Archive for November, 2009

PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Cod liver oil good source of vitamin D?

Q: I took cod-liver oil in the late 1930s and early 1940s when I was a kid. In the ’40s, a new form of cod-liver oil was introduced that my father called “the sunshine pill.” I guess that even then there must have been an understanding of the need for sunshine.

A: Many people your age have memories of being dosed with cod-liver oil for their health when they were children. Most make a face at the recollection!

Cod-liver oil in those days was rich in vitamin D, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. Nowadays, cod-liver oil is much easier to take, but the vitamin D and some of the vitamin A may be removed during the purification process.

Brief sun exposure is an excellent way to maintain good blood levels of vitamin D. In the winter, however, sun exposure is neither practical nor effective, so vitamin D supplements are advisable. An intake between 1,000 and 2,000 IU daily usually provides most people with enough of this crucial nutrient.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, …

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ASK DR. H: Chickenpox vaccine not perfect

Q: One of the girls in my daughter’s preschool class came down with the chickenpox even though she was vaccinated against it. Can you explain why her vaccine didn’t work? — A.B., Atlanta

A: The two-dose chickenpox vaccine is very effective, with published efficacy data of 98 percent to 99 percent efficacy after receiving the recommended two-dose vaccine given four to eight weeks apart.

That means that roughly 1 percent or 2 percent of those immunized will still get a bout of chickenpox.

The reason for the vaccination failure is that the individual failed to mount an adequate immune response to protect against someone infected with the chickenpox.

The good news is that this little girl likely had a much milder bout of chickenpox than she otherwise would have had if she had not received any vaccination.

The vaccination almost always protects against serious disease.

Q: For the past few months, I’ve had a swelling of my left testicle that’s occasionally …

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HEALTHY EATING: Good food on the fly? It’s possible

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Holiday air travel is notoriously challenging with the rush of passengers crushing through security lines, waiting for delayed flights, jostling with fellow fliers to stow carry-ons (more than ever now that most airlines charge for checked bags), sitting on the runway, accepting an airline snack mix and eventually making it to your destination.

Air travel needs to be done in true survival mode these days, and that means more people than ever are packing their own snacks, and even meals, to help get them through the day. Since airline meals (at least the free ones) are disappearing, too, it’s even more important to have an in-flight food plan.

Navigate nutritiously

Ask for OJ. The nutrients in 100 percent orange juice help boost your immune system to give you a fighting chance to ward off cold and flu germs floating in airport concourses or the cabin air. Ask a flight attendant to mix orange juice with sparkling water for a nutritious, …

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DOCTOR IS IN: Mindfulness meditation helps cancer patients and caregivers

Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD, RN, is an associate professor at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and a faculty member of Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University. She also is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

The words, “You have cancer,” forever change one’s life. Even when the chances of cure or long-term remission are high, there is often questioning that takes place. Why me? What caused the cancer? What could I have done to prevent it? Will it come back? Is this new ache the cancer coming back or getting worse? Will the tests come back normal? Will I live long enough to see my children or grandchildren graduate from school or get married?


Family members of cancer patients may also wonder and worry: Will my loved one be okay and live a long time? Will we be able to handle challenges that we may face? This kind of wondering and questioning, for both cancer patients and family members, is normal. However it may be …

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Have you had the swine flu?

Have you thought you or a family member might have a bad case of swine flu? Perhaps you didn’t know whether you should go to the emergency room or call your doctor for an urgent office visit. There have been some mixed messages on when to seek professional care for swine flu. We want to hear from readers impacted by the swine flu epidemic.

Brant Sanderlin,

Brant Sanderlin,

AJC Reporter Craig Schneider would like to hear your story. Craig can be reached at 404-526-5463, or at

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Are you joining the Great American Smokeout?

Today is the Great American Smokeout, an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society to encourage people to quit smoking.

AJC Special

AJC Special

While a recent survey shows that Georgians are smoking less than a year ago, our state is still one of the unhealthiest in the nation, with a tobacco consumption rate 1.2 percent higher than the national average.

If you are a smoker, are you trying to quit? For those of you who have successfully kicked the tobacco habit, what worked for you?

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Can an onion prevent the flu?

Q: There is a message circulating on the Web about putting an unpeeled onion in a room to attract flu viruses. Apparently, this is supposed to protect people from catching the flu. Is there any truth here?

A: There is no reason to think that onions could attract flu viruses out of the air the way a flame attracts moths.

Viruses are not self-propelled. Though they get into the air when a person with flu coughs or sneezes, they have no more control over where they go than dust particles do.

The belief that onions have power against respiratory infections goes back a long, long way. The first printed reference cited on, which examines urban legends and rumors, dates from 1900 and refers to “an old custom,” so putting an onion in a room to fight infection was already an old and possibly untraceable folk practice by then.

Washing hands frequently and avoiding those who have the flu are better precautions than putting onions around the house.

Joe Graedon is a …

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ASK DR. H: Many causes of miscarriage

Q: I recently had a miscarriage, and I’d like to know how long I should wait before trying to conceive again. What do you think caused it? — Anonymous, Orlando

A: When a miscarriage happens, we are forced to bear witness to the complexity of human life and the mystery of creation. Miscarriage is often kept private, and its frequency of occurrence (15 percent to 25 percent) is in sharp contrast to the view that “pregnancy = healthy birth.”

The why may be a simple matter of the mother’s age: Over the age of 35, the risk of chromosomal defects that are incompatible with life increases significantly. About 7 percent of all miscarriages or stillborn deaths are due to a chromosomal abnormality.

There may be a disease or infection that the mother has contributing to an unfavorable environment for a developing baby to grow and develop. Examples include severe kidney disease; uncontrolled diabetes; an underactive thyroid; autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or …

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HEALTHY EATING: Cold weather crops on menus

By Carolyn O’Neil

While winter doesn’t officially blow into town until December, restaurant menus are starting to heat up with the healthy flavors of cold weather crops. Shorter days with less sunshine don’t have to be bleak, especially when chefs brighten up menus with seasonal treats such as winter squash, turnips, brussels sprouts, kale and radishes.

Say you don’t like radishes or can’t stand turnips? Maybe you should try them again, especially if a talented chef shows you the way. Skirt steak served with a warm bean salad and locally grown Japanese turnips from Moore Farms is a popular menu item at Bocado in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood.

Chef Todd Ginsberg, who has packed Bocado’s menu with the farm fresh flavors of the season, says, “I love the grocery list this time of year. When you get into winter months there’s less sweetness in produce and more bitter flavors so I like to roast vegetables like beets and Brussels sprouts to bring out a sweeter …

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DOCTOR IS IN: Treating broken bones in children

By Michael Schmitz, M.D., Chief of Orthopaedics, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Most broken bones (fractures) in children occur in the fall, when school and community sports are in full swing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 3.5 million sports-related injuries occur each year in the United States to children younger than age 14, with fractures among the most common. Fractures are the most common sports-related injury seen in the Emergency Departments at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The bones of children are different than those of adults and benefit from specialized pediatric care to promote proper healing and future growth. Some of the more common sports fractures are growth-plate, greenstick and torus fractures. A growth-plate fracture involves damage to a portion of the bone that contributes to its length and shape. In greenstick fractures, the bone bends like green wood and breaks on only one side. The bone is buckled and weakened but …

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