energy levels

  1. Soaking up the benefits of water

    It almost sounds like the benefits of some promising new blockbuster drug: Just a little bit can help lift mood, concentration and energy levels -- with virtually no side effects.

    Well, there is one side effect: You might need to pee a little more.

    Of course, this isn't some experimental new drug -- just plain old water, and new research shows how letting yourself run dry can throw your whole day out of whack.

    In a set of three experiments, 25 healthy young women were given either enough H20 to keep hydrated or brought just below their optimal levels with exercise and diuretics.

    By "just below" I mean really just below -- they were missing only between 1 and 2 percent of their needed water. But those small changes led to big differences as these women suffered from measurable dips in mood and focus and were more likely to feel fatigue and suffer headaches.

    Although the study didn't look at men, there's no reason to think mild dehydration would affect them any differently.

    In other words, you need your water -- but don't get carried away.

    You know the old saying about drinking eight 8-ounce glasses a day? Forget it. It's never been proven by science (although the bottled water companies would like you to think otherwise).

    In fact, too much water can be even worse for you than too little.

    The only time you need to wet your whistle is when you feel thirsty -- and despite what you've heard, it doesn't have to be plain old water.

    Coffee and tea, for example, are just fine. Both of them are mildly diuretic, but they'll still leave you with a net gain of water and keep you hydrated.

    Just one warning here: Water may not be a drug on its own... but there's a good chance there are drugs in your water.

    U.S. water standards are plunging like a barrel over Niagara Falls. Hormones, sex meds, antibiotics and more are regularly turning up in our drinking water -- and in some places, you can add illegal drugs, rocket fuel and toxic waste to the list.

    Even in trace amounts, do you really want to drink that?

    Drink only filtered water. You don't have to shell out big money on bottled year after year if you invest in a quality reverse osmosis system for your home.

  2. Yoga can bring fibro relief

    Score one more for yoga!

    Researchers say light stretching can do what a pharmacy full of drugs often cannot: Bring real relief to women suffering from fibromyalgia, the mystifying and often debilitating pain condition.

    Researchers from York University in Toronto asked 22 women to take 75-minute hatha yoga classes twice a week. After just eight weeks, the women reported less pain than they did at the start of the study.

    They also felt better about their condition, reporting less helplessness and more acceptance, and they were less likely to focus on the worst possible outcomes of the disease.

    Although those responses were based on a questionnaire given before and after the study, there were also noticeable changes on a much more objective level. The researchers say the women had higher levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol after eight weeks of yoga lessons.

    Now, that might sound bad. "Stress hormone" sounds like trouble, and you definitely don't want too much of it hanging around.

    But too little can be even worse, because the stress hormone is needed to help control inflammation and regulate blood pressure. More importantly, it also keeps the immune system in check -- the same immune system that often goes haywire in fibromyalgia patients.

    And not so coincidentally, fibro patients usually have very low levels of cortisol.

    Since the study was small, it'll take more research before anyone can say for sure whether yoga can boost cortisol levels in the long run -- but other studies have been encouraging, at least when it comes to pain relief.

    In one I told you about last year, yoga actually brought as much relief as drugs, with none of the risks. (Read about it here.)

    Now, if you're suffering from fibro, I know you might think the pretzel-like contortions of yoga are the last things your body could handle.

    In reality, the hatha form of yoga used in the new study is one of the most basic -- and the most gentle.

    And in addition to helping to beat pain and regulate your cortisol levels, yoga has been shown to boost physical strength and energy levels, lower blood pressure, and even improve mental health.

    You can often find inexpensive or even free lessons through your local library, park, or senior center -- or even try it on your own with a book or video.

    Happy stretching.

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