Understanding Your Thyroid

Your thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck; just above your collarbone. Your thyroid is one of your endocrine glands, meaning is makes hormones. Your thyroid is responsible for setting your metabolism – how your body gets its energy from the foods you consume.

In the United States, millions of people suffer from thyroid disease – a majority of them being women. If you have thyroid disease, your body uses energy more slowly or quickly than a healthy thyroid should. A thyroid gland that is underactive is referred to as hypothyroidism. A thyroid gland that is overactive is known as hyperthyroidism.

Let’s take a look at the two.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is most commonly the result of inflammation of the thyroid gland which causes damage to the cells o the thyroid. Autoimmune thyroiditis is the result of the immune system attacking the thyroid gland; this is often seen in pregnant women. Hypothyroidism can also be the result of a birth defect, radiation treatments to the neck area, radioactive iodine, viral thyroiditis and surgical removal of a portion of your thyroid gland.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:

  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Heavy menstrual cycles
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Paleness
  • Thin, brittle fingernails and hair
  • Weakness
  • Unintentional weight gain

If hypothyroidism is left untreated, you may experience decreased smell, decreased taste, hoarseness, thickening of the skin, thinning of the eyebrows, swelling in the hands, feet and face as well as slow speech.

Treatment for hypothyroidism centers around replacing the thyroid hormone that is missing. This is commonly achieved through the use of medication. Your doctor will likely prescribe Levothyrozine in as low a dose as possible; but enough to be effective.

Hyperthyroidism:

Hyperthyroidism is a thyroid condition where your thyroid produces too much of the thyroid hormone, known as thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can significantly increase your body’s metabolism.

Causes of hyperthyroidism can include Grave’s disease, toxic adenoma, Plummer’s disease and thyroiditis. Any of these conditions can cause your body to release too much thyroxine.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include:

  • Sudden weight loss without any changes in your diet
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Menstrual changes
  • Swelling of the neck
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in bowel patterns
  • Trouble sleeping

Treatment options for this condition can vary based on age, physical condition and how severe your condition is. Treatment may include:

  • Radioactive iodine
  • Anti-thyroid medications
  • Beta blockers
  • Surgery to remove a majority of your thyroid gland

There are other approaches you can take, in addition to medication or surgery, that can help you to feel better. Talk to your doctor about supplementing your diet. If you’ve lost a great deal of weight, you may benefit from increasing your caloric intake or adding protein to your diet. You can also ask your doctor about your calcium and vitamin D intake. This is important because hyperthyroidism can contribute to a decrease in bone density.

 

Understanding Nutrition Labels: How to Read the Facts

Understanding the labels on the back of food products can help you to make wise decisions when it comes to your diet and meal planning. Unfortunately, many of us do not know what to look for when it comes to food labels. Here are the most common elements of a nutritional label and what you need t understand:

Serving Size. The serving size is the first thing you will see on a nutritional label. Why? Everything underneath of the serving size is based on just one serving. The Food and Drug Administration sets serving sizes for foods based on measurements – including total calories and total calories from fat. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about serving size is that the label is only providing you with nutritional information for one serving size. Should you double your intake, you will need to double the calories, fat and other contents of the product.

Percent of Daily Value. This is important when it comes to planning a healthy, well-balanced diet. This percentage is calculated based on a fairly sedentary man or a moderately active woman. This man or woman consumes a diet of 2,000 calories per day.

Fats. Nutritional labels break down the fat found in one individual serving size. Fats are broken down by saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fats. When looking for healthy meal options, you want foods that contain low levels of saturated and trans fats. Healthy foods will contain higher levels of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat-like chemical that is an essential component of the cell membrane. You will only find cholesterol in a product is it is an animal product. To avoid high cholesterol, adults should limit their daily cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams. Too much cholesterol can increase your risk for developing heart disease.

Sodium. The recommended dietary allowance for the average adult is 2,300 milligrams daily. Going overboard on the salt can ultimately lead to high blood pressure. A food is considered to be low in sodium is it comes less than 140 milligrams. Often times, soups and frozen meals will contain sodium levels that are nearly half of your daily limit.

Potassium. Getting enough potassium is important in maintaining a regular heart beat and preventing high blood pressure. Adults should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.

