Last updateWed, 14 Apr 2021 11am

Ask the Experts



Gluten for Punishment

Should I consider a gluten-free diet?

We are constantly being told what to eat and what not to eat in an ever-changing cycle of dietary information. Knowing what is just a fad and what has any real science behind it can be challenging, so this question deserves thorough consideration. The current culinary trend is gluten-free so we will look into the facts behind the nutritional advice.

Gluten is a general term for the proteins found in wheat, rye, malt and barley. It can be broken down into two main proteins: glutenin and gliadin, the latter being responsible for most negative health issues. When flour and water are mixed, gluten forms a glue-like structure than binds the dough together giving it the familiar texture we find in breads.

The list of foods that contains gluten is long so you may want to pay attention if you really want to give all of these up. It can be found in all wheat- and barley-based products including all bread products, cakes, biscuits, alcohol, pasta, cereals, and some soups and sauces. Many manufacturers have introduced gluten-free brands, say beverage distributors of alcoholic drinks.

Gluten intolerance is the body’s inability to break down and digest the proteins found in the above foods. Most people can tolerate gluten just fine, but for some it can cause severe digestive discomfort. Wheat allergies are one cause, but extreme cases are triggered by Celiac disease which is an autoimmune disorder which causes the body to react to gluten by releasing an immune attack on the lower intestine.

Statistics have shown an increase in the disease over the years which currently affects approximately 1% of the U.S. population. Over time this disease can cause damage to the intestinal tract and effect nutrient absorption. Another possible risk is intestinal cancer, warn cancer care experts at a Maryland facility.

There are a few benefits to a gluten-free diet but these are mainly experienced by people with gluten intolerance. In this case, reducing gluten will alleviate the digestive discomfort and start the path to intestinal repair. Eating less processed food is always a good thing, but eliminating gluten all together, unless necessary, may not be the answer.

Read more ...

Roommate Blues

I accidentally discovered my roommate is taking antidepressants. Now I feel a need to watch out for her. What can I do to help her?

We appreciate your regard for the welfare of your roommate and can help you to gain some insight into this serious issue. You may need to have a frank conversion with her about how you can help. Having a roommate who is suffering from depression can cause you to have feelings of frustration, guilt and anger.

There is no doubting the fact that life at college can be stressful. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) 85% of college students reported that they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do within the last year. Around 30% said that stress had negatively affected their academic performance and just under 42% claimed anxiety was the top concern for students.

Depression is a medical condition that goes beyond general sadness and lack of energy that we all get from time to time. It is linked with chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters which play a role in mood regulation, explains staff offering treatment at Beachside rehab. Low levels of these chemicals can lead to mood swings and feelings of anger, irritability, lethargy and despondency.

Depression is at an all-time high among college students. Consequently, the percentage of college students taking antidepressants has grown over the past two decades. 

Living with someone that has clinical depression can be a challenge; they can often lash out at you without explanation. It is important to recognize that this is a medical condition and the sufferer may not have full control over their emotions. Learning the symptoms of depression is the first step towards helping someone afflicted with it. If you notice any self-harm, you should contact student health services immediately. In addition, other symptoms include insomnia, hopelessness, frustration, loss of appetite, loss of interest in normal activities, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.

Medication to alleviate these symptoms is available by prescription and there are many different varieties of antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac, Sarafem and Celexa. It is likely your roommate is taking one of these or something similar.

Read more ...

Fearless Freshman

I am entering freshman year with a chronic medical condition. My mom worries more than I do. Is it best just to keep the problem to myself?

With the increasing number of undergraduate students entering college with a chronic illness, you bring up a sensitive question. Most students struggle with coursework and other campus-related issues, but those with chronic illnesses face the additional burden of managing their condition.

The first thing that you should consider is that you are not alone in your struggle. You will be out of your comfort zone for the first time and without your regular network of support and health advice, from your parents, friends and familiar doctors. But there will be an alternative support network available at your college. Keeping it to yourself may make college life a lot worse for you.

The first port of call should be Disability Student Services, a department that every college must have under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You should arrange a meeting with your campus disabilities counselor before you start your freshman year. This can be a lengthy process so it is best to do it before you are overwhelmed with the start of college. DSS will want to look at your medical records to determine the severity of your condition and decide on any action to take.

Your accommodation arrangement is first to consider, perhaps being assigned a single room may suit your needs more than a shared dorm. The decision to explain your condition to your roommates and classmates is yours alone. If you are using a cpap machine, your condition cannot be concealed from roommates. Some chose not wanting to burden other students or invite unwanted sympathy. It can be repetitive going over the same explanations, so you may want to limit what you divulge only to close friends.

Read more ...

Game Off

While visiting my son at school, I noticed much less sports activity than when I was a student. Why aren’t young people playing sports?

This is a growing concern in today’s culture, because youth sports participation is on the decline. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the number of kids that played a team sport on a regular basis decreased from 44.5 percent in 2008 to 40 percent in 2013, and that number has been on the decline ever since. These red flags emphasize the severity of the U.S. ‘inactivity pandemic’.

The statistics speak for themselves with reports claiming that youth participation in Little Leagues across America declined from 3 million in the 1990s to 2.4 million in 2012, and is still falling. Baseball is just one sport that kids are quitting or just not picking up, underlying a sense that sports in general has become too demanding.

Parents are claiming that there is just too much competition in school sports leagues now and fewer opportunities for development and recreation. According to a report in the WSJ, participation in all sports has dropped by 9% nationwide over the past five years. Further figures from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association are broken down into individual sports with soccer declining 7.1%, baseball 7.2% and basketball 8.3%. Ice hockey and lacrosse conversely showed increases in uptake.

Previous generations traditionally played in free local sports leagues needing just softball bats and gloves, but the last two decades have seen a rise in elite leagues where kids travel to play better teams across the nation. This is estimated to be a $5 billion industry. Parents are struggling to afford participation in such leagues which excludes a lot of kids. The level of competition fragments as a result leaving the best players, with the more affluent parents, in the elite leagues and everyone else in the city leagues.

Read more ...

Table for One

I was homeschooled from 6th through 12th grade and starting college this semester. What do I need to know to make this a smooth transition?

With an estimated 2.3 million home-schooled students in America, many of these students have concerns about making the transition to a college-learning environment. Most homeschooled students flourish in college, with some research suggesting that these students actually achieve higher GPAs than their freshman counterparts. However, the social elements and shift from one-on-one attention to a larger learning center are things that the homeschooled student will face. Acknowledging the potential issues and concerns can help to smooth the transition.

Moving from a homeschooled environment into a college one is definitely a challenge and there are a number of things to consider. The flexibility of learning at home will be gone at college; deadlines are real. Assignments that can appear relatively manageable to start can quickly become intimidating as the deadline approaches. Homeschooling students do have a strong sense of self-motivation which will be an advantage when managing and working to deadlines.

Your college lecturers and peers will be accustomed to structured lessons, courses and materials that you are not. This does not mean that you are at a disadvantage; know your strengths and use them. Not studying with the same age group should have given you the ability to interact with all ages. This will be a benefit when dealing with professors and faculty.

Another strength should be your ability to teach yourself. At college, you will be given the materials in class, then learn them in your own study time. Homeschooling should have already prepared you for this. You will need to learn how to take effective notes in class because learning at home does not necessarily teach you this, so take time to practice organized note taking.

Read more ...

Student Stigma

Lots of my friends use online dating apps. Are they just looking or do students really find romance with this?

Your short question exposes the major flaw in the online dating world. There seems to be more shopping and looking around, rather than true romantic outcomes. Research shows that over 15% of Americans have used online dating; however, 15% of marriages did not result from these virtual introductions. Let us answer your question and find the reason for this digital disconnect.

Most college students today will probably be baffled by the courting habits of their predecessors. They actually met each other in person at social events, college functions, cafes and frat and sorority haunts. Today’s technological world is different; dating apps have taken control of the destiny of romantic encounters.

Acceptance of online dating is now mainstream and it has lost a lot of the stigma attached a few years ago. A decade ago, very few people were exposed to it and viewed it as an inferior or synthetic way of meeting someone. Today over 50% of the public knows someone who dates online or is in a relationship as a result of it. More people of all ages are now taking to the internet to find romance.

The majority also think that using an app or website to find a partner is a lot easier, more efficient, and better at finding a like-minded person. Approximately 80% of Americans that have used online dating agree that it is a good way to meet someone.

The millennial adoption of online dating has spurred an explosion of apps in the marketplace such as Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, reports Ocean SEO, boasting advanced algorithms to find you the perfect partner. The demographics are leaning towards college students and graduates with 46% of them knowing someone who has entered into a long-term relationship or marriage via a dating app. Those with more exposure to it have generally been more positive about the virtues of online dating.

Read more ...


New internet start-ups are dominated by men, which makes me hesitant to work on my idea. Why are there so few women entrepreneurs?

While your observation is correct, the good news is that female entrepreneurship is on the rise. Our culture is growing more robust with enterprising women equipped with knowledge, inspiration, creativity and funding. The rate of women entrepreneurs has been increasing at a percentage at least double that of males. But the gender composition of our culture’s most influential leaders indicates that there is still a way to go. Differences among the genders in terms of work experience, resources, deep-rooted biases, and social ties are a few of the issues that you need to overcome.

Despite a move in the right direction, some figures are still quite startling. Women occupy around 20% of the U.S. National Congress and currently hold just 5.4% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. Women are less likely to lead new business ventures with men two times more likely to launch a new enterprise, and only 28% of private firms are owned by women, according to the National Women’s Business Council.

Gender differences with regards to work experience, social ties, and resources have conventionally been attributed to the dearth in female entrepreneurs. However, a new theory has arisen that suggest unconscious cognitive biases also play a role. Women entrepreneurs are at a disadvantage because there are doubts that they possess the typical traits and skills associated with entrepreneurship.

This dynamic suggests there have been numerous concepts that could have flourished into successful businesses, but failed to do so since the person making the pitch was not the right gender. Deep-rooted biases can only be overcome by a cultural shift, notes young female co-founder of e-commerce startup Rukkus.

Read more ...

Undocumented Undergrad

My parents finally told me we were in the U.S. illegally. Can I still apply to college and get a scholarship?

Although over one million immigrant children without legal status live in the U.S., fewer than 6,500 of them are estimated to go on to attend college. We receive a lot of questions from undocumented children who erroneously think that because they are not documented, they cannot access higher education. Yet students do have legal options. Armed with the right information and assistance, you can pursue higher education.

There is currently no federal or state law that prohibits the admission of undocumented immigrants into American colleges. The law does not require students to prove citizenship to enter institutions of higher education though policies on admittance of undocumented students do vary.

Each college will have its own set of requirements which may include proof of residence, although it is not a legal requirement. Some public schools accept undocumented immigrants but treat them as foreign students. This does render them ineligible for state aid and lower tuition for state residents.

Admittance is only one part of the college experience. Students have to secure housing in the dorms or start looking for rooms, house shares or condos for rent. The housing law covering rental to an undocumented immigrant can vary by state, although there is no prohibition at the federal level.

Two major barriers to the continuation of education for undocumented students are lack of information and assistance. Non-profit immigrant advocacy organizations such as the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Educational Empowerment Program work towards changing this.

Read more ...

Bright Lights, Big City

I get bad headaches sometimes when I go to lecture halls. I really believe it’s the bright lights. Does this make any sense?

Your question is shared by many students, because the college lifestyle often increases the risk for headaches. Researchers claim that headaches and their causes is an understudied and overlooked subject where students are involved. Your question does make a lot of sense, so let us find out why.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.7-4% of the world’s adult population experience headaches on 15 or more days every month. Statistics show that students get more headaches than adults; around 40% of them get one at least every couple of months, compared to only 12% of adults. College life is considered a major source of headaches as it triggers the attack. There are numerous factors that could set off the pain including lack of sleep, late nights, early mornings, poor diet, stress over tests or assignments, lack of exercise, change in routine, and even bright lights.

For many students, severe headaches can be debilitating and can even affect academic performance. The term headache is a broad one and can be broken down into several types with ranging severity. A migraine is different to a headache, it has different triggers. Headaches are symptomatic, usually triggered by something that occurs such as stress or staring at a computer screen for too long.

Computer simulations, now emerging as 360 photos and videos, need the user to become accustomed to the new virtual reality, says young ticketing company Rukkus. The brain goes into a virtual-reality mode and immediately adjusts to the new sensations. While it can initially be a trigger for some, this is one the user quickly learns to overcome.

Read more ...

Group Therapy

I was invited to join a study group. I think more time will be spent gossiping than studying. Are there any real benefits to a study group?

Your basic yes or no question leads to awareness of an entirely new approach to learning, social learning theory. It is now entering our educational system and going to have a large impact on the future.

Social learning theory is the combination of learning and social behavior proposing that new behaviors can be acquired or learned by observing and imitating others. Learning, which is a cognitive process, takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction.

Learning from books and well-rounded lessons are well established and effective teaching methods, but educators are now looking for ways to develop students’ interpersonal skills. By getting students to work together, they can build off each other’s strengths and improve weaknesses. This has quickly been embraced in allied health programs, where nursing students learn to cooperate when learning patient care in a hospital environment.

Motivation is contagious, higher-performing students tend to gather into groups to prepare for tests, discuss projects and ask and answer questions. Participation in study groups has been cited as a good signal of excelling in class.

Social learning in a school environment lessens the risk of bullying and disruptive behavior. It can encourage self-awareness and empathy, both of which improve general mental health and ultimately success in the classroom. There is a wider array of ideas and insights in a study group situation, than you would get in a regular class, that can nurture creativity, empathy and critical thinking skills. The ability to understand and explore problems from different perspectives and take on alternative viewpoints is all conducive to better academic performance and productivity.

Read more ...

Intellectual Idiocy

My friends are taking pills to help study. Years ago, they took speed to do an all-nighter. How can drugs help you study?

How do drugs and alcohol make you feel good? They induce changes in the brain and metabolic functions, but there is a physical cost and risk associated with these, such as possible long-term abuse. So-called study drugs are no miracle fix and exact a toll on you.

We all know college life is hectic, fast paced and stressful. The social pressures on students today can lead to some extreme measures to squeeze in some extra study time. Study drugs or smart drugs are prescription stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin that are unsuitably taken to increase mental focus and productivity to aid study.

They are usually prescribed by doctors to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Without medical advice and a prescription these drugs can be dangerous and are illegal. Research indicates that one in five students is using them to facilitate all-night study binges.

Drinking coffee is a regular way of getting a quick energy boost, but those who have used Adderall claim it helps you focus more accurately. More and more students are turning to these study pills to get them fixated on their studies.

There is a growing demand for study pills. Health services at the University of Texas report that 50% of students with genuine prescriptions for ADHD have been asked to give out their pills. Students are erroneously assuming that these pills are safer than street drugs and are unaware of their addictiveness.

Read more ...

Ask the Experts: Articles By Year

Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu