Betaine Sources, Uses and Health Benefits

Betaine supplementation may help improve liver detoxification, heart health, digestive function, muscle building, body fat loss, and more. Find out how this amino acid derivative works.

Betaine is a methyl derivative of the amino acid glycine and can be found in food sources like sugar beets, spinach, shellfish, and wheat. As a methyl donor in chemical reactions within the body, betaine is important for liver and kidney health, and without it there can be fatty accumulation in the liver leading to serious cerebral, coronary, vascular, and hepatic diseases—dangerous consequences for your brain, your heart, your bloodstream, and your liver. With a sufficient amount of betaine you can protect your organs, improve certain cardiovascular risk factors, and increase your physical performance. For more about where betaine comes from and how it impacts your health, read on.

What Is Betaine? Where Does It Come From?

A naturally occurring amino acid derivative, betaine is also known as trimethylglycine (TMG). It’s a nonessential nutrient, meaning we don’t have to consume it to get it, as our normal functioning produces betaine as a byproduct of the nonessential amino acid glycine. However, beneficial amounts of betaine can be found in foods, including:

  • Sugar beets
  • Rye grain
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat bran
  • Sweet potato
  • Turkey breast
  • Beef
  • Veal
  • Spinach
  • Shellfish

Betaine was first discovered in the 19th century in sugar beets, which is where its common name is derived from. Its scientific name, trimethylglycine, describes its chemical composition: a glycine derivative attached to three (tri-) methyl groups on the molecular level. This is what gives it the ability to be a methyl donor (along with vitamin B12 and folic acid) when it comes in contact with other chemical compounds throughout the body. Methyl donation occurs in a process called methylation. The methylation process is crucial in protein function and many other critical actions in the body.

Betaine is also an organic osmolyte, a compound involved in the osmosis process, moving fluid into and out of cells to maintain fluid balance and prevent cell shrinkage or rupture. An imbalance there could lead to cell death.

The Health Benefits of Betaine

Betaine has long been a subject for scientific study in the realm of heart health and the prevention and treatment of heart disease, but more recently people have been taking betaine to enhance their exercise performance and improve their body composition as well. For more on how betaine can impact liver detoxification, heart health, digestive function, muscle building, and body fat loss, read on.

Betaine sources, uses, and health benefits.

1. Liver Function and Detoxification

Fatty acid buildup in the liver can lead to severe health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Fatty acids can accumulate due to dietary choices like eating too many sugary or fatty foods or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Liver buildup of fatty acids can cause abdominal pain, fluid retention, cardiovascular problems, and muscle wasting, not to mention damage and scarring to the liver. While the liver is one of our most resilient organs (able to heal itself in ways that our heart and our kidneys, for example, cannot), long-term damage and scarring can build up too, causing permanent damage and even liver failure or death.

The use of betaine treatments for hepatoprotection against conditions like fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis has proven effective due to betaine’s ability to aid in recovery from liver damage and protect the liver from certain hepatotoxins like ethanol or carbon tetrachloride. Those toxins can find their way into our bodies through contact with pesticides, herbicides, and even some prescription medications. Detoxing them from the body without long-lasting liver damage is one of the top benefits we can all gain from betaine.

2. Heart Health

The cardiovascular benefits of betaine are the most thoroughly documented by researchers. By quickly and safely reducing the plasma homocysteine concentrations in our bloodstream, betaine protects us from homocystinuria, a condition characterized by high homocysteine levels that can lead to the development of arterial plaque and ultimately heart disease.

Betaine can lower homocysteine levels by providing homocysteine molecules with one of its three methyl groups, transforming homocysteine into the amino acid methionine, which is beneficially used in protein synthesis and liver cell protection against toxins, like in cases of acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning. Betaine has even gained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for safe use in treating homocystinuria.

3. Digestive Aid

Our stomachs require a sufficient amount of stomach acid to digest the food we eat. If you have low stomach acid (a condition called hypochlorhydria), your food will only be partially digested, resulting in a lower absorption rate of the nutrients you consume. In some instances (as in the case of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals) we can only gain the necessary nutrients needed to live and function by consuming and then absorbing them. Absorption disorders can quickly lead to different forms of anemia, malnutrition, and wasting that detrimentally impact our health. Gastrointestinal overgrowth of Candida (a yeast bacteria) has been scientifically linked with lower levels of stomach acid.

The biggest component in stomach acid is hydrochloric acid (HCl), and an estimated half of individuals over 50 are not producing enough of it. Luckily betaine HCl, a combination of betaine and hydrochloride naturally found in beets, can work as an effective treatment for hypochlorhydria (a total absence of stomach acid). When taken as a supplement, betaine HCl increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, aiding digestion and enhancing the absorption levels of nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and protein.

It should be noted, however, that betaine HCl should not be taken by those who have peptic ulcers, severe atrophic gastritis, or an inflammation of the stomach lining. While it used to be an over-the-counter drug often combined with vitamin B6, this form of betaine has since been banned (in 1993) from over-the-counter sale because it could not be recognized as “generally safe” by the FDA. It is now only available in supplement form, and because supplements are largely under-regulated, you should consult a health care professional for medical advice on the proper doses of betaine hydrochloride before taking it.

And while we’re on the subject, betaine hydrochloride should not be confused with betaine anhydrous, which is the FDA-approved form of betaine that is deemed safe and effective for treating high levels of homocysteine.

4. Muscle Building and Fat Loss

Due to betaine’s role in metabolizing protein, it has recently come into popular use as a workout supplement for muscle building and bodyweight management. Included in many pre-workout nutrient formulas, clinical trials have shown that betaine supplementation can help increase muscle power and endurance all while promoting the loss of dangerous body fat. This combination results in improved body composition for those who utilize betaine as a workout enhancement.

Be Better with Betaine

Betaine supplementation is not advised for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women. This is due not to any adverse side effects reported, but because of a lack of scientific evidence on the effects of high betaine levels in those populations. Likewise betaine hydrochloride can be dangerous for anyone with peptic ulcers or issues with their stomach lining, and should only be taken under a doctor’s approval.

However, as betaine is a naturally occurring compound in our bodies and vital for many important functions, it’s otherwise regarded as a safe way to protect your liver, enhance your physical performance, and help your heart. Consult with a medical professional if you have any hesitations, and find out what betaine supplementation could do for you.

The Top 10 Supplements and Vitamins for Joint Pain

Here are the top 10 natural supplements and vitamins you can use to boost bone and joint health, relieve pain from osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis, and strengthen your body’s cartilage resources.

Joint pain afflicts many people, often in cases as serious as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that can diminish one’s range of motion and quality of life. In the case of most arthritis conditions, previously healthy joints begin to develop degenerative conditions, whether genetically or through wear and tear. Levels of chronic pain vary, but there are dietary supplements that can help before resorting to dangerous pharmaceutical drugs for pain relief. This article runs down the top 10 supplements and vitamins for joint pain management.

The Unfortunate Abundance of Arthritis

Almost a quarter of the American population is afflicted with some form of arthritis. Pain in one’s joints can arise from many different conditions involving bone health, connective tissues, or the immune system, but the one thing they all have in common is a shared need for joint support.

While over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil (ibuprofen) are often quick solutions for joint pain relief, when it comes to chronic conditions, taking drugs indefinitely can lead to other side effects. Stomach bleeding, kidney stress, and liver damage, can all result from taking too many drugstore medications, and often people want relief without risking other aspects of their priceless health.

What follows are natural supplements and vitamins that can support bone and joint health without the need for drugs or medications.

Top 10 supplements and vitamins for joints.

The Top 10 Supplements and Vitamins for Joints

Here are 10 proven aids for joint health you can safely add to your daily routine.

1. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a natural, crystalline compound found in our cartilage and connective tissue. Cartilage is the rubbery component of our joints that keeps our bones from rubbing together as we move (which would cause pain and dangerous wear).

Many joint disorders involve the breakdown of cartilage. But cartilage can not heal like our skin or our livers can, because cartilage has no blood supply. Therefore, in an effort to maintain healthy cartilage before it wears away to nothing, glucosamine can be consumed.

While glucosamine has been extensively studied in connection with osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease or DJD), researchers are still unclear on how it works. Of the two types of glucosamine supplements—glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate—glucosamine hydrochloride appeared to be ineffective in improving joint pain according to a 2013 meta-analysis of studies. And a 2007 study found that glucosamine sulfate did improve osteoarthritis symptoms.

When it comes to joint health, glucosamine sulfate is suggested for supplementation, as studies indicate that it may work by slowing down the narrowing of your joint space, a marker of worsening osteoarthritis progression.

