Sneezing & Wheezing Don’t Confirm an Asthma

Asthma cannot be cured, only controlled
Incessant Cough, Specifically Around Nighttime is a Serious Indication

Not each of us suffering from midnight coughing or chest tightness are asthma patients. Asthma is a chronic condition characterized by typical respiratory symptoms such as dyspnea, wheezing, chest tightness or cough. A study in Canada came up with a shocking result sometime back which showed that one-third of adults diagnosed with asthma actually don’t suffer from the condition at all. The major depressing thing about the disease is that it is a common condition which can cause disastrous consequences when left untreated. The challenge here is diagnosing the symptoms as these occur, seem invisible for a while and then might occur again.

The Study

The research team got in touch with thousands of people from 10 different Canadian cities questioning them if they had their asthma diagnosed in the past 10 years. Those who were willing to participate in the study were diagnosed for the disease and if the results proved negative, they were directed to a lung specialist. If again there was no positive results confirming the disease, these people were slowly subjected to reduction in their medicine dosage and finally the medicines were stopped completely. These people were followed-up for a year and two tests taken within the time. If the test results were normal the medicines were completely stopped (from reduced dosage).

Around 1026 people were eligible to participate in the study out of which 613 completed all the study tests involved which helped confirm the presence or absence of the disease.

  1. Out of 613 participants, 410 (67%) participants were diagnosed with asthma and the remaining 203 (33%) were confirmed of its absence. Of the 203 people who had their asthma ruled out, only a third of them were taking asthma medications daily and around 79.3% were taking it occasionally.
  2. Only 50% patients confirmed of asthma were taking medications daily and 90% were taking it occasionally.
  3. The 203 people who had their asthma ruled out were diagnosed with rhinitis and acid reflux. Acid reflux can be controlled by avoiding certain foods and a complete list of the ‘to be avoided’ foods are available at www.firsteatright.com.

When Do You Confirm it as Asthma?

One must suffer from a history of respiratory symptoms that are present in the case of asthma (such as wheezing, coughing (especially during the night) and chest tightness) along with proof of variable expiratory airflow obstruction which can be measured by a spirometer. The spirometer can gauge lung functioning by looking out for any inflammation or narrowing of the airway.

The study helps to confirm one thing for sure-an asthma diagnosis once does not mean that you are bound to take asthma medications forever. Diagnosing it formally and getting your diagnosis confirmed every couple of years can help you stay away from a lifelong rigor of asthma medications.

The Fatigue Mirage

Adrenal fatigue is not an approved medical condition
Adrenal Fatigue is a Fantasy Theory

“I feel tired all the time despite sleeping well”, “I have no energy to even play with my 4-year-old kid” or “I just drag through the day to come back and fall on the couch” are often-quoted remarks nowadays by youngsters, middle-aged individuals and the elderly people alike. People visit doctors with such complaints but come back empty-handed without any solution as physicians don’t find anything wrong. They might order for a couple of tests, get your medical history, order for a physical examination and do blood tests but these never give you successful feedbacks or help you hit right onto the problem frustrating both the patient and the doctor. Some of them come up with the ‘adrenal fatigue’ theory as the cause behind such lack of energy but this theory remains unaccepted by the medical fraternity.

Mysterious Myth

The term ‘adrenal fatigue’ was coined in 1998 by Dr. James Wilson, a naturopath and an expert in alternative medicine. He defines adrenal fatigue as a collection of signs and symptoms (a syndrome) that are the results of an underactive adrenal gland functioning. This occurs mostly as a side effect of stress or after chronic infections such as bronchitis, flu or pneumonia. Dr. Wilson says that although the patient exhibits no signs of physical illness, they live everyday being tired, feeling ‘grey’ or unwell.

The adrenal glands that sit over the kidneys produce cortisol, a stress hormone. Continuous stress can lead to low levels of cortisol due to strained adrenals. This causes brain fog, low energy, depressive mood, salt and sweet cravings, lightheadedness and other symptoms. A review of 58 studies concluded that there is no proper scientific evidence to associate adrenal impairment as a reason for fatigue. Also, the Endocrinology society (the world’s largest organization of reputed endocrinologists) and other medical specialties don’t support or recognize this as a medical condition. Such huge differences in conventional versus complementary medicine frustrate the common man seeking medical guidance for his/her health problems.

