Category Archives: Expert Advice

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.

 

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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.

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.

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!

How Many Meals Should You Eat Daily?

The number of meals you should eat per day can vary based on each individual person’s needs. How frequently you eat depends largely on your lifestyle activity level and your health. Food is very important to your body. Food provides the fuel that allows your body to carry out your daily activities. As a result, it makes sense that you space out your caloric intake to make sure you have enough energy to get through the entire day. When you begin to experience hunger pangs, it is your body’s way of telling you that you are low on energy and need to refuel. If you have a goal of weight loss, you might find that eating just three meals per day can help you yield the results you want, according to Heather Leidy, a nutritionist at the University of Missouri. However, others may find that eating five to six, small, frequent meals daily works best.

It is very important to plan your meals around your caloric needs. Typically, the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010,” can be beneficial in providing guidance for how many calories you should consume on a daily basis. Your daily caloric intake is based on your age, gender and current activity level. For instance, a woman in her early 30’s, who is very active, should consume 2,400 calories. A woman of the same age, who leads a rather sedentary lifestyle, should only be consuming between 1,800 and 2,000 calories daily. In order to help keep your blood sugar stable, you should eat according to your daily schedule. This will help to give you the energy you need to get through your day.

If you experience reactive hypoglycemia, which is a drop in blood sugar that occurs in individuals who are not diabetic, you should be eating small meals or snacks every three hours. This will help to keep your blood sugar stable as indicated by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Much like those who experience reactive hypoglycemia, those with diabetes should consume small meals and snacks throughout the day. If you delay eating, your blood sugars will continue to drop. This can lead to hypoglycemia. Eating every three hours can help to keep your energy levels up and your blood sugar levels in-check.

Overall, you are the only one who knows exactly how you should eat. Your body will let you know when you are hungry or running out of energy. It is important to consume a healthy, well-balanced diet within your recommended caloric intake whether this means eating three times per day or eating six times per day.

Going Gluten-Free: Who Really Needs to be going Gluten-Free?

For years, going gluten-free has been indicated for a wide-variety of health conditions; including improved health and energy, weight loss, dealing with ADHD, headaches, autism and a variety of other health conditions. Going gluten-free may even be viewed as a trend by some. However, long before the trend, a gluten-free diet has been used by the medical community as a proven treatment for a condition known as celiac disease.

While studies are in the works to show the health benefits for other health conditions, currently the only individuals, who need to participate in a gluten-free diet, are those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. One of the most common misconceptions about gluten-free diets is that they are healthier. In reality, gluten-free diets are difficult to follow and contain a number of nutritional setbacks. As a result, the only people who need to be following a gluten-free diet are those who are being monitored by their physician.

Celiac Disease:

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, in which a person is unable to tolerate gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in barley, rye and wheat. Gluten can also be found in pasta, bread, beer, salad dressing and cold cuts.

When a person diagnosed with Celiac disease consumes gluten, the lining of their small intestine becomes inflamed and damaged. This can make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. As a result, patients with Celiac disease may experience weight loss and become malnourished. A patient with Celiac disease may also experience abdominal pain, bloating, upset stomachs, and diarrhea.

Gluten Sensitivity:

Just because you experience problems with gluten does not automatically mean you will test positive for Celiac disease. There are plenty of individuals out there, who test negative for the disease yet still experience a negative reaction when it comes to consuming gluten.

Doctors are able to distinguish Celiac disease from gluten sensitivity largely because those with gluten sensitivity do not have visible damage to their intestines. While most doctors generally accept the same definition of gluten sensitivity, its cause remains a mystery.

Gluten-Free Diet Allowances:

While on a gluten-free diet you are able to enjoy:

  • Beans, seeds, nuts in their unprocessed form
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry (that are not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • A majority of  dairy products
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Flax
  • Gluten-free flours (including rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
  • Hominy (corn)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca

Foods to be avoided on a gluten-free diet:

  • Barley (including malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar)
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Wheat

These foods should be avoided unless their packaging indicates they are gluten-free:

  • Beer
  • Breads
  • Cakes
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Croutons
  • French fries
  • Gravies
  • Imitation meats and seafoods
  • Matzo
  • Pastas
  • Pies
  • Processed meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Soy cause
  • Seasoned rice mixes
  • Seasoned snack foods
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soups
  • Vegetables in sauce

Considerations:

Again, going gluten-free does not necessarily mean going healthier. There are plenty of things to keep in-mind before going gluten-free. While going gluten-free, you may experience deficiencies in irone, vitamin D, vitamin B12, fiber and magnesium.

Exercising for Weight Loss: The Best Ways to Lose Weight

If somebody asked you right now what is the best way to lose weight, what would you say? If you are like a majority of people, you’d probably answer cardiovascular exercise or respond with a quick “I’m really not too sure.” However, the best exercises for weight loss may just be any type of exercise you are willing to participate in. There are two things that stop people from achieving their weight loss goals, according to strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist Ben Quist, PhD, NCSA. These two things include boredom or injury.

In reality, the most important part of exercising is creating a calorie deficit – burning more calories than you take in. So whether you can run a 7 minute mile or take 30 minutes to walk a mile, the important thing is that you are exercising and sticking with it. If you don’t like running, there is no need to engage in a running program to lose weight. You have plenty of other alternatives. The other crucial element to an exercise is that you are performing an exercise in proper form. Improper form can lead to injuries, which can mean additionally sedentary time.

Ideally, a successful exercise program will include the following key components:

  • Aerobic/Cardiovascular Activity: Aerobic or cardiovascular activity is an essential aspect of a fitness program. Aerobic exercises are exercises that are strenuous enough to temporarily speed up your heart rate as well as your breathing.
  • Maximum Heart Rate: Your maximum heart rate is based on your age. It is estimated that your maximum heart rate can be obtained by subtracting your age from the number 220.
  • Flexibility Training or Stretching: Flexibility training is a crucial component of any fitness program. This type of training helps to enhance the range of motion of joints. This is important because age and a sedentary lifestyle can cause muscles, tendons and ligaments to become shorter and more susceptible to injury over time.
  • Strength, Resistance or Weigh Training: Females can lift weights. Strength, resistance and weight training are aimed at improving the strength and function of your muscles. Exercises can be completed to target each muscle group.
  • Sets: Sets are a key component, especially when it comes to strength training. Sets refer to repeating the same exercise a particular number of times. For example, when completing push-ups, you may complete 25 push-ups at a time. As a result, you may perform one set of 25 push-ups.
  • Repetitions: Repetitions are also referred to as reps. Reps refer to the number of times you complete a particular exercise during a set. For example, you may perform one set of 10 repetitions