Boo! Healthy Halloween Treats For You!

Happy Halloween everybody!¬† I LOVE Halloween ūüôā¬† Costumes and boisterous kids and, yes, treats.¬† If you come in to the office on Halloween you’ll see that my office really gets into the spirit.¬† Nope, I’m not going to tell you what my costume is.¬† Maybe I’ll post a pic on my Facebook page on Tuesday ūüôā

The downside of Halloween is that it starts the snack-food feeding frenzy that doesn’t end until New Year’s Day.¬† It’s a constant parade of sweets and treats for the next two months.¬† VERY difficult for those of us who are conscious of our weight and our health.

Fear not!  There are plenty of healthy Halloween treats available!  Here are a few ideas of how to help your kids (and your neighbors) have a happy healthy Halloween!

1.  Dark chocolate:  Dark chocolate is MUCH better for you than milk chocolate.  It has more antioxidants and helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

2.  Portion-packs of apple slices, pretzels, raisins, trail mix or nuts.  Make sure to ask if nuts are OK, some children are allergic.

3.  Dried fruit:  Banana chips, freeze-dried strawberries, pineapple, raisins, so many possibilities!  Sweet and MUCH healthier than candy!

4.  Carrot sticks:  Sweet and crunchy, and oh so good for you!  Full of fiber and vitamin A for healthy skin and eyesight.

5.  Popcorn balls:  Also high in fiber, popcorn balls are available at this time of year in factory-sealed packages for trick-or-treaters.

I found an awesome YouTube video from The Vegan View with four different awesome idea for healthy Halloween-themed treats.  These would be great to make with kids.  Check it out!  (And their costumes are so cute!)

Here’s a photo of the most adorable Halloween treats I’ve seen this fall, courtesy of Pinterest!a8947aaa1fb9b9debe8a096ef0561147Make sure you set aside some time to stay active, and eat a healthy meal with the kids before they head out trick-or-treating.¬† Send the kids out with a SMALL bag and encourage them to take only one piece of candy at each house.¬† After they get home, consider having them choose their favorites to keep and then have a “candy buy-back” for cash, a gift card, or a special privilege.

Have fun, stay safe, and be healthy!

Question:¬† Are you planning to take any steps to “limit the damage” to your health this Halloween?¬† Please share your ideas below!

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How To Take Care Of A Cancer Patient

Most of you know that my husband Russ has been battling multiple myeloma for the last 6 1/2 years.  What you may not know is that although he was in remission without treatment for over 3 years, this summer the cancer unfortunately relapsed.

Of course, as his wife, my focus is doing everything I can to keep him healthy and make this next leg of the journey as successful as possible.¬† What can I do to help him?¬† I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned about how to take care of a cancer patient.

The sad reality is that we will all, at some point in our lives have a close friend or family member struggle with a life-threatening illness.  Knowing how to help them is a useful skill and can make us caregivers feel less helpless.

Make sure they eat, drink, get fresh air and rest

Whether you feel like a bully or not is irrelevant.¬† Cancer patients need to eat.¬† Simple, fresh, nutritious food that is easy to grab and go should be available all the time.¬† Keep in mind that cancer treatment often changes the sense of taste.¬† The patient’s favorite foods may not taste good to them, and they may get weird cravings.¬† Stay flexible.

Sandwiches, soups, fresh fruit and veggies, oatmeal, scrambled eggs and calorie-dense foods like nuts and nut butters are good choices.¬† Good fats like avocado hide easily in blender smoothies.¬† Protein smoothies (non-GMO soy is better than when as a protein source) are a good protein source.¬† Be careful with meat, it’s hard to digest and may make nausea worse.

Staying hydrated is important.¬† Water is the best way to hydrate but iced tea is good too and adding lemon or lime juice can make plain water less boring.¬† Don’t rely on soda because neither added sugar nor artificial sweeteners are healthy choices.¬† Sports hydration drinks are OK if the patient has diarrhea but choose one that doesn’t have artificial sweeteners or colors (Shaklee Hydrate is my choice!).

Sleep is tough.¬† Many cancer patients don’t sleep well, because of symptoms, treatment effects and stress.¬† Talk to their doctor if they’re having trouble sleeping, medications can help.

Also don’t underestimate the importance of getting outside.¬† Nature is healing and too much hibernation is not good.¬† Russ’s first outing after being in the hospital in 2011 was to the Yankee Peddler Festival.¬† Granted, he spent a lot of time holding down benches and tree stumps, and we didn’t stay long, but he was in the fresh air and sunshine, and we were together as a family.

Take care of yourself too

As I’ve written before, one of the first orders of business when you are a caregiver is to take care of yourself.¬† If you are exhausted you won’t be able to take good care of your loved one.¬† You can’t pour from an empty cup!

Eat and drink as you should.  Get enough rest.  Get outside, with or without your loved one.  Exercise.  Recharge your batteries by doing what you enjoy as often as you can.

Vent OUT, not IN

Not long ago, I read a really good article that was sort of about the etiquette of being around someone struggling with a serious illness.¬† I can’t find the article right now, but the gist of it is this.

Imagine a bull’s eye target with the patient in the middle.¬† Everyone they know is arranged in the rings around them.¬† Those closest to them, physically and emotionally, are in the smallest rings and as you get farther away you find distant family members, casual acquaintances and those they see in passing.

Their spouse and children are on the smallest ring.  Grown children may be a step out, depending on the relationship.

When you interact with others in relation to the cancer patient, remember that you are on the RECEIVING end from those who are farther in than you are.¬† For instance, when my mom was sick with breast cancer I had my own fears and anxieties.¬† My sister and I were terrified we were going to lose our mom.¬† I didn’t unload on her or my dad about that, though.¬† My husband or my close friends were my resource to deal with my own fears.¬† I vented OUT, not IN.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t tell a cancer patient that you’re afraid for them.¬† You don’t have to be relentlessly cheerful and optimistic all the time.¬† Just be careful not to add stress to their already overwhelming burden.¬† When dealing with a cancer patient, your goal is to relieve stress, not increase it.¬† Let them vent out, take pressure off, don’t increase the pressure.¬† It’s about them right now, not about you.

Cancer patients have a lot to deal with.  They are juggling treatment schedules, financial worries, physical symptoms and side effects, fears and anxieties.  Some may be continuing to work, like my husband.  They have family responsibilities as well.

There is a lot we can do to support a cancer patient in their journey back to wellness.  Support their health, take care of yourself and find your own support system to help you keep your feet under you.

QUESTION: Did I forget anything?  What has helped you in taking care of person struggling with a serious illness?

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Are Multivitamins Dangerous?

I’ve done a TON of physicals this week, and when I see a patient for a well visit, we always talk about diet.¬† For most (if not all) humans, the best diet is one full of whole fresh unprocessed plant foods, the more colorful the better.¬† Limiting meats and other animal-based foods is wise if your goal is to decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease.

Even if you eat healthy, it’s hard to get all the nutrients you need from your food.¬† I always recommend a good quality multivitamin to my patients.¬† This week a few people have asked me, are multivitamins dangerous?

It’s common to see reports on the news that vitamin use increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other problems.¬† If you follow my blog (or talk to me for a few minutes) you know I believe strongly in good nutrition.¬† So when people are asking if multivitamins are dangerous, I want to reassure them.

Here on my blog I try not to lean on my own opinion too much.  So I went off to the research database, and found a great article published recently that reviewed recent research about the safety of multivitamin supplements.  You can read the article yourself at this link.

So are multivitamins dangerous?  Here are my 3 take-home points from this article:

  • Nutrition should come from food, but our diet is stupid, so taking a multivitamin is a smart harm-reduction method.

There is no multivitamin or supplement that can overcome a bad diet.  Too much processed food, food full of added sugar and fat, and food with artificial ingredients will damage your health.

With that being said, we live in the real world and there are times when we can’t eat a perfect diet all the time.¬† Even though we live in a country with fresh healthy food available, often it is grown and stored and transported in such a way that the nutrients degrade.¬† It’s been reported that our food is much less nutritious than it was 50 years ago.

In this day and age, a multivitamin can be sort of like the seatbelt in your car.¬† You should eat healthy (like you should drive safely) but your daily multivitamin can be a just-in-case safety measure for those crazy days when you just don’t get all the nutrients you need from your food.

  • Comprehensive multi-nutrient supplements (like a good quality multivitamin) are better and safer than single-nutrient supplement

Some research shows that single-nutrient supplements like calcium and vitamin E are associated with higher risk of some diseases.¬† I don’t recommend people take single-nutrient supplements.¬† You’re best off taking a comprehensive nutritional supplement program tailored to your specific needs.

For instance, a woman over 60 would need a good quality multivitamin that doesn’t contain iron.¬† A younger woman of childbearing age would need more iron, more iodine, and more folic acid in her multivitamin.¬† Someone with migraines or anxiety may need to add a B complex supplement and extra magnesium.¬† Someone concerned about heart health may want to add fish oil, coenzyme Q10 and extra magnesium.

People are different, and what works for someone else may not work as well for you.

  • There is no consistent evidence that taking a multivitamin increases the risk of cancer, heart disease or stroke.¬† There ARE suggestions that taking a multivitamin may reduce the risk of health problems in certain populations.¬† This is really exciting!

Multivitamins have been studied extensively to see if taking them is associated with lots of different medical problems. The research has been pretty neutral in general, with no association with higher OR lower risk of major medical problems.  This may be because multivitamin preparations vary so widely in quality and in what nutrients are contained in them.

A few consistent trends do seem to be present though.  Multivitamins are not associated with a higher risk of cancer.  Some studies have, in fact, shown a lower risk of cancer in people taking a multivitamin.  Researchers are doing more studies to see if they can show lower cancer risk consistently in those taking multivitamins.

Multivitamins also seem to not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, age-related eye disease, mental health and cognitive problems in the elderly, or overall mortality.

So what’s the overall point?¬† Take your multivitamin every day!¬† Even if you have a really healthy diet, a multivitamin will help fill in any gaps.¬† After all, these nutrients affect every cell in your body.¬† Every cell needs them, every day.

Need help choosing a multivitamin?  I recently wrote about how to choose a multivitamin, so click this link and read up!

You probably already know I use and recommend supplements from the Shaklee Corporation.  Want to see what products would be best for you?  Click this link and answer the questions to get your HealthPrint personalized nutrition assessment.

QUESTION: Do you take a multivitamin?  Do you feel it makes a difference in your health?

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What Is Physician Burnout?

Dr. Sadd is a colleague of mine that I’ve been worrying about for a while. ¬†He comes to the office and constantly complains about EVERYTHING. ¬†Dr. Sadd snaps at the office staff, makes negative comments about his patients, and has no tolerance at all when things don’t run smoothly. ¬†He doesn’t really have “good days” and never seems to be happy.

Dr. Sadd is burned out.

What is physician burnout? ¬†Burnout doesn’t just happen to doctors but is very prevalent in the medical field. ¬†Because of this, research on burnout is often done on doctors and nurses and other medical professionals.

Physician burnout happens when the emotional and energetic toll of practicing medicine becomes overwhelming.  Burned out doctors and nurses are exhausted.  They are cynical and have a hard time connecting with others.  They doubt they are really making a difference.  Those of us in the health professions generally chose the field BECAUSE we want to make a difference.

If not addressed, burnout can drive doctors and nurses out of medicine.  Worse, burnout can cause depression and lead to suicide.  And physician burnout is very common.  Recent studies suggest that over half of American doctors are suffering from burnout.

What are the causes of physician burnout? ¬†Recent changes in the American medical landscape with increased regulation and government reporting requirements are contributing to burnout. ¬†We aren’t secretaries. ¬†When we have to spend more and more time staring into the computer screen instead of interacting with patients, it adds more stress.

