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Nurse Bridgid

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Are full body scanners safe?

We are all asking the same questions related to the new body scanners that the US government is imposing upon us during travel after 9/11: Is getting scanned safe? There are two sides of the story, so I am going to give you both the FDA/TSA'a view and the independent Radiologist/MD's views (mostly those from UCSF that have sent letters to Obama to ask for a repeal of this decision by the TSA) and my own point of view, and you all can do what you choose!  I just want to let you know the possible risks and let you know those at highest risk for long term effects.

What are these scanners all about?
The TSA has introduced the body back-scanners which gives a view of your  front and back through rapid speed low density radiation and  is presumed to give a view of any items that would be hidden under your clothes.  Their goal is to detect any hidden weapons or explosives.

So what is the concern?
The FDA and TSA claim that the radiation is completely safe because it is such a low amount of radiation, but there are numerous radiation experts that disagree, saying that exposure to radiation should be eliminated at all cost, so why expose yourself when it isn't necessarily needed.  The risks can be higher for those with immunocompromised bodies (i.e. passengers with HIV/AIDS or cancer), the elderly, children, and pregnant women.

The FDA/TSA's Side:
The FDA even created a web site to squelch peoples fears about body scanners, just remember, they want you to get scanned, so take their info with a grain of salt.  Daniel Kassiday from the FDA claimed that one dose of x-ray causes "an extremely low risk to an individual" and that we are exposed to more radiation in our daily lives than one dose of the radiation from these back scanners.   The FDA also claims that it would take 1000 to 2000 back scans to be the equivalent to 1 medical chest xray.  Despite no true testing of this technology, they also claim that the scans are safe for the pregnant women and children, based on their calculations.

Independent Radiologists view:
These scanners haven't been studied to know if there is an increased risk and they requested an impartial panel of physicists and medical biologist and radiologists to determine the risk to people.  It should be treated just like any other medication that the FDA approves, these scanners should be held to the same level of testing.  They are requesting the same level of expectations for these scanners as they would for any other medical equipment or medications that the FDA approves, as outlined in a letter to the President in April 2010.  They also have concerns for the immunocompromised patients that already have cell mutation, and exposure to even "low dose" radiation can cause significant cell damage, and increase the risk of skin cancer.  Also, they bring up the risk of men and radiation, and the risk of sperm mutation from these exposures.  As well, the risk to children hasn't been studied, while the risk of radiation to pregnant women has been determined as too much of a risk to the fetus.  So, it is not understood, and there is no research to determine that IS safe.

Nurse Bridgids take:
I don't think that it is too much to ask to study the risks to us before exposing us to radiation before we hop on a plane.  I don't mean to question our government, and that is not what I am saying, but from a purely scientific point of view, we cannot give a study medication that has yet to be approved by the FDA to a patient without them signing tons of waivers, but the TSA decides that we all need to get scanned, so we do it?  I think not.  Basically everyone is exposed to various bits of radiation every day from phone towers, cell phones, power plants, etc from the environment, so why do we want to add any additional exposure?  Plus, people who work in hospitals and any sort of power plant or in an area of high electricity are at high risk anyway, so why should we also get some exposure when we are going on vacation?  I would prefer a heavy pet down by a gropey TSA agent rather than get scanned and risk my fertility (radiation can zap even eggs in storage!) or increase my risk of cancer.  I travel a bunch of times a year, but what about people who travel constantly for work, do they deserve this exposure?  How is their risk determined?  I know medical professionals that feel differently, but unless the TSA can prove two things to me, I will refuse: 1) They are finding more weapons and explosives and stopping them from getting into plane cabins and 2) There is no risk to my body from the exposure to radiation.

You decide what is BEST for you and go with it, I don't want to sway anyone either way, because obviously I am anti, but I want you to be safe and know that these scanners haven't been studied, so if you are at higher risk, you may want to think twice!

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blood pressure medication can interact with antibiotics?

