Glaucoma can strike without pain or other symptoms and is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), early detection and treatment is critical to maintain healthy vision and protect the eyes from the effects of potentially blinding diseases, such as glaucoma.

Awareness and understanding surrounding glaucoma is relatively low. According to data from the AOA’s latest American Eye-Q® consumer survey, less than 20 percent of all Americans know that glaucoma primarily causes deterioration to peripheral vision.

The survey also indicated 50 percent of Americans incorrectly believe glaucoma is preventable. While the disease is not preventable, it is treatable, and regular, comprehensive eye exams play a critical role in successful outcomes for patients. The AOA recommends those who suffer from glaucoma have a dilated eye examination annually. More frequent exams may be needed if you notice additional changes in your vision.

“Those individuals who do not visit their eye doctor on a regular basis are putting their vision and quality of life at risk,” said Dr. Davis. “Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored, so early detection and treatment are important.”

Americans also are not aware of the factors that put them most at risk for developing glaucoma. Only 16 percent of those surveyed indicated knowing that race or ethnicity may increase their risk. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans ages 45 to 65 are 14 to 17 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians. Other risk factors include people who have a family history of glaucoma, are over age 60, or have had severe eye trauma.

To find a doctor of optometry in your area, or for additional information on glaucoma and other issues concerning eye health, please visit

About the survey:
The sixth annual American Eye-Q® survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From May 19-23, 2011 using an online methodology, PSB interviewed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level.)

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors. Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient’s overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor’s degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit
By: Chad Davis, O.D.

We are in the midst of cold and flu season, and I have recently seen an uptick in clinic visits for upper respiratory infections. Common complaints include sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, and low-grade fever, and I often feel pressure by patients to prescribe antibiotics for their symptoms. However, most upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses and are not improved by a course of antibiotics.

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections like strep throat, certain kinds of pneumonia, skin infections, and urinary tract infections. Antibiotics are vital to modern medicine and have led to a dramatic reduction in illness and death from infectious diseases. However, very few new antimicrobial drugs have been introduced over the last thirty years and taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to an increase in strains of bacteria that are resistant to most or all current antibiotics.

Almost all bacteria have the ability to change or mutate to become less susceptible to drug threats, but the more that antibiotics are used, the more opportunities bacteria have to evolve to resist them. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that half of all prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary or inappropriate as written. If an antibiotic is prescribed for a viral infection, otherwise harmless bacteria in the body may develop resistance and later transfer it to more dangerous bacteria when a true bacterial infection does occur.

The misuse of properly prescribed antibiotics can also contribute to drug resistance. For example, when patients fail to complete their drug regimens at home, they may allow some bacteria to survive the treatment and develop resistance in the process.

Antibiotic-resistant infections affect 2 million people and are associated with 23,000 deaths annually in the United States. Antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern that limits available treatments and increases costs because of the need for more expensive drugs and longer treatment courses. Some antibiotic-resistant infections cannot be treated by any current medications. Examples of antibiotic-resistant infections include Methycillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile, drug-resistant tuberculosis, and drug-resistant gonorrhea.

It is important to note that antibiotic overuse occurs not just in medicine but also in food production. In fact, agricultural usage accounts for 80 percent of all antibiotic use in the U.S. and is a major source of human antibiotic consumption.

Almost 21 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to livestock in the U.S. every year for growth promotion, weight gain, and disease prevention. The antibiotics in meat and dairy, as well as the resistant bacteria, are potentially passed on to humans in undercooked foods. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans is linked to food. An analysis of supermarket samples by the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that the majority of the ground beef, ground turkey, and pork chops sold in the typical American grocery store contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Drug-resistant bacteria can also spread from farms through agricultural workers, flies, and trucks that haul livestock and can accumulate in manure that is spread on fields and enter waterways.

