“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”

(New England proverb originally used in 1930′s)

Reduce: The best way to manage waste is to not produce it! 

  • Plan a shopping list to prevent purchasing on impulse.
  • Purchase products that will not go out of fashion quickly.
  • Buy products in bulk: Larger, economy-size products or ones in concentrated form use less packaging and usually cost less per ounce.
  • Look for items that use little or no packaging.
  • Avoid overly-packaged goods. The packaging is a total throw-away, difficult to recycle, and often increases your cost.
  • Avoid disposable goods, such as paper plates, cups, napkins, razors, and lighters. Throwaways contribute to the waste problem and cost more, because they must be replaced again and again.
  • Buy durable items that are well-built, last a long time, or carry good warranties. They will save you money and landfill space.
  • Avoid things made with toxic materials, such as most household cleansers.
  • Reduce water use at home.
  • Waste less energy on lights and equipment.
  • Make two-sided copies whenever possible.
  • Maintain central files rather than using several files for individuals.
  • Use electronic mail or a main bulletin board.
  • Remove your name from mailing lists of materials you no longer want to receive: write to Mail Preference Service, c/o Direct Marketing Assoc., P.O. Box 90008, Farmingdale, NY 11735.
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
  • Use a sponge, dish cloth, or clean rags, instead of paper towels for cleaning.
  • Eat less meat and more plant foods.
  • Use a reusable lunch bag or box, instead of throwing away a paper bag each day!
  • When you make a purchase, don’t take a bag unless you absolutely need one.
  • Rent things you use infrequently instead of purchasing them.
  • Use reusable plastic containers for food instead of plastic bags.
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
  • Read books, magazines, and newspapers at the library instead of purchasing them.
  • Use plates, cups, and utensils that can be washed instead of ones you throw away.
  • Purchase items like juice and detergent in concentrate when possible.
  • Avoid buying foods in single serving packages.
 Reuse: Be creative and ‘wear it out’!
  • Bring a grocery or shopping bag from home when shopping, instead of requesting plastic or paper bags.
  • Reuse products for the same purpose: Save paper and plastic bags, use rechargeable batteries, repair broken appliances, furniture, and toys.
  • Use unwanted plastic bags to collect garbage.
  • Convert scrap paper into memo pads.
  • Use your own eating utensils & ceramic mug, instead of disposable ones & paper cups.
  • Reuse used glass, metal, and plastic containers as receptacles.
  • Clean and reuse ornaments and washable eating utensils for your next festive celebration.
  • Use refillable items, e.g., dish-washing liquid, shampoo, stainless steel beverage containers to store water for washing hands when away from home, watering plants, drinking water, etc.
  • Use old clothing as rags for cleaning, instead of paper towels.
  • Use washable, resealable containers rather than plastic wrap or a one-time container for packing food.
  • Store perishable foods (bread, fruits) in the refrigerator, so they last longer.
  • Pass old textbooks, story books, childrens’ clothing, and toys to others who can use them.
  • Donate good quality but unwanted clothing, blankets, towels, appliances, furniture, toys, and other items to those in need, Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other charitable organizations, or sell them in garage sales or ads.
 Recycle: Take used material and process, remanufacture, and sell it as a new product! 
  • Purchase and use products made from recycled material. Look for the recycling symbol or ask a store representative. The recycling symbol means the product is either made of recycled material or can be recycled. (Many plastic containers have a recycling symbol with a numbered code that identifies what type of plastic resin it is made from. However, just because the container has this code does not mean it can be easily recycled locally.)
  • Participate in your community, school, home-goods store, and hazardous waste recycling program. Check to see what they accept, and begin collecting those materials (metal cans, newspapers, paper products, glass, plastics, oil).
  • Purchase recycled materials at work for office supply, office equipment, or manufacturing.
  • Speak to store managers and ask for products and packaging that help reduce waste, such as recycled products and products that are not over-packaged.
  • Use recycled paper for letterhead, copier paper, and newsletters.
  • Use both sides of paper for writing, memos, calculations, problem solving.
  • Recycle used envelopes, boxes, gift bags, wrapping paper, and packaging.
  • Deposit recyclable items into designated recycling bins.
  • Hazardous waste recycling is necessary for batteries which often contain heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, many cleaning products, oils, paints, pesticides, and tires.
  • Return lead-acid car batteries and used motor oil to almost any garage or auto-supply store that sells them or a community-collection event.

Reduce Reuse Recycle Sign

 

 
 

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Fresh water is the lifeblood of our planet. No one can survive without it.

Water is an important source of food, health, energy, and transportation and supports a huge diversity of life on earth. Civilizations could not have existed without access to fresh water. However, fresh water is not possible without a healthy planet, and today human actions are putting our planet at risk.

Water conservation must become a higher priority for Americans who use more water per person than citizens of any other country. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an American family of four uses water at a rate of 400 gallons per day at home alone.

In 2008, at least 36 states expected to have a water shortage by 2013, according to U.S. government estimates. Why? Increasing population growth and sprawl, rising temperatures, droughts, and inefficient water use. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported in December 2013 that 11 major US cities could expect to experience severe water shortages in the near future.

Of the world’s total water supply, 97.5 % is salt water, and less than 0.5 % is usable, unpolluted clean water. Many major rivers around the world, including the Colorado, Ganges, Rio Grande, and Yellow, are running dry part of the year.

Carefully conserving water lessens the damaging effects of droughts. Droughts decrease food production, raise food prices, increase fire hazards, as well as worsen soil erosion and insect infestation. They are a normal part of climate cycles, so they can be somewhat anticipated and planned for. Therefore it is possible and crucial to conserve water now to minimize the effects of drought later.

Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Superba' (Russian sage)

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), a drought-tolerant perennial and member of the mint family, adds beautiful color to a desert landscape. 

How much water do we generally use each day?

A family of four in the United States uses 400 gallons of water every day, enough to take 10 baths! By being smarter about water use, we can save water, energy, money, and help our environment, too. When we use water more efficiently, we leave more water in rivers and streams to support fish, wildlife, and recreation.

Highest volume water use inside the home:

  • Toilet: 20-26% (although water-saving toilets can reduce this amount)
  • Clothes Washer: 19-22%
  • Shower: 19% (water-saving faucets can cut this figure down)
  • Faucets: 19%
  • Leaks: 14%

Start conserving water today. Small adjustments can make a big impact. Here are some tips to save water and protect rivers, wildlife, and our future:

Wash laundry and dishes only when there is a full load.

Always turn off running water.

Take shorter showers.

Eliminate any and all leaks.

Reduce the flow of toilets and showerheads.

  • Consider purchasing a low-volume toilet that uses less than half the water of older models. Note: In many areas, low-volume units are required by law.
  • Install a toilet displacement device to cut down on the amount of water needed to flush. Place a one-gallon plastic jug of water into the tank to displace toilet flow (do not use a brick, it may dissolve and loose pieces may cause damage to the internal parts). Be sure installation does not interfere with the operating parts.
  • Replace your shower head with an ultra-low-flow version.
  • Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water for watering plants.
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
  • Avoid taking baths – take short showers – turn on water only to get wet and lather and then again to rinse off.
  • Avoid letting the water run while brushing your teeth, washing your face, or shaving.

Kitchen tips:

  • Dishwashers typically use less water than washing dishes by hand. Energy Star dishwashers save even more water and energy.
  • Try to run the dishwasher or washing machine only when completely full.
  • If you live in an older home, consider replacing your plumbing with low-flow fixtures and low-flush toilets.
  • If your dishwasher is new, cut back on rinsing. Newer models clean more thoroughly than older ones.
  • Designate one glass for your drinking water each day, or refill a water bottle. This will reduce the number of glasses to wash.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean. Don’t let water run needlessly when washing dishes, shaving, or brushing your teeth When washing dishes by hand, fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Use the garbage disposal minimally. Instead, compost vegetable food waste and save gallons every time.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
  • Don’t use running water to thaw food. For water efficiency and food safety, defrost food in the refrigerator.
  • Install an instant water heater near your kitchen sink, so you don’t have to run the water while it heats up. This also reduces energy costs.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap. This way, every drop goes down you and not the drain.
  • Reuse leftover water from cooked or steamed foods to start a nutritious soup. It’s one more way to get eight glasses of water a day.
  • Cook food in as little water as possible. This also helps it retain more nutrients.
  • Select the proper pan size for cooking. Large pans may require more cooking water than necessary.
  • If you accidentally drop ice cubes, don’t throw them in the sink. Drop them in a house plant instead.
  • When shopping for a new dishwasher, washing machine, showerhead, or other appliance, use Consumer Reports and other reviews to compare resource savings among Energy Star models and choose efficient. Some dishwashers can save up to 20 gallons of water per load!
  • Dispose of chemicals properly at a hazardous waste drop-off center. Never pour them on the ground, into the sewer, or down the drain.

Laundry tips:

  • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full.
  • When doing laundry, match the water level to the size of the load.
  • Washing dark clothes in cold water saves water and energy, and helps your clothes retain their color.

