Sadly, MORE magazine ("for women of style and substance") is no more. The April 2016 issue is the publication's last, which makes me sad for a number of reasons—not least of which is that I'd been writing the Well-being column since the December issue. Here's my final column.
3 ways to treat acid reflux & GERD
Acid reflux, the flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, is on the rise. So is its chronic cousin, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Eat lean, clean, and green Food triggers vary from person to person, says Jamie A. Koufman, M.D., director of the Voice Institute of New York and author of Dropping Acid: the Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure. But the most common ones are alcohol, carbonated beverages, coffee, chocolate, fatty foods (including anything fried), onions, tomato, garlic, mint, and even some nuts and peppers. All fizzy beverages cause the stomach to expand, causing reflux, but soda is the worst culprit because it’s also acidic. Milk chocolate is worse than dark because it contains fat as well as caffeine and theobromine, two chemicals that have been shown to loosen the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that acts as a gate between the stomach and the esophagus. (Hint: you want it to stay firm.) Nicotine and mint also relax the LES and should be avoided. But mysteriously, even decaf coffee can exacerbate reflux in a small percentage of people. If that happens, Koufman recommends trying green or black tea. While spicy foods can exacerbate reflux in some, ginger is actually soothing, says Koufman, as are fennel and aloe vera. But more important than what you eat is when you eat it, emphasizes Koufman. “If you asked me one thing that you could do to improve reflux, I’d say ‘Close the kitchen at 8PM!’”
Try Slippery Elm The bark of the slippery elm tree has been used as an herbal remedy in North America for centuries, specifically to relieve coughs, sore throats, and stomach problems. It contains mucilage that can help soothe and heal tissues of the digestive tract, says Andrew Weil, M.D., founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. Though slippery elm lozenges (thayers.com) can be effective, Weil says a tea is better for the GI irritation that comes with acid reflux. Pour two cups boiling water over one teaspoon of slippery elm bark powder (mountainroseherbs.com), then add a little honey and cinnamon to taste. Drink 1-2 cups twice daily. Slippery elm bark also stimulates mucus secretion, which may protect the GI tract against ulcers and excess acidity.
Stretta Therapy Stretta, which was approved by the FDA in 2000, is a minimally invasive procedure that strengthens the lower esophogeal sphincter muscle with radiofrequency energy. “It actually stimulates your sphincter muscle to grow back,” explains Mark D. Noar, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Endoscopic Microsurgery Associates in Baltimore. Over 30 clinical studies have demonstrated that Stretta is a safe and well-tolerated treatment for GERD. According to Noar, it’s particularly ideal for people with “refractory GERD”—that is, people who take proton pump inhibitors twice daily and still have symptoms—or people who are concerned about side effects from PPIs, like malabsoroption and and bone breaks. Noar, who evaluated the long-term effects of the therapy on 217 patients, and published the results in the journal Surgical Endoscopy, found that patients who had the 14-minute laparoscopic procedure have sustained improvement throughout a decade. “The vast majority were able to go off meds and remain asymptomatic,” says Noar.
BOOK: The Sleep Revolution
In 2007, Arianna Huffington collapsed in her office and broke her cheekbone. The diagnosis? Exhaustion due to chronic lack of sleep. Thus began the media mogul’s quest to learn more about the science of sleep—why we need it and how to re-integrate it in our lives. In The Sleep Revolution: Transforming your Life one Night at a Time, she documents the current epidemic of sleeplessness and its frightening medical consequences—like increased risks of diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. Huffington condemns “the sleep industry” for plying us with caffeine and then sleeping pills—which have serious side effects and don’t yield restorative, slow-wave sleep anyway. “It’s a perfect circle of commodified burnout,” she writes. Huffington’s advice for reclaiming healthy sleep habits is mostly familiar: banish electronics from the bedroom, renounce caffeine after 2PM, get regular exercise, and skip the nightcap. But she also cites evidence that both acupuncture and meditation can be effective long-term fixes for insomnia. As always, Huffington is a witty writer; her research is sprinkled with entertaining anecdotes and relevant quotes from Shakespeare, William Blake, and David Foster Wallace. By the last page, you’ll agree with her that “Sleep is a fundamental human need that must be respected.”
Bittersweet Treats Xylitol, a popular sugar substitute, is safe for humans but not so for dogs. The sweetener—which is in everything from gum and mints to baked goods and peanut butter—causes a dog’s blood sugar to plummet, which can lead to seizures and even death, says Dr. Tina Wismer, Medical Director of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. (It doesn’t seem to have the same affect on cats or other animals.) According to Wismer, canine poisonings with the sweetener are on the rise. “Xylitol is technically natural so it’s in a lot of products that say ‘all natural’ and ‘no artificial sweeteners.’ And it’s safe for us. So people assume it’s safe for dogs,” says Jason Nicholas, BVM, a Portland, Oregon veterinarian who blogs at PreventiveVet.com. Nicholas, who launched an online petition for improved xylitol labeling, says the best preventive measure is to keep all xylitol-containing gum and food far out of your resourceful dog’s reach. Wismer agrees. “Don’t put your purse on the floor. If you’re making baked goods with xylitol, store them in the microwave or up high.” If your dog does ingest it, Wismer advises rubbing Karo syrup or honey onto his gums, which will help boost his blood sugar. But get your dog to the emergency vet ASAP—the sweetener only takes 30-60 minutes to wreak its havoc.