Can Probiotics Stop Hair Loss Associated with Aging?

Two of the main indicators of youth is great skin and thick hair. As we get older, we lose that slowly, and at least from the outside, these may be the only indicators that we’ve been on this earth a few decades. Are probiotics in reversing the appearance of external aging and prevent hair loss that comes with age?

Hair loss affects both men and women. Men typically have what is known as androgenetic alopecia, while women develop more diffuse hair thinning. And due to the decline in hormones, hair becomes thin and brittle, which is easily prone to breaking.

There’s been a lot of research into different vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for reversing hair loss naturally, and some have proven to show some efficacy, raising the hopes that using a combination of natural supplements may be a good alternative to taking medications.

Do probiotics work for hair loss?

As we age, there are many changes that take place in the gut where there are significant changes in populations of gut bacteria. This can have a system-wide effect that can affect our health in many ways.

It’s been shown in multiple studies in animals and in humans that a healthy digestive system is crucial for good health. In fact, a recent study found that centenarians have gut health that was similar to young adults.

So it seemed plausible to researchers that altering our gut bacteria may have beneficial effects on the skin and hair.

Before I go into how probiotics can help, let’s look at the things which can affect gut health.

Disruption of gut flora can occur because of many reasons:

  • Antibiotics
  • Processed foods diet
  • Medications
  • Stress and depression
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Aging

Gut bacteria can be negatively affected by any one of the factors above, but in many cases, the situation can be improved by addressing the issues. One of the most important factors is to improve your diet but using probiotic supplements could be useful in restoring balance.

Probiotic hair loss study

In a paper published in 2013, researchers investigated the effect of using a specific strain of bacteria called L. reuteri on skin health and fur coat of C57BL/6 mice.

Their hypothesis was based on the factor that gut bacteria can have significant effects on the immune system by regulating immune system cells and cytokines which can have an effect cell growth, repair/regeneration, and skin barrier function.

So at 20-24 weeks of age, the mice were split up into two groups: one group ate the yogurt which contained the bacteria, and the other ate the state chow.

Fast results!

Within just seven days, the mice who were receiving the probiotic experienced dramatic improvements in their fur.

Mice who were eating the standard diet had dull fur and suffered from dermatitis and alopecia.  The researchers noted that there was a bigger difference in female mice compared to males, however, there was a trend towards increased fur shininess in male mice as well.

One of the reasons for this could simply be because males tend to have more oily skin compared to females, and the probiotics were able to increase oil production in the skin, which boosted shine.

probiotics increase hair shininess

Why did probiotics improve hair health?

When the researchers looked at the mucocutaneous pH level, they found that the mice eating the probiotic or receiving L.reuteri had significantly increased pH level in various parts of their body.

They also noted that the mice had significantly faster hair regrowth after mice had their hair shaved and received the probiotic.

Increased skin dermal thickness

Another surprising result of the study was that the females that received the probiotic had significantly improved dermal thickness. Indicating that the probiotic may have slowed down or reversed the effects of skin aging.

Microscopy-assisted histomorphometry

  • Females receiving the probiotic: 457.1±64.86 pixels
  • Females receiving the control diet: 357.9±63.87 pixels

probiotic reverses skin aging

 

Mice had more hairs in their growth phase

Looking at the growth cycle of hairs, and the percentage which was in the active growth phase (anagen), they noticed a significant difference in both genders.

Mice eating the probiotic had more hairs which were in the growth phase at any one time, and this was especially true for male mice.

Males

  • Mice eating the yogurt had 70% of hairs in their growth phase
  • Mice eating the control diet only had 36% of hairs in their growth phase

Females 

  • Mice eating the yogurt had 62% of hairs in their growth phase
  • Mice eating the control diet had 30% of hairs in their growth phase

Was it the yogurt or the specific type of bacteria which helped improved hair?

To understand whether or not it was the yogurt or the specific type of bacteria, L.Reuteri which was responsible for these effects, they look at the effect of simply adding the bacteria to the mice’s drinking water.

After mice received the bacteria, they observed the same changes that occurred in their earlier findings by just using the bacteria instead of the yogurt.

L.Reuteri for hair loss: Why did it work?

Our immune system and our gut health are closely linked, and it’s been known now that they both can have dramatic effects on the health of humans.

Therefore it’s not surprising that gut bacteria would affect skin and hair growth.

The reason why the probiotic seemed to work was that it altered the pH level of the skin, and also suppressed various pro-inflammatory cytokines which cause skin inflammation and impair skin and hair growth cycle, follicle regeneration and healing.

Probiotics have systemic effects on multiple pro-inflammatory mediators such as: TGF-Beta, IL-17, IL,22, IL-1, TNF-a.

We have both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines.

