Take inventory of words

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

We create our lives from the inside out. From our thoughts come our ideas, from our ideas our words, our attitudes, our actions, and, ultimately, our outcomes in life.

Cause and effect. For many years, I had this exactly backward. I figured if I got a lucky break, met a powerful, rich friend, the right mentor, stumbled on a good business opportunity, met the right girl, an so on, then life would unfold as I wished it to be.

Except for luckily meeting the right girl, it has not really been that way.

The most common worldview in our day is that outside events shape our destiny.

Note the fluctuations in the stock market based on belief, fear and negative expectations, rather than any significant change in the businesses they invest in.

What is so often underemphasized is the power we have within to shape the map of our lives.

Rather than seeing ourselves as dependent beings awaiting the whims of fate, we need but recall the classic words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In his essay “Self-Reliance,” Emerson offered us this timeless advice: Continue reading

Take care of the earth and it will take care of you

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The gardening angels visited me again recently. They come as if by magic: one part sweat, two parts dirt, some under the fingernails, a pinch of earthworm.

As I pulled out my drying, dying tomato plants, I thanked each one for the wonderful harvest and delicious salads all summer. Then, the hard work of weeding began.

Because of heat, mosquitoes, and I admit some laziness, my lovely vegetable garden had become overgrown with a variety of weeds: dollar plants, mimosa weeds, Johnson and rye grass, and some I can’t name. A herbalist once said that “a weed is a plant whose virtue has not been discovered yet.”

So as I laboriously pulled weeds overgrowing my little patch of earth, I started communing with the gardening angels. As I peeled away the mantle of weeds, lo and behold my Greek and Italian oregano was thriving underneath, as was thyme, volunteer basil, and sage. The kitchen sweet fragrance of the herbs as they kissed my nostrils made weeding an aromatherapy experience. Continue reading

Enjoy quinoa – a gluten-free superfood

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Quinoa, pronounced “keen-WA,” is a food grown in the high Andes, primarily Bolivia and Peru.

It is not technically a grain nor a cereal, but botanically something in between. It has been a staple in those Andean countries for centuries, though with the worldwide increase in demand, they are finding it harder to afford since most of their production is exported. It does not grow well in the United States.

Why the recent interest in quinoa? We are in an era when rightly or wrongly people are avoiding gluten like the plague. Gluten is a protein common in wheat, barley, rye and oats, among other foods. With the trend to avoid gluten, quinoa fills a gap with a healthful grain-like product that fits well with many recipes.

For example, one of my favorite Mediterranean dishes is called taboulleh. In Galveston, check out the Mediterranean Chef on The Strand for an excellent preparation of this traditional salad.

The catch for gluten-phobes is that taboulleh is usually made with bulgur wheat and despite its wonderful taste and nourishing qualities, it has that old gluten fiend lurking around the parsley, onions and tomatoes. Continue reading

You have to go through all 10 stages of grief

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

(Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series.)

Why is the book by Granger Westberg called “Good Grief?”

The first four stages — shock, emotional pain, depression and loneliness, and physical distress — certainly don’t seem “good” in any clear sense.

They are all a rough and tumble struggle to adjust ourselves to a major loss of some kind in our lives.

How the author explained the concept of “Good Grief,” to me, is as follows.

When we experience a grief-producing event, it is like sliding slowly down into a deep, unknown and often dark valley.

As we work through the later stages of grief, it is an uphill climb but, eventually, we come out of the valley.

Looking back, we discover we are at a higher vantage point than where we started.

We can view the sunshine and the world at large from a mountaintop we have climbed and generally with more vision, awareness, compassion, wisdom and maturity. So what are the other six stages of the grief process? Continue reading

The stages of grief

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

(This is the first part of a two-part series)

I have been grieving the loss of several patients lately. You may have never reflected on this, but doctors, by the very nature of our work, constantly must live through and with the death and dying of patients. No matter how good a doctor you are, this is an inevitable part of our calling.

Many of these folks have grown into near and dear relationships with us through years of care. Richard (not his real name) died recently at nearly 100.

When I read his obituary, I was so impressed with the man he had been. So many accomplishments, such a wonderful life, family and service to church and community. His passing was surely a loss to the world.

As Richard gradually became more frail during the past 10 years or so, I came to see him this dignified man grow increasingly demented, frail, skeletal and weak, like many people in their 90s. Continue reading

Mindful gratitude is healthy practice to participate in

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The mind can only hold one thought or emotion at a time. With the noisy daily news of right vs. left, black versus white, Muslim versus Muslim, Democrat versus Republican, and so on, it is easy to slip into a pattern of negative thinking and low expectations.

Polarities in the world exist, of course, and it is worthwhile to pay attention to them.

However, we often can get pulled into reacting out of conditioned patterns of thought and emotion thus perpetuating the clamor and rancor rather than bringing politeness, perspicacity, and peace to situations around us.

Stress is in many cases self-induced and is always experienced personally. Choosing how to react in an healthy fashion often requires a few mindful steps — like pause, presence and proceed. Continue reading

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