Caffeine: Good vs Evil… (Maybe)

Millions – no billions of people around the world start their day with a cup of coffee. It’s the preferred drink for so many because it boosts mental alertness and helps get the day going. The magic ingredient in that seemingly innocent morning cup – that turns you on like a light switch – is caffeine.  

Caffeine is the most extensively used stimulant on earth. You’ll find it in more than sixty different plants, including tea leaves, cocoa beans, and of course, coffee. It’s one of the only drugs the FDA approves for use in food and beverages.

Caffeine is classified as a stimulant drug because it increases activity in your brain and affects your central nervous system. In small doses, caffeine can give you focus and make you feel refreshed. Too much, and you may start to feel anxious and irritable, or worse.

Coffee or caffeine addiction concept. Addicted or thirsty man drinking too much. Addict with many empty take away paper cups on table. Trying to stay awake.

For many of us, downing 3 cups of coffee plus an afternoon latte for good measure is a daily routine. If you’ve rarely thought about how this habit impacted your mind and body, the following blog explores the good, the bad, and the history of caffeine—knowing what’s too much verse what’s just right is essential if daily cups of joe are part of your routine.

History of Caffeine

The word caffeine originated in Germany from the word “kaffee,” and the French word “café” – both mean coffee. Both coffee and caffeine come from the Arabic word “qahweh.” The origins of these words reflect the spread of coffee from Arabia and Turkey to Europe. 

Legend has it that a man named Kaldi first discovered the power of coffee by noticing that his goats perked up after eating the berries of the coffee-Arabica tree and subsequently had trouble sleeping at night.  

Kaldi told a local monk about his jumpy goats, who then made a drink from the same berries. The monk realized his new brew made him alert and kept him from falling asleep during evening prayers. As the story of these potent berries spread through Arabia, so did its popularity.

Coffee arrived in Europe sometime during the 17th century. Once people experienced the rush of caffeine, coffee consumption spread like wildfire. It soon made its way to the Americas. By the end of the 18th-century, coffee was the most profitable export crop in the world. 

And while tea is used more globally (and historians date tea drinking as far back as 2737 B.C.), coffee is far more popular specifically for its caffeine content. 

Today, Finland is considered the largest caffeine consumer per capita, with each adult averaging 400mg per day (that’s about 4 cups). 80% of the world’s population drinks a caffeinated product every day, and this number goes up to 90% for adults in North America.

The Good

In some circles, caffeine has a bad reputation for its adverse effects on the nervous system and its link to anxiety and insomnia. However, research also shows caffeine has some health benefits.  

Mood + Cognitive Function

Caffeine may block adenosine, a substance that forms brain-signaling molecules. Your brain reacts by increasing other signaling molecules, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. It’s believed that this change in brain messaging boosts your mood and brain function.

One study showed that after participants consumed caffeine from 4 cups of coffee, they had marked improvements in alertness, reaction time, and short-term recall. (2)

Metabolism + Fat Burning

Studies show that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by increasing adrenaline levels in your bloodstream. This process sends signals to your fat cells to break down and promotes the release of fat from fat tissue. Caffeine may boost your body’s fat-burning ability by as much as 13% (3)  

Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the rate that your body burns calories while at rest. The higher the rate, the easier it is to lose weight. Studies show that caffeine may increase resting metabolic rate by as much as 11%, with large doses of caffeine having a more significant effect. (4)

Keep in mind, caffeine’s fat-burning ability may be short-lived as the more you consume, the less tolerant you become to its effects. It may boost your metabolic rate and increase fat burning in the short team, but it will stop working after a while.

The Bad

For some, caffeine can cause potential health problems, including sleep disruptions, anxiety, digestive issues, tremors, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, headaches, and frequent urination. 

Caffeine, especially consumed after the noon hour, can disrupt night sleep. Any amount of sleep loss adds up and diminishes daytime alertness and performance.

And drinking cup after cup of coffee to offset the effects of sleep deprivation runs into a vicious cycle. Caffeine may prevent you from falling asleep at night, shortening your sleep time and increasing your need for caffeine when morning comes.

The Right Amount

Studies show that 400 mg of caffeine per day is safe for most healthy adults. That’s the amount of caffeine in four cups of regular coffee, ten cans of cola, or two energy drinks. 

The actual level of caffeine varies widely in various beverages. For instance, one venti (20 oz) cup of Starbucks roasted coffee has 410 mg of caffeine while Dunkin’s same size cup has only 270mg. 

Avoid caffeine if you notice a reaction with moderate amounts or if you are on certain medications. Pregnant women, those trying to become pregnant or breastfeeding, should consult with their doctors about limiting caffeine. Experts say no more than 200 mg daily.

Steer clear of caffeine in powder or liquid form. One teaspoon is equivalent to about 28 cups of coffee. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has warned that caffeine in powder or liquid form can be toxic, can cause serious health problems and possibly death. 

Finding Balance

In an ideal world, feeling upbeat, energetic, and focused happens naturally, without relying on a cup of joe – or other caffeine-heavy beverages. If you believe caffeine is propping you up, perhaps it’s time to examine your dependence. 

Now, cutting back on caffeine can be a challenge. An abrupt halt is known to cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and irritability. You may want to ease off gradually instead of going cold turkey. Try eliminating caffeine for 60 days to allow your body to reset itself – free of caffeine.

Light-to-moderate caffeine intake seems to provide some health benefits. On the other hand, too much can lead to side effects that can interfere with day-to-day living and could cause serious health risks.

To get the benefits of caffeine without the undesirable side effects, consider taking brain health supplements. One of the best is Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Brain. This supplement contains 40 proven neuro-nutrients – including Huperzine A, Choline, DHA, Phosphatidylserine, and B-Vitamins.

A daily dose of Dynamic Brain fully supports your brain health, promotes optimal cognitive function, enables you to think more clearly, and like caffeine, provides a similar lift of alertness and natural stimulation. And think how much money you’ll save by skipping the coffee house brew. 

Sources:
1.  Effect of caffeine on the metabolic responses of lipolysis and activated sweat gland density in human during physical activity | SpringerLink
chem.ku.edu/sites/chem.ku.edu/files/docs/CHEM190/caffeine.pdf
 
2. Caffeine (1, 3, 7‐trimethylxanthine) in Foods: A Comprehensive Review on Consumption, Functionality, Safety, and Regulatory Matters – Heckman – 2010 – Journal of Food Science – Wiley Online Library
 
3. Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals – PubMed (nih.gov)
 
4. Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers – PubMed (nih.gov)
 
5. Effect of a Thermogenic Beverage on 24‐Hour Energy Metabolism in Humans – Rudelle – 2007 – Obesity – Wiley Online Library
6. Caffeine: Effects, risks, and cautions (medicalnewstoday.com)

5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Memory Sharp at Any Age

I remember the first time I couldn’t find my car in the parking lot of my local grocery store. It was both annoying and unsettling. I spent what seemed like an eternity searching each row until it occurred to me – I walked! No wonder hitting the alarm on the fob didn’t elicit the usual lights and horn reaction.

That evening I made it a point to find out if at 55 years old, I should be concerned about my “brain blip.” What I learned was that as we age, it’s natural and normal to have memory lapses. And it’s widely believed these memory lapses begin as young as your early 40’s.

According to Ronald Petersen, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, occasional forgetfulness is expected and fortunately, not a sign of Alzheimer’s. And here’s some more good news, there are things you can do to preempt memory loss and improve your memory naturally.

How Memory Works

The act of remembering something as simple as someone’s name involves remarkable mental gymnastics. Your eyes communicate information to your brain’s visual processing center that passes it on to the brain’s area that recognizes faces.

From there, it travels to your brain’s memory processing center, which looks for associations link, do I know this person from high school? Is she a parent from the PTA? The information is then off to the brain’s language area that puts a name to the face and sends it to your mouth. When you consider all these connections happening in milliseconds, it’s a wonder we remember as much as we do!

Warning Signs That It’s Time to Act

Now, “senior moments” may be just another annoying sign that the years are stacking up, but these lapses get more and more alarming the older we get.

Below is a quick checklist to determine if it’s time to act on your memory lapses:

  • You regularly forget what day it is or appointments
  • You ask for details about an event more than once
  • You forget how to use the universal remote or microwave settings
  • You regularly misplace your reading glasses or keys
  • You can’t find the right words during a conversation

What You Can Do to Improve Your Memory

Your lifestyle choices have a significant impact on your memory. By eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep, daily exercise, and limiting alcohol, you’ll experience a natural memory boost.

Decades of research shows there are several additional strategies you can use to protect and sharpen your memory. Here are a few you might try.

1. Use Your Brain

Mental activates are processes that help maintain your brain cells and stimulates communication. Join a book club, play bridge, write your autobiography, regularly complete jigsaw or crossword puzzles, take a language or design class. If you have a mentally challenging job, volunteer for a project that involves a different skill set.

2. Repeat What You Need To Remember

Repeat out loud or make a mental note of what you need to remember, which reinforces the memory connection. For instance, when you park your car at the grocery store, don’t just park and walk away. Pay special attention to the physical surroundings. Repeat out loud the section if it is marked. If you place your keys somewhere, tell yourself out loud the place you put them.

3. Use Your Sense of Smell

Pairing something with a scent helps your brain retain the memory. Brain imaging shows that the brain’s central odor-processing region, the piriform cortex, becomes active when people see objects initially paired with odors, even when the smell is not present. Next time you park your car, take a deep breath, and note the smell surrounding you.

4. Space Things Out

Repetition works best when it’s timed out. Instead of repeating things many times in short spurts, as if you were cramming for a test, restudy what you need to know after more extended periods of time. Try once an hour, then every few hours, then once a day. Spacing out information is specifically valuable when you need to master complicated information like new work assignments.

5. Brain Health Supplements

Supplements that contain neuro-nutrients formulated to support brain health have been shown to help improve your memory, focus, and ability to learn.

Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Brain contains 41 researched and proven ingredients, including Huperzine A, Bacopa Extract, DHA, Phosphatidylserine, and L-Tyrosine, which help boost cell membrane structure, improve blood flow, and fight free radicals. A daily dose fully supports your brain health and promotes optimal cognitive function to help keep your memories intact, helps you think smarter, and boosts your mental energy too.

 

Sources:
 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-improve-memory
 https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-keep-your-memory-sharp-at-any-age
 https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2016/senior-moment-memory-lapse.html

The 10 Worst Foods for IBS

For many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), symptoms may be triggered by specific foods. What triggers your symptoms may be different from what triggers the symptoms of fellow sufferers, but these 10 foods are likely culprits for anyone with IBS.

1. Gluten

Although gluten is often unfairly demonized, it’s fair to say that gluten can be a major trigger for IBS. Gluten is a type of protein found in certain grains, including rye, wheat, and barley. Many people who have IBS are also gluten intolerant and may experience symptoms like bloating, cramps, and diarrhea.

2. Fried Foods

Fried foods are high in fat and can be particularly hard on the digestive systems of people who have IBS. Frying food makes it more difficult to digest, so other cooking methods are recommended for people with IBS and other gastrointestinal problems.

3. Caffeine

Coffee and other drinks containing caffeine stimulate the intestines and can cause diarrhea. Instead of consuming drinks with caffeine when you need a little boost, go for a brisk walk.

4. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are found in sugarless gum, candy, and diet drinks. Commonly used artificial sweeteners include acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and sucralose, and since these and other sugar substitutes are difficult for the body to absorb, they can easily trigger IBS symptoms.

5. Alcohol

Many people with IBS have trouble drinking alcohol because of how their body digests it. The dehydrating effects of alcohol are also problematic for people with IBS. If you enjoy drinking alcohol, stick with gluten-free beer, or enjoy a cocktail mixed with soda water.

6. Broccoli and Cauliflower

While broccoli and cauliflower are healthy vegetables, they’re not always ideal for people with IBS. These vegetables are among the hardest for people to digest, and when they’re broken down in the intestines, they produce gas and may cause constipation.

7. Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber is that which can’t be digested. Although it adds healthy bulk to your diet, insoluble fiber can make diarrhea worse for people with IBS. Soluble fiber, which is found in grains, root vegetables, legumes, and berries, is a better choice if you have digestive woes.

8. Dairy

Dairy products contain fat, which can worsen diarrhea. They also contain lactose, and since many people with IBS are also lactose intolerant, dairy products may need to be restricted. Suitable dairy substitutes include rice, soy, or nut milks and cheeses.

9. Beans and Legumes

For some people, beans and legumes can help reduce constipation by increasing the bulk in the stool. But they’re also notorious for causing gas, cramping, and bloating, especially in people with IBS. Different varieties can produce different results, so trial and error may help you find which types you can safely eat.

10. Processed Foods

Highly processed foods like bread, crackers, sweets, and chips contain high levels of fat, sugar, preservatives, and other additives that can cause problems with digestion. Choosing mostly fresh, whole foods is the healthiest way to eat whether or not you have IBS.

Everyone’s IBS triggers are different, and once you know what yours are, staying away from those foods will help you remain as symptom-free as possible. Regardless of what you eat, a daily probiotic like Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Biotics can help you maintain optimal gut flora balance for better digestion and fewer IBS symptoms.



Sources:
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/eating-diet-nutrition
https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs-a-to-z

How to Stop Urinary Tract Infections Before They Start

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are common in women, especially as we age. Unfortunately, UTIs are commonly over-diagnosed and over-treated with antibiotics, which can lead to antibiotic-resistant organisms.

Urinary tract infections have a number of causes. A UTI may result when urine pools in the bladder due to an obstructed urinary flow, and the pooled urine grows bacteria. It can also occur when harmful bacteria cling to the urethra and make their way to the bladder. Other causes include sexual activity and a lack of estrogen in the lining of the vagina, which helps protect against UTIs.

Symptoms of a UTI include frequent urination, an urgency to urinate, and a burning sensation that accompanies urination. In elderly women, confusion is a common symptom of a UTI, and it’s often the only symptom. Left untreated, a UTI can lead to a kidney infection, which can be very dangerous, even life-threatening.

How to Prevent UTIs

Prevention is best when it comes to urinary tract infections, especially for older women and those who tend to get them often. Here are the best ways to prevent a UTI.

Stay well-hydrated.
Adequate hydration helps you produce plenty of urine to dilute and flush bad bacteria from the bladder and urethra. Avoid sugary drinks and stick to water for most of your fluid intake.

Take vitamin C.
Vitamin C helps make your urine more acidic, which may prevent the growth of bad bacteria. Get vitamin C from citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens, or take a 500-to-1,000 milligram supplement each day.

Eat (or drink) cranberries.
Perhaps one of the most well-known anti-UTI measures is consuming cranberries, which prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract. Eat dried cranberries, add them to salads or rice, or drink a little unsweetened cranberry juice each day.

Wipe from front to back.
Bacteria hang out around the anus and wiping from back to front can introduce them to your vagina, where they can migrate to the urinary tract.

Urinate after sex.
During sex, bacteria are introduced into the vagina. Urinating afterwards helps to flush it out.

Avoid feminine deodorant products.
The best way to stay fresh is to shower often with mild soap and water. Products like douches, deodorant sprays, and powders can cause a UTI and other problems.

Apply estrogen vaginal cream.
If you’ve gone through menopause, you have less estrogen in your body, which can cause vaginal dryness and promote infection in the urinary tract. Estrogen creams help balance your pH so that good bacteria will flourish.

Take a probiotic. Probiotics are live “good” bacteria in your body that are involved in numerous functions to keep you healthy. According to Harvard University Medical School, taking a daily probiotic may help prevent UTIs by preventing bad bacteria from growing in the vagina. Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Biotics contains all nine of the most important bacteria strains recommended for women.

If you get a UTI despite preventive measures, treating it early on is the best way to prevent severe symptoms and complications. If you have symptoms of a UTI, pay a visit to your doctor and consider starting a daily probiotic routine.


 

Sources:
https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/stay-a-step-ahead-of-urinary-tract-infections

 

 

Signs You May Have Candida and What You Can Do About It

Candida board

Candidiasis is a fungal infection that can affect the mouth, intestinal tract, skin, genitals, and other mucous membranes. Caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a fungus, candidiasis (more commonly known as a yeast infection) isn’t generally serious. However, if you have weakened immunity, it can lead to invasive candidiasis, a serious condition that may affect the blood, heart, or brain. Continue reading “Signs You May Have Candida and What You Can Do About It”

5 Easy Steps to Improve Your Liver Function

liver graphic

Your liver works hard to remove toxins from your body and plays a key role in your metabolism, circulation, hormonal balance, and healthy digestion. It detects the presence of toxic substances like heavy metals and by-products from the breakdown of medications and either converts them into harmless substances or releases them into the bowels so they can be expelled from the body. Continue reading “5 Easy Steps to Improve Your Liver Function”

The Mysteries of Your Digestive System Revealed

human digestive system

If you often feel cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or pain in your gut, you must know that digestive woes are extremely common. In America 60 to 70 million people live with a digestive disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

From chronic constipation to Crohn’s disease and from gallstones to gastroesophageal reflux disease, digestive problems can dramatically lower your quality of life. Understanding how Continue reading “The Mysteries of Your Digestive System Revealed”

Taking Antibiotics? Here’s What You Should Eat

Woman taking antibiotic

Antibiotics save lives, but they can do a number on your gut microbiota (flora), a complex ecosystem of microbes that helps keep us healthy. In recent years, healthy gut flora has been associated with optimal functioning of numerous body systems, including the nervous and digestive systems, and it promotes a healthy brain and optimal hormonal function.

Continue reading “Taking Antibiotics? Here’s What You Should Eat”