Groups petition to ban baby walkers

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

The American Academy of Pediatrics, joined by other children’s advocacy groups, has petitioned the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to prohibit the manufacture and sale of baby walkers.

This petition is the result of the large number of injuries to children caused by baby walkers.

While considering the recommendation of the AAP to ban walkers, the CPSC suggest the following safety precautions for parents who chose to purchase a walker. Continue reading

No-calorie soft drinks, weight and your gut bacteria

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Do you know anyone who drinks a lot of diet sodas and just cannot seem to lose weight? It has been known for some time that these artificial, no-calorie sweeteners not only do not encourage weight loss but may actually promote weight gain and even diabetes by continuously stimulating our desire to taste sweetness. When they were invented by the food industry, these new-to-nature molecules promised to offer a positive option to sugar. They seemed to be a healthier alternative that promised to change our habits and health risks from drinking the high fructose, sugary soft drinks that have defined American billboard culture since the 1950s. However, there are issues.

Sweet foods, it turns out, activate a set of digestive processes, enzymes and hormones like insulin that promote weight gain and diabetes. No-calorie sweet drinks do the same. This is very different from the gut and endocrine response to more bitter or alkaline foods such as vegetables, grains, legumes and other plant-based foods. So despite no calories, these sweeteners have not been so helpful in weight loss as a substitute for the sugary soft drinks. They also are not helpful to diabetics for these same reasons. There is now another reason to suspect that there are other problems with these beverages. It turns out that no-calorie soft drinks change the profile of bacteria in our gut, part of the so-called microbiome. These bacteria, which may in aggregate weigh three to six pounds, constitute one of the largest “organs” in the body. They actually contain about 150 times as much DNA as our human genome. The key issue for our diet is that they are essential to the process of healthy digestion. Many foods, especially plant materials, cannot be adequately metabolized and absorbed without a healthy gut bacterial population. When artificial sweeteners alter this profile, our ability to utilize our food effectively is impaired. We still feel hungry. Continue reading

The irresistible rise of genomic medicine

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

It’s only been 150 years since scientists discovered what we now call DNA. Today, it’s a household word, the basis for the field genomics, and an integral part to multitudes of scientific studies. It’s remarkable how relatively quickly our understanding of genes has progressed.

DNA was first thought to represent the genetic material of living organisms in the 1940s. Doctors Francis Crick and James Watson revealed the double helix structure of DNA in 1953, which is widely considered to be the first revolution in modern biology. In 1977, we first decoded the entire genome of a living organism, a tiny virus that infects bacteria called ?X174. This was the first time we understood all the DNA required to produce a life-form. The term genomics was first coined in 1987 to describe the structure and functions of an organism’s entire genetic blueprint. In 1995, we determined the genome of a free-living organism, a bacterium called Haemophilus influenza, for the first time. The genome of a eukaryotic organism, Baker’s yeast, was first completed in 1996. These early studies provided the novel approaches and advanced technologies that were later used to sequence the human genome, which consists of 3 billion base pairs. The human genome project, the second revolution in modern biology, began in 1990, and was completed in 2003. Since then, the genomes of more than 4,000 other organisms, including the ancient human species Neanderthal and the coffee plant, have been completely determined. Continue reading

Find your inner peace

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu once said, “Stillness and tranquillity set things in order in the Universe.”

The Danish sage Søren Kierkegaard likewise encouraged us to times of quietude: “Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good.”

This is a remarkable attitude in our very busy, constantly moving world where activity, productivity and busyness are equated with our value as a human being. Is this really true?

Perhaps the things we busy ourselves with are not all that important, taking too much time and effort while accomplishing little or nothing in service of others or in helping us achieve our major life goals.

In my daily medical practice, I often encounter people who are busy, very busy. They attest to being too busy to exercise, to shop for and cook healthy meals at home, to attend to important relationships — and too busy, for sure, to center their minds by relaxation or meditation. In other words … too busy. Continue reading

Playing with others is important to a child’s development

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

The American Academy of Pediatrics in their healthychildren.org website discuss how important play is for children. Playing with others is important to a child’s development. Life skills are learned when children play that can help them to make and keep friends. As a parent you can encourage your child to take part in healthy playtime by taking your child to a park to play with other children or by joining an organized play group.

Aggressive behavior between children is normal, but as a parent and supervisor there are a number of steps you can take to keep aggressive behavior to a minimum.

Playing with others is Important Child’s Work Continue reading

Enjoy veggies in a nice smoothie

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

When a recent freezing cold front blew in, I decided to get out and harvest my winter garden.

Besides mustard greens, lettuce, herbs, and Swiss chard, I had some beautiful lancinate blue-green kale. Well, right away I made a nice kale salad, described in another article on this website. However, the gift of a fresh turmeric root from my chief resident inspired me to use some of the kale to make a smoothie.

I had seen these before and even tasted a kale or spinach smoothie a time or two. It turns out to be a great way to start your day and getting on your way to getting the recommended five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables (shoot for 30 percent fruits, 70 percent vegetables) we ought consume daily for optimal health. Continue reading

The altitude gene: A Denisovan gift

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Those traveling to the Himalayas have a tough time adjusting to the harsh altitude. But for those native to Tibet, called the Roof of the World due to its location 14,700 feet up, it’s not a problem. That’s because Tibetans have adapted to this extreme environment partly due to a gene they inherited from an extinct species of prehumans called the Denisovans.

Anyone traveling to high altitudes like those in Tibet can get altitude sickness and there is no way to predict who will get it. The severity of it varies according to genetics and the rate of ascent, but it is not influenced by age, gender, physical fitness or previous altitude experience.

Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. Severe symptoms could indicate high altitude cerebral edema, which impairs brain function, progresses rapidly and can become life-threatening in a matter of hours. Continue reading

Zzzzz on snoring

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Do you snore or know somebody who does?

Snoring is usually a benign process caused by vibration of tissue in the back of the throat. While it can be associated with serious problems like obstructive sleep apnea that require medical or surgical intervention, most of the time the causes are more straightforward.

Chances are if you snore, you might not even be aware of it unless you have a bed partner, roommate or grandchild that you are keeping up and who can tell you.

I did see a recent app for those who live alone that can record your snoring patterns and help identify if you have a problem. If you have a lot of daytime drowsiness and don’t seem to get restful sleep, it might be worth checking out.

I saw a TV commercial for a removable mouth device that reduces snoring. In this ad, a hapless guy is kicked out of bed by his wife who is suffering from lack of sleep due to his loud snoring. He is sad faced and gets to sleep on the couch until he gets the mouthpiece. Ouch! After that, of course all is well again. This kind of mouthpiece sometimes works and has the benefit of being inexpensive and safe. Continue reading

Hearing loss in children on the rise

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The latest song is blasting through the earphones of the teen’s iPod. It’s so loud the other kids can hear it, even though they’re a good 10 feet away. We’ve all heard the noise: Whether it’s coming from a car radio, a concert, or yes, even those personal music players that are so popular, it seems the volume on life is cranked up and the knob ripped off.

Can you hear your mother’s words ring in the back of your mind? “Turn that down, you’re going to go deaf!” Nearly 27 million Americans age 3 and older suffer from some sort of hearing loss. That’s double the number 30 years ago.

In children, three main culprits make up the majority of causes of hearing loss. They are otitis media, hearing loss at birth, and other acquired causes, like complications from the measles, mumps, or a head injury. Continue reading

The cough that won’t go away

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Still coughing? A few days ago I was swapping home remedies with a lively Italian grandmother on how coughs were treated in our families. Her favorite was a mix of honey, lemon juice and a splash of bourbon.

During a recent hospitalization for a bronchial infection, her cough was unremitting so she asked the nurses for her favorite cough syrup. Our professional and patient-centered nurses agreed to bring the honey and the lemon juice. The rest of the recipe would be fine if someone brought it in and they just didn’t know about it. Wink, wink!

Well, she was in the office a couple weeks later and though a powerful opiate laced cough syrup helped, she still was up at night and fatigued from a persistent cough.

I recommended the lemon-honey-whiskey mixture at bedtime along with an expectorant and an inhaler. We got along well, I think, and I expect she and her cough will improve. Continue reading