Monthly Archives: February 2013

Why Are So Many People Eating Gluten Free Foods?

Unless you have Celiac’s disease, gluten free foods aren’t actually better for you. They’re certainly more expensive, but they don’t provide any additional nutritional value or calorie cutting benefits. It’s the mix of proteins that you might find in wheat, barley, and rye, and gluten is used to help dough to rise. Over time, gluten grows and inflates as it ferments. It makes breads soft and delicious. I have had gluten free breads, and there’s a lady in my area who makes gluten free breads and pizza crust for local businesses. She is amazing. The problem is it’s not that easy.

So why would anyone who doesn’t actually have Celiac’s disease want to eat gluten free? You spend more money, it generally doesn’t taste great, and there are no real benefits for you! It’s definitely a fad popular among some celebrities such as Chelsea Clinton, Miley Cyrus, and even Oprah Winfrey. Technically, Oprah has been on every fad diet there is, and while we love her, I wouldn’t take her diet recommendations too seriously.

Keep in mind, even if you have serious digestive and other problems, Celiac’s disease is extremely rare. Only a small number of people actually suffer from it, and the symptoms look a lot like virtually every other digestive disorder out there! Diagnosis of many digestive disorders is trial and error. I should know. I’ve been diagnosed with almost every one of them at one point in time, and the medications they’ve tried have basically done nothing. I’m starting to think they just like screwing with me.

How does Celiac disease work? People who have it lack a gluten bond with intestinal proteins, and it seems to be hereditary. White blood cells attack it, like they would with an allergy, and it can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, skin problems, iron deficiencies, and other potentially serious problems. Over time, it can permanently break down certain parts of the body.

Generally, Celiac disease can be diagnosed with a blood test. However, if you have already gone on a gluten free diet, it will not be able to detect it.

Doctors used to define this as “koelia”. They couldn’t see why well fed children were still malnourished. In fact, it wasn’t actually diagnosed til World War II. What torture it must have been for children up until that time. A Dutch pediatrician at that time saw a grain shortage that had a dramatic effect on this problem in children. In fact, it went from a whopping 35% to 0 in no time.

Today, that rate is actually more like 1% around the world. That’s about 3 million Americans. You can imagine how many people that would be around the world. People who suffer from this disease typically spend about 10 years not knowing what the problem is and often being diagnosed or tested for other digestive disorders.

There are some who also have a gluten allergy. Some suspect that this is what many children with autism have, and it can lead some to have eating problems later in life. If it’s a wheat allergy, it tends to cause hives, anaphylaxis, sneezing, and wheezing, and it can be called “baker’s asthma”. This is believed to also be rare. It’s nothing compared for example to nut allergies.

There is a third possible issue, and this is debatable. If you’ve taken one of those tests that is supposed to pick up on “intolerance” or “sensitivity”, you never know if it’s actually a problem. On the other hand, it could be like lactose intolerance, which can be extremely painful. It’s not an autoimmune disorder or an allergy. The biggest issue is that there is no test to diagnose this. Sufferers may experience bowel changes, mental fogginess, and other issues, mostly digestive. Most diagnosis is self diagnosis or they go through “natural doctors.” Some may believe that they have issues that they actually don’t. In fact, 2/3 of people who think that they have this intolerance actually don’t according to researchers.

Many who talk about it can’t even agree on what the symptoms are. Some range more towards symptoms associated with Celiac disease while others focus on more minor symptoms. In essence, patients have simply convinced themselves of an idea that may or may not be true.

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How Much Fast Food Do You Eat?

fast-foodA new government study shows that the average American gets 11% of their daily caloric intake from fast food. It’s a little bit better than the 13% measured the last time the government conducted a study like this. Considering that fast food is often blamed for the American obesity epidemic though, it could be better. Obviously, there are some areas where it is better than others. In addition, this study is dependent on self reporting. As you may have noticed, not everybody is honest about what they eat, even among 11,000 adults.

The study did give us an idea of what the trends are.

  • Young adults eat more fast food. Those between the ages of 20 and 39 typically reach the 15% mark. Those who are 60 or older eat only 9%.
  • The black population tends to eat more fast food. Black people tend to eat about 15% while white people are more likely to report about 11%. Hispanics also tend to hit about 11%.
  • Black people tend to follow the same age trends. The difference is young black adults consumed fast food for about 21% of their diet!

