Saturday, March 31, 2018

Why You Need Antioxidants

molecules concept

What Are Antioxidants?

They’re chemicals that fight a process in your cells called oxidation. The main source is plant-based foods, but your body makes some, too. You’re probably familiar with vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and the minerals selenium and manganese. Plant nutrients and chemicals like flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens are also antioxidants.
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What Do Antioxidants Do?

Each one works differently. Together they form a team that fights free radicals. These chemicals cause the oxidation process that damages your cells and the genetic material inside them. Your body makes free radicals as it processes food, sunlight, and toxins like smoke, pollution, and alcohol. Antioxidants either stop free radicals before they form or break them down so they’re harmless.
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Vitamin E

This antioxidant is stored in fat (you may hear it called fat-soluble). It fights off free radicals that attack fats in your cell walls. It may also stop LDL cholesterol from turning into a form that could harden your arteries (your doctor may call it oxidized) and lead to cardiovascular disease.
Where to get it: Whole grains, vegetable oils (olive, sunflower, canola), nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
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three foods with vitamin c
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Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, it’s stored in water (you may hear it called water-soluble). It may help prevent cancers of the stomach, lung, and digestive system.
Where to get it: Green vegetables, tomatoes, and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits. Choose raw foods because cooking may destroy it.
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It’s a fat-soluble carotenoid (those are the yellow, orange, and red pigments in vegetables and fruits). Your body turns it into retinol, which helps you see. It may be dangerous when taken in supplement form, so it’s best when it comes from food.
Where to get it: Fruits, grains, carrots, squash, spinach, and other green vegetables.
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This carotenoid may help protect against prostate, lung, and breast cancer.
Where to get it: Cooked and processed tomatoes are a good and common source: Think marinara sauce on your pasta. Heating the tomatoes makes it easier for your body to absorb the lycopene. Add a bit of fat like olive oil to further help your body use this nutrient.
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six foods with selenium
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Found in soil and water, this mineral helps your thyroid work. Research suggests it can help protect against cancer, especially of the lung, colon, and prostate. It’s easy to get too much if you take it as a supplement. That can lead to digestive problems, hair and nail loss, and even cirrhosis of the liver.
Where to get it: Grains, onions, garlic, nuts, soybeans, seafood, meat, and liver.
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six foods with flavonoids
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Scientists know about more than 4,000 of these antioxidants found in fruits and veggies. Every plant contains a different flavonoid combination. They may help protect against heart disease, cancer, arthritis, aging, cataracts, memory loss, stroke, inflammation, and infection.
Where to get them: Green tea, grapes, red wine, apples, chocolate, and berries.
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Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s help protect against heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cataracts, and cancer. Omega-6s help improve eczema, psoriasis, and osteoporosis. You should get about two to four times more omega-6s than omega-3s to keep them in balance. Your body can’t make these essential fatty acids, which help stop inflammation. There are supplements, but it’s better when they come from food.
Where to get them:
  • Omega-3s: Salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts
  • Omega-6s: Vegetable oils, nuts, poultry
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Can’t You Just Take a Pill?

Nope. Long-term studies on tens of thousands of people show that antioxidants in pill form don’t lower your odds of bad health. People who took them got heart disease, cancer, and cataracts at the same rate as those who didn’t. One exception is age-related macular degeneration. Antioxidant supplements slowed progress a little for some people in late stages of this eye disease.
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Are Fruits and Veggies the Secret?

Sort of. Vegetables and fruits have lots of antioxidants. And it’s true that if you eat more of them, you’re less likely to get any number of diseases. What isn’t clear is why. It may be the antioxidants, or it might be other chemicals in those foods. It could even be that people who eat them make healthier lifestyle choices overall. Scientists continue to explore the issue.
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Too Much of a Good Thing?

It’s hard to get too many antioxidants from the food you eat. That isn’t the case, however, for those in supplement form. Too much beta-carotene may raise your lung cancer risk if you smoke. Too much vitamin E could make you more likely to get prostate cancer or have a stroke. These products can also change the way certain medicines work. Tell your doctor about any you take to make sure they don’t get in the way of your medication.
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Insulin Resistance: Know the Signs

insulin at work

What Is It?

