Health Conditions Solutions Guide

Reach vibrant wellness and feel your best! We've got answers here for you on healthy, effective ways to deal with eight of the most common health conditions. From back pain to high blood pressure to digestion disorders, find out the causes, symptoms, best treatments and lifestyle solutions to help you heal.

Arthritis

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We use our joints for everything we do, from taking a hike to cradling a cup of tea. But arthritis can turn even simple tasks into huge challenges. Two common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, are especially hard on the joints in the hands, hips, knees, neck and lower back.

What causes arthritis?

Although the symptoms are similar, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have different causes. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks joint tissue, causing chronic inflammation. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in your joints deteriorates over time, causing the ends of your bones to rub against each other. Both types of arthritis are more common in women than in men and usually occur after age 40. Past joint injuries, genetics and obesity are also contributing factors.

 
Symptoms
 
Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are marked by painful, inflamed joints. Symptoms often come and go, and may include:

• Joint stiffness
• Loss of flexibility
• Grating sensation (can also be audible)
• Bone spurs
• Red, swollen hands
• Rheumatoid nodules (bumps of tissue on the arms)
• Fatigue
• Fever
• Weight loss

 
Related conditions
 
People with osteoarthritis may also suffer from:

• Gout
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Paget's disease of bone
• Septic arthritis

 
Solutions for arthritis
 
Treatment


There is no cure for either form of arthritis, but treatment options can range from simple over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers or anti-inflammatories, immunosuppressants (in the case of rheumatoid arthritis), physical therapy and chronic pain classes to the use of devices to immobilize joints or surgery to replace joints or fuse bones together. Alternative therapies include acupuncture, massage, light therapy and supplementing with glucosamine, chondroitin or a mixture of avocado and soybean oils. Certain foods and herbs have also been shown to reduce arthritis-related pain, including:

• Ginger
• Devil’s claw
• Yucca
• Boswellia serrata
• Thunder god vine
• Evening primrose
• Borage
• Black currant
• Fish oil

Lifestyle

Painful, inflamed joints might make exercise an unappealing option, but gentle movement may be one of the best ways to combat arthritis-related stiffness and fatigue. Experts at Mayo Clinic recommend swimming, water aerobics, t’ai chi, yoga and walking because theses activities strengthen muscles and promote weight loss without straining tender joints. Use a heating pad, hot water bottle or warm bath to relieve pain and stiffness, and an ice pack to soothe muscle spasms and reduce inflammation. Avoid foods that can aggravate arthritis, including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, excessive alcohol, tobacco and refined sugar.

Diabetes

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If you have diabetes, you have a high blood glucose level and an insulin deficiency or insufficiency, which can lead to serious health problems. Diabetes affects nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population and is on the rise, due largely to the current obesity epidemic, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What causes diabetes?
 
There are two types of chronic diabetes conditions.
 
Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for 5 to 10 percent of cases, affects mostly children and young adults. It is caused by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin, the hormone that enables the body to use glucose found in foods for energy.
 
In type 2 diabetes (affecting 90 to 95 percent of cases), the body begins to fail to respond appropriately to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance, when the body does not properly absorb glucose from the blood for use as fuel or for storage. This type of diabetes usually affects people who are over 40, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, are overweight, and have a family history of diabetes. However, it’s now being found at younger ages, partly due to increasing unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits. More than 80 percent of adults who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.
 
Symptoms
 
• Increased thirst and frequent urination
• Extreme hunger
• Weight loss
• Obesity
• Fatigue and weakness
• Blurred vision 
• Erectile dysfunction
• Slow-healing infections
 
Related conditions
 
If you don’t manage this condition, you could experience the following: 
 
• Stroke
• Kidney disease and kidney failure
• Eye disease and blindness
• Nerve damage
• Male impotence
 
Solutions for diabetes
 
Treatment
 
Treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes include monitoring your blood sugar, receiving insulin injections and taking medications that help your body produce more insulin or inhibit the production of glucose.

