So to clear my own mind, and start the year out right, I did a little research, and can now give a rundown of 10 things that we should avoid if we want to stay healthy. In my next post I will offer information on 10 things that are good for us.
But a caveat: Everyone is different and many people have their own issues. For example, everyone knows salt is bad for you. But I remember my dad had low blood pressure, and his doctor told him to use extra salt on his food. He was a special case. So if your doctor has you on a particular regimen, ignore this general information and pay attention to your doctor.
1. Analgesics. Everyone knows the dangers of opioids. But even such everyday painkillers as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen carry risks to our health. So we take them, because we have headaches and backaches. But be careful. Side effects include constipation, drowsiness and upset stomach. Acetaminophen can harm the liver, especially if mixed with alcohol. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen increase risk of stomach bleeding, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Even aspirin, according to the Mayo Clinic, poses risks along with its well-known health benefits.
2. Bottled water. I used to drink bottled water, thinking it was healthier than tap water, and certainly better for me than soda. Then I found out that bottled water contains microscopic pieces of plastic. One analysis, reported in The Guardian, surveyed 259 bottles from 11 different brands and found an average of 325 plastic particles for every liter of water. Of course, if plastic is in bottled water, it must be in bottled soda and iced tea as well, don't you think?
3. Staying up late. According to a study from Northwestern University, people who are night owls are at risk to develop health problems, including diabetes and neurological disorders. But it seems the crux of the issue is sleep deprivation, which affects not just your physical well-being, but cognitive performance as well. But don't be complacent if you sleep a lot. Sleeping too much is associated with the same health risks as sleeping too little. So how much is the right amount? Anywhere between 7 - 9 hours seems about right.
4. The internet. There are so many bad things about the internet you might wonder why anyone uses it at all. According to a wrap-up by Reader's Digest it can make you lose sleep, hurt your self-esteem, restrict your social life, cause obesity, send you into debt. Other sources cite addiction, alienation, depression, cognitive impairment ... and pretty much every other ill known to mankind. Also, the jury's still out on whether the low-frequency radiation emitted from your smartphone can cause cancer.
5. Vitamins. Vitamins are controversial, and there are arguments on both sides. But the fact is, most of us get more than enough of the vitamins we need through our daily diet -- and besides, taking a vitamin pill does not produce the same effects as getting vitamins from food. In addition, consuming too much of some vitamins, such as beta carotene, vitamins E and A, can be harmful to your health. Better advice for most people: Skip the multivitamin and eat your fruits and vegetables.
6. Grilled food. Cooking meat over high heat such as grilling or broiling produces harmful chemicals. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends that people avoid eating burned or charred foods frequently, as epidemiological studies suggest a link between consuming lots of overcooked fried and grilled meats with certain types of cancer. In addition, a recent Harvard report says eating well-done or grilled beef, chicken or fish may raise the risk of developing high blood pressure.
7. Disinfectants. The problem, according to Health Care Without Harm, is that some household cleaners contain materials that are classified as toxic waste, and they can cause cancer, respiratory ailments, eye and skin irritation and other adverse effects. Plus, using antibacterial agents can enhance the ability of bacteria to resist antibiotics. Disinfectants have also been linked to obesity in children, by altering the bacteria in their gut. So do as B says: let them eat a little dirt.
8. Gluten free. Michael Greger, MD, says it all on Nutrifacts: "The reason health professionals don't want to see people on gluten-free diets unless absolutely necessary is that, for the 98 percent of people who don't have gluten issues, whole grains -- including wheat, barley and rye -- are health promoting, linked to reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes ad other chronic diseases."
9. Skim milk. According to the research, such as a study from Scandinavia reported in Time, skim milk does not help you lose weight. The study tracked the dairy consumption and obesity rates of more than 1500 middle-age and older adults. Those who ate butter and drank whole milk actually had lower obesity rates than those who avoided dairy fat. Furthermore, many of the nutrients in milk are contained in the fat, and so skimming the milk strips it of many of its healthy properties.
10. Pets. There's one family I know that ... well, I just don't get it. They make you take off your shoes when you enter their house. But they have two dogs and they let them lick and slobber all over their little kids. Really!?! Now we know that pregnant women should not empty the kitty litter to avoid getting taxoplasmosis But you shouldn't let your dog "kiss" you either, since most of the bacteria on a dog's tongue is different from the bacteria on a person's face. Dog licking can cause Pasteurella, gingivitis, giardia, cryptosporidium and hookworm. Also, one report suggests that the risk of catching the flu from your dog could be rising.
You still think pets are good for you? Well . . . maybe they are. Check out my next post to see why.