stomach

  1. Antibiotics no longer recommended for sinus infections

    Finally, a little common sense when it comes to antibiotics: A leading medical group is urging docs to stop using these drugs for sinus infections.

    Right now, roughly 15 percent of us suffer these infections every year -- and most are given 10 days of amoxicillin for it, despite the fact that up to 98 percent of all sinus infections are caused by viruses.

    And antibiotics, as I'm sure you know, are worthless against viruses.

    Now, the Infectious Diseases Society of America is telling docs to quit it -- because the overuse of these drugs comes with some serious risks.

    Along with the added costs to medical care, the drugs expose patients to side effects for no good reason. The most well known and immediate, of course, is diarrhea.

    But these drugs also pack a bigger risk that you might not feel right away. They kill off nearly all of the bacteria in your stomach, including many of the good bugs you need to stay healthy.

    And that can cause more than just stomach problems, since there's increasing evidence that imbalances in gut flora can play a role in everything from mental illness to muscular disorders.

    Call it one more reason to make sure you take a probiotic whenever you take an antibiotic.

    But that's just the impact on a personal level -- and that's small potatoes compared to the big picture here. The overuse of antibiotics has led to the rise of drug-resistant superbugs, and that affects all of us... whether we've taken these meds or not.

    Sinus infections are actually a case in point.

    They're the fifth most common reason these drugs are used, and the main one -- the amoxicillin I mentioned earlier -- is losing effectiveness in the small percentage of infections that really are caused by bacteria.

    As a result, the new treatment guidelines call for a different antibiotic in the rare cases they're actually needed, amoxicillin-clavulanate instead of amoxicillin, and for five days instead of 10.

    The change for antibiotics alone is revolutionary -- but they didn't stop there. The Society is also calling on docs to stop dishing out all the other meds commonly recommended for sinus patients, including the decongestants and antihistamines that have been proven to actually make the condition worse.

    Instead, one of the new recommendations is for nasal irrigation with a sterile solution -- an honest-to-goodness all-natural remedy.

    Of course, issuing new guidelines is only half the battle.

    Now let's see if docs actually follow them.

  2. The worst way to lose weight

    Surgery is supposed to be the ultimate shortcut when it comes to weight loss: Let the doc put you under, and when you wake up you're on your way to a brand-new body.

    If only it were that simple.

    Now, the FDA is finally starting to crack down on the companies that promote one of the most common weight-loss procedures, the adjustable Lap Band that squeezes the stomach so you can fit less in it.

    When your stomach holds less, you eat less... and when you eat less, you lose weight.

    For many people, that's all they need to hear. If their insurance covers it, they're on their way to a new life that's a lot more difficult than any of them ever would have guessed.

    That's because while the billboards and TV ads promise quick and easy weight loss, they don't really talk about risks. And they barely even mention that this is a major surgery with serious side effects, up to and including death.

    In some cases, the Lap-Band needs to be adjusted. Some patients need two or more surgeries before it's on right, and they face the risks of complications each time they go under the knife.

    Once the band is in place, patients often experience difficulty swallowing, severe and miserable heartburn, and nausea.

    Although the FDA's recent warning was specifically directed at a series of clinics offering Lap-Band in Southern California, those warnings could have been directed at clinics across the country. Because no matter where you live, odds are you've seen signs and heard ads that conveniently leave out those very real risks.

    And believe it or not, this is actually one of the "safer" forms of weight-loss surgery. Other procedures, such as gastric bypass, promise more dramatic results -- but come with even more risks, including an even higher risk of death than the Lap-Band.

    So forget surgery. You can do a better job on your own anyway -- and as I told you a couple of weeks ago, it starts with just two days a week of an easy-to-follow low-carb diet. (Read about it here.)

    Start with two days a week -- but don't end there. Turn that two-day lifestyle into an everyday habit, and you'll lose weight the right way... and enjoy all the benefits of a thin, new you without the risks of surgery.

  3. Mind over belly in battle of the bowels

    If you're suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, the problem might not be entirely in your stomach.

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