Toxoplasmosis

My family and I got some surprising news about our cat Domino this week.  You may remember I wrote a few weeks ago that she was sick with pneumonia.  The vet treated her with rounds of two different antibiotics and the pneumonia just wasn’t clearing up.

We were wondering if she might have a lung tumor causing the pneumonia not to get better as expected.  Then Dr. Kontur said “Let me do one more test.”

Turns out, the test came back “screaming” positive!

Domino has toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis is an intestinal infection with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that is found in some animals including cats.  Dr. Kontur tells me it usually affects young cats and older cats with asthma (like Domino) and can cause pneumonia.  Treating the infection requires antibiotics and hopefully it will clear up easily.

So why am I writing about toxoplasmosis today?  Because Toxoplasma can infect humans too.  Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted from animal feces, soil or sand contaminated with animal feces, and by eating raw or undercooked meat or seafood.

Most people who get toxoplasmosis from their cats or any other source have no symptoms at all.  In addition, those who do get sick generally just get flulike symptoms (headache, fever, body aches and fatigue).  Healthy people are at little or no risk of long-term harm from toxoplasmosis.

Who IS at risk?  Pregnant women and those whose immune systems are not normal are most at risk.  People with HIV infection, inherited immune deficiencies, or receiving chemotherapy for organ transplant, cancer or autoimmune diseases are at risk.

Pregnancy is definitely not much of a concern for me, my childbearing days are done.  However, I do have a cancer patient in my house.  As many of you know, my husband was diagnosed over 6 years ago with multiple myeloma.  As a result, we are very conscious of infection risk where he is concerned.

If you or someone you know is at risk for toxoplasmosis, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  • Clean out your cat’s litter box every day.  It takes 1-5 days for Toxoplasma organisms to become contagious after passing in the cat’s stool.
  • If possible, have someone who is NOT pregnant and is NOT immune compromised clean the litter box.
  • Fully cook meats and seafoods before eating them.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after gardening and after cleaning a cat litter box.
  • If your kids have an outdoor sandbox, keep it securely covered to keep feral cats and other animals out of it.

For healthy people toxoplasmosis is not generally a serious health problem.  However, it can cause pregnant women to miscarry their babies and can cause infection in the unborn baby.  In additon, people with immune suppression can develop breathing problems, neurologic problems like seizures, and can affect the eyes and vision as well.

We are so blessed that Dr. Kontur discovered Domino’s toxoplasmosis infection!  Here’s hoping her infection clears up quickly and easily (although she HATES being force-fed pills).  And clearing up Domino’s infection will help protect Russ from any possibility of infection in the future.

If you’re looking for a new vet for your four-legged family member, please give Dr. Kontur a call at Summit Animal Hospital in Northfield.  She rocks!

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How To Get Kids To Swallow Pills

It seems like more and more, I’m seeing older children and teenagers, fully adult-sized patients, who refuse to take medication in tablet form.  “I can’t swallow pills.”  “They make me gag.”  “I’m going to choke.”  I talk a lot with parents about how to get kids to swallow pills.

The problem with older kids and adults that won’t take pills is that a ten-day course of antibiotics for an adult can be quite a lot of liquid.  Some medications just aren’t made in a liquid because they aren’t meant for children, and sometimes they can’t be crushed or cut into pieces to make them easier to swallow.

Before we go into how to work with your kids to help them achieve this adult skill, I want to be very clear on how we use words.  I hear “I can’t” a lot, both from patients and parents.  If your child is eating solid food, he or she CAN swallow pills.  It is physically possible to do so.  A single bite of food is MUCH larger than any tablet that is made to be swallowed intact.

So what is the problem?  Your child (and maybe you as well) has bought into a self-limiting belief.  They BELIEVE that they are unable to swallow pills and if they try, something unpleasant will happen.  Maybe they half-swallowed a piece of hard candy once and had a choking sensation that scared them.  Maybe they DID swallow a piece of ice from their drink or a piece of hard food they didn’t chew well, and it hurt a little going down.  Whatever the reason, they firmly believe that swallowing something intact will hurt.

Your job as their parent is to help them prove to themselves that they CAN swallow it and it WON’T hurt.

How do we do that?  Candy to the rescue!  (Yes, you read that right, Dr. Jen is actually advocating you giving candy to your child.  In this instance, though, the candy isn’t candy but a training tool and a necessary evil, LOL!)

