The topics in this article are discussed with our patients frequently in our office. We are exposed to many environmental toxins on a daily basis which contribute to inflammation. It is possible to reduce damage and heal the body with a few key strategies. It can often be a longer process to fully recover, but smaller improvements can be seen in very little time.
The United States is the largest corn producer in the world.
31.5 pounds of starch
33 pounds of sweetener
2.8 gallons of ethanol
22.4 pounds of PLA fiber/polymer
Hamburgers (the cows eat corn)
Eggs (the chickens eat corn)
Soda and other sweetened drinks (HFCS)
Processed foods (corn oil, corn meal, corn starch, corn gluten, corn flour, etc.)
The corn sweeteners added to many U.S. food products have been blamed for obesity and other health problems.
Increased levels of triglycerides
Accelerated bone loss
Impaired glucose tolerance
High levels of insulin
High blood pressure
Most cases of Lyme disease occur in the late spring and summer months, when ticks are most active and people spend the most time outdoors.
Muscle and joint aches
Swollen lymph nodes
Bell’s palsy (the loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of your face)
Headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis
Keep Ticks Away Safely
Regular tick control products contain a dangerous mix of pesticides and chemicals that can harm your pet, your environment, and your family.
All-Natural products such as those on ingredients labels made from enzyme-based formulas where available are ideal alternatives.
Avoid tick-infested areas. Many parks and health departments have information about tick infestations.
Protect your pets too. AVOID using conventional flea and tick treatments on your pets that contain harmful pesticides or chemicals, such as DEET, pyrethrins, synthetic pyrethroids or permethrin, all of which can be harmful and irritating to your pet, the person applying them and our environment.
Keep your yard well maintained, trimmed and mowed. This will help to keep ticks away.
Wear long sleeves and pants. When hiking or spending any amount of time in nature, you should cover your arms and legs, and tuck your pants into your socks. This will make it much harder for a tick to attach itself to you.
Thankfully, the idea that cholesterol, whether in your food or in your body, is a one-way ticket to disease and death, is starting to die. The infamous 1984 TIME magazine cover of a frowny face made out of bacon and eggs met its match in 2014, when a doctor said it was okay to eat butter again. (See these iconic images here.) Indeed, rather than existing solely to “clog your arteries,” cholesterol is increasingly being shown to be protective for various aspects of physical and mental health.
Did you know that your own body makes cholesterol? That’s right. Your body synthesizes cholesterol—far more of it than you get from your diet, even if you eat loads of butter and egg yolks. It’s unlikely your body would produce so much cholesterol if this substance existed only to cause trouble. To the contrary, it looks more and more like cholesterol has beneficial effects we’re only beginning to uncover.
Here’s the short list of critical things cholesterol does:
- Essential structural component of the myelin sheath, which insulates and protects neurons and facilitates communication between them
- Essential structural component for cell membranes
- Required for synthesis of all steroid hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and more
- Serves as a raw material for endogenous (internal) production of vitamin D, via the interaction of sunlight with your skin
- Required for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain
- Essential component of bile salts, which are required for the digestion of fats and fat-soluble vitamins
- Repair substance, needed for repair and regeneration of damaged tissue
Let’s take a closer look at the first thing in that list: cholesterol is a building block for myelin, which is essential for healthy nerve cell structure and function. The neurodegenerative disorder multiple sclerosis (MS) is multifactorial, but one of the main issues is a loss of myelin in neurons in the brain. This loss of myelin impairs proper neuron function, which results in muscle weakness, lack of coordination, fatigue, and more.
Cholesterol Beneficial for Multiple Sclerosis
A study in the prestigious journal Nature found dietary cholesterol to be highly beneficial in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. The authors wrote, “Supplemented cholesterol can directly support myelination by incorporation into myelin membranes. […] The current study suggests that cholesterol provides a ‘fast track’ to remyelination and repair.” In case you’d prefer a basic translation, they’re saying that cholesterol in the diet can facilitate replacement of lost myelin.
The same authors had shown in previous animal models that “cholesterol is rate limiting for CNS myelination.” When something is “rate-limiting” in terms of human physiology, it means it’s the key factor. In the case of cholesterol and remyelination, all the other required things can be in place, but if there’s not enough cholesterol, myelination won’t happen, or it won’t happen as quickly and effectively as it should. As stated earlier, your body produces cholesterol on its own, but in some individuals, internal synthesis may be inadequate to keep up with the body’s demand for it. For these people, cholesterol might be considered “conditionally essential,” and they might need to get more of it from their diet. (Not exactly a hardship, considering they can choose from shrimp, cheese, butter, bacon, ribeye steak, eggs, and other cholesterol-rich foods.)
The authors of the study note that patients with MS have disturbed brain lipid metabolism, but that blood cholesterol levels are usually in the normal range. During active disease and disease progression, however, total cholesterol often rises to the upper limit of the normal range. It’s not known whether this is a cause or consequence—being that cholesterol is so critical for myelin synthesis, ramping up cholesterol production may be the body’s way of trying to provide more of this essential substance. For those whose endogenous synthesis is inadequate, increasing dietary cholesterol may be helpful. Researchers showed that mice fed a diet enriched with extra cholesterol had better remyelination compared to mice not supplemented with high-cholesterol chow.
According to the researchers:
“Dietary cholesterol supplementation supports cholesterol metabolism in the CNS [central nervous system] and has the remarkable potential to ameliorate disease by facilitating several repair mechanisms, leading to improved remyelination and neurological outcome.”
Beyond MS: Cholesterol Helpful for ALS and Mental Health
Multiple sclerosis isn’t the only condition where increased cholesterol could be of benefit. It’s been observed that higher cholesterol—including LDL—is associated with increased lifespan in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gherig’s disease). The title of one study says it all: Dyslipidemia is a protective factor in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. (“Dyslipidemia” typically refers to high cholesterol, especially high LDL, and sometimes high triglycerides.) Perhaps it’s time to stop calling it dyslipidemia, as the “dys” implies something dysregulated, abnormal, or harmful. In the case of ALS, and possibly other neurodegenerative disorders, elevated cholesterol may be beneficial.
In ALS patients, “an abnormally elevated LDL/HDL ratio significantly increased survival by more than 12 months.” Maybe it’s not really abnormal, then, but the body actually trying to protect and sustain itself. It only seems “abnormal” when we operate under the premise that LDL is unquestionably harmful and should always be kept low.
The ultimate cause of death for most patients with ALS is respiratory failure, which progresses slowly over months, as nerve damage impairs communication with the diaphragm. Some evidence indicates that respiratory impairment is associated with a decrease in cholesterol and a lower LDL/HDL ratio.
Low cholesterol is also associated with violent behavior and substantially increased risk for suicide. In a cohort of Canadian subjects, individuals with the lowest total cholesterol had more than six times the risk of committing suicide compared to subjects with the highest cholesterol. By itself, this doesn’t mean that low cholesterol causes people to attempt suicide, but the association between low cholesterol and increased risk for violence and suicide has been found numerous times, and it bears more detailed investigation, especially when you consider that cholesterol is essential for hormone production, cognitive function, healthy moods, and just about anything else you can think of that affects physical and mental health.
It’s long past time to rethink cholesterol. It may not be desirable to have total cholesterol or LDL through the roof, but increasing evidence suggests low cholesterol may be far more problematic than high cholesterol.
- Berghoff SA, Gerndt N, Winchenbach J, et al. Dietary cholesterol promotes repair of demyelinated lesions in the adult brain. Nature Communications. 2017;8:14241.
- Dupuis L, Corcia P, Fergani A et al. Dyslipidemia is a protective factor in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Neurology. 2008 Mar 25;70(13):1004-9.
- Chiò A, Calvo A, Ilardi A et al. Lower serum lipid levels are related to respiratory impairment in patients with ALS.
- Golomb BA. Cholesterol and Violence: Is There a Connection?. Ann Intern Med. 1998;128:478–487.
- Ellison LF, Morrison HI. Low serum cholesterol concentration and risk of suicide. Epidemiology. 2001 Mar;12(2):168-72.
Few lifelong relationships can compare to the complex range of emotions shared between mothers and daughters. And whether you’d describe your relationship as “best friends,” “mortal enemies” or somewhere in between, most daughters reach a point in their life when they stop and think, “I sound just like my mother.”
What type of mother are you … or will you be?
This may be music to your ears or, perhaps, it may make you cringe a little and remember how you swore you would never be that way. Yet, for many women, the imprint of their mother is an important, and inescapable, part of who they are.
In an excerpt of the book “Side by Side: the Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication” posted by MSNBC, author Dr. Charles Sophy describes the dynamic mother-daughter relationship:
“With all due respect, I often compare the mother-daughter relationship to being on a roller coaster, the big, scary kind that you’re able to see from the next town over and whose passengers can be heard shrieking from miles away.
Parts of that ride can certainly be thrilling and crazy fun, much like the way you may feel when you and your daughter are really getting along. There may be other stretches of that same ride that leave you feeling anxious, fearful, or nauseated — much like the way you may feel when you and your daughter are in the midst of an argument.
There’s one big difference, though, between these two rides. Unlike the experience at the amusement park, the ride you are on with your daughter will never come to a halt, automatically release its safety bar, and allow you to exit. No matter how scary or intolerable the ride may get with your daughter, there’s not even a chance of getting off. This ride is forever.”
Are You Destined to be Like Your Mother?
In some respects, yes. For instance:
If a mother smokes, her daughter is more likely to smoke.
If a mother is unsatisfied with her body image, her daughter is more likely to be as well. In fact, mothers who diet are nearly twice as likely to have a daughter that suffers from an eating disorder.
If a mother cohabitated, her daughter is 57 percent more likely to do so as well.
If a mother is obese, her daughter is 10 times more likely to be chronically overweight or obese (not due to genetics but to copying poor lifestyle choices)
Daughters of teenaged mothers are more than twice as likely to become teenage mothers themselves.
In terms of genetics, you get half your genes from your mom and half from your dad, so your mom’s biology does impact your own. However, lifestyle choices and habits – your decision to smoke, eat healthy, look on the sunny side of life – can all influence your future, too. So virtually nothing is set in stone.
Most women maintain a strong bond with their mothers throughout their entire lives.
Instead, often similarities like those noted above are not written into your genes like your hair color or height … they’re habits and tendencies that you picked up from your mom somewhere along the way.
What this means is that you may very well be like your mom, and if that’s a positive thing in your mind so much the better. But many daughters actually fear that they will grow up to be like their moms, especially during adolescence. It’s so common there’s actually a name for it: matrophobia.
If this latter scenario applies to you, and although you love your mom you want to run your life differently, there’s good news: you can.
While most daughters will continue to crave their mother’s closeness and approval well into middle-age and beyond, you, and only you, can make the choices that shape your lifestyle.
Most Daughters Adore Their Mothers, and Vice Versa
No doubt about it, motherhood is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. It’s also one of the most rewarding. For all you moms and daughters out there, take comfort in the following statistics from Psychology Today … as you’ll read, most adults adore their moms and most moms feel well appreciated in return.
88 percent of adults say their mother has had a positive influence on them
92 percent say their current relationship with their mother is positive
88 percent of all mothers say their family appreciates them enough
53 percent of adults say their mother had more influence than their father had
60 percent of women say their mother was more influential than their father, compared with 45 percent of men
In the end, though, it seems mothers and daughters ultimately are alike, especially in regard to what they want from each other.
Dr. Charles Sophy writes in the book “Side by Side: The Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication”:
“All mothers and daughters want the same things: love, understanding, respect. And they want them from each other. Mom wants love, respect, and understanding from the child she brought into the world. And daughter wants the same from the woman who gave her life.”
After gobbling up more than your fair share of a “bloomin’ onion,” devouring an entire jumbo tub of movie theater popcorn or wolfing down more than one bowl of pastel-colored marshmallow sugar-puff cereal, most people would rather not know what was really in it. The calories, the fat, the sodium … who really wants to know?
Sometimes, looks can be deceiving. Check out the restaurant salad above that has 58 grams of fat (that’s nearly 90 percent of what you’re supposed to have in an entire day!).
In reality, probably not many. Still, there is that voice in your head that’s telling you otherwise. “You should be good. Know what you’re getting yourself into,” it says. Perhaps that’s why most Americans (a whopping 80 percent, according to an AP-Ipsos poll) say they do, in fact, check the nutrition panel on foods. (Ironically, 44 percent also admit that even though they check the panel, they’ll buy the food regardless of what it says.)
But whether it’s out of curiosity, a feeling of obligation, or because you’re looking out for your health, knowing the facts about what’s in your food is clearly a right you should take advantage of, as foods can be deceiving. Sometimes even the healthiest-looking food can turn out to be a disaster for your diet, and something that receives little fanfare (like the humble mushroom) can turn out to be fantastic. You owe it to yourself to know the difference.
What’s Really in These 10 Common Restaurant Foods?
Wondering how to order healthy the next time you’re eating out? Here are 10 common menu items with nutrition facts that may surprise you (and that you may be better off avoiding).
Auntie Ann’s Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel: One pretzel has 450 calories and 9 grams of fat. Add on caramel dipping sauce and you get an extra 135 calories and 3 grams of fat.
7-11 Blueberry Muffin: Stop to grab a muffin while filling up your gas tank and you’re in for 450 calories and 14 grams of fat (for one muffin!).
Jimmy John’s Beach Club Sandwich (on 7-Grain Honey Wheat Bread): The name sounds light and healthy, but if you eat the whole sandwich it’s 826 calories, 41 grams of fat, and 70 percent of the recommended daily sodium!
Wondering what’s in your favorite snack food?
Krispy Kreme Frozen Latte Blend (20 oz.): You think you’re being good by going to Krispy Kreme and not getting a doughnut, but if you opt for a frozen latte blend instead, you’re in for 730 calories and 26 grams of fat.
Panera Bread Bistro Steak Salad: You’re trying to eat light so you order a salad … this one has 630 calories and 58 grams of fat.
El Pollo Loco Ultimate Pollo Bowl: Even when opting for the “bowl” (which is like a burrito without the tortilla), it’s 915 calories, 34 grams of fat, and 134 percent of the daily recommended sodium.
Papa John’s Garden Fresh Pizza (14″): One slice has 280 calories and 9 grams of fat (but who eats just one slice?).
Fazoli’s Six-Layer Lasagna With Broccoli: One portion has 670 calories and 27 grams of fat. Have a cheesy breadstick too? Add on another 370 calories and 18 grams of fat.
Caribou Coffee Large Low-Carb Skinny ‘Bou: Now, everyone knows that big coffee drinks have a lot of calories, but when you’re ordering one that’s low-carb (and has “skinny” in its name) you’d think it wouldn’t be so bad. Not so. This one has a whopping 1,360 calories and 145 grams of fat!
Kenny Rogers Roasters Grilled Chicken Sandwich: It’s grilled (not fried) and it’s chicken (not beef), but it still has 523 calories, 29 grams of fat and over half of the recommended amount of daily sodium. And that’s before you add the cheese, mayo and sides.
The World’s 8 Most Deceptive Foods: We Think They’re Healthy, but Should Think Again
You can turn on just about any news program and hear about the declining health and increasing waistlines of Americans. The news is getting to us, as attested to by the changes many people are finally making to their diets.
Just ask Whole Foods Market, one of the more widely known health food chains. Their annual revenue has increased by more than 50% over the past four years.
Deciphering what’s healthy can feel like a full-time job.
Overall sales of natural and organic foods increased 7 percent per year — making it the fastest-growing sector of the grocery industry, according to Cooperative Grocer magazine.
But just when you thought it was safe to go into your favorite health food store and grab everything “healthy” off the shelves, we hit you with this: some “health” foods are remarkably deceptive, and while we think eating them will do our bodies good, we have been seriously led astray.
Here are the eight that have fooled many an otherwise sensible and informed soul:
Next to a danish or a doughnut, the muffin looks like a sensible choice. It’s got fruit, after all, and maybe even a little bran. A muffin is a light, nutritious breakfast food — or so we’ve been hearing since the 1980s.
When you actually break down a muffin, though — sugar, flour, butter/margarine, etc. — you realize that if it came in a slightly different shape with some frosting, it wouldn’t be called a muffin … it would be called “cake.”
And then there’s the size. A small plum-sized muffin that your grandmother baked is one thing. The giant concoctions in most bakeries, grocery stores and coffee shops today are another. These muffins contain anywhere from 340 to 630 calories and 11 to 27 grams of fat, plus lots of sugar and other additives. They may also contain trans fats–those nasty fats that raise your bad LDL cholesterol and lower the good (HDL) kind.
2. Fast-Food Salads
Yes, you went to that fast-food joint near your office for lunch, but all was not lost — you ordered a salad! Most fast-food chains have jumped on the health bandwagon and are now offering salads, wraps and other “healthy” menu choices for just such nutrition-minded customers.
And while some won’t come right out and say they’re healthy (McDonald’s, for instance, no longer uses the word because “our consumer research shows people don’t understand it and it’s actually a turn off when it comes to food items.”), it is certainly implied in their ads featuring fit, active people and catchy nutrition slogans.
But all salad is not inherently healthy.
“You hear the word ‘salad,’ you think vegetable, you think good choice–what you have to look at is what’s on the salad,” said Lisa Cimperman, a nutritionist at University Hospitals in Cleveland.
In fact, most of the salad ingredients that most fast food chains use make most of them “no more healthful than a burger without the bun, dipped in salad dressing,” said the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which conducted a nutrition analysis of 34 fast food salads.
One of their more startling findings: McDonald’s Crispy Bacon Ranch Salad has more fat and calories and just as much cholesterol as a Big Mac.
Culprits that make good salads go bad are fried meats, additions like croutons and crispy noodles, bacon, and high-fat salad dressings. Many even have added sugar.
“We did not expect these new salad entrées to be so loaded with fat and cholesterol,” says Brie Turner-McGrievy, M.S., R.D., the clinical research coordinator at PCRM.
Healthy Alternative: Create your own fresh salad using lots of veggies, some lean protein (egg, chicken), a few nuts or seeds or a small amount of cheese, and a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.
Eating this giant bagel is like eating four or five slices of bread.
3. Processed Soy Products
While fermented and unprocessed soy products (like edamame, tempeh and miso) can be quite nutritious, processed soy products fall short.
Despite the myriad of health claims that surround them (and tout them as near miracle foods), processed soy foods like soymilk, soy meat products, soy ice cream, soy energy bars, etc., have been linked to:
Immune system breakdowns
Says Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story:
“Unlike in Asia where people eat small amounts of whole soybean products, western food processors separate the soybean into two golden commodities–protein and oil. There’s nothing safe or natural about this. Today’s high-tech processing methods not only fail to remove the antinutrients and toxins that are naturally present in soybeans but leave toxic and carcinogenic residues created by the high temperatures, high pressure, alkali and acid baths and petroleum solvents.”
Healthy Alternative: If you want to eat soy, stick to the unprocessed versions (edamame, tempeh, miso) and read labels to avoid the rest.
Most people eat one or two pieces of toast at a time — four or five would just be excessive, right? Well, many of us eat that and more when we pick up a giant bagel on the way to work.
“A bagel at some of the bagel chains can be four servings of bread. But people have no idea that bagels can be that dense,” says Mary Story, a nutritionist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
And as we hear so often these days, all that processed white flour, those simple carbs, aren’t good for us. Combine that with the fact that bagels offer little else in terms of nutrition, and you’re left eating a hefty does of carbs that will convert quickly to sugar once in your body.
IF you could find a bagel that was made from whole grains, it would make a slightly better choice, as the added fiber would help slow down the breakdown from starch to sugar. However, whole-grain bagels are a rarity.
Says A.N. Spreen, M.D., “It is nearly impossible to find 100 percent whole-grain (of any type) flour in bagels. Even ‘whole wheat’ bagels are mostly white flour with a little whole wheat thrown in … I’m afraid the health concept of bagels has been a bit perverted by the flour industry … the shelf life (not your life) is the primary concern, and fresh, whole-grain flour is poor in that respect.”
Healthy Alternative: Skip the bagel and have 1 serving of whole-grain toast instead. If you must have a giant bagel, split it with a friend.
5. Energy Drinks
Their labels say they contain various herbs, minerals and the amino acid taurine, specially designed to boost your energy by the time you reach the bottom of the can. But if you look at the ingredients, you’ll find that the main ingredients in most energy drinks are actually caffeine and sugar — making them hardly more than high-priced soft drinks.
Yet their glitzy designs and claims to improve your performance, concentration and reaction speeds seem to be working. In 2004, energy drinks overtook bottled water as the fastest-growing category in the beverage business. Similar products have even been introduced for kids as young as 4 years old.
“This is shameful marketing,” said Madelyn H. Fernstrom, associate professor and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center, of KickStart Spark, one such product specifically marketed for children 4 years and older.
“Under the guise of ‘good health,’ this is a promotion of caffeine consumption, which will likely have a biological effect on most children who consume it, since their intake is low … There’s nothing that’s redeeming in any of this stuff. At the very least it’s a huge waste of money,” she said.
Healthy Alternative: Drink healthier fluids like water or tea, and if you must have a jolt of energy, old-fashion cup of black cup of coffee will at least spare you the sugar.
Just because it has lettuce, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Some fast food salads are worse than the burgers.
6. Diet Soda
You know regular soda is bad because of all that sugar and “empty” calories, but what’s wrong with a diet soft drink to quench your thirst?
Plenty, according to experts. Along with caffeine, like regular soda, diet soda is high in phosphoric acid, a combination that could be bad for your bones. While caffeine can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium or increase the amount it gets rid of, the acids in soda can cause the body to become more acidic — causing it to release even more calcium.
“Too many soft drinks may result in excessive phosphorus in the diet, and that can result in low blood calcium levels. The body will respond by pulling calcium from the bone to increase the amount of calcium in the blood,” says Lisa Ritchie, director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Harding University in Arkansas.
Then there’s the problem with the artificial sweeteners, which some say are harmful. Although Splenda is a newcomer to the diet soft drink sweetener market – and there are growing concerns as to its actual safety — aspartame is still the most widely used sweetener in diet soda.
“Aspartame is the most complained about additive in U.S. history,” says Dr. Joseph Braco, author of “Restoring Your Digestive Health.” “It’s been blamed for everything from headaches to rashes to seizure disorders. I have a physician friend who clearly linked aspartame with his adult-onset seizures.”
Healthy Alternative: Choose water or unsweetened tea instead, and if you do drink diet soda, limit your intake to an occasional “treat.”
Fish would be a healthy form of protein if not for the high levels of pollutants that contaminate many varieties. Although the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, they note that some types of fish may contain high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants.
This is particularly important for women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, as developing and unborn children are susceptible to nervous system damage from mercury. You can read the Environmental Protection Agency’s fish consumption guidelines for this at-risk group for specific information.
Healthy Alternative: Pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children should consult the EPA guidelines above for safe fish consumption. Everyone else may want to stick to lower mercury varieties, and seek out wild-caught sources, which tend to be lower in pollutants than farm-raised varieties.
8. Protein/Energy Bars
So energy drinks aren’t the best option … what about energy bars?
Says Lynn Grieger, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, “Since consumers are driven by taste and cost, the current trend is for bars that taste great, but pack less nutritional value. While some bars are low in total fat and saturated fat, others can have as much fat and saturated fat as a Snickers bar.”
If you’re choosing between an order of French fries or an energy bar, you’re probably better off with the energy bar. But the general consensus among experts is that you’re almost always better off eating real food than a questionable snackbar with unhealthy sugars and fillers.
Or, as Rebecca Wood, an educational consultant to organizations in the natural food industry, puts it, “An energy or power bar is a candy bar. Or, at best, a next-generation candy bar gussied up with protein powder. A candy bar is sugar with fat plus added flavor from chocolate, nuts, seeds, fruit or the like. Add 2-cents worth of protein powder to a candy bar and subtract any guilt because it’s now “healthy.”
“Sure, some [energy bars] have added protein, vitamins and minerals or even antioxidants, but we can get all of those healthy nutrients from foods for considerably less money,” says Grieger.
Healthy Alternative: Stock up on easy-to-carry high-energy and natural foods like nuts, seeds, cheese and dried fruit, and avoid the temptation of splurging on a questionable store-bought energy bar in the throes of an unplanned hunger attack.
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness,” said Joseph Pilates, who founded the Pilates Method back in the 1920s. And devotees to this exercise system swear by its ability to achieve the best of both worlds: physical and mental well-being.
Indeed, pilates has been making headlines in recent years. Julia Roberts reportedly used it to lose her post-pregnancy weight, Madonna does it, and so has Halle Berry, Sting, and the San Francisco 49ers.
“[Pilates] has been the fastest growing fitness modality within the fitness industry for years. Everybody wants to know about it,” wrote Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle, the director of the Pilates Center of Austin, in the Austin American-Statesman.
Pilates Among the Top 10 Fitness Trends
Pilates will continue to be among the top fitness trends, according to The American Council on Exercise (ACE), largely because of its attention to the mind-body connection.
Pilates, says ACE, provides an alternative to higher impact activities while promoting proper posture, breathing and body awareness. Exercises like pilates, and also yoga and tai chi, incorporate “elements of mental and spiritual fitness.” By incorporating these elements, ACE reports that “individuals will take better care of their entire being and psychological self, not just their bodies.”
What IS Pilates?
You’ve likely heard of pilates, and maybe even snatched a peek of a class going on at your local gym, but chances are you’re still wondering what exactly it is.
Joseph Pilates fully believed that the mind and body are dependent upon one another. As such, when he created pilates he designed it to fully engage the body and the mind.
This is done through a series of controlled, precise movements that work the muscles of the abdomen, lower back and buttocks and create flexibility and strength.
The movements are done either on floor mats or on special pilates apparatus that help support and guide the body, and involve these six core concepts:
Major Benefits of Pilates
Pilates is a popular exercise among dance companies, Broadway shows, students at performing arts schools and universities, sports teams, and celebrities because it lends a coveted “long and lean” look to its followers and creates strength without adding bulk.
But there is much more to pilates than a slimmer figure. According to the United States Pilates Association, pilates:
- Can be an integral part of physical therapy designed to speed recovery of soft tissue injuries
- Provides body conditioning and injury prevention and recovery
- Improves body alignment
- Enhances breathing and circulation
- Increases strength, flexibility and balance
- Improves muscle tone, energy and mental concentration
- Is useful for pregnant women to learn proper breathing and body alignment, improve concentration and recover body shape and tone after giving birth
How to Learn Pilates
If you are already familiar with pilates, you can perform the routine right in your own home using a pilates DVD. There are many to choose from, including one of the classic favorites, “Classical Pilates Techniques – The Complete Mat Workout Series.”
However, if you have never tried pilates before you may be better off learning the basic movements directly from an instructor. Pilates courses are available in group sessions in health clubs and spas across the country. You can also take pilates at a specialized pilates center, which may offer group or one-on-one sessions. Check out this site from the United States Pilates Association to help you find a certified pilates instructor near you.
Sea vegetables, better known as seaweed, are the leafy greens of the sea. Though not technically a vegetable (they’re actually classified as algae), seaweed is loaded with nutrition and has a unique, slightly salty flavor that’s been a staple in Japanese cuisine for more than 10,000 years!
In ancient China, meanwhile, sea vegetables were a delicacy reserved for honored guests and royalty. In fact, numerous cultures that live near their coasts have been enjoying sea vegetables for quite some time. This includes not only parts of Asia but also Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, coastal South America, Scotland, Ireland, and the Pacific Islands.
Seaweed is grown and harvested in the United States as well, and here you can find sea vegetables in health food stores, Asian markets and many local grocery stores, in a variety of ocean and freshwater varieties such as kelp, wakame, arame and dulse. Some of the most popular varieties are:
- Nori: The deep purple type used to make sushi rolls
- Kelp: Light brown to dark green, often in flake form
- Hijiki: Small, black wiry strands
- Kombu: Sometimes used as a flavoring for soups, often sold in strips or sheets
- Wakame: Most often used to make miso soup
- Arame: A lacy, wiry shape and mild flavor
- Dulse: Reddish brown with a soft, chewy texture
Why might you want to think about adding sea vegetables to your family’s dinner table?
Seaweed contains the broadest range of minerals of any food — the same minerals found in the ocean and in human blood. For instance, seaweed is rich in:
- Pantothenic acid and riboflavin — two B-vitamins needed for your body to produce energy
- Vitamin K
- Lignans, which have cancer-fighting properties
The Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables contain a unique blend of potent nutrients for your health.
Protect Against Cancer
The lignans in seaweed inhibit blood cell growth, which can nourish tumors and spread cancer cells. They have also been shown to fight breast cancer and other hormone-related cancers. Meanwhile, sea vegetables contain folic acid, which may help reduce your risk of colon cancer.
Promote Healthy Thyroid Function
Seaweed is rich in iodine, which is essential for the proper functioning of your thyroid glands. In short, it helps your thyroid to synthesize the amino acid tyrosine to create hormones.
Prevent Heart Disease and Birth Defects
Folic acid in seaweed is not only essential for protecting against birth defects, it is also needed to breakdown a dangerous chemical called homocysteine. Homocysteine can damage blood vessel walls and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Sea vegetables also contain magnesium, which helps reduce high blood pressure and prevent heart attacks.
Relieve Menopausal Symptoms
The magnesium in sea vegetables can help relieve sleep trouble due to menopause. Further, the lignans are phytoestrogens, which can help to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.
Why Choosing High Quality Sea Vegetables is Important
Sea vegetables actively take up minerals from the water in which they grow. Unfortunately, they can also pick up pollutants in the surrounding waters, including heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and cadmium. In fact, sea vegetables are so efficient at absorbing contaminants that some marine ecologists use them as a monitor to determine levels of heavy metal pollution in water.
Because many waters are now polluted, it’s recommended that you choose your seaweed sources carefully. Look for those that grow seaweed in clean waters far from industry, shipping ports or other sources of pollution, and which test the plants for levels of heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, and microbiological contaminants.
How to Enjoy Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables are incredibly versatile. Use the flake and powder varieties as a seasoning as you would salt, or try sprinkling them in soups, casseroles and stews. Use the sheet varieties to create homemade sushi or vegetable rolls, or slice it into strips to dress up salads.
Plus, here are some healthy and tasty recipes you can use to give seaweed a try (you may be surprised at how much you like … it’s addictive in a good way!)
- Nori sheets
- Salt, preferably sea salt
- Sesame oil
- Heat a skillet over medium heat
- Brush the sesame oil on both sides of the nori sheet then sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Cook lightly, about 15 to 20 seconds on each side
- Cut ino bite-size pieces
Simple Seaweed Soup
- 3 sheets roasted seaweed
- 1 cup broth (vegetarian or meat-flavored) with 1 cup water
- 3 fresh cilantro leaves (coriander)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Pour the broth mixture in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Break the seaweed sheets into pieces and add into the boiling water.
- Reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes until the seaweed expands and the soup starts to thicken. Add sesame oil.
- Remove from heat and pour the soup into your favorite bowl and sprinkle cilantro as garnish.
- Serve hot
Dulse, Avocado and Tomato Sandwiches
A healthy alternative to the BLT!
- 4 slices multi-grain sandwich bread
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 handful of dulse
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake the dulse for about 8-10 minutes, until it is dried out and crispy.
- Toast the bread slices.
- Slice the tomatoes horizontally.
- Slice the avocado half into thin pieces horizontally as well.
- Spread the mayonnaise on one slice of the bread.
- Arrange the tomatoes in one even layer on the bread, and do the same with the avocados.
- Place an even amount of dulse on top of the avocados. Cover with the other slice of bread, slice in half for easy handling, and enjoy!
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. — Navy veteran Jake O’Neill turned to opioids — some prescribed, some illicit — to ease the lower-back pain that left him in near-constant agony.
O’Neill’s degenerative arthritis became so bad that just leaning over to pull on a pair of socks could put him in traction. The opioids Vicodin and OxyContin helped him cope, but at a heavy cost. He became dependent on them and eventually addicted several years ago. “It became less about the pain,” said O’Neill, 47, of Springfield, Vt. Now, O’Neill is clean. Physical therapy and acupuncture, among other alternative pain treatments at the veterans hospital here, have replaced the stream of opioids that had hijacked his life.
O’Neill’s experience is part of a dramatic shift at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which has sharply reduced the use of opioids to treat chronic pain in favor of once-unlikely alternatives such as yoga and tai chi.
In the vanguard of that movement is the White River Junction VA Medical Center, whose pain clinic has cut opioid prescriptions by 42 percent, particularly among veterans who had been receiving the heaviest dangerous doses.
“It used to be most patients would be on opioids,” said Dr. Julie Franklin, who supervises the hospital’s pain clinic. “That’s not the case any longer.”
The decline has been striking. The total number of VA patients at White River Junction that received opioids for chronic pain plummeted from 2,088 in early 2014 to 1,221 late last year.
The change has been even more dramatic among veterans who receive the highest doses, the equivalent of more than 400 milligrams of morphine a day. The number of those patients has shrunk from 26 in early 2014 to only four in late 2017.
For veterans who receive the equivalent of 300 to 399 milligrams of morphine a day, the total has sunk from 34 to two.
With the opioid crisis still raging, this embrace of holistic treatments is designed to help prevent veterans from developing addictions and allowing others to recover from theirs, specialists said.
“We’ve definitely saved some lives. We’ve helped a lot of veterans,” Franklin said.
Pain is rampant among veterans. Nearly 60 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are afflicted by chronic pain, as are more than 50 percent of older veterans. Many have returned home with battlefield injuries, but even more suffer back ailments, nerve damage, headaches, and other forms of severe pain that come with age and inadequate treatment.
The VA and many of America’s physicians, aggressively encouraged by drug makers, once dispensed opioids as the default remedy for pain. From 2001 to 2013, opioid prescriptions in the VA system increased 270 percent while the number of patients rose less than 40 percent, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
“Because of their aggressive use of opioids, they wound up with an enormous problem,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University. “Tens of thousands of veterans ended up addicted.”
Over the last several years, opioid prescriptions have fallen across the VA system. But what helps set White River Junction apart is its pain clinic, which pays extensive, detailed attention to veterans on the highest doses of opioids, Franklin said.
The clinic manages their pain and opioid use separately from the primary-care treatment veterans receive at the VA, allowing specialists to focus exclusively on that front.
As a result, high-risk patients are seen “as often as needed for safety and support,” Franklin said. “We don’t tell our patients that they need to reduce opioid doses and see them six months later. We’re there with them every step of the way.”
Many patients referred to the clinic have never been on opioids but instead have avoided their use because of the multidisciplinary treatment. But for high-risk veterans with chronic pain, tapering off large amounts of opioids can be grueling and complicated.
“Just because we’re now figuring out that opioids are not good drugs for the vast majority of people with chronic pain, that doesn’t mean that people who are on opioids can come off easily,” Kolodny said.
But by embracing alternative treatments, offering options thatinclude acupuncture and pool therapy to reduce opioid use, the clinic is gaining wider attention. US Representative Annie Kuster, a Democrat from New Hampshire, is preparing legislation on VA pain care that would draw from White River Junction’s work.
Under that plan, at least six veterans hospitals around the country would be designated a “center of excellence,” where an integrated team of specialists would manage and develop pain care, much like the system used in Vermont. A national pain-care coordinator would be established within the VA.
At White River Junction, the pain-management team includes physicians, a nurse practitioner, a pharmacist, and the help of a psychologist. Together, they coordinate care for individual veterans and often refer them to chiropractic services, physical therapy, and classes about coping with pain.
Kuster and other officials hope the centers will benefit other VA hospitals by sharing expertise and lessons learned with the nationwide system.
She sees broad promise in the approach at White River Junction, which cares for veterans in Vermont and four New Hampshire counties that border the state.
“Dr. Franklin’s focus on developing unique pain-management plans for each individual recognizes that pain management cannot be one-size-fits-all,” Kuster said. “Dr. Franklin’s work has the potential to serve as a model throughout the VA and civilian medical community.”
Last year, the pain clinic and rehabilitation services were placed in a joint unit that Franklin oversees. Dr. Derek Golley, a chiropractor, said that the staffs are in regular communication and that he often treats veterans from the clinic.
Baron Tang, a physical therapist at White River Junction, credited the hospital’s holistic approach with giving veterans a renewed sense of control over their lives.
“We give them coping strategies to address specific needs,” Tang said. “And if we can give them strategies that are active, rather than looking at pills, then that patient will be empowered.”
O’Neill, the Navy veteran, said his treatment at White River Junction — including a procedure called radio frequency ablation, which blocks pain signals from nerve fibers — has significantly reduced his pain, and with it the temptation to turn to drugs.
Without regular attention at the clinic, O’Neill said, he would be hunting for opioids, legal or not. “They’re doing anything and everything to keep me from failing,” O’Neill said. “I’m not being dropped like a hot potato at the side of the road.”
Franklin said she worries that fewer opioids at the VA could send veterans searching for street drugs. But the clinic rarely cuts off patients against their will, she said, and there is little evidence veterans look elsewhere.
Instead, many of them are looking to the clinic, where healthier options are available.
“I feel that we do help people feel better,” Franklin said.
Is Your Child at Risk?
Studies have shown that a full one-third of American children are overweight or obese. But a study by researchers at The MetroHealth System and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland found that just one third of children who are overweight or obese are actually diagnosed.
In the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers reviewed body mass index (BMI) measurements for over 60,700 children between the ages of 2 and 18 (BMI is a standard used for measuring your weight to height ratio). The measurements showed that 19 percent of the children were overweight, 23 percent were obese and 8 percent were severely obese.
However, while 76 percent of severely obese children and 54 percent of obese children were diagnosed, only 10 percent of overweight children received a proper diagnosis.
This is a bit of a wake-up call to pediatricians that as many as 90% of overweight children are not being properly diagnosed,” David C. Kaelber, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study, told Science Daily. “Better identification of this group of children who have just crossed into the ‘unhealthy’ weight category is essential for early intervention, which will hopefully prevent not only a childhood of increased health problems, but also what now often becomes an ongoing battle through adulthood with life-long issues.”
The Importance of Detecting Childhood Obesity Early
An unrelated study last year found that out of 111 overweight children, half were overweight at age 2, and 90 percent by their 5th birthday. As children get older, losing weight can become increasingly difficult, as according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.
These extra pounds can quickly lead to a host of health problems. Among them is type 2 diabetes, which experts suggest may become an epidemic for young adults as a result of the childhood obesity epidemic.
“The full impact of the childhood obesity epidemic has yet to be seen because it can take up to 10 years or longer for obese individuals to develop type 2 diabetes,” Joyce Lee, M.D., M.P.H , a University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital pediatric endocrinologist, told Science Daily. “Children who are obese today are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as young adults.”
Further the longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop complications such as blindness and kidney failure.
Overweight children are also at an increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight as an adult. Perhaps most concerning of all, a review by obesity researcher David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston, epidemiologist S. Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues found that if the current epidemic of child and adolescent obesity continues, life expectancy could be shortened by two to five years in the coming decades.
Many Parents Don’t Realize Their Children are Obese
After surveying over 2,000 adults and taking height and weight measurements of their children, researchers from the University of Michigan found that among parents with an obese or extremely overweight child between the ages of 6 and 11:
- 43 percent said their child was “about the right weight”
- 37 percent believed the child was “slightly overweight”
- 13 percent said “very overweight”
- A smaller percentage said the child was “slightly underweight”
“It suggests to me that parents of younger kids believe that their children will grow out of their obesity, or something will change at older ages,” said Dr. Matthew M. Davis, a professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at University of Michigan, who led the study.
In reality, realizing your child is not at a healthy weight, and helping them to address it in a positive, proactive way, is one of the most caring things you can do for their health.
Helping Children Reach (and Stay at) an Ideal Weight
Kids gain weight for many of the same reasons that adults do, and often this is tied to eating too many unhealthy foods and not staying active enough. Stressful life events, such as divorce, a move, or a death in the family can also contribute.
Helping your child adopt healthier lifestyle habits should be a positive step taken by your entire family, and should include your good example and support. The following steps, made gradually over time, can go a long way toward helping your child to not only lose weight but also lead a healthier life:
- Eat meals together as a family. Studies show children whose families ate meals together often consumed more fruits and vegetables and fewer snack foods than those who did not.
- Decrease the time your child watches TV and plays video games or spends at the computer. Numerous studies link TV watching in particular to obesity, as it encourages snacking, exposes kids to junk-food marketing messages and promotes inactivity
- Avoid using food as a reward.
- Use healthy foods as snacks, and keep an ample supply of them around the house.
- Encourage your child to do active things like going for walks, walking the dog, washing the car, playing sports or tag with friends, etc. You can also enroll kids in specially designed exercise programs for kids. Recent research suggests that this type of exercise not only reduces depression and anxiety, but also helps to reduce anger and aggressive behavior in kids. You can even exercise along with your child.
- Limit fast food meals.
- Include more nutritious meals in your family’s daily diet (try the recipes in “Alive in 5”: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes for some delicious (and fast!) ideas)
- Eliminate sweetened drinks like soda from your house.
- Plan your meals for the week so you don’t end up going for take-out at the last minute.
- Pack a healthy lunch for your child to take to school.
Dr. Kate LynchChiropractic and Sports Health