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Fighting the flu one bite at a time:

A nutritionist’s checklist to boost your child’s immune system to help fend off swine flu

—Christina Schmidt, MS

If you’re like many parents, you are probably bracing yourself for an awful cold and flu season this year. Aside from going to the extreme of putting your child in a plastic bubble before sending him out into the germy world, you can arm him with the strength that he needs to defend himself from those nasty viruses. Author and nutritionist Christina Schmidt offers up some healthy advice on how you can boost your kid’s immune system through the foods that he or she eats.

If you’ve never been one to obsess over cold and flu season in years past, you may be feeling a bit more uneasy this year and one word is making all the difference. Pandemic. Little needs to be said about it, but with swine flu making its rounds across the globe, you might be on red alert like just about everyone else. You’ve probably received numerous letters from your child’s school, church, and daycare reminding you of proper hand washing techniques. Perhaps you’ve started arming yourself with a bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse and you may even be considering buying a holster for your belt so you can have that bottle of liquid germ killer by your side at all times.

We can’t police our kids 24/7 to make sure that they’re following proper hand washing protocol, so many parents are left feeling hopeless and may even feel so vulnerable that they see catching swine flu isn’t just a possibility; it’s inevitable. What’s a parent to do when the world outside seems to be a shooting gallery of germs just waiting to land a big nasty virus on someone in your family—short of buying matching hazmat suits?

“The good news is that there’s plenty you can do, starting with boosting your child’s immune system through her diet,” says Christina Schmidt, MS, nutritionist and author of The Toddler Bistro: Child-Approved Recipes and Expert Nutrition Advice for the Toddler Years (Bull Publishing Company, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-933503-19-6, $16.95).

“Protecting your child’s body from the inside through proper nutrition is not only a great strategy for warding off viruses, it’s healthy too! A healthy immune system is a powerful line of defense from those nasty viruses.” No amount of liquid hand sanitizer can help your child the second a germ enters her body, so keep your kitchen stocked with foods that will help boost her immunity (and yours too!).

There are several nutrients and food components that are vital to keeping the immune system strong and functioning properly. Many of these nutrients act as vigilante antioxidants that help protect us from “scavengers” that might enter our bodies and increase our risk for various diseases. These nutrients also reduce inflammatory processes, compete with infectious bacteria, and can function to activate our complex immune defense army of white blood cells.

Looking to add to your defense arsenal to protect your child from H1N1 and seasonal flu this year? Read on for Christina’s checklist to help you serve up some immune system boosting, cold and flu-buster nutrients and foods. Serve your child foods that are rich in the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, peppers, tomatoes
  • Vitamin E: wheat germ, nuts, fortified cereals, sweet potatoes
  • Beta Carotene (Pro-Vitamin A): yellow and dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, orange squash, apricots, cantaloupe
  • Zinc: meats, fish, poultry, fortified cereals, milk
  • Iron: meats, poultry, fish, egg yolk, dried fruits, fortified grains, dark molasses
  • Copper: meats, nuts, chocolate, cherries, whole grains •Selenium: grains, meats, onions, milk
  • Folic Acid: green leafy vegetables, eggs, meats, fish, beans, broccoli
  • Vitamin B6: wheat germ, milk, egg yolk, meats
  • Vitamin B12: milk, eggs, meats
  • Omega 3 fats: cold water fish, flax oil, soybeans, walnuts, dark green leafy vegetables
  • Probiotics: yogurts with the “Live and Active Cultures” seal, fortified foods, supplements
  • Garlic: as single ingredient or in variety of sauces, soups, ready to eat meals, supplements

“Some of my favorite cold and flu fighting family-friendly dishes are whole wheat or enriched grain spaghetti with tomato vegetable marinara mixed with chopped chicken or ground turkey; lemony chicken, vegetable, and rice soup; sweet potato or butternut squash soup; carrots and ginger sauté; curried lentil stew; chili with stewed tomatoes and ground bison or other meat (optional); whole grain toast with a poached or scrambled egg; yogurt smoothie with fresh or frozen fruit; sliced oranges or grapefruit with seasonal berries,” says Schmidt. “We are coming into cranberry season—a berry rich in antioxidants—so be sure to take advantage of fresh cranberry relishes and baked goods as well.” You will find more recipes and menu suggestions in The Toddler Bistro.

