Author Archives: Kristina Calligan, FNP

About Kristina Calligan, FNP

Kristina Calligan is a sub-specialty nurse practitioner in Women’s Health. A native to Arizona she obtained her Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2006 at Grand Canyon University in Glendale, Arizona. Never one to stop striving and achieving all that she could, she completed two master degrees in Nursing Science and Business Administration in 2012. Ms. Calligan joined Arizona Gynecology Consultants in 2009. Prior to working at Arizona Gynecology Consultants, she worked as a nurse in labor and delivery at several local hospitals and a research coordinator in women’s health care. Read More About Kristina Calligan, FNP

Beginner's Guide to Keto

A Detailed Guide: Keto Diet for Beginners

A lot of questions rise related to a ketogenic diet, especially a keto diet for beginners. If you are looking to find a diet that supports a healthy lifestyle, includes tons of meal options, and allows for long-term consistency with weight loss or maintenance goals, the keto diet can be a great choice. The keto diet (and its variations) is a highly popular way to achieve health goals appealing to athletes and non-athletes alike. However, keto can be a bit intimidating for new adopters. If you are considering adopting the keto diet, we’ll help you learn all you need to know about getting started and tips for how to thrive while changing your diet to meet keto standards.

This beginner-friendly guide is great for anyone looking to embark on a keto diet. You’ll learn what the diet entails, what foods are sanctioned, and what foods are not. Furthermore, you’ll discover how to thrive during the first week of keto, so you can make those first few days easier to manage and your adjustment to the diet less stressful.

What Is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic or keto diet consists of a very high-fat diet that is also very low in carbohydrates. This combination of low carbs and high fats helps many people shed excess body fat while staving off hunger which is a very common occurrence in other weight loss plans. A ketogenic diet is also great for helping individuals with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes improve their health.

When you eat a ketogenic diet, your body is forced to burn through the fats in your diet to create fuel to power your daily activities. This occurs in place of burning the carbs that are usually used for the process. When you adopt a keto diet, you are essentially telling your body to run on fats instead of sugars. When your body begins to burn fats instead of carbs, you enter a state known as ketosis.

What Is Ketosis?

Ketosis is one of the most important concepts of a ketogenic diet. The metabolic state of ketosis occurs when the liver takes the fats from your diet and metabolizes them into tiny molecules of energy, also called ketones. Ketones are used by the brain and other bodily organs to perform the necessary functions of daily life.

Your body typically prefers to utilize blood sugar or glucose for energy. However, during ketosis, the body pulls the majority of the energy needs from the ketones because your carbohydrate levels are greatly reduced. To reach a state of ketosis, most people must eat 50 or fewer grams of carbohydrates a day. However, the carb intake needed for ketosis varies for each person; for some, the number may be as little as 20 grams of carbohydrates per day.

To induce ketosis, the keto diet encourages the elimination of carbohydrate-dense foods, including:

  • Legumes
  • Grains (rice, pasta, cereals, white bread)
  • Candy
  • Fruit (small portions of berries are allowed)
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and other beverages sweetened with sugar
  • Sugar-sweetened condiments, like barbecue sauce, honey mustard, and ketchup

When followed correctly, the ketogenic diet can be highly beneficial, but it is not an easy lifestyle change for many. To help, we’ve compiled the following information to assist beginners as they make the necessary steps to transform their eating habits from carb-filled to ketogenic.


Keto Diet Foods

Guidelines: Keto Diet for Beginners

Fats, Carbohydrates, and proteins are known as macronutrients, and each one has a unique effect on the process of ketosis.

This is because these three macronutrients are digested differently and have separate effects on blood glucose levels.

  • Carbs raise both glucose levels and insulin levels and are considered 100% non-ketogenic. Therefore, carbs must be drastically reduced or eliminated from the daily diet for the body to reach ketosis.
  • Proteins are both ketogenic and non-ketogenic in composition. Over 50% of protein derived from food is turned into glucose in the bloodstream and raises insulin levels.
  • Fats are 90% ketogenic and 10% non-ketogenic. This makes fats the optimal choice for a ketogenic diet because non-ketogenic nutrients can be converted from triglycerides and glucose if the brain needs them.

Once you understand the role of each of these macronutrients, you can begin to understand how ketogenic foods work under the basic guidelines of a ketogenic diet.

Below are five basic steps for implementing a keto diet plan that will help you simplify the process as a beginner.

1. Determine the Fitness Goals You Want to Reach

This step is vital no matter what type of diet you are beginning, but it is especially important for a keto diet because the nutrient requirements are fairly strict. The first step you want to take is to identify the personal reasons you believe keto is for you. Defining your why will help you focus on the lifestyle changes involved in moving towards keto. Your why will also help you decide how you will measure your progress to see if your dietary changes are paying off.

2. Calculate Daily Calorie Goals

Once you have determined your primary health goals, your next step is finding out how many calories you need each day to reach your goal of losing, gaining, or maintaining weight. There are several ways to easily calculate your daily caloric needs, including online calculators and fitness and wellness apps. You can also speak to your doctor or a nutritionist to set healthy caloric goals.

3. Calculate Your Macronutrients (Macros)

In addition to setting a target number of daily calories, you must also find your ideal macronutrient consumption amounts, also known as calculating your macros. This will tell you how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you need to consume to maintain ketosis each day. How many carbs you can have a day on keto will be determined by the type of keto diet you choose and what your body’s unique needs require from your diet. It is crucial to maintain your carbohydrate intake each day to reach ketosis.

Being strict with your macros helps you maintain ketosis and reach your goals.

For most people adopting a ketogenic diet, the breakdown of macros is as follows:

  • 70% of daily calories from fat
  • 25% of daily calories from protein sources, and
  • 5% of daily calories from carbohydrates

Your current level of fitness, metabolic health, and other individual factors will determine the exact percentage of macronutrients you should consume.


Ketogenic diet breakdown

4. Plan Your Menu

Once you know your goals, calculate your daily calories, and determine your daily macronutrients, the next step is planning your menu with low-carb recipes. Before you start piling on heavy foods like cheese and bacon, take into consideration the quality of the high-fat foods you will consume on keto.

You must think about your overall health and incorporate nutritious foods that will also help you meet your daily intake needs. A keto diet should be much more than a weight-loss plan—it should also contribute to your overall well-being. If you fail to eat nutrient-rich foods, your goals will be much harder to reach. Eating a nutrient-rich low-carb diet will also ensure you have energy, stabilize your mood, and lower hunger and food cravings—all things that will help you stick to a ketogenic diet.

5. Be Consistent With Your Goals

It is important to understand that planning your keto menu is the start, but sticking to eating according to your ideal calorie and macro levels is how you reach the finish line. You also must stick to your keto diet for more than a couple of weeks to see results. Consistency is key.

Willpower will help you with your goals, but you must dedicate yourself to developing healthy habits over time. Your success will rely heavily on you making healthy food and fitness decisions for your long-term wellness. You don’t have to stress yourself to maintain perfection, but you do want to focus on being consistent if you want to see progress. Sticking to your dietary goals consistently will pay off if you keep going.

One thing to note—don’t allow a day of not hitting goals to deter you from your long-term progress. Each day is a new opportunity to make healthier decisions!

Why Beginners Adopt a Keto Diet?

Weight Loss

This is the most common reason for someone to start a ketogenic diet. If your goal is to lose weight, maintaining a calorie deficit is key to your success. When you stick to your weight loss goals using keto, you will see weight changes. These may come as a lower number on your scale and/or a change in how your body is shaped (body composition).

Improved Performance

For athletes and others looking to naturally boost their energy levels, keto can be used to help increase efficiency and performance. If you want to see a positive change in your energy levels with keto, you must focus on timing your nutrient intake and getting enough nutrients. You can measure improved performance by assessing your fitness performance and/or testing for metabolic efficiency.

Improved Health

While improved health may seem like a given, it is a very valid and common reason for choosing a ketogenic diet. Due to the ketogenic diet’s restrictive nature, getting adequate amounts of nutrients can prove challenging. To see improved health on a ketogenic diet, you should focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods. Measuring progress for your improved health can be done through a health assessment (biometric testing).


Keto Foods

Are There Different Types of Keto Diet?

When you follow a keto diet, your body goes into the metabolic state of ketosis. This is where your energy gets pulled from the stored body fat to run effectively, usually within four days of beginning the diet. Before you begin making dietary changes, you must understand that there are several different versions of the diet that are differentiated by the proportion of protein, fat, and carbs allowed for daily intake.

The following are the four common types of keto diets you can follow:

  • The Standard Keto Diet (SKD) – The standard ketogenic diet requires low carb intake, moderate protein intake, and high fat intake. The typical macronutrient for a standard keto diet is 20% protein, 10% carbohydrates, and 70% fat.
  • Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD) – The cyclical ketogenic diet requires cycling days of high carbohydrate nutrient intake (known as “refeeds”) with typical ketogenic days.
  • Targeted Keto Diet (TKD) – The targeted ketogenic diet makes allowances for carbohydrates before or after intense exercise.
  • High-protein Keto Diet (HPKD) – The high-protein ketogenic diet is similar to the standard keto diet, but the protein intake is higher, usually a ratio of 5% carbs, 35% protein, and 60% fat.

The standard keto diet and the high-protein keto diets have received the most scientific attention, likely because they are the most commonly used methods. The targeted and cyclical diets are newer variations of keto, mostly used by bodybuilders and athletes.

intense exercise

What Should I Do During the First Week of Keto?

The first week of your keto diet can be challenging, especially if you are transitioning from a much less structured way of eating. The nature of the keto diet requires many people to make lifestyle changes that can feel a bit overwhelming early on. It is vital to remember that keto, like many other diets, requires an adjustment period. This is where your body will make a huge shift from using dietary sugars for energy to using fats for energy, leaving you feeling a bit under the weather.

The “Keto Flu” is a real possibility, but with the proper preparation, you can overcome it and thrive in your first week. If you do feel a bit under the weather, the flu-like symptoms may last several days. With your keto-approved menu and consistency, you can make your first week a positive experience.

In addition to eating your menu of keto-friendly foods, you should also use these keto diet tips for your first week.

  • Hydrate. Switching to a ketogenic diet will cause your body to lose the excess water stored from your former diet of high carbs and sugar. Drinking plenty of water or taking sugar-free electrolyte supplements can help your body adjust to changing water levels.
  • Focus on hitting your calorie and macronutrient requirements. Get enough protein and fat to reach ketosis, and you will feel better and less hungry.
  • Get adequate fiber. You want to maintain your gut health to avoid gastrointestinal issues, so consume your greens. Having a salad each day can help you feel full and keep you from becoming bloated or constipated.
  • Limit pre-packaged and processed foods to stay on target for your carbohydrate intake. Hidden carbs can throw off your macros and prevent you from reaching ketosis, so it is important to limit the amount of sugar you consume if you want to be successful in your first week.

Drink Water

You Can Kick Off Your Keto Diet and Find Success

The switch to a ketogenic diet should ultimately be seen as a lifestyle change that will lead to long-term health and wellness. Set your goals and make a plan to be consistent but give yourself grace as you transition into a new way of using food for fuel. The tips from this guide can help you go from a beginner with keto to a successful keto lifestyle in less time and with less difficulty. You, too, can reap the benefits of ketosis and healthy weight management.


Sources

  1. https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu13051654
  2. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00027/full
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830
Myths and Facts About Sun Exposure

Myths and Facts About Sun Exposure

This entry was posted in Healthy Aging and tagged , on by .

It’s official: summer is here. And knowing Arizona weather, it’s only going to get warmer and sunnier for longer periods of time, so it’s important to protect yourself from the effects of sun exposure. It’s particularly important since we live in Arizona, where the sun is out for a greater percentage of the year, and since we receive much more sun here than in most other states.

Summer is not the only time you need to protect yourself and your skin, but it’s still a good time of year to get updated information about skin protection, as ultraviolet radiation is stronger during this time of year. Knowing the myths and facts about sun exposure is necessary to stay safe each summer, and to stay updated on how best to protect yourself from the dangerous effects of sun damage to your skin.

Sun Exposure: More Dangerous Than It Seems

Sun exposure seems like a good idea, as we often think of the sun as the thing that gives us life, warmth, light, and happiness. After all, without the sun, this planet would never have become inhabitable for us. While all of this is true, the sun can still cause serious damage to your skin after even short amounts of exposure. To prevent damage, you need to be aware of the dangers related to sun exposure.

Examine sun damaged skin

Sun damage comes in the form of solar and ultraviolet radiation and its molecular damage to your skin, causing short-term issues like photosensitivity or sunburn that can irritate and injure your skin; or long-term issues like photoaging, where the damage affects your skin at a much deeper level, and could lead to skin cancer as well as other permanent skin deterioration and health effects. [1]Gonzaga, E.R. Role of UV Light in Photodamage, Skin Aging, and Skin Cancer. AM J Clin Dermatol 10, 19–24 (2009).https://doi.org/10.2165/0128071-200910001-00004

Myths Related to Sun Exposure

It’s important to know the commonly circulated myths related to sun exposure, so you know the risks for the summer and what you can do to stay safe

Myth: Sun Exposure Is Only a Problem in Summer, Not When It’s Cold or on Cloudy Days

It’s a common assumption: it’s colder in the winter, and you don’t feel the effects of the sun on your skin, so you won’t experience sun damage, right? While people don’t tend to get sunburned as much in the winter because of the angle of the sun, most equate fewer burns with the colder temperatures. As a result, many people think that cooler days in the summer also offer a respite from sun exposure.

However, it isn’t true — the damage caused by the sun is a result of the ultraviolet rays, not the amount of heat in the air. While UV levels vary based on the time of year and the angle of the sun, colder temperatures do not affect the levels of UV.  [2]Farman, G. (n.d.). Ultraviolet (UV) / Ozone Frequently Asked Questions. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from http://www.bom.gov.au/uv/faq.shtml Because of this, days in the summer where the weather is cloudy, windy, or a little colder than average will still cause skin damage unless you take steps to protect your skin

Myth: People With Dark Skin Don’t Need Sunscreen to Protect Their Skin From the Sun

UV radiation causes skin damage on all types of skin

Many people with dark skin believe their skin has sufficient protection from sun exposure, or that they don’t suffer the same consequences of sun damage to their skin. However, UV radiation causes skin damage on all types of skin, regardless of color. [3]Taylor, S. C., & Alexis, A. F. (2022). Misconceptions of photoprotection in skin of color. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 86 (3) S9-17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2021.12.020 Wearing proper protection against radiation exposure can make your skin healthier, and lessen the physical effects of skin damage like hyperpigmentation or dark spots. Applying sunscreen can go a long way for the beauty of your skin and, more importantly, its long-term health and protection against UV exposure effects.

