NorthStar Nutritionals Blog

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  1. How to Avoid These 9 Dangerous Effects of Stress on the Brain

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    [caption id="attachment_7748" align="alignleft" width="300"]stress on the brain effects stress on the brain effects[/caption]

    You’re stressed. These days, it’s hard not to be.

    And you know stress is bad for your heart, your mood, your sleep, probably even your relationships.

    Well, here’s one more reason to focus on relaxing – to avoid these dangerous effects of stress on your brain.

    From structural changes to emotional ones, the effects of stress on the brain are as life-changing as any other response to stress, yet people pay less attention to them.

    Well, we’re going to shine a light on the effects of stress on your brain so that you can recognize what’s going on and, more importantly, how to change it!

    1. Stress = stress. Chronic stress creates an overabundance of the stress hormone, cortisol. Your body is only set up to handle cortisol in relatively small amounts over a short period of time. When you’re flooded with cortisol instead, it negatively impacts your entire body and every system – including your brain. By some estimates, 90% of all doctors’ visits are linked to stress-related conditions.

    2. Free radical attack. It’s difficult to explain exactly how, but too much cortisol leads directly to the creation of free radicals. The same free radicals you’re trying to counteract by getting enough antioxidants in your diet. And when free radicals attack your brain, they can actually puncture the cell walls, causing your brain cells to die.

    3. Prevents new brain cells. Yes, even without free radical attack, everyone loses some brain cells naturally every day. But usually, new ones grow to replace them. However, an effect of stress on the brain is that new ones don’t grow. Again, it can be traced back to the excess of cortisol, and the end result is that fewer new brain cells are ever formed. Along these lines…

    4. Shrinks your brain. The hippocampus is the part of your brain that, among other things, is responsible for turning off stress once the stressful situation is over. But an effect of stress on your brain is that cells in the hippocampus are targeted, and destroyed by cortisol – then, as we’ve said, new cells aren’t allowed to grow back. So the very part of your brain that is supposed to be helping you destress is getting smaller because you’re too stressed.

    5. Toxins can access your brain. Your body is designed to protect the most important and most vulnerable parts of you, and that includes putting a blood-brain barrier around your brain to keep foreign contaminants out, while allowing nutrients in. However, stress pokes holes in the blood-brain barrier, so that chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins have access to your brain.

    6. Increases risks – and symptoms – of mental illnesses. Depression. Anxiety. PTSD. Schizophrenia. Even alcoholism and drug addiction. The physical changes chronic stress causes in your brain helps create and exacerbate all of these and more, up to and including suicidal ideation.

    7. Causes inflammation. When you think of inflammation, you probably think of the swelling in an arthritic joint or the bump you got from the bee sting. And those count. But systemic inflammation is even more impactful. And when it happens in the brain, inflammation appears to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other serious diseases. Plus…

    8. Impacts memory. Even without full-blown Alzheimer’s disease, an effect of stress on the brain is memory lapse. Those “senior moments” that make it difficult to keep track of where you put your purse, or even why you came into this room might be a direct result of being too stressed. To make it worse, stress also makes you more emotional, so you’re forgetful and upset.

    9. Brain fog is real. You know how sometimes it’s hard to make a decision? It’s just too overwhelming, even when it’s a relatively easy choice. You’re not crazy and you’re not making it up. An effect of stress on the brain is that fog that seems to make it difficult to see clearly enough to make a decision. And yes, it really is worse the more important the decision is.

    How to Minimize the Effects of Stress on the Brain

    All of this is important, helpful information. But how do you stop it? After all, if it was as easy as taking a couple deep breaths, you’d have done that by now!

    Luckily, there are ways to reduce the effects of stress on your brain…

    1. Open up. For some people, the stigma attached to therapy prevents them from getting the help that they need. Don’t be one of these people. Finding a professional to talk to about what’s making you stressed doesn’t make you weak. It means you’re smart enough to find a professional to help you do a job. Trained therapists can help you identify and mitigate stressors that you may be struggling with.

    2. Take control and set priorities. One of the most stressful situations is when you feel out of control. So take it back. Research indicates that feeling in control of one’s life is tantamount to reducing stress. Start your day by making a list of what you need to accomplish and make those steps your priority throughout the day. At the end of the day, review the goals you achieved and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. Having a hard time figuring out ways to take control of your situation? This is another great reason to find a therapist. They’re trained to help people identify ways to regain control and reduce stress.

    3. Stay positive. As we’ve noted, an effect of stress on your brain is depression, mood swings, and being emotional. Under those conditions, it’s easy – it’s expected – to feel as if nothing can or will ever get better. Fight back by making the conscious decision to stay positive. Focus on accomplishments and achievements, not just failures.

    4. Socialize and remember to laugh. Remember the old phrase “laughter is the best medicine”? Well, it’s true. Laughter really does reduce the levels of cortisol streaming through your system, so you feel better. Getting together with friends and loved ones also triggers feel good chemicals that help counter the stress ones. So, even if you don’t feel up to it, especially if you don’t feel up to it, call a friend.

    5. Exercise. Remember we mentioned that stress kills brain cells, keeps new ones from forming, and shrinks your brain? Exercise can help counter that. You work out to build up muscle and to keep your heart strong. Now you can do the same for your brain!

    6. Relax intentionally. While simply taking a deep breath isn’t going to undo all these effects of stress on your brain, making relaxation a priority will help. Consider a yoga or tai chi class. Other people may find meditation helpful. You may find a long walk, listening to quiet music, or a hot bath works for you. How you relax isn’t nearly as important as that you relax. Intentionally and deliberately.

    7. Take DHA supplements. DHA is part of the foundation of a healthy brain. It’s believed to help reverse the effects of cortisol and stress on the brain. Ask your doctor about taking 600 mg per day of a high quality DHA supplement.

    Let’s be honest – the effects of stress on the brain are scary. But they’re also avoidable.

    Start taking these steps today, and feel better for a lifetime of tomorrows.

  2. 7 Reasons Why You Should Eliminate Sugar For Good

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    sugar eliminateFor many people trying to lose weight, a good first step is to reduce or eliminate sugar from their diets.

    But what if you aren’t trying to lose weight?

    What if you’re just trying to live the healthiest life you can live?

    The answer is simple – it’s STILL time to eliminate sugar from your diet!

    Because sugar contributes to so many more health problems than just obesity.

    Natural vs. Artificial Sugar

    Almost every food has at least some naturally occurring sugar. Fruit is the most obvious one, but even nuts, eggs, dairy, and vegetables – all have sugars.

    If you tried to eliminate sugar completely, you’d be left with nothing but animal protein and fat in your diet. So, it really is okay to have some sugar in your diet. The key is to keep it at naturally occurring sugar.

    Yes, this means cutting out the sugar in your morning coffee, but it also means reading the labels. Foods you would never expect to have added sugar in them – ketchup, crackers, so-called “healthy” cereals - all have added sugar.

    Getting to the Heart of the Matter

    But WHY should you eliminate sugar for good? Is all the extra work really worth it? Most definitely -

    1. Sugar affects your cardiovascular system. When you eat sugar, your insulin levels skyrocket, your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up – your risk of cardiovascular diseases go up. But when you eliminate sugar, cholesterol levels drop, blood pressure goes back down, and triglycerides begin to level out. Up or down, it’s all sugar related.

    2. Sugar increases your risk of diabetes. Given that sugar is linked to the obesity crisis in the United States, and obesity is linked to diabetes, it’s easy to connect the dots between sugar and diabetes. What’s surprising is how little sugar it takes to increase the risk of diabetes – only 150 extra calories of sugar per day increases your chances of diabetes. Eliminate sugar and eliminate the increased risk.

