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Red yeast rice: Good for cholesterol?

Statin drugs used for balancing cholesterol levels have a bad reputation for side effects after long-term consumption, even though they are effective. Those who suffer from this catch-22 situation complain of muscle ache, kidney dysfunction, liver and nerve damage to name just a few.

So more and more attention is being given to Chinese herbal remedy, red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus), as it lowers cholesterol naturally with no known toxicity and side effects. In China, red rice yeast is used for treating diarrhea and to increase blood circulation. For hundreds of years, its vivid red hue was used to color food before chemical coloring agents were invented.

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Cranberry prevents urinary tract infections, studies confirm

PhotobucketHarvard Medical School’s health magazine HEALTHbeat published an article in their June 10 issue that cranberry does help to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI).

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The secrets of coconut supplements

PhotobucketWhen you think of coconut, swaying palm trees on the beach and scented body lotion come to mind. You may even associate it with “unhealthy” things like pina coladas and gourmet chocolate that hide sinfully sweet shreds of its fiber.

In fact, coconut milk has got a bad reputation, particularly in Asia, as a source of high cholesterol and is considered very fattening. Its juice is cool and refreshing in hot weather but doesn’t seem to provide a lot of nutritional value.

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Stop bleeding gums

Do you seem to experience a blood bath whenever you brush your teeth? If you say yes, you are probably one of 80 per cent of American adults who suffer from some form of gum disease.

The most common periodontal disease is gingivitis. What is gingivitis? It’s a condition that leaves your gums soft, swollen, red, and bleeding when slight pressure is applied, for instance, while brushing your teeth or eating an apple.

Persistent gingivitis could lead to tooth loss, and more importantly, scientists have found bleeding gums to be linked with serious illnesses, like cancer, heart disease, leukemia, stroke and diabetes, even if you don’t smoke. It would be unwise to assume that gum disease causes serious health problems and healthy gums mean you won’t get ill. Nevertheless, oral hygiene and care are as important as the rest of your body.

Aside from teeth and gum cleaning visits to your dentist, you could treat and prevent sore, bleeding gums by taking supplements.

Try these natural remedies that can soothe your irritated gums:

Vitamin C
This ubiquitous vitamin has strong antioxidant power in helping your body heal from various infections and inflammation. Likewise, gingivitis-ridden gums need a big dose of vitamin C to treat swollen gum tissue.

Vitamin D
The sunshine vitamin has anti-inflammatory effects, like vitamin C, which helps to reduce susceptibility to gum disease.

Coenzyme Q10
This supplement reduces the depth of the bacteria-catching pockets that form between the teeth and gums when you suffer from gingivitis. It also speeds up recovery and slows down bleeding, which is especially useful after the stress of dental surgery.

Tea tree oil
You shouldn’t apply tea tree oil directly to red bleeding gums but choose a toothpaste that has traces of tea tree oil, as this natural remedy has proven antibiotic properties.

Folic acid
Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid in liquid form can accelerate healing when applied directly to the gums after brushing your teeth.

Natural mouth rinses
Gargle with non-sugared aloe vera juice if your gums are inflamed or with unsweetened cranberry juice that has potent antibacterial power. You can also drink and rinse your mouth with wheatgrass juice, calendula leaf tea, or chamomile tea, several times daily for relief.

Your gums should stop bleeding after two weeks of intensive supplement care. If your symptoms continue and do not get better, you should see your dentist for further advice.

Protect your liver

Your liver is one of the strongest organs in your body, and one of the most important, but it is not indestructible.

Although only a small percentage of people suffer from liver disease, we should still pay more attention to the organ that performs many essential bodily functions.

The liver controls metabolism where nutrients are broken down into usable byproducts and toxins into waste. The liver stores glucose that is released when you need energy. It also holds numerous substances required for various bodily functions. For example, bile is used to carry away waste and digests fat in the small intestine.

Basically, whatever you eat, drink, breathe and absorb through your skin eventually reaches the liver. If your liver becomes ill, you can imagine that your body will face serious functional problems.

