Tag Archives: Diet

Fix your pain with your diet

Businesswoman Having Backache At Work

Inflammation is all the rage lately. And rightfully so. Research has shown that chronic inflammation is at the core of most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that affect Americans. But what about chronic pain? Could chronic joint pain, back pain, or muscle pain be caused by chronic inflammation? And can it be alleviated by changing your diet? The answer is yes.

What is Inflammation?

First, we must understand what inflammation is. Inflammation is the term given to describe the biological response that occurs as a result of tissue damage. Bacterial infections, trauma, chemical exposures and dying tissue may all start the inflammatory cascade. In human physiology there are two kinds of inflammation. First, there is the acute form. In this form of inflammation the body responds to an injury by creating an environment that is conducive to healing and tissue repair. The body does this by sending fluids and blood to the area. That’s why the injury swells, turns red and becomes warm to the touch. This is a necessary step after an injury. Acute inflammation is a good thing for the body.

The second type of inflammation, called chronic inflammation, is not a good thing for the body. Chronic inflammation is a lower grade inflammatory response, but it is persistent. Unlike acute inflammation, which resolves, chronic inflammation is a continuous phenomenon that persists silently for years on end. The chronicity of the response is precisely what makes it so problematic. It increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and many other conditions.

Chronic Inflammation and Pain

How does chronic inflammation affect your pain level? First, it’s important to remember the most widely used pain relievers in the world like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin work by reducing inflammation, not by working directly on nerves. This should illustrate the importance of inflammation in producing pain in the human body. However, there are ways to reduce inflammation without resorting to medications, which have serious side-effect profiles, even when taken as directed. The diet is the key.

Dietary-induced chronic inflammation produces an assortment of inflammatory chemicals capable of sensitizing the pain pathways. Moreover, if this sensitization of the pain pathways persists, adaptive responses by the brain cause the sensation of the pain to become exaggerated or inappropriate. The key to fixing this is to reduce the chronic inflammation.

The Pro-Inflammatory Diet

In this country, most people eat a “pro-inflammatory” diet.  That is, they consume food that consistently feeds the inflammatory cascade in the body, leading to chronic inflammation.  As previously pointed out, chronic inflammation leads to tissue destruction and many disease states.  In order to fully understand why our diets lead to this state, we must understand the basics of fatty acids.

Fatty acids are individual molecules that make up triglycerides in our body.  Triglycerides are the storage form of fat that humans use for energy.  In human physiology there are three important fatty acids.  There are omega-3 (n-3), omega-6 (n-6) and omega-9 (n-9) fatty acids.  Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential in the human diet.  This means that we must consume them in our diet in order to survive.  Omega-9 fatty acids are classified as non-essential because we are able to synthesize them from other unsaturated fats in our body.  It is the balance of these fatty acids that is critical for controlling and reducing inflammation in human physiology.

First, we must examine the role of fatty acids in our body when speaking about inflammation.  Fatty acids work to produce a variety of chemicals in the body called eicosanoids.  These chemicals are at the heart of the inflammatory cascade.  Some eicosanoids are beneficial while others can contribute to inflammation.  The harmful eicosanoids that contribute to the inflammatory cascade are related to an omega-6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid.  If arachidonic acid is incorporated into a specific eicosanoid then it becomes pro-inflammatory.  If it is not incorporated it becomes anti-inflammatory.  It is arachidonic acid that will fuel the inflammatory cascade, eventually resulting in the production of chemicals capable of sensitizing the pain pathways.

So, we must take a closer look at this specific fatty acid called arachidonic acid.  Arachidonic acid is found preformed in animal products, especially meat.  In addition, it is easily converted in the body from the fatty acids found in grains and vegetable oils like corn, safflower and sunflower oil.  Also, animals fed a steady diet of grain are exceptionally high in arachidonic acid.