2. Chondroitin

Chondroitin is a central component of cartilage, much like glucosamine. It, too, may help prevent cartilage breakdown due to osteoarthritis and other joint conditions.

Studies have shown that chondroitin has the ability to relieve joint pain and lessen the stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Up to 53% of those who take it report a significant improvement in knee pain.

Chondroitin sulfate may also slow down joint narrowing and delay the degenerative progression of osteoarthritis.

Preservation is the name of the game in degenerative cases, meaning chondroitin is another valuable, natural addition to this list. Both chondroitin and glucosamine can often be found packaged together in joint supplements on the market.

3. Turmeric

A natural supplement known for its anti-inflammatory effects, turmeric root has a bright golden-orange color and can help relieve inflammation throughout the body, including in joints afflicted with arthritis. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric that makes it an effective supplement, and it has been shown to perform significantly better than a placebo when tested in randomized clinical trials, as can be seen in this systematic review and meta-analysis from 2016.

Some studies suggest that turmeric may perform at the same level as ibuprofen, making it an excellent potential replacement for over-the-counter drugs that may cause digestive damage if taken too frequently.

4. Vitamin D

Having low levels of vitamin D is linked with a higher likelihood that you’ll suffer from joint pain. Not only does vitamin D aid the absorption of calcium (the bedrock component of your bones), but it also helps regulate phosphorus, another key player in bone health.

You can purchase a vitamin D supplement, or you can get it from eating fortified foods like cereal and milk (which also contain calcium), or from the natural rays provided by a few minutes’ exposure to the sun.

5. Frankincense

Frankincense, aka boswellia, is another natural compound like turmeric that is known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis and more. The active components in the extract are known as boswellia acids, and they have been clinically proven to ease knee pain and increase knee flexion and walking distance better than a placebo.

6. ASUs (Avocado-Soybean Unsaponifiables)

Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) are the extracts from avocado and soybean oils that can help prevent cartilage breakdown. They’re known to possess anti-inflammatory, anabolic, and anticatabolic properties, and on a practical level can reduce joint pain and stiffness while improving joint function in human subjects.

7. SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)

S-adenosyl-L-methionine or SAMe is a derivative of the amino acid methionine. While methionine is an essential amino acid that you need to consume to gain, SAMe is a chemical created naturally from methionine in the liver. One of its functions is to aid in the production and repair of cartilage tissue.

Supplementing with SAMe can enhance these effects, as was found in this 2004 study comparing SAMe with the anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex (celecoxib). After 1 month of supplementation, Celebrex was out-performing SAMe, but at the 2-month mark both were performing more-or-less equally.

8. Devil’s Claw

The charmingly named devil’s claw, or harpagophytum, contains an anti-inflammatory compound known as harpogoside. Devil’s claw is native to southern Africa and a member of the sesame family, and is so-called because of its hook-like fruit. In this study from 2000, devil’s claw was found to be comparable in effect to diacerein, an anti-inflammatory drug, providing yet another promising natural alternative to drugs for joint pain relief.

9. Fish Oil

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil—DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)—not only have anti-inflammatory effects but can also improve heart health, brain function, and liver health. When it comes to the joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, a recent 2017 study found that consuming fish oil supplements helped reduce joint pain in the participants with RA.

10. Calcium

No joint health list would be complete without calcium, the building material that keeps us all standing tall.

Up to 99% of the calcium in our bodies resides in our bones (and our teeth). Without sufficient calcium, our bones become weak, more prone to fracture and dislocation. Weakened bones will inevitably impact our joints, which are defined as the space where two bones meet, or join together, and may cause joint deformity or even an acceleration of cartilage and joint tissue damage. For all of these reasons, calcium matters greatly when it comes to joint health.

Without enough calcium, too many people develop osteoporosis, a bone disease that comes with its own side effects of joint pain and weakness. The Arthritis Foundation asserts that getting enough calcium is vital for those with rheumatoid arthritis and those who are taking corticosteroids for treatment, as they both increase the risk of osteoporosis, which leads to a higher risk of falls, fracture, and joint deformation.

Calcium can be found in dairy products like milk and yogurt, fortified and enriched foods like breakfast cereals, and dark greens like spinach and broccoli. Women generally need to consume more calcium than men, especially women who have been pregnant.

Superior Joint Health Supplements

Consult your doctor for advice on supplements and vitamins for joint health, as not all supplements are closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Your doctor knows best what your joints need and in what dosages, so that they don’t conflict with any other medications (like blood thinners) or treatments you’re currently undergoing. When seeking supplements for joint pain, natural remedies are the best option if your condition is responsive to them, so do not hesitate to try.

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD): Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a chronic condition that cannot be cured but can be managed to help preserve the joint health you still have before it’s too far gone. Let’s take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is another term for the condition known as osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. Painful and debilitating, this disease afflicts more than 30 million Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and this article details its causes, along with its prevention and treatment options.

What Is Degenerative Joint Disease?

Degenerative joint disease, or DJD (the medical abbreviation), is an all-too-common chronic joint disorder. Your joints are the spots in your body where two bones meet and are joined together via layers of cartilage and connective tissues like muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

With DJD, the cartilage starts to break down in the joint space, allowing painful bone-on-bone contact that causes stiffness, disability, and many other adverse symptoms. We’ll review those symptoms below, and then go on to discuss what causes DJD and how to slow its development.

The Causes of DJD

Age is one of the leading causes of DJD, commonly referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis because that’s often how it develops: a lifetime of using your joints may wear down the cartilage that keeps your bones separated. Other risk factors include a family history of joint disorders like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).

Causes include:

  • Torn cartilage
  • Ligament injury
  • Dislocated joints

Whether the joint damage comes from an accident or is just a side effect of daily activities done under your own body weight, the pain can interfere with your life, and could ultimately require a joint replacement surgery.

The Nature of Cartilage

Your cartilage is a tough, rubbery, flexible substance that protects your bones while allowing them to move and slide against each other. When your cartilage starts to break down, the bone surfaces begin to roughen, causing pain in the joint and inflammation in the surrounding tissues.

Cartilage cannot repair itself like your skin or even your liver can—there are no blood vessels in cartilage, and so the damage suffered there is damage that is permanent.

Once cartilage wears away entirely, there is no more buffer between your bones to cushion their contact. What follows are the symptoms of that condition.

DJD Symptoms

Degeneration of cartilage can happen in any joint in your body, but the most common joints affected are the joints in your hands and fingers, hips, spine, and knee. The symptoms of DJD can include:

  • Joint pain: Pain in your joints during movement or even at rest could be an indication that there is friction between your bones and less cartilage to prevent it. This pain may worsen as the disease progresses.
  • Inflammation: A burning or itching inflamed feeling may be felt in your joints and surrounding tissues.
  • Stiffness: As stiffness worsens, your range of motion may become more limited, interrupting your daily activities and decreasing your quality of life.
  • Tenderness: The joints may become sensitive to the touch, especially if DJD develops in your fingers and hands.
  • Swelling: Synovial fluid (an egg-white-like viscous fluid in your joints) may increase in DJD cases, causing painful swelling. It may also contain broken-off pieces of cartilage freely floating within it.
  • Joint instability: Your joints may fail, buckle (lock up), or otherwise become unstable and unreliable, possibly causing falls if DJD is in your knee joints or hip joints.
  • Other symptoms: As DJD progresses, other symptoms may arise, like weakening muscles, bone spurs, and joint deformations.

While this condition and these damages are not reversible, there are ways to treat and alleviate the resulting pain.

DJD vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not the same as DJD. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder rather than a degenerative condition that can be caused by natural wear and tear. While they share similar symptoms, they are nevertheless different conditions and require different treatment methods to manage.

DJD Diagnosis

If you have joint pain, your doctor may take a medical history and assess your symptoms before ordering an imaging scan from either an X-ray or MRI machine to evaluate the condition of your bones and joints. A blood test may be ordered to rule out rheumatoid arthritis, and a fluid analysis may be conducted to find out whether your joint pain is caused by an infection or possibly gout.

Degenerative joint disease: causes and treatments.

DJD Treatment Options

Because DJD cannot be reversed, these treatments are therapies meant to manage your symptoms and retain the health you still have. This is why early diagnosis is important—you’ll want to slow the progression of the degeneration as much as possible. Outside of pain and anti-inflammatory medications your doctor may suggest or prescribe, here are lifestyle changes you can make to help manage DJD at home.

