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Hand on a shoulder “I think it's going to snow, I can feel it in my bones.” Predictions like this are all too common from arthritis sufferers as the cold winter months settle upon us. Many people who suffer from arthritis believe that they can predict the weather with the increased pain that they might feel during cold, snowy and rainy weather. What would normally be an arthritic stiff joint or dull ache can easily become a shooting pain during the winter months.

Over 43 million Americans, or one in six people, deal with the pain associated with arthritis. It is a common condition with pain that can often become unbearable during the winter. In this winter-edition blog I have provided some information on the most common types of arthritis, warning signs, treatments, and how to deal with weather-induced aches and pains.

According to the National Institute on Aging, arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults. There are many kinds of arthritis, each with different symptoms and treatments. Most types of arthritis are chronic however, meaning that they can go on for a long period of time. Below are the most common types of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis in older people. OA starts when cartilage that pads bones in a joint begins to wear away. When the cartilage has worn away, your bones rub against each other. OA most often happens in the hands, neck, lower back, or the large weight-bearing joints of your body, such as knees and hips.

OA symptoms range from stiffness and mild pain that comes and goes to pain that doesn't stop, even when you are resting or sleeping. Sometimes OA causes your joints to feel stiff after you haven't moved them for awhile, like after riding in the car. The stiffness goes away when you move the joint. Over time, OA can make it hard to move your joints. It can cause a disability if your back, knees, or hips are affected.

Why do you get OA? Growing older is what most often puts you at risk for OA, possibly because your joints and the cartilage around them become less able to recover from stress and damage. Also, OA in the hands may run in families. Or, OA in the knees can be linked with being overweight. Injuries or overuse may cause OA in joints such as knees, hips, or hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, a type of illness that makes your body attack itself. RA causes pain, swelling, and stiffness that lasts for hours. RA can happen in many different joints at the same time. People with RA often feel tired or run a fever. RA is more common in women than men.

RA can damage almost any joint. It often happens in the same joint on both sides of your body. RA can also cause problems with your heart, muscles, blood vessels, nervous system, and eyes.

Gout is one of the most painful kinds of arthritis. It most often happens in the big toe, but other joints can also be affected. Swelling may cause the skin to pull tightly around the joint and make the area red or purple and very tender.

Eating foods rich in purines like liver, dried beans, peas, anchovies, or gravy can lead to a gout attack. Using alcohol, being overweight, and taking certain medications may make gout worse. In older people, some blood pressure medicines can also increase the chance of a gout attack. To decide if you have gout, your doctor might do blood tests and x-rays.

Here are some warning signs that you might have one of these types of arthritis:

  • Ongoing joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Tenderness or pain when touching a joint
  • Problems using or moving a joint normally
  • Warmth and redness in a joint

If any one of these symptoms lasts more than 2 weeks, see a doctor. Properly treating any of these common forms of arthritis includes getting enough rest, doing the right exercise, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and learning the right way to use and protect your joints are keys to living with any kind of arthritis. The right shoes and a cane can help with pain in the feet, knees, and hips when walking. There are also gadgets to help you open jars and bottles or to turn the doorknobs in your house.

Some medicines may also help with pain and swelling. Acetaminophen might ease arthritis pain. Some people find NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen, helpful. Some NSAIDs are sold without a prescription, while others must be prescribed by a doctor.

Along with taking the right medicine and properly resting your joints, exercise might help with arthritis symptoms. Daily exercise, such as walking or swimming, helps keep joints moving, lessens pain, and makes muscles around the joints stronger.

Three types of exercise are best if you have arthritis:

Range-of-motion exercises, like dancing, might relieve stiffness, keep you flexible, and help you keep moving your joints.

Strengthening exercises, such as weight training, will keep or add to muscle strength. Strong muscles support and protect your joints.

Aerobic or endurance exercises, like bicycle riding, make your heart and arteries healthier, help prevent weight gain, and also may lessen swelling in some joints.

Along with exercise and weight control, there are other ways to ease the pain around joints. You might find comfort by using a heating pad or a cold pack, soaking in a warm bath, or swimming in a heated pool. Your doctor may suggest surgery when damage to your joints becomes disabling or when other treatments do not help with pain. Surgeons can repair or replace some joints with artificial (man-made) ones.

