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Nurse Bridgid

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

CAFFEINE! Is it good for you??

There are pluses and minuses to everything in life, right?  Same with caffeine consumption.  I, personally, don't like drinking caffeine, but I do drink iced coffee before I start a shift when I work overnights, and may have an iced green tea overnight, and I do drink one cup of black tea as my daily wake up.  Add that up and it is waaaay less than the average American BUT I used to not drink any caffeine at all- strictly herbal stimulant free teas for me, for years.  People thought I was bonkers, but I felt great, and didn't have that addiction.  Now, I kind of feel like an addict, and I hate that- I don't like feeling like I need something to wake up, but I love the ritual of my morning cuppa so much and there is no decaf version of the tea that I drink (I'm a bit of a tea snob).  So, after lots of questions regarding caffeine, and some soul searching, I am going to discuss the pros and cons and let you decide what is healthiest for your lifestyle...keeping in mind that everything in moderation is what makes a happy, healthy body!

First, we will start with what is caffeine?  I think that everyone knows that it is a central nervous system stimulant based in many plants, like cacao, yerba mate, coffee shrubs, and tea trees.  It is a pest control for these plants because the bugs that nibble, get so overstimulated by the caffeine that they die. It is actually considered, technically, a psychoactive drug, but it has never been designated as a controlled substance.  Coffee beans have a much higher caffeine amount than tea or yerba mate, and cacao beans have lower caffeine but also contain theobromine, which is also a stimulant. 

So what is the good stuff caffeine can do for you? Well, coffee and tea are loaded with antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals. There have been a few studies that have shown people who drink two cups of coffee per day have a much lower risk of colon cancer (roughly 30%).  The caffeine in tea and coffee can help reduce the risk of Parkinsons, really the studies showed the more caffeine the better. As well, the caffeine stimulation can help dilate the bronchioles, and hep with asthma attacks when other fast acting medication is not available (such as an albuterol inhaler).  As well, coffee drinkers have been shown to have a decreased risk of cirrhosis (by up to 80%), and a significant lower risk of gallstones.  Also, drinking caffeine can enhance a workout when consumed 30 minutes prior, although those studies all look at caffeine tablets as opposed to coffee/tea because they are too filling. As well, caffeine has been long touted as a diet aid, basically because it increases your metabolism, but it also keeps your blood sugar elevated, which sounds bad, but it deters those annoying "hunger pangs" for longer, and that stimulates brain activity (the brain works best with higher blood sugar- literally food for your brain).  And, caffeine has been shown in numerous studies to boost the pain relief when taken alone or in conjunction with pain reliever medications, especially with mild headaches!  It can also be cardioprotective (protect your heart from the risks of heart disease), decrease symptoms of gout, and the tannins in coffee can prevent tooth caries (cavities).

The bad? Well, due to consuming all of that coffee/tea because of the benefits can lead to some nasty issues!  Too much caffeine can cause destruction to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to gastritis and ulcers, so it is not a recommended beverage for people who already have ulcers, gastritis, or colitis. All of the caffeine may have  some health benefits, but anyone who has had too much coffee is aware of the jitters you can get, and irritability and anxiety can occur  from too much caffeine or as a withdrawal symptom for heavy coffee drinkers.  Also, it can cause insomnia if you drink caffeine too late in the day, or if you just drink too much during the day.  Coffee and tea can stain your teeth, which is nothing a little teeth bleaching can't take care of, but it happens nonetheless.  Also, there are two compounds in coffee that cause an increase in cholesterol levels, the compounds can be decreased by using paper coffee filters, but other methods of brewing coffee allow those compounds to stay in the coffee.  In a Danish study looking at pregnant women who consumed 7 cups of coffee a day (which seems excessive to me) had an increased risk of stillbirths, thus HCPs encourage decreased caffeine consumption during pregnancy.  Caffeine does interfere with iron absorption for women and can lead to iron deficiency. 

As far as coronary artery disease, there are tons and tons of studies all which conflict with one another!!  Some say caffeine helps, some say its bad, and some say it is only helpful in women.  Long story short, there are pros and cons to caffeine usage and to amounts per day, so the choice is up to you.  What works best with your lifestyle and your other medical problems.  I don't suggest that people with high blood pressure consume a lot of caffeine daily because it can transiently increase your blood pressure, but, again, it is up to you.  I prefer to stay on the lower side of caffeine intake, but I just don't like the feeling of withdrawal!  So, make the healthiest choice for you!

Yours in Good Health

Friday, August 27, 2010

FOR ALL CT LOCALS: Colin Kane is coming!!

Just a little shout out and to get you guys stoked for a good friend of mine who is coming to Hartford October 8, 2010.  Colin Kane is one of THE funniest comedians I have ever seen, he is NY based, he just booked a show in Hartford, and he is going to rock the Insurance city!  I hope that all of you guys can come out and show your support, and have one of the best nights ever!!

It's totally the best thing for your health to laugh your ass off, btw :)

Come out and Play!!!  I will give more details as they come in!! Email me with any questions, and Southern CT people, lets rock it Eco-style and carpool!

Yours  in Good Health

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Refresh, Rehydrate, and Rejoice that it's yummy!!

A co-worker brought it to my attention the other day that I haven't talked about coconut water....I totally thought that I had because I LOVE IT!!!  So first of all, it is a low carb beverage, 99% fat free, and low in sugar, and it has, basically, the same electrolyte balance as our body, so it is an excellent choice for rehydration after a long night out of consuming adult beverages, or after a workout.  Also, it is more nutritious for you than drinking a glass of whole milk (for vitamins and electrolytes) but waaay less fat and no cholesterol.

Let me break it down here:  Coconut water contains more potassium (515mg) than most "sports" drinks (117mg), less sugars (5mg) as opposed to 10-25mg of sugar in standard sports drinks, and lower sodium (25-30mg) where sports drinks have around 41mg.  And, the sugars that are contained in coconut water are not added sugars so it is fructose from the coconut itself, a totally natural source.  Also, only 45 calories per serving!!

Because it is isotonic and mimics the bodies natural fluids electrolyte balance, people report feeling much more refreshed after drinking coconut water than they do drinking water or even energy drinks!!  Truly, sometimes when you feel tired or are dragging, the issue can be low blood sugar or dehydration (apart from the obvious stress, lack of sleep, multi-tasking, just really living!!) and that makes coconut water an ideal choice to make you feel better and give you a little hop in your step!

Also, people who have urinary problems, such as kidney stones and urinary frequency, have reported to have fewer stones and less urgency- significant enough to make coconut water a staple of their diets.  Although, it is not really known why, coconut water actually helps to break up kidney stones!!  Another little interesting use of coconut water, is that if it is taken with a teaspoon of olive oil, it can kill intestinal worms (parasites); so remember that on your next trip to a third world country!!  Apparently, during WWII and during various emergencies in 3rd world countries, people have been saved through using intravenous infusions of  coconut water, because it is so much like blood plasma, which I find fascinating!

Coconut water contains monolaurin which is an antibacterial/antiviral which can kill lipid (fat) coated viruses.  Now, whilst an interesting fact, I wouldn't trust it completely as a cure all for all bacterial infections you may have!  But, I do think it can help with common colds, as a great way to re-hydrate with a fever, etc.  Also, it can help to prevent vomiting, so if you do have a virus that causes nausea and vomiting, it is a helpful beverage because it settles the stomach and helps to replace lost fluids.

Now, all this being said....the only coconut water I can drink is the Vitacoco that is coconut water with pineapple, they also have 100% pure coconut water, and they have it flavored with acai and pomegranate, peach and mango, and tangerine.  It can be hard to find that specific brand, and you all night like other brands, so give them a try, but please read labels! Vitacoco is 100% pure coconut water with other natural fruit juices added, and a brand that I trust.  They sell at Whole Foods, Shaw's, The Fresh Market, and other places, just check the website out!  And, let me know if you find other brands that are super tasty and natural too!!

Yours in Good Health

Friday, August 20, 2010

Good enough to eat!

I got this amazing facial this week, and the best part was that every little bit of the facial smelled so good I wanted to eat it, and basically you can!  (well, I kid, you shouldn't eat it but...) all of the products used were June Jacobs who creates products free of parabens, preservatives, synthetic dyes, sulfates, and fragrance.  All of her products are teeming with antioxidants to battle free radicals in your skin from red, white, and green tea extracts, pomegranates, grape seed extracts, and goji berries, all the prevent the premature signs of aging.   Her collection is created with botanicals that are hydrosols which basically distills things to their purest forms, and allows for them to be easily absorbed by your skin and it has a very low risk of irritation (for people with sensitive skin, this line is is ALL for sensitive skin!!)

I am so bonkers about reading every label of anything that I want to put into my body, and I usually am just as nuts about my face as well, seeing as you absorb the ingredients, but I realized during my facial that I'm not as stringent with my skin care product choices as I have been.  I do use products that are full of green tea, algae, and antioxidants, BUT my skin walking out out that day was AMAZING!  I have never used products that made my face immediately look so good.  I think it took a couple of years off of my skin, I am not kidding you guys, I was amazed....and normally I'm not someone who is easily swayed with products!!

Her website is June Jacobs and check out her current Special Offers, which totally makes it worth a try!  The cranberry cleanser and green tea and cucumber toner were amazing, but the product that was most amazing was the perfect pumpkin peeling enzyme mask; honestly it smelled like fresh pumpkin (like none of those "spices" of pumpkin from a can) and I could feel it tingling, in a good light (not burning way) and when my esthetician washed it off and then toned and moisturized, I am not kidding you....I had a new face!  I am going to buy some new products today, and maybe put up a tent by the mailbox until they come!!

With every order you get a couple of free samples, so give it a try and it will change your skin care regime forever, not just because they smell out of this world (they actually make me hungry!) but because they actually ARE good for you, they have none of the additives that many over the counter products have that have been shown to cause skin mutations in long term use, and the products are all natural; you can't go wrong.  Also, her SPF is a physical sunblock which means it is a clear zinc oxide; it is light and grease free (truly) and doesn't feel like you have anything on.  the zinc literally blocks the sun from getting into your skin and causing damage; I have been using it everyday and there have been no clogged pores or break outs (which can happen with sun blocks) and she has a tinted one too!!

Yours in Good Health


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I was randomly introduced to a product that came out a couple of years ago, while in my local liquor store; it is kind of a cool place because they sell primarily alcohol, wine, beer that is organic, and the proprietor is amazing and gets to know you and what you like so he is always testing new products on you! The other day when I was in there, there was a rep  for a mixer company making different cocktails like bloody mary's, margaritas, etc. I was all about getting a bottle of wine for dinner and running out of there, but the owner told me that if I missed out on this bloody mary, I would always regret of course I obliged!  And it was amazing!  I bought two bottles and I am not looking back!

RIPE is the company that makes these amazing mixers, which are 100% fresh pure ingredients, and the bottles have a quick expiration date, so you know that the juices have been expressed within the last 6 weeks, so it is all super fresh.  Also, all of the fruits and veg are from farmers in the US from various organic farms, but sometimes during cold spells they get the fruit and veg from Mexico.  The fruits and veg are brought to their kitchens daily and juiced that very day, horseradish is brought in weekly, and they use premium spices.  Also, it is sweetened with agave nectar so it has the lower glycemic index sweetener, thus lower calories but all the yummy flavor!!  They make a sour mix, margarita mix, and bloody mary (which is spicy and delish and with a lower sodium amount than most mixes, I would totally drink virgin as a yummy vegetable drink!!!)

Go check out their website RIPE to see where they sell local to you, and buy these mixers up!  They are so good and good for you- perfect for a brunch or just having some drinks with the ladies....actually they are just good ANY time and they are now a staple in my house.  People totally notice how delish they are, and they make SUCH a better drink than other mixers.  Give it a try and I promise you will thank me!!

Yours in Good Health

PS- I just got an email from the CEO of RIPE and he wanted me to let you all know that they are about to release a Sangria and an Agave Mojito mixer line soon, so check it out!!  Also, I forgot to tell all of you local Southern CT'ers, this line is out of Wallingford, so we can support local business buy indulging in this delish product!!  You can also buy online too, if you live out of state!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sweet tooth anyone???

I know that I touted the horridness of artificial sweeteners a couple of weeks ago and I suggested stevia and agave nectar as alternatives, but I have received a bunch of emails asking about these alternatives and if they are healthy for you.  So, I wanted to discuss them with you...mostly because stevia was a bit controversial in the past!

Agave nectar is a sweetener mostly produced from the Blue Agave plant which is primarily grown in Mexico.  It is a thinner consistency than honey, but much sweeter!  The nectar is sweet because of its level of fructose, the sugars naturally found in fruits and veg,(usually 98%), and a small amount of glucose too (2%).  Because of the high amount of fructose, and it is sweet, your body secretes a lot of insulin in response to the sweetener, although it has a much lower glycemic index level than standard sugar, diabetics should check their blood sugars frequently after eating this for the first few times to see how your body responds.  The cool thing is that despite it being a liquid, agave can be substituted for honey for sugar in recipes, and it is a great sweetener for iced teas or coffees because it dissolves easily.  Also it is made at a temperature less than 118F so, it is considered a treat for raw foodies AND vegan friendly (some raw foodies claim that is is cooked at a higher temp thus making it not truly a raw food, FYI).   Ancient Aztecs used it as a balm for wounds and healing skin and many holistic healers still use it to this day (I cannot speak to the fact that slathering agave on an open wound will help it heal, seeing as that goes against most modern science beliefs- but if it worked for the ancient people, who am I??) I must say, there is some science behind the fact that it is an effective antibacterial for the bug staph aureus.  So, whist it is a sweetener and a lower glycemic index than table sugar, it is concentrated fructose, so you won't have a sugar rush, but just be aware that sugars are sugars no matter where they come from!!

Onto Stevia, so stevia is a flowering shrub in the sunflower family that is grown in tropical and subtropical areas in North and South America.  It is also a sugar substitute that has 300 times the sweetness of sugar (in high concentrations it can taste like licorice...I have never experienced that).  It really doesn't boost blood sugar levels, so it is pretty good for dieters and diabetics (although diabetics, I always suggest frequent monitoring of blood sugars when eating a new food or changing your diet, just to be safe and see how your body reacts).  Actually research is currently being done to look at the use of stevia in treating obesity and high blood pressure, and the results thus far are promising. There is other research being done to look at its use in prevention for osteoporosis (it makes egg shells stronger, so it is added to chicken feed in many farms) but it is very early in research right now. It has been used widely as a sweetener in Japan for years, but some countries do not allow its use, and the US only accepted stevia as a supplement in the '90's despite it being around for ages!   Japanese scientists started studying it as an alternative to saccharin because it is considered a carcinogen there.  Traditionally, in South America, stevia was used by various tribes as a treatment for heartburn.  There was a study in the late 1980's that stated the breakdown of stevia in the liver was detrimental to health and caused mutagens (something that can cause mutations in DNA/cell structures), but that study was weak and has been disproved by a plethora of other research, thus as of 1994 it was allowed as a supplement in the US and then the FDA gave full approval in 2008 for Truvia (brand name for stevia product).  It can also be used as a substitute for sugar in baking/cooking.

As, I always say, everything in moderation is key BUT both are adequate substitutions for sugar. I tend to use stevia more because there are health benefits from its ingestion, BUT agave, I find, is easier to bake with!  Give them a try, let me know what you think....epsecially if you usually are a chemical sweetener type of person!!

Yours in Good Health

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jaws never had cancer.....

I have received a bunch of emails asking about shark cartilage in the prevention of cancer.  In all honesty, before receiving your emails, I had never even heard of this!  Apparently, the popular theory is that sharks don't get cancer, so eating shark and taking supplements must prevent/cure cancer.  That is the theory, and it has been tested numerous times with pretty poor results.

It has been shown, in a couple of small studies that shark cartilage inhibits angiogenesis, in that it prohibits the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.  All of the studies that were double blinded (people didn't know if they were getting shark cartilage or placebo and the scientists leading the tests didn't know either until after the study was finished) showed basically NO difference in the progression of cancer or patients outcomes.  They studied the effects on all various types of cancer, lung, liver, breast, testicular, etc.  Actually, due to the high amount of calcium in the cartilage, people had really high calcium levels (like to a bad point), abdominal cramping, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, and exceptional weakness when they took these supplements.

So, whilst I appreciate that people are trying to "think outside the box" in the prevention and treatment of cancer, this is one theory that, ironically, doesn't hold much water!  Keep living healthy, and science will find a way to kick cancers just unfortunately is taking more time than we would hope!

Yours in Good Health

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stay positive, it can save your life!

 I have always felt that it is important to have a positive outlook on life and your situation, as it can help you to pull through the tough times, and using humor and positivity can get you really far in life, especially during times of illness and stress.  It will lighten the mood with family and friends who don't know how to react or what to say, and it helps everyone feel more comfortable.

There was a recent study looking at women undergoing cancer treatments, their outlooks on life, and their outcomes.  Mainly they were dealing with women, of varying ages, with breast cancer, all throughout their courses of treatment.  It was found that patients with low hope, high psychological stress levels, and poor health status was related to lower satisfaction with life.  Even in patients who ended up having better outcomes, their perception of low hope and high stress, was detrimental to their life satisfaction after treatment.  Really it means that people who act like Debbie Downers, and react that way during their entire treatment course, tend to feel that way about their entire life, even after they are cancer free!

On the other hand, they found that people who noted themselves as having moderate to high stress, but high levels of hope, tended to think that their health status was higher than it may have been, and they had better experiences during their treatments, and more positive satisfaction with their lives.  Basically, hope is an important factor for all oncology patients and is so important because it effects their quality of life in a positive way.  

I know that it isn't easy sometimes to be super positive with people that you know have cancer, and it is even harder if they are really negative (and trust me, I understand that it is hard to be happy about cancer!!) but it is so important to be positive and help others be positive about their lives and their health.  Positivity really can have a long lasting impact on peoples lives and make their treatment and recovery so much better for them, and for you.  What many people forget is that illnesses don't just effect one person, it touches their friends and families and  has a huge impact on them as well.  I am not telling you all to be unrealistic with family members, but talk about happy memories, go on small adventures, visit new places (on small day trips), cook their favorite meal, make the most of the time when your family member/friend feels well, and make new happy memories that they can think about during the tough times; it will make the tough times easier, and the good times so much more precious.

Not only is making lemonade out of lemons fun, but it can have an amazing effect on peoples recovery.  I know that there are totally appropriate times to cry and be sad, but it isn't OK to let people stay like that.  Let's get's contagious!!

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sitting can kill you???

An interesting study looking at 53, 440 men and 69,776 women was recently published and it had some shocking results related to the increased risk of death specifically related to SITTING!  They were looking at the amount of time people spend sitting outside of work, i.e. on their leisure time, either watching TV, reading, napping, etc.

It was a 14 year study, by the American cancer society, and it found that people who sit 6 hours or more in their leisure time are at a much higher risk than people who only sit 3 hours or less.   The results were more detrimental for women, but still affected both sexes, and the main risk of death was related to heart disease.

The results found that, of the people who sat 6 hours or more (and weight, age, history of smoking was all taken into account):

-Increased the death rate by about 40% in women
-Increased the death rate by about 20% in men
-Increased the death rate by 94% in the least active women
    -Increased the death rate by 48% in the least active men

Granted, the study was looking at people aged 55-76, BUT the results are still the same.  If you have loved ones 55 and older, get them outside to walk or take them on different adventures, it will not only give them something to do and make their life more exciting, but extend their lives as well.  I also think that it is a good thing for all of us to think about that on our time off, we should try and be a little more active than just going for our daily workouts then thinking that its OK if we sit around all day, clearly it is detrimental for our lives long-term, and it is better to be in a healthy habit then to try and force one at an older age.  Make movement a part of your daily life and try to cut down on just sitting in front of the TV vegging out!

So, encourage friends, family, and loved one to get out there and get moving, its good for everyone!

Yours in Good Health

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Glucosamine and Chondroitin aren't all amazing....

Glucosamine and Chondroitin have been long touted as healing supplements for arthritis and other joint pains.  I never really researched it, but when I noticed that my older dog has been a little bit slower during runs and slower to get up,  despite being only 5 years old ,  I decided to up his omega-3,6 supplementation (my dogs are on a raw food diet- they only eat raw meats, bones, and veggies as they would in nature) and I wanted to start him on natural supplementation for glucosamine and chondroitin- I don’t want everything else he eats to be totally healthy then pump him with chemicals  to stop his joint pain!

What I found is that the natural supplementation of glucosamine and chondroitin is green-lipped muscles, so I ordered him some from the source- New Zealand!!  Also Shark cartilage is the best source of chondroitin, so I got him some of those supplements as well- I want him footloose and fancy free like a puppy again!  I started the supplements over a week ago, and I thought that I noticed a difference but then realized that due to a little medical setback, I haven’t been running in the past week, so his extra energy at home is most likely due to a decrease in running outside.  But I decided to look up the research nonetheless, seeing as people who take these supplements are all about them and how great they are. 

Unfortunately, there have been numerous tests done, and NONE of them support chondroitin to decrease arthritis and joint pain, and only one small study supports the use of glucosamine to prevent the structural damage of arthritis, thus decreasing the pain associated with the disease.  Two of the largest studies were performed by GAIT (Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial, which was all funded by the NIH (National Institute of Health) and both studies involved over 1500 people, the first one lasted about 3 months and their findings showed that a 17% of their patients taking the supplements had decrease pain but if the pain does not subside in 3 months after starting the supplementation, then it won’t help at all.  Also, they found that glucosamine sulfate is better than glucosamine hydrochloride and added with chondroitin sulfate can have improved effects for pain.

What I found concerning are the side effects of both supplements were listed, and seeing as these are taken as OTC (over the counter) drugs and people usually don’t ask their HCP’s about interactions or if it is a drug they should be taking!   Here are some of the bad things that can occur from these supplements that were found either in human or animal studies:
Glucosamine has been linked to insulin resistance, which can be a cause of diabetes, so diabetics should closely watch their insulin levels closely.  Also, it is made from shellfish, so people with an allergy should not take these supplements.
Chondroitin can cause bleeding, so people with bleeding disorders or taking other medications that can cause bleeding (even ibuprofen) should be careful when taking this supplement.   As well, because they are OTC they are not monitored by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and many of them were found to not have the appropriate amount of supplementation as noted on the labels. 

In lieu of all of this, I think that I am going to be really sad about all od the money I just spent on Che’s supplements from new Zealand and stop them .  Also, I am going to make sure that people know the side effects in relation to the lack of evidence supporting its use.  I know that the placebo effect can go far, but I am not willing to put my pets, family, or loved ones at risk!  So take the supplements at your own risk, and if you take them and feel that they aren’t working, then stop them!!

Yours in Good Health