What Is a Low-Residue Diet?

What Is a Low-Residue Diet?

Man with groceries
A low-residue dietA low-fiber/low-residue diet is a diet with the end goal of having fewer and smaller bowel movements each day and it may help calm symptoms of gastrointestinal illnesses or help prepare the body for certain medical procedures. People who follow a low-residue diet need to eat low-fiber foods that are easy to digest. If your physician tells you to go on a low-residue diet, ask for guidelines around what to eat and how long to stay on the diet.

What Is Food Residue?

The digestive system breaks down and uses most parts of the food we eat. However, there are some substances that can’t be digested. Anything that can’t be broken down and is left over in the large intestine after a meal is digested is called “residue.”

Residue is mostly made up of fiber. Dietary fiber is a substance made by plants. It is primarily present in plant-based foods like grains and produce. The body can’t break down fiber.

Most people need to eat a lot of fiber in order to maintain good health. Eating more fiber reduces a person’s risk of chronic disorders like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a daily fiber intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, a person may occasionally need to eat smaller amounts of fiber for health reasons.

The Low-Residue Diet

The goal of a low-residue diet is to eat foods that can be easily broken down by the body and will lead to less residue left over in the digestive system. This diet typically causes people to have smaller, less frequent bowel movements.

A low-residue diet is very similar to a low-fiber diet, but they may not be exactly the same. Low-residue diets do focus on low-fiber foods, but they may also eliminate other types of foods as well. For example, dairy products do not contain much fiber, but still lead to a lot of residue, so these foods may also be avoided. This is important to note if you are following a low-residue diet for the purposes of bowel preparation, dietary or other health reasons.

When Do You Need To Use a Low-Residue Diet?

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There are two main reasons why physicians recommend low-residue diets. The first is for diagnostic purposes, to prepare the digestive system before undergoing a test or surgery. The other is as a treatment for different digestive illnesses. Don’t begin a low-residue diet unless your healthcare provider tells you that you should. Low-residue diets typically don’t provide enough nutrients to keep you healthy long-term, so follow your physician’s instructions regarding when to begin and end this eating plan. Additionally, you may want to ask your physician if it’s a good idea to take any vitamins or supplements while you are following the low-residue diet.

The Low-Residue Diet as Bowel Preparation

Some people need to follow a low-residue diet before going through medical procedures. One such procedure is a colonoscopy. During this test, a physician uses a thin tube with a camera on the end to look inside the large intestine. Colonoscopies are used to diagnose certain illnesses and digestive problems. Colonoscopies are also an important part of screening for colon cancer. People with an average risk of developing this cancer should begin getting screened at the age of 45. Before a colonoscopy, a person needs to clean out their bowel. Traditionally, many physicians recommended a bowel prep that involved taking laxatives and consuming only clear liquids for one or more days before the procedure. However, in recent years many researchers have conducted clinical trials looking at other bowel prep methods. Several studies have found that people who ate a low-residue diet before undergoing procedures had equal or better colon cleansing compared to people who followed a clear liquid diet. Additionally, people following a low-residue diet preferred this method and were more likely to stick to the instructions. Physicians may also recommend following a low-residue diet before other intestinal tests. By eliminating leftover residue from the large intestine, this diet can help the physicians see the intestine more clearly and more accurately identify any problems.

Using the Low-Residue Diet as Treatment

Eating low-residue foods may help manage symptoms of conditions that affect the digestive system. Physicians may recommend following this eating plan to people who are dealing with:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • A bowel obstruction (a condition in which digested food is blocking the intestines)
  • Other conditions, such as infection or cancer of the digestive system
  • Surgery of the intestines

There are two different disorders that fall under the umbrella of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In both of these conditions, there is ongoing inflammation in the small or large intestine. Over time, this inflammation causes damage and leads to symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, weight loss, and tiredness. However, these symptoms don’t occur all of the time. They occur or get worse during disease “flares.” Low-residue diets may help reduce the amount of stool, allowing the intestines rest and leading to fewer IBD symptoms during these flares. Diverticulitis is a condition in which small bulges or pouches form in the intestines, and then — these outpouchings — become inflamed. One study has found that eating foods that are easier on the digestive system, including low-fiber foods, may help reduce symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder without a clear cause that leads to several digestive symptoms, including bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. In the past, most physicians have recommended that people with IBS try eating more fiber. Unfortunately, this can sometimes make symptoms more severe. Now, researchers are finding that a low-fiber diet can lessen symptoms or make them disappear altogether. A low-residue or low-fiber diet may also be necessary before surgery — either surgery on the intestines or gynecological surgery. Following a low-residue diet before these surgeries can help create more room in the abdomen and reduce risk of infection. Additionally, switching to a low-residue diet after intestinal surgery can help people’s intestines begin working again more quickly, leading to a shorter amount of time spent in the hospital.

How Does a Low-Residue Diet Work?

