The Benefits of Maca Root for Hormonal Health & Vitality

More than two centuries ago, Peruvians discovered that a tuberous vegetable growing high in the Andes mountain range had some noticeable benefits for their health and endurance. Men going into battle or performing other physical feats would take maca because they observed that it gave them stamina, strength, and virility.

Meanwhile, women who consumed maca had better reproductive health, energy, and focus. Does maca have something special in it that confers all of these benefits? Read on to discover just what it is that makes maca so marvelous.

What Is Maca?

Growing at an elevation of 12-14,000 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains of Peru, maca grows in extreme weather maca rootconditions. Thriving in a habitat of intense sunlight, cold temperatures, and strong winds, this tuberous plant is a part of the brassica family. Just like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, maca is a cruciferous vegetable.

Nutrients Found in Maca

Maca contains plenty of healthy fatty acids, the most abundant being linoleic, oleic, and palmitic acids. Maca contains vitamins A, C, B2, B6, and niacin, as well as minerals – zinc, iron, iodine, copper, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Nine amino acids are considered essential for optimal health, and maca contains seven of them [1].

Maca is also a rich source of plant sterols, which are part of what makes it so beneficial for hormonal health. Plant sterols are (chemically speaking) structurally similar to the body’s own hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Maca Is an Adaptogen

So how exactly does it work? Maca is an adaptogen, meaning that it works to strengthen, balance, and help the body respond to internal and external changes and stressors. It regulates the production of hormones to maintain healthy organ function. Maca feeds the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands, known as the Master Glands (more on that later).

Maca’s plant sterols appear to stimulate changes in the action of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. Maca also seems to exert an influence on the ovaries, pineal gland, and thyroid.

How Maca Can Aid Fluctuating Hormones

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is one of the most common complaints among women of reproductive age. When out of balance, estrogen – the hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive system – can cause a wide range of symptoms and annoyances for women (and their men!).

Mood swings, water retention, fatigue, food cravings, irritability, headaches, irregular menstrual periods, painful cramping… all can be attributable to estrogen imbalance.

Maca can help ease the rapid rise and fall of hormones in menstruating women due to its adaptogenic properties. Also, by improving the connection between the brain and the pituitary gland, maca’s ability to help balance levels of circulating hormones is further enhanced. Most PMS sufferers taking maca report a marked improvement in symptoms during their first menstrual period after commencement of maca.

Other times when maca may be of benefit to women is after coming off birth control pills, and after having a baby and breastfeeding has ceased. At such times, endocrine system function can be depleted, and maca’s adaptogenic properties mean it can help the body right itself again.
two happy post-menopausal women on day hike

Maca can also ease many of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. For those harried by hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and lack of energy, maca can provide some much-needed relief. Maca does not appear to mimic estrogen in the body but it can help to increase the body’s production of estrogen if levels are too low. That’s the beauty of an adaptogenic herb: it adapts to what the body needs.

In a 2006 clinical trial, 34 early-postmenopausal women were given a supplement containing either maca or a placebo twice per day for four months. Those receiving the maca had increased levels of estrogen, suppressed levels of FSH, T3 thyroid hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and cortisol (the hormone secreted in response to stress). Body mass index also decreased. Iron levels increased, however, as did bone density markers, and maca relieved many of the symptoms of menopausal discomfort such as hot flashes and night sweats [2].

Another small 2014 clinical study found that maca reduced blood pressure and depression in postmenopausal women [3].

Can Maca Can Also Benefit Men?

Maca can also be helpful for male health. Recent studies have indicated that maca may assist male health by helping to increase sperm count and motility, increasing sexual desire, protecting the prostate and reducing the incidence of benign prostatic hyperplasia, reducing stress and depression, boosting energy levels, and easing mild erectile dysfunction [1, 4].

8 Additional Health Benefits of Maca

#1. Boosts Energy and Endurance

A 2009 study of male cyclists found that maca supplementation did indeed improve cycling time performance, as well as sexual desire (a perk for many) [5].

#2. Hypothalamus/Pituitary/Adrenal (HPA) Gland Nourishment

HPA glands are called the “Master Glands” because they regulate other glands (you may also hear it termed the “HPA Axis”). When HPA is well nourished, other glands of the body benefit as well. When under stress, the adrenal gland takes a big hit, especially if the stress moves from acute (short-lasting stress) to chronic (long-lasting stress).

