Monday, November 23, 2015
Thanksgiving is the one day of the year that we set aside for the purpose of giving thanks. It's a good start, but what if we showed our gratitude throughout the year? We could have better marriages, stronger faith,and even better health.
For thousands of years, scripture has been very clear: give thanks. Now health experts are saying the same thing. Dr. David J. Jennings, Jr., Assistant Director of the Psychological Services Center and Assistant Professor at Regent University, says scientific research definitively links a persistent sense of gratitude with good physical health.
"Studies have shown that people with a more grateful disposition actually engage in more exercise. They eat better, they take care of themselves better by getting regular physical examinations," he said. "It's also been shown to be helpful to people who are actually having some kind of physical ailment, actually reduce negative health symptoms and increase sleep."
Grateful people also handle adversity better, experience less PTSD, clinical depression and anxiety.
"Gratitude has been shown to actually help to cope with stress and negative life events, which of course, stress can be a major contributor to physical problems," Dr. Jennings explained. "Stress certainly tends to depress our immune system, makes us more vulnerable to disease, sickness."
As a bonus, Dr. Jennings says showing gratitude towards your spouse strengthens your marriage.
"Research is showing more and more that the quality of our relationships has a tremendous impact on the quality of our health," he explained, "And gratitutde has actually been shown to help improve the quality of one's relationship."
Unfortunately, gratitude does not come naturally to most people. Instead most of us have the tendency to focus on what's wrong with our lives, rather than what's right with them. That's why Revive Our Hearts ministry emphasizes the importance of learning how to develop a grateful attitude and how to practice it until it becomes a habit.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss leads the ministry, which includes the daily, nationally-broadcast radio program, "Revive Our Hearts." She says gratitude starts by confessing to God, "You don't owe me anything good."
"'All I deserved was hell and you've given me so much more. You've given me heaven and eternal life and Christ Jesus and your Holy Spirit,'" she prays, "'Oh Lord, if you never gave me anything else good in this life than having saved me eternally from sin, I am one blessed woman and I will spend eternity giving you thanks.'"
DeMoss says developing a spirit of gratitude is like building a muscle. It takes work.
"Gratitude is, it's supposed to be a lifestyle. It's a habit," she explains, "And unfortunately it gets eclipsed by bad habits: the whining, the complaining, the murmuring, the pointing out things that we wish were different. But we can change that, as we lift our eyes upward off of our circumstances and say 'Lord You are amazing. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.'"
In her book, Choosing Gratitude, DeMoss recommends making giving thanks a priority for an entire month. She says a great way to do that is by keeping a daily journal, listing things for which your are grateful, both big and small.
"And I found that that discipline helped me to be conscious of, mindful of, things that othewise I might have forgotten, I might not have noticed," she said, "And I think that's why Psalm 103 says 'Forget not all his benefits.'"
While you have your pen out, DeMoss also recommends writing thank-you letters to people who have blessed you.
"It can be emails, it can be texts, I do it that way, too, but I try to write some old-fashioned, long-hand thank-you notes to say 'I'm so grateful that you thought of me, for your kindness, for what you invested in me.' And you'll find if you write that kind of note you'll probably shock some people because it's so rare today."
In addition to writing words of gratitude to God and to others, DeMoss emphasizes voicing gratitude, speaking or singing them, in prayers, songs of praise words to others.
"We're much better at saying what we wish we had, what we have that we wish we didn't have, rather than saying thank you to God and to others for what we do have," she said.
So for better health, make a conscious effort to give thanks...a lot of it...every day. It's not easy, but well worth the effort.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Recess was once a staple of the American school day, particularly for elementary students. Sadly, this important component of the day no longer exists for millions of children, and they are paying a price as a result.
According to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, less than 11 percent of school districts nationwide require at least 20 minutes or more of recess time for elementary school students every day.
This abolition of recess over the last generation is harmful to our children. Parents should demand their school districts enact mandatory daily recess lasting at least 20 minutes. Many parents are probably unaware that their child doesn’t get this and wrongly assume their schools include it as part of a child’s daily routine.
Unfortunately, recess has been squeezed-out of a school-child’s life because the practice is usually at the teacher’s discretion, and many teachers would rather use the time preparing their students for mandatory tests or other academic pursuits. Some teachers site safety concerns such as bullying on the playground as a reason not to let their students have recess. Others use recess as a bargaining chip to control the behavior of their students.
Nevertheless, recess offers a number of physical, social, emotional, and intellectual benefits.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed several studies centering on the behavior of children who regularly participate in recess as opposed to those who do not. As a result they released a statement urging schools to incorporate recess as a mandatory part of daily school life, and should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons, citing it as a necessary break from the rigors of structured learning.
The AAP contends children perform better academically if they have regular breaks that allow them enough time to mentally decompress. Therefore, a key component to recess is allowing a child to choose which activity in which to participate, as opposed to being told what to do.
The freedom of unstructured play, without instruction, allows a child to experience the creative and emotional benefits of recess. Several studies indicate recess made children more attentive in the classroom. This was true even among children who did not move much during recess, but rather stood or sat and simply talked with friends.
Speaking of social interaction, the AAP states that children learn valuable lifelong communication skills from recess that they would not get elsewhere, such as in the classroom, because the type of interaction is different, in that social situations during recess are self-directed. Recess promotes the growth of skills such as, “negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control. “
It should be noted, however, that the AAP states children must be safe on the playground and feel safe in order to de-stress. Recess needs to be properly supervised, to include banning activities that are unsafe. Environmental and equipment standards should be maintained.
Much has been said about the increase of overweight and childhood obesity. The AAP recommends every child should get at least one hour of physical activity each day. Recess can contribute to that. Although not all children exercise vigorously at recess, most at least move around at little, which helps.
Furthermore, simply being given the opportunity to vigorously exercise is important to children. Often the ones who really need it will take advantage of the opportunity.
Recess should not be confused with Physical Education class. While P.E. is also a vital portion of a child’s daily activity and is unfortunately dwindling like recess, the two activities are not mutually exclusive. Physical Education classes are instructional and led by an authority figure, which is vastly different than the ideal recess experience.
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Felicia D. Stoler is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and expert consultant in nutrition and healthful living. She is the former host of TLC's reality show, "Honey We're Killing the Kids."
She discusses today's trending cooking oils for flavor and health benefits. Watch below.
Friday, October 30, 2015
If you take medicine, you should know there are some foods and drinks you may need to avoid. Unfortunately, your doctor may not tell you about them.
The good news is neuroscientist Madelyn Fernstrom wrote a guide that outlines what we need to know about drug interactions, whether it's prescription medication or over-the-counter remedies.
It's called, Don't Eat This If You're Taking That.
Watch my conversation with her in which she outlined which foods and drinks we need to steer clear of while taking some of the most common drugs, such as blood-thinners, cholesterol-lowering statins and antidepressants:
Monday, October 26, 2015
Now that the colder weather is upon us, so is the cold and flu season. As it turns out, the cold weather isn’t what causes us to become ill, it is instead the lowered immune response that comes with this time of year.
In other words, there are an equal number of viruses lurking around in the summer as in the winter. The difference is, is in the summer our body’s immune system is stronger, and therefore fights-off the viruses, whereas in the winter, our body’s immune system is weaker and we succumb to the viruses.
The good news is we can change that!
VITAMIN D. One of the main immune boosters is Vitamin D, which comes from the sun. Obviously, most of us get more sun exposure in the summer than in the winter. Therefore, with the lack of Vitamin D in the winter, our immune systems are compromised. To remedy this, simply take a Vitamin D supplement and/or spend some time each day in front of a “Happy Light,” such as the one made by Verilux, which is used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as “SAD,” a type of depression that is caused by lack of sunlight.
STRESS. Another thing that causes our immune system to weaken, and increases the likelihood of catching a cold or the flu is stress. Most of us experience greater stress in the winter months as the holidays can be emotionally challenging, as can the isolation and depression that can carry into January and beyond. Reducing stress is one of the best things we can do for our overall health, yet one of the most difficult. Exercise, sleep and prayer are some of the best ways to reduce stress.
SUGAR. Believe it or not, eating sugar weakens our immune system. Starting with Halloween, most of us tend to eat more sugar in the winter months than in summer. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day are all major sugar events. Cutting back on sugar intake is a way to help prevent colds and the flu.
SLEEP. Getting adequate sleep is a key factor in maintaining a strong immune system. During the winter months and holidays, many of us find that we are overloaded with responsibilities from family, work and school that keep us from getting enough rest. This severely reduces our body’s ability to fight attacking viruses.
Proper diet can greatly increase our body’s immune system.
COCONUT OIL. Coconut oil kills viruses. This amazing fact is often overshadowed by the brain-boosting components of coconut oil. But the lauric acid in coconut oil has been proven to destroy viruses such as herpes and even HIV. It also kills many of the “bad” bacteria assaulting our body. Cooking with coconut oil as well as taking a tablespoon or two a day is a great immune-boosting routine.
CLEAN HANDS. Doctors say keeping the hands clean is the number one way to prevent illness. When we wash our hands, we should lather for twenty seconds, or about time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Hand washing is best, but if soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is a suitable substitution. Make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol, the more alcohol the better. Rub your hands until the hand sanitizer is dry. Make sure to clean your hands before eating, of course, but also try to keep your dirty fingers out of your mouth, nose, eyes…and other entrances or “openings” such as open cuts, etc. This takes discipline, especially for those of us with contacts and allergies who are constantly rubbing our eyes.
VITAMIN C. Vitamin C is a must for preventing colds and flu. Research shows that it works. Vitamin C supplementation is a great idea, as is eating vegetables high in Vitamin C such as red bell peppers, broccoli, butternut squash and brussel sprouts. Most of us know citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C, but are also high in sugar, albeit natural, so lower-sugar produce is better.
PROBIOTIC. Take a good probiotic. Probiotics increase the number of “good bacteria” in the gut. Scientists have discovered that about 80 percent of our immune function originates in the gut (intestines) and therefore a healthy gut is paramount to good health. You can also eat probiotic foods, such as fermented foods. The best is the Korean classic, Kim-Chee, which you can make yourself or purchase at the store. Just make sure it’s refrigerated, as the canned variety is pasteurized and the good bacteria have been killed. Other fermented foods include pickles, again, the refrigerated kind, Kefir and yogurt (sugar-free!) with live cultures and refrigerated sauerkraut.
ZINC. Zinc is another immune booster. Many of us are familiar with the product, “Zicam,” which is really great at mitigating the symptoms of a cold. It works so well because the active ingredient is Zinc.
BONE BROTH. Speaking of what to do when you get a cold or flu, consider the time-honored classic, homemade chicken soup. No canned soup! Prepare it with bones. In other words, boil a whole chicken or cut-up chicken with bones, for an extended period of time. The resulting nourishing broth is anti-inflammatory, among other things.
WATER. Drink plenty of water. No sugary drinks! Water flushes-out the toxins and impurities in the body. Sweating is also a great way to expel toxins from the body, as well as relieve stress, as mentioned above.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE. One of the most interesting ways to relieve the symptoms of a cold and shorten its duration is by pouring a small amount of hydrogen peroxide in each ear! It sounds crazy, but it really works. Hydrogen peroxide is very cheap and can be purchased at any grocery store or pharmacy. Just fill the cap from the bottle and pour it in one ear, keeping your head tilted down for a minute or two, then repeat the process on the other ear.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Every year 40,000 Americans die of breast cancer, while 200,000 are diagnosed with it. Like all cancers, early detection is crucial to survival. One of the greatest tools used to detect breast cancer is the mammogram.
Twelve years ago, the American Cancer Society issued a series of guidelines for when women should get mammograms and how often. But in a startling move released Tuesday, doctors have pulled back on their recommended guidelines that were widely followed since 2003.
According to the Society’s Chief Cancer Control Officer, Dr. Richard C. Wender, the group “did the very difficult job of balancing the benefits and harms and that’s what led to the change in the guidelines that we’re publishing now.”
In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the new guidelines recommend women start getting the breast cancer screening later in life than previously recommended.
The new guidelines recommend women with average risk begin getting mammograms at age 45. That’s five years later than they previously recommended.
Based on the analysis of research, the American Cancer Society concluded that the risk of having mammograms between the ages of 40 and 44 outweighed the benefits.
This is because of the high number of false positives reported in mammograms of younger women due to denser breast tissue. False positives can lead to emotional distress and needless biopsies.
Furthermore, the American Cancer Society concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to show mammograms saved lives of younger women.
After starting mammograms at age 45, the American Cancer Society recommends women get one every year for the following 10 years.
Then at age 55, the organization recommends cutting back to only one mammogram every other year instead of every year. At that point, they recommend continuing them every other year as long as a woman is in good health. They do not recommend getting a mammogram if she is not expected to live fewer than 10 more years.
Even though most breast cancers occur in women over age 55, the cancers grow more slowly than cancers in younger women and are easier to detect in less dense breast tissue.
Lastly, the American Cancer Society no longer recommends breast exams as part of the screening recommendations because “research does not show they provide a clear benefit.”
That includes breast exams performed by a doctor as well as breast self-exams, which according to the Society, do not help reduce deaths from breast cancer.
Instead, the organization says “all women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to their health care provider right away.”
The new guidelines are for women at normal risk. The Society recommends women at high risk discuss with their doctor when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them. Women at higher risk for breast cancer include those with an immediate family member such as a sister or mother who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, or who has tested positively for the BRCA gene.
The American Cancer Society says their new guidelines will not likely have any impact on insurance coverage this year. However, when it comes to covering mammograms in future years, they admit that insurers may decide to change their coverage based on the American Cancer Society’s new guidelines.
They further advise prior to scheduling a mammogram that patients check with their insurers to make sure it’s covered.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
The doctors who treat children across the United States have long recommended specific guidelines for the amount of time kids should spend in front of screens, such as television screens, computer screens or smart phones.
The guidelines are based on a child's age. Now it appears pediatricians are changing their minds and recommending that kids be allowed more screen time than the pediatricians previously outlined.
The new guidelines aren't released yet, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has been discussing the issue and appear to have come to the conclusion that today's modern parents will find it difficult, if not impossible, to adhere to the current guidelines.
The current recommendation by the AAP states that, "Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens."
Furthermore, the current screen time recommendations for older children advise that, "Parents establish 'screen-free' zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children's bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play."
The current recommendation that children under 2 not be exposed to any screens at all is unrealistic. Nearly half of children under the age of 2 have used a mobile device, according to a study conducted two years ago. Among teenagers, three-quarters of all teens have their own smart phone, while one-fourth admit to using their phones "almost constantly," according to a Pew research poll.
While the AAP will most likely take another year before releasing their new recommendations, they gathered recently for a two-day symposium to discuss the latest research surrounding the subject of growing up digital. Several messages for parents emerged from that meeting.
1. Media can be positive or negative.
2. Engage in media with your child. Co-viewing with infants and toddlers is a must and highly recommended for older children.
3. Set media limits. At the very least, no media at bedtime and during family dinners. Charge your child's phone outside their bedroom overnight.
4. Be a good role model, limiting your own media time.
5. The more interactive the media, the better for your child, but in-person, face-to-face, non-media interaction is best.
6. Don't believe the labels on apps that claim to be "educational," as many are not. Check with organizations that review media designed for children for their picks. One such organization is Common Sense Media.
One of the authors of the current guidelines, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, advocates changing them to recommend 30 minutes to an hour of screen time for children from infancy through age 2. Dr. Christakis reportedly believes that interactive media, such as iPad are no worse than other toys, although studies have yet to be conducted.
His research concludes passive screen time is indeed worse. The children who play with old-fashioned blocks showed greater brain engagement than the children who watched an educational DVD. Their brain engagement was measured by cortisol levels.
Monday, October 05, 2015
If you need surgery, you first want the right surgeon. You also want convenience: a comprehensive service package, a clear price, and confidence that there won’t be surprises.
Well, you can get all online. You can get it online because a growing number of American and foreign surgeons are coming together as Surgeo, a website that opens simple access to the surgeons that they would use if they needed surgery.
Here is how it works.
In surgery, quality comes from the surgeon. So the first thing these surgeons did was ask themselves a simple question: which surgeons deliver the kind of quality that would cause them to send their loved ones. Surgeons have a real advantage in answering this question because they train together, cover each others’ patients on weekends, and scrub together on cases.
Surgeons know surgeons better than anyone else. So under Surgeo, you get the benefit of their collective wisdom because they only bring in the surgeons they would personally use.
Convenience comes from administrative clarity and support. So the next thing these surgeons did was design flat-fee, transparently priced packages that include all the things they think you would need.
So for example, they packaged physical therapy in with knee replacement surgery, so you don’t have to worry about that. Then they packaged in those pesky ancillary procedures. So if you need gastric sleeve surgery for weight loss and your surgeon finds you need a hernia fixed, it’s included: with no extra bill to worry about.
They also built in things you never find, such as simple healthcare financing. When did you last hear of that? So if you need a knee replacement and money is tight, Surgeo can help you arrange better terms through a loan. And in some cases, such as reconstructive penile implant surgery after trauma or robotic prostatectomy for prostate cancer, they even wrap in complications protection, to give you peace of mind.
Healthcare delivery is going through monumental reforms. The government and other third parties are ever complicating what once was a pretty simple physician-patient relationship. This has made it hard to find good surgeons, get clear prices, and simply access good care.
Surgeo is the reverse. Surgeo is a surgeon-driven effort to once again simplify access to quality care and revive what has always been the purpose of healthcare: to help you get well.
If you need surgery, you need a qualified surgeon and you need convenience. Surgeo helps you them.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Many health experts, as well as lay people, believe doctors overprescribe antidepressants. In just the last 20 years, the number of people taking antidepressants has exploded. One out of every 10 Americans takes one, and that number jumps to one of out every four middle-aged women.
Recently I interviewed Dr. Sara Gottfried, a California gynecologist and author of the fabulous Hormone Reset Diet. She told me she discovered her successful weight loss program after a frustrating experience with her own doctor, who, when told she was moody, lacking energy and clearly overweight, prescribed an antidepressant.
Gottfried was skeptical that an antidepressant was the answer to her problem. She was right. She suspected it was hormonal in nature, and tested her hormones (something her GP failed to do), which were wildly out of whack. After balancing her hormones, she lost the weight and regained her joy…all without any pills.
One of my friends complained to her doctor about experiencing brain fog and lethargy. He prescribed an antidepressant. Like Dr. Gottfried, my friend was skeptical and felt an antidepressant was not the answer.
She was right. She got second and third opinions until one physician hit upon the correct diagnosis: Lyme Disease. She was treated with an antibiotic, not an antidepressant, and her symptoms dissipated.
A woman in my aerobics class mentioned she ditched her antidepressants when she started doing strenuous cardiovascular exercise combined with weight lifting. She said the doctor who prescribed her antidepressants never even told her there was a natural alternative to the medication.
Now a brain researcher has written a fascinating book about other natural ways to mitigate feelings of depression. It’s called The Upward Spiral, by Dr. Alex Korb.
Korb uses his knowledge of the way the brain works to teach people how to rewire their brain's circuitry, focusing on two primary areas: the prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part, and the limbic system, the feeling part.
He bases his theories on scientific studies which have proven to increase happiness.
One of the most interesting tips in his book, is, when you are feeling depressed, ask yourself, "What am I grateful for?
As it turns out, gratitude stimulates the production of dopamine. This is what the antidepressant Wellbutrin is said to do. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that deals with the brain's reward and pleasure centers and regulates emotions.
Additionally, gratitude boosts levels of serotonin, which is the claim of the popular antidepressant Prozac. Like dopamine, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is considered a contributor to feelings of happiness. Gratitude is enormously valuable in boosting well-being.
If it seems difficult focusing on the things and people for which you are grateful, take heart. Dr. Korb says the more we practice gratitude, the easier it becomes, kind of like building a "gratitude muscle."
Nancy Lee DeMoss penned the highly successful Choosing Gratitude, which is a comprehensive tutorial about how to increase gratitude. I interviewed her last year for a piece that aired on The 700 Club on Thanksgiving. It changed my life. Gratitude not only improves our mood, but also our relationships and overall health.
Another tip Dr. Korb recommends to stymie the blues, is to label negative feelings. The simple act of identifying the emotion you are feeling helps alleviate it. We need to recognize and name our feelings, not bury them. All you need to do is describe the emotion you are feeling in just one or two words.
Here's another great tip: touch. Human contact makes us happy. It can be something as slight as a handshake or a hug. If you don't have a lot of physical contact in your life, getting massages on a regular basis will do the trick.
Finally, we become happier when we make decisions. It gives us a feeling of completion, closure and accomplishment. Try not to fret about making the perfect decision, sometimes that’s not realistic. Instead, try focusing on making a decision that’s "good enough," and move on.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Yet another research team has come out with a report against the use of antibacterial soaps. The South Korean scientists discovered that antibacterial soaps only kill more bacteria than regular soaps do, if the antibacterial soaps are exposed to the bacteria for hours.
When the antibacterial soaps and the regular soaps were both used for 30 seconds, both killed the same amount of bacteria.
The active ingredient in antibacterial soaps is a product called triclosan. Current law forbids soap manufacturers from using more than 0.3% of it in antibacterial soaps. The South Korean researchers found that such a weak percentage of triclosan means it does not kill more bacteria than regular soap and water. They discovered the percentage of triclosan needs to be much greater than 0.3% to kill substantially more bacteria than regular soap.
However, don’t let that 0.3% of triclosan make you think it’s safe. As it turns out, it could be harmful in a number of ways, according to years of research that has even gotten the attention of the Food and Drug Administration.
In fact, the FDA is considering banning triclosan unless soap manufacturers can prove that it's safe.
The FDA is concerned reports that triclosan causes hormonal disruption. Equally concerning is the theory that triclosan contributes to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This is because when we use antibacterial soaps, the residue goes down the drain and ultimately into our water supply. So we end up drinking the stuff and the triclosan-tainted water is used to grow the foods we eat.
Remember, we only want to kill some bacteria. Much of the bacteria in our bodies, especially in our gut, are good, and we need it to maintain a healthy immune system. If we do away with all the bacteria in our gut we can suffer all kinds of bowel trouble and more.
So as cold and flu season approaches, remember the best way to prevent against getting sick is to wash your hands often. But just use regular soap and water. Ideally, use warm water and lather for at least 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.