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Food and Health, YMCA Healthy Kids Day is April 27

TWIN FALLS Healthy Kids Day, the YMCAs annual national initiative to improve health and well-being for kids and families, will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 27 at 1751 Elizabeth Blvd. The Magic Valley YMCA will hold the free community event to inspire more kids to keep their minds and bodies active. Featured activities will be water safety demonstrations, a craft project, active games and more.

Healthy Kids Day, celebrated at over 1,500 YMCAs across the country by more than a million participants, works to get more kids learning and moving creating habits they can continue all summer long. Research shows that without access to out-of-school learning activities, kids fall behind academically. They also gain weight twice as fast during the summer than during the school year. Healthy Kids Day is a powerful reminder not to let children idle away their summer days. Instead, the Y wants families to focus on helping children imagine what they can accomplish over the summer.

The YMCA offers the following tips to help families develop healthy habits this summer that can have a lifetime effect:

High-five the fruits and veggies Make sure kids get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, the minimum number nutritionists recommend for healthy childhood development. To keep kids taste buds evolving, have everyone in the family try at least one bite of a new fruit or vegetable at least once a month.Read together The summer is a great time to enjoy books, and 30 minutes a day goes a long way. Take trips to the local library or create a family reading challenge to see who can log the most minutes of reading. Encourage youth to create their own stories as well.Get moving Activities that require movement also help kids flex their mental muscle. Use materials in unique ways: ask youth to build models, manipulate tools or develop their own theatrical scenes.Play together Play may be the best way to prevent childhood obesity. By putting more play into your familys day, you will soon find yourself getting the activity that will have your family feeling energized and strong.Make sleep a priority Doctors recommend 10 to 12 hours of sleep a day for children ages five to 12 and seven to eight hours per night for adults. Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy immune system, metabolism, mood, memory and learning.

For more information, call 208-733-4384 or go to

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That mental health app might share your data without telling you

Free apps marketed to people with depression or who want to quit smoking are hemorrhaging user data to third parties like Facebook and Google — but often don’t admit it in their privacy policies, a new study reports. This study is the latest to highlight the potential risks of entrusting sensitive health information to our phones.

Though most of the easily-found depression or smoking cessation apps in the Android and iOS stores share data, only a fraction of them actually disclose this. The findings add to a string of worrying revelations about what apps are doing with the health information we entrust to them. For instance, a Wall Street Journal investigation recently revealed the period tracking app Flo shared users’ period dates and pregnancy plans with Facebook. And previous studies have reported health apps with security flaws or that shared data with advertisers and analytics companies.

In this new study, published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers searched for apps using the keywords “depression” and “smoking cessation.” Then they downloaded the apps and checked to see whether the data put into them was shared by intercepting the app’s traffic. Much of the data the apps shared didn’t immediately identify the user or was even strictly medical. But 33 of the 36 apps shared information that could give advertisers or data analytics companies insights into people’s digital behavior. And a few shared very sensitive information, like health diary entries, self reports about substance use, and usernames.

Those kinds of details, plus the name or type of app, could give third parties information about someone’s mental health that the person might want to keep private. “Even knowing that a user has a mental health or smoking cessation app downloaded on their phone is valuable ‘health-related’ data,” Quinn Grundy, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who studies corporate influences on health and was not involved in the study, tells The Verge in an email.

The fact that people might not know how their apps are sharing their data worried John Torous, director of digital psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a co-author on the new study. “It’s really hard to make an informed decision about using an app if you don’t even know who’s going to get access to some information about you,” he says. That’s why he and a team at the University of New South Wales in Sydney ran this study. “It’s important to trust but verify — to say where is your healthcare data going,” Torous says.

By intercepting the data transmissions, they discovered that 92 percent of the 36 apps shared the data with at least one third party — mostly Facebook- and Google-run services that help with marketing, advertising, or data analytics. (Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) But about half of those apps didn’t disclose that third-party data sharing, for a few different reasons: nine apps didn’t have a privacy policy at all; five apps did but didn’t say the data would be shared this way; and three apps actively said that this kind of data sharing wouldn’t happen. Those last three are the ones that stood out to Steven Chan, a physician at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, who has collaborated with Torous in the past but wasn’t involved in the new study. “They’re basically lying,” he says of the apps.

