5 Best and Worst Home Remedies for Your Hemorrhoids- VyWhy

Last updated on 2022-06-01 20:44:09

2021-11-17

A doctor weighs in on what can work at home and what can’t

home remedies, hemorrhoids, aloe vera

Are you sick of running to the local pharmacy every time you need some relief from hemorrhoids? You might want to consider trying some home remedies instead! Natural remedies have proven to help shrink them down, but make sure you’re informed before you start treating these unpleasant guests at home. 

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“First, realize that hemorrhoids are a normal part of our anatomy. Usually, they do not cause pain.” says colorectal surgeon Jeremy Lipman, MD. 

Dr. Lipman says that any change you notice around your anus should prompt an exam by your doctor to make sure nothing more serious is going on. Especially if you see blood. 

Once you’re sure the symptoms are from hemorrhoids, there are many ways people may try to shrink them down. Some work well and some are harmful.

The best home remedies for hemorrhoids

Before you try home treatments, proper diagnosis is critical. “It’s important to see your doctor for bleeding, especially if you have never had hemorrhoids before,” Dr. Lipman says. 

It’s after you’re properly diagnosed that you can start exploring these home remedies: 

1. Sitz baths 

Generally, experts recommend people with painful hemorrhoids sit in warm water for 15 minutes, several times a day — especially after a bowel movement. 

“This is one of the best treatments,” says Dr. Lipman. A sitz bath for hemorrhoids is generally available at a local pharmacy. This small bowl fits right over your toilet and offers a convenient way to soak and soothe the area. You can also just sit in a bathtub filled with warm water.

2. Psyllium husk 

Psyllium husk is a supplement that helps increase your fiber intake and softens stools to make them easier to pass. Be careful not to increase fiber too much, too quickly, as it may also cause gas or stomach cramping. 

“Use this to soften stool and make bowel movements more regular. When your stools are soft and easy to pass, your hemorrhoids are more likely to resolve. Be sure to drink plenty of water if you take this supplement,” says Dr. Lipman. 

3. Aloe vera 

The anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera may help soothe inflammation of hemorrhoids. Although research isn’t available for its use on hemorrhoid relief specifically, it has shown some benefits for other inflammatory skin conditions. 

Dr. Lipman says this is safe to try only if it’s pure aloe (and not in a cream with other ingredients). 

The worst home remedies for hemorrhoids

You may have also heard of these two home remedies for getting rid of hemorrhoids fast. Unfortunately, Dr. Lipman wants you to avoid these for hemorrhoid pain relief if you can. 

1. Apple cider vinegar 

Some patients say that apple cider vinegar can bring instant relief to hemorrhoids, reducing itching and pain. 

“I don’t recommend using this remedy as it may burn the skin with overuse and exacerbate problems,” says Dr. Lipman. 

2. Tea tree oil 

Some people say the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil may reduce swelling and itching caused by hemorrhoids. Some early research found that a gel made with tea tree oil decreased symptoms, but studies are lacking. 

Dr. Lipman recommends not trying this remedy as it isn’t well studied. 

Always ask your doctor before trying a home remedy and if issues arise with any treatment, stop your attempt at an at-home hemorrhoids cure immediately.  

Remember, to help treat and prevent hemorrhoids it’s important to eat enough fiber (25 grams a day for women, 38 grams a day for men) and to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. These dietary changes can make stool easier to pass and keep the problem from recurring.
 

Home Remedies for Psoriasis

09-02-2022 · Eat foods lower in carbohydrates. Avoid high glycemic index foods. Eat healthy sources of protein. “Having a healthier diet and exercise may not completely clear up your …

09-02-2022

Psoriasis can present a number of different challenges for those who have the condition. From the itchiness of the dry, cracked and scaly patches of skin to the occasional pain, those with psoriasis can always use some relief.

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Whether you experience psoriasis frequently or only occasionally, it’s always good to know the best ways to ease those symptoms. All the better if you can do it without having to schedule a doctor’s appointment.

To get a handle on the best home remedies for psoriasis, we spoke to dermatologist Sean McGregor, DO.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis, Dr. McGregor says, is a chronic skin disorder that produces an inflammatory skin rash. The thick reddish patches of scaly skin can appear all over your body, but some of the more common places it occurs include:

  • Knees.
  • Elbows.
  • Face or scalp.
  • Around fingernails and toenails.
  • Palms.
  • Lower back.

Psoriasis is an auto-immune skin condition where your immune system attacks your skin, which in turn causes inflammation and leads to the creation of new skin cells. Because those new skin cells are created at a far faster rate than normal — every three or four days instead of every 30 or so days — the buildup of new cells creates the scaly skin.

While doctors don’t know exactly what triggers that immune system response, Dr. McGregor says, “We do know that there are genetic influences and, more recently, we’ve seen associations with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cardiac issues.”

