Monthly Archives: May 2014

Easy Ways To Reduce Salt Intake

Only 3% of Americans consume the recommended 1500mg or less of sodium per day. Yes, there are some concerns about Americans who don’t take in enough ironically, but doctors have been recommending for years that many Americans reduce their sodium to fight or prevent strokes. High sodium intake can increase your risk of stroke by increasing blood pressure, and talk about other heart disease risks. It’s scary. So yes, if you take in too much sodium, you do need to seriously think about it. You can’t just ignore it and pretend the problem isn’t there.

Especially with prepackaged foods, it is difficult to adhere to guidelines for sodium intake because sodium is very common in food supply according to Cheryl Anderson PhD of the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine’s Division of Preventative Medicine. He continues, To meet guidelines, it is recommended that Americans prepare and consume fresh foods instead of packaged or processed foods.

However, a new study is testing out various ways to lower sodium intake, and it’s promising. They are teaching participants to season their food with other spices, and compared to the control groups so far, the test group has significantly reduced their sodium intake. They use 2 phases. Phase 1 includes low sodium diet foods with flavored herbs and spices. They focus on things like olive oil, coffee extract, cherry extract, paprika, and smokehouse pepper. They also use seasonings like lemon juice, garlic, onion powder, and even honey.

Phase 2 leaves the test subjects to their own devices. Their intake is not controlled, and they are expected to be self sufficient, taking the things they have learned into their daily lives.

End of the day, the groups were able to reduce their sodium intake. However, the test group reduced their sodium intake much more significantly than the placebo group. If they can do so without feeling deprived or cheated, we can create some significant benefits and really achieve.

What Is Fruit Infused Water?

I’ve noticed, just like the Mason jars (which I hate), these bottles for fruit infused drinks popping up all over the place. Yes, fruit in your water can be pretty, but I find that lime water starts tasting funny within a few short hours. When you add fruit to your water, you can eat it, which gives you plenty of vitamins and antioxidants. However, it can also release things like vitamin C into the water along with some of the natural sugar you find in fruit.

Regardless, the actual amounts of any of these things are going to be pretty small when it comes right down to it.

If you chop them into smaller pieces, they of course have more pores I guess you could say to release nutrients and flavor into the water. You can get a subtle, but effective taste, at least if you drink it quickly.

Regardless, it seems that you will likely get more nutrients from actually eating fruit (which hopefully you’ll also do) than just drinking a fruit infused water.

“Gluten Sensitivity” – It’s Not Real

Walking through Costco, I see a disgusting amount of things that are supposedly gluten free for the gluten sensitive. There are plenty of celebrities, even some claiming that they lost weight after going on a gluten free diet. Frankly, I err on the side of calling it bull. Typically, gluten free food variations tend to be higher in calories, not lower, and there’s no extra health benefits if you don’t have Celiac Disease. Still, there are people who insist like the hypochondriacs we’ve learned to be that they have gluten sensitivities. When Jimmy Kimmel interviewed people about gluten, most, if not all people, didn’t even know what it was.

Peter Gibson PhD, professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and director of the GI unit at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, is not surprised. He has studied gluten extensively, and up until recently, he would have agreed with the people insisting that gluten may as well be the devil in terms of foods. However, he has changed his mind and turned in a different direction. His latest research has helped him to prove to himself that the experts are right: gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist.

Gibson was one of the major supporters of the idea initially. He was one of the experts claiming that gluten could negatively affect people in general. He associated it (with no medical diagnosis of Celiac disease) with stomach pain, fogginess, weight gain, and other symptoms common to Celiac disease, but in a milder form. For those with Celiac disease, the symptoms are no laughing matter, and they without question have to be taken seriously. How this disease got spread to the minds of the general population, I’ll never know.

Gibson was unsatisfied with the findings that he initially used in 2011 to support gluten sensitivity. So he created a more rigorous study to look at how and if people were actually reacting to gluten. 37 people who did not have Celiac disease, but so called gluten sensitivity were tested . He provided all of the meals that participants took in, and he took out anything that could cause a reaction such as lactose, preservatives, and short chain carbs that are poorly absorbed. During the first 2 weeks, he fed subjects this low-FODMAP diet. After that, subjects were given a diet with differing levels of gluten or whey protein isolate. They were sent through different diets to see how their bodies reacted to each diet.

Gibson explained, With such a design, you can get very powerful results and leave less up to chance.

He collected 9 days worth of stool and urine samples and repeated the study. He found that the study participants felt worse on all of the diets, regardless of whether or not it actually had gluten. In short, it was in their minds. Regardless of what they were actually eating, they reported pain, bloating, nausea, and gas when not eating the low-FODMAP diet. The subjects in the second study reported the same things. This included subjects who were on the same low-FODMAP diet all along.

