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Artificial Food Colors: Pretty, But Are They Safe?

The basic definition of a food color additive is “any dye, pigment or substance which when added or applied to a food, drug or cosmetic, or to the human body, is capable (alone or through reactions with other substances) of imparting color.”

Girl holding a lollipop with artificial food colorsThat’s pretty straight forward. Artificial food colors color food. However—why is coloring food important to begin with? With or without an additive color, the food to which it is applied has the same nutritional value. Well, it isn’t about nutritional value, but economic value. Foods without color simply don’t sell as well. Food companies recognized early on that food has to be appealing to look at as well as tasty, so food color additives, especially for processed foods, came into being.

As part of our healthy body focus, diet suggestions are included in our approach to individualized programs that we offer through Texas Spine & Wellness.

Let’s discuss food color additives, their place in the food chain, and how they can affect health.

The Why of Natural Food Colors

There is one word that describes what color has to do with diet (at least in terms of natural food): phytochemicals. These elements, whose only natural occurrence is in plants, provide additional health benefits past what you get from basic nutrients. And the interesting thing—some of those elements are indicated by the color of the food! The blue of a blueberry represents specific phytochemicals, and the belief is that those phytochemicals act in conjunction with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber inherent in fruits and vegetables to increase their health impact.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) indicates that phytochemicals might perform as antioxidants, and may well work to neutralize substances that cause cancer. Just how everything works together hasn’t been determined, but it’s a good idea to incorporate a nice rainbow of foods into your diet to have a good variety of phytochemicals and nutrients.

The Why of Artificial Food Colors

Farmers markets and the produce sections of most grocery stores are picturesquely colorful with the foods they display. The kitchens of the health-minded boast some colorful edibles, as well. In fact, almost everything we eat or drink adds to the rainbow aspect of our diets.

Those health-minded folks already know that bright colored fruits and vegetables are about more than eye appeal, that they’re essential for promoting good health and lowering the risk of disease in the human body. But not all foods are colorful, especially processed foods.picture of healthy fruits and vegetables

People don’t find gray appetizing and brown isn’t much better. Pink generally makes people think of raw meat, while bluish colors aren’t popular at all. It’s believed that these colors actually depress appetite. By enhancing the appeal of colorless or off-colored foods, artificial food color additives make processed foods a viable commodity.

Another reason for the inclusion of artificial food colors is to replace color when it’s lost due to exposure to air, light, moisture, extremes in temperature, and poor storage conditions. Sometimes there are natural variations in color and the food company wants a specific product to have a standard color. Colas are expected to be brown, and margarine yellow, and that great mint ice cream must be green. Almost all processed foods are enriched with color additives.

And it works. Studies indicate that around 90% of American food budgets go toward processed foods that, after being butchered or harvested, have been altered in some way by treatment, stripping, or refining. Many of these foods don’t appear on the “what’s healthy?” list, but if it tastes and looks good, people buy and consume it with gusto!

Unfortunate Issues of Artificial Food Colors

While natural food colors are healthy and safe, the same can’t be said of all artificial food colors. Some of the issues attributed to artificial food color include increased hyperactivity in children, the possible worsening of asthma symptoms (Yellow No. 5), and cancer in test rats (Red Dye No. 2). FD&C Yellow No. 5 and sulfating agents can cause an allergic reaction (food intolerance) in some consumers. Blue No. 1 and No. 2, red No. 40, yellow No. 6, and yellow tartrazine are common artificial food dyes that have been banned in Europe. The suspected issues: brain and behavioral issues, thyroid and adrenal cancer, and chromosomal damage.

Europeans are far more cautionary regarding the use of artificial food colors, and in the mid-2000s they urged companies to remove the color additives from food products. However, in the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all ood color additives to ensure 1) they’re safe to eat, 2) that they contain only ingredients the FDA has approved, and 3) that the additives are accurately labeled. In spite of the prevailing beliefs and standards in Europe, the FDA continues to approve the use of artificial color additives because they consider them safe as long as they are used properly. In the United States you’ll actually find these additives hidden in boxed macaroni and cheese, some sweet snacks, soda, cereal, energy drinks, and most ice cream.

Are There Alternatives to Artificial Food Colors?

It’s interesting to look at a couple of examples that show the differences between the artificialfood color additives used in the United States and the natural color choices the United Kingdom prefers.

