Exercise and Herbs

While the active season of summer may be coming to a close, fall entices many sports enthusiasts to run, bike, hike, and train when cooler weather presides. Of course, a successful workout requires adequate fuel and self-care to reduce the risk of injury and make for an enjoyable experience. So we look to herbs to help us postpone the onset of fatigue and aid in recovery.

Cayenne {Capsicum annuum}

Capsaicin, one of the cayenne’s active components, aids muscle pain and soreness by providing topical heat to those areas. Taken internally, the pepper informs the brain to circulate endorphins throughout the body. These endorphins make the athlete feel good, which helps with stamina during a long and intense workout. And because cayenne causes your body temperature to rise, it boosts metabolism {we burn more calories when the body is forced to go through a heating and cooling process}.

Ashwagandha {Withania somnifera}

A study published in 2015 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that the root has significant benefits for muscle strength, mass, and recovery in resistance training. Male subjects between the ages of 18 and 57, with little experience in resistance training, were split into a placebo group and an ashwagandha-extract group. The men spent eight weeks completing exercises that included leg extensions and bench presses. They were measured before and after eight weeks. At the end of the trial, those in the Ashwagandha group showed a siginificantly greater increase in muscle strength on the leg extension and bench press exercises and a significant increase in muscle size in the arms and chest. Exercise-induced muscle damage and body fat percentage were both reduced. In addition, participants saw a greater increase in testosterone levels.

Peppermint {Mentha x piperita}

Peppermint is a wonderful stimulating herb that boosts performance. Just a drop of peppermint essential oil on the tongue can give a blast of refreshing energy. Try it before and during a workout to increase endurance. Its antispasmodic properties help reduce muscle spasms and cramping, making it beneficial during a workout or while recuperating. This herb also contains potassium, magnesium, and calcium, important electrolytes that we can lose through sweat. An individual doing a long-duration run such as a marathon would benefit from drinking a peppermint infusion to replenish the needed potassium and electrolytes.

Chamomile {Matricaria recutita}

We may associate this herb with bedtime, but it actually works wonders on muscles, thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation of the affected areas. As an antispasmodic, it also eases muscle tension, which is particularly helpful during cramping. A cup of strong chamomile tea will work almost immediately. For topical relief before or after a workout, add chamomile essential oil to a base oil and use for a massage.

Lavender {Lavandula angustifolia}

This fragrant herb offers soothing relief for joint pain and muscle soreness, offering both anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic benefits. Combine it with almond oil for use in massage, or add it to a bath to relieve aches and pains while enjoying much-needed aromatherapy. It’s perfect for someone who’s just completed a long-duration workout or a marathon. {Use lavender essential oil or loose fried lavender in a muslin bag and add to the tub}.

Mustard {Brassica alba}

As a rubefacient, mustard {applied as a paste} brings heat to a sore or injured area by dilating the capillaries and increasing blood circulation {it will turn the skin red}. Some people also swear by “mustard baths,” an age-old bath blend that includes mustard powder, Epsom salts, and essential oils such as eucalyptus to warm fatigued muscles and lessen pain throughout the body.

Nettle {Urtica dioica}

This vitamin-packed herb strengthens the body’s overall health, stimulates metabolism, and boosts energy and stamina. It’s also beneficial for recovery after a hard workout. Nettle is rich in magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, potassium, and many other minerals and vitamins. Calcium regulates muscle contraction and is necessary for the repair and maintenance of bone tissue. {Deficiency in calcium can result in stress fractures because of low bone mineral density.} Nettle reduces musculoskeletal pain as well as inflammation and muscle spasms.

Oats [Avena sativa}

Oats are a great source of energy, and their tops are rich in magnesium, an important mineral for muscle and nerve function. Oat’s anti-inflammatory action reduces fatigue and helps with post-exercise recovery.

Athletic Energy Balls

1/4 ounce spirulina

1-ounce Siberian ginseng powder

1-ounce ground ashwagandha

1-ounce astragalus

1 cup sesame butter

1/2 cup honey

1/2 ounce ground pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup crushed almonds

2 Tbls cocoa powder

1 Tbls carob powder

Combine herbs and spirulina, mixing well. In a separate bowl combine sesame butter and honey to form a paste. Add powdered herb mix into the paste. Next add pumpkin seeds, almonds, cocoa and carob powders. Roll into balls roughly the size of a walnut. Place in the refrigerator to harden.

