Archive for January, 2011

A Smile Means Friendship to Everyone!

January 31, 2011

So goes a line of the folk song, “It’s a Small World.” And just how can everyone enjoy the kind of dental health that makes a smile possible? 

Thanks to the North Country Molar Express, help is on the way for anyone who needs dental work here in the North Country. They are currently headquartered in Whitefield, as a program of the North Country Health Consortium (NCHC). 

In 2010, the Molar Express mobile unit held 165 oral health clinics in schools, nursing homes and community sites, providing cleanings, exams, fluoride treatments, sealants, restorative care and extractions.  The team includes a full-time dentist, Dr. Jeremy Draper, a registered dental hygienist, staff dental assistants and office manager, Amy Goyette. 

Tooth decay continues to be the single most chronic disease of US children, with nearly 1 in 5 preschoolers, 1 in 2 second graders, and 3 in 4 adolescents experiencing tooth decay. Caries continue into adulthood. 1 in 3 US adults have untreated tooth decay.

Anyone who has difficulty speaking, tasting and chewing, has even bigger challenges learning in school, holding a job, or functioning effectively in the community. The act of chewing alone has a powerful effect on our life. We enjoy the wonder of ‘chewing the rag’ with friends, ‘chewing over’ some new idea in our minds, and ‘chewing our food’ so that it will be digested easily and well in our systems.

 “The health of the mouth and teeth is a vital part of a person’s overall physical health,” says Martha McLeod, Executive director of the NCHC. “Most jobs in the North Country are in tourism and the service industry; personal appearance, especially smiling, is important.” The goal of the Molar Express is to educate people about the link between dental care and chronic disease. Better yet, the team provides dental care to children and adults needing it.

 The program is designed to help uninsured folks needing dental care but who are unable to access it through local dentists. A sliding scale for payment is clearly aimed at making care affordable for everyone who qualifies. Amy Goyette is the person to contact at 603-837-2643 x 604, or e-mail: agoyette@nchcnh.org.

 This is definitely kitchen table talk to be passed around among friends and neighbors as an act of friendship that leaves everyone smiling.

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Healthy Parenting

January 29, 2011

There’s a buzz over Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. What is it with American people that we often tend to look at new ideas or other people’s experiences as something that threatens us or our values?

How many people are feeling guilty because they didn’t expect great performances from their children? Every age has its own pattern on the pendulum swinging through time. In the 30s, there was a big push to feed babies at set times (not necessarily when they were hungry). Emphasis was on doing everything on schedule, in line with the Industrial Revolution. Careers were locked in early on.

Then Dr. Spock came along and softened all the rules, yet many looked to him as the rule setter (a role he never wanted), and looked up their every problem in Baby and Child Care to see what Dr. Spock would do.

Then came the hippie generation and the “Do what you love; the money will follow” mantra. Parents were encouraged to let their kids follow their dreams.

Amy Chua’s journey has people asking themselves: “What have I done? What should I do?” Self imposed guilt and anger are squirting out of people who feel threatened by even having to question at all.

I wonder when we’ll get the point that we each have to figure out what the best route is to take as a parent, given our own peculiar situations, and our unique children. The bottom line seems to be to love and respect our children, do our best to stay attuned to them, keep an open mind to new possibilities as parents, figure out approaches that work for our particular family constellations, and stop blocking progress by getting angry or blaming others for our problems or lack of whatever we call success. We just may end up enjoying our most successful parenting year ever!

King’s Legacy for Health

January 21, 2011

Let’s keep the record straight on Martin Luther King’s warning to us: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

 Perhaps that warning was too strong for people who think otherwise. The fact that a pentagon official would attempt to twist King’s sentiments makes many of us wonder just who did silence Dr. King.

 We still have kinks to be worked out to provide our nation with health care reasonably. However, it does seem a bit out of kilter to be keeping a lid on how much we are willing to spend for health care, but leaving the lid almost totally off of defense spending. What does this say about our priorities as a nation? Whose quality of life do we value?

 Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower warned against military spending that creates a deficit, and he kept the lid on. Dr. King simply clarified needed priorities.

 In the time since, we have grown steadily passive about the lifestyle changes that continue to bring us ill health. Restaurants can serve us more food than we need, and at higher prices than many can afford, without increasing their wait staff. They simply increase their profits. This practice does not create more jobs; it just raises health care expenses to treat the conditions caused by overeating, or generally over consuming the things that keep us out of balance.

 It takes some planning now to find fertile seeds for our gardens. With genetically modified sterile seed dominating the market, we don’t have the option of saving seed each year for the next crop. It was once a simple matter to add natural amendments to the soil and grow healthy, strong plants that resisted disease naturally. Today, that practice is challenged and along with it, our health. Instead of creating jobs, this practice is putting farmers out of business, and threatening the diversity of our plant life, while creating wealth for GMO corporations.

 Food for thought: Dr. King encouraged us to figure out ways to get along together, that “returning violence for violence multiplies violence,” and “an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.” Are we willing to take the time to figure out how to care for each other and keep each other well?

Health Care Reform and Individual Responsibility

January 13, 2011

The tragedy in Arizona shakes and reverberates through our nation, a clear wake-up call to us to figure out how to keep each other well so that health care does not continue to be a major controversial issue in our country. 

There is something wrong with the equation that the increase in our aging population means that health care businesses are the job market of the future. The new adage seems to be “To be old is to be sick.” Yet, it has been clearly stated through the ages, from the Tao Te Ching through to Maggie Kuhn’s claim, “We all have to get old, but we do not have to get sick.”  

Today, television airs popular health specials about diets leading to robust health. One thing they do have in common is ‘moderation.’ True, it is hard to observe moderation when eating out, as many of us do. Today’s sandwiches are about twice the size of those served 20 years ago, and today’s dinner plate is not only 1” larger in diameter, it is also piled higher with fries or a humungous potato, along with twice as much meat or fish, and smaller servings of green and yellow vegetables than we were served 20 years ago. 

We are clearly not sick of being sick yet. Otherwise we would be reaching for a goal that would bring much faster general health and an automatic reduction in health care demands, not one that clearly keeps our health spiraling down. 

How much health could be bought with what we now spend on health care? In the United States, we represent so many different ethnic backgrounds that the idea of one particular diet to suit all needs makes no sense. We could be enjoying a variety of health promoting foods rather than leaning so heavily on double servings of everything from popcorn to fries and fried foods in general. We could put sodas back into the occasional drink category instead of using them regularly with their appetite stimulating, bone deteriorating effects.

 Our supermarkets and health food stores have a fantastic array of bright fruits and vegetables as well as bulk stores of whole grains and beans that form the base of every diet imaginable. Unless we are doing heavy physical labor, 4 ounces of meat or fish will give us the amounts of nutrients we need without overtaxing our systems with health problems and financial stress.

 If we are truly interested in Health Care Reform, we need to take responsibility right in our own homes to make it happen. We need to keep each other well by collaborating on what we learn, not just about what our representatives in Washington are doing, but by taking a candid look at what each of us is doing to bring about good health.

GPS Wonders

January 1, 2011

Brenda Watson recently presented her Gut Protection System (GPS) on Public Television. I like the acronym because it’s something people will grasp easily. The idea that our gut, or gastro-intestinal tract, is the seat of all illness is nothing new. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, as well as Macrobiotics, are based on the same claim. Even Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine.”

A reader questioned my suggestion for Miso soup as a means of alkanizing the digestive tract. Miso does contain linoleic acid (which lowers cholesterol) and glutamic acid (which decreases our craving for sweets/sugar.) In addition, the fermentation process produces B12 vitamins, natural enzymes and probiotics that help to digest our foods. The end result alkalizes our digestive tract.

Fermented digestive aids have been with us through the ages in most every culture. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and kombucha are a few of them and they can be inexpensively made at home or found in more costly forms in health food stores, supermarkets and on line. We tend to think about them more often during the winter months in New England when colds, flu, and bacterial infections make their rounds.

When antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial infections, they kill off both the harmful as well as the helpful bacteria we need to maintain our immune response. When taking antibiotics, unless we refortify our systems with probiotics, we risk catching the next ‘whatever’ that presents itself.

Probiotics can be found in health food stores and some pharmacies. The rule of thumb is to be sure that each time released capsule contains at least 15 billion live active cultures in a daily serving. There need to be at least 10 different strains of lactobacillus and bifidus to recolonize the digestive tract. Always check the bottom of the bottle for the expiration date and keep it refrigerated.

With the rise in MRSA and other hospital-related infections, and the increase in travel to every country in the world, we are well advised to bolster our immune systems with probiotics for at least a month before such excursions. There are also preparations that do not have to be refrigerated if you are planning to travel where refrigeration is not available. They are just more expensive.

This is kitchen table talk, the place where much vital information gets passed around. By keeping each other well informed and comparing notes, we may have the healthiest year ever!