When Symptoms Match…

When you experience all the above symptoms, it is essential that you meet your physician immediately because these symptoms might also be signs of other problems such as sleep apnea, depression, autoimmune diseases, infections, kidney and liver diseases and heart/lung problems. When your physician rules out any of these conditions and you feel that adrenal fatigue is the root cause for your problem, just answer this one question: “What type of stress is causing such a major impact on your life?” Most of you would blame the modern lifestyle and hectic office work to be the main cause. Get rid of modern-day stressors with the help of tactics given at www.firsteatright.com.

When doctor send you back saying that you are 100% fit and it all depends on how you see, you feel even more agitated and angered. Surfing the net might lead to multiple treatment options which stress you even more. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety have similar symptoms but patients avoid taking medications despite unsuccessful counselling sessions fearing its side effects.

The Next Step

Battling adrenal fatigue and finding a clear-cut solution to the problem is quite hard. The patient and the doctor need to really gel well and spend time discussing about the problem, which is mostly seen only in the case of alternative and complementary physicians as they have a more holistic approach towards their patients. Few physicians suggest cortisol replacements that can be dreadful even when consumed in small doses resulting in weight gain, osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease.

Despite clarity, there are millions of people suffering from similar symptoms and counselling, medications, lifestyle changes and encouragement can work in the patient’s favor. But never jump onto conclusions by yourself and go for remedies prescribed for this unproven disease. This can only leave you feeling sicker while the actual problem still takes a toll on your health. Try to go through your lifestyle activities one by one to find out whether any of them are causing the problem. The solution to your problem might be simpler that you think and you may start feeling better in quite sometime once you analyze and diagnose it properly.

Postmenopausal Women who Brisk Walk Face Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Women above the age of 50 suffer reduced risk of heart disease
Forget Not to Talk About your Walk

Despite innumerable exercises, dance forms, fitness bootcamps and other physical activities none can beat the advantages provided by the simplest yet beneficial physical activity-walking. Walking is the only form of exercise feasible for a 1-year-old baby to an 80-year-old individual who loves to stay fit and healthy. I have repeatedly reinstated the benefits of walking in several of my earlier articles references of which are available at www.firsteatright.com. While the method of exercise remains constant, it is the benefits that act as variables alternating between several of these.

A new study presented at the American College of Cardiology shows that walking for at least 40 minutes couple of times a week at an average or fast pace is associated with almost a 25% dip in heart failure risk in post-menopausal women. Incidentally, the benefits remain the same irrespective of the woman’s body weight or her involvement in several other exercise forms besides walking.

Heart Failure

Presently, more than 6.5 million people suffer from heart failure owing to which the heart becomes too weak to pump sufficient blood to meet body needs. These figures are expected to rise by 46% by 2030, resulting in more than 8 million individuals suffering from heart failure. As a person’s age increases, his/her risk of heart failure too increases-women aged 75-84 years are three times likelier to suffer from heart failure compared to women who are 65-74 years. Sadly, medical advances that save a person’s life are to be blamed primarily because many individuals survive a heart attack and therefore face a greater risk of heart failure later in life.

Missing the Concept

Physical activity lowers the risk of heart failure but there is a widespread misconception that pursuing only walking is never sufficient to meet this need. Walking has got many benefits in its kitty-it is an easily accessible form of exercise as well as has equal benefits as other exercise forms in lowering risk of heart failure risk. Walking becomes especially beneficial for older women who might feel awkward enrolling in a gym or joining a Zumba class as well for those who suffer from time constraint.

The study analyzed more than 89,000 women for over 10 years and examined the benefits of walking by parsing the effects of walking frequency, duration and speed. This also stands as the first study to specifically focus on the risk of heart failure among women above the age of 50.

Based on frequency, speed and duration, women’s walking behavior was categorized accordingly. A woman’s overall energy expenditure was calculated based on Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET). Individuals having higher values MET values were said to be at a 25% lesser risk of disease. Hence, frequency, duration and speed. Those who walked for 40 minutes were anywhere between 21 and 25 percent at a lower risk of diseases while those who went for an average or fast-pace walk showed some 26-38% lower risk of heart failure compared to those women who walked at a much slower pace. The beauty of the study is that results remained the same irrespective of the ethnicity, age categories and baseline body weights applicable to almost all women above the age group of 50. The study requested participants to self-report on their smoking, alcohol habits, family history, hormone use and overall level of physical activity.

Despite scientific and technological advancements in cardiovascular health, benefits are not positively distributed and depend on the individual’s ethnicity, race and income.