“As you can see,” adds Schmidt, “by eating a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, seafood, or lean meats, you can boost your child’s immunity. These healthy foods and nutrients can arm you and your family in the fight to help prevent illness (or at least hasten a speedy recovery) from those bugs that circulate in schools and work places on their mission to turn your home life upside down!”

In addition to serving your child immunity-boosting foods, you may also consider supplementing her diet with multivitamins, probiotics, or omega 3 oils. Carlson for Kids makes several high-quality flavored omega 3 oils and chewable vitamins. Jarrow and Nature’s Way offer good probiotic powders while Rainbow Light and Centrum for Kids provide great one-a-day chewable multivitamins.

Of course, before giving your child any supplement, be sure to read the dosing instructions and keep them out of your little one’s reach! When giving any herbal supplements, check with your child’s doctor first and do not mix these with any other medications (unless the doctor says that it will be fine to do so). Also note that some herbal supplements are contraindicated for children or may cause allergic reactions, so monitor your child for any reactions. Just do your homework before adding supplements to your little one’s diet.

While serving your child immunity boosting foods to help him fight the flu, also note that there are some items that should be avoided. Foods that are high in refined sugars and saturated fats can have adverse effects. These foods do a number on the immune system by creating energy peaks and valleys and by fostering inflammation, so be sure to keep foods filled with refined sugars and saturated fats off the menu.

So as the H1N1 cloud looms overhead, remember that you aren’t as helpless and vulnerable as you may feel. You actually do have great ways to defend your family from the flu and those other sickening viruses out there. Practice the good habit of proper hand washing. Keep those little hands clean and teach your children that those germy fingers need to stay out of their mouths. In addition to germ-avoiding measures, remember that by giving your child the foods and supplements that will strengthen her immunity, you can enjoy this cold and flu season in good health—sniffle and fever free.

Christina Schmidt, MS, is a nutritionist and a certified nutrition educator who has been featured on NBC’s “Today Show“ and has written nutrition articles for The Bump magazine. She is the author of The Baby Bistro, The Baby Bistro Box, and Toddler Bistro Box. Christina also is President of Baby Bistro Brands and lives in Santa Barbara, California.


Healty Geezer

The Healthy Geezer

—Fred Cicetti

Q: Do liver spots have anything at all to do with the liver?

A: No. This is a common question and a great starting point for a column about all those doohickeys that grow on our skin as we age.

LIVER SPOTS: The official name for liver or age spots is lentigines from the Latin for “lentil.” These are flat, brown with rounded edges and are larger than freckles. They are not dangerous.

KERATOSES: Seborrheic keratoses are brown or black raised spots, or wart-like growths that appear to be stuck to the skin. They are harmless. Actinic keratoses are thick, warty, rough, reddish growths. They may be a precursor to skin cancer.

CHERRY ANGIOMAS: These are small, bright-red raised bumps created by dilated blood vessels. They occur in more than eighty-five percent of seniors, usually on the trunk. These are also not dangerous.

TELANGIECTASIA: These are dilated facial blood vessels.

 SKIN TAGS: These are bits of skin that project outward. They may be smooth or irregular, flesh colored or more deeply pigmented. They can either be raised above the surrounding skin or have a stalk so that the tag hangs from the skin. They are benign.

Now we get into the cancers of the skin.

SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMAS: These are in the outer layers of the skin. They are closely associated with aging. These are capable of spreading to other organs. They are small, firm, reddened nodules or flat growths. They may also be cone-shaped. Their surfaces may be scaly or crusted.

BASAL CELL CARCINOMAS: These are the most common of the skin cancers. They develop in the basal layer below the surface of the skin. Basal cell carcinomas seldom spread to other parts of the body. They usually appear as small, shiny bumps or pinpoint, red bleeding areas on the head, face, nose, neck, or chest.

MELANOMAS: The melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanomas can spread to other organs and can be fatal. They usually appear as dark brown or black mole-like growths with irregular borders and variable colors. They usually arise in a pre-existing mole or other pigmented lesion.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. About half of all Americans who live to sixty-five will have skin cancer. Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have fair skin.

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. All skin cancers can be cured if they are treated before they spread. The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, especially a new growth or a sore that doesn’t heal.

Check your skin often. Look for changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, and spots. And don’t be reluctant to go to a doctor whenever you see anything on your skin that you suspect might be a problem. Dermatologists recommend that, if you are a fair-skinned senior, you should get a full-body skin exam once a year. This kind of check-up isn’t a bad idea for any senior.

If you have a question, please write to fred@healthygeezer.com.


20th anniversary edition of America’s Health Rankings™ reveals New Mexico ranks 31st in overall health

United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association, and Partnership for Prevention released the 20th Anniversary Edition of America’s Health Rankings™, showing that New Mexico ranks 31st when compared to the health of other states.

The 2009 Rankings identifies the need to change unhealthy behaviors that contribute to preventable, chronic diseases as the key to improving the nation’s health. The nation has become adept at treating certain illnesses and diseases, but Americans are not modifying risk factors that contribute to chronic diseases.

Tobacco consumption and obesity have emerged as the two priorities that threaten the health of the nation. While tobacco use dropped from 19.8 percent of the population last year to 18.3 percent this year, approximately 440,000 deaths annually are still attributable to this preventable behavior.

Obesity has increased nearly 130 percent since the first edition of America’s Health Rankings™ was issued twenty years ago. Currently, twenty-seven percent of the population is obese.

The United States currently spends more per capita than any other nation on health care, including $1.8 trillion in medical costs associated with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, which can be linked to these national risk factors.

New Mexico’s Health Checkup

This year, the Rankings not only provided an annual list of the healthiest and least healthy states, but also determined how New Mexico ranked when compared to other states against the nation’s biggest health challenges since 1990.

  • 2009 state ranking: thirty-first
  • 2009 smoking and obesity rankings (based on a comparison of the incidence rates among all fifty states):
  • Prevalence of smoking: twenty-ninth place
  • Prevalence of obesity: twentieth place
  • Twenty-year ranking in smoking and obesity (based on a comparison of the incidence rates in 1990 among all fifty states to today’s rates):
  • Prevalence of smoking: 9.2 percent decrease in smoking from 28.5 percent in 1990 to 19.3 percent in 2009
  • Prevalence of obesity: 15.9 percent increase in obesity from 9.8 percent in 1990 to 25.7 percent in 2009

If obesity rates in New Mexico continue to rise at their current levels, obesity is projected to cost $2.05 billion, or $1,341 per adult, for state health care spending.

New Mexico’s 2009 health strengths include:

  • Low prevalence of binge drinking—eighth place
  • Low levels of air pollution—fourth place
  • High per capita public health funding—fourth place

Areas for improvement in New Mexico include:

  • High rate of uninsured—forty-ninth place
  • High percentage of children in poverty—forty-ninth place
  • Low high school graduation rate—forty-second place

Results From the Twenty-Year Scorecard

As the health care reform debate continues, the 20th Anniversary Edition of America’s Health Rankings™ has identified trends that support the need to ensure prevention is part of the solution. The persistent use of tobacco and unprecedented rates of obesity are limiting improvements in national health outcomes.

Other Twenty-Year Improvements and Challenges—Over the past twenty years, the nation has seen significant declines in crime rates, infectious disease, smoking, and infant mortality rates. Challenges since 1990 include the rising uninsured rate, lack of progress in increasing high school graduation rates, and the need to continue to improve access to adequate prenatal care for pregnant women.

Economic Impact of Obesity

United Health Foundation commissioned a unique supplemental report for this year’s Ranking to help understand the financial impact of obesity. This supplemental “Future Costs of Obesity” report was written by Kenneth E. Thorpe, Ph.D., Emory University professor and Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease executive director. The report is the first to provide projections around future health care costs directly attributable to obesity that have been individually calculated for each state, as well as the nation. Left unchecked, obesity will add nearly $344 billion to the nation’s annual health care costs by 2018 and account for more than twenty-one percent of health care spending.


Healthcare symposium: What every business owner should know about healthcare

On December 11 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., the Greater Sandoval County Chamber of Commerce (GSCCC) and Lovelace Health Plan (LHP) will present a symposium featuring speakers from the industry who will be discussing four hot topics every business owner should know about healthcare.

Carole Henry, AVP Underwriting, LHP will speak on transparency in healthcare premiums. Morris J. Chavez, Superintendent, Department of Insurance will speak on current and future legislation regarding healthcare. Linda Reiter, AVP Population Health, LHP will cover employee wellness and effects on the bottom line. Marty Siordia, Global Resources, Ltd. will speak on state coverage insurance options.

Blood pressure screenings, health and wellness information, and related topics will be featured. There will be a tour of Lovelace Westside Hospital immediately following the symposium. Space is limited, so please respond to Christina Stodard at 727-5295 or Christina.stodard@lovelace.com by December 1 to reserve your seat.

 

     

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