    3. Sugar gives you brain fog – and worse. If you’ve been experiencing more senior moments recently, it might not just be aging. It might be sugar. In animal studies, sugar has been shown to affect cognitive function, in other words, how your brain works. Memory, concentration, the ability to focus may all be hurt by too much sugar. Plus, sugar has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, so it’s not just remembering a name or appointment that’s at risk.

    4. Sugar spikes your anxiety and crashes your mood. Although sugar may make you feel better briefly, over the long-term, it can actually lead to higher levels of anxiety and depression. Sugar affects the way you deal with stress, but it also prevents your body from producing the feel-good chemicals that help! When you first eliminate sugar, you might feel a bit out of sorts, but in the end, you’ll feel much better.

    5. Sugar makes you tired. Just like sugar may improve your mood in the short term before making you crash, it can give you an energy boost too – before making you crash. And that crash makes you sleepy and tired during the day, so you nap. Or reach for caffeine. Or more sugar. All of which causes you to be awake at night, when you’re supposed to be sleeping. So you’re tired all day tomorrow. Avoid the cycle by eliminating sugar. You won’t crash during the day, and you will sleep at night!

    6. Sugar ages you. Not everything has to be a health crisis. Sometimes, you just want to look your best, and that’s okay. And one way to look your best is to eliminate sugar. Sugar creates a reaction that breaks down collagen. The same collagen that keeps your skin smooth, plump, and young looking. At the same time, sugar may increase acne breakouts. And who wants to deal with wrinkles and pimples, at the same time?

    7. Sugar weakens your immune system. In case the rest of this list hadn’t made it obvious, you’ll just be healthier, all the way around, if you eliminate sugar. It’s easy: sugar causes inflammation, inflammation destroys your immune system. Give your immune system the boost it needs to fight back against colds, flu, and even chronic diseases by eliminating sugar.

    Sugar tastes great. It does. But when you look at everything you risk just to satisfy your sweet tooth, it just doesn’t seem worthwhile any longer.

    Grab a piece of fruit, eliminate sugar, and feel great again!

  3. Living With Psoriasis: How to Treat Your Skin Naturally and Avoid Flare-Ups

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    psoriasis living withLiving with psoriasis can be a roller coaster. Flare-ups can last months – and then it can just clear up on its own. You may feel fine one day, and have a flare-up the very next one, with no warning. When you get frustrated, it’s important to remember these two facts: 1. While there is no cure, there are treatments that can help. 2. While a flare-up may sometimes appear out of nowhere, there are triggers, as well. Once you identify your triggers, living with psoriasis can become easier. Continue reading →
  4. Avoiding Sunlight Could Hurt Your Health: 7 Benefits of Sunlight

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    Maybe you’ve wised up over the years. Or maybe it only took one good sunburn to teach you a lesson. Either way, you’re probably spending little to no time at all in the sun any longer. Because the benefits of sunlight just don’t outweigh the dangers. Except…  what if that’s not completely true? What if there are benefits of sunlight that you’re missing by staying out of the sun so religiously? Because that’s what we’re here to discuss today. The ways you’re actually harming yourself, not helping, by avoiding the sun completely – and just what you can do about it! Continue reading →
  5. Can Sitting All Day Shorten Your Life?

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    all day sittingYou’ve heard the back and forth – one side says sitting all day is the modern equivalent of smoking. The other side says it’s not that bad, and anyway, standing has its own drawbacks. What’s the truth? Just how bad is sitting all day? What can you do to counteract its effects? In this article, we’re going to take a hard, honest look at what sitting all day really does to your body, and what it means to you. Continue reading →
  6. The Ultimate Guide to Treating Joint Instability

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    instability jointsMost of the conversation about joint health is focused on arthritis, and that’s appropriate. But it also means that joint instability doesn’t get much attention – and that’s not appropriate. Because joint instability can be painful and difficult to live with in its own right. And surprisingly, joint instability can lead to arthritis. Instead of complaining about the lack of information about joint instability, we’re going to talk about it. Let’s look at joint instability, why it’s a problem, and what you can do to keep your joints healthy. Continue reading →
  7. Could Gum Chewing Be Linked to Cancer?

    chewing gumGum chewing can’t possibly be bad for you. It keeps your breath fresh and, for many people, it’s instrumental in kicking the smoking habit and losing weight. Chewing gum is a harmless habit, right? Not necessarily… Turns out, gum chewing – or at least some common ingredients in chewing gum - may actually be linked to cancer. Continue reading →
  8. 7 Food and Drug Interactions to Steer Clear Of

    Drug and food interactions Before you start taking any new medication or supplement, you ask your doctor about it. And that’s a smart move. But do you ask your doctor about the foods you eat? Probably not. Unfortunately, you could be missing food and drug interactions that are making your medications less effective – or even dangerous! Check out these seven food and drug interactions to make sure you’re as healthy as you think you are! Continue reading →
  9. Wintergreen Oil Uses To Boost Your Heath

    uses wintergreen oilYou’ve heard about menthol as a pain reliever. And capsaicin. But have you heard about the way wintergreen can relieve and soothe your pain, and improve your health? If not, you should know about them – because wintergreen oil uses go so much further than just flavoring your gum! Continue reading →
  10. Supercharge Your Colon Cancer Diet

    diet colon cancerColon cancer. Even the phrase is scary. And trying to get information can feel like wandering around alone in the dark. Well, we’re going to turn the lights on! You can protect your colon health and possibly even prevent colon cancer with one thing: diet. Start eating the right delicious foods, stop eating the unhealthy ones, and get on board with a colon cancer diet that can keep your doctor happy and you healthy! Continue reading →
  11. How is My Stomach REALLY? [Take the Leaky Gut Test]

    test leaky gut Are you suffering from symptoms from your head all the way down? Do you really not feel well, in spite of being “just fine”? Has your doctor given you a laundry list of treatments that don’t seem to be working? If any of this sounds familiar, we may have answers for you – finally. Because your symptoms may not be the problem at all. The problem may be in your gut. Take the leaky gut test, and learn if relief is just around the corner…   Continue reading →
  12. What’s My Healthy Sodium Intake? [Quiz]

    Intake healthy sodium You know you should limit sugar…and saturated fats…and yes, salt, too. But you’re not 100% sure what a healthy sodium intake really is. Or even if your sodium intake is healthy or way off the charts. Let’s be honest – it’s not so easy to maintain a healthy sodium intake every day if you’re not sure what that means. So, take this quiz and find out more about healthy levels of sodium and just how much you should be eating every day. Continue reading →
  13. Flu Vaccines: Pros, Cons, Myths, and Realities

    vaccines fluEven though flu season is almost over, it isn’t completely over. And you’ve still got questions about flu vaccines. There’s a lot of information out there about flu vaccines. Some people say they’re safe. Some people say they aren’t. What are you supposed to believe? While we can’t answer that question for you, we can tell you what we believe. We believe you have the right to make your own, fully formed, well-educated decision. So, in this article, we’re going to ask some of the most common questions and answer them as fully and objectively as possible. Continue reading →
  14. The Six Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking That Could Save Your Sex Life

    quitting smoking health benefitsYou know the health benefits of quitting smoking. You do. And yet it hasn’t quite happened so far. As it turns out, quitting smoking may be one of the greatest challenges of your life. You’ve heard the statistic: smoking is as addictive – and as hard to quit – as alcohol, heroin, or cocaine. And if you’re a smoker, trying to quit, you’ve lived out that statistic more often than you probably want to admit. But you’re not alone. In fact, 70% of all smokers wish they could stop. And the average smoker tries to quit between eight and eleven times before it finally sticks. Luckily, the more often a person tries to quit, the better their chances of success become. Since motivation is a key component of successfully quitting smoking, here’s one more health benefit you might not have thought of – quitting smoking can improve your sex life! Check out these six new health benefits of quitting smoking and stay motivated - Continue reading →
  15. The Shocking Link Between Sleep and Blood Pressure

