Food from Different Worlds—Finding Foods that Nourish and Heal Across Cultures

josephineWhen I was a college freshman starting life on campus, I found the food available in our college cafeteria very confusing. Though ranked among the most diverse and delicious offerings, many times, I would walk through and find myself still with an empty plate. I could not find anything to eat. I had grown up on non-typical food, lots of roots and tubers, legumes and pulses, kale before it became a dietary hit, and lots of plain old water. Now I was part of a place that had fun theme food nights, and I could not find something that resembled my normal diet. Where I should have been thrilled, I was feeling tense, and very hungry. Many times, the most familiar thing was pizza. It often made me feel full, long before I felt satisfied with the meal.

Saved by a last-ditch connection with a wonderful nutritionist named Mimi in those first few weeks, I quickly started looking at our college food theme nights, and their accompaniments with new eyes. I could not find the foods I knew well, but I could find their close cousins in the dining hall. Since then, I began a lifelong practice of looking for the familiar foods, among those that may appear radically different. Foods from cultures that are not our own hold secrets to our own health, and happiness, if only I could get into them. (more…)

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Second August Man of the Month: Chef Bill Barum

chef billHippocrates is quoted as saying “let food be thy medicine.”  Disruptive Women’s August co-Man of the Month, Chef Bill Barum, has taken this philosophy to unprecedented levels, linking culinary excellence and better health at respected institutions and delivering measurable – and eye-opening – results.

That the Cleveland Clinic, under the leadership of CEO Toby Cosgrove, has become one of the world’s leading health and wellness facilities is well known.  A critical component of the Clinic’s success was the hiring of Chef Barum as the hospital’s Senior Director of Hospitality, Food and Retail Services.  Bringing Barum to the Clinic set in motion a re-imagining of the role of food in health care settings and a series of actions that are being replicated in multiple hospitals and clinics.

Dr. Cosgrove believed a hospital should not only be a disease recovery unit, but must be a center that advances wellness.  Thus, out went the deep fat fryers, the sugared beverages, the whole milk, vending confections and all Trans Fats to be replaced with food and beverages that pleased the palate while strengthening the body, for both patients and hospital staff.  (more…)

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Body Respect disrupts business as usual to advance nutritional wellbeing for all

lucyHow do we get from calorie counting and food preoccupation to relishing eating and enjoying body confidence? I’ll share three ways in which putting body respect at the centre can help turn the tide on body shame, weight stigma and rising health inequalities and promote enjoyable eating, and nutrition justice.

A powerful first step is to bring body knowledge back in to view. It’s traditional to teach cognitive restraint and willpower in pursuit of healthy eating, but this all too often backfires. Rational knowledge has its place – just ask someone living with a peanut allergy – but food rules become problematic when they encourage us to ignore body signals. It’s hardly surprising so many people feel out of control around eating when we eat with our heads. All those ‘shoulds’ ‘have to’ ‘mustn’ts’ fuel body-mind disconnect and play havoc with our internal regulation systems.

Tuning into body signals and sensations such as appetite, fullness, gut comfort, emotions and overall satisfaction, can help restore a healthy relationship with food. This means we eat in response to occasion, taste preference, energy levels and learn to trust ourselves to meet our needs. Shifting to this more intuitive, connected way of eating allows food and eating to meet non-nutritional roles, such as pleasure,  values, family and identity. (more…)

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American Hospitals Need to Stop Offering Fast Food, Quick!

heather farthingBan on Hospital Smoking: A Model

In the 1950′s the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published what was, at the time, an incredibly surprising finding: smoking is detrimental to health1. By 1964, the Surgeon General had publically acknowledged the linkage between smoking and cancer and, by the seventies, the smoking-cancer relationship was standard curricula in U.S. medical schools 2. Despite both medical and public awareness, however, hospital policy lagged behind the science; most healthcare centers had little to no official regulation regarding smoking in their facilities2. Reducing Smoking in Hospitals. A time for Action, published in a 1985 issue of the JAMA, declared a forceful criticism of this oversight:

Six years later, the Joint Commission: Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) ordered that all American hospitals be smoke free by the end of 19934. Today, American hospitals are plagued by a bad case of déjà vu. This time the paradox is not the presence of the cigarette at the bedside, but rather the burgers, the fries, and the soft drinks.

What’s Wrong With Fast Food? (more…)

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Foods that Nourish, Replenish and Repair

susan's photoThe food we eat serves many purposes.  It satisfies a primal need to fuel our bodies and quell hunger. It connects us to family and friends in lovely ways, during the holidays, in social situations and at the nightly dinner table.  It encourages us to be creative, to try new things, explore different cultures, and savor interesting tastes. And it comforts us, at least temporarily, when we are lonely, sad, anxious or otherwise spent.

Food has another very important purpose: it cleanses, repairs, replenishes our body at the most basic cellular level.  In fact, the latest research from the field of  nutrigenomics[1], reveals that food has the ability to turn on and to turn off our genes.  Think about that!  Only two decades ago, scientists believed that we inherited a fixed set of genes that predisposed us to certain diseases and conditions and there was little that we could do to change our course.   Now, we know differently.  Food is Medicine! (more…)

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August Man of the Month: Dr. Timothy Harlan

dr harlanToday begins our Culinary Nutrition Series, through next Wednesday we will be running posts from experts who will explore the relationship between food and health. Bon appetit!

With an August theme of The Link Between Food and Health, Dr. Timothy Harlan was the natural choice as one of the two Disruptive Women in Health Care’s Man of the Month.  While many physicians have developed an interest in food, Dr. Harlan was a chef and restauranteur first, and then developed an interest in medicine.  As he puts it, “I kind of took a wrong turn” on his way to college for a hotel and restaurant management degree and wound up a physician instead.

In addition to being a trained chef, Dr. Harlan is a practicing, board-certified Internist and both the Executive Director of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University and Assistant Dean for Clinical Services at Tulane University School of Medicine.  Early in his career, he identified the links between food choices and health.  Initially, as an author and through the Emmy award-winning Dr. Gourmet Show television series and website, and now as executive director of the Goldring Center, Dr. Harlan is working tirelessly to spread the message of simple, actionable advice about food choices that will improve, rather than worsen, overall health. (more…)

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‘Why Don’t They Just Leave?’ Domestic Violence Goes Beyond Physical Abuse

Today’s post originally ran on HuffPost Women.

“It starts out little by little,” domestic violence expert Dr. Ludy Green said, as she described the typical pattern of financial abuse. “This is a concept that the general public is not yet familiar with, which makes it harder to recognize, treat, and study than physical abuse” said Dr. Green [1].

After witnessing firsthand the damage caused by financial abuse, Dr. Green founded Second Chance Employment Services (SCES), a nonprofit organization that helps promote financial security for survivors of domestic violence.

The general public’s lack of familiarity with this type of abuse severely harms its victims. While 30 percent of women experience domestic violence during their lifetime [2], approximately 94 percent of domestic violence survivors have also experienced financial abuse [3]. (more…)

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Kim’s FDA Kerfuffle

Lisa-Suennen-photoThe post below ran first on Venture Valkyrie on August 12.

It’s always hard for me to come back from vacation and get reconnected with work, especially when I have had a great time, as I did. I spent the early part of this week trying to get my motivation back, including the impetus to restart the blog after a 3 week hiatus. There I was, searching for the story that would propel me to the keyboard, and, as always, it showed up in my favorite form – the messy collision of healthcare and pop culture.

You really can’t get more mainstream pop culture than Kim Kardashian. Her 43 million (!) Instagram followers know her better than her gynecologist, I suspect, so chock-a-block is her page with T&A. As those of you who religiously follow People Magazine and TMZ know, Kim is also married to hip hop impresario and Taylor Swift nemesis Kanye West. Together they get more publicity than Jesus, or so it seems. Maybe that’s why Kanye likes to refer to himself as God, but I digress.

kim-k-instaSo it appears that Kim has gotten herself into a bit of a kerfuffle with the FDA, which sounds like a sentence that should not exist. How in the world did these worlds collide, you may ask? Apparently Kim is pregnant with her second child (the second coming?) and experiencing some pretty severe morning sickness. Not shy about promoting her pregnancy and its effects, Kim publicized her delight in finding a drug, Diclegis, which made her feel better and got her back to the essential task of posting more naked pictures of herself. Duchesnay, the drug’s manufacturer, heard of Kim’s satisfaction with the product and signed her up to be their spokesnude. (more…)

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TBT: Melanoma: Make an informed choice

melanoma_girlFor today’s TBT post we have a post from two years ago that offers a cautionary note about spending time in the sun. After reading it you may want to think twice about squeezing in all that sunbathing before summer ends.

MG is all about making decisions. The good and the bad. When I was younger, I made a lot of bad ones. I was very immature and naïve. Most of them only affected me, but there were some that hurt others, and I wish I could change that. But I can’t. That is the thing about choices. You make them and that is pretty much it. So you need to make as many smart ones as possible. If not, then you certainly need to learn from them, so you can make better ones in the future. This is where I am now. Really thinking about my choices. How do they affect me and the people in my life? Now that I am 40, hopefully I am older and wiser (at least most of the time).

When I was in my teens and twenties, I made the choice to spend a lot of time in the sun. I lived 15 minutes from the beach and made it a priority to go there as much as possible in the summer. If I couldn’t get to the beach, then I would put my beach chair in the backyard, deck or driveway. I loved the sun. I would sit and relax and read for hours. It felt great. I am not going to deny that and pretend that I didn’t like it, or that I thought I looked better with a tan. I definitely did. (more…)


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Recap – The Intersection of Health and Housing: Opportunities and Challenges Panel

Tim_HeadshotIt was an honest, eye-opening remark during the Alliance for Health Reform panel on Friday, when speaker Barbara DiPietro talked about a common obstacle for patients when they receive a prescription for an illness: many drugs have side effects, some of which may lead to a few more visits to the restroom. For most people with a permanent home or workspace, especially when it comes to making a recovery from an illness or condition, this is an inconvenient, but necessary, reality.

However, for homeless people who do not have access to bathroom facilities 24/7, they do not have the luxury of taking a treatment with such side effects; otherwise they risk a legal citation or worse, arrest, for public indecency. As a result, they choose to not use their medications to avoid going to jail, and thus, they do not get better and have a hard time improving their prospects of finding more permanent housing and employment. (more…)

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Spreading the Word, From One Heart to Another

swhr_icon-2-solidThe following first ran on HuffPost’s Healthy Living on July 30.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined, killing approximately one woman every minute [1]. Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease, is equally alarming, causing one in every seven deaths in the U.S. [2]. CAD is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits in the heart arteries.

When plaque blocks more than 50 percent of an artery, it is considered obstructive coronary artery disease. Since a woman’s risk of CAD increases with her age, it’s crucial to understand the symptoms — and know that they may differ from symptoms shown in men.

Women may not experience the typical indicators of CAD that men commonly do, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. Instead, women frequently experience less obvious symptoms that may indicate CAD, but could also stem from other, less serious conditions including heartburn, stress, and anxiety. However, when it comes to the heart, even mild symptoms can be big indicators [3]. (more…)

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TBT: Disruptive Champions: Planned Parenthood

Over two years ago we ran the following post which highlighted the important work Planned Parenthood was doing. Do the videos that have recently surfaced change this? There are certainly those that argue it does and that the organization should be defunded. What are your thoughts?

Last week at Planned Parenthood’s national conference, President Obama spoke about the need to continue funding for the important work that the organization is doing. (See video here.) Obama’s official “blessing” of Planned Parenthood has caused quite a stir. The organization is regularly targeted by conservative politicians for some of the services it provides, including birth control and in-clinic abortions. With the pro-life movement taking aim at abortion laws around the country and right- and left-wing politicians shoring up their bases of support, it often gets lost in the shuffle that Planned Parenthood provides a lot more than abortions. (more…)


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Harnessing Big Data – MedTech Innovation that Segments Patients According to Need

m shepherdA recent interview with Battelle researchers David Giles and Stephanie Kute proves that big data is here to stay. An incredible amount of innovation is happening in the world of medical devices as technology improves, growing increasingly smarter and recording more information about its users. This innovation raises a few new questions: how can we utilize new technology to be most effective, and how can we ensure that private information is kept secure?

Stephanie Kute, platform lead for the Battelle analytics and health research team, spoke to MassDevice about Battelle’s strategies in the rapidly-changing world of big data. “Previously we had a clinical device development group and we had an advanced analytics group, and those were separate groups that would communicate occasionally,” Kute said. “But now, we’ve found, with the changes to big data, the availability of it and what’s being required by the market, it makes more sense to put us together. We now have a formal relationship within the structure of the organization, and medical devices and advanced analytics are coupled. The engineers need to be coupled with the data scientists, the mathematicians, and the statisticians in order to develop innovative products going forward.” (more…)

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What We Want Our Nurse to Know

chelsyI’ve worn a few different hats in the hospital world. I’ve been the scared patient, the frustrated patient in pain in the waiting room, the family member sleeping next to the patient for weeks in the ICU, the visitor who refuses to follow the visiting hours, but I’ve never been the nurse, the doctor, the receptionist, or the orderly. I’ve cried while my nurses held my hand, I’ve yelled at nurses when I’m frustrated, I’ve been given shampoo and access to a shower when I was sleeping next to a hospital bed for months without any belongings, I’ve had procedures and information explained to me when I couldn’t understand what the doctor was saying to me, I’ve been the friend watching my peers go through the rigors of nursing school, I’ve judged nurses for not being warm and comforting, and I’ve seen tears of happiness swell under their eyelids when things get better.

I have so many experiences as a patient or the guest of a patient, but I’ve never been in the shoes of my nurses. I don’t know what it’s like to see people die despite my efforts, to work on my feet for 14 hours, or to be yelled at by a crying family member and stay calm and understanding. There are so many things I wish I could go back and say to the nurses who have changed things for me and my loved ones during these experiences that I wish I had thought to say back then. As patients it’s hard to understand a perspective outside of our own, but here are some things we want you, our nurses, to know. (more…)

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Sixth White House Conference on Aging: Now It’s Time to Do More. A Lot More.

Anne-Montgomery-PortraitThe post below first ran on Altarum Institute’s Health Policy Forum.

Around the country, people at more than 700 “watch parties” gathered to tune into a livestream of the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) on Monday, July 13. Hosted by the White House in the East Wing and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with an invited audience of about 200 attendees, the sixth WHCOA featured more than two dozen speakers, most notably President Obama. They heard about many accomplishments, a few shortcomings, and a commitment to taking forward some solutions—but not enough. Striking a tone that was both optimistic and pragmatic, the President observed that even as challenges for health care programs and for individual retirement security are “becoming more urgent” due to the sheer size of the Baby Boomer cohort, older adults are “living longer and living healthier. We’re seeing people break athletic records—in their 60s,” he noted with a smile.

Turning to policy, the President called on attendees, policymakers, and citizens to keep Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Act (OAA), and Social Security robust and available, not only for current seniors but also for younger generations. “For Medicare,” he noted, “that means we’ve got to keep slowing the growth of health care costs.” While no blueprint was presented at the conference for how to accomplish this, the Obama Administration waded into these controversial waters last January with an announcement by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell that the agency would attempt to shift half of all fee-for-service Medicare payments by the end of 2018 to “alternative payment models.” (more…)


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