We are convinced, at least in our 37 subjects, that gluten was not the main culprit in their gut symptoms.

Still, there are plenty of people arguing both sides. Is gluten really that bad? Is a gluten free diet really healthier for us? It’s possible that other things in the common allergens are causing upset. However, it’s just as possible based on this study that people are imagining things or experiencing a placebo effect while not actually treating a real and existing medical condition.

It’s very possible that something is causing your stomachache. Gibson just doesn’t believe gluten is it.

Insomnia May Increase Risk of Stroke

People who have insomnia issues suffer from quite a few problems to say the least, the most basic of which is fatigue. However, you might not know that insomnia may increase your risk in other areas. According to a new study from Taiwan, it may actually significantly increase your risk of stroke, which is especially true for young adults.

Over 4 years, researchers studied insomnia and found that it seemed to increase the likelihood of being hospitalized due to stroke by a whopping 54%. This was the highest for people between the ages of 18 and 34. They were 8 times more likely to suffer a stroke when they suffered insomnia as compared to their peers who did not.

Dr Demetrius Lopes, director of the Interventional Cerebrovascular Center at Rush University in Chicago and a spokesman for the American Heart Association says We pay a lot of attention to high blood pressure, to obesity, to issues related to cholesterol. Those are known risk factors. But I think what is underrated is if you don’t have a good sleep routine, how much it can harm you, especially at a young age.

The study in Taiwan compared 21,000 people with insomnia and 64,000 without insomnia. None of these people had been previously diagnosed with stroke or sleep apnea. These were published in the May issue of the journal Stroke.

There was a 4 year follow-up in which 583 insomniacs and 962 non-insomniacs were admitted to hospitals for strokes. Researchers ruled out other factors that could be responsible, and they found that people with insomnia were more likely to suffer stroke as compared to those without insomnia. At Chia Nan University, researcher Ya-Wen Hsu also showed that insomnia directly affected a person’s risk of stroke. As you may have noticed though, the risks didn’t stop there. Those who suffer regular insomnia also suffer an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which sometimes walk hand in hand with strokes. Unfortunately, researchers have concluded that this still does not prove cause and effect.

Dr Suzanne Steinbaum states, We’ve seen that people who have sleep issues have other health factors that increase their risk for stroke. This one behavioral issue, insomnia, has all these multiple factors associated with it that lead to an increased risk of stroke. Some researchers suggest that it may be the high risk of stroke that leads to a higher rate of insomnia. It’s hard to tell.

Either way, Dr. Mark Urman suggests that it may be a bit of both sides. As an attending cardiologist at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, he says, It becomes a vicious cycle. When you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep again and again, it can contribute to other risk factors like blood glucose levels and high blood pressure. These raise your risk of stroke, and then the high risk of stroke leads to further issues with insomnia.

One thing that’s abundantly clear, young adults aren’t as healthy and invincible as we would like to think. Things like stroke can strike even at younger ages, and this can lead to hospitalizations that we don’t expect. Lenox Hill’s Steinbaum says, No one gets a pass. How we live our whole lives affects our cardiovascular health. It doesn’t just start at the age of 50 or 60. It starts from the beginning of your life.

Do Vegetarians and Vegans Have Different Periods?

I have been told a lot of things about vegetarians and vegans, including that I had a different smell. I’ve read that it’s more pleasant, but my sister said we smell. Ironically, since I haven’t mentioned I’m vegetarian, she has never noticed the smell. Regardless, when somebody asks if vegetarians and vegans have different periods, I think it perfectly reasonable. When you take out the iron and protein typically found in meat, replaced by vegetable sources, it has to change something. When you take into account the nutritional differences, which could lead to significant weight loss, the simple answer, while surprising with this in mind, is that there is no hard and fast rule. I know, bummer.

There are a number of things that can change your period, not just an animal free diet. Things including stress, travel, weight changes, exercise, thyroid problems, ovarial cysts and pregnancy can change your cycles.

There are studies, don’t get me wrong. But there have been various methodological hiccups.

A 1991 study was published called Menstrual differences due to vegetarian and nonvegetarian diets. They came to the conclusion that The incidence of menstrual irregularity was 4.9% among nonvegetarians and 26.5% among vegetarians. However, there was an issue that came up, suggesting that recruitment bias had played a part. It was all self reported, and they also didn’t take into account oral contraceptive use among participants which, as you can imagine, could play a very big role.

The University of British Columbia study also showed that the study results of a vegetarian diet’s influence on menstrual cycles may not reproduce in the real world. Even if it isolated soybean isoflavones (which have been compared to estrogen cells), the results cannot be applied to the general population as easily as you might think. There are multiple things we eat in the real world that soybeans could easily interact with.

There are some studies that suggest low fat vegetarian or vegan diets may have an effect on menstrual cycles, but this is not all vegetarian/vegan diets. It’s unclear whether animal product in particular has the effect. Regardless, if you see significant changes in your period or you see abnormal things like for example no period for 90 days or bleeding for more than 7 days, let alone bleeding between periods, etc, you should contact your doctor.

Too Little Sodium Could Be Just As Bad As Too Much Sodium

We’ve always been told about how we need to eat less salt, keep your blood pressure down, salt, salt, salt. Did you ever consider what happens when you get too little sodium? Yes, we have sodium and salt in our diet for a reason. We actually need it, and a new study has shown that too little salt can be just as harmful as too much.

Researchers examined 25 total studies and found that 2645 to 4945mg of sodium daily (the amount most Americans consume) came with the same risks as when they were eating less than 2645mg daily. Currently, dietary guidelines for Americans recommends that adults take in only 2300mg of sodium a day (no more than 1500mg if you are 51 or older, African American, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease). This is based on the idea that reduced sodium would reduce blood pressure and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease.

The study’s lead author, Niels Graudal MD, says that this is just an extension of findings from the 2013 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report. Currently, the research we rely on is shaky at best. Considering that most people aren’t following recommendations either way, telling people to take in more sodium might not be the best idea per say.

So while you shouldn’t worry as much about eating too much salt, I would say that it’s wise to put your dietary focuses on a big picture. Eat more whole foods as opposed to processed foods. If you want to add a little salt to your tomatoes, go ahead. When it comes right down to it, it might not really be the salt that is making the negative or risky difference.

What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Along with many other things, pregnancy can bring along with it a number of permanent changes to the female body as well as some temporary health issues and changes. Gestational diabetes is just the start. Frankly, the last thing we want to hear is that with all of the other health concerns and complications we see, there may also be something wrong with the pregnancy itself.

Gestational diabetes is not your normal health issue associated with pregnancy, it is a pregnancy complication. It is something that most women don’t anticipate or plan on, and have no reason to. It’s not the worst news though. In fact, it can be quite manageable, assuming of course that you are getting the proper treatment and otherwise. If you catch it early, it doesn’t have to be such a big deal.

Up to 10% in the US annually are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. In short, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to process glucose. Your blood glucose levels naturally rise to less than healthy levels, and they can cause various complications if it’s not caught and treated early. Those women who do develop gestational diabetes also have a 25% chance of developing diabetes at a later point in their lives. So they should be screened regularly for signs of diabetes as a whole.

Realistically, gestational diabetes can affect anyone, or at least any pregnant woman someone. The hormonal changes in the body that are unique to the pregnancy weaken the receptors that insulin binds to in order to metabolize sugar. If insulin can’t bind, then the body can’t process that sugar, causing what we see with diabetes.

So who gets gestational diabetes? There are some risk factors that make some more likely to suffer negative side effects than others.

It can happen during any pregnancy, but women who have risk factors beforehand are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. These types of risk factors could include:

  • Family history of diabetes (especially if they are first degree relatives like parents or siblings)
  • A history of gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
  • Overweight prior to pregnancy
  • Over the age of 25 during pregnancy
  • Minority ethnicities including African American, Latino, Native American, South or East Asian, and Pacific Islanders
  • Women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian syndrome)
  • A diagnosis of pre-diabetes prior to pregnancy
  • Pregnancy with twins or other multiple babies

We have seen many medical innovations, and now, screening for gestational diabetes is as normal as it has ever been. Patients with diabetes (pregnant or not) are actually often asymptomatic. Therefore, preventative screening is undergone, typically around 24 to 28 weeks. If you have risk factors for gestational diabetes though, you may want to get tested earlier on. Your doctor can help you to determine the best test for you.

Gestational diabetes typically resolves itself after pregnancy. However, it can cause some serious complications nonetheless, and every case is unique. It is vital to treat it and treat it early. With a gestational diabetes pregnancy, you could experience:

  • A large baby over 9 pounds
  • A more difficult delivery with a higher risk of maternal or infant trauma
  • The need for a C-section
  • Preeclampsia
  • Fetal cardiac or gastrointestinal deformities
  • Neonatal respiratory problems
  • Neonatal hyoglycemia (low blood sugar)

Once you are diagnosed, you can take steps to protect yourself and treat the problem, not allowing it to get too serious. With close monitoring of both you and your baby, you can measure the need for daily insulin injections. You may also need closer testing in general across the board.

I’m sorry to say that there is no magical formula for prevention or perfect treatment. However, staying healthy with good dieting and healthy exercise is one of the methods that seems most effective so far.