Natural Health
Better living through nature

4 Ideas for Boosting Cognitive Function at Any Age

You've probably thought that you should be doing more for your health, especially your mental health. In this fast-paced and stressful world, it's easy to put your health to the side of your professional and personal life. But getting chores done and stressing over work at the expense of your mental health has long-term effects. No matter how old you are, you should be working to boost your cognitive function. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

two older people doing gentle yoga
Photo by Shutterstock.

Exercise

People are becoming more and more sedentary, which not only affects their physical health but also their brain function. But it can be difficult to get up and move even when you know it's important, so you need to find some motivation. Get a smart activity watch that tells you how many steps you've taken, how many calories you've burned and what your heart rate is to get an idea of how much you're moving every day. When you're sitting for long periods of time at work, use the watch to remind you to take a short walk down the hall or around the building. Use it as motivation to go to the gym to miss traffic on your commute home. There are watches that meet every need, too. If you're worried about falling or experiencing an emergency while you're exercising, GreatCall's Lively Mobile has a built-in medical alert system that can be used to secure medical attention, which will help you feel safe.

Learn

A great way to boost your cognitive function is to learn something new. Just like your heart and lungs need exercise to get stronger, your brain needs new challenges. Pick up a new hobby that requires some brain power. For example, you could learn how to code or learn a new language. Take an art class at the local community college or learn how to make something from scratch. The more you challenge different parts of your brain, the stronger it will be.

Do Puzzles

Even though sitting down to work on a brain puzzle is sedentary, it can force your brain to work in different ways than normal. It also can help you increase your memory and retention rates. There are websites and apps dedicated to brain puzzles, like Lumosity, but a good old book and pencil works well, too. You can do crosswords, Sudoku and other types of puzzles to work out your brain muscles.

Get Some Sleep

One of the best things you can do for your brain function is get some sleep. Your brain works on consolidating learning and memory when you're sleeping, so it's an active part of your day even if you don't realize it. Researchers think that sleep may be important for this process because there is more energy available for it to use or because there are simply fewer distractions. Either way, your body not only needs rest to repair your sore muscles but to make your brain work better.

No matter how old you are, your brain needs just as much exercise as the rest of your body. Be open to new experiences and challenges to help your brain get tougher and stronger. The more you do for it, the better it will function for years to come.


Sara Parker started her writing and editing career in the world of technology and gaming. She has written numerous articles about the tech world and knows more about the cloud than she ever thought she would. She's an Android enthusiast and is always looking to learn about the next big thing in tech.

When Should New Moms Seek Help for Postpartum Depression?

The first few weeks of motherhood can be stressful for anyone. I am now three months into parenthood, and I have found myself feeling more lonely, worthless, and aggressive than normal. My husband and I faced infertility issues before we finally conceived our son. So now I have a healthy and beautiful little boy. Why am I feeling this way?

Some new moms experience a period of time known as the “baby blues” when their hormones are all over the place. Sometimes, however, it can be more serious. While there are various mental health issues that can arise postpartum, Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most well known. Two lesser-known postpartum issues include postpartum anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Postpartum depression occurs in about one in seven moms.

Looking out a window
Sometimes, it will feel as if you're completely isolated from the rest of the world. Photo by Pixabay/Free-Photos.

It was the screening at my son’s pediatric appointment that convinced me to get help. I had debated whether or not to select the “right” answers — the ones that would declare that I was just fine, thank you. I was terrified of admitting that I had a problem to a medical professional or the social worker at the pediatric office because I had heard stories about women with PPD having their children taken away from them. I was worried that people would think that I was not able to function. And possibly my biggest fear was that people would think that I didn’t love or appreciate my son.

Here are some signs of PPD. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, or otherwise feel “off," speak to a medical or mental health professional, or to a social worker. Keep in mind that symptoms, treatments, and severity vary woman to woman. My experience may not be the same as yours or that of your loved one.

• Less pleasure or interest in things you once enjoyed.
• Significantly increased or decreased appetite.
• Anxiety/panic attacks
• Uncontrollable scary thoughts.
• Feeling so overwhelmed that you just “shut down”.
• Guilt or feeling worthless
• Mood swings and aggressiveness.
• Difficulty sleeping even when/if your baby is sleeping.
• Withdrawal from your baby, family, and friends.
• Being more forgetful or indecisive that normal.
• Thinking about self-harm, suicide, risky behavior (such as turning to drinking), or thoughts of hurting your child or other people.

Talk to a social worker, medical professional, or mental health professional if you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms postpartum, I urge you to seek help from a professional. While medication has helped me a little, there may be more natural ways to manage your condition- separately or in conjunction with medication.