Bathroom tips:

  • Shorten your shower by a minute or two. You’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.
  • Keep your shower under 5 minutes. You’ll save up to 1,000 gallons per month.
  • Toilet leaks can be silent! Test your toilet for leaks at least once a year.
  • Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak. Fix it to save gallons.
  • When running a bath, plug the bathtub before turning on the water. Adjust the temperature as the tub fills.
  • Upgrade old toilets with water-saving models.
  • Use a water-conserving showerhead. It is inexpensive, easy to install, and can save up to 750 gallons a month.
  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth to save up to 4 gallons a minute. That’s up to 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
  • Plug the bathtub before turning the water on, and then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up.
  • Fix dripping faucets and running toilets. Just one drip a second can waste 2,000 gallons of water per year.
  • Plug the sink instead of running the water to rinse your razor, and save up to 300 gallons a month.
  • Turn off the water while washing your hair, and save up to 150 gallons a month.
  • When washing your hands, turn the water off while you lather.
  • Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water to use to water plants later. This also works when washing dishes or vegetables in the sink.
  • Take 5-minute showers instead of baths. A full bathtub requires up to 70 gallons of water.
  • Install water-saving aerators on all of your faucets.
  • Drop tissues in the trash instead of flushing them and save water every time.
  • Look for water-conserving toilets, sink faucets, urinals, and showerheads.
  • One drip every second adds up to five gallons per day! Check your faucets and showerheads for leaks.
  • While you wait for hot water, collect the running water and use it to water plants.

General indoor tips:

  • Teach children to turn off faucets tightly after each use.
  • When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your lawn needs it most.
  • Encourage your school system and local government to develop and promote water conservation among children and adults.
  • Monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter can help you discover leaks.
  • Learn how to use your water meter to check for leaks.
  • Reward kids for water-saving tips they follow.
  • Avoid recreational water toys that require a constant flow of water.
  • Fix leaky faucets with a wrench. It’s simple, inexpensive, and can save 140 gallons a week.
  • Watch for leaks. Check all hoses, connectors, and faucets regularly for leaks.
  • We’re more likely to notice leaky faucets indoors, but don’t forget to check outdoor faucets, pipes, and hoses.
  • See a leak you can’t fix? Tell a parent, teacher, employer, or property manager, or call a handyman.
  • At home or while staying in a hotel, reuse your towels.
  • Run your washer and dishwasher only when they are full to save up to 1,000 gallons a month.

Xeriscape landscaping (Lawn and plant care with water conservation in mind):

  • Use porous material for walkways and patios to prevent wasteful runoff and keep water in your yard.
  • Group plants with the same watering needs together to avoid overwatering some while underwatering others.
  • Plant species native to your region.
  • Water your lawn only when necessary and consider landscaping with native plants adaptable to your climate’s conditions.
  • Plant in the spring and fall, when watering requirements are lower.
  • When sprucing up your front or backyard, consider xeriscaping. This landscape method uses low-water-use plants to limit your water use.
  • Avoid planting grass in areas that are hard to water, such as steep inclines and isolated strips along sidewalks and driveways.
  • Leave lower branches on trees and shrubs and allow leaf litter to accumulate on the soil. This keeps the soil cooler and reduces evaporation.
  • Start a compost pile. Using compost in your garden or flower beds adds water-holding organic matter to the soil.
  • Use a layer of organic mulch on the surface of your planting beds and around plants to retain moisture, save water, time weeding and watering, and minimize weed growth that competes for water. Two to four inches of organic mulch around plants will reduce evaporation and save hundreds of gallons of water a year.
  • Next time you add or replace a flower or shrub, choose a low-water-use plant and save up to 550 gallons each year.
  • Collect water from your roof by installing gutters and downspouts. Direct the runoff to plants and trees.
  • Direct water from rain gutters and HVAC systems to water-loving plants in your landscape.
  • Adjust your lawn mower to the height of 1.5 to 2 inches. Taller grass shades roots and holds soil moisture better than short grass.
  • Leave lawn clippings on your grass, this cools the ground and holds in moisture.
  • Aerate your lawn periodically. Holes every six inches will allow water to reach the roots, rather than run off the surface.
  • If walking across the lawn leaves footprints (blades don’t spring back up), then it is time to water.
  • Let your lawn go dormant (brown) during the fall and winter. Dormant grass only needs to be watered every 3-4 weeks, less if it rains.
  • Weed your lawn and garden regularly. Weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light, and water.
  • Fertilizers promote plant growth and also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed.
  • Use a trowel, shovel, or soil probe to examine soil moisture depth. If the top two to three inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water.
  • Set a kitchen timer when using the hose as a reminder to turn it off. A running hose can discharge up to 10 gallons per minute.
  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers, so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
  • Minimize evaporation by watering during early morning hours when temperatures are cooler and winds are lighter.
  • Learn how to shut off your automatic watering system in case of malfunctions or rain.
  • Apply water only as fast as the soil can absorb it.
  • If water runs off your lawn easily, split your watering time into shorter periods to allow for better absorption.
  • Water only when necessary. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering.
  • Prevent overwatering: Leaves turn lighter shades of green or yellow, young shoots wilt, and sometimes algae or fungi grow.
  • Adjust your watering schedule each month to match seasonal weather conditions and landscape requirements.
  • Install a rain sensor on your irrigation controller, so your system won’t run when it’s raining.
  • Don’t water your lawn on windy days, when most of the water blows away or evaporates.
  • Use drip irrigation for shrubs and trees to apply water directly to the roots, where it’s needed.
  • Water plants deeply, but less often, to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance.
  • Use sprinklers that deliver big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops and mist often evaporate before hitting the ground.
  • Forty % of the average homeowner’s water use is outdoors. Use a rain barrel or large buckets to collect rainwater from downspouts and gutters for watering gardens and landscapes. Use this to water your plants.
  • For hanging baskets, planters, and pots, put ice cubes on top of the soil to give your plants a cool drink of water without overflow.
  • Periodically check sprinkler system valves for leaks, and to keep sprinkler heads in good shape.
  • Spring is a great time to give your irrigation system a checkup to ensure it’s working efficiently.
  • Prune properly to help plants use water more efficiently.
  • Plant a rain garden to add beauty to your yard, while absorbing and filtering runoff. Water absorbed in a rain garden will filter pollution otherwise headed for streams.
  • Avoid using pesticides or herbicides on your yard and garden. The chemicals can contaminate groundwater and streams, and can also hurt kids and pets.
  • In the yard, use mulch to keep moisture from leaving the soil and minimize the need to water.
  • If you must water the lawn, water in the early morning or evening, and try to avoid watering on windy days. This will limit the amount of water that is wasted. Rain barrels reduce stress on municipal water systems during dry, summer months.

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” 

Cree Indian Proverb

References:

  1. Source: http://www.americanrivers.org/take-action/other-ways/conserve/?gclid=CKHS3cG8wsACFSgV7AodOBIAxQ#sthash.EdfqNHvz.dpuf
  2. Preserving Our Water-conservation.org.
  3. Adwww.conservation.org/freshwater.‎
  4. Conserving water: Green Homes. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Source: www.epa.gov/greenhomes/conservewater.htm).
  5. 100+ Ways to Conserve Water-Use It Wisely. (Source: American Rivers.org. wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/‎).
  6. 100 Ways to Save Water-Loudoun Water. (Source: www.loudounwater.org/Residential…/100-Ways-to-Save-Water/‎).
 

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 Even if you drink less than a pint of beer or two small glasses of wine a day, this still poses a risk to your health.
Remember, filling a wine glass to the brim is not considered a glass of wine!

 

Reducing the amount of alcohol consumed, even for light-to-moderate drinkers, may improve cardiovascular health, reduce coronary heart disease, and lower body mass index (BMI) as well as blood pressure, according to a new multi-center study co-led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The findings, which were published in the British Medical Journal on July 10, 2014, contradict previous studies which suggested that consuming light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol (0.6-0.8 fluid ounces/day) may have a protective effect on cardiovascular health.

The new research reviewed evidence from more than 50 studies that linked drinking habits and cardiovascular health for over 260,000 people. Researchers found that individuals who carry a specific gene which typically leads to lower alcohol consumption over time have, on average, superior cardiovascular health records. Specifically, the results show that individuals who consume 17% less alcohol per week have on average a 10% reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure, and a lower BMI.

“These new results are critically important to our understanding of how alcohol affects heart disease. Contrary to what earlier reports have shown, it now appears that any exposure to alcohol has a negative impact upon heart health,” says co-lead author Michael Holmes, MD, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of Transplant Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “For some time, observational studies have suggested that only heavy drinking was detrimental to cardiovascular health, and that light consumption may actually be beneficial. This has led some people to drink moderately, based on the belief that it would lower their risk of heart disease. However, what we’re seeing with this new study, which uses an investigative approach similar to a randomized clinical trial, is that reduced consumption of alcohol, even for light-to-moderate drinkers, may lead to improved cardiovascular health.”

In the new study, researchers examined the cardiovascular health of individuals who carry a genetic variant of the ‘alcohol dehydrogenase 1B’ gene, which is known to metabolize (break down) alcohol more quickly. This rapid breakdown causes unpleasant symptoms including nausea and facial flushing, and has been found to lead to lower levels of alcohol consumption over time. By using this genetic marker as an indicator of lower alcohol consumption, the research team was able to identify links between these individuals and improved cardiovascular health.

The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council, and was an international collaboration that included 155 investigators from the United Kingdom, continental Europe, North America, and Australia.

Take good care of your heart. It’s the only one you’ve got! 

References

  1. M. V. Holmes, C. E. Dale, L. Zuccolo, R. J. Silverwood, Y. Guo, Z. Ye, D. Prieto-Merino, A. Dehghan, S. Trompet, A. Wong, A. Cavadino, D. Drogan, S. Padmanabhan, S. Li, A. Yesupriya, M. Leusink, J. Sundstrom, J. A. Hubacek, H. Pikhart, D. I. Swerdlow, A. G. Panayiotou, S. A. Borinskaya, C. Finan, S. Shah, K. B. Kuchenbaecker, T. Shah, J. Engmann, L. Folkersen, P. Eriksson, F. Ricceri, O. Melander, C. Sacerdote, D. M. Gamble, S. Rayaprolu, O. A. Ross, S. McLachlan, O. Vikhireva, I. Sluijs, R. A. Scott, V. Adamkova, L. Flicker, F. M. v. Bockxmeer, C. Power, P. Marques-Vidal, T. Meade, M. G. Marmot, J. M. Ferro, S. Paulos-Pinheiro, S. E. Humphries, P. J. Talmud, I. M. Leach, N. Verweij, A. Linneberg, T. Skaaby, P. A. Doevendans, M. J. Cramer, P. v. d. Harst, O. H. Klungel, N. F. Dowling, A. F. Dominiczak, M. Kumari, A. N. Nicolaides, C. Weikert, H. Boeing, S. Ebrahim, T. R. Gaunt, J. F. Price, L. Lannfelt, A. Peasey, R. Kubinova, A. Pajak, S. Malyutina, M. I. Voevoda, A. Tamosiunas, A. H. Maitland-van der Zee, P. E. Norman, G. J. Hankey, M. M. Bergmann, A. Hofman, O. H. Franco, J. Cooper, J. Palmen, W. Spiering, P. A. d. Jong, D. Kuh, R. Hardy, A. G. Uitterlinden, M. A. Ikram, I. Ford, E. Hypponen, O. P. Almeida, N. J. Wareham, K.-T. Khaw, A. Hamsten, L. L. N. Husemoen, A. Tjonneland, J. S. Tolstrup, E. Rimm, J. W. J. Beulens, W. M. M. Verschuren, N. C. Onland-Moret, M. H. Hofker, S. G. Wannamethee, P. H. Whincup, R. Morris, A. M. Vicente, H. Watkins, M. Farrall, J. W. Jukema, J. Meschia, L. A. Cupples, S. J. Sharp, M. Fornage, C. Kooperberg, A. Z. LaCroix, J. Y. Dai, M. B. Lanktree, D. S. Siscovick, E. Jorgenson, B. Spring, J. Coresh, Y. R. Li, S. G. Buxbaum, P. J. Schreiner, R. C. Ellison, M. Y. Tsai, S. R. Patel, S. Redline, A. D. Johnson, R. C. Hoogeveen, H. Hakonarson, J. I. Rotter, E. Boerwinkle, P. I. W. d. Bakker, M. Kivimaki, F. W. Asselbergs, N. Sattar, D. A. Lawlor, J. Whittaker, G. Davey Smith, K. Mukamal, B. M. Psaty, J. G. Wilson, L. A. Lange, A. Hamidovic, A. D. Hingorani, B. G. Nordestgaard, M. Bobak, D. A. Leon, C. Langenberg, T. M. Palmer, A. P. Reiner, B. J. Keating, F. Dudbridge, J. P. Casas. “Association between alcohol and cardiovascular disease: Mendelian randomisation analysis based on individual participant data.” British Medical Journal. 07/10/14. 349 (6): g4164 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g4164.
  2. “Drinking alcohol provides no heart health benefit, new study shows.” University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. ScienceDaily. 07/10/14. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140710151947.htm>.
  3. “To Your Health–Why Men and Women Should Limit Alcohol Use (It’s not what you think!).” www.dianesays.com. 04/26/11.

 

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Home Remedy Reverses Chronic Constipation - The People's Pharmacy® Here is a recipe:   1 cup prune juice   1 cup bran cereal   1 cup applesauce  Blend all ingredients, cover, and refrigerate up to one week. Take two tablespoons daily..or google "Power Pudding."

Constipation is defined as the inability to have three or more bowel movements in a week. When constipated, you have difficulty having a bowel movement or pass stools that are excessively hard. Straining for more than 10 minutes and being unable to have a bowel movement is also a sign you’re constipated.

Several factors can lead to constipation: inadequate dietary fiber, inadequate physical activity, dehydration, and medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. Consuming adequate fiber, drinking plenty of water, avoiding processed and high-fat foods, and becoming more physically active are simple methods of relieving constipation.

Home remedies for constipation:

  • Frequent, physical activity and exercise: Walking, housework, taking stairs instead of an elevator, gardening, swimming, dancing, bicycling, etc. Go for a walk or engage in 20 minutes of moderate activity after eating a meal.
  • Stay well hydrated: Water is always your best beverage. Drink several glasses of it each day. Prune, pineapple, and citrus juices with pulp, preferably freshly prepared, may also help, as well as, decaffeinated herbal teas, low-sodium broths, and soups. However, caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, energy drinks, and colas and alcoholic drinks which tend to dehydrate the body may actually reverse the desired effect by causing your body to lose water needed to soften stool.
  • Slowly increase your dietary fiber intake from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, to aid the passage of stool: Foods that are natural laxatives include prunes, prune juice, melon, rhubarb, and papaya. Include some fiber with every meal and snack. Always increase fiber gradually to reduce bloating and gas. Make sure you drink more fluids, especially water, to flush the fiber through your system. Sprinkle All Bran® or All Bran Buds® (1-2 tablespoons), wheat bran (1-2 teaspoons) or psyllium husk (1-2 teaspoons) into pudding, yogurt, oatmeal, applesauce, or on top of your favourite cold cereal. Add to casseroles, fruit, vegetables, soups, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, baked goods etc.
  • Two types of dietary fiber help alleviate constipation:
    1. Soluble fiber: Dissolves easily in water, forming a gel-like substance that slows digestion, softens stools and improves elimination. Found in oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.
    2. Insoluble fiber: Does not dissolve in water, but passes directly through the digestive system very much intact. Insoluble fiber increases stool bulk, keeping bowel movements regular and eliminating constipation. Found in whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.
  • Allow sufficient, unrushed time to have a bowel movement when you have the urge to go.
  • Try to eat meals and snacks at the same time each day.
  • Fill half of your plate at each meal with fresh fruit and/or vegetables.
  • Minimize or avoid fast food, processed, salty, and high-fat foods, cold cuts, meat, cheese, and pastries.
  • Cut up fresh fruit for your breakfast cereal or have it for a snack or in place of dessert.
  • Stewed fruit compote: A natural remedy for constipation, as well as a delicious, sweet, syrupy, comfort food! For anyone returning home from a hospital stay which often slows down the digestive tract, a dried fruit compote can gently help to get their digestive system functioning again. Compotes are easy, quick to make, heart-healthy, fiber-rich, naturally sweet, versatile, and contain no saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, or gluten. People of all ages, including children, love fruit compotes! (See “Delicious Dried Fruit Compote Recipes” at www.dianesays.com, Digestive Health category.)

What is Power Pudding?

Sometimes following the standard medical recommendations to drink plenty of water, increase dietary fiber, and exercise are not enough to prevent or cure constipation. Power Pudding is an old home remedy used to relieve constipation and improve bowel function in the elderly and people whose medications cause constipation. Regular use of it can help prevent chronic constipation.

The following recipe for Power Pudding is simple and very effective for alleviating constipation. It promotes regular bowel function by increasing dietary fiber and should help to soften and regulate your bowel movements within 2 weeks. Begin with 1 or 2 tablespoons each morning or evening mixed with, or followed by, an 8-oz glass of water or juice. If no change occurs, slowly increase the serving to 3-4 tablespoons. Try to make this a part of your daily routine. While you may experience bloating, cramping, or gas during the first week of Power Pudding use, these side effects should diminish. Avoid regular use of laxatives and enemas, as they decrease the ability of your bowel to function normally.

Power Pudding Recipe: Blend together the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup coarse, unprocessed oat bran or unprocessed wheat bran (You may substitute “All Bran” or “Raisin Bran” cereal for oat or wheat bran.)
  • 1 cup prune juice or stewed prunes
  • Ground cinnamon if desired
  1. The mixture will be naturally sweet without adding any sugar and have a pasty, stiff, thick consistency like peanut butter. If it seems too dry, just add more applesauce, orange juice, or prune juice.
  2. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. You can also freeze 1-2 tablespoon servings in sectioned ice cube trays and thaw as needed.
  3. While dietary fiber helps to alleviate constipation, eating too much too quickly may cause the above side effects. Always introduce prunes, stewed fruit compotes, and other sources of fiber slowly to your diet and in small amounts to avoid any digestive discomfort, and increase your water intake to help flush the fiber through your system.

Disclaimer:

Talk with your doctor before using Power Pudding for constipation. This document is not intended to replace the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Contact your doctor if you continue to have constipation, have questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options.

Reference:

“Delicious Dried Fruit Compote Recipes.”  Digestive Health/Heart-Healthy categories: www.dianesays.com.

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Dried fruit compote is a natural remedy for constipation, as well as a delicious, sweet, syrupy, comfort food! For anyone returning home from a hospital stay which often slows down the digestive tract, a fruit compote can gently help to get their digestive system functioning again. Compotes are also a great way of satisfying your sweet tooth with something nutritious. They are easy, quick to make, heart-healthy, fiber-rich, naturally sweet, versatile, and contain no saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, or gluten. People of all ages, including children, love fruit compotes!