Doctor
It is hard to measure exactly how much residue each type of food produces. Additionally, each person’s body may respond to foods differently. Researchers have not always been able to come up with a clear definition for which foods qualify as “low-residue.” For this reason, some physicians now recommend that people who need to follow a low-residue diet simply try to follow a low-fiber diet. When it comes to a low-fiber diet, physicians often suggest eating 10 grams of fiber or less per day. If your physician wants you to follow a low-residue diet, they may also tell you to avoid other foods that may be hard to digest or cause digestive symptoms. Learning about which foods naturally contain fiber can help. Check the nutrition facts label on your foods. This will tell you how much of that food makes up one serving and how much fiber is in each serving. If a food item like a fruit or vegetable doesn’t come with a label, you can look up the amount of fiber per serving online. Keep track of how much fiber you’re eating throughout the day, and try not to eat more than 10 grams, or follow your physician’s instructions for how much fiber you should be eating. Your physician will tell you how long to remain on a low-residue diet. If you just need to go through bowel prep for an upcoming procedure, you may only need to follow the diet for one or a couple of days. If you are trying to use a low-residue diet to help with disease symptoms, your physician may advise staying on the diet for several weeks or months. People who need to follow a low-residue diet long-term may want to consult with a Registered Dietician (RD) or Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS). These health professionals can help ensure that you are eating balanced meals and getting good nutrition while limiting the foods that you eat.

What Foods Can I Eat on a Low-Residue Diet?

During a low-residue diet, you’ll want to focus on low-fiber foods. This list of foods provides a good starting point for what you may be able to eat. However, each person digests food differently, so your physician may tell you to avoid foods that are on this list. Always follow your physician’s recommendations. Usually, the foods on this list have low levels of fiber. However, it is still important to check the nutrition facts label for everything that you eat. Some naturally low-fiber foods have extra fiber added in. When it comes to grains, white or refined products have less fiber than whole-wheat and whole-grain products. Stick to:

  • White bread
  • White pasta
  • White rice
  • Non-whole-wheat crackers
  • Cereal without added fiber.

Most cooked, tenderized meats are okay to have on a low-residue diet. You can also have poultry and eggs. For plant-based options, you can try tofu and smooth peanut butter. Most fruits and vegetables should not be eaten raw. Cooking produce, removing skins and seeds, and avoiding pulp helps you cut back on fiber and residue. Vegetables that can be eaten raw include small amounts of zucchini, cucumbers, or lettuce. Make sure to peel and remove seeds first. You can also have cooked, canned, or juiced versions of the following vegetables:

  • Spinach
  • Green beans and wax beans
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Squash and pumpkin
  • Potatoes with the skins removed
  • Carrots
  • Beets

When it comes to fruits, juices are always a good option — but make sure to buy pulp-free! Sauces and purees like applesauce are also good bets. Raw melon, cantaloupe, bananas, apricots, nectarines, peaches, and plums are usually okay to have on a low-residue diet. If you’re eating raw fruit, make sure it’s very ripe. You can also have canned fruits as long as they don’t come in heavy syrup. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids while on a low-residue diet. This can help prevent constipation, which is common when eating low-fiber foods.

What Foods Should I Avoid on a Low-Residue Diet?

Avoid whole-grain and whole-wheat foods, which contain a lot of fiber. Additionally, stay away from:

  • Brown rice and wild rice
  • Popcorn
  • Oats and oatmeal
  • Granola
  • Wheat germ
  • Bran
  • Grains like barley, quinoa, and bulgur

When it comes to meats, stay away from processed meats like hot dogs and sausage, and say no to any deli meats. You should also avoid nuts and crunchy peanut butter, beans, and tempeh, as these are all high-fiber foods. Avoid any vegetables that aren’t on the above lists. Additionally, stay away from any vegetables that haven’t been de-seeded or peeled. When it comes to fruit, you should avoid all dried fruits, as these typically contain a lot of fiber. You should also choose not to eat any pineapple, berries, figs, and prunes. Ask your physician whether it is okay to eat dairy products. Some low-residue diet recommendations include limiting or avoiding milk, yogurt, and cheese. These products contain low amounts of fiber but may worsen digestive symptoms and increase the amount of stool that you produce.

How To Reintroduce High-Fiber Foods

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You’ve completed the low-residue diet, and your physician says that you no longer need to follow this eating plan. Now what?

If you have only been eating low-fiber foods for a day or two, it may be fine to eat a normal amount of fiber again the next day. Ask your physician for recommendations.

If you have been following a low-residue diet for a longer time period, don’t go back to your usual diet immediately. It will be difficult for your digestive system to handle. Instead, increase the amount of fiber you eat gradually over time. Try eating a small amount of a high-fiber food for a couple of days in a row. If you don’t experience any symptoms, add this food back into your diet.

Some experts recommend adding 5 more grams of fiber to your diet each week. For example, if you have been eating 10 grams of fiber each day, try eating 15 grams of fiber per day the following week, and 20 grams per day the week after that. If you begin to experience digestive symptoms like bloating, cramping, or diarrhea, try decreasing your fiber intake again until the symptoms resolve.

