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The days are getting shorter and the news is getting heavier with each rising and setting of the sun. It can be all too easy to slip into a funk and lose track of how long you’ve been traveling in it as time wears on.

Yet, these funks can be reversible. We can climb out of them one rung at a time by dropping the excess weight of some unhelpful, everyday activities. Take a moment to examine your routine—can some of these elements be reduced or eliminated? Would you be a happier person because of it?

1) Getting in to social media arguments

I know, I know… sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. Unfortunately, most Twitter wars or Facebook back-and-forths do not result in productive change or warm, fuzzy feelings that we’ve made the world a better place. If you see something truly upsetting online that is crying out for a response, take a moment to ask yourself “Would my energy be best spent responding to this? Or could I channel it elsewhere?” Redirecting our energies elsewhere might result in better self-care and real-life positive change.

Related: When to Walk Away From a Social Media Argument

2) Saying “yes” too much

We all know someone who is guilty of putting too much on their plate. If your happiness is taking a hit because that person is you, step back and re-evaluate what you can actually handle. Chart out your available time, cross-reference that with what you absolutely need to be doing to stay afloat, and settle on where your boundaries are. And then – this is the most important part – stick to them.

3) Choosing the couch over a walk outside

There are absolutely nights where crashing on the couch in front of Netflix is a preferable method of unwinding. Yet, if there are other things you could be doing that might promote a more healthful frame of mind or physical state, why not consider them, instead? Take a walk, write in a journal, call a friend, paint a painting, play with your fur-baby, lift some weights or pick up a musical instrument. Unwind in ways that are nourishing.

4) Staying up past our bedtime

It cannot be stressed enough how important getting a good night’s rest can be for our health. The sooner we can establish a regular sleep schedule, the sooner our body will catch on to our rhythm an we can rise without grogginess. Reaching 7 to 9 hours of sleep is often the target that can ensure we are well-rested and our brains are at peak functioning. Set an alarm on your smartphone for when it’s time to pack it away and hit the hay.

Related: Top 10 Sleep Mistakes and Their Solutions

5) Trying to live up to Pinterest-level expectations

The more unrealistic our expectations are, the more disappointed and unhappy we will ultimately be. Fatigue from continuously “failing” to meet these expectations is the ultimate bummer and can lead us to think negatively about ourselves and our abilities. Is what you strive to accomplish each day or week simply not in the cards? Then deal yourself a new hand! Maybe it isn’t realistic to make a home-cooked meal from scratch every weeknight, to hit the gym 5x per week, or to attend every extracurricular meeting or event that ends up on your calendar. Redefine your expectations to reflect what is realistic for you.

6) Dealing with family members who are insufferable

They say we can’t choose our family, and while that may be true in some regards, we can certainly choose how much of our brain space is taken up by family members who may not earn it. There are some people in our lives who, when we interact with them, provide the opposite of a healing effect on our hearts and minds. If we have reached a wall with how much we can continue to interact with these people, it is okay to say “no more” and either reduce or cut off contact. Toxic relationships can exist with friendships, romantic partnerships and familial relationships. You do not have to risk your mental wellbeing just because someone is “family.” Take care of yourself.

Related:
5 Harsh Truths Nobody Tells You About Happiness
Which Foods Increase Happiness?
10 Tips to Start Living Your Best Life 

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7 Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy

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Dogs are well-known for their loyalty, affection and devotion to their owners. But owning a dog is also proven to improve your health, boost your confidence and increase your happiness.

Our canine companions deserve appreciation for all that they do. Read on to find out ways to share the love and keep your pooch at the top of their game.

Happy small dog

1. Play with Your Pooch

Regular exercise is as important for dogs as it is for people. Try to find activities you can both enjoy while getting your blood pumping. Throw a frisbee around, take your dog for a swim or strap on your rollerblades if your dog likes a good run.

Veterinarians recommend taking your dog for at least two 15-minute walks per day. Although, this is just a guideline. Dogs who are larger and have more energy may need more or longer walks, and some dogs may be fine with only one walk a day. See what works best for you and your dog.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for enough activity time, hire a professional dog walker to spend some time with your pooch.

2. Take Your Dog to a Groomer, or Do It Yourself

Dogs benefit from regular baths, coat brushing, nail trimming and haircuts if they’re a breed with continuously growing fur. They might not enjoy having these done, but they’re guaranteed to feel better afterwards.

Also, if your pet has fleas or ticks, get these treated as soon as possible either professionally or at home.

Cleaning your dog’s ears is another important grooming task. It prevents ear mites and infections, which can lead to hearing loss if left untreated. Check out these tips on how to keep your dog’s ears clean.

Related: How to Give Your Pet a Massage

Girl and dog

3. Include Social Time

Socializing with different people and other animals helps to naturally lower canine stress hormones, making them less aggressive and fearful. Well-socialized dogs often become more accepting of unusual or new situations, such as going to the vet. They look forward to outings and seeing new places, and grooming often goes much more smoothly with a calmer dog.

Try taking your buddy to a dog park, or visit friends who also have dogs. Sign up for a dog training course. You can also try some play time with other pets, such as cats or horses. They may surprise you and get along well together.

Spending time with you and other human family members is one of the best ways for your pooch to get social time. Set aside some one-on-one time every day to give your best friend some love.

4. Exercise Their Mind

You can buy commercial toys that are designed to challenge your dog’s intellect. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to create fun games for your pet. Try a few of these easy ideas:

  • Fill the cups of an old muffin baking tin with items like balls or other chewable toys and let your dog figure out how to get them all loose.
  • Hide their favorite treats around your house or yard for a tasty round of sniff-and-go-seek.
  • Set up agility parks with common items in your home or yard.
  • Tie a string onto the end of a long stick, then a toy or object on the end of the string. Dangle the item in front of your pooch, varying how fast and slow you move it around to keep the game interesting.

5. Have Treats on Hand

Giving your dog treats may seem frivolous, or like you’re spoiling your pet. Rest assured that it’s not. Similar to human children, dogs need something to focus on and keep them busy, while improving their physical and mental skills.

Treats will keep a dog engaged and prevent them from chewing on your furniture, digging up your flower beds or other acts of boredom.

A treat can be any toy or food item that your dog enjoys. You can give them as part of a formal training session, for simply being good throughout the day or if you see signs that your dog is getting bored.

Related: How and Why to Make Homemade Dog Treats

Happy dog

6. Keep Your Dog Safe During Extreme Weather

It may not be immediately obvious, but dogs can suffer during cold or hot temperature extremes. Remember to take extra care at these times.

Fur often isn’t enough to keep dogs warm during cold spells. They need extra layers as well as protection from skin damage and other winter hazards. Check out the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ cold weather safety tips for dogs.

Excessive heat can also be dangerous for dogs. They don’t sweat to cool themselves like humans do, so they can be susceptible to heat stroke. Avoid taking your dog out during the hottest times of the day, and make sure they always have enough water and shade. Find out warning signs to watch out for and how to identify and treat an overheated dog.

7. Visit the Veterinarian Regularly

A new puppy’s first visit to the vet should be around 8 to 10 weeks old. Your pup will get a physical exam and potentially a de-worming. You can also discuss important issues such as neutering, vaccinations and microchipping.

Vets recommend yearly check-ups for adult dogs, and twice-yearly for senior dogs older than 7 to 10 years. This gives you the opportunity to catch any health issues before they become a problem, ensuring your pooch stays healthy and happy for years to come.

Related at Care2

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Does Having Sore Muscles Mean I Had a Good Workout?

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There are several reasons why you might feel muscle soreness — but workout quality is not one of them.

Soreness has a number of possible causes, but it isn’t related to workout quality — it only means that you’ve damaged your muscles.

It could be that the movements were new, or that you changed variables like volume, weight, or intensity. If you don’t exercise for a week or more, even a relatively easy workout could leave you sore the next day, explains Dean Somerset, CSCS, an exercise physiologist in Edmonton, Alberta, who specializes in injury prevention and rehab.

It could also mean you’re changing elements of your workout too often — an approach known as “confusing your muscles” — which doesn’t give your body the chance to adapt to the stressors. “Exercise variation is a common cause of soreness,” says Somerset.

Chronic soreness after workouts could indicate that you’re skimping on important aspects of your recovery, such as sleep, nutrition, or hydration, or simply working out too frequently. Constantly pushing yourself to the point of soreness can lead to chronic fatigue, pain, and injuries that could land you on the sidelines.

A better way to gauge whether your workout is successful is to set measurable goals beforehand, Somerset says. For example, you might decide that you want to run a certain distance, maintain a specific speed, or lift a predetermined amount of weight. This objective feedback is a better indicator of workout quality than soreness, he explains, because you’ll know whether you’ve made progress.

Written by Lauren Bedosky

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What You Should Eat During and After Antibiotics

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Antibiotics are a powerful line of defense against bacterial infections. However, they can sometimes cause side effects, such as diarrhea and liver damage.

Some foods can reduce these side effects, while others may make them worse. This article explains what you should and shouldn’t eat during and after antibiotics.

What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a type of medication used to treat bacterial infections. They work by killing the infection or preventing it from spreading. There are many different types of antibiotics.

