NUTRITION

Stress Eating – a pitfall to avoid

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emotional-eating 

Have you ever wondered why you crave “comfort” foods when you’re stressed? The sweeter, the greasier, the saltier, the food the better! Chocolates, cookies, cakes, donuts, ice-cream, and greasy fried foods – nothing, is off limits when you’re stressed. Of course, alcohol and caffeinated beverages also play a big role in the mix of “stress busters” we’re drawn to.

 

The human body responds to danger by releasing a hormone, cortisol which signals the various body systems to prepare for fight or flight. Your heart races, your breathing quickens, and energy is made available to your muscles to prepare for action. When the danger has passed, your body is able to shut off this cascade of responses.

 

Your body sees stress as a danger and reacts accordingly. The problem with chronic stress is that this “flight or flight” response doesn’t shut off and the body thinks it needs energy to prepare for this on-going danger. To provide this energy, your brain signals you to eat high sugar and high fat foods.

 

In the short term, you actually feel better but in the long term these unhealthy “comfort” foods impact your health negatively. You gain weight around your abdomen, you feel tired instead of energized and in the worst-case scenario, you can develop chronic conditions like depression, diabetes, hypertension, stroke or heart disease.

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Helpful strategies to combat stress eating include:

  • Identify your emotions. Reflect about what triggers, or prompts, may be causing some of your stress eating habits.
  • If you’re anxious, burn energy by going for a walk or dancing to your favorite song; if you’re exhausted, have a soothing cup of decaffeinated tea or a bath.
  • Eat slowly and only when you are hungry
  • Plan your meals and control your portion sizes
  • Get rid of unhealthy foods in the home and don’t buy junk food from the supermarket

 

Psychologist Susan Albers has some additional tips to prevent stress eating:

 

  1. Replace your cravings with healthy alternatives.
  • If you’re dying for a sugar rush, eat a small orange instead. Peeling the orange and smelling the citrusy scent creates a “meditative moment” to help calm you. In addition, the high vitamin C content of an orange strengthens your immunity in times of stress.
  • If you’re craving something fatty, eat low calorie nuts like pistachios, which are rich in fiber, healthy fats and help regulate blood sugar. Make sure you get the nuts with the shell, the process of cracking the shell slows you down.

 

  1. Use your non-dominant hand to eat – if you’re right-handed, eat with your left hand, and vice-versa. It slows you down and makes you more mindful of your food — an important aspect of healthy eating. This is one of the easiest and most effective tricks.

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Healthy stress-busting eating options:

  • Complex Carbohydrate – whole grain cereals, whole grain bread
  • Oranges
  • Spinach
  • Fatty Fish (Salmon, Catfish, Mackerel, sardines)
  • Pistachios, other nuts and seeds
  • Black Tea
  • Raw veggies
  • Low-fat Milk

 

Develop strategies to calm and distract yourself when you’re stressed. Limit your intake of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, they worsen the effects of stress. Exercise daily – at least 30 minutes of moderate exertion. Exercise not only improves fitness and helps you lose weight, it has the marvelous additional benefit of boosting your mood by raising endorphin levels in the brain.

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Smoking – It really can kill you

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No rational person would knowingly put 250 harmful chemicals in their body, right? You would think so, but that’s exactly what you do when you smoke!

 

Do you know that tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals – yes, 7,000 different chemicals. Research so far, shows 250 of them to be extremely harmful to humans while the data is unclear on many of the others. Of the 250 chemicals, 69 are known to cause cancer.

So, maybe you don’t smoke, but do you know someone who does? Perhaps you even live with that person and are exposed to second hand smoke. You may be a parent with children who will one day become adolescents who face peer pressure to smoke. Regardless, this is life-saving information because, even though smoking in Africa is lower than in the developed world and Asia, there is a relatively high smoking prevalence among African youth. The expected population growth and economic development in Africa over the next few decades will cause the smoking habit to rise rapidly if we don’t focus now on prevention.

Nicotine, the most potent chemical in tobacco, is a drug of addiction and is as addictive as heroin and cocaine. That’s why it’s so hard to quit cigarette smoking – it is an addiction.

 

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The health dangers of smoking

 Smoking doesn’t harm only the lungs but is harmful to just about every organ in the body and damages your overall health. Even second hand smoke (what you inhale from being around a smoker) has been classified as a carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent. Whether you smoke, chew or sniff tobacco, it is dangerous to your health.

 

  • Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer – lung, mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, bladder, stomach, liver, colon, and blood cancers, are among the many cancers caused by smoking
  • Smoking causes chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) which is responsible for more than 30% of all smoking-related deaths
  • Smoking weakens the immune system, increasing the likelihood of lung infections like pneumonia and TB
  • Smoking damages blood vessels by thickening and narrowing them causing diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels – heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke
  • Smoking makes you more likely to develop diabetes
  • Affects bones – Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Affects eyes – Macular Degeneration and Cataracts, both can cause blindness
  • Smoking causes erectile dysfunction

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Women who smoke are at higher risk of Infertility problems, miscarriage, premature babies, small babies, and babies born with cleft lip or palate. The babies are also at greater risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Children exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to develop repeated ear infections, colds, pneumonia and bronchitis. Exposure to smoke over time prevents their lungs from developing normally. If they have asthma, they’re also likely to have more frequent and severe attacks.

The good news in all of this dismal information is that there are immediate and long term benefits if you stop smoking:

  • Long term, quitting smoking reduces the risk of cancer and many other diseases, such as heart disease and chronic lung disease caused by smoking.
  • Within a few weeks, your heart rate and blood pressure, which are high when smoking slowly begin to return to normal levels and your circulation improves
  • Within one year after you stop smoking, your risk for a heart attack drops significantly
  • Within 2 to 5 years after stopping smoking, your risk for stroke could fall to about the same as a nonsmoker’s

A word for parents…teach your children the dangers of smoking from a very early age and maintain open communication so that your teenager can come to you with concerns about peer pressure.

The government can do its bit to protect people from tobacco smoke through clean indoor air laws, warning people of the dangers of tobacco use through mass media campaigns and package warnings or even by banning advertising and marketing of tobacco products. Some corporations and employers even offer help to smokers to quit.

If you smoke, only you can make the decision to stop. DECIDE TO STOP NOW – IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE AND THOSE OF YOUR LOVED ONES!

The ABCs of health for your child – Part 2

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The ABC’s of child health are the health basics you need to pay careful attention to at home on a daily basis. Never mind the academics, if your child is unhealthy he or she can’t learn.

The ABCs

  • Healthy Nutrition
  • Fitness
  • Dental Health
  • Emotional Health

 

Get them moving…moving…

Studies show that if you get your child interested in any form of exercise activity when they are young, exercise and fitness are more likely to become a habit that lasts a lifetime. An hour daily of exercise should be the goal for your child. For younger children, playing outside with siblings or other neighborhood kids is all the exercise they’ll need. More structured exercise such as formal sports activities is a good way for older children to get their hour a day. Participating in sports also teaches them useful life skills like teamwork, discipline, and strategic thinking. Give them a choice and whatever type of activity you settle on, make sure it’s fun. If they enjoy it they’re more likely to stick with it.

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Useful fitness tips:

  • Make time to be active as a family.
  • Exercise together with your child
  • Limit sedentary activities to less than 2 hours per day – television, computer and video games
  • Be a role model

Good Reasons to Smile

Like other aspects of health the road to good dental health for your child is prevention. It starts with teaching good brushing habits and avoiding certain foods.

  • Brush twice daily
- you’ll be surprised how many adults don’t even practice this—
  • Avoid candy, juices, soft drinks
—
  • Soft baby brush once baby teeth are in —
  • Only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is needed for 2 to 3 year olds —
  • Brush for them until 8yrs
- let them brush in the morning, you brush for them at night—
  • Dental checkups at least once yearly from age 2 – 3 (whenever they can sit still)

Family

Emotional Health


In African culture, the emotional health of a child is an area that’s often neglected. African parenting style is usually authoritarian, not because it works best but because it’s the only way that’s been modeled for us. This translates into a society with authoritarian leadership in every sphere that does not tolerate dissenting views, differing opinions or encourage “out of the box” thinking.

If 50% or more of your interaction with your school-aged child consists of scolding and correction, it’s time to re-evaluate your parenting style. If you’re often raising your voice when you talk with your child, perhaps it’s time to do things differently.

There are 5 Love languages – something every person needs to make them feel loved – Words of affirmation, Quality time, Receiving gifts, Acts of service, and Physical touch. For most people, one of these is primarily what makes them feel loved, and to a lesser extent one of the other four.

All children need to be affirmed – “that’s great honey”, “you did a great job”, “mummy loves you”- many times throughout the day. Your child needs quality time with you and lots and lots of hugs and kisses regardless of age. The occasional gift won’t hurt either!

 

Tips for parents
—

  • Be expressive of your love & acceptance as often as possible
  • Remember your child has pressures
  • Doing 15 minutes daily of an activity your child enjoys can reduce their stress level
  • Keep marital conflicts out of sight and hearing of your child — 
—
  • Listen and listen some more!
  • Don’t overreact

Children who have a clear sense of personal competence and feel loved and supported generally do well. Remember that children’s temperaments vary in their ability to cope with stress and daily hassles, learn to be very patient.

 

The ABCs of health for your child – Part 1

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As parents, our responsibility to nurture our children requires a holistic approach – taking into consideration the whole child. Healthy living for your child requires that you place equal importance on your child’s physical, developmental, emotional and social wellbeing.

Africans, like Asians, are known for placing a lot of emphasis on the academic development of their children. This parental focus on academics is not necessarily a bad thing but can become an obstacle to the overall wellbeing of a child, if other areas of development are ignored.

The ABCs

  • Healthy Nutrition
  • Fitness
  • Dental Health
  • Emotional Health

In addition to well child doctor visits to make sure his overall development is on track, your child should receive all the recommended vaccinations. The ABC’s of child health are the health basics you need to pay careful attention to at home on a daily basis.

Helping Kids Eat Healthy


Good nutrition is essential to good health for all kids whether they’re babies or teenagers.

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Infants

  • Breast milk only until 6 months of age + vitamins
  • Begin Iron-fortified cereals, pureed fruits and vegetables at 6 months
  • Add lean meats and eggs when the above are well tolerated (8 months)
  • Begin table foods at 9 months (avoid small hard foods that can choke the baby)
  • Continue breast milk until 12 months if possible

Toddlers (1 – 3 years)

  • Growth and appetite come in spurts at this age so they’re often picky eaters
  • 4 -5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily for fiber and valuable nutrients
  • Fiber is essential for digestive health and is good for the heart
  • 2 – 3 servings of whole milk daily for calcium
  • Avoid the juice trap – it’s mostly sugar. Give Water! Water! Water!
  • Avoid the junk food trap because you’re desperate for him to eat anything!

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Elementary school age (4 – 10 years)

  • Eat most nutritious foods from all 5 food groups
  • 4 -5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily for fiber and valuable nutrients
  • 2 – 3 servings of low fat milk daily for calcium
  • Avoid the sugar trap – juice, soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, starchy foods
  • Watch out for fats and salty foods
  • Water! Water! Water!

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Preteens and Teens (11 – 18 years)

  • More calcium needed at this age for bone mass
  • Menstruating girls need more iron, boys need more protein for muscle mass
  • 4 -5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily for fiber and valuable nutrients
  • 2 – 3 servings of low fat milk daily for calcium
  • Avoid the sugar trap – juice, soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, starchy foods
  • Watch out for fats and salty foods
  • Water! Water! Water!

