Why is too much salt bad for you?

Salt is a necessary mineral in our diet, but too much of it can be bad for your health, here’s why:

Consuming some salt (sodium) is important for good health. One of its key functions is that it helps to maintain the correct volume of blood and other fluids circulating in the body. However, eating too much salt has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke and other health problems.Salt works on the kidneys to make the body hold on to more water. This extra stored water raises blood pressure and puts a strain on the kidneys, arteries, heart and brain. The arteries try to deal with this extra strain by making their walls stronger and thicker which, in turn, makes them less flexible and reduces the space for blood to flow through. Over time, this can result in oxygen and nutrient starvation to vital organs, in the worse case scenario causing damage to the organs and eventually death.

Most governments publish guidelines, recommending safe levels of salt intake. Typically, these hover around the consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day; this is about one teaspoon.

Of course, this amount should be taken as a general guide. People with certain health conditions – including heart disease, stroke and diabetes – are typically advised to consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day, so it’s best to discuss the matter with your doctor, who can offer advice based on your current health and medical history.

Government recommended salt guidelines are all well and good, however, in the “real world,” in which much of our daily food intake is flavoured and even preserved in salt, and we’re used to plenty of salty snack foods too (think potato crisps, peanuts etc), keeping to even the ‘one teaspoon’ limit can be pretty difficult to manage.
So here are some easy “hacks” to help you reduce your salt intake:

  • Read nutrition labels closely. Buy the low-sodium version of an item whenever possible, but keep in mind that even “low-sodium” foods (especially tinned goods), can still contain a great deal of salt – soups and soy sauce are particularly frequent offenders in this regard.
  • Gradually reduce salt intake over time to get used to the taste.
  • Use little or no salt when cooking or eating. You can skip or cut back on the salt many recipes call for without ruining the dish. It might also be worth considering flavouring food with herbs and spices instead.
  • Don’t keep a salt seller on the table.
  • Where practical, up your intake of fresh or home-prepared foods and reduce processed foods, so you know exactly what you are eating and you can control the amount of salt going into your meals.
  • At restaurants, consider ask that the cook avoid adding salt to your food.
  • Choose reduced-sodium bread and breakfast cereals where available. Bread can contain a surprising amount of salt. So again, remember to read the nutritional details on the packing, regardless of whether a food happens to be labeled as “low-sodium.” This way, you know just how much salt you’re eating.

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Source Material:

The source material for this article was provided to us by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center News publication “Southern Health” and has been amended by our health library team to take account of the fact that our readership is primarily from the UK and Europe. It was published here on 28th March, 2018

My Autistic Son’s Personal Experiences with Bullying

In an informative, eye-opening piece, one mother from the United States recounts her autistic son’s harrowing experiences of bullying within the school system. 

By Brooke Price

Each of us parents of Autistic individuals have our own stories of how bullying has impacted our child’s life, or most of us do. As near 82% of special needs kids are bullied. Each story is unique and each as sad as the next. Whether it be stares, snickers, name calling, or actual physical violence, bullying affects each person in its own way. My son’s story with bullying started in Kindergarten- before he was able to even understand what a bully was or even speak a word to us. His journey with bullies started from almost the moment he entered public school.In Kindergarten Zain exhibited many quirks. A lot of behaviours that called attention to himself; such as screaming randomly, scripting, carrying a stuffed animal for comfort (something he still does), beating his head on the wall and his desk, roaming the classroom, messing with other children’s things and eating crayons. Many of these things he still does to this day. It wasn’t the children in his class that bullied him back then though. It was the older kids, especially during recess and lunch. They would throw food at him and trip him as he walked to put his tray up. They’d make the sounds he was making back at him and laugh; and, they’d make fun of his comfort object.

First Grade

By first grade, Zain had started to talk a little and had started to also pick up on the other children’s bullying behaviors. As many times as I reported it to the school it never seemed to stop.

Finally, one day in second grade it all came to a head in my son’s first physical assault from a group of bullies. They grabbed him at recess and pulled him under the slide; from there they beat him up and called him names such as alien. They told him he didn’t belong there, and he better not come back. No teacher saw it happen, no child reported what was happening; instead, they found my son crying under the slide after he didn’t report to line to go back inside. From there all parties were suspended, including my son. It was what the school called a “cooling off period.”

I do not believe any schools suspend the victim anymore, but I may be mistaken. Back then that was common practice. I wish I could say this was the last instance of my son being assaulted but I cannot.

Third Grade

In 3rd grade he was bullied on a daily basis to the point of him having depression surrounding the school. The school he was going to at the time was in Washington State and they’d send home reports of what happened but would rarely call me to come get him or to even tell me that it happened. If they did call it was always at the end of the day, not when it happened. He was targeted at recess a lot. They’d circle him and call him names and push him around in the circle, making him sick to his stomach.

They’d take his comfort object from him and play “keep away.” Something that is devastating to my son as he doesn’t understand to this day that his stuffed animals do not have personalities of their own. It got so common for him to be bullied that a paraprofessional was assigned to him. The paraprofessional assigned to watch him never showed up and the bullying never ended; therefore, I pulled him out of school and placed him into the K12 Online Home-school Program.


He went from a child that was being beaten up at recess on a daily basis to a happy child again once we started home-school. I worried often about him getting enough social time, but the school made sure that there were plenty of opportunities for him to communicate with other students. I am proud to say that all the depression that had clouded his school experience had disappeared within 2 months of starting home-schooling.

I continued to home-school for a number of years. Until life happened. Home-school couldn’t last forever though, as a move across the country prompted me to have to re-enroll my children in the public-school system again.

Sixth Grade

Zain was marvelously lucky to be placed with the best teacher and aides I have ever worked with in his new public school. You see, he was placed in a self-contained special education classroom for Autistic teenagers. It was like turning on a light bulb. Being in that classroom, with those individuals helped my son grow and mature so much.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t always be there to protect him from the bullies that seem to stalk every school hall anymore. They tried their best but within 3 months of enrolling in the school my son was assaulted in the bathroom outside his special needs classroom. Several general ed students seemed to be waiting in the bathroom for a special needs student to walk in. They devastated him that day. He was sent home to me a different child than I sent to school that day.

In the bathroom, from what Zain has told me- he was thrown into a wall, cussed, his stuff was thrown away and toilet paper was shoved in his mouth. Those boys took my sons innocence that day, as he felt targeted, and you know what- I feel as though he was targeted as well. It didn’t end there though. Despite my deep maternal instinct to yank him out of the school that day and never send him back; I did not have that option as he was not approved for home-school and I didn’t have the resources to do so at the time. Home-schooling is an extremely time consuming and commitment entitling venture. At that time, I just couldn’t do it.

Seventh Grade

To my dismay, the bullying just got worse. Except it moved from the students outside of the special needs classroom and became centered around one child inside his classroom. One child that had been his friend. One single bully. For 7 months the teacher and I tried to come up with a solution that kept the two apart and kept Zain in her program. In the end the actions of this child on one fateful autumn day changed everything. One choice by one person changed our lives forever. The events of one day made the decision for me to never send my children to a traditional public school again.

That day the bully and Zain went to the bathroom together, per Zain’s report. The same bathroom he was assaulted in less than a year before. What happened in that bathroom is still not entirely clear as my son has developed PTSD because of it. What we do know is that this teenager, who is also on the spectrum and is 3xs my sons size decided that day to target him in secrecy, as he had been doing for months. I found out he’d been torturing Zain for quite a while. What we also do know is my son was, once again thrown against a wall and hit; except this time the bully took it further. The injuries sustained by my son were equated to that of a hanging. The doctor called it a strangulation by hanging.

He came home to me angry. Nobody at the school knew it happened as it happened at the end of the school day. Zain hid the injuries from everybody with ease, including me. I knew he was acting weird when he came home because he refused to take off his hoodie or talk about his day. I kind of let it go for a bit because he often melts down if pushed when he doesn’t feel social. At bath time it all came out. I about fainted when I saw the marks around his neck! He instantly started crying and begged me not to tell his teacher. I told him I had to tell her and tried to get him to tell me what happened as we ate supper. His story varied, and his voice cracked but I called the teacher and sent her pictures anyway.

Therapy was instantly started and a visit to the doctor, along with a visit to the school happened the very next morning. As mad as I was I held it together for my son through the appointments – though it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I wanted to scream, shout and cry. I didn’t though. I worked with his teacher to get him to tell us what happened. I had them to my home to follow up to get the rest of what had come out in therapy. We worked together as a team to figure out how to prevent this from happening ever again.

Home-schooling Again

That day I changed my whole life and became a home-school mum again, this time choosing to use Connections Academy. That day my son learned the difference between a friend and a bully; never-the-less he changed that day. It took him years of experiencing it and multiple assaults before he got what bullying is, but he finally understands it isn’t his fault that he was bullied. He finally understands that bullying is a problem in the bully’s life not a problem with the victim. What he doesn’t understand is why bullies bully other kids. That I have no words for because I don’t know why they do it, except in the instances that they learn it at home. All I know is that the instances my son has lived through have left me with PTSD as well and has changed our whole family, as bullying tends to do.

Not every parent has the option to home-school, and if you don’t-do not feel guilty for sending your child to a brick and mortar school. Just be diligent in reporting bullying to the school and the teachers if your child experiences it. And if your child happens to be a bully-teach them respect and morals, teach them how they are acting is wrong and affects people’s lives. Don’t just ground them and move on with it, teach them from the experience so that they do not go on to bully another child again.

Further reading:

If you’d like to view a selection of medication-free Psychological Health products, the main index is here. If you want to go to our home page, then it’s here

Source Material: 

This article first appeared in the online health journal, EmaxHealth, on 27th March, 2018. It is reproduced here under CCL copyright provisions with minor editorial adjustments to account for our primarily British and European audience. To view the original article, together with all active links and references, see here

Diabetes: Could intermittant fasting tackle diabetes?

Intermittent fasting could help tackle diabetes – and here’s the science

By Nick Lesica

Intermittent fasting is currently all the rage. But don’t be fooled: it’s much more than just the latest fad. Recent studies of this kind of fasting – with restricted eating part of the time, but not all of the time – have produced a number of successes, but the latest involving diabetes might be the most impressive yet.

The idea of intermittent fasting arose after scientists were wowed by the effects of constant calorie restriction. A number of studies in many different animals have shown that restricted eating throughout adulthood leads to dramatic improvements in lifespan and general health.

The reasons for these improvements aren’t yet clear. Part of it seems to be that going without food gives cells in the body a much needed break to perform maintenance and repair. But the lack of food also forces cells to resort to alternative sources of energy. Some of these, such as ketones – molecules created in the liver from recycled fat – appear to be beneficial.

‘Fasting’ without fasting

The problem is that constant calorie restriction isn’t practical: it’s easy for scientists to impose upon lab animals, but hard for humans to impose upon themselves in the real world. Fortunately, we’ve learned that constant calorie restriction isn’t really necessary. Intermittent fasting seems to have many of the same benefits.

There are two main types of intermittent fasting. One type, known as “time restricted feeding”, requires eating only during a few hours of the day – say between 10am and 6pm. This approach gives the body a long break from food each night, and also reinforces beneficial circadian rhythms.

The other type of intermittent fasting – made popular by the 5:2 diet – is known as “periodic fasting”. This approach involves alternating between long periods of unrestricted eating and short periods of eating very little (five days of eating normally, two days of eating restricted calories).

It isn’t yet clear whether one type of intermittent fasting is better than the other. But the data so far suggest that both types can work.

Tackling diabetes in mice and men

The recent studies of the effects of intermittent fasting on diabetes have focused on periodic fasting in particular. As a first step, researchers led by Valter Longo at the University of Southern California, began by testing whether periodic fasting could cure diabetes in mice. They used mutant mice that lack the fat hormone leptin to regulate their food intake. These mice constantly overeat and become obese and diabetic in early adulthood.

The researchers found that after just a few months of periodic fasting – alternating seven unrestricted eating days with four restricted days – the diabetes was cured. This is an amazing result. But what’s even more amazing is the reason behind it.

The mice lost weight during the periodic fasting, which helped of course. But that wasn’t the whole story. Periodic fasting actually solved the problem directly at one of its sources: the pancreas.

Diabetes is a disease characterised by excess blood “sugar”, which really means excess blood glucose. It’s largely an insulin problem. Normally, insulin causes cells in the body to take in glucose from the blood. But with diabetes, glucose stays in the blood because cells no longer take it in. This is partly because many cells lose their sensitivity to insulin, but also because the pancreas stops making it.

It turns out that the periodic fasting made the pancreas start producing insulin again. The days of restricted eating gave the pancreas a break that allowed it to remove and recycle many of its cells. Then, when the mice started eating again, new cells that were capable of producing insulin emerged.

So the pancreas actually shrunk during the four restricted eating days, and regrew during the seven unrestricted eating days. After several such cycles of shrinking, recycling, and regrowing, the pancreas was nearly as good as new.

The big question, of course, it whether intermittent fasting will have the same effects in humans. The answer is not yet clear, but the initial indications from a recently published phase two clinical trial, again led by Longo, are promising.

In this study, 100 people went through a series of 30-day cycles of periodic fasting, each with 25 days of unrestricted eating and five days of restricted eating. After only three cycles, those subjects who started the trial with high blood sugar saw big improvements. And, importantly, none of the subjects in the trial experienced any harmful effects.

So the evidence in support of intermittent fasting keeps growing. Does that mean that we should all be doing it? Not necessarily.

Intermittent fasting seems to be most beneficial for those who are already overweight and unhealthy. While it does also seem to have some benefits for lean and healthy lab animals, it’s not yet clear whether the same is true for humans.

The ConversationA much larger phase three trial of intermittent fasting in humans that will clarify a lot of things is set to begin soon. The results will no doubt be very exciting.

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About the author and source material:

Nick Lesica is Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, University College London. This article was first published in the academic discussion journal ‘The Conversation.’ To view the original article, which includes active links to all references, please here

Getting to grips with spring-time clock changes

Springing forward is harder than falling back. These tips can help with sleep patterns during the upcoming time change

Banking up on sleep ahead of the time change when clocks spring forward an hour is a smart way to avoid the frantic feelings and lingering fatigue associated with daylight saving time — but only if you do it the right way.

“It’s really important to go into the time change without being significantly sleep deprived,” said Dr Kelly Brown, a specialist at the Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center in the United States.

Brown recommends taking a nap of not more than an hour on the day before retuning to work and also going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night during the days leading up to the time change.

“It’s really a good idea to not sleep in excessively over the weekend because it will make getting up on Monday even more difficult,” Brown said. “Taking a brief nap on the Sunday of the time change can be helpful to offset the sleep loss. A one-hour nap would be helpful, but not more than an hour. More than an hour could affect your night-time sleep.”

A Sunday afternoon nap should offset the average of 40 minutes of lost sleep most people experience on the night before reporting back to work, she said.

She also recommends taking in some bright sunshine after rising from bed on the weekend of the time change because light helps to regulate the body’s internal clock. If the weather is dreary, and won’t allow for this, then specialist products are available, which will also be helpful at other times of year, for example if you find your sleep patterns drifting and becoming irregular, or if you experience bouts of the winter blues, after the clock go back again mid-Autumn.

Not just an inconvenience

The spring time clock change is more than an inconvenience, Brown said, noting that studies have linked it to increased incidences of stroke, heart attacks, workplace injuries and traffic accidents.

“It is going to be darker than usual driving into work Monday morning,” she said. “There can be increased accidents, including accidents involving pedestrians because it is darker and people don’t always account for that.”

Most people need a few days to a week to adjust fully to the time change. For others, especially night owls, the disruptive effects tend to be much longer lasting, she said. If fatigue and difficult sleep patterns persist for more than two weeks after the time change, this may indicate the presence of a sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep disorders are remarkably common, but are frequently under-diagnosed — meaning people are left unaware of the fact that convenient and effective treatments are available.

Mindful of this tendency for sleeping problems to be missed, Brown said that “If you are a person who has a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep, or if you often feel tired in the daytime, you should speak to your primary care physician (GP)…”

Tips to help ease your adjustment to the daylight saving clock changes this spring:

  • Don’t excessively oversleep on the weekend of the time change. Consider a Sunday nap of no more than one hour.
  • Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night, beginning on the Wednesday before the March time change would be ideal.
  • Dim house light earlier leading up to the time change and avoid bright lights in the evening, especially from smart phones, computers and TV screens.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark.
  • Get morning exercise in sunlight on the weekend of the time change if possible otherwise try to use a specialist device.
  • Eat an early breakfast and dinner on the weekend before, and eat a good breakfast on the Monday morning after the time change.
Further reading:
To further explore medication-free, alternative healthcare options, please visit our home page here or, if you’d specifically like to explore sleeping aids, including the Re-timer eye frames or Propeaq light therapy glasses, to help realign your sleep patterns, you’ll find them here

This article was first publishd here on 20th March, 2018. The author is Tom Wilemon, who is information officer in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center News and Communications Office and the editor of Momentum magazine. The article has been amend by our health library team to take account of the fact that our readership is primarily from the UK and Europe.

ADHD: Understanding Procrastination

Understanding ADHD: Procrastination or…. Decisions, Decisions!

This video clip, from the superb TedEd organisation is presented by Tim Urban, and gives us a humorous yet, at the same time, very informative take on procrastination – a behaviour trait that so often sits at the core of ADHD.

 Courtesy of: www.ted.com

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