Category Archives: Healthy Living

Healthy living articles, healthy living tips, healthy living resources, and information on Intent.com

Demystifying Health Fads

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Here in Los Angeles alone, it feels like you can find a restaurant to accommodate any dietary needs or preferences. Restaurants that serve only cold-pressed juice, vegan items or traditional fare from countries you’ve never even heard of. Gluten-free Southern food sounds like a paradox, but people can try.

There is a lot of talk about what you should be eating more of and what you should be avoiding so we decided to review three of the biggest buzzwords in health and diet these days.

Gluten: 
Everyone’s going gluten free because it’s healthier, right? That’s right, right? Interestingly enough, gluten is only a problem for the approximately 1% of Americans diagnosed with Celiac’s disease who’s immune system actually damages the lining of the small intestine while trying to process it. The problem with everyone else avoiding gluten, according to some experts, is not with the ingredient so much as how easy it is to miss out on other vital nutrients like iron and fiber by avoiding foods like whole wheat. There are certainly grains without gluten but the key here is knowing that going gluten-free isn’t necessarily the key to a healthier lifestyle.

Kale:
Traditionally a winter crop, this hearty green that’s sneaking it’s way into salads everywhere is actually super good for you. It’s got a ton of Vitamins A, C and K. We’re talking 684% of your daily value of Vitamin K in just a cup. It’s low in calories and while it might be an acquired taste, it’s worth considering as a dietary staple. Something to note- Kale will be less thrilling if you are low on calcium or taking anticoagulants as it blocks calcium absorption and can mess with certain medications, so check with a doctor before you start eating it by the bucket loads.

Probiotics:
We spend a lot of money on cleaning products every year to get rid of bacteria from our homes, but so why are buy bacteria to put into our bodies? Made more well-known thanks to the family favorite, yogurt, Probiotics are good bacteria that, when added to your digestive system, can help ease bloating and get your body processing food like it should. Stress, sitting on planes for hours, eating like a maniac can wreck you, or more specifically, the living microbes in your body that break down and retrieve the nutrients you need. Probiotics are valuable to keeping your intestines in good shape otherwise. We’ve also learned that just having some yogurt here and there won’t be enough to set everything back in balance which is why many opt for a probiotic supplement like SCD Essential Probiotics as opposed to consuming more miso soup than you know what to do with.

Before you hop on the health fad popping up in your grocery stores, make sure you know what works best for you and your body. If it means cutting the gluten, by all means. If not, you’ve made a knowledgeable decision. The point is that you’re in the know.

So, maybe have a donut. Not too many donuts. And maybe wait for dessert ’til you’ve had a kale salad.

 

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Our Intent: Better Ways to Approach Pain, and America’s Pain-Pill Epidemic

And I swear you're just like a pill Instead of makin me better, you keep makin me ill You keep makin me ill

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, and P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina

You may have noticed headlines about the rise of prescription drugs as a major cause of addiction and death by overdose. Pain pills are overshadowed by illegal drugs like heroin and their dangers masked by a certain air of respectability. Yet America is in the midst of an epidemic of painkiller overuse as well as addiction. As a nation we constitute only about 5% of the world’s population, but we consume some 80% of the prescription drugs called opioids, the strongest and most addictive pain pills, that go by names like Vicodin, OxyContin, Dilaudid, codeine, and Percocet. We consume 99% of the global supply of a particular opioid called hydrocodone, which is used in combination with other drugs for pain relief but also cough suppression. In 2014 the FDA approved a new version of a pure hydrocodone despite the objections of its own medical advisory panel (which voted 12 to 2 against approval) and 30 states. Today opioid overdose deaths (one every 30 minutes) exceed deaths from motor vehicle accidents as well as the combined total of deaths by heroin or cocaine overdose.

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My Intent is to Read More: 13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done.