Conclusions

A low-residue diet is similar to a low-fiber diet. In some cases, they may be the same. These diets may be a necessary tool when preparing for certain medical procedures. They can also be a helpful way of managing symptoms for people with digestive diseases. However, people should not usually stay on low-residue diets for long time periods, because fiber helps keep you healthy and prevent chronic illnesses. Follow your physician’s instructions when it comes to beginning and ending a low-residue diet, and heed their recommendations about what to eat and avoid. If you think this is a diet that could benefit you, please discuss with Dr. Connor first by making an appointment.

Enlarged Prostate: Natural and Pharmaceutical Treatments

Enlarged Prostate: Natural and Pharmaceutical Treatments

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If your doctor has told you that you have an enlarged prostate, you’re not alone: about half of men between the ages of 51 and 60 have the condition. An enlarged prostate becomes even more common with age, affecting as many as nine out of 10 men who are over the age of 80. An enlarged prostate doesn’t always need to be treated. However, if it is causing painful or uncomfortable symptoms, treatments can help improve your quality of life. There are several different supplements, medications, and procedures that can help treat an enlarged prostate.

What Is an Enlarged Prostate?

The prostate is a gland found inside the pelvis, underneath the bladder, and surrounding the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body). The prostate makes part of the semen, the fluid that contains sperm. In young adults, the prostate is about the size of a walnut. However, it continually grows larger with age, potentially reaching the size of a lemon by the age of 60. In some cases, it may grow too large, leading to an enlarged prostate, also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). If the enlarged prostate presses against the bladder or urethra, it can lead to some health problems. BPH is not cancer, and men with an enlarged prostate don’t have a higher chance of being diagnosed with cancer. However, some of the symptoms of BPH overlap with those of prostate cancer, so it is important to be aware of any health changes and tell your doctor about any potential symptoms that you notice.

The Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate

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Most men with BPH don’t have any symptoms. For others, the enlarged prostate may start to block the urethra, leading to signs like:

  • Needing to urinate frequently
  • Having trouble getting urine out
  • Stopping and starting multiple times while urinating
  • Feeling like you haven’t fully emptied your bladder after urinating
  • Dribbling after finishing urinating
  • Incontinence (the leaking of urine that you can’t stop)
  • Feeling a strong urge to urinate all of a sudden
  • Needing to use the bathroom at least two times each night

It is important to get early symptoms checked out to make sure they are not signs of cancer. Additionally, if urination problems go untreated, they can eventually lead to more serious issues such as bladder or kidney damage, urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones, or kidney failure. Keep an eye out for symptoms of more serious conditions, such as an infection. Seek medical care right away if you have a fever, bloody urine, are urinating less than you usually do, or notice pain in your abdomen, side, or back. If you are experiencing any changes in your urination patterns, talk to your healthcare provider. They may try to figure out the cause of the problem by performing a physical exam or ordering various tests, such as:

  • A prostate specific antigen (PSA) test — A blood test that measures levels of the PSA molecule in the blood, which may increase due to prostate problems such as cancer, an infection, or BPH
  • Urinalysis — Tests that can check for blood or infections in the urine
  • Urodynamic tests — Procedures that measure how well urine flows through the bladder and urethra
  • Cystoscopy — A procedure in which a thin tube with a camera at the end is used to look inside of the urethra and bladder

What Causes an Enlarged Prostate?

woman with a salad and tape measure
Doctors don’t yet fully understand why many men develop BPH. Some experts believe that the condition happens due to age-related changes in hormone levels. For example, levels of active testosterone tend to drop, while levels of the related hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can increase within the prostate. These changes may cause prostate cells to grow more quickly.

 

There are also certain risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing an enlarged prostate. These include:

  • Being over the age of 40
  • Having family members, such as a father or brother, who were diagnosed with the condition
  • Being obese or not getting enough physical activity
  • Experiencing certain other health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or erectile dysfunction

Treating an Enlarged Prostate

There are several possible BPH treatment plans that doctors may recommend. The approach that is right for you depends on several factors, such as how severe your symptoms are, whether your symptoms are disrupting your daily life, and your overall health.

Regardless of which treatment plan you choose, experts recommend that you visit your doctor at least once per year if you have an enlarged prostate. Regular check-ups provide the opportunity to switch up your treatment plan if needed.

Watchful Waiting

If you don’t have BPH symptoms, or if your symptoms are mild, your doctor may recommend a “watchful waiting” or “watch and wait” approach. This means that you don’t use any treatments.

During this time, you should visit your doctor regularly so that they can keep an eye on your condition and make sure it isn’t getting worse or leading to other serious problems. If your symptoms start to get more severe, you may then decide that you want to try other treatments.

