Thursday, April 3, 2008

Swimmer's Ear, The Vacation Infection You Probably Never Heard About

Most parents are all too familiar with middle ear infections, but vacations at the beach can reveal that kids are susceptible to outer ear infections, too. Swimmer's ear is most common in kids who swim in pools and adults who surf in the ocean.

Also known as otitis media, swimmer's ear is an infection with bacteria (Pseudomonas, staph, or strep) or, more rarely, fungi in the skin of the ear canal. Swimmer's ear can be caused by MRSA, but the good news about this possibility is that in this situation, there is an antibiotic (fluoroquinolone) that usually works.

You've probably seen your skin shrivel when you spend a lot of time in the water. Something similar can happen to swimmmers in the ear canala. Too much moisture in the ear canal, and the skin breaks down, leaving the ear canal vulnerable to infection. "Swimmer's" ear can also result from cleaning out ears with Q-tips, eczema, or inserting foreign objects.

The first sign of otitis externa is usually an itchy ear. It can also hurt to chew. There may be a clear, then pus-filled discharged, and temporary hearing loss and fever are also common. (For a medical treatment protocol and pictures of swimmer's ear, press here.)

Because swimmer's ear can spread further inside the ear, it's best to see a doctor once symptoms develop. You should call a doctor immediately if there is apin in the ear, dedreased hearing, or a bloody discharge from the ear. Swimmer's ear becomes life-threatening when it spreads to bone, which happens in about 1 in 200 cases.

The disease is typically treated with ear drops and antibiotics. If you have no access to a doctor at all, gently rinsing the ear with a solution of 1 teaspoon (up to 5 ml) of vinegar in a quart (about a liter) of water may help until you can get medical assistance. Even this very mild solution, however, may sting if the skin is broken.

Mild cases of swimmer's ear usually resolve in 7 to 10 days. It's a lot simpler, however, just to keep water out of the ear (with bathing caps or ear plugs) and avoid ever getting infected. Rinsing the ear with the vinegar solution may also prevent infection or flare-ups of earlier disease.

Is The Suddenly Slim Diet Safe and Effective?

The hottest new weight loss plan of 2008 is the Suddenly Slim Diet, a program of meal-replacement drinks and herbal supplements that promises users will "lose 6 - 8 - 10 pounds or more!" in just 10 days.

Like many commercial weight loss products, Suddenly Slim offers a little bit of a number of things that really do help people lose weight:

Liquid meal replacement. Fluids reduce hunger. Dr. Barbara Rolls of Penn State University has participated in a staggering 167 studies that find that you'll be just as satisfied with fewer calories if your food has enough water content (within some reasonable limits, of course).

Green tea extract. A series of small-scale clinical trials mostly confirm that green tea enhances weight loss by speeding up the oxidation of fat.

Milk protein and soy protein. Both milk and soy sources of calcium enhance weight loss and shrink the waistline while protecting muscle mass.

Coffee and cola extracts, for caffeine. Green tea won't help you lose weight without caffeine.

Bitter orange extract, which is used to replace the now-banned ephedra. The most optimistic way to sum up the research literature is that bitter orange for weight loss is "iffy." A study at Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that 20 dieters using 20 mg of synephrine three times a day lost from 1 to 7 pounds over eight weeks, but the study was too small to produce statistically significant results.


The problem is, you don't know for sure you're getting enough of the weight-loss ingredients to do you any good. Manufacturers don't disclose the exact amounts of active ingredients so (1) other manufacturers can't accuse them of violating patents and (2) they won't have to constantly change the formula to keep up with their competition.

The amounts of these active ingredients that are demonstrated in the scientific literature are 300 mg a day for green tea extract and a question mark for bitter orange. It's possible and even likely that Suddenly Slim contains enough active ingredients to have a measurable effect--just don't expect 10 pounds in 10 days. A sustainable weight loss of 10 pounds in 10 weeks is still a stretch, but possible.

The amount of skim milk or soy milk that most clinical studies use to test weight loss runs about 3 cups (720 ml). In the Suddenly Slim plan, you'd provide your own milk and add the powder to it.

Now is the Suddenly Slim diet safe?

It's probably not a great idea for diabetics. A good amount of added fructose for most diabetics is zero.

It's also probably not a great idea for people with high blood pressure. Caffeine accelerates the pulse and has a minor elevating effect on blood pressure.

