Your 6-Step Psoriasis Spring Survival Guide

Spring is a welcome change for people with psoriasis, but a new set of concerns come along with the season. Take care of your skin with these simple tips.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t welcome the shift from winter to spring, and those with psoriasis are no exception. The transition is a favorite time of year for many people with psoriasis because sun and humidity, combined with less stress, can help ease flare-ups of the chronic inflammatory skin condition, says Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Many people see relief with the changing of the seasons for a number of reasons,” Dr. Piliang explains. “The more-humid air helps all of us. Skin gets less itchy and dry. And the reappearance of the sun also has a beneficial effect on the skin of those with psoriasis.”

While the sun can provide relief, it’s still important to be cautious. Excessive sun exposure can lead to sunburn, which can actually trigger a psoriasis flare-up and increase your risk for skin cancer, Piliang warns.

In addition to increased sun exposure, there are other factors you should consider to ensure a smooth transition from the cold, dry winter to sunny spring. Here are some tips to keep in mind for a flare-free season.

1. Here comes the sun. So how much sun is recommended? People with psoriasis should start with five minutes of sun exposure daily, gradually increasing to 10 minutes per day. For this minimal amount of time, plaques can be exposed to the sun without sunscreen, says Piliang. If you’re going to be out for a longer period of time, it’s important to apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 50, and use it liberally. “A 6-ounce bottle should really only last for six applications,” Piliang says.

2. Don’t sweat it. As the temperatures rise in spring, you will likely sweat more, and that can make psoriasis symptoms worse, Piliang says. In warmer weather, be sure to wear moisture-wicking fabrics or loose, light-colored clothing to help minimize sweating.

3. Keep the bugs off. Any injury to the skin can trigger a psoriasis flare-up, and this includes scratches and insect bites, Piliang explains. “Scratching a bug bite is a double whammy,” she notes. To prevent injury to your skin from itchy or painful bug bites, Piliang recommends the following:

• Wear long sleeves and pants when possible.

• Tuck your pants into your socks if you are outside in wooded areas.

• Use insect repellent that contains DEET — an active ingredient designed to repel insects, offering the best protection against mosquito bites.

4. Get in the swim of things. As temperatures rise, taking a dip in a pool or at the beach can help soften and remove crusty or flaking psoriasis plaques. However, salt water and chlorine can also be irritating and leave the skin feeling dry, Piliang notes. “After your swim, be sure to rise off thoroughly with freshwater and then apply a thick coat of moisturizer,” she recommends.

5. Keep dirt away, but be gentle on your skin. In the dry winter months, people with psoriasis should limit soap to their underarms, groin, face, hands, and feet. But in the spring when people are outside more often, thorough bathing may be necessary, Piliang advises. “If you are out in the garden getting dirty, you may need to soap your legs and arms more than in the winter,” she says. “That’s fine, but use mild soap formulated for sensitive skin.” Piliang also recommends using moisturizer year round — not just in the winter.

6. Find ways to de-stress. Although people with psoriasis are not immune to the misery of seasonal allergies, there is no scientific evidence of a link between the two conditions, Piliang says. One lifestyle factor that is known to trigger not only psoriasis symptoms, but other skin conditions, like rosacea and acne, is stress.

In fact, researchers found that chronic stress and burnout have a significant effect on quality of life among people with psoriasis and could interfere with the success of their treatment. The study, published in October 2015 in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, recommends a holistic approach to psoriasis management in order to help combat stress and the effect that it has on the skin condition.

It’s important to incorporate stress-reducing activities into your daily routine, says Piliang. Luckily, nicer weather and the relaxing activities that come with it make this a little easier to do. Exercise is an activity that not only boosts your mood and alleviates stress, but can help combat metabolic diseases like abdominal obesity and diabetes that are often associated with moderate to severe psoriasis.

In addition to regular exercise, Piliang recommends yoga and meditation to ease stress and control psoriasis. “Get in the habit of taking a daily walk or building five minutes of quiet solitude into your day,” she says. Reading, gardening, visiting the farmers market, or scheduling a hike or bike ride with a friend (while getting some exercise!) are also great stress-busting activities you can incorporate into your schedule this spring.

What does vitamin C actually do?

How one genius spread a massive myth that’s persisted for decades

Linus Pauling won two Nobel Prizes, helped uncover the nature of chemical bonds, identified sickle cell anemia as a molecular disease, elucidated some of the most common protein structures, revolutionized our understanding of primate evolution, and is widely hailed as one of the fathers—if not the father—of molecular biology.

Oh, and he almost single-handedly spread one of the biggest medical misconceptions of all time: that vitamin C prevents colds.

