Encourage kids to participate in sports

08/05/2014 10:51 AM

08/08/2014 2:47 PM

Teenage angst is big at the box office: Millions of dollars have been made off a sulky James Dean in “East of Eden,” a grumpy Judd Nelson in “The Breakfast Club,” and the intriguing Ellar Coltrane in this summer’s “Boyhood.” But while you may pay to see adolescents acting out on the big screen, back home you’re probably hoping for children with fewer emotional upsets. Well, one way to help your kids feel good about themselves and their life is to encourage them to participate in school sports teams. Joining a team helps protect teens from stress and depression, which afflict an estimated 23 percent to 40 percent of kids ages 12-17.

As a team member, kids form strong friendships and they learn to think not just about their own needs, but the needs of their teammates. Equally important, they’re physically active. Regular exercise dispels stress, improves self-image and protects kids (and adults) from chronic illnesses – like Type 2 diabetes – that are linked to depression.

Fortunately, a record number of children are benefiting: In 2013, 3.2 million girls and 4.5 million boys were participating in school sports – including cheerleading, track and field, and swimming.

But what if your teenager won’t go out for school sports? Suggest other team activities: chess club, science club or debate team, for example. Your child will still benefit from being on a team. Just make sure he or she also makes a commitment to get physically active. Bowling? Archery? Jogging? There’s something for everyone. That way your child will stay happy and healthy.

The magic of mushrooms

In John Tenniel’s 1865 illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” 3-inch-tall Alice encounters a hookah-smoking caterpillar sitting on a mushroom: “One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter,” the creature tells her. Back then, that bit of fantasy gave the homely looking mushroom a reputation as a source of magic powers. Now, 150 years later, we know just how packed with real power such fungi are – they can grow your body’s immune strength and cancer-fighting ability.

Mushrooms also deliver a good dose of vitamin D, including D-2 and D-3. They make it, like humans do, when exposed to sunlight or zapped with UV light in the controlled environment of a mushroom farm. Three ounces of maitake mushrooms contains over 900 IU of vitamin D; three ounces of shitake, almost 130 IU. Most varieties also contain potassium, copper, riboflavin, niacin and folate, plus bioactive compounds (phenols, sterols and triterpenes) that may help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels, fight inflammation and battle infection. Crimini and Portobello mushrooms are packed with as many antioxidants and polyphenols as carrots, green beans, red peppers and broccoli.

Try adding some to soups, stews and pasta sauces; feast on marinated and grilled Portobello “burgers”; and mix ground mushrooms with lentils, black beans and sweet potatoes for a tasty veggie burger. Tip: To be safe (and avoid an Alice moment or worse), don’t pick wild mushrooms. To reap health benefits, stick with farm-raised varieties, and eat them cooked, not raw.

Diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome

When a low-energy Cher was finally diagnosed with CFS/ME (chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis) in 1992, she stopped performing for three years; CFS sidelined Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a year, too. But they’re not alone. This hard-to-handle ailment affects 1 million North Americans (mostly women 40-60) and leaves victims fatigued and often in pain, unable to think clearly and less able to take care of daily tasks. CFS seems to develop after an infection with a virus or bacteria, or even as a result of an imbalance in gut bacteria.

Up to now, the only way a doctor could diagnose CFS was to eliminate other causes of symptoms and see if your fatigue, unrelieved by sleep, persisted for six months. But a recent study shows a brain PET scan may identify people with CFS quickly and accurately. Turns out people with diagnosed CFS have widespread nerve cell inflammation, particularly in brain areas related to fatigue, pain and thought processing. No such inflammation is seen in PET scans of the brain of healthy folks.

While there’s no Food and Drug Administration-approved medication to treat CFS (meds just manage symptoms), there are dietary changes that may ease brain inflammation. Avoid saturated fats in meats, poultry skin, and palm and coconut oil. Also, eliminate added sugars and sugar syrups; up your intake of omega-3s from fish like salmon and by taking a 900 IU daily supplement of DHA algal oil; plus, eat cytokine-suppressing celery, artichokes and green peppers.

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