Stressed…..?

Stress! We have all heard this word and in some cases it is becoming a popular mantra.  In my much younger days “stress” was often a term used for a difficult job.  Now we hear this word all the time to describe even what some might term as a “relaxing” day.  How did we become so stressed in this life and how is this affecting our body.  Can certain relaxing exercises or just sitting all day cause stress to a body?

The first thing that we need to define is the word stress.  Stress means

stress
stres/
noun
pressure or tension exerted on a material object.
a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
give particular emphasis or importance to (a point, statement, or idea) made in speech or writing.
subject to pressure or tension.
It has often been my thought that the majority of the world’s population is so stressed because we no longer take extended amounts of time just letting our mind relax.  The human body has often interested me and the more I learn about how our body tries to compensate with the treatment we give it the more it affirms my strong belief in a loving Creator.
When we are sleeping at night our bodies are not resting as much as one might think, instead it has to process and manufacture all the things that you put into it or do to it.  We live in a constant state of stress and anxiety because (my personal belief) there are very rare moments when there is absolute peace and quiet so your mind can process everything you have put into it and have done.
My own personal experience that I was like to share so that others will be warned not to repeat: due to actions directed towards myself and my siblings I maintained many years of negative thinking.  Even in moments of “quiet” time I spent much time reliving the anger, pain and disappointment of my life.  I also worked very physical jobs in the nursing field which added more “stress” to my body.  I drove to work with the radio blasting, would come home, talk or listen to TV which reiterated the anger that I had.
When I had moments on the weekend for my “mind” to relax this led to more “stress” because there was not a proper outlet for all these thoughts and emotions. I had not learned how to deal properly with my anger and negative thinking.  I have recently taken notice that the majority of my “internal” talk is I am mad about this or that…..  Someone didn’t do what I wanted them to do therefore, I am upset with them regarding it…This will feed the negative thinking.
This is an excerpt from a website that details the effects of chronic stress:

1. Stress creates free radicals that kill brain cells.

Cortisol creates a surplus of the neurotransmitter glutamate.

Glutamate creates free radicals — unattached oxygen molecules — that attack brain cells much in the same way that oxygen attacks metal, causing it to rust.

Free radicals actually punch holes in the brain cell walls, causing them to rupture and die.

Stress also indirectly contributes to other lifestyle habits that create more free radicals.

If stress causes you to lose sleep, eat junk food, drink too much alcohol, or smoke cigarettes to relax, these are contributing to your free radical load.

2. Chronic stress makes you forgetful and emotional.

Memory problems may be one of the first signs of stress you’ll notice.

stressed womanMisplaced keys and forgotten appointments have you scrambling, further adding to your stress.

If you find all this stress is making you more emotional too, there’s a physiological reason for this.

Studies show that when you’re stressed, electrical signals in the brain associated with factual memories weaken while areas in the brain associated with emotions strengthen.

3. Stress creates a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety.

Stress builds up an area of your brain called the amygdala.

This is your brain’s fear center.

Stress increases the size, activity level and number of neural connections in this part of your brain.

This makes you more fearful, causing a vicious cycle of even more fear and stress.

4. Stress halts the production of new brain cells.

Every day you lose brain cells, but every day you have the opportunity to create new ones.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that’s integral in keeping existing brain cells healthy and stimulating new brain cell formation.

It can be thought of as fertilizer for the brain.

BDNF can offset the negative effects of stress on the brain.

But cortisol halts the production of BDNF resulting in fewer new brain cells being formed.

Lowered levels of BDNF are associated with brain-related conditions including depression, OCD, schizophrenia, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Stress depletes critical brain chemicals causing depression.

Your brain cells communicate via chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Chronic stress reduces levels of critical neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine.

Low levels of either of these neurotransmitters can leave you depressed and more prone to addictions.

Serotonin is called the “happy molecule.” It plays a large role in mood, learning, appetite control, and sleep. Women low in serotonin are prone to depression, anxiety, and binge eating. Men, on the other hand, are more prone to alcoholism, ADHD, and impulse control disorders.

