Monday, April 14, 2014

Habits of Healthy and Fit People

From the on-line article "The 13 Habits of Fit and Lean People", by Kristin Kirkpatrick, U.S. News and World Report. Brigid Titgemeier, nutrition assistant at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, also contributed to this article............. I thought this was a very good article. While fit and lean is not necessarily healthy, the habits expressed below are all good things to do for a healthy lifestyle. I would only add taking a high quality daily supplement and reasonably avoiding toxins.

Many people assume there's some mystifying secret toweight loss. When looking at fit celebrities, and even neighbors or co-workers, men and women commonly ask: "What's their secret?" or "How can I look like that?" While searching for these "secrets," people often overlook the simplicity of adopting healthy lifestyle habits that support a slim waist and healthy weight. While different strategies work for different people, scientific evidence indicates that individuals who effectively maintain a lean shape over time stick to similar eating and activity habits.

Other than a few genetic variations, there aren't many physiological differences between you and your slim neighbor -- it all comes down to habits that promote a healthy weight. If you're attempting to lose weight, use your healthy counterparts as inspiration. If they can do it, so can you. Use these 13 healthy habits as a road map to achieving a healthy, lean figure.

1. Eat a smart breakfast. Individuals who start their day off with breakfast have a reduced risk of weight gain. In a study that included 20,000 middle-aged men, researchers found that breakfast consumption was inversely associated with weight gain over 10 years. That might explain why 78 percent of individuals from the National Weight Control Registry report eating breakfast every morning.

Don't settle for a small granola bar to fill you up. Get in the habit of eating a smart breakfast, meaning one that is substantial enough to fuel your energy all morning. Smart breakfast choices include a good balance of healthy fat, lean protein and carbs, like an egg white omelet cooked with olive oil and sauteed spinach.

2. Listen to internal hunger cues. External cues such as social pressures or environments strongly influence when and how people eat. Whether it's a morning meeting with doughnuts, the candy bowl in the conference room or the popcorn in your lap at the movie theater, people don't think twice before indulging. Individuals who have a lean shape are generally able to ignore the convenience factor and base eating decisions on whether they're hungry or not hungry. Try tapping into your internal hunger cues and question whether you're even hungry before putting food in your mouth.

3. Avoid skipping meals. According to a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University, short-term food deprivation can lead people to make unhealthy food choices and increase the attraction of high calorie foods. The researchers found that "hungry" participants who did not eat five hours prior to grocery shopping were more likely to buy higher-calorie foods, compared to those who snacked on crackers before shopping. The results confirm the importance of eating before shopping, but also demonstrate that consuming regular meals can promote healthy food choices later in the day.

4. Eat most meals from home. Eating meals away from home decreases awareness of the calories and ingredients in the meal, as indicated by a 2013 study conducted in popular fast-food restaurants in America. Two-thirds of the 3,385 study participants who ate at a fast-food chain underestimated the calorie content of their meal, with one quarter underestimating by more than 500 calories.

Additional findings in children and adolescents were also published in 2013, demonstrating that eating out at fast food and full-service restaurants increases children and adolescents' daily energy consumption by 126 to 310 calories. That's in addition to increasing total fat, saturated fat, sugar and protein intake.

5. Load up on plant-based protein. Many individuals who maintain a healthy body weight long-term do so by removing meat from the center of their plate. Studies show that vegetarians tend to have a lower body fat percentage long-term, in addition to lower levels of oxidative stress and cholesterol, compared to their meat-eating counterparts.

Another study evaluated the link between weight change and daily servings of individual foods. Over the course of four years, daily servings of unprocessed red meat and processed meat were associated with respective weight gain of 0.95 and 0.93 pounds, while a daily serving of nuts was associated with 0.57-pound weight loss.

