Taking GERD out of the Holidays

Monday, December 22, 2014 9:49 AM comments (0)

GerdIt’s that time of year again, the time of year when moderation at mealtimes goes right out the window. Holiday parties, after-work drinks, celebrations with the entire family, 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?

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Keep the Season Bright: 12 Holiday Health and Safety Tips [Infographic]

Friday, December 19, 2014 3:23 PM comments (0)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so don’t let an illness, injury or accident keep you from celebrating a happy, healthy holiday season with your family and friends.  Whether you’re outside shoveling snow or inside preparing your favorite seasonal dishes, our 12 holiday health and safety tips are sure to help keep the season bright.

Share our holiday safety infographic with your friends and family to spread holiday health tips as well as cheer. Click on the image below to see our full holiday safety infographic

holiday infographic

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Have the Winter Blues? Dr. Farra Discusses Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 1:32 PM comments (1)

Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the days get shorter and the temperatures continue to drop during winter, some people experience depression-like symptoms brought on by seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a type of depression that can affect anyone but is most common in people who live in areas where winter days are short and there is a limited supply of sunlight.

Robert Farra, Ph.D., Director of the Adult Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, Department of Psychiatry, answers questions on SAD, from symptoms to treatment options:

Q: What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • Feeling sad or moody
  • Loss of interest in usually pleasurable things
  • Eating more and craving carbohydrates
  • Gaining weight
  • Sleeping more and feeling drowsy during the day

Q: How many people are affected?

  • It is estimated that a half million (500,000) people in the U.S. have SAD.

Q: Why do many people experience depression before the holidays?

  • Typically the days of little sunshine
  • Stress of the season

Q: How can people combat seasonal depression? Any concrete tips? 

  • Light therapy may help. Sitting in front of a high intensity fluorescent lamp (usually 10,000 Lux) for 30 mins to 2 hours can help. 
  • Sometimes people respond better to an antidepressant and specialized treatment called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
  • Depression, regardless of cause, shows up as negative thoughts and feelings.  Ruminating about negative thoughts and feelings can bring us down.
  • CBT teaches that negative thoughts and behaviors, while influenced by such things as a lack of sunlight, are still within a person’s ability to change.

Are you affected by the change of the season? What do you do to stay active even with less sunshine?

 

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The Height of the Season: Flu Myths vs. Facts

Monday, December 15, 2014 10:46 AM comments (0)

flu seasonWorried about catching the flu this season? There are many things you can do to prevent the spread of the flu—washing your hands regularly, getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine—but one of the best is to make sure you get vaccinated. 

Kenneth Fox, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, addresses some of the pervasive myths surrounding the flu and the flu shot to give you your best shot for dodging the bug this season:

Myth: I got the flu shot and got the flu right away.
Fact: The flu shot is not 100 percent effective but it is effective. The vaccine reduces a person’s risk of developing significant symptoms by 60%.

Myth: The flu shot is effective immediately.
Fact: It takes a period of two weeks for the flu shot to take effect.

Myth: Only the elderly and young children are affected by the flu.
Fact: The elderly and children younger than two (as well as people with other underlying medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, cerebral palsy, COPD, diabetes, kidney or liver disease) are at highest risk for flu complications. Those with compromised immune systems are also at especially high risk. But, the flu can strike anyone.  Some of the most serious cases can occur in people who were previously healthy.

Myth: People suffering from the flu should always go to the hospital.
Fact: Healthy people should take care of themselves at home: get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and take Tylenol or Advil. Be watchful of other health issues though. If you are suffering from labored breathing or dehydration, you should go to the emergency room.

Myth: You should feed a cold and starve a fever.
Fact: Maintaining nutrition and staying hydrated is important when you are sick with the flu, so the answer is feed and feed.

Myth: Getting the flu shot once per season is always adequate.
Fact: One flu shot per season is adequate for almost everyone, with the exception of children under nine years old who should get two doses of flu vaccine (separated by  four weeks) during the first flu season they are immunized.

Myth: Flu and cold symptoms are the same.
Fact: Flu symptoms include a fever, cough, congestion, chills, fatigue, body aches, and often sore throat and headache. Cold symptoms are fewer in number, much milder and last just a few days.

Myth: The flu lasts 24 hours.
Fact: Children are typically ill 7-10 days but can shed the virus a few days before their symptoms begin and up to 2 weeks after the start of symptoms. Adults are typically ill 5-7 days but shed the virus 1 day before symptoms begin and usually up to 5 days after the start of symptoms. Some symptoms like fatigue may last for several weeks in kids and adults. 

Myth: There is no way to protect yourself from the flu.
Fact: The flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent the flu and to reduce the risk of its complications. Also, thorough and frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with contaminated surfaces, getting adequate sleep, nutrition and hydration all reduce a person’s flu risks. Being watchful of complications and seeing your doctor if serious symptoms arise (like difficulty breathing and dehydration) reduce your risks of harm. Staying home when ill with the flu and covering your mouth when coughing also reduces the risks of spread in the community. 

It’s not too late to get vaccinated this flu season. Have you had your flu shot?

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From Crib to Bed: Ensuring a Smooth Transition

Friday, December 12, 2014 3:04 PM comments (0)

cribThere is no magic age for when it’s best to transition your toddler from a crib to the “big-kid” bed. Much of the timing depends on your child’s readiness as well the need to free up the crib for a new little brother or sister. In most cases, toddlers transition to a bed between the ages of 18 months to 3 years.

Whether you are mid-transition or only in the planning stages, Susan Roth, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, offers helpful tips to make the change a smoother one:

  • Maintain consistency with a bedtime routine. A big-kid bed shouldn’t mean a new bedtime hour or a different routine. Keep the bed the only significant change. Also, try to put your child’s new bed in the same place as the crib.
  • Make it fun! Get your child involved with this “big girl”/“big boy” step. For instance, let him or her choose new sheets for the bed. If you will be purchasing a new bed, let your child help out with this decision as well.
  • Start with naps. Make the new bed the naptime bed to start. If your child can’t manage to stay in his or her bed for the duration of an afternoon nap, it might be too early to make the transition. 
  • Keep safety in mind. Depending on the type of bed that you select, be sure that you are providing a safe sleeping environment for your toddler. If you transition straight to a twin bed, it may be best to place the mattress on the floor for a while. If this isn’t an option, consider installing guard rails so your child does not roll out of bed. Padding the floor with blankets and/or pillows can also help reduce the chance of injury.

    This is also a good time to rethink and revisit your overall household childproofing. Now that your child may get out of bed and walk around at night consider removing or safety-proofing other household hazards. If needed, consider installing a gate in your child’s doorway so he or she cannot exit the bedroom. This may be especially important in homes with an accessible staircase.
  • Be supportive, yet firm. Your toddler may not adjust to this new bed immediately. The newfound freedom may lead to him or her getting up more frequently or even trying to get out of bed. Try to stay calm and reinforce that it’s time for sleeping. 
  • Reward positive behavior. Don’t expect this transition to be without its hiccups. Be sure to positively reinforce a job well done throughout this transition period.

Have questions about transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed? Join NorthShore's new online community, The Parent 'Hood, to ask and answer questions as well as connect with our team of medical experts. Check it out here

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Keeping the Roads Safe During the Holidays

Monday, December 08, 2014 4:44 PM comments (0)

Designated DriverThis time of year, schedules fill up quickly with special events and gatherings of friends and family that often involve the consumption of alcohol.  Many people drink more often and consume more in these weeks than at any other time during the year and most are not used to assessing their own ability to drive, particularly on winter’s more dangerous roadways.  This all adds up to conditions in which drunk or impaired driving is not only possible and more likely, which is why December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that DUI arrests peak between Thanksgiving and the end of December, and that the average daily death rate caused by drunk/drugged drivers increases from 36 to between 45 and 54 on Christmas and New Years Eve respectively.  In addition, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 25,000 people will experience injuries during the same period as a result of accidents in which the driver is impaired. These numbers reflect a decline over previous decades, but each incident represents a family devastated, a son, daughter, husband, wife or friend not returning home. 

Ina Sherman, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor at  NorthShore’s Doreen E. Chapman Center, shares her suggestions for helping to ensure that you and your friends and family celebrate responsibly and that everyone out on the roads reaches their holiday destinations safe and sound:

  • Designate a driver. The most important thing you can do is ensure there is a designated driver. Designated drivers have saved thousands of lives over the years. Make a plan before you leave for a party that includes a designated driver.  And remember, a designed driver always has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.00. That means no drinking at all.
  • Have non-alcoholic options available. The drink you have in your hand doesn’t need to be alcoholic and maybe it wouldn’t be if there were other options available. Make sure to have non-alcoholic beverages available for those who don’t want to drink or would like to switch to something non-alcoholic later in the evening. Consider including one or two mock-tail recipes on your drink menu. 
  • Use extra caution on the roads. You have designated a driver, but there might be others on the road who haven’t. Make sure to be extra vigilant out on the roads during the holidays. Keep your eyes on the road and if you see anyone driving erratically, be sure to report them and their location to the authorities!

Do you make sure to designate a driver at each holiday celebration?

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Healthy Holiday Travel Tips [Infographic]

Wednesday, December 03, 2014 3:50 PM comments (0)

Ready or not, the holidays are on their way. Soon millions will flock to airports or hit the highways on the way to celebrations across the country and beyond. Don't let the stress of this season's travel take a toll on your health and holiday spirit. 

NorthShore University HealthSystem shares some simple holiday travel tips to help you arrive at your destination happy, healthy and ready to celebrate with your friends and family all season long.

infographic

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Safe and Sound: Reducing SIDS in Infants

Monday, December 01, 2014 4:56 PM comments (0)

For exhausted new parents, it can be a relief when your infant finally settles down to sleep for the night (or even just a couple of hours) but there can be fear as well. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) can happen even when all the right safety measures are practiced. The exact cause of SIDS is unknown. SIDS is most common in infants less than six months of age but can occur between one month and one year. 

While nothing can prevent every case, there are ways to significantly reduce the risk of SIDS. William MacKendrick, MD, Neonatologist at NorthShore, shares safe sleeping recommendations every parent should practice:

  • Place your baby on his or her back in the crib. Incidences of SIDS are higher in babies placed on their stomachs to sleep.
  • Use a firm mattress and don't place anything other than your infant in the crib. It’s important to keep all toys, sheets, blankets, pillows and other materials out of the crib as they can be unsafe and hazardous. Crib bumpers are also not recommended.
  • Keep your baby away from smoke. If you smoke, only smoke outdoors away from your child. Fumes from smoking can increase a baby's risk for breathing difficulties.
  • Avoid co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed) with your infant; however, cribs can be kept in your bedroom but your baby should sleep in his or her crib.
  • Keep the temperature in your baby’s room comfortable but not too warm. Warmer temperatures can put your baby too deeply to sleep, making it difficult to wake.

Have your own questions about safe sleeping or another parenting topic? Join the conversation in our new online community: The Parent 'Hood. 

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Fresh Recipe: Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 3:41 PM comments (0)

thanksgivingDon’t let your Thanksgiving favorites leave you feeling guilty the next day. Start things off right with veggie-packed appetizers that are sure to please even holiday food traditionalists. 

Katrina Herrejon, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Adult Endocrinology Group, shares one of her favorite Thanksgiving starters:  

Recipe makes 6 servings
Serving size 2/3 cup

Ingredients: 
2 cans artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained (16 oz.)
1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (4 oz.)
2/3 cup cooked spinach or frozen spinach that has been thawed (4 oz.)
2/3 cup white extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 oz.)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
  • Place 1/2 of the artichoke hearts and the mayonnaise in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Chop the remaining artichoke hearts and the spinach into small pieces.
  • Fold the chopped spinach and artichoke hearts into the pureed artichoke and mayonnaise mixture.
  • Mix 1/2 of the shredded cheese into the dip.
  • Transfer dip into an oven safe 9-inch glass pie plate.
  • Sprinkle the top of the dip with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the top of the dip is golden brown.
  • Serve dip warm with high fiber crackers and/or raw vegetables.

Nutrition Information (per 2/3c serving):

Calories: 149
Total Fat: 10
Total Carbohydrate: 8
Fiber: 2
Protein: 6

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Simple Tips to Avoid Overindulging on Thanksgiving Day

Monday, November 24, 2014 1:18 PM comments (0)

thanksgivingCounting calories isn’t at the top of many to-do lists on Thanksgiving Day, and it still doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and a few substitutions, your Thanksgiving can be a little healthier and every bit as delicious. 

Katrina Herrejon, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorthShore, breaks down this decadent day, sharing health tips for before and during the big meal:

Before the Dinner

  • Create a calorie deficit. Add an extra 20-30 minutes to your weekly exercise routine before and after the big day. That’s enough to create a calorie deficit and give you a little leeway at the dinner table. 
  • Eat breakfast! While you may think you should try to save up calories for the big meal, eating breakfast will save you from snacking beforehand and gorging come mealtime.
  • Prioritize. What would you regret not eating on Thanksgiving? What can you do without? The day is filled with rich, delicious foods, but you don’t have to eat them all. Determine what dishes are most important to you and then pass on the rest. 
  • Avoid snacking beforehand. Crackers, nuts and cheese spreads are unnecessary calories compared to the Thanksgiving classics you’ll be served during your meal.

When Cooking

  • Cut back on butter. A little butter goes a long way, and it’s also not the only way to boost flavors. Citrus fruits, like lemon, lime and orange, can add a burst of flavor to gravies and veggies with a fraction of the calories. 
  • Replace cream with milk. In the same vein, avoid using cream if you don’t have to. For creamed onions or mashed potatoes, use low-fat milk. The calories saved will far outweigh the subtle change in flavor.
  • Sweet potatoes are sweet enough. The natural sweetness of sweet potatoes is more than enough to sustain a yam-based dish. Bake them instead of mashing with butter, sugar and cream. 
  • Start from scratch. Making stuffing from scratch is much healthier than prepackaged stuffing mix because it cuts back on sodium and additives. It also means you have control over what goes in, including cutting back on butter and oil as well as swapping wheat bread for white to up fiber content.
  • Keep sampling to a minimum. It can be tempting to keep taste-testing your food, but try to avoid consuming those extra calories before the meal itself.

At the Table

  • Serve up a colorful plate. Vegetables add the color, so try to craft a plate that is packed with veggies, approximately half the plate and then divide the rest evenly between turkey and stuffing or rolls. 
  • Downsize dinnerware. Studies show that people serve themselves portions on scale with the size of the plate they’re given. In other words, smaller plates mean small portions. 
  • Slow down. It can take around 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that your body is full. Before you serve up seconds, take a breather and drink a little water to make sure your body isn’t confusing thirst for hunger. Or, have a basic salad on hand—dark lettuce leaves and a light dressing—and eat that to see if your hunger holds out. 
  • Less can look like more. If it’s too difficult to stick to ‘just a sliver’ of all your favorite pies, ditch the standard 9-inch diameter pie pan for something smaller. The piece will look big but be significantly smaller.

What do you do to keep holiday eating in check? 

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