Thursday, October 30, 2014

Does Obesity Equate to Poorer Grades?

A recent study revealed some troubling statistics that appear to connect childhood obesity with lower grades and less success in secondary level education. The study also determined that the negative influence of obesity on education is not affected by the student’s social background.

The groundbreaking study from the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) focused on obesity statistics in Germany, but it portends even greater concern for US children, since obesity among German children is approximately six percent while, by comparison, more than 10 percent of US children are obese, according to statistics from California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

And the percentage of obese children in the US is increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the past 30 years, childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. The CDC estimates that obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States — triple the rate from just one generation ago.

In the 2013 German study, researchers looked closely at how weight and obesity influences grades in mathematics and language in primary school and in Germany's equivalent of of our secondary schools, analyzing both those children who would be classified as overweight and those who would be classified as obese (The CDC defines overweight as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above 85 percent, and obesity as having a BMI at or above 95 percent compared to children of the same age/sex – see CDC Growth Charts for a breakdown by age and gender).  The researchers discovered that:
  • Obese girls and boys are statistically less likely to receive a“ good” or “very good” math grade, with the likelihood of getting top grades as much as 11 percent lower compared to children of healthy weight.
  • Those children classified as overweight do not perform worse in math.
The influence of obesity on math grades did not appear to be effected by whether or not a child is healthy, how much exercise or sports participation they did or didn't get, nor how much TV they watched.

The bully effect

The researchers also found that, because obese girls are bullied more often, they showed lower self-confidence, leading to an increase in behavior problems.
Interestingly though, researchers found no “bully effect” in the study for boys. Although obese boys were found to suffer from lower self-confidence. The researchers believe that this helps to explain the lower math grades.

Self-confidence and obesity

An earlier study in the US on the psychological and social adjustment of obese children and their families showed that obese children are less socially competent, had more behavior problems, and had poorer self-perceptions than their non-obese peers. In effect, the newer WZB study continues where this earlier study left off, connecting these common problems of obese children to negative school performance.

The WZB researchers also concluded that obese children are less likely to take advanced level classes in secondary education than their overweight counterparts.

Parents in the US are already concerned about the health impact when their children struggle with obesity. The German study also highlights the social burden that accompanies the childhood obesity epidemic, not just for the child's current situation but potentially for the long term. 

Parents can investigate two CDC resources for more information about childhood obesity:  the Basics about Childhood Obesity website and CDC's Strategies and Solutions content.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What the Heck is a Macrobiotic Diet?

Macrobiotics – a word you’ve likely heard but … what does it mean? If the term macrobiotics is Greek to you, here’s your primer! 

And, incidentally, the word macrobiotics is in fact Greek, at least in origin, coming from the word macro, meaning great, and bios, meaning life: Great Life.

Given the principles of the macrobiotic diet, you couldn’t choose a better word than one that means Great Life. Macrobiotics is not just a diet but a philosophy of life balance.  The founder of macrobiotics, Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa, taught that a balanced, healthy diet is a necessary component of a great life. And let’s face it, if you have an unhealthy diet, it’s only a matter of time before your health will suffer – and where’s the happiness in that?

What a macrobiotic diet looks like

Have you heard someone describe themselves as a pescatarian? It’s not a church denomination; a pescatarian is someone who considers themselves a vegetarian but who also eats fish and other aquatic animals for protein.  The macrobiotic diet strictly follows vegetarianism or pescatarianism. 

The diet is also based on the principles of yin and yang: opposing, complementary life forces that we should strive to keep in balance.  As this balance applies to the diet, foods are categorized as belonging to yin or yang, based on sweet vs. salty, hot vs. cold, and so forth. Thus, a macrobiotic dieter seeks to keep a good balance between yin foods and yang foods.

Macrobiotics practitioners are generally either health conscious individuals or those who are sick and hoping to find healing through the macrobiotics diet and lifestyle (including physical health and spiritual health).
What’s on the menu?
The macrobiotic diet is roughly half whole grains, a third vegetables, and the remainder a combination of beans, bean soups, miso soups, and sea vegetables. Rather than eating on a breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule, you eat when you feel hungry.  The diet also advises you to thoroughly chew when you eat to aid in digestion. 
What’s off the menu?
Things a macrobiotic dieter avoids:
  • No dairy products and no meats
  • No vitamin or mineral supplements
  • Avoid microwaving
  • Avoid cooking with electricity
  • No processed foods
  • No foods that contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
  • No caffeine
  • No plastic storage; use stainless steel, wood, glass, or china instead

Why do a macrobiotic diet?

There are many health benefits reported by macrobiotic dieters.  Ohsawa stated that the macrobiotic diet could even cure cancer. Scientific studies do not unequivocally support this claim. Some studies have found no conclusive connection between the macrobiotic diet and cancer improvement.  However,  a 1993 study looking at pancreatic cancer reported that more than half of those who maintain a macrobiotic diet were alive after one year, while 90 percent of the study participants not on the macrobiotic diet had died by the end of the 12 months – results which generated a macrobiotic diet boon, especially among those with cancer.
Other macrobiotics health benefits are likely, simply because the diet removes all processed foods, includes lots of vegetables, is low in unhealthy fats, and high fiber. These factors have all been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

How to get started with a macrobiotic diet

Given the holistic lifestyle nature of macrobiotics, and the likelihood that the diet and food preparation methods will be radically different than what you are familiar with, the best way to get started is to seek out a macrobiotic practitioner for guidance.  Your budget or comfort level can determine whether you choose a person who teaches macrobiotics for a living or is simply a person who is experienced in practicing macrobiotics in daily life.
If personal guidance from an experienced practitioner is not an option for you, there are many books and online resources that can give you the basics.

Risks of the macrobiotic diet

It’s easy to do a macrobiotic diet wrong if you haven’t received guidance and training.  Risks to consider:
  • Since the macrobiotic diet has no dairy or animal products, you need to make sure that your body gets enough nutrients from other sources.
  • Many people lose a great deal of weight after switching to a macrobiotic diet. If you are already low in weight, this can put you in danger.
  • Even those who strictly follow macrobiotic diets might be deficient in certain vitamins, such as B12, D, iron, and calcium.
  • Because of the potential for vitamin deficits on the diet, macrobiotics is unadvisable for children, pregnant women, and those are already very sick.
As with any significant diet change, talk to your doctor, especially if you have any serious medical conditions.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Study: Even Nominal Alcohol Use Increases Cancer Risk

Researchers conclude that there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk.

When the science research came out telling us that there may be actual health benefits to wine (such as that gained from the bioflavonoid resveratrol found in the skin of red grapes), many used that as a “bottoms-up!” justification to drink, and drink some more. But is it wise? Even if there are health benefits to alcoholic drinks in moderation, the latest research puts the cap back on the bottle, warning us of cancer risks associated with alcohol use, and that, in fact, alcohol contributes substantially to premature death from any cause.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, shows that alcohol accounts for 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. That’s a whopping 20,000-or-so alcohol-attributable deaths annually.

Their estimates showed that each alcohol-related cancer death led to about 18 years of life lost. Do the math: This means that, on average, if you would have lived alcohol-free to, say, 80, your alcohol-related breast cancer death would take your life at closer to age 62.

Still looking forward to your six-pack TGIF celebration at the end of your work week? 

But how much is too much?  As it turns out, Not much!

Back to “common sense” – you will have surmised correctly if you suspected that quantity of drinking is a factor. But you may be surprised to read how little alcohol it takes to nudge you closer to death.

True enough, those who drink more that three drinks a day have the highest risk of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths. But before you offer up a toast to your good fortune as one who drinks less,  you should know that the study also showed that 30 percent of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths happened to those who consumed less than one and a half drinks a day.

So, as it turns out, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was right when, four years ago, they set Dietary Guidelines for Americans advising that, "If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men."

That said, the researchers in this latest study concluded that, while higher consumption increases risk, there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk.

Just one drink … But in How big of a glass?

Let’s talk about the definition on “one drink” before you swipe your brow with relief as a one-drink-a-day kind of person. 

Researchers define a drink by units, in which one unit is 10 ml of pure alcohol. That’s roughly a single shot glass of stronger liquors, such as vodka or whiskey, or a standard-sized single bottle of beer.  If you’re one of those who fills their red wine glass to the top – which is not how a red wine glass is meant to be used – you’ve likely just consumed the alcoholic equivalent of three drinks already. That particular kind of “just one drink” is enough to put you into the higher cancer risk category.

The science behind the conclusions

Existing research has already identified alcohol consumption as tied to increased incidences cancer. In this new study, the researchers analyzed records of deaths tied to seven different types of cancers known to be associated with alcohol use: cancer of the colon, rectum, oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and of the female breast.