Low-Impact Exercise

Not only does exercise shore up your muscle strength, which provides joint stability, but certain low-impact exercise techniques like yoga or swimming can help stretch your body, alleviate stiffness, and improve your flexibility and pain management tools.

Gently stretching, going on walks, or practicing tai chi can improve your range of motion and preserve the joint health you still have.

Weight Loss

If you are overweight or obese, your weight-bearing joints like your knees are under extra strain, which could quicken the progression of DJD. Losing excess weight may not only improve your joint pain but could also save you from other health dangers like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Quality Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep improves your mood and mental health and allows your joints to rest and recover at the end of each day. Tips for a good night’s sleep include sticking to a regular bedtime, following the same pre-sleep routines, and going to bed in a cool, dark room.

Hot and Cold Therapy

You can help relieve joint pain by applying a heating pad or cold compresses as needed to the afflicted joints. Doing so can reduce swelling and inflammation and draw blood to the area to help repair surrounding tissue damage.

DJD Medications

Medications and pain killers that may help you manage DJD include:

  • OTC analgesics: Over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) along with pain-relieving gels, creams, or topical patches may help you manage pain flare-ups.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can help reduce swelling and joint pain.
  • Antidepressants: The antidepressant duloxetine (Cymbalta) may be useful in helping you achieve pain relief—ask your doctor if it’s appropriate for your condition.
  • Corticosteroids: Oral or injected corticosteroids are prescription medications that can provide joint pain relief.

DJD Natural Treatments

Your doctor may advise that you try to avoid relying on drugs if you can manage your pain more naturally. Here are non-drug supplements that could help your DJD symptoms.

  • Green tea
  • Ginger
  • Fish oil
  • Glucosamine

Likewise natural physical treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Epsom salt baths

Don’t Let Degeneration Get You Down

There are very few upsides when it comes to degenerative conditions: the pain you’re in now might be persistent and progressive, and it’s hard to find a silver lining in what, medically speaking, is a downward slope. Focus not on what you can’t control, instead set your sights on how healthy you can be around degenerative joint disease, how well you can preserve your joints, and how you can build strength going forward.

SI Joint Pain: How to Identify and Relieve Sacroiliac Joint Pain

SI joint pain: find out if your lower back pain is coming from your sacroiliac joints, what causes this pain, and what treatment options are available to relieve it.

Your sacroiliac or SI joints are located in your lower back, and may be the source of low back pain you experience. This article has information that will help you identify SI joint pain. We’re also covering the different methods of pain relief and treatment options.

Where Is the SI Joint?

Issues with the sacroiliac joints are thought to be the cause of 15-30% of chronic lower back pain cases. A problem at your SI joint may manifest as a radiating stabbing pain between your pelvis and hips, or it may be felt as numbness and tingling down your thighs that makes it feel as if your legs are going to buckle. That is because your SI joints are located just above your tailbone (coccyx), between the triangle-shaped bone at the base of your spine (the sacrum) and two of your three hip bones (the flared ones that jut out below your waist, known plurally as your ilia), which reside at the uppermost part of your pelvis.

SI joint pain: causes and treatments.

The Symptoms of SI Joint Pain

SI joint pain, sometimes referred to as sacral pain, affects around 80% of adults in the United States at some point in their lives. Lower back pain and injury is one of the most common causes of work-related disabilities as well, most likely because the SI joint is the fulcrum of your back, responsible for distributing your body’s weight over the pelvic region and acting as a shock absorber for your spine.

The space between the jagged SI joint bones is full of lubricating fluid and free nerve endings that send pain signals directly to the brain. When there is any misalignment in the SI joint, the pain can be debilitating, and the communication between the nerves may be interrupted, causing numbness or lack of feeling.

While the bones in this area are stabilized by strong ligaments and muscle connections that allow us to stand upright, unlike our ape ancestors, and give birth to the large craniums of human babies, the area is nevertheless extremely vulnerable to injury and other medical conditions.

Some common symptoms of SI joint pain include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the hips, groin, or buttocks
  • Radiating pain that spreads down to the thighs
  • Stiffness or burning feelings in the pelvis
  • Numbness or weakness
  • A sensation of leg-buckling
  • Increased pain when standing from a seated position

SI Joint Pain: What Are the Causes?

There are many ways the SI joint can experience pain, only one of which is injury. Inflammation of the SI joint is called sacroiliitis, though it is often referred to as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, a general umbrella term that could apply to any of the following causes of SI joint pain.

1. Injury

The lower back is one of the most vulnerable parts of our bodies. Our brains are protected by our skulls, our most vital organs all guarded by our ribs or cradled by our pelvic bones, but the lower back region is wide-open. This allows for a unique range of motion and the ability to stand upright and tall, but it also means that the weight of the world relies on one column of bone and ligaments (the spine), which sits atop the sacroiliac joint. Trauma resulting from motor vehicle accidents, household or workplace falls, or even sudden twists of movement can cause injuries and damage that may persist for a lifetime.

2. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s SI joint needs to become more elastic to allow for a vaginal birth. This is achieved with the release of a hormone aptly called relaxin, which allows the pelvis to widen when it comes time to give birth.

A combination between this elasticity, plus the weight gain associated with pregnancy and the positioning of the baby’s body, all lead to a higher likelihood of SI injury or ache. The joint becomes less stable, and some women even develop arthritis in their SI joints, a condition that may worsen with subsequent pregnancies.

3. Gait

Your walking pattern or gait can contribute to SI joint pain and dysfunction. For example, an overpronation problem can affect the way you walk, and the same is true if one leg happens to be longer than the other. A lifetime of irregular walking can add up to problems like shin splints, knee joint pain, and lower back pain, conditions that may or may not be remedied by corrective footwear.

4. Gout

Gouty arthritis, or simply gout, is a disease characterized by high levels of uric acid in the body, often caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices. The joint pain caused by uric acid buildup can be severe, and while it usually starts with the joint of the big toe, it can affect any joint, including the two SI joints.

5. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis involves the degeneration of joint cartilage, causing potential pain and stiffness in many joints, including the SI joint, the knees, hips, and thumbs.

6. Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that affects the joints of the spine. Not only does it cause pain from inflammation, but it can also lead to the growth of new bone structures that fuse together spinal joints and inhibit normal movement. This condition primarily affects the SI joint, but it can also cause inflammation in other joints and organs as far away as the eyes. It is most likely to be diagnosed in young men.

Diagnosing SI Joint Issues

SI joint problems are often hard to diagnose. These joints are located deep in your body and their associated issues often cannot be seen on CT, MRI, or X-ray images. Another reason is that lower back pain and other signs of SI issues resemble the symptoms of different conditions like arthritis of the hip, bulging spinal disks, and sciatica.

Doctors may diagnose your SI joint problems with a:

  • Physical examThe doctor may move you or ask you to stretch in certain ways to identify the source of your pain.
  • Diagnostic injectionBy injecting a local anesthetic like lidocaine into the SI region, doctors may determine the source of your pain if it temporarily disappears upon injection at that site.
  • Imaging test: While X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs don’t show every potential cause of SI joint pain, they can reveal an injury or misalignment right away.

SI Joint Pain: Treatment Options

Here are some possible options for treating pain in your SI joints.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

  • Pain medication: Doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids to help relieve joint inflammation and chronic SI pain that cannot otherwise be prevented.
  • Chiropractic or physical therapy: A physical therapist or chiropractic physician may perform or instruct you in SI joint stretches to relieve pain and build strength.
  • Yoga: The stretching exercises that characterize yoga can help increase flexibility and improve your pain symptoms.
  • SI joint injectionsMedications like corticosteroids may be regularly injected into the affected SI joint or joints to ease pain.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): This procedure, like steroid injections, can help temporarily deaden certain sensory nerves to stop the transmission of pain signals from the SI joints.
  • Physical aids: A sacroiliac belt or corrective footwear could help SI joint pain depending on its cause.

Surgical Treatment Options

Surgery is the very last resort when it comes to relieving sacroiliac pain, and involves a sacroiliac joint fusion surgery that utilizes small screws and plates to encourage these bones to fuse together. It’s invasive, it comes with its own set of risks (as does any major surgery), and experts agree it’s best to explore all other nonsurgical options before deciding alongside your doctor that this is the only way forward.

Preventing and Recovering from SI Joint Pain

Some instances of SI joint pain are temporary, say if it’s caused by a pregnancy or can be dealt with by wearing corrective gear. However, sometimes this pain arises from chronic medical conditions like osteoarthritis or irreversible injury, and may plague you for a much longer time without medical intervention.

Be cautious with your back when lifting or moving items at home or at work, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid conditions like gout. That being said, not all SI joint pain causes can be avoided, so consult with a trusted medical professional to recover the best way possible.

