Tuesday, December 30, 2014

4 Compelling Reasons to Stop Drinking Pop

No one, including the soft drink companies, tries to make anyone believe that soft drinks are healthy.  Soft drinks have been called “empty calories’ since I can remember. But over the years, the science has been adding up as to the negative effects that drinking pop may have on our health, and I believe it is time to stop kidding ourselves and start limiting seriously the soft drinks we and our children consume. Here are some reasons why:

1.      DISEASE PROMOTIONSoft drinks and other foods high in added sugar continue to be linked to metabolic abnormalities which can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, liver disease and kidney disease. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the single biggest source of added sugar in our diet.  The American Heart Association, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the National Kidney Foundation, and other health organizations have all made recommendations for limiting the intake of soft drinks or added sugars.  Studies continue to show that as added sugar and soft drink intake increases in a country, so do the rates of obesity and disease. 

2.      CAFFEINE-  Most soft drinks have caffeine added and although it is controversial whether or not caffeine is addictive, many people would say they have to have their caffeine, and suffer withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit.  Caffeine is not a necessary component of soft drinks but it helps ensure that people will keep buying the product and ensures a future revenue, as children become used to a level of caffeine on a regular basis. Do we really want to start our children drinking something that may very well lead them down the path toward disease? 

3.      ACID- Soft drinks are very acidic from the addition of phosphoric acid and citric acid.  This acidity eats away the enamel of teeth, causing tooth decay which is increasing in America's young children. In addition, the acid in soft drinks has also been linked to digestive problems like heartburn/acid reflux, and has been linked to decreased bone health in many studies. 

4.      APPETITE- Soft drinks do not make us feel full, even though they contain a lot of calories.  A large pop may contain 350-500 calories, yet is drunk while eating the typical 800 calories burger and fries combo.  1200 calories is ridiculously high for one meal- almost a whole day’s worth of calories for some people- yet when we drink pop, we do not get a sense of fullness from it. Pop contains a lot of high-fructose corn syrup and the biochemistry of fructose digestion is such that it bypasses the brain’s appetite control center.  Do you want to get fat? Drink pop.

Diet pop isn’t really better than regular pop because it still has caffeine and acid in it, and studies have never shown that switching to diet pop is ever linked to weight loss, and in fact may be linked to weight gain, even if they don’t understand why yet. If you can’t cut the pop completely out at first, cutting down is a great first step.  I think if you look at the facts you will agree that stopping the pop will benefit everyone’s health.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Avoiding the Flu

Influenza or the “flu” is a contagious respiratory illness that spreads around the US every winter between October and May, with cases highest in January and February.

It is caused by influenza viruses and is spread mainly through coughing, sneezing and close contact.

The difference between influenza and a head cold

Anyone can get either the flu or a head cold. However, unlike a cold, flu symptoms come on suddenly and are more severe:

  • Fever (usually over 100°F)
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Runny/Stuffy nose

While a cold will slow you down, the flu will put you in bed and keep you there for a day or longer. The flu can also cause life-threatening respiratory complications like pneumonia.  Over 200,000 people in the US end up in the hospital every year because of influenza complications.  

The difference between influenza and stomach flu

What people call the “stomach flu” or gastroenteritis has nothing to do with influenza.  The stomach flu is characterized by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and stomach pain.  It can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or spoiled food.  The main complication resulting from stomach flu is possible dehydration, although that can be a serious complication in itself.

How to Avoid Influenza

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each flu season causes 4,000 to 49,000 deaths in the US.  90% of these deaths occur among adults 65 years of age or older.

Although frequent hand washing and avoiding crowds are good ways to try to avoid the influenza virus, the best way to avoid the flu is to get the flu vaccine.

Why get the flu vaccine?

By protecting yourself against influenza you are also protecting others around you, especially if you have regular contact with children, seniors or people with chronic diseases. 

Flu vaccines contain inactivated vaccine and so cannot give you the flu, yet the body uses the inactivated vaccine to build immunity to the virus.  Flu viruses are always changing so each year the flu vaccine is made to protect against the most likely 3-4 viruses seen around the world that year.

The effects of the vaccine take 2 weeks to build immunity and last for several months.  Since the peak season is the first 2 months of the year, it is not too late to get a vaccine and decrease your risk of catching the flu.

Risks of a vaccine reaction

The most common problems which follow a flu vaccine are mild: soreness at the site of the shot, hoarseness, red or itchy eyes, cough, fever, aches, headache, fatigue.  If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last no more than 1 or 2 days.

Serious reactions are quite rare and should be reported to your doctor or if it is an emergency call 911.