The scientists used 2009 U.S. mortality data, aligning it to alcohol surveys and per capita alcohol consumption data to determine the extent to which cancer deaths can be attributed to alcohol use. As well, the researchers studied earlier cancer research and even examined alcohol sales figures from 2009 and two large nationwide surveys of alcohol consumption levels in adults.

Is no alcohol the answer?

Whether you choose to use this new information to motivate a cutback vs. a full stop vs. no change in your alcohol consumption is up to you.  One could argue (and many have) that it’s biblical to drink alcohol. Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, recommended drinking a little wine once in a while to help digestion.
But the sum of it remains that, while alcohol – in moderation – may offer a few cardiovascular benefits, alcohol's cancer-causing properties appear to outweigh the benefits.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spice Up Your Health AND Your Recipes

We’ve scoured the internet to feature a variety of tasty recipes specifically selected to help you add the healing power of medicinal spices and healing herbs to your diet.

Evidence captured from medical research of common spices shows that their intake can have profound health benefits, even lowering cancer risk and suppressing negative tumor activity. To get the scoop on spices with scientifically validated evidence of health benefits, including disease prevention and healing, see our two recent articles The Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen and More on the Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen. For their culinary benefits, read on!

Recipes with Healthy Spices and Healing Herbs

Try these recipes, designed to use the healthiest kitchen spices. They’ll not only flavor your food but boost your health by using the medically researched spices and herbs allspice, basil, caraway, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, and garlic.

Allspice Recipes 

  • Cincinnati Chili – You haven’t truly experienced Cincinnati unless you’ve had authentic Cincinnati chili served up at one of 170-plus well-known chili chain parlors, such as Skyline Chili and Gold Star Chili. But why wait for that next Cincy trip, when you can make this Authentic Cincinnati Chili recipe in your own kitchen? As a nice health bonus, the recipe uses lots of allspice.
  • Spiced Nut Mix – If you haven’t the time or patience to make the chili recipe above, here’s a snack recipe that can be ready in an hour and uses several spices with outstanding health benefits, including allspice: Spiced nut mix.

Basil Recipes

Caraway Recipes

To get a day full of caraway, follow this plan:

Cardamom Recipes

To spice up your life with Cardamom, let’s go around the globe:

Cayenne Pepper Recipes

These healthy cayenne recipes all come from, and are ideal when you’re in a hurry, since they can all be prepared and cooked in 30 minutes or less!

Cinnamon Recipes

An easy way to boost your cinnamon intake is to add it liberally to your smoothies.  For your kids, it doesn’t get easier than the classic cinnamon toast (for a healthier twist use honey instead of sugar).  For more healthy cinnamon recipes, try these:

Clove Recipes

Cloves are a useful flavor addition to deserts, such as applesauce cake, cookies, desert sauces, and gingerbread.  It’s also popular in side dishes like baked beans, cranberry, and sauerbraten, or in spiced nut recipes.
  • Clove Snaps – similar to the popular ginger snaps cookies, this clove snaps recipe gives a nice crunch but with a couple teaspoons of the health clove spice.
  • Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie – Another clove-full dessert, Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie, looks just like pumpkin pie but uses sweet potatoes as the main ingredient, along with (you guessed it) ground cloves.

Coriander Recipes

  • Hard-Boiled Eggs with Chiles – This recipe uses a full tablespoon of coriander seeds and creates a flavorful side dish with other healthy spices, including cumin and garlic.  Get the recipe here.
  • Stuffed turkey breasts – This main course dish, Boudin Blanc–Stuffed Turkey Breasts with Chestnuts, includes a cornucopia of healthy spices, including coriander seeds, allspice, clove, and more.

Cumin Recipes

  • Roast Chicken – This version of a popular American dish adds a nice Middle East flavor, thanks to its generous use of cumin, as well as allspice: Roast Chicken with Cumin, Paprika and Allspice.
  • Classic Hummus – This traditionally Middle East dip has become popular throughout the U.S. To make it fresh, try this classic hummus recipe, which not only uses lots of cumin, but also garlic.
Also see the Authentic Cincinnati Chili recipe in the allspice section above – it uses lots of cumin too!

Garlic Recipes

Garlic is easy to add to just about any kind of dish. Some particularly healthy ways to boost your garlic:

Spice up our lives!

Do you have recommendations or experience on recipes that use these medicinally healthy spices and herbs? Don’t keep that juicy gossip to yourselves – share here with your fellow readers by using the comments field below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Genetic Testing for Cancer

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing, also known as gene testing, is a simple blood test that looks for mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, which help prevent cancer.

What is a BRCA mutation? Why is it important?

The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are known as tumor suppressors.  These particular genes help prevent cancer by producing specific proteins.  When there is a mutation with one, or both, of these genes, the likelihood of an individual developing cancer increases, according to cancer researchers.

Who should consider genetic testing?

Based on a checklist of questions about your family’s history of cancer, your doctor can help you determine if genetic counseling, and possibly genetic testing, is appropriate.

Risk factors include:

A relative diagnosed with cancer at or before the age of 50
A relative with two primary cancers, such as your mother being diagnosed with cancer in each breast
A relative with two different, but genetically related, cancers, i.e. your aunt being diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancers
Two or more cases of the same cancer in close relatives
A number of related cancers on the same side of the family
A relative with a rare form of cancer, such as male breast cancer
A known cancer gene mutation on either side of the family

Does testing apply to all types of cancer?

Yes, although mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are typically linked to breast and ovarian cancer, those who inherit these genes are at greater risk of developing other types of cancers, too.

How much does the test cost? Is it covered by insurance?

Genetic testing can cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of the test; other companies do not. Be sure to check with your insurance company regarding coverage prior to being tested.

How is gene testing helping with a cure for cancer?

From proactive measures, such as more frequent screenings, to more extreme measures, such as a prophylactic double mastectomy, genetic testing is helping individuals find out about their possibility of developing cancer earlier. Being aware of genetic links regarding cancer allows individuals to research options and make informed choices.

What else should you know?

Only approximately 20 percent of individuals with gene mutations develop breast cancer.
Lifestyle choices continue to play a crucial role in developing the disease.
According to Otis Brawley, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, most people have one-two family members with cancer, but only 5-10 percent of cancers are caused by an inherited gene defect.

Where can you learn more?

Your doctor. Be sure to mention any family history or cancer and your concerns at your next visit.

The National Society of Genetic Counselors is an organization with trained professionals who specifically work with those at risk of developing cancer due to high genetic factors.  These professionals assist individuals with the decision to have genetic testing, consider options once they receive results and make appropriate choices about what to do next based on their personal needs.

Visit the American Cancer Society,, for information and updates regarding cancer diagnosis, testing and treatment options.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Recipes for a Raw Food Diet

Now that you have learned about the benefits of raw food dieting, and read how to get started with a raw food lifestyle let’s get down to business in the kitchen with some rousing raw food recipes to whet your appetite.   We’ll begin with the most basic of recipes, and then include some surprisingly creative raw food recipes that will amaze your taste buds and please the whole family.  But before we get started with the recipes, we should take a brief moment to look at…

Raw food risks and precautions

Some of the risks of going on a raw food diet include:
  • Food poisoning from either consuming foods raw or undercooked that should not be a part of a standard raw food diet, such as fish or meat or from not properly cleaning, preparing, or storing the raw food ingredients
  • Potential growth problems for for anyone, but particularly infants and children, on an improperly administered raw food diet
  • Consuming foods that are bad for you if eaten raw, such as beans and lentils. That said, an extremely healthy way to prepare lentils on a raw food diet is to sprout them.
While raw fruits and vegetables generally provide the highest level of nutrition, you should be aware that there are some foods whose ingredients, or a specific ingredient, are more bioavailable when cooked.  For example, while ripe raw tomatoes are loaded with nutritional value, the lycopene in tomatoes – effective in fighting certain types of cancer – is more easily absorbed into the body when the tomato has been processed into a tomato sauce with olive oil.  Likewise, raw kale is a powerhouse of vitamin and mineral goodness. But, as this article explains, you boost the effectiveness of kale’s fiber-related components when you steam it.