Lifestyle Changes

woman with a salad and tape measure
Whether you are trying watchful waiting or using treatments, certain lifestyle changes may help prevent or reduce symptoms. You may want to change your habits surrounding urination. Don’t try to hold it in — go to the bathroom once you first notice that you need to. Try to empty your bladder all the way each time. Additionally, it can help to urinate on a schedule. Every couple of hours, try going to the bathroom, even if you don’t feel like you need to. Try not to drink too much water all at once. Instead, drink a little bit of water at a time throughout the day. Your doctor may also suggest drinking less water than you normally would. Some dietary changes may also help. Alcohol and caffeine can both make urinary symptoms worse, so limit how many alcoholic or caffeinated beverages you have, or avoid them entirely. Staying away from these substances at night may help you avoid waking up multiple times each night to use the bathroom. Getting more exercise may also help ease symptoms. Try joining a local gym or YMCA, or go on a walk around your neighborhood. You can also go online to take virtual exercise classes or watch workout videos. Stress can also exacerbate symptoms. Try reducing stress by practicing meditation or breathing exercises with the aid of a book, website, or app. Exercising, journaling, getting more sleep, and reaching out to loved ones or a mental health professional can also help reduce stress. Avoid taking over-the-counter medications that contain decongestants or antihistamines, including drugs that treat colds, allergies, or sinus problems. These medications can sometimes make it more difficult for the bladder muscles to relax and let urine out, causing additional urinary symptoms. You may also want to ask your doctor whether it’s safe to take other medications that could worsen symptoms, including:

Supplements for an Enlarged Prostate

Some men turn to herbs, supplements, or natural products to ease BPH symptoms. If you choose to go this route, make sure to tell your doctor about everything that you are taking. Some natural products may interact with other medications or supplements or lead to side effects. Early studies found that saw palmetto may help ease symptoms of an enlarged prostate. This substance comes from the American dwarf palm tree, found in the southern parts of the U.S. However, when researchers tested saw palmetto in clinical trials, they found that there was no difference in BPH symptoms when men took saw palmetto compared to a placebo (sugar pill). In additional clinical trials, researchers tested increasingly high doses of saw palmetto, but still saw no effect. On the other hand, a more recent clinical trial found that men found symptom relief when they used saw palmetto oil that contained beta-sitosterol. Other research has also found that beta-sitosterol on its own may lessen urinary symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate. Older research also suggests that Pygeum africanum may help. Studies reported that men who used this supplement, which comes from the bark of the African plum tree, were more than twice as likely to say their symptoms got better compared to men who took a placebo.

Medications for BPH

woman with a salad and tape measure
There are several types of drugs that are prescribed for an enlarged prostate. These medications often work in different ways, cause different side effects, and cost varying amounts of money.

Alpha blockers such as Cardura (doxazosin) and Flomax (tamsulosin) relax muscles in the pelvis near the prostate. This can help urine move through the urethra more easily. While these medications don’t affect the size of the prostate, they can often relieve symptoms quickly. Some men who take these medications may experience side effects such as headache, dizziness, or tiredness.

Proscar (finasteride) and Avodart (dutasteride) are 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors, medications that actually shrink the prostate. They do this by blocking an enzyme that helps make more DHT hormone. Because DHT triggers prostate cells to grow more quickly, lowering levels of this hormone leads to a smaller prostate and fewer symptoms. These medications may take a few months to relieve symptoms and may not be suitable for people with more severe BPH. Potential side effects of 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors include decreased libido and erectile dysfunction, although these problems are not common.

Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors such as Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil) are erectile dysfunction medications that can also help treat BPH. These work by relaxing the muscles in the penis. This may help urine flow out more easily.

Some scientific studies have found that using multiple types of medication together may help lead to even better results. For example, doctors may recommend taking both an alpha blocker and a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor. However, phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors can interact with alpha blockers, so let your doctor know if you are using these medications.

In some cases, an enlarged prostate may occur along with prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate). This condition is sometimes caused by infection, so taking antibiotics can sometimes lead to symptom relief.

Surgery for an Enlarged Prostate

Doctors may recommend surgery for more severe cases of BPH that are causing problems like incontinence, bloody urine, frequent infections, or kidney problems. It may also be a good solution when medication isn’t working.

The most common surgery for an enlarged prostate is transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). This procedure is generally safe and effective. It involves inserting a thin tube into the urethra and using it to remove excess prostate tissue.

In some cases, doctors may recommend other types of surgery. One possibility is transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP), in which a surgeon makes a few small cuts in the prostate in order to help widen the urethra. In laser surgery, a tiny laser is passed through the urethra and used to get rid of prostate tissue. An open prostatectomy involves making a cut through the skin and removing all or part of the prostate gland.

Several kinds of minimally-invasive surgical procedures may also be an option. These procedures often involve using heat or electricity to destroy prostate tissue. Minimally-invasive surgeries may be a good

  • Transurethral needle ablation (TUNA)
  • Transurethral microwave thermotherapy (TUMT)
  • Transurethral electrovaporization of the prostate (TUVP)
  • High-intensity focused ultrasound
  • Water-induced thermotherapy
  • Prostatic stent insertion

The Bottom Line

It’s important for each individual to work with their doctor to figure out the best treatment plan — what works best for you may not be a good fit for someone else.

For milder cases of an enlarged prostate, lifestyle changes, supplements, or certain medications may be enough to relieve symptoms. If these solutions aren’t enough, other medications or surgery may be more helpful. Additionally, it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes in urination. Even mild symptoms can occasionally be a sign of a more serious condition.

If you are having any of the symptoms above, or have other questions about your prostate, make an appointment with Dr. Connor.

The Best Anti-Aging Superfoods

The Best Anti-Aging Superfoods

woman with pomegranate
Staying young isn’t just about the way you look or the way you act — it’s also about protecting your health. The older we get, the more damage builds up in our tissues and the more likely we are to be diagnosed with chronic health conditions.

