Dr. Kim Foster

I know it’s been quiet around here lately, but there are some changes afoot.

Behind the scenes over the past several months I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching, dreaming, and planning…and I’ve finally got some things figured out. When I started writing this blog back in 2011 I was simply doing it for fun, and because it seemed the perfect marriage of two things I love: health and writing.

In the beginning I didn’t have a lot of direction, however. I had no real goals. But over the years, and especially recently, I’ve become clearer on a few things. I have a much better understanding of myself, my interests, and my role in the wellness space at large. So I’m ready to pivot. I’m ready to dust off this website and get a fresh start. Very soon, I’ll be ready to re-launch this blog *plus* some new, exciting things I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time.

If you’re as passionate about wellness as I am (and, so you know, some of my favorite things to talk about are: nutrition, happiness, yoga, running, sleep, clean eating, health coaching, meditation, achieving a healthy weight, mindfulness…and so much more!), then you may be interested in what’s coming down the pipeline. Watch this space for some good, juicy stuff–just around the corner.

(And if you’re curious and don’t want to miss out, I’d be happy to add you to my list of people who will be the first to hear about everything I’m cooking up!)

Keep Me In The Loop

radioJust a quick note to say that I’m going to be taking a brief hiatus from posting here on Savvy Health…because my time is soon going to be all gobbled up with book promotions and blog tours!

My first novel, A Beautiful Heist, is due to be released by Kensington Books in six weeks (official release date: June 6, 2013). So while I won’t be posting on Savvy Health for a little while, I will be blogging on my author site, here.

Hope to see you over there…

I am not a dermatologist. BUT…I did spend a lot of time doing dermatology electives in medical school & residency. In the daily presence of dermatologists, I gleaned a couple of tips that I frequently recommend (and use myself) to this day. And I’m always surprised that many people don’t know about these products, given how often I heard dermatologists recommend them. And they’re not prescription! You just find them at the drugstore. A caveat: they’re nothing flashy. They’re not exotic. But they just. Flat. Work.

First: Prevex cream. In my job, I wash my hands a lot. I basically have the occupational equivalent of OCD. And regular hand cream is useless–it just comes off each time I wash my hands! The answer: Prevex. It forms a barrier and protects your skin. It’s thick and a little sticky when it first goes in, but it absorbs quickly and keeps your hands moisturized all day, no matter how many times you lather up. If you’ve got dry hands, this will save your life.

Next up: LacHydrin lotion. In the winter, many of us are familiar with that dull, dry layer of dead skin. And don’t even get me started about cracked, dry heels. Enter Lachydrin. Especially if we’re talking knees and heels and elbows, regular moisturizer doesn’t even touch those thickened strata. It just can’t penetrate. Lachydrin contains lactic acid which breaks down and sloughs off those dead skin cells. It’s a miracle. Again, the package is boring and there’s no lovely smell (some people even find the smell unpleasant). But it does the job.

So…now my turn: do you have any secret skin remedies?

Not only does stress make life unpleasant, it makes you grumpy, fat , and it interferes with sleep . And that’s before we get into the really serious stuff (like: increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes…)

There’s no doubt stress affects us on the inside. Did you know it also can affect your outer appearance? Yep, stress affects our skin, too.

Here are just some of the ways stress shows up on the outside:

Cold sores. The virus that causes cold sores is an opportunistic little thing. And it will take advantage of a stressed & impaired immune system to remind you of its presence.

Acne. Stress causes your body to secrete cortisol that (among other things) stimulates your sebaceous glands to increase their production of sebum. In other words: hello, breakout.

Existing skin conditions. Stress has the potential to worsen existing skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.

Another, perhaps more subtle effect of stress on your skin: when you’re busy, you’re less likely to take proper care of your skin. Too tired to bother washing & moisturizing your face? Yep, been there myself.

Not only does stress cause skin trouble, the reverse can be true, too. The embarrassment and self-consciousness brought on by visible skin conditions can be a bona fide source of stress. The term “vicious cycle” comes to mind.

Is all this making you feel, um, stressed? Ready to break that cycle and cope with all that stress?

Here are some places to start:

Many people have no idea whether a multivitamin is essential or a total waste of money. Or something in between.

So what’s the truth? As with many things, it’s controversial. And not even the “experts” can agree.

Some studies have shown benefit. Others have been equivocal, or downright discouraging.

For example, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study of more than 88,000 women (the Nurses’ Health Study, at Harvard). Those who took multivitamins for 15 years or more significantly reduced the risk of colon cancer as compared to those who took multivitamins for less time.

Another study demonstrated that taking a multivitamin reduced the risk of a first-time heart attack in a group of Swedish men and women aged 45 to 70.

However, a different Swedish study showed an increase in breast cancer risk among women who took multivitamins.

Confused yet?  

Welcome to the thorny world of medical research.

In 2002 a study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers from the Harvard School of Medicine had pored over 35 years’ worth of research on vitamins. Their conclusions? Every adult should take a daily multivitamin as a safe and inexpensive way to improve health.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 showed that multivitamin use was associated with longer telomere length in women. (Telomeres–the tips of your chromosomes–are a biological marker of aging. Essentially, the longer your telomeres, the younger/healthier your cells are.) 

There are more studies, of course, but I can see your eyes glossing over so I’m going to stop there.

My opinion? I think multivitamins are a good thing. Maybe not a cure-all, but I think there’s some benefit nonetheless.Think of your multivitamin as an insurance policy. Possibly unneccessary, but generally low-risk. And perhaps there to bridge your various nutritional gaps. I wouldn’t count on a multivitamin to significantly boost your health, but it’s not a bad idea.

Don’t fool yourself, however, that all you need to do to stay healthy is take a multivite. Vitamins are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle and a nourishing diet.

So what should you look for in a multivitamin?

Most multivitamins have a label filled with a dizzying array of ingredients, doses, and RDA. For the most part, any standard/reputable brand, or drugstore generic, will provide a pretty comparable list of ingredients. If you’re in doubt, ask the pharmacist for a little guidance. (I love pharmacists, they’re an awesome resource)

To get you started, here are some things to keep in mind as you’re shopping for a multivitamin:

  • Folic Acid: Women in their childbearing years need 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid daily to help prevent neural tube defects in a pregnancy. 
  • Vitamin D: Most multivitamins supply 400 International Units of vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption and appears to play a role in the prevention of many chronic diseases. Vitamin D research is emerging, but in my opinion, most of us should be taking more than 400 IU.
  • Vitamin E: Recently, a few studies have shown concerns regarding the safety of “high doses” of vitamin E (over 600-800 IU daily). Tread carefully here.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is safe, and you need plenty of it. Choose a multivitamin with approximately 250mg of C per day.
  • Vitamin A:  Excessive vitamin A as retinol (the preformed variety called acetate or palmitate on labels) is detrimental to bone and liver health. So you don’t want a multivitamin with tons of Vitamin A. Instead, look for a multivitamin with beta-carotene and mixed carotenoids (the building blocks your body converts, safely, to vitamin A).
  • Iron: If you’re a premenopausal woman, pregnant, or a vegetarian/vegan you likely need extra iron. Other people? Not so much. Excess iron may accumulate in the body and cause organ damage.

I’ve been reading a lot about happiness lately, and it turns out there’s a whole lot of science behind what makes us happy. And more research being done all the time.

There is an excellent argument to be made that happiness is the one true goal. The one thing we all crave–the deep meaning underneath all the layers of everything we strive for, and everything we think we want. It’s an interesting thought.

Question is, are you happy? Hard to answer, isn’t it? After all, how do you measure happiness? Well, how about this then: could you be happier? If we’re honest, I think most of us could say yes to this.

So if that’s true…how does one go about becoming happier?

Well, I just so happen to have a few strategies for you. Each of these have emerged from recent research, and have been shown to improve happiness:

1. Practice gratitude. Make a habit of reminding yourself (keep a journal!) of the things you’re thankful for.

2. Be an optimist: Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

3. Enrich your life with supportive, loving friends and family.

4. Forget about the Jonses. Concern yourself with your own life–avoid the trap of constantly comparing yourself to others.

5. Be mindful: live in the present.

6. Actively cultivate & practice stress management.

7. Fill your life with meaningful pursuits; work toward something that’s bigger than yourself.

8. Don’t rage against the machine: learn to accept what you can’t change.

9. Help other people.

Looking for some easy, non-diet-ish ways to lose a little weight? Read on.

Eat mints right after a meal. The powerful flavor will cut your appetite, sending a message to your brain that the meal is done. The sweetness will curb an urge for dessert.

Deal with cravings. Most cravings will pass in 15 minutes. When you get blindsided by an irresistible need for a Skor bar or All-Dressed Ruffles, set a clock and distract yourself through it. Take a shower, go for a walk outside, read a deliciously trashy book, paint your nails, whatever it takes.

Leave the lasagne dish in the kitchen. People will eat 30% more when the serving bowl/platter is on the dining table.

Drink green tea. Studies suggest that it can temporarily boost your metabolism, perhaps through the action of phytochemicals called catechins.

Eat soup. Starting your meal with a bowl of broth-based soup will fill you up (with relatively few calories), and slow your eating. Minestrone or French Onion are good examples. Beware fat and calorie-laden cream soups.

Trick yourselfThink of your urge to eat junk food as an enemy (get specific: the bitch from 10th grade will work perfectly)…she’s trying to make you unhealthy, trying to make you fat. Show her who’s boss.

Get hot. Capsaicin–the stuff that gives hot peppers their kick–has been shown recently to help curb appetite and give a little boost to metabolism. Temporarily anyway.

Shrink your plate. Recent research has shown that people eat more when using larger plates and dishes. At supper, use a lunch-size plate instead of a dinner plate, and you’ll automatically eat less. A study at Cornell found that this little eye/mind trick cut 200 calories from subjects’ daily intake–without feelings of hunger.