You probably won’t be surprised to know that a lot of people have a bad breath problem. But did you know bad breath is a chronic problem for one in four people[i]?
If you’re that one in four, it’s a problem for you – and possibly those around you. Learn about the gases that cause imperfect pongs and what you can do about them …
Bad breath affects most of us at some time or another – after a night’s sleep or after chomping on onions and garlic. But lingering smells need attention. Dr Lincoln Law who practices at the Healthy Teeth clinic in Surry Hills explains: ‘Bad breath is also known as halitosis or feta oris and it’s a pretty common reason for people coming into the clinic.’
Flagrant not fragrant
Research backs Dr Lincoln’s experience; it’s the third most common reason for seeking the help of a dentist after tooth decay and gum disease[ii].
As for the causes of less than fragrant breath? ‘Well, there can be many,’ explains Dr Lincoln.
‘Poor oral hygiene is the major cause of bad breath. It can happen when bits of food caught in your teeth start to break down. When mouth living bacteria eat these bits of food, they release noxious gases,’ says Dr Lincoln.
Anyone for bad eggs?
Scarily, these noxious gases include hydrogen sulphide (think rotten eggs), dimethyl sulphide (think rotten seaweed) and cadaverine and putrescine (the gases given off by decaying corpses) …
‘Lifestyle factors such as smoking also cause bad breath because of the tar and carbon that remain in the mouth. Smoking and alcohol consumption also dehydrate the body, which can cause dry mouth and can affect the quality of your breath.’
The food factor
Food is another factor that can cause bad breath. Take the popular paleo way of eating. ‘Severe dieting means that your body breaks down different nutrients and this can cause bad breath. Low carb and no carb diets can also do it.’
Dr Lincoln explains: ‘That’s because, when you cut the carbs and increase your protein intake, your body burns fat and this produces volatile compounds called ketones, which cause a particular kind of bad breath. Better dental hygiene can’t fix this one – it’s best to include a few low GI, healthy wholegrain foods in your diet. You can also try masking the smell with sugar-free gum.’
Feed bad bacteria
Most of the time, the cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. Pongs occur when bacteria eat the traces of food that remain between and on the teeth and gums, producing sulphur-containing gases.
Dr Lincoln says that, in his experience, people just need a little help to improve their oral hygiene – the best approach is with gentle but effective cleaning techniques for each individual.
‘Bacteria live in your mouth. They find homes in the crevices of the tongue, teeth and gums where they eat the food you eat and emit foul-smelling gases that cause odours. So removing bacteria and their waste through an effective cleaning regime can freshen your breath for a few hours,’ advises Dr Lincoln.
Health conditions and halitosis
Serious illnesses – like bowel problems and pneumonia – as well as reflux problems, can cause bad breath. Medication can also be a trigger – including nitrates used to treat angina, some chemotherapy medications and certain tranquillisers, plus any kind of medicine that causes dry mouth.
Although medical problems need prompt medical treatment and you need to see your GP, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from bad breath. ‘Recent research suggests that one of the most effective ways to beat bad breath is based on bacteria,’ says Dr Lincoln.
‘More and more research is showing that one of the most effective ways to treat bad breath is via probiotics (good bacteria). There are trillions of beneficial bacteria that live in and on your body that are vital to life and can help to reduce bad breath. So, many new treatments are likely to focus on increasing certain beneficial probiotics,’ he explains.
Probiotics work by forcing out the bad guys i.e. the bad bacteria which are potentially disease-causing microorganisms. Look for oral probiotics designed specifically to improve your dental health.
Feeding the good guys
‘Encouraging lots of prebiotics is important, too. Prebiotics – like wholegrains, pulses, veggies and fruits – are foods that nourish you and promote the growth of good bacteria. Yet another reason to enjoy a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits and healthy carbohydrates,’ explains Dr Lincoln.
‘Vegetables are an especially good choice because they are also rich in water and fibre – you could say they act like a dietary toothbrush. Drink lots of water and try to rinse your mouth with water after eating to help the natural mouth cleansing action of saliva,’ ends Dr Lincoln.
Of course, effective and regular cleaning is absolutely vital to maintain a healthy mouth. So don’t neglect regular check-ups with your dentist for a professional clean.
Making fast, nutritious and delicious lunches and lunch choices can be a challenge whether you’re working, studying or running around with the family. The health and wellbeing team at rt health fund share some of their tips to selecting healthy eats – where delicious meets nutritious!
You already know the basics – fresh is best and the less processed, the better. For example, canned tuna or fresh fish trumps fish nuggets and an apple is a better choice than a sugary apple bar from the supermarket. But time and hunger can challenge the best of intentions. So, if you’re watching your weight or trying to boost the nutrient content of your diet, here are some super quick tips:
1. Fill up half of your lunchbox or plate with veggies – red, orange, blue and yellow. The more colours, the better. Go for masses of green veggies such as broccoli, kale, rocket and asparagus – these are ultra-low in calories and very high in nutrition.
2. Make a quarter of your meal starchy carbohydrates – the wholegrain kinds of bread, rice and pasta are best because they have their fibre, vitamins and minerals intact. In the same way, potatoes with their skins on are better than without and sweet potatoes are a great choice. Try to avoid white flour foods, for example white bread and pastry because they have had the fibre and nutrients removed from them in processing. Without the fibre, these foods are digested quickly so you feel hungry again after a short time. So, for a steadier life, go wholegrain.