Like the much more malicious myth that vaccines cause autism, it began with quackery. Pauling first heard about the wonder that is (or really, isn’t) vitamin C from a man named “Dr.” Stone, who was a doctor in much the same way that a koala bear is a bear—and had about as much expertise on human health as your average marsupial. But gosh darnit if that was going to keep Pauling from believing that 3000 milligrams of vitamin C would solve just about every ailment he could think of.

He and Stone even conducted a shoddy clinical trial that claimed to prove their point, which other researchers noted was fundamentally flawed. The people treated with vitamin C were healthier to begin with, so of course they had better outcomes. That didn’t stop Pauling, though. When he published a book on the matter in 1970, cleverly titled “Vitamin C and the Common Cold,” the American public went crazy for it. After all, here was a man so brilliant that he was (and still is) the only person ever to win two totally unshared Nobel Prizes and one of only two people to win Nobels in different fields—chemistry and peace. Surely he knows what he’s talking about.

Pauling went on to claim that high doses of the supplement could cure everything from heart disease to leprosy, and even cancer (in a sad ironic twist, he died of prostate cancer in 1994, while his wife died years earlier of stomach cancer). And the public bought it. Never mind that every professional medical organization in the world rejected the idea as baseless—here was a Very Smart Man telling the good people of Earth that if only they took vitamin supplements they could solve all their health problems.

Here’s the snag: vitamin C doesn’t prevent colds and it doesn’t prevent cancer, nor does it cure either ailment. Some studies have found evidence that regular usage might shorten the duration of your cold, but not when taken after the onset of the cold. Others have found associations with daily dosage and lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, though still more have shown no relationship whatsoever. The same goes for cataracts, pneumonia, tetanus, asthma, and liver disease.

As for cancer, the best-quality data show that vitamin C supplements have no effect on your likelihood of getting cancer, nor on the outcome of cancer once you have it. It’s possible that it can help certain therapies to work better, but equally likely that it inhibits other types of treatments. And while some small studies have found that extremely high doses do kill cancer cells, that’s only when the vitamin is given intravenously. Doses direct to your bloodstream can drastically increase the amount of vitamin C in your plasma—oral supplements can’t.

The basic upshot is this: taking vitamin C supplements will, in all likelihood, have no effect on your health. Since it’s a water-soluble vitamin, any excess you take in will simply be excreted out in your pee. The greatest risk is that you’ll get diarrhea or some other vague gastrointestinal problems (assuming that you don’t have hereditary hemochromatosis, or iron overload, in which case it can actually cause long-term damage to your internal tissues). Taking vitamin C every day probably won’t hurt you, but you almost certainly don’t need it. It’s not difficult to get enough in your diet without popping pills. You can find it in oranges, garlic, strawberries, chili peppers, kiwi, beef liver, oysters, guava, broccoli, parsley, onion, peach, apples, pears, carrots, bananas, avocados, plums, and a whole host of other foods that you never realized had vitamin C in them or possibly have never heard of (see: camu camu, seabuckthorn, and cloudberries).

All this being said, if you have a vitamin C deficiency you should absolutely take supplements. As any 18th century sailor will tell you, scurvy is no joke. And even if it doesn’t get that far, you need vitamin C to make collagen, heal wounds, produce some neurotransmitters, and support your immune system. Most people get plenty of it from their diet, but deficiencies persist in developed countries in people who eat junk food almost exclusively. Otherwise the problem has largely disappeared as the general population has gained regular access to a variety of fruit and vegetables.

Like almost all vitamins, there’s really no need to take vitamin C unless you have a genuine deficiency. Which you probably don’t. Consider this your license to stop buying those cold remedies containing megadoses of vitamin C and artificial orange flavor to try to trick you into thinking they’re appetizing. Just eat a regular orange and be done with it.


4 Steps To Getting Rid Of Seasonal Allergies

“Dr. Hyman, I’ve been suffering from seasonal allergies for years,” writes this week’s house call. “Is there anything that I can do to make these go away or am I doomed forever?”

You are definitely not doomed; however, I do know how miserable seasonal allergies can be, especially in the spring and summer.

Conventional medicine treats seasonal allergies with injections and pills, which unfortunately, create side effects and fail to address the root problem. If you don’t address the root cause, then the allergies will never go away.

I’ve seen countless patients arrive complaining about gut issues. Once we fixed their diets and healed their guts, their seasonal allergies also disappeared!  When the immune system (60 percent of which is in the gut) is irritated, it reacts to everything – kind of like when you don’t get enough sleep everything makes you more irritable.

One patient struggled with allergies, asthma and hives. She almost nearly died twice from anaphylaxis. She arrived in my office on 42 different pills, sprays and inhalers; yet, she still felt awful. These drugs were suppressing and inhibiting her immune function, causing her body to attack everything. None of her doctors had questioned why her immune system was so compromised in the first place.  But due to my Functional Medicine approach, that’s the first question I asked.

