Sunday, February 18, 2018

Auto Exhaust and Brain Development

Posted by The Vigilant Mom on May 17, 2012

Auto Exhaust and Brain Development

We live near a freeway in a city with pretty bad traffic. We don’t live super close to the freeway, but I can see it off in the distance and in the back of my mind, I have always been a little worried about all of the nasty chemicals in exhaust. A few years ago, I bought an air purifier for my kids’ room. At the time, I conceded to friends that maybe I was paranoid, but it just made me feel a teeny bit better when I’d gaze out at distant gridlock. After reading about new studies that link vehicle exhaust to neurological disorders, I’m considering hitting Home Depot this week and get an air purifier for every room in our house.

My big fear, of course, was my kids developing asthma and lung problems. But exhaust from cars also has been linked to cardiovascular problems and various cancers — and now, possibly, to neurological damage as well. Researchers have found that exposure to high levels of exhaust can result in problems with intelligence, mental functioning and emotional issues. In fact, it has even been linked to an increased risk for autism. According to researchers, women who live within 1,000 feet of a freeway have a two times greater risk of having children who have autism.

The problem for expectant moms is that a lot of what they breathe in passes to their developing baby. One doctor studied the air that pregnant women breathed and found that in some women, chemicals from exhaust had left “biochemical markers” in their baby’s DNA. And children who are exposed to higher levels of exhaust seem to score lower on tests and develop more problems with mood disorders like depression and anxiety. They also seem to have a harder time focusing and display symptoms of attention disorders.

So it seems exhaust from cars might be one more thing for moms to worry about. (Sigh.) If you live in an area with a lot of traffic or near a freeway, you might want to consider investing in at least one air purifier. The studies linking exhaust to neurological development are new and certainly more studies should be done, but cleaner air is still a great gift to give your child — and yourself.

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title pic Dads and Post-partum Depression

Posted by Deborah Pujoue on May 16, 2012

Dads and Post-partum Depression

Post-partum depression is most often seen as something that only mothers go through. But that is simply not the case. Even dads can develop the condition. While as much as 15 percent of new mothers develop post-partum depression, 10 percent of men go through it, as well.

Symptoms for post-partum in men are very much like the symptoms that women go through, including mood swings, fatigue, inability to concentrate. And just like in women, the more severe cases include suicidal thoughts and delusions. While women will often get treatment for their condition (taking Prozac, Zoloft or Celexa), men generally don’t because they don’t want to appear weak at a time when they feel like they should appear strong for the mother’s sake.

In his web article on the subject on, Dr. Keith Ablow writes, “In the men I have treated, the joys of having a new son or daughter have mingled with complex worries about whether they would be able to support larger families, whether they would lose the affection of their wives and whether they would be equal to the daunting task of being role models for their children. For some, becoming fathers seemed to bring them uncomfortably in touch with their own mortality, as they contemplated being survived by their offspring.

“I have noticed a particular vulnerability to postpartum depression in new fathers who had strained or frankly painful relationships with their own dads,” he adds.

As far as treatment for the condition, Ablow writes that psychotherapy is an invaluable tool. He also point out that men may also use prescription medications like Paxil, Zoloft or Prozac. There are also newer technologies that men can rely on called rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation), which is approved by the FDA.

I don’t know if I agree with all of the efforts to treat men with post-partum depression with antidepressants since the side effects linked to these drugs far outweigh the benefits in my book. While birth defects like PPHN, cleft palate, spina bifida and other neural tube defects may not be a huge concern for men taking the pills, other side effects may pose a problem. These drugs are also linked to suicidal and aggressive thoughts and behaviors. For the man who is already feeling some of those feelings, drugs that can push him over the edge just don’t seem useful. If that doesn’t convince you, it may help to be reminded that studies also show that antidepressants don’t work any better than placebos at treating depression anyway.

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Headaches and Food

Posted by The Vigilant Mom on May 14, 2012

Headaches And Food

I am a big believer in trying out kitchen cabinet cures whenever someone in my family is sick. At the first sign of a sniffle, I’m grating ginger, grinding garlic, and juicing lemons into some concoction that will inevitably bring howls of dismay and protest from whomever is sick — but usually ends up helping. Food really can be a great healer. But sometimes it can also be the culprit.

Migraines run in my family, but somehow I escaped their misery. However, I do occasionally get a headache (what mom doesn’t?), so I decided to look into what might cause them. As a working mom, I had assumed that stress was the major culprit, so imagine my surprise when I learned that some of my very favorite foods in the world actually contain an amino acid that has been linked to headaches.

If I were to do away with any attempt at being health conscious, I would happily live on the Stinky Cheese, Red Wine and Chocolate Diet. It turns out that would be a really bad thing for my headaches. Both red wine and aged cheeses (like my beloved Blue) contain tyramine, which has been linked to headaches. (It’s amazing, isn’t it, that the entire continent of Europe isn’t crippled by migraines?) Some other foods that contain tyramine are olives, raisins, pickles, canned soups and some kinds of beans. And tyramine isn’t the only substance linked to headache pain. Monosodium glutamate (commonly referred to as MSG) and nitrates (often found in cold cuts) have also been linked to headaches. So much for my back up: The Chinese Take Out and Pepperoni Diet.

The silver lining here is that while some people consider caffeine to be a headache trigger, others feel that it might actually alleviate headache pain. In fact, many common headache medications contain caffeine. And as someone who once bravely gave up caffeine for, oh, about fourteen hours before dragging her miserable, head-throbbing self to a Starbuck’s, I can certainly attest to its healing properties.

If you suffer from headaches, it might be worth your while to see if you can figure out if there is a specific food that triggers them. In the long run, it might be better to see if you can heal your headaches by avoiding the food that triggers them than by living on Advil or Aleve. As for my favorite foods — my aged cheeses and lush red wines — as the experts advise, I’ll practice moderation.

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Natural Support For Post-partum Depression

Posted by The Vigilant Mom on May 11, 2012

Natural Support For Post-partum Depression

Most moms know that pregnancy and parenthood changes your whole life. The change can be enormous. While almost everyone feels disoriented or anxious or exhausted (or all three!) after giving birth, some new moms experience symptoms that can be a little more extreme. They suffer from an almost constant feeling or despair and low self-esteem, a loss of interest or joy in most aspects of their life, problems concentrating and sleep issues. If you have recently given birth and are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about post-partum depression, because you may have it.

The first step in dealing with post-partum depression is talking to your doctor about it. But what’s next? Counseling is usually recommended, and some doctors consider prescribing antidepressants. The problem is that some moms, especially breastfeeding moms, might be concerned about taking an antidepressant. You can talk to your doctor about whether the risks outweigh the benefits, but also know that whatever you choose, there are some other things you can do to support your recovery from post-partum depression.

First, get out into the world! Depression can make people sluggish and choose to languish indoors. But socializing, seeing friends, even taking a walk around your neighborhood can all help ease the burden of your condition. And silence that critical voice in your head: No one is a perfect mom. Every mom makes mistakes.

Secondly, consider taking some nutritional supplements. Some studies have found that Vitamin B6 and folic acid can be helpful in treating depression. Vitamin B6 helps the body to make serotonin and norepinephrine. And in patients already suffering from depression, researchers have found that those with lower levels of folic acid had worse symptoms of depression. Vitamin B12 has also been found to improve the symptoms specifically of post-partum depression in some patients. Vitamin C is also thought to be helpful as it can help convert tryptophan to serotonin in your brain.

Of course not all doctors are in agreement about how well nutritional supplements work, but I look at it this way: A little vitamin boost isn’t a bad thing, and it just might help. Regardless of your feelings about supplements, the first step in dealing with post-partum is talking to a qualified professional. You can overcome it.

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title pic Did Coke Kill New Zealand Woman?

Posted by Deborah Pujoue on May 10, 2012

Did Coke Kill New Zealand Woman?

Most of us have heard of how harmful drinking soda is, but I must say that it never occurred to me that it could kill someone. However, that is exactly what one New Zealand family thinks happened to Natasha Harris, 30, after she suffered from a cardiac arrest that inevitably led to her death.

Harris was known to drink a hefty amount of Coca-Cola before she died. In fact, the woman drank as much as 10 litres of the beverage daily. It was this huge amount of soda that her partner believes caused her death. Harris, from the southern city of Invercargill, was said to have been vomiting six times a week during the last few months of her life. Harris believed that her vomiting was caused by stress. She died suddenly in February 2010.

The young mother would often get moody and irritable if she didn’t get her daily dose of Coca-Cola; however, her family members never considered that the beverage could actually cause her death, says an Otago News report. Chris Hodgkinson, Harris’ partner, told Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar that Harris drank at least 10 liters of coke daily.

“The first thing she would do in the morning was have a drink of Coke and the last thing she would do in the day was have a drink of Coke by her bed,” he said. “I never thought about it. It’s just a soft drink, just like drinking water. I didn’t think a soft drink was going to kill her.”

The coroner doesn’t have a cause of death listed yet, but pathologist Dr. Dan Mornin told the court that Harris likely suffered from severe hypokalemia — which is a lack of potassium in the blood — because of her significantly large intake of soda. Mornin also stated that cardiac arrhythmia, along with her soda habits (which contains too much caffeine) and poor nutrition in general, likely caused her death.

For its part, Coca-Cola reps defended their product by saying that “grossly excessive ingestion of any food product, including water” could be harmful.

That statement made by reps for Coke is more than true. I have heard of people actually drowning themselves by drinking too much water, so it is not too far-fetched to believe that Coke may have helped to cause Harris’ death. So far, the coroner isn’t stating that the Coke itself killed Harris, but it certainly gives me food for thought.

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title pic Preparing to Discontinue Your Antidepressant Medication

Posted by Dana Hinders on May 9, 2012

Preparing to Discontinue Your Antidepressant Medication

If you’ve decided that the side effects of your antidepressant medication aren’t worth the benefits, it’s important to remember that you should not just abruptly stop taking your pills. SSRI or SNRI antidepressant withdrawal affects everyone differently, but it’s common to experience side effects like tension headaches, stomach upset, dizziness and lethargy. You will need to work with your healthcare provider in order to gradually reduce your medication dosage. By allowing medications like Paxil, Celexa and Effexor to leave your system gradually, you’ll help limit the number and severity of withdrawal symptoms you are likely to experience.

Social support also is very important when you want to try to withdrawal from your antidepressant medication. Having a spouse, family member and friends to turn to talk about your symptoms and your feelings can make it easier to cope with the physical effects of withdrawal. These people can also help be on the lookout for more serious changes in mood or behavior that might necessitate an immediate call to your healthcare provider.

In some ways, quitting your antidepressant medication is like quitting smoking. The effects of withdrawal, even though they are only temporary, might make you want to go back on your medication. Therefore, doctors often recommend that you set a concrete day for beginning the quitting process and set specific rewards for yourself for reaching your goals. For example, you might treat yourself to a new outfit or an evening out with your friends after two weeks without your medication. If you have very specific reasons for quitting, such as a desire to be free of medication when you plan to conceive, it can be helpful to keep a written reminder of why getting off your antidepressant medication is important to you in a place where you’ll be sure to see it on a regular basis.

If you won’t be taking your antidepressant medication, it is helpful to have a concrete plan in place for managing the symptoms of depression. Many people have had success treating mild to moderate depression with yoga, aromatherapy, meditation and acupuncture. Counseling, support groups and regularly writing in your journal can also be good ways to deal with the effects of depression without antidepressant medications.

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title pic Discussing Bullying with Your Children

Posted by Dana Hinders on May 7, 2012

Discussing Bullying with Your Children

Bully, a documentary currently playing in selected cities nationwide, is filmmaker Lee Hirsch’s attempt to bring a new focus to a hot issue by profiling five children and their families as they struggle to deal with the effects of bullying at school. Two of the five children profiled eventually kill themselves as a result of the relentless bullying they receive. Alex, one of the boys featured, caught my attention because he lives in a town that is relatively close to me.

I have not seen this movie yet, but it’s something I’d seriously consider taking my son to see if it reaches a theater in our area. I know many parents are worried it could be too disturbing for their children, but from the reviews I’ve read and the comments I’ve seen online it sounds like a fairly accurate portrayal of what bullied children are going through each day. It’s graphic and the language makes parents uncomfortable, but this is the reality of what life is like for severely bullied kids.

My heart breaks for the bullied children of today, simply because their tormentors now have access to Facebook, Twitter, and a multitude of other high-tech ways of spreading around their abuse. At least when I was in high school, the bullying stopped when everyone went home for the day.

Do I want to have to talk to my son about bullying? Not particularly. I’d love for him to live in a world where we were all nice enough to get along with each other despite our differences. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. Since I can’t change how other parents raise their children, my hope is that I can make sure my son understands the importance of being kind to his classmates and that he’ll trust me enough to be able to tell me if he’s being bullied at school. In my opinion, watching Bully together seems like a good way to help reinforce that lesson.

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title pic Summer Sun Safety Tips

Posted by Dana Hinders on May 4, 2012

Summer Sun Safety Tips

Have you heard about the New Jersey mom who was accused of taking her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth? She’s denying the charges, but judging from her personal appearance, I don’t think she makes sun safety a priority during the summer months.

My entire family is fair skinned and burns pretty easily, so sun protection is something I’m thinking about on a regular basis. It’s been fairly well documented that sunburns during childhood drastically increase your risk of getting skin cancer as an adult, so I am very careful with my son whenever we plan to be outside.

First, we try to limit sun exposure during the midday hours. This is when the sun is at its strongest and most likely to burn you regardless of what precautions you’ve taken. If we must go out during the midday hours, I try to choose clothing that offers some level of sun protection. This is one of those times when beach cover-ups are good for more than just camouflaging post-baby tummy jiggle! Just remember that dark colored, dry t-shirts offer more protection than wet, light or white t-shirts. Hats with wide brims are another smart choice for protecting you and your family against the dangers of the sun.

Sunscreen is the final component of our summer safety strategy. I’ve had no problems using cheaper brands of sunscreen, so feel free to select a budget-priced bottle if you’re worried about cost. Just remember to pick something that offers both UVA and UVB protection and has an SPF of 15 or more. Get a separate product for your face if you have sensitive skin or are prone to acne. Lip balm with SPF is a smart purchase as well.

The key to sunscreen is that you need to be strict about using and storing it properly. Apply it every two hours and make sure you’re using enough to cover your whole body. For an adult, you need an amount that is about enough to fill a shot glass. When you’re storing unused sunscreen, keep it in a cool location. Hot temperatures, like the glove compartment of your car, will shorten its shelf life regardless of the brand you have selected and you won’t find this out until you’ve managed to give yourself a nasty sunburn.

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title pic Study Suggests Parkinson’s Patients Can Safely Take Antidepressants

Posted by Deborah Pujoue on May 3, 2012

Study Suggests Parkinson’s Patients can Safely Take Antidepressants

If you suffer from Parkinson’s Disease and are thinking about taking antidepressants, you may be happy to know that a new study has found that you can take antidepressants without suffering from any added complications to your condition.

“Depression is the No. 1 factor negatively affecting the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Irene Hegeman Richard, M.D., who led the study. “It causes a great deal of suffering among patients. The great news here is that it’s treatable. And when the depression is treated adequately, many of the other symptoms become much more manageable for patients.”

While this news might sound like it’s heaven-sent, there is one thing that this study did not mention, and that is the side effects of the antidepressant drugs themselves. There are some side effects linked to antidepressant medications like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil that may not have been properly considered during this study. Patients have been known to suffer from aggressive and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and these drugs have also been proven to cause birth defects in babies exposed to them in the womb. Some of those birth defects include PPHN, neural tube defects, oral clefts and more. The study certainly neglected to mention that while they were mentioning the benefits to taking the drugs.

Many Parkinson’s patients suffer from depression, but Richard says, “it’s very important to note that these patients are not depressed simply because they are dealing with a chronic neurological condition. Rather, the depression is caused by the underlying disease process, which also causes problems with movement and balance.”

Parkinson’s Disease is hard enough to live with, but I am quite squeamish at any studies that come out in praise of using medications that are proven to be unsafe. And many doctors and research papers can attest to the fact that antidepressants don’t even work, anyway. For a decade at least, it has been proven that antidepressants work no better than placebos at treating depression. It seems that exercise and talk therapy have a better overall effect than meds do, but studies keep coming out trying to praise their use.

If you are a pregnant woman or are planning on becoming pregnant, I wouldn’t advise you taking medication to treat your depression; at least not before trying other non medicinal methods like diet, exercise and yoga.

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title pic The Measles are Back — with a Vengeance

Posted by Deborah Pujoue on May 2, 2012

The Measles are Back with a Vengeance

A decade ago, the measles was considered a disease of the past. But now that diagnoses of the condition have surged in the U.S., there is much cause to believe that the measles are back with a vengeance. Americans have reported as many as 222 cases last year, according to the CDC. This surge is attributed to travelers who are believed to be bringing the virus into the country from various locales.

In 2011, residents of 31 states were diagnosed with the measles. Most of the people who got the measles haven’t been vaccinated against it. Chances are people didn’t get the vaccination because it was believed that the vaccine wasn’t needed anymore since the disease had been deemed to be eliminated by the CDC in 2000. That lack of vaccinations, coupled with the virus being declared eliminated, has caused a resurgence of the condition.

Countries where the measles are still active include France, Italy, Romania, Spain and Germany. According to the CDC, the number of cases of the measles in the U.S. is more than three times what is normal over the last 10 years.

“Unvaccinated people put themselves and others at risk for measles and its complications” since it remains widespread in most parts of the world, said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a conference call with reporters. “They particularly put at risk people who are too young to be vaccinated who can sometimes have the worst complications.”

I have never had the measles before, but it is still included in routine vaccinations where I live. This new information just goes to show that when it comes to viruses, you can never go wrong getting a vaccine. This is especially true if the viruses are still rampant in other parts of the world. Clearly travelling can play a huge role in what viruses become a problem in the U.S. If you don’t believe me, remember SARS (Asia) and H1N1 (Mexico) — both of which were brought to the U.S. from other countries.

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