Fitness & Well Being

 

Doctor giving medications and a glass of water to an elderly woman.

This infectious superbug has exploded in growth over the last decade. One expert recommends taking probiotics to help prevent infection.

 
Elderly people in medical facilities are often at-risk for the C. difficile infection. (Photo: Kasco Sandor/Shutterstock)
A potentially deadly, infectious superbug called Clostridium difficile has exploded in growth three-fold over the last decade and now kills 14,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
 
What is C. difficile? C. difficile infection (CDI) is a harmful bacterium that produces toxins that attack the lining of the intestine. The toxins destroy cells and produce plaques of inflammatory cells and decaying cellular debris inside the colon.
 
Common symptoms of CDI include:
 
  • Diarrhea and dehydration
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ulcers or abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Bloody stools
 
What causes CDI?
Most likely, a visit to your doctor or local health center. In fact, 94 percent of the potentially fatal infections are in people who recently received care in facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, physicians' offices, and outpatient surgical centers, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
 
C. difficile spores are passed through the feces of people who have the toxic bacteria in their gut. Spores can persist in the environment (on hospital beds or railings) and can also be spread through the air or find their way into the food.
 
Spores that get into the human gut develop into mature bacteria.
 
Another major cause of CDI is taking antibiotics, which can kill millions of beneficial micro-organisms in one’s gut. Colitis caused by Clostridium difficile is a major complication of prescribing antibiotics, according to research conducted by Baylor University and published on the National Institutes of Health’s website.
 
Antibiotics cause a reduction in bacteria that normally reside in the colon. If an antibiotic-treated patient ingests C. difficile bacteria, this organism may proliferate in the colon because it is resistant to most antibiotics and because it does not have to compete with the normal bacteria for nutrients, the paper by Baylor researchers concludes.
 
How is CDI treated?
Ironically, in some cases, by administering certain antibiotics that target the C. difficile colony in the gut.
 
A more recent and progressive form of treatment involves taking a stool sample from a healthy individual and transplanting it into the colon of the patient with CDI. CDI can be treated in the vast majority of patients through a fecal transplantation procedure via colonoscopy, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.
 
In some extreme cases, surgery is required to remove the infected part of the intestine. This happens only in one or two patients with CDI, according to statistics by the CDC.
 
Who is at risk for contracting CDI?
Usually, elderly people who have taken several courses of antibiotics and have stayed for several stints in the hospital.
 
But it’s not just infected people who carry C. difficile. One British medical online forum claims that three in 100 adults and as many as 70 percent of healthy babies are carriers of C. difficile.
 
Why don’t more people get sick from CDI? Carriers of C. difficile have a healthy micro-organism portfolio in their gut. Good bacteria neutralize harmful bacteria in a healthy individual.
 
Are antibiotics to blame for the rise of CDI?
Alternative medicine practitioners have been cautioning against the wanton use of antibiotics for years. Some in the traditional medical community have also blamed antibiotics for the rise in superbugs like C. difficile.
 
“This micro-organism ecosystem we have in our guts needs to be taken seriously and treated like it’s a delicate rain forest,” says Dr. Steven Lamm, author of the new book, “No Guts, No Glory: Gut Solution — the Core of Your Total Wellness.”
 
“We have 100 trillion bacteria in our body. That’s ten times more than the amount of cells we have in our whole body. The medical establishment needs to be careful in overprescribing antibiotics because the beneficial bacteria are useful in so many ways, such as detoxifying and sending signals to our brain for mood and weight regulation,” adds Dr. Lamm. 
 
How should I prevent contracting CDI?
Don’t be a ‘germaphobe.’ Frequently washing your hands with anti-bacterial soap or sanitizer can reduce the good bacteria in your gut and make you more susceptible to infections. Also, don’t take antibiotics unless you really need them. Get a second opinion from a medical doctor or a naturopathic doctor. Start taking probiotics if you have taken antibiotics recently.
 