Natural and home remedies for psoriasis

When it comes to psoriasis, the first place to start is talking to your healthcare provider. Not every home remedy works the same for everyone, and your own doctor will be able to help you come up with a treatment plan that’s right for you and your specific condition.

Odds are some of the suggestions you receive may include one of these.

Moisturizing cleanser

Over-the-counter moisturizing cleansers like Vanicream™, CeraVe® and Cetaphil® are options that target two psoriasis symptoms: dryness and itchiness. “These products help soften some of the scaly skin and provide hydration to the skin, potentially limiting some of the itching,” explains Dr. McGregor. These options also typically lack fragrances and other ingredients that can further irritate your skin.

Oatmeal baths

Dr. McGregor recommends oatmeal baths as a way of finding temporary relief from itching, dryness and flaking skin. Of course, we’re not talking about the food type of oatmeal but rather, what’s called colloidal oatmeal, a finely ground version that dissolves in your bath or that you find in lotions and soaps. It’s often used for other skin conditions like eczema.

Epsom salt

Like oatmeal baths, a warm bath with Epsom salt can help relieve inflammation and remove those flaky scales from your skin. While there’s not a lot of scientific data on the topic, the common theory is that the magnesium in the salt aids that relief.

Coal tar

An older remedy, coal tar comes in multiple forms, including in shampoo, topical ointment and soap. “It calms down the inflammation caused by psoriasis which can help bring relief,” says Dr. McGregor.

Just be wary that it can be kind of greasy and can lead to staining of clothes or skin. As with all creams and topical ointments, you can prevent staining by wrapping the applied area in plastic wrap. “Talk to a dermatologist before your do,” advises Dr. McGregor. “It should be safe for adults, but I don’t recommend it for children.”

Salicylic acid cleansers

Like the topical cleansers listed earlier, salicylic acid cleansers, also often used to treat acne and blackheads, can provide anti-inflammation relief, as well as cleaning for scaly skin.

“One caveat with coal tar and salicylic acid cleansers is that they can also irritate skin for some people,” says Dr. McGregor. “We often recommend talking to your healthcare provider first and trying it on a small, specific area of skin rather than a large area to see what your reaction is.”

Cortisone and hydrocortisone

Again, notes Dr. McGregor, it’s all about soothing inflammation and cortisone and hydrocortisone creams do just that. “It can be beneficial to removing some of the redness and scaly skin we see with psoriasis,” he says.

Light therapy

Whether using a specific device or getting some sunlight, light therapy is a verified way to improve your psoriasis conditions. Light therapy isn’t used very much anymore not because it’s been disproven but, says Dr. McGregor, “We’ve seen so many advances in some of these other treatments that it’s fallen out of favor.”

Phototherapy for psoriasis isn’t the most convenient approach on your own, either, as the devices used for such treatment are essentially medical-grade tanning beds.

Getting regular sunlight can also help clear up psoriasis but it comes with a hitch. “Phototherapy is much different from just being in the sun,” says Dr. McGregor. A healthy amount of sunlight can help, but you never want to overdo it.

“We don’t want people spending so much time out in the sunshine just to clear up psoriasis that they put themselves at risk for sunburns or melanoma,” he says. “Especially since we have other effective ways to treat it that don’t include those risks.”

A better diet

As with so many other conditions, a healthy diet can go a long way to helping ease some of the symptoms of psoriasis. “There is that association between psoriasis and conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” says Dr. McGregor, “so there’s a need to focus on diets that are generally healthy.

Some tips for a better diet include:

  • Eat foods lower in carbohydrates.
  • Avoid high glycemic index foods.
  • Eat healthy sources of protein.

“Having a healthier diet and exercise may not completely clear up your psoriasis, but it’s going to help keep it from getting worse,” he says.

Does Your Carotid Artery Disease Need Treatment?

05-05-2017 · Doctors can usually diagnose carotid artery disease just by putting a stethoscope to your neck and listening for a distinctive swooshing sound called a bruit (pronounced bru-ee). Using a Doppler ...

05-05-2017

Contributor: Anthony Rizzo, MD

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If you have carotid artery disease, a big decision centers around when to intervene and how. This disease, as well as other vascular diseases, can be treated medically, interventionally or surgically. Let’s talk about this.

Diagnosing carotid artery disease

Through proper evaluation, a specialist can tell you if you are developing carotid artery disease and do something about it.

Here are some ways we diagnose it:

  • Listening with a stethoscope. Doctors can usually diagnose carotid artery disease just by putting a stethoscope to your neck and listening for a distinctive swooshing sound called a bruit (pronounced bru-ee).
  • Using a Doppler ultrasound. Another common test is a Doppler ultrasound, which shows the flow through and presence of disease in the neck arteries.
  • Studying imaging. We can also do image studies, such as head and neck CTs and MRIs.

Once we confirm that you have the disease and the blood vessel is narrowed, we then need to find out how narrowed the artery actually is. That will tell us if we need to intervene or not.

