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  • Must-have nutrients and foods for optimal eye health

    Our sensory organs are extremely essential in our daily life. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to stand straight, see things, taste, communicate, and live the way we do. But the power of sight is one of the most important of them all. Maintaining good eye health is necessary, and, unsurprisingly, making healthy lifestyle and dietary choices is crucial for this. So, here are a few nutrients you should add to your daily diet to keep your vision in top-notch condition:

    Vitamin A
    The deficiency of vitamin A is one of the most common causes of blindness across the globe. Why is this vitamin so important? Well, for starters, it helps manage and maintain the light-sensing cells in your eyes. A lack of vitamin A can cause dry eyes and other serious eye conditions.

    Best food with vitamin A content: To get the right amount of vitamin A in your diet and maintain optimal eye health, include foods like apricots, carrots, spinach, and yam in your diet in plenty.

    Vitamin C
    Vitamin C is present in high concentration in the aqueous humor (the liquid in the outermost part of the eye). The amount of this vitamin in the aqueous humor is proportional to the amount in your diet, and research has proved that people with cataracts tend to have low amounts of vitamin C in their bodies.

    Best dietary sources of vitamin C: Citrus fruits like oranges, kiwi, lime, and strawberries are all great sources of vitamin C. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are also healthy sources of this vitamin.

    Omega-3 fatty acids
    Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are essential to maintain good eye health. DHA aids eye function. It is present in the retina and is an integral part of brain and eye development in children. Evidence also proves the benefits of omega-3 supplements for people with dry eyes.

    Best food sources of omega-3 fats: Fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are the best sources of omega-3 fats, but you can opt for flaxseeds and walnuts if you want to stick to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

    Zinc
    Zinc is necessary for the immune system and throughout the body but more so in the eyes. It helps form visual pigments in the retina, which is why its deficiency can cause night blindness. This mineral also helps create the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

    Best dietary sources of zinc: To get the right amount of zinc from your diet, you can add foods like oysters, yogurt, and chickpeas to your meals.

    Other foods like almonds, peanut butter, kale, corn, and wheat germ also help promote eye health. The bottom line is that a healthy lifestyle with regular exercising and nutritious foods helps maintain overall and eye health.

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  • 4 foods that can boost mental health

    You might have heard people saying “you are what you eat,” but do you know what it means? The connection between food and mood comes from the relationship between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, which houses bacteria that influence the production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit messages to the brain. Consuming specific foods enhances the development of bacteria that positively affects neurotransmitter production, boosting mental health and reducing anxiety and depression.

    Here are a few foods that boost the production of “good” bacteria and enhance mental wellbeing:

    Raw foods and fruits and veggies

    Eating fresh foods and veggies regularly is the first step to ensuring long-term positive effects on mental health. Researchers have found compelling evidence that people who consume more fruits and vegetables show fewer depressive symptoms and experience lower stress levels as compared to those who eat more canned, cooked, and processed food. Studies have also revealed that people who consume raw food are usually happier and feel more satisfied and fulfilled in life. These foods include leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, carrots, apples, bananas, kiwifruit, and grapefruit.

    Yogurt

    People across the world prefer yogurt for the added benefit of probiotics. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that assist the digestive system to function smoothly. That said, many recent studies have shown that the probiotics present in yogurt can also greatly affect mental health because of the brain-gut connection. These healthy bacteria help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, promoting mental health. Other fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, tempeh, and certain pickled vegetables are also known to affect the production of neurotransmitters positively.

    Berries

    Several types of berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries make for great antioxidant-rich snacks. Antioxidants are necessary for cell repair and help fight inflammation caused by free radical damage. Free radicals are found in pollutants, cigarette smoke, and other harmful substances. Antioxidants present in berries help reduce the damage caused by free radicals and alleviate the symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and poor mental health. Plus, blueberries and strawberries contain polyphenolic, a compound that’s known to boost memory and concentration levels.

    Oily fish

    Often touted as “brain food,” fish is particularly good for mental health because of the presence of healthy fatty acids known as DHA. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that enhances short- and long-term memory, which, in turn, improves overall mental health. Studies have also confirmed that omega-3 levels are lower in people with depression, especially in severe cases. A diet rich in omega-3 fats helps boost the feeling of happiness and wellness and lowers anxiety levels. Oily fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines, and herring are great sources of these healthy fats. Fish oil supplements are a beneficial alternative for people who are not seafood fans.

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  • The risk factors associated with dehydration

    Dehydration is the loss of fluids from one’s body. It can be caused due to something as simple as not having an adequate water intake or perhaps a severe medical side effect. The symptoms of fluid loss caused due to this condition can affect people of all ages. From toddlers and infants to older adults, one can experience mild to severe dehydration depending on the primary cause of the same.

    Herein, we shall try and understand the severity and risk factors associated with dehydration in people of different ages.

    Children and infants
    At a very young age, infants and children are more susceptible to bacterial infections that cause vomiting and diarrhea. Both result in the rapid loss of fluids. Note that infants lose more fluids in comparison to adults. Young children, especially toddlers, unlike adults, may also not realize when they are thirsty. This increases the risk of staying dehydrated unknowingly until severe symptoms indicate the same. It is one of the main reasons why doctors prescribe electrolyte-rich fluids for children experiencing a high fever to help replenish the lost fluids.

    Seniors and older adults
    Adults after a certain age face more difficulties as the body gradually loses its ability to conserve water. One’s sense of thirst also becomes acute with old age, which further increases the risk. Individuals might not feel thirsty enough to have the recommended intake of water every day, further causing problems due to the loss of fluids. Furthermore, dehydration can be a direct result of certain prescription medications used for treating diabetes. The side effects can result in a fluid imbalance as medications increase the urine output, thus resulting in a higher loss of fluids from the body. Many medications also list vomiting and diarrhea as potential side effects and both can trigger a severe loss of fluids in the body.

    People suffering from chronic illness/stress
    A chronic illness, especially one that is associated with the normal kidney function, significantly increases the chances of suffering from dehydration. Disorders of the digestive tract, including irritable bowel syndrome present nausea and chronic diarrhea as the primary symptoms, automatically triggering an involuntary fluids loss. Stress is also a contributing factor as elevated stress levels in the body can compromise the production of aldosterone, a vital hormone that regulates fluid and electrolyte levels in the body. Loss of this regulatory function compromises the body’s ability and can result in more complications with associated medical conditions.

    Pregnant women or women experiencing their period
    Fluids are essential for blood circulation and to help maintain the right viscosity in the body. Heavy periods result in blood loss that, in turn, can cause severe dehydration if the fluids are not replenished. It is also during the time of periods that women experience a drop in the body’s hydration levels due to high estrogen and progesterone activity. During pregnancy, nausea and vomiting are common discomforts experienced due to morning sickness. In this time, one’s overall blood output and cardiac activity are high and that demands more fluids to support vital functions. It thus becomes crucial to supplement the body with natural and artificial supplements to counter the loss of fluids.

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  • How to distinguish between heartburn and GERD

    Heartburn is an unpleasant, burning sensation in the chest that is more common than a lot of individuals realize. Pregnant women, older men, and even young adults experience it frequently. Despite it being such a prevalent experience, not many know that heartburn has actually nothing to do with the heart and everything to do with the stomach and the esophagus. Unsurprisingly enough, heartburn is also used interchangeably with GERD. But, before we get to deciphering heartburn and GERD, let’s understand what acid reflux is.

    What is acid reflux or GER?

    Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter or LES becomes weak, allowing the contents of the stomach to travel in the wrong direction, back up the esophagus. Acid reflux is also called GER or gastroesophageal reflux as it involves the stomach and esophagus. This condition can usually be resolved with over-the-counter medication.

    What is heartburn?

    Heartburn is a burning or painful sensation that is experienced in the chest. Since the lining of the esophagus is not as strong as the lining of the stomach, the acid from the stomach can cause a burning sensation in the chest. This pain or burning sensation that is heartburn can often be misconstrued for a heart attack. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. It generally occurs when someone bends over or lies down immediately after eating.

    What is GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

    GERD, unlike acid reflux, is a far more chronic and long-lasting condition. But, in a manner similar to acid reflux, it affects the stomach and esophagus. If GERD is left unattended or untreated for a long time, it can cause major damage to the esophagus and stomach and even lead to cancer.

    If GERD is diagnosed in the initial stages, it can be treated with medication. Extensive damage or diagnosing GERD in the later stages will require surgery.

    How to distinguish between GERD and heartburn?

    Now, the big question is, “if GERD and heartburn both affect the stomach and esophagus, how do you distinguish between them?”

    The first step to identifying GERD is to keep track of how many times you’re experiencing acid reflux. Experts say that if you are having reflux more than twice a week, there is a possibility that you have GERD.

    GERD can also be identified by its other symptoms, that include:

    • Constant bad breath
    • Heartburn
    • Regurgitation of food
    • Pain in the chest
    • Respiratory issues such as asthma
    • Trouble swallowing food
    • Constant dry cough
    • Destruction of dental enamel due to too much acid

    How do you treat GERD?

    GERD is long-lasting but can be managed with the help of medication. In worse cases, the person may need to undergo surgery to help their LES function properly. But, irrespective of this, the only way to truly curb GERD is by making changes to your lifestyle.

    • Avoid foods and beverages that cause the LES to relax
    • Eat meals at least two hours before bed
    • Try losing weight
    • Drop lifestyle habits such as drinking and smoking as they also lead to the relaxation of the LES
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  • Learn about these 3 types of hearing loss

    Hearing loss, deafness, or impairment is the partial or total inability to hear sounds. People with low to moderate hearing impairment face challenges in understanding what the other person is saying in a noisy environment. Whereas, people with severe deafness cannot hear anything, and rely completely on lip-reading and sign language skills. There are three main types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and a combination of both. Let’s understand these types in detail and learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of each type.

    Sensorineural hearing loss

    It’s the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural is permanent hearing loss often caused by damage to the tiny hair cells that line the inner ear or the auditory nerve. The damage stops or weakens the transfers of nerve signals to the brain. These signals are essentially the intensity and clarity of sounds.

    • Causes: Aging and exposure to loud noises for a long period of time are the most common cause of the damage. Certain medications and illnesses can also increase risks. It can even be genetic, and pass on to the child in the mother’s womb.
    • Treatment: There is no medical or surgical treatment available to repair the tiny hair cells once they’re damaged. However, depending on the severity of hearing loss, the audiologist may recommend the individual to use hearing aids or cochlear implants.

    Conductive hearing loss

    It’s a less common type of hearing loss that can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. The hearing loss occurs as a result of an obstruction or damage to the middle or outer ear. The damage does not allow the sound signals to reach the inner ear.

    • Causes: Its causes can vary depending on which part of the ear is affected, outer or middle ear. Damages to the outer ear include narrowing of the ear canal, earwax impaction, bone-like protrusions inside the ear canal, otitis externa, blockage caused by foreign objects inserted into the ear, and microtia. Damages to the middle ear include eardrum perforation, thickening of the tympanic membrane, fluid buildup in the middle ear, obstructions in the eustachian tube, abnormal growths or tumors in the middle ear, and malfunction of the ossicles.
    • Treatment: Hearing loss caused by earwax impaction, foreign objects insertion, or ear infection can be treated with medical treatment like extraction of earwax, or surgical procedures. Hearing impairment resulting from abnormalities like exostoses, otosclerosis, and ossicular, may be difficult to treat but can be managed with hearing aids.

    Mixed hearing loss

    As the name suggests, it is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

    • Causes: Mixed hearing loss often occurs if the ear is damaged because of an accident. It may also happen when one type of hearing loss is followed by another. For instance, an individual with conductive hearing loss is likely to experience sensorineural hearing loss as they get older, or an individual with sensorineural hearing loss may go through temporary hearing earwax impaction.
    • Treatment: Treatment differs depending on which type of loss is more, sensorineural or conductive. Surgical procedures and other medical treatments can be effective if conductive hearing loss is more. If the loss is sensorineural, the best option is to go for hearing aids or implantable devices.
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  • Top 4 reasons for unnatural hair loss patterns

    Hair loss is a natural process that automatically gets rid of old tissue and hair to promote new growth. So don’t be alarmed when you do find a few strands of hair tangled in your comb. However, a clearly visible scalp and a receding hairline are indicative of developing the problem of permanent hair loss. There are several internal and external factors that can accelerate hair fall, leading to pattern baldness in both men and women.

    Here are the top four reasons that trigger unnatural hair fall.

    Stress
    Stress ranks among the top risk factors associated with many medical conditions. In fact, one way or the other, taking physical or psychological stress harms the body more than you can imagine. For hair loss, especially, excessive shedding starts right after the body undergoes physical or psychological distress. A few examples include experiencing high fever, blood loss due to accident or injury, or even post-surgery recovery can result in stress that causes hair loss. Stress, coupled with anxiety, results in accelerated hair loss. To cope with this problem and reduce its effects, stress management is of crucial importance.

    Hormonal changes
    Men and women both experience hormonal changes throughout their lifetime. However, an imbalance associated with various conditions can trigger hair loss. For example, following childbirth or after menopause, women may experience more hair fall. Note that men start experiencing male pattern baldness after a certain age and for many, hair fall may occur even in their teens. The hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is crucial to maintain healthy follicles and promote hair growth. A reduction in DHT can lead to unwanted hair loss.

    Improper diet
    Understand that the food you eat plays a critical role in maintaining your overall hair health. The body needs the necessary nourishment to sustain natural functions, one of them being active hair growth. Lack of iron and zinc in your daily diet can trigger hair loss, irrespective of your age. In fact, recent studies have shown that deficiency of vitamin D, B-12, C, A, selenium, and biotin results in hair fall. To counter the mineral deficiency, you must include staples across the pantry in your daily diet. A wholesome diet will replenish the lack of nutrients naturally without the need for supplements.

    Side effects of medications
    The composition of certain medications has varying levels of side effects that can impact adults of all ages. There are many over-the-counter and prescription medications, the regular use of which can trigger unnatural hair fall. Medicines prescribed for reducing blood clots (anticoagulants), for depression treatment (antidepressants), and even seizures (anticonvulsants) can trigger loss of hair. Even women who use oral contraceptives may experience some amount of hair fall due to the hormonal changes. Note that not all medications possess the chemical composition to trigger unnatural hair fall.

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  • 5 common sleep disorders and factors that affect sleep quality

    Doctors recommend a decent 8 hours of sleep every night for adults because sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. From managing hormone levels and relieving fatigue to affecting mood, a decent sleep cycle helps regulate various body processes. While there’s nothing one would love more than a good night’s sleep after a tiring day, sleep disorders often disrupt sleep cycles and reduce the quality of sleep.

    Here are some common sleep disorders and their symptoms that you should know about:

    • Sleep apnea
      Characterized by repeated interrupted breathing, sleep apnea is a serious disorder. People with this condition experience repeated episodes of breathing difficulties while they’re asleep and often wake up gasping for air. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central.
    • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
      RLS is a sleep disorder that leads to an irresistible urge to move one’s legs. This condition is so uncomfortable that people find it difficult to sleep and pace around at night, hoping to achieve some relief.
    • Insomnia
      Insomnia is a common condition that makes it difficult for an individual to fall or stay asleep. While many adults suffer from insomnia, only a few experience chronic insomnia.
    • Narcolepsy
      This is a neurological disorder that affects sleep control and causes uncontrollable episodes of sleepiness during the day. This condition usually goes unnoticed, but it can also cause sleep paralysis.
    • REM sleep behavior disorder
      The paralysis that usually accompanies REM sleep is missing or incomplete in people with REM sleep behavior disorder. This causes them to act out their dreams, including talking, yelling, kicking, and screaming.

    Causes of sleep disorders
    Sleep disorders can be caused by scores of factors. Some are caused by an underlying physical health condition, while others may be triggered by poor mental health. Irrespective, here are a few common factors that affect the quality of sleep:

    • Pain
      Chronic pain can make it very difficult to fall asleep. Arthritis, headaches, bowel issues, back pain, and fibromyalgia can lead to chronic pain and poor sleep cycles. The pain due to these conditions can even cause a person to wake up from deep sleep.
    • Anxiety
      Anxiety tends to impact lots of things, including sleep patterns, negatively. Overthinking can result in difficulty falling or staying asleep, and it can also lead to nightmares and night terrors.
    • Nocturia
      Nocturia is when a person wakes up multiple times at night to urinate, leading to a disturbed sleep cycle. It can be caused by a hormonal imbalance or a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
    • Respiratory conditions
      Having a cold or an upper respiratory infection can cause trouble sleeping. Difficulty breathing can lead to snoring or other disturbances that can affect the sleep cycle and lead to sleep disorders like acute insomnia, affecting concentration levels and mood the next day.
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  • Five steps for effortless weight management

    Many fitness websites focus on weight loss tips, but nobody talks about how hard it can be to maintain your ideal weight. Weight management is unlike shedding pounds; it is much more complex. It requires a sheer amount of discipline and dedication, along with maintaining a consistent routine. So, here’s a 5-step guide to weight management to make the process easier for you:

    Step 1: Maintain a consistent exercise routine
    Exercising is a common way to lose weight, but do not brush it off just because you’ve shed those extra pounds. You throw your routine out the window, and chances are that you’ll be off your ideal weight again. Exercising is essential, as it helps the body burn fat and improves overall health. Also, keep in mind that the type of exercise does not matter, so you can choose any physical activity you like to indulge in.

    Step 2: Don’t count every calorie
    Diet plans that help lose weight count each and every calorie consumed and burned, but this does not work in the long run. Trying to stay fit is not possible when you’re on a restricted diet. You need to get all the required nutrients, and fats are also an integral part of the list. Instead, opt for a long-term diet that is high in protein and low in fat for optimal weight management. Don’t leave out the carbs and fibers either.

    Step 3: Downsize food portions overtime
    If you suddenly go from a heavy sandwich to one apple for breakfast, you’re bound to feel hungry and even develop acidity. You need not starve yourself. Instead, gradually decrease the amount of food consumed at each meal. To do this, you can start having your meals in a smaller plate (small plate equals small portions). This will help you curb your calorie intake in every meal. Also, eat your meals slowly, as the brain may take longer to ascertain that you’re full.

    Step 4: Keep a food diary
    If you’re keen on measuring your weight and calorie intake, do so by maintaining a food diary. This will help you understand which foods you’ve eaten in the past 24 hours and motivate you to reach your goal. It will also help you understand which foods do and which ones do not work for you.

    Step 5: Join a support group and keep a positive attitude
    Having a positive body image and a positive attitude toward a healthy lifestyle go a long way when it comes to weight management. You should maintain a healthy weight while your body gets all the required nutrients and you eat what’s healthy for you. It is very important to remember that someone else’s idea of a healthy weight and body has nothing to do with your weight.
    If you’re too stressed about your body image, try joining a support group and talking about the stress and anxiety you feel with regard to your body. This will help you see yourself in a new light.

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  • 4 common stomach disorders and their causes

    Research shows that at least 4 in 10 people suffer from digestive disorders that can disrupt their daily routine. From aches to chronic diseases, stomach conditions affect people of all ages, exhibit a myriad of symptoms, and are accompanied by mild to severe discomfort. Depending on the severity, certain changes in diet and lifestyle can help manage the symptoms. In severe cases, a combination of medications and treatment is recommended by medical professionals.

    Here’s an overview of the four common stomach conditions and their causes:

    Bloating and gas
    This is, undoubtedly, one of the most common stomach conditions and digestive problems among both men and women. One may feel extremely bloated and pass gas regularly in this condition. In fact, it is not uncommon for a person to pass gas up to 21 times a day, indicating normal digestive activity. Gas is nothing more than a byproduct of food that the body releases during digestion. Veggies like asparagus, beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and onions can cause gas to form during digestion, and the resulting buildup can also lead to bloating.

    Acid reflux
    Also known as heartburn, it is one of the more severe stomach conditions that results in a painful burning sensation from the upper part of the stomach all the way up to the chest. Overeating, consuming extra spicy foods, excess caffeine or alcohol consumption, stress, and even general inactivity after a heavy meal can cause reflux and lead to heartburn. Making changes in the daily diet can help a person manage the discomfort associated with heartburn, but one must avoid eating fatty, greasy, and fried foods and stay away from carbonated beverages like sodas and other bubbly drinks.

    Constipation
    Constipation is persistent discomfort that results in a person having fewer or difficult bowel movements. The frequency of bowel movements is limited, and one might experience difficulty passing stools regularly. In some cases, people with constipation may have less than three regular bowel movements in a week. Several things cause constipation, including blockages in the rectum or colon, problems with the nerve endings that control these muscles, and conditions that prompt hormonal changes in the body. Pregnant women and people with diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism may be more susceptible to constipation due to these conditions causing hormonal imbalances in the body.

    Diarrhea
    Diarrhea is the exact opposite of constipation, as an individual is unable to control the frequency of bowel movements. People with diarrhea experience bowel movements multiple times a day. The condition can be acute or chronic, depending on the severity of its associated trigger. Bacteria from water, certain viruses or parasites, food sensitivity or intolerance, and side effects of medications are some of the possible triggers of diarrhea. It is one of the more common stomach conditions that affect millions of people each year.

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  • Eat these 6 foods to keep anemia at bay

    The blood mainly comprises three types of cells: White Blood Cells (WBCs) that stave off infections and diseases, platelets that help heal wounds, and Red Blood Cells (RBCs) that carry oxygen throughout the body. A depletion in RBCs due to lack of nutrition or an underlying disease leads to anemia and manifests symptoms that can range from persistent fatigue to irregular heartbeats.

    There are several types of anemia categorized on the basis of the causes and symptoms. Several health experts suggest that, apart from early diagnosis and timely treatment, following a healthy diet and ensuring proper nutrition are key to maintaining healthy levels of RBCs in the body. Here are a few power-packed foods that can help keep the symptoms of anemia at bay:

    • Dark leafy greens
      The deficiency of iron has long been synonymous with anemia. So, don’t forget to add leafy greens like spinach and kale into your basket the next time you’re out buying vegetables. Also, you must up your intake of leafy green veggies if you depend only on plant sources of iron, as the body absorbs less of the nutrient.
    • Lean meats
      If you’re looking for a larger dose of iron and don’t mind meat on your plate, grass-fed lean meat is a perfect source. Lean cuts of meat can provide you with a substantial amount of your daily iron intake. You can also pair the meat with vitamin-C rich foods to ensure proper absorption of the nutrients.
    • Quinoa
      The grain helps maintain optimal oxygen levels in the blood, which helps relieve anemic symptoms like fatigue or shortness of breath. Apart from quinoa, oats, spelt, amaranth, and sorghum have fortifying properties that make them helpful in reducing the risk of anemia.
    • Sardines
      If you have a palette for seafood, sardines can be your best bet to prevent anemia. Sardines are rich in vitamin B12 or cobalamin, which is important for the synthesis of RBCs. Other nutrients present in sardines can also improve blood oxygen levels, preventing or relieving any existing symptoms.
    • Legumes
      Apart from being rich sources of fiber, legumes like lentils are beneficial for people with anemia or a risk of developing the condition as they are rich in iron. Pro tip: avoid drinking caffeinated beverages before or after eating legumes as they might interfere with iron absorption.
    • Blackstrap molasses
      Molasses is a nutritional powerhouse, as it contains calcium, magnesium, selenium, and vitamin B6. Many nutritionists believe that blackstrap molasses is a potential superfood that can help relieve anemic symptoms. Try adding it to your morning oatmeal or toast, or you can add a spoonful to your smoothie.

    A person may develop anemia due to several reasons, including underlying health conditions. So, you must consult your nutritionist and doctor before incorporating any of the above-mentioned foods in your diet to prevent any side-effects.

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