alternative treatments

Sunscreen use now implicated in widespread vitamin D deficiency

Results from a clinical review find nearly 1 billion people worldwide may have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use.

Results from a clinical review published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association find nearly 1 billion people worldwide may have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use.

The study also found that 95 percent of African American adults may have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. Vitamin D variations among races are attributed to differences in skin pigmentation.

“People are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they’re typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body’s ability to produce vitamin D,” said Kim Pfotenhauer, DO, assistant professor at Touro University and a researcher on this study. “While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D.”

Dr. Pfotenhauer also said chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and those related to malabsorption, including kidney disease, Crohn’s and celiac disease greatly inhibit the body’s ability to metabolize vitamin D from food sources.

Considered a hormone rather than a vitamin, vitamin D is produced when skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D receptors are found in virtually every cell in the human body. As a result, it plays a wide role in the body’s functions, including cell growth modulation, neuromuscular and immune function and inflammation reduction.

Symptoms for insufficient or deficient vitamin D include muscle weakness and bone fractures. People exhibiting these symptoms or who have chronic diseases known to decrease vitamin D, should have their levels checked and, if found to be low, discuss treatment options. However, universal screening is likely neither necessary nor prudent absent significant symptoms or chronic disease.

Increasing and maintaining healthy vitamin D levels can be as easy as spending 5-30 minutes in midday sun twice per week. The appropriate time depends on a person’s geographic location and skin pigmentation — lighter skin synthesizes more vitamin D than darker skin. It is important to forgo sunscreen during these sessions because SPF 15 or greater decreases vitamin D3 production by 99 percent.

“You don’t need to go sunbathing at the beach to get the benefits,” said Dr. Pfotenhauer. “A simple walk with arms and legs exposed is enough for most people.”

Food sources such as milk, breakfast cereals, and Portobello mushrooms are also fortified with vitamin D. Dr. Pfotenhauer said supplements are a good option, as they are effective and pose few risks, provided they are taken as directed and a physician is consulted beforehand.

Research is ongoing to determine whether vitamin D deficiency has a role in multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, infections, respiratory disease, cardiometabolic disease, cancer, and fracture risk.

“Science has been trying to find a one-to-one correspondence between vitamin D levels and specific diseases,” said Dr. Pfotenhauer. “Given vitamin D’s ubiquitous role in the body, I believe sufficient vitamin D is more about overall health. Our job as osteopathic physicians is to recognize those patients that need to be tested and treat them accordingly.”

Currently, insufficiency is defined as between 21 and 30 ng/ml and deficiency is considered below 20ng/ml by the Endocrine Society.


Story Source: Materials provided by American Osteopathic Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Read this article on Science Daily: American Osteopathic Association. “Widespread vitamin D deficiency likely due to sunscreen use, increase of chronic diseases, review finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170501102258.htm.

Low-dose aspirin may be powerful cancer fighting tool for women

The use of low-dose aspirin (81 mg) reduces the risk of breast cancer in women, a new study concludes. Researchers saw an overall 16 percent lower risk of breast cancer in women who reported using low-dose aspirin at least three times per week.

A City of Hope-led study found that the use of low-dose aspirin (81mg) reduces the risk of breast cancer in women who are part of the California’s Teacher’s Study. This study — which is the first to suggest that the reduction in risk occurs for low-dose aspirin — was proposed by City of Hope’s Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Biomarkers of Early Detection and Prevention, and published online in the journal, Breast Cancer Research.

Bernstein and her colleagues saw an overall 16 percent lower risk of breast cancer in women who reported using low-dose aspirin at least three times per week. Such regular use of low-dose aspirin reduced the risk by 20 percent of estrogen or progesterone receptor positive, HER2 negative breast cancer, which is the most common breast cancer subtype.

“The study found an interesting protective association between low-dose aspirin and breast cancer,” said lead author Christina A. Clarke, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California. “We did not by and large find associations with the other pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. We also did not find associations with regular aspirin since this type of medication is taken sporadically for headaches or other pain, and not daily for prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

This study differed from other studies that have looked at aspirin and cancer risk because it focused on the dose levels of the aspirin women had taken and tracked the frequency of the use of low-dose aspirin as opposed to regular aspirin. It was also able to look in detail at subtypes of breast cancer.

“We already knew that aspirin is a weak aromatase inhibitor and we treat women with breast cancer with stronger aromatase inhibitors since they reduce the amount of estrogen postmenopausal women have circulating in their blood,” said Bernstein. “We thought that if aspirin can inhibit aromatase, it ought to reduce the likelihood that breast cancer would develop and it could also be an effective way to improve breast cancer patients’ prognosis once they no longer take the more potent aromatase inhibitors.” Bernstein added, “Aspirin also reduces inflammation, which may be another mechanism by which aspirin taken regularly can lower risk of breast cancer developing or recurring.”

As part of the study, researchers analyzed data recorded in questionnaires submitted by 57,164 women in the California’s Teacher’s Study. In 2005, participants answered questions regarding family history of cancer and other conditions, use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), menstrual and reproductive history, use of hormones, weight and height, living environment, diet, alcohol use and physical activity. In the ensuing years before 2013, 1,457 of these participants developed invasive breast cancer.

The team of researchers chose to focus on low-dose “baby” aspirin, because not only is it inexpensive and readily available as potential means of prevention, but because there are already a lot of people already taking it for prevention of other diseases such as heart disease and even colon cancer.

Now that we have some data separating low-dose from higher-dose aspirin, more detailed research can be undertaken to understand the full value of low-dose aspirin for breast cancer prevention,” said Clarke.”


Story Source:

Materials provided by City of Hope. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christina A. Clarke, Alison J. Canchola, Lisa M. Moy, Susan L. Neuhausen, Nadia T. Chung, James V. Lacey, Leslie Bernstein. Regular and low-dose aspirin, other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and prospective risk of HER2-defined breast cancer: the California Teachers Study. Breast Cancer Research, 2017; 19 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13058-017-0840-7

 

Read this article on science daily:  “Regular use of aspirin can lower risk of breast cancer for women: A new study identifies low-dose aspirin as a potential cancer prevention tool.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170501131759.htm.

Health Conditions Can Lead to Low Libido in Women

sleeping-woman-1432242A woman’s sex drive can often wax and wane over the years due to many complex components. Sexual satisfaction is an important part of a woman’s overall health and well-being.

When problems arise, it is vital to discover what is causing her to have her libido bottom out. There are four areas that play a role in affecting a woman’s desire for sex — physical, hormonal, psychological and relationship issues.

Physical reasons

• Medications such as antidepressants and anti-seizure meds can squelch sex drive.

• Being fatigued or exhausted due to caring for children or aging parents will make her less likely to look forward to sex.

• Surgery or a prolonged illness can affect how she feels about her body and sexual functioning.

• Medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or neurological diseases can all put a damper on desire for sex.

• Any type of sexual problems such as pain during intercourse or not being able to achieve an orgasm can drive sex drive into the ground.

Hormonal changes

• Pregnancy and breastfeeding have huge hormonal changes associated with them which can affect sex drive. Add to that, the fatigue, body changes, and becoming a new mom with tremendous responsibility can often put sex at the bottom of her to-do list.

If any of these areas is a source of the problem, a woman should seek out professional help by making an appointment with her primary care doctor or gynecologist. Either one are trained to discuss these issues of intimacy allowing a woman to candidly talk about her sexual concerns. It is better to approach this topic sooner than later before it begins negatively affecting your relationship with your partner.

Read the full story here …

National Women’s Health Week – A focus on prevention

OBGYN pic for websiteIt’s never too early or late to work toward being healthy! This National Women’s Health Week is an opportunity for all women to take control of their health.

Take the first step! Join the National Women’s Health Week celebration and learn tips that lead a healthier life at any age. Some recommendations include:  Vaccinations – against influenza (flu) and HPV;  Mammogram for breast cancer starting at age 40*; Colon cancer screening starting at age 50*; Bone scan for osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) starting at age 65; Pap smears;  Family planning and counseling;  STD (sexually transmitted diseases) testing and more. *Sooner if there is a family history (talk to your doctor about when you should get screened)

Check the guidelines to find out about important screening tests for women. These guidelines are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force … just following this link …

And for more information about National Women’s Health Week visit Women’s Health.gov ….

Magnesium: An essential mineral for women’s health

obgyn pic postMagnesium is an essential mineral found in foods like dark leafy vegetables, nuts and whole grains that’s needed for your body to function. Though not nearly as discussed or praised as other essential minerals like calcium and potassium, magnesium’s effect on the body is powerful — as the the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, it is responsible for more than 300 enzymatic reactions and a number of physiological functions like muscular health and function.

While 99 percent of the magnesium in the body is located in bone, muscular tissue and soft tissues, its occurrence is also found within cells, where it helps stabilize enzymes responsible for vital functions like muscle contraction, glucose utilization and the synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids. Its wide range of benefits to the body makes it one of the most important minerals to consume, yet it is rarely talked about as an essential nutrient. Why is this the case?

Read the full story here.

World Health Day: Getting an early start on a lifetime of good health

Women should be very careful and observant of any change in their body. Any kind of abnormal hair growth on the face, chest or neck, sudden weight gain or weight loss, hair fall, irregular periods – all of these are warning signs, alerting a women that it’s time to see a gynecologist.

Being a woman is not easy. Not only is today’s woman fulfilling her traditional duties, but also taking up much more onto her plate. She is a mother, an entrepreneur, a dreamer, an achiever and also a support system for her family. In the constant flux of striking a balance between all her worlds, most often, it is her health which takes a hit.

Age plays a huge role for women’s health and well-being. As we grow older, the body undergoes many changes. But like the saying goes, there’s nothing like starting early, therefore, health experts always advice that twenties is a crucial time for women to start thinking of their health.

A woman is in her prime during her twenties, a phase where she has a chance to build her reservoir of good health and brace-up for the many challenging experiences later on in life, such as childbirth. It is the time when she needs to start making careful health choices, as how she fares in her later years depends hugely on her twenties or even earlier. In fact, recent research studies have reported that our adolescence plays an equally crucial role.

Read the full story …

Other Reasons Women Take Birth Control Pills

woman-1541456You know that birth control pills can keep you from getting pregnant. But the pill can have other benefits, too. One survey found that more than half of women who take birth control pills do so for reasons other than avoiding pregnancy.

It can make your periods more regular. With the pill, you’ll know when you’ll have your period. With traditional birth control pills, you’ll take 3 weeks of hormone-containing active pills, followed by one week of inactive pills. You’ll get your period the week you the inactive pills. Read the full story … 

The Women’s OBGYN Medical Group of Santa Rosa Kicks Off 2015 with “Good to Be You”

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A look at how to get healthy and stay healthy for life – The Women’s OBGYN Medical Group invites women everywhere to become involved in the Good To Be You program and create a condition of optimal health and balance in life – discover that it is Good to Be You!

Life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all-time high, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last October. While the average expected age is now just under 79 years for both men and women, a female baby born in 2012 can now expect to live to 81.2 years, that’s almost 5 years longer than a male born the same year, who can expect to live just over 76 years. Knowing that we, as women can expect to live a full eight decades – barring accidents or major health issues, it’s a pretty good idea to adopt healthy habits as early in life as possible. A look at the trends to better health reveals that there are some very simple ways to optimize health, and make life worth living.

Living with a Healthy Heart

Some women are surprised to learn that heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking far more lives each year than breast cancer and cervical cancer combined. Regardless of age and fitness level, taking measures to maximize heart health is one of the most important things women can do to stay healthy. While routine preventative care can help, lifestyle changes such as exercising, dieting, and quitting smoking and cutting back on caffeine are all examples of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy heart.

Eating For Health

According to a 2011 study by Lancet, Japanese women can expect to live longer than most other women in the world, and experts believe it might have something to do with diet. The average Japanese diet consists of fish, seaweed, and lots of vegetables. The fact that they eat so much fish means they naturally enjoy high dietary levels of omega-3 fatty acids which is associated with many health benefits.

Including fresh vegetables in the diet is one of the simplest choices to make to improve overall healthfulness. A vegetable-rich diet is believed to help protect the body from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia and a variety of cancers – and it might also slow down the aging process. In fact, one recent study found that people who consume at least seven portions of fresh vegetables and fruit each day have a whopping 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat one portion or less. Additional dietary considerations to make include;

  • Studies also reveal that eating dark chocolate in moderation (two servings per week) is associated with a lower risk of heart failure.
  • People who eat nuts significantly reduce their risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lung diseases, and others. In fact, people who consume nuts as part of their daily diet were 20 percent healthier than non-nut-eaters according to at least one study.
  • In a review of 24 studies, researchers found that women with low-to-moderate alcohol consumption had a lower risk of all-cause mortality (moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women).

Boost your happiness quotient

The happiest people are three times less likely to die over a given period than the least happy people, according to a 2012 study. It’s not just about attitude either, as happy people have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and they seem to have lower blood pressure which lessens the threat of cardiovascular issues such as heart disease and stroke.

According to a 2010 study at Brigham Young University friends are also part of the happiness equals long life factor as people with strong social connections are reported to have a 50 percent lower chance of untimely death than those with few social ties. Research shows that strong partnerships can also help people avoid illness.

A strong (emotionally supportive) partnership is also apparently helpful when it comes to adopting healthier habits, which of course leads to living healthier longer. Although we might think that intimacy is the key to a happy partnership, sex isn’t the only type of physical contact that can lower stress and improve health. In a 2004 study conducted by the University of North Carolina researchers discovered that both men and women had higher blood levels of oxytocin—a hormone believed to ease stress and improve mood—following a simple hug. The women in particular, had lower blood pressure after receiving a hug and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Ditch Bad Habits

Habits can actually be beneficial to overall health, because they’re automatic and they don’t require a whole lot of thinking, which frees our brains up to focus on other things. Good habits, like being punctual or maintaining a sense of optimism, or being courteous, or getting enough sleep and maintaining an exercise routine can provide motivation for healthy living. However, bad habits can also happen without thinking and can be damaging to health and increase stress, all without us being aware of them. Some of the basic bad habits that can be changed to increase overall well-being may include;

  • eating junk food
  • procrastinating
  • overspending
  • being late
  • staying up to watch TV or to play on the computer

There is one bad habit that has a very negative impact on health and that’s smoking. Never starting this habit is the best route to take but even long time smokers can benefit from ditching the habit as research finds that women who quit before age 40 live as much as a decade longer than those who quit later on.

Exercise – Get Moving!

Sitting for prolonged periods at a desk or in front of the computer may be necessary for many people’s livelihood, but it’s not good for the body. Research shows that women who sit for more than six hours a day have a 40 percent higher risk of dying from any cause than those women who sit for fewer than three hours—regardless of their fitness levels.

Exercise is hands-down one of the best things women can do to improve health. Exercise keeps the body fit, increases energy and releases endorphins—which in turn increases the happiness quotient. A number of studies indicate that staying active is associated with a longer life expectancy.

We might think that a “real” workout needs to be strenuous. But the fact is that simply walking, running, biking or swimming are all activities that are extremely beneficial to overall healthfulness. Just 2.5 hours weekly (about 20 minutes a day) of moderate aerobic exercise such as walking provides all the major health benefits a body needs to stay healthy.

Breast Health

Routine breast exams and general awareness of how to maintain breast health are important elements in living a healthy lifestyle for women. Screening methods such as regular self-breast exams, breast checks during routine gynecologic exams, and screening mammographies can all help to detect breast problems early-on. Early treatment of breast problems can contribute to the success of any treatment that is needed.

Self-check breast exams are easy to perform in the home and should be conducted monthly in addition to annual breast exams with your physician at Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group. Depending on your age and individual health, your physician may recommend a more frequent interval of regular check-ups with your health care provider.

About Women’s OBGYN Medical Group

The provider team of expert OB/GYN physicians, certified nurse midwives, family nurse practitioners, and medical assistants provides unmatched care to patients in our region. As women proudly serving women, we understand the needs and expectations of our patients. For more information call (707) 579-1102 or visit our website.

 

 

A Look at Complementary Therapies and Alternative Medicine for National Menopause Awareness Month

September is National Menopause Awareness Month which is aimed at helping women to understand and embrace menopause in lieu of suffering from its symptoms. To celebrate, the Women’s OBGYN Medical Group of Santa Rosa takes a look at healthy ways women can work with the physical changes caused by menopause.

The severity of menopausal symptoms will vary among woman. A healthcare provider specializing in menopause is expert in helping patients find the best way to address lifestyle expectations and relief from uncomfortable symptoms with the latest treatment options, including hormone therapy. At the same time complementary therapies offer a variety of alternative treatments and products that can relieve symptoms for many menopausal women. While these treatment options may fall outside of what can be called conventional medicine, there are many therapies that are considered safe and effective.

What is Menopause?

Menopause marks the stage of a woman’s life when her body has transitioned from regularly producing estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries to its post-menopausal state. This process occurs naturally in women typically between the ages of 40 and 60, but there are also natural causes and voluntary procedures that can induce premature menopause such as the removal of both ovaries due to treatments for cancer, disease or trauma, and hysterectomy.

Symptoms arise in most women as the body adjusts to new hormone levels. Common, though generally mild symptoms which can be treated effectively with complementary therapies include; hot flashes, sleep difficulties, and stress-induced muscle pains, etc. Examples of complimentary therapies for these types of symptoms include;

  • massage
  • herbal & dietary supplements
  • yoga, tai chi, qi gong
  • biofeedback, meditation
  • exercise

Massage

Massage therapy can offer safe and effective relief for many women experiencing menopause, at any stage. Typical symptoms of menopause can be intensified by feelings of anxiety and fatigue which in turn can cause additional pain in the back, neck and shoulders. Massage therapy as well as other forms of bodywork actually allows the body to relax, offering relief from anxiety and stress. Massage therapy is well known for its ability to relieve headaches and body tension, and increased range of motion. It can also help women reconnect with the natural rhythms of their bodies during menopause. Massage also improves flexibility by stimulating the natural lubricants between connective tissue, helping to alleviate back, neck and shoulder pain caused by menopausal stress. Another aspect of massage that may help improve hormonal imbalances caused by menopause is reflexology which is an ancient method of massaging acupressure points, most commonly in the hands and feet.

Herbal & Dietary Supplements for Menopause

Although research has yet to provide the necessary scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of many complementary health practices, women are discovering symptom relief during the menopausal transition with the wise use of herbal and dietary supplements. To that end, it is vital that patients discuss all complementary therapies they are using with their physician, as not all are proven safe and/or effective and some supplements can interfere with conventional treatments. The physicians at Women’s OBGYN Medical Group are happy to help provide individualized guidance for complimentary therapies, including herbal and dietary support.

Some commonly talked about supplements include;

Flaxseed contains substances called lignins which are important modulators of hormone metabolism.

Dong quai is touted for its ability to support and maintain the natural balance of female hormones. However, this is one of the herbs commonly recommended for menopause that should not be taken if a woman is experiencing heavy bleeding.

Black cohosh is one of the best-studied traditional herbs for menopause commonly used for hot flashes. Black cohosh may work by maintaining hormonal levels, which may lessen the severity of hot flashes, although it isn’t effective for everyone.

Taking in magnesium-rich foods or supplements helps strengthen bones and prevent conditions like osteoporosis, which can develop during menopause. Maintaining strong bones throughout menopause can help prevent bone fractures and serious injury. Magnesium is also known to help reduce common symptoms of menopause such as insomnia, tissue dryness, mood swings, anxiety, irritability and water-retention and it can also help improve energy levels, which may decline during menopause.

Evening primrose oil is a good source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that can help influence prostaglandin synthesis and help moderate menopausal symptoms.

A daily dose of 400 IUs of natural vitamin E has proven to help alleviate symptoms of hot flashes in some menopausal women.

Water-soluble B-vitamins may also help women deal with the emotional stress of menopausal symptoms.

Yoga, tai chi, qi gong

A 2010 National Institute of Health (NIH) review of 21 papers evaluated mind and body therapies for menopausal symptoms where researchers found that yoga, tai chi and meditation-based programs may be helpful in reducing common menopausal symptoms including the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, sleep and mood disturbances, stress and muscle and joint pain.

Biofeedback, Meditation

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, many nonprescription techniques may relieve the symptoms of menopause including meditation, acupuncture, hypnosis, biofeedback and deep breathing exercises. Many of these exercises involve focusing attention inward and eliminating stressful thoughts. While this type of relaxation helps reduce stress immediately, it can also help a person to better deal with stress throughout the day.

Exercise

Weight gain is common after menopause and as many as 30 percent of women ages 50 to 59 are not just overweight today, they are obese. Lack of estrogen may cause the body to use starches and blood sugar less effectively, which may indeed increase fat storage and make it harder for women of a menopausal age to lose weight. There is a way that mature women can avoid this particular symptom of menopause while helping to reduce the risk of many other health problems associated with aging; by adopting a routine of aerobic exercise.

A National Institutes of Health review showed that people who took part in aerobic activities every day for just 10 or more minutes had as many as six fewer inches around the waistline, compared to people who didn’t exercise. A regular routine of aerobic activity can help lower the risk of many menopausal symptoms including osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and relief of depression and anxiety.

Professional, Compassionate Care throughout the Menopausal Years

Complementary therapies are not covered by most insurance, so it is important to check with your insurance provider when considering trying these therapies in conjunction with any conventional treatments. Physicians and nurses at the Women’s OBGYN Medical Group carry decades of experience providing professional, compassionate treatment and advice to women going through menopause, and it brings our practice great satisfaction to help ease the emotional and physical discomfort that comes with it. To learn more visit our website or call (707) 579-1102.