The perfect Christmas gift: Your health

Starve a cold, feed a fever … or is it feed a cold and starve a fever?

It seems 90 percent of what we hear about health care is bunk. Health food stores and the vitamin industry have thrived on the public’s gullible ways for years.

The industry is such a cash machine that even normal mainstream national pharmacies devote more shelve space to vitamins than to notions and potions (beauty products – not witchcraft).

Santa with mask

What is a person to believe? Here I am, a sitting duck, one week before the single most important day of the year. The one day I absolutely, positively can’t be sick.

Everything revolves around Christmas. It’s that one day we have a perfect house, perfect charming children, and we are feeling perfectly fine. Good luck with that!

There are plenty of people willing to make a buck off your Christmas spirit and sell you all kinds of terrific sounding stuff to protect you. Echinacea tops my list of questionable natural products sold to keep you healthy for Christmas.

The Echinacea plant is in the daisy family. It’s hard not to like daisies, but perhaps not to eat. Echinacea preparations are made from the flowers, the leaves and even the roots of the plant. All are chemically distinct, and what they have in common is only the ability to be sold as Echinacea.

This plant is processed in every conceivable method, which results in pills having one-tenth to 100 times the dose on the label (a thousand-fold difference in concentration).  Echinacea’s claim to fame is it’s a natural antibiotic.

No real measurable benefit has ever been shown to the scientific community. Even if the claim were true, it would be a terrible idea. Think lion hunting with a BB gun! Either nothing will happen or the situation will noticeably deteriorate (with the accent on ate).

The vast majority of germs in an infection are weak and easily killed. Kill the weak ones (with a weak antibiotic), and you leave a small number of strong resistant germs to grow back – that’s bad.

Vitamin C has also been touted as a magic elixir that will make you virus proof. It will at least make you Scurvy proof. For everything else – antioxidant and free radical scavengers activity aside – Vitamin C has not shown any real benefit in preventing winter bugs or helping you beat a cold any faster.

What discussion of natural antibiotics would be complete without a nod to Garlic, which is one of my favorite spices and seems pretty effective at keeping vampires away.  Beyond that there are all manner of claims of anti-oxidant activity and immune system support.

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These are more magic words than established scientific fact. Many test-tube experiments do not translate well to complex human physiognomy. Garlic, Echinacea, and Vitamin C all looked good in the test tube.

Is there any hope for staying healthy this Christmas? Let’s start with the most obvious; the humble flu shot. You start making antibodies as soon as you get the shot, and achieve full immunity at nine days on average. If you are better than average – and who isn’t – you might do it faster. It’s definitely worth a shot.

Consider your hands slimed. If you looked at them closely enough you would see millions of germs. Many are just hitching a ride and go away with the next hand washing. They are betting their tiny germ lives that you will touch your face. We call that auto inoculation – you may call it Christmas crud.

It doesn’t matter where you put those hands as long as you always wash them before rubbing your nose or sweeping the hair out of your eyes.

And try to not be a stressed out mess, over-caffeinated and under slept. That’s a great formula for weakening one’s immune system. But you knew that. Hand washing might be a more realistic goal.

And that’s the real deal for trying to remain healthy this Christmas.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and stay healthy.

Dr. B.

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.

Images courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Travel Tips for a Healthy Holiday

U.S. HealthWorks is providing some tips to make sure people reach their destination this holiday season without contracting a nasty cold or the flu.

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  • Get a flu vaccine as soon as possible: The current vaccine is widely available in almost all communities. It takes 10-14 days to develop any immunity after receiving the flu shot. Although this requires acting soon and planning ahead, it is the absolute most important factor.
  • Get adequate rest the night before travel: Having seven to eight hours of restorative sleep will give you a fighting chance of resisting whatever exposure you get when traveling. Travel days are usually long and hectic. If it can be avoided, you don’t want to start your day already run down.
  • Make sure you have a pocket-sized Kleenex, Purell, and saline nasal spray: Using hand sanitizer periodically after touching public surfaces once you settle into your seat and before eating is important. Avoid touching your own face, nose or mouth with contaminated hands. Usually illness such as the flu and other common respiratory illnesses are not airborne. They don’t fly over your left shoulder while you are looking the other way. The majority of transmission is self-inflicted. You have the germs on your hands and then eat, touch your nose or mouth.
  • Keep an arm’s length from other travelers and airport attendants when possible: Be aware that others may be sick and not be so mindful when they cough or sneeze. This is tough to avoid in close quarters, especially in your seat on an airplane. However an understanding and awareness could prevent you from being the unsuspecting target of their germs.
  • During your flight, stay well hydrated: The cabin air is usually very dry. For comfort, occasional use of saline nasal spray is good. Keeping the nasal mucosa moist and generally staying well hydrated will make you less vulnerable to the unavoidable germs you may encounter. Eat wisely and avoid alcohol during your flight.
  • Prolonged sitting in cramped positions puts you at risk for blood clots or phlebitis: Even a healthy person is at risk. The cramped position, lack of regular muscle movement in the lower extremities, high altitude and not drinking enough water can put you at risk. Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) is a very serious medical condition caused by blood clots in the legs. If untreated, it can lead to life threatening problems. Wear comfortable nonrestrictive clothing. Wiggle toes and feet. Stretch legs periodically if the space allows. Get up and move around the cabin briefly every 20 to 30 minutes. Changing position and physical activity can help restore sluggish circulation which puts you at risk.
  • If you have any chronic medical problems, consult your health care provider before your trip: Even some medications can increase your risks. Your physician may recommend a medication or aspirin prophylaxis for the trip.

Don’t let paranoia about germs or DVT distract you from the enjoyable goals of holiday travel. A few simple steps and planning should help you have a happy, healthy and successful trip.

Image courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Top 10 Flu Shot Myths

It’s that time of year again when people are contemplating getting a flu shot.

Although this should be your basic no brainer – get a flu shot NOW – there are still many people who refuse to get a shot and are gambling with not only their health, but the health of people they come in contact with at work and at home.

Child getting flu shot

In conjunction with National Flu Vaccination Week, and in the hopes of changing a few opinions among the naysayers, below is my list of Top-10 Flu Myths.

  1.  The flu shot can give me the flu. No way, no how. Injectable flu vaccine is 100% dead, broken-up virus – it is not infectious.
  2. I won’t get the flu. That is Russian roulette. How often this fall/winter will you be in the same room/elevator/auto with someone who is coughing, sneezing and doing their best to infect everyone? You will find yourself trapped like a rat.
  3. I’m healthy, so getting the flu is no big deal. Influenza hits even the strong and healthy like a Mack Truck. Think 104-degree fevers and every muscle in your body screaming at you. Not much a doctor can do after you have the flu.
  4. The Flu vaccine is dangerous. This is the old argument regarding the preservative Thimerosal. There is zero scientific evidence that this preservative is harmful.  Given the hundreds of millions of flu shots given, even a tiny risk would be found. If you still fear this preservative, the flu vaccine is available in preservative free form (no Thimerosal) and the FluMist nasal spray has none. For the record, my children, wife and I have had the regular flu vaccine (with Thimerosal).
  5. Flu shots are difficult to find and useless after November. The flu season changes every year. Things like air travel spread viruses quickly to far flung places. It takes approximately two weeks to develop immunity after being vaccinated. You will still get immunity whenever you vaccinate.  In terms of finding the vaccine, the vaccine is plentiful even late in the season. If you decide a flu shot is a good idea, why risk getting the disease for months before getting a shot?
  6. I get sick even if I get the flu shot. Influenza takes a couple of days to develop after you are infected. So you can also get exposed a couple of days after the vaccine, but before you are immune. Influenza vaccine doesn’t prevent colds. So any of those situations can lead people to think the vaccine didn’t work.
  7. I don’t have the money. A Canadian study found an average savings of $43 in healthcare expense for every vaccinated person. Doctor visits and work absence were all significantly reduced in the vaccinated population.
  8. Only old people die of flu. In normal years, 90% of flu deaths are 65 years and over. H1N1 had the opposite with almost all the deaths in the young. It is your contribution to the public good to not be passing around flu this year. We call that herd immunity. The sum is greater than the parts.
  9. I am still immune from last year’s shot. The flu vaccine is redesigned every year based on the early emerging virus types in Southeast Asia (they have their winter in our summer). When we measure immunity, flu vaccine gives very strong immunity for six months or longer. You don’t still have high antibody levels the next flu season.

10. Flu shots hurt. In my clinic, we use #30 needles that are the thickness of a human hair. The vaccine is not irritating to the muscle. There is very little pain with a carefully given flu shot.  If you are needle-phobic, you can always take the nasal spray (FluMist).

My advice to the flu shot skeptics – give it a shot!

Take care,

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic. 

Images courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Can flu shot also help prevent heart attack?

Here we are in another flu season, where many people will happily trade a few dollars for a dose of the magic vaccine.

After all, a 103-degree fever, bad dreams, and feeling like yesterday you played linebacker in an NFL game without padding, can be pretty persuasive. Once you tangle with flu, you will be a flu vaccine believer ever more.

Child getting a shot

Despite all the TV, internet, newspaper and radio attention and this being In National Flu Vaccination Week, only one-third of adults get vaccinated, and only 50 percent of adults with heart disease get the shot.

But there is good reason to change that.

Two years ago, at the end of the flu season, came some news straight out of left field: influenza vaccine prevents heart attacks. Few people heard it, and even fewer believed it. Most doctors thought it was one of those strange results that would fail to pan out under serious scientific scrutiny. I thought the same.

Last year the story of flu shots preventing heart attacks re-emerged, and this time there were good studies backing it up.

Let’s talk about inflammation first. Inflammation has been one of the hottest areas of research in the last decade. It started when we discovered a high C-reactive protein, a blood test showing inflammation was associated with heart attacks. Hmmm!

The more we looked, the more we found inflammation causing trouble. In virtually every system we can find examples of this. Cervical inflammation causes cervical cancer. Brain inflammation causes multiple sclerosis. Less exotically, joint inflammation causes destruction of the joint, which we call degenerative arthritis.

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Inflammation of the heart valves from Rheumatic fever causes them to become deformed and not work properly. Almost anywhere we look in our bodies, inflammation causes bad stuff. There is even a theory that inflammation causes aging – but that’s another blog.

It turns out that inflammation is bad for blood vessels, too. To understand that, we need to talk about Atherosclerosis: “hardening of the arteries.” That is an unfortunate name for changes that inflammation causes in blood vessels.

It should be called narrowing of the arteries, or plugging of the arteries. Plugged arteries don’t let blood through – that’s a bad thing. No blood results in that tissue dying. Inconvenient if it is heart tissue or brain tissue.

Inflammation of the artery wall starts the whole process of accumulating abnormal cells and cholesterol in the blood vessel wall. This causes the gradual narrowing of blood vessels. Acute (sudden) inflammation can cause the smooth lining of the arterial wall to rip, causing a blood clot and blockage.

What does all this have to do with the flu vaccine? Inflammation is the body’s response to infection among other things. Influenza infection causes a massive amount of inflammation in your respiratory system and we see changes in the bloodstream during the course of infection.

Influenza is a significant insult to patients with borderline blood flow to their heart.   It is the proverbial triple whammy. The infection stresses the heart and increases the need for good blood flow. The infection also causes fluid in the small airways, decreasing the oxygen levels in the blood. Finally, the inflammation can trigger an interruption in the blood flow of a crucial coronary artery.

Looking at patients with known heart disease, getting the flu shot cuts down the risk of major cardiac event over 50 percent. If we take all  comers – the healthy, the train wrecks, and everyone in between – a flu shot cuts down heart attacks and similar by a third.

Those are numbers that could get the flu vaccine approved as heart treatment.  Much of what we do to protect the heart – eat right, exercise, take blood pressure or cholesterol pills – gives a similar reduction in cardiac risk (30 to 50 percent).

It does all that and it even keeps you from getting the flu. Petty cool, huh!

Stay healthy.

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic. 

Images courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Preventing the Cold & Flu this Holiday Season

It’s December, the busiest month of the year. There are more parties, more family activities, more shopping, more eating, more stress and usually more colds and flu.

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In conjunction with National Influenza Vaccination Week, U.S. HealthWorks would like to remind everyone that getting a flu shot is a great idea heading into the holidays.

There are some things you can do to help you and your family stay healthy this holiday season. First, get a flu shot. The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated.

In addition to your vaccination, the following tips will help keep you healthy during the flu season:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Washing your hands often will help protect you from flu germs.
  • Control your stress level. Prolonged stress levels can affect your immune system. To manage your stress, find balance between work, exercise, and personal time.
  • Get lots of rest. Make sure you are rested. Sleep deprivation may slow your ability to stay alert and make you vulnerable to the flu and other viruses.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Use a tissue to help prevent passing the germs to those around you.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. You can infect yourself by unknowingly touching something with flu germs and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid direct contact with people who are sick. You’ll also want to keep your distance from others if you are sick.

Visit www.USHealthWorks.com for more information.

Image courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 things You Probably Don’t Know About Influenza

National Influenza Vaccination Week is upon us (December 8-14), which is an appropriate time to unveil some interesting facts on influenza and flu vaccine.

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Below are 10 things you probably don’t know about influenza.

  1. Influenza is an Italian word that means to “influence.” Hundreds of years ago the only thing known about influenza was it was everywhere in the winter. The theory was the whole planet was influenced by the heavenly bodies, so logically, that must be the reason for influenza.
  2. Pigs are the only animal that can be infected by all three classes of influenza – pigs, birds and humans. Think of a pig as a melting pot of flu viruses. Who knows what gets cooked up, because pigs are the perfect breeding ground for new and dangerous strains of influenza. I’ve come to the conclusion that pig farmers are underpaid.
  3. The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 was the most lethal infection in recorded history – 50-100 million people died. More Americans died of Spanish flu in one year than all the combined American soldiers who died from World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War.
  4. Getting a flu shot will save you $46 on healthcare costs on average over the winter.
  5. Flu shots are one of the most understood vaccines on the planet. Every year we design and make a new vaccine in just a few months.
  6. Getting a flu shot decreases your chance of a heart attack by 50% for the next year. This is being studied intensely in the hope of developing a vaccine against heart disease.
  7. Influenza is approximately 1.5 million times more dangerous to the average American than lightning.
  8. Your chance of having a serious reaction if you get the flu is thousands of times higher than your chance of having a serious reaction to the vaccine.
  9. The loss of productivity in America during one flu season is in the tens of billions of dollars.
  10. The vaccine is designed to make you very immune to the flu for months, but evidence of immunity lasts for many years (40-plus).

One fact that you should also know this time of year: If you haven’t gotten your annual flu shot yet, get one immediately.

Take care.

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.

Image courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dr. Peyman Sarrafian joins U.S. HealthWorks as Medical Director for Bakersfield center

VALENCIA, Calif. – U.S. HealthWorks, a leading operator of occupational healthcare and urgent care centers in the nation, announced today that it has appointed Peyman Sarrafian, M.D. as the new Medical Director for its Bakersfield center.

Dr. Peyman Sarrafian, M.D., is  the new Medical Director for the U.S. HealthWorks center in Bakersfield.

Dr. Peyman Sarrafian, M.D., is the new Medical Director for the U.S. HealthWorks center in Bakersfield.

Dr. Sarrafian heads up the medical team that provides an array of services, including occupational healthcare to injured workers and immediate urgent care services. The U.S. HealthWorks facility in Bakersfield is located at 1800 Westwind Drive, Suite 301.

“We are extremely pleased that Dr. Sarrafian is joining our medical team in Bakersfield. He is an excellent physician that will capture the heart of our community,” said Moises Vargas, Regional Vice President of Operations-Los Angeles. “His experience and skills are a strong addition to our talented group of medical professionals in Bakersfield.”

Dr. Sarrafian has been practicing Occupational Medicine, Urgent Care, and Family Medicine for five years. He was previously the Center Medical Director at Concentra Occupational Health Services in Bakersfield. He also worked at two other Bakersfield medical facilities, serving as a Primary Care Physician at Prime Care Physicians Medical Group and an Urgent Care Physician with Kaiser Permanente.

“U.S. HealthWorks has a great reputation for delivering high-quality services in both occupational and urgent care,” said Dr. Sarrafian, who received his medical degree in Family Medicine from the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. “I’m very excited about becoming an integral part of the U.S. HealthWorks team.”

As a convenience to its clients, U.S. HealthWorks in Bakersfield offers 24/7 services for work injuries, drug screens and breath alcohol testing. For more information on the Bakersfield center, call 661-327-9617.

About U.S. HealthWorks

U.S. HealthWorks, a subsidiary of Dignity Health, is one of the country’s largest operators of occupational healthcare centers. With 218 centers and worksites in 19 states and more than 3,400 employees – including approximately 800 medical providers – U.S. HealthWorks centers serve more than 14,000 patients each day throughout the country. U.S. HealthWorks centers help employers control work-related injury costs through quality medical care and effective management of claims and lost work time, specializing in early return-to-work programs, injury prevention and ergonomics programs. For more information, please visit www.ushealthworks.com. U.S. HealthWorks is also on Facebook and Twitter.

The Ghost in the Machine

We sit up here in our heads, from our lofty vantage point, solving a multitude of problems on a daily basis, and almost without thinking, expect our bodies to do as told.

We expect this so strongly that when illness strikes, there is a sense of betrayal, a mutiny against us. Even normal aging surprises many of us, because we are still doing cartwheels in our mind.

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Yet for having spent every second with our bodies, we still find it surprising when science shows us our thoughts physically affect our well-being.

An intriguing NPR story regarding asthma had me thinking about the concept of the “ghost in the machine” that was introduced by British philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s description of Rene Descartes’ mind-body dualism in his book – The Concept of the Mind.

You may know asthma has been dramatically increasing in this country for the last 30 years. The exact cause of this is debated: not enough dirt exposure during childhood, sensitivity to environmental toxins, immune dysfunction. We’re still working on the answers.

But the illness itself we understand and are reasonably good at treating. The essential pathology is abnormal inflammation in the airways. This causes them to go into spasm at the least provocation. Medications like inhaled steroids reduce airway inflammation while bronchodilators like albuterol are related to adrenalin, and open airways in spasm.

Man - asthma inhaler

A normal study paradigm on asthma might involve the ability of certain odors to trigger an asthma attack. This study went further and looked at the ability of the idea of an odor to precipitate an attack.

The study involved a group of asthma patients that were as alike as possible. To one group they presented a smell with the warning it sometimes triggers asthma attacks. A second group was told that the odor was from a rainforest sample.

Neither group knew the real truth: the smell was totally harmless. The rainforest group had no reaction to the smell and no change in lung pathology. The other group had measurable increase in inflammation in their lungs to the idea they would smell a possible asthma trigger. And their inflammation persisted for more than 24 hours.

This was quite surprising to the medical community, but probably less surprising to the rest of the country.

The mind-body connection has been a mainstay of Eastern medicine for centuries. In fairness to Western medicine, our science-based treatments are pretty successful. But being chained to science also has a cost, because it blinds us to the possibility that thoughts and ideas sometimes have the power to heal.

There is a laundry list of diseases of the body where we now know the mind plays a part.

Coronary vascular disease – the number 1 killer in this country – we thought was all about heredity and control of blood pressure and cholesterol. But then someone figured out Type A personality, and the head became involved.

Various kinds of cancer show mental imagery influences the effectiveness of the treatment. The mind can dramatically increase the acid in your stomach. Learning Yoga reduces blood pressure.

The list, of course, goes on and on.

We are not the ghost in the machine. Our body is an extension and expression of who we are.

Of course, our mental processes impact our health. A reasoned and balanced approach to illness would fully utilize the science-based tool (antibiotics …) and begin a dialogue with your body and make sure your goals are clear.

Take care.

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic. 

Images courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Avoid Being Sick for the Holidays

It might be a little late to completely avoid all manners of illness. It’s hard to reverse time and become a vegan retroactively since you were born.

But in the matter of infectious diseases, the main culprit in what I like to call “holiday seasonal crud,” is largely in your hands.

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First, let’s define the usual suspects. We have influenza, a virus in a tough casing. Colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses (rhinovirus, adenovirus and others), while pneumonia can have both viral and bacterial causes. And everyone’s favorite –  gastroenteritis – is a virus (rotavirus) causing intense misery, with the main symptoms being watery diarrhea and vomiting..

You might wonder why upper respiratory infections seem easiest to get during the holidays. It’s kind of an accidental diabolical system. Around the holidays everything changes. Our houses, left open and ventilated in warm weather, get buttoned up tight in the winter. Businesses do the same, and have less air exchanges and more foot traffic.

Lots of people are out shopping and running holiday errands. And every crowd you find yourself in typically has people coughing, sneezing and carrying on like Typhoid Mary.   The low humidity lets microdroplets produced by coughing and sneezing stay airborne longer and spread wider. It becomes the perfect microscopic storm.

These microdroplets are tiny particles and hard to filter effectively. Your only protection from airborne attack is to have a good immune system and a flu shot. The flu shot takes at least nine days to produce immunity, so the sooner, the better.

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But a large portion of holiday crud is not caught through the airborne route. Rather we touch things and then touch our face. Kids touch their face almost every minute. The average adult touches their face every 5 minutes or so.

Although it’s innocent and unconscious behavior, sweeping hair out of your face or rubbing tired eyes is a highly effective way to transfer live viruses and bacteria to your face, and right into your body.

Certain areas are especially germy during the holiday season and you should take extreme care in these locations.

Airplanes: Airplane bathrooms are heavily contaminated with infectious disease bugs.  The forceful blue spray when flushing an airplane toilet actually puts E. coli bacteria into the air. To maintain breathable atmosphere at 30,000 feet the air is pressurized. That means the airplane vents a little air and most of it is recycled. The air is filtered during the recycling, but some believe viruses can colonize the filter and contribute to the spread of disease. And that is not even taking into account the sick passenger 3 inches away from you.

Shopping: Many of the stores you frequent are great places to get sick. Germy shopping cart handles finally have gotten some antiseptic wipes that many stores now provide. Better save a few wipes for elevator and ATM buttons, gas pump handles, and even your cell phone. All have heavy hand traffic and no routine cleaning.

Home: At home sweet home, the kitchen has more bacterial than the bathroom. Do you remember the last time you cleaned the refrigerator handle? How about the cabinet handle that hides the kitchen garbage can?

Avoiding holiday sickness needs to be a multi-front defense. To tame the airborne risk of catching influenza, a flu shot is still the best defense.

Stop transferring germs from frequently handled (and germy) surfaces around you by establishing a firm rule to wash or clean your hands before scratching your nose.  A little sleep and exercise will also keep your immune system in top-fighting shape so you can enjoy the holidays.

Healthy Holidays to you!

Dr. B.

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic. 

Images courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Consider altering the usual Thanksgiving dinner eating ritual

As we approach this annual holiday and its focus on food, we could certainly discuss pride in our Thanksgiving table setting, or mashed potato and gravy lust, and I bet you would envy my gingered cranberry sauce with pecans!

But let’s face facts: Thanksgiving dinner is all about gluttony.

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It might reassure you to know that the “seven deadly sins” are not necessarily deadly. They certainly are not charming personality attributes, but mortal wounding of your very soul is unlikely from simply overeating.

Gluttony makes the “sin” list because you are in theory taking food away from people who need it. It kind of gives new meaning to parental threats about unclean plates and China.

Thomas Aquinas, a prominent medieval church figure, was a “splitter” and came up with a whole list of gluttonous behavior. You can not only eat too much, but you can eat too soon, too eagerly, excessively daintily, or wildly (like a beast). Even doing all these simultaneously does not rise to mortal sin-hood, but it is an amusing mental picture.

The average Thanksgiving dinner is a whopping 3,000 calories and over 200 grams of fat. Over the course of the day most people snack their way to a total of 4,500 calories.

You could easily burn through those calories with 20 hours of housework, a 30-mile brisk walk or five hours of pick-up basketball.

For the record, lust-related activity is good for 300 calories an hour, or perhaps more realistically 150 per half hour. And that is just working through dinner calories, not the whole day’s food orgy. And by the way, who feels like basketball after a big dinner?

So your best hope is a preemptive strike. This means, perhaps counter intuitively, eat a very light lunch. Because lunch fare is much less calorically dense than traditionally holiday food, you will come out ahead.

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Balancing your plate is also useful. Put a variety of foods on your plate, including vegetables and salad. Don’t go back for seconds on your favorites until you have eaten these less sinful foods.

Savor the meal by chewing slowly so you can really taste everything. Afterall, that is the point, and it allows you to recognize much better when you are actually full.

Another suggestion is consider using a smaller plate. If a plate-full is the expectation for the meal, you can limit the damage.

Remember the holiday season is a war not a battle; a marathon not a race. There are numerous opportunities for food-centric celebration over the next five weeks. Some restraint shown today means tomorrow you can play.

As for the rest of the deadly sins – we can consider them on New Years.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic. 

Images courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net