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A Look Back at…Thermography

Originally posted June 29, 2017; updated

Most of us are raised with a rather reactive and passive relationship with healthcare. You see your doctor or dentist only once something goes wrong and expect them to fix it.

But functional and biological medicine remind us that by the time you get symptoms, most conditions are fairly well advanced – and often more costly to treat. Fortunately, there are a number of technologies available to help us spot potential problems before they get to that point.

Thermography is one of those technologies.

Thermography is a radiation-free way to scan your body for early signs of dysfunction or imbalance on the cellular level. It’s been used by European integrative doctors for over 30 years and was FDA-cleared for use in the US in 1997.

The technology itself is based on your body’s ability to thermoregulate. This ability to keep a steady temperature is controlled by your autonomic nervous system.

When your internal temperature changes, your hypothalamus is signaled to initiate changes to bring your temp back to its norm. You sweat; your blood vessels widen or contract; your muscles and other organs generate heat – that kind of thing.

So by making a sort of heat map of your body, thermography aims to shed light on this key aspect of your body’s self-regulating abilities.

Alfa thermometryTexas Thermography Clinic uses a particular type of thermography known as thermometry. This technique uses a lightweight, infrared sensor to measure the temperature of your skin. The scanner is somewhat similar to a wand thermometer that a nurse or doctor swipes across your forehead to check for fever. But with thermometry, more than 100 points are checked, including points on the teeth and jaws.

This is followed by a 10 minute period in which you’re exposed to a cold stimulus. Then the thermographer takes readings of those same 100+ points again. Differences in the readings reflect how well your organs and tissues are functioning and how they deal with physiological stress.

Both sets of readings are run through a sophisticated computer program which maps out the temperature patterns of your body. That information can help your doctor identify imbalances that you can address proactively – through follow-up diagnostics and, as appropriate, treatment – before they can become bigger problems.

You can see how this is a perfect fit with our holistic, biological approach. Prevention is the foundation.

The Best Way to Treat Gum Disease? Avoid it!

healthy gums
But how do you go about doing that?

You can start by not adding fuel to the fire:

  • If you smoke or use tobacco, quit. It’s the number one risk factor for periodontal disease and tooth loss.

  • Make sure you get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. If you brux (clench or grind your teeth) during sleep or suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk with your dentist about solutions so you can get a good night’s sleep. Research suggests that lack of sleep may be second only to smoking as a risk factor for gum disease.

  • If you eat a lot of sugar, flour-based foods, and other refined carbs, cut back on them. Gum disease is marked by chronic inflammation, and these foods make inflammation worse.

  • Evaluate the stress in your life and take steps to bring it under control.

Then there’s the matter of oral hygiene.

According to new research in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, even just tooth brushing can make a difference. Participants who reported brushing at least twice a day were found to have deep periodontal pockets on about two fewer teeth, on average, than those who brushed less.

Those pockets deepen as the disease process causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. With healthy gums, the natural space between the gums and teeth – the sulcus – is one to three millimeters deep. Neglected, the spaces get even deeper, allowing more room for harmful bacteria to colonize and thrive.

Once this happens, tooth brushing can only be a partial help. At this point, additional tools such as floss and oral irrigators are needed to control the pathogens harbored within the pockets.

All of these are also tools that you can use right now to keep gum disease from developing in the first place.

Flossing is basic, but it needs to be done correctly in order to make a difference. And if your gums bleed, that’s all the more reason to get diligent about flossing. That bleeding is a sign of gum disease.

If you don’t like to floss, try cleaning with interproximal brushes instead. These small brushes fit between your teeth and are great for cleaning at the gum line.

You can also use these “proxy” brushes to apply ozonated oils to your gums. These oils are commonly made by infusing medical grade ozone into an organic oil such as olive, sunflower, coconut, hemp, or castor. Ozone is a powerful disinfectant that’s ideal for controlling oral pathogens. (We use it in a wide variety of ways here in our office!)

Oil pulling can be a helpful addition to your daily hygiene routine. A simple swish of a tablespoon of coconut oil every morning for 10 to 15 minutes before you brush can have a positive impact.

