Drink water to stay healthy

Dear Dr. Mo: How much water do I really need to stay hydrated and healthy?

Dear reader: This is the time of year where common colds are indeed common and when you will often hear that advice to drink lots of fluid, usually herbal teas or water. Of course, water is essential to your health but the needs for water vary from person to person and many factors may influence that, like for example your health condition, your daily activities, where you live, your age, metabolic rate etc.

Water means health!

Water is our main constituent – it makes up about 60% of our body mass. We need water to maintain normal functions: we throw out waste matter dissolved in water, water participates in digestion of food, it carries nutrients to cells, we use water to show emotions when we cry etc.

Water also helps to regulate body temperature through perspiration (sweating).

When water is insufficient we dehydrate. Dehydration is a state in which our cells don’t have enough water to function normally. Even a mild dehydration could cause fatigue because when tissues lose water, enzymes are slowing down their functions and energy production drops.

A simple way to see the link between health and water is to observe what happens when we age. As we age, the water content of our bodies is decreasing steadily and while a newborn is 80% water, in an adult this ratio is at 60% and it keeps on decreasing as years go by. Continue reading

Green tea and breast feeding

Dear Dr. Mo: Is green tea safe during breast-feeding?

Dear reader: While drinking green tea is generally considered safe and beneficial to health, due to its polyphenol content, it is important to note that it also contains 2 – 4% of caffeine, which could affect some people more than others.

What this means is that 2 cups of green tea provide about 200 mg of caffeine.

Green tea is generally safe and healthy

In some people caffeine can cause side effects that may range from mild to severe and include restlessness and nervousness, headache, sleep problems, irregular heartbeat, heartburn, tremor, dizziness, confusion and so on. These side effects in most people would be possible if too much green tea is taken each day – more than 5 cups – but even this is very individual and responses vary.
If other sources of caffeine are consumed as well (coffee, energy drinks, some sodas, weight loss supplements etc.) the effects compound and could aggravate the symptoms of caffeine overdose.
Alcohol consumption can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine and increase its presence in the blood, adding to its (side)effects. Continue reading

Eating healthy while traveling – is it possible?

Dear readers, recently I was traveling to Kazakhstan and had to take connecting flights totaling in almost 15 hours of travel time (including some 6 hours of waiting in Frankfurt for my connection to Almaty).

During this travel, I was trying to really see what would it take to maintain a healthy diet and if such a thing is at all possible.

Airports may lure you into breaking your healthy diet promise

One thing that happens is that the longer we travel, the more tired and sleep deprived we become and the more tired we are the less likely we are to make a healthy choice when it comes to food and drinks. Parts of our brain in charge of rational decisions and planning (pre-frontal cortex) become fatigued and emotional parts (like amygdala) take over, indulging to cravings for sweets, junk food and sodas. Also, fatigue changes our hormonal balance and potentially disrupts hormonal release sequence and that too can lead to altered decision making towards food and could modify our bodies’ fat-conversion processes. One thing to remember is that tired people who don’t get enough of sleep eat on average 500 extra calories a day.

Also, if you are on a weight loss diet, you have probably been consciously avoiding certain foods and drinks, willing yourself to opt for healthier options. Your will power gets depleted after repeated situations in which you have to say ‘no’ to a tasty sandwich, a salad dressing, an ice cream or a soda.

In airports, you may suffer total will depletion or what Dan Ariely in his latest book “The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty” calls Ego Depletion where you finally succumb to temptation and buy a sandwich, breaking your dietary habit “just this once”.

So why do I say that airports are so perilous for a healthy diet?
Continue reading

Why are sodas unhealthy?

Dear Dr. Mo: I drink soda every day and I love its sweet taste. I keep hearing this is bad for my health. If that’s true, why is that so? 

Dear reader: Yesterday I was out riding my bicycle with several hundred other cyclists of all ages to mark the beginning of the European Mobility Week. There were people of all kinds of fitness levels and from different parts of the world. There were even entire families with children on bikes big and small and we all took a nice ride down the streets of the city while the traffic was closed just for us. Perfect.

Sodas are sweet – too sweet for health

What a celebration of health and exercise, I thought to myself.

The ride was over in about 45 minutes as we had arrived to our destination in one of the city’s big parks outside the central area. What happened next inspired me to write today’s post and answer your question.

Organizers were thoughtful enough to prepare a supply of drinks to deliver for free to all the thirsty cyclists. There were several types of sodas available and bottles of water.
90% of people took sodas and very few opted for water. Children, adults, seniors.. without exception.

Drinking 500 ml of soda after 45 minutes of nice bike ride entirely defeats the health-related purpose of biking and erases the potential health benefits one may have incurred on a bicycle. Continue reading

The All-Mighty Green Tea

 

Dear readers: Green tea has become one of the most widely consumed beverages on the planet, second only to water and its medicinal and health-protective properties have been known to its consumers for many centuries both externally in a paste form to treat rheumatism and internally as a ‘purifying’ soup.

One of my tea sets

I prefer Japanese teas, which are milder and more delicate than Chinese – the one in the photo is Ryokucha Midori

The Emperor Shen Nung, father of Chinese medicine and farming, wrote in his Medical Book that “tea relieves tiredness, strengthens the will, delights the soul and enlivens the sight.

Shen’s remarks had not been unfounded and modern science proves green tea’s potent medical properties.
Green tea as well as all other teas: black, white, red or dark come from a single Tea plant – Camelia Sinensis, a cultivated bush with evergreen leaves, which grows in hot and humid climates of Asia, Africa and South America. Camelia Sinensis itself originates from China, probably around the border of North Vietnam. Continue reading