What to Look for in a Memory Test and 5 Healthy Ways to Boost Memory

Age-related memory loss affects millions of adults in the United States. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three senior citizens die with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If you have started to notice signs of memory loss in yourself or someone you love, you are likely looking for a memory test that can give you a definitive diagnosis.

The Internet is filled with websites offering an online memory test, and while these tests may help you identify a problem, you need to see a neurologist for a legitimate memory test that can give you the answers you are seeking. In the meantime, there are ways you can improve memory and overall cognitive function with dietary and lifestyle changes.

What Are the 3 Types of Memory?

The human brain stores and processes bits of information in three different ways. If you are struggling with memory and researching online, you will likely come across the questions “what are the 3 stages of memory” as well as “what are the 3 types of memory.” In truth, these are the same questions—there are three types, or three stages of memory in the human brain—sensory, short term, and long term. Let’s take a look at the differences.

Sensory Memory

This is the shortest-term memory responsible for buffering external stimuli received from one of the five senses. Information processed in sensory memory degrades rapidly—somewhere in the range of 200 to 500 milliseconds before it “released.”

Short-term Memory

Short-term memory is held longer than sensory memory. However, unless we consciously focus on retaining specific bits of information it will fade away. Short-term memory is also referred to as working memory because the data stored here is required for everyday activities and tasks. An initial memory test conducted by a neurologist will likely focus on short-term memory capacity and recall ability.

Long-term Memory

Long-term memory is where data is stored for long periods of time. When you think of your 2nd grade teacher or remember the first time you flew in an airplane, you are tapping into your long-term memory stores. Most neurologists and psychologists break down long-term memory even further into “conscious” and “unconscious” memory.

What Is Memory in Psychology?

Psychologists recognize that memory is what makes us who we are. The three types of memory are what allow us to function healthfully in everyday life. Sensory memories spur us to remove our hand from a hot stove. Short-term memories allow us to recall the name of a person we just met. And long-term memories can transport us back to a place and time in vivid detail.

Types of Age-Related Memory Loss

As we age, our short-term memory starts to degrade. We may begin to forget where we put our keys or where we parked at the mall, or have difficulty recalling a name. This is all a regular part of the aging process. Additionally, certain vitamin deficiencies, hormone disorders, head traumas, and medications can cause memory loss that is reversible.

However, when memory loss persists, worsens, and starts to affect our ability to manage our day-to-day lives, it is time to seek counsel and have a memory test. There are four diseases, separate from natural aging, that cause progressive damage to the brain.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common disease that causes memory loss. Early symptoms of this disease include changes in personality, depression, social withdrawal, loss of inhibitions, irritability, delusions, and wandering. It is essential to have a memory test conducted by a neurologist to determine if you have Alzheimer’s disease, as there are medications that can help slow its progression.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is a general term that describes memory and thought problems caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia symptoms can come on suddenly after a stroke or a series of mini-strokes and are generally more rapid than the gradual, but steady decline in memory for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is a term used for a group of relatively uncommon disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These disorders can physically cause certain areas of the brain to shrink, and a definitive cause is hard to find. Frontotemporal dementia causes more than memory loss—speech and behavior changes can be expected. Additionally, movement disorders similar to Parkinson’s disease may occur concurrently.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is the second most common type of progressive memory loss after Alzheimer’s disease. This brain disease is caused by protein deposits called Lewy bodies that develop in nerve cells in the thinking, memory, and motor control regions of the brain. The symptoms of Lewy body dementia do worsen and can cause severe memory loss, aggressive behavior, unrelenting depression, and worsening of motor-related functions.

5 Healthy Ways to Boost Memory

Diet, stress, exercise, sleep, and genetics all play a role in memory loss. Here are five ways to help boost memory and protect your brain from dementia.

1. Take an Amino Acid Supplement

Amino acids play key roles in protecting the brain. If your diet is deficient in amino acids, your brain may not have the fuel it needs for proper memory storage and recall. Amino acid supplements are a great way to combat a poor diet and help you get the nutrients your brain needs to thrive.

2. Avoid Medications Linked to Poor Memory

Specific medications, including those formulated to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia, have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and memory loss. Talk to your doctor about safe alternatives and potential natural remedies like amino acids for depression, insomnia, and anxiety.

3. Manage Stress

Chronic stress impacts the brain and can cause temporary memory loss. In fact, according to a recent report published in the journal Chronic Stress, stress causes an imbalance in the circuitry of the brain affecting cognition, anxiety, mood, and decision-making. It is important to find the right balance of lifestyle changes and natural supplements to help you reduce stress.

4. Exercise

Get moving—and stay moving. Regular exercise increases blood flood to your brain, which may boost both short-term and long-term memory. According to Harvard Medical School, regular exercise changes the brain and improves memory and thinking skills.

How rigorously do you need to exercise? You just have to walk at a good pace! Research shows that getting your heart-pumping 120 minutes a week is all that is necessary to improve memory.

5. Keep Your Brain in Gear

To keep your brain healthy and to support proper memory function and recall, you need to exercise your brain as well as your body. Find brain exercises you enjoy, and stick with them for at least 30 minutes every day. Here are some inventive ways to stretch your mind.

  • Learn a new language
  • Learn to paint or sculpt
  • Do a crossword puzzle
  • Crochet or knit
  • Put together a large puzzle
  • Do math in your head
  • Play memory games

What to Look for in a Memory Test

As mentioned above, there are many diseases, conditions, and medications that can cause poor memory and declining cognitive function. It is vital that you speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have.

The first step in determining the root cause of your memory loss will be a physical examination and some blood tests and imaging tests. If your medical team decides that your memory loss is caused by physical trauma, stroke, or medication, a treatment plan will be created.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive physical test for Alzheimer’s disease. If your physician believes there is a possibility you may have a form of dementia, you will likely be referred to a neurologist for a neurological examination, brain imaging, and a memory test.

The MMSE and the Mini-Cog are two main types of memory tests that are commonly administered by a neurological team. Both of these tests are short and will give your doctor a snapshot of your short-term memory and recall ability.

The MMSE tests mental skills and cognition. The test administrator asks a series of questions relating to everyday tasks and necessary cognitive skills. The Mini-Cog only requires you to complete two tasks. The first task is to draw the face of a clock with all 12 numbers on it. The second task is to remember and repeat the names of three ordinary objects repeated to you by the test administrator.

Yes, there are a ton of Alzheimer’s tests and memory tests online but none of them have been scientifically proven to be accurate. In fact, they may provide false-positive results according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Instead of risking a poor outcome, talk to your doctor if you are concerned about memory loss and cognitive decline.

Add These 12 Foods with Iodine to Your Diet to Ensure You Don’t Develop a Deficiency

Iodine, like essential amino acids, is a vital nutrient you must get from your diet. Our bodies need iodine to regulate thyroid function, support healthy metabolism, and even prevent certain kinds of chronic disease. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough iodine from the foods they eat, putting them at risk of an iodine deficiency. These 12 foods with iodine can keep your levels optimal.

Who’s at Risk of Iodine Deficiency?

Iodine, a mineral naturally found in some foods and added to others, helps our bodies run smoothly. Data presented in a study published in Endocrine Reviews, a peer-reviewed journal, indicated that as of 2009, approximately two billion individuals around the world have an inadequate iodine intake. While people living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are most at risk of iodine deficiency, about 50% of all Europeans are mildly iodine deficient and rates of iodine intake are falling in countries including Australia and the United States too.

4 Factors That Increase Your Risk of Iodine Deficiency

The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states that certain people have a greater risk of developing iodine deficiency. Factors that increase your risk of iodine deficiency include:

  • Not using iodized salt: The whole reason iodized salt was developed was to create an affordable and practical way to combat iodine deficiency. Consuming just half a teaspoon will meet the daily iodine requirement for most people. It is possible to meet your iodine intake requirements without salt if you include enough foods high in iodine in your diet.
  • Being pregnant: During pregnancy, you need about 50% more iodine to support safe, healthy fetal development. Research makes it clear that in the United States as well as other countries, many pregnant women don’t get an optimal supply of iodine.
  • Living in regions with iodine-deficient soil: Foods grown in iodine-depleted soil consequently contain less iodine, meaning that people living in those regions who consume those foods get less iodine from their diets. Places known to have soil with low iodine levels include mountain regions like the Himalayas, the Alps, and the Andes, as well as river valleys in South and Southeast Asia.
  • Eating foods that contain goitrogens: Goitrogens, compounds that inhibit your body’s use of iodine, can be found in soy as well as cruciferous vegetables such as cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. If you regularly include these foods in your diet, you’ll need to counteract that by eating plenty of iodine-rich foods.

