Shellfish are healthier than you realize

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

When I mention shellfish, do you think of it as healthy?

Shrimping, one of our primary local industries, brings us lots of wonderful shellfish, which are high in protein, essential minerals and actually low in saturated fat and calories. Surprised?

Well, so was I as I looked into the health benefits of shellfish. By now, we all know about the health benefits and anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids that come from cold-water seafood like salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines and herring.

Shellfish also contain significant levels of these healthy fats, though overcooking can reduce the levels.

Shellfish include lobsters, shrimp, oysters, scallops, clams, crabs, prawns, squid, octopus and mussels.

Shellfish are quite low in fat. Even shrimp and lobster have less than 1 gram of fat per serving, and very little of the fat they contain is saturated fat.

Of course you can load on unhealthy fats by frying and adding heavy toppings. Broiling, boiling, steaming or grilling are heart-healthy choices. Continue reading

Legal for medical research: Marijuana is beneficial for cancer patients

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Rocky Mountain high. Imagine my surprise when I returned to visit the tiny mountain hamlet in Colorado where I was in solo practice as the country doc for nearly a decade back in the 1980s and ’90s and discovered a new clinic on main street.

The town is in a mountain valley situated at 7,500 feet above sea level. So, the new clinic was appropriately and whimsically called The High Valley Cannabis Center.

Medical marijuana had come to a town long known for its aging hippies and artists who were no strangers to its usage. Many not only inhaled weed in the ’60s, but I suspect a number had never exhaled.

As more states, now numbering around 15, approve marijuana as legal for medical, or even recreational, use, as recently occurred in Colorado, we come inevitably to the question of is this a good idea for sick people or is it a social folly? Continue reading

Mentally ill may be easy to blame, but they’re rarely violent

Dr. Jeff Temple

Dr. Jeff Temple

Here we are on the heels of several mass shootings. What used to be shocking has become commonplace. In fact, the United States is averaging more than one per month for the last five years.

These events have the public, media, talking heads and politicians searching for explanations and an answer to stop the bloodshed.

Increasingly, mental illness has become the convenient culprit. But let’s not mistake correlation for causation.

Mental illness does not cause violence. If it did, then homicide rates in other developed countries would be on par with that of the United States. They are not.

In 2012, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that Americans are 4.5 times more likely to die by homicide than citizens of other developed countries.

And while more than 25 percent of Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder, nearly all of them will not hurt or threaten to hurt anyone. And nearly all them find the actions of Adam Lanza, Elliot Rodger and Aaron Ybarra reprehensible. Continue reading

First in the No. 2 Business

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Antibiotic resistance among disease-causing bacteria is a growing and dangerous problem. Bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics, like staph and strep, are approaching catastrophic levels. Bacteria so resistant to common antibiotics that few if any drugs are able to treat them have been dubbed superbugs. One widely feared bacterium, called Clostridium difficile or C. diff for short, causes intestinal disease so severe that it can become life-threatening. It kills nearly 15,000 Americans every year, mostly the elderly. Super-resistant forms of this microbe are almost impossible to treat with antibiotics.

This bacterium produces a powerful toxin that destroys intestinal cells and can rupture small blood vessels. It also causes abnormal intestinal behavior, mainly excess water that produces diarrhea. It’s an unpleasant and painful prospect for those infected with C. diff.

Roughly 5 to 15 percent of the population carries this bacterium in their digestive system naturally, but it is kept in check by the rest of the bacterial population. But an underlying disease, antibiotics, another infection, or chemotherapy can throw bacterial populations out of balance, allowing C. diff to expand into an infection. And a super-resistant version of C. diff can be a real problem. Continue reading

Joys, health benefits of eating beef jerky

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

I went to the new Texas City Buc-ee’s to check it out now that the opening-day lines had thinned out some.

I decided to get some gas and just meander, not feeling required to check out their world-famous restrooms.

Entering the huge facility, I slowly drifted to the jerky section. The wholesome girl behind the counter, like a cobra mesmerizing a mouse, inquired with a bright smile if I’d like a sample.

Given that there were about 30 different types, I asked which was the best seller. She quickly pointed to the far right of the glassed-in counter.

“Garlic-pepper beef jerky,” she said confidently. After nibbling a square inch of this dried piece of heaven, I was hooked. I winked and, like the Terminator, said, “I’ll be back.”

OK, it is like $32 a pound, but once you have tasted this jerky, you might wish to lease out your second-born child to make margaritas on Tilman Fertitta’s Boardwalk yacht. I shared some with my neighbor, the new mayor. Continue reading

A garden can bring you great simple pleasures

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Odd as it may seem, the simplest things in life may be what brings our greatest joy and satisfaction. A breeze in your face, the scent of a rose, the laughter of a child, the warmth of a hot shower: All of these are moment-to-moment experiences that can be enjoyed only if we notice and appreciate them.

One of my most pleasurable (and edible) hobbies is gardening. The past couple of weeks, my garden suddenly burst into generativity. Fragrant herbs like dill, oregano, basil, thyme, mint, sage and rosemary waft through the air.

Hiding in the verdant foliage are French breakfast radishes, along with purple, green and yellow string beans. I picked a lot on Memorial Day and will tell you this: Bean picking is not for sissies.

Raised beds are good for those of us averse to stoop labor and the backaches that it brings. Next year, I plan to raise my beds further

By the way, properly designed raised beds can even allow those limited in mobility or wheelchair bound to enjoy the earthy pleasures of gardening.

Picking those beans, I suddenly had renewed and profound respect for my co-workers in the watermelon harvest where I worked outside of Phoenix for summers during high school. Hard work for sure. Continue reading

Farro is fun in your mouth, good in your tummy

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

It always is a pleasant surprise when someone tells me that they enjoy my newspaper columns, particularly those about food and food recipes.

So here is one. While I am not exactly a gourmet cook, we give creative, healthy food preparation mindful emphasis in our kitchen.

Plus, I am always on the lookout to add new, tasty and nutritious recipes to our family dining repertoire.

At the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives cooking/nutrition conference in Napa Valley a couple years ago, I discovered farro. This is a versatile grain that is easy to use and prepare.

I get mine at Peak Nutrition in Galveston or you can order it online. Whole Foods stocks it as well.

What the heck is farro? It is a form of wheat, highly popular in rustic Italian cooking.

The food of the Roman legions, it has a long history in the Mediterranean and Middle East and is called emmer wheat, which means, the “mother of wheat.”

Continue reading

Pancreatic Tumor Marker

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Pancreatic cancer is the most deadly form of cancer. Each year, 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with it and every year 40,000 people (90 percent) die from it. One reason most people don’t survive pancreatic cancer is most of the pain and symptoms don’t appear until the cancer has progressed and treatment comes too late. Even then, pancreatic cancer is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. Another reason is that there is not an easy, reliable test for pancreatic cancer — until now.

The pancreas is a small, oblong, flat organ at the back of abdomen between the stomach and the spine. It is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels by producing hormones such as insulin. The pancreas also produces enzymes for the digestive system that neutralize stomach acid and help break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

While there aren’t many noticeable symptoms at first, as pancreatic cancer advances it can cause abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, fatigue and jaundice (when the skin, eyes and mucus turn yellow). Since these symptoms are rather generic, even once someone starts experiencing them it is hard to tell the difference between pancreatic cancer and something benign, like gallstones or bile duct stones. While doctors normally use imaging techniques and endoscopies to distinguish between the two, scientists have identified a new marker that can be used to accurately diagnose a pancreatic tumor.

Continue reading

More steps to creating a healthy life for yourself

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Salutogenesis might be an unfamiliar term to many of you. It is the study of the origins and creation of health.

I read a scientific paper last week that sought to explore the use of quality management methods to improve our health.

Based on the work of business and corporate experts in improving systems, processes and technology, it proposed that salutogenesis provides a framework to improve health promotion efforts.

This term hearkens back to the wellness movement that started in the 1980s.

The concept of wellness focuses on optimizing health and well-being, rather than merely focusing on treating or even preventing disease.

Salutogenesis and wellness both acknowledge that people do not seek health for health’s sake but for what a healthy life allows them to do.

It can help them achieve their dreams, build relationships, serve others, make discoveries, develop spiritually and, in general, live a good and joyful life.

Recall last week’s column in which the following salutogenic life choices were discussed.

By saying yes and achieving one or more of these, you will add years of health and happiness.

Continue reading

4 key questions, 7 steps to health

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The noted heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard once said that our goal in life should be “to die young, as late as possible.”

These words of wisdom suggest that we need to tend to those things that keep us young functionally, mind, body and spirit. As we ascend in age, our goal should be to postpone as long as we can the depredations of unhealthy aging, premature disease and loss of function.

At a recent national conference for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, a nationwide organization including an OLLI here in Galveston that is dedicated to promoting healthy aging, I heard a terrific and highly practical presentation.

The keynote speaker was a friend of mine, Dr. Margaret Chesney, head of the University of California in San Francisco’s Osher Integrative Medicine Center and also former head of the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Dr. Chesney shared data that showed the answer to four simple questions can largely determine how healthy your lifestyle is.

The four questions were:
1. Are you a nonsmoker?
2. Is your Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 30?
3. Do you engage in mild or moderate physical activity at least 21⁄2 hours per week?
4. Do you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily?
Continue reading