“I recommend probiotics to my patients who travel out of the country, or have taken antibiotics. Actually, I recommend them to anybody with a pulse,” advises Dr. Lamm.
 
Have other thoughts on C. difficile? Let us know in the comments below.
 
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, California.

 

Woman looking at skin in mirror.

To eliminate blemishes, you'll want to drink more water, eat more vegetables, stay away from fried foods and alcohol and opt for foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

 
Photo: iStockphoto
Pimples, pustules, blackheads and rosacea … oh my! What to do if you have acne and want your skin to get clearer? Try eating a clear skin diet.
 
Thanks to the book, "The Clear Skin Diet" by Alan C. Logan and Valori Treloar, and other tomes on the subject, there are now some studies that demonstrate how certain foods can help improve your skin.
 
Some of the foods and nutrients that the "Clear Skin Diet" authors suggest to combat problematic skin include:
  • whole grains
  • fiber
  • antioxidants
  • Omega-3 fish oils
  • green tea
  • zinc
  • selenium
Although genetics may play a factor in the appearance of your skin, watching what you eat may improve skin quality tremendously.
 
What’s the most critical nutrient for clear skin?
Acne has a reputation of attacking soda-drinking teenagers’ faces. But adults can suffer from acne, as well. One way to flush out toxins is to make sure you’re drinking enough water. Drinking at least 8-10 cups a day — and eliminating sugary drinks, both soda and juices — may help reduce acne. [Related on MNN.com:Healthy beverages]
 
Boy drinking water.Most teenagers — and adults — do not drink enough water. Dehydration leads to older-looking skin and possibly skin conditions like acne.
 
If you drink milk and suffer from unclear skin, you may need to eliminate milk and dairy from your diet. You might have a food allergy, which could manifest as skin problems.
 
Foods that spike your blood sugar, such as white bread, pastries and soda cause your pancreas to make extra insulin in an attempt to regulate blood sugar levels. But insulin also signals the sebaceous glands to manufacture and secrete an oily substance called sebum, which in elevated amounts causes the bacterium P. acnes to proliferate and clog up the hair follicles. 
 
OK, I’ll drink more water. But what else should I eat?
Eat foods that don’t promote inflammation. Inflammation can manifest in many different ways from heart disease to unhealthy-looking skin. Foods like vegetable oils (especially cooked ones, which are prevalent in fast food) and refined grains are all high in Omega 6 fatty acids.Fish
 
Opt instead for foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to some people with bad skin that fatty foods can clear skin, cold-water oily fish like salmon have anti-inflammatory properties. Does fish gross you out? No problem, there are other sources of Omega 3-rich foods including walnuts, beans and flaxseed oil.
 
Squirting a teaspoon’s worth of cold-pressed seed oils like flaxseed in a low-sugar, high-protein smoothie will reduce inflammation.
 
Be honest with yourself: are you eating enough vegetables? You don’t have to eat plain, raw broccoli, but do boost your intake of fresh vegetables as they contain several compounds like antioxidants, which can help clear up skin.
 
Besides the obvious like more water and vegetables, what else can help my skin?
Some people who suffer from acne and other skin disorders have poor digestion, especially with dietary fats, which may cause skin pores to clog. Taking dietary supplements like digestive enzymes and apple cider vinegar may help. Aloe vera juice also helps with digestion as does supplementing with zinc and B vitamins.
 
Also, azealaic acid cream is well-known in alternative medicine circles for being a highly effective antimicrobial.
 
I don’t eat fried foods, which I know are bad for my skin. What else should I avoid?
Alcohol should be severely restricted (and obviously avoided if you’re under age 21). After all, alcohol is a sugar. As mentioned above, sugar can spike insulin levels, possibly leading to an acne-producing domino effect.
 
For overall health and wellness, including skin quality, eat a diet that is overwhelmingly comprised of all-natural and unprocessed foods. Your skin is your largest organ. Eating lots of junk food will ultimately lead to less than optimum health — and unclear skin. 
 
Judd Handler is a health and lifestyle coach in Encinitas, Calif. He can be reached atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Woman drinking from a mug of coffee

We've got ideas for how you can wean yourself off the daily caffeine fix.

 
Photo: vmiramontes/Flickr
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) earlier this month released anew definition of addiction. This applies to cup o’ Joe addicts as well. Got caffeine addiction? Here’s how to break the habit…
 
The ASAM now defines addiction as a chronic brain disorder. Whether it’s caffeine or illicit drugs or gambling or sex, addiction’s roots are not a behavioral, psychological or emotional problem; it’s a problem with your noggin’s wiring.
 
If you’re addicted to several cups of coffee per day or other caffeinated drinks, in non-scientific terms, what you’re doing is feeding the brain’s reward circuitry. Constantly feeding your caffeine addiction is like giving your brain reward circuitry, or so-called neuronal ‘pleasure centers,’ a constant workout.
 
But the reality is, when you’re drinking, say, 10 cups of coffee per day, you’re not providing your pleasure centers of the brain with actual pleasure; you’re merely feeding your brain’s “wanting or motivation to obtain the stimulation,” according to a study by psychologists at the University of Michigan.
 
Why should you try to break the caffeine addiction? Excessive caffeine intake can lead to several health problems, including:
 
  • Severe adrenal stress
  • Anxiety
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability or mood disorders
 
The first step in breaking the caffeine habit is to respect the ritual
Do you habitually fork over $5 for that venti caramel frappuccino with whipped cream on top? Would you feel off your rocker if you didn’t pop in the local coffee shop today? If you want to break the caffeine habit, you should continue to visit your favorite coffee house. You can simultaneously feed your brain’s motivation to obtain the stimulation and slowly wean yourself off of coffee.
 
If your caffeine addiction has you dropping in to the Starbucks more than once a day, opt for herbal tea in the afternoon, or, to wean yourself off coffee more carefully, opt for green tea instead, as green tea has less caffeine than regular coffee.
 
If part of your caffeine ritual involves sipping out of your favorite coffee mug, by all means, continue your nightly ritual, but do try to replace your coffee with a relaxing tea like chamomile. If you have problems shutting your mind off at night and falling asleep, switching to an herbal beverage may help you relax and enjoy a more restful night sleep.
 
Should I quit cold turkey?
You may not want to quit your caffeine consumption cold turkey. This could lead to nasty withdrawal symptoms, including strong headaches. If you experience strong headaches, try weaning yourself off of caffeine over a week or two-week period by diluting your caffeinated beverage with water. Many people, though, can quit cold turkey without experiencing any side effects.
 
Acupuncture can help with withdrawal symptoms. But in the end, do try to limit yourself to one to two cups of coffee maximum per day.
 
Too much caffeine is poisonous for the body. Here’s how to detox.
If you haven’t exercised lately, consider getting back into it. Even a 30-minute brisk walk can reward the brain’s pleasure center in other ways, possibly suppressing its desire to be rewarded with caffeine. Exercise and drinking plenty of water can help flush out toxins from the body.
 
Excessive caffeine can acidify blood pH balance. You’ll want to alkalize by eating lots of vegetables, especially green, leafy ones.
 
Supplements, especially Vitamin C, can restore depleted nutrients and may help with withdrawal symptoms.
 
Trace mineral supplementation is also highly encouraged and will help to naturally restore your cells’ energy supply.
 
Eat at least three meals and one snack every day, containing all-natural foods with all three macronutrients (protein; low-starch carbs and vegetables; natural fat), spaced at four-hour intervals (8 a.m.; noon; 4 p.m.; 8 p.m.) to keep energy levels rock-steady throughout the day.
 
Got other solutions to break caffeine addiction? Write a comment below.
 
Judd Handler is a health writer and lifestyle coach in Encintias, California.

