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Osteoarthritis and the Cherry: The latest Joint Venture

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Joint inflammation,  or “arthritis”, is very common with today’s active public.  As opposed to a disease that travels through various joints in the body, osteo-arthritis is one condition that is physical in nature.  In other words, “osteo” form of arthritis is a “wear and tear” or “rusty hinge” phenomenon, usually caused by repetitive trauma in any joint, which can vary depending on the activity in question. 

For example, runners often get this in their great toe joint, where the toe meets its metacarpal.  This form of repetitive motion is certainly aggravated by poorly fitted shoes, or by running on concrete (instead of grass or soft ground).   When this joint is inflamed by gout (a systemic condition where millions of crystals of uric acid deposit in joints and kidneys), we call it “podagara”.  Coincidentally, Sports Medicine researchers are now finding that an old-fashioned natural remedy for gout can also work wonders for any “osteo” joints in the body. 

Tart cherries have long been suggested as an anti-inflammatory aid to gout patients, as part of their treatment protocol.  But recently researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University studied twenty women between the ages of 40-70, all of whom had osteoarthritis.  Each was asked to drink tart cherry juice twice a day for three weeks.  They were tested for markers of inflammation in the blood stream.  It turns out that excellent results were seen, especially with those who had the worst inflammation to begin the study. 

Principal investigator Kerry Kuehl  M.D. of the Oregon Health and Science Universtiy, was delighted to confirm that a natural food could offer such anti-inflammatory help without any of the side effects associated with drugs.  Since most people who exercise are also health conscious, this is particularly good news for athletes, including the weekend “warriors”. 

Leslie Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition athe University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine, has incorporated tart cherries into the training menu for all of her athletes. 

The active ingredient in the cherry is the antocyanins; antioxidant compounds that reduce pain and inflammation at levels comparable to many well-known pain pills.   Available in dried, frozen and juice forms, tart cherries are versatile, and easy to find.

So if you are aching in any joint, don’t be intimidated by all the pills at the drug store.   Sometimes the best treatment can be “cherry-picked” right from your local grocery store. 

For more reading: Reduce Chronic Inflammation in People with Osteoarthritis 

And for another good way to treat pain without drugs: Acupuncture: An old treatment gets to the point!

 

 

 

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Natural Herbal Remedies Not Guaranteed Safe

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Are you fond of natural herbal remedies? Well, just because they are natural does not mean they are all guaranteed safe. Because modern medicine has emphasized the high tech advances to the detriment of old fashioned people skills, there has been a certain amount of consumer backlash. Many feel that they don't trust any modern medicines, and seek herbal remedies for any ailment. An image of herbal tea Well that may be going from the frying pan into the fire.

In a recent issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, Drs. Talalaj and Czechowicz noted that some natural herbal remedies can be poisonous, especially to pregnant women and to children. In particular, plants containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids tend to accumulate their poisons in the body and can cause severe liver damage.

In some countries, these compounds can be found in herbal teas, which are usually thought to be completely innocuous. In a case in Switzerland, a child whose mother drank an herbal tea containing coltsfoot every day during her pregnancy died eleven days after hospital treatment for liver damage. In the US, two children, a two month old boy and a six month old girl were poisoned after being treated by their parents with a plant extract that contained the poisonous pyrrolizidine compounds. The two month old died, and the six month old survived, only to suffer serious liver disease and cirrhosis six months later.

It should be emphasized that the problems occur rarely, and only with specific herbs, so the national brands of herbal teas should not be suspect at all, in fact I plan to continue enjoying them as I have in the past. Herbs to avoid, according to the researchers, are:

Right. I'm sure we are all familiar with that lot, and can identify them at a glance at ten paces.

Here's an action tip:
Just as all medicines are not harmful, not all herbal preparations are harmless. Unless you are buying reputable brands of herbal teas, or have expert identification of the contents of loose mixed herbs, the safest thing to do is to avoid taking them.

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What To Do About Being Stressed-Out and Overweight

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Obesity. Plumpness. Full figure. There are more euphemisms for this condition than any other medical problem. This is probably because it is not a medical problem at all. With the exception of a very few cases of true glandular dysfunction, such as with certain conditions of thyroid, liver, or adrenal disorder, being fat is an arithmetic problem.

An image of glass of red wine

When the numbers of calories in exceed the number of calories burned off, the body stores the difference. In other words, obesity is caused by eating too much, and/or exercising too little. On the very rare chance that your case may be caused by more than bad dietary arithmetic, a proper medical work-up can pick up most endocrine disorders, and, of course, the appropriate treatments can then be started.

In some cases, such as with thyroid replacement, or surgery on an overactive adrenal gland, the results can be dramatic. But for the vast majority of heavyweights, the problem is not related to luck, genetics, or metabolism. It usually all comes down to choice. That's right, choice. Most fat people choose to be fat, in spite of their protestations to the contrary. When their eyes are closed, they see themselves as fat people, when they talk about themselves, they refer to themselves as heavyweights, and when they buy clothes, they look in the "full figure" section. They may try a diet, out of guilt at being faced with an increasingly lean lifestyle portrayal in the media. But without choosing to see themselves as thin, the dieter feels ill at ease with their new weight, and soon bounces back up to even greater heights.

