Archive For: Patient News

Can We Co-Exist with COVID-19?

An Epidemiologist Separates Fact from Fiction and Offers Hope for the Future

Epidemiologists seek to learn why, how and when some people contract diseases when others don’t. Their findings are used to help monitor public health status, develop new medical treatments and disease prevention efforts, and provide an evidence base to healthcare and policy leaders.

Whether you feel the coronavirus is receding or set to surge, that testing is plentiful or inadequate, or that cases are reported as too high or too low may vary considerably based on where you live and your political leanings.

For an objective, no-spin perspective, we checked in with Jodie Guest, PhD, an epidemiologist at Emory University in Atlanta. Dr. Guest’s life’s work is studying the distribution, causes, prevention and control of diseases in populations.

Her answers to some of today’s most important questions about COVID-19 are below. Please note these reflect the situation mid-September…check our website for further updates.

Q: Are we seeing a slowdown in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S.?

Dr. Guest: The number of new cases has, fortunately, plateaued or slowed down, but in many places the plateaus reflect substantially higher numbers than were reported in April, when everyone was still staying home. My concern is with schools and businesses reopening and less willingness to follow safety guidelines, the numbers may creep back up.

Q: What sites do you trust for accurate reporting on COVID-19?

Dr. Guest: I compare numbers from Johns Hopkins, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Worldometer to see if they match.

Q: What is the significance of the latest report from the CDC that just 6% of coronavirus deaths to date have COVID-19 as the only cause of death?

Dr. Guest: It’s not at all surprising for two reasons. One is that more than 60% of Americans have an underlying condition, such as obesity or diabetes. The risk of complications and hospitalization for people with two to three underlying conditions who contracted the virus is up to five times greater than for people with no [underlying] conditions. Second, death certificates list everything that may have contributed to mortality, including comorbid conditions and conditions caused by COVID-19 such as pneumonia. This does NOT mean that any of the more than 200,000 people who had heart disease or diabetes as an underlying condition didn’t actually die of COVID-19.

Q: Why are people of color and Latinos at greater risk of death from COVID-19?

 

Dr. Guest: This is not about a genetic risk of death. It’s driven by multiple factors, including a higher incidence of underlying conditions, less access to proper healthcare, greater risk of infection at the workplace and crowded living conditions that preclude social distancing.

Q: What is your take on the revised CDC guidelines that say testing for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 should be limited to those with symptoms?

Dr. Guest: Many of us in the public health community feel very strongly that we need to be testing asymptomatic people. From a public health perspective, more testing of asymptomatic people, not less, must be done to control the virus. NOTE: As of 9.18.20, CDC guidelines were revised again to state: “if you have been in close contact, such as within 6 feet of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes, and do not have symptoms, you need a test.”

Q: What are the relative risks of activity as we move forward?

Dr. Guest: There’s so much variation based on how carefully an activity is done, but there are four good rules that apply to all: Outside is safer than inside, shorter time is safer than longer, small groups are safer than bigger, and distance is safer than closeness.

Q: How might COVID-19 affect the epidemic of flu we see annually?

Dr. Guest: If we take COVID-19 prevention measures seriously – masking, social distancing, handwashing – we could have a light flu season. If we don’t, COVID-19 will make it worse. The good news is that this has already spurred many people to get their flu shots.

Q: Any other silver linings you’re seeing?

Dr. Guest: For the first time, we are having a national conversation around health disparities and inequalities. We might actually come to a reckoning and take corrective action, and that would be spectacular.

Q: What is most important for people to know about getting back to normal?

Dr. Guest: Eventually we’ll have a vaccine but we’re not going to eliminate COVID-19 completely. However, there needn’t be this level of impact on our society. I can’t emphasize enough that we have control over how this virus spreads. We need strict guidelines and most importantly, a social contract with everyone in your community. This may be the first time many of us are asking “What are we willing to do for each other?” I hope we can all rise to the challenge.


When considering whether it is safe to resume an activity, there is much variation based on how carefully an activity is done. Additional details are provided in the infographic below, courtesy of www.covid19reopen.com

The post Can We Co-Exist with COVID-19? appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Let It Go: The Ancient Art of Meditation

Finding Peace Through Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindful, compassionate, serene, happy: emotions that have been in short supply during the pandemic but can be beautifully restored to those who embrace the chance to learn the time- honored practice and art of meditation. For many, it is as easy as downloading the Headspace app on their smartphone, receiving a seamless introduction to a technique the company describes as “rooted both in ancient history and modern science.”

There’s an App For That

Meditation has been practiced for over 3,000 years, and its benefits, improving well-being, helping eliminate insomnia, enhancing focus, decreasing stress, and reducing blood pressure, among many others, have been studied for decades.

But the real democratization of meditation may have been ushered in by the proliferation of apps like Calm, Buddhify, Insight Timer and Simple Habit. Since its 2010 debut, global leader Headspace has been downloaded more than 65 million times, a number that has steadily risen during the coronavirus crisis.

Dr. Megan Jones Bell, the company’s chief science officer, reports a tenfold increase in those starting the “stressed” meditation and a twelvefold increase in “reframing anxiety at home” users from mid-March to mid-May of 2020.

Getting Started

First, choose a time to meditate, and consistently make it part of your daily routine. Find an uncluttered, quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Make yourself comfortable in a chair or on the floor with a pillow behind you, close your eyes and allow yourself to let go. It’s natural to wonder, “Am I doing this right?” The experts at Headspace offer some gentle guidance:

  • If your body is fidgeting or your mind keeps constantly chatting, you may want to walk away from the feeling. Instead of giving up, just write off the first few minutes and give your mind time to slow down. It’s not time wasted, but time spent training the mind.
  • Dozing off occasionally during the first few weeks of meditation is normal. If it keeps happening, try a different time of day, sit up a little straighter or splash a little cold water on your face before you meditate.
  • You may feel all sorts of unpleasant emotions, such as impatience, irritation and rage. Don’t suppress them, but give them the space to arise, unravel and ultimately fall away. Do the same if you’re fixated on a particular worrisome thought, or if you’re experiencing sadness. Acknowledge the feeling, even shed a few tears, and keep meditating.
  • If you find yourself planning incessantly in a way that is unproductive and unhealthy, let those thoughts go and come back to your focus – a breath, an image, a way that is unproductive and unhealthy, let those thoughts go and come back to your focus – a breath, an image, a sound.
  • Find the sweet spot between pushing yourself too hard and not applying enough focus. You may have a certain idea of what meditation should be, but it’s important to get out of your own way and give the experience room to breathe.

More Than One Way to Meditate

More than a dozen different types of meditation are taught, including:

  • Guided: Form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.
  • Mantra: Silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness: An increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment; observe thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgement.
  • Calming: Cultivate a quieter, more peaceful state of mind and improved concentration.
  • Insight: Set an intention to develop qualities such as wisdom and compassion.
  • Body scan: Sync body and mind by performing a mental scan and paying attention to any discomfort or tensions.
  • Visualization: Focus on a mental image.
  • Loving kindness: Direct positive energy and goodwill to yourself and then to others.
  • Resting awareness: Let thoughts simply drift away.
  • Zen: Focus on following the breath to foster a sense of presence.
  • Chakra: Bring the body’s core centers of energy into balance.

The post Let It Go: The Ancient Art of Meditation appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

How Red Meat Went from Taboo to Acceptable and Back Again

What’s the Beef With Red Meat?

It’s long been the case that provocative headlines, unexpected findings and misinformation travel far faster than conventional wisdom, especially in the internet age. Even respected medical journals like the Annals of Internal Medicine can become caught in a crossfire of disagreement, as occurred last year when a controversial nutritional study by the NutriRECS Consortium concluded that three servings of red and/or processed meat weekly resulted in a very small increased risk of cancer or heart disease.

NutriRECS further suggested that the evidence surrounding potential harm from regular consumption of red meat was weak, and therefore people needn’t abstain from eating it for health reasons.

So misleading was the journal’s press release headline, “New guidelines: No need to reduce red or processed meat consumption for good health”, that the entire study was offered as a cautionary tale at the most recent Menus of Change conference, an influential initiative on plant-forward eating from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America.

A panel headed by Walter Willett, MD, professor and past chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, dissected why a message that flew in the face of decades of research and established guidelines from the American Heart Association and the World Cancer Research Fund, made its way into the mainstream.

According to Dr. Willett, the major flaw was the authors’ decision to disregard numerous studies done over the years regarding red meat and health as “weak evidence” because they weren’t based solely on randomized clinical trials. While these are the gold standard of scientific research, the reality for nutrition studies can be different.

“There are no double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials of red meat and its links to cardiovascular disease or cancer,” explained Dr. Willett. “It’s not really possible to get this kind of study because people won’t stay on specific diets for years to track and compare.”

The result was elimination of influential studies and meta-analyses clearly pointing to increased risk of disease for meat eaters. This included a pivotal 2015 Harvard School of Public Health study of more than 121,000 individuals followed for an average of 26 years that showed every daily serving of processed meat was associated with a 13% higher risk of death from all causes; processed red meat increased the risk to 20%. A 2019 meta-analysis in the Annals itself showed that reducing processed red meat by three servings per week decreased the incidence of diabetes by 22%; lowered mortality from cardiovascular disease by 10% and from cancer by 7%; and decreased overall mortality by 7%.

“These statistics alone could have been the basis for a blockbuster drug,” asserted Dr. Willett.

Additionally, as came to light after the study was published, the authors’ ties to food industry groups were not accurately disclosed. In January, the journal issued a correction detailing those connections, but the panel’s experts were concerned that the damage had been done, and the study’s misleading headlines had negatively affected public acceptance of traditional nutritional guidance.

“The global consensus remains unchanged: largely replacing red meat with plant protein sources and (optionally) modest amounts of fish, poultry and dairy foods will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes and premature death,” said Dr. Willett.

Beyond the Burger: What’s Next in Plant-Based Alternatives

Also featured at Menus of Change was a look at the growing American appetite for alternative proteins. The trend, kick-started by the popularity of plant-based burgers, intensified during the pandemic as consumers sought what they perceived as healthier foods produced in safer, sterile environments. Note: plant-based items are not always nutritionally sound, so please check the labels carefully when these products become available.

Coming soon:

  • Plant-based ground meat, sausages, deli slices, chicken tenders, even cookie dough
  • Plant based seafood, including tuna, crab cakes, fish burgers, eel and shrimp
  • Egg substitutes and oat-based dairy products
  • Lamb substitutes using organic compounds to replicate the earthy taste
  • Cell-based seafood and cultured meats grown from the cells of fish and animals

“Plant proteins are becoming the growth story of the decade, on the cusp of replacing fish and seafood as the fourth-most-popular protein in America.”

— Zak Weston, The Good Food Institute

The post How Red Meat Went from Taboo to Acceptable and Back Again appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Coronavirus Vaccine: Expert Says, ‘We Need Time to Get This Right’

COVID-19 vaccine

Expert Calls for Slow & Steady Approach in Vaccine Development

While the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine may seem as if it’s being run in slow motion, with most experts predicting a 2021 launch at earliest, by historical standards it’s unfolding with incredible swiftness. Looking back at timelines for other vaccines, it becomes evident that there are numerous reasons for a slow and steady approach, according to Michael Kinch, director of Washington University’s Centers for Research Innovation in Biotechnology and Drug Discovery. Kinch, who authored the authoritative book, Between Hope and Fear: A History of Vaccines and Human Immunity, cautions that vaccine development is a long, complex process requiring gathering of laboratory and real-world evidence and extensive evaluation.

“Testing for safety and efficacy requires considerable time, even with improved technology. We need to get this absolutely right, because if we panic and rush, there may be a price to be paid in terms of toxicity,” explains Kinch. “For example, in 1976, fear of a swine flu epidemic led to rapid development of a vaccine which caused Guillain-Barre syndrome [a paralyzing neurological disorder] in a small percentage of patients. That doesn’t normally happen if you take the time to check at each step.”

Lessons Learned from Past Vaccine Development

A salient lesson can be learned by going further back to the polio vaccine of the 1950s, according to Kinch. Long heralded as one of the 20th century’s landmark immunizations, it nevertheless encountered a problem when initially released. In a situation eerily similar to today’s coronavirus pandemic, the poliovirus’s paralyzing and often deadly effects were terrifying the nation, and the threat of prolonged quarantines as the only real mode of prevention had people desperate for a solution. In 1952, Dr. Jonas Salk began his clinical investigation of a polio vaccine, and the development and distribution schedule was significantly expedited to allow for release in 1955. Unfortunately, in the rush to launch, improper manufacturing of some of the early batches led to unnecessary outcomes.

The logistical challenges of rolling out a coronavirus vaccine will be significant, predicts Kinch.

“We need to manufacture enough of the vaccine to immunize 350 million Americans, but this will also require 350 million vials, syringes, stoppers and any other parts yet to be determined,” says Kinch. “This is fundamental to success, but we’re not fully looking it in the eye. And extending it to a world population of 7.5 billion makes it even more essential to address now.”

The stakes are enormous, as Kinch believes a successful coronavirus vaccine may have the power to change medicine for a generation.

“We’re going to rethink our approach just as we did with other epidemics which defined the 20th century from a scientific standpoint. Smallpox led to awareness of the importance of sanitation, and the vaccine which was developed eliminated the disease worldwide. Spanish flu gave us the structure of DNA and the foundations of biotechnology, and HIV-AIDS led us to focus on evidence-based science and government-sponsored clinical trials,” he says.

What can be learned through development of a safe, effective and scalable vaccine for the novel coronavirus may well parallel these important breakthroughs. As Kinch recently wrote: “Vaccines come with serious medical, social and political implications. If we anticipate and address them accordingly, the coming months and perhaps years could be among the finest hours for the United States and its people.”

Coronavirus Vaccine

Coronavirus Vaccine

The post Coronavirus Vaccine: Expert Says, ‘We Need Time to Get This Right’ appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Superfoods and Your Immune System

Food for Thought: Nourishing the Immune System

As football coaches and nutritionists know, the best offense is a good defense. In the fight against COVID-19, the promise of boosting the immune system with specific ‘superfoods’ is an enticing one. However, registered dietitian Linda Gigliotti, who is a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has been in practice for more than three decades, cautions that the concept is somewhat misleading. Here is what you should consider regarding superfoods and your immune system.

Balance Leads to Immune System Harmony

She explains, “We may wish there were specific foods that could make us less susceptible to illness by building up our immune system, but it doesn’t work that way. The immune system is not a single entity, and requires harmony and balance between its different components to function well.”

According to experts, although the body continually generates immune cells, with extra ones dying off in a process called apoptosis, scientists don’t yet know how many cells are needed for optimal functioning of the immune system or what the best mix of cells may be. A better approach, according to Gigliotti, is using a mix of foods that are the building blocks of a nutritionally balanced diet (e.g., the Mediterranean diet) to support or protect the immune system, not boost it.

Foods to Support & Protect the Immune System

“There’s no one ‘superfood’ or category that should be singled out to the exclusion of others,” says Gigliotti. “The typical American diet can certainly benefit from more of an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, but eat the whole rainbow of colors – red peppers, yellow corn, orange carrots, green broccoli, brown mushrooms. Chickpeas, often touted as a superfood, are excellent, but so are other legumes, such as kidney and pinto beans. Be sure to include a variety of probiotic-rich and fiber-packed foods to promote healthy gut bacteria, which also enhances your ability to maintain health and resist disease.”

Immune System of Older Adults

For older adults the picture may be a little hazier, due to “micronutrient malnutrition,” a deficiency in essential vitamins and trace minerals obtained from the diet, which is frequently seen in seniors even in affluent countries. According to Harvard Health, some lab studies have linked deficiencies in zinc; selenium; iron; folic acid; and vitamins A, B, C and D to an altered immune response in animals.

Can Vitamin Megadoses boost your Immune System?

However, it’s important to know that megadoses of vitamins and minerals are not recommended as a preventive measure for anyone. For example, studies over the years show that vitamin C supplements do not appear to lessen the possibility of getting a cold, although they may help recover from one faster and lessen the symptoms. Taking extra-large doses is not advised, because vitamin C is water soluble and excess amounts aren’t stored in the body, but excreted. The optimal way to naturally absorb vitamin C and other vitamins is by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned that you may not be getting sufficient micronutrients in your diet, you may want to consider a multi-vitamin.

Flu Season and your Immune System

How can you best support your immune system as the new flu season waits in the wings? Focus on healthy lifestyle habits, advises Gigliotti, including a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, high-protein foods and whole grains; adequate sleep; regular exercise; no smoking or vaping; and managing anxiety.

And … keep washing your hands!