Certain blood pressure medication can interact with pretty common antibiotics, and they can cause some serious reactions of severely low blood pressure.  A large study from Canada including 999,000 patients form Ontario from 1994-2009 found some shocking results.

The patients were all 66 year old and up and were on calcium channel blockers ( a type of blood pressure medication that works by disrupting calcium going through the various calcium channels that can affect excitable muscles like the heart and blood vessels.)  Some examples of calcium channel blockers are: Amlodipine (Norvasc), Nifedipine (Procardia, Adalat), and Diltiazem (Cardizem). In the study they found that 7,100 patients were hospitalized for severe drops in blood pressure and of those 131 had been on antibiotics the week before.

Now it isn't all antibiotics, its a certain group known as macrolides, which are the most highly prescribed antibiotics in the US, and are drugs such as: Erythromycin (E-mycin), clarithromycin (Biaxin), and Azithromycin (Zithromax). And they are pretty broad band gram positive bacteria (including streptococcus and haemophilus influenzae) and they are a good alternative for those allergic to penicllin.  With Erthromyin and calcium channel blockers there was a six fold increase risk in severe low blood pressure and with clarithromycin there was a four fold increase.  There was no interaction found between Azithromycin and calcium channel blockers.

This drop in blood pressure for older adults can be devastating due to the fact that they can get dizzy fall and break bones OR have such os blood pressure that they are no longer getting adequate blood flow to their major organs and have lack of oxygen and cell death (usually the kidneys are the first to be affected).  Younger patients may be able to tolerate these changes in blood pressure with less of an overall effect, but the results of the studies still suggest that if you are on a calcium channel blocker and require a broad band antibiotic, Azithromycin is the best choice.

There have been no interactions noted between beta blockers (metoprolol/Lopressor) or ACE inhibitors (Lisinopril/Zestril) which are other common blood pressure medications.  So, please discuss your risk if you are on a blood pressure medication with your HCP before starting an antibiotic regimen.

Yours in Good Health!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Think about running but hate it??

There are so many people that I talk to, basically daily, that have been jaded about running and say that they are bad at it, so they don't do it.  I used to be the exact same way, but when you think about it, that is a really strange statement, right?  I mean, our bodies are created to walk and run, since the days of cavemen; its how we have survived as beings for ages to run away from our enemies or to get food, etc. So, in essence, no one is a "bad" runner or isn't "good" at it, we all just have our own ways of doing things; some people may need to work on breathing techniques, some people have different dis/abilities,  and most people just need to learn how to start right!

Don't set yourself up for failure:
When I was younger, I used to decide to go running, strap on my shoes, get out there with my walkman (that weighed roughly 10lbs) and just go....for like .5miles then crap out.  Why?  Well, I didn't really know what I was doing or how to pace myself, so I basically would sprint, not breathe well, feel like I was dying, then stop.  The next day feel sore and not do it again for a month.  I was setting myself up for failure, I just didn't realize it.  Back then, there weren't all of these cool things that we have now though like ipods, and non-dial up internet!  So, the first step is to decide that you just need your two legs to get running, and you actually want to do it, then we get some goodies and support to get you running.

What can I do for support to start out?
For starters, there is a program called "couch to 5K" where literally it works out a running program so get you up to a 5K from being someone who doesn't run at all.  You walk/run in a series that isn't too overwhelming and will allow you rest periods, and help you if you go to fast, to give recovery periods so you can figure out your own pace; it doesn't focus on a fast pace, just doing it!  When I was younger, I used to feel really silly if I stopped and walked whilst running, like I was going to be judged for know what?  You're out there doing it, and can't be worried about being judged; you aren't doing it for anyone other than you!!  You can download the couch to 5K app to your favorite MP3 player, and it will give you cues as to when to walk and when to run during your workouts.  The web site outlines a workout plan that does the same, so wether you want to do the program yourself or have the cues on your MP3 player, you have options!

