Get A Good Night’s Sleep and Cure Your Heartburn

If you suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) you’ll be happy to note the latest treatment suggested.  It will not only keep your reflux and heartburn at bay, but will also give you a good night’s sleep.  It’s melatonin!  It seems that the gastrointestinal tract secretes up to 500 times as much melatonin as the pineal gland which puts out melatonin naturally when you’re exposed to darkness.  There is evidence that melatonin may also reduce gastric acid secretion and normalize pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing it to close more effectively.

Researchers have recently discovered that melatonin plays its part in your digestive system.  For instance, it can prevent oxidative stress on GI cells, regulate cholestral uptake by the intestinal wall, help to heal damage to the lining of the GI track, and promote the secretion of other hormones that aid digestion and elimination.  It can also help treat esophageal ulcers, upset stomach and irritable bowel syndrome.

If you’ve been taking  PPIs (Nexium, Prilosec, Omeprazole, Zantac or Tagamet) or other drugs or supplements, you may be just the right candidate to try melatonin.  And you’ll get a good night’s sleep besides.  They seem to go together.  The GERD problems will keep you awake most nights.  I’m a sufferer myself from both.  I tried propping up the head of my bed, only to find that kept me awake, and if I put the bed back in place, my heartburn kept me awake.  Now I can take the recommended 3-6 mg of melatonin a half hour before bedtime and sleep like a baby.

Check out Dr. Mark Stengler’s column in the October 2011 issue of Bottom Line’s “Natural Healing” for his suggestions.  It works for me!


Are Your Children Up-To-Date on Vaccines?

More than one in ten parents delay or skip reccommended vaccines for their children under six years of age, a new survey reported last week.  This means that more than two million infants and young children may not be fully protected from many preventable diseases.    Is your child on schedule?  Has he or she had the recommended vaccinations against the fourteen childhood diseases, in two dozen separated doses?

Many parents think putting off some of the shots until the child is older is safer than the suggested schedule.  Others are worried about the autism -vaccine association, which was scientifically disproved.  Often, because we don’t see as many severe cases of childhood diseases, parents believe that they have been permanently wiped out and vaccines are not necessary.  But these diseases are still around just waiting for children who have not been protected.  Whooping cough, for instance, has recently raised its ugly head (especially in California), and infectious disease experts have found that the vaccine loses its effectiveness after three years, more quickly than was previously thought.

The survey was conducted on 750 parents of children younger than six last year and released in the journal Pediatrics.  It has been praised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “important and well done” and indicates doctors need to do a better job of communicating this information with parents.

Now is a good time to check with your pediatrician to confirm that your child is on schedule for these protective shots.  Don’t let your child be one of the 2,000,000 infants and young children who are not protected.


Watch the Fine Print When You’re Watching Your Weight

It’s okay to go off your diet once in awhile.  We all do it now and then.  Just be careful not to do it every day or so.  Maybe once a week is good for you.  The problem may not be how often we fudge a little, but what it is we choose when we cheat.  You can stop by Starbucks for a cup of coffee or you can have Starbucks Venti (20 oz.) White chocolate Mocha with 2% milk and whipped cream.  If you give in to the Venti, you will be taking on more calories than if you had a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese!  You would be adding 580 calories and 15 grams of saturated fat.  Of course you could have the Venti with non-fat milk and no whipped cream.  That would be 130 calories less.

Maybe you like Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pie.  The 16.5 oz.  package proudly says “only 520” calories.  If you read carefully that is for only half a pie!  Eat the whole thing and you will have consumed 1,040 calories, more than a day’s worth of saturated fat, and an entire day’s worth of sodium.  Split it with your honey.

The labels are tricky.  Watch carefully for not only calories, sodium and saturated fat amounts, but also for the serving size, the number of servings in a package, and how they use weights and other measurments.

It helps to decide on how many calories you want to consume in a day and keep track of them.  Treat yourself every week or ten days with one of your favorites,  check the fine print and decide if it’s worth it.  If it is, then enjoy it, then go back to your diet plan for the next meal.

Questions On The Way To Get My Mammogram

On my way to have my annual mammogram my mind turned to some of the questions I’ve had over the past year.  I’m a 13 year survivor of breast cancer.  What are my chances of having a recurrance after so long a time?  Are yearly mammograms really necessary after so long a time with no problems?  Still, in the past year I’ve had two friends who were long-term survivors of breast cancer who have been diagnosed with new cancers.  In both cases they had been guilty of not self-examining on a regular basis.  Would they have caught the small lumps that came out of nowhere?  Had they been having annual checkups?  One hesitates to ask these questions, even of close friends.

A Stanford University study earlier this year indicated that treating early breast cancers with radiation and drugs, in addition to removing part of the breast itself, significantly decreases the risk of developing a more invasive form of cancer 15 years later.  Some patient advocates say that regardless of the treatment received for early breast cancer, a woman’s chances of dying from invasive breast cancer later are small.  The chief of breast surgery at the Stanford Cancer  Center, who was the lead author of the study said, “Of women who were treated by lumpectomy alone, 65 percent  didn’t have a recurrance of cancer.”

The studies still go on.  No one knows at the time of the early occurance who will have a recurrance and who will not.  There are still a lot of questions out there.  Should you take a daily aspirin or not?  If you had a breast removed, should you have a breast implant or not?  Recent studies have found a link of implants to some forms of cancer.

Unfortunately, not many answers are available to us at the time when we need them most.  We are left with more questions than answers.  In the meantime I take an aspirin every other day, have my annual mammogram, and do a lot of praying.

Don’t Go To The Hospital

Now is not a good time to go to the hospital unless it is an emergency event.  Put off surgery for a few months until the current mess of unsanitary conditions is resolved.

The Food and Drug Administration has issue a recall of many lots of (supposed) sterile equipment already in hospitals across the country.  Iodine swabsticks, prep solutions, scrub solutions and many more make up the suspected list of antiseptic preparations that every patient depends upon during a hospital stay.  This means if you are a patient over the next few months you will be at high risk for infection.

The FDA recall states that “Patients undergoing medical and surgical procedures, including those who are immunocomprimised, have a high risk of infection from antiseptic surgical preparations that have been prepared, packaged, or held under unsanitary conditions.”

More and more we must take responsibility for own health and safety.  Ask the right questions before submitting to services inviolving your health.  It is your most precious asset.

Doctors Making House Calls?

Would you believe that some doctors are now making house calls?  Alas, it’s only for the chronically ill, actually those with multiple chronic diseases.  The Department of Veterans Affairs is leading the way in this new-old idea.

Dr. Bruce Kinosian, associate professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennslyvania in Philadelphia, is the most prominent supporter of the Independence at Home ( IAH)  program .   He calls on his patients with more than one chronic disease at their homes rather than giving them access only to his office as most of us have.

The  program now serves veterans in nearly every state and shows that, on an average, hospital stays dropped by 62 percent and nursing home days by 88 percent in 2002, the latest figures available.  Congress included funding for a new demonstration project similar to IAH in their passing of the health care reform law.  This will effect only Medicare patients with multiple chronic conditions and is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2012.  A study by Johns Hopkins University estimated that 98 percent of Medicare expenditures involve beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions.

The IAH program has been in effect for nearly thirty years at the VA and has been keeping our veterans alive longer, as well as saving taxpayers big money.  Now with Dr. Kinosian’s backing and the savings to the Medicare program, we may see this privilege of house calls extended to more of those who desperately need this care and maybe even to some of the rest of us when needed.