Browsing Tag

University of Pennsylvania

Holiday Foods You Should Avoid



Most of us are on a quest for glowing skin, but even more so as the holidays near.

While we have been taught to stay away from the usual suspects of greasy, fried, sugary, and chocolaty foods, we imbibe and consume things that are surprising skin saboteurs.

We turned to Dr. Manish Shah, a Denver board-certified plastic surgeon, for guidance on what food and drinks to avoid to achieve our best holiday complexion.


First, the body metabolizes the alcohol using enzymes in your liver, which release a chemical byproduct called acetaldehyde. This byproduct is toxic to our body tissue. As a result, body tissues and skin are dehydrated, which causes premature signs aging of the skin such as wrinkles and fine lines. Dry skin is also a possibility with post-binging breakouts.

The alcohol causes inflammation to bodily tissue, releasing histamine that dilates the blood’s capillaries, so that effect is redness of the skin. When compounded over years, this redness can be permanent.

Alcohol also expands the pores of the skin, making it easier for dirt and grime to build up into blackheads. Alcohol consumption affects your sleep quality, and the dehydration compromises the regenerative cycle your body enters while you dormant. This decreases normal cellular turnover and leads to an unhealthy complexion.


Caffeine has similar effects to alcohol on the body. It is also metabolized in the liver, then acts as a diuretic (hence the urge to use the restroom after drinking coffee). Diuretics also dehydrate the body tissues and skin, which in turn leads to wrinkles and premature aging. Caffeine can stress the liver just as aggressively as alcohol when consumed in large and frequent quantities. In addition, caffeine can rev you up, triggering a cortisol (stress hormone) response, which in some cases can lead to increased acne. If you love your coffee and can’t do without it, it is important to remember to drink more water to offset the dehydration. Consider drinking green tea instead. It’s a great antioxidant and causes less dehydration, due to its lower caffeine content.


It is not only the caffeine in coffee that could be inducing your acne, but the added dairy as well. Whether it is whole or skim milk, all dairy products contain many artificial hormones that can lead to oil production and clogged pores, which can trigger acne breakouts. Additionally, unrecognized dairy allergies can manifest with skin symptoms like dry and itchy skin.


If your holiday gatherings usually consist of seafood, try to avoid shellfish. Shellfish is high in iodine, which can inflame your skin, clog your pores, and further cause the appearance of red, uneven skin. Instead of eliminating seafood. Try filling your plate with fish that contains omega fatty acids that will improve your skin.


If sushi is your go-to food for lunch, dinner, or just a quick snack, you may be experiencing some skin problems. Although not all sushi is damaging, rolls such as a California Roll contain white rice, which has a high glycemic index. If you top that off with high sodium soy sauce, this has been known to aggravate breakouts. These ingredients take away moisture and circulation from the upper layer of the skin, which leads to dry and aging skin. High glycemic index carbs and excess salt can lead to a puffy appearance.

Hot Sauce/ Spicy Food:

 If you love when your mouth tingles when eating hot foods, I may have some bad news. Although spicy foods have been known to help with your metabolism, they could be the cause of your skin problems. Spicy foods like hot peppers can dilate the blood vessels in those who are already dealing with rosacea or menopause. The capillaries make the skin look less clear and less youthful.


Sorry folks, diet soda, is included in this too! Soda’s high sodium content is not good for you and it ages your skin. Additionally, I should note that soda drinkers dehydrate they drink more soft drinks than water which causes puffiness and dull skin. Skip both kinds of sodas, diet and regular, and instead opt for fruit-infused water when you want a flavored drink.

About Dr. Manish Shah

Manish Shah, M.D., F.A.C.S. was born in Canada and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. He graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a degree in biomedical engineering. He then completed his medical training at the University of Virginia, earning his Medical Doctorate. During this time, he also completed a one-year fellowship in microsurgery research at the New York University School of Medicine / Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery. As a prelude to his plastic surgery training, Dr. Shah completed a rigorous five-year training program in General and Trauma Surgery at Emory University and the Medical College of


10 Elite College Entrance Secrets For the Rest Of Us

This week’s college admission cheating scandal has a lot of people in social media, online and at water coolers at work talking about all the extraneous steps wealthy parents take to ensure their children get admitted into the best schools.

Whether the uber rich are donating buildings to get their kids into elite schools, or bribing athletic coaches and testing proctors, as this scandal reveals, their actions are a sad reminder to families without extraordinary means that the odds are stacked against them and they are left to figure it out themselves on how to get into the top elite schools.

Bellyitch asked double Ivy League Grad, Test prep and Educational Consultant, K. Mason Schecter, owner of Schecter Academic & Admissions Services, who scored in the 99% of the SAT, ACT, SAT, GMAT and LSAT on the very first try to provide his best insider tips and secrets for parents who are not rich and who might not be able to afford an expensive private tutor or course.

K. Mason Schecter of Schecter Academic & Admissions Services, who scored in the 99% of the SAT, ACT, SAT, GMAT and LSAT on the very first try

Most of Schecter’s clients come to him for standardized test prep for the SAT, ISEE, PSAT, SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT, and/or school application essay assistance, or both.

He says the recent scandal reminds him of a joke about diversity at American colleges.

On a campus tour a parent asks a dean about his school’s diversity. The dean says, ‘Our school is incredibly diverse! We’ve got rich white kids, rich black kids, rich Asian kids…’ I can’t fix that problem, but I can suggest some useful resources.

Here are ten things you need to consider if you want to legitimately get your child in an Ivy League or other competitive school.

1. Practice Entrance Exams on Paper Tests.

While a lot of test prep programs offer digital and online courses and tests, Schecter says practicing on paper is better for preparing for the SAT, ACTs and other high school and private school admissions exams.

While “the GRE and GMAT are fully digital, and the LSAT will become fully digital in 2019, the SAT and ACT are still paper tests, and students should prepare for them using paper,” Schecter explains. “That paper test booklet is your best friend on test day and like any other friend, you need to

spend time with it and get comfortable with it, or else it’s not going to help you very much when you need it.”

He says all of his SAT and ACT students, regardless of location, train with paper tests and pencils.

“Online instruction is fine, but online tests are not,” he adds.

In the end, there is no real formula for scoring perfectly on the SAT

“But there is a process,” he says. “Approach standardized tests like a sport. Learn the skills, get a good coach, and practice, practice, practice.”

2. Read Lots of Books

Get your kids to read books, Schecter advises.

There is no short cutting it because as we’ve seen promoted many times before, reading helps increase reaching comprehension, vocabulary and verbal aptitude easily!

[How We Got Our Son To Read Series Chapter Books]

“I had professor in graduate school who told us that our brains need to be fed, and books are meals,” Schecter jokes. “Articles and videos are snacks – you don’t want your brain to live on snacks.”

[10 Ways to Encourage Healthy Reading Habits with Your Child]

3. Use the Khan Academy

There are a lot of online resources but one that has been around for a long time and has consistently prepared children for school, and exams is the Khan Academy.

Khan Academy “offers course work and study aids for nearly the entire school curriculum from kindergarten through high school, completely free.”

[Spring Break: 48 Online Tech and Kids Learning Programs]

Khan Academy – in partnership with The College Board – also offers excellent SAT prep material as well as official tests direct from the source, Schecter adds.

4. Check Out Johns Hopkins Essays That Worked Page

For getting the best essay, Schecter says you cannot go wrong with another free resource from Johns Hopkins University from its “Essays that Worked” page on the college’s website .

“It is one of the best free resources for essay assistance,” he adds but cautions that the gold is not in the sample essays but in the comments left by the admissions officials as to why they felt the essay worked. “The reviewers reveal exactly what they find attractive.”


5. Wait until 10th Grade to Start Doing Practice Tests

A lot of hard core parents presume that their kid needs to be doing practice tests from middle school, but that is uneccessary, Schecter says.

“The SAT and ACT tests do not require years of prep,” Schecter reminds us. “I don’t see any reason to introduce the focus on such exams before tenth grade at the earliest.”

[SAT & ACT Test Prep Tips for Your Teens]

Instead, “encourage your kids to keep up their grades, read books, and pursue the activities that your child seems most likely to stick with throughout high school (and beyond).

“Ninth grade is a tough transitional year for many students.”

6. Practice Learning How to Spot the Wrong Answers, Not the Correct One.

Conventional wisdom would have most thinking their job while taking a test is to find the right answer.

Not so, says Schecter:

It’s helpful to understand how the tests are structured. Multiple choice tests have one simple rule: for every question, all but one of the answers are WRONG.

Why is this useful? Because it changes your job. You don’t have to understand the ‘right’ answer, you just have to locate it – and your first move isn’t to seek what’s right, but to eliminate what’s wrong. There’s an old saying about the difficulty of finding a needle in a haystack. If you search for the needle, then it is difficult. Don’t search – burn!

Burn the hay, and the only thing left is your needle.

And now I will reveal one of the great secrets of standardized tests – verbal questions are not complicated. They nearly always ask what the passage says. That’s it! No thinking. Just find the words the question references.


7. Unmotivated Children Must Take “In-Class” Prep Courses

Have your children who are less motivated and less likely to follow through requirements on an online test prep or private tutor enroll in an in-person class.

“For unmotivated students who need someone to MAKE them practice, classes at a testing center are often the right choice,” Schecter reccommends “Why? Because, testing centers make students take practice tests on site. There’s no escape!”

In test prep, the largest providers are The Princeton Review and Kaplan Test Prep. “Both primarily provide prep classes, and if you’re looking for a class neither is a bad choice,” he says.

Schecter also recommends that more motivated students get tutors because it’s more efficient, more effective and often less expensive than testing center courses. The students get far.

[How to Know If Your Child Is Gifted]

And in this digital age, a tutor could be half way across the world. Schecter himself has clients in Asia and all over America and tutors kids both in person and online for private school admissions, test and essay prep, and tailors his program for each child.

“My goal is to provide exactly what each student needs, no more and no less,” he says. “Some students require a great deal of assistance, whereas others require very little – so my services are always tailored to the needs of my clients.”

8. Challenge Children with Poor Work Ethic

It is common to see parents pushing their children to achieve a success they envision for themselves, for bragging rights and for all the wrong reasons.

That never works, Schecter says. Instead he advises:

First, I have to say this is probably one of the greatest mysteries of parenting – and one that I can’t claim to have solved. Given that, I think it’s critical for kids to have skin in the game.

There has to be something of value for them.

Emotions power actions.

If you see a person running, they’re probably running either toward (with passion) or away (with fear) from something.

At some point, kids have to learn that to get what you want, you have to do what you don’t.

Can you dig it?

9. Strive For Balance 

We know the stereotype and hear the stories about competitive parenting in Asian countries, cultures and among Asian and foreign immigrant households and the exaggeration on academics while American households may recommend taking a more relaxed approach, while lagging behind the world in reading and math.

The answer lies in the middle.

Schecter offers the activity of jogging to provide a workable analogy.

[Tips For Raising Great Teens Without Piling On the Pressure]

“If you’re jogging and you’re bored, then you’re not pushing hard enough, whereas if you’re gasping and stumbling then you need to pull it back,” he adds. “That’s where you find the balancing point – between boredom and overwork.”

10. Advanced courses still matter.

Recently, there have been reports that some of the selective admissions grade and high schools were moving away from weighted Advanced Placement, Honors and International Baccalaureate (“IB”) courses.

Schecter says they’re still relevant. Don’t give up on them.

“I favor students taking the most challenging course track that they can handle, regardless of what those courses are called,” he recommends. “Colleges review a student’s curriculum in the same way. The names don’t matter.”

Private tutors range in price and Schecter charges from free to $100- $200 per hour, but at the top range, they’re paying for someone who has been teaching the SAT since 1987 while an Undergrad at Columbia University, who went to the University of Pennsylvania‘s prestigious Wharton School of Business school and worked as a banker and consultant before returning to test prep because he loves “helping others work through a very stressful transition that should really be more joyous.”

You get what you pay for and the results speak for themselves.

Readers can chat with him about reality of testing and college admissions during a free consultation!

And if getting private tutoring is not in the cards or budget for you, start with the very solid tips that he’s shared with out readers here and go from there!

Good luck Parents!

Share this post and ping us in Social Media @ Bellyitch on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to let us know your thoughts!

Jay Jay Ghatt

This Telemedicine App Promises Free Birth Control amidst Obamacare Abolishing Threat


Telemedicine startup Nurx has committed to keep the free birth control flowing after the Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump nix Obamacare, as they’ve been proposing for a while now.

“Donald Trump’s first executive order reaffirmed that he is intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act. We hope that in doing so he ensures that women would retain access to free birth control and other preventative services. Anything less would be reckless.” says co-founder and CEO of Nurx, Hans Gangeskar.

He also believes that repealing the Affordable Care Act would cause 24 million people to lose health coverage by 2021 and would have devastating consequences on women’s health.

To do its part to counter those effects, Nurx is offering free birth control to new users who use the promo code ‘AlternativeFacts.’

The  San Francisco, California-based company focuses on making birth control as well as Truvada for PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) more accessible to everyone through their app. With the app, users can get a prescription from a doctor and have their medication delivered right to their door.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, roughly 55 million women now receive contraception and other preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs because of the Affordable Care Act.

In 2015, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that the ACA is saving oral contraceptive users an average of $255 a year and $248 for women with an IUD.


Its mission is to be a low cost option for woman and since December 2016, it has offered free pills to new users.

The Free Birth Control Promotion requires users to use the promo code ‘AlternativeFacts’ in order to get $45 of credit toward birth control through Nurx. To get the deal, users must visit Nurx.com, create a Nurx account, pick their brand of choice, and enter promo code ‘AlternativeFacts’ at checkout. The promotion ends February 28, 2017.

According to Nurx’s Medical Director, Dr. Jessica Knox, “Women should not have to jump through unnecessary hoops just to access birth control. The pill remains available by prescription only throughout the United States today, but with our app, we’re making birth control more accessible than ever.”

How the App Works for Birth Control:

● User Chooses Brand – The user selects their brand, answers a few questions, enters their insurance and shipping info.

● Doctor Reviews Submission – a Nurx partner physician reviews the request and writes a prescription.

● Delivered to Customer – The prescribed medication is delivered right to the user’s door.

“Women should be able to access health care on their own terms,” explains Dr. Edvard Engesaeth, a medical doctor and cofounder of Nurx. The app works for both new and existing birth control users and the service and shipping are often free to anyone with health care coverage. For uninsured patients, Nurx waives the consultation fee.

Western Parenting Styles Influence the World, But ‘Tiger Mom’ Style Is Now Enticing


Historically, Western societies’ methods of parenting have managed to influence the child-rearing habits of other parts of the world, in particular, Asia, but the tide is shifting as more parents in America and Europe begin to adopt the “Tiger Mom” structure.

So says University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education Professor of Applied Psychology Dr Xinyin Chen who analyzed the parenting styles in the West which encourages individualism to the parenting styles in the East which emphasizes collectivism.

“In most Western societies, such as Europe and the US, individualism, independence and self-orientation are viewed as important,” Chen writes in an article published today in Child and Family Blog. “Parents encourage their children to develop skills that support these values, such as assertiveness, self-confidence, self-expression and autonomy. They want their children to develop a positive sense of self and personal worth.”

In the piece titled, “East and West May be Reshaping Each Other’s Parenting,” Chen compared more westernized parenting styles to those of Eastern world nations.

“In more collectivist cultures, such China and Korea, parents are expected to assume greater responsibilities in child development,” Chen wrote. “To fulfill that expectation, they tend to be highly involved in child rearing and child education, sometimes using ‘high power’ strategies.”

Where American parents may engage children more, Asian and Eastern parents do not as much.

“They may order their children to do certain things, providing little explanation or reasoning. They want their children to obey them, so they emphasize compliance and obedience.” Chen states.  “In a ‘high power’ approach, if children don’t listen, parents may use force or punishment. This approach reflects the parents’ goals: to develop children who listen and who learn qualities such as cooperation, compliance and self-control, which could be useful for adapting to the society.”

But each model has its own benefits, he argues.

“The US emphasizes individuality and self-confidence, which have been seen as cornerstones of economic success,” writes Chen. “But the message from Japan, China and Korea is that their traditional values—self-control, modesty and compliance—might lead to greater achievement.”

He credits globalization and industrialization for the infusion of Westernization of Asian, African and South American cultures with these societies growing “more individualistic, and parents are adapting their child-rearing styles and values.”

And as parents rely less on their children to care for them in their older years, Chen notices that “parents say they are raising children more for enjoyment. They want their children to develop independent skills and positive self-esteem.”

Likewise, teens in China are reporting that “over the past 15 years, parents have become less authoritarian and less power-assertive, as well as more sensitive to their feelings and needs, encouraging them to exercise greater independence and autonomy.”

But in the same vein, in the West, attention to “Tiger Moms” and because of immigration, and the growing multiculturalism of the West, parents in America and Europe are getting exposed to the child rearing habits of people from Asian, Africa and South America. Peer group interactions contribute to a melting pot of values where children learn from peers with different cultural values, and parents, too,  “also have increasing opportunities to learn about new values through their interactions with families of different backgrounds,” Chen notes.

“In the West, concerns about the importance of education have made parents ready for fresh thinking” he adds. “They’re open to the idea that pushing their children hard to achieve academically may have something more to offer than laissez-faire Western approaches that have failed some children.”

Read Chen’s blog article HERE

Child Experts Warn About At-Home High-Tech Infant Vital Signs Monitors


Experts now warn that high-tech baby monitors that track infants vital signs as they sleep may do more harm than good.

Writing in the JAMA medical journal, child health experts at the University of Pennsylvania suggest these new trendy gadgets can trigger panic if they get the signs wrong.

“There is no evidence that consumer infant physiologic monitors are life-saving, and there is potential for harm if parents choose to use them,” the authors write.

A lot of these new devices will send alerts to the parents’ smartphone if there is a change in the baby’s breathing rate or pulse.

All they do is create ‘fear and self-doubt’ among the parents of healthy babies, doctors argue.

The most popular one is the “smart sock” like the Owlet with sensors sewn into the material.

They are pinned to a baby’s clothes or worn as a wristband – and some even come as a ‘smart sock’ with sensors sewn into the material and range in price from $100 to $250 dollars.

h/t Daily Mail