Calcium Overload, Hip Fractures and Osteoporosis

Sure – calcium is a good thing.  We all know it helps build healthy bones and teeth and that women should take it to help prevent osteoporosis.  The trouble is, sometimes  there really is too much of a good thing.  Calcium can be helpful, but a new study conducted at Upsalla University in Sweden and published in the British Medical Journal, shows that too much can be harmful.

HUMAN BONES 94 © Chrisharvey | Dreamstime.com

This study looked at 60,000 women’s medical records in women born between the years 1914 to 1948.  These women had completed surveys about their total calcium intake from dietary sources such as dairy products and green leafy vegetables as well as any supplements they were taking.  The study also tracked the number of fractures as well as the incidence of osteoporosis in that time period in these 60,000 women. The results were surprising.

Essentially it was found that having low calcium intake, below 750 mg daily, puts women at risk for fractures and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis risk decreased with any of the calcium intakes above 750 mg.  Hip fracture risk was also high below 750 mg of calcium per day and decreased for women taking between 750 and 996 mg calcium daily.  Hip fracture risk started to rise again in women taking more than 996 mg calcium.

This means that extremely low calcium intake (less than 750 mg) is associated with osteoporosis and hip fractures.  882 – 996 mg calcium per day protects against both osteoporosis and hip fractures.  Over-supplementing caclium (more than 996 mg daily) may actually increase the risk of hip fractures.  The US RDA is currently set at between 1000 and 1300 mg for women depending on their age range, which could possibly be too high. Click here for the government fact sheet on calcium.

If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia (low bone density that is not severe enough to be osteoporosis) or if you are concerned about osteoporosis then there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself:

  1. Do a calcium journal – Add up all of your sources of calcium per day to see what you’re actually getting.  Don’t forget to include your multivitamin, supplements that you are taking, any dairy products you eat, green leafy vegetables, calcium fortified foods such as orange juice and also antacids.  Keep track for at least a week to get an accurate picture. For many people diet and a good multi will provide everything they need! Your body uses nutrients from your diet most easily so focus on dietary sources and let go of supplements if you can.
  2. Adjust your intake – Try to make sure that your daily calcium intake is between 880mg and 1000 mg (ish).  This study isn’t conclusive enough to say exactly what is the right number, but it certainly suggests that many of us are taking too much.
  3. Weight bearing exercise – If you can only do one thing for your bone health, this should be it. Weight bearing exercise gives your body the natural signals to build strong, healthy, resilient bones and resist fractures and breaks.
  4. Vitamin D -  Many people are vitamin D deficient and vitamin D helps your body to utilize calcium most effectively.  If bone health is a concern for you then have your doctor test your vitamin D levels and supplement if necessary.
  5. Tai chi or Qi Gong - Exercises like these that help to improve and maintain your balance can help you to not fall, which won’t do anything for osteoporosis but can significantly reduce your risk of fractures.  Balance tends to decline as you age, so it’s best to do something active to help yourself in the long run.

Fractures, especially hip fractures can be painful and debilitating so protecting your bones before they happen is always the best strategy.

Full-text article: Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study.

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Another Reason to Love Coffee – It’s Your Prostate

I have to say, I’m a devoted coffee drinker.  Even if they found out it would lead to death in a month I’d have a hard time giving it up.  Thankfully, the evidence supporting coffee’s benefits on health is pretty good and just got a little better thanks to the Health-Professionals Follow-Up Study.

This study was designed to evaluate the relationship between diet and common serious diseases including cancer and heart disease. This study followed 48,000 men over 2 decades, which gives us a tremendous amount of information to work with! Researchers found that coffee intake is associated with lower risk of prostate cancer, especially the lethal kind.  Men who drank 6 or more cups of coffee daily had 60% less risk for lethal prostate cancer than men who drank no coffee.  Men who only had 3 cups, had 30% lower risk (10% a cup??).  Also the reduction in risk happened whether the coffee was full octane or decaf, which means it’s something in the coffee itself, not the caffeine.

COFFEE CUP © Viorel Dudau | Dreamstime.com

Add this to the known antioxidant benefits of coffee, the regulating effects on insulin and blood sugar, reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer and some aggressive forms of breast cancer, and you can enjoy your cup of Joe with a smile.  Coffee is no longer a guilty pleasure, but simply a part of your daily health routine.  Thank god for good news!

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Sneaky Veggies

One of the things I love about getting to talk with people every day is hearing the funny ways that people get around things they don’t like, but feel like they should do.  One of those, for a lot of people, is veggies.  I’m a veggie lover myself and no meal feels complete if I don’t have something with some vegetable matter in it, but it seems I’m in the minority in this regard.

LETTUCE © Paulo Resende | Dreamstime.com

For all of you who don’t like your vegetables, here are some great ways to sneak them into other foods so that you don’t know they’re there. This can be a great way to make your diet a little bit healthier, and also to help you add in the fiber for weight loss because as you probably know, I think fiber is the biggest weight-loss booster ever.

Morning Smoothie:

  1. 2 scoops glycemic foundation powder in chocolate
  2. 1 frozen banana
  3. 1 large hand-full spinach (it’s probably about 3/4 of a cup)
  4. 1 cup water
  5. 1 cup vanilla almond milk
  6. 2 tablespoons whole flax seeds

Throw this all in a blender and blend until it’s the texture you like.  I usually end up having to add a little more water, but 1 cup is a good starting place. I toss mine in a big jar and bring it to work with me so it’s a combo of breakfast on the way to work and snack through the morning.  It tastes awesome, but there is a bit of a greenish tinge to it so be prepared.

Incredible Hulk Mashed “Potatoes”

(This one came from one of my dear clients – thanks so much!)

  1. 1 baked potato
  2. steamed broccoli
  3. steamed cauliflower
  4. a handful (or more) of fresh spinach
  5. splash of broth – chicken or veggie is best  OR splash of milk
  6. optional:  butter, crumbled bacon, shredded cheese

Combine the potato, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach in a blender or food processor.  It works best if they are all hot. Blend until they are your preferred consistency.  Add butter to taste.  Add liquid (broth or milk) if it gets too thick. Top with bacon bits and/or shredded cheese. It’s INCREDIBLY yummy and it’s a bright green!

Pumpkin Corncakes (great substitute for pancakes!)

  1. 1/2 cup stoneground corn meal
  2. 1 cup boiling water
  3. 7/8 cup evaporated milk
  4. 1/4 cup cooked pumpkin puree
  5. 1 cup whole wheat flour (or flour substitute if you’re gluten free)
  6. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  7. 3/4 teaspoon kelp or sea salt
  8. 1 tablespoon honey
  9. 1 egg beaten
  10. 1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Gradually add the corn meal to the boiling water and stir. Add the milk and pumpkin and keep stirring until smooth. Sift together all the dry ingredients and stir them into the corn meal mixture.  Now stir in the honey and egg.  Ladle the mix onto a preheated griddle or large fry pan and cook like pancakes.  Serve with fruit sauce, maple syrup or honey.  Yummmm.

Give these a try and let me know what you think! Mostly, just be creative.  There is more to eating your fruits and veggies than just choking down bland spinach or plain broccoli.  Bon Appetite!

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Grapefruit to Keep the Bugs Away

I’m not sure if anyone else feels like I do, but I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to bugs and bug spray.  On one hand, I don’t really like to be bit by mosquitoes and other insects, but on the other hand I don’t really want to slather neurotoxins all over my skin. Sadly, the options that are in the typical products we buy are mostly neurotoxins – most notably DEET.

DEET was developed during WWII jungle warfare and was used in Vietnam, and then as a farm pesticide.  Now it’s used in bug sprays for humans but DEET is known to cause skin reactions, skin irritation and rarely seizures.  DEET has recently been found to inhibit the enzyme in your brain called acetylcholinesterase.  The long term effects of that neurological change are largely unknown.

Thankfully the CDC is now pushing to make a 100% natural bug spray with an ingredient from grapefruit or Alaskan yellow cedar called nootkatone.  Nootkatone has a citrus-y smell, is non-toxic and is effective to repel mosquitoes, ticks and possibly even bed bugs, head lice and other insects. The great news is that nootkatone is safe enough that you could drink it.

Nootkatone is also safe for the environment and can possibly used as a pesticide. This stuff just gets better and better!  The sad part is that it isn’t released on the market yet, but using a grapefruit essential oil could be a good short-term solution until nootkatone (I just like saying it, it’s a really fun word) is widely available. Essential oils can be irritating if you apply them undiluted to the skin, so mixing a few drops of grapefruit oil in your cream, lotion or skin oil can give you the bug repellant benefits.

If you’d like to read more, here’s NPRs article.

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Hope For Autism.

Autism Angel Carly Fleishmann

This is amazing and inspiring.  I am awed by Carly, awed by her parents and amazed by her lucid view of the world. I sincerely hope that every person with Autism can find their own voice.  Many of us without autism could learn from Carly as well – she communicates clearly and directly without filtering.

Here’s Carly’s blog at carlysvoice.com.  I love the frequently asked questions – it’s kind of an inside look at autism, which is so valuable for the rest of us.

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An Apple A Day – For Your Cholesterol

An apple a day really does keep the doctor away – and the cholesterol,  related heart disease and extra weight too! Clearly, apples are a miracle food. A new study from Florida State University confirms that women who ate an apple a day showed dramatic improvements in their heart risk.

beautiful girl holding an apple on her head © Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime.com

In this study women were randomly chosen to eat either dried apples or prunes daily for one year and their blood was measured through the year to follow changes. At the end of the year the apple group had lowered their total cholesterol by 14%.  Their LDL, or bad cholesterol, had decreased 23% .  The heart protecting HDL had increased 4%.  These indicate powerful heart-protective effects.  Not only that, but the inflammatory marker most associated with heart disease, called C-reactive protein (or CRP) dropped by a whopping 32%.  All of this from just under 3 oz of dried apples!

The women in the prune group also showed improvement in their markers of heart health, but not nearly as much as the apple group. As an added bonus, the women in the apple group lost an average of 3.3 pounds even though the apples added an extra 240 calories to their diets. These beneficial effects are thought to be partially due to the rich supply of pectin, which is a soluble fiber as well as antioxidants which are present in the apples.

Although the study used dried fruit for convenience, some of the researches noted that fresh fruit may be even better.  The best part is that apples are easy to take with you anywhere – there is no excuse not to bring one to work for a snack every day. To read more about the study check this article in healthland.

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Manuka Honey – More Powerful Than Antibiotics

It never fails to amaze me what natural remedies are capable of, especially when used in combination with modern methods.  One of the biggest threats in healthcare today is the rising rate of antibiotic resistance in bacteria – especially the  superbug MRSA.  This infection, which is often found in hospital settings and can create recurrent hard to treat boils or life-threatening blood infections, can actually be treated with honey. Sounds crazy, right?

Specially purified manuka honey has been used topically in hospital settings for MRSA care with great success, and when it is used in combination with certain antibiotics it actually helps those antibiotics to work better. Even if the bacteria was previously antibiotic-resistant. The honey by itself works, and the honey in combination with an antibiotic works even better.

Using manuka honey at home on cuts scrapes and small wounds can help you to prevent infections, but if you suspect you have a MRSA infection it’s a good idea to see your doctor because if these infections aren’t resolved quickly they can become life threatening.

Manuka honey has also been used with good results internally for digestive infections like H. pylori, gastritis, damage to the esophagus caused by GERD and various ulcerative diseases of the digestive tract.  1 teaspoon of manuka honey before each meal and bedtime can help you to feel better and to get rid of unwanted bacteria and help heal and soothe your digestive tract. All of that from simple honey.

Science, yet again, is able to verify the wisdom that has been handed down for generations.  To read more about this from the BBC, click here.

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Emotional Eating

Wow is this ever a big deal! So many people use food as a reward, as a treat, or as a way to calm themselves when they’re anxious, depressed or angry.  It’s easy to do because a lot of the time it works – food does help you feel better in the moment when you’re emotions are getting the best of you.  It also hurts you in the long-run because then you have to struggle with weight, self-image issues and body issues. This is a no-win cycle, but there are ways out.

Yummy chocolate cake...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know you eat emotionally if:

  • The first thing you want to do when you’ve had a bad day is eat
  • You often find yourself eating ‘for no reason’ or ‘because you’re bored’
  • You eat when you’re stressed
  • You gain weight in stressful times or in emotional times
  • You feel ‘addicted’ to food or to certain foods

Here is what you can do about it:

Emotional eating isn’t easy to fix, but it isn’t hard either.  The hardest part is being willing to do it, to actually sit down with yourself and feel what you’re feeling instead of self-medicating with food.  It’s always easier to avoid and eat to make yourself feel better, but in the long run that only hurts you. Emotional eating is exactly like a drug addiction – it’s a way to avoid your real issues by medicating them with something. Here’s a great activity to try at home.

Emotional eating awareness exercise:

  1. When you’re sitting down to eat after a stressful day or when you’re feeling off, fill your plate (or grab the chip bag or the tub of ice cream) like you normally would.
  2. Sit down as usual, but set your kitchen timer for 5 minutes.
  3. In that 5 minutes, just sit and look at your food but don’t touch it yet.  Just sit, and look and pay attention to how you feel.
  4. In that 5 minutes, you may feel angry for having to wait, impatient, frustrated, sad, or irritable.  You may burst into tears, start thinking about a fight you had with your partner or have a grand realization about your life.  You also may not notice anything. Just pay attention to however it is that you feel and when the buzzer rings then eat.
  5. As you’re eating, notice what the food feels like in your mouth, why you chose the food you did and how you feel as you’re eating it.  Really think about whether or not that food is making you feel any different.  Really think about if that food is giving you what you thought it would or not.

This is an exercise in finding out about yourself.  Emotional eating is different in every person because we all have different hurts, fears, traumas, anxieties and life situations.  The only way to fix it is to notice that you’re doing it, notice when it happens and find a different way to deal with those emotions. The idea behind this is that you can’t deal with whatever is under there, unless you know what it is and this is step 1 to becoming aware of what is underneath your emotional eating.

It’s a good idea to write in a journal or even talk with a friend or counselor about it.  The best book I’ve found about emotional eating is Geneen Roth’s Women Food and God. It’s just a great resource for anyone who really wants to get to the root of their emotional self with food, and uses food as a pathway to everything – life, beliefs about yourself, and god.

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The Salt Myth

Among the things I never expected at the primary care conference in Houston this weekend, was to hear a conventional M.D. argue against salt-restricted diets.  Salt-restriction has been strongly encouraged by primary care practitioners and cardiologists alike as a means for controlling blood pressure at home. Happily, I have been surprised. Dr. David A. McCarron, MD, FACP gave an analysis of a good amount of recent research which shows that salt moderation is helpful, but salt restriction – especially to the newly recommended 1500 mg per day for high risk individuals – can be harmful.

SALT AND PEPPER © Iwka | Dreamstime.com

Salt levels in your blood stream are regulated by a number of hormones, the primary of these being aldosterone.  Aldosterone levels rise when the amount of salt in your bloodstream gets too low. When aldosterone rises your body conserves sodium (from salt) and excretes potassium.  This causes your body to conserve the salt it has, which causes you to retain water, which causes your blood pressure to rise.  Rising blood pressure isn’t what we want!

Essentially this means that if you eat too much salt your blood pressure rises.  Also if you eat too little salt your blood pressure rises. In fact, two of the main classes of drugs to lower blood pressure is designed to inhibit the release of aldosterone. One class are ACE inhibitors, including captopril, enalapril, lisinopril and ramipril. The other class is called angiotensin receptor blockers, or ARBs  and these include losartan, valsartan, telmisartan, irbesartan, and olmesartan. So it seems that a severely salt restricted diet can actually counteract some of the medications you may be taking.

As with everything else, it seems the best course of action lies in moderation.  Dr. McCarron’s view on the problem was that restricting salt intake can be as harmful as overdoing salt intake, so maintaining a “normal” intake is best.  In this, I have to admit, I agree!

For a great introduction to how salt and water are regulated in your body follow this link.

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Epidemic Sleeplessness in Children

Happy World Sleep Day!  It was March 18th actually – don’t feel bad, I missed it too. I did, however, read a shocking report from the World Association of Sleep Medicine which points out that globally, sleeplessness has officially hit epidemic proportions.

According to the 2011 World Sleep Day Update 45% of the world’s population suffers from sleep problems.  This can include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome (or RLS), and sleep deprivation.  Sadder still, is the shocking fact that 25% of the world’s children are also struggling to sleep.

The report also outlines some of the symptoms of poor sleep in children:

  • Obesity
  • Injury and accident
  • Moodiness and emotional problems
  • Aggressiveness and impulsivity
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Abnormal activity levels – appearing “hyperactive” or “low energy”
  • Poor memory, attention, reasoning and learning, which can impact school performance

The World Association of Sleep Medicine has therefore created the 10 Commandments of Healthy Sleep in Children:

  1. Set an age-appropriate bedtime and waketime.
  2. Maintain those bedtimes and wake-up times both weekdays and weekends.
  3. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and make sure your child wears comfortable clothes to bed, including strong absorbing diapers if necessary.
  4. Encourage your child to fall asleep independently.
  5. Dim the lights before bedtime, avoid lights overnight and use bright light as one of the wake-up cues.
  6. Keep all electronics including TV, computers and cell phones out of the bedroom and limit their use before bedtime.
  7. Maintain a regular daily schedule including regular mealtimes.
  8. Have an age-appropriate nap schedule.  If your child won’t nap, maintain “quiet time.”
  9. Make sure your child is getting lots of physical activity and time outside during the day.
  10. Eliminate foods and drinks containing caffeine – save those for the adults.

Obviously, one of the biggest factors in helping sleep is routine – following a schedule helps your kids (and you!) to become healthier both physically and mentally and gives them a better shot at both decent sleep and decent behavior.

For more information about how you can fix your own sleep, read Sleep Like a Champion, or read about Restless Leg Syndrome. In adults sleep has a huge impact on weight, performance at work, mood, and energy. It isn’t worth going through life without great sleep so this is one to fix now!

If you’d like to learn more about world sleep day or the World Association of Sleep Medicine, then check worldsleepday.org

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