4 things you should know about supplement safety

Herbal and dietary supplements are topping the list of perceived natural over-the-counter alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs. But the idea of supplements as being “natural” can also be misleading.

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While current healthcare industry practices continue to keep America sick, so many people (including myself) are looking for alternative methods to heal ourselves instead.

According to a report by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) has been steadily increasing in popularity in the last decade. The numbers as of 2007 said that about four in 10 adults and one in nine children are using CAM. And those numbers today are anticipated to be even higher.

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What you should know about self-ordered lab tests

In Arizona, a new law was passed this last month that allows for any Arizona resident to be able to request lab tests without an order from their medical provider.

Lab test results usually influence more than 70 percent of recommended medical therapies and other health decisions, according to Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Wellness Centers in Arizona. They tell you a lot about what’s going on inside of you, which has some wonderful applications for a proactive patient. But there may be a few things to be wary about if you go it alone for lab testing.

Here are some things to think about:

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USDA unveils new online weight planning tool

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have partnered to add the NIH Body Weight Planner to USDA’s SuperTracker online tool as a goal-setting resource to help people achieve and stay at a healthy weight. Created in 2011, the SuperTracker tool empowers people to build a healthier diet, manage weight, and rUSDAeduce risk of chronic disease. Users can determine what and how much to eat; track foods, physical activities, and weight; and personalize with goal setting, virtual coaching, and journaling. With science-based technology drawing on years of research, the Body Weight Planner will enable SuperTracker’s more than 5.5 million registered users to tailor their plans to reach a goal weight during a specific timeframe, and maintain that weight afterward.

The math model behind the Body Weight Planner, an online tool published by NIH in 2011, was created to accurately forecast how body weight changes when people alter their diet and exercise habits. This capability was validated using data from multiple controlled studies in people.

“We originally intended the Body Weight Planner as a research tool, but so many people wanted to use it for their own weight management that we knew we needed to adapt it with more information about how to achieve a healthy lifestyle,” said Kevin Hall, Ph.D., who led creation of the Planner and is a senior investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the NIH. “The Planner is a natural fit within the SuperTracker as it lets people accurately determine how many calories and how much exercise is needed to meet their personal weight-management goals.”

The Planner’s calculations reflect the discovery that the widely accepted paradigm that reducing 3,500 calories will shed one pound of weight does not account for slowing of metabolism as people change their diet and physical activities. More recently, the math model was further validated using data from a two-year calorie restriction study of 140 people. With those data, Hall and colleagues showed the model can also provide accurate measurements of calorie intake changes by tracking people’s weight. Researchers are examining how to apply this method for public use.

“We are pleased to offer a variety of interactive tools to support Americans in making healthy lifestyle changes,” said Angie Tagtow, executive director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which created and manages SuperTracker. “The NIH Body Weight Planner helps consumers make a plan to reach their goals on their timeline, and SuperTracker helps them achieve it.”

More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent complications related to overweight and obesity such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

“NIH’s collaboration with USDA allows the public to quickly reap the benefits of the latest medical research results,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “Sharing resources and expertise lets us get out important information as efficiently as possible, empowering people to take charge of their weight and their health.”

The NIDDK, a component of the NIH, conducts and supports research on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe and disabling conditions affecting Americans. For more information about the NIDDK and its programs, see http://www.niddk.nih.gov.

8 tips that help you avoid gaining the “freshman 15”

You’ve graduated high school and you’re off to college! Believe me when I say from the bottom of my heart, congratulations. You’ve worked hard for it. And it’s one of the most exciting times of your life. You have the college experience to look forward to, and the rest of your life in front of you.

But for many, that also means being on your own and making your decisions solely for yourself for the first time, and adapting to a complete change in lifestyle. Between the stress and the new academic workload schedule, so many college freshman gain excess weight their first year. To help balance out your new-found freedoms and increased obligations, here are a few tips to keep yourself healthy and happy through the college years (and beyond!):

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5 minutes of this a day can keep the doctor away

Meditation improves
mental and physical health

Breathing can help prolong your life. Well, especially when you combine it with meditation.

In an age where we are constantly multi-tasking, plugged in, inundated with images, facts and emails and enduring constant over-stimulation, it’s no wonder we’re exhausted and a little frayed at the edges each day.

And when you have added stress, it can affect your body in many ways both physically and mentally. So whether you are going through a difficult time in your life or are struggling with an ongoing mental health issue, adopting mindfulness could be just what the doctor ordered.

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How better sleep can help you lose weight

If you are one of those people who fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to getting enough sleep every night, you could be heading toward a world of hurt sooner rather than later.

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A locavore’s holiday: National Farmer’s Market Week

In case you didn’t know, this coming week August 5 – 11 is National Farmer’s Market Week. All hail the mighty American farmer! Locavores, unite!

Believe me when I tell you, farmers don’t do what they do for the money. Well, they try to. But for smaller farms, it’s becoming harder and harder to break even these days. It’s almost the American dream to be able to make an honest day’s work simply tilling the land, and reaping the fruits of your labor as they ripen. It may seem easy – throw a few seeds in the ground, watch them grow, sell the results.

But it’s the overhead: Cost of land, paying workers, buying equipment, cost of water, and your yields being at the mercy of the elements that makes farming a tough trade to make a living. Many ranchers and farmers have to take second jobs just to make ends meet.

That’s where we, the consumers, come in! With health and wellness concerns taking hold of our modern-day culture, it makes sense that “locavore” is making its way into the community vocabulary. Especially in a dwindling national economy, buying locally grown produce has put Arizona “you-pick” or CSA-certified farms on the map of modern-day shoppers, urban and rural alike.

Why? There are several fantastic reasons.

First of all, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Food that is locally grown spends less time in the back of a truck; causing less damage to the food. When food is stored for long periods of time, the cells in the fruit begin to break down, causing wilting or bruising and the loss of nutrients. The sugars in the food also turn to starch, which makes the food tougher, and not as flavorful” (Sue Baic, British Dietetic Association, 2007).

So, that means two things: Despite the healthier aspect, when farmers sell directly to consumers, they cut out “the middleman,” so to speak, and get the full value for their produce upfront, which also weighs a little lighter on the consumer’s coin purse, as well. Secondly, it cuts down on emissions from fewer trucks taking produce to long-distance locales. So you’re paying the farmer directly, from the vine to your hand, instead of the high dollar signs at the market due to costs of transportation and related constantly fluctuating gas prices. Consequently without much effort, you’re doing your part in living a little ‘greener.’

Thirdly, paying the local farmer helps keep that money circulating at the community level. It helps support local jobs on the farm, or other related, regional costs the farmer needs to pay.

Wow, right? Why haven’t we always been doing this?

Don’t know where there are any local farmer’s markets? No problem! (And no excuses 😉 ). The Arizona Farm Bureau and the USDA have a wealth of information about the schedule and locations of markets in the state of Arizona, as well as a great graph on the USDA site about growing seasons and what produce is harvested when.

In this modern world, we’ve become so removed from where real food comes from. So this week, do yourself (and food growers!) a favor: Shop local, fresher, healthier, greener, and cheaper, all in one place – at the food source. Win-win for everybody, and is a great big thank you to the hard work our farmers go through to get that food on our tables.

Happy Farmer’s Market Week, everyone!

Don’t always have time to make it out to an area farmer’s market? Do the next best thing! Buy produce at the stores grown locally. Every time I’m at the market, for example, I pick up these sprouts, grown and shipped from only the next town over. Shop local this week! Show your support for food growers in your area.