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Of my hundreds of happiness-project resolutions, and of the habits I’ve tried to form, one of my very favorites is to Read more

Reading is an essential part of my work. It forms an important part to my social life. And far more important, reading is my favorite thing to do, by a long shot. I’m not a well-rounded person.

But reading takes time, and there aren’t many days when I can read as much as I’d like. Here are some habits that I’ve adopted to help me get more good reading done.

1. Quit reading. I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started. No more. Life is short. There are too many wonderful books to read.

2. Read books you enjoy. When I’m reading a book I love—for example, I’m now reading Charles Portis’s True Grit — I’m astonished by how much time I find to read. Which is another reason to stop reading a book I don’t enjoy.

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Smartphone Apps: Can They Help Health Intentions?

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In the never ending quest to reach that ultimate pinnacle of what I feel is my utmost best health and fitness, I’ve tried many different foods and workouts. As with almost everything else in life, smartphones are quickly becoming the first line of defense against slipping back into old habits, and I wondered if this technology could be my answer to improving my health without allowing the goal of treating my body better to seem too large or general to accomplish. We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s an app for that” but really, almost anything health related has an app. A quick scan of the  iTunes App store boasted thousands of medical apps ranging from an encyclopedia of medicinal herbs, to a baby heartbeat monitor for pregnant women to use on their growing bundles of joy.

 

In the beginning stages of my research, I noticed that even the medical community is getting in on the game, using some very specialized apps which have allowed doctors to quickly and efficiently diagnose and treat a variety of conditions. At first I was leery, since according to the health tech industry blog HealthITjobs.com, users should always consider carefully what information they’re inputting into apps: “There are real concerns with regards to privacy and HIPPA compliance within this new wave of health related apps. Most of these apps are not regulated by the government for safety or security so right now the responsibility lies in the hands of the app developers. On the flip side, these apps are empowering individuals to take control of their own health and enabling healthcare providers to make better decisions with more data.”

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Better Than Before: Making the Best of Arthritis

arthritisThe Europeans have it all figured out. At the first sign of any aches they don’t take to bed with a bottle of Aleve. No, they head for the thermae of Italy, the baden of Germany, the baths of England, and station thermales of France The treatments at these detox meccas include water (fresh and sea) and mud therapies that promise freedom from pain — not to mention a cleaner liver. And the concept goes back millennia. After all, Spa is not an acronym for Super Place for Aerobics. Rather, it is named after the town in Belgium favored by Peter the Great. (Yes, that Peter the Great!). They are based, instead, on the restorative and healing powers of thermal and mineral springs and imbibing waters that come directly from those sources.

Alas, we in America may be hard pressed to find these types of cures closer to home as there are only a handful of natural hot springs indigenous to this country. And, truth be told, most people don’t even know they exist. Just ask someone in your office to name a liquid that makes you feel really good. I doubt hot, bubbling water would be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, make mine a kale and celery smoothie — and a Dirty Margarita for The Lawyer.

Does this mean, though, that we have to suffer such inflammatory ailments as arthritis in silence? After all, about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of the seven common forms of Arthritis. Yes, I am one of them. But limited space will not allow me to regale you with stories about my recent hip replacement! (Call me!) Curative spas aside, it is important, therefore, for patients and care givers to understand the potential impact of the disease and how best to manage it. It can be a critical part of making the decisions to make good on your intent to live a healthier lifestyle that is Better Than Before.

Let’s start with learning a little more about the illness itself. For this I turned to Phyllis Crockett, a specialty-trained pharmacist in the Accredo Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Disease TRC.

“Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions,” she says. “Although common belief is that arthritis is a condition affecting the elderly, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Also, arthritis affects people of all ethnicities.”

According to Crockett the vast majority of sufferers, about 27 million Americans, have what I have, Osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by a breakdown of joint cartridge. A vast majority of OA patients are elderly. (But it could be genetic, and the result of what sets in after you’ve sustained an injury! Hellooo!!)

The rest of arthritis sufferers have the more severe form: Rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Although it can strike at any age, women are typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, while male patients are usually older. There are about 1.5 million affected individuals in the United States. Finally, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children ages 16 and younger.”

