It’s that time of year again, the time of year when moderation at mealtimes goes right out the window. Thanksgiving, office holiday
parties, after-work drinks, any occasion where food brings friends and family together all make it difficult to spare a thought or two for what and how much food we’re putting into our mouths. And, unfortunately, all that immoderation can cause more than just
a little weight gain by the end of the year.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, irritating the lining of the esophagus and causing the symptoms of GERD, which include acid reflux and heartburn. Acid reflux and
heartburn are common but a person is diagnosed with GERD only when these symptoms begin to occur frequently, or when they start to interfere with one’s daily activities.
Help take the possibility of GERD and its symptoms out of your holiday celebrations with these tips on GERD management and prevention from
Mick Scott Meiselman, MD, Gastroenterology at NorthShore:
Don’t eat too much. It won’t be easy with the many food-centered events around the holidays, but try to watch the amount of food you consume at each meal. Sometimes heartburn isn’t caused by what you eat but how much you eat. And it doesn’t
necessarily matter if you’re eating something that is actually good for you; eating too much in one sitting increases your likelihood of suffering heartburn later.
Don’t eat too quickly. Savor your special holiday favorites not only because they taste good but because eating slowly is good for you too. Eating too quickly might be the cause of frequent heartburn. If the holidays have you running around
and eating on the go, start to make a point of sitting and slowing down at each meal. This also comes with the added benefit of possibly preventing you from eating too much without realizing it.
Don’t eat or drink too late. Reflux is overtly impacted by gravity. The majority of people with reflux have an ineffective Lower Esophageal Sphincter (or LES) which helps keep your stomach contents from moving up into your esophagus. Thus
any food or liquid contents in your stomach when you lie flat will find their way into your esophagus. It is extremely important that you have an empty stomach at bedtime, so don’t eat any solid food for three hours before you go to bed, and no liquids beyond
the hour before bed, and none in the middle of the night.
Avoid high-fat foods. Another difficult directive during the holidays but many of those traditional holiday foods are high in fat and calories. High-fat foods tend to take longer to digest and sit longer in the stomach; thus, they cause
more discomfort and increase the likelihood of triggering GERD symptoms. Fats also relax the LES. Moderation is key but there are also many delicious alternatives to some of your high-fat holiday favorites.
Avoid acidic foods. Acid causes heartburn. Foods high in acid, like tomatoes and citrus fruits and juices, can trigger heartburn on an empty stomach. Try to avoid them if possible or limit them if not.
Limit coffee, caffeinated sodas, alcohol. All these drinks stimulate acid production and are likely to cause heartburn. Cut them out or keep their consumption to a minimum. Mixed drinks, like Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers, which contain
juice and alcohol, would certainly be a trigger for heartburn. Consider decaf and herbal teas instead.
Limit or avoid chocolate and mint. Chocolate and mint also relax the LES, and allow reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. You should especially avoid these late at night.
Do you know what triggers your GERD symptoms?
Everyone knows your body needs exercise to stay in peak shape. But did you know your brain does too? Physical exercise
is essential to the health of both your body and brain, but you can do even more to keep your brain in shape. Challenging your brain with cognitive exercises is another great way to keep your mind sharp.
Chad Yucus, MD, Neurology at NorthShore, answers questions and shares some ways to give your brain the workout it needs to stay sharp at any
Do brain teasers and puzzles actually help to keep your mind sharp? Are certain types of puzzles and activities better than others?
There are many types of cognitive activities that help to keep the brain sharp, involving word games and number games, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, computer games and board/card games. There is no strategy that is particularly better than another, but
learning a new hobby, game and/or language is a good way to keep the brain sharp.
Why would a new hobby be helpful?
Learning a new skill or starting a new hobby that requires skills you don’t typically use can be helpful because it challenges you to keep learning and function in a way that is not familiar. It’s a great way to stay mentally active whatever your age.
Who benefits from cognitive exercises and activities?
How do you keep your brain healthy to prevent memory loss?
There is no strategy to truly prevent memory loss, but there are strategies to delay the effects of any pathology (changes caused by disease) that may be developing in the brain. This is based upon building a cognitive reserve before any problems begin to
develop. These strategies include the cognitive exercises above, physical exercise, social activities—spending time with friends, planning events—regular sleep patterns and a low-cholesterol Mediterranean diet.
How much time should you devote each day to cognitive exercise?
Think of it in terms of regular physical exercise. Your brain and the rest of your body need about the same each day, approximately 30-60 minutes of cognitive and physical exercise every day is a good place to start.
How do you exercise your brain?
Smoking is more than just a bad habit; it’s the leading cause of preventative death worldwide. Each year, close to 400,000 people in the U.S. will die from smoking-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.
As part of National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, NorthShore University HealthSystem has created an infographic that explores the harmful effects of smoking and the big health benefits of quitting.
Make today the day you break a deadly habit and begin to look forward to many healthier years ahead.
Click on the image below to be directed to the full infographic.
Currently about 325,000 American children under the age of 15 have epilepsy, with 200,000 new cases being
diagnosed each year, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America. Epilepsy is a disorder involving repeated seizures, or episodes of disturbed brain function associated with changes in attention and/or behavior. Although some children will outgrow the
disorder or can have it easily managed through medication, others may be more severely impacted throughout their lives.
Kent Kelley, MD, Pediatric Neurology, tells parents, caregivers and teachers what they should know in the event of a seizure as well as some
steps they can take to prevent harm from seizures before they happen:
Molly, a supposedly pure form of the drug MDMA, is seeing a spike in use among young people. Users of Molly see it as a safe,
inexpensive drug with few long-term negative side effects, like addiction. Many celebrities, including most recently Miley Cyrus, have quite literally been singing its praises.
But Molly, known previously in the 1980s and ‘90s as Ecstasy, is an illegal drug and it comes with many risks. A mind-altering drug that is a stimulant and hallucinogenic, it boosts both serotonin and dopamine levels in the body. Users of the drug report
feelings of happiness, euphoria, empathy, decreased anxiety and fear, as well as enhanced sensory perception, which makes it a popular dance club drug.
Jerrold Leikin, MD, Medical Toxicology and Emergency Medicine at NorthShore, dispels some of the myths surrounding Molly:
How do you talk to your kids about drugs?
Approximately 45,000 people in the United States
will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, and over 38,000 will die from it.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 53, Diana Pacholski was shocked to discover there is only a six-percent chance of survival of five years for pancreatic cancer patients. Now 58, Diana and Mark Talamonti, MD, Surgeon at NorthShore, discuss pancreatic
cancer and how she beat the odds in this NorthShore University HealthSystem patient story.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, so this month help us spread the word about the disease and importance of continued research.
There is no cure for type 2 diabetes but it can be controlled. Controlling type 2 diabetes can become
a seamless part of your daily life, from eating a healthy, well-balanced diet to making time for regular exercise. Lifestyle changes like these are important to prevent diabetic health issues, but it is equally important to stay on top of appointments and
health checks with your physician. It doesn’t take long for high blood sugar to damage your body, so regular testing and checkups to catch problems as early as possible are vital.
Mary Bennett, RD, LD, CDE, Diabetes Education Outpatient Manager at NorthShore, shares a checklist of important diabetic tests and when they need to be done to help you take control of your own type 2 diabetes care:
Join us November 14th at 10 a.m. for an online medical chat "Living with Diabetes: The Importance of Foot Health" with Harry Papagianis, D.P.M., NorthShore-affiliated Podiatrist. Submit your questions here.
Cooler temperatures are no excuse to let your health and wellness fall by the wayside. In fact, fall is the perfect time to take advantage of some of the highlights of the season, from incorporating seasonal fruits and vegetables into your diet to kicking
your fitness routine up a notch with fall-friendly activities.
NorthShore University HealthSystem has created an infographic filled with fall health tips and creative fall fitness suggestions. Click on the image to see our full
Fall into Wellness infographic.
Katie Clarke was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction at NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital, followed by four months of chemotherapy and a year-long course of Herceptin treatments at Evanston Hospital.
Before her own diagnosis, and in memory of her best friend who lost her own life to the disease in 2006, Katie and her family would make a point of cheering on the participants of the three-day breast cancer walk in Chicago armed with motivational signs
and licorice. This, and her own breast cancer journey, would later inspire Katie and her sister to found
The Licorice Project, an organization devoted to spreading joy during a difficult time and bringing together breast cancer patients, survivors, families and friends.
In part two of her NorthShore patient story, Katie shares one of the most difficult but important moments following her breast cancer diagnosis:
I’m often asked, “How and when did you tell your kids you had breast cancer?” My husband and I agreed
that we wanted to be open and truthful about everything as soon as my diagnosis was confirmed. We turned to my breast surgeon, Dr. Winchester at NorthShore University HealthSystem, for advice on what to say to our three middle school-aged boys. We planned
a family meeting and decided that I would do the talking.
I began the conversation by telling them that I’d found a lump in my chest, to which my youngest shouted, “You’re pregnant!?” When I said, “No,” he answered, “Phew!” I told them that the lump was in my breast and they wanted to know immediately if it was
cancer. When I said that it was, they all began to cry. It broke my heart to see them so sad and frightened. Holding their hands, I assured them that the doctors were very encouraged and had given me a good prognosis since the lump was very small and I had
caught it early. I explained to them that there would be many steps, tests and procedures. I explained that it would take time and patience but that when I finished the therapy, I would be okay. Of course, many questions followed:
“Are you going to die?”
“Will you lose your hair?”
“Will you get a wig?”
“Who knows about this already?”
“Can we tell people?”
“What should we say?”
“Does this mean we can get breast cancer?”
“Are people going to bring us dinners?”
My husband and I answered the questions as best as we could, which, of course, led to even more questions. Since school was about to end for summer vacation, we assured the boys that all their summer plans would stay intact. We wanted to keep their lives
as “normal” as possible. The family meeting concluded with lots of hugs and kisses.
Telling our children that I had cancer was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do; however, it was also one of my proudest moments because of the strength and composure that I maintained during such a difficult conversation. There’s no right or wrong way
to explain a cancer diagnosis to children. Each family will deal with it in their own unique way and to the best of their ability.
Every flu season is different but there’s one thing you can count on: there will be one. Flu season in the U.S. can
begin as early as October and continue into late May. Perhaps you’ve already noticed an uptick in coughing and sneezing on the train, in the office or at school, but it’s not too late to take action and keep your family happy and healthy throughout flu season.
Curtis Mann, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares some top tips for keeping the flu from catching up with you and the rest of your
family this season:
Do you make sure to get the flu vaccine every year?