7 Causes of Brain Fog and How To Treat It

Have you ever been sitting at your desk at work? Have you ever been sitting there at your desk?

“This desk is so messy.”

“This desk should be bigger.”

“I should buy a boat.”

“Wow, I need to get some coffee.”

Yes? Then you know the feeling. That ever-elusive, just can’t put your finger on it feeling of fog that comes over your brain at the most inconvenient times. Brain fog is a pretty common complaint, and not being able to think clearly can become quite disconcerting. You start to wonder. Do I have a brain tumor? Did I have a stroke? Is something seriously wrong with me?

Fortunately, there are a lot of not so serious causes of brain fog; however, if it persists, you should talk to your physician about it, especially if you take prescription medications. It may be as simple as making some adjustments to your medication regime.

What is Brain Fog?

According to SteadyMD Doctor and Whole30 coach, Rick Henrikson, “brain fog is the inability to have a sharp memory or to lack a sharp focus.You just really feel like you’re not yourself, and you’re unable to think clearly.”

It isn’t a disease or even a diagnosis; it is just a term used for specific symptoms that can affect your ability to think. Your thoughts may feel disorganized, making it difficult to concentrate or put your thoughts into words. As you can imagine, being a writer, brain health and mental clarity are essential to my job.

7 Causes of Brain Fog

Systemic Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself against harmful invaders. An army of cells and proteins deploys in response to illness or injury. If you cut yourself, this army immediately goes to the site of cut and fights off harmful bacteria that are trying to enter your body through the cut. Part of the army is fighting; part of the army is laying down a barrier to keep out invaders.

In cases of illness, the army is circulating in your bloodstream, fighting off harmful cells that have entered your body. It is a state of high alert for your system.

In some cases, the body remains on high alert after the invader has gone, and systemic inflammation is the result.

Systemic inflammation can cause:

  • Body and joint pain
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression, anxiety, brain fog
  • Constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Frequent infections

Be sure to seek medical advice if you feel that you have chronic inflammation as long term inflammation can be detrimental to your health. Although there is no specific blood test for chronic inflammation, there are markers in your blood that can indicate inflammation is present. A medical professional will be able to monitor and treat chronic inflammation.

Medication Side Effects

Some drugs have a sedative effect and can cause chronic fatigue or brain fog symptoms. Some common medications include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Sleep aids
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Chemotherapy for cancer

Also, taking several medications at once can lead to fog brain as those medications tend to interact with each other. Be sure that your doctor is aware of all the medicines you are taking. Take inventory of your medications regularly and speak with your doctor to make sure that each drug you are taking is still required to maintain your health.

Low Blood Sugar

You don’t have to be diabetic to experience changes in your blood sugar. There are two reasons that you might experience significant drips in blood sugar. Optimal health and memory function requires stable blood sugar levels.

  • After eating a large meal that is high in carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are broken down into different types of sugars in your body; one of them is Glucose. The primary energy source for your cells is Glucose, and the body produces insulin to help it get into your blood cells for transport. Sometimes your body will produce more insulin than your body needs for this task, causing your blood sugar to drop too low.

  • When skipping meals:

If you skip meals a lot, and your blood sugar drops regularly, the brain stops telling the pancreas to produce insulin to keep your sugar from dropping too low. This can lead to dizziness, decreased concentration, loss of consciousness, and even death if it goes untreated.

Keep snacks on hand that provide carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Good examples of these are cheese and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, nuts, or yogurt.

Dehydration

Your brain contains about 75% water, having a full reserve of water is essential for optimal brain function. Not getting enough water causes the brain to function at a slow speed. Water delivers nutrients to the brain and carries away toxins. For this process to work, your body must be adequately hydrated.

Everyone has different water requirements depending on their height, weight, and body composition. The color and odor of your urine can provide the best clue as to whether you are drinking enough water. Ideally, your urine should be pale yellow with very little odor. If your urine is dark yellow or brownish and has a strong smell, you need to drink more water. Staying hydrated is essential to good health, optimal memory function and concentration.

Lack of Exercise (Physical and Mental)

Research from the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise specifically boosts the size of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is precisely involved in learning and memory function. You don’t have to go to the gym and do a power workout to feel the benefits of exercising. Going for a brisk walk will get your heart pumping and increase oxygen to your brain. Adding regular physical exercise to your health regimen can improve memory and combat fatigue syndrome. However, it is good practice to seek medical advice before starting any new type of exercise program.

Another type of exercise that people often forget is mental exercise. Just like your heart, your brain is an exercisable muscle. Reading provides a power workout for your brain, and you won’t even feel like you left the house. Studies show that people who read regularly showed a decreased incidence of brain lesions and reported less incidence of age-related memory decline.

Learn something new, do a crossword puzzle every day just keep your brain busy with things to figure out. That type of mental fatigue won’t cause brain fog; it will improve your brain health.

Lack of Sleep

According to the Centers For Disease Control, one in three people don’t get enough sleep. The amount of sleep isn’t the only factor, either. Good sleep health involves appropriate timing, a regular sleep schedule, and good quality sleep. People have varying sleep duration needs, but having a regular bedtime and making sure your sleep is optimal will stave off sleepiness and brain fog.

Studies conducted on patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have found that sleep disorders are responsible for about 20% of cases of CFA. Patients were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or were diagnosed with an alternative sleep disorder at a three-year follow-up.

If you feel that you have healthy sleep habits, and are getting adequate sleep, but you still feel exhausted during the day, discuss this with your physician.

Stress

While exercising can increase the size of your hippocampus (the part of the brain involved in memory and brain function), the reverse is true for stress. Extended periods of acute stress causes the hippocampus to shrink.

