Is Your Diet Causing Your Migraine Headaches?

suffering a migraineIn today’s world, it can be very difficult to eat right, focus on your dietary intake and live an overall healthy life. Unfortunately, this can be tied directly into the higher incidence of migraine that is noted in industrialized nations, like America. Skipping meals, eating unhealthy and the availability of junk food has been confirmed to be the reason for the horrible throbbing in your head.

We all know that skipping meals and eating on an irregular schedule can cause health problems later in life. What most people didn’t know is that this behavior is also associated with immediate health problems, like migraines.

How Irregular Meals Cause Your Migraines

Fluctuations in blood sugar are typically associated with diabetics. The truth is, every human has blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day. In those who are predisposed to developing migraines, the slight fluctuation of blood sugar can actually be all you need to trigger a migraine.

The best way to prevent this type of migraine is to schedule your meal times and your bed time. This will allow you an even amount of space between meals and snacks and give you better control over how much your blood sugar fluctuates throughout the day.

How Eating Junk Food Causes Your Migraines

We eat junk food because it was chemically designed to be delicious. Unfortunately, junk food also causes a massive raise in our blood sugar that fades rather quickly. Ingesting sugar laden junk food, or junk food that is filled with carbohydrates has a roller coaster effect on our bodies. Our blood sugar goes up rather quickly and then a short time later, it plummets back to normal or below normal.

The human body was not designed to respond to rapid changes of this nature. Because of this, the entire body responds, including the blood vessels. When blood sugar drops rapidly, blood vessels constrict and limit blood flow. Constricted blood vessels can cause a headache but these vessels cannot stay constricted for a long period of time without reducing blood flow to dangerous levels.

When the blood vessels are constricted, the brains ends out a message that they need to open back up and that the tissues in the affected area need more blood. When the blood vessels open, a migraine is triggered because yet again, the body is not set up to handle this rapid change.

Preventing Migraines

If you have noticed that your migraines are triggered by certain foods, not eating on a regular basis, or skipping meals, putting yourself on a schedule can be very beneficial. You can do so by planning your meals, the times you are going to eat, eating healthy meals, and having a healthy snack when you feel hungry.

You should also monitor your intake of sugar and carbohydrates to maintain a healthy blood sugar. When planning your meals, remember to look at more than just the sugar content. Carbohydrates turn into sugar in the digestion process and can have the same effects on your body.

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5 Ways to Increase Your HDL Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol

Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap in recent history. From pharmaceutical advertisements to food labeling, we are told to lower our cholesterol—and to do it now! While it’s true that lowering your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels is the healthy thing to do, there is one type of cholesterol that you don’t want to lower. In fact, you actually want this cholesterol level to go as high as possible.

We’re talking about HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Raising your HDL levels can help keep your blood vessels healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease.

A Little Background on HDL Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty-feeling substance that is found throughout the body. LDL carries cholesterol through the bloodstream to your tissues and cells. This is an essential function for the body, but when there is too much cholesterol, it builds up on the walls of the arteries and that can lead to heart disease or other serious cardiovascular complications.
On the other hand, HDL removes LDL from the arteries and carries it back to the liver. At that point, it’s filtered out and excreted from the body. Since HDL works to clean out the blood vessels, it is referred to as “good” cholesterol. Having healthy levels of HDL can protect your body against cardiovascular diseases.

For every 1 mg/dL increase in HDL, your risk of having a cardiac event decreases by 2-3%.

Having low levels of HDL, even if your total cholesterol levels are healthy, can put you at risk for coronary heart disease and heart attack. Men who have levels below 40 mg/dL or women that have levels below 50 mg/dL are at risk. Both sexes should aim to have HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or above.

How to Increase Your HDL Levels

If you’re looking to raise your HDL levels, you have quite a few options to try. There are some cholesterol medications that can raise HDL, but here are five ways you can increase your HDL without making a trip to the doctor.

