The Simple Steps to Managing Your Winter Allergies

January 04, 2019

Winter doesn’t just mean cloudy days, warm sweaters, and New Year’s resolutions, it also means another wave of allergies. Just like in the summer, many people experience symptoms like runny noses or itchy eyes during the coldest months, for a variety of reasons. Luckily, AltaMed has your back. Here’s everything you need to know about managing your allergies in the winter. 


Cold Vs. Allergies


cold meds
 It’s a feeling that’s all too familiar. You wake up one dark, winter morning with a runny nose and body aches. Getting a cold during the winter is very common, and many people with allergies may misdiagnose themselves as a result. Correctly identifying your symptoms is the first step to feeling better. Here are the key differences between winter allergies and the common cold:
 

Winter Allergies      

  • Itchy eyes and/or sore throat
  • Snot is often clear in color
  • Symptoms last several weeks or indefinitely 

                                          
Common Cold

  • Aches and chill
  • Snot is often cloudy and discolored
  • Symptoms last about a week

If your symptoms those of winter allergies, the next step is finding the cause.


Causes


dog
 People have allergic reactions to lots of different things. During the winter, cooler weather creates the ideal conditions to spread and exasperate the following common irritants:
 

Pet Dander
Your furry friend may be a perfect to snuggle when the temperature drops, but keeping 
pets such as cats or dogs inside during the winter can lead to more pet dander in the air. When dander, (dead skin flakes), is breathed in, it can trigger allergies. 
 

Mold
As the temperature drops, dying leaves become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Exposure to clothing and shoes allows theses irritants a free ride inside your home, where they can live and spread further. People with allergies may then experience itchiness, sneezing, and runny noses. 
 

Dry Air
You may just be trying to keep warm, but turning on the heat in the winter can dry out the air in your home. As a result, your sinuses can become dehydrated, leading to inflammation. Unfortunately, this makes it easier for your allergies to act up. 
 

Solutions


people on beach

AltaMed knows you’d rather be enjoying the winter season than blowing your nose. Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize and manage your winter allergies. Try these helpful tips:

  • Install a humidifier to balance the dry air caused by heating your home. Remember though, you don’t want to over-humidify either, as this can cause mold. Both doctors and construction professionals recommend a target of 50 percent humidity.
  • Stay hydrated. Along with a humidifier, drinking water regularly will help your body the fight irritants.
  •  Vacuum frequently to remove dander and other dirt particles from your floors, carpets, and furniture.
  • Wash your sheets weekly using warm water, as high heat can help kill allergens. For extra protection, try adding hypoallergenic cases for pillows and mattresses to trap dust mites.
  • Give your pet a bath once per week, and be sure to keep them out of your bedroom if you suffer from allergies.
  • Over-the-counter medications can help relieve most allergy symptoms, from runny noses to itchy eyes. These medications will be most effective if you start taking them early. If you suffer from allergies every winter, try starting on medicine shortly before your symptoms usually appear.


Want more tips or have questions you’d like answered? Stop by an AltaMed Care location today! You can find your nearest location by clicking here: https://www.altamed.org/find

 

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The Skinny on Those Tiny Tummy Teas

January 03, 2019

If you follow any celebrities or other influencers on Instagram, you’ve probably seen posts where the celeb is wearing a bikini or other revealing outfit and sipping on a cup of tea -- claiming that those flat abs came not from their personal trainer, a live-in chef, or plastic surgery, but from drinking a weight-loss tea with a cute-sounding name and pink packaging.  You click through the post to a glossy website with amazing before-and-after pictures and positive reviews – and you probably wonder if it’s all for real. 

Since January is the time of year when many people are working on New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or save money, we can help you achieve both: don’t waste your money on these teas that make a lot of promises but only make you spend more time in the bathroom. 
 

New Packaging, Same Old Scam


tea
Flat tummy teas are nothing new. If you’ve ever been to a botanica or even your local health food store, you’ve probably seen teas advertising amazing benefits, such as appetite suppression, fat burning, or natural detoxing for your body. These teas have been around for decades. They’re almost the exact same thing that you’re seeing now in your social media feeds, just with different marketing.

So, what’s in them?


Laxatives


woman in pain
Look at the side of the box, and you’ll probably see a lot of ingredients you’ve never heard of – and maybe some you have heard of. Like Senna, which is an FDA-approved laxative that can be purchased over the counter. Senna is what’s called a stimulant laxative, and it acts by revving up the activity of your intestines. Senna is so potent, one slimming tea even comes with a warning:  “You should ensure that you have ready access to a toilet until you know how your body reacts…” 

What the packaging doesn’t tell you is that it’s dangerous to take Senna for more than two weeks. Long-term use can cause your bowels to stop functioning normally, muscle weakness, and heart and liver damage. 


Herbs that Make You Urinate More


toilet paper
Many of these teas also feature fresh-sounding ingredients, such as dandelion, juniper, parsley, and nettle. With ingredients like this, the tea has to be natural and wholesome, right? These are all herbs that have a diuretic effect: they increase the production of urine (you have to pee more). 

Unfortunately, when you drink these teas, you’re not peeing out calories or pounds: you’re peeing out important nutrients like potassium and calcium. Too much, over the long term, can cause dehydration, dizziness, headaches, and muscle cramps. 


Caffeine and Other Stimulants


hands on heart
Many weight loss teas also blend ingredients such as caffeine, green tea, guarana, and cayenne to deliver some extra kick (and they will also make you urinate more). These ingredients may boost your metabolism for a short period of time but don’t provide any long-lasting effects. It’s a combination that can be harmful to anyone with high blood pressure or heart conditions. 

Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, and sleeplessness…which may actually be linked to weight gain. 


At Best, These Teas are a Rip-off


woman on computer
Basically, the only thing these teas do is rev up your heart rate and make you spend a lot more time in the bathroom. The only weight you’re losing will quickly come back. And our bodies already have detoxification tools: our liver, kidneys, lungs, and skim are remarkably effective at removing so-called toxins.


At Worst, They Can Cause Long-Term Health Problems


woman on couch
These teas are not FDA-approved – that is, they are not studied or regulated by the American Food & Drug Administration, the federal agency that protects the public by surveying the effectiveness and safety of various foods, drugs, and cosmetics. They may interact with certain medications. They’re not safe to take in the long-term. If you dig a little deeper online, you’ll find reports of women experiencing explosive cramps and menstrual irregularities.
 

Stick to Proven Methods for Healthfully Losing Weight


woman drinking
Any remedy that seems too good to be true usually is. Fortunately, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you shed pounds while increasing your overall level of health. 

If it’s a flat stomach you’re after, there’s no such thing as spot reduction, but toned abs and back muscles can help you stand up straighter, which reduces the appearance of a gut (as well as keeps your back healthy and strong).

Regular tea can also be used in a healthy diet. Black, green, and oolong teas can give your energy a boost and may even fight high blood pressure and cholesterol. Before you start any new health or fitness program, check in with your doctor!

 

The Health Benefits (and Risks) of Drinking Caffeine

January 04, 2019

There’s something so comforting about that first sip of coffee: you feel warm from the inside out and energized to take on the day. Caffeine can’t be bad for you, right?

The short answer is: maybe? And it depends on who you are. 

Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound that gives coffee and colas that energy-boosting zing – and it seems like doctors have mixed emotions about it. There have been reports showing that caffeine can deliver health benefits such as fighting inflammation, boosting metabolism, and possibly cutting risk for stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and heart failure. And it’s a good thing, since as many as 80 – 90% of Americans consume caffeine on a regular basis. 

On the downside, too much caffeine can give you the jitters, make you lose sleep, raise your blood pressure, and can even cause a headache. It can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb and use calcium, the mineral that is important for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Some people have medical conditions that can be made worse by caffeine. In rare cases, people can overdose on caffeine (but it’s usually when taken in pill form).

And caffeine addiction is a real thing. Over time, your body can develop a dependence on it, and when you don’t get it, you develop flu-like symptoms that include fatigue, headache, muscle soreness, lack of mental focus, and dehydration. 
 

Who Should Limit Caffeine

  • Those prone to migraines
  • Anyone with high blood pressure
  • Children and teens
  • Ulcer suffers
  • Those with irregular heart rhythms


Who Should Avoid Caffeine

  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding women
  • Require certain medications


Choose a Healthy Caffeine Source

Even if you tolerate caffeine well, some caffeinated drinks are better for you than others. If you need a little pick-me-up to get going, try some of the healthier alternatives and then avoid the rest.
 

Coffee

coffee
This rich beverage has been savored around the world for hundreds of years. Still, many drinkers find it somewhat bitter, and add sugar or creamer to ease the taste. Instead, try more healthful alternatives such as cinnamon, almond milk, coconut cream, stevia, or honey.

 

Espresso


espresso
These hot shots are actually just super-concentrated doses of coffee. Because of their tiny size, espresso shots don’t have as much caffeine as a cup of black coffee, but because it’s so potent, espresso has more caffeine per ounce. Usually consumed straight, espresso is a no-go for those with heart conditions.


Coffee-house Style Blended Coffee Drinks


coffee drinks
Enjoy these sweet treats in moderation. Even if they provide the right dose of caffeine, they’re filled with sugar – many of them pack as many calories as a milkshake. All that sugar + a dose of caffeine = plummeting energy levels after the buzz wears off. 


Energy Drinks


energy drinks
Drink these only occasionally – or better yet, not at all. Some energy drinks contain as much caffeine as three cups of coffee. In addition, most are loaded with sugar and herbal stimulants for extra kick. It’s too much for many people – in 2011, energy drinks sent more than 20,000 people to the emergency room.


Tea


teaSome teas will get your motor running, and also provide additional health benefits. Even though it doesn’t have quite as much caffeine, both green tea and oolong tea are good sources of antioxidants, which are thought to protect your cells from aging and disease. These teas taste very different from the herbal teas you might have tried; spoon in some honey or stevia to healthfully sweeten your cup. 


Soda


sodaA 12-oz can of soda has about half the caffeine of a cup of coffee, so you’re not going to get a lot of bang for your buck. Like blended coffee drinks, these should only be consumed as an occasional treat, since sodas are very high in sugar. Diet sodas aren’t much better: there have been (inconclusive) studies linking them to serious health conditions and weight gain. 


If You’re After Long-Lasting Energy…
Coffee will give you a boost, but for energy that lasts throughout the day, there’s no substitute for good nutrition, exercise, and getting a good night’s sleep!