Turned out, she had leaky gut that was triggered by celiac disease, a gluten-related autoimmune disease. Until that point, nobody had actually tested her for this condition! When we eliminated gluten and other dietary allergens, we healed her leaky gut and calmed down her allergies. Thankfully, after six weeks she was able to stop the 42 medications she used daily.

For her and countless other patients, a key strategy involves getting your gut healthy. After all, an unhealthy, inflamed gut can’t fight off potential allergens. To do that and eliminate seasonal allergies, I’ve found these four strategies incredibly helpful.

  1. Replace bad with good. An elimination diet becomes the first step for a healthy gut. The simple foundation of Functional Medicine is taking out the bad and putting in the good. Eliminate common toxic triggers like wheat, corn, dairy, soy and alcohol. Eat a whole foods, high-fiber diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory plant chemicals called phytonutrients. Avoid anything that contains sugar or trans fats. Focus on eating healthy fats from extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocados and omega-3 fats like those found in small fish (sardines, herring, sable, wild-caught salmon). I provide an easy-to-implement plan in my book Eat Fat, Get Thin.
  2. Use powerful gut-healing nutrients — including probiotics, which provide good bacteria to improve digestion and reduce inflammation. Other gut-healing nutrients include glutamine, zinc, curcumin and fish oil. I always recommend a high-quality multivitamin. Quercetin (which has anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties) and nettles can also relieve symptoms from allergies. You can find these and other allergy-relieving supplements in my store.
  3. Manage stress. A mind-body disconnect can mean being stressed out, wired and tired and can really damage your gut and worsen seasonal allergies. Practice relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation every day.
  4. Get adequate sleep. Optimal sleep is crucial for gut health and overall health.  Research shows inadequate sleep shortens your lifespan and increases inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease. Insufficient sleep can also increase your risk for diabetes through insulin resistance, paving the way for diabesity. Aim for at least eight hours of uninterrupted, deep sleep every night. To help meet that quota, check out my eight simple hacks for a better night’s sleep.

Occasionally, I’ll have a patient who has tried all these things and still suffers. In those cases, we need to dig a little deeper for other causes such as food additives, pesticides, chemicals and pollution in their environment. You should also check for mold in your home or work — check out this site to learn more. 

Also, consider a very important blood test called C-reactive protein, which measures the degree of hidden inflammation in your body. Almost every modern disease is caused by or affected by hidden inflammation, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, dementia, arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies and digestive disorders.

Chronic inflammation that contributes to seasonal allergies and much more can come from many sources, including:

  • A high-sugar, processed-foods diet
  • Inflammatory fats like omega 6 fats found in processed vegetable oils and trans fat
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Hidden or chronic infections, such as viruses, bacteria, yeasts or parasites, mold and other environmental allergens
  • Toxicity from an overload of environmental toxins

Ultimately, lifestyle choices and how we care for our bodies and souls is not part of our education, values or even our daily planning; yet, these basic skills form the root cause of our happiness and health.

While these principles are disarmingly simple, even the best and brightest people fail to make the connection between how we treat our bodies and how we feel. Most of us never learned how to care for and feed our bodies and souls. A few simple acts implemented into your daily life could change everything, including seasonal allergies.


Tired All the Time? Try These 8 Natural Energy Boosters

You don’t have to feel drained on a daily basis. Here’s how to keep your energy tank full. If you’re running low right now, try these instant pick-me-ups.

If you’re tired all the time you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have gone so far as to call Americans’ lack of sleep a “public health epidemic.” Chronic fatigue is also related to a variety of medical conditions including autoimmune disease, thyroid disorders, depression, and anemia. Combine any of these possibilities with long hours at work and it’s no surprise you’re reaching for a third cup of coffee by 3 o’clock. But there are other natural ways to boost energy that will provide a more sustainable lift and won’t compromise your ability to wind down in the evening so you can finally get the rest you need. Read on for a few research-supported strategies to stay energized all day long.

Balance your carb consumption. That afternoon slump may happen because you’re bored at work, but more than likely it has a lot to do with what you just ate for lunch. Your body and brain need food for fuel, but when a lot of the calories you consume come from carbohydrates—such as the bread used in sandwiches or a hearty bowl of pasta—you may start to feel sleepy about an hour after eating. Carbohydrates are absorbed into your blood stream almost immediately after eating. Right after a carb-heavy meal your blood sugar will experience a big surge then, when all the carbs are used up, your blood sugar will plummet, bringing on that feeling of fatigue. However, calories that come from fiber, fat, and protein take longer to release. For even all-day energy, eat a mix of nutrients at each meal and snack, including plenty of fiber-rich veggies and fruits, lean proteins such as chicken or beans, and some healthy fat, such as that found in avocados and olive oil.

