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MUA and Model Sydney Morgan Shares Her Journey with Ulcerative Colitis

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Sydney Morgan might have been what most would call a “typical” teen. Halfway through high school, she had plans of running track and field in college.

Life had other plans.

Morgan began to have unexplainable symptoms that seemed like a stomach bug at first blush. However, her recurring symptoms, like fatigue, low energy, and frequent trips to the bathroom, pointed to something else.

After 4 months of experiencing symptoms, Morgan reached a turning point.

“I was on a road trip with a friend and we were going to be in the car for 10 hours,” she explains. “I didn’t eat the day before because I didn’t want to have to stop to go to the bathroom. I finally said, OK, I need to do something about this.”

Morgan had been doing web research to help her understand her symptoms. Her research led her to an article on ulcerative colitis.

From the car, she texted her mom a screenshot of the article. “I think I have this,” she confessed.

After that, Morgan started the whirlwind of doctor’s appointments and emergency room visits that led her to a diagnosis.

“The first time I went to the doctor, I was embarrassed to talk about my symptoms,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I want to see a female doctor, not my normal male doctor.’”

An ER merry-go-round

Morgan was sent to the ER for testing for 2 days. When the ER doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to get a colonoscopy for 2 months, she was discharged without treatment or answers.

“Meanwhile, I was going to the bathroom 30 times a day,” she says. “I couldn’t leave my house. I was in pain constantly.”

After another week, Morgan returned to the ER for testing.

“I was in there for 2 weeks doing lots of bloodwork testing, colonoscopy, endoscopy, lots of scopes. They came to my room and told me I have UC (ulcerative colitis),” she says.

Arriving at a diagnosis

The news came as a shock.

“For them to come in and tell me this is something you’re going to be dealing with for the rest of your life was really overwhelming, very scary,” Morgan shares. “Until that point, I had never heard of Crohn’s disease [or] ulcerative colitis.”

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect the bowel but in different ways.

Luckily, Morgan had a supportive doctor.

“Dr. Sapana Shah was my pediatric gastroenterologist and has been with me since Day 1 of my diagnosis and throughout the duration of my colitis journey,” Morgan shares. “She went above and beyond as my doctor, but as time went on she became a friend.”

Finding the right treatment

After that, Morgan began a series of trial-and-error treatments to find what worked best for her, starting with high doses of steroids.

“Those have very rough side effects, especially for a 16-year-old girl. Lots of weight gain and facial swelling,” she shares. “I was very embarrassed to go to school because not everyone knew what I was going through, and I didn’t want to explain it to them. They just knew that I looked different.”

When it comes to Crohn’s and colitis, there’s no uniform treatment. Morgan tried numerous medications to see if any might help her symptoms and get her into remission.

“There’s no way to know what medicines will work on different people. There’s still a lot of research being done,” she says. “Nothing really worked for me except the steroids — and I hated them — and you can’t be on them long-term.”

After a year of medication-hopping, Morgan went in for another diagnostic exam that turned into emergency surgery to remove her large intestine.

“I went in to see my doctor and the surgeon and I thought it was just a consultation. He said, ‘I had a cancellation, do you want to get your colon out tomorrow?’ and I replied, ‘Oh my god, I’m not ready,’ but I did end up getting it taken out the next day.”

Due to postsurgery complications, Morgan was in the hospital for 2 months.

“It was really hard,” she says. “I had to have around-the-clock wound care and there was just a lot happening.”

In the midst of the stress, Morgan found support from her nurse.

“Jen Jones was my wound care nurse,” she shares. “She shared my love of makeup, and talking about that with her helped take my mind off my medical issues, which were pretty severe at the time. She even brought me makeup and hair products to the hospital to cheer me up.”

After she recovered from surgery, Morgan wore an ostomy bag, a small pouch to expel waste from the body, for about a year. She then underwent two more surgeries.

The first was a J-pouch surgery, a procedure that utilizes the remaining small intestine to form a pouch that functions in place of a colon. Next was a reconnective surgery to remove the ostomy bag and connect the J-pouch to the rest of the digestive tract.

Now, Morgan is free of her ostomy bag and able to have more agency in her day-to-day life, though there are changes she’s still getting used to.

“I still deal with some symptoms, but I’m pretty much the closest there is to cured now since they took out all of that diseased part of my colon,” she says.

She still experiences fatigue and notes that she has to stay on top of drinking water and taking nutritional supplements since she can’t absorb nutrients as well without a colon.

