Tapping Into Tap Water: Fluoride for All?

Water is our most important nutrient.
Water is an essential nutrient.

For most of my life I never really thought much about fluoride or my drinking water. My teeth are in pretty good shape, and the only time I thought about fluoride was when I taught a college level nutrition class. The text books noted the “benefits” of fluoride in preventing tooth decay, and then always showed the classic brown spots on tooth enamel due to overexposure of fluoride.  We discussed that fluoride was delivered to municipal tap water in the Chicago area (our location) and that bottled water was not typically fluoridated. While it may have natural fluoride, fluoride is not typically added to bottled water.

Fluoride not an essential dietary nutrient. 

For the last 70 or so years, it’s role in public health has been one of preventing tooth decay.  Once teeth have erupted through the gum, fluoride added to the tooth surface plays a role in preventing tooth decay through remineralization of the weaker spots on the tooth enamel as well as controlling the amount of acid that bacteria of plaque produce.  I remember routine fluoride treatments given in the dental office because I had great dental insurance and it was covered.  And, of course, there is lifelong use of fluoridated toothpaste.

Fluoride for all in the same quantities?

For the municipalities that deliver fluoridated water, there is no choice in the matter. If you want to avoid ingesting fluoride in the Chicago area, you must find a means to remove it from your tap water or stick with purchasing spring water. Preset fluoride levels are “one size fits all.”

According to a recent article in the Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (2018), these points should be considered:

  • Current evidence clearly suggests that the protective mechanism of action of fluoride is mainly topical.  In other words, we do not need to be ingesting fluoride to reap the dental benefits.
  • 1% of the population appears to be highly sensitive to fluoride (yes, I am in that 1%).
  • Certain subsets may be particularly vulnerable to ingesting fluoride: the elderly, diabetics, the malnourished.
  • Once added to water, would the fluoride levels be problematic for those that drink a large amount of water? Those individuals might include manual laborers, diabetics, and athletes.
  • Interestingly, on the international front, most European countries have rejected water fluoridation. Only Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom practice water fluoridation.

While the debate on fluoridated water continues, you can help protect your teeth by:

  • Choosing a healthy diet low in sugar will help prevent tooth decay. Emphasizing fruits and vegetables will stimulate saliva production to help rinse the sugar away.
  • Avoiding cavity promoting foods like sugar, sticky foods (like raisins), and soda will help prevent tooth decay.  
  • If indulging in sugary foods, try not to do so all day long. Best to splurge and then brush, instead of exposing your teeth all day long.
  •  Apply that fluoride through toothpaste, mouth rinse, and in the dental chair.

My last comment will be that in the concept of “clean eating”, I see no reason to be putting fluoride into my digestive tract.

Where do you stand on the issue of ingesting fluoride through tap water?

Probiotic Supplements: 5 Purchasing Tips

My father lived in an assisted living facility a few years ago. The assisted living physician ordered the probiotics for him. I remember the doctor sitting at his desk writing the order and at the same time quipping that “all probiotics are the same!” The comment took my breath away because this was only a few years ago, and most health care providers should know that probiotics are not all the same! There is plenty of research available on how probiotics are both similar and different. And there is plenty to consider when purchasing a probiotic supplements!

probiotic supplements

2 popular probiotics

Bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract are flora.  A healthy functioning gastrointestinal tract has a healthy balance of bacteria. Occasionally, that balance of bacteria becomes unbalanced due to antibiotic use, illness, stress, or even a poor-quality diet.

Research on the health benefits of probiotics is vast. Researchers are evaluating how probiotics may affect mental health, lipids, weight, and various GI conditions. Even our pets are taking probiotics!

 Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when purchasing probiotic supplements:

Packaging of probiotic supplements

Probiotics need to be alive to be effective in your body. If they are dead on arrival in the bottle or purchase package, they will be useless to your gut. Take a good look at the packaging. Many probiotic strains need to be refrigerated to stay alive, or they may be sold in blister packaging to assure viability. If the product needs refrigeration, be sure online shippers are shipping the product with dry ice during warm weather to protect the product. With blister packaging, there is no need to refrigerate. Keep in mind that the companies selling the probiotics are doing their own regulation, so you might want to use a name brand product to help assure the organisms are alive upon purchase.

Dosages

Potency is usually noted on the label as CFU which stands for “colony forming units”. The recommended intake for probiotic supplements varies by the strain and intended therapy. For general use, take supplements that have a CFU of at least 1 to 10 billion. Higher dosages are still deemed safe and are often found in many reputable brands.

Strains

Contrary to the thoughts of my father’s former physician, bacterial strains do matter.  For instance, for antibiotic-related diarrhea, it may be advisable to start taking a common drugstore brand such as Culturelle which contains Lactobacillus GG. Other research suggests that it may be even more effective to take a probiotic with multiple species of organisms. In adult women with IBS, Bifidobacterium infantis has been shown to reduce pain, bloating, and bowel movement difficulty. For cholesterol reduction, Lactobacillus reuteri may be therapeutic for LDL-Cholesterol reduction.

Dosing

 If you are taking probiotics for overall wellness, keep in mind that the organisms only survive for a few days to weeks, so it is necessary to keep taking them. Speaking of surviving, some probiotics have an enteric-coating to ensure stomach acid survival and intestinal delivery.

Food

 Many foods also contain probiotics. Think yogurt, kefir milk, and kombucha. And, nutrient dense foods are usually great sources of prebiotics-the food probiotics use. Those microorganisms need their own fuel and fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are the fuel of choice for probiotics.

Has probiotic use helped your health? Share your thoughts!

For information on purchasing other supplements, read on. 

Fish Oil: Good For Furry Friends Too!

 

Mollie2endless summer

My rescued Golden enjoying the summer shade a few years ago

As a practicing dietitian/nutritionist, I recommend fish oil to my patients all the time.  While my credentials and experience let me call myself an “expert” in human nutrition, I would never make the same claim for animal nutrition.  Animals are not humans, and while some aspects of human nutrition can and do cross-over to recommendations for our pets, I do not pretend to have the expertise in animal nutrition to know which principles of human nutrition would apply equally to our beloved furry friends.

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids and for humans benefits include:

  • Lowering blood triglycerides, decreasing cardiovascular disease risk
  • Fighting inflammation, a cause of pain and disease
  • Controlling certain skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema, and just plain old dry skin

My Furry Friend

I have a very dear Golden Retriever that was rescued from a shelter at the age of one.  She is now a senior canine.  A recent trip to the vet along with a xray of her back showed osteoarthritis and disc degeneration.  The standard Rimadyl was started (an analgesic and anti-inflammatory) along with Dasuquin for joint support.  As my options for therapy seemed limited, a vet tech at the office made a comment to me about fish oil.  He said human fish oil supplements were good for dogs, and the dosage would be the same as for humans.

Sounding like a benign and economical option, I did some research.  Digging a bit into the literature, it seems fish oil supplementation for dogs is a very common practice.  As a practicing dietitian, I frequently run into incorrect supplement dosage recommendations made for people, and often those dosage recommendations are made by physicians.  For supplements to be therapeutic for humans, dosing does matter.  Too much of a supplement may foster a toxic situation or promote interference of other important nutrients essential to health.  Too little, and there may be no clinical impact.  So a bit of research gave me insight into the dosing for dogs.  To figure out how much fish oil to give your dog, take your dog’s weight in pounds and multiply by 20.  So, if your dog weighs 75 pounds, the dosage of fish oil would be 1500 mg.

No special doggie fish oil is necessary.

Human fish oil supplements are fine.  But, many pills are on the larger side, so you may pierce the pill and put on food.  Or, if your dog is like my dog, she will eat anything in a piece of bread.  Nature Made brand Fish Oil “pearls” are on the smaller side and 500 mg per pill.  This smaller size and dosage pill makes dosing and administration of fish oil easy!

My hope is that fish oil will cut Mollie’s dander and ease her joint pain while also decreasing her prescription medication.  Check with your vet before self-prescribing fish oil as other health issues may impact the decision as to if it’s appropriate.

