BIG News!!

I have some wonderful good news that I still can't hardly believe! Instead of just blurting out the news, I want to share some background information for anyone else who may be in a similar situation. img_4316

First some context...

I have had serious disruptive and painful GI issues for as long as I can remember, at least since age 5. That means I have been dealing with it all for 30 years now! My symptoms have progressed and gotten worse over the last 10 years. I had a CT scan and some blood work done two weeks ago. All the results came back completely normal. Basically the tests showed that all of my abdominal organs are perfectly normal and there are no markers of inflammation in my blood, even though I was still having a terrible "flare-up" at the time. This is all good news that I don't have an inflammatory bowel disease or any kind of obstruction. But that Friday night when I got the news of my results, I could not see it for the good news that it was because I had hit my breaking point of dealing with the pain for so long. I was a mess that Friday and felt so discouraged that I would continue to have this pain and there be no way to control it.

After I had my little meltdown that night, I was finally able to see the good and think more clearly. Since I did not have any obstructions or inflammatory bowel disease then I had to accept that all my symptoms must truly be from my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I realized that perhaps I AM more stressed than I realize. After all, I am a Type A personality, a recovering perfectionist, and high energy. Not exactly the recipe for calmness and low stress! :D

A moment of clarity

I pushed and pushed the doctors for answers to my problems because I was afraid that without a proper diagnosis they would think it was all in my head when that could not be further from the truth! But in light of these latest test results, I realized that I have to accept that my symptoms are truly from IBS. That was when it hit me. Although my symptoms are not IN my head, perhaps there are cause BY my head! Ding-ding-ding!!!! I have functioned at such a high-level of stress during numerous times in my life that I have missed the cues when I am moderately stressed. And stress plays a HUGH role in IBS symptoms.

All this got me to thinking that if stress is truly the cause of my increasing symptoms then maybe that is the only cause. About 3 and a half years ago during one of my many visits to my doctor, looking for answers and at the point of exasperation, the question of celiac disease and gluten intolerance came up. I was tested for celiac disease and that came back negative, but at that same time I went on a gluten free diet and began to feel remarkably better! Because of the drastic relief of symptoms that eating gluten free did for me, my doctor said that I probably did have celiac disease even though I had a negative test result, which does happen in a large number of cases he said. Either way, he said it was clear that I should not eat gluten. Since then I have changed family doctors and my current doctor has my diagnosis listed as gluten intolerance. He wasn't as quick about throwing around the celiac diagnosis without the positive test results.

The experiment!

Now back to two weeks ago. In light of my new acceptance that all my problems are probably related to IBS and stress, I began to question if I was truly gluten intolerant too. So two days later I began a gluten experiment on myself. Prior to this I classified myself as being highly sensitive to gluten because my symptoms were so pronounced. All my symptoms, which had improved after eliminating gluten completely in July 2012, were back again even though I was 100% GF. And the symptoms were just as bad as before I went gluten free.

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So that Sunday morning I ate a small graham cracker and nothing else for 3 hours while I monitored for symptoms and waited. Nothing. No spike in symptoms. By Sunday afternoon I was feeling more brave and ate an entire (amazing!) slice of regular pizza and half of a turkey sub. Oh, yeah! I was going all in at this point of my gluten experiment. :D My local pizza shop is authentic Italian cuisine and they know how to make their rolls! Yum!! I ate all that Sunday evening and was completely fine!! I have challenged myself more since then and I am still fine!!

I cannot hardly believe it but it seems that I'm not gluten intolerant!! This is such good news and life-altering news that I am still having trouble wrapping my head around it. Also, I am a little afraid that I will suddenly get really sick and find out that I can't eat gluten after all. It just seems too good to be true. But it is true and for now I am fine, so I will be happy with the here and now and try to not worry about the future.

But why did it help before?

I believe my symptoms were relieved when I went gluten free in 2012 because at that time my stress was really bad and my symptoms were getting worse. By taking action to try to control my symptoms by going GF, I had control over my life again and was no longer powerless. The sense of control reduced my stress and made my symptoms decrease. That would also explain why my symptoms have gradually come back to the point where they were prior to going gluten free. I've been under a tremendous amount of stress with nursing school, then beginning my career as a nurse, working odd shifts and night shift, and having my children begin school. I think it all just built up again to be too much and that is why I have been so sick again.

Does that make any sense? As my life felt like it was spiraling more and more out of my control, my symptoms increased. Then once I was forced to look at the test results with an open mind, I realized how stressed I am most of the time and had to accept that my symptoms are my body's way of reacting to the stress. I don't think I was ever gluten intolerant. I was just desperate for answers and to solve my symptoms and feel better. And that was why I felt better when I went GF. It wasn't because of the gluten, it was because I felt powerless with my symptoms and pain and I wanted a way to fix it. I am not saying that this is the answer for everyone with gluten intolerance or IBS. I am simply relating my experience and my realization of the amount of stress I was under and what that stress was doing to my body. Maybe your thing is not gluten or IBS, but we all would do well to take stock every now and then and evaluate the stress on us and its affect on our lives.

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So where do I go from here?

The big thing is I need to do is to work harder on realizing when I am feeling stress, doing things to relieve the stress, and putting structure in place to prevent some of the stress in the first place. For me, the answer lies in consistent yoga practice, practicing mindfulness, living with intention, and creating structure in my life. Also I should really add that I need to cultivate respect from myself for the boundaries and organization I create. Too many times in the past I have organized my time to get the important things done when I have a lot going on then I completely ignore that schedule and run around taking on way too many things and not accomplishing half of what I truly wanted to accomplish. I know I can't be the only person who does this. Why do we do this? Why does the adult side of me recognize the need for a schedule then as soon as the schedule is created, the kid in me tears it up and runs around screaming? :D The key is to practice mindfulness in all areas of my life and to allow what I have learned through my yoga practice to spread even further through my life.

I am excited for the future and all the wonderful possibilities of 2016! There are some exciting things in the works for next year that I will share with you when the time is right. For now, I can't wait to get back into the kitchen and create even more recipes redesigned to be healthier!

 

Building a Yoga Foundation-Day 5

I wasn't sure how today was going to turn out. It ended up being a weird sort of day. I had an appointment scheduled for the afternoon to see a specialist about my joint issues. I was feeling a little unsettled about things so I chose to wear my superhero shirt. Couldn't hurt to feel like a superhero, right? Like my bff and I remind each other when feeling nervous about something, "Fake it till you make it". So I put on my superhero shirt and rolled out my mat.

Rise Day 5

So many members of the FWFG community have expressed their love for this practice and I completely agree. It was such a lovely practice. Very gentle and soothing. The shoulder shrugs felt especially nice this morning.

I thought this side body stretch was a nice variation with the leg stretched out.

It was interesting to notice that when I folded to the right side in this pose I was only partway to reaching my knee, but when I went to the left I could touch my nose to my knee. Have you noticed any differences in one side of your body compared to the other? Remember to notice without judgment. Yoga is a journey and it is all about the journey and the discoveries along the way.

Before practicing with Yoga with Adriene, I alway focused on trying to force my heels down into position in Downward Facing Dog. Now I relish in pedaling it out. Such a delicious feeling.

I loved this side body stretch that included hugging yourself. Can you tell? haha :D Seriously though, the biggest discovery for me with recording myself is seeing how happy and peaceful yoga makes me. It's nice to see that the outside reflects the inside with my yoga practice.

Foundations of Yoga Day 5

The foundation videos for today were "Cat-Cow" or Marjariasana-Bitilisana and "Victorious Breath" or Ujjayi Breath. Don't skip this this 8:49 minute video on Cat-Cow; there is so much more to the pose that just the "n" and "u" shapes. Once again, it is about how you get there.

Ah, Ujjayi Breath , chances are you have heard of this breath before. This is a nice tutorial for how to do this powerful breath. So worthwhile to learn how to breath properly in yoga so that we can marry our movement and breath together and take our practice to the next level.

My mantra for today was "Serenity". It popped right into my head. I liked it because it reminded me to remain calm and at peace in spite of the uncertainty of the upcoming doctor's appointment. I also liked it because it made me think of the "Seinfeld" episode where George's dad starts a new habit of saying "Serenity, serenity now!" when feeling frustrated. :D  haha

Little did I know in the morning when I was laughing to myself thinking about the episode that I would find myself in a similar frustrating situation after dealing with the doctor. The quest for answers in life, particularly with health questions, is rarely without frustration it would seem.

Serenity, serenity now!

Presented for my own amusement as well as for yours, I present Frank Constanza...

[embed]https://youtu.be/uC1Ri_0MlEs[/embed]

Sometimes you just have to laugh and be your own superhero.

Time for a Change

My life has gone through a few changes since the last time I posted here; my daughter is finishing up her first year at school this week (ahh!! :) ) while I am neck-deep in another semester of nursing school. The biggest change is a less obvious change that few people know about. I have had a complex relationship with food for a very long time. After becoming too heavy of a burden to carry and after realizing that I cannot be a good example for my children or my patients, I decided to seek help. I have been getting help and guidance from a knowledgable therapist for the last couple of months. The last couple of months have not been easy; in fact, they have been some of the hardest months of my life. But I am learning a lot about myself and the process of recovery. This change in my personal life has led my to reevaluate Recipes Redesigned. In the recipes to come, you will no longer find the calories, fat and other nutritional information listed. I am trying to let go of the calorie counting that consumed my past and focus on intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is a process of learning to get back in touch and listen to your body's hunger and fullness signals. Our bodies know how much fuel we need for each day to function at our best. Mindful eating is listening to our body's signals and following them. It is not eating for emotional reasons, like out of boredom or when we feel sad; and it is not eating by counting calories. It is giving back the control of eating to our bodies. While our bodies are responsible for the hunger and fullness signals, we are responsible for how we respond to those signals. I am shifting my own focus away from the calories and fat and focusing instead of choosing a variety of foods with high nutritional value. Instead of how many calories I have had today, I am trying to retrain myself to think "how many fruits and vegetables have I had today? how many whole grains? how much calcium have I eaten today?" It is a major shift in thinking and it will take some time to adjust my thinking and get used to letting go of that control and learning to trust my body again. But I believe that this is the way to a healthy life, both physically and mentally. Because of this, there will no longer be nutritional numbers for the recipes. Instead I will be focusing on increasing the nutritional value of the recipes that I make and share with you.

Thank you to all of you for your support of this website. I hope that you continue to enjoy the recipes and find recipes that you and your family can enjoy.

Wishing you all health and happiness!

Sarah

Preventing Long Term Weight Gain

Did you see the Harvard study on long term weight gain? It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 23, 2011. It was a remarkable study and is worth taking some time to look at. The study spanned 20 years and looked at more than 120,000 U.S. men and women. It was made up of three studies: the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and the Nurses' Health Study II (NHS II), which followed women; and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), which followed men. The study looked at the participants every 4 years for 20 years. The participants in the study were all healthy and not obese at the start of the study. It is a well established fact that, on average, most adults gain 1 pound a year as they age. But because it is such a gradual weight gain, it is difficult to point at a cause for that gain. This 20 year study was able to pinpoint some foods and activities that contributed to long term weigh gain. The study found that every 4 years, the study participants gained an average of 3.35 pounds. And at the end of the study, most had gained an average of 16.8 pounds in 20 years.

Food:

The numbers are for per serving, per day over 4 years.

Increases weight:

  • Potato chips- ↑ 1.69 lb
  • Potatoes- ↑ 1.28 lb
  • Sugar-sweetened drinks- ↑ 1.00 lb
  • Unprocessed red meat- ↑ 0.95 lb
  • Processed meat- ↑ 0.93 lb
  • Sweets and desserts- ↑ 0.41 lb
  • Refined grains- ↑ 0.39 lb

Decreases weight:

  • Vegetables- ↓ weight by 0.22 lb
  • Whole grains- ↓ weight by 0.37 lb
  • Fruits- ↓ weight by 0.49 lb
  • Nuts- ↓ weight by 0.57 lb
  • Yogurt- ↓ weight by 0.82 lb

Lifestyle

Increases weight:

  • Alcohol: ↑ 0.41 lb per drink, per day
  • TV watching: ↑ 0.31 lb per hour watching, per day
  • Smoking: former smokers over the long range ↑ 0.14 lb, new quitters over the short term ↑ 5.17 lb
  • Sleeping less than 6 hours and more than 8 hours: ↑  more weight increase

Decreases weight:

  • Physical activity: ↓ 1.76 lb

The important things to remember about this study:

  1. Little changes add up over time. You may not see the weight gain, day to day, but if you are making bad food choices and lifestyle choices, the weight gain will add up. On the flip side, you may not be seeing it on the scales by marked weight loss, but if you are making healthy food choices, getting between 6-8 hours of sleep a night and being active, you will slow the gradual weight gain that occurs over time. Make smart choices today and in 20 years you will be thankful that you did.
  2. Quality over quantity. All food is not created equal. 150 Calories of nuts is not the same as 150 Calories of Potato chips. It is important to fuel your body with the best fuel. That is what is going to keep your body the healthiest in the long run. We can't live just for today. We have to think about the future too. How are the choices that you are making today affecting your life in the future?

 

 

The Benefits of Yoga

Those of you that know me, know that I am currently a nursing student. For one of my classes I needed to write a paper on exercise and health. I chose to write about yoga. I like to do yoga for exercise and have been doing it off and on for the last 10 years. I was interested in researching it for my paper because it is often the topic of health articles that say how good it is for you. I wanted to look into the subject more and see for myself what effects that yoga has on our bodies and our health. I know from my own personal experience that when I do yoga regularly, I feel amazing, both physical and mentally. What I found when I researched yoga was so interesting. I want to share it with you. So here is my paper on the subject. I hope that you enjoy reading it and perhaps learn something new. Feel free to tell me about something that you didn't know about yoga before or about your own experience with yoga in the comment section below.

The Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is an ancient mind-body practice that works to bring the mind and body together to achieve peacefulness. Traditionally, peacefulness is achieved through the poses, behavior, diet and meditation. There are many styles of yoga, all are beneficial and promote good health and well-being. Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced style of yoga today, because it’s poses, called asanas, are the easiest to perform. Almost anyone can practice yoga, even severely obese people and people with physical disabilities (MayoClinic).

Flexibility & Strength

There are many benefits to practicing yoga. Flexibility can be easily improved through yoga. One study showed that the participants showed 35% more flexibility after just eight weeks of practicing yoga. The most improved areas are the shoulders and torso. The asanas, or series of poses, stretch not only the muscles but also the soft tissues in the body, like the ligaments, tendons and fascia sheath. When the muscles are stretched, they release lactic acid that has been stored up in them. Lactic acid is responsible for causing fatigue, stiffness, and pain from tension. Asanas also improve flexibility by increasing the joints’ range of muscle and their lubrication (WebMD).

Another area of improvement is strength. While all the styles of yoga target strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen, some styles are more suited for improving muscle tone than others. Also, when the core becomes stronger, the posture of a person is positively affected. The stronger your abdomen becomes, the more likely you are to sit and stand straight. In addition, the poses create self-awareness so you are more conscious of how you are holding your body and therefore more likely to have correct posture (WebMD). A benefit of improved strength and flexibility is that the risk of injury from everyday activities is reduced (MayoClinic). This is especially important as we age and it becomes easier to become injured by small falls or accidents. Yoga is a great way to combat the increased risk of injury.

Benefits of the yoga breathing method

An important component of yoga is breathing with long, deep breathes while holding the poses. This kind of breathing is useful in increasing lung capacity. Another benefit from the breathing method used in yoga, is that it stimulates the relaxation response of the body. The relaxation response is opposite of the flight-or-flight response and it tells the body that it’s time to rest-and-digest (WebMD).

Yoga & Medical Conditions

Practicing yoga is excellent for heart health as well as many other medical conditions. It lowers blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A slower heart rate helps lower hypertension and reduces the risk of heart disease, as well as stroke. Dr. Dean Ornish, M.D. developed the first heart disease program that aimed to reverse the disease through lifestyle and diet instead of surgery. An important component of his program was yoga. Through his program he successful reversed the disease in his participants of the program. Yoga also increases immune system functions and it has an anti-oxidant effect. Some other medical conditions that it helps relieves the symptoms of are asthma, arthritis and chronic back pain. Currently, the National Institutes of Health is funding studies to examine the effectiveness of yoga on insomnia and multiple sclerosis. Another exciting benefit is the affect that yoga can have on weight-loss and obesity. Because yoga teaches bringing the mind and body into harmony and control over the body, yoga can be an effective method of weight-loss because you can gain control over your body and over the binge-eating. While it is not an aerobic activity, it can go to the root of the problem and target the overeating (MayoClinic).

Mental benefits of yoga

Some of the benefits of yoga are harder to measure, but people that practice yoga testify to the effectiveness of yoga on these areas. Many cite that they experience increased energy, concentration, memory and learning. They also note that they have a more positive mood, greater feelings of happiness and contentedness, as well as better self-acceptance. They also feel that they become more spiritually aware after practicing yoga. These are all thing that are difficult to measure scientifically but still have a positive effect on a person’s life (WebMD).

Yoga is an extremely effective way to manage stress. By directing your attention away from the stressors and toward calmness as you breath and concentrate on the poses, the stress level begins to decrease (MayoClinic). The effect is immediate in a person’s body. When practicing the deep breathing and meditation of yoga, not only does the person immediately feel calmer, but there are biochemical responses as well. The catecholamines, which are the stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands, are decreased. Also the neurotransmitters- dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, are decreased. These play a role in the fight-or-flight response of the body. When the release of these is decreased, the body goes into a calmer, more relaxed state (WebMD).

Yoga & Stress

There are several very interesting studies that show the effectiveness of yoga on stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. One study on stress and yoga took place in Germany in 2005. The participants were 24 women that described themselves as “emotionally distressed.” They were divided into two groups. The control group maintained their everyday activities, while the test group took two 90 minute yoga classes every week for three months. All the participants were tested to ascertain their feelings of depression, anxiety and overall well-being. After the three months ended, the test group that took the yoga classes felt less stressed and more energized. Also their initial complaints of headaches, backache and poor sleep was resolved more than for the women in the control group. As for their test score, the test group showed an improvement of 50% on their depression score, an improvement of 30% on their anxiety score, and an improvement of 65% on their overall well-being score (Harvard).

Yoga & Fibromyalgia

In 2008, the University of Utah conducted another study on effectiveness of yoga on stress. They divided the study participants into three groups: 12 experienced yoga practitioners, 14 people with fibromyalgia and 16 healthy people. Fibromyalgia is considered to be a stress-related illness with hypersensitivity to pain. The test was conducted by applying pressure on the thumbnail. The results were that the people with fibromyalgia noted the pain at the lowest pressure and their MRI’s showed the most brain activity at the areas of the brain that show pain responses. The yoga practitioners had the highest tolerance for pain and the least amount of activity on their MRI’s at the pain centers of their brains. The researchers noted that people that are stressed are more sensitive to pain and that yoga helps to control stress and the body’s response to pain (Harvard).

Yoga & Depression

The effect that yoga has on depression is another exciting area of research. In 2005, the New Hampshire Psychiatric Hospital conducted a study on the effect of one yoga class on the inpatients of the hospital. There were 113 participants, who had major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The researchers compared the scores of the participants on the Profile of Mood States before and after the class. The results were that the levels of tension, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility and fatigue all dropped significantly after just one yoga class(Harvard).

One study on depression was done on the effectiveness of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY), which is a style of yoga that includes cyclical breathing patterns that range from slow and calming to fast and stimulating. The study compared the effectiveness of SKY to other treatments for depression. The participant in this study were 45 inpatients that were being treated for depression. They were divided into three groups. One group did thirty minutes of SKY, six days a week for four weeks. The second group had bilateral electroconvulsive therapy. And the third group had medication, tricyclic antidepressant, imipramine. After four weeks, the results were 93% remission for the electroconvulsive therapy, 73% remission for the imipramine and 67% remission for SKY (Harvard). The yoga was almost as effective as the antidepressant medication. And while it was not as effective as electroconvulsive therapy, it is still effective and worth trying before something like electroconvulsive therapy.

Yoga & Alcoholism Treatment

Another study was done on the effectiveness of SKY on treating alcohol-dependent men.  This study followed 60 alcohol-dependent men through their treatment. After one week of standard detox, the men were randomly divided into two groups. One group got two weeks of SKY treatment and the other group got two weeks of standard alcoholism treatment. The results at the end of the study were that the scores for depression dropped 75% for the men in the SKY group and 60% for the men in the standard treatment group. Also the levels of the stress hormones, cortisol and corticotropin, dropped in the SKY group but not in the standard group (Harvard).

Yoga & PTSD

There is another study that shows some promise for helping soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. In this study, the participants were disabled Australian Vietnam veterans diagnosed with PTSD. All of the veterans were heavy, daily drinkers and were taking at least one antidepressant. For five days a week for six weeks, the participants had SKY breathing, other yoga asanas, education about stress reduction and guided meditation. They were tested before and after the six weeks on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), which ranks severity of symptoms on an 80 point scale, 80 being the most severe. At the end of the study, the group of veterans that participated in the study had a reduction in their scores, on average from 57, being moderate to severe, to 42, being mild to moderate. And when they were retested six months later, the results were still present. The control group were the veterans that were on a waiting list to get in the program. Those in the control group showed no change in their scores (Harvard).

It is undeniable that this ancient practice is just as beneficial today with our modern problems as it was thousands of years ago. The connection between the mind and body is not something that we should ignore, unfortunately most of the time we do. Today we focus on treating the physical symptoms, when maybe all that we need to do is to bring our mind and body back together again into peacefulness.

 

Sources:

Harvard Health Publications. Yoga for Anxiety and Depression. April 2009. Harvard Medical School. 9 Sept. 2010<http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/ Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/ 2009/April/Yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression>.

Mayo Clinic Staff. Yoga: Tap into the Many Benefits of Yoga. 16 Jan. 2010. Mayo Clinic. 9 Sept. 2010 <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/yoga/CM00004>.

WebMD. The Health Benefits of Yoga. Matthew Hoffman, MD. 12 Aug. 2008. 9 Sept. 2010 <http://webmd.com/balance/the-health-benefits-of-yoga?page=3>.

Calcium and Healthy Bones

Calcium is one of those things that we're always hearing about and being told how important that it is for our bones. I don't know if you are like me, but while I know that I should make sure that I'm getting enough calcium, I've never actually taken the time to really evaluate my diet and determine if I was getting an adequate amount of it. We all know that calcium is important for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, but do we know how much calcium we need and do we take steps regularly to keep our bones strong? I didn't. It was something that I thought about every once in a while and hoped that I was getting enough of. Recently because of some health changes that I am going through, I finally stopped and took the time to see just how much calcium that I need and how I can keep my bones strong. I want to pass along to you the information that I have found. Calcium absorption

First, a little about how our bodies absorb calcium. Our bodies can only absorb around 500 mg of calcium at one time, so it is important to get calcium all throughout the day. When we are younger, our bodies need calcium to build up the mass in our bones, making them strong. This building of bone mass peaks around age 30, which is why it is so important for children and young adults to get enough calcium every day. After age 30, we need adequate calcium so that we can keep our bones strong. For women, we start to lose bone mass slowly from age 30 on, and then bone loss increases more rapidly after menopause. That is when osteoporosis can happen, when our bones become too thin and brittle.

What else do we need to build and maintain strong bones?

In addition to calcium, our bodies need plenty of Vitamin D, exercise and protein to build and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D is so important because it helps our bodies absorb calcium. Vitamin D doesn't occur naturally in food too often but luckily our bodies are able to make it from the sunshine we absorb. So get outside and soak in a little sunshine! :) And while you're out there, why not go for a walk? Exercising regularly for 30 minutes a day is important for our bone health. But don't just do cardio, be sure to incorporate regular strength training into your life too. Strength training is wonderful for strengthening our bones. Protein is also important in keeping our bones strong, but excessive amounts of protein can cause calcium wasting.

Things that are not good for our bones

There are a few things that we should limit for the sake of our bones. Too much stress is bad for our bones; cortisol, a hormone that is released when we are stressed, depletes the calcium in our bodies. Too much soda isn't good for our bones either. Colas have phosphorous in them and when we drink cola too often, we can create an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous in our bodies. Phosphorous is the second most abundant element in our bodies, coming in second to calcium. Our bodies need a balance of both of these elements to have strong bones. When we get too much phosphorous, that is actually bad for our bones and can lead to osteoporosis. Antacids are another thing that when we have too much, they can be bad for our bones because they can interfere with calcium absorption by lowering the acid level in our stomachs. And because our stomachs need acid to absorb the calcium, too many antacids interfere with calcium absorption. Too much caffeine also reduces absorption of calcium. It is also best for our calcium levels if we don't have excessive alcohol, sodium or red meat in our diet.

Too much calcium?

Of course, even too much of a good thing is not good for our bodies either. Consuming calcium in excess of the upper limits set by the Institute of Medicine can lead to kidney stones, constipation, prostate cancer, calcium buildup in our blood vessels and interference of absorption of iron and zinc.

Calcium and Vitamin D guidelines

So just how much calcium do we need? The Institute of Medicine released new guidelines in November 2010 for how much calcium and Vitamin D we need every day.

for ages 1-3:

  • Calcium: 700 mg., no more than 2,500 mg.
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU, no more than 2,500 IU

for ages 4-8:

  • Calcium: 1,000 mg., more than 2,500 mg.
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU, no more than 3,000 IU

for ages 9-18:

  • Calcium: 1,300 mg., no more than 3,000 mg.
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU, no more than 4,000 IU

for men ages 19-70:

  • Calcium: 1,000 mg., no more than 2,500 mg.
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU, no more than 4,000 IU

for men 71 and older:

  • Calcium: 1,200 mg., no more than 2,000 mg.
  • Vitamin D: 800 IU, no more than 4,000 IU

for women 19-50:

  • Calcium: 1,000 mg., no more than 2,500 mg.
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU, no more than 4,000 IU

for women 51-70 (post-menopausal):

  • Calcium: 1,200 mg., no more than 2,000 mg.
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU, no more than 4,000 IU

for women 71 and older:

  • Calcium: 1,200 mg., no more than 2,000 mg.
  • Vitamin D: 800 IU, no more than 4,000 IU

Foods that are good sources of calcium

Eating foods that are high in calcium all throughout the day is the ideal way to get our daily requirement. There are lots of foods that have had calcium added to them. Below is a list of some foods that are naturally high in calcium. Eating a couple of these foods, combined with the calcium that you are getting from fortified foods, should enable you to meet your daily requirement for calcium.

  • dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream
  • leafy green vegetables: spinach, kale, escarole, collard greens, bok choy, broccoli, okra
  • nuts: almonds, pistachios
  • legumes: white beans, soy beans
  • seeds
  • fish: sardines, salmon, perch and rainbow trout

Calcium Supplements

If you are not able to get enough calcium in your diet alone, there are various supplements that you can take. The two main supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is a good choice because it is inexpensive and it contains 40% elemental calcium. But an empty stomach and low levels of stomach acid make it difficult for the body to absorb the calcium. So this supplement must be taken with food. Calcium citrate is easier to absorb without food but it only contains 21% elemental calcium. There are two other possible calcium supplements: calcium gluconate with only 9% elemental calcium and calcium lactate with only 13% elemental calcium. The supplements are good for just that, supplementing what our diet is missing. By getting our calcium directly from the food source, we are also getting lots of other nutrients that we would be missing out on if we were just taking a supplement to meet our calcium needs. Before starting to take supplements, keep a record of what you eat for a week or so and determine how much calcium you are getting before you add supplements to your diet. If you are already eating a well-balanced diet, you might already be getting enough calcium.

Today's the day

It's worth taking the time to assess how much calcium we are regularly getting and add some new calcium-rich foods to our diet if we are lacking. We all want to be strong and healthy, and enjoy every day that we have until our last one. The time to take care of our bones is now!

 

 

Exercise and a Healthy Life

Did you know that according to the American Cancer Society only 1 in 8 adults exercises the recommended five days a week? And yet, exercise plays an important role in our health. Exercising regularly has a direct impact on cardiovascular health, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and depression. Most of us think that we don't have enough time to exercise, but the truth is that if we value our health then we must make time for regular exercise. I've learned some interesting things about exercise and health that I would love to share with you. Benefits of Exercise on Our Daily Lives

  • improves strength, endurance and flexibility
  • boost our immune system and energy
  • helps us cope with stress
  • improves our mood and self-esteem
  • better focus and concentration
  • helps us to sleep better
  • reduces our risk for becoming obese
  • reduces anxiety and tension
  • reduces the risk of premature death from all causes

Exercise and Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and hardening of the arteries. It is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every 37 seconds, a person dies from cardiovascular disease. And it's not just something that happens to older people, 17% of fatal heart attacks happen to people under the age of 65. But the good news is that exercise helps to protect our heart from cardiovascular disease by making our hearts stronger. Having a strong heart is important because a strong heart pumps the blood more efficiently with less beats and with a stronger pumping action. The heart is a pump that can wear out so you don't want to overwork it.

How exercise protects our heart from Cardiovascular disease:

  • makes our heart strong
  • keeps our blood vessels strong and open
  • lowers blood pressure
  • lowers bad cholesterol levels
  • keeps weight under control at a healthy level

For more information on exercise, health and your heart, check out the American Heart Association. Here's a great place to start.

Exercise and Cancer

From the American Cancer Society, "An estimated 1 out of every 3 cancers in the United States is linked to excess body weight, poor nutrition, or physical inactivity. While these factors are all related and may all contribute to cancer risk, body weight seems to have the strongest evidence linking it to cancer. Excess body weight contributes to 14% to 20% of all cancer-related deaths. Being overweight or obese is clearly linked with an increased risk of many cancers, including cancer of the breast (in women past menopause), colon, endometrium (uterus), esophagus, and kidney." Exercise can also help people that already have cancer by helping them to deal better with the side effects of treatment, like fatigue. And for people with colon cancer, exercise can even prevent recurrence.

Exercise and Alzheimer's Disease

In a recent 13 year study, researchers found that normal adults that walked 6 miles a week, reduced their risk of Alzheimer's by 50% compared to those who were sedentary. According to the Mayo Clinic in their December 2010 Health Letter, exercise and physical activity are the best known methods that we have to prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia. How exciting is that?!?

Exercise and Diabetes

Exercise is also beneficial in the prevention Type 2 diabetes. 90-95% of Americans with diabetes have Type 2. Major factors for developing Type 2 diabetes are age, obesity, physical inactivity, family history and lifestyle. But exercise can prevent it. In fact, it is more effective in delaying or preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes than medication. People that are pre-diabetic can reduce their risk of ever developing diabetes by losing just 5-7% of their weight. And for those that already have diabetes, exercise can help too. Exercise stabilizes blood glucose levels because it makes the body more sensitive to insulin. (Fit and Well, 9th edition by Thomas D. Fahey)

Exercise and Depression

Depression is more than just feelings of sadness; it also effects our health and well-being. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, vol. 25 June 2009, having depression doubles the risk of cardiac death and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke by 60%. The reason for this is that depression affects our heart and blood vessels and as a result, can cause heart problems. But when you exercise, your brain releases endorphins and norepinephrine which can counter the symptoms of depression. And in the long-term, exercise can help the body grow new nerve cells and reinforce the connections between the neural processes. All it takes is moderate exercise for 35 minutes, 5 days a week or 60 minutes, 3 days a week to improve depression symptoms as effectively as medication and to prevent relapse for people with mild to moderate depression.

How to Reap the Benefits

  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week.
  • Moderate intensity exercise increases the heart rate by a noticeable amount and burns about 150 calories.

Some examples of moderate intensity exercise:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • dancing
  • yard work
  • playing touch football
  • shooting a basketball

In spite of all the reasons that you should exercise, many people still think that they can't. There are usually three excuses that people make as to why they cannot exercise.

Excuse #1: Not enough time.

I believe that you have to make room for activities in your life that will keep you healthy. You have to make the time or else getting sick will take the time from you. No matter how busy you are, a major illness will sideline you. So it's better to allot some time each day now to maintain your health. One way to allot time for exercise in a busy day is to multitask. Try exercising while you watch tv.

Excuse #2: Not enough money.

You can actually save money when you are healthy. You don't have to pay for as many doctor bills and medicines when you're healthy. Physically active people save about $500 a year on healthcare cost. And being active does not mean that you have to join a gym or take classes or buy expensive equipment. Walking is free. It's a safe and effective way to exercise. And according to the American Heart Association, people that walk for an exercise program are more likely to stick to it. And if that isn't a good enough reason to walk, how about this? The American Heart Association also says that for every hour that you walk, you will increase your life expectancy by 2 hours!

Excuse #3: lack of motivation or you just don't care.

If you just don't care then I ask you this. How important is your health to you? Do you care if you get heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease or diabetes? Do you want to live your life as a sick person or as a well person? Don't take care of your body and it will eventually catch up to you. Spending just 30 minutes a day out of the 16 hours that you are awake is not too much to ask.

Exercise is more than just a weight loss tool. It impacts our health on many levels. It improves our day-to-day lives by boosting our immune system and mood and by helping us to concentrate and sleep better. On a greater level of health, regular moderate exercise can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and depression. All it takes is just 30 minutes a day 5 days a week to reduce your risk of some major health problems. How important is your health to you? Is 30 minutes a day really too much to ask to reduce your risk of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's or Type 2 diabetes?

Disclaimer: Before you embark on a new exercise routine, it is always best to check with your doctor first.