Monday, August 5, 2019

Health Benefits of Spinach



I am amazed at how many nutritional benefits spinach has to offer. I have discovered so many new benefits to this super-food that I am making it my new personal healthiest food to eat daily. I currently believe it to be even healthier than lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or green tea.

Health benefits of spinach

You might be wondering why I've grown to love spinach so much. Here's why:

1. Spinach is low in calories

Spinach has only 23 calories per 100 grams (or 3.5 ounces). That's about 2.3 calories per leaf. Compare that to 265 calories in 100 grams of white bread. Despite being so dense in micronutrients, spinach is more than 90% water.

2. High in Fiber

The low calorie count of spinach is not the only weight-loss benefit that it offers. It's also very high in fiber. Most of us don't consume enough sources of good fiber. Here is why fiber is so important:

1) Fiber cleans out the gut

Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body cannot break down. This makes it extremely useful to gut health because it gives your digestive system something to attach its waste products to. Eating enough fiber is one of the most important ways that you need to detoxify your system - along with sweating, drinking enough water, exercising and breathing. 

If you don't eat enough fiber your gut can get cluttered with toxins and waste products that are essentially waiting in line to be eliminated. This can create a variety of problems in the gut and eventually lead to digestive illnesses. Fiber consumption can help to alleviate constipation. Good gut bacteria also need fiber to thrive and create a healthy internal environment.

2) It slows down the rate of absorption

Since fiber cannot be broken down, the nutrients that are attached to it are a lot harder to absorb. This is actually good for your digestive system because it stimulates it to increases digestive ability. It also slows down the rate at which nutrients enter into the blood stream. 

This point is very important because foods that contain fiber will curb spikes in blood sugar. This is why the sugar that is found in fruit is not to be treated in the same way as the sugar that we find in processed foods.

Many people deny their bodies the fiber and micronutrients that their bodies need because of their fear of the sugar content of fruits or vegetables. This is not only unhealthy and will damage the body, but will inhibit the body's natural functions and therefore its ability to function normally. Your body needs micronutrients to regulate functions like metabolism, energy production, recovery and immunity.

3) Fiber reduces appetite by keeping you fuller for longer

Since fiber sticks around in your gut for longer than refined food, your body will not signal the need for more food for a longer period of time. The slow release of nutrients also feed your body with fewer nutrients - but for longer time. This increases the amount of nutrients that are used up versus the amount that is stored away.

3. High in minerals

Spinach contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. All of the minerals are imperative for optimal health. Calcium is needed for cell signalling. Iron allows for the transfer of oxygen. Magnesium helps with muscle recovery. Phosphorus forms part of our DNA. Potassium balances out the other minerals. Sodium allows the body to hold onto water stores. Zinc is needed for cell division. Copper makes collagen. Manganese protects the body against free radicals. Selenium is needed by hormones and the immune system. For these reasons, you will often find spinach listed as one of the natural ways to deal with many health issues.

4. Great for your eyes

Spinach contains the two very potent antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are often found in multivitamins that claim to help with eye problems. These two nutrients help to combat macular degeneration and cataracts. Other nutrients found in Spinach that support eye health include Omega 3, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc.

5. Great source of vitamins and other nutrients

The best sources of vitamins will always be the ones that are found in food naturally. For some reason, isolating a nutrient and putting it into pill or supplement form reduces the body's ability to recognize it and use as well as when it is found in real food. This might be because these nutrients are found alongside other nutrients that help with absorption.

Vitamin Content of spinach

Spinach contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Choline and Betaine.

Other nutrients


  • About 2.9% of spinach is protein (not bad, considering that spinach is more than 90% water)
  • Spinach is also relatively high in Omega 3 - which is important for physical performance and testosterone production
  • Phytosterols in spinach help to reduce blood cholesterol levels.

Foods that have a lot of micronutrients while having fewer calories are known as nutrient dense foods. Foods that are high in calories but don't provide much micronutrient value are not nutrient dense. This is where the term 'empty calories' comes from. Spinach is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.


I would like to congratulate myself for writing an entire article about spinach without making a single Popeye reference. Stay Strong!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Is it okay to eat right before you sleep?


I have noticed that I fall asleep faster after eating a large meal. Eating a large meal often makes me tired on its own. Today, I would like to look at whether sleep quality is affected by the length of time between sleeping and eating.

Can the body focus on digestion and recovery at the same time?