Total Carbohydrates. You may notice that the total carbohydrate section of a food label may seem a little on the large size. This is because total carbohydrates include all types of carbs including healthy carbs (whole grains) and not-so-healthy carbs (sugars and refined carbohydrates).

Dietary Fibers. It is recommended that adults consume between 21 and 35 grams of fiber on a daily basis. However, a majority of adults to do receive the recommended amount of dietary fiber. When buying products, such as bread, look for products with three or more grams of dietary fiber per serving. Depending on the food label you are looking at, some manufacturers may break down fibers in categories of soluble or insoluble. Both of these fibers are important to your diet. Soluble fibers (oatmeal, dried beans and barley) are beneficial in helping to lower your cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibers (fruits, vegetables and whole grains) help to aid in the digestion process and protect you from various bowel disorders.

Sugar. Sugars are simply carbohydrates that include glucose, fructose, dextrose and galatose. Sugars provide little nutritional value. However, you’d be surprised at where sugars show up. You may find sugars in foods you deemed to be healthy, such as crackers or healthy cereals. Sugar is often added to products for flavor. Just because a product is not sweet, does not mean sugar is not present.

Protein. It is recommended that you consume .45 grams of protein per body weight. Generally speaking, most Americans get plenty of protein. It is rare for an individual eating a normal diet not to get enough protein.

Vitamins and Minerals. Food labels will include a list of vitamins and minerals that are found naturally in the food product. A label will also indicate whether or not any vitamins or minerals have been added to the product. A label will also indicate the percentage of daily value for each vitamin and mineral based off of a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Training Your Abdominal Muscles – The Best and Most Effective Ab Exercises

Your abdominal muscles do more than just look good in a bikini or while you are shirtless at the beach. The reality is your abdominal muscles, although they can be stubborn to tone, play a critical role when it comes to your spine. Your abs do more than just perform any movement that requires you to round your lower back, your abdominal muscles play a crucial role in stabilizing your spine. Your core muscles are the reason why your torso is able to stay in an upright position without you falling forward due to gravity. Your abs also prevent your spine from flexing. Whether you love your abs or think they could use a little (or a lot) of work, your abs are important and can use regular attention.

While the best abdominal exercises may be largely a matter of personal opinion, here are five of the most effective abdominal exercises:

  1. The abdominal hold. To complete this exercise, sit up tall on the edge of a sturdy chair. Position your hands on the edge with your fingers pointing in the direction of your knees. Slowly, tighten your abdominal muscles and raise your feet off of the floor – approximately two to four inches. Raise your buttock off of the chair. Hold this position for as long as you comfortably can – aim to hold this position for five to 10 seconds. Relax and repeat this exercise for one minute.
  2. The side crunch. The side crunch is much more difficult than your traditional crunch. It tests your balance. To perform a side crunch, kneel on the floor and lean all the way over to your right and place the palm of your right had on the floor. Maintain your balance and slowly extend your left leg. Point the toes of your left leg. Place your left hand behind your head and position your elbow so that it is pointing towards the ceiling. Slowly lift your leg to the height of your hip as you extend your arm above your leg – with your palm facing forward. Look beyond your and while bringing your left side of your rib cage inward towards your hip. Return to the starting position, repeat eight times.
  3. The prone plank. Whether you love or hate the plank, the plank is an effective abdominal exercise. To perform a prone plank, assume a push-up position. Hold this position for 30 seconds with your abdominal muscles contracted and your head aligned with your spine. Your arms and legs should be extended. Work until you are able to hold a plank position for one minute at a time.
  4. The bicycle exercise. The bicycle exercise targets the rectus abdominis (which can help you to create that 6-pack look) and the oblique muscles. To perform a bicycle, lie face up on the ground or on an exercise mat. Place your hands behind your head. Bring your knees in towards your chest and lift your shoulder blades off of the ground without straining your neck. Rotate to your left by bringing your right elbows towards you left knee as you straighten your right leg. Switch sides. Continue alternating between left and right for two sets of 12 repetitions.
  5. The exercise ball crunch. This style of crunch places a new twist on a traditional exercise that challenges your balance at the same time. To complete this exercise, lie on the ball with the exercise ball positioned under your lower back. Cross your arms over your chest or position them behind your head. Contract your abdominal muscles to lift your torso off of the ball. As you complete the crunch, keep the ball stable. Lower and repeat. Complete two sets of 12 repetitions.

