No Excuse For Not Flossing

Flossing your teeth is more important to your well-being than even brushing. So why do so many of us find reasons not to do it?

We’ve got excuses, but dentists have simple answers for them all.

Excuse No. 1: Food Never Gets Stuck In My Teeth

The main purpose of flossing isn’t to remove food from the teeth. It’s to get rid of plaque. Busting out the floss every day prevents gum disease and tooth loss. Everybody gets plaque, and it can only be removed by flossing or a deep cleaning from your dentist.

Excuse No. 2: I Don’t Know How to Floss

It’s “the most difficult personal grooming activity there is,” says Samuel B. Low, DDS, past president of the American Association of Periodontology. But it’s one of the most important to learn.

Use these tips to floss correctly:

• Use 18 inches of floss. Wrap most of it around the middle finger of one hand, the rest around your other middle finger.
• Grasp the string tightly between your thumb and forefinger, and use a rubbing motion to guide it between teeth.
• When the floss reaches the gum line, form a C to follow the shape of the tooth.
• Hold the strand firmly against the tooth, and move it gently up and down.
• Repeat with the other tooth, and then repeat the entire process with the rest of your teeth.
• Use fresh sections of floss as you go.

Don’t forget the back of your last molars. By far, most gum disease and most decay occurs in the back teeth.

Excuse No. 3: I’m Not Coordinated Enough to Floss

If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth, ask your dentist about:

• Plastic, disposable, Y-shaped flossers that allow for extra reach
• Small, round brushes
• Pointed, rubber tips
• Wooden or plastic pics (called interdental cleaners)

A child will need your help to floss until he’s about 11 years old. Kids should start to floss as soon as they have two teeth that touch.

Excuse No. 4: I Don’t Have Time

Find a time of day that works for you. You should floss at least once a day. Two times is best.
Make it a part of your routine, morning and night. If you find you forget, store your floss with your toothbrush and toothpaste to remind yourself.
You don’t have to do it in front of your bathroom mirror. Keep some floss in your car to use while you’re in traffic. Stash some in your desk and use it after lunch. The key is to fit in flossing when it works for you.

Excuse No. 5: It Hurts

If your gums bleed or hurt, you may have gingivitis or gum disease. That’s an even bigger reason to floss.

If you brush and floss daily, the bleeding and pain should stop in less than 2 weeks. If it doesn’t, see your dentist.

Excuse No. 6: I’m Pregnant

It may be hard to floss if you’re tired or nauseated. But it’s important to keep up with your brushing and flossing routine. Pregnancy can cause a wide range of dental issues, from gum disease to enamel wear.

Excuse No. 7: My Teeth Are Too Close Together

Try waxed or glide floss for an easier fit. If you have recessed gums, varied gaps between teeth, or braces, you can also try a threader or loop to find an easier entry point. If your floss shreds, you may have a cavity or a problem with dental work, like a broken crown or loose filling. Ask your dentist to take a look.

R.M. Hochella
Modern Health Perspectives

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The Mystery of Pomegranate

The pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and was cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times. It is widely cultivated throughout India and the drier parts of southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies and tropical Africa. The tree was introduced into California by Spanish settlers in 1769. In this country it is grown for its fruits mainly in the drier parts of California and Arizona.

Pomegranates prefer a semi-arid mild-temperate to subtropical climate and are naturally adapted to regions with cool winters and hot summers. A humid climate adversely affects the formation of fruit. The tree can be severely injured by temperatures below 12° F. In the U. S. pomegranates can be grown outside as far north as southern Utah and Washington, D.C. but seldom set fruit in these areas. The tree adapts well to container culture and will sometimes fruit in a greenhouse.

Pomegranates are one of the healthier foods you can eat. High in antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C, and a great source of fiber, pomegranates pack a nutritional punch that most foods can’t come close to!

Spiritual Significance of Pomegranate

And beneath the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about. — Exodus 28:33

Highly esteemed by Israelites, the pomegranate was believed to be the “original forbidden fruit” in the Garden of Eden. It was also one of the seven species brought back by the spies to show how fertile the Promised Land was. Carved figures of the pomegranate were principal ornaments adorning stately columns and pillars in Solomon’s temple as well as worn on the High Priests garments symbolizing life.

The Hebrew word for “pomegranate” is Ramam, which means “to rise up” or “to be mounted up.”

In Song of Solomon 4:3, Solomon describes his bride’s “temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.”

Solomon uses the pomegranate theme for her temples to show fertility of the mind, where good seed is planted and a harvest is sure. Her thoughts are on what is pure, lovely, and of good report. She is the true bride, with the mental state that matches the King’s. Here the Holy Spirit finds a welcome depository for “things that are to come.”

Here the words of Yeshua (Jesus) are quickly brought to mind. She has the mind of Christ.

The pomegranate fruit, in relation to our temples, signifies that it is now the “fruit of the Spirit” that controls our lives (mounts or raises us up or above) rather than the lust of the flesh. The phrase “within thy locks” shows that she bears spiritual fruit that is veiled and hidden from the world for only the Lord to behold.

Some interpreters believe the reference to pomegranates is a symbol of fertility. On a holy theme, greater significance might point to the use of the pomegranate as it relates to the skirt of the high priest. At the bottom of the high priest’s robe were pomegranates interspersed with bells. With every step, the ringing of bells with the symbol for “fertility of life” bore witness to sight and sound to declare life. Life and abundance characterizes the Savior’s bride.

R.M. Hochella
Modern Health Perspectives

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Are Supplements Safe?

A visit to the health food store can be an overwhelming experience. It’s tough to figure out what to choose from among the dizzying assortment of dietary and nutritional supplements on the shelf. From vitamins to minerals to weight loss pills, there are thousands of options to choose from. But do you really need any of them? Do they really work, and if so, which ones are best?

Total sales for the U.S. dietary supplement industry in 2006 are estimated at $22.1 billion, with vitamins accounting for $7.2 billion of that, says Patrick Rea, editor of the market research publication Nutrition Business Journal. Included in this total are not only sales of vitamins, but also those of minerals, herbs/botanicals, sports supplements, meal supplements, and weight loss products.

How Are Dietary Supplements Regulated?

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, approved by Congress in 1994, defines dietary supplements.

Drugs vs. Supplements

• Are intended to supplement the diet
• Contain one or more ingredients (like vitamins, herbs, amino acids or their constituents)
• Are intended to be taken by mouth
• Are labeled as dietary supplements

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once regulated dietary supplements the same way it does foods, but that changed as of Aug. 24, 2007. The FDA’s new good manufacturing practices ruling ensures that supplements:

• Are produced in a quality manner
• Do not contain contaminants or impurities
• Are accurately labeled

“Making cereal is very different from making dietary supplements. … This new ruling is very specific to the production of capsules and powders and will give consumers great confidence that what is on the label is indeed in the product,” says Vasilios Frankos, PhD, of the FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs.

The FDA provides manufacturers with guidelines for making claims about what effects their products have on the body, Frankos says.

“If they make a claim, they must notify us so we can review it,” Frankos says. “Manufacturers have to provide us with evidence that their dietary supplements are effective and safe.”

R.M. Hochella
Modern Health Perspectives

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A New Approach – Intuitive Eating

We’ve all been there. Stuffed from dinner, yet still eating dessert or snacking mindlessly on a bag of chips in front of the television. Then, after the last bite, we feel frustrated, weak, and guilty.

Beating yourself up won’t stop it from happening again. To gain control over this kind of overeating and enhance your weight loss journey, it’s important to learn how to eat intuitively for good health.

To eat intuitively, you need to stop obsessing over food and pledge never again to go on a “diet” That’s because dieting creates a preoccupation with food, making it the “enemy”. You should also work toward truly understanding hunger, fullness, and your feelings about food and your body.

Most of us aren’t intuitive eaters, but fall into one of three other categories, according to Evelyn Tribole, author of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works:

• Careful Eaters are vigilant about every morsel of food that enters their mouths. The problem is with their rigid rules. Careful or healthy eating can be a “code” for dieting.

• Professional Dieters are perpetually dieting. Even when they are “off a diet,” they’re thinking about the next diet. They may engage in “Last Supper” eating when they have chocolate or some other forbidden food. They believe they will never eat that particular food again — for tomorrow they diet. So better eat it all now!

• Unconscious Eaters often engage in multitasking while eating. They are disconnected with their bodies’ needs, and unaware of hunger or fullness. There are many subtypes of unconscious eaters, including the chaotic unconscious eater, who lives an overscheduled, stressful life; and the emotional unconscious eater, who uses food to cope with emotions.

No matter what type you are, you can learn to eat more healthfully by eating intuitively. A simple set of guidelines to help overcome the “disconnect” that most people have with hunger, satiety, and food:

• Reject the “diet mentality,” because diets don’t work.

• Honor your hunger. If you don’t, it will trigger overeating.

• Make peace with food. Give yourself permission to enjoy the pleasures of food.

• Rid yourself of the “food police” mentality that labels certain foods as “good” or “bad.” Replace it with positive self-talk that recognizes we all need occasional splurges.

• Get in touch with your body’s signals of comfortable fullness. This is one of the hardest changes to make. We all sometimes eat past the point of fullness, for emotional reasons or just because the food tastes so good.

• Discover the satisfaction factor. Savoring every mouthful will help you feel full. Sometimes, the first two bites of a food are the most satisfying.

• Learn how to cope with your feelings without using food. Try doing something physical instead.

• Accept your body, and make sure your weight loss expectations are realistic.

• Find pleasure in activity. Focus on how good it feels simply to move and be active.

• Choose foods that are good for your health and that you enjoy. Eating is about pleasure, not denial.

R.M. Hochella
Modern Health Perspectives

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Liquid Biopsy – Early Cancer Detection!

Everything in China is big, including its cancer problem. In some wealthier cities like Beijing, cancer believed to be the most frequent killer. Air pollution, high rates of smoking, and notorious “cancer villages” scarred by industrial pollution are increasing death rates around the country. Liver cancer in particular is four times as prevalent as it is in the West, in part because one in 14 people in China carry hepatitis B, which puts them at a high risk. Of all the people worldwide who die of cancer each year, some 27 percent live in China.

Dr. Dennis Lo, a doctor who has worked for nearly 20 years on a technique called the “liquid biopsy,” is meant to detect liver and other cancers very early—even before symptoms arise—by sequencing the DNA in a few drops of a person’s blood.

Today Lo is competing with labs around the world by developing cancer screening tests based on a simple blood draw. That’s possible because dying cancer cells shed DNA into a person’s blood. Early on, the amount is vanishingly small—and obscured by the healthy DNA that also circulates. That makes it difficult to measure. But Lo says the objective is simple: an annual blood test that finds cancer while it’s curable.

Cancers detected at an advanced stage, when they are spreading, remain largely untreatable. In the United States, early detection is behind medicine’s most notable successes in applying technology to cut deaths from common cancers. Half of the steep decline in deaths from colorectal cancer is due to screening exams like colonoscopies.

Lo’s lab is now locked in a technology race with scientists at other institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, to see if these ideas can turn into a general-purpose test for nearly any cancer, not only those involving a virus. The approach relies on gene-sequencing machines, which rapidly decode millions of short fragments of DNA that are loose in the bloodstream. The results are compared with the reference map of the human genome. Researchers can then spot the specific patterns of rearranged DNA that are telltale signs of a tumor.

Lo says that the next generation of DNA sequencers, some no larger than a cell phone, could allow routine screening for cancer to become less expensive and far more widely used. For the time being, the cost of the DNA test being tried out on people at risk for liver cancer is still too high for routine use. Lo notes that the fetal tests were similarly expensive at first but that prices have since declined to as little as $800. That’s led to much wider use. “The same thing should happen [with cancer],” he says.

Building on the foundations put in place by doctors like Lo, commercial interest in liquid biopsies has recently started to explode. Marketing executives are calling the technology “perhaps the most exciting breakthrough” in cancer diagnostics, companies may begin offering researchers a liquid-biopsy test kit to facilitate the search for signs of cancer.

In addition to screening for cancer, liquid biopsies could be a way to help people already fighting the disease. Doctors can pick a drug according to the specific DNA mutation driving a cancer forward. Tests to identify the mutation are sometimes done on tissue taken from a tumor, but a noninvasive blood test would be appropriate in more cases.

Cancer comes in many types, and Lo says that for each, researchers must methodically make their case that liquid biopsies can really save lives. He believes he’s close. “If you can screen and prognosticate in very common cancer types, that is the time when it will go mainstream,” he says.

R.M. Hochella
Modern Health Perspectives

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Shingles Symptoms and Treatment

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.

While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.

The signs and symptoms of shingles usually affect only a small section of one side of your body. These signs and symptoms may include:

• Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
• Sensitivity to touch
• A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
• Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
• Itching

Some people also experience:

• Fever
• Headache
• Sensitivity to light
• Fatigue

Pain is usually the first symptom of shingles. For some, it can be intense. Depending on the location of the pain, it can sometimes be mistaken for a symptom of problems affecting the heart, lungs or kidneys. Some people experience shingles pain without ever developing the rash.

Most commonly, the shingles rash develops as a stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of your torso. Sometimes the shingles rash occurs around one eye or on one side of the neck or face.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor promptly if you suspect shingles, but especially in the following situations:

• The pain and rash occur near an eye. If left untreated, this infection can lead to permanent eye damage.
• You’re 70 or older, because age significantly increases your risk of complications.
• You or someone in your family has a weakened immune system (due to cancer, medications or chronic illness).
• The rash is widespread and painful.

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Fighting Superbugs

Superbugs could kill one person every three seconds by 2050, the equivalent of 10 million people a year, according to the final report from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, established in 2014 to keep the world from being “cast back into the dark ages of medicine.

There is an increasing burden of resistance and call for greater awareness of the problem, including the need for public campaigns beginning as soon as this summer.

The impact of superbugs

Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to the antimicrobial drugs typically used to kill them. They are estimated to cause 700,000 deaths every year.

If no action is taken, these numbers are expected to rise dramatically, causing more deaths than cancer by 2050. This would mean common procedures such as giving birth, treating wounds and undergoing surgery could become fatal due to a lack of effective antibiotics.

But experts, including review Chairman Lord Jim O’Neill, believe that a solution is within grasp if certain actions are taken.

Several causes underlying the emergence of resistance have been highlighted in the report, along with 10 areas in which to take action, including a massive global awareness campaign to reduce demand for, and prescription of, antibiotics, better global surveillance of resistance, funds for more research into new antimicrobials, and building a global coalition through the G20 and United Nations.

How concerned should we be?

The projected numbers are enough to enlist panic among people fearing a future where now-treatable conditions cannot be cured, but attention should be focused on pushing for solutions, according to experts.

“It has to be a big concern,” said Ghada Zoubiane, program manager for infection at the Medical Research Council in the UK. “It’s a silent problem that hasn’t hit us in the face yet.”

She stresses the long time frames involved in developing new antimicrobials and therefore the need to have begun acting already.

The drug industry has not invested much time or money in the development of antimicrobials because of the low returns they would get as their products sit in pharmacies for use mainly in emergencies when standard drugs aren’t effective.

Zoubiane leads a cross-council initiative on tackling antimicrobial resistance, which launched in 2014 and committed £30 million to fund research into the problem. She agrees with the report’s recommendations, including the need to learn more. “We need to look at how to fill in our gaps in our knowledge,” she said.

This is what her initiative is aiming to do, through a holistic approach funding work in new drug development, greater insight into why bacteria become resistant, the result of resistance in the real world and understanding of how behaviors can be changed.

What is being done?

Her Medical Research Council initiative is funding research spanning these areas. Among that is work by scientists at the University of Bristol who are looking for new sources of drug compounds in fungi. Also, researchers at the University of Leeds are working on technologies for use by family clinicians, or general practitioners, to easily diagnose whether an infection is viral or bacterial. And research at the University of Sheffield is exploring ways to boost our immune systems so they can kill bacteria at an early stage, removing the need for drugs.

The need for family physicians to better diagnose infections and reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed has been a key part of the resistance debate. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, more than 10 million antibiotics prescribed in England each year are unnecessarily given for illnesses such as colds.

“We need to think about the [general practitioner] perspective as well. It’s not just about new antibiotics,” Zhoubiane said. “They need technology to say if something is bacterial.”

She believes better awareness among general practitioners could provide quick impact while longer-term solutions are developed. “This would be a quick win, and it wouldn’t take long to see impact.”

But some experts feel that too much attention is being given to this part of the issue.

“Most antibiotics are used in hospitals,” said Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “There’s too much weight placed on GPs. It should be reduced, but the truth is that antibiotics [use is] widespread in the environment.”

Wren also highlights countries where the use of antibiotics is not controlled and drugs can be bought over the counter. He has been monitoring the spread of resistance for 18 years and has seen the problem become worse as clinicians are no longer able to use certain antibiotics to treat their patients. “We shouldn’t panic, but the front line of clinicians at hospitals are shocked at how quickly this has arisen in recent years.”

Wren’s team is working on developing alternatives to antibiotics on the premise that prevention is better than cure.

“There’s too much emphasis on new drugs as bacteria can become resistant again,” Wren said.

His group is also working to develop vaccines against a range of currently resistant bacteria, including hospital superbugs, MRSA and clostridium difficile. He is also working on ways to disable bacteria so they can no longer replicate, so they’re less likely to become resistant, and on vaccines for use in animals, as these are likely to reach the market faster.

“The more of us working on these kinds of projects gives us multiple opportunities,” he said. “If we can use less antibiotics and look for alternatives, then hopefully we can keep the problem in check.”

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