Related: The Surprising Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Well

Sniff some mint. Have you ever noticed that spas tend to smell of flowers such as lavender and ylang ylang? Studies show that these scents increase calmness, which is right for that setting. If you were to look for an essential oil that had the opposite effect—one that made you more energized and alert—choose peppermint. This distinct odor has the opposite effect of soothing essential oils, although it’s still a pleasant scent. Peppermint can even enhance your memory, according to a study in the International Journal of Neuroscience.

Take in more B12. Even if you eat a balanced diet, you may be deficient in important nutrients. If you’re feeling sluggish, try increasing your intake of vitamin B12. This vitamin is naturally found in animal-derived foods like meat, fish, poultry, and dairy, which explains why many vegetarians and vegans may not get enough through diet alone. (Vitamin B12 is also important for anemia prevention.) Vitamin B12 supplements can be found in the vitamin aisle of most grocery stores; you can take this vitamin on its own or in a blend of other B vitamins.

Go to yoga or take a walk. It may seem like being active will only make you feel more tired and it can be true—going to an intense bootcamp class may make you want to take a nap. But engaging in low or moderate activity—such as a short walk or a yoga session—can boost energy levels, according to an article from the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. This sort of exercise is enough to increase your circulation—and with it the blood and oxygen flow to your body and brain—without actually tiring you out. The next time you feel fatigued but you really need to be awake, try it out: Go on a brisk 10- or 20-minute walk and see how you feel after. Chances are you’ll be much more awake than when you left. For a quick yoga pick-me-up try some repetitions of Sun Salutation A, demonstrated in the video above.


Sleep Problems Tied to Diabetes in Men

Men who do not get enough sleep — or get too much — may have an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.

Researchers studied 788 healthy men and women participating in a larger health study, measuring their sleep duration using electronic monitors and testing them for markers of diabetes — how well pancreatic cells take up glucose and how sensitive the body’s tissues are to insulin. The study is in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The average sleep time for both men and women was about seven hours. As the men diverged from the average, in either direction, their glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity decreased, gradually increasing the deleterious health effects. There was no such association in women.

The researchers weren’t sure why men but not women showed this association but caution that this was a cross-sectional study, a snapshot of one moment in time, and that they draw no conclusions about cause and effect.

The lead author, Femke Rutters, an assistant professor at the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, said that it is easy to advise men to get regular and sufficient sleep, but because so many lifestyle and health factors may contribute to poor sleep, acting on that advice is much harder.

“There has been a lot of observational work on sleep, but trying to change it is difficult,” she said. “Ideally, men should try for regular sleep.”


Here’s When Eating Bacteria Can Be Good for You

We’ve been taught to avoid germs and bacteria since we were kids. Whether it’s sudsing up our hands or deep cleaning our homes (without harmful chemicals), we’re constantly trying to get rid of the microscopic culprits.

But it turns out eating bacteria can actually be a good thing. Numerous studies have found that foods fermented by lactic acid-producing bacteria (a beneficial kind of bacteria found in decomposing plants and milk products) may actually help keep your gastrointestinal systems healthy and functioning properly.

“Regularly consuming fermented foods helps bolster the population of good bacteria in the gut,” says Josh Axe, D.N.M., author of Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It.

While the topic of gut health isn’t exactly first-date material, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about fermented foods.

The Need-to-Know

Long before refrigerators or freezers, ancient people used fermentation to keep foods from going bad, Axe says. Put simply, fermentation is an enzyme-controlled, chemical breakdown of an organic substance (think: sugar turning to alcohol or milk turning sour).

“When a carbohydrate gets converted by yeast, bacteria, or carbon dioxide, it’s fermented,” says Leah Silberman, R.D., cofounder of Tovita Nutrition in New York City. The process is anaerobic, meaning it takes place without oxygen, which is why fermented foods and canning go hand in hand. “Fermentation was used to preserve foods through canning and jarring, and now it’s making headlines for health benefits,” Silberman says.

Certain products like kombucha (fermented tea), kimchi (fermented vegetables), miso (fermented soy), yogurt and kefir (fermented milk), and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) get a lot of buzz because they contain live microorganisms called probiotics. If that word sounds familiar, it’s probably because probiotics are having a bit of a moment. Several studies show links between probiotics and increased gut health and suggest they can help reestablish a healthier intestinal tract and benefit digestion. However more research is needed to back up some of the health claims made about probiotics (read: weight loss, clearer skin).

Additionally, not all fermented foods are healthy. Products like bread, cheese, and beer are fermented by lactic acid-producing bacteria but typically don’t contain live microorganisms due to cooking or pasteurization. And as Silberman reminds us, it’s important to read food labels carefully. “Ketchup can be loaded with sugar; pickles can mean you overload on salt,” she says. That doesn’t mean you should avoid them entirely, but moderation is key.

Your Action Plan

Fermented foods can taste a little funky. “Some people just don’t like fermented foods, so the idea is to start small,” Silberman says. And pay attention to serving sizes. “For instance, with [store-bought] kombucha, sometimes there are two servings in one drink, so just start with half the drink,” she says. Axe agrees and recommends one serving of probiotics each day from your food of choice.

If you’re specifically looking for fermented foods that contain probiotics, make sure you pick items from the refrigerated section of the grocery store and read labels. Room-temp sauerkraut won’t have any living microorganisms, and even some yogurts can be heat-treated after fermentation, killing most of the helpful bacteria. If a food contains either living microorganisms or probiotics, they may be included in the ingredient list—or the label may say “unpasteurized” or “live and active cultures.” (The most common probiotics found dairy foods are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus thermophilus.)

If you do your own refrigerated canning, there is a slight chance of listeria or botulism. However negative side effects are rare, and fermented foods have had a generally good safety record for thousands of years.

Can’t get past the taste and would rather take a supplement? Check with your doctor first. Remember supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, and some studies have found discrepancies between what’s on the label and what’s actually inside certain probiotic supplements.



The Surprising Health Benefits of Copper

More than just for pipes and pots, it turns out copper has surprising health benefits as well. Here’s why you might consider adding copper to your daily supplement regimen.

What is copper?

Copper is rarely discussed, but it’s the third most abundant trace mineral in our bodies. Copper has many benefits: it strengthens blood vessels, bones, tendons and nerves; it helps maintain fertility, ensures healthy pigmentation of hair and skin, and promotes blood clotting. It’s available in nutritional supplements as several forms, including copper amino acid chelates, copper gluconate, copper oxide and copper sulfate.

You’d have to eat about six medium avocados to get the amount of copper you need each day. And although it can be obtained from a wide variety of foods, the typical Western diet is low in copper, because the foods that are the best sources, such as oysters and liver, are not eaten frequently.

What does copper do?

Copper is essential in the formation of collagen, a fundamental protein in bones, skin and connective tissue. Copper is necessary for the manufacture of many enzymes, especially superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is one of the body’s most potent antioxidants. It also may help the body use its stored iron and play a role in maintaining immunity and fertility.

Copper is involved in the formation of melanin (a dark natural colour found in the hair, skin and eyes) and promotes consistent pigmentation as well.


How else is copper beneficial to your health?

Evidence suggests that copper has other benefits as well: it can be a factor in preventing high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias). Some experts believe that it may protect tissues from damage by free radicals, helping prevent cancer, heart disease and other ailments. Getting enough copper may also help keep cholesterol levels low.

It may also help stave off the bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. In one study involving healthy women 45 to 56 years of age, those taking a daily 3­ milligram copper supplement showed no loss in mineral bone density, but women given a placebo showed a significant loss. Another study found no benefit.

How should you take copper as a supplement?

Although there is no recommended dietary intake (RDI) for copper, adults are advised to obtain 900 micrograms daily to keep the body functioning normally.

Copper is usually found in multivitamin and mineral preparations; tablet and capsule forms containing only copper may be available. Individual copper supplements may be hard to find at the pharmacy or health food store. Ignore the label claims that one particular form of copper is better for you than another: There is no evidence that any one form is better absorbed than another or otherwise preferred by the body.

An adequate intake (AI) is 1.7 milligrams a day for men and 1.2 milligrams for women, increasing to 1.3 milligrams during pregnancy and 1.5 milligrams when breastfeeding. Don’t take more than 10 milligrams a day.

It is advisable to take a supplement at the same time every day, preferably with a meal to decrease the chance of stomach irritation.

If you take zinc supplements for longer than a month, add 2 milligrams of copper to your regimen. People who take antacids regularly may need extra copper as well.

Possible side effects include metallic taste, salivation, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Overdose can cause seizure, bleeding and coma. Liver and kidney damage may occur.

Talk to your doctor before taking supplemental copper if you have Wilson’s disease or are taking penicillamine, oral contraceptives or hormonal replacement therapy (HRT).

What are other sources of copper?

Shellfish (oysters, mussels, lobsters, crabs) and organ meats (liver) are excellent sources of copper. However, if you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, there are many vegetarian foods rich in copper as well. These include legumes; whole grains, such as rye and wheat and products made from them (bread, cereal, pasta); nuts and seeds; vegetables such as peas, artichokes, avocados, radishes, garlic, mushrooms and potatoes; fruit such as tomatoes, bananas and prunes; and soy products (tofu, tempeh, soy milk and soy powder).

What happens if you get too little copper?

A true copper deficiency is rare. It usually occurs only in individuals with illnesses such as Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease or in those with inherited conditions that inhibit copper absorption, such as albinism. Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, irregular heartbeat, broken bones and loss of skin pigment.

Even a mild deficiency may have some adverse health effects. For example, a preliminary study involving 24 men found that a diet low in copper caused a significant increase in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well as a decrease in HDL (“good”) cholesterol. These changes in their cholesterol profiles increased the participants’ risk of heart disease. A small study of copper supplementation found cholesterol levels dropped. However, another study found no beneficial effects on heart disease risk.

What happens if you get too much copper?

Just 10 milligrams of copper taken at one time can produce nausea, muscle pain and stomach ache. Severe copper toxicity from oral copper supplements has not been noted to date. However, some people who work with pesticides containing copper have suffered liver damage, coma and even death.


13 Things You Didn’t Know About Germs

What you don’t know about germs could be making you sick. Brush up on your personal hygiene, housekeeping strategies and food handling skills with our guide to beating the spread of bugs.

1. Water temperature doesn’t matter to germs.

Scrubbing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is your simplest defence against harmful germs. But no need to bother with the hot faucet—warm water is no more effective than cold in removing bacteria from your hands.


2. Hand sanitizer is the next best thing to washing.

If water and soap aren’t available, use alcohol-based sanitizer. Jason Tetro, a Toronto-based microbiologist and the author of The Germ Code, says as long as the product contains 62 to 70 per cent alcohol, it will kill most of the germs on your skin.


3. Some germs are worth nurturing.

Tetro suggests consuming prebiotic-rich foods like bananas and asparagus. Unlike probiotics—live bacteria that improve digestion—prebiotics help nourish the good bacteria already present in your gut.


4. It pays to keep your fridge organized.

Harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, can be spread when ready-to-eat foods, like washed fruits and veggies, come into contact with potentially hazardous ones, like raw meats and their juices. Toronto Public Health’s Owen Chong suggests organizing your fridge with raw meats at the bottom, unwashed produce in the middle and ready-to-eat foods at the top in order to avoid cross-contamination.


5. Don’t wash your chicken before cooking.

If you rinse raw poultry, the bacteria can be carried by the water. To avoid food-borne illnesses during prep, use a separate cutting board and utensils for uncooked poultry, says Chong.


6. Reach for paper towels in public restrooms.

They may be ecofriendly, but hand dryers have one major drawback—they blast germs everywhere. In a 2014 University of Leeds study in England, microbiologists found that the concentration of airborne bacteria around jet air dispensers was 27 times higher than that found near paper towel dispensers.


7. Toilets aren’t the most dangerous thing in public bathroom.

The toilets in public washrooms aren’t necessarily where you’ll find the most germs. “The door handle and sink basin are more dangerous than the toilet itself,” says Tetro. He suggests using paper towel when opening bathroom doors.


8. Germs love toothbrushes.

If you can’t remember when you last changed your toothbrush, it’s time to toss it. An open toilet bowl can allow a biofilm of fecal coliforms to grow on your brush, says Tetro. Keep your lid down and rinse your toothbrush with hot water for five seconds before use.


9. Germs love cellphones, too.

Our cellphones carry more than just data. In 2011, British researchers tested 390 phones and discovered one in six devices had fecal traces on their surfaces. Tetro suggests wiping phones down with a disinfecting cloth daily to minimize your risk of infection.


10. Make sure you use disinfecting wipes properly.

A 2015 study by Cardiff University in Wales revealed that wipes can spread superbugs like MRSA and C. difficile. Use one sheet per surface to avoid moving germs around.


11. Zap away bacteria.

A 2006 study in the Journal of Environmental Health found that microwaving a kitchen sponge for one to two minutes can reduce the presence of germs by more than 99 per cent.


12. Always take off your shoes.

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that there are, on average, 421,000 different bacteria on our shoes. Leave your footwear at the door to avoid dragging the organisms through your home.



13. Wash underwear in hot water.

“A washer load of underwear contains one million E. coli bacteria,” says microbiologist Charles Gerba. His research team discovered that germs are more likely to survive cold-water washes and be transferred between clothing items. Gerba recommends washing clothes with hot water (60 C or warmer) and bleach to kill bacteria.




6 Shocking Mistakes Your Doctor May Be Making

Are your doctors basing your care on the strongest scientific research? We asked medical experts to point out some of the most worrisome ways doctors are falling short—and occasionally, even making mistakes.

1. High Blood Pressure

The blood pressure mistake your doctor may be making: Sticking with lifestyle changes when you need drugs.

The evidence shows that it’s safe to try to bring down mildly elevated blood pressure by eating better and exercising. But if your numbers are even moderately high, the advice is unequivocal: Your doctor must prescribe drugs because uncontrolled high blood pressure puts you at risk for a deadly heart attack or stroke.

Guidelines making this clear were crafted by a panel of leading scientists in 2003. But when 22 community doctors were asked by University of Texas researchers how they’d treat a hypothetical middle-aged man with the moderately high blood pressure of 145/92, nearly two-thirds said they’d tell him to improve his lifestyle. Shockingly, only one of these practicing physicians was familiar with the recommended thresholds for prescribing drugs, says study author Joseph Ravenell, MD, now at New York University.

In a recent study released by Statistics Canada, 1 in 5 Canadians were shown to have high blood pressure, and 80 per cent of them were being treated with medication.

The right move: If your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, you should almost certainly be on a prescription hypertension drug—and if one medication doesn’t bring your readings into the normal range, you should be on more than one. Only people diagnosed with prehypertension (120 to 139 over 80 to 89) can get by with lifestyle changes alone. Those include exercising, losing weight if necessary, and eating a healthy, low-fat, low-salt diet.


2. Immunization

The immunization mistake your doctor may be making: Not keeping your kids (or you) up-to-date.

The schedule for children’s vaccines is set by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which reviews reams of research on what protects your child best. One key recommendation: Infants and toddlers should get multiple shots to ensure they’re adequately defended against common diseases such as measles and pneumonia. Yet one study found that an alarming 20 per cent of all kids under two miss one or more of the vaccinations. Researchers aren’t sure of all the reasons, but they think part of the explanation is that overwhelmed doctors aren’t properly counselling parents about the importance of multiple shots. Another problem: In 8 per cent of cases, doctors give shots too early or too close together. “If a child gets a booster when the antibodies from an earlier shot are still circulating, it can be almost as if he didn’t get the second one at all,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist Elizabeth T. Luman, PhD.

Physicians are even worse at making sure adults are on track. Only about half of adults are up-to-date on the tetanus booster we’re supposed to get once every decade, for instance. Far fewer get the shingles vaccine—only 6 per cent of adults 60 and up (the recommended age group). Yet shingles can affect anyone who has ever had chicken pox and can be agonizing.

The right move: Kids under two should get multiple shots at nearly all their scheduled well-child visits. One way to reduce aches: Have the doctor give the more-painful pneumonia shot last. (A recent study found this strategy lessens overall soreness.) During your own doctor visits, ask him to check your immunization history against the guidelines. All adults need a tetanus vaccine (which also protects against diphtheria and, in the newest version, whooping cough) once a decade. Other shots you may need—including flu, hepatitis, shingles, HPV, and pneumonia—depend on your age, gender, health history, and occupation.

3. Asthma

The asthma mistake your doctor may be making: Treating wheezes instead of preventing them.

Asthma is the most common chronic disease in childhood, affecting 9 per cent of kids. But experts now know that the problem can be effectively controlled. Numerous studies have shown that daily use of inhaled corticosteroids like Advair and Flovent reduces airway inflammation and cuts the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, says Kaiser Permanente asthma expert Michael Schatz, MD, a member of the panel that developed asthma guidelines for the National Institutes of Health. This crucial “control” medicine helps kids sleep better, miss less school, and make fewer scary trips to the ER. Yet a recent study by the Rand Corporation reveals that more than half of asthmatic kids don’t use it. Some parents don’t want or can’t afford the drug—but others aren’t advised that their child needs to keep up with the regimen even after symptoms subside. In many cases, “pediatricians don’t prescribe it because they aren’t aware of its value,” Dr. Schatz admits.

The right move: If your child is over five and has asthma symptoms that strike more than three times a week or keep him or her up at night more than twice a month, your doctor should prescribe an inhaled corticosteroid. For more severe cases, other daily meds may be needed too. (Don’t let the word steroid scare you; the inhaled version isn’t habit-forming, and side effects are generally mild.)

4. Low Back Pain

The low back pain mistake your doctor may be making: Taking pictures of what’s inside your back—and trying to fix what he finds.

MRI rates have skyrocketed—in 2004, doctors performed three times as many MRIs of the spine as they did in 1994. But that isn’t because these pictures are proved to help. In fact, a large body of research, detailed in guidelines by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians, cautions against routinely using imaging to figure out the cause of back troubles.

“When you look inside, you see arthritis, degenerative disks, and such. But it turns out many people from midlife on have these things,” says Roger Chou, MD, a coauthor of the guidelines. “And research shows that when you fix them, the pain usually doesn’t go away.”

MRIs aren’t the only problem. Use of epidural steroid shots has quadrupled in the past ten years, though evidence shows they’re only minimally effective. Spinal fusion surgery numbers have grown about threefold, yet research shows that approach, too, frequently does little good.

When a patient hobbles into the office, it’s understandable that the doctor wants to do something, Dr. Chou says. But an unproven intervention can do considerable harm. “It’s worth remembering that back pain has a history of treatments ultimately found to be detrimental, like surgically removing patients’ tailbones,” Dr. Chou says.

The right move: “Back pain can drive you crazy, but it typically improves with steps like taking acetaminophen, using a heating pad, and, if the problem is chronic, starting an exercise program to strengthen back muscles,” Dr. Deyo says. In general, an MRI isn’t necessary unless you have symptoms like severe weakness in your foot or leg, a high fever, problems urinating, or a history of cancer, Dr. Chou advises. Be especially cautious about more aggressive fixes like surgery.

5. Heart Attack

The heart attack mistake your doctor may be making: Not giving emergency treatment fast enough, skipping important aftercare, or missing other critical steps.

For the thousands of Canadians who will have a heart attack this year, immediate treatment with aspirin, clot-busting drugs, angioplasty, or other proven steps could mean the difference between life and death. No wonder these kinds of moves are spelled out in treatment guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. Yet fewer than 50 per cent of patients get clot-busting therapy within 30 minutes; about 25 per cent leave the hospital without a referral to cardiac rehabilitation, which is known to be valuable. Other steps can be neglected, as well, if only because a doctor may be distracted by a page or another interruption. In the hectic atmosphere of a hospital, “when you rely only on a doctor’s memory, critical therapies and timetables are easily overlooked,” says Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, associate chief of cardiology at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center.

So in 2000, the American Heart Association started a program called Get with the Guidelines (GWTG), for hospitals to use as a reminder system. “We view it like an airline pilot checklist. Even if the doctor gets distracted, things are less likely to fall through the cracks,” explains Eric Peterson, MD, director of cardiovascular research at Duke Clinical Research Institute. (The University of Ottawa Heart Institute have worked on a Canadian adaptation of the GWTG called the Champlain Get With The Guidelines Initiative.)


6. Diabetes

The diabetes mistake your doctor may be making: Failing to test you for diabetes.

About 2 million Canadians have diabetes, yet a third of sufferers don’t know it. That’s a big problem because patients who control their blood sugar can prevent serious complications like leg amputations and heart and kidney disease. Experts say that doctors should keep an eye out for people with high odds of the disease—namely those who are overweight and have other diabetes risk factors. “Yet if a person with these criteria goes in for a specific problem, like a sprained knee, rather than an annual physical, the doctor may not look at the bigger picture and say, ‘You should have a diabetes test,’” says endocrinologist Richard Bergenstal, MD, president-elect of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association.

The right move: If you have a body mass index (BMI) of or over 25 (the threshold for being considered overweight), plus a second diabetes risk factor such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you should be screened for the disease. If the test results show that you’re free of diabetes and prediabetes, you should be tested again within three years.



Stop suffering from chronic pain and scars without taking oral medications

You can now get quick, targeted relief for your chronic pain and scars without having the dangerous side effects that comes from taking oral medications. 8 out of 10 people who suffer from chronic pain and scars find relief from using a topical pain cream to treat their ailments.

Topical pain creams are specifically designed to target and treat the site of pain with customizable formulations, while avoiding many of the complications common to other pain treatment methods. Pain Cream provides a flexible, convenient, and effective solution for a variety of pain-related conditions.

Targeted Relief

Pain creams are designed to administer high concentrations of pain medication directly onto the site of pain for targeted relief. Furthermore, the pharmacists works with your doctor to create a custom formulation, designed to meet your unique needs. As a result, you get the combined benefits of precise dosing, personalized treatment, and the combined effect of multiple ingredients working together for optimal pain relief.

Speed of Effect
Another benefit of using a topical pain medication over oral options is the amount of time it takes for the drug to work. The active ingredients in a topical pain relief do not need to travel through the digestive system and bloodstream to reach the area causing pain. Instead the ingredients are absorbed directly into the affected area, speeding up how quickly pain relief is experienced. Advancements in topical administration vehicles (i.e. creams) have substantially increased onset of action.

Fewer Risks & Side Effects

Topical pain creams are applied topically, they do not circulate throughout the entire body. This means you have powerful pain medication where you need it and less where you don’t. As a result, Pain Creams are less likely to interact with other medications being taken and cause fewer side effects than other pain medications. Finally, since Pain Cream is not absorbed throughout the entire body, the risk of dependence and addiction is virtually eliminated.

Transdermal Base

Topical pain creams are typically formulated using an anhydrous silicone base designed and proven to effectively deliver pain medication. Furthermore, this type of transdermal base has been tested and proven to deliver up to four drugs simultaneously and to deliver medications more effectively and more quickly than other topical bases.

Scarring Disorders

Scar creams, while improving the appearance of preexisting scars, can also help prevent scarring disorders, including hypertrophic and keloidal scarring. Both hypertrophic and keloidal scars are the result of excessive collagen produced in the healing process. Due to the excess scar tissue, scars will appear raised, thick, and darker than typical scars. While hypertrophic scars remain confined to the area of the original wound, keloids extend into the surrounding tissue. Scar Cream is designed to prevent the excessive collagen production which causes these disorders.

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