February is all Heart — Prevent Heart Disease

For most of us February means Valentine’s Day, a time for couples to celebrate their love and commitment by sharing hearts of candy. But February is also American Heart Health month, a time to spread the word and encourage people to maintain a healthy heart. Heart disease is still the number one cause of death for both men and women.

With the exception of heredity or other contributing health conditions, it is well-known that cardiovascular disease has a strong correlation to lifestyle. We know that smoking, being overweight or obese; consuming too much unhealthy fats and sodium, and high blood pressure can increase the risk of this disease. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle with minimal activity in front of a TV or computer most hours of the day can also contribute largely to heart attack and stroke.

A lifetime of simple choices in what foods we eat, the amount of exercise we participate in and whether or not we chose smoke can make a big difference in the outcome of the health of our hearts and cardiovascular system. This February, make a commitment to be more mindful of heart healthy choices.

Here are some ways to begin a strategy to plan for prevention. Visit your doctor every year. Most health insurance policies will cover an annual physical 100%, which is an easy way to monitor blood pressure and check for other conditions that can raise the risk of CVD. Have cholesterol checked at least every 5 years or more frequently if you have a family history of heart disease or if you have diabetes or kidney issues.

Include more fruits and vegetables, and lean protein low in unhealthy fat, cholesterol and sodium in your diet. Use oils higher in healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, eat fish twice a week, and add flaxseed or walnuts to oatmeal. Look for more whole grain foods that are high in fiber with reduced or no added sugars. Drink more water and unsweetened beverages. Limit caffeine and alcohol.

Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly at least 150 minutes per week. Walking 30 minutes a day at a moderate-intensity can significantly reduce risk of CVD and other diseases including diabetes.

It’s easier said than done, but if you smoke find a way to quit. There’s substantial evidence to support quitting smoking as one of the best ways to protect your health including the health of your heart and lungs — the number one cause of preventable death — smoking not only harms your health but harms the health of others around you who breathe in cigarette smoke.

Get high blood pressure and diabetes under control and reduce high cholesterol. Take any medicines as prescribed, and talk to your doctor about any side effects that you may have.

Make the commitment to the prevention of heart disease for you and for your family. Become a role model for your children and pass-on heart healthy habits that they can continue into adulthood to keep their hearts healthy for an entire life time.


February is American Heart Month. (2014, February 12). Retrieved February 7, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/

Getting Healthy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/GettingHealthy_UCM_001078_SubHomePage.jsp

Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2014 Update. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2015, from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/12/18/01.cir.0000441139.02102.80.citation#cited-by


The Detox Diet, a Mulligan for Poor Lifestyle Choices?

The popularity of detox diets may simply be about what they represent rather than what they claim to do. The idea of undoing poor lifestyle choices by flushing away toxins in the body and starting clean is hard to resist. A do over, a second chance — but do these diets cause us to underestimate what our bodies already do for us every day by leading us to believe anecdotal claims and promises?

Three organs work together to keep our system clean of wastes and toxins, the liver, kidneys and the colon. Everything we consume is first broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream by the small intestine, then is processed through the liver. The liver detoxifies our blood and metabolizes the food we eat for use or storage. The kidneys filter out the blood and expel urine to dispose of toxic waste while balancing fluids in the body. Whatever is not absorbed by the small intestine is eliminated through the large intestine. Gastroenterologists will attest that colon cleansing is not necessary and that the large intestine is very efficient at elimination. Normal bowel movements ensure that fecal matter is removed on a regular basis. In a healthy person, these organs do an excellent job to keep harmful substances from damaging our bodies without any help from other sources. There is no magic herb or pill that will detoxify the body any more efficiently or melt away any so-called toxic fat from our cells.

But there is a way to feel cleansed and more rejuvenated. Consume more fresh fruits and vegetables close to their original form. Prepare them raw or steamed. Eat healthy lean protein, like roasted chicken breast or salmon with seasonings and herbs. Reduce the amount of sodium, unhealthy fats and added sugars from your diet while increasing fiber intake from whole grain sources. Drink more water and less sugary, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, which in excess can may you feel sluggish and tired. Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for most days of the week to increase energy and improve mood.

By practicing this more “clean” way of eating while increasing physical activity, you will maintain a healthy immune system, and your body’s peak efficiency to detox and filter out, and eliminate any harmful substances on its own for years to come. This way is by far the healthiest and safest way to undo poor lifestyle choices while regaining a positive outlook for the future.


Nutrition and healthy eating. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/detox-diets/faq-20058040

Wanjek, B. (2013, May 29). Detox Diets & Cleansing: Facts & Fallacies. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/34845-detox-cleansing-facts-fallacies.html

Mahan, K. L., Escott-Stump, S., Raymond, J. L., (2012). Krause’s food and the nutrition care process. St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Saunders

Revisiting New Year’s Resolutions, Renewing the Motivation to get Healthy

With February upon us, our feelings of a new beginning fade, and our New Year’s resolutions start to fall away, one by one. The responsibilities in our daily lives tend to move our resolutions lower and lower on our to-do list. Old habits die hard.

Winter in many parts of the U.S. means cold temperatures and lots of snow. Not everyone loves winter sports or spending a lot of time outdoors in the cold, which means many of us turn to more indoor “less-active” activities. High-calorie warm comfort foods and an increase in snacking can start to dominate, as well as more time on the couch watching TV.

New Year’s resolutions that are forgotten may simply mean that they require too much of a commitment. As mentioned in “Stay Motivated Weeks into 2015 — How to Stick to Your Healthy Resolutions,” choosing a New Year’s resolution that is realistic and achievable is first and foremost the best way toward success. If you have a number of resolutions, think about concentrating on one first. Three common examples include, losing weight, eating healthier and quitting smoking. Someone who wishes to accomplish all of these in one year may be taking on more than their busy schedules will allow. It might make more sense to focus on one resolution first, like quitting smoking. This may make eating healthier and losing weight more attainable in the future by eliminating the pressure to achieve goals faster than what is comfortable at your own pace. Try not to strive for perfection which can promote the desire to “give up.”

It’s easy to fall into the idea that incomplete resolutions are failures, but to continue with this idea can block any chance to learn how to modify a resolution for success. Our lives are constantly changing. What’s true today may not be true tomorrow. Think of a resolution as a form of personal growth rather than a restriction or a punishment, or as a journey rather than a final destination. Take the opportunity to look at it more constructively with an open mind.

Since things never go exactly the way we imagine them, a course correction may be necessary. Realize that unhealthy habits take a long time to develop. Replacing them with healthier habits will also take a certain amount time as slip-ups happen every now and then. It’s important to look at slip-ups as part of the process of change, which is completely normal. Become more mindful when these slip-ups occur. What are the triggers? When are old habits likely to surface? By correlating situations with undesired behaviors, it may become easier to control them.

Above all don’t go it alone, discuss resolutions with people who are positive motivators. Consider counseling especially for resolutions that concern smoking or alcohol. These are situations where outside help from a professional can be extremely beneficial. Resolutions around healthy eating, losing weight and exercise can also be better performed with the help of a doctor, registered dietitian or a certified personal trainer. Work with health care providers that have the proper credentials help to you put together a plan that fits your lifestyle. When you create a plan that revolves around your lifestyle and not one that revolves around a one-size fits all program, your plan will work with you instead of against you.

But, who says that New Year’s resolutions have to begin on January 1st anyway? Is there a better time during the year to concentrate on a resolution?


Making Your New Year’s Resolution Stick. (n.d.). Retrieved February 1, 2015, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resolution.aspx

Antacids with Calcium: Are You Consuming too Much of a Good Thing?

You just finished eating dinner and once again you feel the heartburn coming on and immediately reach for an antacid. A little while later you take a few more tablets— anything to stop that burning sensation in your chest. On the back of the bottle, the manufacturer warns, “Do not take any more than 15 tablets within a 24 hour period, or the maximum dosage for more than 2 weeks without a doctor’s supervision.” You also notice that the antacid contains calcium, which is good for you, right?

Our bodies use calcium for strong bones and teeth, and to help muscles and blood vessels contract. The recommended dietary allowance states that adults 19 to 50 years of age require 1000 mg of dietary calcium per day. One tablet of Tums® Antacid Assorted Fruit, regular strength, provides 500 mg of calcium carbonate which helps neutralize heartburn. But 40% of the calcium carbonate is the dietary calcium, which equates to 200 mg per tablet. Taking 15 tablets over a single 24-hour period, equals a consumption of 3000 mg of calcium. Continuing with this dosage for longer than a two-week period can elevate levels of calcium in the blood which can cause hypercalcemia.

Hypercalcemia can occur in someone with conditions such as hyperthyroidism or uses of certain medicines that cause an increase in serum calcium. Taking high doses of dietary calcium from an antacid without direction from a doctor can worsen this condition. Hypercalcemia can affect the GI tract, kidney and brain function. Symptoms include constipation, nausea, decreased appetite and abdominal pain, in addition to, frequent urination and kidney stones, confusion, memory loss and depression. High serum calcium can also put individuals more at risk for bone fractures. Instead of munching on antacids when heartburn occurs, there may be ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Consider some dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce heartburn and relieve symptoms. Avoid foods that are fatty, fried, spicy or acidic, chocolate, peppermint and spearmint, whole milk, oils, creamed foods or soup. Beverages to avoid include alcohol, citrus juices, coffee, tea, sodas and other liquids with caffeine. Try to eliminate some of these foods and beverages one-at-a-time to see if the heartburn starts to go away. Pinpointing your trigger foods can help you feel better. If you smoke consider finding a way to quit for your overall health. Nicotine weakens the lower esophageal muscle that leads to the stomach, which can cause stomach acids to propel up the esophagus causing the burning sensation. Avoid late evening snacks or lying down immediately after eating. Eat smaller more frequent portions rather than large meals. If you experience reflux while sleeping, elevate your head six to eight inches to help keep stomach acids from moving up into your esophagus.

If you find that your heartburn is a daily occurrence and your dosage of antacids is steadily increasing, it may be time to talk to your doctor. He or she can check to see if your heartburn is due to something serious or if simple modifications or a medication can bring more long-lasting relief and help you kick the antacid habit.


TUMS® Regular Strength. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2015, from https://www.tums.com/products/regular/

Nutrition and healthy eating. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/calcium-supplements/art-20047097?pg=2

Calcium carbonate (Caltrate 600): Side Effects and Dosing. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.medicinenet.com/calcium_carbonate/page2.htm

Hypercalcemia: Read About Symptoms and Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.medicinenet.com/hypercalcemia/article.htm

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Diet. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://gicare.com/diets/gerd/

For Relief of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea — Consider Probiotics

A recent bacterial infection has landed you in the doctor’s office. In order to treat the infection your doctor prescribes an antibiotic. Unfortunately, you recall the last time you had to take an antibiotic you experienced a bad side-effect that caused you to miss a couple of days of work. That side-effect was antibiotic-associated diarrhea or AAD.

The antibiotics that kill infection-causing bacteria may also eliminate the good bacteria in your digestive tract. When this happens, the natural balance of bacteria in the intestine is disrupted, which can lead to AAD. This is common among 10% to 30% of patients taking an antibiotic.

Though temporary, AAD can disrupt daily activities, and raise the risk for a more serious form of bacterial infection called C. difficile. This infection has the ability to cause life-threatening diarrhea and inflammation of the colon. Though healthy individuals are at a lower risk for developing this infection, long-term doses of antibiotics can begin to eliminate the healthy bacterium that keeps C. difficile from overgrowing in the GI tract. If you’ll be taking antibiotics for a certain period of time, and have experienced AAD in the past, there are ways to reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of contracting C. difficile.

For antibiotic-associated diarrhea, it’s important to stay hydrated. Replenish fluid, sodium and potassium by consuming a sugar-free juice, sports drink, soup or broth. Thicken stool by consuming potatoes without the skin, bananas, applesauce, oatmeal, bread, peanut butter, white rice or pasta. Limit foods that are mainly saturated fat and/or fried, along with foods that produce gas, like broccoli, Brussel sprouts or cabbage. Avoid beverages with a lot of sugar, lactose or caffeine as they can also aggravate your symptoms.

In addition, consider taking a probiotic. Probiotics are organisms such as yeast or bacteria that are beneficial in restoring the natural bacterial balance in the intestine. By increasing the numbers of good bacteria, probiotics compete with the harmful bacteria in your GI and begin to replenish what has been lost. Though further research is needed about different probiotic strands and their usefulness, some randomized control trials have shown promising results with strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Saccharomyces boulardii. They may help to reduce AAD and reduce the risk of C. difficile overgrowth in the GI tract. Probiotics come in pill form and are found in yogurt. Use caution and talk to your doctor if you have a weakened immune system, yeast allergies, are pregnant, or are taking medications for other conditions. Probiotics make cause gas in some people who take them, but they are generally safe if used as directed.

To prevent the spread of C. difficile, it’s important to always wash your hands after touching any potentially contaminated surfaces. Use warm water and soap for at least 30 seconds; pay special attention to between the fingers, underneath the fingernails and the wrists.

Always stay in contact with your doctor and make him or her aware of any other symptoms you experience. The doctor may be able to give you another kind of antibiotic that may be more tolerable, but always remember to finish prescriptions as directed to ensure that the bacterial infection your doctor is treating is completely gone.


Antibiotic-associated diarrhea. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antibiotic-associated-diarrhea/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20023556

Probiotics for Diarrhea: Types, Uses, Side Effects, Benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/probiotics-diarrhea#2

C.diff: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/clostridium-difficile-colitis#2

Nutrition Tips for Diarrhea. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2015, from https://stanfordhealthcare.org/programs-services/nutrition-services/resources/nutrition-tips-diarrhea.html

Saccharomyces boulardii: MedlinePlus Supplements. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/332.html#Safety

Lactobacillus: MedlinePlus Supplements. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/790.html

Stop the Destruction, the Importance of Early Diagnosis: Celiac Disease

The road leading to a diagnosis of celiac disease can prove to be an arduous journey. The symptoms are similar to a long list of other possible causes. It is estimated that about 1% percent of the US population has the disease, and about 83% of Americans who have celiac disease, go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed. It’s also believed that it takes, on average, about 6 to 10 years for an accurate diagnosis— not reassuring, when time is of the essence for a destructive disease that can harm the human body in many ways.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. The body has an abnormal sensitivity to Gluten. When gluten is present in the small intestine, the immune system responds and tries to destroy it, but instead, the antibodies destroy the villi along the walls of the small intestine by shortening or flattening them. Healthy villi are necessary for absorbing nutrients from food as it passes through the intestine, while damaged villi lose the ability to absorb these nutrients. If left untreated, celiac disease can raise the risk for malabsorption, malnutrition, bone density and neurological disorders. It is also associated with other autoimmune diseases and infertility. The sooner the disease is discovered, symptoms can be eliminated and health can be restored.

Symptoms of celiac disease include, but are not limited to, stomach pain, diarrhea, join pain, weight loss, and an itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. Other symptoms can include slowed growth in children, extreme tiredness, and change in mood. A path towards diagnosis starts with a blood test after all symptoms are evaluated. While the patient is still on a gluten-containing diet, blood is drawn to test for certain antibodies. If the test is positive, the doctor may order a biopsy to confirm the disease which means a tiny amount of the small intestine is obtained and examined for any damage to the villi. If it is celiac disease, the patient can be on the road to recovery with a one important change to the diet, the avoidance of gluten. There is no known cure for the disease, but the elimination of gluten in the diet has been proven to drastically improve the health of individuals with this disease. It must be a lifelong commitment to prevent damage to the small intestine and keep it healthy.

There are three main sources of gluten people with celiac disease should be aware of: First, gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley. In addition to bread and pasta, processed foods may also contain these three ingredients which can show up on an ingredient list as “natural flavorings” but will not be listed individually. Eating out can also be a challenge as servers may not have full knowledge of all the ingredients in a menu item. Second, there are non-food sources of gluten which include medications, toothpaste, makeup, art and craft materials and pet foods. Third, is contamination, gluten can be found in a toaster or other kitchen appliances at home or in restaurants where gluten-foods are prepared. Restaurants selling gluten-free items must ensure that those items are prepared away from gluten items to avoid contamination, which can be easily overlooked, but unfortunately may still potentially cause harm to the small intestine in a person with celiac disease.