3. Make a quarter of your lunch protein foods. Fish is a great choice as it provides omega-3 essential fats (oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are especially high), lean meat provides a big hit of iron and pulses (peas, beans and legumes) are a rich source of protein with added fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential omega-3 fats.
4. Add a source of calcium – either dairy or a vegetarian alternative such as soy or almond milk. Many women don’t get enough bone and teeth-building calcium, which can lead to issues such as osteoporosis later in life.
5. Some fresh fruit – which provides vitamins, minerals, fibre and a whole host of protective plant pigments. Plus, when you have a meal that satisfies your savoury taste buds, you may want something sweet to finish. Fruit could do the trick and could reduce the temptation for sugary/fatty snacks.
Here are some quick lunch ideas to get you started (most can be made at home using supermarket ingredients but some can be bought from takeaway shops):
Canned tuna with a little low-fat mayonnaise and lots of salad on a wholemeal roll
Roast beef with lettuce and lots of sliced tomato on rye bread
Supermarket salad leaves (lettuce, baby spinach, rocket) with tomatoes, feta and a can of drained red kidney beans
Hummus, pita bread and a double serving of tabbouleh
Sushi and boiled green soybeans (edamame)
Quinoa with a rainbow of veggies
Poached eggs on wholegrain toast with spinach and avocado
Store-bought soup with added frozen baby peas
Vietnamese rice paper rolls with a large side salad
Falafel/chicken/lean meat roll with extra salad
Pasta with tomato sauce and lots of steamed veggies
Indian dhal with basmati rice and a big salad
Hot smoked salmon with mashed potatoes, green beans and grilled tomatoes
Mushroom and veggie omelette with wholegrain bread
Thai salad with fish, meat or tofu
Tofu and veggie stir fry
Homemade chilli con carne with meat or veggie mince and extra beans with tomato salad.
And for something sweet …
Sugar-free dairy or coconut yoghurt
A few dried peaches/apricots/prunes with unsalted nuts
It’s a buzzword – one that you hear all the time. But what exactly is stress? Why do you feel it? And what is it doing to your mind and body?
Stress is a whole range of reactions to danger – it’s one of the ways your body protects itself. In the face of threat, a range of stress hormones are released. One result of this is the release of glucose, to provide energy for the large muscles that you need to use to fight or take flight. Your heart beats faster and your blood pressure rises to ensure that oxygen and nutrients in your blood can reach every cell in your body. And, the systems that aren’t needed to fight or take flight are turned down a notch or two – such as your digestive system. This is one reason why stress and depression are sometimes linked with digestive problems.
Although your stress hormones play a vital role in keeping you ready to protect yourself – or others – too much of them circulating for too long can trigger physical and emotional problems over time.
And, it doesn’t have to be a major danger that triggers your stress response. It can be anything from a niggling neighbour to a frustrating experience online. If you don’t address your stress, the result can be problems with …
Anxiety and depression
Memory and concentration
Headaches, aches and joint pains
Sleep problems and more.
Hello belly fat!
When stress hormones such as cortisol hang around in your body for long periods and aren’t burned off, changes in your weight can result – particularly weight gain around your middle. Cortisol orders your body to release glucose from cells raising the amount in the blood. And, when there is too much glucose in your blood, your body tries hard to normalise it and return it to within safe levels. One of the ways it does this is via the action of your liver, which converts the excess glucose into fat. Fat that’s processed in the liver tends to be laid down near the liver i.e. around your middle – hello belly fat!
Belly fat is different to the fat on other parts of your body. It is linked with many chronic (long-term) conditions such as heart disease and cancers[i]. Belly fat has four times as many cortisol receptors as other types of fat[ii] which moves fat from areas such as your bottom and thighs (fat in these areas is relatively inactive) and transports it to the belly. Belly fat is much more metabolically active and triggers inflammation. And, since belly fat has more cortisol receptors, your cortisol levels rise and rise and rise.
Also on the rise …
Your blood pressure jumps every time you feel stressed. And, over time, high blood pressure damages your heart and is a major risk factor for heart disease. You can’t tell whether you have high blood pressure – this is why regular medical check-ups are important. Your GP can check your blood pressure quickly and easily and guide you about what’s needed.
How’s your emotional health?
As well as the effects on your body, high levels of cortisol are potent risk factors for anxiety and depression[iii]. Both can contribute to physical symptoms such as altered sensitivity to pain, tiredness, headaches, poor sleep or excessive sleep. Emotional problems can also trigger digestive problems and vice versa, as there are nerve cells all along your intestines which send signals to your brain in a two-way communication[iv].
So what can you do?
Find out what presses your buttons. Make a stress diary and keep it for two weeks or so. Make a note of what triggers your stress – times, places, people and situations. Then write down how you felt and how you reacted to the stress. Looking back at your stress diary can reveal some interesting insights into your personal stressors.
Then think about how you can reduce your stress. If it’s lack of time, there is no option but to start earlier. If it’s people, think about how you can see less of negative people and more of people who lift you up. And if you can’t do this, try to counter negative comments with positive or neutral ones. Decide what kind of pain you’re willing to bear. For the vast majority of us, it isn’t possible to have it all – at least not at the same time. So consider what you’re willing to give up or reduce. This isn’t a forever decision – review your views periodically to make sure you’re making the right decisions for you at the right time.
