Health, mental health

Psych Midterm on Obesity

Abstract

Obesity rates rise more and more each year, impacting over one-third of the American population. Health issues are prevalent in patients with a high BMI, also linking to earlier death. Mental illness can contribute to obesity and obesity can contribute to mental health issues; the two go hand in hand. It is suggested that the body is looked at as a whole, rather than individual units, to see where the domino fell first. The rising dangerous trend in obesity needs careful attention and a solution. With a lack of education, resources, and funds, there is little hope for change. Communities need create resources and advocate for the needs that are not being met.

Obesity in America

Obesity is a condition involving excess body fat, increasing the risk of health complications. Obesity can be influenced from a genetic or behavioral aspect. It can lead to multiple health complications and additional health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and sleep apnea. Eating too much and exercising too little can increase your chances of becoming overweight.

 

food french fries fries catsup
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In the past few decades, obesity has rapidly risen in America, becoming the leading cause of preventable death. It is presumed that $150 billion dollars are allocated towards the obesity burden in healthcare costs per year (2010). Obesity is not just an epidemic in America, but it is a global concern. Studies show that chronic medical conditions and early death are linked to elevated BMI. Fast food and conveniently long shelf-life foods have contributed to the epidemic. High trans-fat foods and poor eating habits are not the only contributing factor. American culture has long ago established habits for large portions, processed foods, high sugar content, additives, dyes, preservatives, and diets rich in meat, carbs, and dairy.

Together, mental health and obesity can create a morbid combination that worsens the other.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The same question can often be asked when it comes to mental health and obesity. Stigmatization and bias are experienced in both mental illness and obesity. The risk for developing the other goes hand in hand. There is also an apparent link in the statistics for obesity and disability (Littleberry 2017). The statistic may be influenced by poor diet and little exercise due to low income from being unable to work.

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Viewing each patient as a whole is crucial in making an impact. Rather than focusing on just mental illness or just obesity, the entire picture needs to be examined. Emotional fat and physical fat are equally destructive (Littleberry 2017).  Serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter in the brain known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a contributor to the feeling of well-being and happiness. It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract (Caltech 2015). The human body is fascinating in the way it functions, everything working together to create homeostasis. However, if there is something off or not working properly, there can be a dominos effect. The intestinal tract has its own biosphere with microbes that modulate metabolites, playing a huge role on health and disease. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and other digestive issues can cause issues with serotonin production.

The emerging field of biological sciences is continuously exploring the link to the digestive biome and serotonin. Though serotonin plays a big role on mental health, there are other nutritional factors that can contribute. Having low vitamin D, for example, can cause symptoms like depression. Vitamin B deficiencies can contribute to anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity can increase many health issues, which include gastrointestinal issues.

The highest rates documented from American Medical Association are in 2018, approaching 40% of Americans being obese, with Mississippi and West Virginia being the highest rated. According to the American Diabetes Association, high-income countries are associated with higher obesity rates, whereas in America it is the opposite. In America, if a person has low income, chances are fresh and healthy food options are not affordable. Organic healthy food options are far more expensive than processed nutrient-dense food choices.

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Another factor to consider in obesity trends is nature vs. nurture in the sense of obesity in families. While genetics can play a role, so can intermediate family culture. Food choices, traditions, and styles are passed on from parents to their children, and so on. A meal can be considered comfort food because it is comforting; perhaps the meal is associated with a memory of being cared for by a loved one while sick. This begs the question: if a family who historically ate rich in carbs and fats were hypothetically raised to eat fresh healthier meals instead, would their weight have been affected had they been in a different culture, setting or environment? Do we pass on a particular gene or do we pass on the traditional family eating habits and food culture?

There are several ways to work on losing weight. Some are invasive, difficult, and hard work. Losing the extra pounds is well worth the result and will reduce health issues. Bariatric surgery is a procedure performed on patients with obesity by reducing the size of the stomach. This created the feeling of being full. Many high-risk patients are having bariatric surgery in order to lose weight. Mental health counseling is a great way to dive into what may be causing a person to over-eat or turn to food to cope. Some cases of obesity can be linked to trauma. Lifestyle change is an important part of reducing BMI, even if other methods are used to treat obesity. Lifestyle changes can keep the weight off and encourage healthier behavior long-term. Changing old habits that may have contributed to gaining weight is also important for the future generations, as habits can be learned and passed on.

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It is crucial that the numbers and rates of obesity do not continue to rise, but lower. If Americans take a grassroots approach to changing the rising obesity risk, there may be more hope. Communities can help by offering fresh, healthier foods at food pantries. Crowd sourcing and funding could benefit low-income families by creating local programs that offer discounted or free fresh foods. Local community gardens with fresh produce would be a great community service or volunteer program that also provides families fresh produce. The community could also offer free healthy cooking classes and education on diet and lifestyle modification. Free local exercise programs should be offered to people of all ages to keep the community active and fit. Many gyms and fitness programs are unaffordable, even to the middle-class families.

 

Link with references:

Obesity in America

 

Healthy Food

Vegan Buffalo Chickpea Nachos

If you are like me and enjoy convenient food but still need something fresh and healthy, this recipe is for you. It only takes about ten minutes to throw together. This may be a nacho recipe, but you can also make a burrito and taco version. I absolutely hate finding a recipe that is two pages long with an hour of preparation and 27 ingredients, leaving me wondering why I didn’t just go out to eat.

What you will need:

  • 1 can of organic chickpeas
  • Vegan sour cream
  • Hot sauce
  • Garlic salt
  • Onion powder
  • Vegan butter or oil (coconut, avocado or olive oil)
  • Tortilla chips
  • Spinach
  • Onions (optional)
  • Avocado
  • Lemon pepper

Directions

Drain and rinse a can of organic chickpeas and put the in a pot on medium heat. Add Earth Balance vegan butter and Cholula hot sauce (or your choice or hot sauce) into the pot. I also add a little onion and garlic powder. While that warms up, put your favorite corn chips on your plate and chop up some fresh onions, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions or whatever fresh veggies you enjoy on your nachos. I love shredded spinach because it is a good source or iron and has so much more nutritional value than iceberg lettuce.

When the buffalo chickpeas are heated up, pour them over the corn chips and top them with your freshly chopped onions, avocado, Tofutti sour cream, spinach and salsa. I sprinkle a little lemon pepper on my avocado. If you don’t like too much spiciness or heat, you can use sriracha and honey instead.

End result

Now, you have a gourmet vegan meal that took you only ten minutes to make! This recipe is very versatile and can be created with whatever you have stocked in your kitchen. So, if you are out of chips but have tortillas or lots of spinach, make a taco or salad instead.

My method behind cooking and creating meals is not strict or by the book. I encourage you to relax and cook to the beat of your own drum, get creative and maybe even blast a little music.

Health, Healthy Food, Sweet Tooth

Sugar – The Silent Killer and a Low Glycemic List of Foods Best For You

Our blood sugar or glucose levels should be in the 74-100 range. Glucose enters the bloodstream then to your cells. Our pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Chronic high glucose levels will create issues with your insulin levels.

Having high levels of blood sugar on a constant basis can damage your blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis (the hardening of your blood vessels). In time, this can create the perfect environment for heart disease due to the damage of long term elevated glucose. Sugar can increase the risk of stroke or heart attacks due to ischemia, or lack of blood flow to an organ, just as bad as cholesterol and high blood pressure. Besides heart disease and stroke, the narrowing or hardening of blood vessels can also compromise other organs and cause issues such as kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, vision issues, poor circulation, nerve damage, slow wound healing, and a weakened immune system.

You can run around the gym and count calories all day, but what you put into your body DOES matter. Justifying your workout so that you can eat processed foods with high sugar content or artificial ingredients will not work long term. You may feel fine now and slim down but as you age, these issues will catch up to you.

Foods to avoid:

  • White potatoes
  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Sugar
  • Sports and energy drinks
  • Soda
  • Yogurt with sugar*
  • BBQ sauce*
  • Ketchup*
  • Marinara sauce*
  • Granola*
  • Flavored coffees
  • Sweet tea
  • Protein bars and cereal bars*
  • Canned fruit
  • Bottled or premade smoothies
  • Breakfast cereals*
  • Cocktail mixers

*Check the labels! These can still be good as long as they do not have high sugar content.

The best option, low glycemic:

  • Green vegetables
  • Sugar-free yogurt
  • Raw carrots
  • Berries
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpea
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Sweet potato
  • Peas
  • Quinoa
  • Watermelon
  • Artichokes
  • Grapefruit
  • Peaches
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Apples
  • Squash
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Corn tortillas

Maple syrup and local honey are great natural sweeteners and substitutes for sugar. Artificial sweeteners and even many natural sweeteners like Stevia are still very processed to the point of losing all natural value. Remember to read the labels and sugar content. We sometimes see products that are marketed as healthy as assume they are okay but are often loaded with sugar.

Every day is a new day. Every hour is a new chance to start over. Many of us mess up and fall off the track, then stay there. Pick yourself back up, and start over. You are worth it. Your future self will thank you.

