How an Attitude of Gratitude Affects Your Emotional and Physical Health

Gratitude can make us happier, improve our relationships, and help us navigate trying times with more resilience. Can an attitude of gratitude be good for your health too? Research shows gratitude is strongly related to well-being and has lasting positive effects on our emotional and physical health.

Gratitude is an emotion we feel when we receive something good unexpectedly or take time to recognize the blessings in our lives. It can make us happier, improve our relationships, and help us navigate trying times with more resilience. But could the benefits of having an attitude of gratitude go beyond that? Is practicing gratefulness good for our health too? Research shows gratitude is strongly related to well-being and has lasting positive effects on our emotional and physical health.

What Is Gratitude?

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward

Gratitude is a combination of two qualities: the appreciation and recognition that something is valuable to you. First, we affirm there are good things, gifts, and benefits in the world. Second, we look through the lens of gratitude and recognize that there are sources of goodness in our lives outside of ourselves. We acknowledge the positive things that come our way, even when we are not actively seeking them.

In digging into the word itself, grata or gratia is the Latin word for a given gift. Derived from the same root, grace is a word meaning giving an unearned gift. We may experience a feeling of gratitude at unprompted times, but we can also choose to welcome gratitude into our lives. It’s more than an emotion; it is being mindful of the people and things in your life and deeply appreciating their presence and support. When this becomes regular practice, you can’t help but lead a more positive, fulfilling life.

Benefits of Gratitude

Science and psychology have not always recognized the role gratitude plays in our happiness levels and overall emotional health, even though certain philosophers recognized its significance. They believed gratitude was crucially important to a successful civilization and played an important role in daily life. As Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, stated, “From ancient religious scriptures through modern social science research, gratitude has advanced as a desirable human characteristic with the capacity for making life better for oneself and for others.”

Emotional Health Benefits of Gratitude

With gratitude, we acknowledge the goodness in our lives, which helps us connect to something larger than ourselves as individuals—whether to other people, our loved ones, nature, or a higher power such as God, spirit, or the universe. Many people experience emotional benefits of gratitude, such as numerous negative emotions being reduced, including envy, resentment, frustration, and regret.

Robert A. Emmons has conducted a great deal of research on emotional psychology and has examined the connection between well-being and gratitude. He found that adopting an attitude of gratitude reduces depression, improves relationships, and generally helps people feel happier.

Other studies have shown that grateful people are more empathetic and less aggressive, and that a grateful heart is a more peaceful heart. The very nature of gratitude requires expanding your focus outward, and when you express appreciation for the blessings in your own life, you are more likely to help others and extend those joyful feelings.

When it comes to self-esteem, being grateful lessens the habit of comparison and allows you to celebrate the talents and accomplishments of others. You are able to focus on how your life is supported by others, permitting you to feel more secure, and you are less likely to seek material goods to strengthen your self-image.

Gratitude also builds mental strength and helps you overcome disappointment, mistakes, and trauma with more resilience because you focus on the positives and recognize what you are thankful for, even when faced with setbacks. Pondering the circumstances in one’s life for which one is grateful appears to be a beneficial way of coping with both acute and chronic stressful events.

A sense of gratitude also makes us nicer, more sociable, and more optimistic human beings. As a result, it helps us make friends, deepens our existing relationships, and strengthens our marriage and family bonds. Having meaningful connections improves your emotional health, which, in turn, attracts more positive influences and people to your life, because when you’re happy, happy people want to be around you.

Physical Health Benefits of Gratitude

In recent years, science has explored the impact and health benefits of gratitude on physical well-being, sleep patterns, ailments, and more. Research on the relationship between gratitude and physical health is still developing, but studies so far suggest there may be a connection.

A study reported that people who are grateful and appreciate the importance of this value in their lives felt physically healthier and did not complain of as many aches and pains. Those who regularly express gratitude take better care of their health, exercise more often, and visit their doctors more regularly. All of these factors may likely tie to longer longevity and overall improved physical health.

In another study, more grateful participants reported fewer health problems, such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory infections.

Grateful people also appear to have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and get longer, more restful sleep. Since there is a strong link between emotional and physical health, when we feel better mentally, we simultaneously boost our physical well-being. One big question that is being further explored is whether gratitude causes good health or whether good health causes gratitude. While it most likely flows both ways, practicing gratefulness can help change lives for the better.