Doctors and nurses often feel they have less and less control over the way they practice medicine. ¬†They often feel as though their training and expertise aren’t valued. ¬† Checklists and paperwork, financial pressures and rules that don’t make sense all contribute. ¬†If we don’t have enough support with the clerical side of things we can feel overwhelmed.

In addition, some doctors don’t have a good work-home integration. ¬†Long work hours are hard on the family. ¬†We neglect activities that we enjoy and put more and more energy into work. ¬†Eventually the tank is empty and we have nothing more to give to our patients.

If you have lost the joy you used to take in your work, you might be burned out. You might be burned out if you are dreading going to work tomorrow,   If you find it really hard to finish tasks at work that used to be easy, or if you find yourself procrastinating, you might be burned out.

Unfortunately, if you are a doctor or nurse and you’re burned out, you might actually be dangerous. ¬†Burnout increases the risk of medical errors. ¬†In addition, patients who see a burned-out doctor are less satisfied with their care and may be more likely to sue if something goes wrong. ¬†Interestingly, burned-out doctors seem to be more prone to car accidents.

What can you do about it if you are a doctor or nurse and you think you might be burned out? ¬†First of all, be honest with yourself about the situation. ¬†Talk with your supervisor and find out what resources are available at work. ¬†Think about whether you’re taking steps to take care of yourself and enjoy your life NOW. ¬†Too many of us focus on the future at the expense of the present!

After this process, it’s time to reconnect with the joy of your career. ¬†Why did you choose a career in medicine in the first place? ¬†What are the biggest stressors? ¬†Are there ways to reduce the stress while maximizing the rewarding parts of your career?

Physician burnout (and nursing burnout) is a big problem in medicine and more and more organizations are recognizing it. ¬†While your organization may offer tools to decrease burnout, it’s first up to you to recognize that you are losing your joy.

After all, the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing it exists in the first place.

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How To Be YOUR Healthiest You!

Have you ever had a salesperson try to sell you something you didn’t want?¬† Maybe you were shopping for a new TV and the salesperson tried to get you to buy something bigger or more expensive than what you were looking for?¬† Or you’re looking for a new lipstick and the salesperson tries to convince you that their entire line of cosmetics is Just perfect for you!

Even worse, have you been talked into buying something and got home and found it wasn’t what you thought?

When someone tries to sell you something without knowing what would make your life better, they are wasting their time and yours.

Since I can’t possibly know each and every one of you, I try to write about a variety of health topics and let you pick and choose what is helpful for you.¬† (And I hope you know that I LOVE suggestions for post topics.¬† If you want to read about something, please drop me an email and let me know!)

There is, however, a tool to help me to know exactly what would help YOU.  What would make YOUR life better.  How I can help you meet YOUR health goals.  What would help you be YOUR healthiest you!

That tool is Shaklee’s HealthPrint personalized health assessment. This assessment is a five-minute questionnaire that asks about diet and lifestyle and your individual health goals.¬† It then gives you suggestions to improve your diet and lifestyle, as well as adding nutritional supplementation, so that you can meet your health goals!

I realize I’ve written about the HealthPrint before, a little over a year ago, and some of you took advantage of the assessment then.¬† Many of you didn’t, or you subscribed to my blog since that time.

Why am I writing about it again? Because it is still true that in order to know how to help YOU, I have to know where you’re coming from.¬† I have to know what’s important to you.¬† In order to help you be your healthiest you, I have to know what your personal challenges and goals are.¬† And this is such a quick and easy way to learn about you!

This week I want to invite you to take Shaklee’s HealthPrint and let me learn a little about you.¬† In return, I can help YOU learn a little about you too!¬† Maybe you already know you don’t get enough sleep.¬† Maybe you DIDN’T know that you aren’t getting quite enough exercise.¬† Maybe you didn’t realize drinking that soda in the afternoon isn’t a good choice.

Yes, the HealthPrint makes suggestions for adding supplements.¬† If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’re aware that I’m a firm believer in nutritional supplementation.¬† Surveys show 95% of Americans don’t get all the nutrition they need from their diet.¬† I don’t think I eat healthier than 95% of Americans, do you think YOU do?¬† And going without essential nutrients just isn’t acceptable.

Nutrition therapy put my migraines in remission 8 years ago.  It helped my mother heal what SHOULD have been permanent neuropathy in her hands and feet from chemotherapy for breast cancer.  It helped my husband avoid serious adverse effects from HIS chemotherapy for multiple myeloma.  My boys are tall and healthy and strong with the highest quality nutritional support available on the market.

And it’s hard to argue with scientific proof that those who use Shaklee supplements are healthier than those who don’t use them.¬† Don’t believe me?¬† Click this link to see the research.¬† Want more?¬† Okey dokey, here’s more ūüôā

Whether your health goals include weight loss, better physical fitness, stress relief, better sleep, healthy aging, or just good overall health, I can help.  Shaklee can help.  The first step is the 5-minute, 20-question HealthPrint questionnaire.

Don’t you have 5 minutes to spend, to learn how to be YOUR healthiest you?

Click this link and take the HealthPrint assessment now!

PS – Even if you took the HealthPrint last year, you can still take it again.¬† Maybe things have changed!¬† Maybe you’re eating better, or your goals are different ūüôā

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Should Doctors Fire Patients?

“Just tell her to send in the f*@&ing prescription!”

Really?  This is how you talk to people?  Unfortunately, sometimes this is EXACTLY how patients talk to my staff.  The question is, how should a doctor handle a patient like this?

What if this is YOU speaking to my staff this way?  Should I fire you? Should doctors fire patients?

That is an important topic of discussion among medical personnel especially in the outpatient setting. ¬†Clearly, a patient who uses abusive language towards staff members should get the “You have 90 days to find a new doctor” letter. ¬†But are there other reasons why patients should be dismissed from the practice?

Your relationship with your doctor is really not like your relationship with anyone else. ¬†It’s a unique mix of cheerleader, parent, coach and cop. ¬†There has to be mutual respect and trust.

Patients often talk about the trust they have in their doctor. ¬†I agree, that trust is critical. ¬†You have to be able to trust that I know my stuff, that I’ll be able to listen to your symptoms, ask the right questions, recognize the physical findings on exam, order the right tests, then put it all together to come to the right diagnosis.

What patients often don’t understand is that I have to be able to trust YOU. ¬†For example, I have to know you’ll answer me truthfully when I ask you questions.

For instance, how much alcohol do you drink?  Do you use drugs?  Are you taking your medicine every day?  How many sex partners have you had in your life?  This year?  This week?  Did you really lose that prescription or did you sell it?  Are you seeing three other doctors who are prescribing the same medication I am?

The relationship we have is absolutely necessary for us to be able to work together as a team. ¬†I’m not painting the walls in your living room, I’m guiding you to your healthiest and best self possible. ¬†Are you listening to me and giving me honest feedback? ¬†Are you helping me craft a good treatment plan that makes sense to us both?

If I were to poll friends of mine in the medical field I would guess these are the most common reasons we have to dismiss patients from our practices:

  • Repeated no-call/no-shows (lack of respect for the office and other patients)
  • Abusive language and behavior towards the doctor and/or staff
  • Failure to pay their bill (an unfortunate reality of business)

However, I would submit there are other valid reasons to dismiss a patient from the practice:

  • Dishonest behavior such as lying
  • Consistent failure to keep up their part of the treatment plan, such as a diabetic who neglects taking their medication, going to the dietitian or checking blood sugars
  • Failure to maintain appropriate boundaries

By the way, I’m dead serious about that last one. ¬†I had a patient once who wanted to see me socially. ¬†That is, he wanted to date me. ¬†Never mind the fact that both of us were married (me very happily, him not so much). ¬†Never mind that such a thing would violate my oath, State Medical Board regulations, and all the profession’s ethical standards. ¬†He was very persistent. ¬†His find-a-new-doctor letter got mailed out the next day! ¬†What a nightmare…

My patients are awesome. ¬†I absolutely love my practice and the vast majority of my patients are a pleasure to see. ¬†However, I’m not shy about dismissing patients. ¬†If they make me and my staff miserable, or if I’m not effective in motivating them to get their health conditions under control to the best of their ability, then it is in everyone’s best interest that they choose a new doctor.

QUESTION: ¬†Do you work with the public in your job? ¬†Do you have the ability to “fire” clients? ¬†Would you add any reasons to fire patients to the ones I listed above?

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Alkaline Vs. Alkalinizing Foods

Lately I have been seeing a lot of ads for “alkaline” foods and beverages.¬† Companies are marketing everything from “alkaline water” to specially packaged convenience foods to improve the pH of your body.¬† Companies promote these foods to decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease, arthritis and kidney stones.

Do they work?

In a word, no.¬† The pH of a food itself has little to no impact on the pH of your body.¬† The stomach is extremely acidic and easily overwhelms the intrinsic pH of the food itself.¬† So “alkaline water” is water that has had its pH adjusted above 7 through artificial means.

However, there is evidence that a diet rich in ALKALINIZING foods is quite healthy for you.  This change in acid is accomplished because of how the foods are processed in the body, NOT based on the pH of the food itself.

There was a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that reported the amount of acid produced by the digestion of certain foods can be estimated almost entirely based on two nutrients.

Protein, especially animal protein, produces acid when it is processed in the body, which must be buffered by the cells and eliminated in the kidneys.  Buffering the acid tends to leach minerals from the bones. This can promote osteoporosis and the formation of kidney stones in the acidic urine.

Potassium salts tend to neutralize acid and decrease the amount of acid excreted in the urine.  In fact, potassium citrate is a medication prescribed for patients with certain types of kidney stones. It also has been shown to protect bone density in patients at risk for osteoporosis.

If you want to properly balance the acidity and alkalinity in your body, which may be a marker of health and risk for disease, you should do three things.

  • Limit or eliminate animal protein (meat, dairy and eggs) from your diet. Your body creates a lot of acid when processing this type of protein.¬† Replace animal protein with healthy plant proteins like soy, quinoa and beans.
  • Get plenty of potassium in your diet.¬† You can estimate the amount of potassium in your diet using a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal.¬† Examples of high potassium foods are oranges, bananas, potatoes with the skins, broccoli and spinach.¬† You can see more options here.
  • Eat fresh whole plant foods at every meal.¬† Include plenty of fruit, fresh veggies, whole unprocessed grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

Don’t bother with “alkaline” foods or beverages like high-pH water.¬† There is little evidence they impact acid production in the body, or any other marker of health, at all.

QUESTION: Have you seen marketing for “alkaline” foods and beverages?

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What Are The Health Benefits Of Having Pets?

My cat is sick. ¬†She has been coughing for a few weeks, which is unusual for cats. ¬†Yesterday I took her to the doctor and found out she has asthma (I didn’t know cat asthma was a thing…) and pneumonia. ¬†Yesterday I started her on her medicine and she already seems to be feeling better.

Because my cat has been on my mind this week, I got to thinking about how much better my life is because she (and her sister) are in it. ¬†I started to wonder if people with pets are healthier than those who don’t have companion animals. ¬†What are the health benefits of having pets?

There was an interesting article in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine that explored this very topic. ¬†I learned a new word – ZOOEYIA – which is the term for pets’ benefit to human health.

Turns out there is a huge amount of research of all different types of studies that supports the benefits of having pets on human health. ¬†Pet ownership is pretty widespread. ¬†It is estimated that 68% of us in North America, including over three quarters of all children, have at least one pet in their home. ¬†(Here’s a sad fact – children are more likely to live with a pet than with their biological father or with a sibling. ¬†That’s a topic for another day.)

There are four main ways pets benefit our health.

Builders of Social Capital

Having pets enhance feelings of happiness and belongings and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. ¬†As I’m sitting here my cat is trying to climb into my lap (never mind that the computer I’m trying to use to write this post is already in my lap!) and get my attention.

Pets tend to decrease the impact of stressful events on our health.  Medicare patients that have pets see the doctor less often and have lower medical costs.

Harm Reduction

Having a pet is a great way to motivate someone to reduce their harmful behaviors.  One good example is cigarette smoking.  Cigarette smoke is harmful for cats and dogs just as it is for humans.

Many people who aren’t motivated to quit smoking for their own health are more willing to tackle smoking cessation for the benefit of a beloved pet.

Motivators of Change

I can’t tell you how often when I ask about exercise that patients say they walk the dog every day. ¬†Hooray! ¬†Your pup is making you healthier! ¬†Kids with dogs are more physically active than kids who don’t have dogs. ¬†Dogs are a great exercise “buddy” and are always up for a good brisk walk.

Participants in Treatment Plans

Having a pet can directly impact your health in a positive way.  There was a study published where a pet was better than a pill at controlling high blood pressure in response to a stressful life event.  Patients with mental health problems like anxiety and depression respond well to pets.

Having pets isn’t completely without risks. ¬†Some pets can transmit so-called zoonotic diseases to humans. ¬†People, especially small children, are at risk of being injured by animals. ¬†And pet owners can take on a large financial burden if a beloved pet falls sick and needs expensive treatments.

All in all, however, having companion animals in your life enriches your life and helps improve your health.  If you choose to add a new furry or feathered family member, please consider adopting rather than buying from a pet store or breeder.  Most shelters have cats and dogs, of course, but many also have rabbits and reptiles and other species available for adoption.

QUESTION: Do you have pets?  Do you feel they improve your health?

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Treat Yourself Like Your Best Friend

My patient Anna was in the office today and she shared with me that a few weeks ago she was feeling poorly. ¬†She was on vacation and had a day where she really didn’t feel well. ¬†On further questioning and on exam it was obvious that her symptoms could have signaled a serious problem.

She took some OTC meds and rested, but didn’t seek medical care.

The problem is that medical professionals work very hard to teach people about what symptoms they should watch for and what symptoms may signal a serious problem. ¬†For instance, suppose you twist your ankle and can’t walk on it AT ALL and it is obviously deformed? You would need to see the doctor ASAP to have it checked.

What if Anna’s best friend had been on vacation with her and had the exact same symptoms she was experiencing? She wouldn’t have thought twice about taking her friend to the emergency room to be checked out. ¬†But because it was her own symptoms, she minimized them and chose not to seek care.

Why do we DO that?! ¬†I’m not exempting myself from this sense of frustration. ¬†This time last year I worked almost a whole day in the office with worsening abdominal pain that turned out to be appendicitis (see this post for more information).

We can easily minimize symptoms of illness or injury. Sometimes we don’t want to inconvenience others. ¬†Also, nobody WANTS to be sick or hurt. ¬†However, ignoring symptoms of illness can be very dangerous. ¬†Illnesses are often easier to treat if they are caught early.

How do you know if you should see the doctor if you’re sick or hurt? ¬†My best advice is to treat yourself like your best friend. ¬†Look at your situation as if your best friend was feeling this way. ¬†If you would take your friend to the emergency room or to the doctor, then you should go.

Many people die every year because they think their chest pain is heartburn.  Even though they KNOW chest pain can be heart pain.  Or they convince themselves the severe headache is just sinus trouble. The dizziness and numbness is just a pinched nerve.

YOU are important!  YOU deserve to be treated with care and respect, and have your symptoms taken seriously.  Especially by YOURSELF.  Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.  You deserve it!

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The Nutrient We Miss The Most

I spend most of my time (in a professional sense) talking to people about nutrition.  I encourage them to eat right.  To get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  To skip the processed food, junk food and fast food.  To take a good-quality multivitamin.

But most people still skimp on one very important nutrient.  What is it?  What is the nutrient we miss the most?

It’s WATER.

Think about it. ¬†Your body needs about one ounce of water per day for every two pounds of body weight (up to about 100 ounces per day). ¬†For the average person that’s 60-80 ounces of water, or a half gallon or more.

Not coffee, not iced tea, not soda or lemonade.  WATER.

Water helps keep your blood pressure down.  It removes toxins and improves your digestion.  It fights fatigue and keeps your mind sharp.

When you’re a little thirsty, this can be interpreted by the brain in as hunger. ¬†So staying well hydrated helps control appetite and promotes weight loss.

Every organ in your body depends on you staying well hydrated.  From your kidneys to your digestive system to your brain, water is critical for normal function.

So why is it so hard for us to get enough water? ¬†I can’t speak for you, but I know why I have a hard time staying hydrated.

First of all, the most plentiful source of drinking water is the kitchen tap. ¬†And tap water is NASTY. ¬†Have you tasted it lately? ¬†Ew! ¬†It doesn’t help that I know more than is good for my mental health about what is actually in our tap water. ¬†Pesticide runoff, pharmaceuticals, chlorine and other chemicals interact to make me not want to drink straight from the tap (or from the garden hose, but that’s another story…).

Your local water department has water quality reports available for download at their website, for those who use city water. ¬†Cleveland’s water quality report for 2016 is available here, if you’d like to see.

The second problem I have with getting enough water to drink is that when I drink the water I should, I have to pee. ¬†A LOT. ¬†When I’m in the office that’s inconvenient but manageable. ¬†When I’m traveling or pressed for time it becomes difficult for me to get all the water I need.

Honestly, there isn’t a good fix for this problem, I just tell myself to suck it up. ¬†Every time I go, I think of all the toxins being washed away and that makes it easier to just do it.

The last problem my patients report with drinking copious amounts of water is that it’s BORING. ¬†“I don’t like water, it doesn’t taste good.” ¬†Which is silly, because fresh clean water has no taste at all. ¬†It’s clear and cold and wet and refreshing!

What people are telling me when they say they don’t like the way water tastes is that they have trained themselves to expect flavor from everything that goes in their mouth, whether it should have flavor or not. ¬†What I tell them is that their tastebuds may not like it (for now) but their bodies certainly do like water. ¬†In fact, they NEED it, and they do NOT need all the sugar and flavorings and additives in their usual beverage of choice.

So if our tap water is so gross, what water should we be drinking?

Bottled water? ¬†No, that’s not a good choice. ¬†For one thing, it’s expensive. ¬†It also puts tons of unnecessary plastic in the landfill and isn’t necessarily cleaner or safer than drinking tap water. ¬†Often we don’t know where the water comes from or what testing was done.

My choice for lots of fresh, clean drinking water is Shaklee’s tabletop pitcher filter. ¬†It is certified to remove lead (most tabletop pitcher filters, including Brita and Pur, are not) and has a replaceable carbon filter so that everything else is reused.

Do you have a water filter at home? ¬†You can check the Water Quality Association’s website to see what your filter is proven to remove from the water you drink.

And it’s CHEAP! ¬†Just did a price check on Deer Park spring water at Giant Eagle. ¬†Buying bottled water (this brand, anyway), costs $2.25 per gallon and leaves you with lots of plastic bottles to deal with. ¬†Shaklee’s Year of Get Clean Water costs just 52 cents per gallon. ¬†And after the initial investment of the reusable plastic pitcher, replacing the carbon filters gives you clean, fresh water for only 25 cents per gallon.

So what are you going to do about your hydration problem? ¬†For me, there’s only one choice. ¬†Saving money, drinking fresh clean water, and avoiding putting unnecessary plastic in the landfill is a win-win situation!

QUESTION: Do you drink enough water?  How do you get your drinking water?

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