Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gluten was her Kryptonite

Celine Hacche, AZ Republic, Mar 30, 2011, says she is allergic to gluten, a protein in wheat and some other (but not all) grains.

It can make you twist with stomach pains, swell, get the runs, and generally feel miserable.

Hacche is a foodie, though—she didn’t feel like giving up pizza, bread, beer, and other favorites.

She struggled with long conversations about substitutions with wait staff. She ate eggs without toast and five mins later was starving.

She tried gluten-free dough—ick, not like the real thing.

Then, gluten became popular—or not eating it did.

Trader Joe’s stepped up. She found gluten-free beer! Try Green’s, she says.

San J tamari soy suace—yum.

Brown rice pasta is good—wash it off after cooking, it’s starchy.

Learn which sauces use gluten as a thickener.

Mexican food is pretty safe. Trader Joe’s brown rice tortillas can work as “toast.”

Sushi is OK—bring your own soy sauce, though.

For crispy chicken or fish—dip in egg and dredge through polenta.

The breads and pizza crusts? Still a problem. It's a journey.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I think I can, I think I can

Gretchen Reynolds, NYT, Mar 30, 2011, says Cirque du Soleil did a study of 47 athletes—all professional competitors in gymnastics, trampoline, swimming or diving—and found that those with high “self-efficacy” fared better in the specialized circus feats.

They were given questionnaires first to judge their stress, feelings of competence, and general mood.

They trained 8.5 hours a day—five days a week, for 16 weeks.

More than half sustained an injury severe enough to require a trainer to consult.

Some studies have shown that overconfidence can lead to risk-taking, or the opposite—that low confidence can increase risk.

Low self-efficacy (confidence) in this study seemed to show that the athletes who spent focus worrying and would stumble or fall.

The trainsers at the Cirque said to start small if you are unsure about a move. Concentrate on the process. Watch someone really good do it.

Good advice.

I would add—watch for fallen banana peels.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sudden Cardiac Death--it happens

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD), suddenly your young athlete’s heart stops.

Every parent’s deeply buried fear—among about a dozen others. But SCD is not that rare—it’s not like winning some horrible lottery. It happens.

Check out Parent Heart Watch, a website for conscientious sports parents or parents who may have a child with a dicky ticker of some sort.

The emphasis is on early screening and having a defibrillator on hand.

Watch the video at Baseball is underway and football practice starts in late summer.

Now's the time to check it out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy, happy--bleh

Do you know people who are bubbly all the time? To them, I say, lighten up on the caffeine—we are on a blighted rock whirling through black space and destined to live only a wink of time—why are you so damn thrilled?

Aw—I am not that bad (shut up, some of you).

Anyhow, Shirley Wang writes about this in the WSJ, Mar 15, 2011, some researchers have found that the type of well-being that comes from meaningful activity is better for you than just warm fuzzies, affirmations, or sappy TV shows.

This comes from a field called “happiness research” or “positive psychology.”

You feel better if you have a sense of purpose. Well, it makes sense. The meaning of life is a life of meaning. That sort of thing. Stay away from the “hedonic” thing. (Hedonism costs money, anyway, which can lead only to an unhappy thought.)

Apparently finding a purpose, even though it may be tough in the doing and not exactly a laff riot, changes your metabolism.

It can make you live longer, get sick or senile later or maybe never.

Still, the docs say, if you feel stressed to always feel not stressed, this can negate the good stuff.

Jeez, who cannot feel stressed reading that? Never mind.

Wait--that made me feel a little happy. Who knew?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Discount beauty and health

I know, I know—students have to learn somehow and many of us are broke now and can’t afford dental or hair work.

I know people who have had dental work done at dental schools at a discount—their worst complaints was long waits.

Sue Doerfler, writing in the AZ Republic, Mar 24, 2011, quotes an educator as saying this is a win-win.

Hey, maybe it is! We have to catch a break sometime, right?

Some people get weekly massages from students for $25. Not bad.

A woman who went to Carrington Dental School said she had never had such a thorough cleaning.

Another place is a butcher school—meat at a discount.

Beauty schools also provide discounts. At one a cut and shamp was five bucks. I have had my hair fried and gotten bad cuts that I paid full price for. I lived.

An acupuncture center has “happy hour” rates. Cute!

This all sounds OK, as a matter of fact.

The NYT Well Blog recently talked about a study that showed hospitals that let residents and interns take over surgeries had decent outcomes. Now—on that—I might ask a ton of questions.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Many-legged travelers

Scott McCartney, WSJ, Mar 24, 2011, says 2,000 pets travel through Logan International, so the Fire Rescue Dept has outfitted two ambulances for pet emergencies.

Passengers with Paws, they call it.

Paramedics, firefighters, state police, and baggage handlers get special training in animals.

Animals are sensitive to temperature changes, dehydration, and panic.

Last year, 39 animals died in airline custody, up 70% from the year before.

The airport gives classes in muzzling, leashing, getting a pet out of a crate, and other niceties.

The workers are told not to be friends with the pet, but to talk to it. Being “too nice” can result in letting the animal out “just for a walk” and then, bam, it runs off..

They even learn to give CPR to dogs—chest compressions and blowing in the nose.

If dogs are drooling, have broken their nails trying to claw out, or are otherwise in distress, workers are taught to pick up on this.

I remember bringing a cat across country—she reached out the airhole of the carrier and scraped up my leg—blood everywhere. I was the one who could have used medical attention.

This is all good, though—animals are just part of the scene in this country and deserve to be treated decently.

Some of this sounds better than two-legged cargo is treated these days. Do the pets have to pay for water--maybe with their alligator wallets?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The country's gone south when....

...Advice on curing insomnia is in the real estate section of the paper. But yup—Arizona Republic, Mar 20, 2011—there it was.

Ellen James Martin says real estate stress can destroy sleep.

She uses phrases like “the fear factor around real estate.”

The ones finding it hardest to sleep are those who were foreclosed or transferred (and can’t sell and may have two payments).

Ten percent of adults experience sleep problems. If you are one of them, don’t jump right into meds as a permanent solution.

Instead give yourself a buffer period to get tired. Avoid work during this time, no arguing, no confrontations. Read, watch a calm movie.

Try to keep electronics out of the bedroom. This includes TV.

Losing your house, for instance, is very upsetting. Maybe you even need talk therapy to sort through the emotions.

I have never been a good sleeper. Sometimes I take a melatonin—a hormone to induce sleepiness. Sometimes it even works.

I also things I list in my mind. Everything that’s a blue color…larkspur, ocean, sky, eyes, etc… Or the names of everyone in a situation—when I was in my first year of college…let’s see… Sharon, Eddie Chris, Larry Somebody, the guy Eddie Chris called Wretch…

You probably have your own tricks. But you can have Wretch if you want. Feel free.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So lucky--I am not a headachy person

I give them, not receive. So far, anyhow. I never say never on misery.

Melinda Beck, WSJ, Mar 22, 2011, writes about people who suffer from a headache almost daily. Tension headaches—that squeezy one.

About 40% of people get them, but they are the least studied. Migraines tend to get all the glory.

Most people treat their tension headaches with OTC meds. The problem is that using these things more than 10 days a month can cause headaches!

They are not sure what causes the tension type headaches—maybe clenched neck muscles—well, they tested that and maybe not.

Maybe mental—stress? Well, plenty of people with plenty of stress do not get them.

Now the theory is that people who get these are oversensitized to pain.

People who suffer from depression often get them, too—though they may be depressed because they get them. Some older anti-depressants, tricyclics, in low doses have been known to help. They have side efx, though, such as drowsiness and low BP.

Early morning is a time to get these—maybe from bad sleep, the docs say. Or late afternoon after staring into a computer. Skipping lunch can be bad. Drinking a lot of caffeine can be bad.

Biofeedback, acupuncture are other approaches.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Uh-oh--hair loss med can have bad side efx

Hair loss products containing finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) can have sexual side efx in some men.

Bad ones. The most common is erectile dysfunction, but low sex drive is also a possibility.

These can last months after stopping the medication. Forty 40 months or more.

One researcher said a “looming question” was will these men EVER recover.

Well, yeah, you might want to know that.

According to the manufacturer—about 8% of users may experience “issues.”

If you care what I think, guys—I think balding men are cute. The guy in Transporter,
Bruce Willis—come on, they are not bad.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Here's the beef

Elizabeth Williamson and Patrick O’Connor, WSJ, Mar 16, 2011, says some younger members of Congress are into P90X—an infomercial darling of a DVD exercise routine.

They gather around a TV in the gym to do this.

They are the younger Republicans—intent on pumping up job growth and slashing budgets—and apparently flab, too.

They revere Tony Horton, the guru of this movement.

Apparently this is a “frenzied mix” of jumping, pushups, pullups, weight training and abdominal moves.

Horton is known for saying things like “get your bucket,” meaning the moves are vomit-inducing.

Well, it sounds charming. I guess it’s a step in the right direction…er, leap… I wonder how the knees fare over time…That seems to be getting the people in my set.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Keep the fun in kids' sports

The National Athletic Trainers Assn has some guidelines for sports parents.

First, be sure the child wants to play sports—many drop out by age 13. If the child has been injured, especially, be sure it’s OK to resume.

Get the kid a checkup. Ask who will provide care at the school, review credentials.

Acclimate children to heat. Here in Arizona, adults need a few weeks to get used to the heat. And most of us are not raging around playing a game. Acclimating means lots of water and short sessions outdoors at first.

Make sure the school has a medical auth for in case or emergency.

Be sure the equipment—and that includes medical equipment such as spine boards, splints, things that require batteries, etc—are in working order.

Make sure coaches are credentialed and knowledgeable.

Make sure the locker room is clean. Discourage sharing of towels and equipment—tell your own kid! No, No, No... We are not talking head lice--we are talking MRSA.

Build recovery time into the child’s schedule. Many kids these days play around the calendar. Even ask a trainer how much time the player needs to get ready for the next sport.

Oh—and don’t be a screaming idiot embarrassing your kid to death. Actually, put that one first.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't slam in potassium iodide pills, people

Nothing like a nuclear meltdown to get people heading for the health food store.

Well, near meltdown…release of junk…whatever it is.

Rep Edward Markey is hyped up urging the WH to provide potassium iodide pills to Americans within 20 miles of American nuclear plants (there are 104 of those, hello).

At present, people with 10 miles are given the pills—IN CASE OF EMERGENCY.

Japan has distributed 230,000 units (maybe more) to those near their damaged plants.

The idea is to take this in advance and it will keep radiation from getting into the thyroid gland.

But authorities say no, don’t take them right away…You should be in contact with radiation…There should be a reason. Authorities! You know how THEY are.

Some brands are already sold out here in the US. Hope you don’t mind getting a goiter, slowing your thyroid and getting fat, or how about acne or a severe allergic reaction that closes your throat?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ah--a nice cure for pollution, sort of

Gwendolyn Bounds, WSJ, Mar 15, 2011, says scientists have found that some houseplants clean the air.

I have known this for decades, but I am not a scientist.

Now there is “global research” saying plants can reduce dust and benzene in the air, among other things.

Plus—they are cheap—get one and you can maybe root others off it. I used to have fantastic African violets by rooting—it took almost six months for the roots to appear, but then you were in business.

People spend 90% of their time inside, where pollutants are two to five times higher.

The EPA is not going for it, though. They say there is not sufficient evidence….difficulty quantifying results, etc etc.

Still, someone has come up with the idea that six or more plants per 1200-1500 square feet is helpful.

You could spend a ton getting your air tested. Or parsing all the stats. Or just get some plants—what’s the harm?

Well, maybe those little gnat things. I hate those!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yeah, guys, time to catch up

Men are so cool. They don’t need moisturizer. They look BETTER as they age…


What about those scraggly gray beards, guys? Not working for ya! Don’t you have mirrors? And by not shaving you are not exfoliating.

Sameer Reddy, WSJm Mar 12013, 2011, was OK with aging until he hit…er…32.

Sameer used more products than most—having struggled with acne as a kid. Then he saw a…wait for it…


On came the La Mer, the Perricone, the anti-inflammtories, everything he could lay his insecure hands on.

No Vaseline, though—that’s my favorite. That Perricone stuff smells. La Mer and I have never had the pleasure.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sick kid care

I used to do some good mothering when my daughter was sick. She is 29 now and still whines and wants special sick foods she remembers from childhood.

Hint: Saltines, Jell-O, juice, pudding.

But if you simply, positively cannot stay home on a sick day, you may need responsible, defensible day care.

Out here in Chandler, one company is run by a family practice doctor. They take kids from 6 months to 15 years old. Only four kids at a time.

They screen so the kids won’t infect each other with some crud.

A certified nursing assistant tends to the children, and the doctors come over if needed. Parents whose kids are not in the associated school pay $35 a day.

They find associating with a school or day care center spreads the cost. Other such centers have gone under depending on sick kids alone.

Still, it’s something to look into.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One Medical--boutique to beat

Don’t read this if your heart can’t take it. It’s about a medical practice—now in San Francisco and New York—that works the way we keep thinking doctors should work.

For this you pay $149 a year, plus $150 a visit for the first visit, then $100 for succeeding ones. They also accept insurance for when things get spendy.

You don’t wait—the doctors are on time.

You renew prescriptions online.

Full access to doctors for advice and referrals—not snips in the office.

Plus they are integrative, open minded about therapies.

For details go to

Still—only in two cities…wah.

Medical care in Arizona has been…shall we say, unique? I have had a doctor offer to pray with me. I had an eye surgeon where the wait was always more than three hours. We told him he needed to put in a bar. He did not smile.

Also—I can no longer see out of my right eye.

ER visits last all day—pack a lunch, maybe dinner, too.

Oh, well…when I am long gone, this patient-oriented stuff will probably make it out here.

They will say…aw, Star would have loved this.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Our friend unintended consequences again

No matter what you do—something screws up. Some guy named Murphy had a law about it.

The geniuses who wrote the new health care law apparently thought people with Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) might cheat and get cough syrup with tax-free money so they decreed that to even buy an over-the-counter aspirin meant you needed a prescription.

This way, you scamps could not use tax-free dollars to buy medications. You know how you are.

Gosh, who could have seen a problem there?

This has caused a flood in doctor’s offices, and more costs for retailers and pharmacies (among other things they have to print a label for an item from the shelves).

People aren’t signing up for the “pool” policies that were feared to be so popular it would outstrip funding—yup, they cost too much.

I guess they had hearings on all this beforehand. Or did they? I nod into a coma even thinking about this bill.

Wait—Pelosi said we had to pass it to find out what’s in it, so I guess they didn’t have hearings.

I need an aspirin, but who can afford one?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Don't be too quick to deliver

Laura Landro, WSJ, Mar 1, 2011, says obstetrics groups prefer a baby stay inside for 39 weeks at least, but mothers and doctors sometimes push a point and schedule earlier deliveries.

It is loosely believed that two weeks either side of the due date is “term.”

But now there is evidence that even a few days short of 39 weeks can cause problems.

Early deliveries can mean more C-sections, too, with more risk and more cost.

Infants at 37 to 38 weeks face problems with brain development and function, which can lead to behavioral and emotional problems down the road. The cerebral cortex at 34 weeks is only 53% of its size at 39 or 40 weeks.

Finishing touches to the liver come in the last days. Even if lungs are developed, early delivery results in more respiratory problems.

Babies born before 39 weeks don’t suck as well and may not stay awake long enough to eat. Babies born before 39 weeks also can have vision problems.

Without a good reason, babies should never be delivered before 39 weeks—according to many doctors.

Some hospitals even forbid it without a good reason.

Employers are urged to disallow this in their health plans.

You know a really bad reason to induce? To get your baby’s birthday on the upcoming 11-11-11 date.

Really bad.

Let the baby bake a while longer.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Can you chew nicotine gum forever?

David Kesmodel and Kevin Helliker, WSJ, Mar 1, 2011, say the instructions on nicotine gum say to stop using it at the end of 12 weeks.

But many people just keep on with it. One smoking cessation scientist has been chewing it for 15 years.

The FDA, in fact, is thinking of taking off the 12-week warning and approving the gum for extended periods, perhaps forever.

There doesn’t appear to be any great harm from long term use, according to one cancer prevention specialist.

It’s not the nicotine that causes cancer, but the nicotine may raise the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Continually taking in nicotine can “hijack the brain’s reward system,” according to this article.

Studies, many done by the manufacturers, show that nicotine gum or patches or lozenges, show that those who use the products are twice as likely to quit after 12 weeks than those who don’t.

The vast majority of those who quit, though, do it cold turkey.

One study showed no differences in quit rates between gum chewers and cold turkey quitters after a year, meaning many people began smoking again.

Maybe continuing with the gum would have done the trick.

Ask your doctor—don’t take my word for it. I somehow never smoked.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Why don't they call it roughage anymore?

Remember that—they used to call it roughage. Now it’s fiber…

Jennifer Corbett Dooren, WSJ, Feb 15, 2011, cites an NIH study that showed that people who munched a lot of fiber, especially from grains, had a significantly lower risk of dying over a nine-year period.

Whatever that actually means.

Fiber helps move things along, if you catch my drift, lowers blood cholesterol, and also blood glucose.

The study involved 388,000 people between 50 and 71. The whole schmear will be in the Archives of Internal Med June 14th.

Recommended fiber intake is 28 grams for a 2,000 calorie day.

The scientists crunched all these questionnaires and variables and concluded fiber is good for you. The more the better.

Veggie fiber is good, but fiber from grains and beans is better avoiding-death-wise.

Roughage better describes its effect on my insides, but suit yourself on the terminology.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Even little kids can learn first aid

A Norwegian study on 4- and 5-year-olds published in the J of Trauma, Resuscitation, and Emergency Medicine shows young children can learn to save a life.

Preschool kids in Bergen, Norway, were taught to use the Five Finger Rule:
Look at the person
Talk to them
Touch them and try to wake them up
Call emergency services
Stay and comfort them

The children also learned to put each other in the head-back recovery position and keep the airway open.

Two months later, the children could tell if a person was unconscious or asleep and whether the person was breathing. They also remembered the emergency number and could give a location.

First aid could be started in kindergarten and picked up and reinforced as the children grew older.

I have heard amazing 911 calls from little kids being very businesslike and consulting first the sick person, then the operator, and being very self-possessed. One little 4-yr-old girl said, “We are still in our jammies—I am going to get some jeans on now.”

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Legalized medical marijuana--party time?

Mark Scarp, AZ Republic, Living Well section, Mar 2, 2011, points out that AZ won’t be like CA with pot supermarkets—at least not at first.

First, to put the kibosh on even the IDEA of pain relief, happiness or fun, our dopey Sheriff Joe started a task force on this.

Only authorized er…dealers…will sell it, kids under 18 will have to have their parent’s permission to get a prescription, and only qualified physicians can hand those out.

Here in Chandler, our buzzkill officials also tried to write the rules for where the dispensaries can be so restrictively that they can “be” almost no place.

Which patients can grow their own? This will also be limited—and they will have to live more than 25 miles from a dispensary.

Patients using dispensaries will be able to get 2.5 ounces in a two-week period. That’s a lot! The grow your own set can only have 12 plants—and the patch must be locked, meaning inside, I guess.

People cannot smoke it in public or on public transportation, on private property without the owner’s permission, at the dispensaries, on the grounds of a school, or while operating a car, boat, or plane.

Wonder how long all this will be in force. I know there is already a question about on-the-job drug testing—if you are on it legally, what about driving that forklift?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Back surgery--be cautious

Jillian Mincer, WSJ, Feb 15, 20011, says more patients are having complicated spinal stenosis surgery.

Spinal stenosis is when bone spurs grow into the spinal canal, crowding nerves and causing constant pain.


The problem is that the surgeries to remove the spurs are now often being combined with fusion of the vertebrae and other surgeries. This is fine if these are needed.

But otherwise it raises cost and chances of complications.

Usually the doctor will try anti-inflammatories and steroid injections first.

The combined surgeries, of course, pay the doctor and hospital more under Medicare.

One doctor said finances played a role. Another said it was the surgeon’s preferences at work.

Ask! Get answers. You know what Auntie Star always says.