The UK’s Daily Mail asked physicians how they handled their own common health problems. Here are some of their comments, not necessarily supported by facts, but in line with their experiences. Physicians are subject to their own prejudices, just like the rest of us. I rolled my eyes on some, but what do I know? Decide for yourself.
Indigestion or heartburn: Skip the entree. Fatty foods are a common cause of indigestion because they slow down the emptying of the stomach and cause constriction of the lower bowel. “I’m very conscious of the amount of fat in food. I don’t eat red meat. [At restaurants,] I tend to have one or two starters — the main course in restaurants is usually too fatty.” He also avoids going out for dinner when he’s particularly busy: stress can cause the stomach to produce more acid which can splash up into the gullet, causing heartburn. So, too, can alcohol.
Nighttime bloating: Pat, pat, pat. “Sometimes I wake up feeling very aware of gas being produced. I just pat my tummy low down on the right hand side — which is the part of the large intestine that holds the gas — until it passes and I go to sleep again.” (I assume his wife moves to the spare bedroom when she hears that pat, pat, pat.)
Colds: Get on a bike. “Gentle exercise is helpful — it blows away the gunk. When you’re bunged up, you tend only to use the top of the chest while breathing. But when you exercise you use the whole chest and clear the upper airways, coughing up or swallowing the mucus. Exercise also releases endorphins, which help lift the malaise you get with a cold. So I get on my bike and cycle to work. However, if you also have a fever, it’s best not to exhaust yourself with exercise as your immune system may be diverted from fighting the bug.”
Sleep: Focus on the present. “I notice the movement of my breath, the sheets touching my toes, and anything I can feel physically.” This pushes day-to-day worries out of your mind, so you can go to sleep more easily.
“We use lots of sheets and blankets rather than a duvet. With multiple sheets you can change the temperature quickly by removing or adding a layer when needed.”
Memory: Fast every other day. “Recent research shows it’s possible to create more [memory neurons] in adulthood. Diet has a huge impact. I try to do intermittent fasting. Every other day I’ll just have a light breakfast and a very light dinner — about 600 calories in total — although often it’s because I’m too busy for lunch. Studies show that if healthy people reduce their calorie intake by about 30 per cent and increase time between meals, it improves their memory by helping create more of these neurons, although we don’t yet know why. I also have fish such as salmon — full of omega-3 fatty acids —every other day, and keep fresh blueberries in my fridge. The flavonoids they contain are good for memory. Exercise has a dramatic effect on these neurons, too, so every other day I run to work and back — about eight miles [Too much for us].”
Foot and leg cramps: Pull your big toe and eat more bananas. “Although we don’t know exactly what causes cramps, it could be related to circulation. The feet are at the end of the body, so the blood has further to travel, which may be why feet are more prone to it. When it happens, I crouch and pull my big toe up towards me as hard as I can for 15 seconds to stretch out my foot fully. Then I put my weight on my foot again to see if the pain’s gone. I repeat until it subsides. If I’m still getting cramp after that, I know I need to drink more water and eat more bananas which contain magnesium and potassium. Magnesium can help relax muscles, and potassium helps with muscle function.”
Tooth brushing: Use two. “I brush my teeth twice a day to protect my teeth and gums — once with a manual and once with an electric toothbrush. Although you get the benefits of the vibration with the electric brush, it can be easier to access the hard-to-reach places at the back with the smaller handle and head of a manual brush.”
Corns: Avoid leather shoes. “Leather is very unforgiving and can cause hard skin, pain and corns on the underside of feet. I tend to go for soft, air-cushioned soles.” He also avoids going barefoot on any communal area to guard against verrucas [plantar warts]. “If I want to be absolutely sure, I’d even wear flip-flops in a hotel room. It’s a very hardy virus.”
Weight Gain: Save the best for last. “I eat a light breakfast and lunch and a decent-sized meal at night. I start the day with orange juice, muesli, and a cup of tea. Lunch is a sandwich, piece of fruit and water. This gives me enough leeway to have what I want in the evening, and the occasional cake without feeling guilty.”
To beat cravings, do a chore. ‘”I ask myself if the craving is coming from my stomach or my head. If my tummy’s rumbling, I’ll have a drink and a snack — cereal, fruit or low-fat yoghurt — to take the edge off. If it’s just a mental craving I distract myself, perhaps by doing a chore. I wouldn’t do something passive, like watching television.”
Back Pain: Hug your knees. “It’s just wear and tear — the joints and discs wear out a bit as you get older. I take some painkillers, such as paracetamol [acetaminophen], for a few days and I’ll also do simple yoga exercises to stretch my back and sort my muscles out. Lying down, I pull my knees to my stomach and roll from side to side to give the back a good stretch. Another one is lying on my front and arching my back. I use a memory foam mattress, too. It contours to your spinal shape and eases pressures around it.”
Hair Loss: Wash it every day. “Many people think washing hair daily will make it fall out, but if you don’t, it can end up in bad condition and then you may be more susceptible to hair breakage, which can look like hair loss because there’s less hair volume on your head.” He shampoos and conditions his hair every day, gently pats it dry with a towel so as not to break it, and, when using a hairdryer, keeps it on a warm setting and holds the dryer a foot away to minimize heat damage.
But you won’t learn anything more.