January, 2013

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Research Shows Cause of Dry Mouth during Menopause

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

If you’ve ever had dry mouth, you know how uncomfortable it can be. No matter how much water you drink, it always comes back, and it makes both talking and eating laborious tasks. Dry mouth is a common symptom of many conditions, but one of the most common is menopause. Many women who are going through menopause struggle with dry mouth. Though finding a permanent solution can be difficult, a recent study actually defined the root of the problem, which could make treatment easier from a physician’s perspective.

The study showed that women who were going through menopause often had dry mouth because of the elevated levels of salivary cortisol. There is cortisol in everyone’s saliva, but the amount is regulated throughout the day. The rise in cortisol is a result of the increased and altered levels of hormones in the body as menstruation ceases.

Though there is no quick fix for this problem, you should talk to your doctor about treatments for increased cortisol that are safe during menopause as these could solve the dry mouth problem. He or she might have recommendations for medicated treatments to increase saliva production. Until then, there are a few home remedies you can try.

Chewing gum is a great way to combat dry mouth because the chewing motion increases saliva production in the mouth as your body gets ready to break down food. Also, eating waterlogged food such as celery or lettuce is a great way to get the glands working. Of course, staying hydrated is extremely important and cutting down on dehydrating liquids such as coffee and alcohol will help a lot. Make sure you are extra diligent with your dental hygiene when you have dry mouth because the lack of saliva production will leave your teeth prone to decay and cavities.

If you’re struggling with dry mouth as you enter menopause, know that you’re not alone. It’s a common problem, and the severity might actually fluctuate as your hormone levels rise and fall. Talk to your doctor about treatments that might address the cortisone levels and try a few home remedies in the meantime.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


An Inauguration to Remember

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Last week, I had the great pleasure of attending the inauguration of our President, Barack Obama. What a time I had! I spent four whole days in D.C., and every moment was more fabulous than the last. I went on a private tour of the monuments and museums, I attended the glamorous Presidential Inaugural Ball, and I even held a book-signing event right in the Barnes and Noble at Union Station.

Not only were the throngs of dedicated citizens an inspiring show of humanity, but President Obama’s inaugural speech in itself was truly a piece of history that I feel privileged to have seen in person.

For the first time ever, the inaugural speech addressed women’s rights and specifically, the issues surrounding equal pay. President Obama explained his commitment to making sure women are able to earn the same amount of money as men. He insisted, “our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” It was the first inaugural speech where the president really focused on including women in the address, and he even avoided the phrase, “all men are created equal” for that very reason. He insisted that all of us are created equal without relying on the masculine pronoun.

In fact, his use of pronouns is being celebrated by women all over the United States. According to a recap by the L.A. Times, President Obama’s use of female pronouns in the speech actually outnumbered his use of male pronouns, which is certainly a first for any presidential address. When the President spoke these words: ”We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.  I knew he was speaking to me.

I feel especially fortunate to have seen this historic speech in person, but I sincerely believe we should all feel fortunate to have a leader who is so concerned with our well being and happiness as women. It was truly an inauguration to remember.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Botox and Baby Bumps Don’t Mix

Monday, January 28th, 2013

If you’ve gotten Botox or any other medical skin firming treatments in the past, you might be tempted to get more when you become pregnant. Let’s face it, pregnancy might leave you feeling less than your best. Your favorite clothes will be in exile, and all of your hard work in preparation for swimsuit season will be on a beach vacation without you. Botox might seem like a quick solution to get you feeling like your young and vibrant self when you’re pregnant, but studies show that this is not a good idea. Experts agree that while there is no clear evidence of the dangerous effects of Botox on a developing fetus, there is also no clear evidence against them.

Collagen contains vitamins A, K or BHA, which should all be avoided during your pregnancy because their side effects are also not entirely understood. Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) is the only treatment cleared by medical experts for use during pregnancy, but even that can have seriously negative effects. It makes you more sensitive to the sun, and your skin is already so during pregnancy, so sunburn is highly likely.

It’s best to avoid any unnecessary medications or treatments during your pregnancy. Think of all the women who are absolutely beside themselves when they are diagnosed with a real illness and are forced to take prescribed medications during their pregnancy. They worry constantly about the effects on their baby, and there’s no reason you should put your little one at risk for vanity’s sake.

