Can Migraines Be Caused By Germs in Your Mouth?

Many migraine sufferers are convinced that certain food and drinks trigger their episodes. There may be more to this picture, which involves germs.

Who’s Got a Filthy Mouth?

Certainly, there are various reasons causing the onset of a severe headache. However, a recent study showing a connection between mouth bacteria and nitrates may shed some light on why some people suffer from oftentimes debilitating, migraine headaches.

It is entirely true that nitrate consumption can have adverse symptomatic and physical affects. But how come it doesn’t affect everyone the same?

Understanding Nitrates

Nitrates are a type of salt used to preserve meats and other consumables that can grow dangerous forms of bacteria. In the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of brouhaha surrounding the peril of nitrates found in deli meats and bacon, for example. There are also nitrates in wines and some chocolates.

But get this: Only a small percent (maybe 5%) of nitrates we ingest come from processed meats. Our largest consumption comes from vegetables—around 80%, to be more accurate. Leafy greens, cabbage, beets, and other plants contain nitrates from our soil, water, and nitrogen in our air.

Nitrates to Nitrites

Meat producers back in the early 1900s discovered that sodium nitrate  changes composition when it interacts with germs. They realized that when they added nitrate to the meat and then it combined with the growing bacteria, it became sodium nitrite. Nowadays, producers simply cut to the chase and just add synthetic nitrite.

All the medical and media coverage about the dangers of nitrites is because when it’s heated over 265 degrees, it becomes a carcinogen. So the USDA has limited the amount of nitrites utilized in food products.

Here’s Where The Mouth Germs Fit In

Just as nitrates convert to nitrites from bacteria on meat, so the same do the nitrates we eat. Green leafy vegetables that naturally contain nitrates become nitrites when they mix with the bacteria in our mouths. Does this mean we shouldn’t eat veggies? Absolutely not.

First of all, our bodies store those naturally formed nitrites in our cells until the molecules become nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a necessary compound, which benefits blood flow and maintains healthy blood vessels.

The Migraine Study

The results of the analysis made by the American Gut Project was just published in a journal from the American Society for Microbiology. By examining saliva and fecal matter from over 2,000 participants, the researchers concluded that those who suffered migraines had significantly higher levels of certain microbes. They basically had more germs in their mouths and digestive tracts.

Whether those particular microbes came from nitrites shows a link, but nothing was cause-and-effect definitively.

Trigger Point Therapy Self Massage Tool
Trigger Point Therapy Self Massage Tool

How This May Help

Once again, this study reminds us how important it is to keep balance in our gut microbiome. We can give up processed meats and wine (maybe not chocolate), but we definitely shouldn’t omit vegetables for fear of nitrate overconsumption.

If you suffer from migraines, try removing foods and beverages that have added nitrates from your diet. See if that makes a difference. Additionally, get good rest and make a commitment to reducing your stress levels. A good life includes a pain-free one.

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Improve Your On-the-Road Eating Habits

Business travel and road trips can prove to include poor eating habits. There are ways, however, to make your meals and trips heart-healthier.

Take Out

One study recently revealed a significantly higher risk of developing atherosclerosis disease amongst business travelers. Atherosclerosis is a slow, steady, clogging of the arteries. The main culprits in this social business diet are large meals mainly consisting of high-fat foods and lots of alcohol.

Being that cardiovascular disease causes over 17 million deaths annually, it behooves us to be aware of what we’re putting in our bodies. Granted, it’s not just poor eating habits that lend to our risk of heart disease. Lack of exercise, sleep and overwhelming amounts of stress also contribute.

Three Courses

The study examined the health effects of three different types of eating plans. One plan was the Mediterranean diet, which consisted of fruits, veggies, fish, legumes, and nuts. Another was the Western diet, which included red and processed meats, dairy products, and refined grains. And the other, the social-business plan, looked a lot like the Western diet but included more unhealthy snacks and excessive amounts of alcohol.

The results were recently published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology. According to fMRI and ultra-sound test results, those who ate the “business” diet revealed a “significantly worse cardiovascular risk profile” than the Mediterranean diet folks.

Turmeric Curcumin with Bioperine
Turmeric Curcumin with Bioperine

On the Road Again

It can be tough avoiding fast foods when you’re on the road. And sometimes they can seem appealing—until you’re finished with the meal and feel regretful and gross. Here are some tips for making your road trip or business trip healthier overall:

– Drink more water

Drink less sugary beverages and limit alcohol consumption

– Carry around snacks like nuts, low-sugar granola, fruit, and baby carrots

– Avoid red meat; substitute grilled poultry or fish

– Salads are great—keep the dressing healthy and low-fat

– Plan your meal ahead. Figure out when, where, and what, beforehand. With everyone running around, getting “hangry”, you’re bound to make impulsive food decisions.

– If you’re driving, keep a small cooler in the car filled with non-sugary drinks and crunchy raw veggies

– Get good rest. Meetings don’t need to go late into the night. Also, for safety’s sake, you don’t want to be driving when you’re tired. While traveling, “early to bed, early to rise,” is a wise choice.

– Take brisk morning walks. Use hotel swim or gym facilities. Carve out time during the day (even a few minutes) to move your body. Driving and working all day without stretching is awful for your posture (back and neck, too.)

If you’re the kind of person who eats well and lives a healthy lifestyle at home, there’s no reason you can’t continue those behaviors while on the road. Coming home feeling like you need a vacation or a detox isn’t any fun. Safe and restful travels…

Has Our Diet Gotten Healthier? Yes and… No

A new study on the diet of Americans reveals they have gotten slightly healthier, but in other ways they’ve gotten worse.

Unhealthy Diet Going Down

The results of the food-intake study were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Over a 13-year period, thousands of people across the country were asked about what they had eaten in the last day. National surveys were studied and the findings were not that uplifting, unfortunately. As it turns out, 46% of Americans still eat an unhealthy diet. The good news is the figure used to be 56%. So that’s one positive aspect.

Another slightly inspiring finding is that Americans are drinking less soda and eating fewer refined grains and white potatoes. There was also a small rise in the amount of yogurt, nuts, and seeds the participants consumed. That’s another glimpse of movement in a positive direction.

Progress Lacking

Frighteningly, overall, Americans showed no decline in consuming meat (processed or fresh) or sodium. Eating red meat and an overabundance of salt is linked to heart disease and high blood pressure. Additionally, the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed did not rise at all. (Two essential food groups for optimum health!) How can we begin to lower chronic disease in this country when eating habits continue to remain so unhealthy?

Class, Ethnicity, and Social Disparity

The study’s results also presented a different, yet equally significant problem. White Americans positively altered their diets more than any other group. Minority and lower socio-economic groups improved their habits only at a miniscule level. And worse, Mexican-Americans actually increased their consumption of refined grains, and black Americans ate more white potatoes. A person’s level of education and income played a part in the way he/she improved (or did not improve) his/her diet.

What’s the Fix?

We all know diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are rampant and killing way too many Americans. We can improve our health by “fixing” our diet. But how come not enough people are doing it?

Many doctors, health advocates, and even public policy makers believe government needs to step in more. The argument is that we have safety guidelines for cars, toys, and workplaces, but the ones for food are weak. The food industry basically polices itself and there’s a call for stronger government policy in this area.

Dr. Kelly Brownell, a leading advocate for good nutrition, has written papers and lobbied for stronger federal policy. The sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax has shown to be slightly effective in decreasing consumption of soda and sugary drinks. The problem is that the tax is not enough to make the drink economically restrictive. And if it is for some people, they just go to a nearby county where there is no SSB tax. Although this may be one small effort, it’s not strong or pervasive enough to affect great change.

Hopefully, you are on a path of nutritional improvement. Your health matters. For more info on food and good health check out


Can a High-Protein Diet Help with Weight Loss?

The short answer here is YES! And the secret might be protein. From Atkins to South Beach, sometimes the trendiest diets don’t always mean they are the healthiest—or the most effective.

Even for folks who have tried diet after diet might see initial results, but only to experience the same frustration and disappointment when they gain the weight back later…

Sound familiar? Remember, one diet that works for one person may not work for another. But there are things ALL of us need in our diets each day. A well-rounded, healthy diet should include: carbs, protein, and (good) fats. It’s moderation that is key…

Some refer to high-protein diets as the “secret weapon” to weight loss. Read on to find out why, and how a high-protein diet actually works.

This is Your Body on “Acid”…

Foods high in protein are necessary for our body’s overall functions. This is because high-protein foods contain amino acids, which are essential for building lean muscle. They can also help to reduce cholesterol levels, prevent diseases such as diabetes, and even obesity.

However, we are under the notion that because high-protein foods are often higher in calories that they are bad for us, or are higher in fat. Yes, high-protein foods are often higher in calories, but this isn’t because they are “unhealthy” by any means, but they help boost our energy levels and build muscle, which means they are going to “cost more calories”.

Counting Calories

The good news is, for all you avid calorie-counters, while high-protein foods are often higher in calories, this also means that we feel fuller faster after we eat them, keeping us from overeating or snacking later.

High-protein foods also take longer for our bodies to digest, which means we burn more calories simply by digesting them. In fact, those who consume more high-protein foods save an average of 450 calories each day, which leads to weight loss.

Most would recommend consuming high-protein foods earlier in the day—similar to carbs. Doing this will also give your body the energy it needs to power through the day.

High-Powered Protein Foods

So what delicious high-protein foods can you start incorporating into your diet? Here is a list below:

  • White meat—such as skinless chicken or turkey
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Protein powder
  • Energy bars
  • Cheese
  • Salmon
  • Nuts

Protein To Go

Another benefit to a high-protein diet is convenience. Many high-protein foods are relatively easy to prepare and take with you on the go. Prepare a smoothie with protein powder the night before a workday so you can grab a healthy something out the fridge before rushing out the door.

Hard-boiled eggs are another great option to throw in a salad or as a midday snack to get you through to dinner. Even an energy bar for breakfast or a late-day snack is a good, healthy option that will not only give you the much-needed boost in your day, but will also aid weight loss.

Exercise the Proteins

Finally, if you are consuming a high-protein diet and regularly exercising on the other end, then you’ve got the perfect recipe for weight loss. You are giving your body the nutrients it needs, burning extra fat, and even building lean muscle. Doing this will also boost your metabolism, which means you will also burn more calories, even when you aren’t as active.

As always, if you experience any type of allergies with high-protein foods, of if you have a health condition that many not allow you to consume these foods, then you should consult with a nutritionist or your primary physician to discuss other dietary options.

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Tips for Healthy, Safe Summer Cookouts

There’s something about cooking on the grill and eating outdoors that adds to the flavor of summertime gatherings. For those who prefer air conditioning, fewer ants, and opt to eat indoors, there are still food safety hazards worth regarding. When it comes to certain methods of cooking—and warm weather— our delicious food can quickly become unsafe for our health. Let’s explore how we can keep safety on our side…

Did You Scrub Behind the Ears?

Washing fresh produce is imperative, especially if it will be eaten raw. Any kind of vegetables with leaves can house a bevy of bugs or insects. Corn on the cob and its husks are notorious for boarding crawling creatures as well as bacteria.

If you are husking the corn and plan to boil it, this would be your safest option. Another plan is to scrub the husked corn and place it in foil on the grill. Some corn connoisseurs enjoy placing their ears directly on the grill; however, take care that the flames don’t come in contact with your food.

To Grill or Not to Grill?

Just as you don’t want your veggies overcooked on the barbeque, take better care not to overdo your meets. Charred bits of food create carcinogenic chemicals. Grilling may smell and taste great, but, unfortunately, when meat is cooked at over 300 degrees Fahrenheit, carcinogens are formed.

Other instances when carcinogenic compounds are formed are: 1) when the meat is cooked over a long period of time, and 2) when juices drip, making the flames hit the meat. Meat in these cases isn’t just hamburger or steaks. This includes hot dog, chicken, sausage, and even broiled fish.

The good news is that you can avoid potential illness when grilling by following some of these tips:

  • wrap the meat in foil
  • pre-cook in an oven and complete over a medium heat grill
  • use a gas barbeque so that you can control the temperature
  • avoid charring, or cut off ends or pieces that appear burned
  • flip the foods frequently
  • marinate the meat in anti-cancer, antioxidant herbs and spices (garlic, onion, turmeric, oregano, etc.)

Lettuce Eat in Peace

Lots of critters come in contact with lettuce and other leafy vegetables. This includes creatures of the human type, along with animals and bugs. Their germs easily transfer to the food whether it’s out in the field, on a truck, in the market, or even in your fridge. Thorough cleansing is a must before eating any produce, especially if it has no skin or covering.

Fruits like mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and coconuts are amongst the safest from contamination because of their thick skins. Even if your bagged lettuce or spinach claims it’s pre-washed, don’t take any chances. A University of California study showed that pre-washed spinach still contained over 85% of the bacteria on it from when it was plucked. Clean it yourself and your tummy will thank you.

When To Toss It

So, you’ve prepared some lovely food. Sometimes, there are leftovers. Here are some tips on keeping or tossing:

  • Toss anything that started out raw (especially if it sat in the sun). This would include Caesar salad or dressing, mayonnaise, butter, eggs, meats, fish, crudite. You may be tempted to refrigerate and eat later—don’t risk it.
  • Toss opened, unfinished bottles of water. You can pour it over houseplants or next to a tree.
  • Refrigerate cooked meats, but keep only for two days.
  • Refrigerate cooked rice or pasta, but keep only for one day (and this is assuming it has no dairy or raw marinade or dressing in it).

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More Danger Linked to Eating Red Meat

Although there have already been plenty of reports encouraging the avoidance or decrease of red meat consumption, there’s one more to add to the list.  Men, in particular, who eat a considerable amount of red meat are at higher risk of developing a painful, chronic colon condition.

What We Already Know

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a variety of foods, mostly plant-based. Ideally, one’s plate would be half vegetables and fruits, a quarter whole grains and legumes, and a quarter protein. Unfortunately, many Americans are still plating up unprocessed red meats (burgers and steaks) as their protein of choice.

Choosing lean meats (poultry), fish, and beans as a protein is better overall for heart and colon health. One theory for the disturbance that red meat causes in the body is that it interferes with the gut microbiome. This negatively affects proper digestion. Other evidence points to consumption of red meat fueling low-level inflammation. Chronic inflammation, at any level, is dangerous and has been known to increase risk of cancer.

So, Now What Are They Saying?

A new study out of Boston found that men who ate over 10 servings of red meat per week were over 50% more likely to develop diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is a pouch in the lining of the colon that becomes inflamed of infected. Food and bacteria get trapped in the pocket(s), which creates the perilous condition.

This inflammatory disease of the colon causes extreme pain, constipation, and nausea. Diverticulitis can result in dangerous complications such as blockages and/or tears in the colon wall. If the increase of heart disease or cancer didn’t scare you, perhaps the results of this study may.

Senior researcher Dr. Andrew Chan noted that in this study, there was no link between poultry or fish and the risk of diverticulitis. What this means is that trading out a piece of grilled chicken for a hamburger can greatly decrease a man’s risk of developing diverticulitis. The study was conducted over a 26-year period and included over 46,000 male participants.

How to Proceed

If you love a good steak or burger, you don’t need to remove it completely from your diet (unless your health practitioner has made that recommendation.) Aim to keep your servings to three or less per week. There are many delicious and nutrient-rich replacements for high protein dishes besides red meat.

A plant-based diet will keep you heart-healthiest, but chicken, turkey, and fish are completely acceptable sources of main protein on your breakfast, lunch, or dinner plate. Whichever you choose, remember to combine double its portion with vegetables and fruit. For more articles on healthy eating, check out


The Safe Way to Defrost and Refreeze Meats

There’s a wide range of information (and rumors) on best defrosting and refreezing practices. Here are some solid tips on keeping your food health-safe and still tasting good.

Breaking the Ice

Defrosting uncooked food (especially proteins) can be done a couple of ways.

1) Remove the meat or fish from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator until it thaws. Once it’s thawed, you’ll need to cook it.

If it’s only partially thawed, meaning, if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, you may refreeze it safely. Anytime you are freezing, defrosting, microwaving, or cooking food, its molecular composition alters. In this case, refreezing partially-thawed protein may affect the taste, but it will still be safe to eat.

2) Instead of leaving food in the fridge to defrost, you can place it in a plastic bag and run cold water over it. This method is thought to keep the product’s best flavor.

Water conducts heat faster than air, so this is also a speedier process. The only thing is, once the protein is defrosted, you have to cook it right away.

NEVER Defrost Meat, Poultry, or Seafood on the Counter at Room Temperature. Also, don’t defrost by running the food under warm or hot water.

Ms. Hanes, a registered dietician with the US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Inspection Service, offers that warning. Bacteria can set in and grow rapidly on food where there’s warmth. Once the food is thawed, bacteria can start to multiply within minutes if it’s set out. Even in the fridge, once thawed, a protein will not last more than a day or two, tops. If there’s an odd smell or off-color, don’t even bother to cook it. Toss it.

What You Can Refreeze

As covered, you can refreeze raw meats as long as they haven’t completely thawed. If in doubt, cook it.

-You can also freeze any meats after they are cooked. However, frozen, already-cooked food should only be thawed once, when you’re ready to immediately reheat and eat.

-You can freeze vegetables, fruit, bagels, cakes, and other processed foods. You can also refreeze them safely. The only thing is that their texture and flavor changes every time they semi-thaw and then get refrozen. After a while, it might not be too appetizing.

Hold it, Freeze!

If you’ve bought something like shrimp that was frozen but then was partially thawed at the grocer’s, don’t refreeze it. That would be a double freeze, and although safe, it’s not going to taste very good.

Of course buying and using fresh foods will be your most delicious and safe way to eat. But understanding how to handle food safely will keep food poisoning at bay. Next time, don’t get cold feet; refreeze if you have to, as long it wasn’t raw and warm first.

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