What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are microorganisms that are believed to be beneficial for our bodies. FAO/WHO defines them as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria are the most common microbes used in probiotic supplements, but there are various others that can be used for more specific things.

Lactic acid bacteria are believed to help the lactose intolerant convert lactose into lactic acid, thus relieving symptoms such as nausea, bloating and other forms of indigestion. These bacteria are also believed to lower the risk of colon cancer, lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and fight infections, improve digestive functions, and reduce inflammation. Probiotics also help the body absorb minerals, manage urogenital health and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria or fungus in the body.

Probiotics can be consumed as a daily supplement. There are also many foods which contain the strains as well, such as yogurt and certain soy products.

Is Red Wine Good for Your Heart?

Many people have heard that red wine can be good for your health. Is this true? Studies have shown that it is possible. A moderate amount of red wine can reduce the risk of heart attacks in middle-aged people by 30-50%. Red wine is also assumed to discourage additional heart attacks, in people who have already suffered from one.

Other studies have shown that red wine increases the level of HDL cholesterol in the body, as well as reduces LDL levels. Red wine may also prevent blood clots as well as reduce damage of blood vessels caused by fat deposits.

These health benefits are a result of the antioxidants and other substances that are found in red wine. The resveratrol contained in the grape skins and seeds increases HDL cholesterol and prevents clotting, and the flavonoids in the grapes themselves have antioxidant qualities which also prevent blood clots and plaque formation in arteries.

Backache Relief

Backaches are a common ailment in adults, as well in people who work with heavy loads or sit at the computer for many hours.

Resting is a good way to ease the discomfort, however, certain simple exercises are more effective as eliminating the cause. Swimming is an example of an enjoyable, effective way to rid yourself of pack pain. Swimming strengthens your back muscles while the water supports your body, putting less strain on your back. If you don’t have a convenient pool nearby, or swimming is not for you, here are easy exercises that you can do at home:

• Stand with your back against the wall, with your feet positioned beneath your shoulders. Slide down the wall into a crouch and hold for five seconds. Repeat five times.
• Lie on your stomach. Flex the muscles in one leg and lift it up off the floor, count to ten, then switch legs. Repeat five times with each leg.
• Lie on your back with your arms touching your sides. Lift one leg off the floor for ten seconds, then switch. This can be difficult at first, so you can keep one leg bent with the foot flat on the floor while raising the other leg.
• Stand behind a chair and grip the back with your hands. Lift one leg behind you, making sure to keep it straight. Switch legs.

Winter Health Tips

Staying healthy during the winter can be tough. The cold, wet days encourage the growth of disease-causing bacteria and viruses, which are then spread easily while people remain cooped up inside, without much fresh air. The early sunsets and rainy days can also cause winter depression, which is common in people who lack vitamin D, a substance which our bodies produce with the help of sunlight. Here are a few tips to stay healthy this season:

1. Consult your doctor about the flu shot. Perhaps you should just protect yourself from this inconvenient illness before the season really kicks in.

2. Make sure to wash your hands regularly. Don’t put your hands near your face throughout the day unless you are sure they are clean. Viruses and bacteria can live for hours on doorknobs, sink handles, pencils and more. You may want to consider carrying a hand sanitizer in your purse. Encourage your children to do the same.

3. Do not share cups or other utensils with others, even if they seem healthy. Most illnesses are contagious twenty four hours before the first symptoms take effect.

4. Keep warm. The cold, humid conditions in your body which are caused by the weather are ideal for unhealthy bacteria. Make sure to keep your chest warm and dry at all times to avoid sicknesses such as bronchitis, pneumonia, the common cold and even the flu. A scarf can also help you avoid these illnesses.

5. Make sure not to take antibiotics without direct permission from a doctor. You may assume that you have a bacterial illness such as strep throat, but if you don’t, taking antibiotics will make it worse. The medication will destroy other types of bacteria in your body, which as a result will strengthen the virus or fungus that is causing your disease. Your body contains thousands of microorganisms, and that is how it should be. These help your metabolism, immune system and more.

6. Drink orange juice or other juices containing vitamin C. This vitamin helps strengthen your immune system.

7. Exercise. The cold weather often discourages people from doing any sort of physical activity during the winter. This is very bad for your body. Exercise can increase circulation, improve the mood and boost the immune system. Of course, it can also help you stay in shape so you’ll be ready for the beach when the summer hits.

Six Reasons to Get Your Sleep

Chronic sleep loss can have a real effect on your health. If you occasionally miss a few hours of sleep,it’s not a big deal, but serious sleep disorders should be dealt with, and here’s why:

  1. Sleep helps the brain absorb new information to the memory. This process is called memory consolidation, and studies have shown that people who lack sleep have a harder time remembering things.
  2. Sleep directly affects the mood. Sleep loss can result in impatience, touchiness, mood swings and lack of concentration. Chronic sleep loss often results in depression as well. Even occasional fatigue influences your mood and makes your day very hard to get through. Fatigue can result in thirst, nausea, lightheadedness and even a fever.
  3. Sleep has a direct effect on our hormone levels and metabolism. Continuous sleep deprivation can cause weight gain and other metabolic issues.
  4. Sleep can also affect our cardiovascular health. Studies have linked sleep disorders with increased stress levels, hypertension and irregular heartbeats.
  5. Sleep loss can reduce the immune system’s efficiency.
  6. Last, but definitely not least, sleep loss can result in a tendency to fall asleep during the day- in the middle of an activity. This can lead to falls, medical mistakes and road accidents.