I rejoice when the weather is warm enough to swim! Swimming is one of the most healthful ways to exercise, and is broadly enjoyed by people of all ages, from babies to the aged. People can get into the pool and enjoy themselves so much that they don’t even know how much beneficial aerobic (heart-pumping) exercise they’re getting.
Aerobic exercise itself has important health benefits: it reduces harmful inflammation linked to many diseases; lowers stress; lowers blood pressure; strengthens muscles (including the heart), and can even help smokers to quit. In fact, swimming is one of the most highly-recommended types of aerobic exercises, according to Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed. D. In addition, it’s one of the best exercises for older adults, as it’s easy on the joints.
Most swimmers in Howard County don’t have access to natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, so we swim in the neighborhood pool, kindly supplied by Columbia Association, one of the neighborhoods in other towns, or by a private owner. The water in these pools needs to be carefully maintained for cleanliness, because the people splashing around bring bacteria into the standing water of the pool. The operators of these pools add chemicals to the water. Without chlorination, health risks would prevent our swimming in a pool.
Most pool operators maintain water cleanliness with chlorine-based chemicals, then test the water for the correct balance of pH (acid-alkaline balance) and chemicals several times throughout the day. Although several alternatives to chlorine exist, each has a disadvantage, including a substantial differential in price. So additions of chlorine seem to be the default choice for water cleanliness.
But chlorine use has its side affects: it’s drying to skin and hair, and may make swimmers’ eyes redden and burn. Some some people are undeniably allergic to chlorine; some people suspect chlorine of causing serious diseases of the respiratory tract or even cancer; but research on these serious side effects is not conclusive.
But (sniff) what’s that sharp smell? Smells like too much chlorine!
Actually, that smell is the result of inadequate amounts of chlorine. Here’s the science: molecules of chlorine combines with molecules of nitrogen or ammonia being thrown off our bodies (organic matter). This is what smells bad. Whenthere is more chlorine in the water, the chlorine can do its job and the odor should be minimal. It’s inadequately-chlorinated water that is most irritating to the skin and eyes, and may be implicated in swimmer’s ear, a common ear infection due to constantly-wet ear canals and bacteria in the water.
And why is the water so cloudy? It’s due to any combination of these events: particles forced out of the water by imbalanced water, poor filtration or sanitation, or heat. Hot days can contribute to cloudy water.
Unless there are other health-related risks, the health benefits, fun, and social value of swimming far outweighs the disadvantages posed by chlorine. One of the rites of summer is swimming, especially out of doors on a hot Maryland day.
The Center for Disease Control’s Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming go into depth on ways to keep everyone healthy when in the water. The most important and easiest of these include:
- Staying out of the water if you are ill, especially illness of your digestive tract. Also stay out of the water if you have a cut or other break in your skin. Being aware of potential water-borne problems.
- Showering before you swim to rinse off the organic materials on your skin. This way, you won’t be contributing to what the chlorine as to break down.
- Regular bathroom breaks for children and adults are crucial. Urine, after all, in another organic material.
- Protecting yourself with eye goggles, an after-swim shower, shampoo, and body moisturizer.
- Questions to ask the pool operator: “Are chemical levels checked at least twice per day, or more often when the pool is heavily used?”, “What is the latest pool inspection score?”, and “Has the pool operator completed specialized training in pool operation?”Have a great swim!
I don’t know whether you’ve had any lab work done recently, but if you have, there’s a good chance your healthcare provider took a look at your vitamin D level. Why all the growing interest in vitamin D? Won’t a couple of glasses of milk per week and some sunlight take care of it?
Sufficient vitamin D promotes bone growth and repair and is required for our bodies to absorb calcium. Adequate calcium levels help assure bone strength. Conditions associated with low vitamin D levels include rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. Symptoms of decreased vitamin D include bone pain, muscle weakness, and fatigue. Older adults may experience symptoms of depression and cognitive impairment.
The NIH Dietary Supplements site notes that vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods. Fatty fishes such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon contain vitamin D. Tiny amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Some mushroom varieties are grown under ultraviolet light to boost their vitamin D content. Much of our vitamin D, however, is ingested from artificially fortified products such as milk, breakfast cereal, and yogurt. Ingestion of supplements and cod liver oil will also boost vitamin D levels. Patients with an abnormally low level of vitamin D may be advised to take vitamin supplements as it is difficult to obtain significant amounts of dietary vitamin D.
