Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category


Summer is the time for picnics and social gatherings. This brings about an increased chance of food poisoning which is vomiting and/or diarrhea that comes about from eating contaminated food.  The most common form of food poisoning is from infectious organisms, such as bacteria and viruses.  When eating outside the home, these organisms can contaminate food at any point during its production,  processing, or serving. More commonly, contamination can also occur in the home. This happens because of food that is improperly handled, incorrectly cooked, or inadequately stored. The most common food culprits are chicken products, fish,  and shellfish. Another common source of food poisoning is from food that has been cooked and left unrefrigerated for too long, especially at buffets and outdoor picnics.

Steps to prevent food poisoning:

  1. Wash hands, utensils and food prep surfaces frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Keep raw foods separate from ready to eat foods.
  3. Cook foods to a safe temperature.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly.
  5. “When in doubt-throw it out.”

Signs and symptoms of food poisoning may start within hours or up to one to two days after eating the contaminated food. The most common symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. The vomiting and diarrhea are the body’s way of eliminating the contaminated food.

There is no easy method to differentiate between food poisoning and common stomach flu other than if more than one person comes down with vomiting and/or diarrhea after eating a common meal, then food poisoning is the probable culprit.  Fortunately, the symptoms of either food poisoning, or of stomach flu, are usually mild and often resolve without treatment.

The best treatment for food poisoning is to let it run its course.  In most cases, once the body rids itself of the contaminated food, the symptoms improve. For this reason, anti diarrhea medicine is not recommended because it may slow down the healing process.  If diarrhea must be controlled because of travel plans or work responsibilities, then an over the counter medication, such as Immodium, may be helpful.

The main goal of treatment is to replace lost body fluids to prevent dehydration. This can be done by drinking lots of liquids, such as electrolyte drinks for adults or Pedialyte for children. A proven method to help prevent dehydration in spite of frequent vomiting is to take frequent small sips of clear liquids until vomiting stops


When to seek medical attention:

  1. Inability to keep any liquids down for more than 6-8 hours.
  2. No urine production for 6-8 hours.
  3. Vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 2-3 days.
  4. Blood in vomit or diarrhea.
  5. Severe abdominal pain.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer. Bon appetit!

Read Full Post »

Athlete drink

I’m often asked by patients how much water they need to drink each day. The Institute of Medicine has calculated that men need about 13 cups or three quarts of liquids and women need about nine cups or two quarts of liquids daily. We also ingest approximately 2 ½ cups, or 20 percent of our daily intake of liquids from food, especially fruits and vegetables. In addition, beverages that we commonly drink such as coffee, juice, milk and soda are composed mostly of water.

Water makes up 60 percent of our body weight. Every cell and system of our body depends on water. Lack of water causes dehydration, a condition that occurs when the body receives an inadequate amount of fluids, which in turn slows down and eventually shuts down vital bodily functions.

Our bodies constantly lose water from perspiring, breathing, urinating and having bowel movements.

Various factors determine just how much more water we may need to drink, such as:

– Environment — Hot weather, especially with high humidity, increases perspiration. Even in frigid weather, water is lost from our bodies when breathing during activities such as skiing or hiking.

– Exercise —Also increases perspiration. The more prolonged and intense the exercising, the greater the fluid loss is.

– Illness — Intense or prolonged vomiting and/or diarrhea can lead to life-threatening dehydration. This is an unfortunate cause of death in many developing countries.

– Pregnancy and breast feeding — Increases women’s fluids needs.

After hours of prolonged exercise with heavy sweating we lose electrolytes, especially salt. This is when drinking a sports drink is recommended because it will not only replace the lost water but also the depleted electrolytes. Electrolytes lost through sweat from mild to moderate exercise, can be replaced from the food we eat.

Some liquids can act as a diuretic, which means they cause you to urinate more liquid than you’ve taken in. Caffeine is often implicated, but is really a weak diuretic. Alcoholic beverages on the other hand, especially at higher quantities, can be very potent diuretics causing dehydration which is a major cause of a hangover.

A rough guide as to whether or not you are consuming enough water is to check your urine color. If it appears light yellow, like lemonade, you’re probably well-hydrated but if it is very dark yellow, like apple juice, you need to drink more water.

To keep your body healthy:

– Drink a glass of water or other low or non-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal.

– Drink water before, during and after exercise.

Bottoms up!

Read Full Post »


As we begin a new year, I’d like to share with you a selection of highlights from some of my columns this past year:

Antibiotics:Antibiotics are useful for bacterial infections only, and not for viral infections, such as the common cold, bronchitis and sore throats.

Strokes:If you are having any symptoms that you think might be caused by a stroke, do not hesitate — seek help immediately from the nearest emergency room.

Insomnia:Remedies for sleep problems include lifestyle and behavioral therapies, alternative medicine and prescription medication.

Sleep apnea:This condition needs to be treated, as it leads to a greater risk of heart attacks.

Depression:This is a true medical illness treated with therapy or medication, sometimes in combination.

Asthma:Although it can be deadly, asthma is easily treated with proper medication and close follow-up with a doctor.

Sun exposure:Take the harmful effects of the sun seriously and use sunscreen liberally and frequently. Cover up as much as possible when in the sun.

Cholesterol:To help prevent heart attacks and strokes, keep cholesterol at a normal level.

Coffee:On the whole, coffee is much more beneficial than harmful to your health.

Backpacks for students:Lighten them up. Heavy packs cause neck and back problems for kids.

Influenza vaccine:Flu shots are useful to prevent influenza and can be given from fall to spring. It’s still not too late.

Head injuries:Concussions should be taken very seriously, as they can be deadly and can lead to long-term brain disability.

Calling in sick:Staying home when ill not only helps you recover quicker, but also prevents spreading the illness to your co-workers or fellow students.

Stress:Dealing with stress can help prevent poor health.

The full columns and all others I have written can be found here on my blog at https://valleydoctor.wordpress.com.

Have a very healthy and happy new year.

Read Full Post »

There is much talk these days about gluten-free food and gluten-free diets. I’d like to explain what this is all about.

Gluten is a protein found in foods containing wheat, barley or rye. The consumption of gluten by susceptible individuals causes celiac disease, which affects the digestive system.

People with celiac disease who eat gluten-containing food experience an immune reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine. The resulting damage interferes with the intestine’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, which in time can deprive many of the vital organs of proper nourishment.

The most common symptoms of celiac disease are abdominal pain, vomiting, bloating and diarrhea. Less common symptoms are depression, irritability, joint pains, upset stomach, cramps, rashes and weight loss. Infants and young children seem to have more of the digestive symptoms than adults do.

About 3 million people in the U.S. have celiac disease. Having a family member with celiac disease does raise one’s risk of the disease.

Diagnosing celiac disease can be difficult, because some of its symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, intestinal infections and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Diagnosis rates are increasing, however, as doctors become more aware of the variety of symptoms of this disease and reliable blood tests are more available. A biopsy of the small intestine can be done to confirm the diagnosis.

At this time, there is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be managed by a proper diet.

For most people, following a gluten-free diet will alleviate the symptoms, heal the damaged intestinal lining and prevent further damage. Symptomatic improvement can occur within days of beginning the diet, but it may take many months for the small intestine to heal itself.

To stay well, people with celiac disease need to be on a gluten-free diet for the remainder of their lives.

In spite of having celiac disease, one can still eat a well-balanced, healthy and flavorful diet.

Wheat flour can be replaced with flour made from rice, soybeans, potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat or beans. There are now a wide variety of gluten-free pastas, breads, snacks and other foods available in grocery stores and restaurants.

People with celiac disease must be careful about snacks and meals they buy at school, work or restaurants, as well as food purchased at grocery stores. Eating out can be a challenge when avoiding gluten-containing foods.

Here are some examples of common foods and beverages to avoid unless they are labeled as gluten free:

– Bread

– Cake, pie, cookies, crackers and croutons

– Processed luncheon meat and gravy

– Oats

– Salad dressing and sauces (including soy sauce)

– Soup

– Beer

See your doctor if you think you are having any symptoms of celiac disease to confirm the diagnosis and work on a treatment plan.

Read Full Post »

Coffee Not Detrimental to Health

I remember growing up and hearing warnings about consuming too much coffee, because it was possibly related to health problems. Well, my fellow java drinkers, the tide seems to be turning.

The results of new studies are coming out showing that coffee consumption — especially in larger quantities, such as four to six cups a day — appears to be beneficial for a number of health problems.

Many of the studies found that decaffeinated coffee had as many good effects as the caffeinated variety.

It’s been estimated that there are more than 1,000 different chemicals found in a cup of coffee. Many of these chemicals are antioxidants. These are substances which, when floating around the bloodstream, can prevent or at least slow damage to many types of cells in our bodies. Although fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants, coffee is the main source for most Americans.

Some could argue that there must be potentially harmful chemicals found in coffee as well, but so far the benefits of the brew seem to outweigh the risks.

Caffeine is actually a drug and not a nutrient required for good health, as are vitamins and minerals. It is a mild stimulant, resembling the more potent stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine. Its positive effects are related to stimulating the brain and boosting the strength of muscle contractions.

Caffeine does have some short-term undesirable side effects, such as raising blood pressure and causing blood vessels to stiffen. Those with high blood pressure should limit their coffee intake. Young people, many of whom are now drinking highly caffeinated “energy” drinks, also ought to limit or avoid caffeine, because it might weaken their developing bones.

Some diseases that have been shown to be less frequent from coffee consumption are:

– Alzheimer’s disease

– Parkinson’s disease

– Certain cancers

– Diabetes

– Liver disease

– Stroke

The bottom line is that although coffee consumption might be good for you, it still can’t be said that it’s so good that drinking it should be recommended.

So to those of us who enjoy our cup of joe, continue to do so. For those who don’t, there are many other ways to keep healthy.

Read Full Post »

Childhood Nutrition

March is National Nutrition Month. I would like to discuss the important topic of childhood nutrition. Whether you have a newborn or a teenager, what he or she eats is important to both physical and mental development.

The following are my recommendations supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 


From birth to 12 months, it’s all about milk, whether it’s breast milk, iron-fortified formula or a combination of the two. Whole milk is not to be given during this time. At four to six months babies can begin solid foods such as iron fortified baby cereal, strained fruits, vegetables and pureed meats. Fat restriction at this age is usually not necessary since fat helps to develop the brain and nerves.

Preschoolers, toddlers

At 12 months, children who have been weaned off breastfeeding may begin drinking whole milk. Low-fat milk would be better if there is a strong family history of obesity or heart disease. Calcium is necessary during this time to help build strong healthy bones and teeth. Milk is still one of the best calcium sources along with fortified cereals and juices. Fiber is also important to help fight obesity and promote digestion and prevent constipation.

Elementary school

Protein is important in this group. If a child won’t eat meat, plenty of protein can be found in beans, eggs and peanut butter. At this age, kids will start eating more not-so-healthy snacks and fast foods. It is important to monitor their intake of fats and salt and the ever-increasing consumption of sugar in all its many forms.


This is the time when junk food can become a bigger part of the diet. It’s also when some kids become very conscious of their weight and may develop eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. Calorie requirements increase, as does the need for calcium. Low-fat milk and calcium-rich and -fortified foods are still very important. Girls who begin menstruating will need more iron-rich foods, such as meat and poultry, vegetables and beans, and fortified cereals and grains.

It is also now recommended that all children, beginning in the first two months of life, receive at least 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Discuss this with your doctor.

Getting our children to eat a healthy diet may not be an easy task. There’s too much childhood obesity (one in three children in America), diabetes and even heart disease. We need to monitor our children’s eating preferences and habits and be diligent about encouraging and explaining to them the benefits of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

For us parents, this may be a constant battle, but one well worth fighting to help ensure that our children will grow up to be healthy adults.

Read Full Post »

From time to time, I’ll write about various vitamins and how they affect our health. But what exactly is a vitamin?

A vitamin is an organic substance essential in small quantities to normal metabolism. It is found naturally in various foods, but it can also be produced artificially. A lack of vitamins can produce certain diseases.

Vitamin D has received quite a bit of press these days both in medical literature as well as in newspapers and magazines.

Vitamin D is the only nutrient the human body makes itself. Ultraviolet rays from sun exposure interact with a chemical in the skin to form an inactive version of vitamin D, which is then converted in the liver and kidneys into an active version useful to our bodies.

Because people have been warned to wear sunscreen and to limit sun exposure, though, we might not be able to manufacture enough of this vitamin on our own and may need to look for other sources.

Vitamin D can be found in a limited number of foods, including fatty fish, fish liver oils, liver, and egg yolks. Commercial milk products, breakfast cereals and juices are often fortified with low levels of vitamin D. People don’t usually eat enough of these foods to consistently cover their daily vitamin D requirements, though.

The primary benefits of vitamin D for our bodies are these:

• Bone health: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are two minerals needed for strong bones. People taking vitamin D have a lower risk of bone fractures and also have been found to have a lower chance of falling in the first place.

• Brain function: People with higher blood levels of vitamin D have higher cognitive performance, including memory and thinking skills.

Low levels of vitamin D, by contrast, have been associatedwith some increased risks: cancer of the colon, breast and prostate; arthritis; diabetes; and infections, such as tuberculosis.

The accepted recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 400 to 600 international units per day. Most common multivitamins contain 400 IU. Momentum is building within the medical community to increase the daily recommended dose to at least 800 to 1,000 IU. From what I can tell, this is a reasonable recommendation. The higher level should help to strengthen bones and muscles and hopefully prevent a variety of diseases, such as those I have mentioned.

Read Full Post »