How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving, but looking at the cup as half-full and celebrating the positives does take practice for some of us. Giving thanks and expressing appreciation for the gifts in life is a natural human response, but in a fast-paced world where there is often a constant pursuit of gratification, gratitude often falls to the bottom of the list.

If it’s not your typical disposition, is it possible to count your blessings instead of your burdens? Absolutely. As with anything, cultivating an attitude of gratitude takes repetition and commitment, but adopting gratitude exercises into your daily life can provide substantial health benefits.

In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.” — Albert Clarke

Grateful living is supported by daily practices, tools, habits of mind, and behaviors that can be applied to many aspects of our lives. Even while dodging curveballs, when we approach life with gratitude and an open heart, we are better able to view challenges as opportunities that may just better our lives. There are infinite ways to show our gratitude to others and ourselves. Here are some proven ways to enhance your appreciation and gain a thankful attitude.

Keep a Journal

One of the easiest exercises is keeping a gratitude journal. While it’s a simple practice, it has extraordinary results. You can sit down every day, every week, or whenever you feel the need, and write down three to five things you are especially grateful for. Taking a moment out of your day to focus on all that brings you happiness, peace, and satisfaction will raise your spirits and can easily transform a negative attitude into a positive one. Many people find journaling especially beneficial before bed as it helps to put you in a positive state of mind before heading off to sleep.

Create a Gratitude Jar

A great activity to do with children, creating a gratitude jar is a fun way to celebrate the good in your life, from the big things to the small things. Whether it is a great cup of coffee, a devoted friend, or sharing a meal with your family, write down three things on a slip of paper that make you grateful and put it in your jar every day. Think of it as thank-you notes to the universe. You will be able to look back at your collection and be reminded of the many blessings in your life and receive a quick pick-me-up on the days you’re feeling down.

Take a Walk

Head outside for a gratitude walk. Whether it’s down the street, in a park, or around your own backyard, allow yourself to clear your thoughts and mindfully focus on what you appreciate about your life. You can also take in what is around you; the colors of the trees, the songs of the birds, the smell of the air. Express gratitude for everything you are experiencing in that very moment. Walking is therapeutic in itself, and coupled with a grateful state of mind, you are bound to come back feeling refreshed and energized.

Meditate

Combining mindful meditation with a gratitude exercise gives you a double dose of optimism and a mental health boost. Gratitude meditation is unique in that you focus on the people, things, and situations in your life that you are thankful for and bring you happiness, instead of paying attention to your breath. Spend time taking stock of all you are grateful for and embracing the feelings that recognition evokes.

Write a Note

There’s nothing better than sharing your gratitude with others. Handwriting a note to someone for whom you are grateful not only fosters cheerful feelings in you, but also touches another person’s life and passes that positivity on. You can even think outside your normal list of close family and friends; include your mail person, a friendly face at the supermarket, or a child’s teacher. You never know what a simple gesture can do in someone’s life or how it may inspire that goodwill to be passed on.

Make a Collage

Time to break out the scissors and glue. Gather images or photos of the things, people, and places that you are grateful for and create a collage that you can look at every day to be reminded of what makes you smile. If digital is more your speed, there are many online resources that allow you to create a collage that can be printed or applied as your desktop background. You will probably discover as the collage comes together that there is a great deal in your life to appreciate.

Assign an Object

Sometimes we need to be reminded during our busy days to pause and practice our gratitude exercise. Find an object that every time you look at it in your home or workplace will prompt you to stop and reflect on what you are grateful for. It could be a rock, a bracelet, a picture, or an inspirational quote. No matter what you choose, it will be a helpful reminder to express your gratitude and can inspire you to de-stress and recharge.

The science of gratitude is still young, but considerable progress has already been made in understanding how gratitude encourages better emotional and physical health and creates a happier you. Even if you currently struggle with adopting gratitude into your life, you can hone this skill through practice, repetition, and positive expectations. With every step, all you put in will come back to you tenfold and you will find yourself truly appreciating and celebrating life.

