Monthly Archives: June 2017
Red Meat Raises Bowel Problems for Men
A new study suggests that men who eat lots of red meat are much more likely to have bowel problems, pain and nausea than their peers who stick mainly with chicken or fish.
Researchers examined more than two decades of data on more than 46,000 men and found frequent red meat eaters were 58 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diverticulitis, a common bowel condition that occurs when small pockets or bulges lining the intestines become inflamed.
“Previous studies have shown that a high fiber diet is associated with a lower risk of diverticulitis, however, the role of other dietary factors in influencing risk of diverticulitis was not well studied,” said senior study author Andrew Chan, a researcher at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“Our result show that diets high in red meat may be associated with a higher risk of diverticulitis,” Chan added by email.
Diverticulitis is common, resulting in more than 200,000 hospitalizations a year in the U.S. at a cost of more than $2 billion, Chan and colleagues note in the journal Gut.
New cases are on the rise, and the exact causes are unknown, although the condition has been linked to smoking, obesity and the use of certain nonprescription painkillers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
While diverticulitis can often be treated with a liquid or low-fiber diet, severe cases may require hospitalization and surgery to fix complications like perforations in the gut wall.
Researchers examined data collected on men who were aged 40 to 75 when they joined the study between 1986 and 2012. Every four years men were asked how often, on average, they ate red meat, poultry and fish over the preceding year.
They were given nine options, ranging from ‘never’ or ‘less than once a month,’ to ‘six or more times a day.’
During the study period, 764 men developed diverticulitis.
Men who ate the most red meat were also more likely to smoke, more likely to regularly take NSAIDs, and less likely to eat foods with fiber or get intense exercise.
By contrast, men who ate more chicken and fish were less likely to smoke or take NSAIDs and more likely to get vigorous exercise.
After accounting for these other factors that can influence the risk of diverticulitis, red meat was still associated with higher odds of developing the bowel disorder.
Each daily serving of red meat was associated with an 18 percent increased risk, the study found.
Unprocessed meats like beef, pork and lamb were associated with a greater risk than processed meats like bacon or sausage.
It’s possible the higher cooking temperatures typically used to prepare unprocessed meats may influence the composition of bacteria in the gut or inflammatory activity, though the exact reason for the increased risk tied to these foods is unknown, the researchers note.
Swapping one daily serving of red meat for chicken or fish was associated with a 20 percent reduction in the risk of this bowel disorder, the study also found.
The study is observational, and doesn’t prove red meat causes diverticulitis.
Other limitations of the study include its reliance on men to accurately recall and report how much meat they ate and the possibility that the results may not apply to women, the authors point out.
Even so, the findings should offer yet another reason to consider cutting back on red meat, said Samantha Heller, a nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City who wasn’t involved in the study.
Diets high in red and processed meats have been linked with increased risks of inflammatory bowel diseases, so the link found in this study “is not surprising,” Heller said by email.
“Focusing on a more plant based, higher fiber diet that includes legumes, whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits, replete with appropriate fluid intake, may go a long way in helping reduce of inflammatory bowel diseases, diverticulitis, and other chronic diseases,” Heller added.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr P Carrothers
Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Tied to Lower Drug Costs
People with heart disease spend a lot less on medications when they take steps to lower their risk of complications by doing things like getting enough exercise, avoiding cigarettes and keeping their blood pressure in check, a U.S. study suggests.
For the study, researchers focused on adults diagnosed with the most common type of heart disease, known as atherosclerosis, which happens when fats, cholesterol and other substances build up on artery walls.
When these patients did as much as they could to avoid so-called modifiable risk factors for heart disease – inactivity, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and diabetes – their total average annual pharmaceutical expenditures were $1,400, the study found.
But patients who did little to modify these risk factors had total average annual pharmaceutical expenditures of $4,516, researchers report in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Individuals who are unwilling to modify their lifestyles so as to have a favorable risk factor profile would most likely resort to medications to control the risk factors,” said lead study author Dr. Joseph Salami of the Center for Health Care Advancement and Outcomes at Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables.
“A person getting little or no exercise has a higher risk of obesity,” Salami said by email. “Someone obese is more likely to have diabetes, high blood cholesterol and hypertension.”
For the study, researchers examined 2012 and 2013 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a national snapshot of spending based on surveys of almost 76,000 American patients, families, doctors and employers. The total pharmaceutical costs, reported in 2013 dollars, include patients’ out-of-pocket fees like co-payments and co-insurance as well as the portion of the tab covered by insurance or other sources, Salami said.
Among the survey participants, 4,248 adults aged 40 or older had atherosclerosis, representing about 21.9 million people in the U.S. population. They were 68 years old on average, and 45 percent were women.
Overall, average annual drug costs for each participant were $3,432. About a third of this was for cardiovascular disease drugs and another 14 percent was spent on diabetes medicines.
The remaining expenditures – more than half of the total – were for non-cardiovascular disease and non-diabetes drugs and were significantly associated with the modifiable risk factors, the study team notes.
