Tag Archives: green health

Family Planning, Biofilms and Conservation

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Time and again it has been shown that women limit the size of their families in societies that sustain improved health, education and socio-economic vitality. Limiting family sizes is key to humanity reaching a sustainable population level and limiting human impact on the natural environment. Historically many women have turned to “the pill” for limiting of family sizes. More recently however, according to the Guttmacher Institute, there tends to be a trend in the increasing use of IUD among young women. Myself and my OB/Gyn colleagues are also seeing this trend in our own practices. They are drawn to the overall low cost, convenience of the method as well as the effectiveness. Still other women prefer to avoid the side effects that come along with birth control pills, like decreased libido, vaginal dryness and pain with sex, or breakthrough bleeding.

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When it comes to the Copper IUD, otherwise know as the “Copper T” by Paragard, there is the silver lining related to the environmental effects. The birth controls women take on a daily basis can be excreted into waste water and make their way into the local environments we live in contaminating our water. Studies have shown downstream rocks to be covered in a type of “biofilm” that contains these waste products. So using a copper IUD can actually reduce these waste products from entering our environment to being with.

Copper IUDs are a form of long-acting reversible contraceptives or LARC’s which are recommended by ACOG for prevention of unplanned pregnancy in teens. They are also a form of emergency contraception which can be used with great effectiveness up to 5 days after the unprotected pregnancy encounter.

While IUDs can be an effective and convenient way to control family size, it should be noted that in women delaying childbearing past the age of 30, are at an increased risk for ovarian cancer and birth control pills that are used for 5 consecutive years or more reduces this risk by 50%. This is especially true for ovulation that occurs in the 20s. Therefore, women in their twenties may find the cost-benefit ratio to weigh towards pill use in their 20s switching over to the IUD for the remainder of their family planning years. Also, women that suffer from heavy irregular and/or painful periods may need the pill or a hormone containing IUD to help control their symptoms and to prevent endometrial cancer. Additionally the IUD may be uncomfortable to have placed and does have some risk during or after placement. You can read more about the method here.

Regardless of what my opinions are they are not a medical opinion for individuals and women should always discuss what the right birth control method is for themselves with their own personal physician.  For those who do find the Copper T to be the right method for them, they can rest assured knowing that they are doing a little something for conservation of the environment and our water supply.

It should be noted that I have no financial arrangement with Paragard and I have not been paid for this posting.© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

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A gynecologist’s favorite gut bug and probiotic: Lactobacillus rhamnosus

I’ve said it! My favorite bug is L. rhamnosus. I know it sounds crazy, but just looking at the image of them makes me happy. WHY?!

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If you haven’t heard the news the bugs, or microbes, that colonize our bodies are amazing. There are over 10,000 strains of these microorganisms that make up almost 5 lbs of our body weight. More and more data continues to emerge related to the bugs that inhabit our bodies and the amazing health benefits they provide, not just for the body, but as it turns out, for the mind as well.  We each have our own unique “fingerprint” of these bugs that is likely determined by our mothers vagina, but also, can be influenced by our own diet and lifestyle, and in some cases by taking probiotics. So why do I have a favorite?

For many gynecologists and the women they care for, recurrent BV is a pain in the neck to treat. This is why early in my career, I began to do some research to see how I could better serve my patients. When it comes to recurrent BV, I have had many patients benefit from the simple addition of the strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus. It turns out that a healthy vaginal flora provides a microenvironment that is not very pleasant for nasty bacteria that can cause a yucky fishy odor and a thin vaginal discharge. This study, published in the journal of Immunology and Medical Microbiology showed that in a randomized, controlled trial, oral L. rhamnosus not only colonized the vagina, it also prevented BV and candida colonization of the vagina. Many of my patients that were coming back to me for recurrent BV swear by this probiotic. Some are even able to treat themselves without the help of antibiotics by taking it when they start to feel some discomfort or discharge.

But wait…there’s another reason why I like this bug for women and it involves weight loss. A large study showed that babies that are delivered by cesarean section and or are formula fed suffer higher rates of adult obesity. It is thought to be due to the lack of healthy flora that babies born through the vagina get. Recently after noticing my own weight gain following treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics, I remembered the studies about obesity and cesarean section. I decided to look into which strains might be beneficial for weight loss. And I found this study. They randomly gave L. rhamnosus or a placebo pill to men and women that were attempting to lose weight with the exact same diet and exercise regimen. They found that the women dieters (BUT NOT THE MEN!!!) using the L. rhamnosus lost twice as much weight as those taking the fake pill. Keep in mind, the study was funded by Nestle so potential bias could exist however the double blind design does minimize potential bias. Keep in mind…you still have to exercise and eat right!!! But the addition of the probiotic should give you an extra boost. It worked for me!

Still more and perhaps most interesting, there was a neurobiology study looking at depression behaviors in in mice taking L. rhamnosus versus not taking it. What they found was that mice that were given the L. rhamnosus (JB-1) strain had significantly lower levels of the stress-induced hormone corticosterone and exhibited less anxiety- and depression-related behavior. It was thought to be driven by the vagus nerve and effects of GABA receptor expression. So how’s that for mind-body. Perhaps we should really be talking about mind-body-bug.

Hopefully this will convince you that your own microbiome can protect you and explains why as a gynecologist, L. rhamnosus is my favorite bug. Here are some natural ways you can promote your body’s own beneficial flora:

Diet high in fiber

Sleep

Exercise

Plant based diet

So there you have it, the reasons why my favorite gut bug is L.rhamnosus.

For more on the microbiome, check out this TEDx Talk on YouTube.

Or this talk by Stanford Immunology Professor David Relman

If you want to try a supplement, here are some products that have the L. rhamnosus strain, but there are many out there that will work, you just have to look for it on the side of the probiotic bottle where they have the strains listed. Try to buy from a reputable company however so you can ensure you are getting active strains.

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

Green Health for a Green Planet: My favorite ways to go green through healthy living

Here are simple ways we can save our planet while promoting our own vitality and longevity. Taking these steps for better health will also contribute to conservation of nature on our beautiful planet.

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#1 Go Vegan:  Nutrition is one of the optimum ways we can save the planet while improving our health.  As a physician, the most interesting field for me to see evolve is the field of nutrition. Once thought to have no bearing on health by the field of medicine, doctors now agree that a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do for promoting health and wellness. The healthiest diet for prevention of chronic disease and for longevity is a vegan diet and the silver lining is that it is also beneficial for the planet. Eating lower on the food chain leads to more efficient energy use, greater diversity of plants and animals, and reduced pollution of our water from nitrogenous animal waste. In addition, a plant based diet provides us with the whole foods and nutrient balance that our bodies have evolved to thrive on. Ecosystems benefit from diversity, and as it turns out, so does the ecosystem of bacteria that exists in your own body so be sure to eat a diet rich and varied in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. To learn more, check out the documentary Forks over Knives, or pick up the new book on making the transition to a plant based diet. Want to do one better? Go organic! Check out the dirty dozen list from the Environmental Working Group to find out which organic fruits will give you the best bang for your buck related to pesticide reduction. Have access to a community garden? SAVE THE BEES and GROW YOUR OWN VEGGIES! Sign the petition to promote vegetable gardens everywhere.

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#2 Get into Nature: The benefits of getting into nature are far reaching. For one, you are likely to be exercising which is the other most important thing doctors recommend you do for your health. Live in a city? no problem, hit the park, green space of any kind will still give you the benefits. If you have access to a community garden, you’re loving it, not only are you benefitting from digging in the soil, you will also be providing food for dying bee and butterfly populations as well as improving the nutrient content of your vegetables. Heart rate variability, which is an indicator of heart health and balance of the parasympathetic and sympthetic nervous systems, increases when you are in nature. Preliminary studies have shown that “earthing”, basically walking barefoot on dirt, leads to positive physiologic changes. (Just watch out if you live in an area with pin worms).  Hate bugs? …try a lemon eucalyptus based bug spray, recommended by the CDC to prevent tick and mosquito borne disease, and don’t forget the sunscreen! Check out the free database on Skindeep.org for non-toxic sunscreen options. Want to become more involved in conservation itself? Check out The Nature Conservancy volunteer activities in your area.

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#3 Mindful Awareness and Meditation: Living mindfully allows us to separate from habitual thinking and behaviors. All too often we function on autopilot, allowing automatic behaviors and primal feelings to drive our actions and behaviors.  Being mindful, living true to our core values and making conscious choices about how we spend our money, our time and our energy can help us to make important health changes like the ones I mention here. It can also make us more compassionate which is probably the most important value to have in our work protecting the planet. If you haven’t jumped on the meditation band wagon yet, or still think it is not something you are capable of in our non-stop stimulating culture, it might be easier than you think.  I recommend the Jon Kabat Zinn book Full Catastrophe Living or one of his youtube videos as an introduction to mindfulness and meditation. You can also check out free guided meditations from UCLA’s Semel Institute.

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#4: Bike! As much and as often as possible. If you follow this blog you have seen the “carternative” my husband has created to cart us around town. This contraption has improved our quality of life ENORMOUSLY. We don’t have to look for parking, we save on gas and parking tickets, and we usually get where we are going faster, or as fast as in a car. This is especially true for urban environments. Any time you bike instead of turning on your car, you are reducing carbon emissions, not to mention reducing oil consumption while exercising your body and calming your mind. Don’t want to arrive at work all sweaty? Consider an electric assist on your bike. Check out this blog that covers bikes as transportation as well.

#5: Shop Less: Excess consumption and a BUY BUY BUY culture contributes greatly to carbon emissions, global warming and landfill waste. Shopping less is healthy for your wallet as well as your mental health. A very interesting study published in the Chicago Journals by Rik Pieters found that materialism and shopping lead to loneliness which in turn led to more shopping.  Still believe in retail therapy?  Try consignment stores and thrift shops instead. They are a great way to reduce waste while benefiting others, find a Goodwill or Salvation Army near you. Studies show that giving to others can makes you happier, particularly if you give directly to someone you know so there is added incentive to simplifying and cleaning out those closets.  Having willpower difficulties in curbing that shopping habit? Try the book Willpower Instinct here to learn more about how you can curb cravings and increase your willpower.

If you are interested in implementing some of the changes I mention here, remember, persistence AND positivity pay off! Take time to observe how you can be successful at making the changes and always prepare for what could go wrong and sabotage your success ahead of time. Finally, be sure to focus on the rewards, there are plenty of silver linings with these changes.

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GREEN HEALTH=GREEN PLANET!!!


© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.