Myth: Fake Tans Are Sufficient Protection From Sun Damage and Can Replace Sunscreen

While many people who use spray tans and tanning lotions believe that these products are a safer alternative to sunbathing, they in fact are more likely to receive sunburns than people who don’t use spray tans and tanning lotions. This is because the products provide a very small amount of UV protection that people believe to be enough, but they don’t provide enough protection for the skin. They must be used with high-SPF sunblock to prevent damage from sun exposure. [4]Brooks, K., & Brooks, D. (2006). Use of artificial tanning products among young adults. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 54 (6), 1060-1066.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2006.01.01 It’s much safer for your skin and long-term health to use sunscreen in addition to tanning lotions, reapplying the sunscreen every two hours to best protect your skin from harmful rays.

Myth: The More Exposure to Sunlight, the Less Vitamin D Deficiency You Suffer

While Vitamin D is important for the health of your body and mind, that doesn’t mean you or your family needs long stretches in the sun unprotected. In fact, you should never spend time in the sun unprotected. Many people are confused about how much protection from the sun they should employ when there are health benefits to sun exposure. [5]Littlewood, Z., Greenfield, S. (2018). Parents’ knowledge, attitudes and beliefs regarding sun protection in children: a qualitative study. BMC public health, 18 (1), … Continue reading

So, is sun exposure healthy? The truth is that you will still boost your levels of Vitamin D with minimal exposure while using sun protection. The higher amounts of UV in the middle of the day mean you don’t need as much sun exposure to get your healthy dose of Vitamin D, so moderation is important—limit your exposure as much as possible, and always use sunblock. [6]Tsiaras, W. G., & Weinstock, M. A. (2011). Factors influencing vitamin D status. Acta dermato-venereologica, 91 (2), 115–124. https://doi.org/10.2340/00015555-09800 There are also other, safer ways to get your Vitamin D without exposure to UV and solar rays that harm your skin’s health.

Myth: Glass Provides Protection From the Sun

Glass that can completely block all UV radiation

Glass seems like a barrier against the effects of sun exposure, but this is almost never the case. While some types of glass can limit the amount of UV radiation, there are still types of UV rays that can enter. Glass that can completely block all UV radiation is not commonly installed in most cars or buildings. [7]Almutawa, F., Vandal, R., Wang, S. Q. Lim, H. W. (2013). Current status of photoprotection by window glass, automobile glass, window films, and sunglasses. Photodermatology, photoimmunology … Continue reading Because of this, your skin can still be harmed with long periods of sun exposure ,even behind glass. In fact, the left side of the face and left arm are more affected by sun damage as a result of the driver’s side window exposure. Even if you’re behind glass, be sure to adequately cover your skin with clothing or sunscreen to keep it protected.

Protect Your Skin

The more informed you are about these myths, the more you understand about what amount of sun exposure is good for you and what’s dangerous to your health. Even more importantly, you’ll need to learn how to stay safe from UV and solar radiation. While there are health benefits to a small amount of sun exposure, it’s all about moderation. You need to keep your skin safe from any sun radiation exposure lasting longer than a few minutes. Keep your skin covered to protect it from UV rays during both summer and winter months.

 Apply sunscreen and sunblock regularly

There are many things you can do to protect yourself from the effects of sun damage.

  • Wear protective clothing—protective clothing and coverings like long-sleeved shirts, pants, and hats will completely block UV rays from reaching your skin.
  • Avoid the points of the day that have the strongest UV radiation, which is often the six hours surrounding the highest point of the sun, or noonday.
  • Applying sunscreen and sunblock regularly to exposed skin is imperative, but applying it once a day is not enough; finding the adequate sunscreen for your skin, applying it thoroughly and evenly to yourself, and reapplying every two hours is the best way to protect your skin from sun exposure damage.
  • Pay attention to your skin—if it’s irritated or sunburned, you need to be using more protection from solar radiation.

Rid Yourself of Myths Related to Sun Exposure

Stay safe and protected this summer when you’re out in the sun, and spread the word about the facts of sun exposure. The more people who expose the myths surrounding sun exposure, the safer everyone will be from the negative effects of solar and UV radiation, and then everyone can enjoy the summer sun properly, while keeping their future health and the health of others safe. Protecting your skin, along with visiting an experienced gynecologist, should be a part of every woman’s routine.

References

References
1 Gonzaga, E.R. Role of UV Light in Photodamage, Skin Aging, and Skin Cancer. AM J Clin Dermatol 10, 19–24 (2009).https://doi.org/10.2165/0128071-200910001-00004
2 Farman, G. (n.d.). Ultraviolet (UV) / Ozone Frequently Asked Questions. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from http://www.bom.gov.au/uv/faq.shtml
3 Taylor, S. C., & Alexis, A. F. (2022). Misconceptions of photoprotection in skin of color. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 86 (3) S9-17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2021.12.020
4 Brooks, K., & Brooks, D. (2006). Use of artificial tanning products among young adults. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 54 (6), 1060-1066.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2006.01.01
5 Littlewood, Z., Greenfield, S. (2018). Parents’ knowledge, attitudes and beliefs regarding sun protection in children: a qualitative study. BMC public health, 18 (1), 207.https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5091-8
6 Tsiaras, W. G., & Weinstock, M. A. (2011). Factors influencing vitamin D status. Acta dermato-venereologica, 91 (2), 115–124. https://doi.org/10.2340/00015555-09800
7 Almutawa, F., Vandal, R., Wang, S. Q. Lim, H. W. (2013). Current status of photoprotection by window glass, automobile glass, window films, and sunglasses. Photodermatology, photoimmunology photomedicine, 29 (2), 65–72. https://doi.org/10.1111/phpp.12022
Understanding “Sugar Free” Sweeteners

Understanding “Sugar Free” Sweeteners

This entry was posted in Fitness and Nutrition and tagged on by .

Artificial sweeteners can seem like a miracle product for those with a “sweet tooth” who encounter a need to switch to a reduced-sugar diet. As our bodies grow and age, many of us find an occasion to reduce our sugar consumption or overall calorie intake. This change can be founded on personal health goals or mandated by a medical necessity, such as in the preventative treatment of pre-diabetes symptoms.

Is Sugar Free Healthy?

A reduced-sugar diet might be a temporary response to a health concern or a lifelong change to help manage a chronic issue. The longer your sugar-free diet lasts, the more likely it is that you’ll want to seek out viable replacements for some of your old, sugary favorites.

Sugar Is Everywhere

People who attempt to switch to a sugar-free diet are often dismayed to notice that sugar pops up in more places than they had anticipated. For instance, we all know that soft drinks, candies, and donuts are packed with sugar. A single 12-ounce can of name brand cola contains between 150 and 200 calories on average, with basically all of them coming from the sugar content.

Cutting out sugary candy and drinks can be one of the easiest and most obvious ways to set yourself on a sugar-free path, but it’s not quite as simple as that. Depending on the alternative chosen, you may find yourself asking: is sugar free really sugar free? Sugar, and its not-so-sneaky aliases, such as high-fructose corn syrup, are found in many other foods, and they don’t all taste so sweet:

  • Ketchup, Salad Dressings, Barbecue Sauces

    A single tablespoon of plain ketchup contains nearly 4 grams of sugar, which is more than a quarter of the total sugar in an Oreo cookie.

  • Bread, Pizza Crust, and Other Baked Goods

    Some of the most common American breads and buns would be considered cake in other countries. For those with the time and energy, learning to bake your own reduced sugar bread can be a rewarding part of undertaking a low sugar lifestyle.

  • Fresh Fruits

    While consuming fresh fruits is typically a healthy choice, natural sugar is still sugar, which means fruit can contribute to sugar-related health issues just the same as high fructose corn syrup. Fruit juices, even naturally derived ones, are worse yet because they concentrate all of a whole fruit’s sugar and calories while discarding the healthy fiber.

  • Beer, Wine, and Liquor

    Alcohol’s fermentation process is dependent on sugars being present, so even though your favorite adult beverage may be rather unsweet by the time it reaches your glass, the caloric content remains. In fact, even if you were to drink straight liquor with no actual sugar content, the converted sugars and starches that make up alcohol still have a caloric content of 7 calories per gram,[1]NHS. (2020, January 13). Calories in alcohol. NHS choices. Retrieved April 3, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-advice/calories-in-alcohol/ which is comparable to that of pure fat. Many favorite liqueurs and mixers are also extremely high in sugar.

  • Honey, Syrup, Molasses

    While using honey, maple syrup, or pure cane syrup as a sugar alternative seems like a healthier choice, these are not actually sugar substitutes at all. Products made with “real” cane sugar offer few tangible benefits over those sweetened with the addition of corn syrup. Meanwhile honey and refined tree sap are still just other forms of sugar at the end of the day, and their impact on your caloric intake and blood glucose levels aren’t much changed just because the sugar in this case has been naturally processed by way of trees or bees.

With the exception of fresh fruits, the above items can be readily found in low-sugar or reduced-calorie varieties. These alternatives often use high carbohydrate or fat content in an effort to reformulate the texture or flavor of the product to make up for the missing sugar, which can sometimes make them just as unhealthy as their sugared counterparts. Many other sugar-free products rely on sweetening agents that must be produced in a lab and added to products artificially, which is an automatic turn off to some health-conscious consumers.

This all begs the question: is sugar free actually healthy? As with many other health and nutrition questions that seem simple on the surface, the answer is far more complex than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Whether a sugar-free diet works or not will depend on your unique body, your individual health goals, and what sorts of foods you’re eating in place of the sugary things you’ve eliminated.

Is Sugar Free Better Than Sugar?

AZGYN_Sugar-Free_Better Than Sugar?

In the scientific and medical communities, artificial sugar substitutes are sometimes referred to as “nonnutritive sweeteners.” This term refers to the fact they add sweetness to a food’s flavor profile but have no nutritional value, which is to say they contain no calories and no essential nutrients.

There are many zero calorie and low-calorie artificial sweeteners on the market today, and not all of them are created equal. So, is sugar free actually healthy? Is sugar free better than sugar in any measurable way; is sugar free worse than sugar? And, once you get past the zero-calorie hype, is sugar free good for weight loss at all? The answers to each of these questions will depend on which specific non-nutritive sweetener is being used to replace sugar.

In general, swapping out sugar for any artificial zero calorie sweetener will indeed offer results in terms of reducing your overall caloric intake and managing high blood sugar. This can be an effective part of overall weight management, reducing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other issues. However, each one of these different nonnutritive sweetening agents will have its own effects on your body, just like any other food or chemical you choose to consume.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five different artificial sweetening agents. These products are as follows:

1. Saccharin

One of the most well-established artificial sweeteners, saccharin has been in use for over a hundred years and has been the subject of a great deal of research over that century. You may know it as the brand name product Sweet N’ Low. Saccharin is promising as a sweetening agent because it has zero calories, doesn’t affect blood sugar, and is several hundred times sweeter than sugar, meaning a small amount goes a long way.

The research behind saccharin has not always been positive, however. A 1977 study correlated saccharin ingestion with the development of bladder tumors in male rats.[2]Price, J. M., Biava, C. G., Oser, B. L., Vogin, E. E., Steinfeld, J., & Ley, H. L. (1970). Bladder tumors in rats fed cyclohexylamine or high doses of a mixture of cyclamate and saccharin. … Continue reading Thankfully, over 30 ensuing studies have determined that this issue does not affect humans.[3]Ellwein, L. B., & Cohen, S. M. (1990). The health risks of saccharin revisited. Critical reviews in toxicology, 20(5), 311-326. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10408449009089867

2. Acesulfame Potassium

Much like saccharin, “Ace K” is hundreds of times sweeter than natural sugar and has dozens of studies backing its FDA approval. Other studies, however, have demonstrated acesulfame’s potential to disrupt gut health and actually increase weight gain in mice.[4]Bian, X., Chi, L., Gao, B., Tu, P., Ru, H., & Lu, K. (2017). The artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium affects the gut microbiome and body weight gain in CD-1 mice. PloS one, 12(6), e0178426. … Continue reading This issue has not been replicated in human studies but remains a potential concern.

3. Aspartame

One of the most widely-used artificial sweeteners is also one of the most controversial. Aspartame has been used for a long time, particularly in diet soft drinks, but is marred by a lot of anecdotal tales and online posts linking it to cancer and mental health disorders.

It has been approved for use as a sweetener in over 100 countries, however, and even multinational watchdog agencies have determined that aspartame is generally safe for consumption. One notable exception: people suffering phenylketonuria, a medical condition that can be seriously exacerbated by aspartame.

4. Neotame

Neotame is an N-alkyl derivative similar to aspartame in structure.[5]Witt, J. (1999). Discovery and development of neotame. World Rev Nutr Diet, 85, 52-57. … Continue reading While chemically similar, neotame is 30 to 60 times sweeter than aspartame – and around 10,000 times the sweetness of standard table sugar. This makes neotame great for applications where sweetness needs to be achieved with an extremely small amount of additive.

5. Sucralose

Sucralose is relatively new among nonnutritive sweeteners, having only been approved for widespread use as a sweetener in the late 90s. Sucralose is unique in the fact that it is derived from sugar itself. This has been played up as a marketing gimmick to make sucralose sound more “natural” than other sugar alternatives, but it is deceptive at best.

While sugar may be involved in the creation of sucralose, it is actually believed to have been discovered while researchers were attempting to develop new insecticides. You have probably seen or consumed sucralose under the brand name Splenda. It is considered fairly safe for consumption, however it does contain small amounts of toxic chlorine, which may be concerning to some.

6. Stevia

In addition to these five artificial, nonnutritive sweetening agents, the FDA has also approved the use of a sweetening agent called stevia. Stevia is different from nonnutritive sweeteners, and arguably closer to sugar because it is also a naturally occurring substance. Stevia is derived from a plant of the same name and is about 200 times sweeter than standard sugar. While it is not entirely devoid of calories, it can be used effectively in very small amounts, effectively allowing it to compete with zero-calorie sweeteners.

Is Sugar Free OK for Diabetics?

The management of diabetes and related conditions is an extremely common use for sugar-free foods and artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can allow someone with a serious blood sugar condition to continue enjoying some of the flavors they love. Some people, however, still cling to anecdotal evidence and conspiracy-like rumors about artificial sweeteners actually being bad for diabetics. A 2018 review of available studies was not able to conclude any scientifically demonstrable link between artificial sweeteners and the worsening of diabetes or its symptoms.[6]Sanyaolu, A., Marinkovic, A., Gosse, J., Likaj, L., Ayodele, O., Okorie, C., & Verner, O. (2019). Artificial sweeteners and their association with Diabetes: A review. J Pub Health Catalog, 1(4), … Continue reading

While other research exists which shows people who drink a large number of diet soft drinks may be at higher risk for obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes, it now seems likely that these links have more to do with people who consume greater amounts food and beverage in general, rather than showing a specific connection between diabetes and artificial sweeteners. It is possible that a psychological effect is at play: people who consume lots of sweet but low- or zero-calorie drinks may stop associating sweetness with caloric intake and therefore start consuming other sugary foods less thoughtfully.