Some are broad-spectrum, meaning they act on a wide range of disease-causing bacteria. Others are designed to kill certain species of bacteria. Antibiotics are very important and effective at treating serious infections. Yet, they can come with some negative side effects.

For example, excessive antibiotic use can damage your liver. One study has shown that antibiotics are the most common medication to cause liver injury (12).

Antibiotics may also have negative effects on the trillions of bacteria and other microbes living in your intestines. These bacteria are collectively known as the gut microbiota.

In addition to killing disease-causing bacteria, antibiotics may kill healthy bacteria (345). Taking too many antibiotics can drastically change the amounts and types of bacteria within the gut microbiota, especially in early life (678). In fact, only one week of antibiotics can change the makeup of the gut microbiota for up to a year (9).

Some studies have shown that changes to the gut microbiota caused by excessive antibiotic use in early life may even increase the risk of weight gain and obesity (10). Furthermore, the overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, making them ineffective at killing disease-causing bacteria (11).

Finally, by changing the types of bacteria living in the intestines, antibiotics can cause intestinal side effects, including diarrhea (12).

Take Probiotics During and After Treatment

Taking antibiotics can alter the gut microbiota, which can lead to antibiotic-associated diarrhea, especially in children. Fortunately, a number of studies have shown that taking probiotics, or live healthy bacteria, can reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (1314). One review of 23 studies including nearly 400 children found that taking probiotics at the same time as antibiotics could reduce the risk of diarrhea by more than 50% (15).

A larger review of 82 studies including over 11,000 people found similar results in adults, as well as children (16). These studies showed that Lactobacilli and Saccharomyces probiotics were particularly effective.

However, given that probiotics are usually bacteria themselves, they can also be killed by antibiotics if taken together. Thus, it is important to take antibiotics and probiotics a few hours apart.

Probiotics should also be taken after a course of antibiotics in order to restore some of the healthy bacteria in the intestines that may have been killed. One study showed that probiotics can restore the microbiota to its original state after a disruptive event, such as taking antibiotics (17).

If taking probiotics after antibiotics, it may be better to take one that contains a mixture of different species of probiotics, rather than just one.

Eat Fermented Foods

Certain foods can also help restore the gut microbiota after damage caused by antibiotics. Fermented foods are produced by microbes and include yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi, among others. They contain a number of healthy bacterial species, such as Lactobacilli, which can help restore the gut microbiota to a healthy state after antibiotics.

Studies have shown that people who eat yogurt or fermented milk have higher amounts of Lactobacilli in their intestines and lower amounts of disease-causing bacteria, such as Enterobacteria and Bilophila wadsworthia (181920).

Kimchi and fermented soybean milk have similar beneficial effects and can help cultivate healthy bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria (2122). Therefore, eating fermented foods may help improve gut health after taking antibiotics.

Other studies have also found that fermented foods may be beneficial during antibiotic treatment. Some of these have shown that taking either normal or probiotic-supplemented yogurt can reduce diarrhea in people taking antibiotics (232425).

Eat High-Fiber Foods

Fiber can’t be digested by your body, but it can be digested by your gut bacteria, which helps stimulate their growth.

As a result, fiber may help restore healthy gut bacteria after a course of antibiotics.

High-fiber foods include:

  • Whole grains (porridge, whole grain bread, brown rice)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Bananas
  • Artichokes

Studies have shown that foods that contain dietary fiber are not only able to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, but they may also reduce the growth of some harmful bacteria (262728). However, dietary fiber can slow the rate that the stomach empties. In turn, this can slow the rate at which medicines are absorbed (29).

Therefore, it is best to temporarily avoid high-fiber foods during antibiotic treatment and instead focus on eating them after stopping antibiotics.

Eat Prebiotic Foods

Unlike probiotics, which are live microbes, prebiotics are foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut. Many high-fiber foods are prebiotic. The fiber is digested and fermented by healthy gut bacteria, allowing them to grow (30). However, other foods are not high in fiber but act as prebiotics by helping the growth of healthy bacteria like Bifidobacteria.

For example, red wine contains antioxidant polyphenols, which are not digested by human cells but are digested by gut bacteria. One study found that consuming red wine polyphenol extracts for four weeks could significantly increase the amount of healthy Bifidobacteria in the intestines and reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol (31).

Similarly, cocoa contains antioxidant polyphenols that have beneficial prebiotic effects on the gut microbiota. A couple studies have shown that cocoa polyphenols also increase healthy Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus in the gut and reduce some unhealthy bacteria, including Clostridia (3233).

Thus, eating prebiotic foods after antibiotics may help the growth of beneficial gut bacteria that have been damaged by antibiotics.

Avoid Certain Foods That Reduce Antibiotic Effectiveness

While many foods are beneficial during and after antibiotics, some should be avoided. For example, studies have shown that it can be harmful to consume grapefruit and grapefruit juice while taking certain medications, including antibiotics (3435).

This is because grapefruit juice and many medications are broken down by an enzyme called cytochrome P450. Eating grapefruit while on antibiotics can prevent the body from breaking down the medication properly. This can be harmful to your health. One study in six healthy men found that drinking grapefruit juice while taking the antibiotic erythromycin increased the amount of the antibiotic in the blood, compared to those who took it with water (36).

Foods supplemented with calcium may also affect antibiotic absorption. Studies have shown that foods supplemented with calcium can reduce the absorption of various antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin and gatifloxacin (3738).

However, other studies have shown that calcium-containing foods like yogurt don’t have the same inhibitory effect (39). It could be that only foods that are supplemented with high doses of calcium should be avoided when taking antibiotics.

The Bottom Line

Antibiotics are important when you have a bacterial infection. However, they can sometimes cause side effects, including diarrhea, liver disease and changes to the gut microbiota.

Taking probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics can help reduce the risk of diarrhea and restore your gut microbiota to a healthy state.

Eating high-fiber foods, fermented foods and prebiotic foods after taking antibiotics may also help reestablish a healthy gut microbiota.

However, it is best to avoid grapefruit and calcium-fortified foods during antibiotics, as these can affect the absorption of antibiotics.

Written by Ruairi Robertson, PhD

Post originally appeared on Healthline

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The Many Benefits of Fermented Food

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By Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

Fermented foods and drinks are quite literally alive with flavor and nutrition. Their flavors tend to be strong and pronounced. Think of stinky aged cheeses, tangy sauerkraut, rich earthy miso, smooth sublime wines. Though not everyone loves every flavor of fermentation, humans have always appreciated the unique, compelling flavors resulting from the transformative power of microscopic bacteria and fungi.

One great practical benefit of fermentation is that it can preserve food. Fermentation organisms produce alcohol, lactic acid and acetic acid, all “bio-preservatives” that retain nutrients while preventing spoilage and the growth of pathogenic organisms. Vegetables, fruits, milk, fish and meat are highly perishable, and our ancestors used whatever techniques they could discover to store foods from periods of plenty for later consumption. From the tropics to the Arctic, fermentation has been used to preserve food resources.

Microbiodiversity and Incorporating the Wild

By eating a variety of live fermented foods, you promote microbial diversity in your body. The live bacteria in those ferments not heated after fermentation enter our bodies, where some of them survive the stomach and find themselves in our already densely populated intestines. There, they help to digest food and assimilate nutrients, as well as stimulate immune responses. There is no one particular strain that is uniquely beneficial; rather the greatest benefit of eating bacteria lies in biodiversity. Few if any of the bacteria we eat take up residence in our intestines, but even so they have elaborate interactions with the bacteria that are there, and with our bodily cells, in ways that we are just beginning to recognize and that remain little understood.

Biodiversity is increasingly recognized as critical to the survival of larger-scale ecosystems. Earth and all its inhabitants comprise a single, seamless matrix of life, interconnected and interdependent. The frightening repercussions of species extinctions starkly illustrate the impact of the loss of biodiversity all over our planet. The survival of our species depends upon biodiversity.

Biodiversity is just as important at the micro level. Call it microbiodiversity. Your body is an ecosystem that can function most effectively when populated by diverse microorganisms. Sure, you can buy “probiotic” supplements containing specific strains. But by eating traditional fermented foods and beverages, especially those you ferment yourself with wild microorganisms present in your environment, you become more interconnected with the life forces of the world around you. Your environment literally becomes you, as you invite the microbial populations you share the Earth with to enter your diet and your intestinal ecology.

Wild fermentation is a way of incorporating the wild into your body, becoming one with the natural world. Wild foods, microbial cultures included, possess a great, unmediated life force, which can help us lower our susceptibility to disease and adapt to shifting conditions. These microorganisms are everywhere, and the techniques for fermenting with them are simple and flexible.

Are live fermented foods the answer to a long, healthy life? The folklores of many different cultures associate longevity with foods such as yogurt and miso. Many researchers have found evidence to support this causal connection. Pioneering Russian immunologist and Nobel laureate Elie Metchniko studied yogurt-eating centenarians in the Balkans early in the 20th century and concluded that lactic acid bacteria “postpone and ameliorate old age.”

Personally, I’m not so inclined to reduce the secret of long life and good health to any single food or practice. Life consists of multiple variables, and every life is unique. But very clearly fermentation has contributed to the well-being of humanity as a whole.

This is an excerpt from Wild Fermentation The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (Chelsea Green Publishing) and is printed with permission from the publisher.

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