Excessive alcohol consumption is the top cause of liver disease. There are two kinds of liver disease caused by too much drinking — alcoholic hepatitis, a liver problem that causes serious but usually reversible liver damage, or cirrhosis, which causes irreversible liver damage.

Viral hepatitis can lead to serious liver problems and is the most common type of liver disease. Hepatitis causes inflammation to the liver but can be easily prevented by getting vaccinated for type A and B.

There are various supplements to give your liver some support if you think you’ve put it through too much stress during holiday binges, or too ward off the onset of liver disease.

Sea buckthorn berries are having a revival as a supplement to protect the liver. This indigenous berry found in the mountainous regions of China and Russia is known for its cholesterol-lowering properties but recent studies show that the leaf extract significantly reduces liver damage.

Red clover is a herb that is traditionally used as a way to purify the blood by helping the body get rid of excess fluid, clearing lungs of mucous and cleansing the liver. More recently, studies have shown that red clover contains isoflavones — plant-based chemicals that produce estrogen-like effects in the body — that have the potential to treat menopausal symptoms.

Milk thistle, also known as silymarin, has potent antioxidants that protect the liver from damaging toxins and free radicals. This herb stimulates healing and produces new liver cells. Most importantly, milk thistle helps the liver to speed up the production of glutathione — the body’s most essential antioxidant and detoxifying substance.

Burdock contains vitamins B1, B6 and B12, E, and sulphur necessary for liver detoxification processes. Burdock also contains other substances such as arctiin that improve liver and gallbladder function.

Dandelion extract, like burdock, is armed with a wealth of B vitamins and nutrients that reduces the damaging effects on the liver. Not only does it cleanse the liver but it also increases the production of bile. It is traditionally used to treat all liver diseases, including hepatitis, cirrhosis and jaundice.

All natural, safe appetite suppressants

Photobucket Any product that has to do with weight-loss is always controversial — does it really work, or is it harmful to your body, does your old weight pile on after you stop taking it?

Diet pills have been laced with amphetamines until the FDA banned it in the 1990s. So now most of them contain caffeine and ephedrine to suppress appetite and keep energy levels up.

Such diet pills tend to be quick fixes and have a reputation for masquerading as deep, scientific formulae that have harmful side effects. Worst case scenario: the weight you lost tends to jump back on after you stop.

The reality of weight-loss is there are no real shortcuts and you will need to experience some kind of hunger. But sometimes, no amount of will power seems to conquer those engulfing pangs, and before you know it, you reach for a bag of chips that are 1,000 calories — almost half of what your body needs in one day.

If you need to take the edge off intense hunger, natural appetite suppressants could provide some reprieve. However, you must be aware that these are not cure-alls and good results will only come about with a nutritious, low-glycemic index diet (for example, whole foods, fish, lean meat, leafy vegetables, grapefruit, apples) and regular exercise.

Here are nine types of natural appetite suppressants:

Chromium picolinate
This form of chromium increases the efficiency of insulin, the hormone that is released after you eat that helps cells absorb sugar, and hence balance out blood sugar levels. In this way, your appetite is curbed as your body can process the food you eat more efficiently. There was some controversy in the U.S. that this form of chromium could damage DNA, which could eventually lead to cancer, but a few research studies have debunked this theory.

Brewer’s yeast
Not to be confused with baker’s yeast, nutritional yeast, or torula yeast, Brewer’s yeast is rich in chromium and B vitamins that help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which provide the body with energy. This supplement is also good for healthy hair and skin.

Avocado extract
High in omega fatty acids, this oily fruit stops hunger pangs in their tracks by reducing cravings for carbohydrates.

5-HTP
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid and is primarily marketed as a serotonin balancer. It helps with alleviating mild depression, but it can also curb your appetite for certain foods. Hunger doesn’t just happen when your body needs fuel to replenish its energy levels, but it also occurs when your serotonin levels are low. This is when you crave “comfort food” like chocolate, popcorn, and ice cream, which are all high in calories and sugar.

