Wake Up, Philippines!

The Price of Fitness: Eating before exercise – good or bad?

Posted in fitness, Health, Tips, What/How/Why/Where/When by Erineus on March 6, 2009
By Anna Unson-Price
February 23, 2009

This question is pretty simple; however, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward.  The best answer is that it isn’t good or bad whether or not you eat before exercise.

To answer as correctly and thoroughly as possible, I did a lot of research instead of merely giving you my opinion on the subject.

The reason for eating before a workout is so that you’ll have energy when you’re going through your program or following an exercise class.  But it’s all about balance. There’s a pretty thin line between providing enough food to give you a needed boost and feeling overly full when you’re working out.

Once, a bunch of us had come from yoga pictorials and we were running late for my evening yoga class, which they all were attending. Everyone was starving because, of course, we had done the pictorials on empty stomachs so we’d be able to do difficult poses looking as fit as possible.

We still had about an hour so we ordered several vegetarian pizzas to go and ate them on the way to class. Unfortunately, they took a bit long to fill the orders so we were not only hungrier, we were also so late that we only had enough time to munch quickly and put our mats in place.

In a class of about 20 or so people that night, there were about six of us who were feeling really sick, especially during the bent-over stretches! I’m sure I am speaking for all of us when I say we learned our lesson.

Research shows that when you eat before exercise instead of exercising with an empty stomach, it improves your athletic performance.  We’re not talking about full meal here; this is just a snack, so generally, a snack taken before an activity will provide fuel for that activity – or practice, game, workout, run, etc. – depending on how long the session lasts.

When you exercise with an empty stomach, your body burns more fat than if you ate before you exercised, But – and this is an important consideration – your body also ends up burning lean mass or muscle.

Remember that your body will still burn fat even if you don’t exercise with an empty stomach; it just won’t burn as much. But to be able to burn fat as a fuel, your body needs carbohydrates.

Also, a snack before a workout will keep you from becoming very hungry after a workout, which happens often and ends up making you eat more than you intend to and definitely more than is good for you.

If you decide to go ahead and eat before exercise, these are the best ways to do it for maximum benefit:

• Choose a light 200- to 300-calorie meal containing some carbohydrates and protein.
• Allow at least one half to an hour to pass before you begin your workout.
• Dehydrated muscles perform poorly so drink water not just before, during, and after a workout, but throughout the day.
• Don’t go longer than four hours without eating. Make sure that in between meals, instead of suddenly feeling hungry and grabbing the nearest unhealthy snack, you have planned nutritious snacks.

Some possibilities (these can also be breakfast if you exercise early in the morning):
• egg whites
• cottage cheese
• nonfat or low-fat yogurt
• protein shake
• fruits (bananas, oranges, apples, grapes)
• unsalted and/or whole-grain crackers
• a slice of whole-wheat or multi-grain bread
• soups that are low in fat and salt (pureed soups, minestrone, miso, etc.)

Avoid high-fat proteins:

• peanut butter
• red meat
• cheese

These take longer to digest and sometimes make you feel even more tired. Look for food that is quickly digested and absorbed.  Experiment with various options.
And if you have an important event or scheduled workout activity with a friend, this may not be the best time to try a new food, just to be safe.

Sources: Go Ask Alice! Columbia University Health Services; Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 1997; American Dietetic Association.
Note: I heard from some friends and readers that my mail bounces.  If it does, please email me at anna.price2008@gmail.com.


All your sex questions answered medically (Part II)

Posted in Sex, What/How/Why/Where/When by Erineus on March 4, 2009

MIND YOUR BODY By Willie T. Ong, MD Updated March 03, 2009 12:00 AM

Sexually-transmitted diseases

Q. My lady friends say that you can tell if your husband is fooling around by the color of the semen. Is this true?

A. The normal semen is transparent or whitish in color. It is gel-like in consistency when released and it should liquefy in about 30 minutes, so it can swim up the vagina and into the fallopian tube for possible fertilization.

According to surgeon Dr. Anthony Ang, semen which is yellowish and foul-smelling indicates gonorrhea infection, a common sexually transmitted disease. Usual treatment is the superdrug Ceftriaxone given intramuscularly plus a few days of doxycycline tablets. See your doctor ASAP!

Q. I have smelly yellowish vaginal discharge. Is this bad?

A. The normal vaginal discharge is whitish and not foul- smelling. If it is yellowish and foul-smelling, it could be a yeast infection (not sexually transmitted). If you are sexually active and have multiple partners, it could be trichomonas, which is a sexually transmitted disease. It is best to see your gynecologist and have a checkup.

Q. What is HPV?

A. Human papillomavirus or HPV is a virus that causes genital warts. Some strains of the virus can increase your risk for cervical cancer, if your cervix becomes infected.

Unusual Sex Questions

Q. Is there a problem with anal sex or gay sex?

A. Yes, according to urologist Dr. Eduardo Gatchalian. Anal sex is not advisable because the anus, including the rectum inside, is a “dirty” organ meant for the body’s waste. It’s like putting feces on the male organ. Studies show that those who engage in anal sex are prone to serious infections like HIV-AIDS, genital warts, anal warts, and HPV virus. These diseases are very easily transmitted because of the breaks in the skin of the anus. The anus is tight and wasn’t meant for sex. However, if you can’t avoid anal sex, use a condom for protection.

Q. Is oral sex bad?

A. Oral sex is not bad as long as you and your regular partner are healthy. But don’t alternate oral sex and vaginal sex because this can transfer bacteria, especially sexually transmitted diseases, from the vagina to the mouth.

Q. Are there sexual positions that should be avoided?

A. Yes, contortionist and acrobatic positions are best left for real contortionists and acrobats. Normal people, like you and me, especially those with aching backs, should stick to the usual less strenuous positions. Go to a gym, work out, and perform better in bed.

Q. What is the G-spot?

A. The G-spot is the area where the back of the clitoris touches the top wall of the vagina. This area is very sensitive and crucial for a woman’s sexual arousal and orgasm. Sometimes, rubbing the G-spot can stimulate female ejaculation, which releases a clear fluid from the urethra. By the way, the G stands for Grafenberg, the last name of the German doctor who first described this area.

Sex, Pregnancy & Contraception

Q. When is it safe for women to have sex and not get pregnant?

A. Our good friend, OB-gynecologist Dr. Angela Du, says that women with regular menses are safe for seven days before menstruation and seven days after the first day of menstruation. So, for a lady with a 28-day cycle, this is from Day 1 to Day 7 (including the menstrual period) and Day 21 to 28.

The female egg cell can live for 24 hours only, while the sperm cell lives for 72 hours (3 days). The mathematical computation of safe days is based on the long life of the sperm. What about the other days? In those times, you would need artificial contraception (like a condom) or practice self control.

Q. Is it safe to have sex during menstruation?

A. Yes, our experts agree that it’s safe for both the guy and the girl, but it’s messy. Did you know that some men prefer to have sex during the menstrual period because they are confident their partner will not get pregnant?

Q. Is it safe to smoke when taking birth control pills?

A. Smoking (as you probably know) increases your risk for all kinds of illnesses, including heart attacks and strokes. Smoking as few as four cigarettes a day makes you seven times more likely to develop heart disease. Birth control pills that contain estrogen can also increase your risk for blood clots. Doctors usually advise smokers not to take these pills.

Talk to your obstetrician about taking birth control pills that contain only progestin (and not estrogen). Better yet, talk to your doctor about how you can quit smoking.

Female Sex Concerns

Q. I am 45 years old and have just undergone a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) because of stage I uterus cancer. How can I increase my husband’s sexual pleasure?

A. According to Dr. Angela Du, there is a misconception that women who have undergone a hysterectomy cannot have pleasurable sex. This is simply not true. The woman’s vagina is still intact and the nerve endings are still connected in the vagina. You don’t need the uterus for sex.

The problem really is more psychological because the woman might feel less of a woman. After hysterectomy, there could be some dryness in the vagina, which can be treated by using lubricants like KY jelly.

Q. I am 31 years old. After my regular periods, I notice some white discharge. Should I take it seriously?

A. Normal vaginal discharge is clear or milky white with no unpleasant odor. Signs of possible infection include an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge, an abnormal odor or consistency of the fluid, the presence of pain, itching or burning sensation in the vagina.

Candidiasis or vaginal yeast infection causes a thick, white, cottage cheese-like, non-odorous discharge, and may also be associated with itching. Other causes of vaginal discharge, like sexually-transmitted diseases, should be ruled out. See your OB-gynecologist.

The Importance Of Circumcision

Q. Is it better to be circumcised or not? What are the medical benefits of circumcision?

A. There is some controversy on this topic. Dr. Rey Joson, a surgeon from the Philippine College of Surgeons, has long been an advocate of avoiding routine circumcision. Dr. Joson states that routine circumcision can cause undue pain and stress for the males.

However, Dr. Eduardo Gatchalian prefers that males undergo circumcision for reasons of cleanliness and reduction in cancer risk. Dr. Gatchalian cites that it has been proven scientifically that circumcised males have less risk for HIV-AIDS and other diseases.

Given a choice, I believe it is more advantageous to be circumcised. Aside from reducing cancer risk, circumcision avoids the problem of smegma production. Smegma is a foul-smelling discharge from the foreskin of the penis. Also, the foreskin of the penis has to be retracted during the sex act and is frequently injured during sex. But the choice is really up to you.

Q. When is the best time to get circumcised?

A. The best time for boys to get circumcised is around 10 to 11 years old, before the onset of puberty. The problem with circumcising infants with very small penises is that you may accidentally injure the head of the penis. And psychologically, boys are ready and willing to accept the pain.

Infertility Questions

Q. I have been married for five years already and yet we still have no children. My sperm count is low and my sperms are slow in moving. Are there vitamins for the sperm?

A. Actually, yes. Some doctors give testosterone injections to increase the sperm count. Vitamin E at 200 to 400 IU and zinc supplements are necessary for normal male sexual function. It’s not a guarantee, but it may help.

* * *

For your sex concerns, see a urologist or gynecologist. E-mail comments to drwillieong@gmail.com.
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Top health stories of 2008

Posted in Health, What/How/Why/Where/When by Erineus on March 3, 2009

AN APPLE A DAY By TYRONE M. REYES, M.D. Updated March 03, 2009 12:00 AM

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Last year’s top health stories are a reminder that so much of health and medicine seems to reside stubbornly in the details. For example, blood sugar control as a general proposition in diabetes isn’t a bit problematic. But sorting out just how low it should go, in which patients, and by what means — that’s difficult. Clinical trial results in 2008 steered patients and doctors away from an all-out approach that emphasizes super low levels toward a well-rounded one that takes into account cardiovascular risk factors. Similarly, we know that controlling high blood pressure is important, but clinical trial results in 2008 laid to rest some old theories by showing that this is also true for people ages 80 and older. I’m just as enthusiastic as anyone about advances in stem cell research and genomics. But it gives you a sense of the complexities and the long road ahead if basics such as blood sugar and blood pressure control are still being worked out.

Blood Sugar: How Low Should It Go?

People with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to keep their blood sugar levels low, and the usual goal is a glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) level of seven percent or lower (the percentage of “sugary” hemoglobin is a good way to assess blood sugar levels over time, rather than depending on the snapshots of single blood sugar measurements). But is seven percent ambitious enough? Results from three clinical trials last year showed that the single-minded pursuit of low blood sugar levels is probably not the best approach to type 2 diabetes, particularly in people ages 60 and older.

The ACCORD trial got the most attention because it was stopped early after an interim analysis found that more people in the intensive treatment group (an HbA1C goal of below six percent) had died than those with more conventional blood sugar goals (between 7 and 7.9 percent).

The blood sugar goal was more relaxed (6.5 percent) in another trial, and the intensive treatment group did have fewer deaths and heart attacks than the conventional treatment group, but the difference wasn’t statistically significant. A third trial, a Danish study called Steno-2, tested a more holistic approach: the 6.5 percent goal along with targets for lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. It worked to slice heart attacks and other cardiovascular “events” in half.

But it’s important to stress that people with diabetes should continue strict blood sugar control. Data show that it lowers the risk of kidney disorders, eye diseases, and other problems related to damage of small blood vessel (microvascular disease).In fact, a British report last year suggested that tight control may bring about changes at the cellular level that create a “legacy effect”: protection from vascular problems that extend years to decades, after blood sugar was tamped down.

But last year’s bumper crop of diabetes research has shown that it’s unwise to be overzealous about blood sugar lowering — moderation in all things! — and certainly not without also attending to risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol.

80 Ain’t Old

Doctors used to be taught that high blood pressure was a blessing in old age because the extra oomph pushed blood through narrow, atherosclerotic arteries. But the age limit for controlling high blood pressure — usually with medications — has crept up as research results have shown that it prevents strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure in the old and young alike.

Last year, results from the Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial (HYVET) topped off that trend by showing that even in an age group once viewed as being extremely old — those 80 and older — reining in high blood pressure pays off. After two years, the treated group in the study had lower rates of heart failure, strokes, and overall mortality. The HYVET study subjects were noted to be healthier than the usual average group of 80-plusers. HYVET is one more evidence that the age for effective medical intervention — be it pills, surgery, or devices — is getting older and older.

iPS: What These Stem Cells Might Do For You

Last year, several research groups discovered ways to genetically tinker with adult cells so they look and behave like stem cells from embryos. These reprogrammed cells — called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) cells — have given researchers another source of stem cells besides embryos. One catch: The retroviruses and two of the genes used to create iPS cells could turn them cancerous. For that reason and others, scientists don’t want to abandon embryonic stem cell research, but iPS cells do eliminate many of the ethical issues dogging stem cell research because embryos aren’t involved. They could also make immunological rejection a moot point because with iPS cell therapy, the patient’s own cells would be used.