The researchers don’t know what these third-party sites were doing with this user data. “We live in an age where, with enough breadcrumbs, it’s possible to reidentify people,” Torous says. It’s also possible the breadcrumbs just sit there, he says — but for now, they just don’t know. “What happens to this digital data is kind of a mystery.” But Chan worries about the potential, invisible risks. “Potentially advertisers could use this to compromise someone’s privacy and sway their treatment decisions,” he says. For example, what if an advertiser discovers someone is trying to quit smoking? “Maybe if someone is interested in smoking, would they be interested in electronic cigarettes?” Chan says. “Or could they potentially introduce them to other similar products, like alcohol?”

Part of the problem is the business model for free apps, the study authors write: since insurance might not pay for an app that helps users quit smoking, for example, the only ways for free app developer to stay afloat is to either sell subscriptions or sell data. And if that app is branded as a wellness tool, the developers can skirt laws intended to keep medical information private.

So Torous recommends caution before sharing sensitive information with an app. The potential for mental health apps to help people is exciting, Torous says. “But I think it does mean you want to pause twice and say, ‘Do I trust the person who made the app, and do I understand where this data is going?’” A few quick gut checks could include making sure that the app has a privacy policy, that it’s been updated recently, and that the app comes from a trustworthy source like a medical center or the government. “None of those questions are going to guarantee you a good result, but they’re going to probably help you screen,” he says.

Long-term, one way to protect people who want to use health and wellness apps could be to form a group that can give a stamp of approval to responsible mental health apps, Chan says. “Kind of like having the FDA’s approval on things, or the FAA certifying a particular aircraft for safety,” he says. But for now, it’s app-user beware. “When there are no such institutions or the institutions themselves aren’t doing a good job, it means we need to invest more as a public good.”

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How do e-cigarettes like Juul impact your health?

As vaping grows in popularity and the industry leader, San Francisco’s Juul, sells billions of dollars in vaping products each year, one key question remains unanswered: How do e-cigarettes affect your health?

The short answer is no one knows the long-term health impacts of e-cigarettes because they have not been studied long enough, or in large enough groups of people, to draw definitive conclusions. E-cigarettes have been on the market only since around 2007, with the most recent versions like Juul becoming available in 2015.

But researchers and medical experts say there is a growing body of preliminary evidence — based on animal studies, cell experiments and short-term studies on small groups of people — indicating that e-cigarettes, while less harmful than conventional tobacco cigarettes, may do some damage to the human body.

The extent of that damage, and how long it may last, is unclear.

“We can comfortably say e-cigarettes will be less harmful than cigarettes, and substantially so, for certain health outcomes. But we can also say it’s more dangerous than air,” said Adam Leventhal, who studies tobacco addiction at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “It’s somewhere in between.”

One study by UC Riverside researchers, published this month in Chemical Research in Toxicology, found that Juul products have a higher nicotine concentration than other e-cigarette brands, at a level high enough to be toxic to human cells.

“The concentrations of nicotine and some flavor chemicals in Juuls are high enough to be a concern, and should be evaluated further in humans,” said Prue Talbot, the paper’s lead researcher and professor of molecular, cell and systems biology.

A Juul spokesman did not comment on the UC Riverside findings, instead citing a recent Juul-sponsored study showing that adult cigarette smokers who switched to Juul showed the same reductions in urine and blood biomarkers associated with cigarettes as adult smokers who stopped smoking altogether during the same five-day period.

Many researchers agree that e-cigarettes appear to cause a reaction from the respiratory system that often leads to coughing, wheezing and worsening of asthma. Vaping also leads to short-term spikes in heart rate and blood pressure, likely because of the nicotine in e-cigarettes, but it’s unclear whether or how damaging that may be decades down the line.

The health impacts also depend on who’s doing the vaping and what their previous exposure to tobacco has been. Teens who have never smoked cigarettes before may experience coughing or wheezing after using e-cigarettes, while many adults who have smoked cigarettes for years report improved health when switching to vaping. This is because many of the health problems caused by conventional cigarettes are attributed to inhaling combustible carcinogens in tobacco. E-cigarettes, by comparison, do not burn toxins but rather heat them to a vapor — and nicotine liquid heated to a vapor is believed to be less harmful.

“In terms of health effects in kids that have been documented, the main thing has been respiratory problems, more coughing, more wheezing, aggravation of asthma,” said Neal Benowitz, a UCSF tobacco researcher who published a 2017 paper that found that e-cigarettes might pose some cardiovascular risk but less risk than that of cigarette smoking.