In the next blog post we’ll review fitness, emotional and dental health for your child.

How a little infection can kill you (2) By Dr. Biodun Ogungbo

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The most minor infections can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is an extremely serious condition, due to an overwhelming reaction of the body to infection. The infection causes the body to release chemicals as a defence mechanism. However, the chemicals themselves can cause widespread inflammation, which can then damage the body organs and cause death. Sepsis is a medical emergency.

 

Anyone can get sepsis, but the elderly, young children and those who have diminished immunity as a result of some other medical condition, are particularly at risk.

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How is it treated?

  1. Broad-spectrum antibiotics – these are medicines that kill many types of bacteria.
  2. Oxygen and intravenous fluids

The truth is that a little infection can lead to much misery and death if ignored. A little thing like the flu, common cold, catarrh, mosquito bite, bug bite and even that nail puncture can be the harbinger of misfortune. A man who stepped on a fish bone nearly died 2 weeks later from sepsis through the tiny wound on the sole of his feet! Carelessness can be perilous.

Sometimes, it is self medication, a visit to the local chemist or an unsuspecting medical doctor that makes a little issue assume mammoth proportions. Sometimes, it is ignorance and nonchalance that compounds the problem. Sometimes, it is articles like this that save lives.

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What should you do if you think you have an infection or sepsis?

  • Go to the emergency room immediately if you have any signs or symptoms of an infection or sepsis. THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
  • It’s important that you say, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”
  • If you are continuing to feel worse or not getting better in the days after any kind of surgery, ask your doctor about sepsis. Sepsis is a common complication of people hospitalized for other reasons.

 

What you can do to prevent sepsis

  • Get yourself and your children vaccinated against pneumonia, and any other infections that could lead to sepsis. Talk to your doctor for more information.
  • Prevent infections that can lead to sepsis by:
    • Cleaning scrapes, cuts and wounds properly
    • Practicing good hygiene (e.g., hand washing, bathing regularly)
  • If you have an infection, look for signs like: fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion, and disorientation.

Guidelines for what to do in case of infection and to prevent sepsis are from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

Dr Biodun Ogungbo, Consultant Neurosurgeon in Abuja is a UK General Medical Council Registered Specialist in Neurosurgery and Nigerian Medical and Dental Council registered Surgeon. He has extensive surgical repertoire in elective and emergency surgery. He supports medical education and is active in health advocacy. He is interested in stroke and spine problems and has written extensively about these conditions.

 

Practical steps to a healthy lifestyle

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Your body is a complex, fine tuned machine and like any machine, even the smallest problem can cause it to malfunction. If you use the wrong engine oil or petrol in your car, it will breakdown. If you leave a car sitting in a driveway and never drive it, the battery will die, the parts will rust and it won’t drive.

Practicing a healthy lifestyle is the only way to keep your body functioning at its best. Like a car, you give it the right fuel by eating healthy nutritious foods. By exercising regularly you don’t allow “rust” to set in from inactivity. We all will age, but a body and mind that is well cared for now will carry you into your seventies and eighties still relatively fit and strong. A few years ago, I hurt my back and was taking yoga as part of my rehab regimen. My yoga instructor was 70 years old and one of the fittest and most flexible persons I have ever met.

 

To adopt a healthy lifestyle, you should:

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What you put in

Try to eat 3 portion-controlled meals a day that are a good combination of healthy high fiber carbohydrates, lots of fresh vegetables and lean protein. Never have more carbohydrates in a meal than what fits on the palm of one hand – fingers not included. That’s one slice of wheat bread, or 3 to 4 tablespoons of boiled rice only! If you’re unsure of what the right portion is, start by reducing the amount you usually eat by half. Cook with half the amount of oil you normally use and avoid fried foods. If you take 2 cubes of sugar in your tea or coffee, try one instead and cut back on salt too. You’ll get used to the taste over time.

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For breakfast I usually have a small bowl of oatmeal (Quaker oats), which is a high fiber complex carbohydrate, a small piece of smoked fish or one boiled egg. That combination gives me enough energy and keeps me sharp until lunch. Your largest meal should be at breakfast or lunch, not at dinner. A heavy dinner interferes with normal sleep cycle. Don’t ever eat to the point where you feel “stuffed”.

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Use it or lose it

Do you know that well-conditioned athletes who exercise regularly lose half of their cardiovascular conditioning after 3 months of inactivity? A beginner exerciser who has exercised regularly for 2 months will lose all cardiovascular conditioning within 2 months of not working out! Imagine how poor your cardiovascular fitness is, if you are regularly inactive.

 

Activity involves not just exercising at set times but also how much you get up and move around on a daily basis. Try not to be sedentary for more than 30 minutes at a stretch. Imagine yourself burning off whatever carbohydrates and fats you’ve eaten through exercise and activity, leaving only good protein in your system to build and strengthen. At work, get up and walk around your floor every 30 – 45 minutes, take the stairs every chance you get and hand deliver files and papers to other departments yourself. If you have a 45minute lunch break, spend 30 minutes eating and 15 minutes walking.

 

Set a goal to exercise for 30 minutes everyday. I find that if you set a goal for daily exercise you’ll end up exercising at least 3 – 4 times a week. If you are currently inactive, start by walking at a moderate pace for 20 minutes and build up to 30 minutes after 2 weeks. Add strength training twice a week, using weights or your own body resistance. Be sure to stretch gently before and after exercise and drink lots of water.

 

So what are you waiting for? Just do it!

Back to School Eating Healthy and Fit

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So you’re making the effort to learn all you can about building a healthy eating style, what about your kids?

 

Bad eating habits usually begin in childhood, often without parents realizing the nutritional mistakes they’re making. Using cookies, snacks and sweets as rewards and treats; withholding ice cream and soft drinks as punishment for bad behavior; referring to vitamins and medicines as “sweets” to induce children to take them…the list goes on.

 

Here’s a typically scenario: Overheard in a supermarket aisle, a child in a whinny voice “Mummy I want Cheez doodles, I want Cheez doodles”. Mother replied “But I just bought Cheez doodles the other day! You and your brother will be the death of me with these doodles!”. She then adds 6 packets of Cheez doodles to her shopping basket.

 

Do you regularly cruise the snack aisle in your local supermarket? Cheez doodles, Cheese Balls, Pringles, potato crisps – do these describe the kind of snacks your kids eat? Forget about Cookie Monster, you’re creating your very own Snack Fiend!! Do you know that one small packet of Cheez doodles contains about a quarter of the total amount of fat your child should consume in one day?

 

Or does this seem more like your situation – your child refuses to eat fruits but loves juice? Juice is made from fruits and is healthy isn’t it? The fact is that fruit juice is okay when consumed in small quantities and is certainly a better choice than soft drinks. However, there are two main problems with fruit juice:

  1. a) Most “fruit juices” are less than 50% juice and mostly added sugar, water and flavors
  2. b) Even “no sugar added” 100% natural juice contains a lot of fructose, the natural sugar found in fruits

Assortment of fresh Organic Vegetables /  on the Wooden Desk

Some children consume more than half of their daily calorie requirement in the form of juice! Juice, is mostly simple carbohydrates, without the benefits of the fiber necessary for good digestive health. Your child, is much better off eating a small orange, pieces of pineapple or some other fruit, than drinking a glass of juice.

 

Providing healthy nutrition for your children can be daunting and even confusing. Here is a very simple formula to help you remember what is best for your children as they return to school after this break.

 

5210 Every Day!

 

5 servings of fruits & vegetables

2 hours or less of television, computer, tablet or smartphone screen time

1 hour or more of exercise or physical activity

0 sugary drinks, more water, low fat milk only when needed