Dopamine is the “motivation molecule, it is in charge of your pleasure-reward system. Too little dopamine can leave you unfocused, unmotivated, lethargic, and depressed. People low in this brain chemical often use caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and illicit drugs to temporarily boost their dopamine levels.

Serotonin-based depression is accompanied by anxiety and irritability, while dopamine-based depression expresses itself as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life.

6. Stress puts you at greater risk for mental illnesses of all kinds.

The root cause of most mental illnesses is not yet understood.

If answers are ever found, the causes will most likely be a complex variety of factors.

Recent research has discovered physical differences in the brains of people with stress disorders.

Their ratio of the brain’s white matter to gray matter is higher. Stress predisposes you to developing a variety of mental illnesses including anxiety and panic disorders, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug addiction and alcoholism.

7. Stress makes you stupid.

Stress can cause your brain to seize up at the worst possible times — exams, job interviews, and public speaking come to mind. This is actually a survival mechanism. If you’re faced with a life and death situation, instinct and training overwhelm rational thought and reasoning. This might keep you from being eaten by a tiger, but in modern life this is rarely helpful.

Stress impairs your memory and makes you bad at making decisions. It negatively impacts every cognitive function.

8. Chronic stress shrinks your brain.

Stress can measurably shrink your brain.  Cortisol can kill, shrink, and stop the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the part of your brain that stores memories. The hippocampus is critical for learning, memory and emotional regulation, as well as shutting off the stress response after a stressful event is over.

Stress also shrinks the prefrontal cortex. This negatively affects decision making, working memory, and control of impulsive behavior.

9. Stress lets toxins into your brain.

Your brain is highly sensitive to toxins of every kind.

blood brain barrierThe blood-brain barrier is a group of highly specialized cells that acts as your brain’s gatekeeper.

This semi-permeable filter protects your brain from harmful substances while letting needed nutrients in. Stress makes the blood-brain barrier more permeable, in effect making it leaky.

This lets things into the brain you don’t want there such as pathogens, heavy metals, chemicals, and other toxins.

Having a leaky blood-brain barrier is associated with brain cancer, brain infections, and multiple sclerosis.

10. Chronic stress increases your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

One of the most worrying effects of stress on the brain is that it increases your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is the #1 health fear of American adults, even more so than cancer. Alzheimer’s is now the sixth leading cause of death.

One in three US seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. And it’s the most expensive disease in the country. There is no simple “magic bullet” to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Common sense advice includes eating a healthy diet low in sugar and high in brain-healthy fats, getting physical exercise, not smoking, staying mentally active, avoiding toxic metal exposure, and minimizing stress.

It’s been found that stress, particularly stress that occurs in midlife, increases risk of Alzheimer’s. Anxiety, jealousy and moodiness in middle age doubles your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Chronic stress and elevated cortisol contributes to dementia in the elderly and hastens its progression. (44)

11. Stress causes brain cells to commit suicide.

Stress leads to premature aging on a cellular level, causing cells in both your body and your brain to commit suicide prematurely.

To understand how this happens, we need to take a look at a part of your chromosomes called telomeres.

You may recall from high school biology that when a cell divides, it passes on the genetic material to the next cell via chromosomes.

telomeresTelomeres are protective endcaps on our chromosomes similar to the plastic tips on shoelaces. (Telomeres are shown in contrasting colors to the rest of the chromosome in this image.)

Every time a cell divides, the telomeres get a little shorter. When they reach a critically shortened length, they tell the cell to stop dividing, acting as a built-in suicide switch.

Subsequently the cell dies.

Shortened telomeres lead to atrophy of brain cells and longer telomere length leads to the production of new brain cells.

Telomere length may be the most important indicator of biological age and disease risk.

Some researchers believe it’s a better predictor of your risk for age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer than conventional diagnostic tools.

12. Chronic stress contributes to brain inflammation and depression.

A little-known fact is that the brain has its own immune system.

Special immune cells called microglia protect the brain and spinal cord from infections and toxins. Unfortunately, a microglial cell has no on or off switch, so once it is activated, it creates inflammation until it dies.

Chronic stress is one of the factors that increases the risk of activating your microglia, thus producing brain inflammation. It’s generally believed that depression is caused by serotonin deficiency, but there’s a growing body of evidence that brain inflammation is the root cause of depression instead.

