What are the health benefits of cinnamon?

By Brooke Strickland

Mmm…the smell of cinnamon is like no other.  It’s one of the oldest known spices and adds flavor to countless numbers of recipes and desserts. But did you know that besides its use in cooking, it also has health benefits?  In traditional Chinese medicine, Cassia cinnamon is commonly used to help treat the flu, colds, nausea, flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, and painful menstrual periods.  It’s also believed that it can help increase energy and circulation.  Studies have also suggested that cinnamon can help lower bad cholesterol, can help stabilize blood sugar, and when combined with honey, can help relieve arthritis pain.  It can also be a good natural remedy for eliminating headaches and migraines and has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.   A study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland even found that cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.[1]  In addition, it can inhibit bacterial growth and food spoilage when added to foods.

Don’t go too crazy with it though, because in large doses, it can be toxic.  So instead, introduce a pinch or stick here and there into your regular diet. 

Need some ideas on how to introduce cinnamon into your diet more?

Eating a cinnamon roll every morning might not be the best idea for healthy living, so instead, try sprinkling some in your tea or coffee in the morning or add a sprinkle to some vanilla yogurt or on top of waffles or oatmeal as part of your breakfast.  Add pinches of cinnamon into some of your favorite savory dinner recipes for an added boost of flavor. Or, add it to some warm milk and unsweetened chocolate for a sweet, light drink. For dessert, sprinkle it on top of some chocolate pudding or vanilla ice cream, topped with fresh berries. 

[1] “10 Health Benefits of Cinnamon.” March 23, 2006.  http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/10-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html

What is kidney reflux?

By Brooke Strickland

Renal (kidney) reflux is a condition where one or both valves in the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder) are not working correctly.  This can cause regular urinary tract infections and if not treated, kidney infection.  The  ureters normally enter the bladder at a diagonal angle and have a one-way flow that prevents urine from flowing back toward the kidney.  But if this one-way system doesn’t work, urine can flow back towards the kidney, otherwise known as urinary reflux.

What are the symptoms?

There are no outward symbols of kidney reflux.  Instead, if your child is showing signs of regular bladder infections, it’s time to consult a doctor.  The signs of a urinary tract infection include:

-Burning sensation when passing urine
-Cloudy, bloody, or smelly urine
-Pain in the lower abdomen
-Complaining about stomach aches
-Wetting – day or night time wetting from a potty-trained child
-Need to urinate more often, but only passing a small portion of urine
-Ongoing irritability

If your child has had consistent bladder infections, your doctor may order some testing to determine if kidney reflux is present.   The first is a painless ultrasound that can show if the kidneys and bladder look normal.  If more information is needed a voiding cystourethrogram (MCU) will be done, where a small plastic tube is inserted into the child’s bladder and liquid is passed through to fill the bladder.  Then an x-ray will be taken as the child passes the urine, the liquid is seen on the x-ray, and the doctor is able to see if reflux is present. 

 This is a somewhat common condition in children and adults and many times they won’t need treatment. However, some kids that have them may need to take a daily antibiotic to prevent further urinary tract infections, especially children that have had other problems or issues with kidneys or bladder infections.   Most children will grow out of the condition; however, some will need surgical correction.  There are several surgical options that your doctor can discuss with you.

If your child is diagnosed with kidney reflux, it’s very important to maintain regular appointments with a urologist to determine treatment options and care.  This is a condition that can often run in families as well, so having other family members tested for reflux is important. 


Video Games and Porn: Rewiring the Brains of Young Men

By Brooke Strickland

A new article out by CNN asks the question:  is excessive video gaming and pornography usage causing the demise of men?   More and more researchers say yes – men become addicted to the arousal that these activities bring and begin sacrificing real-life responsibilities, such as work projects, schoolwork, family relationships, marital relationships, and more.  The article, written by Dr. Phillip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan, goes on to say that the young men who play video games excessively or use pornography regularly are rewiring themselves in a new way, to constantly need the arousal and stimulation. Dr. Zimbardo, psychologist and professor emeritus at Stanford University, has teamed with psychologist Nikita Duncan and has written The Demise of Men: Why Boys are Struggling and What we Can Do about It”.  It was released in May 2012 by TED Books.  [1]

With the Internet readily available to virtually anyone at any minute, these games and porn are available when they want it, day or night, and with a click of the mouse, they’re sucked into a world of continuous variety.  The newness of what they might find the next time when searching for porn or conquering a new level in a video game brings a new level of excitement, a new high of sorts – this high can be likened to what a drug addict feels when they use.  

