It’s Time to Get the Smoke Out of Your Life

woman quit smoking

I know you’ve heard me talk a lot about the evils of smoking on my show, and I want to assure you that I’m not trying to nag. I’ve watched many of my patients struggle with smoking even when they know about the horrible health effects. Nicotine is one of the most addictive compounds we know about, and quitting cigarettes is extremely hard.

With that said, thousands of Americans kick the habit for good every year, often after several attempts. In honor of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, I wanted to go through a few recent medical findings that might help push you to kick the habit for good. Read more  »

Learning to Swallow Even the Most Troublesome Pills

Woman taking pills

I remember when my kids were getting older and my wife and I started to switch them from tasty syrups to tasteless pills. While swallowing pills is a skill many of us take for granted, a large cold and flu capsule can remind us just how hard and unpleasant it can be to get medications down. As a doctor, most of the medications I prescribe come in pill form and I often forget that many adults struggle with swallowing their meds. Read more  »

Movember: How to Keep the Reluctant Man in Your Life Healthy

generations of men

movemberIt’s finally November, the time of year when I start thinking about turkey and spending Thanksgiving with my extended family. It’s also a time when we start to see mustaches on friends and family who normally don’t grow one, participating in the latest health-awareness trend: Movember. This annual event raises awareness for men’s health by having men grow mustaches in order to change the face of men’s health. While you might not be a fan of your husband’s newest facial feature, the hair growth provides us with a reminder that all men are at risk for a variety of devastating illnesses, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental illness. Read more  »

How the Fall Can Spice Up Your Mundane Meals

Spices and herbs

As fall moves into full swing, I always love to break out a variety of spices to get my meals into the spirit of the season. The holiday season brings with it a number of tastes and aromas, from allspice to cinnamon and cloves, that transform even the most mundane foods. While many think of fall food as full of temptation, the spices of the season can be used to make healthy food tasty as well. Here are few tips you can use to transform your health while also doing your taste buds a favor. Read more  »

Getting Older? Be Careful Where You Decide to Live

older couple house

My wife and I love life in the suburbs. There’s a certain peace and tranquility in escaping from the hustle and bustle of New York City, not to mention the bonus of cheaper square footage. I know we’re not alone in our love for these areas. Today more than 50% of Americans live in the suburbs, and a new study out this week has found that number may be surging thanks to movement of those over 65.   Read more  »

Take the #PacketPledge to Stop Using Artificial Sweeteners

artificial sweetener salt and pepper

I’ve voiced my concerns about artificial sweeteners several times in the past. While they initially seemed like a great option for those looking to preserve sweetness without the fattening calories, several studies have made worrying findings about how these replacements may be affecting overall health.

While often used by those trying to lose weight, no studies have been able to show that those who use sweeteners are more likely to lose weight. In fact, some studies have indicated that sweeteners may actually lead to weight gain. The reasons for this are complex and not yet fully understood, but it’s thought that by removing the usual relationship between sweet taste and calories, the body’s ability to normally regulate food intake is disrupted. As a result, those using sweeteners end up eating more than those who don’t. While the effects vary from person to person, it’s clear that sweeteners are not a straightforward cure-all to sugar cravings.

A more recent study found indications that sweeteners might even affect the essential bacteria that live in our gut. The study found that eating artificial sweeteners led to changes in the types of bacteria present in the intestines of mice. More concerning, these changes seemed to translate into glucose intolerance, which is one of the first steps towards diabetes.

With the weight of evidence staring to shift on artificial sweeteners, I’ve decided to recommend that all viewers stop using them. I recognize that some people have seen success using these products. My recommendation comes from concerns that using artificial sweeteners does more harm than good on balance and may be worsening the diseases they seek to help in the long term. Until we know for sure what the effects of these sweeteners are on weight and metabolism, we should all steer clear.

Eliminating sweeteners means going back to real sugars along with the calories they bring. The key is choosing the right sources and using them in moderation. Maple syrup is a low-fructose alternative to table sugar and honey contains several vitamins in addition to sugar that make it a great sweetener as well.

Without sweeteners, your food may taste less sweet, because these chemicals are often much sweeter than regular sugar. Fortunately, your sense of taste usually readjusts within about two weeks. This happens for a variety of reasons that have to do both with your taste buds turning over – which happens every 10 to 14 days – and with your brain readjusting to less sweetness and re-sensitizing to less sweet foods. Give it some time and you’ll find your food will start to taste sweet again.

These sweeteners are everywhere, making eliminating them a real challenge. But I know you can do it. Join me in taking the Packet Pledge to stop using artificial sweeteners and share your decision to do so on Facebook and Twitter using #PacketPledge.

Why Medication Allergies Could Be More Fatal Than Food Allergies

Pills

We’ve all heard of the horror stories about death from allergies. Anaphylaxis, the swelling caused by a severe allergy that can close the airway, can be fatal within minutes if no treatment is given to counteract the reaction. I’ve talked to countless parents on the show whose children are afflicted with severe food or venom allergies that can lead anaphylaxis, sometimes with truly tragic consequences. But we hear less about how adults suffer from these reactions and a new study out this week gives reason to pause and pay closer attention to this population. Read more  »

Introducing AskMD 2.0

ask-md-2

You’ve heard me talk about AskMD numerous times on my show, for help with everything from diagnosing your symptoms to exactly what to do about it. Today, my favorite app got even better. Let me tell you what’s new. Read more  »

How Feeding Your Soul From All Sides Can Reap Major Health Benefits

couple walking in nature / forest

Today is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day, and if there’s something we could all use a little more of, it’s health and fitness. I thought I’d talk about some new research out this week that will help you move toward greater mental and physical health. I’ve always found the most enriching activities to be those that blend fitness with fun and I haven’t found a better way to recharge my batteries than to get outside with a group of friends. A new study out this week looked at the ways nature walking can significantly impact mental health. The researchers wanted to see how the combination of an outdoor adventure with a social group setting would influence different measures of mood. Read more  »