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We here at A Cranberry Weekend love to share with and care for people. We are also passionate about educating people on the impact of stress on the body and the importance of relieving it to live a longer, healthier life. Take a moment to check out the health information below.
The Health Benefits of Cranberries
By Ratan-NM, M. Pharm.Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Logan, MD, MPH
Cranberry is an evergreen shrub whose fruits and leaves have been used in beverages and food. Cranberries has been used traditionally to treat disorders of the bladder, gut, and liver.
There are basically two major species of cranberry:
- Vaccinium macrocarpon - Also known as the American cranberry
- Vaccinium oxycoccos - The European cranberry
What are the chemical constituents of cranberries?
Cranberries are mainly comprised of
- Water (88%)
- Organic acids, fructose, and Vitamin C
- Anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins (part of the natural plant defense system against microbes)
- Iridoid glycosides (responsible for the taste)
Cranberries may be tangy and delicious, but don’t believe they are just a pretty plant. Cranberries are loaded with health benefits that stretch through the whole human body, and researchers are certain that the extent of their benefits are growing as more and more research is conducted. Cranberries were recognized by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a nutrient-dense fruit. Just an 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice cocktail contains 137% of the daily value of vitamin C.
Benefits come in a Variety of Forms
Current research indicates that approximately 10 ounces of cranberry juice cocktail is needed daily to achieve the bacteria-blocking benefits that ward off UTIs, ulcers and gum disease. You can get these benefits in an array of cranberry products. For round-the-clock protection, snack or cook with one of these products at least once a day.
The illustrations below show the equivalent amounts of other cranberry products needed to achieve these bacteria-blocking health benefits.
Historical Health Consideration
Historically, the health-promoting properties of cranberries have been based on folkloric remedies, which have existed for centuries. The healthy giving properties of this fruit were recognized by Native American Indians, and early New England sailors are said to have eaten the vitamin C-rich wild cranberries to prevent scurvy.
Composition of Raw Cranberries
Urinary Tract Health
One of the best-known benefits of cranberries is their use in promoting urinary tract health. Since the turn of the century, cranberries have been used as a folk remedy for the treatment of bacterial urinary tract infections (UTIs), which cause frequent and painful urination. The first reported use of cranberries by conventional medical practitioners was in 1923, where it was suggested that cranberries acidify the urine, thus killing the bacteria causing the UTI. More recently, heightened scientific interest and laboratory research appear to validate the effect of cranberries on UTIs but present an explanation other than urinary acidification.
A 1994 study conducted at the Harvard Medical School determined that regular consumption of cranberry juice reduced the amount of bacteria in the urinary tracts of elderly women. Rather than acidification of the urine, these researchers concluded that something specific to the cranberry actually prevented bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder. In 1998, researchers from Rutgers University identified the specific components in cranberries that function as previously suggested. These condensed tannins or proanthocyanidins from the cranberry fruit prevent Escherichia coli (E.coli), the primary bacteria responsible for UTIs, from attaching to cells in the urinary tract. Thus, the bacteria are flushed from the tract rather than being allowed to adhere, grow and lead to infection.
A new landmark study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June of 2016 found that drinking an 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice a day reduces symptomatic UTIs by nearly 40% in women with recurrent UTIs, which suggests the reduction in the need for antibiotics. The study was conducted at Boston University in conjunction with Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160614005444/en/Landmark-Study-Suggests-Cranberries-Decrease-Antibiotics)
The Power of Proanthocyanidins (PACs)
Cranberries contain Proanthocyanidins, also known as PACs. PACs are unique bioactive compounds that are linked to a long list of health additives in cranberries. These benefits include:
- Reducing incidence of certain infections
- Promoting heart health
- Protecting the urinary tract
- Decreasing inflammation association with chronic disease and aging
- Supporting digestive health
Cranberries Extend to the Gut
A recent study titled Impact of Cranberries on Gut Microbiota and Cardiometabolic Health: Proceedings of the Cranberry Health Research Conference 2015 found that incorporating cranberries into a diet brings benefits to the gut.
The lead author of this publication, Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, states that “cranberry polyphenols may interact with other bioactive compounds in cranberries that could protect the gut microbiota, and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions that benefit the cardiovascular system, metabolism, and immune function.” This interaction may help strengthen the gut to protect against infection.
Phytochemical and Antioxidants Attributes
In addition to their urinary tract health benefits, cranberries also contain Phytochemical that may assist in maintaining health. Scientists believe that it is the combined actions of many different phytochemicals that contribute to their overall effects, and cranberries are rich in these compounds. Some of these phytochemicals act as antioxidants, compounds that help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. These antioxidants reduce oxidative damage to cells that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases.
