Sunday, September 27, 2009

Your Health: Natural Remedies Quell Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

For individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, cramping and bloating are part of daily life.

As the most frequently diagnosed gastrointestinal disorder in the U.S., IBS affects as many as one in five Americans. The condition is more common in women than in men and typically strikes in late adolescence or early adulthood.

In addition to abdominal pain and bloating, most IBS sufferers experience either chronic constipation or diarrhea, and some unfortunate individuals alternate between the two extremes. Regardless of the nature of the symptoms, IBS almost always has a negative impact on the quality and enjoyment of life.

While the exact cause of the condition remains unknown, food allergies or intolerances may be at the root of the problem. Wheat and dairy products are frequently implicated, and consumption of alcohol, caffeine and chocolate often triggers flare-ups.

Researchers at Imperial College London recently reported that compared to folks without the condition, IBS sufferers tend to have higher numbers of a specific type of pain receptor known as TRPV1, the same receptor responsible for creating the burning sensation that occurs after eating chili peppers. This may explain why IBS symptoms typically worsen following consumption of spicy foods.

Even when IBS sufferers are careful to avoid foods that trigger their symptoms, they may continue to experience gastrointestinal distress. In many cases, emotional and physical stress can lead to flare-ups of the condition.

As if the intestinal discomfort isn't enough, IBS is often accompanied by other maladies. In a recent study of nearly 130,000 people, scientists at Boston University found that individuals who reported symptoms of IBS were 40 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 60 percent more likely to suffer from migraine headaches than individuals in a control group.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that individuals with hay fever are more than twice as likely to develop IBS compared to those who are unaffected by seasonal allergies. In folks with allergic skin conditions, the likelihood of having IBS is nearly four times greater.

Because the precise cause of IBS remains a mystery, the condition can be challenging to treat. Due to a limited number of FDA-approved drugs, many experts advocate the use of complementary and alternative treatments for symptom relief.

In a study published last year in the British Medical Journal, researchers reported that soluble fiber and peppermint oil are safe and effective natural therapies for IBS and should be considered first-line treatments.

The researchers analyzed 12 studies, involving nearly 600 individuals, that compared treatment with fiber to placebo or no treatment. While insoluble fiber was found to be relatively ineffective, water-soluble fiber significantly reduced IBS symptoms.

Sources of insoluble fiber include whole grain foods, wheat and corn bran, nuts, seeds and vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower and celery. Soluble fiber is found in legumes, oats, apples and the flesh of root vegetables, including potatoes, carrots and onions.

One type of soluble fiber, guar gum, has been shown to be particularly effective in alleviating the symptoms of IBS. In clinical trials, daily consumption of 5 grams partially hydrolyzed guar gum was found to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of abdominal pain, cramping and flatulence, as well as symptoms of constipation and diarrhea.

Derived from the guar bean, the gum helps normalize the moisture content of the stool, absorbing excess liquid in diarrhea and softening the stool in constipation. It also appears to nourish probiotic organisms, the beneficial bacteria in the gut that promote proper digestion and enhance immunity.

As a bonus, guar gum has been found to help lower cholesterol and blood-sugar levels. Since excessive doses of the gum can lead to gastrointestinal blockage, individuals with IBS should take it as directed and only with a physician's supervision.

In addition to water-soluble fiber, peppermint oil may help alleviate IBS symptoms. After reviewing the results of four clinical trials involving nearly 400 patients, researchers found that IBS sufferers who took peppermint oil in enteric-coated gelatin capsules two or three times daily experienced significantly fewer severe symptoms and more symptom-free days.

Peppermint oil is known to help relax the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and to reduce the formation of intestinal gas. In animal studies, the oil has been shown to have numbing and pain-relieving effects.

Although there's no known cure for irritable bowel syndrome, careful management of the condition can help most IBS sufferers enjoy long-term symptom relief and a greater quality of life.

Rallie McAllister is a board-certified family physician, speaker and the author of several books, including "Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim." Her Website is To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bariatric laparoscopic surgery an option

DALLAS (UPI) -- Single-incision laparoscopic surgery is an option for people considering bariatric procedures for weight loss, a U.S. researcher said. Dr. Edward Livingston, professor and chief of gastrointestinal and endocrine surgery at the University of Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said having just a single entry point means less scarring than in traditional laparoscopic surgery, in which five or more incisions are required. "The promise of fewer scars really appeals to patients, evidenced by the growing demand," Livingston said in a statement. "Not everyone has heard about it, but the enthusiasm is striking once they find it's a possibility." Single-incision surgery can help reduce post-operative pain, speed healing and reduce risk of infection, studies in the emerging field indicate. Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, is performed for the purpose of losing weight on the stomach and intestine of people who are dangerously obese. The two most common procedures are the Roux-en-Y, a form of gastric bypass surgery which closes off a portion of the stomach and bypasses part of the intestine, and gastric banding, which places a restrictive band around the stomach.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cheap test as good as MRI to detect stroke

BALTIMORE (UPI) -- A simple, one-minute eye movement exam worked better than magnetic resonance imaging to distinguish new strokes, U.S. researchers said. Dr. David E. Newman-Toker of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Illinois in Peoria, said people experiencing a stroke have eye-movement alterations that correlate with stroke-damage to various brain areas -- and these are distinct from eye-movement alterations seen with benign ear diseases. Some patients, for example, can't immediately adjust their eye position if their heads are quickly turned to the side, or they experience jerky eye movements as they try to focus on a doctor's finger when looking to either side. The findings, published in the journal Stroke, found the quick, extremely low-cost exam caught more strokes than the current gold standard of MRI. "The idea that a bedside exam could outperform a modern neuroimaging test such as MRI is something that most people had given up for dead, but we've shown it's possible," Newman-Toker says in a statement. Dizziness is the cause of some 2.6 million U.S. emergency room visits annually and the vast majority of these complaints are caused by benign inner-ear balance problems. But 4 percent are signals of stroke or transient ischemic attack -- a condition that often warns of impending stroke in the coming days or weeks.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maximum Weight Limit easier than BMI

RENO, Nev. (UPI) -- A statistician has developed a "speed limit" for weight, a Maximum Weight Limit, for those who find body mass index complicated, U.S. researchers say. George Fernandez, director of the Center for Research Design and Analysis at the University of Nevada, Reno, says he wanted to give people a simpler way of calculating their healthy weight that didn't involve charts or online calculators. "It's a very simple calculation that most of us can do in our heads. For men and women, there is a baseline height and weight. For men, the baseline is 5-feet, 9-inches tall and a Maximum Weight Limit of 175 pounds, meaning that a 5-foot, 9-inch tall man should weigh no more than 175 pounds," Fernandez says. "For women, the baseline is 5-feet tall and a Maximum Weight Limit of 125 pounds." From the baseline, calculate how much taller or shorter in inches -- for a man, add or subtract 5 pounds for every inch taller or shorter than 5 feet 9 inches. If a man is 5 feet 11 inches tall, 2 inches taller than the baseline, add 5 pounds for each of those 2 inches for a Maximum Weight Limit of 175. For women add or subtract 4.5 pounds for each inch differing from the baseline height of 5 feet.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Breast cancer drugs raise blood clot risk

PORTLAND, Ore. (UPI) -- Drugs used to lower the risk of breast cancer in women have the side effect of increasing the likelihood of blood clots, researchers in Oregon say. The study, published in the current issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, examined the effects of tamoxifen, raloxifene and tibolone reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer by 30 percent to 68 percent. But it also found tamoxifen and raloxifene increase the chance of blood clots by 60 percent to 90 percent, and that tiboline, which is not on the U.S. market, is associated with strokes in women over 70. "They did differ on the harm side. That's important to know," said Dr. Heidi D. Nelson, a research professor at Oregon Health & Science University who was the lead author. Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Monday, September 21, 2009


Today, the independent nation of Belize is 28. Yes, we are a young nation. We are proud of this land we call home and we are certain with the struggle we battle each day that we will build a better Belize, one day at a time.
To all Belizeans all over the world, I take this time to wish you all a Happy Independence Day.
Three cheers for Belize. Hip Hip Hooray. Hip Hip Hooray!!!! Hip Hip Hooray!!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Less chocolate, more veggies may help acne

OSLO, Norway (UPI) -- Researchers in Norway have made associations between acne, high intake of chocolate and chips and low intake of vegetables. Jon Anders Halvorsen of the University of Oslo and colleagues in Tibet and the United States studied 3,775 adolescents to explore the possible causes of acne. The 18- and 19-year olds were given questionnaires to monitor their diets, lifestyle variables and mental conditions. Study participants reported on their own acne. The researchers acquired the sociodemographic status of the young people from Statistics Norway. The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, found in girls, there was a significant link between acne and a diet low in raw and fresh vegetables. "Our study shows a possible link between diet and acne. However, when we introduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in our statistical model, the role of diet became less clear," Halvorsen said in a statement. "On the other hand the association between acne and mental health problems was still strong when diet was introduced." It is too early to give evidence based diet advice to teenagers with acne, further studies are needed, Halvorsen said.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Your Health: Feet Hurt? It Could Be Plantar Fasciitis

If you're like most Americans, you spend more than four hours a day on your feet and take around 5,000 steps daily. That's quite a pounding for your poor pups, so it's no wonder they whimper at the end of a long day. But if your feet hurt as soon as they hit the floor each morning, you could have a condition called plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a fibrous band of tissue that runs under the arch of the foot from the heel to the base of the toes. With each step you take, your heel strikes the ground, flattening your arch and stretching your plantar fascia. When this tissue gets stretched too often or too far, it can become irritated and inflamed, leading to plantar fasciitis. The condition can affect one foot or both. Symptoms can strike folks who are sedentary or active, and those with high arches or flat feet. Flare-ups may occur after walking or standing on any surface that your feet are unaccustomed to, whether it's deep sand, the rung of a ladder or rock-hard concrete. The condition may also be triggered by wearing different types of shoes. Women who trade their customary high heels for a new pair of flats are especially vulnerable. Weekend warriors and super jocks can develop plantar fasciitis when they push themselves too hard. Even weight gain can lead to the condition. Regardless of the cause, the end result is rather predictable. If you're unfortunate enough to develop plantar fasciitis, you'll likely experience discomfort along the arch of your foot and at the inner part of your heel. The pain typically strikes in the morning with your first step of the day. After a few minutes spent hopping and hobbling about in agony, the pain may subside, only to return with a vengeance later in the day. Getting plantar fasciitis is easy, but getting rid of it is another story. If you're lucky, the condition -- and the associated pain -- will resolve in a matter of days. But in some cases, it lingers on for weeks or months. The sooner you start treating plantar fasciitis, the better off you'll be. You can begin your treatment at home with a few do-it-yourself remedies. Since inflammation is at the root of the problem, taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine is a good place to start. This helps reduce the swelling in your feet, as well as the pain. Rubbing your aching arches with ice cubes several times a day can also ease your suffering. If your significant other owes you a big favor, you might be able to negotiate a therapeutic foot massage. But if you strike out, rolling a golf ball or a can of corn beneath your arches is the next best thing. If your dogs are still barking in spite of your best efforts, you might want to walk them directly to your doctor's office. Depending on your level of pain and desperation, you might agree to a steroid shot, which your physician will inject into the heel of your foot. Most people who've had this type of treatment agree the week of relief it provides is well worth the 30 seconds of agony it causes. Your doctor may also advise you to treat your feet to a pair of support devices called orthotics. These shoe inserts can help shore up weak arches and stabilize your feet. You might get some relief with over-the-counter arch supports, but those of the custom-made variety are generally far superior. They're also far more expensive -- a good pair can set you back several hundred dollars. If you've never had plantar fasciitis, you'll probably want to keep it that way. Well-made shoes are your best protection, since they give your hardworking feet the support they deserve. Proper arch support and flexible soles are basic requirements, but even the best shoes won't help if they don't fit your feet. Since feet and toes tend to expand and change shape with age, it's entirely possible that the shoes you wore to your high school prom may not fit properly today. It's a good idea to have your feet measured at least every two years, and adjust your shoe size and style accordingly. If your feet are your major mode of transportation, you'll definitely want to take care of them. You've still got a lot of ground to cover.

Rallie McAllister is a board-certified family physician, speaker and the author of several books, including "Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim." Her Website is To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at
Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.