Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gluten-Free Diet

By now you have heard of the gluten-free diet.  Perhaps you have wondered if you should try it.  This column will look more closely at this topic.

Who should follow a gluten-free diet?
3 million Americans are estimated to have celiac disease, requiring a gluten-free diet to live symptom-free. But only 17% know they have it, leaving about 2 1/2 million people with symptoms and not knowing there is relief at hand.  There are also an estimated 18 million people with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). People with wheat allergy would also benefit from a gluten-free diet.

What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  If a person has an autoimmune or allergic reaction to gluten, it can damage the intestines and other parts of the body.  Symptoms indicating a possible need for a gluten-free diet include recurring abdominal pain & bloating, chronic diarrhea or constipation, chronic fatigue, nausea/vomiting, headaches and joint pain, as well as
other possible symptoms.  A series of blood or skin tests would be needed in order to diagnosis celiac disease, gluten intolerance or wheat allergy.

What foods must be avoided on a gluten-free diet?
Besides wheat, barley and rye, oats are often cross-contaminated with gluten by processing, so oats must be certified gluten-free. Basically, all wheat flour products are to be avoided; all bread, cereals, pasta, noodles, seasoned chips, crackers, baked goods, most bakery items and breaded meats, unless they are labeled gluten-free.  Ready-to-eat and convenience foods will usually have gluten-containing ingredients.  Those who follow a gluten-free diet must do their research and read labels carefully in order to avoid ingredients which contain gluten. The extensive list of processed foods to be avoided makes this diet hard to follow if you do not do your homework.  

What foods can be eaten on a gluten-free diet?
The good news is that most other unprocessed, healthy foods are gluten-free naturally. Common gluten-free grains include: rice, soy, corn & quinoa.  Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are gluten-free (no sauces or breading). Fresh meats, poultry and fish are gluten-free.  Read the label on processed or packaged meats, like bacon or sausage for gluten-containing ingredients.  Unflavored milk, butter, eggs and cheese are gluten-free.  Unflavored coffee and tea are gluten-free.

There is a lot of information online about gluten-free eating, like https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/. Gluten-free eating is not for everyone, but might be worth the try if you have symptoms.  Topeka Pharmacy provides professional and friendly health care services- we want to help you!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fruits & Vegetables- Powerhouses of Health!

Your mom always told you that eating fruits & vegetables was good for you.  But do you know that research continues to show how eating fruits & vegetables can affect your health significantly for the good?  Almost all fruits & vegetables are chock full of potassium, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial, protective compounds.   Let’s look at some of what is known up to now:

Blood Pressure, Heart Disease & Stroke
High blood pressure affects 1 in 3 adults in the US, increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes.  It is estimated that half of all strokes and 45% of all deaths due to heart disease could be prevented if blood pressure was controlled.  One key to lowering blood pressure is eating more fruits & vegetables.  Rich in potassium, a higher intake (4 - 5 cups daily) can cause blood pressure to decrease in as little as 2 weeks. 

More and more research is linking a plant-based diet, including lots of fruits & vegetables, to a substantially lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This is partially linked to the fact that those who eat more fruits & vegetables also often have other healthier lifestyle habits, and a lower body weight.

High in fiber, fruits & veggies help your digestive system work optimally.  In addition, the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help the healthy bacteria grow, optimizing your health from the inside out.

Adequate fruits & vegetables may keep your eyes healthy, decreasing the risk of developing two common problems- cataracts & macular degeneration.

Brain Health
It is becoming increasingly clear in research that fruits and vegetables have significant beneficial effects on the brain, protecting against some kinds of cognitive decline, even Alzheimer’s disease.

Weight Loss
Fruits & vegetables contain a high percentage of water in them, thereby filling you up on fewer calories and helping control appetite. 

What to Do
Daily Recommended Amounts are 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit (2 whole fruits) and 2-3 cups of vegetables.  Most Americans get less than half of the recommended amounts.  Fried potatoes and chips don't count.

So where might you add one more fruit a day?  Can you eat a larger serving of vegetables and try to eat vegetables and/or a salad daily?  These simple methods can double your intake and use the power of food to strengthen your health. More power to you!