Maca feeds all three glands by supporting the body’s production of hormones, either increasing or decreasing levels according to the need. As a result, maca may help prevent or repair adrenal exhaustion and all of the unhealthy follow-on effects this has on the body and mind.

#3. Libido Booster

Maca has been used traditionally by Peruvians to boost virility and libido. Science has not yet determined how maca does this, but it has been called “Nature’s Viagra” for good reason.

Some health experts believe maca’s effects on libido may be caused by its long-chain fatty acids known as macaenes and macamides, which are unique and have not been found in any other plant.

A 2008 clinical study followed women suffering from sexual dysfunction caused by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression. The study found that three grams of maca per day gave significant improvement in libido for the women taking it [6].

#4. Cardiovascular Health

Maca’s phytosterols – campesteroland beta-sitosterol, act to interfere with the absorption of LDLdoctor checking female patient's blood pressure cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol), making maca beneficial for the cardiovascular system [7]. Phytosterols have also been studied for their anti-inflammatory effects, which assist in balancing the immune system, and, as an added bonus, help to protect the body from abnormal cell growth.

#5. Anti-Cancer

A 2015 study found that phytosterols interfere with many different pathways in the carcinogenesis (cancer beginning) process [8]. In addition, an animal study found that beta-sitosterol decreased levels of circulating estrogen, and inhibited the growth of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer tumors [9].

#6. Boosts Immunity

The phytosterols in maca stimulate the immune system and increased levels of interleukin-2 and natural killer cells [7] which the body needs to fight abnormal cell growth.

#7. Liver Support

Being a cruciferous vegetable, maca contains glucosinolates which, when chewed and digested, change into health-promoting chemicals that help protect against cancer. Sulfur-containing glucosinolates form bonds that help the body’s enzymes do their work better.

Both sulfur and plant sterols are required in the production of a master antioxidant called glutathione which boosts liver function and helps the liver with detoxification [10].

#8. Healthy Bones

Maca’s vitamins and minerals can help to build strong, healthy bones. A 2006 clinical trial found that maca increased bone density markers for the early-postmenopausal women taking it [2].

How to Take Maca

Look for organic maca powder grown in Peru. Maca can be added to juices, oatmeal, inside sandwiches, sprinkled on salads, and added to raw food recipes. Just keep in mind that it is best not to heat maca powder to high temperatures which might diminish some of its nutrients. If you use it in recipes, add it after cooking, just before serving.

A gentle approach is generally the best way to begin taking maca.

Recommendations are to start with a small dose of 1 teaspoon per day. If that is well tolerated, gradually increase the dose to 1 tablespoon, or more. If you haven’t noticed any improvement, remember one trial had women taking 3 grams per day.

It can take two or three weeks before you may notice the full benefits of maca. It is also recommended to only take maca daily for a few months and then take a break from it for a month or so before resuming consumption again.

Some health experts recommend avoiding maca under the following conditions. Please consult with your own healthcare provider if:

If hormonal fluctuations are creating havoc in your life, consult your natural health practitioner to see if maca might be right for you.

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Vitamin C and Collagen: What’s the Connection?

You may have heard already about some of the fantastic health benefits of collagen – especially for joint and skin health. Did you know, though, that certain micronutrients can boost your own body’s natural ability to produce and effectively use collagen? It’s true, and one of the most powerful is good old vitamin C.

Read on to learn just why collagen and vitamin C make ideal partners when it comes to improving your health – and beauty – at any age!

Vitamin C and Collagen: How It Works

Collagen is a vital substance made of amino acids (mainly glycine and proline and sometimes others such as lysine) and accounts for the majority of all protein in the body. Its job is the formation of connective tissue in the body: cartilage in joints, internal tissue in organs, fibrous substances in bones, skin tissue, and so much more.human anatomy muscles

Vitamin C is a necessary substance for collagen production in the body. Without it, the body simply cannot produce it. It is needed for collagen storage and synthesis (i.e. how the body absorbs substances and works with other substances for vital functions).

Collagen forms the fibers that “hold together” the body. Likewise, vitamin C is responsible for “holding together” cells during collagen creation [1]. It is the catalyst for a process called hydroxylation (adding hydrogen and oxygen) within the amino acids proline and lysine.

From this, a precursor molecule is created called procollagen within the cell. All of these microscopic steps are needed for collagen to be eventually be created outside of the cell and then go on to eventually form the tissues that hold us all together and that we can see with the naked eye [2].

Not Just a “Vanity Vitamin”

Vitamin C is considered a “vanity vitamin” for what it can do for skin, hair, and nails. We will explore this in the next section. As you shall see, however, vitamin C and collagen work together for the health of many other functions in your body as well.

Vitamin C plays a key role in skin health mainly because it saturates both the dermis (middle) and the epidermis (top) levels of skin. It is transported to the skin through the bloodstream. Transport proteins tuned specifically to vitamin C are found in all layers of the skin, but especially in the epidermis.

The high amounts of vitamin C that exist in the first two layers of skin makes it a photoprotective substance. This means it has the ability to protect the body from too much UV light from the sun. It is an antioxidant as well, so it also reduces damage caused by free radicals. In the early 1980s, natural health pioneer Linus Pauling became the first to study the protective effects of vitamin C against carcinoma in mice [3].

And, of course, vitamin C is essential for collagen production and synthesized in the skin too. The right amount of vitamin C in your diet every day can help collagen do its job by keeping skin hydrated and helping to maintain its elasticity.

A French study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science back in 1998 found that an “Exogenous Vit C supply could thus contribute to the maintenance of optimal collagenic density in the dermis and locally strengthen the collagen network [4].” [Note: “Exogenous” refers to something from outside the body.]

Vitamin C and Gut Healing

Vitamin C also plays a vital role in helping form collagen networks in the body which form healthy tissues in internal organs, including the gut. Believe it or not, collagen assists in several functions in your digestive tract:

Collagen and Vitamin C Supplements

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin which means it is not stored in the body. This means that if you want optimal health, you must feed your body plenty of it every day from the foods you consume. This is especially true if you are deficient in collagen as well.

Some foods that are high in vitamin C include:foods high in vitamin C

Just like with collagen deficiency, when a person suffers from a chronic deficiency of vitamin C or if a person is older, supplementation can be very helpful. And even people consuming a real, whole foods diet can still end up deficient in many vitamins and minerals.

According to a study of 43 garden crops conducted by the University of Texas in Austin, nutrient content across the board has declined significantly in the last five decades [8]. Environmental pollution, soil-depleting farming practices, poor lifestyle habits like smoking, and boatloads of stress all lead to chronic deficiencies of many essential nutrients like vitamin C.

Fortunately, some quality collagen products include vitamin C in their formulas because of the intimate relationship between the two substances. This is the case with Organixx’s Clean Sourced Collagens blend, one of the purest, most well-researched collagen products on the market today.

Organixx Clean Sourced Collagens blend contains five types of collagen from four sources. What’s more, it’s combined with targeted nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 which specifically enhance the bioavailability and potency of collagen. Clean Sourced Collagens is formulated from the ground up to enhance and support your body’s natural ability to heal and rebuild itself from the INSIDE out.

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What Is Kegel Exercise? (And Why Both Men & Women Need a Strong Pelvic Floor)

You might be doing stretching, resistance training, and aerobic activity on a regular basis… but are you doing critical exercises for your pelvic floor health? We’re talking about “Kegel Exercises,” which are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor in both men and women.

Not only can these exercises help prevent embarrassing and sometimes dangerous pelvic floor disorders (i.e., incontinence and prolapse after pregnancy), they can be a boost in the bedroom too.

What Is Kegel Exercise?

Kegel exercises (or “Kegels”) were created by American gynecologist Arnold Henry Kegel [1] back in the late 1940s. He also invented the “Kegel Perineometer,” which is an instrument used for measuring the muscle strength of pelvic floor muscles.

The “pelvic floor” consists of a group of muscles and tissues that hold up the organs near the pelvic opening. These include the:

Through a series of relaxation and contraction movements (more on this below), Kegel exercises are designed to gently and naturally strengthen the genital and pelvic floor region.

Pelvic floor muscles form a sort of “hammock” inside the body that runs from either side of the pelvic bones. These muscles help keep all these lower body organs intact and in place.

Avoiding Pelvic Floor Disorders

Sometimes the pelvic floor muscles begin to grow weak or the tissues in that area can become compromised. This can lead to pelvic floor disorders [2] which are most often caused by:

Pelvic Floor Prolapse [3] is one of the most common manifestations of weakened and out-of-balance pelvic floor muscles. This is when the muscles are so weakened, or the tissues in the area are so disturbed that organs in that area begin to droop.

Some common symptoms of prolapse include:

Many women may begin to experience some symptoms of prolapse in their mid-50s. According to a report for the Washington Post[4], roughly half of all women over age 80 will have at least one and often more than one symptom of the disorder. In 2007, $66 billion was spent on prolapse surgeries with that number expected to rise to $83 billion by 2020.

Men can also suffer from pelvic floor disorders. In fact, the condition is common in men who have had removal of the prostate (radical prostatectomy) and in men who have diabetes.

Symptoms of pelvic floor disorders in men include:

Males who have had radiation treatment for prostate cancer may also experience temporary and sometimes permanent pelvic floor disorder, especially incontinence.

How Kegel Exercise Can Help Maintain a Strong Pelvic Floor

If you want to prevent pelvic floor prolapse, performing Kegel exercises on a regular basis may be the best thing you can do. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Kegel exercises for men can help improve bladder control and possibly improve sexual performance [5].”

For women, there are numerous studies which point to an improved quality of life and a lessening of symptoms with regular Kegel exercise practice. An Iranian study [6] published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology compared the results of two groups of incontinent women.

The first group practiced Kegel exercises (also called pelvic floor muscle training or PFMT) twice daily for 15 minutes for a total of 12 weeks. The other group did Kegels for the same amount of time but also used a progressive resistance device as a support for the Kegels. Both groups saw great results in lessening their symptoms of incontinence using Kegels.

Pelvic Floor Exercises Can Improve Sexual Function

Finally, doing Kegel exercise can be a great libido boost for both men and women. A report by the Wellington School of Medicine [7] recommends Kegel-like muscle contraction and relaxation both during intercourse and throughout the day as a way to encourage orgasm in women who have trouble experiencing orgasm due to chronic disease or other factors.

According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center [8], Kegel exercises can also help women who experience pain during intercourse. This is because of Kegels:

happy mature couple in bed looking at each otherAlso, studies have also shown that pelvic floor muscles play a key part in male erection [9]. Some experts, such as well-known physiotherapist and author Dr. Grace Dorsey, make the connection between Kegels and improvement in male erectile dysfunction.

A 2005 study [10] conducted by Dorsey and others at the University of the West in the U.K. found that pelvic exercises helped 33% of the men in the study improve their condition significantly and 40% regained normal erectile function completely.

An Easy Way to Get Started with Kegel Exercises

Now that you know about all the benefits of Kegels, are you ready to begin? Here are three easy steps to get you started, no matter what your gender:

#1. Identify Your Pelvic Floor.

The pelvic floor muscles attach to the pelvic bone in both men and women [11]. They are attached underneath the bladder and bowel in men and the bladder, bowel, and uterus in women. In men, they are located behind the prostate.

There are two ways you can help find these muscles. One is to use the same muscles that stop the flow of urine if you needed to stop mid-stream. The other is to use the same squeezing technique you use to stop a gas bubble (i.e., flatulence) from escaping.

#2. Contract and release the muscles.

Once you have located the muscles, contract them (squeeze them) for three seconds. Then relax them for three seconds. Do this rotation ten times [12].

Start slowly at first. Keep in mind that this is a specific muscle group, just like the abs or the biceps. It will take time to build them up and make them strong, so don’t overdo it. You can do Kegels while sitting, standing, or even while lying down.

#3. Repeat daily.

Just like with any workout, Kegels are most effective when you do them every day. If you can eventually work in 15 minutes of Kegel exercise rotations throughout your day, you will be more likely to see the results – especially if you currently have prolapse or incontinence issues.

Be creative when fitting in your Kegels. You can do them before or after a workout, during yoga, while you are standing in front of the sink doing dishes, while waiting in line, or brushing your teeth, end even while you are driving in a car. Get into a routine and keep it going!

Why You Need to Keep Up With Your Kegels

Pelvic floor prolapse, incontinence, and especially sexual dysfunction may not be issues that you are accustomed to discussing – even with your doctor.

“This is a stigmatized condition,” said pioneering University of Michigan professor Dr. John DeLancey for an interview for the Washington Post. “It’s nothing people would talk about in polite company… And because nobody talks about it, everyone thinks they’re the only one.”

Fortunately, that mindset is changing as more individuals embrace a holistic way of looking at their health. There are now lots of videos on YouTube providing pointers on how to do Kegels, as well as demonstrations for additional pelvic floor exercise.

Just in case you need a little added incentive to keep doing your Kegels… consider that incontinence is one of the primary reasons that seniors end up in nursing homes.

Doing your Kegel exercises is an excellent anti-aging practice to help ward off incontinence issues while improving sexual function. Definitely, a win-win when it comes to your health and well-being!

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