Water is Essential for Good Health

Water, so precious yet so often taken for granted, is fundamental to good health. It lubricates the organs, regulates temperature and maintains tissue structure. Water deprivation leads to life-threatening dehydration within a few days.

As if that weren’t enough, a 12-week trial run by a team from Virginia Tech has found that drinking water before meals can lead to weight loss. The Economist magazine reports that a year-long follow up trial both confirms and expands on that finding. The group who drank water before meals lost about seven kilograms each, whereas as those who didn’t lost only five kilograms.

Why is Water Essential to Good Health?

The human body is composed of 65% water. Blood is 95% water, while skin is 70% water. The brain is about 75% water. Everyone loses water as they go about their daily activities, and therefore needs to replenish what has been lost on an ongoing basis each day.

The body is able to regulate how much water it holds. The kidneys can either excrete excess water as urine, or withhold water when the body needs it. In the latter case, dehydration is at work and thirst soon makes itself felt. By the time a person feels thirsty, he or she is already dehydrated.

Symptoms of dehydration include the obvious dry mouth, headaches dry eyes and light-headedness. Long-term effects include constipation and kidney stones.

The Importance of Keeping Hydrated

The obvious answer to keeping hydrated is to drink water. The official advice has long been to drink about eight glasses of water a day. This has led to some confusion, as sources of water can and do vary. In addition to mineral water or water from the tap, sources can include other drinks such as fruit juices and herbal teas. Coffee and tea, long thought of as diuretics, can also help make up the daily quota of fluid, as their diuretic effect is fairly mild. Also, there is water in food, so in effect the eight glasses a day can be made up from a number of sources.

It is important to drink regularly throughout the day, as the kidneys function better when they have a steady input and output of liquid. Those people working up a sweat through exercise or in hot temperatures will need to drink more throughout the day.

Tips for Keeping Hydrated

To stay hydrated, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep a bottle of water at hand.
  • Drink at regular intervals.
  • Water-containing foods such as fruit contribute to daily fluid intake.
  • Alcohol is dehydrating.

Drink more during exercise and when the weather is hot.

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How to Minimize Nonstick Chemical PFOA Health Risks

A recent study shows that exposing children to a chemical used in making such things as nonstick pans, microwave popcorn bags, and anti-stain fabric coatings puts them at a higher risk of developing more bad cholesterol. The research has cast a dark shadow on the use of such common items.

The Culprit: PFOA

The culprit chemical is the fluorine-based nonstick perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The chemical, which DuPont Company developed over half a century ago, is the reason behind the slippery nature of the nonstick pans. However, researchers are now concerned that PFOA may have serious long-term side effects on people’s health.

According to a study whose findings were published in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, both teenagers and children whose blood serum contained PFOA had higher cholesterol and LDL levels than their counterparts who had not been exposed to the chemical. However, the study does not necessarily show that PFOA is the problem because it did not focus on cause and effect.

Nevertheless, if you are concerned about the risks of exposure to PFOA, there are some measures that you can take to prevent the problem. The Environmental Protection Agency initiated a program that was meant to lower PFOA use by 95% in 2010 and get rid of it entirely by 2017. However, the chemical can remain in the body or environment for a long time, binding onto blood and liver proteins. It is therefore important to take steps that will minimize contact with the chemical at home.

Use cast-iron or stainless steel pans instead

Cleaning these pans is relatively easy and you can make the process even easier by warming them up and applying a drizzle of oil first. This process, known as seasoning, gives cast iron the same non-stick properties as more expensive pans but has none the dangers associated with Teflon.

Use carpet or furniture that has no stain-repellent finishes

Avoid Stain-Master Carpets are similar products. Besides this, do not accept offers of applying stain repellent coatings to your home furnishings during purchase.

