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What's Your Favorite Morning Beverage? (Poll)

Recent studies have shown that coffee may have anticancer effects. However, if you're not a coffee drinker, I wouldn't start; caffeine can trigger anxiety, insomnia and even digestive and urinary problems. Instead, focus on the dietary and other lifestyle measures that can influence the risks of all types of cancer.

 Do you drink coffee every morning? If not, what morning beverage gets you up and going?


Meditation Eases Hot Flashes

It takes some training, but practicing mindfulness meditation does seem to help ease hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia in menopausal women, according to study results from the University of Massachusetts. Researchers there taught mindfulness meditation to 55 women between the ages of 47 and 69. A comparable group of 55 women of the same age who had the same symptoms were placed on a "waiting list" for training. The women in the first group attended classes once a week for eight weeks and also had a full day of training in mindfulness meditation, which involves focusing on the present. When the study began, the women reported five or more moderate to severe hot flashes or night sweats daily. After nearly two years of practice, the meditating women reported their symptoms bothered them about 15 percent less than they had at the outset, compared to a decrease of only 7 percent in the women who were on the waiting list. The study was published in the June 2011 issue of Menopause.

My take? Mindfulness is the technique of bringing all of our awareness to the here and now, to the sensations in our bodies and our breathing, for example, rather than letting much of it slip away in contemplation of the past and future or of other subjects that are not in the present. The assumption is that when we act with full awareness, our actions are more likely to achieve what we intend. These study results offer further evidence that mindfulness meditation can have a positive effect on health. Other than hormone replacement therapy, women have few options that they can count on to address menopausal symptoms. Mindfulness meditation is a risk-free method that is certainly worth trying.

Cool images can also ease hot flashes.


3 Natural Ways to Treat ED

Erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to achieve or maintain erections sufficient for intercourse, often has a psychological component, and counseling is encouraged as a primary treatment strategy. However, ED can also be a symptom of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, both of which can impair blood supply to the penis. In addition to lifestyle measures such as checking your medications, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and managing stress levels, I recommend the following herbs to help address ED:

  1. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). This herb may improve arousal in both men and women, perhaps by increasing blood flow to the genitals. It should not be used by those on blood thinners such as Coumadin/Warfarin.
  2. Ashwaganda. Derived from the roots of a plant in the nightshade family called Withania somnifera, ashwaganda is reputed to be a mild aphrodisiac and has long been popular in India. Ashwaganda is generally safe - follow the dosage on the package, and give it six to eight weeks to have an effect.
  3. Standardized extract of Asian ginseng. Asian ginseng, or Panax ginseng, is a good general stimulant and sexual energizer. Asian ginseng is considered safe but can raise blood pressure and cause irritability and insomnia in some people. Follow the dosage on the package, and give it a six to eight-week trial to see what it can do.

Is ED linked to heart disease?


Yo-Yo Dieting Is Better Than Staying Fat

Ideally, everyone who needs to lose weight could do it successfully and permanently, but that doesn't often happen. Until now, repeatedly losing and regaining weight - yo-yo dieting - has been regarded as harmful. But that belief may soon be challenged if a new study in mice proves correct. Since it isn't practical to test the lifetime effects of yo-yo dieting on humans, researchers at Ohio University put three groups of 10 mice each on one of three diets: high-fat, low-fat or a yo-yo diet, which alternated four weeks of high-fat food with four weeks of low-fat food over the lifespan of the mice. Then researchers then compared the weight, body fat and blood sugar of all the mice. They found that the average health of the yo-yo group was better than the health of the mice on the lifelong high-fat diet. The yo-yo mice also lived 35 percent longer than the high-fat diet mice, and their lifespan was similar to that of the mice on the low-fat diet. Based on these results, the investigators speculated that the negative effects of yo-yo dieting might be overemphasized.

More on Diets & Weight Loss


How Do You Quell Anxiety? (Poll)

In this recent Q&A from my site, I discuss the effectiveness of magnolia bark as a treatment for anxiety. Of course, there are plenty of lifestyle changes that can alleviate both anxiety and depression. Which of these measures work best for you? Please share in the comments as well.


Making Organic, Artisanal Cheese

Ever wondered how artisanal, aged cheese is made? One of my favorite trips was a visit to several organic farms that make products for Lucini Italia, a company that provides authentic, handcrafted gourmet foods based on Italian culinary traditions. One highlight was a visit to a small-batch artisanal producer of organic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in the Reggio-Emilia region of northern Italy. The master cheese-makers there handcraft just six 80-pound "wheels" of cheese daily - and only three of those wheels go on to be stamped "stravecchio" (which means "extra-aged') after a full 36-month aging process. The methods I observed have remained virtually unchanged in this region for 700 years.

Take a photo tour with me as I visit an artisanal producer of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.


12 Things Your Dog Should Never Eat

Last Thursday's post covered four foods that are fine for dogs to eat. Today’s post is a more extensive list of foods; ones that dogs shouldn’t eat. Each of these can have harmful effects on a dog’s health, ranging from allergic reactions to vomiting, diarrhea or even death. Be on the safe side and restrict your dog’s access to these foods - he or she will thank you!

  1. Alcohol, including beer, wine and liquor
  2. Avocados
  3. Caffeine, such as tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate and colas
  4. Dairy products
  5. Grapes and raisins
  6. Macadamia nuts or foods containing macadamia nuts
  7. Meat fat or bones
  8. Onions and garlic, raw, cooked, dehydrated and powdered
  9. Pantry staples such as baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg
  10. Fruits with pits, such as peaches and plums
  11. Raw eggs, meat and fish
  12. Salty or sugary food and drinks

Also be aware of anything containing the sweetener xylitol, such as candy, gum, toothpaste and baked goods, as well as human medications, especially acetaminophen and ibuprofen - all can have serious adverse affects on your dog’s health.

In case your dog does eat any of the above, it’s a good idea to always have on hand the number of your vet, an emergency clinic and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435). If you think your dog has consumed something toxic, call for emergency help at once.

Visit the Pets & Pet Care center on my site for more tips on raising a healthy companion animal.


What Is Reflexology?

Feeling stressed-out? Tense? Experiencing discomfort in certain parts of the body? Consider reflexology. This therapy is based on the principle that specific areas of the hands and feet correspond to specific muscle groups or organs of the body. Some examples are the base of the little toe representing the ear, or the ball of the foot representing the lung. By applying pressure on those areas, reflexology is said to promote benefits such as relaxation, improved circulation and normalized function in the related area of the body.

A typical reflexology session runs from thirty to sixty minutes. The client removes shoes and socks and sits or reclines. (Some reflexologists offer a foot bath at the beginning of the session, but no lotions or oils are used.) Pressure is applied in thumb-and-finger “walking” patterns, resulting in gentle stretching and massaging of specific zones of the hands and feet that are thought to correspond to bodily organs. Simple self-care instructions may be discussed at the completion of the session.

Learn more about reflexology, including how to find a practitioner!