What’s in your toothpaste?

The other day I was in Target shopping for toothpaste, and I thought, “Wow, do Americans really need this many toothpastes?”

At first glance I couldn’t even find the toothpaste I normally use, no doubt because the packaging had changed. It’s probably “new and improved.” Aren’t they all?

Ignoring the hyperbole of “advanced”, “intense” and “extreme”, I started looking at the ingredient lists on the backs of the boxes. I know exactly which ingredients I want to see to get the most effective toothpaste at the lowest price.

For me, the most important ingredient in a toothpaste is fluoride. … Continue reading

Vitamin D – Yes, no or maybe?

The sunshine supplement

Last week I learned that my vitamin D level is slightly below normal. My physician recommended that I take a daily vitamin D supplement of 1000 to 2000 IU.

I didn’t want the test, but what’s done is done. Now I need to decide what the test result means to me, and if I should follow my doctor’s recommendation.

A few years ago, vitamin D was the new wonder supplement. Various studies associated a low vitamin D level with an increased incidence of all kinds of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, … Continue reading

Boning up on calcium

Out of sight, out of mind

The other day I was cleaning out a kitchen cupboard and unearthed an economy-sized bottle of calcium tablets. Oops! I should be taking one or two of those every day.

Or should I?

Everyone knows calcium is necessary for bone health. Most women have been told by their doctors that they need extra calcium after menopause because without estrogen’s help, bones do not absorb it well. Low calcium leads to osteoporosis, which leads to broken bones, which lead to huge health care costs. Oh no!

Too much of a good thing—or the wrong thing

Continue reading

Do you didgeridoo?

didgeridoo playerAs I was skimming through some of my favorite medical blogs the other day, I ran across a post by Dr. Synonymous, a family medicine doctor somewhere in middle America. His post referred to the time and place of his first “Didgeridoo Hullabaloo” session that he was offering for his patients that suffered from snoring and sleep apnea.

What is a didgeridoo? It’s a native Australian wind instrument, which can be up to 10 feet long! It works like a large kazoo, and produces a low, resonant sound something like an elephant.

And how does this help snoring? Snoring and … Continue reading

The probiotics con

Probiotics are of limited use

As a nurse, I often give patients the advice to eat yogurt when taking antibiotics to decrease the risk of developing diarrhea or, in women, vaginal yeast infections.

Why yogurt? Because it contains live, beneficial micro-organisms—now called probiotics—that are thought to replenish the “good” bacteria incidentally killed when taking antibiotics. In theory, eating yogurt makes sense. At best, it helps; at worse, you get a tasty snack with some extra calcium.

In the last few years, however, I have seen probiotic-laced products (fortified yogurt, snack bars, capsules) account for an increasingly large part of the … Continue reading

Got (breast)milk?

I was surprised recently when I read the following article on Kaiser Health News: Nursing moms get free breast pumps from health law.

Really?

So I went to Healthcare.gov, the official website of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and found the expanded list of essential benefits/preventive services for women that went into effect on August 1, 2012. Breast pumps, listed under “Breastfeeding Support, Supplies and Counseling,” are indeed considered “preventive” and must be covered without cost sharing (co-pays or deductibles).

According to the factsheet: “Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect Continue reading

Good health – No miracle required

nomiracleI laughed the other day when I read a post on the blog Science-Based Medicine. The author denounced the all powerful Dr. Mehmet Oz for his frequent promotion of “miracle” products on his eponymous show, and commented that:

This constant drive for miracles must keep the producers in a perpetual panic. They need at least five miracles per week.

Which episode incited the author’s scorn? “Dr. Oz’s 13 Miracles for 2013.” Wow, that’s a lot of miracles.

Related post from Science-Based Medicine: Dr. Mehmet Oz completes his journey to the Dark Side

Like snake oil salesmen of old, the … Continue reading

Avoidable risk?

Last fall saw a frightening outbreak of fungal meningitis that resulted in the severe illness of almost 700 people and, tragically, the deaths of 45 others. Contaminated steroid injections were found to be the cause.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices now reports that 13% of pharmacists found contamination in their supposedly sterile, compounded (made in the pharmacy) drugs last year, and almost 75% fear that such a horrific outbreak could happen again.

Several agencies are swaming the compounding pharmacies in a belated attempt to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But will their efforts be enough?

Maybe, but there … Continue reading

Save money – vitamin C vs. zinc

Vitamin C…

It’s cold season and products that claim to prevent or significantly shorten colds are flying off the drugstore shelves.

As I emphasized in an earlier post, frequent hand washing is your best strategy to avoid a cold altogether.

Still, the advertisements for such products are both pervasive and persuasive  But are they worth buying?

Vitamin C (1000mg) is the major ingredient of Airborne and Emergen-C. Both are made into fizzy drinks. Airborne also claims to have a “proprietary blend” of minerals and herbs, but it’s really about the vitamin C. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not … Continue reading

Don’t be driftwood!

Get a Flu Shot

With the continuous remodeling of healthcare and health insurance, it seems as if there is little I can do other than ride the waves of change like so much flotsam and jetsam.

But I don’t want to be beach debris. I want a more active role in my health care and that is why I get a flu shot every fall and insist that my family members do, too.

Vaccination against the seasonal flu—inexpensive, safe and effective

Starting as early as September, flu shots are available almost everywhere. You do not even need a doctor’s appointment; … Continue reading