Pomegranate leaf extract
This exotic Asian fruit has been making waves in the health and beauty market in the last few years. One of its uses is that it reduces intestinal fat absorption without affecting blood triglyceride levels. Scientific trials on rats found significant weight-loss results but the same on humans is yet to be further proven.

Hoodia gordonii
Derived from a cactus-like plant native to the arid regions of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, hoodia gordonii has been touted as an effective weight-loss supplement. For centuries, African tribesmen consume this bitter-tasting plant to stave off hunger and thirst on long hunting trips. Classified as an endangered species of wild flora, there are many counterfeit hoodia supplements in the market due to its high demand. Recent news reported that as much as 80 per cent of hoodia available are fake.

St John’s wort
Many tout this as a gentle anti-depressant, but St John’s wort is also used as a non-stimulant type of appetite suppressant. Some people may not regard this supplement as particularly effective as its effects take several weeks to kick in.

Guar gum
Fiber supplement guar gum absorbs water in the stomach and forms a gelatinous mass that creates a feeling of fullness and also slows the emptying of the stomach.

Agar agar
This is a popular fiber supplement that Japanese women swear by. Derived from red sea algae (also called kanten), agar agar is consumed with water to give a sensation of fullness, which keeps hunger at bay. It comes in the form of a tasteless powder that can be mixed with a variety of food and drinks.

Beat fatigue with dietary supplements

Are you feeling drained from your action-packed day? Your health seems fine and you’re not sick either, but you just need a boost, so you reach for a steaming cup of delicious, milky latte. It keeps you going for a few hours and then you need, yet another cup. Isn’t that frustrating?

Caffeine is an easy source of instant energy but it tends to be short-lived and you need more to replenish. The downside of caffeine is you may feel more awake, but after a certain threshold, your hands start to shake a little and your heart beats just a little too fast for comfort. You could also feel more anxious than necessary.

There are several ways to feeling more alert — more sleep, less alcohol before bedtime, and regular exercise.

But if you feel you want one more bit of arsenal in your multi-pronged approach to zapping fatigue, dietary supplements could just give you that extra edge you’re looking for.

B vitamins
What gives you the most energy from this suite of vitamins are folic acid and vitamin B12. In AIDS/HIV research studies, it has been found that these two crucial components in B vitamins help patients to deal with oft-overwhelming fatigue.

Ginseng
Brewed by the Chinese and Koreans in soups and tea, this traditional Asian herb is gaining popularity in Western countries as a supplement for boosting immune health, reducing fatigue and stress. Panax ginseng has been found to improve immune function in those with chronic fatigue and even AIDS. Siberian ginseng, which is another variety, is found to be less effective.

Royal jelly
The food that queen bees eat to keep themselves nourished in the beehive contains B vitamins and vitamins A, C, D, E and K, 18 amino acids, including collagen and lecithin. Royal Jelly is an effective hormonal stimulant, which aids metabolic functions and enhances general energy and well being, and is taken widely to counter fatigue and stress. Studies also show that this natural supplement can protect the liver from infection and disease.

Green tea extract
This Japanese staple already has great reviews in staving off cancer and promoting longevity, so it comes to no surprise that a recent scientific study has proven that green tea compound EGCG can counteract fatigue. How it works is EGCG works to reduce oxidative stress on the liver — it seems that chronic fatigue is closely associated with liver damage.

Coenzyme Q10
As one of the most exciting discoveries in the 20th century, Coenzyme Q10 plays a crucial role in producing energy and protecting heart health. Coenzyme Q10 occurs naturally in every cell and is essential in supporting numerous metabolic functions. Studies have shown that Coenzyme Q10 supplementation can boost depleted cells and enhance cellular energy production.

Ease headaches with herbal painkillers

PhotobucketYou have a headache or suffer from an injury strain, but you can’t take prescriptive pain relievers like aspirin for them. People who have gastric or intestinal bleeding or other upsets or who are taking anti-blood clotting medication that thins the blood like Wafarin are advised against taking aspirin because it makes these conditions worse.

