Early birds may be more active, but night owls can catch up

Being an early bird has long been associated with a go-getter attitude. Early birds, or those who tend to wake early and go to bed early, are people who naturally feel sleepy earlier in the evening and naturally wake early in the morning. For an early bird type, a 9 pm bedtime may be the norm, and rising at 5 am without an alarm clock feels relatively effortless.

Our internal clock controls more than sleep patterns

Being an early bird, or the opposite night owl, is usually not something that is thought of as being highly under our control. Some people seem to be hardwired to sleep early, while others get a second wind and tend to sleep late. This internal clock is called our circadian rhythm, each person’s unique internal timekeeper and the body’s own master controller of many functions. Most obvious is our sleep patterns; however, our internal … Read more

Continue Reading

Type 2 diabetes: Which medication is best for me?

If you are living with type 2 diabetes, you certainly are not alone. One in 10 people in the US has diabetes, according to the CDC. However, despite considerable progress in diabetes treatment over the past 20 years, fewer than half of those with diabetes actually reach their target blood sugar goal.

In part, this may be because doctors can be slow to make changes to a patient’s treatment plan, even when a patient’s treatment goals are not being met. One reason for this may be the overwhelming number of medications currently available. And yet, waiting too long to adjust treatment for type 2 diabetes can have long-lasting negative effects on the body that may raise the risk of heart and kidney disease and other complications.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease where the body’s ability to use glucose or sugar as fuel … Read more

Continue Reading

It’s still true: Not all the news about COVID-19 is bad

I thought the pandemic would be over by now. And I’m not alone; there were sophisticated models predicting a dramatic drop in the number of infections by the summer. And while there was understandable worry about the second wave, re-infection, and the coming flu season, there was good reason to believe we’d have the worst of the first wave well behind us.

Now, that all seems like wishful thinking. Here we are, over nine months into the pandemic, with more than 224,000 deaths, and more than 70,000 new cases and 800 deaths every day in this country as of late October. There are new hot spots popping up in the US and all over the world. Herd immunity, whether due to infection or vaccination, is still many months or even years away — if it happens at all. Despite these challenges, we do have some good news.

Good news about

Read more

Continue Reading

Coping With IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be painful, annoying, and embarrassing. There is currently no cure for this complex condition, and managing its symptoms and flare-ups is tricky. So, coping mechanisms are a constant need.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder in which your gut becomes more sensitive, and the muscles of your digestive system have abnormal contractions. People with IBS usually have abdominal pain along with frequent changes in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between both). Other common symptoms include

  • bloating and gas
  • urge to move the bowels, but being unable to do so
  • incomplete bowel movements
  • urgent need to move the bowels.

Because no one knows what causes IBS, it is impossible to prevent it. Once you have been diagnosed, the goal is to focus on managing the condition. You can do this by identifying specific triggers of your IBS symptoms and then … Read more

Continue Reading

Defusing the “Benadryl challenge”: Discussing danger with teens

Let’s start with the bottom line: Parents of teens need to help them understand that just because they have been “challenged” to do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. But as simple as that sounds to us, it’s tough for many teens to grasp.

The latest challenge in the news is the “Benadryl challenge” that appeared on TikTok, a popular social media video platform. The idea was to take a whole lot of Benadryl (diphenhydramine, a common antihistamine) in order to cause a high, with hallucinations. While it’s true that diphenhydramine can make you high and make you hallucinate, when you take too much of it you can also have seizures, pass out, have heart problems, or even die. And indeed, emergency rooms across the country have treated overdoses of diphenhydramine, and at least one death has been attributed to the challenge.

Dangerous challenges appeal to teens

To TikTok’s … Read more

Continue Reading

Talking to your doctor about an abusive relationship

When Jayden called our clinic to talk about worsening migraines, a medication change was one potential outcome. But moments into our telehealth visit, it was clear that a cure for her problems couldn’t be found in a pill. “He’s out of control again,” she whispered, lips pressed to the phone speaker, “What can I do?”

Unfortunately, abusive relationships like Jayden’s are incredibly common. Intimate partner violence (IPV) harms one in four women and one in 10 men in the United States. People sometimes think that abusive relationships only happen between men and women. But this type of violence can occur between people of any gender and sexual orientation.

Experiencing abuse can be extremely isolating, and can make you feel hopeless. But it is possible to live a life free from violence. Support and resources are available to guide you toward safety — and your doctor or health professional may be … Read more

Continue Reading

Intermittent fasting: Does a new study show downsides — or not?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an approach to eating based on timing. The idea is that fasting for long enough allows insulin levels to fall low enough that our body will use fat for fuel. Growing evidence in animals and humans shows that this approach leads to significant weight loss. When combined with a nutritious, plant-based diet and regular physical activity, IF can be part of a healthy weight loss or maintenance plan, as I described in an earlier blog post.

Now, a randomized controlled trial published in JAMA claims that IF has no significant weight loss benefit and a substantial negative effect on muscle mass. News outlets picked up the story and ran headlines like A Potential Downside of Intermittent Fasting and An Unintended Side Effect of Intermittent Fasting.

But what did this study actually look at and find?

In the study, 141 patients were randomly assigned to … Read more

Continue Reading

Keeping your family safe this Thanksgiving

So much is different and hard during this pandemic — including planning for the holidays.

It’s understandable to want to gather with friends and family. We are all so worn out by the COVID-19 pandemic, and need some cheering up. And most of us have friends and family that we haven’t been able to really spend time with — or haven’t seen at all — for months.

But gathering with friends and family can bring real risks during the pandemic, especially with cases rising all over the country. All it takes is one sick person — who may not even realize that they are sick — to infect others and spread the virus even more.

The best thing to do, honestly, is to celebrate the holiday with just the people you live with, and to skip in-person sporting (or other) events, or in-person Black Friday shopping. That’s truly the best … Read more

Continue Reading

Mind-body medicine in addiction recovery

As someone who struggled with a miserable opiate addiction for 10 years, and who has treated hundreds of people for various addictions, I am increasingly impressed with the ways in which mind-body medicine can be a critical component of recovery from addiction. Mind-body medicine is the use of behavioral and lifestyle interventions, such as meditation, relaxation, yoga, acupuncture, and mindfulness, to holistically address medical problems. Mind-body treatments can be integrated with traditional medical treatments, or used as standalone treatments for certain conditions. Mind-body medicine is now being studied by the National Institutes of Health and effectively used in the treatment of addiction, and it will likely play a role in addiction recovery programs in the future.

Mind-body principles are not new to the recovery movement

Mind-body principles have been around since the start of the recovery movement in 1937, and they are a big part of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 … Read more

Continue Reading

What your skin should expect when you’re expecting

Are you pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant? You’re probably prepared for morning sickness, weight gain, and an expanding belly. But did you know your skin can also undergo a variety of changes when you’re expecting? These changes are due to normal alterations in hormones that occur during pregnancy. Rest assured, most skin conditions that develop or worsen during pregnancy are benign, and tend to improve following delivery.

Darkening of the skin

A large majority of women experience darkening of their skin due to hormone shifts that occur during pregnancy. You may notice that the areas around your thighs, genitals, neck, armpits, and nipples darken. Many women also develop linea nigra, a dark line extending between the belly button and pubic bone. It is also not uncommon for women to experience darkening of their pre-existing moles and freckles. (If you are concerned that a spot on your body is growing … Read more

Continue Reading

Making special education work for your child during COVID-19

Even in normal times, parents wrestle with decisions about how best to support their children’s development. Now, however, parents are faced with nearly-unprecedented choices, and problems with no clear solutions: What if in-person schooling is better for emotional health, but remote schooling is better for physical health? How can children foster social skills without typical social interactions? How can parents select among learning environments when all the options have clear downsides?

These concerns and choices are even more difficult for parents of children with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable students and who are at increased risk of regression during school disruptions.

Special education: One size does not fit all

Of course, students who receive special education are not a uniform group. They range in age from 3 to 22, attending preschool through post-secondary placements. They include students with a wide variety of mild to severe cognitive, physical, social, … Read more

Continue Reading

Communities of color devastated by COVID-19: Shifting the narrative

Editor’s note: First in a series on the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and responses aimed at improving health equity. Click here to read part 2.

By now we’ve read headlines like these all too often: “Communities of Color Devastated by COVID-19.” Way back in March, available data started to show that vulnerable, minority communities were experiencing much higher rates of infection and hospitalization from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Boston, where I live and work, all became ground zeros in our nation’s early battle with the pandemic. The numbers were astounding: Blacks and Latinos were four to nine times more likely to be infected by COVID than whites, even in our nation’s top hot spots. Was I surprised? Absolutely not.

A long view on health disparities

I’m originally from Puerto Rico, and grew up in a bilingual, bicultural … Read more

Continue Reading

Aspirin and breast cancer risk: How a wonder drug may become more wonderful

Aspirin has been called a wonder drug. And it’s easy to see why.

It’s inexpensive, its side effects are well-known and generally minor. And since it was developed in the 1890s, it’s been shown to provide a number of potential benefits, such as relieving pain, bringing down a fever, and preventing heart attacks and strokes. Over the last 20 years or so, the list of aspirin’s potential benefits has been growing. And it might be about to get even longer: did you know that aspirin may lower your risk of several types of cancer?

Studies of aspirin and cancer

A number of studies suggest that aspirin can lower the risk of certain types of cancer, including those involving the

The evidence that aspirin can reduce the risk of colon cancer is so strong that guidelines recommend daily aspirin use for certain groups of people to … Read more

Continue Reading

Load More