Nationwide, this adds up to annual drug spending of $71.6 billion for patients with atherosclerosis, researchers estimated.
One limitation of the study is that it might overestimate expenditures because it’s possible some people prescribed medications for heart disease might be taking them for other reasons, the authors note. Researchers also lacked data on the type of insurance patients’ had or for individual characteristics of patients, doctors or pharmacists that might influence drug costs.
Costs should be considered in the context of how well treatments work, and the study doesn’t address this, noted Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston who wasn’t involved in the study.
“In some cases, the benefit that patients get from these non-pharmacologic therapies may be much more substantial than the benefit that drug therapy can offer,” Kesselheim said by email. “In other cases, the drug might be more helpful.”
The study also isn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove that people will spend less on drugs when they make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease, said Julie Schmittdiel of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland.
“It does suggest there is promise that addressing modifiable health behaviors will reduce costs,” Schmittdiel, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.
Knowing this might help motivate some patients to make changes, said Stacie Dusetzina, a pharmacy researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who wasn’t involved in the study.
“I think many of us realize how hard these risk factors are to modify,” Dusetzina said by email. “But having incentives that include feeling better and saving money may help with motivation.”
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived: Jane Blakemore
Dr A Sullivan
Breakthroughs Help Vets Win the PTSD Battle
Thanks to medical miracles, veterans of today’s wars survive battlefield injuries that almost certainly would have been fatal just a generation ago.
But when those wounded warriors return home, they face another monumental challenge: How to mend their broken minds and bodies to resume successful, rewarding lives after they leave the military.
Fortunately, doctors and therapists are studying a number of innovative methods that could help get wounded veterans back on their feet.
Among the promising techniques for veterans currently being explored:
Electric Patch Treatment
Post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD, plagues many soldiers returning home from war. Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles report trigeminal nerve stimulation, or TNS, has shown promise in treating chronic PTSD.
“This could be a breakthrough for patients who have not been helped adequately by existing treatments,” Dr. Andrew Leuchter said.
A second study is now under way.
Seventy-four soldiers seeking treatment for PTSD at the Army Medical Center’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Fort Gordon, Ga., recently participated in a study on transcendental medication. Within one month, nearly 84 percent of the meditating soldiers had stabilized, reduced, or eliminated their use of the psychotropic drugs that were helping them to cope with their condition.
Meditating twice a day helped veterans remain calm and avoid the “fight or flight” response associated with PTSD.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Subjecting patients to oxygen at a higher-than-atmospheric pressure infuses the cells of their bodies with oxygen. This has proven especially effective in fighting infections and warding off the effects of concussion, a common injury sustained by soldiers.
But doctors report the Veteran’s Administration and the Pentagon have been slow to fully adopt the use of hyperbaric oxygen by veterans.
President Ronald Reagan famously remarked there is nothing as good for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse. Therapists say as soon as vets get around horses they tend to relax, and their anxieties begin to fade away.
OperationWeAreHere.com offers contact information for over a dozen equine-therapy organizations that work with veterans.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Sensitizing patients to their fears, and the stimuli that tend to trigger panic and anxiety, can help veterans learn to control their reactions. Researchers say those who return from war zones often suffer from “hypervigilance,” an exaggerated readiness to respond to perceived threats in the environment.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients learn to respond productively to stressful situations.
Virtual Reality Therapy
Using computer-generated simulations, veterans under expert medical supervision can get in touch with traumatic events, to better process and understand their own reactions. One small trial suggested it might reduce the effects of PTSD, but more studies are needed.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy
Using a technique called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, PTSD patients learn to process the traumas they experienced thereby reducing anxiety. A patient brings to mind the disturbing images they cannot escape, while practicing deep breathing and focusing on the rapid movements of a therapist’s hand.
A technique just beginning to gain widespread acceptance, it appears to work by mimicking the rapid eye movements people experience during REM sleep.
Magnetic Resonance Therapy
Colloquially known as “brain zapping,” magnetic resonance therapy uses magnetic coils to stimulate the cortex. The FDA approved the procedure in 2008 to combat major bouts of depression.
Published studies suggest it could also help patients suffering from PTSD. The Washington Post reported the procedure is offered as a treatment for depression by the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived: Jane Blakemore
Dr P Carrothers
Yoga as Good for Back Pain as Physical Therapy
Chronic lower back pain is equally likely to improve with yoga classes as with physical therapy, according to a new study.
Twelve weeks of yoga lessened pain and improved function in people with low back pain as much as physical therapy sessions over the same period.
“Both yoga and physical therapy are excellent non-drug approaches for low back pain,” said lead author Dr. Robert Saper, of Boston Medical Center.
About 10 percent of U.S. adults experience low back pain, but not many are happy with the available treatments, Saper and colleagues write in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The American College of Physicians advised in February that most people with low back pain should try non-drug treatments like superficial heat or massage before reaching for medications.
Physical therapy is the most common non-drug treatment for low back pain prescribed by doctors, according to Saper and colleagues. Yoga is also backed by some guidelines and studies as a treatment option, but until now no research has compared the two.