Use traditional methods to prepare popcorn

Instead of using microwaveable bags, use a pot and a stove. Crank-operated popcorn machines have popcorn ready in about the same time as a microwave. Air-poppers are also available. Also note, some carry-out bags for fast foods are coated with PFOAs to keep away grease.

Although using nonstick pans will make your cleaning easier, it may come at the expense of your family’s health.

How to Use Stool Tests for Health Screening

Stool testing, once the territory of doctors, can now be accessed more easily by other therapists in order to give their clients an unambiguous diagnosis of health problems. Many complementary therapists (acupuncturists, nutritionists and naturopaths) are now using the services of independent laboratories to provide a high degree of health screening against a wide range of diseases.

Why are Stool Tests Important?

The intestines perform the crucial but almost impossible tasks of absorbing all of the nutrients needed for health whilst at the same time excluding unwanted microbes, pathogens and allergens. Within the gut is the microflora, 400-500 species of bacteria that help the digestive system in many ways. Some of them help to keep the gut functioning smoothly, acting as the front line against invasive pathogens. Others help to synthesise vitamins.

Testing for Gut Diseases and Cancers

Often problems arise when the microflora are destroyed by the use of antibiotics, medications, chemical additives, preservatives and by the effect of pesticides and other compounds that find their way into the food chain. This gives rise to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and leaky gut syndrome as well as skin conditions such as psoriasis that are linked to toxicity. Poor gut function is also responsible for chronic fatigue syndrome.

It is said that over one third of the British population suffer from some sort of gut-related disease and so it is more urgent than ever that people get the correct diagnosis. Stool testing is a convenient, non invasive way of getting such diagnoses.

How to Choose the Correct Stool Test

In order to get the right answers, one needs to ask the right questions. The same applies to stool testing and so it is important to know what each stool test aims to discover:

  • Micology tests for intestinal yeast (especially Candida Albicans) and fungi such as Aspergillus Niger (black mould). This is best done with the Secreted Aspartic Protease test.
  • Secretary IgA (sIgA) – This test detects reduced immune system performance and intestinal inflammation.
  • Alpha-1-Antitrypsin – This tests for leaky gut syndrome.
  • Parasites – This test looks for adult worms and their eggs and for amoebas, giardia lamblia and cryptosporidia.
  • M2-PK Tumour Marker – This tests for a substance (M2 – pyruvate kinase) that is only found where there is tumour activity. This screens for cancers and is useful where there has been rectal bleeding, blood in the stools, abdominal pain, abnormal tiredness or weight loss.
  • Helicobacter Pylori – This test detects ulcers in the stomach or duodenum.
  • Anti-transglutaminase – sIgA –This is the modern test for coeliac disease avoids the use of biopsy.
  • Pancreatic Elastase – 1 – This test measures pancreas function.
  • PMN – Polymorphonuclear elastase tests for chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis and some tumours.
  • Pathogenic Bacteria – This test screens for salmonella, shigella, campylobacter, e.coli, yersinia and clostridium difficile hospital super bacterium
  • Stool PH – Acidic stools indicate fermentation of carbohydrates whilst alkaline stools indicate putrefaction of proteins in the large intestine.

These tests used to be the sole province of the physician, but in some areas can be accessed directly with the laboratory or via a registered complementary health practitioner.

Recognising Arthritis and the Treatments Available

Arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints. It can also affect the muscles and internal organs; affecting a person at any time in their life. Tenderness around a joint, limited movement, redness and warmth are often the first signs of arthritis.

Two of the most common conditions are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis and its treatment

Nicknamed the “wear and tear disease,” osteoarthritis is most commonly found in people aged 65 years and over. This disease affects the joints and the surrounding tissue. It usually affects one or a few of the joints which are knees, hips, hands and spine.

Its aims of treatment include:

  • strengthening muscles and mobility of joints by exercise
  • reduce strain on affected joints
  • taking painkillers when needed
  • losing weight if necessary

Rheumatoid arthritis and its treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis is known as the “autoimmune connective tissue disease” and is most commonly found in women between the ages of 30 and 50 years old.