Anxiety, in general, has been linked to feelings of detachment and brain fog. Learning methods of self-relaxation, such as meditation, guided imagery, self-hypnosis, journaling, and breathing exercises, will help improve stress levels. Yoga and exercising have also proved to reduce stress and anxiety.

Quick Fixes For Brain Fog

Despite all your best efforts, you may still find yourself sitting in a fog at times. Below is a list of some “quick fixes” that may help get you back on track:

  • Chew some gum
  • Drink some cold water
  • Go for a brisk walk
  • Meditate
  • Expose yourself to sunlight

A Final Word

Regardless of the cause, brain fog is uncomfortable, disconcerting, and a downright nuisance when you are trying to work. Your healthcare provider will be able to rule out any underlying issues that may be contributing to your brain fog. Otherwise, adopting a healthy lifestyle filled with plenty of sleep, water, exercise, nutritious food, and stress management is the best option by far.

Brain Fog Causes and Treatment

Resources

https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-brain-fog#:~:text=%E2%80%9CBrain%20fog%E2%80%9D%20isn’t,put%20your%20thoughts%20into%20words.

https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-brain-fog#:~:text=%E2%80%9CBrain%20fog%E2%80%9D%20isn’t,put%20your%20thoughts%20into%20words.

https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-brain-fog#:~:text=%E2%80%9CBrain%20fog%E2%80%9D%20isn’t,put%20your%20thoughts%20into%20words.

https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-brain-fog#:~:text=%E2%80%9CBrain%20fog%E2%80%9D%20isn’t,put%20your%20thoughts%20into%20words.

https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-brain-fog#:~:text=%E2%80%9CBrain%20fog%E2%80%9D%20isn’t,put%20your%20thoughts%20into%20words.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/

https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2017-05-04/how-hypoglycemia-and-hyperglycemia-can-hurt-your-health

Journal, It’s Good For Your Health

How Journaling Helps?

It’s not always easy to identify what’s causing you to feel anxious and stressed. Although in today’s climate, just turning on the television can be a catalyst. Amid a global pandemic and the increase in nationwide violence, it’s easy to understand why we might feel a little more anxious and stressed these days.

Journaling is a healthy way to organize your thoughts and feelings. It can reduce stress and assist with managing anxiety. Used as a coping strategy for depression and mood stabilization, it may help to reveal triggers and open the door to figuring out useful ways to avoid them.

 It is also an effective tool to help work through the stages of grief after the death of a pet or a loved one. Feelings can often become erratic and overwhelming when dealing with such loss.

Through journaling, you may also be able to identify common issues or themes that need to be addressed by a counselor or therapist. 

Journaling is a healthy mental exercise for your brain. Writers use journaling to stimulate creativity and stave off writer’s block. Just grab a notebook and a pen or pencil to get yourself started. Whether you journal in the morning or the evening, it’s a mentally productive addition to your daily routine. 

Types of Journaling

Gratitude Journaling

Writing down what you are grateful for is always a good practice. However, during times of stress and emotional turmoil, it can provide a good distraction. You can do it in the form of a bulleted list or just write paragraphs expanding on all that you have to be grateful for. 

Visual Journaling

This type of journal combines pictures with words. Images can be drawn or clipped from a magazine. Creating a visual representation of what you are journaling about has been shown to reduce stress and ease anxiety.

Stream of Consciousness Journaling

I find this type of journaling very effective. You don’t have to worry about punctuation or grammar. You don’t even have to write in complete sentences. Simply write down whatever comes into your mind. Be sure to have a lot of paper handy because once the stream starts flowing, you want to minimize distractions. You will surprise yourself at how much you can purge through this type of journaling.

Unsent Letter Journaling

This method is particularly effective for anger. It allows you to get thoughts and feelings down on paper in a safe way. Ultimately it’s up to you whether you want to send the letter, but it’s essential to write it as if you have no intention of sending it. Write down anything and everything that you have always wanted to say but didn’t dare. If it makes you feel better, you can shred it when you are done, but this exercise is especially cathartic.

Intuition Journaling

Sometimes we lose touch with our intuition or what our gut is telling us. It is especially true in relationships where there may be emotional abuse or gaslighting going on. If you are repeatedly told you are crazy or you are useless, this starts to become your truth. You stop listening to your intuition, and that can be dangerous.

Start by writing down a question such as, “Is this relationship worth fighting for?” Then sit with it for a while and see what your gut tells you. Relearn how to hear your intuition and listen to it.

Getting Started

  • Set aside quiet time in your day to write in your journal
  • Let journal time be YOUR time, just relax and enjoy the outlet
  • Remember, you don’t have to share your journal with anyone unless you choose to
  • Get to know yourself through your journal
  • Watch for patterns of negative or self-defeating talk

Types of Journals

There are many types of journals to choose from, right down to a spiral-bound notebook. My favorite is the Moleskin brand, it has a quality feel to the cover and they make both lined and unlined journals.  The Strategist just published The Best Notebooks on Amazon According to Hyperenthusiastic Reviewers in May, so I am going to refer you to that as it seems to be a pretty comprehensive list. No need to reinvent the wheel.

A Final Word

I’m a fan of journaling and mental health awareness. Life isn’t easy; it takes work to keep your ducks from running amuck. Journaling is one small tool you can use to keep your thoughts organized and visible. Writing down thoughts and feelings frees up space in your mind, can increase your focus, and helps to troubleshoot what might be holding you back. Give it a try; what do you have to lose?

20 Little Known Fruits and Vegetables You May Want to Try

The FDA recommends five servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health. That’s a lot of servings, and it seems that you eventually run out of choices or get tired of eating the same ones every day. Here is a compiled list of 20 fruits and vegetables that are not widely known about and pack a powerful nutritional punch. Think about trying a new one every now and then, and maybe you will find a new favorite.

Vegetables

Celeriac

Celeriac originated in the Mediterranean and is most prevalent in Eastern and Northern Europe. Its peak season is from September to April, but it is typically available year-round.