Obviously, what we eat will determine our fatty acid profile and potentially contribute to chronic inflammation and pain.  One might think, based on the information given above, that becoming a vegetarian would significantly reduce one’s overall inflammatory load.  And it does make sense especially if we take into account that arachidonic acid is preformed in meat.  It has been shown, however, that the opposite is true.

The average American diet has unfortunately shifted to promote excessive production, storage and utilization of arachidonic acid.  This leads to the over-production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids.  Research has shown that man evolved with a ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids of about 1:1.  Today, the average ratio in the diet is anywhere from 10:1 to 20-25:1.  This is disadvantageous because we know that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and have a wealth of other health benefits.  Plainly put, our diets have shifted to favor inflammation.

As mentioned earlier, it would seem that vegetarian diets would be most beneficial in creating an anti-inflammatory state because animal products are high in preformed arachidonic acid.  This hypothesis, however, has not held up in clinical studies.  It has been shown that vegetarians, in fact, have a higher plasma level of arachidonic acid and an essentially equal level of arachidonic acid found in red blood cells when compared to meat eaters.  The study also showed that vegetarians have lower levels of the protective and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA. This suggests that  vegetarian diets shift people closer to an inflammatory state than they probably desire.

A diet high in fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins and fats it ideal for stopping and preventing chronic inflammation.  This type of diet will invariably be low glycemic.  The glycemic index refers to the effect on blood sugar that a particular food will have.  A food that has a low glycemic index (GI) will raise blood sugar much more slowly than a food with a high GI.  Foods with a low GI are much more beneficial for controlling inflammation because low glycemic foods cause a much smaller response from the hormone insulin.  Insulin is the hormone that’s required for most of the cells in our body to use and store sugar for energy.  Insulin, which is secreted from the pancreas, actually stimulates an enzyme that converts omega-6s into the dreaded arachidonic acid.  So a diet that is high glycemic will cause one’s body to over secrete insulin and further drive the inflammatory cascade.

So a diet high in fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fat will lead to lower inflammation and greater pain control, but are there are other things you can add into your diet to help? As it turns out, there are. Certain spices have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Turmeric, ginger, garlic and black pepper all have the potential to reduce inflammation when consumed in the diet. There are many other spices that have anti-inflammatory properties so go ahead, spice up your food! Your body may thank you for it.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Diet

How to develop healthy eating habits in a child: Start early and eat your vegetables

A healthy diet promotes success in life — better concentration and alertness, better physical health that translates into good mental and emotional health.

But even the best intentioned parents can expect food fights with their children, said Tanda Kidd, associate professor of human nutrition and extension specialist at Kansas State University. Developing good eating habits in your children is worth the effort, she said.

Good eating habits also are a front-line defense against obesity, a scourge of the nation that happens when a child eats many more calories than he or she uses up.

Nearly 1 in 4 children ages 2 to 5 is overweight or obese, said Paula Peters. An obese child is at risk for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and sleep apnea. Peters is an associate professor of human nutrition and assistant extension director for family and consumer sciences at Kansas State University.

“No parent wants her child to be sick. No parent wants her child to feel like an outsider in social situations, or be teased or bullied because of her weight,” Kidd said.

Peters and Kidd both conduct research in the area of childhood obesity prevention.

A primary key to teaching a child to make healthy food choices, Peters said, is to start early.

“Give the child a wide variety of healthy food options and let her choose which and how much to eat. A child may start by eating nothing or eating too much, but she has an innate ability to know when she’s hungry and when she’s full.”

A child learns about new foods at a time when she is exploring the world around her. And she learns to make decisions for herself.

Make the selection nutrient dense — not calorie dense. That means fruits and vegetables, not cookies for snacks. A glass of soda and a glass of 100 percent juice may have the same number of calories, but a juice is a healthier choice because it does not contain added sugars, said Kidd, a registered dietitian.

Soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks have empty calories, meaning they are “empty” of nutritional value.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, empty calories from foods high in added sugars, such as ice cream, cookies, candy, fruit drinks and some breakfast cereals and solid fats such as donuts, pastries, hot dogs, sausages, bacon and regular ground beef, contribute to 40 percent of daily calories for children and adolescents ages 2 to 18 years.

Kidd and Peters offer other suggestions:

• Do not use food as a reward for good behavior or other achievements. Kidd suggested other awards like reading a book together or playing a child’s favorite game.

• Eat your veggies, Dad. A child learns food habits — what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat, where to eat — from parents.

• Eat with your children so they can see you making good food choices.

• Be aware of what a child is eating away from home. Peters said that more than 25 percent of children ages 2 to 4 are in day care 20 to 40 hours a week. Check out meals and snacks offered to your child.

• Limit screen time — television — that encourages “mindless” eating.

• Avoid putting a child on a diet, even if he or she is slightly overweight. “That sets up the child for issues such as eating disorders later in life,” Kidd said. Instead, offer healthier food options and increase physical activity.

Kidd and Peters also encourage parents to teach their children about healthy food choices in other ways:

• Planning and taking a trip to the grocery store gives a child ownership in food choices. Reading labels and comparing costs offer other lessons.

• Plant a garden. Peters said a child is more likely to eat vegetables he or she helped grow and harvest.

• Cook together. During special time with Mom or Dad in the kitchen the child will learn more than cooking skills.

Kidd and Peters are concerned about both food deserts and food swamps. The former defines area where fresh foods are hard to get, perhaps because grocery stores are far from the family home.

Food swamps describes areas that are so crowded with fast food options that making healthy eating choices is more challenging.

They also stress the vital role that physical activity plays in childhood health. Although there is no specific recommendation for kids ages 2-5 years old, parents should offer opportunities several times a day for active play. However, kids 6 and over are encouraged to be physically active at least 60 minutes each day, Kidd said.

“Parenting styles and family characteristics affect what a child eats, of course,” Peters said. “So do community, demographic and societal characteristics such as school physical education programs, access to recreational facilities, school lunch programs and neighborhood safety.

“Weight gain is an indicator of an unhealthy society,” she said. “We have to focus on ways to be healthier.”

Week of the Young Children, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children April 12-18, focuses on the foundation for a child’s success in school and later life.

via How to develop healthy eating habits in a child: Start early and eat your vegetables — ScienceDaily.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

I agree with everything written above with one exception. I do not believe fruit juice should be a regular part of a child’s diet. On occasion, it’s fine. However, the vast majority of time, water should be the choice. Parents often are concerned that their children are somehow “missing” something if they aren’t given juice or sweet snacks. They are missing something; they’re missing the opportunity for cavities. They’re missing the increased risk of being overweight or obese. They’re missing out on poorer brain function. They’re missing out on learning healthy habits.

In all seriousness though, parents are legitimately concerned about depriving their children of delicious treats. However, this is purely the parents’ perspective, not the child’s. If the parent believes they would miss those treats themselves (most likely because of their own upbringing and food choices), of course they’re going to believe their children would miss them too. Here’s the caveat though. Children only know what you teach them. They won’t miss out on anything if they’re taught to love the healthy food. They’ll feel just as fulfilled and loved with the good food as they would feel with the unhealthy food.

This is not to suggest treats should never be given. They must, however, be just that – treats. Making a regular habit of bad food choices sets up a child for a lifetime of health issues.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brain Health, Diet

Health Doesn’t Come In A Pill

PillsWe live in an instant gratification society. It permeates every aspect of our lives. From the way we consume our news with 24 hours news networks or online surfing, to the way we gossip with Facebook, our desire for things to be done now(!) is staggering.

The same applies to our health. We want results, and we want it yesterday. The problem? There is no quick fix for anything in terms of your health. We’ve become accustomed to seeing the ads on TV that promise results with just one simple pill per day. We’re so accustomed to it, we’re starting to believe it. Heck, some people believe it so much, they demand it! Unfortunately, health doesn’t come in a pill.