Sun exposure causes our skin to synthesize vitamin D. During cold winter days and in smoggy conditions, sun exposure is limited, thus decreasing the body’s vitamin D creation. People who have more pigment in their skin are able to block some UV radiation – helpful in preventing sunburn, but detrimental to generating vitamin D. As we age, our skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases. The use of sunscreen also blocks the initiation of vitamin D production. Patients with digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease may have decreased ability to absorb ingested vitamin D. Obesity is also be associated with decreased vitamin D levels as fat cells absorb vitamin D from the blood.
Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency can lead to an increased susceptibility to colds, especially for those who have asthma and lung conditions. Blood cells critical to immune function have vitamin D receptors. When enough vitamin D is not present, the risk of autoimmune disease and infection increases.
Researchers have also found an association between low vitamin D levels and stroke. When vitamin D levels are insufficient, patients are at higher risk for strokes. In patients who have had strokes, the stroke is likely to be more severe if the vitamin D level is decreased. Links have also been found between poor bone health, low vitamin D level and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Much research is underway to improve our understanding of population studies indicating high rates of hypertension, obesity and glucose intolerance in patients with low vitamin D levels. Further studies are needed to increase our understanding of the significance of vitamin D levels.
[Editor’s Note: As always, please consult your physician before taking any kind of supplement. Your doctor(s) are your greatest resource for your health needs. The post above is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice.]
As you may already know, the Central Branch of HCLS closed its doors for an exciting three-month renovation (it’s going to be so cool when it reopens!). Central team members have been temporarily relocated to the East Columbia and Miller Branches during this time. Both East Columbia and Miller have been welcoming and accommodating beyond belief. Moving, however, is never without stress, confusion, and a bit of nerves. It occurred to me, as an adult woman, that if a temporary move into a more-than-friendly territory gives me the jitters, then a young person encountering his or her first move into a new home must be completely freaked out.
So if you’re getting ready to move and you’ve lost your mind (as well as your keys and match to every other sock) in a slew of boxes, and you haven’t accidentally packed the kids, then they may be just as stressed out, if not more so, than you. The first thing you can do is head to the library and pick up some books that might ameliorate your kids’ unease.
One of my favorites out of the gate is one from our Summer Reading 2015 picks, Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border. A simple tale about newly transplanted Peanut Butter who wanders around his new town with a soccer ball looking for a new friend to play with. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity and humor of this story; one of the biggest fears of a child who is moving is finding new friends.
Continuing with the theme of friendship, but also focusing on the anxiety caused by how “scary” a new place can be, is the charming Lenny & Lucy by Phillip C. Stead. This American Library Association Notable Books for Children pick and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for 2015 will reassure your kids that their feelings are perfectly normal and that things will get easier.
Before I Leave by Jessixa Bagley takes a different tack. This sweetly sad picture book focuses on the fear of leaving behind a beloved friend with a new move. And the heartwarming Ice in the Jungle by Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar touches on the loss of the familiar and how alien a new place can seem. While Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale explores the theme of loss even more deeply as the main character must watch her family sell off some of their possessions to move from a house to an apartment. And if you want a book that that’s less of a story and more of an aid to help you start a conversation about the fears your child may be having about the move, then a nonfiction book such as Moving by Caitie McAneney might be what’s needed.
This is just a drop in the bucket of books covering this topic (a catalog search on moving, household will give you many more options). We even have some books for the older kids such as Seven Dead Pirates by Linda Bailey for middle grade readers (if you think moving is hard, try moving into a house occupied by the ghosts of seven pirates). There’s also Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum for teens (about a teen grappling with grief, navigating a new school and step-family, and corresponding online with a mysterious new “friend”). Or maybe a graphic novel such as Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Speigelman will provide some comfort.
Moving, at any age, can be a trying experience. A book might bring a sense of peace (or at least help alleviate some of the loneliness and anxiety) for a kid. Even adults need support and comfort during a move. That being said, if you get a chance, I hope you’ll swing by the East Columbia Branch and say hi to me sometime during the next three months.
