Cristi DeMarco’s Wellness Weblog

Health Info You Should Know.

First, Do No Harm – The 9th Drug Your Doctor Wouldn’t Take

 

Boniva

Boniva is an osteoporosis drug cleverly advertised to women over 55 by an endearing commercial featuring Sally Field.  Sally regales us with the wonders of this pharmaceutical while easily and painlessly gardening.  What she doesn’t tell us is that there are many people out there who have suffered some fairly bad side effects from taking this drug.  Unfortunately, your doctor might not tell you that either. 

 

I am calling it the 9th drug your doctor wouldn’t take because some doctors absolutely would not recommend it for themselves or certain patients, but some might recommend it citing that the only adverse effect is mild flu-like symptoms for a few days.  This was the experience of one of my acupuncture patients.

The patient had been seeing me for severe left-sided neck and shoulder pain that seemed to be the result of both an injury to the area and a structural imbalance due a rotator cuff surgery on the right side.  She had been dealing with the pain for 2 years.  After 3 attempts at treating the local area she had some short-lived pain relief but no increase in range of motion and due to the burning nature of her pain, I decided to treat her cervical vertebrae with electro-acupuncture thinking that there was possible disc disease causing the pain.  With the focus on the cervical vertebrae she began to make progress with pain relief lasting longer each time and an increase in range of motion.  She also had some hip pain that was responding favorably to needles and moxabustion.  We then had to take a break from treatment while I went on maternity leave.  During this time, she was still being evaluated by other doctors to figure out the western medical cause of her persistent pain and had followed up on her primary care physician’s referral to a rheumatologist.  The patient suffers from early-stage osteoporosis and during her visit to the rheumatologist he suggested she try Boniva to halt the progression of the disease.  My patient is a nurse, is open to both regular and complementary medicine, is knowledgeable about herself and her health, and knows to ask questions about the effects and side-effects of medications.

When she asked her doctor about the effects and side-effects of Boniva, she was told about the  IV administration of the drug and that the only side effect was mild flu-like symptoms for a few days.  She then asked the nurse who was administering the medication if there were any side-effects of Boniva that she should know about and was again told that there could be mild flu-like symptoms for a few days.  When we resumed our acupuncture treatment, her shoulder pain was back with a vengeance along with hip pain on both sides and she was complaining that she felt like she ached all over.  We weren’t very concerned because she had gotten so much relief from the acupuncture treatment that we thought we would simply resume a similar strategy and she would be feeling better quickly.  Using the same treatment for what we thought were the same issues did not have the same positive effects this time around. 

Rather than picking up where we left off, it seemed that we were starting from the beginning.  I did not know about the medication that she was given at the trip to the rheumatologist because she did not think to mention it, but in thinking on her own time about what might be different she decided to look up the drug and was shocked at what she found.

 

If you do a quick search of the drug you will find several sites listing possible common side effects such as diarrhea, pain in arms and legs, upset stomach, and short-term mild flu-like symptoms.  The sites may then say that rarer side effects are severe bone, joint, and/or muscle pain and serious jaw problems associated with delayed healing and infection, often following dental procedures. This is all from places that basically list what would be on the patient insert of drug information yet none of this was verbally communicated to my patient when she specifically asked about side effects. 

 

Looking further, other sites list the severe side effects such as allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); bloody or black, tarry stools; chest pain; eye pain; painful or difficult swallowing; severe bone, joint, or muscle pain; severe or persistent dizziness or headache; severe or persistent heartburn or stomach pain; swelling or pain in your jaw; vision changes; vomiting blood or a substance that looks like coffee grounds. Again, not mentioned to the patient by her doctor but understandable because it’s not the standard issue information.

 

Then if you look at a patient forum type of website such as http://drugs.healthdiaries.com/boniva-side-effects.html you will see more examples of adverse reactions.  I urge you to follow this link and look at a few of the posts before or after finishing this article.

 

Being proactive, my patient called the drug company directly and interestingly enough, got the same spiel she had from the doctor’s office about the mild flu-like symptoms and no acknowledgement about her issues.  When she mentioned the experience to her local pharmacist and her primary care physician, they were not surprised about her bad experience with the drug but rather they were surprised that a doctor had actually given it to her with her history of pain and sensitivity to medications because of what they had heard about the unpleasant side effects.

 

I am not saying that this drug is bad for all people.  If you are a healthy 35-year old with no other health issues and you happen to have osteoporosis, it should be fine.  Sarcasm aside, there may be people in the drug’s target population who are helped by it, but all patients deserve to know about the risk as well as the possible reward. The irony is that the people the drug is supposed to help, like post-menopausal women or cancer patients who absorb calcium poorly, have pain from their health issues,  would be most vulnerable to side effects of the drug.  Also, the literature states that if you do have side effects that simply stopping the drug will make them go away.  This is a drug that is meant to be taken every 3 months so with such a long half-life, or amount of time it takes to break down and become insignificant in your system, how does that make sense?  It is in your system for 3 months!

 

The larger issues are, what do the prescribing doctors know about the drugs they are prescribing aside from what the drug reps tell them?  And does a doctor who meets a patient for the first time or sees a patient once a year, really have enough information to prescribe the drug?  I am not saying that all doctors and drug reps are bad either,  but it is common knowledge that doctors must keep very busy in order to make a third-party billing living so they may not have time for due diligence, and it is common sense that a drug rep would be a biased messenger of information.

 

The take-home message is to be careful in this broken system and that the only patient advocate you have is yourself.  I learned from this experience that it is not even enough to ask questions, you can see on the patient forum site that many people did, including my patient.  You need to do the research yourself, find out where the information is coming from, and if possible, consult another healthcare provider about this decision.  If my patient had gone back to her PCP to discuss the drug, she probably would not have taken it because her PCP knew her case better and happened to be aware of the bad effects of Boniva. 

 

A pharmacist is also a wonderful person to ask.  Pharmacists in our healthcare system are over-educated and under-utilized by us healthcare consumers.  Unlike your doctor they are more likely to actually know the mechanism of drug actions and the side effects, and would interact with more people who have taken it. 

 

Many of my acupuncture clients ask me for advice.  I do not make any medical decisions, but I am usually the healthcare provider who knows them best and I can help with asking the right questions, garnering more information, or sharing the experience of another patient.   Keep in mind that us complementary/alternative practitioners generally don’t see the people who have been helped by Western medicine so many of our patients will have similar stories.  And the best part is, that we can usually help.  As an acupuncturist, herbalist, and craniosacral therapist, I am not anti-Western medicine, but I am pro-health,  and like many others who are not considered to be part of the Western medical system, I am happy to fill in the gaps, provide options, and “First, do no harm”.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.boniva.com/about_boniva/side_effects.aspx

http://www.rxlist.com/boniva-drug.htm

http://www.drugs.com/sfx/boniva-side-effects.html

http://www.fda.gov/cder/consumerinfo/druginfo/boniva.HTM

http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2006/Aug_PIs/Boniva_PI.pdf

 

 

 

 

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December 6, 2008 Posted by | health info you should know | , , , | Leave a comment

Pseudo-Healthy Foods—and 5 That Are Healthier Than You Think

By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD and Nutrition Director, Prevention

Diet Soda
It may seem like the perfect way to save calories and slash your sugar intake, but studies show that diet drinkers actually weigh more than regular soda drinkers. For diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese tied to a 2-can-a-day habit is 57 percent compared to 46 percent for regular soda drinkers. Diet soda may throw off your natural appetite regulation, causing you to eat more sweets. It may also trick you into thinking it’s OK to indulge in high calorie foods because you “saved” by choosing diet soda.

Pretzels
The label may shout ‘fat free’ and seem like a better alternative to chips, but they’re made with refined white flour stripped of its vitamins and antioxidants. They’re also dense so they pack a ton of carb calories for a very small amount and they’re not filling. Think of it this way-one 15- ounce bag contains the equivalent of 24 slices of white bread.

Spinach Wrap
It looks green and good for you but spinach powder is only a scant ingredient. These wraps are typically made from refined white flour and the green hue primarily comes from food colorings (Blue No. 1 and Yellow No. 5.). In other words you can’t rely on the immune boosting vitamins A and C found in fresh spinach and it’s much higher in calories. One cup of cooked spinach provides 65 calories, 105 less than a spinach wrap, which doesn’t count as a veggie serving. Not to mention the fact that the fillings often include ingredients like fried chicken, ranch dressing, cheese and bacon!

Blueberry Scone
Even a trans-fat-free wild blueberry scone packs over 400 calories (the amount an entire meal should supply) and over 50 percent of the maximum amount of artery-clogging saturated fat intake for an entire day. They also don’t count as a serving of fruit and they’re devoid of dietary fiber.

Vitamin Water
Yes, it has vitamins, but at up to 200 calories per bottle (50 per serving with 4 servings per jug), just one of these a day can cause a 20 pound weight gain in a year’s time if the calories aren’t burned off.

Here’s the flip side of the so-called unhealthy foods that really aren’t-these 5 often-criticized foods don’t deserve to be shunned. Here’s why and how to eat them:

Dried Fruit
It’s simply fresh fruit with most of the water removed. When you buy unsweetened dried fruit, no sugar has been added, so aside from shrinking in size (i.e. grape vs. raisin), all the good stuff (vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, etc.) is maintained. You can find dried versions of just about every fruit these days (berries, mango, peaches) but one of the healthiest is figs-two dried figs provide just 100 calories but are chock full of nutrients, including 20 percent of all the dietary fiber we need daily, plus potassium, calcium, and iron. They’re also loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols-the same type that make red wine and tea so healthful (polyphenols are linked to lowering the risk of both heart disease and cancer, our nation’s top two killers). Just stick with unsweetened and since they’re ‘shrunk,’ limit the portion to about the size of a golf ball to control calories.

Frozen Vegetables
A recent study found that the vitamin C content of fresh broccoli plummeted 56 percent in seven days, but dipped just 10 percent in a year’s time when frozen at -20 degrees Celsius. In addition, the levels of a disease fighting antioxidant called anthocyanins, and some minerals, including potassium (which helps control blood pressure) actually increased after freezing. Just look for veggies with one ingredient (the veggie itself) and no additives, preservatives and sauces.

Bananas
It’s true that bananas are low in water compared to other fruits. That means there’s more carbohydrate (and therefore more calories) per bite compared to watery fruits like melon. But-that doesn’t mean you should shun them-even if you’re watching your weight. Bananas provide no fat, cholesterol, or sodium, and they’re incredibly nutritious. You’ve probably heard that they’re high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. But they’re also a good source of vitamin B6 (which helps maintain blood sugar levels and is needed to build protein in the body as well as nerves and immune cells), vitamin C (for immunity) and fiber (for cholesterol control and digestive health). To keep calories in check, just choose “baby” bananas, the ones about the size of long fingers, which are naturally portion controlled (and neatly wrapped!). One of these little guys provides just 50-60 calories (less than a small apple) and amounts to about half a cup when sliced.

White Potatoes
When scientists from the USDA tested more than 100 potato varieties, they discovered 60 different vitamins and antioxidants. Spuds are also packed with resistant starch, a fibrous substance that could help you burn more body fat and lose weight. One cup (size of a baseball) of a baked potato with the skin provides over 25 percent of the vitamin C we need daily, along with 15-20 percent of a day’s vitamin B6, copper, and potassium-all key nutrients for health. In fact, a tater provides more potassium than a banana, and scientists have linked a natural spud substance called kukoamines to blood pressure control. And, the calorie price tag is minimal-about 130 per cup (roughly 6% of an average healthy adult’s daily calories needs). They also pack about 3 grams of filling dietary fiber.

Juice
It does have less fiber than whole fruit and juices go down fast but cup for cup, 100-percent juice counts as fruit, and some common juices score very high as antioxidant-boosters. One recent study found that adding citrus juice to tea boosts the antioxidant absorption by up to 13 times. Another ranked the antioxidant capacity of several juices and found the 8 highest were: pomegranate juice, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice, black cherry juice, açaí juice, cranberry juice, orange juice, and apple juice. Juices do contain sugar, but it’s natural, not added-natural sugars are those put there by Mother Nature, and don’t create the same negative effects in the body that added sugars do (the refined kinds food manufacturers mix in)-and those natural sugars are naturally bundled with lots of important nutrients.

August 26, 2008 Posted by | health info you should know, nutrition | , | 3 Comments

Acupuncture and IVF Study

Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist Teams with Licensed Acupuncturist in Largest Ongoing Eastern/Western Pregnancy Study – Shows Early Promise for Increased Take Home Baby Rates

 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Aug 12, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Dr. Paul C. Magarelli, a nationally noted specialist in the field of reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and Dr. Diane K. Cridennda, a recognized authority on acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, have announced early results of an ongoing study linking acupuncture to positive in-vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes. The study, which includes the largest-ever participant pool for a study of its kind, explores the increase in take home baby rates associated with combined Eastern and Western medicine treatments.

Drs. Magarelli and Cridennda’s ongoing research shows an astonishing 15 percent increase in pregnancies, with a 23 percent climb in actual births in IVF patients treated with acupuncture. In addition, of the 578 patients Magarelli has co-treated at the Reproductive Medicine & Fertility Centers and East Winds Acupuncture from 2003 to 2008, 26 percent more patients became pregnant with acupuncture treatments added to IVF, saving them the costs and heartache of having to repeat an IVF cycle. This savings would decrease the national IVF fertility costs by more than $150,000,000 per year in the United States alone.

“Infertility is a condition that affects more than 7.3 million people nationwide, and many of those couples are unaware of the potential that acupuncture holds for them,” said Dr. Magarelli. “Our study demonstrates that acupuncture increases uterine blood flow, reduces stress and has an overall positive impact on our IVF patients. And the results really speak for themselves: one of every four of our patients who have used acupuncture in conjunction with IVF has not had to repeat an IVF cycle to create their families.”

A three-part exploration of Drs. Magarelli and Cridennda’s ongoing breakthrough acupuncture and IVF study will be published in Fertility Today magazine later this year. To learn more, visit www.ColoradoSpringsIVF.com or call toll-free 877-475-BABY.

August 26, 2008 Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know | , | Leave a comment

Castor Oil Packs

Castor oil comes from the bean of the Palma Christi plant, ricinis communis. The active ingredient in castor oil is ricinoleic acid. Ricinoleic acid effective is in preventing the growth of numerous species of viruses, bacteria, yeasts, and molds so is known to be effective when applied topically for skin conditions. Taken internally, it is a strong cathartic, meaning that it will accelerate bowel movements, but is not currently recommended because drinking castor oil is a particularly harsh way of relieving constipation. Ricinoleic acid is unique because it is only found in nature in castor oil.

As a pack placed over the skin with heat applied, the castor oil is absorbed into the lymphatic circulation and is suggested for conditions that can benefit from enhanced circulation, enhanced immunity, and detoxification. Some of the suggested uses are for chronic urinary tract infections and cystitis, liver disorders, constipation, gallbladder inflammation or stones, night time urinary frequency and inflamed joints.

My familiarity with castor oil packs is related primarily to women’s medicine used as part of a treatment protocol for non-cancerous uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts, menstrual cramps, irregular menstrual cycles, and non-cancerous breast pain. The packs are not to be used during times of heavy bleeding or during pregnancy.

Making a castor oil pack

Cold-pressed castor oil warmed in a pot on the stove – Home Health is a good and easy to find brand
Old cotton terry face cloth or flannel square
Hot water bottle or a heating pad with a low setting
Plastic bag or food wrap large enough to cover the flannel cloth completely
Towel

1. Soak the cloth in the warmed castor oil and wring so it is not dripping, or soak the cloth with the castor oil and heat it in a microwave for 1-1½ minutes. Test the cloth on the inside of your arm for temperature and then place it on the affected area.
2. Cover the cloth completely with the plastic, then place the hot water bottle or the heating pad set on low over the pack and cover with a towel. Castor oil stains so you probably want to lay on a thick towel and wear old clothing.
3. Rest for one hour with the pack in place. Be careful not to fall asleep with an electric heating pad on – the heat from the oil may burn you when you are asleep. This time could be used to listen to soft music or a meditation tape. A good time to use the packs is as part of a bedtime ritual. It is best to be able to rest when you are finished.
4. Clean skin with 2T baking soda in one quart of water after removing the pack to effectively remove oil.
5. Store the pack in a covered glass container or zip lock bag in the refrigerator to reuse. Add more oil only as needed to keep the pack saturated. Replace the pack if it begins to change color.

A typical course of treatment for fibroids and benign ovarian cysts is 5-7 times/week for 6 weeks. For menstrual cramps, irregular cycles, and breast pain, use the packs 3 times per week until the symptoms subside. For preventative maintenance of these conditions, continue to use the packs once per week.

The castor oil packs can be effective on their own but are usually used as part of a treatment program. In my practice the program could include acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, herbs, or dietary changes. For some gynecological issues, I will refer patients to Maya abdominal massage as an adjunctive treatment. To learn more and to find a practitioner go to www.arvigomassage.com. Please consult your healthcare practitioner about incorporating castor oil packs into your treatment and refer to the cautions/contraindications below.

Safety precautions/contraindications

1. DO NOT USE DURING PREGNANCY, MENSTRUATION, OTHER IRREGULAR OR HEAVY BLEEDING, OR FOR CANCER CONDITIONS.  Castor oil packs are used to treat irregular menstrual cycles, fibroids (which are benign) and to treat benign ovarian cysts but you do not use the packs while you are bleeding heavily, so you would stop while  menstruating or bleeding heavily and then resume when the bleeding stops.
2. Stop the packs and call your practitioner if you experience unusual bleeding
3. Castor oil should not be taken internally.
4. Do not fall asleep with an electric heating pad on – the heated oil could burn you while you sleep
5. This is intended to be informational. For specific treatment recommendations, consult your health care practitioner.

http://www.castoroil.in/reference/glossary/ricinoleic_acid.html
Northrup, Christiane, 1995, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
Hudson, N.D., Tori, 1999, Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage

July 31, 2008 Posted by | health info you should know, self-care | , | Leave a comment

8 Drugs Your Doctor Wouldn’t Take

This article was posted on MSNBC.com and is an important one for healthcare consumers to read.  It does actually mention acupuncture as a safe and effective alternative to NSAID’s for back pain which of course is true.  There are acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutritional alternatives to most of the conditions listed so contact your friendly local acupuncturist like myself to find out what you can do!

8 drugs doctors wouldn’t take

If your physician would skip these medicines, maybe you should, too

By Morgan Lord

Mens Health

updated 2:47 p.m. ET, Sun., June. 22, 2008

With 3,480 pages of fine print, the Physicians’ Desk Reference (a.k.a. PDR) is not a quick read. That’s because it contains every iota of information on more than 4,000 prescription medications. Heck, the PDR is medication – a humongous sleeping pill. 

Doctors count on this compendium to help them make smart prescribing decisions – in other words, to choose drugs that will solve their patients’ medical problems without creating new ones. Unfortunately, it seems some doctors rarely pull the PDR off the shelf. Or if they do crack it open, they don’t stay versed on emerging research that may suddenly make a once-trusted treatment one to avoid. Worst case: You swallow something that has no business being inside your body. 

Of course, plenty of M.D.’s do know which prescription and over-the-counter drugs are duds, dangers, or both. So we asked them, “Which medications would you skip?” Their list is your second opinion. If you’re on any of these meds, talk to your doctor. Maybe he or she will finally open that big red book with all the dust on it.

Advair
It’s asthma medicine … that could make your asthma deadly. Advair contains the long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) salmeterol. A 2006 analysis of 19 trials, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that regular use of LABAs can increase the severity of an asthma attack. Because salmeterol is more widely prescribed than other LABAs, the danger is greater – the researchers estimate that salmeterol may contribute to as many as 5,000 asthma-related deaths in the United States each year. In 2006, similarly disturbing findings from an earlier salmeterol study prompted the FDA to tag Advair with a “black box” warning – the agency’s highest caution level.

Your new strategy: No matter what you may have heard, a LABA, such as the one in Advair, is not the only option, says Philip Rodgers, Pharm.D., a clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina school of pharmacy. For instance, if you have mild asthma, an inhaled corticosteroid such as Flovent is often all you need. Still wheezing? “Patients can also consider an inhaled corticosteroid paired with a leukotriene modifier,” says Dr. Rodgers. This combo won’t create dangerous inflammation, and according to a Scottish review, it’s as effective as a corticosteroid-and-LABA combo.

Avandia
Diabetes is destructive enough on its own, but if you try to control it with rosiglitazone – better known by the brand name Avandia – you could be headed for a heart attack. Last September, a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study found that people who took rosiglitazone for at least a year increased their risk of heart failure or a heart attack by 109 percent and 42 percent, respectively, compared with those who took other oral diabetes medications or a placebo.

The reason? While there have been some reports that Avandia use may cause dangerous fluid retention or raise artery-clogging LDL cholesterol, no one is sure if these are the culprits. That’s because the results of similar large studies have been mixed. So the FDA has asked GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Avandia, to conduct a new long-term study assessing users’ heart risks. There’s only one problem: The study isn’t expected to start until later this year.

Your new strategy: Stick with a proven performer. “I prefer metformin, an older, cheaper, more dependable medication,” says Sonal Singh, M.D., the lead author of the JAMA study. “Avandia is now a last resort.” Dr. Singh recommends that you talk to your doctor about cholesterol-lowering medicines, such as statins or the B vitamin niacin. Swallowing high doses (1,000 milligrams) of niacin daily may raise your HDL (good) cholesterol by as much as 24 percent, while at the same time lowering your LDL and triglyceride levels.

Celebrex
Once nicknamed “super aspirin,” Celebrex is now better known for its side effects than for its pain-relieving prowess. The drug has been linked to increased risks of stomach bleeding, kidney trouble, and liver damage. But according to a 2005 New England Journal of Medicine study, the biggest threat is to your heart: People taking 200 mg of Celebrex twice a day more than doubled their risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. Those on 400 mg twice a day more than tripled their risk, compared with people taking a placebo.

And yet Celebrex, a COX-2 inhibitor, is still available, even though two other drugs of that class, Bextra and Vioxx, were pulled off the market due to a similar risk of heart damage. The caveat to the consumer? In 2004, the FDA advised doctors to consider alternatives to Celebrex.

Your new strategy: What you don’t want to do is stop swallowing Celebrex and begin knocking back ibuprofen, because regular use of high doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding. A safer swap is acupuncture. A German study found that for people suffering from chronic lower-back pain, twice-weekly acupuncture sessions were twice as effective as conventional treatments with drugs, physical therapy, and exercise. The strategic needling may stimulate central-nervous-system pathways to release the body’s own painkillers, including endorphins and enkephalins, says Duke University anesthesiologist Tong-Joo Gan, M.D. You can find a certified acupuncturist in your area at nccaom.org or acufinder.com.

Ketek
Most bacteria in the lungs and sinuses don’t stand a chance against Ketek, but you might not either. This antibiotic, which has traditionally been prescribed for respiratory-tract infections, carries a higher risk of severe liver side effects than similar antibiotics do. “Ketek can cause heart-rhythm problems, can lead to liver disease, and could interact poorly with other medications you may be taking,” says Dr. Rodgers. “Unfortunately, it’s still available, and although many doctors are aware of the risks, some may still prescribe it without caution.” In February 2007, the FDA limited the usage of Ketek to the treatment of pneumonia.

Your new strategy: Can’t imagine catching pneumonia? The last time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated the top 10 killers of men, this deadly lung infection (along with the flu) came in seventh. Avoid backing yourself into a corner where you might need Ketek by always signing up for your annual flu shot – if you have pneumonia, it’ll reduce your risk of dying of the infection by 40 percent. And if you still end up staring at a scrip for Ketek, Dr. Rodgers recommends asking to be treated with one of several safer alternatives, such as Augmentin or the antibiotics doxycycline or Zithromax.

Prilosec and Nexium
Heartburn can be uncomfortable, but heart attacks can be fatal, which is why the FDA has investigated a suspected link between cardiac trouble and the acid-reflux remedies Prilosec and Nexium. In December 2007, the agency concluded that there was no “likely” connection. Translation: The scientific jury is still out. In the meantime, there are other reasons to be concerned. Because Prilosec and Nexium are proton-pump inhibitors, they are both incredibly effective at stopping acid production in the stomach – perhaps too effective. 

A lack of acid may raise your risk of pneumonia, because the same stuff that makes your chest feel as if it’s burning also kills incoming bacteria and viruses. You may also have an elevated risk of bone loss – in the less acidic environment, certain forms of calcium may not be absorbed effectively during digestion. “The risk of a fracture has been estimated to be over 40 percent higher in patients who use these drugs long-term, and the risk clearly increases with duration of therapy,” says Dr. Rodgers.

Your new strategy: When you feel the fire, first try to extinguish it with Zantac 150 or Pepcid AC. Both of these OTC products work by blocking histamine from stimulating the stomach cells that produce acid. Just know that neither drug is a long-term fix.

“To really cure the problem, lose weight,” says Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and co-author of “YOU: The Owner’s Manual.” That’s because when you’re overweight, excess belly fat puts pressure on and changes the angle of your esophagus, pulling open the valve that’s supposed to prevent stomach-acid leaks. This in turn makes it easier for that burning sensation to travel up into your chest. 

Visine Original
What possible harm to your peepers could come from these seemingly innocuous eyedrops? “Visine gets the red out, but it does so by shrinking blood vessels, just like Afrin shrinks the vessels in your nose,” says Thomas Steinemann, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Overuse of the active ingredient tetrahydrozoline can perpetuate the vessel dilating-and-constricting cycle and may cause even more redness.

Your new strategy: If you still want to rely on Visine, at least make sure you don’t use too many drops per dose and you don’t use the stuff for more than 3 or 4 days. But you’d really be better off figuring out the underlying cause of the redness and treating that instead. If it’s dryness, use preservative-free artificial tears, recommends Dr. Steinemann. Visine Pure Tears Portables is a good choice for moisture minus side effects. On the other hand, if your eyes are itchy and red because of allergies, pick up OTC antiallergy drops, such as Zaditor. It contains an antihistamine to interrupt the allergic response but no vasoconstrictor to cause rebound redness.

Pseudoephedrine
Forget that this decongestant can be turned into methamphetamine. People with heart disease or hypertension should watch out for any legitimate drug that contains pseudoephedrine. See, pseudoephedrine doesn’t just constrict the blood vessels in your nose and sinuses; it can also raise blood pressure and heart rate, setting the stage for vascular catastrophe. Over the years, pseudoephedrine has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. “Pseudoephedrine can also worsen symptoms of benign prostate disease and glaucoma,” says Dr. Rodgers.

Your new strategy: Other OTC oral nasal decongestants can contain phenylephrine, which has a safety profile similar to pseudoephedrine’s. A 2007 review didn’t find enough evidence that phenylephrine was effective. Our advice: Avoid meds altogether and clear your nasal passages with a neti pot, the strangely named system that allows you to flush your sinuses with saline ($15, sinucleanse.com). University of Wisconsin researchers found that people who used a neti pot felt their congestion and head pain improve by as much as 57 percent. Granted, the flushing sensation is odd at first, but give it a chance. Dr. Roizen did: “I do it every day after I brush my teeth,” he says.

© 2008 Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24777955/from/ET/


 

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June 27, 2008 Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know | , | 3 Comments

Get Your Greens On! The Wonders of the Green Smoothie…

Summer is here and the greens are fresh!There is a quick and easy way to get in your greens in addition to salads and side dishes, the deliciously raw and nutrient packed Green Smoothie!Now I am lucky to have had a taste and craving for all veggies, including the bitterness of greens all of my life but many people aren’t so lucky.Because of diets so heavily comprised of sugars in various forms, most people crave sugars and they don’t really relish or crave the taste of greens. The simple brilliance and attraction of the green smoothie is that you blend a bunch of greens along with a healthy serving or two of fruit, and the sweet taste of the fruit makes it palatable.You can take in all the healthy nutrients of raw greens and it tastes good.Now for those of you who are happy to have your greens in a salad and cooked as side dishes, you may be wondering…

Why is it healthier to eat our greens raw and why, for the love of god, is it necessary to blend them into green mush?

One reason is that the smoothie allows us to be able to take in a larger amount of greens than we could normally sit down and eat in the form of a salad.In my acupuncture practice, I see many people who suffer from constipation and who at one point or another were told that they need to eat more roughage, a.k.a. greens. Plant cell walls are made of a tough material called cellulose. Cellulose is not digestible so it is this part of the plant cell that can be helpful in moving things through our digestive tract. Unfortunately for many people who cannot digest and eliminate normally, adding more difficult to digest roughage just continues to clog up the pipes resulting in more gas and bloating and not the desired outcome.Another issue with cellulose is that in order to get the nutrients that are inside the plant cells we have to either cook the plants or do some serious chewing.Cooking the greens, while making them more digestible, also breaks down some of the enzymes and nutrients that are so beneficial for us to take in, and we often do not chew raw greens enough to break apart the cellulose and get the full benefit of their nutrients.Sticking a bunch of greens in a blender or Vitamix blows apart those cell walls, does not damage anything inside of them with heat, and saves our jaws from a lot of unnecessary work.The hard work is done by the blender but the fiber is retained, so the green smoothie should be much more effective than solely gnawing on salad greens to help you get nutrients and help you poop.

Onto the nutrients…

The green parts of vegetables such as carrots and beets have a much higher nutritional content than their roots which are mostly sugarAfter consuming green smoothies for a while, you may find that cravings for sugar and other heavier proteins, fats, and salt decrease because you will be taking in more nutrients to naturally balance out your diet.Taking in less sugar reduces cravings for sugar, many greens such as beet greens, celery, kale, and chard naturally contain a healthy 3:1 ratio of potassium to sodium so you should crave less salt, and greens in their raw form provide you with essential amino acids or protein so meat and animal product cravings may decrease as well.Most greens mentioned in this article contain anywhere from 50-100+% of the RDA of folic acid, B vitamins, Vitamins A, C, K, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and the 9 essential amino acids.

The importance of amino acids.

Amino acids make up neurotransmitterswhich govern emotions, moods, behavior, and sleep. You do get essential amino acids from meat, and incidentally, I am a carnivore, but as a responsible carnivore, I need to let you know that the amino acids in animal protein are part of complex proteins that are difficult to break down by the body while the amino acids in greens are individually available and therefore easy to use in the body.So it is important for meat eaters like myself to round out their diet with greens, and it is important for vegetarians to eat their greens, especially if they notice mood instability and sleep problems.

And the final magic ingredient is…Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is the green color in leaves and is responsible for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process where plants use the energy of the sun plus carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) to make food for themselves, and oxygen for us.Chlorophyll is similar in structure to red blood cells, it is a ring-shaped molecule surrounding a central atom. The difference is that In red blood cells the atom is iron, and in chlorophyll the atom is magnesium.The similarity is that the ring in both molecules serves to attract oxygen atoms so both red blood cells and chlorophyll have the ability to carry oxygen in our bodies.The presence of oxygen keeps our bodies in optimum health by maintaining the proper pH of the blood, we want our blood to be relatively more alkaline than acidic.

Converting glucose into energy is an aerobic process in the body meaning it requires the presence of oxygen.If oxygen is not available, we do have a back-up plan to make energy anaerobically (without oxygen) but the result of this reaction is lactic acid.Lactic acid is familiar to us as the substance that causes pain as a result of strenuous exercise.Having lactic acid build-up sporadically from strenuous exercise is normal, but continuous lactic acid formation in the day-to-day due to lack of oxygen is not normal and lowers pH making the blood more acidic.Low pH disrupts normal cell division and abnormal or uncontrolled cell division can lead to cancer conditions.

Now of course we do not go straight from low blood pH to cancer.I am not meaning to be alarmist and to stress people out, especially since stress also lowers blood pH.We do have safety mechanisms for when our blood is too acidic, one of the main ones being that alkalizing minerals such as calcium and magnesium are leached from the bones.While this is a safety mechanism, you can logically deduce that leaching minerals from bones and not having them available for other important functions could cause other problems.

In conclusion

So, fresh raw greens blended into a smoothie are a great source of fiber to help the intestine move smoothly, are full of nutrients that can help curb unhealthy food cravings, and are a great source of chlorophyll and other minerals and nutrients that serve to keep our bodies oxygenated and alkaline.

Scroll down or look under Recipes for Green Smoothie recipes.

I owe a special thanks to a good friend of mine for introducing me to the green smoothie.Adrienne Martin of Abundant Living, is a Wellness Counselor, an Acupuncturist, certified Raw Food Chef and all around fabulous person.You can watch her make a green smoothie on her youtube tv show, Abundant Living Today, http://www.youtube.com/abundantlivingtoday.

 

Sources:

Green For Life, Victoria Boutenko

Healing With Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford

http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/chlorophyll/chlorophyll_h.htm

June 27, 2008 Posted by | health info you should know, nutrition | , , | 1 Comment

Green Smoothie Recipe

Green Smoothie Recipe

Basics of the recipe:

  • Work up to using a large handful of greens meaning approximately half of blender but you can start with the amount that you can stand
  • Add fruit, a banana plus 1-3 more
  • Water, very important, fill halfway to the level of the greens and fruit
  • Vitamix – choose a medium setting and throw everything in
  • Blender – best to core your apples, cut up your fruit, chop your greens, blend on low 1 min. and high for 1-2 minutes going for a pureed consistency
  • Add orange juice as part of your water amount or agave for additional sweetness

#1The Starter Kit

Large handful spinach or flat leaf parsley or combo of both

1 cup frozen or fresh berries

1 banana

1 orange

1 kiwi

Water/o.j. and splash agave

#2Movin’ On Up

Large handful of chard or kale or combo of both

1 banana

1 apple

8 mint leaves (optional but recommended for tastiness)

Water, splash agave

#3Master of the Green

Large handful +of any not so bitter green

1 banana

Water

Goal is to get up to a quart/day.You can bring it with you to sip on through the day, which is a great use of a travel coffee mug.Tastes best when made fresh daily but is rumored to keep for several days.  Feel free to contact me by email or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cristi-DeMarco-Acupuncture-Kingfield-ME/100192136726487?ref=hl) with any questions about recipes or if you come up with a super yummy one of your own!

June 27, 2008 Posted by | health info you should know, nutrition, recipes | , , | 1 Comment

Plastic?!?!

Plastic, in particular, some of the chemicals that may leach out of the plastic, has been getting some press lately. The two elements of most concern are BPA or bisphenol A and phthalates. I have read articles in US News, Discover, and Time magazines, and on internet sites such as the National Geographic sponsored greenguide.com and Environmental Working Group, ewg.com. Being 5 months pregnant, I have been paying attention because the one area of consensus I can see is that these chemicals are most harmful to the unborn or infant child.

BPA is known to mimic estrogen and leaches into food from such sources as the can liner in canned foods or soda, and from clear plastic bottles such as the popular Nalgene brand. There are 6 different phthalates and 3 of them, DEHP, DBP, BBP, are known to be anti-androgenic (anti-male hormone) and thought to cause reproductive damage, while the other 3, DINP, DIDP, DNOP are thought to cause liver damage. There is also talk of phthalates contributing to asthma and allergies. Phthalates are used to soften plastics and are found in fragranced cosmetics, nail polish, plastic items for children such as pacifiers, and vinyl products such as gloves and building materials. Phthalates are also found in PVC alongside vinyl chloride which is a known carcinogen.

Due to the known hormone activity of both BPA and phthalates and evidence from animal studies, these substances are thought to be the cause of observed reproductive damage in babies. The idea is that the concentration of these toxins may not be enough to harm older children and adults but may be enough to cause harm in the developing fetus or infant. Though long-term effects of these toxins on humans remain to be researched and seen.

So for now, what can we do to address this issue without becoming completely obsessed and denouncing all that is plastic? Even if you are not expecting, or have young children, you probably know someone who is or does. There is also the possibility that future research may show evidence that these toxins are harmful to all of us. Why wait? Here are some recommendations for reducing exposure to BPA and phthalates without going too crazy. Please follow and pass on. For more information please check the resources mentioned above. Another great resource for parents is http://www.safemama.com, though visiting this site does carry a slight risk of pushing them over the edge.

1. Plastics labeled #1,2,4,5 are generally better at not leaching out chemicals, try to avoid #3,6,7.

2. Avoid plastics labeled as vinyl or PVC, these are #3 and smell like a new shower curtain or liner. Note: I have not at this time figured out an alternative to my plastic shower liner.

3. For the kiddies – choose glass baby bottles or other non-polycarbonates, words to look for are polyethylene for bottle inserts or #5 polypropylene bottles which are colored instead of clear. Avoid toys, teething items, and anything that goes in the mouth that contain vinyl or PVC as in recommendation number 2.

4. Do not microwave food with plastic wrap or in plastic containers. Yes, microwaving a plastic baby bottle IS a double whammy.

5. Do not re-use plastic water bottles. It is better for the environment to avoid them altogether if you have access to clean water. If you have a re-usable plastic water bottle (#7) like a Nalgene, wash it by hand instead of dishwasher to avoid degrading the plastic.

6. Avoid canned food and soda.

7. Choose fragrance-free products, must say fragrance- free not unscented.

When it comes to our health and the health of the planet, small changes make a big difference. What can you change today?

May 29, 2008 Posted by | consumer products, environment, health info you should know | , , | 1 Comment

Hello World!

For those who know me, and those who don’t, I am passionate about my career path as an acupuncturist, herbalist, craniosacral therapist, and general health and wellness-ist. I love to teach people and talk to people about what I do, and about what they can do in their lives to easily achieve their goals related to health. In subsequent posts, I expect to cover topics related to my professional training in acupuncture, chinese herbal medicine, and craniosacral therapy as well as nutritional and environmental concerns and whatever else I am thinking about and researching at the moment. I welcome topic-related comments and will always be ready to reveal where I gather fuel for my self-proclaimed informed ideas and suggestions.

When it comes to our health and the health of the planet, small changes make a big difference. What can you change today?

May 29, 2008 Posted by | health info you should know | | Comments Off on Hello World!