For the new study, the researchers recruited 320 adults with chronic low back pain. The participants were racially diverse and tended to have low incomes.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group took part in a 12-week yoga program designed for people with low back pain. Another took part in a physical therapy program over the same amount of time. People in the third group received a book with comprehensive information about low back pain and follow-up information every few weeks.
At the start of the study, participants reported – on average – moderate to severe functional impairment and pain. More than two-thirds were using pain medications.
To track participants function and pain during the study, the researchers surveyed them at six, 12, 26, 40 and 52 weeks using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ).
Scores on the RMDQ measure for function declined – meaning function was improving – by 3.8 points over the 12 weeks in the yoga group, compared to 3.5 points in the physical therapy group. Participants who received education had an average RMDQ score decline of 2.5.
Statistically, participants ended up with similar functional improvements whether they underwent yoga, physical therapy or education.
More people in the yoga and physical therapy groups ended up with noticeable improvements in function, however.
People would feel a noticeable improvement with a four to five point drop on the RMDQ, write Dr. Douglas Chang, of the University of California, San Diego and Dr. Stefan Kertesz of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in an accompanying editorial.
They write that 48 percent of yoga participants and 37 percent of physical therapy participants reached that goal, compared to 23 percent of people who were in the education group.
For achieving noticeable differences in pain, physical therapy was again no better or worse than yoga. After 12 weeks, people in the yoga group were 21 percentage points less likely to used pain medications than those in the education group. That difference was 22 percentage points for physical therapy versus education.
The improvements among the people in yoga and physical therapy groups lasted throughout the year, the researchers found.
“If they remain the same after one year, it’s a good bet that their improvement will continue on,” Saper told Reuters Health.
One treatment method won’t help all or even most patients, wrote Chang and Kertesz in their editorial.
“Nevertheless, as Saper and colleagues have shown, yoga offers some persons tangible benefit without much risk,” they write. “In the end, however, it represents one tool among many.”
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Jay J
Natural Compounds in Ordinary Foods Beat Prostate Cancer
Adding common foods to your diet can help you beat — or even avoid developing — prostate cancer, hints a study conducted at The University of Texas at Austin. Researchers discovered that several natural compounds found in foods starve cancerous tumors of the nutrition they need to thrive and spread.
For instance, a main dish of curry, which contains the spice turmeric, topped off with baked apples, whose skins contain ursolic acid, provides essential nutrients effective in fighting cancer.
Researchers used a unique method to analyze plant-based chemicals and discover specific combinations that shrink prostate tumors.
They first tested 142 natural compounds on mouse and human cell lines to see which inhibited prostate cancer cell growth when administered alone or in combination with another nutrient. The most promising active ingredients were then tested on model animals: ursolic acid, a waxy natural chemical found in apple peels and rosemary; curcumin, the bright yellow plant compound in turmeric; and resveratrol, found in red grapes and berries.
The found that when combined with either curcumin or resveratrol, ursolic acid prevented the uptake of glutamine, a nutrient necessary for cancer growth.
“These nutrients have potential anti-cancer properties and are readily available,” says Stafano Tiziani. Combinations of the nutrients, he says, “have a better effect on prostate cancer than existing drugs.
“The beauty of this study is that we were able to inhibit tumor growth in mice without toxicity,” Tiziani said.
The study was published in Precision Oncology.
Other studies have also found potential cancer therapies in foods, including turmeric, apple peels, and green tea.
Italian researchers at the University of Parma studied men with a pre-malignant form of prostate cancer called prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN), and found that those who took three 200 milligram capsules of green tea extract daily slashed their risk of developing prostate cancer by 90 percent when compared to men taking a placebo.
Previous studies have found that lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes and watermelons their bright red color, can decrease the risk of prostate cancer by up to 35 percent. One study found that men with precancerous changes in their prostates who took 4 milligrams of lycopene twice daily lowered the risk of their condition progressing to cancer.
A study at Britain’s University of Portsmouth found that lycopene in tomatoes becomes even more biologically active when cooked with a small amount of oil.
A study from the University of Missouri found that resveratrol can make chemotherapy and radiation more effective in men who have aggressive prostate cancer.
Researcher Michael Nicholl found that the combination of resveratrol and radiation treatment killed 97 percent of tumor cells. “It’s important to note that this killed all types of prostate tumor cells, including aggressive tumor cells,” he said.
An Italian study found that men who drank three cups of Italian-style coffee every day reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 53 percent. “Italian Style” coffee is prepared using high pressure, very high water temperature, and no filters. The benefit is probably due to the caffeine, but scientists say that the method of preparation could lead to a higher concentration of the helpful bioactive substances.
A high-fiber diet may be able to inhibit early-stage prostate cancer by stopping tumors from growing, said a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. Scientists fed one group of mice inositol hexaphosphate (IP6), a natural type of carbohydrate that’s found in large amounts in high-fiber diets. A second group of mice didn’t get the supplement. MRIs were used to monitor the progression of prostate cancer.
