Health & Lifestyles
It's easy to transmit germs on coffee cups
Q: I am trying hard to avoid catching a cold or the flu. I was shocked to see the barista at the coffee shop grab my cup by the edge and then press the lid on with her palm. That wouldn't be so bad if she hadn't just made change. I wonder how many people get sick and never associate it with their coffee cup. A: People have strong opinions about this issue. Many readers share your concern, especially if they want to sip from the cup through the lid. Others think it is silly to worry about germs on coffee-cup lids. It is relatively easy to transmit microbes via coffee cups. A study conducted at the University of Virginia demonstrated that half of the volunteers touching contaminated coffee-cup handles caught colds (American Journal of Epidemiology, November 1982). Cold viruses can last up to several days on surfaces such as light switches, door handles, TV remotes, pens, faucets or phones (Journal of Medical Virology, October 2007). Avoiding a cold or the flu requires washing hands and keeping them away from your eyes, nose and mouth.Q: Several years ago, I read about the soy-sauce remedy in The People's Pharmacy. Luckily, we always have large quantities of soy sauce in the house. Since that day, anytime I burn myself in the kitchen, I immediately grab the soy sauce and start pouring like there's no tomorrow. Never have I been disappointed! Last night, while stir-frying, I decided to take out a green bean and taste it. I didn't realize just how hot it was, considering it was only in the wok a very short time. I burned my bottom lip. I quickly grabbed a large spoon, filled it with soy sauce and "soaked" my lip for a minute or two. I thought for sure I'd have a blister by morning, but everything is hunky-dory. I was happy to be able to kiss my husband good night! A: We first heard about this remedy from a reader in Oregon who had burned his hand while blending hot soup. Applying soy sauce prevented a trip to the emergency department. Although serious burns deserve immediate medical attention, many other readers agree that cold water and soy sauce work wonders for everyday kitchen burns. Q: Several years ago, my blood pressure was 210/100. I took the prescribed medication, but also started reading up on ways to control hypertension naturally. I read that low-carbohydrate diets lower blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides. I cut back on bread, rarely eat pasta or other grains and don't eat much fruit but do get lots of nonstarchy vegetables. I eliminated sugar, and in the next few months my blood pressure dropped to about 120/80 even without meds. I never cut back on salt, and blood tests show my sodium is right where it should be. I suggest cutting carbs instead of salt. My blood pressure is around 110/68 at home, but it still pops up to 140/80 at the doctor's office. I take my monitor with me so my doctor can check my recent readings and test it against her meter. A: Bravo! Your low-carb dietary approach works for losing weight, lowering cholesterol and controlling blood sugar. There is evidence to support your use of this approach for hypertension (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2009). Q: I am 17 years old and was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis due to anorexia. I am hesitant to start taking a drug for osteoporosis because it seems that it can have bad side effects. Have you heard about any natural remedies? I have seen a few studies online citing that ground eggshells can help replenish calcium and reverse osteoporosis, but I wondered if whether you had seen any information about eggshells or other at-home treatments. Thank you! A: Osteoporosis can be a complication of anorexia. Because you are still young, you may be able to build bone back. The first step is to provide your bones with the nutrients they need, and eggshells may play a role here. You also need to offer them a bit of a challenge in the form of normal body weight and weight-bearing exercise (walking, running, dancing, tennis or something else you enjoy besides swimming). Although bisphosphonate drugs (Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax) can be helpful for older women with osteoporosis, it's not clear that they are effective or safe for adolescents (Current Opinions in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, December 2011). Powdered eggshell can be used as a calcium supplement (British Journal of Nutrition, March 2002). Be sure to choose eggs from organically raised chickens and wash them well in boiling water before letting them dry. After a few days, break them into small pieces with your fingers and grind them into a powder in a coffee or spice grinder. One eggshell provides roughly 800 milligrams of calcium, approximately a day's worth. Taken together with magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K, that should provide your bones with the building blocks they need to grow stronger. You can get magnesium and vitamin K from green, leafy vegetables, which also provide plant sources of calcium. Good luck to you! Overcoming anorexia is a challenge, but with motivation and assistance, you can do it and help your body heal itself.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."