Now I've started, what can I do now?
If you want to take a different route (pun intended), and just stink at pacing yourself, as I do, get the Nike+ shoes and ipod sensor and if you don't want to use Nike's, you can get the shoelace sensor that works with your ipod to help pace you, tell you your distance, and you can set workouts for yourself, etc.  After a long workout or faster pace, you get a little "way to go" message from various athletes (Lance Armstrong, etc) as an extra pat on the back!

(Black) Mivizu Nike+iPod Shoe Lace sensor Pouch for Nike + iPod Sport Kit compatible with iPhone 3G S / 3GSNike + iPod Sport Kit

Also, do a little google search and look for running groups in your area.  There are always a ton on craisglist (within the US) or gumtree (good for mostly outside the US) and people are very honest with their level of running, and really just want someone to run with!  I'll be honest, I run pretty fast by myself, but am happy as a clam to run at a slower pace just to run with someone and have some makes it so much better and more enjoyable.  Plus, if you have a dog, get them going, they will love it, be exhausted, and you will see a bunch of health benefits for them too (like puppies that are tired, don't have energy to CHEW!!)

Talk to other runners, find friends on facebook, and get the word out there that you are just starting...I am sure that you will find others to run with!

What if my problem is breathing?
Try going to yoga classes first OR get a beginners yoga DVD to do at home OR a beginners breathing DVD (meditation).  Sounds silly, but there are good ways to breathe and bad; some people tend to hyper ventilate (short quick deep breaths) and that doesn't help to bring extra oxygen to your muscles and it only builds up CO2, and you are going to feel like crap and stop running.  Learning to slow your breath, and taking slower moderate to deep breaths during running will help to exhale excess CO2 and lower the build up of lactic acid, by allowing more oxygen to get to the cells that need it (in your muscles).

Those are the three major issues that most people face when starting to run, besides having the gumption to go out and do it!  I am not saying that you have to run, but I am just saying that you CAN run; everyone can, it is just getting started and doing it the right way that is key.  So, if you ever said that you wanted to start running, or have tried in the past and failed, give these options a try, and use your support systems, you will succeed, and you will feel great knowing that you use a form of exercise that you can do anywhere in the world at any gym needed!!

If you want it, it is yours, just set yourself up for success!

Yours in Good Health

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vitamin D: Do I take a supplement??

There is a lot of controversy that surrounds Vitamin D supplementation, mostly because Vitamin D helps your body to absorb and adhere calcium to your bones (you need one to have the other help), but the BEST source of vitamin D is from UV B exposure.  4 minutes of unexposed sunlight (for a light skinned person) gives about 1000IU of Vitamin D3  (the US RDA for the average person is around 600IU/day and 800IU/day for elderly and pregnant women and for EU/Australia it is closer to 200-400IU/day or 5-10 micrograms).  So what is the big controversy?  Some HCP's tell patients to take up to 4000IU a day of Vitamin D, but do we really need high doses of Vitamin D and should we encourage supplementation.   There are health detriments to both too much Vitamin D and too little!

What is Vitamin D all about?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it is stored in your fat, so unlike, for example, Vitamin C, you don't just pee out the excess, your body stores all of the Vitamin D you ingest in your fat.  (Vitamin A, D, E, & K are all fat soluble FYI.) It is created in the skin after exposure to UVB rays, then transported to the liver and converted into calcidiol, then into calcitrol where it works as part of your immune system AND when circulating in the bloodstream it helps to regulate calcium and phosphate in the blood and assists in growth and remodeling of bone.  It also has some neurological functions as it helps in the growth and life cycles of cells, and decreases inflammation.  There have been studies that look at the role of Vitamin D and prevention of cancer, but the studies all seem to have conflicting outcomes and nothing really points at the specific role of Vitamin D.  Also, a study from The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology found that abnormal levels (high or low) are related to premature aging and abnormal cell functioning.