Lifestyle
 
Diabetes is often preventable and reversible through aggressive lifestyle changes, according to Mark Hyman, M.D., creator of Gaiam's UltraMind Solution Club. Try the following:
 
• Healthy diet: Eat low-glycemic carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats and foods high in fiber.
Daily exercise: Physical activity and aerobic exercise can help control blood glucose and help with weight management.
Stress relief: Stress can aggravate the blood sugar levels directly, so control your stress levels with breathing, yoga, meditation, hot baths, exercise or massage.
Supplements: Take supplements that will help improve blood sugar control and prevent or slow down the progression of the disease, such as chromium, magnesium and vitamin D.

Fibromyalgia

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Feeling tired or sore? It could be more than skipping sleep or overdoing it at the gym. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain in the muscles and tendons. Sufferers often report tender points on the body and general fatigue.

What causes fibromyalgia?

Researchers are still trying to uncover the specific causes of fibromyalgia. The most popular theory is that people with the condition have a lower threshold for pain because receptors in their brains are overly sensitive due to repeated nerve stimulation. Factors that influence fibromyalgia may include genetics, past infections or illnesses, and past physical or emotional trauma. Fibromyalgia is especially prevalent in women and the risk of symptoms increases with age. The condition occurs in approximately 2 percent of the U.S. population.

Symptoms

Stress, physical activity, weather conditions and even time of day may influence symptoms, which include:
• Widespread muscle pain, often described as a “dull ache”
• Tender points, including the back of the head, shoulder blades, top of shoulders, front of neck, upper chest, elbows, hips and knees
• Exhaustion
• Sleeping disorders, including insomnia and sleep apnea

Related conditions


People with fibromyalgia may also suffer from:
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
Depression
• Endometriosis
Headaches
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Lupus
Osteoarthritis
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Restless legs syndrome
Rheumatoid arthritis

Solutions for fibromyalgia

Treatment

There is no “cure” for fibromyalgia, so treatment generally focuses on minimizing pain and other symptoms using analgesics, antidepressants or anti-seizure drugs, or through physical therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy can help reduce stress that sometimes triggers fibromyalgia symptoms. Acupuncture, chiropractic care and massage therapy have also proved somewhat successful at relieving pain and reducing fatigue.

Lifestyle

According to Mayo Clinic, “self-care is critical in the management of fibromyalgia.” Doctors recommend that sufferers:
Reduce stress. This can include practices such as yoga or meditation.
• Get enough sleep.
Exercise regularly.
• Watch your diet. Avoid caffeine and strive to eat healthy foods.

Heart Disease

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Heart disease is the number-one killer of both men and women in America. Although heart disease is usually associated with men, cardiovascular disease kills one in four women, making it more deadly than breast cancer.

What causes heart disease?

 
Heart disease results from the narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients. It's typically caused by coronary artery disease, which is generally linked to a condition called atherosclerosis: the build-up of cholesterol-rich fatty deposits, or plaques, on the inside of arterial walls. As these deposits build, the coronary arteries narrow, impeding the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart.
 
Symptoms
 
The most common symptom of heart disease is angina, or chest pain. It can be described as a burning, tightness, aching, heaviness, pressure or fullness in the chest. Although angina usually presents in the chest, it can also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw or back.
 
Other symptoms of heart complications include:
• Shortness of breath
• Heart palpitations
• Quickened heartbeat
• Weakness or dizziness
• Nausea
• Increased sweating
• Fullness, indigestion or choking feeling; may feel like heartburn
• Pounding in the chest
 
Related conditions
 
Hearts are literally our life force, and when the health of a heart is compromised, it can trigger many related ailments. The following are intertwined with heart health and may be caused by, or lead to, heart disease:
• Strokes
• Cardiac arrest
High cholesterol levels
 
Solutions for heart disease
 
Treatment
 
Heart disease treatments vary depending on the severity of your condition. In addition to lifestyle changes, you may also need medication, surgery or other medical procedures.
 
Lifestyle
 
Doctors at Mayo Clinic agree that a combination of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and regular stress management practices such as yoga and meditation are among the top 10 ways to prevent heart disease. Others include: not smoking; lowering your cholesterol; maintaining a healthy weight; eating less saturated fat; avoiding trans fats; consuming alcohol only in moderation; and taking risk-reducing vitamins, supplements and herbs.

Back Pain

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Back pain is a widespread condition, and one of the most common reasons people miss work or go to the doctor, according to Mayo Clinic. Personal care, body awareness and home treatments can often help alleviate back pain.

What causes back pain?
 
Back pain may originate from muscles, nerves, joints, bones or other structures in the spine. It may also radiate to other areas, such as down the legs or into the neck and shoulders. Short-term pain, or acute pain, lasts a few days or a few weeks, and long-term pain, or chronic pain, lasts for three months or longer. Many factors can play a role in back pain, including injury, overuse, stress, strain or inflammation. Back pain can get better with care, rest and therapy, but occasionally severe, chronic back pain can be indicative of more serious conditions such as osteoporosis or cancer. These symptoms should be followed up with medical attention.
 
Symptoms
 
• Sharp pain or muscle ache
• Pain down one leg or both legs
• Difficulty standing straight
• Limited flexibility
 
Related conditions
 
People with back pain may also suffer from:
• Bowel or bladder problems
• Arthritis
• Osteoporosis
• Cancer in the spine
 
Solutions for back pain
 
Treatment 
 
When you are experiencing back pain, you should seek a diagnosis from a qualified health care professional.
 
When stressed, misused or overused, back muscles may become shortened. Yoga or stretching routines may help lengthen the muscles and relieve back pain. Also, using exercises to develop a strong core can help you use your muscles to support your back. Massage, physical therapy and acupuncture can be great alternatives to pain medication.
 
“The combination of manual therapy techniques along with a mindful movement practice gives us the best results for addressing back pain and improving body awareness and function,” says Renee Beshures, a certified Pilates instructor, massage therapist and yoga instructor.
 
Lifestyle
 
It’s important to develop and maintain healthy movement patterns to prevent back pain. To develop proper alignment, balance and symmetry in the body, a stable and strong core is key. Think of your core as the foundation from which your entire body moves, and you will find the support your back needs to stay healthy and pain-free.
 
Randy Weinzoff, D.C., a chiropractic physician in Santa Monica, Calif., and ergonomic chair designer, recommends staying very hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
 
Be sure to get up and move while working or traveling. When you are in a sitting position, make sure you pay attention to you posture — sitting up straight with a slight curve in your lower back to prevent your shoulders from rolling forward.

Digestion Disorders

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Digestion breaks down the food you eat so that nutrients can be absorbed by your body. It’s no wonder that what you ingest has substantial effects on how you digest, so it’s important to be mindful of what you eat and drink and how you keep your intestines healthy. There are ways you can help your body digest foods with ease.

What causes digestion disorders?

 
Uncomfortable conditions of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea are often caused by eating and lifestyle behaviors that trigger difficulties with digestion. Certain foods, stress and hormones can all be factors that affect digestion.
 

Symptoms

 
• Pain or cramping in the abdominal area
• Bloating and gas
• Diarrhea or constipation
• A change in the consistency and frequency of your bowel movements
• Urgency or difficulty with bowel movements
• Fever
• Nausea
• Weight change
 
Related conditions 
 
People with digestion problems may also suffer from:
• Hemorrhoids
• Malnourishment
• Crohn’s disease
• Colorectal cancer
 

Solutions for digestion disorders

 
Treatment
 
Treatment can focus on the relief of symptoms, as well as learning to live a lifestyle that will allow you the healthiest digestion possible. If your problems are more severe, you may want to talk to a doctor about taking fiber supplements or certain medications. If you experience a lot of uncomfortable bloating, it may help to reduce high-gas foods as well as carbonated beverages.
 
Lifestyle
 
Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps maintain a healthy digestive tract. It’s important to get insoluble fiber, found in wheat bran, grapes, cherries, popcorn, etc., as well as soluble fiber, found in barley, bananas, carrots, etc., to promote intestinal health and regular bowel movements.
 
You can also take a few additional steps to help your body break down food. Eating food with probiotics (such as yogurt) or taking a probiotic supplement can help bring good bacteria back to your intestinal tract. Digestive enzymes and phytochemicals also help keep the intestines healthy. Focus on eating vegetables and grains — including barley, wheat, broccoli, onions, carrots and yams — to bring in disease-fighting phytochemicals. Also try pineapples, papaya, raw nuts and seeds to bring your body extra enzymes.

Insomnia

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Tossing and turning all night long? More than a third of the country is losing sleep right along with you. Insomnia includes having difficulties falling or staying asleep. It can affect your mood and energy levels and can take a toll on your work performance, health and quality of life, according to Mayo Clinic.

What causes insomnia?
 
Stress, anxiety, depression, medications and environmental factors (noise, light, etc.) can contribute to insomnia. 
 
Symptoms
 
Insomnia can last anywhere from days to weeks to months, according to WebMD. Common symptoms include:
• Fatigue and sleepiness during the day
• Anxiety or irritability
• Problems with paying attention or focusing
• Tension headaches
• Gastrointestinal symptoms
• Worrying about sleep
 
Related conditions
 
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
 
Solutions for insomnia
 
Treatment
 
Studies have shown that behavior therapies, which include teaching new sleeping habits, are very effective for treating insomnia, according to Mayo Clinic. Doctors generally don't recommend using prescription sleeping pills for more than a few weeks. Over-the-counter sleep aids that contain antihistamines cause drowsiness but may reduce the quality of sleep.
 
Lifestyle
 
"What's frequently at the core of a sleep problem are physiological factors that are causing an imbalance in the body's natural chemistry," explains naturopathic physician James Rouse, who regularly treats patients with sleep disorders at his family practice in Denver. He says nutrition, exercise and relaxation techniques can help realign that chemistry to help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Try the following:
 
1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This will keep your body on the same sleeping schedule.

2. Relax before bedtime. Try meditation, gentle yoga or relaxation exercises. Massage pressure points (like your temples), take a warm bath with calming bath salts and drink chamomile tea.

3. Make your bedroom conducive to sleeping. Turn the alarm clock away from you so you don’t stress about the time while you’re trying to fall asleep. Use eye masks, room-darkening shades, comfortable pillows, soothing music or white noise machines. Or try Gaiam's TwiLight Mini, blue light therapy proven to restore your body's natural sleep patterns.

4. Exercise regularly. Mayo Clinic suggests 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily at least five to six hours before going to sleep.

5. Eat the right foods. Eat a sleep-inducing snack, such as whole-grain crackers or bread; nuts, oatmeal or cherries; or milk together with whole-grain foods. Avoid eating a heavy meal right before bed, which can cause heartburn.

Check out more tips from Dr. Rouse's get-to-sleep-fast checklist.

High Blood Pressure

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High blood pressure (hypertension) is often referred to as "the silent killer" because it generally presents no symptoms. Millions of people unknowingly suffer from high blood pressure, which can lead to other health conditions, like heart attack and stroke.

Blood pressure is measured by how much blood is pumped by your heart into your arteries. When arteries narrow, the heart has to work harder to pump blood into the body and blood pressure rises.

 
What causes high blood pressure?
 
In primary high blood pressure cases (which account for 90-95 percent of high blood pressure cases in adults), there is no identifiable cause, and it tends to develop gradually over time. The remainder of high blood pressure cases are classified as secondary and are usually the result of an underlying condition. Secondary cases appear suddenly and can be triggered by kidney abnormalities; tumors of the adrenal gland; certain medications, such as birth control pills; and both illegal and prescription drugs.
 
Symptoms
 
Most people with high blood pressure exhibit no symptoms; however, certain discomforts may indicate extremely high blood pressure, but note that these symptoms do not usually appear until blood pressure is so high as to be life-threatening: 
• Dull headaches
• Regular nosebleeds
• Dizziness
 
Related conditions
 
High blood pressure can lead to:
• Stroke
• Kidney failure
 
Solutions for high blood pressure
 
Treatment
 
Doctors at Mayo Clinic explain that high blood pressure can be prevented (although most everyone will experience high blood pressure at some point) and controlled by adopting a healthy lifestyle. If the lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor may suggest medication to control your blood pressure.
 
Lifestyle
 
Keep blood pressure down by embracing these healthy lifestyle tips:
 
• Eat a healthy diet, low in fat and sodium.
• Engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, even if it is just a brisk walk.
• Limit alcohol intake to no more than two glasses a day for men and one for women.
• Manage stress by exercise, mediation or yoga.
• Don’t smoke.