Start with a small package of really tiny candies.  Some examples are Tic-Tacs, M&M Minis, and Mini SweeTARTs.  You know your child, what would they like?  It just has to be really small.  Get one small package and tell your child if they are able to swallow the first (insert small number, like 3 or 5 or 10) whole, they can have the rest of the package to eat.  Use milk or juice to wash the candy piece down.  Watch them to make sure they don’t chew them first (and if they do, that’s OK, it just doesn’t count) and apply liberal amounts of praises and atta-boy/girl.

Gradually work up to larger and larger pieces of candy until they are able to swallow pieces as large as an average medicine tablet.  Examples are Skittles, plain M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces.  Once they are able to confidently swallow these, they should be ready for an ibuprofen or acetaminophen tablet in case of a headache or minor injury.  Be sure to use the correct weight-and-age-based dose for your child.

Also, since children’s supplements are usually formulated to be chewable and to taste good, they often contain sweeteners and flavors that really aren’t good for your child.  Not to mention that they are EXPENSIVE!  I recommend to parents that they move their child to a high-quality adult supplement as soon as they are able.

I started my children learning to swallow pills when they were five years old.  The first pill they took was Shaklee’s Optiflora probiotic, which is so tiny that if you drop it, you won’t find it again unless your flooring is really dark:

Shaklee OptiFlora

After the probiotic we moved on to Shaklee’s OmegaGuard which is also small.  (Plug for those of you who don’t like fish oil because they’re horse pills – OmegaGuard is little!)

Shaklee’s OmegaGuard

And now both my boys, at 15 and 10, take Shaklee’s Vitalizer Men.  I laugh when people ask me what I’m feeding my 6’2″ teenager who has sprouted up about 8 inches in the last 2 years.  He’s my Shaklee kid!

Shaklee’s Vitalizer Men

Your child CAN take pills, if he or she is able to swallow solid food.  It is physically possible.  It’s your job to help him or her past the fear and get the confidence to learn this adult skill.  Like so much of parenting, it just takes patience, persistence and lots of positive reinforcement.

They can do it!  And so can you 🙂

QUESTION: How did you help your kids learn to swallow pills?  Do you have a child that can’t or won’t do it yet?

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What Are The Health Benefits Of Having Pets?

My cat is sick.  She has been coughing for a few weeks, which is unusual for cats.  Yesterday I took her to the doctor and found out she has asthma (I didn’t know cat asthma was a thing…) and pneumonia.  Yesterday I started her on her medicine and she already seems to be feeling better.

Because my cat has been on my mind this week, I got to thinking about how much better my life is because she (and her sister) are in it.  I started to wonder if people with pets are healthier than those who don’t have companion animals.  What are the health benefits of having pets?

There was an interesting article in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine that explored this very topic.  I learned a new word – ZOOEYIA – which is the term for pets’ benefit to human health.

Turns out there is a huge amount of research of all different types of studies that supports the benefits of having pets on human health.  Pet ownership is pretty widespread.  It is estimated that 68% of us in North America, including over three quarters of all children, have at least one pet in their home.  (Here’s a sad fact – children are more likely to live with a pet than with their biological father or with a sibling.  That’s a topic for another day.)

There are four main ways pets benefit our health.

Builders of Social Capital

Having pets enhance feelings of happiness and belongings and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.  As I’m sitting here my cat is trying to climb into my lap (never mind that the computer I’m trying to use to write this post is already in my lap!) and get my attention.

Pets tend to decrease the impact of stressful events on our health.  Medicare patients that have pets see the doctor less often and have lower medical costs.

Harm Reduction

Having a pet is a great way to motivate someone to reduce their harmful behaviors.  One good example is cigarette smoking.  Cigarette smoke is harmful for cats and dogs just as it is for humans.

Many people who aren’t motivated to quit smoking for their own health are more willing to tackle smoking cessation for the benefit of a beloved pet.

Motivators of Change

I can’t tell you how often when I ask about exercise that patients say they walk the dog every day.  Hooray!  Your pup is making you healthier!  Kids with dogs are more physically active than kids who don’t have dogs.  Dogs are a great exercise “buddy” and are always up for a good brisk walk.

