Varicose Veins

Ow.  My leg hurts.  I had surgery yesterday to fix my varicose veins.

I’ve had varicose veins for over 20 years.  Every fall I keep thinking “This winter I’ll get my varicose veins fixed.”  And then every spring I think “I guess next winter I’ll get my varicose veins fixed.”

Well this year is THE year.

So therefore, my leg hurts.  Yesterday I had the first part of a two-part procedure to fix my varicose veins.  The plan is to have Part Two in 2 weeks and have my leg all healed up by summertime.

Why do we care about varicose veins?  What’s the big deal?  So my legs are lumpy-looking.  So what?

Turns out varicose veins can actually be a medical problem and not just cosmetic.  In my case, they make my leg swell and get sore and tired very easily.  If left alone for long enough, they can cause a skin condition called venous stasis dermatitis.

Stasis dermatitis happens when the veins are not functioning properly.

Credit: https://www.health-first.org

Many things cause the valves inside the veins to not work properly.  Gravity.  High estrogen levels from pregnancy.  Obesity.  Blood clots.  Connective tissue problems.  Heredity.  Whatever the reason, varicose veins have abnormal valves that allow blood to flow backwards.

The blood going in the wrong way makes the leg swell.  The blood cells are forced out by the pressure into the tissues and stain the skin with rust from the iron in the hemoglobin.  The skin can break down and any wounds are very difficult to heal.

As you can imagine, these problems are much more serious than the unattractive appearance of ropy, bulging veins.  And varicose veins tend to get worse as we age.

So what should you do if you want to avoid the problems of varicose veins and venous insufficiency?

Prevention is very helpful.  If you tend to be on your feet a lot for work, wear support stockings.  The moderate-compression stockings sold over the counter are helpful but keep in mind they need to be replaced regularly.  One key is, if you don’t have to work hard to get them on, they’re probably not tight enough.  And once they become easier to get into, they need replaced.

If you start to see ropy veins or spider veins, consider seeing your doctor for prescription stockings.  Any doctor can order them, but they need to be ordered from a pharmacy that carries home-health supplies.  You will need to be measured at the pharmacy to make sure your stockings fit you properly.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for taking care of your stockings.  For instance, do NOT wash them in fabric softener.  This will soften and stretch the fibers and make your stockings stretch out more quickly.

If you start to see the big, ropy veins, your legs swell or your legs feel tired and sore after being on your feet for extended periods, see your doctor.  It may be that surgical treatment to close off and remove the veins that aren’t working properly will help the circulation in your legs.

Varicose veins aren’t serious like a heart attack or cancer, but they can certainly impact your health and affect your quality of life.  Take steps to prevent them, and if they develop, get them checked by your doctor.

QUESTION: Do you have varicose veins?  What are you doing to take care of them?

Share

Dietary Acid and Osteoporosis

There has been a lot of talk lately about how “acidic” the Western diet is.  Meat is acidic, dairy is acidic, soda is acidic, it goes on and on!

I’ve been doing some research lately about foods that increase acid production in the body.  This doesn’t mean the foods themselves are acidic, but the processing of the nutrients in the food causes more acid to build up in the body.

Why do we care about acid in the body?  There are a lot of reasons today I’m focused on the fact that having to get rid of too much acid puts a strain on the kidneys and promotes the loss of bone matrix (leading to osteoporosis) and the formation of kidney stones.

If you have kidney problems, osteoporosis (or a family history of osteoporosis) or kidney stones, you should definitely pay close attention to how many acid-forming foods you’re eating per day.

In this post I’m going to focus on osteoporosis.  I expect I will write in the future about kidney stones as well.

It is estimated that the Western diet we eat today produces a LOT of acid, the equivalent of 4.9 grams of hydrochloric acid every day.  Our lungs and kidneys get rid of most of it, but not all of it.  Our bodies use calcium from bone to neutralize anything that is left.  Over years, this leaches the minerals from our bones and leads to osteoporosis and fractures.

Where does the acid come from?  The most acid-forming foods in the Western diet are sulfur-containing amino acids (found in large amounts in animal protein), cereal grains like wheat, phosphoric acid in soda, and salt.  Yes, I know, salt is salt and doesn’t contain acid, but it interferes with the kidneys’ ability to process acid.  Eating too much salt will cause acid to build up in the body.

Are there foods that will decrease acid production in the body?  Yep.  Diets high in magnesium, potassium, and fruits and vegetables increase bone mineral density and decrease fracture risk. You can replace animal protein with plant protein like beans, soy and quinoa.  You can also replace cereal grains with non-grain plant foods like roots, tubers, leafy green vegetables, vegetable fruit (veggies with seeds like tomatoes and cucumbers) and fruits.  These foods decrease acid production in the body.

What about supplements?  Turns out that potassium citrate and magnesium supplementation decreases bone turnover, increases bone density and decreases the amount of acid excreted in the urine.  Magnesium and potassium citrate also decreased the formation of kidney stones and even dissolved calcium oxalate stones (the most common type).  A beneficial side effect was that potassium supplementation also decreased blood pressure significantly in those with hypertension.

One BIG word of caution about potassium supplements.  PLEASE check with your doctor to see if potassium supplements would be safe for you before you start taking them.  There are medications that increase potassium levels, and as we age our kidneys get less able to manage potassium properly.  High potassium levels in the blood are VERY dangerous.  Blood test monitoring is prudent in anyone at risk for elevated potassium.

How can you see whether you’re getting too much sodium or not enough potassium?  There is a free calorie tracker at myfitnesspal.com that will give you nutrient information such as vitamin and mineral intake, calories, fat and protein grams in addition to calories.

I checked consumerlab.com for recommendations about magnesium and potassium citrate.  I found that they gave good ratings to the potassium citrate supplement from Natural Factors, the potassium-magnesium citrate supplement from Thorne Research, and the magnesium citrate supplements from Solgar, Kirkland and Spring Valley.

If you have osteoporosis or a family history of osteoporosis, you should strongly consider changing your diet to include more fruits and vegetables, roots, tubers and green leafy vegetables.  Don’t drink soda, period.  You should limit your animal protein intake (meat, dairy, egg and fish) and substitute plant sources of protein.  You should carefully monitor your sodium intake.  You should also make sure you’re getting enough potassium, and if not (most of us don’t, including me) you should consider taking a potassium citrate supplement, with magnesium citrate if you have a personal or family history of kidney stones.

QUESTION: Do you have osteoporosis?  Did anything in this post surprise you?

Share

Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

It’s summertime!  Time to play outside, hike and swim and sail and kayak and camp and do all the fun things you love to do outdoors.

Say you and your family travel to Michigan to go camping and kayaking.  You’ve spent the day playing in a beautiful meadow with your kids and as you’re changing your 3-year-old into her pajamas you find this in her armpit:

Credit: www.co.ontario.ny.us

Credit: www.co.ontario.ny.us

What do you do?  (Aside from panicking and calling the doctor, LOL.)

This is an Ixodes tick, commonly called a deer tick.  It is this species that transmits Lyme disease.  Luckily this particular tick has NOT fed from your toddler, so she is safe from Lyme disease.

What if it HAD fed and completed a blood meal?  Well, then it would look like this, with a swollen, grayish-blue abdomen:

Credit: www.pbase.com

Credit: www.pbase.com

In this case, your child would need to see the doctor to be treated with antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease.  Luckily Lyme is pretty easy to prevent.

What if you hadn’t noticed your child had a tick, if it had fed and dropped off?  Lyme disease begins with a bullseye rash that is usually easy to recognize.

Credit: www.webmd.com

Credit: www.webmd.com

Sometimes it doesn’t look exactly like this, so if you’ve been out in the woods and see a rash, it’s reasonable to see the doctor to be checked out.  Here are some other examples of how it might look.

Credit: www.bayarealyme.org

Credit: www.bayarealyme.org

Along with the rash (which happens 70-80% of the time), patients develop fever, chills, body aches and other flu-like symptoms.  This usually happens a few days to a few weeks after the tick bite.

If not treated, Lyme disease can go on to cause swollen, painful joints (especially large joints such as the knees), neurological problems such as headaches, heart problems, eye problems, and other less common symptoms.

Even though Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics, it’s much better to avoid tick bites and being infected in the first place.  If you’re going to be in the woods or in grassy areas near the woods (where ticks are likely to be found), wear long sleeves and long pants.  Tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants so ticks will have a hard time getting to your skin.

After you’ve been outside where you might have been exposed to ticks, check your clothes carefully to remove any ticks.  Wash those clothes to get rid of ticks you might have missed.  Check your body carefully, especially the scalp and any skin folds (ticks like places that are warm, moist and dark).  Check every member of the family thoroughly, including four-legged ones.  Shampoo your hair to dislodge any hitchhikers.

Since a tick must take its blood meal before it can transmit Lyme disease, you have time to find and remove it.  If a tick doesn’t come off easily, put olive oil or another cooking oil on it.  They have pores in their shells that allow them to breathe.  They will let go before they suffocate.

Cleveland itself is not considered a high-risk area for Lyme disease, but we’re not far from areas that ARE considered high-risk.

Credit: www.cdc.gov

Credit: www.cdc.gov

If you’re traveling it’s good to know how to stay safe!

QUESTION: Have you ever found a tick on yourself or a family member?

Share

Being a Healthy Family, Part 2

Last week we talked about ways to teach your kids to eat healthy and be fit.  That’s not all it takes to create a healthy family, though!

A healthy diet and physical fitness will help your kids grow up healthy in their bodies.  What else do your kids need to learn to live healthy all their lives?

I can think of two other very important things children need in order to live healthy.  First, they need to be deeply connected to others who love them.  Second, they need to know how to make (and be very good at making) healthy choices.

How do we keep our kids connected to people who love them?  We make sure they spend time with them.  The first people children connect with is their immediate family (parents and siblings).  Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins are all important role models, caretakers and playmates.

As our kids grow, neighborhood and school friends and their families become important parts of their extended families.  If your family attends church or temple, your religious community becomes an increasingly important source of support.

Why are social connections with people who love us so important?  For many reasons.  It’s exhausting raising kids!  Having more adults and older kids around to provided guidance and positive role models takes some of the pressure off of parents.  After all, a wise person said once that it takes a village to raise a child.

Hanging out with others who have the same values as your family helps to reinforce the values you are teaching your child.  While everyone has a little different approach, it’s good that your kids see other parents and adults insist on the same rules of behavior that you have taught them.  Mom and Dad aren’t so weird if Grandma, Aunt Stacy and Mrs. Cooper at Sunday School all insist on washing hands before snack and saying “please” and “thank you.”

One of the most important reasons for staying socially connected to other people as they grow up is that social connection is the anti-drug.  Studies have shown that people (teenagers and adults both) are unlikely to use drugs or engage in other dangerous and potentially self-destructive behaviors if they have deep social connections to people whose opinion of them matters to them.

This brings us to the second lesson kids need to learn well:  How to make good choices.  How do kids learn to make choices?  It sounds very strange, but THIS skill is one that really can’t be taught.  It’s one that kids have to learn on their own.

Credit: wayanadnoticeboard.com

Credit: wayanadnoticeboard.com

How do you teach your child to whistle?  You can’t, right?  You can show them how to purse their lips or position their fingers just right, but it’s a skill they have to learn by trial and error.  And you can’t convince them they can do it, you have to just encourage them to keep trying.

Learning to make good choices is the same way.  You can tell them the theory, help them see risks and benefits, weigh consequences, etc.  But the best way for kids to learn to make choices is simply to make them.  And start making them EARLY.

Do you know any kids in your life whose parents make ALL the choices?  Yep, I do too.  How do you suppose those kids are going to learn to say no to drugs, alcohol and sex?  If all the decisions have been made for them their whole life, they may be content to continue to let others tell them what to do.

Credit: galleryhip.com

Credit: galleryhip.com

Start early.  Even one-year-old babies can help choose their clothes.  Offer two outfits and see if they will pick.  Toddlers can choose their breakfasts.  Schoolkids with birthday money to spend can choose the toy or game they want to buy.  Teenagers should be actively involved in important decisions that affect them, like choosing their high school and what car they will drive.

As your child grows, the importance and freedom they have with their choices should increase in a way that matches their problem-solving skills.  For instance, toddlers don’t get to choose chocolate cake for breakfast (even if it does contain eggs and milk, LOL!).  As they get older let them deal with consequences if they regret their decision later.  That schoolkid who decides later they don’t like the toy they bought will learn a valuable lesson when they have to save up to buy something else.

There is a great parenting book series by Foster Cline and Jim Fay called Love and Logic.  Anyone struggling with the “terrible threes” should check out the early childhood book.  (I need to get the book that deals with teenagers, LOL!)

Now we come to a sticky point.  How do you teach someone something that you don’t know?  You can’t right?  So if you want your kids to learn to be healthy and adventurous eaters, YOU have to be willing to eat healthy foods and try new things, right?  If you want your kids to learn the value of physical fitness, YOU have to model a willingness to participate and get sweaty.

You are the most important teacher your child will ever have.  They listen carefully to what you say (even when it seems they won’t).  But they watch what you do as well, and what you DO speaks much more loudly than what you SAY.

Seek out opportunities to connect your family to your community.  Choose a church or temple to attend. Join groups that have the same interests as you. Volunteer.  Spend time with your extended family and with your neighbors and your kids’ friends’ families.

Show your kids how you make decisions.  Think out loud with them and talk through alternatives and possible consequences.  Be up-front with them when things don’t go as planned.  They will learn that making a bad decision doesn’t make you a bad person.

Everyone wants their kids to be happy.  In my opinion, giving your kids the skills to be healthy and fit, make solid decisions and be secure in the love of their family and community will go a long way towards making that happen.

Share

No More Antibiotics In Livestock?

Hey everybody!  I just learned something really exciting!  The FDA is proposing to ban routine use of antibiotics in livestock unless they are needed to treat infection in the animals.

Apparently, the use of certain antibiotics as additives in livestock feed promotes the growth of the animals.  I wasn’t able to find a good explanation of this.  I suspect that it’s because modern agribusiness practices encourage the spread of infection among farmed livestock and the antibiotics keep this more under control.  Chronically infected, sick, overcrowded animals aren’t going to grow as well as animals that aren’t chronically infected and sick (regardless of overcrowding).

The FDA is proposing a voluntary phase-out of antibiotics that are also used in humans, to require them to be used only under the directive of a veterinarian.  In other words, they won’t be used routinely to promote the animals’ growth, but only to treat infection in sick animals.

Why is this important?  Constant pressure on disease-causing bacteria by overuse of antibiotics encourages the development of resistance.  This is seen in animals and in people as well.  Recent outbreaks of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus), and Clostridium difficile highlight the importance of MINIMIZING unnecessary use of antibiotics.

I want to explain a little about C. difficile.  There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about this “infection.”  C. diff can be found in almost everyone’s intestine.  It is a common “weed” in the intestinal garden, one of many species of bacteria that coexist and keep each other in check through competition for nutrition in the normal intestine.  Now suppose these bacteria’s happy host (i.e. YOU) develops a nasty sinus infection.  Your doctor wants to make you feel better and prescribes an antibiotic.  This antibiotic kills many of the bacteria in the intestine (and incidentally often results in the side effect of diarrhea).   C. diff, however, is NOT killed by the antibiotic.  You have taken your garden and killed almost all of the flowers and other plants.  This nasty weed now has free rein and can take over the garden plot.  C. diff causes a form of diarrhea that can be fatal.  It is becoming more and more common in hospitals and nursing homes, places where patients are frequently treated with high-powered antibiotics.

Someone with a serious pneumonia or life-threatening infection, of course, may have to take the risk of an antibiotic.  However we see so many patients who come in with a day or two of cold symptoms insisting on a prescription for an antibiotic.  They don’t want it to get worse.  They’re going on vacation and want to be better before they leave.  They don’t want to be sick on Christmas.  If your illness is caused by a virus, an antibiotic will NOT help and can cause other problems and side effects.

So let’s get back to the livestock, OK?  Why is it important not to use antibiotics unnecessarily in animals?  We share many of the same germs with animals.  Overexposure to antibiotics can create resistant bacteria.  Also, the antibiotics used in the livestock often are still present in the meat, milk and other products that are then consumed by people.  The amounts are much lower of course than those used to treat infections, but more constant.  There really isn’t much data about how MUCH antibiotic exposure is required to create resistant infections.

I’m happy that the FDA says that farmers aren’t going to be able to overuse antibiotics in livestock.  I hope that we will see a drop in resistant infections over the next few years.

QUESTION:  Do you think antibiotic use in livestock hurts or helps people?

Share

God Help Them Help Us!

Hi everyone.  I have really struggled this week with my response to the election on Tuesday.  I wanted to share some thoughts with you, if you don’t mind.

First of all, for those who don’t know, I am a fiscal conservative with a strong libertarian lean.  Many small business entrepreneurs have similar tendencies.  I have major problems with the direction our country is headed.  I was not at all excited about the candidates offered, but not voting is unthinkably disrespectful to those who fought and died for our right to make our voices heard.  So I prayed and thought and researched, then cast my vote.

Tuesday night I watched the election returns until 10 PM, then had to go to bed.  And lay awake all night worrying and praying (and answering pages since I was on call).  I got up Wednesday and found some of my votes went with the majority and some very important votes did not.

Many people are angry about the election results, but I was actually a little afraid.  We can’t keep on the road we’re going on.  Government spending can’t continue to increase, there’s just not enough money moving around to tax it when we earn it, tax it when we spend it, tax it when we invest it AND tax it when we save it!  And those that we have elected seem to be content to keep the status quo while making empty promises to fix it “if only the other party will get out of the way.”

Someone I respect very much made a great Facebook post that we must not pray AGAINST our elected officials.  We must pray for their health and safety, for their focus to be on the good of the people while respecting the limits placed on them by those who founded this great nation.  So I pray that God will watch over and protect everyone that we have chosen to lead, to speak for and to serve us, that their hearts will be touched and their eyes opened to see the plan that God has for the next four years of our collective future.  I pray they will leave their egos outside when they step into the Capitol and remember why they were chosen:  to serve us.

Speaking of serving, I have made a decision that I will NOT be afraid anymore.  No matter who sleeps in the White House, my mission will not change.  I am here to help YOU make your life better, however I can help.  Whether that is by treating your medical problem, connecting you to the right specialist, listening, explaining, coaching, cheerleading or kicking you in the pants, nothing will get in the way of that.  I love what I do, and that call doesn’t answer to the government. 

Thanks so much for letting me share your journey with you, and for walking a little way with me.  We each have a mission, for which we were specially crafted.  I know what mine is.  What’s yours?

Share