Cannabis and the Third Age: How Can Older Adults Benefit From This Plant?

Image from Pixabay

Image from Pixabay

This guest post is written by Bojana Petkovich. 

Cannabis (also known as marijuana) has suffered a fair share of stigma throughout the history of humankind. Even though plenty of its medicinal benefits have been known and tested for a long time, most of the world’s countries still keep cannabis illegal. Fortunately, Canada is not one of them any longer.

The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers clearly remember cannabis as illicit and all the stigma that went with it. One would think this mindset is perhaps the most difficult to change when it comes to fully embracing cannabis products, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Why Are Seniors So Attracted to CBD-Based Products?

The answer is rather simple: older age comes at a price — your body is not the same as it used to be when you were younger, and cannabis helps a lot. Your skeletal, nervous, and muscular systems have aged, and there are several age-related diseases seniors are prone to. 

Some of these diseases can, however, be mitigated and battled using cannabis and its major constituents, cannabinoids (CBD). Such substances are diverse, and thus can help with plenty of symptoms and negative side effects.

The main reason a lot of older people lean toward cannabis and its products is that it is not like other heavy prescription drugs. It has hardly any worrying negative effects on your body, and it can benefit you greatly. These products do not harm your gastrointestinal tract and your nervous system, as opposed to prescription drugs for various pains, inflammations, and diseases.

Still, cannabis is also offered as a prescription drug and should be treated as such; this means that its abuse can result in cannabis use disorder that leads to severe side effects.

The National Cannabis Survey conducted by the government of Canada revealed that there has been a rise in cannabis use in seniors. Statistically, just over 40,000 people aged 65 and older used cannabis in 2012. As of 2019, the number rose to more than 400,000 people from this age group who consumed cannabis.

Age-Related Diseases and Cannabis

Diseases such as arthritis, glaucoma, dementia, osteoporosis, and adult-onset diabetes are some of the most common ones that come with old age. Cannabis is, however, known to help with all of them and many others.

Osteoporosis and bone-weakening diseases are some of the most common ones for older adults. They cause severe pain, limited activity and mobility, and overall weakness of your bones. Cannabis use is especially helpful when it comes to such diseases, as it speeds up the healing process of your skeletal system through osteoblast stimulation. These cells act as rebuilders and repairers of your bones, making them up to 50% stronger once the CBD treatment is finished.

Dementia is difficult to deal with, both for the one suffering from it and the person’s loved ones. Other than forgetting crucial things about your life, such as close family members and places, many people with dementia experience severe agitation, aggression, depression, and similar. The neuron cells saturated by excessive amounts of amyloid protein get inflamed, causing this vile disease. Luckily, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is there to reduce the amount of this protein, while inducing calmness. 

Diabetes is a problem for a growing percentage of the world’s population, especially in adults and the elderly. Diabetes statistics show people who use cannabis have around 16% lower fasting levels of insulin compared to those who do not use it, and type two diabetes is rather uncommon in cannabis consumers.

Pain is linked to many diseases and is the most common symptom. Cannabis is known for its ability to reduce different types of pain. Factually, 62.2% of cannabis users choose this plant and products based on it so they can relieve chronic pain.

Arthritis, a disease that attacks joints, tends to trouble 1in 2 older people. The feeling of stiffness and pain, followed by fatigue and swelling are some of the most noticeable symptoms. A 2018 study from the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reports a strong bond between arthritis and depression, and seniors have been using cannabis to fight this disease. Not only that, but in 2018 they were up to 20 times more likely to admit they used marijuana in comparison to statistics from 1984. 

Bottom Line

As we enter an era where many symptoms, illnesses, and diseases are becoming a part of a blurry past due to technological advancement, older people can finally start experiencing a painless and easy day-to-day life. Cannabis is already making a massive change, as people opt for CBD-based products more and more every year, and we cannot wait to see this plant’s full spectrum of benefits in the future.

 

About the author: Bojana Petkovich is always on the lookout for new adventures and creative drives. Bojana is currently mesmerized by the fast-paced cannabis industry and providing the internet community with valuable information via LoudCloudHealth. The information on LoudCloudHealth is backed up by scientific studies. The articles on diseases and conditions treated by cannabis or CBD have sources to scientific research in their links. The statistics pages have their sources listed at the end of each article.