It was found that in order for the mice to benefit from the bacteria, there had to be an increase in the level of IL-10, which is able to significantly dampen down the immune response and is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Although the researchers used a specific strain of bacteria (L.reuteri) in this study, other strains of bacteria have been shown to significantly increase levels of IL-10 in animals and humans.

See my article on probiotics here

In summary

Maintaining gut bacteria in a healthy state appears to be very important in staying healthy both inside and out.

Given these findings, if you want to try to improve skin health and also improve hair growth, then taking probiotics looks like it could be a good option to try, especially if you’ve eaten a very poor diet in the past or have used antibiotics on multiple occasions.

References

Probiotic Bacteria Induce a ‘Glow of Health’

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0053867

 

Quercetin with Bromelain for Relief from Allergies

allergy relief

Millions of people suffer from allergies, and the prevalence has been increasing for decades. The in the US, there was a 50% increase in allergies in children from 1997 to 2011. Could poor diet be the reason for this? And are natural compounds in foods like quercetin and bromelain helpful in providing relief from common allergies?

Research suggests that diet plays an important role the regulation of our immune system. This became obvious to me when I switched to a healthy diet after eating a standard junk food diet when I was younger. Within months of adopting a healthy, well-balanced diet, my hay fever allergy disappeared.

I was told that it had nothing to do with my diet and I would eventually just grow out of it. But I really doubt it was a coincidence that the moment I threw away the rubbish and started eating fruits and vegetables, things got a lot better.

After doing a bit of research, I came across some research about quercetin and its beneficial effects on the immune system and how it helps manage allergies.

I had been eating a lot of foods which were naturally high in quercetin, so maybe that was part of the reason I had been doing a lot better.

What is Quercetin?

quercetin help allergies

Quercetin is a flavonoid or pigment that is found in many different fruits and vegetables such as red onions, red apples, berries, grapes, broccoli etc.

Many people opt to take quercetin supplements because it can be difficult to obtain significant amounts of quercetin from diet alone.

Quercetin is also just one form of a variety of different flavonoid glycosides which includes rutin and quercitrin.

Known health benefits of quercetin

  • Antiviral
  • Antibacterial
  • Has anti-allergic properties
  • Balances immune system
  • Inhibits histamine
  • Suppresses overactivated of the immune system and pro-inflammatory cytokines
  • Prostatitis and bladder inflammation

Foods high in quercetin

Below is a list of some commonly eaten foods which are naturally high in quercetin (per 100 grams)

  1. Dill 55 mg
  2. Cilantro 53 mg
  3. Red Onion 32 mg
  4. Kale 23 mg
  5. Cranberry 15 mg
  6. Sweet potato 10 mg
  7. Red Apples 4 mg
  8. Broccoli 3 mg
  9. Bilberry 3 mg
  10. Green tea 2 mg

How Quercetin helps to provide allergy relief

Quercetin is mostly known for its antioxidant effects, but it is also able to modulate the immune system and prevent the formation of antibodies associated with allergies.

It also inhibits key immune cells in the allergy response such as lipoxygenase, eosinophils, peroxidase and other inflammatory mediators which are increased when exposed to allergens.

Quercetin has been shown to be more effective in inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines than commonly prescribed allergy medications.

In one study published in 2015, researchers gave a food supplement which contained quercetin to patients and saw a significant improvement in symptom scores.

Patients had less sneezing, runny nose, obstruction, eye itching, as well as less red and inflamed eyes.

70% reduction in symptoms scores.

73% reduction in the use of anti-allergic drugs.

Earlier results in animals showed that quercetin was indeed effective in preventing allergic rhinitis by reducing the expression of pro-inflammatory mediators. (study)

What is bromelain?

bromelain for allergies

Bromelain is a powerful enzyme which is mainly found in Pineapples. You can also find bromelain added to various food supplements including quercetin.

Bromelain has many studies to back up its amazing benefits. It’s also been found to be very useful in improving the bioavailability of quercetin and certain medications like antibiotics.

Bromelain has many potential uses when it comes to health and natural healing. Some of the health problems bromelain has been shown to be of benefit in clinical studies include the following.

Known benefits of bromelain

  • Swelling and edema
  • Allergies
  • Connective tissue injuries
  • Bruising
  • Digestive problems
  • Asthma
  • Sinusitis
  • Increasing absorption of antibiotics such as doxycycline
  • Increasing absorption and bioavailability of quercetin
  • Pain relief
  • Burns

See more on the therapeutic applications of bromelain. These are only just a few of the benefits reported to date.

How bromelain helps to provide allergy relief

Bromelain by itself, even without quercetin can provide relief from the symptoms associated with allergies because it has powerful effects in helping block inflammation and improving healing time.

People who have allergies can also be at greater risk of developing secondary problems such as bacterial sinusitis.