Adopting a Sugar-Free Diet

Adopting a Sugar-Free Diet

If you do need to cut sugar from your diet, it is important to keep in mind that these artificial sweeteners are relatively new additions to the human diet. None of these products has been consumed by humans for very long, so their full influence on human health is not yet known. We can only hope that further research will continue to shed light on what measures, if any, should be taken to regulate artificial sweeteners and bring the public healthier sugar-free options.

References

References
1 NHS. (2020, January 13). Calories in alcohol. NHS choices. Retrieved April 3, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-advice/calories-in-alcohol/
2 Price, J. M., Biava, C. G., Oser, B. L., Vogin, E. E., Steinfeld, J., & Ley, H. L. (1970). Bladder tumors in rats fed cyclohexylamine or high doses of a mixture of cyclamate and saccharin. Science, 167(3921), 1131-1132. https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.167.3921.1131
3 Ellwein, L. B., & Cohen, S. M. (1990). The health risks of saccharin revisited. Critical reviews in toxicology, 20(5), 311-326. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10408449009089867
4 Bian, X., Chi, L., Gao, B., Tu, P., Ru, H., & Lu, K. (2017). The artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium affects the gut microbiome and body weight gain in CD-1 mice. PloS one, 12(6), e0178426. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0178426
5 Witt, J. (1999). Discovery and development of neotame. World Rev Nutr Diet, 85, 52-57. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ifgKL_7e1fMC&oi=fnd&pg=PA52&dq=neotame&ots=cs3dxsTPXS&sig=ZrNk9Zv5Vb1WK7hUzipRjeMTk1M#v=onepage&q=neotame&f=false
6 Sanyaolu, A., Marinkovic, A., Gosse, J., Likaj, L., Ayodele, O., Okorie, C., & Verner, O. (2019). Artificial sweeteners and their association with Diabetes: A review. J Pub Health Catalog, 1(4), 1-3. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Adekunle-Sanyaolu/publication/329328224_Artificial_sweeteners_and_their_association_with_Diabetes_A_review/links/5c316cd5a6fdccd6b59630b9/Artificial-sweeteners-and-their-association-with-Diabetes-A-review.pdf
Healthy Alternatives to Popular Holiday Dishes

Healthy and Low Carb Alternatives to Popular Holiday Dishes

Holidays and poor food choices always seem to go hand-in-hand. Holidays mean huge family gatherings, baking cookies, and indulging in the things we promise to swear off of at the start of the New Year. Holidays should be enjoyed, but that doesn’t mean we have to set ourselves up for weight gain. On average, many individuals will gain about two pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

This by itself isn’t a huge problem. The problem starts when the majority of people who do gain a pound or two won’t lose it before the next year. Year after year of added weight can take a toll on your body. Several holiday food alternatives will allow you to still enjoy the season while being mindful of your health.

Healthy Holiday Alternatives

Finding healthy holiday foods doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. By being mindful and considering a few basic swaps, you’ll be able to cut your caloric and carb intake down with ease. Swapping is the best way to still enjoy what you normally would, by making slight changes to lower the calorie and carb count. One of the best aspects of swapping is that most swaps are unnoticeable and don’t require extra work. When it comes to holiday food alternatives, there are several great options for appetizers, sides, main dishes, desserts, and even holiday drinks!

Appetizers

The holidays are full of get-togethers that involve food. Most gatherings will offer appetizers to graze on while waiting for the main meal. Appetizers are an area where being mindful of your choices is key. Portion control can be challenging because it can be difficult to keep track of. You tell yourself you’ll just have one cocktail weenie and before you know it you’ve had eight. Appetizers can often be fried or made with fatty, carb loaded foods. Luckily, there are plenty of amazing appetizers that still hit the spot without risking weight gain.

Dips

Dips are a staple when it comes to the appetizer table. When trying to create healthy holiday alternatives, replacing those full-fat dips with lower-fat options is a game-changer. Instead of eating a dip created through cheese, cream cheese, or sour cream, choose a healthier option such as yogurt or fat-free sour cream.

Yogurt is a fantastic swap for full-fat dip options. You can either use low-fat yogurt or nonfat plain Greek yogurt. The best part about this swap is that no one will be able to tell. Hummus is another fantastic dipping alternative. It is already a crowd favorite and it is available in a wide variety of flavors. Instead of chips, offer easy-to-dip veggies or chip substitutes made with vegetables or beans.

Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp is a great protein-packed option for an appetizer. It is a quick option that requires little prep. Pair it with a spicy cocktail sauce and you have a fantastic healthy option. If you wanted to elevate this option further, shrimp and vegetable skewers are a great way to elevate a simple appetizer while still keeping it healthy.

Meat and Cheese

Everyone loves a good charcuterie board, but calories from meat and cheese can add up quickly. Consider cutting back on the meat and cheese, and if you do have it, consider turkey pepperoni or other lower-calorie meat options. Instead of full-fat cheeses, consider offering lower-calorie cheese options as well. And, what charcuterie board would be complete without some pickled vegetables and fresh fruits? By filling up on some fruits and veggies along with your meats and cheeses, you’ll reduce your calories quite a bit.

Healthy Holiday Side Dish Hacks

Healthy Holiday Side Dish Hacks

Protein may be the star of many holiday meals, but it is often the side dishes that people can’t stop talking about. Healthy holiday alternatives are plentiful when it comes to your sides. Being mindful of your portion sizes is one way to ensure that you are sticking to the healthier side of things. When possible, load up on vegetables first, keeping the starches at bay. Outside of portion control, several helpful swaps allow you to still enjoy your favorite holiday side dishes.

Green Bean Casserole

For many, it would be impossible to picture Thanksgiving dinner without green bean casserole. There are several options when looking to be healthier. One easy step would be to increase the number of green beans used while decreasing the use of the filler ingredients. You can swap to low-sodium soup and use skim milk instead of evaporated milk. Another option would be to make a green bean almondine instead of a traditional green bean casserole. This option lowers your intake of saturated fat while adding more heart-healthy fats through the almonds.

Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is an American staple and continues to find its way onto more and more holiday tables. There are plenty of great options to make this indulgence healthy while still delicious. You can replace regular pasta with vegetable or bean-based noodles for a healthier, lower carb take. These noodles have grown in popularity over the years, and you can usually find a wide variety of options in your local store’s pasta aisle. You can also use low-fat cheese or skip the cheese and use turmeric and nutritional yeast. These swaps are great because they decrease fat intake while increasing fiber intake.

Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes are a staple side dish for many families. To create a healthy holiday alternative, you can replace your potato with mashed cauliflower. If you’re unsure about fully committing to cauliflower, you can also mix 2-3 heads of cauliflower with your potatoes. Either way, you are providing a healthier alternative that won’t sacrifice in taste or consistency, especially with gravy.

Cauliflower has a lower caloric and carbohydrate content than potato, and it has more vitamins and minerals. For this reason, cauliflower has become a very popular food for both dieters hoping to cut calories, as well as those on low-carb specific diets, such as Paleo.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of cooked cauliflower versus potatoes:

Potato vs Cauliflower

Gravy

Some basic swaps can make traditional gravy options healthier. This includes using fat-free turkey broth with flour and seasoning. If you like to use the drippings to make your gravy, remove the fat first. This can be done by using a separator cup or placing the drippings in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. This allows the drippings to cool enough that the fat separates and can be skimmed off of the top. Another option that isn’t often considered but is amazingly delicious is swapping out gravy entirely for an herb pesto. It will have fewer calories, less fat, less carbs and an addition of potassium and calcium.

Sweet Potatoes

On their own, sweet potatoes are an excellent healthy addition to Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who isn’t watching their carb intake. The problem comes from many holiday recipes that also include sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows, brown sugar, white sugar, and loads of butter. One great alternative is just choosing one of these tasty toppings instead of all of them. Another option is keeping the skin on the sweet potato as you cook it, topping it off with a cinnamon dusting.

Keep in mind, however, one five-inch sweet potato has about 26 grams of carbohydrates. In a low-carb diet, that’s about half of the calories from carbohydrates that you may be allowed for the whole day. So, unless you really love  sweet potatoes, they’re probably worth skipping if you are on a low-carb diet.

Meats

When it comes to your holiday proteins, you’ll want to consider your healthier alternatives. When it comes to turkey, opt for the roasted and not the deep-fried. Choose lighter meat instead of dark to reduce your consumption of fat. In general, your serving of protein shouldn’t be larger than the palm of your hand. Portion control can be beneficial when it comes to the wide variety of meat options you may face over the holidays.

Making Holiday Desserts Healthier

Desserts play a large role in the holidays. Pies, cookies, and other confections are an anticipated conclusion to a great holiday meal. When it comes to keeping it healthy, it is possible. It will help to be mindful of portion sizes as well as what options you choose. Small swaps like pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie can make a huge difference. Trying to go low carb? You could also skip the crust and just bake the fruit. You can experiment with the baked fruit, adding cinnamon and nutmeg to recreate the perfect pie without the crust.

Frozen grapes are an amazing sweet treat that is also a natural source of antioxidants. You can even toss the grapes in a bag with some lime juice and flavored sugar substitute for an elevated treat everyone will love. If you have a weak spot for chocolate, dark chocolate is a healthier alternative compared to milk or white chocolate. When it comes to baking, coconut oil is the perfect alternative to butter.

Healthy Holiday Drink Alternatives

Healthy Holiday Drink Alternatives

Unhealthy drink options can have the same impact on your weight as unhealthy food options. Holiday drinks are often filled with heavy creams, sugars, and syrups. Over the holidays, wine and other alcohol consumption can quickly increase your caloric intake. Even soda and other sugar drinks are consumed in excess through different punches and mocktails. Some of these drinks can pack more of a caloric punch than some desserts.

There are several healthy holiday alternatives for your holiday drinks. For example, traditional hot chocolate can be loaded with fat and excess sugar. Instead, why not try making your own version with an alternative to cow milk, such as almond, rice or coconut. Use raw cacao powder instead of chocolate and stevia instead of sugar for one of the easiest healthy versions of a popular holiday drink.

Eggnog

Regular eggnog can easily total over 250 calories and be made up of half the daily dose of saturated fat we need. Just one cup can contain 20 grams of carbs. There are a few options when it comes to swapping. You could use egg substitute for the regular eggs, fat-free milk instead of whole, and use a sugar substitute in place of sugar. You can still flavor with vanilla and spices. If you use all of these alternatives when making your own eggnog, you can take your carb intake all the way from 20 to 2 per cup!

Skipping the alcohol can quickly drop the calorie and carb intake number down as well. Some companies create eggnog using almond milk and other dairy alternatives. These can be another great option for those who still want to enjoy their eggnog in the cold winter months and can be found in the dairy section of most grocery stores. Hot apple cider is also a great alternative. It is a warm seasonal beverage that brings comfort without heavy caloric intake. Cinnamon tea can also be enjoyed instead, for a fraction of the calories.

Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol directly adds to sugar intake. To be on the healthiest side of the issue, you could completely substitute with mocktails and sparkling drinks. You can also still enjoy alcohol while being mindful of how much you’re actually consuming. Your mixer choice can play a role in the overall calorie count of your drink. Instead of soda or sugary juices, use soda water, diet tonic, or low-sugar juice. Drinking champagne or a hard seltzer can cause you to consume your drink more slowly due to the bubbles. Red wine is filled with healthy antioxidants that are good for your heart. While it should still be enjoyed in moderation, it is a great option for those who would still prefer to enjoy an alcoholic beverage.

Another great tip is having a glass of water between every alcoholic drink. This helps you to keep your calorie intake low as well as keeps you well hydrated.

More Healthy Holiday Low-Carb Ideas

Try a number of low-carb alternatives throughout the holidays. Your eyes can stay filled with the sights of food, but the following dishes won’t leave you feeling bloated or guilty.

  • Go green this holiday season, mixing green apples with celery. Top it with olive oil, mustard, and bleu cheese.
  • What’s a holiday without stuffing? Combine sausage, mushrooms, celery, and onions. Mix with cornbread, sage, and chicken broth.
  • Roast green beans along with pecans for some texture. If you’re looking for a bit of added spice, throw some bacon into the mix.
  • Some people can’t get through the holidays without some seafood. Stuff mushrooms with crab meat, garlic, and oregano.
  • A lot of soups are off limits for those who don’t want to consume the cream that goes along with many soup recipes. But, you can lighten the soup by swapping-out the cream for coconut milk.
  • Less carbs usually means more meat. Make the meat lovers in your family more than happy by draping pieces of bacon across your traditional oven-baked turkey.
  • Speaking of meat, there’s a lot you can do with pork chops. Throw them in a pan with fresh sage, mushrooms, and coconut oil for a low fat meat alternative.
  • What about those who have a sweet tooth? Try creating the batter with sugar-free maple syrup. Use almond flour and coconut oil.

Enjoying Healthy Holiday Foods

Enjoying Healthy Holiday Foods

Enjoy the holidays. They are a great chance to get together with friends and family and remind yourself of what matters. Food as part of the holiday celebration isn’t going anywhere. What can change is the food options we choose to go with. For any aspect of your holiday meal, there is a healthy alternative that can still be a crowd pleaser and easy to create.

By swapping basic ingredients you can create the same dish in taste and appearance with significantly fewer calories and net carbs. And, remember, exchanging ingredients for healthier options works well for your holiday drink options too! This holiday season, consider starting your New Year’s resolutions early by making healthier choices a part of your daily commitment to yourself, even during this celebratory time of year. Your future self will thank you!

Do I Have a Thyroid Problem?

Do I Have a Thyroid Problem? How To Tell and What To Do

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged on by .

The human body is entirely connected. It is important to understand the function of major organs and body parts in order to live a healthy life. One major body part that is often ignored is the thyroid. Though it is involved in many functions of the body, few people understand what it does. Unfortunately, this means that lots of individuals with thyroid problems go untreated; it is difficult to know that something is wrong without understanding how an organ functions correctly.

What Does The Thyroid Do?

The thyroid is a gland in the endocrine system that is located in the neck. It sits in front of the windpipe, and is shaped similarly to a butterfly. This gland primarily controls metabolism. Hormones play a central role in how the rest of the body can function; metabolism has far reaching consequences for the entire body.

Thyroid Issues

What Are The Symptoms Of A Malfunctioning Thyroid?

There are two common issues that can affect the thyroid: Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. The first means that the thyroid is producing an excess of hormones, whereas the second means that it is producing too little. Both of these conditions have unique symptoms that are described below.