Ways to enjoy a dried fruit compote:

  • By itself for breakfast, as a snack, or dessert
  • As a topping for cereal or oatmeal
  • Topped with vanilla yogurt
  • As a topping over fresh fruit such as pears or apples for a healthy dessert
  • As a spread for toast
  • Served cold with plain yogurt, or warm with ice cream, and nuts on top
  • With thick coconut milk and chopped nuts on top

Cooked compote may be stored in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and will improve in flavor. One to two-tablespoon servings may be frozen in sectioned ice cube trays and thawed as needed. Make the following recipes with any dried fruit available. Don’t worry about being exact with the amounts listed. The compotes will be delicious and nourishing with any combination of dried fruits:

A. Prunes Stewed in Water:

  1. Place 2 cups of pitted prunes in a medium pot.
  2. Add 2 ½ cups of cold water and heat the prunes and water on a medium-high flame.
  3. Once the water starts boiling, lower the heat to a simmer for about 25 minutes.
  4. When prunes have become soft and tender, remove pot from heat and allow stewed prunes to cool.

B. Stewed Prunes with Lemon and Cinnamon (8 servings):

  1. Cover 1 lb. pitted prunes with cold water in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently about 20 minutes.
  3. If desired, add 1/4 cup sugar (optional).
  4. Cook 10 minutes longer, stirring to dissolve sugar, if added. During this time, add 1/2 lemon, sliced, and 1 cinnamon stick.
  5. Remove pan from heat and allow prunes to cool.
  6. Serve warm or chilled.

C. Stewed Prunes with Lemon Juice:

  1. Place 1 cup of pitted prunes in a saucepan and pour 1½ cups of water into it.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon or more of lemon juice and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Allow to cool and garnish with lemon slices.

D. Prunes Stewed in Orange Sauce (20 minutes to prepare/cook):

  • 1 cup orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated or minced lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (chopped almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, etc., may be substituted)
  • 24 pitted prunes
  1. Combine orange and lemon juices, lemon zest, honey, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer on high heat and add prunes.
  2. Turn the heat as low as possible and cover. Simmer gently for only about 10 minutes. Avoid letting prunes get soggy.
  3. Add chopped walnuts and cook for another few minutes.
  4. Remove prunes with a slotted spoon and turn the heat to medium-high; reduce the liquid to about half. Pour the syrup over the prunes and chill or serve warm.
E. Apricot Compote (15 minutes to prepare/cook 2 cups):
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup dried apricots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice, orange juice and honey to a boil.
  2. Add apricots and raisins.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer just until they become tender and a little syrupy, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook, or they will become soggy and dissolve. Keep fruit well-defined.
  4. Remove apricots and raisins with a slotted spoon and reduce sauce for about 2 minutes to thicken.
  5. Remove from heat and add apricots, raisins, and walnuts back to sauce. Serve warm or chilled.

F. American Heart Association (AHA) Mixed Dried Fruit Compote:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup chopped dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes, or peaches, or a combination, with 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins.
  2. Add water to cover. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  3. Drain and let cool slightly.

(Calories 90; protein 2 g; carbohydrates 20 g; cholesterol 0 mg; total fat 1 g; saturated fat 0 g; polyunsaturated fat 0 g; monounsaturated fat 0 g; fiber 2 g; sodium 76 mg)

G. Sweet Dried Fruit Medley Compote (Yield: 4 cups)

Total time: 1 hr 55 min (Prep: 10 min; Soak: 1 hr; Cook: 45 min)

  • 4 cups water, divided into 2 containers
  • 8 ounces dried fruit (dried apples, apricots, dates, figs, pears, prunes, raisins)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 4 ounces sugar, approximately 1/2 cup (optional)
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole clove
  1. Combine 2 cups of water with dried fruit in a large bowl. Let soak for 1 hour.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 2 cups of water, orange juice, sugar, and lemon zest over medium-high heat. Add fruit and soaking liquid to pan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and add cinnamon and clove.
  3. Simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit has softened and mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Serve warm or cold.

Note: If using store bought dried fruit, chop the pieces into 1/2-inch chunks and simmer the mixture an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

H. Dried Fruit Medley Compote with Bran
  • 1/2 cup dried prunes
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried figs, raisins, pitted dates, cherries, apples, pears, peaches, or mango
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced with rind on for flavor
  • 1/2 orange, sliced with rind on for flavor
  • 1/4 cup bran
  • 1 cinnamon stick (remove after cooking)
  • Enough water to cover all the fruit, plus another inch of water (or use 1/2 water and 1/2 orange juice, or all orange juice for extra sweetness).
  1. Combine dried fruits and cinnamon stick in a saucepan large enough to allow space for expansion of fruits.
  2. Cover with water or juice, plus another inch of water or juice, since the dried fruit will absorb a lot of liquid.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the fruit is soft and the liquid has become a sweet syrup.
  4. Refrigerate once compote has cooled.
While eating prunes or a stewed fruit compote helps to alleviate constipation, eating too much too quickly may cause side effects, such as stomach cramping, bloating, gas, and possibly diarrhea. Always introduce prunes, fruit compotes, and other sources of fiber slowly to your diet and in small amounts to avoid any discomfort, and drink plenty of water.

Disclaimer:

This information is not intended to replace the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Talk with your doctor if you continue to have constipation or have questions about individual health concerns and specific treatment options.

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Endocrine disrupting EDC-figure

What are endocrine disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are chemicals that can interfere with the endocrine (hormone) system in mammals at certain doses. They are found in many household and industrial products and are sometimes also referred to as hormonally active agentsendocrine disrupting chemicals, or endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs).

Such substances may disrupt the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for development, behavior, fertility, and maintenance of homeostasis (normal cell metabolism). These disruptions can increase the risk of cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

Any system in the body controlled by hormones can be disrupted by hormone disruptors. The critical period of development for most organisms is between the transition from a fertilized egg into a fully formed infant. As cells begin to grow and differentiate, there are critical balances of hormones and protein changes that must occur. Although a dose of disrupting chemicals may do substantial damage to a developing fetus, the same dose may not significantly affect the adult mother.

Studies in cells and laboratory animals have shown that EDs can cause adverse biological effects in animals. Low-level exposures may also cause similar effects in human beings. The term endocrine disruptor is often used as synonym for xenohormone, although the latter can mean any naturally occurring or artificially produced compound showing hormone-like properties (usually binding to certain hormonal receptors). EDCs in the environment have been linked to reproductive and infertility problems in wildlife, and bans and restrictions on their use have been associated with a reduction in health problems and recovery of some wildlife populations.

Where are EDs found?

  • Household and industrial products
  • Drugs
  • Herbicides and pesticides
  • Compounds used in the plastics industry and in consumer products
  • Industrial by-products and pollutants
  • Some naturally produced botanical chemicals

Some endocrine disrupting compounds are pervasive and widely dispersed in the environment and may bio-accumulate. Some are persistent organic pollutants (POP’s) which can be transported long distances across national boundaries and found in virtually all regions of the world, including near the North Pole, due to weather patterns and cold conditions. Others are rapidly degraded in the environment or human body or may be present for only short periods of time.

EDs can disrupt organ function in our bodies by:

  • Increasing or decreasing production of certain hormones
  • Imitating hormones
  • Turning one hormone into another
  • Interfering with hormone signaling
  • Promoting premature cell death
  • Competing with essential nutrients
  • Binding to essential hormones
  • Accumulating in organs that produce hormones

Health effects attributed to endocrine disrupting compounds include:

  • Reproductive problems (reduced fertility, male and female reproductive tract abnormalities, skewed male/female sex ratios, loss of fetus, menstrual problems)
  • Sexual development problems such as feminizing of males or masculinizing effects on females, etc.
  • Changes in hormone levels
  • Early puberty
  • Impaired immune functions
  • Cognitive, behavioral, and other brain development problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • Severe attention deficit disorder (ADHD)
  • Deformations of the body (including limbs)
  • Various cancers, including cancer of the breast, prostate, thyroid

The 12 worst endocrine disrupters are known as the “Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors”and include:

  • Bisphenol-A (BPA)
  • Dioxin
  • Atrazine
  • Phthalates
  • Perchlorate
  • Fire retardants
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Perfluorinate chemicals
  • Organophosphate pesticides
  • Glycol ethers

Tips to avoid these hormone disrupters:

