Marijuana, weight gain and other misfortunes

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m worried that smoking marijuana might make me gain weight – is it true that this could happen?

Dear reader: Consuming marijuana classically produces symptoms of increased appetite (so called the munchies) and in principle, it could lead to weight gain in otherwise healthy individuals. This, in addition to its anti-nausea effect (anti-emetic) is the reason marijuana is sometimes prescribed to cancer patients to alleviate some of their symptoms (from both the illness and its therapy).

Get high and fat

Get high and fat

It also often causes a dry mouth, which is usually noted by users and I should say that the munchies really should be the least of your concerns when smoking marijuana.
Let me explain.

I’ve heard people claim otherwise but the fact is that intoxication with marijuana does significantly impair motor function and consequently seriously interferes with driving ability – being high or being drunk makes almost no difference.
It can also cause a heart to race (tachycardia) and induce serious discomfort and even a panic attack.

Heavy marijuana use over long time is strongly linked to Amotivational syndrome, which is characterized by apathy and boredom – if this sounds too esoteric, let me put it into a real clinical scenario: Continue reading

Zinc for the Common Cold – Does It Work?

Get your Zinc from food

Get your Zinc from food

Dear Dr. Mo: Is Zinc helpful in treating the common cold? Should I use it?

Dear reader: When we catch the infamous cold (acute upper respiratory tract infection), sometimes the symptoms may be severe enough that we reach out to anything that has even a hint of a promise of a quick cure.

 

The truth is, there’s no effective cure other than our own immune system and yet, many supplements are out on the market claiming to boost the immune response and help us fight off the virus.

Evidence is strong against any substantial effectiveness of any of these supplements.

Healthy diet and exercise remain the only sure fire ways to overcome the common cold – yes, even while you’re sick, if you can, you should moderately exercise (or at least stay active) and not rest for too long – this will speed up the recovery.

Zinc time and again emerges as one of the supplements suggested to help us fight the common cold but, does it work? Continue reading

Last Resort: Oral Contraceptives as Emergency Contraception

OCP 2Dear Dr. Mo: What if I needed an emergency contraception and didn’t have it (couldn’t get it) – would a regular pill do the trick?

Dear reader: Even though I don’t recommend this as a contraceptive practice of choice, the answer is Yes.

Any Oral Contraceptive Pill can, in principle, be used as an Emergency Postcoital Contraception (EPC) as long as it contains a certain amount of estrogen hormone; the required amount is 200 μg of ethinyl estradiol (usually 20 – 35 μg of ethinyl estradiol per tablet but it may vary – read the composition label) – take the number of tablets to amount to 200 μg, then repeat in 12 hours. Continue reading

8 great health benefits of Green Tea

What a healthy tea!

What a healthy tea!

Dear Dr. Mo: What are the true health benefits of green tea, are these benefits real and should I start drinking it? 

Dear reader: Green tea is one of those foods that potentially has enormous health benefits but for most of them, more research is needed to really ascertain the extent of it for human health outside the lab. For starters, let me mention the 8 great health benefits of green tea that scientists are seriously looking into and I also suggest you read my earlier post which goes into more depth on green tea, its functions and proper preparation.

1. Cholesterol regulation

There’s a group of chemicals in green tea called catechins responsible for a lot of claimed benefits and researchers believe these catechins help prevent the absorption of cholesterol all together but at the same time they increase the absorption of high-density HDL cholesterol, which is the good one.

2. Weight management

Green tea speeds up digestion and slows down fat absorption while increasing the energy expenditure so these properties can help you lose weight when consumed as part of a healthy diet.

3. Good for the bones

Green tea is said to improve bone mineral density thus lowering your fracture risk – this is because green tea contains a group of chemicals that stimulates the formation of bone and helps slow their breakdown although more research is needed to corroborate this claim outside the lab.

4. Oral health booster

Catechins again – think about the green tea as a natural mouth wash, like Listerine, only better. Drinking green tea regularly can contribute to a healthier mouth because catechins can help kill bacteria in your mouth.

5. Keeps some cancers at bay

Studies show that green tea benefits include protection against certain cancers, not all of them but the fact is that we just don’t know yet about the full potential of green tea’s compounds. What we do know is that the data are the most substantial for bladder, ovarian and esophageal cancers. It mostly does this by starving cancer cells to death.

6. Helps prevent Type 2 Diabetes

And not only that but it helps prevent its prelude – the Metabolic syndrome a.k.a. the Syndrome X. Studies show that one cup a day isn’t going to cut it – you need up to 6 or more every day to lower your risks for these ailments – but, why not, it’s good for you so give it a go. Continue reading

Can vitamin C be harmful?

Dear Dr. Mo: Is it possible to have a vitamin C overdose? Can it become toxic or harmful if we take a lot of it?

an orange a day is all we need

an orange a day is all we need

Dear reader: Vitamin C is a very important nutrient – in fact it is so important that without pickled cucumbers stored in barrels below deck to provide enough vitamin C to prevent scurvy, Amerigo Vespucci may never had reached the Americas and hence, who knows what the Americas would be named today. Continue reading

Caught a cold?

Dear Dr. Mo: What exactly is ‘common cold’ and how to recognize it – is that the same as flu? Should I be worried and what to do?

Dear reader: These days you can’t seem to escape people who sneeze, cough, have a runny nose or all of it together – in fact, you may be one of them.

Don’t worry, it’s usually nothing serious, just a mild viral infection of upper airways also known as common cold and it requires no special treatment.

Chicken soup helps in recovery

Chicken soup helps in recovery

The symptoms of common cold may bug us for up to two weeks at a time and if we can maintain our daily function, if there are no serious muscle or joint pains, no high fever or strong headaches and prolonged fatigue it’s not the flu or other serious conditions and you shouldn’t be concerned. But if symptoms persist even after two weeks or start to get worse after 7 – 10 days, visit your doctor to see what’s going on.

Over 100 viruses can cause a common cold and you may experience anything from a runny nose to sore throat, cough and sneezing to watery eyes and strong congestion. Part of the package may also be mild muscle ache and headache, slightly elevated body temperature, mild fatigue and upset fellow elevator passengers. Those unlucky enough may get all these symptoms at once. Continue reading

Ibuprofen – pros and cons

Dear Dr. Mo: Why is Ibuprofen so ‘good’ and always prescribed as a medication in flu conditions? Are there any known side effects for using it?

Dear reader: Ibuprofen belongs to a class of medications called NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It works by discontinuing the body’s production of chemical messengers that cause pain, fever, and inflammation. These substances are called ‘prostaglandins’. But prostaglandins also help protect the lining of your stomach and other tissues, so blocking their production can cause side effects such as ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, which is the most common concern when NSAIDs are being used.

Use pain relievers with caution

Ibuprofen is one of the drugs used to relieve pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis (arthritis caused by a breakdown of the lining of the joints) and rheumatoid arthritis (arthritis caused by swelling of the lining of the joints).

Most people use ibuprofen to reduce fever and to relieve mild pain from headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, menstrual periods, the common cold, toothaches, and backaches. Ibuprofen also works well to alleviate hangover symptoms (mostly headache and chills).

All these effects are reasons why this drug is so often prescribed and used.

Now let’s turn to the other part of your question: the side effects. Continue reading

Multivitamins – yes or no?

Dear Dr. Mo: How useful are multivitamin supplements and when should you take them? I tend to take them during the winter when I think I might be more likely to catch a cold from my students…

Dear reader:First of all, try to eat a healthy diet – this goes without saying. A multivitamin daily dose does provide some help against nutritional deficiencies but cannot and should not replace the natural way we take in vitamins – through a healthy and balanced diet. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, nuts and low in red meat and unhealthy fats.  For those people who manage to eat a healthy diet like that, a multivitamin may have little or no benefit.

Healthy diet removes the need for multivitamins

I realize however that many people don’t manage to eat such balanced and healthy diets for a variety of different reasons, some economic, some behavioral, some social etc.  In such cases, as well as in cases like yours (prophylactic), a simple message is this: a daily multivitamin is a good insurance policy for your nutrition!

Taking a daily multivitamin and perhaps some extra vitamin D is an inexpensive way for you to fill in some of the nutritional gaps and make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

There are even added health benefits to such habits – Folic acid found in most multivitamins helps prevent neural tube deficits in newborns if women take it before they become pregnant and during pregnancy; this acid also lowers risk for breast and colon cancer and heart disease. Continue reading

Acai berries – fad or fact?

Dear Dr. Mo: Acai palm, its berries and Acai supplements have been advertised as being powerful in prevention of heart disease, cancer and in weight loss as well as potent beauty products. Is any of it true?

Dear reader: Acai palm is native to Central and South America. Its fruit, Acai berry is reddish/purple colored.
As many other berries, Acai berry has some good nutritional value, which is beneficial for our health.
It is rich in dietary fiber, heart-healthy fats and low in sugar.
It also has a high content of Anthocyanins, which are thought to be very powerful antioxidants.

Acai berries are rich in fiber

This anti-oxidative potential is the main reason Acai berry has been so popular.

Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue. They give fruits and vegetables darker hues spanning from purple, red to black. These pigments have been shown to act as some sort of a “sunscreen”, protecting plant cells and plant tissues from the high-light stress.

Lab results (in vitro studies) have been very promising in showing the many health benefits of this class of flavonoids including some anti-cancerous effects, particularly in colon, prostate and esophagus cancer. Also, their protective effects have been researched in processes of aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes and bacterial infections with positive results.
Continue reading