Of course, there’s no way to permanently halt the aging process. However, eating right and taking care of yourself can help minimize age-related damage and keep you feeling as good as you can throughout many decades of life.

(I encourage you to read my entire series on superfoods to learn about what is so super about superfoods as well as about superfoods for weight lossheart healthdiabetes and pre-diabetesradiant skin and gut health.)

Aging and Your Health

Every part of your body goes through age-related changes. Your skin loses its elasticity, your muscles become weaker, and your bones lose strength.

Additionally, the older you get, the higher your risk for health conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis and other joint problems
  • Cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer

Adopting healthy habits, including eating more nutritious foods, may help slow down these changes and keep you as healthy as possible as you age.

What Causes Aging?

Experts are still learning about the many factors that bring about aging. However, they have identified a few possible causes, which may be affected by lifestyle habits such as diet.

Some genes help control aging. These genes may be turned on or off or develop mutations that lead to age-related changes within cells.

Aging is also linked to damage. Small molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) can form within cells. ROS damage DNA and cells, causing a cell to age. On the other hand, antioxidants are substances that get rid of ROS, helping prevent and heal damage. Some unhealthy foods can lead to higher levels of ROS, while other foods can act as antioxidants, keeping your cells young.

Inflammation is another factor that leads to aging. A little bit of inflammation is necessary to help the immune system fight off germs or toxins. But chronic (ongoing) inflammation can accelerate the aging process and lead to age-related health problems. Different foods can help raise or lower the amount of inflammation in the body.

Superfood Solutions to Stop Aging

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Eating a variety of foods from each food group is enough to help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. However, if you’re worried about aging, you may want to eat extra superfoods that can help your cells stay healthy.

There’s no one definition of a “superfood,” but the label tends to be given to foods or drinks that offer higher levels of health-boosting nutrients. Superfoods also frequently contain helpful molecules like antioxidants, which protect cells from free radicals and help heal the damage that builds up with age. Additionally, many superfoods have been shown to help reduce the risk of developing different chronic diseases.

Adding more of these foods to your diet may help you keep your body healthy and make you look and feel as young as possible as you age!

Blueberries

Blueberries are a powerful superfood that can help keep you healthy into your later years. These fruits contain antioxidants and other anti-aging molecules.

Blueberries can protect nerve cells from ROS and inflammation. This can help prevent or even reverse age-related problems with memory, cognitive abilities, balance, and motor function.

Blueberries also contain molecules called anthocyanins that help protect against disorders like diabetes and heart disease. They may even help protect against early death.

Nuts

Different kinds of nuts — including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, and pine nuts — provide healthy fats and protein and help protect against inflammation. Another big benefit of eating nuts is their ability to help prevent age-related health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Nuts may even help you live longer. One study found:

  • People who ate nuts once per week were 89% less likely to have an early death.
  • Those who ate nuts two to four times a week were 87% less likely to die early.
  • Eating nuts five or six times per week led to an 85% reduced risk of early death.
  • People who had nuts at least seven times a week were 80% less likely to die early.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are a fantastic superfood that contain several anti-aging molecules.

Several substances found in pomegranates can help protect cartilage from being degraded. This may help keep joints healthy and protect against arthritis.

These fruits also contain molecules called ellagitannin and ellagic acid. When you eat pomegranate, the good bacteria in your gut transform these chemicals into urolithin A (UA). UA reduces inflammation and gives a boost to the mitochondria (small structures that make energy for your cells).

UA can also protect against age-related problems that appear in your muscles, joints, brain, and other tissues. In some laboratory studies, UA also helped animals live longer, although this has not yet been tested in humans.

Tomatoes

Eating more tomatoes may be an easy way to keep your skin healthy as you age. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a red pigment that also acts as an antioxidant. Pro tip: your body can absorb lycopene from tomato paste more easily than it can from fresh tomatoes.

Researchers have found that lycopene is present in your skin cells and in the oil that your skin produces, although levels decrease with age. Fortunately, eating more lycopene can increase how much of this molecule is present in your skin, bringing lycopene levels up to those seen in young adults. Studies have also found that eating more tomato paste protects the skin from sun damage.

Tomatoes may provide other benefits as well. Some research shows that eating more tomatoes can help reduce your chances of being diagnosed with serious conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Salmon

Salmon, as well as other fatty fish like trout, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, is a great source of vitamin D, protein, and healthy fats, making it an important superfood.

Levels of vitamin D in the body tend to drop with age. This is bad news for your bones, since vitamin D is needed to keep them strong and healthy. Low vitamin D levels mean an increased risk of weak or broken bones. Not getting enough of this vitamin also puts you at risk for certain age-linked diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and cancer. Making sure you have enough of this vitamin as you age is essential.

Healthy protein sources also become increasingly important as you age. The older you get, the more muscle mass you lose. Eating higher levels of protein can help combat this and keep the muscles healthy.

The omega-3 fats found in salmon and other fish also help with healthy aging. They can reduce inflammation and protect brain health, helping prevent age-related declines in thinking and memory abilities.