If you suffer from weather-induced arthritis there are several measures that can be taken. According to health.gmnews.com winter is a time when we not only catch colds and flu but also when chronic ailments are exacerbated by the cold, wind and damp. People with arthritis may experience their condition worsening in the winter months with even achier bones and joints. The cold and snow associated with winter can cause tendons, ligaments and muscles surrounding joints to contract and cavities in joints can also be affected by atmospheric pressure.

Although weather can affect arthritis, weather does not cause arthritis. No matter the cause, those painful joints can be the result. It is advised that arthritis sufferers wrap up affected areas very well if braving the elements and pay particular attention to extremities by wearing warm socks and gloves and try to maintain good circulation by moving around more.

It is also suggested that people with weather-induced arthritis keep warm, avoid the strains of activities of activities like shoveling snow, and to be careful on slippery surfaces to avoid injuries.

thanksgiving turkey image Thanksgiving has almost arrived- the season of family, camaraderie, decadence, over-eating and ultimately heartburn and weight gain. My last couple blog posts may help to diagnose and settle an upset stomach that you will inevitably, or at least I will inevitably face. But I also wanted to give you some ideas on how to enjoy the food of the holidays without overindulging and the guilt that often accompanies the Holiday season post-meal.

With all of the rich and heavy choices associated with Thanksgiving dinner, we often find ourselves staggering away from the table in search of an elastic waistband and a couch to pass out on. But it's possible to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal without feeling horribly over-stuffed afterward. By following these tips from eatingwell.com, a combination of reasonable portion sizes (check out my blog dated October 6) and healthier dishes that don't sacrifice flavor, Thanksgiving can be joyful, delicious and healthy!

1. Skip the fat but retain the flavor- Rather than rubbing your bird with butter before roasting in order to keep it juicy. However, if you roast a turkey without overcooking, it won't dry out and there's no need to rub it with butter beforehand. Instead try chopping fresh herbs and garlic mixed with a little olive oil instead. Healthy and tasty!

2. Avoid salt- Conventional turkeys often contain an added salt solution in order to stay moister. But if you're watching your sodium intake, avoid them and avoiding adding extra salt to any dish.

3. Skip the skin- By simply skipping the skin you can save yourself a heap of calories and fat. According to eatingwell.com a 3-ounce portion of light meat without skin has only 132 calories and 3 grams of fat. However, with skin those numbers jump to 168 calories and 6 grams of fat. In addition, dark meat has more calories but also more iron.

4. Try broth- A majority of stuffing recipes call for butter. Rather than calories and fat associated with butter use a bit of chicken broth instead to keep it moist and flavorful.

5. Keep it sweet but hold the sugar- Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and yummy. Rather than loading them up with additional brown sugar and marshmallows just add a touch of maple syrup or honey to accentuate their great flavor.

6. Ban the butter- To make a tasty gravy use the drippings from the roasting pan with the fat skimmed off. This maintains the flavor without the added fat and calories. In addition, forgo adding butter to this or any other part of your meal. Butter majorly bumps up the fat and calories.

By adhering to adequate portion sizes and integrating these few simple ideas into your meal you can easily combat Thanksgiving meal over-indulgence while still enjoying a wonderful meal. Cheers!

Too Much Chili Pepper

As the season of decadence, calories, and over-eating approaches I thought that it might be the perfect time to review some common conditions relating to your body's digestive health, the differences between these conditions and how to prevent and treat them.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid splashes up from the stomach into the esophagus. According to WebMd near the entrance to your stomach is a valve that normally closes as soon as food passes through it. If this valve doesn't close all the way or if it opens too often, acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus causing symptoms such as burning chest pain otherwise known as heartburn. If your acid reflux symptoms happen more than twice a week, you may have acid reflux disease.

Risk factors that can cause acid reflux include:

  • Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over at the waist
  • Snacking close to bedtime
  • Eating certain foods, such as citrus, tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods
  • Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications

Symptoms of acid reflux disease:

  • Heartburn -- a burning pain or discomfort that may move from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, or even up into your throat
  • Regurgitation -- a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth
  • Bloating
  • Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
  • Burping
  • Dysphagia -- a narrowing of your esophagus, which creates the sensation of food being stuck in your throat
  • Hiccups that don't let up
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat


Heartburn is an irritation of the esophagus that is caused by stomach acid. Heartburn is the symptom that you feel when you have acid reflux. Occasional heartburn isn't dangerous, but chronic heartburn can indicate serious problems and can develop into gastro esophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GERD.

One in 10 Americans experiences heartburn symptoms at least once a week and up to 50% of pregnant women suffer from heartburn. The basic cause is when the valve at the entrance of the stomach doesn't close all the way allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus. Other causes include too much food in the stomach (over-eating) or too much pressure on the stomach (usually from obesity or pregnancy.)

Foods that may trigger heartburn:

  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeinated products
  • Peppermint
  • Dishes high in fats and oils (animal or vegetable)

Stress also increases acid production and can cause heartburn as well as smoking.

In order to prevent and manage heartburn you may need to make some simple lifestyle and diet changes. Here are some suggestions from WebMD:

  • Don't go to bed with a full stomach- Eat meals at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down -- this will give food time to digest and empty from your stomach, and acid levels a chance to decrease before you lay down.
  • Don't overeat- Decrease the size of portions at meal times or try eating four to five small meals instead of three large ones.
  • Eat slowly- Take time to eat -- don't rush, try putting your fork down between bites.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.
  • Avoid heartburn triggers- Stay away from foods and beverages that trigger your heartburn symptoms. A good way to figure out what foods cause your heartburn symptoms is to keep a food diary.
  • Shed some pounds- If you are overweight, losing weight can help relieve heartburn symptoms.
  • Stop smoking- Nicotine, one of the main active ingredients in cigarettes, can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that controls the opening between the esophagus and stomach, allowing the acid-containing contents of the stomach to enter the esophagus.
  • Avoid alcohol- If your aim is to unwind after a stressful day, try exercise, meditation, stretching, or deep breathing instead of drinking alcohol.
  • Keep a diary or heartburn log- Keep track of when heartburn hits and the specific activities that seem to trigger the incidents.

Heartburn vs. GERD

If your heartburn or acid reflux symptoms are severe and chronic you may suffer from gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD is a severe or chronic acid reflux that can lead to complications, such as cancer.

Occasional heartburn and acid reflux is often treatable with over-the-counter medication or lifestyle modification. To make sure that you don't have anything more severe such as GERD, reference below.

  • Is your heartburn occurring more than twice a week?
  • Has the pattern of your heartburn changed? Is it worse than it used to be?
  • Do you wake up at night with heartburn?
  • Have you been having occasional heartburn that is associated with difficulty swallowing?
  • Do you continue to have heartburn symptoms even after taking non-prescription medication?
  • Do you experience hoarseness or worsening of asthma after meals, lying down, or exercise, or asthma that occurs mainly at night?
  • Are you experiencing unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite?
  • Do your heartburn symptoms interfere with your lifestyle or daily activity?
  • Are you in need of increasing doses of nonprescription medicine to control heartburn?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your heartburn may warrant attention from a medical professional. People with long-standing chronic heartburn are at greater risk for serious complications including stricture (narrowing) of the esophagus or a potentially precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus.

stress and stomach pic Does the thought of speaking in public tie your stomach in knots? Does a stressful work meeting leave you without an appetite? Or does the idea of spending the approaching holidays with your in-laws leave you feeling a bit woosey? If so you're not alone. Having a physical response to emotional concerns is natural. Your gut is extremely sensitive to stress and emotions. Stress is a trigger that can cause stomachaches, diarrhea, and other digestive problems however, the stress management techniques listed below can keep these unpleasant physical responses under control.

There is an actual physical link between your gut and your emotion. High stress and emotions can lead to stomach aches and other digestive problems due to the fact that the gut is highly sensitive and full of nerves. Francisco J. Marrero, MD, a gastroenterologist with the Digestive Disease Institute at the Cleveland Clinic explains on everydayhealth.com, “There is definitely a connection between the brain and the gut. The gut is called the little brain- it's the largest area of nerves outside the brain.”

Stress and nerves often have very noticeable physical symptoms that focus on the digestive tract. “Anytime you're in a stressful situation, people will get butterflies in their stomach or they may even get diarrhea,” says Dr. Marrero.

Big events in addition to small daily stressors can affect your digestive health so it's important to regulate your stress levels. By identifying the cause of stress, understanding the gut's natural reaction to it, and keeping stress under control you will more effectively be able to manage stress-related stomach aches and other digestive problems. Try implementing these stress management tips to reduce your own stressors and manage your digestive health:

Consider counseling to deal with what's bothering you. Try cognitive therapy. Keep a journal of what's stressing you, how you feel, and what you did to feel better. Don't take on more than you can handle — say no when you need to. Prioritize your responsibilities. Put problems in perspective, and stay positive about the good things in your life.

Butterflies in your tummy are just one way that stress and other emotions can affect your overall health and demonstrates how closely related your physical and emotional health really are. But by learning how to tame your stress you will not only maintain your emotional health but you may also just calm an upset stomach.


naturally de-stress Today's world is more stressful than ever. We're all overbooked, unrested, super stressed and underpaid. The busy lives of American men, women and even children are causing stress and stress-related illness to run rampant. When it comes down to it we all need to take a big breath and chill out. Below are some natural and healthy ways to do just that.

The everyday stresses of work, children, commutes, money, family (and the list goes on and on) that we're forced to face head on can wreak havoc on our bodies. Feelings of being overwhelmed by all of the demands placed on us can result in stress-related illnesses. According to naturemade.com 75%-90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Chronic levels of stress or tension can reduce the body's ability to cope well under stress and can cause illness. Below are 7 natural stress busters that you may want to integrate into your daily life to keep stress and tension at bay.

1. Proper Fueling- If you reach for a quick sugar or caffeine boost when you feel your energy start to wane, you're not alone. Coffee and/or candy can offer a quick energy boost but often leads to that inevitable energy crash that can further compound your body's physical stress. It's important to make sure that you're regularly fueling your body and with the right type of fuel. Instead of that third cup of coffee or leftover doughnut try snacking on a slice of whole-grain bread topped with peanut butter and raisins or some yogurt. Health experts recommend refueling the body every 3 to 4 hours in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and keep stress in check.

2. A Good Night's Sleep- By not getting adequate or regular amounts of sleep your body becomes sleep deprived leading to poor concentration, memory and daily performance. These negative effects can quickly become physical stressors. To ensure that your sleep is effective try going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday. Create a healthy schedule for your body. It's also a good idea to avoid eating a big meal before bed or drinking alcohol and caffeinated beverages before bed. These will stimulate your body and keep you from catching your precious zzz's. Before going to bed try a relaxing activity like a warm bath, reading or listening to soft music to make you more drowsy.

Certain dietary supplements can play an important role in promoting sleep according to naturemade.com. L-theanine (an amino acid found in green tea) has been shown in human studies to promote a relaxed mental state and to increase the production of alpha waves in the brain. The result is that L-theanine helps to reduce anxiety and promotes a state of relaxation without drowsiness.

Vitamins B6 and B12 are needed for the production of serotonin - the “feel good” brain messenger, and the important mineral magnesium promotes healthy muscle relaxation. Herbs that can help with sleep include chamomile, which exerts a mild sedative-like effect, and lavender oil, which has relaxing properties and can be added to a bath or directly to the skin.

3. Take a deep breath- When somebody is stressed or scared their breathing often becomes shallow and rapid. When this happens, the diaphragm is not used properly and the breathing is solely from the chest and does not incorporate the abdomen. Less oxygen is then available to the body, including your brain. This results in a lack of clear thinking and inevitably more stress. When you find yourself breathing quickly and shallowly in a stressful situation take a few deep breaths- center and calm yourself and try to exhale the stress.

4. Movement and Exercise- A workout or a brisk 30-minute walk can help you de-stress after a busy day. Regular and moderate exercise can help promote physical and mental well-being. Exercise stimulates positive brain chemicals that often leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Try taking a walk outside, getting fresh air and being in the sunshine can stimulate your senses after a stressful day. And by the way, movement and exercise will also result in looking and feeling better which can also help stress levels.

5. Read a Good Book or Go to the Movies- Books and movies are a great escape and instant de-stressors. Let the characters and situations distract you from your own worries and stresses. Disengaging your mind for a while can give you a different perspective and clearer insight once you're ready to again face reality.

6. Adjust your Mindset- Going through life confident of the fact that you're doing your best every day can often take the stress out of specific outcomes. Staying positive in your mind is that best way to channel positivity into the rest of your life, which transitions into Tip #7 perfectly,.

7. Smile- Try holding a big smile (you know, the kind that makes your mouth hurt?) for 5 minutes and see what happens. It's hard to feel stressed while you're smiling. It makes you more approachable and might just change your whole day.

Whether you choose to read that book that you've been meaning to get to, head outside to walk the dog, or plaster a smile on your face, by selecting a couple of these de-stressing strategies you'll be able to naturally settle your nerves and deal with the stresses that are inevitable in our lives.