Depression: What to do Before Resorting to Prozac

Many people who do not suffer from depression do not really understand the gravity of the illness. They think that people can just “snap out of it,” or that it can be treated with some ice cream and a sympathetic ear. Unfortunately though, it’s not that easy. Depression can be due to a chemical or hormonal imbalance in the body and is even thought to be hereditary in most cases. Depression plagues almost 20 million adults in the United States alone and, believe it or not, most of them do not seek any treatment. They either lack the motivation to get better or they simply do not think there is anything out there that could help. However, the truth is that depression is a serious mental illness and should not be left untreated because it could only get worse.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the symptoms of depression may include difficulty concentrating, decreased energy, feeling sad/guilty/worthless/hopeless, insomnia, irritability, loss of interest, loss of appetite, indecisiveness and having thoughts of suicide. If you have 3 or more of these symptoms for a period of 2 or more weeks, you may be suffering from depression. The first step to recovery is recognizing the symptoms because only then can you seek the appropriate treatment.

If you are against resorting to prescription medications, there are natural remedies out there that you can try first. There are mood-enhancing supplements such as 5-HTP, SAMe, L-theanine and St. John’s Wort that increase the “feel good” neurotransmitters in our brain known as serotonin and dopamine. However, do not take more than one of these supplements at a time and try to consult with a physician to find out which one is best for you. B-vitamins, especially B6, help normalize nerve and brain function and fight fatigue so that you feel more focused, energetic and motivated to carry out your daily tasks. Fish oil is also essential for normal brain function and is a potent mood stabilizer that has been clinically proven to have a negative correlation with depression.

Aside from taking supplements, there are also other natural treatments that could help. Make sure your hormone levels (i.e. thyroid, cortisol, estrogen) are within normal range because any imbalance may cause anxiety and depression. Exercise at least half an hour a day because it helps lower stress hormone levels and also releases natural endorphins within our body, making us feel happy and relaxed. Eat a well balanced diet high in fiber and low in saturated oil/fat and refined sugar to keep your mind and body in top shape. Do not abuse alcohol/drugs because they can act as depressants and can cause your mood to change overtime. Get about 6-8 hours of sleep a night to make sure you are well rested so that you feel energetic and less irritable throughout the day. Last but not least, try to get some sunshine each day if possible because it has been shown that serotonin levels increase when you’re exposed to bright light.

Depression is a serious matter and should not be overlooked. Unfortunately, 1 in 10 people who suffer from depression commit suicide. If you suspect a friend or family member is suffering from depression, talk to them and let them know there are effective treatments out there and that they can get better. Mental illnesses are not as easily identified as chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, but that doesn’t mean that they should not be taken as seriously. I hope these tips help and thanks for reading! This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.


Exercise Tips that are Actually Myths

Before committing to an exercise regimen, one needs to distinguish the facts from the myths. Unfortunately, it is common for people to not only get injured from exercising improperly, but to also get the opposite results of what they desired. Sure, you could get a trainer to teach you what to do, but they can get very expensive after a while. So, here are some tips that are actually myths that you should avoid the next time you go to the gym.

-The biggest fitness myth around is to stretch before you exercise. When you stretch stiff, cold muscles, you are more likely to cause harm than good. Try warming your body up a bit before stretching by walking on the treadmill or jumping rope for about 15 minutes. Then, once your body is warmed up, your muscles will be looser and easier to stretch without causing injury.

-Another popular myth is to do crunches to slim down your waist. Crunches actually burn very few calories. They help strengthen the abdominal muscles, but do not actually help shrink your waistline. You must combine crunches with cardio in order to see optimal results.

-Exercise myth #3 is to do the same workout everyday. Your body is smarter than you think. The best way to workout is to trick your body and switch up your workout routine in order to work more muscle groups. This way you will burn more calories and prevent your body from getting used to that one monotonous workout you love to do.

-Myth #4 is that using the elliptical is less strenuous on your joints than running on the treadmill. This is not true because you are still mimicking the motion of running when on the elliptical. Also, the incline at which the elliptical is usually positioned can cause more strain on your hips and knees than running on a flat surface.

-Myth #5 is working out in the heat burns more calories. Just because you sweat more doesn’t mean you are burning more calories. In fact, sweating too much can potentially be dangerous due to the excess loss of electrolytes and water, which can lower one’s blood pressure and even cause them to faint.

-Last, but not least, myth #6 is that cardio is all one needs to lose weight. Even tho cardio does burn many calories, incorporating weight lifting into your regimen will help you lose weight faster. When you build lean muscle, your metabolism increases and your muscles will continue to burn calories even when you are not working out. Light weights with high repetition will help you tone up without bulking up, but heavy weights with low repetition will create larger, bulkier muscles.

So, the next time you go to the gym, make sure you ask questions and research which exercises are best for you before jumping on the first machine you see. Learning the proper way to exercise will help prevent injury as well as help you achieve your goals faster. Remember, separate the tips from the myths.Thanks for reading, this has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.



Having Fish Oil Everyday Will Keep the Doctor Away!

Fish oil is another one of my favorites that I have been promoting to my friends and family for as long as I can remember. Whenever someone asks me what basic supplements are best to take everyday to maintain optimal health, fish oil is always at the tip of my tongue. It comes with a multitude of health benefits and is recommended for anyone at any age. Studies on fish oil are continuously being published as scientific research unveils more and more of its benefits on a daily basis. So, if you are one of the few I haven’t previously preached to about fish oil, please read on to find out more about this wonderful supplement.

First off, picking the right fish oil is very important and there are a few specific things you need to look for. Fish oil supplements that only contain omega-3 are the ones that have been proven to be most beneficial because the other omegas (such as omega-6 and omega-9) have actually been shown to induce more inflammation in the body rather than quelling it. Also, look for fish oil that is extracted from wild Alaskan salmon because it is one of the purest forms of fish oil that does not have to be processed in order to get rid of any impurities and is naturally mercury free. Now that you know which fish oil to pick, let’s talk about why you need to include it in your dietary regimen.

If you look back at my previous post on aloe vera, you will see I talked a bit about the dangers of chronic inflammation and how it is the root of most common health problems that people face. Fish oil is a key player in combating chronic inflammation and in turn reduces the risk of diseases and ailments associated with it such as heart disease, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, acne and even cancer. Fish oil also helps lower triglycerides (the building blocks of fat) thus helping reduce the risk of obesity. Also, for people with hypertension or high cholesterol, fish oil is a natural blood thinner, which helps prevent strokes and heart attacks. Fish oil also helps improve blood circulation and the delivery of oxygen and vital nutrients to cells all around the body as well. Something that most people may find hard to believe is that fish oil also helps with many cognitive disorders. For example, fish oil has been proven to protect the brain from developing Alzheimer’s disease and even Parkinson’s disease. Also, fish oil acts as a potent mood stabilizer. For people with signs of bipolar disorder or depression, fish oil has been shown to help tremendously in restoring normalcy in mood and behavior. For pregnant woman, fish oil helps build fetal and infant brain health and the development of psycho motor skills. Fish oil also has many aesthetic purposes as well including maintaining beautiful and strong hair, skin and nails. For people with dark cirles under their eyes, since fish oil helps thin the blood, it also promotes proper blood circulation to help those dark circles vanish. Last but not least, along with getting rid of your dark cirlces, fish oil also helps significantly improve eye health and vision.

The proper daily dose of fish oil is 1000mg a day. Some of you who are already familiar with fish oil may also, unfortunately, be familiar with the “fish burp.” For those of you who do not know what I’m talking about, that is the fish taste you get after consuming fish oil. However, have no fear. That problem can easily be solved with a shot of lemon juice, and in all honesty, it’s really not as bad as it sounds. I have also seen capsules that gaurantee the absence of this aftertaste so if it truly is something that you cannot handle, just know there are other alternatives out there. Don’t let this last bit deter you from going out and getting these magical pills. I promise you, you will be a believer. Thanks for reading! This has been your dose of vitamin Jas.

A Mediterranean Diet is Nutritious and Delicious!

Are you looking for a diet that is not only healthy but delicious as well? The Mediterranean diet is the way to go! It is primarily plant based, low fat and full of fiber. Plus, it includes lots of red wine!

Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts are just a few of the things that make up a Mediterranean diet. These foods are packed with fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. They also supply the “good fat” known as omega-3. Omega-3 helps balance mood, lowers triglycerides, and improves hair, skin and nails. Red wine is also a key player in the Mediterranean diet, that is, if you are of age. Red wine is a potent vasodilator, which means it helps open up your blood vessels so that your blood can flow more easily throughout your body. This helps lower the chances of cardiovascular disease, which includes high blood pressure and heart failure. However, the best part of the diet is that it satiating and extremely delicious.

So, why not try the Mediterranean diet? You will be boosting your health as well as satisfying your taste buds. SInce it is mainly focused on natural ingredients, the dishes are barely ever processed, meaning they will retain their vitamins and fibrous content! Thanks for reading, this has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.

Joint Pain and Stiffness

Like almost everything else, there is a good side and a bad side to exercising. The good side is you look and feel better, the bad side is you may be wearing away the cartilage between your joints. The wear and tear of your joints may lead to something known as osteoarthritis, not to be confused with rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to “attack” its own joints, tissue and even organs. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder that arises from repetitive motion and/or use of  the joints. However, there are remedies for this disorder that can slow down and even reverse the damage that may have occurred over time.

Low impact exercises such as yoga and swimming are less likely to wear away your cartilage, but what if you’re not a yoga or swimming kind of person? Running, walking, cycling and even weight lifting can all negatively affect your joints. Even your job can worsen your condition, such as in my case. I am a pharmacist, so opening and closing bottles all day, typing on the computer, and even writing  have all contributed to the pain I started feeling in my wrists. Many people like to turn to pain killers such as Aleve and Advil, but these pills can ruin the mucosal lining of your stomach. They can cause ulcers if you take them for long periods of time, which doesn’t really sound like a good trade for wrist pain.

Instead of just numbing the pain, why not try to rebuild the cartilage between your joints? There are supplements and topical gels that can help do exactly that, as well as reduce the inflammation around your joints to decrease the pain. MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin are all oral supplements that help rebuild cartilage. Orthogel is topical gel that contains glucosamine and MSM, but also contains aloe vera to soothe inflammation as well. Arnica gel is another great topical treatment that helps alleviate pain and inflammation quickly, and as an added benefit, it also helps reduce the appearance of bruises. Biosil is an oral solution that contains choline and silica, which are collagen producing factors that help regenerate cartilage quickly and effectively.

Even if you do not feel any pain, but are very active and love to exercise, taking the above mentioned supplements can help prevent any problems in the future. Your cartilage is very important! It is the cushion between your bones, and without that cushion your bones can rub together. Try to imagine how painful that feels. Prevention is key because many elderly people suffer from arthritis, but by that age it is much harder to rebuild your joints than if you were to take action now. Thanks for reading, this has been your daily dose of Vitamin Jas.


How to Treat Anxiety without Xanax.

It’s only human to feel a little anxious from time to time. If you have a big test coming up, a presentation for your boss, a first date…these are all normal reasons to feel anxious. However, if you feel anxious more often than not throughout the day for no apparent reason, this can lead to serious health problems such as hypertention, a weakened immune system, stomach ulcers, and even depression. Some people may not have control over their anxiety, and can have a panic attack or a nervous breakdown at any moment, but there are ways to help reduce the chances of those events occuring without resorting to xanax.

The first line of defense I want to talk about are the B vitamins. B-Vitamins are essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system, which controls our body’s response to stress. The way our bodies respond to stress is important because if the response is over exaggerated for something quite minor, this causes unecessary anxiety. B Vitamins help normalize mood and behavior, combat stress induced fatigue, lower cortisol levels (the primary stress hormone), and maintian healthy lactate levels (which are responsible for anxiety attacks). Magnesium is also great for anxiety because it helps maintian normal nerve function and supports healthy neurotransmission. It has a calming effect on the body and is also known to help lower blood pressure. Another supplement good for anxiety is L-arginine. This helps dilate constricted blood vessels (which is what normally occurs when one is experiencing anxiety) and in turn helps lower blood pressure and nervousness. Lastly, Valerian has been shown to lower anxiety by increasing what is known as GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, in our central nervous system. This neurotransmitter suppresses nerve impulses related to anxiety and calms the body down. With all that said, if you are still not a fan of taking supplements, exercise is one of the best treatments for anxiety. When you exercise, your body releases endorphines, which are our body’s natural opioids. They are known as natural analgesics and cause an overall feeling of well-being. Proper breathing is also very helpful when trying to control your anxiety. Taking a deep breath in times of stress helps deliver oxygen to your brain, which will help increase clarity and focus in order to come up with a resolution to the problem at hand.

