Just had my annual physical and the news is good! My blood pressure, pulse, temperature and blood work are all within normal levels. No change in weight or medications. I’m sleeping well and my energy is good.
But just when I thought it was safe to button my blouse and head for the car, my doctor sat down for a final chat. “Now that you’re sixty,” she pointed out, (what a buzz kill!) I’d like you to make a few more appointments. As she got out her prescription pad, she explained, “You’ll need to get the shingles shot, an updated bone density scan and a colonoscopy!”
What!? I could swear I just had one of the miserable colon scans! But medical records don’t lie. There, in black and white, on my doctor’s computer screen, was the date of my last colonoscopy. 2004! Ten years ago! I was fifty. It was clean. And I didn’t want to have another one.
My whining clearly falling on deaf ears, the doctor handed me the script and advised me to set up an appointment… soon. Well, don’t tell my doctor, but I may just “buy” a little time because there are some new technologies on the horizon that may be easier and even better than the conventional colonoscopy.
Look, I know colonoscopy is important. In fact, the procedure has long been considered one of the most effective cancer-prevention tools. Some studies credit colonoscopies with reducing colon-cancer deaths twenty-five percent over the last decade.
It’s just that, like root canal, colonoscopies just aren’t much fun.
Doctors use long, rubber tubes with small video cameras to probe the colon. On high-definition monitors, they look for abnormal growths called polyps, which over ten to fifteen years can become cancerous.
While many of us avoid the procedure for fear it will be painful or expensive, it’s actually the preparation that ranks highest on the misery scale. Swallowing quarts of nasty drink preparations keep you on the edge of your toilet seat for hours. Uncomfortable at best, the whole process can be exhausting and disgusting.
So forgive me if I’d like to hold off making that appointment. There’s been a recent and exciting surge in new methods and devices already on the market or in the pipeline that just may eliminate (sorry!) the need for invasive colonoscopies!
Imagine swallowing a tiny camera embedded in a pill capsule. How ‘bout a DNA test or an endoscope that provides almost panoramic views of the colon? Sure beats gagging down gobs of chalky goo and a procedure that takes up most of the day!
But alas, while these new technologies could play an important role in reducing colon cancer deaths (nearly 51,000 last year in the US) there are still FDA hurdles to clear preventing their approval… at least in the very near future.
Until then, I guess I’ll bite the bullet and make my colonoscopy appointment. It’s the smart thing to do. Besides, the drug they give you makes you forget all about the gag-a-licious drink from the night before!
But next time, you better believe I’m going for the camera in a pill!
A native Chicagoan, my grandmother lived her entire life on the city’s south side. As Iowa kids, my sister, brother and I thought it was “cool” to visit the big city and stay with Gram in her cute apartment on the top floor of an old, three-story “walk-up.”
But during a summer heat wave, Gram’s third story dwelling was anything but “cool.” With no air conditioning and barely a whisper of cross ventilation, the sauna-like conditions in her home were not only miserable, they were downright dangerous.
Gram actually lost one of her elderly neighbors during a brutal summer heat wave nearly 50 years ago. She died inside her stifling apartment…the victim of heatstroke. Fortunately, my Gram survived the brutal Chicago summers. She lived a full life and died peacefully at the age of 75.
Sad to say, that same scenario continues to play out in cities across the country today. As the temperatures continue to rise is San Diego, the risk of developing heat stroke increases…especially for seniors…like my Gram’s friend.
A recent study at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that forty percent of heat-related fatalities in the United States are among people over the age of 65. As we age, our bodies become less resilient to changes in temperature. In addition, many seniors take prescription medications that can inhibit their ability to regulate temperature or perspiration. Seasoned citizens are also more likely to have chronic medical conditions that change normal body responses to heat.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat-related illness, but recognizing the early warning signs can ward off a dangerous outcome.
The first signal is bright red, hot-to-touch, dry skin. By not sweating, your body’s natural cooling mechanism is not working. Body temperature can then rise to 106 degrees or higher within 15 minutes. Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting, increased fatigue and breathing problems are additional indications of heat exhaustion.
Fortunately, heat stroke is preventable. To stay safe as the temperature rises this summer and early fall, follow these simple guidelines:
1. Stay indoors during the heat of the day. If possible, leave the house before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
2. Drink plenty of water. Even if you’re not thirsty, continue to drink liquids -avoiding caffeine or alcohol, which contribute to dehydration. If you’re taking water pills, check with your doctor about how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, avoid cold liquids. They can cause cramps.
3. Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothes…in cotton, if possible…it breathes better. Wear a wide-brimmed hat when outside.
4. If you don’t have air conditioning, find cooler places to spend the day. Visit the library, mall, movie theater or senior center to escape the heat.
5. Stay in contact with friends and family. During times of extreme heat, it’s a good idea to have a friend, neighbor or family member check in twice a day to look for signs of heat-related illnesses.
6. Take it easy. Avoid exercise during extreme heat. Rest and take a cool shower or bath.
7. If you notice signs of heat-related illness, be sure to call 911 immediately.
Although air conditioning is readily available, many in southern California choose not to have it. After all, most of the year, our weather is quite temperate. But when that occasional heat wave hits, be on the alert for signs of heat-related illness…in yourself…those you love and the sweet lady in the apartment down the hall.
It could mean the difference between life and death.
What began as a pleasant bike ride took a potentially dangerous turn recently.
You see, I’m training for a bicycle tour in Iowa the end of July. Hoping to be prepared for the seven-day, 300-mile trek across the Hawkeye State, I’ve been slowly upping my mileage since early spring.
So far, so good.
That is, until something went terribly wrong on a typical training ride. It was hot and dry with Santa Ana winds. I though it would be good training since the July heat in Iowa can be oppressive and the headwinds a real challenge.
At 18 miles, I started feeling “funny…” mildly nauseous, cool, and clammy. As I pedaled down the Strand in Coronado, I found myself mildly disoriented.
Then I got scared. I thought back to the 16 ounces of water I chugged before taking off two hours earlier… then checked the water bottle on my bike and saw it was still half full.
That’s when I realized I’d become severely dehydrated.
After downing the remainder of my water, I slowly rode home. Exhausted and a little shaky, I gratefully realized it could have been a lot worse.
It’s not like I don’t know the importance of getting enough water. How could any of us forget the timeless mantra reminding us to “drink eight glasses of water a day?” But with added activity, excessive heat and low humidity, I should have been drinking eight ounces an hour!
As we head into what’s expected to be an especially hot summer, don’t make my mistake. Get plenty of H2O. Need more motivation? Here are a few more reasons to keep your water bottle close by.
Stay Slimmer With Water
Trying to lose weight? Water revs up your metabolism and helps you feel full. Replace calorie-filled beverages with water and drink a glass before meals to help you feel fuller. Drinking more water helps amp up metabolism – especially if your glass is icy cold. Your body must work to warm up the water burning a few extra calories in the process.
Water Boosts Your Energy
If you’re feeling drained and depleted, get a pick-me-up with water. Dehydration makes you feel tired. The right amount of water will help your heart pump your blood more effectively. Plus, water can help your blood transport oxygen and other essential nutrients to your cells.
Lower Stress With Water
Up to 80 percent of your brain tissue is water. If you’re dehydrated, your body and your mind are stressed. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already a little dehydrated. To keep stress levels down, keep a glass of water at your desk or carry a sports bottle and sip regularly.
Build Muscle With Water
Drinking water helps prevent muscle cramping and lubricates joints in the body. When you’re well hydrated, you can exercise longer and stronger without “hitting the wall.”
Nourish Your Skin
Fine lines and wrinkles are deeper when you’re dehydrated. Water is nature’s own beauty cream! Drinking water hydrates skin cells and plumps them up, making your face look younger. It also flushes out impurities and improves circulation and blood flow, helping your skin glow.
Stay Regular With Water
Along with fiber, water is important for good digestion. Water helps dissolve waste particles and passes them smoothly through your digestive tract.
Water Reduces Kidney Stones
The rate of painful kidney stones is rising. One of the reasons could be because people including children aren’t drinking enough water. Kidney stones can’t form in diluted urine, so reduce your risk with plenty of water.
So, are you getting enough water? According to Web MD, most healthy adults get enough to drink by letting thirst guide them. But the exact amount you need depends on your size, level of activity, the weather and your general health. As I learned the hard way, you may need more water, if you exercise or sweat heavily.
Medical breakthrough means hope for those with spinal cord injuries
Medical breakthroughs make great news. In fact, reporting on so-called medical "miracles" has been one of the highlights of my career. But nothing compares with learning one of those "miracles" could possibly help change the life of someone I know and love.
Ten years ago, Glenn Henry was in a freak motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. At 65, my professor, coach, mentor and friend had just retired from the athletic department at my alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa.
To celebrate the milestone, Glenn and his wife, Karen, bought a Harley and hit the road. Riding along a quiet, but winding country road one beautiful fall day, their bike suddenly skidded on a patch of gravel and went down. The former winning swim coach, popular professor and successful entrepreneur was able to maneuver the spill so Karen suffered only minor injuries. But Glenn flew over the handlebars...landed on his head and severed his spine at the neck.
Left: Coach Glenn Henry, his wife, Karen, Tom and Carol.
In a split second, one of the most active, full-of-life people I have ever known found his retirement dreams of travel and adventure dashed on some loose gravel. He could no longer do anything on his own but speak and breathe.
With his indomitable spirit, fiercely supportive family and unwavering faith, Glenn has beat the odds and continues to find joy in living – holding out hope that someday, medical science will come up with a cure for spinal cord injuries (SCI).
Recently, his dream moved one step closer to reality.
After his accident, Glenn’s three children connected with the Christopher Reeve Foundation and for the last decade, Lisa, Lori and Lance have been working tirelessly with the non-profit raising money and awareness on behalf of their Dad and others sidelined due to SCI.
Last month came news of what may just be the “miracle” the Henry’s have been praying for. The stunning results of a clinical trial funded by the Reeve Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, could be a game-changer for thousands living with paralysis due to SCI.
Four paralyzed men can now voluntarily move their legs after researchers implanted a device that shoots electrical stimulation into their spinal cords.
Two of the four men were told there was no chance of recovery. But with the help of epidural stimulation, they can now move their hips, ankles and toes.
The study results, published in the journal, “Brain,” are groundbreaking giving hope to many who were given wheelchairs and told to just “live with it.”
The electrical stimulator used in the treatment sends electric pulses of various frequencies and intensities to specific regions of the spinal cord. The electrical signal helped the spinal cord reuse the broken neural network and control movement of limbs.
The treatment also helped improve patient’s overall health. No surprise to Glenn and his family. Because of the added movement, the men in the study developed muscle mass, had better blood circulation and reported greater well being.
You better believe, within moments of getting the news, the Henry’s were filling out paper work to hopefully enroll my friend in the next study. We’re praying this is just the beginning of renewed hope for Glenn and some 200,000 others in the U.S. living with SCI and hope for a future where paralysis is completely reversible.
I got the horrific news from Susan.
Our friend, Sharon, she told me quietly over the phone, had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer…and the outlook was grim. Doctors called it Stage 3-C – an extremely aggressive form of the potentially deadly disease.
It all happened so fast.
Within days of her diagnosis, Sharon was scheduled for surgery to re-route a section of her intestines being strangled by the tumors…ending in what hopefully would become a temporary colostomy.
It didn't seem possible. I'd just seen Sharon a few weeks earlier at a festive dinner party at her home celebrating the recent engagement of her 22-year-old daughter, Paige. She was fine. Glowing, in fact.
But now her life was about to be forever changed by the cancer she was unaware had been silently growing inside her.
Sharon admits she'd been bothered by some vague intestinal symptoms in the months leading up to her diagnosis – gas, bloating and indigestion she treated with antacids and Beano. Then one day, the belly pain became unbearable. She was hospitalized and treated for three days for what doctors believed was an intestinal blockage. Her pain only got worse. Further tests revealed the bitter truth.
The tumor with tentacles was choking her colon and was moving throughout her abdomen.
The good news? It’s been several agonizing weeks, but the surgery restored function of her lower GI. All indications are three rounds of chemotherapy have shrunk the tumors. And now there's hope a final surgery to remove what remains…followed by more chemotherapy and radiation… and will restore her to good health.
But the question remains. How could this have happened? Sharon is smart, healthy and in tune with her body. With her signature sense of humor, even she wonders how this "alien being" could have overwhelmed her body, virtually undetected.
Unfortunately, “undetection” is the hallmark of this insidious disease. So while my friend works her way toward a clean bill of health, more than 20,000 new cases will strike women across the United States this year.
What’s frustrating is scientists still don’t know the exact cause of ovarian cancer, so they haven’t found a way to prevent its often deadly progression. So, without the presence of overt symptoms, women need to pay attention to more subtle symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?
Although ovarian cancer rarely produces symptoms in its earliest stages, eventual warning signs may include:
• Vague digestive disturbances, such as mild indigestion, bloating, feeling of fullness, or loss of appetite, gas
• Diarrhea, constipation, or a frequent need to urinate
• Pain or swelling in the abdomen, or pain in the lower back or pelvic pressure
• Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause
• Shortness of breath
Symptoms associated with advanced ovarian cancer include severe nausea, vomiting, pain and weight loss.
Call Your Doctor About Ovarian Cancer If:
You have unexplained abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, particularly if these conditions accompany the more general symptoms listed in the description section; do not allow such symptoms to continue undiagnosed for more than two weeks.
With great faith and great medical care, Sharon and her family are expecting at a great outcome from her cancer scare. She’s already got a gorgeous dress picked out for Paige’s wedding!
Love you, Sharon!
For more than three decades, I’ve reported on the latest in health, fitness and medical breakthroughs. I can’t think of a better “beat” for a reporter in southern California – with one tiny exception.
From Atkins and South Beach to Jenny Craig and the “Zone,” literally hundreds of diet plans over the years have promised to help people lose weight.
Bottom line? When it comes to weight loss, there is no magic diet. The secret to losing weight is no secret at all. Eat less and move more. Period.
That also goes for the temptation to categorize foods as either “good” or “bad".
In February, we “busted” five popular myths about nutrition and dieting. Now, with a little help from the American Dietetic Association, (ADA) we’ll blow up five more diet myths and find the honest-to-goodness truth about how to keep your weight and health under control. Here we go!
Myth: To eat less sodium, avoid salty-tasting foods and use sea salt in place of table salt.
Reality: Your sense of taste doesn’t always notice sodium and sea salt or other gourmet salts aren’t any healthier than table salt. According to the ADA, just because it doesn’t taste salty doesn’t mean it isn’t salty. Many processed foods contain a lot of sodium, so check the label.
As for sea salt? It does contain slightly less sodium per teaspoon than table salt only because sea salt is coarser, so fewer grains fit into the teaspoon!
Myth: Drinking more water daily will help you lose weight.
Reality: There is no evidence that water peels off pounds. Foods containing water such as soup can fill you up, but the ADA’s Dr. Christine Rosenbloom says just drinking water alone doesn’t have the same impact. “Our thirst mechanism and our hunger mechanism are two different things.”
Myth: Whole grains are always healthier than refined grains.
Reality: Whole grains are a healthy choice, but you don’t need to ditch refined grains. You can have some of each. “You don’t have to replace all your foods with whole grains,” says Dr. Rosenbloom. Enriched grains, refined grains with certain nutrients added, have some perks. “Enriched grains generally are going to have more folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. The whole grains usually have more fiber, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and potassium, so it’s a trade-off.”
Myth: Sugar causes behavioral problems in kids.
Reality: You might want to check your expectations about sugar and children’s behavior. “For most children,” says Dr. Rosenbloom, “the excitement kids have supposedly from consuming sugar is probably more related to the excitement of the event than to eating sugar.” She cites research showing that when parents think their kids have been given sugar, they rate the children’s behavior as more hyperactive…even when no sugar is eaten.
Myth: Protein is the most important nutrient for athletes.
Reality: It is true that athletes need more protein than sedentary people. They just don’t need as much as they think. And they probably don’t need it from supplements…they’re probably getting enough from their food. But timing matters. Rosenbloom recommends that after weight training, athletes consume a little protein, about 8 grams (the amount in a small carton of low-fat chocolate milk) to help their muscles rebuild. "You just don’t need four scoops of whey powder to get what you need.”
New diet myths can crop up at any time…fads come and go. Determining nutrition myth from reality really boils down to this: Step back, check out the evidence and be a bit skeptical.
The true approach to good health isn’t scare tactics from the barrage of media reports. It’s simply an overall healthy eating pattern enjoyed and followed over time.
True or false: You’ll get fat if you eat at night; high fructose corn syrup makes you gain weight; and caffeine is bad for you.
As a health and fitness reporter over the last three decades, the correct answers to these dietary dilemmas could go either way depending on the most recent study. As a reporter and consumer, I find that frustrating.
Well, there may finally be some clarity when it comes to caffeine, carbs, salt, fat and other nutrition and food myths – compliments of the American Dietetic Association. At their recent annual meeting in Chicago, food experts gathered from around the world to separate the science from the silliness issuing the truth behind 10 common diet myths.
In this writing, we’ll bust five diet myths….
Myth: Eating at night makes you fat.
Reality: Calories count whenever you eat them. The American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Dr. Christine Rosenbloom notes some small studies with mixed results, tests on animals and a belief that because eating breakfast is linked to lower BMI… eating at night isn’t as good. But the science isn’t there. All in all, it’s your calorie total that matters – day or night.
Myth: Avoid foods with a high glycemic index.
Reality: You could use the glycemic index to adjust your food choices, but don’t make it your sole strategy for losing weight or controlling blood sugar. According to the ADA, for those people who are already counting carbs, this can be a way for them to fine-tune their food choices, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for weight loss.
Myth: High fructose corn syrup causes weight gain.
Reality: This may sound sacrilegious to some, but there’s probably nothing particularly evil about high fructose corn syrup compared to regular old sugar. This diet myth arose in 2003 when researchers noticed that obesity was rising, along with the use of high fructose corn syrup. The speculation was maybe we handle high fructose corn syrup differently than we do sugar, but there’s no evidence to support that. Beyond its calories, the American Medical Association recently concluded that high fructose corn syrup doesn’t contribute to obesity.
Myth: Caffeine is unhealthy.
Reality: The ADA’s Dr. Rosenbloom says there is some evidence that caffeine may have a positive effect on some diseases including gout and Parkinson’s disease…besides caffeine’s famous alertness buzz. Also, caffeine does not dehydrate people who consume it regularly another commonly held belief. However, Dr. Rosenbloom does caution that caffeine isn’t always listed on product labels and children who drink a lot of caffeinated energy drinks may intake more caffeine than their parents expect. “Kids tend to guzzle these things,” she warns, “whereas an adult may sip a beverage.”
Myth: The less fat you eat, the better.
Reality: For some people, counting fat grams can work for weight control, but it’s not the only way. The ADA reports that people with heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome may benefit from adding a little healthy fat – the monounsaturated kind and cutting back on carbs. But they shouldn’t increase their overall fat intake. Just swap saturated fat for unsaturated fat. Balance is key says Dr. Rosenbloom. “If you go to an Italian restaurant and have triple-cheese-meat-sausage lasagna then have a little olive oil on your bread, you’re not doing much for your heart.
Next month, we’ll examine five more nutrition myths. You can take it all with a grain of salt, but should it be table salt or sea salt? We’ll bust that myth, too.
My fondest memories of childhood revolve around swimming – winters indoors at the family “Y” and summers in the outdoor city pool through the Amateur Athletic Union age group swimming program.
Even more than the actual competition, I loved the workouts. Socially fun and physically challenging, I was blessed with coaches who worked hard to motivate my teammates and me to reach our full potential as young athletes.
One of the most fun and creative swim workouts I recall used a training technique called fartlek. (Now imagine poor Coach Meyers as he announced the next set would be “fartleks” to a bunch of immature 12-year-olds!)
Actually, when it comes to fitness, the funny-sounding word is nothing to snicker about. Fartlek, a Swedish term meaning “speed play,” is a form of interval or speed training that can be highly effective in improving speed and endurance.
Coach Meyers would blow the whistle and we’d swim 100 percent effort in short spurts. The next whistle meant slow and easy for a minute or so. We’d repeat the process until exhaustion set in. There’s no doubt, fartleks made me a faster swimmer. (And after all these years, it still makes me smile.)
Well guess what? Apparently, what’s old is new again. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, high intensity training tops the list of hot fitness trends for 2014. They no longer use the term, “fartlek,” but the principle remains.
The popular fitness routine has evolved and is now called high intensity impact training (HIIT)… still focusing on short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest. Fitness experts and devotees claim the technique yields twice the results in half the time.
Shannon Fable, with the San Diego-based American Council on Exercise, says the growing trend makes sense for fitness buffs with busy lives. She says HIIT is a regimen that meets needs in the time they have available.”
HIIT (fartlek!) workouts have been around for years, but thanks to intense workout programs such as CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, TurboFire and Tabata training, more and more fitness fanatics are turning to the practice to get fit.
But if all that intensity isn’t for you, no worries The list of trendy routines for 2014 includes everything from ancient yoga practices to new twists on personal training. Also scoring high in the New Year – fitness programs for older adults and children’s exercise programs.
So pick out a workout plan that sounds fun to you and let’s all get moving in 2014!
I ran into Don and Sheila the other day on the curb in front of our house. It was Monday…garbage day…as together we rolled our trash cans back into our respective garages. Actually, it was good to see our next-door neighbors. Tom and I hadn’t seen or heard from them for several days.
I quickly learned why as Sheila dressed in heavy sweats with a wool scarf around her neck warned me not to come any closer. Looking like the walking dead, she told me that she and Don had the flu and were so sick they hadn’t even left their house. Taking the trash to the curb was their first outing in days.
It broke my heart to see our friends in such misery. They admitted they hadn’t gotten the flu shot and vowed never to pass on it again.
Secretly, I applauded my own decision to get vaccinated. But it’s my pharmacist who deserves the credit for making that smart choice. As I quizzed him at my local pharmacy, he convinced me the flu shot is still the best way to avoid the miserable symptoms of the flu virus.
I remember using the line, “They never get the formula right anyway,” to justify skipping this year’s vaccination. If that’s your argument, then it may be time to roll up your sleeve. Turns out, a flu shot is effective even if its strains don’t match those going around!
That may sound crazy, but a Canadian review found in years the vaccine hadn’t targeted the viruses circulating, people still got protection that was more than 50 percent effective (when there was a match, protection rose to 65 percent or more).
Bottom line…from my pharmacist and primary care doctor to the Mayo Clinic and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.
Like all medications, vaccines can have side effects, but they’re extremely rare. For people with certain health conditions, getting the shot may not be advised. Obviously, if you have any concerns, check with your doctor before getting vaccinated.
Then, before you decide to skip this year’s flu shot…consider this. The vaccine can protect you from the ravages of the flu that wiped out our neighbors – a viral respiratory illness that spreads easily and can make your life miserable for weeks. Worst case? The flu can lead to serious health complications and possibly death. Why chance it?
It’s too late for Don and Sheila. Thankfully, they’re recovering nicely.
But there is still time for you to prevent the fever, chills and body aches that could have you down for the count this holiday season.
For a list of Palomar Health community flu shot clinics, go to www.PalomarHealth.org/flu.
When it comes to food, these days, it’s all about going organic. And that’s great. Count me in! But I must admit, navigating the maze of organic food labels, benefits and claims can be more confusing than an exercise in quantum physics!
Is it just me? I have a college degree but nowhere in my curriculum was there a course on “label language,” and much of it is simply indecipherable. Thank goodness, after decades of talk, the USDA’s National Organic Program has finally standardized the widely varying practices of an unregulated, grassroots movement. The program ensures all producers play by the same rules. What does that mean for you and me? Official, clear-cut definitions of “organic” and its many wannabes.
Here they are! (And if you lose this, not to worry. I’ve got the list posted on my fridge!)
100% Organic: All ingredients must be certified organic, and processing aids must be organic as well. The name of the certifying agent must be on the label, which may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Organic: Products must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients. The remaining 5% (except salt and water), along with any nonorganic processing aids (such as chlorine to wash packaging equipment), must be from a national list of substance the USDA has approved for use in organics. The product may carry the USDA Organic seal.
Made with Organic: Packaging can’t include the USDA seal, but at least 70% of the product must be certified organic; nonagricultural ingredients must come from the national list. The quality of organic foods is high even at 70%, experts say.
Organic Ingredients: Below 70% organic, the product can’t claim on its packaging that it’s organic, except to list specific certified organic ingredients on the information panel.
Natural: The USDA says that meat, poultry and eggs labeled with this word must have no artificial ingredients and be minimally processed. But the term isn’t defined beyond those items. Assume “natural” means “conventional.”
Fair Trade: Nongovernment organizations certify that growers received minimum prices and community support from buyers and followed specific environmental practices. Standards are not as strict as for organic.
Free-range: Birds such as chickens are sheltered and have continuous access to the outdoors, along with unlimited access to food and water. However, these claims are not certified.
Cage-free: Birds can freely roam inside a building or room with unlimited access to food and fresh water. They’re without cages, but can still be packed very tightly, even when organic.
Grass-fed: Animals receive most of their nutrition from grass throughout their lives, but may also eat hay or grain indoors during winter. Animals may still receive antibiotics and hormones, according to the USDA.
No Added Hormones: Already true of organic, so its conventional producers that tend to use this term, but there’s no certification for these claims.
Whew! It’s still a lot of info…but at least these definitions are clear and should make buying organic a lot easier.