Top 5 Types of Medications that Cause Weight Gain

As you get get older, many people attribute weight gain to changes in diet, leading a more sedentary lifestyle or a slower metabolism. However, there is another reason why many individuals gain weight that is often forgotten. Did you know that certain prescription medications can actually lead to weight gain? Yes, the same medication that is helping to control your depression or prevent pregnancy can also be causing you to pack on the pounds.

“Medication-related weight gain has become far more important over the past decade as obesity increases in prevalence and more people are taking medications for chronic illnesses,” says Lawrence Cheskin, M.D., Director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Weight gain can range from a few to a hundred pounds. In fact, weight gain is sometimes the first reason patients list for discontinuing use of a medication.

Here are some of the top medications known for weight gain:

  1. Corticosteroids. With corticosteroids, patients can gain upwards of 100 pounds. This excessive weight can be extremely dangerous and even make existing health problems worse. When a patient gains a significant amount of weight it can cause or worsen problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular conditions and osteoarthritis. Corticosteroids decrease the body’s ability to absorb blood glucose, which can lead to the build-up of fat deposits.
  2. Antidepressants. Weight gain is a common and possible side effect with nearly all antidepressants. However, it is important to note that each individual person will respond differently to antidepressants. Some may gain a few pounds while others may not gain any weight or gain a significant amount of weight. According to Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin of the Mayo Clinic, the following antidepressants are most likely to cause weight gain: Tricyclic, Monoamine, Paroxetine, Mirtazapine and Trazodone. It is important to remember that some weight gain associated with depression can be the result of overeating and lack of physical activity.
  3. Diabetes Medications. Controlling diabetes can sometimes come at the price of weight gain. This occurs for a number of reasons. Insulin can cause low-blood sugar, which can lead to an increased appetite. Sulfonylureas (such as Diabinese, Amaryl, Glucotrol and Glynase can cause hypoglycemia, which again stimulates appetite. Then you have Thiazolidinediones – such as Actos. This medication causes fat cells to store more fatty acids in your body, which can cause fat cells to enlarge. This medication can also cause fluid retention, according to John Hopkins Medical Center.
  4. Birth Control. Birth control pills have been around for over 50 years and are very popular amongst young women. Birth control pills are used for a wide-variety of reasons including preventing pregnancy, controlling acne and regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle. All medications, including birth control, have side effects. Studies have shown that a majority of women who gain weight while on the pill experience this weight gain as the result of fluid retention. However before you toss your pills to the garbage can, remember that weight gain from birth control pills is usually temporary and will diminish after approximately three months on the pill. There are two types of birth control pills. There are combination pills, which contain estrogen and progestin. Then, there are progestin-only pills. Pills that contain estrogen are more likely to cause weight gain than progestin-only pills.
  5. Antihistamines. If you are an allergy suffer, antihistamines can be heaven sent. However, a study conducted by Yale University indicates that those who use prescription antihistamines tend to be more overweight than those who do not. While this study is far from determining a cause-and-effect relationship between antihistamines and weight gain, antihistamines may be another reason for unexplained weight gain.

The LipoLaser: How Does it Work?

With no pain, no needles, no downtime and no invasive procedures, the LipoLaser may appear as if it is some sort of magic wand. How can something that does not interfere with your daily life yield results? The LipoLaser is the latest treatment when it comes to losing inches and countouring your body with affordable costs and similar results to that of invasive treatments.

The LipoLaser works by omitting low levels of laser energy. This laser energy creates a chemical signal in your body’s fat cells, which breaks down the stored triglycerides into free fatty acid and glycerol. These free fatty acids and glycerol are then released through channels in the cell membranes. Then, the fatty acids and glycerol are transported around your body – more specifically tissues that will use them during metabolism to create energy. This process of releasing fatty acids is a natural response of your body. Your body will use stored energy throughout the day when you are in need of energy.

The laser does not create any unnatural reactions in your body. This laser is also safe on your skin, blood vessels and nerves.

Not a science person? Not a problem. The LipoLaser stimulates the chemical pathways in your body to help free up energy sources. This laser does not damage your body, while allowing you to burn excessive fat. Because the LipoLaser is safe, treatment can be performed on most skin types and a majority of body areas.

To help ensure the LipoLaser frees up fatty acids, a period of exercise is used post-treatment. Another option is the whole body vibration platform, which stimulates your muscles to use fat as an energy source. This platform also stimulates drainage of the lymphatic system.

The LipoLaser allows you to have the body you want without the pain and inconvenience of more traditional weight loss procedures.

Nutrition for Aging Bones

Nearly one in four Americans have a musculoskeletal condition that requires medical attention; many of these Americans are senior citizens. In fact, nearly 44 million Americans (mainly older women) struggle with the effects of osteoporosis while others struggle with conditions, such as joint pain and arthritis. It is even more important to note that these bone conditions are much more likely to affect older females than males. What can you do to fight the complications that often come along with aging bones? The answer is simple: better nutrition.

  1. Receive adequate protein in your diet. Research suggests that adequate protein in your diet can help to increase bone mineral density while reducing your risk of developing fractures. Dietary protein can help to build as well as maintain muscle mass. This is important in protecting joints and bones as well as making your bones and joints stronger. Strong bones are a necessity for weight bearing activities. You should be sure to consume foods such as eggs, lean meats, salmon, soy, beans and legumes on a daily basis.
  2. Eliminate soda from your diet. Drinks that are high in sugar can impair the growth of bone cells as well as strength and the ability of your bones to repair themselves should they become injured. Too many carbonated beverages are associated with a significant decrease in bone mineral density in both males and females alike. As a senior citizen, you are going to want to consider replacing soda with water, orange juice, milk and other beverages fortified with calcium. Ditching the sugary drinks can go a long ways in protecting your bones and joints.
  3. Consume plenty of calcium. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is also the most important nutrient when it comes to the health of your bones. Calcium also plays a key role in the process of muscle contraction, the regulation of your heart bet, regulation of blood pressure, helps to boost your immune system and plays an important role in the transmission of nerve impulses. As you age, getting adequate amounts of calcium can help to decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis and help to keep your muscles working as they should. To get an adequate supply of calcium be sure to consume cheese, milk, broccoli, yogurt, kale and calcium-fortified foods.
  4. Remember the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is very important to the health of your bones. Vitamin D helps your body to properly use and absorb calcium, which means stronger, healthier bones. Vitamin D can be absorbed through sun exposure and found n fish, egg yolks and vitamin D fortified foods.
  5. Try supplements. If you aren’t sure you are getting adequate nutrition through the foods you consume daily, talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking a supplement. If you have a vitamin or nutrient deficiency, supplements can be used to enhance the health of your skeletal as well as muscular system.

Remember, nutrition is just one part of maintaining strong, healthy bones as you age. Fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle (such as no smoking) are also very important!

Makeover Your Snacking Habits

If you are habitual snacker, snacking between meals has the potential to be very harmful to your healthy eating and living efforts. If you are snacking on cookies, candies and other items (that you know have the potential to throw your healthy eating habits off), it may be time to revamp or makeover your snacking habits. By doing so, your habitual snacking may be able to help your healthy eating efforts.

Always opt for whole foods first. Instead of turning to the bag of potato chips or other processed foods with a list of ingredients you may have never even heard of, turn to nature. Whole foods have a tendency to get it right when it comes to healthy snacking. Opt for fruits, vegetables, 100 percent whole grains, eggs nuts, tuna, beans and snack bars made from whole foods. Keep this tip in mind: the ingredients list should be short and you should recognize the ingredients.

Be careful with the amount of fat you consume. While there is nothing wrong with eating snacks that contain fat, you don’t want to overdo it on the fats. Aim to avoid snacks that contain trans-fats. These foods raise your bad cholesterol while lowering your good cholesterol levels. Stick with foods with healthy fats such as olives, nuts and avocados.

Reconsider the 100-calorie snack pack. Sure, they may seem like an extremely healthy snacking option as well as very convenient. There is no calorie counting, no sizing your portions, these snacks work on the go and may even be some of your favorite snack foods. However, most of these snacks are simple carbs. You can digest them easily and often be left still feeling hungry.

Prepare healthy snacks and keep them on hand. When you have healthy snacks in your desk, fridge, book bag or purse, you will be much less likely to head to a vending machine for an unhealthy snack.