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Woman Receiving Massage

Arthritis and Massage

Did you know that there are multiple different forms of arthritis, with a wide variety of symptoms and presentations?  The most common of these is Osteoarthritis.  “Osteo” means bone; “Arthro” relates to joints; and “-itis” refers to inflammation.  By definition Osteoarthritis is the degradation of a joint, breakdown of the cartilage, and the inflammation that accompanies it. Another name for Osteoarthritis is Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD).

Don’t Go “On” a Diet

DietThink about the statement “I’m going on a diet”.  When we say we’re going on a diet we’re implying that eventually we’ll come off the diet and the changes we’re making are only temporary.  We might “white knuckle” it for a few weeks or months but eventually we come off the diet because the changes are too extreme.

Most of us are looking for a quick fix so we often consider an effective diet to be one that takes off a lot of weight quickly.  When we gain weight back after going off a diet we don’t typically say “the diet didn’t work”, instead we blame ourselves for lacking will power.  We need to redefine a successful weight management program as one that doesn’t depend on will power and instead uses realistic lifestyle change to take off weight gradually and keep it off forever.

Are you ready to seek expert advice to develop a realistic weight loss plan?  Click here to search MFN for Nutritionists/Dietitians who specialize in weight management.  They can help you develop a personalized plan that works for you and your unique lifestyle.

Trans Fat in Hiding

Did you know if a product contains less than half a gram of trans fat per serving, the manufacturer is not required to list it on the label? This means a product with 0.49 grams of trans fat can read no trans fat on the label. As a result, if you consume a few servings of a product like this, you could consume over a gram of trans fat without knowing it!

According to the American Heart Association you should limit your daily consumption of trans fat to less than 1 percent of your calories. This means if you consume 2,000 calories per day, no more than 20 calories or 2 grams of fat should come from trans fat.

So, how can you tell if a product contains trans fat? Look for “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oil in the ingredient label because trans fat is created during the hydrogenation process. Restaurants and food manufacturers love to use these hydrogenated oils because they taste good, are inexpensive and help preserve food.

Trans fat is often found in fried foods and bakery items such as pie crust, pizza dough, cookies, cake, French fries, crackers, margarine, and shortening and a small amount of trans fat occurs naturally in animal foods such as lamb, butterfat, and beef. The best way to avoid trans fat is to eat a well balanced diet that is mostly plant-based. Don’t forget to read labels and limit or avoid products that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils because this means they contain trans fat!

Live a Longer Healthier Life

Are you looking to live longer and improve your quality of life?  Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States so by decreasing your risk you can increase your chances of living a longer healthier life.  The good news is YOU CAN DO THIS by making lifestyle changes (increasing exercise, improving nutrition, reducing stress, not smoking, etc.). Here are a few simple ways you can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease by improving your nutrition:

  • Increase your intake of fiber-rich foods.  Eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables each day, choose half of your grains as whole grain, and choose beans and lentils a few times per week.  When choosing a whole grain cereal, consider choosing oatmeal or Cheerios for the cholesterol-lower benefit of soluble fiber.
  • Increase your intake of plant stanols and sterols.  Plant stanols and sterols may help lower blood cholesterol by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines.  Small amounts of plant stanols and sterols are founds in plant foods, but to have a cholesterol-lowering effect foods fortified with higher amounts may need to be consumed.  Some brands of fruit juice, cereal, bread, low fat milk, low fat yogurt, and margarine (Benecol and Take Control) have been fortified with plant stanols and sterols.
  • Choose lean meats such as skinless turkey and chicken, top sirloin, 7% fat ground beef, round steak, pork loin or loin chops and trim fat from meats.
  • Eat smaller portions of meats.  Limit your portions to 3 ounces for lunch or dinner.  Three ounces is equal to the size of a deck of cards.
  • Choose fatty, cold water fish (mackerel, herring, salmon, halibut or tuna) two times per week for heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.  If you don’t like fish, you can find omega-3’s in canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts, leafy green vegetables, or enriched eggs or bread.
  • Eat a meatless meal for lunch or dinner at least 1-2 times per week.  Try pasta primavera or beans and rice.
  • Limit egg yolks to 4 per week or have egg whites or egg substitutes (e.g. Egg Beaters).
  • Select non fat or low fat dairy foods such as non fat or 1% milk and non fat or low fat cheese, yogurt, or cottage cheese.
  • Choose fat free or low fat condiments or use less of the regular version (salad dressing, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.).
  • Choose olive oil or canola oil and use it in small amounts.  Use tub or spray margarine and avoid stick margarine or butter.
  • Choose a low fat cooking method. Bake, broil, steam, barbecue and grill foods instead of frying.  Use cooking spray instead of greasing the pan.
  • Modify recipes to reduce fat intake.  You can substitute 2 egg whites for 1 egg in most recipes.  If you are making baked goods, replace 1/3 of the fat in the recipe with applesauce.  If you are making 3-cheese lasagna, substitute one or two cheese with reduced fat versions.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Do you have a hard time eating healthy because you’re on a tight budget?  Use the following tips to eat healthy and save money:

  • Eat at home more often
    • Make healthy snacks at home and take them with you
    • Pack a lunch most days of the week
    • Make healthy meals in large portions and freeze leftovers
  • Shopping techniques
    • Make a shopping list for this week’s meals and stick to the list
    • Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry!
    • Shop for most of your food around the perimeter of the store to avoid the more costly, processed foods
  • Look for deals
    • Browse your local stores to see who offers the best deals on your favorite, healthy products
    • Search the newspaper for coupons
    • Compare the per unit price between brands and different sized packages
    • Choose generic if possible
  • Buy in bulk
    • Look for deals on pre-bagged, bulk fruits and veggies
    • Purchase sale priced lean meats in bulk and freeze what you don’t plan to use in 5 days
    • Stock up on sale priced whole grain crackers and cereals
    • Most stores offer a discount on milk if you buy 2 gallons at a time
  • Go Frozen!
    • Stock up on sale priced frozen meals (Kashi, Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, Smart Ones)
    • Buy a wide variety of frozen veggies.  They are just as healthy as fresh veggies but they’re cheaper and last longer
    • Purchase frozen lean meats
  • Do your own prep work
    • Buy whole fruits and veggies and do the cutting and peeling yourself
    • Shred a block of reduced fat cheese
    • Remove skin from chicken breasts


The Truth about High Fructose Corn Syrup

Over the past few decades, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has become a popular ingredient in a variety of foods and beverages. Since 1970, there has been a 1000% increase in the consumption of HFCS. Many believe that this increase has contributed to the rising obesity rates. This has lead to a multitude of negative feelings and controversy surrounding HFCS and the association of HFCS with obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.

Recently, many commercials have been put out by the Corn Refiners Association in HFCS’s defense. These commercials claim that HFCS doesn’t have any artificial ingredients and is safe in moderation. So what does this really mean? HFCS doesn’t technically contain any artificial ingredients, but it is processed with glutaraldehyde, a widely controversial substance still under investigation for potentially harmful effects in the body. HFCS, like other added sugars, appears to be okay in moderation, but since it is found in numerous products the amount can quickly add up. As a result, it is important to read the ingredients of the food you are eating and look for HFCS.

Completely excluding HFCS is likely more of a hassle than a benefit. Instead, limit the foods that contain HFCS and avoid the foods that list HFCS as one of the first few ingredients. Keep in mind that one of the best way to decrease your HFCS and added sugar intake is to consume a diet high in plant foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and to keep sweets and desserts to a minimum.


Massage and Fibromyalgia – A Therapists Point Of View

I have been privileged to practice therapeutic massage full time, in private practice, for the past nine years. Being a Registered Nurse has largely guided my practice to serve many people with chronic pain. Many of my clients have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Often they have a dual diagnosis of OA (osteoarthritis), hypothyroidism, and/or lupus.

I live and practice in a part of Pennsylvania where we experience all four seasons and quite a variety of weather.  It amazes me that, although my fibromyalgia clients live very different lives, vary greatly in age, and do not know one another, they all present with similar pain patterns.

For example, when the summer begins many clients experience an increase in tenderpoint pain. Often they associate this with air conditioning and artificially cold environments. When we are facing a storm front, the pattern that presents is often a tight upper neck and head and/or forehead pain, and even migraines.

In winter many clients relate that they are experiencing “fibro flares,” meaning general fatigue, and overall flu-like pain with mild depression. Generally, therapeutic massage helps to decrease these symptoms.*

I practice a more clinical style of massage therapy, focusing on pain relief and mobility improvement. In my practice, I have found that an eclectic massage works best. This combines trigger point therapy and myofacial release technique with relaxation techniques—in other words, long soothing strokes with mild rocking; then when the muscles are warm, a deeper pressure with deeper friction strokes over the knots to break down the fibers, release the toxins, and reduce the pain they create.

The University Of Miami School of Medicine, Touch Research Institute, has conducted various studies regarding the benefits of massage therapy.

In a study geared to fibromyalgia patients, it was concluded that massage therapy provided the following benefits: increased serotonin level, decreased circulating stress hormones, decreased levels of substance P (basically a pain messenger), decreased tender point pain, improved sleep patterns, and improved overall sense of well-being.

The principal investigators stated that massage therapy is a clinically significant complementary treatment for fibromyalgia.

I have seen the impact massage therapy has on my fibromyalgia clients. They often enter the session feeling stiffness and discomfort, and leave feeling lighter and in less pain. I have also seen first hand the mood-elevating effect massage therapy has on a person who is feeling down.

Jane Wagner, a 68-year-old client diagnosed in 1964, states, “Massage therapy helps me to feel less pain, and I sleep better on the days I get therapy.” Jane further advises: “Once you go to therapy on a regular basis, the therapist knows your body and can feel tight spots that you don’t even know you have. Once they are released, you feel so much better.” Jane utilizes an indoor pool exercise program three times per week, along with massage therapy sessions every other week to help manage her fibromyalgia.

Many clients claim that monthly massage sessions keep their pain under control. Gail Lewis, a 50-something client diagnosed with fibromyalgia 10 years ago, states “Massage therapy has helped me get through really bad bouts with deep spinal pain and tenderpoint pain.” Gail uses a combination of monthly therapeutic massage sessions, daily weight lifting, and aerobics three times per week to keep her pain under control. Gail has not let her fibromyalgia stop her from becoming a three-time national champion in the natural body-building arena.

Based on what I have experienced in my practice, I view therapeutic massage as a tool that can help people take ownership of their fibromyalgia in a positive, healing way.

Regular sessions can help people reconnect with themselves, and facilitate a deep state of relaxation through which they can release some of their pain. During massage the breathing slows down, as does the heart rate. This leads to a state of deep relaxation, kind of a pre-sleep state. Once you have received several sessions, your body can become more conditioned to reproduce this state of deep relaxation.

*It is important to note that you should select your massage therapist carefully.

Utilize state licensing websites or national certification web sites to search for a certified therapist in your area. A helpful website is www.NCBTMB.com, where you can locate a Nationally Certified Massage Therapist in your zip code. Once you have identified a therapist, call for an interview. Ask for credentials and extent of experience working with fibromyalgia patients.

Remember, although massage is very beneficial for everyone, it can be a painful experience for a fibromyalgia patient if not properly performed.

Written and posted by permission by:Sharon Muzio, RN, NCBTMB

Sharon lives in Harrisburg, Pa with her family. You can e-mail her at avwc@comcast.net