Author: Yanette Redmouth

Keeping Heart And Brain Healthy

What Causes High Homocysteine

Most adults do not know that they have elevated homocysteine as there may not be any symptoms. A simple blood test can determine your status. However, doctors do not routinely order the test unless patients have a family history of heart disease. Hence, you may want to ask your doctor about it.

  • Optimal level is below 8 umo/L.
  • A reading above 10 umo/L is considered high and is associated with increased heart attack risk.
  • Above 15 umo/L, it is a medical condition called hyperhomocysteinemia. At these levels, the prevalence of dementia, along with cognitive and functional impairment is almost double.

High homocysteine may be caused by a number of factors –

  • Vitamin deficiencies
    To maintain normal levels of homocysteine, the body requires folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 obtained from the diet. Deficiencies in these vitamins may lead to increased levels.
  • Genetics
    People born with the MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene mutation produce less of the enzymes that are normally used for metabolizing homocysteine. This metabolic disorder is like an enzyme defect and is passed from parents to children. It is estimated that up to 30-50 percent of the population may carry a mutation in this MTHFR gene. The severity and type of symptoms vary from person to person depending on how much fewer enzymes a person produces as a result of the MTHFR mutation. The reduction may range from 10-30 percent to as much as 70-90 percent. Individuals with the MTHFR mutation are likely to have higher homocysteine levels, increased inflammation and risk of heart disease, diabetes, birth defects, difficult pregnancies, anxiety and depression, fatigue, and an impaired ability to detoxify. How to find out if you have the MTHFR mutation? These days, genetic testing can be easily done with a saliva test kit ordered from www.23andme.com. It is inexpensive and non-invasive. You collect the saliva sample at home and mail it back to the lab.
  • Stress
    Stress-induced neurotransmitters – epinephrine and norepinephrine – are metabolized in the liver via a process that also uses folate. As a result, chronic high stress may result in a depletion of this critical B vitamin that is key to maintaining normal levels of homocysteine.
  • Too much animal protein
    High consumption of animal protein, especially unhealthy processed red meats like cold cuts, bacon, and canned meats from factory-farmed animals, may lead to high homocysteine levels.
  • Excess caffeine
    Drinking too much coffee and energy drinks may deplete the body of vital B vitamins, which are essential for normal homocysteine metabolism.

How To Keep Homocysteine Levels In Check

Improve Your Diet

High homocysteine not only increases inflammation, but also makes it harder for the body to detoxify the accumulated chemicals, heavy metals, and toxins. Therefore, by eating healthier foods, you can lessen the burden a bad diet imposes on your body.

  • Reduce intake of inflammatory foods such as sugar, deep-fried foods, processed meats, meats from factory-farmed animals, conventional dairy, vegetable oils, trans fats, and preservatives. Eat mostly organic, unprocessed foods.
  • Get plenty of antioxidants to combat the inflammation by having more vegetables of different colors or drinking vegetable juice daily.
  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Too much caffeine increases homocysteine levels and alcohol is inflammatory.
  • Focus on healthy fats such as coconut oil and milk, olive oil, grass-fed butter and meats, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, avocado, nuts and seeds.
  • Increase consumption of fermented foods as the supply of good bacteria can help reduce inflammation in the body. Examples include fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles, unsweetened yogurt and kefir, kombucha, and tempeh.

Get Enough Folate

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is naturally found in foods such as beans, legumes, liver, spinach, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, and beets.

Folate primarily helps the body make new cells, specifically by playing a role in copying and synthesizing DNA. It also helps the body utilize vitamin B12 and amino acids. If you do not have the habit of eating vegetables everyday, you may run the risk of a folate deficiency. Symptoms include –

  • elevated homocysteine levels
  • anemia
  • poor immune function
  • poor digestion
  • ulcers on the tongue
  • changes in hair or skin pigmentation
  • birth defects

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate found in lower quality supplements and “fortified foods” such as orange juice and refined grains.

For those individuals with the MTHFR mutation, your bodies will not be able to convert folic acid into folate. If you have been taking folic acid supplements and your homocysteine levels are still high, this may be the reason. Therefore, you should either get more folate from the diet or take the active form of folate supplements instead. Look for 5-MTHF (5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate) on the label. Avoid products that say “folic acid”.

Have Adequate Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine. Best food sources are turkey breast, chicken breast, grass-fed beef, pinto beans, chickpeas, avocado, pistachio, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and amaranth grain.

Vitamin B6 is needed to –

  • regulate homocysteine levels within the blood
  • maintain healthy blood vessels
  • manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • support brain function and mood
  • help treat anemia
  • protect eye and skin health
  • prevent or reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

For people living in the western world, it is rather rare to have a vitamin B6 deficiency as most people consume enough calories and are not experiencing malnourishment.

Get Enough Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, also called cyanocobalamin, is found mostly in animal foods such as beef and chicken liver, seafood, and meats.

