Mysteries of the human body revealed…

Remember when you could eat five alarm chili and not feel like you were dying? I can remember that time, and now even mildly spicy foods have me drinking glasses of milk to quench the fire. When I eat Cajun food, which I love, I have to ask the cook to go easy on the seasoning. What is Cajun food without spice? I guess I don’t have to feel like a weenie any longer due to some scientific information. Here’s why: Over time there is a decrease in digestive enzymes along with changes in the bacteria in the GI tract making it harder to break down food. People who use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (known as NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, for joint pain create a more sensitive stomach lining.

What to do? If eating spicy food, don’t eat too much and eat slower. Sit down for meals and savor every bite. Try an OTC antacid, like Tums, Pepcid AC, or Zantac. They work by decreasing or neutralizing stomach acid. They may be taken for up to 10 days. If you need them longer than that, see your doctor.

For the ladies … Egad! My feet are huge! Did you know that a woman’s foot can get longer during the first pregnancy? Thanks, children! Not only am I still carrying around my pregnancy fat, but you’ve given me ogre feet! In addition, as we age our feet get flatter and wider. Gaining weight also leads to larger feet. Bunions, calluses, and corns can also change the size and shape of your​ feet, and cause pain.

What to do? Have your feet measured and then choose new shoes that provide support, padding, and room for your toes. You may need shoe inserts to realign your feet. Store-bought inserts can help. A podiatrist can fit you for customized ones. See a doctor ASAP if your feet look very different from how they’ve been. If swollen​ or red, you could have gout, a circulation problem, or a stress fracture.

Leaky bladder. How embarrassing! All of a sudden you need to get to the toilet ASAP! What’s up? It could be because​ of an overactive bladder (OAB). There seems to be an acronym for every medical diagnosis, right? This problem affects almost 40% of all women at some point in their lives. OAB happens when the bladder muscles start contracting while the bladder is still filling. This information comes from Tomas Griebling, MD, professor of urology at the U of Kansas School of Medicine.

What can be done to manage this embarrassing problem? Go to the restroom every 2 to 4 hours to prevent your bladder from overfilling. Try Kegel exercises. When you feel the urge to urinate, quickly squeeze and release the muscles of the pelvic floor several times in a row. (Imagine you are trying to stop the flow of urine.) This will decrease the sense of urgency and give you time to get to the bathroom. Give up things that can irritate your bladder, things like caffeine, carbonated drinks, alcohol, citrus drinks, and spicy foods. Then start back on these 1 at a time to see if your symptoms come back. If the symptoms return when you partake of one of these items, you now know which item(s) to avoid to prevent bladder problems from returning.

Suppose you have tried all of the above and are not successful in managing your OAB. It is time to see your doctor as she/he can offer you medications to relax your bladder, like Oxybutinin, or maybe even Botox or surgery. You don’t have to live with this embarrassing problem.

For the gentlemen … Worried about that balding pate? Believe it or not, it is a naturally occurring situation. Most men’s hair thins about by the age of 60. Knowing this fact may not make a person feel better, especially if they are the only one at the family reunion who’s balding and getting a sunburn on the top of the head. The reason for the balding head is the fact that one’s genes are more sensitive to the hormone DHT. DHT binds to the hair follicles and causes them to shrink over time. If the person is sensitive to DHT, hair loss will begin earlier.

What to do? Get a buzz cut or shave the hair off completely. A study found that younger men who had shaved heads were thought to be more dominant and confident than those with thinning hair or a full head of hair. Talk to a dermatologist about medications like Rogaine (minoxidil). (Just an FYI – Minoxidil was used as a blood pressure medication. It turned out that as a side effect people were growing hair on their arms, etc. Women as well.) But applying it topically to a specific area only promotes growth in that area. Medications like these keep the hair in the growth phase. The healthcare provider may prescribe ketoconazole shampoo because it blocks hormones, or even finasteride. This drug is known by the brand name of Proscar. It functions by stopping the body from making DHT. (Caution to those who donate blood – finasteride is one of the medications on the deferral list and so the person who takes this cannot donate blood. This medication is also used to treat Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) – enlarged prostate that can lead to urinary problems in men. My father donated blood for years, giving 15 gallons total. He was even donating in his 80s. His doctor prescribed Proscar for BPH. When my father went to donate blood they denied him because of this med. My father was upset and heartbroken. He told me that if he had known this, he would not have used Proscar.) A man may consider hair transplants. They work, but are very expensive. See a doctor right away if experiencing sudden hair loss. This may indicate a thyroid problem or anemia.

Erectile dysfunction is likely related to a normal drop in testosterone levels. Testosterone levels in the body decrease with age. If a man is having a decline in his ability to have an erection, there are a few things he can try. Fat around the middle, you know, the “beer belly”, causes the body to produce less testosterone. Less testosterone, less of an ability to get an erection. If a man’s levels are below normal, losing weight around the middle can make a big difference. Get testosterone levels checked. If the level is abnormally low, this can lead to other symptoms like fatigue, decreased libido, and being overweight. In this situation, the doctor may prescribe a testosterone supplement, either a gel, a patch, and injection, or an implantable pellet. A man should see a urologist if he hasn’t had a morning erection for months. (These are the involuntary erections men get during sleep due to testosterone.) This absence for an extended period of time could indicate diabetes or high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure (HTN) can be treated and managed.

Now you know. Some things are a natural result of aging, and others are things that can and need to be treated. Your health is so important, not only because feeling good is nice, but when you are not feeling good many aspects of your life can be affected. Take care of yourself.

Wishing you good health and a happy life!

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