Monday, October 27, 2014

Truth or Myth: Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

Truth or Myth: Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

Should you feed a cold and starve a fever, starve a cold and feed a fever, or neither one? Most health experts say starving is never the right answer, but at the same time, you should listen to your body. If you really don’t feel like eating, lowering your calorie intake is okay provided you’re taking in plenty of liquids, like water.

Perhaps the question should really be, what should you eat and what should you avoid while fighting an illness of any kind, be it a cold, fever or both.

If your diet is poor, you’ll get sick more often than you would if you had a healthy diet, and when you do get hit, those viruses will likely hit you harder and keep you down longer. It should go without saying that eating poorly while you’re sick will only make things worse.

A well-balanced, nutritious diet allows the body to respond to germs quickly and efficiently. The immune system needs lots of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids in order to function well. Foods rich in nutrients help to battle infections can can even help prevent illness. Prebiotics and probiotics also play an important part in preventing illness as they’re essential to gut health which is a must for a strong immune system. Prebiotics help to nourish good bacteria while probiotics, which are the bacteria themselves, have been shown to help one recover faster when you do get sick.

Be sure to consume both, whether you’re under the weather or feeling great. Prebiotics include foods like asparagus, garlic, onions and Jerusalem artichokes as well as citrus fruits, kiwi, berries, apples and bananas. Potatoes and yams, quinoa and beans, are also good sources, as well as flax seeds and chia seeds which provide essential fatty acids.

Some of the best whole food sources of probiotics include plain organic yogurt, cheese and kefir with live, active cultures; fermented vegetables like pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi; miso, tempeh, soy sauce (make sure it is gluten-free) and wine.

Aim for at least 1-2 servings of probiotic-rich foods and 2-3 servings of prebiotic-rich foods daily.
Back to the “starve” part of that old saying, while you never want to starve yourself, moderate calorie restriction has been shown to improve cell-mediated immunity and even offset aging related changes in immune function by helping to replenish stem cells – but, extremely low food intake could suppress the immune system and lower the body’s defenses.

Listen to your body, and consider eliminating any food or beverage that doesn’t contribute to your good health, naturally lowering your overall caloric intake, including things like soda, fast food or processed foods. Instead, concentrating on whole, organic foods that come from the earth.
Sick Woman.In addition to prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods, including certain foods that may hasten recovery can also be a good idea. That includes garlic, which serves as an antibiotic and has consistently been found to lessen the severity of colds and other infections. Homemade chicken soup, not the kind from a box or a can, has been found to offer anti-inflammatory properties that decrease cold symptoms. Drinking green tea helps to boost the production of B cell antibodies which can battle off invading pathogens – add a couple of teaspoons of raw, organic honey to take advantage of its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Research has found honey to be as effective as a cough-suppressing drug.

Once you’re well again, keep in mind that unhealthy eating, including consistently overeating, can compromise how the immune system responds when it is faced with germy invaders.
Aim to eat a healthy, nutritious diet for life – you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by how much healthier, and happier you are overall.

-The Alternative Daily

The Best and Worst Ways to Eat Potatoes

The Best and Worst Ways to Eat Potatoes

There are all kinds of different potatoes, including classic russet potatoes, Yukon Gold, red potatoes, white potatoes, fingerling potatoes and even blue potatoes. No matter what type you like best, whether or not you’re eating a health food, really depends on how your potatoes are prepared.
Another important consideration when it comes to potatoes, and many other types of produce, is buying organic. Mashed potatoes can be delicious and nutritious, unless they’re laden with pesticides or have been genetically modified. Potatoes generally retain pesticides even after they’ve been washed and peeled – and nearly 80 percent of potatoes have been shown to contain these toxic substances.

Organic potatoes are filled with essential nutrients and health benefiting properties. They’re a rich source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber and pantothenic acid.

The potato also contains a host of phytonutrients that offer antioxidant activity, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid along with unique tuber storage proteins, like patatin, which has been shown to exhibit activity against free radicals. Free radicals are believed to be the root cause of a wide range of chronic disease and illness in addition to contributing to premature aging.

While the potato itself is quite healthy, it is often ruined by being processed so heavily the result is hardly a potato.

You’re probably quite familiar with some of the worst ways to eat potatoes, including those infamous stacked Pringles, sometimes referred to as “Cancer in a Can.” In an effort to avoid taxes that were levied against “luxury foods” like chips in the United Kingdom, the Pringles Company even argued that the potato content of their chips was so low that they technically aren’t even potato chips.
Pringles, and most other potato chips as well as french fries, are heavily processed. One of their most harmful ingredients isn’t something that is intentionally added, but is rather a byproduct of processing known as acrylamide.

Acrylamide is a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic agent that is created when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, whether baked, fried, roasted or toasted. Potato chips and French fries typically contain the highest amounts according to numerous studies, though other foods processed at a temperature above 212 degrees Fahrenheit may contain acrylamide, such as processed cereals and snacks.

As you probably surmised, potato chips and fries are two of the worst ways you can eat potatoes, if you can call them that. Baked potatoes sold at fast food restaurants piled with processed cheese and other unhealthy ingredients come in at a close second.
Still, there are plenty of great ways to enjoy a potato.
Combine pureed roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil for especially tasty garlic mashed potatoes.

Enjoy baked potatoes with healthy toppings like herbs and veggies. Top with plain, organic yogurt for a more nutritious sour cream-like flavor.
Sautéed potatoes for breakfast instead of eating processed hashed browns. Just chop up some red potatoes, green and red bell pepper and onions into small, bite-sized pieces. Place them into a skillet with some coconut oil and cook, stirring until tender.
Raw Organic PotatoesIf you like french fries, you can make your own healthier baked fries by cutting russet potatoes into wedges and placing them on a baking sheet sprinkled with olive oil. Drizzle some more olive oil over the tops of the potatoes and then season with sea salt and pepper. Bake in a 450 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once to make sure they’re browned and cooked on all sides.

You don’t necessarily have to give up potatoes completely for better health and a slimmer waistline – though, quite frankly, potatoes are not your healthiest choice of vegetable by a long shot – so you would do well to cut down on them if you are eating them often. At the very least, start by eliminating processed potatoes, so you get to enjoy the best of both worlds with great taste and a healthier you.
-The Alternative Daily

7 Reasons to Eat this Perennial Woody Shrub

7 Reasons to Eat this Perennial Woody Shrub

Thyme is an herb that’s commonly used for cooking, but it also offers a multitude of health benefits. You’re probably familiar with this perennial shrub with a thin woody base and square stems. It features tiny, light-green colored, slightly curved aromatic leaves as well as small and fragrant white or lilac hued flowers which appear in the summer.

The flowers, leaves and oil of thyme are commonly used as a remedy for treating a variety of conditions, including diarrhea, arthritis, colic, sore throat, cough and bronchitis.
Thyme can be used in a number of ways, imparting an intense flavor to recipes, typically added as the last step in order to keep its flavor and fragrance intact as prolonged cooking results in the evaporation of its essential oils. It can also be used as a tea, by pouring boiling water over the thyme leaves directly, or by placing the dried leaves into a tea ball.

There are many reasons to consume more thyme, including these.
Reduce high blood pressure
According to researchers at the University of Belgrade in Serbia, consuming thyme may help to protect against hypertension. The reasoning behind this may be because the leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, which is an important component of cell and body fluids that help control heart rate and blood pressure.

Cancer protection
Thyme may also help protect against colon and breast cancer. A research team from Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal found that the presence of the extracts of Mastic Thyne produces a protective effect. Scientists at Celal Bayar University in Turkey conducted a study which determined that the herb may also be a promising candidate in the development of novel therapeutic drugs for breast cancer treatment.

