SHOULD YOU GO GLUTEN FREE?

Americans spend more than $6 billion, yes billion, dollars a year on gluten-free foods, thanks in part to the products’ health halo.  But are all those potato-flour pastas and pizzas getting to the right stomachs?  According to a recent Mayo Clinic study, 1.6 million Americans who are on gluten-free diets don’t need to be, while the vast majority of the 1.8 million who could benefit aren’t aware they should watch their intake.

Who really needs gluten-free?  Only those with the following conditions:

CELIAC DISEASE:
Because its symptoms are so varied, this autoimmune problem can be tricky to identify.  In sufferers, the immune system launches an attack when it detects gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, and barley) in the digestive tract, damaging the small intestine in the process.  The result: gastric distress and poor absorption of nutrients, potentially leading to anemia, osteoporosis, hair loss, and even cancer and infertility.   Celiac disease is usually diagnosed based on symptoms, plus blood tests for autoantibodies, and then confirmed with a biopsy of the small intestine.

GLUTEN SENSITIVITY:  Short of celiac disease, gluten sensitivity can cause headaches, grogginess, and fatigue.   If you have any of the symptoms, plus a stomachache after eating wheat, see your doctor.  But don’t cut bread out of your diet just yer, or you’ll eliminate your No.1 diagnostic tool, says Alessio Fasano, MD, director to the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland.

REFERENCE:  Prevention Magazine Dec. 2012

 

 

 

 

 

SHOULD YOU GET A FLU SHOT?

ONE IN FIVE Americans will get the flu this winter, with more than 200,000 sick enough to be hospitalized.  Yet most of us still don’t get vaccinated, often because of misconceptions about the shot.  Here are four of the most common, along with the facts you need to know.

MYTH:  Only the elderly and those at high risk need to be immunized.

FACT: Influenza can make anyone, including the healthiest among us, seriously ill, and even if you don’t develop symptoms yourself, you can pass the virus on to others.

MYTH:  The flu shot itself can give you a case of the flu.

FACT:  The virus used in the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs and killed off before it reaches your blood-stream.  There’s absolutely nothing in it capable of causing the flu.

MYTH:  You need a doctor’s appointment for a shot.  Who has time?

FACT:  Drugstores and health clinics across the country provide walk-in vaccinations, and more and more local health organizations are setting up drive-through flu shot clinics.

MYTH:  If I have a cold, I should postpone getting a shot.

FACT:  As long as you’re not suffering from a major illness or running a temperature higher than  101 F, the flu shot doesn’t present a health risk for you, according to experts.

REFERENCE:  Prevention Magazine Dec. 2012 pg. 12

FLIP THE SCRIPT

DON’T BE SURPRISED IF YOUR DOCTOR’S WEIGHT-LOSS PRESCRIPTION DOESN’T LEAD YOU TO THE PHARMACY

All too often, conversations about obesity focus on the latest theory, whether it’s the next best fad diet, the worst ingredient of the month, or the newest pill.  While we can debate these provocative ideas, we know for sure one thing that truly helps prevent and treat obesity: regular physical activity.

Exercise helps fight obesity two ways.  First, it burns calories.  Second, it builds muscle, and muscle burns more calories that fat.  One 2010 study found that even people genetically predisposed to obesity benefited from the weight-loss effects of exercise.  In fact, they benefited more than those who are genetically inclined to be thin.

The health benefits of exercise are so great and so clear, in fact, that some health experts suggest that doctors prescribe physical activity to their patients, just as they now prescribe drugs.  Exercise Is Medicine, a global initiative launched by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Medical Association, is doing just that.  The goal of the program is to make physical activity a standard part of disease prevention.

What would this look like?  One model is already in place at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, where the amount of exercise a patient does is noted on his or her electronic record alongside blood pressure, weight, pulse, and BMI measurements.  That way, the doctor has to ask about-and discuss- a person’s exercise habits and how they benefit an individual’s health.

The next step is to have doctor’s write our prescriptions for  exercise.  This already happens at Kaiser and other U.S. clinics.  Health care providers and patients alike can check out the Exercise Is Medicine website (excerciseismedicine.org) to learn more.

PRESCRIPTION:  Make time!  So many people tell you to find time to exercise.  No, you need to deliberately make the time.  Commit to 30 minutes a day, five times a week.  Break it up if you have to.  Don’t look at it as doing one more thing!!  Instead, integrate it into your daily activities, knowing it’s integral to your well-being.  Pencil workouts into your calendar.  Find an app that gives you a scheduled exercise program.  Devote the 30 minutes you would have spent on Facebook or Angry Birds to helping yourself get healthy.

Seek out new tribal members!  Find like-minded people who love you and your chosen activity.  These fitness buddies are priceless and will support not only your exercise goals but other things going on in your life, too.

Be a kid again!  Stop obsessing about burning calories and just have fun.  Turn up the music and get up and dance.  Throw a Frisbee or race each other down the street.  Remember how much pleasure you had as a child moving and running around?  Re-create that joy.

Reference:  WEB/MD MAGAZINE  NOV/DEC 2012 ISSUE  BY Pamela Peeke, MD

HIGH ANXIETY

AFRAID OF CLOSED SPACES?  GETTING ON A  PLANE?  TAKE A CONTROL OF YOUR FEARS!

Your heard pounds, your palms sweat, and you begin to tremble.  These physical reactions to danger put your body on high alert.  But if you’re gripped with fear when there is little or no real danger, like when you’re on a plane taxing down a runway to take off, the real culprit may be anxiety.

“Anxiety is a world class bluffer.  It bluffs people into thinking they’re in danger when they’re really not,” says Martin N. Seif, PhD, a psychologist in New York City and Greenwich, Conn., who co-founded the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

A bout 19 million Americans have irrational fears, also called specific phobias, which can bring on anxiety.  They’re afraid of closed spaces or heights.  They feel panicky during thunderstorms or around dogs.  Some irrational fears double up, further increasing the anxiety.  For instance, people who dread flying may also be uncomfortable sitting in a narrow tube, confined to their seat and surrounded by strangers, and they may worry about turbulence and storms.  Even people who don’t suffer from phobias tend to misjudge risks.  We’re wary of the scanning machines at the airport, but 1 million people visit tanning salons each day, soaking up the ultra-violet radiation that raises the risk of skin cancer.  W omen worry most about breast cancer even though they’re more likely to develop heart disease:  About 40,000 women in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer, while more than 300,000 die from heart attacks.  We fear things we can’t control-and cancer seems more out of our control.

When our fears interfere with our daily lives, truth is an antidote.  For example, Seif advises people who are afraid of flying to research the actual risks.  In the past two years, there has not been a single death on a commercial U.S. airliner, while every day about 90 people die in motor vehicle accidents.

But facts alone aren’t enough.  You have to outsmart your anxiety by focusing on the present rather that “what if,” Seif says.  Many people just avoid whatever makes them uncomfortable.  But Seif, who once had a fear of heights and of flying, says that doesn’t work.  “If you avoid the anxiety sensations, you’re just reinforcing the anxiety,” he says.

EXPERT TIP

Medication isn’t the only answer for panic attacks.  I think that lifestyle changes and some work with a cognitive psychologist would be helpful.”  Patricia A. Farrell, PhD

Ref:  Article by Michele Cohen Marill / Web MD Nov/Dec. Issue 2012

 

What’s Causing My Leg Pain?

Many people with leg discomfort, such as muscle cramping during physical activities like walking, chalk it up to achy joints or muscles.  But it could signal the presence of peripheral artery disease (PAD) which occurs when plaque builds up on the walls of arteries that supply blood to your legs-reducing that blood flow.  You’re at higher risk for PAD if you have diabetes, or if you smoke, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, are 50 or older, or are African-American.

In addition to muscle cramping in the legs during physical activity, you might also experience numb, cold or weak legs; slow-to-heal foot sores; changes in toenail color and texture and/or discoloration or hair loss on your legs.

To learn more, read the 2012 Johns Hopkins Heart Attack Prevention White Paper at johnshopkinshealthalerts.com

Ref: Diabetes Focus/ Winter 2012

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH STOMACH FLU?

If you have diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramping, it may be gastroenteritis, which some people mistakenly refer to as stomach flu.

This inflammation of the stomach spreads by person-to person contact, air, and contaminated food and water.  The most common cause?  Germs transferred from fecal matter, usually the result of poor hand washing.

The most potentially dangerous complications is dehydration.  If you get sick, drink plenty of fluids, such as water or sports drinks.  You’ll likely recover in one to three days on your own.  See a doctor if you have excessive thirst, dark urine, infrequent urination, dry skin, lethargy, dizziness or light-headedness, or if gastroenteritis symptoms last more than five days.

To learn more about digestive disorders, check out the 2012 JOHNS HOPKINS DIGESTIVE DISORDERS WHITE PAPER  (johnshopkinshealthalerts.com)

Ref:  Remedy’s healthy Living/ Your Way of Life/ Winter 2012