Shopping Feels Like an Addiction Around the Holidays for a Reason. Experts Explain Why.

Shopping Feels Like an Addiction Around the Holidays for a Reason. Experts Explain Why.

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
’Tis the season of sales and shopping — but are you confident you’ll be able to stop when you have enough?
Between the decorations, feasts and gift-giving, the winter holidays give us plenty of reasons to spend money, which human brains find rewarding. As good as the initial feeling is, however, holiday spending habits may have some negative consequences.

“We can rationalize it at this point in the season, due to the fact that it is Thanksgiving, there are the sales coming up and I think many people get carried away,” said Dr. Ashish Bhatt, medical content director for Addiction Center. “But if this continues on and again ultimately causes problems in your life financially or relationship wise, then it really mimics an addiction.”

Shopping may not be a diagnosable addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, that health professionals use to diagnose patients, but it is a behavior that can follow an addictive cycle, he added.

Sometimes, people just spend more money than they should. Other times, they may start to feel anxiety creeping up about all the things they should buy, and it feels great when they get them, but the high goes away and they need to do it again, Bhatt said.

“That’s when you probably are looking at a pattern of negative shopping behavior,” he said. And sometimes, even after the holidays are over, it’s hard to break that cycle once it has started.

Whether it’s addictive or just a feeling of not being totally in control of spending, the holidays are a good time to look at your relationship with shopping.

Why our brains like shopping

It’s no surprise that shopping feels good — it feeds our brains’ rewards systems.

“The reward system is a system that was built on earlier species than us, way back millions of years, to teach us what we needed to survive,” said Dr. Ann-Christine Duhaime, distinguished professor of neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “If something is fun … that’s generally a pretty good indication that it’s the reward system in action.”

Purchasing things gives the brain a hit of the chemical dopamine, Bhatt said. Dopamine is often called the “feel-good” neurotransmitter.

On top of that, many people are paid lots of money to make shopping feel even more rewarding, Duhaime said.

“Retailers know very well how to make it fun for you and how to appeal to multiple things that humans find rewarding,” she said.

That could mean tying gift-giving to connection with commercials about how loved your friends and family will feel if you buy a certain gift or emphasizing competition by offering limited-time deals you need to race to get, Duhaime added.

It was beneficial for our ancestors’ survival to get what was needed with as little sacrifice as possible as well as to connect and fit in with others in their community, so those drives to shop, give gifts and find deals are strong, she said.

Internet shopping

The sacrifices needed to buy holiday gifts and goods drastically decrease when you go online, Duhaime said.

Instead of getting in your car, driving a distance, finding what you want in a store, waiting in a checkout line and handing over your cash or card, in the age of online shopping, you can press a couple of buttons from your couch, she added.

“Basically, anything you could ever want to buy, dream of buying or think of buying is at our fingertips,” said Alexandra Cromer, a licensed professional counselor based in Richmond, Virginia. And with features to save your credit card information on websites, there can be mere seconds between the moment you’re thinking about something you want to buy and having already paid for it, Duhaime said.

The less time it takes and the fewer barriers between you and a purchase, the less time there is to think about whether you really want or need it, she said.

Less shopping, more holiday cheer

As much as we want to give our families the best holidays ever every year, more shopping doesn’t always bring us closer to that goal, Duhaime said.

“The rewards of shopping are extremely short-term. And after you shop and after the presents have all been opened, there’s oftentimes a letdown. And then you start to have the guilt of the money that you overspent,” she said.

When you picture a perfect Christmas of Hanukkah for your kids, you may think of new decorations and presents — even bigger and better than last year’s — but our brains are also designed to find reward in familiarity, Duhaime said.

“What kids actually want is, they want it to be the same every year,” she said. “There is some connection to the past, to tradition, to the deeper meaning of a holiday, to just being together that people find extremely rewarding, and especially in times of rapid change like is happening now in the world, where science and technology are just changing so fast.”

Two of the biggest factors tied to long-term happiness and life satisfaction are relationships and a sense of purpose. Instead of searching for the holiday spirit by purchasing more things, Duhaime recommended focusing on gifts and activities that can bring people more connection and a sense of purpose.

Doing so may be tied to a meaningful memory, doing an activity together or finding something to help your child build a skill or passion.

How to cut down

A more meaningful, less shopping-frenzied holiday sounds nice, but it isn’t always so easy to find. Start by recognizing that a lot of the seasonal pressure you feel comes from people trying to make money by selling you things — not necessary measures for a better holiday, Duhaime said.

Next, Bhatt recommended identifying your triggers. These could mean avoiding malls or big stores, limiting credit cards or talking with your loved ones about being mindful of shopping, he said.

Then, the best way to change a behavior is not to tell yourself to stop, but to replace it with something better, Duhaime said.

Instead of shopping, maybe go through your closet and have a swap with friends, she suggested. Or draw names so family members can focus on getting a great gift for one person rather than everyone.

And if you find yourself with similar habits after the holidays, Cromer recommended a detox in the beginning of the year. It could be a no-spend month in January or a softer break from shopping in which you focus on saving money for a bigger goal, she added.

But addiction and addictive behaviors are driven by many factors — including genetics, environment and experiences — so it is possible that trauma or another mental health issue may contribute to the ways in which you shop, Bhatt said.

“Cognitive behavioral therapies are some of the best ways to actually address this,” he said. “It’s super important that somebody who’s struggling with that get the help that they deserve.”

Contributor: Madeline Holcombe, CNN Health

Cutting 1 Teaspoon of Salt Works As Well As Blood Pressure Meds, Study Finds

Cutting 1 Teaspoon of Salt Works As Well As Blood Pressure Meds, Study Finds

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
Cutting 1 teaspoon of salt from your diet each day can lower your top blood pressure reading just as much as a typical hypertension medication, even if you don’t have high blood pressure, a new study found.
A teaspoon of salt is 2,300 milligrams — that’s the top daily limit for people over 14 recommended by the latest US nutritional guidelines. However, the American Heart Association recommends a diet with less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.

“This is the first study to show that people who are already on blood pressure medication can lower their blood pressure even more by limiting sodium,” said coprincipal investigator Norrina Allen, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“And regardless of medication, we found 70% to 75% of people are likely to see a reduction in their blood pressure if they lower the sodium in their diet,” Allen said.

High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer,” because there are no symptoms — the only way to know if you have it is to test for it. Yet hypertension affects 1 in 3 adults worldwide and can lead to heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and stroke, according to a 2023 report by the World Health Organization.

Nearly half of all Americans live with high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. About a third of those have “resistant” hypertension, high blood pressure that has not responded despite the concurrent use of three types of medications. A 2021 study found men ages 20 to 49 are up to 70% more likely to have uncontrolled hypertension than women of the same age.

“Most people today eat way too much salt because it’s added into nearly everything we eat,” said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver.

“A teaspoon of salt may seem like a small amount. However, that added salt seems to have an effect on blood pressure that is surprisingly large,” said Freeman, who was not involved in the study.

Middle-aged and older adults

The study, published Saturday in the journal JAMA, assigned 213 people ages 50 to 75 to one week of a high- or low-sodium diet. After eating that diet for seven days, each person then switched to the alternate diet.

About 25% of the participants had normal blood pressure, while another 25% had untreated hypertension. Of the remaining group, 20% had blood pressure under control, while 31% did not.

During the high-salt week, people ate their normal diet, along with two bouillon packets, each containing 1,100 milligrams of sodium. During the low-salt week, people ate foods with low sodium, purchased and given to them by dietitians. The goal was only 500 milligrams of salt a day, a dramatic drop. The drop in blood pressure while on the low-sodium diet was quick and dramatic, according to the study. Compared to the high-sodium diet, blood pressure on the extremely low-salt diet dropped 8 millimeters of mercury.

“Compared to their normal diet, people reduced their blood pressure by about 6 millimeters of mercury, about the same effect you’d see for a first-line blood pressure medication,” Allen said.

“In addition, that drop happened pretty quickly and was consistent for people with normal blood pressure, slightly high blood pressure or those already on medications.”

Cutting this amount of salt didn’t have any significant side effects, Allen said, unless you count adjusting to a blander diet.

“When you go from a high-salt diet to a low-salt diet, everything tastes bland,” she said. “I want to encourage people to stick with it because your taste buds do adjust within a couple of weeks or so, and you really do get taste and flavor back and normal things will taste very salty.

“Taste bud adjustment takes a little bit longer, but the blood pressure improvements are pretty quick,” she added.

Blood pressure medications, however, can have many side effects, including cough, constipation or diarrhea, dizziness, lack of energy, headache, muscle pain, nausea, nervousness, fatigue, weight gain or loss, and erection issues. Typically, these ease over time, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Overcoming cravings for salt.

Putting down the saltshaker is a good start, “but that’s not where most people get their salt,” Freeman said.

“It’s in foods you’d not expect to have a lot of salt: A couple of slices of bread could have 400 or 500 milligrams of salt; a pickle has a full day’s worth of salt; and a bowl of soup could have several days’ worth of salt in it,” he said.

The salt shaker warning label shown here will be the citywide standard for items that have more than a daily dose of sodium.

But careful shopping can accomplish the task, Allen said. Dietitians purchased the low-sodium diets provided in the study after reading labels at local grocery stores, Allen said.

CNN looked at the low-salt menu and found most breakfasts included store-bought quick oats, Greek yogurt and grapes, while lunch featured grilled chicken, lettuces dressed with oil and vinegar, and low-salt versions of lentil soup, breads, peanut butter and tortilla chips. Dinners included ready-to-eat brown rice and veggies, burritos and lasagna.

“They were the low-salt versions of vegetable lasagna,” Allen said. “They were apples and bananas and things everyone could get at the grocery store. They were not specially prepared by a chef.” The award-winning DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is an expert-approved method of lowering salt intake. DASH has a simple premise: Eat more veggies, fruits and low-fat dairy foods; limit foods high in saturated fat; and limit your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day, just as this study did.

It’s important to write down not only what your goals are, but also when, where and how you’ll accomplish them.

The DASH meal plan includes four to six servings of vegetables and another four to six servings of fruit, three servings of whole-grain products, two to four servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and several servings each of lean meats and nuts, seeds and legumes each day.

Regardless of which diet plan chosen, those who want to cut salt are better off making their own foods at home, where they can read labels and calculate sodium levels, Freeman said.

Eating at a restaurant, even if it’s healthy, could be troublesome.

“Take a vegetable dish at a restaurant: Those green beans may have been prepared with salted butter with salted crispy onions or whatever on top. Before long you’ve had a huge salt load that was never intended,” Freeman said. “The best way to eat is to eat as unprocessed as possible.”

Contributor: Sandee LaMotte – CNN Health

The 9 Unhealthiest Juices on Grocery Store Shelves

The 9 Unhealthiest Juices on Grocery Store Shelves

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
Just because fruit is healthy doesn’t mean that all store-bought fruit juices are helping your waistline.
In theory, juice should be a healthy beverage—it’s made from fruit, after all, right? Even the dietary guidelines consider a cup of 100% fruit juice to be a single serving of fruit. Unfortunately, though, not all juice brands are created equal, and some may be more detrimental to our health than we realize.

That’s because many of the bottled juices stocking the shelves at your local supermarket contain very little actual fruit, almost no fiber, and a whole lot of added sugar.

To shed light on the less-than-ideal choices, we spoke with dietitian experts to compile a list of the juice brands that fall short with respect to nutrition and overall health.

From sugar-laden blends to misleading health claims, prepare to discover which juice brands to skip if you’re working toward a healthier lifestyle. Also, for more tips to help you discern which foods are actually healthy versus the imposters, be sure to check out 7 ‘Healthy’ Foods That Are Actually Worse for You Than Candy, Say Dietitians.

How healthy is fruit juice, really?

Your inkling that fruit juice is healthy is true! Fruit juices—100% fruit juices, specifically—can be a good source of essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and potassium, and they provide some antioxidants. Additionally, juice can be a convenient way to consume fruit, especially if fresh fruit is not available or you find yourself struggling to consume fruit at each meal.

The biggest downside to fruit juice is that it’s high in sugar, and if you’re not drinking 100% juice, your beverage is probably also high in added sugars. Studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages, such as certain unhealthy juice drinks, are the single largest source of calories and added sugar in the U.S. diet. These drinks don’t really fill you up, nor do they provide much nutritional value.

It’s important to consume fruit juice in moderation and limit your portion sizes, which is considered to be one cup or eight ounces. The USDA suggests that “at least half of the recommended amount of fruit eaten should come from whole fruit, rather than 100% fruit juice” because whole fruit provides beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, that’s missing in the juiced version.

What makes a store-bought juice unhealthy

Experts say these factors can help you identify juice brands that are less nutritionally beneficial.

The label doesn’t say “100% fruit juice”: This label claim means that the juice has no additional sugar added during processing. In a healthy juice, the fruit juice itself should be the primary ingredient, and if added sugar is listed within the first three ingredients, it likely contains a significant amount.

High amounts of sugar—both added and natural: As a general rule, the more added sugar a juice contains, the worse it is for you. But you’ll want to limit the total amount of sugar in the juice as well—even if it comes from the fruit. While you may know to limit, if not avoid, consuming added sugars, you should still limit your total sugar intake to 12 grams of sugar or less for blood sugar control.

Low to no vitamin content: Juice should always contain vitamins—if they don’t, they’re likely made with very little real fruit, says Jesse Feder, MS, RDN, a personal trainer and registered dietitian with the My Crohn’s and Colitis Team. To maximize the nutritional value of your juice, look for options that are fortified with nutrients like added fiber to support digestive health.

Now that you know how to best identify fruit juice that is actually good for you, find out which juice brands are masquerading as healthy, nutritionally dense options that you’ll want to steer clear of, per the advice of dietitians. Here’s what nutritionists say are the unhealthiest juice brands in stores. Read on, and for more, don’t miss 8 Soda Brands To Stay Away From Right Now.

1. Bolthouse Farms’ Green Goodes
Per 15.2 fl oz bottle:
240 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 30 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (3 g fiber, 46 g sugar), 2 g protein

“While Bolthouse Farms’ Green Goodess may seem like a nutritious choice with its blend of spinach, kale, and spirulina, a closer look at its nutritional profile reveals a significant problem,” explains Jessie Hulsey, RD, an Atlanta-based dietitian.”With a staggering 46 grams of total sugar, only 3 grams of fiber, and a mere 2 grams of protein per serving, this smoothie falls short of providing the balanced nutrition that individuals need. Excessive sugar intake, coupled with insufficient fiber and protein, can lead to blood sugar spikes, poor digestion, and a lack of satiety.”

2. Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail
PER 8 fl oz:
110 calories, 0 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (0 g fiber, 25 g sugar), 0 g protein

Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, CSCS, of Fueling Active Kids advises against Cranberry Juice Cocktails. “Cranberry juice cocktail sounds like a sip of healthy antioxidants, but go for the 100% juice if cranberry is your juice of choice. The ‘cocktail’ typically means it is loaded with added sugar,” says Pflugradt.

For children under the age of two, juice is no longer recommended due to its high sugar and calorie content without many other nutrients. Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Juice Cocktail is one example of how much added sugar can be packed into cranberry juice. With 25 grams of sugar in 8 ounces, you’ll meet the daily added sugar recommendation in just one serving!

3. Welch’s Fruit Punch
100 calories, 0 g fat, 25 mg sodium, 25 g carb (0 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 0 g protein

An 8-ounce serving of this juice contains about 50% of your daily value for vitamin C. Aside from that, though, this beverage offers almost no nutritional benefits—and a number of drawbacks.

“The first two ingredients in Welch’s Fruit Punch are water and high fructose corn syrup,” says Feder. “It’s high in added sugars [22 out of the 23 total grams of sugar are added sugars], which can lead to unwanted weight gain and chronic diseases when consistently consumed. Additionally, it lacks several important vitamins and minerals and has no significant nutritional value.”

This product also contains the zero-calorie sweetener sucralose, which some studies have found may cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome, as well as reduce insulin sensitivity.

4. PUR Cold Pressed Turmeric Lemonade
PER 16 fl OZ:
150 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (0 g fiber, 32 g sugar), 1 g protein

“The PUR Cold Pressed Turmeric Lemonade juice may sound like a healthy choice containing anti-inflammatory turmeric, but with 30 grams of added sugar in a 16-ounce serving, that is far from something that will reduce inflammation. Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides (a common fat in the blood), which are all markers of inflammation,” says Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES. PUR carries a line of shot-sized juices that might be a better way to get your fix. Packed with antioxidants and other micronutrients, you can get your nutrition in a condensed serving size without the added sugars.

5. Naked Blue Machine Juice
320 calories, 0 g fat, 20 mg sodium, 76 g carbs (3 g fiber, 55 g sugar), 2 g protein

When it comes to the unhealthiest fruit juices, Patricia Kolesa, MS, RDN, tells us that “the first juice that comes to mind for me is Naked Juice.”

“While many of them contain fruits and vegetables, some of them [such as the Blue Machine flavor] contain 50 grams of sugar or more,” says Kolesa. “This is more than you might get from a can of soda! Too much added sugar from beverages in the diet can contribute to blood sugar spikes and ‘sugar crashes’ or low energy levels.”

For a healthier alternative, Kolesa advises the following: “My recommendations would be to make your own juice—or smoothie—at home or eat whole fruits as often as possible!”

6. Langers Mango Nectar
140 calories, 0 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (0 g fiber, 33 g sugar), 0 g protein

In addition to avoiding the health halo claims noted above, you’ll also want to take a second look at any juice labeled as “GMO-free” or claiming to have “no high fructose corn syrup,” as these claims can also create a false sense of healthiness for certain juice products. Oftentimes, juice “cocktails” can still be pumped with added sugars.

This appears to be the case with Langers Mango Nectar Juice, which despite its claim not to contain any high fructose corn syrup, still contains 23 grams of added sugars per cup. That’s a whopping 46% of your recommended daily limit for sugar for a tiny drink! Langers’ ingredients are also primarily composed of filtered water and has minimal amounts of mango puree.

7. Tropicana Caribbean Sunset
90 calories, 0 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (0 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 0 g protein

“This juice provides very little nutritional value,” says Krutika Nanavati, MS, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Sport, Exercise, and Nutrition and licensed nutritionist with ClinicSpots. Tropicana Caribbean Sunset only offers about 10% of your daily value for vitamin C—probably because the main ingredients in this beverage are water and sugar. Out of the whopping 21 grams of sugar in this drink, 17 grams are added sugar.

That also translates to 21 grams of carbohydrates, which is about the equivalent of two slices of wheat bread.

8. Ocean Spray Pure Unsweetened Concord Grape Juice
160 calories, 0 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 39 g carbs (0 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 0 g protein

“The Ocean Spray Pure Unsweetened Concord Grape Juice leads you to believe they reformulated their popular grape juice to make it more nutritious for you,” explains Brittany Delaurentis, RD. “However, one cup of juice still provides 37 grams of sugar and 39 grams of carbohydrates. Your best will always be snacking on some fresh grapes instead.”

9. Simply Fruit Punch
100 calories, 0 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (0 g fiber, 25 g sugar), 0 g protein

Across the board, dietitians agree that fruit punches should generally be avoided. That’s because they’re usually sugar bombs, and contain very little actual fruit juice.

Take Simply Fruit Punch, for example. The name is a bit misleading, considering that fruit is the third ingredient behind water and sugar. In fact, 21 out of 25 grams of sugar in this drink are purely added sugars.

Contributor: Caroline Thomason, RDN | Rebecca Strong- Eat This, Not That!