    Blood pressure and sleepWhen you were younger, you probably didn’t even think about maintaining healthy blood pressure numbers. They were just where you needed them to be. Now that you’re older, it’s a little different. These days, your doctor is more likely to look closer at those numbers. And you’re more likely to look closely. Because you both realize maintaining healthy blood pressure is more important than ever. But what happens if, in spite of your best efforts, you just haven’t quite figured out the proper equation for keeping those numbers exactly where you want them? Maybe that’s when it’s time to look at how much sleep you’re getting. That’s right – sleep. Because sleep and blood pressure are linked in ways you may not realize. Continue reading →
  16. The TRUTH About Cartilage Replacement

    replacement CartilageYou may have heard about cartilage replacement and repair. You may have even started to get excited about it if you have sore, achy knees. After all, a joint is made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and muscles. The cartilage is at the very end of the bones, where they would rub together – except the cartilage acts as a cushion. When cartilage gets damaged or injured, you end up with creaky, stiff, painful joints. Which certainly sounds like a good time to get excited about cartilage replacement. Unfortunately, that excitement might be premature. Only a portion of people with problematic knees are eligible for cartilage replacement surgeries. The only thing you can do is research, ask your doctor, and see if this option is for you. So let’s look at closer at cartilage replacement and repair, and see if you could be a good candidate… Continue reading →
  17. What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

    virus zikaGlobal health concern. Travel warnings. Spreading throughout the United States. The Zika virus is everywhere these days. On the news, in the papers, all over online resources. First, it was spread through mosquito bites. Now, it’s showing up in bodily fluids like urine and semen. Some people are even discouraging kissing. With headlines about “public health emergencies,” new cases showing up in our borders, and even fears about athletes attending the Olympics, it’s easy to panic about this new disease and what it might mean for you. But panic doesn’t serve you or your health. So, we’re going to cut through the sensationalism and the soundbites and look at the facts about the Zika virus. What is the Zika virus? How is it transmitted? What are the symptoms? How can you avoid catching it? And how concerned should you really be? Continue reading →
  18. What Physical Pain Does to Your Body

    pain physical No one wants to live with physical pain, let’s be honest. At the same time, though, people tend to think of pain as something you should just deal with….adults shouldn’t be crybabies…everybody hurts a little as they get older… But those attitudes are as much a problem as your physical pain! You should not “just deal with” physical pain. In fact, doing so can actually be unhealthy for you. Continue reading →
  19. 10 Ways to Help Make Joint Pain at Night A Thing of the Past

    night joint painDoes it ever feel like joint pain at night is worse than it is during the day? You’re going along all morning and afternoon, just fine, with your pain reasonably under control. Then night comes and your joint pain gets worse – and worse – until you can’t get comfortable, you can’t fall asleep, and once you do, you can’t manage to stay asleep. It’s enough to make you dread getting in bed. The pressure points, having to roll over, risking tweaking a joint because you turned the wrong way or because you got twisted in the blankets. But you can put that dread to bed because we’ve got ways to help you make joint pain at night a thing of the past! Continue reading →
  20. Is My Heart Healthy Enough for Sex [Take this heart-sex quiz now]

    sex-heartYour heart should be healthy enough for sex – but you’re still a little concerned. After all, it’s your heart. And you’re not a kid any longer. It’s easy to still have lingering doubts. How does your doctor know for certain? How do you? Well, it helps to know some basic information about your heart and sex, as well as to answer some very specific – but not too personal, don’t worry – questions about how your heart health may contribute to your sex life. So, we’re here for you. Take these tests. Between them and your doctor’s advice, you should be able to put aside any last, low-level concerns. Continue reading →