For most adults, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 micrograms. Failing to meet that minimum threshold can result in symptoms like:

  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty digesting food
  • Fatigue
  • Changes to skin health, including dry skin
  • Poor concentration
  • Widespread muscle pains and weakness
  • Weight gain or loss unrelated to diet and activity
  • Shifting moods
  • Hormone imbalances

Severe cases of iodine deficiency can result in swelling of the thyroid gland known as goiter as well as hypothyroidism.

Eat These 12 Foods with Iodine to Prevent Deficiency

Eating plenty of foods with iodine is the best way to ensure you don’t develop a deficiency. So, what foods contain iodine? Certain kinds of fish, dairy products, grains, and fruits and vegetables.

Iodine in food can be in several forms: sodium and potassium salts, inorganic iodine (I2), iodate, and iodide. Regardless of its form, iodine is absorbed in the stomach, enters the bloodstream, and circulates to the thyroid gland where it is used for thyroid hormone synthesis and other purposes. Any unused iodine is excreted in urine.

At any given time, a healthy adult typically has 15-20 milligrams of iodine present in the body, 70% to 80% of which is stored in the thyroid.

What Foods Have Iodine?

12 Iodine-Rich Foods to Help You Meet Your RDA

By eating more iodine-rich foods, you can ensure your body gets the optimal amount of iodine it needs. These 12 foods all have naturally high iodine contents. While eating foods fortified with iodine can help you meet your iodine intake goals, foods that contain iodine naturally also provide a wealth of other important nutrients. Seafood and fish tend to be highlighted as the best dietary sources of iodine, but there are plenty of vegetarian sources of iodine, as well as vegan sources of iodine which we also point out on our list.

1. Kombu Kelp

Seaweed is one of the absolute best natural sources of iodine—and one that’s both vegetarian and vegan! The specific amounts it contains vary depending on seaweed type, the region where it grew, and the methods of preparation. Kombu kelp, a brown seaweed sold dried or as a fine powder, is most often used to make a savory Japanese soup stock called dashi.

According to a 2014 analysis of the iodine content of various types of seaweed, kombu kelp contains by far the highest concentrations. Kombu kelp has been shown to contain up to 2,984 micrograms per gram (approximately one sheet of seaweed)—that’s nearly 2000% of your RDA! And remember, exceeding your iodine RDA does not cause problems for most people.

2. Wakame

Another brown seaweed (this one with a slightly sweet flavor) commonly used to make soup (in this case, miso soup), wakame also contains significant quantities of iodine. An article published in Thyroid, a medical journal, noted that wakame from Asia consistently contains more iodine than wakame from Australia and New Zealand. The average amount of iodine found in seaweed from all over the world is 66 micrograms per gram, which comes out to about 44% of your RDA.

3. Nori

You may know nori as the type of seaweed generally used to wrap sushi rolls. This red seaweed contains less iodine than brown seaweeds like kombu kelp and wakame, but it’s still a valuable source of iodine.

A literature-based analysis published in Thyroid Research put the iodine content of nori at between 16 and 43 micrograms per gram, or approximately 11% to 29% of your RDA.

4. Cod

A versatile white fish with a delicate texture and mild flavor, cod’s iodine levels vary somewhat depending on whether it’s farm-raised or wild-caught, and if it’s wild-caught, on where it was caught.

Fish that are low in fat, like cod, tend to have the highest iodine contents. Research shows that cod contains approximately 65 to 99 micrograms of iodine per 3-ounce serving, which accounts for between 42% and 66% of your RDA.

5. Shrimp

This low-calorie, protein-dense seafood is quite a good source of iodine, as well as nutrients like vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorous. The iodine found in shrimp and other seafood comes from seawater itself, a natural source of iodine which they then absorb.

Shrimp contains approximately 35 micrograms of iodine per 3-ounce serving—around 23% of your daily recommended intake.

6. Tuna

Since tuna is a fattier fish, it offers up less iodine than cod, but it’s still a relatively good source. A fact sheet from the NIH Office of Supplements puts the iodine content in tuna at 17 micrograms per 3-ounce serving, which is about 11% of your RDA.

Tuna is also low in calories, high in protein, and a valuable source of potassium, iron, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.

7. Milk

The amount of iodine found in milk varies. Experts say key factors include the iodine content of the grains the cows who produced the milk ate, as well as the use of iodine-containing disinfectants during milking.

A survey of the iodine content in 18 different brands of milk sold in the Boston area determined that all contained at least 88 micrograms per cup of milk, and some brands contained up to 168 micrograms in a cup! Based on those numbers, a cup of milk can net you between 59% and 112% of your iodine RDA.

8. Yogurt

Given that it’s made from milk, it’s only logical that yogurt would also be a good source of iodine. Its content varies, of course, depending on how much iodine was in the milk used to make it, and as discussed above, the iodine content of milk can also vary quite a bit. Still, yogurt is a valuable source of this nutrient. A cup of plain yogurt, per the NIH fact sheet referenced earlier, provides about half your RDA.

9. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is actually the best dairy source of iodine. A study published in the Journal of Food Protection that analyzed the iodine contents of various common foods found that cottage cheese had a mean iodine content of 52.7 micrograms per 100-gram serving, a minimum content of 30 micrograms per serving, and a maximum of 76 micrograms.

10. Eggs

The majority of the nutrients founds in eggs, including iodine, come from the yolk. As with milk, the iodine content of eggs varies depending on the iodine-richness of the grains fed to the chickens who produced the eggs. A large egg yields, on average, 24 micrograms of iodine. That totals up to 16% of your RDA.

11. Prunes

The word prunes has taken on a somewhat unappealing connotation, which is really quite unfair as these tasty gems are simply dried plums. They’re also an excellent vegan source of iodine. A serving of five dried prunes offers up 13 micrograms of iodine, per the NIH fact sheet. That’s approximately 9% of your RDA. A 2017 study published in Nutrients notes that prunes also contain plenty of fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and iron.

12. Lima Beans

Like prunes, lima beans are a good vegan source of iodine. As is true for all fruits and vegetables, their iodine content correlates to how much of this nutrient they absorb from the soil in which they grew. The NIH fact sheet lists the iodine content for a cup of cooked lima beans as 16 micrograms, or about 10% of your RDA. They’re also a good source of fiber, magnesium, and folate.

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits More Than Just Your Skin!

Countless beauty products tout hyaluronic acid’s ability to fight acne, age spots, and wrinkles. Dermatologists use hyaluronic acid to plump lips and other tissue, and some in the industry refer to it as the “fountain of youth.” But hyaluronic acid benefits extend far beyond topical skin care.

In the human body, hyaluronic acid is found in joints and the eyes where it acts as a protective lubricant. The FDA has approved hyaluronic acid for use during cataract surgery, corneal transplants, and other eye surgeries to replace the eye’s natural fluids during these procedures.

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid is essentially a lubricant that plays a role in cushioning joints and surrounding connective tissues and keeping the eyes moist and hydrated. In research, hyaluronic acid is often referred to as hyaluronan. This naturally occurring lubricant binds to water molecules and creates a texture similar to gelatin.

Health Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid

3 Internal Health Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid

Anti-aging products may be the most well-known use for hyaluronic acid, but research proves it offers extraordinary health benefits, including in the fight against cancer.

1. Delivers Chemotherapy Drugs Efficiently

According to a study published in the Journal of Surgical Research, when hyaluronan is used as a drug delivery method in the fight against breast cancer, it effectively targets lymphatic metastases without damaging surrounding tissue in animal trials. The researchers of the study urge human trials to determine the full potential of hyaluronic acid as a chemotherapy drug carrier.

Supporting the above study, a recent study published in the journal Drug Delivery states that hyaluronic acid can act as a delivery vehicle for certain medications, including chemotherapy drugs. The researchers point out that hyaluronic acid has the ability to recognize specific receptors on tumor cells and that larger scale clinical trials are necessary. There are currently 44 clinical trials studying hyaluronic acid and its safety and efficacy in the treatment of a wide range of cancers.