Insulin is a hormone that acts like a key. It unlocks your cells to let in glucose (a kind of sugar) from your blood to make energy. Sometimes, this lock-and-key process doesn't work. Then glucose builds up in your blood, even when you make more insulin. Scientists have some ideas, but they aren't sure why your cells stop responding.
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Usually, you won't have any. You could have this condition for a long time and not know it. People with severe insulin resistance sometimes get dark patches of skin on their necks, elbows, knees, hands, and armpits.
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What Puts You at Risk?

Your chances of becoming insulin resistant go up if you're overweight, don't get enough exercise, have high blood pressure, or you smoke.
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Blood and Heart Trouble

Some issues with your blood system can also increase the likelihood of getting insulin resistance, including low HDL "good" cholesterol, high levels of a kind of fat called triglycerides in your blood, heart disease, a previous stroke, and blood vessel disease in your neck or legs.
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Your Family History Plays a Role

People with an African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American, or a Pacific Islander heritage are more likely to become resistant to insulin. If your parent, brother, or sister has type 2 diabetes, your risk is higher. If your mother had diabetes while she was pregnant with you (gestational diabetes), your risk also goes up.
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The test for insulin resistance is complicated and uncomfortable, so instead, your doctor will probably test you for prediabetes (blood sugar that's higher than it should be). A lab can check the level of glucose in your blood after you haven't eaten for a while, or find an "average" blood sugar level for the past few months. Numbers that are higher than normal suggest you're insulin resistant.
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Can Become Diabetes

It's hard on your pancreas to keep cranking out extra insulin to try to get glucose into your body's cells. Eventually, the cells that make insulin can burn out, leading to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. If you catch insulin resistance early and make changes to your lifestyle, you may stop that from happening.
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Eat Right

Cut back on sweets, refined grains, and animal fats, and have lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. That kind of eating plan will help you get to and stay at a healthy weight. It also helps your cells use insulin better. The DASH diet, for people with high blood pressure, is a good example. It includes cutting down on salt, too. It can lower insulin resistance, especially if you slim down and become more active while you're at it. Studies have also shown a link between low vitamin D and your body not using insulin well.
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Get Moving

Physical activity goes a long way toward fighting insulin resistance. Like a healthy diet, it helps you lose weight. Exercise also helps your cells use insulin, especially in your muscles. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity a day, most days of the week. Your heart should beat faster, and you should breathe a little harder.
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Lifestyle changes are the best treatment for insulin resistance. But if you have the condition and are very likely to get type 2 diabetes, your doctor may also want you to try the drug metformin. It can prevent or delay type 2 for younger, heavier people with a very high chance of getting it. Metformin may also help hold off type 2 for women who've had gestational diabetes.
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Metabolic Syndrome

Insulin resistance is part -- but not all -- of this condition. People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of these traits: a large waist, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood glucose that is higher than normal. It raises your chances for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
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Related Illnesses

People with insulin resistance often have slightly higher levels of inflammation throughout their bodies. Other conditions have this inflammation, too. Insulin resistance is linked to heart and blood vessel disease, blood clots in your arteries, kidney disease, liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and rheumatoid arthritis.
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Bad Habits When You Have ADHD

man on sofa using tv remote

Lack of Exercise

If your memory is hazy, your ADHD may be to blame. And if you don't exercise much, you aren’t doing your brain any favors. However, physical activity can improve your memory. It can also help you make decisions, learn, and pay attention. Time to dust off those sneakers!
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Eating Out Often

Making dinner may not be rocket science, but it takes a lot of mental effort if you have ADHD. You have to plan, prep, and follow steps. Sure, it’s easier to go out, but you should do so rarely. Healthy food can help you manage ADHD, but it’s hard to get on the go. Restaurant food is packed with calories, sugar, salt, and fat. You won’t get enough fruits and vegetables, either.
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Too Much Junk Food

So far, science can’t answer the question of what, if any, foods make ADHD worse. But research suggests that added things, like food coloring, can make some children’s symptoms worse. You’ll find this stuff in junk foods like soda and candy. Scientists don’t know if it affects adults too, but it can’t hurt to nix junk food. Try it, and see if your symptoms get better.
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Skipping Breakfast

If you blow off that morning meal, your symptoms could get worse. Breakfast can make it easier to handle social situations. It can also help you think and keep you focused longer early in the day. Even if your meds zap your appetite, try to eat a little something. A hard-boiled egg or carton of yogurt will do the trick.
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Messy Homes and Offices

Some people say clutter is a sign of genius. Research suggests it may signal creativity. But a messy nest could make some symptoms worse. Those piles of papers, books, or laundry remind you of all the stuff you need to do. Sometimes it can be too much. On the flipside, clearing the clutter can make you more productive and ease your worries.
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Too Much Stuff

Shopping can be fun, but a nonstop habit can lead to hoarding. If you have ADHD, you may find it easy to get too much stuff and hard to let it go. The good news: There’s a way to stay calm and shop on. Follow the “one in, one out” rule. If you bring in a new item into your house, you have to donate an old one.
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The Wrong Meds

When your doctor diagnosed you with ADHD, were you honest about your life and symptoms? If not, you may be on the wrong treatment -- and you could be worse off. Why?
  • ADHD meds don’t always work well if you have substance abuse problems.
  • Drugs for major depression can make ADHD worse.
  • Some ADHD medications can make anxiety worse.
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Lack of Sleep

Sleep problems and ADHD often go hand in hand. For some, the cause is a stimulant medication. For others, anxiety, depression, and other conditions that come along with ADHD are to blame. Lack of sleep doesn’t just make you tired. It can also worsen symptoms like lack of focus and problems with motor skills. Your doctor can help. Let her know what’s going on.
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Quitting Therapy

If you’re doing well with therapy plus medication, stick with them. You might be tempted to quit therapy once you feel your ADHD is under control. After all, taking a pill is so much easier and therapy costs money. But research shows it really helps ADHD -- especially when paired with meds. Skipping it could make your symptoms worse.
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Too Much Screen Time

Could your gadgets make your symptoms worse? Maybe. Doctors have found links between ADHD and excess screen time. Internet addiction can also lead to more severe ADHD symptoms. However, we don’t yet know which problem fuels the other. What we do know: Screen time before bed can disrupt your sleep -- and that will make ADHD symptoms worse.
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Not Enough Caffeine

If you have ADHD, your coffee or tea habit may make your symptoms better. So it stands to reason that kicking the habit could make you feel worse. The caffeine in tea could make you more alert, help you focus, and help your brain work better. It can also give your working memory a boost. If your doc says it’s OK to have caffeine, enjoy it!
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Inspirational Quote – March 31, 2018

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Being stuck in our ways feels very safe and reassuring to most of us doesn’t it? We know what to expect and how to respond or deal with it. No surprises there then, thank you very much! We often resist change, insisting that the old way of doing things worked just fine so why not just carry on? Why muddy the water? However, isn’t it occasionally wonderful when new opportunities come along and pry us loose from our comfort zone? So, instead of clinging like limpets to the rock of same old, same old, just let go and swim off into unknown but adventurous waters. How exciting to swim while anticipating reaching a hitherto unexplored shore and discovering all the wonders it has in store for you.

Three Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage

"Revolutionary love is the choice to enter into labor for others who do not look like us, for our opponents who hurt us and for ourselves. In this era of enormous rage, when the fires are burning all around us,...revolutionary love is the call of our times." In this TEDWomen 2017 talk, Valarie Kaur gives us the antidote to rising nationalism, polarization and hate. In her journey from the birthing room to murder site, Kaur shows us how the choice to love is a force for justice: see no stranger, tend the wound of those around us and who have done us harm, breathe together as we push together in our work in the world.

Friday, March 30, 2018

How to Reduce the Impact of Childhood Trauma

Children who experience adversity tend to have health problems later in life. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris explains why—and how we can help heal those wounds.

When Dr. Nadine Burke Harris set up the Bayview Child Health Center in 2007, she immediately noticed an association between traumatic experiences and health outcomes in the children she treated.

“Day after day I saw infants who were listless and had strange rashes,” she writes in her new book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity. “Kids just entering middle school had depression. And in unique cases…kids weren’t even growing.”
Often, she discovered, these children had suffered “heart-wrenching trauma,” such sexual abuse, violence, or parental mental illness and incarceration. These are what researchers call “adverse childhood experiences”—or ACEs, for short. To understand what she was seeing in her clinic, Dr. Harris searched the scientific literature for evidence about the connection between experience and health—and discovered that the impact of an ACE went well beyond childhood, leading to more physical and mental illness in adulthood.
We spoke with Dr. Harris about her new book and what we can do to mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences.
Jeremy Adam Smith: What is the origin of the term “adverse childhood experience”?
Nadine Burke Harris: That refers to the 10 categories identified in the landmark 1998 study by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; growing up in a household where a parent was mentally ill, substance-dependent, incarcerated; where there was parental separation or divorce, or domestic violence.
Many of us are familiar with the idea that exposure to adversity in childhood might affect your risk of being depressed or being an alcoholic, and that it might affect your behavior. However, this was the first large epidemiological study to document the association between adverse childhood experiences and heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s. This is the thing that’s so powerful about the adverse childhood experiences study—it really revealed this connection between childhood adversity and health problems.
JAS: How would an experience affect our health? What’s the mechanism?

NBH: In the two decades since the ACE study was published, we now understand much more about how ACEs affect health.
When the original study was published, many folks assumed that, “Oh, okay, if you have a rough childhood you’re more likely to drink and smoke and do all the things that are going to ruin your health, so this, of course, makes a lot of sense… but it’s not really anything new. We already know that health-damaging behaviors are bad for your health.”
It turns out that that’s not completely right. When they did the logistic regression analysis—removing the effect of health-damaging behavior—it turns out that behavior only accounts for about half of the risk. The good news is that if you don’t do any health-damaging behaviors, that does reduce your risk—but the bad news is that you still have an increased risk.
We know that the fundamental mechanism is this activation of our body’s fight-or-flight response. When we experience something scary or traumatic, it releases stress hormones in our body like adrenaline and cortisol. These things have really important functions in our body. They raise our blood pressure, they raise our heart rate, they raise our blood sugar.
All of these things are really important and necessary if you are facing a mortal threat, like if you are in a forest and there’s a bear. These changes affect how our brains function. They activate the amygdala, which is the brain’s alarm to tell us when something scary is happening. And that turns down the effectiveness of the part of the brain that’s responsible for impulse control and judgment and executive functioning, which is the prefrontal cortex. When we activate our stress response, it also activates our immune system, because if you are in a forest and there’s bear, you want your immune system to be primed to bring inflammation to stabilize the wound This all was designed to protect our lives and protect our health.
What happens when that bear comes home every night? When this system is activated over and over and over again? Well, it goes from being adaptive and life-saving to being maladaptive and health-damaging. Children are especially sensitive to high doses of adversity because their brains and bodies are just developing. So adverse childhood experiences are associated with changes in the structure and function of children’s developing brains, in their developing hormonal systems, and even in the way their DNA is read and transcribed.
JAS: Why would this affect adult health? You start the book by telling the story of Evan, who wakes up one morning and suffers a stroke. How could a bad childhood experience lead directly to Evan’s stroke?
NBH: The chronic inflammation piece is really important. That leads to the wear and tear on the lining on the inside of our arteries, which is part of the reason for why we see increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Adverse childhood experiences studies show that the more of these experiences you have, the greater the health risk. So, folks who have had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences show two-and-a-half times the risk of stroke.
When our stress response becomes over-activated in childhood, it changes the functioning of the stress response. Without intervention, these changes to levels of stress hormones will be lifelong—and those are the things that lead to increased inflammation and the changes to our cardiovascular system. For example, there are changes to hormones and proteins that our cardiovascular system uses to signal the health and to repair the lining of the inside of our arteries. 
JAS: Not everybody who has an ACE will ultimately suffer a stroke. What do we know about people who seem more resistant to the impact of ACEs?

NBH: I hear it all the time: “I know someone who experienced a childhood adversity, and they’re fine.” That’s wonderful. We all know the one dude who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for years who lived to be a hundred, right? People think of these anecdotal, individual stories and they’re like, “Well, that belies the whole premise.”
That’s why we like science. That’s why it’s really important that they did this study of 17,500 people and that the study has now been repeated globally. We’ve got data from more than 20 countries around the world, and they all show the same thing: The higher your ACE score, the greater your health risk. Now, does that mean that someone could have a high ACE score and not have heart disease or a stroke or something along those lines? Sure. Does that mean that childhood adversity doesn’t put your health at risk? No.
Some people who smoke will get emphysema and other people will get cancer. Two different people will get two different types of cancer. But we know smoking dramatically increases your risk for all of these different health problems. That gives us really important information about how we can prevent those health problems by reducing the prevalence of smoking.
JAS: What can physicians and health organizations do to address the impact of ACEs on both kids and adults? What needs to change from what’s currently being done?

NBH: This is a place where I think there’s a lot of good news, because there’s a tremendous amount of low-hanging fruit. Right now, there isn’t that much that we actually are doing, frankly. This is especially true for physicians. One of the most important things that we can do is routine screening, to do early detection and early intervention. All of the science tells us that early intervention improves outcomes.
There is a randomized controlled trial, published in 2015, of kids in institutionalized care—who had been removed from their home—and kids who were placed in homes with high-quality caregiving. They had MRIs at age two and then MRIs at age eight. And at age eight, those kids who had been randomized into high-quality nurturing caregiving, their brain’s structure was different than the kids who remained in institutionalized care. High-quality nurturing caregiving—safe, stable, nurturing relationships—can actually change the structure of children’s brains, and that is why early detection is really important.
At the Center for Youth Wellness, we have set a goal to get every pediatrician in America to screen for adverse childhood experiences. Despite the fact that this research was published now two decades ago, still, today, only four percent of pediatricians are screening. There’s a lot of room for improvement there, so that we can get to a day when every doctor in America is screening for adverse childhood experiences.
JAS: Let’s say you’re an adult and you have an ACE? What should you do?

NBH: There’s a tremendous amount. On this front, I find this science incredibly hopeful.
One of the most important things an adult can do is just recognize what is going on. So, getting your own ACE score—that is the first step in the right direction. Number two involves figuring out whether you have an overactive stress response—and then understanding what situations activate your stress response.
Next, you have to put into place some of the evidence-based interventions that we know make a difference in toxic stress. This is what I talk about in my book, The Deepest Well. Things like regular exercise, which helps reduce stress hormones, reduce inflammation, and enhance neuroplasticity. Things like having good sleep hygiene, which is really important for our immune system. Things like mindfulness meditation. One randomized controlled trial of meditation-as-intervention found that patients with chronic heart disease had better performance on an exercise treadmill test after the intervention. All of these kinds of interventions go a long way toward counteracting the biology of toxic stress.
“I don't think forgetting about adversity or blaming it is useful. The first step is taking its measure and looking clearly at the impact and risk as neither a tragedy nor a fairy tale but a meaningful reality in between. Once you understand how your body and brain are primed to react in certain situations, you can start to be proactive about how you approach things. You can identify triggers and know how to support yourself and those you love.”
―Dr. Nadine Burke Harris in The Deepest Well
JAS: What are the solutions for us as a society?

NBH: There’s an incredible amount that we can do. There are multiple levels where we can address the impacts of childhood trauma.
There are many schools across the country that are trying to be trauma-sensitive, understanding how to recognize the symptoms of toxic stress, how to differentiate a child having a fear response from one who is just being willful or difficult. There are a lot of kids right now who are being told that they are bad, who are being suspended or expelled, when really the underlying problem is a biological one, with the over-reactivity of their stress response.
If you’re an employer, you can explore workplace policies that support parents’ ability to support their kids, like predictable work hours. Or employers can create a space for workers to practice self-care, to manage their own stress response. For the most part, mental health treatment is not covered in parity with health care. Many folks may have access to health care through their employer, but many, many people still do not have access to mental health care.
Finally, we need to invest in this work. We don’t receive any public funding at the Center for Youth Wellness. We had to invest public funds in addressing public-health threats, like HIV/AIDS or lead poisoning or tobacco. With HIV, it was the Ryan White Act; that required political will. We need folks to come together to demand greater investment in solutions for this public-health problem.