So what can you do to reduce the incidence of antibiotic-resistant infections? Here are some tips to promote proper use of antibiotics and reduce resistance:

  • Complete the full course of an antibiotic. It’s important to take all of the medication, even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, the drug may not kill all the bacteria, and the remaining bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic that you’ve taken.
  • Do not skip doses. Antibiotics are most effective when they are taken regularly.
  • Do not save antibiotics. You might think that you can save an antibiotic for the next time you get sick, but an antibiotic is meant for your particular infection at the time. Never take leftover medicine.
  • Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. These may not be appropriate for your illness, may delay correct treatment, and may allow your condition to worsen.
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, before eating, before preparing food and after handling fresh meat. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and keep kitchen work surfaces clean.
  • Don’t push your health provider to prescribe antibiotics. Ask your doctor if they think your illness is viral, and if you can fight it off on your own.
  • Avoid infection by getting vaccines, including the flu vaccine.
  • Use antibiotic ointments sparingly.
  • Avoid antibacterial hand soaps and cleaners.
  • Practice food safety at home. If possible, purchase meat and dairy that have been raised without antibiotics.

By: Dr. Shanna Ndong

During the month of February, Americans see hearts everywhere. Most Americans see it as a month that is dedicated to love. It is also American heart month, a time to show your anatomical heart some love in addition to the heart as you emotional center.
Cardiovascular disease (a fancy medical term that includes heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke) is the number one killer nationwide. It is also known as the “silent killer” as there are many times no warning signs or symptoms associated with heart disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is also a leading cause of disability in the US and costs us over $300 billion annually in cost of healthcare, medications, and productivity.

There are many risks associated with CVD. Some of them you can alter, others you can’t. Modifiable risk factors include diet, exercise, tobacco use, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Non-modifiable risk factors include gender, family history, age, and ethnicity.

As you begin to take the journey toward better cardiovascular health, it is important not to get overwhelmed. At a conference recently I heard a word that will help keep you from feeling you are in over your head: JOLT, which stands for Just One Little Thing. Rather than thinking you have to make multiple major changes at once, taking it one small modification at a time will have tremendous effects on your heart health. Other things you can do include partnering up with someone else, don’t get discouraged, and reward yourself! Let’s face it. No one wants to make major changes on their own and we all need a little accountability and encouragement from time to time! It is easy to get discouraged with changes when we are focusing on the negative, so reward yourself through the process as you make those small changes. Set goals, and when you reach them, celebrate!

Prevention is key when it comes to cardiovascular disease. At a recent lecture I attended in regard to Whole Food Nutrition, an MD said “Your body never forgets how to prevent what you don’t yet have.”

So what are some things you can do to help prevent cardiovascular disease? The list below is just a few things you can change (

  • Work with your healthcare team-get a check up at least annually
  • Monitor your blood pressure-remember there are no symptoms of high blood pressure most of the time, so check it regularly
  • Monitor your cholesterol- have it checked at your annual exam
  • Eat a well balanced diet with lots of FRESH, RAW fruits and vegetables with moderate amounts of healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avacado
  • Maintain a healthy weight- through diet and exercise
  • Regular exercise- at least 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week
  • Don’t smoke- if you currently smoke, you should quit; if you don’t, don’t start
  • Manage other chronic health conditions such as diabetes

Happy Heart Month! Keep your heart healthy. And remember: JOLT- Just One Little Thing.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

Flu Season Is Here!

The 2016-2017 flu season has arrived.

Influenza (more commonly known as flu) activity in the United States is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that out-patient clinic visits for influenza-like illness (where patients report symptoms that suggest an influenza infection) are elevated compared to baseline all over the nation. In Limestone County, significant influenza activity was detected (as reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health, and based not just on symptoms, but also a positive flu test) for the past 3 weeks.

There is also an uptick of hospitalizations related to the flu. Based on CDC data, the age group that has had the most number of hospitalizations for influenza have been people 65 years and older. This is followed by the 50-64 years age group. These age groups also account for majority of seasonal flu-related deaths in recent years.

The good news is that it is not too late to get the flu vaccine to get protected against the flu.

There are specific groups of people that should not skip the flu vaccine, either because they are at higher risk of developing complications, or because they can expose those who are at high-risk to get the infection. These include the following (based on the CDC recommendations):

1. Children aged 6 months to 5 years and 11 months.
2. Adults aged 50 years and older.
3. Anyone with a long-term lung or heart condition (examples include heart failure, congenital heart disease, COPD, asthma), or any chronic kidney, liver, neurologic, hematologic (blood) and metabolic condition (including diabetes).
4. Any individual with immunosuppression (weakened immune system), either because of a known condition (such as HIV) or because they are on medications that weaken the immune system (such as long term steroids).
5. If you live with or care for anyone who meets the criteria for #1-4 (you can give them the flu!).
6. Anyone who is pregnant or plans on becoming pregnant during the flu season.
7. Residents of nursing homes.
8. Health care personnel.
9. Morbidly obese individuals with a body-mass index greater than 40 (if you don’t know your BMI, there are several calculators available online. All you need is your height and weight).
10. American Indians and Alaskan natives.
11. Children 6 months to 18 years of age who are taking long-term aspirin or those who may be at risk for developing Reye’s syndrome.

Symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, and muscle aches. A cold, sore throat, and a non-productive cough can accompany these symptoms. While a lot of people “get over” the flu, some individuals develop complications, which can lead to death or disability. The complications of influenza include pneumonia (from influenza and other bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus), rhabdomyolysis (muscle inflammation and destruction, which can lead to kidney failure and death), and infection of the brain (encephalitis).

Antiviral treatment is available for high-risk individuals who get the flu. These antivirals are prescribed by your physician or health care provider and can lessen the risk of developing complications (but do not get rid of them entirely). The best cure, however, is prevention, and you can do this by getting your flu shot, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding contact with sick persons. If you get sick, minimize your activity (avoid going to crowded areas where you can spread it to others), wash your hands regularly, and cover your cough.

The flu vaccine is typically well-tolerated, and one of the more common adverse effects is soreness at the injection site. Vaccine technology has gotten advanced over the recent years that some formulations contain very little egg protein, so people with an egg allergy can receive certain types of flu vaccines. If you have questions or concerns about the flu vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider.
By: Sasha Acelajado, MD

A Chiropractor’s primary focus is on the musculoskeletal system—the spine—and it’s correlation with the nervous system. Chiropractors believe that many health systems are a result of spinal misalignments called subluxations. Correcting these subluxations will enable the nervous system to perform in the correct manner and strengthen immunity.

When you decide to visit a chiropractor, there are many different adjusting techniques that he/she may use to correct this subluxation. Here are just a few (of many) techniques that a chiropractor may use:

Spinal Manipulation: The most widely known and used chiropractic procedure. The doctor places his hands on the spinal area that needs to be adjusted and then proceeds to deliver a quick thrust to correct the subluxation. Manipulation resets the position of the spine and its muscular support so that optimal function can be attained. After spinal manipulation, the patient may notice a greater range of motion and reduction or elimination of pain. Extremity adjusting of areas of the hand, wrist, shoulder, elbow, knees, ankles, and feet may also be performed.

Instrument Adjusting: Sometimes instead of the chiropractor using his hands, he will use an instrument to perform the adjustment. There are many different instruments available that chiropractors use but one of the main ones used is called an activator. The chiropractic positions the vertebrae and joints in a manner for healing and pain reduction. The pressure from the activator is normally gentle and painless. This is a wonderful technique to use on elderly patients, babies and others who just do not wish to hear the sound produced from a spinal manipulation.

Pressure Point / Trigger Point Release: Pressure joints are knots in the muscle fibers. The constant contraction in the muscle fibers restricts circulation to the area, depriving it of essential nutrients and causing the build-up of toxins. Pressure points are known to cause headaches, neck, jaw and low back pain. The release works by applying steady pressure to the knotted muscle fiber, which stretches it and increases the circulation to the contracted tissue.
Whatever technique you prefer, find the chiropractor that works best for you!
By: Drs. Lynn and Lorie Hedgepeth

Vitamin D acts as a hormone in the body and was found to play an important role in the maintenance of calcium levels and bone health almost a century ago. Researchers have recently discovered that vitamin D is also necessary for proper function of the immune system, cardiovascular system, muscles, and brain.

Severe Vitamin D deficiency in childhood can lead to rickets that is characterized by bowed legs, bone and teeth deformities, muscle weakness, and short stature. Rickets has become fairly uncommon in the U.S. due to fortification of milk with Vitamin D beginning in the 1930s, but mild to moderate Vitamin D deficiency continues to be an important problem. Vitamin D deficiency in adults is associated with osteoporosis (brittle bones), increased risk of falls, and possibly fractures.

Recently, low Vitamin D has been associated with increased risk for a number of conditions including muscle weakness, cancers, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease, and cardiovascular disease. Elderly individuals with low Vitamin D levels are at increased risk of falls and have higher death rates. Research into whether Vitamin D supplementation reduces these risks is ongoing.

Eighty to ninety percent of the Vitamin D in our bodies comes from sun exposure. Ultraviolet light from the sun (specifically UVB rays) is used by the skin to make Vitamin D. A fair-skinned person who spends 10 minutes in the midday summer sun – in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen – will receive enough radiation to produce 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. Dark-skinned individuals and the elderly produce less Vitamin D.

According to the Vitamin D Council, the amount of Vitamin D you get from exposure to the sun depends on:

  • The amount of skin you expose – the more skin you expose the more Vitamin D your body will produce.
  • The color of your skin – pale skins make Vitamin D more quickly than darker skins.
  • The time of day – your skin produces more Vitamin D if you expose it during the middle of the day.
  • Where you live – the closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for you to produce Vitamin D from sunlight all year round.

People most prone to a Vitamin D deficiency include those who live in northern regions with little sunlight exposure, people with darker skin, people on low-fat diets, and those taking steroids and weight loss medications. Vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods such as fish-liver oils, fatty fishes (tuna, mackerel, salmon), egg yolks, and beef liver. In the United States, Vitamin D commonly is added to milk, orange juice, and other foods.

A recent report by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that approximately 40% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, with the highest rates seen in blacks (82%) and Hispanics (69%). There has been an increase in Vitamin D deficiency over the past several decades due to a shift toward indoor work and activities and increased use of sunscreens. One study found that sunscreen with an SPF of 15, when used properly, can reduce Vitamin D formation by as much as 99%. Also, glass blocks UVB rays; so sun exposure through a window does not result in Vitamin D production.

The daily requirement for Vitamin D is at least 600 international units (IU) for adults aged 18-70 and at least 800 IU daily for individuals over 70. There is controversy regarding the recommended daily requirement for Vitamin D, and some groups advocate for as much as 2000 to 5000 IU per day.

You should speak to your doctor before beginning Vitamin D supplements because very high doses of Vitamin D can have negative effects on your health. If you are obese, pregnant, dark-skinned, age 65 or older, or have limited sun exposure, you should talk to your doctor about obtaining a Vitamin D level.
By: Dr. Shanna Ndong


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and affects the vast majority of patients with arthritis pain. Some refer to osteoarthritis as “wear and tear” arthritis. Another term is degenerative joint disease.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint but most commonly affects the weight bearing joints, specifically the knees and hips. Basically, the padding between the joint deteriorates and, as the joint nears bone touching bone without padding, the joint hurts.

Treatment varies from activity modification to joint replacement. Conservative treatment includes avoiding impact exercises, such as running and jumping. As a general rule, exercises that are better for arthritis are as follows: swimming is better than biking, biking is better than elliptical, elliptical is better than walking, and walking is better than running. Weight loss is another method to lessen the impact across the joint.

Medications are frequently used but are often limited by side effects. Typical medications include anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or Aleve. These medications have to be used with caution due to gastrointestinal side effects and kidney side effects. Other medications include glucosamine, which has very few side effects.

Injections are an alternative for certain joints such as the knees. There are two types of injections. First, steroid shots have been the standard for many years. Although generally well tolerated, they have some limitations. A more recent advancement includes injection of a rooster cartilage derivative into the knee commonly referred to as rooster comb shots. These shots help to pad and lubricate the diseased joint.

Occasionally, certain types of braces can help arthritis pain. These are called off-loader braces and work to take weight off of the arthritic area.

When other treatment has failed, surgery may be the best option for osteoarthritis. We are often asked about arthroscopy for arthritis. The short answer is that scope surgery will not fix arthritis. Joint replacement is the only good option for stopping arthritis pain. It involves replacing the bone on bone joint that no longer has a pad with an artificial joint that is separated by a plastic cushion. We will be covering the specifics of these topics of surgeries in future publications of Athens Now. Look for us in future editions.

OrthoSports Athens is your hometown connection to cutting edge orthopedics and we are happy to evaluate and discuss specifics with you.
By: Dr. J. Patrick Boyett, Orthopedic Surgeon

11-18-2016-3-27-56-pmFalls are a leading cause of disability and death in adults over the age of 65. Statistics show that every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall-related injury and many more are injured. While most falls do not cause harm, 1 out of 5 falls result in a serious injury, such as a fracture (broken bone) or bleeding into the brain. When an older adult gets a fractured bone, it limits his/her ability to perform daily activities and often leads to severe disability, which can be stressful for both patient and family. Also, even if no injury occurs, someone who has had a fall may experience a fear of falling, which tends to limit their mobility. This starts a vicious cycle wherein they get weaker (because they are not moving around as much) and increases their tendency to fall even more.

Several conditions are associated with an increased risk of falling. Lack of Vitamin D, arthritis or any condition that leads to difficulties with walking or balance, taking certain medications, problems with eyesight, and weakness of the lower body are just some of the conditions that can predispose to a higher tendency to falls. Environmental factors such as poor lighting in the home, increased clutter and trip hazards, and lack of railings and grab bars, also play a role in increasing fall risk. It is usually a combination of multiple factors that lead to a major fall in most adults over 65 years old.


What can you do to reduce your risk if you or a loved one is over 65 and is at risk for falling (or may have already fallen)? Here are some tips:

1. GET ANNUAL PHYSICAL EXAMS. Get your eyes checked every year, and see your primary care provider so that they can identify medical conditions or medications that can increase your risk of falling. If you have Medicare, take advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit that it offers.
2. SPEAK UP. Tell your healthcare provider if you have fallen, if you are afraid of falling, or if you are unsteady on your feet. Most patients do not tell their healthcare providers about a fall unless they have sustained an injury, but you would not want to wait until that happens.
3. STAY ACTIVE. Most experts recommend activities that help with strength and balance, such as Tai Chi. As with any exercise regimen, consult with your healthcare provider before initiating a new program to see if it is right for you.
4. CHECK YOUR HOME. Most falls happen at home. Fall-proof your home by doing the following:
a. Keep your floors and stairs free of clutter.
b. Make sure wires and cords are close to the walls and not in areas where you can walk over them.
c. Remove rugs that you do not need or make sure that they are secure to the floor (use double-sided tape if you have to).
d. Make sure every room has good lighting. Make sure you can easily reach a light switch or a lamp from your bed (in case you have to get up at night).
e. Add grab bars in the bathroom – one next to the toilet, and another in the shower or tub. Place non-slip mats on the floors in the bathroom.
f. Add railings and lights to all staircases (lights at the top and bottom of each staircase). The railing should extend the length of the entire staircase and there should be a railing on both sides.
g. Repair any loose or torn carpet.
h. Fix loose or uneven steps.
i. Keep the items that you use frequently within reach (so you do not have to use a step stool). Never use a chair as a step stool.
j. Put a phone near the floor in case you fall and cannot get up (so you can use it to call for help). Keep numbers in large print near each phone. Have your loved ones check on you regularly to see if you are doing well (especially if you live by yourself).

Falls affect a lot of people each year – whether it is an older person or their family who may be burdened when their loved one cannot be independent anymore. Take these simple steps to reduce your fall risk. Do not underestimate your risk – fall-related injuries are costly, dangerous and lead to significant disability.
By: Sasha Acelajado, MD

11-4-2016-11-14-00-amVaccines have received a lot of criticism recently, but no other health intervention is more effective at reducing the spread of infection.Vaccines stimulate the immune system to recognize a specific organismas foreign, destroy it, and “remember” it, resulting in immunity to the disease that the organism causes. Immunity can decrease over time for many diseases, so adults who received vaccines in childhood may require a “booster.” Below is a list of recommended vaccines for adults.

Flu (Influenza)
Common symptoms of the flu virus include fever, cough, muscle aches, and fatigue. Flu season occurs between October and Mayand up to 1 in 5 people in the U.S. get the disease.The flu can weaken the immune system, which can lead to complications like pneumonia, blood infections, or death.The flu vaccine reduces the risk of having the disease by half and results in shorter and less severe illness in individuals who get the flu despite vaccination. The flu shot is recommended every year for everyone age 6 months and older.

Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can cause many types of illnesses including pneumonia, meningitis, bloodstream infections, and sinus infections. It is estimated that 900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia each year and about 5-7% die from it.There are two vaccines for pneumococcus (PCV13 (Prevnar) and PPSV23 (Pneumovax)) and they are recommended for adults with certain chronic illnesses and all adults who are 65 years or older.


Shingles (Herpes zoster)
Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body and is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body and can reactivate years later, causing shingles. Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. As many as 20-30% of people who develop shingles get post-herpetic neuralgia or severe pain in the areas where they had the shingles rash, even after the rash clears up.The shingles vaccine is recommendedfor all individuals age 60 and older.

Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. Tetanus bacteria are everywhere in the environment, including soil, dust and manure. The bacteria can get into the body through broken skin, usually through injuries from contaminated objects. Tetanus infection causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness which can lead to difficulty breathing (death occurs on 10-20% of cases). A tetanus booster shot is recommended every 10 years in adulthood.

Whooping cough (Pertussis)

Pertussis is a very contagious disease that usually starts with cold-like symptoms and can progress to a severe cough that can last up to ten weeks.Pertussis is most dangerous for babies and can cause them to stop breathing. Vaccine protection for pertussis fades with time, so all adults 19 and older who have not previously received a Tdap vaccine need a booster shot.

Additional vaccines are recommended for adults with certain chronic diseases or who were not vaccinated in childhood. The adult vaccination schedule is updated every year so talk to your doctor about your vaccination history and what may be appropriate for you.
By: Shanna Ndong, MD

10-21-2016-3-14-00-pm“All disease begins in the gut.”-Hippocrates

Hippocrates was a classical Greek scholar born in 460 B.C. His wisdom is over 2,000 years old, but has stood the test of time. He has become one of the most outstanding contributors to medicine, and is even counted the “Father of Western Medicine.” In fact, every doctor who graduates from medical school takes the Hippocratic Oath, one of the oldest binding codes of ethics that exists.
This quote on the relationship between disease and gut health isn’t just a nice saying. It is backed up by science. It is thought that three quarters of our immune system resides in the gut, with over 500 different species of bacteria that live there. The number of microorganisms present in the gut alone is 10 times the number of cells in the entire human body. Research now suggests that this is not merely a peaceful co-existence, but more of a mutual relationship. Without a healthy immune system, you are susceptible to all kinds of disease, thus the reason Hippocrates said, “Disease begins in the gut.”


In modern times, we have severely harmed the health of our guts. Between overuse of antibiotics, sanitizing EVERYTHING, a lack of proper nutrition, eating highly processed foods and sugars, we have effectively destroyed gut bacteria. Old World, or traditional diets around the globe include the use of raw and fermented foods that are full of bacteria. These cultures aren’t afraid of it; they understand its beneficial relationship with their gut.

We are born with completely sterile digestive tracts because while in utero, we have no need to break down nutrients since our mother is doing that for us. We become colonized with various strains of bacteria (good and bad!) from our mothers during the rather messy but necessary process of vaginal birth. Breastfeeding also supports this process in infancy, due to strains of immune-boosting bacteria found only in breast milk, and provides a balance.

This is not to say babies who are born via c-section and/or are formula fed have no hope from the beginning. These babies just need a little extra help with supplementing what they didn’t get through vaginal birth and/or breastfeeding. Also, toddlers put everything in their mouths (dirt included), which helps build up the relationship of good bacteria in the gut if given proper resources for it to flourish, and thereby boost immunity.

Unfortunately, we don’t do a very good job at this anymore. We clean with bleach and make our worlds sterile. We eat too much sugar, starch, and processed foods, which alter the balance in the gut, leading to all kinds of problems with the integrity of its lining. This in turn allows the harmful bacteria to get into our bloodstream and deposit toxins throughout our cells and tissues. Problems with poor gut health have been linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Chron’s disease, Celiac disease, colitis, allergies, and even some mental illnesses.
Preventing a problem is always easier than treating it once we have it. Below you will find some tips to prevent the depletion of the good bacteria in your gut, and ways to increase the balance if you haven’t been so proactive in the past.

Ways to Prevent Good Bacteria Depletion:

•Careful use of antibiotics and other prescription drugs

•Limiting use of antibacterial soaps

•Avoid overuse of harsh cleaning chemicals

•Adequate self care to reduce the amount of stress on the body that is the result of a lack of sleep, overexertion, etc.

How to Boost Probiotic Balance:

•Cut down on sugars, grains, starches, and vegetable oils. These things quickly destroy good bacteria, suppress the immune system, and can lead to a plethora of health problems.
•Eat real food. Fruits, vegetables, protein and fats help support the beneficial bacteria. Certain bacteria are needed to help break down fiber from fruits and vegetables, and support the body to culture more of the same.

•Consume fermented foods and drinks. Sauerkraut, kombucha (a fermented tea), kimchi (a spicy Korean form of sauerkraut), fermented salsa, kefir (a fermented milk drink), yogurt and naturally aged cheeses are all good sources of foods with naturally occurring probiotics that help build beneficial bacteria in the gut.

•Natural soaps and water instead of antibacterial. Antibacterial soaps are now thought to be a part of the problem with drug resistant bacterial infections like MRSA and C. diff. Instead, use good quality natural soaps like Bronner’s or goat milk soap.

•Begin gardening. A little dirt won’t hurt you! In fact, it’s good for you. You will get your Vitamin D from the sun, probiotics from the dirt (bacteria can enter through your skin), and you are growing your own food and/or flowers. What’s to lose?

•Take antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. While there certainly are times when antibiotics are needed, many illnesses can be left to run their course, like the stomach bug, colds, or ear infections. Antibiotics don’t just target harmful bacteria, they also kill all the good stuff. In addition, antibiotics don’t work on viruses, only on bacterial infections.

•Take a probiotic supplement. This should be done in conjunction with a change in your diet, otherwise you are just throwing your money away. Make a few simple changes, one at a time, and consider supplementing your new habits with a probiotic source other than foods or drinks. It is also a good idea to help replenish your gut after a round of antibiotics by adding the supplementation of oral probiotics in addition to the fermented sources already in your diet.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN