Pearly Whites for the Long Haul

By: Nikki Nies

With 3/4 of adults having a certain level of periodontal disease, whether its the simple gum inflammation to the damage to soft tissue and bone that support the teeth, these issues can be prevented with proper oral care, which includes brushing, flossing and a healthful diet.

Thank you Health Perch for sharing this great infographic!


Photo Credit: Health Perch 

Eliminate Slouching For Good!

text-neck.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scaleBy: Nikki Nies

Last year 1.91 trillion text messages were sent. Also, according to the Tech research firm, IDC, 79% of 18-44 year olds have their smart phones with them 22 hours of the day. What do these mind boggling stats lead to? Back and neck pain. While back pain is quickly, rightfully so, attributed to stress, inadequate and/or improper stretching, you may play a larger role in mediating back pain than you realize.

Don’t agree? Texting is synonymous with a hunched over posture, so much so that physical therapist, Dr. Dean Fishman coined the term, “text neck” to describe the repetitive stress injury caused by one’s head hung forward, looking down at phone for long periods of time.  Excessive straining of the neck can lead to headaches, achy shoulders and back pain that comes with poor posture while texting. Perhaps, “text neck” should be rephrased to “gaming, emailing and texting neck” as all these entertainments on smartphones contribute to neck and back pain. Text-Neck-Freehold-Chiropractor

While, the average head weighs ten pounds when properly postured, meaning when ears are over shoulders, for each inch of head tilt forward, referred to as “forward head posture”, pressure on the spine doubles and one’s head can feels like it’s holding up to 20-30 pounds. Over time the added pressure puts strain on the spine, flattening or reversing the natural curve of the neck, leading to misalignment, metabolic issues, bulging discs, restricted movement, bone changes, nerve compression, soreness and/or inflammation.

Still not convinced? In a slouched position, it can reduce one’s lung capacity as much as 30%. Limited oxygenated blood flow can lead to vascular disease.  With additional pressure placed on organs due to poor posture, this can lead gastrointestinal and digestive problems.

Whether you’ve been a sloucher all your life or you catch yourself leaning over the kitchen counter with your phone, there’s quick adjustments, pun intended,  that can be used to limit future pain:

  • Be aware of how you sit.  Frequently, roll shoulders back and keep ears directly over them to prevent you head from tilting forward
  • Use Bluetooth or a headset
  • Look down at phone with eyes, no need to strain neck
  • When possible, make phone calls instead of texting
  • Use the voice recognition feature on smart phones and tablets
  • Use a docking station and wrist guards to support weight of tablets and phones 9845435_orig
  • Use Dr. Fishman’s Text Neck Indicator, an Android app, that gives real time alerts–a green light appears on top corner of phone when phone’s being held in an acceptable viewing angle; a red light appears when phone’s turned to an unacceptable viewing angle.  The app also tracks slouching patterns, calculating an average posture score. Staying above 85% is ideal, as its standard measurement for good posture.
  • Incorporate quality posture exercises, such as yoga, Bar Method and pilates
  • Invest in a quality chair that will support your back. Make adjustments for feet to stay flatly on the floor.
  • Every twenty minutes getting moving, such as taking a lap around the office, moving from one side of the room to the other and/or replenishing with water. Again, roll shoulders and neck to keep blood flow moving.
  • Incorporate NHS Live Well posture exercises into daily routines
  • Parents: lead by example and limit use of smartphones and tablets; encourage good behavior of your children
  • To ensure spine’s straight, don’t lean over a desk or table.
  • While sitting or standing, holding reading material at eye level, which prevents the need to bend over.

While use of smart phones is here to say, “text neck” does not have to be!

Photo Credit: Tree Hugger , Chiropractor Freehold, and Text Neck App


The Life of Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, LDN

gingerBy: Nikki Nies

Since moving to the Greater Chicago area, I can’t applaud the value of the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND) valiant efforts to provide resources, connections and some good ‘ol fun to its members!

Recently, We Dish Nutrition (WDH) had the pleasure to interview CAND’s President, Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, LDN, a Registered Dietitian at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Skokie, IL.  In addition, she’s been busy coordinating future CAND events, getting ready for the holidays and has even squeezed in a trip to Myanmar! apple

WDN: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a RD?

GH: I love being a dietitian so much. Working closely with clients over time, I get to see the amazing changes they can make. Gaining or losing weight, getting a clean cancer scan, improving labs or curing nutritional deficiencies…any of this is possible when I get to work with someone and see them often. It’s rewarding to see someone empowered that they can improve their health through nutrition!

WDN: What is some of the background work that goes into being a RD at the Block Center? [i.e. what are some responsibilities and/or duties one may not realize is part of your job?]

GH: The Block Center is a very unique place to be a dietitian, but one that allows me to use the skills I worked to develop at Bastyr University where I did my graduate work. For example, the dietitians cook four days per week for our patients and their families; we have a fantastic demo kitchen and I develop recipes and cook for 10-30 people when I’m there! I also specialize in supplementation, namely vitamins, minerals and other natural products that are research-based to help treat deficiencies, lower inflammation, stimulate the immune system or whatever else my patients might need (based on blood labs, of course!). Having a background in research is critical to working in oncology environment and this is another big part of my job. Cancer research changes constantly so combing articles daily is part of what I do to stay current.

WDN: For those interested in learning more about the oncology concentrated aspect of the nutrition field, how can they learn more? 

GH: I would start by joining the Oncology Dietetic Practice Group: They are a fantastic resource for new research, webinars, an annual symposium and nutrition resources. Other than that, I love the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics book Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice, published in 2013. It gives a broad approach to all aspects of nutrition oncology including medical nutrition therapy for different types of cancers. Finally, as we know that people with cancer are hugely interested, statistically, in complementary and alternative medicine, I use Natural Medicines Database almost daily in my practice:

WDN: What exciting things are planned with CAND for 2015?

GH: The Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has been on fire this year!  We have National Nutrition Month events in March with a special meeting to celebrate “RD Day” mid-month. Policy leaders from our organization will be attending Illinois State Advocacy Day in Springfield and we have a fantastic line up for the State Spring Assembly in April where several of our members will be earning prestigious Academy awards at a special educational dinner. CAND has two more education dinners for our members and I’m hoping that we can participate in a spring run or walk to help raise money for a charitable organization – with all of our physically active members, I think it makes sense to set a positive example in the community, as we have been doing all year at nutrition events around the city. I’m also really excited about CAND’s social media – we have a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest to help connect our members in so many ways.

CAND image 2 (1)WDN: What opportunities are available for CAND members that not as many people know about?

GH: Great question – there are many!  First off, aside from the educational meetings, all members are always invited to attend board meetings. It is more exciting than it seems to see how the organization is ran and also a great way to become more involved. Our website is really a wonderful resource that we’ve worked hard on; we have an active blog (which members can post to!), a speakers bureau, and job/volunteer postings which we update weekly both on the website and in e-blasts. Some of my members miss out on the e-blasts when they go to “Social” boxes in Gmail so be sure to pull over those important pieces of CAND communication. Joining a committee is easy; all you have to do is reach out to me and I can connect you with the next meeting of whichever group you are interested in becoming involved with. We have about 10 very active committees within the organization that are always looking for new talent

WDN: You recently spent three weeks in Myanmar, what made you choose to visit this country as your vacation? What was your impression of the culture, food and the people?

GH: Myanmar was an incredible experience. As the country very recently opened to tourism due to a change in government control a few years ago, we thought it would be an opportunity to experience a somewhat unchanged culture because of their limited access to outside influences. The culture is predominantly Buddhist and this is a very important aspect of daily life for Myanmar.  Myanmar is also one of the safest places I’ve ever traveled; we had so much fun taking pictures with curious local people and experiencing their daily lives. The food was absolutely delicious – noodle and rice based, they have an emphasis on vegetables including different greens, cabbage, broccoli and hot peppers and serve egg in almost every dish. They offer a lot of seafood dishes including fish-based soups and have the most delicious tofu which is made from chickpeas instead of soybeans.

WDN: What was your most memorable meal in Myanmar?

GH: There is a state in Myanmar called Shan State and the people there are Thai decedents. Shan noodles are a staple dish served with tomato sauce, crushed peanuts and lots of garlic. The noodles are spicy and served with broth on the side, and even though the daily temperatures reach into the 90’s and above, eating hot soup for lunch and dinner is strangely satisfying. I hope to learn how to make Shan noodles at home if I can.

WDN: What do your future travel plans entail?

GH: I have a lot of US travel planned this year; I try to go somewhere new every month if I can. Also, I cannot WAIT to go back to Southeast Asia. I would love to visit Myanmar again, maybe to stay and work in a school there for awhile. I am also fascinated by Vietnam and Cambodia.  I have a dream of visiting China as well, hopefully in the near future.

WDN: What’s a holiday tradition that your family continues today?

GH: We always play board games!  Now that we’re adults, this might also include drinking red wines from Washington State, where I’m from originally. It’s fun to try new games each year – the ones with a lot of interaction are best and I really enjoy spending this time with my parents, brothers, husband and close family friends.

tahiniWDN: What’s your favorite food? How do you take your coffee?

GH: Spicy food – Pho, enchiladas, tofu, pizza….I love it all!  I am a veggie so I’m always trying new vegetarian restaurants around Chicago. Being from Seattle, coffee is important to me. I have a cup or two a day and take just a splash of almond or soy milk on top.

Thanks Ginger for this enjoyable and informative interview! We sincerely appreciate your hard work and dedication to the dietetics profession!

Growing Ginger

Original Image by Andrés Monroy-Hernández via Flickr
Original Image by Andrés Monroy-Hernández via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

A few months ago, I was down south visiting my parents and mother made a point to head to the Asian market for some candied ginger.  If you’re familiar with my life mantra, of the less expensive, more fresh and homemade, the better, then you’re probably not surprised to hear that I approached the purchase of candied ginger as “how can we make this ourselves?”  Also, I love a challenge! While a few months have passed, mother’s liking of candied ginger hasn’t.  Therefore, this post is for my mother and all those adventurous souls willing to take a stab at making own ginger!

As part of the family of plants that create cardamom and turmeric, the part of ginger that is consumed is called the rhizome, the horizontal stem from which the roots grow.

There’s two major methods of growing ginger: 1) in the pot 2) in the ground!

1) In the pot: grab some ginger root from the grocery store and let it soak in water overnight.  Obtain a 14 inch x 12 inch deep pot and obtain potting soil and compost. Plant ginger root just below the surface of soil and place pot in an area of 75-85F.  Cooler temperatures may stunt growth! At the beginning, water lightly until shoots appear.

With patience and at least ten to twelve months, the plant will mature to two to feet high. With the new sprouts that appear, replant or use!

2)In the ground: grab some ginger root from the grocery store and let it soak in water overnight.  Plant ginger root in rich, moist soil with temperatures below 75F.  Keeping buds facing up, plant ginger in the ground. Cooler temperatures may stunt growth! At the beginning, water lightly until shoots appear.

With patience and at least ten to twelve months, the plant will mature to two to feet high. With the new sprouts that appear, replant or use!

After a year, I can’t wait to make candied ginger with my mother!

Candied Ginger: 

Original Image by TheDeliciousLife via Flickr
Original Image by TheDeliciousLife via Flickr

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 1 hr Yield: 1 lb.


  • Nonstick spray
  • 1 pound fresh ginger root
  • 5 cups water
  • Approximately 3/4 pound granulated sugar
  1. 1. Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a half sheet pan lined with parchment
  2. Peel ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices.
  3. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.
  4. Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces.
  5. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from Alton Brown via the Food Network

In my household, I know the ginger would be used for ginger cookies, ginger tea and most importantly to help treat treat nausea, inflammation, and certain cancer, breast cancer specifically! With its versatile use, ginger can be a great alternative to traditional “sweets.”  What’re your favorite uses of ginger? Have you had prior experience planting your own?


Snack’s Bad Reputation

Original Image by jeffreyw via Flickr
Original Image by jeffreyw via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

It’s become more common and socially acceptable to deviate from the mainstream three meals of debates.  There are even debates on whether one should eat five “snacks” throughout the day instead of over sized portions of the common three meals.  While the debaters figure it out for us, I’m going to zero in on snacking today.  You know there’s a concept of “bad” snacking, right? I hope I’m not introducing a foreign concept today.

This blog post came about as I was at school the other day, passing the vending machine. For those that don’t know, I carry food with me everywhere I go. I’m not talking about a carrot, but full on meals. I like to defend my load of food as being prepared and boy has those meals helped me get through my current dietetic internship and master’s program. I digress. Walking past the vending machine, I asked myself, what if God forbid I forgot to back food with me and had to resort to vending machine food? I went through the vending machine options and I really couldn’t find any foods that I saw “worth” the cost. The healthiest snack might have been pretzels, yet how long would that sustain me? Not very long!

With that said. if you’re still with me, I don’t recommend or endorse vending machines.  Those prcocessed treats may have to be used in the dire need of emergencies, but not for day to day energy needs! Please don’t resort to those types of foods as many are filled with empty calories, full of sugar, sodium and fat! Who needs that?!

Original Image by Zdenko Zivkovic via Flickr
Original Image by Zdenko Zivkovic via Flickr

Bad snacking can become a vicious cycle of overeating oversized portions, with many Americans easily eating 600 calories from snacks alone.  As you know, too much unhealthy foods can lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, elevated triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which can directly impact one’s weight and development of heart disease.

Continuous eating also can contribute to the development of dental caries.  With increased exposure to food, the enamel has more opportunities to produce damaging acids. One should be espeically careful with sticky foods or those that leave particles behind (i.e. dried fruit, granola and/or crackers). If you’re not sure about the foods you’re eating, when in doubt, use the travel toothbrush you have handy!

Be honest, do those processed leave you feeling ready to tackle the next task?  I doubt it! Snacks on the go are a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your day! Yes, keeping healthier snacks on hand does require some planning, but investing in your health is a facet of our lives we should all aspire to do.


Hummus and Guacamole Showdown



Watermelon… Magic Fruit?

Thanks Kelly for sharing these great watermelon tips!

Omega 6 FA


By: Nikki Nies

Omega 6 fatty acids(FA), also known as linoleum acid, are the second type of essential FA within the omega family. They’re only available via one’s diet Omega 6’s play a vital role in optimal brain function, reproductive health, regulation of metabolism, bone health and hair growth.  Also, it may ease resistance to insulin for diabetics.

At room temperature, omega 6 FA are a colorless liquid.  Linoleic acid is used in the biosynthesis of arachidonic acid (AA) and some prostaglandins.

Food sources of omega 6’s:vegetable oil; sunflower oil, rice bran oil; cottonseed oil; corn oil; canola oil; flaxseed oil; avocado oil; coconut oil; walnuts; safflower seeds; pumpkin seeds; sunflower seeds; brazil nuts; peanut butter; meat; eggs; dairy products, etc.

However, it’s been found that an excessive amount of omega 6, in relation to omega 3, can lead to the pathogenesis of many diseases–CVD, cancer, autoimmune and/or inflammatory diseases.  The optimal omega 3/omega 6 ratio is 15/1-16.7/1, but may vary depending on disease state (i.e. for CVD a ratio of 4/1 omega 3/omega 6 is associated with a 70% decrease in mortality; 2-3/1 ratio was found to suppress inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients).  The typical Western diet is deficient in omega 3’s, so it’s important to monitor and assess your omega 3/omega 6 intake.


Add a Little Indian in Your Life!


By: Nikki Nies

My roommate has gotten into a rhythm of making food with only Indian spices and staples.  She has invested in garam masala, cumin, coriander, and turmeric, etc. Bringing a new wave of aromas into our apartment, it has reminded me how enjoyable and beneficial it can be to eat Indian cuisine.

It’s widely known Indian cuisine is vegetarian. However, that should deter you to experiment in the kitchen and use some of their well known spices.  Not only do common Indian spices add additional flare to dishes, but as an added bonus, can be beneficial to one’s health too!

In no particular order:

  • Cumin (Jeera):Besides contributing to an array of flavors to Indian dishes in curries, soups, rice and parathas;  cumin can boost one’s immune system, control stomach pain, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea and morning sickness; contains adequate amount of iron; diuretic; eases carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Asafoetida (Heeng): useful in khatti mithi dal; aids in digestion; can help with respiratory problems (i.e. asthma, bronchitis and cough); aids in pain associated with excessive menstruation and/or general pain
  • Cardamom (Elaichi): Used as a digestive aid; can help treat diarrhea, colic and constipation; may help lower blood pressure; can be used in a variety of dishes–adding sweetness and to pastries and potatoes; may stimulate appetite; ease nausea; curb bad breath; relieve gas and/or bloating
  • Cinnamon (Dalchini): May help regulated type 2 diabetes, as it helps increase insulin action; antioxidant rich; contains anti inflammatory properties; reduces cholesterol levels;
  • Turmeric (“Indian saffron”; Haldi): Main ingredient in curry powder; essential for liver detox, antioxidant rich; may ward off cancer,joint inflammation and Alzheimer’s; helps minimize liver damage that may be caused by excess alcohol intake; may ward of cold and cough consumed with milk; helps treat heartburn, arthritis, stomach pain, intestinal gas, diarrhea, stomach bloating and/or loss of appetite; can be used as a topical treatment to treat ringworm and/or infected wounds
  • Ginger (Adrak): beneficial to one’s gastrointestinal tract; if one places a slice of peeled ginger in tea, it can help with an upset stomach; aids in inflammation;helps cleanse and detoxify the body;stimulates circulation
  • Coriander (Dhania): aids in inflammation and indigestion; may help lower LDL levels, known as the “bad’ cholesterol, while raising HDL levels, known as the “good cholesterol”; antioxidant rich–helping to relieve oxidative stress in diabetics; contains antibacterial properties; relieves bloating

 If you haven’t noticed, a lot of Indian spices have anti-inflammatory and digestive relief benefits.  Perhaps, start incorporating some of these spices in your every day dishes or start experimenting with some of the aforementioned spices.  If you’ve got a knack for Indian cuisine, what’re some of your go to dishes?  Any friendly tips?




By: Nikki Nies

Sepsis is a life threatening disease that occurs when chemicals are released into the blood to fight infection, leading to inflammation throughout the body.  Blood clotting decreases the blood flow to limbs and internal organs.  The condition can worsen, to septic shock, with one’s blood pressure significantly worsening and can lead to death.

While sepsis contributes to only 1-2% of hospital visits, it’s degree of seriousness should not be taken lightly.  The most common cause is from bacterial infections.  Those most susceptible to developing sepsis have diabetes;elderly; those with recent invasive medical problems, with immune problems–HIV/AIDS, cancer, drugs; very young babies and/or recently hospitalized. Sepsis can accompany osteomyelitis, the infection of the bone.

Symptoms: what_is_sepsis_figure2_thumb

  • Fever
  • Decreased urination
  • Rapid pulse/breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills

In addition, it is recognized by the appearance of 2 or more of the following: temperature: >38 degrees C or <36C; heart rate >90 beats/min; respiratory rate >20 breaths/min or partial pressure of CO2 in arterial gas <32 mm Hg; white blood cell count >12,000 mg/uL or >10% band forms

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT): Management of septic shock includes the ABCDEF system, which stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Drugs, Evaluate and Fix the source of sepsis.   Enteral feeding is the preferred method of feeding over parenteral feeding, with monitoring needed to ensure tolerance with impaired GI motility.   

  • When possible, patient should consume soft diet and liquids of high energy and nutrient value
  • Inclusion of omega 3 fatty acids can help increase plasma eicosapentaeonic acid, improve gas exchange, shorten hospital stay and modify inflammatory cytokine concentrations
  • May need to monitor for signs of malnutrition, as vitamin A, C,D,K, thiamin and folic acid may become depleted
  • Use of branched chain amino acids (BCAA) may become useful for energy since they don’t need to be metabolized to glucose
  • Monitor fluid needs; ensure intake’s excreted properly

While, the above information has been provided with references from the Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care in mind, each patient’s case is different and it is recommended one is seen by a RD to ensure proper nutritional needs are met.


Underrated disease keeps killing – World Sepsis Day 2012