Oral irrigators such as Waterpiks have also proven quite helpful for keeping the gums healthy. Antimicrobial botanical tonics can even be added to the water to enhance their cleaning power. (The Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums Irrigant is one good option.)

In addition to amped up hygiene, a few nutritional changes can have a big impact, as well. It’s not just about avoiding the harmful stuff but making sure you get the full complement of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs to function as designed.

Also look to getting more movement into your daily routine. Research has consistently shown that exercise helps lower your risk of gum disease, as well as reduce chronic inflammation in general.

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet against gum disease. But working a variety of the above tools into your daily health routine will take you far in keeping perio problems at bay, keeping your smile healthy and whole.

Got Gum Disease? Treatment Could Save Your Life

ultrasonic scalingPeriodontal disease affects up to 80% of Americans. It’s not just a problem in the mouth, either. It’s been linked to many other conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers.

The good news? Periodontal therapy can help reverse gum disease. This may, in turn, help improve your overall health – and, as we noted before, even save you a good chunk of change in the long run.

For instance, a new review of the science suggests that non-surgical perio therapy may improve glycemic control in people with diabetes, at least in the short term.

Patients who underwent [nonsurgical] periodontal treatment had about half a percent lower HbA1c levels three months after treatment than those who did not undergo periodontal therapy.

“Evidence from the literature suggests that successful periodontal treatment, which results in the reduction of inflammation from the periodontal tissues, improves the metabolic control of people with diabetes mellitus,” the authors wrote.

Another recent study looked at the impact of intensive periodontal treatment on blood pressure. In this case, 95 patients were randomly split between control-treatment and intensive-treatment over the course of 4 weeks, then followed for 6 months.

After one month, systolic blood pressure – the top number – was almost 3 points lower in patients who had intensive treatments. After three months, it was almost 8 points lower. Diastolic pressure dropped, too, by nearly 4 points.

At 6 months, systolic pressure had dropped almost 13 points, and diastolic had dropped by nearly 10.

“The present study demonstrates for the first time that intensive periodontal intervention alone can reduce blood pressure levels, inhibit inflammation and improve endothelial function,” said study lead author Jun Tao, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the department of Hypertension and Vascular Disease and director of the Institute of Geriatrics Research at The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China.

The study was published last summer in the Journal of Periodontology.

Other research has found evidence that periodontal treatment may help those with chronic kidney disease and atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries). The latter was especially so for those “already suffering from CVD and/or diabetes.”

On the flipside, some research has found that patients who don’t respond well to periodontal therapy had “an increased risk for future CVD, indicating that successful periodontal treatment might influence progression of subclinical CVD.”

So what are the options for treatments?

While in its early stages, gum disease may often be reversed by more intensive home hygiene, nutritional improvements, and other lifestyle changes, dental help is needed when it becomes more advanced.

This can include frequent deep cleanings, such as with an ultrasonic scaler, along with regular ozone treatment to keep harmful bacteria under control. Probiotics may also be recommended to help right the microbial balance in your mouth.

Between cleanings, a system like PerioProtect can also help keep harmful bacteria at bay so friendly microbes can proliferate.

And when gum disease is particularly advanced? LANAP (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure) can be used to remove diseased tissue while preserving healthy tissue and destroying pathogens. It’s a kind of super deep cleaning for your gums and tooth roots, less invasive than conventional surgery yet potentially more effective. Research suggests it may even stimulate the growth of new bone in the jaw, restoring support to the teeth. And it’s comfortable for the patient, essentially pain-free.

Research published in the Journal of Periodontology has stated that LANAP should be considered the first line therapy in restoring health to diseased gums.

But the absolute best way to treat gum disease? Keep it from arising in the first place.

Mouth Guards May Protect More than Just an Athlete’s Teeth

With this year’s Super Bowl right around the corner, most Americans have at least a little bit of football on the brain – if not for the championship match-up itself, the unveiling of new, often over-the-top ads throughout it.

But whether you watch it for the game or ads – or don’t watch it at all – one thing definitely remains true: When playing any kind of sport, protective gear is a must.

