New data for vitamin D for infants, children, adolescents

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Recently, the Academy of Pediatrics has changed its recommendations about the amount of vitamin D to be taken daily for all infants.

It is now recommended all infants, children and adolescents take 400 IU daily. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with rickets, which is a condition of weakened deformed bones.

New information now suggests that vitamin D has a role in immunity and reduces the risk for certain chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

The primary natural source of vitamin D is from cholesterol being changed in the skin with exposure to UVB light (sunshine). Natural sources from the diet are limited.

It is not easy to determine how much exposure to sunshine is needed for a given individual, and too much exposure increases the risk of skin cancer.

Mothers who are vitamin D deficient might expose their unborn babies to a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, the Academy of Pediatrics is recommending the following:

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Pancreatic Tumor Marker

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Pancreatic cancer is the most deadly form of cancer. Each year, 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with it and every year 40,000 people (90 percent) die from it. One reason most people don’t survive pancreatic cancer is most of the pain and symptoms don’t appear until the cancer has progressed and treatment comes too late. Even then, pancreatic cancer is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. Another reason is that there is not an easy, reliable test for pancreatic cancer — until now.

The pancreas is a small, oblong, flat organ at the back of abdomen between the stomach and the spine. It is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels by producing hormones such as insulin. The pancreas also produces enzymes for the digestive system that neutralize stomach acid and help break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

While there aren’t many noticeable symptoms at first, as pancreatic cancer advances it can cause abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, fatigue and jaundice (when the skin, eyes and mucus turn yellow). Since these symptoms are rather generic, even once someone starts experiencing them it is hard to tell the difference between pancreatic cancer and something benign, like gallstones or bile duct stones. While doctors normally use imaging techniques and endoscopies to distinguish between the two, scientists have identified a new marker that can be used to accurately diagnose a pancreatic tumor.

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More steps to creating a healthy life for yourself

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Salutogenesis might be an unfamiliar term to many of you. It is the study of the origins and creation of health.

I read a scientific paper last week that sought to explore the use of quality management methods to improve our health.

Based on the work of business and corporate experts in improving systems, processes and technology, it proposed that salutogenesis provides a framework to improve health promotion efforts.

This term hearkens back to the wellness movement that started in the 1980s.

The concept of wellness focuses on optimizing health and well-being, rather than merely focusing on treating or even preventing disease.

Salutogenesis and wellness both acknowledge that people do not seek health for health’s sake but for what a healthy life allows them to do.

It can help them achieve their dreams, build relationships, serve others, make discoveries, develop spiritually and, in general, live a good and joyful life.

Recall last week’s column in which the following salutogenic life choices were discussed.

By saying yes and achieving one or more of these, you will add years of health and happiness.

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Infant formulas to have lower calories, protein

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement written by Dr. Frank Greer and Dr. Steven Abrams about what pediatricians need to know about the new low-calorie and low-protein formulas.

Infant formulas with lower energy density and lower protein content than those historically sold in the United States are being introduced this spring.

This change follows the recent addition of novel components such as pre- and probiotics into some formulas.

As the number of formula choices increases and the selection process becomes more complicated, families might want to seek their pediatrician’s advice.

Pediatricians, therefore, should be on alert for new formulas and be familiar with the research on formulas with varying amounts of energy and protein.

Since obesity is a national concern and because the risk of overweight is higher in formula-fed infants than breast-fed infants, some nutritionists support lowering the protein content and energy density of infant formulas. Continue reading

What Makes a Male?

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News 

Despite centuries of women being celebrated for siring sons, or scorned for failing to produce an heir, it is actually men who determine a baby’s gender. Women give each of their offspring an X chromosome, but the male can give an X or a Y chromosome to create a female (XX) or male (XY), respectively. But how much of the Y chromosome is required to make a male? It turns out only two genes are needed to create a male mouse, a species that determines gender the same as humans.

Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, one of which is the sex chromosome. Chromosomes contain lots and lots of genes, all which carry instructions that tell different parts of the body what to do. In males, the Y chromosome carries a gene called SRY that encodes the Sex-determining region Y (also abbreviated SRY) protein. This protein, as its name suggests, will decide the sex of future offspring. Consequently, this one single gene, SRY, is all that’s required to produce an anatomically male mouse. However, these male mice are infertile because they lack some of the genes involved in sperm production.

That’s where another gene called Eif2s3y comes in. With this second gene, male mice can at least generate sperm cell precursors known as round spermatids, but not mature sperm. To fully develop sperm, the mice need both copies of this gene. One is toward the end of the Y chromosome and the other version is on the X chromosome. Continue reading

Are you under a powerful spell or is it just PMS?

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Emotional explosions, bloating, food cravings, diarrhea. No, this isn’t a travel misadventure; it’s the dreaded premenstrual syndrome, more commonly known as PMS.

Have you ever gone through your closet trying on clothes but they all seem too tight because your belly is so bloated? When you look in the mirror, have you burst into tears because you feel fat?

To calm yourself, you rush into the pantry to devour the fresh chocolate chip cookies and quickly move on to the jalapeño potato chips?

Ahhh, you have calmed yourself down, but the end result is water retention in addition to your bloating. Ugh!

But your frustration ends as your period starts. Calm and stability — and estrogen — blossom within you and make life amazing … for about two weeks. Then it all starts again.

About 75 percent of women experience some symptoms of PMS, beginning with the second half of their cycle and receding with the onset of a woman’s period.

PMS describes a constellation of symptoms, including bloating, mood swings, agitation, food cravings, breast tenderness, change in bowel habits (including constipation and diarrhea), insomnia and loss of sex drive. Continue reading

4 key questions, 7 steps to health

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The noted heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard once said that our goal in life should be “to die young, as late as possible.”

These words of wisdom suggest that we need to tend to those things that keep us young functionally, mind, body and spirit. As we ascend in age, our goal should be to postpone as long as we can the depredations of unhealthy aging, premature disease and loss of function.

At a recent national conference for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, a nationwide organization including an OLLI here in Galveston that is dedicated to promoting healthy aging, I heard a terrific and highly practical presentation.

The keynote speaker was a friend of mine, Dr. Margaret Chesney, head of the University of California in San Francisco’s Osher Integrative Medicine Center and also former head of the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Dr. Chesney shared data that showed the answer to four simple questions can largely determine how healthy your lifestyle is.

The four questions were:
1. Are you a nonsmoker?
2. Is your Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 30?
3. Do you engage in mild or moderate physical activity at least 21⁄2 hours per week?
4. Do you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily?
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Suggestions for car seats, restraints to save children’s lives

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Toddlers between the ages of 12 and 23 months who ride in rear-facing car safety seats are five times safer than a toddler of the same age group in a forward facing car seat.

Overall, children 2 and younger are 75 percent less likely to die or experience a serious injury when they ride in a rear-facing car seat, according to Drs. Marilyn Bull and Dennis Durbin in “Rear-facing Car Safety Seats — Getting the Message Right,” Pediatrics, March 2008.

Rear-facing seats support the back, neck, head and pelvis because the force of the crash is distributed evenly across the entire body.

Forward-facing children will have the force of the crash concentrated on the seat belt contact points.

Also, younger children’s heads are large related to their small bodies, making whip lash much more dangerous for their small, weak necks.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in children and, as new research indicates that toddlers are five times safer in a rear-facing car seat.

Here are some recommendations from the Academy of Pediatrics: Continue reading

Humor, laughter are essential for optimal healing environment

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

As a kid, one of my favorite sections of the Reader’s Digest was “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”

I read it voraciously as each issue arrived and reread it as the Reader’s Digest was conveniently placed in our family bathroom.

I really liked the idea of good humor as a lubricant to the wheels of life. As I grew older, even as s a serious student, I found good humor in tasteful jokes, the elegance of TV comedians like Red Skelton, Jack Benny, George Burns, Jackie Gleason and many more.

After college, I washed out of marine biology graduate school because of recurrent, intractable seasickness.

Following a couple interesting years driving a truck, I entered medical school.

There, the idea that laughter was the best medicine seemed far removed from the life of a medical student. We reverentially dissected donated cadavers, extracting all the knowledge we could from this final last gift of families and patients.

In fact, when some of our classmates propped up five cadavers around a table with poker cards and chips, they were immediately expelled.

It was disrespectful and not funny, an immature prank that offended many, including those whose families had donated bodies. Continue reading

Aging and Our Biological Clock

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

The questions of how we age and how our bodies know what to do during that process have puzzled scientists for years. The answers lie in our biological clocks, which aren’t fully understood. Some scientists think that if we can learn how our biological clocks work, we would hold the key to slowing down or even reversing aging.

A group from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) achieved astounding results that offer insight into the mechanisms of aging. They used existing sets of data to compare DNA patterns in normal and cancerous tissue samples from humans. They examined almost 8,000 samples from more than 50 different people that were taken from various places in or on the body. This allowed them to take a comprehensive look at the changes that occur throughout the body during the aging process and how tissues of the body keep time.
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