Participants in Treatment Plans

Having a pet can directly impact your health in a positive way.  There was a study published where a pet was better than a pill at controlling high blood pressure in response to a stressful life event.  Patients with mental health problems like anxiety and depression respond well to pets.

Having pets isn’t completely without risks.  Some pets can transmit so-called zoonotic diseases to humans.  People, especially small children, are at risk of being injured by animals.  And pet owners can take on a large financial burden if a beloved pet falls sick and needs expensive treatments.

All in all, however, having companion animals in your life enriches your life and helps improve your health.  If you choose to add a new furry or feathered family member, please consider adopting rather than buying from a pet store or breeder.  Most shelters have cats and dogs, of course, but many also have rabbits and reptiles and other species available for adoption.

QUESTION: Do you have pets?  Do you feel they improve your health?

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Treat Yourself Like Your Best Friend

My patient Anna was in the office today and she shared with me that a few weeks ago she was feeling poorly.  She was on vacation and had a day where she really didn’t feel well.  On further questioning and on exam it was obvious that her symptoms could have signaled a serious problem.

She took some OTC meds and rested, but didn’t seek medical care.

The problem is that medical professionals work very hard to teach people about what symptoms they should watch for and what symptoms may signal a serious problem.  For instance, suppose you twist your ankle and can’t walk on it AT ALL and it is obviously deformed? You would need to see the doctor ASAP to have it checked.

What if Anna’s best friend had been on vacation with her and had the exact same symptoms she was experiencing? She wouldn’t have thought twice about taking her friend to the emergency room to be checked out.  But because it was her own symptoms, she minimized them and chose not to seek care.

Why do we DO that?!  I’m not exempting myself from this sense of frustration.  This time last year I worked almost a whole day in the office with worsening abdominal pain that turned out to be appendicitis (see this post for more information).

We can easily minimize symptoms of illness or injury. Sometimes we don’t want to inconvenience others.  Also, nobody WANTS to be sick or hurt.  However, ignoring symptoms of illness can be very dangerous.  Illnesses are often easier to treat if they are caught early.

How do you know if you should see the doctor if you’re sick or hurt?  My best advice is to treat yourself like your best friend.  Look at your situation as if your best friend was feeling this way.  If you would take your friend to the emergency room or to the doctor, then you should go.

Many people die every year because they think their chest pain is heartburn.  Even though they KNOW chest pain can be heart pain.  Or they convince themselves the severe headache is just sinus trouble. The dizziness and numbness is just a pinched nerve.

YOU are important!  YOU deserve to be treated with care and respect, and have your symptoms taken seriously.  Especially by YOURSELF.  Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.  You deserve it!

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How To Exercise In The Heat

Summer is finally here, for real!  We’ve had some really hot days over the last few weeks and workouts have been a challenge for me.  The heat just really seems to sap all your energy and leave you a soggy, sweaty mess with half your workout left to complete.

Credit: physiqueft.co.uk

You can get amazing workouts in the summer but, like when it’s super-cold, it takes more planning.  Here are 3 tips to help you safely exercise in the heat.

Work Out Indoors

I know, I know, it’s beautiful and you want me to stay INSIDE?  No, not necessarily, but if you find yourself skimping on your runs or hikes or whatever your exercise of choice is, moving the workout indoors can help you stay a little more comfortable so you can push yourself a little more.

If you’re a runner, give the treadmill a try, or do some cross-training in the weight room.  It’s only for a few weeks until the weather cools off.

Work Out Early Or Late

If you absolutely MUST work out outdoors (for instance if you’re like me and take your life in your hands trying to run on a treadmill, LOL!) shift your workouts to early mornings or late in the evenings when it’s cooler and the humidity is lower.

I personally LOVE running early in the morning.  It’s quiet, you have the trail to yourself and you can enjoy the rest of your day knowing you’ve done good for your body.

Stay Hydrated

If you play a sport like baseball or soccer where you don’t get to pick your workout times or where you practice, the key is staying hydrated.  Drink copious amounts of water to replace what you lose by sweating.  Watch for symptoms of dehydration like dizziness, muscle cramps and nausea.

If you play a sport where you sweat a lot in the heat, consider using an electrolyte replacement drink.  Electrolyte replacement drinks maintain better blood glucose levels than water alone, and also replace salts and minerals lost in sweat.

Be careful which electrolyte replacement drink you choose.  Many of them have artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners (yuck) that definitely don’t contribute to health or optimal sports performance.