 

Michael Beresford feels the burn after working out in his garage

Our health expert walks you through how to get a gym-style workout without the gym.

 
HOME WORKOUT: Michael Beresford feels the burn after working out in his garage in Laguna Beach. He has canceled his gym membership and personal trainer to work out at home. (Photo: Michael Goulding, The Orange County Register/ZUMA Press)
Feeling the effects of the economy? Have too little time to hit the gym — or too few bucks to join one? Here, then, is some guidance on how to build muscle without weights, all from the comfort of home.
 
Most people who want serious muscle gain — bodybuilders and powerlifters — pump iron to achieve results. If your goal is to be like Ahnold (the former California Governator), lifting heavy weights would be the way to go.
 
Have more moderate goals? Then, machines and free weight equipment are not necessary to build muscle. Just ask Atlas, Sampson, and Hercules. Think they used a Smith Machine or Ab Roller to crank out some squats and chisel their ripped 6-packs?
 
Figures both mythical and real for millennia have used the following three surrogates for machines, dumbbells and barbells:
  • Bodyweight
  • Elements from the natural world (think: rocks, stones, tree branches, dirt)
  • Heavy, everyday household items (water-filled laundry detergent bottles, water jugs, gallon-milk containers)
There's a good chance you don't have boulders in your apartment. But you can do two out of three on the list.
 
You can use your own bodyweight and use household items to perform variations of the following three exercises:
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
A large contingency of weight lifters refer to these exercises above as the holy trinity of muscle-building exercises.
 
SquatBefore you squat with household item weights, learn how to perform a squat correctly with your own bodyweight. There are over one million Google entries on how to squat correctly, so you won’t have a problem learning how. The gist of the squat:
  • feet about hip-width apart;
  • keep a flat back as you stick your booty out and pretend you are about to sit on a low toilet;
  • knees remain over ankles; chin stays parallel to floor
  • squat down as low as you can maintain a flat back
  • activate (gently squeeze) your quads (front of thighs) and buttocks as you come up, exhaling
Doing 5 sets of 20 will give you 100 squats. Getting enough rest and protein in your diet combined with 100 bodyweight squats will help you gain muscle.
 
Ready to add some weight to your at-home squats?
 
Grab your water-weighted detergent bottles. Go hardcore and hold on to a 5-gallon water jug with each arm.
 
As for deadlifts, try the stiff-legged variety. The regular version often gets too confused with squats. Most people who sit at a chair typing away all day have stiff hamstrings from not stretching enough. The stiff-legged deadlift will not only stretch the hamstrings, they strengthen the back of your thighs as well.
 
The basics for this exercise: Stick the booty out like you did with the squats, only this time, barely bend your knees as you reach your hips back. You should feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Again, activate the thigh and buttocks muscles as you come forward, exhaling.
 
Want to give the regular deadlift a try? Place your jugs and bottles on the floor and stick your hips way back and use your hips — not your back — to drive you back to starting position with items in hand.
 
Both squats and deadlifts recruit just about every major muscle in the body. For those pressed for time, these exercises are perfect.
 
Doing pushupsPushups also involve many different muscle groups. They strengthen your 'pecs' (chest), shoulders, biceps, triceps, deep mid-section core, and back muscles.
 
Beginning exercisers and anybody with shoulder joint issues should get clearance from a medical professional and perform modified pushups on the knees. Keep in mind to gently squeeze your belly button towards your spine to activate the deep transverse abdominis, which acts like a corset around your core.
 
Is 'getting toned' a goal for you? For those who want to focus on specific muscle groups, split your workouts like this:
  • Day 1: Squats, Deadlifts, Pushups
  • Day 2: Core (bodyweight planks, Pilates-style crunches)
  • Day 3: Arms (half-gallon triceps kickbacks; water bottle arm curls and shoulder presses)
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Days 5, 6, 7: Repeat
Other in-home muscle building exercises using every-day items around the house:
  • Lunges
  • Bent-over rows
  • Lateral Shoulder Raises
Got any other ideas for weight-free workouts at home? Leave us a comment below.
 
Judd Handler is a lifestyle coach and fitness trainer in Encinitas, CA.
Photos: Jupiterimages; jessica mullen/Flickr

 

Woman on exerciseball

Save money and get fit with these exercises you can do at home.

 
With some personal fitness trainers charging $75-$100 per hour and gym memberships costing at least a few hundred bucks a year, it’s no wonder people are working out more at home.
 

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With winter in full swing, finding the best home workout is a necessity if you don’t want to lose the battle of the bulge.
 
The beauty of working out from home is that you don’t need much space or equipment. Are you a busy beaver? Home workouts also don’t require a lot of time if your goal is to get lean and super fit.
 
Twenty-minute bursts of exercise can be just as effective as much longer cardio sessions; new researchhas proven that shorter bursts are actually more effective.
 
If you want to use some equipment at home, consider using the following:
 
•  Exercise ball (65 cm if you’re an average-size male; 55 cm for females.)
•  Jump rope (Unless you have "popcorn" ceiling and don’t know how to skip rope like Rocky.)
•  Yoga mat (If you have hardwood floors.)
•  Push-up bars (Don’t have bars but do have dumbbells? They can double as push up bars.)
•  Foam roller (For core strengthening and massage.)
 
 
If you’re going to do a short home workout, you should pick exercises that challenge your whole body. Don’t waste your time just doing dumbbell biceps curls. If you absolutely must do them, at least combine it with a full-weight body squat.
 
You’ll also want to pick exercises that get your heart pumping. Those arm curls don’t tax your cardiovascular system nearly enough if you want to get in better shape in less time at home.
 
Because you lack the time to do a standard complete gym workout — warm-up, cardio, weights, cool-down, abs, stretch — your home workout exercises should also incorporate flexibility.
 
Ideally, you’ll want to find exercises that combine at least two of the following three benefits:
 
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Cardio endurance
 
Which exercise combines all three?
One of the best exercises that combines all three benefits is the downward dog/upward dog combo. Matt Furey, a former martial arts champion and collegiate wrestling champ at Iowa, is a guru on weights-free workouts. His program "Combat Conditioning" features the downward dog into upward dog.
 
Furey’s version of this exercise is called Hindu Pushups and Furey would no doubt be willing to admit that he didn’t invent this exercise; ancient strongmen of India did.
 
Many people are familiar with a downward dog. If you widen your stance by about a foot in the downward dog and then swoop forward into the upward dog and repeat 20 times (7-10 if you’re a yoga novice), you’ll strengthen your arms and core, stretch your hamstrings and core as well as your lower back and calves.
 
And oh yeah, your heart will be pumping as well.
 
 
For those who enjoy pushups — one of the best exercises to develop strength and get the heart rate up — you can perform a regular pushup and as you reach the peak of the pushup, push yourself into a downward dog.
 
Take a 30-second breather after doing several reps if necessary. Then dobodyweight squats, followed by core exercises like slow-motion/minimal movement (a couple inches at most) crunches either on the exercise ball or on the foam roller.
 
Don’t have either? Hook your feet under your couch and perform a set of 5-7 crunches that take 10 seconds on the return phase (the "lowering" or "negative" phase). You won’t be able to do 100 crunches, nor should you ever try to; abs are physiologically designed for short bursts.
 
Repeat 3-5 circuits of the Hindu pushups or regular pushups to downward-facing dog; bodyweight squats and core and you’ll get a highly effective, short home workout.
 
Do you have 5-gallon water bottles delivered to your home? Use them to do one arm deadlifts.
 
Use your imagination to come up with a home workout that suits your needs and interests.
 
Got any other ideas for your best home workout? Let us know below.
 
Judd Handler is a health writer and coach. He welcomes feedback atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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