If you have PPD, here are some recommendations:

• Join a support group.
• Ask a relative or close friend to help care for your child if you are having a difficult moment.
• Don’t take on more than you can handle with work, chores, or personal projects. Your priority is to make sure that you and your child are healthy and cared for each day.
• Avoid isolation. My workplace is my sanctuary. Being cooped up at home may allow you to focus more on negative thoughts than being surrounded with people and engaged in conversations.

If a loved one has PPD, here are suggestions of what you can do for them:

• Cook them a meal/ bring them something so they don’t have to worry about cooking.
• Offer to help with small errands/chores/watching the baby.
• Complement and actively encourage them.
• Remind them that they are not bad mothers.
• If you are a survivor of PPD or another mental illness, share your story with them. Let them know that they’re not alone.
• Check in on them. Ask them how they’re doing. They’re likely not going want to bother you, so please reach out to them.
• Take them seriously. Don’t tell them that it will all be fixed with a bit more sleep, or if they eat certain foods, or when the after-birth hormones wind down. Although there are things that can help, they need to know that their feelings are validated.
• Actively offer help in whatever form they need it, because chances are that they will not want to burden you.

More Resources

American Psychological Association
PostpartumProgress.com


Marissa is a Digital Content Assistant for Ogden Publications, a freelance digital marketing consultant, and a new mother. In her free time, she enjoys snuggling her son, learning to sew, and spending copious amounts of time on Pinterest.


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Natural Oral Health: 6 Foods and Nutrients for a Healthy Mouth

Most of us spend some time of the day taking care of our teeth. We brush twice a day, floss before going to bed, gargle and rinse with antiseptic mouthwashes, and make it a point to visit the dentist twice a year. For many, our mouths are the part of the bodies we look after the most.

We all learned how to look after our teeth as children, yet tooth decay remains a prominent problem. Why is it, that even with healthy dental habits, our teeth are still susceptible to bacteria that lead to tooth decay? The problem could be the types of foods you’re eating (or not eating) and the foods you should be eating.

young woman with nice smile eating salad
Photo by Adobe Stock/EpicStockMedia.

When we were younger, we’re told to avoid sugary foods because they can cause cavities. Now that we’re older, we know that beverages such as coffee and tea stain our teeth. Sticky foods, like cheese and other dairy products, can also attract bacteria in large swathes by providing a suitable atmosphere.

You would think that all foods would be bad for our teeth, however that isn’t true. There are foods that actually improve the health of your teeth; some can cleanse your mouth, while others can reduce the levels of acidity and prevent the buildup of plague.

Check out this list natural sources that will help keep your mouth and teeth healthy, some of which can match the claims of the toothpaste available in the market in equal measure!

Calcium- and Phosphorous-Rich Foods

Your teeth need a combination of calcium and phosphorous to strengthen the enamel. Consuming foods rich in these minerals will prevent your teeth from decaying. Dairy products such as yogurt, milk, hard-aged cheese, almonds and tofu all are good sources of calcium. Foods like pumpkin seeds, fish, red meat, egg and tofu are rich phosphorous.

Crunchy, Juicy Fruits and Veggies

When you chew on crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples or celery sticks, your mouth produces saliva. This production of saliva helps cleanse your teeth and neutralizes the bacteria that builds plague.

Chewing works like a cleansing mechanism when combined with crunchy, juicy foods. The crunchy foods combined with the saliva in the mouth gently scrub the surface of the teeth making them stronger & resoundingly healthier.

Vitamins C and D

Vitamin C found in foods such as bell peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, kale and broccoli repairs blood vessels and reduces inflammation, which in turn stops your gums from swelling. Additionally, vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, which prevents gum diseases such as periodontitis.

Vitamin D is essential for the growth of your bones and teeth because of its ability to absorb calcium. Egg yolk and fish are the best foods

Antioxidant-Rich Food

Antioxidants are required by your body for many reasons. They help you flush out the toxins that cause inflammation in the body. In the mouth, antioxidants fight bacteria and that cause the inflammation of gums and trigger the buildup of plague. Fruits such as apples, berries and grapes are an excellent of antioxidants.

Probiotics for a Healthy Mouth

Probiotics are referred to as good bacteria. Some research has found probiotics can cleanse the mouth of plague and other bacteria. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as yogurts, miso and kombucha.

Anthocyanin, Arginine and Polyphenols

Anthocyanin, arginine and polyphenols are all elements that protect your teeth and gums. Anthocyanin prevent plague from building up in the crevices between your teeth. Arginine and polyphenols prevent the formation of plague on the gum-line and the chances of cavities developing.

Anthocyanin can be found in foods like cherries, plums, eggplants and grapes. Foods such as meats, nuts and soy are the best sources of arginine. Cocoa, green and black tea, berries and flaxseeds are the best sources of polyphenols.

Healthy and well-cared-for teeth help create a positive image in the mind of others and, of course, they allow us to chew food more easily. Regularly including these foods and nutrients, in combination with good oral hygiene will ensure that your teeth and mouth are in top condition.

5 Tips for Exercising When You're Too Busy

As a new mom who works 8-5, I don’t have a ton of spare time. I am up for at least one to three hours in the middle of the night, depending on how long it takes my son to fall back asleep after his middle-of-the-night feeding. I wake up around 6:30 to get him ready to go to his grandma’s for the day and to get myself ready for work. By the time I’m home from work, I just want to rest. I’m extremely lucky to have a job that I love and that it isn’t physically-strenuous, but I’m definitely ready to heat up a microwave dinner, cuddle with my son, and play on my phone until we go to bed. As you can see, I’m not in the mood to go running or partake in exercise in general. However, I know that it’s important that I should. Here are some ways to work in some exercise if you can’t make it to the gym.

Spin top
Photo by Pixabay/janerella.

1) Take a hike (or at least a walk around the block)

If your work allows you to take walking breaks, go for a stroll with some co-workers. Some of the ladies in the office go for walks around the vicinity when the weather is decent. I don’t always go (like if it’s a day that I’m wearing heels or I had an especially sleep-deprived night), but I enjoy the time to chat with my co-workers and get a bit of fresh air.

2) Chase your child/pet/etc.

While my son isn’t up-and-walking yet, I’m looking forward to chasing him around the playground because I don’t see this fun activity as exercise. For now, carrying him in my arms or wearing him on my chest allows me to work my upper body while getting things done.

3) Have an accountability partner

My wake-up call to eating better was when my mother’s Type II Diabetes got worse and she was put on a low-carb diet. Because I have PCOS, I’m more likely to develop Type II Diabetes if I don’t manage my lifestyle better. I will be starting a low-carb diet soon (hopefully by mid-September). I am asking my mom to keep me accountable for my diet and activity. Knowing that I will report my habits makes me think about the choices that I make.

4) Do no-equipment exercises

24/7 gyms are convenient, but not always available in your neck-of-the-woods. Keeping workout equipment in your home can allow you more flexibility, but isn’t always realistic if you live in an apartment or other tight spaces. Keeping a yoga mat rolled up in the corner, or doing simple push-ups or sit-ups allows you flexibility and space.

5) Get exercise equipment for your desk at work

I’m sitting at my desk for most of the work day because I specialize in media. After seeing some of my co-workers utilize standing desks or bouncing balls in lieu of traditional office chairs, I decided to look into getting something to put my legs to work while my fingers are on the keyboard.

I'm still learning how to implement exercise and healthier food choices into my daily life. While I'm still at the beginning of my transition to a healthier way of life, I hope that I can help encourage you. Nothing is impossible if we tackle it with a can-do attitude and the right resources!


Marissa is a Digital Content Assistant for Ogden Publications, a freelance digital marketing consultant, and a new mother. In her free time, she enjoys snuggling her son, learning to sew, and spending copious amounts of time on Pinterest.

7 Ways to Sneak More Water into Your Day

Most of us know we should drink plenty of water each day to keep our body running in high gear. Water regulates our body’s thermostat, cushions our joints, shuttles oxygen and nutrients to cells, flushes toxins from organs and hydrates our skin.

Drinking more water might also improve your mood, sharpen your metal focus and help you lose weight.

The most recent guidelines, published in 2004, advise healthy adults living in temperate climates consume 12 to 13 cups (men) and 9 cups (women) of water each day. Pregnant women need 10 cups of water each day and women who breastfeed should drink 13 cups.

glass bottles of chilled water
Photo by Adobe Stock/
5ph.

If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to replace what you’ve lost. Hot, humid weather also drives up the body’s need for water.

All beverages – excluding alcoholic drinks, which cause your body to lose water – count towards your daily water requirement. That means milk, plant-based beverages, fruit juice, even coffee and tea hydrate you.

If you struggle to drink enough fluid, use the following tips to amp up your hydration.

Sip on a berry smoothie. It’s not just the cow’s milk or almond milk that adds water to smoothies (milk is 91 percent water). Berries also contain large amounts of water in proportion to their weight, with strawberries leading the pack (92 percent water) followed by raspberries (87 percent), blueberries (85 percent) and cherries (81 percent).