Believe your friends when they tell you that you look absolutely glowing because you probably do. There is no need for collagen or Botox during pregnancy. During gestation, your blood vessels will open up and cause swelling all over your body. This is bad news for your ankles, but excellent news for your face. Your cheeks will look rosy, and your lips will look soft and supple. In reality, pregnancy is a natural and safe form of Botox, and you’ll see results that money can’t buy. Enjoy this look now, because it’s the cheapest cosmetic improvement you’ll ever get.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Avoid High Altitudes if You’re Expecting

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

If you’ve ever tried baking at a high altitude, you know that the decreased oxygen is truly enough to ruin a batch of cookies. When we travel to destinations that are 7,000 feet above sea level or more, our surroundings change drastically because there is less oxygen there than closer to the ground. You can imagine then the negative effects high altitude might have on women who are pregnant. Oxygen is absolutely vital to a baby’s development, which is why activities like smoking are so dangerous. Does this mean women who live at high altitudes have to move when they become pregnant?

If you’re pregnant and you live in a high altitude area such as Denver, you do not need to move to an area with more oxygen. Since you spend all of your time at that level, you’re used to the oxygen level, and your body has already adjusted itself to accommodate. Besides, high areas in the United States like Denver are only around 5,000 feet above sea level. Even women who are used to these high altitudes shouldn’t be traveling to areas any higher than what they’re used to though. If you’re pregnant and accustomed to lower lands, do not travel to high altitudes. Studies show that you could easily restrict oxygen flow to the baby by doing so, which could have serious consequences such as impaired fetal growth, preeclampsia, and fetal mortality. If you must travel to an area at a higher altitude while pregnant, make sure you take things very slowly and check in with your doctor beforehand. If you start to feel lightheaded or weak, sit down and spend as little time in the location as possible.

For the most part, travel during your pregnancy is safe, assuming you’re not going to be miles away from medical care around your due date. However, traveling to high altitudes you’re not used to could be dangerous because your baby needs as much oxygen as possible during your pregnancy. If you’re already used to high altitudes, don’t feel as though you need to move. Assuming you’ve been there for at least a few months, your body has already adjusted to meet the demands of lower oxygen levels.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Your Menopause Might Cause Hair Loss

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Think of your menopause as a reversed pregnancy. When you became pregnant earlier in life, all of your hormones were running rampant as they made way for your baby’s development. Your hair grew thicker, your breasts grew larger, and your moods grew less stable as your belly grew bigger. Since menopause occurs when the body slowly stops all of its baby-making abilities, your hormones will do the opposite, but you will certainly still feel the effects. Menopause brings on a whole new set of hormone-driven problems and issues that you’ve probably never had to deal with before, and it can make you feel absolutely crazy. Generally, the symptoms usually last all the way through the menopause, which is markedly over when you haven’t had your period for an entire year. One unfortunate and common change that happens to women going through menopause is hair loss and hair thinning.

Because your hormones are so abnormal during menopause, you could lose a considerable amount of hair. For anyone going through menopause currently, I don’t have to tell you how heartbreaking this can be as it seems to be a fast-paced and permanent slide into the age of the elderly. However, don’t worry too much if you notice your hair thinning during menopause because the change is not necessarily permanent. Studies show that hair often grows back after menopause has run its course. Your hormones will become regulated again someday after they have settled back into their usual routine. If your hair doesn’t seem to go back to normal after menopause has ceased, your doctor might want to check you for a metabolic or endocrine disease as hair loss can be an indicator.

The fact that we could lose our hair during menopause truly only adds insult to injury. Though it’s disheartening, you should keep in mind that the change—along with all the other changes—is temporary. In post-menopause, all of your hormones will regulate once again, and you will return to normal. Your hair will grow back, and your mood will stabilize. To offset some of the symptoms during menopause, stay as healthy as possible by getting adequate exercise and eating a healthy diet.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Don’t Let Postpartum Depression Get the Best of You (And Your Baby)

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

You’ve been waiting nine long months, and you’ve finally had the baby you’ve always wanted. While you expect to be flooded with joy, you might find that you are stricken with fear, sadness, and even depression. If you have feelings of utter despair after delivery, you’re likely suffering from postpartum depression. Unfortunately, postpartum depression is difficult to predict and control, but it is not uncommon. There is absolutely no reason to be ashamed if you feel depressed, and you should bring it up to your doctor instead of hiding it. Research shows that trying to hide it makes the problem much worse and leaving it untreated could actually affect your baby’s behavioral development.