Often the obese kid themselves into believing that they really don't eat much, just because they see others eating more in public. But the food one sneaks without witnesses can do all the damage, even if one denies having eaten it. My old professor used to point out to her obese patients that "nobody ever came out of a prisoner of war camp fat". Indeed, in circumstances where the freedom of choice in one's diet is removed, such as with the post WWII rationing in England, obesity virtually disappeared from view (at least it made everyone suspicious of ration stamp forgeries if one showed up overweight). Indeed, during these periods, the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, back pains, sore knees and ankles, and a host of other obesity-related diseases all plummeted with the national weight. In the case of post-war British, the choice was made for them. But, for the rest of us, we still have that precious freedom. So, whether you consider yourself pleasingly plump, rotund, or "big boned", remember that you are ultimately the only one to blame, and the only one who can make the choice to correct the problem. It has always been thus. Ever since the days of Shakespeare, the choice facing every dieter as he or she sits down before another meal has always been the same: "tubby, or not tubby, that is the question".

Here's an action tip:
If you are overweight, by which I mean ten pounds over the weight at which you look your best in a bathing suit, remember to exercise your freedom of choice, as well as to exercise your muscles.

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Why Red Meat is OK to be Part of Your Diet

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Are you one of the many who have given up on red meat in your diet? Well, before we all leap to conclusions, let’s see what the beef really is.

An image of a red meat being grilledA generation ago, beef was considered the cornerstone of a good diet, and now it is being treated as if it were a headstone. Sales of the product have plummeted, largely in response to a public concern about the connection between cholesterol and heart disease.  But it should be remembered that a lot of what drives this public habit is based on hearsay, so we should at least set the record straight.

First of all, beef is not everyone's bread and butter. For those who are true vegetarians, and object on moral grounds to eating any animal products, a full and healthy diet can certainly be obtained. Mind you, to be truly consistent on this score, one should not wear leather shoes or belts for all the same reasons. But if you are shifting from beef to other forms of animal meats, there are a few facts that may surprise you. Beef is not as fatty as it used to be. Compared with thirty years ago, beef is now fifty per cent leaner and a fifth lower in cholesterol. A serving of inside round steak has as little fat and cholesterol as an equal serving of roast chicken without the skin, or as little fat as a half cup of regular cottage cheese.

Ounce for ounce, lean beef has the same amount of cholesterol as a serving of sole. So even though the switch away from beef is motivated by a desire to decrease cholesterol, the unwary who instead have fried chicken, or fried fish are actually getting more fat into their bodies instead of less.

Here's an action tip:

The object of today's healthy nutrition is to eat a balanced diet, higher in fiber, and lower in fat. For most people, the only concession they have made is to cut their red meat consumption in half, then treat themselves to fat laden granola bars or oat muffins. By all means, eat a healthy diet, as suggested by the Heart Association, but please consult your doctor or nutritionist for specific review of your food needs.

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Is Your Stomach Feeling Stressed? Try Eating Slower!

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One of the common complaints I hear in my offices is about effects of stress on the stomach. These can include acid reflux, upper abdominal pains, waking up with gas or wet "burps" full of acid.

eating too fast

Doctors are trained to take a history, examine the patient, then take images (X-rays, ultrasound or MRI's) that could shed light on the diagnosis.  Even blood tests are helpful, to rule out anemia from blood loss in the stomach, to checking for an antibody to the bacteria H. Pylori, a  cause of ulcers that can be found in the stomach.  But once such steps have been taken, the usual direction is to take medication, such as the proton-inhibitor Nexium.  A good drug, but before it is given, I always like to look at one other very important factor: the speed of eating.

Aerophagia , or, literally "air-eating" is a huge problem when people are under stress.  It can be insidious, or it can be obvious.  Gulping audibly is one obvious form of air-eating, another is "slurping" drinks through a straw.  A third way is to drink fizzy liquids, like beer or carbonated waters.  But even if all these are avoided, then a major factor can be speed.  When food is taken quickly, it almost always involves a huge intake of air. 

That's why our parents admonished us to eat with our mouths closed, and to chew our food "twenty times" for good measure.  Actually the latter suggestion increases the pre-digestion of food by mixing it with amylase from the salivary glands, to start to digest the proteins before they even hit the stomach.

So take a look at your plate when you finish eating, and compare it with those of your meal-mates.  If you are finishing first, you are probably wolfing down your food, and will likely be paying the consequences later. 

So take time to relax during eating, and don't treat meal times like the Formula 1 race cars' 9 second pit-refueling binge.  Place your food in an artistic fashion on the plate (don't eat out of the bag or box), and set the table for civility, even if only with paper napkins and water glasses.  Take time to converse, if company is available, or to listen to relaxing music.  If you are alone, reading can also relax your meal time. 

 

 

Further advice from our grandparents might also include never talking about politics or religion during meals, as it can certainly lead to arguments unless you are sure your table-mates share your opinions.

When you are under stress, don't assume you will therefore get an ulcer or heartburn, and will therefore have to take drugs.  Its easier to operate on your eating style than to operate on your stomach.  Bon apetit!

 

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