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Different parts of the eye and brain are responsible for the things that we see in our daily life. These parts include our retina, lens and optic nerve. When light passes through the eye lens and hit the retina, special cells called photoreceptors turn the light into electrical signals. These electrical signals will travel to the brain through our optic nerve and our brain will turn these electrical signals to images that we see every day.

Eye related conditions

Many habits and the modern life style today are taking a heavy toll on the general health of the eyes. Daily uses of electrical appliances and digital gadgets for work and entertainment especially for long hours such as televisions, computers and mobile phones will badly affect the well being of our eyes. We can see that today a large section of children are wearing glasses, and one of the contributors to this situation might be the prolonged usage of mobile devices and digital screens such as laptops, tablets and television watching. Without sufficient rest and blinking, our eyes will become dry and tired, and this will affect our eye health.

There are many conditions that will affect our vision and these conditions normally disrupt the light that passes from our eyes to the brain. Some of the conditions are as below:

  • Refractive errors. Refractive errors are the most common type of vision problem. It includes near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. These conditions will make it hard for us to see clearly as the light cannot focus correctly on our retina. Blurry vision is very common and people having refractive errors will also experience double vision, hazy vision and eye strain if they try to focus on the image.
  • Cataract. Cataracts can happen at any age but are more common in older people as it is caused by normal changes in our eyes as we gets older. The clouding of the eye lens will make the vision blur, hazy and less colourful. Cataracts can affect one or both eyes and surgery can be performed to correct vision problems caused by cataracts.
  • Diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar will lead to a progressive damage to the blood vessel on the retina and it usually affects both eyes. Over time, diabetic retinopathy will cause vision loss and blindness. Diabetic patients are at high risk of developing diabetic retinopathy especially those with uncontrolled blood sugar.
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). As the name suggest, this condition normally occur when we age. AMD will cause the lost of central vision as it affects the macula, which is the central part of the retina that allows our eyes to see the fine details. People suffering from AMD will have trouble carrying out daily activities because it will be harder for them to see faces, read, cook, drive and do close-up work.
  • Glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of eye disease that destroys our optic nerves. It can lead to vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma is usually caused by high eye pressure. Currently there is no cure for this condition but early treatment may slow the progression and stop the damages. People with glaucoma will experience a gradual loss of vision that most of them will not notice during the early stage as it happens slowly.

How to take care of eye health

Eyes are very delicate organ in our body and they need special care. We rely heavily on our vision for many movements that we perform such as personal interaction and carrying out daily tasks. It even affects our sleep schedule as our sleep schedules are affected by the light we see during the day.

There are many things that we can do to take good care of our visual health and make sure we are seeing our best. The most important one will be to eat a balance diet that contains sufficient eye health nutrition. Adding sufficient antioxidants, vitamins and minerals will improve our overall eye health.

Certain types of food, fruits and nuts are good for our eyes, plus some eye health supplements. Those that contain these vitamins and minerals will help to improve our eye health nutrition:

  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin can help to protect our eyes from harmful ultra violet rays in the sunlight. You can get Lutein and Zeaxanthin from green leafy vegetables and other colourful fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, corn and persimmons.
  • Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect your eyes from damages caused by free radicals. Collagen production also requires Vitamin C, which is used to provide structure of your eyes. Vitamin C can be found in citrus and tropical fruits as well as bell peppers, tomato and broccoli.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper visual development and retinal function. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to improve the retinal cellular response to ischemic, oxidative, and inflammatory damages. Omega -3 fatty acids can be obtained from several sources including salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, nuts and seeds.
  • Vitamin A is essential in maintaining our photoreceptors, which are our eyes’ light sensing cells. Deficiency in Vitamin A will cause night blindness and other serious conditions. Vitamin A can be obtained from animal sources such as liver, egg yolks and dairy products which has the richest source of Vitamin A.
  • Zinc is also essential for eye health. Zinc helps Vitamin A to produce melanin, which is a pigment that protects our eyes. Deficiency in Zinc may cause cloudy cataracts and poor night vision. Red meat, oysters and shellfish contain Zinc that we can obtain from dietary source.

Besides taking eye health nutrients, we also need to take good care of our eyes by getting regular eye examinations, wearing sunglasses during outdoors, managing our digital screen time and maintaining a healthy sugar level.

Reference

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, June 3). Common eye disorders and diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basics/ced/index.html#:~:text=The%20leading%20causes%20of%20blindness,disorders%20include%20amblyopia%20and%20strabismus.
  2. Diet and Nutrition. AOA.org. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/caring-for-your-eyes/diet-and-nutrition?sso=y

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Our digestive system consists of the gastrointestinal tract, which is a series of hollow organs that connects the mouth to the anus. It also includes the organs that are needed for digestion such as liver, gall bladder and pancreas. Digestion is needed for all the food that we consume as the food we eat need to be broken down into smaller components until they can be absorbed and utilized by our body for energy, growth and cell repair.

