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.

 

 

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.

 

The Healthy Way to Lose Weight

I’m sure everyone reading this has tried to lose weight at one point in their life. For me, it’s been many points in my life. I feel like I’ve heard about almost every fad diet out there and have been tempted to try most of them. However, when I heard on the news about people needing liver transplants in their late 20s due to taking weight loss supplements filled with random chemicals and exorbitant amounts of caffeine, it really scared me straight. We shouldn’t have to destroy our bodies on the inside for us to look good on the outside. Knowing what to eat, which supplements to take and what exercises are right for you will make it easy for you to lose weight the healthy way.

How many people have tried cutting carbs out of their diet? This is probably one of the worst ways to lose weight. Not only will you feel tired the entire day, because carbohydrates supply the body with energy, but your body will develop a high level of ketones, which can then lead to serious metabolic disorders such as diabetes. If you deprive your body of carbohydrates, your body’s metabolism will eventually be shot, and as soon as you start having carbs again you will gain all the weight back, if not more. People need to distinguish the difference between good carbs and bad carbs. Good carbs, also known as complex carbs, are generally high in fiber and are easier for the body to breakdown and expel. Complex carbs, such as wheat bread and granola, do not cause large spikes in blood sugar as simple carbs, such as white bread and candy, do. Complex carbs also keep you full longer and give you sustained energy to keep you going throughout the day. So, as you can see, not all carbs are bad.

Starving yourself is also a horrible way to lose weight. Your body needs food for energy and to carry out its normal bodily functions. If you don’t eat regularly, not only are you depriving your body of energy, but also of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Your metabolism will become so slow that whenever you do decide to eat, your body will hang on to that meal very tightly because it knows it won’t be fed again for a while. Instead, eating 5 small meals a day will rev your metabolism up so that you can lose weight more quickly and get the proper nutrition your body needs. Here is a link to some foods that are good for you and will help speed up your metabolism as well: http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/weight-loss/9-foods-that-increase-metabolism.html.

Stress is also a major player when it comes to losing weight. When your body is under stress, the cortisol levels in your body are high. High cortisol levels suppress normal thyroid functioning, which is important in regulating your body’s metabolism. Also, high cortisol levels lead to increased fat storage, especially in the abdominal area. This is because when your body is under stress, it feels as though it is under attack (a response that stems from  the body’s natural “fight or flight” mechanism). So, to prepare itself for the effects of the “attack,” your body wants to store excess fat in case it needs it for more energy to “defend” itself down the line. Also, high cortisol levels trigger a hunger response in the brain so you tend to eat more, and I know we have all experienced that in times of stress! Being aware of when you are under stress and countering it with relaxation techniques, such as heavy breathing or meditation, can prevent you from gaining unnecessary weight and destroying your metabolism in the long run.

There are also some natural and safe supplements that you can take to help you lose weight. White kidney bean extract prevents your body from breaking carbs down into simple sugars, so the calories cannot be absorbed. However, this should only be taken before large meals filled with simple carbs because remember, you don’t want to block the absorption of all carbs since they supply the body with energy. Vitamin B12 is also good because it helps speed up your metabolism and give you long lasting energy. Fish oil is another great supplement because it helps lower cholesterol as well as triglycerides, which are the building blocks of fat. L-carnitine is an amino acid that also helps lower triglycerides by actually transporting them into the cells of our body and converting them into energy. Green tea or green coffee extract are both safe and natural sources of caffeine and antioxidants that can help elevate your metabolism without making you feel jittery as other artificial weight loss supplements that are packed with ridiculous amounts of caffeine tend to do. Last but not least, chromium picolinate helps regulate blood sugar by increasing the efficiency of insulin in our bodies, thus preventing the conversion of excess sugar into fat.

Above all, exercise is the most important factor in losing weight. Not only does exercise help you burn fat and boost your metabolism, but it helps keep your cortisol levels low as well. This is because exercising reduces stress by causing the body to release natural endorphins. As cliche as it is to say, eating healthy and exercising is the only way to maintain long term weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifestyle, not a one week starvation diet. For those of you who are thinking, “how am I supposed to resist those donuts I see at the office next to the coffee machine everyday,” well, it takes about 4 to 5 days to get rid of a craving. After resisting those donuts for about a week, I promise you won’t even look at them twice thereafter.Thanks for reading! This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.