Because of its odd shaped, rough, knobby, appearance Celeriac is referred to as the “ugly duckling” of vegetables.

Celeriac is a nutrient-dense root vegetable that belongs to the carrot plant family. It can easily be incorporated into your diet in place of potatoes or other root vegetables. It is closely related to celery, parsley, and parsnips.

Celeriac is commonly used raw in salads and coleslaw due to its crunchiness. However, it takes on a sweeter taste when cooked and can be prepared as a potato would be: mashed, roasted, baked, or boiled.

Rich in potassium and vitamin K, celeriac packs a “heart-healthy” punch. Potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure by neutralizing the adverse effects of salt, and Vitamin K has been linked with decreasing calcium build up in the blood, which leads to hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels. Other health benefits include bone-strengthening, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting properties.

Serving Size 3.5 ounces

  • Calories: 42
  • Carbs: 9.2 grams
  • Protein: 1.5 grams
  • Fat: 0.3 grams
  • Fiber: 1.8 grams
  • Vitamin B6: 8% RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin K: 51% RDI  
  • Vitamin C: 13% RDI
  • Phosphorus: 12% RDI
  • Potassium: 9% RDI
  • Manganese: 8% RDI

Daikon Radish

The daikon radish is a winter radish and is native to China and Japan. It is known for its medicinal properties and widely used for cooking in Asia and India.

There are many varieties of daikon radish, which accounts for the numerous shapes and colors. The word daikon means “big root.”

Daikon Radishes are as beautiful as they are nutritionally dense. These radishes can be white, red, green, or purple, and they grow in cylindrical, elongated, and spherical shapes.

Daikon radishes boast anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that can fight infection and bacteria that invade the lungs, causing a buildup of mucus. Daikon also has enzymes that act as a natural decongestant, making them a great addition to the diet during cold and flu season. 

Drinking daikon radish juice is also known for relieving and preventing migraine headaches, aiding in digestion, fighting certain types of cancer, and promoting healthy skin and hair by increasing blood circulation to the face and scalp.

Daikon radishes can be:

  • Added to smoothies
  • Roasted, baked, boiled or steamed
  • Used in slaw
  • Used in any recipe that calls for radishes

Serving Size: 12 ounces

  • Calories: 61
  • Carbs: 14 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Vitamin C: 124% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Folate (B9): 24% of RDI
  • Calcium: 9% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 14% of RDI
  • Potassium: 22% of RDI
  • Copper: 19% of RDI

Dragon Carrot

Believe it or not, the very first carrots grown were not orange. They were purple and white. Dragon carrots are purple and are known as Eastern carrots (Orange carrots are known as Western carrots). Dragon carrots were introduced as a food crop in the Peruvian Empire and the Iranian Plateau in the 10th century AD.

No matter what their color, carrots are packed with fiber, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin A and certain B vitamins. However, specific nutritional characteristics are unique to purple fruits and vegetables. They are rich in anthocyanins, which is unique to the Polyphenol family of antioxidants.

These antioxidants play an essential role in reducing oxidative stress, which is when there are more free radicals than antioxidants in our blood. Oxidative stress has been linked to several health conditions, including cancer, mental decline, heart disease, and aging.

Purple dragon carrots are very versatile and can be added to your diet in a variety of dishes. They can be:

  • Used in soups and stews
  • Grated for slaw
  • Dehydrated for chips
  • Diced for use in stir fry or other dishes
  • Roasted as a side dish
  • Used in smoothies

Serving Size: 1 medium carrot

  • Calories: 25
  • Carbs: 6 grams 
  • Protein: < 1gram
  • Fat: 0.1gram
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin B6: 6% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin C: 10% of RDI
  • Phosphorus: 5% of RDI
  • Potassium: 6.5% of RDI
  • Manganese 6% of RDI

Fiddlehead

Fiddleheads are small but mighty. Just one-half cup of fiddlehead provides 80% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 50% of the RDI of vitamin C. These little gems are also a good source of vitamin B2, vitamin B3, copper, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.

Fiddleheads grow from late April to mid-May in New England and along the coast of Canada. Fiddleheads are actually young curled fronds of a Fiddlehead fern.

Harvesters called “fiddleheaders” go out in early Spring and forage for them. They take care to only harvest two or three coils from each fiddlehead patch as taking more than that could kill the entire patch.  

Cleaning them involves removing the papery brown covering from each one and washing them thoroughly as they are known to carry food bourn illnesses. It is a very labor-intensive job. 

Cooked in lightly salted water for about 10 minutes and served with a bit of melted butter or vinegar, they make for a tasty side dish. They can also be cooked longer to soften and spread on toast. Fiddleheads are also a delicious addition to any salad.

Serving Size: ½ Cup

  • Calories: 40
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Fat: 0
  • Fiber: 25 grams
  • Vitamin A: 80% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin C: 50 % of RDI
  • Calcium: 4% of RDI
  • Iron: 8% of RDI

Kohlrabi

Grown in winter months, kohlrabi originated in Northern Europe. However, it was not introduced in the United States until 1800.

Known as a German turnip, kohlrabi is a cruciferous vegetable and is related to cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Its bulb can be purple pale green or white on the outside, but they are all white-yellow inside.

Its taste and texture are similar to broccoli stems or cabbage, but its flavor is slightly sweeter. A single cup of kohlrabi provides almost 100% of the RDI of vitamin C.

After trimming away the outer layer with a sharp vegetable peeler, the inner flesh can be sliced, peeled, chopped, grated, or spiralized for use in slaws and salads or cooked by boiling, roasting or pureeing for soups.

Serving Size: 1 Cup

  • Calories: 36
  • Carbs: 8 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Vitamin C: 93% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin B6:12% of RDI
  • Potassium: 10% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 6% of RDI
  • Manganese: 8% of RDI
  • Folate: 5% of RDI

Marsh Samphire

Marsh samphire is a halophyte plant, which means that it is saltwater tolerant. It is a green leaf succulent that grows spontaneously in salty environments in many parts of the United Kingdom. It is found in marshy areas among shorelines, mudflats, estuaries, and tidal creeks.

This plant has a high capacity for storing minerals, which gives it its high nutritional value.

Samphire has a distinct texture and taste; it is satisfyingly crisp and salty. It is delicious raw but can also be steamed and paired with fish and seafood dishes.

Due to its salt content, it is used medicinally as a diuretic that is effective in preventing arterial hypertension. It is also rich in vitamins, minerals, but also boasts anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-diabetic properties. 

When samphire is dried and crushed, it is the perfect dietary replacement for salt for this with restricted salt diets.

Serving Size: 100g

  • Calories: 45
  • Fat: 0.7 grams
  • Carbs: 9.1 grams
  • Fiber: 0.5 grams
  • Protein: 3.1 grams
  • Potassium: 50 mg
  • Iron: 12% of RDI

Romanesco Broccoli

Romanesco broccoli is native to Eastern Mediterranean and was imported to Italy in the 16th century. From there, it migrated to Germany and then to France. In the United States, it is referred to as both Romanesco broccoli and Romanesco cauliflower interchangeably.

It is a hybrid of cauliflower and broccoli, from the edible flower species of plants. It can be used in recipes that call for either broccoli or cauliflower. Due to their smaller and more delicate size, they require less time to cook.

Romanesco broccoli is chartreuse green and color and has a delicate, nutty flavor. It contains many antioxidants that help strengthen the liver against toxic substances and has been shown to slow tumor growth in bladder, breast, prostate, ovarian, and colon cancers.

In Italy, there are entire recipes that are dedicated to Romanesco broccoli; however, in the United States, it is prepared and eaten much the same as broccoli and cauliflower.

Serving Size: 1 Cup

  • Calories: 40
  • Fat: 0.1 grams
  • Carbs: 7.8 grams
  • Fiber: 4.1 grams
  • Protein: 3.8 grams
  • Calcium: 3.1% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin A: 3.6% of RDI
  • Vitamin C: 150% of RDI
  • Potassium: 10 of RDI

Salsify

If you can imagine a root vegetable that tastes like a saltwater mollusk, that would be the “salsify.” Proving once again that there is something out there for everyone. 

There are two species of this plant, the Scorzonera (black oyster plant) and the common white salsify. Both have similar growth characteristics and are in the same family as carrots, parsnips, and celery.

Depending on when the seeds are sown, they can be harvested in Spring or Winter; however, like parsnips, they require adequate exposure to winter frost for good crop production.

Salsify is an excellent source of dietary fiber and Inulin, which acts as a prebiotic to help absorb minerals, regulate blood sugar levels, control obesity, and ease constipation.

According to studies done at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, the polyacetylene antioxidants found in salsify possess anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anticancer properties that offer protection from colon cancer and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).

Due to an oozing of sticky latex that results from peeling, which can stain clothes and hands, use gloves and a cloth to clean peeled root surfaces.

Salsify can be:

  • Prepared raw for salads and coleslaw
  • Roasted, boiled or steamed like asparagus
  • Sliced or cubed for stews, soups, and stir-fry

Black salsify is considered a delicacy in some traditional Italian dish

Serving Size: 1Cup Sliced

  • Calories: 109
  • Fat: 0.3
  • Sodium: 26.6 mg
  • Potassium: 505.4 mg
  • Carbs: 24.7 grams
  • Fiber: 4.4 grams
  • Protein: 4.4 grams
  • Vitamin C: 18% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Magnesium: 30.6% of RDI
  • Thiamine: 0.1% of RDI
  • Manganese: 18% of RDI
  • Selenium: 2% of RDI
  • Riboflavin: 18% of RDI
  • Folate: 9% of RDI
  • Niacin 4% of RDI
  • Riboflavin: 18% of RDI
  • Copper: 6%% of RDI

Tiger Nuts

Don’t let the name fool you; tiger nuts are not nuts at all. They are tubers that are in the same family as sweet potatoes.

Their first use dates back to Neolithic Egypt with it’s farming spreading to North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish have been using tiger nuts to make the popular, creamy beverage Horchata since the 18th century.

Tiger nuts are harvested from the yellow nutsedge plant; they taste like a combination of almonds and pecans. They are a popular staple in the Vegan and Paleo diets as they are gluten and dairy-free.

Research shows that these fiber-packed nut-like tubers can improve heart health by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL).

Tiger nuts are also rich in antioxidants and can be eaten raw, roasted, soaked or boiled. Tiger nuts have also used to make flour, tiger nut oil, or tiger nut milk.

A word of caution, one ounce of tiger nuts contains 10 grams of fiber, so introduce them slowly into your diet if you have gastrointestinal sensitivity.

Serving Size: 20 nuts

  • Calories: 150
  • Fiber: 8 grams
  • Sugars: 7 grams
  • Carbs: 18 grams
  • Protein: 2 gram
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Iron: 10% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Phosphorus: 8% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 8% of RDI
  • Potassium: 9% of RDI
  • Calcium: 2% of RDI
  • Manganese: 8% of RDI
  • Thiamin: 15% of RDI
  • Copper: 4% or RDI

Tomatillo

The name tomatillo means “little tomato,” in Spanish. The tomatillo was thought to have been domesticated around 800 B.C. by the Aztecs in central Mexico; they were an important food source to the early Mayans.

In Mexico and Guatemala, salsa verde is made by combining tomatillos and spicy peppers. Salsa verde is a green sauce that is used as a condiment to top many dishes and used as a dip for chips. You just may find it on top of your enchilada the next time you order one at a Mexican restaurant.

Tomatillos are a source of phytochemicals called withanolides. These plant compounds have been found to cause apoptosis or cell death in colon cancer patients.

Withanolides are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties. In Western medicine, research on withanolides demonstrate clinical benefits in the alleviation of symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Tomatillos contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants that concentrate in the retina and protect against environmental damage. Their vitamin and mineral concentration is also known for slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Tomatillos can be eaten whole as they do not have seeds or a core. They cannot be used in recipes that call for tomato, as they are distinctly different.

Serving Size: ½ cup

  • Calories: 20
  • Fat: 0.5
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugars 3 grams
  • Protein 1 gram
  • Vitamin A: 2% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin C: 15% of RDI
  • Iron: 2% of RDI

Fruits

Loquat

This small, sweet, citrus-like fruit is pack with powerful plant compounds. Loquats have a sweet, tart taste with a hint of citrus. Fully ripened loquats are best as immature fruit can have a sour taste.

Loquats grow in subtropical climates and are indigenous to Southeastern China and Japan. Chinese immigrants are thought to have transported the loquat to Hawaii.

Loquats are a great source of carotenoids and antioxidants, which have been proven to enhance the immune system, reduce inflammation, and protect against heart and eye diseases. Potassium, magnesium, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds can all be found in the loquat, making them a nutritious fruit to add to your diet.

Loquats are versatile and can be eaten raw with meat and cheese, used to make jams and jellies, baked into pies, tossed into fruit salads, stewed, or juiced for cocktails.

Serving Size: 1 cup cubed

  • Calories: 70
  • Carbs: 18 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Vitamin A: 46% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin B6: 7% of RDI
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 5% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 5% of RDI
  • Potassium: 11% of RDI
  • Manganese: 11% of RDI

Rambutan

At first glance, the rambutan might resemble a sea urchin or something from outer space. It’s hairy, green and red outer casing make it an ominous-looking fruit. However, if you can get past its menacing exterior, the reward will be well worth it.

Rambutan is native to Southeast Asia and thrives in tropical climates. It grows on trees that can grow to up to eighty feet tall. 

It is related to the lychee and the logan fruit. All of these fruits have a sweet, creamy white flesh inside.

Rambutan is very high in vitamin C; in fact, eating just 5-6 of them will provide 50% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Due to its high fiber content, it is also known to aid in digestion.

Its sweet and creamy taste, make it a satisfying snack once the outer skin and inner seed are removed. Although some people prefer to eat the whole fruit, it has not been proven that the skin and seed are safe for consumption.

Common uses for rambutan:

  • In tropical fruit salad
  • Juiced
  • As a garnish for mixed drinks
  • In cereal
  • On ice cream
  • In smoothies

Serving Size: 100 grams

  • Calories: 68
  • Fat: 0
  • Potassium: 179.7 mg
  • Sodium: 6.3 mg
  • Carbs: 16 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 13 grams
  • Vitamin C: 68.5% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Iron: 2.7% of RDI
  • Riboflavin: 3.5% of RDI
  • Phosphorous: 1.7% of RDI
  • Zinc: 1.4% of RDI
  • Manganese: 9.5% of RDI
  • Calcium: 0.8% of RDI
  • Thiamin: 1.3% of RDI
  • Niacin: 3.9% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 4.4% of RDI
  • Copper: 9% of RDI

Kiwano

The kiwano is yet another exotic fruit that resembles a sea urchin. It has a thick rind that is covered in spikes. It more resembles something out of a science fiction movie that the highly nutritious fruit that it is.

The kiwano is native to Central and Southern regions of Africa and is rich in electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, and sodium. These important minerals, coupled with the fact that kiwano is 88% water, makes it the perfect fruit to keep you hydrated on a hot day. 

Kiwano has a seeded, green gelatinous inside that tastes like a sweeter version of its cousin the cucumber. However, the more it ripens, you begin to taste a hint of banana.

The best way to enjoy this fruit is to simply slice it open, add a hint of salt or sugar to enhance the flavor and eat it right out of the skin, seeds and all. Kiwano has a rich mineral content, including magnesium and zinc, are important in maintaining mental health and are thought to improve mood.

Other health benefits of kiwano include:

  • Bone health support
  • Skin health
  • Heart health
  • Immunity support

Serving Size: 1 fruit

  • Calories: 92
  • Carbs: 16 grams
  • Protein: 3.7 grams
  • Fat: 2.6 grams
  • Vitamin B6: 7% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin E: 278% of RDI
  • Iron: 13% of RDI
  • Phosphorus: 8% of RDI
  • Vitamin C: 18% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 21% of RDI
  • Zinc: 7% of RDI
  • Potassium: 8% of RDI
  • Calcium: 3% of RDI

Mangosteen

Mangosteen is a tropical sweet and sour flavored fruit that is originally from Southeast Asia but can be found in other tropical regions throughout the world.

European explorers had difficulty transporting the fragile fruit, so it wasn’t introduced to England until 1789. However, they weren’t productively farmed until fifty years later.

Early descriptions of this exotic fruit’s flavor are “like that of a fine nectarine with a dash of strawberry and a hint of pineapple.”

Many studies have been done on the mangosteen’s anticancer benefits with positive results. One study focused on the role that mangosteen plays in slowing the growth of colorectal tumors. Another study cited the potential of the fruit’s slowing the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Mangosteen is high in fiber with no saturated fats or cholesterol. They are a good source of potassium for health, a good source of B vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, and folate, which help metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Note: Mangosteen should be consumed in moderation as it contains fructose, which may be harmful to your health if eaten in excess.

Mangosteen segments can be used in salads, used in smoothies, or enjoyed just as they are.

Serving Size: 1 cup

  • Calories: 143
  • Carbs: 35 grams
  • Fiber: 3.5 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Protein: 1 gram.
  • Vitamin C: 9% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin B9 (folate): 15% of RDI
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 7% of RDI

Durian

Durian is known as the “king of fruits” It is one of the most nutritious fruits in the world. Perhaps this is why people can put up with its stinky smell. Durian also has the distinction of being one of the worlds most smelly fruit.

Some people love the smell, and other people hate it. A study on the aromatic compounds in durian found forty-four active compounds, including some that contribute to scents of skunk, caramel, rotten egg, fruit, and soup seasoning.

Whether or not you like the fruit will depend on which smells are the most prominent to you. Durian has actually been banned from some hotels and public transport systems in Southeast Asia due to its pungent smell.

Why is all this worth mentioning? Because this fruit is so nutritionally dense that eating just one cup provides you with the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 357
  • Fat: 13 grams
  • Carbs: 66 grams
  • Fiber: 9 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Vitamin C: 80% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Thiamine: 61% of RDI
  • Manganese: 39% of RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 38% of RDI
  • Potassium: 30% of RDI
  • Riboflavin: 29% of RDI
  • Copper: 25% of RDI
  • Folate: 22% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 18% of RDI
  • Niacin: 13% of RDI

Studies show that durian offers the following health benefits:

  • It may neutralize cancer-causing free radicals in the blood.
  • It helps reduce cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of hardening of the arteries.
  • The rind has antibacterial and anti-yeast properties.
  • There are less frequent incidence of fruit-related sugar spikes due to its low glycemic index.

The flavor of durian is compared to taking a bite of caramel, almonds, garlic, and cheese all at the same time. Both the custard-like flesh and seeds are edible; however, the seeds should be cooked before consuming.

Uses for durian include:

  • Juicing
  • Boiling or roasting seeds
  • Soups
  • Candy, ice cream and desserts
  • As a side dish

Note: Avoid drinking alcohol while eating durian as its Sulphur like compounds may prevent alcohol from being broken down, causing excess levels to build up in your blood and become toxic.

Goji Berries

There are eight essential amino acids, and goji berries contain all of them. They also provide ten percent of the recommended intake of protein in a one-ounce serving. Now that is a power-packed berry.

They make a great snack, as they are a complex carbohydrate, which causes the blood sugar to rise at a slower rate reducing the incidence of “sugar crash.”

Native to China, goji berries have been harvested for medicinal use for centuries.

First, a few words of caution about goji berries: they can interact with some prescription medications such as blood thinners. Pregnant women should avoid them as a precaution due to their blood-thinning properties. And, due to the fact that they contain about three times the recommended, daily amount of vitamin A, they should be eaten in moderation to avoid vitamin A toxicity.

That being said, goji berries have a plethora of health benefits. Research has shown that goji berries can increase the effectiveness of the flu shot.

They are a low sugar, low-calorie option to eat with yogurt or on salads in place of other dried fruits.

Goji berries contain a high level of the antioxidant zeazanthin. Studies have shown that this antioxidant protects skin and eye cells.

One study made a comparison of a group that drank goji berry juice for fourteen days with a group that did not. The group that drank the goji berry juice reported:

  • Increased energy
  • Increased athletic performance
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Improved ability to focus
  • Calmness
  • A sense of overall well being

Some other positive effects of goji berries include

  • Increased life expectancy
  • Lower heart health risks
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced arthritis pain

Goji berries can be purchased dried at most local super markets. You use them just as you would raisins or other fresh berries.

Serving Size: ¼ cup

  • Calories: 70
  • Sugar: 12 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fiber: 6 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Vitamin A: 150% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Copper: 84% of RDI
  • Selenium: 75% of RDI
  • Vitamin B2: (riboflavin): 63% of RDI
  • Iron: 42% of RDI
  • Vitamin C: 27% of RDI

Star Fruit

Star fruit is native to Sri Lanka and the Moluccas (also known as the Spice Islands), an archipelago in Indonesia. Star fruit is also grown in Hawaii and Florida today.

As the name suggests, star fruit is shaped like a five-point star. It is greenish-yellow in color and has a juicy sweet and sour taste.

Star fruit boasts a hearty source of plant compounds, including quercetin, gallic acid and epicatechin. Studies have shown that this combination of compounds has been effective in reducing fatty liver risk and cholesterol in mice as well as preventing liver cancer and reducing inflammation.

Note: People with kidney problems should avoid eating star fruit in excess due to high levels of oxalate, which can have adversely affect the kidneys.

As with grapefruit, star fruit can interfere with some prescription medications, so speak with your doctor before adding them to your diet on a regular basis.

Star fruit can be:

  • Washed, sliced, seeded and enjoyed
  • Added to salads
  • Used in pies and puddings
  • Used in Asian or Indian style food
  • Cooked with seafood or shellfish dishes
  • Used for jams and jellies
  • Juiced

Serving Size: 1 medium sized fruit

  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Vitamin C: 52% of RDI
  • Vitamin B5: 4% of RDI
  • Folate: 3% of RDI
  • Copper: 6% of RDI
  • Potassium: 3% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 2% of RDI

Dragon Fruit

Native to Central America, dragon fruit is one of the most profitable crops in Vietnam. 

Dragon fruit has vibrant red skin with white flesh that has tiny black seeds in its pulp.  The taste of dragon fruit is compared to a cross between a kiwi and a pear or watermelon. Its skin is easy to cut through, and the fruit can be extracted much like an avocado.

Dragon fruit can be cut up, frozen, or blended. It is eaten raw most of the time due to its tropical, sweet taste.

Dragon fruit is high in iron; unlike most fruits and the fact that it is also high in Vitamin C, the body is better able to absorb the iron.

Dragon fruit is also a good source of fiber at 7 grams per cup of fruit. This makes it a good snack choice as fiber makes you feel full faster and aids in digestion.

Dragon fruit has been linked to decreased cancer risk and boosting the immune system.

Served with cod, tuna or mahi-mahi, it makes a nice side dish, or it can be chopped finely and made into a salsa to top the fish. Dragon fruit can also be used in a tropical fruit salad.

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces

  • Calories: 60
  • Protein: 1.2 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbs: 13 grams
  • Fiber 3 grams
  • Vitamin C 3% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Iron 4% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 10% of RDI

Passion Fruit

Passion fruit grows on a clinging vine with beautiful flowers. It is native to Brazil, Paraguay, and parts of Argentina.

Passion fruit is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, and its outer peel is used to make an extract that is effective in managing adults with asthma.

Passion fruit is tasty to eat right out of the skin, or you can scoop out seeded pulp and strain it to enjoy it as a juice. To make passion fruit nectar, cut the entire fruit in half, simmer, strain, and sweeten. Passion fruit coulis can be made much the same way except remove the skin first then boil the fruit pulp with sugar for up to 5 minutes.  Fruit coulis can be used to top ice cream, oatmeal, or cheesecake.

No matter how you choose to use it, passion fruit is a healthy addition to your day that is a sweet or savory treat.

Serving Size: 1 fruit

  • Calories: 17
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin C: 9% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin A: 8% of RDI
  • Iron: 2% of RDI
  • Potassium: 2% of RDI

Jackfruit

Jackfruit is the largest fruit in the world, with some fruit reaching up to eighty pounds.

s jackfruit is native to Southern India, it grows best in tropical climates. Due to its higher protein content than other fruits, it is a major source of calories and carbohydrates for people in developing countries.

In vegetarian diets, jackfruit is used as a meat substitute due to its meat-like texture.

Both the jackfruits pods and seeds are safe for consumption. Not only is it higher in carbohydrates and calories than most fruits jackfruit provides some of almost every daily, recommended vitamin and mineral. Due to its fiber content, jackfruit has a low glycemic index, and studies have shown that it significantly lowered blood sugar levels of adults who consumed jackfruit extract.

Antioxidants play an important role in reducing oxidative stress, and inflammation and jackfruit contain three pivotal antioxidants: vitamin C, carotenoids, and flavanones.

Jackfruit can be used in sweet or savory dishes with unripe fruit being more appropriate for savory dishes. It can be used in soups or curries or added to yogurt or oatmeal.

Jackfruit seed can be boiled or roasted and can also be used to make hummus.

Serving Size: 1 cup sliced

  • Calories: 155
  • Carbs: 40 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Vitamin A: 10% of RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
  • Vitamin C: 18% of RDI
  • Riboflavin: 11% of RDI
  • Magnesium: 15% or RDI
  • Potassium: 14% of RDI
  • Copper: 15% of RDI
  • Manganese: 16% of RDI

Well, there you have them, twenty rare fruits and vegetables that can be added to your diet to improve nutritional intake and promote well being. While all of these fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, it is important that you always check with your doctor prior to adding anything new to your diet.

Protect Your Back at the Gym

http://Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Do you suffer from back pain? According to the Mayo Clinic, “back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide.”

I have been a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant for the past twenty-one years.

Throughout my career, I have treated thousands of back pain patients. Patients with diagnosis’ ranging from a simple back sprain to patient’s recovering from multilevel spinal fusion.

Back pain can be debilitating and life-altering for long periods, so while our treatment goals were centered on proper body mechanics and getting them back to doing their jobs. Patient’s personal goals were getting back to doing the things they enjoy.

Some frequent questions I was asked:

  • Can I go back to the gym?
  • Is it safe to lift weights?
  • Can I start running again?
  • Should I wear a back brace?

I’m going to answer those questions, and more, but first, there are a few critical things to note.

First, if you have neck or back pain that radiates into your arms or legs, it is essential to be seen by a doctor.

Second, if you ever experience back or neck pain accompanied by bowel or bladder incontinence, you should go to the emergency room immediately.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, I think going to the gym is an excellent idea. Maintaining overall body strength is excellent for your back as well as your overall health.

Things to stay away from at the gym.

  1. Back strengthing machines — the best way to protect your back is to strengthen your core. Building strength in your back requires much more precision due to the possibility of muscle imbalances and the risk of injury.

Alternative: Pelvic stabilization exercises

2. Hip ab/adductor machines — hip and pelvic muscles are often weak, especially if you have had a back injury and have taken a long break from working out. Using a weight machine to try and target all of these muscles can lead to muscle substitution and back strain.

Alternative: Sidestepping with resistive band around ankles

3. Standing calf raise machine — you don’t see these much anymore, but if you do, stay away. These machines rest on your shoulders to increase weight while you are doing calf raises; however, they increase the compressive force on your spine, which can lead to back injury.

Alternative: Standing calf raises

4. Leg press machine — these machines tend to put strain on your lower back, which increases the chance of back injury

Alternative: Incline squat machine

Running

Running is not recommended for people who have had back surgery or a history of a back injury. Because of the amount of compressive force on the spine coupled with the continuous jarring of the low back, the risk far outweighs the benefit.

Alternatives to running

Walking on a treadmill with the incline raised

Elliptical trainer

Stationary bike

Lifting Weights

Free weights are fine as long as your back is supported. I recommend sitting with your back against an adjustable weight bench or lying down on the weight bench in a chest press position.

Avoid dead-lifts or lifting anything from floor height.

Avoid overhead lifting of any kind even in a seated position. Did you know that sitting puts the highest amount of compressive force on your spine?