2. Relieves Pain Associated with Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects an estimated 70% of people over the age of 65. Over time, this type of arthritis pain becomes more and more difficult to relieve, which leads to limited mobility and poor balance.

The human body’s production of hyaluronic acid slows as we age, causing the tissue around the joints to have less cushion and lubrication and resulting in pain. Hyaluronic acid injections are approved by the FDA for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, and research indicates hyaluronic acid injections can provide up to six months of pain relief.

Partnering hyaluronic injections with an osteoarthritis diet rich in healthy oils, cold-water fish, nuts and seeds, and green leafy vegetables may improve pain levels. The foods highest in hyaluronic acid include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Jicama
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Bone broth

3. Supports Intestinal Wound Healing

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute have found that hyaluronan fights inflammation and promotes healing of the intestines in multiple clinical trials. The author of the report points to chronic inflammation as being a “major predisposing factor to fibrosis in all organs including the intestine” and states that hyaluronan may promote natural healing processes in the gastrointestinal tract as inflammation decreases.

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits for Skin

Now that we’ve addressed what hyaluronic acid can do inside the body, let’s take a look at why many skin care companies use hyaluronic acid as a key ingredient in their products. A clinical study published in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology showed that hyaluronic acid exhibits different traits than other skin care ingredients.

The authors of the study indicate that hyaluronic acid demonstrates a unique capacity for retaining moisture and the ability to work within different layers of the skin. The study specifically notes that skin health and texture is affected by hormonal changes, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and aging, and that further study of hyaluronic acid could lead to “novel treatments” in skin aging.

Take a look at hyaluronic acid’s benefits for the skin.

  • Hydrates dry skin: Hyaluronic acid may promote proper moisture in the skin—even oily skin—without causing acne.
  • Increases cell turnover: Hyaluronic acid is believed to increase cell turnover, leaving the skin smooth and vibrant.
  • Tightens saggy skin: Hyaluronic acid may tighten saggy skin and improve elasticity, thereby creating a better overall complexion and texture.
  • Diminishes fine lines and wrinkles: Hyaluronic acid helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by plumping up the areas with moisture.
  • Creates a smooth canvas: Hyaluronic acid in serum form smoothes out the skin, allowing makeup to glide over and not nestle into imperfections.

Cordyceps: An Amino Acid-Rich Medicinal Mushroom

More and more people now know about the incredible health benefits of medicinal mushrooms, like cordyceps. You can find mushroom teas, powders, capsules and more featuring cordyceps and extolling their extraordinary perks. A downside of all this attention is that the market has been flooded with inferior products that don’t contain the compounds that lead to the impressive health benefits driving the demand for these mushrooms.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of some of the most important compounds found in cordyceps fungus—including several amino acids—as well as the health benefits they’re linked to so you know what to look for when evaluating different cordyceps supplement options.

Quick Facts About the Cordyceps Mushroom

The cordyceps fungus grows particularly abundantly in humid climates and tropical forests. Most of the approximately 400 species in the genus grow natively in Nepal, China, Japan, Burma, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Most species of cordyceps are endoparasitoids, meaning their mycelium invade the body of an insect host, eventually replacing the host tissue. While this may sound like something out of a horror movie—and inspired the plot of a 2013 video game—the real-life result of this process is an incredibly health-promoting mushroom.

Additional names for cordyceps include vegetable caterpillar, Chinese caterpillar fungus, dong chong xia cao, semitake, hsia ts’ao tung ch’ung, and yarsagumba. Nuclear DNA testing conducted in 2007 revealed that the Cordyceps sinensis species was unrelated to most of the other members of the genus, leading it to be renamed Ophiocordyceps sinensis.

While Cordyceps sinensis may no longer be a member of the Cordyceps family, this is the variety praised in ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) texts like the Ben Cao Cong Xin, which was compiled in the 18th century. Cordyceps sinensis remains one of the most-valued tonic herbs in TCM and has also been the subject of numerous studies.

Cordyceps militaris is another species of this fungus family that’s received quite a lot of attention. Unlike Cordyceps sinensis, this variety grows from rice, not insects, which makes it easier to cultivate in laboratory settings.

Some believe that all laboratory-grown cordyceps are less efficacious. The price of wild-harvested cordyceps supplements can be quite cost-prohibitive, however. That means that for many consumers, reputable, high-quality cultivated cordyceps products offer an affordable way to access the impressive benefits of these medicinal mushrooms.

The Scientific Basis for Cordyceps Benefits

Analysis has shown that cordyceps contains a number of bioactive compounds, including a variety of amino acids. By isolating and extracting different compounds, researchers have begun to get a sense of which compounds result in which health benefits.

According to a 2016 study published in Food Science and Human Wellness, Cordyceps sinensis contains the following major compounds:

  • Cordycepin
  • Adenosine
  • Ergosterol
  • Nucleoside
  • Nucleobases
  • Codrysinins A-E
  • Sterols
  • Polysaccharides

Adenosine has been linked to hypotensive and vasorelaxant effects, meaning it lowers blood pressure and reduces tension in blood vessel walls. Sterols H1-A show potential as a means of managing autoimmune disorders, including lupus. And polysaccharides CME-1 exhibit highly potent antiplatelet activity, meaning they can improve circulation.

The Food Science and Human Wellness study referenced above lists the following chemical constituents for Cordyceps militaris:

  • Polysaccharides
  • Cerebroside derivatives
  • Sterols
  • Nucleotides
  • Nucleosides
  • Proteins including cyclic dipeptides and amino acids
  • Essential oils

Tests conducted so far show that cordycepin, ergosterol, 3,4-O-isopropylidene-d-mannitol, d-mannitol, and ergosterol peroxide show the most potent anti-inflammatory effects. They even appear to influence the development of human cancer cells.

Researchers have also identified a number of amino acids, which are concentrated heavily in the fruiting bodies of the mushrooms. Some of the major amino acids identified so far are, from most to least concentrated: glutamic acid, cysteine, lysine, arginine, and tyrosine.

Key Amino Acids Found in Cordyceps

Testing Reveals These 10 Amino Acids in Cordyceps Mushrooms

A study published in Microbiology analyzed the amino acid content of Cordyceps militaris with great precision. The results confirmed that the amino acid content for the fruiting body is higher than that of the corpus—69.32 mg/g for the former versus 14.03 mg/g for the latter. The content of individual amino acids ranged between 1.15 and 15.06 mg/g in the fruiting body and 0.36 to 2.99 mg/g for the corpus. The following amino acids were all shown to be present at concentrations of 5.00 mg/g or higher:

Cordyceps sinensis contains amino acids too. One study conducted by a team of Chinese researchers notes significant quantities of glutamic acid, tryptophan, and tyrosine, which the researchers believe play key roles in the mushroom’s sedative, calming effects.

6 Proven Cordyceps Benefits

In the centuries that it’s been in use as a valuable treatment option, cordyceps has been put to the test against numerous conditions. Here are six cordyceps uses validated by the latest scientific research.

6 Cordyceps Uses Validated by Scientific Research

1. Boost Immune Function

Thanks to anti-inflammatory compounds like polysaccharides, nucleosides, and cyclosporine, cordyceps offers powerful immune support. This makes it an especially valuable treatment option for conditions linked to underlying chronic inflammation, such as Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and more. A study carried out by scientists in Taiwan found that cordyceps can reduce airway inflammation, indicating it has potential as a natural asthma treatment.

2. Prevent Age-Related Cellular Damage

Cordyceps has long been reported to have significant anti-aging benefits. In 2016, groundbreaking research published in Alternatives Therapies in Health and Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal, confirmed that cordyceps has antigenotoxic properties, meaning it protects the genetic information in your cells from damage that can result in mutations. The authors concluded that Cordyceps sinensis appears to counteract the effects of oxidative stress, thereby reducing DNA damage and stimulating DNA repair.

A separate study found that due to its antioxidant effects cordyceps may even be able to prolong your lifespan! Although that particular study was conducted with fruit flies, the authors behind it say it should be explored “as a novel agent for slowing the human aging process.”

3. Improve Athletic Performance

Multiple studies indicate that cordyceps can improve your athletic performance. Cordyceps is classified as an energizing adaptogen, meaning it can holistically lift fatigue and balance out weaknesses. It also contains adenosine, a nucleic acid your body needs to produce ATP, its primary source of chemical energy.

This is likely why cordyceps has such a notable impact on physical abilities, endurance, and stamina, according to findings from researchers in the Department of Biochemistry at Hong Kong University.

4. Balance Blood Sugar Levels

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that two compounds found in cordyceps, d-mannitol cordycepin and 3’-deoxyadenosine, can lower both blood sugar levels and insulin levels. This can help to combat insulin resistance and makes cordyceps a promising potential treatment for diabetes mellitus, a leading cause of death around the globe.

5. Optimize Heart Health

Cordyceps can improve your heart health in myriad ways. According to a 2014 study, Cordyceps sinensis can improve metabolic function and prevent liver and heart damage that can accompany kidney disease.

Further research published in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin and the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences indicates cordyceps also lowers your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which can help to prevent arteriosclerosis, a condition resulting from plaque accumulation in your arteries that significantly increases your risk of both heart attack and stroke.

6. May Be Able to Treat Cancer

Several recent studies (all in-vitro) have linked cordyceps constituents to formidable anti-cancer properties. It appears to reduce the growth of lung cancer cells, liver cancer cells, and colon cancer cells.

Plus, animal studies show that cordyceps can be used as an accompaniment to conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation to reduce unpleasant and harmful side effects including leukopenia, a condition that results in decreased numbers of white blood cells and a consequently higher risk of infection.

The Best Way to Get the Benefits of Cordyceps

As we’ve touched on, fresh cordyceps mushrooms are quite difficult to come by, due to both geographic and financial limitations. While it’s ideal to ingest fresh, whole mushrooms—and fresh, whole foods, period—Tero Isokauppila says that you can get many of the same benefits from high-quality elixers and powder.

And Isokauppila  would know. He’s the founder and president of Four Sigmatic, a natural superfoods company that sells responsibly-sourced mushroom supplements, as well as the author of Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health. Isokauppila grew up on his family’s centuries-old farm in Finland, regularly foraging for mushrooms. He holds a degree in both chemistry and plant-based nutrition from Cornell University and was earned a Finnish innovation award for his discovery that a mushroom thought to grow only in Japan can be found in Finland too. Suffice it to say, he’s an expert.

When choosing a cordyceps supplement, Isokauppila says it’s important to pay attention to where the mushrooms are sourced from, how they’re processed, and how they’re packaged. “All of these factors can make a difference in the quality, and how much of the actual mushrooms you are really actually getting,” says Isokauppila.

If you’re looking at a supplement made from commercially grown mushrooms rather than foraged ones, he says to make sure the manufacturer specifies how the mushrooms were grown. “If your vendor does not cite where the mushroom was grown, it was most likely grown in sawdust or grain,” Isokaupilla says. “Since mushrooms tend to grow on logs and stumps in nature, you can be sure they’re filled with nutrients if they’re log-grown.”

He also advises checking the percentages of various active ingredients, which will give you a sense of how potent the supplement is. “You also want to look for the amount (in micrograms) of bioactive ingredients like beta-glucans, terpenoids, and triterpenes,” he says. “I recommend using 500-1,500 mg of extracted powders per serving, one to three times a day.”

Last but not least, be sure to choose cordyceps supplements that don’t include any fillers. If you keep Isokaupilla’s expert guidance in mind, you’re sure to find a cordyceps supplement that offers close to—if not completely—the same benefits as the fresh mushrooms themselves.

What Are Collagen Peptides and in the Collagen Peptide vs. Amino Acid Debate—Who Wins?

It seems everywhere you look collagen protein powders and supplements formulated with collagen peptides are appearing on shelves in natural health food stores. But why? Where is the demand coming from and is collagen “the most important supplement you can take” as some in the wellness industry say?

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is an amino acid-based protein that is created and stored in the human body. It is found in the digestive system, bones, teeth, muscles, skin, hair, connective tissue, and blood cells. This vital protein’s production diminishes as we age. Collagen proteins are essential for slowing down many signs of aging, including joint pain, wrinkles, sagging skin, crepe-like skin, and decreased cartilage.

The primary amino acids that create collagen are:

  • Arginine: Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid known as the “anti-aging” amino acid that benefits cardiovascular health.
  • Glycine: Glycine is the second most common amino acid in humans, making up one-third of the total collagen in the body.
  • Proline: Proline is responsible for the production of cartilage and collagen that benefit wound healing and heart health.

These three amino acids are called nonessential amino acids because they can be produced in the body. Although essential amino acids comprise only a small fraction of the amino acids in collagen, the availability of essential amino acids can be crucial for the production of collagen because essential amino acids cannot be produced in the body.

What Are Collagen Peptides?

We’ve talked about collagen, now let’s talk about collagen peptides. Collagen peptides are essentially hydrolyzed collagen that has been broken down into more digestible strands of protein. Collagen peptide supplements are more accessible and easier to consume than several servings of bone broth each day.

In truth, bone broth’s healing power comes from the gelatin (produced from collagen) found in the bones of animals. If you’ve wanted to try beef bone broth or chicken bone broth but haven’t wanted to spend a couple of days making bone broth from scratch, a collagen supplement or an amino acid supplement may provide the health benefits you are looking for.

Collagen Peptides vs. Amino Acids

Now we are going to get a bit deeper into the science. As noted above, collagen protein is actually made up of amino acids—so is it wiser to take collagen supplements or amino acid supplements?

Amino acids are considered “collagen builders” or building blocks for collagen that keep collagen production high and give collagen its glue-like and moist characteristics. Amino acids are naturally occurring chemical compounds that combine to form proteins—including collagen. Our stores of amino acids are depleted during exercise and digestion, and as we age, which makes optimal ingestion via the diet and supplementation advisable.

“Peptides” are simply short chains of amino acids. It has been proposed, however, that the benefits of collagen peptides aren’t merely due to the composition of amino acids, but are derived from the peptide itself. According to scientists at the Vellore Institute of Technology, many of the biological activities of collagen are attributable to the “small hidden peptide residues in the collagen molecules.”

Collagen and amino acids have been studied extensively for their health benefits. As you would expect, both support connective tissue health, muscle recovery, skin health, and joint pain.

A Snapshot of Collagen Supplement Benefits

Amino Acid-Rich Foods

In addition to taking amino acid supplements, you can boost the production of collagen in your body by eating foods rich in amino acids. Adding high-quality protein sources to your diet can provide the amino acids that spur the development of collagen. The best sources of amino acids are called “complete proteins” that contain all the essential amino acids the human body needs.

Complete Protein Sources

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, it can be challenging to get enough essential amino acids through diet alone. Supplementation with essential amino acids may help to keep you thriving and fight the signs of aging.

So to answer the question which is better—collagen peptide supplements or amino acid supplements—the answer is it depends. If you are noticing age-related skin problems, loss of muscle mass, joint pain, hair loss or breakage, or are concerned about your heart health, start with an amino acid supplement to see if your symptoms improve.  While collagen peptides may benefit skin, they do not provide the widespread benefits throughout the body that essential amino acids do.

Remember, amino acids are the building blocks of collagen, but they also provide health benefits above and beyond collagen production. Amino acids support the breakdown of foods in the gut, help to repair tissue, improve athletic performance, regulate mood, and so much more.

5 Frankincense Oil Benefits Scientists Want You to Know

If you’re interested in natural health, you may already be familiar with some of the ways essential oils can benefit your health—for instance, treating headaches. Essential oils like frankincense have been used around the world for centuries to treat a wide variety of conditions. Scientific advances have now made it possible for researchers to identify why certain oils can so effectively resolve specific issues. The National Institute of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine database lists over 200 clinical trials on the benefits of essential oils for conditions such as anxiety, high blood pressure, chronic pain, and more. In this article, we’ve highlighted five frankincense oil benefits we find especially compelling, as well as a few frankincense oil uses you can try at home.

What Is Frankincense?

The word “frankincense” comes from the old French phrase “franc encens” and means high-quality or pure incense. Frankincense has been used as an aromatic incense since ancient times, often during religious ceremonies. Its association with Christianity in particular is strengthened by the fact that the bible mentions it as one of the gifts the three wise men brought to the infant Jesus.

Frankincense, also called olibanum, comes from the resin of the Boswellia trees that grow natively in Somalia and parts of Pakistan. This aromatic substance is transformed into incense, perfume, and frankincense essential oil, which is made via steam distillation of the dry resin.

Studies show that Boswellia resin contains compounds with impressive anti-inflammatory—and potentially, anti-carcinogenic—effects. The main active compounds found in Boswellia resin and frankincense oil include alpha-pinene, actanol, bornyl acetate, linalool, octyl acetate, incensole, and incensole acetate.

6 Research-Validated Properties of Frankincense

Natural health practitioners have long relied on frankincense as a means of relieving inflammation as well as warding off illness. Findings published in the International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, and Neurological Diseases include the following traditional uses for frankincense:

As scientists have investigated the chemical composition and effects of frankincense, they’ve found evidence to support its use for many of those purposes.

5 Proven Frankincense Oil Benefits

Due to the variety of powerful bioactive compounds it contains, frankincense has a multitude of exciting health benefits. We collected five that are backed by high-quality scientific findings.

5 Ways Frankincense Oil Benefits Your Health

1. Quells Inflammation

There’s plenty of solid evidence on frankincense’s ability to quell inflammation. Researchers believe that the frankincense compounds with the strongest anti-inflammatory properties are pentacyclic triterpenes of the boswellic acid type. Studies show that frankincense prevents the growth and proliferation of leukotrienes, molecules known to perpetuate chronic inflammatory diseases such as:

2. Soothes Irritated Skin

A review published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine mentions several studies on frankincense oil benefits for skin, including reducing redness and irritation, producing a more even skin tone, and speeding the healing time for bruises and infected sores.

These effects are also thought to be due to pentacyclic triterpenes, the anti-inflammatory compounds mentioned in the last section.

If you’re interested in using frankincense essential oil on your skin, be sure to dilute it first by mixing it into a carrier oil.

3. Increases Fertility

Though large-scale studies on this benefit have yet to be conducted with human subjects, frankincense appears to be a wonderful natural fertility aid.

One study conducted with rats examined how frankincense affects the reproductive system and fertility. The authors found that oral doses of frankincense boosted fertility, leading to a greater number of successful egg fertilizations and implantations as well as an increase in the number of viable fetuses. They believe these effects may be due to increased sperm motility and density.

It appears that frankincense oil acts on the pituitary gland to increase the main hormones involved in the production of sperm, but further investigation is needed to confirm the mechanism of action.

4. Enhances Immune Function

Studies show that frankincense can help your immune system combat the threats posed by outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses.

According to findings published by researchers from the Department of Pharmacognosy at Mansoura University in Egypt, frankincense demonstrates “strong immunostimulant activity.” Immunostimulants activate your body’s natural defense system, ensuring it responds promptly to prevent illness from developing.

5. Kills Cancer Cells

Many researchers believe frankincense has the potential to be a formidable natural cancer treatment.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners use frankincense to prevent and treat cancer. Findings published in 2014 show that frankincense is involved in a number of different mechanisms that cause cancer cell death.

A German study showed that a chemical compound found in frankincense can even kill cancer cells that have become resistant to chemotherapy.

Try These Frankincense Oil Uses at Home

Like other essential oils, frankincense can be inhaled or applied topically. The medicinal benefits of aromatherapy are premised on the idea that all the organs in the body are linked to the olfactory system, so when we inhale the active compounds in frankincense essential oil, they can travel to the brain and to the entire body via the respiratory system.

Here are three ways you can access the impressive benefits of frankincense oil at home.

1. Mix Up a Natural Cold Remedy

If you feel the beginnings of a cold or even the flu setting in, you can use frankincense oil to ease your symptoms. It acts as an expectorant, helping to eliminate phlegm from your lungs. Its anti-inflammatory properties also soothe swollen nasal passages, making it easier to breathe. Plus, since it’s an immunostimulant, it can help you recover faster.

Try sprinkling a few drops on a warm, damp washcloth and draping it over your face. Or if you have an oil diffuser, add a few drops and inhale the vapors deeply.

2. Make Your Own Pain-Relieving Salve

If you’re dealing with joint pain related to conditions like arthritis or resulting from old injuries, frankincense essential oil can help. Add a few drops to a carrier oil—coconut oil is a great choice—and rub the mixture into whichever areas are currently inflamed. You can also add frankincense oil to steaming water and create a hot compress to wrap up aching wrists, knees, or ankles.

3. Whip Up a DIY Anti-Aging Face Cream

Frankincense can enhance the health and appearance of your skin in a variety of ways, from reducing acne blemishes to shrinking enlarged pores. Some of its most exciting effects have to do with its anti-aging ability to prevent wrinkles and lift and tighten skin to keep your skin looking youthful and firm as you age.

A simple way to use frankincense for this purpose is to add 6 drops to 1 ounce of the carrier oil of your choosing. As with any new skincare product, it’s smart to do a patch test first in case of an allergic reaction.

Baking Soda Uses (Plus Is the Baking Soda Gender Test Myth, Magic or Medicine?)

Baking soda is a multitasking household staple. Typically, baking soda is used for baking, cleaning, fighting acid reflux, and relieving skin rashes, but now social media gives it the power to reveal the gender of a child before it is born. Is the baking soda gender test a myth or proven fact? Let’s find out!

What Is Baking Soda?

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline compound composed of sodium bicarbonate anion and sodium cation. Yes—it is technically a salt and in its unaltered form is known as the mineral nahcolite. In 1846 the New England company Church & Dwight started to manufacture bicarbonate soda known to consumers as aerated salt.

The product was quickly adopted in homes across the United States, and soon larger production facilities were required. Not long afterward, the Arm & Hammer brand was born and mass production began.

Fun fact—when Armand Hammer rose to prominence, he tired of being asked if he owned Arm & Hammer baking soda. Over the years, he bought stock in the company so he could answer “yes” to the question he was so often asked. In reality, baking soda was developed and used for over 30 years before Armand Hammer was born.

7 Baking Soda Uses in the Kitchen

Baking soda was likely first used in the kitchen in baking and food preparation. If you are looking for a baking soda substitute—sorry, there really is only one baking soda for baking. It may be tempting to substitute baking powder, but this will not leave you with pleasant results.

The differences of baking soda vs. baking powder are quite significant. Baking soda is the main ingredient in baking powder, but baking powder also contains cream of tartar (an acid) and cornstarch. This combination of ingredients totally changes the way it reacts to acid, liquids, and heat.

Today, in addition to giving baked goods their light and fluffy texture, baking soda is a time-saver in the kitchen.

1. Leavening Agent

Baking soda acts as a leavening agent in cakes, quick breads, muffins, griddled pancakes, and quick breads. Baking soda is the ingredient that gives batters their rise and structure. Unlike yeast, baking soda produces gas nearly instantly, so long proofing times are unnecessary.

When you are mixing baking soda into a recipe, you will notice bubbles starting to appear rather quickly. If you allow the batter to set on the countertop for more than a few minutes, the batter may overflow. It is best to bake or griddle recipes with baking soda as soon as possible after mixing.

2. Refrigerator Deodorizer

Baking soda absorbs odors quickly and contains the odors, which is why a box of baking soda is commonly found stashed in the back of refrigerators. You can also place an opened box in your freezer as well as in your pantry that houses fresh onions, garlic, and other aromatics to keep the odor down.

3. Microwave Cleaner

Does your microwave have splattered foods on the roof and sides? Baking soda can take care of that, and quickly. If the spatters have aged and are firmly attached to the surfaces of your microwave, the first step is to add some humidity to loosen the food’s grip.

Fill half of a large microwave-safe bowl with fresh water and stir in 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Place in the microwave and set on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.  Don’t open the door. Let the bowl of water do its magic for 10 minutes. Open the door carefully and remove the bowl. Dip a sponge in the water and wipe down the microwave to remove the grime.

4. Cutting Board Stain Remover

If your cutting boards are stained, baking soda can help. Mix a couple of tablespoons of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and apply to the stain. Let it sit overnight and rinse.

5. Remedy a Clogged Drain

Did you accidentally put too much fat down your drain? You guessed it—baking soda to the rescue. For this baking soda use, we venture back to high school science class and basic chemical reaction. In addition to baking soda, you will need 1 cup or so of white vinegar.

Start this process by pouring a 1/2 cup of baking soda in the drain. Pour the vinegar on top and watch bubbles erupt. You should start to notice that foam becoming discolored, and it may possibly contain bits of food or other debris. When it quits foaming, run very hot water in the sink to flush out the clog.

6. Put out a Grease Fire

If you have a grease fire, never dowse it with water—this will cause it to explode and cause further damage. Instead, reach for your box of baking soda and sprinkle it over the flames, effectively suffocating the fire. Of course, whenever you see flames in your kitchen, call 911 immediately.  As a warning—do not use baking soda on a fire caused by a deep fryer as it may cause the oil to overflow, leading to greater damage.

7. Kill Cockroaches

If you have a cockroach problem, use baking soda. Just sprinkle baking soda inside your cabinets, pantry, under your range, behind (and under) the refrigerator, and wherever else you see the roaches. Baking soda is a natural, nontoxic (to everyone but the cockroaches) roach killer that works by causing an extreme buildup of gas in the intestines of the cockroaches that results in their death.

Baking Soda Uses Around the House

When you step outside the kitchen, don’t forget to take your baking soda with you. Baking soda has disinfectant properties, raises pH levels, and is an excellent grout cleaner.

Grout Cleaner

If the grout in your bathroom, entryway, or kitchen has become filthy and stained, use equal parts baking soda and vinegar (or lemon juice) paste. The alkalinity of the baking soda reacts with the acidic nature of the vinegar or the lemon juice to quickly remove stubborn stains in your grout.

Mix the two ingredients thoroughly in a spray bottle and squirt over the tiles. Allow the mixture to set in for 5 to 10 minutes. It will fizz and bubble making the stubborn grime release. Use a grout brush or a toothbrush to release stubborn grit. Rinse thoroughly and then clean the entire floor with a mop.

Raise pH Levels in Pools and Spas

Baking soda is an excellent way to disinfect and control the pH and alkalinity levels in your pool or spa. And baking soda acts as a chlorine stabilizer and algae fighter. Monitor the pH levels in your pool or spa regularly and follow the guidelines provided by Arm & Hammer for best results.

Baking Soda Uses in the Kitchen

Baking Soda Health Benefits

Baking soda is one of those compounds that every grandmother seemed to use for every ailment—and it worked. Today, baking soda health benefits are widely recognized. It is used to fight bacteria and fungi, to relieve heartburn, and to soothe the skin.

Relieve Heartburn and GERD Symptoms

The alkalinity of baking soda can relieve heartburn symptoms in just a few minutes. Baking soda is recognized as an effective and natural acid reflux remedy that works by restoring the gut’s natural pH balance by neutralizing the acid.

Soothe Canker Sores

According to the Mayo Clinic, you can speed healing and relieve canker sore pain with baking soda. Baking soda is an effective canker sore remedy and it only takes 1 teaspoon in 1/2 cup of warm water to start the healing process. Simply swirl the mixture in your mouth and spit to fight any unsightly canker sores.

Fight Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac Rashes

A baking soda bath or paste can provide poison ivy relief, especially when red or oozing blisters are present. To spot treat poison ivy, oak, or sumac rashes, mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 quart of purified water. Soak sterile gauze pads in the mixture and apply to the blisters for 15 minutes. Repeat this process several times a day until the blisters have dried up and the symptoms have abated.

For whole body relief of rashes caused by poison plants, add 2 cups of baking soda to a warm bath and soak for 20 to 30 minutes. At first, it may cause a bit of stinging to any open blisters and may be a bit itchy, but soon you should experience relief. After your bath, take a quick shower to remove any baking soda residue and pat yourself dry.

Baking Soda Gender Test

And now for the truth about the baking soda gender test that is all the rage on social media. First, let’s be clear that there is no scientific evidence that urine plus baking soda will reveal the gender of an unborn baby. Second, if you want to try it—go for it. The baking soda gender test can’t hurt, but be cautious about relying on the results.

The first step of the baking soda gender test is to collect your first urine in the morning and measure it. You will need an equal amount of baking soda for the test. Add the appropriate amount of baking soda to a glass jar and then slowly pour the urine over it. If it fizzes, you may be having a boy. If it doesn’t fizz, you may be having a girl.

The idea behind this pseudoscience is that acidity levels of your urine may be more acidic when you are pregnant with a boy—however, that hypothesis depends greatly on the time of day you take the test, your diet, and your body’s natural pH levels. In truth, the baking soda gender test is guesstimated to be about as accurate as flipping a coin.

5 Signs of Amino Acid Deficiency and How to Treat It

You probably know that between 60% and 70% of the average human body is composed of water. But did you know that protein makes up approximately 66% of the non-water components of your body? As you may remember from biology class, amino acids form the building blocks of protein. In the same way that it’s vital to drink water to stay hydrated, it’s also absolutely necessary to provide our bodies with an ongoing supply of amino acids to make up for those used up rebuilding our tissues and carrying out other important bodily functions. Without an adequate intake of amino-rich foods, you’re likely to develop an amino acid deficiency.

Amino acid deficiency often gets overlooked, and when left untreated it makes it more likely you’ll develop a whole host of serious disorders. In this article, we’ll go over some basic facts about amino acids and then share five signs of amino acid deficiency as well as how to correct amino acid deficiency.

What Are Amino Acids?

Scientists have found that when we select food, our first instinctive priority is to meet our short-term energy needs. And right behind that comes the maintenance of our essential amino acids balance. When you eat food that contains protein, your body then breaks it down in order to access and utilize the amino acids.

Amino acids carry out a wide variety of vital functions inside the human body, from building muscles to generating neurotransmitters like dopamine. We need a steady supply of a balanced ratio of amino acids to maintain optimal levels inside our bodies. When we’re under stress, or dealing with illness or injury, we require an even higher intake to meet the increased demand.

There are 20 proteinogenic amino acids—”proteinogenic” means “protein creating,” and as you might be able to intuit, these amino acids form all biological proteins and all contribute to our overall health and well-being in different ways. For instance, research reveals that leucine, isoleucine, and valine, the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), work to build and repair muscle tissue. While there’s understandably a great deal of interest in determining the role of each individual amino acid, it’s important to keep in mind that they can only carry out those roles effectively when the proper balance and concentration of all the amino acids is in place.

Eleven of the proteinogenic amino acids are deemed nonessential. Since your body can produce these nonessential amino acids, it’s not essential that you derive them from your diet. The nonessential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

The remaining nine are essential amino acids that you must obtain either from the food you eat or supplements you take since your body cannot independently create them. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucin, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Some amino acids are considered conditionally essential. This category can be a bit confusing. Basically, when everything is going smoothly, your body can make these amino acids on its own without any difficulty. But if your health is compromised in some way, for instance, if your liver is functioning less than ideally, that can get in the way of amino acid synthesis. Poor diet can also cause problems, since certain minerals and vitamins play important roles in the amino acid creation process. Under those circumstances, your body can greatly benefit from an increased intake of the seven conditionally essential amino acids: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

There are 11 nonessential amino acids that your body can produce, meaning there’s not a minimum recommended dietary intake.

How Do Amino Acids Work?

As we touched on in the previous section, amino acids do not work in isolation. It’s true that each has a specific function, but simply increasing your intake of one particular amino acid will not necessarily make that function happen more efficiently.

Take arginine. Research shows that arginine stimulates the production of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that’s especially important for vasodilation. In simple terms, nitric oxide allows the inner muscles of your blood vessels to relax, which improves your circulation. You might think that the best way to boost your nitric oxide levels would be to take more arginine. But studies make it clear that taking arginine supplements doesn’t lead to significantly increased arginine concentrations. What’s more effective is to increase your intake of citrulline, which your body then converts to arginine your body can readily use for nitric oxide production and other purposes.

As you can see, amino acids work together to maintain your health and well-being. It’s very rare to develop a deficiency of just one amino acid. The most effective strategy is to focus on keeping your amino acid levels in balance by eating a protein-rich diet and supplementing with well-formulated amino acid supplements if necessary.

5 Signs of Amino Acid Deficiency

5 Signs You May Have an Amino Acid Deficiency

1. Muscle Loss

Our bodies have systems in place to compensate for a lack of dietary amino acid intake. One of the first things that happens is the breakdown of muscle tissues, which are assembled from amino acids. Amino acids are then sent where they’re most needed, for instance, to maintain heart function. As you may be able to guess, eating away at your muscle to fuel your heart is not a sustainable strategy and can have serious consequences.

No matter what, some degree of muscle loss, often (incorrectly) called sarcopenia, will accompany the aging process. A lack of amino acids, however, speeds up that process, which can begin as early as your 30s.

2. Increased Anxiety and Depression

There’s an intimate connection between your amino acid intake and your mental health. We rely on amino acids to produce brain chemicals like serotonin that balance our moods and emotions.

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is a precursor to serotonin. When serotonin levels drop, symptoms of depression increase. A 2016 study found that without an adequate supply of tryptophan, serotonin production is compromised, which can, in turn, compromise your mental health.

3. Difficulty Concentrating

If you’re feeling unmotivated, struggling to concentrate, finding it difficult to learn new information, or dealing with “brain fog,” you may have low amino acid levels. As we touched on above, you need amino acids to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

Without enough tyrosine, a conditionally essential amino acid, your brain struggles to produce dopamine. And without enough dopamine, your energy levels will flag and your overall cognitive function will decline.

4. Digestive Disturbances

In order for the digestive system to operate smoothly, we need a balanced intake of amino acids, which play crucial roles in enzyme production as well as muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract.

Amino acids have such a pronounced impact on digestion that they may even be used to treat certain gut-related diseases, according to a study.

5. Slowed Healing Time

Amino acids help our muscles recover from exertion, maintain the strength of our bones, and keep our immune systems running at peak capacity.

A 2009 study showed that amino acids help bone fractures heal more quickly, and findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition show that a deficiency in amino acids impairs immune function and increases your susceptibility to illness.

The Best Way to Correct Amino Acid Deficiency

Once you’ve realized you have an amino acid deficiency, there’s likely only one question on your mind: how to correct an amino acid deficiency. To stabilize your amino acid levels, you need to increase the amount of amino acids you’re consuming. It can be difficult to do this in a balanced way through diet alone, especially if you aren’t inclined to eat a diet high in animal protein.

And balance is absolutely key. The amino acid that we consume the least of, proportionate to recommended consumption levels, determines the degree to which our bodies can utilize the rest of the amino acids we take in.

Essential amino acid (EAA) supplements can help to fill any gaps you might have in your diet. If you’re already experiencing any of the signs of amino acid deficiency listed above, it can be highly beneficial to augment your amino acid intake with a high-quality EAA supplement.

Fenugreek Benefits for Men and Women

Herbs and foods from around the globe continue to make their way into mainstream America as they are touted for their extraordinary health benefits and healing properties. The latest food to be making the rounds on social media is fenugreek. Natural health professionals say fenugreek benefits everything from boosting testosterone levels to relieving menopause symptoms and even improving libido. But is fenugreek just the latest trendy super herb or do the fenugreek benefits for men and women stand up to the hype?

What Is Fenugreek?

Fenugreek is an herb native to Western Asia, Southern Europe, and the Mediterranean. The fenugreek plant produces aromatic seeds used in a variety of cuisines and spice blends including garam masala.

Fenugreek is a member of the Fabaceae botanical family and is related to peas, peanuts, garbanzo beans, and other legumes. In clinical research, it is referred to as Trigonella foenum-graecum.

Fenugreek historically has been used in the areas where it is cultivated as a natural remedy for digestive problems and to induce childbirth. This powerful inflammation-fighting herb is also used to relieve external swelling and pain. Clinical research is beginning to identify fenugreek seed extract’s full healing potential.

Fenugreek benefits for men include improved sexual interest, fertility, and erectile function, and fenugreek is also used to treat hernia problems. One of the most widely recognized fenugreek benefits for women is to promote lactation, as fenugreek is a galactagogue. Galactogogues are medications, foods, or herbs that induce, increase, and maintain the milk supply of breastfeeding women.

New research shows that fenugreek may balance hormone levels in women and reduce both PMS and menopause symptoms. Researchers today are studying fenugreek’s potential for a variety of ailments and health conditions, including topical use for osteoarthritis of the knee and internal use for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Fenugreek Facts

Since ancient times, fenugreek seed has been used around the Mediterranean Sea in culinary applications and medical practices. Fenugreek imparts a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, and it is often used to make imitation maple syrup. Fenugreek seeds have an impressive nutrient profile and are a good source of magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, dietary fiber, and protein.

Fenugreek Nutrition

Fenugreek Uses

Fenugreek seeds and leaves have been used for thousands of years for a variety of medicinal purposes. These fenugreek uses are suitable for both men and women.

1. Reduce Inflammation and Relieve Pain

Fenugreek demonstrates strong anti-inflammatory properties when taken internally and when applied topically. When fenugreek is used as a poultice, it can relieve gout pain, swelling, eczema, leg ulcers, and other wounds.

To make a fenugreek poultice, grind 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in a spice grinder. Add just enough boiling water to make a thick paste. Spread the fenugreek seed paste on a piece of cloth and secure in place. Wear the poultice for a couple of hours for best results.

2. Slows Absorption of Sugar in Diabetics

A clinical study published in the East Mediterranean Health Journal shows fenugreek slows the absorption of sugar in the digestive tract and stimulates insulin production in people with type 2 diabetes. The study gave participants either 40 milligrams per kilogram extract in water or just coffee. The fenugreek extract significantly lowered blood glucose levels by 13.4% four hours after ingestion. The authors of the study do also note that 1/3 of the group experienced hunger and/or dizziness 24 hours after taking fenugreek extract.

3. Suppresses Appetite

A placebo-controlled, single-blinded, randomized trial of overweight women has found that fenugreek tea reduces hunger and increases satiety. This study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research tested fennel tea, fenugreek tea, and a placebo tea head-to-head for appetite control. The results of the clinical trial indicate that fenugreek tea performed the best, with fennel tea not far behind.

4. Relieves Digestive Upset

Fenugreek seeds and leaves have been used for centuries to help alleviate a variety of digestion problems. Fenugreek seed is high in soluble dietary fiber and has been shown to relieve constipation. Fenugreek is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat inflammatory bowel disease symptoms.

5.  Fight H pylori Infections

H pylori is a type of bacteria that lives in the digestive tract. Over time, H pylori can cause peptic ulcers, inflammation of the stomach lining, and even stomach cancer according to the Mayo Clinic. A clinical trial published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that fenugreek sprouts (not seeds!) fight H pylori infections. The authors of the study hypothesize that fenugreek sprouts have more phenolic compounds and demonstrate greater antimicrobial functions than do fenugreek seeds.

Fenugreek Fast Facts

Fenugreek Benefits for Men

Fenugreek is prized for supporting a range of men’s health concerns. Research supports a variety of fenugreek benefits for men. Here are the top three evidence-based benefits.

1. Boosts Testosterone and Fights Cholesterol

Fenugreek testosterone benefits have long been supported by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners and others in the wellness arena. And now, a study published in the World Journal of Men’s Health has found that a combination of fenugreek seed extract and Chinese bush clover (Lespedeza cuneata) significantly improves total testosterone levels in men with testosterone deficiency syndrome.

The study group took 200 milligrams of the fenugreek seed and Chinese bush clover blend twice a day for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the researchers also noted significant improvement in total cholesterol, HDL-C, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels.

2. Enhances Libido

In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of men without erectile dysfunction, a standardized formula of fenugreek seed extract increased sexual arousal, orgasm, and quality of life parameters. This study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research noted a significant positive effect on the physiological aspects of libido and hypothesized that the Testofen formula may help to maintain healthy testosterone levels.

3. Increases Muscle Strength and Improves Body Composition

Researchers in the United States have identified fenugreek’s ability to increase muscle strength and overall body composition in men. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that 500 milligrams of a proprietary fenugreek extract had a significant impact on upper body strength and lower body strength in comparison to the placebo.

Fenugreek Benefits for Women

Generations of women in India, the Middle East, and parts of Europe have used fenugreek to promote wellness throughout their lifetimes. Research continues on this powerful herb and its potential health benefits. Here are three of the top fenugreek benefits for women.

1. Promotes Lactation

Fenugreek breastfeeding benefits have been promoted for decades by alternative health professionals, and now research backs up these claims. In a meta-analysis and systematic review researchers have shown that fenugreek outperforms placebos and significantly increases the amount of breast milk produced.

The study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research does note that while fenugreek is an effective galactagogue, palm date outperformed fenugreek in overall milk production.

Lactation tea including fenugreek is often called “Mother’s Milk Tea,” and there are many recipes available online that have been developed by herbalists and alternative health professionals. These teas are quite potent and many contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions. Use with caution and avoid any preparations with known allergens.

Mother's Milk Tea: Fenugreek Tea for Lactation

2. Breast Cancer

Researchers from the United Arab Emirates have found fenugreek demonstrates anti-cancer activities against breast cancer in animal models. This preliminary study published in the journal Cell Biology International suggests fenugreek seeds have significant chemopreventive effects against breast cancer by significantly inhibiting specific functions of tissue growth.

3. Minimizes Menopause Symptoms

Fenugreek is known for helping to balance female hormones, and research indicates it can reduce menopause symptoms. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found fenugreek seed extract significantly reduces sexual, physical, and psychosocial symptoms commonly associated with menopause.

Fenugreek Side Effects

Consuming fenugreek seeds as a spice is generally considered safe for most healthy adults. However, fenugreek seed extract, supplements, or teas taken in high doses or for an extended period can cause side effects including:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach upset
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Maple syrup odor on skin or in urine
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Facial swelling

Fenugreek Precautions

Using fenugreek seeds in recipes is safe for most individuals. However, avoid fenugreek supplements and teas if:

  • You are pregnant (fenugreek can cause malformations and birth defects). Fenugreek can also cause early contractions that can lead to a miscarriage.
  • You are allergic to peanuts, chickpeas, soybeans, green peas, or other legumes.
  • You have diabetes. Monitor blood sugar levels closely as fenugreek can cause blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low.
  • You have a bleeding disorder (fenugreek can act as an anticoagulant).
  • You have hormone-sensitive cancer (fenugreek can act like estrogen in the body).

Fenugreek interacts with certain medications including:

  • Diabetes drugs including Glyburide, insulin, and others
  • Medications that slow blood clotting including:
    • Aspirin
    • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
    • Diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam)
    • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and others)
    • Naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, and others)
    • Dalteparin (Gragmin)
    • Enoxaparin (Lovenox)
    • Heparin
    • Warfarin (Coumadin)

Staple Paleo Diet Food List, Plus 8 Indulgent Paleo Recipes

If you’re thinking of trying the paleo diet, you need to equip yourself with this staple paleo diet food list. To achieve your paleo diet goals, you’ll want to ensure you always have plenty of fresh, nutritious paleo foods on hand. And if you’re worried that embracing the paleo diet will mean missing out on the pleasures of food, check out these eight indulgent paleo recipes.

What Is the Paleo Diet?

You’ve probably heard of the paleo diet, but do you really know what the paleo diet is? This way of eating is meant to mimic how our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate centuries ago. Of course, there’s no way to be completely sure what our ancestors really ate, and the data we do have shows diets varied in different parts of the globe. Plus, the point of the paleo diet isn’t to accurately recreate an ancient way of eating; it’s to embrace a diet based on whole foods and to lead a physically active life.

The foundational paleo diet food list includes unprocessed meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It appears that eating paleo can lead to a multitude of health benefits, such as weight loss, decreased risk of insulin resistance, lower cholesterol levels, improved overall cardiovascular health, and more.

Learn the Paleo Diet Rules

Since the paleo diet first rose to popularity, health and wellness experts, recipe bloggers, and average people have developed many variations on its basic principles. A few of the approaches with the most followers include strict paleo, so-called “normal paleo,” and primal. Here are some basic, widely agreed-upon paleo diet rules:

  • Foods to Eat
    • Vegetables (often excluding members of the nightshade family)
    • Fruits
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Fresh and dried herbs
    • Healthy fats
  • Foods to Avoid
    • Legumes
    • Most kinds of alcohol (wine is often allowed)
    • Soda
    • Fruit juices
    • Most vegetable oils
    • Most dairy products (full-fat butter and and sometimes cheese may be allowed)

Following the paleo diet means reading ingredient lists closely if you’re considering eating a processed food. Many contain sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, or other off-limits additives.

40 Staples Make Up Our Paleo Diet Food List

40 Staple Paleo Diet Foods

Paleo success is predicated on having plenty of healthy, paleo-compliant foods on hand. Use this staple paleo diet food list to fill your pantry and refrigerator.

  • Meat: Look for pasture-raised, minimally-processed beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, and pork.
  • Fish: Choose wild-caught whenever possible. Salmon, trout, cod, tuna, and shrimp are all excellent options.
  • Eggs: A true staple of the paleo diet. Opt for pasture-raised if the price isn’t prohibitive.
  • Vegetables: Don’t neglect this category! Load up on broccoli, bell peppers, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, and, of course, kale.
  • Fruits: Some stricter paleo plans rule out high-glycemic fruits. Green apples are always a safe bet, though! And berries, citrus fruits, stone fruits, and bananas are often allowed too.
  • Nuts and seeds: It’s often recommended to exercise caution here, but pretty much every nut and seed you can think of is paleo-friendly: almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and so on.
  • Healthy fats: Coconut oil can be found in the cupboards of practically everyone who’s ever tried the paleo diet. Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and ghee are good choices too.
  • Salt and spices: The key to avoiding paleo boredom! You’ll want sea salt and pepper, of course, as well as garlic, turmeric, cayenne, rosemary, cinnamon, and whatever else tickles your fancy.

Paleo Is Not Synonymous with Plain

The uninitiated may think adopting the paleo diet means eating meals like plain chicken with a side of boiled broccoli every day. That’s one way to follow the paleo diet, but there are plenty of possibilities to create colorful meals infused with flavor. And if you’re willing to get creative with the ingredients you use, you can even bake paleo-compliant breads and desserts.

Try These 8 Indulgent Paleo Recipes

8 Delicious, Indulgent Paleo Recipes

1. Saucy Paleo Breakfast Enchiladas

This genius breakfast enchilada recipe replaces tortillas with thin, crêpe-like egg pancakes. It’s colorful, deliciously spicy, and infinitely adaptable, and as such can take the place of pride in any brunch spread.

Get the recipe here.

2. Decadent Cauliflower Mac and “Cheese”

The key to this veggie-rich take on a comforting classic is the rich, velvety, totally dairy-free cheese sauce made with sautéed vegetables, coconut milk, and egg yolk. Even the pickiest eaters (including kids) love this decadent, highly nutritious dish.

Get the recipe here.

3. Show-Off Paleo Lasagna

This recipe can be made with cheese or dairy-free, depending on your paleo preferences. All in all, it’s a vibrant meal that delivers classic Italian flavors without the heavy feeling pasta dishes often leave you with. All the components of this multi-layered dish are made from scratch, so it can be rather time-consuming, but the result is entirely worth the effort.

Get the recipe here.

4. Magical Paleo Chicken and Dumplings

This gluten-free, egg-free recipe features soft, plump dumplings floating in a savory broth. The creator promises it delivers love at first bite, and the reviewers agree.

Get the recipe here.

5. Sweet Potato Recovery Bar

This nut-free paleo sweet potato bar contains the nutrients you need to quickly recover from even the most intense workouts. With natural sweetness from applesauce and dates, plus optional dark chocolate to make it even more of a treat, this recovery bar is sure to please.

Get the recipe here.

6. Crowd-Pleasing Paleo Banana Bread

This banana bread is the all-time most popular recipe on Civilized Caveman, one of the biggest paleo recipe sites, and for good reason! It takes just five minutes to get into the oven and can be customized to your heart’s content. It’s perfectly spiced with a gorgeous texture and flavor.

Get the recipe here.

7. Gooey Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

To make these chocolate chip cookies, you’ll need extremely finely ground almond flour. That results in cookies that are crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. Take it over the top by garnishing the freshly-baked cookies with fleur de sel sea salt.

Get the recipe here.

8. 3-Ingredient Paleo Brownies

These rich, healthy 3-ingredient brownies are gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free. They’re packed with potassium, healthy fats, fiber, and protein, but taste like a truly gourmet dessert.

Get the recipe here.