Category Archives: Nutrition

Support @EWG’s creation of a new food database and get tips on avoiding chemicals in pregnancy

As a gynecologist, I really value the service that the Environmental Working Group provides for me and my patients. Several years back, they even worked directly with me to create a patient information sheet with how women can reduce their exposure risk to harmful chemicals when women are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive. With diseases like Autism Spectrum Disorder and Cancer on the rise, and a poorly regulated chemical industry where harm must be shown before a chemical is taken out of public use, the importance of the work they do cannot be overstated to a public that is often left finding ways to protect itself. In situations like these, grassroots is the only way. This is why I am voluntarily supporting them without their solicitation and hope you will too. They have a great database called Skindeep where you can check out the health risks of the beauty products you use everyday. They also have databases on keeping a healthy home, healthy cleaning products and and sunscreen guide. Having a food database will be that much better for those of us want to know what we are putting into our bodies. After all, you are what you eat.

You can check out their website at EWG.org

Or donate $10 here to support the completion of the database:
https://donate.ewg.org/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=7631&track=201409FDB3NG&utm_source=201409FDB3NG&utm_medium=email&utm_content=first-link&utm_campaign=fund

Here is the patient information they gave me for protecting my pregnant patients as well if you want to use it for yourself or your patients:

The Environmental Working Group

Tips to Reduce Chemical Exposure in Pregnancy

Pollutants in a pregnant woman’s food, air, water or consumer products
can cross the placenta from her body to her child at the most vulnerable time of life. Follow these tips to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

Eat Right

Fruits and veggies – Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy organic when you can to reduce your pesticide consumption. Check out EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, especially the Dirty Dozen list of high-pesticide fruits and vegetables. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

Meat and dairy – Eat low-fat dairy, lean meat, and meatless protein-rich foods to reduce exposures to pollutants that build up in animal fat. Choose brands without added antibiotics and growth hormones when possible.

Ditch the can – Choose fresh food over canned, packaged and processed food to avoid bisphenol A, a synthetic estrogen, and other artificial additives and package coatings that can leach into food. Read labels to find foods with natural ingredients and lower sugar, sodium and trans fats.

Safe seafood – Choose low-mercury fish such as salmon, tilapia and pollock, rather than higher-mercury tuna and swordfish. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can damage the developing brain and nervous system.

Iodine – Use iodized salt for home cooking. It counters perchlorate and other chemicals that can disrupt the thyroid’s growth hormones critical to a baby’s development.

Storing and cooking – Store food in glass containers. Don’t microwave in plastic, since plastics additives can migrate into your food.
Drink plenty of SAFE water
What’s in your water – Get your water quality report from EWG.org or your local utility. Test your water for lead.
The District of Columbia and Maryland have some of the highest levels of trihalomethanes in the country. This has been linked to miscarriages and birth defects – such as low birth weight, small body length, small head circumference and neural tube defects. This can be removed by using a carbon filter or by boiling your water.
Filtered tap water – Skip bottled water, which costs more and isn’t necessarily better. Filter your tap water instead.

Filter choices – Choose a filter that’s certified to take out your water’s pollutants. Carbon filters are affordable and remove lead and toxic chemicals created by treatment processes at municipal water utilities. Reverse osmosis filters cost more but take out substances that carbon can’t, like arsenic, chromium and perchlorate.

Reuseable Containers – Drink from stainless steel or BPA-free plastic containers when you’re on the go, and check out EWG’s Safe Drinking Water Guide for more tips. http://www.ewg.org/BottledWater/Bottled-Water-Quality-Investigation/Safe-Drinking-Water-Guide

Choose Better Products, Avoid Chemical Heavy Chores

Cosmetics – Cut out non-essential personal care products. Choose fragrance-free productswith the fewest ingredients possible. Find safer products in EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Clothing – Wash maternity clothes before wearing. Clothing is often coated in the factory with chemical treatments.

Green cleaning – Leave shoes at the door to avoid tracking dirt and dust-bound pollutants into your house. Clean with fragrance-free brands. Don’t use unneeded, harsh and caustic products, such as bleach discs for toilet bowls, air fresheners (open a window instead), harsh oven cleaner (use baking soda) or drain cleaners (use a drain snake). Use a wet mop and a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner to avoid breathing in dust.

remodeling – Avoid remodeling if your house was built before 1978, when lead house paint was banned. Dust from sanding old paint is a common source of lead exposure. If others do the work, make sure they wet-sand chipped areas.

Pumping gas – Don’t breathe gasoline fumes. Ask your partner to fill the gas tank, or use full service.

For more information visit:

http://www.pregnancyawareness.com

http://www.ewg.org

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Green Health for a Green Planet: My favorite ways to go green through healthy living

Here are simple ways we can save our planet while promoting our own vitality and longevity. Taking these steps for better health will also contribute to conservation of nature on our beautiful planet.

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#1 Go Vegan:  Nutrition is one of the optimum ways we can save the planet while improving our health.  As a physician, the most interesting field for me to see evolve is the field of nutrition. Once thought to have no bearing on health by the field of medicine, doctors now agree that a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do for promoting health and wellness. The healthiest diet for prevention of chronic disease and for longevity is a vegan diet and the silver lining is that it is also beneficial for the planet. Eating lower on the food chain leads to more efficient energy use, greater diversity of plants and animals, and reduced pollution of our water from nitrogenous animal waste. In addition, a plant based diet provides us with the whole foods and nutrient balance that our bodies have evolved to thrive on. Ecosystems benefit from diversity, and as it turns out, so does the ecosystem of bacteria that exists in your own body so be sure to eat a diet rich and varied in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. To learn more, check out the documentary Forks over Knives, or pick up the new book on making the transition to a plant based diet. Want to do one better? Go organic! Check out the dirty dozen list from the Environmental Working Group to find out which organic fruits will give you the best bang for your buck related to pesticide reduction. Have access to a community garden? SAVE THE BEES and GROW YOUR OWN VEGGIES! Sign the petition to promote vegetable gardens everywhere.

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#2 Get into Nature: The benefits of getting into nature are far reaching. For one, you are likely to be exercising which is the other most important thing doctors recommend you do for your health. Live in a city? no problem, hit the park, green space of any kind will still give you the benefits. If you have access to a community garden, you’re loving it, not only are you benefitting from digging in the soil, you will also be providing food for dying bee and butterfly populations as well as improving the nutrient content of your vegetables. Heart rate variability, which is an indicator of heart health and balance of the parasympathetic and sympthetic nervous systems, increases when you are in nature. Preliminary studies have shown that “earthing”, basically walking barefoot on dirt, leads to positive physiologic changes. (Just watch out if you live in an area with pin worms).  Hate bugs? …try a lemon eucalyptus based bug spray, recommended by the CDC to prevent tick and mosquito borne disease, and don’t forget the sunscreen! Check out the free database on Skindeep.org for non-toxic sunscreen options. Want to become more involved in conservation itself? Check out The Nature Conservancy volunteer activities in your area.

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#3 Mindful Awareness and Meditation: Living mindfully allows us to separate from habitual thinking and behaviors. All too often we function on autopilot, allowing automatic behaviors and primal feelings to drive our actions and behaviors.  Being mindful, living true to our core values and making conscious choices about how we spend our money, our time and our energy can help us to make important health changes like the ones I mention here. It can also make us more compassionate which is probably the most important value to have in our work protecting the planet. If you haven’t jumped on the meditation band wagon yet, or still think it is not something you are capable of in our non-stop stimulating culture, it might be easier than you think.  I recommend the Jon Kabat Zinn book Full Catastrophe Living or one of his youtube videos as an introduction to mindfulness and meditation. You can also check out free guided meditations from UCLA’s Semel Institute.

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#4: Bike! As much and as often as possible. If you follow this blog you have seen the “carternative” my husband has created to cart us around town. This contraption has improved our quality of life ENORMOUSLY. We don’t have to look for parking, we save on gas and parking tickets, and we usually get where we are going faster, or as fast as in a car. This is especially true for urban environments. Any time you bike instead of turning on your car, you are reducing carbon emissions, not to mention reducing oil consumption while exercising your body and calming your mind. Don’t want to arrive at work all sweaty? Consider an electric assist on your bike. Check out this blog that covers bikes as transportation as well.

#5: Shop Less: Excess consumption and a BUY BUY BUY culture contributes greatly to carbon emissions, global warming and landfill waste. Shopping less is healthy for your wallet as well as your mental health. A very interesting study published in the Chicago Journals by Rik Pieters found that materialism and shopping lead to loneliness which in turn led to more shopping.  Still believe in retail therapy?  Try consignment stores and thrift shops instead. They are a great way to reduce waste while benefiting others, find a Goodwill or Salvation Army near you. Studies show that giving to others can makes you happier, particularly if you give directly to someone you know so there is added incentive to simplifying and cleaning out those closets.  Having willpower difficulties in curbing that shopping habit? Try the book Willpower Instinct here to learn more about how you can curb cravings and increase your willpower.

If you are interested in implementing some of the changes I mention here, remember, persistence AND positivity pay off! Take time to observe how you can be successful at making the changes and always prepare for what could go wrong and sabotage your success ahead of time. Finally, be sure to focus on the rewards, there are plenty of silver linings with these changes.

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GREEN HEALTH=GREEN PLANET!!!


© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

Eat fish for a smarter baby

In case you haven’t heard…if you are pregnant, you should be eating fish for increasing the smarts of your offspring according to this well known study published in the Lancet in 2007 that showed that women that did not eat fish in pregnancy had a significantly increased risk of having children with low verbal IQ. The study concluded that even when weighing the risks of mercury and toxins, the risks of not eating fish were much higher.

The FDA came out publicly on the subject on July 10, 2014 setting minimum amounts of fish that women should consume during pregnancy. Basically they recommend that women eat fish that are low in mercury 2 or 3 times weekly. You can see the statement here.

But how do you know which fish are the good fish?!

Say yes to: Salmon, canned light tuna, cod, sardines, tilapia, and catfish. Or if you can’t remember, you can use the rule of thumb, “If the whole fish fits on the plate then it must be great”.

Say no to: tilefish, mackeral, shark, albacore tuna, mahi mahi (BIG FISH!) Because they are big, they have more time to accumulate toxic mercury.

Oh…and by the way, please no sushi ladies. You don’t want Hepatitis A in pregnancy, trust me!

Here is the link to Seafood Watch so you can also see up to date information on toxins as well as safely fished species and species to avoid for the ecological impacts so you can be green while nourishing your body and your baby.

 

Dieters? Go ahead, INDULGE! but do it mindfully

With all of the varied diets that are promoted all over the place, what’s a woman that wants to stay healthy to do?

So by now, most of us know we shouldn’t “diet”. It is really about making healthy food choices that become a part of our everyday life and habits. Does that mean you can’t sneak a sweet treat every now and again? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But if you do, be sure to fully indulge. Here is a great posting on NPR from yesterday. When folks were given the same exact 300 calorie delicious milkshake, one was labeled low calorie, fat free, and guilt free, while the other was labeled with exactly what it was, 300 calories. Well what happened next was yet another window into the mind body connection and the miriad of ways that what we believe can actually affect how our body responds the food we put into our bodies! The folks that drank the mislabeled “healthy milkshake” secreted more Ghrelin. This hormone basically makes you think you are hungry and leads you to seek out more “satisfying foods”. But wait…there’s more, it also slows your metabolism, making it harder to burn calories and easier to gain fat and store sugars.

WHAT!!!!

So what does this mean? It means, fully enjoy in your food. Eat mindfully and indulge in your food. Even if it is healthy food. When you are mindfully eating, enjoying your food and the way it is nourishing your body, your mind is sending out all the right hormones to satisfy your hunger. If on the other hand, you are restricting your diet with health foods you really don’t want, you may actually be shooting yourself in the foot.

You can try mindful eating on your own the next time you eat. If you have a grape handy, it is always fun to try with that. Take a quiet moment to savor a grape in a way you never have. Slow down. Pick up the grape. Feel it in your fingers, note how it feels or any thoughts you may be having about eating the grape. Place the grape in your mouth. Notice any sensations on your tongue. Slowly bite into the grape and feel the texture, the pressure on your teeth. Feels the juicy sweetness that bursts onto your tongue as you bite into the grape. Take your time as you savor the flavors and aromas. Notice how you feel while you are eating the grape. Note: You can try this with any food.

Want to try a free webinar on mindful eating? Check out the Center for Mindful Eating. They have a webinar coming up on April 24, 2014. For further reading, check out a NY Times article on mindful eating to avoid binging here.

Mother Nature’s Network author and registered dietitian Jenni Grover recommends these 5 tips for mindful eating:

  1. Eat Slower
  2. Savor the Silence
  3. Shut off the phone and TV
  4. Pay attention to flavor
  5. Know your food

You can read more about these tips from the original blog post here.

Did you know…? Nutrition Nuggets for Women Health Concerns

Did you know…?

  • Cruciferous vegetables (full list here) contain a substance called Indole-3-Carbinol that can help digest too much estrogen? This is great for women with high levels of estrogen relative to progesterone. Women with this imbalance might be women who are obeseperimenopausal, have fibroids, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids are anti-inflammatory. This means less pain, therefore this is particularly helpful for women with painful periods. The best sources are cold water fish like salmon or sardines, walnuts, Chia and freshly ground flax seeds. Shoot for at least one serving a day of an omega 3 rich food source. See a list of foods with Omega 3 FA here. If you supplement, be sure to get a reputable, toxin free source at a dose of 2 grams per day.
  • Magnesium is another great anti-inflammatory nutrient. Almonds, spinach and cashews are fantastic source. See a complete list here.
  • If you have heavy periods you may be losing nutrients too. So be sure you are repleting nutrients such as Vitamin D. Many people living in Northern climates spending lots of time indoors are already low from not getting enough sunlight. Consider asking your doctor to check your vitamin D level in addition to your blood count if you are feeling fatigued. The amount you supplement will vary according to the level you start at and how much sun you get. You can read more about vitamin D from Andrew Weil’s site here.
  • Calcium is so important for prevention of osteoporosis late in life but taking supplements can lead to hardening in the arteries of your heart! Try to get calcium from your diet as much as possible in addition to resistance exercise. Also consider sardines. Yup, I said it, Sardines are not only an excellent source of calcium, but they are also rich in Omega 3 FA and therefore are my new favorite superfood. Find some creative sardine recipes here.

There is always more to learn about nutrition so stay posted for more nutrition tips for women. And keep on cookin’!

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.