The post Superfoods and Your Immune System appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Navigating Uncertain Times with Hope and Optimism

How to Adjust, Adapt and Embrace the New Normal

As we emerge cautiously from the safety of home into a world that seems comfortingly familiar yet irrefutably altered, a swirl of conflicting emotions is certain to be triggered. Relief and thankfulness may mingle uneasily with fear, anxiety and uncertainty, making it difficult to cope at times. Concierge psychologist Dr. Rebecca Johnson Osei, MA, PsyD, ABPP, shares her thoughtful perspective on navigating uncertain times with hope and optimism.

Q: What are some of the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 crisis on our mental health?

Dr. Johnson Osei: We’re seeing increases in anxiety and depression. Loneliness has also been a concern, due to social distancing, especially for older populations who may be more isolated from family and friends. Some are feeling grief, particularly those who weren’t able to say goodbye to a loved one, and survivor’s guilt, a common reaction to traumatic events. And most of us keenly miss the sense of control over our daily lives.

Q: How can we best manage these feelings?

Dr. Johnson Osei: Most importantly, allow yourself to experience all these emotions without guilt or judgment. They’re simply part of being human. While much of what we’re feeling may be remedied with time, be mindful and address your feelings now so they don’t become long-term issues. Also realize that you can regain control of your narrative by “reframing” your decisions. For example, instead of feeling forced to stay inside, frame it as a decision you made to protect your family. It changes your mindset when you realize that, ultimately, your behavior is your choice.

Q: Are there positive behaviors you’re seeing as a result of people learning to cope with unprecedented circumstances?

Dr. Johnson Osei: A number of really significant ones. People are gaining a renewed appreciation for the people and things they love. One-on-one time and simple human touch are valued so much more now. I imagine when friends and families reunite, there will be some really great long hugs! Being more aware of our mortality is also helping people cherish life, realizing it truly is a gift that can disappear in a second.

Being solitary and alone with our thoughts is a struggle for some, but it’s emotionally healthy to be able to entertain yourself and meet your own needs. For most Americans, coping with the discomfort of not being able to do what they want, when they want to do it, is a tough lesson, but it’s a good one to learn.

The need to connect has driven a much greater acceptance of technology than existed just a few months ago. There’s a growing willingness to think outside the box for new, ingenious ways to stay connected, and I believe this will carry on in our society well beyond the current crisis.

Q: What lessons learned from previous world crises can help guide us?

Dr. Johnson Osei: Think about how 9/11 fundamentally changed the way we travel. At first, it seemed untenable – the security lines were long and slow-moving, no one had the right size toiletries. It all feels completely normal now, and we know how to navigate the lines, pack our toiletries correctly, and wear shoes that slip on and off easily. Humans are incredibly resilient, and it’s why we’ve survived as a species. We don’t know what the new normal will look like, nor can we predict if this will go on for months or maybe years. But we do know we will adapt, and it will get easier.

Q: Any recommended strategies as we move to the next phase?

Dr. Johnson Osei: Go at the pace that’s right for you as an individual, even if it may not align with your city or state’s approach. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Be an outlier if wearing a mask or working from home makes you feel more comfortable.

Finally, it’s so important to remember: Life may be different, but this is not the end of the world we knew – it’s literally a new beginning.

The post Navigating Uncertain Times with Hope and Optimism appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Colonoscopies Without Fear

Colonoscopies Without Fear

Recognize Colorectal Cancer Awareness by learning more about this lifesaving screening.

As one of the country’s most preventable illnesses, with a readily available test that is both diagnostic and therapeutic, why does colorectal cancer (CRC) stubbornly remain the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US? The key to reducing deaths is in the colonoscopy, a direct visualization test of the entire colon that enables a physician who specializes in gastroenterology to screen for abnormal growths (polyps) and remove them before they turn cancerous. However, for many people, the rigorous prep required to thoroughly clean out the colon the night before the test has overshadowed the colonoscopy’s lifesaving impact, resulting in a third of adults 50 or older – the group most at risk of developing colorectal cancer – who have not been screened. But its reputation deserves a major turnaround, because in 2020 the colonoscopy experience is highly manageable, with more palatable prep options, a pain-free procedure and swift reporting of results … so there’s no need to dread your first colonoscopy or anxiously avoid a 10-year follow-up.

Previous prep involved drinking up to 128 ounces of salty-tasting fluid over a short time, but several new colon cleansing preparations are now available that require less fluid, according to Mayo Clinic. Products such as Prepopik, Suprep and Plenvu can be mixed with a liquid of choice, and some patients might be offered a nonprescription prep of polyethylene glycol (such as MiraLAX) followed by an electrolyte-containing drink (such as Gatorade) – but note that these lower-volume prep solutions may not be appropriate for people with heart, kidney or liver disease. If higher-volume fluid solutions are needed, a split dose makes it easier and more tolerable, with half of the laxative taken in one sitting and the other half on the morning of the procedure. Even newer possibilities are on the horizon: Keep an eye out for an edible colonoscopy prep kit that incorporates active laxative ingredients into better-tasting food bars and drinks, with final phase of trials scheduled in mid-2020.

Whatever type of solution you choose, adjust your diet a few days before your colonoscopy to include smaller portions and low-fiber foods to ensure a smoother prep. On the day before your procedure, when you’ll be on a liquid diet, treat yourself to good-tasting items like organic low-sodium broth, white grape juice, flavored sparkling waters and full-bodied coffee (without creamer). Make the prep solution more palatable by refrigerating and drinking it chilled; suck on a lemon wedge or chew a piece of gum between glasses to help mask the flavor. When the solution starts to work emptying your bowels, be prepared for your time in the bathroom with wet wipes or double ply toilet paper, a fully charged phone, and some light reading.

During the 30- to 60-minute procedure, most people will be given a mild sedative drug or an anesthetic to put them in a “twilight” sleep, while a few will require general anesthesia. A thin, flexible, lighted tube is inserted into the colon, and air, CO2, sterilized water or saline is gently pumped in to inflate the colon and allow the entire lining to be viewed. Polyps are removed if present, and biopsies are taken of any abnormal areas. After the test, you’ll recover from the sedative for about an hour before you go home and consider this mission accomplished.

Still feeling uneasy about a colonoscopy? Noninvasive, stool-based screening tests may offer an alternative if you’re considered at average risk – that is, no family or personal history of CRC, no previous polyps, no long-standing inflammatory bowel disease or the presence of certain genetic syndromes. The most well-known is FDA-approved Cologuard, which detects DNA markers for cancer and uses fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) to find blood in the stool, with less reliable results: 92% accuracy for cancer and only 69% for advanced colon polyps, plus a 13% rate of false positives. Other options include a “virtual colonoscopy” that uses CT imaging for a detailed view of the inside of the colon and rectum or a flexible sigmoidoscopy to view the lower part of the colon, which requires the colon prep described above. However, a positive result on any of these tests will result in the need for a colonoscopy, which remains the gold standard for colon cancer testing as the most accurate way to find and remove polyps and determine the right follow-up intervals.

Under 50: Are Screenings Necessary?

For people with a family history of genetic conditions that put them at increased risk, screenings may be recommended at a younger age. Additionally, in 2018, a controversial decision was made by the American Cancer Society to lower its threshold to age 45, in response to a steady rise in the cancer’s prevalence each year since the mid-1990s among ages 20 to 54. A new 2020 study appeared to provide more evidence, showing a 46% spike in colorectal cancer incidence between ages 49 and 50 – attributed to cancer that had gone undetected in younger patients until routine screening at age 50.
Research is in progress to resolve the conflicting guidelines, but current best practices* keep 50 as the age to begin colorectal cancer screening for average-risk adults; with FIT or guaiac-based fecal occult blood testing every two years or a colonoscopy every 10 years; and no testing after age 75.

*American College of Physicians

Did You Know?
More than 15 million colonoscopies are performed in the United States annually.

Recommendations:
We recommend all adults over the age of 40, with anemia, should have a gastroenterology evaluation including colonoscopy. Please call our office for more information.

The post Colonoscopies Without Fear appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Kombucha, Kimchi and More: Nutrition Spotlight

Nutrition Spotlight: Kombucha, Kimchi and More

Researchers continue to examine the trillions of bacterial species residing in our gut microbiome to better understand their potential to help maintain health and prevent disease. Some of the most studied are probiotics, microorganisms found in yogurt and other fermented items. Probiotic foods are much in demand as a tasty, trendy way to improve “good” bacteria and enhance digestive health…but can they?

The landscape is a confusing one, spawning a multimillion-dollar industry of probiotic-rich foods and supplements and a growing fascination with fermentation. But keep these facts in mind: No health claims for probiotics have yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and, overall, data is still emerging regarding the potential health benefits of fermented foods. We checked in with Robert Hutkins, Ph.D., professor of food science at the University of Nebraska, who literally wrote the book on the topic with the second edition of Microbiology and Technology of Fermented Foods.

Q: What sparked the newfound popularity of centuries-old fermented foods?

A: When I wrote the first edition of the textbook in the early 2000s, fermentation was considered an old science with not much new to be learned. But a perfect storm occurred in the last 10 years, with rising interest in nutrition and health; artisanal, organic and ethnic foods; and bold, unique flavors. All are found in fermented foods. In addition, advances in genome sciences provided researchers with tools to study relevant microbes and microbial communities in nearly every category.

Q: How are fermented foods made?

A: The traditional way is to rely on the microbes already present in that food, as in sauerkraut or kimchi. The other way is to use a starter culture, a concentrated collection of microbes designed to provide consistent flavor and quality, which is how yogurt, cheeses and yeast breads are made. Ultimately, the microbes feed on the starch and sugars in the food to produce lactic acid or ethanol, which have natural antimicrobial activities to protect from spoilage microbes. Nearly every civilization has at least one fermented food as part of its heritage, such as Japanese natto, Hawaiian poi and the Indian yogurt drink lassi.

Q: Why are fermented foods considered healthier?

A: Many fermented foods are rich in live microorganisms, and yogurt, kefir and other products often contain added probiotic microbes known to support a healthy microbiome. But despite a great deal of information that appears to point toward including fermented foods as part of a good diet, we need more clinical human studies to show specifically how they can improve health.

Q: Do all fermented foods contain probiotics?

A: Although overlap exists, fermented foods don’t always contain probiotics. Only specific live microbes that have been identified as having potential health benefits can be considered probiotics, and there are dozens in foods yet to be studied. Another important distinction is that while fermented foods are always made with microorganisms, when processed by baking, smoking or pasteurization, those live microbes are killed. For example, live cultures are present in sourdough bread, but they don’t survive the baking process; likewise for products that are processed, like canned sauerkraut. Also note there are foods that may seem fermented but are not, such as California olives and most pickles, which are simply put into a brine.

Q: I’d like to try adding some fermented foods to my diet. What would you recommend?

A: You’re likely already familiar with yogurt or plant milks that contain live strains of bacteria. Other fermented foods include kefir (a tangy dairy drink), kimchi (a spicy Korean dish of cabbage, radish and scallions), miso (a Japanese fermented soybean paste used in soups and sauces), kombucha (a sweet tea beverage fermented with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), and cheddar and most other hard cheeses. Many contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins as well as live microbes.

Note: If you are immune compromised, check with our office first about eating unpasteurized fermented foods, like raw milk cheese or dry fermented sausage.

The post Kombucha, Kimchi and More: Nutrition Spotlight appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Pet Therapy: The Healing Power of Dogs

Unleashed: The Healing Power of Dogs

“Who rescued whom?”
They’re already considered best friends, trusty companions and beloved members of the family. Now add to the dog’s list of accomplishments, heart healer, exercise coach, and mood enhancer, and the answer to the question above, often used by rescue organizations, becomes even more meaningful. There is new a body of research that goes beyond the anecdotal charms of dog ownership to provide some increased evidence of its health benefits.

The impact on patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) was initially noted by the American Heart Association in 2013 after an examination of studies reporting beneficial effects of dog ownership, including increased physical activity, favorable lipid profiles, lower systemic blood pressure and stress levels, and improved survival after a heart attack. The AHA’s measured conclusion then was that dog ownership “may be reasonable for reduction in CVD risk,” and further research was recommended.

Late in 2019, a meta-analysis of studies, including data from 3.8 million patients, further bolstered the concept that dog ownership can play a significant role in reducing CVD risk factors by alleviating social isolation, improving physical activity and lowering blood pressure. According to the study, compared to non-owners, dog owners experienced a 24% reduced risk in all-cause mortality, 31% reduction in mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues and 65% reduced risk of mortality after a heart attack.

The AHA noted that while the non-randomized studies can’t conclusively “prove” that owning a dog leads directly to reduced mortality among heart attack and stroke survivors, “the robust findings are certainly suggestive of this” and set the stage for additional exploration.
“The results were very positive,” affirmed researcher Caroline Kramer, MD. “The next step would be an interventional study to evaluate cardiovascular outcomes after adopting a dog and the social and psychological benefits of dog ownership.”

A dog owner herself, she added, “Adopting Romeo [her miniature Schnauzer] has increased my steps and physical activity each day, and filled my daily routine with joy and unconditional love.”

As compelling as the statistics are, researchers emphasize that dog adoption should never be done for the primary purpose of reducing CVD risk. The long-term commitment and lifestyle changes involved in dog ownership must be fully understood and accepted.

Consider these questions:
• Do I have time to care for and clean up after the dog?
• What type of environment does the dog need to thrive?
• How large will the dog get and how much exercise will it need?
• What is the dog’s life span, and can I commit to caring for it throughout its life?
• How much will veterinary care cost?

Animal-assisted therapy
The healing power of dogs extends well beyond the home as their value in helping decrease pain, stress and anxiety and aid recovery in people coping with a range of health problems is increasingly recognized. Therapy dogs provide comfort to nursing home residents, hospice patients, prisoners, children coping with trauma, and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. The field of animal-assisted therapy is growing rapidly, as seen in the success of Mayo Clinic’s Caring Canines program, now in its 10th year. More than a dozen registered therapy dogs make their daily “rounds” of hospital rooms and clinic waiting areas.

“If someone is struggling with something, dogs know how to sit there and be loving,” researcher Dr. Ann Berger explained in the National Institute of Health News. “Their attention is focused on the person all the time.”

The post Pet Therapy: The Healing Power of Dogs appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Impossible Burger & Beyond Meat: Meaty Topics

Meaty Topics: Impossible Burger & Beyond Meat

They’re 2019’s most sizzling success story, found everywhere from grocery freezer to fast food counter. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have brought the plant-based burger from fringe to mainstream with remarkable rapidity. So quickly, in fact, that despite their ubiquity, questions abound regarding the burgers’ benefits. What exactly are they made of? Are they flavorful? How do they compare nutritionally with a turkey patty or an all-beef quarter pounder? Are they meant for a healthy planet and a healthy body?

Both feature a lengthy list of ingredients that may seem far from natural, but Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers were formulated to recreate the meaty, juicy mouthfeel of a hamburger. As hundreds of taste tests and rave reviews have demonstrated, expectations were exceeded. Ironically, many vegans haven’t embraced these plant-based burgers precisely because their taste, smell and texture evokes a beefy authenticity they’ve long eschewed.

Impossible Burger is made primarily of soy protein concentrate, coconut and sunflower oil, binders, vitamins, minerals and the key ingredient – soy leghemoglobin, or “heme” – which makes the burger “bleed” and brown like meat. Beyond Burger, recently reconfigured to promise an even meatier flavor and chew, features an elaborate combination of plant proteins including pea and mung bean; fats for cooking sizzle, such as coconut oil and cocoa butter; minerals like calcium and iron; potato starch to bind; and beet juice extract for a beef-like red color.

The nutritionals paint a somewhat mixed picture. The good news is the burgers contain approximately 20 grams of protein (equivalent to ground beef); a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamin, zinc and iron; and no cholesterol. However, they may not be the best choice for people following a heart-healthy diet, as they are higher in saturated fat than turkey burgers and contain substantially more sodium than lean beef burgers. Consider creating your own vegetarian burger with beans, whole grains, herbs, seeds and nuts as a healthier option.

“These burgers offer good amounts of antioxidants and certain vitamins and minerals, but they aren’t quite the same as a whole-foods veggie burger made from beans,” explains Registered Dietitian Ginger Hultin, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “In order to mimic meat well, they use a blend of ingredients that includes saturated fat, similar to a beef burger, but from coconut oil.”

The verdict? “They’re interesting, delicious products that can fit into a balanced diet, and have benefits in the form of supporting the environment and saving the lives of animals,” she says.

 4 oz. portion Impossible burger Beyond burger 85% lean burger 90% lean burger Turkey burger
Total Fat 14g 18 g 15 g 10 g 10 g
Sat. Fat 8 g 6 g 6 g 4 g 3 g
Cholesterol 0 mg o mg 88 mg 65 mg 92 mg
Sodium 370 mg 390 mg 72 mg 66 mg 400 mg

That is, in fact, the real fuel driving these companies, both of which are on a mission to reduce meat consumption and ensure a sustainable global food supply by giving people what they enjoy most – big, juicy burgers.

The post Impossible Burger & Beyond Meat: Meaty Topics appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!