Nonfat Milk

Milk and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt provide several important nutrients. Like fatty fish, milk is a good source of protein. In the United States, milk is also usually fortified with extra vitamin D, making it another good source of this vitamin.

Dairy foods also contain a lot of calcium, a mineral that is important for bone health. Low calcium levels can eventually lead to osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become weak. Older adults may also be at risk for this condition because some medications may prevent the body from absorbing as much calcium as it normally would. Getting enough calcium from your diet is important at every age and can help prevent future bone problems.

Whole Grains

People who want to age well should look to whole grains. Try switching out white bread for whole wheat bread, refined pasta for wheat pasta, and white rice for brown rice. You can also eat more grains like quinoa, oats, or popcorn.

Research shows that middle-aged adults who eat more whole grains are more likely to have better physical and mental health, and are less likely to have chronic illnesses.

Turmeric

Turmeric is the super spice that gives Indian curries their yellow color. Turmeric contains a molecule called curcumin that can help improve many aspects of health and has some anti-aging properties.

Laboratory studies have found that curcumin can help worms, flies, and mice live longer. It’s not yet clear whether turmeric can affect lifespan in humans, but researchers have identified several ways in which this spice can affect aging.

Curcumin can boost the body’s own natural antioxidants. It can also turn off several genes linked to aging. Finally, it can lessen symptoms of certain health conditions linked to aging and inflammation, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Water

While it may not be a “superfood” in the usual sense, water is an important nutrient that is vital for aging well. Your skin loses moisture as you get older, which makes it age. Staying hydrated is important for keeping all of your tissues healthy.

Your sense of thirst may also decrease as you get older, making it harder to remember to drink enough fluids. Additionally, staying hydrated is important when taking certain medications for chronic health conditions.

Make a plan to drink a certain number of glasses of water each day. Plan when you’re going to have drinks — don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Try having a full glass of water with every meal, and while taking any medication. If drinking enough water is difficult, you can also drink some low-fat or nonfat milk, or juice without added sugar or salt.

Diet Plans for Healthy Aging

woman with a salad and tape measure

While eating superfoods can help protect against illness, following a healthy eating plan may provide even better results. Researchers have developed certain diets that reduce a person’s chances of developing conditions that may come on with age.

One of the best-studied diets is the Mediterranean diet. It emphasizes plant-based meals with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood. This diet can lower the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancer. In one study, people who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely were 26% less likely to have an early death from heart problems.

A related diet, called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and boost heart health.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet combines elements from both eating plans above. The MIND diet encourages people to eat leafy green vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts, beans, and wine. It can help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Other Tips for Aging Well

Many different lifestyle factors affect how we age. If you want to maintain health into your later years, you may also want to consider making other changes.

Getting Enough Physical Activity As You Age

Nearly one in three adults over the age of 50 are physically inactive. Additionally, people with chronic health conditions are more likely to report that they don’t get as much exercise. However, physical activity is very important — it can help prevent or treat many different disorders and reduce a person’s chances of an early death.

Experts make the following physical activity recommendations for older adults:

  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week (for example, take five 30-minute brisk walks per week)
  • Spend two days each week doing strength training or other activities that help build muscle
  • Regularly perform exercises that help improve balance, such as standing on one foot

If you can’t reach all of the above goals, remember that doing something is better than nothing. The more time you spend moving and the less time you spend sitting, the better! Make sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise plan to make sure that you are being active in a way that is healthy for you.

Limiting Alcohol and Tobacco

Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can speed up the aging process. They can both negatively impact the skin and lead to more wrinkles. Alcohol and tobacco can also increase a person’s chances of being diagnosed with cancer and other serious conditions.

One study also found that people who didn’t drink heavily or smoke, and adopted other healthy habits like eating healthy and getting exercise, were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Maintaining Mental Health

People of all ages can struggle with maintaining good mental health. However, problems like depression or anxiety can have a bigger impact on physical health for older adults. Poor mental health can make it harder for people to seek treatment for other conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

If you notice changes in your mood or emotions, talk to your doctor. Therapy or medication often helps improve your mental health, which can in turn have a positive impact on your physical health.

Conclusion

Your diet increasingly impacts your health as you age. The more you add superfoods and other nutritious foods to your diet, the more you can protect your skin and other organs from age-related damage and decrease your risk of chronic health disorders. Please click here to schedule an appointment with Dr Connor or call us at (512) 382-9500.

Osteoporosis Is a Serious Concern After Menopause

Osteoporosis Is a Serious Concern After Menopause

In an article in Giddy, Dr. Connor explains that although its primary function is reproductive system development and maintenance, estrogen also plays a key role in bone, breast and brain health, Connor said. Estrogen bolsters bone strength, and the lack of it can contribute to weak, brittle bones and osteoporosis. Read the entire article in Giddy.  If you are concerned with bone strength and want to discuss it further, make an appointment with Dr. Connor.

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Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes and Treatments

Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes and Treatments

Testing blook sugar

Diabetes — a condition that affects more than one in 10 Americans — often leads to additional health problems called complications. One of the most common diabetes complications is peripheral neuropathy. People with this condition have nerve damage that leads to pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the hands and feet. About one in two people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy.

What Causes Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a disease of the nerves. The body uses nerves to communicate with the rest of the body. Some nerves send signals from the brain to other tissues, and then other nerves send signals back to the brain. This process helps the brain learn about feelings and sensations, tell muscles when and how to move, and control different processes in the body such as breathing and the heartbeat.

In people with diabetes, the body has a hard time controlling levels of sugar and fat in the blood. High blood sugar levels and high fat levels can directly damage the nerves and also harm the blood vessels that keep the nerves healthy. In people with neuropathy, the brain has a harder time receiving information from and sending signals to certain parts of the body.

Neuropathy can also be caused by other conditions. Certain genetic disorders that are passed down within families can lead to nerve damage. Other disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, inflammatory conditions, or cancer may also lead to neuropathy. Environmental or lifestyle-related causes of neuropathy can include heavy drinking, not getting enough of certain vitamins or minerals, exposure to toxic substances, or infections.

Types of Neuropathy

Damage to different types of nerves can lead to different forms of neuropathy. These include:

  • Peripheral neuropathy: damage to the nerves in the feet or hands
  • Autonomic neuropathy: damage to the nerves that control body functions like digestion, blood pressure, sweating, vision, urination, and body temperature
  • Focal neuropathies: problems with a single nerve in the wrist, leg, head, or other location; includes carpal tunnel syndrome and eye problems
  • Proximal neuropathy: damage that affects nerves in the thigh, hip, or buttock, usually just on one side of the body

People with diabetes can develop any of these neuropathies. Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of nerve damage.

Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms

man holding arm
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms affect the feet, ankles, lower legs, hands, or arms. People with this condition may feel pain, burning, weakness, numbness, or “pins and needles” sensations. The sense of touch may also be affected in these areas. For example, people with peripheral neuropathy may not notice right away when their hand is touching something hot, or they may not realize that their shoes are too tight.

These symptoms can develop and worsen slowly over time, or they can appear quickly. They may be more severe at night than they are during the day.

Long-Term Effects of Peripheral Neuropathy

Over time, people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy may experience worsening problems with their feet. When it is harder for the nerves in the feet to pick up on different sensations, a person may be less likely to notice pain or discomfort. Some people with diabetes develop sores, blisters, or infections on their feet, and may not notice these issues right away.

Diabetes interferes with the body’s healing processes by preventing enough blood from flowing to injured tissues. This means that it is harder for the body to repair even minor injuries. Some people with diabetes who develop severe foot problems may need to have a toe or foot amputated.

When feet and leg problems pile up, it may become harder to walk. Some of those with neuropathy may have a hard time balancing properly. This can lead to falls, which puts a person at risk for breaking bones. A person’s sense of movement may also be affected. Peripheral neuropathy may also cause a lot of pain, especially while walking.

Diabetics with peripheral neuropathy are likely to need more frequent visits to their doctor’s office or the hospital. They may also have a hard time working because of pain or difficulties getting around. All of these issues can in turn lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.

Diagnosing Peripheral Neuropathy

woman holding lower back
If you are experiencing signs of peripheral neuropathy, talk to your doctor. You will likely need to have a physical exam. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and your family and personal health history.

Blood tests are often a part of physical exams. These tests can identify various health problems that can cause neuropathy or be found in people with diabetes. Blood tests may be used to detect:

  • Abnormal blood cell levels
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Kidney or liver problems
  • Low levels of certain vitamins or minerals

During the physical exam, your doctor may perform several tests to see whether you are able to detect sensations with the nerves in your feet. One possible test is a monofilament test, in which the doctor touches your feet with a thin strand of nylon to see if you can feel it. Another test involves touching the feet with a tuning fork to see if the nerves in your feet can sense vibrations.

Doctors can directly measure how well your nerves and muscles are working with other tests. They may use nerve conduction velocity tests (NCV) to see how fast your nerves are able to send out signals. An electromyogram (EMG) measures electricity in the muscles, which helps doctors understand how fast your muscles respond to signals from the nerves.

Other tests may include checking your balance, seeing how well you walk, or testing the blood flow in your feet and toes.

Can Peripheral Neuropathy Be Prevented?

pricking finger

One of the most important ways people can reduce their risk of neuropathy is by treating their diabetes. Keeping blood sugar levels under control helps prevent the nerves from becoming damaged. Work with your doctor to develop a diabetes treatment plan that works for you.

Certain risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy. These include:

  • Being older
  • Having diabetes for a long period of time
  • Having certain genes
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Heavy drinking
  • Being overweight
  • Having other health problems such as high cholesterol levels or hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Being diagnosed with other conditions, including kidney disease

You can’t control some peripheral neuropathy risk factors like age or genetics. However, you can reduce your risk of nerve damage by focusing on certain lifestyle changes. Getting more exercise, eating a balanced diet (especially superfoods for diabetics), quitting smoking, and limiting how much you drink may help you avoid peripheral neuropathy. Additionally, use lifestyle changes or medication to prevent or treat high blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Peripheral Neuropathy Treatments

If you are suffering from neuropathy pain, the first step is talking to your doctor, who can help you come up with a treatment plan. Make sure to ask about ways to both treat the neuropathy as well as keep your diabetes under control to prevent further damage.

Medications for Peripheral Neuropathy

Several different types of drugs can help manage peripheral neuropathy pain. However, traditional painkillers may not always be the best option. In particular, over-the-counter pain medications often do not work for neuropathic pain. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen as well as other drugs like acetaminophen.

Instead of utilizing traditional pain relievers, physicians sometimes recommend a medication for nerve pain that is in the “antidepressant” category of medicine because of the mechanism of action of this medication. These medications don’t heal nerve damage, but they can reduce neuropathy symptoms. Possible options may include:

  • Pamelor (nortriptyline)
  • Norpramin (desipramine)
  • Tofranil (imipramine)
  • Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Celexa (citalopram)

Anti-seizure medications may be another option for treating peripheral neuropathy pain. These drugs may include Neurontin (gabapentin) or Lyrica (pregabalin). Finally, topical medications that are applied directly to the skin may help. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a cream, spray, or patch that can numb pain.

These medications are not always equally effective for everyone. If you try one medication and it doesn’t seem to be helping, notify your doctor — another drug may work better for you.

When blood sugar levels rise, some of these medications may not work as well to treat neuropathy symptoms. Following your diabetes treatment plan is important when trying to treat nerve pain and treating the root cause of the problem is the goal in working to reduce neuropathy and neuropathic pain.

Supplements for Neuropathy

Several studies have found that alpha-lipoic acid can work well to treat neuropathy symptoms. This molecule is an antioxidant that is made by the body. Alpha-lipoic acid treatments are especially effective when they are given intravenously, through an IV needle that goes directly into a vein.

This antioxidant is also available as an over-the-counter supplement. In this form, alpha-lipoic acid may still help with symptoms, but it is not usually as effective as IV treatments.

Physical Therapy

People with diabetic neuropathy may want to consider going to physical therapy (PT). This type of treatment can help you build strength and improve your balance. During PT, you will work with a physical therapist to perform different exercises that specifically address your needs.

Caring For Your Feet

feet

Taking good care of your feet can help prevent minor problems from getting worse. Doctors recommend that people with peripheral neuropathy check their feet every day. If you notice a small issue right away and seek treatment, you have a better chance of healing and avoiding infection. Try looking for:

  • Cuts, sores, or areas where the skin is broken
  • Blisters
  • Calluses (areas of thicker skin)
  • Plantar warts (a hard, rough growth on the surface of the skin)
  • Rashes such as athlete’s foot
  • Ingrown toenails (a condition in which the edge of a toenail grows into the flesh, or the surrounding skin starts growing over the nail)

Try to get into the habit of washing your feet each day. Make sure the water that you use isn’t too hot. If you have a hard time sensing temperature, use a thermometer to measure the water before washing. Don’t use water above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). Once you are done, dry your feet thoroughly. Dust your feet with baby powder or cornstarch to help keep your skin dry.

Another way to protect your feet is always wearing socks and shoes. Socks can help keep your feet dry, while shoes protect your feet from injury. Make sure your shoes aren’t too tight, and break in new shoes by wearing them for short periods of time when you first get them. Before putting on your shoes, check that there are no small stones or other objects inside that could hurt your feet.

Certain types of footwear can also help prevent ulcers. Ask your doctor about whether insoles, shoes, or orthotics may help support your feet.

yearly foot exam is also a good idea for people with peripheral neuropathy. During this visit, your doctor can make sure your feet are in good health. More frequent exams may be needed for people who have current or past foot problems. You may be able to go to your primary care provider for this exam, or your doctor may recommend that you see a podiatrist (a doctor who specializes in treating feet).

Controlling Diabetes

Managing your blood sugar levels is a very important part of treating and controlling nerve damage. Make sure to check your blood sugar regularly. Choose nutritious foods that won’t lead to large blood sugar spikes, and get regular physical activity. Additionally, use any medications as directed by your doctor.

If you don’t think that you are controlling your blood sugar levels well enough, talk to your health care team. Your doctor may be able to help you better understand which treatments or lifestyle changes will help prevent complications from diabetes. A certified nutritionist or registered dietician can also help you come up with a better eating plan.

Conclusion

It is important to take peripheral neuropathy seriously, since symptoms can get worse and may cause additional problems over time. Effectively treating your diabetes can help you avoid nerve damage or prevent existing symptoms from worsening. Medications can help relieve symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, including pain. Follow the directions of your health care team when it comes to making necessary lifestyle changes and taking care of your feet. If you are having nerve pain and would like to discuss it further, please make an appointment. 

Osteoporosis Is a Serious Concern After Menopause

Post-Pill Amenorrhea Shouldn’t Be Ignored

In an article in Giddy, Dr. Connor explains “After a woman stops the pill, it can take anywhere from one month to several months to resume a ‘normal’ cycle, but a woman should see her physician if her menstrual cycle does not resume after the third month after she has stopped the pill.” Read the entire article to learn more. If you are experiencing similar symptoms that concern you, make an appointment with Dr. Connor.
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