One of the most comprehensive analyses yet on e-cigarettes is a 2018 report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which looked at 800 peer-reviewed e-cigarette studies on human health effects, harm reduction and smoking cessation. It found conclusive evidence that most e-cigarettes contain and emit many potentially toxic substances, and that the characteristics of those substances depend greatly on the type of e-cigarette and how it’s used.

The analysis found substantial evidence that e-cigarette aerosol can affect the cells lining the blood and lymphatic vessels — but the long-term consequences of this are uncertain. It also found substantial evidence that some chemicals in e-cigarette aerosols, such as formaldehyde, are capable of causing DNA damage.

For youth and young adults, there is substantial evidence e-cigarette use increases the risk of using combustible tobacco cigarettes, the academy found. But for adult cigarette smokers, there is moderate evidence that frequent use of e-cigarettes is associated with increased likelihood of quitting tobacco cigarettes. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine echoes this, finding that e-cigarettes are more effective in helping smokers quit cigarettes than nicotine patches and gum; experts, though, point out that the e-cigarettes used in that study were older versions that had a lower level of nicotine than Juul and other newer products, and that they were used in conjunction with behavioral support like counseling.

There is insufficient evidence that e-cigarette use is associated with or causes long-term changes in heart rate or blood pressure, and no studies to determine whether it causes heart disease, stroke or respiratory diseases, the academy concluded.

There are limitations to many of the preliminary studies. Some have been conducted on animals rather than humans, are done under conditions that do not mimic real-world use of vaping products, do not produce enough data to be considered conclusive, focus on one aspect such as the role of flavors in attracting youth, or are cross-sectional — studying people who both use e-cigarettes and are at risk of a heart attack, for instance — so the results do not necessarily apply to a broader population.

The Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health are trying to determine the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes for the general population in the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health study, which the agencies began in 2013.

Catherine Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Cat_Ho

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Why capitalism is good for your health

The economist John Maynard Keynes, writing in 1930, famously predicted that by 2030 most individuals would be working no more than 15 hours a week. He thought most human wants and needs would be satisfied, work was mainly a drag and people would be seeking more leisure time. But he underestimated the pull of more money and the pleasures of work. He overestimated the value of leisure — at least for the American public.

If we consider weekly work hours per American, that number rose from 22.34 in 1950 to 23.94 in 2000, hardly a sign of work falling out of fashion. Over this period, too, large numbers of women came into the workforce, many because they wanted to work and earn their own incomes. The reality is that preferences for work haven’t declined nearly as much as commentators had been predicting earlier in the 20th century. Earning and spending money is fun, and many jobs are more rewarding, more social and safer than they used to be. Even with much higher living standards now than in the immediate postwar era, Americans still basically want to stay on the job.

The data on stress also puts work in a pretty favorable light. A study by Sarah Damaske, Joshua M. Smyth and Matthew J. Zawadzki asked 122 adults in a midsize American city in the Northeast to swab their cheeks six times a day to measure their levels of cortisol, a hormonal marker of stress levels. Those measurements were to be taken both at work and at home. The results were pretty clear: A majority of these individuals seemed to experience higher levels of stress at home than at work.

Furthermore, women were more likely to report feeling happier at work, quite possibly because so many women are responsible for child care. (That said, the likelihood of experiencing lower stress at work actually was greater for individuals who did not have children at home, so perhaps in many cases the spouse was the bigger problem.)

Another surprising feature of these results is that the “work as a safe haven” effect was stronger for poorer people. We don’t know if that is true more generally across larger samples of people, but it points to a potentially neglected and egalitarian feature of life in the workplace. In contemporary American society, poorer individuals are more likely to have problems with divorce, spousal abuse, drug addiction in the family, children dropping out of school and a variety of other fairly common social problems. These problems plague rich and poor alike, but they are more frequent in poorer families and, furthermore, very often wreak greater devastation on poorer families, which have fewer resources to cope with them.

At least in this sample, the poorer individuals found relatively greater solace in the workplace than did the richer individuals. The poorer individuals, of course, were paid less at work. But in terms of psychological stresses, a lot of corporations are creating “safe spaces” for individuals who otherwise are facing some pretty seriously bad situations.

Another way to consider the pleasurable nature of a lot of work activity is to measure how much work time is associated with a feeling of “flow.” The flow concept, which has been developed and promoted by the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, refers to an integrated, dynamic feeling resulting from processing stimuli, responding to changes in a developing situation and solving problems with some measure of success. Think of those times when you are playing tennis well, cracking that programming problem or delivering that perfect presentation at work. It seems as if your whole mind (and sometimes body too) is being brought to bear on something that really matters, and then you ace it. Doesn’t it feel great?

The data show that work tends to promote a state of flow. One study looked at workers from five large companies in Chicago. About 27 percent of these individuals had management and engineering jobs, 29 percent had clerical jobs and 44 percent had assembly-line jobs (so the study was not primarily of top-of-the-line CEOs); 37 percent of the sample were male, and 75 percent were white. The respondents carried beeping devices and seven times a day they were asked to provide short reports on the challenges and skills of the activities they were engaged in, including the quality of their experiences. These same individuals also were asked to report on their leisure activities.

The results were pretty positive toward work. First, the individuals spent more time in the flow state while they were working than when they were doing leisure activities. A lot of leisure activities, such as reading, talking and watching TV, did not seem conducive to the mental flow state.

A second study, by Csikszentmihalyi himself (co-authored with Judith LeFevre), concluded that “the great majority of flow experiences are reported while working, not when in leisure.”

Upon reflection, it should not come as a shock that work makes so many of us feel happy, satisfied or just less stressed. For one thing, work often provides a significant amount of social validation. At home the number of possible appreciators is fairly small, although they are important validators (“Daddy, you’re a great teacher”). That said, the spouse and children and extended family are not always and in every way entirely grateful. In fact, arguments over household chores are pretty common, and often those who work — especially women — have to emphasize to other family members how much they have already contributed outside the home. Work in some ways offers more approbation.

The number of appreciators at work varies with the job, but many Americans work with dozens or even hundreds of people, and they may have contact with a large number of customers or suppliers from outside their immediate business. Some jobs, such as those in journalism, the arts and politics, raise the possibility of having many thousands or perhaps even millions of potential appreciators.

Work also can be satisfying because you’re paid to do it.

Yes, you’re paid because it isn’t always fun and also because employers need to be sure you’ll show up when scheduled, if only for purposes of coordination. Still, a lot of people very much enjoy the notion that their efforts are worth money to the broader world. Some of that may be greed or an uncomfortable kind of egomania, but a lot of it is a very healthy desire for reward and recognition, and the points system created by money is an important one. The pay validates the work, and the work in turns validates the pay.

That can be a fun virtuous circle, and it is corporations that are the ultimate creators and source of that pleasure. If there is one thing we should have learned from Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, it is that Americans want jobs.

Trump’s rhetoric was directed toward jobs, jobs, jobs, and he didn’t talk much at all about redistribution or welfare. Nor did he talk much about “the economy” or “inequality.” As the economist Mike Konczal (a Trump opponent) put it: “Trump talked about jobs. All the time.”

Whatever you may think of President Trump, Middle America responded to this rhetoric because deep down most people know that having a decent job is a major source of happiness, satisfaction and social standing.

Work provides us with a tangible sense of progress, of improving. Each time we get raises and bonuses, promotions and moves into better offices, to more successful companies and into positions of greater social visibility, we receive external validation for our labors. And at times when we’re not moving up, we have something to aspire to.

Even in a slow-growing economy, individuals typically get raises and promotions throughout the course of their work life, at least typically up through some point in their 50s (depending on the nature of the profession — mathematicians and basketball players tend to experience age-related frustration and retrogression before novelists, caregivers and philosophers).

Work also provides people with access to human relationships. You have the opportunity to interact with other intelligent human beings in a fairly structured environment, and those individuals typically share a common mission with you.

That creates opportunities for a lot of meaningful human interaction, camaraderie and sometimes a healthy sense of competition against other companies or a healthy sense of mission against some significant social problem, such as working in an ICU to patch up gunshot wounds or working for a charity to help feed the homeless.

More than half of American workers reported having very good friends on the job.

So companies are actually responsible for some of our most important relationships.

Further, they produce different kinds of relationships than we tend to find in other parts of life. For the norms of work set boundaries on the kinds of interactions deemed acceptable there.

For instance, your work colleagues are not supposed to get too angry at you in public, they are not supposed to cry and they are not supposed to burden you with all of their deepest or darkest desires, demanding that you clear up the mysteries of the universe for them. To be sure, a great number of workplace relationships do cross over these boundaries, sometimes in rather extreme or unsettling ways.

Still, on the whole, workplace constraints hold, and for the better. That offers us the graceful option of a lot of human relationships based on fun and cooperation, with many of the emotional stresses minimized or left at home. Sometimes the work relationship acquires a depth of its own, based on shared interests and appreciation, precisely because it is insulated from some of the more corrosive emotional stresses of life.

