Traditional dishes in some families can be powerful reminders of being with loved ones. But what if those important foods no longer tasted the same?

What is neurogastronomy? 3 experts explain

The end-of-year holidays are upon us, and for many, it’s a time made all the more meaningful by food. Dishes that are traditions in some families can be powerful reminders of coming together with loved ones to celebrate and reflect.

But what if the foods that elicit such strong memory and emotion in us no longer tasted the same? Certain foods hold so much sentiment in our lives, so how would we react if we could no longer have that experience? Our three guests on this week’s Behind the Blue podcast have been exploring that very idea of taste, smell and how our nerve receptors interpret that information.

Dr. Dan Han is a UK neuropsychologist and the director of Neurobehavioral Studies at the UK Sports Medicine Research Institute. Tim McClintock is a UK physiology professor working in neural regeneration. And Ouita Michel is a nationally acclaimed chef and owner of the Holly Hill Inn.

Together, they are forging new paths in a field called neurogastronomy, which examines how the brain creates taste perceptions. Their work is taking them into areas of learning how to change and enhance the mechanics of the flavors of foods, how we experience them and how this may impact the world in areas of clinical and nutritional science, both on a personal and a global level.

You can listen to the whole podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.


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Healthy Thanksgiving tips

4 tips for a healthy Thanksgiving

Make Thanksgiving happy and healthy this year with our top tips for a guilt-free holiday.

1. Take a deep breath.

Between cleaning your house, preparing the holiday meal and dealing with family, Thanksgiving can quickly go from celebratory to stressful. Here a few ways to keep stress at a minimum:

  • Enlist a family member or guest to help with food prep, or divide your list among your guests and ask everyone to bring a dish.
  • Practice deep breathing. Taking deep breaths when you get stressed out will help lower your heart rate and will trigger your body’s natural relaxation response.
  • Take regular breaks from preparing dinner to chat with friends and family or simply rest your feet.

2. Make time for a turkey trot.

Get some exercise earlier in the day, before you sit down at the dinner table. A brisk 30-minute walk can burn between 100-200 calories and help get you on the right side of the day’s calorie count.

3. Avoid overconsumption.

Before you begin, scan the table and decide what looks best, then fill your plate with reasonable-sized portions of those foods. Try to avoid second helpings.

Eating a small, healthy breakfast – like whole-grain cereal or whole-wheat toast – can also help curb your appetite before dinner and help you feel fuller faster.

4. Enjoy yourself

Think about your health this holiday, but remember, it’s just one day.  If you do go for that second slice of pumpkin pie or extra helping of stuffing, it’s not the end of the world. Enjoy yourself and the company of friends and family on Thanksgiving, while resolving to make healthy choices part of your year-round lifestyle.


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Gluten intolerance requires a significant change in your diet, but doing research and asking questions can help you stay gluten-free while dining out.

Here’s how you can stay gluten-free while dining out

Brooke Benninger, RD

Brooke Benninger, RD

Written by Brooke Benninger, a Registered Dietitian at University Health Service at UK.

A new diagnosis of gluten intolerance will lead to big changes in your life. Not only does it change the way you cook for yourself or a loved one, it changes the way you dine out.

What happens when you are gluten intolerant

Consuming gluten when you’re gluten intolerant can have a host of negative immediate and long term affects. Eating gluten when you are gluten intolerant causes the lining of the small intestine to become inflamed, which can cause damage that makes it harder for the body to absorb nutrients. This can lead to malnutrition.

When you prepare your own food it’s easier to manage the ingredients that are used. However, when you eat out, restaurants can use a combination of items that are homemade or prepackaged, which can lead to confusion about what menu items are truly gluten-free. Not all restaurant servers are completely aware of each ingredient in every product on the menu. It’s up to the dining management team to educate employees on safe gluten practices.

Become familiar with the restaurant

Cross-contamination in kitchens is one of the biggest issues restaurants face when trying to ensure their establishment is “gluten-free friendly.” The best way to reduce the risk of cross-contamination is to politely ask your server a few questions like:

  • Does my dish come in contact with any bread?
  • Is there a separate work space for preparing gluten-free foods?
  • Does the kitchen use separate utensils for preparing gluten-free food?
  • Do you change the oil in the fryer, or use a separate fryer, to prepare gluten-free food?

Teach yourself about being gluten-free

It’s also important to familiarize yourself with a gluten-free diet; write down grains to avoid and where gluten can hide in food, like in sauces. Also, be sure to tell your server that you’re gluten intolerant. Restaurants do their best to accommodate various diet restrictions but not everyone knows what gluten is or every food that contains gluten. When you know you’ll be eating out, research the menu ahead of time and see if they offer gluten-free options. Aim to choose restaurants that have been through training and or received certification for their gluten-free practices. You can determine this by calling ahead and speaking to a manager. Online reviews from websites like Find Me Gluten Free can help you gain insight into other customer’s experiences with gluten-free menus.

Gluten intolerance requires a significant change in your diet, but doing research and asking questions can help you feel more comfortable dining out.


Next steps:

  • Learn the basics of healthy diets.
  • Gluten sensitivity can sometimes be caused by celiac disease, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients. Look at our list of common celiac symptoms to see if you’re at risk.
Handwashing and the flu

The 20-second flu fighter

Flu season is in full swing, but there a few simple ways to keep the virus at bay.

The best way is to get your flu shot and make sure those around you have gotten theirs, too. Check out our recent blog about what’s new with this year’s flu vaccine.

In addition to getting vaccinated, an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of the flu is to wash your hands.

When you wash your hands regularly and correctly, you reduce your risk of getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to other people around you.

Washing your hands the right way means more than running them under the faucet for a few seconds. Here’s how to do it:

  • Wet your hands with clean water (warm or cold), turn off the faucet and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from beginning to end or recite the ABCs in your head.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them, and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and then throw it away.

Make sure to wash your hands:

  • Before you eat. Also wash them before, during and after preparing food.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or caring for someone who is ill.
  • After taking out the trash.
  • After petting animals.
  • When visiting someone who is sick.
  • Whenever your hands look or feel dirty.

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Genetic counseling and family history

How your family history can help determine your risk for cancer

Written by Justine Cooper, a board-certified genetic counselor at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Knowing your family history is a key part in understanding your risk factors for certain diseases. While you’re gathering with family this Thanksgiving, get to know more about your family’s health history and how it could impact your personal health.

Genetic counseling involves interpreting your family history and providing education about inheritance, testing options, management, prevention, resources and research. A genetic counselor can help you determine whether genetic testing may be appropriate for you or your family.

Genetic testing is available for many types of diseases, including cancer. Only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are hereditary. However, people with hereditary cancers have a much higher chance to develop cancer during their lifetime.

Typically, patients may be referred for genetic counseling if they have cancer diagnosed at a young age or if they have multiple family members who have had cancer, especially if the family members were diagnosed before 50 years of age. If you have a strong family history of disease, talk to your doctor about whether a referral to a genetic counselor might be appropriate.

The most well-known hereditary cancer test is testing of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which cause hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC). Angelina Jolie made headlines in 2013 when she announced that she had a BRCA mutation, prompting her to have a double mastectomy (removal of both breasts) and raising awareness of genetic testing for these genes.

We can also test for many other hereditary cancer syndromes. For example, Lynch syndrome increases a person’s chance to develop several types of cancers, including colon, endometrial (uterine), ovarian and pancreatic cancer. It’s estimated that the prevalence of HBOC and the prevalence of Lynch syndrome are equal and affect approximately 1 in 400 people.

There are many testing options, and a genetic counselor can help determine which test may be the best for you based on your personal and family history.

The cost of genetic testing can vary, based on whether we are testing just a few genes or a few dozen genes. The cost of a test can range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. In the majority of cases, insurance does cover testing if you meet certain criteria set by your insurance company.

If a genetic counselor determines that genetic testing would be indicated, insurance is likely to cover the testing. Some insurance companies are now requiring genetic counseling prior to genetic testing.

If results show you have a higher chance to develop cancer, your health care team may recommend additional screenings or surgeries to find cancer as early as possible or prevent it from developing at all.

While knowing that you have a higher chance to develop cancer can cause worry and anxiety, it can also allow you to take charge of your health and take the steps needed to reduce the potential impact of this disease.


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Dr. Larry Cunningham

Rare complication requires expert care from UK Dentistry

When a patient has their wisdom teeth extracted, surgeons provide information about what to expect after the operation, as well as potential complications that may occur from the surgery.

For most patients, following the guidelines for proper care keeps these issues from arising. Unfortunately, that’s not true for all patients. It certainly wasn’t for Davina Leedy.

Concerns after surgery

Leedy had a wisdom tooth that wouldn’t grow through the gums and caused several infections. Ultimately, she decided to have the tooth removed.

A local oral surgeon performed her initial surgery, but shortly after, Leedy realized something was amiss with her recovery. When Leedy went back to the doctor a week later, her lower jaw was still numb. The numbness in her face eventually went away, but it was replaced by excruciating pain in her lower chin and lip.

“It hurt when the wind would blow or even when my hair would touch it [my face],” Leedy said.

There was only one physician in the state of Kentucky who had the training to provide the treatment Leedy needed: Dr. Larry Cunningham, chief of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the UK College of Dentistry.

Expert care, close to home

As Leedy eventually learned, the root of her wisdom tooth had been positioned so close to the nerve in her jaw that removing the tooth had disrupted the nerve, causing the numbness and then  pain. Initially the issue was treated with medications to try and relieve her pain, but these medications were only marginally helpful.

In January 2016, Leedy opted for a more permanent and extensive fix: neuroplasty and a graft of her inferior alveolar nerve. Although Leedy worried about the complex procedure, she was thankful she was able to receive the care she needed with Dr. Cunningham at UK HealthCare, just a short drive from her home.

“As a mom of three boys, it was much better to just drive an hour and a half than to have to travel out of state,” she said.

Leedy’s four-hour surgery was extensive and complicated. Her injured nerve traveled within the lower jaw bone. That meant her lower jaw bone needed to be cut in order for Cunningham to see the nerve and repair it. Once the injured portion of the nerve was removed, the nerve graft was placed in the defect. After the procedure, it can take several months before feeling comes back to the affected area.

Looking back on her operation, Leedy said she’s grateful there was a doctor at UK who could help her.

“I’m amazed there’s someone that has the knowledge to do something like this,” Leedy said.

‘The pain is gone’

As Leedy’s original physician pointed out to her, the issue she experienced is not very common. The doctor told her that in his 30 years practicing, her case was only the third time he’d seen this complication.

Cunningham agreed and said nerve injuries after dental work occur in less than 1 percent of wisdom tooth extractions. That explains why Leedy had “no idea this complication could happen.”

Since her procedure, Leedy has been pain free and has regained much of the feeling in her jaw. She’ll continue to have follow-up visits to monitor her improvement, but so far, so good.

“The pain is gone, I can feel pressure in the area but it’s way better than what it was,” Leedy said.


Next steps:

  • UK Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery provides comprehensive surgical treatment for oral and maxillofacial issues, including teeth removal and treatment of infections and injuries. Learn more about our services.
  • Read about the dean of the UK College of Dentistry’s mission to use research to improve patient care.
Tips to beat election season stress.

Feeling election season stress? You’re not alone. [Infographic]

Are you stressed out about this year’s election? It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, Democrat or Republican – chances are the answer is yes.

According to new research from the American Psychological Association, more than 50 percent of American adults say this year’s election is a significant source of stress in their lives. Uncertainty about the future combined with a constant barrage of political conversation online, on TV, and with family and friends has many people anticipating Election Day with tension and anxiety.

Although it might seem minor, election season stress can lead to health-related side effects, including fatigue, headaches, upset stomach and tightness in your chest.

Check out our infographic below for tips on how keep your stress in check this election season, and be sure to share it with friends and family members.

Election season stress infographic


Next steps:

  • Looking for more ways to feel less stressed? Check out our tips to help you relax.
  • If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, depression or another mental health concern that is affecting daily life, UK Psychiatry may be able to help. Learn more about our services today.
Your eyes are sensitive and important organs. If you wear contact lenses, protect your eyes by taking care of your contacts.

Could your contact lens habits put your eyes at risk?

Written by Dr. Shaista Vally, OD, as part of an ongoing series about eye care.

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

We all love the freedom of contact lenses: They don’t fog up if we step outside, they don’t slide off our noses when we bend over and they don’t need constant adjusting. But like all freedoms, lenses come with responsibility. They can pose a serious health risk if they’re not worn properly.

What are the health risks of contact lenses?

The biggest risk to your eye from using contact lenses is infection, which can lead to a scar-forming ulcer and in turn to an irreversible loss of vision. Other possible risks include new blood vessel growth and inflammation and swelling of exposed surfaces (under eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva). With correct care and management, these risks can be greatly lowered and prevented.

General rules to follow

Infections and other health risks can usually be avoided by properly caring for your contacts:

  • Wash your hands prior to handling your lenses.
  • Never wear torn or ripped lenses.
  • Don’t sleep in your lenses.
  • Don’t wear lenses longer than 10-12 hours.
  • Never expose the lens to water.
  • Replace lens cases every 2-3 months.
  • Use fresh disinfectant solution every night.
  • Clean and air dry cases during the day.
  • Contact your eye doctor if you have signs of eye redness, irritation, a change in vision, light sensitivity or pain.

Your eyes are sensitive and important organs. For contact lens wearers, protect your eyes by taking care of your contacts.


Next Steps

Flu season in Kentucky

Flu season in Kentucky has started. Here’s what you need to know.

Several cases of influenza have already been confirmed across the Commonwealth, marking the early arrival of flu season in Kentucky.

Here’s what you need to know about the flu this year.

Vaccines are necessary every year

Getting a flu shot every year is the single most effective way to prevent the flu. It’s safe and recommended for anyone 6 months or older.

Influenza viruses are constantly changing, which is why it’s important to get a shot at the start of every flu season. This year’s vaccine is updated to better protect against the flu viruses experts expect to circulate this season.

FluMist is no longer an option

Studies showed the nasal spray flu vaccine, or FluMist, was not effective in protecting against the flu last year, and it is no longer being produced. Although FluMist was often the preferred choice for children or those averse to needles, all individuals who can receive a flu shot should do so.

Help protect those around you

Receiving a flu vaccination helps keep those around you protected, too. If you live or care for infants too young to receive a vaccination, getting a flu shot will help protect them from the virus.

Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated, and be conscious of those in your life who are more susceptible to the virus. They include people older than 65, those with chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes, and pregnant women.


Next steps:

  • Shots are available from primary care doctors and many pharmacies. Check out the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Finder to find a flu vaccine clinic near you.
  • Members of the UK community can get a flu shot as part of University Health Service’s Big Flu Madness. See the student and campus employee flu shot schedule here and the UK HealthCare employee schedule here.
UK teams up with Mayo to study multiple chronic conditions.

UK teams up with Mayo Clinic to study chronic conditions

When a person has multiple health concerns that last a year or longer and require consistent medical attention, health care can quickly become a burden. Patients sacrifice their time, emotion and attention on their treatment, which takes away from their ability to complete and enjoy other tasks in life.

This scenario, known as multiple chronic conditions, or MCC, affects one in four Americans overall and about three in four Americans age 65 and older. To treat patients with MCC, a shift in health care is required: one that focuses on each patient’s health situation and on the limited capacity patients have to devote to their health, while still pursuing joyful lives. Using a new tool developed at Mayo Clinic, researchers at UK are assessing how to better treat patients with MCC.

The ICAN Discussion Aid, developed by the research team at Mayo Clinic’s Knowledge and Evaluation Research Unit, is an intervention to support a new practice for patients with MCC. ICAN helps health care providers better understand the relationship between the patient’s life circumstances, health care goals, the work patients are asked to do and their capacity to enact it. Informed with evidence about the patient’s life, health care teams are better able to co-create treatment plans that are considerate of each patient.

The UK Center for Health Services Research strives for interdisciplinary collaborations locally and nationally and has established relationships with institutes such as Mayo Clinic and Kentucky Primary Care Association (KPCA). In collaboration with KPCA, UK is one of four sites in the nation that will assess the ways in which ICAN-supported primary care is feasible and successful. Researchers will look at patient and health care teams’ experience of care and communication and whether or not patients’ burden of treatment is reduced.

This innovative intervention is an application of Minimally Disruptive Medicine, declared by the British Medical Journal as one of the most important new ideas in medicine in the last 20 years. The My Life, My Healthcare study is funded by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, and will use a mixed methods, cluster-randomized trial design to test ICAN’s feasibility and efficacy on a much larger scale.


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