5 easy ways to improve digestion

Dear Dr. Mo: My digestion has not been so good lately. What are some natural ways to try and improve it?

Indigestion could be corrected with a healthy diet

Indigestion could be corrected with a healthy diet

Dear reader: When digestion is not working properly, our entire health my become affected and sometimes indigestion could signal an underlying issue that needs to be investigated by a physician. But, before you go to your doctor, here are 5 easy ways to try and improve your digestion:

1. Fluids

First and foremost, the most essential and simplest thing we can do is stay well hydrated throughout the day. Water is used to create digestive juices, it dissolves soluble fiber and enables it to do its magic, it helps solid food move smoother and get digested quicker and it flushes out unwanted digestion products. Just be careful with the choice of fluids if that’s not water. Pop is not healthy at all and can trigger heartburn.

Too much coffee (I’d say 5 and more cups) becomes a powerful diuretic, which dehydrates you.

2. Beans

Rich in soluble fiber (1 serving contains 12 to 19 grams of it) and low in fat, this food will help your digestion even if at first it may seem to give you more gas and cramps – after some relatively short time, your digestion will adapt and this side effect should decrease and go away. Our daily dose of fiber should be 25 – 35 grams and beans are one great way to get much of that dose.

3. Yogourt

This food contains important probiotics that help digestion – how do they do it? Probiotics are friendly bacteria that naturally augment and support the functioning of our digestive system, keep bad bacteria at bay and interact with other functions in our body like the immune system and even our brain.

Probiotics can help ease the post-antibiotic diarrhea, and even some very serious conditions like Chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and a very serious variant of colitis, caused by the Clostridium difficile bacteria. Continue reading

Beans – fiber and protein rich powerhouse of health

Beans, Beans, glorious Beans

Beans, Beans, glorious Beans

Dear Dr. Mo: Are beans really any good to eat? All I know is that they give me gas and cramps, but I’ve heard they might be really healthy so, are they?

Dear reader: Beans are one of the fiber-richest foods out there, especially when it comes to cholesterol lowering soluble fiber. Eating a cup beans, any beans really, a day can lower your total cholesterol levels by as much as 10% and that’s significant.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and binds cholesterol preventing its re-absorption in the body.

In fact, beans are so nutritious and healthy that the latest dietary guidelines recommend a triple of our current suggested intake, from 1 to 3 cups per week, and like I told you, a cup a day would be the best way to go.

Beans are a good meat protein substitute but they are even more than just a simple substitute. Beans have similar calorie count as meat and their water and fiber content will make you feel fuller for longer, which helps in weight management and weight loss and will allow you to cut total daily calories in your diet without starving yourself or skipping any meals. Meat however, contains zero fiber!

How much fiber?

One cup of cooked beans contains about 12 grams of fiber, which is almost half the recommended dose of 25 grams (women) to 35 grams (men) on average.  Continue reading

5 very good reasons to love Zucchini

Green powerhouse

Green powerhouse

Dear Dr. Mo: My wife loves zucchini. I am not a big fan but she insists that zucchinis are healthy without stating any specific health benefit. Are zucchini really that healthy? 

Dear reader: Zucchini are indeed very good for your health. They help you control and manage your weight and its vitamins and minerals boost your immune system, health of your heart, skin, eyes and lungs.

One cup of boiled zucchini (according to the USDA), contains as little as 27 calories but it also has 2 g of fiber, which is pretty good!

Here are 5 very specific health benefits and good reasons to have zucchini in your diet (give this list to your wife so that she can have some concrete facts the next time she intuitively advocates for this healthy veggie): Continue reading

Natural ways to manage mild hypertension – eat Beetroot!

Natural remedy for elevated blood pressure

Natural remedy for elevated blood pressure

Dear Dr. Mo: My blood pressure has recently been slightly elevated. Are there some ways to control it with a healthy diet before I turn to meds?

Dear reader: The so called ‘high normal’ blood pressure (130-139/85-89 mmHg) and even sometimes Stage I hypertension (140-159/90-99 mmHg) can actually be alleviated and managed with mostly life-style changes like salt restriction, proper hydration, quitting smoking, exercise and of course diet adjustments. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t take the meds prescribed by your doctor – do take them by all means as these are usually necessary to act as short-term blood pressure regulators. (In some cases, meds are constantly required). Continue reading

Beer tan – why does booze make us blush?

Dear Dr. Mo: Why do people get beer tan?

Beer makes you blush

Beer makes you blush

Dear reader: We see these people every day – at times, we are those people; also called drunkard or boozed out or, more telling – a red face.

It’s one of those properties of alcohol for which, taken only in moderation, it is known to have actual health benefits. Well, in case of beer tans, we are no longer talking about moderation and any potential benefits are long gone. Continue reading

Procrastinate your way into losing weight

Dear Dr. Mo: I can’t seem to make myself really start with a weight loss program – I always come up with a reason not to. I really have to lose some weight and it is a number 1. priority but I am failing to start. What can I do? 

Never start tomorrow!

Never start tomorrow!

Dear reader: It’s like with any other activity we feel a pressing need to perform – if we have to do it, most of us will rather do anything else instead.

This neat and classic evasive tactic our minds are using to postpone something into the future is called Procrastination, and I am sure you are aware of it. Continue reading

Homeopathy?

Dear Dr. Mo: Is homeopathy any good – is it effective? How exactly does it work and should I try it?

Homeopathic remedies are often extremely diluted in water

Homeopathic remedies are often extremely diluted in water

Dear reader: An old and intriguing question indeed. As far as modern medicine and science are concerned, there is no real evidence that homeopathy can be an effective way to treat any condition with reproducible certainty and desired results.

As such, it is not used in medical treatments and licensed physicians do not (or at least should not) prescribe any homeopathic medication. Continue reading

That (in)famous water weight

Dear Dr. Mo: Why does weight fluctuate during the course of a day? Normally my weight is lower early in the morning than it is at night.

Dear reader: The most common reason for such daily weight fluctuations is so called “water weight”.

Water influences our weight

Water influences our weight

What does “water weight” mean?

You retain some water during the day and this is reflected in changes in your scaled weight within 24-hour periods. These changes are not drastic and are usually anywhere between a few hundred grams to about 2 kilograms (a few pounds).

Now to be clear, these gains are certainly not in fat – to gain so much fat in a day (say about 2 kilos) one would have to consume about 14 000 to 15 000 calories, which is borderline impossible and probably not even survivable. Continue reading

Alcohol – that social lubricant

Dear Dr. Mo: I want to know some basic facts about alcohol and what it does to me when I drink. Is there a safe amount that’s actually good for health?

Don’t drink and drive!

Dear reader: Sometimes you might hear from a doctor that moderate alcohol consumption is good for health.

The peril lies in the word “moderate” for it is arbitrary; it is not the same for everyone and one could easily slip from moderation to amounts that are not at all useful to health. We could certainly argue if alcohol is useful in any amount because while it may be beneficial to one part of the body, it is damaging to another.

We don’t really need alcohol as far as maintaining our health is concerned so if you’ve never drank, don’t start as risks outweigh potential benefits.

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

6 myths about healthy eating and weight loss

Dear readers: After receiving many of your questions related to weight loss, diet and healthy eating, I have realized that there are several misconceptions about dieting, which are bound to affect your diet plans. I think now is the good time to talk about some of the most common advice, which you will hear the minute you announce that you’ve decided to lose some weight or to change your diet habits. I am not saying that all these are completely devoid of truth, but even with a grain of truth in it, a proper interpretation is in order.

One of the first things you’ll probably hear is that you shouldn’t eat after 6 pm or 7 pm or 8pm, or generally in the evening and at night.

Dieting is riddled with myths and fads

Of course, there is no magical cut off time after which you must not eat or else…
What matters in your weight loss plan are your total calories you eat and not really when you do it. What’s true here is that most of us tend to eat more calories in the evening times during dinner or snacking after dinner. In this regard, it makes sense to limit the calories at night if you are one of those who eat more later in the day.

The next word of advice you’re likely to hear is that “eat smaller but more often” myth.

Just because some people eat like this naturally, and stay thin, doesn’t make it a rule for everyone. People who naturally eat like this tend to answer their body’s call and not some strict timing and schedule. Do not eat on the clock but rather listen to the signals the body sends. Eat when you are hungry and don’t wait for a specific time because then you might be too hungry and overeat.
Normally, whichever way works for you, be mindful of the calories to avoid eating too many. Continue reading

Tricks to avoid extra calories

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m trying hard to balance my weight but it doesn’t always work. Are there some tips and tricks to help me in my struggle?

Dear reader: Having a healthy weight and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is a challenging task for all of us.

In today’s fast-track world we certainly need a few tricks up our sleeve to be able to stand our ground when eating is concerned and not give in to many calorie dense food pleasures, which end up adding tons of calories to our daily intake increasing our weight and chances for long term health problems like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke.

Switch to water!

First of all, think of water!

Water is life and we are all told this repeatedly but it is also a good way to help you lose 2 – 3 kilos in 6 months! That’s what the research shows and what all of us can try – simply switch from other beverages (sodas, alcohol etc.) you drink each day to water and you will see the results. This trick of course works only if your other eating habits do not compensate for the calories you are saving by drinking water. This also works with calorie free beverages but since some studies have linked these beverages to a paradoxical weight gains and increase in triglycerides, it is best and certainly healthiest to stick to water. Continue reading

Saunas and health

Dear Dr. Mo: Is sauna really healthy and should I go there when I have a flu?

Dear reader: When you are in most saunas, its dry heat, which can become as high as 85° C (in some saunas, even higher), can have some intense effects on the body.

Your skin temperature spikes to about 40° C within minutes. The average person will pour out a half a liter of sweat during a short stay in a sauna.

Saunas have been around for centuries – its relaxing and well-being effects on the body are well known

The heart rate jumps by 30% or more, allowing the heart to approximately double the amount of blood it pumps out each minute (its minute volume).
Stress hormones ACTH and Cortisol rise substantially while Adrenalin and Noradrenaline are reduced; other changes in hormonal balances happen as well.

These effects (vigorous sweating, increased heart rate and hormonal changes) are similar to those induced by a moderate exercise, which is why saunas could be so appealing.Circulation patterns change while in sauna and most of the extra blood flow is directed to the skin, which becomes reddish; the circulation actually diverts blood away from the internal organs.

Blood pressure in saunas is always unpredictable, rising in some people but falling in others, which might be a health risk for some people with blood pressure problems. Saunas generally should not be considered as a therapeutic approach to hyper or hypotension – visit your doctor first. Continue reading