At one point or another we've all suffered from an embarrassing health issue -- be it minor or a large nuisance that we just aren't comfortable talking about in public. People ask me health- and diet-related questions online everyday. And after working with on "The Biggest Loser" for 12 seasons, I sometimes doubt there's an embarrassing question I haven't been asked! Here are some popular ones:
Boo! Hiccups happen when your diaphragm goes into somewhat of a spasm and involuntarily contracts. The diaphragm is a muscle that helps you breathe. After the contraction, an abrupt rush of air flows into your lungs, thus creating a "hic" sound. Most of the time hiccups are self limiting and rarely need medical intervention. Causes: -Sudden excitement -A very full stomach -Carbonated beverages -Alcohol -Dry breads -Spicy foods -Smoking Treatment and Prevention: There are lots of home remedies out there and you may have one that you swear by. Most remedies actually increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood. This is thought to stop the hiccups. Some suggestions: -Holding your breath for 10-20 seconds -Breathing into a paper bag for a short period of time -Trying to drink a cup of water bent over in an upside down position -Swallowing a spoon full of sugar or honey -Don't eat too much! Learn to stop when you're comfortable -- not stuffed. -Being startled -- although sometimes, this can cause them, too!
Skunk in the trunk? You know the answer to the question, "Who farted?" Flatulence -- you may call it gas or farting -- is something that everyone has. Some people think they have too much of it, and letting one loose in public can be a bit embarrassing! Believe it or not, most of us expel one to three pints of the stinky stuff daily and fart about 14 times a day! This is normal. Although I've known a few people who produce way more hot air than this! Causes: -Normal part of digestion (bacteria in large intestine produce gas as they finish of the digestion process) -Swallowing air eg when you slurp your soup or cereal -High-fiber foods Prevention or ways to decrease the amount of the smelly stuff: -It's still important to eat lots of fruits and veggies, as well as whole grains. Aim to get 20-35 grams of fiber in your diet each day, but increase your intake slowly to allow your body to get used to it -Mind your manners, and don't slurp! Also try not to gulp when you drink. -Drinking through straws actually increases the amount of air you swallow.
Can't go? Dyschezia or dyssynergic defecation -- otherwise known as constipation: Most people get constipated at some point, and it can be painful, frustrating and annoying, but rarely serious or dangerous. Most of the time, constipation is not caused by a medical structural problem, but by a temporary disorder of your intestinal function. The most common causes are: -Slight dehydration due to not drinking enough water -Not enough fiber in your diet -Inactivity (not enough exercise) -Stress -Change in diet (such as when you're traveling) -Some medications (especially pain medicines) Less common causes are: -Irritable bowel syndrome -Pregnancy -Eating disorders -Colon cancer -Hypothyroidism -Obstruction Treatment: So, what can you do to loosen things up a bit if you do get constipated? -Drink extra fluids, especially water -Increase the amount of fiber from fruits and vegetables in your diet -Try adding prunes or prune juice to your diet for a few days -Up your physical activity (walk more, go exercise) -Only if necessary try using a mild stool softener or laxative (this should be your last resort, and don't use one for more than two weeks without talking to your primary care provider) When to sound the alarm and call your doctor or primary care provider: -If you have blood in your stool -If your constipation has lasted two weeks or longer -If you are in severe pain -If you have lost weight
Excuse you! Belching and burping: Medically known as dyspepsia, burping may be polite in some cultures around the world, but here in the United States we're taught differently. Most of the time when we burp, it is unintentional and sometimes it's quite noisy. Burps are just air being let out of the stomach or esophagus via the mouth. Causes: -Swallowing air (e.g. from eating too quickly or slurping soup or cereal) -Drinking carbonated liquids -Certain foods (everyone is different and some people may be sensitive to a variety of foods) -Fluid retention due to hormone levels -Medications (and some dietary supplements) may cause bloating and burping Prevention: -Try not to slurp when drinking or eating soup or cereal -If certain foods increase your burping, try to avoid them -Lay off of the soda pop -Remember to say "pardon me" after a loud burp
Got the runs? From the Greek word meaning "flowing through" comes diarrhea: Have you ever felt like you might not make it to the toilet in time? It's stressful and uncomfortable, to say the least! Many of us will experience diarrhea at one time or another. Sometimes it's due to being sick and having an intestinal bug, but sometimes it's due to other reasons. Here's the lowdown on some of the causes of this dreaded unpleasantry. Causes: -Bacterial infection (such as food poisoning) -Viral infections -Food allergies -Food sensitivities -Change in diet pattern (eating foods that upset your system) -Ingesting too much alcohol -Some medications -Some cancers -Diabetes -Irritable bowel syndrome What do you do now? How to relieve symptoms of diarrhea: -Let it run its course (and stay close to a bathroom!) -Some non-prescription medications can help, like Pepto-Bismol or Imodium A-D -Drink lots of water. Even though it may seem counter productive, it's not! You can become dehydrated with diarrhea, so increase your fluid intake (sports drinks may come in handy too). -Eat a bland, low fat diet for a while -Decrease your fiber intake temporarily When do you get concerned and call the Doc? Here are some symptoms of dehydration, which can be caused by diarrhea: -Dizziness -Headache -Confusion -Small amounts of urine or dark urine -Irritability
Next week I'll continue with five more embarrassing health questions.
Cheryl Forberg, RD is a James Beard award-winning chef, Nutritionist for NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and NYT bestselling author. Her latest book is Flavor First (Rodale). She lives on a farm in Napa, California. For more nutrition and cooking tips, visit Cheryl's website
Follow Cheryl Forberg, RD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CherylForbergRD