June 2016

Connection:The True Path to Health and Happiness? By Robin H. Miller MD, MHS & David Es. Kahn MS, CPT

In the movie City Slickers one of the main characters is Curly, a crusty guy who teaches the citified folks a thing or two about being real cowboys. There is a pivotal scene where Curly asks the main character Mitch, played by Billy Crystal, the ultimate question:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s***.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: That’s what you have to find out.

We contend the one thing is connection. Our minds immediately jump to romantic connection, but today our focus on connection is on social relationships: family, friends or groups. There is growing evidence to support that relationships are essential for our health and happiness.

Want to live longer?

Multiple studies show those with little to no involvement in relationships are more likely to die earlier than those with greater involvement. As an example, a study done of adults with coronary artery disease found that patients who were socially isolated were almost two and a half times more likely to die of heart disease than their peers who were socially connected!

Researchers at the University of Chicago have found loneliness increases a person’s chance of early overall mortality by 14%. Surprisingly, it has double the impact of obesity on premature death. In terms of risk, others describe loneliness as the new smoking.

What about happiness?

Several long-term studies on longevity have found it is the connections we make, not necessarily the amount of money we have, which make us happy. Does money hurt one’s chances of being happy? No. It fact, large study found money can help with happiness—but only up to a point. When it comes to income, those who make up to $75,000 a year are happier compared to those who make less. However, beyond that, the happiness factor does not increase.

What is it about connection that makes it key?

Social connections influence our health behaviors. For some it enhances support for mental as well as physical health. According to the researchers at University of Chicago, there are a variety of types of connection:

Intimate connectedness: Having someone in your life validating you as a person.

Relational Connectedness: Having face-to-face contacts that are mutually rewarding.

Collective Connectedness: Being part of a group.

The downside…

Of course, when there are stresses in relationships, they can have negative consequences as well. That is why it is so important to leave or improve those relationships that are unhealthy or dysfunctional and build and nurture those that nurture you.

What can you do to get connected?

If you are not connected yet, don’t despair. According to Harvard researcher Robert Putnam, if you join a group and participate, you can decrease your chance of dying by half for the year. Some viable options: volunteer on a community project resonates with you, join group that is already doing something that interests you, or start dancing. There are dance communities all over the country doing all different kinds of dance. (Lead & follow is shown overall to be the healthiest option.) Dance can help you remain healthy, and you can join a welcoming community that is sure to improve your ability to connect in dance and in life.

City Slicker Mitch found out the one thing for him was his family (which included his wife, kids and a calf named Norman). This was a connection he had all along that he came to realize was what truly mattered to him.

If you are connected, hug your friends and family—put your time in—realize that they are your lifesavers, your true north, possibly your one thing is what makes life meaningful, healthy and happy.

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month; Don’t Weight! By Robin Miller, MD MHS & David Es. Kahn, MS CPT


June is when Americans from all walks of life rush to celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month. At least they should. Who knew there even was such a thing as a National Fresh Fruit & Veggies Month? In honor of this (admittedly, odd celebration), we’ll tell you some things you may not know.

Two Cool Fruits You Need More Of

Grapefruit and raspberries are well known and popular, true A-listers in the fresh fruit world. Of course they taste great, but they can even help you to lose weight.

Grapefruit has many of the vitamins of the other citrus fruits but has a lower Glycemic Index. That means that sugar is released slowly in the body rather than in one quick rush. [This is good because…]

The famous Grapefruit Diet actually has many variations. The results of a 12-week study linking grapefruit to weight loss done at the Scripps Clinic in 2004 put 100 men and women on a diet that included half a grapefruit or grapefruit juice three times a day with a meal. The average weight loss was 3.6 pounds for those who ate their grapefruit, 3.3 pounds for those who drank it. However, many reportedly lost more than 10 pounds.

Grapefruit has chemicals that may lower insulin levels and expedite weight loss. The only problem with it is that it can interact with certain medications. It is important to check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if you are on any of these medications. If so, you need to avoid it. (Sorry about that.) Even if you don’t lose much weight, the vitamins and enzymes found in grapefruit are good for you. We actually don’t recommend the grapefruit diet, but rather that you supplement your diet with this healthy fruit.

The poor raspberry has an unpleasant sound connected with it, which expresses “disapproval or contempt,” according to Webster, and has even had an award of cinematic shame named after it (the Golden Raspberry). But don’t let that part of its reputation dissuade you; there are many good things these sweet red berries can provide.

Raspberries are rich in antioxidants. Eating just three or more servings per week has been found to lower the risk for age-related macular degeneration. The anthocyanins (important antioxidants) in raspberries have been found to delay the effect of aging. Although raspberries contain sugar, it does not seem to affect blood sugar in a significant way. Red raspberry ketones are currently being used in Japan as a weight loss supplement. Red raspberry seed oil has attracted the interest of the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries because it is rich in Vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acid and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 24-50. So, assuming someone is giving you the right kind of raspberry, accept it gladly.

Eat Your Veggies, Dear

Mom was right again? Yep. Broccoli and kale are now the darlings of the modern veggie world. There is good reason for this. To start with, they are rich in flavonoids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and reduce the allergic response in the body. They both lower cholesterol when steamed. When cooked, they bind with bile acids that actually take out the cholesterol, and they both help with the body’s detoxifying ability.

Broccoli and Kale help to restore vitamin D levels in those who are deficient and help everyone else’s levels stay normal. They are loaded with vitamin A and K, and these two vitamins work together for the balance of the essential vitamin D’s metabolism.

Broccoli and Kale both help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Broccoli has been found to lower the risk of oral and liver cancers. Kale has been found to reduce the risk of bladder, breast, colon, and ovarian and prostate cancers. And like most veggies, they contain few calories relative to their mass. In a full pound kale, there’s only 222 calories. In a full pound of broccoli there’s just 153! (Compare that to your average-sized glazed doughnut, which has about 260 calories in just 2 ounces—that’s well over 2,000 calories a pound!) Bottom line: you can eat a LOT of veggies and gain relatively little weight.

Vegetables and fruits are great for all of us to consume. That is why ALL doctors recommend them. (None of that “4 out of 5” stuff here!)

Celebrate the rest of this month properly by eating lots of them and enjoy!

Probiotics : Are They Good For Your Health? By Robin H. Miller MD, MHS and David Es. Kahn MS, CPT

You’ve seen the TV commercials promoting special yogurt to rid abdominal cramps, bloating, and make up for years of poor eating habits. And you must be wondering, “What makes yogurt so therapeutic?” Wonder no longer: yogurt contains probiotics.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for us—improving the balance of good and bad bacteria in our bodies. Yes, bacteria has become a “dirty” word, but truth be told, we all have lots and lots of bacteria living in our gut, in our mucus membranes and on our skin. When these bacteria are in balance, they assist in digestion, release gas in our colon (and thus are the origin of all flatulence, we must admit), and they improve the immune system by stimulating our body’s own production of antibodies to help fight infection. Probiotics also help your body turn certain foods – through fermentation – into important vitamins for you to absorb.

Do we need probiotics? Yes!

Here’s some of the many things probiotics can do:

1. They help our body deal with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off the bacteria that make us sick, but in the process, they can kill strains of natural bacteria that help your body absorb nutrients. This can cause diarrhea and other digestive upsets, such as gas and cramping. In women, antibiotics can also cause yeast infections. By restoring the balance, probiotics help to mitigate some of the unanticipated negative effects.

2. They help us fight enzyme deficiencies. Lactase, for instance, is an enzyme that helps us digest milk products. As we age, many of us become lactase deficient, causing gas and bowel trouble. Drinking milk with acidophilus, the most commonly used probiotic, can help.

3. They help control irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is common problem that increases as we age, causing gas, bloating, and often painful abdominal cramping. Many factors can cause the discomfort; however, many of the symptoms may actually be caused by a bacteria imbalance in our gut. Probiotics can help, or even sometimes reverse IBS.

4. A recent study done in China has found that children given probiotics had 72% fewer fevers in the winter and needed to use 84% fewer antibiotics.

And even if you do not currently have any of these problems, probiotics are still worth trying. They can help relieve constipation, prevent yeast infections, lower cholesterol, and increase protection from certain cancers, including colon and bladder cancer. Of course, in order for the probiotics to work and maintain a healthy gut, you need to eat a healthy diet. Getting probiotics from food as part of that diet is the most natural approach.

Where can you get probiotics?

You can find probiotics in cultured dairy products like yogurt (as seen on TV!) and kefir, as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut. You can also take supplements, which are made up of a mix of bacteria. The most common types are acidophilus, lactobacillus species, and bifidobacteria species. Most probiotics need to be refrigerated and kept tightly sealed in an opaque container.

If you’re experiencing cramping or bloating, you should start feeling better soon after you begin taking the probiotics. If you’re healthy, you won’t notice much change—although you might have a happier glow, because you’ll be preventing illness.


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