Low-Risk Alcohol Usage Guidelines for Older Adults – Know your limits

depth of field photography of woman in pastel color sleeveless shirt and white sunhat

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Most adults enjoy drinking alcohol on occasion. Sometimes, though, this occasional drink turns into a daily habit. One drink turns into two or more. If a person is not mindful, this habit could turn into an addiction. Addiction is also known as dependency or substance use disorder.

People can become addicted to not only alcohol but drugs, including prescription drugs (such as benzodiazepines and opiates). For example, nicotine, the drug found in cigarettes, is very addictive. Addictive behaviour can also be problematic, as in gambling, sex, or online gaming.

Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems. Yet a number of effective treatments are available and people can recover from addiction and lead normal, productive lives. – American Psychiatric Association, retrieved 03 Dec 2019.

For a number of reasons, it is essential to keep in mind that as we age, it is recommended we reduce our consumption of alcohol. For adults aged 65 and older, it is important to be aware of the low-risk guidelines.

Canada’s Low-Risk Guidelines (DrinkSense for Seniors) which is provided by the “Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction”, states that limits for adults (not older adults) who drink alcohol should be 10 drinks a week for women with no more than two per day, and 15 drinks a week for men with no more than three drinks a day on most days. There is no specific limit for older adults, but one of their “Safer Drinking Tips” includes the advice of “Always consider your age, body weight, and health problems that might suggest lower limits.”

 

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Standard Drink Portions:

      • Beer – 341 ml (12 oz.) of 5% alcohol content
      • Wine – 142 ml (5 oz.) of 12% alcohol content
      • Cider/Cooler – 341 m. (12 oz.) 5% alcohol content
      • Distilled alcohol/80 proof liquor (rye, gin, rum, vodka, etc.) – 43 ml (1.5 oz.) 40% alcohol content

 

I attended an “Aging and Addictions” course in November 2019 which was held by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, and they supported the drafted recommendations entitled “Prevention: Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines” for those 65 and older (noted below).

 

Low-Risk Drinking Limits (65+)

    • Women: No more than 1 standard drink per day, with no more than 5 drinks in total per week.
    • Men: No more than 1-2 standard drinks per day, with no more than 7 per week in total.
    • Non-drinking days are recommended every week.

Source: Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Health. Canadian Guidelines for Older Adults. Prevention, Assessment, and Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder, 2019.

 

These drafted guidelines are more in line with what I would recommend. I have seen what alcohol dependence can do to people and it is heartbreaking. And as noted in a previous post here on my website, to help preserve cognitive health, experts recommend no more than 2-4 drinks per week (see my Memory Rescue book review.)

For those who have a drinking problem, there is often stigma and shame attached. Many people can’t abstain or reduce their drinking behaviour on their own (harm reduction) and need help. If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, addiction or dependence, please contact the Addictions Helpline in your area.

> Addictions Helpline Canada 

> Addictions Helpline USA

AA 12-Step (https://www.aa.org/) or Smart Recovery (https://www.smartrecovery.org/) are peer support options to consider as well.

If you are considering getting on top of your drinking problem and need someone to talk to, please contact me and I can assist you in finding the help you need.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

References:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction

https://amho.ca/wp-content/uploads/Mon-300pm-IP1-3a-Older-Adults-with-Alcohol-Related-Problems-Best-Practice-Guidelines.pdf

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/get-help/get-help-problematic-substance-use.html

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

https://www.aa.org/

https://www.smartrecovery.org/

https://www.drinksenseab.ca/drinksense-tips/seniors/

https://ccsmh.ca/alcohol-guidelines/

“A Standard Drink” image source: https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/content/what-standard-drink

 

 

 

 

One Day Without Caffeine – Here’s what I learned

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I have been doing a lot of reading up on and learning about substance use problems and addictions and I quickly realized that I was using caffeine on a daily and habitual basis. I wondered if I was “addicted” to caffeine. Addiction in the sense that there is a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance. Addictions always have negative consequences (think of those who are addicted to meth or alcohol). I have been having trouble sleeping at night so I wondered if caffeine was the culprit.

I also wondered if cutting out caffeine would cause me any withdrawal symptoms and if I was physically or psychologically dependent on it. I am not a heavy caffeine user. I have two, maybe three cups of orange pekoe tea (i.e. Red Rose) a day. Sometimes I have a special green tea drink. I rarely drink cola anymore. The chocolate I eat is also something I feel I am dependent on but that’s for another day!

I woke up as usual, around 7:00 am and boiled my hot water for tea. This time I put orange pekoe decaf tea in the cup (i.e. Typhoo). I added some milk and I realized in my mind, I was preparing for withdrawal such as headaches and fatigue. Most people are afraid of getting a headache as a caffeine-withdrawal symptom. I made sure I had my ginger tablets with me just in case. I enjoyed my cup of tea and tried to trick my brain that it had caffeine. Just to see if that helped.

By 9:30 am, while at work, I was noticing a “foggy and fuzzy” feeling on my face.

I imagined if I had had some caffeine at this point, perhaps the foggy feeling would go away. I had a glass of water to help with any dehydration/thirst symptoms.

At noon I had my lunch. I enjoyed another decaf tea with milk. I was feeling a little fuzzy in the face still. Kind of like what I feel like when I first wake up in the morning.

At 1:00 pm I was feeling some heat in my cheeks. A tired feeling was coming over me. I needed to be alert for work. I noticed I was craving sugar and carbohydrates. It’s as if my brain was telling me what to have to help perk me up if I can’t have caffeine. The second best option was sugar and carbs. So I had a couple of little candies. It helped for a short time.

By 2:30 pm I was feeling tired and was craving potato chips. I knew a cup of tea would help curb my afternoon crash, but I wanted to see if I could work through it. I had a few chips. It helped.

The need for carbs continued. At 3:45 pm I had some Nutella on a rice cake. By now I am totally convinced my body is craving sugar and carbs for a little energy boost to help keep me awake.

I can see how easy it is – and perhaps a healthier choice – to grab a cup of tea (or coffee for coffee drinkers) when you need a little “pick-me-up.”

Going for a tea (or coffee) seems a lot healthier than eating candies and potato chips. I then started to think about those who smoke and want to quit smoking. I have often heard how people gain weight when they quit. I can now understand why that is.

By 5:15 pm I was snacking before dinner. I ate a small piece of leftover garlic toast. I also had another glass of water to help me push through until dinner time.

During dinner, I told my family that I had not had any caffeine today and that I felt like I never completely woke up. 

After dinner, I felt very sluggish and tired. I had less energy and felt like having a nap on the couch. I fought it though.

When bedtime came around, I was yawning, felt tired, but unfortunately had trouble falling asleep.  My theory of  “a caffeine-free day will help me sleep at night” was disproven. The other theory of getting a “caffeine-withdrawal headache” was also disproven.

So, I’ve decided that it’s okay for me to have my cup of tea, or two, or not. I can go without it if I need to. I don’t consider myself dependent or addicted to caffeine. I see it as a comfort and habit that helps curb my appetite. It also helps me “wake up.” I have also read there are health benefits of drinking tea (and coffee) in reasonable amounts. Especially green tea. I will continue to work on my insomnia issues.

Challenge yourself to a caffeine-free day and see what you learn about yourself and your relationship to caffeine.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

Managing High Cholesterol with Lifestyle Approaches – Sheila’s Quest

photo of woman wearing pink sports shoes walking

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

My good friend Sheila, 55, recently shared with me her story about high cholesterol and how she has made a very concerted effort to change her lifestyle in order to avoid taking “statin” drugs to help keep her cholesterol counts at a healthy level. High cholesterol, of the “bad” kind (LDL), can cause an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. I am happy to say Sheila has been very successful in getting on top of her cholesterol levels and she would like to share her story here in hopes of perhaps helping others.

41% of Canadians have hazardous blood cholesterol levels, so this is not an uncommon problem. Some only find out after their first heart attack. Research indicates that there is a fairly high percentage of adults in Canada who are unaware of their unhealthy blood cholesterol levels (also known as dyslipidemia). The older we get, the higher our risk for unhealthy cholesterol levels.

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According to Statistics Canada’s “Canadian Health Measures Survey” released in 2010, 47% of adults between the ages of 40 and 59 and 54% of those aged 60 to 79 had high levels of total cholesterol.

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/cholesterol-keeping-your-levels-in-check-1.880731

At around age 52, Sheila learned she had high cholesterol. Her doctor at the time told her her total count had gone from 3.2 to 6.8 and tended to minimize it because her “good cholesterol was high so don’t worry.” The doctor gave her no strategies at this point. Sheila told me she was worried because her mother had had a few TIAs (mini-strokes) later in life and her grandmother (her mom’s mom) had died of a stroke. As she talked to her siblings, she found out 3 of 5 were on statins (a commonly prescribed medication for high cholesterol – such as Lipitor or Crestor). Sheila did not want to go on medications as she knew she would probably have to be on them for life. This was a lifestyle change she prefers to avoid. She preferred to take a “change in lifestyle” approach to help manage her health. At first, she didn’t acknowledge the severity of this condition (and her doctor didn’t either). She occasionally dieted to lose a few pounds but never really connected it to her overall health. She would lose some weight, then soon after, gain the weight back.  She was a member of Weight Watchers (WW), but the dieting program which focuses on counting points didn’t really stick with her at the time.

A couple of years later, Sheila’s doctor was reducing the number of patients in her practice, so she had to find a new doctor. In September 2018 she saw her new doctor who ordered blood work including a lipid profile and did a blood pressure check. Sheila was soon called back for a follow-up appointment to discuss her high cholesterol (now at 7.6 total cholesterol) and high blood pressure (her previous doctor was aware of these issues, but did not do anything about it). Sheila told her new doctor that she didn’t want to go on medications and asked for an alternative way to manage these conditions. The new doctor replied, “Start with weight loss.” Her doctor also instructed her to monitor her blood pressure for three months and come back to discuss the results.

bright cardiac cardiology care

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Sheila started back on WW and started taking her blood pressure regularly. She increased her physical activity and increased her time walking the track at work from 20 minutes daily to 30 minutes daily. She went back to her doctor every three months to show her where she was at with her blood pressure. As her weight loss increased, her blood pressure progressively decreased. She was seeing progress. The doctor also said she wasn’t able to take her blood test to check her cholesterol more than once a year so they would check for that in the fall.

One year later, in September 2019, Sheila was happy to report she had lost 25 pounds. Her blood pressure was down to 130/90 and the doctor said there was still room for it to go down but was pleased with her progress. After increasing exercise and losing weight, the blood tests showed that Sheila’s total cholesterol was down to 7.5, which was down by only measly 0.1. Sheila was disheartened by this as she felt she had been working so hard. Her LDL was at 5.0, whereas the normal target is under 3.5. Sheila wanted to know if there was anything more she could do to reduce the numbers (other than going on medication). The doctor asked her if she wanted to go to a Lipid Clinic and to see a dietician. Sheila agreed to both.

Sheila was disheartened as all the efforts of her lifestyle changes of losing weight and exercising did not reflect in her test results. She was feeling discouraged. Determined to turn over every stone before going on statins, she went to see the dietician.

The dietician said that doctors often look at the “total” cholesterol and they need to look at the three groups – LDL, HDL, and Triglycerides. Sheila’s triglycerides and HDL were excellent and the dietician asked Sheila about her diet. She said Sheila’s diet was very healthy, which included low sugar, low white bread, limited alcohol, low fat, lots of fruits and vegetables, and whole foods. The dietician was also pleased with Sheila’s level of physical activity. The dietician praised Sheila for her weight loss and said that although the good cholesterol (HDL) and triglycerides were good, having a high LDL could mean that she has “familial hypercholesterolemia” (FH) which means she could have inherited the gene for high cholesterol.

flat lay photography of vegetable salad on plate

Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

To help reduce Sheila’s bad cholesterol, the dietician recommended Sheila consider adding the following to her lifestyle approach to managing her cholesterol:

  • Follow the Meditteranean diet.
  • Eat three meals a week without any animal products.
  • Make her own salad dressing because sometimes store-bought dressings contain oils that contain saturated or trans fats.
  • Eat more nuts in her diet (on salads, in yogurt). This includes almonds, hemp, flaxseed or chia.
  • Increase cardio exercise by hitting her “target heart rate” for 15 minutes twice-weekly (aka High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT).

Sheila learned that her practice of “counting steps” is good, however, it is individual for each person. Sheila’s job keeps her on her feet and it is not uncommon for her to reach 10,000 steps a day. However, for heart health, it is important to add in some cardio activity. When the blood pumps through the arteries due to exertion, this creates a “blood-plumbing” effect which can help clean out the arteries, leaving less opportunity for clogs.

Surprisingly, the dietician told Sheila it’s okay to eat eggs, they are not the culprit for causing high cholesterol. Also, she notes that eating loads of refined sugar is the new smoking.

Sheila left the dietician’s office feeling very happy and encouraged, considering two weeks prior she was feeling so defeated. She is well-aware that for some people, no matter what they do, they may still need to go on medications. She is planning on going to the Lipid Clinic as well, so as she says, “Stay tuned.”

For reference, here are what the lipid profile targets are for a 55-year-old female after fasting for 12 hours (may be different for gender and age):

Cholesterol (Total): <5.0 mmol/L

Triglycerides (fasting): <1.7 mmol/L

HDL Cholesterol: >1.3 mmol/L

LDL Cholesterol: <3.5 mmol/L

Non-HDL Cholesterol: <4.3 mmol/L

For more information on how to manage high blood cholesterol, check out this article called High Cholesterol from the Mayo Clinic.

Check out the Heart and Stroke Association’s booklet on How to Manage Your Cholesterol.

I strongly urge you to get your blood cholesterol levels checked (“Lipid Profile”) and to work with your healthcare team to help reduce your risk of heart disease. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavy, Painful, Achy Arms Can Signify a Heart Attack – Crystal’s Story

woman in black sleeveless dress

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This is a guest post, written by Crystal Lindal (47), Ontario, Canada. I first saw her Facebook post on October 22, 2019, and she agreed to allow me to share her story. 

 

It’s been exactly one month today.

Not a lot of people know I had a heart attack on September 22, 2019, in the early morning. And I wasn’t going to say anything on Facebook, but … BUT … if it helps just one person, then I’m okay with posting this.

Women have different heart attacks than men! Most women experience symptoms, they pass after a bit, and they go on with their day. They think, “It’s probably just my stomach … my arthritis … I haven’t eaten much today … I’m just too busy” … you get the idea!

I had slept over at my mom’s who lives next door. I woke up about 6:30 a.m., made coffee, and was sitting quietly on the computer – just scrolling Facebook and checking emails when the symptoms started at 7:15 a.m.

My heart attack symptoms:
> Both arms got extremely heavy and achy (the ache was very painful)
> Then I got nauseous
> Then my lower jaw hurt – felt like I had been sucker-punched!

I got up, walked around. I tried to shake my arms, thinking maybe I slept wrong or pinched my elbows somehow. I started pacing and went into the kitchen. While laying my arms and head across the kitchen island and concentrating on my breathing (because I thought it was some sort of anxiety attack) I looked over at the kitchen sink and there in all its glory was a bottle of low-dose Aspirin! I still have no idea what made me walk over and take one – but I’m pretty sure it saved my life!

My mom called the ambulance around 7:40 a.m. and it arrived shortly after. If she hadn’t done that, I most likely would have just got on with my day as I felt completely fine by then. I felt silly going to the hospital in an ambulance – I actually felt embarrassed!!

“Don’t doubt yourself! Don’t negate the signs and symptoms of a heart attack!”

Crystal Lindal, Heart Attack Survivor

I did get flown to Thunder Bay – and the doctor said I’m one of the lucky ones as my blockage is only at 50%. They only usually stent at 75%+ so no stent for me. But I now know I can do things in my life to reverse the blockage or at least stall it!

So, there ya go! My hope is that this may help someone out there to listen to their bodies. When something’s not right, it’s not right.

And I do suggest a bottle of low-dose Aspirin in every household!

– Crystal Lindal

 

For further information:

If you would like to reach Crystal, please use the Contact Form and your message will be forwarded to her.

Edited by Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

Integrative Medicine – The “Best of Both Worlds”

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Integrative Medicine and Cancer

 

It’s been one year since the release of my latest book, “Cancer Up the Wazoo”  and to celebrate I am offering another chapter for free! Chapter 17 is about my beliefs and experiences with “integrative medicine.”

Check out the PDF “Integrative Medicine” on how complementary therapies combined with conventional treatment can help provide the best treatment for a diagnosis of cancer.

(The other chapter I offer for free is on Anal Cancer Basics.)

Cancer Up the Wazoo

If you would like to read the rest of the book, it is available on Amazon.

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

www.AngelaGGentile.com

My Low-FODMAP Elimination Diet Experience to Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome

 

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Pasta with garlic bread. Off-limits for people with GOS sensitivity

Normally I don’t like to share my personal stuff here on the World Wide Web, however, once in a while I come across something that I think, if I share this with the world, maybe, just maybe, it will help someone else. In this article, I want to share with you my very personal (and embarrassing) experience with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and a way to help diagnose and manage further episodes of diarrhea and stomach upset.

My “tummy troubles” started when I was in my early 20’s. I was in university and I remember having cramps and diarrhea that would seem to come out of nowhere. Sometimes it was worse when I felt stressed, but it usually took me by surprise. I usually had little warning and a short amount of time before I needed to relieve myself. It was embarrassing, and I remember once when I was working with Home Care, I had to use a client’s bathroom. Another time, I had to cancel a support group I was running because I was suddenly taken over by vomiting and diarrhea.

The doctor I saw at the time recommended I have a colonoscopy to determine if there was anything going on such as colitis. The results came back as “minor irritable bowel syndrome.” I am not sure how that was determined, but for me, it was more than minor. I had also been tested for celiac disease (gluten allergy), and that test came back negative.

Fast forward to 30 years later, plus a bout of chemoradiation for anal cancer, I was really desperate to figure out how to control this irritable bowel. My sphincter muscles are no longer as strong or healthy as they used to be (imagine your bum being put into a microwave oven and fried!) so my IBS symptoms are much more concerning. The control I had before is now at half the strength it used to be (I’ve never lost control, thank God!).  I asked my doctor once again for a referral to a specialist, this time to a gastroenterologist (GE).

I saw the GE in April 2019. He recommended I go on a low-FODMAP diet. He told me about a mobile app I could use on my phone. He then said he would schedule a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a biopsy for microscopic colitis. He also took a blood test to check for celiac disease.

When I went home, I looked up low FODMAP. I had heard of this before, but I was not totally sure what it was. I came across the Monash University in Australia and found out they have done a lot of work in the last 12 years on helping people manage their IBS. They had an app that cost around $10 CAD, and from the reviews I had read on it, it was something I felt I could really get some good use out of.  I purchased it and never regretted it. It is something I use regularly. I can look up things for my friends, too!

FODMAP (pronounced “fawd-map”) stands for a group of carbohydrates found in foods – Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Many people (about 10-15%) find these types of ingredients hard to digest, therefore, causing an abdominal upset. These symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and could include a combination of any or all of these. For me, it can get so severe, that I also vomit. This may be too much information for some of you, but unfortunately at times, when I am having a bad “attack,” my body expels my stomach and bowel contents at the same time. I have it “coming out of both ends.” It is very quick and short-lived. I feel better soon after these attacks. So, I get it pretty bad sometimes.

The low-FODMAP process includes eliminating all foods that have the FODMAP irritants until all symptoms noted above are gone. The foods fall into different categories: Fructose, Lactose (many people are lactose intolerant), Mannitol, Sorbitol, GOS, and Fructan. This process can take two to six weeks. For me, it only took a couple of weeks. My family was very supportive and I avoided eating out. Once symptoms are under control, then you start reintroducing each of the foods to see if it triggers a response. There are “safe serving sizes” for each food that are very helpful.

For me, it turns out I am sensitive to GOS –- Galacto-oligosaccharides. These are found in foods such as nuts, beans, legumes, wheat, and grains. I found out quickly that I can only handle 8-10 pistachios or almonds at a time and I need to wait a few hours between having these foods again, in fear of “stacking” and causing an attack.

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All those years I thought I was eating healthy (12-grain bread, almonds, cashews, pistachios, legumes, etc.) turned out to be one of the worst things I could be doing for my body. Thirty years of suffering, not understanding why I was having so much trouble. One time I remember calling a restaurant to say I was sure I had food poisoning. Looking back now, it was probably just an IBS attack.

By June of 2019 (two months later) I was feeling I had a handle on my diet. I had also seen a dietician for nutrition counselling, and I had a Nutrigenomix DNA test to help me personalize my dietary approach. I had also started intermittent fasting and tried out the ketogenic diet for a bit.

Overall, the low FODMAP diet and Monash University FODMAP Diet app changed my life, for the better. Every once in a while I have an upset, and I go to the app or I find out what the ingredients were in a meal I ate. I am still learning as I go, and unfortunately, durum wheat semolina pasta with a side order of brioche garlic bread is the equivalence of dynamite for me. Enzyme therapy is another option that I could consider to help manage my GOS sensitivity. I am looking into this.

I am hopeful that research will continue and the lives of people with IBS with improve. Although it is not a cure-all, considering doing a low-FODMAP diet to help improve and manage your “tummy troubles” is highly recommended. Working with your healthcare professionals and specialists is also important.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

Social Worker/Author

For more info: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Life with an Old Dog

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Rocky the Cockapoo (14 years)

Rocky, a cockapoo, joined our family 14 years ago. His mom was a black cocker spaniel and his dad was a miniature white poodle. His black eye made him stand out in a litter of 6 puppies. Most of his black hairs have turned grey. His fur is now wiry (it used to be baby-hair soft). Considered a member of our family, he was a great addition for us with his sweet, intelligent and obedient personality.

Over the last year or two, we have seen many changes. These changes became more noticeable when we got our new puppy, Berkeley, a Havanese. The differences between a younger dog and an older dog were quite striking. As anyone who has had a dog for a few years knows, these changes come on slowly. So, having a younger dog around really made them noticeable.

Rocky is considered a “senior” and as a medium-sized dog, his life span is expected to be between 14-16 years. He is showing signs of growing old and as an aging specialist (in humans), I see how time has affected him. I have never had a dog that lived to a natural old age, so this is my first experience with seeing it first hand.

The signs of aging for Rocky have been:

Decreased hearing (he has had many ear infections over the years, so I suspect this has contributed to his deafness). He can still hear loud claps and whistles, or other loud noises like his sister Berkeley barking right beside him. We have learned to use hand gestures and touches on his butt area or head to help guide him to where we want him to go. On runs with Cupp (his “dad”), he has to be on a leash now, as it is difficult to get his attention as he likes to wander off to sniff or go pee/poo.

Decreased eyesight. The vet said about a year ago that he was developing cataracts. This is very common in humans, too. We notice he can’t see that rabbit on the lawn as quickly as he used to. Or he may miss that treat that fell on the floor (his sister Berkeley is quicker to snatch it up so we have to watch that!)

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Rocky (right) wearing his belly band

Urinary incontinence. Rocky started having “accidents” and I looked up to see what “doggy diapers” there were. I learned about belly bands for male dogs and bought some for him (“Teamoy” brand on Amazon). We keep this on him most of the time, especially when he is sleeping. I observed that his accidents happened usually while he was sleeping. In humans, we call it “nocturnal enuresis.” The absorbent washable fabric band has velcro and goes around his waist area. I put a feminine napkin inside to catch the bulk of the liquid. He doesn’t mind wearing them and it is working out quite well. It took us some getting used to, as we would forget he was wearing the diaper and he would go outside with it on. He would go pee with it on! Our bad. 

Coordination issues. Sometimes I will notice him stumble a bit, especially on stairs. He is more cautious now before he tries to climb up on things. His back end kind of “drags.” He takes a little more time getting around.

Prefers soft, canned dog food. We noticed he wasn’t eating his hard kibble, so we added some soft food to his kibble. This is more appealing to him, and we can get him to eat a lot more than if we hadn’t added the soft food to it. (His teeth are still good as far as we know. Many older dogs have issues with gums and teeth.)

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Rocky under my feet while I brush my teeth.

Anxiety. Rocky has been showing signs of anxiety, especially in the mornings. On bad days, he will tremble, pant and shadow me (stay really close). I suspect he feels “out-of-sorts” with his declining senses (decreased hearing and vision) and he is very attached to me. He may sense that I am getting ready to go to work, therefore leaving him behind to fend for himself. I have been giving him 10:10 cannabis oil (THC/CBD) and a very small amount has been helping him settle. Marijuana can help people in many ways and it’s not just for “getting high.” I thought I’d give it a try and when I notice him having an “anxiety attack within”, I give him a very small dose of 10:10 and within 30-45 minutes, he is resting comfortably. This effect lasts about 3-4 hours. We may continue with this solution, or I may end up getting him a prescription for an anti-anxiety pill or something similar from the vet.

Growths, lumps, bumps, and warts. Rocky has many little sores and bumps all over his body. The vet said some of it could be cancer. He likes to lick these areas and we have tried using creams and ointments but he just licks it off. We could use a cone, but that seems to be a moot point because I believe these abnormalities on his skin aren’t going to heal. I suspect many more skin issues are to come. We try to gently redirect him from licking and it usually works.

IMG_1664Sleeping a lot. Rocky rarely plays with his toys anymore and tends to sleep a lot. He still enjoys walks and “running” beside Cupp when he is on his bike. When we are chilling, he prefers to be right beside me and part of his body cuddled up against us. He never used to be a cuddler, but now he enjoys touch more than ever. He will not sleep at night if he is not on our bed. I always said I didn’t want my dog sleeping on my bed, but he gets very anxious if he is not near us.

Shadowing me. Whenever I get up, Rocky gets up. He is usually right underfoot, and I am afraid I will kick him or trip over him. He seems to need the reassurance of having someone else be his eyes and ears for him. This is probably related to increased feelings of anxiety.

“Doggy dementia moments.” Sometimes Rocky will do strange things, like stand in the bathroom behind the door (lost perhaps?) or scratch on a door that is already open. One time he was staring at a bedroom dresser. Some days he is “off” and more confused than other days.

Like humans, dogs need love, affection, attention, and activity no matter what their age. Old dogs need an increased level of it and some extra patience. Special needs will arise, and it’s important to pay attention to these needs to help your little buddy have a good quality of life in his or her golden years.

Please share your experiences about living with, and loving, an old dog.

Angela G. Gentile

www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

How to Prevent Heart Disease — The Number One Cause of Death Worldwide

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Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

Heart disease is the number one killer, worldwide. Prevention is key. Although these ten points were written for healthcare professionals,  there are a few points that we can incorporate into our own lives. In the first point, we are to be encouraged to aim for a healthy lifestyle throughout life. It’s never too early or too late to start living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

It is also important to note points four and five — the heart-healthy diet and exercise recommendations. Making healthy choices 80% of the time is what we are aiming for. Knowledge is power.

 

Top 10 Take-Home Messages for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

American Heart Association, 2019

1.  The most important way to prevent atherosclerotic vascular disease, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation is to promote a healthy lifestyle throughout life.

2.  A team-based care approach is an effective strategy for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Clinicians should evaluate the social determinants of health that affect individuals to inform treatment decisions.

3.  Adults who are 40 to 75 years of age and are being evaluated for cardiovascular disease prevention should undergo 10-year atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk estimation and have a clinician–patient risk discussion before starting on pharmacological therapy, such as antihypertensive therapy, a statin, or aspirin. In addition, assessing for other risk-enhancing factors can help guide decisions about preventive interventions in select individuals, as can coronary artery calcium scanning.

4.  All adults should consume a healthy diet that emphasizes the intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, lean vegetable or animal protein, and fish and minimizes the intake of trans fats, processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and sweetened beverages. For adults with overweight and obesity, counseling and caloric restriction are recommended for achieving and maintaining weight loss.

5.  Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes per week of accumulated moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity.

6.  For adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus, lifestyle changes, such as improving dietary habits and achieving exercise recommendations, are crucial. If medication is indicated, metformin is first-line therapy, followed by consideration of a sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitor or a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist.

7.  All adults should be assessed at every healthcare visit for tobacco use, and those who use tobacco should be assisted and strongly advised to quit.

8.  Aspirin should be used infrequently in the routine primary prevention of ASCVD because of lack of net benefit.

9.  Statin therapy is first-line treatment for primary prevention of ASCVD in patients with elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (≥190 mg/dL), those with diabetes mellitus, who are 40 to 75 years of age, and those determined to be at sufficient ASCVD risk after a clinician–patient risk discussion.

10.  Nonpharmacological interventions are recommended for all adults with elevated blood pressure or hypertension. For those requiring pharmacological therapy, the target blood pressure should generally be <130/80 mm Hg.

Arnett et al. 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000678

Age well, my friend.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

Eat According to Your Genes – Nutrigenomix. Part 1

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Nutrigenomix packaging

I have been learning a lot about nutrition and diets. After reading Gin Stephen’s book “Feast Without Fear,” I was curious to find out what kind of “personalized nutrition” options were available to me. I came across this company called Nutrigenomix (out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and talked to my doctor and dietician about it. It’s a genetic test for personalized nutrition worth $499.00 CAD, so I wanted to make sure it was worth it.  With a doctor’s referral, I could get 80% of the cost covered by Manitoba Blue Cross. My doctor agreed to give me a referral.

I found a dietician that was trained in doing this kind of testing (at the Wellness Institute in Winnipeg), and I booked an initial consultation with Laura. On the first visit, I had to read over and sign a consent form.

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Page 1 of Nutrigenomix consent form

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Page 2 of Nutrigenomix consent form

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Tube for Nutrigenomix saliva (DNA) sample

Laura then took a history, a brief assessment and told me a little about the DNA test. She was very interested in my intermittent fasting, so we talked a little bit about that. I also told her about the Low FODMAP Diet (for irritable bowel syndrome) and that I was learning I have an intolerance to certain foods like pistachios, almonds, and wheat flour.

She opened up the packaging and told me to get ready to provide a saliva sample for the DNA test. I had done a similar test for Ancestry DNA a few years back, so I knew it would take me a while to fill the tube up to the line (not including bubbles!). She said she would call when the results were in, which would take about three to four weeks.

Easy-peasy. Now the wait begins. Stay tuned. Watch for Part 2 when I receive the results!

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW