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Daily Archives: May 28, 2016

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How to Tell If Your Obsession With Healthy Eating Has Gone Too Far

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Q: How do I know if my obsession with healthy eating is normal?

Trying to be a generally healthy eater is, well, healthy. But the fact that you used the word obsession is a tip-off that you’ve possibly crossed the line between having a positive interest in nutrition and suffering from an obsessional behavior. There is a fine distinction between what’s normal and what’s not, but if your need to follow specific restrictive food rules interferes with your ability to socialize normally or affects your work or family life, then it’s no longer good for you and is considered to be orthorexia.

What is orthorexia? It’s a type of disordered eating in which the goal is not to achieve a certain physical appearance but to discipline yourself enough to eat only the types of foods that you’ve deemed healthy. Weight loss might happen, but it’s not the point. Symptoms include sticking to a rigid food regimen without having a medical reason to do so—maybe you follow a strict zero-sugar or raw-food diet—as well as avoiding major food groups and imposing numerous limitations on yourself about where and with whom you can eat. (You might, say, get overwhelmed by a last-minute invite to meet friends for appetizers because it will force you to eat food you didn’t cook yourself.)

RELATED: 20 Signs You're Too Obsessed With Your Weight

Not sure if this is you? One good test is seeing whether you can break your eating rules. If you’re able to, from time to time, enjoy a food or drink that you typically consider an indulgence and then move on, I wouldn’t call your behavior an obsession so much as a lifestyle preference, and that’s perfectly fine. On the other hand, if you become wracked with stress, guilt and self-criticism at the thought of having some sort of food slipup, it’s a major red flag.

Orthorexia isn’t something to shrug off. While those with orthorexia may think they have a grasp of what nutritious eating means, they often don’t eat a diet that’s varied enough to provide the right nutrients, which can cause them to become malnourished and vitamin-deficient. As with other disordered eating (anorexia, bulimia), people even starve to death in the most extreme cases. They may also end up alienating friends and family because they’re constantly planning their lives around food.

RELATED: Subtle Signs of Eating Disorders

That’s why, if you’re at all concerned, I urge you to practice straying from your rules and not beating yourself up afterward. If you find it difficult, seek out a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders to help you get to the root of your behavior. (Many patients I’ve treated for orthorexia are actually dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder.) Having an open, honest conversation with an expert can help you develop a different understanding of what constitutes “healthy.”

Gail Saltz, MD, is a psychiatrist and television commentator in New York City who specializes in health, sex, and relationships.

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White Gazpacho

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White Gazpacho   Recipe
White Gazpacho
White gazpacho is made with bread, almonds, grapes and garlic and is one of the traditional Spanish gazpacho variations. In this white gazpacho soup recipe we add cucumbers and honeydew, whir it in a blender and it becomes silky, a little toasty (from the almonds) and refreshing.


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If You're Taking an Antidepressant for a Reason Besides Depression, You Should Read This

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One in 10 Americans is taking an antidepressant, according to the latest stats from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a new study suggests that depression may not be the only reason: Doctors are increasingly doling out prescriptions for antidepressants to treat other conditions—from sexual dysfunction to eating disorders—according to the research published in the journal JAMA.

The study analyzed more than 100,000 prescriptions for antidepressants written by 158 doctors in Quebec over the last decade. Of those scripts, 44.8% were written to treat a disorder that was not depression. And 29.4% of the drugs were given for an off-label indication. (For the purposes of this study, that meant the drug had not been approved by the FDA or Health Canada to treat the condition in question.)

RELATED: The Most Depressing Time of Year? Suicide Rates Spike in Spring

The researchers found that many of the off-label scripts were for insomnia (10.2%) and pain (6.1%). But doctors were also prescribing antidepressants for migraines, ADHD, digestive system disorders, and symptoms of menopause. 

“The problem isn’t with off-label [use] in general," says study co-author Jenna Wong, a PhD candidate at McGill University in Montreal. "For some antidepressants there is good documented research to show they can treat certain conditions. But there’s a problem when medications are used off label with no scientific evidence at all.” 

She points out that when your MD prescribes a drug, you assume it has been approved as a treatment—in other words, that it's been through a regulatory process designed to help keep you safe. But clearly that's not always the case.

An off-label treatment might not be inherently bad, but it does open you up to side effects—and it may not even help you feel better, says Wong. 

“For so many of these conditions, there aren’t really great medications known to be effective," says Wu. "If a patient asks their doctor for something to relieve their symptoms, and are given an antidepressant, they should be aware that it may be off label.” 

​RELATED: Fish Oil Plus Antidepressants May Be One-Two Punch for Depression

The takeaway? It’s important to be involved in your care—even when you’re understandably eager to find a cure for what ails you. That doesn’t mean you need to dig into the scientific literature yourself. But ask your doctor questions—like why an antidepressant might be appropriate, what the research says about it. It’s up to doctors to scrutinize that kind of information, says Wong. Then, discuss the pros and cons of the drug with your provider. The technical term is "shared decision making," and the idea is that together, you and your doc can come up with a plan that’s right for you.

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How to Get Rid of a Muscle Knot

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Q: What is a muscle knot, and can massages get rid of them?

It's not entirely clear what causes muscle knots—but your muscles don't literally get twisted and tied. Experts think that these muscle adhesions (also called myofascial trigger points) likely result from repeated tension and overuse in a specific area. Hot spots for tightness are the neck, shoulders, and back. Clenching your muscles out of stress or anxiety can create knots, or they can develop due to an injury, poor posture, or even long periods of inactivity.

RELATED: The Best Post-Workout Stretches

Massage is in fact one of the best ways to release the tension. If a pro massage isn't an option, you can DIY it: Put firm pressure on the area, either by lying on a tennis or lacrosse ball or foam roller; hold for about a minute while taking deep breaths. Heating or cooling the area may also help ease the contraction and reduce any associated pain. Taking an OTC pain reliever can also help. If the discomfort won't go away, check in with your doctor; she may recommend physical therapy. 

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

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New York Legislature Passes Bill to Eliminate the ‘Tampon Tax’

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Early this year, the “tampon tax” made headlines when California legislator Cristina Garcia introduced an Assembly Bill to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. According to a press release from her office, California women coughed up $20 million annually in taxes for these products, despite them being, in Garcia’s words, a "basic necessity." Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stated that New York State will no longer tax feminine hygiene products, a move that will take effect in the next sales-tax quarter.

Supporters of the bill maintain that tampons and other feminine hygiene products are necessities, and should be treated as other tax-free healthcare items.

Politico reports that the unanimous Senate vote only took “about one minute” on Monday before the bill headed to Governor Cuomo’s office. New York will join a handful of states that lifted the "luxury tax" on these items—a tax many (including President Barack Obama) have called sexist and unjust. Ten other states, including California, are considering similar legislation.

“Repealing this regressive and unfair tax on women is a matter of social and economic justice,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “I look forward to signing it into law."

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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Surgery Should Be An Option for Diabetics: Experts

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New guidelines appearing in the journal Diabetes Care from a group of diabetes experts say that gastric bypass surgery, currently only considered as a way to treat obesity, should also be an option for people with type 2 diabetes, even if they don’t need to lose weight.

That conclusion is supported by the American Diabetes Association and 45 international medical societies, and represents a major shift in the way doctors think about the disease. While diabetes involves imbalances in hormones and metabolism, there’s enough evidence, the doctors say, that bariatric surgery, which involves shrinking the size of the stomach, can not only physically affect how much people eat but also how the body breaks down calories and metabolizes them as well.

RELATED: Gastric Bypass Surgery Highly Effective in Treating Type 2 Diabetes

The new guidelines suggest that for most people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, if they don’t respond to existing therapies to control their blood sugar levels, bariatric surgery be discussed as an option for them, even if their BMIs are 30-35; currently doctors only consider the operation for weight loss for people with BMI greater than 35 if they also have other health problems such as high blood pressure or sleep apnea.

What the recommendations don’t provide, however, is a precise formula for when people with diabetes who have BMIs that fall between 30 and 35 should turn to surgery. For now, Francisco Rubino, professor of metabolic and bariatric surgery at King’s College London and one the lead authors of the guidelines, says that “surgery would almost never be a front line intervention for the disease,” meaning that people would have to try current therapies, including insulin and sugar-controlling medications, first. They should also try to adjust their diet and lifestyle as well, and only if those don’t work, then consider surgery.

RELATED: Teens Keep Pounds Off After Weight-Loss Surgery, Study Shows

But having surgery as an option, says Rubino, could go a long way toward helping doctors to rule out treatments that don’t work sooner. Until now, they would simply continue to increase the dose of anti-diabetes drugs since they didn’t have much else to give their patients. But now, they wouldn’t have to keep these people on medications and could consider surgery instead. Doctors will need to monitor people with diabetes who decide to get the operation, and not everyone with diabetes may be a candidate for surgery, but Rubino is convinced that more people with diabetes will be able to control their disease with the new recommendation.

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

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3 Ways Your BFFs Can Improve Your Health

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We give ourselves credit for plenty of things: nailing a project at work, making killer overnight oats, shaving our legs regularly (well, at least in warm weather). But there’s one thing women ought to take pride in more often, and that’s how much we rock at friendship. Whether single or married, 22 or 78, we know just how to cultivate, appreciate, and enjoy connections with our girls.

While the sexes may equally value friendship, we experience the bond on different levels. “Women tend to have more intimate friendships than men do,” says Irene S. Levine, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and author of Best Friends Forever. A 2015 study of social media profile photos published in Plos One confirmed what many of us have noticed: Guys gravitate toward larger, looser groups of casual buddies, while women prefer fewer besties, forming deeper and more time-consuming friendships. The researchers noted that this pattern is also evident in chimpanzees, suggesting that our pal style “may long predate the evolution of our species.”

But make no mistake—nurture plays a role, says Shasta Nelson, CEO of the friendship-matching site GirlFriendCircles.com and author of Frientimacy. Girls are taught to be masters of positivity (think giving pep talks), consistency (making plans), and vulnerability (sharing emotions). “We live in a society that expects these skills of women,” points out Nelson, “so we’re more practiced at them.”

Not only are we amazing at friendship, but according to science, it’s good for us—both now and as we age. So next time you ditch your family for girls’ night out, tell them it’s medicinal. (Even though, sadly, insurance won’t reimburse you for the round of margaritas.)

RELATED: 21 Reasons You'll Live Longer Than Your Friends

1. Friends are preventive medicine

It’s more than just your pal bringing over soup when you’re sick: Having good friends can help protect your body from stress. In a series of studies conducted at the University of Virginia, people were faced with the threat of getting an electric shock either while solo or while holding a friend’s hand. MRI scans revealed that in those clinging to a pal, the brain regions that sense danger were significantly less active.

Our besties may even provide a buffer against cancer. In an assessment of 2,835 women with breast cancer in the Nurses’ Health Study, those with no close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as the women with 10 or more close friends. Other research has shown that the more socially connected people are, the lower their blood pressure when they get older.

That well-being boost may translate to the ultimate payoff: a longer life. A meta-analysis of studies from Brigham Young University found that people with strong social relationships had a 50 percent greater chance of living longer than those with weaker ties. The researchers concluded that a lack of social interaction can pose as much of an early-death risk as smoking and alcoholism, and a higher risk than obesity and physical inactivity. There you go: yet more motivation to quit playing text tag and schedule that catch-up dinner.

RELATED: 10 Things to Say (and 10 Not to Say) to Someone With Depression

2. They protect your mood

Pals not only provide support, they can have Prozac-like powers, too. An English study revealed that people with depression doubled their chances of bouncing back if they had enough friends with “healthy mood.” Data from 4,739 people followed for 20 years in the renowned Framingham Heart Study demonstrated that those with positive peers were likely to become happy in the future. It pays to get out and have fun with a bunch of them, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health: Women who have 10 or more friends to socialize with experience better psychological well-being in midlife than those who have fewer. There’s a reason Nelson refers to close friendships as “gyms for our souls.”

RELATED: Is There a Nice Way to Break Up With a Self-Involved Friend?

3. The right mates make you strong 

Not feeling your workout lately? Rope in a friend, ideally a really fit one. Doing physical activity with a companion who’s in top shape makes you go at it harder than if you exercised with a less in-shape one, per a study from Santa Clara University’s department of psychology. (Although your super-buff pal won’t reap added fitness benefits by working out with you, she will be racking up some serious karma points.)

It’s no wonder, then, that buddies are one another’s best weight watchers. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that when overweight people were grouped with friends or family as part of a weight-loss program, they lost 6 1⁄2 more pounds and shaved an extra 1 1⁄4 inches off their waists than those who just received info on diet and exercise. Why’s that? The study authors quote an African proverb: “If you wish to go fast, go alone. But if you wish to go far, go together.”

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How Bad Is It to Have a Drink While on Antibiotics?

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Q: Is it so terrible to have a glass of wine while on antibiotics?

With a few antibiotics in particular, it is a pretty big deal. Metronidazole, tinidazole, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole should never be mixed with any amount of alcohol because the combo can cause an unpleasant reaction, which may include headache, flushing, a rapid heartbeat, nausea, and vomiting. (FYI: Some cold medicines have alcohol in them, so read labels carefully.)

As for other antibiotics, sipping a small amount of alcohol generally won't hamper their effectiveness, though some folks may find that the drugs' usual side effects (upset stomach, dizziness, drowsiness) are enhanced by alcohol.

But there are legitimate reasons why many doctors often warn against mixing the two. If that one drinks turns into several, the excess alcohol can depress your immune system and leave you tired and dehydrated. So if you're sick enough to need antibiotics, you're not helping your chances of getting better quickly by downing a glass of wine. Sorry to be a buzzkill!

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

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