Health and Fitness

Arthritis Myths

Arthritis is a common condition that can cause pain and stiffness in multiple joints of our bodies. It can affect nearly any joint, though it’s most common in the hands, knees, hips and lower back. Today I’d like to explore some of the myths related to this potentially disabling condition.

Many people feel that once they receive a diagnosis of arthritis, there is nothing they can do. This is a myth. I empower people by letting them know that their diet and exercises can have an enormous impact.

From a diet standpoint, anti-inflammatory foods, rich in omega-3, such as nuts, dark leafy vegetables, berries and oily fish will have a positive impact on pain and flexibility. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining an ideal body weight decreases the stress across your joints and helps maintain a higher level of lifelong function.

Some people feel that if their arthritis hurts they should rest. On the contrary, gentle movement and activity will make you feel better. Range of motion or stretching exercises may have a profound impact on the pain and function of an arthritic joint. Low impact exercise program such as tai chi and yoga are often more beneficial than any medication.

Exercise can improve strength, range of motion and stability of an arthritic joint. By doing so, pain may decrease. According to the American College Rheumatology, “Exercise and arthritis can and should coexist. People with arthritis who exercise regularly have less pain, more energy, improved sleep, and better day -to-day function.“.

People often ask which is better, heat or ice? A good rule of thumb is, whatever feels better. One caveat, if you have a warm swollen joint, ice is definitely better in the acute phase. In some cases, heat is better at first to help you warm up a joints and when in doubt, use ice after exercise.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Medical Hype

The first inactivated polio vaccine was produced by Jonas Salk. In 1954, the inactivated vaccine was tested in a placebo controlled trial which enrolled 1.6 million children in Canada, Finland and in the United States. The following year it was adopted throughout the United States. In the years leading up to its adoption, parents feared allowing their children to swim in public pools due to the devastating effects of this communicable disease.

Parents and children eagerly lined up to accept this vaccine and the incidence of paralytic polio decreased from 13.9 cases per 100,000 to 0.8 cases per hundred thousand in 1961. Since that time it has been nearly completely eradicated.

A similar story exists for smallpox. Smallpox was a terrible disease and on average, nearly 3 out of every 10 people who got the disease died. The basis for a smallpox vaccination began way back in 1796. Intensified eradication programs began worldwide and in 1975, the last person in the world to have naturally acquired smallpox was diagnosed. Eradication of smallpox had occurred in North America in 1952.

It is hard to believe that with these well-documented successes against horrific diseases that so many people question the necessity, safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Sadly, only about half of the population the United States is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 infection. This is not enough to provide the needed herd immunity to keep ourselves, our patients, parents and grandparents safe.

This week I completed the book on tape titled “Hype: A doctors guide to medical myths, exaggerative claims, and bad advice – How to tell what’s real and what’s not.“ by Kristin Loberg and Nina Shapiro MD. It was published in 2018 and took direct aim at the anti-vaccine movement. It took an honest look at the real science behind most common beliefs and assumptions and healthcare.

The bottom line is that the assumption that vaccines are dangerous is a health myth. They are far safer than dozens of activities that you already engaged in today. Their importance for the health of our society cannot be overstated.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Recreation and Your Health

This past week I returned home from a long-awaited beach vacation. After a trying and lonely 2020, I felt that I really needed a vacation. My physical and emotional tank was running low and I was becoming much less productive. The COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s associated isolation, really reinforced the point that human contact, vacation and recreation are essential.

Recreation is necessary for your overall wellness. It is more than just entertainment. Recreation improves both your physical and emotional well-being. It recharges your body and makes you more productive at work and improves family and social relationships.

Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. This is due in large part to our decrease in physical activity and sedentary lifestyles. With modern conveniences, we really don’t have to move much at all or exert much energy to complete our work and self-care tasks.

Recreation is a fun way to reintroduce essential movement and physical activity into our lives.The obvious by product is that we will be healthier, more physically fit and be more likely to achieve an ideal body weight. The concomitant benefits that occur however should not be underestimated. Recreation also promotes social bonds and community interest and a subsequent desire to volunteer and perform public service. This leads to more empathy, better mental health and overall well-being.

Here in the United States, a workaholic attitude is often applauded. But each year, more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table. Vacation time is down to 17 days a year in the United States. This is approximately half of the vacation taken in European countries.

The US Travel Association states that “Vacation is essential for strong bonds, a productive workforce and fulfilled life.“

I couldn’t say it better.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Serotonin and Your Well-being

Serotonin, pictured above, is a substance known to increase feelings of contentment, health, ease, good welfare and overall well-being. So much so that pharmaceutical industries developed a class of medication is called SSRIs that have resulted in billions of dollars of profits. Serotonin reuptake inhibitor‘s are a widely used class of antidepressants that increases our serotonin levels. This may result in feelings of increased happiness, emotional health and welfare and contentment.

Little do most people realize however, is that approximately 90% of the human bodies total serotonin is located in the enterochromaffin cells in the G.I. tract, where it regulates intestinal movements. About 8% is found in platelets and only 1 to 2% in the central nervous system.

If you eat healthy, you will not only feel better physically, you will feel better emotionally. About the only time that donut or sweetened soda makes you feel good is the instant is in your mouth. If you want to feel better for the other 99.9% of the day, eat a healthy diet.

Most of the serotonin in your body is found in your gut, not your brain. Serotonin is required there to promote healthy digestion. It’s also essential regulator of mood, sleep and bone health.

Nonmedical ways to increase the level of serotonin in your system and realize the multitude of benefits on your mood, brain function and gut health include diet and exercise. Most beneficial are probiotic or fermented type foods such as yogurt or tofu. Oily fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon or tuna and leafy greens such as spinach and kale are very beneficial. Hi omega-3 free range eggs, nuts and seeds are essential as well.

Exercise is also well-known to increase our sense of well-being as well as our serotonin levels. This is accomplished by increasing your endurance and overall fitness, and by controlling your weight and making you stronger.

Time and again, it is shown that good physical and mental health are strongly related to a healthy diet and exercise.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Be a Vegephile!

Earthly Delights Farm has a motto “Grow Your Own!” It’s a great motto. They sell veggie boxes they can easily fit 10 different vegetable varieties in a 4 x 4 box. What a great way to have nutrient rich, delicious vegetables at your finger tips!

These past couple weeks have been great for us gardeners in Northeast Ohio. With a combination of hot weather and a great deal of rain, I feel I can literally watch my vegetables grow. Non-gardeners will joke to me that “You know you can buy those things at the grocery store.“ They just don’t get it. Homegrown, organic vegetables are much better for you. Further, nothing replaces the satisfaction you get from hoeing your garden, planting it, watching it grow, picking it and then getting to enjoy the healthy taste.

Because of the many different broad classifications of diet habits, people get confused what is the most healthy. Should I be a carnivore like the Atkins diet? How about vegetarian or even take it to the extreme and be vegan? none of these diets provide all the answers. Even if you are a vegan, you may well be eating a very unhealthy diet if you eat a great deal of sugar or processed carbohydrates.

The healthiest, and lucky for all of us, the most delicious and satisfying, is a vegephile, or a vegetable loving diet. You can still enjoy meat or fish in moderation. Try hard though to only eat grass fed beef, free range chicken and fish in moderation. These high omega-3 proteins will provide a delicious addition to your vegetable diet.

Flip your plate and make the vegetable be the main dish. Fill your plate with dark leafy green vegetables and multicolored raw or only briefly braised type vegetables. Use your protein only for some added flavor to your vegephile diet. A good rule of thumb is try to eat at least 7 to 10 different vegetables a day. The darker or more densely colored the better!

Stay well!