Do natural antibiotics really work?
Antibiotics are used to kill or inhibit bacteria growth. Although you might think of antibiotics as modern medicine, they’ve been around for centuries. The original antibiotics, like a lot of today’s antibiotics, are derived from natural sources.
Certain plant extracts, essential oils, and even foods have antibiotic properties. For example, some food and vegetable extracts can prevent the growth of bacteria in food. Sometimes, these properties extend beyond the food and can aid in your personal hygiene. Cranberry extract contains both antibacterial and antioxidant compounds, making it a home remedy for urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Herbs can be antibiotics, too. A small sampling study of 58 Chinese plants found that 23 had antibacterial properties and 15 had antifungal properties.
With an ongoing increase in drug-resistant bacteria, scientists are looking to nature when developing new medications.
Cultures across the world have long recognized garlic for its preventive and curative powers. Research has found that garlic can be an effective treatment against many forms of bacteria, including Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli). Garlic has even been considered for use against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
Garlic has long been thought to have antimicrobial properties. A 2011 study found that garlic concentrate is effective against bacteria. You can purchase garlic concentrate or extract at your local health food store. You may also be able to make your own by soaking a few garlic cloves in olive oil.
Garlic is generally safe to ingest, but large doses might cause internal bleeding. Up to two cloves per day is considered an acceptable dosage. If you’re taking a garlic supplement, be sure to follow the dosage directions as provided. If you’re taking blood-thinning medication, consult your healthcare provider before using garlic as an antibiotic. Large doses of garlic can amplify the effects of this medication. You can also apply garlic concentrate directly to a wound or blemish.
Garlic is an easily available spice in the market. The use of garlic in treating infections is a long-standing tradition in many cultures. However, it was not until recent years the exact reason why garlic has so much antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties were studied.
Allicin is the most prominent compound found in garlic and has excellent antimicrobial functions. It is the most active compound in garlic which gives it these properties. Allicin is highly effective against MRS (Multidrug Resistance Strains) bacterias which makes it highly valuable for the medical community. Another component found in garlic called as Ajoene is also capable of treating fungal infections such as athlete’s foot which many people suffer from worldwide. Garlic extract can also be used for the treatment of influenza and herpes viruses and can deliver positive results.
This compound can easily eradicate bacteria by resisting the production or blocking the enzymes that are directly responsible for several vital functions of the bacteria such as energy production and cell structure formation. Without the necessary energy, the bacterias will die off in no time. Allicin can also actively inhibit the formation of biofilms which is one of the major defense mechanisms employed by bacterias and fungus. The formation of biofilms makes the treatment of these infections very difficult and garlic can be used to prevent the formation of biofilms.
2. Manuka Honey
Since the time of Aristotle, honey has been used as an ointment that helps wounds to heal and prevents or draws out infection. Healthcare professionals today have found it helpful in treating chronic wounds, burns, ulcers, bedsores, and skin grafts. For example, results of a study from 2016 demonstrate that honey dressings can help to heal wounds. The antibacterial effects of honey are usually attributed to its hydrogen peroxide content. However, manuka honey fights off bacteria, though it has a lower hydrogen peroxide content.
A 2011 study reported that the best-known type of honey inhibits approximately 60 kinds of bacteria. It also suggests that honey successfully treats wounds infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Antibacterial properties aside, honey may help wounds to heal by providing a protective coating that fosters a moist environment. Honey is one the oldest known antibiotics, tracing back to ancient times. Egyptians frequently used honey as a natural antibiotic and skin protectant. Honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which may account for some of its antibacterial properties. It also has a high sugar content, which can help stop the growth of certain bacteria. Additionally, honey has a low pH level. This works to pull moisture away from bacteria, causing the bacteria to get dehydrated and die off.
To use honey as an antibiotic, apply it directly to the wound or infected area. The honey can help kill off the bacteria and aid in the healing process. If possible, opt for raw Manuka honey. This form of honey offers the most health benefits. .
You can also ingest honey to aid in the treatment of internal infections. Simply swallow a whole tablespoon or stir it into a warm cup of herbal tea for a soothing treat. Honey is generally safe to use on the skin or in the body, though you should never give honey to an infant under 1 years old. Instead, consult your healthcare provider for an appropriate alternative.
Manuka honey is mostly available on the Australian continent, it is harvested from special bees that drink nectar from the flowers that are found on the Manuka tree. Manuka tree is found indigenously in New Zealand and Australia but can be cultivated overseas too. It is one of the most medically viable and potent forms of honey, there is still some more research that is needed to find out the exact mechanisms which give it the title. Manuka honey is rich in methylglyoxal, which is a rare compound that has excellent antimicrobial properties. The honey is also filled with various compounds like propolis that are rich in flavonoids, esters and phenolic acid which can actively boost your immune system to fight against infections. Manuka honey is also rich in enzymes such as glucose oxidase which can convert compounds of glucose to hydrogen peroxide and thereby reduce the affinity for infections.
