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Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dental Damns

Yes, I have been to the Dentist. I do try and go every six months for a good cleaning and check up. Unfortunately as my lovely Dentist will attest to- I suck at keeping appointments. I am forever changing and rescheduling. It’s not that my teeth aren’t a priority…. They are. It’s just… well… I suck at the self maintenance thing.

Here’s the deal… between the hair root touch up every six weeks, the hair cuts every 8 weeks and the eyebrow groom (don’t poke fun- have you seen my brows?) every 3 months…. I’m tapped out. Factor in a routine medial exam annually along with time for fasting blood work (I hate going without the coffee in the morning) and I’m fully booked. Then my bike needs a tune up every 6 weeks. Along with all the other duties a girlfriends gotta do and I’m locked up. After a while, the dentist becomes an after thought.

But here’s the thing…. My gums are receding. No shit…. I kid you not. I have spent a lifetime trying to make every other part of my body look smaller (my hair, my uni brow, my ass) and here I am finally getting my shrinking wish. MOTHERFUNHOUSE. What is that? Is God now a girlfriend with shitty cell phone reception.

There I was a hefty little kid lying in bed praying to the goddess for a smaller waist size… Did she finally get the message all these years later only to screw it up? I said BUM God damn it NOT GUMS? What is that?

Yet here I am being told that I have “pockets” between where my teeth should be.

This is not the first time I have heard such news…. When I was in my twenties I had to see a periodontist who did some God Awful gum work surgery on me (the surgery I am sure was excellent- it was god awful in that it was truly unpleasant) because I am told that I have small gums to begin with.

Great. The goddess divides. Big ass… small gums…. Huge hair… no chest…. Big Brain…. Small attention span. Big shoe fettish… small closet space… Lovely.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics in 2008, gingival recession (fancy words for gum shrinkage) is actually quite common. Approximately 15% of young people presenting to a dentist’s office for routine exam have it. It is most commonly related to previous orthodontic treatment or oral piercing.

This study looked at risk factors for gingival recession in a young healhy Israeli population. Of the 303 people randomly selected the most common risks for recession included age and whether or not the subjects had had braces. The average age of people in this study was 32.

There was no correlation in the study between smoking habits or gingivitis and gum recession.

An older population studied in Turkey of 831 people with an average age of 52 showed a much higher rate of gingival recession.

The average rate of recession was 78.2% in this population. The study involved a statistical model that looked at a multiple regression analysis to look at what risk factors contribute to gingival recession. The analysis showed that age, smoking duration and traumatic toothbrushing increased risk of gum shrinkage. Gingival recession has also been linked to a high frenum. ANATOMY ALERT Girlfriends… a frenum is that ridge between your two front teeth that connects your gums to your upper lip.

So there you have it. I’m getting older and maybe I’m brushing a little too hard… either way… one day I will have to have plastic surgery on my… gums. No breast implants, no facial fillers…. Just a small intimate gum enhancement.

Life has a fabulous sense of humor. Doesn’t it my sisters? Have a fabulous week and don’t forget to floss… be good to your gums my girlfriends. You never know when they will disappear on you.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cheese Please.

Truth be told I have cellulite. Yes, at times when I am as honest with myself as a three way mirror I will easily acknowledge that butt looks like two scoops of cottage cheese. Make no mistake, I am okay with the divets that scatter my backside like pushpins on a map of the world. I like that at the ripe age of almost 40, I am safely in the best physical condition of my life. I can run and swim and bike as long as I want to and even do 20 "boy" pushups with ease. My body has become my opportunity to get things done. No longer am I hindered by my limitations in a physical sense.

Quite frankly, I am happy with my physical sense of selse, and yes, dressing up has become one of my favorite sporting events. But there are times in the flourescent light of of day , when I must acknowledge that my ass is a place where dimples go to die. Yes, the medical term is cellulite and NO the best cream in the world will not fix my “field of indentation dreams”. Rarely is there an occasion for me to stand in the bathroom and appreciate my backside for all its cottage cheese glory.

But recently I have developed a new appreciation for all things cellulite, when I discovered it is not only very common, but can be quite satisfying as well. In fact I would go so far as to argue, that cellulite may very well be “the great equalizer”.

A few weeks ago was invited to attend an ECO Fashion Show.  Yes I am aware that we have nothing on New York City- This is not fashion week and Vancouver never pretends to be anything it is not. But a little delusion can be healthy and after all- New York IS New York and we are having a brilliant winter so... suck it. 

An ECO Fashion Show for those of you who don’t know is a regular fashion show where all the clothes are reclaimed fabrics and materials. Imagine my surprise to see fur and leather on the run way? Apparently as long as someone else has killed the rabbit or the cow, it can be used lest it be thrown into a landfill.

I have never professed to be the authority on all things fashionable, but as far as this ECO fashion show goes, it is safe to say that some things were meant to be in a landfill. I realize that these fabrics were considered "throw aways" but there is no excuse for parading down a runway dressed like the maid of honour at a circus. Sisters note- if the bearded lady ever marries the tattooed man- do I have a dress for you!

Let me set the scene. We stood in the courtyard of the Vancouver Public Library which as some of you know looks like a coliseum. The models for this ecological event stood on the second floor balcony above us- each in an alcove with a clothing rack behind her. Every few minutes the spot light would shine on a new model in a new outfit. The model would pose like a moving mannequin for a few moments showing off the latest and greatest in recyclable fashions. The spotlight would go out and the model would then strip down to a body suit and put on another outfit while the spotlight shone on another model in another outfit.

There we stood drinking organic wine and watching the models pose to a mix of 1980’s dance music. And just as my macrobiotic buzz took hold (yes, one glass later…. even organic wine will do) I had a revelation. High above me in the second balcony was a woman easily 6 feet tall tall with 5% body fat. Her perfect blond hair was perfectly styled, her make up professionally done. She was long and willowy and her eyes shone with a hunger that only a diet of nicotine and diet coke could produce. I am sure she was born a model and would never see the inside of a gym unless it was for a fashion shoot. And yet when the spotlight went out and she stripped down to her body suit I could see it like a beacon of hope for all chubby girls everywhere. Cellulite. It was a ray of sunshine as bright as the spot light to come. Her thighs had more cheese curds than the Quebec House at the Winter Olympics.

Here was a woman who could not spell the word CARBOHYDRATE let alone bring herself to eat it and she had a backside that looked like the cold salad section at a Las Vegas buffet. On me, cellulite was expected, on this fashion stick insect.... it was a revelation.

One of the medical terms for cellulite is Gynoid Lipodystrophy. In fact the medical community remains in disagreement as to whether this condition is actually an abnormal state. Cellulite is a condition affecting 85% of post adolescent women characterized by dimpled tissue on the upper outer thighs, posterior upper thighs, and lower buttocks. Ultrasounds of fat tissue have shown that cellulite is caused by a deterioration of the skin's dermal matrix and vasculature (structure and blood supply network) particularly loss of the capillary networks, leading to excess fluid retention within the subcutaneous tissues and the skin. Fat cells then clump together and fluid collects in the tissues between them causing a dimpling of the skin.

This formation is thought to be influenced by genetic factors and certain genes have been implicated in the predisposition to the formation of cellulite. Hormones play a dominant role in the formation of cellulite. Estrogen may be the important hormone and initiate and aggravate cellulite. However, there has been no reliable clinical evidence to support such a claim. Other hormones including insulin, the catecholamines adrenaline and noradrenaline, thyroid hormones, and prolactin are all believed to participate in the development of cellulite.

So my dear girlfriends.... most of us are destined to dimple from the waist down. Embrace it as the great equalizer as common as chin hairs and as welcome as control top pantyhose.

And so the lights went up again on the 6 foot amazon wonder. Her dimpled butt cheeks were now covered with an outfit that was once bound for the city dump. There in the atrium of the Vancouver Public Library a new world was born.... I found solace in a universe where no outfit is every thrown away, where even the wine is organic and therefore good for you and where every ass, regardless of its creed, colour or constitution can be as "dimply" as nature will allow.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sweet Thing

I’ve been doing some research lately my dear cyber sisters and I have concluded and yes, you may quote me…. High Fructose corn syrup is a motherfucker.

Now I realize this statement is quite bold and somewhat brash, but the truth often is. Let me mix no words here. Let me fully assert my opinion - “grey” is a fabulous colour- but the only place is belongs is on a PRADA summer runway. Fences were made to keep people in or out- not to sit on. PICK A SIDE....

High Fructose corn syrup or as many of you may now refer to it ; “the motherf*&ker” is also called glucose-fructose syrup in Canada. It comprises a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert glucose into fructose and then has been mixed with pure corn syrup. (essentially the sweetening equivalent of an "acrylic blend")

The most widely used form of high fructose corn syrup is HFCS-55 which as the name suggests is 55% fructose, 45% glucose. This form is used in most soft drinks and sugar drinks. HFCS-42 (again 42% fructose) is used in most baked goods, while HFCS-90is used in most candies.

The benefit of this Mother of a molecule is it is cheap and sweetens like no other. Import taxes on foreign sugar have raised the price of sucrose, while the government in the US and Canada have offered a significant amount of subsidies to corn growers. This amounts to HFCS being a relatively cheap alternative to beet sugar or other forms of sucrose.

High fructose corn syrup was first produced by Marshall and Moffat in 1957 and was mass produced for industry in Japan in the late 1960's. From 1975-1985 it was as common in processed foods as a Madonna remix at a gay pride parade.

And now, my cyber sisters... a lesson in sweetness....

Cane sugar and beet sugar are essentially pure sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide- meaning it is composed of two monosacharides (glucose and fructose) put together with a relatively weak bond. Think of sucrose as a fabulous power suit, while fructose is this season's boyfriend jacket. Both do the job- but for different occasions.

Honey has a glucose/fructose ratio very similar to HFCS and in fact the motherfucker has been used to "stretch" honey during production.

Make no mistake, sugar is sugar regardless of the source. Cane, Beet or Honey if eaten in large quantities will still make your ass look big. It does not matter if the sugar source is a rainforest in Peru, a sugar beet in Saskatchewan or the product of a bunch of honey bees vomitting for queen and country.

However, there appears to be more to the High Frcutose Corn Syrup than just the sugar itself....In fact, recent studies have shown just what an asshole this sweetner really is.

A study published in the Journal of Nephrology on July 1, 2010, looked at HFCS consumption in 4528 American adults. The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Health and found taht those inidvuals drinking more thhan 75 grams of fructose per day (2.5 sugary drinks per day) had the highest rate of high blood pressure. This study controlled for all other risk factors for hypertension including age, obesity, family history and smoking.

A further study out of the University of Colorado in 2007 looked at the effects of fructose on certain metabolic factors in otherwise healthy men. Two groups of men (12 in each group) were fed two different diets for 4 weeks. One group had a diet rich in fructose the other rich in glucose. The high fructose group had a significant increase in their blood pressure, abdominal fat and insulin levels compared to the glucose group after only four weeks.

One of the theories as to why frucotse is so toxic is that it breaks down in the body to uric acid, which in high levels increases blood pressure and insulin levels and cardiovascular risk in the body.

Interestingly, fruit in its raw form does not have the same effect as fructose. The theory behind this is that the fibre and Vitamin C in fruit counteract the effect of fructose.

Look, I know that that fructose is not the only thing to blame here In fact I have never been a fan of just holding one culprit accountable. I like to blame multiple people and have them share the resposibility for the world's current state of affairs. Last week it was the skinny jean, the week before it was BP oil, next week is really a crap shoot. Who knows who will disappoint me in the next 7 days?

But for now, I have raged a war on all fruit juices, jams, canned soups and cereals. Our pantry is now down to one single cupboard which contains mostly spices and a few cans of tuna (more on mercury at a later date).

No it won't solve the world's problems but at least I can sit on my high horse for another few hours and feel a sense of self importance that no sugar rush could even hope to compare to.... so it is written, so it shall be done.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Turkish Delight

Sisters of mercy, hello from Istanbul. First things first, my Turkish sucks. Yes, I am that traveler who really does enjoy to learn a few words in the language of the country I am in. As a guest in another land, I always think it is polite to say “good Morning”, “please” or “thank you in my host nations’ native tongue.

I landed in Istanbul and had no clue. Thanks to Wikipedia and a free Internet connection at the airport and I was well on my way.

Having now been here for 5 days allow me to share with you my observations on one of the world’s great cities.

Istanbul is a city that spans Europe and Asia. It has been conquered by pretty much everyone. These two aspects of its history and geography give it the most unique of flavours. There is a blending of life’s rhythms that make it truly special.

Despite the mixes of culture, space and time, Istanbul in nothing but honest. It does not pretend to be anything other than itself. There is no assumption here. Many other cities talk about being “the Paris of the Middle East” or the “Vegas of Asia”. Not Istanbul. It is what it is and it does it quite perfectly.

My new love of Istanbul stems from a few unique features of this place. Allow me to elaborate:

First things first- they have a coffee named after them. Nothing garners my respect more for a country than when they ply me with good quality espresso. Turkish Coffee is espresso with mud. It is not for the faint at heart and it is awesome.

I am drinking Turkish coffee at any all opportunities. I have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I’d have it for tea, but that is when I indeed have tea. Tea is also big here. Namely “tea time”. This happy experience happens at around 3 pm every day when the world stops for a good cup. Every hotel has high tea where literally a buffet of desserts are served along with the tea.

Turkey is known for its sweets.

Yes sugar is the devil but I am training for another race and I do love a country that puts sweets on display. They indeed are everywhere. From the bakeries in the old city to the stalls that sell Turkish Delight (it really is a homegrown candy here- and its pretty perfect) in the Spice Bazaar.

Istanbul is truly a walking city. Today my beloved and I made our way from Besikstas to Sultahnamet in the old city. We easily made our way through 15km on foot (my fitbit is out of batteries and my charger is back in Canada… shit)

Nothing makes you fall in love with a city more than when you walk it.

My love for Turkey extends to its concept of hospitality. This is a country that knows how to host… and they know how to host a woman who needs to keep running even though she is miles from home.

The Turks love a good gym.

Hotel gyms here are more of an experience than a place to get fit. Even city parks have workout equipment in them (think jungle gym meets bow flex).

But hotel gyms here are something else. We are not talking a small room with a treadmill and an elliptical.

Instead, hotels are usually stocked with 2000 square feet of a training facility that boasts at least two pools.

Turks are big on water. It’s big part of the culture. Turkish baths can be found in various parts of the city as public bath houses. Each hotel also has a hamam (Turkish bath) with 2 pools (one indoor, one outdoor) and yes, you can swim laps. Translation- when a bath is a part of your national pride- pools have got to be on the menu.

Yes I realize that this is my shallow summation of a city that is on a short list of ones where “the cradle of civilization began”. But this place and its wonders suit me just fine. I will no doubt elaborate on its details in future posts.

I realize to some I may have reduced this magic down to a few beverages and some fitness facilities but please do not misunderstand that my time here in Istanbul has indeed been one of reflection. I’m letting this place wash over me and now that my jet lag has officially settled I see things with a much clearer eye.

A moment on jet lag?

I spent the first 4 days here with a wicked case of it. Yes, I took melatonin and yes I took prescription sleeping aides. But alas, nothing chemical could fix the fact that my body was in Istanbul and my pineal gland was in Vancouver.
(yes, I was a science geek just there- I know- the pineal gland is the part of the brain that regulates circadian rhythms).

My pineal gland is an asshole. Two nights ago, it woke me up at 3 am. Not to pee but to be wide awake and watch television. At 2 in the afternoon, my pineal gland wants to go to sleep- no not a nap… but a full on change into your pajamas and call it a day sleep.

I have tried everything. Here I thought that I was well ahead of the game. I had done the research, I had slept 8 hours on the plane over here- I would be well beyond all this jet lag bullshit.

But sure enough my circadian rhythms were dancing to the beat of their own drum.

Light, dark, day, night…. My brain was a rebel and it was on its own time.

It is now 5 days later and I still want to nap at noon. I am comforted by the fact that by Friday I will have adapted nicely…. For my return flight home where, yes I will be screwed physiologically for another week.

Various remedies for alleviating jet lag have been proposed including certain foods, exposure to light and even the use of melatonin. Melatonin is chemical known as methoxyindole secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It has been shown in animals to play a role in resynchronizing animals to a day and night cycle. It is thought to play a role in an animal’s ability to distinguish between night and day. 

A study published in 1986 in the British Medical journal recruited seventeen healthy volunteers. (10 women and seven men aged 29-68) from the University of London. The subjects flew from London to San Francisco (eight time zones west), where they remained for 14 days so that they had adapted to local time before their return home. Before their flight half the subjects were randomized to placebo and half to melatonin. Subjects were “blinded” to whether they were taking melatonin or placebo.

For three days before their return flight the subjects took a daily dose of melatonin (5 mg in gelatin lactose) or placebo at 1800 (local time). On their return to Britain they continued taking the same preparation at 2200-2400 (local time) for a further four days.

The subjects were asked to rank their jet lag symptoms using a visual analogue scale which assigned a number to their degree of jet lag.

Six of the nine subjects who took placebo rated their jet lag greater than 50 on a visual analogue scale. None of the eight subjects who took melatonin rated their jet lag at more than 17. None of the subjects taking melatonin had appreciable jet lag, whereas six of the nine treated with placebo did.

The study has been criticized as being a small trial but still it is a place to start.

I hate to be a hater- but I’m on 10mg of melatonin and my world was a physiological hell until this morning. Sure, I’ve read every New York Times Magazine from the past 15 weeks over the last 4 nights and yes, I’ve watched an entire season of Dracula on iTunes (don’t judge dear girlfriends, lest ye be judged), but the midday napping is starting to cramp my Turkish style.

And so I soldier on…. With Turkish coffee in tow and a lap pool in my hotel. Do not worry for me my sisters… I will be fine here in the cradle of civilization. After all, I’m in Europe and I can see Asia from hotel.