With so many products claiming to keep breath fresh and sweet-smelling, you'd think we'd never need to worry about oral hygiene. But chronic bad breath – also known as oral malodour or halitosis – affects about half of the population, and for half of those sufferers, it creates personal distress.
Here's what you need to know about bad-breath control.
1. Halitosis is caused by the same compounds found in rotten eggs. These sulphur compounds are released when bacteria in the mouth break down protein from food, explains Dr. Wayne Halstrom, a Vancouver dentist and former president of the Canadian Dental Association.
2. The more bacteria present, the greater the chances of having bad breath. Bacteria proliferate when they have places to hide. Such fertile conditions are in play when you have:
• periodontal disease; • teeth that need dental work; • a buildup of plaque (calcified material deposited on the teeth); and • a habit of not brushing regularly.
Severe periodontal disease of the gums or the bones under the gums can also cause inflammation, and this may produce foul-smelling pus, too.
3. Certain diseases are associated with particular oral odours. • Kidney disease causes a fishy odour. • Diabetes creates a fruity smell. • Liver disease produces rotten-egg breath.
4. Stress can cause bad breath. We all know how quickly our mouths can go dry when faced with a stressful situation such as public speaking. When stress is chronic, that dry mouth can be a hotbed for bacteria. As Dr. Ted Fillery, head of the faculty of dentistry and oral microbiology at the University of Toronto, explains, saliva is produced from glands both in the sides of the mouth (runny) and under the floor of the mouth (thicker). “When stressed, the body shuts down the runny saliva, so the saliva in the mouth changes from runny to thick,” he says. “Most of the bacteria that would normally be swept away by fluid saliva hang around, some of which are malodour-producing.”
5. Some products can kill oral bacteria, but only temporarily. Regular oral hygiene is absolutely fundamental to bad-breath control, but sometimes this isn't enough. “A lot of people clean their mouths meticulously and yet still suffer from bad breath,” says Fillery. For these people, one of the following products might help:
• an antibiotic such as Flagyl; • a mouthwash containing an antibacterial agent such as chlorhexidine (Peridex); • products that contain xylitol, an all-natural sweetener that stimulates saliva production, which helps remove food debris and bacteria; or • toothpaste that contains sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
According to the Canadian Dental Association, here's what you should be doing as part of your oral hygiene. • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste to remove food particles from your mouth. • Brush your tongue and the sides and roof of your mouth at the same time. • Use dental floss at least once a day to remove food particles from between your teeth. If you don't floss, you're missing more than one-third of your tooth surface. • Have your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist every six months to make sure plaque – and bacteria – does not accumulate.
Other dentists suggest these tips: • Drink plenty of water, which helps keep teeth moist and healthy. • Avoid sugar, which causes decay and feeds bacteria in your mouth.
Empty shopping bags, broken chairs, stacks and stacks of magazines—when writer Christina Gonzales realized her mom might be a hoarder, she went to the experts to find out how she could help, and repaired their relationship in the process.
At my mother's apartment, there are a lot of unspoken rules. "Don't open the kitchen cabinets" is one of them. I've only ever used one cupboard, which is right above the sink and houses the sieve, a few large ceramic bowls and the few packs of ramen noodles that haven't yet gone bad. I try not to ask my mom what's in the rest of those cupboards, or why our pots and pans are piled beside the stove and our dishes never leave the drying rack. I brought up the subject once in aggravation when I moved back home two years ago to save money. "You're too much, Christina," she responded angrily. It instantly brought me back to my childhood.
When it all began
As a kid, I was close with my mother, despite her inability to let anything go. From the outside, our family looked normal, but when you opened the front door of our two-bedroom apartment, it was obvious something was different. There were rooms filled to the ceiling with souvenirs of our past: my first mattress from a twin-size bed I had outgrown years before, reusable shopping bags, pillows, suitcases, books, a lime-green swivel chair. My mom's dresser overflowed with so many accessories, half-used bottles of body lotion, old blush compacts and loose coins that you couldn't even see the wooden surface. A layer of dust covered everything, which meant she didn't use—or even touch—the stuff. I was humiliated that our home was so disorderly.
The clutter really began to accumulate when I was about 11 years old. My mom stopped inviting people to our home, and I stopped, too. My best friends in high school asked me why we'd never hang out at my place, and I did my best to dodge their questions. My frustration stemmed from jealousy (why couldn't my mom entertain the way other moms did?) and a fundamental difference in what we thought "home" should mean (I longed to live in a house filled with family and friends; she thought home should be a private retreat). I would cry, yell and plead with her to throw things away, until my teen years, when I started to distance myself emotionally from her. I knew that no matter what I said or did, I couldn't control my mother's hoarding, and it was easier to avoid her—and the subject of home—altogether.
