Feb
1

FIGHT THE FLU—ADVICE FROM AN EMERGENCY ROOM NURSE

He didn't take charge soon enough!

Poor Fred. He didn’t take charge soon enough!

The flu season hit North America hard this year, but February is typically the month when flu really gets going in the northern hemisphere. Is there more to come?

Well—because the flu is so unpredictable, healthcare professionals really can’t forecast whether the worst is over or whether incidents of flu will increase even more in February (as they often do). Just in case the worst is yet to come, let’s see if we can help you avoid this serious illness.

As a Retired Registered Nurse, Gloria can tell you it’s really important to realize that the flu is not something to fool around with (especially this year when three strains are going around). Some patients get severely ill, some run dangerous temperatures exceeding 104o F, some are hospitalized—and there have been deaths. Overrun hospitals have actually set up Emergency Room tents in hospital parking lots to treat patients, and eleven hospitals in Chicago alone were put on bypass status (meaning patients had to bypass that hospital because it was unable to take more patients).

Healthcare professionals report that patients with the flu this year tend to be sicker than in recent years, and doctors warn about potential long term consequences from severe flu—consequences such as doubling the risk of Parkinson’s disease in later life (University of British Columbia, 2012) or developing viral pneumonia.

Taking Charge: Do the Basics

So, what to do? Well—healthcare professionals offer this advice:

  • Wash your hands often. It’s crucial to wash your hands often—and especially right after you’ve had contact with someone who’s sick or as soon as you come home from public places such as a school, workplace, doctor’s office, or shopping center. To wash your hands properly, Gloria recommends removing any rings you may be wearing, washing from the wrists to the fingertips, and paying special attention to the area between the fingers and under the fingernails. The flu is caused by a virus, so plain soap is absolutely fine; antibacterial soaps do not provide additional protection against it. Liquid soap is more hygienic than bar soap and more effective than sterilizing liquids (although these liquids certainly help when you don’t have access to soap and water). Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 15 seconds. That’s about the same amount of time as it takes to sing Happy Birthday or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (perhaps silently, to yourself) while washing your hands. Once you’ve finished washing your hands with soap, sing Happy Birthday or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star again while you rinse your hands for another 15 seconds. Use a paper towel to handle faucets and door handles (especially in public places), and dry your hands with a clean towel or disposable towel. Towels physically wipe germs from your hands, so they tend to be more effective for flu control than hot air dryers, but use the best option available.
  • Keep your hands away from your face. Viruses such as the flu virus enter through the nose and mouth. One thing you don’t hear very often, though, is that viruses (as well as bacteria) also enter through your eyes. Keep your hands away from your face in general and your nose, mouth, and eyes in particular. If you have a little itch on your face that needs a little scratch, use a clean handkerchief, facial tissue, or facecloth—not your fingers. When you do have to put your hands near your face (say, when you’re eating or drinking, brushing your teeth, or handling contact lenses), be sure to wash your hands first.
  • Stay hydrated. Tissues in the nose and throat are your immune system’s first line of defence against the flu virus. Staying hydrated helps to keep these tissues moist, so they can protect you. Warm liquids such as hot tea with lemon help to keep throat tissues moist and also can help soothe a sore throat if you do get sick.
  • Get enough sleep. Proper rest helps keep your immune system strong. Jerre has been researching sleep for our next book, and he’s come to think of sleep as a nutrient.
  • Get a flu shot: Most mainstream practitioners recommend getting a flu shot. Flu vaccines have been hotly debated lately, and there are people with strong views on both sides of the “vaccinate or don’t vaccinate” argument. In a blog that goes out to so many different people, let us just say it’s not appropriate for us to comment one way or the other. Deciding whether to get vaccinated or not is a highly personal decision that you should research a little (so you know the issues) and discuss with your healthcare professional.

This is all good advice (as far as it goes), but it may not be enough. After all, this year’s flu vaccine is only about 62% effective (less for children, people over the age of 65, or those with weakened immune systems). That’s a pretty high efficacy rate for a flu shot, but it’s obviously nowhere near 100% protection.

So—what more can you do?

Taking Charge: Look After Your Immune System

Well, heeding the advice above is a good start, but we’ve noticed that every single one of the  medical recommendations we’ve found have ignored proper Nutrition as an important component of maintaining a strong immune system to help protect against the flu. Let’s not forget the healing power of the human body and the nutrition that fuels that power.

Here are some Nutritional suggestions we recommend adding to the advice above:

  • Use food as your medicine. This is advice from Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, and it still holds true today. Focus on fresh, whole, certified organic foods that offer maximum nutrition and minimum toxins. Jettison junk food. It puts a strain on your body—including your immune system. If you do get sick, research shows that your grandmother was right: Chicken soup really can help to soothe a sore throat or reduce other symptoms—but only if it’s real chicken soup and not merely a tablespoon of salty flavoring in a cup. See our November 15th blog Three-Step Shopping—Step 3 and our December 16 blog Soup it Up for the Holidays for easy and excellent homemade chicken broth and chicken soup recipes. If you can get them, chicken feet are especially good for the broth.
  • Supplement wisely. Smart choices of food supplements can help keep your immune system strong, but be skeptical when you buy. Just because a label says a product fights the flu, doesn’t mean it actually works. Our book Eat to Save Your Life details some of the problems with poorly manufactured supplements and also provides Ten Totally Terrific Questions to ask before you buy. Supplements that can strengthen your immune system include a plant-based multi containing vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients; vitamins C and D3; probiotics; and anti-viral herbs such as garlic and Echinacea. All of these are explained more fully in our August 14 and August 21 Blogs Summertime—and the Livin’ is Sneezy, so click on the link and have a look.
  • Limit sugar. Many people don’t realize that in addition to promoting dental cavities, diabetes, liver disease, and chronic inflammation, sugary foods and drinks suppress the immune system. Sugary foods and drinks should be avoided during flu season and strictly eliminated if you or someone around you is sick. Even fruit juices should be diluted 50/50 with water, so their natural sugar content is reduced. Of course, if you’re going to drink fruit juice, we recommend fresh-squeezing your own (it only takes a minute), so you don’t ingest any added sugars or high fructose corn syrup, and so you get all those luscious phytonutrients that are so easily lost through manufacturing, storing, and shipping. And remember: You don’t need to squeeze a dozen oranges. You would only eat one orange, so drink the juice from only one (and make sure to include the nutritious pulp).
  • Read or re-read the previous blogs mentioned above as well as our book Eat to Save Your Life Our book and previous blogs explain all of these nutritional recommendations more fully than we can in this single blog. If you’ve already been reading and applying what we’ve written before, you will be in a better position to ward off the flu.

We hope these combined recommendations will give you a good chance of successfully fighting the flu this year. If you do get sick, though, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Act quickly, if you do get sick: Treat symptoms immediately (the first 48 hours are crucial, especially if you need an antiviral prescription). Also be careful to reduce fever, perhaps with over-the-counter medications. Just be sure to have a chat with your healthcare professional, first.
  • Get help when it’s needed. Get medical help if you experience difficulty breathing, run a high fever, become dehydrated, have trouble urinating, or feel excessively lethargic.
  • Stay home. No one in your school, college, workplace, or local grocer’s wants the flu. If you’re sick, stay home and apply all these tips so you can get back on your feet soon and not spread the virus to others. After all, even if you aren’t that sick, you can spread the disease to others who can become dangerously ill.
  • Continue with proper rest, hydration, and hygiene. It all helps to reduce the viral load on your body and help your immune system do its job.
  • Continue with healthy nutrition—including foods and food supplements. Proper nutrition and informed supplementation will help your body recover faster and may help to reduce the possibility of complications from the flu.

We’ve been tracking the flu on-line, and we notice that the World Health Organization reports that prevalence of flu has dropped considerably in the last couple of weeks, but it’s not completely gone and some places are not so lucky. Major cities in the Province of Alberta, Canada still report widespread flu activity. Of course, healthcare professionals also are waiting to see if a “second wave” hits in the next few weeks.

Here’s to beating the bug,

Gloria and Jerre

Jan
24

Food Fraud, A Serious Threat to Our Health

Image thanks to en.paperblog.com

What do the following foods have in common?:

  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Tea
  • Spices
  • Milk
  • Honey
  • Coffee
  • Syrup
  • Seafood

You might say, with the possible exception of syrup, that they’re all nutritionally good for you, yes? But food fraud scientists from the non-profit U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) discovered that these otherwise healthy foods contain what they call “fake ingredients”; that is, the USP lists all these foods as being highly adulterated.

Let’s have a look at the list again:

  • Olive oil: often diluted with cheaper oils
  • Lemon juice: adulterated with water and sugar
  • Pomegranate juice: modified to include grape or pear juice or additional sugar or diluted with water
  • Tea: modified with lawn grass or fern leaves
  • Spices: adulterated with dangerous food colorings to heighten their appeal
  • Milk, honey, coffee, and syrup: highly adulterated with a variety of products
  • Seafood: the oily, fatty fish escolar (that can cause stomach problems for some people) substituted for white tuna or albacore, especially on sushi menus

You won’t find on the list of ingredients any of the products used to adulterate foods that are otherwise touted as being “natural” or “pure” or “organic.” Why? Because adulterated foods are produced by unscrupulous food suppliers.

For some reason, incidence of food fraud is on the rise. The USP has alerted consumers, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, an agency of the U.S. government) , and manufacturers that food fraud is up by a whopping 60% this year. The USP’s most recent database for food fraud contains a list of hundreds of foods.

The USP isn’t the only food detective organization finding fault. The National Consumers League (America’s oldest consumer organization, dating back to 1899) uncovered four lemon juice products that claimed to have 100% lemon juice, but actually had only 10%, 15%, 25%, and 35% respectively. The remaining 65%–90% was other stuff (cheaper juices, water, sugar, who knows?).

So what do you do to protect yourself, or at least be assured you are getting what you expected and wanted? In a nutshell, become informed, wary, and discriminating:

  • Treat as suspect any product that has a price that is too good to be true. Pomegranate juice, for example, is very expensive to produce because there is so little juice in a pomegranate—you should expect to pay dearly for such a product
  • Treat as suspect any bottle of olive oil that does not have on it the date the oil was harvested (because it’s highly unlikely the adulterants would have been harvested on the same date)
  • “Purchase from suppliers, retailers, brands,” says John Spinks of Michigan State Univesity), “that have a vested interest in keeping you as a repeat customer.” Usually, that means buying brands that are well-known and have been around a long time. Alas, new, struggling companies with good ethics become victims of food fraud themselves, and so the best of the spirit of competitiveness in the market place is also threatened.

Spinks, associate director for the Anti-Counterfeit and Product Protection Program (A-CAPPP) advises that it’s not just a matter of not getting what you thought you were getting—food fraud is much more serious than that:

“There’s absolutely a public health risk…. And the key is the people that are unauthorized to handle this product, they are probably not following good manufacturing practices (GMP) and so there could be contaminates in it.”

More than that, in our opinion: When eating adulterated foods claiming to be healthy, you are not getting the nutrients you need and thought you were getting. While that is a problem for everyone, it is especially significant for those on diets intended to address any number of health issues, from obesity to heart disease and beyond.

Want more information? Go to http://www.usp.org and look for the “Press room” window.  You can download a pdf summary of the USP report.

Bottom line in all this: educate yourself about food and supplements, learn to read labels (and do it), decrease the amount of processed foods you typically eat, and do not buy or eat foods or supplements simply out of habit: CAVEAT EMPTOR (Buyer Beware).

Gloria and I wrote our book Eat to Save Your Life to help you do all this. Have a peek at our website to see what we have done to help us all avoid becoming victims of food fraud. You will find our book for purchase on every page of our site.

And if all this makes you a little angry and our book motivates you to take action, join our Phyte Club (short for Phytonutrient Club) at http://www.facebook.com/groups/5543508963/  and get involved in discussions and action.

We’d love to hear back from you,

Gloria and Jerre

 

 

 

 

 

Jan
20

You Don’t Have a Disease: You Have a Mental Disorder, the Repsonse

MISLABELLED & DISMISSED

Gloria and I posted a blog last week alerting you to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) intention to establish a new criteria for diagnosing an umbrella disease called “Somatic Symptom Disorder” (SSD). If you haven’t yet read that blog, we invite you to do so now so you can follow this alarming story.

This week, we are sharing with you part of Dr. Allen Frances’ report on his attempt to influence the APA:

Medical Illness Will Be Mislabeled Mental Disorder Published on January 16, 2013 by Allen J. Frances, M.D. in DSM5 in Distress

Many of you will have read a previous blog prepared by Suzy Chapman and me that contained alarming information about the new DSM 5 diagnosis ‘Somatic Symptom Disorder.’

SSD is defined so over inclusively by DSM 5 that it will mislabel 1 in 6 people with cancer and heart disease; 1 in 4 with irritable bowel and fibromyalgia and 1 in 14 who are not even medically ill.

I hoped to be able to influence the DSM 5 work group to correct this in two ways:

1. By suggesting improvements in the wording of the SSD criteria set that would reduce mislabeling;

2. By letting them know how much opposition they would face from concerned professionals and an outraged public if DSM 5 failed to slam on the brakes while there was still time.

And many of you tried to help by making clear just how important this issue is in people’s lives. The blog post got many tens of thousands of views, was reposted on 70 additional sites; was widely Tweeted and Facebooked, and elicited more than 300 extremely well informed and often passionate comments—unanimously in strong opposition.

We have failed and DSM 5 has failed us. For reasons that I can’t begin to fathom, DSM 5 has decided to proceed on its mindless and irresponsible course. The sad result will be the mislabeling of potentially millions of people with a fake mental disorder that is unsupported by science and flies in the face of common sense….

 You can find Dr. France’s complete report at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201301/bad-news-dsm-5-refuses-correct-somatic-symptom-disorder.

For some guidance on what you can do to contribute to the necessary fight against the APA’s insistence on labeling thousands of people with mental disorders, thereby reducing their chances of recovery from their actual diseases, read Dr. Toni Bernhard’s article at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold/201301/your-physical-illness-may-now-be-labeled-mental-disorder .

Dr. Bernhard was a UC Davis law professor and dean of students until she suffered a debilitating viral infection from which she has yet to recover.

Gloria and Jerre welcome your comments on www.facebook.com/eattosaveyourlife or by e-mail at gloriaandjerre@eattosaveyourlife.com.

Thank you for following this story,

Gloria and Jerre

Jan
11

You Don’t Have a Disease: You Have a Mental Disorder

We offer the first blog of the new year to alert our readers to a disturbing situation fueled by influential medical groups.

As bizarre as what follows may sound, the danger is real and imminent. The American Psychiatric Association has proposed new criteria for diagnosing an umbrella disease called “Somatic Symptom Disorder” (SSD). A serious problem arises because the criteria are so broad and so vague that people who suffer from a wide variety of diseases (including diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, coronary disease, fibromyalgia, and other illnesses) run the real risk of being misdiagnosed with SSD simply because they frequently complain or express their concerns about their health condition.

In effect, patients with a range of illnesses will be misdiagnosed with a psychiatric disorder if they meet the proposed new criteria—opening the door for inadequate and inappropriate treatment of their illness.

According to Allen Frances MD in the U.S. magazine Psychology Today,

“A person will meet the criteria for SSD by reporting just one bodily symptom that is distressing and/or disruptive to daily life and having just one of the following three reactions to it that persist for at least six months: 1) ‘disproportionate’ thoughts about the seriousness of their symptom(s); or 2) a high level of anxiety about their health; or, 3) devoting excessive time and energy to symptoms or health concerns.” (October 24 2011)

Of course, this means that anyone who is concerned about a diagnosis of, say, cancer could be deemed to have SSD if the patient is seen to be anxious about his or her health or actively researching treatment options.

Accordingly, we invite and implore you to read Ms. Suzy Chapman’s article pasted below as a summary of the situation, then consider following her recommendations to protect yourself and others:

SUMMARY BY MS. SUZY CHAPMAN

One in six people with cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and other serious diseases risks being saddled with a psychiatric diagnosis if the patient is considered to be worrying “excessively” about their ill health or spending more time on the internet researching their symptoms than the American Psychiatric Association thinks good for them.

But many illness groups—particularly the so-called “functional somatic syndromes” —stand to be captured by these new criteria, assigned an additional mental health diagnosis or placed at risk of misdiagnosis.

As reported in Dr Frances’ commentary, in the DSM-5 field trials for [C]SSD, 15% of the “diagnosed illness” study group (cancer and coronary disease) met the criteria for SSD when just “one from the B type criteria” was required.

In the “functional somatic” arm of the field trials (irritable bowel and chronic widespread pain), 26% were coded for SSD.

The texts for DSM-5 are scheduled for completion by the end of this year, for May 2013 publication. The manual texts are still being finalized and the Somatic Symptom Disorder Work Group has been asked to reconsider its criteria and tighten them up before the text for this section is sent to the publishers.

If you share our concerns that these catch-all criteria will see thousands more patients tagged with a mental health label please forward the link for Dr. Frances’ commentary to your colleagues and contacts, and post the link on Twitter and on social media platforms.

And please demonstrate to the APA and the Somatic Symptom Disorder Work Group the level of concern amongst clinicians and allied health professionals, patients, caregivers and advocacy organizations by visiting Dr. Frances’ blog post and leaving a comment.

Thank you,

Suzy Chapman

Dx Revision Watch

 

We also invite you to click on the following three links for a more thorough discussion of what we believe is an alarming and dangerous situation for all of us:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201212/mislabeling-medical-illness-mental-disorder

http://ibsimpact.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/proposed-dsm-5-criteria-may-unfairly-label-physical-conditions-as-psychological-disorders/

http://dxrevisionwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/scdsm5sub7.pdf

Once you understand the situation, we hope you will invite others to read our blog, go to the links above, and follow through on Ms. Chapman’s advice for response before the dangers to your well-being become the reality of medical practice not only in the U.S.A., but in Canada as well. We hope we are not too late

Thank you for reading and for any responses you decide to make,

Gloria and Jerre

Dec
23

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy

Last week, Jerre was interviewed on CTV and City TV breakfast television. One interviewer was interested in helping viewers maintain their waistlines over the Holiday Season; the other was interested in smart eating for students—many of whom are engaged in exams at this time of year.

Jerre’s message was pretty much the same for both: If you head into the Holiday Season or exam time with a good nutritional foundation, you’ll be in a better position to rise above the nutritional, mental, and emotional strains inherent in this time of year. What you do before and after the Holidays or exams is far more important than stop-gap measures implemented half-heartedly in the midst of the moment. 

When it comes to the Holiday Season, we suggest enjoying a few seasonal treats without guilt. In fact, recent research indicates that feeling guilty actually makes treats taste better because of activity in certain areas of the brain—which can lead to eating more of the wrong foods. So, if you’re going to eat a treat, enjoy it without guilt and avoid paving the way for overeating later in the day. 

Of course, we’re not saying you can steadily gorge yourself on sugary treats or unhealthy fats for two weeks and think you won’t do damage to your brain, liver, pancreas, immune system, or waistline (you will.) But here’s an idea: Rather than over-eating large amounts of food over the Holiday Season, choose a few of the most decadent and delicious foods you can find, savour them, and forget the rest. Whether it’s a perfectly roasted turkey with all the trimmings, beef Wellington in flakey pastry, or a specialty coffee served alongside spicy pumpkin pie, let your favorite Holiday food hit every flavour node on your tongue. Focus on ½ your plate as vegetables. Go for quality—not quantity—and enjoy every luscious bite. 

When it comes to students writing exams, maintaining good energy and keeping brain function sharp are important considerations. Although there are things students can do to pump up the adrenaline for the day, it’s the weeks and months leading up to exam day that can really make a difference.  It’s all about building a good nutritional foundation to keep the body’s cells, including brain cells, working as they are supposed to. So, whether you’re heading out to the annual office party or to a Statistics final exam, your nutritional foundation is important. How do you build that all-important foundation? Well—our book Eat to Save Your Life details all the things you can do, but here are a few highlights that Jerre discussed with the media:

1. Eat Breakfast 

Especially, eat protein at breakfast. It will help keep blood sugar levels (and energy levels) from spiking and crashing throughout the day and help avoid mid-afternoon sleepiness. Our book offers a comprehensive discussion of good protein sources.  Here’s some of them: yogurt, a sugarless protein shake, a small breakfast steak, nuts and seeds mixed with whole grains, and eggs in many forms—and, for heaven’s sake, don’t be afraid of eggs. (To find out why, see our recent blogs Confusion, Not Cholesterol, May be Our Enemy, Parts 1 to 3.) 

Do, however, be afraid of high levels of sugars, starch, and salt found in most prepared breakfast foods, and avoid them. Instead, try slow-cooking (not instant) oatmeal as well as whole grains, such as quinoa, that contain higher levels of protein. For even more protein, serve the hot cereal with milk, yogurt, nuts, and/or seeds. 

Yogurt can be an excellent breakfast food and it’s tasty on hot cereal, but choose plain yogurt—not flavoured yogurt with syrupy fruit swimming in the bottom. That’s too much sugar. Instead, cut your own fresh fruit into plain yogurt, or eat a piece of fresh fruit on the side. Unlike most prepared fruits and fruit juices, a piece of whole fruit contains important vitamins, phytonutrients, and fiber—and no liver-damaging, belly-bulging high fructose corn syrup or other extra sugars. 

Just make sure to have some protein with your fruit; don’t opt for a carb-on-carb breakfast of merely cereal and fruit. It won’t sustain you through the day and will leave you susceptible to cravings, energy crashes, and brain fog.

2. Snack 

Between meals, eat a small, healthy snack every couple of hours or so. Focus on lean protein and fresh vegetables—not sugary or starchy treats—and you’ll reduce cravings, maintain steadier blood sugar levels, and improve energy and focus. 

3. Eat Lunch 

Here’s a good guideline for lunch: Include lean protein, lots of leafy greens, and a rainbow of colorful vegetables. Leafy greens are great for supporting the liver (which could be taxed by extra amounts of sugars, high fructose corn syrup, or alcohol over the Holidays). Colourful fruits and vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals and lots of luscious phytonutrients. Phytonutrients protect plans (and humans) against disease.

Over the Holidays, you may notice the bright red of cranberries, the tart flavour of lemons, or the alluring scent of popcorn. All of these colours, flavours, and scents are due to phytonutrients.  Maybe you’ve heard about phytonutrients but really don’t know what they are. Our website and Chapter 12: Phenomenal Phytonutrients in our book tells you more. 

4. Take supplements appropriately 

This sounds easy, but it can be a challenge to find supplements that support your specific needs and unique biochemistry. Party-goers may want to consider immune-strengthening supplements such as garlic, Echinacea, and vitamin C with bioflavonoids. Students may look for brain-supporting supplements such as a good vitamin B complex, as well as essential fatty acids (EFAs). Both groups need vitamin D3 to enhance immune function and brain functions.

Sadly, though, some brands of supplements are contaminated with heavy metals and others are depleted of nutrients before they ever leave the factory. Can you spot them on the store shelf? Do you know what questions to ask to avoid this problem? No? We offer “Ten Terrific Questions” in Chapter 13 of our book that will help you to spend your money wisely at the health food store.

5. Stay properly hydrated 

A study recently published in the Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine points out that even minor dehydration can adversely impact mental performance, so it’s important to always keep water handy and drink ti according to the following formula: 

Yours H2O requirement: (Body weight in kg) x 0.24 = liters of water you should be drinking daily. 

People often get fluids in coffee, juices, and soft drinks, but plain, filtered water is a better choice. If you’re not keen on plain water, squeeze the juice from one quarter of a lemon into an eight ounce glass of water. Surprisingly, the acid of the lemon metabolizes in the body as alkaline—and an alkaline body pH helps to fight cancer and other diseases. 

Of course, there is more to building a good nutritional foundation than a short television interview or these few tips can explain, but these suggestions will give you a good start. Even if you haven’t done much to look after your nutritional status in the preceding months, getting started now can still help reduce holiday havoc or exam exhaustion. Give it a try.

Here’s to holiday fun and/or great exam results,

Gloria and Jerre

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