Archive for June, 2009

HEALTHY EATING: ‘Gluten free’ new sign of the times


There’s a new sign of the times in nutrition, and it’s “gluten free.”

Although U.S. dietary guidelines for the majority of us advise eating more whole grains, a small yet significant percentage of the population has good reason to proclaim, “Wait! That’s not so easy.”

An estimated one of 133 people cannot eat wheat, rye, barley and perhaps oats because they suffer from a gluten intolerance that can lead to a diagnosis of celiac disease.

Gluten, a protein found in some grains, causes a reaction in the small intestine leading to a host of serious symptoms including abdominal cramping, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, anemia and weight loss or gain, and can cause long-term damage to the intestinal tract.

Often misdiagnosed initially, an estimated 3 million people have celiac disease. Avoiding gluten-containing foods stops the symptoms and can give the body time to heal.

However, eating a gluten-free diet is not as simple as it sounds, because it means saying …

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THINNER YOU: Turn money problems into rewarding solutions


Got money problems? These days, when many people earn the equivalent of 4 gallons of gas per hour, who doesn’t?

For many people, money problems go beyond coping with rising prices or tweaking your budget to keep your expenses within your means; they’re a way of life. No matter how much money you have, it’s never enough to make you feel happy, secure, or satisfied. Dealing with money can become incredibly complex and difficult, too. It’s very easy to want more of it than you truly need; to spend more of it than you have; or to expect it to solve problems that it can’t. In fact, it’s not just easy to get caught up in problematic spending habits—it’s almost expected of us.

The advertising and credit industries have done amazingly well at transforming money (and all the things it can buy) into potent symbols of personal power, status, success, and even personal identity. If you want to be successful, buy a fancier car! As a result, the …

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DOCTOR IS IN: How do we know supplements are safe and effective?


    Professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, and director of the Emory Clinical Biomarkers Laboratory.

Supplements that claim to help maintain healthy memory, alertness, immune function, protection from infection, healthy joints, youthful vigor, etc., offer many options for consumers to help manage their own health. They also raise questions about effectiveness and possible side effects.

Some history: The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, enacted by Congress in 1994, defined “dietary supplement” and allowed manufacturers to make claims about a product’s ability to affect the structure or function of the body or a person’s general well being.

It also put the burden of proof on the Food and Drug Administration to remove unsafe products. This differs from food additives and therapeutic drugs, where the burden of proof is on the manufacturer. This legislation allowed a dramatic increase in the availability of supplements and the …

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AGING & CARING: Reconciling with siblings after fighting over parental care


Some of the saddest caregiving stories concern brothers and sisters who come to loggerheads over some aspect of their parents’ or another relative’s care – and wind up saying ugly things, or not speaking, or worse. (By worse, I mean court feuds, permanent family exile, and even violence.)

Common reasons for family conflicts over caregiving include (in no particular order): Different standards for quality of care, how to proceed after a diagnosis, where the older person should live, who should have control of legal or financial affairs, who should pay for procedures or care, wills and other gnarly issues about how estates are or will be divided. Did I mention money?

“You never really know a family member until money is involved,” a member recently, and memorably, observed in a discussion about siblings.

If a family estrangement, large or small, is gnawing at you, what can you do? Some ideas that have worked for others:
Start by …

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THINNER YOU: Why strength training is a must for everyone


Think you’re too old to start a strength training program? Well think again! Strength training is just what your body needs to fight the loss of muscle, bone mass and strength that comes with age.

Everyone, no matter how young or old, should be doing some kind of regular strength training. This could be at the gym, or at home using very little equipment. Resistance bands and balls, small hand weights, water and even your own body weight can be used as resistance when designing a strength training program.

So what’s the point? If you’ve never participated in a strength training program, why start now? Here are some very important reasons strength training makes a difference in your quality of life:

Improves your ability to do everyday activities: The stronger your muscles, the easier it is to get groceries out of the car, get a package off of the top cabinet shelf, push the lawnmower…..the list goes on and on!