To Supplement or Not: 5 Facts To Factor

News coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of the current media topics, I do have a few words to say on the topic of supplements! If you listen to the media hype over the last few days, there are some recurring statements from the so-called experts.

Expert comments

Some “experts” note our nutrients should come only from food. Others suggest  “natural” whole foods be put into pill form. The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the black and white statements made by these so-called experts. Unfortunately, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

Supplements fill in dietary gaps

If you eat a healthy diet, there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills! If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or are vegan, then you may need a supplement. Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may need to be doing with supplements.

Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency 

Wondering if you should really be taking vitamin D supplements? You should have a blood test to determine if you need to be taking a supplement. Once blood work is done on my clients, most have turned out to be deficient. Correction of a deficiency is usually easy to do with diet or supplements. For a vitamin D deficiency, sunshine may be the prescription!

Be aware of upper limits of safety 

Many people taking multiple supplements forget they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a nutrient because they are taking multiple pills. Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to ingest too much of a single nutrient. Some nutrients can even be toxic if taken in excess. Your favorite dietitian can be your best resource for this information!

Food is your best source of nutrients 

Mother nature packages foods perfectly with the best combination of nutrients. The mixture of nutrients designed by mother nature work effectively together. With that stated, those people who eat a lot of processed foods and a limited diet may indeed benefit from specific supplements. An evaluation of your diet and eating habits is the best way to move forward with accurate supplement recommendations.

Regulation of supplements

If a supplement is reported as unsafe, the stores are required to pull the product. Until then, it’s buyer beware as the supplement industry is strictly self-regulating. With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-known brands. Well known brands want to protect their reputation. They  will have high quality control standards. Using lesser known brands may result in lower quality control. Even arsenic and lead have tainted some supplements in the past few decades.

Not all supplements are good or bad. Not all people need supplements. Consulting a professional to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations both improves your health and saves you money.

7 Tips to Tackle Healthier Eating by TONIGHT!

We are all busy!  My new clients all seem to feel like there is no time to “cook”, they eat on the run, and the end result is a poor diet that will eventually impact health and weight. Through my three decades of counseling clients, I have seen the American diet deteriorate to new lows.  If you would like to improve your diet by this evening and your health down the road, try these seven easy tactics to shape up your diet by TONIGHT

Eat breakfast

By starting the day with healthy fuel, you are more likely to get all your required nutrients for the day.  If trying to lose weight, you will use these calories efficiently, and not store as fat.  You can keep it super simple-a serving of fruit, slice of toast, along with juice or milk. 

Add fruits and vegetables to your day every day and ALL day

Most Americans eat far less than the recommended 5 servings a day.  By adding fruits and veggies to your diet, you are adding compounds to your diet that decrease inflammation.  Decreasing inflammation can decrease your risk of disease. Start to tackle this by making sure you eat a serving of fruit and vegetables with every meal and snack and voila, mission accomplished!

Drastically decrease animal protein consumption 

Why? Animal protein is not just protein; it is also a significant amount of saturated fat.  By eating less animal protein, you will decrease your intake of fat, particularly saturated fat which is artery clogging and increases inflammation.

Avoid the fast food-restaurant trap

Dining out constantly is a sure-fire way to ruin your diet unless you constantly order salads with low fat dressing and fruit platters.  Most restaurant food is much higher in sodium, calories, and fat than the counterpart made or assembled at home.

Don’t be afraid of some convenience foods in the grocery store

I can almost guarantee that if you eat some brands of frozen dinner such as Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, you be better off than going to the local fast food chain or diner.  Why? The meals are portion controlled; you know what you are eating because you can see a Nutrition Fact Label.  We have been brainwashed to think that these meals have too many chemicals, etc.  There are many nutritional advantages to these items as a back up to a chaotic schedule that necessitates relying on dining out to get your meals consumed.  And, it is cheaper.

Meals can be large snacks that do not require cooking

Throughout the years, clients have told me that they would eat cereal for dinner because they are too tired to cook.  I think those same clients expect me to say “how awful”, when I actually tell them this is not a problem.  A bowl of cereal along with skim milk or milk alternative and a nice serving of fruit is actually a nice low-calorie and low-fat meal providing protein and carbohydrates in reasonable quantities.  You can also just serve yourself a smoothie made with frozen fruit and throw in some yogurt or cottage cheese to bump up the protein content.

Track your food

Better yet, track your diet with a good app like MyFitnessPal.  It will allow you instant analysis of what you are eating, and more importantly, makes you face the music.  ALL my clients that have been tracking their food with this app are eating better and losing weight if that was the objective.  This app is free.

Do you have other easy and practical tips to keep your diet healthy?

Restaurant Dining: A Hit to Your Health and Wallet

My spouse and I are health conscious because I am a dietitian and not a hypocrite, and his life depends upon it. We regularly visit an area of southwest Michigan, and recently had breakfast at a local diner with great TripAdvisor reviews. Unfortunately, we did not agree with the great reviews on TripAdvisor.

The menu

It was limited, but I will be the first to state that this is not necessarily a bad thing because the focus may end up being on quality, rather than an abundance of mediocre dishes. The good news here was the staff was more than happy to substitute egg whites for whole eggs.

Now the bad news: the nice multi-grain bread was already buttered on the bottom of the toast (so did not realize it until it was eaten), the portions were huge (I know many people want large portions for the money being doled out), and I saw no fruit options on the menu. Other bad news: the bill was $30.00 for what we could have made at home for probably a dollar at most, and made it a lot healthier in a short amount of time. This is, in fact, the key issue with dining out on a regular basis.

When my clients dine out on a regular basis, this is what I tell them to expect:

More fat. If you make the same food at home, you can control the fat in the dish with very simple recipe tweaking. Restaurants don’t typically care about the high fat content in their meals because fat carries flavor and texture. And of course, they want you to return for another meal! You can bank on eating more calories than you anticipated due to the higher fat content, and you can also assume that it will be more difficult to meet your weight loss goals.

More calories. And, let’s not forget the simple concept that larger portions, when eaten, yield more calories.  Unless you can exercise a lot of self-discipline while dining out, you will most likely eat your whole meal.  If you can consistently ask for healthy substitutions such as fruit for fries, you are on the right track.  Also, you need to get in the habit of bringing at least half of your meal home. And who doesn’t want that yummy appetizer, dessert, or cocktail while dining out?  It’s probably safe to say that if you are eating at home you are not eating those extra calories.

More sodium. If you are fortunate to find a nice restaurant meal low in fat and overall calories, the sodium is probably lurking.  I have yet to see a healthy restaurant meal that is low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, calories, and sodium.  If you think the sodium content does not matter because your blood pressure is fine, you need to think again. High sodium intakes cause other health problems such as bone loss and are correlated with increased cancer risk.  And, if you hop on the scale the next day, you can credit that weight gain of several pounds to fluid retention from all that salt you ate.

More money. My husband made a lower sodium chili on Sunday, and pointed out that the entire pot of chili cost less than a few dollars. Purchasing a bowl of chili at a restaurant would have cost about $6.00. He used half a packet of low sodium chili powder and added additional beans plus veggies, creating a healthier chili.

While eating out is recreational for many, it should be a treat for special occasions rather than your regular diet. Doing so can keep you healthier, slim you down, and fatten your wallet.  In fact, it is a win-win way to eat.

Checking out online menus and nutrition information is key to healthier dining options.

Do you have any strategies for managing your calories, fat, and sodium while dining out?

 

B12 for Weight Loss: Is this Bunk/Junk Science?

B12 shots for weight lossLast evening the topic in my college nutrition class was vitamins. As we came to the topic of vitamin B12, several students inquired about B12 for weight loss. One student said her former pediatrician suggested she take B12 to help with weight loss. Several students in other course sections asked repeated questions about B12 shots for weight loss.

I must admit I was stumped as to why they would even ask about this. THEN, the spa Groupon email came this morning advertising B12 shots. The Groupon ad suggests B12 injections as an additional therapy for boosting energy and the body’s metabolism for those looking to lose weight.  The price: a mere $69.00 for 12 vitamin B12 injections. This a major savings from the original hefty retail value of $480.00! This all begs the question as to if there is any benefit to B12 injections for weight loss.

B12 injection benefits?

We do like to take pills and look for magical methods to lose weight easily. Unfortunately, I would have to say this is just another one of those gimmicks. I can find no sound scientific basis for suggesting additional B12 from supplements or injections to aid in weight loss. If someone is tired from anemia due to a B12 deficiency (called pernicious anemia), then administration of B12 will indeed give that person more energy because the person needs the B12 to treat that specific type of anemia. But, for the rest of us, that B12 will neither give us more energy or boost our metabolism.

There are ways to boost one’s metabolism, but chowing down on more B vitamins or injecting them is not a way to raise our metabolic rate. We get energy from the calories in our foods and resting our bodies. B vitamins do not give us energy, they are needed in small amounts to help the biochemical reactions that occur in our bodies to release energy from foods-that gives us energy!

B12 and meat consumption

Most people who eat animal protein are getting more than sufficient amounts of B12.  B12 is derived from animal protein, and since many Americans eat more protein than recommended, B12 is not usually an issue. For vegans, it may be necessary to take a B12 supplement to meet requirements. However, many foods are fortified with B12 (such as cereals which may have 100% of B12 requirements provided in a single serving) so not all vegans would necessarily need to be taking a supplemental form of B12.

Have you tried B12 shots for weight loss? Did you see any benefit? Right now over 200 Groupon deals have been sold!

Is this a waste of money or helpful for your waistline?

 

 

 

 

Healthy Eating Confusion? 5 Easy Tips to Start!

healthy eating confusion

Wondering how to Eat? Follow 5 steps to clear up healthy eating confusion!

If you are confused about how to eat, you are far from alone. We are a society on ”nutrition” overload. Messages reach us each time we turn on the ten o’ clock news or boot up the computer. Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, do this, don’t do that-and consumers feel messages conflict and constantly spin a one-eighty every other week. No wonder the public is unsure about what to eat or who to take advice from! With that in mind, here are 5 tips to clear up healthy eating confusion. These tips can help most people improve their overall health status.

5 important and easy tips to clear up healthy eating confusion

Decrease your animal protein consumption

This will decrease your saturated fat intake, keep your calories in line, AND decrease your carbon footprint on our dear planet earth.

Eat more plant-based foods

The upside of this, is simply, more anti-oxidants, more fiber, fewer calories, and less of a carbon footprint on planet earth.

Focus on unprocessed foods as much as possible

The less processed the food, the more nutrient dense the food. When the food is molded, distorted, manipulated, or redesigned, the nutrition composition is most likely altered, and not usually for the better!

Don’t be afraid of bread

Whole grain breads are a rich source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and fiber.

Cast a wide net on the variety of foods you eat

No single food is a magic health bullet. Eating a variety of foods keeps your taste buds happy and also increases the likelihood that you are getting more and varied nutrients into your diet.

Some people should not follow these suggestions due to specific medical concerns. But  for most people, this is an excellent start to eating a better quality of diet. If you need to omit food groups or implement special diet therapy, consider consulting with a Registered/Licensed Dietitian to design a food plan that works for your health goals.

Bon Appetit!

 

Are You a Nutrition “Purist” or “Realist”?

dietitian commentary are you a realist or puristIt seems as though these days everyone has an opinion about the field of nutrition.There is a an old saying that “some people think they are experts on eating, because they eat.”  So, that could mean the whole human race perceives themselves as nutritional experts! For me, it seems that is the case sometimes! Of course, some of those people are experts with years of college level education under their belts, but some are simply uninformed, uneducated, or misdirected, but very interested in the field of nutrition. That begs the question about being a  nutrition “purist” or “realist” in terms of professional conduct.

What I know for sure is that more people in more and varied fields are now providing nutritional advice to the American consumer. And, more nutritional advice is rapidly and readily available these days at the touch of our fingers as well as from “doc google.” So, this blog is about how those of you that give nutritional advice handle the words you choose while guiding those you are attempting to help with nutrition. It is also meant as food for thought for the consumer who is seeking nutritional guidance. So let’s take a look at nutrition “purist” or “realist” thinking!

Nutrition Purists

It seems as though some of those disseminating nutritional advice are best described as purists. Insisting on great precision or correctness in a particular discipline is a purist. It seems that, more and more, those that are guiding consumers are often leaning to what I call this purist mentality. This purist mentality is along the lines of “the diet must be perfect, no junk, sugar, fat, and so on.”  I must add at this point that I would love my clients to eat only at home, eat only healthy unprocessed foods, and in the correct portion sizes. With that stated, my experience tells me the purist mentality does not necessarily fit all people.

Nutrition Realists

A realist is a person who accepts the world as it is. Then, deals with it, but realistically. This appears to be the case for those practitioners who have counseled for a long time. I tell my clients that I can design what I feel to be the  “perfect” eating plan. However, if they cannot follow it long enough to help their health, then what good is it?

I’m a realist. I would be happy to have my clients switch to a flavored green tea rather than a Starbucks Frappuccino! That’s right, the flavored green tea might not have the same nutritional edge as plain green tea, but it’s a start in the right direction! That’s what I want from my clients-to move in a better dietary direction.

One size does not fit all, especially when telling people how to eat. The concept of tailoring a diet to an individual means that like a pair of slacks or suit, the “diet” can be tailored with time. As the person’s nutritional requirements and acceptance of dietary change evolve, so can the diet.

How do you choose to counsel your clients?  And consumers, what nutritional guidance has worked for you?

 

Is Your Dietary Supplement Downright Dangerous? 5 Tips to Protect Yourself!

Many Americans naively pop vitamin and mineral supplements and guzzle various types of protein powders, thinking they are helping with overall health. The reality is that many of these supplements can be downright dangerous! In fact, according to recent newspaper headliner, the 28 billion dollar supplement industry has serious and widespread manufacturing flaws. These flaws are extensive enough have the potential to harm our health. From quality control to formulation issues, the product you are taking may not be what you are thinking it is. There may be much more or too little of a specific nutrient. Even lead, arsenic, and rodent feces have been known to contaminate our supplements.

As a potential consumer, it needs to be understood that the supplement industry is a self-regulating industry. That means the government does not directly oversee the quality control of a supplement. Companies are largely left in charge of their own standards. Under current laws, the FDA does not screen supplements for safety before they hit the consumer market. The FDA only takes action regarding supplements on the market once there is a documented issue with the supplement. The FDA relies on manufacturers themselves, as well as consumers, to report any adverse effects.

Proactive steps to take when purchasing supplements

Buy name brand supplements

Well-known brands may have better “in-house” quality control standards because the reputation of the company is at stake. Steer clear of companies you have not heard of.

Look for the USP label

This label means that the supplement has been at least evaluated for ingredients stated on the label. It also means the product will dissolve in your digestive tract rather than passing straight through your body. The symbol does not guarantee any other health or safety advantages of the supplement.

Look at the Nutrition Fact Label on the supplement

Note the percent daily value of the nutrients. If you see values of many nutrients far exceeding 100%, don’t be duped into thinking this is a good thing. Consumers need to understand that too much of a nutrient can be very harmful. We have upper limits of safety for many nutrients, and we should avoid exceeding those upper limits of safety.

Consider using the Internet to investigate your supplement before taking it

Consumer Labs is an independent testing lab that evaluates supplemental products and makes the test results available for a small subscription fee. The analyses and data are extensive and informative.

 Consider having a dietitian evaluate your current diet.

A dietitian can evaluate nutrient shortcomings and make appropriate recommendations to meet those dietary deficits with the correct dosages of nutrients. Or better yet, a dietitian can help you find the foods you like to eat to give you the nutrients you need!  After all, mother nature does the best nutrient packaging of all.

Do you ever think about safety issues regarding supplement use?