All the above mentioned supplements can be found over the counter and are readily available in almost all drug or health food stores. You do not have to take all of them to help treat your anxiety. One should be ample enough, however, these supplements may be combined if needed. When all else fails, one last thing you could try is just smiling, even when you don’t feel like it. This is because when the muscles used to produce a smile are activated in your face, they send a signal to the brain which tells it you are happy, so it releases endorphins. This mechanism is known as “facial feedback.” I hope this article has helped and thanks for reading. This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.



Use Turmeric to Spice Up Your Food and Boost Your Health!

While growing up, I remember my parents using this dark orange-yellowish powder that they would grab from the kitchen cupboard to stop my cuts and scrapes from bleeding. I remember thinking this powder was some magical fairy dust of some sort that could fix any problem under the sun. Little did I know that this magical powder was turmeric. However, this powder is not “just turmeric.” This powder is an antimicrobial, anti-cancer, Alzheimer’s preventing, obesity fighting, liver detoxifying, pain killer that might as well be called magical fairy dust because it is that amazing. Adding turmeric to your diet will not only make your food taste much better, but will make your body much healthier as well.

To this day, my parents believe turmeric is one of the best ingredients to add to any savory dish, and they are absolutely right. Turmeric consists of the rhizomes of a plant belonging to the ginger family. The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. Turmeric was originally used as a dye in India over 2000 years ago and has only recently been proven to have potent medicinal effects when ingested or even applied topically. Since it has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, sprinkling turmeric on cuts can help disinfect them, quell the pain, and stop the bleeding. It can also help with psoriasis and other inflammatory skin diseases as well. Internally, turmeric can help with such problems as irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis since they are all essentially associated with inflammation. Turmeric also helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease by removing plaque deposits in the brain. For those of you trying to lose weight, turmeric has been shown to aid in weight loss by increasing fat metabolism. The most impressive effect of turmeric though has to be its ability to prevent tumor growth and metastasis, which is the spreading of localized cancer to other parts of the body. Whether it is prostate, breast, lung, or even skin cancer, turmeric has shown amazing results in inhibiting the growth of blood vessels for masses of abnormal cells to thrive on. Without any blood vessels to provide nutrients to these cancerous cells, they cannot grow let alone spread. For people who have already developed cancer, turmeric has been shown to slow  its progression, and even enhance the effects of chemotherapy.

For something that is so cheap, readily available and beneficial to your health, it would be a shame not to try this “magical powder.” Turmeric comes in both powder and pill form, so if you don’t like the taste, which is highly unlikely, you have another option. I like to sprinkle turmeric on my salad with some lemon because it is just as tasty as dressing without all the oil and calories. Turmeric can be found at almost any market or health food store and I promise, you will be happy you tried it. Thanks for reading, this has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.

Hair Loss due to Vitamin Deficiency

What is one of the most common topics on people’s minds? The answer is hair, literally and figuratively (corny, I know). Being of Middle Eastern descent, I never thought I would ever have to worry about hair loss since I have had an abundance of it my entire life, up until now. There was a time when I wanted to shave half my head because I couldn’t manage. Now, I worry every time I see a strand of hair that has been pulled out into my brush. If you are like me, you should continue reading because I have found that hair loss is not solely due to aging, but also due to lacking certain vitamins and minerals in the body.

The first and most important vitamin for hair loss is biotin (also known as vitamin H or vitamin B7). Biotin helps the body produce collagen, which in turn helps grow strong and healthy hair. It makes the diameter of the hair shaft thicker and less fragile so it is more resistant to breakage as well. Biotin is also thought to prevent grey hair by producing melanin, which is a protein that gives hair and skin its color. As an added bonus, biotin also helps build strong, healthy nails and skin. Zinc also plays a critical role in hair loss because it aids in cell reproduction, hormonal balance, absorption of vitamins, and in protein synthesis, all of which promote the process of hair growth. Zinc also maintains the oil-secreting glands connected to your hair follicles, thus decreasing the chances of your hair falling out. Iron is also very important in preventing hair loss because it helps carry oxygen to your scalp and hair. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, which is what transports oxygen in your blood throughout your body. Lastly, make sure you have enough protein in your diet. Protein helps supply your body with the building blocks it needs to grow healthy, strong hair. If you are a vegetarian, you can still get your protein from such things as beans, tofu or even dried apricots.