Important iPS findings popped up left and right last year. Skin cells from two older patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) were transformed into iPS cells and then coaxed into becoming neurons and other cells that might be used to treat the disease. Insulin-producing pancreatic cells were made from iPS cells that came from human skin. Harvard researchers created several lines of iPS cells from patients with genetically based diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. And as 2008 was ending, two research teams reported that they had created iPS cells without retroviruses or the two cancer-causing genes, another step forward toward the day when stem cell therapy will leave the lab and enter the clinic.

Seeing Right Through You And Its Dangers

A half-dozen imaging technologies allow doctors to see what’s going on inside the body. The workhorse, though, is computed tomography (CT), which uses a computer to assemble multiple cross-sectional x-rays into remarkably detailed pictures. The basic technology is nothing new — it’s been around for more than 30 years — but a new generation of machines, called multidetector CT scanners, is making the pictures even faster and incredibly sharp.

Speedy CT scanners are proving to be especially valuable in hospital emergency departments, where time is of the essence. It’s now routine at many modern hospitals for patients with chest pain to get a CT scan of their coronary arteries to see if they are diseased. Depending on the result, hospitalizations may be avoided. CT scans are also a mainstay of emergency departments; by some estimates, doctors now order more than a hundred thousand CT scans in the Philippines last year, double the number ordered a decade ago.

But are we going to pay a price for all these pictures? The radiation from CT scans is much higher than from traditional imaging tests. Starting in 2007, researchers at Columbia University in New York have published several provocative papers about the cancers that these CT scans may cause. According to their projections, the current exposure to CT scans might be responsible for between 1.5 percent and two percent of all cancers a few decades from now (it takes years for the cancers to develop).

There are, however, several technical adjustments to the CT scans that can lower the per-scan dose quite a bit. Still, scans are often repeated for no good reason; doctors need to eliminate those unnecessary do-overs. And using other imaging tests when possible could reduce radiation exposure.

Gene Tests: Progress And Pandora’s Box

Genetic tests might take some of the guesswork out of medicine. Someday, the results may be used to predict the diseases you are most at risk for, so you could adopt the most effective prevention behaviors. Other tests will be used to guide treatment. Genetic tests are already used in the prescription of some expensive cancer drugs, such as trastuzumab (Herceptin) for breast cancer.

Last year, personalized medicine (or pharmacogenomics, as it is sometimes called if drug choices are involved) inched closer to becoming part of everyday medicine. Doctors have started to order gene tests to assess how sensitive people are to warfarin (Coumadin), the anti-blood clotting drug — although doubts linger about how useful such tests will be. Researchers reported that heart-failure patients with a certain genetic profile responded well to a specific beta blocker. And results from a substudy of a large blood pressure trial traced differences in the response to diuretic drugs back to a particular gene.

Meanwhile, many direct-to-the-consumer genetic tests have hit the market. Other companies are also now selling genome scans. These commercial tests have raised concern in the medical and scientific communities. Will they be done correctly? And if they are, at this stage, their predictive powers may be oversold, unduly scaring some while giving false assurances to others. Moreover, for many people, something as simple as a waist size may be just as informative as a genome scan, and the take-home message would be the same: Lose weight, exercise, and eat more fruits and vegetables!

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Easy breezy cocktail party!

Posted in Food/Drinks, Party, What/How/Why/Where/When by Erineus on February 25, 2009

One of the best kinds of parties to go to is the cocktail party. It’s not as stuffy as black-tie or as structured as sit-down dinner parties. Cocktail parties are equal to fun and flirty cocktail dresses and it promotes more mingling, moving around and you actually get to enjoy it. It’s also the easiest to host because you don’t have to come up with a seating arrangement and consider your guests’ dietary requirements. To make sure that you’ve got all food groups covered, here’s a list of dishes you can serve at your party (and oh, don’t forget the overflowing wines, spirits and at least, a one-of-a-kind cocktail specially created for that event):

1. Canapés—Pick those that are spicy or salty or both to promote more drinking. The only rules in canapés are they’re supposed to be bite-sized and pretty to look at. There are many savory meats that you can use to top your bread base. Get creative—a chicken adobo canapé, perhaps?

2. Cold cuts—This needs no preparation. Just go to the deli and get meats, sausages and vegetarian alternatives. Cut them into small pieces and stick them on a toothpick—and voila!—they’re ready for the trays.

3. Crudités—Basically a garden fresh platter, what you need for a prefect crudités tray are sliced vegetables like celery, carrots, bell pepper, broccoli and others that can be eaten raw and a dipping sauce like vinaigrette or blue cheese. It’s up to your guests to choose which ones they like. You just have to lay out all the options.

4. Crackers—If you’re gonna cheat, any “junk” cracker will do. Potato chips, nachos and similar snacks are acceptable, as long as you’ve got a whopping serving of salsa and/or guacamole.

5. Trail mix—This is not for passing around. A trail mix should stay on the bar and the few cocktail tables around the venue. You can also get creative with this. Mix your choice of nuts, granolas, cereals, cookies and chocolates. And since it’s a mix, you have to mix them all up. Or if you think that’s off-putting, separate bowls will also do.

6. Cheeses—Any good cocktail party has a cheese platter. After all, the best way to enjoy wine is with cheese. Monterey Jack, Colby, Swiss, Gouda, Neufchatel, Beaufort—put it all there—even sneak in some cheddar and kesong puti for a personal touch.

7. Sausages—Again, your deli will provide you all the options. Frankfurters are a smash hit, but also try other less common sausages. Grill them, cut them up and serve on sticks.

8. Dumplings—The easiest way to go about this is to stick to wontons and raviolis. For your vegetarian guests, you can get mock meats that actually taste like real meat. They’re available in any decent-sized supermarkets.

9. Breads—Sandwiches cut into bite-sized servings are a safe bet. Have a variety of choices like ham-and-cheese, tuna, egg and many more. You can also have bruschettas or pizzettes with loads of mozzarella.

10. Desserts—Small servings of sweets are always needed to balance the different flavors of the finger foods. Crème brulée, pralines, éclairs and chocolate sticks are cocktail party favorites. Fudges and puddings served in shot glasses will provide the perfect ending to any delightful party.

By Ed Biado

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Meds in your closet

Posted in Home Living, Medicine, What/How/Why/Where/When by Erineus on February 24, 2009

By Ed Biado

What’s in your medicine cabinet? Is there actually medicine in it? In theory, a medicine cabinet should contain over-the-counter drugs that can be used to treat minor conditions and injuries. But since it is a humid place being at close proximity to the shower and bath, it’s not the ideal place for your pills. The perfect “medicine cabinet” is a cool, dark and dry closet. And here are the meds that you should keep in it:

1. Analgesics – Aspirin, mefenamic acid and ibuprofen are among the most common pain relievers in the market. Every home should have a stash of painkillers for the occasional headache, other minor pains and symptoms like fever.

2. Topical analgesics – Relieving muscle and joint pains, analgesics in cream or gel form are also available. They’re usually a combination of methyl salicylate and menthol.

3. Antacids – For the acidic or heartburn-prone, counteracting stomach hyperacidity is as easy as popping an antacid. Or have those soluble sodium bicarbonates that you can drink with water.

4. Bowel stabilizers – Loperamide, an over-the-counter solution to diarrhea, is your best bet against the almost always unexpected nasty-nasty (usually caused by gastroenteritis or inflammatory bowel disease). You never know when you’re gonna have loose bowels, so it’s wise to have some stock.

5. Laxatives – The total opposite of LBM is constipation. Therefore, laxatives are also important.

6. Cough syrups – Typically expectorants, cough syrups ease the respiratory tract of mucus buildup. For simple coughs with no symptoms, guaifenesin should do the trick. But for more serious cases, visit your friendly neighborhood physician.

7. Decongestants – Nasal congestion (clogged nose, runny nose, postnasal drip and other associated symptoms) are easily treated with decongestants. Most of the ones in the market also contain antihistamines and analgesics.

8. Anti-allergens – The most effective anti-allergy medications are histamine blockers. Allergic reactions sometimes occur unexpectedly because we don’t know everything we’re allergic to. Taking a tab the moment it gets uncomfortable will save us the trouble of sneezing for hours.

9. Skin treatments – Itchy and/or prickly skin, fungal infection and other mild skin conditions are common among kids who spend too much time in the sun and the outdoors. Parents should always have a tube of anti-inflammatory ointments and creams readily available.

10. Prescription meds – Obviously, if any member of your household is on a prescription, it would totally be irresponsible to not adhere to doctor’s orders. Never neglect the prescription.