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Posts Tagged ‘diet’

healthy diet clears constipation

Constipation is not exactly a dinner topic, but it is a condition that affects almost every living person at one time or another. It’s a common complaint at the doctor’s office.

Constipation is defined as infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools. The normal number of bowel movements for adults ranges from one or more per day to two to three per week. For most people, going without a bowel movement for several days is a temporary condition and does not lead to any obvious discomfort or health problems. One may begin feeling uncomfortable when constipation lasts more than a few days. It should be noted that constipation does not build up toxins in the gut, nor does it lead to cancer.

There are many causes of constipation, some of the more common being:

– Inadequate amounts of fiber in your diet.

– Insufficient liquid intake.

– Lack of physical activity.

– Side effect of some medications, especially narcotic pain medications such as Vicoden and Percocet.

– Changes in daily routine or lifestyle.

– Colon cancer (rare).

There are two methods of dealing with constipation including:

Life style changes

– A high fiber diet including beans, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and less dairy, red meat and processed foods.

– Adequate fluid intake.

– Regular exercise.

– Trying not to delay a bowel movement when one has the urge.

Laxatives

– Fiber supplements are natural and very safe. Examples include Metamucil and FiberCon which are safe and effective to use daily.

– Stool softeners, such as Colace and Surfak, add moisture to the stool.

– Stimulants help increase intestinal motility. Examples include Dulcolax, Senekot, and Correctol. (It’s best not to use these too often.)

– Osmotics bring more fluid into the intestines causing easier passage of stool. One of the most common which I recommend is Miralax available without a prescription.

– Saline laxatives also help to draw fluid into the intestines. Examples include milk of magnesia and Haley’s M-O.

– Lubricants, such as a dose of mineral oil, help the intestines to pass the stool more easily.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about colon cleansing which is enema therapy that is claimed to help flush the toxins out of the colon. There is absolutely no scientific proof that there are toxins in the colon which can cause any harm. Most substances good or bad have been absorbed into the body in the small intestine which is not affected by enemas. In fact, colon cleansing can flush out needed electrolytes before they can be absorbed by the colon and also wash out beneficial intestinal bacteria. Don’t flush your money down the toilet on this misguided treatment.

From my experience, if you suffer from constipation and follow my advice in this article, you can save a trip to your doctor. But if symptoms persist or worsen, by all means get professional advice.

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There is much talk these days about gluten-free food and gluten-free diets. I’d like to explain what this is all about.

Gluten is a protein found in foods containing wheat, barley or rye. The consumption of gluten by susceptible individuals causes celiac disease, which affects the digestive system.

People with celiac disease who eat gluten-containing food experience an immune reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine. The resulting damage interferes with the intestine’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, which in time can deprive many of the vital organs of proper nourishment.

The most common symptoms of celiac disease are abdominal pain, vomiting, bloating and diarrhea. Less common symptoms are depression, irritability, joint pains, upset stomach, cramps, rashes and weight loss. Infants and young children seem to have more of the digestive symptoms than adults do.

About 3 million people in the U.S. have celiac disease. Having a family member with celiac disease does raise one’s risk of the disease.

Diagnosing celiac disease can be difficult, because some of its symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, intestinal infections and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Diagnosis rates are increasing, however, as doctors become more aware of the variety of symptoms of this disease and reliable blood tests are more available. A biopsy of the small intestine can be done to confirm the diagnosis.

At this time, there is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be managed by a proper diet.

For most people, following a gluten-free diet will alleviate the symptoms, heal the damaged intestinal lining and prevent further damage. Symptomatic improvement can occur within days of beginning the diet, but it may take many months for the small intestine to heal itself.

To stay well, people with celiac disease need to be on a gluten-free diet for the remainder of their lives.

In spite of having celiac disease, one can still eat a well-balanced, healthy and flavorful diet.

Wheat flour can be replaced with flour made from rice, soybeans, potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat or beans. There are now a wide variety of gluten-free pastas, breads, snacks and other foods available in grocery stores and restaurants.

People with celiac disease must be careful about snacks and meals they buy at school, work or restaurants, as well as food purchased at grocery stores. Eating out can be a challenge when avoiding gluten-containing foods.

Here are some examples of common foods and beverages to avoid unless they are labeled as gluten free:

– Bread

– Cake, pie, cookies, crackers and croutons

– Processed luncheon meat and gravy

– Oats

– Salad dressing and sauces (including soy sauce)

– Soup

– Beer

See your doctor if you think you are having any symptoms of celiac disease to confirm the diagnosis and work on a treatment plan.

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Childhood Nutrition

March is National Nutrition Month. I would like to discuss the important topic of childhood nutrition. Whether you have a newborn or a teenager, what he or she eats is important to both physical and mental development.

The following are my recommendations supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Infants

From birth to 12 months, it’s all about milk, whether it’s breast milk, iron-fortified formula or a combination of the two. Whole milk is not to be given during this time. At four to six months babies can begin solid foods such as iron fortified baby cereal, strained fruits, vegetables and pureed meats. Fat restriction at this age is usually not necessary since fat helps to develop the brain and nerves.

Preschoolers, toddlers

At 12 months, children who have been weaned off breastfeeding may begin drinking whole milk. Low-fat milk would be better if there is a strong family history of obesity or heart disease. Calcium is necessary during this time to help build strong healthy bones and teeth. Milk is still one of the best calcium sources along with fortified cereals and juices. Fiber is also important to help fight obesity and promote digestion and prevent constipation.