  1. Bisphenol-A (BPA): A chemical used in plastics which imitates the sex hormone estrogen in your body. BPA has been linked to breast and other cancers, reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty, and heart disease. According to government tests, 93 % of Americans have BPA in their bodies! Avoid it: BPA is commonly found in plastic bottles, plastic food containers, dental materials, the linings of metal food and infant formula cans, and thermal paper receipts commonly used at grocery stores and restaurants, because the paper is commonly coated with a BPA-containing clay for printing purposes. Select fresh food instead of canned, since many food cans are lined with BPA. Otherwise, find out which companies avoid BPA or similar chemicals in their products. Avoid receipts when possible, or store them in a plastic bag. Avoid plastics marked with a “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. While not all of these plastics contain BPA, many do.
  2. Dioxins: Chemicals which form during many industrial processes when chlorine or bromine are burned in the presence of carbon and oxygen. Dioxins can disrupt the delicate way that male and female sex hormone signaling occurs in the body. Exposure to low levels of dioxin in the womb and early in life can permanently affect sperm quality and lower sperm count in men during their prime reproductive years. Additionally, dioxins are very long-lived, powerful carcinogens, build up in both the body and food chain, and can affect the immune and reproductive systems. Avoid it: A difficult task, since the ongoing industrial release of dioxin has caused the American food supply to become widely contaminated. Products including meat, fish, milk, eggs, and butter are most likely to be contaminated. Reduce your exposure by eating fewer animal products.
  3. Atrazine: The introduction of highly toxic chemicals into nature has contributed to the feminization of male frogs. Exposure to even low levels of the herbicide atrazine can turn male frogs into females that produce completely viable eggs. Atrazine is widely used on the majority of corn crops in the United States and has become a pervasive drinking water contaminant. It has been linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty, and prostate inflammation in animals. Some research has linked it to prostate cancer in people. Avoid it: Buy organic produce and get a drinking water filter certified to remove atrazine. (For a good filter, see EWG’s buying guide: www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/).
  4. Phthalates: Found in some soft toys, flooring, medical equipment, cosmetics, and air fresheners, phthalates are known to disrupt the endocrine system of animals. Some research has implicated them in the rise of birth defects of the male reproductive system and possibly the reproductive system of infants. California and Europe have both banned them from toys. One phthalate, Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), used in medical tubing, catheters and blood bags, may harm sexual development in male infants. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a public report which cautioned against exposing male babies to DEHP due to it’s possible effects on the development of the male reproductive system and production of normal sperm in young animals. Phthalates may also play a causal role in disrupting masculine neurological development when exposed prenatally. A specific signal programs cells in our bodies to die. It’s totally normal and healthy for 50 billion cells in your body to die every day! But studies have shown that phthalates can trigger “death-inducing signaling” in testicular cells, making them die earlier than they should. Studies have also linked phthalates to hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities! Avoid it: Avoid plastic food containers, children’s toys (some phthalates are already banned in kid’s products), and plastic wrap made from PVC, which has the recycling label #3. Some personal care products also contain phthalates, so read labels and avoid products that simply list added “fragrance,” since this catch-all term often means hidden phthalates. (For phthalate-free personal care products, see EWG’s Skin Deep Database: www.ewg.org/skindeep/).
  5. Perchlorate: A component in rocket fuel, this contaminates much of our produce and milk, according to EWG and government test data. When perchlorate gets into your body, it competes with the nutrient iodine which the thyroid gland needs to make thyroid hormones. Ingesting too much of it can alter your thyroid hormone balance. This is important, since it is these hormones that regulate metabolism in adults and are critical for proper brain and organ development in infants and young children. Avoid it: Reduce perchlorate in drinking water by installing a reverse osmosis filter (www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide). It is difficult to avoid perchlorate in food, but you can reduce its potential effects on you by including enough iodine in your diet by eating seafood, produce grown in soil containing iodine, and iodized salt.
  6. Fire retardants: In 1999, Swedish scientists discovered that women’s breast milk contained an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in fire retardants, and the levels had been doubling every five years since 1972! These incredibly persistent chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, have since been found to contaminate the bodies of people and wildlife around the globe. PBDEs can imitate thyroid hormones in our bodies and disrupt their activity. That can lead to lower IQ, among other significant health effects. While several kinds of PBDEs have been phased out, PBDEs are incredibly persistent and will contaminate people and wildlife for decades to come. Avoid it: It’s virtually impossible, but passing better toxic chemical laws that require chemicals to be tested before they go on the market would help reduce our exposure. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can cut down on toxic-laden house dust; avoid reupholstering foam furniture; take care when replacing old carpet (the padding underneath may contain PBDEs). (More tips: www.ewg.org/pbdefree/). 
  7. Lead: A heavy metal, lead is toxic especially to children, harms almost every organ system in the body, and has been linked to numerous health effects, including permanent brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage, and nervous system problems. Lead also disrupts your hormones. In animals, lead has been found to lower sex hormone levels. Research indicates that lead can disrupt the hormone signaling that regulates the body’s major stress system (HPA axis). This stress system is implicated in high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression. Avoid it: Keep your home clean and well maintained. Crumbling old paint is a major source of lead exposure, so remove it carefully. A good water filter can reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. Studies have shown that children with healthy diets absorb less lead.
  8. Arsenic: A highly toxic substance used since the 1940’s in food animals and recently discovered in drinking water and various crops. In 2010, about 88% of the approximately 9 billion chickens in the United States raised for meat were administered arsenic-based feed additives. Why? Arsenic has antimicrobial properties which help to kill parasites, promotes weight gain, and improves the color of chicken flesh to make it more appealing to humans. In small amounts, arsenic can cause skin, bladder, and lung cancer and disrupt hormones. In larger amounts it can kill you! Arsenic can also interfere with normal hormone functioning in the glucocorticoid system that regulates how our body processes sugars and carbohydrates. Disrupting the glucocorticoid system has been linked to weight gain/loss, protein wasting, immunosuppression, insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), osteoporosis, growth retardation, and high blood pressure. Avoid it: Select organic poultry or poultry raised naturally without antibiotics. Reduce your exposure by using a water filter that lowers arsenic levels. (www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/). 
  9. Mercury: A naturally occurring but toxic metal, mercury enters the air and oceans primarily though burning coal. Eventually, it can end up on your plate in the form of mercury-contaminated seafood. Pregnant women are most at risk from mercury’s toxic effects, since the metal is known to concentrate in the fetal brain and interfere with brain development. Mercury is also known to bind directly to one particular hormone that regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation, interfering with normal signaling pathways. The metal may also play a role in diabetes, since it has been shown to damage insulin-producing cells in the pancreas which are critical for the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. Avoid it: For people who want to eat sustainable seafood with lots of healthy fats, but without a side of toxic mercury, wild salmon, herring, sardines, and farmed trout are good choices.
  10. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs): Perfluorochemicals used to make non-stick cookware are so widespread and persistent that 99 % of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies. One particularly notorious compound called PFOA has been shown to be “completely resistant to biodegradation” and will never break down in the environment! Although the chemical was banned after decades of use, it will persist in people’s bodies for countless generations to come. PFOA exposure has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and other health problems. Animal studies have found it to disrupt thyroid and sex hormone levels. Avoid it: Avoid non-stick pans, as well as, stain- and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture, and carpets. 
  11. Organophosphate pesticides: Neurotoxic organophosphate compounds that the Nazis produced in huge quantities for chemical warfare during World War II were luckily never used. After the war ended, American scientists used the same chemistry to develop a long line of pesticides that target the nervous systems of insects. Despite many studies linking organophosphate exposure to effects on brain development, behavior, and fertility, they are still among the more common pesticides in use today. A few of the many ways that organophosphates can affect the human body include interfering with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowering testosterone, and altering thyroid hormone levels. Avoid it: Buy organic produce and use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which can help you find fruits and vegetables with the fewest pesticide residues (www.ewg.org/foodnews/).
  12. Glycol ethers: Shrunken testicles have developed in rats exposed to these chemicals which are common solvents in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid, and cosmetics. The European Union says that some of these chemicals “may damage fertility or the unborn child.” Studies of painters have linked exposure to certain glycol ethers with blood abnormalities and lower sperm counts. Children exposed to glycol ethers from paint in their bedrooms had substantially more asthma and allergies. Avoid it: Refer to EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/) and avoid products with ingredients such as 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME).

References:

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  34. Liao C, Kannan K. 2011. Widespread occurrence of bisphenol A in paper and paper products: implications for human exposure. Environ Sci. Technol. 45(21): 9372-9.
  35. Lilienthal H, Hack A, Roth-Härer A, Grande SW, Talsness CE. 2006. Effects of developmental exposure to 2,2′,4,4′,5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (PBDE-99) on sex steroids, sexual development, and sexually dimorphic behavior in rats. Environmental Health Perspectives 114(2): 194-201.
  36. Main KM, Kiviranta H, Virtanen HE, Sundqvist E, Tuomisto JT, Tuomisto J, Vartiainen T, Skakkebaek NE, Toppari J. 2007. Flame retardants in placenta and breast milk and cryptorchidism in newborn boys. Environmental Health Perspectives 115(10): 1519-26.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every year one out of six Americans gets sick from foodborne illness. Of those people, 128,000 are hospitalized, and thousands die. Reported outbreaks represent just the tip of the iceberg. Due to public concern about this issue, in 2009 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) compiled a list of foods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that are most likely to infect people with foodborne diseases, such as salmonella, Escherichia coli, and listerimonocytogenes. Experts still consider this a relatively reliable list of the riskiest food items.

The CSPI report analyzed only those foodborne illness outbreaks that have been definitively linked to FDA-regulated products between 1990 and 2006.

The 10 foods regulated by the U.S. FDA (1990-2006) which are most prone to contamination:

  • Leafy Greens: 363 outbreaks involving 13,568 reported cases of illness
  • Eggs: 352 outbreaks involving 11,163 reported cases of illness
  • Tuna: 268 outbreaks involving 2,341 reported cases of illness
  • Oysters: 132 outbreaks involving 3,409 reported cases of illness
  • Potatoes: 108 outbreaks involving 3,659 reported cases of illness
  • Cheese: 83 outbreaks involving 2,761 reported cases of illness
  • Ice Cream: 74 outbreaks involving 2,594 reported cases of illness
  • Tomatoes: 31 outbreaks involving 3,292 reported cases of illness
  • Sprouts: 31 outbreaks involving 2,022 reported cases of illness
  • Berries: 25 outbreaks involving 3,397 reported cases of illness

Illnesses caused by the above foods may be as minor as stomach cramps and diarrhea for a day or two, or as serious as kidney failure or death. Pathogens most commonly associated with meat and poultry, such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H73, also have been repeatedly linked to these foods. In fact, Salmonella was identified as the cause in 33 % of the outbreaks from the FDA Top Ten. Other pathogens causing outbreaks associated with these foods include Campylobacter, Scombrotoxin, Norovirus, and Vibrio.

Why so much contamination?

  1. Leafy greens (spinach, romaine lettuce, arugula, etc.): Leafy greens were responsible for 24% of all food-related outbreaks between 1990-2009. They are often grown on large fields which are susceptible to E. coli contamination from grazing animals and their manure or contaminated irrigation water. Instead of buying pre-bagged lettuce which includes leaves culled from thousands of different heads of lettuce, any of which could be contaminated, buy one head of lettuce or a three-pack of romaine hearts and prepare it yourself.
  2. Eggs: According to the CSPI, eggs were responsible for 11,163 foodborne illnesses between 1990-2009, mostly due to salmonella. The problem is that eggs can easily become contaminated while still inside the chicken, if the hen is infected. They can also become infected in the hen house. To protect yourself, small children, and elderly adults in your home, always refrigerate eggs as soon as possible. Add eggs, other dairy products, and meat items to your grocery cart last and go directly home afterward. Avoid undercooking eggs when preparing them over-easy, soft-boiled, or poached. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that eggs be cooked until the yolk and white are firm and egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°. Another way to be safe is to choose pasteurized liquid eggs, because the heat from the pasteurization process kills any bacteria and viruses.
  3. Tuna: Associated with high mercury levels and foodborne diseases. According to the CSPI report, fresh tuna has been linked with 269 outbreaks involving 2,341 reported cases of illness between 1990-2009 and is the third most contaminated food. Tuna can be contaminated with a toxin known as scombrotoxin, which can form if fish is not kept cool enough after harvesting, during processing, or shipping. Unfortunately, cooking tuna to a safe internal temperature doesn’t eliminate the presence of this toxin once formed. To decrease your risk, purchase tuna from a reputable seafood supplier, and store raw tuna at a temperature of 40° or less until just before cooking.
  4. Oysters: According to the CSPI list, between 1990-2009, oysters accounted for 132 outbreaks involving 3,409 cases of illness, mostly attributed to two sources: norovirus (which is generally spread by contaminated water or surfaces) and vibrio (a dangerous bacteria in the cholera family). Always follow precautionary measures, especially when eating oysters raw. Only eat oysters from the Pacific Northwest or New England, colder waters where bacteria can’t survive. Avoid oysters from the Gulf Coast region or any from warmer waters. When served or sold raw, oysters should be marked with the region of origin. If it’s unclear or not indicated, ask your waiter or store’s fish monger. To be safe, cook all seafood before consuming and avoid raw oysters, when possible.
  5. Potatoes: Responsible for 108 outbreaks involving 3,659 reported cases of illness between 1990-2009 due most often to salmonella and E. coli. The problem is not potatoes themselves, but the dishes they are used in. The most common culprit is potato salad, which people often don’t store properly. Potato salad should be transported in a cooler with ice packs or kept in the refrigerator until just before serving. If you plan to serve it at a buffet, serve it on ice. Use store-bought mayonnaise instead of homemade, if you’re going to transport and serve it, since the former is less likely to get bacteria. A similar problem occurs with mashed potatoes and baked potatoes. If they are allowed to sit around warm, the risk of foodborne illness increases. Keep them at a hot enough temperature, eat them quickly, or refrigerate them.
  6. Cheese: Accounted for 83 outbreaks involving 2,761 reported cases of foodborne illness from 1990-2009. Avoid unpasteurized and raw milk cheeses which are often sold in specialty shops, since many cases of foodborne illness are due to consumption of unpasteurized cheese. Read the package label to determine if the cheese has been pasteurized. Store cheese in the refrigerator either in the original bag or in an air-tight food storage container. Soft cheeses like Feta, Brie, Camembert, etc. and shredded cheeses should not be left out or stored at room temperature for more than 2 hours; discard if left out past 2 hours. An additional concern regarding soft cheeses is that they can become contaminated with listeria, a type of bacteria, after the pasteurization process. Since these types of cheeses are not usually cooked prior to serving, the CDC recommends that pregnant women avoid consuming them, since infection can be harmful to the fetus and lead to serious complications.
  7. Ice Cream: More than half the time, ice cream that causes foodborne illness is associated with private homes and homemade ice cream made with raw eggs and/or raw milk. According to the CSPI, from 1990-2009, ice cream accounted for 74 outbreaks involving 2,594 illnesses between 1990-2009. To protect yourself, make ice cream with pasteurized eggs, available in the shell or liquid form. Pregnant women should avoid both homemade and soft-serve ice cream, because listeria is hardy, able to live on metal, and thus thrive inside soft ice cream machines, which are impossible to clean effectively.
  8. Tomatoes: Unlike other raw produce, which is usually exposed to contaminants during the handling process, tomatoes can be contaminated at just about any point from the field to manufacturer, which makes them particularly risky. In fact, tomatoes are most often contaminated as they grow, when salmonella enters a tomato plant through its roots, flower, or small cracks in the skin or stem. According to the CSPI list, tomatoes accounted for 31 outbreaks involving 3,292 reported cases of illness from 1990-2009. Tomatoes can be contaminated in the field or by cross-contamination during harvest, washing, transport or in the home. Even cut tomatoes support the growth of salmonella and other pathogens. To reduce your risk of exposure, always wash tomatoes well before use, and slice them on a disinfected cutting board, not one that’s used for meat or dairy. Promptly refrigerate any leftover sliced tomatoes. 
  9. Raw sprouts: Although a nutritious addition to salads and sandwiches, the FDA reported 31 outbreaks involving 2,022 cases of illness from 1990-2009 involving both salmonella and E. coli, so they remain a concern for food safety experts. Avoid raw sprouts. The sprout industry has been unable to ensure sprout safety because of the way they are grown. One problem is that contamination may involve the seed itself. Sprout seeds can contain pathogens. If they do, the pathogens multiply during the sprouting process. If you choose to consume them raw, look for signs that they have been improperly handled, such as wilted or soggy sprouts, or any signs of spoilage. Wash them thoroughly and refrigerate them once you get home.
  10. Berries (especially strawberries and imported raspberries): Have caused 25 outbreaks with more than 3,300 sicknesses between 1990-2009, mostly due to cyclospora, a parasitic illness of the intestines. Berries can be exposed to germs and bacteria during processing and handling by an infected worker. Whether picking berries in the field or buying them at a grocery store, it’s important to keep them cold, get them home, and refrigerate them within 2 hours. Place berries in their own separate sealed container in the refrigerator and store on a shelf above raw meats to avoid cross-contamination. Before you eat them, thoroughly wash them under cool running water.
  11. Meat and poultry: Though not on the CSPI list since the FDA doesn’t regulate them, meat and poultry are included on the CDC list of commonly contaminated foods. Undercooked meats account for about 20%-30% of foodborne illnesses reported annually. The most common pathogen found in beef is E. coli O157:H7, while salmonella serovars are more common in poultry. Always use a thermometer when cooking meat to determine whether it has reached a safe internal temperature. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°; ground meats (beef, pork, lamb, veal) should be cooked to 160°; chicken and turkey, including ground varieties, should be cooked to 165° before consumption.
Always take precautions to decrease your risk of foodbourne illness.
Reference:
  1. Gekas, Alexandra. “The 11 Most Contaminated Foods.” Woman’s Day: Healthy Living. 2014.
  2. “The Ten Riskiest Foods Regulated By The U.S. Food And Drug Administration.” Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The FDA Top Ten /Report was researched and written by Sarah Klein, Jacqlyn Witmer, Amanda Tian, and Caroline Smith DeWaal. CSPI is a non-profit organization based at 1875 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 300 Washington, DC, 20009. Phone (202) 332-9110 (Source: www.cspinet.org).

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The Human Digestive System

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Digestion is a complex process of transforming food you eat into energy you need to survive, as well as, creating waste to be eliminated from the body.

The digestive tract (gut) is a long twisting tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. It is made up of many muscles that coordinate the movement of food and other cells that produce enzymes and hormones to aid in the breakdown of food. Along the way are three other organs that are needed for digestion: the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

the human digestive system

The colon (large intestine) is a 5-7 foot-long muscular tube that connects the small intestine to the rectum. It includes the ascending (right) colon, the transverse (across) colon, the descending (left) colon and the sigmoid colon which connects to the rectum. The appendix is a small tube attached to the ascending colon. The large intestine is a highly specialized organ responsible for processing waste and facilitating defecation (excretion of waste).

After you eat, it takes about 6-8 hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine. Food then enters your large intestine (colon) for further digestion, absorption of water and, finally, elimination of undigested food.

 

Stool (waste left over after digestion) passes through your colon by means of peristalsis,* first in a liquid state and eventually in solid form. As stool passes through the colon, any remaining water is absorbed. Stool is stored in the sigmoid (S-shaped) colon until a “mass movement” empties it into the rectum, usually once or twice a day.

It normally takes about 36 hours for stool to pass through the colon. Stool itself is mostly food debris and bacteria. These bacteria perform several useful functions, such as synthesizing various vitamins, processing waste products and food particles, and protecting against harmful bacteria. When the descending colon becomes full of stool, it empties its contents into the rectum to begin the process of elimination.

 
*Peristalsis (Etymology: Gk, peri + stalsis, contraction): Successive waves of involuntary contraction passing along the walls of the hollow muscular digestive tract and forcing the contents onward; coordinated, rhythmic serial contraction of smooth muscle that forces not only food through the digestive tract, but also bile through the bile duct, and urine through the ureters.

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Reduce Your Risk of Constipation

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

What is constipation?

Constipation is a symptom, not a disease, associated with hard, dry bowel movements or when you go longer than usual in between bowel movements. It is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week. With constipation stools are usually hard, dry, small in size, and difficult to eliminate. Some people may find it painful to have a bowel movement and often experience straining, bloating, and the sensation of a full bowel. Others assume they are constipated if they do not have a bowel movement every day. However, normal stool elimination may be three times a day or three times a week, depending on the person. Almost everyone experiences constipation at some point in their life, and a poor diet usually is the cause. Most constipation is temporary and not serious. Understanding its causes, prevention, and treatment will help most people find relief.
Lower Digestive System

Drawing of the lower gastrointestinal tract inside the outline of a man’s torso. Inset of the lower gastrointestinal tract with the cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, and rectum labeled.

Signs and symptoms of constipation:
  • Difficulty pushing out bowel movement
  • Pain or bleeding during bowel movement
  • A feeling that you did not finish having your bowel movement
  • Nausea
  • Full feeling
  • Headache
What causes constipation?
  • Not eating enough high-fiber foods: Fiber is important in maintaining a soft, bulky stool. Diets low in fiber and/or high in fat can cause constipation. The best natural sources of fiber are fresh fruits and vegetables, bran, whole-grain cereals, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts and seeds.
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Pain medicine, medicine used to treat depression or high blood pressure, and others (see below).
  • Medical conditions, such as hemorrhoids, diabetes, or a stroke
  • Habit: Bowel movements are under voluntary control. Therefore, the normal urge people feel when they need to have a bowel movement can be suppressed. Occasionally, it is appropriate to suppress an urge to defecate (for example, when a bathroom is not available), but doing this too frequently can reduce the natural urge and result in constipation.
  • Laxatives: One suspected cause of severe constipation is the over-use of stimulant laxatives (for example, senna [Senokot], castor oil, and certain herbs). An association has been shown between chronic use of stimulant laxatives and damage to nerves and muscles of the colon. Some researchers believe that the damage is responsible for constipation. It is not clear, however, whether laxatives initiated the damage or whether the damage existed prior to the use of laxatives and caused the laxatives to be used. Nevertheless, because of the possibility that stimulant laxatives can damage the colon, most experts recommend that stimulant laxatives be used as a last resort after non-stimulant treatments have failed.
  • Hormones and hormonal disorders can affect bowel movements: Too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and too much parathyroid hormone (raising calcium levels in the blood) can cause constipation; At the time of a woman’s menstrual periods, estrogen and progesterone levels are high and may cause constipation (this is rarely a prolonged problem); High levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy can cause constipation.
  • Diseases affecting muscle and/or nerve function of the colon, such as diabetes, scleroderma, intestinal pseudo-obstruction, Hirschsprung’s disease, Chagas disease, cancer or a narrowing (stricture) of the colon that blocks it, can all cause a decrease in the flow of stool.
  • Central nervous system diseases: Some diseases of the brain and spinal cord may cause constipation, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries.
  • Colonic inertia: A condition in which the nerves and/or muscles of the colon do not work normally. As a result, the contents of the colon are not propelled through the colon easily. The cause of colonic inertia is unclear. In some cases, the muscles or nerves of the colon are diseased. Colonic inertia may also result from chronic use of stimulant laxatives, as described above. In most cases, however, there is no clear cause for the constipation.
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction (“outlet obstruction or outlet delay”): A condition in which muscles of the lower pelvis that surround the rectum (pelvic floor muscles) do not work normally. These muscles are critical for a bowel movement. It is unknown why these muscles fail to work properly in some people, but they can make the passage of stools difficult, even when everything else is normal.

Cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products have a reputation of being “binding” or constipating foods, due to the high-fat and low-fiber content of many of these products. Dairy products made from milk can constipate many individuals, particularly toddlers.

Dairy Products
Foods to avoid to reduce constipation:
  • Red meat
  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Fried foods
  • Cakes, cookies, chips
  • Frozen dinners (Low in fiber, high in fat and salt)
  • Unripened green bananas (However, ripe bananas are very high in soluble fiber, which can help to push waste through the bowels and relieve constipation.)
Medications which can cause constipation:
  • Pain medications (especially narcotics)
  • Antacids that contain aluminum and calcium
  • Blood pressure medications (calcium channel blockers)
  • Antiparkinson drugs
  • Antispasmodics
  • Antidepressants
  • Iron supplements
  • Diuretics
  • Anticonvulsants
Lifestyle changes may help reduce constipation:
  • Get plenty of exercise each day: Regular physical activity can help stimulate your intestines. Brisk walks, dancing, swimming, taking stairs instead of elevators, bicycling, etc.). Set yourself an achievable goal such as a 30-minute walk each day and stick to it. Being more active will increase general health and should make the gut work more effectively. Studies show that exercise increases nitric oxide levels, which may alleviate constipation. Low nitric oxide levels may explain both constipation and hypertension in pregnant women and the elderly. Talk to your caregiver about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Drink plenty of water and increase your consumption of liquids: Constipation occurs when too much moisture is reabsorbed from feces. Adults should drink between 9-13 eight-ounce cups of liquid every day. Ask your doctor what amount is best for you if you have a health problem. For most people, good liquids to drink are water, juice, milk, and herbal teas.
  • Eat a variety of high-fiber foods: Fiber provides bulk and softness to your bowel movement. It also accelerates the movement of food through the GI tract. Both insoluble and soluble fiber will benefit constipation. Healthy foods include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Figs and prunes are an option and are high in fiber. Ask your caregiver for more information about a high-fiber diet. Increase dietary fiber slowly to reduce bloating and gas, and drink more water to help flush the fiber through your digestive tract.
  • Select breakfast cereals with approximately 10 grams of fiber per 100 grams: But do watch cereal salt content.
  • Eat more legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables on a daily basis: They are rich in fiber and nutrients, including magnesium, which help alleviate constipation.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and rice, and select whole-meal or whole-grain varieties instead: Whole grains provide more fiber and nutrients which not only help protect against constipation but may also prevent insulin surges and reduce the risk of diabetes.
  • Aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day: A variety of fruits and vegetables provides different kinds of fibers and enhances the body’s ability to fight free radicals by providing a variety of different antioxidants with different roles to play in the body. Remember that those dried and canned count too.
  • Try to have a bowel movement at the same time each day: The best time is 15-45 minutes after breakfast, because eating helps to stimulate the colon. This may help train your body to have regular bowel movements.
  • Always allow enough time to have a bowel movement and don’t ignore the urge to have one: Bend forward while you are on the toilet to help move the bowel movement out. Sit on the toilet at least 10 minutes, even if you do not have a bowel movement.
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol: Both are diuretics that can dehydrate you. Caffeine is a stimulant which normally promotes muscle contraction needed for a bowel movement, but drinking too much in place of water and other liquids can lead to  dehydration. Sometimes switching to decaffeinated coffee helps. Drink more water instead.
  • Do not overeat: Smaller meals are easier to digest and may benefit digestive health more than larger meals. Try eating more than three “petite” meals a day and see how you feel. Avoid eating late at night, since the body has more trouble digesting food while you are sleeping.
  • Use over-the-counter remedies with caution: If you do try them and they work but constipation returns, do not continue using them as a long-term solution. Consult your family physician first.
  • Eat more natural probiotics to help balance the good and bad bacteria in your digestive system: Active cultures in yogurt and kefir may help assuage constipation and even reduce the risk of colon cancer. If you are magnesium-deficient, consider a magnesium supplement as well.
Treatments to discuss with your doctor:
  • Dietary fiber or fiber supplements (add bulk and softness to your bowel movement). Drink more water whenever you increase dietary fiber or take such supplements.
  • Bowel movement softeners.
  • Laxatives help intestines relax and loosen.
  • When a medication is causing constipation, your health care provider may suggest that you stop taking the medication or switch to a different medication.

Laxative medications and enemas may be recommended for people who have made diet and lifestyle changes and are still constipated. Laxatives taken by mouth are available in liquid, tablet, powder, and granule forms:

  • Bulk-forming agents: Brand names include Metamucil, FiberCon, Citrucel, Konsyl, and Serutan. Bulk-forming agents absorb fluid in the intestines, making stools bulkier, which helps trigger the bowel to contract and push stool out. These supplements should be taken with water or they can cause obstruction. Bulk-forming agents are generally considered the safest laxative, but they can interfere with the absorption of some medications. Many people also report no relief after taking bulk-forming agents and suffer from bloating and abdominal pain.
  • Osmotic agents: Brand names include Milk of Magnesia, Fleet Phospho-Soda, Cephulac, Sorbitol, and Miralax. Osmotic agents help stool retain fluid, increasing the number of bowel movements and softening the stool. These laxatives are usually used by people who are bedridden or cannot take bulk-forming agents. Older adults and people with heart or kidney failure should be careful when taking osmotic agents, because they can cause dehydration or a mineral imbalance.
  • Stool softeners: Brand names include Colace, Docusate, and Surfak. Stool softeners help mix fluid into stools to soften them. Stool softeners may be suggested for people who should avoid straining in order to pass a bowel movement; they are often recommended after childbirth or surgery.
  • Lubricants: Brand names include Fleet and Zymenol. Lubricants coat the surface of stool and help the stool hold in fluid and pass more easily. Lubricants are simple, inexpensive laxatives that may be recommended for people with anorectal blockage.

Other types of laxatives include:

  • Stimulants: Brand names include Correctol, Dulcolax, Purge, and Senokot. Stimulant laxatives cause the intestines to contract, which moves stool. Stimulants should be reserved for constipation that is severe or has not responded to other treatments. People should not use stimulant laxatives containing phenolphthalein, as phenolphthalein may increase the likelihood of cancer. Most laxatives sold in the United States do not contain phenolphthalein.
  • Chloride channel activators: Lubiprostone (Amitiza) is a chloride channel activator available with a prescription. This type of laxative increases fluid in the GI tract. Lubiprostone has been shown to be safe when used for 6-12 months.

People who depend on laxatives to have a bowel movement need to talk with their health care provider about how to slowly stop using them. For most people, stopping laxatives restores the colon’s natural ability to contract.

Biofeedback:

People with chronic constipation caused by problems with the anorectal muscles can use biofeedback to retrain the muscles. Biofeedback uses special sensors to measure bodily functions. The measurements are displayed on a video screen as line graphs and sounds indicate when the person is using the correct muscles. A health care provider uses the information to help the person modify or change abnormal function. The person practices at home and may need to continue practicing for 3 months to get the most benefit from the training.

Surgery may be needed to correct an anorectal blockage caused by rectal prolapse. Surgical removal of the colon may be an option for people whose colon muscles do not work properly, causing severe symptoms that do not respond to treatment. However, the benefits of this surgery should be weighed against possible complications, which include abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Contact your health caregiver if:

  • Your constipation is getting worse.
  • You have fever and abdominal pain with the constipation.
  • You start vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
  • Seek care immediately or call 911 if you have blood in your bowel movements.

Please note that regular screening, beginning at age 50, is a key to preventing colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75 years.

People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at a younger age, and may need to be tested more frequently. The decision to be screened after age 75 should be made on an individual basis. If you are older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened.

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When adding fiber to your diet, drink plenty of extra water while you slowly increase the amount of fiber in your diet. If you have bloating or gas, you probably have eaten too much and need to reduce the amount of fiber you eat for a few days.

What is fiber?

  • Fiber is an essential nutrient needed by the human body. It aids digestion and elimination of waste in the body and helps us control caloric intake. Fiber is considered a complex carbohydrate because it contains multiple linked glucose molecules. Since your digestive system cannot break down fiber, it is excreted undigested.
  • Most of our stool is made up of bacteria. Fiber provides the bacteria a good place to grow. The interaction results in a larger volume of stool and better bowel function.
  • High fiber foods are important for good health and well-being and can actually help reduce your risk of constipation, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, obesity, colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  • The best sources of fiber are whole grain foods, whole fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and nuts and seeds.
  • If you have diverticulitis, some types of fiber can make your symptoms worse.

Fiber is divided into two categories, functional fiber and dietary fiber. Soluble and insoluble fiber are two types of dietary fiber.

What are the different types of fiber? 

  • Functional fiber: A carbohydrate that is not digested and has physiological health benefits, such as blood sugar stability. Functional fiber, a growing trend in the food industry, is fiber that has been isolated and extracted from plant or animal sources or is synthetic. It is added to drinks and food products to boost their fiber content. Gums, pectins, polydextrose, and inulin are functional fibers.
  • Dietary fiber: Fiber found naturally in the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It includes carbohydrate and lignin (non-carbohydrate or woody component of fruits or vegetables; cellulose is an example of a lignin) that your body cannot digest or use for energy. Dietary fiber is “roughage” which helps with the bulking of stools and waste elimination. Because it makes you feel full faster, it can help you control weight.
  • Soluble fiber: Dietary fiber that dissolves in water, forming a gel in the body that slows fat absorption and provides a feeling of fullness. Some soluble fibers are more prebiotic and viscous than others and form thicker gels which work well to slow digestion and the movement of food through the digestive system. Slower digestion enables blood sugars to be released more slowly into the body, thus helping to regulate (lower) blood glucose levels for people with diabetes. Soluble fibers also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. With the exception of psyllium fiber, they do not have a laxative effect. Soluble fibers include the soft, sticky component found in oats, barley, beans, and the “meat” of fruits, which helps to lower cholesterol and soften waste, so it can pass through your system more easily.
  • Insoluble fiber: Dietary fiber that does not dissolve in water or form a gel. It adds bulk to stool. Bulking fibers absorb water as they move through your digestive tract, easing defecation. also helps food digest and pass through intestines and stomach more quickly. Insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation and promotes regularity, since it accelerates the movement of food through your digestive system. It also helps to regulate caloric intake and lowers the risk of heart disease. Insoluble fiber includes the tough component found in whole wheat and the skin, stalks, and seeds of fruits and vegetables that helps to push waste through the GI tract and improve bowel regularity.

Soluble and insoluble fiber are both beneficial to health. What are some sources?

  • Soluble fiber is found in varying quantities in all plant foods, including oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries: Legumes (peas, soybeans, lupins and other beans); oats, rye, chia, barley; some fruits (prunes, plums, avocados, berries, ripe bananas) and the skin of apples, quinces, and pears; certain vegetables (broccoli, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes); root tubers and root vegetables (sweet potatoes, onions); psyllium seed husks and flax seeds; nuts (almonds=highest in dietary fiber).
  • Insoluble fiber: Whole grain foods (wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice); legumes (beans, peas); nuts and seeds; potato skins; lignans; vegetables (green beans, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, celery, nopal); some fruits including avocado and unripe bananas; skins of some fruits (kiwi, grapes, tomatoes)

How much fiber do most people need?

Most Americans eat a low fiber diet, averaging only about 15 grams of fiber a day. For good health, children and adults need at least 20-30 grams of fiber per day daily. The Institute of Medicine recommends 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories to get the maximum health benefits from fiber. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends that Americans get 20-35 grams of fiber a day from plant foods, including both soluble and insoluble fiber.

What are the best sources of dietary fiber?

Dietary fiber is found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains. In packaged foods, the amount of fiber per serving is listed on food labels under total carbohydrates. Excellent fiber sources include:

  • Whole-grain breads and cereals
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Prunes
  • Pears
  • Green peas
  • Legumes (dried beans, split peas, lentils, etc.)
  • Artichokes
  • Almonds

A high-fiber food has 5 grams or more of fiber per serving and a good source of fiber is one that provides 2.5 to 4.9 grams per serving:

  • ½ cup (118 milliliters) of cooked beans (kidney, white, black, pinto, lima) (6.2-9.6 grams of fiber)
  • 1 medium baked sweet potato with peel (3.8 grams)
  • 1 whole-wheat English muffin (4.4 grams)
  • ½ cup (118 milliliters) of cooked green peas (4.4 grams)
  • 1 medium pear with skin (5.5 grams)
  • ½ cup (118 milliliters) of raspberries (4 grams)
  • 1 medium baked potato with skin (3 grams)
  • 1/3 cup (79 milliliters) of bran cereal (9.1 grams)
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of almonds (3.5 grams)
  • 1 small apple with skin (3.6 grams)
  • ¼ cup (59 milliliters) of dried figs (3.7 grams)
  • ½ cup (118 milliliters) of edamame (3.8 grams)
  • 1 medium orange (3.1 grams)
  • 1 medium banana (3.1 grams)
  • ½ cup (118 milliliters) canned sauerkraut (3.4 grams)

When adding fiber to your diet:

  • Drink plenty of extra water while you slowly increase the amount of fiber in your diet. If you have bloating or gas, you probably have eaten too much and need to reduce the amount of fiber you eat for a few days.
  • Try to eat different types of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. Read food labels carefully to see how much fiber they have. Choose foods that have higher amounts of fiber.
  • You should eventually eat 20-35 grams of fiber a day.

Tips for increasing dietary fiber:

  • Always try obtain fiber from whole foods, since they contain many other healthful plant compounds. If you are unable to include enough fiber in your diet (about 25 to 38 grams a day is ideal), added functional fibers may help.
  • Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.
  • Eat fruit at every meal.
  • Choose more fruits with edible seeds, skins, and membranes, like apples, grapes, pears, berries, melons, peaches, grapefruits, and oranges.
  • Select vegetables with tough stalks and edible skin, like artichokes, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, dark leafy greens and herbs (ex., bok choy, dandelions, dill, kale, mustard greens, parsley, Swiss chard).
  • Eat whole rather than refined grains like barley, bran, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, and 100% whole-wheat versions of bread, pasta, and crackers. Avoid white rice, bread, and pasta.
  • For breakfast, eat cereals that have a whole grain as their first ingredient.
  • Beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of fiber. Add them to soup, stews, or a green salad.
  • Replace meat with beans (edamame provides complete protein), legumes, or tofu at least 3x a week.
  • Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces, mix chopped frozen vegetables into prepared spaghetti sauce, soups, or stews.
  • Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate.
  • Snack on unflavored and unsalted nuts and seeds, or use them to garnish cereal, salads, stir-fries, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of extra water to help flush the fiber through your system. Too little water and too much fiber can actually cause bloating, constipation, or a tummy ache!
Refined or processed foods, such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals, are lower in fiber. Grain-refining removes the outer coat (bran) from grain, which lowers its fiber content. Likewise, removing skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content.

 

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