Manuka honey through years of plain observation has been claimed to be a broad spectrum antibacterial which can even heal wounds that are caused on legs due to ulceration caused due to antibiotic-resistant bacterias. The varicella-zoster virus which is responsible for highly disturbing conditions such as chickenpox and shingles are also inhibited using Manuka honey.
The scientific community also recognizes ginger as a natural antibiotic. Several studies, including one published in 2017, have demonstrated ginger’s ability to fight many strains of bacteria. Researchers are also exploring ginger’s power to combat seasickness and nausea and to lower blood sugar levels.
Ginger is filled with compounds such as gingerdiol, gingerol, terpenoids, shogaol, zerumbone and zingerone along with flavonoids which gives it excellent antimicrobial properties with the ability to act against the formation of biofilms. H. Pylori bacteria which thrives in acidic stomachs can be reduced by consuming ginger which can normalize the acid production in your stomach.
Ginger is an Asian spice which has versatile uses around the world. This spice is obtained from the roots of Ginger plant and is used in many ayurvedic and other alternative medicines. The antimicrobial effects of ginger have been exploited by natural medicine practitioners for a long time. However, it was only recently that the exact components in ginger which gives it these magical effects were recognized.
Several compounds in ginger are also effective against certain strains of bacteria which cause gum diseases. HRSV (Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus) can also be resisted with the use of ginger as it inhibits the virus’s ability to combine with the human host cells rendering them to be inactive. Ginger also has good antifungal activity as it can reduce the effects of food spoilage due to fungal infections and can also help in treating skin conditions caused due to fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. Ginger works against the formation of biofilms. H. Pylori bacteria which thrives in acidic stomachs can be reduced by consuming ginger which can normalize the acid production in your stomach.
Native American and other traditional healers have used Echinacea for hundreds of years to treat infections and wounds. Researchers are beginning to understand why. A study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology reports that extract of Echinacea purpurea can kill many kinds of bacteria, including Streptococcus pyogenes (S. pyogenes). S. pyogenes is responsible for strep throat, toxic shock syndrome, and the “flesh-eating disease” known as necrotizing fasciitis. Echinacea may also fight inflammation associated with bacterial infection.
Echinacea is a kind of daisy flower which is mostly found in the eastern and central parts of North America. This flower extracts and pastes are being used for the treatment of various infections since the early cultures. Echinacea extracts are now widely available across the globe and its antimicrobial functions are being utilized by people around the globe in a very positive manner. The immunoprotective aspect of this drug also makes it highly beneficial and recommended to be included in the treatment of various medical conditions.
Echinacea has many benefits that come due to its basic components of carbohydrates, glycoproteins and caffeic acid. These compounds have excellent antibacterial and fungal properties and are particularly helpful in reducing the spread and growth of these harmful microbes. This herb is also effective in reducing the problems caused due to the symptoms of bacterial infections by reducing the production cytokines that act as inflammatory markers during an event of infection.
The herb also has excellent antifungal properties and can actively prevent the growth of multiple strains of fungi that can cause lethal fungal infections on the skin like candidiasis. The antiviral properties of Echinacea are also quite impressive, they have active defensive capability against strong strains of viruses such as rotavirus, herpes and influenza.
Goldenseal is usually consumed in tea or capsules to treat respiratory and digestive problems. However, it may also combat bacterial diarrhea and urinary tract infections. In addition, results of a recent study support the use of goldenseal to treat skin infections. In a lab, goldenseal extracts were used to prevent MRSA from damaging tissue. A person taking prescription medications should check with a doctor before taking goldenseal, as this supplement can cause interference. Goldenseal also contains berberine, an important component of natural antibiotics. This alkaloid is not safe for infants, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Goldenseal is praised for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s often taken to prevent or treat upper respiratory tract infections and the common cold. It’s also used to treat skin disorders, lack of appetite, heavy or painful periods, sinus infections, indigestion, and other inflammatory or digestive disorders. Goldenseal is a popular natural treatment for upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold
Clove has traditionally been used in dental procedures. Research is now finding that clove water extract may be effective against many kinds of bacteria, including E. coli.
Clove is undoubtedly a famous spice used in huge amounts around the world. Mostly found in Asia, cloves have excellent antimicrobial properties which makes it a super spice. It’s widely used in most Indian dishes, due to the unique flavor it adds to the food. Cloves are rich in Eugenol which gives it excellent antibacterial properties which can help in making you safe from unwanted bacterial infections. Cloves also can damage the covering layers of bacterial cells thus blocking the production of protein and DNA which can prove fatal for the survival of the bacteria. Oral candidiasis can also be prevented by consuming cloves orally as this can actively prevent the hosting and spread of Candida Albicans species of fungi, the taste that cloves add to your food makes it easy to be consumed. The versatility of cloves can experiment in various dishes wherein you can also benefit from the antimicrobial properties of this spice.
Some believe that oregano boosts the immune system and acts as an antioxidant. It may have anti-inflammatory properties. Carvacrol is an ingredient found in oregano essential oil. It has important therapeutic properties that further activate healing in the body when inhaled. Oregano oil has been found to help heal gastric ulcers and reduce inflammation.
To treat fungal infections on your skin, add one drop of oregano essential oil per teaspoon of a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil. Apply the mixture to the affected area. You can also diffuse oregano oil in the air to help clear sinus infections. You shouldn’t ingest oregano essential oil or use undiluted essential oil on the skin.
You may also be able to eradicate bacteria in the home with a homemade cleaning agent made of:
Many people are familiar with myrrh, but its ability to ward off harmful germs isn’t as widely known. Researchers in a 2000 study concluded that an extract of myrrh could kill off several everyday pathogens. This includes:diarrhea. If applying myrrh to the skin, it’s possible to experience a small skin rash. If consumed in large doses, myrrh may cause heart problems. Myrrh is typically prepackaged, so be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the label.
9. Thyme essential oil
Many all-natural household cleaners use thyme essential oil. This oil has been shown to be especially helpful against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In a 2011, researchers tested the effectiveness of both lavender and thyme essential oil. Both oils were tested in a pool of over 120 strains of bacteria. The researchers found thyme essential oil to be more effective at killing bacteria than lavender essential oil.Thyme essential oil is for external use only. You shouldn’t take thyme oil by mouth. Before applying to the affected area, be sure to dilute the essential oil with equal parts carrier oil. Common carrier oils include coconut and olive oils. Applying undiluted essential oil to the skin may cause inflammation and irritation. People with high blood pressure or hyperthyroid problems shouldn’t use thyme essential oil. Thyme is a well-known spice mostly used in the Mediterranean cuisine. The antimicrobial qualities of this spice are very high. It can be easily inculcated in various dishes and can provide multiple benefits to your body.
Thyme can be extracted of its oil and this oil is very effective to treat diseases caused due to Escheria Coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterias. It can actively prevent the functioning of these quorum sensing organisms without posing much damage to your body due to side effects. Thyme extracts are also very effective in treating conditions that are caused because of herpes viruses.
10. Red Pepper:
Red pepper is mostly called as capsicum in other parts of the world. There are many variations of red pepper including cayenne, chili and jalapenos. The prevalence of pepper is present in many other parts of the world aside from South America. They are blessed with a lot of antibacterial properties which can help in making the microbes disappear from the site of infection. Capsaicin is the compound which gives pepper the spice, it also helps in lowering the pH of the stomach and thereby prevents harmful bacterias from growing. Other compounds present in peppers such as quercetin, kaempferol and caffeic acid has an innate ability to stiffen the outer layer of the bacterias and thereby puts a block to all absorption of energy thereby killing it.
The CAY-1 compound present in capsicum can completely disrupt the outer layer of the fungus and thereby has the ability to act as an antifungal agent. It is highly effective in treating skin diseases including athletes foot.
11 Tea Tree Oil:
Don’t be confused tea tree oil is not made from the tea plants from which edible tea leaves are cultivated, instead, tea tree is an indigenous tree which is found in the continent of Australia and New Zealand. The extract taken from this tea is highly toxic and can cause severe issues if consumed orally. Tea tree oil also goes by the name of melaleuca oil in some parts of the world.
Tea tree oil is rich in compounds such as monoterpenes which are very effective in fighting against bacteria. This compound can inhibit the activities of herpes virus and make you stay safe from these kinds of deadly infections. You should always remember to not apply tea tree oil in the concentrated form as this can lead to many skin problems. Tea tree oil is only allowed to be applied in its diluted format due to its high concentration in natural forms.
Tea tree oil is effective in promoting healthy skin by soothing and healing a wide range of skin issues. Use tea tree oil with a few precautions:
Apply this mixture to the affected areas immediately after getting out of the shower and at least once more each day.
Oily skin, the antiseptic properties of tea tree oil may contribute to its ability to combat oily skin. A small 2016 study found that participants who used a sunscreen containing tea tree oil for 30 days showed improvements in oiliness. How to use: Mix a few drops of tea tree oil into your toner, moisturizer, or sunscreen. You can add two drops of tea tree oil to bentonite clay to make a mask.
Itchy skin the anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil make it useful in relieving the discomfort of itchy skin. It soothes the skin and can also help heal infections that cause itchy skin. A small 2012 study found that tea tree oil was effective in reducing itchy eyelids. An ointment containing 5-percent tea tree oil was massaged onto the eyelids of the participants. Sixteen of the 24 participants eliminated their itching completely. The other eight people showed some improvements.
How to use: Mix a few drops of tea tree oil into a moisturizer or carrier oil and apply it to your skin a few times per day.
Inflammation, the anti-inflammatory effect of tea tree oil helps to soothe and relieve painful and irritated skin. It may also help to reduce redness and swelling. Research that tree oil reduces inflamed skin due to skin sensitivity to nickel. This study used pure tea tree oil on the skin but it’s usually advised that you dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin.
