Archive for November, 2012

Seeds, corn, nuts and diverticular disease

DEAR READERS: You are sending me lots of great questions. But even though I write six columns a week, I can't answer them all.

Sometimes my answers prompt you to send additional questions -- and comments. Sometimes your comments take issue with something I've said. Periodically, like today and tomorrow, I'll devote the column to the questions and comments you've sent me.

Should I get vaccinated against whooping cough?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My daughter wants me to get a booster shot for pertussis. She says it will help protect her young kids against whooping cough. Is this true?

DEAR READER: Your daughter is right. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes violent coughing. The coughing makes it hard to breathe and produces a deep "whooping" sound. Pertussis can occur at any age, but infants and young children are most likely to become seriously ill from the infection.

What is hip resurfacing?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You recently discussed hip replacement in your column. Shouldn’t the option of hip resurfacing have been part of the discussion? DEAR READER: In the column you’re referring to, a reader in his 50s asked how to time his hip replacement. I advised him to find a balance: “Operate too soon, and you’ll […]

What can I do about nightmares?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been having terrible nightmares, and I don't know what to do.

DEAR READER: Almost everyone can remember having nightmares now and then. Just as we don't really know why we sleep, we don't really understand nightmares, or why some people are more prone to have them.

How can I help a grieving friend?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A close friend suddenly and unexpectedly lost her spouse. How can I help her through her grief?

DEAR READER: It's not easy to console a grieving friend; you can't fix the situation. Instead, just be present and offer hope toward the future. Accept that your friend's grieving is a natural process that will gradually ebb. Here are a few specific, practical pieces of advice.

How can I prevent traveler’s diarrhea?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm about to travel to a developing country. How can I avoid traveler's diarrhea?

DEAR READER: Traveler's diarrhea comes from eating food or drinking water contaminated by certain bacteria, viruses and parasites -- particularly the bacteria called enterotoxigenic E. coli. About half of the people traveling to a developing country come down with traveler's diarrhea. Fortunately, it is usually not severe. Still, it can spoil a good vacation.

Can grapefruit cause dangerous drug interactions?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've heard that grapefruit can interact dangerously with some medications. Is this true?

DEAR READER: I love grapefruit and grapefruit juice, so I remember my reaction the day a colleague told me about new research showing such dangerous interactions: Bummer! Grapefruit and grapefruit juice are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and other nutrients. But there's another side to the story. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice really can interact with dozens of medications -- sometimes with dangerous results.

Is my teenager depressed?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My daughter is a high school senior. In the last year she's become extremely sad and uncharacteristically moody. Is she just a "normal" teenager, or could this be more serious?

DEAR READER: A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend about his teenage son. Remarking that his son became upset very easily, he said: "I'm wondering if this is normal behavior. Then again, I wonder if there is such a thing as a normal teenager." Many teenagers have lots of emotional ups and downs. But in some cases a teen's sadness goes beyond normal "blues" and turns into clinical depression.

How do breathing exercises work to relieve stress?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm under a lot of stress from my job. I've heard that a technique called "breath focus" might help. Can you tell me more about this?

DEAR READER: Stress reduction techniques definitely can reduce your level of stress. The best-known technique is the "relaxation response" first popularized by my colleague here at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson. These techniques have given all of us a weapon against stress.