Archive for Healthy Lifestyle

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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Learning to Use the Healing Power of Music

Having studied the healing power of music for decades, scientists know it has a profound effect on the mind, body and emotions. Music has a way to move us that seems to go to our very core as living beings and can transcend borders, cultures and race.

Music can be highly therapeutic and healing. Stroke victims, for example, have recovered through intonation therapy when many other treatments have failed. Music triggers neurons in the brain in a way that few other therapies can, and its effectiveness as a healing tool should not be overlooked. Brain scans show that listening to harmonious music elevates activity in areas of the brain’s reward center triggering the release of dopamine,  a powerful brain chemical.woman experiencing the healing power of music

From pain, depression, epilepsy to even more extreme conditions such as heart disease, music has been shown to be incredibly effective.

Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to respond to music therapy, as songs and tunes from their younger days bring up memories that were seemingly lost to the disease. Incredibly, some doctors have given their patients a daily ‘playlist’ of songs timed so that the patients remember to do certain activities at certain times. Imagine, for example, The Beatles’ ‘When I’m 64’ reminding you to take your medicine or Mozart’s’ ‘Sonata in G Minor’ when it’s time to head to the cafeteria for lunch.

In June of 2006, the Journal of Advanced Nursing published a study that showed a reduction in pain and depression among patients who listened to music on a daily basis. It’s not hard to imagine that someone would cheer up when listening to a great rock and roll tune or a good Polka. However it boggles the mind to learn that an actual corollary between listening to music and pain reduction was found. That’s downright incredible.

These are some of the most interesting reasons that music can do all of these things:

  • Music has a way of organizing time that all humans seem to understand
  • Music encourages us to move, and that movement is enjoyable.
  • Music creates strong memories and even stronger emotions, which can last for decades.
  • Music can be mesmerizing and stimulates many areas of the brain at once.

Indeed, the power of music goes well beyond the pleasure that it gives when we hear it. It has an intense effect on our thoughts and our passions.

If you’re looking for alternative and complimentary therapies, don’t underestimate the power of music to calm, and to heal. Why not give it a try? The next time you wake up feeling stiff and achy, turn on the radio, find a pleasing, melodious tune and let your mind relax. You just might find this simple technique will help you get the day started with less pain.

If you are looking for safe and effective ways to treat joint and back pain, our Garland chiropractor’s office offers a wide range of available therapies including physical rehab, therapeutic massage and chiropractic treatment. We also offer advanced treatment options for pain, including injections using all natural remedies.  If you would like more information, please contact our office, Texas Spine & Wellness, at (972) 840-2520.

Your Mind/Body Connection – How Emotions Affect your Health

Have you ever noticed a physical reaction in your body when you experience intense emotions? Maybe you’re happy about seeing an old friend, or you passed an important test, or you discovered a five-dollar bill on the dresser that you thought you’d lost—whatever the reason, such experiences generate an elation that expresses as an actual sensation in your body. That’s why we refer to a rush of excitement, a flutter of joy.

The same thing happens when you’re sad, but the sensations aren’t as pleasant. You might feel tired and apathetic, and in the case of an extreme sadness—such as grief due to a loss or a natural disaster—you might even experience tightness in your chest or develop a stomach ache.

illustration of the mind/body connection

illustration human body with energy rays

These physical reactions are real. It’s well known that certain emotions generate specific chemical reactions, and your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act. It’s a veritable “mind/body connection.”

Our Garland Chiropractic Clinic is invested in helping you find the mind/body balance you need to achieve good health. Let’s take a look at the issue.

First, an interesting history

More than a millennia ago, ancient Greeks, Romans, and East Indian physicians intuitively recognized that there was a link between illness and emotion. They embraced the theory that an imbalance in the four ‘humors’ (secretions) of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm caused diseases, and that the imbalance was caused by emotions.

This connection is so important we even derived some of our words from it. Melancholy comes from melan, the Latin word for “black,” and choler, the Latin word for “bitter bile.” A gloomy or embittered person is melancholic. And a phlegmatic person is considered languid and lethargic. We even developed the term “feeling sick” as a collective description that includes our sensory symptoms, such as nausea, fever, and exhaustion with how we feel psychologically, such as sad or apathetic.

The Mind/Body Connection and How it works

The effects your mind has on your physical body are profound. A different chemical is released each time we experience an emotion, whether it’s happiness or sadness, joy or depression. Each chemical literally creates a different environment inside our bodies. Considering our wide array of emotions, it’s no wonder our bodies suffer such a range of reactions!

Let’s think about negative reactions. Cortisol and adrenaline levels increase in your bloodstream when you’re stressed. They’re actually called stress hormones. These hormones work to redirect the blood supply from your deep organs into areas where it’s needed to allow your instinctive “flight-or-flight response,” preparing you to run as fast as you can. Your body believes that’s your best chance to escape whatever is causing the stress. It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed because you’re in real physical danger—like being stalked by a hungry tiger!—or if it’s caused by grief, sadness, or depression. Nature developed a very efficient and cool arrangement for us, utilizing our human emotions to initiate our survival instinct.

On the other end of the spectrum, when you feel happy, the body releases dopamine, oxytocin, or serotonin. Those hormones make you feel good.

  • Dopamine is a motivator, encouraging the action and persistence you need to meet your needs and goals.
  • Oxytocin is often referred as a “cuddle neurochemical” because it’s released by skin-to-skin contact.
  • Serotonin is the “confidence molecule,” coming into play when you feel important or significant. Low levels of serotonin can result in loneliness and depression.

It’s quite fascinating how the interplay of these hormones manifests in your physical responses. It’s been noted that love and happiness are “felt strongly all over our bodies, while depression causes us to lose sensation in every limb.” Pride creates a huge increase in the body’s internal activity, but it focuses in the upper body. Shame only burns your cheeks, while fear is felt in your chest and disgust—like phlegm—fills your throat.

Physical health impacts of the Mind/Body Connection

What happens if you think negatively all the time?

  • Long term stress can cause an ulcer.
  • Anxiety can increase the heartrate and blood pressure, cause shortness of breath, and could result in chest pains.
  • Depression causes tiredness and fatigue.
  • The immune system can be weakened.
  • Physical health is impacted when stress, anxiety, and depression interfere with a person taking care of themselves.

Additional issues may include: poor appetite, dry mouth, back pain, constipation or diarrhea, insomnia, sweating, stiff neck, headaches, weight loss or gain, and just general aches and pains.

Controlling your own health

If negative thoughts can hurt you, positive thoughts can help you.

Optimism alone seems to reduce cortisol levels and inflammation that’s caused by stress. It might well decrease a person’s potential to be impacted by diseases because it suppresses activity of the sympathetic nervous system while stimulating the “rest-and-digest” response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Positive people can lower their cardiovascular responses to stress.

Good emotional health means being aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. There are always stress and problems in life and you have to learn to deal with them in a manner that helps you stay healthy.

Here are some helpful tips for taking charge of your mind/body connection:

  • Don’t keep your feelings inside if it makes you feel worse. Express yourself, and do it in a positive way. Tell people how you feel. Turn to a doctor, counselor or pastor if you need emotional support.
  • Keep your life balanced. Try not to obsess about the things in your daily life that bother you. You have to deal with them, but bring in positive feelings and activities to lessen that burden. Focus on a positive outlook.
  • Learn resilience so you can cope. Find social support, accept change, and keep the issues in perspective.
  • Work to calm yourself mentally and physically. Try yoga, meditation, music, a good book or a movie you love. If an intimate group of friends helps, invite them over for a talk fest!
  • It’s important to take care of yourself. If you’re emotionally healthy, work on body health. If your body is healthy, work on your emotional strength. Eat right, sleep enough, and exercise to throw off tension. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Contact Texas Spine & Wellness and let our trained professionals set up a program that will help you reach an optimal level of physical health.

Remember, the power to take on and overcome what life throws at you lies within yourself. Remember, too, these words said by Hippocrates:

“If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.”