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Health Q&A

Posted September 26, 2012 in Advice Column, Pleasant Hill

Q: Can nail-biting pose any dental problems?

A: Unfortunately, nail-biting is more than an unsightly habit. The habit can leave more than stunted fingernails. It can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joints, the joints in front of the ears where the jawbone meets, also known as the TMJs.

Any activity, like nail-biting, that involves holding the teeth in an unnatural position for extended periods increases the possibility of injury to the TMJ. Over a long period, the unnatural position of the jaws involved in nail-biting will stretch the muscles in the jaw, causing pain and throwing off balance of the TMJs. If a very young child begins the habit, it can contribute to a gap developing between the front two teeth. Also the type of person who is prone to nail and finger biting, may also be prone to picking at his or her gums.

Some dentists and physicians recommend putting a non-toxic, unpleasant-tasting lotion in the fingers. Other believe putting a bandage on a finger could serve as a reminder and deterrent. If you have a nail-biter in your house or you are yourself a nail-biter, talk with your dentist about ways to break the habit.

Information provided by Des Moines Dental Group, 708 First Ave S., 967-6611.

Q: Why is consuming fruits and vegetables essential to a healthy immune system?

A: Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals as well as some lesser known but equally as important nutrients.

Chlorophyll is one of the most powerful wound-healers and blood-builders known. Chlorophyll is found most abundantly in dark green vegetables.

Indoles are a phytonutrient that supports key liver enzyme functions and detoxification pathways that can neutralize dangerous hormones and carcinogens. They are found in cruciferous vegetables, including kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard and brussels sprouts.

Carotenoids are phytonutrients that boost immune function and are full of powerful antioxidants. They are found in fresh produce that is yellow, orange, green, purple and red.

Fiber that is found in whole fruits and vegetables binds to cancer-promoting hormones and chemicals and carries them out of our bodies. Ideally, we should be consuming 50g of fiber per day, whereas most Americans are only consuming 5g of fiber per day.

Research shows that to give our bodies the amount of nutrients it truly needs to have a strong immune system and fight disease we should be consuming three servings of fruit and six to seven servings of vegetables each day. It is important to eat more vegetables than fruit as the sugar content in fruit is much higher than vegetables. Smoothies are a great way to consume a large amount of fruits and vegetables in one meal or snack.

Information provided by Dr. Kari Swain, Swain Chiropractic, 410 Center Place S.W., Altoona, 967-9300.

Q: How important are eye exams?

A: For most of us, the school year is now in full swing. With school comes homework; this can mean hours of reading and computer work for your children. We know that 65 percent of the student population are visual learners. Therefore, it makes sense that all students should have their eyes examined.
When students have trouble with distance vision, they may end up squinting in order to improve their vision. Focusing in this way may cause headaches across the eyebrows, along with eye strain and fatigue.

Students may also experience these problems while reading. Ask your child the following questions: Do the words seem to move around on the page when you read? Do you find yourself re-reading the same line? Do you notice eye strain or pressure around your eyes when you read? As the parent or teacher, you may notice he or she will try to avoid reading altogether. Symptoms indicative of a problem include rubbing the eyes while reading or studying and complaining of headaches. These students may need glasses for multiple reasons. If they haven’t needed visual correction in the past, they could be experiencing accommodative insufficiency, which is a lack of the ability to focus correctly on reading material. This problem can be evaluated by an optometrist, who will administer a few simple tests as a part of a full eye exam. Often these students need a pair of glasses to use in the classroom and at home for reading to alleviate focusing strain. It is important to note that these vision problems are often missed during school screening exams.

A final piece of advice: Ask your child’s teachers during conferences if they have noticed any of the aforementioned problems.

Information provided by Dr. Matthew Ward, O.D. from Eye Care of Iowa, 5075 E. University Ave, Pleasant Hill 265-5322

Q: How should I begin an exercise program?

A: Exercise provides numerous benefits, from preventing health problems such as heart disease to weight loss, increased energy and reduced stress.

Exercise can benefit most people, and many can begin gradual, moderate exercise on their own. However, some people should talk to their health care provider before beginning an exercise routine. If you have concerns regarding your health, especially if you have heart disease, hypertension, frequent dizziness or shortness of breath, you should speak to your doctor first.

It is best to choose activities that increase your heart rate (such as walking or biking). It is also important to find an activity that you enjoy doing and that you have easy access to. Start off by exercising three times a week for 20 minutes each time. Gradually work up to 30 minutes at least four to six times per week. It is not important to exercise for 30 continuous minutes. It is OK to split the time into two or three sessions of 10 or 15 minutes each. For those with very limited time, you can walk during your lunch breaks, take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk instead of driving.

When beginning an exercise routine, it is important to increase gradually. Increasing activity too soon can increase your risk of injuring yourself. Start with low-impact exercise, such as walking, and work your way up to more strenuous activities if you desire. You can also prevent injuries by stretching before and after exercise and hydrating well.

Information from www.familydoctor.org, provided by Amy Lamberti, PA-C, Mercy East Family Practice, 5900 E. University Ave., Suite 200, 643-2400.

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