January 8, 2009
Posted: 11:52 AM ET
Nursing is supposed to be a calming, tranquil time for a newborn, but when Deb Kruse-Field put her son, Luke Field, to her breast, instead of cuddling up and eating, he arched his back and screamed.
"We would both end up miserable," says Kruse-Field. "And he started eating less."
Kruse-Field tried everything she and her pediatrician could think of to help Luke. She cut out foods from her diet that could be irritating her son's stomach, such as dairy, soy and chocolate, and her doctor prescribed medicine for his acid reflux. Both helped, she says, but Luke was still gassy, had diarrhea and spit up frequently.
Frustrated that Luke was still in pain, his parents, who live in Madison, Wisconsin, were nonetheless reluctant to take their baby to see more doctors. They'd gone that route when their older child, Anna, had stomach problems, and nothing the specialists recommended worked terribly well.
But then a family friend suggested they contact Dr. Adam Rindfleisch, a University of Wisconsin family doctor who specializes in integrating traditional Western medicine with alternative medicine.
Rindfleisch suggested probiotics - "friendly" bacteria that he says have been shown to help babies and children with diarrhea. While probiotics didn't cure Luke, Kruse-Field said, they seem to have helped.
For Kruse-Field, finding a pediatrician who knew about both approaches - traditional and alternative - was crucial to solving Luke's stomach problems. While not everything billed as "alternative medicine" is suitable for children, there are several alternative treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective for kids. Here are some of the top ones.
1. Probiotics for diarrhea
"These are incredibly safe," Rindfleisch says. "We've even used them on preemies with gastrointestinal issues."
He recommends finding a probiotic designed especially for children, adding that kids who are severely immune-compromised, such as those with end-stage HIV, shouldn't take them.
The Web site for the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, or CAHCIM, has information about using alternative medicine to treat diarrhea.
2. Chamomile tea for colic
In many cultures, from the Middle East to Latin America, parents give chamomile tea to their cranky babies. "What that tells me is that over thousands of years, people have figured out that it works," says Dr. Sandy Newmark, who's on the faculty at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.
Newmark recommends steeping a teaspoon of dried chamomile, or a tablespoon of fresh, in hot water for five to 10 minutes. Cool it off and then give the baby a half an ounce to an ounce every few hours in a bottle, spoon or medicine dropper.
For other information on treating colic with alternative medicine, go to CAHCIM's site.
3. St. John's wort for mild to moderate depression
When her teenage patients get depressed, Cora Collette Breuner sometimes suggests they take the herb St. John's wort. She recommends 300 milligrams three times a day for teenagers. Breuner, an associate professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine, says the herb should not be used for depression for children under 13.
The CAHCIM Web site has more information about alternative medicine and depression.
For more tips on how to treat your kids with alternative medicine, check out my column at CNNhealth.com
December 5, 2008
Posted: 10:14 AM ET
November 25, 2008
Posted: 04:14 PM ET
If your doctor prescribes you some medication, you probably think its going to work, right? A new study suggests that may not be the case.
More and more physicians are prescribing drugs off label without evidence the drug will work. And according to a paper in the December issue of Pharmacotherapy some of the most common drugs used off label, are in need of additional study to determine whether they are safe and effective.
When a doctor prescribes a drug off label, that means it is being used to treat a disease or medical condition different from the one for which it was approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For example, some doctors prescribe the anti-depressant Zoloft for bipolar disorder even though it has not been approved for treating it. Taking a drug off label isn't necessarily a bad thing, but there are some questions you should ask your doctor before picking up your prescription.
Is this off-label? Your doctor may not always tell you up front.
Is there proof that it works? There may be some scientific proof behind it or your doctor could just be going out on a limb! If he can't give you an answer, it's OK to insist he does. And if the answer doesn't satisfy you, ask about other treatment alternatives.
What are the side effects? Have your doctor's office check beforehand whether your insurance will pick up the tab for the off label drug. Often, insurance companies will deny those claims.
For more information on how to be an Empowered Patient check out my column at CNN.com/empoweredpatient
November 20, 2008
Posted: 02:55 PM ET
Many people take the herb gingko biloba in hopes of staving off Alzheimer’s Disease, but a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says it doesn’t work.
In the study of 3,000 people over the age of 75, some took gingko, while others took a placebo, or sugar pill. University of Pittsburgh researchers found that those who took gingko were just as likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia as those who took the placebo.
Gingko manufacturers say this isn’t the first – or the last – word on the herb. “There is a significant body of scientific and clinical evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of ginkgo extract for both cognitive function,” said Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council.
But many experts are still skeptical. Edythe London, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at UCLA, says her 86-year-old mother once asked her if she should take gingko, but London told her not to bother. “But I do tell my mother there are other things she can do,” says London, who’s studied the brain and aging. “I tell her to go out and do things and see people every day and be active.”
Here are five tips for staving off Alzheimer’s from London and other brain experts.
London makes sure her mother takes Vitamins A, C, and E. “There are studies that suggest antioxidants might prevent dementia,” she says.
2. Fish Oil Supplements
Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Center on Aging, says aging brains show signs of inflammation, and fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Phosphatidylserine supplements
Phosphatidylserine is a lipid found naturally in the body. Small says he’s not 100 percent convinced these supplements will help stave off dementia, but they’re worth a try. “If I start having memory problems when I get older, I’ll give them a trial run and see if they help,” says Small, author of the new book “iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind.”
Small, who’s 57, says as he gets older he might also try eating more foods with curry in them. “Some studies in Singapore show that those who ate curry once a week had better memory scores,” he said.
5. Crosstraining your brain
“Our brains can be made stronger through exercise,” says Andrew Carle, assistant professor of in the departent of health administration and policy at George Mason University. “In the same way physical exercise can delay many of the effects of aging on the body, there’s some evidence cognitive exercise can at least delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.”
But Carle says it’s not enough to do just one kind of brain exercise. “Doing a crossword puzzle every day is good, but it’s the equivalent of only doing pushups – your arms will get strong, but not the rest of your body.” He recommends doing other activities in addition, such as computing numbers in your head instead of using a calculator, or using one of the “brain gym” computer games designed to enhance brain function.
November 17, 2008
Posted: 03:19 PM ET
Americans love to take their vitamins. More than 150 million Americans take dietary supplements according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group. But it’s hard to know what vitamins to take – any grocery store aisle has a dizzying array. That's why this week the Empowered Patient asked two wellness experts what supplements they take every day – and what supplements they say you shouldn’t take.
Dr. Andrew Weil; Age: 66; director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine; drweil.com
What he takes:
1. A daily multivitamin/multimineral
2. Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis, as well as other conditions. Studies show many of us are vitamin D deficient. Weil says look on the label to make sure you're getting vitamin D3, not vitamin D2.
3. Magnesium. Lack of magnesium may lead to irritablity, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat.
4. Juvenon (or "Omega"), a compound believed to enhance cellular health and function. This supplement contains two nutrients, acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid. The company that makes Juvenon says benefits include "more energy," a "sharper mind", and "more restful sleep."
5. Co-Q-10, a supplement that boosts coenzyme Q10, which is produced by the human body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells. Animal studies have found that coenzyme Q10 helps the immune system work better and makes the body better able to resist certain infections and types of cancer.
Weil, author of 10 books including, "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health," says it is important to take studies, like the one in JAMA, with a grain of salt. "I believe vitamins E and C are important as part of our antioxidant defenses, even if we have not yet documented specific preventive effects," says Weil.
What not to take
Weil says men shouldn't take iron unless they've been diagnosed by a physician as having iron deficiency anemia. He also advises against men taking calcium supplements; he's concerned they could increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Dr. Christiane Northrup; Age: "50 something;" author, "The Secret Pleasures of Menopause;" Drnorthrup.com
What she takes:
1. Antioxidant supplement
2. Fish oil. Some studies have found fish oil, which contains omega 3 fatty acids, can help lower triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and help depression, among other uses.
3. Calcium, which can help prevent osteoporosis - a problem in particular for older women
5. Coenzyme Q10
6. Vitamin D
Northrup, an authority on women's health and wellness and author of the new book "The Secret Pleasures of Menopause," says it is important to remember that vitamins are not drugs. They don't work the same way in the body.
"Vitamins are best taken in the correct proportions to each other," says Northrup. For example, she says if you are taking folic acid, which is a B vitamin, you'll do better when you also take the other Bs that make up the B complex. Says Northrup, "That's how nutrients occur naturally and how the body best utilizes them."
What not to take
Northrup says postmenopausal women almost never need iron, and taking too much might pose a risk for heart health.
For more tips on taking vitamins, check out my column at CNN.com/empoweredpatient
September 11, 2008
Posted: 03:05 PM ET
A new study finds that many Americans believe in medical miracles. In the study, 57 percent of randomly surveyed adults said God's intervention could save a deathly ill family member even if physicians said treatment would be futile.
However, just under 20 percent of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a helpless outcome.
August 28, 2008
Posted: 03:53 PM ET
One issue sure to be mentioned in Barack Obama’s acceptance speech is health care and the millions of Americans who are fighting to get out of medical debt.
A report out last month from the Commonwealth Fund found that 28 percent of the population said they were paying off medical debt in 2007, up from 21 percent in 2005.
August 18, 2008
Posted: 01:55 PM ET
"Be prepared." It is the Boy Scout motto, but it is also true when it comes to hurricanes and other weather emergencies. Here's a list of things you should keep close at hand in case you are ever in a weather emergency.
1) Emergency supply kit: According to ready.gov, keep these things in your kit: a first aid kit, prescription medicines, bottled water, a battery-operated radio, a flashlight and batteries.
2) Important documents: Make sure you have a copy of the following documents: driver's license, Social Security card, list of doctors, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates and tax records.
3) Family evacuation plan: You may not be with your family when disaster strikes. According to the American Red Cross, you should decide ahead of time where to go if you have to evacuate. You should also discuss ahead of time how you are going to get in touch with one another in case you get separated. Experts suggest making an out-of-town friend or relative a contact in case the phone lines are down in your community.
August 14, 2008
Posted: 04:54 PM ET
While downing margaritas in Brazil one evening, Sheila Scott Hula's drinking mate suggested they "jazz up" their drinks with a little local liquor.
Hula, who's always ready for an international gustatory adventure, ordered some from the waitress, tossed it into her drink, took a swig, and all of a sudden couldn't breathe.
"I popped a Benadryl, but that didn't act fast enough. My chest felt constricted, and the people around me started to panic," she said. "Then I pulled out my inhaler, and that did the trick."
Keeping certain medicines with you is just one of the many tricks Hula has learned during her 11 years of travel covering the Olympics (she’s in Beijing now and travels four months out of the year). Here are some others:
1. Keep your “travel health kit” with you at all times.
2. If you're worried about the food or water, bring an antibiotic with you
Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, an expert consultant in the division of global migration and quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control, recommends either azithromycin or a drug in the quinolone family, such as ciprofloxacin. You can get these only with a doctor's
3. Learn about your destination
The CDC has country-by-country information on health hazards, and the State Department does, too.
If you're going someplace unusual, Kozarsky suggests joining the Listserv at the International Society of Travel Medicine. "If I'm going to Tanzania, I can go on there, and in a few minutes someone will chime in and say, 'Hey, I have a buddy there who runs a terrific clinic,' " she says.
For more tips on traveling healthy, check out my column at CNN.com/health.
August 7, 2008
Posted: 01:15 PM ET
Pamela Madsen knows a thing or two about getting pregnant. She did it twice, and it took several teams of doctors, six rounds of artificial insemination, six rounds of daily injected drugs, and four rounds of in-vitro fertilization.
She's madly in love with the results - son Tyler is 19 and Spencer is 15 - but she didn't always love the process. That's why she started the American Fertility Association - to help other couples in the same position.
Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!