“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is a very simple and profound proverb that somehow has gotten lost in our modern scramble to make kids smarter. Recess – that time-honored tradition that lets kids work off their restless energy and teaches them everything from being part of a team to negotiating conflicts with classmates – has virtually disappeared from many school districts. In some, instituting recess can be a challenge; in Chicago, for example, nearly 100 elementary and middle schools have no playgrounds.
But people who run school districts finally are beginning to realize that it’s a huge mistake to eliminate playtime and the creativity of playing made-up games from the school day. The benefits include stimulation of imagination, improved physical health, control of obesity, building friendships, and improvement in classroom attention and learning. Kids who have an hour of play, first thing in the day, learn better. Clearly, social-emotional development should be woven into academics.
So if your child goes to an elementary school that does not have recess or you have school administrators who do not think recess is important, speak up and step up. If you have no outdoor space for recess, then help schoolteachers find creative ways to use the gym or a classroom for it. If you have to take the issue up at parent-teacher meetings or the PTA, do it. Your child’s health, happiness and success depend on it.
Don’t get a bum rush
Yes, we know that Dr. Oz’s colonoscopy has gotten more than 35 bazillion hits on YouTube. He also had to do it twice. Because he didn’t do the right prep, his physician couldn’t get a good look at some areas. But not everyone gets such careful viewing of the intestinal tract. And that’s the news: It turns out some docs doing colonoscopies are going too fast, or are not trained well enough to find and remove all the benign polyps – called adenomas – that can develop into malignancies over time.
Best estimates are that around 32 percent of men and 15 percent to 20 percent of women will have these polyps. The doctor who performs your colonoscopy should have what is called an adenoma detection rate (ADR) of at least 20 percent, meaning that polyps are found in at least 20 percent of the patients he or she scopes.
The ability to detect adenomas measures the effectiveness of your doctor (if you go through the clean-out, you deserve the very best). So ask your endoscopist what his or her ADR is. If it’s below 20 percent, or unknown, find another doctor.
Against the grain?
When your cereal has the phrase "whole grain," "whole wheat" or "whole oats" on the front of the box, it’s not necessarily a healthy choice.
Although in the U.S. "whole wheat" (or "whole oats," etc.) means that the grain contains the whole kernel – bran and all – it doesn’t tell you what else is in your cereal. For a cereal to be labeled "whole grain," that whole grain needs to be only 51 percent of the total ingredients. For example, one popular "whole wheat" cereal also contains wheat flakes, rice flour, oat flour and brown rice flour – not a whole-grain kernel in that added bunch. And one study found that the popular Whole Grain stamp on products tends to also signal that there’ll be more sugar and calories than in other whole-grain items.
Tip for the day? Eat only cereals marked as 100 percent whole grain. That way, you won’t be conned into eating refined grains, you’ll just get the benefits of whole grains. And that’s what you want. Their fiber helps you control weight, appetite and LDL cholesterol. Their nutrients help protect your brain, your love life, your skin and your heart.
Six steps to reshape your body – for good
You can lose and keep extra pounds off by sticking to our six-step plan.
1. You snooze, you lose – weight, that is. Getting enough sleep (seven to eight hours) every night quiets your "I’m hungry" hormone.
2. If you eat it, write it down. Most people underestimate how many calories they’re eating, so keep a journal of everything you consume. (And try to make it lots of produce, lean protein and none of the five food felons: grains that aren’t 100 percent whole, trans fats, saturated fats, added sugars and sugar syrups.)
3. Slow and steady wins. Aim to lose 1 pound a week. Starve yourself, and your metabolism slows to a crawl, and your hunger hormones scream, "Eat more, now!"
4. Eat less, but more often. To keep blood sugar levels steady, eat five times a day – three meals and two snacks.
5. Get (and keep) moving. We say, walk 10,000 steps a day. Then you’ll sustain improvements such as lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar and lower lousy LDL cholesterol.
6. Team up with a buddy with similar goals, and enlist your family’s support – almost none of us can do this alone, and you can’t do it if a family member tries to reward your success with one of the five food felons.
The scoop on fake poop
Intestinal bacteria are big news: Breast milk contains 700 varieties (that’s good – it seems to build an infant’s immune system and digestive health); we now know they break down neurotransmitters and generate amino acids that affect mood (true "gut reactions"); and it seems that the disruption of a healthy balance of gut bacteria may cause or be the result of type 2 diabetes.
But perhaps the most astounding news is that a fecal transplant – that is, putting someone else’s, um, healthy mix of gut bacteria into the GI tract of a person suffering with Crohn’s disease or a C. difficile infection – can banish chronic diarrhea PDQ. But it sounds so – what’s the scientific word? – icky.
Well, now there’s an artificial mixture of gut bacteria that’s called, we kid you not, RePOOPulate. In tests, people with "untreatable" C. difficile infections (that’s the bacteria that can thrive in the gut after treatment with antibiotics) saw their diarrhea clear up in three days after RePOOPulating. Six months later, they were still free of the sinister bug. This not-quite-as-personal bacterial transplant successfully rebalanced their gut with a healthy bacterial mix.
If you have chronic intestinal problems, start a probiotic regimen (we recommend brands that contain Lactobacillus GG and Bacillus coagulans), and make sure you eat plenty of apples. They’re loaded with pectin (a prebiotic); it helps balance gut bacteria in favor of the good guys. Asparagus, chicory root, garlic, onions and oats also contain prebiotics. And if that doesn’t help, talk to your doc about repopulating your intestines with friendly bacteria.