If you were recently diagnosed, getting a handle on gluten-free information can certainly be confusing and daunting, but there is help and you’re not alone. A registered dietitian can help put together a meal plan and provide a list of foods that contain gluten-free grains, seeds and starches. He or she can also teach you what to look for on a food ingredient label to find the hidden gluten. With time, it’ll become easier to get on the path to a gluten-free lifestyle that will help you heal, be healthy and symptom free for years to come.

Click on the links below, to access reputable resources for celiac disease.


What I need to know about Celiac Disease. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2015, from http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/Pages/ez.aspx

Understanding Celiac Disease. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2015, from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=5542

Celiac Disease Antibody Tests. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2015, from http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/celiac-disease/tab/test/

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2015, from http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm362880.htm

Celiac Disease Foundation -. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2015, from http://celiac.org/

Home – The Gluten Intolerance Group. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2015, from https://www.gluten.net/

National Foundation for Celiac Disease Awareness. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2015, from http://www.celiaccentral.org/celiac-disease/facts-and-figures/

Be healthy as a family— sitting down for dinner makes for healthy well-adjusted kids

When you were a child do you remember sitting down to dinner every night as a family? Or was everyone too busy to even take five minutes to ask, “How was your day?” Chances are if you’re a parent in this generation, the latter may be closer to the norm in your household. Now days there are more single-parent households with a full-time working parent. Even in homes with two parents, both are usually employed. Add to that all of the extra-curricular activities kids are involved with during, after school and on weekends. At home they spend more time on a computer, laptop or cell phone. Is it any wonder why meals at the dinner table every night is practically extinct? Parents, what if there was a way to greatly improve your child’s success and sense of well-being just by devoting an hour to them a few times a week? Would you do it?

Meal time is a perfect opportunity to step up as role models. Sitting down to a meal at least once a day gives families time to focus on each other. Three main areas that can be greatly influenced are communication through connection, eating healthier with a more focused eating pattern, and at school, academic performance and social skills.

As children watch how their parents behave at the table, this is a perfect training ground for teaching communication and social skills, showing good manners, taking turns and even how to entertain guests. Children feel more emotionally content and more connected to the family. With stronger family ties, and a greater sense of identity and belonging, they are less likely to act out by smoking, drinking or taking drugs.

A study from the University of Minnesota showed a definite relationship between teen’s dietary intake and family meal patterns. Family meals were associated with higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, protein, vitamins and minerals, and a lower intake of sugary soft drinks and snack foods. Eating at the table becomes a more focused activity when TV and other digital media are turned off. When parents display a healthy relationship with food and a sense of security, hunger and satiety cues are more respected. This can reduce the risk of obesity associated with emotional eating and grazing, and incidences of extreme dieting behaviors and disordered eating.

Children who have at least one family meal at the table most days of the week do better in school. Research shows improved vocabulary and reading skills, higher grades and test scores and overall greater academic achievement. They also get along better with their peers at as well.

Think about how you can hit the brakes on your busy lifestyle to set aside time for a family meal. Try making mealtime a priority by planning ahead and creating a positive atmosphere.

Make mealtime a priority by clearing out schedules, and as a family and agree on a time ad stick to it. Plan ahead to teach your children basic cooking skills by having them participate with food and recipe selection and preparing the meal. At the table, use this time to reflect on the day, talk about issues at school, help children find solutions to everyday problems, and plan for the future. Leave out the arguments and fighting, and put aside the desire to be right. Let conversations be free-flowing and share ideas.

As a parent, you’re your child’s first role model. They will look to you for guidance, even at the dinner table. Take this opportunity to eat healthy meals together, and help improve your child’s sense of well-being.


Family Meals spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2015, from http://www.cfs.purdue.edu/cff/documents/promoting_meals/spellsuccessfactsheet.pdf