Are you lactose intolerant?
We don't recommend eating a lot of cheese, because it's loaded with saturated fats and proteins that may cause changes in your gut microbiome and stimulate inflammation. But we also know that it's a food that inspires passionate opinion based on texture, taste and smell. Apparently the author James Joyce was among those who find cheese to be, well, far too cheesy. He once said: "A corpse is meat gone bad … and what's cheese? Corpse of milk." Highly lactose intolerant, you might say!
These days, as the population ages, more and more people are developing the condition. The sale of lactose-free products in the U.S. is expected to double from 2016 to 2020 and reach revenues of $700 million annually. "Lactose intolerance" means you're unable to fully digest the sugar (lactose) in milk, and you end up with potentially severe diarrhea, gas and bloating. So cheese, yogurt and milk chocolate are off the menu.
If you suspect that you're having gut problems after eating dairy, go on a five-day elimination diet. Ex out all dairy; make sure to read ingredient labels, as milk often is snuck into prepared foods. Then add a bit of dairy (low-fat, please) back into your diet to see when or if you have symptoms. If you turn out to be as intolerant as Mr. Joyce, you'll stop eating dairy. Just look at it this way: You're spared the heart-, brain- and gut-damaging effects of all that sat fat. And there are healthy dairy alternatives: almond and soymilk, and tofu.
Don't go bankrupt when drinking
In a memorable scene from "The Big Bang Theory," nerdy scientist Sheldon gets uncharacteristically drunk and wakes up in the morning to discover that he called Stephen Hawking repeatedly. The episode ends with a shot of Hawking's office door as a series of voicemails plays behind it. "Hawkman! It's your old buddy!" And then: "It's me again. I gave up string theory. You should give up black holes, and we should totally solve crimes together." And a few messages later: "Are you mad at me?"
Well, Sheldon isn't the only one making a costly mistake while inebriated. A survey by Finder.com estimates that Americans are paying the price for decisions made while under the influence — more than $30 billion to be precise — spent on what the researchers call "drunk purchases."
The survey also reveals that almost 50 percent of Americans who drink regularly (that's 68 million adults) admit to making purchases while drunk. The most common expenditure is for food, followed by shoes (?!) and clothes.
If you have a problem with alcohol (either as a binger or a steady drinker), seek help from a 12-step program or individual therapy, and get support from friends and family. To help prevent drunk spending …
If you come home tipsy, stay off your computer. Retailers are offering more sales after 9 p.m. to corner the drunk market. Yes, you'll be targeted. And remove presaved passwords or credit cards from shopping/food-delivery accounts. You don't want to wake up "the morning after" and discover a Big Bang to your bank account!
No need to put on relationship pounds
In the 2011 comedy "What's Your Number," Ally (Anna Faris) decides to revisit ex-boyfriends in hopes that one of them will turn out to be "the one." In one scene, she runs into an ex, Donald, and flashes back to their less-than-healthy relationship. Both were overweight. Ally suggests cooking, but Donald wants to go out to eat. Back in the present, both are clearly impressed by one another's newly acquired fit physiques.
Relationship-related weight gain seems to be an accepted fact these days. The theory is, as we get comfortable with our partner, we stop caring as much about how we look, our nutrition and our exercise level. But a new study looked at more than 2,000 people who were in a marriage or long-term relationship and found that a truly supportive relationship was associated with lower body weight in middle age.
If you've both been gaining weight, take the time to assess how you can be more supportive to each other, not just about nutrition and exercise (vitally important) but also about everyday life (that could eliminate eating due to stress, especially late at night).
Talk to one another about becoming "better health buddies." Find exercises to do together, like daily walking goals (10,000 steps), and plan for ways to meet them. Take a cooking class, or find and shop for healthy recipes to prepare. We bet working toward the common goal of a healthier lifestyle does more than make your RealAge up to 10 years younger; it'll add intimate zip to your relationship, too!
Opioids vs OTC pain relievers
A recent report in BMJ looked at the case of a 28-year-old male triathlete with hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). After surgery to sever sympathetic nerves in order to control the problem, he couldn't escape postoperative pain, despite taking medication and doing physical therapy. So he went to a spot where he'd started triathlons and jumped off a cliff into the icy seawater below. He returned to shore pain-free. Talk about a do-over!
We don't recommend jumping off a cliff to manage chronic pain, but there are smart ways to deal with it. We mention this because of recent headlines about a randomized clinical trial of 240 patients from a Veterans Affairs hospital who had moderate to severe chronic back, hip or knee pain. The researchers provided an opioid-taking group with immediate-release morphine, oxycodone or hydrocodone. A non-opioid group took acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The researchers found that the opioid medications "did not result in significantly better pain-related function over 12 months" than non-opioid medications.
But there's one thing the study didn't mention: While there are complications and potential for addiction from opioids, NSAIDs aren't without long-term problems. For example, taking NSAIDs for more than two weeks can cause intestinal bleeding, fecal incontinence, headaches and elevated blood pressure. High-dose, long-term acetaminophen usage is associated with liver toxicity.
Our recommendations: For chronic pain, get to a pain management specialist who explores medication choices along with meditation, acupuncture and physical therapy. Self-medication can be like jumping off a cliff! It may work, but there also may be serious side effects.
Pepper your meals with food as medicine
Sgt. Pepper may have led the Lonely Hearts Club Band for the Beatles in 1967, but we're promoting him to major general and spreading the pepper around as much as possible. Turns out this spice contains an ingredient called piperine that has amazing powers. It is, as a study in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology points out, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulatory, anti-asthmatic, anti-convulsant, anti-mutagenic, anti-mycobacterial, anti-amoebic and anti-cancer. Seems it also increases levels and activity of detoxifying enzymes and suppresses stem cell self-renewal.
And while research in the petri dish and in animals confirms these powers, researchers are hoping to show that it is just as useful in fighting cancer in humans as it is in turning a bland meal into a tasty one. While scientists explore how to harness the power of piperine, we say add it to your "food as medicine" pantry.
Grind fresh black pepper (make the effort) onto veggies, soups, salads, lean proteins like skinless chicken, and even onto sweet cantaloupe or in smoothies for some zing. (But avoid taking piperine in supplements or using excessively without talking to your doc, because piperine can increase the bioavailability of some drugs.)
Wondering what you can add to your meals to increase the heart-, brain- and gut-loving power of smart food choices? Here are six remarkable foods-as-medicine that you want to bring into your diet: black pepper, turmeric, salmon/sea trout, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts and berries. Bonus round: coffee, dark chocolate and red wine!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.