6. Avoid foods with added sugars. A diet low in added sugars translates to fewer empty calories and a lower risk of weight gain. A 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines added sugars as sweeteners added to processed and prepared foods such as breads, cakes, jam and ice cream. Some examples of added sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses and honey. The CDC report stated that an increased intake of added sugars is associated with a decreased intake of essential micronutrients and an increase in body weight. Stick to naturally occurring sugars found in fruit and dairy products and minimize intake of added sugars.

7. Creatively add vegetables. Veggies provide a variety of nutrients for very few calories, which makes them a key component to achieving a healthy weight. Incorporating vegetables into snacks and meals leads to a boost in fiber intake, which is associated with increased satiety and weight loss. Creatively add vegetables wherever you can get them into your diet. For breakfast, add diced veggies to eggs and a few scoops of salsa. For lunch and dinner, try making a wrap with collard greens instead of tortillas, or add tomato sauce to a baked potato. Other ideas including seasoning and grilling an entire cauliflower "steak" or incorporating broccoli or kale into a rice dish.

8. Choose 100 percent over 50 percent whole grain. Science demonstrates that the proportion of grains consumed in the diet is not as important as type when predicting future weight gain. The study suggests that a high intake of refined grains and sweets may predict weight gain, while consumption of refined white bread is associated with larger increases in waist circumference. Obvious sources of refined grains are white bread and bagels, while less obvious sources are hidden in "whole grain" products that are not 100 percent whole grain. Get in the habit of avoiding all refined grains by choosing 100 percent whole wheat or 100 percent whole grain products. The benefits of increased fiber intake will lead you to a weight-loss transformation.

9. Use smaller containers. Those who carefully control the quantity of food they consume generally eat from smaller serving dishes and containers. A 2012 study demonstrated that students consumed twice as much candy when they ate from two larger candy bowls, compared to the small bowl. The findings imply that eating with larger serving containers -- plates, bowls, spoons and packages -- stimulates food intake. To help curb overeating, switch to smaller containers.

10. Read ingredients before anything else. Check to see that the claims made on the front of the package are justified by the ingredients that are in the actual food product. Focusing on the quality of food first and the numbers second will ensure consumption of nutrient-dense calories. While calorie content does determine weight loss, fueling your body with quality calories helps promote healthy choices long-term.

11. Don't drink calories. Sodas, fruit drinks, specialty coffee drinks, energy drinks -- the list of empty calories goes on and on. These popular beverages are exploding with sugar, meaning empty calories that provide no nutritional value. Regular consumption of sugary drinks adds inches to the waistline faster than you can finish a 20-ounce bottle of soda. According to results from 2005 to 2006 NHANES data, 35.7 percent of added sugar in the average U.S. diet comes from soda, energy drinks and sports drinks. An additional 10.5 percent of calories from added sugar are derived from fruit drinks. In total, almost 50 percent of sugar calories in the U.S. come from beverages that lack any nutritional benefits. Get in the habit of drinking water as often as possible, which will minimize your consumption of liquid sugar packets.

12. Get adequate sleep. Research has shown that sleep habits influence people's dietary habits. A study published in 2011 followed men and women for six years and found that every additional hour of sleep decreased the incidence of obesity by 30 percent. The underlying mechanism that explains the relationship is not known, but experts suspect it involves hunger hormones such as leptin and ghrelin, along with other physiological factors. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night for optimal health.

13. Wear a pedometer. Individuals who have a lean shape are often active throughout the entire day, not just during their 30-minute date with the elliptical. In order to achieve optimal health and a slim physique, experts recommend taking at least 10,000 steps per day. Start tracking your steps each day with a pedometer or other devices that increase your awareness of your activity.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Higher Levels of Vitamin D Might Save Your Life

From an ABC on-line report titled "Higher Levels of Vitamin D Might Save Your Life"

For many people the start of spring and the warmer weather that follows means storing the heavy winter gear and getting re-acquitted with the sun by spending more time outdoors. And according to new research, spending at least ten minutes a day in the sun could help save your life by reducing the probability of developing several diseases.

Two new studies show people with low levels of vitamin D have a 35% increased risk of developing heart disease and also have a 14% increased risk in dying from cancer.

Vitamin D is credited with not only helping reduce the odds of developing several major illnesses, but it also boosts heart health and even strengthens your bones.

How exactly can you maximize your body’s production and consumption of vitamin D in order to reap its benefits?

For starters, vitamin D, also known as the sunshine nutrient is produced in the body when the sun comes into contact with the sun, so spending more time outdoors is the key. Doctors suggest spending at least one hour a week in the sun, but don’t forget the sunscreen.

You can also find Vitamin D in a variety of foods like fish, eggs, soy beans, mushrooms and kale. But according the experts the best thing you can do is get outside and soak up those rays.

MyAchingKnees Comments: I don't believe you can get the necessary levels of Vitamin D from the Sun alone. My wife and I both had Vitamin D deficiencies and both of us spend a lot of time outside in a city that receives 300+ days of direct Sun a year. Both my wife and I take 3,000 to 5,000 IU of Vitamin D each day. While my wife was undergoing seven weeks of radiation treatment for a head and neck cancer, she insured she took 5,000 IU each day.

Exercise can diminish the body's Vitamin D levels and new studies from The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) indicate that taking Vitamin D before a workout can help the body recover more quickly.

Some of the top scientists in the country believe that Vitamin D supports healthy bones, muscle strength, maintenance of healthy glucose levels, and heart and immune function.  The often quoted  daily level of Vitamin D of 400 to 800 IU is now thought to be pretty low.  Don't let this inexpensive nutritional supplement escape your grasp - ask your Doctor for a blood test to determine your levels of Vitamin D.  

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How I Solved My Insomnia by Getting Less Sleep

By Sarah McNaughton, Everyday Health

This is how I sleep: Covers pulled over my head, except for a small air hole so I can breathe. Silicone earplugs stuffed into my ears. Window fan whirring in the far corner for white noise. I used to wear a special mouth guard so I wouldn't grind my teeth, but I chewed through it about a year ago.

It was only when I got to college that I realized staring out of my air hole for three hours before falling asleep wasn't normal.

I know that sleep is critical for my health. I've lived with clinical depression and anxiety disorders since grade school. The amount and quality of sleep I get directly affects my brain's serotonin and norepinephrine levels, both of which are crucial for managing depression and anxiety. But knowing the side effects of poor sleep and avoiding them are entirely different, especially when you're in the middle of a cruel cycle: The anxiety keeps me awake, which makes me worry about not getting enough sleep, which increases my anxiety.

Short of prescription sleep medication, I've tried nearly everything - acupressure, therapy, aromatherapy, yoga poses, breathing techniques, exercise in the morning, exercise in the evening, warm milk, chamomile tea, melatonin tablets, baths, sleep apps, boring books, boring games, boring conversations. I've even taken nighttime cold medicine when I wasn't sick. Some approaches helped, but none solved the problem.

It was 9 a.m. when our sleep editor asked who had sleep problems. I'd gotten four hours the night before, so I hardly realized that my hand shot up at the word "sleep." My overtired brain was just reacting to basic nouns. Sleep - yes, I'd like some.

I had volunteered myself for a sleep experiment. For 33 nights, I went to bed with an elastic heart rate band around my waist that recorded my pulse and transmitted data via Bluetooth to the SleepRate app on a smartphone. Unlike sleep apps that attempt to monitor movement in bed to track a person's sleep patterns, the heart rate band is better able to assess when and how deeply I was sleeping. The app developers told me that while the data wasn't exactly what you'd get from a sleep lab, it was about 80 percent as accurate.

Each night, I put on the heart rate band and answered a few questions about my day - Had I napped? Was I stressed? Did I feel drowsy? Had I fallen asleep involuntarily at work? - and then watched my pulse go up and down on the app screen until I fell asleep. The process was divided into two parts: First the app would take a week to evaluate my sleep problems, then it would try to help me solve them.