SI joint pain: causes and treatments.

 

Telomeres and Aging: How Do These Structures Help Prolong Your Life?

Telomeres cap our chromosomes, protect our DNA from damage, and could be the key to human longevity. Find out about the connection between telomeres and aging.

If you’re a Greek mythology buff, you might be aware of the three blind sisters known as the Fates who share one eye between them and hold the threads of every human life. One would spin the thread of life, the second would dispense it, and the third would cut it off: the longer the thread, the longer the life. This imagery may help you better understand telomeres and aging, as telomeres and DNA strands shorten as you grow and age, and may be one of the keys to living a longer life. Read on for a detailed explanation of what telomeres are, how they function, and why lengthening short telomeres could prolong a healthy life.

What Are Telomeres?

Here’s the long and the short of it: telomeres are the caps on the ends of chromosomes that help protect our unique genetic code from damage or rogue influences.

Our DNA strands are made up of chemical base pairs and are bundled together inside the nucleus of each of our cells, bundles that are known as chromosomes. Each of these chromosomes has our genetic information, our genes, and when cell division occurs, these genes are replicated so that every new cell carries these blueprints. At the end of each chromosome are substance strands known as telomeres, which protect the ends of our chromosomes from trying to fuse together. Telomeres guard our chromosomes against any damage.

The problem is that as we age our DNA strands get shorter, losing some genes in the process. Telomeres are there to help prevent gene loss, but as our chromosomes replicate, our telomeres shorten too. The way to build back up these telomere protectors is with an enzyme called telomerase, which can add extra telomere sequences onto the ends of our DNA strands, but most somatic cell types (which are non-reproductive cell types) do not contain telomerase, meaning our telomeres inevitably shorten over time, affecting human health.

Length of Telomeres and Aging: What’s the Link?

There is some evidence that telomere shortening contributes to the aging process and disease development in human cells. Though the science is new and more investigation is needed, here are some of the recent studies linking telomere length and the symptoms of aging.

1. Mortality

This review of studies from 2011 notes that markers for DNA damage increase with age, just as telomere function decreases. This correlation could be a significant finding, as another smaller study from 2003 showed a link between shortened telomeres and increased rates of death from infectious disease and heart disease, which is the top cause of death worldwide. Another more recent meta-analysis of studies also suggests a connection between shorter telomeres and coronary heart disease.

2. Cancer

Not only do shorter telomeres appear to increase the risk of cancer, but these specific cancers have been studied in connection with human telomere length:

  • Bladder
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Head
  • Kidney
  • Lung
  • Neck

One of the characteristics of cancer cells is that they profligate and divide rapidly compared to healthy human cell types. While the division of normal human cells leads to shorter and shorter telomeres, somehow tumor cells are exempt from shortening their telomeres into oblivion, which causes cell death. How?

Researchers assert that it’s because the telomerase enzyme that adds length to telomeres is actually increased in 90% of cancers according to this 2016 study published in the journal Genome Medicine. While even our original stem cells have a limited capacity in using the anti-aging telomerase enzyme, cancer stem cells have no such limitations and use it to maintain long telomeres and protect their destructive or mutated genetic material for more extended periods of time.

Because of this telomere research, some cancer treatments now involve targeting the cell biology of cancer cells, hoping to cause telomere dysfunction and cell death.

3. Oxidative Stress

If you’ve ever gone on a health kick, you’ve probably been prompted to consume more antioxidants, nutrients that can help fight oxidative stress and the DNA damage done by free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress is linked time and time again with chronic conditions and diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and various cancers.

Because our telomeres work to protect our DNA too, increased oxidative stress could cause telomeres to shorten, just as shortened telomeres could lead to more damage done by oxidative stress. It’s a truly vicious cycle that contributes to human aging and shortens our health spans, and while avoiding environmental poisons like pollution, alcohol, and smoking can help, as can utilizing natural ways to combat inflammation, there is some damage we’re not going to be able to avoid.

The damage done to our DNA and the telomeres meant to protect that information leads inevitably to increased biological age and all the symptoms associated with aging cells like age-related diseases and death.

Telomeres and aging: what's the connection?

How Do You Lengthen Telomeres?

Since telomere biology appears to be such an important aspect in premature aging, what can you do to help support the role of telomeres in protecting against cellular aging? So far gene therapy meant to lengthen telomeres is inconclusive, however there are ways to help delay the shortening of these vital life threads and maintain the heathy lengths that you still have.

If your telomeres shorten enough, your chromosomes can no longer replicate, which causes the cells they’re housed in to undergo cellular senescence. In other words, they die. Enough cell death, and your body reaches such a weakened state that your immune system can no longer protect you from opportunistic infections and diseases, which could ultimately result in your death.

The following advice comes from a 2013 study that analyzed the telomere length of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer. One group was instructed to make certain lifestyle changes (regular exercise, healthy diet, and managing stress), while the control group was not. After 5 years, those who improved their lifestyles had longer telomeres than those who did not, giving researchers a basic understanding of how these three aspects influence telomere length.

1. Regular Exercise

Regularly exercising helps reduce oxidative stress, as evidenced by a 2017 study of thousands of American men and women. This study suggests a connection between high levels of physical activity and significantly longer telomere lengths.

Another study from the same year found that in young adults, those who participated in aerobic fitness activities had not only longer telomeres, but also better muscle endurance.

2. Healthy Diet

Everyone knows a healthy diet is a boon to your overall well-being, but researchers have been able to link healthy dieting to telomere length specifically. A 2016 study found that a Mediterranean diet full of antioxidants may help, while an even more recent 2018 study found that longer telomere length could be linked to greater fiber intake.

3. Managing Stress

Cell biologist and Nobel Prize-winner Elizabeth Blackburn in an interview with the New York Times said, “We know that stress is bad for cells. What about alleviating it? We’ve been collaborating on studies looking at the telomerase levels in people who practice meditation.”

Stress increases oxidative stress, and study after study has shown that increased stress and cortisol production reduces telomerase activity and increases telomere shortening. Whether it’s through meditation, yoga, improved sleep, or talk therapy, anything you can do to alleviate your stress could help protect your DNA.

Telomeres to Live Longer

These structures capping our chromosome ends can protect our DNA from dozens of risk factors for chronic disease and aging. While some diseases like dyskeratosis congenita (a progressive bone marrow failure syndrome) cause rapid telomere shortening, premature aging, and death, those who have enough health to prevent telomeres from shortening should focus on improving their lifestyles, thereby extending their lives.

The Kidney Flush Diet: Natural Ways to Cleanse Your Kidneys

If you’re looking for a natural way to cleanse your kidneys, look no further than these foods, drinks, and supplements that are scientifically proven to help support kidney function.

If you’ve looked into a liver detox diet or a salt water flush for your colon, you may well be interested in helping the other key component when it comes to waste removal from the body: your kidneys. The kidneys process up to 200 quarts of blood each day, removing waste products along with enough excess water to wash it all away. They also produce three key hormones: renin for regulating blood pressure, calcitriol which helps regulate calcium (as it’s a form of vitamin D), and erythropoietin which is needed to stimulate new red blood cell production in the bone marrow. Your kidneys are vital to your survival, and if you want to help them do their job, you may want to try a kidney cleanse. This article provides the reasoning behind a kidney flush diet and which foods best benefit these twin organs.

Kidney Function

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs just under your rib cage in your lower back. Along with the liver, they help detox your body and remove waste from your bloodstream, everything from the normal detritus of cellular breakdown and synthesis, to toxins that should never have come to your body in the first place. Kidney health is incredibly important, because you cannot live without the work that they do.

What follows are the ingredients for the kidney flush diet, foods and beverages that contain nutrients especially valuable to kidney health. On top of that however, remember that hydration is the name of the game when it comes to your kidneys: without enough water, the waste kidneys help filter out becomes backlogged and can lead to kidney infection, kidney stones, chronic kidney disease, and even kidney failure and the need for a kidney transplant.

In fact, the cause of kidney stone formation is when substances like oxalate, calcium, and uric acid form into crystals because there isn’t enough fluid available to dilute them and flush them out. To found out how to flush kidney stones naturally and which nutrients help inhibit kidney stone formation, read on.

What's in a kidney flush diet?

The Kidney Flush Diet

The first ingredient in a kidney flush diet is always plenty of water—our bodies are made of nearly 60% water, and it’s needed for everything from brain to blood to every organ in between, including and especially for kidney function. After you’ve got a few glasses of water in you, you’ll want to try these other foods that contain natural kidney health support. Let’s see how they work.

