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Airport Scanner Safety

It’s summer, which for many people means it’s time to travel.  I’ve had a lot of questions from people regarding the issue of whether full-body airport scanners (the big space elevator-looking things parked at more and more airport security lines) are safe, especially for people who may be more susceptible to radiation such as those who are pregnant or have a history of cancer.  Of course there is a HUGE amount of controversy surrounding this subject ranging from an individual’s right to privacy to the issue of national security to the health risks of radiation exposure.  There is an excellent excerpt from the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association titled “Pandora’s Boxes: Questions Unleashed in the Airport Scanner Debate” that sums up the health-related issues pretty well.  If you have time to read the entire text I really recommend it.  If you don’t have time (because you’re at the airport frantically deciding which security line to stand in) here is my 5-second summary:

  • The type of radiation used in most of these machines is likely to be carcinogenic (meaning it may cause cancer, probably by damaging DNA), but the doses are supposedly very low.  This is still not very reassuring to me since I am already exposed to small doses of daily radiation from my cell phone, wireless laptop, etc. and radiation exposure is cumulative.
  • The common estimate is that it would take 1,000 scans in an airport scanner to equal the amount of radiation you would receive in 1 chest x-ray.  However, the methods used to calculate this estimate have been questioned by studies including several performed by scientists at the University of California San Francisco.
  • The authors of the text were unable to find any large-scale studies done on humans or animals using this technology.  That is not a good sign – especially for something that is being placed in airports nationwide!

Another tidbit that I found in other articles was that scientists are questioning the safety of radiation that appears to only penetrate skin-deep and how that could lead to skin cancer in individuals who are predisposed.  To put it in perspective, airport scanners are not exposing people to enough radiation to cause skin to burn the way that prolonged exposure to UV radiation (sunlight) would but it is something to consider when looking at overall radiation exposure over a lifetime.

With all that said, here is what I do when I’m heading through airport security:

  • I decline the airport scanner line and instead ask for the standard metal detector/pat down treatment.  Many people don’t realize that this is a perfectly legal option and will not put you on the “suspicious activities” list!  You have a right to refuse to walk through something of questionable safety.  The pat down takes an extra 5-10 minutes so plan accordingly in your travel timing.  If you think this is a crazy and extreme thing to do, you can be encouraged by the fact that when I recently flew while still pregnant and refused the scanner line, the female TSA agent who did my pat down quietly said to me “Good for you honey, and good for your baby.  You should refuse this every time, pregnant or not.  These scanners are not good.  I don’t like working around them all day.”
  • I try to remember to take a dose of a good multivitamin and eat a few Brazil nuts prior to travel.  The multivitamin will supply zinc and B vitamins including folate and the nuts supply selenium. Zinc, B vitamins (especially folate), and selenium are three very important nutrients for DNA repair.  Even if you refuse the full-body scanner line, there is still exposure to radiation simply from the altitude at which the plane is flying.
  • Do what you can to support the immune system which is your surveillance system to help track down and destroy any pre-cancerous cells (not to mention bacteria and viruses you may be exposed to while traveling).  Things you can do to support your immune system include: drinking water, avoiding sugar, eating protein, getting sufficient rest, taking vitamin C and/or zinc lozenges, and utilizing immune-boosting herbs such as echinacea and elderberry.  One thing I DON’T recommend is taking Airborne products for travel.  The packaging is cute and it’s a nice idea but the last time I checked they all contained Splenda, an artificial sweetener that contains chlorine, as well as another artificial sweetener called Acesulfame Potassium.

Most importantly, I would say not to stress out too much about the whole issue!  Traveling in and of itself is stressful and overly stressing out about exposure to small amounts of radiation can also cause damage to DNA.  If you’re reading this after your thousandth trip through the full-body airport scanner and are worried your skin is going to mutate into its own person and walk away, please take comfort in the fact that the body is very smart and if you supply it with what it needs, it knows how to repair itself, all the way down to your DNA.

June 27, 2012   No Comments

The Benefits of Fever

As I write this, I’m catching up on work at a coffee shop by the beach while my toddler is home with his favorite babysitter…and a fever.  Before you write me off as an uncaring mother, take a minute to understand my logic!  Allowing a fever  to progress naturally (within reason) at any age can actually be a very positive and protective aspect that leads to long-term health. Here are a few facts about fever that may help you decide what to do the next time you’re face-to-face with a fever:

  • To begin with, it’s important to understand that the reason the body creates a fever is that bacteria and viruses can only operate at very specific temperatures so the body increases its own temperature to slow them down.
  • Fever is also a signal to the immune system to go into a more aggressive level of cleanup and destruction of harmful substances such as toxins, metabolic waste, infectious agents, and even rogue cancer cells.
  • Animal studies have proven over and over that animals off all kinds are more likely to survive longer and live healthier if they are able to raise their temperature occasionally in response to toxins or infection.
  • Human studies have found that people who allow their fever to take its natural course rather than suppressing it with medications shed fewer infectious particles (meaning they’re less likely to get others sick) because the virus or bacteria is not allowed to reproduce freely at higher temperatures AND they tend to be sicker for shorter periods of time than people who suppress their fever with medication.
  • Some scientists conjecture that allowing fevers to naturally subside actually decreases a person’s risk of cancer over the long-term because during a fever, the immune system scavenges rogue cancer cells (single cancer cells that have not yet grown into tumors or full-blown cancer).  Rogue cancer cells are present in all of us all of the time.  The reason we don’t all walk around with cancer is that a healthy immune system can keep them from taking root and reproducing out of control.  Fever is a time of supercharging the immune system so that it can destroy these cells at a greater pace than normal.
  • For you scientific minds out there that want to know more, I encourage you to go to the PubMed website and look up any research done by Dr. Matthew Kluger, who is at the forefront of research on the benefits of fever.

With that said, it’s important to realize that even though fever may be beneficial, it’s still really important to work with a fever properly!  Here are a few suggestions if you or someone you love is down with a fever:

  • Stay home!  Fever can be a sign of many things – toxicity, side effects to medications, eruption of new teeth in children – but in most cases it is a sign that the body is fighting an infection.  The last thing you want to do is spread that around.
  • Stay warm.  There’s a reason that you may feel chilly when your temperature is high – your body is trying to enlist your help in raising your temperature by having you bundle up, take a warm bath (preferably with Epsom salt), eat warm food, drink warm fluids, or whatever else sounds comfortable to you.
  • Eat if you are hungry.  For every degree Centigrade that your body increases in temperature during a fever, metabolism is increased by about 10%.  I know there’s a saying about feeding a cold and starving a fever or something like that – whatever it is, put what your own body is telling you above that.  Warm soup made with bone broth is one of the best things you can eat during a fever.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  It is absolutely vital to stay hydrated during a fever because the increase in metabolism means the body is shedding more waste products and the kidneys are working harder than normal.  Water with a pinch of Celtic salt and lemon or lime or a splash of fruit juice makes a great electrolyte replacement and is (in my opinion) the best thing to drink during a fever.  I don’t recommend Pedialyte for children (shocking, I know!) because most flavors contain the artificial sweetener Splenda.  It is beyond me why someone would approve artificial sweeteners in a product designed for children, but to get around this just carefully read the label for Splenda (trade name) or Sucralose (chemical name).  The last time I checked, unflavored Pedialyte was the only flavor that did not contain artificial sweeteners.  For adults, I suggest keeping a bottle of natural electrolyte mix around as a quick Gatorade replacement.   Hot tea (preferably caffeine free) and warm broth are also great beverages during a fever.
  • Keep the bowels moving.  Fever is a time of serious cleanup so do what it takes to keep the bowels moving: eat fiber-rich foods, stay hydrated, and use magnesium or vitamin C as natural laxatives if needed.
  • Use homeopathic remedies as needed.  I keep a tube of Belladonnaand a tube of a general immune support remedy in the house just in case a fever shows up (as it has been recently, as Mr. Muscles seems to be sprouting new teeth every other week).
  • Use herbs and other natural immune support remedies as needed.  Cod Liver Oil, Echinacea, Elderberry, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3 – you know the drill.
  • Be patient and allow rest.  This applies whether you are the one who has a fever or someone you are caring for is feverish.  For a child, simply wrapping them in a blanket and snuggling them on the couch while reading a book or watching cartoons can work wonders.  For an adult, just allow yourself to rest and know that your body is very smart and it knows what to do if you let it.

There are a few cases of fever where you should seek medical advice immediately:

  • In children under the age of 3 months.
  • In the elderly.
  • In people with compromised immune systems or chronic disease.
  • For fever over 104 degrees F.
  • For fever over 102 degrees F for more than 2-3 days.
  • If the person with fever is acting strange, is extremely weak, or if there is anything else that makes you suspicious that something more serious is happening.  This is where parental intuition comes in when dealing with a feverish child.  Personal note: Mr. Muscles was basically being his normal wonderful self (though a little warmer and sleepier than normal) this morning which is why I felt comfortable leaving him with a sitter rather than staying home myself.

NOTE: This blog is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

November 14, 2011   2 Comments

I love you, readers!

I recently discovered the software that tells me all the statistics for my website, and found the list of search phrases that lead people to my site.  There were over a hundred phrases that are used often to lead people to me, but the top 3 that seemed to be repeated were variations of the following:

  1. Benefits of gin
  2. Benefits of bacon
  3. Searches related to motivation such as morning motivation and affirmations

The realization that the above were the top 3 searches that lead people to find my site gave me SUCH joy because I realized that most of you readers out there are just normal people trying to understand (and justify) your love for gin and bacon just like yours truly.  And the rest of you are sincere, kind, people looking for motivational assistance that had the bad luck of stumbling across my scary motivational threat series.  There were also a few searches of people using Google like a personalized magic 8 ball, asking it questions like “what kind of tea should I drink today” or “what’s for lunch” and ending up at my site, which also made me laugh.

So, for the 5 of you readers who are not related to me and found me randomly through funny searches such as the above (and also to the rest of you readers who are probably related to me in some way), thanks for reading!  I love to write and I love you for reading.

November 9, 2011   1 Comment

My New Name

Hi friends!  This post has nothing to do with nutrition, but everything to do with your favorite nutrition blog character – my own Mr. Milk.  After a long while of prayer and pondering, my husband and I decided to change our last name to Stamm, which is the last name of my father-in-law and the rest of our Hawaiian family here.  My husband was reunited with his dad and that side of the family a little under a decade ago – a very sweet and very meaningful connection that has grown deeper through the years.  In fact, the family here is a major reason why we moved to Hawaii at all!  Despite all of this, we had not planned on changing our last name until Mr. Milk came along.  He absolutely adores his “Derda” (what he calls his Grandpa) and the more we watched him grow up with his grandpa and the rest of the family, the more we realized how important it was for him to grow up knowing exactly who he was and having the same name as his biological grandfather who loves him so dearly.  So, as much of a pain as it is to change your name after you’ve been married for 5 years and have established businesses, we took the plunge!  As of earlier this month, I am now Jessica Stamm, MS CCN and my website is now stammnutrition.com (but don’t get hysterical about moving your bookmark of my page right away – the Forbes domain will be active for a while longer and will just forward you to the new site without you even knowing you’re being moved).  One of my husband’s beautiful cousins is also named Jessica, so I can’t say I’m the first Jessica Stamm but at least I’m the latest!  And yes, there is a Canadian supermodel named Jessica Stam but as you can see, I’m one M better than her.  So there.

July 21, 2011   3 Comments

10 Ways to Use Coconut Milk

One of my favorite readers of all time emailed me a while ago to confess their obsession with coconut milk and to suggest that I make a top 10 list of things to do with coconut milk.  Since I am also one who loves coconut and coconut products with a love beyond that which is deemed normal between a human and a plant product, I was happy to oblige.  Here it is!  If you have other ways that you love to use coconut milk, please share them in the comments section!

  1. In a smoothie.
  2. In Thai curry or other creamy soups.
  3. As the base for hot chocolate, just dilute to desired consistency first with water.
  4. Mixed with apple sauce for a healthy fat and fiber-filled snack.
  5. Poured over cereal or oatmeal for breakfast (dilute to desired consistency first).
  6. As the base for pudding, one of my most favorite snacks of all time.  I make homemade pudding cups by pouring the pudding into small glass Mason jars (4 or 6 oz.) that come with plastic screw on tops, which makes it easy to pack pudding in lunches.
  7. In stir-fry.  Mix with soy sauce, nut butter, and/or hot chili sauce for a creamy stir-fry sauce that helps you burn fat.
  8. Mixed into baby food or other purees for your toddler.  Coconut helps to make smart babies!
  9. In coffee…this is extra good on those holiday mornings when you can also mix in some coconut rum :)
  10. As a moisturizer.  Simply apply to skin, allow to absorb for 30 minutes, and then wipe off excess.  This is especially nice for sun damaged skin.

June 20, 2011   6 Comments

Easy Quiche Recipe – from random leftovers to rich housewife breakfast in 30 minutes!

Today I woke up craving eggs and decided to turn on my inherent domestic-ness and bake a quiche on this rainy Hawaiian Monday morning.  The nice thing about quiche is that it’s quick to put together and if you can bake one (or two) at a time then you’ve got breakfast for the mornings when you don’t have the time or patience to be domestic.  Another great thing about it is that it’s an easy way to turn random bits and pieces of leftovers from the fridge into a fancy breakfast that a rich housewife would eat (even if you are eating it in not-so-rich-housewife fashion off a paper towel in your lap while sitting in traffic on the way to work).

Here’s the recipe I used today, based on the quiche recipe in my favorite cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, but modified to reflect what I had in the fridge.

To make one quiche, you need:

  • 1 pie crust.  Make it from scratch if you are a fancy pants or buy frozen like I did – look for one that uses palm oil (Safeway generic brand actually uses this!), coconut oil, butter, or lard rather than shortening (which contains hydrogenated fats – bad for everyone but especially for a nursing mom like myself since hydrogenated fats reduce the overall amount of fat in your breastmilk).
  • 1-2 cups assorted vegetables and/or meat cut into quiche-appropriate chunks.  This is where the leftovers from the fridge come in.  Ideas include diced lunch meat, cooked bacon, bell peppers, onions, asparagus, mushrooms – basically anything that sounds good and is available to you.  This morning I used a combo of sweet onion, broccoli, and half a tomato that I found buried in our produce drawer (don’t worry I smelled it and it was fine).
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (Nourishing Traditions suggests creme fraiche or piima cream but I am not quite to the level that I keep these items stocked in my fridge so used yogurt instead!)
  • Salt and pepper (or any other seasonings you want to include like chili powder if you’re making a Mexican quiche)
  • 1 cup grated cheese, any variety.  This morning I used cheddar but parmesan, monterey jack, colby, and maybe even feta would be fine.

If crust requires it, precook at whatever temperature and time are needed.  Saute vegetables in the olive oil or butter until they are soft.  Beat egg yolks, yogurt, seasonings, and 1/2 cup of cheese together.  Arrange cooked vegetables in pie crust, top with egg yolk mixture, and then top with the remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until filling is set.  Can be eaten right away or covered and refrigerated for up to a week.  For full rich housewife effect, eat while wearing white pants, drinking San Pellegrino water, and starting drama.

October 25, 2010   2 Comments