Sleep Adviser doesn't think so. They recommend eating your last big meal 2-3 hours before bed time. According to them, your body will spend less energy on the restorative process if it needs to digest food. Digestion requires energy and blood flow. It takes from one fifth to a third of the calories found in protein for your body to break it down. The reason why you feel sleepy after eating a big meal is because your body uses a lot of energy to convert it into usable nutrients. This reduces the amount of energy that your body has available to rest and recover. Sleep adviser says that eating before bed will negatively affect your sleep in many ways.

The negative effects of eating before bed, according to Sleep Adviser:


  • It can lead to decreased hunger in the morning, which has the knock-on effect of making you eat bigger meals later in the day. This could also encourage you to opt for unhealthy snacks later on.
  • Indigestion occurs because the body's resources are split between digestion and sleep.
  • There is a higher chance of mental exhaustion, impaired judgement and lower willpower. This may be caused by less energy that is spent on mental restoration during sleep.
  • Nightmares can become more prominent and more frequent due to poor sleep quality.
  • You may experience a lack of physical energy because the restorative processes that happen during deep sleep are disrupted until food is digested.

Sleep adviser says that you can have a small snack closer to bed time if it has been too long of a period between your last meal and bed time. Easily digestible foods like fruit are recommended. It is better to snack before sleep than to wake up in the middle of the night to fulfill hunger pangs. Midnight snacking is even worse than eating a large meal before bed. In the time leading up to sleep, rather focus on doing things that will help you get quality sleep. You can find a few ideas here.

The effects of eating before bed on weight gain or weight loss


Total amount of calories consumed has a greater impact than the time of calories consumed

Community Wellness at MIT Medical explains that eating closer to bed time does not increase the probability that nutrients will turn into calories. The general assumption has been that calories that are eaten closer to bed time will not be used as energy and will therefore be turned into fat. The reality is that you will lose weight if the amount of calories that you eat is lower than the amount of calories that you burn. The opposite is also true: Eating more calories than what you burn will lead to weight gain. The time of day that we eat these calories does not matter as much as what most people think.

Whether or not eating before bed will lead to weight gain is determined by the rest of your diet

If you eat before bed while still eating less that what your body uses during the day, you will lose weight. If the last meal of the day tips you over the calorie consumed versus calories burned mark, you will gain weight. A calorie is still a calorie. It is not worth more or less at different times of the day.

Think about this: If it takes you half an hour to eat a meal, those 30 minutes will have more calories consumed than calories burned. Does this mean that we should never eat more than a bite of food every half an hour? Of course we shouldn't. Some of that food will be used. Some of it will go into storage. It is impossible to stop food from going into storage. The key to losing weight is to make sure that your body takes more out of storage, on average, than what it puts in.

Metabolism does not completely shut down during sleep

This is another very important point. Your body is always burning energy - even when you sleep. The concerns about the impact of eating right before bed exist because both digestion and sleep require energy. The amount of calories that your body uses during sleep is much less than during waking hours, but your body still burns calories nonetheless.

If weight gain is the reason why you are worried about eating food before bed time, you will do much better to focus on the total amount of calories that you eat per day instead. This will give you a greater idea about the changes that you need to make to lose weight.

Monday, July 22, 2019

How to make or break a new habit - the easy way


New resolutions can be scary: You know you want to change and become healthier, but you are not sure whether you are going to like the change or be able stick to it. Any habit takes time to form, and in a matter of time you will no longer need to force yourself to do a new task - It just becomes a part of your daily routine. The hardest part of creating a new habit is the starting phase. After the first week, it is a lot easier to maintain the habit. The second week gets even easier. After about a month, it starts becoming automatic.

The voices in your head that lead to failure

One of the biggest reasons why we cave in and stop doing what we planned to do is because of the little arguments we have with ourselves before we do a new task. There is a battle between what you want now, and what you want in the future. In most cases, the feeling of deprivation gets the better of you and you end up going back to your old habits. If you feel like you are losing out on the deal in the moment, you will have to fight that feeling until you eventually give up and go back to your old ways.

Think of Sally. She is trying to switch out her daily fast food lunch with a healthier alternative: grilled chicken and veggies. As long as Sally feels like she is deprived of something that she wants, she will have to fight with herself until her new habit becomes a norm. Most people won't last through the first week or two. Ironically, after the first two to three weeks, people forget about what they are giving up and the habit sticks.

Moral of the story: If you feel like you are losing out on something, the battle for change will be a lot harder.


After some time, the voice in your head that tells you that it wants something else will fade away because the craving does not lead to any reward. Our brains are astonishingly capable of adapting to change very quickly.

Eliminate the option to fail


If you have no choice but to change, it actually gets a lot easier because you eliminate the little arguments in your head before you do something. If Sally leaves her lunch money at home and brings the grilled chicken and veggies in a lunch tin, her changes of failure will decrease dramatically.

Look for the ways that you could fail, and eliminate those channels so that you have no choice but to change. If you are trying to stop an addiction, cut off accessibility to that addiction. Tell your friends and family about your proposed change so that you feel the social pressure to keep to your goals. Bring a healthy meal and limit access to money to buy fast food, disable your internet connection for a month of you struggle with internet porn, order a taxi two hours after work so that you have to wait at the gym until they arrive, or make a bet with a friend that you just can't lose.

Stop the argument in your head before it starts

Resistance to change starts in your head and leads to an eternal back-and-forth, weighing out the pros and cons, until you finally give up and resume the negative behavior or quit a positive one. Failure starts way before you finally give up: It starts when you start to question your decision because you don't feel like it anymore. If you can stop this internal argument with yourself, you may end up creating the habit with much less mental resistance.

People who don't exercise regularly, for example, often associate exercise with pain and suffering. This mental association is not as bad as the reality. We imagine that we are going to suffer through exercise until we eventually do it - and then start to realize that it is actually enjoyable. It is what goes on in our minds that stops us from achieving our goals - not what is going on in reality.

The back-and-forth arguments are often much harder that the new habit itself.


Here are great ways to stop the arguments inside your head


1) Distract yourself when the argument starts

You have decided to start exercising at the gym after work from 7-9 pm. It is 12 pm and you are still at work. The idea of exercising later in the day is starting to daunt you. At this moment, you are already experiencing emotional agony over something that hasn't even happened yet. Typically, the arguments would start now until 5 pm when you leave work. At that stage, you have been going back and forth about whether or not you should exercise for 5 hours - much longer than the exercise session itself. For that reason, you probably would have tired yourself out mentally until you have no more will power to keep on fighting, give up, and go straight home instead.

Alternatively, you could tell yourself that you don't have an option at 12 pm when you realize that you don't want to exercise, and quickly shift your focus to something else so that you don't have to mentally wrestle with the idea for the rest of the day.

Cut out the mental argument before it tires you down


As soon as you feel the argument starting to take place in your head, try to shift your focus back on to whatever you are working on. Mentally discard the conversation until later in the day. By postponing the dilemma, you save yourself a lot of mental energy. If you struggle to shift focus back onto your current activity; get up from your desk and pour yourself a glass of water, have a brief conversation with somebody about a completely different topic or decide to think about something else.

The initial thought pops up: "I'm too tired to go to the gym today"
Squash it and move on: "Too bad I don't have a choice. I wonder what Benny in accounts has been up to?"

Depending on your personality type, planning a few ways to distract you in advance might increase the effectiveness of this method.

2) Focus on the task - not whether or not you are going to do it

Changing the 'why' or 'whether', to a 'what' or 'how', is another powerful technique to keep yourself on the right track. This can work because it shifts your focus from escaping a new reality to accepting it as non-negotiable. If you are avoiding a negative habit, think about what you can do in its place. If you are going to exercise at the gym, think about what exercises you are going to do first.

My brain: "I don't feel like going to the gym today"
My response: "But since I'm going, which exercise should I start with first?"

3) Break the task into smaller steps

New resolutions are almost always intimidating. For some reason, we tend to think about the negative impact of healthy habits, while thinking about the positive impact of unhealthy ones. People who struggle to get into the gym horrify themselves with thoughts of pain and exertion. This kind of thinking is very similar to a boy who wants to swim but spends most of his time dipping his toe into the pool and dreading the cold water. All he could think about was how cold he might feel when he was totally wet, but he only needed to focus on jumping - gravity would take care of the rest.

If you struggle to go to the gym, focus on the little steps. Pack your gym bag, then put on your exercise gear, then get into the car, then drive towards the gym one turn at a time. Don't horrify yourself with negative imagery of the future. Just focus on the little steps that it takes to get there. If you are cutting out a bad habit, break it down into weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds. Every second is a victory.

Sally (from the example above) might be craving unhealthy food instead of grilled chicken and veggies, but she can focus on the smaller tasks to get through it. She can focus on being seated with the right food in front of her. After that, she only needs to focus on the next few bites before she automatically finishes the entire meal. After that, she will be satisfied and won't desire the fast food anymore. She should also realize that her lunch-time experience was not as bad as her mind made it out to be.

4) Build positive associations with the new change

The reason why healthy habits are hard to establish is purely because of the negative associations that we tie to them. Since healthy food is so good for us, we imagine that there must be some kind of cost - desirability. In the same way, we imagine that since unhealthy habits are bad for us, we must be enjoying them if we continue doing them.

As you repeat a healthy habit, you learn that it is not as unpleasant as you initially thought. As time goes by, the negative associations that you had for a certain activity will disappear as you repeatedly discover that it is not as bad as it is in your head. As this happens, the lifestyle change becomes easier to do.

It usually takes a few weeks for this to happen, but you can speed up the process by manually attaching positive associations to a new habit. Tell yourself how much you enjoy something - even if you know that you don't. After a while, your brain will start to believe what you keep on telling it. Our subconscious minds take repetition as fact. The more you tell yourself how much you don't enjoy something, the less you will enjoy it. 

I know a lady who wanted to quit smoking and decided that she would do it by telling herself how disgusting a cigarette was. Every time she smoked, she made up thoughts about how disgusting it made her feel. She did this for weeks until her brain started to believe her. Her cravings for cigarettes drastically reduced until she completely lost the desire to smoke. On her last few days of smoking, she told me about how she had to force herself to smoke because she started to hate doing it. She never smoked again.

By making the changes that you decide to do non-negotiable, you cut out the self-bargaining and arguments that you will have with yourself along the way - and I have personally found that part to be the hardest when embarking on a new lifestyle change. Stay Strong!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Not all forms of exercise benefit the brain in the same way


Exercise seems to improve almost everything from physical health to emotional and mental well-being. Today, I would like to look at how different exercises improve brain function.

Different kinds of exercises affect the brain differently

This study investigated how exercise affected memory in 52 students between the ages of 11 and 12. The test was to memorize 20 words and recite them back immediately - and then after a delayed amount of time. This was done in 3 sessions: One after playing team games, one after doing cardiovascular (circuit training) exercises and one after no physical activity at all. Immediate memory was highest when followed by team-game forms of exercise, and delayed memory was higher in both forms of exercise. The results showed that exercise rapidly improved memory, but also that different forms of exercise will affect memory in different ways. Team sports, which stimulated the brain along with the body, had a greater effect on short-term memory.

This highlights the importance of the fact that exercise should be performed according to individual goals. In other words, 'why exercise' should determine 'what exercise'.

Personality determines what kind of exercise is the most enjoyable

Personality will determine what kind of exercise you enjoy the most. My personal, most enjoyable form of exercise is long distance running or walking - most probably due to my inherently relaxed nature. If you are currently looking for the form of exercise that will give you the most benefit, try thinking about what you want your mind to get out of the activity. Do you want your exercise routine to spice up a boring routine or provide a mentally relaxing escape? You could also balance out what you currently don't like about your mental environment. For example, steady-state cardio can provide for a time of mental peace and relaxation if you constantly feel rushed from one task to another, while bodybuilding can give you something to work towards of you feel like you need more goals to motivate you. A social form of exercise is great for people who need a little push to get started, get bored easily or who are more competitive in nature.

Aerobic exercise may increase memory and learning more than resistance training

This study tested the effects of different forms of exercise on verbal memory and learning. 86 women between the ages of 70 and 80 with probable MCI (mild cognitive impairment) were designated to 3 different styles of training: Aerobic training, resistance training and balance/toning training. The training programs lasted for 6 months. Their brains were scanned (using MRI scans) and their verbal memory and learning skills were tested using Rey's Auditory Verbal Learning Test. They concluded that aerobic training increased the size of the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory) more than the other forms of exercise in their test subjects.

Why does cardio-vascular exercise improve brain learning and memory more than other forms of exercise?

More research is needed to determine why aerobic exercise, or cardio, is better at boosting memory and learning. There are, however, a few theories. These are the two most common ones.

Oxygen

Aerobic exercise trains the body to process and use oxygen more efficiently. VO2 Max is the measurement of how much oxygen your body can use. The greater your VO2 Max, the more oxygen your body can draw from every breath and the more of it can be used to create energy. Cardio-vascular exercise increases VO2 max because this form of exercise uses oxygen as its primary fuel source. Increased oxygen availability may increase mental well-being and performance.

Blood circulation

Blood circulation is extremely important for both mental and overall health. Your body depends on blood to eliminate toxins and by-products and transport nutrients throughout its entire system. The brain is no different - oxygen (and carbon dioxide), water, hormones and other chemicals are constantly being needed and be transported to and from the brain. Exercise that requires more blood circulation will, therefore, stimulate greater ability for it to serve the rest of the body.

All forms of exercise will benefit the brain in one way or another. For example, check out how body building improves cognitive performance. It is better to do a form of exercise that you enjoy, compared to none at all. If you are exercising for the mental health benefits, choosing a form which you enjoy and which benefits your brain the most can yield greater benefits than one that doesn't meet these two important criteria. Stay Strong!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Health benefits of lettuce


Lettuce, in my opinion, is one of the most commonly undervalued super foods. People assume that it is healthy because it is a plant-based food that hasn't been pushed out of a machine, but don't fully realize how much it contributes to overall health.

The difference between lettuce and cabbage

Before we begin, I'd like to clear up the difference between lettuce and cabbage. Lettuce contains more water and is crunchier than cabbage, making it great for salads and burgers. Cabbage has less water and is tougher, making it great to cook with. The only salad that cabbage is commonly used in, in its raw form, is coleslaw.

The health benefits of lettuce


Lettuce is high in fiber

Lettuce is very high in fiber, a part of food which our bodies can't use. Ironically, this makes fiber extremely useful. It adds bulk to feces and helps to clean out our digestive tracks. Your body needs fiber to attach smaller, unwanted items like toxins and waste products to a bowel movement. Without it, there might not be enough mass to create feces when there are smaller waste products that need to be eliminated. Foods that are high in fiber are commonly referred to as nature's broom, because of the cleansing effect that it has on our bodies.

Fiber helps the body to detox itself

Eating foods that are high in fiber, like lettuce, is one of the top three ways to detox your body - along with drinking lots of water and sweating. All three are needed to keep the body clean of harmful waste products. Water consumption increases the elimination of water-soluble waste products, while sweating increases the elimination of fat-soluble waste products. Fiber increases the body's ability to eliminate the physical materials that don't fall into these two categories.

Fiber encourages digestive health

Foods that are high in fiber are also good to protect digestive health because they are not easily absorbed. If you eat a higher concentration of processed foods that doesn't have enough fiber content, your digestive system can suffer because it will adapt to these kinds of foods and decline in its ability to pull usable nutrients from non-usable ones.

Fiber can decrease appetite by making you feel full

Since fiber is not broken down, it stays in your digestive track instead of being absorbed immediately. This is beneficial to people that want to lose weight because it will help them to decrease their overall caloric intake. When you eat foods that are rapidly absorbed, your digestive track clears quickly and makes it feel empty a lot sooner. Foods that take longer to digest prolong feelings of satiety and fullness.

Lettuce is a low-calorie food

There are only 15 calories in 100 grams of lettuce, compared to 265 calories in the same amount of bread. That's 4 calories per ounce, compared to 75 calories per ounce of bread. This makes lettuce a filling, low-calorie, high fiber food source that is great for people who want to decrease their daily calories, lose weight, detox or improve their digestive function.

High water content

Livestrong explains that iceberg lettuce, for example, is 96% water - and that food should provide about 20% of your water intake. Eating foods that have a higher water content helps to keep us, and our digestive tracks, well hydrated.

Dehydration can decrease energy levels, impair the immune system and increase the stress response to mental tasks. Lack of fluids is one of the biggest reasons why we can feel cold or sick after working out, and water is needed to shuttle out the lactic acid that creates the burning sensation in our muscles when we exercise.

Lettuce is a leafy green

Leafy greens in general are an integral part of a healthy diet for a variety of reasons. Leafy greens reduce the risk of heart diseases like heart attacks and stroke, help to lower blood pressure, fight against obesity and protect the brain from mental illnesses. Leslie Beck tells us that leafy greens have an essential component, called sulfoquinovose, which helps good gut bacteria to grow. She recommends at least one serving every day. Leafy greens also help to protect bone health and aid in the prevention of cancer.

Lettuce is high in nutrients

The USDA lists some of the important nutrients that are found in lettuce:

Vitamins

  • Vitamin C: a potent antioxidant that helps with healing and boosting immunity
  • Vitamin B1 or Thiamine: helps to convert food into energy and is needed by every cell in the human body
  • Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin: good for overall health and growth
  • Vitamin B3 or Niacin: lowers cholesterol and eases arthritis. Also boosts mental performance
  • Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic acid: needed to make and use proteins, fats and carbohydrates
  • Vitamin B-6 or Pyridoxine: protects the central nervous system and is needed to form serotonin
  • Vitamin B9 or Folate: needed for red blood cell formation and to make DNA
  • Choline: needed for metabolism and for cell membranes
  • Betaine: helps to metabolise homocysteine, which is needed for proper functioning of the heart, blood, bones, nerves, brain and eyes
  • Vitamin A (retinol): needed for growth and development, immune function and eye health
  • Beta Carotene: a precursor of Vitamin A, is needed for healthy skin, bones, eyes, immune system and mucus membranes
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: powerful antioxidants needed for eye health
  • Vitamin E: an antioxidant that helps with skin, nails, hair and nerve health
  • Vitamin K: helps with blood clotting, bone formation and calcium regulation

Minerals

  • Calcium: needed for bone formation, heart functions and muscle contraction
  • Iron: carries oxygen throughout the body
  • Magnesium: needed for bone, muscle and brain function
  • Phosphorus: the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium, needed by every cell to function properly
  • Potassium: needed by muscles - including the heart and breathing muscles
  • Sodium: needed by the body to hold onto water stores
  • Zinc: boosts immune function, stabilizes blood sugar and is needed for skin, heart and eye health
  • Copper: helps to form red blood cells and maintains bone, blood vessel and nerve tissue. Copper is also needed for iron absorption and improves immune function
  • Manganese: needed for many chemical processes and aids metabolism, regulates blood pressure and decreases inflammation
  • Selenium: An anti-oxidant that fights against oxidative stress, supports immune and brain function, helps with fertility and helps to prevent disease
Read more about how each mineral benefits your body here.

*Note: Lettuce is still about 96% water. Therefore, the vitamins and minerals found in lettuce are in relatively small amounts. You can't eat one piece of lettuce and think that you have got all your required vitamins and mineral for the day - but it certainly contributes to your daily micro-nutrient intake.

Who knew that lettuce was so good for you!? Add a serving to your lunchbox for a boost in much needed nutrients and have a great day. Stay Strong!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Dealing with low blood pressure


Low blood pressure can occur because of a variety of reasons like a lack of certain nutrients, dehydration, hormonal issues and more. Find all the most common reasons here. It can lead to symptoms like low energy, weakness and fatigue, lack of concentration, poor blood circulation that culminates in different ways such as cold hands and feet, dizziness and fainting. You can find the symptoms of low blood pressure here.

If you suspect that you have low blood pressure, you need to consult your medical practitioner immediately. Although low blood pressure is usually not life threatening and only becomes a medical concern when it negatively impacts your health, your medical practitioner will be able to determine whether your blood pressure is too low (and how much of an issue it really is), identify the causes of your lowered blood pressure and suggest the best possible treatment that is tailored to your condition. This site does not replace the advice or necessity of a medical practitioner in any way. I am simply sharing a few tips and tricks that have helped me out personally.

Treating low blood pressure by identifying the cause

If you can identify why your blood pressure is lower than normal, you would be able to solve the cause and then return blood pressure to its normal state - while resolving any other symptoms you might be having because of the initial cause. For example, if you have low blood pressure because you are not eating enough, understanding that lower food intake is the cause and solving that by eating more would improve your blood pressure as well as increase other symptoms like low metabolism - which would give you more energy. Metabolism (the rate at which your body turns food into energy) is closely related to food intake.

Low blood pressure and low food intake

Since we've used the connection of food intake and blood pressure as an example, the connection between the two will be our first possible cause of low blood pressure. In my personal experience, I've found a correlation between low blood pressure and food intake: I have personally found that people who don't eat enough often have low blood pressure, while people who eat too much (more than what their bodies require) often have high blood pressure. This observation is purely anecdotal and just a correlation I have found. I could not find any evidence or studies to support this. 

Low intake of certain nutrients

Healthline does not say that a greater food intake will help with low blood pressure, but that certain nutrients will. Besides increasing fluid intake, they recommend getting more B12 vitamins (found in almost all animal products, while fortified cereals are an option for vegetarians), folate (leafy greens, legumes and fruits) and salt (sodium consumption directly increases blood pressure). It looks like eating more meat, fish, diary and veggies gives your body the nutrients that it needs to increase blood volume. Some people with low blood pressure feel drops when they eat big meals because more blood is directed to the digestive process. Simply eat smaller meals more often to counteract this.

Body mass index (BMI)

Your body mass index, or BMI, calculates your obesity level by looking at the proportion of your weight compared to your height. You can calculate your own BMI levels here by putting in your height and your weight. Higher BMI's indicate a greater chance of obesity, while a BMI lower than 18.5 will indicate that you are underweight for your specific height. This study found that BMI was the biggest factor in differences between high or low blood pressure - when studying the connection between blood pressure and nutrition. I would assume that this is because greater body mass increases the amount of nutrients available for blood volume; or that the more you eat, the more likely you are to eat foods that encourage blood formation. You can increase your BMI by eating more food and by increasing muscle mass through exercise.

Exercise and activity level

Blood Pressure UK explains that exercise temporarily increases blood pressure, while it drops back to normal shortly after exercise - depending on how long the body takes to rest and return to normal. One of the benefits of exercise is that it regulates blood pressure. Since low blood pressure can result in weakness or fatigue, people with lower-than-normal blood pressures might gravitate towards activities that require less physical activity. Exercise, however, will increase natural energy production and reduce the effects of fatigue over time. It will also teach the body to respond to its own needs much faster. Blood pressure is closely tied to heart health. Heart rate should increase when blood pressure is too low. Exercise will improve heart health and therefore improve the body's natural response to blood pressure drops.

Hot or cold whether

Mayo Clinic says that blood pressure is usually lower in warmer climates, while higher in colder climates. They explain that this happens because colder temperatures have a constricting effect on blood vessels. When your body is cold, blood is brought to your core to keep your internal organs warm so that they can perform their important functions. The body responds to hotter temperatures by spreading blood out to the skin and extremities so that it can cool down. Ironically, feeling cold (in the hands and feet or being more susceptible to colder temperatures) is one of the symptoms of low blood pressure. Personally, I have had relief from a sudden dramatic drop in blood pressure when a compressed my body to something cold. By keeping yourself warm or cool enough, you can minimize the negative effects of the weather or temperature on your blood pressure.

Stimulants like nicotine and caffeine

Stimulants like nicotine (found in tobacco) and caffeine (found in coffee and tea) heighten blood pressure by increasing the heart rate and constricting blood vessels. Does your blood pressure drop after a long period of time without one of these stimulants? If so, decreasing the consumption of these chemicals will decrease the withdrawal effect, and therefore, drop in blood pressure when you don't have them.

Medical

Some drugs can lower blood pressure, such as diuretics, beta blockers, Parkinson's disease medication, narcotics, antidepressants, sexual enhancements and alcohol; according to Heart.org. There are medical conditions that lead to low blood pressure, such as pregnancy and conditions affecting the heart, hormones, diabetes, severe infection, and allergic reactions. In all these cases, the best way to identify and deal with the underlying cause is to contact your medical practitioner.

My personal story: Why you need to find the underlying cause

I have always had low blood pressure, which negatively affected my energy levels. As a child, I was advised to eat a bag of salt and vinegar chips when my blood pressure went through a dip to pick it up quickly. I always drank a lot of water, which washed away a lot of the salts that my body needed to hold onto its water volume. I added salt to my water, which increased my blood pressure in the short term - but my blood pressure would start to fall within a few days, even though I continued adding salt to my water. The salt provided a short-term benefit, but my blood pressure would return to lower levels after some time because lack of salt was not what was causing my low blood pressure. It took a while for me to realize that low activity levels were causing my low blood pressure. By increasing my daily physical and mental workload, my blood pressure slowly rose on its own to normal levels. 

In my case, I needed extra stimulus to increase my blood pressure. I also noticed that it needed to be in physical (exercise) AND mental workload form. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when we stress. This hormone does a variety of positive things if it is produced and used in the right quantities. One of the things that it does is increase blood pressure and energy production.

I would recommend consulting your medical practitioner first if you suspect a problem with your blood pressure. For me, trial and error helped me to find what the initial cause was of my low blood pressure. Stay Strong!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The 11 Causes of Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)



Low blood pressure is only considered a problem if it brings about negative side effects. Read more about the 9 symptoms of low blood pressure here; which can include low energy, lack of concentration, poor blood circulation leading to cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold temperatures, nausea, fainting and more.

Blood pressure refers to the amount of pressure between blood and blood vessels, similar to the way that pressure allows water to flow through pipes and out of taps when opened. Low blood pressure may reduce the amount of blood made available to the rest of the body. Normal blood pressure should create a good blood flow without any blockage.

Why does blood pressure drop? 

Our blood pressure naturally fluctuates throughout the day. It should be the lowest at night before and during sleep, while increasing in the morning and slowly tapering off towards the end of the day. Changes in body position, breathing rate, stress level, physical activity and food or water consumption affect blood pressure. Overall health affects blood pressure as well - a healthier body is better able to regulate blood pressure and heart rate.

Causes of Low Blood Pressure:

1) Dehydration

Dehydration reduces blood volume and therefore blood pressure. This can result in weakness, vomiting, fainting and eventually death. You can get dehydrated from being in hot climates or exercising for too long with replenishing liquids. Illness is another cause for dehydration. Sweating and urination lead to water loss. It is also important to replenish electrolytes and minerals, not just water.

2) Loss of Blood

Sever blood loss can be fatal as blood pressure drops below what the body needs to circulate oxygen, nutrients and by-products like carbon dioxide. In healthy individuals, a small drop in blood pressure from a little blood loss through a cut or scrape is not potentially fatal - as long as the bleeding is stopped through a band aide or bandage as soon as possible.

3) Not Enough Nutrients

A lack of sodium and other electrolytes can reduce the body's ability to hold onto water and therefore decreases blood pressure. This is why it is important to replace electrolytes after strenuous exercise or sweating, or after diarrhea or vomiting. Other nutrients obtained through food are also important in maintaining blood volume. B vitamins, iron and folate are needed to produce red blood cells. Lack of these nutrients can lead to anemia and cause low blood pressure.

4) Poor Heart Health

Your heart is responsible for pumping blood through your body continuously. Blood pressure could drop as a result of a heart complication or poor hear health. Bradycardia, for example, is a slower-than-normal heart rate which decreases the amount of times that blood is pumped throughout the body. Other heart problems like heart attacks and heart failure dramatically decrease blood pressure.

5) Unbalanced Hormones


6) Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening, allergic reaction to a specific food, medication or insect bite. Anaphylaxis causes breathing problems, itching, a swollen throat, hives and a potentially dangerous drop in blood pressure.

7)  Septic Shock

Spesis, or septicemia, occurs when an infection spreads to the blood and then spreads throughout the rest of body. This can drop blood pressure down to life-threatening levels.

8) Pregnancy

Blood pressure can drop during pregnancy as circulatory systems rapidly expand. Blood pressure should start returning to normal after giving birth.

9) Drugs and Medication

Certain drugs can cause blood pressure to drop. These include diuretics, drugs used to lower high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease medication, some antidepressants, sexual enhancement drugs, other medications and some heart drugs.

Examples of these drugs include furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (Maxzide, Microzide), prazosin (Minipress), atenolol (Tenormin), propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL), pramipexole (Mirapex), levodopa, doxepin (Silenor), imipramine (Tofranil), sildenafil (Revatio, Viagra), tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis) and nitroglycerin.

10) Standing (Orthostatic or Postural Hypotension)

When blood pressure drops after moving from a seated or lying position to a standing position, it is called orthostatic or postural hypotension. In these cases, blood pressure drops when you stand up after a relatively long period of time.

Blood pressure can also drop when standing for too long, as gravity pulls blood to the lower parts of the body. This is usually regulated by constricting blood vessels and increasing heart rate, but people with orthostatic hypertnsion can get dizzy or light headed after standing for too long because the body is not bale to regulate the drop in blood pressure properly. In severe cases, this can lead to fainting.

Neurally Mediated Hypotension 

Neurally mediated hypotension can also lead to low blood pressure from standing for too long. This happens because of distorted brain signalling which creates a miss-connect between the brain, heart and legs.

11) Food Intake (postprandial hypotension)

Postprandial hypotension is a condition that refers to dropped blood pressure after a meal. This happens because blood is directed to the digestive system after eating for the digestive process to take place. The body usually regulates this by increasing heart rate and constricting blood vessels. Postprandial hypotension refers to the failure of these mechanisms to increase blood pressure after the drop from food intake. Ironically, postprandial hypotension is more common in people with high blood pressure. Eating smaller meals more regularly, instead of larger meals less often, may help to reduce the effects of postprandial hypotension.


If you feel like your blood pressure is too low or too high, consult with your medical practitioner immediately. Stay Strong!