Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right For You?

Weight loss, loose stools, infertility, joint pain, bloating, migraines—these are only some of the varied symptoms that can result from celiac disease. For those who suffer from this mysterious illness, a gluten-free diet can be life-changing, but there is little data to prove that the diet is beneficial for the general population.

Gluten Free pastries

I would describe a gluten-free diet for the general population as a “fad” diet. It’s certainly healthy to reduce your intake of carbohydrates and accordingly consume more fruits, vegetables and lean meats, but barring celiac disease it isn’t necessary to scrub all gluten from your diet. Many celiac patients stumble on a gluten-free diet in desperation after years of living with gastrointestinal discomfort; others try the diet at the behest of their physician after diagnosis. For those with the disease the diet isn’t a fad, it is life altering. In fact, nearly all patients go into celiac remission after following the diet for one year.

The problem is celiac disease is an uncommon disease with common symptoms, which explains why it is quite elusive to many health care providers. In my opinion, increased awareness, screening and testing accounts for the rising number of people diagnosed with the disease.

If you have any of the following symptoms, or you have been suffering with unexplained gastrointestinal concerns, I recommend that you speak with your provider about testing options.

Typical Symptoms

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal distention
  • Bloating sensation
  • Joint pains
  • Skin rash

Lesser Known Symptoms

  • Bone fractures
  • Pallor
  • Recurrent migraine headaches
  • Infertility
  • Frequent miscarriages
  • Low birth weight in children

Unique Symptoms Seen in my Office Practice

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Weak and thin bones
  • Herpetic skin rash

Celiac disease is frequently associated with a variety of autoimmune or connective tissue disorders such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. If you also suffer from any of these diseases, it might be worth getting tested for Celiac’s.

If you plan to go gluten free, regardless of your disease status, be sure to speak to a physician or registered dietitian to come up with a diet plan that is healthy for you.

6 Things You Can do to Prevent Breast Cancer

A More Healthful Lifestyle Can Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

An apple a day may keep the doctor away. It might seem simple, but the truth is that living a more healthful lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, as well as many other cancers, regardless of your family history.

Be sure to talk with your health care provider, especially when it comes to how your family history impacts your risk. However, it’s been shown that moving more and eating better has a positive impact on your health and overall lifetime risk of cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, about 33 percent of breast cancer cases can potentially be prevented with some basic lifestyle changes. 

1. Lose it

Maintaining a healthy weight puts you at a lower risk for developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. If you are overweight, studies have shown that losing even a modest amount of weight (approximately seven percent of your body weight) can improve your health. Maintaining a BMI under 26, especially in post-menopausal women, has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

2. Move

A small amount of exercise can add big results. Studies have shown that 150 minutes of exercise per week can impact weight loss. Try a new class, join a gym or simply go on a 10-minute walk after most of your meals. Find something that interests you so you’ll stick with it and start slowly to avoid injury.

3. Focus on plants

Eating a plant-based diet rich in fruits, nuts and vegetables can provide a variety of healthful antioxidants that have been shown to prevent cancer. Other foods offering cancer-reducing effects include soy, green tea, turmeric, ground flaxseed, the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, as well as fish oil, garlic and onions.

4. Try soy

In Asia, where soy consumption is much higher, the rates of breast cancer are much lower. It’s considered safe to consume one-to-two servings of soy per day by eating foods like tofu, edamame and protein bars. Although because soy can act as an estrogen in the body, there are different recommendations for those who have a family risk of estrogen-positive breast cancer. Check with your health care provider. 

5. Avoid fad diets and red meat

Focus on eating to maintain for your long-term health. The American Cancer Society says to avoid eating processed meats high in the cancer-causing preservative sodium nitrite. They also suggest no more than 18 ounces of “red” meat per week (pork, beef and lamb) in your diet.

6. Get drunk on life

Avoid or reduce your alcohol intake and increase your water intake. Alcohol is a proven carcinogen and contributes to weight gain. It’s recommended that women have no more than one drink per day and a maximum of two for men.

If either side of your family has a history of breast cancer before the age of 50, male breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you may be a candidate for genetic testing and you should speak to your physician about getting tested.

7 Ways to Stay Healthy as You Age

Aging Well

Clinicians for ages have shared the importance of exercise, emphasizing its positive impact on the heart, waistline and longevity. But exercising can be a boon to the brain as well. Physical activity actually increases the amount of oxygen that flows to your brain, improving mental acuity and concentration. The endorphins released during workouts also help to reduce incidence of depression and anxiety disorders, as well as improving your sleep patterns and moo

Exercise can also help older adults reduce the need for some medications, and may be as effective as prescriptions for some conditions. Paired with a healthy lifestyle, working out regularly can also reduce the risk of dementia.

As you age, mind and body fitness are more important than ever. Keeping abreast of both can help you to maintain your independence and state-of-mind. 

The idea of starting a new regimen later in life can be daunting, but it can be accomplished in a few easy steps.

1. Pull up a Chair

Chair exercises are an easy way to exercise safely anywhere. Using a sturdy chair, work on standing up and sitting down. Begin by sitting up straight, toward the edge of the chair. While bending slightly forward at your hips, push your weight into your heels and stand up, then sit down slowly. 

2. Be Flexible

Stretching exercises are important for maintaining and improving range of motion in the joints. Stretching does not need to be unpleasant. Gentle stretches performed in a chair or while standing can provide significant improvement in range of motion, balance and fall reduction—all keys to preventing cognitive decline.

3. Join a Group

Group workout programs are a good place to start for anyone new to exercise. Groups for older adults, like Chesapeake Regional’s Silver Sneakers program, provide exercise and social interaction—which can also aid your mental wellbeing.

4. Stay Positive

Exercise, and a positive attitude, can help to reduce stress. Stress can cause an over-secretion of stress hormones that negatively affect memory. By changing your attitude and your routine, you can take the weight off of your shoulders.

5. Play Games

Your regimen shouldn’t stop there; cognitive exercises like crossword puzzles and brain teasers keep the brain fit. Reading and math problems also keep the brain youthful. Research has shown that brain exercises can actually improve memory and reduce “fog.” 

6. Feed Your Brain

A heart-healthy diet is also a brain-healthy diet. Damaged blood vessels, which supply the brain with blood, are linked to vascular dementia. Focus on reducing the amount of red meat in your diet and increasing your intake of fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

7. Don’t Give Up

A little bit can go a long way.  As long as you are on the move and keeping your brain active, your whole body—and your future independence—will benefit.

Again, it is never too late to get started on a healthy path. However, if you start to notice changes in your memory, or someone you love is more forgetful than usual, it may be time to seek the guidance of a physician.