Fo-ti {Polygonum multiflorum}

An energizing herb used in Chinese tonics, fo-ti improves endurance and reduces stress in the body by boosting circulation and supporting the heart. It contains lectins, protein-sugar complexes that help block the formation of plaque in the blood vessels that would restrict the flexibility of their walls. Fo-ti works best when taken regularly.

Astragalus {Astragalus membranaceus}

Another amazing tonic herb, astragalus strengthens the whole body, stimulates metabolism, and improves energy and endurance. This herb’s ability to increase the uptake of oxygen aids in recovery. A 2014 study published in Molecules showed that astragalus supplements increase exercise endurance and muscle glycogen {which muscles then convert into glucose} in mice. It also reduces exercise-induced fatigue.

Licorice {Glycyrrhiza glabra}

This anti-inflammatory aids the respiratory system, which is useful for the increased breathing associated with being active. It’s also handy {and tasty} when dealing with fatigue and exhaustion during high-intensity exercise or recovery.

Dandelion {Taraxacum officinale}

Dandelion is a restorative herb that helps during recovery. The leaves contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. A shortage of iron in the body can cause a deficiency of hemoglobin, which makes it difficult for the body to move oxygen into the muscles. Adding raw dandelion leaves to a salad is a great way to increase iron intake. Dandelion is also rich in potassium, which replenishes the body after long-duration activity. It relieves inflammation and the buildup of fluid in the joints and increases the absorption of nutrients.

Rosemary {Rosmarinus officinalis}

As a stimulant, rosemary supports the circulatory system and boosts energy. Thanks to its analgesic and antioxidant properties, it’s great at targeting inflammation. These antioxidant properties also reduce oxidative stress and decrease joint pain. A nice cup of rosemary tea is a great way to relax and reap the benefits during recovery. Steep one tablespoon of rosemary leaves in two cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

Turmeric {Curcuma longa}

Turmeric is an immune-boosting herb that has highly effective anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its active compound curcumin. This powerful herb encourages flexibility and also aids the ligaments and tendons. Turmeric promotes the health of the musculoskeletal system. As a recovery herb, it reduces the pain, fatigue, and inflammation caused by the stress of an intense workout. For a simple recovery drink, mix turmeric root powder with a cup of warm almond milk {or milk of choice}. Stir 1/2-1 teaspoon of the turmeric powder into the warm milk. If you’d like something sweeter, add honey. Turmeric capsules are also a great option.

Athletic Energy Capsules

1 part ground licorice

1 part ground fo-ti

1/2 part ground oats

1/4 part cayenne powder

“OO” gelatin or vegetable capsules

Blend all of the powdered herbs together in a bowl and scoop into the capsules.

 

 

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Turmeric, Red Grape, and Apple Compounds ‘Starve’ Prostate Cancer Cells

An Apple peel compound can halt the growth of prostate cancer cells when combined with compounds from red grapes or turmeric.
What do turmeric, apples, and grapes have in common? According to a new study, they could hold the key to preventing and treating one of the most common cancers in the United States.

Researchers have identified a number of natural compounds that have the potential to “starve” prostate cancer tumors and shrink them.

Compounds present in turmeric, red grapes, and apple peel appear to have the strongest effect, particularly in combination.

Study co-author Stefano Tiziani, of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Dell Pediatric Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Precision Oncology.

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed this year, and around 26,730 men will die from the disease.

Previous studies have identified a number of compounds, particularly found in plant-based foods, that have the potential to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

For this latest study, Tiziani and colleagues used a novel, high-throughput screening technique to test 142 natural compounds, with the aim of identifying those that are most effective for halting the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Compound combination blocked tumor growth in mice

The compounds were tested on prostate cancer cells derived from mice and humans, individually and in combination.

The team identified three compounds that were most effective for halting prostate cancer cell growth:

  • curcumin, the bright yellow compound in turmeric
  • ursolic acid, found in apple peel
  • resveratrol, found in red grapes and berries

These three compounds were then tested in mouse models of prostate cancer.

The researchers found that when ursolic acid was combined with either curcumin or resveratrol, the natural compounds prevented the uptake of glutamine by prostate cancer cells, which prevented tumor growth in the mice.

Glutamine is an amino acid that prostate cancer cells need in order to grow, so preventing its uptake effectively “starves” the cancer cells to death.

What is more, because ursolic acid, curcumin, and resveratrol are natural compounds, they did not cause any toxic effects in the mice.

