ground seeds, their precious oils oxidize and go rancid.

      Drink plenty of water when you consume ground flaxseed as the fiber in them soaks up a lot. Drinking lots of water with flaxseed will definitely relieve your constipation, but be careful because if you don’t drink enough water when you take flax seed your constipation may worsen.

      Senna

      Senna (Cassia angustifolia and Cassia acutifolia) is an effective remedy for constipation; however, it can have some minimal self-limiting side effects. In some cases it causes diarrhea, abdominal pain or nausea. These side effects can easily be neutralized by adding certain herbs to the senna preparation. To prepare one such combination, boil one litre of water and turn off the heat. Then add half teaspoon each of caraway seeds, fennel seeds, peppermint leaves and senna leaves.   Allow the mixture to settle for 15 minutes and then filter the residue using cheesecloth. Take one cup of this liquid in the morning and another at night and you will definitely get relief from constipation.

  • Natural solutions to keep blood sugar spikes in check

    It hits you out of the blue.

    You feel weary and somewhat jittery.

    Your vision begins to blur.

    You feel thirsty.

    And your capacity to concentrate declines sharply.

    What’s happened?

    You’ve been knocked out by an after-meal, or “postprandial” spike.

    You blood glucose levels have temporarily shot up after eating.

    Yes, even if you don’t have diabetes.

    As you would imagine by the sounds of it, blood sugar spikes aren’t good news.

    When they hit you, you feel completely out of sorts.

    In the long term blood sugar spikes can lead to heart and kidney disease, and increase your risk of stroke.

    All because you’ve given in to a few extra carbs.

    But there’s good news.

    There’s plenty of things you can do to avoid blood sugar spikes naturally and stay healthy and in control for years to come.

    Avoid blood sugar spikes by applying these behavioural patterns to your routine

    Nothing too complex or demanding – simple changes that when applied to your daily routine will help you keep that mischievous blood sugar under control.

    1. Plan your meals.

    Planning your meals for the day is key to maintaining healthy sugar levels.

    Try to plan a daily menu to keep your blood sugar low by focusing on low-GI foods and a small sample of higher-GI foods as treats and garnishes.

    For instance, a sample breakfast might include eggs and spinach as the base with a glass of milk and small orange to complete the meal. The eggs and spinach are below 20 GI each, so larger portions are fine. The milk is above 20 and the orange is above 40, thus requiring limited servings of each.

    For lunch? Tomato, lettuce and turkey salad in a whole-wheat tortilla with a serving of kidney beans on the side.

    And for dinner: zucchini, eggplant and minced beef, a side of pearled barley and fresh pineapple for dessert.

    If you feel like you need to snack, how about a handful of peanuts or 1 cup of baby carrots?

    1. Stick to your plan - Don’t skip your meals

    Once you’ve got your plan, you’ve got to stick to it.

    Yes, life gets busy and you forget to eat your carefully planned meal but try not to.

    The best way to keep your blood sugar levels under control is to give your body fuel several times during the day.

    Three meals and two snacks is a healthy goal.

    A certain level of fluctuation is to be expected but if your blood sugar level is healthy when you start a meal, even if it does go up, it won’t go as high.

    Just imagine what happens when your levels are already high…

    1. Don’t Drink Alcohol on an Empty Stomach.

    It’s common knowledge that alcohol should not be drunk on an empty stomach. That’s particularly important when you are trying to maintain blood sugar levels.  Drinking as little as 2 ounces of alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to very low blood sugar levels.

    Remember - you can make a drink last longer and lower the impact that it will have on your blood sugars by having a wine spritzer.

    Foods that will keep your blood sugar levels under control

    Besides the famed leafy green and nonstarchy vegetables, there are other foods available to you to keep your blood sugar in check and help avoid blood sugar spikes.

    For instance:

    Vinegar. A tablespoon of vinegar with every meal – as unappealing as it may seem – has been shown to improve fasting blood sugar levels. So, how about dressing your salad with a dash of olive oil and your favorite type of vinegar? You’ll love the Mediterranean feel it will bring to those leaves!

    Cinnamon. An increasing number of studies seem to indicate that cinnamon’s qualities help maintain blood sugar levels, even for people who aren’t overweight. The quantity needed is still unclear, but it would appear that anywhere from a teaspoon to six grams per day might do the trick. So don’t be shy when it comes to this fragrant spice - sprinkle it over your cereals, your tea, and your home-baked treats.

    Oatmeal. This type of high-quality carbohydrates takes a lot longer to be digested in your system. This helps keep blood sugar levels steady over time.

    You see?

    Avoiding blood sugar spikes doesn’t have to involve nasty needles or unnecessary medications.

    Take the right steps, eat the right foods, and enjoy a more balanced outlook on life!

  • Can this herb keep peripheral artery disease at bay

    PAD or Peripheral Artery Disease is a painful condition and one you want to avoid at all costs.

    At first, it feels just like a little numbness in an isolated area of the legs, a prickly feeling or leg pain while walking…

    But in reality, this nasty disorder affects the blood vessels outside the brain and heart, causing them to narrow, restricting the blood flow to the arms, legs, kidneys or stomach.

    In advanced cases of the disease, ulcers and gangrene may also develop.

    As you can imagine, PAD is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

    PAD affects about 10 million people in the United States, approximately 5% of people older than 50.

    Diabetics and smokers are at highest risk of developing PAD.

    PAD is also more common in African-Americans than any other ethnic or racial group. And men are slightly more likely than women to develop PAD.

    PAD is a very nasty disease that very often goes undetected and untreated.

    Available medications are few and not without side effects.

    And so on and so forth.

    Have I painted a grim enough picture?

    Apologies.

    But that’s precisely the message that I want to convey.

    I want you to be very vigilant with your health.

    I want you to quit smoking if you are still stuck to the old habit.

    I want you to go out there and start walking, cycling or swimming.

    I want you to follow a healthy diet.

    Ultimately, I want you to stay away from this and many other chronic diseases.

    A little help along the way – Gingko Biloba

    Physicians in Europe have been using a highly standardized purified extract of Ginkgo Biloba leaves for treatment of PAD for a long time now.

    They call it EGb761.

    It has been estimated that 2,000 tons of EGb761 are consumed yearly in Germany and France, and this amount is increasing.

    If you are not familiar with Gingko Biloba, let me tell you a little bit about it.

    Native of China, Gingko Biloba is a very unique and persistent species of tree.

    A true survivor.

    In fact, the ginkgo is actually a living fossil, with fossils recognisably related to modern ginkgo from the Permian, dating back 270 million years.

    Its fan-shaped leafs have been therapeutically used for centuries in Asian traditional medicines.

    And while an extract from the Ginkgo Biloba tree has been thought to provide a "cheaper and safer" alternative to mainstream PAD treatments, a recent study hints that it does not reduce risk of heart attack or stroke in people over the age of 75.

    Really?

    How is that possible when twice as many subjects in the placebo group developed PAD compared to the ginkgo group in the six year study?

    No, I know that’s not proof that ginkgo prevents PAD, but isn’t it worth looking into it further?

    Because even if there is just a slight insinuation that ginkgo is a safe alternative for the prevention and treatment of PAD, it needs to be followed up.

    After all, Ginkgo has a long history of being used in traditional medicine to treat blood disorders and improve memory.

    Some studies have also shown that ginkgo improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less sticky.

    Ginkgo leaves also contain flavonoids and terpenoids, which are both antioxidants. What does that mean?

    It means that Gingko assists in your fight against free radicals which, as you very well know, contribute to heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.

    Antioxidants like those found in ginkgo fight off free radicals, and stop them from damaging DNA and mitochondria (your cells’ mini-powerstations)

    So, don’t you think that there are enough reasons to give GB a try in the fight against PAD?

    I certainly think so but (and I’d like to capitalize this BUT): if you do take a ginkgo supplement, or if you’re considering one, please bear in mind the following:

    • If you take drugs such as aspiring and warfarin, slight gastrointestinal bleeding is a potential side effect.
    • Ginkgo contains a compound called ginkgolic acid. A safe maximum level is 5 ppm. Higher levels may prompt side effects such as headaches and skin irritations.

    The moral of the story?

    Prevention is key.

    Make sure you keep healthy.

    Stop smoking and exercise – move your legs and you will be warding off this very nasty condition and all the pain associated with it.

     

  • How probiotics can boost your digestive health

    We are surrounded by bacteria – good and bad. Let’s find out how the good bacteria boost our health and quality of life.

    Contrary to popular belief bacteria are not always the bad guys that cause disease and infection, they also support our health in many ways. Bacteria are all around us.  While some cause health problems, there are many others without which we couldn’t survive. Our gastrointestinal tract for example, carries around 500 different types of bacteria that not only help in digestion of food but also strengthen our immune system.

    Our body is a constant battleground for good and bad bacteria. While the malignant strains cause health problems, the benign strains keep bad bacteria in check. A disease or infection is a result of bad bacteria overwhelming the good. The health problems created by this disproportionate growth may be as simple as diarrhea or as intricate as a systemic infection.

    Eliminating pathogenic bacteria from our environment is neither possible nor advisable because a healthy human body needs a balance of good and bad bacteria, both externally as well as internally.

    Colon: A haven for bacterial growth

    The human bowel is a nutrient-rich environment with little oxygen. Additionally it’s warm and moist. All these attributes make our bowel a haven for bacterial growth. The problem is our poor eating habits encourage the growth of too much bad bacteria because we hardly eat any fiber and rely too much on sugar, salt and processed food. Not eating enough fruits, vegetables and essential fatty acids only makes the situation worse.

    Such an environment in our colon leads to the growth of bad bacteria which release too many toxins into our system, which weakens our immunity and good health.

    Maintaining Bacterial Balance is easy

    Homemade fermented foods like sauerkraut and yoghurt are the ultimate source of good bacteria. So, it makes a lot of sense to include a small amount of naturally fermented food in our daily diet. But that isn’t always easy, which is why a good probiotic supplement can come in handy.

    In addition to our eating habits, factors like stress, contaminated food, medicines and environmental pollution also affect the bacterial flora in our intestinal tract. So, to be on the safe side it makes sense to take probiotic supplements every day, whether you manage to fit in yoghurt and sauerkraut or not.

  • Could this vitamin keep you out of the nursing home

    Getting older happens to everyone, including you. It starts to seem like you have more candles than cake every year. You move around more slowly. Routine tasks like cleaning, gardening and DIY become more and more challenging.

    The pundits will tell you there is nothing that can be done about aging. But is that really true? Do we really have to just “learn to live with” aging. The second we resign ourselves to getting old is the second closer to complete inactivity, and given we are encouraged to remain active throughout our lives, if you suddenly find yourself getting exhausted from routine tasks like going upstairs or taking a short walk, it could be that you are running low on a particularly critical vitamin, according to an in depth six-year study from the Netherlands.

    You could be running low on Vitamin D

    The study followed 1,300 people aged 55 to 88 and had their vitamin D levels checked at various times throughout the study. Participants were questioned about their ability to do a range of activities. The tasks were simple in nature, such as sitting down or getting up from a chair, or taking a five minute stroll without resting.

    Participants in the 65 to 88 age group who had the lowest vitamin D levels were 1.7 times as likely to have at least one physical limitation when compared to those with high levels. Shockingly, a staggering 70 percent of those with the lowest D levels in the older group had at least one mobility issue.

    If you are in the 55 to 65 age range, don’t think you somehow dodged the bullet. You may find that your prognosis is worse than for older age groups. If you’re between those ages and have low vitamin D levels you’re twice as likely to have at least one limitation.

    And the news doesn’t get any better as you age. Your physical functionality is likely to worsen over time. Older study participants with low vitamin D levels declined much more more rapidly than their cohorts who had high levels.

    Seniors tend to be deficient in vitamin D

    That is corroborated by the Guide to Good Health. Vitamin D levels, in fact, are declining across all age groups, and seniors are particularly vulnerable. In fact, there is some evidence to indicate that vitamin D levels are dangerously low for several age groups. Up to 90 percent of the senior citizens walking around have extremely low vitamin D levels.

    Regardless of age, it is important to ensure you maintain high vitamin D levels. It is a critical part of staying healthy, as it plays an important role in countless bodily functions. It also is a key player in the maintenance of muscle and bone health. The study from the Netherlands, published in the Journal of Clincial Endocrinology and Metabolism, clearly indicates just how critical it is to prevent your vitamin D levels from falling.

    So unless you want to spend the last few years of your life in a nursing home make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin D. I cannot stress this enough. It could make the difference of continuing to enjoy your freedom and independence instead of depending on others for your daily needs.

    And vitamin D can help prevent you from falling. A review of nine clinical trials found that vitamin D supplements help reduce the risk of falling by a whopping 17 percent. The New England Journal of Medicine also found that high doses of vitamin D reduces the risk of hip fractures by up to 30 percent and other types of fractures were lowered by 14 percent.

    Your vitamin D levels can naturally increase with sunlight exposure. If your arms and legs are exposed in the sun, you improve your sun exposure by a fair margin. Supplements are also a viable option, and if your vitamin D levels are at critical levels, I think you would benefit from a vitamin D supplement of anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 IU's of vitamin D3 daily. Talk with your doctor about what's best for your specific situation.

    In addition, I recommend that vitamin D be combined with a healthy fat, such as olive or fish oil, which are high in Omega 3 and 6 – vitamins which are also of great benefit to you. These fats will help your body absorb the vitamin more effectively.

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