Each part of the digestive system plays a role in moving the food or liquid through the gastrointestinal tract. To break down food into smaller size, our pancreases will secrete digestive enzymes into our small intestine. The small intestines will then mix the enzymes with the food via a movement called peristalsis. This will help to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats into smaller molecules for our body to absorb the nutrients. Small intestines are also responsible for the absorption of nutrients. Once this is done, the food residue will move on to the large intestines to further absorb water and to be removed from our body.

The small intestines and large intestines contains intestinal microflora, which is a complex ecosystem containing over 400 bacterial species. The balance of these bacteria is the key to good health as they act as a protector to our gut by preventing potential invasion of intestinal lining by harmful bacteria. This gut microbiota also helps in communication between the body and the gut lining which is essential for the development of a healthy immune system. Some of the condition that may affect the digestive system includes:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloated stomach
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease

How does prebiotics help our digestive system

Prebiotics are special plant fibre that the human body cannot digest. It is described as “a non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health”. It feeds the gut microbiota and helps them to grow and work better. The beneficial intestinal microbes will ferment prebiotics and obtain their survival energy. Therefore, the benefits of prebiotics have links to the benefits of these good bacteria. Prebiotics are also able to modify the gut environment by decreasing the gut pH due to fermentation and as a result, they are able to selectively modify and influence the composition and function of the gut microbiota.

Just like these good bacteria, prebiotics may support a healthy gut, offering better digestive system, helps in our immune system by keeping bad bacteria in control and preventing bad diseases from growing and spreading. Due to their ability to alternate bacterial growth in the gut, some studies have also suggested that prebiotics are able to reduce the development or severity of atopic dermatitis and eczema in children.

Limited studies have been carried out on prebiotics but their relationship with human overall health has been an area of increasing interest in recent years. Not all plant fibre can be classified as prebiotics. The commonly-studied prebiotics are inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), and more recently human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).

Prebiotics can be obtained from various sources and most of them naturally exist in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as:

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Garlic
  • Green vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Tomato

Besides dietary consumption, prebiotics can also be obtained from supplements for digestive health that contains probiotics and prebiotics.

Prebiotics are generally considered safe for consumption and they may serve as an alternative to probiotics to a healthy gut. As the saying goes, you are what you eat, or more accurately you are what you feed your intestinal microflora. Both prebiotics and probiotics are needed to support our body in building and maintaining a healthy digestive system and also to support our overall health.

Reference

  1. Canny, G. O., & McCormick, B. A. (2008). Bacteria in the intestine, helpful residents or enemies from within? Infection and Immunity, 76(8), 3360–3373. https://doi.org/10.1128/iai.00187-08
  2. Davani-Davari, D., Negahdaripour, M., Karimzadeh, I., Seifan, M., Mohkam, M., Masoumi, S., Berenjian, A., &Ghasemi, Y. (2019). Prebiotics: Definition, types, sources, mechanisms, and clinical applications. Foods, 8(3), 92. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8030092

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Our immune system plays a very important role in managing our health as it helps to protect our body from harmful pathogens and environmental risks. Without a healthy immune system, our body will be more prone to infections that will lead to various sickness and diseases.

Sometimes, our immune system may go haywire due to poor health management. Some common immune system disorder may include:

  • Primary immune deficiency. This occurs when we are born with a weak immune system.
  • Acquired immune deficiency. This occurs when we get a disease or a condition that will weaken our immune system. AIDS is an example of an acquired immunodeficiency.
  • If our immune system is too active, we will have an allergic reaction.
  • Autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease is when our immune system turns against us such as rheumatoid arthritis.

What causes a weak immune system?

If a person’s immune system is weak, it means that their body can’t fight off infections or viruses or if their body have too strong immune system. They will be at a higher risk of getting various illnesses, including life threatening conditions. There are several causes that might weaken our immune system, such as:

  • Constantly consuming food that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, while not taking in important nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, vitamin and minerals. These nutrients are important for our immunity.
  • Being overweight and lack of physical activities. Physical activity is considered one of the main components of healthy living. Regular exercise promotes health and reduces risk of infections.
  • Poor hygiene practice such as not washing your hands regularly.
  • Cigarette smoke contains chemical compounds that will interfere with our immune system and put ourselves at risk of viral and bacterial infection especially of the lungs, such as pneumonia.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol will impair the function of our immune cells, disrupting how normal immune cells work.
  • Stress can have an indirect effect on the immune system as a person may use unhealthy behavioral coping strategies such as drinking and smoking to reduce their stress.
  • Lack of sleep may reduce our immune defense. As our body produces protein that can help to fight infection during sleep and also restore and de-stress our bodies, deprived sleep will prevent this function of repair thus impacting our immune system.
  • Aging can also weaken our immune system as some of our organs that produce immune cells become less efficient as we age.
  • While a weaker immune system is commonly caused by disease and malnutrition, certain medications such as cancer and chemotherapy drugs can also temporary reduce our immunity.

Signs of weak immune system

The common symptom of a person with weakened immune system is the susceptibility to infection. They are more likely to get infection and sometimes these illnesses are more severe as well. The time it takes to heal will be longer too. Pneumonia and bronchitis are some of the infections that may recur in high frequency in people with a weakened immune.

People with a weakened immune system might also be more likely to experience:

  • Frequent cold episodes and may take longer to recover
  • Digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation and bloating
  • Frequent skin infections such as frequent skin rashes and inflammation
  • Delayed wound healing and increased the risk or re-infection
  • Feeling fatigue despite taking adequate rest
  • Problems with organs such as organ inflammation that might happen due to injury, toxins, pathogens or trauma

A person with a weak immune system can adapt some practical ways to boost their immune system such as eating healthily and taking immunity, cold and flu supplements. We should always take care of immune health as it serves as a barrier and protects the body from harmful germs that can cause illness.

Reference

  • Shabir, D. O. (2020, February 26). Effects of tobacco on the immune system. News. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from https://www.news-medical.net/health/Effects-of-Tobacco-on-the-Immune-System.aspx
  • Sarkar, D., Jung, M. K., & Wang, H. J. (2015). Alcohol and the immune system. Alcohol Research : Current Reviews. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/
  • MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Weak immune system: Symptoms and what to do. Medical News Today. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324930

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Many people consume supplements every day to improve their overall health, while some people consume supplements for specific requirement such as to strengthen their immune system, to help with their heart health and also to ease their bones and joints aches and pains.

There are also a group of supplements that contains specific nutrients for the health of skin, hair and nails which will help to hydrate the skin, prevent hair loss and strengthen the nail cuticles. These specific nutrients normally include antioxidants and fatty acids where deficiencies in such nutrients will normally lead to conditions such as weak brittle nails, fine lines and wrinkles, rough scaly skin patches as well as thinning of the hair.

These are some common vitamins and minerals that are recommended for skin, hair and nails:

Collagen Peptides

Collagen is a protein produced in our body that plays an important role in the structure and function of our skin, cartilage, bones and connective tissues. It helps to hold our cells together and provide elasticity to the skin. However, there are various factors that will contribute to collagen loss or low collagen levels such as:

  • The natural process of aging
  • Excessive exposure to sun and UV rays
  • Lifestyle choices, such as unhealthy diet, smoking or drinking which will lead to an increase of oxidative stress
  • Hormonal changes such as pregnancy

Collagen peptides are small molecules of collagen that are easily digestible by our body and help to replace the collagen lost. With sufficient collagen, our skin will stay hydrated, firm and supple. This will help to maintain our skin elasticity, prevent wrinkles and make us look more youthful. Collagen peptides can also help to strengthen our nails by preventing brittleness.

Glutathione

Glutathione is also one of the antioxidants that are produced in our body. It protects our cells from diseases caused by excessive free radicals that will lead to oxidative stress. Poor nutrients, environmental toxins, stress and aging will also cause our body glutathione levels to decline. Studies have shown that glutathione is able to reduce skin pigmentation and improve skin tone especially those exposed to excessive sunlight. Melanin content will increase when we are exposed to sunlight and this could lead to hyperpigmentation. Glutathione is able to stop the action of melanin production and as an alternative agent for photoprotection.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for the maintenance of healthy skin. Besides its well known antioxidant properties, Vitamin E is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin E acts as an anti-inflammatory agent on the skin to prevent the inflammatory damages which will cause skin inflammation such as skin swelling and skin reddening after UV exposure. Due to these properties, Vitamin E is sometimes used as topical application for wound healing together with other skin antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Glutathione.

B Vitamins

Generally, B Vitamins are involved in various metabolic reactions and help our body to obtain energy and nutrients from the food that we consume. Some studies showed that Biotin helps to stimulate keratin production in hair and cell turnover in the hair follicles, therefore promoting hair growth. It can also help to make hair stronger and more resistant to falling out. Deficiencies in B Vitamins although rare, have been associated with hair loss such as deficiencies in Riboflavin (B12), Biotin (B7), Folate (B9) and Vitamin B12. B Vitamins are also important for nail health. Biotin may also help to strengthen brittle nails.

Iron

Iron is also needed for strong hair and nails and its deficiency is also one of the causes of hair loss and brittle nails. Red blood cells need iron to carry oxygen throughout our body for normal cell growth and repair, including cells that are involved in hair growth and nail beds production. Therefore, iron deficiency or anemia not only causes symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue, it might also cause hair loss and brittle nails.

Zinc

Zinc is a micronutrient that can contribute and maintain the health of skin, hair and nails. It is an essential nutrient that plays important role in metabolism, helps with the action of enzymes and utilization of protein in our body. These include proteins in the nails. Although Zinc is needed in a small amount, deficiency in this nutrient will cause nails to become fragile, brittle and to crack easily. Zinc deficiency will also cause nail dystrophy, which is the discoloration and distortion of nails. Hair loss is also one of the symptoms of Zinc deficiency.

Many vitamins and minerals that carry antioxidant properties are actually good for our skin, hair and nails health. We can include these vitamins and minerals through a well-balanced diet as well as take supplement for our skin, hair and nails, as and when needed.

Reference

  • Kaputk. (2022, January 20). Do collagen peptides actually work? Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-do-collagen-peptides-do/
  • Nagapan, T. S., Lim, W. N., Basri, D. F., &Ghazali, A. R. (2019). Oral supplementation of L-glutathione prevents ultraviolet B-induced melanogenesis and oxidative stress in BALB/C Mice. Experimental Animals, 68(4), 541–548. https://doi.org/10.1538/expanim.19-0017
  • Vitamin E and skin health. Linus Pauling Institute. (2022, January 3). Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-E#:~:text=Vitamin%20E%20has%20been%20considered,all%20signs%20of%20skin%20inflammation

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What is the function of our immune system?

Our immune system is made up of a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that help the body to fight infection and diseases, such as white blood cells and organs and tissues of the lymph system. The role of the immune system is very crucial as it protects our body from harmful substances from the outside such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. These harmful invaders will cause diseases and infections if they are not removed from our body.

Here are a few roles of the immune system:

  • Fight disease-causing pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi, and to remove them from the body
  • Recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the environment
  • Fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancerous cells

Why is our immune system important?

Our body is constantly in contact with bacteria, viruses, radiation and pollution. Therefore, we need a strong defense system to protect us from getting ill. A strong and healthy defense system consists of intact physical defense system (skin and mucous layer) and healthy immune system. Everybody’s immune system is different, generally it becomes stronger when we reach adulthood, as we have been exposed to more pathogens and developed more immunity.

A strong immune system is critical to keep you healthy all year long. People with poor immune health will have a higher risk of getting sick when they are exposed to cold or flu viruses, or have infections that are more frequent, longer lasting and harder to treat or have an allergic reaction that affects the body.

Practical ways to boost your immune system

Incorporating certain lifestyle changes and immune booster food may strengthen our immune response. Here are a few practical ways to help boost our immune system:

  • Eat a healthful diet and aim for five servings of vegetables and fruits daily to get the immune boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Food such as blueberries, broccoli and spinach are rich in immune boosting nutrients that are beneficial to our immune health.
  • Take immunity, cold and flu supplements such as Vitamin C. Vitamin C plays an important role in immune function, providing antioxidant protection from free radicals and reduces the risk, severity and duration of an infection. Besides Vitamin C, bioflavonoids are also important synergistic phytonutrients for defense system, and for enhanced Vitamin C absorption and utilization.
  • Find healthy and appropriate ways to cope with stress, such as meditation. Physical activities are also a good way to manage stress and help reduce some risk of chronic diseases.
  • Stay up-to-date on recommended vaccines to get ourselves protected. Vaccination protects the vaccinated person and those around them who are vulnerable to the diseases by reducing the risk of diseases spreading such as family members, school mates or colleagues, friends, neighbours and other people in the community.
  • Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each day. Studies have shown that people who are lack of sleep will be more likely to be infected after being exposed to a virus, and they will also take longer to recover.
  • Avoid smoking and drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid close contact with the people who are sick as viruses and other infectious illnesses can spread from person to person through close contact.

Reference

  1. MediLexicon International. (n.d.). 15 foods to boost the immune system. Medical News Today. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322412
  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, November 28). Can lack of sleep make you sick? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757#:~:text=Yes%2C%20lack%20of%20sleep%20can,if%20you%20do%20get%20sick.

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Energy is important in our daily lives as it is a basic human need. Our body consumes food and will convert it to energy to function and survive. Energy is needed in many situations and processes to keep alive such as:

  • Maintaining the body essential function such as heartbeat, metabolism, respiration, digestion and regulation of body temperature. Basically all body processes would require certain amount of energy to function well.
  • Perform physical task such as walking, carrying objects and exercising. Our energy requirement will increase if the total amount of physical activities also increases.
  • Growth and repair of tissues. Pregnancy and life stages of infancy require large amount of energy for growth due to an increase in body size. Energy is also needed for tissue repair such as wound repair after injury.

Different individuals will have different energy requirements. There are many factors that affect a person’s requirement, such as:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR is the rate where energy is expanded when the individual is at the resting state, which is the basic energy requirement for an individual to maintain the body essential functions even when no physical activities were carried out. Individual with a high BMR will require more energy.
  • Age. Infants would require much more energy than adults. This is because a considerable amount of energy during the first year of life are used to assist in growth such as increasing the size of bones, muscles and body organs. Furthermore, many people tend to be less active when they are older, resulting in a decrease of energy requirement.
  • Gender. Male tend to have more muscle than female and since muscle consume more energy than fat, male would have a higher BMR and a higher energy requirement.
  • Pregnancy and lactation. Pregnancy will result in an increase of energy requirement as energy is required for fetal growth. Energy demand will also increase during lactation as energy is needed to produce milk.
  • Occupation. An individual with an active job such as a personal trainer or a physically demanding job such as laborers will have a higher energy demand compared to office worker.

Where can you get your energy from?

Energy is needed for every aspect of life therefore the balance between energy intake and energy requirement is very important. If your energy consumption is lower than your energy requirement, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headache, muscle weakness, slowed responses, inability to focus and feeling irritability.

We obtained energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fats that we consume from food, with carbohydrate being the most important energy source. Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are the best ways to maintain our natural energy levels. However, it is always easier said than done when it comes to balancing the demands of our daily lives. We often have to supplement our diet with the right type of nutrients to keep up with our daily tasks.

Although multivitamins and energy supplements do not provide energy directly, they do work within the body to help with processes that produce energy. Here are some vitamins that you can take for energy:

  • B Vitamins. B Vitamins are a group of water-soluble nutrients that our body does not store and must be supplied daily. They are involved in the energy production in our system and help to convert food to energy, such as metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. During pregnancy, the demand for B Vitamins such B12 and folate grows as more energy is required to support fetal development.
  • Iron. Fatigue may also result from a dysfunction in supply of oxygen to the muscle and brain. Iron is needed for red blood cells production and to transport oxygen throughout our body. Without sufficient Iron, oxygen cannot be carried effectively throughout our body and therefore we may experience weakness and fatigue.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is made naturally in the body. All cells contain CoQ10 with the highest concentration found in the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. CoQ10 is used by the cells to generate energy and as antioxidants to protect cells from free radical damages. As we age, the amount of CoQ10 decreases and our body cells cannot produce enough energy to maintain a healthy body, therefore we will experience fatigue.
  • Vitamin A. Vitamin A may play a role in the synthesis of ATP in the human mitochondria, which is the power plant of the cells. Deficiency in Vitamin A will lead to a decrease in energy production in our body.
  • Vitamin C. Although Vitamin C is well known for its role in strengthening the immune system, it is also involved in the synthesis of an essential cofactor in our mitochondria, thus it plays an important role in the production of energy. Studies have shown that without sufficient Vitamin C supply, we may experience weakness and muscle aching.

Most times, daily food intake may not be sufficient in providing the nutrients for energy production. Therefore, there may be a need to supplement one’s diet with some multivitamins and energy supplements which may help to counter physical fatigue as well as mental fatigue. This is needed for the maintenance of our well-being and normal cognitive and psychological function. The best time to take multivitamins or any energy supplements is in the morning, to start your day and to provide you energy to last throughout the day.

Reference

  1. Energy expenditure: How the body burns calories. HealthEngine Blog. (2019, March 21). Retrieved May 18, 2022, from https://healthinfo.healthengine.com.au/energy-expenditure-how-the-body-burns-calorie
  2. Tardy, A.-L., Pouteau, E., Marquez, D., Yilmaz, C., &Scholey, A. (2020). Vitamins and minerals for energy, fatigue and cognition: A narrative review of the biochemical and clinical evidence. Nutrients, 12(1), 228. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010228

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Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can be a different experience for everyone. What stresses you out may not even bother your friends or the people around you. Stress is not only caused by big important event. It might be a build-up of a lot of smaller things as well, such as:

  • Losing your job
  • Working too hard
  • Financial issues
  • Being bullied, discriminated, hate or abuse
  • Difficulty in school
  • Having issues in marriage or relationship
  • Death of a family member
  • Chronic illness or injury
  • Having overwhelming responsibilities
  • Going through a period of uncertainty
  • Lack control over the outcome of a situation

Many causes of stress may have negative impact on our health, including our mental health. We will feel depressed, anxious and easily irritated if we are constantly in stress and unable to be at peace or stay calm every time.

Despite knowing how stress will affect our health, we will not able to avoid stress completely in our daily life. Therefore we should learn how to manage them.

Stress management

The pace and challenges of modern life make stress management or stress relief necessary for everyone. Dealing with stress is a very personal matter and it may be harder for some people such as those suffering from long-term health conditions and those experiencing poverty and debt issues. Although it may seem like there is not much we can do when facing with stressful situations, there are always steps that we can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.

Taking care of our well-being will help us to cope and manage our stress better. We need to try and find some time to relax, allowing ourselves to have a short break and develop some interests and hobbies. Spending time doing the things we like will distract us from stressful situations and this will benefit our mental health even just for a short while. We also need to look out for our physical health such as exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep.

Identifying your stress trigger will also help you to manage your stress more efficiently. Some situations may come up often while some are just your worries or fear, due to past experience that it might happen again. Although we cannot avoid some of the stress triggers, it is always good to be prepared and find ways to deal with them.

Poor time management can also cause a lot of stress. Time plays a very important role in stress management. Many times we feel that we have so many things to complete with so little time. This will leave us feeling overwhelmed. It is good to learn how to manage our time and prioritize our tasks and commitments. We can make a list of things that we need to complete, and arrange them in order of importance. Try to complete and focus on the things that are most urgent. Creating a timetable will be most useful in these situations as good time management can help you reduce stress.

In some cases, it might not be possible to say no to things but get rid of commitments that aren’t important will help to a certain extent. However, if you still have too much to complete, try and set smaller and achievable targets within a reasonable time. This will make us feel more in control and fulfilled. In certain circumstances you may consider asking another person for help so that you have extra time to complete other tasks.

Relaxation techniques are essential in stress management. Relaxation technique such as deep breathing, tai chi, yoga, meditation techniques, and mindfulness helps to slow our breathing, clear our mind and focus on the present. Taking a short walk amongst the nature or exercising can also help relieve your stress.

Why is stress management important

Overtime, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems, and some people might turn to substance abuse such as alcohol or drugs to manage their stress. If you are having trouble managing stress despite all the above, it is always a good idea to talk to someone such as your friends and family. Sharing your feelings to the people close to you can make you feel better, and release your stress. However, if your stress get worse over time, it is best to talk to a specialist or a counsellor who can help with your condition.

Seeking help to manage your stress will help lessen damages to your health, and at the same time, improve your relationships and quality of life. So try and address your stress issues as soon as possible, to avoid unnecessary health-related issues. Stress management is very important, at your workplace as well as at home.

Reference

  1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, April 8). Stress management stress relief. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-relief/hlv-20049495
  2. Causes of stress. Mind. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/causes-of-stress/

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We often hear the word antioxidant and were told that antioxidants are good for our health, but what exactly are antioxidants and how do they really benefit our body? To understand antioxidants, we must first understand what free radicals are.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals can come from by-products of body metabolic processes and also carcinogens in our environment such as tobacco smoke, air pollution and ultraviolet radiation. Many free radicals are unstable and highly reactive, thus they are able to alter cells in our body such as lipids, proteins and even DNA. This can lead to several types of diseases. High levels of free radicals will overwhelm our body’s ability to regulate them, thus causing oxidative stress. Many chronic and degenerative aliments are directly or indirectly caused by oxidative stress such as:

  • Inflammation of the joints
  • Acceleration of the aging process
  • Vision loss due to the deterioration of eye lens
  • Damage to nerve cells in the brain that will contribute to neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer disease
  • Increased risk of heart diseases
  • Certain cancers caused by damaged DNA

Our body is able to counteract oxidative stress by naturally producing antioxidants, but certain times this will not be sufficient. Antioxidants that supplied externally through food and supplements play an important role in helping to cope with oxidative stress as well.

Why do we need antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that can protect our body by taking up free radicals, or in other words neutralizing them to reduce their capacity to damage. Antioxidants have many benefits but the main benefit is that our body uses antioxidants to balance free radicals. This balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological function. This can delay or even stop cell damage caused by free radicals.

Another important note is what antioxidant does for skin. Our skin acts as a defense barrier role against physical, chemical and biological aggressions. One of the threats of the skin is the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the constant exposure to sunlight. UV rays will cause inflammation and photo damages to the skin, resulting in fine and coarse wrinkles, roughness, freckles and pigmentation changes that occur as a result of prolonged exposure to the sun. Antioxidants may help to reduce the inflammation caused by free radicals, protect against UV damage, stimulate collagen production that may improve skin elasticity and texture

Our body is able to produce certain antioxidants such as glutathione and CoQ10 but these productions tend to decrease with age. The best way to get enough antioxidants is through a healthy diet that includes a mix of colorful fruits and vegetable.

What are the benefits of some common antioxidants

  • Vitamin A. Vitamin A is found naturally in animal livers, green leafy vegetables and dairy products. It is important for normal vision and also helps our organs such as lungs, heart and kidneys to function properly.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for our health as it is needed for overall growth, repair and development of our body. It is also involved in many body functions such as immune function, collagen formation, absorptions of certain minerals, wound healing and the maintenance of our cartilages, bones and teeth. Our body does not produce and store Vitamin C therefore it is important to get sufficient Vitamin C to ensure a healthy development. Vitamin C can be obtained from citrus food, broccoli, bell peppers, berries and also from antioxidants supplements.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid is both water and fat soluble. It is produced in our body but only in small amounts. Animal products like red meat and organ meats are great sources of alpha-lipoic acid. This unique antioxidant has shown beneficial properties in diabetic patients, particularly by regulating blood sugar and helping the symptoms of nerve damages. This in turns lower the risk of diabetes complications such as diabetic retinopathy.
  • Selenium. Although Selenium is only needed in a small amount, it still plays an important role in regulating thyroid hormone metabolism and DNA synthesis and thus protecting the body from oxidative damage and infection. Selenium can be found in whole grains and animal products.
  • Lutein. Lutein is a potent antioxidant that protects our body especially the eyes. It is well known to protect our eyes from sunlight damage and any condition related to eye disease. The highest content of dietary Lutein can be found in dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli.

A diet high in antioxidants may reduce the risk of many diseases including heart disease and some cancers. Therefore, it is important for us to consume a healthy and well-balanced diet regularly to equip our body with these protectors.

Reference

  • Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and Functional Foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 118. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.70902
  • MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Antioxidants: Health benefits and nutritional information. Medical News Today. Retrieved May 5, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301506
  • Pham-Huy, Lien Ai et al. “Free radicals, antioxidants in disease and health.” International journal of biomedical science : IJBS vol. 4,2 (2008): 89-96.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Alcoholic neuropathy: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000714.htm

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The skeletal system

Our skeletal system is our body central framework. It is made up of the bones, cartilage, joints, ligaments and tendons. Together these components create a support structure for all of our tissue and organs.

Our skeletal system has many functions, such as:

  • Allows the movement of our body. Our bones work together with our joints, connective tissues and muscles to support our body weight, helping us to stand upright and to do everyday movement.
  • Mineral storage. Our bones store minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.
  • Protects and supports organs. Our brains and other organs such as heart and lungs are protected by our bones such as the skull and ribcage.
  • Bone contains bone marrows that are responsible in producing blood cells.

Conditions that affect our bones and joint

There are many conditions that will affect our bones and joints. Some happen as a result of injury or disease while others develop due to wear and tear as we age.

Below are a few examples of conditions that will affect our bones and joint:

  • Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis happens when we do not get enough calcium and our bone loss is more than the creation of new bones. It affects both men and women but it is more common in older women post menopause. This condition causes bones to become fragile and brittle, so a fall or even mild cough and bending over can cause a fracture.
  • Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when cartilage in our joints wears down over time due to injuries or aging. Therefore it is sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis. People experiencing osteoarthritis will suffer from pain, stiffness and swelling.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that our body immune’s system mistaken our body healthy cells as foreign cells and attacks them. Symptoms such as stiffness, swelling and pain of the joints may start slowly and often get worse gradually over time.
  • Falls and fracture. Falls can cause bones to be broken, such as fractures of the wrist, arm, ankle and hip. Falls can also cause serious injuries such as a head injury.

How to improve your bone and joints health

It is never too late to take care of our bones and joints. Besides providing balance and support, strong bones enable us to have a better posture and this in turn improves our appearance and make us look and feel more youthful. There are a few ways that we can improve our bone health and build healthy bones and joints:

  • Eat a well balanced diet and foods for bone health especially those rich in Calcium and Vitamin D. Calcium is important for bone health as it plays a crucial role in bone formation and maintaining strong bones. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products are a few examples that contain good source of Calcium. Vitamin D is important for bone health as it helps in the absorption of Calcium. Foods such as seeds, nuts and those rich in Omega 3 are foods that are good for joint health too.
  • Take nutrients and supplements for bone and joints health. Sometimes it is hard to get adequate Calcium from diet alone especially those who avoid dairy product such as vegans. Furthermore, getting enough Vitamin D from what we eat is also very difficult as few will meet the daily recommended levels for optimal bone health. Calcium and Vitamin D supplements or Glucosamine Sulphate and Chondroitin Sulphate are supplements that are beneficial to our bones and joints.
  • As our muscles are closely related to our bones and joints, it’s also important to improve our muscle health. Supplements such as Magnesium can help with relaxing our muscles.
  • Get adequate physical activities. Just like our muscles, bones will become stronger with movement and exercise. Weight bearing or strength building exercises are good for strengthening our bones. Try to also include 30 minutes of exercise each day such as walking, running, dancing or even climbing the stairs.
  • Stop smoking. Studies had shown that tobacco smoke will affect our bone density. Smoking also increases the risk of getting a fracture.
  • Prevent falls. Falls can cause serious fractures and injuries especially in the elderly and someone with osteoporosis. This will sometimes lead to a lost in independence and would require a change in living arrangement. Take a few steps to prevent these from happening such as installing grab bars and brighter light bulbs or removing tripping hazards especially at home. Some fall cases are due to poor vision therefore it is also important to get your vision checked regularly to prevent this from happening.
  • Regular visits to your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your bone health. Bone density testing may be required especially in the elderly. Your doctor may suggest certain medication or bone and joint health supplements to help with your condition.

Reference

  1. Calcium, nutrition, and bone health – orthoinfo – aaos. OrthoInfo. (n.d.). Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/calcium-nutrition-and-bone-health/#:~:text=Calcium%20is%20a%20mineral%20that,from%20the%20foods%20we%20eat.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Bone Health for Life: Health Information Basics for you and your family. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/bone-health-life-health-information-basics-you-and-your-family#:~:text=Why%20does%20bone%20health%20matter,need%20them%20for%20other%20uses.
  3. Skeletal system. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21048-skeletal-system#:~:text=The%20skeletal%20system%20is%20your,also%20called%20the%20musculoskeletal%20system.

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Hair loss 

Generally, human shed between 50-100 hairs a day. Hair shedding is part of the natural balance. New hair will grow to replace the hair fall. However when this balance is interrupted, more hairs are lost than hair growth, a condition known as alopecia (a medical term for baldness) will occur. Hair loss can happen on just your scalp or your entire body. Although hair loss is a fairly common occurrence and can happen to anybody, it is more common in men. It is also more prevalence in adults although teenagers or young children can experience it too. Hair loss may lead to depression, social anxiety and withdrawal symptoms. 

Symptoms of Hair Loss 

Hair loss can be temporary or permanent, and it appears in many different ways. Signs and symptoms of hair loss may include: 

  • Gradual thinning of hair on top of the head 
  • Circular or patchy bald spot that grows slowly 
  • Thinner ponytail 
  • Sudden loosening of hair 
  • Full body hair loss 

What Causes Hair Loss 

There are a number of factors that causes hair loss, such as: 

  • Family history of balding. Most baldness is cause by genetics. Both men and women can develop this kind of hair loss, and it is the most common cause of hair loss worldwide. Male pattern hair loss or women pattern hair loss occur due to the inherited genes that leads to a gradual shrinkage of scalp hair follicles. Hair grows progressively shorter and finer until no new hairs grow. This usually occurs gradually and in a predictable pattern. 
  • Age. With age, most people notice some hair loss because hair growth slows down. At some point when hair follicles stop growing hair, it will cause the hair on our scalp to thin. 
  • Certain medical condition. There is a variety of conditions that can cause temporary or permanent hair loss, such as hormonal changes due to pregnancy and childbirth, menopause or thyroid problems. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when our immune system attack the cells in our hair follicles, causing them to shrink and slow down hair production. 
  • Medications. Hair loss can also be side effects of certain medication. Patients undergoing chemotherapy often experience temporary hair loss, and it is reversible when treatment ends. 
  • Weight loss. Insufficient nutrients intake will lead to vitamin deficiencies that may prevent healthy hair growth. 

Role of Vitamin and Minerals in Hair Growth 

Micronutrients are major elements in the normal hair follicle cycle. Vitamins and minerals are important for normal cell growth and function and may contribute to hair loss when they are in deficiency. These deficiencies include: 

  • Zinc. Zinc deficiency will cause hair to break easily and in severe cases will cause hair loss. Studies showed that some patients with hair loss tend to have lower levels of Zinc. 
  • B Vitamins. Riboflavin (B12), Biotin (B7), Folate (B9) and Vitamin B12 deficiencies have been associated with hair loss. Generally, B Vitamins are involved in various metabolic reactions and help our body to obtain energy and nutrients from the food that we consume. Some studies showed that Biotin helps to stimulate keratin production in hair and cell turnover in the hair follicles, therefore promoting hair growth. 
  • Iron. Iron deficiency is also one of the causes of hair loss. Red blood cells need iron to carry oxygen throughout our body for normal cell growth and repair, including cells that stimulate hair growth. 
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to protect against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Damages caused by free radicals can damage and affect the growth of hair, and may cause slow hair growth. Collagen production requires Vitamin C, which is an important part of hair structure. Vitamin C is also important for hair loss associated with iron deficiency as it helps with iron absorption.   
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements might play a role in hair loss as studies has shown that patients with alopecia areata have low Vitamin D levels. Correction in Vitamin D levels showed an improvement in hair loss condition. 
  • Selenium. Although Selenium deficiency is rare, it is necessary for many processes including hair growth and thyroid hormone metabolism. 

Tips to Help with Hair Loss 

  • Be gentle with your hair. Use a detangler and avoid tugging when brushing and combing.  Avoid harsh treatment such as hot rollers that might cause damages to your hair. 
  • Speak to a doctor or hair specialist about medication that might cause hair loss. They may be able to also suggest hair loss treatment that is suitable for you. 
  • Protect your hair from sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light. 
  • Eat a balanced diet. Eating the right food might help to improve hair growth or even slow down the progression. Leafy green vegetables contain nutrients that are essential for healthy hair. 
  • If you are not able to get sufficient amount of vitamins & minerals from your daily meals to support your hair growth, consider taking some supplements to manage your vitamin and minerals deficiency. 

Do note that aside from diet, stress level and safety of hair products may also help to improve overall hair strength and appearance.  

Reference

  1. Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A. A., Tsatalis, J. P., &Tosti, A. (2019). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatology and therapy, 9(1), 51–70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6 
  2. WebMD. (n.d.). Does biotin really work for hair loss prevention? WebMD. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/hair-loss/does-biotin-really-prevent-hair-loss  Person. (2021, August 17). The 5 best vitamins for hair growth. Healthline. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-vitamins-hair-growth