Start with a “water appetizer.” Make a habit of drinking 16 ounces of water before each meal. Doing so will put a large dent in your daily water requirement and can help you feel full and, as a result, help prevent you from overeating.

Eat your water. Roughly 20 percent of our daily water comes from food. Hydrate with water-packed seasonal summer fruit such as watermelon (92 percent water), cantaloupe (90 percent), peaches (88 percent) and plums (85 percent).

Snack on crudité consisting of sliced cucumber (96 percent), celery (95 percent), zucchini strips (95 percent), radish (95 percent) and cherry tomatoes (94 percent). (All in season now.)

Take an iced coffee break. Cool off and hydrate with an unsweetened iced coffee with a splash of milk. While older studies suggested that caffeine had a weak diuretic effect, more recent studies do not. If you regularly consume moderate amounts of caffeine, it doesn’t cause your body to lose more water than you ingest.

Flavour it. If you find plain water boring, flavour it with lime and basil leaves, raspberries and fresh mint, mango and pineapple chunks, or honeydew and cucumber slices. To infuse more flavour, allow the water to chill for a few hours in the fridge.

Make it convenient. Out of sight, out of mind. Keep a bottle or glass of water on your desk at work and on your kitchen counter at home. Take a water bottle with you to the gym and carry one when exercising outdoors.

Use an App. If you need accountability—and a constant reminder of your daily goal—keep track of your water intake using an app on your smart phone such as Daily Water, Waterlogged and Water Alert.

Medical Cannabis: Nature’s Remedy

Cannabis has gone from stigma to stardom in the last decade, with healthcare headlines stretching across the states. The nation’s capital, Washington D.C., has even legalized cannabis for medicinal usage, but opinions continue to vary about just how accessible the plant should be.

When it comes to recreational usage, marijuana has been legalized for use for individuals who are eighteen and older in some states, such as Washington and Colorado. As there was the prohibition on alcohol at the start of the last century, many hope the prohibition on marijuana will soon be a part of history.

Recreational and medicinal users point out the value of cannabis as a non-dangerous, natural herb that relieves everything from anxiety to Parkinson’s disease.

medical cannabis tincture
Photo by Adobe Stock/carlos Restrepo.

Cannabis Is a “Mother” Plant with Many Remedies

For thousands of years, cannabis has been used by people of various cultures, and healers have used this “mother” plant to treat many illnesses.

From around 1500 B.C., ancient scrolls in Egypt mention the medicinal properties of cannabis, such as relieving hemorrhoid pain by adding cannabis to their suppositories. The Greeks treated nosebleeds and GI tract issues with it. Medieval doctors further east, in Islamic cultures, used cannabis to treat pain, edema, epilepsy and inflammation.

For Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cannabis is one of 50 essential and sacred healing plants, used to treat a variety of conditions: gout, foggy memory, constipation and rheumatism.

In modern society, the list of conditions cannabis may treat is long — acute and chronic pain, headaches, nausea from cancer treatments, neurological pain, back pain, PMS, digestive disorders and lack of appetite due to chronic illness, to name a few. Promise for treatment is exhibited with Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, anxiety, chronic stress, anorexia and asthma, among others.

Cannabis is a promising herb that nurtures and heals various types of conditions. However, its current classification limits more in-depth research, with non-approved usage branding providers and users as criminals.

Currently, there are two strains that create psychoactive cannabinoids, which are Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. These are illegal in many states. The key to cannabis’ stardom is in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the most reactive of the nearly eighty strains that interact with brain receptors.

Besides Smoking: How Do You Take Cannabis?

You don’t have to smoke marijuana to take in the healing benefits because cannabis comes in many forms. Take it as a liquid extract or tincture, oil, oral spray, food or vapor. It’s present in many innovative and unique products, from lotion to cannabis-infused coffee. These products are absorbed orally or through the skin, and the degree of a “high” or cannabinoid effectiveness depends on how it is taken and for what.

No matter how you take cannabis, you need a prescription from your doctor, preferably one who has experience prescribing cannabis as a treatment. A “marijuana doctor” objectively recognizes the benefits of cannabis for medical prescription and won’t judge patients for requesting it in their treatment plan. It’s important to seek out a doctor who has experience prescribing cannabis because he or she will know the ins and outs of its medicinal usage and any legal implications.

This doctor will have a focus in primary care or a specialty, like any other doctor, except with the understanding and ability to prescribe cannabis as a treatment. They will keep up to date with research, be trained in addiction medicine and thoroughly counsel the patient and review history of any marijuana or cannabis usage to accurately prescribe the proper dosage for the patient’s case.

Overcoming Stigma to Learn About Cannabis Treatment

Due to cannabis and marijuana’s cultural stigma and its illegal status in particular states, many people are hesitant to demand more knowledge. Even in states where cannabis for medicinal use is legal, patients are afraid to approach their doctors and inquire about a treatment plan that could better their conditions.

It’s important to choose health over stigma. Life-long suffering is not worth the misinformed opinions of judgmental individuals.

Read success and failure stories of other patients with similar conditions and conduct your own research. The next step is talking to a trusted friend or loved one to help build your confidence, one who will help you make an appointment and go through considerations with your doctor. When you have enough information, you may focus on educating more skeptical loved ones with relevant data.

Your primary care physician or a qualified doctor in a cannabis-legal state would write you a prescription if your condition will benefit from cannabis treatment. You may also need to obtain a specific cannabis treatment card to receive your prescription. Your doctor will walk you through the process.

Medicinal cannabis continues to be headliner as nature’s remedy to treat various conditions as an alternative to other drugs that come loaded with side effects. From anxiety to Parkinson’s, many conditions are relieved by the use of medicinal cannabis, and the patient may take it in many forms. Check with your doctor to learn about qualifying conditions.

The wisdom of ancient and herbal healing has its place to work as a complementary medicine to conventional medical care. Don’t discount a powerful herb with many beneficial constituents simply because you fear another’s judgment. Take power over your health, do some research and discover if medical cannabis is right for you.

Natural Remedies for Poison Ivy & Oak

If you’ve been in or around the woods at all, you’ve probably heard the saying “leaves of three, let it be.” Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, even for those allergic to poison ivy, it can be a bit more difficult than that to avoid breaking out in an unbearably itchy rash.

Being on the lookout for “leaves of three” is a great starting point, but what many of us aren’t taught is that poison ivy, oak and sumac all contain the same oil—urushiol—which, for some, can cause an allergic reaction when it binds to the skin and that fact can increase the odds of coming into contact with something bothersome.

poison ivy and poison oak leaves
Photos (left to right) by AdobeStock/Stuart Monk; AdobeStock/mendogyal.

Where to Find Poison Ivy and Oak

Poison ivy is the most prevalent variety of these plants and can be found throughout most of the United States, excluding California and Hawaii. Poison oak is found throughout California, the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and East coast. Poison sumac also produces urushiol and is found in super-moist, swampy areas along the East, Gulf and Upper Peninsula coasts.

If you know you’ve come in contact with these plants, wash the affected area thoroughly with warm, soapy water as soon as possible to help avoid the resulting rash. Wash all clothing, tools or other personal items that could have come in contact as well, considering that the oil resin can remain active for years, causing future rashes to occur unbeknownst to you. And, in the event that you’ve already developed a rash, you can rest easy knowing there are natural ways to alleviate itching, redness and discomfort.

“Nature provides exceptions to every rule.” –Margaret Fuller

Even in the case of urushiol-induced rashes, Fuller is right. Nature is a powerful resource for healing, and provides us with the perfect antidote to soothe irritated skin. Often referred to as “touch-me-not,” jewelweed is part of the impatiens family and enjoys the same habitats as poison ivy, oak and sumac. Odds are, if you’ve stumbled into a patch, you can readily find nature’s cure nearby!

Using Jewelweed for Poison Ivy Treatment

1. Locate orange-flowered jewelweed (Impatiens biflora) and harvest, making sure to keep stalks intact.
2. If outdoors, break the stalk and rub raw plant juices directly on exposed areas.
3. If treating at home, place stalks in a blender and blend thoroughly. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator through spring and summer. You can also boil crushed stalks to create an extract that can be frozen for up to 1 year.

Easy-to-Find Alternatives to Raw Jewelweed

If you aren’t in an area with abundant jewelweed habitats or can’t find any, French green clay is an excellent alternative. It works somewhat like Calamine lotion—but better, in my experience. Measure clay into a small, lidded jar, add water and stir to create a paste thick enough that it won’t drip or slip when applied. Apply clay to rash, let dry and cover with clothing. Seal your container to keep this remedy hydrated and ready for your next application.

Most health food stores also offer jewelweed soap and comfrey salves. Use the soap in the shower to help dry out the rash. Once the rash begins to dry out and heal, apply a soothing comfrey salve (try our DIY recipe if you can’t find one locally) to reduce redness, itching and speed-up healing time. Bonus: Keep your comfrey salve handy for minor scrapes, pain relief and bug bites.