Tuesday, March 13, 2012


So, as a budding physician, I hear a lot about the health issues and habits of friends/family members/random people at Target who see me in scrubs. Often it's something good, and I love having the chance to commend people on their choices---positive reinforcement works better than negative, not to mention that it's much happier for all concerned when my response can be a chirpy (but sincere) "Wow, it's great you're walking two miles a day now!" or "When did you quit smoking? I'm so proud of you!" as opposed to "I'd say eating at McDonald's for breakfast AND lunch is probably overdoing it," or "No, I really don't need to see the rash..."

However. There are a number of topics on my mind lately that either come up a lot, but shouldn't (fasting, or 'cleansing', for instance)--or never come up but should be discussed, and usually discouraged (like, for the love of all that is holy, douching). I'm not angry at the people who do these things; it's a matter of education, and if they've never learned any better they can't be expected to DO any better. Consider this your warning, y'all. It's time to stop this foolishness. Behold, the "healthy" habits I'd like to see wiped from the face of the planet.

1. Fasting. By this I mean going for an extended period of time (like, days) limiting oneself to water, juices, or whatever the hell that concoction is Beyonce drinks, in order to gain some health benefit. Some people do it just to lose weight--which is galling enough,considering fasting is literally the worst. way. ever. to lose weight, but others undertake a fast in order to 'cleanse' their bodies of 'toxins.' Guess what? As your body begins to break down fat and muscle for fuel, your bloodstream suddenly has lots more genuinely toxic compounds--think acetone, other ketones, and ammonia--floating around than it did in the good ol days when you were actually eating. Does it sound particularly healthy to get 100% of your calories from sugar, like you do on a juice fast?  The bottom line is, fasting for longer than about 24 hours sends your body into starvation mode. You lose weight, sure, but most of it is water weight at the beginning. Then you start to lose muscle mass, you body lowers its basal calorie requirements (where once you needed 1800 calories per day, your body kicks into penny-pinching mode and only needs 1200), and at the end of it all, you not only gain most of the weight back, but due to your loss of muscle, you have a higher body fat percentage than when you started.

2. Taking pointless supplements. Take a multi-vitamin, and take some fish oil, possibly some calcium with vitamin D if you're a person of the lady persuasion. The data on anything else is sketchy at best. There's little point in taking specific 'amino acids'--amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins, so they're in pretty much everything. As for specific supplements--while it's good to have adequate amounts of vitamin D in your system, it's far from a panacea. I know it's been a media darling of late, but seriously--it's not going to cure your cancer, or your PMS, or your herpes. Taking super-doses of vitamin C? If you want to, but you're just going to pee the excess out. In fact, that's what most of the supplements you take become--very expensive urine. If you're trying to get all the right nutrients in, here's a thought: get them from a varied and healthy diet. To paraphrase Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Thus, don't gorge yourself on Twinkies (the 'not too much' and 'eat food' rules--because while Twinkies may be edible, they hardly qualify as food) and expect to make up the deficits by taking 20 different vitamins, minerals, and exotic berry extracts. On the other hand, LITERALLY EVERYONE should be taking fish oil (or flaxseed oil--basically, an omega-3 supplement). It's good for your heart, good for your lipid profile, good for depression, good for cognition. DO IT.

3. Douching. The less said here the better, probably, out of respect for the sensibilities of some of the more sensitive readers--but it needs to be said, since I still see douches being sold everywhere, and still see people buying them. I'm going to speak to the ladies alone for a sec. Guys, go watch some basketball or crochet an afghan or something. Ladies: please think of your vagina as an oven--hot and self-cleaning. Douching not only doesn't do anything good, it actually puts you at greater risk for infections (not STIs, necessarily, but bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections) by flushing out the beneficial bacteria and protective secretions that hang out in there. Douching after sex will NOT prevent pregnancy, will NOT prevent STDs, will NOT in fact do much of anything. As for douching before sex, on account of that 'not-so-fresh' feeling: well, I'll just some out and say it. Vaginas are not supposed to smell like a spring glade or a new car or a summer's eve (I've just thought of a premise for a comedy sketch, which I will mercifully keep to myself). They should smell like...ladyparts, and you should know more or less what your ladyparts smell like so that if things start getting unusually funky you can GO TO A DOCTOR, not spend 5 bucks on the Massengill equivalent of a little pine tree air freshener.


CFS said...

I know I wasn't supposed to read #3, but curiosity got the best of me. I'd just like to add, for those of you ladies who insist on using the ED for all of your primary care needs, please -- for the love of 6 lb. 8 oz. baby J -- come see us when you FIRST notice things smelling...different. We're the ones that have to poke around down there. The closer it smells to "normal," the better. Please, and thank you.

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