Health Prevention, Nutrition Bits

How’s your vitamin D level? 9 factors to consider.

May 31, 2015
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Within the last decade – researchers have discovered that not only is vitamin D important to your bone health, but as a hormone it regulates of muscle health (including both skeletal and heart muscle), immune response, insulin and blood sugar, and regulation of calcium and phosphorus metabolism. With so much research pointing toward the importance of vitamin D for our overall health, this newsletter article from the Harvard Medical School caught our eye.

According to 2011 National Center for Health Data statistics, almost one in three Americans has vitamin D blood levels below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), the threshold that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) says is needed for good bone health. Some experts say even higher levels are needed. Figuring out all the factors that can affect a person’s vitamin D levels is complicated. You can get the vitamin from food (mainly because it’s been added; few foods are natural sources of vitamin D) and by taking supplements (many doctors recommend taking 800 IU of vitamin D3 a day).

But vitamin D is also produced by the body in a complex process that starts when rays in the invisible ultraviolet B (UVB) part of the light spectrum are absorbed by the skin. The liver, and then the kidneys, are involved in the steps that eventually result in a bioavailable form of the vitamin that the body can use.

A review paper about the many factors influencing a person’s vitamin D levels appeared in 2011 in Acta Dermato-Venerologica, a Swedish medical journal. Here are nine interesting factors identified in the paper:

1. The latitude where you live. At higher latitudes, the amount of vitamin D–producing UVB light reaching the earth’s surface goes down in the winter because of the low angle of the sun. In Boston, for example, little if any of the vitamin is produced in people’s skin tissue from November through February. Short days and clothing that covers legs and arms also limit UVB exposure.

2. The air pollution where you live. Carbon particulates in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other materials scatter and absorb UVB rays. Ozone absorbs UVB radiation, so holes in the ozone layer could be a pollution problem that winds up enhancing vitamin D levels.

3. Your use of sunscreen — in theory. Sunscreen prevents sunburn by blocking UVB light, so theoretically, sunscreen use lowers vitamin D levels. But as a practical matter, very few people put on enough sunscreen to block all UVB light, or they use sunscreen irregularly, so sunscreen’s effects on our vitamin D levels might not be that important. An Australian study that’s often cited showed no difference in vitamin D between adults randomly assigned to use sunscreen one summer and those assigned a placebo cream.

4. The color of your skin. Melanin is the substance in skin that makes it dark. It “competes” for UVB with the substance in the skin that kick-starts the body’s vitamin D production. As a result, dark-skinned people tend to require more UVB exposure than light-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D.

5. The temperature of your skin. Warm skin is a more efficient producer of vitamin D than cool skin. So, on a sunny, hot summer day, you’ll make more vitamin D than on a cool one.

6. Your weight. Fat tissue sops up vitamin D, so it’s been proposed that it might be a vitamin D rainy-day fund: a source of the vitamin when intake is low or production is reduced. But studies have also shown that being obese is correlated with low vitamin D levels and that being overweight may affect the bioavailability of vitamin D.

7. Your age. Compared with younger people, older people have lower levels of the substance in the skin that UVB light converts into the vitamin D precursor, and there’s experimental evidence that older people are less efficient vitamin D producers than younger people. Yet the National Center for Health Statistics data on vitamin D levels fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that vitamin D inadequacy is a big problem among older people. They don’t show a major drop-off in levels between middle-aged people and older folks.

8. The health of your gut. The vitamin D that is consumed in food or as a supplement is absorbed in the part of the small intestine immediately downstream from the stomach. Stomach juices, pancreatic secretions, bile from the liver, the integrity of the wall of the intestine — they all have some influence on how much of the vitamin is absorbed. Therefore, conditions that affect the gut and digestion, like celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease, and cystic fibrosis, can reduce vitamin D absorption.

9. The health of your liver and kidneys. Some types of liver disease can reduce absorption of vitamin D because the ailing liver isn’t producing normal amounts of bile. With other types, steps essential to vitamin D metabolism can’t occur — or occur incompletely. Levels of the bioactive form of vitamin D tend to track with the health of the kidneys, so in someone with kidney disease, bioactive vitamin D levels decrease as the disease gets worse, and in end-stage kidney disease, the level is undetectable.

