Basic Health

My first love is to promote basic health. I see individuals in clinic five days a week that are often not feeling well and are having some frightening symptoms at times. I work in at a gastroenterology/hepatology clinic. I try to spend at least 5 – 10 minutes of each visit just educating individuals on improving their health practices in order to improve their overall health and sense of well-being. I hold the opinion that we ARE what we eat, susceptible to our genetic makeup, and affected by our environment. So how can we be more health conscious? Let me provide you with some helpful information:

1) The recommended amount of weekly exercise is 150 minutes divided into fairly equal sessions.
2) TRULY, the amount of portion size is out of control and I usually think that I have to eat all of what is served me or what is on my plate. After all, most of us were taught to clean our plates and food IS expensive now days. We don’t want to waste money, right? The old idea that a serving size of meat is equal to a deck of cards is ideal.
3) It takes approximately 20 minutes for receptors in your stomach to send a message to your brain that you are full. Try interrupting your meal before you are finished, drink some water, and see what happens after 10 – 15 minutes.
4) It can take up to 4 hours for your stomach to breakdown and mix your food so it can pass through a 2 centimeter opening into your small intestine. Don’t eat within 3 – 4 hours of bedtime to help avoid acid reflux/heartburn and indigestion.
5) Eat 6 small meals (love that term) a day. In other words, if you eat a small balanced diet 6 times throughout the day, you will keep your furnace (metabolism) fueled and continually have energy and burn energy. If you eat one or two big meals a day, you will have peaks and valleys where your furnace (metabolism) runs out of fuel and energy giving you ups and downs mentally and physically. When you do eat, it will take your furnace longer to get fired up and the extra calories will be stored as fat. Optimal weight control is with the 6 small meal plan and HEALTHY snacks.
6) Drink an average of 64 ounces of water daily. Actual daily recommended water intake is based on weight, but 8 – 8 ounce glasses is the average. If you drink caffeine, you will have to drink extra water as caffeine is a mild diuretic and pulls water from your system causing you to urinate more.
6) Speaking of caffeine, it is, also, a bladder wall irritant. Do not drink caffeine and go to bed or it will sit in your bladder for the better part of the night and may cause irritation and make you prone to a bladder infection.
7) More on caffeine….when we are young, say age 20, we metabolize and excrete caffeine in as little as 30 minutes. As we age, say age 70, it can take us up to 9.5 hours to metabolize and excrete caffeine. This fact alone can lead to insomnia as we age and drink caffeine late in the day.
8) Fiber is good in our diet. But remember, water and fiber are like a lock and key. You must drink adequate amounts of water as you increase dietary fiber or it can sit up like concrete. And increase dietary fiber GRADUALLY or it can cause bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and excess intestinal gas. The average American consumes approximately 10 – 11 grams of fiber in their diet daily. We need 25 – 35 grams daily. There are excellent fiber tables online to calculate your daily dietary fiber intake. I encourage you to calculate your fiber intake and initiate a plan to gradually increase your dietary fiber over a period of 30 days to reach the recommended daily amount. And remember, dietary fiber is the best kind, but there are fiber supplements on the market. These include Metamucil (psyllium), Citrucel (methylcellulose), and FiberCon (polycarbophil) to name a few.
9) Few more facts on fiber….fiber is an indigestible part of plant food and is only present in plant food. It is, also, known as bulk or roughage. It has no nutritional value (no calories, no cholesterol, no fat). There are two types of fiber: Soluble as found in psyllium, fruits, oatmeal, oat bran, beans, and peas, which absorbs water, helps regulate nutrient absorption, may lower cholesterol, helps slow sugar absorption; and, Insoluble as found in wheat bran, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, which adds bulk to bowel movements and speeds their passage through the bowels. So when making food choices to increase dietary fiber in your diet, choose whole grain (wheat, corn, rye, oat) breads and cereals, brans, fresh fruits and vegetables with skins, potatoes with skins, peas, and beans. Avoid refined flour products (white bread, rolls, pastries, cakes).
10) Medical conditions helped by a high fiber diet include: Constipation by adding bulk, making stool softer by absorbing water with adequate fluid intake, helping maintain bowel regularity, and improving stool transit time; Heart disease as soluble fiber lowers cholesterol; Hemorrhoids because softer stool decreases straining and decreases the risk of hemorrhoid swelling and irritation; Colon cancer as a low fat high fiber diet may decrease the risk of colon and rectal cancers and may be protective against breast, endometrial, ovarian, and gastrointestinal cancers; Diabetes as soluble fiber slows glucose absorption and may lower insulin requirements; Obesity as high fiber foods are generally low in calories and may decrease appetite; Diverticular disease; and, Irritable bowel syndrome.
11) DON’T smoke. If you are one of the unlucky individuals that inherited the nicotine gene, it will be more difficult for you to quit. There is assistance out there for you, but in the words of one of my patients, “No one quits unless they want to quit.”
12) The recommended daily amount of alcohol consumption not to exceed in a male is 2 – 12 ounce beers, 2 – 8 ounce malt liquors, 2 – 5 ounce glasses of wine or 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor. For a female it is cut in half. Sorry females! And this does NOT mean that you can save up your daily amounts and cash them in on the weekend as one of my patients asked me, curious to see my reaction.

I hope this information helps to promote healthy lifestyle choices. We are holistic in that our mental, emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual aspects of being must be in balance for us to enjoy optimal health and a sense of overall well-being. Healthy lifestyle choices and practices promotes this balance. Remember that everyone is unique. We should always consult our personal health care providers when making health related changes. Blessings until next time…………………………….

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