Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Now that's just COLD!

Happy Wednesday!

Whenever someone comes into the office with an injury or pain, I ask if they have already been using any ice or heat on the area. The most common response is "I haven't used anything because I didn't know which was better." The simple answer to this is that if you are in doubt, always use cold. Most injuries will have some type of swelling and cold therapy is the best to help decrease the inflammation. Yes, heat does feel better. However, heat over a specific area brings blood to the area, so although it can help to relax the muscles, it can actually create more swelling. On the other hand, using general heat with a hot shower, bath or hot tub is great because it heats and relaxes the whole body and doesn't just bring attention to a specific area.

You might have heard that cold is good for acute (within the first 72 hours) injuries and heat is good for chronic (after 72 hours) injuries. Although this can be helpful, I still believe and have seen the best results are by using cold on the area regardless of how long it has been since the injury. The only time I really ever recommend heat is with arthritic conditions or really long-term, chronic conditions.

The best way to use cold therapy is to put cold on the injured area for 15-20 minutes and then take it off for 15-20 minutes and then repeat. Especially with a new injury, this should be done several times throughout the day and most importantly a few times before going to bed. In general, swelling in our body gets worse throughout the day, so you want to make sure you calm it down before you go to sleep with it. By alternating the cold and no cold, you are taking the swelling away with the cold and bringing new blood to the area when taking the cold away. Some people alternate cold and heat, which is fine, but is just more work and gets similar results as just alternating the cold with no cold. The cold could be a baggie with a few ice cubes and some cold tap water, a reusable ice pack, or even a bag of frozen vegetables (you can make some good vegetable soup after using it ;). All should be wrapped in a paper towel. The goal isn't to FREEZE the area, just to cool it down and numb it a little.

So, hopefully you don't get hurt, but if something does happen to you or someone else, remember that if you are in doubt, use cold!

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

Live Well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Don't Forget to Flush!!

With cold and flu season right around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to give you a way to help cleanse your sinuses. If you suffer from allergies, nasal congestion, or sinus infections, a good way to flush or cleanse your sinuses is by using a Neti Pot. A Neti Pot looks like a small version of a tea pot. One example is pictured here...

You can buy these at any drugstore (Walgreen's, Osco, etc.) or online. They usually come with a saline solution, but you can use any type of non-iodized salt.

Here's how to do it:

1. Fill the pot with with lukewarm water and add a 1/4 teaspoon of the saline solution or salt until it is dissolved.

2. Over a sink, tilt your head to the left, positioning the side of your head approximately parallel to the floor. Put the spout of the Neti Pot into your right nostril. Seal the opening of the nostril by gently pressing the spout of the Neti Pot against the nostril opening and pour the water into the nostril. The water will start to come out of your left nostril after flushing through the sinuses.

3. Breathe through your mouth during the flushing process. Pour the entire contents of the Nedi Pot into the right nostril.

4. You may want to blow your nose after cleansing the first nostril. Now, refill the Neti Pot and tilt your head to the right side, and repeat the process with the left nostril.

I know this sounds like a crazy process, but it really is not as bad as it seems. It takes a couple times to get used to, but is actually really easy. It's a great, natural way to clean out your sinuses. If you are someone who has chronic allergies or sinus infections, I would recommend doing this daily and I think you will be very happy with the results. Otherwise, use it during times of sinus congestion to help you breathe better.

Feel free to post your personal story about using the Neti Pot or if you have any other questions about using it.

Live Well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's Your Number?

Plastics are definitely a hot topic. Plastics are not only bad for the environment, but can also be bad for your health. There are different types of plastics and they are labeled by a number of 1 through 7. You can usually find the number inside a small triangle on the bottom of the plastic item. No plastic is completely safe, but the soft plastics labeled 1, 2, 4, or 5 are the safer forms. Number 7 hard plastics have been shown to contain BPA (bisphenol-A). BPA has been linked to some cancers and infertility.

Unfortunately and unbelievably, the 5 gallon water cooler jugs that many people use at home and at work and some children's toys are made of number 7 plastic! Dawn and I had been using a water cooler at home for years until about a year ago when I learned of BPA. We have since gotten rid of the water cooler and installed a reverse osmosis filter under our kitchen sink for drinking water. We installed it ourselves and it cost about $200 compared to the $25 a month we were paying for the water cooler and water delivery. Another easy way to avoid the water cooler is to put a water filter directly on your faucet. As far as the toys go, try your best to avoid toys that your child puts into their mouth that are made with the number 7 plastics.

Here's a few other helpful tips to avoid plastics...

