U The Caribbean Health Digest - Issue 40

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OCT - DEC 2021

TIME FOR A DIGITAL DETOX! Social Media's Impact on Mental Health.






Editor-in-Chief Medical Advisory Writers

Creative Director Design

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Sherine Mungal Stuart Fraser Amira Chenelle Mungal Dr. Basil Mangra Andrew Wood Dr. Basil Mangra Dr. Romanie Gunness Tamara Milano Amy Khan Dr. Sarah Mliyahe Amira Chenelle Mungal Sherine Mungal Keren Dinkin Shenelle Mustapha Mica Symone Dr. Jacqueline Bain Rajesh Ramautar Staff Writer Stuart Fraser Nathaniel Pinder Eidetic Ltd.

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This information is of a general nature only and is not intended as a substitute for professional health advice and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided and at all times should obtain specific advice from a health professional. Eidetic Publishing has made reasonable efforts to ensure that the health information contained herein is accurate and up to date. To the extent permitted by law, Eidetic Publishing, their employees, agents and advertisers accept no liability

(even if negligent) for any injury, loss or damage caused by reliance on any part of this information. U also contains information supplied by third parties. This information is identified with the name of the source and has been chosen for publication because we believe it to be reliable. To the extent permitted by law, Eidetic Publishing, their employees, agents and advertisers accept no liability (even if negligent) for any injury, loss or damage caused by reliance on any part of this information.

U The Caribbean Health Digest is published 4 times a year by Eidetic Publishing, Highway Plaza, Level 2, West Wing, LP #80 Calcutta Settlement Road No. 1, Freeport, Trinidad & Tobago. Distribution is handled by Eidetic Limited.

Entire contents are copyright. Reproduction in part or whole is prohibited. Eidetic Publishing is in no way affiliated with companies or products covered in U. Produced and printed in Trinidad & Tobago.

is the first step in winning THE FIGHT AGAINST CANCER Cancer is often unpredictable but there is always something you can do to help reduce your risks. The Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society recommends and promotes screening for early detection of certain cancers. OUR SCREENING SERVICES INCLUDE: • • • •

Mammograms Clinical Breast Examinations Pap Smears Ultrasounds: Breast, Abdomen, Pelvic, Obstetric, Doppler, Thyroid • Biopsies • Prostate Examinations: DRE (Digital Rectal Examination), PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) • Blood Tests • Consultations • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) - A new way to test for colon cancer

OUR MOBILE CLINICS: The TTCS also operate Mobile Clinics which provide screening services throughout Trinidad and Tobago. These mobiles are available by appointment to business institutions for the benefit of their staff and/or sponsored public health fairs. These are fully equipped to conduct Pap Smears, Clincal Breast Examinations and Prostate Examinations, PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) testing.

GET REGULAR CANCER SCREENING. For more information on our screening services or to make an appointment



226.1221 or 800.TTCS projects@cancer.tt www.cancertt.com

So, we’ve come to our end-of-year issue, the last for 2021; it seems like the year only just started. We all had so many plans. Many of us stayed optimistic, dreamt, and hoped for a better 12 months than the preceding one. For many of us, anything would be better than 2020. If, however, we take a trek back into the not too deep history, we would find that life today is perhaps the safest it’s ever been. Humanity continues to evolve and we have experienced uninterrupted progress for several centuries, but some would argue that we are less and less happy or maybe less satisfied. We believe that the key to this happiness we crave is in and around us, and in the relationships we develop and grow with the professional, social, and familial people in our lives. Research suggests that all we need to do is change inner perspectives and attitudes toward things and people, and we may find ourselves more satisfied and happier. The best news is that this is something almost anyone can do. Just a little food for thought as we enter the “resolution making’ time of year. Amira and the gang have put together another incredible issue. We hope you enjoy our perspectives on each article and continue to find value in staying around us and U. With deepest gratitude, we extend best wishes to all of you and wish that you would find your happiest self in the new year. Enjoy the read!

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy! SHERINE & STUART


DEAREST READERS, We are back with the last issue of the year. If that doesn’t imply that we went big with our topics, then let me tell you, we went big with our topics. Firstly, allow me to thank you for your support as we transitioned to a fully digital space. We could not have done it without our thousands of readers who always remain excited for all things U. To our advertisers, thank you for taking this big step with us. With Issue 40 being the last of the year, we wanted to ensure that we left you with enough information to navigate the season while staying healthy. We had many ideas and a team full of talented writers who couldn’t wait to take on the task. In this issue, we tackle a widely discussed topic and focus on the pros, cons, and the in-betweens of Social Media’s Impact on Mental Health. In the end, you may feel the urge to take a digital detox, but we promise you it will be worth your while. We also explore DASH – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, Gluten Intolerance, and Ways to Fight Maskne. Personal trainer, Andrew Wood, teaches us how to optimize our home workouts and utilize our space to meet our fitness goals. In addition to this, we explored the world of traditional Chinese medicine and got insight from an acupuncturist, Dr. Jacqueline Bain, on what to expect during an appointment. You’ll also find information on the Gut Microbiome from the chair of The Gut Nerd Caribbean, learn more about the nutritional value of a local fruit, and come across some of our famed U Recipes. We’re confident that we’ve put together another incredible issue for your reading and learning pleasure. And we were sure to leave you with something that makes you smile, well, in this case, laugh. We hope that you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed creating it for you. Have a happy holiday and stay well.



10 Why Laughter is the Key to Happiness Those heartfelt laughs that we all end by saying, “Whoa, that was a good laugh!” just got better. This article lists the many benefits of laughter and gives us one more reason to continue laughing and spreading joy, at least for the sake of our health.

12 Time for a Digital Detox! Our feature story evaluates social media’s impact on mental health. We discuss the pros and cons and help you find a balance between your online and offline life.

18 Optimizing your Home Workouts A personal trainer highlights the benefits of working out from home and lists some helpful tips for creating the best workout space. Learn more about how to optimize your at-home workouts in a cost-friendly yet effective way.

20 The Gut Microbiome The gut microbiome or gut flora is made up of trillions of microorganisms living in our digestive tract. Dr. Romanie I Gunness teaches us about the microbiome, its role in our health, and ways to protect it.

24 The Benefits of Açaí Berry Açaí berries have grown in popularity in recent years. You can find them in smoothie recipes, breakfast bowls, or your favorite skincare products. This article discusses whether it’s worth the hype.

26 Gluten Intolerance 101 Gluten intolerance affects millions of people worldwide, yet many of us aren’t aware that we could be gluten intolerant. This crash course on the immune reaction explains the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatments.

30 Peewah or Peach Palm Maybe you’ve tried it, or maybe you’re just fascinated with the name. It doesn’t matter because this article will leave you wanting to have some. Our founder takes you on a short journey to find some peewah and enlightens you with its health benefits.

32 7 Ways to Fight Maskne Maskne or mask-induced acne is something a lot of us are trying to combat. Hours of mask-wearing, though it protects us, do come with some disadvantages. Luckily, we’ve put together some tips for fighting maskne that will keep your skin glowing.

34 DASH – A Diet for Hypertension Dr. Sarah Mliyahe explains one of the most common diseases and how the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet works to prevent it. Find out more about foods to stay away from and how to start the DASH diet.

38 Acupuncture: An Ancient Healing Modality The idea of inserting needles into your skin might seem scary but acupuncturist, Dr. Jacqueline Bain, walks us through the process and provides useful tips for selecting a practitioner.




Happiness Why Laughter is the Key to

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They say that laughter is the best medicine. It can help to balance the mind, heal the body, and ease the soul. Every giggle and chuckle that we emit has endless benefits and can help us tap into optimal wellness levels. When we laugh more, life becomes a little brighter. All the stress and strain seem to melt away while we're being filled with positive energy. Laughter truly is the key to happiness and the answer to our problems. This article will cover why you should laugh more and how it can enhance your life. If you're looking to work on yourself and add more happiness to your life, then here's everything you need to know.

IT RELEASES ENDORPHINS Laughter releases the happy hormone known as endorphins. It triggers the chemical activity within the brain and increases your sense of well-being. Just by spending a few minutes laughing, you can improve your mood and lift your spirits. Whether you're watching your favorite comedy or joking around with your best friend, you can boost your emotional state tenfold. It is one of the most powerful things that you can do. Let the laughter flow and see how it can help you. IT'S INFECTIOUS Not only can laughter benefit you, but it can also affect others. If you've ever been in a room with someone that has the giggles, you'll know how easy it is to catch on. Laughing can have a domino effect, spreading from one person to the next. With every careful laugh that you emit, you can add a little sunshine to someone's day. It's a cycle of positivity that has endless benefits for everyone. If you can be anything, be the person that makes a difference and brings joy to others. IT RELAXES YOU Whether you're from a bustling city or a small town, tension and strain can impact you. If you need a solution to help you deal with it, then laughter might just be one of your best options. It will lighten you up and carry away your troubles. Happiness can be found in a smile, a chuckle, and a chortle. The relief that laughter brings can't be bottled or replicated; it is a natural remedy to

the toil of modern life. Just by laughing, you can increase the oxygen in your blood and decrease your cortisol levels, the body's stress hormone. IT CAN BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM If you're feeling a little under the weather, don't forget to laugh! A hearty giggle here and there can increase infection-fighting antibodies that keep viruses and harmful bacteria at bay. This simple action can increase your resistance to disease, ensuring that you're fighting fit. It can also improve blood flow which benefits your heart and other organs. In addition, you can also burn calories by laughing. Though it might not replace the gym, it can help you to burn unwanted pounds. The power of laughter is undeniable. It makes you feel good and can help you to develop a more positive outlook. When you become aware of the benefits of laughter, you'll look out for more things that put a smile on your face, increasing your sense of gratitude and making you more mindful in the process. Do things that make you laugh, have fun, and enjoy life. Every second that you spend laughing will give you so much more than you could ever imagine. It can have a profound effect on you and bring your endless joy.

L et go, laugh until your heart's content, and find your bliss. 11 | u

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Time for a


DETOX Social Media’s Impact on Mental Health WRITTEN BY AMIRA




YOUR ALARM GOES OFF IN THE MORNING, AND THE FIRST THING YOU DO AFTER THAT GOOD OLD MORNING STRETCH IS OPEN INSTAGRAM. YOU’RE HAVING BREAKFAST, AND SOMEHOW, YOU’RE STILL SCROLLING THROUGH YOUR FEED AS IF SOMETHING MIND-BLOWING WOULD HAVE APPEARED BETWEEN THE TIME YOU WOKE UP AND THE THIRTY MINUTES IT TOOK YOU TO SHOWER AND GET DRESSED. IT’S LUNCHTIME, AND ONCE MORE, YOU OPEN THE APP. MULTITASKING AT ITS BEST, OR IS IT? BECAUSE I’VE NOTICED THAT YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED THAT YOU SPILLED SOME FOOD. IT’S AS IF YOUR EYES ARE COMPETING WITH YOUR PHONE’S SCREEN TO SEE WHO CAN LOOK AT THE OTHER FOR THE LONGEST. MORE TIMES THAN NOT, YOU WIN. You get the point; we spend a lot of time on social media. And, by a lot, I mean way more than we would like. Why is it that we’re so hooked on the feed, though? Are we addicts? I mean, half the people we stare at through the phone we haven’t seen IRL (in real life) for… years? Perhaps we haven’t even met some of them. So, what’s happening? Is it our fault? And, importantly, are we affected by social media more than we realize? The answers to all your questions are going to take some explaining.

Let’s get right into the unboxing.

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THE NEED FOR SOCIAL MEDIA I use the word “need” and “social media” in the same sentence to emphasize one point; humans are social beings. To survive and thrive in the world, we need companionship, interaction, and connection with other humans. It’s the way we are wired. If anything, social media platforms facilitate connections almost effortlessly and we love it because one of the reasons humans are humans is our need to connect. Without question, there are many benefits to social media. Here are some: • It keeps us connected to friends and family around the world • It helps us to network and meet new people with similar interests • We can promote and spread awareness on worthwhile causes to bigger audiences • It provides a platform to express ourselves and creativity • We can grow our businesses While social media has been a blessing in disguise, especially after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found links between social media and mental health that makes it way less attractive.


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Social media applications are strategically engineered to make their users addicted to their platforms for financial gain. The longer you spend on social media, the more data is collected, and the more data collected, the more money made. But why should it matter if platforms are making money off your time spent on social media because, in the end, they are providing means for you to connect with your loved ones, meet new people and express yourself?

Well, the answer to this is that your mental health may not be so thankful for your time spent on social media making connections.

THE IMPACT Our mental health affects all our behaviors. It influences the way we think, feel, cope with stress, make choices and live our lives. Our overall mental health is shaped by our psychological, social, and emotional well-being, and research has indicated that social media impacts our mental health more than we recognize. Studies measuring the relationship between social media and mental well-being have found that the use of social media increases the risk of mental health disorders, particularly anxiety and depression. Here’s how: + THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT (FOMO): FOMO has been around before the days of social media, but the difference now is that we are tied to a digital contract that prevents us from seeing more of the natural world. The “fear of missing out” phenomenon coupled with social media’s algorithms and infinite scroll feature keep us hooked to the screen for much longer. FOMO ensures that we consistently check our notifications and monitor our feeds despite the compromise in sleep. The idea that we could be missing out on something exacerbates feelings of anxiety and loneliness which only encourage us to prioritize social media over the real world. + FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY As humans, it is natural to compare ourselves to others. It’s how we determine our social class and move on to form some of the best relationships. However, the chronic exposure to unrealistic beauty standards promoted on social media has undoubtedly dented the way we evaluate ourselves in comparison to others. Despite knowing a friend or influencer has edited their pictures to perfection, the tendency to develop feelings of inadequacy about your personal life and appearance somehow still exists. This can drive us to crazy diets, unsafe procedures, and even self-harm in hopes of reaching an already unattainable

standard. In fact, a study conducted in 2019 reported that 72% of patients undergoing cosmetic procedures were doing it to “look better in selfies.” Yes, ‘selfie’ meaning the picture you take of yourself to post on social media. + INCREASED LEVELS OF ISOLATION Studies have concluded that the more time a person spends on social media, the more likely they feel lonely. This may seem confusing because, as we discussed earlier, social media connects us to people. The issue here lies in the number of hours we spend scrolling through our feed. Scarily enough, some of us have managed to spend so much time connecting with others online that we no longer connect offline. This drives us into feelings of isolation which heavily damper in our overall level of mental wellness. + CYBERBULLYING Social media exposes us to an ugly side of the world. One must be courageous when posting selfies or personal details online for the risk of being bullied. You don’t have to search far to find rumors, abusive comments, or lies on any social media platform. At least 37% of teenagers have reported being bullied on social media, 42% being harassed, and 60% having witnessed someone bullied online. + SLEEP DEPRIVATION Sleep deprivation is way more common now with the use of social media. Technology features, such as backlit screens trick our brains into thinking it’s daytime. If you fell victim to FOMO, the infinite scroll, or the smart algorithms, the backlit feature just added another hour to your scroll time. Now, let me remind you, sleep deprivation is a major contributing factor in depression, especially in teenagers. If you are a social media user, you will notice that you have a lot less control of your time on the platforms and its impact on your mental health. If you are not a social media user, don’t let this deter you. Social media can be an excellent tool, but it’s evident that we need to use it in moderation.




HOW TO HAVE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA? 1. Start by detoxing. If you need to hit a reset button, we challenge you to take a digital detox. Start with a small goal of one week. 2. Track the time you spend on social media. If you’re unhappy with it, use time limits for your applications. 3. Get in the habit of going to bed without your phone. 4. Disable your social media notifications. 5. Follow pages that inspire you and make you feel comfortable with yourself. These simple steps can go a long way in the improvement of your mental well-being. Many users have reported feeling happier and healthier after taking a digital detox. Remember, social media won’t serve as a replacement for real-life connections. To trigger the release of that feel-good chemical, dopamine, we need eye-to-eye contact with our loved ones.

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Optimizing your home workouts. WRITTEN BY ANDREW


In the wake of the pandemic, and mainly because of the persistent lockdown mandates, at-home workouts have become more popular than ever. If you're one of those people who have committed to at-home workouts and said goodbye to gyms and monthly memberships, this article is for you. For those that haven't yet experienced the advantages of at-home workouts, this article is also for you.

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In what follows, we'll be discussing the several benefits of working out from home. In addition, we'll be sharing the best at-home exercise equipment that you need to optimize your home gym. Lastly, we'll leave you with a few tips on how you can get the most out of at-home workouts.




Without further ado, let's jump right into it! THE BENEFITS OF WORKING OUT FROM HOME: Exercise is imperative to one's health and well-being. However, as you've likely experienced, life can get busy, overwhelming, and inconvenient; take the pandemic, for example. As a result, exercise tends to get put on the back burner, and sometimes we even end up quitting our fitness goals. A potential solution? Working out from home! Not only is it convenient, but it requires little to no money to start, and it leaves you with no excuse not to exercise. For those that are already working out from home, congratulations! For those that haven't yet made the leap, below are the most common benefits of working out from home: • Convenience • Cost-effective • Freedom & Privacy • Time-efficient (no more commuting) • Comfortable and Germ-Free (especially important during a pandemic) If you're looking to save money, enjoy the convenience, and have the freedom to work out when you want, how you want, at-home workouts are the solution for you. Now all that's left to do is optimize your home gym and at-home workout regimen! THE BEST AT-HOME EXERCISE EQUIPMENT: The first step in optimizing your at-home workouts is to ensure that you're equipped with, well, the right equipment! Now, depending on your home gym space, you're likely not going to be able to fit your typical gym machinery. After all, the point of exercising from home is to keep it efficient and cost-friendly while still achieving an effective workout. Below are some of the best pieces of at-home gym equipment that you can get to optimize your at-home workouts: • Resistance Bands • Free-Weights/ Dumbbells • Skipping Rope • Yoga Mat • Kettlebells • Doorframe Pull-up Bar • Medicine Ball • Ab Roller While this may not seem like a whole lot, it's all you need for an effective at-home workout every. single. time. By working out from home, you can finally drown out the noise and focus on yourself. With the equipment listed

above, a comfortable space to exercise, your body weight, and some intentional effort on your end, you'll get an effective workout no matter what you do! GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR AT-HOME WORKOUT: Optimizing your at-home workouts to the best of your capability will ensure the utmost success in your fitness journey. While working out from home is undoubtedly doable and worthwhile, it does require some optimization. Below are some of the most effective tips for optimizing your at-home workouts: • Ensure you have the proper equipment • Turn up the music • Have a designated, spacious, and clean workout space • Switch things up and get creative Next, gather your workout equipment, find what works for you and stick to that. Plus, what's a good workout without some good music to accompany it. After all, you're in the comfort of your own home, remember?! Why wouldn't you blast your favourite Machel Montano song while you work out?! We've also touched on the idea of having a designated space in your home to execute your workout. Dependent upon your needs, you may only need a small 10x10 square. Again, find what works for you and stick to that. Lastly, switch things up and get creative. While working from home can be fun, effective, and engaging, it can become repetitive and mundane if you aren't careful. That's why it's important to flex your mental muscle and get creative, switch things up, and challenge yourself every workout. Not only will this keep you interested for the long term, but it will elicit the best results, too! FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. You simply need to find what works best for you. Choose the equipment you enjoy, workout where you want to workout, and choose the exercise methodology you prefer. As the saying goes, "the best diet is the one you're going to stick to." Well, the same goes for exercise and at-home workouts.

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In Sickness and in

Health The Gut Microbiome and You

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IF I TOLD YOU I HAVE 100 TRILLION FRIENDS, YOU MIGHT ASSUME I WAS A FULL-TIME SOCIAL MEDIA BOSS AT NETWORKING. BUT THE WORLD’S POPULATION AS OF 2021 IS 7.9 BILLION… SO WHO ARE ALL THESE “FRIENDS” TO WHICH I REFER? IT’S THE BENEFICIAL ORGANISMS LIVING IN MY GUT, AND COLLECTIVELY ALONG WITH THEIR GENETIC MATERIAL, THEY ARE KNOWN AS THE GUT MICROBIOME. For hundreds of years, human beings have been tuned in to the harmful effects of organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and with good reason. They are the causative agents for many ailments, from the common cold to life-threatening infections seen in intensive care settings.




he belief that human beings could be infected with germs started taking shape in the 1600s with many scientists of the time. Notably, the “Father of Microbiology,” Anton Van Leeuwenhoek, who directly observed microorganisms, to Louis Pasteur in the 1870s showing a relationship between germs and disease. Then in 1928 came an enormous victory in fighting this threat to health that plagued the earth, the discovery of Penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming. From then on, microorganisms have been viewed through the lens of disease-causing pathogens and tremendous research and treatment plans revolved around medical therapies to eradicate bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites to save lives. Fast forward to 1990 and the daring and exciting global collaboration to map out all the genes of a human being. You can understand how advances in technology were about to become game-changing for healthcare and human existence. In April 2003, sequencing of the full human genome was completed and published, and as a spinoff, the Human Microbiome Project came into existence. By 2012 we had begun to recognize that not all microorganisms are harmful pathogens, and living right within our human body, was a tremendous army of good soldiers waging war to keep us from becoming ill.

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The gut microbiome consists chiefly of bacteria with some viruses, fungi, and protozoa. These bacteria are found mainly in our large intestine, with a smaller amount in the stomach and small intestine. By the latest estimates, there are about 100 trillion of them in the average 70kg adult body, and collectively they weigh about 2.5kg, almost twice the weight of the adult brain. Their genetic material outnumbers that of our human cells by 150 times! Over the last ten years, quality research has shown a significant relationship between our gut microbiome and obesity, diabetes mellitus, mental health issues, immune disorders, allergies, fertility, and several types of cancers, notably colon cancer. The gut microbiome performs a multitude of mechanisms, some of which include: • Competing against pathogenic bacteria • The presentation of useful information to our immune system • Maintenance of the integrity of the gut lining, which reduces inflammation and precancerous growths • Modulating the harvesting of nutrients and energy for storage, thereby reducing obesity and impacting diabetes prevention and control

BUT HOW DO WE EVEN BEGIN TO GET COLONIZED WITH GOOD BACTERIA? Our gut microbiome begins to take shape even before we are born with some transfer of bacteria across the placenta. At birth, we receive our first significant input, with the sources depending on whether we are born by cesarean section or vaginal delivery. Then comes the input from breastmilk which differs from a formula-fed diet, and by the time we are two years old and introduced to solid foods, our gut microbiome has taken on a new profile. Our exposure to nature and pets will bring additional variety. If we have lived in a home obsessed with cleanliness and have hardly played outside, we are likely to lack microbial diversity by the age of five. From then on, our gut microbiome tends to resemble that of the other members of our household. Into adulthood, it gets reshaped by bouts of illness, stress, use of antibiotics, surgical procedures, and most importantly, our diet.