How to Improve Metabolic Health: 11 Actionable Tips

How do you improve your metabolic health? You need to get moving, you need to eat smart, and you need to pay attention to your body. Here are 11 actionable tips to improve your metabolic health.

You may have heard the term metabolic health before, but do you really understand its meaning? Many of us think of metabolism as the rate at which we digest food. Lucky individuals gifted with a high metabolism can rapidly burn off a cheeseburger, while indulgent food choices can cause the number on the scale to increase for those with a slow metabolism. However, your metabolic health affects far more than your digestion and weight—and don’t assume you have good metabolic health simply because you’re at “normal” weight. Here’s what you should know about the importance of metabolic health, plus 11 actionable tips you can use to improve your metabolic health should you discover yours is less than optimal.

The Alarming Truth About Metabolic Health

The reality is, the state of your metabolic health influences all the other aspects of your health. In order for your systems to be operating at full capacity, your metabolic health must be in order.

Unfortunately, a recent study found that an “alarmingly low” percentage of American adults actually meet the standards for good metabolic health. That means most face an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

After evaluating National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 8,721 adults, a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concluded that only one out of every eight adults in the United States can be said to have optimal metabolic health. In their findings, published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, they defined optimal metabolic health as meeting the criteria for ideal levels of blood glucose, blood pressure, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and waist circumference, all without the use of medications. They selected those criteria based on the proven link between adverse changes to those markers and an increased risk of serious health conditions.

How do you improve your metabolic health? You need to get moving, you need to eat smart, and you need to pay attention to your body.

While participants who were obese fared the worst, with a mere 0.5% meeting the criteria for good metabolic health, the majority of participants who were underweight and at a normal weight also fell short. Less than half of underweight participants and less than a third of normal weight participants met the criteria.

“We need to look at metabolism beyond just body weight,” commented Dr. Rekha Kumar, an endocrinologist at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, in an interview. “There has been a push to address obesity through public health measures, but this study shows us that even people who are a normal weight seem to be developing diseases that we typically correlate with obesity.”

Defining Metabolic Health

At this time, there is no universally accepted definition for metabolic health. While the researchers from UNC Chapel Hill decided to categorize only participants who met all five criteria as optimally healthy, other experts have used different definitions.

However, all definitions of metabolic health center on the five measurements mentioned above:

  1. Blood glucose
  2. Blood pressure
  3. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  4. Triglycerides
  5. Waist circumference

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), individuals who fall into areas of concern for three of those five measurements have what’s called metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health conditions that can escalate, leading to heart attacks and other life-threatening consequences. The AHA guidelines are:

  • Fasting blood glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater
  • Systolic blood pressure (top number) of 130 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater, or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 85 mm Hg or greater
  • HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women
  • Triglyceride level of 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or greater
  • Abdominal obesity (waist circumference of greater than 40 inches in men, and greater than 35 inches in women)

Over the years, medical professionals have tightened the criteria for what’s considered a healthy measurement. The UNC Chapel Hill researchers used “the most recent and restrictive” criteria established by both scientific societies as well as governmental bodies, meaning fewer individuals met the standards for metabolic health than other, earlier assessments reflected.

According to Dr. Rosemary Ku, a dual board-certified physician and founder of the digital health nonprofit Cure Chronic Disease, one of the most significant differences between the standards used for the UNC Chapel Hill findings and those used for prior studies was the blood pressure threshold. “The standard for metabolic syndrome [used to be] 130/85, but in this study, they considered 120/80 to be optimal,” Ku said in an interview.

The purpose for using stricter guidelines, Dr. Kumar of New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine explained, is not to shame people with labels, but to help them grasp the increased health risks they face so they can take steps to improve their health.

One of the most difficult measures to standardize is waist circumference, which contributed significantly to the total number of people determined to be in optimal metabolic health—its influence dropped from 17.6% to 12.2%.

The UNC Chapel Hill team settled on a consistent method for measuring waist circumference, but no universal standard used by all doctors has been put in place for doing so.

Still, experts agree it’s important to take waist circumference into account. A larger circumference can indicate the presence of visceral fat gathered around the organs, which studies have linked to a higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

What Influences Metabolic Health?

According to the UNC Chapel Hill study, both demographic characteristics and lifestyle factors influence the state of your metabolic health.

For instance, they found some of the highest metabolic rates among individuals who were physically active as well as nonsmokers. It appears that age, biological sex, and race also come into play: both women and individuals under the age of 40 have higher rates of optimal metabolic health, while individuals age 60 and older as well as African American participants had some of the lowest rates of optimal metabolic health. Having at least some college education also correlates with better metabolic health.

Walking meetings are a great way to get some exercise outside the office. Or, in inclement weather, some corporations even have gyms on site. You and a co-worker could go walk at an indoor mall. Brainstorming while blood is pumping to the brain may result in better ideas, and for sure will help you get in at least 30 minutes of walking.

How do you improve your metabolic health? You need to get moving, you need to eat smart, and you need to pay attention to your body.

So, how do you improve your metabolic health? Obviously, certain factors that increase your risk cannot be changed, such as your age, biological sex, or race. However, increasing the amount of physical activity you engage in or striving to meet healthy weight-loss goals can significantly improve your metabolic health.

11 Actionable Tips to Improve Metabolic Health

Change can be overwhelming, but making small shifts can add up to a significant impact on your metabolic health. While much of the advice about metabolic health has to do with reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass, that doesn’t mean your goal needs to be becoming a hard-bodied gym rat.

If you’re unaccustomed to spending time in gyms, you may imagine that all the people there are already in peak physical condition. While that may be true at certain facilities, or at certain times of day, many gyms work to be inclusive of individuals of all body types and fitness levels. If you have the means for a gym membership, building a community of supportive peers can be a valuable tool to help you follow through on your exercise goals. One way to decrease the anxiety you might feel about a first visit to a gym could be to do some online research to identify a facility with an ethos that agrees with your own.

It’s also entirely possible to incorporate physical activity into your life without a gym membership. Simply choosing to take the stairs, rather than the elevator, can be a great first step.

Furthermore, while building muscle and boosting your aerobic capacity is important, it’s not the only element of improving your metabolic health. Sleep deprivation can be just as harmful as inactivity. And while eating fewer calories may help you change your body composition in ways that benefit your overall health, making sure the calories you take in come from nutrient-rich foods rather than overly processed, additive-laden ones is crucial to achieving optimal metabolic health.

Read on for 11 actionable tips you can use to improve your metabolic health.

1. Drink More Water

Increasing your water intake can improve your metabolic health in a number of ways, independent of changes to your diet or activity level.

According to a study published in Obesitya monthly peer-reviewed medical journal, short-term experiments suggest drinking water promotes weight loss by lowering total energy intake, altering metabolism, or both. In other words, drinking water may help you consume fewer calories, burn calories more rapidly, or both.

Additional studies support the idea that drinking water can increase your resting metabolic rate—at least temporarily. Findings published in 2011 showed that drinking water increased participants’ resting metabolic rate by up to 25%, which the researchers calculated could translate to an additional weight loss of approximately 2.6 pounds per year.

Drinking more water can also lead to a lower caloric intake. A systematic review of studies—including both clinical trials, epidemiological studies, and intervention studies—determined that drinking water before or during a meal can decrease the number of calories people consume. One study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that when participants drank 500 milliliters of water 30 minutes before a meal, they ate approximately 13% fewer calories. This reduction in caloric intake was unrelated to sex, age, body mass index, or habitual daily water consumption.

Some evidence indicates that drinking cold water may have the most pronounced calorie-burning effect. This has to do with what scientists call the thermogenic property of water: in simple terms, when you drink cold water, your body burns calories simply by heating it up to body temperature.

If you currently drink soda and other sugary beverages, replacing those with water can make it more possible to lose weight and keep it off, according to at least one study. This choice allows you to reduce your overall caloric intake without changing the number of calories you take in from the food you eat.

2. Spend Less Time Sitting

A burgeoning consensus among health care professionals holds that spending too much time sitting can be damaging to your health.

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine examined how the amount of time you spent sitting relates to your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. The authors found a significant association between time spent sitting and rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality. It’s important to note that these associations remained intact regardless of the amount of time participants spent engaging in physical activity, meaning that even daily exercise can’t counterbalance long stretches of sedentary behavior.

If you have the ability to work standing up, that can also help you burn more calories. An office-based study found that standing throughout an afternoon of work resulted in an energy expenditure that was 174 calories greater than for sitting.

For those who don’t have the option of working at a standing desk, or adapting an existing desk to allow them to work while standing, taking standing breaks can mitigate the effects of the time you spend sitting.

3. Embrace Strength Training

Older theories on how best to use exercise to support weight loss prioritized cardio training, but it’s now clear that strength training can be just as influential—if not more so.

Because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, increasing your muscle mass can raise your resting metabolic rate. According to at least one study, body composition, and muscle mass in particular, is the primary determinant of your resting metabolic rate, which accounts for between 50% and 70% of your daily energy expenditure. This means you can improve metabolic health by using strength training to build muscle mass.

“Inactive adults experience a 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass per decade, accompanied by resting metabolic rate reduction and fat accumulation,” stated Wayne L. Westcott, a prolific researcher in the field, in findings published in Current Sports Medicine Reports. Westcott went on to detail how 10 weeks of resistance training can result in roughly a 3-pound increase in muscle mass and a 7% increase in resting metabolic rate.

Strength training can help counteract a common weight loss pitfall too—that you lose muscle along with fat. Researchers from the University of Alabama found that strength training helped study participants maintain muscle mass while losing weight.

Participants, all of whom adhered to a diet that restricted caloric intake to 800 calories per day, were divided into three groups: aerobic exercise, strength training, and control. Participants in the strength training group maintained their muscle mass, metabolic rate, and physical strength. Other participants lost comparable amounts of weight, but lost muscle mass and saw their metabolisms slow.

4. Eat More Protein

Another way to ensure you maintain your metabolic rate while losing weight is to up your protein intake. As with strength training, the reason for this is that providing your body with a good supply of protein helps build and maintain muscle mass.

Findings published in the Journal of Nutrition show that eating a high-protein diet while following a calorie-restricted diet led to participants’ muscle mass and resting energy expenditure “changing favorably” compared to those who followed a normal-protein diet.

Protein also causes the most significant thermic effect of food—meaning, essentially, that it causes your metabolism to shift into high gear for a few hours after you consume it. Scientists have found that protein can increase your metabolic rate by between 15% and 30%, compared to 5-10% for carbohydrates and 0-3% for fats.

Plus, eating protein can help you stay satiated, which decreases the likelihood of overeating. Research conducted at the Food for Health Science Center at Lund University in Sweden, showed that participants who consumed high-protein breakfasts ate 12% fewer calories at lunch than those who ate lower protein, higher carb breakfasts.

5. Brew Some Green or Oolong Tea

Scientists believe that drinking both green tea and oolong tea (partially oxidized tea varietals, the less oxidized of which lean more toward fresh green tea while the more oxidized taste closer to malty black tea) can help increase fat burning.

One study found that drinking green tea can increase fat oxidation (the technical term for fat burning) by between 10% and 17%, and improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

It appears that the beneficial effects of green and oolong tea result from their catechin and caffeine content. Polyphenols in the teas seem to counteract decreases in metabolic rate that can accompany weight loss, helping you to maintain or even increase your energy expenditure. This can be of particular importance during the maintenance phase after weight loss.

Oolong and green tea have been proven in several studies to help improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. About 5 or 6 cups of tea per day conveys the best metabolic health improvements, according to an overview of research on the matter published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

6. Try a High-Intensity Workout

Studies show individuals who try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) maintain an elevated metabolic rate even after completing their workout.

High-intensity interval training involves carrying out short, intense sprints of different exercises. It appears this approach to training may lead to a greater fat-burning effect than other training approaches. Findings published in the Journal of Translational Medicine indicate that high-intensity interval resistance training workouts yield a more elevated resting metabolic rate 22 hours after a training session than do traditional resistance training sessions. The authors concluded that HIIT can lead to improved fat-burning results, and as an added benefit, since sessions require a shorter time commitment, can eliminate a barrier to exercise for many people.

That said, if you’re not used to physical activity, it may not be wise to leap into high-intensity training at the outset. Remember that any increase in physical activity will help your metabolic health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Even 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity is good for you.

7. Experiment with Low-Carb Eating

Diets low in carbohydrates, such as the ketogenic diet (often abbreviated to the keto diet, or just keto), have been shown to help obese people lose weight.

Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research in Public Health determined that the keto diet has “a solid physiological and biochemical basis and is able to induce effective weight loss along with improvement in several cardiovascular risk parameters.”

Furthermore, a review of 23 randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of scientific research, compared the efficacy of low-carb diets to low-fat diets, and found that a low-carb approach always led to more significant weight loss—in some cases, two to three times as much! That difference remained quite consistent, despite the fact that calories were often restricted for low-fat participants and unrestricted for low-carb participants.

Low-carb diets also produced the most impressive results for reducing abdominal fat. As mentioned previously, abdominal fat deposits have more significant health implications than fat carried elsewhere on the body.

The review found that low-carb diets produced impressive changes to other key measurements of metabolic health as well, including lower levels of triglycerides, “drastic” improvements to blood sugar markers, and decreased blood pressure.

It’s important to note that, at this time, most available research on the benefits of low-carb diets deals only with the short- to middle-term effects.

8. Prioritize Sleep

While the research as to why this is the case isn’t clear, lack of sleep is linked to lower metabolism, according to research published in the International Journal of Endocrinology.

It appears that sleep deprivation can also spike blood sugar levels and result in increased insulin resistance, both of which elevate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Findings published in the Journal of Applied Physiology report that sleep loss can produce a marled effect on glucose metabolism. The authors note that laboratory studies show decreases to glucose tolerance as well as insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, a lack of sleep decreases levels of appetite-reducing leptin and increases levels of appetite-stimulating ghrelin. All these changes correlate with increased hunger and appetite, which the researchers predict could led to overeating and weight gain.

They also refer to a growing body of epidemiological evidence showing that the less sleep you get, the higher your risk of both obesity and diabetes. “In this increasingly prevalent syndrome, a feedforward cascade of negative events generated by sleep loss, sleep fragmentation, and hypoxia are likely to exacerbate the severity of metabolic disturbances,” they concluded.

9. Abstain from Cigarettes

Even those who still smoke cigarettes know the habit harms their health. But have you ever calculated the economic burden the health care costs associated with smoking place on the U.S. economy?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the cost of smoking-related illnesses at over $300 billion annually—yes, billion with a B. Of that, close to $170 billion comes from the cost of direct medical care for adult smokers.

If your metabolic health is less than optimal—as you may recall, that’s true for most people—smoking cigarettes is akin to throwing gasoline on a blazing fire of health issues. A study published in Clinical Lipidology found that cigarette smoking can both increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome and intensify existing symptoms.

Fortunately, it appears that once a person quits smoking, markers such as insulin sensitivity can bounce back to healthy levels. Though this can be complicated by the weight gain that can go along with smoking cessation, researchers have determined that the health benefits of abstaining from cigarettes far outweigh any health consequences related to the accompanying weight gain. That said, they encourage current smokers to seek out smoking cessation treatment that includes a focus on weight management and weight gain anxiety reduction, especially women who are statistically more likely to begin smoking again if they gain weight while attempting to quit.

10. Avoid Food Preservatives

Research published in the journal Nature in 2015 showed a direct link between food additives and obesity.

The study focused specifically on the use of emulsifiers, which are commonly used to create a smooth texture in processed foods such as ice cream and mayonnaise. Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that emulsifiers are “generally regarded as safe,” because there is no evidence that they increase the risk of cancer or have toxic effects in mammals, it appears that they can in fact have a detrimental effect on your health.

The study’s authors found that consuming even one-tenth of the concentration of emulsifiers that the FDA allows in a food product led to concerning changes in the gut microbiota that instigates metabolic issues, systemic inflammation, and obesity.

A separate study, conducted by scientists from the Department of Medicine at Boston University Medical Center and the Department of Environmental Health at the Boston University School of Health, found that both intentional food additives such as artificial sweeteners and colors and emulsifiers as well as unintentional additives such as pesticides can “dysregulate endocrine function, insulin signaling, and/or adipocyte function.” They note that more research is needed to identify precisely which additives cause harm, and how, but for the time being, it seems wise to avoid exposure as much as possible.

11. Take an Essential Amino Acid Supplement

If there is any one, single key to metabolic health, it just might be essential amino acids.

A higher intake of essential amino acids can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce the concentrations of “bad” lipids (LDL cholesterol and triglycerides) in the blood, and also reduce dangerous visceral fat.

Essential amino acids are part of a normal diet, and are particularly abundant in high-quality protein food sources such as chicken, fish, meat, and dairy. However, these food sources usually fail to deliver the amount of essential amino acids necessary for optimal metabolic health.

That’s why a high-quality, well-formulated dietary supplement of essential amino acids can provide significant benefit for everyone seeking to improve metabolic health.

How do you improve your metabolic health? You need to get moving, you need to eat smart, and you need to pay attention to your body.

Eczema Remedies: The Causes, Symptoms and Best Treatments for Skin Relief

More than 30 million Americans have some form of eczema, a skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, itchy skin. In this article, we’re covering the types, the causes, the symptoms, and the eczema remedies for skin relief.

More than 30 million Americans have some form of eczema, a skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, itchy skin. Often used as an umbrella term to define a group of chronic, itchy skin rashes, eczema varies in appearance depending on the type of rash and its location. In some forms of eczema, blisters may also develop. Eczema symptoms can be intense for a period of time, calm down, and then surface again. Scratching can inflame the rash, and a clear fluid may ooze out of the affected area. In this article, we’re covering the types, the causes, the symptoms, and the eczema remedies for skin relief.

Types of Eczema

The National Eczema Association divides eczema into six types, based on their possible causes.

Atopic Dermatitis

The most common form of eczema, atopic eczema usually affects children by age 5, but adults may develop it as well. It shows up as dry, red, and itchy patches of skin usually on the face, scalp, hands, feet, inside the elbows, and behind the knees. Babies tend to develop a red rash on their cheeks and scalp. In severe eczema cases, patches may crack and become infected.

Atopic dermatitis is recurrent—it lasts for a period of time, then it goes into remission and comes back again. This type of eczema can be a lifelong condition, but in some cases, children might see improvements as they age.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis strikes when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant that sparks swelling, itchiness, redness, and a burning sensation. Blisters can ooze and crust over.

Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when in contact with everyday items such as soap, cosmetics, and wind, and typically emerges on the hands and face. Allergic contact dermatitis is rarer, and results from continual exposure to a chemical, such as in a work environment or from perfumes in toiletries. Both irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis can cause what’s commonly called hand eczema in which scaly, dry, and itchy skin afflicts the hands.

Dyshidrotic Eczema

This type of eczema presents as itchy, fluid-filled blisters that develop under the skin on the hands or the feet. Over time, the affected patches can crack, exposing the skin to painful infection. Stress and other habits, such as frequent or long periods of contact with water and working with certain metals can aggravate or trigger an eczema flare. Dyshidrotic eczema is more common in women, and it usually occurs in spring and summer and in warmer climates.

Nummular Eczema

People with nummular eczema, or discoid eczema, have round or oval itchy and inflamed, swollen patches of skin, formed by pimples that become scaly. This type of eczema usually affects the torso, arms and legs, and it is more common in older men, but all ages and genders are susceptible. People with dry skin may be at risk of developing nummular eczema, especially in winter, and insect bites are a common cause.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This chronic form of eczema afflicts areas of the body that contain many oil-producing glands, such as on the scalp—where it shows up as dandruff—or on the nose or upper back where it can manifest as yellow scales of reddened skin. Seborrheic dermatitis can be exacerbated by microorganisms like yeast, but isn’t caused by an allergy, unlike other types of eczema.

Men have a higher likelihood of developing seborrheic dermatitis than women do, and in infants it’s known as “cradle crap.” Those suffering from medical conditions that compromise the immune system, such as HIV or AIDs, or the nervous system also have a greater tendency towards developing seborrheic dermatitis.

Stasis Dermatitis

Also referred to as gravitational dermatitis, venous eczema, and venous stasis dermatitis, stasis dermatitis arises when blood flow is impaired and pressure builds up, particularly in the lower legs. The buildup pushes fluid out of the veins and into the skin, resulting in symptoms of eczema such as:

  • Ankle swelling
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Scaly skin
  • Itching
  • Oozing
  • Cracking skin
  • Infection

Eczema is a condition in which parts of your skin become red and itchy. Symptoms can be intense for a period of time, calm down, then surface again. More than 30 million Americans have some form of eczema. In this article, we’re covering the types, the causes, the symptoms, and the eczema remedies for skin relief.

Eczema Causes

The specific cause of this inflammatory condition is unknown, but experts believe that eczema is related to a variation in genes that affects the skin’s ability to protect the body from bacteria. This lack of protection leaves the skin exposed to environmental factors, irritants, and allergens that can cause inflammation. In some children, food allergies may instigate eczema. Having a close relative with eczema can also be a risk factor.

Common causes of eczema flare-ups include:

  • Wool
  • Sweat
  • Soaps
  • Dust
  • Laundry detergents
  • Cough, cold, flu
  • Contact with pet saliva

Eczema Remedies for Skin Relief

Before resorting to medications, you can try lifestyle and home remedies to prevent flares and reduce symptoms. Eczema can be persistent, and you might need to try different natural remedies to see results—but don’t get discouraged. Follow these tips for skin relief.

Moisturization

Keep your skin moisturized—choose a product that works well for you and is free of chemicals or allergens that can worsen your eczema. Apply the moisturizer at least twice a day, and after bathing while the skin is still damp.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a celebrated microbial and eczema treatment that can help to decrease staph bacteria and your risk of skin infections. Replete with beneficial fatty acids, coconut oil is a supreme skin and hair moisturizer. All it takes is a twice daily application of virgin coconut oil to damp skin.

Essential Oils

Essential oils, especially lavender essential oil, can help with mood and sleep management for eczema patients, as well as heal eczema symptoms. Dilute 10 drops of lavender essential oil in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and gently apply to skin. To promote restful sleep, diffuse lavender essential oil and chamomile essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser and breathe in the tonic as you sleep.

Take Warm Baths

A warm bath can do wonders for healing inflamed and sensitive skin. Limit baths and showers to 10 to 15 minutes. Add a sprinkle of baking soda or uncooked oatmeal to the bath water—soak  and then dry gently.

In addition to oatmeal baths, you can soak in a bleach bath for 10 minutes to reduce the bacteria on the skin. Dilute a 1/2 cup of household bleach in a 40-gallon bathtub filled with warm water. Don’t use concentrated bleach and never submerge the head.

Mild Soaps

Use soaps without dyes or perfumes to avoid substances that may irritate your skin. Superfatted and non-alkaline soaps are top choices.

No Scratching

Cover the itchy area if you can’t avoid scratching it. Using bandages helps protect the skin and prevents scratching.

Smooth Clothing

Avoid rough, tight, and scratchy clothing such as wool. Also, wear clothing that can help the skin breathe in hot weather or during exercise to prevent excessive sweating.

Humidifier

Hot, dry indoor air can make the itching worse. A humidifier can help add moisture to the air inside your home to help ease the itching associated with eczema.

Manage stress

Stress and anxiety can make symptoms worse. Consider using breathing techniques and meditation to reduce stress, as well as making appropriate lifestyle changes, such as adding more anti-inflammatory foods and fruits and vegetables to your diet, getting enough sleep, and removing stress-inducing factors as much as possible.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

If home eczema remedies do not reduce symptoms, you can try over-the-counter steroid creams such as hydrocortisone cream. Apply it no more than twice a day to the affected area after moisturizing to help the cream penetrate the skin. You can also try non-prescription allergy medicines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) or fexofenadine (Allegra).

Calamine lotion, a mixture of zinc oxide and ferric oxide, is a top favorite for relieving the itch and blistery rashes of eczema.

There are a variety of specific creams that your doctor may prescribe to control itching, such as corticosteroid cream or antibiotic cream if your skin has a bacterial infection. For severe cases, the doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids, which can definitely subdue eczema symptoms but can’t be used for the long term because they can cause serious side effects.

For severe eczema, it can help to wrap the affected area with topical corticosteroids and wet bandages. Light therapy/phototherapy may also help, but it is not commonly used because of harmful effects such as premature skin aging and risk of cancer. During a light therapy session, skin is exposed to controlled amounts of natural sunlight, artificial ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB). As with all eczema treatments, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of light therapy.