We are creatures of habit and you will change your habits and lifestyle if you stick to it. Prevent disease and future health issues by eating clean and keeping your body in balance.

Health

Hair Breakage, Hair Loss and Hair That Sucks

Before you start looking for a miracle shampoo or magical fairy dust online for your vanishing hair, let’s take a moment to dissect this issue. If your hair sucks and it is breaking off and you don’t have over-processed hair then it may be time to see a doctor. No special shampoo is going to fix this. I am going to walk you through some health issues that may pertain to you and guide you to the right tests to request from your doctor. If you have hair breakage or hair loss, you need to get some blood work done. Below is a list of what to look for.

  • Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiencies are actually fairly common. Even living in a sunny state, you cannot always get enough vitamin D. Even if you have a super healthy and strict diet, you still may not be getting enough. For some, deficiencies are caused by malabsorption from leaky gut, celiac disease or other inflammatory bowel issues that can cause damage. Low vitamin D can cause hair loss, infertility, depression, bone pain and a weak immune system. If you are critically low, it may take at least a month to get balanced. It is important to see your levels in case you need a prescription strength supplement. Most doctors do not test your D levels so ask specifically and then get a copy of your labs for records and to make sure. Sometimes, “Everything looks good, you’re fine” or “it’s probably stress” is not true. Check the damn D!

  • Thyroid Disorders

Hair does not grow continuously. It goes through phases. Telogen is the phase where hair is shed and replaced by new hair. It is natural to shed hair and is balanced by new hair. Stress or illnesses can cause the hair to remain in the resting phase while growth temporarily ceases. The human hair cycle is 7 months so sometimes it takes awhile to notice when it becomes a problem.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause hair loss. Treating a thyroid condition is the only way to help with loss of hair in this case. Also, if a shampoo causes you to “detox” your hair then you should throw it in the trash. I promise it is not normal and your hair won’t grow back tenfold.

Normal hair shedding is 50-100 strands per day. Keep in mind that if you have a ton of hair, you may shed a little more than average. If you have not brushed or shampooed your hair all week, you may shed a little more when you finally do. Everyone has their normal. If your normal changes then it is a sign that something is going on.

  • Autoimmune Disease (Lupus)

Autoimmune Diseases are unfortunately not understood enough by doctors. Hopefully, in the future we will have more research and more answers but at the moment, a lot of doctors do not really understand how they work. Rheumatologists typically handle autoimmune diseases. If you are suspicious that you have an autoimmune disease, ask your primary care physician for an ANA blood test, which tests antinuclear antibodies. If you are ANA positive you can then be referred to a rheumatologist. However, most rheumatologists just prescribe. No one seems to wonder WHY is my body freaking out and attacking itself? I personally believe autoimmune diseases are caused by something such as Lyme Disease, malabsorption due to intestinal damage, Epstein Barr Virus, Deficiencies, etc.

  • Leaky Gut

Malabsorption due to intestinal damage, a messed up gut biosphere from processed foods and overprescribed antibiotics, alcohol, sugar, too much bad bacteria and less good bacteria are a few reasons to throw off your gut balance. Do I sound like a broken record? I am sorry, but you are reading this for a reason, right? Think about it… food is nutrition. We eat food and our bodies function from the vitamins and minerals in our food. For example, potassium (found in bananas) helps our heart rhythm. Muscle spasms? That is magnesium. No energy and a headache? Vitamin B. Food helps us function and we are literally putting garbage in our bodies. While you choke down your McDonalds cheeseburger, bag of Doritos, Diet Coke and Zebra Cake, you are filling your veins with sugar, preservatives, aluminum, dyes, artificial flavors, and whatever other fillers and junk that are used to make a cheap snack. Then, we bitch about achey joints and a headaches. Get your body right and treat yourself to the self care you deserve, which is nutrition.

  • Iron Deficiency – Anemia

Being anemic will certainly cause hair loss too. Brittle nails, headaches, lethargy, restless leg syndrome are a few other symptoms. This is a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells which carry oxygen to your body’s tissues.

  • Hormones

Before you try any “magical” shampoos, know that red clover can mess with your hormones, especially if you already have hormonal issues. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is common with male pattern baldness by shrinking hair follicles. Women’s hormone levels decline as menopause approaches. Men have their peak hair period at the age of 17 and women at the age of 19 and it goes downhill from them.

