Health & Fitness

Protect your skin from frostbite when temperatures plummet

If you were stuck in the Antarctic ice on the Russian research ship Akademik Shokalskiy waiting for an icebreaker to rescue you, chances are you’d be vigilant about protecting your skin from frostbite. But if you’re on a skiing holiday in Quebec or are a kid waiting for a school bus in Minneapolis, you also need to take extra care when temperatures plummet. Young children, those not used to the cold and anyone in temperatures well below freezing are at risk of frostbite on the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes – anywhere that is exposed to the frigid air.

When the skin gets cold, your body’s circulation/heat delivery system reduces flow to areas where blood can become cold, making those areas even colder. (That’s so your body can keep vital organs, like the heart and brain, toasty.) As your extremities become colder, you first feel pain, then burning and tingling, and finally numbness. Ice crystals may form in skin tissue, sometimes causing cell death that leads to amputation.

Before you get to that point, you may save damaged tissue by slowly rewarming it, using wraps or warm – never hot – water. But the best solution is to not risk frostbite in the first place.

Cover exposed skin with a wind-resistant, warm material. Wear multiple layers for insulation. Consider mittens (often warmer than gloves) and mitten liners, if it’s below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Wear waterproof boots with warm socks. And move around to keep circulation going. Then you can ride to school or navigate that black diamond ski run with a smile on your face.


You are what you eat. That’s the heart of a new science called nutrigenomics, which looks at how diet switches certain genes on or off. Just as the plant Audrey II in “Little Shop of Horrors” turned into an evil eating machine, your diet transforms your genes’ attitude (and the attitude of your gut bacteria’s genes, too). Certain foods turn them nasty; that fuels inflammation, immune dysregulation, dementia, diabetes, stroke, cancer and other lifestyle-related disorders. The good news? Genes switch on and off pretty easily. One study found that six days on an improved diet changes gene expression from risky to beneficial. So which foods should you eat and which should you avoid?

• Eat foods rich in all B vitamins: dark leafy greens, nuts, legumes, skinless chicken, fish, asparagus, 100 percent whole grains and fruit; ask your doc about taking a folic acid and/or vitamin B-12 supplement daily (we take both). One study showed that if your diet is rich in these nutrients, you can turn off genes activated by environmental pollutants like BPA (a hormone disrupter in plastics, receipts and linings of cans) that are linked to miscarriages, childhood obesity and, perhaps, breast cancer.

• Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in canola oil, salmon and ocean trout turn off inflammatory genes in fat cells and increase production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

• Too many carbs turn on risky genes: Max is 30 percent of your daily calories, and they should be 100 percent whole grains, nothing processed.

• Eliminate saturated fat. It prods your gut bacteria to turn on inflammatory genes.

Clearing the air

Most folks pass gas 10 to 20 times a day with little noise and no smell. But some can crank out around two liters of smelly, sulfur-containing compounds daily. No wonder when Buck and Arlene Weimer previewed their odor-suppressing underpants, Under-Ease, on “Shark Tank” (they didn’t win), they generated a lot of buzz. But no one mentioned what might be causing folks to want smell-stifling underwear.

One major cause of fumy gas is lactose intolerance. Between 30 million and 50 million adults in North America can’t digest lactose, the sugar in cow’s milk. That includes 90 percent of Asians, 75 percent of blacks, Native Americans and people of Mexican and Jewish descent and 50 percent of Mediterranean peoples. (Around 90 percent of those of Northern European descent can.)

If you’re off dairy, you’ll need alternate sources of calcium and vitamin D-3. For calcium, try dark leafy greens, sardines, salmon, beans and a 600-mg daily supplement. For D-3, it’s salmon, canned albacore tuna and 1,000 IU of D-3 supplement daily. And you’ll need something to pour on cereal.

Enter unsweetened almond or walnut milk. One cup of packaged almond milk has healthy fats, 50 percent of RDA for vitamin E and B-12, 45 percent of calcium and 25 percent of vitamin D. And you can easily make nutrition-packed walnut milk: Soak 1 cup of walnuts overnight, drain, blend with 32 ounces of water, add a touch of salt and vanilla extract (make sure there’s no sugar or corn syrup in it – just alcohol and vanilla). Then go nuts.

Putting out anger’s fire

The movie “Anger Management” made fun of Adam Sandler’s character, Dave, for getting sentenced to anger-management classes – a good premise for a slapstick comedy, but in real life, repeated, uncontrolled outbursts of rage become an emotional and physical hazard to the person experiencing the flares of anger and to others around him or her. While behavioral therapy can help people learn to redirect or dispel their impulsive emotions and actions, it doesn’t really identify the underlying cause (it’s not always your mother). Now doctors may be a step closer to finding out why stresses and frustrations (perceived or imagined) make one person “blow up” but don’t push those buttons in someone else.

Folks who are overwhelmed by explosive anger and rage – a condition psychotherapists call intermittent explosive disorder – also suffer from bodywide inflammation. By studying IED’s relationship to the inflammation markers C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, scientists discovered that if you’re enraged, your body (including your brain and nervous system) is inflamed. And they’re trying to figure out if reducing inflammation in a person’s body (not as simple as taking an ibuprofen) can quell anger and make it less likely to flare up.

So if you’re blowing your stack a little too often, we say eliminate that stack of pancakes from your breakfast menu (and anything else with added sugar, syrup or grains that aren’t 100 percent whole). Enjoy salmon, ocean trout and healthy fats (unsaturated); they soothe inflammation. And reduce stress (very inflammatory) with daily meditation. Try mindfulness, progressive relaxation or breathing exercises.

Distracted driving

Picture this: Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) is driving Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) around town when he interrupts her to say: “Please hold on, Miss Daisy. I gotta call my brother about dinner tonight.” We bet Miss Daisy would have had a few choice words for Hoke.

Well, moms and dads, you need to say a few choice words to your newly licensed teens about the perils of dialing, texting or doing anything else besides driving when they are behind the wheel. Yet another study reveals that 10 percent of the time, drivers (that includes Mom and Dad, BTW) are preoccupied with something else, such as texting or eating, while piloting their cars. That behavior is particularly devastating for new drivers: They increase their risk of crashing or having a near-miss seven- to eightfold when reaching for a phone (or other object) or dialing, and quadruple it if they’re texting. While young drivers account for 6 percent of folks behind the wheel, they cause 10 percent of all fatal accidents and 14 percent of accidents that inflict injuries.

Folks, you need to teach your children safe driving habits by setting an example. Stay off the phone (it’s our pledge to do so, too), and then explain to them why distracted driving is reckless.