Archive for August, 2018

But setting a new routine can help you get your ZZZs.

Skimping on sleep can often lead to feeling groggy the next day, but it can also raise your risk of a more serious, long-term effect on your mental health, according to a new study.

Researchers at Binghamton University found that sleeping less than eight hours a night was associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts, similar to those seen with anxiety disorder and depression.

When sleep is regularly disrupted, it can lead to a tendency toward getting negative thoughts “stuck” in the mind, says lead researcher Meredith Coles, a professor of psychology at Binghamton University. Further research will have to be done to investigate why the connection exists, she notes, but for people who tend to be anxious or depressed, more regular sleep schedules may be worth considering. (Try these 12 foolproof natural sleep remedies.)

“The challenge with anxiety and sleep problems is that they make each other worse,” says Rita Aouad, MD, who specializes in both psychiatry and sleep medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “If you’re feeling anxious, you tend to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because your brain is churning over negative thoughts. Then, if your sleep is interrupted often, it can cause the kind of ‘stuck’ quality seen in recent study.”

Interrupted sleep, or getting less than the recommended amount (the absolute minimum is 7 hours for most adults), can reduce the amount of REM sleep you get, Aouad notes.

This is the phase of sleep when you usually dream, but also when your brain is busy with tasks like memory consolidation and clearing “unnecessary thoughts,” she adds.

Fortunately, if you don’t have an underlying medical cause for getting too little sleep, there are some sleep hygiene strategies that can help. Aouad suggests avoiding digital screens—smartphones, e-readers, tablets—for at least an hour before bed, since the blue light they emit can interfere with melatonin, the hormone that helps you doze off. (Here’s what happened when one woman stopped bringing her phone to bed.)

Another good tactic is establishing a regular bedtime and wake time, even on the weekends. This can get your brain and body into the habit of consistent sleep, says Aouad. If you’re still experiencing consistently negative thoughts or anxiety, she suggests seeing your doctor to find a solution that works for you.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/a20514931/effect-of-sleep-deprivation/

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Ah, sleep. The ever-elusive natural health elixir that can squash a shockingly vast variety of our physical and mental ailments. Regularly getting a good night’s rest can boost your mood, sharpen your memory, and stave off anxiety, depression, and stress. It also helps you control your weight, increases your body’s immunity, and lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and various types of cancers. We can go on if you want: Sleep also pumps up your libidoclears your skin, stimulates your creativity, and makes you less likely to get into car crashes, while not sleeping enough can literally make people not want to be around you and physically shrinks your brain.

But while the benefits are undisputed, the recommendations vary on just how many hours of sleep is the right amount. The oft-repeated standard is about eight hours of sleep, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “at least seven hours” a night (which just one in three adults actually gets, by the way). But the latest in a long line of studies on the subject has now found there actually may be an exact sweet spot for how long you should be snoozing each night to optimize one key factor: heart health. According to the new study, you need precisely six to eight hours of sleep to minimize cardiovascular risk. Any less could be bad for your heart—as could any more.

Researchers looked at how over a million adults’ sleep habits affected their likelihood of developing or dying from stroke or coronary artery disease in the next nine years. People who slept less than six hours a night had an 11 percent greater risk than those who slept six to eight hours, while people who slept more than eight hours had a surprising 33 percent greater risk. That means six to eight hours was the exact range needed to keep the heart as healthy as possible.

Perhaps surprisingly, too much rest was actually even more dangerous than too little. But that’s actually in keeping with other recent research that’s found oversleeping can have pretty awful effects on your long-term cardiovascular health: They found sleeping more than 10 hours a night could increase your risk of dying from heart disease by 49 percent and your risk of dying from a stroke by 56 percent. Clearly, you really can have too much of a good thing.

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to panic every time you miss your alarm in the morning. Occasionally oversleeping is nothing to sweat about. The point of all this research is simply that there probably is a perfect balance you should be aiming for.

“Having the odd short night or lie-in is unlikely to be detrimental to health, but evidence is accumulating that prolonged nightly sleep deprivation or excessive sleeping should be avoided,” Dr. Epameinondas Fountas, the heart study’s author, said in a news release. “The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get into the habit of getting six to eight hours a night—for example by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.”

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/is-too-much-sleep-bad-for-you-this-is-exactly-how-long-you-should-be-sleeping

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So you had a little too much to drink—again. As long as you’re not driving, is it really that big of a deal? The answer is a big, fat yes.

While drinking moderate amounts of alcohol (defined as up to one drink per day for women or up to two for men) has been shown to have some positive health effects, especially on heart health, regularly having more than that won’t yield additional benefits, explains Robert Duhaney, MD, an internist with Texas Health Plano. In fact, regularly downing a bottle of wine with dinner or indulging in multiple rounds at happy hour can seriously harm your body—now and later down the road, too.

A major new global study published in The Lancet backs this up. Hundreds of researchers from accredited institutions analyzed information from more than 1,000 alcohol studies and data sources, as well as death and disability instances from 195 countries between 1990 and 2016.

What is a standard drink in the U.S.?

  • 🍸Spirits: 1.5 fluid ounces or a typical shot of gin, run, tequila, vodka, or whiskey (40% alcohol)
  • 🍷Wine: 5 fluid ounces (12% alcohol)
  • 🍺Beer: 12 fluid ounces or a typical can (5% alcohol)

The study confirmed that drinking alcohol, regardless of how much, led to poorer health. While having a glass of wine here and there won’t kill you, the risk of deadly health problems—like several types of cancers, stroke, infectious diseases like tuberculosis, self-harm, and traffic accidents—spikes with more frequent (and heavier) drinking.

In fact, sipping on liquor, wine, or beer was a top risk factor for disability and dying early for people ages 15 to 49 in 2016, leading to 2.8 million deaths globally. That means drinking no alcohol is actually your safest bet, according to the study authors.

Effects of alcohol on the body, explained

Want to better understand the risks of drinking? Here’s a look at 10 health conditions that heavy drinkers are more likely to get.


Sure, kicking back with a drink will make you feel good at first. But as your body breaks down the chemicals found in alcohol, the balance of mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters in your brain can get disrupted, says Ray Lebeda, MD, a family medicine specialist with Orlando Health Physician Associates. In the short term, this can cause your mood to dip. And over time it actually causes your brain cells to shrink—which can trigger problems like depression, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).


