If you are what you eat, make sure you're eating enough!

Following the Latest Eating Trends Might Be Bad for Your Health!

This post was originally written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com, so you can also read it here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

I once saw a magazine cover showing a man’s head made up of an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The caption read, “You are what you eat.” It was a simple, but effective, way to illustrate how the food we put into our bodies can affect the way we look and feel.

That picture would look much different today.

The theme for many of our current eating trends is, “You are what you don’t eat.” This includes many fads, such as detox cleanses, not eating anything that cavemen didn’t eat and going gluten free, lactose free or GMO-free.

What people may not realize when they adopt one of these fads is that there are sometimes unintended consequences. For example, eliminating some types of foods from the diet can also result in eliminating certain valuable nutrients that the body needs; or the omitted foods might be replaced with ones that are no better, or even worse.


Practically every food you can think of has been on a “Do Not Eat” list at some point in time. Red meat, butter and eggs have been there and so have white bread, potatoes and sugar. Even ingredients we consume in tiny amounts that have undergone rigorous safety reviews by experts from around the world, like low calorie sweeteners, have come under criticism without justification. (Read more about the safety of the low calorie sweetener, sucralose, in my previous blog, “Is SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (Sucralose) Safe? Authorities We Can Trust.”

Fortunately, once all the excitement created by the headlines dies down, people often realize that fads are often not based in good science, and that they do not have to give up the foods they love to be healthy. Any food can be included in a balanced diet as long as it is eaten in moderation. And even though there are rigorous processes in place to ensure that ingredients used in food are safe, no food or beverage can be consumed in unlimited quantities and still be good for you.


The study of human nutrition is a relatively young science so we don’t have all the answers yet, but we know much more today than we did 50 years ago. As our understanding of the way in which nutrients affect our health expands, we should be prepared to make adjustments in what and how much we eat to incorporate the new knowledge. But this is a gradual process and rarely requires the complete removal of any food from our diets.

That is why I have always advised my clients not to eliminate anything they normally eat unless it is a medical necessity. Instead, the goal is to keep as much variety in our meal plans as possible to benefit from all that we do not yet know. By doing that, the image of “you are what you eat” will change over time as more and more foods get added to the picture. By not doing that, the image might disappear!

For more information, readStaying Away from Fad Dietsby the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.


Research shows side effects from using surcalose

Is SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener Bad for You? Top Myths about Sucralose Side Effects

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Can a freshly roasted turkey make you sneeze? If you had asked a friend of mine a few years ago you would have heard a resounding “Yes!” He then would have offered as evidence that he always started to sneeze the minute he sat down for his family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

The problem with his “evidence” was that it was anecdotal. That means it was a personal account of something that happened to him that was not based on research and was not necessarily true. In this case, his sneezing had nothing to do with the turkey. As he later learned, he had an allergy to sunflowers and his sneezing was triggered by the floral centerpiece that graced their dining room table every Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately, there is a lot of other anecdotal, or self-reported, information out there that gets passed off as evidence of a problem when scientific research indicates the “problem” is not, in fact, a real one. Many symptoms, like sneezing, are so common, almost anything can be the cause. But when the wrong connection is made between something and a personal response, it can set in motion a myth, like my friend’s mistaken turkey-and-sneezing connection.

Low-calorie sweeteners is a topic that has been particularly subject to misinformation that has led to myths. This is worrisome, because some people still ask: “Is sucralose bad for you?”, and “Are there sucralose side effects?”, even though the total body of evidence shows they are safe and without side effects. Since these myths are nothing to sneeze at, I’d like to set the record straight here!

Top Side Effect Myths Related to Sucralose

1.Gastrointestinal Discomfort and Bloating

If you eat and drink a varied diet you may occasionally experience gas, bloating and changes in your bowel habits. That’s normal digestion at work. Even if you eat the same thing every day, changes in your emotions can impact how well you digest your food. Given the high-stress lives many people lead today, it’s important to remember that, before blaming something you’ve eaten for your stomach rumblings.

The good news is sucralose has not been found to cause digestive problems (see Fact vs Fiction: Sucralose Dangers and Side Effects). Data from over 100 studies show sucralose has no side effects, but that news may not have reached all of us who are trying to eat wisely. Instead, we tend to hear more alarming news about studies whose results contradict the available research. For example, some of the digestive health myths about sucralose stem from a small study in rats done in 2009 that was actually found to be unreliable by experts.

2. Allergies or Allergic Reactions

One of the most common allergy-related myths associated with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products has to do with corn allergies, since dextrose and maltodextrin are used as bulking ingredients in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Packets and Granulated. People with a diagnosed allergy to corn should be able to use SPLENDA® Sweetener Products without any problem. It is the protein in certain foods that usually triggers allergic reactions, and all of the corn-derived ingredients in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Products come from the starch fraction of corn. Since it is highly purified it should not contain any appreciable amount of protein. If there is concern, a good option is the SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Minis, which do not contain any corn-derived ingredients.

As for other allergies or food intolerances, anyone who has a medical condition making it necessary to avoid certain ingredients in the food supply must be vigilant about reading labels. Fortunately all of the ingredients in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products are ones that research does not associate with allergic response, and they are all listed on the packaging. You can also call the SPLENDA® Consumer Care Center at 1-800-777-5363, or visit SPLENDA.com for more information.

3. Headaches

If you do an Internet search for “causes of headaches” you’ll get nearly 30 million hits! Counting them all would give anyone a headache, but I’m sure there are people scanning those lists eager to find the cause for their misery. Yet with so many possibilities, it’s easy to jump to the wrong conclusion, especially when anecdotal information is involved (see point #1 above).

If you believe sucralose can cause headaches, relief is on the way. Scientists have conducted numerous studies to determine if sucralose causes side effects and concluded it does not. Research shows that sucralose has no side effects, and is not linked to any known triggers of headaches. Of course, other ingredients people may be sensitive to might be found in a food or drink sweetened with sucralose, so individuals should carefully evaluate everything in their diet when considering possible causes for headaches. It’s also important to remember that headaches are one of those common complaints that can be caused by non-dietary factors, like stress, worrying, and changes in our environment, which can be frustrating for those who suffer from headaches.

It’s good to know the best scientific evidence available tells us there are no side effects from sucralose, so if you hear rumors about them, don’t be misled by anecdotal information. Instead, check out the facts on Snopes.com (make sure you read the Snopes.com response, past the “example” provided) – and lay the myths to rest!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.




Ingredients in low calorie sweeteners are approved by experts.

How Are Low-Calorie Sweetener Ingredients Approved?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.


I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA®Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

As a food and nutrition expert, one of the questions I’m asked more than any other is, “How do you know low-calorie sweeteners are safe?” Since I’m a regular user of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products and other low-calorie sweeteners, the answer to that question is as important to me as it is to my family, friends and clients.

SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (also known as the ingredient sucralose) was approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998 based on the data provided in hundreds of studies.

These data were reviewed and evaluated by the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, which provides expert assessment of the available research on a wide range of subjects, such as biology, food science, nutrition and food technology. Their job is to analyze all of the complex scientific studies with the specific goal of determining any impact on public health.

Food regulatory agencies in other countries around the world are also charged with deciding if ingredients, such as those found in low-cal sweeteners, are safe. SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener has been approved in over 80 countries by agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada, National Food Authority of Australia/New Zealand, and the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization.

I’m confident in the decisions reached by these experts not just because they are highly respected in their relative fields – which they are – but because they and their families eat the same foods the rest of us do. To me, it’s like trusting the competence of the pilot once I board a plane. It helps knowing we’re all in this together.

In fact, the more consensus there is in the scientific community, the better I feel, and the more likely I am to incorporate the prevailing professional opinions into my personal life and practice as a registered dietitian.

That’s why I have no doubt about the safety of the SPLENDA® Products I use to sweeten my Earl Grey tea each morning, and other products I enjoy throughout the week made with low-cal sweeteners. The blog posts and website crusades that try to discredit low-cal sweeteners do not sway me. They are based on opinions, not a rigorous review of the data. And a single study that seems to contradict the hundreds of others that support the safety of a sweetener does not change my mind, no matter how loud the media coverage may be.

I will continue to review the emerging research about low-cal sweeteners, but the currently available science tells us they are safe. The experts have given them thumbs up so there’s no debate for me. Low-cal sweeteners are a welcome addition to my balanced diet.

For more information, visit:


Fact or Fiction: Is sucralose safe?

Fact vs. Fiction: Sucralose Dangers and Side Effects

This post was written as a guest blog for Splenda Living. You can read the original post here

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

We’ve all been told at one time or another that there’s no such thing as a silly question. If you’re a parent or a teacher you’ve probably even made that remark yourself. Asking for more information when you don’t understand something is the key to learning.

I have to keep this truism in mind whenever I am asked about the safety of low-calorie sweeteners, such as sucralose (the no-calorie sweetener used, for example, in SPLENDA® Sweetener products). That’s because to me, the answer is simple. I know that low-calorie sweeteners are among the most thoroughly tested, and continually tested, ingredients in the food supply, but everyone else doesn’t know this. And based on all of the available research, they are approved in the US by the FDA for people of all ages.

Since I still get questions from people about whether there are any dangers or side effects from using SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (sucralose), I decided to answer them here for the benefit of all of my readers – especially those who may have thought it was a silly question to ask.

Does Sucralose Cause Digestive Problems?

Digestive problems such as bloating and gas are often due to undigested material passing through the gut, which is then fermented by the friendly bacteria residing there. This does not happen with sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. Just as sucralose is not fermented by the bacteria in the mouth (so it does not contribute to tooth decay), it is not fermented by the bacteria in the gut either, so it won’t produce gas and bloating.

People who do experience discomfort after eating foods or drinks sweetened with sucralose are advised to check the food label to see if other ingredients might be the cause. Sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol and mannitol (which are not found in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products), can be a trigger if too much is eaten; the same applies to synthetic fibers, such as inulin and chicory root.

What Happens to Sucralose after It Enters Our Bodies?

Sucralose is water soluble and it does not accumulate in the body and is not broken down for energy – so it has no calories. About 85% of the sucralose we consume is excreted in our stool unchanged, while the remaining 15% is passively absorbed then excreted quickly in the urine. It is eliminated rapidly from the body with no tendency for increased plasma concentrations with continued consumption (or use). More on how the body processes sucralose:https://blog.splenda.com/how-splenda-no-calorie-sweetener-can-be-calorie-free.

How is Sucralose Used by the Body?

Sucralose is not metabolized for energy in mammals, so it provides us with no calories. It also is not recognized as a carbohydrate, so does not affect our blood glucose levels or insulin requirements. In studies where high doses were given to people with and without diabetes, it did not affect glucose control both when subjects were fasted or following a meal. And when given repeatedly over time, it did not raise A1C levels (a longer term measure of average blood glucose). The primary effect sucralose has on us is the experience of a sweet taste when we eat or drink something sweetened with it.

Enjoy SPLENDA® Sweeteners as Part of a Balanced Diet

Foods sweetened with sucralose can be a great addition to a balanced healthy diet. If you have a problem after eating or drinking something sweetened with it, it’s important to not jump to conclusions. By taking a look at the entire situation you may realize something else is responsible for the way you feel. Maybe you ate too fast or had too much to eat and drink or didn’t have a well-balanced meal. Making some changes in your usual eating habits may be all that is needed to help you feel better.

When people eat the right variety of foods in the right amounts to meet their nutritional needs, and get enough physical activity to maintain a healthy body weight, they tend to feel great! It all comes down to maintaining a healthy lifestyle so you can look and feel your best. Foods sweetened with sucralose are one tool to help you manage your calories from sugar, which might be an important tool for some of us on the road to better eating.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating again.

For more information:


Dr. Oz continues to make unsupported claims about sugar substitutes

Misinformation About Sugar Substitutes Continues on The Dr. Oz Show

You can see and hear my interview with The Skinny On Low Cal about the recent Dr. Oz Show that continued his misguided attack on low calorie sweeteners here: Myth-busting the Recent Dr. Oz segment on Low Calorie Sweeteners . Don’t be fooled by all his circus tricks. The published and peer-reviewed science says these sweeteners are safe and an effective tool for weight management when used as part of a balanced diet along with regular exercise. That is also the opinion of international food regulatory agencies and trusted health organizations including the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


Disclosure: I am a consultant to the Calorie Control Council, but all statements are my own.

exercising and eating right are part of a healthy lifestyle

10 Ways to Improve Your Health

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


With all the talk about who should pay for healthcare we sometimes forget the most important way to lower healthcare costs is by taking good care of ourselves. While some illnesses are unavoidable, most are preventable. Use these 10 Ways to Improve Your Health as your premium payment for the best health insurance policy money can’t buy.

1. Curb Excesses – If you have an addiction or compulsive behavior, such as smoking or drinking excessively, it will deplete your physical condition and your bank account. Investing in professional help to treat them now will reap returns in improved health and wealth for the rest of your life.

2. Express Yourself – Everyone needs an emotional outlet to relieve the normal stresses of everyday life. Don’t be afraid to cry when you hurt or laugh out loud when something strikes you funny. Some people turn to writing their thoughts in a journal to express themselves, while others use creative outlets like music, art or even cooking.

3. Maintain Your Smile – Not brushing your teeth properly can be as damaging to your health as not brushing at all. Bacteria in the mouth that is not removed by good oral care may contribute to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. And since the health of your teeth is directly connected to the quality of your diet, the effort pays off in more ways than one.

4. Take Precautions – Accidents are the fifth major cause of death in the United States. Basic safety measures can prevent many of them and reduce the severity of the injuries that may occur. Make sure you always wear a seat belt, drive within the speed limit, wear sun glasses and sun screen when outdoors, use the right sports gear, and are careful around ladders and water.

5. Eat Well – Focusing on health instead of weight when making food choices pays big dividends with every bite since good nutrition is the best preventive medicine there is. Even if you can’t lose all the weight you should, it’s worth eating well to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including many types of cancer.

6. Make Face Time – Connecting with family and friends on Face Book and other social networks is fine, but should not replace face-to-face meetings. A small but close circle of people you can spend time with is more valuable to your quality of life than having hundreds of friends you never see or talk to.

7. Move More – Instead of thinking about all of the exercise you’re supposed to be doing, just try to get up out of your chair to stand, pace or put your body in motion whenever you can. The goal is to decrease the number of hours a day you spend sitting. Medical experts found women who sit more than six hours a day are 94% more likely to die than those who are not inactive for long periods of time.

8. Check-Up + Follow Up – Just like birthdays and anniversaries, routine dental and medical check-ups should be permanent dates on your calendar. If you keep these annual appointments with your primary care physician and dentist you will have fewer unscheduled visits to treat pain and problems that could have been prevented.

9. Stretch Often – The benefits of routine stretching include improved circulation, stress relief, more flexible joints, and better balance so fewer falls. A good time to do some total body stretches is before getting out of bed in the morning or after a shower when the muscles are warmed up.

10. Sleep Enough – Something as basic as sleep is difficult for the millions of Americans who suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, lowered immune response, accidents, depression and early death. Treating sleep as a necessity, not a luxury, is an important way to prevent illness and prolong life.

Healthy living tips for the 50+ brought to by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life.

teenage girl smoking

New Threat for Those With Teenage Smoking Habit

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Smoking cigarettes is a rite of passage for many teenagers, but can have serious consequences for some. New research indicates people who develop a teenage smoking habit can become hooked for life if they have a certain genetic profile for nicotine addiction. The genes that get them hooked on tobacco also make it harder for them to quit as adults.

The study looked at the effects of nicotine on over 1000 men and women, starting at age 11 and continuing until they were 38 years old. Researchers followed the participants to learn when they first tried smoking, how soon after did they became daily smokers, when did they advance to being heavy smokers, did they became nicotine dependent, and what happened when tried to quit. The findings were published online in JAMA Psychiatry on March 27, 2013

Why It’s Harder For Some People to Quit Smoking Than Others

The data collected showed those with the higher genetic risk profile were:

  • not more likely to initiate smoking as teens than those without the genome
  • more likely to convert to daily smokers as teenagers
  • more likely to be smoking a pack a day by age 18
  • going to make a more rapid progression from smoking initiation to heavy smoking
  • more likely to develop nicotine dependence
  • going to smoke almost 7,300 more cigarettes than the average smoker by the time they were 38
  • more likely to fail at smoking cessation
  • going to have a higher predictability of smoking using than family history
  • not more likely to become heavy smokers if they began smoking as adults rather than as teens

Know Your Risk Before You Start

The researchers concluded that there is a “vulnerable” period during the teen years for those who have this genetic profile that makes them more susceptible to the effects of nicotine. Finding a way to identify these individuals and intervene before they take that first puff on a cigarette may be the public health success story of the 21st century.

Take a Walk While Trying to Quit

For teens who already have a smoking habit, taking a 20 minute walk several times a week while participating in the American Lung Association’s Not-On-Tobacco program may help them quit, says a study published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The study involved 233 teenagers between the ages of 14-19 in West Virginia who reported smoking at least one cigarette in the past 30 days. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Brief intervention (10-15 minutes of advice about the harmful effects of smoking); participation in the Not-On-Tobacco program (N-O-T); or N-O-T plus physical activity (N-O-T+FIT).

The results supported the benefits of more physical activity for all three groups, but the best results were seen with N-O-T+FIT combination. They also found:

  • teens in all 3 groups who increased the number of days in which they had at least 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity were more likely to significantly reduce their total number of daily cigarettes
  • teens in the N-O-T+FIT group who increased the number of days in which they exercised for 20 minutes or more were the most likely to reduce their cigarette usage
  • teens in N-O-T+FIT who exercised 30 minutes or more were more likely to quit smoking than those who similarly increased their physical activity in the other two groups
  • in all 3 groups, being active 30 minutes per day did not require a moderate-to-vigorous level to count

Getting Healthy One Step At A Time

The researchers could not tell why the exercise helped the kids reduce their smoking, but did say one healthy behavior often encourages others. They also said that even if a teen doesn’t reduce their smoking, the exercise is still good for their health.

Primary care physicians and medical specialists

It’s National Doctors’ Day: How to Find an MD

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Have you bought a new refrigerator lately? If so, a national study suggests you spent more time researching that purchase than selecting your medical doctor (MD). That doesn’t sound right to me. After all, your refrigerator just keeps your food fresh; your physician helps keep you alive.

This finding raises some important questions. How can you get a good physician referral? Does everyone need a primary care doctor?

In honor of National Doctors’ Day, (March 30th), I’d like to review the features that may help you find an MD.

Start with questions. If all of the physicians on a list are equally qualified, what are the features that would matter to you beyond their credentials and experience? Only you can decide if the age or gender of your doctor provides some added measure of competence. Other questions you may want to consider are: Do you want a doctor who has electronic medical records and accepts emails from patients? Are you looking for a physician who will tell you what to do or let you be a partner in your own care? How close are the offices and in what hospitals do they have admitting privileges? How easy is it to get an appointment?

Ask around. Friends and family who have a doctor they like will be able to tell you about their doctor’s personality and how well their office is run based on personal experience. That’s valuable information you won’t find on a resume.

Pick the right primary. If you are in good health and just need a doctor for routine exams and treatments, a family-practice physician or general internist can meet your needs. But if you have a chronic medical condition that must be managed, such as diabetes, you may be better served by a specialist, such as an endocrinologist, with a diversified staff to meet your primary care needs. Similarly, women going through menopause may want a gynecologist as their primary-care giver, and those over 65 may prefer a geriatrician who can deal with multiple age-related issues.

Add some specialists. Once you have a trusted primary care doctor, that is the first person you should turn to when you need a physician referral to other specialists or surgeons. You may then ask friends and family about the specialists they use, and why, to see if any of the same names show up.

Check credentials. No matter how favorable a recommendation may be for a particular specialist, it is important to check whether they are certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties. There are 24 medical specialties and you want a practitioner who has completed an approved residency program and passed the written exam for their specialty. You should also verify that all your physicians have current licenses in the state in which the practice. This is available from the American Medical Association.

Know who’s covered. Depending on the type of health insurance policy you have, you will either be able to use the physicians and specialists of your choice or have to select from the approved providers in your plan. If you see a doctor outside of your plan, there will be extra charges.

Once you find an MD you’re happy with, you may want to show him or her how much appreciate all that they do for you as we celebrate National Doctor’s Day. One if the best ways is follow their instructions and take good care of yourself!

Pill dispenser filled with medications

Important Holiday Safety Message About Drugs

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


If you are entertaining for the holidays and will have children in your home, there is something else you must add your checklist: Safe storage of all medications. That includes any drugs you have on hand for your pets, plus vitamin supplements, herbal medications and botanical treatments, too.

Why? Misuse of adult medication by children is a major source of accidents in the home.

This is a personal safety message that deserves our attention. The number of accidental drug poisonings in children is on the rise because the number of prescription drugs being used by adults is increasing. Since there are more drugs around the house, there are more opportunities for children to find them. And when they do, their curiosity takes over.

Accidental drug ingestion was responsible for 86% of Emergency Department (ED) visits for poisoning in children last year. Another way to look at this horrifying, and preventable, statistic is that every 8 minutes another child is being treated for medicine poisoning.

It’s frightening to think that the chances of a child experiencing a drug overdose from the non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs is equal to those for the use of illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine, but it’s true. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported in 2008 that both forms of drug abuse resulted in 1 million ED visits per year.

Holiday Precautions

The danger of accidental drug ingestion by children increases during the holidays when family and friends from out of town gather together. Whether you are hosting guests or are one yourself, you must take precautions to keep drugs out of sight and reach of children.

  • The easiest way for young children to sample medications is when guests leave them on night stands in those colorful pill dispensers. Stash them in a hard-to-reach place.
  • Older children may discover them if sharing a bathroom with a house guest who leaves them in plain sight. Zip them up in a shaving or cosmetic case.
  • A street-smart adolescent may rifle through suitcases, purses, and coat pockets looking for them. Count your pills to know exactly how many you have at all times.

Get Rid of Unneeded Drugs

Prescription medications have a job to do, and once, done, should be disposed of. They should never be shared with anyone else since the dose for each prescription is based on the user’s age, size and symptoms, plus any other factors that might interfere with the medication. If you aren’t a licensed physician, you shouldn’t be prescribing medication to anyone else.

  • If you have leftover medicine because you couldn’t tolerate what was initially prescribed or recommended, the old drugs are useless to you. Get rid of them.
  • If you missed a few doses of a prescribed medication and have some leftover pills, they won’t help if your problem reoccurs. Get rid of them.
  • Drugs have an expiration date. Some lose potency after that date, some become toxic. Get rid of them.
  • Prescription drugs and OTC medications that are no longer in their original containers with original their instructions cannot be checked for their expiration date. Get rid of them.
  • Any change in the color, consistency or smell of a medication indicates a problem, even if the drug is still within its expiration date. Get rid of it.

Most important of all: Don’t assume those child-proof closures that are so difficult for us to open will protect the little ones. Nothing is ever 100% childproof.

Surgery being performed on a properly prepped patient

Lower Risks of Surgery With Pre-surgery Diet

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Although some surgical procedures are called “elective,” I have a hard time believing anyone ever really elects to have their body cut open so repairs can be made inside. What people are really choosing is when to have their surgery. No matter when you schedule it, it’s still pretty scary.

Even if you pick a date and get through the procedure, the risks of surgery don’t end when you’re all stitched up. The chances of an infection after surgery and other post-operative complications, such as hemorrhaging, blood clots, and pain, are very high.

Knowing how to reduce those complications is definitely an option I would elect. And a new study suggests that our pre-surgery diet may hold the key to a better recovery.

Reducing Surgical Stress

As important as surgery is to repairing the body, it is also a form of trauma. The more surgeons know about how to minimize surgical trauma, the better the recovery process is for their patients. Most of their attention has been focused on protecting vital organs and blood vessels, but now scientists are looking at how fat responds to stress.

Fat is a major component of the body and contrary to popular opinion, is viable, active tissue. Cutting through it during surgery is a source of trauma, or stress. Early evidence suggests that the trauma to fatty tissue in the body results in a change in the chemical balance of our fat cells that can negatively impact recovery time after surgery.

The Pre-Surgical Diet

In a study using mice, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found surgical trauma rapidly affected the fat tissues located both close to and distant from the surgical site. By changing the diets of the mice before surgery, they were able to affect inflammation, infection and wound healing in the mice.

A high fat diet before surgery produced the worst outcomes, while mild food restriction produced the best results. The researchers concluded that changing the pre-surgery diet may be an effective and inexpensive way to reduce the stress of surgery. The next step is to test their hypothesis on human subjects.

The study was published in the April 2013 issue of Surgery.