Several studies have shown that a diet high in processed foods and meat and low in vegetables and fruits starves the gut microbiome and reduces the diversity and species richness that provides maximum protection against illness. Our gut bacteria thrive and flourish on soluble fibre, and it has been found that our optimal intake should be around 30 grams per day from diverse sources. Fortunately for us in the Caribbean, we are blessed with a wide variety of delicious fruits and vegetables that contain robust amounts of soluble fibre and some of the most flavorful recipes on the planet. While the food industry, labels, and trackers, may shift our attention towards calories, protein, fats, and carbohydrates, we need to place particular emphasis on fibre. With the prevalence of diabetes having quadrupled in the 59 years of our independence, from 3.4% in 1962 to 13% in 2019, it is crucial that we do not ignore the research and get on board with making our gut microbiome as stealthy and healthy as possible as we continue our journey in becoming heroes of our health. This article was submitted by Dr. Romanie I Gunness, Founder and Chair of THE GUT NERD CARIBBEAN initiative started in July 2021. The GUT NERD CARIBBEAN is a team of passionate and fact-oriented Caribbean people on a mission to: • Promote a stealthy and healthy gut for every member of the family • Use facts and turn it into practical advice for everyday use in reaching a target fibre intake of 30 grams per day • Help you understand the immense role of the gut microbiome (mainly bacteria) in your overall health • Recognize that diverse sources of fibre in your diet turns your gut flora into a ninja against obesity, diabetes mellitus, and mental health issues • Focus on locally grown vegetables and fruits to achieve a safe and sustainable source of affordable and delicious fibre and reduce our food import bill.

Website: www.thegutnerd.org Facebook: @thegutnerdcaribbean Podcast: https://anchor.fm/romanie-gunness Available for free on Anchor, Spotify, Breaker, Radio Public, Pocket Casts, Google Podcast.

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COMING SOON - An app customized for Caribbean food and fibre tracking to help you reach your goal.




The Benefits of



Açaí berries are delicious, brightly colored fruits that grow in the rainforests of Central and South America. They have become increasingly popular throughout the past couple of years, with trends such as açaí smoothie bowls taking over breakfast menus. These little fruits are densely packed with nutrients and are full of health benefits – it's no surprise they are considered a superfood. Interestingly, they are not berries at all, despite their name. Açaí berries are drupes, which are fruits that contain a pit in the middle, such as plums or cherries.

Açaí Beies May Help Prevent Cancer

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One of the main health benefits of açaí berries is that they are packed with antioxidants. They contain more antioxidants than blueberries, often praised for being the fruits with the most antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight off free radicals, which cause DNA and cell damage when accumulated in the body. This cell damage can lead to cancer and other diseases. Thus, eating fruits that are high in antioxidants, such as açaí berries, may have preventative effects. Some studies have shown that açaí berries can slow down the proliferation of tumor cells, especially in colon cancer.

Açaí Beies May Help with Cognition Many studies suggest that açaí may help slow down age-related cognitive decline. Once again, we have antioxidants to thank for this. Age-related cognitive degeneration is largely due to oxidative damage, which occurs when free radicals build up. Inflammation in the brain is also another cause. Açaí has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, thus making it a perfect superfood against cognitive decline. Eating açaí may improve memory in old age, as well as protecting brain cells against degeneration.

Açaí can be Gd for the Heart Some studies on açaí and heart health have reported that açaí reduced LDL levels (the bad cholesterol) and increased HDL (the good cholesterol) that protects the heart. Açaí may also protect the heart by lowering blood pressure. The sterols found in açaí berries help relax blood vessels, which improves blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure helps reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and heart attacks.

Açaí May Improve Skin Health Antioxidants are known to improve skin texture and elasticity, and açaí berries are full of them. The free radicals that damage cells also affect skin cells – when they accumulate, they can increase the effects of aging. Eating açaí berries may help slow down the signs of aging, such as wrinkles and skin sagging. Açaí berry is also used in skin-care products to reduce inflammation and redness. It is proven to be highly effective against hyperpigmentation. Whether you eat it or apply it topically, açaí is the key to glowing skin!

How to Eat Açaí Açaí has a very short shelf-life, so if you don't live where it grows, you'll have to purchase your açaí either frozen, freeze-dried or powdered. Frozen açaí is perfect if you want to make smoothies or smoothie bowls. Just blend the açaí with banana and a bit of plant-based milk, and you have yourself a perfectly creamy smoothie bowl base. Then, add whatever toppings you prefer, from peanut butter to granola to fresh berries. If you choose to drink your smoothie instead of eating it, add more liquid and blend everything up. Açaí can also be purchased as a supplement if you wish to consume it for its astounding health benefits in a more effortless way.




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With more and more people dabbling in "trendy" diets, by now, you would have heard somebody say, "I can't have that. I'm going gluten-free!" But what is gluten in the first place? Gluten is a naturally occurring immunoprotein found in high concentrations in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Think about gluten as the glue responsible for holding and binding gluten-containing foods and giving them their springy, gooey, sticky, bouncy texture. Now you may be thinking that gluten can't be so bad if it gives foods like bread and pasta these qualities that undoubtedly contribute to their texture and taste. But have you have ever eaten gluten-containing foods and then experienced a wave of unexplained symptoms? Gluten-containing foods are often described as inflammatory and can be difficult for some people to digest. There are two leading gluten-related illnesses affecting millions of people worldwide. These are celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive condition that causes the body to make antibodies that attack gluten and other gluten resembling structures. This immune response can cause severe damage to the small intestine over time, resulting in life-long impairments such as malabsorption, which can render genetically predisposed individuals, making them unable to absorb vitamins and nutrients from food into the bloodstream efficiently. Gluten intolerance does not carry the same long-term effects as celiac disease; however, it occurs when the body is sensitive to gluten and has difficulties digesting it, giving rise to an array of unpleasant consequences. Here are a few of the most common symptoms of gluten intolerance: • Bloating • Gastrointestinal distress (including diarrhea, constipation, gas, and stomach pain) • Headaches • Chronic fatigue • Anxiety



Other symptoms include joint pain, back pain, weight gain, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, numbness in the fingers and toes, and general apathy. What can you do if you are experiencing symptoms? 1. Consult with a medical doctor. 2. Get an antibody test to determine whether you have celiac disease or are non-celiac gluten intolerant. 3. Following the advice of a medical professional, try a gluten-elimination diet for 4 to 6 weeks, then slowly reintroduce gluten and observe your reaction to it. If you are confirmed gluten intolerant, the next step includes a total lifestyle change. "What should I wear?" becomes "What can I eat?" until you eventually navigate your way through the gluten-free aisles of life. Let me give you a head start. If you are looking into a gluten-free diet, remember: 1. Whole grains like quinoa, rice, millet, and amaranth are gluten-free, unlike wheat, rye, and barley. 2. All fruits and vegetables are gluten-free. 3. Fresh protein is safe (and yes, that includes nuts and seeds!). 4. Dairy is gluten-free. 5. Anything with a gluten-free sticker, seal, or sign on the package usually is safe so look out for that label. Some common foods and beverages you should avoid are breaded foods, beer (take a moment of silence if necessary), and soy sauce. Gluten intolerance and its wide array of symptoms can make your day-to-day life that much more difficult. It affects your mood and can affect your mind and physiological health in more ways than you can imagine. Thousands of undiagnosed people have chalked these symptoms up as "part of their personality," while others have given up. Don't be one of those people. Now, forgive me if I start sounding like a prescription pill advertisement; if you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms and haven't pinpointed the cause or your previous treatments haven't worked, you may be sensitive to gluten, and trust me, it is always better to know and be safe rather than sorry. Always remember, there is no shame in asking, "Is this gluten-free?"

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Ever wished you could have dessert for breakfast? Well, we are here to tell you that you can! We know it sounds irresponsible but, hear us out - it is healthy! This recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan. It’s the perfect treat to start your day or even substitute as an actual dessert. Plus, it almost makes itself. Assemble, refrigerate, and enjoy.

yield: 2 Servings

Ingredients: 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats 1 cup almond milk (or plant-based milk of your choice) ½ cup plant-based yogurt 1 tablespoon honey 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Toppings: 1/3 cup granola Blueberries (or fruit of your choice)


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1. Combine oats, milk, yogurt, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon in a bowl. 2. Stir until well combined. 3. Pour into mason jars or storage containers for individual servings. 4. Top with granola and fruit. 5. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy by morning.






How to determine if I have hypertension?

Do I need vitamin supplements?

Hypertension is diagnosed when your blood pressure consistently reads more than 130/80. That is, >130 mmHg systolic and >80 mmHg diastolic. Most people with high blood pressure do not experience symptoms until it has gotten severe. It is always recommended that you consult with your doctor if you experience any symptoms or feel that you are at risk of developing hypertension.

Most people get the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy and balanced diet. Using a dietary supplement can be helpful for many of us who skip breakfast or are on a special diet, or whose schedule does not allow for healthy eating habits. However, be careful not to overdo it and always read the label of your supplement to ensure its safety and remember, supplements cannot cure diseases.

We always enjoy hearing from you!

Email your questions to register@uhealthdigest.com




Pwah or Peach Palm WRITTEN BY


In the Caribbean, this may have been a childhood favorite for many, but today's younger generations are not so open to the taste and texture of these little gems we affectionately call peewah! Perhaps if we start referring to it using its cooler name, the one I just discovered myself, "the Peach Palm," it may have a much bigger appeal.

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Truth be told, I'm not sure I like peewah very much myself, but there is something about having had it as a child, the smell of it boiling in a pot of salted water, and the feeling it evokes makes me want to eat it every chance I get. In addition to which I've been somewhat educated on its origin and history, how people in other parts of the world consume it, and yes, the health benefits associated with peewah. So, we decided to share them here, hoping that some of you may give it another shot if for nothing else but the benefits they can add to you and your diet.



o write this piece, I set out on a journey (a short one) to find a vegetable stall with the best-looking peewah… yes, for photos, but I wanted to try this fruit again with something other than nostalgia in mind. As luck would have it, my trek was cut short. You see, the Gran Couva hills in Central Trinidad are packed with stalls of fresh vegetables along the roads, but this time of year (September/October), peewah is in a full season. Native to South and Central America, the fruit, Bactris Gasipaes (botanical name), grows on a type of palm tree. It bears in bunches and cascades down a stalk. They start green and, when ripened, can either be orange-reddish or even yellow, depending on the variety. It contains a single seed that mimics a baby coconut with an actual nut inside. The fleshy meat or pulp of the fruit is yellow, very fibrous in texture, especially before cooking. Peewah has been used for centuries, if not longer, and gained international attention when Spanish explorers discovered thousands of peach palm trees on the shores of Costa Rica. Today peach palm remains an essential part of the country's economy. One of the health benefits of the peewah is its undisputed reputation as a storehouse of energy, which can replace everyday staples that provide carbohydrates like potatoes. Many liken it to the taste of a sweet potato.



Some other benefits of peewah/palm fruit: • It can boost energy levels • It may improve the health of the skin • It aids in weight loss • It optimizes the digestive system • It contains vitamins and antioxidants that strengthen the immune system • Its rich content of vitamin A can support vision health Some articles even suggest that peewah can prevent cancer by interrupting the free radical activities leading to cancerous growths.

HOW TO ENJOY PEEWAH: 1. Boil in water with salt and have as a snack. 2. Roll into balls to make dumplings for soup. 3. Use as a substitute for potatoes/sweet potatoes in a salad. 4. Blend into the batter to make or bake cake and cookies. 5. Add to vegetables, pasta, and salads for a healthier meal. 6. Knead into flour and flatten to make into chips.

So, there you have it, my little trek down memory lane, a little history on a childhood fave, and some education on the benefits. Most importantly, a lesson about the more we look around, the more we realize that the things we take for granted may be the simple little things that we need to live healthier lives.

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7 ways to Fight Maskne WRITTEN BY


Face masks are crucial in combating the coronavirus. If you are required to wear a mask the entire day, it can take a toll on your skin. Masks can trap heat, sweat, oil, and bacteria on your skin, which can clog your pores. As a result, wearing a mask for long periods can cause skin breakouts, irritation, and what the skincare community calls “maskne” (mask-induced acne), especially if you have sensitive skin.

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Going maskless in public to protect your skin is not wise. A better suggestion is to create an action plan to keep your skin healthy in a masked world. Here are some skincare tips to help save your skin.


Avoid Wearing Makeup


Choose The Right Mask


Take A Safe Mask Break


Wash Your Face

Skip wearing makeup under your mask if possible. Beneath a face mask, foundation can increase the risk of clogged pores. Try wearing makeup only on the top area of your face, above the line of your mask, or using makeup that is “non-comedogenic.”

Choose a soft, breathable mask, like cotton or natural fiber cloth, or a disposable surgical mask. Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, or rayon can irritate your skin. Make sure you always wear a clean mask as well. Avoid washing masks with heavily scented detergent or fabric softeners. Keep your mask snug but not too tight.

Frontline workers have found that taking a mask break every 4 hours helps rest their skin. Take at least a 15-minute break without a mask. Stay alone inside your vehicle or head outdoors while keeping a safe 6-feet distance from another human being. You may also want to wear a new mask once you get back to work.

Before putting on your mask, make sure your face is clean. A clean mask over an unclean face is not a good idea as it can cause increased skin irritation. When you get home, wash your face ASAP to remove all the dirt buildup. If your skin is already irritated, rinse with water or choose a gentle cleanser or mild soap labeled “for sensitive skin.”


Moisturize Daily


skip Harsh Skin Care Products


Hydrate And Eat Right

After cleansing your skin and before donning on a mask, apply a layer of moisturizer. Dermatologists recommend products that contain hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, and ceramides. If you have oily skin, we recommend a gel moisturizer. If you have dry skin, try a cream moisturizer, and if you have normal or combination skin, try a lotion.

Avoid facial products that contribute to skin irritation. Products such as retinoids, exfoliants, chemical peels, or leave-on salicylic acid can create more problems, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Drink plenty of water. Water can do wonders to our overall health, including making our skin clear. Avoid, or at least significantly reduce, your intake of soda and caffeinated drinks. Avoid junk food, such as chips, fried foods, and too many sweets and fats, as they can cause acne.

Stress is also a significant factor for skin health. Try to find healthy ways to cope with daily stressors, such as exercise, meditation, a sense of humor, and a proper sleep schedule. Masks can save lives. Keep it on— with care. If all else fails and your skin problems are getting worse, consult a dermatologist.







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WHAT IS THE DASH DIET? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a flexible approach to dieting, not based on a rigid meal plan but rather on general rules to respect when eating. The DASH diet encourages consuming foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium and the limitation of foods high in sodium, saturated fat, or added sugars. HOW DOES THE DASH DIET WORK? To understand how the DASH diet works, we need to understand the pathophysiology of high blood pressure. Simply put, the more sodium in the body, the more water retained, and the more water in the bloodstream, the higher the pressure inside the blood vessels, thus causing what is commonly known as high blood pressure or hypertension. Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all positively charged ions, working interchangeably to transport molecules through the cellular wall, potentiate enzyme reactions, and maintain a state of homeostasis or balance in the organism. If we supply the body with enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium, it will be easier to get rid of sodium through urine, which will then help lower blood pressure.




A Diet for Hypertension. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE DASH DIET? The DASH diet is an effective tool in the management of high blood pressure. According to scientific studies, results can be seen in as little as two weeks with an improvement in the blood pressure numbers. The DASH diet can also lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. High LDL cholesterol levels are also a cardiovascular risk factor and could cause various cardiac and vascular complications. By helping to improve two of the most dangerous cardiovascular disease factors (Hypertension and LDL cholesterol levels), the DASH diet is an excellent ally to keep the heart and arteries healthy. HOW TO START THE DASH DIET? On the DASH diet, these rules need to be respected: - Consuming foods that are high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and protein - Limiting foods high in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars

CONCLUSION: High blood pressure is a dangerous disease responsible for life-threatening complications. The treatment of hypertension usually starts with nutritional interventions, and the current literature surrounding the DASH diet makes it seem like an excellent tool in the management of hypertension. Fortunately, many low-fat and low sodium alternatives are available on the market. Additionally, the fact that the diet is flexible and not restrictive ensures that people are more likely to stick to their meal plans and make the right nutritional choices. 35 | u

Practically, the following food groups are recommended during the DASH diet: - Vegetables and fruits - Grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes - Lean meats, poultry, and fish - Fat-free or low-fat dairy products - Healthy fats and oils

The daily sodium intake needs to remain under 2,300 mg, with some people even limiting it to 1,500 mg. This means that certain foods are not allowed on this diet. This is especially the case for products high in salt, whether it is used as a taste enhancer or a preservative, for example: - Cheese - Spice mix - Deli meat - Salted olives and pickles - Canned food - Most processed goods






Yup, 1-2-3! Easy as that.

This smoothie recipe is, dare we say, effortless. Gather your fruits, pull out your blender and invite your family. It’s a recipe for everyone and, as the name suggests, an absolute Caribbean Dream.

Caribbean Dream 2 SERVINGS


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2 mangoes 1 coconut 1 orange 1 cup water Honey/Agave to sweeten


1. Peel and cut the mangoes into cubes. 2. Cut the coconut open and collect the water. 3. Juice your orange. 4. Blend the mangoes, coconut water, orange juice, and water until smooth. 5. Add sweetener of your choice. 6. Serve chilled and enjoy.



to talk about


Social media causes similar psychological and behavioral effects to other forms of addiction. These include mood modifying behaviors, withdrawals, and neglect.


Over the last twenty-five years, anxiety and depression rates in younger adults have risen by 70%.


Symptoms of depression are highest among younger adults aged 18-29 (21%).


Symptoms of anxiety are most common among those aged 30-44 years old.


Social media activates your 'risk for reward system,' keeping you drawn to the screen for longer.


When a picture posted receives positive feedback, it triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical that encourages users to continue posting.




A study in the U.S. revealed that 89% of undergraduate students experience phantom vibrations from their cellular devices.


Users have suggested that limiting their social media time to 30 minutes per day has improved their mood, focus, and overall well-being.


Research in ecotherapy, the practice of spending time in nature to cultivate healing, has demonstrated a reduction in anxiety and depression.

10. To truly enhance our mental well-being, we must create a balance between in-person and online interactions. Researchers have found that at least 10 minutes of face-to-face interaction with a friend or family member can positively impact the quality of life.


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AN ANCIENT HEALING MODALITY The practice of acupuncture involves stimulating specific points on the body, most often by inserting a small needle in the skin. This is done by medical professionals who are licensed practitioners and are often doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine encompasses various healing modalities, with acupuncture and herbalism being two of the more popular and widely utilized. Research shows that acupuncture may help to relieve pain and can be used for various ailments. This practice has been used in the East for thousands of years, but very little research has been done using Western research methods and resources. Thus, there is limited evidence for acupuncture's effectiveness in treating illnesses other than pain. Acupuncture is still subject to controversy, but many people have found relief through the practice.

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WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE When receiving acupuncture, a professional acupuncturist inserts tiny and specialized needles into a person's body to balance their energy. Many people experience a boost in wellbeing after acupuncture. It may even cure some illnesses. Acupuncture can treat a spectrum of pain disorders include headaches, hypertension, and injuries. Chinese Medicine is a holistic system of medicine that treats the whole body and considers the effects of the environment and other outside factors such as seasonal shifts. By bringing balance to the body's energy, there is an opportunity for healing within the parasympathetic (rest and digest) mode. When the body is relaxed, and stress is reduced, healing can take place on a cellular level. This may be the true aim of acupuncture.

RESEARCH-BASED EVIDENCE Experts have suggested that neuroscience research may soon be able to explain acupuncture. Acupuncture points are places where Qi energy collects and can be accessed as it flows through the meridians and channels of the body. At acupuncture points, nerves, muscles, and connective tissues are stimulated to increase blood flow and release natural pain buffers in the body.

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Research conducted in Germany demonstrated that acupuncture might be able to reduce tension headaches and migraines. Acupuncture has been proven to help with low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, and knee pain. Other organizations and studies have supported acupuncture for hypertension or hypotension, chemotherapy-induced nausea, dysmenorrhea, morning sickness, rheumatoid arthritis, dental pain, sciatica, and other injuries. The stated benefits of acupuncture outweigh the risks, and it is a safe practice when done correctly. There are also little to no side effects, and it can safely be used as an adjunctive treatment for many therapies. It may help reduce pain from injuries or degeneration and can be used for acute and chronic cases.

WHAT TO EXPECT AT AN ACUPUNCTURE APPOINTMENT During an acupuncture appointment, a practitioner will do a medical intake, including health history and pertinent information. Then, the health practitioner will assess and come up with a treatment and a treatment plan. The treatment can be done lying down or sitting up, depending on the desired placement of the needles. The acupuncturist will use single-use, disposable and sterile needles inserted into selected points. This may cause a pricking or tingling pain but typically subsides quickly. Most people do not experience pain during the treatment. Once in place, the needles will remain in the body for between 5 and 30 minutes on average. The practitioner will also provide a treatment plan inducing the recommended number of treatments over time. People with chronic pain will typically be treated weekly over several months or even years. For acute issues, 8-12 treatments will usually demonstrate improvement in symptoms.




RISKS OF ACUPUNCTURE Risks associated with acupuncture include bleeding, bruising, or sore pain at the needle site. Acupuncture should always be done by a professional with clean and sterile equipment. Acupuncture may be dangerous for people with bleeding disorders. In rare instances, an acupuncture needle could be inserted too deeply and puncture an organ. Receiving services from professionals is essential.

ACUPUNCTURE MOVING FORWARD Acupuncture is a common medical service in China and has been tested for thousands of years. If you decide to try the treatment, ensure that it is done by a medical professional or licensed acupuncture practitioner. Though thousands of patients have experienced boosts in their overall wellbeing after the procedure, talk with your doctor about which treatment is right for you.

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THE NEXT U January to March 2022

ECOTHERAPY NATURE’S IMPACT ON HEALTH The Flexitarian Diet New year, new diet? What it is and how it works. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome The causes, symptoms, and treatments. The Ugly Truth about Vaping Reasons you won’t be taking this habit into the new year.

Article submission guidelines U strives to provide informative, educational articles emphasizing health and lifestyle in the Caribbean. We select articles that will appeal to our Caribbean audience that are uplifting, informative and pertinent to health and wellness. Policies U The Caribbean Health Digest retains the right and complete ownership of the articles written and published here. This means that if we publish your work in U, we can also publish in any another publication that we may choose, we will however always give credit to all our writers. All articles are accepted on speculation. Publication of any article cannot be guaranteed. U reserves the right to edit all copy.

Specifics All accepted articles will be accompanied by the byline and monetary compensation as set out in our writers’ contract. Letters to the editor We encourage Letters to the Editor commenting on recent articles published in our magazine. They are not peer reviewed as such, but are assessed in-house to make sure they are factual and non-inflammatory, etc. Submit all comments, letters and/or subscription requests to: U The Caribbean Health Digest, Highway Plaza, Level 2, West Wing LP #80 Calcutta Settlement Road No. 1, Freeport, Trinidad & Tobago or email us at register@uhealthdigest.com www.uhealthdigest.com Advertising. P: 868-280-3353 + 4536

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