  • Fanta orange soda:
    U.S. Red 40 and Yellow 6 dyes
    U.K. pumpkin and carrot extract
  • Kellogg’s Strawberry Nutri-Grain Bars:
    U.S. Red 40, Yellow 6, and Blue 1 dyes
    U.K. beetroot red, Annatto, and Paprika extract
  • McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes:
    U.S. Red 40 dye
    U.K. strawberries

Of course, these aren’t the healthiest foods to consume even when natural color additives are used. However, the comparison serves to show that there are options. Unfortunately, synthesized food dyes are easier and less expensive to produce than their naturally produced alternatives, and American food companies tend to focus more on the bottom dollar than on health concerns.

The FDA uses available science to determine whether or not there is “a reasonable certainty of no harm.” A reasonable certainty is not a certainty, but that’s the level of FDA safety coverage. The main regulation the FDA has managed is that artificial food color additives should be used only at their intended level and for their intended purpose.

Where to Go from Here?

Popular foods such as Froot Loops cereal, Pop-Tarts, Cheetos, Hostess Twinkies, and numerous other snacks use artificial food dyes. It’s difficult to cut out foods you enjoy. Whatever your favorite processed foods, start by cutting back and easing them out of your diet at a pace you’re comfortable with. If you don’t want to cut them out entirely, restrict yourself to only an occasional indulgence.

Check labels carefully and when you can, find a substitute food that either doesn’t contain the color additive you’re concerned about, or which appears to at least contain less of that given color additive. Some grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, make it easier by refusing to sell foods with artificial coloring.

The best approach, of course, is to eat only natural, whole foods. In most cases, it’s simply suggested that you add as much of those foods to your diet as you can. Just make sure to include “rainbow” fruits and vegetables to ensure a diet that supports good health. Talk to us at Garland Chiropractic Clinic, and in conjunction with any exercise rehabilitation, massage therapy, or other chiropractic measures your health requires, we’ll help you plan the best diet possible to achieve an active and fit lifestyle.

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Cold Weather and Joint Pain – How to Protect Yourself

Did you ever wonder why cold weather causes joint pain and aching bones? Or what you can do to alleviate your pain?

Weather-induced inflammation

a person suffering from a joint painSome scientists believe it’s not actually the cold that affects your joints, but the changes that occur in the weather when temperatures drop from warm to cold. Before the start of bad weather, the atmosphere changes and barometric pressure drops. Barometric pressure is the weight of the surrounding atmosphere, so when that weight lessens, it allows the tissues that encompass the joints to expand. That puts pressure on your poor joints and as your body strives to adjust, the pain begins. It’s even worse if you already suffer from an injury or stressed joints!

Another scientific theory is that joint paint arises from blood flow issues. Cooler temperatures affect circulation, which means there is less blood in joint areas to keep them warm.

And here’s one more theory; 70 percent of our body composition is water, and colder temperatures change the thickness of our joint fluids. Think of how difficult it is to stretch a rubber band after it’s been in the refrigerator! Our bodies, like that rubber band, lose elasticity during cold weather.

Natural treatment for joint pain

There’s simply no denying that when cold moves in, joints tend to swell and tighten. Keeping yourself warm helps with joint and muscle flexibility. And certainly exercising to keep your blood flow healthy and to strengthen your joints is important. But what about the foods you eat? Foods play a far greater role in joint pain than most people realize.

First, let’s look at the foods that worsen the condition. Ideally, you if you suffer from joint pain, you should trying avoiding these foods, or at least lessen how much and how often you eat them.

  • Dairy milk – Cow’s milk and cream cheese are considered highly inflammatory because of how often they can cause upset stomachs, diarrhea, constipation, hives, and even breathing issues.
  • Fatty red meats – Unfortunately for those of us who love meat like beef ribs, ground beef, and other fatty cuts, animal fats have been linked to numerous health issues and are tagged as inflammatory culprits.
  • Cheese – It’s not just cream cheese that is considered an inflammatory because of bad fat. Research indicates about 60-percent of people in the world have difficulty digesting cow’s milk, which is why cheese—especially the varieties high in sodium—can cause inflammation. Natural hard cheeses with less sodium are not as much of an issue.
  • Margarine – Along with other spreads, margarine is high in partially-hydrogenated oils or trans-fats, and exacerbates inflammatory responses.
  • Cured, processed meats – These kinds of meat are processed with inflammatory elements such as salt, nitrite, nitrates or sugar to increase their longevity and flavor.
  • Sugar – A rapid rise in blood sugar is a major cause of inflammation because sugar actually produces biochemical changes in your cells. Avoiding sugar is an important step in preventing sugar-induced inflammation! This includes soft drinks and juices that are sweetened.
  • Alcohol – Excessive consumption of alcoholic beer, wine, cider, or spirits in general has been linked to chronic inflammation.
  • Vegetable Oils – Surprisingly, too much omega-6 fatty acids, which include soy, safflower, and sunflower vegetable oils, are reported to cause inflammation.
  • Fried foods – Ah, there go the French fries, onion rings, hamburgers and potato chips! But the nature of fried foods makes them inflammatory offenders.

You get the picture. Who doesn’t love a thick, juicy hamburger and a side of hot, seasoned french fries? Unfortunately if your daily meals are dominated by the foods like those listed above, inflammation can whittle its way into your body.

When looking for natural treatments for joint pain, food should always be your first line of defense. Here are eight excellent anti-inflammatory edibles:

  • Fatty fish – Mackerel, tuna, sardines, salmon, cod, snapperfish and vegetables and bass contain omega-3 fatty acids that really slam inflammation. Frying isn’t a healthy cooking choice, so stick with boiling or baking.
  • Alcohol – Remember, excessive drinking is a problem in terms of making inflammation worse, but moderate drinking is reported to lower the potential for cardiovascular disease and isn’t considered an inflammatory issue.
  • Vegetable oils – Omega-3 fatty acid vegetable oils such as virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, and hemp oil are good substitutes for those Omega-6 fatty acids that you should avoid. The Omega-3 fatty acids help fight inflammation responses.
  • Whole grain foods – Any food containing whole grain is great for inflammation reduction because of the fiber content. Fiber tends to reduce the level of some inflammation causing proteins.
  • Nuts – Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds fight inflammation by providing an Omega-3 boost.
  • Soy milk – A good substitute for cow milk; or try rice milk or almond milk.
  • Olive oil – This is an excellent substitute for margarine. Or try ghee, a clarified butter, which consists of milk fat that’s been rendered from butter, separating water and milk solids from the milk’s butterfat.
  • Dark leafy vegetables – The vitamin E in spinach, collard greens, kale and broccoli, protects against the cytokines that cause inflammation.
  • Fruit – Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, and pineapple combat inflammation.
  • Dark chocolate – What an indulgent way to battle inflammation! Stick with chocolates containing no less than 70 percent pure cocoa.
  • Additional anti-inflammatory foods to consider include green tea, beans, soy, tomatoes, beetroot, garlic and ginger.

For your own comfort and health, grab a few of these nutritious foods the next time you’re grocery shopping.

A High Quality Supplement Designed to Fight Joint Pain

When you’re eating well and you still have pain, it may be time to try a natural supplement. Inflammease is a Boswellia-Turmeric Complex containing botanical extracts that provide support and protection for the body’s connective tissues. That means it’s not only good for your joints, but also the surrounding tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

Inflammease contains a combinations of three well-researched herbs, Boswellia serrata, Turmeric root, and Devil’s Claw. All three contain powerful compounds that act as anti-oxidants and inflammation fighters.

Don’t let fall and winter slow you down!

Stiff, aching joints can be helped. You have choices! The right diet, exercise, and a supplement such as Inflammease are all safe and natural treatments for joint pain.

Stay healthy, stay active, and enjoy the seasonal changes.

5 Simple Exercises to Strengthen Your Core Muscles

What Is Your ‘Core’ and Why Is It Important?

There’s no specific definition of what the body’s ‘core’ is, but it’s usually a reference to the abdominal muscles. Fitness trainers place a major emphasis on exercises to strengthen your core.

women exercisingYour ‘core’ includes both the front and back muscles of the entire trunk and consists of the muscles running up your back and stretching down to your rear, as well as those located in the front and inside of your thighs.Those muscles are important because that’s where much of your body’s strength is focused. You use those muscles to lift something heavy, to kick a can down the street, or even to just stand up.

The most important role of ‘core’ muscles, however, is their support of the spine. After all, the spine isn’t a stable structure all on its own. Your ‘core’ muscles forms your posture.

Why Do You Need Exercises to Strengthen your Core?

Since your ‘core’ muscles expedite movement and enfold not only your spine but your organs and nervous system, strengthening them is essential. Important reasons for firming up your ‘core’ include:

  • To protect your central nervous system, your internal organs, and your spine. You need a strong sheath around your systems to keep them where they’re supposed to be in order to function properly. ‘Core’ muscles help keep unwanted pressure off your spine so their condition directly affects your quality of life.
  • To help prevent injuries from movement. Your ‘core’ serves as a natural stabilizer for intricate movement. A strong ‘core’ means the deep muscles near your spine are built up to provide that stability. If your ‘core’ is fit, you’ll experience an overall fitness, making it less likely you’ll be injured by the movements your life requires.
  • To help avoid back pain. Because there are so many muscles to contract and relax when you stand up and move, back pain is relatively common. If your tendons and ligaments and muscles are healthy, your back will normally be fine. But weak muscles, poor posture or excess weight can cause a strain that becomes back pain. Even if your back is strong, if your abdominal muscles are weak you can still get back pain. Your ‘core’ strength needs to be balanced.
  • To develop a confident posture. A strong ‘core’ provides a good posture. A straight posture not only looks confident, but it also gives you a sense of control over your body and how you feel about yourself.

A Few Exercises to Strengthen Your Core Muscles

You can accomplish ‘core’ training without major workout equipment and it doesn’t require a great commitment of time. A lot can be achieved in just 10 minutes a day, going for quality rather than quantity.

exercises to strengthen your coreRemember, there’s already an inherent strength in your ‘core’ muscles. After all, they attach to prime places in your body because they’re designed to support your ‘core’! They’re close to your joints, and are such a refined leverage system that if they’re properly used, there’s little effort needed to get a bunch of work done.
Some good exercises to start with:

1. Your deepest abdominal muscles are the Transverse Abdominis (TA).
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put one hand on your stomach and slide the other hand beneath your lumbar spine. Allow that natural curve to remain; don’t flatten your spine to the floor! Breathe deeply and let your stomach rise while your diaphragm pulls in oxygen. Exhaling, don’t let the pressure change on the hand under your back. Work your TA without letting your spine flatten.

Now use your TA to stabilize your body. Get on your hands and knees with your arms straight down below your shoulders and your thighs straight down below your hips. Extend one leg back and don’t rotate the leg. In fact, you shouldn’t feel any hip rotation. Center your attention on the inside of the leg; you’ll feel energy flowing along it. Once you feel stable, extend the opposite arm while keeping your spine straight. Stay in that position and take some deep breaths. Repeat on other side and do five repetitions on each side.

2. Two small but basic pieces of exercise equipment to help you build stability are stability balls and balance discs.

They generate unstable environments that your body has to work around in order to gain balance and orientation. The muscles have to keep shifting and reorienting around the ‘core’, forcing the TA and the rest of the deep trunk muscles to keep you oriented. Within just two weeks, a few minutes a day using the ball or disc will really improve your balance!

3. Strengthening your ‘core’ connections is important.
Lie on your back with legs open and arms extending out to the side. Don’t let your shoulders hunch up. Breathe deeply. Exhale then close your limbs (head, tailbone, legs, and arms) into your ‘core’ all at once to bring you into a fetal position on one side. Breathe deeply again, exhale and open your limbs back up into the position you started from. This exercise helps you feel how your body connects to your ‘core’, and it allows the ‘core’ to actually initiate the movement.

4. Stretching into your balance.
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched straight in front of you, place your feet in a “V” shaped position and point your toes. Tighten your ‘core’ muscles. Maintaining your leg and body position, lift your arms up and use them to climb an invisible rope. Twist your body a little each time you reach up. Reach as high as you can, drawing your arm completely down to your body each time you ‘pull’ yourself up. Complete 20 reaches for each arm.

5. A side crunch worth the effort.
Do a ‘side balance crunch’, starting with your left knee and hand on the floor while your right leg is up and extended straight out in line with your body and your right arm is extended straight up. It’s a great balancing act! Now pull your right knee in toward your body and when it’s bent, bring your right elbow down toward your bent knee. Straighten them again. Do 10 of those and switch to the other side.

Building health from the inside out includes taking care of the muscles that support your bones and joints and organs. You’ll not only move with confidence, when you feel fit you’ll exude confidence!

If you’d like personal assistance with exercises to strengthen your core muscles, we can help. Our team of exercise physiologists can develop a personalized training program for you. Not only will they you target your core muscles, but they will help you strengthen any other muscles or problem areas.

For more information, contact Texas Spine & Wellness in Garland, TX at (972) 840-2520. We have the staff and resources to help you accomplish your goals.