A word about back braces

I don’t know anything about weight belts used in the gym, so I can’t comment on those at all. However, back braces that velcro on for stabilization provide nothing more than a false sense of security. The only way to protect your back when lifting and moving objects is to use proper body mechanics and abdominal stabilization. There is no substitute.

In the next article in this series, I will address proper body mechanics and the use of pelvic stabilization exercises to strengthen your core.

5 Hacks to Get Out of Your Head Now

“Every time I turn around, there I am.” A quote from an episode of Ozark I watched last night.

Some days I couldn’t get out of my own way if my life depended on it. I am buried so deep inside my own head that I can perform my entire morning routine and not recall a single thing I did.

Most often, when I am that deep inside my mind, it is worry based. I tend to perseverate about things that worry me and, that isn’t mentally or physically healthy.

Some of the benefits of mindfulness include: decreased stress, increased self-acceptance, increased resilience, and increased concentration.

Mindfulness Amidst the COVID 19 Pandemic

According to Mindful.org mindfulness, is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and, not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on.

With the current state of our country and the constant barrage of stressful information circulating amidst the COVID 19 pandemic, it can be pretty enticing to stay in your head. But honestly, being mindful doesn’t mean you have to absorb all that information.

Listen to what you need to know, enough to be aware and proactive then, move on. Moving on to being mindful and in the moment will help curb some of the overwhelm that can consume us during times like these.

5 Ways to Get Out of Your Head

  1. Narrative

One great way to get out of your head and into your surroundings is to narrate what you are seeing. Give a narration as if you were describing your surroundings to someone who was visually impaired. If you were at a park, it would sound something like this:

“There is a sprawling Magnolia Tree in the middle of the park. There must be fifty Magnolia in full bloom. The contrast of the cream-colored blooms against the canvas of dark green leaves is breathtaking.”

Exchanging the ongoing narrative in your head with a vivid description of what you see is a wonderful way to bring your mind front and center.

2. Small Finger Movements with a Short Mantra

Small finger movements, coupled with a short mantra, is very helpful in centering your mind and regulating your breathing. The one I like to use is, “I am peace and peace is me.” The finger movements are like this:

  • Thumb to pinky finger and say “I”
  • Thumb to ring finger “am”
  • Thumb to middle finger “peace”
  • Thumb to index finger “and”
  • Thumb to middle finger “peace”
  • Thumb to ring finger “is”
  • Thumb to pinky finger “me”

You can use this one or create one that is more meaningful to you.

3. Count Your Steps

Yes, it is as simple as it sounds. Simply count your steps. Obviously, if you do five thousand steps a day, you won’t want to count all of them but, if you break them down into blocks of ten or so, it can bring you out of the depths of your mind and into the present.

4. Listen to an Audio Book or PodCast

Introducing another voice into your head helps quiet your own. Find something that interests you and dive in. Put it on in your car or listen to one at home while you are cooking dinner, cleaning, or just trying to relax your mind. It works.

5. Focus on your breathing

Breathing is something we do all day, every day. It’s rhythmical, it’s relaxing, and it can be one of the most calming things we do when it is under control. If I am at home and can lay down I like to put something small and flat on my stomach, just over my belly button.

Use something that has enough weight that you can feel it rise and fall with your breathing. The best thing that comes to mind is a bar of soap that is still in the package (not a wet slimy one).

Breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. Focus on the rise and fall of your stomach, you will notice that with just a few breaths you become totally focused on your breathing. When thoughts enter into your mind just re-focus on your breathing and they will float away.

So there you have them, five quick ways to get out of your head and more focused on living your life. I find that ruminating on things has become a habit for me over the years and it takes a good amount of focus to stay mindful throughout the day.

Using these techniques has helped a lot and I hope that you find them helpful as well. Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. I would love to hear from you.

My First Day as a Freelance Writer

Well it’s official, my website is up and running (functional too) and I am ready for my first client. I have created some writing samples in three different areas of specialty and now I’m writing my first blog post.

I’m not sure but I think I have actually been a freelance writer for a few weeks now because I have been putting in some serious hours getting a lot of nothing accomplished. Well apparently I’ve gotten something done.

This may be premature but I would like to thank Elna Cain and Michael Leonard for the wonderfully informative information that they have out there in the form of Podcasts, Online Courses, Blogs and more. Thank you both so much for providing valuable and affordable information for your fellow writers who are just getting up and on their feet.

Navigating my new career endeavor has been a nice vacation from having to constantly obsess about the virus. I work in a hospital as a Physical Therapist Assistant and I am currently taking leave as my ill 79 year old father lives with me. Although I am not his sole caregiver at this point, simply dealing with the stress of him being ill and working a full time job has been the hardest thing I have ever done, hands down. Add COVID19 to the mix and bam, I feel like someone just whacked me with a lead pipe.

Wondering who will win the viral lottery next is frightful and driving down the deserted streets seeing empty parking lot after empty parking lot is like taking a punch to the gut. I feel so bad for all the people who’s business were thriving and now they are dying because of this pandemic.

Worse than all of this is our own government fighting over helping them. The lack of leadership and a united front in this country is terrifying. We are being lied to on a daily basis, our frontline healthcare workers are lacking the simple tools they need to keep themselves safe while trying to help or save other people.

I remember thinking after 9/11, “how could I have been so naive to think that something like this couldn’t happen in the United States?” I’m thinking the exact same thing now, only I knew in my heart that putting #45 in the White House was a very bad decision.

I have a 6 month old Boxer puppy and we are always telling her to make good Boxer decisions. Here she is looking at me thinking, “give me a break mom, the president doesn’t even make good Boxer decisions!”

She is a constant source of comedy for us, I thank God for her (most days).

In closing I just want to throw out there that I am praying for everyone, everyday to have the strength to get through whatever it is they are going through and to never stop searching for that always illusive light at the end of the tunnel. Keep doing what you do and out of this darkness will surely come some light.