Bottle of Red? Bottle of White?

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The old Billy Joel song posed the dynamic of choosing the right color of wine. This has long been debated with oenophiles, those that study and love wines, each with strong opinions, including how to pair wines with foods. The classic alignment is white wines with salads, chicken and fish dishes, even desserts. Reds are traditionally recommended for heartier fare such as soups, stews, roasts, red meat, aromatic cheeses, and so on.

Like food, the appreciation of wine incorporates aromas providing character, flavor, mouth feel, and a sense of appreciation or distaste. Most chefs and even snooty sommeliers agree that the best wine for you is the one that you actually like. The vintage, age, color, bouquet, type of grape, and all the other complexities of wine should never stand in the way of your enjoying a glass of wine that you personally enjoy. Continue reading

A real-life ‘Game of Thrones’

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

The mummies of ancient Egypt have given science much insight into their lives and deaths. Just a year ago they unearthed an unknown pharaoh from a dynasty whose existence historians had only speculated about. Although ancient tomb robbers had torn his mummy apart, modern archaeologists have cataloged the 18 blows he suffered in battle that led to his death over 3,600 years ago.

An expedition led by archaeologist Josef Wegner from the University of Pennsylvania at Abydos in Sohang province (about 300 miles south of Cairo) discovered the tomb of Woseribre Senebkay, who lived from about 1650-1600 BC, and was probably one of the first kings of a dynasty in Abydos. The tomb consisted of four chambers, which was modest for a pharaoh, and a burial chamber made of limestone with the goddesses Nut, Nephthys, Selket and Isis painted on the walls. The discovery confirms the existence of a separate dynasty in Abydos, which was suggested by Egyptologist K. Ryholt in 1997. It also identifies the necropolis as a site called Anubis Mountain. Continue reading

A way out of our continuing antibiotic crisis

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Antibiotic resistance occurs when strains of bacteria that infect people — such as staph, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea — do not respond to antibiotic treatments. In America, 2 million people become infected with resistant bacteria every year and at least 23,000 die each year because of those infections. If nothing is done to stop or slow the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, the World Health Organization warns that we will find ourselves in a post-antibiotic world, in which minor injuries and common infections will be life-threatening once again.

The crisis arose primarily from three conditions. First, when people are given a weeks’ worth of antibiotics and stop taking them as soon as symptoms improve, they often expose the bacteria causing their infection to the medicine without killing it. This allows the bacteria to quickly mutate to further avoid the effects of the antibiotic. Second, antibiotics are overprescribed. Most common illnesses like the cold, flu, sore throat, bronchitis, and ear infection are caused by viruses, not bacteria, so antibiotics are essentially useless against them. Yet they are prescribed 60-70 percent of the time for these infections. This once again provides bacteria in the body unnecessary contact with antibiotics. Third, tons of antibiotics are used every year in the agriculture industry. They are fed to livestock on a regular basis with feed to promote growth and theoretically for good health. But animals are also prone to bacterial infections, and now, to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which spreads to humans who eat their meat or who eat crops that have been fertilized by the livestock. The good news is that the Food and Drug Administration is working to focus antibiotic use on bacterial infections and regulate its use in livestock. Continue reading

Staying hydrated vital to health

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

While there is a debate about the health benefits of red or white wine, which I will cover in next week’s column, there is no debate among health care experts about the benefits of water. In fact, most of us don’t take in enough.

I recently picked up a copy of a complimentary journal called Bay Area Health and Wellness. It is free by calling 832-323-3020 or you can get if online at www.txhwmagazines.com. It’s user-friendly, evidence-based, and a practical source for health information.

An article called Sip on This! by Darlene Staheli, a health coach, particularly intrigued me. Reading it while sweating between sets on the weight machines, I realized I was thirsty. Off to the water fountain for a much-needed rehydration.

We all need a regular, abundant supply of water to keep our tissues and organs moistened and optimally functioning, to remove waste, to replace fluids lost in respiration and sweat. A rough guideline is to drink at least a ½ ounce of water for each pound of our body weight daily. According to the Institute of Medicine, an adequate liquid intake for men is roughly 13 cups a day and about 9 cups for women. Drinking when you feel thirsty and drinking beverages with meals is good common sense and will usually be a good start. Exercising vigorously obviously increases our need for fluids. Continue reading

Psychobiotics

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

By now, you have heard about probiotics, the healthy bacteria in our system that help maintain our health. This six pound mass of microscopic organisms are essential to digestion as they help us break down cellulose and other plant and animal matter that our bodies’ can’t digest on their own.

One surprising area of the impact of bacteria and the microbiome that has been recently discovered are the effects of gut bacteria on the brain and on behavior.

Dr. Mark Lyte faced strong headwinds in the research community when he proposed that gut bacteria could affect our moods. Though he was one of the first to advocate the concept of “psychobiotics,” he still advises caution in rushing to overly broad conclusions and therapies until more science is done in the area.

A recent New York Times Magazine synopsized several recent studies done primarily on mice found correlations between their gut bacteria and behavior such as markers of anxiety. Mice are not men but the physiology suggested by these studies was fascinating.

Stressed mice whose gut was infused with certain probiotics acted more relaxed compared to those with usual gut bacterial profiles. They behaved “as if they were on Prozac” according to the researcher, Dr. John Cryan. Continue reading

The many genes of autism

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

In the past decade, autism has garnered a lot of media attention. Lately much of the focus has been on finding the cause. Much is still a mystery, despite confirming that vaccines and parenting are not responsible. Now a new study of twins has given us another clue, revealing that the influence of genetics on the development of autism may be between 56 and 95 percent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 68 children have autism, a neurodegenerative disorder that exists on a spectrum, meaning its symptoms and their severity varies tremendously. A hallmark feature of autism is impaired social interaction, noticeable even in babies. Those with autism find it difficult to interpret what others are thinking or feeling because they miss the social clues most take for granted. Other symptoms can include repetitive movements such as spinning or rocking, speech delays and self-destructive behaviors. Children with autism can also have a variety of other conditions including epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Continue reading

Some tasty recipes

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The average American family has about a dozen or less meals they prepare on a regular basis. In my Polish-American working class family, they were chicken noodle soup, Hungarian goulash, ground beef mixed with onions, peppers, and rice, fish sticks, Polish sausage and sauerkraut, hot dogs and baked beans, and a few others that showed up on the table regularly. Of course we always had a mix of cooked vegetables and salads served by my health conscious mom who worked hard to stretch the tight grocery budget.

Like so many things, changing our eating habits is often a challenge. One way I have played with in the past year or two is trying to add a new recipe every week or two just to expand our repertoire. Most recently, my wife and co-chef Michelle discovered an amazing recipe on line that came out even better than expected. It was Rosemary-Garlic-Lemon Chicken. Rosemary from the backyard and some nice organic chicken breasts in the freezer set us up to cook.

• Thaw the chicken breasts, rinse, and pat dry

• In a skillet, gently brown a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic in extra-virgin olive oil

• When the oil is hot and the garlic just turns translucent, put in the chicken and sear it quickly on both sides to seal in the juices

• Slice a couple of lemons and lay them on top of the chicken along with a few sprigs rosemary

• Add ¼ cup of cooking wine for moisture

• Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes or so until done Continue reading

Protein may be linked with weakening, failing hearts

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

What exactly causes a heart to fail? It may come down to a simple protein, which scientists recently identified as having an important role in how a heart goes from weakening to failing.

Your heart is a strong, muscular pump slightly larger than your fist that pushes blood through your body. Blood delivers the necessary oxygen and nutrients to all cells in all the organs. Every minute, your heart pumps five quarts of blood. Human hearts have four chambers: two atria on top and two ventricles on bottom. Oxygenated blood leaves the lungs, enters the left atrium, moves to the left ventricle, and is then pumped out of the heart to the rest of the body. After it circulates, blood returns to the heart, enters the right atrium, moves to the right ventricle, and is then sent back to the lungs for a fresh dose of oxygen. Although your heart beats 100,000 times each day, the four chambers must go through a series of highly organized contractions to accomplish this. Continue reading

How do you become a doctor? Practice

Michael M. Warren, M.D.

Michael M. Warren, M.D.

It’s Your Health

Medical students are a vital part of your health care, because without medical students, there would be no doctors. We’ve all got to start some place, right? To put it another way, just as the kids in boot camp become seasoned soldiers, medical students are the future doctors of the world.

“That’s fine doc,” you say, “but I don’t want them practicing on me or my family. I want a ‘real doctor.’”

Well, let me assure you, I don’t want them practicing on you or your family either! Not until medical students have completed their entire program, have received their M.D. degrees and have become “real doctors” are they allowed to “practice” on anyone! Continue reading

An unwelcome gift from gorillas

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

You probably know that AIDS, which has affected 79 million people and killed 39 million since 1981, is the result of HIV. What you may not know is that there are several different types of this virus and they did not all come from the same source, making the search for HIV’s origins lengthy and complicated.

There are four groups of HIV-1: M, N, O, and P. Each of them was transmitted between African primates as simian immunodeficiency viruses, or SIVs, before infecting humans, and each crossed species to humans independently. More than 40 African primates carry SIVs, which emerged up to 6 million years ago. It is likely that transmission to humans has occurred many times when hunters where exposed to the blood and tissues of infected animals. However the isolation of humans in Africa limited the spread of SIVs that crossed into humans until the last century. Continue reading