For example, anthocyanins, compounds that give cranberries their red color, are powerful antioxidants that may be stronger than vitamin E. In addition, laboratory studies have shown that cranberry extract reduces oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol), an effect which research indicates may be important in maintaining a healthy heart. Thus, when consumed as part of a well-balanced diet containing a variety of foods, cranberries may provide positive health benefits.
For more information on the health and nutritional aspects of cranberries, please visit the Cranberry Institute, the industry leader in the coordination and cataloging of health research. (www.cranberryinstitute.org)
Blackcurrant Juice and Cranberry Juice
Depression and Anxiety | Just Believe Recovery PABlackcurrant is rich in zinc, which increases dopamine levels and helps to regulate mood. Drink it warm at night as it also contains magnesium, which helps with relaxation and sleep.
Recent research from China suggests that ursolic acid, a compound found in cranberries, can help protect brain cells from injury and cognitive symptoms associated with degeneration.
Also, cranberry juice is high in potassium and vitamin C. Potassium is an electrolyte and helps with hydration, while vitamin C found can also help mitigate mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Cranberries are also rich in glucose and contain manganese which stabilizes blood sugar levels – as noted above, necessary for mood regulation.
Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes
Improving Your Ability to Handle Stress
Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance. You can protect yourself—and improve how you think and feel—by learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of chronic stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.”
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid a car accident.
Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and your quality of life.
Fight-or-flight response: what happens in the body
When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed up your reaction time, and enhance your focus—preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.
The effects of chronic stress
Your nervous system isn’t very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. If you’re super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if you’re facing a true life-or-death situation. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger, making it harder to shut off.
If you tend to get stressed out frequently, like many of us in today’s demanding world, your body may exist in a heightened state of stress most of the time. And that can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:
- Depression and anxiety
- Pain of any kind
- Sleep problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Digestive problems
- Skin conditions, such as eczema
- Heart disease
- Weight problems
- Reproductive issues
- Thinking and memory problems
Signs and symptoms of stress overload
The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Seeing only the negative
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Depression or general unhappiness
- Anxiety and agitation
- Moodiness, irritability, or anger
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loneliness and isolation
- Other mental or emotional health problems
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea, dizziness
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds or flu
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
Causes of stress
The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion.
Of course, not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be internal or self-generated, when you worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, pessimistic thoughts about life.
Finally, what causes stress depends, at least in part, on your perception of it. Something that’s stressful to you may not faze someone else; they may even enjoy it. While some of us are terrified of getting up in front of people to perform or speak, for example, others live for the spotlight. Where one person thrives under pressure and performs best in the face of a tight deadline, another will shut down when work demands escalate. And while you may enjoy helping to care for your elderly parents, your siblings may find the demands of caretaking overwhelming and stressful.
Common external causes of stress include:
- Major life changes
- Work or school
- Relationship difficulties
- Financial problems
- Being too busy
- Children and family
Common internal causes of stress include:
- Inability to accept uncertainty
- Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
- Negative self-talk
- Unrealistic expectations / perfectionism
- All-or-nothing attitude
Top 10 stressful life events
According to the widely validated Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, these are the top ten stressful life events for adults that can contribute to illness:
- Death of a spouse
- Marriage separation
- Death of a close family member
- Injury or illness
- Job loss
- Marriage reconciliation
What’s stressful for you?
Whatever event or situation is stressing you out, there are ways of coping with the problem and regaining your balance. Some of life’s most common sources of stress include:
Stress at work
While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance, impact your physical and emotional health, and affect your relationships and home life. It can even determine the difference between success and failure on the job. Whatever your ambitions or work demands, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress, improve your job satisfaction, and bolster your well-being in and out of the workplace.
Job loss and unemployment stress
Losing a job is one of life’s most stressful experiences. It’s normal to feel angry, hurt, or depressed, grieve for all that you’ve lost, or feel anxious about what the future holds. Job loss and unemployment involves a lot of change all at once, which can rock your sense of purpose and self-esteem. While the stress can seem overwhelming, there are many steps you can take to come out of this difficult period stronger, more resilient, and with a renewed sense of purpose.
The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel that you’re in over your head or have little control over the situation. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind — eventually leading to burnout. However, there are plenty of things you can do to rein in the stress of caregivingand regain a sense of balance, joy, and hope in your life.
Grief and loss
Coping with the loss of someone or something you love is one of life’s biggest stressors. Often, the pain and stress of loss can feel overwhelming. You may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain that, in time, can ease your sadness and help you come to terms with your loss, find new meaning, and move on with your life.
How much stress is too much?
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, it’s important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is “too much” differs from person to person. Some people seem to be able to roll with life’s punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle.
Factors that influence your stress tolerance level include:
Your support network. A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. When you have people you can count on, life’s pressures don’t seem as overwhelming. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your risk of succumbing to stress.
Your sense of control. If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it’s easier to take stress in stride. On the other hand, if you believe that you have little control over your life—that you’re at the mercy of your environment and circumstances—stress is more likely to knock you off course.
Your attitude and outlook. The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress. If you’re generally hopeful and optimistic, you’ll be less vulnerable. Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, believe in a higher purpose, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.
Your ability to deal with your emotions. If you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, or troubled, you’re more likely to become stressed and agitated. Having the ability to identify and deal appropriately with your emotions can increase your tolerance to stress and help you bounce back from adversity.
Your knowledge and preparation. The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less stressful than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.
Improving your ability to handle stress
Get moving. Upping your activity level is one tactic you can employ right now to help relieve stress and start to feel better. Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction from worries, allowing you to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially if you exercise mindfully (focusing your attention on the physical sensations you experience as you move).
Connect to others. The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when you’re feeling agitated or insecure. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. So, spend time with people who improve your mood and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you don’t have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.
Engage your senses. Another fast way to relieve stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.
Learn to relax. You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the polar opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities can reduce your everyday stress levels and boost feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.
Eat a healthy diet. The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with life’s stressors. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress, while a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with life’s ups and downs.
Get your rest. Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. At the same time, chronic stress can disrupt your sleep. Whether you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep so you feel less stressed and more productive and emotionally balanced.
6 Foods Proven To Reduce Stress Levels
Stress is the body's response to the environment, and, like most things, it can be both good and bad. It can help increase our focus and productivity, but it can also be detrimental to our health.
You've probably experienced the side effects of bad stress—racing heartbeat, heavy breathing, and sweaty skin—which can lead to a more serious toll on your body. The good news is that you don't have to look far to reduce this bad stress; maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can go a long way.
According to a Penn State study, pistachios can reduce vascular stress. Pistachios have a high healthy fat content, lots of fiber and plenty of antioxidants to keep blood vessels open and relaxed during stressful moments. A great afternoon snack, pistachios also work well as a yogurt topping or baked into delicious cranberry cookies.
Cashews are full of many nutrients that may help reduce feelings of stress. They're a good source of magnesium, which plays a significant role in stabilizing energy as well as regulating the nervous system. Cashews are also abundant in vitamin B6, which helps produce serotonin, a lack of which can affect your mood. For a sweet way to get your dose of these nutrients, grab some dark chocolate covered cashews and snack away.
Sure they're small, but seeds are full of health promoting and stress reducing benefits. For example, pumpkin seeds, like cashews, are rich in magnesium, which is important for a healthy nervous system. Or consider sunflower seeds; they're full of tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin and melatonin, both of which influence sleep and mood. You can easily add seeds into your favorite recipe, or sprinkle some on a plate of greens to give your salad a boost of nutrition and a little crunch.
This super popular superfood is rich in important phytochemicals such as carotenoids and phenolics. These compounds have antioxidant capabilities that reduce inflammatory and oxidative stress, which happens when there's an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in your body. You can eat avocado as is, spread it over some toast, or make this favorite twist on guacamole.
We all know leafy greens are essential to good health. Spinach, kale, and collard greens, in particular, are high in vital stress-reducing nutrients and minerals such as B-vitamins, which help maintain energy, regulate mood, and improve brain function. Ready to start adding more vegetables to your diet? We recommend this tasty kale quinoa salad!
When you think of chamomile, you probably think of bedtime, as this herb is often noted for its ability to aid in sleep. But it can also improve your health in other ways. Chamomile is often used to reduce symptoms of various ailments such as hay fever, inflammation, and insomnia. Also, because it contains glycine, an amino acid that can relieve muscle spasms and relax nerves, chamomile is particularly helpful in reducing stress levels. Next time you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, brew a cup of chamomile tea.
Reducing stress can be as simple as making a few small changes to your diet. These six foods can keep both your mind and body in good health, allowing you to lead a more balanced and satisfying life.
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