Healthy Ways

Are the stories about our food true? With foodies and nutritionists expecting us to farm, process and cook our own foods, some experts believe that we’re being sold a bill of goods. Joe Schwarcz, a nutrition expert and chemistry professor at Canada’s prestigious McGill University and author of “An Apple A Day,” offers his take on the world of food and nutrition.

Platkin: What are the most common myths about nutrition?

Schwarcz: Perhaps the most common myth is that there are “healthy” foods and “unhealthy” foods. There certainly are healthy diets and unhealthy diets, but individual foods should not be looked at as devils or angels. It is as possible to never eat an apple and have a healthy diet as it is possible to eat lots of apples and have a terrible diet. It is the overall composition of the diet that matters.

That being said, there are, of course, foods we should try to incorporate into a healthy diet and ones that should be curbed. It is a good idea to strive for seven to 10 servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains a day and to cut down on fatty meats and soft drinks.

A second widespread myth is that if something is “natural” it is superior to “artificial.” There is no such relationship. Nature is not benign; botulin, for example, possibly the most toxic substance known, is produced by the perfectly natural Clostridium botulinum bacterium.

Platkin: What would you say is the biggest misconception about organic food and pesticides?

Schwarcz: The popular, and wrong, belief is that organic producers do not use pesticides. There are a number of pesticides approved for organic use, and all come from “natural” sources. That has little meaning since, as I mentioned before, “natural” does not equate with “safe.” Rotenone, for example, a pesticide derived from the derris plant, is allowed in organic agriculture and has been linked with Parkinson’s disease. There is also the belief that organic foods are more nutritious, which is not necessarily so. Nutritional qualities are determined by a variety of factors including weather, seed type, soil conditions and transportation.

Platkin: What about enhanced foods (e.g., added vitamins, DHA, etc.)?

Schwarcz: To a large extent this is marketing hype. The amounts added do not make a significant contribution to the diet but can lead to a false confidence about nutrient intake. An area where such enhancement may be useful is with probiotics. Certain bacterial cultures when added to food may help control disease-causing bacteria.

Platkin: Antioxidants?

Schwarcz: Again, the benefits have been overhyped. It has been assumed that the reason populations that consume lots of fruits and vegetables are healthier has to do with the antioxidant content of these foods. This is too simplistic a view, as becomes obvious by the failure of antioxidant supplements to deliver the goods in controlled trials. The free radical theory of disease and aging is interesting and plausible, but there is less evidence than consumers think. This is not to say that antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals are not important, but they appear to work effectively only when they are part of the food itself, not as isolated supplements.

Platkin: What’s always in your fridge?

Schwarcz: Orange juice, apples, berries of some kind.

Platkin: What food would we never find in your fridge?

Schwarcz: Soft drinks.

Platkin: Last meal?

Schwarcz: Chicken paprikash with whole-grain rice, tomato and cucumber salad, cherries and a nectarine.

Platkin: What’s your favorite “junk food?”

Schwarcz: Smoked meat.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, founder of DietDetective.com, and host of the new WE tv series “I Want To Save Your Life.”

Healthy Ways

Detoxification programs are an alternative treatment that have produced phenomenal results at our practice. This approach is used around the world to alleviate the stress we are giving to our systems.

Detoxification is something we do everyday. It is a process of clearing toxins from the body or neutralizing or transforming them, and clearing excess mucus and congestion. Some of our most important systems of detoxification are the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, urinary system, skin and dermal system and lymphatic system.

I place a big focus on the gastrointestinal system, especially the liver and colon. Toxins are any substances that create irritating and/or harmful effects in the body, undermining our health or stressing our biochemical or organ functions. There are internally and externally produced toxins. The internal toxins are produced during normal everyday cellular processes, such as digestion and elimination. They can even be increased by negative thoughts or stress.

The external sources of toxicity can be anything we ingest: the air we breathe; the water we bathe in, swim in, drink and grow our foods in; and what we put on our skin.

Symptoms and conditions associated with toxicity occur when we take in more than we can utilize or eliminate. When our systems of elimination are not doing their job, toxins are stored in the brain creating a host of nervous system conditions. Toxins are also stored in fat tissue, which is commonly seen as cellulite. Toxins are also continuously being circulated within the blood stream.

If you have any of the following symptoms, you many want to consider a detoxification program: obesity/overweight, headaches, acne, food cravings, water retention, fertility problems, abnormal pregnancy outcome, immune system depression, fibromyalgia, recurrent yeast infections, learning disorders, cancer, muscle or joint pain/weakness, asthma, poor memory, Parkinson’s disease, fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, sinus problems, unusual response to medications or supplements, increasing sensitivity to odors, medications, etc.

Detoxification programs can eliminate three types of stress that can create a loss of metabolic balance. Psychic stress (spiritual, mental, emotional) is reduced because, when you decrease the toxins that you have been holding onto, you decrease some of the baggage. It is a feeling of emotional restoration. Nutritional stress (insufficient quantity or quality) is reduced because the program limits the possible food allergens and intolerances that ultimately create havoc (alcohol, caffeine, soy, dairy, gluten, etc). Your body systems also are supported with good nutrients. Chemical stress (toxic substances, non-nutritional dietary excesses) is reduced to a greater extent because the goal is to eat organic foods, free of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals.

We team up with Standard Process, a supplement company, to ensure safe and appropriate detox programs, tailored to the individual. Many who have done juicing and fasting programs have gone into “crisis” or had bad symptoms because they did not get the nutrients they needed for optimal detoxification. Some even increased their toxicity.

Emil Nardone operates Nardone Chiropractic in Wheeling. He received a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences in 2000. He is a graduate of John Marshall High School and Fairmont State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. He is board certified in acupuncture and corrective exercises.

Healthy Ways

Imagine biting down on a piece of crusty bread and you feel the sharp edge of an upper incisor jab the inside of your lower lip. You think nothing of it.

Within a day or so you notice a slight pain on the lip when touched by the tip of the tongue. Quickly, you rush to a mirror, prop the chin upward and pull out the lip. The eyeballs pop out to the horror of a mouth sore the size of a Wheeling street pothole. Suddenly sweat begins to bead on the forehead. Then in a state of panic and shortness of breath you wake up from the nightmare.

A scene from a Hitchcock movie? No, just tongue-in-cheek. In reality, mouth sores are annoying and painful episodes that affect everyone at one time or another. Sometimes during the most inopportune times such as prom and wedding pictures, a job interview, a craving for the the Colonel’s extra spicy and crispy chicken, or on a first-time date to a Mexican restaurant.

Plenty of things can cause them, including bacterial, viral or fungal infections. A loose orthodontic wire, a denture that doesn’t fit, or a sharp edge from a broken tooth or filling may also be the culprit.

Canker sores are often confused with cold sores. So you wonder, is it a canker sore or is it a cold sore?

An easy way to distinguish between the two is to remember that canker sores tend to occur inside the mouth, and cold sores usually occur outside the mouth.

A canker sore (also called aphthous ulcers) can be a small to large ulcer with a white or gray base and red border. There can be one or a number of sores in the mouth. Canker sores are very common and are not contagious. Their exact cause is uncertain, but some experts believe that immune system problems, bacteria or viruses may be involved.

Fatigue, stress or allergies can increase the likelihood of a canker sore. A cut caused by biting the cheek or tongue, or reactions from hot foods or beverages may contribute to canker sore development. Intestinal problems, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, also seem to make some people more susceptible.

Treating canker sores sometimes requires doing nothing. They usually heal on their own after a week or two; but an outbreak may occur. Applying over-the-counter topical anesthetics and antimicrobial mouthrinses may provide temporary relief. Stay away from hot, spicy or acidic foods that can irritate the sore. In some cases, an antibiotic may have to taken to reduce secondary infection.

Cold sores, also called fever blisters or Herpes simplex, are groups of fluid-filled blisters. They often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores caused by herpes virus type 1 are very contagious. The initial infection (primary herpes), which often occurs before adulthood, may be confused with a cold or flu and can cause painful lesions to erupt throughout the mouth.

Once a person is infected with primary herpes, the virus stays in the body and causes occasional attacks. For some people, the virus remains inactive. Recurring herpes lesions look like multiple tiny fluid-filled blisters (cold sores) that most commonly appear around the edge of the lips. An attack may follow a fever, sunburn, skin abrasions or emotional upset.

Cold sore blisters usually heal in a week by themselves. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can provide some relief.

However, some individuals may require prescription antiviral drugs to treat the viral infections.

Some patients have a “prodrome,” which is when certain symptoms occur before the actual sores appear. The prodrome to herpes infections typically involves a burning or tingling sensation that precedes the appearance of blisters by a few hours or a day or two. As the cold sore forms, the area may become reddened and develop small fluid-filled blisters.

One preventive treatment that may worked well for those with a history of cold sores is the application of a small amount of spray antiperspirant with the active ingredient aluminum chlorohydrate to the affected area during the “prodrome” stage. Just a small amount on a cotton swab is needed. However, this may not work on everyone, and it will not work once the blisters appear.

See your dentist or physician if you have a mouth sore that has not healed within two weeks.

Manny Velez received a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from West Virginia University School of Dentistry in 1983 and is in private practice in Wheeling. He was also professor of oral medicine for 15 years in the Department of Health Sciences, West Liberty State College.

Healthy Ways

This week has been designated as the seventh annual Problem Gambling Awareness Week by the National Council on Problem Gambling. The purpose of this week is to educate the general public and health care professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and raise awareness about the help that is available both locally and nationally.

Data from the National Council on Problem Gambling’s research shows that 2 percent to 3 percent of the United States population will have a gambling problem in a given year. These percentages directly represent 6 million to 9 million Americans.

These numbers do not take into consideration the impact of problem gambling on the health of family members directly involved with the gambler. Just as smoking impacts the smoker and everyone else nearby, problem gambling hurts the gambler and can also hurt the gambler’s family members, employers and others in the gambler’s community.

Problem gamblers often have stress-related symptoms such as migraines, insomnia, stomach ailments and even cardiac distress, said Keith Whyte, executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately many doctors end up only treating the symptoms of these problems. An article published by the National Council, titled “Health Awareness,” reveals that a study of gambling disorders published in the Archives of Family Medicine found that 10 percent of all patients entering the primary health care setting met the criteria for problem gambling. Few of the thousands of problem gamblers who receive medical interventions each year are ever diagnosed with a gambling disorder.

This is serious, considering the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV reveals that 20 percent of the individuals in treatment for pathological gambling are reported to have attempted suicide.

Gambling problems are often missed in the mental health setting, as well. Gamblers frequently are at high risk for depression as well as drug and alcohol use, but their gambling addiction goes unscreened. Like me, most professionals were trained to screen for alcohol and drug use, but there was absolutely no mention of screening for a gambling problem when we were in school.

Physicians and mental health professionals can work to eliminate the problem of missing this diagnosis by simply adding a two-question lie/bet screening to all intakes. Intake forms should ask: Have you ever lied about how much you gamble? Have you felt the need to gamble more and more money? These questions help the problem gambler and the health care provider to begin talking about any gambling addiction.

Problem gamblers in West Virginia are quite blessed. Every West Virginia problem gambler and/or their loved ones are entitled to a free two-hour consultation with a counselor who has extensive training in the treatment of gambling problems. Continued individual counseling is also free to the gambler and their loved ones if no insurance coverage is available. Those with more severe problems may enroll in an intensive outpatient program.

To locate these free services, call 800-GAMBLER (426-2537). Wheeling also has three Gamblers Anonymous meetings and a Celebrate Recovery (Christ-centered 12-Step) program available to offer peer support. For more information, call 304-242-8095 or e-mail me at christcounselor@juno.com.

As a therapist, I have found that clients who combine these groups with individual counseling have the best chance of success.

Sometimes it is helpful for problem gamblers to see themselves in others. It helps to talk to others who have been there and really understand the nature of this intense addiction. Family members can be of greater support once they understand the complexity of this illness as well. Clients often have told me it was easier for them to get off of drugs than to kick the gambling habit.

There is no shame in getting help for a gambling problem, but denying the problem and continuing to hurt yourself and your family is a “real shame.”

The Rev. Virginia Loew-Shelhammer is a graduate of West Liberty State College and West Virginia University. She is a licensed professional counselor and a board-certified professional Christian counselor. She is a participating counselor with the West Virginia 1-800 GAMBLER Network. Loew-Shelhammer is in private practice at Footsteps Christian Counseling in Wheeling.