This occurs due to blockages in the sinuses in the nose, cheeks, and forehead.

In a study involving 12 patients who suffered from chronic rhinosinusitis, researchers gave bromelain tablets and measured improvements in their quality of life. By the end of three months, all symptoms improved and there was a noticeable improvement when they did doctors performed a rhinoscopy on the patients.

In another study published in 2012, researchers looked at the effects of bromelain on airway inflammation in a murine model of asthma and found that bromelain treated animals had significantly reduced levels of interleukins IL-4, IL-12, IL-17, and IFN-a. This suggests that bromelain could be an effective therapy for people with allergic asthma.

Bromelain helps allergies in 3 ways:

  • Improves swelling and inflammation
  • Reduces immune system response to allergens
  • Improves healing time

How should you take bromelain?

To get the most benefit from taking bromelain, it is best for you to take it on an empty stomach. There are supplements available which contain both quercetin and bromelain. Or you can buy bromelain only.

Nature’s medicine

Natural compounds such as quercetin and bromelain which are found in commonly consumed foods and also available as supplements, can very helpful alternatives in providing relief from allergies.

I’ve personally taken quercetin + bromelain on and off throughout the years to help with various problems I was trying to resolve. And although I never found that this supplement was a “cure” by itself, I believe it did help me when combined with other things to treat the problem.

Nature has provided us with many things we can use in our everyday life to improve our health and well-being!

If only I knew when I was in high school that simple things like bromelain and quercetin could significantly improve my allergies! I would have spent a lot less time sneezing and rubbing my eyes, and more time having fun in the sun! 🙂

People who suffer from allergies are soon going to be suffering again. So if you’re one of them, make sure to try eating more foods with quercetin and bromelain and/or try a supplement which has them.

Foods That Kill Testosterone and Cause Belly Fat

There is so much information out there on how men can increase testosterone naturally, but not nearly as much information about the food that can decrease testosterone men and cause many symptoms, including an increase in body fat.

Many men are unknowingly consuming these foods on a regular basis, unaware that they can have a significant effect on testosterone levels.

Foods that affect testosterone is more likely to have a more noticeable effect in older men who have declining testosterone levels, than in younger men who still have high levels.

My belief is that none of these foods need to be completely avoided, but they can be used moderately and for specific purposes, as some of them do have positive health benefits.

Foods that can lower testosterone

So let’s have a look some of the foods which have been shown to have an effect on men’s testosterone levels.

1. Licorice

licorice lowers testosterone

Licorice is used everywhere. You can find it in sweets, teas, chewing gums among other things.

Licorice does indeed have some health benefits but also has some downsides to it. There is some evidence it helps with adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, sore throats, immunity, and more.

So it’s not something one needs to completely avoid, but just use when necessary.

In women who have trouble with producing too much testosterone and excessive hair growth, using licorice can be helpful.

Licorice makes it on the top of this list because it has a very powerful effect in reducing testosterone in healthy men.

Studies have shown that the main active component of licorice – “glycyrrhizic acid” – is able to block testosterone production according to studies in rats, by inhibiting the enzyme 17β-HSD.  

So, after the researchers found that licorice extract inhibits testosterone in rodents, they tried it in human subjects.

The result was significant: Men receiving 0.5 grams of glycyrrhizic acid from 7 grams of commercially available licorice tablets, testosterone decreased from 740 ng/dL to 484 ng/dL.

Once the subjects stopped taking the tablets, their total testosterone levels returned to normal within just 4 days.

There were no other negative effects reported from the study.

One other possible negative effect of licorice is that it can increase blood pressure if taken at high doses for long periods of time.

 2. Spearmint and Peppermint

spearmint lowers testosterone

Both spearmint and peppermint have the ability to lower testosterone in animals and in humans according to recent studies.

Most people who are consuming mint, probably do so in the form of tea. And it’s usually either a mix of mint and other ingredients. Rarely have I ever seen a pure 100% Spearmint tea in the local supermarket.

Mint is also used in many other products from sweets, chocolate, chewing gum, shampoos etc.

Some of the positive effects of spearmint tea include relief from nausea and sickness, it has antibacterial effects, and helps reduce inflammation.

We know that spearmint is able to reduce testosterone in humans from studies done on a condition called hirsutism. This is a condition where women experience excessive hair growth, including facial hair.

Before these studies were conducted in people, there had already been anecdotal evidence that it was helpful. And animal evidence confirmed that spearmint does have antiandrogen effects.

In a study published in 2007, researchers looked at the effect of Mentha spicata (spearmint) on hormone levels of women who suffer from hirsutism.

Women who drank just two cups of spearmint tea each day saw a significant decrease in free testosterone levels (30%) and an increase in luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and estradiol. They consumed the tea in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycles.

Another study from 2010 showed that when spearmint was taken over 30 days, total testosterone was also decreased, and women noticed an improvement in their condition.

So clearly, spearmint is a useful antiandrogen in the right circumstances.

Much of the research on both peppermint and spearmint has either been done in rats or in adult human females.

There is very little evidence right now that spearmint has a negative effect in males, however, due to the fact that the results translate over from animals to humans, it’s worth being cautious about drinking too much spearmint if you’re a man.

3. Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushroom lowers testosterone

Edible mushrooms taste great and have been linked with many health benefits from prevention of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, to improving digestion, and also boosting immunity and fight off infections. They also may be of benefit in boosting resistance against cancer.

For thousands of years, different mushrooms have been used for various purposes, especially in Chinese medicine.

However, Reishi is a potent inhibitor of 5-alpha-reductase – which is the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT.  In animal studies, both testosterone and DHT are decreased, but in humans, it’s only been shown to reduce DHT.

However, even though reishi does not lower testosterone, it has been shown that Ganoderic acid (found in Reishi) does inhibit androgen receptor binding activity.

This can be good or bad. I mean, if you want to keep a head full of hair, then perhaps lowering DHT might be a good thing.

4. Alcohol

alcohol lowers testosterone

Alcohol consumption is a huge problem in the west, and certainly one of the reasons why men develop a big belly by the time they reach middle age.

Personally, I’ve never liked alcohol, and don’t drink it at all.

Not only does drinking alcohol have negative effects on the brain, but it also expands your waistline as well!

Drinking too much alcohol increases the conversion of testosterone into estrogen, which will increase fat percentage, especially around the stomach, in men.

Also, moderate intake of alcohol in men can decrease plasma testosterone levels by almost 7%.

There are multiple conflicting studies about alcohol and health, but I think that if you’re eating a healthy diet, alcohol will provide no additional benefit.

5. Hydrogenated vegetable oils

trans fats decrease testosterone

When fats undergo hydrogenation, they typically become bad for your body and your health. In fact, trans fats are so bad, that they have been banned in certain countries since just a few years ago. They have been linked to diabetes, heart attacks, infertility and more.

The kinds of foods which contain these types of foods include:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Biscuits
  • Crackers
  • Doughnuts
  • Candies
  • Fried fast foods

If you’re eating a healthy diet, these are the types of foods you should be avoiding anyway. But if you’ve just stumbled onto this blog to read the article, then those are the types of foods which will often (not all the time) contain trans fats.

The studies on both animals and humans have been pretty damning.

There have been studies showing numerous negative side effects from decreased testosterone, decreased sperm count, and testicular degeneration. If you want to know why fertility is decreasing in the western world, then maybe these fats have a big part in it. See this paper for more information.

Other foods

There is a lot of conflicting information about other foods such as flaxseeds and soy products and their impact on testosterone.

Over the years there has been a debate about whether or not they have a positive or negative effect on men’s health.

However, due to insufficient evidence, I have not included them among above as foods to avoid.

What are the effects of low testosterone in males?

Low testosterone in men can have profound health consequences. Levels of testosterone start dropping after the age of 30 as part of natural aging. It decreases about 1% per year.

Some common symptoms associated with low testosterone include the following:

  • Decreased energy
  • A decrease in muscle mass and strength
  • Increased fat percentage
  • A decrease in bone density
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood changes (depression and anxiety)

There are many ways to counteract these changes with diet, exercise, good sleep, and supplementation.

In Okinawa, men would typically start off with a slightly lower testosterone level, but their testosterone would decline much more slowly over time. It would decrease at about half the rate of men’s testosterone who live in the west.

This is the effect we see from calorie restriction. Where in animals, CR is able to extend the reproductive capability of both males and females significantly (well passed when all the normally fed mice are dead from old age).

Simple ways to maintain and boost testosterone

  1. Exercise and lift heavy weights at the gym!
  2. Relax, meditate, keep cortisol levels in check
  3. Get some sunshine or take vitamin D3 supplements
  4. Get your beauty sleep
  5. Eat foods high in zinc or take zinc supplements

Some of these foods and drinks are fine in moderation. You don’t have to completely avoid them, but at least just be aware of their effects on hormones in your body.

There are many foods that can significantly affect your testosterone levels and increase the amount of body fat. But with a little bit of knowledge, you can make better choices to maintain a healthy hormone profile and physique well into old age! 🙂

Herbs that Increase Blood Flow and Oxygen to the Brain

Herbs to improve vascular health, blood flow, and oxygen to your brain

Healthy blood flow throughout your body and brain is very important if you want to live in good health to old age with a sharp mind. Herbs are just one way that you can improve circulation to your brain.

If you have very poor circulation, the symptoms can be apparent, obvious, and even require immediate medical attention.

A heart attack or a stroke are two examples of this. And in many parts of the world, including the west, these are two of the biggest killers.

Reduced blood flow can give vague symptoms which are often ignored by many people. Below are just a few of the common symptoms which can accompany poor blood flow.

Symptoms of poor circulation

  • Cold hands and feet (can sometimes be caused by Raynaud’s disease)
  • Tingling (especially in the extremities)
  • Pain in your limbs
  • Muscle cramps
  • Frequent headaches
  • Poor memory
  • MS-like symptoms
  • Depression and anxiety

Those are just some of the many symptoms associated with general poor circulation in the body and impeded blood flow to the brain. Of course, there can be many other reasons for these symptoms, so it’s always best to check with a doctor before diagnosing yourself.

Problems with cerebral blood flow

As we get older, blood vessels start to clog, they get narrow, they become weak. This is caused by intrinsic aging, such as things that our body cannot break down or metabolize and so they eventually cause issues.

Sometimes there are other causes such as deficiencies in nutrients as vitamin C and Copper. And of course, our diet and lifestyle play a big role in hastening the development of cardiovascular disease.

Other causes of impaired blood flow may include stress, infections, low thyroid and dysregulation of blood pressure.

Main problems that can occur

  • Thrombosis – This is when a clot has developed causing blood flow to become obstructed. Usually occurs after injury to the wall of the blood vessel and a clot forms from platelets.
  • Hemorrhage –  Localized bleeding in the brain which leads to the death of brain cells
  • Embolism – Can be caused by infections, tumor cells, air, and clots which have dislodged and reached the brain
  • Aneurysm – Weakened blood vessels will balloon and possibly rupture.

Those are the 4 main problems which can occur in the brain leading to stroke and death.

Most of the time these problems can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and exercise.

Keeping stress low is also important!

Best herbs to improve blood flow

Now we know what needs to be prevented, let’s take a look at which herbs are the best for protecting blood vessels, improving blood flow and protecting the brain from damage.

Ginko Biloba

ginko biloba leaves

Ginko Biloba is a popular herb which has been used for a variety of health problems by people who are into natural and alternative medicine. Often it’s used to help improve brain health, memory and concentration.

It’s been confirmed by several studies that Ginko Biloba does improve blood flow in the brain. And therefore it might be useful in improving things like mental fatigue, memory, MS symptoms, depression, and dementia.

In one study published in 2011, researchers conducted a pilot study investigating an extract of Ginko Biloba. After patients received 60 mg of Ginko Extract twice daily, global blood flow in the brain was significantly improved.

Bilberry

bilberry plant

Bilberry is a very rich source of anthocyanins which has numerous health benefits on vascular health.

Bilberries can protect the artery wall by preventing oxidative damage and strengthening collagen and elastin (two components of blood vessels). The anthocyanins also have been found to help the blood vessel wall relax, and improve blood flow.

In a study using blueberry concentrate, researchers looked at the effect of chronic blueberry supplementation on brain perfusion and found that there were significant improvements in several areas of the brain.

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that blueberries significantly improve endothelial function in humans.

Periwinkle

periwrinkle plant

A medicinal plant which is known to improve circulation in the brain and has been used in medicine for various cerebrovascular diseases because it contains an alkaloid called Vincamine, which helps improve blood flow and oxygen in the brain. It also acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in the brain.

Benefits include increased concentration, improved short-term memory, and improved alertness.

In many countries, a purified form is available over the counter under the name “Vinpocetine” and has been a popular nootropic, especially in the academic and life extension community.

Pine Bark

pine bark

Pine Bark extracts such as Pycnogenol have been found to contain many different bioflavonoids which have a beneficial effect on the artery wall.

It enhances vasodilation by inhibiting the degradation of nitric oxide (especially when combined with L-Arginine).

Studies have shown benefits for improving cochlear hypoperfusion, improving ocular blood flow, improving chronic venous insufficiency, and improvement in the microcirculation of diabetic patients.

Brahmi

brahmi herb

A herb that is cultivated in India and Thailand and used in alternative medicine to improve blood flow to the brain and treatment of dementia.

Studies have been conducted showing that Bacopa monnieri does indeed improve blood flow the brain, and this may account for its beneficial cognitive effects.

It contains many different active components such as saponins, flavonoids, alkaloids, as well as many others. These are thought to contribute to its protective effect on the brain and improvement cognition.

Cayenne

cayenne herb

Cayenne pepper is a hot herb that will make your blood vessels dilate.

It contains a compound called capsaicin which is responsible for the beneficial effects on blood vessels. This compound also gives you the sensation of hotness or heat when you consume it. It binds to the TRPV1 receptor.

Cayenne also has other benefits such as improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.