My assessment was disappointing: I was a night owl who likes to stay up late and sleep in, and I have moderate insomnia. No kidding. I was surprised to see I got an average of about seven hours of sleep per night, but I also woke up 32 times on average, which added up to an hour and a half of lost sleep each night.

Then the treatment portion began. The first step sounded simple but was quite difficult: go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.

Even though I struggle to get enough sleep during the week, I oversleep on weekends. I often pack more than 24 hours of sleep into Friday and Saturday alone. So forcing myself to go to sleep and wake up on weekends at the same times I would have on a weekday was ugly - at first. Then, one Saturday, I woke up on my own at 7 a.m. and went to the gym. It was one of the strangest and most fulfilling days of my life.

After I mastered my weekend sleep schedule, I moved on to step two. The app determined that my biological clock needed to be "retuned." Years of insomnia had left me with a really messed up sleep schedule - wide awake at bedtime and half asleep at breakfast. So my second task was, counterintuitively, to get as exhausted as possible. To do this, the app determined that I shouldn't go to bed any earlier than 1:30 but still wake up at 7 a.m.

The app told me not to go to bed until the wee hours of the morning. For the first time in my life, I found myself wishing it was bedtime. I hated this exercise more than I had hated being an anxious insomniac, but by the second week I realized something - I was tired! I was falling asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow, rather than climbing into bed at a normal time only to lie awake for hours. I was only getting about five hours of sleep each night, but something had started to shift.

The app didn't tell me much that I didn't already know about myself, but it did help me look at my quest for better sleep in a different way: Instead of obsessing over getting the doctor-approved 8 hours, I need to focus on sleeping when I'm truly tired. For now, it's better for me to be getting fewer hours of higher quality sleep.

Eventually, I may be able to train my body to crave sleep earlier, solving the night owl issue. I've already made progress: Now I get drowsy around 1 a.m., rather than 2 or 3 a.m., and I'm actually feeling better during the day than I did when I got more, albeit fitful, sleep.

Maybe someday my biological clock will insist on lights out at 11 p.m. Maybe someday I'll have the perfect eight-hour night and no longer horrify my mom or my doctor. But a few nights ago, I fell asleep before I could pull the covers over my head and make my air hole or even put in my earplugs, and, for now, that's progress enough.

MyAchingKnees Comment:  One word "Melatonin".  Providing you get a good quality supplement.  My wife uses for maybe two days in a row to get herself to sleep, then she gets into that routine and doesn't need it for weeks, if not months.  But the important issue here is that sleep is necessary for true health.  Your body (and brain) needs the rest to repair itself.  Don't scrimp on sleep.....and you can't make up for lost sleep through short term naps.    

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Unhealthy Habits that Are as Bad as Smoking

From Rodale News/Healthy Living in an article titled "6 Unhealthy Habits that Are as Bad as Smoking". Don't smoke? Doesn't matter. You could still be doing damage to your long-term health, says Emily Main of Rodale News.

You don't smoke. You live a generally healthy life, so you're in the clear as far as unhealthy habits are concerned, right? Not so fast! It seems like every day, a new study comes out finding that habit X is "as bad for you as smoking," whether it's sitting all day or eating too much fat. So is there any legitimacy to those claims? We checked out a bunch of those studies to find out what the researchers mean when they claim that those things are as bad for you as cigarettes, and in most cases, they're not lying. The following six unhealthy habits either expose you to the same contaminants in cigarette smoke or lead to cancer rates equivalent to those caused by smoking. Fortunately, these are easy to fix with a few modifications to your daily routine so you (and your heart and your lungs) can be glad you don't in fact smoke.

PLUS: A recent report projected that cancer will be the leading cause of death in the U.S. by 2030. Take control of your life and learn how to cancer proof your environment!

#1: Sitting all Day

Even if you exercise regularly, habitually sitting for prolonged periods, whether at a desk or in a car, is being increasingly linked to a variety of health problems. According to Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care in Canada, inactivity is linked to nearly 160,000 cases of breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer every year, about two-thirds as many cancer cases caused by smoking.

Make it right: Make it a habit to take breaks on-the-move at work, and even make (or buy) a standing workstation so you're less apt to sit all day. At home, resist the temptation to veg out in front of the TV. Go for a short walk around the block to relax, spend a few minutes cleaning, or schedule a gym date with your significant other.

#2: Eating too much meat and cheese.

Animal proteins are rich in IGF-1, a growth hormone that can promote the growth of cancer cells. And a study from the University of Southern California published in the journal Cell Metabolism recently found that people on high-animal-protein diets during middle age were four times more likely to die of cancer than people on low-protein diets--a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking.

Make it right: Replace some of your animal proteins with these yummy vegetarian protein sources. The same study found that diets high in plant-based proteins like beans, which have protein levels equivalent to some meats, didn't trigger the same increase in cancer rates. In general, middle-aged adults should be eating 0.8 grams of protein for every 2 pounds of body weight daily. Interestingly, the study found that once you pass the age of 65, eating lots of animal protein isn't as harmful because your body's production of IGF-1 begins to slow down.

#3: Cooking with natural gas.

If you're one of the 34 percent of Americans whose home is equipped with a gas stove, you're getting an added dose of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde every time you cook a meal. Those same three contaminants are common in secondhand cigarette smoke, and a December 2013 study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that all three contaminants in homes with gas stoves regularly exceeded public health guidelines.

Make it right: Use your vent hood when you use your gas oven or cooktop. Ventilating a gas range can reduce pollutant levels by 60 to 90 percent, even if the fan seems wimpy. Also, cook on your back burners: Most vent hoods aren't properly centered over a cooktop; using the back burners will help your vent hood capture the most pollution.

#4: Cooking with the wrong oil.

Even if you rely on an electric stove at your house, you aren't immune to cooking's polluting effects. Studies on restaurant and residential kitchens have shown that high-heat cooking with shortening and soybean oil (usually just called "vegetable oil" in the U.S.) releases particulate matter, aldehydes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all compounds found in cigarette smoke and linked to airway inflammation.

Make it right: Pick the type of cooking oil best suited your use. For instance, olive oil isn't good for frying or high-heat cooking but is fine for cooking at low temperatures or in salad dressings. Avocado oil, on the other hand, is great for high-heat cooking. Look for the "smoke point" on oils that you buy to make sure the oil matches your needs. And don't forget to run the ventilation hood!

#5: Tanning indoors.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that indoor tanning causes roughly 420,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. every year. Smoking, by comparison, causes 226,000 cases of lung cancer.

Make it right: Learning to love pale skin is step number one. But if you really want a natural glow, eat more carrots and tomatoes, suggests a study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. Both foods are rich in carotenoids, which will boost your skin tone, and you won't have to worry about exposure to sketchy ingredients in sunless tanning sprays and lotions.

#6: Not getting enough sleep.

This will make you really cranky: Chronic sleep deprivation triggers high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and a host of other health problems. One study even found that not getting at least six or seven hours of sleep led to mortality rates on par with those seen in cigarette smokers. Even getting poor-quality or fragmented sleep--when you don't necessarily fully wake up, but the cycle from light to deep sleep gets interrupted--can speed the growth of tumors.

Make it right: Don't assume that being tired is normal. If you feel like you aren't getting enough sleep regularly, talk to a health professional to see if you might be suffering from a condition such as sleep apnea that is interfering with your sleep.

MyAchingKnees Comment:  While all good advice, every article concerning health is going to incomplete unless they advise people to live a physical life - doesn't mean to work your butts off in a gym, but walk, climb stairs, hike, ride a bicycle - all goods things to stay active.  And there is nothing easier you can do for your health than to take the highest quality daily nutritional supplements that you can find. 

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Calcium, Vitamin D Improve Cholesterol in Postmenopausal Women

A new study has found postmenopausal women can improve their cholesterol with calcium and vitamin D supplements. The study was published in the journal Menopause.