Kidney-Cleansing Foods

Here are the front-runner foods for kidney-boosting nutrients.

1. Cranberries

Cranberries are well-known for being beneficial to the bladder and urinary tract. Not only can they help cure urinary tract infections (UTIs), but they can also help prevent them, and that benefit extends to the kidneys as well.

This study from 2013 found that sweetened, dried cranberries consumed over a 2-week period reduced incidents of UTIs, thus helping to protect the kidneys from a spreading UTI infection.

Include dried cranberries in a salad, a trail mix, or a dessert, and you’ll be doing your kidneys a favor.

2. Seaweed

Brown seaweed can benefit the kidneys, the liver, and the pancreas too. A 2014 study showed that rats who were fed seaweed for 22 consecutive days had reduced levels of damage from diabetes in both their livers and their kidneys.

A little dried seaweed can be eaten as a snack any time, a savory bit of crunch you can easily keep in your pantry, your car, or your desk at work.

3. Grapes

Grapes (along with certain other berries and peanuts) contain resveratrol, the plant compound that makes a glass of red wine beneficial to your heart health. It turns out, as this 2016 study shows, that resveratrol can act as an anti-inflammatory agent in treating polycystic kidney disease.

A baggie of grapes can be easily tossed into your lunch box, or you can freeze your grapes, preserving them longer and turning them into a fun summer treat.

4. Foods with Calcium

What does calcium have to do with your kidneys? Calcium binds with oxalate in the kidneys, preventing it from forming into kidney stones. While it’s true that too much of either one and not enough water intake to dilute them can form kidney stones, high-calcium foods like tofu, almond or soy milk, and fortified breakfast cereals help to balance out the minerals in your kidneys and reduce the risk of kidney stone formation.

5. Beets

Beets are rich in nitric oxide, which not only helps to cleanse the blood, but also contributes to kidney function. The Indian Journal of Nephrology published a 2015 study that revealed a lack of nitric oxide is a contributor to kidney damage, so getting a sufficient amount helps act as kidney support.

Kidney-Cleansing Drinks and Teas

Drink to your kidneys with these kidney-cleansing beverages.

1. Fruit Juices

If you’re wondering how to flush out kidney stones fast, fruit juices might be the answer. Not all kidney stones can be passed safely, so if you suspect you have a kidney stone (the pain will make itself very clear), get medical advice before trying to deal with it on your own.

If it is a matter of naturally passing the stones, melon, lemon, and orange juice can help prevent kidney stones from forming in the future by providing citrate (which can bind with calcium). Increasing your fluid intake also helps clear out kidney stones as quickly as possible.

Make a habit of drinking a glass of fresh juice each day and you’ll be doing your kidneys a great service.

2. Hydrangea Tea

Hydrangeas are not just for landscaping. Those beautiful blooms can also help your kidneys. A 2017 animal study found that subjects given Hydrangea paniculate extract for just 3 days gained more protection from kidney damage, a benefit attributed by researchers to the antioxidant content of the plant.

3. Sambong Tea

A tropical shrub originating from India and the Philippines, sambong (Blumea balsamifera) is a medicinal plant that has been scientifically shown to decrease the size of calcium oxalate crystals, meaning it could help prevent kidney stone formation.

Kidney-Cleansing Supplements

Here are the key nutrients you may want to focus on supplementing with for a kidney flush.

1. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is needed to metabolize glyoxylate into glycine. If there isn’t enough vitamin B6 available, glyoxylate may become oxalate instead, and too much oxalate can lead quickly to kidney stones and block urine flow.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most American diets are far too high in omega-6 fatty acids, and extremely low in omega-3s. Researchers have found evidence that too high omega-6 levels could lead to kidney stone formation. To correct that ratio, a reduction of omega-6 foods (anything fried in or containing vegetable oils) and an increase of omega-3s is needed. Omega-3 fatty acids can be gained from eating oily fish like salmon or mackerel, or by taking a high-quality fish oil supplement containing both EPA and DHA.

3. Potassium Citrate

Not only can potassium citrate help reduce kidney stone formation, but it also aids in balancing the pH content of your urine. Potassium is also needed to control the electrolyte content of your urine.

Be Kind to Your Kidneys

Your kidneys filter your blood, and one of the best ways to nurture healthy kidneys is to make sure you eat well and avoid gumming up the works as much as possible. Should you have a medical condition that makes kidney function more difficult, consult with a trusted health professional about these and other natural remedies to protect two of your most vital organs.

Kidney Infections: The Symptoms and Solutions

Kidney infections: what are the symptoms, what causes them, who’s most at risk, and how can they be cured? These important kidney-related questions are answered here.

A kidney infection is a serious health condition that needs immediate medical treatment. This article details the signs and symptoms of kidney infection, the diagnostic process, and the treatment options so you can determine whether or not it’s time to seek medical care.

What Is a Kidney Infection?

The medical term for an infection in your kidneys is pyelonephritis. It can develop from urinary tract or bladder infections that spread to one or both of your kidneys, and it can be a life-threatening condition. If you experience the following symptoms, seek medical evaluation immediately.

The Symptoms of a Kidney Infection

This list includes possible kidney infection symptoms, and due to the seriousness of such infections, if you experience them you’re encouraged to seek health care as soon as possible.

  • Cloudy urine (or urine containing blood or pus)
  • Pain in your groin, lower back, side, or abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Burning or painful urination
  • High fever
  • Chills

An untreated kidney infection can quickly lead to sepsis and possible death, so do not hesitate if you are experiencing these symptoms, or if you suspect them in a person you care for like a child or an elderly parent.

The Causes of Kidney Infection

Your kidneys reside in your upper abdomen. These two fist-sized organs filter waste out of your bloodstream and into your urine for elimination from the body. They also work to regulate your electrolytes and water retention and are vital to human survival.

Bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) can enter the kidneys via the urethra and bladder, where the bacteria can multiply and spread. Bacteria can also arise from other sources in the body and be spread via the bloodstream, or can arise from something blocking the flow of urine (like a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate).

The Risk Factors for Kidney Infection

Since we all have kidneys, we are all at risk of developing a kidney infection of some sort, but there are certain situations and conditions which make infection more likely.

  • Urinary catheter use: Because a catheter enters the urethra, it can introduce bacteria.
  • Compromised immune system: Taking immunosuppressant drugs, or having conditions like HIV/AIDS or diabetes, can increase the risk of kidney infection.
  • Urinary tract damage: Any damage that causes urine retention or backup can lead to kidney infection. Urine backing up into the kidneys is a condition known as vesicoureteral reflux.
  • Urinary tract infection: UTIs account for at least 1 in 30 kidney infection cases.
  • Being female: Due to the proximity between urethra and anus, plus the shorter urethra that characterizes female anatomy, women are statistically more likely to contract a kidney infection due to a UTI.
  • Being pregnant: Pregnant women are even more likely to have a kidney infection due to shifts that happen to the urinary tract during pregnancy.

If you have a UTI, seek medical intervention before it progresses to a severe infection. Likewise if you have unexplained lower back pain, abdominal pain (common kidney pain locations), or any other suspicious symptoms, consult a doctor as quickly as possible for treatment.

How Kidney Infections Are Diagnosed

A doctor may conduct a medical history survey to determine your health information and risk factors for kidney infection, and then order tests or conduct a physical exam of the genital area. Tests may include:

  • X-rays to assess for urinary system blockage
  • A rectal exam for men to evaluate the prostate gland
  • MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan of the kidneys
  • A urine culture to determine the type of bacteria involved
  • Urinalysis to check the urine for bacteria or white blood cell presence

Kidney Infection Treatment Options

Depending on the nature and severity of your kidney infection, treatment options may vary. Once your urine tests have been evaluated, a doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics, recommend you drink plenty of fluids to help clear out the infection, and issue other medical advice to help you avoid kidney problems in the future.

If you are given antibiotics, be sure to take them as directed and to completion to effectively eliminate the infection and avoid other serious complications like sepsis, chronic kidney disease, or kidney failure. Some instances may even call for surgical intervention and need prolonged medical attention.

Kidney Infection Recovery Tips

If you are sent home with a 2-week course of antibiotics, you can use a heating pad to help reduce your kidney pain or take over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen (avoid acetaminophen or Tylenol as it can cause more kidney harm). Be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water and/or cranberry juice each day to help your body clear out the bacteria afflicting your organs.

Take Care of Yourself and Your Kidneys

Kidney infections, especially if they are caught early enough, can be managed and completely cured. Your kidneys are some of the hardest-working organs you’ve got detoxifying your body every day, so if you suspect they’re in danger or besieged by bacteria, seek medical assistance right away to get them back to functioning.

Kidney infections: symptoms and solutions.

Liver Flush: What Ingredients Actually Help Liver Function?

Will a liver flush or cleanse actually work? Find out what damages your liver, and which supplements and foods can actually help prevent liver disease.

Your liver is the undefeated detoxifier. Along with your kidneys, it’s the organ that detoxes you, and there’s only so much you can do to help detox it. That being said, while a liver flush is not as simple a concept as, say, clearing out your rain gutters with a high-powered spray of water, there are things you can do to support your liver’s natural detoxification processes, so it can flush itself and your entire body of any toxins swirling around in your bloodstream. This article details what substances can harm your liver and which liver aids have scientific reasoning behind them.

Liver Flush: Fad vs. Fact

Your liver is your largest internal organ. As big as an average football, the liver resides on the upper right side of your abdomen, above your stomach but beneath the divide separating your lungs from your guts: the diaphragm.

Many homemade liver cleanse concoctions involve fruit juice (organic apple juice, lemon juice, grapefruit juice), along with epsom salt and extra virgin olive oil. Some go so far as to suggest a coffee enema, but which one if any of these ingredients actually benefits your liver, and how? Let’s first dispel some misconceptions, and then read on for a list of foods and beverages that are proven to benefit your liver.

Is There Anything Useful in Liver Supplements?

Your liver is unique among your organs because it has the ability to heal and regenerate itself that other vital organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys simply do not have. While you need to consume certain substances such as essential amino acids and antioxidant vitamins to support even your most basic functions, most of those nutrients can be found naturally in whole foods.

Many supplements on the market are sold without clinical testing or FDA approval, but there are certain ingredients that have been proven scientifically to help the liver do its job.

Can a Liver Flush Help with Weight Loss?

There really is no quick shortcut to losing weight. There are only two ways to shed body fat: one is burning more calories than you consume and the other is consuming fewer calories than you burn.

Because there are so many questionable claims surrounding liver cleanses on the market, studies have actually looked into and found that certain supposed liver-cleansing diets actually succeed in lowering your metabolic rate, therefore impeding weight loss rather than aiding it.

Instead of trying to find a shortcut to weight loss via your liver, focus on more tried-and-true methods of healthy weight loss (which in turn benefit your liver by cutting down on fatty deposits that may lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). You can do this by:

  • Reducing caloric intake. It’s recommended that women eat 1,600-2,400 calories per day, and men 2,000-3,000. Staying closer to the lower end of the appropriate range is ideal for both your waistline and your liver’s health.
  • Burning calories through exercise. To burn off the body fat you already have, especially dangerous abdominal fat that could be negatively impacting your vital organs, take up regular exercise. Even evening walks or gentle at-home morning yoga can help get harmful fat deposits off your body and away from your liver.
  • Upgrading your diet. The better foods you choose, the more you can eat. If you want to lose weight without feeling like you’re starving yourself, eat superior foods from each food group: whole vegetables and fruits, unrefined whole grains, lean proteins like fish, chicken, and eggs, and healthy fats like those in nuts and olive oil.

Will a Liver Detox Diet Help Prevent Liver Disease?

Liver disease can arise from many different conditions, the most well-known being hepatitis (from infection by the hepatitis A, B, or C virus), alcohol abuse (leading to inflammation of the liver, scarring, and ultimately cirrhosis), and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can come about through poor exercise and diet. The best way to prevent liver disease depends on the cause of it, and includes:

  • Safe sex and hygiene practices: Hepatitis can be contracted through unprotected sex, needle-sharing, or from mother to child during birth.
  • Alcohol moderation: The best way to prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease and other adverse health conditions (like kidney damage) is to drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
  • Proper diet and exercise: To prevent the buildup of fat in your liver (not to mention your arteries), eating well and exercising regularly are key.

While the liver can recover and repair itself, once there is scarring of the liver tissue, that scarring cannot be reversed. Severe scarring of the liver is known as cirrhosis, and can ultimately lead to liver failure and death.

Avoiding fatty foods by choosing a liver detox diet can only prevent some of the risk factors for liver disease, not all, so be careful with your liver—unlike your kidneys, it’s the only one you’ve got.

If you have a family history of liver disease, consult a health care professional for medical advice on how to maintain optimal liver function.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Liver

There are foods and substances that can help cleanse or flush your system and aid liver health, but before we get to dietary solutions, here are other things you can do to maintain a healthy liver.

1. Vaccinate Against Hepatitis

Some forms of hepatitis are incurable, and preventing infection is the best way to make sure your liver does not have to suffer damage from the disease. Hepatitis viruses are not just sexually transmitted; they can be caught during travel to countries with unsanitary conditions, by healthcare workers who work in close proximity with infected patients, or from tattoo parlors with unsafe needle practices. The proper hepatitis vaccinations may save you from infection no matter how you’re exposed to these viruses.

2. Take Medications Cautiously and as Directed

No matter whether it’s a prescription or nonprescription drug, your liver must process the medication you take. If it’s possible to use natural remedies instead of pharmaceutical drugs, you may want to try those first.

If you need certain medications, take them as directed by your doctor (don’t stop a course of antibiotics for example when you start feeling better, as this can lead to drug-resistant viruses), and do not mix any medications with alcohol, including and especially over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol (acetaminophen), which should never be taken within 24 hours of imbibing alcohol, and vice versa.

3. Limit or Avoid Alcohol Intake

Liver damage from alcohol use is one of the most preventable conditions around. Alcohol is a poison, a toxin that your liver has to clean up. In fact, your liver has the lion’s share of the responsibility, as 90% of the alcohol you ingest is metabolized by your liver. The recommended limit is no more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men.

It’s not just liver disease you need to be concerned about with alcohol. When the liver metabolizes alcohol it converts it into acetaldehyde, which is a cancer-causing agent. While a glass of red wine with dinner is connected to heart health, excessive drinking and hard liquor consumption can cause inflammation, fatty buildup, and permanent scarring, which compromises your liver’s ability to detox your body, and no liver flush or cleanse can reverse that kind of damage.

4. Protect Yourself from Needles (and with Condoms)

If you need to use needles regularly for insulin injections or other medications, if you’re a healthcare worker who frequently handles needles, or if you are in the market for a tattoo, be proactive in making sure your needles are properly sterilized and never shared. Should you get stuck with a previously used needle, seek immediate medical attention, and do not take street drugs at all, especially if they involve injection.

Many viruses can be transmitted not just by blood, but via other bodily fluids as well. When engaging in intercourse, practice safe sex precautions like condom usage, dental dams, regular STD testing, and preventative medications like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

5. Handle Chemicals with Caution

Household chemicals, paint, insecticides, fungicides, etc. are all toxins you can inhale or ingest, and it is up to your liver to process and eliminate those toxins. Protect yourself by wearing gloves, a mask, and protective skin coverings (like long-sleeved shirts and pants) to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals you’re exposed to in any given situation.

6. Reduce Unhealthy Food Consumption

Salt, sugar, and processed foods can all be detrimental to your liver’s health. For example, consuming excessive salt can lead to fluid retention, water weight gain, and extra stress on both your kidneys and your liver. If you don’t consume enough water along with the salt, your body may produce an antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin) that prevents urination, and you’ll retain the water instead of using it to flush toxins from your system. In this situation, more water intake, decreased salt intake, or increased potassium could help, as potassium helps balance out the effects of sodium.

When it comes to sugar and processed foods, it’s a metabolic nightmare. Added sugars like refined sugar and corn syrup are permeating processed foods, from cookies and candies, to salad dressings, pasta sauces, and even granola bars. High sugar consumption not only can lead to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, but can also contribute to other chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Maintaining a healthy weight via diet and exercise can help prevent gallstone formation, which arises when you have too much cholesterol in your bile. Your gallbladder is attached to your liver courtesy of the common bile duct, and acts as a storage site for the necessary bile your liver produces. Bile that is thick with cholesterol can form stones that block your gallbladder or your liver (making them liver stones), and interrupt or damage the liver’s normal functioning.

Replacing junk foods with healthier alternatives, as well as eating more whole foods instead of processed ones, invariably leads to better health for you and your vital organs.

What ingredients work for a liver flush?

Healthy Foods for Liver Cleansing

So here we are: one of the best ways to help remove toxins from your bloodstream and your liver is to avoid consuming them in the first place. However, that begs the question, “What foods are good for a liver flush?” Here’s a list of foods and beverages that are particularly suited to promoting your liver’s health and helping it eliminate toxins.

1. Coffee

Good news: coffee is an excellent drink for liver health. It can protect against the development of liver disease, even for those who already have compromised liver function. For instance, multiple studies have shown that regularly consuming coffee lowers your risk for cirrhosis, even for those who already have chronic liver disease. Researchers urge those with liver disease to drink coffee, as many as 3 cups per day, because it may even lower the risk of death.

These amazing benefits are attributed in the above-linked studies to coffee’s ability to block collagen and fat buildup, two huge contributors to liver disease, and to aid in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps guard against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Coffee comes with many health benefits, including improved liver function.

2. Grapes

Darker grapes (purple and red) are famously well-known for containing resveratrol, the compound that makes red wine a heart-healthy beverage. Grapes and grape juices have been shown to benefit the liver in various animal studies, preventing damage from toxins and lowering unhealthy inflammation.

One human study conducted in 2010 found that supplementing with grape seed extract for 3 months improved the liver function of participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, leading to the supposition that consuming concentrated, unsweetened grape fruit juice could help those with even severe liver conditions feel better.

3. Grapefruit

Another fruit that can provide natural hepatoprotective (liver-protective) antioxidants is grapefruit, thanks to its concentrations of naringenin and naringin. These antioxidants have been shown to help guard against liver damage and help reduce dangerous inflammation. They can also discourage the development of hepatic fibrosis, a condition wherein connective tissue excessively builds up in the liver and causes chronic inflammation.

Naringenin specifically has been shown to increase fat-burning enzymes and prevent metabolic dysregulation, while naringin is known to improve alcohol metabolism and mitigate alcohol’s adverse side effects. So if you find grapefruit juice in a liver flush recipe, it has scientifically backed reasoning to be included, not to mention it’s a great source of vitamin C, another antioxidant that’s known to help prevent cold and flu infection.

4. Nuts

Full of the antioxidant vitamin E and high in healthy fats, nuts are great benefactors for heart health and possibly the liver as well. This observational study conducted in 2015 found that consuming walnuts helped improve liver enzyme levels of 106 participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And an observational study from 2014 demonstrated that men who consumed nuts and seeds in large amounts had a lower risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the first place.

5. Tea

Tea (especially green, black, and oolong tea) has been shown to consistently improve the health and longevity of those who consume it regularly. Tea consumption has also been found to benefit the liver in particular, as can be seen in this study of Japanese men who drank 5-10 cups of green tea each day and had improved blood markers of both cardiovascular and hepatic health. In another study of 17 participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, drinking green tea for a 12-week period decreased fat deposits in their livers, reduced their oxidative stress levels, and improved their liver enzyme levels.

Green tea has also been found to help prevent the development of liver cancer, and black tea too has been observed reducing the negative liver effects of a high-fat diet while also improving liver health blood markers. If you have an active liver condition, consult your doctor before supplementing with green tea extract, but if you’re just looking to flush your liver of toxins, drinking green tea is a strong place to start.

6. Dark Berries

Deep-colored berries like blueberries and cranberries contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins. This compound gives berries their rich colors and is connected to improved liver health. For example, cranberries can help prevent toxic liver injury, and blueberries can help positively modulate T-cell activity in the immune response to your liver.

Blueberry extract has even managed to inhibit human liver cancer cell growth in laboratory studies, and may someday have practical anti-cancer application in humans.

7. Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice contains betalains, nitrates that function as antioxidants for heart health. When it comes to the liver, beetroot juice also serves to increase your production of natural detoxification enzymes, improving your liver’s detox capacity. It also lowers inflammation levels in the liver and blocks oxidative stress damage.

8. Prickly Pear

The prickly pear, aka Opuntia ficus-indica, is an edible cactus that you may remember from the song “The Bare Necessities” in Disney’s The Jungle Book. A long-standing staple of traditional medicine, the prickly pear is used in modern medicine to treat wounds, ulcers, liver disease, and even hangovers.

That’s right: those who overindulge in alcohol and wake up the next morning with symptoms like dry mouth, nausea, and lack of appetite may lessen the severity of those ill effects according to this study from 2004. This is thanks to the detoxification-enhancing abilities and anti-inflammatory properties of the prickly pear. A more recent study from 2012 on rat models found that prickly pear helped protect the liver from the after-effects of alcohol consumption as well.

9. Fatty Fish

You might not think nonalcoholic fatty liver disease could be helped by eating more fat, but it’s the quality of fat that counts, as well as the omega-3 fatty acid content. Eating oily, fatty fish like salmon or halibut is well-known to be good for heart and cholesterol health, and consuming fish oil may help alleviate arthritis inflammation.

Fatty fish are good for your liver health as well, because they can help balance your ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (most people in the modern world get far too much omega-6 and nowhere near enough omega-3 fatty acids), which is important because an imbalance between the two may help promote liver disease development.

10. Olive Oil

Olive oil can not only replace unhealthy refined vegetable oils in your diet, but it can also improve your liver enzyme levels, as was seen in this 2010 study of 11 nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients. As with fatty fish, olive oil is a healthy fat that can improve your metabolic rate, optimize insulin sensitivity, and even increase blood flow to your liver.

Liver, Laugh, Love

When it comes to optimal liver function, it’s half about what you add to your body, and half about what you abstain from adding. Avoid overtaxing your liver with poison like alcohol and drugs, but do be sure to make a habit of consuming detoxification aids like green tea, grapefruit juice, healthy whole foods, and the occasional nutrient supplement designed to provide the liver-protective nutrients you don’t naturally gain from food.

Fatty Liver Diet: How to Help Reverse Fatty Liver Disease

These 10 foods are central to the fatty liver diet, with science backing up what they can do to reverse fatty liver disease, decrease liver fat buildup, and protect your liver cells from damage.

Liver disease comes in two major types: alcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. About a third of American adults are affected by fatty liver disease, and it’s one of the primary contributors to liver failure in the Western world. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is often associated with obesity and is frequently caused by highly processed food diets and a sedentary lifestyle. Treating fatty liver disease by eating a fatty liver diet can help reduce the amount of unhealthy fats in your food and restore your liver to its optimal functioning so that it can go on producing digestive bile and detoxing the body.

Top 10 fatty liver diet foods.

Top 10 Foods for the Fatty Liver Diet

A fatty liver diet includes high-fiber plant foods like whole grains and legumes, very low amounts of salt, sugar, trans fat, saturated fat, and refined carbs, absolutely no alcohol, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eating a low-fat diet like this goes a long way in helping you lose weight, another factor in fatty liver disease. Reducing body fat and consuming less dietary fat help reverse fatty liver disease before it leads to dire health consequences, so consider these top 10 foods to be part of a fatty liver cure.

Top 10 fatty liver diet foods.

1. Green Vegetables

Eating green veggies like broccoli, spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, etc. can help prevent fat buildup in your liver. Broccoli, for example, has been shown to prevent liver fat buildup in mice models, and eating a diet full of green leafy vegetables is well-known for helping to encourage weight loss and better overall health. Try this recipe for Tuscan Vegetable Soup from LiverSupport.com to find out just how tasty vegetables can be when you include them in your diet.

2. Fish

Fatty fish like trout, salmon, tuna, and sardines are not bad for you just because they’re fatty—healthy fats make a world of difference. Fatty fish contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can actually improve your liver fat levels and reduce liver inflammation. Check out another low-fat recipe from LiverSupport.com for Cornmeal and Flax-Crusted Cod or Snapper to get an idea for fish dishes that could improve your health.

3. Walnuts

Walnuts are also a good source of healthy fat full of omega-3 fatty acids just like fish. Research confirms that including walnuts in one’s diet helps treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, improving liver function tests and bettering the health of patients.

4. Milk and Dairy

Low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt contain whey protein, which is not only a popular supplement for muscle growth among bodybuilders, but has also been shown to protect liver cells from damage sustained due to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to this 2011 animal-based study.

5. Olive Oil

A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is full of omega-3 fatty acids and can be used in cooking to replace butter, shortening, or margarine for much healthier meals. Olive oil can help bring down your liver enzyme levels and body weight. Start cooking with olive oil with this recipe for a Healthy Mixed Vegetable Stir-Fry.

6. Green Tea

The science behind green tea is extraordinary, leading researchers to believe that it can literally help you live longer. Studies support the conclusion that green tea can help enhance liver function and decrease liver fat storage as well.