A majority of these individuals seemed to experience higher levels of stress at home than at work.

Pay and prestige aside, work also can be an important vehicle for helping others. Let’s say you wish to be a great benefactor of humankind. It is really hard to do this without using the vehicle of work. One path is to earn millions or billions and give it away. More typically, people choose jobs that help other people: being a brain surgeon, doing medical research, being a fireman, teaching kindergarten, running and financing a suicide help line, providing good advice to the government or being a first-rate president of the United States, among many other options. Work is one of the main vehicles for our altruism, and unlike altruism within the family, when things go well it can help many hundreds, thousands or even millions of people.

This connection between work and altruism isn’t just an accident. Many employers go out of their way to make their companies sources of worker dignity and satisfaction, most of all because workers and potential workers, especially among the relatively young, value such things. The more a company is viewed positively, the easier it is to recruit talented workers.

Another way to think about the non-pay-related benefits of having a job is to consider the well-known and indeed sky-high personal costs of unemployment. Not having a job when you want to be working damages happiness and health well beyond what the lost income alone would account for. For instance, the unemployed are more likely to have mental health problems and are more likely to commit suicide. In the well-known study by economists Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, involuntary unemployment is worse for individual happiness than divorce or separation.

In short, productive work is one of the most fulfilling sides of our lives. It makes us happier, better adjusted and better connected to the social world. It gives balance to our home lives. It helps us realize who we are as human beings. This is one of the subtler ways in which capitalism is a creator — namely, a creator of our better selves.

Excerpted from “BIG BUSINESS: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero” by Tyler Cowen. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted with permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

LABOR GAINS: How Americans are workin’ it

51% of US workers said they were satisfied with their jobs in 2017, the highest level since 2005
Source: The Conference Board (2018)

58% of those with household income above $75,000 say they’re satisfied at work, compared with around 45% of households making less than $75,000
Source: The Conference Board (2018)

18.8% of Americans ages 65 and older, or nearly 9 million people, reported being employed full- or part-time, the greatest percentage since data has been recorded
Source: Pew (2016)

$46,800 The approximate yearly income of the average American in 2018, a 5% increase on 2017
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

3.8% US unemployment rate in March 2019
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Sleep myths may hinder good sleep and health

(Reuters Health) – Widespread beliefs about sleeping include advice on how much sleep is enough, what quality sleep means and how to achieve it, but when these pronouncements are wrong, they can do more harm than good, researchers argue.

The study team gathered the most common sleep “myths” and asked sleep-science experts to rank them according to how wrong they were, and how bad it might be for a person’s health to follow the advice.

“Sleep plays a vital role in our health and wellbeing,” said lead author of the report in Sleep Health, Rebecca Robbins of the New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

“Although there is growing awareness of sleep’s importance, myths – or beliefs that are held despite an evidence base to suggest the beliefs are false – are held among some of our population,” she told Reuters Health by email.

About one third of adults in the U.S. report sleeping less than the recommended seven hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Robbins and 10 sleep experts in the fields of sleep research, circadian science, neuroscience and psychiatry compiled a list of 50 potential myths by using web searches of popular press and scientific literature. The experts then rated each one, and the study team narrowed the list to the top 20 sleep myths, based on how false and how significant for public health each was.

The list was further broken down into categories, including myths about sleep duration, sleep timing, sleep behaviors, daytime behaviors affecting sleep, pre-sleep behaviors and brain function during sleep.

When it came to sleep duration, the highest-rated myth was that “being able to fall sleep ‘anytime, anywhere’ is a sign of a healthy sleep system.” Instead, this is more indicative of a chronically sleep-deprived person, the experts said, and excessive daytime sleepiness may be one of the primary symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

Other myths in this category were that “many adults need only five or fewer hours of sleep” and “your brain and body can learn to function just as well with less sleep.”

On the other hand, sleep experts said the belief that one night of sleep deprivation doesn’t likely have lasting negative health consequences is true.

Regarding sleep timing, the highest-rated myth was that “it doesn’t matter what time of day you sleep.” Instead, research on night-shift workers points to lower sleep quality, as well as a higher risk for depression, diabetes and cancer, the study team notes.

When the sleep experts ranked myths around sleep behaviors, they considered the worst ones to be, “lying in bed with your eyes closed is almost as good as sleeping” and “if you have difficulty falling asleep, it’s best to stay in bed and try to fall back to sleep.”

Instead, the experts said, cognitive activity when a person is sleeping is distinctly different from being awake with eyes closed. Also, those who can’t fall asleep should leave bed, avoid blue light and return to bed when they’re tired.

Pre-sleep, the experts agreed that alcohol before bed does not improve sleep. Although folklore may encourage a “nightcap,” in fact, alcohol can lead to sleep disturbances during the second part of the night when REM sleep is most valuable. Alcohol consumption can also worsen sleep apnea symptoms for those with a history of snoring.

The sleep experts also refuted the myth that it’s better to have a warmer bedroom than a cooler bedroom, and recommended a temperature between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (about 18 to 21 degrees C).

They also noted that remembering your dreams isn’t necessarily a sign of good sleep, and sleeping with a pet doesn’t always improve sleep quality, even if it is comforting.

“Knowing what is true and what is a myth will help to support choices linked to sleep hygiene and sleep architecture,” said Sarah Godsell, a public health researcher with the South Gloucestershire Council in the UK, who has studied sleep beliefs and where they originate.

“Sleep is important, so who do you listen to and who influences your sleep behaviors?” Godsell, who wasn’t involved in the current study, said in an email. “Do you know about its key functions and its importance for health and wellbeing?”

SOURCE: Sleep Health, online April 16, 2019.

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Your Good Health: Ignoring symptoms a risky move for senior

Dear Dr. Roach: I’m a 92-year-old man in better-than-average health. I have had two episodes of blood in my urine in the past two months. I know this isn’t normal. At my age, I’d just like to make believe it didn’t happen. What’s my future like?


Your future will shortly include, I hope, a visit to your regular doctor. Blood in the urine often is due to a urine infection or a kidney stone, but in older men, there is always a concern about a tumour, whether of the kidney, bladder or prostate. Pretending it didn’t happen is not a good solution, and your doctors will certainly take your age into account when looking at diagnostic possibilities and treatments. Most cases will turn out to be not much to worry about, so the sooner you get in, the sooner you can find out what’s going on and see what steps might be necessary.

Dear Dr. Roach: Experts advised us to “throw out sugar-laden cereals” and eat a healthy breakfast, such as oatmeal. Now we are told that oatmeal contains a significant amount of glyphosate, which they say is an ingredient in Roundup! Are we poisoning our children?


There have been traces of glyphosate (an herbicide) found in oatmeal and other cereals. However, as always, the dose makes the poison. The Environmental Protection Agency has set a level of 30 parts per million, below which the exposure is considered safe. A 2018 study by the Environmental Working Group found levels of glyphosate in oatmeal breakfast cereals to be between 0.5 and 1 parts per million. It is unlikely that consumption of these cereals causes any significant health risks. Nobody likes the idea of eating an herbicide, but these are very low amounts, and some experts have questioned the specificity of the detection method used.

The same EWG report found that organic cereals had less, but often still some, glyphosate in them. Although the levels in both conventional and organic cereals were safe, glyphosate itself is found at generally lower levels in organic products. Unfortunately, there have not been good studies on residual amounts of organic pesticides (some of which are substantially more toxic than glyphosate) that might be found in organically grown food.

I agree with reducing the simple sugars found in many cereals, especially those marketed to children. However, I recommend more protein for breakfast than is found in oatmeal. You can add more with nuts, egg whites or seeds.

Dear Dr. Roach: I was prescribed prednisone 5 mg twice daily, but I had insomnia, itching and hot flashes from it. I stopped after four days, but am still suffering from sleeplessness. Has the prednisone had a permanent effect on my body?


Prednisone, a powerful anti-inflammatory and immune system-inhibiting steroid, has many side-effects on the body, especially insomnia. Hot flashes and itching are uncommon side-effects.

Insomnia is more common when prednisone is taken twice daily. Anytime a person gets insomnia, it can create a situation where they become worried about sleeping, which can lead to a persistent problem, even though the effect of the prednisone is gone.

I recommend some routine steps for treating insomnia, such as avoiding bright lights, including any electronic screen, for two hours or so before bed; regular exercise, if the condition for which you took prednisone allows it; and a warm bath before bed. A mild sleep aid, such as melatonin 1 mg or less, might help reset your system, but daily use is not necessary.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to

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Want Your Very Own Easter Bunny? Read This First

You might be excited for the Easter bunny’s arrival on Easter Sunday, but that doesn’t mean you should go out and get your own bunny. Rabbits are living beings — not holiday props. Here are eight reasons why it’s a terrible idea to impulsively bring home a rabbit for Easter.

1. Rabbits live a long time

Unlike many wild rabbits, which only survive for a few years, domestic rabbits can live roughly eight to 12 years, according to PetMD. That number might fluctuate based on size and breed. But in general you should expect to have a rabbit for just as long as you would a dog or cat. Unless you truly understand and are prepared for how a pet rabbit would affect the next decade of your life, it’s really not ideal to bring one home just because of Easter. And never, ever assume you can release your pet rabbit into the wild if you don’t want it anymore. That would be a death sentence.

2. They’re expensive

Rabbits may be small, but they’re certainly not cheap. According to ASPCA pet care cost estimates, you can expect to spend roughly $800 during just the first year of having a pet rabbit. That’s only slightly less than a dog or cat — and more than the cost of other small animals, such as guinea pigs and ferrets. Annually, you can plan on spending around $150 for your rabbit’s food, $200 for litter and $70 for medical expenses — in addition to other recurring miscellaneous costs. And if your rabbit needs anything outside of routine health care, expect to see those medical costs soar, especially for a more specialized vet.

3. They require an elaborate setup

two pet rabbits in an outdoor enclosureCredit: malerapaso/Getty Images

Your rabbit’s home setup is going to be another expense and take some careful planning. They certainly can’t live in that Easter basket forever. An untrained bunny should stay in a safe enclosure when you’re not there to watch them, as there are many household items that pose risks to rabbits. “A rabbit’s home should be at least 4-6 times the size of your bunny when he’s entirely stretched out — more if he is confined for a large amount of the day,” according to the House Rabbit Society. “… One guideline to go by is at least 8 square feet of enclosure space combined with at least 24 square feet of exercise space, for 1-2 rabbits, in which the rabbit(s) can run and play at least 5 hours per day.” The setup should include food and water, a comfortable sleeping spot, a litter box and plenty of enrichment (e.g., toys and safe materials to chew).

4. Rabbit-proofing your home isn’t easy

It’s ideal to give your rabbit time to move freely through your house for exercise and enrichment, just as they would roam outdoors. But that means meticulously rabbit-proofing your home — which you probably hadn’t planned on as part of your Easter festivities. Electrical cords and any toxic houseplants are areas to focus on when it comes to rabbit-proofing. “Preventing rabbits from chewing on electrical cords is of utmost importance, since rabbits can be badly burned or electrocuted,” according to the House Rabbit Society. Either move cords out of reach, or buy products that can safely cover them. Furthermore, you might have to work to stop your rabbit from chewing houseplants, furniture and even baseboards around your house. Remove or cover dangerous items, and provide your rabbit with plenty of their own safe possessions.

5. Routine veterinary care is a must

vet holding a black and white rabbitCredit: leaf/Getty Images

Rabbits should have regular vet checkups all throughout their lives. And you might have to put in some extra effort to find a veterinarian who specializes in rabbits, as experience is valuable for their care. Plus, just like with cats and dogs, vets typically recommend you have your rabbit spayed or neutered. This can help to make them calmer, friendlier companions, and it can prevent diseases, including cancer. Again, finding a vet with rabbit experience to do the surgery is key. The House Rabbit Society offers some questions to ask to help you choose a vet.

6. Your bunny might not be so cuddly

If you’re tempted to impulse buy a bunny for Easter, it’s probably because you think they’re cute and cuddly. And while they’re certainly cute, the cuddly part isn’t so fitting. “Rabbits are prey animals, so they have a strong fight or flight instinct,” PetMD says. “This is why they get scared when you pick them up too quickly.” And according to Best Friends Animal Society, cuddling a bunny impairs their best means of defense: their speedy little legs. “A frightened bunny, struggling to free himself from being held in a painful way, can scratch or bite,” Best Friends says. Although every rabbit is different and some eventually might feel safe snuggling with you, most prefer petting over holding.

7. Rabbits aren’t always a good match for kids

Many people who consider getting an “Easter bunny” are doing it for the children in their lives. But kids and rabbits aren’t always a good match. “Rabbits, especially baby rabbits, are very fragile animals and are not really suitable pets for small children,” Best Friends says. “… If not handled properly, rabbits can be easily injured or injure a child.” And if you expect your kids to care for the rabbit — even if they fervently promise they will — think again. Rabbits require lots of daily upkeep, which includes giving them fresh food and water, cleaning their litter and bedding, providing enrichment and monitoring their health and well-being. And some kids might lose interest in all that even before the Easter holiday is over.

8. Too many rabbits are surrendered to shelters

pet rabbit in a cageCredit: Inner_Vision/Getty Images

After cats and dogs, rabbits are the third most surrendered — and euthanized — animal in U.S. shelters. “Many of the bunnies dying in shelters are the result of a well-meaning but not well-thought-through gift,” Best Friends Animal Society says. In a study of the shelter rabbit populations at four animal shelters in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, researchers found most rabbits were between the ages of 1 and 6 when their owners surrendered them to a shelter. “The most common reasons for surrender were the caregivers’ inability to care for the rabbits or a lack of interest in doing so,” the study says. Odds are some of those rabbits at one point were impulsive Easter gifts. Wait until the holiday is over. Do your homework. And always adopt.

Main image credit: Sasiistock/Getty Images

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Healthy Living: Is teething jewelry putting your child at risk?

The FDA is warning parents about teething jewelry, saying the devices could be potentially deadly.

According to a recent report, teething jewelry like necklaces or bracelets could lead to strangulation, choking, serious injuries or death.

The devices are often given to infants who are teething or to children and adults with special needs to redirect chewing on clothes or body parts. 

The report says bracelets or necklaces made of amber, wood, marble or silicone beads could break, posing a choking hazard while necklaces could get caught on the child’s crib, leading to strangulation.

Dr. Kara Garcia of Tan Garcia Pediatrics says she isn’t surprised by the report because anything that can go around the neck or is on a long string can pose a choking hazard and while parents may believe the necklaces or bracelets are helping their child, science says they are not.

“You’re balancing have these been shown to help in any way versus have they been shown to hurt in any way? They’ve definitely been shown to hurt but not yet shown to help,” says Dr. Garcia.

Dr. Garcia says babies begin teething around five months and can continue until they’re a year old. Some will not display any discomfort but others will be in pain. 

Some believe a child that is teething may also have a fever but she says there isn’t a connection so if your child is in pain with a fever, see a doctor. 

In the last five years, Dr. Garcia has seen an increase in babies wearing amber necklaces and says many parents believe the amber necklaces have anti-inflammatory properties or will help relieve pain. 

Dr. Garcia says science does not support that.

If your child is teething and in pain, she suggests freezing a wet washcloth and allowing them to chew on it. 

Popsicles or frozen plastic discs are also a safe way to help alleviate gum pain.  

To view the FDA’s full report, click here


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Pet health: Five tips to stop the itch

If your pet suffers from itchy or inflamed skin, recurring ear infections and continuous scratching of the ears, paws and face – it’s time to take action.

Pawsome Raw owner Retha van der Walt said allergies have many different faces and can be truly frustrating, not just for your pet.

Also read: Going skin deep on pet health

“Your vet may have prescribed a seasonal dose of cortisone and antihistamines, but to your frustration the itching persists.

“You have tried expensive oils and supplements with high dosages of Omegas to moisturise his skin. You have changed to prescription diets – nothing helps, and you are at your wits’ end,” said Van der Walt, who distributes raw food in Ballito.

“Allergies are immune system responses that cause your dog’s body to go a little haywire in reaction to a trigger. No matter what you do to treat them, if your dog is exposed to allergens the problem and discomfort will continue. The trick is to figure out what the allergen is.”

Try out these natural tips to manage and improve your dog’s skin conditions:

1. Swap the kibbles for raw food Avoid starchy carbohydrates as much as possible as they can aggravate skin conditions. Never feed any foods with preservatives, colouring or other chemicals. Dogs with severe gut problems may need to have special care and an individually designed diet. You should also add plenty of vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, and zucchini to help filter toxins.

2. Detox with greens Herbs will help clear toxins from our dog’s gut, liver, lymphatic system and kidneys. The following dried organic herbs will be beneficial and help your dog manage allergy reactions: calendula; chamomile; parsley; burdock; nettle and dandelion.

3. Repair the gut Since most of the immune system lives in your dog’s gut, you need to address his gut health. Feed your dog high quality probiotics daily for several months to restore the health of the immune system.

4. Avoid environmental toxins It is all good and well that you are detoxing your dog; however, you will want to make sure you are not adding new toxins – if you do, his skin condition may continue. Go through your home and remove as many chemicals and artificial fragrances as you can.

5. Keep it calm Emotional stress is a big trigger for skin conditions. If your dog has stress, anxiety or trauma, think about training or body work. It will all help.

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