And it’s not just the obvious things like the helmets and shoulder pads, knee pads and shin guards. In fact, one crucial piece of protective gear may not be so noticeable but equally (if not more) important.

football tackleThe mouth guard.

And this is especially so when it comes to protecting against concussions. According to the National Safety Council, a child in the US is treated for a sports-related concussion every 3 minutes. As many as 3.8 million athletes suffer a concussion every year. Countless other cases go unreported and undiagnosed.

These mild blows or jolts to the head can have immediate effects, such as blackouts, nausea, and fatigue. More concerning are the potential long-term effects, including brain damage and even death.

Brain injuries cause more deaths than any other sports injury. In football, brain injuries account for 65% to 95% of all fatalities. Football injuries associated with the brain occur at the rate of one in every 5.5 games. In any given season, 10% of all college players and 20% of all high school players sustain brain injuries.

But as we’ve noted before, mouth guards may help prevent injury. They essentially function as a cushion between the teeth, protecting them but also absorbing some of the shock from impacts and stabilizing the head and neck.

This was shown again in a small but compelling study in Dental Traumatology, in which five male participants were fitted with custom-made mouth guards. A weighted pendulum was then positioned to strike their chins. The impact was monitored by sensors placed on the forehead and left jaw joint.

In all, the effects were measured under several conditions: mouth-open, light clenching, and maximum clenching without a mouth guard; and mouth-open and maximum clenching with the guard in place.

With or without clenching, the guard made a difference, reducing the impact of the pendulum blows – at least in the case of a small impact load.

This suggests that wearing a mouthguard and/or teeth-clenching might be effective for preventing concussion and TMJ fractures when subjected to higher impact forces. Furthermore, wearing a mouthguard in itself provided an impact reduction effect similar to the combination of teeth-clenching and wearing a mouthguard, which suggests that as long as players use a mouthguard, they do not have to continuously clench their teeth to obtain the protective effects if they receive a blow to the mandible.

While many sports have similar risks of trauma and blunt force to the face – from people or objects – many sports still don’t require gear that protects the mouth and jaw. You do see more voluntary use of wrap-around protective plates on baseball helmets in the wake of some high profile bean balls, but their use remains optional.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that baseball, along with basketball, has been associated with the greatest number of dental injuries. In football, mouth guards are mandatory.

But bear in mind: Not all mouth guards are created equal. Stock devices that are supposedly “ready to use” out of the box have been found to provide the least protection. “Boil and bite” guards are somewhat better, but they still tend not to fit as well, which reduces their protective ability.

As with their cousin, the night guard – worn during sleep to protect the teeth from the force of clenching and grinding – the best option is a custom-fit device made from a model of your teeth. It fits the mouth it was made for perfectly and, being thicker, too, offers a higher level of protection.

We’ll say it again: While an over-the-counter guard may be better than nothing, over the long haul, custom is the way to go.

Supporting a Healthy Body Supports a Healthy Mouth

girl with tabletHow much time do you spend sitting each day? Probably more than you’d care to. Many of us spend the vast majority of our time every day seated – usually in front of a screen of some kind.

Unfortunately, all this sitting is a major contributor to poor health. And it’s not just adults who have gone sedentary. Kids are in on the trend, too, with screen time up and physical activity is down. As the authors of a recent paper in Obesity Facts noted, surveys have shown that 6- to 11-year olds are inactive for roughly 6.4 hours a day. Among teens, that jumps to nearly 8 hours a day.

Physical activity, on the other hand, is declining. Of boys between 3 and 10 years of age, 11.7% participate in sports less than once or twice a week, and 11.7% do not engage in any sports at all, with even lower levels of physical inactivity in girls of the same age

Suffice it to say, those numbers are going in the wrong direction.

Ideally, screen time should be balanced with more opportunities for kids to keep moving. Their developing bodies and minds need physical activity. Too much screen time, on the other hand, can make inactivity seem the norm. It encourages sedentary behavior.

So what can we do to reduce screen time? A few ideas:

  • Many kids are sent to watch TV or play on a tablet while the adults prepare dinner. Try to involve the kids by having them help cook or set the table.

  • Eat dinner together at the table, away from the TV. It’s a great opportunity for talking with each other about how your day went and what you did and saw, as well as making plans for the following day or week.

  • Incorporate a family activity after dinner such as a neighborhood walk or light yoga. Yoga Calm is one of several excellent programs of yoga for kids. Or play a game together rather than watching a TV show or movie. Many simple card and board games can be played at practically any age.

  • Put some coloring or activity books out on the table or floor to occupy the kids during busy moments rather than sitting them in front of the TV or putting a tablet in their hands.

The American Academy of Pediatricians provides guidelines for screen time, harnessing the good digital media can do while keeping screens from completely dominating your child’s waking hours. Again, balance is key.

For sedentary time may also contribute to chronic inflammation – and where there’s chronic inflammation, there’s usually gum disease. In fact, inflammation is one of the things that links gum disease to a whole host of systemic health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers.

Simply put, supporting a health body supports a healthy mouth.

Image by Nick Olejniczak

Helping Kids Learn to Eat Healthy in a Food Environment That’s Anything But

No matter where you go or what you do – turn on the TV, log into email, wait for a movie to start, step inside just about any kind of a store – you’re apt to be bombarded with marketing for unhealthy food products.

One of the primary targets? Our kids.

kids watching screenAs we noted last week, kids are highly influenced to eat foods they see marketed on TV, one of many factors contributing to childhood obesity. Now, new research in Pediatrics shows how that trend goes for big screen offerings, as well.

For the study, 31 G- and PG-rated films from 2012 to 2015 were evaluated for their “obesity-promoting content and weight-stigmatizing messages.” The raters documented how frequently the content included eating or negative messages around weight.

Let’s just say the answer was “often.”

All 31 movies included obesity-promoting content; most common were unhealthy foods (87% of movies, 42% of segments), exaggerated portion sizes (71%, 29%), screen use (68%, 38%), and sugar-sweetened beverages (61%, 24%). Weight-based stigma, such as a verbal insult about body size or weight, was observed in 84% of movies and 30% of segments.

So on the one hand, you have depictions that suggest behaviors that contribute to weight gain, and on the other, weight gain is scorned. Talk about mixed signals!

Other research suggests that kids’ eating behavior may be directly affected by depictions in film. One recent study of product placement in films found that

branding and obesogenic messaging in children’s movies influenced some choices that children made about snack foods immediately following viewing, especially food with greatest exposure time in the film.

While such studies acknowledge that there’s more to learn about the long-term effects of this psychological game, it’s hard to see much good come of this, just reinforcement of the unhealthy eating patterns so predominant in our culture.

That’s why it’s all the more crucial that we provide more healthful models for our kiddos to follow. For just as kids may mimic what they see in the media, so they may just as well follow the lead of their parents and caregivers.

One of the main reasons parents turn to drive-thru, carryout, or frozen meals is simple convenience. We’re all busy. Our kids are busy. Pre-made meals can seem to save the day – but only if we’re thinking in the short term.

Consider the long-term inconveniences of the chronic health problems that arise from diet – oral and systemic alike – and the short term benefits shrink.

Fortunately, with a little planning and prep, healthful eating – real food you make at home from whole foods combined by human hands – can become just as convenient. Consider incorporating some of the following practices into your routine:

  1. No time to grocery shop? Many stores have started offering home delivery again or will bag the food and have it available for pickup. This can be a huge timesaver. Check with your local stores to see if they offer this service.

  2. Meal prep on days off. If there are one or two days during the week with fewer activities, try to spend a little time prepping veggies or marinating proteins. One of the biggest time-sucks is prepping veggies (some of the most important ingredients you can use). Chopping, dicing or marinating on the weekend can make for some easy cooking on the weeknights.

  3. When cooking, cook a little extra. Consider doubling recipes to have an entire meal ready for another night.

  4. Consider a pressure cooker to easily turn vegetables and protein into a quick soup. You can even bake potatoes or hard boil eggs in pressure cookers, in a fraction of the time.