Powerful antioxidants
Fresh thyme offers one of the highest antioxidant levels among herbs, including many flavonoid phenolic antioxidants like zeaxanthin, lutein, pigenin, naringenin, luteolin and thymonin. Antioxidants like these can help prevent the damaging effects of oxidation on cells throughout your body.

Relieving stress
Thyme is packed with vitamin B6, providing about 27 percent of the recommended daily intake. This vitamin helps maintain GABA (a beneficial neurotransmitter in the brain) levels which in turn helps to relieve stress.

 Fighting infection

In addition to lots of antioxidants, thyme is a rich source of vitamin C which helps the body develop resistance to infectious agents as well as damaging, pro-inflammatory free radicals.

Fighting colds
Fresh thymeThyme contains antiseptic and antibiotic properties that make it a great remedy when you have a cold, cough or sore throat. It is even effective as a treatment for bronchitis. Drinking a cup of thyme tea with a teaspoon of raw, organic honey is a great way to relieve the symptoms of these ailments.

A wide range of other essential nutrients
In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, thyme is rich in iron, manganese, copper and dietary fiber.
The next time you visit the grocery store, be sure to pick up some organic thyme and use it on a regular basis.
-The Alternative Daily

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Ebola: What Every American Needs to Know

Health Matters With Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Ebola: What Every American Needs to Know

Ebola is a killer, but it is not very contagious and not a threat in the United States.

Ebola is a frightening disease, no question. It kills more than half the people it infects, and there is no cure. Fueling fears is the latest news that a doctor in New York City has tested positive for the virus, marking the fourth time someone in the United States has been diagnosed. But here’s an important fact: Most people in this country shouldn’t be worried about getting Ebola.

If you are not a health worker or, for some other reason, in direct physical contact with someone who has Ebola, you are not at risk of getting it. Here’s what we know:

While Ebola is deadly, it is not very contagious. The flu virus is carried through the air, but the Ebola virus is not. You have to be in physical contact with a sick person and get their blood or vomit or feces on your skin.

Even in areas of Africa where the outbreak is spreading out of control, each sick person infects only two others on average. That is called the R-nought value. It is a measure of how contagious a disease is. Compare it to measles, for example, which is airborne like the flu. The R-nought for measles is 18, meaning each sick person infects 18 others on average during an outbreak. 
Of course, even an R-nought of two is serious if the virus is allowed to spread unchecked. One person infects two, who infect four, then eight, sixteen, etc.

That is what is happening in West Africa. In Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the public health systems were not able to contain the outbreak, so it has become an epidemic. But that could not happen in this country, which has a robust public health system. Even if more Ebola-infected people come here, we can be sure the virus will be contained.

We’re seeing that system at work right now. Everyone who came in contact with Thomas Duncan, the only person to die of Ebola in this country, was tracked down and monitored for 21 days, which is the maximum incubation period for the virus. All of them have now been cleared of risk.

Duncan did infect two other people; nurses who cared for him in Dallas. So everyone they had contact with was also traced, and those people are also being monitored for 21 days.

But while Ebola is not very contagious, it is highly infectious. One drop of an infected person’s blood may hold a million virus particles, far more than most viral diseases. And you do not need to have a cut on your skin to become infected. It’s enough that the virus come in contact with skin.
That is why health workers treating Ebola patients must be gowned head to toe and must follow strict protocols when removing the contaminated garments. It is also why so many health workers in Africa have died.

Thomas Duncan was infected because he helped to carry a woman who was dying of Ebola to the hospital in Liberia. He also carried her back home when that hospital turned her away for lack of space. The two nurses who treated him in Dallas were apparently infected because their gowns left some skin exposed.

So what is your risk? We’re heading into the holiday shopping season. Should you worry about crowded shopping malls or public transportation? The short answer is no. Even if you find yourself on a crowded bus next to someone who seems sick, what you need to worry about is catching the flu, not Ebola.

Medicare Open Enrollment: What You Need to Know

Senior Health

Medicare Open Enrollment: What You Need to Know

Answers to frequently asked questions about enrolling in What's the Difference Between Medicare and Medigap?] Finding the right Medicare plan, figuring out deductibles and worrying about the prescription drug "donut hole" can be confusing enough, particularly for seniors entering the venerable health care system for the first time.
"The overlapping enrollment period is already causing so

Get more info at US News.

Monday, October 20, 2014
Call it the health insurance version of an October Surprise.
This year, the annual Medicare fall open enrollment period, during which seniors eligible for Medicare can choose or alter their coverage plans, will overlap with the open enrollment period for the health insurance marketplaces mandated under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

[Read: What's the Difference Between Medicare and Medigap?]

Finding the right Medicare plan, figuring out deductibles and worrying about the prescription drug "donut hole" can be confusing enough, particularly for seniors entering the venerable health care system for the first time.
"The overlapping enrollment period is already causing some confusion" among Medicare recipients, says Paula Muschler, operations manager for Allsup, a private company that advises seniors on their health care options. "With all the resurgence of interest in health care exchange, they are asking, 'How does this affect me?'"
The answer: not much. What follows are some FAQs about Obamacare's relationship with Medicare, and what seniors should consider during the open enrollment period:

Q: Will Obamacare change my Medicare?
A: Your Medicare is still protected. It will be for the foreseeable future, and the Affordable Care Act doesn't negatively change it.
Medicare isn't part of the state-by-state health insurance marketplaces the ACA establishes, so seniors don't need to shop around or replace the Medicare coverage they have now. Your Medicare counts as coverage, so your benefits and security will stay the same.
"That's important for people to understand," says Juliette Cubanski, a Medicare policy analyst at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. "[Seniors] don't need to worry about the mandates; they don't need to worry about penalties [for not having health insurance]."

RELATED: Many on Medicare Already Enjoying Benefits

Q: So you're saying that Obamacare won't change Medicare at all?
A: Not exactly – you'll get a few more services, and save more money.
Because of the ACA, Medicare now covers certain cancer early-detection screening services, such as mammograms or colonoscopies, with no out-of-pocket charges and without charging you for the Part B coinsurance.
"There are changes made that are actually improvements in benefits," Cubanski says. "That's something for people to actually look forward to."
Seniors now qualify for a free yearly "wellness" visit to a doctor, and health care reform is slowly closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap. More on that later.
[Read: Myths and Facts about Obamacare and Medicare.]

Q: What's the open enrollment period?
A: The Medicare open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, is the window for 50-plus million Medicare recipients to review, tailor or change their policies.
Some Medicare plans during the past year may have been altered or premiums may have risen or fallen, according to Muschler. Seniors already enrolled in a Medicaid plan can review their policies, adjust them or enroll in new health plans that better suit their needs – and the sooner, the better.
"Don't put it aside, don't think your plan isn't changing," she says. "It might be small changes, but they may be changes you need to pay attention to. Seniors need to act now. Don't delay it."
Even if their current Medicare coverage plan is satisfactory, Muschler and others recommend reviewing it anyway to make sure it hasn't been reworked significantly since last year. A simple switch to a competing plan can save thousands in out-of-pocket costs, including prescription drug co-payments.
[Read: How to Make the Best of the Medicare 'Donut Hole.']

Q: I turn 65 in a few months – I'll be eligible for Medicare, but I haven't enrolled yet. What should I do during the open enrollment period?
A: Seniors who will become Medicare-eligible soon have a different deadline.
According to the federal government's Center for Medicare Services, Medicare enrollees aren't eligible for during open enrollment: They can sign up for the health plan three months before the month of their 65th birthday, but the eligibility ends on the third month after the birthday month. So don't wait until the last minute.
"The reason you want to start early is you don't want any [medical coverage] gap," Muschler says. "You need to review your options and how you will use your coverage."
Things to consider: What doctors will you see? Do you have a preferred health care provider or hospitals? What are your health needs? Will your plan travel with you if you move? What about a spouse and dependents – are they covered? Can you afford higher premiums for broader coverage?

Q: Should I sign up for Obamacare instead?
A: Not if you're enrolled in or eligible for Medicare. The Health Insurance Marketplace under the ACA is designed to help younger people who don't have health insurance.
Even if you're still on the job and have health insurance through your employer, if you're 65 or older the new Health Insurance Marketplace isn't for you. Moreover, it's illegal for someone who knows that you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan.

Q: What about the gap in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage – the so-called "donut hole"?
A: Obamacare helps shrink the payment gap that kept some seniors from getting prescriptions they needed but couldn't afford.
In 2012, in the early phases of the ACA, seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D got a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and 14 percent off on generics. As health care reform proceeds, out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses will drop each year until the donut hole closes in 2020.
In fact, Part D prescription drug coverage decreased in 2014 compared to last year. For example, the Part D deductible fell from $325 to $310. Ultimately, health care reform will put more money back into the pockets of Medicare beneficiaries.
[Read: 5 Health Insurance Mistakes Costing You.]

Q: What about Medicare Part B – will premiums go up because of the ACA?
A: No. In fact, they might get lower.
AARP has predicted that health care reforms could hold down the costs of Part B premiums, if not lower them. Congress established an official formula for setting Medicare Part B premiums years ago, and that formula won't change under Obamacare.

Q: I've heard some scary things: that Medicare could go away, and Obamacare could replace it.
A: There are no plans to replace Medicare.
The life of the Medicare Trust fund will be extended to at least 2029 – a 12-year extension due to reductions in waste, fraud and Medicare costs, which will provide seniors with future savings on premiums and coinsurance.

Q: What kind of information do I need to sign up for Medicare?
A: You'll need the basics – name, address, Social Security number and current health insurance information – and a few extras if you're married, have dependents or meet certain conditions.
That includes your spouse's and children's Social Security or health care information; your employer's name and address if you get health care through a group plan; and information about your Worker's Compensation claims or federal disability benefits, if they apply. The Medicare Initial Enrollment Questionnaire, along with a complete list of documents you'll need, is available online at, or at your local Social Security office.
[See: Top Health Insurance Companies.]

Q: OK, I think I understand. But if I need more information, where can I get it?
A: There are lots of resources around that can help clear up any lingering confusion.
That includes Medicare advisory companies like Allsup and websites by advocacy groups for seniors like AARP. Private insurance companies and nonprofit public-interest entities like the Kaiser Family Foundation also have strong online presences and hotlines. U.S. News also has a guide that offers information for consumers who are seeking to understand or purchase Medicare plans.

Protect Your Car

According to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), approximately 81 percent more car vandalism claims occur on October 31 than average. Help prevent slashed tires, smashed windows and deliberate car damage on Halloween — and every other day of the year — with these tips:

Check your surroundings
Where you park your car can affect its likelihood of being vandalized. At home, park in the garage. If you don't have a garage, install motion lights that will help deter vandals and alert you and neighbors to activity near your vehicle or driveway. Away from home, park in a well-lit, populated area — preferably a gated lot or secure parking garage. For added protection, park in a spot away from objects that could help conceal vandals, such as large vehicles, dumpsters or shrubbery.

Eliminate temptations
Remove valuables and any evidence of them from your vehicle. For example, clean GPS suction rings off your windshield, remove stereo faceplates and store cell phone chargers in the center console.
Bumper stickers also can tempt vandals. If someone doesn't agree with your expressed views, you may become the target of vandals.

Take extra security measures
Add an alarm system and/or surveillance cameras to your car to make it a less desirable target. If it's clear your vehicle has these, vandals may keep walking. Sometimes, simply having a security system decal on a window is enough to discourage them.

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