These newly rewired brains are out of touch with reality and have difficulty connecting in real life relationships, whether they’re intimate or social.  In romantic relationships, they have difficulty trusting and often cannot suppress lust or bring unrealistic exotic expectations to relationships with women.   In addition, studies have shown that men who play video games excessively are often more aggressive in real life.  When day after day, hour after hour, men are immersing themselves into a violent role-playing character in an online game, their reality is blurred and begins to integrate with who they are in real life.  They begin taking on aggressive behavior in real life. When they’re frustrated, they become more violent than someone who doesn’t use video games excessively.   These behaviors – both aggression and the inability to connect with another human on a real, truly deep level – becomes detrimental to their life. They withdraw, they become depressed, and before they know it, they are sucked into a hole of all-consuming addiction to porn or video games. 

Internet addiction is real.  For more information, visit www.hooked-on-games.com

[1] Zimbardo, Dr. Philip G., Duncan, Nikita. ‘The Demise of Guys’: How video games and porn are ruining a generation.”  CNN.Com. May 24, 2012.  http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/23/health/living-well/demise-of-guys/index.html  Accessed June 2, 2012.

Taking a break from the internet: the new diet

by Brooke Strickland

You’re pretty much surrounded by computers all day, every day.  You need them to work.  You need them to get a hold of family members on e-mail. You likely – at some point or another - need a smart phone to help you get directions to your next off-site work meeting.  So, when you say you want to take a break from computers, it can be hard. But you can cut out the amount of time spent online.  Taking a hiatus from the internet is not only helpful, but needed.  At some point, you’ve probably felt like you need a computer to function in everyday life, whether it be to look up a phone number, find a new recipe online, or to chat with your friend across the country.  Well, there are ways to minimize your interactions online and start an Internet diet.  We’ve compiled some tips.

-  Set a time limit: Don’t stay up till midnight night after night, trying to catch up on your Facebook newsfeed.  It’s not worth it.  Set a time limit every night on how long you want to spend online catching up with the happenings of the day.  And stick to it.

- Keep the distractions at bay:  If you don’t need your cell phone, turn it off. If you don’t need your email, sign out of it. 

- Keep your brain working well:  We know the Internet has lots of fun things to do, whether it be games, chatting with friends, or catching up on the latest entertainment gossip.  It’s ok to use the Web for these things, but remember it’s also a powerful educational tool.  When you’re online for fun, try not to absorb a ton of garbage or waste your energy with mindless games that suck your time and mind dry.  Use your time wisely, in other words. Educate yourself with good information. Start learning a new language.  Brush up on your math skills.  Check out the latest cooking or sewing blogs and try creating for yourself a new hobby.  And with those new hobbies, abandon your computer screen.  Get in the kitchen and start cooking that new recipe you found.  Find a partner to help study Spanish with you. 

The bottom line: don’t let the Internet control your life.  Don’t let it become something you must have and can’t live without. You should be able to leave your laptop for a few days and be ok with that.  Becoming addicted to the Internet is real.  It can physically alter who you are and how you live your life.  So managing the amount of time you spend online and controlling the type and amount of information you put into your head is important to successful living. 

Internet addiction is real.  For more information, visit www.hooked-on-games.com

Can eating meat lower my risk for developing cataracts?

by Brooke Strickland

Cataracts are a common condition that affects the lens of the eye, causing vision impediments and general obstruction.  They often develop slowly and don’t disturb, but with time, they will start interfering with daily vision. 

It’s generally known that cigarette smoking, obesity, certain medicines, or diabetes can be factors for increasing the risk of cataract development.  So eating well, exercising, and not smoking can all help reduce your chance of developing cataracts.  And now, a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition (Volume 93 page 1128) shows that eating less meat may also lower cataract risk.   Researchers looked at information gathered from 27,600 adults age 40 and over within a span of 6 years. The study showed that vegans were 40 percent less likely to develop a cataract than the heaviest meat eaters and vegetarians were 30 percent less likely and fish eaters had a 21 percent lower risk than those that ate meat.  [1]  These findings are not final, and need to be tested in a larger control group.

However, the benefits of reducing meat intake are very clear.  Eating less meat is good for the heart and bolstering your intake of vegetables has an enormous positive effect on your overall health.  Those who reduce their intake of meat – especially red meat – usually have lower cholesterol and fewer incidences of heart, high blood pressure, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.   In addition, a diet with more fruits and vegetables adds more soluble fiber to the body, which aids in easier digestion of food and provides protection against high levels of LDL cholesterol.  In addition, if you increase your veggie and fruit intake, you’ll instantly boost your immune system and make it easier to fight off disease, viruses, and infection, while increasing your energy and stamina throughout the day. 

[1] “Can Eating Meat Lower Cataract Risk?”  http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts/vision/cataract-risk-factors_6160-1.html?ET=johnshopkins:e83912:1956526a:&st=email&s=EVH_120518_001  Accessed May 24, 2012. Originally posted in Vision, May 18, 2012.