How to Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re like many Canadians, you consider your family doctor to be one of the most valuable resources you have when it comes to managing your health. But knowing how to talk to your doctor can help you get the most out of this vital relationship.

Making full use of a valuable resource: Your doctor

When it comes to staying healthy or living with a medical condition, your doctor is one of the most valuable resources you have. A recent survey of Canadians found that most consider their family doctor to be their major source of health information. But a visit to the doctor’s office is a wasted opportunity if you are uncomfortable bringing up your health concerns, if you don’t bring them up because you don’t think there’s enough time, or if you walk out of the office feeling like you and your doctor just had conversations in entirely different languages.

When you go to the doctor for a routine checkup, your doctor may use a variety of tests to monitor your health and disease risk factors and may also ask you about lifestyle factors such as exercise, smoking, and sexual activity. But your doctor isn’t a mind reader. Many medical problems don’t show themselves clearly in ten minutes seated in a room, and your doctor can only see and hear physical signs then and there, not how you feel or what has happened to you in the last few weeks.

So if you have any symptoms or health concerns, make sure to bring them up at your checkup. Or, if you aren’t due for a visit, schedule an appointment to discuss the specific issue at hand. Remember, your doctor is there to help or to refer you to someone who can.

And when it comes to discussing your concerns, don’t be afraid to speak up no matter how personal or private your problem may feel. Even if your problem is a sensitive one, chances are your doctor has heard it before. So rather than feeling embarrassed through your whole visit and then blurting out your concern as your doctor is wrapping up, broach the subject early so your doctor can understand how important your concern is to you and give the discussion the time it needs.

If your doctor is extremely busy or running behind and your appointment feels too rushed to have a meaningful discussion about your concerns, ask if you should schedule a follow-up visit to address the particular problem in greater depth. If a particular concern is extremely important and immediate, make sure it’s the first thing you discuss with your doctor. Making clear that an issue is a priority for you can go a long way towards getting it addressed during your visit. You can help to explain why a problem is a big concern to you by being specific about your symptoms and how they affect your life.

Just the facts: What your doctor should know

All sorts of things can affect your health, from your grandmother’s high blood pressure to the glass of wine you had with dinner last night. And accordingly, these are things your doctor should know in order to have the best possible understanding of the health risks you face and how to tailor your care.

Personal medical history

If you’ve been going to the same doctor for years, their records will likely reflect your health over the years. But if you’ve switched doctors or don’t have a regular family physician, it’s important that you keep a record of your health to ensure your doctor has an accurate understanding of your health over your lifetime.

If you’ve recently switched doctors, your former doctor’s office can help arrange to transfer your file, which will contain records from your physical exams and other visits, as well as lab results and other tests you may have had over the years. Your own records can also be helpful.

Before your visit, make a list of any major physical or mental conditions you may have had, the date you were diagnosed, and how you were treated. Your doctor should also be aware of any known food or drug allergies and any complications you may have experienced as the result of a medical condition or treatment. Don’t forget to mention if you are being treated by any other health care providers, including for mental health issues. You should also record any medications you may be using, including over-the-counter and herbal products, as well as your vaccination history.

Family medical history

Genetic factors play a role in the development of many conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, some types of cancer, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and many more. While having a family member who was diagnosed with a medical condition is no guarantee you will develop it too, it could raise your risk. That’s why a look back at your family’s medical history can be an important glimpse into your own health future.

Knowledge about any diseases or illnesses that may have affected members of your family can help your doctor to identify your own risks and, in turn, recommend lifestyle or medication changes and determine what diagnostic tests you may need.

A record of your family’s medical history should include a list of conditions that affected your immediate family members as well as their cause of death and age at death. Information on your grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and first cousins may all be relevant.

Lifestyle factors

Lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity level, and drinking or smoking habits can all affect your disease risk as well as impact how particular medications affect you. As a result, it’s extremely important that you give your doctor an accurate portrayal of your own habits.

If your lifestyle isn’t always the healthiest, it may be tempting to gloss over the truth. But this is a clear case of honesty being the best policy – especially when it comes to risky behaviours such as smoking, overindulging in alcohol, or having unprotected sex with multiple partners. While your doctor may counsel you against such habits, it’s important for you to remember that they are doing so to help you stay your healthiest, not because they are judging you on how you live your life.

Arm yourself with information

You can help get the most out of your visit to the doctor’s office and play an active and involved role in your own well-being by being an informed patient. Arming yourself with knowledge has a number of benefits for both you and your doctor. It can help you to focus any questions you may have and can improve your understanding of what your doctor has to say.

But with so much health information out there, how can you tell what’s reliable?

There are a number of strategies you can use to try to sort facts from fiction:

Be as specific as possible. If you are looking online, a search for a common affliction could turn up thousands if not millions of results. But the more you refine your search using specific terms, the less information you will have to weed through.

Know who to count on. When it comes to the Internet, the myths may far outnumber the facts. So how can you tell which sites have got it right? Consider your sources. Medical associations, universities, hospitals, and disease-related societies often offer unbiased, reliable information. On the other hand, if an article seems to be pushing a particular product or remedy, it could be biased.

Understand the science. You don’t need to have a medical degree to know some key things to look for when it comes to assessing the reliability of a study. Credible studies should be published in a journal that requires a review by medical experts. How a study is designed also makes a difference. For example, when it comes to clinical studies assessing the effectiveness and safety of a medication, look for studies that are randomized, controlled and double-blind, and have a large study population. This means that subjects are randomly broken into at least two groups – one of which receives the treatment in question and another that receives the standard treatment or a placebo (inactive “sugar pill”) – and neither the treatment administrators nor the subjects know who is getting which treatment, so as not to influence the outcome.

Doctor’s office do’s

You may only have a short time with your doctor, but employing the right strategies can help you make the most out of every minute.

Arrive on time. Sure, it may be frustrating if you have to wait (and doctors’ offices don’t have waiting rooms for nothing), but remember that if your doctor is running behind, it’s likely because they are spending more time helping someone else. But if you arrive late for your appointment, it could reduce the amount of face time you get with your doctor, making you feel rushed and cutting down on the time you have to discuss your concerns.

Come prepared. Write down any questions or concerns you have ahead of time, and bring your list with you. If you feel rushed or flustered during your appointment, it could cause you to forget the things you wanted to ask.

Check your shyness at the door. When it comes to discussing sensitive topics, don’t be too embarrassed to speak up. Chances are, your doctor has seen the problem before and is there to help you, not to judge.

Ask away. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about particular treatments you may have read about or heard about from friends, but be prepared to listen to what the doctor has to say – whether good or bad. Doctors appreciate an informed patient, but if you come in and try to diagnose yourself or tell them how to treat your condition, it can be frustrating for both of you. Remember that you came to them for professional advice – so be prepared to listen to their professional opinion. Rather than telling your doctor what you have and how to treat it, ask open-ended questions such as “What can you tell me about this treatment?”

Be specific. When it comes to listing your symptoms, be as specific as possible. Note the duration, frequency, timing, severity, and whether there seem to be any associated triggers or patterns. The clearer idea your doctor has of what is bothering you, the better they may be able to zero in on the problem.

Be honest. Your doctor can only help you if he or she has an accurate understanding of what is going on. So from questions about your symptoms to your lifestyle to other medications you may be using, make sure to answer your doctor’s queries as accurately and honestly as you can.

Make sure you understand what your doctor is saying. You should leave your doctor’s office with a clear understanding of your condition, your treatment, and any follow-up appointments, tests, or other care you may require. If you aren’t sure what your doctor is saying, don’t be afraid to ask them to explain it again or to write it down for you. You may also want to bring along a trusted family member or friend to help ensure you leave with a clear understanding.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/How-to-Talk-to-Your-Doctor

Autumn Health

Prepare yourself for piles of leaves, a Thanksgiving feast, and the festive, fun foods of the fall harvest.

Fall for 10 healthy autumn eats

The move from summer to fall can be bittersweet: Clearing out the summer clothes to make way for sweaters, prepping for cold and flu season, and trying to cope with your ragweed allergy. But the seasonal food switch is nothing but sweet – and warm and flavorful and super-nutritious.

Fall for these 10 healthy autumn eats:

Apples: How you like them apples? There are reasons why apples are the old autumn harvest standby, the magical super-fruit that’s supposed to keep the doctor away. At just under 100 calories each, apples provide vitamin C and lots of beneficial fibre. Both the soluble and insoluble fibre found in apples help to support healthy digestion and cholesterol levels. Considering the sheer variety of apple types, you could eat an apple a day and never tire of the sometimes tart, sometimes sweet, always good-for-you flavours.

Beets: Beets are versatile, low in calories, naturally sweet, and packed with nutritional B-enefits. Beets are full of folate, a B vitamin crucial to healthy cell growth, especially during pregnancy. Two more Bs abundant in beets: betacyanin, a pigment that is a potentially powerful antioxidant, and betaine, a heart-protective nutrient. Beets are also a great source of fibre.

Bell peppers: Get in on the crunch and colour of bell peppers when they’re at their best and most abundant, from August through October. Minus the capsaicin that makes other peppers so hot, bell peppers offer a cooler, crisper, sweeter pepper flavour to foods. And just one medium bell pepper provides more vitamin C than you need in one day! Munch on sliced raw peppers, sauté with a lean protein like tofu or chicken, stir-fry with other veggies, or dice onto a salad for some crunch.

Brussels sprouts: These little mini-cabbage look-alikes belong to the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables, along with broccoli, kale, and spinach. Though Brussels sprouts top many a least-favoured veggie list, they are worth a bite. Cut a cup of these pods into quarters and braise them along with your favourite herbs and spices for a delicious dose of vitamins and minerals. Brussel sprouts are rich in vitamin K, which regulate bone metabolism and blood clotting.

Cranberries: Bright red and tart to the tongue, cranberries crop up in the autumn to add to the colourful foliage. Whether plucked off a berry bush or cultivated in shallow, sandy pools, cranberries pack in lots of fibre and vitamin C. Toss a handful of the berries into a mixed fruit salad, add them to a vinaigrette salad dressing, mix into hot oatmeal, or bake into muffins and cookies.

Figs: Figs are small, low-calorie fruits, but they are densely packed with nutritional benefits. Potassium, which is essential for proper heart, kidney, and muscle function, is abundant in figs, as is bone-building calcium. And 8 ounces of fresh figs yields 25% of your daily recommended fibre. As with any fruit, figs are a great source of antioxidant vitamins. Tea extract made from fig leaves has also shown potential to support the health of people with diabetes.

Pears: Though softer, sweeter, and more delicate, pears provide just as much vitamin C and fibre as their apple kin. Add to the pear’s profile the benefits of the antioxidant mineral copper and a juicy, buttery texture that makes the fruit a natural poached, sliced onto salads, or chunked into hot cereal.

Pumpkins and other squash: The rich, deep colours of pumpkin and other types of squash give a hint at the plentiful nutrients within. Vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, is abundant in these gourds. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant essential to healthy vision, and it may also boost the immune system and protect the body from the kind of free radical damage that may cause heart and blood vessel disorders and cancer. Squash provides plenty of potassium, a mineral that helps to regulate the kidneys and the heart, as well as the muscles and nerves. You’ll also find tons of fibre in these fine fruits, which helps to reduce cholesterol, maintain intestinal health, and moderate blood sugar levels.

Parsnips: Parsnips don’t land on too many “superfood” top ten lists, but that’s only because they tend to be overshadowed by other veggies. They look a bit like pale carrots, but they actually contain much more heart-friendly potassium and folate than carrots. Folate is a B vitamin required for the creation of healthy cells, and having insufficient levels of it has been linked to cancer and birth defects. Parsnips may have only half the protein of potatoes – but they boast more fibre.

Sweet potatoes and yams: Whether you choose the more common sweet potato or the harder-to-find yam, you’ll dine on a nutritious, low-calorie vegetable. Of the two, sweet potatoes have more iron and are a better source of antioxidant vitamin A, but yams have more fibre. The two are about equal in heart-helper vitamin B6, but yams pack more of a punch than sweet potatoes for potassium, which is needed for proper heart, kidney, and muscle function.

Turkey tips

For many, preparing a Thanksgiving turkey is one of the biggest cooking and food safety challenges of the year. When you’re faced with a big, uncooked bird, questions will arise. Let’s talk turkey and cook up a few answers.

How should I store it?

If you will be using your turkey within 2 or 3 days, store it in the fridge. Otherwise, keep it in the freezer. Don’t leave it to sit at room temperature – this can allow harmful bacteria to grow.

How long will I need to thaw this bird?

Never thaw a frozen turkey on a countertop at room temperature. Instead, choose one of the safer options. You could keep it in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic or placed in a deep pan to hold drippings. Or you could pop it in the microwave, determining thawing time and temperature by either consulting the microwave’s manual or following a by-the-kilo recipe. Another thaw alternative is to wrap the turkey in its original airtight wrapping and thaw it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes so it stays cold enough.

How much time will it take to thoroughly cook it?

Figure for 30 minutes of cooking time per kilogram of turkey (15 minutes per pound). Set the oven temperature to 165°C (325°F) or higher. If using an oven cooking bag, carefully read the bag’s instructions first. Poke a meat thermometer into a thigh or breast to see if the turkey’s internal temperature has reached 85°C (165°F). By this temperature, the turkey should be thoroughly cooked. Check that meat is tender and no pink juices remain. If you’re stuffing your turkey, expect that it will take about 15-30 minutes longer.

What sort of bacteria are on and in turkey that could possibly make me and my family sick?

Turkey and other poultry can carry bacteria that can cause food poisoning, including salmonella and campylobacter. When cooked properly, most bacteria will be killed off so turkey is safe to eat. Still, it is vital that food handlers follow safety guidelines to prevent cross-contaminating other foods being prepared. Avoid touching turkey juices and drippings. Wash hands thoroughly with soap before and after touching food. Do the same for any plates, utensils, towels, and cutting boards you use before switching them to another use. Plastic cutting boards are easier to sanitize than ones made of wood. If you can, reserve one cutting board for use with meats and poultry and another to use when preparing vegetables or other foods.

How healthy is turkey anyway?

Turkey is a lean, low-calorie source of protein. It also contains tryptophan, an amino acid known for its snooze-inducing powers. However, it’s not really the bird that’s the culprit of that post-dinner snooze, but usually the heavy carbohydrates in that holiday feast.

Pile leftover turkey onto whole-grain bread for post-Thanksgiving sandwiches or shred the meat to make a base for a turkey soup. But to make sure you make the most of the surplus bounty, refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.

Safety tips for raking leaves

As the days begin to grow shorter, the leaves turn from green to gold, red, brown, orange. The green tree canopy of summer gives way to a rainbow of autumn colours and many of us wistfully watch the leaves fall to the ground. Others of us just think, “Great, now I have to rake the lawn.”

If that blanket of dead leaves awaits you, you’ll need not only a rake but also a few safe raking reminders:

Wait for the full fall: Before you reach for your rake, wait for the full fall of leaves. Aside from some spot-clearing on pathways, it’s better to plan one big rake job. Quick, small clean-ups may tempt you to take safety shortcuts that could spell trouble in the form of slips, falls, and sore muscles.

Choose your tools wisely: The right rake for you may not be the right rake for someone else. Shop around for one that is a comfortable fit for your height. And while it may be tempting to buy a cheaper, lightweight rake made from plastic, be warned that the lighter the rake, the more energy you will need to use to move and scoop up piles of wet leaves. Opt for a rake that has a handle with gripping material. Ergonomic rakes are also available, specially designed for comfort and ease of use and to prevent injury.

Dress the part: Wear lightweight clothes that keep you warm enough without trapping sweat you may build up. Shoes should be supportive and comfortable, and should have slip-proof soles in case you come across a patch of wet leaves. Slip on a pair of sturdy gloves featuring grip material to help keep your hands around the rake handle. If you’re allergic to mould and mildew, consider wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth.

Do a pre-rake warm-up: It may not seem like a workout, but you can burn nearly 300 calories during an hour of raking! Walk around a bit before you start so your blood gets flowing. Do a couple of stretches to prevent straining the muscles of your shoulders, neck, and back. Side bends and knee-to-chest lifts help open you up and ready you for all of the raking, bending, and lifting you’ll do.

Practice proper raking posture: To keep your neck and back happy, stand upright and rake leaves to the side of you, alternating dominant hand now and then. Bend at the knees – not the waist – when picking up piles of gathered leaves. And avoid twisting to toss leaves. Instead, step to the side so your whole body switches position, not just your shoulders and back.

Take rake breaks: The repetitiveness of raking can become painful after a while. Take a rest every 10 to 15 minutes. Sip on water to stay hydrated and stretch to release tension you may have built up.

ll material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Autumn-Health

Online Life: Is It Healthy?