Consider adding some Cayenne pepper to your green tea! 🙂

 

Final thoughts

If you speak to many centenarians or even supercentenarians, one thing is clear: they are often mentally sharp until the very end.

Good blood flow throughout the body, not just the brain, is extremely important if you want to stay young and healthy for longer. The absence of slowing of cardiovascular problems in centenarians is just one of the reasons why they live so long.

Herbs in combination with an otherwise healthy lifestyle can definitely play an important role in keeping blood flow to the brain healthy for life!

Health Benefits of Turmeric Ginger Tea

Powerful health benefits of drinking turmeric and ginger tea

One of my favorite drinks this winter has been turmeric ginger tea. It’s as simple as it sounds: you add ginger and turmeric in a cup of boiled water. The combination of turmeric and ginger also makes it a powerful drink that has numerous health benefits in preventing and even possibly treating a variety of different illnesses.

Both of these spices are commonly used in foods and are cultivated from South East Asia, India, and China. In the west, the spices like turmeric are typically consumed in foods like curry.

The combination of these two spices creates a soothing, yet slightly zingy flavor, which can be enjoyed throughout the day to get the most benefit. I often will add turmeric and ginger to my morning green tea, and at the end of the night, I will have ginger turmeric tea.

I learned many years ago that Okinawan centenarians would often drink turmeric tea, which may account for their very low rates of cancer and other diseases.

It’s good daily habits like these over a long period of time which can really make a difference to your health and ultimately your lifespan.

The main health benefits of Turmeric Ginger tea

Turmeric and Ginger belong to the same family but provide different health benefits. Below are just a few benefits which have been discovered over the years for both spices.

  • Relieve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis
  • Protect against certain types of cancer
  • Help with gallstones
  • Improve digestion
  • Strengthen and balance the immune system
  • Kill parasites
  • Antibacterial and antiviral
  • Improves blood glucose
  • May improve cognition
  • Good for heart health
  • Improves common skin complaints
  • Improves healing
  • Anti-oxidative stress activities
  • Relieves motion sickness and acts as an antiemetic

The list of benefits from these wonder herbs keeps growing as we gather more scientific data to back up all of the anecdotal evidence from the past. Below are some of the conditions which have been studied the most (more will be included later).

Arthritis

Turmeric has long been known to ease the pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Recent studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of taking turmeric or curcumin extract supplements in helping reduce levels of pain and swelling.

Rheumatoid arthritis: In one study, researchers found curcumin to be effective in improving tenderness, swelling of joints and decreasing disease activity in patients taking 500 mg of curcumin.

Osteoarthritis: Fifty patients who took a complex of curcumin (found in turmeric) with soy phosphatidylcholine for osteoarthritis found that their symptoms decreased in severity, and they were able to walk further on a treadmill test. Measurements of inflammatory markers were decreased.

In animal studies, curcumin has been shown to even slow the progress of osteoarthritis, showing that even if you do suffer from it, it is possible to slow down its progression.

Extracts of ginger have also been used in the treatment of osteoarthritis and provided moderate improvements in symptoms.

Cancer

In recent years that have been a lot of different anecdotal reports of people using turmeric to help them treat various types of cancer from blood cancer to colon cancer. And there may be some truth behind these claims according to research conducted in recent years.

Curcumin, although poorly absorbed by the body, is able to reach concentration which seems to be effective causing cancer cells to self-destruct. Another benefit is that curcumin also is able to stimulate the immune system to detect and destroy the cancer cells.

One study from 2001 showed that taking curcumin may reduce the likelihood of precancerous cells turning malignant. Patients took between 500 mg to 800 mg of curcumin per day. The results of the study were mixed, but in some patients, they reported improvements in precancerous lesions.

In another study, also conducted in 2001, patients who did not respond to standard cancer protocol with chemotherapy were enrolled in a study using Curcumin to treat colon cancer.

Out of fifteen patients, the disease was stable for five patients for 2-4 months of treatment. The dose given to patients was equivalent to 180 mg of curcumin.

Ginger has been shown in in vitro and animal studies to have some anticancer effects against breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer, however, more research is needed to confirm these findings in humans.

Cognitive improvement

There is some evidence that curcumin found in turmeric may enhance the ability of immune cells to clear plaque build up in the brain, thus helping reduce symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Another mechanism by which curcumin may help is through its anti-inflammatory effect.

One recent study looked at the effect of curcumin on 40 patients over a period of 18 months. The results were impressive: in the group taking curcumin, the researchers reported a 28 percent improvement in memory tests.

The group also experienced improvement in mood and also brain PET scans showed less amyloid and tau signals than those who took the placebo. This is important because it could show that if curcumin is taken long-term, and early enough, it may indeed slow or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The anti-inflammatory effect on the brain also could be one of the reasons for its antidepressive effects. People with depression tend to have higher levels of brain inflammation.

