Saturday, January 27, 2018

What Turmeric Can (and Can’t) Do for You

fresh and dried turmeric roots
       

Help or Hype?

A relative of ginger, this vivid yellow-orange spice is common in Indian, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern cooking. It's also been used as medicine in places like India for centuries to treat issues such as breathing problems. Lately, turmeric has been touted as a super food that can fight cancer, ease depression, and more. Find out what turmeric can -- and can't -- do for your health.
       
pensive woman at home

Depression

Several compounds in turmeric may support your health. The most well-known of these is curcumin. Scientists are excited about curcumin's potential to ease depression and help antidepressants work better. But so far, research results have been mixed.
       
woman injecting insulin
       

Type 2 Diabetes

Because curcumin can help fight inflammation and keep blood sugar levels steady, it could be a useful tool to prevent or treat type 2 diabetes. One study followed 240 adults with prediabetes and found that taking a curcumin supplement over 9 months lowered their odds of developing diabetes. Research is ongoing, but a lot of the studies so far have been on animals, not people.
       
cup of turmeric tea
       

Viral Infections

The next time you're under the weather, you may want to sip some turmeric tea. Curcumin might help you to fight off a variety of viruses, including herpes and the flu. (But most of the research on this was done in a lab, not on people.) Keep in mind that turmeric is only about 3% curcumin, and your body doesn't absorb curcumin well, so the occasional cup of tea won't be a cure-all.
       
woman with stomachache on sofa

Premenstrual Syndrome

A recent study that followed women for three menstrual cycles in a row found that curcumin supplements helped ease PMS symptoms. A study on muscles from guinea pigs and rats suggests that turmeric could bring relief from menstrual cramps, too.
       
coronary artery plaque

High Cholesterol

Research on turmeric's ability to protect your ticker has been mixed. Some studies have found that turmeric can lower LDL "bad" cholesterol, while others concluded that the spice has no effect. Scientists continue to look into the heart-protective possibilities of turmeric. One small study found that turmeric can help ward off heart attacks in people who have had bypass surgery.
       
nerve cells illustration
       

Alzheimer's Disease

People with Alzheimer's have chronic inflammation, and turmeric seems to have natural anti-inflammatory effects. So does turmeric fight Alzheimer's? Sorry, there's no strong scientific evidence yet that taking turmeric is an effective way to prevent the disease.
       
man with knee pain
       

Arthritis

Turmeric has shown promise for its ability to ease joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation. However, we need more research before turmeric becomes a go-to arthritis treatment. If you decide to try it for your joint pain, help your body absorb natural curcumin by eating your turmeric along with black pepper.
       
chest xray revealing cancer

Cancer

In lab and animal studies, turmeric has stopped the growth of tumor cells, helped detoxifying enzymes work better, and more. What these studies can't tell us, though, is what will happen in the human body when a person eats turmeric. Plus, there's a chance that turmeric might interfere with some chemotherapy drugs.
       
empty roll of toilet paper
       

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Early research, including a pilot study of 207 adults and another one using rats, has found that turmeric could help improve IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain. Like many things we've already covered here, more research is needed. Turmeric is also being studied as a treatment for diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
       
man with headache
       

Headaches

Since its relative ginger is a well-known natural headache remedy, it's no surprise that turmeric gets recommended as a headache treatment, too -- especially for migraines. Although people sing its praises online, there's little scientific evidence showing that turmeric can treat or prevent headaches, although one study suggests it could be part of a new approach.
       
woman applying mask
       

Acne

Some people claim that putting a turmeric mask on their skin or eating turmeric will help fight stubborn pimples -- perhaps because of the spice's reported antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, there's no hard science to back this up.

Natural Ways to Calm Your Anxiety

clutching dress

How Much Is Too Much?

Anxiety is part of life -- we all feel it from time to time. When you do, there are a few things you can try to help calm your emotions. If you feel anxious often and nothing seems to help, talk with your doctor about other ways to manage it.
       
woman jogging
       

Exercise

You don’t have to train for the Olympics -- a 10-minute walk can do the trick just as well as a 45-minute workout. Either can make you feel better for a few hours, like aspirin for a headache. And if you exercise regularly -- at least 3 times a week -- you’re less likely to feel anxious in the first place.
       
watering plants

The Great Outdoors

Even a plant in the room, or pictures of nature, can make you feel less anxious, angry, or stressed. But it’s better if you get out there. You’ll give your mood a boost, and it can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones, which all go up when you’re anxious.
       
couple gardening

Gardening

Get out there and get your hands in the dirt. Gardening makes your brain release mood-boosting chemicals that can help calm your anxiety. Plus, you’ll get some exercise and spend time outdoors, both of which can be good for you, too. If you don’t have your own dirt patch, call a local community garden -- they’ll be happy for the help.
       
couple in bed

Sex

It may be the last thing on your mind when you’re anxious, but sex can lower your body’s stress response. And a healthy sex life, especially with a committed partner, can help make you happier and healthier, and that can help keep anxiety away, too.
       
woman meditating

Meditation

This is one way to whittle your worries down to size so you’re aware of them but they don’t get in your way. Meditation helps you focus on your breath and keep your mind free of thoughts. When a concern sneaks in, you try to dismiss it quickly and clear your head.
       
yoga warrior

Yoga

This is a form of meditation: You put your body into certain positions that can strengthen and stretch your muscles and other tissues. At the same time, you try to keep your breath calm. It can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and make you less anxious. But there are some yoga positions you shouldn’t do if you have certain conditions, so talk to your doctor before you start.
       
massage therapy
       

Acupuncture

This can help you relax -- as long as you don’t get too anxious at the thought of needles. An acupuncturist puts very fine needles into specific points on your body. Sometimes electric stimulation is used as well to ease muscle and nerve tension.
       
aromatherapy class

Aromatherapy

Simple smells like lavender, chamomile, and rosewater may help calm you. They come from concentrated oils you can breathe in or rub on your skin. Scientists think they send chemical messages to parts of your brain that affect mood and emotion.
       
massage therapy

Massage

Therapists press, rub, squeeze, and push muscles and other soft tissues with their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and sometimes even their feet. It can help with sore muscles and other issues, and it may help ease anxiety and stress.
       
therapy session

Biofeedback

A trained therapist guides you to think of things that make you anxious, while a computer reads your brain waves and gives you feedback. With your therapist, you practice calming strategies and watch the feedback on the computer to see how they’re working. Over time, this can help you control your anxiety.
       
man sleeping

Sleep

It recharges your brain and boosts your mood and focus, and you’re less likely to be anxious if you get enough of it. Block out 7 to 9 hours every day. To get better sleep, go to bed and wake up at the same time. Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet, and don’t watch TV or use the computer right before bed. Regular exercise also can help with sleep, but try to do it in the mornings and afternoons -- night workouts can mess with your slumber.
       
holding remote
       

Limit Alcohol

You may find a couple of drinks relaxing, but too many can rewire your brain and make you more anxious. Heavy drinking also can affect your work and home life and cause other health problems, which can add to your anxiety. No more than one drink a day for women, 2 for men, is a healthy rule of thumb.
       
pen and notepad
       

Set Priorities

Figure out what you have to do right away and what can wait. A to-do list can help you break up large projects into smaller tasks and keep you focused on what to do next. Ask for help when you need it, and let go of things that aren’t that important.
       
woman thinking
       

Keep a Journal

This can help you look for patterns and figure out what makes you anxious. Family events? Work? School? Too much caffeine? Maybe it only happens when you’re hungry. When you find yourself worked up, try to write down what you’re doing and thinking. Once you know what’s causing your anxiety, you might be able to manage it better.

Why Yeast May Be to Blame for Your Health Problems

budding yeast cells
       

What Is Yeast?

It’s a fungus. There are many kinds of yeasts. You use one type to make bread, another to brew beer. One called candida lives inside your body. If it grows out of control, you can get an infection. Yeast infections can strike your skin, feet, mouth, penis, or vagina. If your immune system is weak, you may be more likely to get one.
       
digestive system illustration

It Keeps Things Running

You can get plenty of proteins and B vitamins from yeast-rich foods. Yeast keeps your digestive system healthy and in balance. The right amount in your body helps your immune system do its job. Yeast is part of a healthy mix of bacteria in your gut. It can help you absorb vitamins and minerals from your food, and even fight disease.
       
mouth sores
       

It Can Get Out of Balance

A little yeast in your body is good for you. Too much can cause infections and other health problems. If you take antibiotics too often or use oral birth control, your body might start to grow too much yeast. This often leads to gas, bloating, mouth sores, bad breath, a coating on your tongue, or itchy rashes.
       
young woman holding her baby
       

Your Immune System's Involved

If your immune system isn’t at its best, yeast can overgrow in your body. Babies, older people, and those with diseases like diabetes or HIV infection can have weakened immune systems. Chemotherapy for cancer and steroids can zap your immune system, too. Sjogren’s syndrome, which affects your immune system, can raise your risk of yeast infection.
       
candida albicans

All About Candida

It's the yeast most often to blame for health problems. Candida albicans is the most common strain. But there are least 20 candida species that cause infections in humans. Candida auris is a new fungus in this family that’s a big concern. Hospital patients infected with it can get very ill and may not get help from antifungal drugs.
       
candidiasis tongue

What Is a Yeast Infection?

If yeast is out of balance, you might get candidiasis, or a yeast infection. These most often affect your vagina, but you can also have thrush, a yeast infection in your mouth or throat. Too much yeast can trigger diarrhea or a skin rash. It’s rare, but if yeast overgrows and gets into your blood, it could cause infection throughout your whole body.
       
young woman wearing jeans close up

Yeast Infection Signs

It has some telltale symptoms. Your vagina might burn and itch. You may spot a thick, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese. It won’t have an odor. It might hurt when you pee or have sex. Thrush can cause white clumps inside your cheeks or on your tongue. Your mouth looks red, and it may burn so much that it’s hard to swallow food.
       
allergic skin reaction close up
       

Is Yeast Allergy a Thing?

Yes. Some people are allergic to yeast in foods like bread, vinegar, and beer. It can cause hives on your skin. A severe yeast allergy could make it hard to breathe or cause your throat to swell. You’ll need to work with your doctor to figure out which yeasty foods cause an allergic reaction and cut them out of your diet. Baked goods leavened with yeast are common culprits.
       
mouth sores
       

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast doesn’t cause infections. It’s good for your body. It’s rich in B vitamins that help you break down foods for natural energy. Zinc and iron in yeast build stronger bones and muscles. Nutritional yeast isn’t the same as brewer’s yeast. You can find it at a health-food store baked into crackers or chips. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on your popcorn or homemade sauces.
       
brewery pouring beer
       

Brewer’s Yeast

It’s used to make beer. It can also grow on corn or other grains. It’s rich in protein, B vitamins, and the mineral chromium, which helps keep your blood sugar levels in balance. Brewer’s yeast has a bitter taste, so take it as a supplement. It might ruin the flavor if you sprinkle it on foods.
       
red yeast rice

Red Yeast Rice

Not really yeast but a cultured grain, it’s used in Chinese medicine to lower cholesterol. Red yeast rice products could be risky for your health, so it’s best to avoid them. They may interact with cholesterol drugs called statins or cause the same side effects. Some red yeast rice products also contain citrinin, which could lead to kidney failure.
       
kombucha drink

Kombucha

This popular drink made with yeast is a fermented tea with sugar added for taste. While some people claim kombucha prevents cancer or controls high blood pressure, there’s little proof that it really works. It can even make you sick if it’s brewed in a place that isn’t clean, whether that’s someone’s home or a shop.
       
homemade kefir
       

Kefir

This fermented dairy treat comes from the Caucasus region of Turkey, but you can find it in most supermarkets now. Kefir is made by adding yeasty grains to milk. It’s a probiotic that helps keep your gut bacteria in balance. Kefir might help you treat diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or eczema, although more research is needed. Low-fat dairy also builds strong, healthy bones.
       
bowl of kimchi
       

What Foods Have Yeast?

You can add fermented foods and drinks to your diet for their health benefits. Yogurt with live, active cultures is easy to find. Top it with fresh fruit for an extra boost. Sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi are zesty fermented treats. But some of these foods are preserved for long shelf life, so they may also have lots of sugar or sodium.
       
yeast culture in petri dish
       

It Might Fight Cancer

New cancer drugs and screening tests that use yeast are in the works. Many genes involved in cancer are similar to those found in yeast, so they’re easier to map and study. One project is using yeast to create new drugs to treat aggressive breast cancer linked to the BRCA gene.

Your Brain Works Better With the Right Fuel

selection of fresh fruit and vegetables smoothies
       

Ginseng, Fish, Berries, or Caffeine?

Listen to the buzz about foods and dietary supplements, and you'll believe they can do everything from sharpen focus to enhance memory, attention span, and brain function.
But do they really work? There's no denying that as we age, our body ages right along with us. The good news is that you can improve your chances of maintaining a healthy brain if you add "smart" foods and drinks to your diet.
       
Young woman wearing pajamas, drinking coffee

Caffeine Can Make You More Alert

There's no magic bullet to boost IQ or make you smarter -- but certain substances, like caffeine, can energize you and help you concentrate. Found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and some medications, caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up buzz, though the effects are short-term. And more is often less: Overdo it on caffeine and it can make you jittery and uncomfortable.
       
Whole and cut oranges, close-up
       

Sugar Can Enhance Alertness

Sugar is your brain's preferred fuel source -- not table sugar, but glucose, which your body processes from the sugars and carbs you eat. That's why a glass of OJ or another fruit juice can offer a short-term boost to memory, thinking, and mental ability.
Have too much, though, and memory can be impaired -- along with the rest of you. Go easy on the added sugar, as it has been linked to heart disease and other conditions.
       
Milk and cereal star in a healthy breakfast
       

Eat Breakfast to Fuel Your Brain

Tempted to skip breakfast? Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat it tend to perform better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of researchers' brain-fuel list include high-fiber whole grains, dairy, and fruits. Just don't overeat; researchers also found high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.
       
Skinned salmon fillet on crushed ice with chives

Fish Really is Brain Food

A protein source linked to a great brain boost is fish -- rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are key for brain health. These healthy fats have amazing brain power: A diet with higher levels of them has been linked to lower dementia and stroke risks and slower mental decline; plus, they may play a vital role in enhancing memory, especially as we get older.
For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.
       
Bar of chocolate beside pecans

Add a Daily Dose of Nuts and Chocolate

Nuts and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which has been linked in some studies to less cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate also has other powerful antioxidant properties, and it contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus.
Enjoy up to an ounce a day of nuts and dark chocolate to get all the benefits you need with a minimum of excess calories, fat, or sugar.
       
Wheat pita filled with peppers, avocado, and feta

Add Avocados and Whole Grains

Every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and brain. A diet high in whole grains and fruits like avocados can cut the risk of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol. This reduces your risk of plaque buildup and enhances blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to fire up brain cells.
Whole grains, like popcorn and whole wheat, also contribute dietary fiber and vitamin E. Though avocados have fat, it's the good-for-you, monounsaturated fat that helps with healthy blood flow.
       
pile of fresh blueberries

Blueberries Are Super Nutritious

Research in animals shows that blueberries may help protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Studies also show that diets rich in blueberries improved both the learning and muscle function of aging rats, making them mentally equal to much younger rats.
       
tuna steak with green beans and boiled egg

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

It may sound trite but it's true: If your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can hurt your ability to concentrate. Eating too much or too little can also interfere with your focus. A heavy meal may make you feel tired, while too few calories can result in distracting hunger pangs.
Benefit your brain: Strive for a well-balanced diet full of a wide variety of healthy foods.
       
Man eating sandwich of pills and capsules

Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements?

Store shelves groan with supplements claiming to boost health. Although many of the reports on the brain-boosting power of supplements like vitamins B, C, E, beta-carotene, and magnesium are promising, a supplement is only useful to people whose diets are lacking in that specific nutrient.
Some researchers are cautiously optimistic about ginseng, ginkgo, and vitamin, mineral, and herb combinations and their impact on the brain, but more proof is still needed.
Check with your doctor.
       
Businessman at Sidewalk Cafe

Get Ready for a Big Day

Want to power up your ability to concentrate? Start with a meal of 100% fruit juice, a whole-grain bagel with salmon, and a cup of coffee. In addition to eating a well-balanced meal, experts also offer this advice:
  • Get a good night's sleep.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Exercise to help sharpen thinking.
  • Meditate to clear thinking and relax.