The Best Teas for Sleep, Anxiety, Bloating, Cramps, and More

 

Got a bloated belly? There's a tea for that. And also one for the jitters, insomnia, even crippling period cramps. It turns out that herbal brews can help remedy more than a few common health complaints. Read on to find the right sip to ease your discomfort.

 

 

For bloat

Fennel tea is a hero to the digestive tract: It contains a compound that relaxes gastrointestinal spasms, allowing gas to pass and relieving bloat, according to Health's nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD.

Try: Pukka Three Fennel ($8; amazon.com)

Photo: Amazon.com

RELATED: Best and Worst Foods for Bloating

 

 

For a pesky cough

Marshmallow tea, made from the leaves and roots of this medicinal herb, has been used for hundreds of years to quiet coughs and sooth irritated throats.

Try: Celebration Herbals Marshmallow Leaf and Root tea ($11; amazon.com; )

Photo: Amazon.com

 

 

For nerves

Chamomile tea may help calm your jitters before a stressful event. Certain compounds in the herb bind to the same receptors in the brain as drugs like Valium. A study done at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center found that people who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder experienced significant relief from symptoms after taking chamomile supplements for eight weeks, compared to folks who took a placebo.

Try: Yogi Comforting Chamomile tea ($18 for 6 boxes;amazon.com)

Photo: Amazon.com

 

 

For trouble sleeping

Lavender tea may be just want you need to nod off. Research shows that just the scent of lavender has slumber-induce properties: It has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate.

Try: Buddha Teas Lavender Tea ($8; amazon.com)

Photo: Amazon.com

RELATED: Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

 

 

For menstrual cramps

Ginger tea was found to be just as effective in treating painful period cramps as Ibuprofen in a 2009 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 

Try: Traditional Medicinals Organic Ginger tea ($21 for 6 boxes; amazon.com)

Photo: Amazon.com

 

 

For stomach pains

Peppermint tea calms the muscles of the GI system, aiding digestive processes. But if your pain is the result of acid reflux, best to skip peppermint tea. It also has a relaxing effect on the lower esophageal sphincter, which may allow more stomach acid to slip back into the esophagus.

Try: Yogi Purely Peppermint tea ($23 for 6 boxes; amazon.com)

Photo: Amazon.com

 

Health24.com | Too little of this vitamin could harm young hearts

Getting teens to eat what’s good for them can be an uphill battle, and bypassing foods like leafy green veggies may take a toll on their heart health, new research suggests.

Teens who ate the least vitamin K-rich foods – such as spinach, cabbage, iceberg lettuce and olive oil – had triple the risk for enlargement of the heart’s left pumping chamber compared to their greens-eating peers, according to the study.

According to Health24, the adequate intake (AI) for vitamin K is 120 micrograms per day for male adults and 90 micrograms per day for female adults.

Importance of vitamin K

Changes in the heart’s left pumping chamber are usually seen in adults with chronic high blood pressure. Hearts that become bigger are less efficient and less effective, said the study authors from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

“Those who consumed less [vitamin K] had more risk,” Dr Norman Pollock, the study’s corresponding author, said in a university news release.

For the study, researchers asked 766 healthy teens, aged 14 to 18, to wear activity monitors for seven days and to record what they ate. Most participants tracked their diet for at least six days. The teens also underwent an echocardiography test to examine their left ventricle.

Only 25% of the study participants had even adequate intake of vitamin K, the researchers found. And overall, about 10% of the teens had some level of enlargement in their left heart ventricle.

Study findings

The findings were published on 2 October in The Journal of Nutrition. The study’s co-first author, Mary Ellen Fain, a second-year student at the medical college, said, “Even at that age, it seemed to make a difference in their hearts.”

The findings held even after considering other possible contributing factors, such as gender, race, physical activity and blood pressure, Fain said.

However, the study doesn’t establish a direct causal relationship. The researchers said more studies are needed to assess the association between vitamin K intake and long-term heart health.

How to get more vitamin K

Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health. This nutrient may also improve activity of a protein, known as matrix Gla protein, which helps prevent calcium deposits from forming within blood vessels.

The following foods are good sources of vitamin K:

  • Milk, 250ml, 1 cup – 10 micrograms
  • Eggs – 1 whole – 25 micrograms
  • Pork, 100g – 88 micrograms
  • Beef, 100g – 104 micrograms
  • Soybean oil, 1 Tablespoon – 76 micrograms
  • Asparagus, raw, 4 spears – 23 micrograms
  • Broccoli, ½ cup – 63 micrograms
  • Cabbage, raw, ½ cup – 52 micrograms
  • Lettuce, 1 leaf – 22 micrograms
  • Spinach, ½ cup – 131 micrograms 
  • Chickpeas, 30g – 74 micrograms
  • Strawberries, 1 cup – 21 micrograms
  • Green tea, dry 30g – 199 micrograms

Image credit: iStock

Health24.com | Scoliosis: The test parents can do at home

Does your child carry a heavy load on their back on a daily basis? Do they slouch in their seats and struggle with one sleeve that appears to be longer than the other? These are examples of everyday challenges children with scoliosis may face – and which should alert parents.

Lugging those heavy books around may be unavoidable, but how is it impacting your child’s health? Are you taking care of your child’s spine? 

Rapid growth stage

Scoliosis is a deformity of the spine that involves the rotation of the vertebral bodies. There are six types of scoliosis that can affect children. Congenital scoliosis for example occurs when the spine does not develop properly in the womb. According to Scoli Smart clinics, this condition worsens in about 75% of the children born with it.

Most types of scoliosis in children are however idiopathic, which means that the cause is unknown. Idiopathic scoliosis is easier to treat than the congenital form. 

Idiopathic scoliosis and is found in children at around 10–12 years old – when they start their rapid growth stage. 

Scoli Smart recommends early intervention as the best way to approach scoliosis. 

girls,scoliosis,spines

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, parents should look out for:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Head that is not centred
  • Sides of the body not levelling out
  • One side of the rib cage being higher than the other when bending forward

scoliosis,spines

WATCH: How parents can do a home examination 

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The National Institute of Arthritis and Muscuoloskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends these three treatments:

  • Observation: When a curve is detected early on in a growing child, doctors are likely to recommend regular check-ups and treat the situation without major intervention.
  • Bracing: If the curve is moderate and your child is still growing, braces may be recommended. These will be fitted according to the curve of the spine and will be regularly monitored by the doctor.
  • Surgery: If the severity of the curve is increasing and your child is still growing, surgery may be recommended.

Image credit: iStock

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Health24.com | 5 pregnancy myths busted

World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day (15 October 2017), reminds us of the effects that alcohol can have on unborn babies.

Foetal alcohol syndrome is a series of abnormalities that can occur in an unborn baby when the pregnant mother drinks more than a certain amount of alcohol.

An alarming fact is that South Africa has one of the highest rates of FAS in the world, with a prevalence of up to 12.2% in some areas.

While the debate is on whether any amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, a good rule of thumb would be to steer clear with the mindset of “rather safe than sorry”. During pregnancy, we want to do everything we can to ensure a healthy baby. But besides alcohol, there are other substances and foods many people regard as taboo.

We investigated – and busted – a couple of these myths.

1.    You shouldn’t dye your hair while pregnant

It was believed in the past that the inhalation and absorption of chemical hair dyes can harm the foetus. Studies have however found no evidence that these substances can harm the unborn baby. It has been proven that there is minimal absorption of hair dye through the skin. But medical professionals do recommend that hairdressers wear gloves while working with hair dyes, since they are exposed to these substances on a constant basis. They should also make sure the salon is well-ventilated.

woman having hair dyed

2.    Nail polish or nail polish remover will harm the foetus

Commercial nail polishes contain formaldehyde and toluene which can irritate your eyes, nose or throat with regular exposure. However, these ingredients won’t affect your unborn baby. Although the ingredients can be absorbed through the nail bed, the body breaks them down before they can reach the foetus. 

As for nail polish remover, frequent acetone inhalation has been linked to developmental problems in foetuses – fortunately, normal usage of nail polish remover shouldn’t pose a risk. But if you work in a nail salon, you might want to lower your exposure to these products.

painting nails

3. You shouldn’t eat seafood while pregnant

Your initial instinct would probably be to avoid sushi, as raw fish can contain small parasitic worms that can make you ill. But fish is a rich source of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, which can be beneficial during pregnancy. However, some kinds of fish are better than others. NHS Choices recommend that you only eat sushi made from fish that was previously frozen. The American Pregnancy Association says that you should only eat well-cooked fish and avoid fish that may contain high levels of mercury, such as swordfish and mackerel.  

A recent study noted that women would be more likely to include fish in their prenatal diet if they were informed about what types of fish are safe to eat. This research also indicated that women might be missing out on vital nutrients if they cut out fish completely.

salmon on wooden board

4. Coffee can cause a miscarriage

There is still conflicting data on whether caffeine during pregnancy is safe for the foetus. Caffeine is found in so many foods and over-the-counter medicines that it would be impossible to cut out completely. Studies have however confirmed that caffeine should be limited to 200mg (there is roughly 95 mg in a 240 ml cup of filter coffee) a day to avoid the risk of a miscarriage. So, if you really need your daily cuppa, moderation is key, but if you are a serious coffee addict, it might be wise to cut back.  

coffee on white background

5. Eating peanuts during pregnancy will make your baby allergic to peanuts

Mothers who have a strong family history of food allergies were advised in the past to stay away from peanuts during pregnancy, as their babies would be born with a peanut allergy. Studies do show that those with higher allergy risks might be able to pass on a peanut allergy to their unborn babies, but if neither you or anyone else in your family is allergic, you can indulge in a handful once in a while.

peanuts on white background

Keep in mind, though, that every pregnancy is different. If you are unsure about what foods to eat and avoid, consult your doctor or gynaecologist for a personalised nutritional approach. 

Image credits: iStock

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Health24.com | 5 reasons sweat is your best friend on the bike

Sweat might seem like just a sticky issue, but it’s so much more than the reason no one hugs you after a ride.

In reality, sweat is your body’s sprinkler system: Heat up enough, and the waterworks activate to help you stay cool and keep hammering down the road.

The hotter it gets, the more efficient sweating becomes the key to success.

Here’s what you need to know to embrace your natural coolant and make it work for you.

1. The fitter you are, the faster you sweat

Most of us begin to sweat when our core temperatures rise about 0.3 degrees Celcius above normal, says Dr Caroline Smith, director of the Thermal and Microvascular Physiology Laboratory at an American University.

As you get fitter, your body becomes more efficient at cooling itself. “Well-trained athletes begin sweating at a lower core temperature, and they sweat more,” Dr Smith says.

Your body also starts sweating nearly immediately when you launch into a sprint or hard effort in the heat, Dr Smith says. In those cases, your body doesn’t even wait to heat up: It knows what’s coming.

2. You need to drink (almost) as much as you sweat to stay cool

The human body makes sweat from blood plasma (the watery part of your blood). If you want to keep sweating – and you do – you need to hydrate well enough to prevent your blood from turning to sludge.

How much you need to drink depends on how much you’re pouring out. This amount varies widely from rider to rider depending on a host of factors, including, of course, how hot it is.

In one study of 26 cyclists competing in a 164km road race, sweat losses ranged from 4.9 to 12.7 litres.

You can’t – and shouldn’t try to – replace every drop of sweat you lose, but you need to stay reasonably hydrated.

Research shows that about 590ml of fluid an hour does the trick for the average cyclist. Bigger riders may need more, smaller riders may need less, and everyone may need a bit more when it’s really hot. Your thirst is a good guide.

In order to hydrate while exercising, it’s important to drink fluids that contain a little sugar and salt (most sports drinks contain both). Both help pull fluid from your intestines and into your bloodstream more quickly, making fluid readily useable for sweat.

Your body also loses electrolytes like salt through sweat while drawing water to the surface of your skin, and the salts need to be replaced.

3. Women sweat less and usually run hotter

Women typically sweat less than men. If you’re premenopausal, you also have a higher core body temperature and significantly lower blood plasma volume during the high-hormone days before your period.

A little chicken broth, miso soup or sodium-heavy hydration beverage can help pull the fluid back into your bloodstream where you need it to sweat.

4. Sweat needs to evaporate to cool you

Pouring buckets of sweat doesn’t do you much good if it just soaks your clothes and sits on your skin. The cooling response is a result of evaporation, which happens as your body unloads heat energy while helping the sweat turn gaseous.

That’s why it often feels harder biking in humid conditions. It’s also why it’s important to wear wicking materials that pull sweat from your skin through the material and into the air.

5. Train your sweat response

Just as your sweat rate changes as you get fitter, it also adjusts to heat, says exercise physiologist Dr Stacy Sims.

“As you acclimate to the heat, your total blood volume increases, and your heart rate and body temperature get lower at any given exertion. You start sweating earlier and sweat more, so you can better cool yourself. The composition of your sweat changes, so you lose fewer electrolytes as you sweat. All are key for sustaining exercise in the heat,” she says.

Heading somewhere hot from somewhere not for a big event? Unless you can go ahead of time to acclimate, you can do some DIY heat acclimatisation wherever you live.

Simply wearing more clothes and using fewer fans on your trainer can help your body prepare for being in a hot environment. Just be sure everything is breathable and don’t overdo it.

You want to simulate a hot environment but not give yourself heat illness. You can also use hot yoga or a sauna, says Dr Sims. But you need to be consistent for about five days in a row to get a benefit.

This article was originally published on www.bicycling.co.za

Image credit: iStock

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