Neuroscience – The Effect of Sugar on the Brain

It is recommended to keep sugar intake below 25 grams every day. However, when looking at nutrition labels, it can be extremely easy to go over the allotted 25 grams a day. Not only can an excess of sugar consumption lead to chronic diseases like diabetes but it has been proven to be detrimental to the brain as well. 

Excess consumption of sugar damages the brain. The hippocampus shrinks and becomes significantly smaller which is harmful because the hippocampus is an important part of the brain that regulates emotion, learning, memory, and motivation. Sugar also shrinks the brain as a whole which further deteriorates memory. A shocking finding is that individuals who replace sugary drinks with “diet” drinks like Diet Coke are almost three times more likely to suffer from a stroke or develop dementia. 

What can be used in place of sugary drinks? Although it can be a difficult adjustment at first, replacing sugary drinks with water, infused water (lemons, herbs, or fruits), sparkling water, kombucha, herbal tea, or smoothies can be very beneficial to the body. It is important to note that artificial sugars can destroy the microbiome as well and change the balance of bacteria found in the gut. This means that artificial sweeteners are essentially toxic to the gut and can leave an individual with more health problems. All in all, anything that has an effect on the gut has an effect on the brain due to the gut-brain axis, so it is important to recognize the connection and steer clear from anything that damages one or the other. 

Resources:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170420162254.htm

https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hippocampus-Functions.aspx

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/artificial-sweeteners-and-gut-bacteria

https://science.slashdot.org/story/18/10/05/0149220/artificial-sweeteners-are-toxic-to-digestive-gut-bacteria-study-finds

Laughing During Finals Season? That’s so Punny!

Laughter has many proven health benefits but sometimes that’s the last thing on our minds when our to-do lists are never-ending and there are many deadlines to meet. Taking a few minutes to be mindful and be happy can never hurt.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing has proven to relieve stress by stimulating organs, soothe tension, relieve pain, improve mood, and boost the immune system. Positive thoughts can boost our sense of satisfaction and can also lessen the chance of feeling depressed or anxious. It might not seem natural to schedule laughter into our days, but it can remind us to be more present and live life to the fullest. Sometimes we can get into a rut and forget about all the things that bring us joy, however, forgetting this can be harmful to our minds and bodies in the long run. 

How should laughter be scheduled into our everyday lives? Find a comedian that makes you laugh your heart out, befriend someone funny, spend more time with a friend that has the same sense of humor as you, watch a silly sitcom, read a funny book, read comics, follow a meme account on social media, or simply just read some light-hearted puns online! Talking to Siri, reminiscing about a time that made you laugh a ton, or trying a laughing meditation can also help lighten up the mood. 

Resources:

https://www.rd.com/funny-stuff/ways-to-laugh-more-every-day/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

Supplementing with Sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla is not a common supplement, but it has some noteworthy health benefits. It has a distinct taste and can be found as an ingredient in old-fashioned root beer. It grows in tropical and subtropical regions and has different variations. Some are known to grow in Jamaica, while others grow in Mexico, and others are native to Africa.  

As for health benefits, sarsaparilla has been proven to encourage cell growth while simultaneously preventing or reducing the occurrence of cell mutations. It also has the ability to reduce the amount of harmful inflammation in the body and can help the body recover from high blood sugar levels. This can prevent many chronic diseases as the leading cause of chronic diseases is detrimental amounts of inflammation. One huge benefit is that it supports joints and can reduce the amount of achiness while even mimicking the benefits of conventional arthritis drugs. The last notable benefit has to do with boosting the number of antioxidants in the body. It can encourage healthy skin growth even after UV light exposure, boost gut-health, encourage detoxification in the liver, and increase energy levels.

Sarsaparilla can be found in sodas, mixed in with other supplements, or even as a tea. As always, use caution and consult a physician before adding anything to your diet to ensure there are not any negative interactions with medications. 

Resources:

https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/herbs/sarsaparilla

The Benefits of Collagen

Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins found in our blood, bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It makes up around 30% of the protein found in our bodies, but the amount of collagen is reduced by half once an individual is around 60 years old. Collagen has received a lot of recognition lately for supporting healthy, glowing skin, and slowing down the effects of aging. It also has received acknowledgment for healing the gut and proving to be extremely beneficial to individuals with autoimmune diseases. 

However, before adding it to your diet, it is important to be able to differentiate between the types of collagen and pick which one is best for you. There are three types – Type I, Type II, and Type III. Type I is responsible for promoting skin elasticity and may help to speed up the healing process for wounds. Type II is responsible for supporting joints and helping with achy joints. It can be especially beneficial for individuals dealing with arthritis. Type III promotes healthy nails, skin, hair, and strengthens the bones in our body. With that being said, Types I and III are best for individuals looking to get healthier skin, hair, and nails or promote muscle/bone health. Type II is best for individuals struggling with joint pain in their knees, back, jaw, or wrists. 

The easiest ways to get a boost of collagen is through supplementation, bone broth, or the addition of collagen powder to smoothies or lattes. Here are some ideas:

·      Collagen Matcha Latte

·      Chocolate Collagen Smoothie

·      Vital Proteins Cinnamon Vanilla Latte

·      Homemade Collagen Bone Broth Recipe

Tips for Finishing the Semester

As this semester is starting to wrap up, it is common to feel a little overwhelmed and exhausted. With that being said, many factors can help with managing this stress and calming the mind. It is important to remember that feeling stress is very normal, but you should still be able to maintain balance and never compromise your well-being too much. Knowing when to reach out to friends, family, or qualified professionals is extremely important, but if that isn’t possible right now, consider some of these suggestions that you can do on your own: 

Resting

  • No amount of coffee can ever make up for quality sleep, as sleeping is one of the primary ways the body and brain get a chance to recharge. Not only does sleep improve the retention of what you learn, but it has also been shown to aid your overall memorization abilities. 

Nourishing the Body and Brain

  • Nourishing the body and brain can often be overlooked during hectic times. However, it is during these times that the body and brain need an extra boost. Snacking on things like nuts, fruits, and veggies, while drinking lots of water, can provide sustainable energy levels. 

Meditating and Deep-Breathing

  • Meditating with apps like Simple Habit, Calm, or Headspace are great for helping with this!

Exercising

  • Something as simple as taking a quick walk or dancing to your favorite tunes can count as exercise, get the blood flowing, and release stress-relieving endorphins. 

Journaling 

  • Journaling can help calm the mind and allow it to be more present/mindful. It can help to put things into perspective and prioritize pending tasks. 

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ulterior-motives/201611/how-sleep-enhances-studying

Defying Stress with Nature

As the end of the semester approaches, things are starting to pick up and get a little hectic. This post will go over some quick and easy tips on how to defy stress with nature. 

Things like taking a walk or going for a run outside can boost the release of endorphins and allow the mind to ease up a little. Taking a bath with Epsom salt, making a cup of adaptogenic tea and watch a movie, or getting a massage with essential oils can also help relieve a significant amount of stress. 

Supplements with things like L-Theanine, 5-HTP, ashwagandha, Reishi mushrooms, and magnesium can also calm the mind naturally and promote a feeling of relaxation. Irwin Naturals Stress-Defy Extra with Ashwagandha combines all these amino acids, herbs, and vitamins to 

L-Theanine naturally occurs in our body and the primary function is to stimulate alpha brain waves to produce a general feeling of calmness and alert focus. 5-HTP is responsible for boosting the production of serotonin as it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Ashwagandha can provide support against the negative ramifications of stress. Reishi mushrooms are also known as the queen of mushrooms and it has received a lot of attention for the mind and body balancing properties it has. Finally, magnesium plays an integral role in calming the body all while reducing aches and pains.  

Resources:

https://us.foursigmatic.com/blog/reishi

Self-Care: Baths

Baths can be one of the coziest ways to indulge in self-care during stressful times. Epsom salt baths have recently been in the spotlight for various health benefits as they have the ability to relieve rough and dry skin of eczema, provide pain relief for sore and aching muscles, promote detoxification, reduce anxiety and stress levels, and promote deeper sleep. 

You might be wondering what’s so special about Epsom salt and how it differs from normal salt. Epsom salts stand out because they are extremely rich in magnesium which is the primary reason it has been shown to improve mood while reducing stress and anxiety. It has been found that magnesium boosts the production of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) in our brains. This can allow the body to rest and recharge and encourage a good night’s sleep. 

The most common way to use Epsom salt is to pour one to two scoops in the bathwater with warm water. The water should not be excessively hot as that can cause a feeling of dizziness or weakness. It is important to also drink water and rest afterward as the body will be in a very calm state. Furthermore, since the pores in the skin are open after a warm bath, it is best to use a natural moisturizer like coconut oil or so that nothing harmful goes into the body.  

Bath salts can be found from companies like 100% Pure or Dr. Teals. Here are some common Epsom salt detox bath combinations: 

·      Green Tea Bath

·      Clay Detox Bath

·      6 Detox Bath Recipes

·      DIY Epsom Salt Detox Bath

·      Relaxing Epsom Salt Bath with Lavender Oil

Resources: 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321627.php#how-to-take-an-epsom-salt-detox-bath

Detoxing

With the holidays right around the corner, many individuals usually feel the need to detox either before or after. Detoxing does not have to be extreme. It is as simple as giving the body a break and not overburdening it. This post will go over a few gentle ways to detox.

  • Water, Water, Water

This is probably the most repeated thing on health blogs, but water makes up 60% of the human body. It is vital for optimal functioning and helps the body excrete toxins. Flavoring water with herbs, lemon, or fruits can be a fun way to switch it up. 

  • Exercise

Simple movements like stretching or trying to reach 10,000 steps a day can be enough to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and reduce harmful inflammation in the body. 

  • Sweating in the Sauna

Saunas promote detoxification in many ways. They have been known to reduce the burden on the body, inhibit the growth of viruses and bacteria, and to promote the excretion of harmful toxins such as heavy metals. 

  • Limiting Alcohol

Limiting alcohol allows the liver enzymes to take a break for metabolizing alcohol and allows it to focus on eliminating other harmful waste instead.

  • Sleep

Sleep allows the body to restore and recharge. It allows the parasympathetic nervous system to take over and the body shifts focus to resting and digestion. Naturally, this is a very crucial part of the natural detoxification process in the body. 

  • Being Conscious About Your Diet

Limiting Processed Foods: Foods that are high in sugar and preservatives are known to place stress on the body as the body starts to filter these substances instead of focusing on other toxins that need to be removed. 

Consuming Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Making berry smoothies or having berries for snacks can be a great way to get an antioxidant boost. 

Focusing on Sulfur-Rich Foods: Foods like eggs, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and potatoes are very high in an antioxidant called glutathione that plays a key role in eliminating unwanted material from the body. 

  • Taking Supplements

It is important to consult a physician before taking supplements to ensure that they will not have an adverse effect with medications. Supplements like the “Basic Detox Nutrients” from Thorne Research can be beneficial in aiding the detoxification process. 

Resources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-detox-your-body#section2

https://www.verywellfit.com/how-many-pedometer-steps-per-day-are-enough-3432827

https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

https://www.verywellfit.com/how-many-pedometer-steps-per-day-are-enough-3432827

Mindful Techniques

With everyone being constantly connected through texting or social media, it can be difficult to be mindful and take a break. While disconnecting can be challenging, it can be worth it in terms of mental clarity and happiness. 

The first tip would be turning off your phone for at least thirty minutes to an hour each day. This can help boost productivity by allowing you to fully focus on the task that is in front of you. Putting a time limit on apps like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram can allow us to become more mindful of the time spent mindlessly scrolling through those apps. The next tip is probably the most common, but meditating has been found to relieve many symptoms that come along with stress. Apps like “Simple Habit” or “Headspace” have guided meditations that can help beginners to take even five minutes out of their day to be more conscious.

Spending time in nature and connecting to your five senses can be another way to take a break from the daily rat race and focus on your breath. Reading books like the Abundance of Less by Andy Couturier or the 5 a.m. Club by Robin Sharma can give new ideas of how to be happy with less while kick starting your day earlier to be as productive as possible. Lastly, writing down thoughts about life, goals, stressors, or dreams allows the brain to see everything down on paper and plan accordingly. Many individuals report feeling lighter after journaling because their thoughts become more cohesive and they can see the patterns that they couldn’t see before.

All in all, even incorporating one of these tips can significantly boost efficiency and happiness. When making a lifestyle change, it is best to start slowly so that they become habits instead of phases. 

Resources:

https://www.ellevatenetwork.com/articles/6170-be-more-mindful-7-tips-to-improve-your-awareness

Natural Ways to Decrease Stress Levels During Midterms

As midterms exams approach, it never hurts to be reminded of some self-care and organization tips. This post will quickly go over ways to feel calmer and content as you prep for exams.

1.     Writing a to-do list the night before can be very helpful. It has been proven that “brain-dumps” can help clear the mind and prioritize what work that is the most important. 

2.     Using online flashcard websites like Anki or Quizlet. These sites can be very helpful because you can see sets that other students have made and practice with those if you do not have time to make your own set. 

3.     Breaking it up and studying a little bit every day can make studying for many different classes a little more manageable. It can take any overwhelming pressure off.

4.     Tidying up your study space has been shown to significantly improve productivity. Burning candles or diffusing essential oils like the ones from Plant Therapy can make the environment more peaceful. Scents like peppermint and eucalyptus are invigorating and can have the ability to improve memory and concentration.

5.     Playing calming study music can ease the mind, improve memory, help with visualizing concepts better, and it also activates both the left and right hemispheres of the brain at the same time!

6.     As always, it is important to make sure the body and mind are getting adequate rest and nutritious foods. Taking a break to exercise or simply going for a walk can help break up the monotony. 

Best of luck on exams!

Resources:

https://www.fnu.edu/benefits-studying-music/

https://www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au/study-and-training/help-with-study/how-to-study-better/top-10-study-tips