Turmerics ability to boost BDNF, as well as neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine may also explain its protective effect against depression.

In this randomized controlled trial, researchers showed that curcumin was just as effective at treating major depressive disorder as medication.

Ginger also has its benefits when it comes to cognitive function. In a study published in 2011, they found that middle-aged women who took 400 and 800 mg doses of ginger for 2 months had experienced an improvement in working memory.

Main bioactive compounds in Ginger and Turmeric

Ginger

Ginger compromises of many different compounds which are thought to have biological activities when consumed. The main compounds of ginger which are thought to affect human health include the following:

Gingerol and gingerol-related compounds

Gingerols are one of the main active compounds found in ginger and have been extensively studied compared to the other compounds.

Gingerols have been found to possess many benefits such as antitumor activity, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, antibacterial and also protects the liver

Paradol

Paradol has anti-cancer benefits as well as antibacterial and acts as an antioxidant.

Paradol has also been investigated in animal models for its effect on thermogenesis by activated brown adipose tissue which may help with weight loss.

Shogoal

Also acts as an antioxidant as well as showing potent anticancer activities by inhibiting cell invasion, reducing cell proliferation,  and reducing MMP enzymes.

Other bioactive compounds in ginger include Zingerone, Zerumbone, 1-Dehydro-(10)-gingerdione, terpenoids and Ginger flavonoids.

Turmeric

turmeric

Turmeric, the bright yellow spice which is mainly cultivated in India has one main and very widely studied compound called Curcumin.

The yellow color of turmeric is because of the presence of three curcuminoids and are used in many areas of cosmetics, food additive, dyes, medicines and more.

Curcumin

The amount of curcumin you can get from turmeric powder varies, but turmeric contains around 2% curcumin by weight. One tablespoon of turmeric, you get about 136 mg of curcumin. Doses of up to 8000 mg of curcumin in studies have been shown to be safe taking long term.

  • Curcumin has many different health benefits
  • It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory.
  • It helps to neutralize free-radical damage.
  • Curcumin may increase neurogenesis in the brain by increasing levels of BDNF.
  • Provides benefits for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Protects against cardiovascular disease
  • May prevent and treat certain cancers according to clinical trials which have been conducted

Tip: Using black pepper with curcumin can enhance the absorption of curcumin in the body.

Turmeric Ginger tea is also good with…

When I make a cup of turmeric ginger tea, I often will include other ingredients. Here are a few ideas for what you could add to your tea!

  • Lemon juice
  • Manuka Honey
  • Green tea (Sencha, steeped for 2 minutes)

Turmeric Ginger tea is a powerful combination, especially for combating inflammatory conditions.

Consume regularly to enjoy the health-promoting benefits of this tea.

Natural Food Sources of Melatonin for Sleep

Best sources of natural melatonin for a good night’s sleep

food source of melatonin

Melatonin is an important hormone which helps regulate our sleep cycle and is produced by the pineal gland. However, there are natural sources of melatonin which can be obtained from different foods and is able to be absorbed and pass the blood-brain-barrier because of its lipophilic nature, making it an effective sleep aid for some people.

Melatonin can be sold as a health supplement in many countries, while others it is restrictive for medical use only.

Although, given its very safe profile and lack of serious side effects in most people, laws have become more relaxed over the years and more people are taking it not just to help promote sleep, but for its other health benefits as well.

What is melatonin and why it’s important

Melatonin is not something that just affects the brain, but the hormone is distributed throughout the body to different organs. such as the lungs, muscles, bones, reproductive system and other major organs.

The level of melatonin starts to rise later in the evening around 8 pm and reaches its peak around 3-4 am. By 8 am, levels have fallen to its lowest level.

Like other hormones in the body, this normal daily cycle can be disrupted by various things such as shift work, blue lights emitted from TV screens, phones and computers, and other health conditions.

Maintaining a healthy sleep cycle by avoiding things which will delay the production of melatonin during the night will help improve your ability to fall asleep earlier and to have a better night’s rest.

Potential uses for melatonin in humans

  • Sleep onset insomnia
  • Jet lag
  • Shift work
  • Help increase REM sleep
  • Traumatic brain injury

Other beneficial effects 

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Boosts immune system
  • Anticancer effects
  • Anti-diabetic effects
  • Anti-aging

There’s still a lot to learn about the benefits of melatonin, but it’s clear that as we age, our levels of melatonin decrease and this may contribute to some of the conditions mentioned above. And it might also explain why older adults have a more difficult time with sleep quality.

Melatonin and risk of disease

Sleep is a very important factor in health. People who lack sleep are at higher risk of various diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, autoimmune diseases, and also tend to suffer from poor immunity.

Lack of sleep can also be a major contributor or cause depression, anxiety, and increase the risk of accidents. It may also shorten one’s lifespan.

Getting a good night’s sleep should be a priority if you’re trying to stay healthy!

How much sleep is needed?

It’s recommended we get over 6 hours sleep minimum. Between 7-9 hours seems to be a good target for most adults according to research.

Some people can survive and even thrive on less sleep than others, so sleep requirement does vary from person to person.

One way to know if you’re getting the current amount and quality of sleep you need is just by how you feel during the day.

If you feel lethargic, need regular naps, or your eyes feel heavy and tired, you probably should think about improving your sleep habits. You can start with learning some of the best sources of melatonin in various foods! 🙂

Best natural sources of melatonin

Whether or not you are an omnivore, vegetarian, or even a vegan, there are many different foods you can choose from which contain melatonin.

Research has shown that after consuming foods high in melatonin, there is a significant increase in circulating levels, and thus can have a real benefit if consumed at the right times to help regulate your sleeping pattern.

Some people report that they are able to sleep better when they eat certain foods, while other foods they might not sleep as well. Researchers are still looking at the link between macronutrients, micronutrients, amino acids and hormones on the effect of sleep.

The types of foods we eat and also the time we eat can significantly alter our sleep cycle.

Tart Cherry Juice

In one pilot study in 2010, researchers investigated the effect of cherry juice on insomnia in older adults. They reported that the group who received the cherry juice had significant reductions in insomnia severity and affected all sleep variables. There was no such improvement in the group who took the placebo.

Another study published in 2012 looked at the levels of a metabolite of melatonin in the urine of volunteers after consuming tart cherry juice and saw a significant increase compared to the placebo group. They also reported some improvements in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency.

Each serving of cherry juice had the equivalent of around 100 cherries and was diluted with 200 ml of water. Each dose of cherry juice contained 42.6 mcg of melatonin.

Cereals

Cereals are one of the most commonly eaten foods in the world and also contain a small amount of melatonin. Not only that, some cereals are also are enriched with an amino acid called tryptophan and is a precursor to melatonin, thus helping improve sleep cycle and provide other benefits.

Wheat 124.7 ng per gram

Barley 82.3 ng per gram

Oats 90.6 ng per gram

List of cereals high in tryptophan

Fruits

Fruits are one of my favorite foods, so it’s good to know that they are also a good source of the health-promoting hormone melatonin. Below are some fruits which are reported to have the highest levels of melatonin.

Grapes – 8.7 – 158 ng per gram

Tart Cherries – 13.46 ng per gram

Strawberries – 11.26 ng per gram

Vegetables

Vegetables should be a staple of any healthy diet since they contain a high level of antioxidants and beneficial compounds which promote good health.

Vegetables have also been studied looking at their concentration of melatonin. Below is a list of the melatonin concentration in popular vegetables.

Peppers – 11.9 ng per gram (fresh weight) and 93.4 ng  per gram (dry weight)

Tomato – 14.77 ng per gram (fresh weight) and 249.98 ng per gram (dry weight)

Mushrooms – 12,900 ng per gram in  Basidiomycota and 6800 ng per gram in Basidiomycota

Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes

Mustard Seeds – White mustard seeds have approximately 189 ng of melatonin per gram and Black mustard seeds have 129 ng per gram.

Soybeans – 1.89 ng per gram

Lentil – 1090 ng per gram

Kidney bean – 529 ng per gram

Pistachio – 233,000 ng per gram *

Walnuts – 3.5 ng per gram

Should you supplement melatonin

Supplementing melatonin is an option for people who require a higher dose of melatonin to see any effects. Depending on which country you are from, this may or may not be something you can buy over the counter.

However, there are many popular stores, including Amazon, where you can find a variety of melatonin supplements up to 5 mg – which is significantly more than you would get from eating foods.

You can also get melatonin prescribed by a doctor if you have a medical condition.

Potential side effects of prescription and OTC melatonin (high dose supplements)

  • Hormonal changes – Women who are pregnant should not take melatonin and should speak to a doctor if considering taking it
  • Headaches – A very high dose of melatonin may cause headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability

Again, melatonin is very safe and has been studied long-term and the majority of people take it without any issues for up to 2 years. These side effects are often mild, transient.

Melatonin is just one component of a healthy sleep cycle, but a very important one.

References

Melatonin for Treatment of Sleep Disorders: Summary
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11941/

Melatonin in Patients with Reduced REM Sleep Duration: Two Randomized Controlled Trials
https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/89/1/128/2840303

Impact of Melatonin Enrichment during Germination of Legumes on Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26307852/

Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409706/

Efficacy of melatonin for sleep disturbance following traumatic brain injury: a randomized controlled trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29347988