  5. Conversely, consider a slow-cooker that you can start early then effectively ignore until meal time.

  6. Some restaurants are better than others. When you really do want someone else to do the cooking, consider restaurants that might include locally sourced foods or at least feature foods that are organic and sustainably raised. You may even find farm-to-table options that could be both healthy and educational for the family.

Even starting out by giving up one or two days of fast food can make a huge difference. And gradually, you may find that this becomes easier to incorporate into your every day routine (and easier on your wallet).

Our Sugar-Saturated Environment (and What You Can Do About It)

white sugarWith all we know today about the harmful effects of sugar, why are we still drawn to it like, well, kids in a candy store?

Sure, as many have pointed out, we seem to be hardwired to like sweet flavors. This fact is easily exploited by the makers – and, importantly, marketers – of processed food products.

One way of doing it? Spin the science.

As the Chicago Tribune reported late last year, research proving the harmful effects of sugar – including its contribution to heart disease and cancer – has existed for decades. Why haven’t more people heard about it? Because it was never made public.

Early results in August 1970 indicated that rats fed a high-sugar diet experienced an increase in blood levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that contributes to cholesterol.

Rats fed loads of sugar also appeared to have elevated levels of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme previously associated with bladder cancer in humans, the researchers said.

Months after receiving these results, the International Sugar Research Foundation failed to approve an additional 12 weeks of funding that the Birmingham researchers needed to complete their work, according to the authors behind the new investigation.

Notably, the team of UCSF researchers who exposed this cover-up, headed by Stanton Glanz, is the same team who exposed the tobacco industry’s manipulative marketing efforts. And what they’ve shown so far suggests that the sugar biz is very much operating by Big Tobacco’s playbook.

Corporations will seemingly do most anything to keep their profits up.

In fact, the sugar industry even went as far as to manipulate dental research on the relationship between sugar and caries (tooth decay). As the Glanz team demonstrated in an earlier paper, industry actually helped set the research agenda for the National Institute of Dental Research.

Industry tactics included the following: funding research in collaboration with allied food industries on enzymes to break up dental plaque and a vaccine against tooth decay with questionable potential for widespread application, cultivation of relationships with the NIDR leadership, consulting of members on an NIDR expert panel, and submission of a report to the NIDR that became the foundation of the first request for proposals issued for the NCP. Seventy-eight percent of the sugar industry submission was incorporated into the NIDR’s call for research applications. Research that could have been harmful to sugar industry interests was omitted from priorities identified at the launch of the NCP. [emphasis added]

Addressing the primary cause of decay – too much sugar – was deemed unrealistic and impractical.

And it certainly can seem that way when you recognize how much sugar infuses our food supply or look at more obvious types of marketing, especially that targeting kids. Ads for sweet soft drinks, candy, breakfast cereals, and other sugar bombs can be found everywhere on TV, online, in video games, and more.

According to a 2017 study in Appetite, this marketing is directly related to increased consumption.

The study evaluated sugary cereal consumption for preschoolers in southern New Hampshire who saw commercials for these products on TV. (On TV, high sugar breakfast cereals, or SBCs, are the single most marketed product to kids.) Over 500 families participated. Both TV viewing and SBC consumption were documented.

In the past week, 56.9% of children ate SBCs advertised on kids’ channels. Overall, 40.6% of children were exposed to child-targeted SBC TV ads in the past week.

For every 10 SBC ads seen in the previous week, consumption rose 14%.

Suffice it to say, it’s up to us to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, despite the sugar-loaded culture around us. That can start by being a good role model and cutting back our own sugar intake.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Read labels. Just because something is marketed as organic or “healthy” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have indulgent ingredients. Sugars are one of the highest ingredients in protein bars or shakes. And if you’re grabbing a “healthy” drink such as almond milk or kombucha, choose one with little or no sugar.

  • Sweeten your water or tea with a splash of natural fruit juice rather than sugar or syrup.

  • Try some baking alternatives with applesauce instead of sugar.

  • Remember that carbs are digested as sugar. Try replacing pasta with vegetables like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini.

