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Drs. Oz and Roizen: Brown-bagging for nutrition, economy and good taste

  • Published Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at 5:18 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at 5:18 a.m.

When you take your lunch to work with you, remember: Eat away from your desk, and stop working. That stretches out mealtime, which lets your “I’m full” hormone, leptin, kick in so you don’t overeat. Start with six walnut halves at your desk as a snack 30 minutes before lunch. Then, eat with friends: Social interaction reduces stress and boosts everything from your work performance to your immune strength.

What to take? Pack a protein: Canned salmon delivers calcium plus omega-3s. Add in: 100 percent whole-grain carbs (quinoa, brown rice), veggies (steamed broccoli or salad with red pepper, carrots, a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar); and a midafternoon pick-me-up of nonfat, no-sugar-added Greek yogurt with fresh berries. Tip: Keep healthful frozen meals in a fridge at work for days you can’t pack lunch.

New guidelines for treating ear infections

Ear infections are so common that they’re the No. 1 reason parents bring a child to a doctor. That’s because kids’ ears don’t drain fluid very effectively, and, besides being painful, fluid buildup is quite an incubator for bacteria and viruses.

But many doctors mistakenly prescribe antibiotics for use against viral ear infections (which don’t respond to antibiotics). Plus, they overprescribe antibiotic treatments for bacterial infections that would go away on their own. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines for treating ear infections and has established stricter diagnostic standards to make sure docs prescribe antibiotics only when needed.

The new guidelines recommend antibiotics for kids 6 months or older only if they have severe signs of infection — a temperature of 102 degrees or higher plus moderate or severe ear pain, or any ear pain lasting 48 hours or more. Other smart moves the academy recommends: Have the doctor drain fluid from a child’s ear (to avoid permanent hearing loss) and use pain relievers whether or not antibiotics are prescribed.

These new guidelines can help antibiotics remain the most effective, top-of-the-line treatment for children and adults — but only when they’re necessary to battle other infections.

Reset your bedtime routine

It turns out your genes’ proper self-expression depends on making sure you spend enough time dreaming.

We’ve mentioned before that lack of sleep increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, foggy thinking and a slower reaction time. But now we know why. When you don’t get enough shut-eye, you damage what’s called gene expression, the translation of basic info encoded in your genes into protein production that, in turn, sends out messages that influence how every cell in your body operates. And instead of humming along, producing a specific protein in a well-regulated way, some genes trigger the production of confused or abnormal proteins. These abnormal proteins cause dysfunction in your metabolism and immune system (never a good thing) and increase bodywide inflammation and stress.

So, if you’re not getting seven to nine hours of restful sleep most nights, you want to start a routine: Set a bedtime and stick to it. No TV or digital devices in the bedroom. Use earplugs or eyeshades if noise or light bothers you. Don’t eat within about three hours of hitting the hay.

De-stressing kids with safe exercise

There’s a lot of pressure on kids these days: They’re overburdened with homework and tangled in peer pressure at school and through social networking. And then there’s puberty, which creates a hormonal roller coaster that throws them for a loop physically and emotionally. (And it’s happening earlier and earlier.)

So if you’re searching for ways to help your child negotiate the stress of growing up, here’s trick numero uno: exercise.

Studies now show a direct link in kids between exercise and lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Research shows that the most physically active kids can get up in front of a group of people and, say, give a book report, without any marked increase in cortisol levels. But classmates who are sedentary have a brain-altering surge of the hormone when giving a similar talk.

So, before, during and after school, get your kids (they’re never too young or too old) out there playing soccer or dodgeball, or just seeing how fast they can run around the track. And if they decide to ride a bike, skateboard, rollerblade or ride a scooter, teach them how important it is to wear a helmet.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

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