Turmeric is a dietary delight and health superfood

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The warm, sunny, orange hue of turmeric is a common feature of Indian food, though it is underused as a culinary spice in the U.S.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Snow Day Superfood,” more chefs are discovering that the tangy “sour-bittery-lemony” flavor, fabulous color and health benefits makes it a rich addition to a large variety of foods.

It can add surprising notes to Italian food, beets, quinoa, veal, cauliflower, halibut and of, course rice, lentils, noodles, soups, stews and many more.

It may take a little experimentation to add it to your repertoire of herbs.

My usual favorite herbs include oregano, dill, rosemary, garlic, basil, thyme, red pepper and, of course, garlic, but not usually turmeric, except when an occasional recipe calls for it.

In my current annual quest to expand my cooking skills with new recipes every two weeks or so, I am looking to create more dishes with turmeric. Why? Continue reading

Silent Mad Cow

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Ten years after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly called mad cow disease, was diagnosed in cattle in Britain, the British government admitted that it could be transferred to humans in a new form called variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD).

Cases of BSE spread to cattle in other countries, and more people in different countries were being diagnosed with vCJD. By 2004, the U.S. had passed various laws to eliminate BSE-infected cattle from the market. However, to this day, there are still sporadic reports of cows diagnosed with BSE both in the U.S. and abroad.

BSE and vCJD are neurological diseases that arise from prion plaques that form in the brain. Prions are simply misfolded proteins. This can be caused by a genetic mutation, spontaneous misfolding, or consuming infected beef. These misfolded proteins can convert healthy or normal proteins into misfolded ones. Once they appear, abnormal prion proteins aggregate, or clump together. Investigators think these protein aggregates may lead to loss of brain cells and other brain damage. Areas of the brain’s grey matter are slowly displaced and the brain develops holes or a spongy appearance, hence the name spongiform. There is no treatment or cure and eventually the damage is severe enough to lead to death. Continue reading

Do everything possible to avoid shaken baby syndrome

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Recently, more than 2,000 infants and children were hospitalized as the result of being shaken by their caregivers.

Physicians suspect that the numbers are even higher since the syndrome often goes unreported.

Shaken baby syndrome refers to the violent and unnecessary repetitive shaking of an infant or young child.

A combination of a heavy head, weak neck muscles and a soft and rapidly growing brain can lead to severe bruising of the shaken child’s brain. Blindness, mental retardation or death can occur as a result.

Shaken baby syndrome can also occur when a child is bounced up and down on a person’s knee or tossed in the air. Playing games like “cracking the whip,” where a child is swung around by the ankles, or “skinning the cat,” where a child is flipped and somersaulted forward by the wrists, also have been known to cause shaken baby syndrome. Continue reading

In love with lentils

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

On our recent spiritual cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel, I discovered an amazingly tasty and healthy food, dal.

Dal, a basic stew made with lentils, is common in the diet of India and other Asian countries. It was so rich and delectable that I ate it every day at least once. The cruise ship chefs prepared a tasty new version daily for the Asian food buffet island.

Dal is usually vegetarian. All the dals were aromatic preparations of lentils with spices like turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds and various vegetables.

While dal was a new and healthy taste thrill for me, it is a popular and widely eaten food, though not necessarily in the United States and certainly not something you’d find in your local Texas barbecue or steakhouse.

In fact, when I mentioned to some of my Asian and Indian physician colleagues about my latest culinary discovery, they looked at me with looks about as astonished as a goat looking at a new gate. Continue reading

Knocking Out Hepatitis C

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Good news awaits hepatitis C patients. In the next few years, new drugs that specifically target the Hepatitis C virus, curing a person more quickly without the severe side effects, will become available. Some physicians and patients are even opting to wait for these new drugs rather than endure the current therapy.

Today, this viral infection is most often acquired by drug users sharing needles. The hepatitis C virus can cause a mild illness lasting a few weeks but in some people it can cause a serious lifelong illness. One major problem is that many people are unaware that they are infected until they have symptoms of liver damage. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States.

An estimated three to four million Americans are infected, and deaths from hepatitis C are expected to rise in the future as those unaware of their infections begin to have symptoms. There is no vaccine and the current drug regimens can cure about 70 percent of infected people but the serious side effects include anemia, insomnia, depression, fever and severe rashes. Continue reading

Research: Probiotics might prevent or treat disorders in children

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Probiotics — meaning for life — are microorganisms that may help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria just as the existing good bacteria in your body already does.

The most common types of probiotics are strains of tiny organisms called bifidobacterium and lactobacillus.

Some formulas are fortified with probiotics, which are live bacteria. They are good or friendly bacteria that are already present at high levels in the digestive system of breast-fed babies.

Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for the probiotics. Prebiotics are found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes.

When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they are called synbiotics. Yogurt is an example of a synbiotics, which contains the live bacteria and the fuel they need to survive.

Some research has shown that the probiotics mentioned above may prevent or treat disorders such as infectious diarrhea and atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children. Continue reading

Timeless advice on living good, healthy life

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

I suspect there is a scientific institute somewhere called “The Institute for Everything that Was Supposed to be Good for You but is Now Bad for You.”

The flux and change in science as well as uncertainty in such fields as nutritional research makes it maddeningly difficult to know what are the best choices for a good and healthy life.

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Why Nutrition is So Confusing,” health and science journalist Gary Taubes describes the enormous costs and challenges to creating credible long-term studies on various approaches to nutrition.

There are so many confounding variables, and the long-term effects so hard to track and measure, that we often get conflicting advice. Witness recent confusion on vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Pharmacological and medical research is likewise strewed with the carcasses of old theories and practices.

The very day a couple weeks ago that I wrote about testosterone and obesity in men, a report came out documenting a significant increase in heart attack rate in men on replacement testosterone above a certain age.

Coronary bypass surgery and tube feeding, long thought to be lifesavers, have been found not to prolong life in controlled studies. Continue reading

Stress affects every aspect of health

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

A fire races toward your house. This is definitely a stressful situation, but how you handle it may be programmed in your sex genes.

Fight or flight is typically a male response to this type of situation — sticking around to fight the fire or running as fast as you can away from it.

Women have a tend and befriend response to sudden stress. Estrogen blunts the fight or flight response, and we engage in nurturing activities to protect ourselves and our children.

These responses allow us to don a superman or superwoman cape and rise to the occasion. But what happens to our physical and emotional health when the stress is here day in and day out?

Most of us allow stress to sit on our shoulders like unwanted cellulite. You don’t want it, but it tenaciously hangs on.

Stress stimulates the release of various chemicals in our body. The primary stimulating response is the release of catecholamines and corticosteroids, or cortisol, from our adrenal glands. This rush can provide that superwoman response to acute stress. Continue reading

Fungal Drug Forces HIV Suicide

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

What do nail fungus and HIV have in common? As it turns out, the same drug may cure them both. A topical drug called Ciclopirox, commonly prescribed to treat nail fungus, has been found to kill HIV-infected cells in the lab.

The drugs that are currently used to treat HIV and prevent the progression to AIDS unfortunately do not eliminate the virus from the body. If people stop taking the drugs, the virus will rapidly take control. That means HIV-infected people have to stay on a combination of anti-retroviral drugs for the rest of their lives. Current combination drug therapies are very successful in controlling the virus and have made HIV a survivable disease. But many of the current HIV therapeutics have significant side effects including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and even damage to the liver and kidneys. They are also expensive: about $10,000 to $12,000 per patient per year in the United States. It has long been a dream to find drugs that could eliminate the virus and cure HIV patients.

HIV is one member of a family of viruses called lentiviruses. When these viruses infect someone, they enter host cells by binding to specific receptors on their surfaces. Once inside the cell, the virus’s genetic information is converted into DNA, the same type of molecule that human genes are made of. The virus has an enzyme that inserts its genetic information into the genomes of the human cells. From that moment, that cell is infected for life. Then the virus replicates and infects other cells. Continue reading

Are you ready to start a healthier second life?

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

If I were to tell you that up to 70 percent of all visits to a doctor are now thought to have a predominantly a single cause, what might you guess? Infections? Genetics? Drug-seeking behavior? Heart disease? Cancer? Diabetes? Pain?

As Maxwell Smart, the wise-cracking detective in the old TV series “Get Smart,” used to say, “would you believe …” lifestyle factors contribute to or cause the vast majority of illness requiring medical attention?

In fact, there is even a new field of medicine named Lifestyle Medicine. I just joined the society and am planning to attend an upcoming conference where I hope to learn more about this area.

I hope to learn how better to help my patients work on lifestyle contributors to their health, wellness and illness.

Any longtime readers of this column know that my topics about health often involve things you can do yourself.

How you eat, exercise, manage stress and so forth are major factors in wellness or illness.

During the weekend, I did a unique presentation called “Second Life on Lifestyle Medicine.” Continue reading