10 Resolutions for Weight Loss

According to a University of Scranton study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, while 45 percent of us tend to make New Year’s resolutions, only eight percent of us actually achieve our goals. The number one resolution last year was weight loss. Quitting smoking and getting or staying fit and healthy also topped the list. Thinking big is important, but working in bite-sized chunks can make the large goals attainable.

Keep Your Goals in Sight By Breaking Them Up Into Specific, Smaller Steps

  1. Give up soda or fried food
  2. Walk or exercise five days per week, no matter the weather
  3. Drink water four times a day
  4. Park as far away from your destination as possible
  5. Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  6. Go to sleep earlier or get on a regular sleep routine
  7. Remove your television from your bedroom
  8. Don’t eat anywhere in your house outside the kitchen
  9. Give up drive-through restaurants or eating in your car
  10. Make an appointment with a registered dietitian or personal trainer

These miniature goals can serve as stepping stones toward weight loss or fitness. Once you have successfully incorporated one, and your confidence builds, plan to add another.

Changing your life isn’t easy. You may need additional, professional assistance if you have some difficulty taking these steps on your own. By working in conjunction with a health care provider, a registered dietitian or certified personal trainer can help you to stay accountable and safe.

If you have been told by your provider that you are obese, or you have a serious weight-related health concern, like diabetes or high-blood pressure, you should consider attending a health care provider-led weight loss program seminar. There are medical interventions, surgical and non-surgical, available for those who qualify.

Preventing Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Spring has sprung and so have your sneezes

Allergies can wreak havoc on your system, causing symptoms from watery or itchy eyes to coughing, congestion and possibly even a rash. While they’ve become synonymous with spring, allergies can actually be seasonal or year-round, depending on your trigger. The first step to controlling your bothersome symptoms is figuring out what you’re allergic to.

You can narrow it down by taking note of your symptoms and their patterns. Then you can work to avoid the allergen. Below are tips to reduce both seasonal and year-round environmental allergens, including dust mites, mold, animal dander and pollens.

In the bedroom

  • Remove heavy drapes, upholstered furniture and stuffed animals that are likely to collect dust.
  • Use a zippered, plastic air-tight cover on all pillows and mattresses.
  • At least every 14 days, wash all bedding and stuffed animals in hot water and dry on hot setting.

Throughout the rest of the house

  • Avoid damp basements or water-damaged areas of your home and fix water leaks to prevent mold exposure.
  • Clean moldy surfaces with a diluted solution of bleach. If a larger-scale mold exposure is suspected, you should seek professional assistance with mold removal.
  • If possible, remove all carpets. 
  • Vacuum as frequently as possible using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum.
  • Avoid the use of ceiling fans Prior to use, make sure to clean any collected dust from the surface of the fan blades.
  • During the height of allergy season, keep windows closed, avoid exposure to pollens and limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest.
    • Early morning for spring time tree pollens.
    • Afternoon and early evening for summer grasses.
    • In the middle of the day for ragweed in the fall.
  • Consider using a HEPA filter to control airborne allergens (these only work if what you are allergic to is airborne, which doesn’t include dust mites and mold).   Change the filters frequently per the manufacturer’s guide. You can also purchase HEPA home-air filters for use in your air conditioner. 
  • Since dust mites and mold increase in high humidity, keep indoor humidity low.
  • Provide a smoke-free environment for yourself and any children.
  • Cockroaches and rodents are also causes of allergies; if you suspect an infestation, make sure to clean your home frequently and thoroughly, store away food in secure containers, keep garbage outside and repair holes in the walls, floors, doors, etc.  Also, seek the help of a professional exterminator.

For those who are allergic to animal dander

  • Keep indoor pets out of the affected person’s bedroom and wash your pet each week to remove surface allergens
  • Consider a HEPA filter for the room in which the pet is primarily kept. 

If you’re unable to keep your allergies at bay with these measures, I recommend you try an over-the-counter option, such as daily salt water irrigation (Neti-Pot) combined with a steroidal nose spray (Flonase), or allergy medications, such as second generation antihistamines (Claritin and Zyrtec).

First generation antihistamines (Benadryl)  should be reserved for severe cases and should not be used as a long-term solution. If you’ve exhausted these measures and allergies are still impacting your daily life, or if you’re experiencing severe coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath, seek the help your physician. Specialized medication and testing may be for you.

When Your Bathroom Habits Aren’t Routine (And What Can Help)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irregular bowel habits, alternating diarrhea and/or constipation, and cramping or bloating, in conjunction with abdominal discomfort or pain–they’re the hallmark signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you are regularly finding yourself, and your bathroom, occupied with these life-altering symptoms, relief may be in sight. 

It’s a Common Disorder

IBS can make you feel isolated, but you are not alone. It is estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of the world’s population suffers from IBS. There is no known cure for the condition, but there are many effective treatment options available.

7 ways to improve your IBS

The following can help you to manage even your worst IBS symptoms:

1. Medications

No matter your IBS symptoms, anti-diarrheal, anti-spasmodic and laxative medications can get your toilet habits back on track. These are particularly effective with patients whose symptoms do not respond to simple lifestyle changes or for those who are having severe symptoms. Low-dose anti-anxiety medications have also shown to improve the effects of IBS in some people. Communicating openly with your physician is the key to finding the best treatment plan.

2. Probiotics

They’ve become quite popular as the importance of gut health has been a popular topic in the media, but put simply, new studies have shown promise that probiotics can help to regulate the gut’s healthy bacteria and regulate you as a result.

3. Fiber

Fiber is important in any healthy diet, but for those suffering with constipation, it is particularly vital. Gradually increasing your fiber intake to the recommended 25 to 30 grams per day can help you to increase your overall health and normalize your bathroom habits.

4. Dietary changes

Fiber is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables and good fats daily can help your stomach and improve your mindset. While not a cure-all, the low-FODMAP diet is also worth trying if you have gastrointestinal concerns. It is an elimination diet that removes FODMAP foods, or short-chain carbohydrates, from the menu.

5. Stress reduction

IBS is often exacerbated by stress, as the mind and gut have a strong connection. Finding ways to both manage and anticipate your stress can go a long way in symptom reduction. Everything from mindfulness to yoga can help. 

6. Exercise

In a 2011 study, IBS patients who exercised 20-30 minutes per day at least three days per week saw an improvement in their symptoms. Even simple changes to your routine, like adding a 30 minute walk after dinner, can reduce your stress, improve your health and potentially erase your symptoms.

7. Education

Many patients come to me concerned that their discomfort is a sign of something much more serious than IBS. I take IBS very seriously, and I work together with my patients to find relief for their symptoms. The palliative effect of knowing their suffering is not the result of a more dire diagnosis is an added bonus. If you’re concerned about any discomfort you are having, talk with your doctor—it could be a reprieve.

When your gut feeling shouldn’t be ignored

It is important to know that IBS is defined as recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort that is associated with altered bowel habits, like diarrhea or constipation. These symptoms can typically happen on average at least one day per week for the past three months.  Symptoms such as an unexplained weight loss of more than 10 pounds, bloody stools or rectal bleeding, fevers or night sweats, or nighttime stooling are not typical of IBS and should prompt one to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.

IBS is not an indicator of future disease

Having IBS does not increase your risk for colon cancer, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. In fact, in IBS the gastrointestinal system appears normal on an internal exam.  However, IBS is often seen in patients who have already been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), anxiety, depression or other conditions associated with visceral hypersensitivity (fibromyalgia).

On the horizon for IBS

While there is no current cure for IBS, there are new findings about its origins. Stay tuned and in touch with your doctor for ever-changing treatment options and, hopefully, one day a cure.

It’s Too Late to Get the Flu Shot (and Other Myths)


There are many misconceptions about the flu shot, but science and experience have proven that the influenza vaccine can reduce your risk of acquiring the flu; so you can rest assured that the flu shot is generally safe and effective. Let’s tackle a few of the most common myths about this often polarizing vaccine.

A woman giving a flu shot

Myth #1: It’s Too Late to Get the Vaccine

Physicians and researchers have designed the vaccine to be most effective when it is administered before the flu begins to spread, which is typically in late October.  However, it is better to get the vaccine any point during the season, rather than not at all, as it will still protect you if you are exposed to the flu.

Myth #2: It Will Make me Sick

It’s possible to get the flu shot, then get sick the next day; it’s ironic, but the shot didn’t cause this. If this has happened to you, it is likely that you were exposed to a virus before ever receiving the shot, or you were exposed to a virus that the shot does not protect you against. The vaccine cannot make you sick or give you the flu, though side effects like soreness, redness or swelling at the injection shot, headache or low-grade fevers do occur. The vaccine’s effects have been studied time and time again, and there is no proven correlation between the flu shot and other disease or illness. 

Myth #3: It is Rarely Effective

Each year more than 226,000 Americans are hospitalized and about 36,000 die from influenza-related complications, according to the American Lung Association. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by 40 to 60 percent. It has also been shown to reduce the severity of illness and number of hospitalizations in those who still get sick. The influenza vaccine is designed to protect against the three or four flu strains that are most common in any given flu season. While nobody can predict fully which version of the virus you will be exposed to, the 2018-19 shot has been updated to better match the viruses that are actually circulating in the U.S. 

Myth #4: I’m Healthy, it Isn’t Necessary

Healthy or not, you are always at risk of contracting the virus. The flu can wreak havoc on your system and can also cause long-term correlative health effects. If you are in contact with children, the elderly or anyone who has an impaired immune system, you can help protect their health by getting the flu shot. In fact, every employee at our hospital is required to get the vaccine for this reason. 

If you have other questions about the flu shot, check with your physician for the facts.  From a clinical perspective, the benefit of getting the flu shot far outweighs the negatives. It isn’t too late in the season; get yours today