Some products that I have found to work really well are Biosil, which is a tasteless, liquid form of biotin you can just mix with your water and drink, and Biotin Forte, which contains both biotin and zinc along with other B vitamins. Massaging your scalp also helps because it improves blood circulation to that area, which then promotes more hair growth. Some people like to flip their head upside down as well when doing this but I don’t know how practical that would be in most places, but to each his own. Thanks for reading. This has been your daily dose of Vitamin Jas.

Music is Medicinal

The power of music is quickly pioneering a new approach to therapy. Recently, music has been proven through numerous studies to benefit the body both mentally and physically. Songs that make us happy, energetic, or even reminiscent of good times can bring on a multitude of medicinal effects unmatched by any other form of treatment that exists today. I guess you could say Lady Gaga is the new Prozac.

Music therapy has been practiced as a way to treat many neurological conditions including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and even depression. It has been shown that music can help with improving impaired movement in people with Parkinson’s by giving them rhythm and coordination. For people with speech problems, since the area of the brain that processes music overlaps with speech networks, music therapy can help improve the flow of words and enhance vocabulary. Anxiety and blood pressure are reduced when listening to music because music stimulates the hypothalamus, which is the part of our brain that controls heart rate and blood flow. Alzheimer’s is improved by music since certain songs can help trigger old memories. It has also been shown that endorphins are released by the brain when listening to upbeat music, which can help treat depression. Most importantly, studies have proven a 50% spike in pituitary growth hormone levels, which is a hormone that promotes healing, in people that listen to music.

Listening to music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. That fact alone was enough to instigate studies to determine how music could be incorporated into the health field as a form of therapy. I recently watched a video about a man who was physically alive, but mentally and emotionally dead. He had been living in a retirement home for years and had not been showing any signs of interest or engagement in any activity until he was given an iPod filled with songs his daughter knew that he loved. He instantly perked up and felt alive again as soon as he put his headphones on. Please watch this clip to see for yourselves what I mean: Now go put on your favorite song and dance like nobody’s watching! Thanks for reading. This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.

Substitute Balsamic Vinegar with Apple Cider Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a traditional ingredient used in many dishes and is readily available at most restaurants and grocery stores. However, just because balsamic vinegar is more popular doesn’t mean it is the right choice. Apple cider vinegar tastes just as good as balsamic, if not better, and comes with a long list of health benefits unmatched by any other in its class. Most of you are familiar with the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” right? Well, think of apple cider vinegar as an apple in its very best form.

From lowering the chance of developing diabetes to fighting fatigue, apple cider vinegar does it all. Research has shown that people who take 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a day will show a considerable improvement in their average blood sugar levels, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Also, it has been shown that apple cider vinegar can cause a significant decrease in both abdominal fat and waist circumference if consumed on a regular basis. Lower blood pressure is another favorable effect that has been seen with apple cider vinegar which, in combination with lowering cholesterol, can significantly decrease the chance of developing heart disease. Apple cider vinegar also aids in food digestion and regularity, minimizing the chance of gas or bloating after meals. It can also keep you full longer since it acts as a mild appetite suppressant, reducing cravings and the chance of eating poorly between meals. It has also been shown that apple cider vinegar can increase energy levels in times of fatigue so you won’t have to resort to harmful alternatives such as excessive caffeine consumption. Last but not least, apple cider vinegar is full of antioxidants to protect your cells and tissues from free radical damage, keeping your body youthful.

Apple cider vinegar can also be used topically as a treatment for a variety of skin conditions. Applying apple cider vinegar to a pimple can help reduce the redness and inflammation as well as kill the pore clogging bacteria so that it goes away faster. It can also help with fungal infections, including athletes foot and nail fungus. Applying apple cider vinegar to your scalp can help reduce dandruff by killing and discouraging the overgrowth of malassezia furfur, the yeast like fungus that causes it. For a sore throat, gargle with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and it will help you recover faster.

So, the next time you are at the grocery store, instead of going for the balsamic, do yourselves a favor and reach for the apple cider vinegar instead. Remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Thanks for reading, this has been you dose of Vitamin Jas.