If the artery is 80 to 99 percent blocked

First, we look at whether or not you have symptoms resulting from stroke or mini-strokes. This includes slurred speech, visual deficit in one eye, weakness on one side of the body, or any facial asymmetry such as a droopy mouth.

If you have no symptoms, we won’t recommend intervention until the artery is at least 80 percent blocked off.

But this isn’t a cut-and-dried metric. There are patients in good health with more than 80 percent narrowing. Some can get by with lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking, changing their diet, and getting more exercise.

Some patients may not be candidates, including high-risk patients. They may benefit from a medical management with aspirin-like drugs (Plavix® or Aggrenox®), statins or anti-hypertensive drugs.

If the artery is 100 percent blocked

What happens when a carotid artery is 100 percent blocked? It’s bad, but it’s not the end of the world. You’ve still got three other arteries supplying blood flow to the brain. The question then is what do we do about it? Should we try to clear or remove the blockage?

Well, in the absence of acute stroke, we usually do not intervene. When the artery is completely blocked, it is a risky operation so we prescribe medications and keep a close watch on your other carotid artery to make sure that the healthier one isn’t closing up too.

Treating advanced disease

Despite the known challenges, there are many cases where we can successfully treat advanced carotid artery disease and free patients from the potential of devastating strokes.

We have a number of options, including surgery, stenting and medications. There are a lot of variables and the treatment needs to be tailored to the individual patient. In short, it is not an easy choice.

If you have carotid artery disease or the risk factors for carotid artery disease, you need to look for two things when you choosing where to go for treatment. One is experience. You want a center that has seen and treated every kind of carotid artery disease where the physicians know exactly what they’re doing. Two is the full range of treatment options — from stenting to surgery.

You want the best available treatment for your particular condition. More experience and more options give you the best chance of a successful outcome.

Burnout: 5 Signs and What to Do About It

01-02-2022 · The symptoms of burnout can often resemble the symptoms of more serious medical conditions. These can include mental health-related mood disorders. “Oftentimes, burnout and depression can mirror ...

01-02-2022

burnout, work burnout, exhaustion, lack of sleep

If you’re feeling exhausted and sluggish, and even simple tasks feel overwhelming to complete — or you find yourself so stressed out that you’re quick to get angry or frustrated — you might be experiencing burnout.

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“We’re living in an incredibly stressful time, and burnout is incredibly prevalent,” says psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD. “I am seeing a lot of people who are very tired. Physically, emotionally tired.”

While frequently associated with a stressful job, burnout can affect many areas of your life and even cause health problems. Thankfully, there are ways you can cope with and even overcome this often-debilitating state of being.

Dr. Borland shares burnout’s major symptoms and provides some tips on how to recover.

What is burnout?

Burnout can be difficult to describe. However, it’s not a medical condition. According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, burnout is defined as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.”

You may not realize you’ve hit burnout until it’s too late when you’ve crossed the line between “really tired” and “too exhausted to function.” Alternatively, you might be the type of personality who likes to stay busy, and might not recognize when you’re doing too much.

“If you’re used to going 100 miles an hour, and then suddenly take your foot off the accelerator, you’re now still going at 85,” says Dr. Borland. “However, you may feel that that’s somehow not good enough because you’re so used to going at 100 miles an hour. There will be times where you have to go a little faster, but we can’t sustain that 100 miles an hour all the time.”

Burnout also happens when your work-life balance gets out of sync. This has been a common occurrence in the last few years, with the rise in remote work and technology permeating our daily lives.

“I’m seeing people that are having a very difficult time finding the necessary boundaries in order to manage their personal life and work demands,” Dr. Borland says. “Finding that balance has proven to be extremely difficult. Throw in the uncertainty regarding COVID-19, and it is really depleting the physical and emotional reserves that we usually hold onto.”

Signs of burnout

Burnout looks different for everyone, although it can affect you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Fatigue

Fatigue is a major symptom of burnout and can affect all areas of your life. You might feel like sleeping all the time, or find that even simple tasks take longer to complete. Dr. Borland says the COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified these feelings. “People are really having a hard time trying to balance work and parenting responsibilities — for instance, trying to deal with children and virtual schooling and navigating situations where, frankly, there’s no blueprint,” he says.

Feeling apathetic or dissatisfied with your work

Everyone has days when they don’t want to get out of bed and go to work. When these feelings persist, it becomes a problem. “With many people I work with, there’s this question of, ‘What’s the point? The work that I’m doing, is it really making a difference? Do I even really enjoy what I’m doing anymore? Or am I just kind of going through the motions?’ This indicates a lack of satisfaction in the work you’re doing.”

These can be workers at all stages of their careers, Dr. Borland adds. “I see people that are new to their field, maybe right out of college,” he says. “But also people who have maybe been in their field for 30-plus years, and all of a sudden they’re questioning, ‘I don’t know how much longer I can do this, or I want to do this.’”

