Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Your Questions Answered - May 2009

Q1. My father-in-law went to live in an old peoples' home at the end of January. He was very active before then, but not really able to live alone any more. Since going into the home he seems to have got much weaker, and sits in a chair most of the day.

My husband has asked about some sort of exercise, but the matron says that he is much too old for that. He is 79 and two months ago was growing all his own vegetables.

A: It's Never Too Late For Exercise

Researchers at Harvard Medical School took 10 frail and elderly patients, aged between 86 and 96 into the gym for weight training!

For eight weeks these volunteers worked their leg muscles with weights for 45 minutes, three times each week. After the study the average strength of the legs was more than doubled, the walking speed 50% quicker and the muscles increased in size by around 14%.

Two of the subjects threw away their walking sticks, and they all enjoyed their exercise and its benefits.

If you don't use it, you lose it, say the athletic coaches, and how right they are. It is never too late to work those muscles. So take this article to the home and give it to the matron.

Q2: My 19 year old daughter has been buying shoes from a mail order firm, but she's now complaining about corns on her feet. Is there a connection?

A: Mail order catalogues are great for everything but shoes. You take around 10,000 steps a day; in your life time you will walk well over 100,000 miles, that's four gentle strolls around the world. Each time your foot hits the ground, you are putting a load of more than your body weight onto some of the bones and muscles. When you run, those stresses can be three times greater.

Buying shoes is one of the most important things you do, yet most of us do it in a hurry, we choose fashion rather than comfort, and pay the consequences in later years.

Here's my guide to shoe-shopping:

* Only buy shoes in the afternoon, that's when your feet will be closest to their real size.

* There must be a space of half an inch between the tip of your big toe and the end of the shoe.

* The heel should be a snug fit and mustn't slide up and down when you walk.

* Buy natural materials - leather, fabric, canvas - which breathe and so prevent a build up of sweat inside the shoe.

* Keep off the high heels, they don't do your back much good anyway.

* Get the best quality you can afford. This is important for sports shoes too as your foot needs proper support, comfort, impact absorbtion protection and ventilation.

Happy feet mean happy walking!

Q3: I'm 56 and have had a sore tongue and painful splits in the corners of my mouth for three months. Is there anything I can do to help. I'm not eating properly because it's so uncomfortable.

A: This may be caused by poorly fitting dentures, but probably by a lack of vitamin B2 - Riboflavin. Nearly half our daily needs come from milk, but if you leave it on the doorstep, or it sits in the shop in a clear bottle under fluorescent lights all day, lots of it is destroyed.

Eat yogurt, cheese, eggs, liver, Marmite, mushrooms and green vegetables - they're good sources. Take the milk in early, and buy a couple of months supply of a B complex vitamin pill.

Q4: I am now 27, and have put up with painful breasts just before and during each period for around ten years now. In the last few months the pain has got much worse, and I have been given several different drugs by my GP.

Some helped a bit, but I didn't feel well taking them. We want to start a family and I am nervous of all the pills. Is there a natural way to help with my problem?

A. Many women suffer from this condition, which is cyclical breast pain. As your pain has worsened in recent months, you should be investigated to make sure that there is no significant change. Most of the drugs prescribed for your problem have side effects, and some of them just don't work anyway.

Lots of women are given antibiotics and according to the "Which" Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, there is no evidence that they work. The natural approach is the best, and you should reduce the amount of animal fats in your diet, cut down on tea and coffee and try to reduce your sugar consumption.

Take 3g of evening primrose oil each day and PremHerb (Agnus Castus), for the 7 days before, and the first 3 days of your period. There will be no harmful side effects and no reason for you not to get pregnant.

Q5: My husband seems to get hiccups three or four times a week. The doctor says there's nothing wrong with him. Will he just have to learn to live with it?

A: I assume your doctor has already looked for any underlying medical reasons like a hiatus hernia, and ruled that out. The next step should be to look at your husband's eating habits.

Is he eating too much or too fast? Does he have too many fizzy drinks which could be causing gas to build up in his stomach? These are both very common reasons for hiccups.

There is an alternative cure - chewing dill or mint leaves or taking a spoon of baby's gripe water, which is made from dill. Any of these remedies will help for the occasional bout of hiccups but your husband needs to tackle the source of the problem by eating more slowly, avoiding lots of fizzy drinks - including beer - but, if he's still getting severe and persistent attacks he must go back to the doctor for more tests.


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