A garden can bring you great simple pleasures

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Odd as it may seem, the simplest things in life may be what brings our greatest joy and satisfaction. A breeze in your face, the scent of a rose, the laughter of a child, the warmth of a hot shower: All of these are moment-to-moment experiences that can be enjoyed only if we notice and appreciate them.

One of my most pleasurable (and edible) hobbies is gardening. The past couple of weeks, my garden suddenly burst into generativity. Fragrant herbs like dill, oregano, basil, thyme, mint, sage and rosemary waft through the air.

Hiding in the verdant foliage are French breakfast radishes, along with purple, green and yellow string beans. I picked a lot on Memorial Day and will tell you this: Bean picking is not for sissies.

Raised beds are good for those of us averse to stoop labor and the backaches that it brings. Next year, I plan to raise my beds further

By the way, properly designed raised beds can even allow those limited in mobility or wheelchair bound to enjoy the earthy pleasures of gardening.

Picking those beans, I suddenly had renewed and profound respect for my co-workers in the watermelon harvest where I worked outside of Phoenix for summers during high school. Hard work for sure. Continue reading

Protect swimmers from spreading illness-causing germs

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated the week before Memorial Day, May 19-25, as National Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week.

The focus is for the prevention of drowning, pool chemical injuries and outbreaks of illnesses.

As swimming season opens around the country, this is an ideal time to increase awareness about associated illness and injury and promote healthy and safe swimming.

We are sending you this brief educational update to encourage and support the CDC program.

Recreational water illnesses are caused by pathogens in contaminated swimming water. Diarrhea is the most common RWI, which is often caused by pathogens such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, E. coli O157: H7 and norovirus.

The CDC reported 57 disease outbreaks linked to pools in the United States in the year from 2009-2010 (the most recent year for which national data are available).

Even when the levels of chlorine and other pool water treatments are well maintained, they do not kill germs instantly. Continue reading

Bearly Understanding Diabetes

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

While they are some of the largest bears on earth, Grizzly bears aren’t usually accused of being fat. Regardless, these animals are helping scientists discover new and better treatments for human obesity and diabetes.

Grizzlies spend the late summers consuming more than 50,000 calories per day. As a comparison, a moderately active 50-year-old human female is recommended 2,300. Grizzlies then hibernate for up to seven months, relying on the pounds of stored fat they accumulated before winter. While hibernating, bears do not eat, urinate, or defecate.

Scientists wondered if all the weight and fat bears gain results in diabetes like it does in humans. Overweight people face an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not make enough of the hormone insulin or cells do not respond to it. Insulin helps move a type of sugar called glucose from the blood into cells, where it is used for energy and as a precursor for other molecules the body needs. If sugar levels in the blood remain elevated and the body doesn’t have enough insulin, cells are starved for energy, leading to damaged eyes, kidneys, nerves, and hearts. Continue reading

Farro is fun in your mouth, good in your tummy

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

It always is a pleasant surprise when someone tells me that they enjoy my newspaper columns, particularly those about food and food recipes.

So here is one. While I am not exactly a gourmet cook, we give creative, healthy food preparation mindful emphasis in our kitchen.

Plus, I am always on the lookout to add new, tasty and nutritious recipes to our family dining repertoire.

At the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives cooking/nutrition conference in Napa Valley a couple years ago, I discovered farro. This is a versatile grain that is easy to use and prepare.

I get mine at Peak Nutrition in Galveston or you can order it online. Whole Foods stocks it as well.

What the heck is farro? It is a form of wheat, highly popular in rustic Italian cooking.

The food of the Roman legions, it has a long history in the Mediterranean and Middle East and is called emmer wheat, which means, the “mother of wheat.”

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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