Menopause: Hot tips and a new technology can help keep hot flashes at bay

Any menopausal woman will tell you that hot flashes seem to come out of nowhere, usually when they are least expected, accompanied by an embarrassing outbreak of  ‘the sweats’ which can leave you drenched in sweat, flushed, and feeling uncomfortable.Hot flashes develop when your brain reacts to changing hormone levels in your body, which happens during menopause. The change in hormone levels causes your temperature regulation mechanism to be slightly impaired. Body temperature rises too easily. Your body then wants to disperse blood flow to cool you down and sends blood to the surface, to your neck, chest and face, causing you to sweat.
While you can’t stop the changes going on in your life, there are a few things you can do to help weather those hot flashes and keep them in check. Let’s look at lifestyle options for treatment of hot flashes.
The most common one is dressing in layers. Dressing in layers, with a tank top with and a shirt on top of the tank allows you to open the shirt or take it off when you start getting hot. There are also many new fabrics that will wick away the perspiration from your skin to help you cool down faster. Check travel stores and outdoors stores for products that can take the heat.
Turn your thermostat down, open the windows or use an air conditioner to help maintain a lower body temperature, especially at night.
Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.   Drinking lots of water helps keep your body’s cooling system from over heating. If you do have a hot flash, drink cool water right away to replace what you’ve lost.   Stay away from hot foods and spicy foods.

The Menopod
One of the most interesting ways of cooling quickly I’ve come across recently is a new technology called a Menopod. It’s a simple electronic cooling device that looks similar to a computer mouse. With one press of the power button, the device drops to 5 degrees Celsius or 41 Degrees Fahrenheit and provides instant relief for hot flashes. It can be used discretely anywhere and anytime.
The Menopod, contains a cooling technology inside the device. There are no fans or moving parts. When you turn the power on, it instantly drops to a cool temperature) so that you can discreetly place it on the back of your neck to stop the hot flash.
By applying the Menopod to the base of your neck, you are telling your brain you are not hot and the flash decreases or goes away. This is a Canadian invention which was recently introduced at the International Menopause Society World Congress, and doctors loved it. It’s worth checking out.

In an upcoming blog, I will discuss other prescription options for those women that are having ongoing symptoms, not responding to lifestyle options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Gluten–Free- Today’s Fad or Tomorrow’s diet

The demand for gluten-free products is exploding as more and more products are popping up on grocery shelves offering gluten-free alternatives.

It seems food labels today proclaim everything is gluten-free –even vegetables! And according to a recent survey – a third of Americans are trying to go gluten-free.

So what is gluten? And what does going gluten-free actually mean.

Firstly, gluten is a composite found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye and triticale.

A gluten-free diet –eliminating gluten’s is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease, a medical condition in which glutens damage the absorptive surface of the small intestine. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.

According to the Canadian Celiac Association, statistics are not readily available but it is believed that 1 in 133 people in Canada have Celiac disease.

Some may not have Celiac disease but express an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten. In non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there is no attack on the body’s own tissues. However, many of the symptoms are similar to those in Celiac disease, including bloating, stomach pain, fatigue, diarrhea, as well as pain in the bones and joints. There is no clear way of diagnosing gluten sensitivity, so if you feel you might have an intolerance your only option is to eliminate gluten-from your diet for a period of time to see if your symptoms subside.   You could incorporate grains that don’t include gluten such as quinoa and amaranth.

However, going gluten-free means not eating many common and nutritious foods. Eliminating an entire food group also means having to adapt to an entirely different diet while ensuring you are still getting enough vitamins, minerals and fibers in your daily diet.

Gluten itself doesn’t offer special nutritional benefits. But the many whole grains that contain gluten do. They’re rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber. Studies show that whole grain foods, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

So before you decide to go gluten-free, check with your family physician and see if this is worth it for you.

 

DISCLAIMER:

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

 

Travel alerts internationally for polio and measles outbreaks this summer. Check your vaccinations before traveling

Travel alerts for polio worldwide & the resurgence of measles outbreaks in Canada, Europe and Africa, highlight the need for Canadians to get vaccinated before traveling to affected areas. Measles is a virus that can affect anyone and is highly contagious for individuals that have not previously had measles, or have not been vaccinated.

As long as measles is affecting children in other parts of the world, Canada will be affected as well. That’s why it’s extremely important for parents to ensure their children are vaccinated twice. Once when they are 12-15 months old, and again when they are 4-6 years old. Adults born before 1970 are likely immune, and everyone else needs to check their records. Polio, which has been eliminated from most countries, continues to occur in some areas of the world. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that travelers get vaccinated against polio when going to countries where polio has not been eliminated: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Syria, and Iraq.  As for polio, our travel clinics have been busy answering questions from travelers about getting the vaccine even when not travelling in affected areas.  My advice is to have one shot for polio, called IPV as an adult, if you have not already done so.
Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus of the same name. It causes fever, runny nose and a characteristic rash all over the body. Most people recover, but the infection is fatal between one and three of every 1,000 cases. Polio is a contagious disease. It is spread from person to person through contaminated food and water. Polio can attack the central nervous system and destroy the nerve cells that activate muscles, which may cause paralysis and death.
So please check your vaccinations before travelling this summer.

 

Disclaimer
The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

Heart disease in women: Can be different than in men

Understanding the symptoms

Although heart disease is often thought of as a problem for men, more women than men die of heart disease each year. One challenge is that some heart disease symptoms in women may be different from those in men. Fortunately, women can take steps to understand their unique symptoms of heart disease and to begin to reduce their risk of heart disease.
Heart attack symptoms for women

The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it’s not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pains. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Right arm pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Light- headed or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

These symptoms can be subtler than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe chest pain as pressure or tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease.

  • Women’s symptoms may occur more often when women are resting, or even when they’re asleep. Mental stress also may trigger heart attack symptoms in women.
  • Women tend to show up in emergency rooms after heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack, and because women may downplay their symptoms.
  • If you experience these symptoms or think you’re having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. Don’t drive yourself to the emergency room unless you have no other options.

 Disclaimer:

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

Do you know how healthy you are?

The Benefits of getting a Personal Health Risk Assessment
Don’t we all want to know how we’re doing from a health point of view and if we’re on the right track? That was a question posed centuries ago by the learned Hippocrates-the father of modern medicine who focused on diet and exercise to forecast the health of his patients. Fast forward a few centuries later and we now have a more formal process, called the Personal Health Risk Assessment.The process refined over the years is a four-part questionnaire used to evaluate the health risks and quality of life of patients.The questions are based on lifestyle including what level and form of exercise is practiced, demographics such as age, sex, personal and family medical history, and physiological data such as your weight, height, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Another important part of the process is your level of willingness to charge your behaviour to improve your health. A personal health risk assessment can have enormous benefits, whether the assessment is for an person or used as part of an employee health and wellness program.
It provides a snapshot of your current health. Enables individuals to monitor their health status overtime. And having concrete information helps prepare you for a change in your lifestyle. The information is there, before you, and makes it clear in black and white what needs to change.
If your company is engaged in a health prevention program, it can help determine on an aggregate basis how healthy and productive the company work population is AND what health related programs they might include such as lunch and learns, flu shot clinics, reviewing the company cafeteria menu to ensure healthy food choices are available, and introducing a health management program.
Hippocrates –the father of modern medicine at one point was imprisoned for 20 years for believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the gods, but rather the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits.
The same holds true today.  You can make changes to your health.
A Personal health risk assessment is one of those ways.

The more information you have —both the good and the challenges—the better able you are to make informed decisions about what you can do keep or improve your well-being.

Disclaimer: The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts are made to ensure the quality of the content. However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider. As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

Pharmacogenomics: Determining the most effective drug for your genetic makeup.

Genetic Testing & Drugs
Each person is unique and so is his or her response to certain medications.  Since the mapping of the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, a new area of study and research has opened up called, Pharmacogenomics, the technology that analyses how genetic makeup affects an individual’s response to drugs—will a drug be helpful for a specific treatment or will it be toxic? Will it help or hinder? Will you be at increased risk for certain side affects or will genetic testing help to avoid a serious adverse drug reaction.

Such approaches promise the advent of personalized medicine in which drugs and drug combinations are optimized for each individual’s unique genetic makeup.

There are two areas  pharmacogenomics is being applied.  One is in the area of cancer treatment and the other is using genetic testing to determine response to certain medications.

In the area of cancer treatment, oncologists may order certain tests that will look at the genetic features of a tumor to assess how the cancer will respond to certain types of treatment and what form of therapy would be best for a particular patient.  This is the only area today that may be covered by health insurance in Ontario.

The other use for genetic testing is in the area determining the effectiveness of certain drugs for treatments related to heart disease such Plavix or Warfarin.
We have learned that the uniqueness of our genetic makeup means that not all drugs work in the same way for all individuals or it may be hard to get the dose right.   It is not yet common practice in Canada or covered under OHIP, but genetic testing in this area can be carried out privately if your doctor determines it is warranted.  Ideally, Medisys genetic counselor, Katherine Hodson, suggests the test be carried out before a drug such as Warfarin or Plavix is prescribed to avoid adverse reactions and ensure the right dosage.

Genetic testing may also be used to determine whether certain pain relievers such as codeine will work well for a given patient.  An individual suffering from chronic pain may not respond to codeine as genetically, that person may metabolize the drug too quickly.  In this case, the patient would need a different medication and of course, given concerns about narcotics and drug seeking, how reassuring it is to have a clear medical answer about different or higher dosing requirements.

We are on the cusp of understanding more about genetics, medications, reactions, both good and bad, and that will make prescribing drugs much more personalized, with predictable and better outcomes.

Disclaimer
The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

Probiotics –Healthy or Hype?

There’s a growing body of research that shows bacteria in our gut is related to many health problems, from common diarrhea and obesity to urinary infections and stress.

There is also growing evidence that taking some probiotics- live microorganisms that have health benefits is not a fad and has real health benefits.  Several years ago, the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, confirmed that probotics prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics by restoring the balance of friendly bacteria in the intestinal tract. This is significant as many as 30 percent of people using antibiotics experience diarrhea as a result of medication.

Just taking a look in the diary case, at your local supermarket will attest to the fact that probiotics are used in many foods today, such as yogurt, baby formula and even chewing gum!  But not all yogurts for instance are considered probiotic foods. All yogurt in Canada for instance contain live bacteria—Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus —that typically offer up to 300,000 live bacteria per serving, which most experts say is too low. Look for a yogurt that has 10 billion per serving.

Probiotic supplements in capsule form are also available using specific bacterial strains to combat various conditions –from IBS-irritable bowel syndrome and IBD-inflammatory bowel disease to traveler’s diarrhea and constipation.

There are hundreds of supplements on the shelves today but most have not undergone the necessary research to prove it.   The first step is to look for products backed by scientific research.

A recent study of brand name probiotic supplements available in Canada with clinical evidence to support specific uses was published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2659138/ .  There is also an excellent chart at the end of the article related to probiotics and the clinical data to support specific uses.  It’s is a good starting point to determine which probiotics are right for you and which have scientifically proven health benefits. Another good reference site, www.scienceofprobiotics.ca is also very helpful.

You will also need to choose a probiotic that contains specific strains known to be beneficial for a particular condition.  So read the labels. For instance, for yeast infections choose a probiotic that has specific strains shown to be beneficial for this condition.  In this case, the strains are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14.If you don’t have a specific ailment but want to improve the overall health of your gut, choose a probiotic that has several kinds of bacteria.    But again, do your research.
Probiotics are not for everyone, so it is best to speak to your doctor before taking a supplement.