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14 Surprising Health Benefits Of Wine

14 Surprising Health Benefits Of Wine

You pop open the cork after a killer day at the office, and the luscious wine flows in mellow drops into your shiny glass. Then this voice whispers in your ear. “Should I be drinking wine?” You try to make healthy food choices and go to the gym and yoga a few times a week. Are you negating your efforts with a few sips?  You know that over-indulging is a health no-no, but what about a glass of wine a few times per week?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely heard of the heart-healthy benefits of red wine. But this is not your big concern; you already exercise and eat pretty well.

Prepare to be amazed. More than just being heart-healthy, wine has a slew of surprising health benefits, many of which stem from resveratrol. Some plants make resveratrol to fight off bacteria and fungi, or to withstand a drought or lack of nutrients. Red and purple grapes, blueberries, cranberries, mulberries, peanuts, and pistachios are sources. Resveratrol may be the wonder ingredient responsible for many of wine’s benefits. Isolating the resveratrol does not yield the same powers, indicating that a constellation of forces act together to protect the body. Most studies focus on the benefits of red wine because white grapes do not contain resveratrol.

Prepare to be amazed and relieved. You’re about to learhow your wine-drinking ritual can be a powerful health elixir. Check out the following fourteen benefits of wine that go way beyond heart healthiness.

1. Live longer

That’s right. On the island of Ikarios, a recently discovered Blue Zone, people live longer than anywhere else in the world. Daily wine consumption is part of a dietary pattern that encourages long life through eating fewer animal-based foods and eating more plant-based foods. You’ll find the long-lived residents of Crete and Sardinia sipping dark red wine, a part of their anti-aging lifestyle. A 2007 study suggests procyanidins, compounds found in red wine tannins, help promote cardiovascular health. Wines produced in areas of southwest France and Sardinia, where people tend to live longer, have particularly high concentrations of the compound.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School uncovered evidence that resveratrol directly activates a protein that promotes health and longevity in animal models. Resveratrol increases the activity of sirtuins (longevity pathways), a group of genes that protects the body from diseases of aging.

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2. Get smarter

Resveratrol may help improve short-term memory. After just 30 minutes of testing, researchers found that participants taking resveratrol had a significant increase in retention of words and showed faster performance in the portion of the brain associated with the formation of new memories, learning, and emotions.

3.   Banish breakouts with wine

Resveratrol is able to inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria longer than benzoyl peroxide. And it works even better when combined with benzoyl peroxide.  So far, drinking the antioxidant is the best way to benefit from its properties. Topical application in creams has not been proven as effective – so imbibe your antioxidants in wine, fruits, and veggies rather than buying expensive creams.

4.  Wine may beat trips to the gym

Would you rather drink wine or slave away at the gym?  Scientists at the University of Alberta in Canada found that resveratrol improves heart, brain, and bone function; the same way these parts are improved when you go to the gym. Now imagine the benefits of doing both!

5. Say goodbye to the blues

You know wine helps you relax…but depression?  Researchers in Spain found that men and women who drank two to seven glasses of wine per week were less likely to be diagnosed with depression. Even when taking into account lifestyle factors which could influence their findings, the reduced risk held strong.

6. Reduce (not increase) your risk of liver disease

This study challenged conventional thinking about alcohol and liver disease. Modest wine consumption, defined as one glass a day, may decrease the prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). Modest wine drinkers, as compared to teetotalers, cut their risk of NAFLD in half. And compared with wine drinkers, modest beer or liquor drinkers had four times the odds of having suspected NAFLD.

7. Promote healthy eyes

Resveratrol stops out-of-control blood vessel growth in the eyes, according to Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. This may help with treatment of diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. Note that these studies were done in mice, so the dose for humans is not yet clear. But this is a great start.

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8.  Protect your pearly whites

Did you know that drinking wine is a little-known way to protect your teeth from bacteria? We mentioned wine’s antimicrobial effects on the skin. Well, it also helps reduce bacteria on our teeth.Using five of the common oral plaque-causing bacteria, scientists noted almost complete degradation of the bacteria after applying the biofilms with red wine.

9.  Cut multiple cancer risks

Breast Cancer

Red grapes are the fruit best able to suppress the activity of aromatase, the enzyme used by breast tumors to produce their own estrogen – this is called an aromatase inhibitor. Red wine may serve as a nutritional aromatase inhibitor, which may ameliorate the elevated breast cancer risk associated with alcohol intake. Note that you can also eat red grapes; those with seeds are especially helpful. Resveratrol is also thought to kill cancer cells by cutting off a pathway that feeds cancer cells.

Colon cancer

Studies show that moderate consumption of red wine can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 50%.

Prostate Cancer

Harvard Men’s Health Watch reports that men who drink an average of four to seven glasses of red wine per week have a 52% less chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer compared to those who don’t drink wine.  Red wine appears particularly protective against advanced or aggressive cancers. Doctors speculate that flavonoids and resveratrol contain potent antioxidants and may counterbalance androgens, the male hormones that stimulate the prostate.

10.  Stave off those pesky sniffles

So maybe grandma’s cold remedy isn’t so strange after all. A study looked at 4,000 faculty members at five universities across Spain. Those who drank wine were less likely to come down with a cold compared to those that drank beer or spirits. Researchers think that the antioxidants help lower inflammation and reduce the symptoms of colds.

11.  Lower your cholesterol (without changing your diet)

Resveratrol is thought to reduce LDL and increase HDL, meaning that our blood vessels are less likely to be coated with plaque. Even the American Heart Association admits that moderate consumption of any type of alcohol can increase your HDL, or good cholesterol, by about 12%.

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12. Reduce the risk of stroke

Wine may reduce your risk of ischemic stroke. In analyses adjusted for age, sex, and smoking, intake of wine on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis was associated with a lower risk of stroke compared with no wine intake.  The benefits were not seen in beer or hard alcohol consumption.

13. Regulate blood sugar levels without drugs

Red wine is abundant in polyphenols. The polyphenols in wine interact with cells involved in the development and storage of fat and the regulation of blood sugar.  The amount of polyphenols in a small glass of red wine appears to rival the blood sugar regulating activity of certain diabetes drugs.

14. Slash your diabetes risk

Men and women who drink moderately have a 30% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This may be due again to resveratrol, which improves sensitivity to insulin. Insulin resistance is the most important critical factor contributing to Type 2 diabetes risk.

Don’t make this crucial mistake

The monumental mistake people make is trying to buy these benefits in a bottle, rather than looking at how wine can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. We want to bottle it, sell it, and find that magic bullet.

Supplements have not proven to have the benefits of simple foods. Nature is complex, and we haven’t figured out how to put that in a bottle (and I hope we don’t).

The most important thing you can do is start to look at the big picture.

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Think of the slow-paced life of the Mediterranean and bring a little bit of that into your life.

Take time to prepare a simple meal packed with legumes and fresh vegetables.

Savor this meal.

Linger at the table with your friends and family.

And of course – enjoy a leisurely glass of wine without feeling guilty.

Featured photo credit: www.picjumbo.com via media.lifehack.org

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Last Updated on June 18, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

Video Summary

Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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