It is worth noting that there are other diseases and conditions that can affect the thyroid, such as thyroid cancer and thyroid eye disease. However, these conditions are rare, and most of the time Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism is to blame for any symptoms that the thyroid causes.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid is under-producing hormones. This is to say that the body’s thyroid is not properly managing the metabolism.

Some common symptoms of Hypothyroidism include:

  • Weight gain
  • Feeling cold and/or tired
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair
  • Forgetfulness
  • Constipation

If a doctor suspects that a patient has Hypothyroidism, a hormone test can be used to confirm or deny the suspicion. The common thyroid treatment for Hypothyroidism is a thyroid hormone replacement to give the body the influx it needs to properly function, taken in pill form. It may take time and trial and error to discover the correct type of hormone and dosage to use. There are other ways to help mitigate Hypothyroidism symptoms, which will be discussed down below.

What Emotional Problems Does Hypothyroidism Cause?

It is important to reiterate that there are significant emotional side effects of thyroid disease. Because the thyroid affects hormone levels, individuals can experience significant mood changes as a result. Depression is a common symptom in individuals who have Hypothyroidism.

Specifically, individuals can become forgetful, experience fatigue, lack focus, and move slowly. If the disease is left untreated, some individuals begin to experience hallucinations and other more acute alterations of the senses.

Unfortunately, many of these emotional symptoms are common in other diseases as well. Depression is a full disease on its own, and does not always trigger medical professionals to investigate the thyroid as a culprit. This can lead to undiagnosed disease and more severe symptoms for patients.

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms

On the other end of the spectrum, Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too many hormones.

This can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Increased appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Changes in menstruation
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping

Unfortunately, Hyperthyroidism tends to be a bit more difficult to treat. However, it is still treatable with proper medical attention.

A doctor will likely put the patient on antithyroid medications or beta blockers to help mitigate the amount of hormones being released. Radioactive iodine and surgery are also potential options in some cases, depending on the patient and severity of the condition.

What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Problems In Females?

What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Problems In Females?

No matter the gender of the patient, many of the symptoms of thyroid problems are the same. It is worth noting that those who were assigned female at birth are more susceptible to thyroid disease in general. This often works to their advantage, as doctors are more likely to check thyroid health.

For people who menstruate, changes in periods can be a strong symptom or indicator that something is wrong with their thyroid. Of course, other conditions can affect menstruation, but because the thyroid deals with hormones it is an easy culprit.

What Causes Thyroid Problems?

There is no straightforward or single cause of thyroid problems. They can be caused by an array of different conditions and situations, and every patient is different. Some causes are hereditary, while others are not. It depends on the individual.

Some individuals who may be at higher risk include:

  • Individuals with a family history of thyroid disease
  • Individuals who are taking medications that contain excessive Iodine
  • Females
  • Individuals over 60
  • Individuals with certain medical conditions

None of these are a guarantee that thyroid disease will appear. However, they can be good indicators that a person is at a higher risk. Individuals who fit into one or more of the above categories should talk to their doctor, and watch for warning signs of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is more common than Hyperthyroidism, and can be caused by a variety of different diseases, conditions, deficiencies, and other medical situations.

Thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Or Postpartum Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis is a condition categorized by swelling or inflammation in the thyroid gland. This often causes Hypothyroidism, as it causes the thyroid to underproduce.

In Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis situations, the patient is suffering from an autoimmune condition. The patient’s immune system is attacking the thyroid without need. This causes damage, and often leads to thyroid malfunction. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is more often hereditary than Thyroiditis.

Postpartum Thyroiditis, the patient experiences Thyroiditis in the time following childbirth. In many situations, this is temporary, similar to gestational diabetes. Less than 10% of women experience Postpartum Thyroiditis.

Non-Functioning Thyroid

Sometimes, the thyroid fails to do its job as soon as the child is born. This is simply the way that the child is, and is not necessarily due to any sort of underlying disease or genetics. However, it is imperative that non-functioning thyroids are treated from the very start. Serious physical and mental conditions can occur if a child isn’t properly treated. All newborns who are born in hospitals have their thyroids tested when they are born, to avoid any long term effects and begin treatment immediately.

Low Iodine Levels

This condition, also called Iodine Deficiency, is fairly common. In fact, millions of individuals around the world have iodine deficiencies. Despite its common nature, it does need to be treated as soon as possible.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Just because Hyperthyroidism is not as common as Hypothyroidism doesn’t mean that it does not occur. There are millions of individuals worldwide living with Hyperthyroidism. Causes of the disease are as follows.

Excessive Iodine

Quite the opposite of the above example, some individuals have too much of the mineral, iodine, in their systems. This causes the thyroid to overproduce hormones, which results in Hyperthyroidism. Some medications, such as cough syrups and heart medications, contain high levels of iodine.

Nodules

Overactive nodules on the thyroid can cause Hyperthyroidism. Nodules are simply an overgrowth of skin tissue, and they can occur anywhere on the body. They usually occur underneath the skin, but can appear on internal organs such as the thyroid as well.

Some cases only have one nodule, making them cases of Toxic Autonomously Functioning Thyroid Nodules, whereas several nodules on a thyroid gland are called Toxic Multinodular Goiters.

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ Disease is the most common culprit behind Hyperthyroidism cases. This disease is categorized by an excess production of thyroid hormones, which can lead to the condition of Hyperthyroidism.

Coping With Thyroid Problems

Coping With Thyroid Problems

It can be difficult to discover that an essential part of one’s body is not working correctly. Many patients feel discouraged or disheartened following a diagnosis. However, it does not have to be this way. A diagnosis of either or Hyperthyroidism is simply more information that can help the patient feel better.

If you’re wondering how to cope with Hypothyroidism symptoms, just know that there are medication options that can help to curb some of the symptoms of these conditions. Beyond medication, there are even some lifestyle changes that can be beneficial to those living with a thyroid disease. Before trying any of these, however, patients should always consult their doctor.

Implement A Healthy Diet

It is important to recall that thyroid problems directly involve the level of metabolic hormones in the body. Because digestion is affected, eating a healthy diet can help the body to absorb the proper nutrients and support the thyroid in producing hormones. Generally speaking, however, a healthy diet is important for everyone. There are significant diseases and side effects that can result from poor eating habits.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cessation is one of the best things that individuals can do for their health. For patients suffering from thyroid disease, however, this is especially important. Cigarettes and tobacco products put additional stress on the thyroid specifically. Smoking can:

  • Prevents Iodine absorption in the thyroid
  • Impedes the production of hormones in the thyroid
  • Increases kidney Iodine production, which in turn can inflame the gallbladder, and cause other side effects

This is the first step for thyroid patients who smoke; there is no better way to help one’s condition than discontinuing cigarette and tobacco use.

Mitigate Stressors

It’s no secret that stress is bad in almost all situations. A single stressful event can derail a patient’s health for days, weeks, or even years. When it comes to thyroid conditions, managing stress is especially important. Again, the thyroid is central to hormone production and transfer. When stress occurs, the hormone cortisol spikes in the body. Cortisol can cause damage to the thyroid. It may even be a central factor in the development of autoimmune diseases.

Prioritize Sleep

Sleep can truly work wonders for the body. During this restful state, the body is able to recharge, recalibrate, and fix issues that may be occurring.

