Some Home Remedies for Colds and Flu

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

So you have a cold or flu and feel miserable. It is that time of year. Your nose is runny, your throat is sore, you are coughing, sneezing, and are achy all over. Your appetite is poor and you are tired and irritable. What to do?

First off, don’t pick up the phone or go into your doctor to ask for an antibiotic. Not only do antibiotics not work for colds and flu, they have side effects and may increase the presence of drug resistant bacteria. Antiviral therapy for influenza (not the stomach “flu”) can shorten the course of the illness by a day or two if started in the first 48 hours of the illness. Get a flu shot to prevent getting it in the first place.

There is a surprising lack of evidence on over-the-counter cold remedies containing decongestants and antihistamines. These may provide some relief in older children and adults but side effects can limit their usefulness. Avoid if pregnant or in children under 5 as they are one of the 10 leading causes of death in this age group. Continue reading

7 simple steps for a healthy, happy 2013

By Lynn Maarouf

Statistics tell us the “average” American gains a lot of weight over the holidays. Many people who usually eat well are pressured by loving hosts to eat high-calorie foods they would never choose on an ordinary day.

Let’s look at a few simple steps to stay healthy and make it a lucky 2013:

1. Move it! The best time to exercise is before a holiday meal. It gets your metabolism revved-up to burn those calories off faster. Take a trip to the gym or spend an hour walking before you eat. A nice piece of cake will be at least 300 calories. It would take a minimum of 50 minutes of walking for most of us to burn that off.

2. Fill up with fiber and water. Eat a high-fiber cereal with at least 8 grams of fiber in the morning. This helps you feel less hungry and decreases the temptation to overeat. Aim for 20 grams of fiber a day and a big appetite won’t be a big problem. Break out those sandwich thins for five extra grams of fiber. And drink enough water to help that fiber swell and take up lots of room. Continue reading

Massage: Real Medicine

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

In the upcoming New Year, give yourself or someone close to you a gift of healing: regular massage treatments. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, stated that the essential elements of medicine were, “Massage, music, and gymnastic.” So in addition to the healing power of the arts and the benefits of exercise, the importance of massage in medicine has been appreciated for millennia.

When did you last get a real massage, beyond a friendly backrub? A professional massage is a proven way to relieve stress and is highly effective for many medical conditions, chronic pain, sports injuries, even the side effects of cancer treatment such as lymphedema. Dr. Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute in Florida has been one of the leaders in the scientific study of massage. Her research, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, has demonstrated the benefits of massage in multiple conditions: increasing weight gain in preterm infants, enhancing attentiveness, alleviating depressive symptoms, reducing pain, reducing stress hormones, and improving immune function. Continue reading

Exercise and Cancer

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

In early 2013, UTMB’s Cancer Center at Victory Lakes will be joining the ranks of most major national cancer centers in offering Integrative Oncology consultation services. These will include medical consultations regarding evidence-based, proven complementary therapies for those anywhere along the spectrum of cancer: for prevention, for relief from side effects of treatment, in survivorship and prevention of remission, or for palliative care. Patients will also be offered counseling and recommendations regarding nutrition, stress management, and exercise.

Exercise plays many important roles related to cancer. For cancer prevention, as little as 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can reduce the risk of cancer, most convincingly for cancers of the breast and colon. Exercise helps reduce cancer risk by improving energy balance and fat distribution, reducing the obesity, stress management, improving antitumor immune defense, improving antioxidant defense and DNA repair. Exercise also improves transit time in the colon, increases ventilation of the lungs, and modifies the balance of multiple hormones thus reducing the risks of colon, lung, ovary, breast, endometrial, and prostate cancers. Continue reading

Study shows antidepressant could do double duty as diabetes drug

UTMB researchers have discovered that the commonly used antidepressant drug paroxetine could also become a therapy for the vascular complications of diabetes. The scientists made their discovery after screening 6,766 clinically used drugs and pharmacologically active substances.

“We developed this assay and used it to test literally every single existing drug and a good selection of other biologically active compounds,” said UTMB professor Csaba Szabo, senior author of a paper on the research published online by Diabetes. “We were quite surprised when paroxetine came out as an active compound—a result, we later determined, of what seems to be a completely new effect unrelated to its antidepressant actions and not shared by any other known antidepressant drug.”

The initial screening process tested the ability of different compounds to protect the cells that make up the inner linings of blood vessels from the destructive effects of the high sugar levels produced by diabetes, known as hyperglycemia. In people with diabetes, hyperglycemia causes these endothelial cells to generate toxic molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), which ravage blood-vessel linings and lead to diabetic endothelial dysfunction, the key factor in such destructive diabetic complications as heart attacks, strokes, retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy.

In subsequent test-tube studies, researchers found that paroxetine — which is sold as an antidepressant under the trade name “Paxil” — prevents hyperglycemia-initiated ROS damage to endothelial cells in two ways. [read more]

True Food (Umami Anyone?)

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

While visiting my family in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, I discovered a wonderful, healthy food restaurant, True Food Kitchen. Conceived by integrative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil, chef Michael Stebner, and businessman Sam Fox, their premise is that if you make healthy food flavorsome, people will eat it. Imagine that!

Though they started in the Phoenix area, True Food Kitchen is now in California and Colorado and better yet, they have published a wonderful cookbook, True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure with more than 125 wonderful recipes.

I was browsing through it over the weekend, trying not to drool on the beautiful photographs and recipes. The book is no ordinary cookbook but a rhapsody on a broad variety of culinary delights and healthy food choices from the anti-inflammatory diet and how to choose whole grains,  to the taste of umami. Never heard of umami? Continue reading

Nurture yourself

Dr. Catherine Hansen

Dr. Catherine Hansen

“When we truly care for ourselves, it becomes possible to care far more profoundly about other people.  The more alert and sensitive we are to our own needs, the more loving and generous we can be toward others” (Eda LeShan)

When, on earth, do we have time to nurture ourselves?  Between loads of laundry, field trips, college applications, ailing parents and dinner?  Women ask me this question every day.  It’s difficult to answer.  But I know, despite the screaming of children, the ringing of the phone and the dinging of incoming e-mails, that I must consider what it is telling me.  For me.  For my family.  For my patients. Continue reading

Hand surgery benefits from new technologies, some homegrown

Dr. Andrew Zhang

Dr. Andrew Zhang

Our hands are extensions of our brain. We use them to sense and change the world around us.

Every day each of us uses our hands to navigate through our private obstacle course; there are knobs and wheels to be turned buttons to be pushed wrappers to be unwrapped strings to be tied heavy things to be lifted. Most of the time we accomplish this so effortlessly we hardly give any thought to our amazing hands. They just work. It’s only when our hands are injured that we become painfully aware of our dependence on these finely tuned instruments.

Specialized training in hand surgery has greatly improved the outcome of hand injuries. Minimally invasive techniques use much smaller incisions sometimes with the aid of a camera. By avoiding a larger incision the patient recovers faster has less scarring and fewer potential complications.

One of the most well-known and popular minimally invasive techniques used in hand surgery today is for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Traditionally the surgery is performed with an incision on the palm one to two inches long.

Many patients don’t realize there is also an endoscopic technique invented by a physician born and raised right here in Texas City, Dr. John Agee. His system which I use in my practice reduces the incision to less than half an inch. I find that patients recover faster and have less pain after this endoscopic release. Continue reading

Pediatric center open on Saturdays for specialty care

The UTMB Pediatric Specialty Center, 2785 Gulf Freeway South in League City, is now offering Saturday appointments from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The center provides specialty care in asthma, allergy, rheumatology, immunology, cardiology, nephrology, hematology, oncology, diabetes, child development and behavior, neurology and genetics, among other services. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (409) 772-3695 or (888) 886-2543.

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Holiday hangover cures

by Dr. Victor S. Sierpina, the W.D. and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine at UTMB.

Though most of my readers assure me they are people of moderation when it comes to drinking, the holidays can sometimes be challenging.

Many of my patients report that they drink alcohol only over the holidays. Whether you are a regular drinker or an occasional one, the holidays are rife with risks for immoderation and along with this the suffering of hangovers.

A hangover is like a stern parent, chastising us for our mistakes the night before.

If there is any benefit to a hangover, it is to remind us to be more careful with our alcohol intake. There is nothing like a bad headache, stomach pain, muscle aches and a really bad attitude to remind us that no matter how much fun we had last night, we and those around us are paying a price today. Continue reading