Be Healthy

Tips from South Sound experts

Health seems to be at the top of everyone’s mind with the arrival of the new year. We asked several local health professionals for their favorite health tips from their field of expertise. Follow these easy head-to-toe tips for a healthier 2013.

Get Really Good Sleep

Dr. Kimberly Mebust, MultiCare Health System, MultiCare Sleep Disorders Centers in Tacoma and Puyallup

The average adult needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, so don’t short-change yourself. Practice good sleep hygiene with these six tips.

  1. Create a conducive sleep environment that is cool, dark and quiet
  2. Have a good quality bed and pillow
  3. Reserve the bedroom for only sleep and sex
  4. Try not to eat, watch TV, or work from bed
  5. Try not to drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages before bed
  6. Unplug from social networking and put the cellphone in another room

Bring on the Tears

Dr. Dennis D. Drouillard, Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, University Place/Puyallup/Bonney Lake

Some people do not make enough tears to keep their eyes comfortable; this is called Dry Eye Syndrome. Tear production decreases with age and women seem to be more affected than men. Artificial tears are often suggested, they frequently help, but the effect is often for only a short time. If used more than four times a day, they can actually make things worse due to the toxicity of the preservatives that are used in bottled preparations. We have found that adding significant amounts of Omega fatty acids to one’s diet can do much to help the eye produce more and better tears without having to rely on drops. Oral supplements containing higher levels of Omega-3 and less Omega-6 have been shown to be beneficial for more than just the eyes.

Keep Your Spine Aligned

Dr. Jason Stockton, Tacoma Family Chiropractic

Adjustments: Preventative maintenance of your spinal health by a licensed chiropractor is a component of a healthy, functional and pain-free back
Lifting: Poor lifting technique is the No. 1 cause of lower back injuries. The old adage, “bend at the knees, not your back” is a great place to start
Water: Healthy hydration helps maintain elasticity and fluidity in your joints. Your spinal disks will also shrink if chronically dehydrated
Rest: Your body needs a good night’s sleep in order to repair and heal. Poor sleeping position and worn mattresses can lead to back pain
Move: You don’t have to be a gym rat, but you must remain active. It is good for your joints and your waistline
Ergonomics: Repetitive stress breaks down your spine slowly. Make sure your workspace is set up properly
Stretch: Keeping flexible helps maintain normal joint function and full ranges of motion. Stretch every day

Make Healthy Living a Family Affair

Dr. Harbir Juj, Pediatrics Northwest, Baker Center Tacoma

Healthy children need healthy parents. The best place to start is by modeling and valuing healthy behaviors in your own life and then these can extend to your child and family. It really comes down to the basics — eating right, sitting down as a family for meals, exercising and moving your body in fun ways and valuing the importance of sleep. Teaching children these basics will set the foundation for healthy living.


Prevention is Good Medicine

Dr. Anna Colombini, naturopath, Serenity Spa, Tacoma & Peninsula Natural Health Clinic, Gig Harbor

In my practice as a primary care naturopathic physician, prevention is paramount. I teach my patients about their bodies and how to prevent and sometimes reverse illness and disease. Here are a few simple tips that will improve your immunity this season.
– Exercise regularly, at least three times per week to improve circulation, mood, immunity, sleep and metabolic rate. Try and exercise outdoors to further prevent exposure to people who may be sick.
– Drink approximately half your body weight in ounces of water or herbal tea to hydrate well. Proper hydration moistens the mucus membranes of your eyes, mouth, nose and throat which will allow these membranes to fight the bacteria and viruses we are exposed to.
– Eat at least three servings of fruit and three to five serving of vegetables per day to increase vitamins and minerals that help sustain a healthy immune system.

Don’t Shy Away From Colon Health

Dr. Joshua Levin, MultiCare Health System, MultiCare Colon and Rectal Surgery in Tacoma

Both men and women should get a colonoscopy starting at age 50. Few health care interventions can reduce the risk of dying from a disease by more than 50 percent. While a colonoscopy might be uncomfortable to talk about, people should pay attention to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found the death rate from colorectal cancer was reduced by 53 percent in people who had a colonoscopy that detected and removed precancerous growths, called adenomatous polyps.

As a patient, I’d like those odds of survival, even if it means slight discomfort. Each year, more than 140,000 people are diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer in the United States, and about 50,000 people die. Age is the most important risk factor for the disease, so even people who lead a healthy lifestyle can still develop polyps and cancer. Screening should begin at age 50 — or earlier if you have other risk factors. Both men and women are equally affected.

Eating Right for Two

Dr. Meghan Duffie, Providence Health & Services, Hawks Prairie Family Medicine

For pregnant women, eating healthy has never been more important. Every vitamin and nutrient you put in your body lays the foundation for your baby’s start in life. Remember you’re eating for two nutritionally but not in quantity. Most women will not require any extra calorie consumption during their first trimester. Your baby will need 300 extra calories a day in your second trimester and 450 extra calories per day in your third trimester. Here are some food safety tips.

  1. Reheat lunch meats and hotdogs until steaming hot
  2. Avoid Caesar salad dressing and all under-cooked eggs, fish and meats
  3. Caution with raw sprouts, which hide bacteria in cracks of their shell
  4. Make sure soft cheeses and apple cider says “pasteurized”=
  5. Eating two meals of fish or shellfish a week provides healthy Omega 3s and DHA. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish, which are high in mercury

Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Dr. Chris Chen, MultiCare Health System, MultiCare Regional Cancer Center in Tacoma

Exercise may help reduce your risk of cancer. While there’s no quick fix in our ongoing quest to prevent cancer, an abundant body of scientific evidence points out that physical activity may reduce the risk of breast, colon and uterine cancers. In October, the journal Cancer published a new study that found a 30 percent decrease in the risk of breast cancer in women who exercise 10 hours a week, compared with sedentary women. The intensity level of the activity didn’t appear to matter: all you need to do is stay physically active, whether it’s walking, doing household chores or gardening. As a general rule, each week adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity. If you need any more motivation, consider this: a physically active lifestyle is also associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis.

Be Kind to Your Skin

Dr. Brenda F. Kodama, Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, University Place/Puyallup

Enhance your skin care regimen this winter and banish dry skin. For many, especially here in the Northwest, the colder months bring out bothersome patches of itchy, flaky skin. Avoid this problem by starting early and using an oil-based rather than water-based moisturizer, as it provides a protective layer for your skin. I recommend Trixera Cream by Avene to many of my patients. Don’t forget to keep your shower time brief and use warm water; hot water may be tempting but can irritate your skin. Using a humidifier in your home can help add moisture to otherwise dry air from furnaces and heaters. If your dry skin condition persists, scheduling a visit with your dermatologist is recommended.

 No colds and flu for you

Nurse DelRene Davis, Providence Health & Services, West Olympia Family

Patients frequently ask me how I stay healthy during cold and flu season. “I wash my hands and don’t touch my face” is my typical response. Here’s why. Hands are easily in contact with germs, but skin is a good barrier to prevent infection. When those same hand germs come into contact with mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth, it’s an opportunity for infection to enter the body.

Getting adequate sleep, eating an antioxidant-rich diet with lots of fruits and veggies, and making it a habit to moderately exercise three to five times per week are also strategies to boost the immune system. And lastly, don’t forget a daily dose of laughter! There is good science to show our body responds with a boost in the immunity when we laugh. Who knew staying healthy could be so much fun!

 Be Heart Smart

Dr. Raed Fahmy, Franciscan Heart & Vascular Associates, affiliated with St. Joseph Medical Center and St. Anthony Hospital, part of Franciscan Health System.

In one hour, the average heart can beat more than 3,500 times. In one day, more than 100,000 times. In a lifetime, well, you do the math. Like any machine, the heart requires maintenance and care. Here’s how to keep your heart healthy.

  • Avoiding or cessation of smoking. Smoking accelerates atherosclerosis — hardening of the coronary arteries — that leads to heart attacks
  • Diabetic control through diet, exercise and weight loss, and lipid and high blood pressure control are important aspects of maintaining normal heart function
  • Avoiding or effectively dealing with stress and adhering to good sleeping habits are favored by hearts
  • Moderation in alcohol and caffeine intake eliminates irritability of the heart in the form of arrhythmias
  • Reducing salt intake in diet helps avoid fluid retention and unnecessary work by your heart
  • Primary care providers can guide you to a healthier lifestyle. When a heart-disease diagnosis is made it is necessary to follow-up with a cardiologist for advanced heart care and procedures

Kids Need Their ZZZs

Dr. David Ricker, Pediatrics Northwest Baker Center and Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center, Tacoma

Sleep hygiene is so important to a child’s development and it is often neglected by many parents today. Inadequate sleep can contribute to obesity, learning problems and poor growth. To ensure that your child is getting a healthy night’s rest, ensure that he or she has a set bedtime; a quiet and dark bedroom and a consistent bedtime routine that doesn’t include TV or video viewing in bed. Also, avoid any TV watching, video games, cellphone or computer use for at least one hour before bedtime. Reading before bedtime is always better than screen time. Lastly, try to limit your child’s intake of caffeine or energy drinks from the early afternoon onward.

Let’s Talk About Tummy Time

Nurse Betty White, Digestive Health Specialists, Tacoma

Often our patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) take good care of their digestive tract. They take all their medications as prescribed and have regular colonoscopies to screen for cancer. But did you know having IBD puts you at risk for other organ disorders? These extra-intestinal manifestations are rare and only affect less than 20 percent of patients with IBD. They include skin disorders such as psoriasis, pyoderma gangrenosum or erythema nodosum. But blood disorders such as anemia, iron deficiency, or folate deficiency are more common. Skin cancer and cervical dysplasia are more common in IBD patients as well and the American College of Gastroenterology recommends yearly evaluations. If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis it is important that you don’t forget to have a yearly exam by your primary care provider and follow the guidelines from ACG for skin and eye exams as well.

Listen to Your Body

Dr. Aaron Toler, Tacoma Chiropractic Health and Massage Center, Tacoma

Most people’s first reaction to pain is to use or take something to eliminate the pain. But killing the pain without asking why your body is warning you can be dangerous. Investigating why you are having pain in the first place is vital. Once you have determined the cause, the number one thing you can do to help yourself is to get adjusted by your chiropractor to keep a clear neurological connection between your brain and your body, so that the power inside your body can respond properly to whatever is needed during the healing process. Then, as the body heals and returns to its natural state, the pain (warning signal) will automatically resolve in the right amount, at the right time.


Dr. Jason Stockton photo courtesy Inspired ImageWorks; Dr. Harbir Juj and Dr. David Ricker photo by Megan Worstell; Dr. Anna Colombini photo courtesy Tonya Todd Photography; Dr. Meghan Duffie and Nurse DelRene Davis photo courtesy Steven Herppich photography; Dr. Aaron Toler photo by Jeff Hobson

is a contributor to South Sound magazine.
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