The idea of these supplements improving cholesterol has been up for debate. For example, a recent Rockefeller University study published in the American Heart Association journal found no change in the cholesterol levels of 151 people with vitamin D deficiency following an eight-week period of taking either a huge dose of vitamin D3 or a placebo.

Additionally, previous studies of women taking the aforementioned combination could not separate the effects of calcium from those of vitamin D on cholesterol, say the researchers behind the new study.

North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Board of Trustees member Peter F. Schnatz, DO, NCMP and his team sought to settle the debate by examining the effects of calcium and vitamin D supplements on cholesterol, as well as how it affected blood levels of vitamin D in postmenopausal women.

Women who participated in the trial took either a supplement containing 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D3 or a placebo on a daily basis. The study featured 300 white, 200 African-American and 100 Hispanic participants, all of whom were randomly selected by the large-scale Women's Health Initiative.

The women who took the supplement were more than twice as likely to have "normal" vitamin D levels, or at least 30 ng/mL. The "bad" cholesterol levels of supplement users were between 4 and 5 points lower, while researchers also found supplement users with higher blood levels of vitamin D had high levels of good cholesterol and lower levels of triglycerides.

How and if these positive results will translate into other health benefits for menopausal women, such as lower rates of cardiovascular disease, is unknown at this time. However, researchers still emphasize the study as a reminder that women are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency and should increase their intake of both supplements.

"The results of this study should inspire even more women to be conscientious about their calcium and vitamin D intake-a simple and safe way to improve health. One action can lead to multiple benefits!" says NAMS Executive Director Margery Gass, MD.

MyAchingKnees comment: Aching joints can be aggravated by poor calcium and Vitamin D intake and not just for women. My wife and I take 1,870 mgs of Calcium daily and 4,400 IU of Vitamin D. It's important to make sure your getting your magnesium as well. My rule of thumb is my daily magnesium intake should be 50% of the Calcium. So we take 900 mgs of Magnesium daily as well. And speaking of menopause, Dr. Christiane Northrup has written some great books about nutrition as well as other subjects.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Prescription Painkiller Drugs Kill People

From an article, by Dr. Mercola, with the full title - "Prescription Painkiller Drugs Kill More People Than Murders or Car Accidents in the US". This article was important to me as I had abused Motrin for probably 20 years for my knee and back pain before I found a better solution other than just masking the pain. It used to be nothing for me to take up to three 800 mg Motrin's a day and now am so thankful that I don't have to take pain killers anymore. So whatever you think of Dr. Mercola, he has a lot of truth in his article (below):

Deaths caused by overdosing on painkillers now surpass murders and fatal car accidents in the US. America’s rising drug problem recently received renewed attention following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The 46-year-old Oscar-winning actor died from a heroin overdose on February 2. Last year, Hoffman entered rehab when addiction to prescription painkillers led him to switch to heroin. US officials now acknowledge that narcotic painkillers are in fact a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses.

Over the past five years alone, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent– an increase that officials blame on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids.

The reason for the resurgence of heroin is in large part due to it being less expensive than its prescription counterparts. According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy:

“The use of opioids — a group of drugs that includes heroin and prescription painkillers — is having a devastating impact on public health and safety in communities across the nation.

In 2010, approximately 100 Americans died from overdoses every day. Prescription painkillers were involved in more than 16,600 deaths that year, and heroin was involved in about 3,000 deaths.”

Prescription Medications Are the New Gateway Drugs

Many are still under the illusion that prescription drugs are somehow safer than street drugs, but it’s important to realize that prescription medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone are opioids—just like heroin.

As explained by Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone “are all classified as opioids because they exert their effect by attaching to the opioid receptor found in our brain and spinal cord.”

They also create a temporary feeling of euphoria, followed by dysphoria, which can easily lead to addiction. Some people end up taking increasingly larger doses in order to regain the euphoric effect, or escape the unhappiness caused by withdrawal. Others find they need to continue taking the drugs not only to reduce withdrawal symptoms but to simply feel normal.

Opioids also depress your heart rate and breathing. Large doses can cause sedation and slowed breathing to the point that breathing stops altogether, resulting in death.

According to a 2013 US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report, nearly 80 percent of people who recently started using heroin had previously used prescription painkillers. As reported by WebMD:

“To break this link, the federal government has begun to crack down on ‘pill mills’ and doctors who over-prescribe narcotic painkillers. It has also developed education programs for doctors and patients on prescribing painkillers and disposing of unused prescriptions.”

Shocking Report: More Than 14 Percent of Pregnant Women Prescribed Opioids!

Do you ever occasionally wonder about the fantastic lack of common sense among prescribing physicians? According to one recent study, more than 14 percent of pregnant women were prescribed opioid drugs during their pregnancy.

The paper called for more research to assess the risks to the fetus, in light of such surprisingly high prescription rates. But truly, knowing the risks involved in adults, how could anyone in their right mind imagine the risks to an unborn child might be anything but harmful?

Back pain—a problem most pregnant women have to deal with—was the most commonly cited reason for the prescription. Narcotics were also prescribed for complaints of abdominal pains, migraine, joint pains, and fibromyalgia. As reported by Medical News Today:

“The study looked at data from a research database of more than 530,000 pregnant women enrolled in a commercial insurance plan who delivered their babies between 2005 and 2011. Their median age was 31… Of the more than 530,000 pregnant women, 76,742, or 14.4 percent, were prescribed opioids at some point in their pregnancy…

[A] US National Birth Defects Prevention Study (1997-2005) found associations between codeine and other opioids with birth defects, including atrial and ventricular septal defects, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, spina bifida, and gastroschisis in newborns. Additionally, the US national study cites that when opioids are used long-term during pregnancy, ‘there is a known risk for neonatal opioid dependence and subsequent withdrawal symptoms in the first few days of life.’”

FDA Finally Clamps Down on Painkiller Prescriptions

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recommended tighter controls on painkiller prescriptions, and has announced its intention to reclassify hydrocodone-containing painkillers from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug. The drug schedule system classifies medications based on their potential for abuse and addiction, as well as other medical criteria.

The reclassification will affect how hydrocodone-containing drugs can be prescribed and refilled. Doctors will only be allowed to prescribe a 90-day supply of the drug per prescription, and they will no longer be permitted to phone in refills; rather the patient has to bring the prescription with them to the pharmacy.

The new regulations are expected to take effect sometime this year. Ironically enough, while talking about the need for stricter controls and less addictive painkillers, it recently approved the first drug containing pure hydrocodone for the US market, called Zohydro ER (Zogenix). All other hydrocodone-containing painkillers on the market are mixed with other non- addictive ingredients. Zohydro ER was approved for patients who need around-the-clock pain relief. As reported by Bloomberg at the end of October last year:

“The approval came as a surprise since an FDA panel of outside advisers gave the drug an overwhelmingly negative review last year. The panel of pain specialists voted 11-2, with one abstention, against approving the drug. It questioned the need for a new form of one of most widely-abused prescription drugs in the United States. The approval also came a day after the FDA said it would support stronger restrictions on combination drugs containing hydrocodone.”

Do You Really Need a Narcotic Pain Killer?

I strongly recommend exhausting your options before resorting to a narcotic pain reliever. It’s quite clear that these drugs are being overprescribed, and can easily lead you into addiction and other, more illicit drug use. I strongly suspect that the overreliance on them as a first line of defense for pain is a major part of the problem. Remember, no matter what type of painkiller you choose, it will come with potentially serious risks to your health. I believe there are better alternatives. If you are suffering from pain, whether acute or chronic, I recommend working with a knowledgeable health care practitioner to determine what’s really triggering your pain, and then address the underlying cause. Remember, along with exposing you to potentially deadly risks, medications only provide symptomatic relief. They do NOT address the underlying cause of your pain.

13 Non-Drug Solutions for Pain Relief

The following options provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that prescription (and even over-the-counter) painkillers carry. If you are in pain, try these first, before even thinking about prescription painkillers of any kind.

1.Eliminate or radically reduce processed foods, grains, and sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.

2.Start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work; they manipulate prostaglandins.)

3.Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun or safe tanning bed exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.

4.Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds. EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system. It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain.

5.Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.

6.Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.

7.Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.

8.Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.

9.Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti- inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.

10.Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a “joint lubricant” and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.

11.Evening Primrose, Black Currant, and Borage Oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.

12.Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.

13.Methods such as yoga, Foundation Training, acupuncture, meditation, hot and cold packs, and other mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Inflammation From Our Diet Is Killing Us Slowly

This is the summary of an article written by David Seaman and produced on a pod cast via Peak Prosperity - thanks to Rick for sending to me. I believe that inflammation from oxidative stress is what is driving the epidemic of degenerative disease or at least the early onslaught of these debilitating conditions.

Science continues to shed new light on how nutrition has a huge effect on the status of our health. In particular, medicine is zeroing in inflammation as key factor in the aging process - that, over time, diet-caused inflammation wears down our internal systems, resulting in impaired performance (e.g., leaky gut, weight gain) and disease (e.g., Diabetes, heart disease).

This week, Chris speaks with Dr. David Seaman, Professor of Clinical Sciences at the National University of Health Sciences, one of the leading experts on clinical nutrition for pain and inflammation. They discuss inflammation, what causes it, the damage it does to our bodies, and the dietary changes we can make to reduce our exposure to it. This exploration is heavy on the science, but still very accessible to the interested layman:

Inflammation related to diet is a very, very subtle process. So for example, just waking up in the morning, going over to the coffee shop, and having a donut that actually leads to low-grade inflammation after you eat, but you just do not feel it. It is a very distinct process.

The problem with dietary inflammation is it basically builds up on us over time. And then out of the blue, we can be diagnosed with any number of possible diseases and you can think, I wonder what caused this. And it was the last 10 – 30 years, depending upon how aggressive one was in their pursuit of the disease. I call it 'pursuing disease' with dietary inflammation.

Depending upon how aggressive one is, it can appear that the cause/effect relationship is lost because compared to a sprained ankle or a bee sting you do not do a 'drive-by self-shooting', as I call it. It is not like you eat fast food at a restaurant and all of a sudden feel aches and pains everywhere. It takes time to progress. So you have the acute inflammation with an injury that is very obvious. Then you have the more subtle low-grade inflammation that you cannot even feel initially. But they are generally the same. It is just that with an acute scenario, there is actual tissue injury and it is much more robust, more overt versus subtle.

So for the chronic inflammation example, you go and do a 'drive-by self-shooting' or you stop at a coffee shop and have whatever you are going to have: a bagel, a cup of coffee or tea, or you'll even have a donut. But that will cause, after you eat it, a postprandial, (postprandial means "after we eat it"); you will get a surge of blood sugar because you just consumed a refined carbohydrate. That surge of blood sugar is going to get dumped into a muscle. And that will take place as a consequence of insulin being released. That surge of blood sugar it is typically not normal for us to experience, based upon our genetic disposition in terms of food sources. So you will have rapid movement of the blood sugar into immune cells, for example. And when the immune cells get hit with this high blood sugar surge, they generate free radicals. And these free radicals lead to the production by the immune cell by inflammatory chemistry. So there is an immediate, a postprandial, post-eating inflammatory response to hyperglycemia. It is subtle dietary trauma versus overt physical trauma.

Of great value in this interview is the identification of the worst dietary offenders (refined sugars, flours, Omega-6 and trans fats) and the strategies we can use in our eating to keep inflammation at bay. Go to the link and pisten to the podcast, it'll be a good expense of your time.

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