Elementary school

Protein is important in this group. If a child won’t eat meat, plenty of protein can be found in beans, eggs and peanut butter. At this age, kids will start eating more not-so-healthy snacks and fast foods. It is important to monitor their intake of fats and salt and the ever-increasing consumption of sugar in all its many forms.

Teenagers

This is the time when junk food can become a bigger part of the diet. It’s also when some kids become very conscious of their weight and may develop eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. Calorie requirements increase, as does the need for calcium. Low-fat milk and calcium-rich and -fortified foods are still very important. Girls who begin menstruating will need more iron-rich foods, such as meat and poultry, vegetables and beans, and fortified cereals and grains.

It is also now recommended that all children, beginning in the first two months of life, receive at least 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Discuss this with your doctor.

Getting our children to eat a healthy diet may not be an easy task. There’s too much childhood obesity (one in three children in America), diabetes and even heart disease. We need to monitor our children’s eating preferences and habits and be diligent about encouraging and explaining to them the benefits of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

For us parents, this may be a constant battle, but one well worth fighting to help ensure that our children will grow up to be healthy adults.

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Diabetes, Part 2

In my November column on diabetes, I discussed the definition, symptoms, causes, risks and complications of this common disease (“Diabetes a common peril,” Page 20, Nov. 23). Today, I would like to discuss the diagnostic tests and treatments for diabetes, prevention and the impact of the disease on our society.

Before I do so, though, a reader who has a child with Type 1 diabetes has asked me to clarify a few points. Type 1 (childhood) diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar; it is caused by the body not having enough insulin, which causes increased blood sugar. Also, a child will not “grow out of it.” Type 1 diabetes is a lifetime health issue.

Now, on to today’s topics:

Blood tests are used to diagnose diabetes. The fasting blood sugar test is the one most commonly used. It tests the amount of sugar in the bloodstream after a period of fasting. A more reliable blood test is called the A1C test and measures a person’s average blood sugar over several months.

Specific treatment for Type 1 diabetes involves the use of insulin, frequent monitoring of one’s blood sugar level and counting carbohydrates. Treatment of Type 2 diabetes involves oral diabetes medications, possible use of insulin, blood sugar monitoring, maintaining a proper diet and routine exercise.

Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented and can only be treated with insulin. However, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by the same lifestyle choices that also treat the condition, including:

– Eating healthy foods.

– Getting plenty of physical activity.

– Losing extra pounds, if overweight.

About 26 million Americans have diabetes, and the numbers are growing yearly. About 2 million of these diabetics have Type 1 diabetes, and the remaining 24 million have the more preventable Type 2 diabetes. Twenty-six percent of all hospital costs are related to the treatment of diabetes and its complications, costing $175 billion to $200 billion per year.

In summary, we know that Type 1 diabetes usually begins in childhood, is most often caused by genetic or other unknown factors, is not caused by a poor diet and can be treated with insulin injections. It is incurable.

Type 2 diabetes affects mostly adults and is treated and often cured by diet, exercise and preventing obesity.

About 25 million Americans have prediabetes, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. I would advise patients to talk with their physicians at their next routine visit about being screened for this common disease.

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Halloween is soon upon us, and our little trick-or-treaters will be carrying home bags full of candy. As candy is full of sugar, I’d like to discuss the effects of sugar on our health.

The average American consumes a whopping 2 to 3 pounds of sugar a week, about 130 pounds a year. That’s up from 25 pounds per year just 20 years ago. This rapid increase in consumption is because sugar is increasingly being added to many of our daily foods, such as soda, breakfast cereal, bread, mayonnaise, peanut butter, salad dressing, canned goods and many other food products.

The main problem of eating too much sugar is that it adds extra calories to our diet; in most cases, much more than we need. Extra calories add up to weight gain and eventually to obesity, which is one of our greatest health epidemics. Obesity from eating too much sugar can cause health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

Sugar is the main cause of dental cavities and tooth decay. It is also associated with an increase in triglycerides (a type of fat in the bloodstream), which can be another cause for heart disease.

There are many other possible — but not necessarily proven — health problems related to excessive dietary sugar, such as suppression of the immune system, hyperactivity in children, arthritis, asthma and many more diseases.

Some think that natural sugar, such as that found in fruits, dairy products and other foods, is healthy. This is true only to the extent that these foods also contain healthy amounts of vitamins, fiber and other nutrients.

Sugar is sugar, no matter what it’s called. There are brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, molasses, honey and others. They all contribute calories.

The American Heart Association says that women should get no more than 100 calories a day from added sugars. That’s about 7 teaspoons, roughly 25 grams, which is about equal to one typical candy bar. Men should get no more than 150 calories from sugar. That’s about 10 teaspoons, roughly 38 grams, the amount found in 12 ounces of soda. Most Americans get more than 22 teaspoons — 355 calories — of added sugar a day, far exceeding healthy guidelines.

The best way to cut back on added sugar is to limit, if not eliminate, soft drinks from your diet. Many other drinks are high in sugar, including ready-to-drink teas, sweetened alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, and juice drinks. To satisfy sweet cravings, try eating fresh fruit. For snacks, swap candy and sweets for air-popped popcorn, dry roasted nuts and baked tortilla chips.

Look at food labels, which list the ingredients and often give the amount of sugar measured in grams.

The bottom line is that most of us consume enough naturally occurring sugar in a well-balanced diet. The more we can cut back on candy, sodas, pastries, cakes and cookies, the healthier we will be.

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