  • Moderation! Everything adds up. Small changes can make a big impact over time. And many, many small indulgences can add up over time just as well (if not more easily).

  • If quitting sugar cold turkey doesn’t work for you, reduce gradually. This is better than no change at all.

Image by Umberto Salvagnin

As We Head into the Holidays, a Look Back at 2017

man holding tabletAs the year winds down, it’s natural to get a little reflective, thinking back even as we look forward to the new year and the promise it holds.

So for our last post of the year, we thought we’d take a look back at what you all were looking at most on this blog through 2017.

And as we looked over our top 10 posts, we saw some trends. Many of the posts dealt with home hygiene and oral care. Others explored the relationship between oral and systemic health. Many focused on prevention.

Check it out:

  1. A New Paste that “Heals Cavities”: Too Good to Be True?
    A popular Facebook post focuses on an “amazing” new dental paste from Japan that’s said to “heal” cavities without drilling. But does it? Read more

  2. The Meridian System: A Map to the Body
    Problems in the mouth can have big time effects elsewhere in the body – and not just physically, but energetically, as well. Read more

  3. With Oral Cancer, Early Detection Is Key
    Because oral cancer is often diagnosed late in the disease process, its death rate is higher than for many other cancers. But caught early, it’s often readily treatable. Read more

  4. Easing the Pain of a Toothache
    When you’ve got a toothache, two thoughts crowd out most all others: how much it hurts and how much you want it to stop hurting. Which home remedies are best? And when should you contact a dentist? Read more

  5. The Power of Ozone
    Ozone is a super-charged form of oxygen that helps eliminate bacteria, fungi, viruses – even parasites – that can create disease and dysfunction. Because of this, it has a lot of roles to play in holistic and biological dentistry. Read more

  6. Theobromine Toothpaste May Encourage Tooth Remineralization
    Research suggests that a compound found in cocoa beans may help with remineralizing tooth enamel. It may also decrease tooth sensitivity. Read more

  7. What’s in YOUR Toothpaste?
    While ingredients like theobromine may be helpful in your home care, there are other ingredients you don’t want to see listed on the packaging. Read more

  8. Overgrown Gums & Other Dental Anomalies
    Teeth and gums can sometimes develop in unique ways – and cause some unique challenges. Read more

  9. When Face Pain & Depression Happen Together
    Research suggests a link between face pain and depression. How to go about addressing the situation? Read more

  10. Is Erythritol Really All That?
    Xylitol might not be the only sugar alcohol that appears to prevent caries. Read more

All of us here at Pride Dental hope your holiday season is truly wonderful and wish you a happy and healthy start to the new year! We’ll be back to blogging in January…

How to Handle Those Holiday Carbs!

holiday feastHolidays are filled with foods that you might normally try to avoid.

Dining room tables are covered with potatoes, stuffing, glazed vegetables and meats, marshmallow-topped casseroles, dumplings, breads, and more. Appetizer trays feature crackers and crostini and fried treats of all kinds. Fudge and candy plates abound. You may have invites already for holiday baking or cookie parties.

And of course, there are the sweet drinks to wash it all down, from hot chocolate to egg nog and holiday cocktails, sodas to holiday brews.

So it’s probably no surprise that we wind up consuming anywhere from 3000 to 4500 calories just on a single holiday feast.

If you’re looking to manage your carb intake over the holidays, you’re not alone. Of course, it may not be possible to remove them entirely – or even desirable, considering the strong ties between holiday foods and traditions.

Even so, replacing some standard sides with slightly healthier versions or subbing a few key ingredients can really make a difference. Here are 7 alternatives to help get you thinking creatively about your meals this holiday season:

  1. Consider an alternative eggnog like this from So Delicious – less than half the calories and a fraction of the carbs. Of course, it still contains some sugar. If you want to go sugar-free, there are great recipes online such as this one, which uses stevia in place of the sugar.

  2. Mix in some gluten-free or vegan recipes with some of your standards. You’ll find some recipes to get you started here and here.

  3. Don’t forget the salad! Salads can be very pretty with colorful vegetables, a little dried fruit, and some nuts or feta cheese.

