Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart: Reader Questions On Medications, Protein, Vitamin D

UW Health Family Medicine physician Dr. Jacqueline GerhartMadison, Wisconsin - UW Health Family Medicine physician Jacqueline Gerhart writes a column that usually appears weekly on madison.com and in the Wisconsin State Journal. Columns are re-published here with permission.


Dear Readers: In this article, I am going to answer some of your shorter questions.


How do I get rid of my medicines?


Regarding medication disposal: Did you know that according to the Food and Drug Administration, most medications are supposed to be disposed of in "unappealing substances," like putting them into coffee grounds or cat litter, and then throwing them in the trash.


However, the FDA recommends that "controlled substances" (like narcotic pain medicines) be flushed down the toilet. In fact, it is actually illegal for you to bring your "controlled substances" to your physician's office or clinic to have them dispose of it for you. As healthcare providers we cannot take those medicines from you or dispose of them in our trash or toilet for you. There also are "national medication take-back days" and disposal stations at some police stations.


Why are ADHD meds called stimulants if they are meant to stop you from going a mile a minute?


Most people think it's because the medication "stimulates you." It is true that anyone – even someone without ADHD - will feel "stimulated" on ADHD stimulant medications. However, the term stimulant actually came from a medical coincidence back in 1937. At that time, kids used to get routine spinal taps (lumbar punctures) to look for general health problems. A scientist named Bradley noticed that if he gave mild amphetamines to children getting lumbar punctures, they were less hyper, more controlled and had better balance after getting the amphetamines. He referred to this as "stimulating inhibition." Thus, the medications are called stimulants.


Does it matter what type of protein I eat, or just that I make sure I get protein in my diet?


How much protein you need often depends on your body type. However, many people make the mistake of eating healthy fruits and vegetables without having some lean protein. Protein helps you stay fuller longer. In fact, a 2013 study showed that consistently eating vegetable proteins rather than animal proteins cut your obesity risk in half! The study looked at people who ate either 4 tablespoons of olive oil daily or three servings of 1 ounce of nuts daily, or a "general diet" and noticed that those who ate the "vegetable protein" – either the olive oil or the nuts, had a much lower rate of obesity after one year and after 10 years than those who ate more animal protein.


When should I start my baby on cereal and other foods to lower their risk of allergy?

Another 2013 study showed that starting kids on cereal after 5.5 months of age decreased their risk of asthma and runny nose, and that starting solids and grains later than 6 months helped decrease allergy to those foods. Alternatively, studies show that introducing eggs before 11 months and fish before 9 months can help decrease the risk of your child having allergies in general. With that being said, pediatricians generally suggest starting cereal at 4 months, solids at 6 months, and cow’s milk, eggs and meats at 12 months.


What is a better source of vitamin D? Food, supplements or sun?


I suggest that you get your vitamin D in exactly that order: food, then supplements and then sun. It's best to get your daily vitamin D needs from food if you can, but if you can't make it to 1,000-2,000 international units per day from your food, then you should make up the rest in a supplement. While vitamin D from the sun may improve your mood or make you warm, it also can increase the risk of skin cancer. So try to get most of your vitamin D "by mouth."


This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Gerhart to people submitting questions.

Date Published: 10/23/2013

News tag(s):  jacqueline l gerhart

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