Raw food recipes

Let’s not forget that the basics of raw food dieting are ridiculously easy – simply add daily uncooked fruits or vegetables to your meals.  There are many fun and tasty raw food recipes, available in books or online. But don’t let food preparation knowhow and effort overwhelm you from adding raw food to your diet. For example:
  • Eat a banana, an apple, and a handful or two of raw nuts for breakfast.  The fruit starts up your digestive juices and fortifies your immune system with antioxidants. The apple gives you some valuable roughage.  And the nuts provide protein, which will help you feel full.
  • Make sure your lunch includes a salad with fresh, organic greens.
  • For dinner, use raw veggies for the side dish instead of cooked.  Good and easy choices include celery sticks, carrot sticks, or sweet peppers. 
  • While alcohol is generally considered taboo on a raw food diet, if you cannot bear the thought of going without alcoholic beverages, then at least choose wine.  Unlike beer or or any hard liquors that go through the heat of distillation, wine is not heated in the processing.

If you can achieve even just a 50 percent raw diet, you will begin to experience the many health benefits it offers. When you want to add variety, a selection of raw food recipe websites and raw food recipe books can add zest to your diet, keeping it interesting and balancing out your vitamin and mineral intake.  Here's just a tiny sample of delicious recipes for a raw food diet:
Do these not look like an appetizing start to your raw food diet?  You'll find thousands of delicious raw food recipes online, with some particularly good ones at Raw Food Home Recipes, We Like It Raw recipes, Gone Raw Recipes and, if you want raw juicing recipes, join the Let's Get Juiced!! Facebook group.  Between those four sites alone, you will have several hundred recipes worth trying and sharing.

If you have a favorite raw food recipe, share!  Please submit it, or the link to it, using the comments below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Vestibular System

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 69 million Americans have experienced a form of vestibular dysfunction, also known as a balance disorder.  While these numbers may be alarming, by learning more about the delicate vestibular system, you can help to ensure the health of your family members.

What is the vestibular system and how does it work?

The vestibular system consists of parts of the inner ear and parts of the brain that process information related to balance and eye movements. Balance is maintained in the body by input from three systems: vision; touch sensors in the feet, trunk, and spine; and the inner ear. When the vestibular system malfunctions, balance issues such as dizziness, vertigo, and equilibrium difficulties can occur.

What causes vestibular disorders?

Genetic influences
Environmental conditions
Unknown factors

What are common signs of a balance disorder?

Vertigo and/or dizziness
Imbalance or disorientation
Visual disturbances
Hearing changes
Psychological and/or cognitive changes

Experts warn that dizziness alone may be a symptom of another condition or disorder. Vestibular disorders often present as more than one symptom. As always, consult with your healthcare provider if you or a family member experiences any of these symptoms.

What are the most common vestibular disorders?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – a condition resulting from loose debris in the inner ear. BBPV can be caused by a head injury, or it can be part of the natural aging process.
Meniere’s disease – Also called primary endolymphatic hydrops, this condition involves abnormalities in one of the fluids of the inner ear. It is a disorder that progressively gets worse.
Labyrinthitis/vestibular neuritis – conditions that are caused by a viral infection, which can result in damage to hearing and the functioning of the vestibular system.
Secondary endolymphatic hydrops – a condition that involves abnormalities in one of the fluids of the inner ear.
Perilymph fistula – a tear or defect in the small, thin membranes that separate the middle ear from the fluid-filled inner ear. This condition is usually caused by injury.

Other vestibular conditions:

Vestibular migraine (MAV): characterized by headache and may include dizziness, vertigo, and/or imbalance, sensitivity to light and sound.
Complications from autoimmune disorders.
Complications from allergies.

Is there a difference between dizziness, vertigo, and equilibrium difficulties?

There is.

Dizziness is lightheadedness, faintness, and unsteadiness.
Vertigo differs from dizziness because it is characterized by a spinning or sensation with the perception of movement, either of an individual or surrounding objects.
Equilibrium difficulty, often called disequilibrium, consists of unsteadiness, imbalance, and/or loss of equilibrium.

Who can be affected by vestibular disorders?

Balance disorders can occur at any age.

Are there special concerns for children regarding balance disorders?

Yes. Specifically, the proper development and function of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is a concern in children. If impaired, the result may be difficulty in school as well as typical activities such as bike riding and swimming.

What are treatment options?

In some cases, a physician may prescribe medication to help alleviate the symptoms of a vestibular disorder. Remember to use your Familywize Discount Prescription Drug Card when purchasing medication at your pharmacy to receive applicable discounts.  Another treatment option called vestibular therapy, which is a type of physical therapy, may also be used for vestibular rehabilitation.

Want to learn more about balance disorders?

Visit,, or

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Get Started on a Raw Food Diet

How to get started with a raw food diet

After reading our raw food diet primer What’s the Big Deal About Eating Raw Foods, you may be interested in “going raw” (as it’s called when you completely convert to a raw food-only diet), or at least making an effort to add raw food to your daily diet for better health.  If so, here's how to get started with the raw food diet and lifestyle.

Follow the leaders

Some of the biggest mistakes made by those who attempt to initiate a raw food diet is doing it alone. For most people, the raw food diet will be a significant change from the way they have always done food preparation. It's a radical enough departure from the standard American diet that "going raw" is often referred to as a lifestyle change, not simply a dietary change.

For this reason, it's highly advisable to partner up with someone who has successfully gone raw so that you can learn from their mistakes and get valuable cost-saving and time-saving advice.

If you don't have access to a knowledgeable, successful, practicing raw foodist among your friends or relatives, don't worry; there is a wealth of resources available to help you expand your knowledge, your food preparation skills, and your ability to do a raw food diet safely and successfully. For example:
  • There is a growing number of fact-filled, entertaining, and instructional raw food blogs (online weblogs) and vlogs (video weblogs) in which practitioners freely share a wealth of useful info, such as the Facebook group Let’s Get Juiced or the YouTube channel FullyRawKristina. The videos are particularly helpful, as you can learn by watching. To find some, go to YouTube or Vimeo and search for "raw food dieting" or "raw food lifestyle" to get started.
  • There are also dozens of reliable books on raw food dieting in the raw food lifestyle. To find the most reliable book resources, take advantage of the online bookstores' customer ratings and reviews.
  • Also look locally. Through libraries, health food stores, raw food restaurants, produce co-ops, and raw food producers, you can often find local seminars or raw food special interest groups meeting regularly to teach and learn about raw food techniques.

Preparing your kitchen for a raw food diet

Chances are that your kitchen isn't already ideally set up and prepared for raw food preparation. Sure: in many communities, you can simply buy prepared raw foods or dine at raw food restaurants – if you are one of the lucky communities to have them – rather than prepare them yourself.  However, you will no doubt find this a pricey proposition. For example, the local coffee house in my town sells an amazing chocolate  fudge food bar – delicious! – made entirely from raw, organic ingredients… for a whopping six dollars! The same coffee house also sells a traditionally prepared fudge bar – equally delicious – for just three bucks. 

Why the difference? Raw food recipes often take considerably more time to prepare, need to be prepared in smaller batches, have a shorter shelf life, and have more costly raw ingredients. Consequently, you may find going raw with your diet more realistic if you prepare the food at home.

Just be aware of the fact that there are getting-started costs that, while they will pay off in the long run, can make it a significant upfront investment to get the ball rolling. For example, commonly employed appliances in a raw food kitchen include:
  • A high powered blender – $200-$600 – necessary to sufficiently process fruit and green smoothies or raw soups. A cheap blender will burn out quickly under daily use and not produce a palatable texture.
  • A quality juicer – $150-$500. Cheaper juicers are often hard to clean, less able to handle the rigors of frequent juicing, and will heat up the produce during the juicing process, which can kill off nutritional value.
  • A food dehydrator – $150-$400. With the good dehydrator, you can significantly expand your raw food diet variety, such as making mock pizza crust from soaked seeds or a tasty raw fruit leather for raw food snacking on the go.
  • A high-end food processor – $100-$700. You want to look for one that can easily handle grading, slicing, and shredding processes for many kinds of foods. You'll be doing enough of this that a food processor, rather than hand-processing, will cut down significantly on your food prep time.

Beyond appliance purchases, the organic ingredients of the standard raw food diet usually cost more than conventional produce, which will be a continuing cost consideration.  Also, you will likely spend a good bit upfront with your raw food diet, stocking up on raw food ingredients that have long shelf lives, such as maca root powder, goji berries, raw organic nuts, organic dates, flax seed, hemp seed, etc. – any ingredients recommended in the first recipes you decide to try that you likely don't have already if you are presently eating a standard American diet.

The good news is that some of your food costs are likely to go down. For example, one of the largest expenses in the average American shopping cart is meat – something you won't need if you are on a completely raw food diet. Likewise, you'll find that your dining out budget will likely get a break. Chances are you won't be making a habit of fast food restaurants anymore, as few have accommodating ingredients for raw food dieter.

Now that you are prepared to go raw, start using Google search or YouTube's search engine to get a few simple recipes to help you start eating raw. And stay tuned – we've got one more raw foods article coming, featuring some amazing raw food recipes that sound too good to be true!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Nursing Homes: Are Your Parents in Danger?

When we put our aging relatives in the care of a nursing home, we assume they will be treated with dignity and compassion. But is that a safe assumption? Apparently not.

Whether in nursing homes or in situations of in-home care, there is always the possibility that a caregiver will intentionally act in a way that causes harm or creates a significant risk of harm to the highly vulnerable elder individual. This is known as elder mistreatment (or elder abuse/elder neglect), as is the failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect them from harm. Elder mistreatment can take many forms, including verbal abuse, physical abuse, or even financial abuse.

It is sad but true that the risk of elder maltreatment is high enough in the US  that the situation justified the creation of a federal institution, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), dedicated to tracking statistics on, and preventing, the abuse of the elderly. NCEA reports that the problem of elder abuse is growing, that collective data from state Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies show an increasing trend in the reporting of elder abuse.

Elder mistreatment Statistics

What is particularly hard to handle emotionally is the discovery that elder abuse is often committed by someone that you trusted as a loving caregiver or someone you trusted professionally to care for your relative.  But it can happen, as these alarming statistics show:
  • According to NCEA, as many as two million elders are abused in the United States.
  • In one year alone, the U.S. Administration on Aging announced a cumulative total in state-reported incidences of more than 20,000 complaints of senior abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation of seniors who were in nursing homes or were board and care residents.
  • A National Research Council Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect reported in 2003 that 1-2 million elder Americans were injured, exploited, or mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.
  • While elder abuse happens in professional institutions, the NCEA cautions you to be aware that 90 percent of reported elder abuse is committed by family members.
Many organizations suspect that the problem of elder abuse may actually be five times higher than complaint statistics show; a study by the National Center on Elder Abuse estimated that only one in five cases of elder mistreatment are ever reported.

Common Signs of Elder Abuse

As a caring relative, it is important that you personally watch for indications of elder care abuse, especially if you're loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as they may not be able to communicate to you about it, or or might not even be aware of the abuse being perpetrated against them.
Signs of Elder Physical Abuse
Here are some of the common signs that your elderly relative may be a victim of physical abuse or neglect:
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Bedsores – an extremely dangerous condition, as it can lead to sepsis infection – blood poisoning – a whole-body state of inflammation, which is potentially deadly. 
  • Strange or unexplained cuts, sprains, bruises, burns, or broken bones, which may be in various stages of healing (suggesting a long-term abuse situation)
  • Frozen/immobile joints
  • Refusal of nursing home staff to allow visitors to be alone with your elder relative
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital trauma
  • The appearance that your elder relative is being kept in an over-medicated condition
Signs of Financial Elder abuse
Elder financial abuse is statistically a more frequent problem when the person is being cared for at home, and can come from a relative or professional in-home caregiver providing services.

Signs of elder care financial abuse to be on the lookout for:
  • Someone else's name has been added to your relative's signature card.
  • Cash or other items of value are missing from your relative's wallet, purse, or room.
  • You've noticed uncharacteristically large withdrawals from your loved one's financial accounts.
  • Your elder relative unexpectedly wants to change their will, their power of attorney status, their real estate title, or their life insurance policy.
  • You see unpaid bills, and yet you know your relative has the funds to pay the bills.
  • You notice ATM withdrawals from your relative's accounts in spite of the fact that he or she has no access to a machine.
These are all symptoms that your elder loved one might be being coerced, forced, or tricked out of their finances or valuables.

What to do if you suspect your elder relative is being abused

If the suspected abuse is taking place at a nursing home, your first step should be to report your suspicions to the nursing home's administrator.  If possible, present evidence of the abuse to support your assertion (photographs, copies of financial statements, etc.). If this action does not get results, you may also want to seek legal advice from an experienced elder abuse lawyer.  If you feel your elder relative's life may be in imminent danger, contact your local police.

It is not safe to assume that those hired to care for the elderly will notice the problem. Signs of elder abuse can easily be missed by professionals  because of lack of training on detecting abuse or because the elderly individual is often reluctant to report abuse to their institution for fear of retaliation, a physical or cognitive inability to speak up, or because, if the abuser is a family friend or relative, they don’t want to get the perpetrator in trouble.

And so, it’s up you. Become the watchful eyes; pay attention and ask questions. Be ready to take legal action against perpetrators if necessary.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer