Mucus is home to a body defender

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Though it has a reputation as slimy and gross, mucus is one of the most valuable lines of defense against the bacteria people are exposed to every day. It exists not only in a person’s nose, but the respiratory, digestive, urogenital, visual and auditory systems.

Science now shows it contains viruses called bacteriophage (phage for short) that attack and kill bacteria.

A virus is a tiny, infectious agent that is made of a protein coating and a core of genetic information. Although viruses can carry genetic information, undergo mutations and reproduce, they cannot metabolize on their own and thus are not considered alive.

Viruses are classified by the type of genetic information they contain and the shape of their protein capsule. There are viruses that infect every living thing on earth. There are even viruses that infect other viruses. Certain viruses that can infect bacteria have been found in mucus.

A healthy adult produces about 1 to 11⁄2 liters of mucus per day. Mucus consists of water, salts, antibodies, enzymes and a family of proteins called mucins. Different mucins are responsible for signaling between cells, forming a chemical barrier for protection and working with the immune system. Continue reading

Writing can help you heal

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Tell or write your story to find healing and personal discovery. An evolving field of health care is called narrative medicine. This involves having people use journaling, writing down aspects of their life story, poetry, short stories and other written reflections on what is happening or has happened in their lives.

Such writing can be highly therapeutic. Well-documented studies published in the medical literature show journaling can relieve such conditions as pain, depression and asthmatic symptoms.

For example, Life Story is a healing process in which people write and talk about intense vignettes of their life experiences. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Galveston is one locale where you can learn how to write and share your life story.

I have learned the power of writing down your stories during the years alongside my wife, who used it as a focus for her doctoral dissertation and her work at the OLLI.

Writing your story is helpful to both the writer who connects with his or her history and the listeners who learn of their own deep connection with others through shared stories. Continue reading

Pick age-appropriate toys for your children

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was created in 1973 to develop safety regulations for all consumer products.

The CPSC spends more than half of its budget every year testing children’s toys, as well as other items on the market for children.

When buying presents for your child, select toys that are age-appropriate. No matter how mature you think that your child is, he or she should not play with toys that are meant for an older age group.

Age-appropriate levels for toys are determined by safety factors rather than by intellectual and developmental factors. Continue reading

Is weight gain inevitable for all women during menopause?

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

You look in the mirror and see gray hair sprouting on your head and wrinkles streaming across your face.

As you glance further down, chins are forming and a muffin top spills over your jeans.

The average weight gain during midlife is 10 to 15 pounds. Is aging a battle that we must lay down our weapons against and accept as an eventuality?

Many women have picked up the sword to fight aging by covering up that gray hair or using skin products or Botox to soften wrinkles.

But what about the pounds in the middle? There are many changes in our bodies and activities as we age that can lead to weight gain.

Hormonal changes define menopause. Estrogen and progesterone are no longer produced in a quantity that will allow menstrual cycling.

Hot flashes, mood changes and vaginal dryness are only a few of the symptoms women experience. Is midlife muffin top also a symptom of hormone deprivation? Continue reading

We’re all connected in the miracle of life

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

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

For further depth in the kind of complexity and the unexpected in our lives as discussed in last week’s column, I strongly recommend for your reading pleasure a wonderful new book.

Written by a physician friend of mine, Dr. Larry Dossey, it is called “One Mind,” and systematically explores what we might normally call miracles. It does so from many perspectives including quantum physics, parapsychology, entanglement theory, near-death experiences and an overarching perspective of a universal, unified consciousness.

What Dossey calls “One Mind” has been alluded to by such illustrious thinkers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, who referred to it as the Oversoul; psychiatrist Carl Jung, who called it the Collective Unconscious; and paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin, who spoke of the noosphere, a psychic unity of mankind.

Discussed in this book are puzzling, intriguing subjects such as: how you know you are being stared at, how premonitions occur, how a mother knows her grown child a continent away has been injured, how a dog can find its owner after being lost a thousand miles from home, how twins anticipate each other’s needs and feelings even though raised apart in different homes; memories of a prior lives, the power of dreams to predict the future; and the science behind extrasensory perception and telepathic events. Continue reading

Another reason for senior moments

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

It’s walking into a room then forgetting why you’re there, or failing to remember the name of a known acquaintance.

The loss of memory that comes with older age has been the source of endless embarrassing moments and jokes.

Some view mental decline as an inevitable symptom of getting “over the hill.” Now, a study may have revealed why people experience senior moments, attributing them to brain microbleeds — or BMB — because of stiffening arteries.

Cognitive decline normally begins at about 25 years old, starting with a decrease in numerical abilities as well as arithmetic processing speed. Memory declines can be measured in the late 30s, perhaps as late as the 60s.

Reasoning, verbal ability and visual processing skills begin to decline in the 50s and 60s, although word knowledge, vocabulary and word reading skills remain stable into late adulthood. Continue reading

Degree of illness, not fever, is what harms children

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Is fever good or bad? Fever is the result of inflammatory process of the body’s immune system.

The inflammatory process may be cause by infection or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Fever is one of the main reasons that children are brought to the clinic or the emergency room.

Many mistaken beliefs about fever have persisted for decades.

In 1980, Dr. Schmitt coined the term “fever phobia” to help explain the unrealistic concerns about fever and how it can hurt children.

He found that 52 percent of parents bringing their children to the clinic with a fever of 104 degrees or less thought that the fever itself could cause serious neurological consequences.

Twenty years later, Dr. Crocetti and associates found that fever phobia still existed with 21 percent of parents thought brain damage was the primary harmful effect of fever and 14 percent listed death as a harmful effect. Continue reading

Miracles happen in medicine

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series.

The other day, a lovely 81-year-old patient, let’s call her Edna, an active community volunteer, came in to see me after a bad fall.

The swelling and lack of mobility in her upper arm made me suspect that she had broken her humerus, the big bone in the upper arm. I based this nearly certain assessment on my many years of primary care and emergency room practice.

Since I don’t have X-ray eyes, I ordered an X-ray while our hardworking staff simultaneously arranged for a visit to orthopedics for the requisite splinting.

Imagine my surprise and relief later that morning to find the X-rays were normal. No fracture at all.

When I called Edna to report this happy outcome, she told me she had prayed fervently on the way to Radiology and was quite sure this prayer had had its desired effect, that things would be normal.

Of course, I could have dismissed her personal miracle, but I chose instead to reflect on this story and share it with you. Every doctor knows his or her fallibility, the limits of both our art and science. We can always be wrong though we constantly study and try not to be. Continue reading

Researchers develop new insulin delivery system

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Diabetes is a life-changing diagnosis that can mean several injections of insulin and several tests of blood glucose levels every day.

Some people with diabetes say they feel like a pin cushion, and children with Type 1 diabetes often find it particularly challenging.

However, there may be some relief in sight thanks to nanoparticles.

Nanoparticles range in size from one to 2,500 nanometers. For an idea, the width of a strand of human hair is 100,000 nanometers.

Researchers have developed a new insulin delivery system that involves a network of nanoparticles. Once injected, the nanoparticles release insulin in response to increases in blood sugar levels for up to a week.

They have been tested in mice and if they perform similarly in people, this may be a better solution to managing diabetes than multiple daily injections. Continue reading