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.

Love It or Hate It? Health Benefits of Cilantro

Cilantro is a controversial, yet healthy vegetable.

I have to be honest, I love cilantro. Most people in the world either love it or hate it, and there is actually scientific evidence that 14% of people have a genetic variant that makes cilantro taste like soap or dirt. Luckily, I don’t have that particular genetic variant, and I can’t get enough of the stuff.

If you’re like me, you should also know that there are plenty of health benefits to cilantro as well.

A quarter cup of cilantro is chock full of nutrients like vitamins A, K, and C. These vitamins help with bone health, healing, and immunity.

READ MORE: Can A Plant Based Diet Increase Your Life Expectancy?

Cilantro is also high in antioxidants called Polyphenols. Polyphenols help protect your cells from oxidation and free radicals. They also reduce inflammation, and help protect from premature aging.

Historically, cilantro has been used to treat inflammation, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, blood pressure, and cardiovascular issues. While I wouldn’t suggest treating your heart disease with cilantro, adding it to your meals can’t hurt.

How to Choose the Right Running Shoe

Not all running shoes are created equal.

Have you ever gone into a Footlocker and wondered why there are so many options? One would think that a shoe is a shoe, so outside of stylistic preferences, there wouldn’t seem to be a real reason to have so many available options. In reality, there is a science behind it all.

Different shoes are designed for different activities and sports, because those activities require specific actions that put stress on different areas of the feet. For instance, a sport that requires a lot of running might need a shoe with better traction. A sport that requires lots of jumping might need a more padded sole. A running shoe needs good arch support, as well as better shock absorption. So, when shopping for the perfect shoe it is definitely important to take into account what kind of activities you participate in.

Running is one of the best forms of cardio, but it can also be rough on our feet and knees. Here are five things to think about when selecting the perfect running shoe.

Consider your terrain. If you are running indoors on a treadmill you can forgo some of the padding you might need on an outdoor track or trail.

Think about the sole. Some people swear by running barefoot outdoors, while I prefer a shoe that keeps my foot perfectly padded. 

READ MORE: Five Mistakes to Avoid When Buying New Running Shoes

Think about your feet. Not all feet are created equal either, so if your feet are different sizes or you need a specific type of arch support, consider ordering custom shoes for the perfect fit.

Get the right fit. Your shoes should only be slightly larger than your feet, and should fit snugly, with no breaking-in period. Make sure they aren’t too tight when you buy them because they will only get tighter if your feet swell.

Keep your receipts. Especially if you are buying online, keep your receipts until after your first run with your new shoes. You will never know how well they perform for you until you actually try them out so it may take a few tries to find the perfect running shoe for you.

Is Onion Juice the Key to Healthy Hair?

Could onions be the answer to your hair care woes?

Recently Cardi B made headlines for suggesting to her fans that onion water was the key to her healthy hair. This set the Internet aflame as people from all over the world began including onion juice into their hair care regimens.

Onions are typically known for having a very strong smell, and making us cry at inopportune times. However there is some evidence to support that it might be good for your hair. The anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties of onions make it a unique, but potentially effective way to not only improve the look and feel of your hair, but promote hair growth as well.

READ MORE: The Pros and Cons of Using Olive Oil in Your Hair

The key is in the sulphur. Onions contain high levels of sulphur which supports strong and thick hair, thus preventing hair loss and promoting hair growth. Sulphur also helps stimulate collagen, which is a key factor in hair and nail growth.

If you’re worried about your hair smelling like onions, you shouldn’t. Using trace amounts of onion juice on your hair won’t cause a nasty smell, and you can add lemon juice to the water to make it more palatable to the senses.

The easiest way to try this out is to add a small amount of onion extract to your shampoo. Try it out on a day when you aren’t planning to leave the house to quell any olfactory concerns you may have. If you don’t notice any adverse effects, keep using the shampoo and track your results.

At the end of the day we all want a thick, healthy mane of hair. Onions are an easy, natural way to help you achieve this goal.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke and Exhaustion

With temperature levels rising globally, it is important to be mindful of both heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Anyone who has been outside this summer will tell you, temperatures are rising around the world. More than 100 million Americans are feeling the heat, and recently in the UK, it got so hot that the roads started melting. It’s no secret that global warming is to blame, and we can all do our small part to try and mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change. However, we also need to be aware of both heat stroke, and heat exhaustion as it becomes a more prevalent threat to our health.

Extreme heat is so dangerous because it can cause health issues like severe dehydration, heat stroke, and death.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses excess amounts of water and salt, typically from sweating. 

READ MORE: Five Best Sports for Hot Weather

Heat stroke is a serious medical issue that occurs when your body’s ability to maintain a core temperature fails, and you experience symptoms like cramping, swelling, exhaustion, and fainting.

During extreme heat, it is obviously important to drink plenty of water, but you should also be mindful of your exercise routines, as well as time spent outdoors. If you know you need to work outside, plan to do so during cooler hours of the day, such as early morning or evening. Here are several other ways you can prevent heat stroke and exhaustion:

Wear light-colors and loose-fitting clothing.

Drink plenty of water.

Stay in the shade as much as possible.

Eat lighter meals and avoid alcohol when possible.

Seek out air conditioning wherever you can find it.

Wear sunscreen.

Ration your time spent outdoors.

All of this may seem like common knowledge, but the most important thing is to just remember that heat stroke and exhaustion are real threats. Most people don’t even think about that when they are spending long hours outdoors, and by the time it occurs to them it is too late.

Five Natural Ways to Manage Your Happiness Hormones

Much of the time our moods are regulated by our hormones.

Have you ever just been in a bad mood for no reason? Like, everything in your life is going pretty well, but for some reason you can’t seem to muster up any joy about it? Hormones are various chemicals that your body releases. Some of the most well-known hormones have a primary function of helping to regulate mood.

Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, and Oxytocin are your body’s ‘happiness hormones’, as they regulate pleasurable sensations, moods, pain relief, and even love. Your body produces these naturally, but there are some all natural ways to help boost your production of certain hormones. So if you have been feeling a bit down lately, try these automatic mood boosters:

Exercise– Anyone who has ever watched Legally Blond knows that exercise releases endorphins.

Go Outdoors– Studies show that sunlight helps to boost your levels of serotonin.

READ MORE: Is Social Media Affecting Your Mood? Learn to Control It

Laugh– Laughing with a friend increases dopamine levels and releases endorphins.

Meditate– Meditation can help increase your dopamine.

Try pet therapy– Petting or spending time with an animal has been shown to increase production of oxytocin.

Get a massage– Stress relief tactics like a massage can increase all your happy hormones, especially oxytocin and endorphins.

Get enough sleep– Getting a good night of sleep can help balance all your hormone levels, especially dopamine.