It’s obvious how postpartum depression will affect you. You might become withdrawn from your friends, uninterested in otherwise exciting activities, and you could resort to stress activities such as overeating. However, studies show that postpartum depression has a profoundly negative effect on babies, as well. When babies are born to mothers affected by this type of depression, they will have more cognitive development deficits and behavioral problems when they turn one than babies who were born to unaffected mothers. These developmental problems are measured by social behavior, fear, and stress reactivity, which are all indicators of life problems later down the line.

You might feel ashamed to admit that you have postpartum depression because you’ll feel like it makes you look like an inadequate mother. Doctors know that this is not the case, and that postpartum depression is actually a result of hormonal imbalances brought on by the pregnancy itself. Don’t be afraid to bring it up as soon as you start to feel sad. Early detection will lead to early treatment, which will let you get back to your new job as a mom sooner. By taking care of it early, you’ll help your baby develop more normally because you will not be hindered by the feelings of depression. No one will doubt your abilities as a mother when you admit that you’re feeling depressed. Instead, they will respect your courage and honesty and help you get to a mental state where you can raise your child as you know you should.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

One Postpartum Pain You Should Never Ignore

Monday, January 14th, 2013

After you’ve delivered your baby, you’re going to feel like you’ve been hit by a bus. Your legs will be sore, your arms will be sore, and your voice will be scratchy from the screaming and crying. Think back to that horrible day you pushed yourself too hard at the gym and could barely walk the next day – now imagine that three times worse and you’ve successfully envisioned the day after delivery. You’ll feel aches and pains in places you didn’t know existed. However, there is one pain in particular you should watch out for. While it might be difficult to discern it from the other aches, a localized pain in your calf should raise alarm.

As opposed to an overall feeling of achiness in your leg, you might feel a singular, pinpointed pain caused by a feeling of pressure. You might also notice that the leg with the pain is swollen, red, and hot in comparison to the other one. This could be a very clear sign of deep vein thrombosis or a blood clot. Studies show that deep vein thrombosis is likely throughout pregnancy, but that in the six weeks postpartum, new moms are at their highest risk for it. This is because the body is slowly re-adjusting and settling back into its normal position, so the blood could move abnormally in the veins. If you notice this pain after you’ve given birth, see your doctor immediately. It might be difficult to get out of the house now that you’ve finally settled in with your newborn, but the consequences of the clot being left untreated could easily be fatal. Even if it’s nothing, it’s better to be safe than sorry in this scenario. Consider this—it’s better to call a relative to watch your little one for a day while you are treated than for a lifetime if you don’t make it.

Many of the aches and pains after you give birth are perfectly harmless, and the chances of you suffering from deep vein thrombosis are actually quite slim. However, while complaining to your partner about the usual pains, stop yourself if you happen to mention anything in your calf because it may be time to see your physician.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

When it Comes to Protein, You Might Get Too Much of a Good Thing

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Everything you consume in life should be done so in moderation. From the things you eat, to the things you buy, to the things you watch, you can most definitely get too much of a good thing in many cases. While protein is generally considered an important part of any healthy diet, studies show that it can be also be harmful when consumed in large quantities.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released statements showing that the female body needs approximately 46 grams of protein daily. Of course, this amount should be adjusted for a woman’s size and activity level, but this amount is the average. For a more specific number, they recommend that you subtract half of your body weight by 10. So, a 160-pound woman needs 70 grams of protein every day. On top of that, you should adjust the number based on the amount of calories you consume so that you are not only consuming protein in a low-calorie diet.

However, many women who are trying to eat healthy think they need to stock up on protein. Low carb diets in particular are often high in protein. In reality, the average American woman is already getting too much, and adding to that already high amount can result in serious bodily damage.

Studies show that too much protein in a woman’s diet can lead to kidney damage in people with already decreased kidney function. Though protein doesn’t have any proven negative effects on women with fully and normally functioning kidneys, it can accelerate damage in those who don’t yet know their kidneys are in danger. Older women are also at risk for kidney problems as a result of too much protein because kidney function naturally declines with age.

If you have a kidney problem, you should be extremely careful about consuming too much protein. Even if you don’t, consuming too much protein can have other negative effects since it hinders the absorption of other important vitamins and minerals in your diet. Protein is a healthy part of the female diet, but only in moderation.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.