But my doctor promises me that if I take my high blood pressure medication, my statin, and my baby aspirin just once per day, I’ll live a long, healthy life!

Yes, yes. That is a comforting thought isn’t it? The problem is it isn’t true. Check out this information:

Statins: For those who took statins for at least 5 years with no history of heart disease:*

  • 98% saw no benefit
  • 0% were helped by being saved from death
  • 1.6% were helped by preventing a heart attack
  • 0.4% were helped by preventing a stroke
  • 2% were harmed by developing diabetes
  • 10% were harmed by muscle damage

Aspirin: For those who took it daily for a year with no history of heart disease:*

  • 99.94% saw no benefit
  • 0% were helped by avoiding death
  • 0.05% were helped by preventing a non-fatal heart attack
  • 0.01% were helped by preventing a non-fatal stroke
  • 0.03% were harmed by developing a major bleeding event

Blood Pressure Medications: For those who took them for mild hypertension:*

  • 100% saw no benefit
  • 9% were harmed by medication side effects and stopped the drug

(*Statistics gathered from www.thennt.com)

Isn’t it amazing that you’re more likely to be harmed by these medications than you are to be helped? So, given that these drugs are so popular and prescribed so widely, why don’t they work? Health doesn’t come in a pill. Our medical model is flawed and flawed greatly. There are too many factors to assume one can take a pill and live longer or healthier. And most medical doctors receive very little, if any, training in nutrition.

You must fuel your body properly. This means a healthy diet and exercise. Those things work. Those things take time and effort. Obviously, time and effort don’t fit with our current lifestyle of “I want it now.” We need to change our lifestyle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Health

Why Your Pants Shouldn’t Fit!

Have you heard about a metric used by health professionals called the waist to hip ratio? It’s a measure of abdominal obesity. Abdominal obesity is strongly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death, even after controlling for other factors like overall weight. In the waist to hip ratio, waist circumference and waist size are compared to hip size. Several organizations have defined cut points for abdominal obesity with different cut points for men and women. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the waist circumference should be measured at the midpoint between the lower margin of the last palpable rib and the top of the iliac crest, using a stretch‐resistant tape that provides a constant 100 g tension. Hip circumference should be measured around the widest portion of the buttocks, with the tape parallel to the floor. Practically, however, the waist is more conveniently measured simply at the smallest circumference of the natural waist, usually just above the belly button, and the hip circumference may likewise be measured at its widest part of the buttocks or hip. The WHO states that abdominal obesity is defined as a waist–hip ratio above 0.90 for males and above 0.86 for females. In layman’s terms, if your belly is bigger than your butt, you’ve got a problem.

I recently measured my waist to hip ratio. It was about 0.83 – well within the healthy range. Here’s how I found it. My waist measures about 34 inches. My hips measure about 41 inches. If you divide 34 by 41 you get 0.82926 repeating or about 0.83. For reference I’m about 5’11”, 187 pounds and about 18% body fat.

So what the heck does this have to do with my pants?

Everything! It’s a quick, down and dirty way to assess your waist to hip ratio. When I buy pants, the waist NEVER fits. It’s ALWAYS too big. This is a good thing. The reason it’s too big is I have to be able to fit them over my legs and butt. If you talk to anyone who works out or is athletic, they’ll tell you the same thing. If a pair of pants fits on the waist, it’s super tight in the legs and butt. If it fits the butt and legs, the waist is enormous. It’s a good, if not maddening, problem to have. Here’s what I mean:

Just about all of my pants are 1-3 inches too big in the waist, by they fit everywhere else!

Just about all of my pants are 1-3 inches too big in the waist, by they fit everywhere else!

This is what you don’t want:

This man's waist is clearly larger than his hips.

This man’s waist is clearly larger than his hips.

Everyone should have an idea of what their waist to hip ratio is. It’s a simple and easy metric for assessing your general health. Don’t want to take the time to measure it? Fine, how do your pants fit? Are the waists too big but legs and butt just fine? GREAT. Are you having trouble finding pants to fit your waist because when they fit your waist they fall off the rest of you? Uh-oh. Time to make some lifestyle changes and get healthy!

1 Comment

Filed under Diet, Public Health

I’m Overweight.

Dr. C

Or at least you would think so if you looked at my body mass index (BMI). I have written about the very imperfect science of the BMI scale before here on my blog, but I thought it deserved to be revisited. BMI is basically a height to weight ratio that comes up with a number designed to make it easy for clinicians to decide if a person is overweight or obese. Before the BMI scale was invented it was hard to assess someone’s weight and say that it was appropriate because height is also an important factor in weight. BMI combined those two.

Calculating BMI is relatively simple. You need your weight in pounds and your height in inches. Take your weight and multiply it by 703. Take your height and multiply it by itself (height squared). Now divide the first number by the second number and you have your BMI. To see my calculations or do your own click this link. My BMI falls in the “overweight category” with a score of 26.2. However, my body fat percentage is about 18%. This is well within the acceptable range for a 33-year-old man. (And I clearly do not look overweight!)

BMI misses many things when calculating whether someone is at the proper weight.

The problem for some people, like athletes, it does not take into account muscle mass. A person that is heavily muscled will always be overweight according to the BMI. As a matter of fact, I have been considered “overweight” since college despite always being is relatively good shape. If we look at professional level athletes, most of them would be considered obese!

I understand that not everyone is an elite athlete. What about the elderly? BMI is not ideal for them either. In the United States that equates to about 43 million people. Many times an elderly person will fit nicely into the BMI by being considered “ideal weight” for their height. This can be significantly misleading. Why? In the elderly muscle mass begins to drop. It happens to all of us. However, with this drop in muscle mass comes a drop in weight. As weight is lost a person is likely to fall into the “ideal weight” category even though they should be concerned about muscle mass loss. This loss in muscle mass causes a loss in strength and stability, increasing the risk of falls and increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Another problem with muscle loss is the change in your body composition. As muscle mass is lost one’s body fat percentage increases. Body fat percentage is a great indicator of health. The lower it is (within reason) the healthier you are, generally speaking.

BMI also fails to take into account many other health factors like diet, exercise, inflammatory markers, nutrient status, stress load, chemical exposure, social well-being, mood stability, and a whole host of other things we know have a large impact on our health. However, it is still widely used as a primary assessment of one’s health. As I said, it’s an imperfect science. In my opinion, it’s so imperfect it should be eliminated.

Please don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Health

35 Points From A Body Transformation Contest

Recently, I entered into a 6-week body transformation challenge at the gym I belong to. It’s called KDR Fitness. Great place. It began February 10th and ended March 22nd. It was technically 41 days long. I decided to enter because I needed a kick in the butt to get back to the gym. In the previous year gym days were hard to come by. With a brand new baby and practice, my gym time was way down. To top it off, I had a neck injury that took me completely out of the gym for 3 months at the end of the year. As a consequence my body fat had increased to 21.7%. Not ideal for me. During the contest, I recorded my diet and exercised in order to lose body fat and gain lean mass. I wore a heart rate monitor for all of my workouts to calculate my calories burned and generally keep track of my workouts. Here are the things I learned:

  1. I started at 21.7% body fat.
  2. By the 4th week I was down to 19.4%
  3. By the end of the 6th week, I was down to 18.4%
  4. I gained 3.7 pounds of muscle in 6 weeks.
  5. I lost 7 pounds of fat in 6 weeks.
  6. I missed the gym.
  7. I worked out 25 times in 41 days.
  8. That’s 4 workouts per week with an occasional 5th thrown in.
  9. I ate MORE food than I had been eating and was able to lose fat and gain muscle.
  10. I burned 15,655 calories in 25 workouts.
  11. Each workout was about 1 hour.
  12. Each workout burned an average of 626.2 calories.
  13. The range of calories burned was 273 all the way up to 958.
  14. It is not that hard for me to avoid grain.
  15. I can count on one hand how many times I ate grain in 41 days (and it’s less than the whole hand).
  16. Cheat meals are important.
  17. This was a typical day in terms of food intake:
    Wake Up: 6:15
    Food for the day:
    Breakfast: 6:45 – 3 eggs, mixed veggies, and cheese cooked in butter. Coffee with organic half and half.
    Snack: 10:15 – 3 large beef and veggie meatballs, carrots, celery, and hummus.
    Lunch: 12:20 – Chicken breast, mixed peppers, 1 whole avocado.
    Snack: 3:30 – Protein shake, steamed broccoli.
    Workout – 60 minutes – protein/carbohydrate workout drink
    Dinner: 6:45 – Meatloaf, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with olive oil.
    Snack: 9:15 – Greek yogurt and banana.
  18. Food preparation is key.
  19. Eating 6 times per day isn’t that hard IF you’re prepared.
  20. Eating a lot of vegetables is fairly easy IF you’re prepared.
  21. You don’t necessarily have to count calories if the quality of your food is good.
  22. You can eat A LOT of food if you are working out hard and still lose weight.
  23. Burpees get easier the more you do them.
  24. Working out more consistently makes you want to workout more consistently.
  25. Using the scale to measure your progress is a bad idea.
  26. My weight changed from 190.9 to 187.6 in 6 weeks. Hardly encouraging if you’re just looking at the scale.
  27. Body fat analysis is far more informative.
  28. You only have time for the gym if you make time for the gym.
  29. You don’t need to be in the gym 7 days/week.
  30. Two busy people (my wife and I) can each take turns working out during the week and get great results.
  31. You should be willing and able to do an extra workout or two from home if you need to.
  32. You can turn snow blowing and shoveling your driveway into a workout quite easily.
  33. Body mass index (a measure of height to weight) is a terrible health assessment tool. According to it, I am “overweight.” This is because my lean mass is high, not because I am actually overweight.
  34. My basal metabolic rate (calories I burn at rest over 24 hours) increased from 1,835 to 1,870 over six weeks.
  35. The area of my body that gained the most muscle (as percent growth) was my left arm.

I was on a team of three and our entire team (Bro’s before Hoho’s) did very well. The winning team will win $3,000. I’ll find out in a couple of days which of the 18 teams won the contest. That’s not the important part, but it sure would be nice!

Leave a comment

Filed under Diet, Public Health

5 Foods You Should Never Eat!

Have you heard the news? There are five foods you should never eat. And here they are for your viewing pleasure.

1. There

2. Is

3. No

4. Such 

5. Thing

Confused? You shouldn’t be. There is no such thing as a food you should never eat. There are a lot of foods that you should eat sparingly. Ice cream, bread, pasta, white potato, potato chips, french fries, and any fast food come to mind. But even those can be eaten every great once in a while without fear. However, you shouldn’t have ice cream on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, french fries on Wednesday, etc. and expect to feel healthy, lose weight, avoid chronic disease or whatever your goal is. That kind of thing can add up. 

Eating food that is bad for us once in a while will never cause you to be unhealthy. It has no more potential to cause you to be unhealthy than eating healthily every great once in a while does to make you healthy. It’s the consistency that matters.

The exception to the rule:

There’s always one, right? If you have a food sensitivity or food allergy it is best to avoid those foods all the time. Do not cheat with those. Cheat with something else. For some this can be a life or death thing (i.e. an anaphylactic allergy or celiac disease). 

I think this is an important concept as we all can be consumed by the information we see in the media and from health gurus telling us to “eat this” and “don’t eat that.” We have to remember, they have an agenda – it’s to sell books, get ratings, and generally be as polarizing as possible. That’s what gets attention and sometimes the information is lost. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized