Cristi DeMarco’s Wellness Weblog

Health Info You Should Know.

Acupuncture: Helping the body to heal itself

Acupuncture helps the body to heal itself.  Hmmm…that sounds nice but what does it mean?  As a proponent of complementary medicine in general and acupuncture more specifically, I try to keep up with current topics in my area of interest.  In doing this, I attempt to hold true to my holistic foundation and take it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly so I read the pro-acupuncture and con-acupuncture articles with equal interest.   One topic that generated a lot of skeptic responses was a Cochrane review of studies on acupuncture for headaches.  The review showed that acupuncture does provide a positive analgesic effect on both tension and migraine headaches.  For migraines, the conclusion states that  “Available studies suggest that acupuncture is at least as effective as, or possibly more effective than, prophylactic drug treatment, and has fewer adverse effects” and for tension headaches “acupuncture could be a valuable non-pharmacological tool in patients with frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches”.  For those of us who practice and/or benefit from acupuncture treatments, we take this news and say, great, we knew it, let’s move on.

For those people who would rather waste their time proving how something doesn’t work than on finding something that does work,  a juicy little point for debate is how it is unclear from these trials whether the specific placement of the needles makes for a better outcome of the treatment.  In order for clinical trials to be legit, there needs to be an experimental group and a control group.  In some cases the control group was no care or usual care and in some it was something called sham acupuncture.  Sham acupuncture involves placing needles on areas of the body that are not actual acupuncture points or are acupuncture points that would not normally be used for the condition being treated.  In the trials where sham or fake acupuncture was used, the headaches still got better.  Now, throwing around the word “fake” is all it takes for the nay-sayers to get their evidence-based medicine pants all in a bundle and denounce acupuncture as an illegitimate practice that is all in the mind, and it’s just the placebo effect.  Never mind that the peoples’ pain got better, and that these statements are a gross over-simplification of the mechanisms at work with acupuncture.

Based on my clinical practice and available research, I would say that the effects of acupuncture are a complex interaction of Chinese medical theory and various physiological responses resulting from the insertion of needles.

One point to be made is that if we claim that acupuncture stimulates the body to heal itself, and the mind and body are connected, then isn’t that what the placebo effect is?  Luckily there are researchers who are currently investigating the placebo effect as a valid treatment outcome and attempting to tease out the mechanism of the placebo effect as compared to the mechanism of acupuncture analgesia.  In a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers concluded “our study provides brain imaging evidence for the existence of different mechanisms underlying acupuncture analgesia and expectancy evoked placebo analgesia. Our results also suggest that the brain network involved in expectancy may vary under different treatment situations (verum and sham acupuncture treatment).”

Another study by the Radiological Association of North America used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)-basically taking pictures of the brain in real time- while patients experienced a pain stimulus to their ankle and then were treated with acupuncture.  The acupuncture group was  compared to a pain stimulus only group.  They concluded that pain perception was reduced and the expectation of pain was reduced.  The former might be considered by some to be the “real” effect and the latter the placebo effect but the fact is that changes in areas of the brain related to pain are occurring in relation to the acupuncture and that is real enough for me.

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March 8, 2011 Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know | , , , | Leave a comment

Joint Pain on the Brain

Joint pain and inflammation have been the talk of the town in my world lately so I thought I would share some info on dietary changes for inflammation.  Inflammation does lead to pain but may also be responsible for other conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.  Acupuncture works amazingly well for joint pain but diet also plays a big part.  Check out this handy and printable anti-inflammation food guide pyramid from Dr. Andrew Weil.

https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/anti-inflammatory-diet-pyramid/dr-weils-anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid/

For those of you who like summaries, some highlights and lowlights include:

1.  No mention of coffee on the food pyramid – oh no!

As we have gone over before, coffee is acidic and acidity is no good for inflammation.  It is also a diuretic.  Our joints want to be lubricated and smooth, not dry and creaky.  Coffee breaks down to uric acid in the body which can result in pain.  The painful arthritic condition gout which many have heard of but few understand, is a chronic or severe build-up of uric acid.  There has also been research to show that coffee may lower uric acid levels so the debate over coffee goes on.  The best thing to do with anything that you think might be causing a symptom is to cut it out for 2 weeks and see how you feel!

2.  Wine and chocolate are on there – yippee!

Specifically dark chocolate 70% pure and specifically organic red wine.  Grapes are loaded with anti-oxidants though conventional ones are also loaded with pesticides so when it comes to grapes – go organic!  Also, organic red wine contains sulfites in much lower amounts.  Sulfites can cause pain and inflammation-think migraines and possibly our nasty little foe uric acid.  Other alcohols will also raise uric acid levels and are dehydrating.

3.  Asian mushrooms only, no button or portobello – boooooo!

I love me some portobello’s baked with gorgonzola or in chicken marsala, but it’s less than monthly that I have them so I am going to keep enjoying but next time I go food shopping it’s shiitake or bust!

4.  Organic free-range grass-fed meat, dairy, eggs and Healthy Fats –  yessirree bob, I mean mr. weil!

Organic free-range grass-fed meat, dairy, eggs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have the proper ratio of omega-3’s to omega 6 fatty acids.  Common mass-produced corn-fed chicken, eggs, beef, and milk have more omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3’s and this is believed to be a factor in the inflammation leading to heart disease-artherosclerosis.  Non-animal sources of fats from nuts, seeds, and expeller-pressed oils are unsaturated so tend not to clog up the works and are essential to the health of the cells that make up our bodies.

5.  Fish and seafood-2-6 times a week, crike!

I’m not so keen on this one, does he have some magic non-polluted water he gets his fish from?  And who really eats herring, sardines, and black cod?  Pickiness on seafood aside, mercury toxicity is a legitimate concern so I’m more inclined to enjoy fish 1-2x/week and then supplement with fish oil.  I do try to get wild salmon as often as possible and find I do not get sick of it as there are a million-zillion ways to easily and deliciously prepare it.

6.  Whole and cracked grains, and even pasta – yes, he is with me, go grain!

“Whole grains digest slowly, reducing frequency of spikes in blood sugar that promote inflammation”  That’s all we have to say on that.  Well, that and cook your pasta al dente which is really the only way to eat it anyway.  See a former post “Go Grain” for  more info on this topic.

Final thoughts:

It can be overwhelming to try to incorporate all of these things into your diet at once so just try to change or incorporate one or two things at a time.   Even just starting by printing out the food guide and hanging it on your refrigerator for inspiration could be useful when it’s time to buy groceries or make a food choice.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know, nutrition, self-care | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Simple Spring Cleanse

Spring is going into summer, I promise it really is, and as allergies and other issues bloom along with the trees and flowers there is no better time than now to add and subtract some foods to detox and refresh the liver.  Many acupuncture patients ask me in an already over-whelmed and defeated way about cleanses and detoxification and while there are certainly time-consuming, costly, and involved programs I always prefer the easiest, least expensive with the least prep time and time running to the bathroom.  Going to the bathroom is good, having to run there urgently not so much.

Also, in the realm of moderation, a successful cleanse needs to be tailored to an individual’s lifestyle habits.  I have honestly never done what might be considered a “real” cleanse but I have back-up from some sources that what I do a few times a year is considered a cleanse.

Step 1: I cut out caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. This might actually be enough for some people to start.  You may want to check out an older post called “My Love/Hate Relationship With Coffee”.  When cutting the caffeine, if you drink more than 10-12oz per day (1-2 small cups of coffee), you may want to wean for a couple of days while drinking lots of water and substituting some green tea for your usual cups of coffee.  Again, slow and steady now, so cutting caffeine for two weeks or so may be enough of a cleanse for some people on a first try.

Cutting sugar and alcohol can also be difficult if you are a daily consumer/imbiber. If you are a daily chocolate, baked good, packaged food eater plan on substituting fruit and nut combos for snacks – carb and protein combos – to keep your sugar levels stable.  Plain yogurt with both fruit and nuts is a very satisfying breakfast or snack as well.  If you consume alcohol daily you may have withdrawals that are similar to sugar withdrawals so following the tips here may help.  If it’s worse than that, you’ll need to delve a little deeper and contact a healthcare provider for help.

Choose another sweetener to use in small amounts for herbal tea or on hot cereal such as agave, brown rice syrup or stevia.  You can be as addicted to sugar as anything else so it would be wise to clear your cabinets temporarily or permanently of anything that might be a temptation.  I do prefer a permanent “spring cleaning” of your cabinets.  We try to keep our cabinets clear all of the time but people visit and bring things, you buy stuff for a party or for being pre-menstrual or just because you want it, and the crap just accumulates.

Also, the purpose of doing things the moderate way is that it is not a quick, short-term thing where you ravage your body for a few days or weeks with some crazy cleanse and then go back to the usual habits.  Small steps are the simplest path to permanent change.   So, following the trail of moderation, you may wish to stop here while you try cutting caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, and if these steps are easy for you please go on.

Step 2:  I go for mostly organic fruits and vegetables, emphasis on the vegetables, little to no meat, little dairy, fill the rest in with beans and grains.  Green smoothies are a great and tasty way to help fill your belly.  The main source of dairy would be plain organic yogurt with all the wonderful digestion enhancing bacterium, try to cut out milk and cheese.  Black beans, kidney beans, lentils are easy to find and grains would be mainly my faves, brown rice, millet, quinoa.

Step 3:  Practice yoga and meditation for relaxation, and treat yourself to some systemic body work-massage, acupuncture, reflexology-to aid in the detox process.  A little TLC can do wonders for the motivation.

Whether you are sticking with Step 1 or also going for Step 2, you can use the recipes for green smoothies and basic cooking of grains can be found on this blog to assist your efforts.  The Simple Spring Cleanse  soup and lemon drink recipes are also great for cleaning out the liver, yummy, and easy to make.

Now for the final pep talk topic: Sticking with it for two weeks or more.  If your neighbor brings you some beautiful cupcakes made with love, eat ‘em!  Your grandmother’s lasagna at a family gathering is calling your name, answer the call.  If you fall off the wagon as they say, DO NOT let the dalliance be an excuse to give up.  This is the moderate way, not the easy way so be brave and hop back on.  You will have to make choices as to not completely unravel but there are no rules here.  You are just trying to be a little healthier while enjoying life so keep trying.  Making excuses  is the primary habit we ALL have to break when it comes to taking responsibility for our own health.

May 11, 2010 Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know, nutrition, recipes, self-care | , , , | 1 Comment

My Love/Hate Relationship With Coffee

Mmmm, coffee.   The smell of it in the morning is comforting and welcoming and I have always loved the taste of a good cup of coffee.  When I was little and I stayed overnight with my grandparents, I would get up early with my grandfather before he went to work for toast and coffee.  They used a stovetop percolator pot and with pre-ground, sit on the shelf, store-bought stuff, Papa made the perfect cup of coffee.  I now have that old pot, along with a larger capacity Corningware ceramic percolator, an automatic drip and an espresso pot.  I would still like to aquire a French press.  I buy beans fresh from the coffee roaster in my town and grind them myself.  Yes, some would say that I love coffee.  But, there are two sides to every story, especially a love story. 

 Too much caffeine from coffee makes my heart race, my hands shake, and forget about sleeping if I drink it after 3p.  When I have patients come in who suffer from anxiety, sleeplessness, hot flashes, and skin irritations, one of the first things I ask is how much coffee they drink.  The standard answer is 2 cups a day.   After having asked many people this question, I am not surprised to learn that the meaning and size of 2 cups a day is widely variable and often translates into 24 oz or more per day. But they always seem surprised at my suggestion to cut back some.  The caffeine amount in coffee is measured in 5 ounce servings so 24 oz. is almost 5 servings per day of a very acidic beverage and quite a bit of caffeine.  And some people definitely drink even more that. 

 So while about 300mg of caffeine in 10 oz of coffee is well tolerated in an otherwise healthy adult, 750 mg might be pushing it as far as the body’s detoxification processes can handle, and just might have some effect on sleep and nervousness since caffeine is a stimulant.  Coffee as an herb is also warming and acts as a diuretic; hot flashes and urgent, frequent urination anyone?

For the love of coffee…Research of late is revealing the anti-oxidant power of coffee and subsequent risk reduction of liver, kidney, breast, and colorectal cancers.   Short-term negative effects of coffee are an increase in blood pressure and serum cholesterol but there may be some long-term cardioprotective benefits of drinking caffeine and coffee in moderate amounts and coffee seems to lower the incidence of type-2 diabetes possibly because certain compounds in coffee lower blood glucose levels.   

And for the haters…Those who believe in a link between acidic blood chemistry and disease are all for cutting back on the café.  The ph of coffee is 5 which is acidic.  When our blood is acidic, the alkalizing minerals calcium and magnesium are leached from the bones.  This activity is not good for bone health and deficiency of these minerals is related to sleep problems, headaches and muscle spasms.   In addition, a low pH disrupts normal cell division and abnormal or uncontrolled cell division can lead to cancer conditions.  Though if coffee has anti-oxidants then one could argure that it’s basically a wash. 

So is Mother nature just doing her thing by creating the perfect balance? Are coffee lovers just trying to support and rationalize their addiction?  Are coffee haters just depriving themselves of this tasty beverage as a rebellion to the coffee gluttony?  Is the current research sponsored by Starbuck’s? 

My answer to these questions is that yes, Mother nature has provided something to us that probably is a perfect balance and that we, per usual, ruin it through greed and gluttony.  If you are drinking so much coffee that you cannot function in the morning yet cannot sleep at night then it’s time to cut back.  If not drinking coffee causes severe headaches and constipation then it’s time to cut back.   If you drink more coffee than water, it’s time to cut back.  If you have anxiety, hot flashes, and irritable bladder, it may be time to cut back.  Some people feel better when they completely cut out coffee but I prefer to change my behavior and moderate versus abstain from something I enjoy.  As for the last question, I really would be curious to see who sponsor this type of research.

 Anyway, what can we moderate, wishy-washy, non-abstainers do to continue to enjoy Mother nature’s perfection, reap the benefits of our beloved coffee, and avoid the negatives? 

  1. There is the possibility of buying de-acidified coffee or doing it yourself:    Grind one pound of coffee beans and add it to 8 cups of water in a glass bowl or large pitcher, place the mixture in a cool dark corner and allow it to soak for approximately 16 hours.  Filter the liquid extract through a coffee or fabric filter into a glass jar.  Store the sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and to make your coffee, add 1-2 T to 8 oz of hot water. (from Healing With Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford).
  2. Try the coffee holiday.  Give your body a break and go one whole day without it, then if you are really feeling crazy try a couple of days or even a week.  Pick a weekend day or other more flexible day where you can not drink coffee and then when you feel the deep fatigue or withdrawal headache coming, you can take a nap.  Depending on the severity of your addiction, you could ease into it by replacing the cup o’ joe with some green tea and definitely remember to drink lots of water.
  3. Address your exhaustion and other symptoms.  If you NEED 6 cups of coffee to get through a day (30oz) you probably also need to get more sleep and make other healthier lifestyle changes.  If you have some of the other symptoms mentioned in this article, chances are that coffee consumption is only a part of the problem so go visit your acupuncturist for some help!
  4. Buy organic, as local as possible, and invest in a grinder.  Coffee can be toxic due to chemicals involved in the cultivation and processing, and the oils go rancid quickly once it is ground.  Reduce these risks by buying organic beans from the nearest roaster.  Then grind those beans fresh as needed and you will produce a better tasting and healthier cup of coffee.  Enjoy!

Cancer Lett. 2009 May 18;277(2):121-5. Epub 2008 Oct 1
Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Feb;121(2):185-91. Epub 2008 Nov 11
Am J Cardiol. 2008 Dec 1;102(11):1502-8. Epub 2008 Sep 11.
Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Dec;33(6):1290-300
Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Dec;33(6):1269-83.
Healing With Whole Foods 3rd Edition, Paul Pitchford

August 3, 2009 Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know, nutrition, self-care | , , , , | Leave a comment

Acupuncture and Pregnancy

One of my patients had a wonderful article published about acupuncture during pregnancy, drawing on her own experience of our treatments, journal research, and discussion with me. Please follow this link to read it.

http://mothering.com/articles/pregnancy_birth/birth_preparation/acupuncture-baby.html

March 17, 2009 Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know | , , | Leave a comment

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

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.

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