Follow Elsa’s lead. Although everyone feels guilt, too much can drag you down. The next time you feel guilty, try to pinpoint exactly why you’re feeling it. Do you need to alter your behaviour? Do you need to apologise? Or, are you making too much of it? Do what you need to do and then try to let it go. Even Disney heroines such as Elsa from Frozen now recognise that they can’t do it all and get it right all of the time – and about the need to let it go. So learn from what happened, try not to do it again and move on. And if you can’t move on, talk to someone who can help you such as a trained psychologist or counsellor. Otherwise, your guilt could fester and interfere with relationships.
Nourish yourself. What you eat, when you eat and how you eat can relieve your stress – and can contribute to it, too. For example, too much alcohol, too much sugar and too much caffeine can all stress your body triggering the release of stress hormones. Try to avoid foods made from white flour – the process of making white flour not only removes the minerals and vitamins, but also the fibre. Fibre is important as it holds onto carbohydrates in foods, releasing energy slowly and in a way the body can control, which won’t stress it. With the fibre removed, glucose is released rapidly into the blood in a way that is difficult for the body to control and adjust to.
For a calmer life, be picky about what you eat and drink. Make meals rich in veggies (five or more servings per day) and try to eat two fruits per day – they’re rich in vitamins, minerals and plant pigments. Plus, the fibre they contain helps to ensure that the energy inside is released slowly. Choose lean meats such as skinless chicken and turkey, opt for fish a few times a week and use pulses (peas, beans and lentils) in your cooking. Pulses are rich in fibre and protein but low in fat and calories. Add them to casseroles, stews, soups and salads. Be careful about how much alcohol you drink, too. This can stress both body and mind and rob you of restful sleep, too. If you’re drinking too much alcohol, do what you need to do to cut down or cut it out altogether. Talk to your GP for help.
Remember stress isn’t just about your mind – it can have a whole host of physical consequences and in the long-term, trigger serious chronic conditions. So do what you can to beat your stresses today. Your mind and your body will thank you for it. And your friends and family probably will too!
Feeling a little less energetic than you’d like? Diet, exercise, emotional health, sleep and work, all contribute …
Fact: Staying awake for 17-19 hours affects your concentration in a similar way to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. Staying awake for longer periods is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1% – you’d definitely be off the road for both![i]
Stress makes you tired and it affects all of your body …
Brain – headaches and migraines
Lungs – coughs and asthma
Mood – anxiety, difficulty concentrating
Muscles – tension, pain and nervous ticks
Stomach – ulcers, heartburn and indigestion
Skin – dryness and rashes
General – tiredness and fatigue.
Watch the caffeine
Lots of us use caffeine to kick-start our day, but did you know that it increases alertness for only a short time? If you consume caffeine regularly, it may not boost your alertness as much. And, five or six cups of coffee per day can make you jittery and anxious. Caffeine can also interfere with restful sleep. Try cutting down slowly over a month or so and see if your fatigue reduces.
Nap vs. sleep
A short nap could be just what you need to boost alertness. If you can, get your head down for around 15-20 minutes – but set the alarm because longer periods can increase grogginess and leave you feeling worse.
Drink enough water – even mild dehydration can trigger tiredness.[ii]
Watch sugary foods and drinks – they cause a rapid rise in blood glucose (sugar) but this is followed by a rapid dip as your body releases insulin to normalise levels. The result is tiredness, irritability and hunger.
Opt for wholegrains instead of refined, white flour foods for longer lasting energy.
This mineral is a major component of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to every blood cell. One of the major signs of iron deficiency anaemia is fatigue. Oily fish, pulses, wholegrains and lean meat contain iron. Eating vitamin C rich veggies (tomatoes, capsicum) or fruit (Kiwifruit) increases the amount of iron your body absorbs each time you eat.
Being more active actually helps you sleep more restfully, feel better about yourself and along with a healthy diet may help you lose extra kilos. All of these can boost your mood and fight fatigue.
Meditation, yoga, reading or spending time with friends and family will help boost your energy levels.
Did you know? Psychological factors are responsible for a massive 50-80% of cases of fatigue[iii]. Professional counselling can help you to work out the issues adding to your anguish. In some cases, fatigue is also the symptom of an underlying medical problem. So, if you feel excessively tired and you’re getting enough rest, speak with your GP.
A lifetime of healthy smiles starts in childhood. So, as well as brushing twice daily, flossing and visiting the dentist, what you give your kids to eat can dramatically affect their tooth health – and their confidence, too.
A healthy diet isn’t just about limiting the amount of sugar you give them (although cutting down on sugar is better for everyone and has much wider health benefits).
Little tummies need regular feeding and healthy snacks can help to boost your child’s energy. So what are the best snacks to help your child smile?
Cheese and crackers/breadsticks
Hard cheese like Cheddar and soft cheese such as mozzarella are great for teeth because:
They are rich in calcium, which is what teeth are made from. Immediately eating a small cube of cheese after a meal or a snack plugs the tiny holes in the enamel helping protect and build stronger teeth.
The protein in cheese helps neutralise the acids from food and drinks, providing both protective and strengthening effects.
The chewing action encourages the flow of saliva, which is the mouth’s natural cleanser.
Fruits – apples, pears, melon and more
Yes, they contain sugar and acids, but fruits are good for the teeth because they contain vitamin C, which helps to strengthen blood vessels that nourish cells with oxygen and food. Vitamin C is also vital for strengthening the connective tissue, which keeps the teeth in place. It also helps to protect gums and other tissues from cell damage and even bacterial infection. This vitamin also has an anti-inflammatory action.