  • For this reason, vegans and plant-based eaters are more likely to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency. Unfortunately, algae foods, such as blue-green algae, which are popular among vegans are not a very absorbable source of vitamin B12.
  • Elderly people who have impaired digestion are also more susceptible for deficiency because they tend to produce less stomach acid that is needed to convert vitamin B12 properly.
  • Other high risk groups include smokers, alcoholics, those with anemia, and digestive disorders like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, gastritis, or other stomach and small intestinal disorders.

Vitamin B12 benefits your mood, energy level, memory, heart, skin, hair, digestion, hormonal balance and more. Therefore, a deficiency can show up in many different symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, mood changes, poor memory, joint pain, muscle aches, heart problems like palpitations, or feeling run down.

As a supplement, vitamin B12 can be taken in tablet form, in drops that you place under the tongue, or in oral spray form. Sometimes, seniors do better with drops and oral sprays as they have trouble absorbing the vitamin from the stomach.

All B vitamins are water-soluble, that means the body has the ability to flush out any excess through the urine. Hence, B vitamins are considered safe and non-toxic.

Maintain A High Omega-3 Status

Studies have shown that homocysteine-lowering B vitamins require healthy omega-3 blood levels to derive the cognitive benefits. When omega-3 levels are low, the B vitamins have no effect.

Therefore, to protect your brain from premature aging, make sure you have enough B vitamins and omega-3s. Eat several servings of mercury-free fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, and herrings every week, or take a high quality omega-3 supplement daily.

Tone Up With Pilates

An excellentPilates instructor is going to look at an individual and customize some exercises for them to do. These will be based on what the person needs to change about themselves. Toning up some muscles will have many advantages.

Just looking great is not always something that is going to be the reason for people to join a Pilates program. They may just want to feel better and looking great is an added benefit. Knowing a person’s body will be the key to success in this kind of program.

Not everybody is able to stick with one of these programs though. It is something that will work when someone sticks to what they need to do. There are many advantages to having an instructor that can work with an individual.

One thing to consider when someone wants to see success with a Pilates program is that they need to make sure and eat healthy along with this program. There are many different foods that people can eat to help them tremendously. There are also a lot of different foods that can hurt their success with one of these programs.

Cutting calories will be very important, but making sure that someone has enough calories is also very important. Cardio exercises along with Pilates can also help with the success in this type of program. It is important to check with a doctor before beginning something like this though.

A lot of people feel that using this method is much quicker than any other method. Other people feel that it does not help them lose weight, but it does help them to feel better. They will have much more flexibility and be able to have better balance too.

Whenever someone is choosing any kind of exercise or weight loss program, they are going to want to make sure that they are able to follow through to get the results. Doing these activities just one or two times is not going to help them. This is something that should be continued if they want to continue to see results.

There are many home workout videos that people will purchase. Some people find that they have seen great results with these. This is not always the answer though.

A Pilates instructor is going to give their client certain exercises to do that will help them. They can work the areas that they need to work in order to make sure that they are getting the best results. They need to work many areas of the body too.

Some of these exercises can be done only on a mat. This can help keep some of the strain off the joints too. This is very important in many situations where someone has had an injury that they are currently treating. This is why people should seek a professional’s assistance before they start a program like this.

Phytochemicals Found in Food

BETA CAROTENE is found in orange-colored and dark green leafy vegetables. Beta-carotene is critical for eye health and also plays a key role in maintaining a healthy and strong immune system.

LYCOPENE is the red pigment found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, raspberries, and strawberries. It’s a powerful antioxidant and is linked to reduced prostate cancer risk. Lycopene is better absorbed after it’s been cooked, such as in tomato sauce.

LUTEIN is found in green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, as well as in cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussel sprouts and broccoli. Like beta-carotene, lutein is critical for eye health and may help prevent macular degeneration.

RESVERATROL has been making the news with its antioxidant properties for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and decreasing overall systemic inflammation. Have you heard how dark chocolate and red wine are healthy? That’s because they’re good sources of resveratrol.

ISOFLAVONES block estrogen from entering cells, possibly lowering the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, as well as protecting against heart disease by reducing blood clotting and cholesterol levels. Soy foods are high in isoflavones, but they’re also found in other legumes.

ANTHOCYANIDINS are the deep red and blue-purple pigments in blueberries, blackberries, red onions, and radishes, to name just a few. Anthocyanidins help maintain a healthy circulatory system.

Foods for People With Kidney Problems

Sea Bass

Adding a serving of sea bass to your diet is a great way to introduce a high-quality protein. It is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are useful for reducing inflammation. Plus, it has the potential to help people who suffer with anxiety and depression. A further benefit of this type of fish is the low amount of phosphorus content compared to many others like salmon and shellfish.

Garlic

A special diet for people with kidney disease should be relatively low in sodium. So, a great alternative to adding salt to a dish for flavor is to use a substitute like garlic. Garlic is not only able to improve the taste, but can also provide several nutritional benefits. It is rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese and sulfur compounds that are known to help with inflammation.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is one of the few whole grains that aren’t high in phosphorus. It is rich in nutrients like fiber, iron, magnesium and B vitamins. Plus, it is naturally gluten-free which makes a practical choice for those people who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. Buckwheat is available throughout the year and easy to use in a variety of dishes. It can even be used as a very acceptable substitute for porridge or rice.

Pilates

Pilates exercise not only unites body and mind but it gives you discipline. This in turn will protect your health and well being. Stress brings many chemical changes to your body. It increases the blood flow to the larger muscles and slows digestion as it prepares the body for the fight or flight syndrome. Blood vessels restrict and sugar goes up. Many hormones are switched into off position. This is good if there is a danger, your adrenalin rushes to fight it off or get away as fast as you can. Today most stress does not come from a life threatening danger, but the activities of modern society. These activities may put you in fight or flight mode, but there is nowhere to run from the stress of everyday life.

Stress is responsible for many diseases. Estimates of seventy-five to ninety percent of all visits are stress related. Being well is not the opposite of illness. It is more than just the lack of sickness; it is an overall well-being that affects both the mental and the physical aspects of life. Many adverse habits develop because of stress and lack of wellness.

Doing Pilates can actually help break the cycle of worry and anxiety. Much like any mental exercise that allows the individual more control of thought patterns, Pilates offers a way to change your focus and relieve the stress.

The exercise from Pilates releases the body from the flight or fight mode by mimicking the activity of both. Exercise is a proven method of stress control, when combined with the activity of mental control and focus on breathing, the quick return of stress is unlikely and the cycle is broken for that period.

Studies link a reduction of disease with exercise. A study at the University of Calgary and the University of Ottowa showed a decrease in blood sugar when type two diabetics exercised. The decrease translated into a reduction of heart attack and diabetic kidney and eye disease. Other studies show a reduction of 40 percent in mortality rate for diabetics. Lack of activity is one of the biggest risk factors in heart disease. Overweight is another. Pilates reduces both risks and is a heart healthy activity. Stress is also linked to tumor growth in cancer victims. While there is no study that shows psychological stress creates cancer, there are many that shows it impairs the immune system and creates an environment conducive to cancer.

It may seem simple. Take a Pilates course, work out three times a week, live longer and be happier. The activity is good for the body, the training is good for the soul and the results on appearance are fantastic for the spirit. Set aside time to exercise and regain hours in healthy stress-free living. You’ll find that the days stresses melt away and you feel better than you ever felt before, after just a few months of training.

Not Just For Healthy Digestion

But They Taste So Bitter!

To be effective bitters must be tasted on the taste buds of the tongue where they stimulate the bitter taste buds and thus increase salivation. This stimulates the gastric reflex to cause digestive juices to be secreted. There is increased flow of digestive juices from the pancreas, duodenum, and liver that results in better assimilation of nutrients and less undigested food being passed through the digestive tract. This is of benefit to problems that have their basis in inefficient or allergy distorted digestion.

The Various Roles of Bitters

Bitters act to increase or stabilize the appetite. In general, there is a stimulation of the appetite, which is important in conditions of convalescence and where there is otherwise a reduction of appetite. Bitters do not seem to increase appetite in a digestively healthy person, rather a more healthful balance in the appetite develops. The body acquires more taste for healthy foods and less taste for unhealthy foods.

When bitters activate the gastric secretion of hydrochloric acid and other digestive enzymes, the nerve tone of the muscles of the entire digestive tract improves. Blood circulation improves and the body can assimilate foods, absorb nutrients, and eliminate wastes more efficiently. In a broader way, this improvement in blood circulation affects the healthy activity of the heart and circulation in general.

Cleansing and Detoxification

Bitters stimulate the liver to do a more effective cleansing and detoxifying job and prompt the gallbladder to make bile. The production of bile helps metabolize fats and keeps elimination moving smoothly. Bitters also produce a diuretic and hepatic effect in the body. This has value when working with any condition that has origins in a sluggish or overworked liver.

Stabilizing Blood Sugar

Bitters produce a regulatory effect on the secretion of the pancreas of the hormones that regulate blood sugar, insulin, and glucagon. This can be of benefit in stabilizing insulin levels and modulating blood sugar swings. Diabetics should be careful when taking bitters because bitters may upset their blood sugar balance.

Reducing Stress

Bitters can also be supportive in reducing stress and anxiety and regenerating the nervous system. When bitters work to strengthen digestion, this activates the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system and induces a more relaxed state in the body. Bitters can be useful if you are overextended and stressed out. Bitters produce subtle, beneficial psychological effects. In some cases they can produce a marked antidepressant effect and a generally tonic effect upon consciousness.

Increasing Immune Responses

Some bitter herbs such as Gentian can modulate gut associated immune responses. In some therapeutic circles, bitters are indicated for treatment of those recovering from infectious diseases including viral conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Some clinical tests have shown that bitters can decrease levels of sIgA antibodies and reduce or eliminate symptoms in those with inflammatory bowel disease. Bitters may help repair gut wall damage through stimulating self-repair mechanisms.