1. Turn down the heat with therapy

    It's one of the Holy Grails of the drug industry: A pill to end hot flashes.

    Think that's a big market? You bet it is! Up to 80 percent of all women battle hot flashes during menopause, making a would-be treatment a billion-dollar dream for the drug industry.

    But for women, that dream is more like a nightmare as they play guinea pig. Instead of being given safe, natural, and proven treatments for their hot flashes, they're given unproven antidepressants, risky anti-seizure drugs, and even blood pressure meds... and almost all of them are being used off-label.

    It's a massive public health experiment that's hurt far more women than it's ever helped.

    But you don't need to swallow those pills, or face side effects, to get some relief, because the latest research points to a pair of easy, drug-free solutions: ordinary group therapy and self-help.

    Researchers recruited 140 women who reported hot flashes and night sweats at least 10 times a week and assigned them to either group therapy, self-help, or no treatment at all.

    The groups met four times a month, while those who got self-help had one meeting and a phone call with a shrink, but after that relied on a book and CD.

    Six weeks later, 73 percent of the women who got self-help reported meaningful improvements, compared to 65 percent of those in group therapy, and 21 percent of those who got no treatment at all.

    And six months later, those improvements held.

    Of course, therapy didn't quite work for everyone. But therapy isn't your only option here, either, because there are other proven natural ways to get safe drug-free relief from the worst symptoms of menopause.

    One recent study found that aerobic exercise can slash the number of hot flashes -- and a recent follow-up finds that getting sweaty four days a week can beat the other signs of "the change" as well, including night sweats, mood swings, irritability, and more.

    Other safe options backed by science include acupuncture -- which beat sham acupuncture in one study on hot flashes -- as well as a combination of St. John's wort and black cohosh. And, of course, many women get through menopause with the help of custom-made bio-identical hormones.

    An experienced naturopathic physician can help find which option is best for you.

  2. Babies being given stomach acid meds

    Here's a quick way to tell if you've picked the right pediatrician for your new baby: Tell him the baby spits up or vomits and cries about it afterwards.

    If he smiles reassuringly and says, "that's what babies do," you may have found a keeper.

    If he reaches for his prescription pad... well, it's time to find a new doctor.

    It's crazy to think doctors are diagnosing newborns with stomach acid disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, aka GERD, in the first months of life -- crazy, but it's happening every day.

    And of course, every diagnosis has a drug, right? So according to a new editorial in the Journal of Pediatrics, some doctors are actually giving babies and even newborns stomach-acid drugs such as the proton pump inhibitors used by millions of adults.

    Forget for a moment the potential for side effects, which are bad enough to scare even adults away from these meds, because, as Dr. Eric Hassall writes, there's an even bigger problem with this growing practice: It doesn't work.

    He should know, because he's done some of the research on PPIs and children himself -- and he actually supports the use of these meds in kids older than 12 months (boooo!).

    But he draws the line on babies.

    Because babies can't actually tell us how they're feeling, studies measure their levels of crying and irritability. And repeated studies have shown that babies who get PPIs don't cry any more or any less than babies who get placebos.

    In other words, they're not crying because they have GERD. They're crying for some other reason, or maybe no reason it all.

    Dr. Hassall puts it best in his editorial: "Because of the high prevalence of spitting up, unexplained crying, or both in otherwise healthy infants, these symptoms and signs are just 'life,' not a disease, and, as such, do not warrant drug therapy."

    I wish Dr. Hassall had ended his editorial there, but he didn't.

    Like I said, he actually supports the use of these meds in older kids -- so he had to tack on one last ominous sentence: "There is plenty of time for that in later years."

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