These are averages. There are exceptions that are better and worse. There are some who report never eating fast food and those who report eating a lot more. This study was conducted over a 3 year period from 2007 to 2010, and it was officially released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least one nutrition has commented that 11% seems low and even implausible or unlikely. Considering all of the people we see in fast food restaurants, I would have to agree. Also, considering the obesity epidemic continues to grow….ya. There are plenty of people who I can guarantee under report.

Fast food restaurants can use these statistics to say we’re not responsible. After all, if you’re getting 89% of your calories somewhere else, it could be any matter of things causing obesity, certainly not fast food. There’s only so much they can do realistically when they have to depend on someone’s word.

Also, it’s important to note that the study did not consider the number of calories. They just stuck to percentages. Again, according to self reports only, obese adults typically reach about 13% whereas healthy adults reach only 10% or less. Something tells me the obese are severely under-reporting.

With the exception of young adults, people did not vary in their fast food consumption by household income. Those young adults with an income of less than $30,000 reached 17% and those who had more reached only 14% average.

Considering the accessibility of fast food in low income areas and the fact that many have less time to spend cooking (therefore using fast food to feed their kids), it’s not particularly surprising. When you’re on the run more, you don’t think about eating healthy.

Whatever you’re doing, cutting down on fast food a little wouldn’t kill you. In fact, cutting out even one bag of fries a day might help you to get a better grip on your health and life in general.

New Treatment for Depression

By using a fraction of the charge in ECT, a new therapy promises to fight depression without the side effects like memory loss, convulsions, etc commonly associated with ECT. In fact, it uses only 1/400 of the electrical current of ECT. A new study was published in the Journal of American Medicine Psychiatry included 120 patients who suffer from major depressive disorder and had used antidepressants before.

To date, it is the largest study of its type. This new therapy has been named transcranial direct current stimulation, otherwise known as tDCS. It has been compared to the popular Zoloft (sertraline). When the two treatments are combined, researchers find that they work better than either one alone.

Keep in mind, this is not measured solely by self reporting. Researchers used the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale, which specifically measures the severity of depressive episodes.

It is important to note that ECT and tDS are completely different treatments. They may both use electricity. ECT has worked, even where other treatments have failed. As you may have noticed though, the connotations are scary and often severe. In its infancy, ECT was known to cause seizures and bone fractures. However, with more research, ECT has become considerably safer. Side effects like memory loss remain, but they usually get better within a few months time. ECT can also affect blood pressure and heart rate, leading to heart problems in some cases.

On the other hand, tDCS lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes instead of just a few seconds like ECT. The patient is fully conscious during this time, and there are generally no seizures. It can be carried around, and it runs on battery, and it was actually developed for patients with brain injuries or strokes originally. Unlike ECT, tDCS improved problem solving, memory, attention, and math skills.

tDCS generally takes about 6 weeks to really show results, which is fairly standard for many antidepressant treatments. Many tests specifically on depressed patients show that it can improve attention and chronic neck pain. In fact, some believe that it may change the way the brain perceives and processes pain.

Side effects include redness at the site of treatment and an increased risk of manic episodes in those with manic depressive disorder. It can be used in pregnant women so far, and many doctors want to use it before ECT.

The Most Affordable Superfoods in Your Grocery Store

Acai, mangosteen, goji, all exotic and ultimately expensive fruits that are supposed to be super good for you. Health nuts recommend getting as many as you can, even if it’s just in a powder, and yet there are many fruits that are just as healthy sitting right in your grocery store. You don’t have to pay more for blueberries, some sell for less than $1 per serving!

Yes, there are plenty of health fads, but that’s all they are. Manufacturers and salesmen try to make something more exciting, and as long as you can’t readily get it anyway, they make more money. Superfoods in your grocery store can be cheap, healthy, filled with antioxidants and plenty of vitamins, and really worth it. Here are a few.