“It’s hard for me to realize that I can’t keep up 100 percent with people who are healthy and have a colon,” she shares. “I just have to take breaks more often. It’s hard.”

Still, Morgan doesn’t let it get her down.

“I didn’t let it consume me. I live in the present and take things one day at a time,” she says.

She also turned to hobbies, her medical team, and family for support.

Morgan used her time in the hospital to look for silver linings.

Therapy animals

“I was on the therapy dog list, so I got at least one dog every day to come and say hi to me,” she says. “My mom would buy little dog toys and treats for them so the dogs liked coming to my room, and that helped me a lot through diagnosis.”

Morgan also made a new friend through the therapy dog program, volunteer David Anderson.

“He would bring his dogs Anna and Clarence to my hospital room literally every single day to say hello, even if he wasn’t assigned to my wing that day. They always brightened my mood and were the highlight of my day.”

The experience inspired Morgan.

“I plan to train a dog of my own later in life to be a therapy animal and volunteer at local hospitals,” she says.

Rediscovering art

Having a lot of downtime also led Morgan back to a lifelong passion for art.

“I did a lot of artwork in the hospital and at home because I couldn’t really go out and do anything,” she says. “I needed a hobby that I could do by myself without too much physical exertion. I had been an artist my whole life, so I really got back into it when I was in the hospital.”

A return to her artistic side along with encouragement from nurses led Morgan to something she didn’t expect: life as a makeup artist, model, influencer, and advocate.

Diving into makeup

“I had been playing around with makeup and volunteering in my community to do face paint on kids at local events, but I really started taking the pictures and videos after diagnosis,” she says.

The rest of the nurses at the hospital got on board to support Morgan’s budding hobby.

“There was a makeup palette that I really wanted [that] was going to be hard to get because it was going to sell out really quickly,” she recalls. “I probably had 10 nurses in my room all on the website refreshing [the page] because they were like ‘We need Sydney to get this palette!’”

The teamwork paid off. “I did get it!” she shares excitedly.

When asked if she had any advice for others embarking on a diagnosis journey, Morgan had this to say.

Find a hobby or passion

Having a hobby “gave me something to do and helped me to feel like I was being productive or creative through that time [in the hospital],” Morgan says.

Remember your feelings are valid

She also emphasizes that finding a balance between staying positive and validating your feelings about diagnosis, treatment, and anything that comes up as a result of living with a chronic illness is crucial.

“Stay positive through it,” she says. “You’ll get to the bottom of it and all your feelings are valid.”

Talk with someone

Morgan also emphasizes the need to have someone to talk with. This can be a loved one, a community member, or a therapist.

“They had me seeing a behavioral health professional while I was inpatient to talk to and help me through getting the ostomy bag because it was a big transition for people my age,” she shares. “I think having someone to talk to is very important.”

Lean on family and community

She also suggests making friends within your chronic illness community.

“I found a lot of my closest friends through the Crohn’s and colitis foundation,” she says. “It’s just really nice to talk to people that have gone through what you’re going through… and it’s just good to have a community.”

These days, Morgan has a major Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube following. She uses her platform to share her makeup creations and her resilient spirit, as well as advocate for others going through similar experiences.

Advocacy

“I feel like people just don’t talk about [ulcerative colitis] as much as they should,” she says. “That’s why I’m such an advocate for it because when I was doing my research there was just not a lot there.”

Morgan currently works with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation as a Take Steps National Ambassador. She also actively helps local children’s hospitals that specialize in pediatric treatment for chronic illnesses.

She recently participated in the Los Angeles Take Steps event and spoke at the Pittsburgh Take Steps event.

Acting

Morgan both produced and acted in Kindling, an upcoming thriller. A portion of the proceeds from the film will be donated to The Trevor Project and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

The future

As far as her plans for the future, Morgan is focused on the here and now.

“I’m very much taking things day by day,” she says. “I want to do it all. I like trying everything, so I’m just going to continue being creative.”

“I think going through all of that really just made me want to do what makes me happy in life. You don’t know how much you have so I want to enjoy every minute,” she says. “It gave me the confidence and the fire to pursue my passions and my dreams which ultimately led me to where I am now.”

When it comes to what could have been, Morgan doesn’t look back.

“If I didn’t get diagnosed with UC, I’d be in college somewhere running track and field,” she says. “People ask all the time, ‘Would you change your diagnosis or do you wish you never got it because of all the pain you went through?’”

Her answer is, “Definitely not.”

“I’m so grateful that I get to be an advocate and share my story with others,” she says. “I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and things ended up the way they’re supposed to be.”


Crystal Hoshaw is a mother, writer, and longtime yoga practitioner. She has taught in private studios, gyms, and in one-on-one settings in Los Angeles, Thailand, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She shares mindful strategies for self-care through online courses. You can find her on Instagram.



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Bobby focuses on creating higher margins while investing in society. He believes that our World has room for improvement, and one of his goals is to be part of the evolutionary process. What makes him successful is the collaboration with founders and partners. Bobby has a successful track record in envisioning and creating deals and opportunities from scratch in various industries.

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5 Best Sunscreens for People with Psoriasis

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For many people, warm weather means outdoor activities like swimming and backyard barbecues.

But sunlight can be a friend — or foe — for those living with psoriasis. Making sure you choose the right sunblock for your sensitive skin can mean the difference between an amazing day outside, and one that’s worthy of nightmares.

Proper sun protection during outdoor activities is important for everyone. But people with psoriasis need to be particularly careful.

If you have psoriasis, you may have heard that exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays has actually been shown to help with the autoimmune skin condition.

“UVB rays are actually good for people with psoriasis,” says Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, founder of Schique Skincare. UVB rays help slow the skin growth and shedding that happens with psoriasis.

But too much sun exposure — of both UVA and UVB rays — can be a problem. “If people with psoriasis are overexposed, it can actually worsen the skin,” Schaffer says. “They’re extra sensitive versus someone who doesn’t have psoriasis.”

Psoriasis also mostly affects people with lighter skin tones who are already more prone to sunburn.

Plus, certain medications used to treat psoriasis can cause increased photosensitivity. This makes a person sunburn more easily.

For all these reasons, wearing sunblock when you have psoriasis is crucial. It’s important to choose wisely since skin may already be irritated and sensitive.

Make sure there are no parabens, no formaldehyde, and no other really strong preservatives.
— Jacqueline Schaffer, MD

Follow these expert tips next time you’re shopping for sunblock.

1. Make sure you’re buying sunblock, not sunscreen

“Sunscreen is known to be absorbed into your skin, whereas sunblock actually sits on top of your skin and reflects the UV rays,” Schaffer says.

Many products are a mixture of both, so a product labeled “sunscreen” can still have enough protection if it also contains sunblock. Common sunblock ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

2. Avoid preservatives and chemicals

“Make sure there are no parabens, no formaldehyde, and no other really strong preservatives that can be damaging to the skin,” Schaffer says. These ingredients can irritate psoriasis patches.

3. If you’re shopping for a child, don’t buy sunblock with added color

Some companies now offer colored or “disappearing color” sunblocks. Parents should avoid buying these for children with psoriasis, Schaffer says, as they can irritate skin.

4. Don’t buy sunblocks with added scents

Added fragrances can aggravate the skin in people with psoriasis.

5. Buy SPF 30 or above

People with psoriasis need just as much sun protection as everybody else. This is especially true if they’re on medications that can increase their sensitivity to the sun.

SPF 15 doesn’t provide enough protection throughout the day. “A lot of studies from the American Academy of Dermatology have shown that SPF 30 is more effective for longer use as a sunblock,” Schaffer notes.

6. Look for the label ‘broad spectrum’

This meansthe product will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Even though UVB rays can be beneficial in treating psoriasis, people with the condition should still have sunblock on to protect against too much exposure to both types of rays.

The sunblocks on our list were carefully chosen and vetted. Following the advice from our expert, Schaffer, we looked for:

  • sunblocks that don’t include potential irritants like parabens, formaldehyde, potent preservatives, added color, or fragrances
  • sunblocks that include the mineral ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
  • sunblocks that are broad spectrum and provide SPF 30 or higher protection

We also carefully considered customer reviews, the prices of products, and selected products only from trusted brands.

Price guide

Sunscreen can become costly, as it’s something you regularly use that sometimes comes in small bottles. We considered options from different brands at a range of prices, to bring the best possible selection.

Sunscreens in this article are broken down on a price per ounce basis according to the following key:

  • $ = under $6 per ounce
  • $$ = $7-12 per ounce
  • $$$ = more than $12 per ounce

If you have psoriasis, try one of the following products that made it through the above checklist and past the experts.

Best sunblock for psoriasis for the face and body

Badger Sunscreen Cream

  • Price: $
  • Size: 2.9-ounce (oz.) bottle

Schaffer recommends this SPF 40 mineral-based cream because it’s unscented and doesn’t have dyes or chemicals. It uses four ingredients, and 98 percent of them are organic. You can use this sunscreen on both your face and body.

The certified non-GMO formula includes uncoated zinc oxide at 22.5 percent, and it adds organic sunflower oil, organic beeswax, and sunflower vitamin E for a moisturizing boost. The brand also says it’s hypoallergenic and gluten-free.

The product is designed to resist water for 80 minutes, but you’ll want to be mindful and reapply every 2 hours.

Coral reef safety is a big concern for many sunblock users. The company says this product is reef-safe. Even the manufacturing is eco-friendly — the company says it’s made with 100 percent solar power.

Amazon reviewers are impressed with the quality, especially given its reasonable price. A number mentioned that the formula is thick, so it may take some elbow grease to squeeze the product out of the tube. You may also need some extra time to rub it into your skin completely.

Best tinted sunblock for psoriasis

La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 1.7-oz. bottle

This water-resistant product, which is free of dyes, fragrances, oil, and chemicals, is one of Schaffer’s go-to recommendations. It’s a 100 percent mineral sunscreen that’s safe for sensitive skin, and it’s noncomedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores.

This sunscreen is tinted with a matte finish, which some may prefer. For those who’d rather skip the tinted glow, there’s an untinted version available on the company’s website.

The sunscreen is lightweight, nonwhitening, and nongreasy, according to the company. The majority of Amazon reviewers seem to agree it checks those boxes.

One complaint from Amazon reviewers about the tinted version is that there’s only one shade available. The tinted version doesn’t include zinc oxide, using instead titanium dioxide, which may be a drawback for some.

Best sunblock for psoriasis with vitamin C

Derma E Sun Defense Clear Zinc Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 2-oz. bottle

This broad spectrum, oil-free sunblock is chemical-free and contains vitamin C and green tea, which can help skin recover after sun exposure. It also contains soothing aloe vera. To protect you from UVA and UVB rays, this sunblock uses non-nano mineral zinc oxide.

The brand says this pick checks a number of other boxes, as it’s:

  • vegan
  • reef-safe
  • cruelty-free
  • non-GMO
  • gluten-free

Keep in mind that some reviewers mention pilling or peeling and a white cast — a common, but still bothersome, factor in mineral sunscreens.

Best sheer sunblock for psoriasis

Drunk Elephant Umbra SheerPhysical Daily Defense SPF 30

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 3-oz. bottle

This SPF 30 broad spectrum sunscreen contains 20 percent zinc oxide, as well as algae and sunflower sprout extracts for additional antioxidant protection. Aloe vera is tossed in to soothe and moisturize.

It doesn’t use sunblocking chemicals (it’s mineral-based), essential oils, silicones, and fragrances. Plus it’s cruelty-free.

The brand suggests applying this sunscreen to the face, neck, chest, and backs of hands. So, it’s not considered an all-over sunscreen, but it works for more than just your face. The company also says it’s safe for daily use and sensitive skin types.

Reviews in Google are split. Some users call it their favorite, noting how effective it is for sensitive and acne-prone skin. Others were underwhelmed — one said they wished it felt more moisturizing, while another pointed out a white cast (but again, it’s tough to find mineral sunscreens that completely leave out a white cast).

Best value sunblock for psoriasis

All Good SPF 30 Sport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

  • Price: $
  • Size: 3-oz. bottle

This certified organic sunscreen is made with sensitive skin in mind, leaving out harsh chemicals.

The non-GMO formula uses 16 percent non-nano particle zinc oxide to block UVA and UVB rays (as well as blue light from screens). The exclusion of chemical sunscreen ingredients also makes this sunscreen coral reef-friendly.

The sunblock is also:

  • biodegradable
  • gluten-free
  • paraben-free
  • cruelty-free

This pick gets high marks among Google reviewers, who mention it’s kind to their sensitive skin and doesn’t leave them feeling sticky or greasy.

It’s intended for use on the face and body, which makes it a pretty convenient go-to for all uses. Plus, there’s a 16-oz. family-size version with a pump top available.

The only complaints we found on this one say that it has a thick consistency, and may leave a white cast behind if it’s not fully rubbed in.

What type of sunscreen is best for psoriasis?

People with psoriasis should look for mineral (physical) sunscreens that include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The sunscreens they use should have an SPF of 30 or higher.

Should people with psoriasis wear sunscreen every day?

Most people — those with psoriasis and those without — should wear SPF daily. If you believe your symptoms improve with some sun exposure, limit your time in the sun without sunblock to just about 5- or 10-minute periods. Keep in mind that too much exposure could potentially worsen your symptoms.

What ingredients should I avoid when selecting a sunscreen?

It’s a good idea to avoid potentially irritating ingredients like intense preservatives, parabens, formaldehyde, and added color or fragrances.

Some companies will advertise that their sunblock doesn’t contain these ingredients. But it’s always good to double-check the label on products that say they’re good for sensitive skin, and don’t call out certain ingredients their formula excludes.

Can sunshine help with psoriasis?

Some sun exposure can benefit people with psoriasis. But when people with psoriasis are overexposed to the sun, they may see worsened symptoms.

People with psoriasis should wear sunblock in the sun, even when using the sun as treatment for their condition. Look for broad spectrum, fragrance- and preservative-free sunblocks that are at least SPF 30.

If you have psoriasis and are planning on being in the sun, experts recommend starting with 10 minutes of exposure at noon, then increasing exposure by 30 seconds to 1 minute each day.

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8 Healthy Ways to Use White Rice, According to a Dietitian

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Rice is a staple food in many cultures.

It’s predominantly produced in the Asian-Pacific region, where it serves as an important economic crop. More than 60% of the world’s population eats rice every day.

Compared to brown rice, white rice offers fewer nutrients, including minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber. This disparity has led many in the West to vilify white rice, and there are claims that it can’t fit into a balanced diet.

However, white rice remains more widely consumed than brown rice, potentially due to cultural practices, its faster cooking time, and its softer texture, which many people find more favorable.

Plus, it is more cost-effective and can be purchased in bulk.

For example, a bag containing 320 ounces of white rice (more than 200 standard servings) costs less than $9 USD at Walmart. A similarly-sized bag of brown rice is not available at the retailer. Instead, a 32-ounce bag (about 20 servings) costs $1.37 USD.

To buy the same amount of brown rice as offered in the bulk bag of white rice, you’d need to purchase 10 32-ounce bags for more than $13, plus tax.

Therefore, it’s important that we acknowledge the roles and benefits of white rice as a cultural staple in several dietary patterns and as an affordable alternative to other grains.

We need to develop a deeper understanding of ways to use this staple food as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

This article explains the benefits of white rice and ways to enjoy it through balanced nutrition.

The scientific research on white rice’s association with various health outcomes has been inconsistent.

For instance, some research suggests that white rice is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes among Asian women when consumed in “extreme” amounts — but “extreme” is not well-defined with respect to the amount of white rice consumed each day.

In other research, white rice that has been cooked and cooled before consumption in a human clinical study lowered blood sugar spikes after a meal.

This occurred because cooking the white rice then refrigerating it for 24 hours before reheating activated its resistant starch — a type of non-digestible carbohydrate that confers benefits for gut health and blood sugar management.

Here is how 1 cup (158 grams) of cooked parboiled white rice compares to 1 cup (155 grams) cooked parboiled brown rice:

White rice offers fewer calories, fewer grams of carbs, fat, and dietary fiber, and less of the mineral phosphorus, but comparable protein and selenium compared with brown rice.

However, it is richer in the B vitamin niacin than brown rice.

This data shows that white rice offers some nutritional benefits. Consider pairing it with foods rich in dietary fiber and minerals to boost the nutritional profile of your meal.

Learn more about the differences between white and brown rice here.

Summary

White rice is not inherently inferior to brown rice, despite myths. It offers nutritional benefits, including some minerals. It’s low in fiber, fat, and calories, and can be paired with fiber-rich foods to boost a meal’s nutritional profile.

Here are 8 healthy ways to enjoy white rice.

1. With peas and beans

Peas and beans are rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, and other health-promoting compounds shown to improve blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

Furthermore, when peas and beans are paired with rice — including white rice — a complete protein is formed. A complete protein is one that provides all nine essential amino acids in sufficient amounts.

This is an especially important food combination for people who follow a vegetarian or vegan dietary pattern, since most complete proteins are animal-based foods.

Enjoy white rice with stewed lentil peas, dhal (split peas), or a black bean chili.

Learn more about complete protein sources for people who eat plant-based here.

2. Vegetable rice

Like peas and beans, non-starchy vegetables are rich in dietary fiber. When included in a vegetable rice dish, they can help make up for the lower fiber content of white rice.

Vegetables also contain nutrients like calcium, vitamin C, iron, and folate that support lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and may reduce the risk of some types of cancers.

Examples include carrot rice, spinach rice, and pumpkin rice.

3. Balanced with veggies and meat

A great way to build a meal using white rice is following the balanced MyPlate method recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Under this guideline, about half your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables and fruit, a quarter of your plate with protein like meat, fish or poultry, and a quarter with grains like white rice.

This method encourages flexibility and a diversity of nutrients to be enjoyed while also helping you eat mindful servings of white rice.

Serve a quarter-plate of white rice with a half-plate of cooked spinach and a quarter-plate of grilled fish for a quick, balanced dinner meal.

4. In a one-pot dish

It is impractical to enjoy all meals in the MyPlate method recommended above, as is the case with one-pot meals.

However, these can still be a nutritious and healthy way to eat white rice.

Pair one-pot dishes like pelau — a Caribbean dish made with caramelized chicken, rice, pigeon peas, herbs, spices, and vegetables — with an additional side of non-starchy vegetables like carrot coleslaw or tossed salad.

Other rice-based one-pot dishes, such as casseroles or South Indian recipes like sambar rice, can also be accompanied with a side of non-starchy vegetables for a boost of filling dietary fiber.

5. Vegetarian rice bowls

Rice bowls are quite popular in Asian, Persian, and Spanish cultures.

The rice may be topped with beans, vegetables like lettuce, onions, and olives, avocados for healthy fats, and sauces or gravies for flavor.

Because rice bowls use so many ingredients, that often means you’ll use smaller portions of each food, including rice, to create room for a variety of other food groups.

The inclusion of fats like avocado or olive oil-based dressings encourage the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K, and may support heart health by lowering low density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol.

6. Lean meat burrito bowl

In some cultures, rice bowls are also called burrito bowls.

Popular burrito toppings include lettuce, red onions, celery, or a combination of other non-starchy vegetables, corn, black beans, and cooked chicken, beef, pork, or plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh.

If you’re making a burrito bowl that uses meat, choose lean cuts to reduce saturated fat intake. Research shows that a moderate intake of lean, fresh red meats is associated with lower blood pressure compared with high-fat meats.

Try topping your rice bowl with a Mongolian beef or smoked pork recipe for a burst of flavor.

7. With fish

Consuming fish at least twice per week is associated with benefits for heart, nerve, and liver health.

In addition, fish is an important source of protein, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory nutrients, including the heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids.

Try curry fish, blackened creole fish with white rice, or a tuna fish and rice casserole. Don’t forget to include a fresh or cooked non-starchy vegetable side dish for fiber and health-promoting added nutrients.

8. Stuffed in bell peppers

A clever way to enjoy white rice and vegetables in a nutritious and filling yet simple dish is by making stuffed bell peppers.

Bell peppers contain capsaicin, which is a phytochemical compound with potential benefits against cancer development.

This active compound in bell peppers has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory, blood sugar-lowering, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and other beneficial properties for human health.

Summary

Pair white rice with peas and beans, lean cuts of meat, fish, and vegetables to make balanced and nutritious dishes. White rice can also be enjoyed in one-pot meals like pelau and sambar rice or in rice bowls and stuffed bell peppers.

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Depression May Not Be Linked to Low Serotonin, New Analysis Finds

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  • A new analysis finds that depression may not be caused by lower levels of serotinin in the brain.
  • Researchers say the chemical and neurological underpinnings of depression are complex.
  • Additionally, researchers say this does not mean that anti-depressants don’t work, only that they may not understand why they work.

There is no evidence that depression is caused by lower levels or reduced activity of serotonin in the brain, according to a recent analysis of 17 previous studies.

This suggests that depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance of this brain-signaling molecule, say the authors of the review. It also raises questions about how antidepressants that supposedly target serotonin work, they add.

However, other researchers say the chemical and neurological underpinnings of depression are complex, so to completely rule out serotonin is an oversimplification of the research.

They also caution against making decisions about how to treat depression based on this review, saying antidepressants have been shown to be moderately effective for certain people.

The serotonin hypothesis, proposed decades ago, says that a chemical imbalance in the brain — including a deficiency of serotonin — causes depression.

The most common antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are thought to make serotonin more available in the brain by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin into neurons.

However, in their recent analysis, Joanna Moncrieff, MD, a professor of psychiatry at University College London, and her colleagues found that there is no “consistent evidence” that serotonin is involved in depression.

Their findings, which were published July 20 in Molecular Psychiatry, included:

  • Research on serotonin and its breakdown products in the blood and brain fluids found that the level of these chemicals was similar in people with and without depression.
  • Research on serotonin receptors and the serotonin transporter, a protein targeted by many antidepressants, offered “weak and inconsistent” evidence that people with depression had higher levels of serotonin activity.
  • Studies in which healthy people’s serotonin levels were artificially lowered through a special diet found that this did not increase their risk of developing depression.
  • Genetic studies found no difference in serotonin-related genes between people with depression and healthy participants.

“After a vast amount of research conducted over several decades, there is no convincing evidence that depression is caused by serotonin abnormalities, particularly by lower levels or reduced activity of serotonin,” Moncrieff said in a news release.

Anthony King, PhD, a neuroscientist and licensed psychologist and psychotherapist at The Ohio State University’s College of Medicine, who was not involved in the new review, agrees that the role of serotonin in depression has been overblown.

“The idea that depression is a chemical imbalance characterized by a deficit or a lower level of serotonin in the synapses is just not correct,” he said. “It never was, and it’s not now.”

However, “I’m not saying serotonin is not involved and I’m not saying SSRIs don’t help,” he added.

Serotonin is likely involved in some way, he said, but the relationship between depression and other brain chemicals is complex. Likewise, he said SSRIs can help some people — just not everyone.

King also noted that stress can play a role in the development of depression

Dr. Srijan Sen, a professor of depression and neurosciences and director of the Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg and Family Depression Center at the University of Michigan, said he doesn’t think the new review entirely eliminates serotonin from the picture.

“Whether serotonin plays a role in depression in some way is an open question,” he said. “The brain is so complicated and complex, it would be surprising if serotonin wasn’t involved at all.”

He pointed to a recent meta-analysis of studies looking at the link between serotonin-related gene variants, stress, and depression as evidence that the case for serotonin is far from closed.

In that study, researchers found that people who carry a certain serotonin-related gene variant are at higher risk of developing depression in response to a stressful life event. However, this was only true for chronic stress and for depression assessed within a year of the stressor.

This meta-analysis was published this month, so it was not included in the review by Moncrieff and her colleagues.

There is, however, one thing that Sen agrees with Moncrieff and her colleagues on: “[Chemical imbalance] is not an accurate representation of our understanding of what happens in the brain,” he said.

“It’s probably more likely that there are certain circuits and loops of connections in the brain that are changed that are important,” he said. “But we don’t know exactly what is happening.”

King said there are other ways to think about depression that can help people break free of the downward spiral that often accompanies this condition.

“[Stressful life events] can lead to emotional upset and a big change,” he said. “That can be accompanied by a sort of pessimism and a certain habit of behavior and thinking.”

Basically, “people get into a rut — they get into a rut mentally and behaviorally,” he said. “And a sense of inertia sets in.”

While this may sound like a hard cycle to get out of, King said several types of treatment can help people get moving again, including cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral activation, and mindfulness.

The new review also challenged whether it’s helpful to talk about SSRIs as fixing a chemical imbalance.

“Many people take antidepressants because they have been led to believe their depression has a biochemical cause, but this new research suggests this belief is not grounded in evidence,” said Moncrieff.

Sen, though, cautioned against making decisions about depression treatments based on this review.

“We generally don’t make clinical decisions about treatments based on the molecular and biological understanding of what the treatments do,” said Sen. “It’s much more based on the results of clinical trials.”

Scientists use rigorous clinical trials to see if a treatment works, as well as under what conditions and for which people. These trials can produce useful results even without a good understanding of how a treatment works, said Sen.

That said, “understanding the biology in the long term, I hope, will help us develop better medications and advancements in personalized treatments,” he added.

To date, clinical trials of SSRIs have shown that “they are moderately effective and help some people,” said Sen. “But we definitely do need better drugs.”

For people who don’t benefit from SSRIs, he said there are other potential treatments for depression, such as improved sleep routines, regular exercise, and stronger social connections. Recently using psychedelic drugs like ketamine has become more common as a potential option for people with depression.

“With all these things, there is observational and clinical trial evidence showing that they really help with depression,” he said.

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