DEAR DR. ROACH: My son, in his mid-20s, uses a preworkout energy supplement to which I am opposed. Can you tell me if this is harmful so that I can show him scientific research and your educated and medically sound response?
The supplement he uses contains alanine 1 g, creatine 1 g, arginine 1 g, tyrosine and velvet bean seed extract. It also contains 150 mg caffeine. — B.G.
ANSWER: It’s not always easy to tell what supplements are safe or effective for the condition they are marketed for, and the information available through a web search often is biased. One place I start to get information is Medline Plus (www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/), which has reliable information about many supplements, but you often have to search individually.
In this case, alanine, arginine and tyrosine all are amino acids. These are the building blocks for proteins, and are safe in reasonable amounts. Creatine is generally safe for adults, and has been shown modestly effective at helping improve strength in young male weightlifters. One gram is a fairly low dose and is generally considered safe. The 150 mg of caffeine is about the same as a cup of strong coffee.
Velvet bean seed extract I had to look up. It has been used both as a food crop and in traditional medicines. It has toxicity at high doses, but at the dose in the supplement, it should be safe.
In summary, I think this supplement is not likely to be harmful if taken in recommended doses, and it might have some small benefit. There is nothing in the supplement that cannot be obtained easily and cheaply from food, apart from the velvet bean, which I think has the least proof of benefit of all the components of the supplement.
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DEAR DR. ROACH: I am 49 years old and in good health. I recently was told by my doctor that what was first diagnosed as a swollen lymph is actually a condition called carotidynia. Can you please publish some information about this condition and what I can expect? Sometimes it is worse than at other times, but it never really goes away. I would not consider it painful; it is just uncomfortable, and when severe, it radiates up into my ear and down into my chest. — S.W.
ANSWER: Carotidynia (literally, “pain in the carotid artery”) can come from several distinct causes, some of which are catastrophic, such as a carotid artery dissection, which is a tearing of the lining of the artery. In some cases, carotidynia may be a form of migraine. After surgery or angioplasty to the carotid artery, one also can get pain that comes from the carotid itself.
In the case of no other cause being identified, the condition is sometimes called idiopathic (which simply means “of unknown cause”) carotidynia, and some, but not all, experts think this condition comes from a type of inflammation around the artery, which can sometimes be seen on CT or MRI scan.
Idiopathic carotidynia is usually treated with anti-inflammatory medicines — ibuprofen, or prednisone in more severe cases. Most cases respond quickly, in a few days or up to a few weeks. However, I want to emphasize the need to thoroughly search for other concerning causes of neck pain.
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Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.
Smoke alarms have a life expectancy of around 10 years.
Have you ever gone to the refrigerator and poured yourself a glass of milk and taken a drink only to realize that the milk went sour? You look at the expiration date on the carton and see that the milk went bad because it sat there too long. There are items all around us that we may or may not be aware will go bad at some point. However, one item many do not realize that will go bad are the smoke alarms in our homes.
Smoke alarms have a life expectancy of around 10 years. After this smoke alarms start to lose their effectiveness. Smoke alarms have sensors inside that over time collect dust, dirt and other particles in the air. These sensors become covered and the smoke alarm becomes less sensitive then when it was brand new.
Here is how you can check to see if your smoke alarm(s) are outdated or nearing replacement age. If you remove your smoke alarm from the ceiling or wall, turn the smoke alarm over to the back side. On the back, there should be a date stamped on it. That date is the date the smoke alarm was manufactured. A smoke alarm is good for 10 years from the date stamped on the back. If your smoke alarm doesn’t have a date stamped on it, then it is time for it to go into the Smithsonian Museum. Taking just a few minutes to do this could literally mean the difference between life and death.
The Dubuque Fire Department in conjunction with the Red Cross of Northeast Iowa offers a free smoke alarm program. If you would like more information on this program or to schedule an appointment please call the Dubuque Fire Department at 563-589-4195. I can also be reached at Dpaulson@cityofdubuque.org.
Small Changes Add Up for Better Health
The best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to make small, long-term changes in what you eat and drink, along with getting daily physical activity. Follow the MyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov) healthy eating food plan:
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables—think variety and make it colorful.• Make half your grains whole grains.
Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
Vary your protein—poultry, seafood, meat, eggs, nuts, and beans.
Simple Tips to Boost Your Fruit and Vegetable Intake
Fruits and vegetables support a healthy and active lifestyle. For this reason, it is recommended that half your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables. Reaching this goal can sometimes be a challenge. Taking small steps to increasing daily fruit and vegetable intake is the best way to adopt a healthy habit!
Consider the following tips to increase your daily fruit and vegetable intake:
1. Add: Make it a goal to add extra fruits and vegetables to each meal (add fruit to cereal or oatmeal; lettuce to a sandwich)
2. Substitute: Swap foods in a recipe for fruits or vegetables (replace pastas in soup with vegetables)
3. Stock: Aim to always keep frozen and canned produce in storage for quick and easy preparation.
4. Steam and flavor: Get creative with flavor by steaming vegetables and adding herbs and spices.
5. Grab and Go: Keep fruits and vegetables in visible, accessible areas.
Adapted from NEWS (Nutrition Education with Seniors) Newsletter, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, March 2019 and the WOW (Words on Wellness) January 2019 Newsletter. To receive a newsletter, contact Kelsey Salow, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• “I use those individually packaged (usually 30 or 50 per box) eyeglass lens wipes to clean my glasses, and before they dry out, I use them to wipe down the touchpad on my microwave and stove. I use them to wipe down my phone screen, too.” — J.F. in Washington
• Still getting your groceries in plastic bags? Make sure you are recycling them. To make it easy, simply gather all your bags when you put away your purchases and put them in your trunk. The next time you shop, drop them off in the appropriate container at the store. Never put plastic bags in your curbside recycling bin.
• When replacing the box of baking soda from your fridge, dump the old one into your kitchen drain and follow with a couple cups of white vinegar. After a few minutes, flush the drain with hot water to leave it clean and smelling fresh.
• Is your silverware collection hanging around tarnishing? Well here’s a great tip from a friend up north: “Ketchup will polish silver.” — C.I. in Minnesota
• “If you accidentally spill water on a book, separate the pages with pieces of wax paper. Then close the book. As it dries, the wax paper wicks moisture and prevents wrinkles. Also, wax paper is microwave safe and allows moisture to escape, so food doesn’t get soggy.” — A.W. in Idaho
• Help prevent your socks from getting fuzzballs in the dryer by turning them inside out before washing, according to M. from Saskatchewan, Canada
• “If your water pressure in your kitchen or bath faucet seems lower than usual, unscrew the aerator at the end of the faucet and clean out the rust particles. It doesn’t take much rust to clog the tiny holes. Easy and quick! If it won’t unscrew by hand, a simple pair of pliers is all you need. Don’t overtighten when you put it back on.” — J.F. in Washington
• Sprinkle fabric furniture with baking soda and let it sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming it up. It freshens the scent.
• Steam clean your microwave by boiling two cups of water with either a few lemon slices or a couple tablespoons of baking soda added. Microwave in a glass dish or bowl for five minutes, then let it sit for five more. Then wipe clean.
Send your tips to Now Here’s a Tip, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.
Frozen corn enhances the texture and flavor of hearty cornbread without a lot of extra expense. Bake and freeze the cornbread, tightly wrapped, up to one month. Thaw; then, when ready to serve, reheat, covered, at 450 F for 15 minutes. Cut into 24 serving pieces.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 package frozen corn
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 jalapeno chiles
1. Heat oven to 450 F. Grease 13-by-9-inch metal baking pan.
2. In large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In medium bowl, with wire whisk or fork, beat buttermilk and eggs until blended.
3. Add corn, melted butter and jalapenos to buttermilk mixture; then add to flour mixture. Stir until ingredients are just mixed.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, or until golden at edges and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 6 pieces. Serve warm.
You won’t have to force yourself to eat enough vegetables when this easy dish is on the menu.
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen carrots
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
2 cups water
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can reduced-fat cream of celery soup
1 (2.5-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
6 tablespoons dried fine breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons fat-free Italian dressing
1. Heat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with olive oil-flavored cooking spray. In medium saucepan, combine carrots, celery and water. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Drain vegetables, then return vegetables to saucepan.
2. Add celery soup, mushrooms, parsley flakes and mozzarella cheese. Mix well to combine. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and Italian dressing. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over top.
3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Place baking dish on a wire rack and let set for 5 minutes. Divide into 6 servings.