I love carbs! Technically, our bodies and brain NEED carbs. But the carbohydrates I’m referring to are the “bad” ones. The ones I grew up with: white rice, white potatoes, taro, and all kinds of breads. Frankly, I have a potato problem. I love potatoes in all their glorious forms! However, I am partial to a giant mountain of home made mashed potatoes. So, in order to keep an eye on my blood sugars, I trick myself with one of my favorite low-carb sides: garlic cauliflower mash. It’s a surprisingly delicious way to enjoy cauliflower while simultaneously satisfying those carb cravings for mashed potatoes.
Ingredients: cauliflower, minced garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, butter, milk (optional: paprika, spinach, white beans, pesto)
Chop a head of cauliflower into florets. You can either blanch the florets in boiling water for 15 minutes, or stem the florets in the microwave or on the stove. You just need to get the cauliflower tender for “mashing.” While florets are cooking, get a small fry pan going with medium heat- then, drizzle a bit of olive oil, add a minced garlic clove. (At this point, you could add add a handful of spinach to lightly wilt in the pan or white beans or pesto or additional seasonings.) Whatever healthy, brave concoction you’ve created in your garlic pan, add to a food processor. Then, drain the water from your blanched cauliflower and add florets to the food processor as well. Blend in food processor with a little bit of salt/pepper, up to 1 Tbsp of butter, and splash of milk until its nearly smooth. Scrape down the sides occasionally. Keep an eye on its consistency so you don’t put it over the edge as a puree. You can also do this step manually with a fork or masher. Either way, it’ll be tasty. Dress up your mash with chives or other fresh herbs.
Another delicious and simple way to get more cauliflower into your diet: cauliflower rice!
My sister-in-love (as opposed to sister-in-law) bought some cauliflower rice from the store the other night. It was basically a head of cauliflower that was pulsed in a food processor and repackaged in a foam tray with a price tag and plastic wrap. Save yourself the extra cost and just get a head of cauliflower. Once your raw cauliflower is pulsed to the point of rice (or cous cous) texture, you should set a fry pan on medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. You can then add a clove of garlic minced, along with a small white/yellow onion minced, maybe a handful of baby portobellas chopped. Saute until mushrooms are soft and onions are nearly translucent. At that point, add the cauliflower. This is a great base for any and all flavors you’re interested in creating. Simply season with salt and pepper or anything your heart desires! What’s great about cauliflower is that (like rice) it will absorb the seasoning beautifully. I’ve seen Indian cauliflower rice with cumin, turmeric, ginger, etc. The pellets of cauliflower will also absorb the colors of your herbs and spices! Try something fun like a Spanish style cauliflower rice or something Guam-style like achote red-rice (annatto seeds).
Cauliflower is pretty easy to work with, you just need to put in time. There’s all kinds of great recipes for cauliflower tots (like potato tots), cauliflower soup, cous cous like salad, cauliflower popcorn (deep fried cauliflower), “steaks”, tortillas- the only limit is your imagination! Try out our Paleo cookbooks for more ideas!
Have you ever experienced an emotion that you could not explain or describe? If you have, you can attest to this unexplained emotion leading to even more indescribable emotions. Before you know it, you are left feeling like you don’t understand yourself.
I have had experiences where loved ones have told me to “be happier” or “calm down” after I try to explain what I’m feeling. These dismissive responses have caused me to repress my emotions at times; as if they didn’t exist. You can’t just “be happy” because someone told you that you should be. In fact, you shouldn’t tell someone how and when to feel a certain way. Instead, be respectful of their feelings and find ways to help them.
Many people living with depression and/or anxiety can’t always put their feelings into words. Much less, explain why it’s happening, just that it is. The society we live in is very good at prescribing solutions to fix, assist, or aid in one’s physical health. If we tell a friend we’ve broken our arm, the solution is a cast. If we have any kind of physical illness or disease we have everything from physical therapy to surgery to address these ailments. Unfortunately, when it comes to emotional health (and intelligence) our friends and family aren’t always able to come up with tangible solutions. In fact, mental wellness is often seen as a more abstract concept and, sadly, isn’t always taken seriously.
Working to recognize your emotions (and the emotions of others) and the ability to distinguish between different feelings is key. Once you’re able to identify your emotions and the feelings that come with them, you can use that information to guide your thinking and behavior. Having a plan and taking action to healthfully address your state of mind is an essential step in managing your wellness. A few examples include: examining your diet and exercise regimen, trying meditation, exploring a new hobby, exploring the outdoors, making time for yourself, talking with a close friend or therapist, and coloring. These are just a few ways you can find positive behaviors that can make you both happier and healthier.
Each person experiences life, and the world around them, in a different way. So, the answers to their emotional needs will be just as diverse. Let’s find more ways to be more understanding and practice compassion when the people around us are comfortable sharing their feelings. Besides, we’re on this planet to help each other.
“When it comes to eating right, I find it’s so important for food to be tasty, so that you’ll want to keep eating well for a lifetime,” so goes the opening to the super neat and scrumptious The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook, which covers everything from classic comfort foods to more exotic fare.
There are so many good cookbooks out there, but sometimes you just want a few that you can count on again and again to provide you with you healthy (and even happy) meal choices that will never disappoint or deny you enjoyment in your eating life. Whether it is Diabetic Living’s beautiful and wonderful Diabetes Meals by the Plate: 90 Low-Carb Meals to Mix & Match, Jackie Newgent’s The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook, or Kate Gardner’s The New Diabetes Cookbook: 100 Mouthwatering, Seasonal, Whole-Food Recipes, you will not only want to eat healthy, you will be excited about doing so!
Essential to Jackie Newgent’s philosophy is simplicity, both with time in the kitchen and in choosing the freshest, least-processed foods. One of my favorite recipes in her book is “Buckwheat Banana Pancakes with Walnuts” (page 26). I was surprised to discover that buckwheat is not wheat at all but an herb of Russian descent. Central to Newgent’s cookbook is the idea that non-starchy vegetables promote an essential (and delicious) plant-based approach and that some vegetables can become the entrée, such as yummy cauliflower “steak” (see pages 256-257) “A good rule of thumb,” the registered dietitian nurse says, is “to fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, whether grilled, steamed, roasted, microwave-baked or raw.”
Jessie Shafer, Food and Nutrition Editor for Diabetic Living, supports the half plate non-starchy veggies “ideal” as well. In the intro to the fabulously colorful and very user friendly cookbook Diabetes Meals by The Plate she explains that the trick to healthful eating is in how you arrange your plate. “Visually divide your plate in half and fill one of those halves with nonstarchy vegetables,” she begins, then “divide the remaining half of the plate in two and fill one quarter with a protein. Fill the last quarter with a serving of grains or other starchy food.” Diabetes Meals by The Plate features dozens of pretty, but more importantly, very tasty and healthy recipes. There are lots of offerings for people who like their meat, but also (and in a very neat and unique way) there are offerings for the vegetarian and “Caribbean Tofu and Beans” (see pages 182 and 183) just jumps off the page with vibrancy and the promise of a terrific meal, even for those normally wary of tofu.
Perhaps the most “foodie” of the cookbooks mentioned here, in terms of looks and taste, though (thankfully) not complexity, is the gorgeous (and mouthwatering) The New Diabetes Cookbook. One of my favorite recipes in the book is for “smoked gouda and broccoli lasagnettes.” (see pages 94 and 95) If you love lasagna as much as the author does then you might understand what she means when she says that one of the things she does not like about it is how easy it is to overeat it. That’s where “lasagnettes,” not lasagna, come in. Lasagnettes are mini lasagnas made in a muffin tin, where wontons are used instead of pasta, which saves on both both carbs and calories. Lasagnettes also travel very well and make for easy on-to-go snacks AND they freeze well.
Kate Gardner wrote The New Diabetes Cookbook knowing that cooking and eating well with diabetes is not always easy. There are the worries about carbohydrate content, blood sugar and making the “right” choices. All three cookbooks mentioned here focus on the belief that eating well with diabetes means eating whole, unprocessed foods in moderate portions. Jackie Newgent calls it “eating real” and makes cooking with vegetables a real joy, even to those who are not veggie lovers. Each color group provides distinctive health benefits and makes for terrific presentation in your meals as well as a tasty treat for your palate. It is the position of the American Diabetes Association that there is not “a one size fits all” pattern to eating and that is delightfully evident in all the wonderful and varied choices delivered in these three cookbooks.