Q & A With Fitness Expert Jay Cardiello

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Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jay Cardiello, a fitness professional, author, and TEDx presenter who beat the Guinness World Record for one-minute chin-ups earlier this year. Read on to find out how he trained for this event, stayed motivated, and achieved his goals.


Everything You Need to Know About Natural GERD Remedies

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By: Scott Gabbard, MD

We spoke with Dr. Scott Gabbard, a doctor who specializes in gastroenterology and hepatology to learn more about natural remedies for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Take a look at his answers below to get the scoop on alternative cures for this often painful and comfortable condition. 

What are the natural remedies for GERD? 

This is a great question.  I think that lifestyle changes should be first-line therapy for GERD.  Here are a few things that have been shown to help reflux in clinical trials:

–Weight loss of 3 BMI points (if the patient has BMI > 30)

–Limiting meals to 500 calories and 15-20 grams of fat (this may mean 4 meals per day, instead of 3)

–Smoking cessation

–Use of antacids or alginate.  Alginate floats on top of the acid in the stomach and can help post-prandial (after-meal) symptoms

–Sleeping at an inclined position with a wedge (regular incline wedge)

Building on the above comment, we demonstrated that sleeping with a reflux sleep system (that positioned patients at an incline and on the left side) reduced nocturnal heartburn/regurgitation by 70%; and reduced nocturnal cough by almost 50%.

Remedies that may work, but no randomized studies available:

–Melatonin 5-6mg at night

–Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) – available in gum form

–Wearing loose clothing to reduce intra-abdominal pressure

–Chewing gum to promote saliva production

Should you try any of these remedies in combination with one another or on their own?

I generally recommend trying one at a time for patients with mild symptoms.  For more severe symptoms, these may be used in combination. I really tailor the therapy to the patient’s complaint – use the reflux sleep system if they complain of nocturnal symptoms vs. use of alginate for post-prandial symptoms.

Are the remedies on an as-needed basis or should they be part of your daily routine?

It depends on the frequency of symptoms.  I generally tell patients to use as needed, if they only have symptoms 1-2 times per week.  For more frequent symptoms (3 or more times per week), patients should incorporate them into the daily routine. Of course, some remedies should be part of everyone’s routine (smoking cessation, weight loss if obese).

How long does it typically take for a patient to see progress in their symptoms?

Everyone is different.  Some therapies work immediately (alginate), others take a few weeks. For the reflux sleep system study, we found significant improvement within two weeks, but patients continued to improve further over the next month.

What are the main GERD triggers?

Interestingly, everyone is different. In general, fatty and spicy meals tend to cause the most problems for patients.  I also believe that large portion sizes affect patients – these meals take the most time to empty from the stomach, and likely cause the lower esophageal sphincter (lower valve of the esophagus) to open -> resulting in reflux.

Can GERD ever be cured entirely?

Good question. The lower esophageal sphincter is designed to open when patients swallow (to allow food to pass into the stomach) and when the stomach fills with air (belching). In fact, even normal subjects (without GERD symptoms) have some reflux during the day. When pH tests were done on normal individuals, we have found that the general population may have up to 1 hour of reflux per day – that is considered normal. Because of this, GERD can be induced with eating large/fatty/spicy meals and being obese. That said, many patients have completely resolved their symptoms, by adhering to the lifestyle changes above.

What kind of diet do you recommend for people with GERD?

I recommend lower fat and smaller meals. Interestingly, coffee has never been shown to cause reflux, despite what many experts claim. My patients love me, as I tell them they can drink coffee again!

Any foods you recommend avoiding?

I think high-fat foods should be avoided and meals that contain a significant amount of fat/calories above what I listed.

Are natural GERD remedies as potent as drugs? 

For nocturnal heartburn/regurgitation, we found that using the reflux sleep system worked as well as proton pump inhibitors (PPI). The other remedies/lifestyle changes work well for mild symptoms, but probably not as well as PPIs for severe heartburn. However, if a patient has ulcers in the esophagus (erosive esophagitis), then PPIs are required – they are the only therapy that has been proven to heal erosions in the esophagus.

Do you recommend using drugs in conjunction with the remedies? 

In general, we recommend using PPIs in all patients with erosive esophagitis or Barrett’s esophagus. Patients with these conditions need to be on PPIs indefinitely. For patients with mild symptoms and normal esophagus on endoscopy, we generally try to maximize lifestyle therapy first. If symptoms continue, then we have patients take the lowest effective dose of medication.

Any warnings before starting to use natural remedies? 

The main points I would like to make are in regards to alarm symptoms.  Patients need to see their doctor immediately if they have any alarm symptoms (difficulty swallowing, unintentional weight loss, vomiting, signs of gastrointestinal bleeding – red blood in stool or dark tarry stools). If patients have mild symptoms without those alarm signs, then they can try the therapies listed above.

Do the remedies have to be organic, locally sourced, cold pressed, or any other specifications? 

Really good question. As of now, there are no good studies to guide us. But a nice area for future research!

In the News: Exercise May Improve Brain Efficiency, Junk Food May Increase Distraction, Pesticides May Lower IVF Success Rates

Exercise may improve brain efficiency. A new study has found that just two weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) lowers the amount of blood glucose the brain has to use up for energy in participants with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. This study also found that moderate exercise for the same amount of time improves insulin sensitivity in participants as well. Using a positron emission tomography (PET scan), researchers observed these promising changes in middle-aged men and women who don’t normally exercise and have either type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. These findings seem to suggest that even a small amount of exercise can significantly change how the brain uses up energy, making it a promising option for the 29.1 million people who have diabetes in this country, along with the 8.1 million who may have this condition but aren’t diagnosed. (F)

Junk food may increase distraction. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined the impact that food has on our ability to concentrate and found that when it comes to healthy or unhealthy food, the unhealthy stuff can provide a serious distraction. In fact, when examining 18 participants, they found that any and all food imagery was distracting, but that the images of caloric and fattening foods were two times as distracting compared to the images of fruits and vegetables. When looking for an explanation, they found that sugary, high-fat foods activate the reward system in the brain, making it easy for us to succumb to distraction. Want to say goodbye to junk food? Here are six ways to kick the habit. (MN)

Pesticides may lower IVF success rates. New research has found that eating fruits and vegetables that are high in pesticides may make it harder for women to get pregnant with IVF. Scientists studied 325 female participants who were using assisted reproductive technologies and found that those with high exposure to pesticides (large numbers of which are found in strawberries, spinach, and peppers), were eating more than two servings of these fruits and vegetables and were 18% less likely to get pregnant than those who had less exposure to pesticides, and were also 26% less likely to have a live birth. While these findings do suggest that high pesticide exposure can lower IVF success rate, they don’t yet link pesticide exposure to reproductive health issues. While more research will be needed to get a better picture into what this means, eating organic produce is a good way to avoid harmful exposure to these chemicals in the meantime. Want to learn more about avoiding pesticides? Follow these guidelines. (T)

Everything You Need to Know About HPV


We usually think of HPV as the cause of cervical cancer and most of us are familiar with HPV screenings as part of the pap smear process. But head and neck cancers are increasingly becoming a concern because studies show that they are actually on the rise, especially oropharyngeal cancer in men. Rates have been increasing about 2.9% per year in men and have remained relatively stable in women. And now, the number of cases of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer in men is now about the same as the number of cases of cervical cancer in women.

This begs the question why and a new study out this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine is getting a lot of attention because it attempts to uncover an explanation for this phenomenon.

What You Need to Know About Maternal Mortality

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We have the most technologically advanced healthcare in the world, but you may be shocked to learn that when it comes to maternal mortality, our statistics look more like those of a less developed nation than a world leader. In fact, our rate of death for recent or expectant mothers is the absolute worst among developed nations, in North America and Europe. To make matters worse, rates have risen over the past 25 years, while they have fallen in many other places.  


The #1 Lifestyle Change to Improve Your Brain

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Written by: Wendy A. Suzuki Ph.D.Professor of Neural Science and Psychology, New York University.

Doctors often recommend a long list of lifestyle changes to help protect your brain from the damaging effects of aging, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A model described at the most recent Alzheimer’s Conference in London in 2017, identified nine lifestyle changes that could help prevent one in three cases of Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s truly impressive, but how could we hope to tackle so many life changes all at once? Should I start that Mediterranean diet today? Or should I try to get 8 hours of sleep in tonight? Should I finally learn how to meditate to decrease my stress? We clearly need a better strategy and as a neuroscientist who has studied the brain and the effects of exercise on the brain for over 25 years (think of me as your exercise doctor), I suggest to start with the single lifestyle change that packs the strongest punch: adding more aerobic exercise into your life.


Are Your Shoes Making You Sick?


Around the world, it is customary for many households to require you to remove your shoes upon entering the home, and with good reason! As we find ourselves back to work and back to school, those sparkling new shoes or the kids’ new kicks can quickly become a source of contamination. After a day of contact with the outside world, we may be tracking some nasty bugs back home without realizing it.


Why You Should Add a Dose of Gratitude to Your Day

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Practicing gratitude has been clinically proven to have a profound and positive impact on a person’s health and quality of life — and it’s free! No co-pays, no time spent at appointments, no needles, no prescriptions. However, the fast-paced lifestyle that many of us have become accustomed to makes practicing gratitude difficult if we do not make a concerted effort to work it into our daily routines.


An Inside Look at How Houston Is Dealing With Hurricane Harvey

Closeup of high water flooding on neighborhood street.

Written by Jon P. Spiers, MD JD

I was near the epicenter of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina, and they share many characteristics. Storms are unique, and I want to be clear that a disaster is a disaster – no matter its name.

I was in a suburb of Biloxi, MS when Katrina made landfall. The winds and storm surge were immense. We had a surge inland for miles. At my own home on the shore we took about 20 feet of water. Most of my neighbors lost their homes, and those that did not were left with shells of homes. Read more  »

5 Benefits of Having a Fitness Family

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Having a fitness family can do a world of good. First, let’s start by explaining what does not constitute a fitness family. It could be your regular biological family but often it is not. If you are dragging these members kicking and screaming to join you for a morning walk, I am sorry but that doesn’t count. If these individuals invite you to meet them at the gym but never show or they often change their plans for Zumba or yoga, they aren’t likely to become a part of your fitness family either.

These organizational units are usually created organically. When you least expect it, someone appears on your morning walk for the second time in a row at the same time. Maybe you share a laugh in Zumba class or a smirk because you both avoid certain moves involving the pelvic area. Your fitness family forms exactly where you are. You meet them because they are heading your way or share the same club. You are striving for the same goals and you enjoy the same activities. Your fitness family can become a very supportive part of your life and help you achieve your wellness goals! Additionally, there are myriad benefits from being a part of a like-minded group! Here are the top five benefits of a fitness family.