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WELL BEING; Variety really is the SPICE OF LIFE.

Don't fancy a spicy curry? You know that "plain" food is the only thing that agrees with your system?

Well, don't be daft! Give your body a break. For it's the people who restrict their diet who get into trouble.

Many digestive problems are now being blamed on people being very faddy with food when they were small children.

It's thought that if you don't eat a wide variety of food before your second birthday, your digestive system will never really be right.

One extreme was the woman who ate several bottles of tomato ketchup every day - and eventually became a striking orange colour.

That was bad enough. But the pigment settled in her kidneys, and damaged them so much she eventually died from kidney failure.

To keep our stomach and bowel in good condition, we should eat as wide a range of foods as possible.

It's natural to connect stomach troubles with something you have eaten.

So "indigestion" is linked with that curry we had last night. And we tend to blame a lot of bowel troubles - pain, diarrhoea, constipation and bleeding - on some germ or food "poisoning".

For centuries, doctors, when treating people with stomach and bowel problems, prescribed bland, milky diets and put them off eating spices because they "harmed the digestion".

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

For one group of people, the advice to eat widely is particularly important.

They have "inflammatory bowel disease", or IBD.

The two main forms of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. They begin in older teenagers and young adults - usually with a sudden, severe illness - then can grumble on for years.

IBD sufferers include TV journalist Triona Holden and Olympic rowing gold medallist Steve Redgrave.

The main problems in IBD are pain, diarrhoea, and the passing of blood and mucus, and it's understandable that people developing the symptoms for the first time think they have caught an infection.

It's only when the usual anti-infection and anti-diarrhoeal treatments don't work that it dawns that something more serious is going on.

It doesn't take long for the penny to drop, though. Acute IBD can totally exhaust you within a matter of days, as you run out of water and start shedding weight by the stone.

Hospital treatment involves intravenous fluid drips, resting the bowel completely and giving drugs called salazines that ease the inflammation.

With this treatment, the acute attack usually subsides quickly, and the sufferer then has to start on life-long management of the illness.

Having IBD is quite like having high blood pressure or diabetes - you have to control your problem for the rest of your life, and try to avoid the worst of its complications.

As we don't really know what causes IBD, we don't yet have a direct medical antidote.

What we do know is that the bowel in IBD develops ulcers - like the mouth ulcers many of us have from time to time, but much bigger, deeper and more irritating.

We have found that stomach ulcers are caused by a germ - called helicobacter - and it may be that there's one behind IBD, too. The researchers have been looking for one for years with no success.

One theory is that in IBD, the body's immune system fails, so that the digestive juices start to digest parts of our own bowel wall, in effect mistaking part of its own tissues for food.

This has been blamed on people being very faddy with food when small children.

True or not, it is a fact that some drugs that lower immune system activity can help a lot in IBS.

The same drugs that stop transplant rejection have been found to work well in severe Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. But they also have side- effects - for example, they can cause anaemias and lower white blood cell counts - so the benefit they do must be balanced against possible harm.

The National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease (NACC, telephone 01727 844296) has produced an excellent booklet, Living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, for patients and their families.

It has 70 area groups throughout the country, so that every GP should have the local NACC address to hand.

KEEPING blood pressure down is at least as important as strict control of blood sugar in people with diabetes. This is the message from a huge American study of 42,000 patients.

Far fewer diabetics whose blood pressure was kept low went into kidney failure and needed dialysis than those who had just routine blood pressure care.

It didn't matter what type of drug was used - the actual blood pressure reading was vital. So if you have diabetes, take as much care of your blood pressure as your blood glucose.

DOCTORS have always assumed that patients go for alternative medicine because they are dissatisfied with orthodox medicine.

But an American study shows that only one person in 25 using alternative medicines had rejected orthodox treatments.

And people who did use alternatives tended to report more ill-health and were more highly educated than those who did not.

GOOD news for carers of people with Alzheimer's disease - metrifonate, which started life years ago as a treatment for tropical liver fluke disease, has shown excellent results in early Alzheimer's.

The patients were brighter, showed more initiative, were easier to get along with, and showed better all-round behaviour.

I'm told that the licence for metrifonate in Britain was applied for last year, so that, given no last-minute problems, it should be available early next year. It is not a cure, but should be a considerable benefit for many.

SURGERY

MY feet swelled like footballs on holiday, and my left foot still swells. I am a woman in my mid-forties and not overweight.

IF your feet burned, you may have damaged the fluid drainage system (the lymphatics) from your feet back to your body. Or this could be a vein problem. You need to be examined, to check your circulation. In the meantime, protect your feet from the sun, with socks or sunblock.

MY head shakes when I get nervous. I can't stop it. It's so embarrassing.

THE cause could be tension in the neck muscles or a form of tremor - for which there are several causes that need to be sorted out by a doctor.

I'M a 30-year-old male and sweat and flush so much it's embarrassing. Thyroid and other medical tests have been negative.

YOUR autonomic nervous system, which controls the circulation in the skin and the secretion of sweat glands, may be over-sensitive. Seek a specialist opinion.

MY four-year old daughter has a heart murmur. She runs about normally, but has a cough that doesn't seem to go away. Is there

anything to worry about?

TESTS will reveal whether or not there is a small hole between the two halves of the heart. If there is, surgery coould put it right. Meanwhile, let her enjoy a normal life.

IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL PROBLEM FOR PUBLICATION, WRITE TO: DR TOM SMITH, SUNDAY MAIL, ANDERSTON QUAY, GLASGOW, G3 8DA. DR TOM REGRETS HE CAN'T ANSWER LETTERS PERSONALLY.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Smith, Tom
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 7, 1998
Words:1181
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