Individuals suffering from thyroid problems should be sure to:

  • Create and follow a sleep schedule
  • Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime
  • Use relaxing techniques such as listening to music, engaging in aromatherapy, or taking a warm bath
  • Eliminate distractions from the bedroom such as TVs, smartphones, tablets, pets, and sometimes other people

The bottom line is that thyroid disease requires that the individual do whatever they need to in order to get regular, restful sleep.

See A Therapist

For many people, talk therapy can help to check several of the above boxes. Therapy can help to manage stress and create healthy coping mechanisms for emotional situations. A decrease in stress often leads to better sleep, creating a positive domino effect.

In reality, many individuals who are diagnosed with diseases feel lost, afraid, alone, or all of the above. Going to a therapist helps many people to talk through these difficult feelings, and feel more empowered in their situation. It is helpful to remember that thyroid problems are treatable, and the situation does not need to be catastrophic.

Need More Information? Talk To A Doctor

Getting Thyroid Checked By Doctor

One of the best things that any individual can do for their health is talk to a licensed medical professional about their symptoms and concerns. No internet articles will be able to make a diagnosis, but a doctor certainly can. Seeking medical help means that patients receive advice that is tailored to their specific needs. They can create a plan of action, which often makes the situation feel less intimidating.

If you need a doctor to talk with, here at AZGYN our expert providers are here to answer any questions you have about your thyroid and health overall. Reach out if you’d like to speak to one of our female healthcare providers.

 

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Symptoms and Treatment Options 

This entry was posted in Hormonal Issues and tagged on by .

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder found in women. PCOS can be a metabolic dysfunction causing hormonal imbalances or hormonal imbalance causing metabolic dysfunction. PCOS symptoms may be metabolic alone (metabolic X syndrome) or they may be hormonal alone and not affect the metabolism.

Understanding which type of PCOS you have will help guide you to the right treatment options.

What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is a condition in which either:

  • the ovaries produce abnormal amounts of androgens (testosterone, male sex hormone),
  • hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the blood stream) binds with luteinizing hormone (from the pituitary gland- the center of our brain that communicates with the ovaries on which hormone to produce) which converts to testosterone,
  • or, rarely, it may be caused by a lesion or mass on your ovary or adrenal glands.

The Signs and Symptoms of PCOS:

The Signs and Symptoms of PCOS

  • Irregular or no menses (periods)
  • Heavy menses (periods)
  • Painful periods
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Central obesity (holding all your weight in your abdominal area)
  • Abnormal facial hair (too much or dark hair)
  • Acne
  • Hair loss (head)
  • Depression / Anxiety
  • Irritability / mood swings
  • Snoring (sleep apnea)
  • Chronic Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated blood sugar levels (pre-diabetic or diabetic)
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Infertility (not being able to get pregnant)
  • Decreased libido (sex drive)

Please note that symptoms vary, you may experience one or all of the symptoms above.

PCOS Treatment Options:

  • Lifestyle changes-
    • a dietary (low carbohydrate) plan that stabilizes your insulin levels can prevent the conversion of testosterone
    • Low intense workouts for >45 min/ 5 days a week (such as walking, yoga)
  • Metformin- helps stabilize insulin levels, making hormones more usable in the body
  • Spironolactone – helps with acne, lowers testosterone
  • Weight loss- a 5% reduction in your BMI (body mass index) can improve PCOS
  • Stress reduction (acupuncture, massages)
  • Specific hormonal birth control pills- that bind with the testosterone and lower the levels. This is a temporary fix that is often utilized to improve future fertility
  • Progestin releasing IUD- this does not treat systemic symptoms but rather protects the uterus from hyperplasia (pre-cancer) and cancer of the uterus
  • Cyclic progestin- to induce a monthly cycle

These treatments can be used together or individually depending on your type of PCOS and your healthcare goals.

Frequently Asked Questions About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Frequently Asked Questions About Polycystic Ovary SyndromeWomen often have similar questions when it comes to PCOS symptoms and treatment. In addition to the important questions answered above, we’ve prepared some additional FAQs to help you better understand this hormonal disorder.

What is considered an irregular period?

Great question. To answer this is it important to note that periods are tracked from the beginning of one cycle (first day you bleed) to the beginning of the next cycle. If this is less than 24 days apart or longer than 38 days apart then this is irregular. It is common to have a few day differences between the months but routinely skipping or having many periods is concerning and should be evaluated with a healthcare provider.

Can I get pregnant with PCOS?

Possibly. It depends on how well controlled it is. Often, women have oligomenorrhea (a few periods per year) and may ovulate during that time. A metric healthcare provider often reviews to determine ovulation status is the free testosterone lab value, how often you are having a menstrual cycle, and your BMI (body mass index). Do not be discouraged there are several holistic approaches, conservative medicines, and lifestyle changes you can make that can improve your symptoms and help you achieve pregnancy.

How do you get diagnosed with PCOS?

An evaluation with a healthcare provider and taking a detailed history including menstrual (period) history, vitals (blood pressure, weight), medical history, family history, and physical exam. Testing includes- fasting morning blood work and a pelvic ultrasound. If you first period was less than eight years ago the work up may not include a pelvic ultrasound.

I have PCOS, now what?

A follow up visit is needed to review your results and determine the best treatment for your desired healthcare goals. There is not a “one size fits all” treatment for PCOS. During this educational visit, your healthcare provider will review the type of PCOS you have and provide information of the best treatment options for your healthcare goals. Once you have chosen your chosen treatment. You will be followed (either every month or every three months) to monitor your progress and ensure your healthcare goals are being met.

Additional screening may be completed at these visits because individuals with PCOS are more likely to suffer from depression, have sleep disturbances, experience weight gain and pelvic pain.

I was diagnosed with PCOS. I am transgender (FTM), and I want elevated testosterone but how can I control my PCOS?

Depending on your symptoms and healthcare goals, your provider will help you with treatment options that controls the symptoms you do not want while promoting your overall health. Often this involves treatment with non-hormonal or localized treatment options that protect you from cancer.

Are there supplements I can take to help with my PCOS?

Yes. There are several great supplements. The top three most commonly recommending are:

  • Omega 3- lowers testosterone and decreases inflammation
  • Inositol – improved insulin and blood sugar levels
  • Chromium- stabilizes insulin levels

Does PCOS resolve with menopause?

No, PCOS continues to affect women after menopause. Treatment goals are focused on health promotion such as prevention or reversal of diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure), weight management, and control of menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia).

Does PCOS require surgery?

Surgery can be an option to improve fertility if other treatments don’t work. Ovarian drilling is a procedure that makes tiny holes in the ovary with a laser or thin heated needle to restore normal ovulation.

Is there a medication that can help with hair removal?

A few treatments can help get rid of unwanted hair or stop it from growing.

Eflornithine (Vaniqa) cream is a prescription drug that slows hair growth. Laser hair removal and electrolysis can get rid of unwanted hair on your face and body.

Getting Help With PCOS

Getting Help With PCOSAlthough the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, an early diagnosis and professional treatment along with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, may reduce the risk of long-term complications. Prolonged treatment may lead to additional health issues such as 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Make an appointment with your doctor if:

  • You have missed more than one period and you are not pregnant
  • You have other symptoms of PCOS, such as the growth of hair on your face and body
  • You’ve been actively trying to get pregnant for a year or more but have not been successful
  • You’re experiencing excessive thirst or hunger, have blurred vision or unexplained weight loss – all of which are symptoms of diabetes.

If you are concerned about your symptoms and don’t already have a doctor you can talk to, please reach out to us. Our team of clinicians and surgeons specialize in all aspects of women’s health and we are dedicated to practicing excellence in women’s care.