How to use: Add 1 drop of tea tree oil to a carrier oil or moisturizer and apply it to the affected area a few times per day.
Infections, cuts, and wound-healing, the antibacterial properties of tea tree oil make it an effective wound healer. According to a 2013 study, tea tree oil helps to heal wounds caused by bacteria. Nine of the 10 people who used tea tree oil in addition to conventional treatment showed a decrease in healing time compared to conventional treatment alone.
How to use: Add 1 drop of tea tree oil with a wound ointment cream and apply as directed throughout the day.
Hair and scalp treatment, you can use tea tree oil to treat dandruff by removing chemicals and dead skin cells from the scalp. Using tea tree oil on your hair may help it to stay healthy and moisturized, promoting optimal growth.
How to use: Apply a mixture of tea tree oil and a carrier oil to your hair and scalp. Allow it to stay in your hair for 20 minutes. Then use a tea tree oil shampoo that contains 5-percent tea tree oil. Massage it into your scalp and hair for a few minutes before rinsing. Follow with a tea tree oil conditioner.
Acne, tea tree oil is a popular choice for treating acne because of its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It’s thought to calm redness, swelling, and inflammation. It may even help to prevent and reduce acne scars, leaving you with smooth, clear skin.
How to use: Dilute 3 drops of tea tree oil into 2 ounces of witch hazel. Use it as a toner throughout the day. You can use a face wash, moisturizer, and spot treatment containing tea tree oil as well.
Psoriasis, scientific research supporting the use of tea tree oil for psoriasis is lacking. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that tea tree oil may be useful in treating symptoms of psoriasis, such as infection and inflammation, while boosting immunity.
Cinnamon is a well-known herb mostly used in baked products. The need for cinnamon is always on the higher side due to its unique taste and structure. Cinnamon also has a great range of antimicrobial properties which makes it extremely beneficial for human consumption.
Cinnamon has excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties which are used widely by alternative medicine practitioners around the world. Cinnamon is rich in cinnamaldehyde along with compounds such as eugenol which are highly effective in treating conditions that are caused due to bacteria and virus. Cinnamon is very helpful in treating stomach conditions such as ulcers. The use of cinnamon is highly helpful in treating skin conditions caused due to fungal activities such as candidiasis.
Use of cinnamon also needs to be regulated to some extent as it can have certain interactions with drugs, so if you are under medications it is advisable that you consult with your doctor before implementing cinnamon into your diet.
Turmeric is an Indian spice which is known for its antimicrobial properties. The use of turmeric is very strong and evident in Indian culture. Known as haldi, there is an actual purification event for the bride which includes the use of haldi to keep her pure from skin based infections. Turmeric is also widely used in many Indian dishes for its flavor and antimicrobial effects.
Curcumin is the most active component in turmeric and it adds a lot of benefits to your body. Curcumin is very effective in treating UTI (Urinary Tract Infections) as it has some very effective capabilities in reducing the activity of the microbes causing the infection. It is also effective in treating the fungus by inhibiting its protein absorption capability thereby rendering it to be effect less.
The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin make turmeric very effective in treating conditions caused due to stomach inflammations. Turmeric can also function well with antibiotics reducing the harmful effects of the latter, studies have shown that when turmeric is used along with antibiotics it can reduce the inflammatory effects on the lungs. Turmeric is also famous for its effects against the highly volatile HIV virus and for its ability to stop the replication of the hepatitis C virus.
Lemongrass is a well-known ingredient around the world. The unique aroma of lemongrass makes it highly used in dishwashing soaps and other hygienic products. Yet another reason behind this is the fact lemongrass has excellent antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
Citral alpha and citral beta compounds found in lemongrass are responsible for the capability it has in blocking broad spectrum bacterias in the format of lemongrass oil. Lemongrass oil is highly helpful in dealing with staph and salmonella bacterias and e-coli without causing much side effects, unlike antibiotics which have many side effects. In a test conducted on guinea pigs, lemongrass extract application was beneficial in reducing the effects of ringworm infection on the skin. Lemongrass oil is also effective against candidiasis as it can inhibit the primary functions of the fungus. One other brilliant benefit of this natural antibiotic is that it can stop the replication of the HIV virus by reducing the function of HIV-1 TAT protein.
Rosemary is a very common herb that is used in the preparation of many food products around the world. Rosemary has excellent antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties which makes it highly beneficial for human consumption.
Rosemary is rich in compounds like alpha-pinene, camphene, alpha-terpinol, 1 and 8 cineole and borneol. These compounds are highly effective in treating conditions such as viral infections and cancer. The antioxidizing character of this herb will help in making the consumption help in fighting the external forces of oxidation that can be harmful to your body.
Rosemary is a very effective natural antibiotic without side-effects in treating conditions such as salmonella infections and staph infections, it’s got excellent effects in fighting quorum sensing bacterias. Rosemary is also famous for its antiviral capabilities in fighting HIV-R virus. Consuming rosemary can both make your food and life healthy and enjoyable. Using natural antibiotics instead of western medicine can only benefit you in the long run. Antibiotics take a heavy toll on the organs and the natural functions of the body and can also cause the collateral destruction of good bacterias that are needed for your intestines. The adverse side effects of antibiotics can, therefore, be completely eradicated by the substitution of natural antibiotics. However, it’s also advised that you do not continue natural medication if the symptoms do not disappear with use, you need to be careful and consult a doctor immediately.
Depression and anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in human health. Depression is the main clinical feature of low mood, loss of interest, often accompanied by guilt, hopelessness, loss of appetite and insomnia, and it is one of the main types of mood disorders. Anxiety is an emotional state where the main characteristics are tension, worry, fear, and physical changes such as palpitations, tremors, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory and circulatory disorders without obvious objective causes. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the prevalence of depression in the global population was as high as 4.4%. One in nine people worldwide suffered from anxiety in the past year, due to its high prevalence and debilitating features, anxiety disorders ranked sixth among all diseases in the global population. Excessive anxiety is associated with many negative health consequences, such as increased risk of coronary heart disease, sleep disorders.
There are many nutrients and herbs that offer protection against toxins AND also provide anxiety relief. You may even find some of their dual-purpose benefits surprising! One improves sleep and reduces anxiety after traumatic brain injury AND removes toxic proteins via the brain glymphatic system. Another improves gut health and reduces noise-induced stress (and misophonia) AND may help prevent and reverse radiation-induced DNA and intestinal damage.
Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. Neurotransmitters function as chemical messengers. GABA is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it blocks, or inhibits, certain brain signals and decreases activity in your nervous system. When GABA attaches to a protein in your brain known as a GABA receptor, it produces a calming effect. This can help with feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear. It may also help to prevent seizures. It eases anxiety, physical tension and worry, and induces relaxation. In one study it was reported to work effectively within 1 hour, also allowing better focus and concentration. It also enhanced immunity under stressful conditions such as when crossing a suspension bridge. A significant increase in salivary IgA (immunoglobulin A) was observed 90 minutes after GABA intake. As a result of these properties, GABA has also become a popular supplement in recent years. This is partly because it isn’t available from many food sources. The only foods that contain GABA are fermented ones, such as kimchi, miso, and tempeh.
Tryptophan (5HTP) Low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety, depression, insomnia, autism spectrum disorder, obesity (and cravings), cognitive issues, anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Serotonin also plays a significant role in the function of the brain-gut axis and immunology. Tryptophan is an amino acid supplement that is used to support low levels of serotonin and to ease the worry-in-head type of ruminating anxiety. Used in the luteal phase or second half of the cycle (i.e. after ovulation) for 3 consecutive cycles, tryptophan has been shown to ease premenstrual dysphoria (a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life), mood swings, tension and anxiety, and irritability. These results suggest that increasing serotonin synthesis during the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle offers these beneficial effects. Tryptophan is best used mid-afternoon and evening away from protein. Clinically, many individuals find it to be more effective for easing anxiety and other low serotonin symptoms when used sublingually.
Probiotics Psychobiotics are bacteria which confer mental health benefits. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species have demonstrated the ability to improve mood, reduce anxiety and enhance cognitive function in both healthy populations and patient groups. In recent years, probiotics have received increasing attention for their extensive clinical applications and beneficial health effects on various clinical disorders including acute and chronic gastrointestinal diseases as well as non-gastrointestinal diseases. Previous research has indicated that the intestinal flora plays a more important role in regulating mood and that probiotics have a wider range of therapeutic applications than previously considered
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is a modified form of the amino acid cysteine and helps your body produce glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that supports liver detoxification and reduces free radicals in the body. Over the past 30 years, high doses of NAC have been used in emergency rooms to combat acetaminophen (Tylenol) toxicity. But there is also an overwhelming amount of evidence showing that NAC can help treat a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders.
A systematic review of all of the evidence suggests that NAC is effective at treating the following conditions;:
• Major depressive disorder
• Bipolar disorder
• Drug addiction
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder
• Alzheimer's disease
• Certain forms of epilepsy (progressive myoclonic)
NAC also reduces the severity of mild traumatic brain injury in soldiers, and animal studies show that it can improve cognition after moderate traumatic brain injury.
Melatonin Melatonin is a hormone produced primarily at night by the pineal gland that regulates your circadian rhythm — the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle that tells us to sleep when it’s dark and stay awake during the day. Circadian rhythms are often controlled internally, but external factors, like sunlight, temperature, exercise, and more, can influence these rhythms as well.
In a perfect scenario, the pineal gland will secrete higher levels of melatonin at night to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. When morning comes, melatonin levels will fall and your body will adjust by slowly waking up. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen so smoothly. Factors such as noise, light, stress, working hours, jet lag, lack of exercise, poor diet, and many other factors can cause your body to produce low levels of melatonin. If your levels of melatonin are hindered, you may experience sleep deprivation, fatigue, or mood disorders among countless other troubles.
Fortunately for us, if we’re tossing and turning at night due to loud noises, bright lights, or a lack of melatonin production, we can take melatonin supplements to help us fall asleep.
You may now be wondering how melatonin production relates to mental health. What does a hormone that aids in sleep regulation have to do with anxiety anyway? To answer this question, let’s take a step back to focus not on melatonin, but on sleep.
Sleep and mental health are very closely connected. Every 90 minutes or so, a healthy individual will cycle between four phases of increasingly deep sleep. Body temperature drops and heart rate slows during the first sleep phase. By the fourth phase, your body is producing physiological changes that boost your immune system and prepare your nervous system for another day. Sleep disturbances that disrupt this transition between stages of sleep can wreak havoc on your brain. Your cognitive function may become impaired, stress hormones may be released, and above all else, your emotional regulation may not function as it should.
If this happens once, you can go to bed early the next night and make up for lost sleep without worry. But if your sleep efficiency is repeatedly impacted, your mental health may suffer in return.
This is where melatonin can come to the rescue. By taking melatonin, you can help your body get the sleep it needs to stay mentally fit. Melatonin treatment can be a positive sleep aid that promotes healthier, consistent sleep. These positive effects of melatonin can thereby ensure your brain is healthy and ready to go, each and every morning.
Foods that help reduce anxiety
Most of us know that healthy eating is important for physical health, but what if eating better also helped our mental health? Recent studies show that diet may play a role in lowering one's anxiety level. Eating a diet that is well balanced and focused on whole foods versus processed foods is key. Whole grains, vegetables and fruits are higher in complex carbohydrates and fiber that help to slow digestion, thereby avoiding significant shifts in blood sugar levels that can contribute to feeling more anxious. Other strategies include not skipping meals, staying hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water, and limiting or avoiding caffeine and alcohol. In addition, some studies have shown that specific foods may help to reduce anxiety.
In the past decade, scientists have uncovered a wealth of knowledge about types of body fat. Like cholesterol, there are good and bad types. Just last year researchers discovered an alarming difference between brown, or "good," fat and the more predominant "bad" fat, which tends to be white or yellow and collects around the waistline. Brown fat, which actually has a brownish tint to it, is stored mostly around the neck and under the collarbone (so, to a large extent, it's invisible). This fat encourages the body to burn calories to generate body heat , and plays an important role in keeping infants warm (infants, as we all know, have fatty necks).
Until very recently we believed that this fat was either gone or no longer active by adulthood. Much to the contrary, it may have a huge role in our ability to stay lean as adults. These recent studies found that lean people have far more brown fat than overweight and obese people, especially among older folks. Unlike its bad-fat counterpart, brown fat burns far more calories and generates more body heat when people are in a cooler environment. Women are more likely to have it than men, and women's fat deposits are larger and more active.
For most of us, body fat has a bad reputation. From the dimply stuff that plagues women's thighs to the beer bellies that can pop out in middle-aged men, fat is typically something we agonize over, scorn, and try to exercise away. But for scientists, fat is intriguing and becoming more so every day. Fat is one of the most fascinating organs out there.
Fat has more functions in the body than we thought. Fat is known to have two main purposes. 1) Fat stores excess calories in a safe way so you can mobilize the fat stores when you're hungry. 2) Fat releases hormones that control metabolism. .But that's the broad brushstroke picture.
Brown fat has gotten a lot of buzz recently, with the discovery that it's not the mostly worthless fat scientists had thought. In recent studies, scientists have found that lean people tend to have more brown fat than overweight or obese people and that when stimulated it can burn calories. Scientists are eyeing it as a potential obesity treatment if they can figure out a way to increase a person's brown fat or stimulate existing brown fat.
It's known that children have more brown fat than adults, and it's what helps them keep warm. Brown fat stores decline in adults but still help with warmth. Brown fat is more active in people in colder months, leading to the idea of sleeping in chillier rooms to burn a few more calories.
Brown fat is now thought to be more like muscle than like white fat. When activated, brown fat burns white fat.
Although leaner adults have more brown fat than heavier people, even their brown fat cells are greatly outnumbered by white fat cells. "A 150-pound person might have 20 or 30 pounds of fat. They are only going to have 2 or 3 ounces of brown fat. But that 2 ounces if maximally stimulated, could burn off 300 to 500 calories a day, enough to lose up to a pound in a week.
You might give people a drug that increases brown fat
But even if the drug to stimulate brown fat pans out, it won't be a cure-all for weight issues. It may, however, help a person achieve more weight loss combined with a sound diet and exercise regimen.
White fat is much more plentiful than brown, experts agree. The job of white fat is to store energy and produce hormones that are then secreted into the bloodstream.
Small fat cells produce a "good guy" hormone called adiponectin, which makes the liver and muscles sensitive to the hormone insulin, in the process making us less susceptible to diabetes and heart disease. When people become fat, the production of adiponectin slows down or shuts down, setting them up for disease.
Subcutaneous fat is found directly under the skin. It's the fat that's measured using skin-fold calipers to estimate your total body fat. In terms of overall health, subcutaneous fat in the thighs and buttocks, for instance, may not be as bad and may have some potential benefits. It may not cause as many problems as other types of fat, specifically the deeper, visceral fat. But subcutaneous fat cells on the belly may be another story. There's emerging evidence that the danger of big bellies lies not only in the deep visceral fat but also the subcutaneous fat.
Visceral or "deep" fat wraps around the inner organs and spells trouble for your health. How do you know if you have it? "If you have a large waist or belly, of course you have visceral fat. Visceral fat drives up your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even dementia.
Visceral fat is thought to play a larger role in insulin resistance, which boosts risk of diabetes than other fat. It's not clear why, but it could explain or partially explain why visceral fat is a health risk.
In a study the records of more than 6,500 members of Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, a large health maintenance organization, for an average of 36 years, from the time they were in their 40s until they were in their 70s. The records included details on height, weight, and belly diameter, a reflection of the amount of visceral fat. Those with the biggest bellies had a higher risk of dementia than those with smaller bellies. The link was true even for people with excess belly fat but overall of normal weight.
Why belly fat and dementia are linked could be that substances such as leptin, a hormone released by the belly fat, may have some adverse effect on the brain. Leptin plays a role in appetite regulation but also in learning and memory.
Belly fat has gotten a mostly deserved reputation as an unhealthy fat. Understand that belly fat is both visceral and subcutaneous. We don't have a perfect way yet to determine which [of belly fat] is subcutaneous or visceral, except by CT scan, but that's not cost-effective.
But if you've got an oversize belly, figuring out how much is visceral and how much is subcutaneous isn't as important as recognizing a big belly is unhealthy. How big is too big? Women with a waist circumference more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference more than 40 inches are at increased disease risk.
Abdominal fat is viewed as a bigger health risk than hip or thigh fat, experts say and that could mean having a worse effect on insulin resistance, boosting the risk of diabetes, and a worse effect on blood lipids, boosting heart and stroke risks.
Thigh Fat, Buttocks Fat
While men tend to accumulate fat in the belly, it's no secret women, especially if "pear-shaped," accumulate it in their thighs and buttocks. Unsightliness aside, emerging evidence suggests that pear-shaped women are protected from metabolic disease compared to big-bellied people. Thigh fat and butt fat might be good, referring to that area's stores of subcutaneous fat. But the benefit of women being pear shaped may stop at menopause, when women tend to deposit more fat in the abdomen.
Weight Loss and Fat Loss
So when you lose weight, what kind or kinds of fat do you shed? "You're losing white fat. People tend to lose evenly all over. The results change a bit, however, if you add workouts to your calorie reduction. If you exercise plus diet you will tend to lose slightly more visceral fat from your belly."
If you have (or have had) breast cancer, you probably want to know if there are things you can do that might lower your risk of the cancer growing or coming back, such as exercising, eating a certain type of diet, or taking nutritional supplements. Fortunately, breast cancer is one of the best studied types of cancer in this regard, and research has shown there are some things you can do that might be helpful. Staying as healthy as possible is more important than ever after breast cancer treatment. Controlling your weight, keeping physically active, and eating right and proper supplemenation may help you lower your risk of your breast cancer coming back, as well as help protect you from other health problems.
Getting to a Healthy Weight; If you have had breast cancer, getting to and staying at a healthy weight might help lower your risk. A lot of research suggests that being overweight or obese (very overweight) raises the risk of breast cancer coming back. It has also been linked with a higher risk of getting lymphedema, as well as a higher risk of dying from breast cancer. However, there is less research to show whether losing weight during or after treatment can actually lower the risk of breast cancer coming back. Large studies are now looking at this issue. This is complicated by the fact that many women gain weight (without trying) during breast cancer treatment, which itself might increase risk.
Of course, for women who are overweight, getting to a healthy weight can also have other health benefits. For example, weight loss has been shown to improve quality of life and physical functioning among overweight breast cancer survivors. Getting to a healthy weight might also lower your risk of getting some other cancers (including a new breast cancer), as well as some other chronic diseases. Because of the possible health benefits of losing weight, many health care providers now encourage women who are overweight to get to and stay at a healthy weight. Still, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor before trying to lose weight, especially if you are still getting treatment or have just finished it. Your health care team can help you create a plan to lose weight safely.
Being Physically Active; Among breast cancer survivors, studies have found a consistent link between physical activity and a lower risk of breast cancer coming back and of dying from breast cancer. Physical activity has also been linked to improvements in quality of life, physical functioning, and fewer fatigue symptoms. It’s not clear exactly how much activity might be needed, but more seems to be better. More vigorous activity may also be more helpful than less vigorous activity. But further studies are needed to follow up on these findings.
In the past, breast cancer survivors with lymphedema were often advised to avoid certain arm exercises and vigorous activities. But studies have found that such physical activity is safe. In fact, it might actually lower the risk of lymphedema, or improve lymphedema for women who already have it. As with other types of lifestyle changes, it’s important to talk with your treatment team before starting a new physical activity program. This will likely include meeting with a physical therapist as well. Your team can help you plan a program that can be both safe and effective for you.
Eating a Healthy Diet; Most research on possible links between diet and the risk of breast cancer coming back has looked at broad dietary patterns, rather than specific foods. In general, it’s not clear if eating any specific type of diet can help lower your risk of breast cancer coming back. Studies have found that breast cancer survivors who eat diets high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, chicken, and fish tend to live longer than those who eat diets that have more refined sugars, fats, red meats (such as beef, pork, and lamb), and processed meats (such as bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, and hot dogs). But it’s not clear if this is due to effects on breast cancer or possibly to other health benefits of eating a healthy diet.
Two large studies (known as WINS and WHEL) have looked at the effects of lowering Fat intake after being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. One study found that women on a low-fat diet had a small reduction in the risk of cancer coming back, but these women had also lost weight as a result of their diet, which might have affected the results. The other study did not find a link between a diet low in fat and the risk of cancer coming back.
Many women have questions about whether soy products are safe to eat after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Soy foods are rich sources of compounds called isoflavones that can have estrogen-like properties in the body. However, some recent large studies have not found that soy food intake affects breast cancer coming back or survival rates. While eating soy foods doesn’t seem to pose a risk, the evidence regarding the effects of taking soy or isoflavone supplements is not as clear.
While the links between specific types of diets and breast cancer coming back are not certain, there are clearly health benefits to eating well. For example, diets that are rich in plant sources are often an important part of getting to and staying at a healthy weight. Eating a healthy diet can also help lower your risk for some other common health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Supplements: Women often want to know if there are any dietary or nutritional supplements they can take to help lower their risk. So far, no dietary supplements (including vitamins, minerals, and herbal products) have been shown to clearly help lower the risk of breast cancer progressing or coming back. This doesn’t mean that none will help, but it’s important to know that none have been proven to do so.
8 best supplements for cancer
Because this issue is complex, it’s important to discuss it with your health care team, taking into account your risk of breast cancer coming back (or getting a new breast cancer), your risk of heart disease, and your risk of other health issues linked to alcohol use.
New research continues to make the case for sugar’s role in depression. University of Kansas clinical psychologists theorize in the journal Medical Hypotheses that added dietary sugars can create a depressogenic effect by sparking the metabolic, inflammatory, and neurobiological processes tied to depression.
“When we consume sweets, they act like a drug,” explains study coauthor Stephen Ilardi, PhD. “They have an immediate mood-elevating effect, but in high doses they can also have a paradoxical, pernicious longer-term consequence of making mood worse, reducing well-being, elevating inflammation, and causing weight gain.”
And because added sugars lack nutritional benefits, Ilardi and his coauthors note, the “depressogenic processes can be affected both by the relative absence of key nutrients and by the excessive presence of harmful foods.”
The team analyzed a wide range of research on the physiological and psychological effects of added sugar consumption, including the 69,954-participant, three-year Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study; the 263,923-person NIH–AARP Diet and Health Study; and other large-scale international trials.
Researchers identified these depressogenic effects of added sugars:
1. Bodywide Inflammtion which has been recognized as a “potent physiological trigger of depression.” It also leads to fatigue and sleep disruption, which contribute to poor mental health. “A large subset of people with depression have high levels of systemic inflammation,” says Ilardi, author of The Depression Cure. “When we think about inflammatory disease, we think about things like diabetes and rheumatoid arthrithis diseases with a high level of systemic inflammation. We don’t normally think about depression being in that category, but it turns out that it really is. “Inflammatory hormones can directly push the brain into a state of severe depression. So, an inflamed brain is typically a depressed brain.”
2. Microbiome Disruption that can lead to gut dysbiosis, an overgrowth of harmful bacteria that’s been linked to depression and other psychological pathologies.
“Our bodies host over 10 trillion microbes, and many of them know how to hack into the brain,” Ilardi explains. “The symbiotic microbial species — the beneficial microbes —basically hack the brain to enhance our well-being. They want us to thrive so they can thrive.
“But there are also some opportunistic species that can be thought of as more purely parasitic — they don’t have our best interests in mind at all. Many of those parasitic microbes thrive on added sugars, and they can produce chemicals that push the brain [into] a state of anxiety and stress and depression.” t can reduce production of the energizing hormone needed to fuel the brain.
4. Other effects may include dopamine dysregulation, oxidative stress, and the production of advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs, toxic byproducts of sugar metabolism.
(For more on the dangers of added sugars, see “Sugar Shock”.)
By the Numbers
16.2 million: Number of American adults who report at least one major depressive episode in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
18: Teaspoons of added sugar Americans eat daily, accounting for 14 percent of total calories ingested.
75%: Percentage of packaged foods that include added sugars. Soda and other sugary beverages are the single leading source.