Five Ways Eating Spinach Helps Your Body

There is a reason spinach is considered a superfood.

For those of us who grew up watching Popeye constantly chug spinach out of a can and then beat up bad guys, the idea that spinach is healthy has been burned into our memory since childhood. While Popeye may be one of the earliest examples of product placement, they certainly chose the right product to place. The health benefits of spinach are well-known and widely accepted.

While it may be a bit annoying that when you cook five bags of spinach, they shrink down the size of a penny, the nutrients contained in spinach cannot be denied. Just three cups of raw spinach contain 20 calories, less than a gram of fat, three grams of carbohydrates, two grams of protein, and two grams of fiber. It also contains vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and B vitamins.

If that isn’t the definition of a superfood, I don’t know what is. Aside from all that, here are five ways that spinach actually helps your body:

Disease Prevention– Eating spinach reduces oxidation in general, which helps support your metabolism and reduces inflammation. This helps to reduce the risk of certain diseases like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Blood Pressure– Spinach is full of nitrates that help to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to the heart.

READ MORE: 7 Foods to Keep you Full Longer

Brain Health– In terms of cognitive decline for aging adults, studies have found that eating leafy greens like spinach daily can reduce your ‘brain age’ by as much as 7 years.

Eye Health– An antioxidant in spinach called lutein has been shown to help reduce the risk of macular degeneration from aging.

Antioxidants– Spinach contains antioxidants such as kaempferol, quercetin, myricetin, and isorhamnetin, which help reduce inflammation, and protect from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

How to treat with common aches and pains as you get older

Dr. Karen Sutton from the Hospital for Special Surgery shares a checklist for understanding aches and pains people feel as they get older and how to find the right care.

Recently I appeared on the Today Show to discuss how to cope with and treat the common aches and pains that are associated with growing older. Click here to watch the segment and let me know what you think!

Five Things to Know About RSV

RSV is a respiratory illness affecting adults and children.

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus. Most people hadn’t even heard of RSV until recent times, but in the past year it has become a hot topic, especially in terms of infant infection rates. 

RSV can affect both children and adults, and the symptoms are much like that of a common cold, runny nose, fever, and coughing. It can lead to inflammation of the airways of the lungs, and pneumonia. It is most dangerous for small children and older adults, and it is very contagious. Here are five things to know about RSV.

RSV can be contracted by interaction with respiratory droplets from an infected person, or by touching an infected surface and then touching your face.

READ MORE: Five At-Home Flu Remedies

RSV is contagious for 3-8 days after you contract the virus. Symptoms may not show up for 1-2 days, so there is a chance you can pass the virus on without realizing it.

There is currently no vaccine for RSV, but all the big box pharmacy companies are currently working on it.

RSV normally clears up on its own with the normal remedies like rest, fluids, and cold medications. However it can lead to respiratory illnesses, so be sure to monitor your symptoms.

RSV can be prevented with common sense cold measures like washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, staying home while sick, and wearing a mask in public. 

Hidden Symptoms of Diabetes

Symptoms of diabetes aren’t as straightforward as you might think.

One in 10 Americans suffer from diabetes. It is a serious disease that can negatively impact your life in many ways. Diabetes is fairly common, so awareness isn’t really so much of an issue. Catching it early is very important however.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes can appear within a few weeks or months, whereas Type 2 can take years for symptoms to show. Being overly thirsty, or constantly feeling the need to urinate are two widely accepted symptoms. However, these symptoms are fairly easy to miss, and can delay your diagnosis, especially if you are someone who likes to live in denial (Aren’t we all?).

Effects of diabetes include cardiovascular disease, nerve and kidney damage, eye damage, hearing impairment, and even amputation in serious cases. So the more you know about the symptoms, the better. Here are five hidden potential symptoms of diabetes to consider. 

Gum Disease- Periodontitis is a gum disease that involves receding gum lines. If untreated, the disease can lead to tooth loss. Periodontitis is 2-3 times more common in people with diabetes, as they both have to do with the body’s inflammatory response.

Increased Infections- Bacterial and fungal infections can be a sign of diabetes because the increased blood sugar levels create a hospitable environment for infections. Bacterial infections like staph, styes, and hair and nail infections can be a sign of diabetes. Fungal infections like yeast infections, jock itch, and athlete’s foot are also potential indicators. However, it should be noted that these are fairly common, so they are only a red flag if they keep happening repeatedly.

READ MORE: 5 Reasons to Turn Exercise Into a Regular Habit

Vision Issues- Changes in vision, like blurry vision, trouble reading, spots, and streaks can be a sign that elevated sugar levels are causing constrictions in the blood vessels of your eye. 

Hearing Issues- Diabetes doubles your chance of experiencing hearing loss because of nerve damage in your ears.

Bed Wetting- Children who experience bedwetting may be a sign of an underlying condition such as Type 1 diabetes. This is only really a concern if the child is bed wetting multiple times per week, and experiencing other symptoms. However if your child starts experiencing this suddenly, it is worth a mention to your doctor, especially if diabetes runs in your family.

How to Create Boundaries for the Holidays

Setting boundaries can help you navigate your anxiety during the holiday season.

For some, the winter holiday season is a time to reconnect with family members, enjoy each other’s company, and create quality memories for the future. For others, it’s a hard-to-navigate hellscape of conversational landmines and pitfalls, with a trigger around every corner.

I’m not sure when this started exactly, but it seems like the political division in this country has become a catalyst for younger generations standing up for themselves at the dinner table, slightly older generations learning to set boundaries and call out bad behavior, and elder generations being faced with decades of problematic thinking patterns and systems of oppression that are now causing chaos at the dinner table.

The truth is, polite dinner conversation shouldn’t include any of this, but we are past the point of being polite in many instances. So how do you salvage the idea of having a good time with your family, while also being respectful of everyone’s beliefs and values?

READ MORE: Mood Boosting Foods to Try Over the Holidays

The answer is boundaries. Setting boundaries with family members is the only way to move forward and spend time with each other while steering clear of triggering topics. Here are a few ways to set those boundaries, to make your holiday season a little more relaxed.

Identify Your Needs. Is it important to you to spend time with every family member, or can you maintain a respectful distance from some? Is it important to you to feel seen and heard, or would you rather hold your tongue to keep the peace? Identifying what you want to get out of a family interaction beforehand will help give you a heading.

Prepare Your Responses. Most likely, you know what topics will trigger certain family members, and you probably know what they are going to say in return. If you are going into a difficult conversation, having your responses prepared beforehand will help you navigate.

Clearly Communicate Your Limits. If certain topics are off-limits, communicate that clearly as early as possible.

Be Consistent. If you say you’re not going to talk about certain things, stick to that, no matter how much your family members goad you, or try to trigger you into responding.

Learn to Say No. The word NO holds a lot of power. Learn to say it simply, without emotion. It is the most powerful tool you have in terms of setting boundaries.

Excuse Yourself if Necessary. If a conversation is going south, excuse yourself before you say something below the belt. Removing yourself from a situation is the best way to avoid a blowout. Think of it as if your family is throwing dodgeballs at you. In this metaphor, the dodgeballs are just energy. You can choose what you catch, what you throw back, and what you let fall to the floor.

Setting boundaries with family members is a valuable way to respect the opinions and morals of your family, but I would go so far to say that  it is mandatory for your own mental health. Especially during the holidays.

Five Things to Know About Stiff Person Syndrome

Stiff Person Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder.

As many of you may know, Celine Dion was recently diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome. I’m a huge Celine fan, so I was immediately curious about what this disorder entails. In medical school we learn about a lot of diseases, and but rare syndromes like this aren’t always covered. 

Stiff Person Syndrome, also called SPS, or ​​Moersch-Woltman syndrome may have a strange name, but it’s a rare and progressive neurological disorder that causes the muscles to stiffen and contract excessively. The spasms can be so powerful they are capable of causing fractures in the bone. 

SPS has affected Celine Dion so severely that it has created problems with her vocal cords and caused her to cancel or reschedule her 2023 shows. Of the disorder, Dion said: “These spasms affect every aspect of my daily life, sometimes causing difficulties when I walk and not allowing me to use my vocal cords to sing the way I’m used to.” 

READ MORE: Could You Have a Sleeping Disorder?

This diagnosis is heartbreaking for her, but it has shed some light on SPS, which is a small silver lining. 

Here are five things to know about SPS.

SPS is incredibly rare. The disorder affects less than 5,000 people in the US, with symptoms appearing in adulthood.

SPS affects more women than men. Women are twice as likely to develop SPS than their male counterparts.

Symptoms of SPS include anxiety, hyperhidrosis, difficulty walking, rigid muscles, spasms and contractions, and hypothyroidism.

SPS typically affects the lower back muscles and legs, although it can affect other muscle groups.

SPS is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or fibromyalgia. It is hard to diagnose, but is treatable with various muscle relaxing drugs and antibody treatments for the immune system.

Since SPS is a rare disorder it is unlikely that it will affect you. Regardless though, it’s good to know that word is getting out about this syndrome, especially if you are a woman in adulthood, or a Celine Dion fan.

Five Things That Happen to Your Body When You Stop Drinking

Are you thinking about trying out ‘Sober October’?

There are all kinds of monthly fads out there, like ‘no-shave november’, ‘dry January’, ‘Roevember’ (more of a very important movement than a fad), and sober October. I’m not normally one to recommend fads because I believe more in creating lifelong habits. But that being said, Roevember and Sober October are two monthly fads you should seriously consider.

I know it is legal, and I know that most people prefer to go through life with a drink in hand. I’m not criticizing that per se, but as a doctor I do feel it is pertinent to mention that alcohol is literally poison. We drink alcohol to destress, or escape our problems, or socially lubricate ourselves to cover our insecurities. However when we sober up, our stress returns, our problems are still there (and sometimes worse due to drunken texting), and our insecurities remain. Alcohol is at best a temporary coping mechanism for life’s struggles. Imbibe if you wish, but know that it isn’t a permanent solve for anything.

READ MORE: The Effects of Alcohol on Athletes and Sports Performance

That being said, there are plenty of health benefits to going sober. So if you are thinking of trying out ‘sober October’ and potentially making a life change, here are five things that happen to your body when you lay off the sauce.

Healthier heart and cardiovascular system- Alcohol increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which can eventually lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Decreased risk of cancer- Alcohol increases the risk of head, neck, esophageal, and rectal cancers.

Mood, anxiety, depression, and stress levels improve- Even though alcohol seems to take away mental health symptoms, it also causes them. Cutting alcohol will improve your mood, and decrease your anxiety, depression, and stress levels.

Better sleep patterns- Passing out drunk might help you sleep, but the actual quality of your sleep, and the way you feel when you wake up aren’t healthy. Living a sober life will help re-align your circadian rhythms. 

Weight Loss- I know you may not feel hungry when you’re drunk, but you are also more likely to binge-eat. Alcohol also contains a ton of sugar, which won’t help with your weight loss journey. Weight-loss is one of the more attractive reasons to quit drinking, so if that is the push you need, so be it!

How Important is it to Balance Strength Training and Cardio?

Life and fitness are all about balance.

Most people that go to the gym fall into one of two categories. They either want to gain muscle, or lose weight. People who want to gain muscle tend to fear cardio because they don’t want to lose their gains. People who want to lose weight tend to skip strength training because they don’t want to look too buff. I’m here to tell you that just like life, good physical fitness is all about balance.

Studies have shown that people who combine weekly cardio with at least two days of full-body strength training can reduce overall mortality rates by 30%. Even people who only exercise 1-3 hours per week showed a sharp decline in mortality risk. So the moral of the story is, any exercise is better than no exercise at all.

Cardiovascular activity is healthy for you not just because it promotes weight loss. Cardio also increases the amount of oxygen in your blood and helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, joint disease, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and acid reflux. This helps your overall health, to say nothing of the stress and anxiety relief.