One of the simplest ways to keep your weight in check is by not drinking too much. Studies show that alcohol intake can be a risk factor for obesity, especially when you regularly have a lot of it. Why? For most of us, alcohol is just a source of excess calories. Experts know that when we drink, we don’t usually compensate by eating less. Plus, even a few drinks can lower your inhibition—prompting you to eat more than you otherwise would if you were sober, research suggests.

Memory loss & dementia

Off-kilter neurotransmitters don’t just mess with your mood. They can lead to short-term memory loss (think booze-induced blackouts) and long-term cognitive problems, including dementia, NIAAA experts warn. A major French study that looked at more than 1 million adults found that, among the 57,000 cases of early onset dementia, nearly 60% were related to chronic heavy drinking.

Fatty liver

It’s the liver’s job to metabolize nutrients from the things we eat and drink. But having too much booze at once overloads the liver, causing fat to build up. “The excess fat is stored in the liver cells, where it accumulates to form fatty liver disease,” Dr. Duhaney explains. All this extra fat can up your risk for harmful inflammatory conditions like alcoholic hepatitis. It can also lead to cirrhosis, where your liver is unable to do its job and actually starts to deteriorate.


Even if your heart is healthy, you’re significantly more likely to have a stroke if you drink heavily. In fact, one study found that binge drinkers (men who have more than 6 drinks in one day or women who have more than 4) have a nearly 40% higher stroke risk compared to those who never binge drink. Experts don’t fully understand the relationship between heavy drinking and stroke risk, Dr. Lebeda says. But heavy drinking is tied to high blood pressure, which is a major stroke risk factor.

High blood pressure

high blood pressure alcohol

Flooding your system with alcohol signals the release of stress hormones that cause your blood vessels to tighten and constrict, temporarily making your blood pressure spike. Over time, this tightening makes your blood vessels stiffer and less elastic, which can cause high blood pressure, say NIAAA experts.


Over time, heavy drinking can cause your heart muscle to become weak and saggy. This condition, called alcoholic cardiomyopathy, makes it harder for your heart to pump freshly oxygenated blood throughout your body. This can lead to fatigue, trouble breathing, swelling in the legs and feet, and irregular heartbeat. Even scarier? According to the NIAAA, it can also cause organ damage and heart failure.


Pancreatitis is a painful condition marked by heavy inflammation that can lead to diabetes and pancreatic cancer, one the deadliest forms of cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption isn’t the only culprit (gallstones and certain genetic disorders can also cause it), but it’ll up your risk big time. That’s because booze interferes with normal pancreas function, causing the organ to secrete digestive enzymes internally instead of sending them out to the small intestine, where they’re supposed to go.


liver cancer alcohol

Heavy boozing has been shown to up the risk for certain cancers, including breast, liver, mouth, and throat cancer. In fact, when researchers tracked the drinking habits and cancer risk of more than a million women, they found that up to 13% of cancer cases were tied to alcohol consumption, according to the NIAAA.

What’s the link? When alcohol is broken down in the body, its converted to a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde can injure both the DNA and the proteins in the body and cause damage to your cells, Dr. Lebeda explains. Alcohol also generates free radicals, harmful compounds that cause cells to oxidize. That can sometimes cause healthy cells to grow out of control and become cancerous, Dr. Lebeda says.

Pneumonia and tuberculosis

Alcohol suppresses your immune system by interfering with your body’s ability to make infection-fighting white blood cells. In the short term, that can make you more prone to catching a cold or another bug. But long-term, repeated binges can suppress your immune system to the point where you become more susceptible to serious infectious diseases, Duhaney explains. These can include pneumonia and even tuberculosis, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that typically affects the lungs.


Drinking in and of itself can’t give you HIV, of course. But remember, it can suppress your immune system and make you more prone to infections. So if you engage in risky behavior like unprotected sex with multiple partners or intravenous drug use, heavy boozing can put you at higher risk for contracting HIV. And once you get the disease, it could develop faster than in someone who isn’t a heavy drinker, according to the NIAAA.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/health-conditions/a19676118/long-term-effects-of-alcohol/

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Everybody has a handful of “friends” in their life about whom they have pretty mixed feelings. But when do these relationships become a problem, and how can you tell?

We can characterize all our relationships along two dimensions of negativity and positivity. With our true friends, we have high levels of positivity and low levels of negativity. With our enemies, we have the opposite—these relationships are clearly toxic. When it comes to our acquaintances, we don’t spend much time and energy on them because we have low levels of both positivity and negativity with them. But then, what about the people with whom we experience both high positivity and high negativity? Aka, the people who we’re ambivalent, or confused, about?

While people tend to think that clearly toxic relationships are the unhealthiest kinds, ambivalent relationships can actually be even more draining. The hallmarks of an ambivalent relationship are that you never know if you can trust the person, where you stand with them, or if you even enjoy hanging out with them. Sure, you may engage in activities that are fun together or as part of a wider circle of friends, but there are many times when you question whether the fun is healthy or representative of any actually valuable connection. But unlike the decidedly “toxic” enemy or acquaintance with whom you wouldn’t sip midweek cocktails, the ambivalent friend may be texting you nonstop and inviting you to dinner. And because this relationship languishes in the gray zone of confusion, you feel obliged to think the best of it, work harder, and say yes.

Emotionally, this type of relationship puts a strain on our psyches. We’re spending considerable head space, time, and energy on these people who don’t quite come through the way they say they will and who don’t always bring us real joy. It requires more emotional and mental resources to deal with the inconsistency inherent in these mixed-bag relationships, and some studies have found them to be detrimental to your health and productivity.

How do we end up with these kinds of “friends”? Sometimes we conflate the length of the relationship with its strength. But time is not an indicator of quality—before long, a relationship cobbled together haphazardly celebrates its fifth anniversary, and the still-questionable friend gets to use this to wax sentimental. Otherwise, the ambivalent relationship may be held together by the duct tape of convenience; with more interactions, there is more evidence to persuade ourselves that the relationship has positive aspects. We convince ourselves there is positivity in these friendships—a compliment here, a shared memory there—and tell ourselves it’s not so bad. And you can bet this is even more likely to happen for people high in empathy who tend to actively seek to see only the best in others.

And yet, the truth remains. You are drained after the interactions. You might often find yourself trying to justify spending more time with them in future. Unlike your good friends with whom you spend time because you want to and you miss them, you say yes to these quasi-friends because you’re driven by guilt and obligation.

The bottom line: High negativity, no matter how much positivity is also in the relationship, wears you down.

Photo: Jessica Sharmin

Here are three red flags of high-negativity friendships despite their simultaneous positivity:

1. “Oh my God, you won’t believe what happened!”

We all go through periods when life has beaten us down, and this friend may have listened to us sob in our PJs over a pint of Häagen-Dazs—and so we think, “They’ve been there for me, so I need to be there for them.” The key difference is that this person’s life seems to be a never-ending train wreck, with the drama engineered through self-sabotage and then blaming the world, and with you always having to be the one to pick up the pieces.

2. “I’m sorry you feel this way.”

This statement is one of the vilest forms of passive-aggressiveness, and ambivalent friends use it often. On the surface, it appears to validate your feelings—something positive. However, what this phrase really does is make you feel bad for having your feelings. It’s a way to alert you that your feelings are not actually welcome in the friendship, and this person has no actual interest in caring for your emotional well-being.

3. “Me, me, me!”

Self-absorbed personalities aren’t necessarily always bad—these people can be entertaining and fun as long as you’re willing to tolerate them yanking the spotlight always. Whether grandiose and loud, or tugging at your heartstrings with another sad and exhausting story, these narcissists expertly find a way to hijack the focus onto them, no matter how disparate the subject matter is. You might not mind on the day-to-day, but these are the people who can easily turn toxic if you bestow too much trust on them: They may appear to listen to your woes by validating your feelings—before turning it into a competition. Prime examples include how they’ll tell you their pain is bigger or how much stronger they are (“How come I am not like that?” “I’m not scared of XYZ”). Eventually, you feel both listened to and wrong-footed. Is the front-row seat to all their grandiose stories worth it in the end?

So how do you walk away from an ambivalent relationship that drains you?

First, treat the relationship as a balance sheet—draw up the pros and cons, without considering the length. Sometimes, we can’t acknowledge the less desirable sides of others because we feel bad for thinking negatively. My friend and psychotherapist Jonathan Marshall recommends that you write down the worst thoughts you have about this person that you’d typically never say out loud. This exercise can heal your guilt and discomfort. “You can turn anyone into a good person,” he says. “But faith in people’s goodness is not going to protect you from being hurt.”

Next, enforce a clear boundary by telling them—even by text message—that you’re ending the relationship. However, if they often bombard you, are excessively dramatic, or just aren’t someone who would notice if you didn’t text, then it might be worth not saying anything at all. Just let them disappear—and if they do text you, only then should you let them know your decision.

More importantly, if you find that the majority of your relationships are ambivalent, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself what makes you prone to them. Sometimes, we over-give because we think people-pleasing is our life’s purpose; and indeed, it can feel good to be wanted or useful. Or we believe these relationships are all we deserve. Whatever the reason, know that you deserve healthy relationships that fuel your growth.

Friendship breakups are tough, but clearing space means you can nurture the truly healthy relationships that really matter. Just as art galleries curate their collections, your relationships must be curated for your well-being. As I always tell my over-giving clients, we give best when we give from a full cup. When we’re selective about our relationships, we have so much more to offer. Then, just as the great friendships rejuvenate, nourish, and support us, so can we do the same for them.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/ambivalent-relationships-drain-you-as-much-as-toxic-ones

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Have you ever been given a compliment only to immediately deflect it with a self-deprecating rebuttal? Or brush it off so quickly that you find it difficult to say a simple “thank you” and allow yourself to absorb what was said?

You’re not alone. According to The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, people only actually accept compliments about a third of the time they receive them. The other two-thirds of the time, they’re doing something other than accepting, like shifting the credit for whatever they got praised for, shifting the attention over to a positive quality about the person who gave the compliment, or outright denying it. That’s a lot of dismissing going on.

As we continue to spend more time on social media, emailing and texting and being less engaged face to face, it’s only becoming easier to hide our discomforts and project an inauthentic or skewed view of who we really are. It’s easy to lose touch with how it feels to actually be seen clearly. Getting a compliment in person is becoming obsolete in some ways, or it’s at least becoming way less comfortable as we spend increasing amounts of time waiting for validation in the form of a heart, added friend, or comment. Is that quick hit of addictive dopamine taking the place of deeper in-person exchanges?

The great news is, we have the power to work through this psychological setback if we choose to. The choice to see and hear one another through meaningful conversations, overcome communication barriers, and absorb giving and receiving compassionately is a practice. There are an abundance of ways to improve the degree to which we can take compliments—real compliments—with grace.

The first step toward becoming an active receiver is to create awareness around how we view ourselves.

Our ability to receive compliments in a positive way is largely related to how we feel about ourselves. It’s easier to smile and say “thank you” when you readily agree with the praise you’ve been given. The complexity of peeling back the layers of why we may have a negative self-image is a scary place to venture, which is why people often avoid it. It requires us to be curious and connected to a deeper sense of self and to our core beliefs.

Before mindful practices came prominently into my life, my receiving was as politely passive as anyone else’s. Having lived for many years in a place like Los Angeles, where everyone has a personal agenda, whether hidden or obvious, I often assumed people wanted something in return or weren’t genuine when they offered me praise. A seven-year relationship ending in heartbreak and a decade of auditioning left me feeling rejection in a way I wasn’t prepared for. I distinctly remember how fear was winning at every turn: My thoughts, words, and actions were ruled by an “I am less than” attitude. I wasn’t allowing any space for receiving because I was too busy letting my hopes get hijacked and focusing on the negative.

But just when I thought I’d hit rock bottom, I joined a nonprofit organization called The New Hollywood that’s committed to creating a community of mutual support and giving back. I also started teaching dance to children again and committed to my yoga practice, all of which cracked me open and began a beautiful healing process. That’s when I started noticing a difference in how I received praise.

To improve your confidence and thus your ability to receive, start by checking in with your self-esteem. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I feel worthy of receiving genuine kind words and gestures?
  • Am I comparing myself to others frequently?
  • Do I believe in the abundance of receiving without limits?
  • Can I practice absorbing compliments without my inner critic judging?
  • Where in my daily routine am I consciously making space to have positive self-talk?

If you feel negativity flooding your responses, you’ll need to seek gratitude, seek more gratitude, and then seek gratitude again.

Gratitude is our own special gift that we can access any time, and it always shifts things. Consider making a list of things you like about yourself. It isn’t a breeze, but it’s an enormously helpful tool in this process. There are jobs we work hard at, skills we train to acquire, blessings we are born with, milestone accomplishments, and opportunities we make happen—and they’re all deserving places to absorb compliments rather than dismiss.

Once we begin to make peace with ourselves, we can begin to tackle the other half of this coin: finding good in others.

Creating an opened awareness means understanding how we view ourselves and how we view others.

Often people say things like, “I love giving compliments. I appreciate getting them, but that makes me uncomfortable.” What if we learned to understand that giving and receiving compliments are one?

“Giving and receiving are different expressions of the same flow of energy in the universe,” according to Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga. “Since the universe is in constant and dynamic exchange, we need to both give and receive to keep abundance, love, and anything else we want circulating in our lives.”

In other words, the act of giving is as important as the art of receiving. When we give from a place of honest intention, compliments are more likely to be well-received. And when we receive with intention, the energy flow of this process remains open and expanding in all directions. The key is having thoughtful intentions.

Ask yourself:

  • What kind of energy am I putting into the world through what I think, say, and do?
  • How strong is my ability to give, unconditionally without any agenda?
  • What form of giving brings me joy?

The answers to these questions will help you gain clarity with how you are as a giver. Most of us refer to it as karma when we think about the spiritual practice where goodwill pushed into the universe will come back to you. If you’re open to this belief, then you can anticipate that as you purposefully practice giving, your ability to comfortably receive will also expand. Allowing ourselves space to discover how we can find comfort in the way we give will nurture our ability to see the integrity of other people’s intentions as they give.

So how can we mindfully respond to all these compliments?

If you don’t know where to start, here’s what you can do right in the moment:

  • Connect to the giver with eye contact, plus a smile or some type of acknowledgment.
  • Let what is said stand for a beat and resist the urge to dismiss it.
  • Assume the person is genuine, and trust you are deserving of the gesture.
  • Say “thank you,” and avoid making any dismissive commentary directly after.
  • Try reaffirming that compliment to yourself several times throughout the day.

But being an active receiver goes beyond exactly how you respond at the moment the compliment hits you. It means fully absorbing those affirmations from others into our own psyche and the way we understand ourselves. Here are a few ways to start practicing:

  • Set an intention as you start your day to allow for this kind of joyful absorption.
  • Sit quietly with a compliment you received and make it a “positive mantra” for yourself.
  • On a walk or in a casual setting, make a point to share with a close friend what someone complimented you on, not to brag or boast but to reaffirm how wonderful that felt.
  • Keep a gratitude journal of things people say to you that support your happiness.
  • Nurture the idea that others may see things in you that you may not see in yourself.
  • Embrace the things you value about yourself.

Everything we want to be good at in life takes practice. Being able to truly absorb genuine compliments is worthy of working on for the integrity of our social interactions, our relationships, and our self-love. Try implementing these tips into your day, and you may find yourself receiving even more from each compliment.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-accept-a-compliment-become-an-active-receiver

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Roughly half of all women will have a UTI at some point. Here’s how to spot UTI symptoms, info on your treatment options, and how to prevent a UTI from striking in the first place.

What is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection of all or part of the urinary tract. Most infections begin in the lower urinary tract, which includes the urethra (the tube that allows urine to exit the body) and bladder (where urine is stored). Sometimes these infections travel upward through the ureters (the tubes that ferry urine from each kidney to the bladder) to the kidneys (where urine is produced).

Common symptoms include pelvic pain, burning with urination, and urgent or frequent need to urinate. Women, men, and children of all ages can get a UTI. But women are at much greater risk. It’s estimated that roughly half of all women will have a UTI sometime during their lives. Some 150 million UTIs occur worldwide each year.

Types of UTIs

There are three main types of UTIs defined by the part of the urinary tract that becomes infected.

  • An infection of the urethra only is called urethritis. It causes the urethra to come inflamed.
  • The most common type of UTI is a bladder infection, also known as cystitis. It’s what people usually mean when they say they have a UTI.
  • Kidney infections are a more serious type of UTI. The medical term is pyelonephritis.

“UTIs are common, so a lot of women are aware of them,” says Bilal Kaaki, MD, a specialist in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at UnityPoint Health in Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa. But, he adds, “not everyone knows that a UTI can turn into a kidney infection.”

What causes a UTI?

Normally, your body’s own immune system defends against possible infection. One way it does that is through the continual flow of urine. This helps to prevent bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. But sometimes germs sneak through anyway.

It all begins when bacteria, usually E. coli, enter the urethra, stick to the bladder wall, and begin to multiply. The next thing you know, you’ve got a bladder infection (cystitis). And sometimes bacteria from the bladder invade the upper urinary tract, infecting one or both kidneys.

Urinary Tract

UTI risk factors

Some people are more likely than others to develop a UTI. Risk factors include:

  • Being female. Women have much shorter urethras than men, and the opening of the urethra is much closer to the anus. Due to these anatomical differences, bacteria can easily enter a woman’s urinary tract.
  • Being sexually active. Sex pushes bacteria into the urethra.
  • Being older. After menopause, estrogen levels drop. That affects levels of healthy, infection-fighting bacteria, called lactobacillus.
  • Using diaphragms or spermicide-coated condoms.
  • Having trouble emptying your bladder. Incomplete evacuation of urine can promote bacterial growth.
  • Having a kidney stone. (In men, an enlarged prostate can be a risk factor.)
  • Having diabetes or a weak immune system.
  • Having a prior UTI.
  • Using a catheter or having undergone a recent surgery or medical procedure involving the urinary tract.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

It’s possible to have a UTI without outward signs of infection. But most people have one or more symptoms.

A classic symptom that women describe is painful urination, says Emily Cunningham, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

“It’s this ache—it feels like they have to pee even though they don’t have to pee—and when they do go to the bathroom, the last drop gives the ache.”

Common bladder infection symptoms

  • Urge to urinate, even when the bladder is empty or you have only a few drops of urine to pass.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Aching, pressure, or pain in the lower abdomen or pubic area.
  • Painful urination.
  • Cloudy or bloody urine.
  • Strong- or foul-smelling urine.

Signs your infection has spread to the kidneys

Bladder infections that spread to the kidneys can cause additional symptoms. These include:

  • Fever.
  • Flank (side-of-abdomen) or low-back pain.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Chills or sweats.
  • Confusion or mental changes.

You should consult a doctor any time you have symptoms of a UTI.

“It doesn’t mean you immediately need to run to an emergency room,” Dr. Cunningham says, but UTIs are so uncomfortable that “most people seek treatment very quickly.”

Of course, if you are running a temperature (or have other concerning symptoms), get evaluated—pronto. Fever suggests your bladder infection is turning into a kidney infection, she explains.

How is a UTI diagnosed?

If you visit your doctor with urinary symptoms, be prepared to pee in a cup. A urine test, called a urinalysis, can reveal whether signs of infection are present. Sometimes a urine culture is ordered to identify the type of bacteria causing your infection, and that can help your doctor choose the best treatment.

“You’re not just treating based on a guess,” Dr. Kaaki explains.

That said, if you’re a young, sexually active woman, sometimes a phone call to your doctor to report UTI symptoms may be all that’s necessary.

“That’s enough to just treat them empirically,” he adds. “Just give them a three-day course of antibiotics. You don’t even need to test them because it’s very common.”

If you get frequent UTIs or have an infection that won’t respond to treatment, your doctor may want to take a closer look at your urinary tract. That may involve some kind of imaging, like x-rays, ultrasound, or CT scan. Another common diagnostic test, called a cystoscopy, may be done. You doctor will insert a lighted scope through your urethra to peer inside your bladder.

How do you treat a UTI?

Antibiotics are the go-to medicines for resolving urinary tract infections. Which drug your doctor prescribes and how long you need to take it may depend on your test results, severity of symptoms, and other factors. If you’re a woman with a simple bladder infection, a three-day course of antibiotics may do the trick. (Men usually require a longer course of treatment.)

For complicated UTIs or kidney infections, doctors may prescribe more powerful antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, a category that includes medicines like ciprofloxacin (Cipro). These drugs ought to be used sparingly to prevent antibiotic resistance.

Your doctor may also recommend phenazopyridine to relieve urinary symptoms. These drugs, available by prescription or over-the-counter, should be taken along with an antibiotic.“You don’t want to just treat the pain; you want to treat the problem,” Dr. Cunningham says.

Your doctor may also recommend boosting fluid intake. Drinking lots of liquids, especially water, may help to flush out infection-causing germs. It also dilutes your urine so it’s less painful to pee.

Can you get better without antibiotics? Perhaps. Like any infection in the body, UTIs occasionally resolve on their own, Dr. Kaaki said. You could try pushing fluids for 24 to 48 hours, he says. But if symptoms don’t resolve, it might be worth trying an antibiotic.

Common antibiotics prescribed for UTIs

  • Nitrofurantoin, such as Macrobid and others.
  • A trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole combination. Options include drugs like Bactrim and Septra.
  • Fosfomycin (Monurol).

Other remedies

  • Take prescription or over-the-counter phenazopyridine (available as Pyridium, Azo-Standard, and others). This bladder relaxer eases urinary pain, burning, frequency, and urgency.
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids.
  • Apply a heating pad to ease abdominal pain.

Are there any possible UTI complications?

Most UTIs can be successfully treated without complications. But without proper and timely treatment, a simple bladder infection can spiral out of control. Germs from the bladder can make their way up the ureters and invade the kidneys. And that can set you up for serious health consequences.

Possible UTI complications

  • Recurring UTI infections.
  • Kidney infection.
  • In pregnancy, low-birth-weight, premature, or stillborn infants.
  • Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.

How to prevent a UTI

There are steps you can take to ward off future urinary tract infections.

Lifestyle measures

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. This dilutes urine and flushes out bacteria.
  • Urinate when you feel the need. Holding it in promotes bacterial growth.
  • Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom. You don’t want bacteria entering the urethra.
  • Urinate after sexual intercourse to help flush out bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sex.
  • Take showers, not baths, and wash your vulva using warm water.
  • Avoid using powders, sprays, and douches.
  • Stop using spermicide. If you use birth control method that are treated with spermicides, such as a diaphragm or condoms, consider switching to another type of contraception. Spermicides kill off good bacteria.


  • If you get recurrent UTIs, ask your doctor about prescribing a low-dose antibiotic that you will take either after intercourse or daily for a period of months.
  • If you are an older women who experiences frequent UTIs, consider vaginal estrogen cream. There’s good evidence that it decreases the risk of recurrent infections in postmenopausal women, Dr. Kaaki says. (This is not an option for women with a history of breast cancer.)

Nutritional supplements

  • Consider using oral or vaginal probiotics. A small randomized trial found that a regimen of lactobacillus suppositories reduced UTIs in women with a history of recurrent infections.
  • Drink cranberry juice or take cranberry pills. While the evidence is mixed, cranberry prevents bacteria from sticking to the cells of the urinary tract. Don’t consume cranberry if you take the blood-thinner warfarin (Coumadin) because it may raise your risk of bleeding.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/health-conditions/a22734350/urinary-tract-infection-symptoms-treatments/

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As a society, it feels like we’re the loneliest we’ve ever been. That’s not much of an exaggeration, by the way: One recent study found that nearly half of all Americans sometimes or always feel alone, and one in four rarely or never feel like there’s anyone around them who really understands them. To make matters even sadder, these feelings of alienation were higher among millennials and Gen Z, meaning younger generations are growing up feeling even more isolated than those before them.

In this loneliness epidemic, it’s more vital than ever that we make a conscious effort to be building communities of people around us who can keep us afloat through our lowest of lows. One of the most effective ways I’ve done this is by creating my very own empowering support group.

In 2017, I was a lonely microinfluencer on social media who, despite the thousands of followers, comments, and messages, still suffered from diagnosed major depression. I craved connection outside of the squares of Instagram and inside of the activities of real life. I knew there were people on the other side of my screen who resonated with the things I was posting and writing about online, and many of these women were exercise professionals, wellness enthusiasts, and passion-seekers like myself who connected with my journey toward mental health, self-love, and fitness. They commented on my photos and messaged me words of encouragement, but I never met them in real life.

One day it finally hit me: What if I brought all these people together into one room and saw what happened?

So after a little bit of planning, about 20 women met together on a Sunday morning with yogurt parfaits, teas, and seats assembled in a circle in an athletic store in the middle of Manhattan. All I had were three simple questions I’d scribbled into a notebook: How do you love yourself? How do you nurture your soul? What sports make you feel the most alive?

What happened during the next two hours was magic. We ate, drank, cried, laughed, and connected all over our commonalities of building a passion-filled, healthy lifestyle in the concrete jungle of New York City. We left encouraged, inspired, and wanting more.

Today the same women, as well as new members, meet every month to get real with each other about everything from regret to guilt to money. We call our group Self Soul Sport, which reflects our dedication to a lifestyle of loving self, nurturing soul, and living sport. (We’ve even expanded to a podcast and a book club!)

Support groups can come in many different forms: They can be real-life meetings between friends and acquaintances, or they can be digital spaces where professionals in the same industry can gather to connect over their shared creative, emotional, and spiritual needs. Whatever shape it takes, a truly empowering support group leaves you feeling heard. After each interaction, you leave feeling inspired and ready to conquer what’s next in your journey.

Photo: Diana Davis Creative for Shanna Tyler

Reaching out and getting started can feel like a huge leap—but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Here’s precise steps for how to start building your tribe:

1. Have a clear purpose for the group.

Why are you creating this group? It may be because you’re looking for a community yourself, or it may be because you have a loved one who will benefit from it. Get real honest during this process of figuring out your way. Your purpose will be the impetus to continue to plan the gritty details.

2. Figure out what kind of people you want to surround yourself with.

Who exactly do you want to connect with, and what are you all seeking? A support group is made up of people with similar intentions, problems, fears, triumphs, and outlooks. The best support group is one that unites people on all of these fronts.

3. Keep in mind the logistics.

There are people who love weekend get-togethers and those who greatly prefer after-work events because they travel on weekends. Even the location of your meetups can make or break turnout. Poll your ideal attendees to get the details just right; they’ll appreciate that you asked, and they’ll be much more likely to come through knowing the plans were made with them especially in mind.

4. Get creative with reaching out.

You’ll need to figure out a way to communicate with people somehow. Instagram and Facebook are both great places to start talking about it. If you’re not into social media, simply gather email addresses of people you think would love the idea and send out the information that way. It can be as easy as getting everyone on the same group text.

5. Set some guidelines to creating safe, vulnerable, and inclusive conversations.

Know that this space isn’t only for you, and your opinions and experiences aren’t the only ones that matter. As the leader of the group, you have a responsibility to your members to help them feel open to speak. There are many ways to facilitate this kind of atmosphere. Before every meeting, I share a set of ground rules emphasizing that everyone has a voice, and I try to obligate everyone to talk. During discussion, if it looks like someone wants to say something but isn’t, invite them to speak their mind.

6. Build your group with your heart and no ulterior motives.

The reason why I’ve continued with mine over a year is not for profit, not for adoration, not for ego, but for love. I love gathering women together. All the details will fall into place eventually, but it’s your dedication to your purpose that will ultimately drive the group to success.

Creating your own support group can pave the way for forming new friendships, for finding more hope and less fear, and for developing into better versions of ourselves. Most importantly, sharing your life with like-minded people will make you feel like you have a real community behind you, rooting for you, and encouraging your every step.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/build-your-own-support-group

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Photo: Nadine Greeff

When my clients come in wanting to reduce their intake of added sugars, they pepper me with a barrage of questions about sugar substitutes: Which one is the best? The worst? How much is too much? And I don’t blame them: A sweet tooth is a very real thing!

The answer to their questions, however, is a bit complicated.

First things first: Do you even need a sugar substitute?

If sugar is something that only very occasionally finds its way into your life and in small doses (meaning, it’s not routinely sneaking its way in through “healthy” cereals, sweetened yogurt, condiments, processed foods, and the like), there are way more significant things to feel guilty or stress about. If the bulk of your diet is composed primarily of whole, unprocessed foods without added sweeteners, a small serving of a sugary treat once in a great while might actually help you stay on track for the long haul by preventing you from feeling deprived (think: a slice of worth-it birthday cake or a scoop of gelato from that place in Italy you’ll remember forever).

For more day-to-day desires for a taste of something sweet, I generally recommend sticking to what you like the most and will feel truly satisfied with a smaller amount of. One thing to keep in mind? When it comes to sweetness, the more you have, the more you tend to want, so training your taste buds to crave a higher level of sweetness on the regular can make it harder to feel satisfied with naturally sweet foods.

Confession time: Like many ’80s babies, I basically came out of the womb drinking diet soda and stirring skim milk and artificial sweetener into my coffee. I also ate “lite” yogurt well into my early 20s (I know, I know). Sugary desserts, frozen yogurt, candy, and granola bars were also a regular part of my week. In 2010, though, I decided to give up the soda and swapped in seltzer. Within a few weeks, I couldn’t stand anything in my coffee, either. For the first time in my life, foods began to taste too sweet. It was like my sweet tooth had fallen out! That experience had a lot to do with why I focus now on helping my clients address the underlying craving rather than simply trying to swap in substitutes.

Photo: Darren Muir

That said, there are definitely healthier alternatives to white sugar. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing one:

What am I hoping to get from this sugar substitute?

Are you looking for something that provides fewer calories or that you’ll be able to use less of? Is it more about having a less processed sweetener? Are you looking for something that might offer some health benefits along with that sweetness?

What am I going to use this sugar substitute for?

Some recipes do better with some forms of sweetener over others. For example, the texture of baked goods can have a lot to do with the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. In a beverage, you may be looking for something that dissolves easily in liquid. Consider the sorts of things you might be mixing that sweetener with or into—yogurt, sauces, marinades?

Also, know that you can use regular sugar for nonfood things, too. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but a company once sent me a giant bag of sugar to sample…and I used it to make a foot scrub. That probably wasn’t what they’d had in mind, but my feet felt so refreshed and exfoliated! Seriously, if you have sugar lying around, mix it with olive or coconut oil and your favorite essential oil, and enjoy a luxurious DIY spa treatment.

A few nutritional basics to consider.

One teaspoon of sugar provides around 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates (as sucrose). There aren’t really any nutrients in white sugar to speak of.

A question I get a lot is whether brown sugar is better than white, but brown sugar is just white sugar mixed with molasses, resulting in a darker color and richer flavor—but no greater health benefits.

Organic sugar isn’t a whole lot better, either. It’s grown without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers. It’s also processed differently from conventional sugar and may be a light brown color because it retains some of its original molasses content, which is processed out in conventional white sugar.

So what are the best natural sugar substitutes?


Honey is my top pick for its versatility, long shelf life, and extensive history as a medicinal food that has been studied for its phytochemical, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.

You’ll get about 20 calories in each teaspoon, and because it is so sweet, you can often get away with using less. If you’re swapping honey into a recipe for sugar, halve the amount it says to use. It also works great in sauces and drinks.

If you’re adding honey to a cup of tea (or coffee—it sounds weird, but it’s great!) or using it as a topping for a yogurt parfait, use a spoon or even a measuring spoon to make sure you’re getting portions in check and not using too much.

Maple syrup

Photo: Jennifer Pallian

Maple syrup is hands-down my personal favorite in terms of flavor. Made from the sap of maple trees, maple syrup can be found in Grades A and B. Grade A can be light, medium, or dark amber, and Grade B is the darkest variety. The darker varieties have a stronger maple flavor, so take that into consideration when deciding what to use it for.

Studies have shown that it also has antioxidant phenolic compounds and may have potential health benefits. While ladling it on in mass quantities would counteract those benefits, if you’re deciding between maple syrup and table sugar, try the maple syrup. It also has a lower glycemic index score (54) than sugar. You’ll also get a tiny bit of vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, potassium, and zinc in each teaspoon.

I love to drizzle a half-teaspoon of maple syrup on plain yogurt or a bowl of oatmeal. It also blends easily into sauces and marinades, and you can use it to sweeten homemade granola. Want to play mixologist? Try it in a cocktail.

Agave nectar

Agave nectar is made from the Agave tequiliana (tequila) plant. It’s about 1.5 times sweeter than regular sugar. While agave nectar originally gained popularity when it was introduced to the U.S. market because of its lower glycemic index (GI) score (the measure of how quickly a food raises your blood sugar) compared to sugar, it also drew criticism because the refining process used to make it and the high fructose content were so similar to high-fructose corn syrup.

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar has gained popularity recently as a less processed alternative. It’s made from sap from the coconut palm tree and results in a brown color that’s similar to raw sugar but with a finer particle. Calorically, it’s virtually the same as white sugar, and while it does have small amounts of vitamins and minerals from the coconut palm plant, you’d need to eat so much of it to get a substantial amount, and the impact of the sugar negates any potential awesomeness.


Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar and is popular as a calorie-free alternative to sugar. Stevia-based sweeteners are derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni, a plant found in parts of South America. In the United States, certain refined stevia products are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), though use of the stevia leaf and crude extracts are not approved, due to safety concerns.

While the initial sweet taste is hard to ignore, many consumers complain about a bitter aftertaste. In recent months, you’ve possibly noticed more products with “stevia-free” on the label—this is because many companies are working to address consumer complaints about that aftertaste.

Monk fruit

Monk fruit extract has also become popular as a nonnutritive sweetener. Grown primarily in Southeast Asia, monk fruit is a small green gourd that resembles a melon. Because its juice is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, a very small amount provides a lot of sweetness, so it can be considered a low-calorie food, with less than a calorie per serving.

In the United States, sweeteners made from monk fruit are classified by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. You can find it in liquid, granule, or powder form. While many consumers love the sweet taste, one downside is that it has a very strong fruity taste, and some find it has a distinct aftertaste.


Xylitol is a sugar alcohol usually sourced from corncobs or birch trees with a granular structure and a sweetness similar to sugar that has gained popularity as an alternative to aspartame in things like chewing gum and low-calorie beverages. It’s an OK alternative, but some of my clients find that it irritates their gut, and it can have a laxative effect when consumed in large quantities (so go slow if your stomach is sensitive!).

Overall, you need to pick the sugar alternative that’s right for you.

Addressing the underlying reasons for sugar cravings and learning to experience naturally present sweetness in food can help support big-picture wellness for the long term. Shorter term, when you’re looking for a healthier alternative to sugar, there are tons of options out there, and it can be overwhelming when trying to figure out which one to have.

As a general rule of thumb, choose what you enjoy the most and will be able to feel satisfied with a smaller amount of. Think about how you plan to use that sugar substitute—it’s OK to have a few go-to’s for different uses. It’s all about having a positive experience and feeling great.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/sugar-substitutes-natural-delicious-alternatives

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When most of us complain about our periods, we kvetch about those heavy flow days and the bloating, cramping, and exhaustion that can go along with them. So if your period suddenly becomes very light the whole time, it might seem like a good thing. While less bleeding may very well make you more comfortable, it could be a sign something’s gone awry. (An unusually heavy period can also be cause for concern.)

FYI, the scientific term for abnormally low bleeding is hypomenorrhea. While most periods produce between 30 to 50 mL, a person with hypomenorrhea is producing substantially less than 30 mL per cycle, according to the book Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. It’s pretty difficult to measure out your period in mL, but this is just a point of reference.

Lina Akopians, MD, PhD, a specialist in reproductive endocrinology at the Southern California Reproductive Center, says that a period that lightens up substantially could be caused by a hormonal issue or a structural one (meaning something happened to an organ in your body). Here are 8 reasons that might explain why your flow is so light.

You’re pregnant!

Pregnant baby bump

Admit it: You’ve watched at least one episode of the TLC series, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, and you probably thought the women were crazy. How could someone grow a baby for 9 months and not have a clue?

While we can’t explain why they didn’t notice that their bellies were getting rounder, some about-to-be-moms remain in the dark for pretty long simply because they’ve been taught that as long as they’re getting periods, there’s no way they could be pregnant. Turns out, that’s wrong.

Although most women stop getting periods once they conceive, some continue to experience bleeding, says fertility expert Janet Choi, MD, medical director at CCRM in New York. In fact, she’s had patients who’ve been struggling to get pregnant go out drinking after a light version of their period shows up—only to later learn that they really are with child.

Unusually light periods or spotting could also indicate an ectopic pregnancy (when an egg implants somewhere other than the uterus), which can be very dangerous. When in doubt, take a pregnancy test.

You’ve lost or gained a ton of weight.

Running up steps

Despite being capable of carrying another human being to term, your body’s chemistry is really quite delicate, and when you add or subtract a bunch of poundage from it, it can freak out. One of the ways that manifests is by denying you your monthly visit from Auntie Flow, or by making those visits a lot shorter or lighter. While this may seem like a positive, Akopians notes that “your body needs a healthy balance between protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins” if you want it to keep operating normally.

You’re stressed to the max.

Multitasking on phone and laptop

While the usual day-to-day annoyances like having a fight with your spouse or blowing a presentation at work aren’t enough to throw your hormones out of whack, Choi says that major life stressors—for example, your parents dying—can do just that. She also points out that over-exercising can also wreak havoc on your period because of the stress it puts on your body, physically.

You have an overactive thyroid.

Doctor examining glands of female patient

The thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck, just below your voice box, and releases hormones that control various bodily functions like temperature and digestion. An overactive thyroid—also known as hyperthyroidism—begins producing too many thyroid hormones, which can cause serious issues for your heart, blood pressure, muscles, and more. Abnormally light periods are also a symptom of hyperthyroidism, as well as missing your periods entirely. You may even be able to feel the nodules pushing against your neck. If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms of an overactive thyroid, make an appointment to see your doctor.

You’re using hormonal birth control.

Hormonal birth control pills

One of the most common reasons for a lighter period is going on the birth control pill; some doctors even prescribe it to women with very heavy periods for that exact reason. If you’ve recently started the pill or gotten a hormonal IUD like Mirena and your periods have lightened up, just enjoy it.

You have polycystic ovary syndrome.

Female uterus and ovaries

PCOS is a condition where the ovaries produce an abnormally large amount of androgens, which are male sex hormones. Some (but not all) women with PCOS will have small fluid-filled sacs, or cysts, form in the ovaries. These hormonal changes can prevent a woman from ovulating normally, which can lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms, including acne or oily skin, weight gain, and excess body hair. Another common symptom of PCOS is periods that are much lighter than usual; irregular and missed periods are common as well. Talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing these kind of symptoms; usually, treatment will involve some kind of medication.

You’re getting older.

Cake with lit happy birthday candles

Don’t worry—this doesn’t mean you’re old! But when a patient mentions a diminishing return on her tampon investment, the first thing Choi looks at is age. Menopause might be around the corner, but not always. “Sometimes with aging the cycles change,” she says, noting that it’s not necessarily a sign of infertility. “Someone who needed to use a super pad in their 20s and early 30s may find they need less protection in their later 30s.”

You have cervical stenosis.


A rare but uncomfortable problem, Akopians says this occurs when the cervix narrows or closes up completely. As a result, blood stays trapped in the uterus or is only able to trickle out slowly. If you have bad cramping despite a light flow, talk to your doctor.

You have scar tissue in your uterus.

Discussing uterus issues with doctor

Most women who have gone through routine dilation and curettage (D&C) procedures heal with zero complications, but sometimes severe scarring causes the walls of the uterus to stick to each other, causing what’s known as Asherman’s syndrome. If your period seems to have lightened up a lot after you’ve had a D&C, this might be your problem. You may need surgery to remove the scar tissue.

You lost a ton of blood during or after childbirth.

Holding hands with newborn

“This is a very rare condition,” says Akopians. Losing a lot of blood deprives your body of oxygen, which can end up damaging the pituitary gland and causing something called Sheehan’s syndrome. That, in turn, drastically reduces the gland’s production of hormones, including those that control your menstrual cycle. You’ll probably need hormone replacement therapy.

The bottom line: While having a lighter period than normal isn’t necessarily cause for alarm, don’t ignore the change. Track your cycle for a couple of months, and if it doesn’t go back to “your” normal, make an appointment with your gynecologist.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/a20499057/8-reasons-your-period-is-lighter-than-usual/

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Ah, the dreaded dentist visit. We all know we have to go every six months, and at the end we all get the same friendly advice, “Make sure to floss!” And while I’ve always been a pretty consistent flosser, I didn’t know how important it was until I started researching the second most diverse microbiome in the body: the oral microbiome. And as a medical doctor who helps my patients tend to their gut microbiomes almost daily, I was fascinated by the huge role the oral microbiome (and flossing!) plays in our overall health.

When you really think about it, it makes sense that our oral cavity houses a very special ecosystem. Our mouths are, after all, where digestion actually begins—not to mention, they are the primary entrance to the rest of our body, where we do a lot of interacting with the outside world. Scientists have been turning their attention to this special community of mouth organisms for decades. In fact, a book published in 1890, The Micro-organisms of the Human Mouth, promoted our current habits of brushing and flossing.

So what’s so special about our oral microbiota? The bugs in our mouth form biofilms, which is a fancy word used to describe complex groups of microorganisms. You may have heard of plaque, which is essentially a multi-organism biofilm layer on the surface of the teeth. If these growing plaques are not detached, it can lead to dysbiosis, allowing disease-promoting bugs to take hold and cause issues like cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis (the most severe form of gum disease that eats away at both the gums and teeth). Even more importantly, oral dysbiosis has a reach far beyond the mouth. These oral microbes do make their way to the rest of the digestive tract—and actually, there is a 45 percent overlap in species seen in the oral and fecal microbiota.

Aside from the gut, these oral bad bugs can gain access to the rest of the body by going through our mouth membranes and periodontal pockets (separations between the gums and the teeth) and entering the bloodstream. When this occurs, the immune response can be altered, inflammatory pathways can be activated, and disease can occur at a site far, far away from the mouth. Periodontal disease has actually been linked to both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. How in the world does that happen? The bacteria of periodontal disease produce lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which changes the body’s control of sugar levels and contributes to atherothrombogenesis (a big term to describe an accumulation of plaque and clotting factors in the heart arteries). Periodontal bacteria’s DNA has even been found in the coronary artery plaques of those who suffered a heart attack.

Perhaps in the future, we will see more products targeting the oral microbiome—maybe even oral probiotics that come not only in pill form but in a liquid variety to swish in our mouths. And even more importantly, we may even start to evaluate the oral microbiome early on in order to prevent systemic diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In the meantime, we each have to do our part for our own health. Besides brushing for at least two minutes twice daily, flossing helps remove plaque. It addresses the two surfaces of the tooth that a toothbrush simply cannot reach (the sides). Remember to hug the tooth with the floss in a C-shape and go below the gum line. This will dislodge food residue and bacteria that cause gum disease.

And so, the next time you’re getting ready for bed and trying to convince yourself that flossing is optional, don’t forget about the little critters living in your mouth and how much they can affect your inflammation levels and overall health.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/flossing-inflammation-blood-sugar-balance

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