I recommend Shaklee’s Performance which has been proven to hydrate better than water alone, is completely free of artificial ingredients, and was developed for NASA to keep the astronauts well-hydrated in space.

Through the end of July, Shaklee is running a summer athlete special on Performance.  When you buy 3 canisters of Performance (or Physique, Shaklee’s muscle recovery shake) you get 3 canisters at 50% off.  If you’re interested in this promotion please let me know – it’s only open to members but I can make some magic happen if you’d like to take advantage of it 🙂

If you’re struggling to get your workouts in because of hot weather, there are a few ways to make them safer and more comfortable.  Change up the time and/or place you work out.  Stay well hydrated, and consider adding a good electrolyte replacement to keep your stamina up.

We’ve got quite a bit of summer left!  Get out there and have fun 🙂

QUESTION: Are you having trouble getting your exercise in the hot weather?

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Shingles

You’re a woman in your mid-forties, generally healthy but under some stress with work and your family.  Going about your business every day as usual, you wake up one morning with the right side of your neck feeling stiff and sore.  No worries, probably just slept wrong, right?

Nope.  As the day goes on the pain gets worse.  Then the outer side of your shoulder starts to hurt, and the pain spreads into your upper back and then into the upper chest, which makes you a little nervous.  That evening you find what looks like an insect bite on your back.

After a restless, uncomfortable night in which Tylenol and Motrin are of NO help at all, you get up the next morning and find this:

Credit: www.zostavax.ca

You’ve got shingles.  And you’re miserable.

So what is shingles anyway?  Shingles, known as herpes zoster, is an illness caused by latent chickenpox virus.  Chickenpox is a herpesvirus, like the viruses that cause genital herpes, cold sores and infectious mono.  When a chickenpox infection clears up, the virus doesn’t go away completely but lies dormant in the cells of a particular part of the spinal cord.

When you’re under stress, sleep deprived or nutritionally depleted, or your immune system is depressed for any other reason (like old age or chemotherapy), the virus can reactivate.

Shingles is found on one side of the body, in a stripe of skin that is served by one or two spinal cord levels.  This is what’s known as a “dermatomal distribution.”  In the picture above, the affected skin is all served by one spinal nerve.  This is the nerve that is sick and being attacked by the reactivated chickenpox/shingles virus.

Shingles hurts.  It is a burning, electric pain.  The combination of pain and a blistering rash should make any medical person think of herpes and specifically shingles.  There’s no test needed to make the diagnosis of shingles, it is based on symptoms and the presence of a typical rash.  Sometimes if the rash is located in the area of the body covered by a pair of shorts, a culture needs to be done to distinguish shingles from genital herpes, because the treatment is different.

Treatment for shingles consists of a week of antiviral medicine to stop the virus from replicating.  Unfortunately, stopping the virus doesn’t make the rash or pain go away – they will slowly subside over several weeks.  We don’t have good treatment to relieve the pain of shingles.  Narcotics don’t work, and medication that relieves nerve pain can be very sedating in the doses needed to relieve the pain of a shingles outbreak.

Is shingles contagious?  In general the answer is no.  If someone who has never had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it touches the shingles rash, they can catch chickenpox.  Keeping the rash covered is all that is needed to protect loved ones if they are not immune to chickenpox.

We have a vaccine to decrease the risk of shingles, called Zostavax.  It is given at age 60 or thereabouts to adults who have had chickenpox.  If you have had shingles, you still benefit from the vaccine to boost your immunity.  If you are in your 60s and haven’t had the vaccine, talk to your doctor about whether this vaccine is right for you.

One of the biggest benefits of the shingles vaccine is that it really decreases the risk of permanent nerve pain after a shingles outbreak.  Yes, that’s right, this severe electric burning pain can be permanent.  This is called postherpetic neuralgia and it is a horrible problem that is so difficult to treat.  Much better to prevent it.

It is estimated that at least 25% of adults will have had shingles by the time they reach age 85.  YOU can decrease your risk of this terrible disease that can leave you in permanent pain.  Ask your doctor about the vaccine.

If you get shingles, what can you do to help it heal as quickly as possible?  The first thing to do is see your doctor as quickly as you can.  If you can’t see your doctor within 48 hours, go to the urgent care, because the antiviral medicine needs to be started within 48 hours of the rash starting.

As with other illnesses, you want to do everything possible to support your immune system.  This means getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy food and drinking plenty of fluids.  In addition, there is evidence that micronutrient deficiencies play a role in not only shingles outbreaks but in increasing the risk of postherpetic neuralgia, particularly zinc, calcium and vitamin C.  So taking a high-quality multivitamin is a good idea.

Shingles is common, it is serious and can have severe long-term consequences.  Recognizing it, getting it treated quickly, and taking steps to prevent it are important ways to protect your health from this major medical problem.

QUESTION: Have you or a family member had shingles?  What was your experience?

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The Importance Of Healthy Teeth

This week I saw a patient, Caroline, for a general physical.  She has some chronic health problems and only rates her health as “fair.”  As part of a routine physical I always ask about dental care.  Because she is on a limited income, she does not see the dentist regularly.

Is that important?  If you don’t have dental insurance, is it OK to skip your cleanings?  What is the importance of healthy teeth and gums?

Because I’m writing about this, I think you can guess my opinion!  It’s very important to keep your teeth and gums healthy.  I’d like to review what happens when you don’t take good care of your teeth.  What are the risks to your health?

When you don’t brush and floss regularly, plaque builds up on the teeth.  What’s plaque?  It is actually a biofilm of sticky bacteria on the surface of the teeth which extends under the edge of the gum.  It is removed when you brush with toothpaste, but builds up again over 12-24 hours.

If you look at the cuticle of your fingernail and push on it a little, you can see that there is a little space under the cuticle above the nail.  There is a similar space between your tooth and the gum.  Normally the space is very small and your toothbrush gets in there and cleans it out when you brush.

If you don’t brush regularly and the plaque builds up, your body mounts a local inflammatory reaction to protect your gum tissues from the bacteria in the biofilm.  The inflammation, over time, weakens the connection between the tooth and the gum.  The attachment point gets weaker and the gum gradually separates away from the tooth surface, causing formation of a pocket.  Food particles can get trapped and it is difficult for toothbrush bristles to get down in there and clear everything out.

Regular dental cleanings and exams to look for gum redness, swelling, easy bleeding and pocket formation are needed to identify problems early and get your gums back in good shape.  If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis.  Severe cases can require surgery, tissue grafts and sometimes lead to tooth loss, bone loss, and abscesses.

Okay, Dr. Jen, but so what?  So I don’t have healthy teeth.  Why is that so important for the rest of me?

It turns out that the inflammation of chronic gum disease has a big impact on the health of the rest of your body.  I did a quick PubMed search and there have been an absolute wealth of studies published exploring the link between periodontal disease and various medical illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Without fail, it has been shown that better dental and gum/periodontal health results in better overall health.  Period.

So if you are one of those people who hates the dental chair, please explore the options to get more comfortable with regular cleanings.  Shop around and find a dentist and hygienist that you really like.  Some dentists will provide mild sedation for those who are really super anxious.

My hygienist, Barb, knows I don’t like getting scraped.  She cheerfully carries on a one-sided conversation while I’ve got a handful of instruments stuffed in my mouth and can only grunt in response, LOL!  While I don’t necessarily love the process, I do love having healthy teeth and gums and I know it’s a necessary thing.  Sort of like getting Pap tests, mammograms and colonoscopies to check for problems.  Uncomfortable but necessary for routine maintenance of your body.

It is very important for you to brush and floss regularly and see the dentist every 6 months for cleanings and checkups.  The health of your whole body depends on you having healthy teeth and gums!

PS – If you don’t have dental insurance I would recommend you check out the CWRU School of Dental Medicine’s student clinic.  They see both adults and children and provide extremely thorough care at reasonable rates.  When I was a student I used that clinic as I didn’t have dental insurance, and I can personally vouch for their excellent care!

QUESTION: Do you see the dentist twice a year?  If not, why not?

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What Is Lyme Disease?

It’s summertime!  Everyone is outside walking, hiking, camping and doing yardwork.  Every year at this time we start getting calls and appointments because people find ticks on themselves, their children, their family/friends/acquaintances/perfect strangers and their pets.  Finding a tick immediately makes people think of Lyme disease.  What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection that causes pretty significant symptoms.  There has been a lot of buzz lately about so-called Chronic Lyme Disease and many people with chronic joint pain and fatigue (VERY common symptoms) are concerned they may have Chronic Lyme Disease.

Transmission

Lyme disease is caused by infection with a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.  The deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, transmits the infection when it bites a human and takes a blood meal.  Most of the time the tick must be attached to the host for 36-48 hours in order to spread the infection.

Credit: www.co.ontario.ny.us

Lyme disease can also be transmitted by the bites of immature ticks called nymphs.  Nymphs are less than 2 mm in size, much smaller than the adult tick pictured above, and difficult to see.  Just because you haven’t found a tick attached to your body doesn’t mean you can’t have Lyme disease!

Symptoms

Lyme disease causes flulike symptoms and a rash.  Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes.  70-80% of patients will have the typical bulls-eye rash.  A small percentage of patients may have brain or nerve symptoms, like weakness of the face, burning nerve pain, severe headaches, stiff neck and problems with short-term memory.  Lyme disease can also affect the heart and cause irregular heartbeat, palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness.

Credit: www.webmd.com

Treatment

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics like doxycycline, amoxicillin and cefuroxime.  If caught and treated early, most patients will have a prompt and complete recovery.  Those who have brain or heart involvement may need to be hospitalized for IV antibiotics.  A small percentage of patients do not respond and develop long-term symptoms.  Also, those who are not diagnosed early may go on to have persistent symptoms.

Chronic Lyme Disease

Some patients who are treated appropriately with antibiotics for Lyme disease have symptoms that persist for more than 6 months.  This is commonly called chronic Lyme disease but it is more properly called “Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS).

The cause of PTLDS is not known.  There is some evidence that it may be a post-infectious autoimmune reaction similar to Guillain-Barrre after a viral or gastrointestinal infection, Reiter’s syndrome after Chlamydia infection, or rheumatic heart disease after strep throat.

PTLDS may also be due to persistent infection with Borrelia bacteria.  The research is ongoing to determine the cause and the best treatment.  Studies have NOT shown that long-term treatment with antibiotics results in better results than placebo, and long-term antibiotic therapy can have very serious adverse effects.

Most patients with PTLDS have gradual improvement of their symptoms over time.  It can take a VERY long time for symptoms to resolve completely, and sometimes they don’t go away altogether.  If this is the case, patients often get relief with treatments designed for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

If you see the rash shown above at ANY time of year, not just in the summer, see the doctor right away.  If you develop a flu-like illness with fever, headache, body aches and joint pain and swelling, ask your doctor to test you for Lyme disease.  If you had Lyme disease and were treated, but your symptoms seem to be hanging around for longer than they should, talk to your doctor about it.  He or she may be able to help, or to refer you to a rheumatologist or infectious disease specialist who can help you feel better.

QUESTION: Do you know anyone who has had Lyme disease?

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Managing Seasonal Allergies

Happy spring everybody!  The trees are green, lawnmowers are running, flowers are blooming.  People are sneezing.  Yep, allergy season is here!

Now there are plenty of medications available for seasonal allergies over-the-counter that used to require a prescription.  Antihistamines like Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin, and nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasonex can be purchased at the pharmacy.  Fewer people need to come see me to handle mild symptoms.

I’m still seeing people who are really suffering though.  Either the over-the-counter medications aren’t helping or they’re not reducing the symptoms enough to keep people comfortable.  I’ve got big-gun treatments like cortisone shots and higher-priced prescriptions, but is there anything else you can do to get your symptoms under control before seeing the doctor?

Of course there is!  (I probably wouldn’t be writing this if there weren’t, LOL!)  There are 3 more measures you can take to reduce your symptoms on your own.

1.  Ditch the fumes

Spring means spring cleaning, so many people are moving furniture, vacuuming carpet that hasn’t seen daylight in months, washing baseboards and the insides of cabinets.  What chemicals are you releasing in your house when you clean?

Pull out your cleaning supplies and read the labels.  If it says “use in a well-ventilated area” or contains bleach or ammonia, please don’t use it in your house!  Indoor air pollution from fume-forming cleaning products is a BIG problem.  Houses nowadays are much more airtight to stop energy leaks around windows and doors.  Chronic exposure to chemical fumes and scents can lead to chronic nasal and sinus congestion from the irritation.

I know this works from personal experience.  In medical training I developed what I was told was indoor allergies.  All winter I suffered with sinus congestion and occasional sinus infections.  It was worse when I spent nights in the hospital on call, and I figured that call rooms were just dusty places.  It got better in the warmer weather and I thought since the windows were open I was just not being exposed to as many indoor allergens.

When I joined Shaklee and switched my cleaning products, my indoor allergies went away!  Turns out I wasn’t allergic to dust and mold (I’m not any better at housekeeping now than I was as a medical student, LOL!) but I was reacting to the cleaning products I used.

If you’re suffering with allergy symptoms, I strongly suggest you change to nontoxic cleaning supplies.  Get rid of everything that has a scent or makes fumes.  Those of you who love scented candles and perfume and lotions, I recommend you pack them ALL up for 2 weeks and switch to unscented personal products to see if it makes a difference to your symptoms.

Shaklee has cleaning products that clean like crazy but won’t hurt you, your family, your pets, or the environment.  I encourage you to check out the Get Clean lineAll-purpose cleaning solution, disinfectant, laundry products, kitchen products, and personal care items are all available.  As always, if you don’t love them they have a money-back guarantee.

2.  Alfalfa

If switching cleaners doesn’t work, one supplement that really helps allergy symptoms is alfalfa.  Before you get really confused (thinking alfalfa is for horses and rabbits), yes, alfalfa is a very nutritious and perfectly edible salad green.  It also seems to tell the immune system that grasses and plants are safe for you!

Taking alfalfa by mouth seems to down-regulate the immune reaction to grasses and pollens (this is called oral immunotherapy).  Since 2/3 of the immune system lives in your intestines, and in THAT location it seems to be primed to ignore allergens, this response makes sense.

If you don’t want to eat a big alfalfa salad every day, Shaklee has alfalfa tablets which are produced organically.  I have customers with allergies who have been happily taking alfalfa tablets for years to control their symptoms.

3.  Food allergies

Yes, I see food allergies EVERYWHERE!  However, that’s because the symptoms that food allergies cause are everywhere too.  One of the many symptoms related to food allergies is chronic sinus congestion.

If you have switched your cleaning products and ditched scented, fume-forming products and added alfalfa and STILL have allergy congestion, you should consider a 3-week food allergen elimination diet.  The one I give my patients is found here.

Got allergies?  You’re not alone.  If nonprescription meds are not working or you’d prefer a non-pharmaceutical approach, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your symptoms before calling in the professionals 🙂

QUESTION:  Are you suffering with allergy symptoms this spring?  What are you doing about it?

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Nutrients For Fracture Healing

As many of you know, almost a week ago my husband broke both bones in his right ankle.  After a late-Sunday urgent surgery and a short overnight stay in the hospital he came home and has been keeping my couch from escaping pretty much ever since.

Since I am NOT loving the extra stress here at the start of summer, I am invested in getting his fracture healed as quickly and as well as possible.  What does the literature say about important nutrients for fracture healing?

Vitamin D

It’s no surprise that there’s been a lot of research about vitamin D and fracture.  It’s well known that calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are required for healthy bone matrix and vitamin D deficiency accelerates bone loss and osteoporosis.  It has been shown that vitamin D deficiency is more common in fracture patients, and there is preliminary evidence that vitamin D supplementation improved fracture healing.  Since in northern Ohio we can’t get any vitamin D from the sun in the winter, it makes sense to take supplemental vitamin D.

Pro-Angiogenesis Factors

In order to put down new bone matrix, the body must grow new blood vessels. This process is called angiogenesis.  There are nutrients that are known to promote the development of healthy new blood vessels and, in theory may help to speed the healing of bone fractures.  These nutrients include fish oil, antioxidants and polyphenols like resveratrol, and ginseng.

Other Nutrients

Good nutrition will support wound healing and help fractures heal properly.  From a high-quality multivitamin to trace minerals to probiotics.  Soy and zinc have also shown to be helpful in supporting healthy bone.

So what do I have my husband taking? He is taking Shaklee products, of course.  Vitalizer and Vivix, extra vitamin D and OmegaGuard and Chewable Cal Mag.  These are part of his normal supplement regimen so I don’t believe we need to make any changes at this point.

We didn’t plan on a serious fracture but it’s nice to know we are taking the right supplements to heal it if it happens.

QUESTION: Have you ever had a fracture?  Did you use supplements to help it heal?

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