1. Adjust Your Diet

The two most important dietary factors for raising HDL levels are fats and fiber. Trans fatty acids reduce HDL levels, so you’ll want to avoid foods with trans fat. But you can go ahead and indulge (a little!) in monounsaturated fats. These fats raise HDL levels. Try to get more canola oil, olive oil, avocado, or peanut butter. As for fiber, try to add more soluble fiber into your diet. Experts recommend oatmeal, fruits and vegetables, and legumes.

2. Pour Yourself A Drink

Alcohol, in moderation, can raise HDL levels by as much as 4 mg/dL. Don’t go crazy with this one – experts recommend that women have one drink and men have two drinks, at most, per day. If you have liver disease, alcoholism, or a strong family history of alcohol abuse, you might reconsider this suggestion.

3. Quit Smoking

If you use tobacco products, giving up the habit could really help your blood vessels. Research shows that quitting smoking can raise HDL by up to 10 percent.

4. Stay Active

Engaging in regular exercise can benefit your health in a number of ways, including raising your HDL levels. After two months of regular aerobic activity, you could increase your levels by up to 5 percent. Any activity that gets your heart pumping hard for 30 minutes per day will work.

5. Drop the Extra Pounds

Carrying around extra weight really taxes the cardiovascular system. To increase your HDL by 1 mg/dL, you will need to lose about six pounds.

Now that you know the facts about HDL cholesterol, challenge yourself to raise your levels. Simply start by asking your doctor to order a cholesterol blood test. Along with some other cholesterol information, this test will show you your current HDL levels. Then you can get to work—eat healthy, stay active, and don’t smoke! When you have your blood retested (experts recommend having a cholesterol test every five years), you’ll be able to see some heart-healthy results!

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Have You Tried An Elimination Diet?

The digestive tract is an intense environment. Acids are churning, muscles are contracting, and bacteria are feasting. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the intestines can become an all out warzone. Gas, cramping, and bloating are just the tip of the iceberg!

These IBS symptoms can be set off by a variety of factors, but one of the most common triggers is food. Surprisingly, food triggers are different for every IBS patient. What causes severe symptoms in one patient may not cause any symptoms in another patient.

So how can you determine exactly which food triggers are affecting you? Doctors and IBS experts say that a systematic approach is best. If you’ve tried other dietary treatments without success, you may want to try an elimination diet. This may sound a bit scary at first, but if you give it a try, you may be able to make major progress in relieving your IBS symptoms.

What Is An Elimination Diet?

This is not a “diet” in the sense that you’re trying to lose weight. This “diet” is simply an eating plan that focuses on avoiding the foods that are most likely to cause IBS symptoms. The general process goes like this: you eliminate potentially offending foods and add them back into your diet one at a time. This way, you can immediately correlate your symptoms with the recently added trigger food.

How Does An IBS Elimination Diet Work?

If you’re suffering from IBS, you shouldn’t undergo an elimination diet without speaking with your doctor first. Once your doctor has given you the go-ahead, you can begin the diet by keeping a food journal for two or three weeks. Don’t change what you’re eating during this time—just methodically record what you’re eating and any symptoms you’re feeling. You may also want to write down any medications you’re taking or any stress, anxiety, or depression that you’re feeling.

After you have a complete food diary, study it and try to find relationships between the food and your symptoms. If certain foods stand out, you should add those triggers to your elimination list. If you don’t see any clear-cut offending foods, start your elimination list with the most common IBS dietary triggers: dairy, wheat/gluten, high fructose corn syrup, eggs, excessive fiber, sorbitol, chocolate, coffee, caffeine, and nuts.

Once you have your list of potential triggers, there are a few different ways to go forward. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) suggests eliminating the foods one at a time for 12 weeks. For example, if you believe coffee is causing your symptoms, stop drinking it for 12 weeks and keep everything else about your diet the same. If your symptoms disappear over the course of 12 weeks, you know that coffee is one of your IBS triggers. If your symptoms are still raging, try eliminating another food for 12 weeks. Keep going until your symptoms are alleviated.

Other experts recommend eliminating all potential triggers for a period of two weeks. After that, you can add foods back into your diet one at a time. For example, if you believe both coffee and wheat were causing your IBS problems, you should stop eating both for two weeks. Then, on day 15, you will drink coffee again for one day. Wait 48 hours and see if you have any symptoms. If you do, that means that coffee is a trigger. If you don’t have symptoms, eat wheat for one day and wait 48 hours to see if any symptoms develop. You will continue adding foods back to your diet until you felt symptoms. When you do feel symptoms, the most recently added food is the culprit.

This Sounds Really Unfair!

The elimination diet isn’t easy and it is unfortunate that you have to deprive yourself of some types of foods. However, sticking with the diet for two weeks or more could really improve your health. It may be difficult now, but staying committed for just 14 days could mean a lifetime of lessened IBS symptoms.

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Keep an eye out for our recent TV commercial airing on Channels 11 KTVT, 21 KTXA, and 33 KDAF. As always, give us a call if you’re interested in participating in a diabetic clinical research study!

Exercising with Diabetes: How to Manage Your Insulin

diabetes exercise

The human body uses a complex feedback loop to manage blood sugar. Blood glucose, insulin, the pancreas, the liver, and the cells all play important roles. If you have either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes straightening out each piece of this blood sugar puzzle can be really difficult! To make diabetes management even more challenging, this feedback loop behaves differently when you’re exercising.

Don’t get confused here—exercise is a wonderful thing for diabetics! But, all diabetics need to be aware of the effects that exercise has on their insulin and blood sugar levels. Any type of aerobic activity, from walking to swimming to cycling, will lower blood glucose levels during the exercise and can increase insulin sensitivity for up to 24 hours after you’re done with the activity. Without properly adjusting your insulin dose, exercise may lead to hypoglycemia.

Exercise, Insulin, and Glucose: How They Work Together

No diabetic wants to get into trouble with exercise-induced hypoglycemia and the best way to avoid it is to learn how your body uses glucose when you’re working out. The easiest place to start is in the muscles.

During exercise, your muscles use glucose as fuel. They do have some glucose in storage and that’s the fuel they use first. After the muscular glucose runs out, the pancreas releases the hormone glucagon. This triggers the liver to release glucose into the blood stream and that’s what the muscles will use for extended fuel.

Usually, the body of a diabetic has a difficult time getting glucose into the cells. However, during exercise, the muscle contractions stimulate the cells to easily pull in the glucose they need. Exercise also increases the effectiveness of the insulin in your blood. This is true even when the activity is over. The muscles want to replenish their stores of glucose, so they will continue to pull in extra glucose for hours.

All of these interactions mean that diabetics need to carefully manage their insulin dose and blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise. If you have too much insulin in your bloodstream during exercise, the muscles will pull in too much blood glucose and you’ll become hypoglycemic. However, if you don’t have enough insulin, the glucose cannot get into the muscles and you may become hyperglycemic.

How to Adjust Your Insulin for Exercise

Now that you know what’s going on inside of your body during exercise, what should you do about it? All diabetics should lower their insulin dose before exercising, but the amount of that reduction is different for every individual. In general, you should reduce your insulin dose by one or two units. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • How fit are you?

If you haven’t exercised in a long time, you may be more likely to be hypoglycemic during activity.

  • How long and difficult is your activity?

Long, strenuous workouts are the most likely culprits of hypoglycemia.

  • What time of day is it?

Diabetics who exercise before breakfast usually have a lower chance of becoming hypoglycemic.

  • What are your blood glucose levels before you begin exercising?

If you skip a meal, you are more likely to have low blood sugar during exercise. If you’re blood sugar is above 180 mg/dL, you may not need any insulin adjustments.

Remember, you should check your blood sugar once every hour during exercise. If your level is below 70 mg/dL, stop the activity and take 15-20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate. You can recheck your glucose levels after 15 minutes and return to exercising if the levels are within normal range.

Precautions

Remember, we are referring to aerobic, moderate-intensity exercise. If you are participating in particularly strenuous, anaerobic exercises, you will need to make different adjustments to your insulin doses.

It is very important that you speak with your doctor before you begin any new aerobic activities or exercise regimens. He or she can help you properly adjust your insulin dose and instruct you about the exercises that are best suited for your unique circumstances.

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3 Pill-less Remedies for Migraine Headaches

drink water to avoid migrainesMore than 36 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. Aside from the excruciating pain, migraines are costly. All of the lost productivity and medical bills add up to more than $20 billion annually in the United States.

There is no cure for migraine headaches, but studies show that nearly 40 percent of migraine sufferers could benefit from preventative therapies. These types of treatment methods aim to decrease the frequency, duration, and severity of migraines. Unfortunately, less than 13 percent of patients are currently using any of these therapies.

Migraineurs are well versed with the current offering of prescription medication on the market.  While they all have their place and serve an important role, here is a growing list of promising natural treatments for migraines that don’t require a pill.

1. Relax with a massage

Almost everyone loves a massage, but migraine sufferers should be especially fond of this natural treatment. One study from the University of Miami Touch Research Institute found that massage can help migraine sufferers during attacks and between attacks. They found that deep massage in the neck and shoulders is effective in lessening the frequency of migraines. When the headache had already set in, researchers found that light massage near the head as the patient was lying face up and a more vigorous massage of the feet and hands were the most effective pain-relieving techniques.

2. Listen to your body

Biofeedback is a non-invasive treatment that alerts patients of their headache cues and teaches them relaxation techniques aimed at regulating those physical symptoms. At-home biofeedback tools come with a variety of options: finger sensors, handheld devices, electrodes, and more. These devices and sensors monitor physical symptoms in the body like skin temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and muscle tension. The biofeedback device beeps or lights up when the symptoms are elevated and that beeping alerts the patient that they should begin practicing stress-reduction techniques.

Some patients are able to teach themselves how to manage biofeedback and relaxation techniques. However, most individuals go through a few practice sessions with a trained biofeedback expert before they start using this treatment at home. Many doctors give high praise to biofeedback for helping lessen the duration and severity of migraines.

3. Drink up!

For migraine sufferers, even the slightest form of dehydration can trigger a migraine attack. Drinking extra water may sound like the simplest form of treatment, but for many people, it works amazingly well. One study showed that drinking as little as four extra cups of water per day could significantly curb migraine attacks.

While prescription medications can help once a migraine begins its rage, one of these treatments might keep the frequency and intensity at bay. Let us know if you discover results from these techniques!

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Perimenopause: The Change Before “The Change”

Tired woman

The skinny on menopause has made the rounds.  You know about the hot flashes, mood swings and that any reference to “the change” is likely to bring your favorite middle-aged woman out swinging.  But did you know that most women experience perimenopause prior to menopause?  Similar to an opening act at a concert, perimenopause is the body’s way of saying “Batten down the hatches – the storm is coming.”

Perimenopausal symptoms are not much different from menopausal symptoms.  Common symptoms are hot flashes, breast tenderness, decreased libido, fatigue, urine leakage, mood swings and insomnia.  Less common symptoms are vaginal dryness, incontinence, memory lapses and uterine bleeding.

The average length of perimenopause is about four years but there are outliers.  Some women may only have it for a few months while others can have it for a decade.  Onset usually occurs in the 40’s but some women may go into perimenopause in their late 30’s.

During perimenopause, estrogen levels are on an infinite roller coaster.  Menstrual cycles may be affected and periods may become longer, shorter, heavier, lighter or just more irregular.  The declining estrogen levels signal the body to stop producing eggs and the erratic hormone supplies cause a mass of confusion.  Pregnancy is still possible during menopause.

So aside from a lovely preview of your menopausal years, what do you get out of this?  Admittedly, not much.  The symptoms have during perimenopause are likely to mirror the symptoms you’ll have in menopause.  It’s important to note that perimenopausal symptoms can mimic other issues like thyroid dysfunction.  Consult with your physician to get an accurate diagnosis.

Thankfully, there is help.  Gynecologists may prescribe hormone replacement therapy in the form of oral medication or topical creams.  Adjustments in diet, supplementation and exercise may help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.  Working out strategies to deal with symptoms during perimenopause will better prepare you for “the real thing.”  Knowing ahead of time what you’ll be dealing with should give you a little… pause.

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Diabetic Etiquette

Diabetes etiquette

For most of us, the thought of having to prick our fingers and give ourselves daily injections is downright scary.  For diabetes sufferers, it’s a simple fact of life.  Before you find yourself searching for what to say (or what not to say), consider these tips: 

Keep your advice about nutrition to yourself.  The diabetic knows what he or she can and cannot eat.  They’ve worked out the details with their trusted physician and know what they’re doing, thankyouverymuch.

Be supportive.  Don’t push diabetics to eat certain things or abandon the diet that works for them.  Understand that managing diabetes is a slippery slope and more than likely, they’ve “got this.”

Keep your scary stories to yourself.  Don’t share the story about Great Aunt Bertha who lost her foot to diabetes.  It’s not helpful.  Besides, managing stress is an integral part of managing diabetes so keep your horror stories to yourself.

Recognize that managing diabetes is a lot of hard work.  It’s a lot of effort to keep track of nutrition, insulin levels, medication, exercise, stress, and sleep.  Put yourself in their shoes.  It’s a full time job with a paycheck of not dying.

Control your own reactions. Do not be grossed out when your friend needs to test her blood sugars or give herself an injection.  It’s okay to say, “I’d like to learn more about this process if you’re willing to share” or “I’m incredibly needle-phobic so I’m going to look away but I’m still listening.”  It is not okay to run screaming from the room or say “HOW DO YOU DO THAT TO YOURSELF EVERY DAY?”  Remember the sandbox rules.  Be nice.

Ask how you can help.  Don’t assume things that may seem obvious.  Ask how you can support their efforts to stay healthy and balanced.

Don’t downplay the severity of diabetes.  While it could be worse (and let’s face it, it could ALWAYS be worse), don’t trivialize a very serious disease that has more than likely forced radical life changes upon your friend.

Don’t comment on any readings they may get in your presence.  Ask them what the numbers mean and refrain from “helpful” suggestions like “You probably shouldn’t have had dessert.”

The bottom line is simple.  Be diplomatic and polite.  Unsolicited advice can make anyone feel a bit prickly but is especially insensitive to someone who has undoubtedly spent years finding ways to manage diabetes that work them.

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Is it Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Protenium Clinical Research

You’re dealing with abdominal pain and cramping. Maybe you have constipation or maybe you have diarrhea. You sometimes experience heartburn, nausea, and fatigue. What is going on in your body?! It could be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The symptoms of IBS vary greatly among affected individuals and often seem to have no pattern. Because of this, IBS is not easy to diagnose. Doctors often confuse the condition with celiac disease, endometriosis, bowel cancer, and Crohn’s disease. Many IBS patients undergo a large battery of tests and examinations before they are finally given a correct diagnosis.

However, in the past few years, the medical profession has made great strides in diagnosing IBS. They are beginning to see patterns in IBS symptoms and are improving the way they test for bowel irregularities.

If you think you may have IBS, be sure that your gastroenterologist is up-to-date with the most recent research and diagnostic methods concerning the condition. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), a properly trained doctor will be able to diagnosis IBS by evaluating at your symptoms, doing a physical exam, and running a few tests.

Evaluating the symptoms                   

Gastrointestinal specialists have created a specific set of specifications for IBS symptoms called the “Rome Criteria.” Since 1990, they’ve revised this criteria three times and now have a very detailed list of physical symptoms associated with the condition:

  • IBS patients have reoccurring abdominal pain during at least three days of each month for a period of three months or longer. With this pain, IBS patients will experience two or three of these other symptoms:
    • The pain improves when the patient empties the bowels.
    • When the pain starts, there was a change in the frequency of bowel movements.
    • When the pain starts, there was a change in the way the stool was formed (i.e. diarrhea or hard stool)

On the other hand, there are some gastrointestinal symptoms that are not usually related to IBS. These symptoms often signal a different health condition:

  • Fever
  • Blood in the stool
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Symptoms that start after the age of 50
  • Family history of gastrointestinal diseases

Testing

After speaking with you about your symptoms, your doctor will want to run some medical tests. A few tests are necessary to diagnose IBS and rule out other conditions. But remember, your doctor shouldn’t be running every gastrointestinal test that exists!

  • Blood tests: These simple tests can make sure that you are otherwise healthy. The results will show if you have anemia, an infection, or excessive inflammation. A blood test may also be used to diagnose celiac disease.
  • Stool test: The lab will check your stool for signs of infection, parasites, or blood.
  • Colonoscopy: This test is done by inserting a scope internally and viewing the entire colon. The doctor will look at the inside of your intestines to look for signs of cancer, ulcers, or bleeding. Alternatively, the doctor may choose to perform a sigmoidoscopy, which is only looks at the lower part of the colon.

This revised method of diagnosing IBS is so much simpler than the old routine. It takes less time. It’s less taxing on the patient. It is less expensive for everyone. And, most importantly, it means that you can get the right treatment as soon as possible.

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What Are Your Migraine Triggers? And How to Avoid Them

woman with headache

There are a lot of people who suffer with migraine headaches, and if you are one of them, you know how horrible they can be. For some of us, one migraine can be debilitating for days and leave us unable to function in the slightest ways. Along with taking prescribed medications, there are some ways that you can prevent your migraines from occurring or at least reduce the number of times they happen. You can do this by learning your triggers and knowing what to avoid.

Types of Migraine Triggers

There are many different types of migraine triggers. Some people who have migraines say that certain foods, perfumes, flickering lights, and weather changes can trigger a migraine or a series of migraines. Learning your triggers is one of the most effective ways to reduce your migraine frequency.

Food – There are a lot of different foods that can trigger a migraine. Here are a few of the most common foods that you may need to avoid if you have migraines.

  • Ripened cheeses
  • Chocolate
  • Marinated, pickled, or fermented food
  • Foods that contain nitrites or nitrates or MSG
  • Sour cream
  • Nuts, peanut butter
  • Sourdough bread
  • Broad beans, lima beans, fava beans, snow peas
  • Figs, raisins, papayas, avocados, red plums
  • Citrus fruits
  • Excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, or cola
  • Alcohol

Menstrual Cycle – Many women claim that their menstrual cycle causes flare ups in their migraines and can actually cause them to be more frequent. Great a great solution to migraines that occur during the menstrual cycle is to be placed on a birth control that prevents periods, or that makes them occur less frequent.

Perfumes and Air fresheners – Anything with a scent can trigger a migraine in people who have a history. Avoiding areas where these smell occur regularly can help you avoid flare ups, such as department stores.

Stress – One of the most commonly known migraine triggers is stress. Most of the people who suffer from migraines are highly reactive emotionally, even if they don’t show it. Anxiety, sadness and worry can trigger a migraine. So can the relief of these emotions. Which is why most people who work in a high pace, high stress field experience weekend headaches once the stress is gone.

Don’t Just Avoid All Triggers

Not all of the things on this list are triggers for everyone. They are innocent until proven guilty. Just because you notice that a piece of chocolate triggers your migraines, doesn’t mean it always will. The trigger may involve more than just the chocolate itself. The chocolate combined with emotions and weather can trigger a migraine, while the chocolate alone does not. When you have a migraine, make sure to write down everything that is going on. What were you doing? How were you feeling? What was around you?

You may just find that your trigger is a eating a piece of chocolate when you are stressed and on your period. Others may find that chocolate right before it rains triggers a migraine.

Keep a journal of this information to find if it is consistent and to learn what to avoid. Share your journal with your physician so that he can provide the best options to treat your migraines.

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