1. Use glass storage containers for food instead of plastic
2. Use glass baby bottles instead of plastic (
3. Avoid reusable plastic water bottles. Instead use stainless steel bottles (
4. Avoid using plastic containers or plastic wrap in the microwave
5. Use reusable or paper grocery bags instead of plastic

Yes, glass is more expensive than plastic, but you get what you pay for, so just do what you can!

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Live well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Just Breathe

Wow. What a crazy time it has been in our economy and stock market. I just really feel bad, mad, and sad for all the people who were planning on retiring or have recently retired and are feeling the immediate effect of the financial conditions. With that being said, now is a probably a pretty good time to talk about ways to deal with stress.

Stress plays a role in all of our lives. However, how the stress affects us mentally and physically depends directly on what we do to deal with the stress mentally and physically. I could write much more than any of you would like to read on the topic of stress, so I am just going to give you a few easy ideas to help de-stress yourself.

Breathing is obviously vital to life. However, how we breathe is also very important. I'm guessing that if you stop and pay attention to your breathing right now that you will notice your chest and shoulders moving as you breathe. Well, unfortunately this means you are breathing wrong. For those of you who noticed your stomach move as you breathe, congrats! You are most likely breathing correctly!

Abdominal breathing is the key to proper breathing. It is always good to do, but it is especially good during times of stress or anxiety. Here's a basic breathing exercise...

1. Sit down and place one hand on your abdomen, so you can feel how you should be breathing.
2. Take a slow breath in for 3-4 seconds using your abdomen. You should feel your hand move as your abdomen moves out.
3. Breathe out for 3-4 seconds.
4. Repeat at least 10 times.

It sounds easy, but it might take practice to get used to breathing the right way. Proper breathing not only calms the mind, but it also helps relax your muscles.

For other ways to de-stress, go to this link...

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Live Well. Laugh Often. Love Much.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Weekend Warrior Syndrome

My Monday afternoon schedule tends to be one of my busiest of the week at my office due to the "Weekend Warriors". These are the people who try to do more on the weekend than their body is used to during the week (golfing, raking leaves, mowing the lawn, gardening, house work, bike rides, etc.) and forget about stretching and getting proper rest and fluids. And when their back "goes out on them", they pull a hamstring, they get a migraine, they sprain an ankle, etc., they call on Monday morning for the first available appointment.

We all are guilty of being "weekend warriors" every now and again, trying to get everything done on the weekend that we couldn't do during the week or just having too much fun! However, there is a safer approach in doing so. Especially with raking season approaching and unfortunately snow shoveling not too far behind, I want to give you some simple stretches and exercises to help you best avoid these injuries. These stretches are great to do in the morning on a daily basis, but should definitely be done before and after any acitivities that you don't do everyday. I know it sounds strange to stretch before and after raking leaves, but it really does help you to prevent injury and you'll be much happier not waking up as sore the next day! If you do have any aches or pains after activities, put cold on the area for 20 minutes at a time to help get swelling out of the area. Also, getting plenty of water is a must everyday, but you should be drinking even more water and staying properly hydrated on days that you do more activities!

Here is the link that describes and shows you the various stretches and easy exercises...

On a side note, being a life-long Cubs fan, I was really hoping that I would wake up this morning and find out that it was all just a really bad wasn't. I guess there's always next year.

I wish you all a happy, healthy week!!

Live well.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What can I eat?!!!

I get a lot of questions from people who are trying to avoid gluten as to what they can eat. So I am going to paste a response I gave to an earlier comment about gluten below and also give you a link to a list of foods available at Trader Joe's that are gluten-free. Many of these foods are available at other grocery stores so use it as a reference. However, just because something is gluten-free and is on this list, DOES NOT mean that it is good for you, but it does give you a good idea of the wide variety of foods that are gluten-free...

Previous discussion...

Anonymous said...
I'm thinking about starting a gluten free diet. Can you suggest some foods or a sample menu as to what to eat?
September 16, 2008 8:29 PM

Dr. Nate McGowan said...
Yeah, gluten is a tough subject. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease is a digestive problem in which a person has an intolerance to gluten. However, more and more studies are coming out with problems related to gluten sensitivity. A gluten-free diet is hard for most people because you have to eliminate foods that are usually a big part of the diet (breads, pasta, bagels, pizza, beer). As for what you can eat...fruits and veggies, eggs, lean meats (chicken and fish), brown rice, brown rice pasta, wine, and stay away from anything else that has wheat listed as an ingredient even wheat flour. Since gluten is another hot topic these days, many food products will state if it is gluten-free. In fact, I think Trader Joes will give you a list of products at the store that are gluten-free. A good site for more info. on this topic is Good luck and I hope this helps!
September 18, 2008 7:37 PM