Now that we have learned a little about the ROOT cause of hair loss (pun intended) we can try to correct these issues and get healthy. I also suggest Biotin for hair help and Vitamin C, which helps with collagen production and our immune system. It also takes time for our body to get in balance so a 30 day program or fad diet will not suffice. It is a lifestyle changing, habit breaking zone you need to get in. Inflammation causes hair loss and our bodies are inflamed from the many inflammatory things we consume. Stay hydrated, eat clean, check your blood work and treat your body right.

Health, Healthy Food

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten ingestion can cause damage to the small intestine and other long-term health issues. 

Theresa Lanno is a hairstylist and my business partner at Bombshells Barbershop & Glam Lounge in Rockledge, Florida. We busted our asses to open our salon. Stress can do a lot of things to our bodies. Theresa was rapidly losing weight without trying. She was coughing up blood and having stomach issues. The first doctor she saw gave her ulcer medication and chalked it up to stress. Can you imagine if she just took those pills and did not push for further tests? She would be damaging her body for many years to come and suffer from more health issues. Many autoimmune diseases are a dominos effect on your health. 

 Long Term Health Effects

Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. These include the development of other autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers. 
*Read more here.

 

Theresa also had a vitamin D deficiency, which can cause brain fog, bone pain, fatigue, depression and muscle weakness. Deficiencies are common with celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and 1 in 100 people overreact to this particular protein, which damages the villi in their small intestines and causes poor absorption of food. Malnourishment can eventually lead to infertility, miscarriage, bone density loss, neurological diseases and certain types of cancer. 

Fortunately, the cure for celiac disease is to completely cut gluten out of your diet. My goal in unveiling invisible illnesses is to push others to be their own advocate and to get answers and not just accept the first guess a doctor quickly throws at you before their next patient. We want answers and and test as well asnproper treatments and not bandages or pills to mask our symptoms. 

Even if you are not Celiac, gluten sensitivities can cause similar issues minus the intestinal damage. Gluten has been know as an inflammatory food. You can read more here about research and references. 


*Photos by Misti Blu





At what age did you discover symptoms and how long did it take to get an official diagnosis?

Theresa: I found out I have Celiac disease in April. I’ve always had stomach aches and low energy.  I never thought anything of it until the past two years when my life got miserable. I couldn’t eat or drink with out feeling sick. I would get migraines, nausea, dizziness,  heartburn, brain fog and joint pain, which ruled my life. 

How do you feel about the healthcare system? 

Theresa: The healthcare system is very flawed. I went through tests for 2 years before getting a diagnosis. Every doctor said I was young and healthy with low vitamin levels & stress. I lost 20 pounds in 2 months. I knew it was something else and not just stress. Thankfully, after many different doctors, I went to a walk in clinic begging for answers. They finally sent me to a gastroenterologist. Even after going through all my tests it took over a month to get a diagnosis. Celiac disease isn’t very common and many doctors still don’t have knowledge about this disease, which is so frustrating. 

Do people have a hard time understanding your illness?

Theresa: Yes!  The worst thing about this disease is that the only way to feel better is by sticking to a strict gluten free diet. Cross contamination is a nightmare, which makes eating out almost impossible. Also, people use gluten free as a fad diet which makes restaurants not take it seriously. I get asked if my body’s intolerance to gluten is “a choice or an allergy.” Why anyone would make this choice for no reason is beyond me. Gluten free is not a fad, actually gluten free breads and sweets usually have more sugar and calories than “regular” things do! 

Do you have a message for people in your shoes who are struggling with this illness?

Theresa: It gets easier! The cravings are part of the disease. Be strong and don’t give into cravings. Celiac disease is strongly linked to cancer, MS, neuropathy, and diabetes. It’s no joke and there are so many people out there who feel the same!

What do you miss the most from before your diagnosis?

Theresa: I miss having a normal dinner with my friends and family.  I was such a foodie! I still am but it’s just harder now.  I don’t want to be the person who asks the waitress a million questions or has to fear getting sick from a chef’s negligence or server error.  But, most of all I miss real New Haven style PIZZA! 
What is your new favorite (gluten free) dish?

Theresa:  I have learned to make almost everything I loved before in a gluten free way. My favorite thing has been chicken parmesan! Barrilla makes the best GF pasta! I love Boars Heads deli meats for lunch and Goodie Girl Cookies are the shit for snacks! Sweets are my weak spot, and the Melting Pot has the best GF spread you will ever see! 

How have you changed or felt since your diet change? 

Theresa: All in all, the sucky diet is so worth the change. I feel so much better. I am down 20 lbs all together.  I still have days where my energy sucks and everything hurts but that is part of the autoimmune thing. No more crippling migraines or joint pain. It sucks sometimes but it could always be worse!