What are the best natural sources of vitamin D? Besides sunshine, salmon, sardine and shrimp… read on

Body

Simple Steps to Fight Inflammation

May 6, 2015
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The Mayo Clinic’s Brent Bauer, M.D. and Harvard Medical School have come to the same conclusion, inflammation in the body is caused by too much saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and refined white carbohydrates. This imbalance causes fatigue, bodily aches and contributes to illness and disease. While exercising is a key component in fighting inflammation nutrition is even more important as are some of these lifestyle choices.

To decrease inflammation, we have combined information form nutrition expert Sloan Hemmer and lifestyle information from Dr. Dale Breseden of the Buck Institute.

Nutrition:

Omega-3’s such as salmon, oh how I love thee salmon (miracle food), walnuts, soybeans, chia and flax seeds
Dark berries such as blueberries (fruit highest in antioxidants), blackberries, cranberries and pomegranates
Dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach (miracle foods)
Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocados and nuts like walnuts and pistachios
Green tea is not only good for inflammation but has many more health benefits such as lowering your LDL, helping boost your metabolism and fighting obesity due to it’s powerful antioxidant, catechins!

All of the above combined not only help fight inflammation but ultimately helps fight disease, prevent cancer and cognitive decline. As a general rule of thumb, try to consume 3-5 different colors at every meal.

Lifestyle:
• Exercise for at least 30 minutes, at least four times per week.
• Keep your waist size less than 35 inches (for women) or 40 inches (for men).
• Reduce stress. High cortisol levels, associated with stress, damage your brain. Try relaxing walks, yoga, music, etc.
• Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night (preferably 8).
• Optimize hygiene with regular baths or showers, cleaning under nails, regular tooth-brushing with electric toothbrush, routine flossing; some like to clean sinuses, as well. And for a brain teaser, brush your teeth with your non dominate hand. If you are left handed, use your right hand.
• Don’t smoke.

Brainy

Plan Your Appointments

March 27, 2015
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After Pilates class on Saturday, I walked to my local nail salon eager to revise my Frankenstein looking chipped black nails for something, well a little more polished. To my horror (literally you should have seen my face) they were booked. The manicurist asked if I had an appointment —- an appointment, hmm what a novel idea. My nails (still chipped) were the impetus for this post.

For the most part, each year you’ll have the same type of appointments — two dental cleanings, one doc visit, six hair colorings, 25 nail appointments. What if you got organized and actually booked these in advance? Think about the time you would save, the preferential dates and hours of appointments you’d secure and a whole lot less stress from begging for someone to “fit you in”.

Here are our five best tips for getting your appointment life organized:

1. Make a list of what appointments you’ll need for the year and categorize them. For example:

Beauty:

Hair, Nails, Waxing

Medical:

Dentist, Doctor, Acupuncturist, Optometrist

Other:

DMV, Accountant, Psychic

2. Look at each individual type of appointment and decide in what month you’ll need to have the appointment.

For example:

Hair: Every Other Month

Nails: Every Month

Accountant: Once Per Year

3. During the first week of each new quarter: January 1, April 1, July 1, October 1 – book all of  your appointments for that three month time period.

For example:

Quarter 1: 2 hair appointments, 3 nail appointments and an accountant appointment need to be made.

4. Store your appointments on an online calendar like Google Calendar so you can access it from any computer.

5. Set a reminder two weeks before each scheduled appointment to confirm it still works with your schedule — we get it, things come up!

MISS Musings, MISS University

Search Terms: Understanding Your Customer

March 23, 2015
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The Internet has forever shifted the buyer/seller relationship. As David Meerman Scott shares in his best-selling book The New Rules of PR and Marketing, traditional media like advertising assumes that the customer is ready to buy, but today’s consumer want to be educated before they make any purchase decision. Think about what you would you do if you were in the market to buy, for example, a new car. What would you do first? Answer – you’d Google it.

What are customers looking for – and how to help them

Today’s businesses have the opportunity to go directly to their consumer, which is why an online presence is so important. Your website allows you to talk directly with your customer and share how you meet your customers’ needs through the products and services that you offer. But as my co-author Pat Gallagher and I share in our book Big Game Bigger Impact, too often companies focus on their product’s attributes versus the needs of their customers in their marketing, and then don’t understand why their messages aren’t connecting with their customer. First, you need to identify the needs of your customer and then demonstrate how your products or services fulfill that need. As marketing guru Seth Godin said very succinctly, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

Connecting with your customers through search terms

But how do you get customers to your sites in order to share how you meet their needs? Your site needs to be discoverable. There are a few different ways to rise in the ranks of Google, but today, we’re going to focus on specifically on search terms and how to think like your customer.

First, a definition. A search term is the exact word or set of words that a customer enters in Google or other web browser when they are doing a search. They are the natural language that a customer would use and not just keywords that online advertisers use to group like customers.

How to determine your own search terms  

The best place to start is what you want to be known for.

For example, when Soulstice Mind + Body Spa in Sausalito, CA introduced meditation to their suite of services, they wanted to be known as the go-to location in Marin County for meditation classes so they selected “meditation in Marin” as their most important search term. Learning where and how to do meditation in Marin County were two important needs of their customers. Or take Hawaii Islander, the premier online destination for all of your Hawaii travel needs. One of their popular customer services is customized travel itineraries that give the traveler a local’s knowledge of the best spots in Hawaii, so they want to be known for search terms such as  “how to plan a trip to Hawaii” and “Hawaii travel packages.”

Don’t know what your keyword phrases should be? If you are a Google Ad Words user, you can use the Google Keyword Tool for free. But if you are not, here are a few tips for identifying keyword phrases from the Wix Academy:

  • Be specific. When brainstorming keywords, chose words that describe what you and the services or products you sell. Are there words you can use to better describe for your business? For example, if you are known for your croissants, try “fresh croissants baked daily in San Rafael” versus just “San Rafael bakery.” Think about what differentiates your business from the competition.
  • Remember to put yourself in your client’s shoes. This isn’t what you’d Google to find your business but what your clients will Google. You might be describe yourself as an artisanal bakery but your clients might call you a coffee shop. Think like your clients do.
  • Get insights from your competition. Think of the terms your clients would use to find a business like yours online and then try Googling those terms. Do any of your competitors come up? If yes, you are on the right track.
  • Show off your specialities: If you have highly competitive terms, think about how you can be a little more specific to specialize. If you are a wedding photographer in Marin County, what else could you add that might differentiate you from the other wedding photographers. Do you have a specific style, like a photojournalistic approach versus a studio approach, that could set you apart? Showcase what makes your business special.

And in selecting your search terms, go multi-word. Here’s why:

  • Single word is too broad. Just typing in “meditation” or “Hawaii” would be too broad. For example, with our book Big Game Bigger Impact is about the lessons learned from hosting Super Bowl 50, so if we just selected “Super Bowl” as a search term, we would be very low in the Google rankings.  I’m looking for folks who are interested in the Super Bowl, but more specifically, those who are readers and would be interested in a book a particular Super Bowl – I need to be more specific.
  • The user is evolving. Research shows that users are typing in longer queries into Google. Users are more savvy and are more likely to be more specific in their queries so by having the right search terms, you can help the user find you quicker.
  • Search is customer driven. The goal is a 2-5 keyword phrase in natural language. Google has shifted away from keyword-focused content and more on natural language, so your search terms should reflect the way your customer would naturally search.

Put your search terms into action  

There are many things you can do with your keyword phrases on your website’s backend through meta descriptions and h1 and h2 tags, but even if you aren’t tech savvy, you can still make an impact.

  • Incorporate naturally. Ensure your search terms can be found on each of your website pages using natural language. And not just in the body copy; be sure to include in page and blog post titles, as image alt text, in your page descriptions, etc. Remember, it’s not about stuffing each page with nonsensical terms, which “turns off” the Google web crawlers. Search terms should be incorporated more organically into your site.
  • Write more. Google loves fresh content – it shows that a site is alive and well, and is a good source of information for Google users, so create more content that shows off those search terms naturally.

by Stephanie Martin

Stephanie Martin is the founder of marketing and communications consultancy, Martin Communications, and author of the book Big Game, Bigger Impact: How the Bay Area Redefined the Super Bowl Experience and the Lessons that Can Apply to Any Business.