  1. Lentils – For one cup, you pay just 15 cents in most areas. Lentils are high in fiber and protein with 8g of fiber and 9g of fiber in each half cup, and they don’t need to be presoaked before cooking. Lentils don’t necessarily have as many calories as some beans, and they can be easily mixed into many recipes.
  2. Oats – Simple, you can get oats for $10 cents a serving, and there are plenty of oatmeals out there that make it easy to find. Oats can significantly increase your fiber intake as a low calorie alternative, and it could significantly improve your cholesterol levels. Just be sure to get plain oatmeals instead of the sugar filled ones for the best results.
  3. Kale – Kale is without question a superfood. It’s not one that most people eat a lot, but it has 10X your daily value of vitamin K for bone health in just 1 cooked cup. It is also high in vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
  4. Almonds – Almonds come at just 63 cents a serving, and it has 37% of your daily Vitamin E in just one serving. Almonds have plenty of calcium as well as fiber and folate, and you can get plenty of flavanoids as well, which are generally found in green tea.
  5. Tea – When I say tea, I’m talking about green tea, black tea, white tea, etc. Tea is about 10 cents a bag, and it has plenty of healthy antioxidants. Green tea has been really played up, and yet it has remained cheap. You don’t have to pay more for pills. You can just get a bunch of bags at your local grocery store. Studies have shown that people who drink 12 oz or more were 50% less likely to have a heart attack.
  6. Oranges – You don’t have to look like a health nut to get great superfoods. Everyday fruits like oranges can deliver serious antioxidants, vitamins, and health benefits. Oranges in particular are extremely high in Vitamin C, and it is only 70 calories and 34 cents an orange.
  7. Avocado – If there is just one food to choose if you are on an island, choose avocado. Avocados are filled with vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants like fruits and vegetables. It has fiber, and unlike other fruits and vegetables, avocado also has plenty of healthy fats that can balance out your diet all on its own.
  8. Apples – You’ve probably heard an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples are rich in fiber as well as vitamin C, and there are plenty of tangible studies that show that apples benefit your heart. Between the pectin (fiber) in apples and polyphenols, apples can really help to keep you healthy as part of a balanced diet.

Signs of a Weak Immune System

The young and old are more vulnerable to every animal flu that appears from year to year, and you might be too if you have a compromised or weak immune system. However, those who are more vulnerable to sickness may actually be surprised. If you have a yearly flu, you may have gotten used to it by now. Your vulnerability to the common cold or flu though may have something to do with things that are in your control. There are a few things specifically that you can watch out for.

Eating Too Much Sugar

If you eat too much sugar, you can gain weight, AND….a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows more. The study showed that 100g of sugar, or about 3 cans of soda, can significantly reduce the effectiveness of white blood cells, stopping them from killing bacteria for 5 hours. Hence, we’re told to drink more water and doctors sometimes even inject fluids when you are really sick. Your body needs more water rather than sugar, and while a sugary drink is okay every once in a while, you should probably try more water. If you’re getting enough, your urine will turn pale yellow.

A body mass index in general that is over 40 actually puts you at a higher risk for the seasonal flus and the more specialized flus. Excess weight is bad for your health as a whole ranging from your heart to your brain to your immune system. Morbid obesity can cause hormonal imbalances and inflammation.

Well Water

Some Americans like to think that drinking well water is healthier. The problem is some well water can have levels of arsenic that simply aren’t safe. Arsenic can increase the risk of certain cancers, and in high enough amounts, it can kill on the spot. In a test of mice at Dartmouth, those who spent 5 weeks drinking arsenic rich water were more likely to have problems with their immune systems leading to death after having a flu. Those who were given regular water while being injected with the flu survived.

A runny nose

Believe it or not, a runny nose may actually be good. Mucus takes viruses with it when it leaves the body, therefore getting rid of the problems that may be keeping you sick. If you are worried and you are experiencing dryness, you can use a humidifier or a squeeze bottle to fix the problem. If you have dryness outside of flu time, it’s probably best to talk to your doctor.

Stress & Work Deadlines

Whether you’re working on a work deadline or getting a divorce, stress can weaken the immune response. If you already have the flu and you get stressed, it may get worse. If you don’t, you may run a higher risk. This report was published by the American Psychological Association.

Conclusion

A lot of Americans do experience significant problems every single year. Some are even more likely to get pneumonia and other escalated issues. If you keep general health in mind though, eating healthy, exercising, dealing with your stress, etc, you are more likely to avoid unnecessary seasonal and other illnesses.

Is Exercising In Heels Dangerous?

heelsResearch has already shown that women who wear heels are seen as being more feminine. You’ve also likely seen the research that shows that heels can break down the ankles in a way that makes it harder to work in older age. However, with so many different workout sensations coming out specifically for women, it’s no surprise that at least one woman is telling women to exercise in heels.

Kami Barrett for one directs a class called “Heel Hop.” This class is designed specifically for strength training, and it is low impact. Barrett claims the class helps women to develop cardiovascular strength and the skill and confidence to wear high heeled shoes.

The cost is $15 for a weekly class, and Barrett provides 10 signature moves to retrain the foot. Barrett focuses on decreasing the impact of everyday walking, and women can learn to wear heels even as high as 6 inches.

In Kansas City, MO, Stiletto Fitness Classes are specifically dedicated to just this kind of exercise with low impact strength training. However, the obvious concern comes up, is it really safe? Experts say it depends on impact. Of course, most classes focus specifically on low impact, but even small mistakes could lead to stress fractures and ligament damage. It could also damage the knees and lower back.

High heels specifically became popular, because many women like to think they make the feet look smaller. It started with the Chinese foot binding and caught on like wildfire when flappers picked it up. Truth be told though, heels were never meant for exercise, let alone dance classes.

Dr Elise M Kavanagh DPM recommends that women try using character shoes, which are basically Mary Janes with a chunky heel. They are flexible, can be used for stomping, kicking, and twirling, and this doctor has worked with the New York City Rockettes. So I think her word definitely means a little something.

In addition, you can use foot pedals, which are small cushions that cushion the feet and can be used for everyday walking too.

Redheads & Skin Cancer

Redheads are more than twice as likely to avoid going to the dentist when compared to blonds and brunettes. It’s not because they have fewer dental problems. For all we say about redheads and their fiery hair and temperaments, the fact is that the same genes that give them their red hair actually make some resistant to Novocaine and other local anesthesia. This can easily be fixed by your local dentist. Redheads typically need about 20% more Novocaine when going in for regular procedures.

Redheads & Skin Cancer

It doesn’t get a whole lot better. Even if they stay out of the sun, redheads are STILL at a higher risk for skin cancer. In fact, they are 3 times as likely to get skin cancer as compared to people with other hair colors. Again, the gene and pigment associated with their distinctive hair color increases their risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Researchers initially planned to study the effects of UV radiation on mice specifically bred. They were going to have mice who were similar to those who are olive skinned, ginger, and albino coloring. The problem occurred when half of the ginger mice developed melanoma before they had the chance to expose them to UV rays. David Fisher observes, There is something about redhead genetic background that is behaving in a carcinogenic fashion, independent of UV, meaning that sunscreen may not actually be doing you any favors.

The best thing to do according to the research is to diligently keep an eye on your skin for suspicious spots. If skin cancer is caught early, it can generally be treated quite easily. Only 20% of skin cancers develop in areas covered by the swimsuit….so exposure does still play a part regardless. Don’t go out and burn yourself just because you can now.

Other Diseases Redheads Should Watch Out For

Parkinson’s disease – According to a Harvard study, redheads have a 90% increase in risk for Parkinson’s disease. It affects balance and coordination. But taking folic acid may help some who suffer from Parkinson’s disease in measured ways.

Endometriosis – In another Harvard study, 90,000 women were used. The study showed that those with red hair were at a 30% higher risk for endometriosis, a gynecological disorder. Red hair increases the risk significantly, but only in fertile women. In infertile women, red hair actually decreases the risk compared to other hair colors.

Tourette’s syndrome – In an Australian study, they found that redheads are 7 times more likely to have tourette’s syndrome and 55% also had relatives who had tourette’s syndrome. Scientists specifically refer to it as the “ginger gene”, and they theorize that these types of disorders must be close to the “ginger gene.”

Some believe that some of these may be survival evolution. After all, many redheads come from Ireland and Scotland, areas where there are a lot of cloudy, rainy, and cold days. If darker skin requires more vitamin D provided by sun, then those with lighter skin would do better in areas where there was less sun. Scientists believe that having red hair actually makes it easier for the body to absorb more vitamin D, which is essential to prevent osteoporosis. It doesn’t necessarily explain why redheads have a higher risk of other diseases. It may simply be inbreeding as we find with diseases in other specific races. Luckily, there are some good things about being a redhead.

Positives of Being a Redhead

Brunettes are more likely to have thicker hair and then lose it, and blonds and brunettes do go gray as well. Redheads generally retain their natural color for longer than any other color of hair, and they are less likely to go gray at an earlier age. Eventually, red hair goes blond and then it goes white. Redheads also tend to have thicker hair, but interestingly fewer strands as compared to blonds or brunettes.

They Won’t Disappear Any Time Soon

In some cases, parents are obviously carriers and can have redheads even though they themselves are not redheads. There were reports that they would be extinct by 2060, but this is simply not true. Redheads or “ginger genes” show no signs of going extinct any time soon. 40% of Brits carry recessive “ginger genes”, and the highest concentration is in Scotland. 13% of Scots actually have red hair as compared to 4% of Europeans in general