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This site is an archive of our Well Written Blog posts until April 2020. For the most up-to-date content visit NWIJournal.com.

The opinions and thoughts expressed here those of the authors and do not necessarily correlate with those of the National Wellness Institute. Read more.


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Gluten 101

Posted By NWI, Sunday, December 1, 2013
Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013

carbsGluten 101

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

Why are there so many gluten-free foods now?

Part of it comes from food companies taking advantage of a nutrition-related "hot” topic (where not everyone needs to eat gluten-free). Recently, doctors have become more aware of the symptoms related to gluten intolerance and sensitivity. Recent research has shown gluten is linked to several health issues. The New England Journal of Medicine (http://www.nejm.org) lists the following gluten-related health complications: osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and nerve damage. 

What is the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. The body is essentially working against itself. An estimated 1% of the population has celiac disease.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, is an intolerance for gluten that is not autoimmune in nature (autoimmune diseases cause the body to attack its own tissue). While gluten intolerance may cause many of the same symptoms as celiac disease (bowel discomfort, headaches, joint pain), the body is not attacking its own tissue in the small intestine. Research estimates that six times as many Americans have gluten intolerance as those who have celiac disease.

Who is at risk for celiac disease and gluten intolerance?

Men and women across all age groups are at risk. Celiac disease is genetic in nature: 5% to 22% of celiac patients have an immediate family member (1st degree relative) who also has celiac.

What should I do if I have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease?

If you have gluten intolerance, avoid foods with wheat, barley, or rye in them.

If you have celiac disease, the only "treatment” is a 100% gluten-free diet.

How would I get diagnosed?

Talk to your doctor about all of your health concerns. If you think you may have issues with gluten, keep a food diary and note symptoms (how you are feeling: diarrhea, pains, irritability, depression) as well as details on the foods you eat. Detailed information will help your doctor make a more accurate diagnosis. It is estimated that 83% of Americans who have celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions because there are more than 300 symptoms of celiac disease, and symptoms may vary among different people.

Where can I get more information, learn about symptoms, and take a celiac assessment?


Tags:  December 2013  Gluten  Nutrition  Physical 

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Big Brother or Guardian Angel? FDA Moves to Ban Trans Fats

Posted By NWI, Sunday, December 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013

FatIn a notice filed with the federal government on November 7, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated its intention to label partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which are the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids, or trans fat, as "unsafe” for any use in food. If finalized, this would mean that food manufacturers would no longer be permitted to sell PHOs, either directly or as ingredients in another food product, without prior FDA approval.

Publishing this notice in the Federal Register is the first step in the process. The determination and statement is open to a 60-day comment period and call for further scientific information. After that time, the FDA will make a final determination.

According to FDA documentation, the current scientific evidence establishes health risks associated with trans fat consumption. The notice lists high cholesterol, heart disease, inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, and impaired growth among the many health issues associated with trans fat intake.

What does this mean? Many food manufacturers that rely on trans fat in food production may have to change their formulas. The FDA estimates that eliminating trans fats will cost the food industry about $8 billion. Using the same cost analysis methods, the FDA estimates the (health) benefit savings to be between $117 and $242 billion.

For more information visit the Federal Register at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/11/08/2013-26854/request-for-comments-and-for-scientific-data-and-information-tentative-determination-regarding

Tags:  December 2013  Intellectual  Nutrition  Physical  Trans Fat 

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Small Time Commitment for Real Mental Health Results

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Teen TherapyAn October 2013 study involving 19 schools (plus a control group of schools) in London showed three hours is enough to help teens dealing with mental health issues.

In fact, reports of mental health issues by teens in the study dropped between 25% and 33% over 24 months following two 90-minute therapy sessions.

The study, led by Dr. Patricia Conrod of the University of Montreal and its affiliated Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre, showed that targeted interventions can be truly helpful with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, but do not have to be that time-consuming.

The schools that had mental health interventions were trained to deliver counseling to their high risk students, the control schools (no mental health interventions) were not. The interventions addressed real-life "scenarios" shared by the high-risk youths in each school group. The groups discussed ideas, thoughts, emotions, personality types, and behaviors. Further, the teens identified situational triggers and, with teacher guidance, explored ways to better manage difficult situations.

According to the researchers, the impact of interventions was clinically significant, with a 21% to 26% reduction in severe depression, anxiety, and conduct problem symptoms over the course of the trial. Teenagers high in impulsivity had 36% reduced odds of reporting severe conduct problems. Similarly, teenagers high in anxiety sensitivity reported 33% reduced odds of severe anxiety problems. Teenagers high in hopelessness exhibited similar decreases in severe depressive symptoms (23%) as compared to youth with similar personality profiles who did not receive interventions.

Wellness Lesson/Exercise: Small interventions can matter. Talking through difficult situations and planning more positive reactions for future similar situations can help all of us "act,” vs. "re-act,” better in the future. Think about a situation you didn’t handle well. Think of ways you might have handled it better and if you are stuck, ask for some insight from your friends and family (talking about it might ease stress associated with the situation as well). Next time a similar incident occurs make sure to stop and take a deep breath before "re-acting,” so you can act in a more positive way.

Schools interested in taking part in the program can visit the project's website at www.co-venture.ca.

Université de Montréal (2013, October 3). Three hours is enough to help prevent mental health issues in teens.ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 3, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/10/131003113102.htm

Tags:  Emotional  Intellectual  Kids  Mental Health  November 2013  Social 

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Inspiration: Malala Yousafzai

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This month’s inspiration is brought to us by Malala Yousafzai. She is the school girl/woman who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting an education, and survived. She has just written a book, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, and faces additional threats for sharing her story.

She reminds us to never stop fighting for what we believe in, that adversity is not a reason to stop trying, and that anything is possible. She is a beacon of emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, occupational, and physical wellness. While her actions are heroic on a grand scale, her message is simple: be brave, learn, love, care, help, forgive, and change.

We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced. – From her book, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. – From her keynote speech to the United Nations, July 12, 2013.

I raise up my voice—not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard...we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.

I don't want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.

I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.

One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.

I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, "If he comes, what would you do Malala?” then I would reply to myself, "Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.” But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.” Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that "I even want education for your children as well.” And I will tell him,” That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

Tags:  Education  Emotional  Intellectual  November 2013  Physical  Social  Spiritual 

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How Pronouns Impact Our Health

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Your are sitting with your significant other and that individual says "Eating lard is bad for you.” What if he or she said, "Eating lard is bad for us,” or "Your consumption of lard is bad for us.” Does it make a difference? Yes, if you and your significant other regularly communicate using different pronouns.

For instance, your spouse smokes and she often says, "I like smoking,” and you often reply, "Your smoking is not good for us,” then you as a couple are using different pronouns. She is associating her smoking only with her, whereas you are associating the smoking with the two of you by using the pronoun "us.” The more often these conversations happen where the pronouns are different, the increased negative impact there may be on the health outcome.

A study published in October 2013 (referenced below) and supported by the National Institutes of Health showed that partners who use different pronouns more often when communicating experienced more negative health outcomes.

Communal coping is a process in which partners view a problem or stressor as our rather than yours or mine, and take we-based action to address it. While communal coping has positive implications for couple relationships and individual health, one person using "we” while the other member of the couple uses "I” can have unintended negative impacts.

What can you do about it? If you are having a discussion with your partner and you want the most positive outcome possible, pay attention to the pronouns your partner is using. If you don’t agree with a pronoun, address your concern in a caring way. For example: "I noticed that you said ‘I’ like to smoke, but I want to let you know that I care about you and want ‘us’ to be together for a long time.”

Rentscher, K. E., Rohrbaugh, M. J., Shoham, V., & Mehl, M. R. (2013). Asymmetric Partner Pronoun Use and Demand--Withdraw Interaction in Couples Coping With Health Problems.Journal of Family Psychology,27(5), 691-701. doi:10.1037/a0034184

Tags:  Communication  Intellectual  November 2013  Social 

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Resources for Caregivers

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month (November 1-30), the following are some great resources and ideas to help caregivers maintain their own personal wellness.

First, you are not alone. The National Family Caregivers Alliance (www.caregiver.org) estimates that 29% of the adult population is the United States is caring for another adult. A caregiver is an unpaid individual (a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks. While this doesn’t make care-giving easier, websites like the one mentioned here have many resources in many languages to guide caregivers through this often difficult process.

You must take care of your own health. Easier said than done, of course. However, this website, http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/fcn_content_node.jsp?nodeid=2083, lists respite organizations (local agencies including some volunteer groups that can help take some of the burden from you).

Which brings us to…Accept offers of help. Often caregivers carry around guilt, making the stress of care-giving more intense. In fact, many caregivers don’t accept help because they feel it is their duty to care for their loved ones. The website www.eldercare.gov is intended to connect local adults and their caregivers with local resources if you need additional help.

Learn to communicate with healthcare professionals. In the long run, this skill will make your life easier. Here is a link to an online video that can help teach caregivers some basic skills: http://my.brainshark.com/Saturing-Communicating-Effectively-With-Healthcare-Professionals-962681677.

Organize. Organized medical documents, prescription lists, legal documents, and in this day and age, user names and passwords, can make the journey of care- giving easier. The following is a short list of some primary documents you may want to collect and have in your caregiver "binder” (these items may be collected by the individual receiving care if she or he is able, or by the caregiver):

  • birth certificate
  • Social Security records
  • health and life insurance records, including account numbers
  • names and phone numbers of the primary care doctor, as well as significant specialists the individual has seen
  • documentation of your recent medical history
  • advance directives (If one is not available, one can be started with the cared for individual’s family doctor, attorney or long-term care facility)
  • name of clergy or layperson
  • funeral pre-arrangements, if any are made
  • Medicare documentation
  • trust documents
  • will documents
  • military records
  • divorce records
  • assets and sources of income
  • Bank accounts/safe-deposit box
  • mortgage papers
  • investment records
  • negotiable securities
  • credit cards
  • recent income tax return
  • loans, payments and balances
  • user names and passwords

For more information, you can try some of these websites:

www.thefamilycaregiver.org- non-profit dedicated to caregivers
assistedlivingtoday.com – topics associated with assisted living with great resources for caregivers

www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Health/caregivers.shtml - the government site dedicated to all things caregiver

http://www.caregiverresource.net/ a site with resources for caregivers including Caregiver Radio!

Tags:  Caregivers  Intellectual  November 2013  Occupational  Physical  Social 

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Tip-of-the-Tongue Moments May be Benign

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MemoryDespite the common fear that those annoying tip-of-the-tongue moments are signals of age-related memory decline, the two phenomena appear to be independent, according to findings published inPsychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Anecdotal evidence has suggested that tip-of-the-tongue experiences occur more frequently as people get older, but the relationship between these cognitive stumbles and actual memory problems remained unclear, according to psychological scientist and lead author Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia: "We wondered whether these self-reports are valid and, if they are, do they truly indicate age-related failures of the type of memory used in the diagnosis of dementia?"

To find out, Salthouse and Arielle Mandell — an undergraduate researcher who was working on her senior thesis — were able to elicit tip-of-the-tongue moments in the laboratory by asking more than 700 participants ranging in age from 18 to 99 to give the names of well-known places, common nouns, or famous people based on brief descriptions or pictures.

Throughout the study, participants indicated which answers they knew, which they didn't, and which made them have a tip-of-the-tongue experience.

Several descriptions were particularly likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment, such as: "What is the name of the building where one can view images of celestial bodies on the inner surface of a dome?" and "What is the name of the large waterfall in Zambia that is one of the Seven Wonders of the World?" Of the pictures of the politicians and celebrities, Joe Lieberman and Ben Stiller were most likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment.

Overall, older participants experienced more of these frustrating moments than did their younger counterparts, confirming previous self-report data. But, after the researchers accounted for various factors including participants' general knowledge, they found no association between frequency of tip-of-the-tongue moments and participants' performance on the types of memory tests often used in the detection of dementia.

"Even though increased age is associated with lower levels of episodic memory and with more frequent tip-of-the-tongue experiences…the two phenomena seem to be largely independent of one another," write Salthouse and Mandell, indicating that these frustrating occurrences by themselves should not be considered a sign of impending dementia.


For more information about this study, please contact: Timothy A. Salthouse at salthouse@virginia.edu.

This research was supported by the National Institute on Aging and a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award from the University of Virginia.

The article abstract can be found online:http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/10/08/0956797613495881.abstract?patientinform-links=yes&legid=sppss;0956797613495881v1

The APS journalPsychological Scienceis the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Do Age-Related Increases in Tip-of-the-Tongue Experiences Signify Episodic Memory Impairments?" and access to otherPsychological Scienceresearch findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 oramikulak@psychologicalscience.org.

Tags:  Intellectual  Memory  November 2013  Occupational 

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Wellness in 10: Facts about Drowsy Driving

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Drowsy DrivingThis month’s Wellness in 10 is dedicated to drowsy driving education. Do you know the facts?

Drowsy Driving Top 10:

1. Sleep-related crashes are most common in young people (those aged 25 and younger account for approximately 55% of all drowsy driving crashes).

2. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that at least 100,000 police-reported crashes each year are the direct result of driver fatigue.

3. Each year, drowsy driving crashes result in at least 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. (NHTSA)

4. Approximately 11 million drivers admit they have had a crash or near crash because they dozed off or were too tired to drive. (2005 Sleep in America poll)

5. According to National Sleep Foundation (NSF) surveys, half of Americans consistently report that they have driven drowsy and approximately 20% admit they have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the previous year.

6. Many people do not realize how sleepy they are, but driving requires a set of skills that are significantly reduced when you are sleep deprived, according to the NSF. Studies show that drowsiness can cause:

a. slower reaction time

b. impaired judgment and vision

c. decline in attention to important signs, road changes, and the actions of other vehicles

d. decreased alertness, preventing you from seeing an obstacle and avoiding a crash

e. increased moodiness and aggressive behavior

f. problems with processing information and short-term memory

g. microsleeps—brief 2/3 second sleep episodes

7. Like alcohol and drugs, sleep loss or fatigue impairs driving skills such as hand-eye coordination, reaction time, vision, awareness of surroundings, decision-making, judgment, and inhibition. The NSF reports the following drowsy driving/alcohol impairment equivalents:

a. 17 hours of sustained wakefulness produces performance impairment equal to 0.05% blood alcohol concentration (BAC); after 24 hours, impairment is equal to 0.10% BAC. A BAC of 0.08% is considered legally drunk in every state.

b. People with mild to moderate untreated sleep apnea performed worse than those with a 0.06% BAC.

c. Just like drinking on an empty stomach, there is an interaction between sleep deprivation and alcohol and sedating medications. In fact, on four hours of sleep, one beer can have the impact of a six-pack.

8. Several states are considering legislation that would allow police to charge drowsy drivers with criminal negligence if they injure or kill someone while driving.

9. There are resources to find out about drowsy driving. Visit www.sleepfoundation.org

10. November 11-17 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Share these facts with someone you love.

For more information visit: National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.orgor www.drowsydriving.org

Tags:  Intellectual  November 2013  Physical  Sleep  Wellness In 10 

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Red Grapes and Blueberries: Great Ways to Increase Immune Function

Posted By NWI, Monday, September 30, 2013

BlueberriesAs the winter months near and cold and flu season sits ready on the sidelines, wouldn’t it be nice to be proactive…and in a delicious way?

New research from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University found two foods that stood out from their peers with regards to human immune function: red grapes and blueberries.

In an analysis of 446 compounds in our food, the researchers identified resveratrol found in red grapes and a compound called pterostilbene from blueberries that supported immune function the best.

Both of these compounds, enhanced through interaction with vitamin D, increased the immune function in humans.

While the findings are still preliminary and more testing has to be done on human subjects (not just in the lab), red grapes and blueberries seem to have beneficial properties for the human immune system.

The research was published September 17 in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Chunxiao Guo, Brian Sinnott, Brenda Niu, Malcolm B. Lowry, Mary L. Fantacone, Adrian F. Gombart.Synergistic induction of human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide gene expression by vitamin D and stilbenoids.Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2013; DOI:10.1002/mnfr.201300266

Tags:  Nutrition  October 2013  Physical  Social 

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Wading Through Health Information

Posted By NWI, Monday, September 30, 2013

When I Get SadWe’ve all been there…

One day you should eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away, the next day avocados are actually better at keeping the doctor away…and by the way…apples, if unwashed, often have harmful pesticides that can harm our health.

What’s a person to do? To what information should we pay attention and what information should we ignore. Unless you have a team of research scientists, nutritionists, and doctors on staff (I know, me neither), deciding what is wrong or right, good or bad, can get pretty tricky.

Don’t fret; some great advice is still out there. The following recommendations provide an overview of numerous Wellness News You Can Use articles from the last five years.

  1. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. Oh yeah, and wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  2. Stay away from processed foods in general. Crackers, candy, chips, sweets…these are items that should be consumed in moderation.
  3. Focus on getting healthy and strong…skinny shouldn’t be the goal. If you are healthy, you are good.
  4. Move. You don’t have to run a marathon…but try not to be idle for more than a half hour at a time. Those long hours in front of screens are making us less healthy and less strong.
  5. Lift weights. No, you don’t have to make loud grunting sounds and oil your skin…but lifting weights so you feel the "burn” after 10-12 reps will help your bone strength and metabolism, and help to prevent future falls. Here’s a great beginner routine to get you started: http://www.livestrong.com/article/456457-free-weights-routine-for-beginners/
  6. Sleep. Your sleep is more important than the end to that TV program. Besides, that’s why they make DVRs.
  7. Give back. Volunteer. Here’s the thing…you can eat all of the fruits and vegetables you want, but at the end of the day, if you have no purpose, it is going to be hard to be happy. Happy is a part of healthy.
  8. Learn something new. We are dynamic creatures. To feel fully alive, we need intellectual stimulation. It doesn’t have to be learning to speak Mandarin Chinese; start with something small that you enjoy…maybe learn a new recipe (for the good food listed above!).
  9. Realize that you are the sum of your choices. Take all of the "have tos” and start thinking in terms of "I choose.” Take power of your own life…being a victim, especially a self-anointed victim is a hard way to live.
  10. You don’t have to do everything at once. Try one piece of advice each week. Little by little, the wellness lifestyle will begin to stick.


Tags:  Emotional  Health Information  Intellectual  Occupational  October 2013  Physical  Social  Spiritual 

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