7. Coffee

Speaking of beverages, coffee can help lower high liver enzymes. The Mayo Clinic points out that studies have found coffee drinkers with fatty liver disease experience less liver damage than those who don’t drink any caffeine at all, and further studies show that the amount of abnormal liver enzymes in those at risk for liver disease can be reduced by caffeine intake. If you were ever looking for an excuse to drink more coffee, now you have a really good reason.

8. Tofu

Soy protein like the kind found in tofu has been found to reduce fat buildup in the liver. Not only that, tofu and other soy products provide a plant-based protein that can help other areas of your health when eaten regularly, including reducing the risk of heart disease.

9. Oatmeal

Whole grains like oatmeal help lower blood sugar spikes and other risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and also contribute to weight-loss efforts and improve your liver health and function. Including oatmeal as part of a healthy diet can aid your digestive health as well. Check out these various oatmeal recipes from Yumma at FeelGoodFoodie.

10. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are full of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help fight off free radical damage in the body and protect the liver. This 2016 review of studies details vitamin E’s ability to protect the liver and avoid the development of liver cancer. A regular habit of snacking on sunflower seeds may just help save your life.

Fatty Liver Foods to Avoid

Now that you have some idea of what you should eat to combat fatty liver disease, let’s quickly review the foods that should be avoided.

  • Alcohol: It may seem obvious, but if your liver is at all compromised, alcohol is too dangerous to consume.
  • Fried foods: High in calories and trans fats, commercially fried foods should be avoided (if you love fried foods too much to say goodbye, try an air fryer instead as a healthy alternative).
  • Salt: Bad for your blood pressure and for water retention, try to keep salt intake under 1,500 milligrams each day.
  • Added sugars: Added and refined sugars in prepackaged products like cookies, candies, sodas, and fruit juices spike your blood pressure and contribute to fatty liver buildup.
  • White bread, pasta, and rice: White instead of brown or whole grain carbs are highly processed and stripped of their valuable nutrients, so they can raise your blood sugar without even contributing healthy fiber—hard pass.
  • Red meat: While fish and lean meat like poultry can help you gain muscle and lose excess fat (which leads to a healthier weight), red meat should be avoided.

Other Ways to Fight Fatty Liver Disease

In the hopes of avoiding chronic liver disease or even a liver transplant, first seek medical advice from a trusted health care professional to get blood tests done and evaluate your specific circumstances. Then, outside of perfecting your diet, these other avenues can help:

  • Lower your cholesterol levels. An improved diet will go a long way toward lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but so can medications or (if you prefer) natural remedies for optimizing your cholesterol ratios.
  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day makes a massive difference in your health and your energy levels.
  • Prevent/manage type 2 diabetes. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes often go hand-in-hand. If you’re prediabetic, making the above lifestyle changes could help you avoid the chronic condition that is diabetes. If you already have diabetes, staying on top of managing the disease can help you avoid a number of other painful health conditions and adverse results.

Livers for Life

Incorporating the 10 foods listed above into your diet and replacing unhealthy foods with better alternatives can help you lose weight and better the health of your liver before it’s too late.

Amino Acids for Skin Tightening

Amino acids for skin tightening, anti aging, collagen building, and hydration: find out which amino acids are effective to have in your skin care products.

When searching for an anti-aging advantage, many people will turn to cosmetic and skin care products for replenishment and support. Whether it’s a moisturizer to cut down on redness or eye wrinkle cream meant to tighten the skin back up, the question is what substances actually work? When it comes to skin health, collagen production is key, and this article explains which amino acids for skin tightening and rejuvenation can help on the outside (from topical products) and within (for nutritional support).

What Is in Most Wrinkle Creams?

Let’s quickly review which ingredients in topical creams are meant to reduce wrinkles and prevent or reverse the symptoms of aging on skin. The following ingredients have been shown to be effective in improving the appearance of wrinkles.

  • Vitamin C: This antioxidant is known to protect your skin against sun damage when applied to the skin in a topical cream.
  • Retinol: Vitamin A, or retinol, is an antioxidant compound that helps to fight against free radical damage and oxidative stress that breaks down your skin cells.
  • Hydroxy acids: Alpha, beta, and poly hydroxy acids work as exfoliants to help remove dead skin cells and encourage new, smoother skin cell growth.
  • Coenzyme Q10: This enzyme helps to protect against sun damage and reduce finer wrinkles around the eyes, making it a regular ingredient in eye wrinkle cream.
  • Grape seed extract: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and promoter of wound healing, grape seed extract is sometimes included in skin cream.
  • Peptides: Peptides can help ameliorate stretch marks, encourage wound healing, and reduce wrinkles.
  • Niacinamide: This antioxidant similar to B3 (niacin) promotes hydration and skin elasticity.
  • Tea extracts: Black, oolong, and green tea extracts have plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Green tea extracts specifically are commonly found in topical wrinkle creams.

Amino Acids for Skin Tightening

Now that you know what’s usually in skin care cream, what about amino acids? These building blocks of protein in the body do more than just build muscle—they regulate your hormones and create necessary chemical substances that help keep you alive and healthy.

But what about aminos as components of skin care products? Do amino acids do better inside or outside the body, and are they effective in wrinkle creams? Here are the amino acids that have the greatest impact on your skin’s health, and how they are best applied.

What Are Amino Acids?

There are 20 main amino acids in the human body, and they are divided into two categories: essential and nonessential. Essential amino acids are the 9 aminos you need to consume from outside sources, while the remaining 11 nonessential amino acids can be synthesized by your own body so long as it has the right ingredients.

  • The essential amino acids include: Leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, histidine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. They can be found in animal meat (poultry, seafood, beef), animal products (eggs, dairy), and in certain high-protein plant foods (soy products, legumes, beans, and nuts).
  • The nonessential amino acids are: Alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Each of these aminos are made by the natural bodily functionings of most healthy adults.

Amino acids for skin tightening and anti aging.

Amino Acids for Collagen and Skin

Amino acids are a natural part of the skin, keeping it hydrated, supple, and alive. Amino acids are also what make up our collagen molecules, collagen being one of the most abundant proteins in our bodies. Collagen makes up the connective tissues in our bodies like our muscles and tendons, it’s in our hair and our fingernails, and it’s also about 70% of our skin’s protein content. Collagen is a peptide because it has between 2 and 10 amino acids that make it up. Those amino acids are:

  • Arginine: The “anti-aging” amino acid that can repair visible skin damage.
  • Glycine: The simplest naturally occurring amino acid we have, glycine improves moisture retention, increases our collagen production, and promotes skin regeneration.
  • Proline: The producer of cartilage and the collagen that aids wound healing.
  • Hydroxyproline: Made from proline and lysine, this amino acid derivative makes up a good portion of fibrillar collagens.

The other amino acids that contribute to healthy skin are:

  • Histidine: An antioxidant that can help soothe skin.
  • Methionine: Works by eliminating the damaging substances that can harm our skin.
  • Lysine: Helps firm skin’s surface by aiding its supportive structures.
  • Leucine: Diminishes wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

How Do Amino Acids Work for Skin?

One way amino acids improve skin health is by working with aquaporins, which transport water throughout the body and provide moisture for our skin. Aquaporins can also encourage hydration when applied to the skin’s surface with a cosmetic product.

While some amino acids serve as antioxidants, others help the skin create its own antioxidant supply, including the antioxidant glutathione, which helps fortify the skin when applied topically, preventing the signs of aging that are caused by environmental damage.

Synthetic amino acids in skin care products have been shown to be just as effective and sometimes better than plant- or animal-derived aminos. Great news for those who are conscientious about leading a vegan lifestyle, because you can avoid animal products and still enjoy the benefits of amino acid skin-tightening support.

How Do Amino Acids Work with Other Ingredients?

The amino acids in collagen peptides and the amino acids that support skin health and hydration in other ways work in concert with one another. High-quality skin care products may contain additional ingredients that help facilitate that dance, and those substances include:

  • Hyaluronic acidA key molecule in aiding skin moisture, hyaluronic acid has a unique capacity for retaining water.
  • Omega fatty acids: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can help treat skin disorders with dermatological application.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin has been shown to help improve skin hydration, especially when combined with hyaluronic acid.
  • Ceramides: These are lipids that help shield the skin from damaging environmental influences, and can be used topically as a therapy for dermatoses.
  • Other collagen-like peptides: Anti-aging collagen-like peptides have significant effects on reducing wrinkles.

Aging Gracefully and Scientifically

Amino acids help make up our skin, and consuming the correct proportions of essential amino acids can contribute to anti-aging, as can applying certain amino acids as skin treatments. Amino acid need is universal in humans, and amino acid skin-tightening treatments can work for all ages and all pigments of skin.