Food Intolerances

There is a difference between food allergies and food intolerances. Food allergies are a result of a person eating a particular food that their body identifies as harmful. When the body has identified the food as harmful, histamine (a chemical released by the body as a natural immune system response) is released. Histamine causes the body to experience itching, rashes, swelling of the mouth or tongue. Anti-histamines reverse these symptoms of allergic reaction.

In the case of food intolerances, the food identified by the body as harmful does not cause an immune system reaction, but does cause the individual who ate the food to have symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal bloating.

The incidences of food intolerances are increasing in the United States. Healthcare researchers have concluded that in the United States the increase in processed foods has lead to increased incidences of food intolerances. Dairy, gluten, soy, lactose, and fructose have been the most recent culprits of food intolerances. Selective elimination of foods is the best way to identify food intolerances For more information on food allergies and food intolerances, visit the website:

Financial Security is Essential to Good Health.

Lack of finances to manage bills can cause stress that affects our mental and physical wellness. Considering this fact, it is important for families to realize that their financial security is also an important component of good health. African-American families of all types can benefit from effective strategies in financial management.

Recent immigrants may have loved ones in their home countries who need their financial support. First, second and third generation African-Americans also have to learn to navigate through the increasingly expensive cost of living. The public libraries in your community can offer free financial management counseling, tax preparation, investment counseling, and writing business plans.

There is no effort more effective than family self-responsibility in financial security. AAW welcomes your stories.

Environmental Toxins & Your Health

With industrialization in urban areas, the increase in environmental toxins is prevalent worldwide. Toxins are chemicals in our water, air, soil that can put us at risk for disease. Due to financial constraints, populations of color tend to live in more physically congested areas at risk for increased exposure to environmental toxins.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) notes that exposure to toxins are usually by 1) breathing in the chemical, 2) touching the chemical, 3) drinking the chemical, 4) eating the chemical, 5) getting exposure to a chemical by intravenous administration of toxic drugs, 6) or radiation exposure. The amount of the toxin that a person is exposed to and the time length of exposure, also determines the danger of the toxin to the body. Exposure to toxins can also be from contaminated animals or crops. Toxins can be from manufactured products (like plastics or Styrofoam) or natural resources (like arsenic, lead, or carbons).

Most people become more aware of toxins in their environment in the event of illness, pregnancy, or newly acquired allergies. We are exposed to toxins every day in our physical environment through the use of plastics, Styrofoam, as well as the potentially toxic fumes in our air. The most common toxin placing us at risk for disease is cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke is linked to Asthma, heart and lung diseases. Toxins in our environment have been linked to Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis. Since we cannot completely control our environments, the only control we can successfully monitor is our self-responsibility in boosting our immune systems and awareness in our healthcare.

Tips On Preventing Exposure to Toxins

  • Don’t microwave foods in plastic containers. The plastic will be absorbed in the food.
  • Wear gloves as much as possible when working with house cleaners, insecticides or other chemicals. Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It immediately soaks in any chemical placed on it
  • Consider smoking cessation. Smoke lingers not only in the air but on clothing
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables with water or water and lemon/lime before cooking and eating (lemon is a natural detoxifier)
  • Don’t keep boiling hot liquids in Styrofoam. The chemicals in the Styrofoam will be absorbed in the liquid
  • Eat healthy diets with rich detoxifiers like green vegetables, citrus fruits, berries
  • Drink plenty of water, at least 8 glasses per day

For more information on preventing disease from environmental toxins, visit The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at their website:

Living With Depression

Depression is a common but serious illness. Major depressive disorder Depressionis one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Each year about 6.7% of U.S adults experience major depressive disorder. Women are 70 % more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. The average age of onset is 32 years old. Additionally, 3.3% of 13 to 18 year olds have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder. Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. In some cultures, symptoms of depression are often seen as a punishment or curse, and the person experiencing depression is stigmatized by family. In African countries as well as in the U.S., these cultural interpretations of depression can cause some people not to seek treatment. Check these websites for a global perspective on metal health topics: International Mental Health Research Organization, World federation For Mental Health; World Health Organization

Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression. Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy. With the depressed person’s cooperation in their care, a mental health specialist will find the best treatment option. More information about depression can be found on the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) NIMH website.

Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, people without family histories of depression can experience depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger. Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Lack of coping skills developed through spirituality, family support can also make it easier for a person to become depressed

There are several forms of depressive disorders.

Major depressive disorder, or major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.

Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, is characterized by long-term (2 years or longer) symptoms that may not be severe enough to disable a person but can prevent normal functioning or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.

Minor depression is characterized by having symptoms for 2 weeks or longer that do not meet full criteria for major depression. Without treatment, people with minor depression are at high risk for developing major depressive disorder.

Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. However, not everyone agrees on how to characterize and define these forms of depression. They include:

  • Psychotic depression, which occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
  • Postpartum depression, which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

If you start missing days from work, have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, experience any of the above symptoms, speak to your primary care provider. He or she can refer you to a mental health specialist. Depression, even the most severe cases, can be effectively treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Untreated depression can also lead to physical health problems. Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence may also co-exist with depression. Research shows that mood disorders and substance abuse commonly occur together.

Women, Men, & Children Living With Depression

How do women experience depression?

Depression is more common among women than among men. Biological, life cycle, hormonal, and psychosocial factors that women experience may be linked to women’s higher depression rate. Researchers have shown that hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. For example, women are especially vulnerable to developing postpartum depression after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.

Some women may also have a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is associated with the hormonal changes that typically occur around ovulation and before menstruation begins.

During the transition into menopause, some women experience an increased risk for depression. In addition, osteoporosis—bone thinning or loss—may be associated with depression. Scientists are exploring all of these potential connections and how the cyclical rise and fall of estrogen and other hormones may affect a woman’s brain chemistry.

Finally, many women face the additional stresses of work and home responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents, abuse, poverty, and relationship strains. It is still unclear, though, why some women faced with enormous challenges develop depression, while others with similar challenges do not.

How do men experience depression?

Men often experience depression differently than women. While women with depression are more likely to have feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, men are more likely to be very tired, irritable, lose interest in once-pleasurable activities, and have difficulty sleeping.

Men may be more likely than women to turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed. They also may become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, angry, and sometimes abusive. Some men throw themselves into their work to avoid talking about their depression with family or friends, or behave recklessly. And although more women attempt suicide, many more men die by suicide in the United States.

How do older adults experience depression?

Depression is not a normal part of aging. Studies show that most seniors feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems. However, when older adults do have depression, it may be overlooked because seniors may show different, less obvious symptoms. They may be less likely to experience or admit to feelings of sadness or grief.

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish grief from major depression. Grief after loss of a loved one is a normal reaction to the loss and generally does not require professional mental health treatment. However, grief that is complicated and lasts for a very long time following a loss may require treatment. Researchers continue to study the relationship between complicated grief and major depression.

Older adults also may have more medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer, which may cause depressive symptoms. Or they may be taking medications with side effects that contribute to depression. Some older adults may experience what doctors call vascular depression, also called arteriosclerotic depression or subcortical ischemic depression. Vascular depression may result when blood vessels become less flexible and harden over time, becoming constricted. Such hardening of vessels prevents normal blood flow to the body’s organs, including the brain. Those with vascular depression may have, or be at risk for, co-existing heart disease or stroke.

Although many people assume that the highest rates of suicide are among young people, older white males age 85 and older actually have the highest suicide rate in the United States. Many have a depressive illness that their doctors are not aware of, even though many of these suicide victims visit their doctors within 1 month of their deaths.

Most older adults with depression improve when they receive treatment with an antidepressant, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Research has shown that medication alone and combination treatment are both effective in reducing depression in older adults. Psychotherapy alone also can be effective in helping older adults stay free of depression, especially among those with minor depression. Psychotherapy is particularly useful for those who are unable or unwilling to take antidepressant medication.

How do children and teens experience depression?

Children who develop depression often continue to have episodes as they enter adulthood. Children who have depression also are more likely to have other more severe illnesses in adulthood.

A child with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative and irritable, and feel misunderstood. Because these signs may be viewed as normal mood swings typical of children as they move through developmental stages, it may be difficult to accurately diagnose a young person with depression.

Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to develop depression. By age 15, however, girls are twice as likely as boys to have had a major depressive episode.

Depression during the teen years comes at a time of great personal change—when boys and girls are forming an identity apart from their parents, grappling with gender issues and emerging sexuality, and making independent decisions for the first time in their lives. Depression in adolescence frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse. It can also lead to increased risk for suicide.

An NIMH-funded clinical trial of 439 adolescents with major depression found that a combination of medication and psychotherapy was the most effective treatment option. Other NIMH-funded researchers are developing and testing ways to prevent suicide in children and adolescents.

Childhood depression often persists, recurs, and continues into adulthood, especially if left untreated.

How can I help a loved one who is depressed?

If you know someone who is depressed, it affects you too. The most important thing you can do is help your friend or relative get a diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment and go with him or her to see the doctor. Encourage your loved one to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs after 6 to 8 weeks.

To help your friend or relative

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
  • Never dismiss feelings, but point out realities and offer hope.
  • Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor.
  • Invite your loved one out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don’t push him or her to take on too much too soon.
  • Provide assistance in getting to the doctor’s appointments.
  • Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.

How can I help myself if I am depressed?

If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better.

To Help Yourself

  • Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated. There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can be down the road. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.
  • Try to be active and exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly “snap out of” your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Remove/minimize refined sugars from your diet. Refined sugars have been linked to causing negative chemical reactions in the body. Use whole wheat breads, pastas, rice, use honey for sweetner.
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression.

Asthma Linked To Vitamin D Deficiency

Most health care providers in the U.S. have determined that African-American children are more likely than other ethnic groups to experience Asthma. However, studies published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) link Asthma to Vitamin D deficiency.

A 2009 research study by Augusto A. Litonjua, MD, MPH, provided evidence that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increase in asthma attacks and that Vitamin D is useful in managing steroid resistant asthma. Dr. Litonjua also noted that sufficient Vitamin D levels in pregnant women resulted in young children with stronger immunity of their respiratory systems. Vitamin D plays a protective role in preventing wheezing and respiratory infections.

A 2011 research study by Sif Hansdottir, MD, MS and Martha M. Monica, PhD, showed that Vitamin D is an essential nutrient helping the cells that line the lungs and respiratory tract to prevent infection. We get Vitamin D from skin exposure to sunlight and to a lesser extent from our diet. Vitamin D can be obtained from cod liver oil, eggs, orange juice, Vitamin D enriched milk, fish—salmon, tuna, sardines, catfish.

These studies described above, give evidence that Asthma has little to do with ethnicity and more to do with diet and environmental factors. Nutrition deficiency and environmental factors are the main causes of Asthma, not race. Environmental triggers include: cigarette smoke, roaches, dust, air pollution. Asthma has become a global health problem. The Global Burden of Asthma Report, commissioned by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) estimates Asthma will affect 100 million people worldwide by 2025. The Global Burden of Asthma Report made a comprehensive study of 80 countries worldwide.

GINA created an annual World Asthma Day to make Asthma prevention a world priority and has announced that day to be the first Tuesday of each May. For information about World Asthma Day and GINA visit:

With westernized diets and environmental triggers, incidences of Asthma in Africa has increased among people living urban areas. Incidence of Asthma in rural areas remains low. Asthma in African countries has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency in communities were Rickets (a Vitamin D Deficiency that causes weakness in long bones leading to “bowed legs”) is experienced.

Maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels holds a promising role in prevention of Asthma. Several clinical trials are on going that are looking at vitamin D and asthma, ranging from maternal supplementation during pregnancy and prevention of childhood asthma to the use of vitamin D as a treatment in child and adult individuals with asthma. For more information concerning research on Asthma, go to

For more information on Asthma visit: and

Power of Lemons

Super Lemon

LEMONS! Who would guess that lemon is such a power fruit? Lemon has been used for years are as a deodorizing agent, a body detoxifying agent, an anti-infective agent, an astringent, and a diuretic. Lemon has a diuretic effect—increases urination, when drinking mixed in a glass of water. Drinking one squeezed lemon in a glass of water also clears toxins from the body.

Lemon is high in vitamin C and is also good for boosting the immune system. One freshly squeezed lemon in bath water provides deodorizing benefits to maintain all hygienic needs. Lemon is also great for the skin and helps to clean pores. Next time you buy a bunch of lemons, keep them in mind as an all purpose fruit.