This disease is a lot more complicated; it occurs when the immune system attacks the cell lining inside the joint, which leaves the joints to move less fluidly. This is how the inflammation transpires. Symptoms are usually joint stiffness, joint pain, swelling and loss of joint movement.

Its treatment aims to:

  • relieve symptoms
  • preserve muscle strength and joint movement
  • prevent joints from further damage
  • help individual to lead a normal life

Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are often taken to reduce swelling and discomfort for rheumatoid arthritis but these only keep the problem at bay rather than it being a long-term aid. There are several drugs which are used to prevent joint damage – methotrexate, sulfasalazine, azathioprine, leflunomide, gold salts, penicillamine and hydroxychloroquine. Methotrexate and sulfasalazine have proved to be the most effective and are therefore the most commonly used.

Arthritis is often genetic so a doctor will ask if there is any history of sufferers within the family. However, it can also occur from infection or a virus (reactive arthritis.)

Tests such as blood tests and x-rays could be taken. An ESR blood test measuring the stickiness in red blood cells is read and if it is particularly high, it concludes that there may be inflammation within the body. A reading taken from someone suffering from osteoarthritis would have either no inflammation or it would be very mild and so the ESR would be normal.

A blood test may also be taken for the Rheumatoid Factor. This is an antibody that appears in the blood, this generally increases in normal people as they age.

X-rays can be suggested as these would show if the arthritis has affected the bones. The x-ray will show if the bones have started to erode or even if there has been bone growth (osteophytes). Arthritis can sometimes cause extra bone to grow at the edges of the affected joints.

In some cases, a general practitioner may be able to make a diagnosis. Sometimes however, referral to a hospital specialist may be needed.

Exercise to keep joints strong

There is a common fear that exercise can further damage already delicate joints. It is however extremely important that the right exercise is taken to maintain flexible joints and muscle strength.

Do’s: Stretching, muscle-strengthening, general fitness or aerobic exercise.

Don’ts: Sit-ups (causes strain on spine), squats (causes strain on knee) and never crack joints.

Nail Biting – Why It Happens and How To Stop

Nail biters are easy to spot. They may keep their hands clenched, point to things using a pen, or hold the pen so as not to show fingertips. They constantly inspect their nails for tears, file frantically, or produce nippers when no-one is looking. The results are obvious if their fingertips are on display. Or, of course, they may be chewing at their nails.

Why People Bite Their Nails

Nail biting is often blamed on “nerves,” or anxiety, or just a bit of nail that was demanding attention. An anxious expression is common while nail biting, but anxiety is not the cause – it’s the result of the action itself. People are fully aware that it’s an ugly habit, and most, if offered an instant cure, would gladly take it.

The habit often begins in childhood, probably in imitation of a relative. This irritates parents, who scold and – sadly – have even been known to creep up behind the child and surprise them with a smack on the hand. This is very unlikely to be effective, as it just increases anxiety and the person may become defensive and secretive about the nail biting habit. And once the habit is established, the biter often finds it hard to resist continual monitoring of their nails and dealing with any snags. It becomes a routine, a habit – a vicious circle of bite, anxiety, check nails, bite and so on.

If the fingernails are soft, they are more likely to split or tear during everyday activities. This attracts the biter’s attention, and the behavior begins.

Why is Nail Biting Undesirable?

Bitten fingernails are always unattractive. They can affect self-esteem and change social behaviour, and are the behavior is often associated with anxiety.

There is also a health issue, as bacteria, viruses, or bits of grime can become lodged under even the shortest nails. This leaves nail biters more prone to illness and infection.

How to Avoid Making Nail Biting Worse

 

Scolding, smacking or punishing a child, or complaining to an adult, will not stop the compulsion to bite nails. It will only increase the anxiety that accompanies it, and may make the person seek privacy if a nail appears to need biting. Worsened anxiety can lead to more nail biting.

Nail biting remedies like bitter aloes and paint-on bitter liquid do have a slight chance of working with children who have just started, but seems intrinsically unkind and authoritarian. Again, it can only increase anxiety, and adults will just wash it off, either deliberately or because they wash their hands frequently anyway.

What To Do To Stop Nail Biting

The first approach is to consider the health of the nails. If they are soft and prone to tear, bend back, or split, then a dietary overhaul might be in order, and advice can be sought.

Habits in childhood may disappear, unless they are replaced by an alternative. Nail biting can be a childhood habit which never became replaced and so persists. The most useful approach is to seek a replacement (or ‘displacement’) activity – one which is acceptable, even pleasant, and which is incompatible with biting the nails.

What is chosen depends on which of two forces is the stronger – the need for oral activity, or the need for the hand to have purposeful fidgeting.

If a person constantly chews gum or mints, sucks the end of the pen, or bites the lip, then the oral aspect is probably important. Here, a solution would be to increase the use of chewing gum (hopefully sugar-free), or – better – find a new activity. Examples might be sucking small pebbles or the occasional boiled sweet, very slowly eating individual peanuts, munching baby carrots, using lip salve, or drinking more water.

More common are manually-driven nail biters, with a need to fidget constantly with their hands. They may drum fingers on the table, make chains of paper clips, ‘ping’ rubber bands, doodle while on the phone, or frequently touch or scratch their faces. A helpful strategy here is to obtain a small toy with moving parts which can be a fidgeting object in various ways. Examples are ‘sputniks’ whose spikes can be pushed in and then they pop out, tiny cars or animals on wheels that can be spun around by the wheels, held in various ways, and raced along smooth surfaces. A small Rubik’s cube would do, but only for changing the surfaces rather than solving the puzzle. If these are cute, constantly to hand, preferably actually in the hand where possible, they should help to divert the fidgeting. They can be given a name, too.

Rules to Help the Methods Work

  • Never be without the displacement object or oral activity, even when nails are looking good.
  • Try to recognise when the biting is just about to start – consider an initial boost with bitters to attract immediate attention.
  • Don’t buy beautiful hand ornaments, especially rings, too soon – not being able to wear them is punishment.
  • Ensure that the diet is promoting strong nails.

Stopping biting fingernails is difficult, but possible with a strategy. It has benefits for appearance, self-confidence, social behaviour, and health, and is well worth the effort.

Keeping an Acid-Alkaline Balance For Health

The delicate acid-alkaline body balance is a topic in which natural healthcare professionals are well versed, but most people are still completely unaware of how important it is to their overall health and well being. Just like every other substance on earth, the human body has a pH, which means that it falls somewhere on the scale between acidity, and its opposite, alkalinity. A person’s body pH is developed as a result of lifestyle, diet and medications, and has more effect on total-body wellness than any other single physical factor.

What is Body Acidity?

If the body does not have a proper pH – meaning a healthy balance between acid and alkaline – it cannot function properly, stay healthy, or age gracefully. When people are born, their acid/alkaline balance is near perfection, but at the time of death, most people are almost completely acidic, which shows its effects on the body. The scale goes like this – a pH of 1.0 is very strongly acidic, and a pH of 14 is strongly alkaline, and most people fall somewhere in between. A healthy pH is a neutral 7.0 – 7.5.

It is very easy and very common for the body to become overly acidic. Due to the typical Western diet of acid-forming foods such as meats, pasta, refined sugar, starches, fast food, and caffeine, most Americans are living in a highly acidic state, which causes them to age more quickly, feel less energetic, and have a body that is very susceptible to the development of chronic disease. There are, in fact, over 38 million Americans suffering from acid overload today, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Some risk factors for developing an acidic condition are taking prescription drugs, not exercising enough, living under stress, being exposed to environmental toxins, using artificial sweeteners, and drinking alcohol and caffeine, or smoking.

The Effects of an Acidic Body

An overly acidic state affects all major body systems, from blood circulation to food digestion, from the neurons firing in the brain to the kidneys ability to filter waste. It can lead to poor heart function, weakened immunity, low energy, and even stubborn weight problems. Those who are overly acidic have also been known to suffer from stiff, sore joints, stomach and digestive disorders, and memory loss. When the body is overly acidic, it cannot properly absorb minerals, and the first to deplete itself is iodine, which has a direct effect on the functioning of the thyroid gland and metabolism.

How to Balance pH

Fortunately, and acid imbalance is a relatively easy problem to correct – with a few dietary and lifestyle changes, along with some supplementation. By simply cutting out the heavily acidic foods mentioned above, and increasing the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially greens of any kind, the diet becomes much more alkaline, and less acid-friendly. Green food supplements are also a good way to add alkaline substances to the system. To keep track of changes in pH, testing strips that check the acid levels of saliva or urine can be used.

The best way to level out the body’s pH, however, is by drinking alkaline water. This is easily absorbed into the system and begins to take effect almost immediately. Water can be made alkaline by being run through a special alkalizing filter, or by adding alkalizing liquid drops, both of which are available at most health food stores.

The Cause, Diagnosis and Treatment of Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a deformity of the spine which cases the spine to rotate and to curve. It not only results in physical problems, but research has suggested that these patients often have poor self-esteem and can suffer back pain. Some forms of scoliosis are thought to be genetic and appear to run in families. It is not a single disease, but can be associated with other syndromes or a symptom of other diseases.

How Scoliosis is Diagnosed?

The first signs of scoliosis are usually small changes in the person’s physical appearance. This can include: a hip that appears more prominent and higher than the other hip, shoulders which are not at the same height, rib cage at different height and others. If scoliosis is suspected then a physician or orthopedic specialist should be consulted.

Scoliosis can be confirmed by x-ray, CT scan, MRI scan and if the curve is confirmed the curvature will be measured. Patients who are also complaining of pain may have a bone scan. The patient will have their reflexes checked along with an examination to look for any loss in motor or sensory function. Scoliosis can affect the ability of the lungs, so breathing will be assessed.

Causes of Scoliosis

Congenital scoliosis is usually detected during an ultrasound scan in pregnancy. The baby will show signs of a deformed spine. A study in 1993 “Anomalies Associated with Vertebral Malformations” suggests that 60 percent of these babies will have other deformities. Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common form of scoliosis occurring at any age and accounting for 80 percent of cases. The most common form is found in adolescents and may run in families.

Scoliosis can also be caused by a number of different syndromes such as Marfan syndrome, Duchene muscular dystrophy. Injury, tumors, and infections may also result in scoliosis. Further in the elderly it may be caused by degenerative changes in the spine caused by diseases such as osteoarthritis.

Treatment of Scoliosis

Treatment will depend on the cause of the scoliosis, age of the patient, the curvature and if there are other medical problems. Non-surgical treatments include observational or wearing a brace. The doctor may decide to monitor the patient and wait with regular x-rays to determine if the curve progresses. There are many variations and types of brace used for scoliosis. It remains unclear if there is any difference between wearing the brace for part-time or full-time. Many adolescents are poor at complying with wearing a brace. Research also suggests that many adolescents find wearing a brace stressful and lowers their self esteem.

Surgery is usually only performed on patients whose curvature is progressing. The Mayo Clinic suggests that surgery is recommended when the curve is greater than 40 to 50 degrees. Surgery involves straightening and fusing of the spine. The type of surgery will depend on the position of the curve and the degree of curvature. The surgery is complex. There is always a risk of complications, such as infection, nerve damage, failure to fuse vertebra and pain.

Improved techniques are improving the care and quality of life for these patients. Research is currently underway to determine markers that will predict progression of the curve and to determine inheritance.