When I moved back home at 28—I'd quit my day job to pursue a full-time freelance writing career, and my mom offered up my childhood bedroom as a way to save money—it didn't take long before we had our confrontation about the kitchen cupboards. But this time, I realized I didn't want the cycle to continue; the bitterness I'd carried with me for years had to cease in order for us to have a healthy relationship.
Understanding the problem
What I'd always found most challenging was that she couldn't see where I was coming from—she truly doesn't realize her belongings are piling up around her. Yet, she's unlike the people I've seen on the TLC show Hoarding: Buried Alive; she's physically healthy, she's about to retire from a successful career and she has an active social life. She's also been a giving, supportive and loving mother. So what's the deal? I approached several specialists to help give me insight into my mother's hoarding issue.
Dr. Peggy Richter, a psychiatrist and the director of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre's Clinic for OCD and Related Disorders at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says that, while their houses might not look like the ones on TV, an estimated two to five percent of Canadians suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder. Dr. Richter explains that hoarding is more than the inability to throw things out. "Rather, to be considered a clinical condition, it results in a significant accumulation that impacts the ability to use the space the way you would like or the way most people would," she says. "And people may try to minimize the impact. For example, maybe their kitchen is quite cluttered; they can still make breakfast, but they have piles in front of the oven, so they never use it anymore, though they claim they never did. Similarly, someone whose bed is too cluttered may claim that she prefers, and is more comfortable, sleeping on the couch."
Elaine Birchall, a social worker and hoarding behaviour and intervention specialist with clients in Ottawa and Toronto, says hoarders tend to save things for one of three main reasons: sentimental (this item represents my life and is part of me), intrinsic (this item is amazing and offers so many possibilities) or instrumental (I might need this someday). I think my mom is a sentimental hoarder. She once mentioned that her own mother discarded her childhood trophies and awards and that she wished she still had those things to help her reminisce. There's a certain glee she gets from pulling out an item that someone else would've thrown away long ago, like the cheerleading catalogue my now-40-year-old cousin was featured in when she was in high school in the '90s. "It's so nice. Maria was so pretty," she'd say.
Dr. Sheila Woody, a professor of psychology and psychology researcher at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Collaborative Research on Hoarding in Vancouver, shed some light on how to approach my mom's hoarding disorder respectfully and without judgment. "Making your mom's apartment a place you want to live is not an appropriate goal," says Dr. Woody, noting that people with hoarding disorders don't realize the impact of their mountains of possessions. I first needed to accept that this apartment would never become what I'd always perceived as the ideal home. There was one thing that I could change, though, and that was the usability of the space. "If you're trying to make it so that [your mom isn't] at risk of falling over when she's trying to reach something, or not at risk of setting the house on fire when she turns the stove on, that's a very reasonable goal," says Dr. Woody, who adds that it's also important for there to be adequate room to get out of the apartment in case of an emergency.
Finding common ground
To ensure that my mom's apartment was no longer a hazardous zone, I began to help her discard what Birchall calls the "easy wins": For some, these are nostalgia-free items (such as old toothbrushes and grimy shoes) and those that are unsanitary (like expired food); for others, they're items the person feels no extreme need to save. Birchall recommended I calmly ask my mom if we could relocate old things to make room for new items we'd actually use. I did it for the first time a few months ago, when I called her from the grocery store to ask if we had soy sauce. When my mom went and retrieved it, she told me that it was expired. "OK, I'll buy a new bottle, and you can ditch the old one," I responded. When I arrived home, it was sitting on the kitchen counter ready for disposal.
In my childhood, I would've taken the bottle down to the garbage chute that instant, a nonverbal signal that there was absolutely no reason to keep expired condiments. Now, I understand that getting rid of things causes her real distress. Instead of feeling exasperated and ashamed, all I felt this time was guilt. I realized that I'd been acting like a punishing drill sergeant, pushing my agenda onto my mother by barking at her to see things my way. And, according to Birchall, that's exactly the wrong approach. "Even when my patients want to hold on to genuine garbage, unless it's contaminated, I have to do my level best to make them see the reality of this," she says. "And even then, I don't just try to get someone to agree to let go of something; I try to understand what the importance of that item is to them."
So I didn't ask my mom when she planned on discarding the soy sauce; I knew it wasn't a sentimental item and that she was practical enough to understand it wasn't safe to consume. There was no fight, no power struggle, no "I'm right, and you're wrong." Rather, I gave her the space to decide when it was the right time—if there was a right time—to throw out the bottle. I tried my best to be patient, to have a stress-free conversation and to respect the value of my mom's belongings while holding firm to my boundaries within our shared space. It's a slow process, but it's effective. Showing compassion for my mom's feelings about her stuff makes it easier for her to let things go. When I push too much, we backtrack on any progress we've made. The day after our conversation, I walked into the kitchen and that old bottle of soy sauce was gone. It was a small step, but for me—and my mom—it was a breakthrough.
Social worker and hoarding specialist Elaine Birchall gives her best advice for helping a hoarder.
1. Complete a safety audit. Find the heat sources, such as electrical panels, fireplaces, hot water tanks, furnaces and stoves, and make sure there is a clearance of at least four feet around them, if space allows. The paths to those heat sources must also be free and clear in case of fire and should be at least 33 inches wide.
2. Create boundaries and limits, especially if you live in the same home as the hoarder. Build a positive co-tenant dynamic by defining who "owns" each room and what is allowed in each space. Common areas must be clear so that all tenants can use the space and have a social life.
3. Decide on permanent spaces. A permanent place is a storage area that makes sense for an item. For example, you'd never store canned goods under the bed—you'd put them in a kitchen cupboard or pantry. When choosing a permanent place, hold the item and close your eyes. Ask yourself, "Where is the first place I'd look for this?" That is where it should be.
4. Do your research. Rather than insisting that you know why the hoarder should part with an item, find an appropriate expert source. For example, if a hoarder wants to keep expired foods, go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; the organization's website will explain why it's unsafe to keep around.
5. Show respect. Don't apply pressure. Work at the hoarder's pace and don't diminish his or her feelings. Try to put yourself in that person's shoes by doing a mental tally of 20 possessions you love and imagining how you might feel if a family member made you throw them away.
Your body needs some sugar to function, but Canadians, who consume the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of the sweet stuff every day, are probably overdoing it. We break down what too much sugar does to your body, and how you can cut back.
Good news for those with sweet tooths: Glucose is our main source of fuel, so, yes, we actually do need sugar in our diets. But don't get too excited— they're not all alike.
"All carbohydrate-containing foods, whether candy, pop, fruit, vegetables or grain products, break down into glucose in our bloodstream," says Patricia Chuey, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian. "But our bodies respond differently when we get sugar from nutrient-dense, fibre-rich foods, eaten as part of a balanced meal that contains protein, compared to 'empty' calories from zero-nutrient, fibre-less foods."
Those carb-heavy, low-nutrient foods cause our blood-sugar, or glucose, levels to spike, triggering the release of insulin in response. One of insulin's jobs is to move glucose from the blood to our liver, muscle and fat cells for storage, and when there's more in our bloodstream than what our bodies need for energy, it can end up as stored fat—"even though fat, per se, wasn't consumed," says Chuey. That's partially why excess sugar consumption is linked to fatty liver disease, as well as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fibre-rich, nutrient-dense foods, on the other hand, break down more slowly, so they don't cause as much of a blood-sugar spike, or the resulting weight gain.
That doesn't mean you have to skip your favourite sweet indulgences entirely. What we know today is that moderation is key—a little sugar won't hurt you.
But, for the most part, Canadians are not consuming a little sugar. According to Statistics Canada, on average, 22 to 26 percent of our total daily caloric intake consists of sugar. Put another way, that's an average of 110 grams, or 26 teaspoons, per day. And it's not just how much; experts are also concerned about where it comes from.
"Whole foods that are sweet, like fruit, can be good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, which can contribute to overall health," says Gita Singh, a research assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Boston's Tufts University.
It's added sugar, regardless of the source, that's the problem. You'll find it in processed foods, such as many breads, soups, salad dressings and pasta sauces. And then there's pop, sports drinks and fruit drinks, which experts collectively refer to as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). These drinks are among the top causes of obesity and its attendant ailments, which include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and other chronic diseases. In fact, Singh coauthored a report published in the medical journal Circulation that estimates SSB consumption is partially responsible for the diabetes-, cancer- and cardiovascular disease–related deaths of 1,600 Canadians each year.
The fact that SSBs are a leading source of excess sugar in our diets is galling but encouraging. That's because the solution is straightforward: Stop, or at least cut back on, drinking them.
Chuey says you can further reduce the added sugar in your diet by avoiding convenience foods that list sugar (or maltose, corn syrup, cane sugar or honey) among the first three ingredients; swap your caramel macchiato for a latte; and top plain yogurt with fresh fruit. The less sugar you consume, the less you'll end up craving.
But when you do indulge, go all in. "Apply the pleasure maximization principle," says Chuey. "Make it really worth it! Not in terms of quantity, but the kind of quality that will really satisfy." So skip the soda fountain. But those homemade cookies? Enjoy!
YOUR BODY ON SUGAR
Click on image for larger view. Illustrations, thenounproject.com.
There are lots of table sugar subs on the market, but how do they stack up, health-wise?
Stevia: Zero calories per teaspoon
Stevia is a zero-calorie, fructosefree option.
Date sugar: 11 calories per teaspoon
Date sugar contains all the fibre and nutrients found in the dried fruit.
Coconut sugar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Made from the sap of coconut-tree flowers, coconut sugar has the same calorie count as table sugar, but it's lower on the glycemic index.
Agave nectar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Agave nectar is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than refined sugar, so you can use less. But it's high in fructose (hello, blood-sugar spikes!).
These brownies are Food Director Annabelle Waugh's secret recipe and are sure to be a hit at any potluck! We now use it as our classic brownie recipe at Canadian Living. You'll see that they live up to their name.
Image by: Ryan Brook
By: Melanie Stuparyk and The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Our 11 ultimate potluck dishes
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Serve this saucy pulled pork as sandwiches piled high on buns, with bowls of garnishes, such as pickled jalapeños, sour cream, shredded cheese and thinly shredded red cabbage (or better yet, red cabbage slaw), and let guests build their own sandwiches.
Image by: Jeff Coulson
By: Rheanna Kish and The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Our 11 ultimate potluck dishes
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
This recipe can easily be left to simmer away in a slow cooker for eight hours before adding the chicken. It yields a large quantity of sauce that freezes well if you're feeding a smaller group. Serve over hot steamed basmati rice.
Image by: Jeff Coulson
By: Irene Fong and The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Our 11 ultimate potluck dishes
Mile-High Bacon Cheese Biscuits
I know what you're thinking: Who brings biscuits to a potluck? One bite of Mile-High Bacon Cheese Biscuits and the answer will be you! They combine easy-to-work-with dough and the layering technique of puff pastry. They're great at brunch with poached eggs, with soup or – my favourite – warm from the oven with a slice of tomato and shredded iceberg lettuce tucked inside. Instant BLT.
Image by: Jeff Coulson
By: Melanie Stuparyk and The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Our 11 ultimate potluck dishes
Pumpkin Praline Tiramisu
This twist on an Italian classic combines lightly spiced layers of creamy mascarpone cheese and citrus-flavoured ladyfinger cookies in an everyday baking dish that's perfect for a large crowd. Top with praline dust just before serving so that it keeps its crunch.
Avocados are more than just a popular trend among self-proclaimed "foodies." This stone fruit can help make your diet healthy and tasty!
Whether it's in a smoothie, on toast, or in guacamole, avocado has proven itself in the food world. It's tasty, has a creamy texture and is super healthy for you. Adding avocado to your balanced diet has been linked to reducing the risk of many food intake-related health conditions. Heres some health benefits of the fruit:
1. They're good for your heart.
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids (aka. good fats), which can help the body keep cholesterol—a risk factor for heart disease— in check. And recent research out of Pennsylvania State University has found that avocados actually lower cholesterol better than other healthy fats, such as olive oil.
2. They improve nutrient absorption.
There are some food combinations that boost the body’s uptake of certain nutrients. It turns out, the avocado is a one-stop shop for nutrient absorption. According to a study from Ohio State University, the fats in avocados helped participants better absorb cancer- and disease-fighting carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which is found in carrots. It also helps the body convert them to vitamin A, which has an important role in growth and development, eye sight and even immunity.
3. They help you lose or maintain weight.
While an avocado can pack about 250 calories, those calories are well spent, especially if you're trying to curb cravings for less healthy foods. Researchers have found that adding half of an avocado to your lunch can help you feel satiated and avoid snacking later. Another study, published in Nutrition Journal in 2014, found that eating avocado was linked with a 40 percent reduction in the desire to eat over the three-hour period that followed.
4. They can help you see clearly.
Avocados are actually great for vision. They contain two phytochemicals that provide antioxidants to reduce damage from UV light. Because of their ability to improve nutrient absorption mentioned above, they also reduce the risk of developing retina disease, macular degeneration that can come with aging, according to Medical News Today.