Thursday, March 14, 2013

Antibiotics: Use as Directed

A large percentage of Americans have taken antibiotics at some point during their lives. They are powerful medicines that physicians may prescribe to treat an infection caused by bacteria. Although some think of them as cure-alls, antibiotics do not work against illnesses that are caused by a virus, like common colds or the flu. Those who take antibiotics to treat a viral infection should think again—they may do more harm than good if not used properly.

Know the Risks

“Antibiotic use certainly has potential risks such as allergic reactions or side effects including nausea or diarrhea,” says Gregory Small, MD, Primary Care Physician for GBMC at Texas Station. “There are also numerous types of antibiotics that treat many different kinds of bacteria. ”Those variables, paired with a person’s individual chemistry, make it nearly impossible to predict whether someone will experience side effects or how severely.

Antibiotics don’t distinguish between “bad,” illness-causing bacteria and the normal bacteria that live within the intestines. “Because they upset the balance between bad bacteria and the good types that our bodies need, they may allow some harmful types to grow out of control,” Dr. Small explains. “One increasingly common condition that may occur after antibiotic use is an inflammation of the large intestine or colon called Clostridium difficile colitis, or C. Diff. Symptoms include profuse watery diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. If left untreated, it can become life-threatening.”

Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can also cause what’s known as breeding resistance. With repeated antibiotic exposure, bacteria become resistant to the drugs and continue to grow, ultimately making them more difficult to treat. Stronger medications are required, which often have more serious side effects and a higher cost.

What You Can Do

Dr. Small says the best thing people can do to stay healthy is maintain open communication with their primary care physicians. “Keeping your doctor informed of your symptoms enables him or her to provide better care,” he says.

Avoid the temptation to self-diagnose or self-medicate. Differentiating between a bacterial and a viral infection is something that only a physician is qualified to do. Plus, doctors take a number of factors into consideration before selecting an antibiotic for a specific patient. “Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed for you. Never take antibiotics that were prescribed for someone else, or those left over from a previous illness,” he cautions.

In the event that an illness is viral rather than bacterial, follow a physician’s instructions and be patient as doctors can recommend or prescribe products to give some relief from cold or flu symptoms, but time is the only cure. Take prevention seriously by getting an annual flu shot and practicing good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs.

Carrot-Pineapple Slaw

  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 (10-ounce) package matchstick-cut carrots
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

  • Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Combine oil and next three ingredients (through pineapple juice), stirring with a whisk.
  • Add oil mixture to carrot mixture; toss well.
  • Add parsley, salt, and pepper; toss well.
  • Cover and chill.

Servings: 6 (serving size: about 1 cup)
Calories: 130
Calories from fat: 34%
Fat: 4.9g
Saturated fat: 0.4g
Monounsaturated fat: 2.8g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.5g
Protein: 1g
Carbohydrate: 22.7g
Fiber: 2.3g
Cholesterol: 0.0mg
Iron: 0.6mg
Sodium: 132mg
Calcium: 32mg

Recipe by Barbara Lauterbach; Cooking Light

Balancing Your Plate with “MyPlate”

Eating a balanced diet is a daunting task we’re faced with all the time. It can be tough to remember how many servings of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy and grain we should be consuming every day, and who has time to keep track? Until recently, many people looked to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid, which could be overwhelming and difficult to understand. In 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a much more relatable object: the plate.

The new program, MyPlate, was inspired in part by first lady Michelle Obama and creates an easy-to-understand visual of the proportions of the various food groups you should have during each meal. Following the guidelines from this tool should put you on the right track toward eating the appropriate amount of servings from each food group to keep you healthy. When fixing your plate, one half of the plate should be occupied by fruits and vegetables. One quarter of the plate should be dedicated to protein – lean meat, beans, etc. – and the other quarter, grain. Add a glass of milk, and you’ve got a well-balanced meal.

Here is another helpful tip: rather than spending your time counting the number of food group servings you need to get, plan meals with the plate image in mind. Create a menu each week before you go to the grocery store to help make sure you’re getting all of the ingredients you need.

For example:


Protein: Roasted pork
Vegetable: Broccoli
Fruit: Crushed pineapples
Grain: Slice of whole wheat bread
Dairy: Glass of Milk

If you’re pressed for time when it comes to meal preparation, there are many shortcuts you can take while still ensuring you get all necessary nutrients. For example, if you don’t have time to clean and chop fresh vegetables, head to the freezer or canned goods aisle of the grocery store. Just be sure you choose frozen or canned veggies that have low or no sodium. Similarly, you can mix up your fruit options and cut down on preparation time by incorporating dried, frozen and canned fruit along with fresh.

With so many ways to get creative and save time in meal prep, it’s getting easier to fill up your plate with the right choices!

Adapted from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion’s website.

Preparing for “The Change” - Options for Managing the Symptoms of Menopause

The onset of menopause, which signifies the end of a woman’s reproductive years, may be a sensitive topic for some. Many people are simply uncomfortable with aging, while others may have anxiety about unpleasant symptoms they heard about from friends or family. GBMC gynecologist Beth Aronson, MD, stresses that “menopause, like pregnancy, is a normal part of life. Some women experience very mild symptoms that don’t greatly impact them, while others aren’t as lucky. It can vary greatly from woman to woman.”

For women in the U.S., menopause typically occurs between 48 and 52 years of age. During this period of time, the ovaries stop releasing eggs, which causes a decrease in estrogen. In the years prior to menopause, or “perimenopause,” women’s ovaries begin to slow down, which may begin to cause menopausal symptoms. The most common symptoms women experience before and during menopause include:

• Hot flashes
• Absence of menstrual periods
• Vaginal dryness
• Mood changes

• Loss of libido

“While it’s normal to experience symptoms like these, women should visit their doctor if they notice any irregular bleeding patterns or very heavy or prolonged bleeding, as these could be signs of more serious problems,” Dr. Aronson says. “Additionally, if symptoms like hot flashes are causing a tremendous amount of insomnia that is affecting day-to-day activities, it is a good idea to talk to your physician.”

Dr. Beth Aronson
Dr. Aronson encourages women experiencing severe menopause symptoms that greatly affect their quality of life to discuss treatment options with their physicians. “The most popular solution is hormone replacement therapy, which involves taking estrogen supplements with or without progesterone,” she says. “However, this method isn’t for everyone, so you and your physician should discuss whether you are a good candidate for hormone replacement therapy or if your symptoms warrant such treatment.”

Over-the-counter products can also make women going through menopause feel more comfortable. “Non-hormonal vaginal lubricants and herbal supplements like black cohosh and evening primrose oil are safe and can be effective in relieving symptoms,” Dr. Aronson says. “The good news is that once the acute process of becoming menopausal has passed, these symptoms are usually more tolerable and subside.”

It is also important to note that certain health risks increase after menopause due to low levels of estrogen. Conditions that are more likely to occur after menopause include osteoporosis, heart disease, decreased bladder and bowel function and vision changes. “To prevent or control worsening of such conditions, women should continue having regular medical and vision check-ups,” she cautions. “Although the symptoms of menopause can be unpleasant, women can take some comfort in the fact that, through regular visits with their physicians, help is available.

Get Screened! March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Discussing colon and digestive health with a doctor may be uncomfortable, but it’s important. Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the United States. Early detection can lead to better outcomes, and in some cases, polyps may be detected and removed before they even become cancerous.

Depending of the location of the cancer, symptoms may vary. The most common symptoms include:
  • Belly pain
  • Blood in stool/dark stools
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
African Americans are at the highest risk of developing colorectal cancer. Other risk factors include being over age 50 and having a family history of colorectal cancer. Individuals who have had colorectal, ovarian or endometrial cancer before or have had colon polyps removed are also at a higher risk. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that, in general, all individuals should receive colorectal cancer screenings at regular intervals beginning at age 50. Several different types of screening procedures are available, depending on each patient’s circumstances.

Exams include:
  • Fecal occult blood tests examine a patient’s stool for hidden blood. This test is noninvasive and is recommended annually for men and women over the age of 50, or those with a history of cancer.
  • Colonoscopy examines the entire colon using a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera and light at the end. Men and women over 50 and those with a history of cancer should have one every 10 years. Polyps and abnormal tissue can be removed and biopsied during the procedure.
  • Sigmoidoscopy allows physicians to look at the interior walls of the rectum and lower colon using a flexible, lighted tube. Men and women over the age of 50 or those with a cancer history should have this test every five years. Polyps and abnormal tissues can also be removed and biopsied during a sigmoidoscopy.
  • Virtual colonoscopy produces images of the colon and rectum using special X-ray equipment and shows polyps and abnormalities.
  • Digital rectal exams may be performed at annual physical examinations. The physician inserts a lubricated, gloved finger inserted into the rectum to examine for abnormalities.

Patients can work with their gastroenterologists to determine which procedures are best for their needs based on their own family history of cancer, comfort level and budget.

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