This theory is called the “cytokine model of depression.”

Activated microglia produce cytokines — proteins that turn on the inflammation response in the brain. Cytokine production is linked to depression including major depressive disorder and risk of suicide.

It’s also associated with anxiety, memory loss, and inability to concentrate, as well as some serious disorders including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.

On Top of All That …

Chronic stress destroys your happiness and peace of mind.

It wears you down mentally and emotionally, and saps the joy from life.

Some side effects of stress that impact your mental well-being include:

  • excessive worry and fear
  • anger and frustration
  • impatience with self and others
  • mood swings, crying spells or suicidal thoughts
  • insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
  • trouble concentrating and learning new information
  • racing thoughts, nervousness
  • forgetfulness, mental confusion
  • difficulty in making decisions
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • irritability and overreaction to petty annoyances
  • excessive defensiveness or suspicion
  • increased smoking, alcohol, drug use, gambling or impulse buying

It’s no fun experiencing these stress symptoms. It’s no picnic for those around you either.

5 Simple Steps to Help a Chronically Stressed Brain

We wouldn’t leave you with all this bad news with no solutions.

Minimizing stress and protecting your brain against its effects is easier than you might think. Here are five simple tips to stop stress in its tracks and overcome its harmful effects on your brain.

  1. Build a deeper relationship with your Heavenly Father. We were created with a need for our Heavenly Father and the peace of being in His will give you a sense of purpose beyond anything you could have dreamed.
  2. Stop free radical damage by eating a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods like fruit, vegetables, dark chocolate, and green tea.
  3. Increase levels of brain-boosting BDNF by getting daily physical exercise. It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Walking is excellent, as well as relaxing physical exercise such as light weights or low intensity cardio.
  4. Start a daily meditation practice, such as spending quiet time in prayer. Meditation not only reduces stress, it’s a proven way to keep your brain young by keeping telomeres long.  Meditation is also the best tool for learning how to master your thoughts. Stress does not come from events in your life as much as it comes from your thoughts — your automatic negative reactions and cognitive distortions — about these events.
  5. Look into taking an adaptogenic herbal remedy. Adaptogens increase your resilience to stress while supporting overall health. They promote balance between feeling energetic and feeling calm. Examples of adaptogens include ginseng, holy basil, Arctic root, and bacopa.

Chronic stress may seem to be an unavoidable part of life, but these proactive steps will definitely reduce its wear and tear on your brain.”

How we react to situations can either improve or cause further health problems in our bodies.  If might behoove us to consider that our health disorders could mainly be caused by all the internal “stress” to our bodies.  We can change our eating to include boat loads of diets but if we don’t stop the constant drain to our organs and brain the change will only be temporary or non-existent.

Start today and take some time to relax, don’t think about anything.  If you want to focus on something memorize scripture verses that you can say while you relaxing.  Speak words of life all throughout your day!!  When a negative thought comes up change your mind to words of the Heavenly Father.

https://bebrainfit.com/effects-chronic-stress-brain/

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Aloe Vera struggles!

Hello! Calling all aloe vera/gardening experts!

Our aloe vera plant got a “little” sunburned when we put it out for sun, so we brought it inside to heal. However, it still does not seem to be reviving.
The leaf insides run with dark yellow resin when you cut them and the inside is still clear, but the outside of the leaf is quite brown and floppy.

We are calling all aloe vera lovers for suggestions on making this plant thrive not just survive.

Here is a photo of the plant:

We love all the healing properties of the aloe plant and  would really love to get it going to be the beautiful vibrant green it should be.

Any advice you have will help! Thank you and happy gardening!

Shalom,
Luann

Planning your next garden or landscape?

One concept to consider when you are planning and purchasing items for your garden or landscape project is; how well will your plants not only grow together but will they do better in solitude or with companion plants?  While learning about herbs and vegetables, we have found that it is important for survival for some species to grow together than with another one.   Companion planting will ensure the survival of your garden by keeping bugs or other problems for the plant at bay instead of attracting what can kill your garden if not planted appropriately.

The discussion below brings to mind that some plants will thrive if they are planted with others instead of alone..  It is definitely something worth considering:

Hay Bales for Gardening?

I just learned about this today.  If anyone has tried this themselves, please comment on your results!

 

Hay Bale Gardening: Effortless Food Production with No Weeds, No Fertilizer & Less Watering (VIDEO)


 

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Hay bale gardening is probably the most fun you’ll have growing your own food and herbs, requiring almost no work or maintenance.

After a search online to find the simplest and easiest “no work” gardening method, I stumbled upon straw bale gardening.  The concept is simple: You plant directly into bales of straw, and as the season progresses, the straw is broken down into virgin soil that nourishes the plants from inside the bale.  One amazing benefit of this method of gardening is that the bales provide a raised bed, which keeps predators away and makes picking your vegetal treasures at the end of the season easy on the back.  I watched every video I could find on the subject, and have since concluded that using HAY bales instead of STRAW bales is far superior.

Why Hay Bales are Superior to Straw Bales

Before we get into why hay bales are superior to straw bales, let’s first define what they are:
Straw bales are basically stalks of plants, usually corn, that have been dried out and baled together into various shapes and sizes.
Hay bales are grasses that have been dried and baled together.

In my research, the idea that hay bales may have seeds in them and could grow weeds is the same reasoning reiterated time and time again by proponents of straw bale gardening.  The reason why this idea holds little water is that when nitrogen is added to feed the bacteria and fungi to start the decomposition process of the bale, a process called “Conditioning your bale”, the interior of the bale can reach temperatures as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

The likelihood of seeds surviving these extreme temperatures is slim, and a number of other benefits that come from using hay bales make it a far superior approach in my opinion.

-Straw is likely made from genetically modified plant matter – The problem with straw bales is that they will usually be made of genetically modified corn or soy. Do you really want your food growing in decomposing genetically modified plant matter?


-No fertilizer needed with hay – Hay is made of dried grasses, and for its ability to convert sunlight and soil minerals into dense nutrition, it has been said that grass is the healthiest plant on the planet.  When we use hay bales for gardening (as opposed to straw bales), the compost that is formed within the bale to feed the plants is far superior in nutrition and, unlike straw bales, no fertilizer needs to be added to feed your plants throughout the season.

-Less Watering – Straw holds water less effectively than hay, so instead of watering once per day with hay bales, you might have to do it 2 or 3 times per day.

How to Grow a Hay Bale Garden

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The first step to growing a hay bale garden is to acquire your hay bales.  Take a look on your local classifieds like Kijiji or Craigslist and find a local farmer who is selling them.  Once you find a nearby farmer with 40lb hay bales for sale, email them and arrange a time to pick them up or have them delivered to you.

Once you have the bales and have arranged them in your yard, the next step is to “condition” your bales.  Buy yourself some 42-0-0 fertilizer, or some urea (nitrogen), and from here you will be introducing nitrogen into the bales over a 10-day period that will have the fungi, bacteria and insects breaking down your bales into fresh, virgin compost to feed your plants.  You can also pee on your bales, as it is high in nitrogen and minerals, so start saving up pee in bottles for a fertilizer cost savings of about $40.

Days 1,3,5,7,9 – Add 1/2 cup of nitrogen to your bales and spray them with water so the nitrogen will soak in.
Days 2,4,6,8,10 – Soak the bale with water only.

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During the conditioning process, the temperature of the bale will rise significantly, from my research, up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, the bales will become so hot that it’s important to keep the bales wet to eliminate the risk of a fire.  Although risk of fire is minimal, keep this in mind when deciding where to stage your bales.  When the conditioning process is complete, you’ll know it because the temperature inside the bale will have come back down from hot to warm.  Now you’re ready to plant!

MORE-STRAW-BALE-GARDENING-POTATOES-You’ll NEVER Grow Potatoes Any Other Way Again ! Step By Step Full Guide

Simply plant your vegetable seeds or germinated seeds into the bale, water them once a day and you’re on your way to healthy produce in a few exciting months.  The best part is, at the end of the season you’ll have yourself a heap of fresh compost that you can further compost or add to your other gardens or perennial plant beds for nourishment.

To read this article

 

Planting Time Calendar

As we are nearing toward spring and putting our new plants underground, check out “The Farmer’s Alamanac” for a guide on what seeds to start now and what to wait another month or two….  The link below is just an example.  Put in your information for planting guidelines for your area.  

PLANTING DATES CALCULATOR FOR MADISON, WI

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Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Email PrintFriendlyGet your Best Planting Dates! Our new ALL-SEASONS gardening calendar stretches from spring through fall planting. It not only tells you when to sow indoors and plant in the ground, but also when to harvest—and is customized to your location based on the nearest weather station.

Note: The planting calendar covers the 30 most popular vegetables, herbs, and fruit. For nearly 200 edibles, why not try our online Almanac Garden Planner for free here.

Enter a Location

We use historical data from your local weather station to calculate the best range of planting dates for your location.

SET UP YOUR REMINDERS

If you would like to receive planting reminders and a copy of this planting calendar by email, enter your email address below:

Set Up RemindersWe will send you reminders of when to plant these crops twice a month together with helpful gardening videos on alternate Fridays. You may unsubscribe from these emails at any time. We will also send you free Almanac.com newsletters. You can edit your email preferences by clicking the link at the bottom of any message. View our privacy policy and terms and conditions.

PLANTING CALENDAR

Planting calendar key
Plant Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Beans
Beet
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage (Summer)
Carrot
Cauliflower
Celery
Corn
Cucumber
Eggplant
Garlic
Kale
Leek
Lettuce
Melon
Okra
Onion
Parsnip
Peas
Pepper
Potatoes (Maincrop)
Pumpkin
Radish
Spinach
Squash (Summer)
Sweet Potato
Swiss Chard
Tomato
Watermelon

The Basics of Growing Cilantro, Oregano and Mint

So it’s been a while since the last Herbs Corner post and our family has been very busy since then. We have gone on various picnics, reconnected with friends and family, made delicious dishes and enjoyed the beautiful blessings of our Creator. It’s been so wonderful spending time with my family and I hope your families are having fun (and staying safe) in this sunny season.

sun
                                                               park outing on Memorial Day

Now because this is an herb blog, I decided it is high time I post some herb pictures for you plant lovers. Originally, it was just going to be a post about herbs and the lovely foods we eat with them ;). However, since some of you might be wondering how to plant cilantro, oregano and mint, this is for you.

Before we start, here’s a disclaimer: I am not an herb master or plant aficionado by any means, I am just a person with some firsthand knowledge of growing a small herb garden. I hope you will learn something from this post or at least discover an interest in using fresh herbs. If you are looking for more in-depth, scientific, well-researched stuff, please check out your local library, the internet or your local gardener’s class for more information.

Alright so we have a small (and by small, I mean microscopic) herb garden this year which consists of: one large, sprawling mint plant, 3 oregano plants and 1 cilantro plant. I took some pictures of these plants so you can get the visuals. All plants were planted in holes about 6-8 inches deep and get half to full sunlight. We have received a decent amount of rain here in mid-Missouri, averaging about 1-2 rainfalls a week during May. I have yet to see what June’s weather will bring, but hopefully the rain will keep coming.

Isn’t the oregano simply gorgeous?

                            bottom: oregano, upper left corner: cilantro, upper right corner: mint

We have only had the cilantro and oregano for about a week and half, but they seem to be doing well. The mint plant we have had for about 1-2 years, as it self-planted from the first time we bought it. For our family, herbs do tremendously well because they require little care and *ahem* water.

The cilantro does have a little wilting on it, but I’m reading that good circulation and frequent harvesting will produce a fuller, more robust plant. Frequent harvesting is a must with cilantro, which has a short seed cycle and quickly turns to coriander seed in hot weather. If you want the cilantro plant to grow back every year, use the amount you want and then let it seed (turn into a flowering coriander plant).

As for the oregano, it is quite full and beautiful. I haven’t seen anything wrong with it and prayerfully it won’t :). From my research and observation, growing oregano is strikingly similar to cilantro. Both plants love the sun, only require infrequent, thorough watering and need to be trimmed lightly to ensure robustness.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is our large mint plant. The funny thing is, we planted the mint one year and then it just started growing back the next year. As amateur (oftentimes failling) gardeners, our family was ecstatic when this plant came in. Although we really don’t use much mint, it was great to have a plant come to fruition.

For growing tips, I would recommend using your mint plant before it gets too large, giving it a decent amount of sunlight and using your mint plant before it gets too large. However if you happen to have an insatiable desire for mint, then by all means let it grow.
Our mint is contained in a brick planter, so spreading isn’t much of a problem, but if you want to avoid a tangled mess, definitely cut and trim your mint.

Well that ends my herb observations, I hope this post inspires you to get out and plant some herbs! I will be doing some posts in the future with some ideas for using cilantro, oregano and mint, but for now goodbye 🙂

-Sarah.A

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

THE AMAZING HEALTH BENEFITS OF APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
The Amazing Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
January 8, 2016
byThrive Market

What if there was a healthy, organic, and cheap miracle tonic that could facilitate digestion and detoxification, aid in weight loss, cure acne, and bring on shiny hair? Well, there is such a thing. It’s called apple cider vinegar.

Also known as ACV, this fermented liquid is loaded with friendly bacteria, which is what has made it such an obsession within the natural health community for years. But it’s not just a folk remedy—more and more of its health benefits are being proven with both anecdotal and scientific evidence, turning apple cider vinegar from hippie favorite to mainstream phenomenon in just a few years.

What is apple cider vinegar?

ACV is a vinegar made by crushing apples, squeezing out the liquid, and adding yeast in order to ferment its sugars. The liquid is converted into alcohol, to which bacteria is then added. As it’s allowed to ferment more, it develops acetic acid, which is the main compound and active ingredient in apple cider vinegar.

The result of this fermentation process is a light brown, murky liquid. It differs from distilled white vinegar mainly because it contains the “mother,” a cloudy sediment seen within the bottle, which boasts small amounts of proteins, enzymes, amino acids, and fiber—particularly pectin from the apples—as well as plenty of “good” bacteria, giving raw ACV tons of probiotic power. The best-quality ACV is organic, raw, undistilled, and unfiltered, like Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar.

This is What Apple Cider Vinegar Looks Like

Acetic acid makes ACV special

Despite some claims, ACV hasn’t exactly been found to contain high levels of nutrients and minerals. (However, some believe it may contain phytochemicals, which exist in plants to help them endure environmental stress; potentially these phytochemicals could do the same for humans.) But, one thing ACV is high in: acetic acid.

Acetic acid is naturally antimicrobial, which means it can kill bacteria and pathogens. This is what gives ACV such power to clean and disinfect. Some body ailments that it can purportedly cure, when used topically, are:

  • Nail fungus
  • Lice
  • Warts
  • Ear infections

Acetic acid is known to inhibit E.coli, which means ACV makes a great ingredient in preserving and pickling foods such as garlic and cucumbers. But acetic acid has tons of health benefits, too.

How ACV benefits weight loss

While the research on apple cider vinegar’s direct effect on weight loss are inconclusive, there are a number of processes it can affect that ultimately help with dropping pounds:

  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Aids digestion
  • Helps to detoxify the body

Lowers blood sugar

Also known as blood glucose, blood sugar is the concentration of glucose in the blood. High blood sugar occurs when the body either can’t make insulin or can’t respond to it properly—and the condition can accelerate aging and increase the risk of chronic diseases. People with diabetes may experience a glucose build-up in the blood (hyperglycemia), which can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve issues.

But research suggests ACV might help lower blood sugar. One study in the American Diabetes Foundation’s journal, Diabetes Care, found that diabetic individuals who ingested two tablespoons of ACV at bedtimeexperienced lower blood sugar levels upon waking.

Increases insulin sensitivity

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body absorb nutrients from food to use as energy. Eating carbohydrates increases blood sugar, and then the pancreas releases insulin to carry the sugar from the bloodstream to the organs. But a diet with excess carbs and sugars can decrease insulin sensitivity, meaning we need to produce higher-than-normal levels of insulin just to keep blood sugar stable. This makes it difficult for the body to convert carbs into energy, and instead it stores them as fat.

ACV may help increase insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant subjects, according to another study published inDiabetes Care.

Aids digestion

Enzymes in apple cider vinegar, as well as the fiber from the “mother,” may help the digestive process. Just like other acids, acetic acid can help the body to effectively absorb minerals from food. Scientists also believe that ACV can inhibit the digestion of starch, leading to fewer calories entering the bloodstream.

“THE ANTIGLYCEMIC EFFECT OF ACETIC ACID, THE ACTIVE INGREDIENT IN VINEGAR, HAS BEEN ATTRIBUTED TO REDUCED STARCH DIGESTION AND/OR DELAYED GASTRIC EMPTYING.” —ANDREA M. WHITE, PHD AND CAROL S. JOHNSTON, PHD

The “mother” also contains pectin, which can help to firm up stool and allow for healthy bowel movements, too. Because of these digestive benefits, ACV helps the body detox and can potentially lessen the workload of the liver.

Heart health benefits of ACV

As mentioned above, apple cider vinegar can help lower blood sugar, which already provides benefits to heart health. But there’s more.

Excessive LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, in the arteries increases the risk of serious cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and hypertension. The acetic acid in ACV has shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, according to a study published in the journal, Life Science:

“IN GENERAL, THE PRESENT STUDY INDICATED THAT CONSUMPTION OF APPLE CIDER VINEGAR CAN REDUCE THE LDL, TRIGLYCERIDE, AND CHOLESTEROL LEVELS IN PATIENTS WITH HYPERLIPIDEMIA. BESIDES, GIVEN THAT HYPERLIPIDEMIA IS A KNOWN RISK FACTOR FOR ATHEROSCLEROSIS, APPLE CIDER VINEGAR CAN BE USED TO PREVENT AND EVEN TREAT THIS COMPLICATION AND PROBABLY OTHER HEART PROBLEMS.”

Another study published in the journal, Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry found that the acetic acid in vinegar lowered blood pressure in rats, which also shows potential to improve cardiovascular health in humans.

ACV’s effect on cancer

The effects of ACV on cancer are largely contradictory and inconclusive. Various studies purport that ingesting vinegar can kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. One specific study found that ACV decreased esophageal cancer risk, but another indicated that it increases the risk of bladder cancer.

Side effects of apple cider vinegar

If the health benefits of ACV have you fired up and ready to take a swig of it, not so fast! Drinking too much undiluted apple cider vinegar can have some side effects:

  • Erosion of tooth enamel: Some people think ACV can help whiten teeth. That might be true, but it’s likely because it wears away the tooth enamel, which can ultimately lead to tooth decay. Because of its acidity, ACV is not ideal for dental care.
  • Aggravation of the esophageal wall: Another side effect of ACV’s acidity, drinking it undiluted for a prolonged period, can harm the esophageal wall.
  • Low potassium levels: In some cases, ACV may interact with prescription medication and decrease potassium, which is essential for kidney health.
  • Hypoglycemia: Since ACV has the ability to reduce blood sugar levels, some users, particularly those with type 2 diabetes, may experience abnormally low blood sugar. It’s a good idea to monitor blood sugar levels with a physician.

Maple-ACV Tonic

How to use ACV

Be sure to dilute ACV with water or other liquids when drinking. Try this tonic recipefor a miracle beverage that may:

  • boost digestive health
  • reduce fatigue and energize the body
  • suppress appetite
  • reduce water retention
  • settle tummy troubles
  • promote weight loss

Cook with it

Tossing it back isn’t the only way to ingest ACV—it’s a great healthy cooking staple. The punchy, sparkly-sour taste adds brightness to many dishes—especially salad. For the only salad dressing you’ll ever need, simply mix up these ingredients:

Here are some other super healthy, yummy recipes using ACV:

ACV + honey

Mixing apple cider vinegar with honey is believed to make powerful elixir. Some of the claims surrounding this drink are:

  • Relieves joint pain
  • Alleviates inflammation
  • Soothes chronic sore throat

After drinking ACV and honey first thing in the morning every day a month, one author at Simple Organic Life reported big changes. Her intense heartburn and frequent constipation and diarrhea subsided, she lost weight, felt more energetic throughout the day, and even noticed she no longer had bad breath in the morning.

To whip up your own ACV-and-honey tea, stir 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon raw honey into a cup of hot water. Sip it every morning, followed by a few glasses of water.

Apple cider vinegar around the house

Ready to banish bleach and other harmful, endocrine-disrupting, chemical cleaners from your home? ACV is a great alternative. Make an easy, powerful degreaser by combining equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. Pour into a spray bottle, shake, and spritz. This solution also works as a mildew spray for the shower.

A rich, all-natural wood polish is another great DIY cleaner: Combine ¼ cup ACV with 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

If the pungent scent of ACV has you missing conventional cleaners, no problem! Just add several drops of your favorite essential oil to your liking. For squeaky-clean freshness, we like lemon.

Apple cider vinegar can work wonders in the yard, too, especially as a safe, natural, and eco-friendly weed killer.Here’s the how-to:

  • Mix ½ gallon of ACV with ¼ cup table salt and ½ teaspoon liquid dish soap.
  • Spray the concoction directly onto unwanted weeds. Be careful to use it strictly as a spot treatment since it can kill other plants as well.

On the flip side, ACV can potentially act as a fertilizer to certain plants that love acidic soil, such as blueberry bushes, hydrangeas, and hibiscus. Mix 10 ounces of ACV with 10 gallons of water and pour on soil to help cultivate these plants.

Surprising ways to use ACV in beauty

Guess what? Some of our favorite ways to use ACV involve beauty—and we’re not alone. Its popularity as a beauty staple is growing every day. Here are two foolproof ways to use apple cider vinegar for amazing hair and skin.

Shampoo with baking soda, rinse with ACV

Famously known as the “no poo” method, this revolutionary hair routine involves “shampooing” hair with baking soda, and conditioning with ACV. The theory is that using this base and acid combo balances the hair’s pH. But since baking soda is highly basic, with a pH of 9, it might do more damage than good for the hair. According to Audrey Kunin, MD, author of the book DermaDoctor SkinStruction Manual: The Smart Guide to Healthy, Beautiful Skin and Looking Good at Any Age:

“ALKALINE SHAMPOOS STRIP THE HAIR’S NATURAL OILS AND DISRUPT THE ACID MANTLE, CAUSING DEHYDRATION AND LEADING TO POROUS, FRAGILE HAIR.”

However, an ACV rinse doesn’t seem to pose such risks—in fact, it can help offset that kind of damage. Each strand of hair is protected by a cuticle comprised of tightly woven scales that lay flat against the shaft and reflect light. When the hair’s normally acidic pH balance goes out of whack from a buildup of alkaline hair products, the cuticle comes undone, leaving hair prone to breakage and giving it a frizzy, dull appearance.

The acidity of ACV can rescue hair by restoring pH balance to help repair the cuticle. The result: ultra-shiny hair! Raw, unfiltered ACV also has natural alpha-hydroxy acid that can gently exfoliate the scalp and hair to remove dead skin cells and product buildup, so depending on your hair and scalp, after using it for awhile, you might be able to skip shampoo altogether.

Try this formula for the perfect ACV conditioning hair rinse:

Put ingredients into a spray bottle and shake every time before use. In the shower, spray solution generously onto wet hair, work into scalp and strands, and rinse.

DIY ACV Rinse

Apple cider vinegar as a toner

Apple cider vinegar’s pH-balancing properties and alpha hydroxy content also gives it major skin benefits. You can use ACV as the base for a DIY pore-cleansing toner that’s antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, acne-fighting, and exfoliating—and it’s so easy to make. Check out the recipe here.

ACV for dogs and cats

Yes, apple cider vinegar can do good for your furry friends, too! Fleas despise the acidic taste of ACV, so try adding a little of this vinegar to your pet’s drinking water. For a 40-pound dog, add one teaspoon ACV to one quart of water (adjust according to the animal’s weight). For both dogs and cats, a diluted 1-1 mixture of ACV and water can be sprayed directly onto their fur and skin. (Dilution is especially important for cats, who tend to have more sensitive skin.)

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