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Exercise and Your Digestive Health

Have you ever noticed that after a great workout you sometimes have to hustle to the bathroom? There’s good reason for it – getting your heart pumping helps increase blood flow and oxygen circulation throughout your body.

Blood and oxygen are necessary to aid in digestion and keep muscles (even those in your intestines) healthy. So, when you’re working on your abs, triceps and hamstrings – you’re also giving your intestinal muscles a workout which gets things moving, and may result in a visit to the bathroom.

Your digestive system includes your stomach, esophagus, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestines and bowels. Your digestive system is responsible for breaking down the food you eat into the nutrients and energy your body needs to function properly. The normal time for digestion of the food is usually 24 hours to 72 hours. Exercising helps to improve the digestion process.

IMG_1780.PNGExercise improves blood flow throughout the body (which includes your digestive system) so, if you keep your body moving with regular exercise, and you can keep your digestive tract moving, too. A consistent exercise routine that may help you avoid a sluggish digestive system can also help you avoid constipation, in addition to any accompanying gas, bloating and cramps.

There are several forms of exercise that really help you to strengthen your digestive system.

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1. Yoga
2. Aerobic exercises
3. Abdominal exercises

Exercise is crucial to your body’s overall health, but diet is also an important factor, especially with regard to your digestive health. Eat healthy, fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit your intake of foods high in saturated fats. Drink plenty of water, especially before, during and after a workout. Exercise can dehydrate your body as you sweat, which can deplete your digestive system of the water it needs to function at optimum levels.

If you have digestive issues, consider adding exercise to your daily regimen. Remember to allow two hours after a meal before you exercise and do not exercise on a full stomach.

To learn more visit mayoclinic.org

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Meatless Monday: English Muffin Pizzas

These easy to prepare treats are fun and they make a great after school snack or appetizer!

English Muffin Pizzas
Servings: 12

Ingredients:

12 English muffin halves (6 English Muffins)
1 package (10 ounces or 280 grams) nondairy mozzarella cheese, grated.
1 jar (25 ounces or 700 grams) of pasta or pizza sauce.
Toppings such as vegan pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, bell peppers
2 tablespoons (6g) of dried oregano

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
In a toasted, toast muffin halves until golden brown.

2. Once toasted, place on a cookie sheet or baking pan.

3. Add the pasta sauce and distribute cheese evenly on the muffin halves.

4. Next, add any other toppings that you desire (vegan pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, bell peppers, etc).

5. Sprinkle on oregano and bake for 8-10 minutes, until cheese melts.

6. Remove from the oven and serve.

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Recipe adapted from The Vegan Table

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Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

What Is Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness?

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) describes a phenomenon of muscle pain, muscle soreness or muscle stiffness that occurs in the day or two after exercise. This muscle soreness is most frequently felt when you begin a new exercise program, change your exercise routine, or dramatically increase the duration or intensity of your exercise routine.

What Causes Muscle Soreness After Exercise?

Most believe soreness develops as a result of microscopic damage (tearing) to muscle fibers involved the exercise. This type of damage likely results from new stresses that were experienced during the exercise. One common misconception about DOMS is that it is due to lactic acid accumulation, but lactic acid is not a component of this process. DOMS appears to be a side effect of the repair process that develops in response to microscopic muscle damage.

IMG_1582.PNGEveryone is susceptible to DOMS, even those who have been exercising for years. However, the severity of soreness normally becomes less as your body becomes adapted to work it regularly performs. Just one bout of soreness- producing exercise actually develops a partial protective effect that reduces the chance of developing soreness in that same activity for weeks or months into the future.

DOMS Prevention

One of the best ways to reduce the severity of DOMS is to progress slowly in a new program. Allowing the muscle time to adapt to new stress should help to minimize the severity of symptoms, but it is unlikely that soreness can be avoided altogether. It is also important to allow the muscle time to recover from work that produces soreness. DOMS should last only a few days (usually 2-3 days). By allowing the the involved muscles to recover, they will be better prepared for future bouts of the same type of exercise.

Stretching is sometimes done before exercise, but it is better to stretch after the body is warmed up and after exercise. Stretching has not been shown to reduce or prevent symptoms of DOMS.

Tips for Dealing with Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness After Exercise

If you do find yourself sore after a tough workout or competition, try these methods to deal with your discomfort. There are a number of ways to alleviate those can’t-make-it-up-the-stairs symptoms.

1. Use Active Recovery
This strategy does have support in the research. Performing easy low-impact aerobic exercise increasing blood flow and is linked with diminished muscle soreness. After an intense workout or competition, use this technique as a part of your cool down.

2. Rest and Recover
If you simply wait it out, soreness will go away in 3 to 5 days with no special treatment.

3. Try Yoga
There is growing support that performing Yoga may reduce DOMS.

4. Get a Sports Massage
Some research has found that sports massage may help reduce reported muscle soreness and reduce swelling, although it had no effects on muscle function.

Other common ways to treat DOMS include foam rolling, contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold water), Epsom salt baths, increased protein intake (to increase protein synthesis) and omega-3 supplementation (to reduce inflammation), and sleep.

Seeking Medical Treatment

DOMS symptoms do not typically necessitate the need for medical intervention. If the pain level becomes debilitating, if limbs experience heavy swelling or if urine becomes dark, then a medical consultation is advised.

The biology of pain is never really straightforward, even when it appears to be. ~Unknown

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Meatless Monday: Penne Pasta and Kale in Creamy Cashew Sauce

This is a very quick recipe. Boil the pasta, blend the ingredients, sauté the kale and serve!

Ingredient Spotlight:
Kale

IMG_1539.JPG Kale has fantastic health benefits: it lowers cholesterol, reduces risk of heart disease and has Vitamins A, K, C, and phytonutrients. Kale is good for skin, hair and nails.

Nutritional Yeast

IMG_1540.JPGNutritional yeast is an excellent vegan source of protein and vitamins especially the B-complex vitamins and is a complete protein. It is naturally low in fat and sodium and is free of sugar, dairy and gluten, and fortified with Vitamin B-12 … important for red blood cell formation and nerve cells development.

Cashews

IMG_1541.JPG Cashews have the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that promotes good cardiovascular health.

Spicy Cashew Cream Penne with Kale

Ingredients:
8 ounces penne pasta
3/4 cup cashews
1/4 onion, chopped
3 large handfuls of kale (about 4-5 cups, loosely packed)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons salsa (optional)
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chile powder
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. garlic salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions:
Cook pasta according to directions.

In a large pan, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil. Toss in chopped onions and kale, and sauté until kale has cooked down completely.

In a blender, add cashews, nutritional yeast, spices, salsa, and non-dairy milk. Blend until you have a creamy consistency, adding more milk or water if too thick.

Add cooked kale to pasta and toss with cream sauce.

Sprinkle with a dash of chile powder for some color. Enjoy!

Health and nutrition don’t have to be very difficult. It just takes a little bit of planning.

Recipe adapted from: cheapandsimpleveganrecipes.com

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Probiotics: The Micro-Warriors

Our intestines are full of bacteria, both friendly “good” bacteria and not friendly (disease-causing) “bad” bacteria. In order to maintain good health and digestion, we need a ratio of 80% “good” bacteria and 20% “bad” bacteria.

IMG_1475.JPGWhen we consume a diet full of nutrient-depleted, processed, and sugary foods, we feed the “bad” bacteria and lose the “good” bacteria. Eventually, an imbalance can develop which results in a variety of different health problems and medical conditions. This is where probiotics (the micro-warriors) come in.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are thought to be beneficial in preventing several health conditions. They are usually consumed as supplements or yogurts and are also referred to as “good bacteria.”

According to the 2001 definition by the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Research supports the role of a healthy intestinal environment (microflora) in disease protection and prevention. Probiotics affect intestinal bacteria by increasing the numbers of beneficial bacteria and decreasing the population of “bad” bacteria. They help to restore the natural balance of good bacteria in the intestinal tract.

IMG_1483.GIFBecause your gut flora is fed and nourished by the foods you consume, you don’t necessarily need to take probiotics if you are in good health and are consuming a healthy (plant-based) diet. Eating a diet rich in organic vegetables, fruits, and beans naturally balances intestinal flora. The factors that appear to decrease an individual’s immunity or ability to resist the effects of “bad bacteria” include a diet high in animal proteins and fat, a low-fiber diet, antibiotic use, age, stress, inflammatory conditions, malnutrition, digestion problems and immune status.

Why Probiotics?

Probiotics are most often used to promote digestive health. Many people think that probiotics are only good for gastrointestinal issues, but they have other benefits as well.

Research has suggested that probiotic bacteria can:

Improve digestive function.
Help with side effects of antibiotic therapy.
Help reduce the risk of certain acute common infectious diseases.
Improve tolerance to lactose.
Enhance immune function.
Promoting oral health.
Preventing and treating certain skin conditions like eczema.
Promoting health in the urinary tract and vagina.

Because there are different kinds of probiotics, it is important to find the right one for the specific health benefit you seek.

Who Should Take Probiotics?

Probiotics can be of value in the treatment of a variety of health concerns. These include diarrhea associated with antibiotic intake, acute infectious diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

IMG_1478.JPGPrebiotics differ from probiotics. They are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and/or activity of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. They are found naturally in a variety of foods including onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, artichokes, oats, and bananas.

Where are Probiotics Found?

In addition to yogurts and fermented drinks, probiotics are also found in dietary supplements, such as tablets and powders, as well as suppositories and creams.

Are Probiotics Safe?

Probiotics are generally considered safe because they are already present in a normal digestive system. But, there is a theoretical risk for people with severely impaired immune function and/or serious illnesses (HIV/AIDS, pancreatitis, etc).

Keep in mind that probiotics are considered dietary supplements and are not FDA-regulated like drugs. They are not standardized, meaning they are made in different ways by different companies and have different additives. Be sure the ingredients are clearly marked on the label and familiar to you or your health provider.

The best advice is to choose products from well-known companies, especially those that have been tested in clinical research studies.

Remember every time you eat or drink you are either feeding disease or fighting it.

References:
Goldin BR. Gorbach SL. Clinical Indications for Probiotics: an overview. Clin Infec Dis 2008. 46Suppl2:S96-100

Hempel, S, et al. Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. JAMA. May 2012. JAMA. 2012;307(18):1959-1969.

Sanders M. How do we know when something called “Probiotic” is really a Probiotic? A guideline for Consumers and Health Care Professionals. Functional Food Reviews. 2009;1:3-12.

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Meatless Monday: Zucchini Noodles with Basil Almond Pesto

Are you trying to eat healthy and get those vegetables in, but your inner foodie just can’t get past craving carbs? How about using zucchini squash to make noodles? Today’s Meatless Monday dish is healthy and perfect for a hot summer evening.

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Ingredient Spotlight: Zucchini

Zucchini, also known as summer squash, is an excellent source of manganese which aids in carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It is also very high in vitamin C which has antihistamine properties that can help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that is responsible for protecting good cholesterol and promoting heart health. Zucchini contains a variety of minerals, including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, that build and maintain healthy bones.

Here’s the recipe:

Zucchini Noodles with Basil Almond Pesto
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yield : 4 servings

Ingredients:
½ yellow onion, diced
2 cups basil, tightly packed
½ cup raw slivered almonds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
pinch of crushed red pepper
Himalayan sea salt
3 large zucchini
1 pint cherry tomatoes

Instructions
For the pesto:
Combine the onion, basil, almonds, olive oil, vinegar and crushed red pepper in a food processor. Pulse until you have a smooth pesto and then season to taste with salt.

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For blistered tomatoes:
Preheat oven to broil. Place cherry tomatoes on baking sheet and broil until blistered and bursting about 3-5 minutes.

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For zucchini pasta:
Run the zucchini through a vegetable spiralizer (I use a Veggetti) and collect in a large bowl or baking sheet.

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Lightly coat a non-stick pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high heat. Add the zucchini “noodles” to pan and gently stir for about 1-2 minutes, until just al dente.

Toss the zucchini noodles with the pesto until the noodles are well coated. Season to taste with salt. Toss the sliced almonds in.

Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the blistered cherry tomatoes and serve.

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Happy (Meatless) Monday all!

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Ebola Outbreak: What You Need to Know

The Ebola “Hemorrhagic Fever” Outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone of 2014 is out of control. As you are well aware, two American aid workers and the lead Ebola doctor in Sierra Leon have been infected.

These headlines are deeply troubling. But should you be worried about the virus spreading to the U.S.? Here’s everything you need to know about the Ebola virus outbreak so far.

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1. Where’s the outbreak?
So far the Ebola outbreak is in three countries in West Africa that border each other: Guinea (where it was first detected in February), Sierra Leone, and Liberia. There has also been a case in Nigeria.

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2. Why is it spreading so quickly?
First of all, there’s no vaccine for Ebola. So health officials have to stop the infection by isolating patients to prevent further transmission.

3. How do you become infected by the virus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Ebola is spread either through direct contact with blood or secretions of an infected person or exposure to objects that have been in contact with secretions of an infected person. The CDC and World Health Organization say Ebola victims do not become contagious until they start showing symptoms.

4. What are the symptoms?
Ebola infections usually manifest with flu-like symptoms including high fever and chills, followed by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain, cough, and headache. As the virus progresses, the symptoms get worse, much worse.

Symptoms of Ebola typically include:
Fever
Headache
Joint and muscle aches
Weakness
Diarrhea
Vomiting
Stomach pain
Lack of appetite

Some patients may experience:
Rash
Red Eyes
Hiccups
Cough
Sore throat
Chest pain
Difficulty breathing
Difficulty swallowing
Bleeding inside and outside of the body

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus though 8-10 days is most common.

It can be difficult to distinguish between Ebola and malaria, typhoid fever or cholera. Only in later stages do people with Ebola begin bleeding both internally and externally, often through the nose and ears.

5. How is Ebola treated?
Since there is no cure, doctors can only treat the symptoms and provide “supportive therapy” or palliative care which means supporting the patient’s own immune system as it tries to battle the infection. This usually involves intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and shock. Therapy for Ebola patients could also include blood or platelet transfusions and oxygen therapy.

Ebola can last two to three weeks, so patients would remain in isolation until their symptoms subside and tests come back negative for the virus.

Some who become sick with Ebola are able to recover, while others do not. The reasons behind this are not yet fully understood. However, it is known that patients who die usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus at the time of death.

6. Should YOU be worried?
Here’s a reality check: Ebola is not an airborne disease and therefore it has a lower transmission rate than Influenza. Currently, in the United States, more people die from influenza. The flu kills about 36,000 people a year in the United States, according to the CDC (though the range varies greatly each year). And most of those deaths are caused by complications from the flu. Influenza also requires hand washing and isolation to prevent transmission.

Learn more at the CDC.gov