October 2011

Beef Up Your Immune System

Winter is coming and so is cold and flu season. There are many ways that you can improve your immunity and protect yourself. It can be as simple as eating the right foods and exercising!

Foods that Boost your Immunity

Omega 3 fatty acids that are found in fish, flaxseed, and walnuts reduce inflammation and help strengthen the immune system. You might want to shoot for at least two servings a week.

Protein

Zinc is important for white blood cells to function properly. The white blood cells are the cells that fight infection. Zinc is found in protein such as lean meats, chicken, eggs, and tofu. It is also found in fortified foods. It is important to eat adequate amounts of these zinc-containing proteins.

Fruits and Vegetables

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with phytonutrients. Phytonutrients improve the immune system and can help to fight cancers as well. Not to mention, they are just plain good for you!

Citrus

Citrus fruits contain vitamin C. This vitamin can help ward off colds. Although you can find it in supplements, it is probably more effective if you can get it in food such as oranges and grapefruit.

Nuts

Nuts contain vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin that helps to fight colds and upper respiratory infections. The best nuts for vitamin E are sunflower seeds (1/4 cup), almonds (1/4 cup) and 2-3 Brazil nuts (they also contain selenium).

Garlic

Garlic has immune boosting properties that fight bacteria and viruses. If you have a cold, the best way to use garlic is to chop it up and swallow it. You can use it as a paste on bread or mixed in applesauce. Don’t chew it if you don’t want your breath to smell!

Chicken Soup

The hot liquid of chicken soup clears the nasal passages. However, something about most chicken soup helps boost the immune system and helps to fight colds. Whether it is the soup or the love with which it is cooked, chicken soup works!

Mushrooms

Mitake, Shitake, and Reishi mushrooms are among the mushrooms that help boost the immune system. You can stir fry them or get them in capsules (fungi.com). Better yet, put them in your chicken soup!

Probiotics

Probiotics have been found to improve the immune system. In China, a study of small children who were treated with a mixture of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium daily had 59% fewer runny noses and used 82% fewer antibiotics. They missed 32% fewer school days than those who did not take probiotics.

Exercise

Regular, moderate exercise allows the cells that fight viruses and bacteria to circulate more quickly throughout the body. While they are getting an energy boost, they give your immunity a big boost. The more you exercise, the longer lasting the immune effect. That is another reason why exercise is so important.

In Summary

By eating well and exercising, you can increase your odds of having a healthy cold-free winter!

What’s The Scoop On Vitamins?

There have been two recent studies that have shown vitamins may be harmful to our health. There have been studies in the past showing just the opposite. Who do we believe and what do we do?

A study of 39,000 women found that women over 55 who took multivitamins may have a slightly increased risk of early mortality than those who do not. When looking closely at the study many of the women were taking multivitamins with iron. Postmenopausal women without iron deficiency should not be taking iron. It can increase the chance of heart disease, the number one killer of women. In addition, we do not know what prompted the vitamin use in this group of women. It could be that they were not feeling well and looked to vitamins to make a difference.

Another study of 35,000 men found that 400 IU’s of Vitamin E in the form of dl-alpha tocopherol daily were at increased risk for developing prostate cancer. This study implies that men should not be taking vitamin E in this synthetic form. Vitamin E in natural form is a mix of 8 different antioxidant tocopherols and tocotrienols. When one piece of a vitamin is extracted it may not be effective and could possibly be harmful.

What is a person to do? I have an idea. Just as it is probably not a good thing to pick apart vitamins and take them. It is probably not a great idea to take vitamins outside their natural source. What do I mean by that? The best way to get vitamins and minerals is in food. That is the healthiest and safest source.

For vitamin C, eat citrus fruits. For Vitamin E eat nuts such as almonds and walnuts. For selenium, all you need is one or two Brazil nuts a day. For vitamin A, the safest source is food that contains beta-carotene such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Liver is another good source. The only vitamin that is tough to get in food is Vitamin D. It is absorbed through the skin but as we age or if we use sunscreen we may not get enough this way. You might require a supplement for that. Calcium is also hard to get if you are not a milk drinker.

I agree that all these studies are confusing. I doubt we will ever know the true positive or negative effects of vitamin and mineral supplements. There are variable manufacturing practices, a zillion brands and combinations and there is a consistency problem. Therefore, I feel strongly that we should get our vitamins the old fashioned way, the way mother nature intended, by eating healthy nutrient packed food.

The Teenage Brain

When my children became teenagers, I remember asking myself where my sons went and who was in their place? It seemed like overnight they had been abducted by aliens. My sweet lovable sons had turned into surly, know-it-all strangers.

Now I know what happened. Past scientific thought looked at the teenage brain as being similar to an adult brain. That is not the case. Research has found that the teenage brain is truly a work in progress. It is a miraculous organ that is capable of learning and multitasking faster than the speed of light. Adolescence is a time when they can amass large amounts of knowledge.

In addition, taking drugs and drinking alcohol are considered learned behaviors. The impact of these substances is far greater in teens than adults. That is why the chance for addiction in the teen years is great.

The problem is that the frontal lobes of the brain are not quite connected at this point and they have not finished developing. The frontal lobes are necessary for executive function. They provide insight and judgment and are important for seeing the impact of their actions on others. That may be why many teens make poor choices, get in car accidents, experiment with risky behaviors; you get the idea. That is why they need us!

We need to educate them on the benefits of healthy choices and be available to help them when they find themselves in complicated situations. I think it is important to be their parents and not their friends. Guide them and help them with their executive functions until they can take over, which will be when they are in their late 20’s. A parent’s work is never done, and this is a critical time when it is important for everyone to be on his or her game.

To Vaccinate or Not Vaccinate? That is the Question

In 1998 when Dr Andrew Wakefield published his article in the Lancet (an esteemed British medical journal) that connected autism and the MMR vaccine, it caused a major sensation. The other thing that happened was that it caused a panic among parents in England that spread to the United States. Eleven years later, the medical board in England denounced Wakefield and his study.

Why did it take them so long? There have been multiple studies to show that there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Wakefield had not been honest about the fact that he had been paid by lawyers representing the parents of children with autism who were suing the vaccine companies. He also paid many of his subjects some of whom he got from his son’s birthday party.

How is it that a small study done by someone who behaved unethically was able to have such a huge influence on parent’s behavior? This is something that has caused harm to children around the world. Measles, mumps and rubella can cause serious problems and even death. Fear of the autism connection to vaccines has bled over into other vaccines as well.

It is important that journal review boards do their due diligence. By not acting sooner with Dr Wakefield there has been serious harm done to children and families. Unfortunately, regardless of the evidence, the idea of the autism vaccine connection has taken on a life of its own. Unless rational behavior prevails, more children will continue to be harmed.

A recent survey of parents has found that as many as 17% are choosing not to vaccinate their children. As many as 55% of parents have chosen to follow their own schedule for vaccination. Some are choosing to eliminate certain vaccines. Unfortunately, this sets us up for a perfect storm.

I recommend that parents sit down with their childrens health care providers and come up with a rational plan that works for both parties. Because of these unhealthy choices, with the frequency of world travel there is great potential for the spread of preventable diseases that can still cause deadly epidemics.

The One Thing You Need To Know About Pain Relief

I recently attended a conference that was all about pain. Did you know that pain is a significant problem for 116 million Americans?

Pain is one of those things that we all have experienced at some point in our lives. The kind of pain that occurs with a broken bone, a skinned knee or the pain that occurs while the doctor is doing a C-section and the anesthesia wears off (I have personal experience with this one) are what we call acute pain. This type of pain has a resolution and is generally short-lived.

Pain that is sometimes left after back surgery, fibromyalgia pain, and any pain that continues beyond several months is considered chronic pain. It often does not resolve completely but can be reduced in intensity.

There are certain types of pain that can improve with opioid medication such as hydrocodone but there are other types of pain that do not. Many doctors as well as patients assume that all pain should respond to pain medication, which is not always the case. That is why it is important to come up with alternative strategies to help.

There is one thing that is the key to treating chronic pain. That one thing is to find a doctor or provider who is your partner in care. Without that, you will be chasing your tail. There are providers out there who can help. You just have to find them. You need someone who will help evaluate the cause of the pain and help come up with a plan to reduce it.

Strategies to help may include medication but also treatments such as physical therapy, meditation, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, massage, and laugh therapy to name a few. It is important to eat healthy and exercise even if it is just a small amount of low intensity exercise each day.

You may find that relief of your pain does not come in a pill but within yourself along with the help of your doctor who is your partner in health.

 

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