READ MORE: Five Reasons to Start Strength Training Today

Strength training helps you build muscle, which helps with sugar and glucose metabolism. Stronger muscles also relieves pressure on joints, and also helps with weight loss, as your body burns more calories to maintain your musculature. Basically, a combination of these two types of exercise is the perfect recipe for improving your overall health.

So how do you get a good balance of strength training and cardio? And how much is enough? Basically, you should aim for at least 75-150 minutes of exercise per week. Ideally, you should do 30 minutes of physical exercise per day. Walking around the block, mowing the lawn, or walking the stairs at work counts. Even if you did something simple like walking every morning after breakfast three times per week, and hitting the gym twice you will notice a remarkable difference in not just your overall health, but the way you feel on a day to day basis.

Five Best Herbal Remedies for Anxiety

Deal with stress and anxiety the natural way.

Stress is a normal part of life for all human beings, especially in this modern age of technology. Even if you manage to create a relatively stress-free existence in your home, you probably still have to deal with work issues, relationship pitfalls, and health concerns. Pile on top of that, the fact that we are constantly connected to the internet, and a never-ending news stream of doomsday scenarios, and you have the recipe for a perfect storm of stress.

We all deal with our stressors in our own way. Exercise is one of the best ways to combat anxiety, along with meditation, and outdoor activities like ‘forest bathing’. That being said, there are other, smaller ways to deal with stress, which are as easy as taking five minutes to concentrate on drinking some warm green tea (and practicing gratitude while you drink).

Here are five herbal remedies to help combat your anxiety.

Green Tea- Green tea contains a compound called L-theanine, which helps lower blood pressure, and reduce a rising heart rate. 

READ MORE: How to Reduce Anxiety with Your Diet

Valerian- Valerian root is widely known as a sleep remedy, so it helps reduce stress by providing a better night’s sleep. It doesn’t taste good though, so most people prefer it in capsule form.

Lemon Balm- Lemon balm extract must be used in moderation, but it can help reduce anxiety and aid in combating poor sleep schedules and insomnia.

Lavender- If aromatherapy is more your thing, smelling lavender has been found to have a calming effect on the body and mind. Studies have shown that lavender extract pills can help people who suffer from general anxiety disorder.

Passionflower- Passionflower is known as a sedative, so it can help curb your anxiety by providing a good night’s rest. It should not be misused however, or taken regularly for more than a month at a time.

Can Your Skin Reveal Whether or Not You are Stressed?

Believe it or not, your stress shows on your face.

It’s a well known fact that going through major life stressors, like divorce, death, or relocation can wreak havoc on our stress levels, which ages us prematurely. Ask anyone who has gone through a major life upheaval; it shows up in their eyes and can be seen in the wrinkles on their faces.

Stress is unavoidable, and recent studies have shown that even small stressors can affect our skin texture and cause things like oiliness and acne.

It all comes back to cortisol. When our bodies are stressed, they release cortisol, which has a direct effect on the way our skin looks.

Inflamed, irritated skin: If you suffer from psoriasis, eczema, or general dry skin conditions, stress can only exacerbate them. So if your dry skin is causing you regular issues, the culprit may be anxiety-based and require stress management.

READ MORE: Is Chronic Stress Negatively Impacting Your Health?

Oily, acne-prone skin: Stress throws all of our hormones out of whack, including the chemicals that cause oily skin and acne. While you can treat these conditions with things like salicylic acid, general stress-relief measures can also help.

Thin, sensitive skin: High cortisol levels can cause the breakdown of skin, making it appear thinner, and more prone to bruising. If you experience this, you may actually suffer from chronic stress and anxiety, and should consider discussing it with your physician.

Delayed healing: If wounds take a long time to heal, it might mean that your epidermis has become weaker due to prolonged stress.You can try and repair your skin barrier with flaxseed oil, but overall stress-relief tactics are also necessary.

Dark circles: If you have dark circles under your eyes that you can’t seem to escape, stress may be to blame. Regulating your sleep cycle is the best way to combat this, and you can use supplements like Valerian Root or Passionflower to aid your circadian rhythms.