“The study’s results were really rather profound,” said researcher Komal Raina. “We saw dramatically reduced tumor volumes.” IP6 kept prostate tumors from making new blood vessels needed to make the cancer grow and metastasize.
Health and Wellness Associates
Sylvia Booth Hubbard
Dr P Carrothers
Cherries are a favorite summer treat with a number of health benefits. Harvest season runs from May through July, and with high susceptibility to disease and a short shelf life, cherry season is a short one. An exception is if you grow your own Barbados or West Indian cherry, more commonly known as the acerola cherry.
I have several acerola trees and harvest cherries nearly nine months of the year. Acerola cherries1 also are one of the highest sources of vitamin C. Each acerola cherry provides about 80 milligrams (mg) of natural vitamin C with all the other important supporting micronutrients, unlike synthetic vitamin C. When I have a bountiful harvest, and eat more than 100 cherries, I get close to 10 grams of vitamin C.
The recommended daily allowance for vitamin C in the U.S. is a mere 75 to 90 mg for women and men respectively, so just one of these cherries can provide you with all the vitamin C you need for the day.
You pretty much have to grow acerola cherries on your own, though, as they cannot withstand transportation and storage. Deterioration can occur within four hours of harvesting and they ferment quickly, rendering them unusable in five days or less. Unless you intend to use them for juicing, they also do not fare well being kept in the freezer. Sadly, they only grow outdoors in subtropical climates like Florida.
Tart Versus Sweet Cherries
Conventional cherries can be divided into two primary categories: sweet and tart (sour). Sweet varieties such as Bing cherries are typically eaten fresh, while Montmorency tart cherries are typically sold dried, frozen or as juice.2 Tart cherries develop a fuller flavor when they’re used in cooking, which is why they’re often used in baked desserts. As noted by the Cherry Marketing Institute:3
“When it comes to nutritional science and cherries, most studies involve tart Montmorency cherries. In fact, more than 50 studies have examined the potential health benefits of Montmorency tart cherries, and the research is continuing.
This research strongly supports the anti-inflammatory qualities of Montmorency tart cherries, as well as the benefits of muscle recovery and pain relief from conditions like arthritis. Studies have also found that Montmorency tart cherries contain [m]elatonin, a naturally occurring substance that helps regulate sleep patterns.”
One 8-ounce glass of tart cherry juice will give you:4
62 percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A (about 20 times more vitamin A than sweet cherries)
40 percent of your RDI of vitamin C
14 percent of your RDI of manganese
12 percent of your RDI of potassium and copper
7 percent of your RDI for vitamin K
Sweet cherries are a great source of potassium,5 which is important for maintaining normal blood pressure. It plays an important role in your fluid balance, and helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium. Sweet cherries also contain a number of potent anticancer agents, including:
- Beta carotene, which converts into vitamin A (retinol), important for healthy vision as well
- Vitamin C, the “grandfather” of the traditional antioxidants, the health benefits of which have been clearly established. It’s a powerful antioxidant, which helps neutralize cell-damaging free radicals
- Anthocyanins, including quercetin. Sweet cherries have three times the amount of anthocyanins than tart cherries, and those with deep purple pigments (opposed to red) have the highest amounts.
Quercetin is among the most potent in terms of antioxidant activity and has a wide range of other health-promoting properties as well. As a group, anthocyanins have been shown to promote cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of mutated cells, thereby reducing your cancer risk
- Cyanidin,6 an organic pigment compound with powerful antioxidant activity. By promoting cellular differentiation, it reduces the risk of healthy cells transforming into cancer cells. One study found cyanidin isolated from tart cherries was superior to that of vitamin E and comparable to commercially available antioxidant products7
- Ellagic acid, this polyphenol “prevents the binding of carcinogens to DNA and strengthens connective tissue,” thereby preventing the spread of cancer cells.8 It also inhibits DNA mutations and inhibits cancer by triggering apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells
Mind Your Portions
Just beware that cherries, both sweet and tart, are relatively high in fructose. One cup, about 10 pieces, contain about 4 grams of fructose. It’s important to take this into account if you’re tracking your fructose consumption. I recommend keeping total fructose below 25 grams per day if you’re otherwise healthy, or as low as 15 grams if you struggle with health issues associated with insulin resistance. The good news is you don’t need to eat much more than a handful to get good amounts of antioxidants.
Alternatively, if you have confirmed that you are burning fat as your primary fuel and are engaging in cyclical ketogenesis, then, on the days that you are strength training (about twice a week), you can increase your net carbs to 100 or 150 grams, so you can have larger amounts of cherries on those days. Just be sure not to binge on large amounts daily for the entire cherry season as you are just asking for unnecessary metabolic challenges.
Tart Cherries — A Natural Endurance-Boosting Super Food
In one recent study,9 Montmorency tart cherries, taken in the form of a juice concentrate, were found to improve athletic performance and recovery among semiprofessional soccer players, decreasing post-exercise inflammation and muscle soreness.
Similarly, athletes consuming tart cherry juice prior to long-distance running experienced less pain than those who did not.10 Other research has confirmed tart cherry juice is a valuable endurance sports drink. As noted by Running Competitor:11
“The best way to accelerate muscle recovery after exercise is to prevent muscle damage from occurring during exercise. And one of the best ways to do [sic]prevent muscle damage during exercise is to consume the right nutrients before exercise. Tart cherry juice does just that. This was demonstrated in a 2010 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
Twenty recreational runners consumed either cherry juice or placebo for five days before running a marathon, then again on race day, and for two days afterward as well. The lucky runners who got the cherry juice exhibited less muscle damage immediately after the marathon. They also showed lower levels of inflammation and recovered their muscle strength significantly quicker.”
Cherries, courtesy of their high vitamin C content, may also stave off exercise-induced asthma, the symptoms of which include cough, wheezing and shortness of breath when exercising. A meta-analysis12 from Finland found vitamin C may reduce bronchoconstriction caused by exercise by nearly 50 percent.
Interestingly, another powerful and natural strategy to accelerate muscle recovery is photobiomodulation. I have a 1-foot by 3-foot panel of red (660 nm) and near-infrared (850 nm) LEDs that I use every day for about five minutes. The bed is a few thousand dollars but you can achieve similar results with a smaller near-infrared device from Amazon.13 It just takes longer as it has fewer LEDs. You also need to remove the plastic lens and put black electrical tape over the green photodiode so it will turn on in the daytime.
On the days that I lift heavy enough to cause muscle challenges serious enough to make it difficult to sit down or use the toilet the next day, I use the light bed for 10 minutes and that is enough to completely abort the post-exercise stiffness and pain. It is an amazing mitochondrial support; every time I use it, I’m surprised that I can avoid the post-exercise pain and stiffness.
Cherries Are Potent Anti-Inflammatories
Tart cherries contain two powerful compounds, anthocyanins and bioflavonoids. Both slow down the enzymes cyclo-oxyygenase-1 and -2, which helps to relieve and prevent arthritis and gout.14 Gout occurs when the metabolic processes that control the amount of uric acid in your blood fail to do their job effectively.
The stiffness and swelling are a result of excess uric acid-forming crystals in your joints, and the pain associated with this condition is caused by your body’s inflammatory response to the crystals. Dr. Nathan Wei, a nationally known rheumatologist, recalled this story about the powerful effect of cherries on gout:15
“Dr. Ludwig W. Blau, relating how eating a bowl of cherries one day led to complete relief from pain, sparked off the interest in cherries in the treatment of gout … Blau’s gout had been so severe that he had been confined to a wheelchair. One day, quite by accident, he polished off a large bowl of cherries, and the following day the pain in his foot was gone.
“[Blau] continued eating a minimum of six cherries every day, and he was free from pain and able to get out of his wheelchair … Blau’s research led to many other people suffering from gout who reported being helped by cherries.”
In a study16 of over 600 people with gout, those who ate a one-half cup serving of cherries per day for two days, or consumed cherry extract, had a 35 percent lower risk of a subsequent gout attack. Those who ate more cherries, up to three servings in two days, halved their risk. Other studies have found:
Eating two servings (280 grams) of sweet Bing cherries after an overnight fast led to a 15 percent reduction in uric acid and lower nitric oxide and C-reactive protein levels (which are associated with inflammatory diseases like gout).17 The researchers noted the study supports “the reputed anti-gout efficacy of cherries” as well as “evidence that compounds in cherries may inhibit inflammatory pathways”
Consuming tart cherry juice daily for four weeks may lower your levels of uric acid18
By reducing inflammation, the anthocyanin and bioflavonoids in cherries may also help reduce:
Migraine headaches. These compounds are actually known to have similar activity to aspirin and ibuprofen
Pain from inflammatory osteoarthritis.19 According to one study,20 women with osteoarthritis who drank tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks had significant reductions in markers of inflammation and a 20 percent reduction in pain. The researchers noted that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food”
How Cherries Support Healthy Sleep
Interestingly, cherries contain natural melatonin,21 a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that helps “cool down” excess inflammation and associated oxidative stress. It also plays a vital role in sleep, cancer prevention and general regeneration. Based on daily environmental signals of light and darkness, your pineal gland has evolved to produce and secrete melatonin to help you sleep.
Research suggests that consuming tart cherry juice increases your melatonin levels, thereby improving time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency. According to the researchers:22
“…consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep.”
Other Health Benefits of Cherries
Tart and sweet cherries also have a number of other important health benefits. For example, they’ve been found to:
- Improve risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. In one animal study, rats fed tart cherry powder along with a high-fat diet gained less weight and accumulated less body fat than rats not fed tart cherries. They also had lower levels of inflammation and triglycerides, suggesting a role in heart health.23
Quercetin is also known to have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health by reducing your blood pressure. According to a study investigating the effects of quercetin in hypertension, “The results of this meta‐analysis showed a significant effect of quercetin supplementation in the reduction of blood pressure, which suggest that this nutraceutical might be considered as an add‐on to antihypertensive therapy”24
- Reduce your risk of stroke. Tart cherries activate peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPAR) in tissues, which help regulate genes involved in the metabolism of fat and glucose. PPAR activation has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
In fact, research suggests eating cherries may provide heart benefits similar to prescription PPAR agonists,25 drugs prescribed for metabolic syndrome. The problem with these drugs is that while they may improve risk factors associated with heart disease, they may increase your risk of stroke instead.
As reported by Science Daily, 26 “… [R]esearch from the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory suggests that tart cherries not only provide similar cardiovascular benefits as the prescribed medications, but can also reduce the risk of stroke, even when taken with these pharmaceutical options”
- Lower your risk of dementia. Inflammation and oxidative stress are associated with an increased risk for dementia. The polyphenols in tart cherries effectively combat both, thereby lowering your risk of cognitive decline.
As explained in one recent study,27 “[P]olyphenols from dark-colored fruits can reduce stress-mediated signaling in BV-2 mouse microglial cells, leading to decreases in nitric oxide (NO) production and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression. [T]art cherries — which improved cognitive behavior in aged rats … may be effective in reducing inflammatory and OS-mediated signals”
- Lower your risk of colon cancer by substantially reducing formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) when added to hamburger patties. It also slows meat spoilage.28 HAAs are potent carcinogenic compounds created when food is charred, and have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Hamburger patties with just over 11 percent tart cherries in them contained anywhere from 69 to 78.5 percent less HAAs after cooking, compared to regular patties
Storage and Washing
To retain the best flavor, consume fresh cherries within two days if kept at room temperature, or store in the refrigerator for longer shelf life. Avoid washing them before storing, as this accelerates deterioration. Instead, wash them immediately before eating.
As mentioned, growing a few cherry trees or bushes29 in your backyard can provide you with this potent super food for several months out of the year. Relying on commercially-available cherries will limit them to just a few weeks a year. Eat a few acerola cherries every day, right from my own organic garden.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr J Mercola
Dr. P Carrothers
When Someone Needs Your Support
Supportive friends can play an important role in the mental health recovery process. All too often, people respond negatively or dismissively when someone discloses that he/she has a mental health disorder. It is important to remember that mental health disorders are just as real as physical illnesses and that a person cannot just “snap out of it.” If you are unsure how to react when a friend tells you that he/she is struggling with a mental health disorder, it can be helpful to think about how you would react if that same friend told you that he/she had been diagnosed with a physical disorder like diabetes.
Below are some tips about how you may want to respond if a friend tells you that he/she has a mental health disorder:
Show your support. Express your concern and sympathy, talk openly and make sure that your friend knows that he/she is not alone. The most important thing you can do is just offer to be available.
Listen. If your friend talks about their mental health diagnosis, don’t change the subject.
Resist the temptation to give advice or dismiss their concerns.
If your friend discloses personal information, keep his/her trust by not sharing the information with others. The exception is talk about suicide. When suicide is mentioned, it’s time to tell a professional and get help! If you’re feeling overwhelmed by what he/she has told you, contacting CAPS or another helpline can be a good way to get advice while still keeping information confidential.
Ask what you can do to help. You can leave this open-ended (“I want to know how I can best support you.”) or suggest specific tasks that might be helpful (“Can I drive you to your appointment?”). If you know that your friend is struggling in school, it can be helpful just to offer to study with him/her.
Ask if your friend is getting the treatment that she/he wants and needs. If not, offer to find out about available resources and help your friend find effective care.
Reassure your friend that you still care about him/her.
Many people with mental health disorders tend to withdraw from family and friends.
Continue to invite your friend to go to dinner, study, talk, or just hang out.
Even if he/she doesn’t always feel like talking or spending time together, it can be a comfort just to know that he/she has friends that care.
Educate yourself about your friend’s disorder. This can help you to know what to expect. Click for more information on:
Certain strategies, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising can be helpful when managing one’s mental health.
Know that alcohol and other drugs interfere with most psychiatric medications, making them less effective and, in some cases, dangerous.
Click here for resources if you’re worried that a friend may be abusing alcohol or other drugs.
Take care of yourself. It can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming to take on the care of a friend.
Make sure not to get so involved that you forget to take care of yourself.
Take time for yourself. Make time to do something you find relaxing.
Call Counseling and Psychological Services if you feel like you could use some support.
Check out free support groups for families and friends of individuals with psychiatric disorders.
Not sure what to say? You’re not alone.
Statements of Support and encouragement, along with one important statement “ What can I do to help you”.
Never judgement or criticize, or tell them they will be alright, and walk away. Sometimes just sitting with them is all they need.
NEVER, try to shock them back to reality.
NEVER, say go ahead and kill yourself.
When you don’t know what to say, say nothing. Hold their hand, and just be with them.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr. Anne Sullivan
Sunscreen Mistakes That Pose A Serious Risk To Your Health
The dog days of summer have arrived for most of us and that means lots of time spent out in the sun having fun. It can also mean a painful sunburn if you are not careful. Too much time, unprotected in the sun can lead to premature aging and damage to your skin. While there are a plethora of types of sunscreens to choose from, you must be careful not to make sunscreen mistakes that will end up doing more harm than good.
While it is a good idea to protect the skin from the damaging impact of UV radiation from the sun, you need to know the in’s and outs of sunscreen so as to avoid costly mistakes. Remember, we need the sun to help our bodies make vitamin D3, the nutrient that boosts our immune system, elevates our mood and fights cancer. The key is to stay safe and still get enough sun to keep your vitamin D levels in a healthy range.
Here is a look at the top mistakes you might be making when it comes to sunscreen.
Using chemical sunscreen instead of natural sunscreen
Sunscreen is a huge market and everyone wants to get a share of it. This means that some sunscreens are actually just a toxic cocktail of chemicals that could end up hurting you. The number one mistake you might be making when it comes to your sunscreen is which type of sunscreen you actually purchase and use.
Surprisingly, some studies have indicated that risk of malignant melanoma was highest amongst those who used the most sunscreen. This is undoubtedly due to the chemical makeup of the sunscreen.
According to a 2014 Environmental Working Group guide to sunscreen, over 75% of all sunscreen sold contains toxins capable of increasing the risk of cancer. Here is what they had to say:
“Our review…shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some have toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some act like estrogen and disrupt hormones, and several can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. The FDA has not established rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients.”
Here is a list of just some of the toxic ingredients you might find in conventional sunscreen:
Para amino benzoic acid
Natural sunscreen products or mineral-based sunscreen products generally contain zinc or titanium. They do not break down in the sunlight and are not absorbed by the body. To stay safe, it is best to choose a natural, or mineral-based sunscreen that will not disrupt hormones, are not allergenic and offer effective protection.
Our recent round-up of the best natural sunscreens led to the conclusion that these were the best:
Badger All Natural Sunscreen
Tropical Sands Natural Sunscreen
Beauty By Earth Facial Cream
Kiss My Face Mineral Sunscreen
Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Sunscreen
Using spray-on sunscreen
Although they go on easy, spray sunscreens have hidden dangers. According to safety experts at Consumer Reports, spray on products contain some potentially dangerous ingredients that could be damaging if inhaled, especially to children.
According to Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at Environmental Working Group, “These high-alcohol formulas could irritate the lungs, and their ingredients could be absorbed into the bloodstream.”
You wait to apply sunscreen until you arrive at the beach or the pool
Take the time to apply sunscreen before you head outside. This will allow you to be sure that you are well-covered. Too many people wait to get to the pool or the beach to apply their sunscreen and end up missing spots because they are in a hurry to get in the water or engage in other activities.
You only use sunscreen when you are headed outdoors
It is a good idea to use some form of natural sunscreen year-round, not just when you are headed to the beach or out on a boating trip. According to Cheryl Gustafson, MD, a chief dermatology resident at Emory University,”The sun’s rays can still reach your skin, for example, while you drive or sit by a window.” There are a number of natural moisturizers that contain some sort of sunscreen. It is a good idea to get into the habit of using these daily, no matter what you are doing.
You apply sunscreen with your clothes on
It is always best to apply sunscreen to your entire body when you are naked. According to Noelle Sherber, MD, a consulting dermatologist for the Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center it is best to apply sunscreen naked in front of a full-length mirror because this “helps ensure you entirely cover tricky spots like the mid-back and backs of the legs.”
You pass over your lips
Many people do a good job of protecting their body and face from the sun but neglect their lips. Lips are highly sensitive to the sun and require special TLC from the sun. However, don’t use the same stuff you put on your body. It is best to purchase an organic lip balm with SPF protection (such as these Organic Lip Balms from Sky Organics) and apply it frequently when exposed to the sun.
You rely too much on sunscreen
Too many people rely on sunscreen for complete protection from the sun. There are a number of things that you can do to enhance your protection including:
Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and a hat when participating in outdoor activities. There are many options available for lightweight clothing that offers protection. In addition, always wear a hat when outdoors in the sun.
Stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest time of the day. The sun is hottest during the hours of noon and 3 pm.
Eating foods that offer sun protection and build UV resistance can also help protect you from the sun. These foods include green and white tea, blueberries, red grapes or wine, salmon and fish oil, almonds, asparagus and pumpkin seeds, bell peppers and carrots.
Yes, the sun is fun, yes, we need the sun for vitamin D production,to build up an immune system in y our children, but we have to be very careful during the hot days of summer not to overextend our time in the sun. Chemincals in most commercially marketed sunscreens, are absorded in your skin and the liver tries to filter them out, and cant. You only have one liver
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived Sierra Bright
Dr Jay Jaranson
5 Foods That Have More Sodium Than Chips
Your body needs sodium—but there’s no denying that most of us are getting way too much of it. According to recent stats from the American Heart Association, the average daily sodium intake in this country is 3,600 milligrams—more than double the Association’s recommendation of 1,500 milligrams max. But avoiding clear offenders like salted nuts and potato chips may not be enough to bring you down into the recommended range since there are so many sneaky salt bombs out there. Just look at these seemingly healthful foods—they all contain more than 255 milligrams of sodium, which is the amount you’ll find in a 1 ½-ounce bag of Lays Classic Potato Chips:
1/2 Cup Nonfat Cottage Cheese
This packs a surprising 270 milligrams of sodium—and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to eat more than ½ cup and really overdo it with the salty stuff.
A 6 1/2″ Whole-Wheat Pita
Pitas come with a health halo—especially when they’re whole-wheat—and they can be a good source of fiber. But they also come with a heavy dose of sodium: 284 milligrams in just one pocket.
2 Tbsp Reduced-Fat Italian Salad Dressing
Yup, you can take in more sodium in 2 Tbsp of your salad topper than in an entire bag of chips: This variety is loaded with 260 mg per serving—although plenty of other types of salad dressing pack just as much.
While the exact stats will of course vary from brand to brand, the USDA says that one store-bought veggie burger patty tends to come in around 398 milligrams of sodium—and that’s before you even consider all of the salt in the bun (many types of bread are just as salty as pitas, if not more so).
1/2 Cup Canned Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce has its virtues—it contains lycopene, for example, a carotenoid that research has linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. But you have to eat it in moderation since each ½-cup serving packs a shocking 642 milligrams of sodium.
Health and Wellness Associates
Heartburn Drugs May Raise Stomach Infection Risk
Suggests long-term use of acid suppressors might open door to C. difficile and Campylobacter bacteria
People who take heartburn drugs such as Prilosec and Nexium may be at increased risk of two potentially serious gut infections, a new study suggests.
The study, of nearly 565,000 adults, found those on certain heartburn drugs had higher risks of infection with C. difficile and Campylobacter bacteria.
Both bugs cause abdominal pain and diarrhea, but can become more serious — especially C. diff. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half a million Americans were sickened by the infection in 2011, and 29,000 of them died within a month.
The heartburn drugs in question included both proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) — brands like Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium — and H2 blockers, such as Zantac, Pepcid and Tagamet, the study authors said.
All suppress stomach acid production, and the researchers suspect that may make some people more vulnerable to gastrointestinal infections.
The new findings, published Jan. 5 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, aren’t the first to raise such concerns.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already warned about a risk of C. diff infection linked to proton pump inhibitors.
“This study offers more evidence that there’s an association,” said Dr. F. Paul Buckley, surgical director of the Heartburn and Acid Reflux Center at the Scott & White Clinic in Round Rock, Texas.
Buckley, who was not involved in the study, said it’s also important to see the results in a bigger context. Long-term use of PPIs, in particular, has been tied to a number of health risks, including nutrient deficiencies, bone loss and heart attack, he said.
Because PPIs are so common and available over-the-counter, people may assume they’re “100 percent safe,” Buckley pointed out.
“There’s still a myth that these drugs are benign,” he said. “It’s not true.”
The new findings don’t actually prove that either PPIs or H2 blockers raised the risk of gut infections.
But it is plausible, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Thomas MacDonald, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Dundee in Scotland.
They suspect that drugs that suppress stomach acids can change the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut, which may make people more susceptible to infections.
Dr. David Bernstein, a gastroenterologist who was not involved in the study, agreed that stomach acid suppression could be the culprit.
But he also stressed that heartburn medications alone do not directly cause gut infections.
For one, C. diff most often strikes people who are sick and on prolonged courses of antibiotics. And Campylobacter infections are foodborne — usually caused by eating raw or undercooked poultry, or foods contaminated by those products.
“So it’s not just that you take a PPI and you get C. diff,” said Bernstein, who is chief of hepatology at Northwell Health in Manhasset, N.Y.
Still, he said, patients and doctors should be aware that the drugs might contribute to the risk of certain infections.
For the study, MacDonald’s team analyzed medical records from close to 565,000 Scottish adults. More than 188,000 had been given at least one prescription for a PPI or H2 blocker; the rest had no prescriptions for the drugs, researchers said.
On average, people on the drugs were roughly four times more likely to develop a Campylobacter infection between 1999 and 2013.
They were also 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with C. diff outside of a hospital. Their odds of being diagnosed in the hospital were 42 percent higher.
The researchers accounted for other factors, such as people’s age and medical history. And they still found an association between the heartburn medications and higher infection risks.
Bernstein stressed that the study is reporting group averages.
“The risk to any individual patient would actually be quite small,” he said.
But people should be sure they truly need a PPI or H2 blocker before taking one, Bernstein said.
“And you should be reassessed over time, to see if you really need to continue the medication,” he added. “The potential problems are with long-term use.”
Buckley made the same point. Even if a doctor prescribes a PPI, he said, ask questions. “Ask why it’s being prescribed, and whether there are any alternatives,” he advised.
H2 blockers are one alternative, Buckley said. Even though this study tied them to gut infections, he said, the drugs don’t seem to carry the other risks linked to PPIs, including heart problems.
People with only occasional heartburn don’t need PPIs at all, Buckley said. They may do well with diet and lifestyle changes alone.
For people with more severe acid reflux, he said, surgery might be an option.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr. J Jaranson