Uncage Yourself from Anxiety Disorders

Clients often feel fearful to bring out their actual problems
Psychotherapy Effectively Deals with the Disorder

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental conditions that can prevent an individual from leading his/her life normally. People with any type of anxiety disorder experience the same symptoms such as fear, restlessness, sleep problems, palpitations, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness and uneasiness.

Risk Factors

Although the actual cause is unknown, anxiety disorders can be the result of a combination of factors such as environmental stress, genes or changes in the brain. Some families can have the gene for faulty circuits in the brain that control emotions. Other common risk factors include:

  • Shyness since childhood
  • Being divorced or widowed
  • Scarcity of economic resources
  • Being a female
  • Parental history of anxiety disorders
  • Witnessing of stressful events during adulthood or childhood

Treatment

A visit to the family physician is crucial to deal with the disorder. The doctor may evaluate the person’s mental health thoroughly and also check out his/her physical health for overactive thyroid or low blood sugar levels. After evaluation, the healthcare provider may suggest the individual to go for psychotherapy, medication, or both.

Psychotherapy

Also called as ‘talk therapy’, psychotherapy helps the person come out of the anxiety disorder through discussions. The therapy is tailored to meet the person’s need and the patient might experience discomfort opening up on his/her fearful situations and experiences.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A type of psychotherapy, CBT teaches a person how to think, behave or react to things or events differently from the way they are used to reacting. CBT uses two components namely cognitive therapy and exposure therapy.

As the name suggests, cognitive therapy deals with identifying, challenging and neutralizing negative thoughts that are the primary reason for the anxiety disorder. Exposure therapy exposes the client to fears underlying an anxiety disorder and insists them to do things that they had bean fearing to do till then. CBT sessions may be given individually or for a group of people with similar problems. Social anxiety disorder, one of the type of anxiety disorders, can be treated more effectively when given as group therapy. Get a complete understanding of the different anxiety disorders from the website www.firsteatright.com.

Support Groups

Many people benefit from self-help or support groups as they feel comfortable sharing their symptoms with a similar group of people. These people are able to relate to each other’s problem and find comfort in sharing their pains and distress. The achievements of peer-group members encourage other people as well to try and come out of the disorder. A trusted friend or family member can provide support and confidence, but it is not always a sufficient alternative to an expert’s care.

Medication

Medications can help to reduce the pain but can never relieve a patient from the disorder. Medications prescribed by a physician or a psychologist should only be taken. These medications are sometimes used initially before the psychiatric session, or sometimes during the session if the physician feels that there is insufficient response to the psychotherapy session. In many cases, both medication and psychotherapy are used together for better results.

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and beta-blockers are the common medications prescribed to combat anxiety disorders.  Antidepressants are not only useful to treat depression but also helpful to treat anxiety disorders. Headache, nausea and sleeping difficulty are common symptoms seen in people taking antidepressants. Some people might even feel suicidal and it is necessary to monitor people on antidepressants very closely, especially when they first start taking the medication.

Anti-anxiety medications are prescribed to reduce symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, fear or worry. Beta-blockers are also used to deal with the physical symptoms of anxiety such as blushing, trembling, shaking or rapid heartbeat.

Despite India being the place of origin for many relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and other relaxation therapies, not many people believe in these and use it in their life to live stress-free. Stress in the present world is the primary reason for many anxiety-related problems and combating stress with such techniques can alleviate many a people’s problems.

It is better to get to know the side effects of these medications before using any of them. Every individual with anxiety disorder needs different doses of medications and different number of therapy sessions based on the person’s disorder level. It is better to sit with your physician, discuss the pros and cons of medication, understand about the therapy sessions and then start treatment to make it a successful one for you and your doctor as well.

Fat is the New ‘Fit’?

Brain contains 60% fat
Human Brain is said to be the Fattest Organ

Is fat good or bad? Last 30 or so years, we have been avoiding fatty foods for fear of cholesterol, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately, heart disease, obesity and diabetes have been steadily gaining momentum and we can now be sure that these nutritional recommendations were wrong. Present-day nutritionists/dietitians advocate the consumption of healthy fat to solve your weight loss problems and improve clarity of thought. Food scientists and nutritionists have even found that sugar and refined carbs are the bad ones when it comes to weight gain/ill-health due to insulin, a fat storage hormone.

Basic Building Blocks

Every individual’s body is made up of 15-30% fat and his/her brain contain 60-70% fat which clearly shows that fat is one of the most essential building blocks of our body. Fats also help in:

Human Brain is Said to be the Fattest Organ

  • Cell wall formation
  • Nerve coating (myelin sheaths)
  • Blood-sugar stabilization
  • Hormone production
  • Hunger/craving control

Even studies suggest that a diet high in fat and low in carbs is better for weight loss and improvements in markers for inflammation, heart disease and blood sugar compared to a low fat, high carb diet plan. By fats, we do not mean any fats and don’t be excited that you can thrive on juicy burgers, crispy fries and yummy chicken lollipops. There are good fats and bad fats. While the good fats can help you lose weight, become healthier and stay energized, the bad fats can elevate your risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia and inflammation.

The Good Fats

The best fats are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), omega-3s and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

MUFAs: Almonds, walnuts, avocados and olives (including olive oil) help increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol which can help protect you from heart disease. Always ensure to choose extra-virgin olive oil, those bottled in dark glass and go for the ones that have a recent manufacturing date.

Omega-3s: Our body does not produce these essential fats. There are three kinds of omega-3s-EPA, DHA and ALA-each serving a different purpose. The EPA serves for a healthy heart, DHA helps to improve communication between nerves and ALA gets converted into EPA and DHA. ALA is not less important, but it is required to focus more on EPA and DHA. Fatty fish such as salmon, Pacific halibut, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel and trout are good animal sources while seaweed, walnuts, flax and chia seeds are good plant sources of omega-3s.

The Bad Fats

Trans Fats: When liquid fats such as vegetable oil are turned into solid fats they result in the production of trans fats. Increased inflammation and production of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by these trans fats increase the risk of heart disease. It is no great deal to find trans fats in foods. They are present in everything right from commercially prepared baked goods, fried foods to many other items in the supermarket shelves.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids: These again elevate the chances of heart disease, obesity, weight gain, thyroid, hormone imbalances and inflammation. Vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, safflower and vegetable blends are rich in these omega-6 fats.

Neutral Fats

Butter was cited to be bad for health and heart until recently. But, latest studies have included butter in the healthy category due to the presence of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that helps to reduce inflammation.

One thing is certain-fats are good for health. It all boils down to the question of how much fats to eat, what kind of fats to eat and when to include the fats? These are dependent on a person’s discretion. If you require help in planning your dietary fat intake, you can get in touch with a nutritionist/dietitian at www.firsteatright.com who can help you plan your fat intake as a part of your balanced meal plan.

Getting More Sleep May Help You Eat Less Sweet

A light dinner improves sleep
Sleep Tight with Lighter Sugar Intake

Sweet addicts finally have a sweet news-a new study has found that sleeping for 7-9 hours daily can help you tame your sweet tooth. Sleeping well and for a definite number of hours (7-9 hours) is critical to decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, relax your mind/body and keep you replete with energy for the next day’s activities.

Researchers also felt that normal adults who slept for reduced number of hours can attain the required sleeping hours with small changes in their lifestyle such as reducing screen time before bed or avoiding drinking caffeine late in the night. The study involved 42 healthy adults who slept for 5-7 hours daily. These participants were asked to wear sleep trackers and maintain a food and sleep journal for a week. Out of 42 participants, 21 participants were made to take up consultations (45 minutes) with a sleep psychologist whose main aim was to extend the participant’s sleep time by 90 minutes. All these participants were motivated to sleep more and given a set of behaviors to follow over the next couple of weeks of the study. The behaviors included:

  1. Staying away from drinking caffeine before bedtime
  2. Refrain from using electronic gadgets before bedtime
  3. Doing something relaxing just before bedtime-reading a book, taking a hot shower or having a hearty laugh with your loved one.
  4. Avoid going to bed too full or too hungry

The other 21 participants received none of the above behavioral changes and were requested to continue with their daily routines. Both groups were monitored for four weeks and during the last week of study all the participants were again made to wear sleep trackers and maintain sleep/food journals. The group that received sleep consultation showed great improvement in sleeping patterns-almost 86% of the participants increased their average time spent in bed, 50% increased their average sleep time (by 52-88 minutes) and the other group of people showed no significant changes. When looked into all the participants food diaries researchers found that people who increased their sleep patterns consumed 10 grams less of added sugars every day. This amounts to around 40 calories worth of sugar which does not seem like a big improvement, but daily avoidance of such sugary foods can make a big difference.

While sleep duration increased, sleep quality slightly decreased in these participants, but this might be because the study happened for a short period (4 weeks) and the participants might require a longer time to set their body clocks. Surprising point here is that simple strategies that require no expenses too can alter our food intake patterns and help us sleep for longer hours too. Eat your dinner as early as possible as this also helps to accelerate weight loss. Human beings have body clocks that help them in their sleep-wake cycle. Any distortions in this cycle affects sleep pattern, working style, energy levels and overall performance of the individual. Read more on circadian rhythm and our body’s sleep-wake cycle at www.firsteatright.com.

Fast Facts About Farting

Farting is the expulsion of gas from the body
Don’t Hold Your Fart

We don’t discuss about farting or flatulence openly but each of us do it daily. Individuals make fun of it, people try to hide it and the world cracks jokes based on flatus but if flatulence is taken out of a person’s life, our lives and health become much more complicated.

Our body produces intestinal gas (endogenous gas) as part of the process of digestion and this gas needs to be flushed out of the body either through the anus as flatulence or through the mouth as a burp. Sometimes, we swallow air while eating, chewing, smoking or drinking through a straw and this is called as exogenous air primarily made of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Exogenous gas mostly contains hydrogen and methane with small quantities of other gases such as hydrogen sulfide which contribute to the foul smell sometimes when we fart. Undigested carbohydrates present in foods that contain fiber (beans, nuts and fruits), sugars (fructose and sorbitol), insoluble fiber (most root vegetables) and starch (corn, wheat, potatoes) is also released as gas.

Everyone farts but it might not be the same set of foods that causes farting in people. Also, certain set of people with certain conditions such as lactose intolerance, celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome may experience more problems with gas than others. If you find yourself perplexed about any of these conditions, please visit the website www.firsteatright.com to understand them completely.

Rarely do we gain knowledge about farting as it does not hold prominence nor is it a pleasant topic for discussion during parties or meetups. But, there are certain interesting and intriguing facts that we are bound to know:

  1. Farting does not do injustice to men or women and it attack both the sexes equally. Also, research shows no significant difference between the amount of fart that young and old people expel
  2. On an average, a normal person produces around 0.6-1.8 liters of intestinal gas daily anywhere between 12 and 25 times a day. It is also not abnormal for people to fart more than this based on their choice of foods
  3. Though we crack jokes on foul smells produced due to farting, only 1% of the gases expelled in farts smell bad and more than 99% gases passed consists of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane
  4. Individuals fart more while fast asleep
  5. Beans are great food sources that produce gas and soaking beans overnight can reduce their nature to trigger gas production
  6. Methane produced from livestock covers almost 36% of the methane pollution caused due to human activity

Humans eat and sleep but don’t feel embarrassed doing it. Farting is as common as eating and sleeping but still people find it hard to accept it openly. Its understandable that sudden noises/sounds can make you and me feel awkward but there is nothing unethical about it.

Which of the Nicotine-withdrawal Symptom is Threatening You?

Withdrawal symptoms can be physical or mental
Lack of Concentration is a Common Withdrawal Symptom

What next after quitting smoking? Can anyone escape from the clutches of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms? Not truly! To stay nicotine-free, you need to undergo a few mental and physical agonies before you are 100-percent out of any withdrawal symptoms. While the nicotine withdrawal might last only a month or so, you need willpower to fight the mental battle against cigarettes for an even longer time.

Nicotine withdrawal is a group of symptoms that occur in the first few weeks after discontinuation or decrease of nicotine usage. Nicotine affects all body organs, right from the heart and blood vessels to hormones, metabolism and brain and hence, the withdrawal has physical, mental and emotional symptoms. The first three to five days are the worst as the nicotine has cleared out of the body and you start experiencing headaches, cravings and insomnia.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  1. Few people hesitate to quit smoking worried about the weight gain that happens after quitting. One or two days after quitting, appetite increases. Cravings for carbs and sweets elevates and people tend to eat to fill the time that they had once spent smoking. Most of them gain around 2.5-5 kilograms in the first two weeks after quitting. To lose weight the healthier way with a nutritious diet plan and exercise, please get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com.
  2. Nicotine craving is the longest withdrawal symptom which must be dealt carefully. It may start just 30 minutes after quitting and each symptom lasts for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t try to battle it out by drinking alcohol or by being around people who smoke. Try to find healthy alternatives to overcome these cravings.
  3. Constant cough is experienced by individuals for a few weeks after quitting. This happens as the respiratory system cannot clean itself thoroughly and this is the body’s way of getting it cleared.
  4. Headache and dizziness are mostly the first withdrawal symptoms expected and also the first ones to subside quickly.
  5. Fatigue is extremely common as nicotine is a stimulant that is said to revive your energy. You might experience tiredness, restlessness and insomnia without it.
  6. Constipation during the first month after quitting is common.

Mental & Emotional Symptoms

Emotional and mental symptoms too vary from person to person, just like physical symptoms. Common among these include:

  1. When people smoke to alleviate stress, what happens when this stress buster is curbed suddenly? Anxiety level increases dramatically in the first few days after quitting and can last up to a few weeks.
  2. Depression can set in the very first day you quit and go away after the first month or so. If the person has a history for depression, he/she may experience it for a longer time and might need medical help.
  3. Dealing with all the physical symptoms can leave you irritated for no specific reason.
  4. As the nicotine wears off, the individual finds it hard to concentrate on the task at hand.

The physical agony is annoying but not life-threatening, whereas the mental agony is exceptionally challenging and it takes a lot of strength to overcome this. Time duration is not a concern for nicotine addiction. For whatever length of time you have been using tobacco, it is entwined with a lot many of your daily activities such as watching TV, reading a book or even drinking a cup of hot coffee. Even after quitting, you may find your desires to smoke on the rise, when you are engaged in any of these activities. Almost all the cigarette smokers have at least one of the withdrawal symptoms mentioned above and the intensity depends on the usage and duration.

Don’t Binge Drink If You Wish to Stay Away from Heart Disease

Binge drinking raises heart attack risk by 72%
Binge Drinking by Teenagers Can Debilitate their Emotional & Cognitive Skills

Even though we don’t do anything such as doing exercise or eating a healthy diet, we must at least refrain from doing things that can elevate the risk of heart disease and stroke! We fail from performing healthy activities and also fail from staying away from unhealthy activities. This puts the person at an even greater risk!

Young adults are totally into partying, night-outs and late-night work culture. They spend time with friends at nightclubs and enjoy drinking alcoholic drinks. What might start as social drinking would definitely end up as binge drinking many-a-time.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking involves excessive alcohol consumption in a short period of time. What starts as social drinking might end as binge drinking as many social events these days include alcohol. During such events, individuals are in a mood to sit back, relax and enjoy themselves. This temptation to let go and enjoy tempts many people to party all night. Sometimes, these parties also include drinking games where colleagues/friends try to win against each other and end up in consuming dangerously high levels of alcohol. Binge drinking is mostly prevalent among adolescents and young adults, especially males. Effects on health are worse and it has been considered as a major public health issue. Binge drinking has serious health consequences such as cancer, heart problems, infertility, brain damage, liver disease, stroke and also other social consequences such as domestic violence or sexual assault. The effects depend on how much you drink, how quickly you drink, weight, gender, other drugs and medical history.

A new study shows that young adults who reported binge drinking more than a dozen times in the past year were likelier for certain risk factors for heart disease and stroke than those who binge drank less often/did not binge drink at all. While we already know that binge drinking affects heart health in middle-aged and elderly people, this study focused on the effects of binge drinking as young adults and if there were any known risk factors for heart diseases that could occur sometime later in life.

The Study

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers looked into the health information of 4,710 adults aged between 18 and 45 years and analyzed their binge-drinking pattern. Analysis shows that:

  1. Men involved in binge drinking had slightly higher systolic blood pressure than those who did not binge drink.
  2. The average systolic BP of men who drank 12 or less than 12 times a year was 119 and the value rose to 121.8 in men who reported binge drinking more than 12 times a year. Whereas, the systolic blood pressure of men who did not binge drink stayed at 117.5 mmHg. Normal systolic BP rates are less than 120.
  3. Men engaged in binge drinking had higher total cholesterol levels comparatively and specifically the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels were greater in men who drank more than 12 times a year. Understand what is LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and the foods that are rich in each type of cholesterol by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
  4. But in case of the female population, women who were binge drinkers and women who were not binge drinkers almost had the same blood pressure levels, same LDL cholesterol levels but the only difference seen were in the blood glucose levels. Women who were binge drinkers were at a higher risk of having increased blood glucose levels.

Another study in 2017 found that alcohol abuse was associated with increased heart attack risk and atrial fibrillation. All these suggest that alcohol guidelines must act as a limit and not as a base target. It is necessary to take every precaution to drink well below the threshold.

It is essential that teenagers refrain from binge drinking as it can have debilitating effects on health. There is even a study that shows that alcohol exposure during adolescence, even before the brain is fully developed, can lead to abnormalities and affect a person’s behavior/maturity levels. It is always the first hour after binge drinking which poses the greatest threat-chances of a heart attack soar by almost 72%. The risk subsides substantially within three hours and the person is almost under negligible risk after 24 hours of a binge-drinking episode.

Gut Byproducts Can Trigger Neurodegenerative Brain Diseases

gut microbiome can affect inflammation
Gut-Brain Interaction: A Two-Way Switch

The brain and gut are so distant but yet extremely interconnected. Does the phrase ‘butterflies in the stomach’ or ‘I went with my gut feeling’ ring a bell? If your brain does all the thinking what is the need for butterflies in your stomach or going ahead with some decision due to gut feelings? These expressions do have a reason! These signals arrive from an unexpected source-your second brain hidden in the digestive system. This is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.

Second Brain

The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotions and emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, elation and joy can trigger symptoms in the gut. Also, a disturbed intestine can send signals to the brain. Hence, the gut-brain interaction is like a two-way switch as both of these are strongly connected to each other. We feel nauseated before standing in front of a big crowd; bowel movements change and we tend to use the bathroom frequently during stress. Stress can drastically impact the movement and contraction of the GI tract, increase inflammation and increase your chances of infection.

Encapsulated as two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells in your gastrointestinal tract right from the esophagus to rectum, brain in your gut is called as the enteric nervous system (ENS). Devoid of cleverness or emotions, this brain is all about digestion but communicates with our human brain producing great results. ENS causes emotional changes and reactions in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, constipation, bloating, pain or stomach upset. Researchers feel that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system that trigger mood changes. Become familiar with the diverse nature of the human gut and its role in our day-to-day life from the website www.firsteatright.com.

A new study has established yet another connection between the gut and the brain-the microorganisms living in the gut play an integral role in influencing the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. The gut microbes affect two types of cells-microglia and astrocytes-that are important to the central nervous system. Important to the body’s immune system, microglia search the CNS to get rid of plaques, damaged cells and other materials that need to be chucked out. The same microglia can emit toxic compounds on the star-shaped brain cells, astrocytes and lead to numerous neurological diseases (including multiple sclerosis). Previous studies showed the effect of byproducts from organisms living in the gut, but this is the first study that shows the direct effect of microbial products on microglia.

 

The Good, Bad & the Evil

Bad Cholesterol level paves way for diseases
Eat Foods that Increase HDL & Decrease LDL Levels

Day & Night; Darkness & Light; Happiness & Sadness-Just like this cholesterol can also be good and bad. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is required by the human body, but in balanced quantities. Haphazard cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart attack, strokes and other health problems. Unlike fat that is stored in our body around the waist or thighs, cholesterol travels through our blood streams by carriers made of fat (lipid) and protein and hence, have been rightly named as lipoprotein.

The Numbers on the Report Card

Total cholesterol numbers contain these 3 groups:

  • LDL or the ‘bad’ cholesterol is the worst of the lot and must be taken utmost care of. Otherwise, these can clog the arteries and increase the risk of life-threatening health problems. Just remember the ‘L’ in LDL to be lousy and hence, must be kept low.
  • HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol that our body yearns for. We want more of this cholesterol as HDL helps to carry away the bad cholesterol and minimizes the risk of stroke and heart attack. It is not wrong to equate the ‘H’ in HDL to healthy and happy.
  • VLDL is also like LDL and is a type of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Not very popular, LDL and HDL numbers are what we are concerned about.

Thought triglycerides are not a part of the total cholesterol numbers, these are also usually measured along with total cholesterol numbers. Triglycerides are a kind of fat which increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and other conditions at elevated levels.

The cholesterol numbers of a normal person without diabetes, heart disease or other risk factors should indicate the following:

  • HDL-60 or higher
  • LDL-below 130 (the lower the value, the better it is for the person involved)
  • Non-HDL-below 160
  • Total cholesterol-below 200
  • Triglycerides-below 150

Maintaining Normal Cholesterol Levels

  1. First and foremost is to stay on a healthy weight. If you are already on a healthy weight, maintain it, otherwise target to lose at least 5-10% of body weight. Even such small reductions can cause big changes in your cholesterol levels.
  2. Refrain from eating unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Avoid foods such as red meat, butter, full-fat dairy, fried foods and baked goods.
  3. Every individual needs to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. If you have lived a sedentary life all these years, start doing exercise gradually and increase pace and time.
  4. Meet with your physician and discuss about the various treatment options available. Some individuals, despite leading a healthy lifestyle would need external medication to lower cholesterol levels.

It is recommended that all individuals, aged above 20 years, get their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years to stay safe. If you have alarmingly high cholesterol levels, you are inviting diseases to occupy your body. In such scenarios, it is better to get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com who can help you normalize total cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol

Good and evil rule the world. Every human is a mix of both, good and bad qualities. Likewise, good and bad cholesterol is an indispensable part of our body. While fat can be found hanging around our waist or thighs, cholesterol travels directly through our bloodstream which is dangerous.

Incorrect Cooking Methods That can Induce A Food-borne Illness

Hospitalization might be necessary sometimes
Cramps or Stomach Pain are Immediate Effects of Food Poisoning

Foodborne illness or food poisoning is the result of eating toxic or spoilt food contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites. Extremely common signs of food poisoning include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, stomach pain, fever and chills. These symptoms manifest themselves as early as 60 minutes after consuming the food or might even take days or weeks to show up. While anyone can become victims of food poisoning, children under the age of five are at a greater risk for foodborne illness and related health complications because:

  • Their immune system is still developing and cannot fight off infections as good as adults
  • Young kids produce less stomach acid that kills harmful bacteria which makes them even more prone to diseases and illnesses

Young children subjected to food poisoning experience health complications that can require hospitalization. Dehydration (too much fluid loss on a kid’s body that is too small), hemolytic uremic syndrome (kidney failure and blood disorder that can prove fatal) and infant botulism (temporary paralysis mostly caused due to honey fed to babies younger than 1 year) are some of the complications that require immediate attention.

Safer Alternatives

We might advise parents to stay away from certain foods, but it is better to provide healthy alternative options too for better nutrition. Find below the list of foods to avoid and also the list of safer alternatives for such foods:

Avoid Choose
Raw or unpasteurized milk Pasteurized milk
Feeding honey to infants under 1 year old Feed honey after your child is one year old
Raw egg/products containing raw eggs such as certain salad dressings, cookie dough, cake batter, sauces and drinks Eggs/egg-based dishes that are cooked to a safe internal temperature (74°C)
Raw/undercooked meat or poultry Fully cooked meat and poultry to its safe internal temperature
Raw oysters, clams and mussels. Raw seafood Cook oysters, clams and mussels until the shell opens
Raw sprouts Thoroughly cooked sprouts
Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider Pasteurized fruit juice

 Protect Your Child From the Food Bug

Babies and infants are vulnerable to the bacteria causing food poisoning and the way we prepare or serve food must not pave way for these bacteria. Ensure to:

  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food, especially after touching raw meat, chicken and eggs
  • Teach your kids to wash hands after touching pets and going to the toilet and before eating food
  • Keep pets away from the cooking area while preparing or eating food
  • Keep cooking surface clean, wash all bowls and spoons used for cooking in hot soapy water and take care that chopping boards and utensils are always clean
  • Refrigerate raw meats separately inside clean covered containers at the bottom-most rack to avoid drips from falling over other foods
  • Cook any food served to the baby thoroughly and cool it until it becomes lukewarm before feeding your kid
  • Never reuse food half eaten by your child
  • Wash and peel fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots
  • Never feed or allow kids to eat or drink anything while they are sitting on the potty
  • Never feed kids straight from the jar as this introduces bacteria from the baby’s mouth to the spoon and into the food. The bacteria could grow in the leftovers and result in food poisoning. Rather, take a small portion out of the jar and put it onto a small feeding dish. Feed your baby from this dish using a spoon and if the child leaves some food, don’t put it back onto the jar but throw it out.
  • While out for shopping, buy cold/frozen food at the end of your shopping trip. Also ensure to use different plastic bags to store different raw foods, refrigerate the meat/poultry immediately after going home and wash your reusable grocery bags often.
  • Avoid using sponges as it is almost impossible to keep them bacteria-free

Before preparing food for kids under the age of five always follow these four steps:

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often

Separate: Separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods

Cook: Cook food to the right temperature using a food thermometer. Learn the basics of using a food thermometer at www.firsteatright.com.

Chill: Chill raw meat/poultry and cooked leftovers within 2 hours

Young kids drink breast/formula milk and feeding bottles made of hard plastic/glass must be maintained properly. You can either heat the bottle in hot running water for 1-2 minutes or heat a pan of water and immerse the bottle until it’s warm. Also, never heat breast milk or infant formula in the microwave as microwaves heat baby’s milk and food unevenly which can injure a baby’s mouth and throat.