However, the researchers note that the concentrations of each of the three compounds were higher than that which is normally consumed through diet. Still, the team believes that the findings show promise for a natural strategy to prevent and treat prostate cancer.

These nutrients have potential anti-cancer properties and are readily available. We only need to increase concentration beyond levels found in a healthy diet for an effect on prostate cancer cells.”

Medicinal mushrooms are the new turmeric | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Mushrooms are the latest functional food shown to have science-backed health benefits beyond nutrients. Here are 5 to add to your must-eat list.

Source: Medicinal mushrooms are the new turmeric | MNN – Mother Nature Network

What Is Leaky Gut? Causes, Symptoms, and Relief

A leaky gut is characterized by perforations in the intestinal wall that allow molecules or microorganisms to pass through into the bloodstream. The phenomenon is a profound failure of the intestines’ duty to act as a protective barrier. Leaky gut syndrome is difficult to diagnose; many physicians do not know to look for it when diagnosing patients who are experiencing a complicated array of symptoms.

What Exactly Is the Gut?

The gut encompasses the intestinal mucosa (lining), the microbial community (and its genes) in the intestines, and the immune system and nerves. In addition to being the most important organ in the digestive system, the intestines are the largest immune organ, with roughly 2,700 square feet (or 250 meters) of surface area. Eating or drinking exposes this tennis court-sized area to the outside world. The digested molecules (micro-, macro-, and phytonutrients) in food are supposed to filter through the intestinal mucosa, which is made up of the epithelial cells on the surface of the small intestine. The contents of the intestines are supposed to remain in the intestinal lumen and continue the journey to the colon. But, with a leaky gut, the contents of the intestine can slip, unregulated, between the epithelial cells of the intestine.

The spaces between the intestinal cells, known as tight junctions, are supposed to form a seal between the inside of the intestinal lumen and the rest of the body. When the tight junctions aren’t tight enough, things slip past the intestinal gatekeepers and into the bloodstream. From here pathogens, toxins, and antigens can circulate throughout the body, wreaking havoc and provoking a systemic inflammatory response. The loose gaps between the cells in the intestinal mucosa are associated with a myriad of conditions and syndromes including:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Food allergies
  • Celiac disease
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Parkinson’s

What Causes Leaky Gut?

The tight junctions are not a perfect barrier. A number of factors can cause them to relax or contract—diet, medication, hormones, inflammation, and more. When the tight junctions relax or contract, their function may be disrupted.

1. Diet

Few things affect health as much as diet. Several primary offenders appear to contribute to the development of leaky gut:

  • Alcohol: When the human body metabolizes alcohol, the metabolic product acetaldehyde can increase intestinal permeability.
  • Sugar: Sugar and artificial sweeteners cause inflammation that compromises gut health. Additionally, a urine analysis that measures glucose in the urine is a useful indicator of the severity of leaky gut.
  • Dairy: Dairy products are linked to gastrointestinal disorders—–particularly among individuals on the autism spectrum.
  • Gluten: Consumption of gluten contributes to increased intestinal permeability in those with gluten sensitivity.
  • Additives: Industrial food additives such as emulsifiers, solvents, microbial transglutaminase, glucose, and salt contribute to leaky gut syndrome.
  • Pesticides: Glyphosate disrupts gut bacteria, which can contribute to the development of intestinal permeability.

    2. Candida

    Several species of candida are known to disrupt the makeup of the gut microbiota. The resulting imbalance in the microbiota is called dysbiosis. These disturbances can lead to the development of digestive disorders including leaky gut.

    3. Chronic Stress

    It’s no secret that stress negatively affects your health but it’s especially taxing on gut health. Psychological stress increases the presence of inflammatory cytokines, a class of signaling proteins created by the immune system that contributes to the development of leaky gut. Animal studies have shown that both psychological and physical stress compromise the integrity of the intestinal barrier.

    4. Environmental Toxins

    The environment is flooded with harmful chemicals and substances, many of which pose a significant risk to your health. Mercury, BPA, fungicides, and insecticides can all negatively affect intestinal permeability.

    5. Medications

    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen have demonstrated a tendency to increase intestinal permeability and provoke inflammation.

    6. Zinc Deficiency

    Zinc is an essential trace mineral that supports the immune system and plays a significant role in irritable bowel diseases. Zinc deficiency can lead to intestinal permeability, while supplementation with zinc supports the function of the tight junctions.

    Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome

    You might think the symptoms of leaky gut are all digestive disorders but, because leaky gut allows foreign bodies to enter the bloodstream, it can exert a wide range of effects the body as a whole and produce a varied array of symptoms. Some of the more obvious symptoms include allergies, cardiovascular disturbances, and a multitude of metabolic disruptions. Chronic fatigue syndrome and depression are separate and unique conditions, but both are known to result from compromised integrity of the intestinal mucosa.

    Intestinal permeability allows foreign microbes access directly to the bloodstream. In response, the immune system releases antibodies, which mistakenly attach to normal proteins in the blood, tagging them for immune action. Fortunately, there are ways to ease the burden of living with a leaky gut.

    What’s the Best Solution for Leaky Gut?

    Following a healthy diet is one of the most effective measures to help manage leaky gut. Foods that are a source of probiotics are helpful for mitigating the effects of the disorder. Nutrients like glutamine and curcumin support the intestinal environment by balancing the overstimulated immune response and the oxidative stress that weakens the intestinal wall.

    Monitoring what goes into your body is one of the best natural remedies for managing leaky gut. If you suffer from a digestive disorder, whether it’s leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or any of the many disorders associated with hyperpermeability, try keeping a daily food journal to identify the foods that trigger symptoms. If you experience frequent flare-ups, it’s time to make significant lifestyle changes such as incorporating the best foods for leaky gut into your diet to support your health and quality of life.

Can Turmeric Support Gut Health?

The innumerable health benefits of turmeric may seem like a recent discovery, but it has a long history in the Ayurvedic tradition, especially for digestive and gut health. In fact, this brilliant gold spice has been appreciated in India for over four thousand years. When used in conjunction with other bioactive herbs, turmeric encourages normal digestion and regulates digestive hormones, bile, and gastric acid.

Traditional Therapeutic Uses of Turmeric

Many of the recent headlines pertaining to turmeric focus on its effects on inflammation and cancer. However, in India and other South Asian countries, there is a well-established history of using turmeric for a wide range of traditional remedies. In Nepal, powdered turmeric root is applied to bruises, wounds, swollen joints, and sprains. Indian folk medicine prescribes turmeric for respiratory and liver health, and to stimulate appetite.The benefits of turmeric are largely owed to a powerful class of antioxidants called curcuminoids, collectively referred to as curcumin, and turmeric is the only source.

Effects of Turmeric on the Gut and Digestive System

The idea of gut health might bring to mind images of probiotic supplements or fermented foods. Those are applicable but there are a lot of different ways to promote gut health, and it seems that consuming turmeric is one of them. The clinically established benefits of turmeric extend throughout the body, and it has specific actions that support gut and digestive health.

Turmeric and the Intestines

Curcumin supports digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and gently pushing digested food through the intestines. It also discourages gas and bloating.

Turmeric and the Colon

A healthy, well-balanced colon is essential to gut health, digestive tract comfort, and the growth of beneficial bacteria. Curcumin facilitates a balance between the microbiota and the immune response in the colon.

Curcumin encourages the colonic crypts—glands on the inner surface of the colon—to regenerate and heal. This can be especially beneficial when leaky gut or hostile organism overgrowth are present.

Curcumin suppresses EGR-1, a protein that may allow damaged DNA to get coded. In other words, curcumin acts as the quality control agent and ensures that cells replicate proteins properly. Further, curcumin drives apoptosis—the body’s natural method of recycling old, worn out cells.

Turmeric and the Stomach

Turmeric offers a multi-tiered approach to protecting the integrity of the stomach lining. First, turmeric inhibits enzymes that compromise stomach health. It also boosts the secretion of stomach mucous—the primary defense against damage from gastric acid and other irritants.

It’s also worth mentioning that, in animal models, curcumin disrupts the growth of harmful organisms and eradicates them from the body while helping to repair the stomach lining.

Turmeric and the Liver

In the liver, turmeric helps increase cholesterol elimination by boosting bile production.There are a number of ways to encourage normal cholesterol levels and consuming foods that help your body use its cholesterol stores is one of them. Combining regular turmeric consumption with fiber-rich meals even more effectively cleanses your system of cholesterol by trapping and ushering it to the colon for elimination.

Curcumin also protects liver cells from damage caused by toxins such as peroxide, galactosamine, tobacco smoke, and household chemicals.

Turmeric, Digestive Wellness, and Gut Health

Turmeric’s therapeutic value makes it a natural choice for supporting gut and digestive health. There’s no shortage of scientific evidence supporting the link between a healthy gut, a robust microbiome, and overall well-being.