We all know the benefits of good oral hygiene. Regular brushing and flossing prevents tartar buildup, gingivitis, and periodontal disease with its painful, bleeding gums; it’s in all the toothpaste commercials. However, even people who brush regularly may still have bacteria hiding in their mouths, and these bacteria could lead to complications far beyond the teeth and mouth. Recent studies have shown that poor oral hygiene can cause illness in other parts of the body.
People who have diabetes are more prone to infections than non-diabetics, and this includes periodontal disease. Some studies indicate that periodontal disease and diabetes actually make each other worse; gum disease may make it more difficult for the body to regulate blood sugar. These studies also show that treating periodontal disease can help to relieve diabetes symptoms.
Periodontal disease sufferers are nearly two times more likely to be diagnosed with coronary artery disease as are people with good gum health. Research has yet to determine a cause for this tendency, but some scientists believe it has to do with the higher count of oral bacteria. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the bleeding gums. Once there, they attach to the fatty plaques building up in the arteries, leading to inflammation and an increased risk of blood clots.
The Journal of Periodontology reports that gum disease can increase the chance of respiratory infections like bronchitis, pneumonia, and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Oral bacteria can easily be inhaled and inflame the airways and lungs.
Memory and Dementia
Poor oral health may increase a person’s chance of memory deterioration. A study of 118 nuns aged between 75 and 98 discovered that the women who had fewer teeth were more likely to have some form of dementia. Researchers theorize that oral bacteria can spread to the brain either through the bloodstream or by way of the cranial nerves which run through the jaw. Oral bacteria may contribute to the development of the neural plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
How can you improve your oral hygiene and lower your health risks?
Keeping your mouth clean is the key. “Your teeth and gums should not bleed, be painful, or feel rough or sharp to your tongue,” explains registered dental hygienist Pam Atherton. “Your breath should be fresh for at least a couple of hours after brushing in the morning.” Here are some dentist-recommended techniques which can help improve oral health.
1. Don’t use too hard of a toothbrush. Brushes with hard and medium bristles can damage the teeth by scraping away the enamel over time and by hurting the tender gums. “Gum tissue can’t make a callous,” Atherton points out. The loss of enamel and gum tissue eventually exposes the root below the tooth and leads to sensitivity, pain, and possible bone loss in the jaw. Dentists and hygienists recommend toothbrushes with soft or extra soft bristles.
2. Floss before brushing. Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, DMD, a professor of periodontology at the University of Philadelphia School of Dental Medicine, explains that brushing after flossing helps to brush away any of the particles removed by flossing. For people who have difficulties using plain floss, Atherton recommends floss holders or floss picks.
3. Use proper brushing technique. Teeth should be brushed for a full two minutes, according to Atherton. “Make sure you brush your tongue and cheeks as well as the chewing surfaces to improve the removal of harmful bacteria in the crevices,” she says. Children can try brushing for the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or “The Alphabet Song” twice through at normal speed for each half of their mouths. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months.
4. Rinse with a mouthwash. People who rinse twice a day cut their risk of gum disease by 60 percent, according to Jeffcoat. The best mouthwash to use is one which has microbial protection against plaque, and the rinsing should last for about 30 seconds.
Because many people live a fast-paced lifestyle and have a very hectic schedule, they are forced to eat quick meals on the go. Today’s packaged meals are lacking in essential nutrients. They are also packed with processed chemicals. If you constantly eat the wrong types of food, then you may become lethargic, anxious and grouchy.
It is also important to note that a diet that is lacking in essential “happy” nutrients can cause us to gain weight. You are much more likely to overindulge on high-calorie foods when you are feeling stressed. This is how the never-ending unhappiness cycle goes: You eat bad foods, then you feel bad after you eat them. You feel so bad that you start eating worse, and then you feel even worse than you felt before.
Fortunately, you can shrink your belly and boost your spirits by eating brain foods. Yes, feeding your brain the right foods can boost your energy, improve your mood and keep you from reaching for the chip bag. Below are 11 foods that contain the essential nutrients that keep your brain and body healthy.
Mussels are very high in Vitamin B12, which happens to be a nutrient that many of us are lacking. Vitamin B12 helps insulate brain cells. This not only helps boost mood, but it also helps keep your brain sharp. Mussels also have small amount of selenium, zinc and iodine, which are nutrients that support thyroid health. What is another benefit that can be reaped from eating mussels? Mussels are low in fat and calories, but they contain a large amount of protein. That is why mussels are one of the healthiest seafood options that you can find.
2.) Swiss Chard
This leafy green is rich in magnesium. This nutrient helps increase energy levels. There was a 2009 study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry that showed that increasing one’s intake of magnesium can help reduce depression. Swiss Chard is not the only food that is rich in magnesium. Halibut, soybeans and spinach are some of the other foods that are an excellent source of this nutrient.
3.) Blue Potatoes
Blue potatoes are hard to find in the supermarket, but you should definitely look for them the next time that you go to the farmer’s market. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that give the blue spuds their color. Anthocyanins help reduce the inflammation that can decrease one’s mood. They also help boost short-term memory. Additionally, the skin from the blue spuds are rich in iodine, which is a nutrient that keeps your thyroid healthy. Black beans, egg plants and berries are examples of other foods that are rich in anthocyanins.
4.) Grass-Fed Beef
Grass-fed animals have higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, in their bodies. CLA is a happy fat that blasts belly fat and reduces stress hormones. Grass-fat beef is also low in fat, but contains more omega 3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Want another great grass fed option? Try lamb. Lamb is packed with iron, which is a nutrient that helps keep the mood stable.
5.) Dark Chocolate
The cocoa from chocolate improves blood flow to your brain and gives you an instant boost in concentration and mood. However, snickers do not count. Cocoa is the ingredient that is good for your body. Pure dark chocolate is your best choice. You should not overdo a good thing. There is a study that was recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology that said that you only need to eat a few ounces of pure dark chocolate per day.
Asparagus is one of the best plant-based sources of tryptophan. Tryptophan helps create serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Asparagus also contains folate. Studies have shown that 50 percent of depressed people have low folate levels. Eggs, turkey and tuna are other sources of tryptophan.
7.) Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt has more calcium than regular yogurt or milk. Calcium helps your brain release those feel-good neurotransmitters. People who do not get adequate amounts of calcium are prone to irritability, anxiety, slow thinking, impaired memory and depression. Greek yogurt is also abundant in protein.
Honey has kaempferol and quercetin, which are two compounds that keep the brain healthy, reduce inflammation and ward off depression. Additionally, honey does not raise your blood sugar as much as regular sugar does. You should add some honey to a bowl of oatmeal or a cup of tea. However, you should not overdo it. Honey contains 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar per tablespoon.
9.) Cherry Tomatoes
Tomatoes are abundant in lycopene, which is a nutrient that fights the inflammation that causes depression. It also helps protect your brain. Lycopene is in the skin of the tomato, so you should put some cherry tomatoes in your salad instead of slicing one tomato. You can also add olive oil to your tomatoes. Olive oil can help increase the body’s absorption of lycopene. You should also try organic tomatoes because they have more lycopene.
Coconut is filled with medium-chain triglycerides. Those fats improve your mood and brain health. You can put some coconut shavings in your oatmeal or yogurt. You can also put some coconut shavings in your smoothie.
Eggs are filled with B vitamins, iodine, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids. All of those nutrients help boost mood. They are also high in protein, which can give you energy and keep you feeling full longer. Furthermore, a study that was done in 2008 showed that people who ate two eggs for breakfast lost a lot more weight than people who ate a bagel for breakfast.
Most standard guides to improving your health will tell you the basics; eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise, drink plenty of water. They’re not quite as likely to tell you to have an active sex life. A recent survey taken by Healthy Women, a nonprofit organization, indicates that a majority of women have sex more because they feel obligated to do it than because they enjoy it. Unfortunately, these women are depriving themselves of the many health benefits sex provides even above and beyond the good feelings of the moment. Here are five examples out of the many health advantages sex can give.
Sex is a good workout. “You can burn anywhere from 85 to 250 calories every time you have sex,” explained Dr. Naomi Greenblatt, medical director of The Rocking Chair, a women’s wellness center in New Jersey. Different positions lead the participants to work different muscle groups. Sex has also been shown to have a cardiovascular benefit; a research study in Ireland discovered that men with active sex lives are 50 percent less likely to die of a cardiac event than their less active counterparts.
Sex can decrease stress levels. Dr. Greenblatt pointed out that sex causes the body to release endorphins, the hormones responsible for feelings of contentment and well-being. A 2002 study done at the State University of New York at Albany showed that women who have regular sex display fewer signs of depression than women who do not; furthermore, women who have regular unprotected sex showed fewer indications of depression than women who have regular protected sex. This study is consistent with other research indicating that sex is a mood-booster on its own and that the compounds in semen may also have mood lifting capabilities.
Sex can help with pain relief. According to Dr. Greenblatt, people on the verge of orgasm have five times more oxytocin in their bodies than they would ordinarily have. Oxytocin is known to relieve many sorts of pain, from arthritis to menstrual cramping.
Sex can boost your immune system. “People who have sex also tend to have higher levels of immunoglobulin A,” explains Dr. Greenblatt. Immunoglobulin A is an antibody produced by the body to protect the mucus membranes from infection by germs.
Sex can help maintain a youthful appearance. Scottish researchers designed a study which consisted of a panel of viewers looking at various women through a one-way mirror and attempting to guess the women’s ages. The women who were judged to be seven to 12 years younger than their true age turned out to be the ones who had sex most often, as many as four times per week. Dr. Greenblatt says sex can also elevate the body’s production of estrogen and vitamin D, which help keep skin and hair healthy.
Researchers do point out that the strong correlations between frequent sex and well-being do not necessarily mean that sex is the cause of good health. It may instead mean that people with better health are more interested in sexual activity. Even so, no evidence shows that sex is bad for the general population, so most people have nothing to lose by increasing the frequency of their sexual activity