What can too much Vitamin D lead to?
Too much Vitamin D can lead to hypercalcemia (too much circulating calcium) and in pregnant women, this can cause mental retardation and/or various deformities in the fetus.  Other signs of too much Vitamin D are anorexia, pruritus (itchy skin), nausea, vomiting, nervousness, muscle twitching, and calcifications in the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure.  It has been shown that 50,000IU/day of Vitamin D can cause these problems over the timeframe of a few months, but certain medical conditions could cause it to happen faster.

What about to little Vitamin D?
Most notably, Vitamin D deficiencies cause rickets in children, which causes deformities of the long bones and osteomalacia, which is a thinning of the bones which causes muscle weakness and easily broken bones.  Osteomalacia can also lead to chronic muscle/bone pain and is usually present only in adults.  There is a theory that low Vitamin D levels can lead to susceptibility of the flu virus.  Low levels of vitamin D can also be associated with cardiovascular disease, in the form of peripheral artery disease (PAD) and in a study from Johns Hopkins and Emory it showed that people with lower calcium levels had an 80% higher rate of PAD.

What foods have Vitamin D?
Mushrooms (besides UVB) are the only vegetarian friendly form of Vitamin D and will give you 14 IU per serving.
Cod Liver oil (1 tablespoon): 1360 IU
Salmon (3oz): 764 IU
Mackerel (3oz): 388 IU
Tuna (canned 3oz): 154 IU
Milk (fortified 1 cup) : 115-124 IU
OJ (fortified 1 cup): 100 IU
Yogurt (fortified 6 oz): 80 IU
Margarine (fortified 1 tablespoon): 60 IU
Sardines (2): 46 IU
Beef Liver (3.5 oz): 46 IU
Cereal (fortified 1 cup): 40 IU
Egg (whole - Vitamin D is in yolk): 25 IU
Swiss Cheese (1 oz): 6 IU

Who is at risk for low Vitamin D levels?
People with dark skin
Low exposure to light
Breast fed infants (need fortified foods as well)
People with fat malabsorption disorders
People who have had a gastric bypass (can have difficulty absorbing fats)

How does Sunblock effect its absorption?
First off, darker skinned people need 20-30 minutes more exposure time to sunlight to get the same amount of Vitamin D that light skinned people make in 4 minutes of exposure.  So, how does sunblock work on this end?  Well, most sunblocks claim to block 99% of UVB rays, which is what we need to make Vitamin D and what we need to prevent to stave off skin cancer....ugh!  What it actually does is decrease your ability to make Vitamin D by around 95%.  So, for light skinned people that need to be unexposed in the UVB rays for 4 minutes that are now wearing sunblock you need to increase that time to around 8 minutes, but the problem therein is for darker skinned people who have to spend around 20-30 minutes in the UVB rays to generate enough Vitamin D and with sunblock now need to spend closer to an hour in the sun to make the same amount of Vitamin D; this puts us at a higher risk for skin cancer.

There are detrimental health effects from too much and too little Vitamin D, its almost like being Goldilocks and finding the right amount and what is best for you.  The BEST way to absorb is from UVB light, and from food sources, as supplements aren't usually absorbed as well for viable use by the body.  If you are worried about how much Vitamin D you have, or thinning bones (especially if you already have osteoporosis) talk to your HCP about you best plan of care and how much Vitamin D you need.  Also talk about sunlight exposure and risk of skin cancer....this problem is clearly multi faceted and no one seems to have the 'right' answer, so work with your HCP to find the best plan for you!

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Don't like drinking water? AquaHydrate may be the solution

I usually don't take health tips from Mark Wahlberg (he has an amazing body...but I usually don't listen to celebrities, in general, as a point of reference) although this time, I think he's onto something !  Apparently, during training for his role in "The Fighter" he trained as a boxer to truly learn the role and he drank tons of AquaHydrate during his training and credits it with all of the benefits he had during training. Also many of the USA Olympic athletes drink this water when training and competing and are huge advocates.  They all can't be wrong, can they?  They claim to have faster recovery times, better mental focus, and better sports performance.

What's the deal?
AquaHydrate is a water that is super purified and is modified to change the pH to around 9 which makes the water very alkaline. Usually the pH of water is around 7.0 which is neutral (it changes a bit depending on where you live and what is present in it, it can range from 6.5-8.5 out of the tap).  It also has 72 trace and macro minerals present, which is the only water on the market able to claim that (that is calorie free), and it is one of the purest bottled waters on the market due to a rigorous purification process using pre and post filtration along with UV light sources to kill off bacteria and totally purify the water.

What does a higher pH of water mean?
Really there are no health detriments, but if it was the water coming out of your tap, it would make your coffee taste a little bitter, and it also honestly has no health benefits either.  The alkalinity is quickly off-set by the acidity of our guts and then absorbed as any other water would be, but the company claims that it tastes better; the alkalinity gives the water a better "mouth feel"....that clearly is not scientific, but I'm a believer after tasting it!! So whilst there is no real science behind that, I will tell you that this water does taste refreshing, and I keep wanting to drink more!!   As far as the alkaline nature of the water decreasing recovery times, and medically speaking, they have a good basis for that; bicarbonate is the buffer for lactic acid, which is a waste product in muscles after stress (i.e. why your muscles feel sore) so having a alkaline fluid that has bicarbonate present, theoretically will, in fact, decrease recovery times and make you feel more energized after a hard workout.

Will it make you look like Mark Wahlberg?
Unfortunately it won't give you that Mark Wahlberg body BUT I that for those of you who don't regularly drink water, you might want to give it a try, I think you will like it and that might encourage you to drink more.  I have so many friends that only drink soda because "water tastes gross" so I am hoping that the AquaHydrate people are on the right track and it will encourage those soda drinkers to toss the soda and pick up some water!!  When you are dehydrated, your body suffers, and so does your workout; you tend to feel tired easier and you are more likely to quit early.  If you have good tasting water, with no calories, and vitamins and minerals that your body needs, you are kind of killing two birds with one stone, right?  You are replacing some of the vities and minerals lost through sweat (not all of them but small amounts) and you are rehydrating your body, which will allow you to work out harder and longer.

I love water and basically drink it exclusively, and I love to get extra vitamins and minerals in my diets whenever I can, so I am probably not the best judge, but I really do feel better after a bottle of AquaHydrate and a good workout. I am trying to get some non-water drinkers to hop on board and give it a go and tell me what they think...who's with me???

I am normally a Brita girl at home, but I usually grab a bottle of water to bring with me to work or when running; from now on though, I am only grabbing AquaHydrate before my workouts and will encourage my clients to do the same!  Tell me what you think, and check out AquaHydrate!

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

sprouts and salmonella...

The CDC has linked a salmonella outbreak to some alfalfa sprouts and spicy sprouts (a mix of alfalfa, clover, and radish sprouts)from a farm in Illinois that were distributed to D.C., Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri.  The farm, specifically, was Tiny  Greens Organic Farm in illinois. And, while a majority of the affected sprouts were sent to the above listed states, there have been cases documented in MA, CT, WI, PA, CA, CO, GA, IA, HI, KY, SD, TN, TX, and VA (not all of these cases have been deemed from the Tiny Greens Organic Farm but the CDC is looking into it.)

*PS- the Tiny Greens Organic Farm stands behind the fact that they have no link to the outbreak but agrees with the recall. As well, I am not attacking their farm, hey just happen to be in the middle of the current investigation, as these outbreaks have occurred at numerous other farms in the past.

How do salmonella outbreaks occur with sprouts and why do they always seem to be a vegetable affected?
So, the salmonella can occur during the soaking period of farming the sprouts.  Before the raw seeds are sent to farmers, they are labeled for their germination strand and the process that they go through during processing, as legally required.    The the labeled seeds are sent to farms to be either sprouted or plants and grown.  During the sprouting process, salmonella can be in the water source and adhere to the veg whilst soaking, then infect the areas where the sprouts grow.  Also, of note, many of these outbreaks in the past are dervied from seeds that have been imported from outside the US where the requirements to process seeds may not be as strict.

How do I prevent this?
Washing the sprouts will wash off the bacteria, and if you are worried, soaking the alfalfa sprouts in an antibacterial soak (very cheap) such as Bacdyn  for 10 minutes.  This product is also useful if you want to eat uncooked fruits and veggies while abroad in places that you are unsure of the cleanliness of the water/food sources.  The antibacterial properties will help to wash off/soak off the bacteria and prevent E.Coli or Salmonella from adhering to the outside of the fruit/veg.

For Signs/symptoms/treatment of salmonella please read my earlier blog: salmonella and eggs

Are Sprouts worth the effort of washing them to eat them??
Yes!  Alfalfa sprouts are full of really good vitamins and nutrients such as manganese, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, Vitamin A/B/C/E/K.  And, they are full of antioxidants!  Plus, alfalfa sprouts have been linked to helping with vision (much like carrots) along with boosting your immune system, it can also help decrease inflammation associated with arthritis, and lowers blood pressure.  So, wash them off and eat them up!!

There are always investigations by the CDC and FDA with each one of these outbreaks to find the strand of germination and to find a link with the source of the salmonella, so be sure that they are also looking at ways to further prevent these from happening.  But until it is completely eradicated, please be safe, and always wash (even pre-washed) sprouts, and try to keep an eye out for recalls by watching the news or checking in with the CDC about sprouts and different brands.

Yours in Good Health

Monday, January 10, 2011

Clearing up an old wives tale.....

So, as I was told 10 times today, by my mother, to dry my hair before I go outside because I "would catch my death" and it made me think of all the old wives tales that have been going around over the years that people truly live by, that really have no medical standing.

Going out with wet hair will make you sick:
There is no science behind this fact.  I mean, it makes you cold and it stinks because in the cold weather your hair tends to freeze and look crappy BUT it won't make you sick, and it won't kill you!!

Pulling out a gray/white hair will cause ten more to grow in its place:
This is so NOT true.  If it was true, then wouldn't every guy who was about to bald pull out any graying hair and then have a full head of hair in a week?  It's not a great idea to pull out your hair, but I wax so who am I to judge....just stick to getting a "color rinse" as my mom likes to say and live it up with new colors instead of pulling them out!

Lettuce can counteract drunkenness and bring on labor in young women:
Lettuce is a vegetable (specifically iceberg) that has a high amount of water property, so it can help with dehydration of being drunk, which is not necessarily better than drinking water....because I would imagine that you would have to eat a whole head of iceberg to equal an 8oz glass of water, which would make me throw up.  And, I guess if you are focused on eating lettuce you aren't drinking...BUT there is no magic there, and I can find no scientific reason that it will sober you up!  Also, there is nothing in lettuce that would spur on will do it, walking, bouncing, jumping, any sort of physical activity really, but no link to lettuce!

Mandrake makes people fertile, fall in love, and helps clairvoyants "see":
So Mandrake is a root plant that is part of the nightshade family (toxic) that is filled with things that mess with humans bodies and brains.  It has properties of scopolamine (like what you take if you get sea sick), atropine (a natural hormone in the body), and various hallucinogenic derivatives.  So, I don't know how many of you messed with hallucinogens in your younger years, but on shrooms or acid, you can fall in love with a rock or a feather as you would a human, so that part is bunk. Helping clairvoyants see?  I don't know, I guess I cannot speak to that, but again any sort of hallucinogen can make people "see" stuff, and I think that a true clairvoyant should be able to "see" without the aid of drugs, right?  I'm coming off as snarky, but I really am not sure on this one.  And, as far as the fertility is concerned (or men) it really hasn't been studied but I imagine that anything that is as toxic to humans as mandrake wouldn't aid in fertility, but if it is some sort of mental block or stress as the reason why pregnancy isn't occurring, maybe a different herbal stress reliever might do the trick?  Something a little less toxic and at least legal decriminalized in a few states should do it ;)

Mistletoe is an antidote to poison:
Mistletoe IS a poison to both canines and humans!!  It is sold as Iscador or Helixor in extract forms and is used in the EU as an aid for respiratory and circulatory ailments, and a few physicians in Switzerland and Germany use this treatment regularly.  In lab studies it showed that it killed certain (not specified which ones) tumor cells and supported a healthy immune system BUT in animal studies there were very poor outcomes.  Things can be very different in a controlled test tube versus what actually happens in a working body system!   It can cause GI upset, diarrhea, and slowed pulse when ingested, and it is usually considered a poisoning when people ingest it.  A few years ago Suzanne Somers decided to use it in lieu of chemotherapy for her cancer, but she also had surgery to remove the tumor, then took the herbal supplements.  So, no it isn't an antidote to poison, but it may have some healing properties in the future....I would discuss this further with your HCP if you are looking for a different option for cancer treatment.

If you eat a watermelon seed, a watermelon will grow in your stomach:
Ok, so this is obviously not true  your stomach acids eat away at the seed just like anything else and you break it down and poop it out!!  But I did want to tell you about swallowing gum, it doesn't stay in your stomach forever, or for 7 years as some people say, it does however slow your digestion because it is hard for your body to break down.  So, you do pass it, but it is not good to swallow your gum because your gut has to work so hard at breaking it down, it can cause an increase in stomach acids....over time that can lead to an ulcer or difficulty with digestion.

Any other old wives tales I may have missed that you guys are interested in???  Let me know and I will sort it out!!

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Do you know the difference between traditionally grown and organic?

I know that sometimes as you are grocery shopping, you walk around and the traditionally grown fruits and veg sometimes look exactly the same the only difference appears to be an inflated price tag!!!  Is there really a difference with fruit and veg?  What do the labels mean on the meat I see at the store?

What is organic farming?
Organic farming practices are designed to promote soil and water conservation, and decrease pollution.  For example, instead of using a chemical weed killer to ward off weeds in crops, organic farmers use crop rotation and use mulch and manure to prevent the growth of weeds.  As well, instead of using chemical insecticides, organic farmers will use other insects and animals ( such as specific birds) to ward off the insects or disrupt their mating habits.  As well, instead of giving antibiotics and hormones to animals used for meat, they give them organic feed, allow them free grazing and  rotate areas for grazing (to prevent risk of disease), clean housing, and give a balanced diet (based on the animal type).  No growth hormones or antibiotics are allowed to be added to feed and given to the animals in by USDA organic standards.

What do the labels mean?
Now this is the important part, and what most people (including me) get tripped up on!!  So, any food manufacturer or farmer that labels and sells foods as organic must be USDA certified, and they have very specific requirements.  Foods that are labelled as 100% organic can carry the USDA seal; usually this consists of fruits and veg and other single ingredients BUT in certain cereals/crackers/baked goods/etc they use all organic ingredients and can also label as such and use the seal. Now, if you just see organic on the seal, it means that 95% of the ingredients are organic, anything less and they cannot use that term!  If a product contains, at a minimum 70%, organic ingredients then they can label as "made with organic ingredients".   I always find it most confusing with meats, because at grocery stores they will label as "no hormones" "antibiotic free" and use those other clutch words that I look for BUT if they don't have the seal, they are NOT organic!!

Are organic foods better for you?
There is nothing to say that the fruits and veg are 'better' for apple is an apple and the fiber/nutrient content doesn't change. The difference is the environmental factors and the price tag; so I understand how some people don't really care about that.  But, for the meats and dairy, the health effects of the hormones and antibiotics are currently being studied but have already been associated with early puberty for children and are being studied with breast/colon/prostate cancer.

What to do?
I know that I have the ability to do what a lot of people don't have time for and/or don't want to do; I go to farms around where I live. I know the farmers and sometimes I even get to see the animals (I try not to because I tend to name them, love them, and then can't eat to allow me to eat, I just talk to the humans!) I like to know where my food comes from, and I know that they follow the USDA regulations.  But, they also sell the meat and veg at local co-ops and at farmers markets, so if I don't have time to go all the way to the farm, I have places that I know sell what I want.  I know all the people at the co-ops and they are just as friendly as I am with the farmers, and they are in the know about EVERYTHING!!  They won't sell stuff unless it is legit organic.

My point is, go find a co-op near you, or a farmers market, or an organic market....honestly, Whole Foods is a good back up, but its not always worth your whole paycheck and you don't need to spend a trillion dollars to eat healthy, you just need to talk to people and find out the scoop.  Read labels, and don't be fooled by them!  I don't want to push my feelings on you, and I don't always eat grains as 100% organic, I really try to, but if I am in a pinch and need to buy whatever is at the corner store, I do it!  But, my fruit/veg , meat, and dairy (especially the meat and dairy) is all organic.  I try to limit my exposure to hormones and antibiotics that I don't need.  And, I think that it is important to do the same for your children (when you are pregnant and when they are out in the real world!) The more we limit bad stuff into our bodies, the better we will all be in the long run; I understand that going to farms isn't always plausible, but try to find a co-op or somewhere that sells affordable organic foods, those places are out there, you just need to look!!

Yours in Good Health

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thinking about dieting for a new resolution?

I heard from someone about the coconut oil diet on New Years Eve....I had never heard of it before, and seeing as I am so obsessed with all things coconut, I had to look into it.  And, at this point I think that you all know my thoughts on "diets" but I really wanted to look into possible benefits that the coconut oil might have from a medical standpoint.

What's the deal?
You add three tablespoons of coconut oil to your diet every day (one tablespoon contains 117 calories and 13.6grams of fat)  Some people just eat a tablespoon after meals OR just add it to their diet as a base for salad dressings or stir fry (anywhere that you would normally use an olive oil), and as a supplementation for their regular fats.  Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) unlike animal fats which are long chain triglycerides and the length of the chain denotes how your body will break it down.  MCTs are able to be broken down almost like carbohydrates by the body, and are rapidly broken down vs long chains which slow down digestion and tend to be stored in fat cells.

How does it work?
The theory is that you are eating fewer calories despite taking in more fat, which fat slows digestion and makes you feel full faster so you tend to eat less.  Some people have made statements that it regulates your thyroid gland (there is no legit science behind this) to increase your bodies temperature to burn calories.  Your body naturally will increase its temp as it works harder to burn calories, so that has nothing to do with coconut oil.  From what I have read and all of the science, really you are increasing your low calories fats and making yourself feel satiated faster by adding it to foods.

Is it good for you?
Honestly, it probably isn't horrible BUT you are adding fats to your diet and as we all know saturated fats increased your cholesterol level and can lead to heart disease. And, coconut oil has higher saturated fats than lard AND butter!! So, this diet is a horrible disease if you are a woman in (or after menopause), if you have a family history of stroke or heart disease, or increased cholesterol (or family history).

Does it actually work?
People who use the coconut oil supplementation claim that they have more energy, feel better, and lose weight over time.  One staunch supporter claimed that he lost 20 lbs over six months with no other changes to his diet than adding coconut oil.  My issue is that many of the diets tend to promote colon cleansing and low carb diets as well, so no one can really say that the coconut oil is the source of their weight loss, most likely their lifestyle/diet changes.  There is no research to support the claims of the diet.   And, on a personal note, I have heard directly from people who have done it  that the coconut oil shooters three times a day make you want to throw up.

I stand by my previous statements that a healthy diet and regular exercise are the BEST way to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, and the ONLY way that you will lose weight and keep it off!!  If you have a resolution to lose weight, maybe hire a personal trainer for a few sessions, go see a nutritionist, or email me with questions!  You know what to do, you just need to change your lifestyle and do it :)

Yours in Good Health