Vitamin D for Depression

College of DuPage Nursing Student  Kristin Reutter wrote for Healthy Lombard that Dr. Mark Loafman of Family and Community Medicine at Cook County Health says limited sunlight can be damaging to the body and that Sunlight is known to elevate our mood, improve sleep, strengthen our immune system and promote bone growth.

Some people buy sunlamps while others take Vitamin D supplements. Here in Chicago right now, we are experiencing the longest streak of gloomy weather with no peak of sunlight which will, in turn, affect the way people feel who suffer from depression and other mental disorders.

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that we can take in from our diet or the sun. Vitamin D receptors are widely expressed in the central nervous system which plays a role in controlling emotions, behavior, and memory, which is why on a warm and sunny day people tend to be in a better mood.

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Cities are Addressing Inequality in Parks Access

Changing America reported that residents with lower incomes are less likely to find green space nearby in their neighborhoods in several major U.S. metro areas. But American cities have started addressing long-standing disparities in access to parks and green space, new research finds. A report from the City Parks Alliance showcases cities that are leading the way in distributing funding for parks more equitably, using data-driven approaches.

The research, published on Tuesday, includes recommendations and seven case studies of cities that have made equity in park funding a priority. These cities include San Francisco and L.A. County, Calif.; Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, Minneapolis and Detroit.

Catherine Nagel, City Parks Alliance executive director, says, “There’s been a greater awareness of the unintended consequences of many of the linear parks, which inadvertently have contributed to rising real estate values around them. I think cities are really trying to figure out how they pay more attention to neighborhoods … [without] driving further displacement.”

The recommendations of the report include getting leaders from one or more sectors of the city to champion, explain the need for and work toward better equity in parks funding. In some of the cities featured in the report, it was the city’s parks and recreation department that led the effort, but in others, it was the mayor or nonprofit sectors that play a role. Read more

How to get your child to eat more veggies

Toni Havala, MS, Registered Dietitian, Endeavor Health Weight Loss Clinic in Naperville asks in the Edward-Elmhurst Health Blog, “Ever try to get your child to eat her/his veggies and failed miserably?” If you are like many parents, you may be searching for clever ways to sneak veggies into meals because your kids just won’t eat them.Picky eating is common in young children, especially when it comes to vegetables and other healthy foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nine out of 10 children don’t eat enough vegetables.

But they should. Vegetables provide nutrients that are vital to good health. Eating a diet rich in vegetables may help reduce the risk for health issues later, include type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vegetable consumption with every meal and snack. How many veggies does your child need to eat in a day? It depends on her/his age, gender and activity level. According to site, the daily recommended vegetables for children are:

  • 2-3 years old: 1 cup
  • 4-8 years old: 1 ½ cups
  • 9-13 years old: 2 cups (girls), 2 ½ cups (boys)
  • 14-18 years old: 2 ½ cups (girls), 3 cups (boys)

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Marijuana and the Teenage Brain

College of DuPage Nursing Student Katie Chami shared with Healthy Lombard that studies have shown that the use of marijuana is associated with reduced cognitive function in teens.  One study found that teens who regularly use marijuana lose an average of 5.8 IQ points by the time they reach adulthood.1   A recent study found that marijuana has a more negative impact on a teenager’s cognitive development than alcohol.

The teenage brain is not fully matured until the mid-’20s, specifically with regards to neurodevelopment.  Drug exposure, in this case, marijuana use impacts how connections are formed within the brain.  Long term effects on the developing brain include interference with neurotransmitters, abnormal brain shape, less blood flow to parts of the brain, and increased brain matter volume.  In addition to risks to the teenage brain, there is also an increased risk of respiratory issues and lung cancer.

While teenagers smoke marijuana for its mild hallucinogenic effects, in some cases, marijuana may trigger a more serious break from reality.  Marijuana use in teenager years can also significantly increase the likelihood of schizophrenia in adulthood. Read more

How Increasing Endorphins in the Body Can Lead to a Happier Lifestyle

College of DuPage Nursing Student Anthony Wenzel wrote for Healthy Lombard that within the human body, there are substances secreted with the sole purpose of helping the individual cope with pain and stress. These substances are known as endorphins, or otherwise known as “the feel-good” chemicals. Endorphins work similarly to the class of drugs known as opioids but in a healthy and natural occurring way.

In the United States, there are illegal and legal opioids, both of which have the potential to cause severe addiction and overdose. Some of the most commonly prescribed opioid drugs for pain relief are Morphine, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone. On the other hand, an illegal opioid that is severely addictive as heroin. The same effects that each of these drugs produces can easily be achieved naturally without the harmful effects of the mentioned drugs by participating in certain activities and making slight lifestyle changes to promote the secretion of endorphins.

What many people are unaware of is that the “runners high” that individuals experience after physical activity is due to the release of endorphins. Increasing physical exercise in your day-to-day schedules can not only promote health but happiness as well! In a study conducted to explore the effects of physical activity on depression, it was found that due to the release of endorphins, exercise can actually have very similar effects that antidepressants do in the relief of depression.

In another study done by an outpatient facility that conducted meditation and yoga-based lifestyle intervention programs to understand the stress-relieving and relaxing effects of yoga and meditation, it was found that participating in such activities were successful in increasing endorphins and in turn decreased stress. Read more

Acupuncturist Incorporates Nature as Part of Treatment for Patients

Overall health and wellbeing encompass much more than just physical health. Licensed Acupuncturist and Healthy Lombard Board Member, Jenn McGrath, thoroughly understands how physical, mental and emotional wellbeing are all connected and practices a holistic approach when treating her patients at the Points to Wellness in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.

To describe how emotional and physical health are connected, Jenn gives the example of grief. Grief is known to negatively affect many areas of the body. Grief can cause digestive disturbances such as constipation, diarrhea, flare-ups of colitis and nausea. Grief can also cause immune stress, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain/loss or even impaired driving ability due to lack of focus.

When taking a patient’s health history, Jenn engages with the patient to better understand their emotional and mental state in addition to physical conditions. This includes discovering what brings them joy and makes them happy. Based on her patient’s interests, Jenn encourages spending time with loved ones, singing/playing an instrument, outdoor activities such as taking time to build a snowman with their child or taking a 30 minutes walk with a friend.

Jenn often incorporates time in nature into her treatment plans as promoted by the Conservation Foundation in Naperville, IL whose mission includes improving the health of our communities by preserving and restoring natural areas and open space. Studies show spending 30 minutes in nature lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Read more

How Rover Helps you Live Longer: The Health Benefits of Dogs

College of DuPage Nursing Student Casen Camarillo shared with Healthy Lombard that it’s no secret dogs are man’s best friend, but recently the health benefits of pet companionship have become more apparent. Zooey, is the term associated with the human health benefits of pet ownership and the positive effects on your physical and emotional health. Interacting with a companion animal releases a hormone called oxytocin which is linked to decreased stress, blood pressure, anxiety levels, and depression symptoms.

The improvement they have on a person’s mental health condition is the reason why dogs are used as therapy and companion animals. They also give the owner motivation and a sense of accomplishment while caring for their pet. Increased social interaction, self-confidence, memory, and learning is another great reason why a person of any age can benefit from dog ownership.

Another great reason is health behavioral change. Walking is integrated into the care of your furry friend, and it actually has more health benefits than you think. Walking, running, or any other form of exercise you do with your dog decreases your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and certain forms of cancer. Owning a dog encourages regular exercise, which helps promote and maintain weight loss. Both species benefit from this relationship. Read more

2020, Not Just the Year

College of DuPage Nursing Student Mishell Freire wrote for Healthy Lombard that vision is an essential part of life. We need our vision not just to see, but to drive, work, learn, and most importantly for our health. However, the number of Americans that live with a type of eye impairment keeps increasing. This topic is especially important for those who are living with or who are at risk for, eye disease, and for those who would like to prevent eye disease by early detection or preventative care.

A study by Dr. Alexander and colleagues showed that most participants with primary care providers did not receive information from their primary care providers that they needed to know about eyesight. Because of the lack of information from professionals, Dr. Alexander estimates that by 2020 the number of persons aged 40 and older who are blind in the United States will increase to 70%.

Vision health is important, but it’s frequently overlooked. For those who have access to the eye care they either do not take part in a comprehensive type of exam or do not get a form of dilation exam. This is typically due to the fear of possible illness, denial, lack of knowledge or the matter of cost differences. A simple visit to an eye care professional can help detect eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degenerations, diabetes, or glaucoma. Typically, most people wouldn’t think of these eye diseases because it either doesn’t run in their family or they’re not experiencing any vision problems. This is one of the reasons why vision health is important but often overlooked. Read more


Jessica McGee, MS, RD, CSP, LD, CNSC, the Food and Nutrition Services Clinical Nutrition Manager at Children’s National wrote for the Rise and Shine Newsletter that as alternative meat products continue to generate buzz, it is important to understand the ingredients before swapping out meat for meatless. We asked our expert nutritionist Jessica McGee to weigh in on whether fake meat is good or bad for children.

Plant-based products are emerging as the newly popular food choice for meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike, but they may not be the smarter choice for your kid. There are pros and cons to eating meat alternatives so it’s important to be informed when deciding what to feed your child.

Comparing Meat vs. Meatless

One of the challenges we face when selecting meat substitutes is that they are often highly processed, resulting in greater amounts of saturated fat and sodium than the whole plant and even sometimes higher than meats High sodium and saturated fat intake in children is associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, respectively, which can raise the risk for heart disease or stroke later in life. Read more