As we spend more and more hours on our computers, it’s time we stop to consider some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of a life lived online.

Social networking: Faces, spaces, and connections

Try envisioning your life as a house, a place to which you retreat after work or school. A social networking site can be like a window. We can throw the window open wide or crack it just a bit. If we want to, we can stick our heads out there into the open air of the online universe and shout, whisper, or speak our messages.

Sometimes many people hear us, like when we post updates to our friends on Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes we share our message in the form of images, like on Instagram or Flickr, personal photo- and video-sharing sites, or on Tumblr, a space in which to plop all of the random things admired or inspiring – pictures, songs, videos, quotes. Sometimes our message is light, while at other times it is serious and full of purpose, as on professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

This feeling of connectivity to the wider world that we get from social networking sites is what social scientists call digital ambient awareness. This type of awareness or intimacy is akin to real physical intimacy. A friend shares their cold symptoms in a status update. A high school chum posts photos of their dog. We publicize the results of a personality quiz we took. It can all feel like we’re looking over each other’s shoulders or having coffee together.

The sense of intimacy and connectedness are two big motivations for millions who take part in the whole “social” scene. But our reasons for transmitting parts of ourselves out into the vast social space of the online world are as varied as we are.

We can bridge gaps: Social networking sites can help us to nurture and maintain the “weaker” ties in our lives. Think work colleagues, friends of friends, long-lost high school buddies, or cousins living in other countries. By linking up to these people online we are able to glimpse their lives in ways that we wouldn’t have done before. This access we grant to one another opens doors to future interaction. You might discover that a co-worker you never talk to is as into knitting as you are – or jazz, or a particular TV show. You may be more likely to strike up a conversation with this knowledge, which could be especially helpful for those who are shy.

We can strengthen bonds: Research has revealed that most people use online networks to keep up with existing offline relationships rather than initiate new relationships with people they meet online. For the most part, despite how many friends or followers we have, we still only keep in regular contact with our smaller core group of friends and family. Because of the format of many of these sites, it is simply more challenging to form new, deeper connections. Twitter, for instance, allows only 280 characters to get your messages across!

We can ask for help: Lots of people get wrapped and tethered in our nets. The bigger our net, the farther we can cast it out when we need answers, support, or advice. Among your network, you could find someone who could hook you up with a lucrative job or even a potential romantic connection. Your network might offer tips on great bargains or a new take-out joint you’d never know to try. Students post topics they’re researching for essays. Journalists send out questions to help them flesh out articles and find interview sources. Having a network within keystroke’s reach may also help to soothe feelings of loneliness.

We can create niches: Say you’re passionate about a community issue, or an actor, an artist, historical recreations – whatever! Friends or coworkers can initiate a group weight-loss or stop-smoking challenge. An online community can be forged out of a common cause, shared interest, or a group goal.

We can nurture our creative side: Painters and photographers can scan and display their art. Amateur musicians can upload and share new songs. Many sites out there allow you to archive and share images, quotes, videos, and songs that inspire you. Others can view the creative output and offer their comments and feedback. These sites act as virtual bulletin boards, galleries, jukeboxes, and scrapbooks.

We can scan: Aren’t we busy enough as it is? Why would we want to add more things to our day that we need to look at, update, and address? The thing about most of these social networks is that when we publish our digital ephemera, people are free to pay attention – or not. Unlike an email, which begs to be read and responded to, our friends, followers, or connections can choose to scan our messages and photos and decide for themselves whether they wish to reply or react. If you follow 100 people on Twitter, you’re not likely to closely read each status update or follow every single link they all share. We scan, we peruse, we filter. It’s expected and accepted.

I blog, therefore I am

By now, nearly everyone knows what a blog is: a web log. An online chronicle of anything and everything, a blog is whatever its creator makes of it. Blogs sprouted like weeds in the early 2000s, when blogging software became more user-friendly and accessible. Many businesses have a blog going, and millions and millions of individuals have personal sites that function as anything from a PR tool for a struggling actor or a church group’s info hub to a poet’s outlet for anonymous odes.

The simple act of disclosure – sharing our thoughts, ideas, and feelings with others – can make us feel better. That’s probably why so many people pay psychotherapists for their services. It’s why so many people write journals, love letters, and books. And it could also be why so many people write blogs.

Writing about emotional topics has been linked to reduced stress and improved academic performance. Physical health also saw an upswing – some research showed that after a period of regular writing exercises, people may take fewer sick days off from work, require fewer medical appointments, or experience better immune function.

Journaling is a method some people encourage for those going through a difficult diagnosis or medical treatment. Writing offers patients an avenue for focused self-expression and a place for venting the surplus of emotions and sensations that often accompany living with a disease or condition. Move these journals online to a blog format, and the writing gains a new dimension, a new power: it becomes accessible to others in similar situations who can then reflect, react, and respond. The opportunity to build a new community based on shared experience opens up.

It is this social element that really sets blogging apart from writing for oneself. Blogging combines the cathartic experience of writing with the “social capital” – friendships, community ties – you can gain by linking online to others. And when you gain social capital, you may increase your overall feeling of well-being.

Considering launching yourself into the blogosphere? Consider the pros and cons first.

Pros:

  • Blogging is belonging: People who blog and share their thoughts and feelings with an audience enjoy an enhanced feeling of belonging. In what can feel like an increasingly isolated world, blogs can pull together likeminded individuals to form a new kind of community that allows for friendship and social support.
  • Blogging creates friendships: As a person blogs and fields comments and gains “readership,” their social network can grow and become stronger. This can mean strengthening ties to existing friends or creating new ties to people who may become friends. And the friendships forged online can become as real, as binding, and as supportive as offline relationships.
  • Blogging is inclusive: The online platform isn’t just for extroverts and those seeking attention. You can choose to be open and out there on your blog or maintain your anonymity. It’s a safe space where the usual social constraints – awkwardness, insecurity, shyness, hesitation to talk about tricky topics – don’t have to get in the way.

Cons:

  • Blogging can become addictive: Once you get the blog buzz, you may never want to go without it. No doubt about it: it’s fun to get feedback, to meet new people, and to watch traffic to your posts grow. But in the 24-hour news cycle of the internet, bloggers can become compulsive about posting frequently enough or about getting the scoop on fellow bloggers. Blogging binges can cause sleepless nights, stress, and precious time away from offline relationships.
  • Blogging can open you up to criticism: This is a risk we run whenever we open ourselves up to others. The tech twist to this vulnerability is the “comment” function. Reveal your emotions or unleash your opinions on your blog, and you may receive comments attacking, scrutinizing, or dismissing what you’ve written. The good news is that since people seek out blogs based on common interest and read them voluntarily, most comments and interactions are positive.

Stuck to the screen?

While there are lots of ways that social networking can potentially support our mental, emotional, and even physical health, there are warnings to heed.

Especially at risk are young children, who are now exposed to screens at younger and younger ages. Some kids even have an online presence from infancy, as parents post baby photos, personal stories, and progress reports online. And we used to be scared our parents would bring out our old baby photo albums or home movies. Now kids have to worry about someone Googling their name and finding YouTube videos of them in diapers!

In terms of screen time, the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends:

  • for kids under 2 years of age, screen time should not be permitted.
  • for kids 2 to 5 years old, screen time should be limited to less than 1 hour a day.
  • for kids older than 5, screen time should be limited to less than 2 hours a day.

Compare that to the numbers reported by Statistics Canada: about 76% of children aged between 5 and 11 years get more than 2 hours of screen time per day.

It’s not unheard of for a child to get home from school and spend their entire afternoon and evening switching their attention from one screen to another until bedtime: text messaging, scrolling on social media, computer game, TV show, online chat, and sleep. Who knows? They may then fall asleep and dream about getting to the next level on their current favourite video game. Aside from possibly restless sleep, what’s the harm in a life lived stuck to the screen? Here are a few potential online-living hazards that apply to both children and adults:

Pain: Ergonomics is the science of healthy workspaces. When we sit at a computer workspace that has poor ergonomics, the result can be back and neck pain, as well as wrist and hand problems.

Prevent it:

  • In general, a monitor should be positioned just below eye level and at an arm’s length away from you. Wrists should be positioned parallel to the keyboard with elbows at about a 90-degree bend. Feet should rest comfortably flat on the ground.
  • Consider the main parts of a workspace and make them suit the person who uses it most. Fitted back supports can be purchased and used to discourage slouching.
  • If it’s a child’s workspace, invest in a kid-sized chair, mouse, and desk. That way, a small child will not strain their neck to look up at a monitor placed at adult eye level.
  • For children, set limits on how long they can sit in front of the computer and encourage breaks.
  • Be a good role model, too, by setting reminders for yourself to get up from your workspace now and then for stretch-and-move breaks.

Eyestrain: Our eyes were not designed to stare at flickering screens all day long. And yet that’s how many of us spend most of our waking hours. Although it’s true that digital screens emit blue light, many eye issues that are caused by prolonged screen time are not due to blue light, but rather something called computer vision syndrome. Computer vision syndrome can be a real strain. Eyestrain occurs when your eyes simply get tired from too much use. Eyes that simply feel sleepy and slightly sore can become dry, watery, and itchy. Blurred vision, headaches, and trouble shifting focus can develop.

Prevent it:

  • Give your eyes regular breaks away from the screen. Schedule a timer on your computer to go off every half-hour or so to remind you to rest. Every 20 minutes, look about 20 feet away from the computer screen for at least 20 seconds.
  • While working on the computer, people have a tendency to forget to blink! The resulting dry, irritated, and tired eyes can be prevented by consciously remembering to blink your eyes, encouraging tear formation, and keeping your eyes moist.
  • In addition, sometimes lighting changes, glare-reduction, and adjusting the brightness settings on your computer can help to lessen the strain.
  • Experiment with display text size and background colour to find a setting that works best for your eyes.

Obesity: According to a large survey done by Statistics Canada, 25% of people who spent their leisure time watching 21 or more hours of television were also classified as obese. Men and women who spent 11 hours or more per week online were more likely to be overweight than those who spent 5 or fewer hours. And among children, computer use has been linked to higher levels of body fat and excessive television-watching has contributed to the increase in childhood obesity. So, as our hours in front of screens increase, so do our waistlines and other associated health risks, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Prevent it:

  • Start a screen time log for yourself and for your family. You can use your smartphone to log this, as most smartphones have a feature to track screen time. Record how much time you spend in front of screens over the course of a normal week – you might be shocked at the number of hours sucked away! For every one of those hours, imagine how many other activities you could have been doing that would support your health.
  • Make a plan to substitute at least a few of those hours with physical activity.
  • Additionally, think about your eating habits in relation to screens. Do you snack while you’re channel- and net-surfing? Screen-time eating can become mindless, and all of these extra calories can suddenly sneak into your day. Make meals and snacks screen-free activities.

Mental health: It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard that social media can harm your mental health. You may even be tired of hearing this, but it’s because there have been many studies that show a link between social media use and numerous mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Now that it’s almost impossible to avoid social media in our daily lives, we need to rethink how to utilize it without falling victim to the risks.

Prevent it:

  • Limit the time you spend scrolling each day. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re scrolling down on Instagram – but a study has shown that people who limit their time spent on social media to under 30 minutes per day report happier moods.  
  • Follow people and pages that encourage you or bring you joy. If you notice that particular types of social posts make you feel anxious or depressed, you’re not alone. Unfollow or mute content that bothers you, and instead follow the content that make you happy.
  • Consider a social media detox. Just like any other detox, you can choose to set a period of time and stay away from social media. It’s easier to quit something when you already know the advantages of quitting. If you benefit from a social media cleanse, you may feel more comfortable reducing your time spent on social media in general.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Online-Life-Is-It-Healthy

I Eat, Therefore I Am! (2 of 2)

A healthy diet is good for the body … but also for the brain and for mental health

Dr. Anne-Isabelle Dionne
ELNA, Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloeil

A look at some phenomena at play in the relationship between our diet and our moods.

In a previous article, we discussed some clear connections between diet and mental health, and also moods. Various factors are involved in this correlation. Take, for example, the intestinal microbiome. Considered as an “organ” in its own right, it contains nearly 100 trillion bacteria—more than the number of cells that make up our physical bodies.1 These bacteria interact with us symbiotically, forming part of several processes that are essential to human survival: synthesis of vitamins and neurotransmitters, immune system and inflammation regulation, protecting the digestive epithelial barrier that absorbs nutrients, etc. 2

Disruptions in the microbiome, especially a loss of diversity, is associated with a host of cardiometabolic and inflammatory diseases.3 These bacteria that colonize our gut react and support their own growth in response to what they are given to “eat” (i.e., how we feed ourselves on a daily basis). And they interact bidirectionally with the 500 million neurons that line our digestive system. 4

Fibre and several polyphenols (found in nuts, seeds, unprocessed whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables) are prime nutrients for facilitating good selection, diversity, and growth of the healthiest kinds of bacteria.5 Conversely, excessive consumption of some medications (antibiotics, antacids, anti-inflammatories, etc.), chronic stress, diets that are low in fibre and high in processed foods, sugars of all kinds, sweeteners and pesticides can greatly affect microbiome quality.6,7

When the microbiome is disrupted by the stressors mentioned above, it can bring about a loss of integrity of the epithelial barrier that lines the lumen of the digestive tract. This causes a breakdown in the proteins that bind the cells together and ensure healthy permeability between the intestinal contents and the circulatory system.

“Leaky gut syndrome” refers to a phenomenon in which food molecules, bacterial metabolites and/or bacteria themselves enter the blood stream without being adequately filtered and whose presence then triggers activation of the immune system and a continual state of inflammation.

Leaky gut syndrome is connected to several systemic pathologies including inflammatory bowel diseases, diabetes, asthma, as well as psychiatric disorders or neurodiverse conditions like anxiety, depression, and autism.8, 9, 10, 11, 12 The inflammatory molecules produced by foreign molecules exogenous to the bloodstream and neutralized by the immune system affect the entire body: inability to properly regulate blood sugar levels, chronic pain, fatigue, negative or anxious mood, digestive bloating, etc.

A healthy diet, cutting out behaviours and substances that adversely affect the balance of gut microbiota and ingestion of probiotics can prove highly beneficial for restoring diversity and optimal function of the microbiome, with the desired effect on regulating the immune system and inflammatory responses. These also have a positive impact on the metabolism of neurotransmitters and of several vitamins and biochemical molecules essential to the function of the body’s systems.13

Inflammation, oxidative stress, and antioxidant needs
Inflammation is a normal phenomenon that is essential to survival and allows an injured structure to heal after damage of all kinds to structures of the body. It is important in acute and sporadic situations when the damaged is caused accidentally.

Inflammation becomes a problem, however, when it occurs chronically due to regular and persistent damage. For example, daily exposure to toxins (such as cigarettes or mould in the environment), stress and chronic sleep deprivation (involving persistent pro-inflammatory hormonal disturbances) and a diet filled with sugar and processed foods contribute to causing chronic inflammation. Low-grade chronic inflammation is associated with depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.14, 15, 16

Oxidative stress is an outcome of chronic inflammation. This results in the production of free radicals that attack healthy structures in the body (including neurons!) and cause loss of organ function and accelerated aging. One way to counteract this is to supply the body with a significant quantity of “antioxidants.” Effectively, these are the various phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals found in a healthy, plant-rich, unprocessed, and varied diet. Some studies have shown several antioxidant markers to be reduced in individuals suffering from severe depressive episodes. 17, 18

The hippocampus is a crucial region of the brain involved in the phenomena of learning, creating memories and emotional regulation. Its neurons appear to be able to form and grow under the effect of a substance called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).19, 20 When the hippocampus is poorly developed, we can suffer from memory impairment, difficulty learning new tasks and poor emotional regulation, all frequent symptoms in depression and anxiety.

Stress is one of the most potent factors that can negatively impact levels of BDNF.21 However, increasing evidence points to the fact that a highly nutrient-dense diet favourably affects levels of BDNF that can stimulate neurogenesis. Conversely, diets that are high-sugar and high in poor quality fats found in processed foods have an entirely opposite effect.22, 23, 24

Good mental health therefore depends on an optimal intake of essential nutrients. These help to ensure all the body’s biochemical reactions involved in the selection of a diversified microbiome, neurotransmitter synthesis, neurogenesis and attenuating oxidative stress produced by the environment and/or life habits that can cause cellular damage, even to neurons in the brain. Each bite of food should be as nutritious as possible:

  • The food we consume should be as close as possible to what it is we would pick out of a garden or take from a free-range animal in an optimal environment.
  • Eat plenty of plants of all kinds. For example, use the colours of the rainbow in your choice of fruits and vegetables for the week. Prioritize vegetables over fruit to avoid an excess of sugar, something likely to be less well tolerated by individuals who are metabolically vulnerable.
  • Include a substantial amount of fibre each day in the form of nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit, whole, unprocessed grains, and legumes. 
  • Opt for good quality fats: olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, etc., while being careful not to overheat your oils, as their beneficial properties may be lost.
  • Consume probiotics with the addition of fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, plain yoghurt, kefir, tempeh, etc.).
  • Do not add any refined sugars or concentrated sugars derived from whole foods.

One’s diet should always be calibrated before considering a supplement aimed at sufficient intake of any nutrient. Whole foods provide much more, biochemically speaking, than what a pill can deliver.

Nevertheless, sometimes it is necessary to have recourse to supplements for various reasons (intolerances for certain foods, inability to absorb the recommended nutrients from a particular food, a lifestyle that calls for more than the recommended intake of a certain agent, which is inadequately supplied by diet, etc.).

A personalized approach is key in targeting the risks of deficiencies and levels of nutrient intake. Moreover, a personalized approach lets us assess the quality and diversity of the microbiome that lives in us while looking for strategies to optimize it. Ultimately, psychotherapy and use of antidepressants are not the only options for managing mood disorders. Healthier diet and lifestyle habits can be far more effective for improving mental health!


1 Valdes A M, Walter J, Segal E, Spector T D. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health BMJ 2018; 361 :k2179 doi:10.1136/bmj.k2179

2 Thursby E, Juge N. Introduction to the human gut microbiota. Biochem J. 2017;474(11):1823-1836. Published 2017 May 16. doi:10.1042/BCJ20160510

3 Valdes A M, Walter J, Segal E, Spector T D. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health BMJ 2018; 361 :k2179 doi:10.1136/bmj.k2179

4 Barett KE BS. Ganong’s review of medical physiology: The autonomic nervous system 2010.

August 5, 2021 – Yang Q, Liang Q, Balakrishnan B, Belobrajdic DP, Feng QJ, Zhang W. Role of Dietary Nutrients in the Modulation of Gut Microbiota: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2020;12(2):381. Published 2020 Jan 31. doi:10.3390/nu12020381

6 Vich Vila, A., Collij, V., Sanna, S. et al. Impact of commonly used drugs on the composition and metabolic function of the gut microbiota. Nat Commun 11, 362 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-14177-z

7 Madison A, Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Stress, depression, diet, and the gut microbiota: human-bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition. Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2019;28:105-110. doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2019.01.011

8 Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Carola S. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Ann Gastroent 2015;28:203-9

9 Ait-Belgnaoui A, Durand H, Cartier C, et al. Prevention of gut leakiness by a probiotic treatment leads to attenuated HPA response to an acute psychological stress in rats. Psychoneuroendocrino 2012;37:1885-95

10 Foster JA, McVey Neufeld KA. Gutbrain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends Neurosci 2013;36:305-12.

11 Ho JT Chan GC Li JC.. Systemic effects of gut microbiota and its relationship with disease and modulation. BMC Immunol 2015;16

12 Bischoff SC, Barbara G, Buurman W, et al. Intestinal permeability–a new target for disease prevention and therapy. BMC Gastroenterol 2014;14:189.

13 Clapp M, Aurora N, Herrera L, Bhatia M, Wilen E, Wakefield S. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017;7(4):987. Published 2017 Sep 15. doi:10.4081/cp.2017.987

14 Berk, M, Williams, LJ, Jacka, FN et al. (2013) So depression is an inflammatory disease, but where does the inflammation come from? BMC Med 11, 200

15 Fernandes, BS, Steiner, J, Molendijk, ML et al. (2016) C-reactive protein concentrations across the mood spectrum in bipolar disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Psychiatry 3, 1147–1156

16 Fernandes, BS, Steiner, J, Bernstein, HG et al. (2016) C-reactive protein is increased in schizophrenia but is not altered by antipsychotics: meta-analysis and implications. Mol Psychiatry 21, 554–564.

17 Moylan, S, Berk, M, Dean, OM et al. (2014) Oxidative & nitrosative stress in depression: why so much stress?Neurosci Biobehav Rev 45, 46–62.

18 Liu, T, Zhong, S, Liao, X et al. (2015) A meta-analysis of oxidative stress markers in depression. PLoS ONE 10, e0138904.

19 Fernandes, BS, Berk, M, Turck, CW et al. (2014) Decreased peripheral brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels are a biomarker of disease activity in major psychiatric disorders: a comparative meta-analysis. Mol Psychiatry19, 750–751

20 Fernandes, BS, Molendijk, ML, Kohler, CA et al. (2015) Peripheral brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as a biomarker in bipolar disorder: a meta-analysis of 52 studies. BMC Med 13, 289.

21 Miao Z, Wang Y, Sun Z. The Relationships Between Stress, Mental Disorders, and Epigenetic Regulation of BDNF. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(4):1375. Published 2020 Feb 18. doi:10.3390/ijms21041375

22 Zainuddin, MS & Thuret, S (2012) Nutrition, adult hippocampal neurogenesis and mental health. Br Med Bull103, 89–114.

23 Guimaraes, LR, Jacka, FN, Gama, CS et al. (2008) Serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in schizophrenia on a hypocaloric diet. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 32, 1595–1598.

24 Molteni, R, Barnard, RJ, Ying, Z et al. (2002) A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning. Neuroscience 112, 803–814.

All material, articles, and posts on ELNA Medical’s website and social media platforms are for educational and informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

All individuals interacting with this content should discuss all information and questions with their personal healthcare professional. In case of an emergency, please call 911.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of ELNA Medical. Any reference to third party names or links is for appropriate acknowledgement and does not constitute a sponsorship or endorsement by ELNA Medical.

I Eat, Therefore I Am! (1 of 2)

Diet influences brain function and mental health

Dr. Anne-Isabelle Dionne
ELNA, Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloeil

The thousands of chemical molecules ingested in our food regulate our body’s vital functions. They also produce neurotransmitters connected to moods and behaviours.

One in seven Canadians suffers from a mood disorder (altered thinking, mood, or behaviour that is associated with a certain level of distress)1. One in three people experiences anxiety2. Psychotherapy, tools for personal growth and for helping to regulate emotions, as well as various sorts of antidepressant medications are among the first-line therapies for treating such ailments3.

Surprisingly, people who suffer from mental health conditions like depression or anxiety are also more likely to suffer from a chronic issue, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, etc.4 Since we know that these kinds of cardiometabolic diseases are very often caused by unhealthy habits, including nutritional ones, might there be a psychological connection between the two? How does diet impact brain function and mood regulation?

Healthy Diet = Reduced Risk of Depression
In every bite, the food we eat supplies our bodies with thousands of biochemically important molecules, without which massive amounts of enzymatic reactions could not properly occur. The production of neurotransmitters that regulate moods and behaviours in the brain is one of those vital functions subject to the dynamic and continuous interaction with several essential nutrients supplied in our diets.

Numerous studies have shown the impact of nutrition on the state of mental health. Not surprisingly, several have found that a healthy diet is correlated with lower rates of depression. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 Accordingly, a dietary approach that encourages eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole unprocessed grains, fatty fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds will contribute to more balanced psychological health. Conversely, an increased risk of depression has been observed in persons who are heavy consumers of red and/or processed meats (charcuterie), refined gains and cereals (flour, bread, breakfast cereal, pasta, etc.), high-fat dairy products, desserts, candy, and sweets.

Surprisingly, as this type of diet is also associated with a significantly decreased risk of heart disease, the biochemical effect generated by these eating habits also impacts inflammatory mechanisms that affect the brain, just as much as our arterial health10. Nutritional habits during pregnancy can also affect a baby’s future mental health in childhood and adolescence. A diet that is low in nutrients and high in processed ingredients increases the likelihood that a child will develop psychiatric problems as s/he grows. 11, 12, 13, 14

In a second article, we will take a closer look at the correlation between diet and mental health, with a focus on particular phenomena such as the microbiome, inflammation, oxidative stress, the need for antioxidants, and cerebral plasticity.


1 https://www.canada.ca/fr/sante-publique/services/publications/maladies-et-affections/rapport-systeme-canadien-surveillance-maladies-chroniques-maladies-mentales-canada-2015.html#s0

2 Katzman, M.A., Bleau, P., Blier, P. et al. Canadian clinical practice guidelines for the management of anxiety, posttraumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorders. BMC Psychiatry 14, S1 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-14-S1-S1

3 Kennedy SH, Lam RW, McIntyre RS, Tourjman SV, Bhat V, Blier P, Hasnain M, Jollant F, Levitt AJ, MacQueen GM, McInerney SJ, McIntosh D, Milev RV, Müller DJ, Parikh SV, Pearson NL, Ravindran AV, Uher R; CANMAT Depression Work Group. Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) 2016 Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Adults with Major Depressive Disorder: Section 3. Pharmacological Treatments. Can J Psychiatry. 2016 Sep;61(9):540-60. doi: 10.1177/0706743716659417. Epub 2016 Aug 2. Erratum in: Can J Psychiatry. 2017 May;62(5):356. PMID: 27486148; PMCID: PMC4994790.

4 https://www.canada.ca/fr/sante-publique/services/publications/maladies-et-affections/rapport-systeme-canadien-surveillance-maladies-chroniques-maladies-mentales-canada-2015.html

August 5, 2021 – Lai, JS, Hiles, S, Bisquera, A et al. (2014) A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults. Am J Clin Nutr 99, 181–197

6 Psaltopoulou, T, Sergentanis, TN, Panagiotakos, DB et al. (2013) Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: a meta-analysis. Ann Neurol 74, 580–591.

7 Quirk, SE, Williams, LJ, O’Neil, A et al. (2013) The association between diet quality, dietary patterns and depression in adults: a systematic review. BMC Psychiatry 13, 175

8 Rahe, C, Unrath, M & Berger, K (2014) Dietary patterns and the risk of depression in adults: a systematic review of observational studies. Eur J Nutr 53, 997–1013

9 Li, Y, Lv, MR, Wei, YJ et al. (2017) Dietary patterns and depression risk: a meta-analysis. Psychiatry Res 253, 373–382.

10 Sanchez-Villegas, A, Martinez-Gonzalez, MA, Estruch, R et al. (2013) Mediterranean dietary pattern and depression: the PREDIMED randomized trial. BMC Med 11, 208.

11 O’Neil, A, Quirk, SE, Housden, S et al. (2014) Relationship between diet and mental health in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Am J Public Health 104, e31–e42

12 Muhlig, Y, Antel, J, Focker, M et al. (2016) Are bidirectional associations of obesity and depression already apparent in childhood and adolescence as based on high-quality studies? A systematic review. Obes Rev 17, 235–249.

13 Sparling, TM, Henschke, N, Nesbitt, RC et al. (2017) The role of diet and nutritional supplementation in perinatal depression: a systematic review. Matern Child Nutr 13, e12235.

14 Baskin, R, Hill, B, Jacka, FN et al. (2015) The association between diet quality and mental health during the perinatal period. A systematic review. Appetite 91, 41–47.

All material, articles, and posts on ELNA Medical’s website and social media platforms are for educational and informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

All individuals interacting with this content should discuss all information and questions with their personal healthcare professional. In case of an emergency, please call 911.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of ELNA Medical. Any reference to third party names or links is for appropriate acknowledgement and does not constitute a sponsorship or endorsement by ELNA Medical.