Archive for February, 2010

Time to talk about eating disorders

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The theme this year is, “It’s Time to Talk About It.” A few points to consider from the National Eating Disorders Association:

In the United States, up to 10 million females are battling an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Photo credit: HBO

In the United States, up to 10 million females are battling an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Photo credit: HBO

  1. Eating disorders are illnesses, not choices: While eating disorders may begin with preoccupations with food and weight, they are about much more than food. Recent research has shown that genetic factors create vulnerabilities (anxiety, obsessions, perfectionism) that place individuals at risk for acting on cultural pressures and messages and triggering behaviors such as dieting or obsessive exercise. In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Approximately 15 million more are struggling with binge eating disorder.
  2. Prevention, education and access to care …

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Is ‘drinking your way sober’ the cure for alcoholism?

This week’s People’s Pharmacy column mentions an alternative treatment for alcoholism that has had great success in other parts of the world but is not widely used in the U.S. yet.

Rich Mahan/AJC Special

Rich Mahan/AJC Special

Called the Sinclair Method, patients take a prescription drug, naltrexone, that help block the receptors for endorphins. This in turn reduces the patient’s craving for alcohol and the enjoyment he/she gets from drinking. In the book that discusses this form of treatment in detail, “The Cure for Alcoholism: Drink Your Way Sober Without Willpower, Abstinence or Discomfort,” the author explores studies and research on the Sinclair Method, which claims to have up to a 75% cure rate. (This is not an exact comparison because the methods are so different, but a 1992 study conducted by Alcoholics Anonymous indicated a 35% sober rate after 5 years in their program.)

There’s one element of the Sinclair Method that may surprise some people. The patient must continue drinking alcohol for …

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ASK DR. H: Migraine that’s not in the head?

Q: My niece’s 3-year-old twin son suffers from abdominal migraines. His twin sister does not get them. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern as to when he’ll get sick. My niece says my mother suffered from migraines when she was living. Can you tell me more about these migraines? Are they hereditary? — J.N., Kennesaw

A: Most of my readers would be surprised to learn that there’s a type of migraine generally seen in young children that doesn’t cause a headache, or even involve the head. This uncommon “headless” migraine event is called an abdominal migraine.

It’s a difficult diagnosis to make because its symptoms — dull abdominal pain around the belly button region, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and occasional facial flushing — are often attributed to other things.

About 10 percent of healthy school-age kids will at some time experience recurrent episodes of abdominal pain. In only 10 percent of those kids is a medical problem actually found. Because of the difficulty in …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Unique alcoholism treatment doesn’t focus on abstinence

Q: Is there any way to make passing a kidney stone less painful? I went from uncomfortable to unbearable pain within a couple of hours.

The emergency room doctors gave me narcotic pain relievers, but nothing to speed the stone out. If this ever happens again, I’d like something to help move the stone along.

A: If surgery is not necessary to remove the stone, there is one treatment that may be helpful. The same drug that is used to ease symptoms of prostate enlargement, Flomax (tamsulosin), may facilitate passage of kidney stones. Shock-wave treatment (lithotripsy) is sometimes used to break kidney stones into smaller pieces. Flomax has been used in combination with lithotripsy to help smaller stones move.

Could the key to battling alcoholism successfully be to not require abstinence from alcohol? Photo by LOUIE FAVORITE/AJC Special.

Could the key to battling alcoholism successfully be to not require abstinence from alcohol? Photo by LOUIE FAVORITE/AJC Special.

Q: I am a 62-year-old with a history of drinking six to eight alcoholic drinks a day for the past 30 years. I have no desire to stop …

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Popular nutrition advice might need another look

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

From tidbits discussed at dinner parties to food bloggers’ pithy posts, all kinds of diet facts and fallacies are being shared about what to eat and not to eat and how it all might affect our health.

Because I spend most of my time keeping up with the latest in nutrition science and food trends, I thought I would weigh in on some of the most talked about topics today. So dig in and digest a few nuggets of nutrition knowledge to help cut through the clutter.

It’s complicated. Simplistic advice such as “shop the perimeter of the grocery store to find the healthiest food products” just doesn’t make sense anymore. I get the idea that fresh produce is often on the store’s perimeter and potato chips are in the aisles, but isn’t the perimeter also where you find the beer and the bakery? Center aisles are home to many of the most healthful foods, including canned beans, brown rice and whole-grain cereals. Whether you’re shopping for foods low in …

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HEALTHY EATING: Rules for cheating on diet

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Nobody’s perfect and that’s especially true when it comes to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Diet modification experts say you have to plan for occasional splurges as part of the long-term plan. Atlanta personal fitness trainer Beth Lewis offers empowering psychological advice to her clients who need a boost: “Don’t mistake setbacks with failure.” So, here are a few ways “cheating” on your diet can actually be a refreshing and powerful strategy to support successful weight control.

Some diet experts recommend ordering dessert first. JOEY IVANSCO/AJC Special

Some diet experts recommend ordering dessert first. JOEY IVANSCO/AJC Special

Order dessert first
This strategy helps you plan the rest of your meal around the sinfully rich dessert you really crave. OK, the waiter may think you’re weird asking to see the dessert menu first, but you need information on your destination before you can map out the meal. So, if you know you’ve just got to have the chocolate cheesecake or coconut cake with pineapple ice cream, then …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Is it safe to put Vaseline in the nose?

Q: I get nosebleeds when the furnace runs a lot in the winter. I think it is the dry air.

My doctor recommended that I use Vaseline in my nose to keep it moistened.

I think I read in your column that you should not put too much Vaseline in your nose because it could irritate the lungs.

Is this really true?

A: We recently saw a suggestion in Consumer Reports (March 2010) that “a pea-sized dollop of petroleum jelly inside the nostrils” could prevent nosebleeds. Used rarely, this approach might not be dangerous.

We have heard from lung specialists that petroleum jelly can migrate from the nose to the lungs. As it builds up, it could cause an inflammatory condition called lipoid pneumonia.

If you look at the label of Vicks VapoRub, a product containing petrolatum, it states clearly “Do not use in nostrils.” A water-soluble moistener such as K-Y Jelly might be a better choice.

We heard from another reader: “Please reprint the article about not using Vaseline in the nose …

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ASK DR. H: Heart screening vital for athletes

Q: Recently, two young athletes died from sudden cardiac death. Can you explain what caused their heart condition? Why can’t sports teams screen their prospective athletes to prevent it?
— B.R., Orlando

A: The recent deaths of Chicago Bears defensive end Gaines Adams at age 26 and Southern Illinois basketball center Jeron Lewis, 21, presumably from sudden cardiac death, underscore the importance of identifying this potentially deadly medical condition during a player’s pre-participation medical evaluation.

Gaines Adams, a defensive lineman for the Bears who was an all-American at Clemson, died Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, in South Carolina, the Bears said. He was 26. AP Photo/Daily Herald, Paul Valade,file

Gaines Adams, a defensive lineman for the Bears who was an all-American at Clemson, died Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, in South Carolina, the Bears said. He was 26. AP Photo/Daily Herald, Paul Valade,file

Sudden cardiac death results from a lethal heart arrhythmia induced by abnormal thickening of heart muscle. This disorder of heart muscle cells is called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, and is due to a genetic mutation. It’s estimated to affect one in every 500 Americans; …

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Have you had a near-death experience?

I recently had the opportunity to review a copy of Carole A. Travis-Henikoff’s latest book, “Passings: Death, Dying, and Unexplained Phenomena.” The book explores pre-cognitive dreams, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences and strange occurrences that can happen as one is dying, based upon events that have happened in the author’s own life. I personally approach these subjects with a skeptical, yet open mind.

iStockphoto.com

iStockphoto.com

Travis-Henikoff opens up and shares with readers some of the most painful moments of her life, involving the illnesses and deaths of loved ones. I found her examples of pre-cognitive dreams, near death experiences and phenomena that took place upon one’s passing from this life to be compelling and unsettling. She also investigates these experiences from a metaphysical angle, such as the light that so many people claim to see in near-death experiences . Travis-Henikoff not only explores the moment of death itself, but the events and processes …

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ASK DR. H: Disease causes weak muscles

Q: My sister-in-law was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis. What is this disease and what can be done to combat it?
— L.F., Macon

A: Myasthenia gravis is a chronic, auto-immune disease where the person’s body inappropriately attacks the nerve-muscle junctions as though they were foreign invading tissues, leading to an abnormal weakness of voluntary muscles.

The weakness in myasthenia gravis improves with rest and worsens with activity.

The muscles of the eyelids and eye itself are generally affected earliest in the disease course. Weakness occurs when the nerve impulse does not adequately reach the muscle cells. Eyelid droop and double-vision often result.

Other muscles that may be affected include those of the neck, arms, shoulders, hip muscles, diaphragm and legs.

Myasthenia gravis occurs in all races, in both sexes and at any age. It affects roughly three of every 10,000 people. There’s no way to prevent its occurrence.

Although there’s no cure, there are treatments …

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