Luckily, there is the white willow tree whose bark that can provide an alternative and effective solution. Also called Salix alba, the white willow tree grows in Europe, North America, northern Asia, and parts of Africa. The bark of the white willow tree is rich in salicin, which is a traditional pain relief remedy for centuries in China, India, and is also used by Native Americans.

Salicin, when absorbed by the body, converts into salicylic acid that lowers levels of inflammatory prostaglandins — hormone-like chemicals that increase pain and inflammation.

White willow bark extract can be used to ease chronic and acute pain so it helps those who have lower back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, neuralgia, headaches, toothache and menstrual pain. It is also effective in treating fevers caused by colds and influenza.

Another herb that contains salicin is the multi-purpose meadowsweet. Among its many uses, it can also reduce influenza fevers. Though not as potent as the white willow bark, meadowsweet can exercise a mild anti-inflammatory effect and help ease rheumatic pain in joints and muscles.

Besides pain caused by a chronic condition, herbal supplements can help relieve pain triggered by trauma, such as insect stings, scrapes, burns and cuts. These afflictions can be treated by Echinacea tincture, which is an effective topical anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, and also inhibits the spread of toxins if applied immediately. Though Echinacea itself is not a painkiller, it quickly reduces the amount of pain by dramatically easing the swelling and irritation.

Particularly for burns, Calendula tincture is an excellent remedy for preventing blistering which in turn reduces pain greatly.

Can Echinacea make colds better?

Yes, it can, says a recent study on Echinacea, or the purple coneflower. One of Amerca’s most popular herbal supplements can actually prevent and shorten the common cold.

Before this study, there have been 14 previous ones with human beings which indicate that Echinacea not just reduces the chances of catching a cold by 31 per cent, but it also makes you feel better by a day and a half earlier if you’ve already got one.

But scientists also warn that there are more than 200 viruses out there that cause flu symptoms so the effectiveness of Echinacea could vary depending on which strain you’ve been exposed to.

The study shows that when the subjects were in their natural environment, there were better results when they took Echinacea. However, when subjects were exposed to a particular strain, the herb only increased their chances of avoiding it by only 18.5 per cent.

Unfortunately, Echinacea may not be for everyone because it may cause allergies in those who have allergies to flowers, especially the daisy variety that Echinacea comes from. Anyone with an autoimmune disease should also avoid taking this herb.

It’s also essential to note that the quality of Echinacea supplements available in the market vary very widely in terms of how much the herb is really inside.

Why probiotics is good for you

PhotobucketGood bacteria can prevent or help certain frustrating health problems that perhaps regular pharmaceutial drugs cannot. Found in yoghurt, probiotics are highly popular in certain cultures — Northern Europeans have it with their meusli and the Japanese consume it as a healthy snack.

In the mid-90s, scientific research showed the efficacy of probiotic therapy and probiotic supplements are becoming more popular in the U.S. as more health professionals recommend it for disgestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, vaginal infections.

How do probiotics help? An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms represent more than 500 different species that reside in a healthy, normal bowel. These microorganisms actually keep harmful bacteria at bay, aid digestion and nutrient absorption while fostering immunity.

Probiotics are generally viewed as harmless — they are not classified as a drug in the U.S. and are sold as a dietary supplement. Probiotics are strain-specific, so certain types will only be good for treating particular conditions.

Let’s look at the illnesses that probiotics can lend a hand:

Diarrhea. Studies have shown that the bacterial strain, Lactobacillus GG, can shorten the course of infectious diarrhea in children (but not adults). Other clinical trials have also suggested that anti-biotic induced digestive upheaval can be reduced by as much as 60 per cent.

Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Certain strains of probiotics can prevent the these disorders from recurring, but more research needs to determine exactly which type would help these conditions.

Urogenital health. The female urogential area is as delicate as the digestive system where antibiotics, spermicides and birth control pills could throw the body out of whack. As a traditional treatment, yoghurt is eaten or inserted into the vagina to treat yeast infections. Probiotics are a popular self-remedy to fight common problems like vaginosis ( a fairly serious affliction that could lead to pregnancy complications and pelvic inflammatory disease), yeast infection, and urinary tract infection. But solid scientific studies have yet to support this claim.