The disease takes a heavy toll. “Each year, arthritis accounts for 44 million outpatient visits and over 900,000 hospitalizations. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. By some estimates, 67 million Americans will have arthritis by 2030.”

So what do we do?

“Managing the disease so that patients can continue to live normal lives is important,” Crockett continues. “Each patient is different and a physician can help determine the best treatment plan, including pain management and managing the symptoms of arthritis.”

She shared with me some tips that she offers her patients, starting with exercise. “It is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. OA and RA patients particularly can benefit from both endurance and resistance training.”

Maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against joint injury can help prevent OA. “Every pound of weight lost reduces the pressure on each knee by 4 pounds. Even a small weight loss can be a big help in fighting it.”

Apart from lifestyle modifications, there are also many drug therapies available for arthritis patients—and doctors and specialist pharmacists can help identify the best one for you.

For patients who already are on medication to treat the condition, adherence – taking medications as prescribed – is critical to healthier outcomes.

“But do not self-medicate!” she cautions: “Combining over-the-counter medications with prescription medications can be risky, and can cause side effects such as an increase in GI irritation or a GI bleed. And don’t adjust doses or making changes to the medication regimen without checking with your health care team.”

“Watch for drug interactions: Some common medications like acetaminophen can have a drug-drug interaction with arthritis medications. Limit intake and remember that acetaminophen is often a component in common sinus, cough/cold and pain medications.”

Opt for an anti-inflammatory regimen like the Mediterranean diet – you know the drill, easy on the acidic foods like sugar, white flours, and alcohol, and sticking with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. “But some foods and beverages can block the effects of arthritis medications,” Crockett concludes. “These include grapefruit, apple and orange juice as well as milk and yogurt. Wait at least four hours after taking medications. Exact times can vary depending on the disease and the treatment. Check with a trained clinician.”

I can assure you from very painful, personal experience that if arthritis does go too far, surgery may be the only option. So if your intent is to help avoid – or at the very least, prolong – this possible outcome, be aware that lifestyle modification and medication may be the answer.

 

Better Than Before: Thinner for (Holiday) Dinner

holiday dinnerNext week brings us Passover and Easter. And just these two holidays alone can spell diet disaster. If you’ve ever eaten matzoh, you know that it stays in your system for all eight days, unable to find a way out! And matzoh balls can sometimes weigh as much as a Mack truck. An Easter brunch menu offers similar regimen wreckers as Thanksgiving fare, plus the obligatory chocolate eggs. And we haven’t even gotten to the rest of the barbecues and feasts found on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial weekend, July 4, and at June weddings, to name just a few. So what are we to do if our intent is to still be able to fit into a bathing suit this summer?

Since there doesn’t seem to be any end to opportunities to pile on the pounds, I asked Jacqueline B. Marcus, a Nutrition Consultant and Owner of Jacqueline B. Marcus and Associates Food and Nutrition Consulting in Highland Park, Illinois, if it’s possible to be Better Than Before weight-wise in spite of it all. Happily, Jacqueline devotes an entire chapter to healthy weight management in her new book, Culinary Nutrition: The Science and Practice of Healthy Cooking.

“Yes,” she began, “you can end the nonsense and regain control, if you simply stop, look and listen.” By that she means to stop the negative self-talk about your body and willpower, to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and the numbers on your scale, and then to listen carefully to her advice to achieve and maintain your “true weight,” no matter what the temptations.

If you are invited to dinner, first up is to call ahead and ask your host: “What’s cooking?” If the answer is a collection of calorically-challenged courses, propose to augment the repast with BYO. Offer to bring a favorite dish to share the cost of a holiday meal. (You don’t have to mention that it is –horrors!—healthy.) If you happen to have a green thumb in cooking rather than gardening, there is no rule against buying something rather than risk poisoning your friends.

Of course, not all (or that many) social occasions will lend themselves to a non-insulting offer to bring your own food to someone else’s dinner party – or even an inoffensive query as to the menu. So Jacqueline suggests that if friendship or propriety trumps your diet concerns, eat a little lean protein or veggies beforehand to lessen your hunger.

Jacqueline also shares some general suggestions for keeping up with your weight management program any time of year. “Think Clean, Lean, Attractive, Simple, Small and Yummy.” In other words C.L.A.S.S.Y! “Choose small servings of simply prepared food without fat or skin and leave sauces on the side. Large, over-dressed portions are always no-no’s.”

Focus on selecting delicious lean proteins, brightly colored vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, wholesome legumes and flavorful fruit. “Healthy food prepared with care can be enormously satisfying. Nix the extra fats and sugars from fried appetizers, snacks and sweetened drinks. If tempted, make do with just a nibble or sip.”

I always like to make half my plate just salad and vegetables. (It helps, of course, that I actually like salads and vegetables.) On the other hand, the Lawyer’s worst nightmares usually start with a dish filled with Swiss chard. He therefore might disagree with Jacqueline’s prescription for delightful dieting. (But don’t go by him for health advice. He likes Cronuts.) “Nothing beats the color, crunch and aroma of garden-fresh vegetables,” Jacqueline continues. “If steamed or lightly dressed, you can pile non-starchy vegetables like D-L-G’s (deep-leafy greens) pretty high on your plate for lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Then add some lean protein and wholesome grains or legumes.” (Check out The Dukan Diet at www.dukandiet.com for great recipes, meals and diet recommendations.)

It is also important to practice what Jacqueline refers to as tradeoffs. “Want that starchy side? Forget the breadbasket. Dreaming of dessert? Skip the appetizer. Love those creamy sauces? Just dribble over protein-rich foods or steamed vegetables. Fried foods your temptation? Save those fat calories for something delicious and nutritious—like velvety nonfat yogurt or ricotta cheese.” (Sounds great to me; but cue the eye rolling by The Lawyer and his ilk.)

Water, not mixed drinks, should be your beverage of choice. “Mixed drinks may add a wallop of calories!” (Boo!) “If you must imbibe, stick with lower calorie and alcohol options, such as light wine or beer. And, of course, always exercise control.”

Speaking of exercise, “try the free track at the mall, park district or gym,” she suggests. “And while you’re there, use the stairs, too. It takes a lot of exercise time to balance any indiscretions. Body fat below the waist is particularly stubborn.” (Sigh!)

Furthermore, it’s important to maintain records. “By doing so, you commit on paper or screen (like on a smartphone) and then confront what you see or do. Record your biggest obstacles and greatest successes. Write positive affirmations and prominently place them where they will motivate you: Your bathroom mirror, the scale, fridge or closet.  Keep a weight loss chart so that you can monitor the way down.”

Practicing positive self-talk is essential. “Ditch the negativism. Dieting is hard, but there are no excuses for “I can’t”, “won’t”, “should have” or “would have.” Also, remove the words “failure”, “cheat” and “loser” from your vocabulary. “No dieter is perfect all of the time. Just focus on your successes one day at a time and get back in charge ASAP.”

It’s also fine to reward yourself along the way or when you reach your “true weight” and maintain it. “Just do it without food. Buy yourself a new pair of all-purpose athletic shoes for your new commitment to walk ‘30 in 30’ –30 minutes of daily walking for 30 days, or a jump rope to burn more calories, or even light weights to tone your muscles. (A new outfit also works, as do Louboutin pumps. Trust me!)

It’s easier if you don’t attempt to do it alone. “Reach out and connect with someone who knows how challenging it is to lose weight and keep it off. They can be your dieting or exercise buddy. “Just make sure that they’re really your pal throughout the ‘thick and thin’ of weight loss and weight maintenance.”

Finally, focus on your intent to be a Better Than Before you. “Downsize! Raid your pantry and part with the oversized packages of foods and beverages high in sugars, refined carbohydrates and sodium. Likewise, raid your closet and discard any too big, old clothes,” Jacqueline concludes. “When you think smaller and take baby steps in the process, you’ll celebrate each little accomplishment along the way.”

And when it comes to seconds on matzoh balls, remember the chorus of that ancient Passover song. Dayenu! (Enough!)

Get Active: 5 of the Best Cities in the US for Cycling

cyclingAs time goes on, an increasing number of people have started leaving their cars in the garage and grabbing their bikes instead. As populations grow, streets become more crowded. Rising gas prices make driving in a car more expensive. Cabs can cost a fortune, and nobody enjoys riding the bus. That leaves a lot of people looking to their bikes for transportation. But what cities accommodate such a decision? Let’s check out some of the most bike-friendly cities in the USA.

Madison, Wis.

Madison began turning itself into a bike-friendly city around 1972 during an oil crisis. Since then, the cycling situation has consistently improved. The city now has a well laid out network of paths off the street as well as bike lanes all over the city. Madison draws some of the top cycling companies thanks to its bike friendliness such as Planet Bike and Saris. Motorists have gotten used to the cyclists over the decades. The city has also implemented a “Safe Routes to School” program designed to help children safely walk and bike to class.

If you head just outside the city, you can find pastoral and hilly terrain, which is great for riding. Also, if you’re into competition, Madison hosts the Ironman Wisconsin triathlon, which usually draws around 2,500 each year and has one of the most difficult bike courses in the country.

San Francisco, Calif.

This city has recently become one of the biggest biking places in the country. It’s not just cycling enthusiasts; it’s the business men too. Twitter–headquartered in San Francisco–claims that 25 percent of its employees use their bikes to commute. The company even leased a building near one of the main bike-ways to help accommodate them, and probably to encourage others to join.

Recent innovations in 2010 included 20 miles of new bike lanes, 25 bike parking corrals and traffic signals to help give bikers right-of-way. These led to a huge increase in cycling over the past five years; around 71 percent more. But with those increases in cyclers came a rise in bike crash statistics, despite the heightened level of safety offered by these lanes.

Chicago, Ill.

In 2011, Chicago got Washington’s progressive transportation director, Gabe Klein. Together with the new mayor, they set an ambitious agenda to refuel the city’s bike network. The call the plan the Streets of Cycling 2020.

One of the main goals of the plan is to install 100 miles of separate bike lanes in the next four years. So far, they installed a protected bike lane on Kinzie Street, which only took six weeks. Fifty one percent of traffic during rush hour now consists of bike riders. Elevated railways should soon become bike paths, and the bike-share system should soon expand to 5,000 bikes.

Minneapolis, Minn.

The bike culture in Minneapolis thrives thanks to the Stupor Bowl Alley Cat Race, wintertime cycling tours, the Bicycle Advisory Committee’s thousands of volunteer hours, and a general enthusiasm for biking around the city. What started off as a simple cultural phenomenon has now become a community attitude. It’s made the city one of the best places to cycle in the country.

You’ll find the 4.57 mile Cedar Lake Regional Trail as one of the largest biking trails in America. The trail also connects to other biking and walking paths. It’s got two one-way bike lanes and a pedestrian lane running from the Mississippi River through the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field and into the suburbs in the west.

Portland, Ore.

Portland has long-held the title of best biking city in America. It often serves as the only American city on lists of the world’s top places for cyclists. It’s the only big city (with a population of over 600,000) to earn a “Platinum” status from the “League of American Bicyclists” thanks to 180 miles of bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths.

You’ll find a bike-rack or bar just about anywhere you go in the city. In Portland, sometimes it seems as if bikers have more control over the road than cars. When huge groups of bikers roam the streets, cars simply have to back off and wait for them to get through. Motorists have spent so much time around bikers, they’ll often let you into the road when no bike lane exists.

If you’re looking for a place where you can rely on cycling, you can’t go wrong with any of these cities. Find one that sounds like it best suits your riding style and enjoy fully embracing the healthy lifestyle.

The Power Of The Positive Flow

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

I stood outside in the yoga class and listened as a young woman told her friend, “well if it’s meant to be, it will be.” As I always do, the words from the Beatles above filled my head. “Let it be.” One of the lessons I have learned on the journey is that indeed, it is often to let things be.

But there is a second level of the process of more to it than being a passive observer of your life, and this is another very important lesson that I think gets lost in the desire to be in the flow, and to let things happen. I have learned this the hard way as well.

It’s almost a two-step process – especially for Westerners. We live in a society with technology at our fingertips. We’ve modified the organisms of the food chain. We feel that we are in total and complete control of our destiny and of the world around us. We’re not. We need to understand that as much as we think that we have controlled the world – the world still has mysteries and secrets that we will never understand.

Usually, this then translates, in yoga studio lobbies, to men and women talking about other men and women and debating the outcome of a relationship. It usually involves party A who has been trying too hard to force the relationship with party B whom they’ve either been dating, been wanting to date, been wanting to marry or procreate.

Faced with obstacles and frustration, they then declare that “if it’s meant to be, it will be.” It’s as if they have decided that it’s out of their hands and in the universe’s. This is, in my mind, a simple bastardization of the concept of flow and the role it plays in our lives.

To me, to be in the flow is first to listen. You have to understand what is happening around you, and most importantly, within you. You have to eliminate the chatter of the world and most importantly, the chatter within you. You might think that the reason you are nervous / scared / anxious about an issue or person is clear-cut and simple – it almost certainly isn’t and if you think you can see and understand what you are feeling and why without serious quiet and introspection, I’d be careful.

Let’s say you are deciding what you want to do for a new career. You need to think about it and ponder the pro’s and con’s in a logical way. How much money will you make? Where will you live? You will not become a yoga teacher by chance – it takes conscious action.

Once the input has been entered, then it’s time to sit down, meditate and think about it. How does it feel? What does it look like? What direction can you give yourself with the input entered?

If it feels right still, then here’s the important part – the power of positive flow.

I described it once to a friend in Burma last year like this.

Imagine you are standing on a river bank and the water is moving by you. You won’t get anywhere if you just stand on the river bank. The water is not going to come out and get you and pull you in.

You have to step into the water.

Then, you have two choices.

You can go against the current. And here I often think of my friends who are lawyers, and are miserable being lawyers (not all are, but a lot seem to be.) They turn into the stream and trudge hard against the current. They try to swim and fight upstream. They won’t succeed.

So you turn the other way, you are in the river and you let the river take you.

Here’s where positive flow comes in.

The river will take you but you will get there faster if you move with the river. If you have ever swum downstream in a river that’s moving fairly fast, you know that a leisurely swim moves you quickly – it’s almost as if you are flying down – that’s what you want to do.

If the man or woman you are interested in moves to another city, you can’t simply hope it will work out. It’s going to take real work and real effort. I have learned this recently with this wonderful woman in my life. It’s work to talk and communicate and share – more work than I have experienced before. It’s not just simply going to happen.

I also learned a lesson a few years ago. A woman I really enjoyed was flying to South Africa and the schedules got topsy turvy and I wasn’t going to be there for much time at all when she was going to be there. I debated changing my ticket home (I was on a business trip with a good friend.) My friend advised me not to. “If it’s meant to be, it will be.” And I left. The last email that the woman flying in sent was “Wait, we’re not even going to have dinner?”

I should have stayed.

So now, I feel that it’s a combination of swimming and floating. Of listening and acting. Of holding and letting go. The right place for me is a pulsing between the two. I listen now to myself and to the people important to me.

I always make sure that I am in the river. And I always make sure that if I am headed in a direction that feels right, I don’t mind floating and watching the world move by me.

But I also don’t mind putting my head in the water and slowly helping the river push me.

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