Improves your …

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AGING & CARING: Take the new 5-minute Alzheimer’s “test” – and then do this


Have you tried the new-and-improved screening test for Alzheimer’s disease yet? It’s hard to resist, because it’s so straightforward and so quick. Proposed by UK researchers in last week’s British Medical Journal, the new screening test is said to be more accurate than the commonly-used mini-mental state exam (MMSE). And unlike the MMSE, it doesn’t require a trained professional to administer it.

First things first. Here’s how to take the Test Your Memory test (PDF) and how to score it (PDF). Bear in mind, though, that it was designed for British subjects. So “Who is the prime minister?” would more effectively be, “Who is the president?” for Americans, for example. And of course researchers want to test the test in more settings, with more population groups. But early reviews are glowing.

What’s also great for caregivers: Although it’s designed for use in a medical setting, this screen can be done at home in a pretty non-threatening way. You …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Cherry juice relieves arthritis pain?

By Joe and Teresa Graedon

Q: I have heard that sour cherry juice can ward off gout attacks and help relieve arthritis pain. I cannot tolerate drugs such as ibuprofen. Have you ever heard of cherries against pain?
A: Some data suggest that sweet cherries have anti-inflammatory activity that might be helpful against gout and arthritic conditions (Journal of Nutrition; June 2003 and April 2006).
Sweet and sour cherries block an enzyme (Cox-2) that is active in inflammation (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Feb. 25, 2009). One reader reported, “I have used tart cherry juice for over one year now, and I am pain-free! I had a hip replaced, and then pain started flaring up in the other one. I also have moderate arthritis in my knees, which would throb at night. I took tart cherry juice every morning and saw results after the third week.”

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at …

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HEALTHY EATING: Lower-calorie choices can be even better


Variety, balance and moderation are the three keys to good nutrition. Eat a bunch of different foods and balance your intake of the various groups — meat, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables — and you’re more likely to consume the variety and quantity of nutrients you need.

Be moderate with splurge foods that contain fats, oils, sugar and alcohol and you’ll stay on track to maintain your weight and keep your body healthy. Anytime you add more vegetables to a meal, choose leaner meats, grab the whole-grain version of breads and go easy on the butter, cheese and oil, you’re right in step with the list of things to do to eat a healthier diet.

The concept of portion control has emerged as one of the strategies to avoid overeating. Just the other day I was shopping for seafood and overheard another customer ask the clerk, “Can you please give me two 4 ounce portions of salmon?” “Wow,” I thought. “This portion control thing is really getting across.”

Then I …

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Is obesity a disability?

Perceptions change with time. At one point in history, the popular option for people suffering from a mental illness was an asylum. On that note, is obesity a disability? According to this AP story, the American Medical Association does not believe so. But, is it time that we considered obesity as such? What do you think?

AMA objects to calling obesity a disability
CHICAGO — The American Medical Association has taken action to support doctors’ ability to discuss obesity with their overweight patients.

Under a new policy adopted Tuesday, the AMA formally opposes efforts by advocacy groups to define obesity as a disability.

Doctors fear using that definition makes them vulnerable under disability laws to lawsuits from obese patients who don’t want their doctors to discuss their weight.

Doctors took the action at their annual meeting in Chicago.

In other action Tuesday, the AMA agreed to lobby for legislation to ban selling tobacco in pharmacies.

Health care reform issues are …

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THINNER YOU: Are you wearing the right sports bra?

Remember Brandi Chastain? And her game-winning shootout kick for the U.S. team against China during the Women's World Cup Final in Pasadena in 1999? Her sports bra was a perfect fit.

Remember Brandi Chastain's game-winning kick for during the Women's World Cup in 1999? Her sports bra fits perfect.


Every active woman, regardless of her breast size, should have a sports bra as a part of her fitness wardrobe. Not only do these specially designed bras offer better support and more comfort than a regular bra, they also help minimize movement during your workout. Exercising in the wrong bra can lead to more than discomfort. A number of issues, including tension in the arms and shoulders and restricted breathing, can occur if the band is too tight.

A woman’s breasts are composed primarily of adipose (fatty) tissue, mammary glands, connective tissue, and the Cooper’s ligament, which keeps the breast firm and prevents sagging. Because the underlying chest muscles do not support breast tissue, exercising in anything other than a well-fitted sports bra can stretch the Cooper’s ligament, leading to greater sagging and even pain during …

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