Aging, bad sleep habits, and cold season infections can do a number on your body — to the point where you might be considering drastic measures. The good news is, you don’t have to suffer through any of those problems, especially while gearing up for the holidays. We spoke to Heather Moday, MD, who offers three natural health remedies.
Q: My doctor advised that I start strength training to avoid losing muscle, but I don’t want to invest in a bunch of weights, and I know I won’t use a gym membership. What else can I try?
A: Muscle mass naturally declines by about 3 percent to 8 percent every decade after we turn 30, and muscle loss accelerates even more after age 60. This can often lead to a condition called sarcopenia, which is marked by muscle weakness, loss of muscle definition, and difficulty walking or standing. And while strength training is one of the most common methods for combatting muscle loss, I can assure you that you don’t have to use weights to preserve and build muscle.
Instead, I recommend giving tai chi a try. Research has found the easy, gentle movements, which are similar to yoga, are as effective at building muscle as other forms of exercise. Plus, its gentleness helps reduce inflammation to combat the soreness that other exercises may cause. And you don’t need to spend money on a local tai chi class or a gym membership since you can find free instructional videos on YouTube by searching “tai chi practice.”
In addition, consider supplementing with vitamins D and K-2, nutrients that are essential for muscle-building. In fact, a study published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging found that adults who were deficient in vitamin D (and many of us are during the fall and winter) had weaker muscles than those with adequate levels, but subjects who took the supplement duo improved muscle mass and strength. The study-proven dose: 2,000 IU of vitamin D-3 and 90 mcg. of K-2 daily, which you can get from a supplement like Nature Made D3 + K2 Softgels (Buy from Amazon, $12.59).
Q: When I sleep, I grind my teeth, so my dentist recommended a mouth guard to protect them. But it’s hard and uncomfortable. Are there other options that can help?
A: You’re not alone: Dentists have reported a huge increase in teeth grinding, or bruxism, which is often caused by stress, over the past few years. Mouth guards are typically the first treatment option, but there are a few different types of these appliances, so I suggest you don’t give up on them yet. I recommend trying a soft boil-and-bite guard, which allows you to get a custom fitted mouth guard at home. One to try: Oral-B Nighttime Dental Guard (Buy from Amazon, $16.77). Simply follow the package instructions to mold it to your mouth.
Also smart: If you’re a coffee drinker, consider opting for decaf in the afternoon since caffeine can continue to stimulate muscles in the jaw that trigger grinding for several hours after you drink it. But swapping caffeinated coffees and teas for decaf at least 9 hours before going to bed can cut back on grinding.
Q: I have a cold, and my nose isn’t the only thing that’s stuffed up! My ears feel clogged and uncomfortable. Help!
A: Sinus inflammation causes pressure in the inner ear, triggering this “stuffy” feeling. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate the discomfort and clear up your cold.
First, try using an over-the-counter nasal spray with vitamin C. Researchers in the Ear, Nose & Throat Journal report the spray acts as an antihistamine to reduce swelling and stuffiness, ending sinus symptoms for 74 percent of study subjects. Plus, the natural spray doesn’t cause the “rebound congestion” linked to other nasal sprays. One to try: NutriBiotic Citricidal Nasal Spray (Buy from Amazon, $14.93).
Exercise can also reduce sinus swelling and help shorten the duration of your cold.
Put FIRST to work for you!
Heather Moday, MD, is director of the Moday Center in Philadelphia. She is board-certified in allergy and immunology, as well as integrative and holistic medicine. You can follow her on Instagram (@theimmunitymd), where she shares information on health topics. And to ask her a question here, send an email to email@example.com.
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.