  4. Consider soups thickened and made creamier with pureed vegetables such as carrots or squash.

  5. Try a side dish heavier in vegetables with less (or no) pasta, like this Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Casserole, for instance.

  6. Replace traditional noodles with spaghetti squash or spiralized vegetables.

  7. Sweet potato casserole, mixed with a little whole fat coconut milk and cinnamon, can be a great replacement for the standard pumpkin pie (and tastes very similar!).

And if you want to stick with tradition and carb out as you please?

Maybe think about a fitness or nutrition challenge with a few friends or coworkers after the season has passed. Or think about signing up for a holiday fun run. Getting in a quick 5K or one-mile run with your family or friends could be the start of a new tradition and a great way to introduce a balance of healthy living with holiday indulgence.


Image by Jessica Spengler

Some Refreshing News about America’s Soda Habit

Here’s some refreshing news about Americans and soda: We’re finally drinking less of the stuff.

soda can topTen years ago, on any given day, over 61% of adults and nearly 80% of kids drank such beverages, none of which are particularly friendly to teeth (not to mention the rest of you).

According to new research in the journal Obesity, in 2014, just 50% of adults and 60.7% of children drank them.

Of course, that still leaves a lot of us drinking a lot of sugar. Still, such a significant reduction is an important step forward.

The study monitored data from 18,600 children and over 27,652 adults across 10 years of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

This overall decline in both beverage and [sugar-sweetened beverage] consumption is consistent with previous literature, suggesting a recent “turning point” toward lower energy intake in the US diet, potentially attributable to widespread discussion and media coverage of the role of certain foods (e.g., SSBs) in promoting obesity, changes to food allowances within the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, improvements to school feeding programs, and product reformulations by food manufacturers and retailers.

On the downside, consumption rates remain highest among black, Mexican American, and non-Mexican Hispanic teens – all groups at high risk of obesity and diabetes.

On the upside, the study also found that fruit juice consumption is down, as well. As we’ve noted before, fruit juice is essentially concentrated sugar and a major cause of tooth decay among young children in particular.

boy getting drink of waterWhat kids are drinking more of is what we all should be drinking more of: water.

Among children, the prevalence of 100% juice consumption declined significantly among 12- to 19-year-olds, water increased significantly across all age groups, and no significant changes were seen for coffee and tea, milk, or diet beverage consumption for any age group.

And this may not be a short term trend. Earlier this year, a major trade publication noted that soda sales have been declining for twelve years and counting.

The per capita consumption of soda drinks, including energy drinks, fell to about 642 8-ounce servings last year, the lowest level since 1985, when the Beverage Digest began tracking consumption trends….

Despite the fact that two of the biggest of the soda companies suspiciously fund 96 US health groups – including the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health – more people are seeing this as little more than an attempt to influence public health policy and maintain profits. Consumer education has been a big help, as have soda taxes, with the money going to fund various health programs.

In 2015, Berkeley, California introduced a soda tax after years of battling the industry. They’ve now seen a drop in sales by nearly 10% – and a spike in water sales, as well.

One year following implementation of the nation’s first large SSB tax, prices of SSBs increased in many, but not all, settings, SSB sales declined, and sales of untaxed beverages (especially water) and overall study beverages rose in Berkeley; overall consumer spending per transaction in the stores studied did not rise. Price increases for SSBs in two distinct data sources, their timing, and the patterns of change in taxed and untaxed beverage sales suggest that the observed changes may be attributable to the tax.

That said, water doesn’t always satisfy the urge for a sweet soft drink, especially if you’re going through a detox by gradually reducing your sugar intake. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  • Drink tea – hot or cold. Many spice teas have an inherent sweetness, as do some herb teas such as ginger lemon.
  • Splash a bit of lemon or lime into your water.
  • Infuse your own water with fruit, herbs, or vegetables. Here are a few ideas.
  • Make a veg-centric smoothie. Here are some tips for making sure yours is balanced and not a sugar-bomb.
  • Make your own fresh juice with fresh vegetables and fruit. Again, balance is key. Think green.

Bottom image by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources