Sugar Awareness Week: How to Triumph a Sugar-Free Diet

by MikeMeehan 1/20/2017 2:16 PM

You might have joined us earlier as we participated in Sugar Awareness Week. Our useful posts are still available on Facebook. Eating excessively sugary foods can cause tooth decay. But the right diet can lead to a healthy smile. This journal details what that diet might look like, as well as the challenges that might come along. Day 1 Shopping for groceries, I began weighing what parts of my diet would work in my favor against what would work against me: One favor — I didn’t drink soda regularly. And against me — Well, I still had a box of cookies in my pantry. I was participating in Sugar Awareness Week, which meant I had to give up sugar for an entire work week. The purpose, however, wasn’t to completely eliminate all sugar. I needed it to maintain proper blood sugar levels. The purpose was to eliminate refined sugars. At the store, the fresh foods (meat, fruits and vegetables) were easy. But for the others, I had to eye the nutritional information. Sugar goes by a lot of different names, so I made a list to watch out for. All in all, the first day wasn’t too bad. But I’d read accounts from people who’d accepted the challenge. “Just wait till the second day,” a lot of them had said. Day 2 By the start of Day 2, I’d already started to notice a difference. The night before, I’d gone to bed at 10:30, earlier than usual. Generally, it takes about 20 minutes to fall asleep, but I fell asleep right away. Then, this morning, when the alarm went off, I felt wide awake, whereas it typically takes about 20 minutes for the grogginess to lift. However, as I went through the day, I began to experience withdrawal symptoms. By mid-afternoon, I had a headache. It felt similar to going too long without coffee. Other symptoms, I had read, could include tiredness, lightheadedness, muscle aches and/or cramps. The best place to start, I figured, was to recognize the cause for craving. Was it boredom, stress or something deeper? This was difficult to identify. I’ve always known I had a sweet tooth; I just believed I had it relatively under control. I’d once made a pack of cake squares last for a month, and I still had bags of candy bars left from Halloween. Despite this, I was not exempt from the effects of refined sugars. Day 3 Waking up today, the headache from yesterday had subsided. But by the afternoon, the cravings had returned. Not only did I find myself craving snacks I knew had a lot of sugar — ice cream run, anyone? — I craved simple carbohydrates, like white bread. The reason, I learned, is simple carbohydrates turn into sugar quickly once they’re in the digestive process. That evening, friends came over, and we played board games. This helped distract me from the cravings. Another recommended way to fight cravings is to keep a journal. Lucky for me, I’m writing a blog. Day 4 This morning, I didn’t have time to prepare eggs, so I settled for an apple, a banana and broccoli, which I munched in the office. Yum. Actually, as I bit into the banana, I was surprised. It tasted sweeter than a banana had ever tasted before. I almost felt like I was cheating, as if I were biting into a sugar cube. Even the banana’s body seemed to glisten with what looked like sugar crystals. Maybe four days without refined sugar had made me crazy. Or perhaps my body had officially adapted to a diet of no refined sugar. Years of eating refined sugar, it seemed, had tempered my taste buds’ perception of sweetness in fruit. I expected the cravings to return by afternoon, because they’d struck the past two days around then. Come 3:30 p.m., they still hadn’t. Regardless, I made sure to drink lots of water, as water can help with the cravings. Without enough water in our system, we can start to feel tired. Our tendency, oftentimes, is to waken ourselves with sugar. By 4 p.m., I’d drunk about 105 ounces of water. In the evening, a friend invited me to dinner. When the server approached the table, I asked him if he knew which items contained hidden sugars. He didn’t. What about a list of nutritional information? As it turns out, not too many people ask about hidden sugars in their food. The server offered to do some sleuthing, but I just ordered a burger with provel cheese and no bun, and as a side, mashed potatoes. Biting into the burger, I tasted pepper. A seasoning had been applied, and seasonings are often hidden-sugar culprits. But I was also hungry, so I was willing to risk it. The burger was delicious. Day 5 At the office, somebody dropped off an assortment of sweets: Christmas tree cakes and brownies, lollipops. Normally, I wouldn’t have been able to ignore them. Today, I ate a banana instead. Another friend suggested we do lunch. This time, I had enough advance notice to research online the menus of nearby restaurants. Even some healthy options, like salads, I found, contained sugar — usually thanks to the dressings. Nevertheless, I found a sugar-free option — a sub sandwich wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun — and suggested we go there. By the afternoon, the office sweets began to bother me. I distracted myself with a quick physical activity, strolling the perimeter of the building. As I completed the work week, I had a new respect for sugar awareness. I’d felt the effects of refined sugar in my system, and I hadn’t even realized it was a problem! For the future, I doubt I’ll be as rigorous (like, I’ll probably get a bun on my next hamburger), but I’ll keep an eye open for hidden sugars. Of course, one thing won’t change: I’ll keep brushing twice and flossing daily!

Americans Want to See Their Dentist More, Survey Finds

by MikeMeehan 1/9/2017 1:14 PM

Americans want to see their dentist more. At least that’s according to this recent survey, the Adult Oral Health Survey, which sampled 1,025 Americans 18 years and older. The results found 41 percent of Americans don’t visit the dentist as often as they’d like. Among health practitioners listed, dentists ranked at the top. In fact, the second-place practitioner was 13 percentage points lower: dermatologists, at 28 percent. This might be good news, after a Gallup poll from 2014 indicated one-third of Americans hadn’t visited the dentist in the past year. Likewise, the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute reported most adults planned to visit the dentist in 2017 (77 percent), yet only a limited number had made the trip in 2015 (37 percent). Studies have shown a link between good oral health and overall well-being, as well as boosts in confidence. Both were indicated in The Adult Oral Health Survey. According to the survey, 79 percent of adults believe there is a connection between oral health and overall health. Adults who were extremely satisfied with their oral health rated their overall well-being as very good (48 percent), compared to those who were not satisfied (28 percent). And 63 percent reported good oral health helped them feel confident on a daily basis. This outranked contenders like having clear skin (56 percent) and being in shape (50 percent). Those who gave their oral health an “A” grade were 24 percent less likely to put the dentist at the top of the list of practitioners they wished to see more. Only 28 percent of adults who brush twice a day reported they didn’t see their dentist as much as they’d like, compared to 52 percent who brush less than twice a day. The Adult Oral Health Survey was conducted between December 16, 2015, and January 14, 2016, among a nationally representative sample, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

How to Enjoy Hockey without Hurting Your Smile

by MikeMeehan 1/6/2017 9:36 AM

Any hockey fans out there? Earlier this week, the St. Louis Blues had a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium during the Winter Classic 2017. It was a big game for several reasons: The 2016-’17 season marks the National Hockey League’s 100th anniversary. The St. Louis Blues are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Busch Stadium has been around for 10 years. Not only can hockey be fun to watch, it can be fun to play. And while the sport comes with many rewards, it can be dangerous to your eyes and teeth. Are the Risks of Hockey Worth the Rewards? Some of the rewards of hockey include: It improves fitness. Hockey improves cardiovascular fitness, as well as bone and muscle strength. It can decrease stress. When you play hockey, dopamine is released in your brain. This can make you happier and more relaxed. It can help you sleep better. This is also due to dopamine in the brain. You can learn teamwork and communication skills. You play hockey on a team. To get the puck down the rink, you have to communicate nonverbally with your teammates. You can concentrate better. Hockey has shifts. A shift is the amount of time a player, line or defense pair is on the ice. Typically, a shift lasts a minute, which, when you’re trying to give it all you got, can require a lot of focus. By learning to focus even after you start to tire, you can stay up on your game. This focus can spill into other areas of your life. You can make quick decisions. Because hockey is such a fast-paced sport, you have to sharpen your reflexes. It can build confidence. After seeing the gains from the game, hockey can encourage you to pursue and achieve other goals. However, hockey is one of the most dangerous sports when it comes to teeth and eye safety. It’s a full-contact sport. Sticks are slapped at the ice. Pucks can travel to speeds as high as 60 mph. Opponents check one another into walls. Any of these can cause damage to teeth and eyes. In fact, this article from the National Hockey League newsroom says losing teeth is just a part of the game. Four Reasons Hockey Injuries Can Be Devastating Losing teeth may be a part of the game of hockey, but it shouldn’t be a part of the bigger game of life. Nor should eye injuries be a part of that game. Here’s why: Missing teeth can make it harder to chew foods. Teeth break down food for proper digestion. Better chewing can better nourish your body, as chewing produces more saliva. Saliva can prevent plaque from building up around teeth and can also aid in the digestion process. Missing teeth can make it harder to speak. Teeth aid in speech. If you’re missing teeth, your tongue might readjust, which can affect your speaking skills. Injuries to the eye can affect your vision. This may seem like an obvious thing to write, but consider it for a moment. Your eyes are a window to the world. With impaired sight, it could feel like your window has some annoying smudges. Damage to teeth and eyes can affect your appearance. When you smile, the first feature many people notice is your teeth. Teeth support the lips and face. Some people have reported their noses and upper lips sagging after losing their two front teeth. Likewise, some people claim eyes are the first feature we fall in love with. Damage to either could rob you of your hard-earned confidence. Three Pieces You Need to Protect Your Eyes and Teeth When you play the sport, yes, you want to play for the love of the game. But protecting your eyes and teeth should be No. 1. It’s ok, though. You have a few options: Always wear a face mask. This doesn’t just apply to goalies. A face mask can protect both your eyes and teeth, and is durable enough to stop a puck flying at 60 mph. Wear sports goggles. Sports goggles can offer added protection to the eyes where the cracks in the wire mesh of a face mask does not. Wear a mouth guard. A mouth guard can protect your mouth and jaw. Unfortunately, if a puck flies at your face at 60 mph, a tiny piece of plastic probably isn’t going to do much to save your tooth. Hence the importance of also wearing a face mask. However, the mouth guard isn’t completely useless. Without a mouth guard, the puck might cause far more extensive damage to your jaw. Hockey, like any other sport, does come with its enjoyable moments. But it can be dangerous. Get out, and enjoy the game. Just make sure to protect your eyes and teeth when you do!

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