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Posted by on Oct 16, 2012 | 0 comments

Vitamins: What to Take, What to Skip

What you need, and how to get it

 

By Amanda Gardner

Vitamins and minerals are essential to any diet, and research suggests they may help prevent cancer and heart disease, not to mention other health problems. But reality check: Many studies have been conducted on vitamin-containing food, but not necessarily supplements.

In fact, if you eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fortified food, you’re probably getting all you need. But supplements do offer an easy, just-in-case form of health insurance.

Do you need them? Here’s a quick guide to beneficial nutrients and what they can do for you.

Beta-carotene

Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and green peppers, among other foods, this antioxidant is converted in the body to vitamin A and is important for healthy vision, a functioning immune system, and good skin. But the evidence isn’t really there to recommend it for staving off cancer. In fact, a 2004 study found that supplements may actually raise the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Bottom line: Skip the supplements if you’re a smoker, and try to get your beta-carotene from fruits and veggies, whether you smoke or not.

Calcium

Our bodies need calcium—mostly found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese—to maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Bottom line: Supplements aren’t a bad idea if you hate dairy (and can eat only so much kale and canned sardines), but you may want to skip them if you’re prone to kidney stones or are a female over 70. A 2010 report linked supplements to heart-attack risk in older postmenopausal women. If you decide to go with supplements, don’t take more than 500 milligrams at a time, and pair them with vitamin D to improve calcium absorption.

Folic acid

Folic acid, which prevents neural tube defects such as spina bifida in babies, is found in fortified breakfast cereal, dark green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruit juice, bread, and pasta.

Bottom line: Getting 400 micrograms a day of this B vitamin, and 600 if you are pregnant or lactating, is a no-brainer. That amount should come from food, supplements, or both, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The jury’s still out as to whether folate combats cancer, heart disease, or mental illness.

Iron

You may not love the foods highest in iron (liver and other organ meats), but the mineral is critical for the proper functioning of red blood cells and, therefore, the prevention of anemia.

Bottom line: Try to get iron from dietary sources, which also include lean meats, seafood, nuts, and green, leafy vegetables. However, you may need a supplement if you’re anemic, or your doctor might prescribe them before surgery, says Jessica Anderson, a registered dietitian with the Coastal Bend Health Education Center, at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, in Corpus Christi. Women, especially those who are pregnant or menstruating, might also benefit.

Multivitamin

There is limited evidence that multivitamins may help prevent breast cancer, and an NIH panel in 2006 wasn’t convinced that popping the pills was worth it. Neither is the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which said the only benefit could be to reduce cancer risk in people with poor nutrition. And a large 2009 study failed to find any beneficial effects of the vitamins for cancer or deaths among postmenopausal women.

Bottom line: Multivitamins aren’t a bad idea if “you’re on the go,” Anderson says. “But don’t expect major lifesaving benefits.”

Read the rest of this article at Health.com

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Posted by on Sep 4, 2012 | 0 comments

14 Natural Pain Relievers

Many who live with chronic back pain would really love to be less dependent on painkillers to manage their pain. But how? Natural pain relievers may be the answer. Here’s a list that might help – each of these won’t be for everyone, but any number of these natural pain relievers might help you be able to rely less on pain medications and feel more in control of your life.

  • Release your inner endorphins. These natural chemicals block pain signals from reaching your brain. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers, and they can be as strong as many of the strongest pain relievers. Endorphins also help alleviate anxiety, stress and depression — conditions that often accompany and exacerbate chronic pain. The body produces endorphins during aerobic exercise. A “runner’s high” is not just for those running long distances — any activity that gets your blood pumping for a sustained period will release pain relieving endorphins into your system.
  • Find good company. Those who have regular contact with others dealing with similar forms of chronic pain find that their pain becomes more manageable. An online group that is both active and supportiveis best. Members of the Spine-health.com Back Pain and Chronic Pain discussion forums say that it is quite simply “free therapy”.
  • Eat cookies. Research shows that eating sweet foods like cookies, chocolate or ice cream, helps reduce the sensation of pain.
  • Or just bake the cookies. Enjoying a smell that is both sweet and pleasant has been shown to reduce the perception of pain.
  • Feel the heat. Applying some form of heat — a hot water bottle, gel-filled pad heated in the microwave, electric heating pad, or hot bath — can go a long way in easing your pain. Benefits of heat are twofold: it increases the flow of healing oxygen and nutrients to the damaged area, and it suppresses pain signals being sent to your brain. Some find that wearing a heat wrap, such as Thermacare heat wrap, is best because it releases a low level heat for several hours and can be worn under clothes so you remain mobile.
  • Cool it with ice. Ahh, how this cools down inflamed and sore tissues. Back pain almost always comes with some level of inflammation, and ice is the best natural way to reduce it. Ice also helps by acting as a local anesthetic, and by slowing the nerve impulses, which in turn interrupts the pain-spasm reactions between the nerves in the affected area.
  • Loosen up. Almost everyone can benefit from stretching the soft tissues – the muscles, ligaments and tendons – in and around the spine. Your back is designed for movement, and if your motion is limited it can make your back pain worse. If you suffer from chronic back pain, you may find it takes weeks or months of stretching to loosen up your spine and soft tissues, but you will find that meaningful and sustained pain relief will follow the increase in motion.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. People who got the recommended daily 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D experienced less pain than those who didn’t, according to a Boston University study of 221 men and women withknee osteoarthritis. Researchers surmised that Vitamin D helps relieve pain by aiding in the absorption of calcium, which is needed for bone growth and repair. Other research shows vitamin D may directly help soothe pain. 93% of 150 people with unexplained sources of pain were recently found to be deficient in Vitamin D levels, according to recent research at the University of Minnesota. About 15 minutes of sun exposure on your face and hands a day is enough to get your daily dose of D, or a 200-IU supplement of Vitamin D and as much calcium as is found in two glasses of milk.

Read the rest of this article at Spine-Health

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