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Posted by: | Posted on: December 5, 2019

How to Prevent and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder


Reproduced from original article:
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/12/05/how-to-prevent-treat-seasonal-affective-disorder.aspx

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

December 05, 2019

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs seasonally, typically ramping up in the fall and winter months and disappearing come spring
  • Helpful treatments include optimizing your vitamin D and omega-3 levels, light therapy (including blue light exposure in the morning, but not later in the day), optimizing your sleep, the Emotional Freedom Techniques and exercise
  • Your health and mood are intricately tied to exposure to sunlight. For example, your serotonin levels (the hormone typically associated with elevating your mood) rise when you’re exposed to bright light. Your melatonin level also rises and falls (inversely) with light and darkness
  • Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and should be a top consideration when you’re looking for a solution to flagging mood and energy — especially if it occurs during fall and winter months
  • While light therapy can take up to four weeks before you notice improvement, it was shown to be more effective than antidepressants for moderate to severe depression in a 2015 study

The loss of daylight hours during winter is a common cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that hits seasonally and lifts as spring and summer rolls back around.

The fact that SAD occurs when the days begin to darken and sunlight is at a minimum is not a coincidence. Your health and mood are intricately tied to exposure to sunlight. For example, your serotonin levels (the hormone typically associated with elevating your mood) rise when you’re exposed to bright light.

Your melatonin level also rises and falls — inversely — with light and darkness. When it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase, which is why you may feel tired when the sun starts to set, and in the heart of winter, this may be at as early as 3 p.m. if you live far from the equator. Light and darkness also control your biological clock, or circadian rhythm, which impacts hormones that regulate your appetite and metabolism.

As explained in the paper, “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches,” published in the journal Depression Research and Treatment in 2015:1

“… SAD is a recurrent major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern usually beginning in fall and continuing into winter months. A subsyndromal type of SAD, or S-SAD, is commonly known as ‘winter blues.’ Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.

Symptoms center on sad mood and low energy. Those most at risk are female, are younger, live far from the equator, and have family histories of depression, bipolar disorder, or SAD … Typical treatment includes antidepressant medications, light therapy, vitamin D, and counselling.”

Considering the many health risks associated with antidepressants, and the fact that their efficacy is right on par with placebos, my recommendation is to avoid them if at all possible.

Aside from light therapy and vitamin D, other drug-free treatment options include optimizing your omega-3 level, exercise, the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and normalizing your circadian rhythm, all of which will be reviewed here.

The Role of Vitamin D

As explained in the featured paper,2 vitamin D appears to play a role in the activity of serotonin, a mood-balancing hormone, and melatonin, a hormone that responds to light and dark.

People with SAD tend to have lower serotonin and higher melatonin levels, which can account for the fatigue, tiredness and depressed mood typically associated with this condition. According to the Depression Research and Treatment paper:3

“A systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression … During the winter months of November through February, those living about 33 degrees north or 30 degrees south of the equator are not able to synthesize vitamin D.

Many people with SAD and S-SAD have insufficient or deficient levels of vitamin D, and although no further studies have confirmed the findings, research investigating this association suggests that taking 100,000 IU daily may improve their symptoms.

Taking vitamin D before winter darkness sets in may help prevent symptoms of depression. Adverse reactions or intoxication is rare but could occur from doses of more than 50,000 IU per day.”

Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and should be a top consideration when you’re looking for a solution to flagging mood and energy — especially if it occurs during fall and winter months.

Ideally, you’ll want to get your vitamin D level tested twice a year, in summer and winter, when your levels are highest and lowest. This will help you fine-tune your dosage over time. While regular sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D level, this isn’t possible in many areas during the winter, thus necessitating the use of oral supplements instead.

GrassrootsHealth has a helpful calculator that can help estimate the dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. The optimal level you’re looking for is between 60 and 80 ng/ml, and for all-around health, you’ll want to maintain this level year-round.

Omega-3 Fats Are Important Too

Another nutrient that can be helpful is marine-based omega-3. As noted in a 2009 review4 of three studies looking at the impact of omega-3 supplementation on patients with unipolar depression, childhood major depression and bipolar depression:

“Twelve bipolar outpatients with depressive symptoms were treated with 1.5-2.0 g/day of EPA for up to 6 months. In the adult unipolar depression study, highly significant benefits were found by week 3 of EPA treatment compared with placebo.

In the child study, an analysis … showed highly significant effects of omega-3 on each of the three rating scales. In the bipolar depression study, 8 of the 10 patients who completed at least one month of follow-up achieved a 50% or greater reduction in Hamilton depression scores within one month.”

In another study5 published that same year, people with lower blood levels of omega-3s were found to be more likely to have symptoms of depression and a more negative outlook while those with higher blood levels demonstrated the opposite emotional states.

A more recent review,6 published in 2015, pointed out that “Cell signaling and structure of the cell membrane are changed by omega-3-fatty acids, which demonstrates that an omega-3-fatty acid can act as an antidepressant.”

Importantly, this paper also points to research showing that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is an important factor that can influence your depression risk. People with severe symptoms of depression have been found to have low concentrations of omega-3 in conjunction with considerably higher concentrations of omega-6.

You can learn more about the importance of this ratio in “Getting Your Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio Right Is Essential For Optimal Health.” The key, really, to normalizing this ratio is to increase your omega-3 intake while simultaneously lowering your omega-6 consumption. This means you’ll need to ditch processed and fried foods, as they’re typically loaded with omega-6-rich vegetable oils.

Get Tested Today

GrassrootsHealth, which is conducting consumer-sponsored research into both vitamin D and omega-3, is one of your most cost-effective alternatives when it comes to testing.

Their vitamin D testing kit enrolls you into the GrassrootsHealth D*Action project, where your anonymized data will help researchers to provide accurate data about the vitamin D status in the population, the level at which disease prevention is obtained, and guidance on dosing to achieve optimal levels.

vitamin D testing kit

Their vitamin D, magnesium and omega-3 test kit is another option that will allow you to check the status of several vital nutrients at once. Each kit contains instructions for how to collect your blood sample. You then mail in your sample and fill out a quick online health questionnaire through GrassrootsHealth. A link to your test results will be emailed to you about a week after your blood samples have been received.

vitamin D magnesium omega 3 test kit

Light Therapy Is More Effective Than Antidepressants

Light therapy,7 using full-spectrum nonfluorescent lighting that has blue light to artificially mimic sunlight, is among the most effective treatment options for SAD. You want to avoid fluorescents as they emit large amounts of dirty electricity. Ideally, have the light exposure in the morning, well after sunrise. As noted in the Depression Research and Treatment paper:8

“Knowing the difference decreased daylight can make in triggering SAD and S-SAD, approaches seeking to replace the diminished sunshine using bright artificial light, particularly in the morning, have consistently showed promise …

Light boxes can be purchased that emit full spectrum light similar in composition to sunlight. Symptoms of SAD and S-SAD may be relieved by sitting in front of a light box first thing in the morning, from the early fall until spring …

Typically, light boxes filter out ultraviolet rays and require 20–60 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white… light daily during fall and winter.

This is about 20 times as great as ordinary indoor lighting … Light therapy should not be used in conjunction with photosensitizing medications such as lithium, melatonin, phenothiazine antipsychotics, and certain antibiotics.”

While light therapy can take up to four weeks before you notice an improvement, it was shown to be more effective than antidepressants for moderate to severe depression in a 2015 study.9,10 In it, the researchers evaluated the effectiveness of light therapy, alone and in conjunction with the antidepressant fluoxetine (sold under the brand name Prozac).

The eight-week trial included 122 adults between the ages of 19 and 60, who were diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. The participants were divided into four groups, receiving:

  • 30 minutes of light therapy per day upon waking, using a 10,000 lux Carex brand day-light device, classic model, plus a placebo pill
  • Prozac (20 mg/day) plus a deactivated ion generator serving as a placebo light device
  • Light therapy plus Prozac
  • Placebo light device plus placebo pill (control group)

In conclusion, the study found that the combination of light therapy and Prozac was the most effective — but light therapy-only came in at a close second, followed by placebo. In other words, the drug treatment was the least effective of all, including placebo.

The mean changes in the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale from baseline to the eight-week end point was 16.9 for the combination therapy (active light- and drug therapy), and 13.4 for light therapy alone.

Blue Light During Daytime Hours May Improve Your Mood

In addition to the bright white light used in light therapy, blue light has also been shown to be useful. According to a 2010 study,11 blue light appears to play a key role in your brain’s ability to process emotions, and its results suggest that spending more time in blue-enriched light could help prevent SAD.

Blue light is prevalent in outdoor light, so your body absorbs the most during the summer and much less in the winter. Because of this, the researchers suggested that adding blue light to indoor lighting, as opposed to the standard yellow lights typically used, may help boost mood and productivity year-round, and especially during the winter.

Keep in mind, however, that blue light after sunset or before sunrise should be avoided, as it can disrupt your circadian rhythm. In fact, one of the reasons for insomnia and poor sleep is related to excessive exposure to blue light-emitting technologies such as TV and computer screens, especially in the evening.

The blue light depresses melatonin production, thereby preventing you from feeling sleepy. So, to be clear, you only want to expose yourself to blue light in the morning, and possibly afternoon, but not in the evening.

In “How the Cycles of Light and Darkness Affect Your Health and Well-Being,” researcher Dan Pardi explains the peculiar effect blue light has on your brain, which sheds further light on why it’s so important to expose yourself to blue light during daytime hours only, and why you need to avoid it at night:

“[R]ods and cones in the eye… are specialized cells that can transduce a photo signal into a nerve signal… In the mid-90s, a different type of cell was discovered… [called] intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGC).

It does the same thing as rods and cones: it transduced light to a nerve signal. But instead of the signal going to your visual cortex, it goes to your master clock. Those cells are most responsive to blue light. If you can block blue light, you can actually create something called circadian darkness or virtual darkness.

What that means is that you can see, but your brain doesn’t think that it’s daytime; your brain thinks that it’s in darkness. That is actually a practical solution for living with artificial light in our modern world…

With more awareness, future digital devices will adjust lighting in the evening to automatically dim and emit amber/red light [instead of blue]. This is much better for healthy circadian rhythms and sleep quality.”

Address Insomnia

As you can tell by Pardi’s explanation above, the blue light issue is closely related to your sleep quality and circadian rhythm maintenance, and this too is an important component of mental health.

Historically, humans went to sleep shortly after sunset and woke up when the sun rose. Straying too far from this biological pattern will disrupt delicate hormonal cycles in your body, which can affect both your mood and your health. Indeed, the link between depression and lack of sleep is well established, and sleep disturbance is one of the telltale signs of depression.12

Sleep therapy has also been shown to significantly improve depression. While there are individual differences, as a general rule, you’ll want to aim for about eight hours of sleep per night.

For many, this will require going to bed earlier, which can be difficult if you’ve been watching TV or using electronics beforehand, as the blue light from the screen suppresses your melatonin production.

So, an important part of the solution is to avoid screen-time for a couple of hours before bed. Alternatives to not watching TV or using electronics is to install a blue light modulating software such as Iris,13 or using blue-blocking glasses.

Just make sure you don’t wear blue blocking glasses during the daytime, which is when you need the blue light exposure. Also, make sure the glasses filter out light between 460 to 490 nanometers (nm), which is the range of blue light that most effectively reduces melatonin. You can easily tell this by looking at a blue light and if it doesn’t disappear with the glasses, it is not blocking that frequency.

Exercise Helps Prevent Depression

Like sleep, exercise can impact your risk of depression. Even a minimal amount of exercise may be enough to combat depression in some people — as little as one hour a week could prevent 12% of future cases of depression, according to one study.14

Participants were followed for 11 years in this study, during which time it was revealed that people who engaged in regular leisure-time exercise for one hour a week, regardless of intensity, were less likely to become depressed. On the flipside, those who didn’t exercise were 44% more likely to become depressed compared to those who did so for at least one to two hours a week.

Exercise benefits your brain and mood via multiple mechanisms, including creating new, excitable neurons along with new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which inhibits excessive neuronal firing, helping to induce a natural state of calm15 — similar to the way anti-anxiety drugs work, except that the mood-boosting benefits of exercise occur both immediately after a workout and on in the long term.

Exercise also boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. What’s more, anandamide levels are known to increase during and following exercise.16 Anandamide is a neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid produced in your brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. It can also be activated with CBD products.

Tap for Symptoms of Depression

Last but not least, EFT, a form of psychological acupressure, is a noninvasive way that can help treat symptoms of depression, whether related to seasonal light differences or not.

Some people avoid energy psychology, believing it’s an alternative form of New Age spirituality. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is merely an advanced tool that can effectively address some of the psychological short circuiting that occurs in emotional illnesses.

It is not associated with any religion or spiritual outlook at all, but merely an effective resource you can use with whatever spiritual belief you have. In the video above, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how you can use EFT to relieve your symptoms.

It’s the Season To Be Glad, Not SAD

Since SAD is triggered by the loss of light, it makes sense that light therapy is among the most effective treatments. Vitamin D and/or omega-3 deficiency, as well as lack of sleep and exercise, can also play a significant role, so addressing these basic lifestyle factors could also be what you need to avoid the winter blues.

In closing, it may be worth noting that it’s natural for your body to want to slow down somewhat in the wintertime. While this can be difficult when your work and personal life dictate otherwise, allowing yourself to slow down a bit and surrender to the overwinter process may ultimately help you to respect your body’s circadian rhythm, and recharge.

That said, this doesn’t mean you should plant yourself on the couch for the winter and not venture outdoors. On the contrary, staying active and spending time outdoors during the day are among the best “cures” for SAD.

Posted by: | Posted on: November 27, 2019

Valerian: Everything You Knew and Everything You Didn’t

© 6th November 2019 GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more from GreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here www.greenmedinfo.com/greenmed/newsletter
Reproduced from original article:
www.greenmedinfo.health/blog/valerian-everything-you-knew-and-everything-you-didnt
Posted on: Wednesday, November 6th 2019 at 10:30 am

Posted by: | Posted on: November 20, 2019

Common antibiotic could lead to fatal heart issues

Reproduced from original article:
www.naturalhealth365.com/antibiotic-heart-risks-3192.html

antibiotic

(NaturalHealth365) Antibiotics are a popular class of drugs that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate are frequently over-prescribed. In fact, the CDC has previously suggested that as many as 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary!

Used to kill infections, antibiotics can also wreak havoc on your gut health and immune system. And along with the physicians incorrectly prescribing them and individuals incorrectly taking them, antibiotics are giving rise to the dangerous public health crisis of antibiotic resistance, aka “superbugs.”  To make matters worse, data indicates that a certain type of antibiotic sold as, Zithromax poses serious heart risks to consumers.

Heart attack warning: Zithromax antibiotic could be a deadly choice

Zithromax is an antibiotic typically prescribed for infections like bronchitis, ear infections, and pneumonia.  Sometimes called azithromycin, Zmax, or “Z-Pack”, many doctors and patients prefer it because it can be taken for fewer days than other common antibiotics like amoxicillin. Compared to the typical 10-day course, a full course of Zithromax is only five days.

However, Zithromax is twice as expensive as generic amoxicillin and can cost as much as a few bucks per pill – which likely explains why pharmaceutical companies love it so much (sales for the drug topped $464 million in 2011 in the United States alone).

But data from a 2012 study out of Vanderbilt University determined that people who use Zithromax have an increased risk of sudden deadly heart issues. Researchers looked at millions of antibiotic prescriptions given to well over half a million Medicaid patients between the years of 1992 and 2006.

They discovered that 29 heart-related deaths occurred among people taking Zithromax during the short five-day course.

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While rare, these heart-related deaths were enough to show that certain individuals taking Z-Pack drugs may be twice as likely to die while taking the drug compared to similar individuals taking other kinds of antibiotics (or taking none at all).  The proposed reason is that Z-Pack drugs may lead to dysfunctional electrical activity and ultimately lead to fatal heart rhythms.

This data has been corroborated by other research, including a follow-up paper published in May 2012 in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautions medical providers to avoid giving Zithromax to patients with known cardiovacular risk factors, including prolonged QT intervals, potassium or magnesium deficiencies, bradycardia (slow heart rate), or people already taing drugs to treat abnormal heart rhythms.

How to avoid the need for antibiotics and reduce your risk of infections

Let’s face it: antibiotics are a risky class of drugs and are medically unnecessary at least 30% of the time.

So, to help yourself stay healthy throughout the year and help you avoid both bacterial infections and antibiotics …

  • Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C and vitamin D through foods like leafy greens, citrus fruits, fatty fish and eggs (you can also back up your health with high quality supplements).
  • Cut out heavily processed foods: Especially simple sugars, these foods are main drivers behind the rise of chronic disease and can make you sick, fat, and more prone to infections.
  • Commit to good quality sleep! Not getting enough sleep damages your immune system. It also promotes weight gain and higher levels of stress.

Sources for this article include:

NHS.uk
Mayoclinic.org
CBSnews.com
NEJM.org
Medicalnewstoday.com
Yahoo.com
CDC.gov
FDA.gov

Posted by: | Posted on: November 14, 2019

The Curious Bidirectional Link Between Gut Health and Sleep


Reproduced from original article:
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/11/14/sleep-and-gut-health.aspx

Analysis by Dr. Joseph MercolaFact Checked
sleep and gut health

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Mounting research suggests your gut microbiome helps regulate not only your mood but also your sleep cycle through what’s known as the gut-brain axis — a bidirectional communication “highway” that links your central and enteric nervous systems
  • Your gut microbiota affect brain function through the immunoregulatory pathway, the neuroendocrine pathway and the vagus nerve pathway, all three of which have this bidirectional flow
  • Research shows the microbiota in your gut are under circadian control, which means disruptions in sleep can affect the composition and health of your microbiome, which can have significant impact on your overall health
  • The microbes in your gut can also affect the actual quality of your sleep. Total microbiome diversity is positively correlated with increased sleep efficiency and total sleep time
  • Recent research shows the composition of your gut microbiome, the quality and quantity of your sleep, your immune function and cognition are all connected

Sleep plays an integral role in your immune function, and one of the surprising mechanisms behind this link has to do with how sleep impacts your gut microbiome. Two recent studies shed light on this connection between sleep and your gut health.

The first, published in the December 2018 issue of Frontiers in Psychiatry,1 focused on the microbiome’s role in insomnia and depression. As noted by the authors:

“Numerous studies have suggested that the incidence of insomnia and depressive disorder are linked to biological rhythms, immune function, and nutrient metabolism, but the exact mechanism is not yet clear.

There is considerable evidence showing that the gut microbiome not only affects the digestive, metabolic, and immune functions of the host but also regulates host sleep and mental states through the microbiome-gut-brain axis.

Preliminary evidence indicates that microorganisms and circadian genes can interact with each other. The characteristics of the gastrointestinal microbiome and metabolism are related to the host’s sleep and circadian rhythm.”

Your Gut Microbiome’s Role in Insomnia and Depression

Previous studies have shown your gut microbiome can play a significant role in depression and anxiety, and that your diet — which can effectively alter the bacterial composition of your gut — can raise or lower your risk of these mood disorders.

As noted in the Frontiers in Psychiatry study,2 mounting research suggests your gut microbiome helps regulate not only your mood but also your sleep cycle through what’s known as the gut-brain axis — a bidirectional communication “highway” that links your central and enteric nervous systems.3

According to the authors of this paper, your gut microbiota affect brain function through three different pathways, all of which have this bidirectional flow:4

1.The immunoregulatory pathway — Here, gut bacteria influence brain function via interaction with immune cells that regulate your levels of cytokines, cytokinetic reaction factor and prostaglandin E2.

2.The neuroendocrine pathway — With more than 20 types of enteroendocrine cells, your intestine is the largest endocrine organ in your body. As explained by the authors,5 “The gut microbiome may affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the central nervous system (CNS) by regulating the secretion of neurotransmitters such as cortisol, tryptophan and serotonin (5-HT).”

3.The vagus nerve pathway — Your enteric nervous system also plays an important role in the vagus nerve pathway. Here, gut microbiota can exert influence via sensory neurons in your intestinal myenteric plexus.

These intestinal neurons have synaptic connections to motor neurons in the intestine that help regulate hormone secretion in the gut and intestinal motility. Synaptic connections also exist between the intestinal nervous system and the vagus nerve, which connects your brain and intestine.

The authors note that neurotoxic metabolites produced by various gut microbiota can also enter into your CNS via your vagus nerve, “thereby affecting brain function, stress responses and sleep structure.”

As mentioned, the information flow through these three pathways is bidirectional, so your CNS can also regulate the composition of your gut microbiome through these pathways.

As one example, through its ability to alter the function of epithelial cells in your intestine, the HPA axis can affect the bacteria’s living environment, and in so doing, influence the composition of your gut microbiome.6

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Circadian Genes Affect Your Gut Microbiome

In 2017, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to three biologists for their discovery of master genes that control your body’s circadian rhythms. Your body contains not just one biological clock, but a vast array of clocks that regulate everything from metabolism to psychological functioning.

While the master clock in your brain synchronizes your bodily functions to match the 24-hour light and dark cycle, each and every organ, indeed each cell, has its own biological clock.

Half of your genes are also under circadian control, turning on and off in cyclical waves. As you might expect, the microbiota in your gut are also under circadian control, which means disruptions in sleep can affect the composition and health of your microbiome as well. As reported in Frontiers in Psychiatry:7

“Evidence suggests that Clostridiales, Lactobacillales, and Bacteroidales, which account for ~60% of the microbiota, show significant diurnal fluctuations that result in time-of-day-specific taxonomic configurations.

Liang et al. found that the two primary components of the mammalian intestinal microbiota, Bacteroidetes, and Firmicutes, showed cyclical changes in abundance from day to night that are related not only to rhythmic food intake and dietary structure but also to the biological clock and gender of the host.

Recent studies showed that circadian clock misalignment, sleep deprivation, and shift experience changes circadian clock gene expression and microbial community structure.

Interfering with the sleep patterns of mice can also change the structure and diversity of the intestinal microbiota. These findings suggest that circadian genes might affect the intestinal microbiota.”

So, to summarize the findings of this Frontiers in Psychiatry, there’s a bidirectional connection between your gut microbiome, your sleep and your risk of depression, and endocrine hormones and clock genes play important roles in these processes.

Microbiome Diversity Linked to Sleep Quality

The second study8,9 addressing the curious link between your gut health and sleep was published in PLOS ONE in 2019. Here, the researchers investigated how the microbes in your gut affect the actual quality of your sleep — which we already know can have far-reaching effects on your general health.

Poor sleep and/or lack of sleep has been linked to a wide variety of ailments and health conditions, ranging from poor cognitive performance and neurological dysfunction to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes,10 heart disease,11 cancer12 and Alzheimer’s disease.13

On the other hand, high-quality sleep is associated with improved health, cognition and increased creativity, as discussed in “Using Sleep as a Tool for Creativity.”

Using advanced sleep measuring devices, the researchers were able to measure the quality of participants’ sleep, which was then compared to the composition of their gut microbiome to see if a correlation could be made. As reported by the authors:14

“We found that total microbiome diversity was positively correlated with increased sleep efficiency and total sleep time, and was negatively correlated with wake after sleep onset. We found positive correlations between total microbiome diversity and interleukin-6, a cytokine previously noted for its effects on sleep.

Analysis of microbiome composition revealed that within phyla richness of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes were positively correlated with sleep efficiency, interleukin-6 concentrations and abstract thinking.

Finally, we found that several taxa (LachnospiraceaeCorynebacterium, and Blautia) were negatively correlated with sleep measures. Our findings initiate linkages between gut microbiome composition, sleep physiology, the immune system and cognition. They may lead to mechanisms to improve sleep through the manipulation of the gut microbiome.”

The Role of Cytokines

As mentioned at the beginning, sleep is known to influence your immune function, and cytokines, produced in response to an antigen, are multifunctional chemical messengers that help regulate your innate and adaptive immune systems.15

Interestingly, cytokines also appear to act as a “critical interface between sleep physiology and gut microbiome composition,” according to this study. As explained by the authors:16

“The acute phase pathway cytokines IL-1β and IL-6 in particular are strongly associated with sleep physiology. IL-1β is a major somnogenic factor. IL-1β administration in human and non-human animals increases spontaneous sleep and fatigue, and IL-1β increases with ongoing sleep loss.

Unlike IL-1β, IL-6 is not a direct somnogenic factor, but sleep loss results in increased IL-6 levels. In the gut, IL-6 and IL-1β mediated-inflammation fluctuate in response to stress and disease.

For example, intestinal mucositis results in increased expression of IL-6 and-IL-1β in the small intestine and in serum and colon tissue in mice. In humans, chronic stress alone increases IL-6 and-IL-1β.

Despite the close relationship between cytokine activity, gut microbiome activity and sleep, only a handful of studies have examined sleep and gut-microbiome composition … In humans, previous research has shown that partial sleep deprivation can alter the gut microbiome composition in as little as 48 hours …

A more recent study showed that high sleep quality was associated with a gut microbiome containing a high proportion of bacteria from the Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae phyla, and that this was associated with improved performance on cognitive tasks.”

So, in summary, what this PLOS ONE study reveals is that the composition of your gut microbiome, the quality and quantity of your sleep, your immune function and cognition are all connected.

Lack of Sleep Makes Chronic Health Problems Extra Risky

The finding that poor sleep and lack of sleep can deteriorate your gut health helps explain why sleeping too little when you’re struggling with a chronic health issue could be a downright deadly prescription. As reported by CNN Health:17

“If you’re a middle-aged adult with high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or existing heart disease and you typically sleep less than six hours each night, you could be setting yourself up for cancer or an early death from heart disease.”

The study18,19,20 CNN is referring to was published in the October 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA). In it, researchers sought to determine whether short sleep duration would increase the risk of death associated with cardiometabolic risk factors and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.

Data from 1,654 adults from the Penn State Adult Cohort were evaluated. Using Cox proportional hazard models, the adjusted hazard ratio for all-cause mortality among those who slept less than six hours and had cardiometabolic risk factors (high blood pressure, elevated glucose or Type 2 diabetes) was 2.14 times higher than those who regularly slept six hours or more.

They also had a 1.83 times higher risk of dying from cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases. Among those with a diagnosis of heart disease or stroke, sleeping less than six hours a night increased their all-cause mortality risk by 3.17 times. Interestingly, it also increased their risk of dying from cancer, specifically, by 2.92 times.

All of these associations were found to be independent of age, sex, ethnicity, obesity, smoking and other health conditions that might influence the results. Conversely, sleeping less than six hours did not increase the risk of death in those that did not have cardiometabolic risk factors or a cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease diagnosis.

Likewise, those with cardiometabolic risk factors or a cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease diagnosis who slept six hours or more were not at increased risk for death either. It was specifically the combination of chronic health problems and short sleep duration that increased the risk of death, including cancer mortality.

Sleep Duration Plays a Role in Mortality Prognosis

As noted by the authors:21

“Our novel findings show that objective short sleep duration increases the mortality risk of middle‐aged adults with CMRs [cardiometabolic risk factors] and those who have already developed CBVD [cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases].

Middle‐aged adults with CMR who slept <6 hours were at a high risk of dying from CBVD, whereas middle‐aged adults with CBVD who slept <6 hours were at a high risk of dying from cancer …

If these findings are replicated in other large cohorts with objective sleep measures, short sleep duration should be included in the prediction of the mortality prognosis of middle‐aged adults with CMR or CBVD.

The primary finding of the current study indicated that there was an ≈2‐fold risk for all‐cause, CBVD, and non‐CBVD mortality in participants who had CMRs at baseline and demonstrated short sleep duration in the sleep laboratory.

Individuals who had CMRs and normal sleep duration at baseline, on the other hand, did not show a significantly increased risk on any of the mortality outcomes. This finding suggests that obtaining an adequate amount of sleep may minimize the adverse effect of CMRs on multiple mortality outcomes.

For instance, participants with both CMRs and short sleep at baseline showed an 83% higher risk of dying from CBVD, whereas their CMR counterparts with normal sleep duration had a modest 35% nonsignificant higher risk of CBVD mortality …

In conclusion, objective short sleep duration is an effect modifier of the mortality risk associated with CMR or CBVD. More important, our data suggest that short sleep may operate through different mechanisms on CBVD versus cancer mortality.”

General Sleep Guidelines

Considering the massive importance of sleep for preventing the two top killers in the U.S. (heart disease and cancer), just how much sleep do you need to reap protective benefits?

According to a scientific review of more than 300 studies published between 2004 and 2014, a panel of experts came up with the following recommendations. Keep in mind that if you’re sick, injured or pregnant, you may need a bit more than normal.

Age Group Hours of sleep needed for health
Newborns (0 to 3 months) 14 to 17 hours
Infants (4 to 11 months) 12 to 15 hours
Toddlers (1 to 2 years) 11 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3 to 5) 10 to 13 hours
School-age children (6 to 13) 9 to 11 hours
Teenagers (14 to 17) 8 to 10 hours
Adults (18 to 64) 7 to 9 hours
Seniors (65 and older) 7 to 8 hours

Set a Nightly Alarm to Help You Get Enough Sleep

There’s simply no doubt that sleep needs to be a priority in your life if you intend to live a long and healthy life. For many, this means forgoing night-owl tendencies and getting to bed at a reasonable time.

If you need to be up at 6 a.m., you need a lights-out deadline of 9:30 or 10 p.m., depending on how quickly you tend to fall asleep. If you find it difficult to get to bed on time, consider setting a bedtime alarm to remind you that it’s time to shut everything down and get ready for sleep. For further guidance, see “Sleep — Why You Need It and 50 Ways to Improve It.

How to Nurture Your Gut Microbiome

As for how to improve and maintain a healthy microbiome — which might do more to improve your sleep than is currently appreciated — it isn’t very complicated, but you do need to take proactive steps to encourage its health while avoiding factors known to cause harm. This includes:

Do Avoid
Eat plenty of fermented foods — Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass fed kefir, natto (fermented soy) and fermented vegetables. Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary, and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a high-quality probiotic supplement.
Take a probiotic supplement — Although I’m not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are an exception if you don’t eat fermented foods on a regular basis. Conventionally raised meats and other animal products, as factory farmed animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics and GE grains loaded with glyphosate, which is widely known to kill many bacteria.
Boost your soluble and insoluble fiber intake, focusing on vegetables, nuts and seeds, including sprouted seeds. Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water — Especially in your bathing such as showers, which are worse than drinking it.
Get your hands dirty in the garden — Exposure to bacteria and viruses can help to strengthen your immune system and provide long-lasting immunity against disease.

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficial microorganisms on the plants and in the soil.

Processed foods — Excessive sugar feeds pathogenic bacteria.

Food emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols and xanthan gum also appear to have an adverse effect on your gut flora.

Unless 100% organic, they may also contain GMOs that tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate. Artificial sweeteners have also been found to alter gut bacteria in adverse ways.22

Open your windows — For the vast majority of human history, the outside was always part of the inside, and at no moment during our day were we ever really separated from nature.

Today, we spend most of our lives indoors. And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages, it has also changed the microbiome of your home.

Research shows that opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you.23

Agricultural chemicals — Glyphosate (Roundup) in particular is a known antibiotic and will actively kill many of your beneficial gut microbes if you eat foods contaminated with it.
Wash your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher — Research has shown that washing your dishes by hand leaves more bacteria on the dishes than dishwashers do, and eating off these less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies by stimulating your immune system. Antibacterial soap — It kills both good and bad bacteria and contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.
Sources and References
Posted by: | Posted on: November 5, 2019

Night Terrors and Nightmares in Children

Night Terrors can be a very emotional event for parents, especially if they become more common.
The good news is that there are things that will help, and most children “grow out of it” eventually. The average age for Night Terrors is from 3 to 12 years, although some start sooner and finish later.
Nightmares can happen at any age, often recurring in children at a particular age.

Difference between night terrors and nightmares

Children can have both, which makes things confusing, however, dealing with nightmares may be similar to the guidelines below for night terrors.

Night Terrors

Night terrors frighten the parents, and the children have little or no recollection in the morning. During the event, they are still in a very deep stage of sleep. Children appear to be awake, but are in fact still in deep sleep as they scream or run around violently. They may not recognise their parents and usually refuse any offer of help.
Because the child is so active and seems awake but distressed, parents attempt to calm the child, but as the child does not hear the parents because of the deep sleep, they usually do not respond.
Any calming attempts fail, and trying to awaken the child may cause even more stress.
Night Terrors may last from a minute to an hour, and if they wake up during the event, they are often confused, and have no memory of the Terror.
The best approach seems to be to carefully restrain them, ensure their safety where they sleep, allowing an eventual return to natural sleep.

Nightmares

Nightmares (scary dreams) can and do frighten children.
Often they remember their nightmares, which happen during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep rather than Deep Sleep. During REM sleep, the child may more readily awaken during a nightmare.
This is the time for reassurance, and the child will respond to a hug and soft words.

What causes Night Terrors?

Night terrors can be caused by many things, including:

  • Junk food
  • Processed food.
  • Dairy or Grain-based foods.
  • Vitamin B group and or Niacin deficiency.
  • Bad sleep quality
  • Sleep patterns out of routine
  • Sleep deprivation – bed time too late.
  • Too hot or cold in bed
  • Noisy sleep environment
  • Stressful events – perhaps starting a new school, new teacher, new baby-sitter, bullying, etc
  • Listening to parents arguing
  • Watching violent TV (even the News)
  • Playing violent video games
  • Medication, especially antihistamines, decongestants, over-the-counter and prescription medication
  • Vaccinations
  • Genetics – children of Night-Terror parents are more likely to suffer.
  • Fever
  • Central nervous system problems or immaturity

What causes Nightmares?

Somewhat similar to night terrors.

Remedies for both conditions

Calm the child before bed. Read a story (not Ghostbusters or Friday 13th!)
A heavy blanket has a “hugging” effect which improves the sense of security. In warm weather, a light blanket with weights sewn into the corners may be helpful.
Discourage TV for an hour before bed.
Try to maintain a consistent routine and bed time each night.
Make bed time early, as children and adults tend to wake up when the sun comes up, so late bed time means less sleep.
Avoid junk food, improve nutrition
Avoid all processed food, especially those with a chemical number in the ingredients list.
Avoid all grain foods, especially wheat or wheat flour, as gluten sensitivity may be a problem. Even if the doctor says the child does not have coeliac disease, they may still have gluten sensitivity and/or Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Avoid dairy products as lactose or casein intolerance may be a problem.
Get the child to place all worries into an imaginary (or real) garbage bag, tie it up and place it in the bin (real or imagined).
Place a “Dream Catcher” over the bed – generally a wire loop decorated with string, beads, etc with “magic dream-catching” properties. The child may feel better if something in the room is their friend.
Lavender or other calming oils – a few drops on or under the pillow, or a sprig of real lavender.
Snack before bed – this may help children who have unstable blood sugar during the night (usually caused by a bad diet with too much sugar).
St.John’s Wort is a natural antidepressant (children’s dose only). Not to be used with any prescription medication as many meds use the same pathway in the body.
B Complex vitamins may help, also Niacin (Prolonged Release) if there is a deficiency.
GABA supplements may help.
Vitamin D3 supplements may help, especially if the child does not get adequate direct sunshine in the middle of the day. This is a high dose, so once or twice a week is normally enough as this is a fat-soluble vitamin, not easily flushed away like the water-soluble vitamins.
White noise – such as recording of ocean waves gently rolling onto the beach can have a calming effect. Even subtle noise from running a fan or ioniser may help.
Classical music softly played during the night may help.

Posted by: | Posted on: October 22, 2019

Under 6 hours of sleep per night increases the risk of death from stroke and heart disease, new study

Reproduced from original article:
https://www.naturalhealth365.com/sleep-health-risks-3157.html
by:  

sleep-issues(NaturalHealth365) It used to be that “burning the midnight oil” and being sleep deprived was a badge of honor, a sort of bragging right among “busy” people trying to get ahead in life. But science is catching up to all of us who used to proudly decry sleep.  A new study reveals just how significant the health risks of chronic sleep deprivation are, especially if you’re already living with a health problem.

If you or a loved one has a chronic disease, prioritizing your sleep is one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make.  And if you struggle with falling or staying asleep (like many people do), keep reading for some natural sleeping tips.

Risk of death from stroke and heart disease increased for people with chronic disease who sleep less than 6 hours per night, study says

According to the National Health Council, 40% of Americans have at least one chronic illness like hypertension and diabetes. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 of us aren’t getting enough sleep.

Knowing what we know about chronic sleep deprivation, we’re not surprised to hear of a significant correlation between these two concerning statistics.

Consider a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.  The paper’s authors analyzed sleep laboratory data and overall health status of more than 1,600 people from the Penn State Adult Cohort.

Don’t underestimate the healing power of a good night’s rest

Incredibly, they found that people with high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes who slept less than 6 hours per night were TWICE as likely to die of heart disease or stroke compared to people with the same health conditions but slept more (6 hours or more).

Do NOT ignore the health dangers linked to toxic indoor air.  These chemicals – the ‘off-gassing’ of paints, mattresses, carpets and other home/office building materials – increase your risk of headaches, dementia, heart disease and cancer.

Get the BEST indoor air purification system – at the LOWEST price, exclusively for NaturalHealth365 readers.  I, personally use this system in my home AND office.  Click HERE to order now – before the sale ends.

The data is clear:  just about everyone needs to get an average of 8 hours of sleep per night.  Of course, there’s always the exception.

But, for most people, it really is that important!  And it’s even more imperative for people with chronic illness, for whom “targeted treatments to lengthen sleep and improve their long‐term prognosis” may be beneficial, as the authors conclude.

Need better Zzz’s? Most of us do – here are 5 natural sleeping tips to try

Research from scientists like Dr. Matthew Walker – author of Why We Sleep – suggests that a better night’s sleep doesn’t exactly “rest” with over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills. Such remedies can lead to poor sleep quality at best and dependency at worst.

So, what’s a tired person to do?  Try these five natural sleeping tips for better sleep:

  1. Commit to a regular schedule: Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning – even on weekends. According to Dr. Walker, if you could only make one change to improve your sleep, this would be it.
  2. Power down your electronic devices: Staying plugged into televisions and cell phones late into the night can keep you up for two main reasons. First, the stimulation can make it hard to relax.  Second, the late night exposure to bright lights – especially blue light – disrupts your body’s internal clock, aka its sleep-wake cycle.  So, go digital-free for at least an hour before bed and dim the lights in your house.
  3. Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Try a warm shower or bath about 90 minutes before bed, a guided meditation, journal writing, puzzling, reading – any type of nurturing and calming routine you can look forward to.
  4. Opt for natural remedies: Many substances found naturally in nature, like lemon balm, melatonin, chamomile tea, and passionflower, are shown by scientific and anecdotal evidence to help you relax, ease stress, and fall asleep/stay asleep more effectively.
  5. Sleep in a pitch dark and cool room: Set your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 19 °C) and remove or block any sources of ambient light – blackout curtains work well.  Hint: do your children have nightlights in their room? Consider removing them to improve their sleep, too!

Sources for this article include:

Nationalhealthcouncil.org
AHAjournals.org
Medicalnewstoday.com
Sleepfoundation.org
CDC.gov

Posted by: | Posted on: October 17, 2019

Lack of Sleep and Chronic Disease Are a Risky Combo


Reproduced from original article:
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/10/17/sleep-deprivation-and-chronic-disease.aspx

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola  Fact Checked – October 17, 2019
sleep deprivation and chronic disease

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Without proper sleep — both in terms of time and quality — your health will be adversely impacted, leaving you open to chronic illness of all kinds, including diabetes, heart disease, neurodegeneration and cancer
  • Recent research shows short sleep duration increases the risk of death associated with cardiometabolic risk factors and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases
  • All-cause mortality among those who slept less than six hours and had cardiometabolic risk factors (high blood pressure, elevated glucose or Type 2 diabetes) was 2.14 times higher than those who regularly slept six hours or more
  • Among those with a diagnosis of heart disease or stroke, sleeping less than six hours a night increased their all-cause mortality risk by 3.17 times, and their risk of dying from cancer, specifically, by 2.92 times
  • Sleep quality is also important. Previous research has shown women with mild sleep disturbance (taking longer to fall asleep or waking up during the night) were far more likely to have high blood pressure than those who fell asleep quickly and slept soundly

While sleep is still a largely neglected area of health, research shows that without proper sleep — both in terms of time and quality — every aspect of your health will be adversely impacted. Many important things happen during sleep, and only during sleep.

For example, sleep is required for the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis in and the removal of toxic waste from your brain, as well as the maintenance of biological homeostasis in your body. Without proper sleep, you leave yourself wide-open to chronic illness of all kinds, including diabetes,1 heart disease,2 neurodegeneration3 and cancer.4

According to recent research, lack of sleep when you’re already struggling with a chronic health issue could be a downright deadly prescription. As reported by CNN Health:5

“If you’re a middle-aged adult with high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or existing heart disease and you typically sleep less than six hours each night, you could be setting yourself up for cancer or an early death from heart disease.”

Lack of Sleep Makes Chronic Health Problems Extra Risky

The study5,7,8 CNN is referring to was published in the October 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA). In it, researchers sought to determine whether short sleep duration would increase the risk of death associated with cardiometabolic risk factors and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.

Data from 1,654 adults from the Penn State Adult Cohort were evaluated. Using Cox proportional hazard models, the adjusted hazard ratio for all-cause mortality among those who slept less than six hours and had cardiometabolic risk factors (high blood pressure, elevated glucose or Type 2 diabetes) was 2.14 times higher than those who regularly slept six hours or more.

They also had a 1.83 times higher risk of dying from cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases. Among those with a diagnosis of heart disease or stroke, sleeping less than six hours a night increased their all-cause mortality risk by 3.17 times. Interestingly, it also increased their risk of dying from cancer, specifically, by 2.92 times.

All of these associations were found to be independent of age, sex, ethnicity, obesitysmoking and other health conditions that might influence the results. Conversely, sleeping less than six hours did not increase the risk of death in those that did not have cardiometabolic risk factors or a cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease diagnosis.

Likewise, those with cardiometabolic risk factors or a cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease diagnosis who slept six hours or more were not at increased risk for death either. It was specifically the combination of chronic health problems and short sleep duration that increased the risk of death, including cancer mortality.

Sleep Duration Plays a Role in Mortality Prognosis

As noted by the authors:9

“Our novel findings show that objective short sleep duration increases the mortality risk of middle‐aged adults with CMRs [cardiometabolic risk factors] and those who have already developed CBVD [cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases].

Middle‐aged adults with CMR who slept <6 hours were at a high risk of dying from CBVD, whereas middle‐aged adults with CBVD who slept <6 hours were at a high risk of dying from cancer …

If these findings are replicated in other large cohorts with objective sleep measures, short sleep duration should be included in the prediction of the mortality prognosis of middle‐aged adults with CMR or CBVD.

The primary finding of the current study indicated that there was an ≈2‐fold risk for all‐cause, CBVD, and non‐CBVD mortality in participants who had CMRs at baseline and demonstrated short sleep duration in the sleep laboratory.

Individuals who had CMRs and normal sleep duration at baseline, on the other hand, did not show a significantly increased risk on any of the mortality outcomes. This finding suggests that obtaining an adequate amount of sleep may minimize the adverse effect of CMRs on multiple mortality outcomes.

For instance, participants with both CMRs and short sleep at baseline showed an 83% higher risk of dying from CBVD, whereas their CMR counterparts with normal sleep duration had a modest 35% nonsignificant higher risk of CBVD mortality …

In conclusion, objective short sleep duration is an effect modifier of the mortality risk associated with CMR or CBVD. More important, our data suggest that short sleep may operate through different mechanisms on CBVD versus cancer mortality.”

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Lack of Sleep Raises Your Risk for Heart Disease

That short sleep duration and/or poor sleep quality raises your risk of heart disease and cancer has been repeatedly demonstrated. For example, a study10 published in the October 2018 issue of Sleep Health found poor sleep excessively ages your heart, which in turn raises your risk of developing heart disease.

