Category Archives: Health Tips

Muscle Cramps – All Pain No Gain

MusclePainBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

If you have ever experienced a sudden and severe muscle contraction, and the majority of us have, you’ll know just how painful that experience can be.  While muscle cramps generally last only a few seconds to a few minutes, the often surprising and sudden onset and intensity are not as quickly forgotten.  Muscle soreness may remain for several days and it may take up to a week for the muscle to return to a normal, pain free state.  A cramp occurs when a muscle involuntarily contracts and does not release.  Skeletal muscles, which we voluntarily control, are most likely to be affected.  Most often cramping occurs in the calf, hamstring or quadricep muscles but hand and foot cramps are also common. 

Causes of muscle cramping can include muscle fatigue, inadequate stretching, poor conditioning, dehydration and electrolyte depletion. Low levels of potassium and calcium may also cause muscle cramping, as both minerals contribute to healthy muscle function. Those most susceptible to cramping include athletes, who often develop cramps at the end of intense or prolonged exercise, and the elderly due to normal muscle atrophy and the body’s lessened ability to respond to thirst and temperature changes.  Those who are ill, overweight or taking certain medications are also at high risk of cramping. 

True cramps, one of four basic categories of skeletal muscle cramps, are the most common type.  True cramps are most likely the result of hyperexcitability of the nerves that stimulate the muscles and can occur under a variety of circumstances.  These can include:

Injury to the muscle or a broken bone can cause persistent spasms as a protective mechanism to keep the muscle or bone stable in order to recover. 

Strenuous physical activity, overuse of muscles and muscle fatigue can cause cramping during exercise or while at rest many hours later.  Rest cramps, which often strike during the night,  can be painful, frequent and sleep disruptive. 

Dehydration caused by excess fluid loss during vigorous activities increases the likelihood of cramping.  Poor fluid intake, diuretic medications , and sodium depletion are all contributing factors that can result in dehydration. 

Low blood calcium or magnesium levels can directly impact and overstimulate nerve endings and muscles, increasing the predisposition for true muscle cramping.  Low levels of calcium and magnesium can be the result of pregnancy, diuretic medications, inadequate dietary absorption or poorly functioning parathyroid glands, which regulate calcium balance. 

Low potassium blood levels can cause cramping and muscle weakness, as potassium affects the way neuromuscular cells discharge and regenerate energy.  When potassium levels are low, muscles and nerves cannot function properly. 

Vitamin deficiencies including thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5) and pyridoxine (B6) can also lead to muscle cramping although the exact reasons are unclear. 

Poor circulation, which results in decreased oxygen in the muscle tissue, can cause severe pain and cramping. 

Initially, stretching the muscle will often relieve a cramp especially in the feet and legs.  Gentle muscle massage can help to relax the muscle.  Later on, a warm bath or a heating pad may help relieve the soreness that may follow a cramp or muscle spasm often called a Charlie horse.  Fluid and electrolyte, especially sodium and potassium, replacement is critical for treating or preventing cramping.  If cramping is severe or persistent or not associated with an obvious cause, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, which may require a visit to your healthcare professional.   

To prevent muscle cramping, stretch before and after exercise, hydrate before, during and after the activity, and make sure to get adequate amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium.  Although cramps are painful, the discomfort is generally short lived.  Giving your muscles a little TLC can prevent or lessen the occurrence of muscle cramping, allowing for a great exercise session or a good night’s sleep. 

Try these products for relief of muscle cramping:

Spaz Out® by Metabolic Maintenance is a balanced mineral formula that is designed to replenish the mineral electrolytes most at risk of deficiency in those with muscle cramping.  Contains calcium, magnesium and potassium and other minerals. 

Muscle Cramp/Tension Formula by Pure Encapsulations contains important electrolytes and soothing herbs to relieve occasional nighttime muscle cramps, minor muscle cramps associated with exercise and overall muscle tension. 

Restore by Heel/BHI is a homeopathic formula for the temporary relief of muscle soreness, burning  and cramping resulting from physical exertion or lactic acid buildup.

How Probiotics Aid Optimal Health

ProbioticsgfxBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Probiotics have been used for thousands of years in the belief that they hold the key to health and wellness.  Probiotics have increasingly undergone rigorous scientific evaluation and there is strong evidence that these friendly bacteria are helpful in treating and preventing a wide variety of ailments.  Research shows that probiotics are particularly useful in supporting the gastrointestinal tract, relieving digestive issues, warding off infection and boosting the immune system. 

The human microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria that are intimately involved in promoting broad spectrum health at the molecular level.  The many diverse strains of probiotics that inhabit every normal, healthy bowel provide different benefits and work synergistically to keep pathogens in check and aid the digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Beneficial microflora help to regulate immune responses and promote the health and function of the inner intestinal lining, strengthening its ability to bar potentially dangerous organisms.  

Many factors contribute to an unhealthy balance of microflora, which can lead to an increased risk of metabolic and inflammatory chronic diseases.  Modern diets, unhealthy lifestyle factors, pollution, the overuse of antibiotics and even simple aging can shift the balance of a disease-preventing state towards a disease-promoting state.  A negative change in the intestinal microbiome is associated with chronic age-related diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome.  Allergies, asthma and obesity are also related to an abundance of unhealthy bacteria.

Many chronic degenerative diseases are the result of a poorly functioning immune system.  The majority of the immune system is based in the gut, which produces more antibodies than the rest of the body combined.  Supplementation with probiotics can restore and rebalance the microbiome, strengthening its ability to interact with the immune system and boosting the population of cells that destroy harmful, infecting organisms.  Probiotics boost intestinal regularity and can significantly and beneficially impact minor digestive issues, as well as the  more serious conditions of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates, which provide the fuel that probiotics need to thrive.  When combined with a probiotic they form a mutually beneficial relationship, working together to maintain a healthy intestinal flora.  Tending to your gut microflora is essential to good health.  A healthy diet, which includes naturally fermented foods such as yogurt or pickled vegetables and devoid of sugars that nourish pathogenic bacteria, combined with  a high-quality supplement will support a flourishing population of beneficial bacteria, providing the body’s first line of defense against all illness and disease. 

BioDolphilus – Fos by Biotics ResearchBioDolphilus supplies the probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus (DDS-I strain) and Bifidobacterium bifidum in a prebiotic base of fructooligosaccharides.  Pleasant tasting powder can be mixed with a beverage of your choice. 

UltraFlora Advanced by Metagenics UltraFlora Advanced supports healthy intestinal and immune function on multiple levels with a patented blend of probiotics, prebiotic fibers, and immunoglobulins provided in a powder base.

Multi-Probiotic 15 Billion by Douglas Laboratories –  Multi-Probiotic 15 Billion supports intestinal flora with potent amounts of live beneficial prebiotics and probiotics.  One capsule contains a multi-strain blend of 15 billion CFU. 

OrthoBiotic by Ortho Molecular –  Ortho Biotic contains seven carefully assembled strains of probiotic microorganisms that bolster the immune system and promote the health and optimal functioning of the gastrointestinal system.  Proprietary blend of 20 billion CFU per capsule is scientifically formulated for room temperature storage. 

 

Eat This…With That!

EatThisWithThatBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Just as vitamin and mineral supplements are formulated for their ability to work synergistically to enhance health, certain foods eaten together can influence how our nutrients are absorbed and utilized.  Eating food as close as possible to its natural state is the best way to improve health and prevent disease.  Some foods hinder vitamin and mineral absorption while others enhance it.  Certain foods just naturally go well with others, and there may be a good reason why.  Eating the right combinations of foods can ensure receiving optimal benefits from your food choices.  Healthy food combinations that bring out the nutritional best in each other and give you more disease-fighting bang for your buck include: 

Avocado with Tomato – Tomatoes, which contain the antioxidant lycopene, are considered a superfood.  Combine them with avocados and you have created a recipe for enhanced lycopene absorption.  The healthy fat in the avocado can help your body absorb up to 7 times more of the antioxidant.  Other healthy fats such as olive oil also enhance antioxidant absorption, which is highly beneficial for the heart and boosts liver function and detoxification. 

Spinach and Oranges – Spinach is loaded with iron but when eaten alone the absorption level is low.  Combine spinach with the vitamin C found in citrus and the iron is converted into a more absorbable form.  Any vitamin C-rich food will do, so add a tomato, some strawberries or a sliced red pepper.  Vitamin  C absorption is enhanced by calcium and magnesium, which is found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale.

Salmon and Turmeric –  Combining turmeric with salmon boosts the effects of the omega-3 fatty acids present in salmon.  Both have high anti-inflammatory properties supporting, cardiovascular health and providing anti-aging benefits.  Combining dark green leafy vegetables, rich in calcium, with vitamin D-enriched salmon will aid in the absorption of calcium from the vegetables.  Adding black pepper aids in the absorption of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. 

Yogurt and Whole Grains – Pairing the probiotics in yogurt with whole grain fiber-rich foods promotes healthy intestinal flora and aids the absorptive surface in the stomach, allowing for maximum nutrient absorption.  Add a banana into the mix and you get a dose of inulin, which aids calcium absorption for healthy bone support.  Vitamin D is crucial to absorbing calcium and Vitamin C,  so pair your yogurt with a few minutes of morning sunshine several times each week.   

Colorful Vegetables and Healthy Fats – Many fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids, which are fat-soluble, heart protecting phytonutrients.  Eating these with good fats such as olive oil aids in the absorption of other nutrients like vitamin K, which is crucial for bone health and blood clotting.  The vitamin A produced from beta-carotene supports a healthy immune and reproductive system.  To receive full nutritive value, add a handful of nuts or pour a bit of olive oil on those veggies and salads and skip the sugar laden, fat-free commercial salad dressings. 

Green Tea and Lemon – Green tea contains catechins, powerful antioxidants which help to protect cells and tissues from oxidative damage.  Combining green tea with lemon dramatically increases the absorption of those catechins.  Eating any vitamin C-enriched fruit along with your tea works equally well. 

Nuts and Beans with Fruits and Vegetables – The vitamin C found in kiwi and citrus fruits, and vegetables such as broccoli or bell peppers amps up vitamin E absorption, which benefits your eye health and helps prevent macular degeneration.  

Whole Grains with Onion and Garlic – The sulfur compounds in onions and garlic help boost absorption of zinc, which is found in whole grains and aids in immune defense and wound healing.   Add broccoli, rich in sulforaphane that aids in the absorption of selenium, which protects the thyroid and has cancer fighting properties. 

Red Meat and Rosemary – Rosemary is rich in rosmarinic and carnosic acids which neutralize carcinogens such as heterocyclic acid that form on cooked meat.  There’s a good reason why lamb and rosemary work so well together. 

Pork and Sauerkraut – Although we often eat meat with starches, it’s not the best option for healthy digestion.  Fermented vegetables bolster digestion-friendly probiotic organisms which bolster your immune system.  For the best nutrient absorption, pair animal protein with non-starchy vegetables like green beans, spinach or kale. 

Eggs and Cheese –  Eggs contain naturally occurring vitamin D which aids in the absorption of the calcium found in the cheese.  Sufficient calcium levels promote neurotransmitter health, stabilize hormones and offer bone and heart protection. 

If you tend to skip a meal here and there, these recommendations might fill the gap.

Calcium, Magnesium & Potassium by Innate Response FormulasThis whole food formula, with a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, contains the average ratio found in 171 fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  These synergistic minerals are delivered in a nutrient dense organic blend for enhanced utilization. 

Greens Q by Quantum Nutrition Labs –  Quantum Greens contains a live-sourced, superior nutritional formula for optimal absorption, health and rejuvenation. 

Turmeric Curcumin 1000 mg by Physiologics –  This product contains active and beneficial curcuminoids, plant based antioxidants that neutralize cell-damaging free radicals.