Encourage fruit as part of a meal because the chewing action helps to stimulate saliva, the body’s way to wash food debris away. And offer a glass of water after they eat fruit to help wash away any acids.
Dried fruit isn’t usually a tooth friendly snack because the drying process removes water, which concentrates the sugars. Plus the sticky texture means it can cling to the teeth for longer, providing plaque-producing bacteria plenty of time to feast on the sugar and produce acidic waste, which can damage delicate enamel.
We used to think that raisins were much like other dried fruit but recent research shows that raisins are a tooth healthy option.
Like other fruits, raisins contain protective phytochemicals, which are effective antioxidants. One of these found in raisins is called oleanolic (pronounced o-lee-an-o-lic) acid. This seems to reduce the growth of two species of oral bacteria, one that causes cavities (Streptococcus mutans) and one that causes gum disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis)[i].
Peas, beans and lentils also contain antioxidants that help boost the immune system that in turn helps the body fight bacteria and inflammation. Try hummus with strips of pita bread/breadsticks or veggie sticks.
Crunchy carrots and celery help to clean teeth, massage gums and freshen breath. They contain a lot of water, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain. And, because they need a lot of chewing, crisp veggies stimulate saliva flow (which helps protect against decay by washing away food particles and buffering against acids). Plus, the folate they contain helps to build healthy blood, which delivers vital oxygen and nutrients to every cell.
Made with fish, lean meat, hummus, egg or cheese, small sandwiches for tiny tummies are a great choice. Although small children often don’t like the strong taste of fish, canned fish like salmon is a great sandwich filling because it is rich in tooth building calcium. Opt for wholegrain bread because it contains fibre, which requires chewing. Remember children under five don’t need as much fibre as adults so stick with white bread sandwiches for them.
Milk – cow’s milk and soy milk
Cow’s milk is naturally rich in calcium as is soy milk, if it is processed with calcium. Although it’s a tooth friendly drink, always make the last drink of the day water, as milk contains the milk sugar, lactose. If allowed to stay in contact with the teeth for long periods, it provides food for plaque-producing bacteria, increasing the risk of tooth damage.
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Both are rich in minerals including zinc and magnesium. Zinc plays a key role in wound healing – including little wounds in the mouth. Plus, they contain magnesium, another mineral which works with calcium to build strong, protective enamel that can resist decay. Lack of magnesium could mean that teeth become softer and more susceptible to cavities.
With all snacks, encourage your kids to wash them down with some water afterwards. Water helps to wash away food debris, stimulate saliva production and most water supplies in Australia have added fluoride to help harden the enamel and protect teeth, too.
Remember, children’s milk teeth are much more delicate than adult teeth – as well as being smaller, the layer of enamel is thinner so small children are especially at risk of decay and damage. And, if baby teeth are removed because of decay, there’s more risk that the adult teeth will grow into abnormal positions.
So help them snack smarter and enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles!
According to Nutrition Australia, the average Aussie packs on around 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period[i]. The trouble is that most of us don’t lose the extra kilos over the year. The result? We’re getting heavier and heavier. Today, a staggering two thirds of Australians are overweight or obese[ii].
Being too heavy is seriously bad for your health – it increases your risk of chronic (long-term) conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease.
This Christmas season follow these easy tips to pick smarter and healthier options at your gatherings, to help you fill up on flavour – without filling out!
Before the party
Don’t let yourself get too hungry before an event – it’s easier to succumb to fatty/sugary treats. So have a small sandwich or some veggie sticks and hummus or tomato salsa. Make sure you’re hydrated, too. It’s easy to mistake hunger for thirst.
Circle before you choose and chew
Studies show that when faced with a wide selection of foods, people tend to want to try everything. So make a conscious decision to stop, take a look at what you fancy going around the table a few times before making your choice. Then make sure you chew, chew, chew! According to food psychologist, Dr Brian Wansink, people who chew their foods more tend to be lighter than people who don’t[iii].
Pick up a small one
Psychologically speaking, eating from a smaller plate is more satisfying than loading up a large plate – the plate looks fuller so your mind is tricked into thinking you’ve had loads to eat. Plus, Brian Wansink found that people tend to finish everything on their plate[iv]! Our portion sizes have grown over the last 20 years along with our waistlines – did you know that the plates used by our grandparents were the size of our current salad plates? That’s one great reason to downsize your plate.
Put your knife and fork down between bites. Put your glass down before you have another sip. Why? It helps you to become more focused on what you’re consuming. It also takes around 10 minutes after you are full that the signals reach your brain to tell you that you’ve had enough. Slowing it down helps you get back in tune with your body and puts you back in control.
They are low in kilojoules and rich in nutrition, water and fibre. They also require a lot of chewing which helps to slow things down as you take the edge off your appetite. The fibre in veggies and legumes (peas, beans and pulses) absorbs water (another reason to ensure you’re well hydrated), which forms a jelly like mass that helps you to feel physically fuller.
If sushi is on the menu, it’s a great option. The combo of high protein fish and filling fibre in the sticky rice is a healthy choice. Add wasabi to tempt and tantalise your taste buds.
Don’t drown in fat
Creamy, cheesy, dressings, dips and sauces make the kilojoules soar and drown fresh tastes, too. Instead, drizzle a little olive oil and lemon or lime juice on your salads and veggies.
Try smaller treats
If you love certain treats, you don’t have to cut them out completely. If you can, try to opt for small amounts and eat slowly – enjoy every mouthful.
Move away from the buffet
Research shows that being near food – seeing it and easily being able to grab it – makes it more likely that you’ll eat more[v]. So try and sit as far away from the meal mountain as you can.
Drink from a long one
Again, Dr Wansink’s pioneering work has shown that people tend to feel that they have drunk more if they drink from long glasses compared with short, stubby ones[vi]. Using tall thin glasses instead of large wide ones means that you’ll end up pouring less and drinking less, too.
Don’t drink your kilojoules
Your body was meant to be hydrated with kilojoule free water. This may be one reason why your body finds it so hard to detect the kilojoules in juices, waters and smoothies. Alcohol provides a double whammy – it has a lot of KJs and it also puts the brakes on fat breakdown. So try to dilute your drinks, alternate between alcoholic drinks and water and opt to be the designated driver if you can.
Balance things out
Don’t make the celebrations start early and stay late into January – it’s a sure fire way to start the New Year a little heavier. Balancing your extra intake with extra exercise is vital if you don’t want to start the New Year heavier than you were last year. Just half an hour a day can make a big difference to your health – your body health and your self-confidence and emotional wellness, too.
Do you enjoy the odd beer, wine or cocktail? Many of us do. But sometimes, do you find that you overdo it? Or, that the morning-after-fuzziness sometimes interferes with your day? Perhaps your waistband is feeling tighter and tighter? It could be time to tame your tipples …
Dry July is upon us – it’s the charity fundraiser that challenges participants to ditch alcohol to support adults living with cancer. Here are some reasons to try it!
Drop a kilo or two …
If you’re exercising (and even watching what you eat) and still not seeing the weight shift, it could be due to the added effects of boozy beverages. Why? Alcohol provides 29 kilojoules per gram, that’s second only to fat (at 38 kilojoules per gram) so it’s a concentrated kilojoule source. As it is metabolised in the liver, and because your body wants to get rid of it as soon as possible, it is converted into fat and laid down around your middle. Plus, when your body detects alcohol, it stops breaking down fat in order to concentrate on ridding the body of booze. On top of all that, alcohol is an appetite stimulant, making you want to eat more – wonder why chips and kebabs go hand-in-hand with a boozy night out? This cranks up the kilojoules even more. And, if you’re drinking, you’re less likely to be exercising, too.
Say bye bye to hangovers
We all know that hangovers are caused by drinking too much alcohol. But as you get older, your body naturally carries less water so the dehydrating effects of alcohol get magnified. Dehydration can result in, and also aggravate, an already thumping headache. And, the feelings last longer and feel more intense the more dehydrated you are.
Since alcohol is metabolised in your liver, if you take medicines that are also processed in your body’s waste management system, the rate at which alcohol is handled and detoxified could be slowed. Even some over-the-counter medicines can do this, for example, the heartburn drug, ranitidine hampers alcohol breakdown in the liver. So if you take it, you may well have higher blood-alcohol levels when you’re drinking. Plus, alcohol may interfere with the way that your body processes prescription drugs making some less effective and others circulate in such high levels that they are potentially toxic. Alcohol can also dangerously exaggerate the action of sedative drugs. Speak with your GP for more information.
As you get older, your brain is more likely to be affected by alcohol. Alcohol triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters, which is why a small amount helps you feel relaxed. But with age your body produces fewer uplifting endorphins and more stress hormones like cortisol. This stress effect contributes to worsening the side effects of alcohol as your body tries to recuperate. Or, you just may feel it all the more acutely because you don’t drink as often as you might have done in the past …
Sleep better, snore less
While one nightcap can relax you, too much robs you of restful sleep. After a few too many drinks, you can wake feeling like you haven’t slept at all. Cut the booze and you’re more likely to wake feeling refreshed and have a clearer head, too. Drinking too much alcohol also increases your chances of snoring because it relaxes the muscles that hold the throat open.
Clearer, less puffy skin
Alcohol causes the peripheral blood vessels (those close to the surface) to expand and widen. If these are repeatedly enlarged, the result can be thread veins and permanent skin damage, making you look red and flushed. Facial puffiness is caused by the gentle leakage of fluid from enlarged blood vessels. Often, it settles in the eyes and cheeks where the skin is the loosest and can take on more fluid.
You may look at alcohol differently
A month off the booze may help you to think more carefully about your drinking habits – hopefully for the better. Fairly recently, scientists discovered the link between alcohol and cancer. This includes bowel, breast, stomach and prostate cancer, as well as mouth and throat cancers. In 2005, there were nearly 3,000 new cases of cancer and 1,376 deaths from cancer due to excessive alcohol consumption[i]. And, as you probably already know, alcohol is a risk factor for liver disease (cirrhosis) and the potential for it increases as your alcohol intake increases. See the table below.
For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime. Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
A standard drink …
1 standard drink = 10g alcohol which is equivalent to:
100ml of table wine
30ml of spirits
250ml of beer
But one drink isn’t always just one drink!
An average restaurant serve of wine of 180ml 12% Alc./Vol = 1.8 drinks
A 375ml can of full strength beer 4.9%Alc./Vol = 1.5 drinks
A 375ml can of pre-mix spirits 5%Alc./Vol = 1.5 drinks
Check the label to find out how many standard drinks are in your serve.
You can’t rectify a long-term problem by taking a month off alcohol. Taking a month off and going back to it with a vengeance will undo your hard work and just as before, problems will accumulate with time.
Even if you decide not to go dry in July, cutting down and being more focused on how much you’re drinking can really give your health a boost.
Your chances of infections such as colds and flu definitely increase as the colder months creep up. So as the temperature dips, try these awesome autumn tips.
Eat a rainbow
Fruits and veggies are rich in potent plant pigments – that’s what gives them their vibrant colours. And, each colour packs a different potent nutritional punch.
For the biggest nutritional bang for your buck, brighter is better – dark green spinach, cabbage or broccoli, vibrant orange citrus and deep purple blackcurrants.
Red, purple and blue fruits contain anthocyanins (pronounced an-tho-sy-a-nins), which are potent antioxidants that help to strengthen your immune system. Blueberries are great but can be pricey and you can find the same antioxidant goodness in seasonal purple produce like grapes or eggplants. Orange fruits and veggies contain beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A, another vital nutrient for immune health. Don’t like carrots? Try sweet potato or pumpkin instead.
All fruits and veggies contain immune boosting vitamin C but leafy green veggies, berries, citrus fruits and capsicums are extra rich. To protect the vitamin C in your foods, eat raw or steam gently and don’t keep produce warm for long periods – heat and oxygen destroy vitamin C. Fresh foods also provide a powerful antioxidant called glutathione (gloot-a-thy-own), which helps strengthen your immune system but it is also quickly destroyed by heat.
Go nuts for Brazil
Brazil nuts are a rich source of the antioxidant mineral selenium, vital to helping the immune system fight off the viruses responsible for colds and flu. Just one or two Brazil nuts each day can provide all the selenium you need. Other good sources include seeds, shellfish, whole grains and lean meats. One animal study suggests that low levels of selenium may cause the flu virus to mutate to a stronger form[i]. Brazil nuts are also high in zinc, another immune booster that works hand-in-hand with vitamin C.
Watch the sweet stuff
Foods that contain refined carbohydrates – such as biscuits, sweets and sugary fizzy drinks – are overloaded with sugar. Although sugar gives you an energy boost, it’s short-lived and soon triggers a sugar low as your body tries desperately to keep blood glucose (blood sugar) levels to within normal limits. Recent research suggests that overloading on sugar actually triggers a reduction in the functioning of the immune system by inhibiting phagocytosis, the process by which viruses and bacteria are chewed up by white blood cells[ii]. That doesn’t mean you have to cut sugar out completely – just moderate what you eat and make it a treat, not a daily staple.
Don’t skimp on slumber
Getting enough restful sleep is vital for mind and body. This is because lack of sleep stresses the body, lowering the immune system and increasing your chances of infection.
One study published by the European Journal of Physiology found that just six days of restricted sleep affected the immune system so much that it reduced the protective effects of a flu vaccination. They also reported that a lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to catching colds[iii].
Get a move on
Staying active, even in the colder months, is vital for many reasons. Exercise boosts immunity by increasing the number of white blood cells, natural killer cells, that fight the invading microorganisms that cause infection.
But exercising needs to be a habit. Don’t think you have to force yourself on a daily hour-long run though – half an hour is plenty or three ten-minute bursts of activity. Aerobic exercise is important for strengthening the heart, lungs and bones while strength exercises, using weights, are important to help build lean muscle. Try yoga for better balance, flexibility, meditation and relaxation. Stress zaps your energy and your immune system, so moving more is more important than you might think.
Exercising outside also means that you’re exposed to sunlight. This reacts with a cholesterol-like substance in the skin to make vitamin D, which is vital for a healthy immune system. One study of children showed that vitamin D could be an important way to avoid flu[iv]. But remember that even in winter it’s important to protect skin from harsh rays by using sun protection. You can also increase your vitamin D levels by eating mushrooms, tofu, eggs, margarine and fatty fish like salmon and fresh tuna.
Pop a probiotic
Your body is alive with microorganisms, which live in synergy with your own body cells. They’re vital for life and produce vitamins and proteins to boost your immune health. Poor diet, medications and stress can all affect your good bacteria levels. So as well as taking a probiotic supplement (probiotic bacteria are also found naturally in foods like sauerkraut and preserved lemons) you can feed the good guys with prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks and kale.
Get a flu jab
Every year a different strain of flu travels around the world and so a different flu vaccination is offered. The flu vaccine is a dead or inactive form of the virus so it will not make you sick. By having a flu jab, your body is able to fight the infection by making antibodies – disease fighting soldiers – that are specific to that particular strain. And if your body was to come across that strain again, it would be able to react rapidly to make the right flu fighting antibody soldiers. This is because it would already know the specific type of antibodies needed to fight that specific germ.
The flu is a very serious condition. So if you’re in an at risk group or you’re prone to infections, it’s important to get a flu shot. It takes weeks to recover from the flu and your immune system is lowered for weeks afterwards, which increases your chances of catching another infection.
[iv] Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida H. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May; 91(5):1255-60. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.29094. Epub 2010 Mar 10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20219962
Your kidneys are incredible filters that work constantly to remove waste compounds from your blood and eliminate them via urine. Part of your body’s detoxification system, your entire blood supply passes through your kidneys[i] in just five minutes. And, over the course of a day, between one and two litres of waste leaves your body as urine.
Staying well hydrated is vital for your general good health and kidney health. Your kidneys need enough water to efficiently remove wastes through the urinary tract and prevent the build up of toxins. Think fast flowing waterfall rather than small, stagnant pond!
If you drive for a living and/or have limited access to rest breaks or you spend a long time seated, how can you protect your kidney health?
Some symptoms associated with potential kidney problems
Symptoms can vary depending on your individual circumstances and some people don’t get any symptoms at all. Some of the more common symptoms of kidney problems can be quite non-specific. They include:
Lack of energy
Nausea and vomiting
High blood pressure
Swelling in the hands and feet due to fluid retention
Other symptoms of potential kidney problems are more easily identifiable as related to the body’s urinary system, such as:
Blood in the urine
Passing stones in the urine
Dark and/or cloudy urine
Severe lower back pain.
An example of a common kidney-related condition – kidney stones
Not having easy access to fluids throughout the day raises your risk of kidney stones, which occur when naturally occurring salts or minerals in the urine clump together to form hard masses. The more concentrated the urine, the higher the likelihood that these salts or minerals will clump together.
Kidney stones affect four to eight per cent of the general population[ii] and, usually, the crystals are small and the minerals are dissolved in urine so they pass through without you noticing. But if salts clump together and become too large to pass easily, they can get stuck in the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder). This blocks urine flow, causing severe pain (also called ‘renal colic’) and can also lead to infection and kidney damage.
More men are affected by kidney stones than women – one in 10 men compared to one in 35 in women. And, a family history of kidney stones, a history of urine infections and some medications also raises your risk.
Normally, there are no symptoms until a severe and sharp pain sends you running to the doctor. Painkillers may be all that’s needed, but if the pain is severe, hospital admission may be necessary. Surgery may then be required to remove the kidney stone or stones.
What can you do to reduce the risk of development of kidney problems?
There are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk for kidney problems:
Drink more water
‘The main risks for people who drive for a living is that of relative dehydration,’ says Dr Tim Mathew, National Medical Director, at Kidney Health Australia. ‘Drivers should ensure that they drink at least two litres of water per day – and even more in the hotter times of the year.’
Life coach and accredited practising dietitian, Shivaun Conn agrees stressing that organisation is key. ‘Try to prepare for your journey by taking along large bottles of frozen water – they’ll provide refreshing hydration along the way.’ And, while it may not be convenient, try to stop for breaks as often as possible.
Drink less alcohol
Limit alcohol to up to two standard drinks per day for men, one per day for women. According to the National Kidney Foundation, alcohol affects how your kidneys function, reducing their ability to filter harmful toxins in the blood.
Have a health check
‘For drivers at risk, it is vital that they see their GP and organise an annual kidney check up,’ says Dr Mathew. This is especially important if close family relatives have had kidney disease or another chronic disease.
Even if you don’t have kidney problems or symptoms, a health examination (such as a blood test, urine analysis and/or x-ray) is important to discovering potential health problems – so don’t dodge your doctor!
Smoking can harm your kidneys even if you have no other diseases and smokers are three times more likely to have reduced kidney function[iii]. And, stopping smoking can bring real benefits – this study showed that former smokers had fewer kidney problems than current smokers suggesting that smoking-induced changes are temporary and may be reversed if you stub out the habit.
‘A healthy Mediterranean type of diet is increasingly being shown to be beneficial in preventing Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and in minimising the risk of progression of the disease,’ says Dr Mathew. ‘It’s also important to get regular exercise and avoid getting too heavy as this can increase your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure both of which are major risk factors for kidney disease.’
Diabetes and high blood pressure can damage your delicate kidneys. The damage happens gradually over many years without symptoms. That’s why it’s vital to try and keep your blood glucose levels and your blood pressure levels within normal limits.
Opt for low GI (glycaemic index) foods which help to keep your mind and body fuelled for longer and help your body to control blood glucose levels – very high and/or very low levels can damage tiny blood vessels including those that nourish your kidneys. Making sure you don’t get overly hungry can also help you make healthier choices when you’re faced with truck stop favourites.
Eating plenty of veggies and two fruits daily not only hydrate you but also provide potassium, which can help your body moderate sodium (salt) levels. Too much sodium means that your body uses water to try and get rid of the excess, which can mean you lose water. So enjoy more potassium-rich foods (bananas are especially rich in potassium). Try slicing banana and adding to sugar free, low-fat yoghurt and freezing both together for a healthy snack on-the-go.
And watch your dressings. The creamy, cheesy kinds can be rich in salt as well as fat. Stick with balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil if you can.
‘Try to plan around your shift and your journey,’ says Shivaun. ‘For example, take some freeze-able snacks with you – frozen grapes and yoghurt are particularly good and provide fluid, too.’
As well as increasing fluids in foods and drinks, Shivaun suggests that you decrease sodium (salt), which can be dehydrating – not good for your kidneys or your blood pressure.
‘Quick snacks like natural popcorn or unsalted nuts are better choices than a handful of chips, so keep a supply with you. And, while a ready-prepared salad may not satisfy your hunger, adding extra protein in the form of tinned salmon or tuna salad can help you feel more satisfied.’
‘Keeping snacks and foods that you can add to fresh bought foods helps to prevent you getting too hungry. This way, you’re mentally prepared to make better health choices,’ says Shivaun. ‘Healthy snacks are also important because it helps to prevent you getting too hungry and grabbing unhealthy fast food choices.’
Watch your coffee breaks
Caffeine is a diuretic that causes the body to lose fluids excessively. Too many coffees and caffeine-containers like energy drinks and colas means that your kidneys are forced to work harder to pump out fluid and toxins because caffeine acts as a diuretic. Losing water from your body leaves you more vulnerable to dehydration, leading to kidney problems.
Aim to exercise so that you are a little out of breath – around 30 minutes each day is recommended by health experts. If your work/life schedule means you can’t fit in half an hour all at once, aim for three bouts of ten minutes dotted throughout the day. If you haven’t exercised for a while and/or if you have a medical condition, check with your GP first.
Sitting for long periods can contribute to kidney problems according to a study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, men can see a benefit in kidney health by reducing their sitting time from eight to three hours, by 15 per cent[iv]. And, exercise boosted health even more when the men trained. Brisk walking, jogging or running on the treadmill may be more important for men, whilst cutting prolonged periods of sitting time may be more important for women according to the researchers. Plus, try to take frequent breaks, get out of your vehicle or stand up at your desk and stretch. This is great for your circulation and may help boost your concentration, too.
Adopt a positive ‘stay well’ attitude.
Although you can’t avoid stress completely, try mechanisms that help you keep anxiety under control. Yoga is a great de-stressor and you don’t need to go to a class to get the benefits. You can download free apps that guide you through basic stretching and relaxing exercises (although you may want to get a professional to help you get the moves just right as you begin).
Careful with those bumpy rides!
It’s thought that long-distance truck drivers may have a higher incidence of kidney bruising or damage compared with people doing other jobs. Driving over road bumps, potholes and rough terrain mean your body absorbs the vibrations via your vehicle and this may result in kidney disorders[v] (taxi drivers, truck drivers and mechanised equipment operators may also be at risk).
When you’re driving, try to make your seat as comfortable as possible. A good quality seat cushion may help to reduce vibrations. And when you’re on the road, park your vehicle, get out and stretch your legs as often as you can – good for your circulation and your concentration.
When nature calls, answer!
When you need to go, go! By postponing it, your body reabsorbs some of the toxins it’s trying to get rid of.
According to Nutrition Australia, Aussies will pack on between 0.8-1.5kg over the festive season[i]. It doesn’t sound like much. But the problem is that most of us don’t shift the extra kilos during the year. When you add it all up over the years it’s no wonder Australia has a major weight problem! What with all the festive buffets and bring-a-plate get-togethers, there are plenty of chances to eat and enjoy – perhaps a little too much! So, here are seven ways that you can do both without ending up with a weight hangover when the new year arrives.
Don’t skip brekkie.
A healthy breakfast provides long-lasting energy and helps to prevent you becoming so hungry that you overindulge at your festive feast. Protein and healthy fat keeps you fuller for longer, so try some peanut butter with wholegrain bread, eggs with tomato and sourdough, or yoghurt with sweet seasonal fruit.
Expect some stress
You might find that the season of good cheer isn’t always that cheerful. In fact, it can be a pretty stressful time of year, and studies show that your emotional state guides your food choices. So, when people are in a good mood, they make healthier choices while more indulgent foods are more likely to be on the menu if you’re feeling down or stressed. There are lots of things that can help you de-stress, but one size doesn’t fit all. Try exercising (strenuous exercise like fast walking or running and mind-body exercise like yoga and tai chi), eating well and deep breathing. Try to plan ahead and be realistic – stick to a Christmas budget, avoid family conflicts, make time for yourself and create to-do lists.
Choose your mates wisely
Your eating buddies are strong influences and lots of research shows that you tend to mimic the eating and drinking habits of the people you’re with. So, if you want to make healthier choices, stick with people who have healthier attitudes to food and drinks.
Expect to fall off the wagon
With so much food and drink around, you’re bound to overindulge. The trick is to make up for it. So, if you know you’re heading for a family blowout, cut back a little at lunch and do some extra exercise to burn it off. Try to opt for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day . Even if you can’t manage half an hour in one go, opt for three ten-minute mini workouts. Great for your body – and helps to beat stress, too! Don’t forget to check with your GP if you haven’t exercised for a while or if you have a medical condition.
Watch your drinks
Your body was made to expect zero calorie water to quench thirst – not juices, sugary drinks and boozy beverages. So, it can’t clock up the calories in drinks as well as it can when you eat solid foods. A standard drink = 10g alcohol, which is equivalent to: 100ml wine, 30ml spirits or 250ml of beer. But restaurants can serve wine in glasses that are two or three times the standard serve – and when you lose count of the top-ups, it’s difficult to keep a handle on your drinking. So, finish one glass before accepting a top-up, go for low sugar, low-cal options when you can. And, when you’re choosing coffee, opt for low-fat milk and say no to syrupy add-ons (one medium latte can add up to 300 calories – the same as a jam doughnut!).
Fill up at the buffet – but don’t fill out!
Buffets can be a minefield but they can be your friends, too. Opt for masses of low calorie salad and veggies as a first plate (minus the cheesy/oily dressings) and eat slowly. Soup is also a great starter even though it’s summer. It takes a while for your body to ‘sieve out’ the ingredients in soup so your stomach stays fuller. This helps to take the edge off your appetite so you’re less likely to go overboard when you get your next plate.
Downsize your crockery
According to pioneering food psychologist Dr Brian Wansink, subconscious eating habits lead to unnecessary weight gain. He has shown that people eat more food if the food is served on large plates – even if they don’t like the food they’re eating! Plus, people feel just as satisfied and enjoy food just as much if it is served on a smaller plates. So trick your appetite into satisfaction – go for smaller crockery and slimmer glasses!
Good health is what we’re all about at rt health fund and helping you ‘be well, get well, stay well’ is what we want for you today and in the future. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a very happy 2015!
Simone Tregeagle Chief Operating Officer at rt health fund
The not-for-profit health fund for the transport and energy industries.