When is it OK to Cheat On My Diet?

If there is one thing I’ve repeatedly tried to iterate on this website it’s that moderation is a key to health living. Too much of anything is bad and too little of something beneficial is also no bueno.

Kryptonite for a certain pharmacy brute.

Kryptonite for a certain pharmacy brute.

First, lets define diet. Our culture has given this word many meanings. It is a verb, adjective and noun. Lets boil down diet to a simple meaning; what one habitually puts into their mouth. That’s not the official dictionary definition, but it is simple, direct and clear.

For one then to say they are on a diet is akin to saying, “I’m breathing today as opposed to not breathing tomorrow for fear of inhaling something bad, but only tomorrow, since I’ll likely be crashing my breathing again the following day. I just can’t help myself. Breathing is so good!”

Doesn’t that sound a bit silly?

So diet is what one habitually puts into their mouth and actually swallows. And saying that you’re on a diet is like saying that you also breathe. So the next question is this; do you ever eat pie? Or cookies? Or cake? Or some Hot Cheetos? Or a Coke?

Are monster burgers part of your diet. If you eat them from time to time then yes they are!

Are monster burgers part of your diet. If you eat them from time to time then yes they are!

Sorry, that was 5 questions. If you answered yes to any of those or anything else in your mind that would count as a junk food, then yes, it is a part of your diet. So if someone offers you a piece of pie or cake and you tell them you’re on a diet so you can’t, then you’re straight up lying. Maybe the frequency is once in a blue moon. Maybe just at Thanksgiving or Christmas or some other major event (I just ordered 3 desserts at a nice restaurant because it was my anniversary).

The truth is, “junk” is a part of most people’s diets, just in small amounts for some, and large amounts for others. Frequency, as mentioned above also plays a role. So the question of when is it ok to cheat on my diet becomes moot because the reality is, if you eat it, it’s already part of your diet.

Let’s take a look at an example. My life and my diet.

Here’s a sample of one of my days and things I might eat during that day. In no way should this be a template for you since you aren’t me. Remember this is just an example of one pharmacist in rural America.

5:10 AM Wake up

5:20-5:30AM Protein shake

6AM Workout

7AM Protein shake

7-8AM Make breakfast for kids, shower and get cleaned up for work

8-8:30 Eat chicken, beef, pork, eggs or some other protein source, usually with some oatmeal or quinoa.

9AM Start work at the pharmacy

1PM Lunch: Eat chicken, beef, pork or tuna with some rice or oatmeal or quinoa and some veggie (usually broccoli)

2PM Resume work

6PM Go home, make dinner for wife and kids. My dinner is usually weighed out if I’m calorie counting, and if I’m not then I just TRY to eyeball it (usually fails and revert back to weighing)

Dinner may be anything from some sort of pasta (we love angel hair) to rice to potatoes(not often) accompanied by pork roast, beef roast, chicken and some fruit (usually melon because right now it’s melon season).

If the kids eat all of their food, including their veggies, we’ll sometimes have some dessert. Ice cream, jello, a little cake or pie (depending on availability from my wife).

8:30 Bedtime for kids. Teeth brushed before hand.

10:30 I try to get to bed by this time, doesn’t always work.

Rinse, Repeat.

I don’t always have dessert. Sometimes I do. Most nights I don’t. The weekend, when I’m home and have more ready access to food, is usually when I partake of something wonderful. Last Friday I made blueberry scones for dessert which we had with some ice cream on the side. Oh man was that good! But do I have blueberry scones every night? My mouth and brain say “ABSOLUTELY!” My will and my waistline say otherwise.

Focus on being happy and healthy before you think weight 90lbs will create both

Focus on being happy and healthy before you think weight 90lbs will create both

I’m not saying I’m fat. I’m just saying I know better than to have dessert every night. If pie is involved I can’t stop till it’s gone. The desirability of dessert is also proportional to my stress level during the day and the amount of carbs I had. Low carbs and high stress = recipe for disaster if I’m not careful. Moderate carbs with low stress and dessert just isn’t as appetizing.

I wrote about eating intentionally a while ago. You can look at the links here:

https://pharmacybrute.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/how-to-intentionally-eat/

https://pharmacybrute.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/eating-intentionally-during-the-holidays/

Rather than ask when can I cheat, the better question to ask might be, how often do I include junk into my diet? Remember that diet is something that you put into your mouth habitually. I would consider every weekend or even every month habitual. It really depends on you. If you were to deny yourself and good hamburger for the rest of your life and truly eliminate it from your diet, then yes if offered, you could then say, “sorry I’m on a diet that includes no hamburgers. Ever!”

But I ask you…Why? If you have a gluten allergy, then obviously you wouldn’t be eating scones, at least with wheat flour. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan then you’d avoid meat at all costs, which you are free to do. But why? These are wonderful foods and indulging from time to time is ok. Just make sure indulgence doesn’t become overindulgence and that includes one too many ounces of steak.

Sit down and enjoy your food. Even if you only have 5 minutes, sit down, put your phone away, and enjoy your food. Savor the flavor. Enjoy the texture. Let it be an experience.

 

CIAO

Blue Light Revisited

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Blue light was the subject of a blog post here a few weeks ago. If you missed it you can access it here:

https://pharmacybrute.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/late-night-reading-and-sleep/

We are finding more and more information on blue light and it’s effects and I wanted to go over a few more studies looking at it.

First, a report discussing the effects of shorter wavelength (blue) light. In the first, blue was compared to green. Exposure to blue light induced a 2 fold greater circadian phase delay than green light. That means that both green light and blue light are resetting your circadian clock. The total amount of reset is dependant on intensity and duration. [1]

Another study found similar results, comparing blue, blue-green, green, red and amber with no light controls. Red and amber were found to not produce any significant difference over control. Blue and green again increased the onset of melatonin. [2]

Another study looked at subjects and their melatonin secretion, as well as perceived sleepiness. Subjects were given either blue, green, or no light after 1.5 hours of light, followed by 2 hours of dark. Light exposure then followed for two hours. 2 more hours of normal light exposure and then sleep. Here a jpeg to get all of that across.

light

 

Researchers found that melatonin was decreased in the blue and green groups, but to a lesser extent in the green group. Blue light also increased heart rate slightly but significantly, to the tune of 4 beats per minute. Core body temp also remained higher in the blue light group over the green and light groups. It appears that blue light increases sympathetic tone. That means that your fight or flight systems are a bit more active in the presence of blue light. [3]

Another study found that REM sleep was reduced by about 10 minutes per night when people were reading on E-readers than a regular book.[4] REM sleep seems to be linked with mood. [5]

Another study looking at 4th graders and 7th graders found that these students had less sleep when sleeping with electronic devices and/or TVs in their rooms than those who didn’t. [6] This of course makes sense. I’m more likely to stay up later and fight off sleep if I’m on the TV or reading than if I just go to bed. Maybe we as a society needs to be more wanting of sleep and not to be entertained.

Lack of sleep is bad for weight, depression, blood sugar, cardiovascular health and a whole host of other things.

Glasses made to filter out blue light seem to help, as noted in one study. [7] I made mention of these in the previous post.

In another study done with glasses to filter out blue light in adolescent males, researchers found that melatonin was increased if the blue filter lenses were used. [8] The authors in this study noted that no circadian rhythm was changed, but they hypothesized that one week, the length of the study, may not have been long enough.

These types of glasses may be useful, especially those that are working night or swing shifts. They can be purchased fairly inexpensively too. Plus you don’t typically have to lug them around everywhere. You can keep them at you desk or by your bed.

Naturally it’s better to just avoid computer and phone use before bed, but that can be very difficult, especially if the job demands it. Try some glasses out or other forms of entertainment at night, like sleep or reading a book.

CIAO

 

1.Lockley, Steven W., George C. Brainard, and Charles A. Czeisler. “High sensitivity of the human circadian melatonin rhythm to resetting by short wavelength light.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 88.9 (2003): 4502-4505.

2.Wright, Helen R., Leon C. Lack, and David J. Kennaway. “Differential effects of light wavelength in phase advancing the melatonin rhythm.” Journal of pineal research 36.2 (2004): 140-144.

3.Cajochen, Christian, et al. “High sensitivity of human melatonin, alertness, thermoregulation, and heart rate to short wavelength light.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 90.3 (2005): 1311-1316.

4.Chang, Anne-Marie, et al. “Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2014): 201418490.

5.Cartwright, Rosalind, et al. “Role of REM sleep and dream affect in overnight mood regulation: a study of normal volunteers.” Psychiatry Research 81.1 (1998): 1-8.

6.Falbe, Jennifer, et al. “Sleep Duration, Restfulness, and Screens in the Sleep Environment.” Pediatrics (2015): peds-2014.

7.Wood, Brittany, et al. “Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression.” Applied ergonomics 44.2 (2013): 237-240.

8.van der Lely, Stéphanie, et al. “Blue blocker glasses as a countermeasure for alerting effects of evening light-emitting diode screen exposure in male teenagers.” Journal of Adolescent Health 56.1 (2015): 113-119.

 

Are ADHD Medications Safe for Kids?

I see a troubling trend in the pharmacy that has been going on since I started working with a license. And it’s probably no surprise since if you clicked on the link, you already know what I’m going to be discussing today.

ADHD? No problem. There's a pill for that.

ADHD? No problem. There’s a pill for that.

I see kids as young as 3-4, yes that’s right, 36-48 months of life, on ADHD medications. That’s quite interesting to me. I’m not going to be discussing the idea that ADHD might not be real. I will discuss the drugs and implications.

The story usually goes something like this:

A child has a lot of energy and can’t focus in school. Parents of said child get a note or call from a teacher about the disruptions, lack of attention, not working on assignments etc. Mom takes a child to doctor and, after performing some routine tests (at least we hope so), mom receives a prescription for some Ritalin, Adderall or other stimulant, goes to the pharmacy and gets to talk to the pharmacist.

This is where more truth comes out because we pharmacist have to disclose more information than a doctor typically would, or would want to. Side effects include; dizziness, sleepiness, decreased appetite, weight loss (that’s why meth addicts are so skinny), high blood pressure, arrhythmias, seizures, priapism, growth suppression, nervousness, insomnia, tachycardia, nausea, headache, palpitations, and visual disturbances.

Truth be told, many people like the effects of stimulants because they get you going, help you feel good, and can hit the pleasure centers of the brain to cause euphoria and if used long enough, or if the effect is strong enough, addiction.

I’ve talked with moms who’ve seen some of these effects in their children. The most common is weight loss and lack of appetite, which go hand in hand. Many also have nausea, compounding the weight loss problem.

What’s worse is that many are getting antipsychotic medications and/or anti-anxiety medications. We’re talking the big guns like benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin) and dopamine blockers (Risperdal, Seroquel, Geodon). According to a report from Columbia University, rates of antipsychotics have doubled in children ages 2-5 from 2000-2007. [1]

What’s worse is that less than half of these children actually had any kind of mental health evaluation, visit with a psychiatrist or have a psychotherapy visit.

One story of an 18 month old, yes 18 months, can be read at the New York Times [2] about how he was prescribed medications for temper tantrums. His condition got worse until his parents and some good doctors were able to wean him off everything other than some Vyvanse (a stimulant for ADHD).  He was overweight and his mother described him as having “blankness” in his eyes by the time he was three.

Part of the problem may be that our public school system is a one size fits all approach to students. We try to fit some square students into a round hole approach. For some children, the public school system works well, especially with good parent involvement. For others, it fails them horribly. I have no data to support the idea that a change in paradigm with public schools’ approach to education might actually curb the rate of prescribing of these medications, but I think it would.

That’s for another post though.

This type of problem solving is analogous to a report I heard on NPR recently about nursing homes and long-term care facilities. A team went to discover if the residents in these types of facilities were really demented and had other mental health problems. Many residents of these types of facilities will yell out and make other types of disturbances during the day and night.

The tea tasked itself with discovering if their really was mental illness or something else going on. In one instance, a woman would yell out at night. Many times in this type of situation, nurses will administer depakote (an anti-seizure medication) or benzodiazepines to calm a patient down.

This team tried to communicate with her. What they found was, after some time and effort, was that she was cold at night. They got her a blanket and she calmed down and slept, all without medications.

Communication: what an amazing concept!

Rather than not listening to yelling and grunting and crying, we should listen and see if we can discover the real problem

Rather than not listening to yelling and grunting and crying, we should listen and see if we can discover the real problem

Now I know some people do legitimately have mental illness, there is no doubt about it. Getting a proper diagnoses from the proper channels is important though. Immediately throwing a drug at a problem is a mentality that unfortunately, too many doctors and patients and patient’s moms have. Working through a problem rather than throwing a tablet at it is harder, but can be worth it. Avoiding problems like the story in the New York Times is advisable.

Proper nutrition and activity is generally a good idea, especially for very active kids. Some kids are content to live in their brains more so than others. Others just can’t sit still. They need to move.

A child’s brain is also continuously developing. To address problems like ADHD at 2 or 3, or a temper tantrum at the same age is probably very premature.

My little 3 year old gets frustrated sometimes because she desperately wants to say something. Even when my wife or I is listening intently she’ll get mad or begin to cry. When asked the problem her reply is usually, “I just don’t know how to say it.” Her vocab isn’t quite up to par so her mode of expression goes from words to crying. I certainly don’t fault her for being unable to adequately express in words what’s she’s feeling at the age of 3.

If you think your child may have problems with ADHD and want to take them to a doctor, that’s fine. I don’t disagree with that. But a psychological evaluation by a professional recommended by the doctor is a good place to start. In some cases, if medication is needed on top of a healthy diet and activities, there are alternatives like clonidine which can be prescribed that don’t carry some of the risks of stimulants, or the potential abuse among children or their friends.

CIAO

 

1.Olfson, Mark, et al. “Trends in antipsychotic drug use by very young, privately insured children.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 49.1 (2010): 13-23.

2.http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D02E0DE1E3CF931A3575AC0A9669D8B63

 

College Students and their Health

When I first attended college back in 2003, the types of food I was eating, or seeking out, was not on the top of my priority list, and it certainly didn’t cause me to think how it might affect my health. I’m willing to bet most people don’t think about their food choices when they are in college, unless they are in a nutrition degree or some other health related course of studies.

Slice em up good! Sweet Potatoes are a great source of nutrition, can be filling, and are super tasty.

Slice em up good! Sweet Potatoes are a great source of nutrition, can be filling, and are super tasty.

This is broad and I’m sure there are others who do take care of themselves. I am speaking from personal experience though, and I can say that there aren’t many that I knew who were really taking into consideration what they were eating. Unless of course they were trying to lose tons of weight, or put on lots of muscle.

I do remember eating lots of whatever Costco had to offer in the way of baked goods for breakfast. A Costco blueberry muffin after all is big, tasty, and no cooking is required. When on sale, I could get frozen pizzas for $1 and after 15 minutes, I had a toasty pizza. In honesty I tried to eat half, because hey, it’s a pizza. My stomach petitioned for more though and more times than not I would oblige. Both examples were calorie rich, but nutrition poor.

It’s no wonder to me why so many will gain the “freshman fifteen”, or the 10-15 pounds of body weight that accompanies so many new students.

A study done looking at what the authors call “food insecurity” looked at students and determined, based on surveys, that they had poor access to nutritious food, either by limited funds or uncertainty. [1] The study, done in Australia, found that students who worked, relied on family, or received government aid, were more insecure than those who were financially able. As many as 25% even experienced hunger.

The study also found that the food insecurity was higher in college students than the general population.

A study in Hawaii found that as many as 45% of students experienced this food insecurity. [2]

Yet another study found similar patterns to the one in Australia, that students with low-income, low GPA’s, having fair/poor health, or working all have higher rates of this food insecurity. [3]

It could be argued that people with lower levels of health have this problem cause by lack of nutrition and not the other way around. I do agree that the healthiest foods and the more expensive variety. Congress subsidizes things like soy and corn, not green beans and broccoli.

So what’s a student to do to stay healthy? After all poor nutrition leads to poor outcomes. One thing I couldn’t stand were the colds I would get while in college. I’m sure stress had something to do with that too.

If a student has a fridge and can cook their own meals, then they should store some good food and cook their own meals. Frozen veggies and fruits store longer than fresh and are better than canned. Canned is better than nothing, but fresh and frozen is best. They take little to heat up in a pan and with some chicken and seasoning make for a quick and healthier option than pizza.

Veggies, fresh or frozen, are a must have for college students.

Veggies, fresh or frozen, are a must have for college students.

Fruit is good too, but can be pricey. If you can get a bargain on some apples, get some. If not, be careful with how much fruit you buy. While healthy, it’s not the biggest bang for your buck.

Rice is a good source of carbs since you can store it almost indefinitely and a little goes a long way. It does require a little time, but if you get a cheap rice cooker, you can cook rice, and a few minutes before it’s done, throw in the frozen veggies to have ready for when the rice is done. Saves time and is inexpensive. Plus you can make double or triple and save some for lunch the next day.

Chicken can usually be found for reasonable prices, especially if you’re willing to deal with bone in. It makes for a good protein. Tuna is another one, in the can of course ( don’t get it with the oil though). If you can’t stand either, ground beef might be a likelier option, though you’ll have to do some shopping to find a good price, or just find it on sale.

For those that go to the cafeteria, it’s a little different picture. The cafeteria is great if you have a food plan because it’s saves the time of cooking and clean up. It’s the options presented that can be problematic.

Pizza, as mentioned earlier, is full of a lot of empty calories. I’m not saying don’t ever eat it, just make sure it’s once in a while rather than 3-4 times per week. Load up on veggies along with whatever protein source you can. You’ll feel full longer than if you load up on carbs. Fruit once or twice a day is good too during lunch or dinner at the cafeteria. Sometimes it can add up though, depending on how the cafeteria is run. .

Stick to regular milk rather than chocolate milk. Again that’s most of the time. One time a week of chocolate milk won’t hurt, but every single day is a lot of extra sugar. Water should be a staple. Get a good water bottle and keep it filled up. There’s no need to buy water all the time, especially when it’s free.

Cherry pie will make you happy. GUARANTEED! Although it will be shortlived. So only indulge once in a while. So make it a real treat and not a waistline gainer.

Cherry pie will make you happy. GUARANTEED! Although it will be shortlived. So only indulge once in a while. So make it a real treat and not a waistline gainer.

Excess sugar can cause things like increase weight and problems with stress. Dessert should be an ocassional treat, not a daily event. I know it’s hard at times because sweets relieve stress, at least temporarily, but they add up to a ticking time bomb if not kept in check. Exercise, emotional support, mediation, church groups, or maybe a weekend of Star Wars is a much better coping mechanism to stress than dessert.

Alcohol is another leacher of nutrition, specifically B vitamins. I recommend not drinking at all. If it is a must, benders, keggers, 21 runs, and frat parties should be avoided. They do nothing to further academic achievement and void your body of essential things it needs to help you in studying. I remember a few times in the anatomy lab trying to help students that had horrible headaches from the previous night’s parties. They had a spectacularly difficult time in anatomy.

If it’s in the budget, a multivitamin is probably a good call. It can help fill in some of the gaps. If not, stick to the veggies.

In short, tupperware and a little thinking ahead (look at the paragraph about rice) can keep a college student fed and with some nutritious foods as well. I personally believe that if we actually taught people health and then made them accountable for it, many health problems in this country would soon disappear. I’m talking actually teaching nutrition and not just show teenagers slides of STD’s in “health” class.

In the end your health, and your nutrition status is your responsiblity. Learn about it and learn what you can do to better it.

CIAO

 

1.Hughes R, Serebryanikova I, Donaldson K, Leveritt M. Student food insecurity: The skeleton in the university closet. Nutrition & Dietetics. 2011;68(1):27-32

2.Chaparro MP, Zaghloul SS, Holck P, Dobbs J. Food insecurity prevalence among college students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. Public Health Nutrition.
2009;12(11):2097-2103

3.Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity Among Students Attending a Midsize Rural University in Oregon Patton-López, Megan M. et al. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior , Volume 46 , Issue 3 , 209 – 214

Can I Trust What I Read Online About Health?

Many times I’ve searched high and low for information in the one area where information exists as it has during no other time in human history; the internet. And the internet is a big freaking place.

Falling asleep at the library trying to find information about your health concern? No longer! You have the internet.

Falling asleep at the library trying to find information about your health concern? No longer! You have the internet.

You can find whatever you want. Movies, books, facts, lies, porn, recipes, and of course cat videos. It’s literally all there.

Health facts, diagnoses, treatments, opinions, studies, and yes, blogs (just like this one) are present as well. Many sciences are present on the web. Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are personalities that bring science to many a person and make it interesting to learn.

Many people want to believe what they learn online about many different things. After all, if you have a question, it’s ridiculously easy to “research” it online and get an answer. You can even go to places like ask.com and ask questions and have people weigh in.

Questions are the beginning of knowledge. The problem is the knowledge is only good if the answer is truth. If it isn’t truth, even if it is meant with the best of intentions, doesn’t confer any knowledge at all that will be beneficial. Sometimes you get two or more answers that are equally beneficial. Sometimes there are just no good answers.

For example: lets say I make a Google query about how to clean a microwave. One website says fill a microwave safe bowl with water and put it in the microwave for a few minutes and let the steam clean it. Wipe up and be done. Another says that you have to mix vinegar and water for the effect. Both work, at least in my experience.

Another example might be pseudoephedrine side effects. Say you’re taking some because you are congested. Maybe the pharmacist told you that it might give you insomnia, which is true, it might. Before you take one though, you decide your pharmacist is an untrustworthy idiot (some may be) and so you do some of your own research online and find that pseudoephedrine can cause drowsiness, just the opposite of what the pharmacist said. “That dummy shouldn’t be practicing” is what you’re thinking now and you take some before bed.

What happens? For some, nothing. For some, they sleep better. For others, the have insomnia. For the insomniacs and the people who had nothing happen, they’ll be more likely to believe the pharmacist, and now trust him/her a little more the next time counsel is given. For the others who sleep a little harder, they’ll think that the internet was right and the pharmacist is a dolt. Next time they visit they pharmacy, they won’t trust, or even ask because they can probably do the fact gathering online.

Some people can't sleep at night if they take the wrong drug, even if the pharmacist told them it would

Some people can’t sleep at night if they take the wrong drug, even if the pharmacist told them it would

Another issue that arises is that of bias toward a theory. It’s called confirmation bias. In other words, you seek out information which supports what you believe is true and disregard other data because you don’t agree with the results. On things like recipes, adding cilantro rather than basil might not have serious implications to health policy at large. But if you’re looking at the food recommendations by the government (which just changed by the way) and you agree with them, you can rest easy knowing that your knowledge is sound.

But if you disagree with the food recommendations by the government because you’ve done research and generally think that the whole system is run by idiots, then when anything comes up about the food pyramid or MyPlate, you’ll roll your eyes into the back of your head, facepalm, and switch to another website that supports your dietary view.

Another hot topic these days is vaccinations. If your pro-vaccine, you’ll look at stories and research that is pro-vaccine. If you’re anti-vaccine, you’ll do the same but for anti-vaccine information.

Some people will judge information by the level of sophistication of the “look” of a website. If it looks credible, then it must be. Others will look to see if it’s written by a doctor. If it’s just some blogger then it must be wrong or misguided. The opposite is also true. If it’s written by a doctor, then some will think they are in the pocket of big pharma and only have a vested financial interest to what they write.

So how do you sort through everything?

For starters, it’s not a bad thing to take everything on the internet with a little skepticism. If a claim about natural cancer treatment is available and has unbelievable results, that’s all fine and well, but I need to do some research before it does. I typically ask myself these questions:

Are there studies to back up the results?

Is it a news report that gives generalities or does it give actual explanations? (you have to be careful with these because I’ve seen that new articles can really magnify something that isn’t so big or misquote things that have been said)

Does it give references that I can look up myself to verify what has been written or blogged about?

Does it makes sense? (Sometimes breakthroughs don’t intuitively makes sense, but if the explanation is causing your brain to shut down from over thinking, it is probably a red flag)

Do some homework and think about what it is you read before you make a decision. You have gray matter in your head to think, so think.

Another thing to look for is does what you’re reading about make blanket statements such as “Reduce blood pressure guaranteed” or “Never have another headache again” or “Get rid of arthritis for good”. Others might include “Drug X has no safety problems” or “Drug Y doesn’t cause cancer” or “Cherry Pie doesn’t bring happiness”. Did you notice that last one? That one iscompletely false and shouldn’t ever be a headline. Blanket statements should be a red flag. (Yes I’m aware I just made a blanket statement about cherry pie)

Cherry pie will make you happy. GUARANTEED! This is a blanket statement that should make you think twice about its validity, although cherry pie brings me joy every time.

Cherry pie will make you happy. GUARANTEED! This is a blanket statement that should make you think twice about its validity, although cherry pie brings me joy every time.

As a side note, I try not to make blanket statements, but I probably have. Take those with caution and do some research.

The fitness industry is filled with this kind of crap. “Lose 10lbs in a week” and other such catchy phrases sell billions in the United States alone. Steroid laden models mislead many males about how beneficial testosterone boosters can be. Can acai berries really make you look 20 years younger? Probably, if you live right, reduce stress, drink lots of water, find balance and maybe eat some acai berries. But if you just eat acai berries, probably not.

Lastly I want to return to my first example of pseudoephedrine. In lots of research, especially with physics and chemistry, we can reduce down the number of confounders and variables to get good results. Online we can’t do that so well, especially with treatments such as onion juice for hair growth. Hey, maybe it works wonders for some, but for others it leaves them smelling like onions. I hope they use walla walla sweets.

But that’s my point; with health some things actually do work for some people and for others they don’t. Simvastatin doesn’t prevent 100% of heart attacks or death in people who take it to reduce cholesterol. It reduces the absolute risk by a couple of percentage points, depending on the study. So for a few it will prevent heart attacks, but for the large majority, it won’t. We can argue about the value of that in another post, but it still doesn’t change that it doesn’t work for everyone.

So when looking online for information, take the time to actually research and think about what it is you’re looking at. If putting onion juice on your head for hair growth sounds like it might be a good idea, then go for it and let me know how it works because I have a receding hair-line. Will it harm you? Does it makes sense? Is it backed by anything?

This is my first post in a while that has no references. Does that raise a red flag? Maybe, maybe not. This is my opinion post afterall. So maybe you need to think about it. I hope you will apply some of the principles to everything you read online, not just health.

CIAO

 

Does Exercise Help Depression and Anxiety?

Running or jogging doesn't have to kill you to get benefit

Running or jogging doesn’t have to kill you to get benefit

I had an interesting conversation with a patient at the pharmacy that got me thinking about doing a post about this. This patient came a week or two ago and got a prescription for buspirone, which is used for anxiety. The patient was concerned with it because this person desperately wanted to get rid of the feeling of anxiety that they were suffering with.

The patient returned and I asked how it was going (We’ll call the patient Casey). The response was that not much had changed. Casey petitioned for more help, but this time to me, rather than the doctor.

My response?

Are you eating well? Are you doing any exercise at all?

Casey told me that neither was really in place. Casey also told me that a problem child at home was a great source of the anxiety. Casey also discussed how the previous week that he’d gone on a walk and that seemed to help a bit.

I’ve met others like Casey in the pharmacy before, and still see some of them. I’ve had people so anxious for their anxiety meds they were crying. I’ve seen people on the verge of hyperventilation. I’ve seen people, who on the surface appear normal, but after talking for a minute or two, they start divulging secrets about their lives that would make you and me stressed out too.

I used to get anxiety attacks. They would come at the most random times too. I remember once in high school in spanish class sitting at my desk, when suddenly I became hot and felt like I couldn’t breathe at all. I was more panicked about not feeling like I could breathe more than anything else. It wasn’t pleasant.

I don’t think during high school a lack of movement was my problem. I could eat anything and not gain a pound (being a male teenager has some advantages), but my diet probably was helping.

As I got older and started focusing more on my intake rather than my output, the attacks subsided. After learning about EFT (emotional freedom technique) or tapping, I was able to rid myself of the attacks all together.

Since I’ve graduated and been able to keep a more balanced routine, I haven’t had to do any tapping and the exercise is regular, rather than disjointed. Anxiety is nowhere to be seen, but I still get stressed from time to time. Between 4 kids, a wonderful wife, full-time job, blog, church duties, getting a house ready to sell, and writing a book, it’s hard to make sure I don’t go insane.

This is one reason I continue to exercise. It keeps my stress down, my happiness up, and bad things, like my wife’s recent trip where the windshield got busted, not so bad.

So What Kind of Exercise Should I Do?

In one study of depressed women [1], researchers found that aerobic running was just as good as weightlifting to reduce symptoms of depression compared to controls.

Another study showed pretty much the same thing; there was no real difference between aerobic and non-aerobic exercise in reducing depression. [2]

Another showed that aerobic exercise from 50-70% of maximal capacity was enough to decrease depression as well. [3]

One study showed that running was better than tennis which was better than softball, the latter having no effect. [4] While the findings were significant, even the authors noted that because they did nothing to conceal the reason behind the exercise, and even allowed some to choose which they were going to participate in, the results could have been different.

A study of men and women found that running helped more so with women than men, and was more influenced by the amount of physical fitness. [5]

In a study of men; exercise, meditation, and a comfy recliner all produced reductions in anxiety [6]. It should be noted that it was a quiet time in the recliner, not TV or kids time.

Another study showed similar benefits with walking/jogging at 70% maximum capacity. [7]

Of note, a study looking at relaxation training seemed to help introverts more than extroverts. [8] This really doesn’t have so much to do with exercise, but if you’re an introvert like me, relaxation may help in the anxiety department.

Swimmers seem to also derive benefit from exercise, feeling better after a swim than before. [9]

I think you get the point. Exercise is beneficial to reducing stress, anxiety and improving mood. Don’t worry if you can’t run a mile. Go for a walk. Don’t worry about not being able to do a push up, do knee push ups or on the wall. Do some squats. Take a walk with a significant other. Maybe you just need to run after the ice cream truck and give him a high-five for dispensing some of the best medication on earth (in moderation of course). Whatever it is, get moving and feel the anxiety or depression melt away.

CIAO

 

1.Doyne, Elizabeth J., et al. “Running versus weight lifting in the treatment of depression.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 55.5 (1987): 748.

2.Martinsen, Egil W., Asle Hoffart, and Øyvind Solberg. “Comparing aerobic with nonaerobic forms of exercise in the treatment of clinical depression: a randomized trial.” Comprehensive psychiatry 30.4 (1989): 324-331.

3.Martinsen, Egil W., A. Medhus, and L. Sandvik. “Effects of aerobic exercise on depression: a controlled study.” BMJ 291.6488 (1985): 109-109.

4.Brown, Robert S., Donald E. Ramirez, and John M. Taub. “The prescription of exercise for depression.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine 6.12 (1978): 34-37.

5.Jasnoski, Mary L., David S. Holmes, and David L. Banks. “Changes in personality associated with changes in aerobic and anaerobic fitness in women and men.” Journal of psychosomatic research 32.3 (1988): 273-276.

6.Bahrke, Michael S., and William P. Morgan. “Anxiety reduction following exercise and meditation.” Cognitive therapy and research 2.4 (1978): 323-333.

7.Young, R. J. “The effect of regular exercise on cognitive functioning and personality.” British journal of sports medicine 13.3 (1979): 110-117.

8.Stoudenmire, John. “Effects of muscle relaxation training on state and trait anxiety in introverts and extraverts.” Journal of personality and social psychology 24.2 (1972): 273.

9.Berger, Bonnie G., and David R. Owen. “Mood Alteration with Swimming-Swimmers Really Do” Feel Better”.” Psychosomatic medicine 45.5 (1983): 425-433.

 

Do Beets Help Blood Pressure?

In one word….YES!

I could leave it at that and let the world either revel in the fact or find some way to avoid them altogether regardless of the hypertensive crushing power because of how they taste.

Seeing as this month is heart month, lets dive into why these red tubers are actually quite healthy and can play a most excellent part in a diet.

Beets may help lower your blood pressure

Beets may help lower your blood pressure

But first, the study.

Our British friends across the pond were the ones that did the study. They took 64 subjects with hypertension who either were on medications or who hadn’t yet been prescribed anything and assigned them to 2 beet juice groups; one group had nitrates in the juice (which are naturally occurring), and the other had no nitrates.

Now if the idea of drinking beet juice sounds revolting, hold on just a moment.

In the group that was receiving the nitrates in their juice, blood pressure was reduced by ~8/4 mmHg. [1] That’s on par with some blood pressure medications. Endothelial function also improved as well as arterial stiffness reduced. The article said that the treatment was well tolerated. I’m sure the only real side effect was that of red urine and stool. The dose was 250ml juice/day.

Another study done with 500ml daily found a reduction of 4-5 mmHg systolic pressure 6 hours after ingestion. [2]

Another study found that beets may increase exercise tolerance. [3]

Researchers at Wake Forest have shown increase blood flow to white matter in the anterior brain and believe that beet juice has potential to decrease the chances of poor cognition and dementia in older people. [4]

Beets are great! And they appear to have some great benefits. The only problem is you actually have to ingest them to get the benefit. So what’s a person to do?

Raw

You can eat beets raw, and there is nothing wrong with that. They are somewhat tough though, especially if they aren’t young. Slice em thin or cut them small to make them easier to masticate. Thinly sliced beets with some other veggie like celery or onion, with olive oil drizzled over and some salt or crushed garlic makes for a great appetizer.

Steamed

Roasted or steamed beets with oranges or other citrus and some crumbled cheese is a great salad

Roasted or steamed beets with oranges or other citrus and some crumbled cheese is a great salad

Steam those suckers and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Place them atop the beet greens and crumble some cheese on top.

Juiced

If you have a juicer, you can always juice them, just beware of staining. The pulp can be used in other recipes if you’re looking for some coloring or fibre. Also be aware that because you take the fibre out when you juice, you also increase the glycemic index of the food. Beets are no exception. Don’t drink 500ml of veggie and fruit juice a day and expect your triglycerides to stay low. Keep it to mostly veggies and maybe just a bit of fruit to keep the sugar level down.

Pickeled

You can do it yourself and this is probably the best method. Pickeled beets are great on salads or just straight.

Others

Add them to soups, any salad, bake them till soft and marinate them in some balsamic vinegar and salt. Borscht is also popular. Crush it up and put it in your gnocchi dough to make some red/purple gnocchi. Here’s one recipe you can try:

https://dobetter.wordpress.com/category/family-meals/beet-puree/

One word of caution. If you are a person with a history of oxalate kidney stones, be careful as to the amount of beets you actually consume. As beets have lots of oxalates, the risk for stones in this population would be increased.

Let me know how you eat your beets.

 

CIAO

 

 

1.Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients, Vikas Kapil, et al., Hypertension, doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.04675, published online 24 November 2014,

2.Coles, Leah T., and Peter M. Clifton. Effect of beetroot juice on lowering blood pressure in free-living, disease-free adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Diss. BioMed Central, 2012.

3.Bailey, Stephen J., et al. “Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans.” Journal of Applied Physiology 107.4 (2009): 1144-1155.

4.http://news.wfu.edu/2010/11/03/benefits-of-beet-juice/