Assuming you aren't diabetic or hypertensive and you've cleared your diet with your doctor, however, you aren't likely to run into any serious health problems as a result of following the plan for 10 days. Moreover, the shakes are formulated so that you won't lose as much muscle as you might on other diets. The combination of carbohydrates and proteins consumed after workouts (if you do them) is important for helping your muscles repair themselves. You're still like to lose a little muscle mass along with the fat on the 10-day version of this diet.

For a 28-day plan, there's a significant problem, the same for non-diabetics as for diabetics. The shakes are sweetened with fructose. For most people this won't be a problem, but if you are trying to lose a really significant amount of weight, fructose is definitely something you want to avoid. Fructose encourages insulin resistance, which helps you put the pounds back on quicker should you fall back into unhealthy eating habits. Again, we don't know how much fructose is in the product, and the fact is, if you aren't diabetic, you need some carbohydrate for recovery every time you exercise.

You may also be interested in:

Have Scientists Discovered a Diabetic Fat-Burner?
R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine as Fat Burners for Diabetes
Super-Citrimax: Does It Really Work?
Acupressure for Weight Control
Dieters: Can You Eat All the Foods You Love and Still Lose Weight?
How Teens with Type 2 Diabetes Can Lose Fat and Gain Muscle
Are Sugar-Free Candies and Deserts for Diabetics Really Sugar-Free (And What to Do When They Are Not)
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About Fats and Carbs
Is There An Appetite-Suppression Oolong Tea Supplement?
Raw Hemp Powder as a Substitute for Whey
If You Are Diabetic, Fat Is Not Your Fault
Does Espresso Inhibit Weight Loss?
Mustard, Chili, and Weight Loss

Does Espresso Inhibit Weight Loss?

"Does espresso inhibit weight loss?" is a question that's come up twice in today's emails, so I'll attempt to give a cogent answer. The short answer is, it depends. Espresso, at least the high-caffeine version, has a beneficial effect on dieters who drink regular coffee on a regular basis, and the opposite effect on dieters who drink decaf or don't drink coffee regularly.

First, it may be helpful to make a quick review of what espresso is. Espresso is a highly concentrated kind of coffee made by forcing very hot (but not boiling) water under high pressure through coffee that has been ground to a consistency between very fine and powder. Its effect on weight loss depends on whether it's drunk regularly, and there's a difference for dieters between regular and decaf.

An elaborate clinical trial at the University Hospital in Zurich (Switzerland) found that drinkers of regular coffee, whether dieting or not, experience much lower increases in blood pressure when exposed to stress. In the clinical trial, blood pressure in coffee drinkers went up to an average of 130/74 when they were exposed to emotional stress. Blood pressure in non-coffee drinkers went up to an average of 151/83 under the same conditions.

The significance of this finding for weight loss is that drinking regular coffee that contains caffeine seems to blunt the production of stress hormones--the hormones that also encourage the deposit of belly fat.

And since espresso has 3 times the caffeine of regular coffee, not only does drinking regular espresso not inhibit weight loss, it encourages it, but only in people who regularly drink coffee.

In people who don't regularly drink coffee, an espresso not only does nothing blunt hormonal reactions to stress, it may slightly increase blood pressure--which slightly increases insulin resistance and slightly increases the tendency to gain weight.

The Swiss study made on other interesting, unintentional finding.

Drinking too much water too fast has a paradoxical effect for dieters. If you drink more than about 2 cups (500 ml) of any water all at once, for the short time, you stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. When the water stretches the lining of your stomach and then your large intestine, your body releases hormones as if you had eaten a large amount of food.

In non-diabetics, both insulin (to store the sugars the gut is ready to get when it's stretched) and glucagon (to make sure the insulin doesn't lower blood sugars too much) enter the bloodstream. The problem is, insulin is much better at storing fat than it is at storing glucose, so drinking too much water, ironically, temporarily encourages storing fat. All you have to do to avoid this weight-gain enhancing effect is to avoid any kind of "sloshing" feeling after you drink water or any other fluids.

In diabetics, insulin production is delayed or reduced. The body still releases glucagon, however. This means diabetics can raise their blood sugars just by "stuffing" themselves, even with low- or no-calorie foods. Higher blood sugar leads to increased insulin resistance, increased insulin resistance leads to fat and weight gain. Again, however, the solution is as simple as avoiding too much food or drink at any one time. Always leave room for more.

Mustard, Chili, and Weight Loss

In today's mail I have the question, "Is there a relationship between mustard and weight loss?"

One benefit of mustard for dieters is very straightforward. A tablespoon (14 g) of mayonnaise--and most of us prefer two tablespoons or more on our sandwiches--contains 99 calories (kcal)and 11 g of fat. Because we go for both the "feel" as well as the taste of mayonnaise, we tend to eat more.

A teaspoon of mustard--which is enough to give a zingy taste to sandwich if you spread it thinly--comes in at just 3 calories and zero grams of fat. Switching from mayo mustard can easily save you 200 calories or more for every sandwich. And chilies are just as low-calorie with an additional benefit.

The volatile isothiocyanates that give mustard its "mustardy" taste have an additional benefit that assists in weight loss. They are bitter.

Bitter herbs and flavoring trigger a reflex action in the stomach that causes it to secrete more gastric juices. Meals are digested more quickly and pass to the small intestine more quickly. The resulting "stretch" in the gut sends signals to the brain that you have eaten enough. Just beware that if you keep on eating despite feeling full, the expansion of your small intestine can also signal your pancreas to pour out insulin to store sugar and fat. Mustard won't help you lose weight if you eat until it hurts.

An Australian clinical study finds that eating an ounce of chopped chili peppers every day can protect cholesterol from forming atherosclerotic plaques, and the benefit is measurable in as little as a month.

Drs. K. D. Ahuja and M. J. Ball of the University of Tasmania (Australia) found that a "freshly chopped chili" condiment eaten every day slowed the oxidation of cholesterol even more effectively than taking vitamin E and antioxidant supplements. The same researchers, along with Drs. I. K. Robertson and D. P. Geraghty, also found that eating chilies for a month lowered resting heart rate in men.

So, dieters, spice it up! Both your diets and your arteries may benefit.

You may also be interested in:

Have Scientists Discovered a Diabetic Fat-Burner?
R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine as Fat Burners for Diabetes
Super-Citrimax: Does It Really Work?\
Acupressure for Weight Control
Dieters: Can You Eat All the Foods You Love and Still Lose Weight?
How Teens with Type 2 Diabetes Can Lose Fat and Gain Muscle
Are Sugar-Free Candies and Deserts for Diabetics Really Sugar-Free (And What to Do When They Are Not)
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About Fats and Carbs
Is There An Appetite-Suppression Oolong Tea Supplement?
Raw Hemp Powder as a Substitute for Whey
Is the Suddenly Slim Diet Safe and Effective?
If You Are Diabetic, Fat Is Not Your Fault
Does Espresso Inhibit Weight Loss?
Mustard, Chili, and Weight Loss

If You're Diabetic, Fat Is Not Your Fault

Most newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics (and even some newly diagnosed type 1 diabetics) have a few extra pounds around the waist.

It's common for diabetics, their families, their friends, their coworkers, and even their doctors to blame diabetes on fat.

The fact is, diabetes makes diabetics fat, not the other way around. The reason is a phenomenon called insulin resistance. The way insulin resistance packs on the pounds is something like this:

You eat a food containing fat, and your body converts the fat into fatty acids that begin to circulate in the bloodstream. Some of these fatty acids arrive at fat cells, where insulin helps move the fat inside the fat cell for storage.

Insulin that's "busy" transporting fat isn't available to remove sugar from the bloodstream and into the cells where it's needed. Fortunately, for non-diabetics there's enough insulin to go around.

The problem in people with a genetic predisposition to diabetes is, fat cells aren't very good at using insulin to store sugars, but they're great (300 times better) at using insulin to store fat. In people who have the genes for diabetes, fat cells are particularly unskilled at storing sugars but just fine at storing fat.

It's as if fat cells gulp down fatty acids and try to suck up glucose through a tiny straw. As fat cells grow larger and larger, it's harder and harder for glucose to find that "straw," its receptor sites. It's no problem for fat to get in, however. Eventually, the fat cells are leaving so much glucose in the bloodstream that the pancreas acts to remedy the problem by pumping out extra insulin.

This extra insulin, of course, also transports fat. Fat cells get fatter and fatter and blood sugar levels go higher and higher.

The problem is even worse in the liver and the muscles. Liver and muscle store (and use) glucose, too, but they have protective mechanisms to keep them from being overwhelming with toxic free radicals of oxygen.

The free radicals of oxygen become a problem when there's so much glucose in the bloodstream it begins to "burn," that is, to oxidize, before it even reaches a cell.

To protect themselves against free radicals, liver and muscle cells turn off their receptors for insulin. They become "insulin resistant." This protects their RNA and DNA from free radical attack, but it makes it even more difficult for fat cells to remove glucose from the bloodstream.

Insulin, of course, is not the only hormone involved in fat storage and fat burning. But insulin is the key hormone in blood sugar regulation.

If you have type 2 diabetes, that is, your pancreas makes a lot of insulin that cells can't use, you'll store fat really well. If you have type 1 diabetes, that is, your pancreas makes little or not fat, your body will burn fat because that's the only fuel it can use well.

That's why type 2 diabetics are usually overweight. There are, however, genetic conditions (especially among people whose ancestors come from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, or Bangla Desh) that create super-storing fat cells even in type 1 diabetes.

Insulin resistance is the reason fat is not your fault. It's also the reason that dieting to lose fat when you have diabetes is especially difficult. Fortunately, weight loss, as you'll read in later posts, is not your primary goal in a diabetes diet.

Since I wrote this article several years ago I have learned about a supplement that is especially helpful for diabetics who need to lose weight. Please visit The Sea Buckthorn Diet for an interesting way to deal with the fundamental problem of diabetic weight loss. You may also be interested in:

The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Diabetics
Effects of High Blood Sugars on the Immune System
When It's Better for Diabetics to Be Couch Potatoes
Are Sugar-Free Candies and Deserts for Diabetics Really Sugar-Free (And What to Do When They Are Not)
Is an All-Natural Way to Cleanse the Colon Good for Diabetics?
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About Fats and Carbs
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About LDL Numbers
Can Drinking Decaf Speciality Coffee Prevent Diabetes?
What's This About Caffeine Raising Blood Sugar Levels?
A New Ayurvedic Herb for Diabetes?
Have Scientists Discovered a Diabetic Fat-Burner?
Vinegar for Type II Diabetes
Reduce Risk of Diabetes by Eating Veggies
Chromium for Diabetes
Vitamin C for Diabetes
Vitamin D for Diabetes
Vitamin E for Diabetes
Vitamin E for Diabetes: How Much Is Too Much?
DHEA and Diabetes
Diet, Diabetes, and Gum Disease
To Prevent Diabetes, Low-Carb Is Better than Low-Fat
R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine as Fat Burners for Diabetes
Signs of Diabetes in Youths and Adults
Have Scientists Discovered a Diabetic Fat-Burner?
R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine as Fat Burners for Diabetes
Super-Citrimax: Does It Really Work?\
Acupressure for Weight Control
Dieters: Can You Eat All the Foods You Love and Still Lose Weight?
How Teens with Type 2 Diabetes Can Lose Fat and Gain Muscle
Are Sugar-Free Candies and Deserts for Diabetics Really Sugar-Free (And What to Do When They Are Not)
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About Fats and Carbs
Is There An Appetite-Suppression Oolong Tea Supplement?
Raw Hemp Powder as a Substitute for Whey
Is the Suddenly Slim Diet Safe and Effective?
If You Are Diabetic, Fat Is Not Your Fault
Does Espresso Inhibit Weight Loss?
Mustard, Chili, and Weight Loss

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Does Raisin Bran Lower Cholesterol?

Does raisin bran lower cholesterol?

Unfortunately, the answer is no, at least if the grain in your raisin bran cereal is wheat. A clinical study conducted at the University of Toronto in Canada nearly ten years ago found that there was no way to put enough bran content in wheat cereals to lower either total or LDL cholesterol. But there is a way to lower your cholesterol with a healthy breakfast: Eat oats!

The bran in rolled oats, oat flour, and oatmeal contains a soluble fiber that "soaks up" cholesterol from other foods. The bran in wheat contains an insoluble fiber that relieves constipation, but does not stop the absorption of cholesterol.

If you really want to lower your cholesterol, eat pure oat bran (cooking it is fine). Studies show that consuming 100 grams of oat bran a day (the equivalent two 1/3 cup servings) usually lowers total cholesterol about 13 per cent (15 to 20 mg/dl) after you eat it for about three months. Moreover, it reduces the small, dense particles of the "bad" cholesterol that are most likely to be involved in the development of cardiovascular disease. And this amount of oat bran will cost you less than $0.40 in the USA.

What about the raisins?

Scientists have found cholesterol-lowering benefits in grape juice, grape powder, grapeseed extract, grape skins, whole grapes, and wine, so it's not a stretch to assume that raisins would have a beneficial effect on LDL cholesterol, too, even if it's less than the fresh fruit because of the polyphenols lost in the drying process. The usefulness of raisins in promoting heart health is not a scientifically proven assumption. However, raisins provide boron for healthy bones and oleanolic acid that fights gum disease, so enjoy!

You may also be interested in:

Do Diabetics Really Need Lipitor?
Fish Oil and LDL Cholesterol: What to Do When Lowering Your Triglycerides Appears to Raise Your LDL
Does Colostrum Lower Cholesterol?
Lowering Cholesterol by Lowering Salt
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About Fats and Carbs
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About LDL Numbers
Red Yeast Rice for High Cholesterol
Could Curcumin Lower Cholesterol?
Does Cinnamon for Diabetes, Cholesterol, and Triglycerides Really Work?


References:

Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Vuksan V, Augustin LS, Mehling C, Parker T, Vidgen E, Lee B, Faulkner D, Seyler H, Josse R, Leiter LA, Connelly PW, Fulgoni V 3rd. Effect of wheat bran on serum lipids: influence of particle size and wheat protein. J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Apr;18(2):159-65.

Does Colostrum Lower Cholesterol?

Colostrum is the very first milk produce by a mother after she gives birth. Although devotees of natural health think of colostrum as a food produced by cows, human mothers also produce this extraordinarily nutritious food. In calves (which are easier to research than babies), colostrum provides not just protein but beta-carotene, the eight components of vitamin E, and other antioxidants that "jump start" the calf's immune system and increase survival.

Cow's milk, however, is not the best substitute for human milk. Most scientific research supports the notion that donkey's milk is.

Donkey's milk is very similar to (human) mother's milk in its content of lactose, proteins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, and in its immune-stimulant properties. Donkey colostrum has an additional property of causing red blood cells to release the chemical nitric oxide, or NO.

NO dilates arteries, opening them to greater circulation, compensating for any hardening of the arteries. And donkey milk has even greater power to cause the release NO than donkey colostrum.

No kind of colostrum actually lowers cholesterol, but the release of NO accomplishes the same result. Bovine colostrum has this effect in cows, but donkey colostrum, and, better, donkey milk has this effect in humans.

You may also be interested in:

Do Diabetics Really Need Lipitor?
Fish Oil and LDL Cholesterol: What to Do When Lowering Your Triglycerides Appears to Raise Your LDLDoes Raisin Bran Lower Cholesterol?
Lowering Cholesterol by Lowering Salt
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About Fats and Carbs
What Doctors Don't Tell Diabetics About LDL Numbers
Red Yeast Rice for High Cholesterol
Could Curcumin Lower Cholesterol?
Does Cinnamon for Diabetes, Cholesterol, and Triglycerides Really Work?


References:

Tafaro A, Magrone T, Jirillo F, Martemucci G, D'Alessandro AG, Amati L, Jirillo E. Immunological properties of donkey's milk: its potential use in the prevention of atherosclerosis. Curr Pharm Des. 2007;13(36):3711-7.

What Can You Do About Night Terrors?

Night terrors can be just as terrifying for the parents of small children and spouses, rooomates, friends, and lovers who observe them as they are for the unfortunates who have to endure them. Here are some suggestions both for night terror sufferers and those who care for them.

It helps to remember There are several things a night terror is not:

  • A night terror is not a sign of mental illness, especially in children. (Adults with night terrors tend to have suffered traumatic stress.)
  • A night terror is not proof of physical abuse.
  • Night terrors usually are not caused by watching scary movies or listening to arguments, although these kinds of emotional stresses may cause insomnia.

And there are several ways to distinguish night terrors from other common sleep disturbances:

  • Nightmares are remembered. Night terrors are not.
  • In small children, nightmares usually occur between 4 and 6 am. Night terrors usually occur between 1 and 3 am.
  • A child who has had a nightmare will respond to comforting. A child who has had a night terror usually will not.
  • Nightmares occur during REM sleep. Night terrors occur during deep sleep.
  • Seizures begin and end much more quickly (usually in less than 2 minutes) than either nightmares or night terrors (up to 30 minutes). Seizures can have an explosive onset and an equally abrupt offset.
  • Nightmares usually are not associated with labored breathing or racing heart. Night terrors are usually associated with both labored breathing and racing heart.

If you have been told that you suffer night terrors:

1. Try to maintain a regular schedule for going to bed. Irregular sleep hours seem to increase the frequency of night terrors.

2. If you are an adult taking antidepressants or Lipitor to lower cholesterol, let your doctor know you have night terrors and ask about alternative medications. You should also let your physician know about night terrors if you take risperidone.

If you are observing someone else's night terror:

1. Speaking in comforting tones but keep your distance. Particularly in adults, touching someone during a night terror may provoke a defensive response. You can suffer injuries (bites, cuts, scratches, broken nose) from the sleeper without the sleeper's ever becoming aware you are there.

2. Don't burden small children with the knowledge they have night terrors unless they ask. Children can worry about having "bad dreams" and develop sleep disorders of other kinds. A night terror is not a nightmare. Nightmares are usually remembered. Night terrors in small children typically occur between 1 am and 3 am. Nightmares typically occur between 4 and 6 am.

3. Make sure toddlers and small children stay safe by avoiding bunk beds and by putting gates on staircases.

4. Consider a remedy from Traditional Chinese Medicine, cream of wheat with jujubes (dried jujubes are available in most larger markets). Although the original explanation of how the porridge worked was that it "protected the pores against wind spirits," modern science suggests that the combination of wheat and jujubes provides chemicals that reach the same receptor sites as endorphins in the brain.

And another approach that sometimes works with children who have become aware of night terrors is draw the night terror as a comic strip, adding a different, more pleasant ending in the last panel. This technique sometimes even helps adults.

What Are Night Terrors?

Almost everybody has witnessed a night terror in a child, a spouse, a roommate, or a friend, but the precise definition of the condition known in the medical literature as pavor nocturnus requires a reference to the four stages of sleep.

In a night terror, the sleeper awakens suddenly from stage 4 sleep, usually with screaming, shouting, moaning, or groaning, and then settles back to sleep without fully awakening. Stage 4 is the deepest, most regenerative phase of sleep.

In stage 1 sleep, the eyes might roll slowly while the mind wanders. Body temperature and pulse rate both fall.

In stage 2 sleep, the eyes are quite, and the sleeper may begin to snore as airway resistance increases. Dreams during stage 2 sleep are usually recalled in vague terms.

In stage 3 sleep, it takes a really loud sound to wake up the sleeper. There is further slowing of the metabolism and lowering of body temperature, respirations, and pulse, and the pituitary begins to secrete growth hormone to repair and rejuvenate tissues.

In stage 4 sleep, it is almost impossible to wake the sleeper. Pulse and temperature are at their lowest levels of the night, and growth hormone is at maximal production. Night terrors occur in stage 4 sleep.

And in REM or rapid eye movement sleep, the heart rate is about 5 per cent faster than in the other stages of sleep, and there may be vivid dream recall. If the sleeper is dreaming about a sound, it is harder to awaken him or her.

Not everybody goes through the stages of sleep at the same time, but most sufferers of night terrors go into stage 4 sleep and are susceptible to night terrors 45 to 90 minutes after going to bed. It is almost as if the brain cannot quite go into REM, so tensions build up and the night terror results.

Children, in particular, but also adults who have night terrors often cannot recall them. The mind is usually "blank" during the deeper stages of sleep when night terrors are absent, but a person who has night terrors may site up in bed for five minutes to half an hour while the heart races 160 to 180 beats a minute, pounding as hard as during intense exercise. The next morning there may be a vague recollection of a shadowy, threatening person or animal (such as snakes and spiders), but often there's no memory of the event at all.

There are several things a night terror is not:

  • A night terror is not a sign of mental illness, especially in children. (Adults with night terrors tend to have suffered traumatic stress.)
  • A night terror is not proof of physical abuse.
  • Night terrors usually are not caused by watching scary movies or listening to arguments, although these kinds of emotional stresses may cause insomnia.

And there are several ways to distinguish night terrors from other common sleep disturbances:

  • Nightmares are remembered. Night terrors are not.
  • In small children, nightmares usually occur between 4 and 6 am. Night terrors usually occur between 1 and 3 am.
  • A child who has had a nightmare will respond to comforting. A child who has had a night terror usually will not.
  • Nightmares occur during REM sleep. Night terrors occur during deep sleep.
  • Seizures begin and end much more quickly (usually in less than 2 minutes) than either nightmares or night terrors (up to 30 minutes). Seizures can have an explosive onset and an equally abrupt offset.
  • Nightmares usually are not associated with labored breathing or racing heart. Night terrors are usually associated with both labored breathing and racing heart.

The causes of night terrors are as murky as the condition itself, but low blood sugars (hypoglycemia), use of certain antidepressant medications, and genetics may all play a role. And because people who experience night terrors do not have an accompanying dream, they usually do not remember them. It is OK to tell adults they have night terrors, but it is usually not a good idea to tell little children.



You may also be interested in:

What Can You Do About Night Terrors?

Lowering Cholesterol by Lowering Salt

What are the natural ways to bring down cholesterol? Lowering salt should be high on the list.

Some years ago I was fortunate to have spent a week interviewing Demetrio Sodi-Pallares, an internationally renowned cardiologist who had a very different approach to lowering cholesterol.

A woman whose heart had been damaged by rheumatic fever was referred to "Dr. Sodi," as we called him, for ongoing heart treatment. When the doctor first took a look at her lab results, he could hardly believe his eyes.

Total cholesterol came back at 800 mg/dl. As you probably know, 200 mg/dl is about the upper limit of healthy cholesterol.

Total cholesterol came back at 4500 mg/dl. A healthy level is generally 150 mg/dl or lower. And Dr. Sodi's patient also had extremely low levels of T4, the thyroid hormone.

At first, the doctor simply did not believe the lab. He sent blood samples to two other laboratories for verification, and the numbers came back nearly the same. One laboratory reported triglycerides were 4339 mg/dl, and the other, 4442. Since triglycerides at this concentration are almost visible in the blood, Dr. Sodi decided lipid lowering was urgent, but he was at a loss as to what to prescribe.

Then, acting on a hunch, the doctor gave his patient some very unusual instructions:
Eliminate salt from your diet. No canned soups, no pickles, no food made from mixes, no barbecue, only half a teaspoon of salt to be added to food in any one day. The doctor showed his patient a thimble. "This," he said, "is half a teaspoon of salt."

If this patient improved, it would be due to cutting out the salt, not cutting out the fat. Dr. Sodi wanted to save his patient, who was extremely poor and had no insurance, the expense of cholesterol- and triglyceride-lowering drugs, as well as their side effects. But he gave the diet only two weeks to work.

Two weeks later the patient returned to the doctor to have her blood drawn, and cholesterol and triglycerides were measured yet again.

The results were not perfect, but they were enormously improved. Triglycerides were now 800 mg/dl and total cholesterol was 240 mg/dl. That was interesting, but the doctor was concerned that results might have been a fluke. He told her, therefore, go back to your original low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, but eat all the salty foods you want.

The patient returned for a third visit in a month. Triglycerides were back up to 2224 mg/dl, and cholesterol had skyrocketed along with it. She was so fatigued she asked if she could not have a prescription for Synthroid.

But the doctor had a different idea. He asked her to go back to the very low sodium diet, but to eat all the eggs and unsalted butter she wanted. This brought triglycerides down to 600, which is still too high but an enormous improvement, and cholesterol to 240.

Dr. Sodi was working with impoverished patients who had no insurance, but results have also come from well-to-do Americans. When I mentioned this method in a radio interview, an 82-year-old man who had had two heart attacks and two angioplasties and who was taking Lasix, Norvasc, Tenormin, and Lescol called in and said he'd ask his doctor about trying the plan for a month (and you should make any dietary change working with you doctors, not against them).

Six weeks later he emailed, that he was no longer on Tenormin for high blood pressure or Lescol for high cholesterol, and "Had my routine check-up yesterday by my cardiologist and she was surprised and pleased with my progress. We have dropped two of my medications. Triglycerides are 80 down from 150, HDL 48 up from 40, and LDL 117 down from 147. How about that!"

When drugs don't work, and you can't find any more fats to eliminate, work with your doctor to follow a very low sodium diet. You may be equally happy with the results.

Recent reader questions:

Q. Is this the same idea as water and lime juice for high blood pressure?

A. It's the same general plan, with a lot more options for what you can eat and drink. Water and lime juice will help you lower your blood pressure if you also cut out caffeine and salt.

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