Friday, August 20, 2010

The Dark Side of Health Foods

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We all want to live longer and maintain good health. So, most of us try to follow sound advice from our medical professionals and one major topic that is always in the spotlight is eating healthy. We go to great extremes to purchase those health foods that are pleasing to our palate while at the same time is supposed to benefit our bodies; but there can be a dark side in health foods if your suffering from certain medical conditions as sited below.

Can you believe there is a dark side to eating foods such as: whole-wheat bread, pomegranate and grapefruit juice, oatmeal, sushi, grapes, green leafy vegetables, soy, dark chocolates, and turkey; what’s that you say – I cannot believe these foods are bad for you. Well, think again and consider this as I go through this small list just sited.

Whole-Wheat Bread
Fiber can be a sharp thorn in the gut for people that suffer from intestinal problems like Crohn’s disease. Patients that suffer from this bowel disease must limit fiber because their intestines are narrowed and prone to developing blockages that may end up requiring them to having to have emergency surgery.

Yet, fiber-filled breads are the health requirement always noted when it comes to putting together a nutritious healthy sandwich; the very qualities that benefit most of us can literally cause grave damage to others with Crohn’s disease.

Grapefruit and Pomegranate Juice
Have you every heard that you should not consume grapefruit juice with certain drugs like the statins that doctors prescribe to lower your cholesterol. You know the ones I’m referring to; their brand names are Zocor (simvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), Mevacor and Altocor (lovastatin), Lescol (fluvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin). But, grapefruit juice is not the only juice that can create harmful interactions in the body; people should also avoid pomegranate juice as well.

On a list of items for the “Breakfast of Champions”, grapefruit juice is the outlaw of the list for beverage choice. No only are the statin drugs a problem, but research has revealed that approximately 50 drugs interact with grapefruit juice, including the disease-modifying drug cyclosporine. The anti-anxiety drug Diazepam (Valium) is another one that interacts with grapefruit juice.

Here is why you should not consume these two juices with any statin or certain other drugs. Both juices, pomegranate and grapefruit, contain a specific enzyme that causes the drug to stay or linger in your body’s system that can cause serious side effects such as muscle pain, and in extreme cases, liver damage. Grapefruit juice slows their elimination from the body, causing them to rise to potentially dangerous levels in your system.

What’s the one thing that doctors check your blood for while you’re on statin drugs besides your cholesterol and triglyceride levels? That would be liver damage they are looking for. This is why they want to check your blood work frequently while on statin drugs.

In other drugs such as the allergy drug fexofenadine (Allegra) or the beta blocking agents (blood pressure and / or heart drugs) such as celiprolol (Cardem) and talinolol, grapefruit juice blocks their effects the body is trying to use them for.

I remember not so long ago I had to explain to a doctor one time as why statin drugs should not be taken with grapefruit juice; actually he was a Physicians Assistant (PA) and my primary care provider at the Veterans Administration. He actually did not know that you shouldn’t be taking Zocor with grapefruit juice. How we actually got on the subject – I don’t remember.

The moral of the story is that the more grapefruit juice that you consume, the more likely you are to experience some sort of problem if you’re taking medication. Even a single glass of grapefruit juice can affect how your body deals with medication up to three days.

Tip: When taking your medication, your best bet is to take them with a glass of water.

Tip: Want to get a more accurate reading on your fasting lipid profile or cholesterol blood work? Then if your health condition will allow, ignore the orders when the lab technician tells you not to eat anything after midnight for your morning blood work tests. Instead, you should be fasting for a minimum of 12 hours; so, I would turn the clock back another six hours to 6:00pm rather than at midnight. And yes you can consume water and black coffee that should not affect the results.

Continuing with the cholesterol topic, oatmeal is a great source for lowering your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. I do not know of a better source of lowering your LDL or Low-Density Lipoprotein. However, if you have reduced renal (kidney) function, oatmeal is a bad choice because of its protein rich and phosphorus content.

The problem is that the kidneys filter and help rid the body of waste products along with excess minerals. So, if your kidneys are not functioning like they are supposed to be, they cannot effectively do their job of ridding the body of these excess minerals and waste. This can lead to phosphorus buildup in your body and causes the body to deplete its calcium from your bones. As a result, your bones become weaker that can cause poor circulation to occur, arteries to harden, and heart problems ultimately may develop.

Eating undercooked or raw animal protein food sources will increase your risk of food-borne illness. You should especially skip the rice-wrapped raw fish if you are infected with HIV, undergoing chemotherapy, are pregnant, or fall within the geriatric category. Even though sushi can be a healthy food source that is low-fat, high in protein, and great for trimming down your waistline – sushi can be a hazard for certain groups of people that may possess a compromised immune function.

A bad choice when it comes to people suffering from diabetes because grapes are loaded with sugar and as a result, your blood glucose will spike if you consume grapes. Grapes are mostly considered a health snack, and diabetes patient may falsely think they are following a healthy diet, but grapes and grape juice would only be a good source to use if you’re diabetic and if that was all you had available, to consume, if you or someone may be showing signs of going into a diabetic coma.

If you’re one of those individuals whose blood glucose goes from high to low rapidly and at random, then you should be keeping some sugar available; personally I would keep cake icing that would easily dissolve in the mouth. Giving sugar is exactly what I do when I find patients who are unconscious and a random glucose tests tells me their blood glucose is in the 20’s (in many cases) or below 60 – I administered D50 or what we jocularly refer to as “Sugar Water” directly into their veins to bring them back around again.

Staying away from candy, cookies and cake is not the only food source that a diabetic patient should stay clear of; grapes contain more sugar than most fruits. Does that mean that you should stay clear of fruit altogether if you’re diabetic? The answer is no. Diabetes and good food sources is a complex topic and far beyond the scope of this article. What you should do is talk with your doctor, and if they cannot give you the answers you’re seeking as to what foods or fruit sources you should avoid by being diabetic, then have them refer you or give you a consult to a Dietitian that can properly advise you of the correct fruit source to avoid and why. Or, that could very well be a good topic or tidbit for another article here.

Green Leafy Vegetables
In its simplest form, Vitamin K is the culprit or bad guy here; especially for those patients that may be suffering from heart disease and most especially those that are taking drugs like Coumadin (warfarin) to help thin their blood. Vitamin K causes the blood to clot; and green leafy vegetables are high in Vitamin K but are a good source of other vitamins, folate, calcium and fiber.

Those on Coumadin therapy mostly know why they are required to get regular blood work to check their coagulation (PT/INR) studies about every month. To high of an INR means the blood is to thin and your risk of bleeding is increasing; while a low INR means the blood is too thick and is clotting. A normal range for a patient on Coumadin therapy that most doctors shoot for is for their patients to have an INR around 2.5 and they are happy. Eating green leafy vegetables will cause that INR to trend downward and the blood is clotting.

Tip: I’ve seen first hand what Vitamin K can do to and for patients. Vitamin K is mostly administered orally, but does come in other forms, for example to administer Intravenously (IV) in a critical care environment. If ever given IV ensure that the infusion rate is extremely slow. Giving Vitamin K IV is extremely dangerous for both the patient and healthcare provider. I’ve witnessed first hand, a young nurse not knowing what she was doing, rapidly infuse Vitamin K IV Push (IVP); the result was instant cardiac arrest. Of course I didn’t know it was Vitamin K that she was pushing at the time or I would have stopped her and given her proper counsel on how to administer Vitamin K intravenously. Be careful giving Vitamin K IVP!

The dark side of soy is that it can mimic estrogen in the body and its choice questionable at best for those that are being treated for or who have breast cancer. Soy products like soy milk and tofu and soybeans are considered a healthy choice for protein supplement when it come to diet choices. Nevertheless, if you’re being treated for breast cancer, check with your healthcare provider before consuming soy products.

Dark Chocolates
Oxalates are a type of salt crystal that, according to the National Kidney Foundation, can promote stone formation and is found in many foods including dark chocolates. Thus, those that have a tendency to suffer from calcium oxalate kidney stone’s would be wise to avoid foods rich in oxalate like: dark chocolate, nuts, strawberries, wheat bran, rhubarb, spinach, beets, and tea.

Food high in purine content do not mix well with gout and is the problem here in which uric acid builds up in the body and causes severe joint pain and swelling to occur. Organ meats fall within that category that is considered a high-purine food to include: turkey, red meat, and pork. Other products that are considered high-purine food include: beer, some seafood, including sardines, trout, scallops, anchovies, and mussels. If you suffer from gout, you would be wise to try to avoid these product food lines.

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