As explained by lead author Quanhe Yang, senior scientist in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:11

“The difference between a person’s estimated heart age and his or her chronological age is ‘excess heart age’ …

For example, if a 40-year-old man has a heart age of 44 years based on his cardiovascular risk profile — the personal risk of having a heart disease — then his excess heart age is 4 years. In effect, his heart is four years older than it should be, for a typical man his age. The concept of heart age helps to simplify risk communication.”

In this study, people who regularly slept five hours or less had hearts that were biologically 5.1 years older than their chronological age, while those who got seven hours of sleep each night had hearts showing signs of being biologically 3.7 years older than their chronological age.

Interestingly, the association between sleep and excess heart age was not linear. Those getting seven hours of sleep fared the best. At eight and nine hours, excess heart age started rising again, hitting 4.5 at eight hours and 4.1 at nine hours.

Sleep Quality Also Plays a Role in Heart Disease Risk

Another 2018 study12 found that even if you sleep a healthy number of hours, the quality of that sleep can have a significant impact on your risk for high blood pressure and vascular inflammation associated with heart disease.

Women who had mild sleep disturbance such as taking longer to fall asleep or waking up one or more times during the night were far more likely to have high blood pressure than those who fell asleep quickly and slept soundly throughout the night. According to the researchers:13

“Systolic blood pressure was associated directly with poor sleep quality, and diastolic blood pressure … Poor sleep quality was associated with endothelial nuclear factor kappa B activation. Insomnia and longer sleep onset latency were also associated with endothelial nuclear factor kappa B activation …

These findings provide direct evidence that common but frequently neglected sleep disturbances such as poor sleep quality and insomnia are associated with increased blood pressure and vascular inflammation even in the absence of inadequate sleep duration in women.”

Sleep Influences Your Cancer Risk

The influence of sleep is also seen in cancer. As noted in a 2009 study14 in Sleep Medicine Reviews:

“The pineal hormone melatonin is involved in the circadian regulation and facilitation of sleep, the inhibition of cancer development and growth, and the enhancement of immune function.

Individuals, such as night shift workers, who are exposed to light at night on a regular basis experience biological rhythm (i.e., circadian) disruption including circadian phase shifts, nocturnal melatonin suppression, and sleep disturbances.

Additionally, these individuals are not only immune suppressed, but they are also at an increased risk of developing a number of different types of cancer.”

As explained in this paper, while melatonin plays an important role, there’s a reciprocal interaction between sleep and your immune system that is independent of melatonin as well. When your sleep cycle is disrupted, your immune function can be suppressed, allowing cancer-stimulating cytokines to proliferate and dominate. According to the authors:

“The mutual reinforcement of interacting circadian rhythms of melatonin production, the sleep/wake cycle and immune function may indicate a new role for undisturbed, high quality sleep, and perhaps even more importantly, uninterrupted darkness, as a previously unappreciated endogenous mechanism of cancer prevention.”

Similarly, research15 published in 2012 found sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea increases your risk of dying from cancer. Those with moderate sleep apnea were twice as likely to die from cancer, compared to those able to breathe normally during sleep. Those with severe sleep apnea had a 4.8 times higher cancer mortality.

Melatonin Is a Powerful Cancer Preventive

While it may not be the sole mechanism, decreased levels of melatonin due to lack of sleep certainly appears to play a key role in cancer formation. In one study, 16 postmenopausal women who regularly slept nine hours or more had a 33% lower risk of breast cancer than those who slept six hours or less.

This inverse association was strongest in lean women. The researchers confirmed that melatonin levels rose in tandem with reported hours of sleep. On average, melatonin levels in those who slept at least nine hours were 42% higher than in those who got six hours or less.

Importantly, melatonin both inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells and triggers cancer cell apoptosis17 (self-destruction). It also interferes with the new blood supply tumors required for their rapid growth (angiogenesis).18

A paper19 in the International Journal of Experimental Pathology also points out that melatonin modulates not only the production of blood cells and platelets in your bone marrow (haemopoiesis) but also the production of immune cells. It also plays a role in the function of those immune cells. As explained in the introduction of this paper:

“Physiologically, melatonin is associated with T‐helper 1 (Th1) cytokines, and its administration favors Th1 priming. In both normal and leukemic mice, melatonin administration results in quantitative and functional enhancement of natural killer (NK) cells, whose role is to mediate defenses against virus‐infected and cancer cells.

Melatonin appears to regulate cell dynamics, including the proliferative and maturational stages of virtually all hematopoietic and immune cells lineages involved in host defense — not only NK cells but also T and B lymphocytes, granulocytes and monocytes — in both bone marrow and tissues.

In particular, melatonin is a powerful antiapoptotic signal promoting the survival of normal granulocytes and B lymphocytes. In mice bearing mid‐stage leukemia, daily administration of melatonin results in a survival index of 30–40% vs. 0% in untreated mice.

Thus, melatonin seems to have a fundamental role as a system regulator in hematopoiesis and immuno‐enhancement, appears to be closely involved in several fundamental aspects of host defense and has the potential to be useful as an adjuvant tumor immunotherapeutic agent.”

General Sleep Guidelines

Considering the importance of sleep for preventing the two top killers in the U.S. (heart disease and cancer), just how much sleep do you need to reap protective benefits?

According to a scientific review of more than 300 studies published between 2004 and 2014, a panel of experts came up with the following recommendations. Keep in mind that if you’re sick, injured or pregnant, you may need a bit more than normal.

Age Group Hours of sleep needed for health
Newborns (0 to 3 months) 14 to 17 hours
Infants (4 to 11 months) 12 to 15 hours
Toddlers (1 to 2 years) 11 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3 to 5) 10 to 13 hours
School-age children (6 to 13) 9 to 11 hours
Teenagers (14 to 17) 8 to 10 hours
Adults (18 to 64) 7 to 9 hours
Seniors (65 and older) 7 to 8 hours

Set a Nightly Alarm to Help You Get Enough Sleep

There’s simply no doubt that sleep needs to be a priority in your life if you intend to live a long and healthy life. For many, this means forgoing night-owl tendencies and getting to bed at a reasonable time.

If you need to be up at 6 a.m., you need a lights-out deadline of 9:30 or 10 p.m., depending on how quickly you tend to fall asleep. If you find it difficult to get to bed on time, consider setting a bedtime alarm to remind you that it’s time to shut everything down and get ready for sleep.

As for how to improve your sleep if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, see my “Top 33 Tips to Optimize Your Sleep Routine.”

Posted by: | Posted on: September 27, 2019

5 melatonin benefits that go way beyond better sleep

Reproduced from original article:
https://www.naturalhealth365store.com/melatonin-better-sleep
Posted by Jonathan Landsman, 21st September 2019

If you suffer with occasional sleepless nights, you probably know all about the importance of melatonin.  This natural hormone is sold over-the-counter as a “sleep supplement,” and it’s listed as an ingredient in many sleep aids.

But, as you continue to read here, you may be quite surprised at how melatonin can help you – in many other ways.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.  Unfortunately, its levels can be adversely affected by smoking, drinking too much caffeine and alcohol or staying up late at night.

It’s important to understand that the pineal gland releases melatonin when you are in a dark environment – and it is suppressed by light.  In other words, checking emails or watching T.V. – late at night – will inhibit your ability to product adequate amounts of melatonin.

Melatonin helps us to maintain the circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock.  That’s why being under artificial light during nighttime hours can adversely affect your sleep rhythms overall.

Discover the 5 surprising benefits of melatonin

Hot flashes and hormonal changes can wreak havoc on a menopausal woman’s sleep. In addition to helping them get a good night’s rest, melatonin has been shown to improve mood in menopausal women between 42 and 62 years of age.

Melatonin naturally suppresses the type of inflammation that is caused by an immune response. It is also a source of powerful antioxidants that boost the immune system to help the body protect itself from all types of unwanted health issues.

For example, the types of bladder leakage related to aging and some bladder disorders may be decreased with melatonin use.  In addition, melatonin helps prevent the rise of oxidative stress in the prostate and bladder.  Simply put, less stress means a more relaxed bladder and better control of bladder contractions.

Stomach burning may be reduced with the use of melatonin.  One study, from the Department of Gastroenterology, Medical University of Lublin, Poland, revealed that a combination of omeprazole, tryptophan and melatonin healed H. pylori-related stomach ulcers faster.

One of the most surprising benefits of melatonin may be its ability to reduce tinnitus symptoms and help those suffering with the condition to get a good night’s sleep. Tinnitus is characterized as ringing in the ears. It can be severe and nearly debilitating for some people.

Therefore, supplementing with melatonin (just 3 mg) before bedtime can reduce symptoms and improve sleep significantly.

Should you use melatonin?

Melatonin is affordable, widely available and considered safe when taken in proper (suggested) amounts.  However, before taking melatonin for something other than occasional sleeplessness, it’s a really good idea to consult your integrative healthcare provider – especially if you are experiencing any of the health concerns listed above.

Sources for this article include:

LifeExtension.com

NaturalHealth365.com

NIH.gov

Posted by: | Posted on: August 24, 2019

Why you’re addicted to your cellphone

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola  Fact Checked – August 24, 2019
Reproduced from original article:
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/08/24/addicted-to-cellphones.aspx

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • The featured CBC Marketplace program, “Why You’re Addicted to Your Smartphone,” goes behind the scenes, talking to tech insiders about how cellphone addiction is manufactured, and the effects thereof
  • Internet addiction — the inability to unplug — has been shown to take a toll on cognition and focus, as it’s a constant source of distraction
  • The “Moment” app tracks the amount of time you spend on any given app, allowing you to see just how much of your life you’re frittering away
  • Silicon Valley companies use artificial intelligence and neuroscience to create more engaging and persuasive apps, maximizing the addictive potential of your smartphone
  • Commonly used habit-forming tools include pleasure hooks, variable awards, “the infinite scroll” and loss aversion techniques

This article will focus on the social addiction issue of cellphone use and does nothing to address the electromagnetic field (EMF) exposures, which I cover carefully in my next book “EMF’d,” slated for publication in early 2020.

As a lover of technology, it pains me to see what technological advancements are doing to the psychological health of so many, especially our youth. Children today cannot even fathom a life pre-internet — a life where school work involved library visits and phone calls required you to stay in one spot (since the telephone was attached to the wall).

Children and parents alike now spend an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones, communicating with friends (and possibly strangers) via text, on Twitter and Facebook, and work to keep up their Snapstreaks on Snapchat.

Even many toddlers are proficient in navigating their way around a wireless tablet these days. Smartphones have changed the way people interact socially, especially teens, and this has significant ramifications for their psychological health.

This is a topic covered in-depth in Jean Twenge’s book “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us.”1

A majority of teens’ social life is carried out in the solitude of their bedroom via their smartphones, Twenge points out in a 2017 article2 adaptation of her book, published in The Atlantic, and this lack of face-to-face interaction has a steep psychological price: loneliness. Internet addiction — the inability to unplug — has also been shown to take a toll on cognition and focus, as it’s a constant source of distraction.

Your cellphone — A necessity or a convenience?

The featured CBC Marketplace program, “Why You’re Addicted to Your Smartphone,”3 goes behind the scenes, talking to tech insiders about how cellphone addiction is manufactured, and the effects thereof.

According to Marketplace, people use their cellphones for an average of three hours a day, and as shown in the footage, many are in the habit of perusing their cellphones while walking — completely oblivious to their surroundings.

Over their lifetime, teens will spend “nearly a decade of their life staring at a smartphone,” CBC reporter Virginia Smart writes in an accompanying article.4 If you frequently feel you don’t have enough time in the day to get more productive things done, perhaps your cellphone usage is part of the problem, siphoning off valuable time from each day.

Still, most agree their phone has become a “necessity” rather than a convenience. Forgetting their phone at home, or losing it, is frequently described as a disaster.

“My entire life is on my phone,” one man says.5 “I don’t know where I’d be [without it].” Just how did we get to this point? “It’s part of a plan you didn’t even know you signed up for,” CBC correspondent David Common says.

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Variable rewards and other mind tricks

To investigate real-world usage, CBC Marketplace enlists an Ontario family of five in an experiment: An app on their phone will track each family member’s usage over a two-month period. The app, called “Moment,”6 tracks the amount of time you spend on any given app, allowing you to see just how much of your life you’re frittering away.

Tracking the usage of all users, everywhere, is also being done by Silicon Valley companies in an effort to figure out how to make us use their apps even more. One of them is Dopamine Labs, founded by Ramsay Brown, which uses “artificial intelligence and neuroscience to track your usage, loyalty and revenue.”7

As explained by Brown, they use AI and the science of the mind to “make apps more engaging and persuasive.” In other words, they use science to maximize the addictive potential of your smartphone.

The secret is rather simple. Apps that trigger pleasure become addictive. As noted by CBC Marketplace, it’s rather telling that the two leading creators of the smartphone revolution, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, both admitted limiting their children’s use of their revolutionary devices — probably because they knew something the rest of us didn’t.

We’re not really designing software anymore,” Brown says. “We’re designing minds.” Just how is this done? Some of the most commonly used habit-forming tools include:8

Pleasure hooks — This could be a notification of “Congrats!” or “Good job!” or a high-five icon after you’ve completed an action, for example. On social media platforms, getting “Likes” accomplishes the same thing. The ability to collect followers is yet another hook.

Variable rewards — As explained by Marketplace, a key method used to trick your mind into addictive behavior is known as “variable rewards.” In a nutshell, it means you’re never sure what you’re going to get. How many “Likes” will your post garner? How many followers or points can you get? How long can you maintain a streak?

As with other types of gambling, this uncertainty coupled with the prospect of a pleasure reward is what feeds the compulsion to keep going.

The infinite scroll — Another “hook” perfected by social media is that never-ending stream of content and commentary that can keep you going indefinitely.

Loss aversion — While starting out as a pleasurable activity, at a certain point, your continued usage morphs into a prison of your own making — you “can’t” stop using the app, or you’ll experience let-down and disappointment. Snapchat’s snapstreak is a perfect example of how apps cash in on loss aversion.

“Brain hacking” techniques such as these have led to 6% of the global population now struggling with internet addiction, according to a 2014 study,9 rivaling that of illicit drug use.10

The problems with overuse and abuse of cellphones lead to sleep disturbances, anxiety, stress and depression,11 as well as an increased exposure to electromagnetic field radiation, which also places your health12,13 and mental14 well-being at risk.

Internet addiction is on the rise

Marketplace interviews Lisa Pont, a social worker at the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where people are now coming into the program because their smartphone usage has become a problem.

“Research is starting to show that technology has an impact on memory, concentration, mood, [causing] anxiety and depression; it has an impact on sleep, it has an impact on overall well-being,” Pont says.

Children, Pont stresses, are particularly vulnerable due to their innate lack of self-control, and really need parental guidance and limits on their device usage. “It’s too tempting at that age to mitigate their own use,” Pont says, pointing out that children’s brains are not fully developed, hence they lack impulse control and the ability to foresee the consequences of their behavior.

Cellphone use and depression

As noted by Twenge in her article15 “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” rates of teen depression and suicide have dramatically risen since 2011, and data suggest spending three hours or more each day on electronic devices can raise a teen’s suicide risk by as much as 35%.16

Spending 10 or more hours on social media each week is also associated with a 56% higher risk of feeling unhappy, compared to those who use social media less, and heavy social media users have a 27% higher risk of depression.17

“It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades,” Twenge writes,18 adding that “Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones …

There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives — and making them seriously unhappy.”

How much time are you spending on your phone?

After tracking Jackson, age 8, for two months, his average daily screen time came out to five hours and 32 minutes, but on some days, he spends nearly 11 hours on his tablet — basically the whole entire day. At his current pace, his projected lifetime screen time amounts to a whopping 15 years.

His mother admits being worries about her young son’s screen time, especially as she’s noticed he typically prefers spending time on his tablet over all other social interactions and activities. Meanwhile, the family’s 16-year old, Emily, trades her sleep for social media. She admits getting caught up in the infinite scroll; before she knows it, hours may have passed.

As noted by in Twenge’s Atlantic article,19 sleep deprivation among teenagers rose by 57% between 1991 and 2015. Many do not even get seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, while science reveals they need a minimum of eight and as much as 10 hours to maintain their health. Twenge writes about the habits of the teens she interviewed:

“Their phone was the last thing they saw before they went to sleep and the first thing they saw when they woke up … Some used the language of addiction.

‘I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help it,’ one said about looking at her phone while in bed. Others saw their phone as an extension of their body — or even like a lover: ‘Having my phone closer to me while I’m sleeping is a comfort.’”

Emily is no different, admitting that checking her phone is part of her morning and evening routines. It’s the first thing she does upon waking, and the last thing she does before bed. For Emily, a large part of her day revolves around Snapchat. She uses the app continuously to keep in touch with her friends — even when they’re sitting right next to her.

As mentioned, Snapchat uses a technique known as “loss aversion” to keep their users using. Emily has a Snapchat streak that has been going for nearly two years, and now she feels compelled to not break it, which is what loss aversion is all about.

On many days, Emily’s phone stays in use for nearly 7.5 hours. The Moment app clocked her picking up her phone up to 100 times a day during the monitoring period. On average, she spends 30% of her waking hours on her phone. Her parents are not far behind, each averaging about 21%.

Symptoms of internet addiction

Symptoms of internet or cellphone addiction are similar to other types of addiction, but are more socially acceptable. As noted in one study, internet addiction (IA) is:20

“[G]enerally regarded as a disorder of concern because the neural abnormalities (e.g., atrophies in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and cognitive dysfunctions (e.g., impaired working memory) associated with IA mimic those related to substance and behavioral addiction. Moreover, IA is often comorbid with mental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.”

According to Psycom.net, conditions that can increase your risk of internet addiction or compulsion include anxiety, depression, other addictions and social isolation or awkwardness.21 Common emotional symptoms of internet addiction include:22

Boredom with routine tasks Dishonesty and defensiveness Feelings of guilt, fear or anxiety; mood swings
Experiencing euphoria while online Procrastination; inability to prioritize tasks or keep schedules Avoidance of work

Physical symptoms of internet addiction disorder can include:23

Backache, headache, neck pain Carpal tunnel syndrome Dry eyes and other vision problems
Insomnia Poor nutrition; weight gain or weight loss Poor personal hygiene

Notifications take a significant toll on your cognition

If you’re like most, you probably have an array of notifications set on your phone. According to Marketplace, these notifications concern experts, who warn the constant pinging, beeping and buzzing actually has significant consequences for your cognition.

Marketplace correspondent Commons visits Western University, where a lot of cognition research is being conducted. He participates in a test to evaluate his ability to focus, and to see how distractions from his phone affects his attention and cognition.

First, Commons performs the attention test without his phone. For the next round of testing, his phone is left on, nearby. And, while he can’t see it, he can hear it — incoming phone calls, texts and the pinging of incoming social media notifications.

For the third part of the test, Commons has to recall numbers being texted to him. “It reflects how we normally interact with our phones,” the researcher explains. You might text details to a coworker, for example, or your spouse might ask you to buy milk on the way home.

Commons admits the distractions caused by his phone significantly interfere with his ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Even vibration without sound causes problems. Just how big of a problem? Commons’ verbal comprehension declined by nearly 20% when phone distractions were allowed.

One simple step that can eliminate many of these distractions is to simply turn off all notifications. Still, simply having your phone nearby can be enough to take your mind off what you’re doing.

A study24,25 using a group of more than 50 college students found that performance in complex tasks was worse when the participant could see a cellphone present, whether it was the study leader’s phone or their own, as compared to the performance of tasks when no cellphone was visible.

As noted by Brown, smartphones are here to stay, and app developers are getting increasingly sophisticated at capturing your attention. Smartphone users therefore need to become savvier, and learn to make conscious choices about how they use their devices.

The question is, “Who do we want to be?” Brown says. Modern technology really requires you to shape yourself (or be shaped by software developers), and to use your devices in a way that helps you rather than hinders you from living your best life.

Posted by: | Posted on: August 2, 2019

6 homegrown teas to experiment with this summer

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked – August 02, 2019
Reproduced from original article:
https://articles.mercola.com/gardening/homegrown-teas.aspx
homegrown tea

Story at-a-glance

  • Several easy-to-grow herbs and plants can be used to make tea, using either fresh or dried leaves
  • Six easy to grow varieties are traditional tea plant (Camellia sinensis), mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemongrass and anise hyssop
  • White tea, green tea and black tea all originate from Camellia. The differences between them have to do with when the leaves are picked and the level of oxidation that occurs during the processing of the leaves
  • Peppermint tea is said to help relieve stress and promote sleep; lemon balm tea has anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, antibacterial and antiseptic properties, and lemon verbena tea is commonly used as a sleep and digestive aid
  • Lemongrass has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and pain-blocking benefits; anise hyssop has sedative properties and has been used as a traditional remedy for chest pain associated with coughing and the common cold

Summertime is the perfect occasion for iced tea, but while store-bought tea may be a staple in most homes, you can also grow a variety of plants perfect for making your own tea.

Six easy to grow varieties are traditional tea plant (Camellia sinensis), mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemongrass and anise hyssop. The leaves from most of these plants can be used either fresh or dried, hot or cold, with or without a natural sweetener.

Camellia sinensis tea

Camellia tends to be a slow grower, but given full sun to part shade, acidic soil, a good balance of nutrients and lots of water, it will usually grow into a productive bush. According to the American Camellia Society,1 Camellia can be cultivated in most moderate zones in the U.S., but will fare best in Zones 7, 8 and 9.

White tea, green tea and black tea all originate from Camellia. The differences between them have to do with when the leaves are picked and the level of oxidation that occurs during the processing of the leaves.2

White tea is made from young buds; it’s the least processed and has the lowest caffeine and highest antioxidant content. Green and black teas are made from the larger, more mature leaves. Green tea processing involves steaming the leaves before drying them, while black tea requires a lengthier process involving fermenting and drying to maximize oxidation.

For home use, simply snipping off a batch of leaves and leaving them to dry will produce a tasty “white” tea. Alternatively, use them fresh. Simply grind them lightly between your fingers, or rip them before steeping to release a bit more flavor. For a bigger flavor boost, steam the leaves for three minutes first, then dry them before using.

Mint tea

There are over two dozen species of mint, including spearmint and peppermint. Modern Farmer3 suggests “experimenting with different flavored varieties, such as grapefruit mint and chocolate mint,” to find your favorite brew.

The telltale aroma and taste of mint comes from the menthol oil found in resinous dots on the leaves and stems of the plant. Peppermint tea is said to help relieve stress and promote sleep.4 Mint leaves are packed with antioxidants and easily grown in an enclosed garden, containers or even indoors, providing you with fresh, organically grown leaves whenever you need them.

For growing instructions, see “How to Grow Mint at Home.” To make tea, you have the option of using fresh or dried leaves. A simple iced mint tea recipe from The Spruce Eats5 calls for 2 cups of water and 15 fresh mint leaves.

Optional ingredients include honey for sweetness, and lemon slices and/or lemon juice for garnish and added flavor. Simply steep the leaves in boiled water for three to five minutes. Add sweetener if desired, then chill before serving.

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Lemon balm tea

Native to Europe, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is now widely available and can be grown in home gardens, too. Lemon balm, which is part of the mint family, is said to have a flavor resembling green tea with lemon.6

Lemon balm tea has anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, antibacterial and antiseptic properties that can make it useful for conditions such as arthritis, headaches, infections and the common cold. It also contains compounds with nerve-soothing effects, and can be helpful for alleviating stress, anxiety and depression.

A simple lemon balm tea recipe from Organic Facts7 calls for adding 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon balm leaves to 2 cups boiling water. Infuse for up to 10 minutes, then chill for a refreshing summer beverage.

You can also use dried lemon balm leaves, although the drying process may cause the leaves to lose some of their flavor. When drying lemon balm leaves, you’ll want to avoid light and heat.

Mother Earth Living8 suggests cutting around two-thirds of the way down the plant’s stem, then hanging the bunched cuttings upside down in a dark, dry place with good air circulation. The leaves will dry and turn black in about two days.9 To make the collection effort easier, you can tie a paper bag around the bunched cuttings.

Make sure the bag has holes punched on the sides as poor air circulation could cause mold growth. Use a rubber band to close the top of the bag and hang it in an area where there’s enough air circulation. Once the leaves are dry, they’ll fall to the bottom of the bag.

Lemon verbena tea

Another lemony favorite is lemon verbena. If you’re in Zones 9 and 10, it’s grown as a perennial shrub, but you can still cultivate it as an annual in more northern climates. To get the most leaves from your plant, give it regular prunings, as this will make it bushier and prevent it from getting too leggy.10

Its flavor is similar to lemon balm, but sweeter. According to the Mexican Food Journal, Mexicans drink lemon verbena tea “as a sleep aid and to help reduce indigestion.”11 To prepare it, all you need is three to six leaves to 4 cups of water.

A stronger tea is typically recommended if you’re serving it iced. While most teas call for adding the leaves after the water has boiled and you’ve removed it from heat, the Mexican Food Journal suggests placing the leaves in the water from the start, and allowing them to boil for about 15 minutes. Honey, agave nectar or stevia can be added for extra sweetness.

Lemongrass tea

Lemongrass is easy to grow, requiring minimal attention, and can be used fresh in either hot or cold water for a refreshing summer beverage with anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and pain-blocking12 benefits.13 Many will simply take a long blade of rinsed lemongrass and place it whole into a large glass beverage dispenser filled with cold water. Cucumber or lemon slices can also be added.

To make tea, cut the stalk as close to the ground as possible (the lower white part of the stalk is the sweetest). Rinse to remove debris, then cut the stalk into 2-inch pieces.

Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the lemongrass stalks. Allow to steep for at least five minutes. Drain out the stalks before drinking. As with all other teas, it can be consumed hot or cold. Sweetener is typically not needed.

Anise hyssop tea

As its name implies, anise hyssop has a sweet licorice flavor. It’s part of the mint family, and is also known as licorice mint.14 If licorice isn’t high on your list of favorite flavors, you can still add it in small amounts to other teas. Modern Farmer15 suggests blending it with mint or one of the lemon-flavored herbal teas described above.

Anise hyssop has a long tradition of use among Native Americans, who claim it can “relieve a dispirited heart.” Mixed with elk mint, it’s also been used as a traditional remedy for chest pain associated with coughing and the common cold.”16,17 It also has sedative properties.18

For a full-strength anise hyssop tea, Taste magazine suggests adding five to eight fresh stems with leaves and/or flowers to 8 cups of boiling water, using a French press:19

“Gently rinse the plant parts with cool water to remove dirt and debris. Fill a large French press halfway with the anise hyssop (leaves, stems, and flowers). Add the boiling water and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully press down the plunger. Pour the tea over ice into a pitcher or glass. Garnish with anise hyssop leaves and flowers to serve.”