Tension headaches are a common burnout side effect, Dr. Borland says. “A lot of my patients deal with pretty significant headaches.”

Changes to your diet or sleep patterns

Humans are creatures of habit, and when we experience changes to these habits, it’s often the sign something is amiss. That’s certainly the case with burnout. “We’re always going to look for changes to sleep patterns,” he says. “And are there any significant changes in diet?” This could mean you’re eating more (or less) than usual, or not sticking to a healthy diet. Sleeping at different times of day, or feeling the need to get more (or fewer) ZZZs than usual, might be another sign.

Is burnout the same thing as depression?

The symptoms of burnout can often resemble the symptoms of more serious medical conditions. These can include mental health-related mood disorders.

“Oftentimes, burnout and depression can mirror each other,” explains Dr. Borland. “However, depression is a diagnosable mental health condition, whereas burnout is not.”

That’s not the only difference. In contrast to depression, burnout tends to be a response to a specific environment or situation — say, working more hours than usual, or dealing with something specific going on in your life. “Depression doesn’t have to be in response to one specific trigger,” Dr. Borland says. “Are you feeling a sense of worthlessness, a feeling of helplessness, in terms of changing aspects of your life? Causes of depression tend to be broader in general, whereas with burnout, we can really pinpoint what is causing these types of symptoms.”

Depression’s symptoms also tend to be more general, he adds. “Imagine you’re experiencing depression and visit a villa in the South of France,” Dr. Borland says. “The reality is, those depressive symptoms are going to accompany you on that trip.”

If you’re dealing with burnout, however, you’ll have a different experience visiting that same villa. “Once you detach from work or whatever it is that’s causing the burnout, you’re going to be able to enjoy that vacation and relax,” he explains. “If you’re feeling depressed, you most likely will not.”

What to do if you have burnout

Recognizing that you have burnout is often the first step to making a plan for recovery. “You might not necessarily recognize burnout at its early stages,” says Dr. Borland. “It’s usually once burnout has really taken hold, that’s when you might say, ‘Something is really off here.’ That’s because we’re so used to going at that 100-mile-an-hour clip.” But there are tangible steps you can take to get back on a better path.

Care for your mental health

Seeing a therapist is often a good first step to tackling burnout. “We often talk about the idea of our gas tanks being on empty,” says Dr. Borland. “And what we do in therapy is really try and focus on how to refill that tank. Having that safe place to talk with someone who is not a family member, or a friend, or a coworker, or a neighbor — but someone who is impartial and is trained to give clinical feedback — can be life-changing, especially during these stressful times we’re living in.”

One of the first things a therapist might want to know is what you’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis. For example, Dr. Borland says if you say you’re not sleeping, eating or concentrating properly because you’re so worried about a work presentation, that’s a big clue something is going on.

Build breaks — and personal check-ins — into your schedule

Dr. Borland always recommends taking breaks as a good solution to start tackling burnout. “We have to be able to step away from the computer, or step away from whatever that source of stress is, to attend to our health and well-being,” Dr. Borland says. “It’s important that we all do a daily, maybe even hourly, check-in with ourselves, to see, ‘How am I doing emotionally? How am I doing physically?’”

Exercise

Finding the energy to work out provides an abundance of health benefits, including helping you deal with burnout. “Regardless of how much energy you may have on a given day, if you can get some sort of physical exercise, that’s always going to be a helpful coping tool,” Dr. Borland explains, and adds that the exercise doesn’t have to mean a trip to the gym. “We can get exercise in all sorts of different ways at home. It can really be just taking a few minutes every day to get some physical exercise.”

Practice mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness revolves around the idea of trying to be as emotionally present as possible. One way to do this is deep breathing. “The great thing about doing deep breathing is it forces us to focus on one inhale and that one exhale,” says Dr. Borland. “In doing that, we’re focusing on this very moment.” This is something else that you can do anywhere at any time. “It’s easy to do, and it doesn’t require any equipment,” he adds. “People don’t even necessarily know that you’re doing deep breathing. But the positive effects can be wonderful.”

Establish a daily routine

With work-life boundaries blurred, it can be difficult to put up strict divisions between your job and personal life. But Dr. Borland says establishing a healthy daily routine for sleep, diet,and non-work time is crucial. “It’s important to say, ‘Okay, I’ve put in a hard day’s work. Now I need to press stop, and I need to attend to social aspects of my life, things that are just fun and relaxing,’” he explains.

Creating and maintaining boundaries does take work, however. Setting an alarm to signal when it’s time to stop working is one helpful technique. Writing down your to-do list is another technique that can help make what you need to get done clearer. “When you write things down, you break them down into small, achievable goals,” says Dr. Borland. “That’s a wonderful way to approach things. You can cross those things off during the day.”


Start to build — and enforce — work-life boundaries

Dr. Borland notes that job burnout is so common because we often have a difficult time saying no. “We have a difficult time maintaining necessary boundaries, especially because technology plays a significant part in the work field today,” he says. “We are accessible 24 hours a day. And especially now with all the virtual platforms, it takes our ability to disconnect from work and makes it all the more difficult. I see people across all stages of their career who are saying, ‘I need to do a better job finding this balance in order to preserve my physical and emotional health.’”

Of course, job burnout can be complicated. You likely aren’t in a position to quit a job, so you have to make the best of things. “If you have the opportunity to communicate with your boss, with their manager, with someone higher up in the organization, and explain to them some of the difficulties that you’re dealing with, that’s ideal,” Dr. Borland says. “Hopefully [they can] find some sort of schedule or some change in responsibilities [or] change in daily routine that could help.

“But not everyone has that opportunity,” he adds. “So you have to try and remember that your health and well-being matters. If things are really out of whack, I have to figure out how to do something for myself.”

Explore a hobby

If you don’t necessarily feel satisfied at work, looking for something outside of work — for example, starting a hobby, volunteering or joining a club or organization — can often help.

How to avoid burnout in the future

Although it can feel overwhelming in the moment, Dr. Borland reassures that you can recover from burnout. “It takes work,” he says. “It comes down to establishing a meaningful daily routine, and creating and maintaining boundaries so you can attend to your health and well-being while also attending to the responsibilities of your job or your personal life.”

Once you recognize your burnout symptoms, you’re better able to take a break and recalibrate your actions if you do feel your life becoming out of sync. “You can say, ‘You know what, I know how bad this felt last time I dealt with this. I need to do a better job of maintaining that balance and attending to my self-care and those boundaries. I don’t want to get to the point I did last time.’”

Keeping the lines of communication open with your support systems can also help ward off burnout. “That’s another aspect of therapy — you often learn how to communicate,” Dr. Borland notes. “You’re not internalizing these emotions perhaps like you once did.”

At the end of the day, it all comes down to balance. “We often misconstrue the idea of attending to our self-care as somehow being selfish,” Dr. Borland says. “And it’s really not. I often remind my patients that in order to be the best friend, spouse, parent or child, you have to attend to your self-care. If your tank is empty, you can’t be the type of person you want to be to these others in your life.”

To learn more from Dr. Borland about how to identify and recover from burnout, listen to our Health Essentials podcast episode, “How to Deal with Burnout.” New episodes of the Health Essentials podcast publish every Wednesday.

7 Ways to Improve Ejection Fraction

12-08-2019 · These vices can tank your ejection fraction and worsen your symptoms. 7. Say goodbye to stress. Stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which are heart failure no-nos. “Less stress ...

12-08-2019
Running to improve the heart's ejection fraction

How’s your heart pumping today? Admittedly, most people probably don’t know that answer off the top of their head.

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But knowing — and effectively managing — your ejection fraction can make a big impact on the quality of your life and health. Keeping tabs on it not only helps your doctor treat you more effectively but also leads to better outcomes.

Cardiologist J. Emanuel Finet, MD, says it straight: “Low ejection fraction is directly proportional to survival. By improving it, you improve your survival outlook.”

Dr. Finet does the math on ejection fraction and gives seven ways to help you improve your heart’s pumping power.

What is ejection fraction?

The heart has two main muscular chambers: the left and the right ventricle. Each chamber has MVP status in the body, working together to perform jobs you literally couldn’t live without:

  • Right ventricle: Pumps blood to the lungs to get oxygenated.
  • Left ventricle: Pumps oxygenated blood throughout your body.

A heart at rest holds a certain amount of blood. Ejection fraction refers to the percentage of that blood your heart pumps out with each beat. 

“Assuming a normal heart size and rate, when ejection fraction is normal, the heart is pumping a normal amount of blood,” Dr. Finet explains. “We can assume the blood is moving at a normal speed around the body.”

But a low ejection fraction spells trouble. “Low ejection fraction means the ventricle is not contracting sufficiently to pump enough blood out of the heart,” he says. “If the ejection fraction is abnormal, that person has some degree of heart failure.”

What’s normal ejection fraction?

Doctors calculate your ejection fraction using imaging techniques such as an echocardiogram. They measure the result in percentages. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

  • Normal ejection fraction (50% to 70%): Your heart is getting the job done!
  • Mildly below normal (41% to 49%): Though you may not have symptoms, your heart has started to struggle to pump enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
  • Moderately below normal (30% to 40%): Patients experience heart failure with reduced left ventricular function symptoms. “The heart can’t supply the demands of the body because it can’t eject enough blood on every beat, so it increases in size and rate to compensate,” Dr. Finet explains.
  • Severely below normal (less than 30%): Patients with an ejection fraction this low frequently have significant symptoms due to the body’s inability to compensate for it. In addition, the risk of life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances is increased.

How to improve your ejection fraction

Taking care of your ticker not only helps heart failure symptoms, but it may even improve your ejection fraction and overall survival. Here are some ways to do that:

1. Partner up with a doctor

Whether it’s a cardiologist or your primary care physician, talk to a doctor about your symptoms. Doctors have many ways to help manage heart failure. From medications to implantable cardioverter defibrillators, their heart failure toolkit is chock-full of effective options to improve your heart health.

2. Be a heart detective

Put this on your doctor’s to-do list, too. By identifying and treating the underlying causes of low ejection fraction, you take major steps toward improving your quality of life. For example, if hypothyroidism is part of the puzzle, doctors can work on managing your thyroid levels. Similarly, your blood pressure or diabetes may need attention, as well as other modifiable conditions.

3. Get moving

Is there anything exercise can’t help? Physical activity, in particular aerobic exercises, can help your heart meet your body’s demands. It’s a classic case of doing more with less.

“If the heart weakens and provides the body with less oxygenated blood, the body suffers,” Dr. Finet notes. “But if we help the body use that oxygen more efficiently, we may improve your overall condition even if we are unable to change your heart function.” Talk to your doctor about joining a cardiac rehabilitation program or about where to start if you want to do it on your own.

4. Watch your weight

“Losing weight won’t necessarily improve ejection fraction, but it can make you feel better,” Dr. Finet says. Tracking your weight will also help you and your doctor determine whether fluid is being built up due to the abnormal heart function.

5. Go on a salt strike

Consuming too much sodium, or salt, can have a domino effect:

  • Diseased heart muscle, or cardiomyopathy, provides less blood to the kidneys.
  • The kidneys retain sodium and fluid to compensate for the low blood flow.
  • Sodium traps water, which abnormally accumulates on the heart and blood vessels.
  • Patients can become congested, or volume overloaded, because they have too much fluid that further impairs the functioning of the heart.
  • The excess fluid goes to the lungs, legs, liver and abdomen, causing the typical heart failure symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling.

“So sodium for heart failure patients is like poison,” explains Dr. Finet, who recommends keeping salt consumption to no more than 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams per day. (A 1.5-ounce bag of potato chips is around 255 mg.)

6. Just say no

Eliminate substances that can cause more damage to your heart, such as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines and cigarettes. These vices can tank your ejection fraction and worsen your symptoms.

7. Say goodbye to stress

Stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which are heart failure no-nos. “Less stress can help patients improve their heart condition and help them feel better.”

Baby-Led Weaning: What You Need to Know

27-10-2021 · Baby-led weaning introduces babies to the idea of family mealtime, which offers positive social and developmental reinforcement. “Whenever possible, it’s wonderful for …

27-10-2021

During their first few years of life, babies reach many important milestones: first smile, first laugh, first crawl, first steps. In between all these, babies also learn an abundance of important life skills, such as how to feed themselves. In the process, what they eat evolves. 

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“Babies will gradually transition off of a full breast milk or formula diet to a varied diet of solid foods,” says pediatrician Kimberly Churbock, MD. 

What this transition looks like varies because there are multiple ways babies can learn how to feed themselves. One option is baby-led weaning, or baby-led feeding.       

What is baby-led weaning? 

When babies are learning how to feed themselves, they’ll commonly start eating exclusively pureed foods and then progress through different (and increasingly more complex) stages of pre-made baby foods before graduating to solids. Until babies are strong enough to eat on their own, parents focus on spoon feeding.  

Baby-led weaning flips the script and puts babies in charge of mealtime. 

“The basic idea behind baby-led weaning is that parents and caregivers can follow a baby’s lead,” says Dr. Churbock. “This means watching for signs of developmental readiness and, when a baby is ready, allowing them to self-feed.”  

Babies are also skipping many traditional baby foods such as purees, Dr. Churbock says. “With baby-led weaning, instead of buying or making specific foods to feed your baby, you’re preparing the same meal for the whole family, ​with modifications as needed for your newest eater.”  

This doesn’t mean that babies are starting off chowing down on whole pieces of pizza, of course. “You’re incorporating baby ​into family mealtime from the get-go, allowing your baby to eat some of the same foods that the rest of the family is eating,” she says, “but being mindful of portions for your littlest eater, and what is going to be safe and appropriate for them.” 

The benefits of baby-led weaning 

Baby-led weaning offers multiple advantages for families and babies alike. 

It saves time and money

Not only are you cutting down on meal prep time because everyone’s eating similar things — but you’re also hopefully saving money. “Baby food can be expensive,” says Dr. Churbock. “If you’re preparing the same food for the whole family, you’re not necessarily having to buy something separate and special.”

Babies experience valuable social interactions

Baby-led weaning introduces babies to the idea of family mealtime, which offers positive social and developmental reinforcement. “Whenever possible, it’s wonderful for families to eat together,” says Dr. Churbock. “That way babies can see a role model for how to chew, how to swallow. They learn a lot by watching us eat.” 

They are exposed to diverse foods

Both pureed and pre-packaged baby food have soft textures. With baby-led weaning, babies are exposed to a greater variety of foods — and, by extension, a much broader array of tastes and textures. 

It helps hone important developmental skills

Allowing babies to gauge their own appetite — and sense of hunger and fullness — is enormously valuable. “Over time, they can self-regulate,” says Dr. Churbock. “They’re not going to overeat because they’re in control of what’s going in their mouth and what they’re swallowing.”  

Babies also have a chance to try out tasks requiring the use of fine motor skills. 

“They’ll ​practice picking up a piece of food, bringing it to their mouth, manipulating it to get it into the mouth, chewing and swallowing,” Dr. Churbock adds. “All of those ​actions require fine motor skills and oral motor skills.” 

When to start baby-led weaning 

A baby is ready for baby-led weaning when they display certain signs of developmental readiness. Dr. Churbock says these include the ability to sit upright, with minimal to no support from a parent or caregiver, as well as reaching for an object — and then picking it up and bringing it to their mouth — and a diminishing tongue-thrust reflex (that’s the term for when they use their tongue to spit something out of their mouth).  

The majority of babies reach the above developmental milestones around 6 months. However, “every baby is different,” Dr. Churbock says. Babies who were born early or premature especially might start doing these things at a later age. “You may be watching more for these signs of readiness closer to their corrected age of 6 months (if they had been born on their actual due date), rather than their chronological age of 6 months.”  

Luckily, baby-led weaning meets babies where they are. “This is an approach to feeding that can work and meet children of different ages and abilities where they’re at,” says Dr. Churbock. “At its best, the idea of baby-led weaning should really follow and meet the needs of an individual baby.”  

How safe is baby-led weaning? 

In general, when babies are learning how to feed themselves, they should always be seated upright and well-supported, and they should always be supervised. Parents and caregivers should also limit distractions, Dr. Churbock says. “Avoid eating with the TV on whenever possible.” 

And while a baby gagging can be quite frightening, this is actually perfectly normal. “It’s part of a baby actually using muscles properly and protecting their airway,” Dr. Churbock says. 

As with any new skill or milestone, parents may have concerns about safety. For peace of mind, Dr. Churbock recommends parents and caregivers take a child infant CPR course, which will cover important things such as choking management. 

Baby-led weaning itself specifically shouldn’t be cause for great alarm. “For babies who are learning a new skill, we want to make sure that it’s as safe as it possibly can be,” says Dr. Churbock. “Studies have shown baby-led weaning, when done properly, isn’t a higher risk for choking.”  

However, if babies can’t sit upright with minimal or no support, or if they’re not quite yet reaching for objects and bringing them to the mouth, those are signs they aren’t ready for baby-led weaning. 

Babies who still have a prominent tongue-thrust reflex, which is commonly seen in infants up until about 6 months of age, also likely aren’t quite there yet.  

Great first foods 

Cut soft foods into “finger-sized” slices that are made for grasping, says Dr. Churbock. “The food is firm enough that they can pick it up and hold it, long enough that they can have a little portion sticking out of their hand that they can see, ​and soft enough to gum and chew.” Some examples include:

  • Spears of soft ripe fruits, such as banana, pear, avocado, kiwi and mango.
  • Strips of roasted, baked or steamed vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots and squash.
  • Ground meat or soft, shredded strips of meat that you can move your fingers through

You don’t have to avoid pureed textures completely to do baby-led feeding. “As adults, we eat soft-textured foods, too,” says Dr. Churbock. “Soft foods like oatmeal, applesauce, and plain whole fat or Greek yogurt are great early foods for babies.”

Foods to avoid 

Because baby-led weaning exposes babies to foods with different textures, you should avoid serving up foods that are choking hazards. These include:

  • ​Firm, round foods, such as whole berries and whole grapes. 
  • Hard, crunchy foods like tortilla or corn chips, popcorn, nuts.
  • Raw, hard-textured vegetables like carrots. 
  • Peanut butter ​offered alone, which can be too sticky for babies to safely manage. 

Dr. Churbock does add that some of the foods above can be served if you prepare them differently. “You’d mush a blueberry to make it a little bit softer or cut it into smaller pieces. For older babies, you’re going to quarter grapes rather than offering them whole.”

Babies under the age of 1 also should never ingest certain foods, including:  

  • Honey, because of the risk of botulism. 
  • Whole cow’s milk to drink, because of the risk of digestive tract bleeding and not having the right mix of nutrients. However, small amounts used in cooking or food preparation are generally acceptable, as are other dairy products like yogurt and cheese.

When to introduce allergens

Peanut butter and yogurt can also be allergens. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to learn more about introducing allergenic foods and for further advice on the best early foods to feed your baby. “For most infants, potentially allergenic foods are also important to incorporate early on and often,” says Dr. Churbock. “Some are also great textures for early eaters, like soft strips of egg omelet, or pieces of moist flaky fish like salmon.”

How do I start baby-led weaning? 

Before settling on baby-led weaning, Dr. Churbock says parents should first gather as much information as they can — you can often find books on baby-led weaning at your local library — and talk to their baby’s pediatrician.

“Around 4 months of age, start those discussions about how you hope to feed your baby, and what steps you can take for your individual child at that age,” she says. “​Talking to your pediatrician is going to be a great first step to go over what to look out for and resources that might be helpful.”  This applies if you’re thinking about baby-led weaning or instead of starting your baby out on purees, Dr. Churbock adds. “Either approach can be appropriate depending on your goals and your individual child’s healthcare needs.”  Looping a pediatrician or even a speech pathologist into your feeding plans is especially helpful if your baby has unique healthcare considerations such as prematurity; a disorder such as dysphagia, which affects swallowing and feeding; or drinks specialized or thickened formulas.  “It’s worth reviewing if there are modifications that can work for most children,” Dr. Churbock says.Parents and babies can also ease into baby-led weaning together. For example, you might help a baby hold a spoonful of puree, but then allow them to move the spoon to their mouth on their own. “Even if it’s for a short period of time, many babies still do benefit from trying some purees to start,” she says. “You pre-load the spoon, and then your baby can hold the spoon. That’s a nice, easy way to get started.” However, don’t be afraid to let your baby eat with their hands. “Expect and embrace some mess,” Dr. Churbock says. “Self-feeding is a great sensory experience for babies.”

Dr. Churbock says you also shouldn’t worry if your baby doesn’t actually consume much food when first starting solids. “It can take some time for babies to figure out complementary food feeding, and breast milk or formula remains the most important source of nutrition through the first year of life.”

Protein Coffee: Should You Drink 'Proffee'?

27-09-2021 · A morning dose of protein can help launch you into day, especially when combined with the caffeine in coffee. Many also tout the benefits of proffee as a pre-workout drink.

27-09-2021
protein coffee proffee

A: There’s a lot to like about the combination — and not just regarding taste. If done right, this power-packed drink might cut some sugary goop from your diet while also boosting protein intake.

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Let’s start with an explanation of proffee, a mash-up word for “protein coffee” that is all over TikTok but has yet to gain acceptance from the editors at Merriam-Webster dictionary.

What is protein coffee?

Proffee is exactly what it sounds like given the ingredients. It’s a cup of amped-up java made from combining coffee with either protein powder or a bottle of protein shake.

Creating this concoction is as simple as it sounds, with two potential paths. Some folks prefer dumping scoops of protein powder into iced coffee. (The powder may clump in hot coffee unless it’s a collagen powder.) Others mix a premade protein shake with coffee.

The powder option leads to a drink that looks like… well, your basic cup of coffee. The shake option, meanwhile, can turn into a mesmerizing blend of light and dark swirls.

Now for the good stuff: The potential benefits brought by each ingredient in proffee.

The health value of coffee

Coffee offers plenty of perks, at least when consumed in moderate amounts. It’s a rich source of antioxidants (which protect your body’s cells against damage) and nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium and riboflavin.

The caffeine kick from coffee provides a certain jolt of energy, too, which can improve endurance and athletic performance while enhancing memory, mood and reaction time.

Drinking a cup o’ joe regularly also has been shown to decrease the risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Liver disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Depression.

It’s not all jazzy with java, of course. Too much of it can leave you jittery, anxious and unable to catch good ZZZs at night. Excessive caffeine also can leave you dehydrated.

A little bit of coffee in a proffee, though, shouldn’t be an issue.

The benefits of adding protein

You need protein to keep your body functioning in tiptop form. A well-balanced diet meets most needs, but some turn to protein supplements such as powders and shakes for an additional boost.

So why add it to your morning coffee? A few reasons stand out:

  • A morning dose of protein can help launch you into day, especially when combined with the caffeine in coffee. Many also tout the benefits of proffee as a pre-workout drink.
  • Putting protein in your belly to start the day can help curb hunger later, possibly helping with weight management. Protein also charges up your metabolism to burn more calories.
  • Protein powders and shakes often taste good, so using them to flavor your coffee probably means you don’t have to use sugary creamers that can turn cups of coffee into unhealthy calorie bombs.

How to make protein coffee

Anything you make to eat is only as good as the ingredients used, and proffee is no different.

Selecting a quality protein powder or shake is key to seeing benefits. Look for a product without artificial sweeteners or a swollen ingredient list filled with gums and other additives. (Generally, the smaller the list, the better.)

As mentioned previously, cold coffee works best in this blend, particularly if you go the powder route. Espresso is preferred by many touting this drink on TikTok.

Then just combine your two main ingredients and — BOOM! — you have proffee. Many fans of the drink drop in a few ice cubes, too. Feel free to add in a dash of cinnamon or another spice if you’re feeling adventurous. (Just stay away from sugary syrups.)

So done right, proffee isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Give the TikTokers some credit on this one.

Registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CCSD, LD

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