Category Archives: Digestive System

Illnesses due to raw milk on the rise

Share

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

The average annual number of outbreaks due to drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk have more than quadrupled – from an average of three outbreaks per year during 1993-2006 to 13 per year during 2007-2012. Overall, there were 81 outbreaks in 26 states from 2007 to 2012.

As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.The outbreaks, which accounted for about 5 percent of all food-borne outbreaks with a known food source, sickened nearly 1,000 people and sent 73 to the hospital. More than 80 percent of the outbreaks occurred in states where selling raw milk was legal.

As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.

Continue reading

Share

‘Gluten-Free’ now means what it says

Share

Bread and grainsA Consumer Update from the FDA

In August of last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule that defined what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it “gluten-free.”

The rule also holds foods labeled “without gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “no gluten” to the same standard.

Manufacturers had one year to bring their labels into compliance. As of August 5, 2014, any food product bearing a gluten-free claim labeled on or after this date must meet the rule’s requirements.

Without a standardized definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure.

This rule was welcomed by advocates for people with celiac disease, who face potentially life-threatening illnesses if they eat the gluten found in breads, cakes, cereals, pastas and many other foods.

Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, notes that there is no cure for celiac disease and the only way to manage the disease is dietary—not eating gluten.

Without a standardized definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure if their body would tolerate a food with that label, she adds. Continue reading

Share

E. coli outbreak linked to raw clover sprouts

Share

Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!Clover sprouts eaten raw are likely source of E. coli illness outbreak

Washington state health officials are warning consumers not to eat raw clover sprouts from an Idaho producer that have been linked to an outbreak of E. coli infections in the Northwest.

The sprouts have been linked to seven confirmed and three probable cases of E. coli O121 illnesses in Washington and Idaho.

Five of those patients were hospitalized; there have been no deaths.

For more details about the outbreak:  Continue reading

Share

Women’s Health – Week 34: Obesity

Share

From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

tacuin women

Obesity is about more than just your looks. Today, two out of three adults in the United States are considered overweight or obese.

Obesity puts people at increased risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease,  type 2 diabetes,  high blood pressure,  stroke,  and some forms of cancer. Continue reading

Share

Women’s health — Week 29: Fecal incontinence

Share

tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Fecal incontinence, or loss of bowel control, can be devastating. People may feel the urge to have a bowel movement and not be able to hold it until they get to a toilet or stool may leak from the rectum unexpectedly, sometimes while passing gas. Continue reading

Share

Women’s Health — Week 22: Eating Disorders — Anorexia and Bulimia

Share

tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Eating disorders are marked by extremes. An eating disorder can be an extreme reduction of food intake or extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape.

A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spirals out of control.

Continue reading

Share

Women’s Health — Week 20: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Share

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) develops when a muscle at the end of the esophagus does not close properly. In adults, this causes frequent heartburn, also called acid indigestion. When the esophagus is not fully closed, acidic digestive juices can rise up from the stomach. Refluxed stomach acid in the esophagus causes a burning-type pain in the throat, chest, behind the breast bone, and/or in the mid-abdomen.tacuin women

Occasional heartburn or reflux is common and does not necessarily mean you have GERD. Persistent reflux that occurs more than twice a week is considered GERD, and it can eventually lead to more serious health problems. People of all ages can have GERD. Some adults and most children under 12 years of age have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they may have a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing. Why some people develop GERD is still unclear. Factors that may contribute to GERD include obesity, pregnancy, and smoking. Continue reading

Share

Use certain laxatives with caution, FDA warns

Share

Alert IconThe US Food and Drug Administration warns that laxatives containing sodium phosphate are potentially hazardous if not taken as directed. People with certain health conditions or taking certain medications are at particularly high risk. The FDA has issued the warning after there have been dozens of reports of serious side effects, including 13 deaths, associated with the use of sodium phosphate laxatives. Continue reading

Share
tacuin women

Women’s Health – Week 19: Digestive System Overview

Share

Digestive System_v02_ORWH_62309From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Everyone has digestive problems from time to time: an upset stomach,  gas,  heartburn,  constipation,  or diarrhea. Many digestive problems can be controlled with simple changes in diet. Digestive disorders commonly affect women. The digestive system is made up of the digestive tract – a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus – and other organs that help the body break down and absorb food.

Organs that make up the digestive tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (also called the colon), rectum, and anus. Inside these hollow organs is a lining called the mucosa. In the mouth, stomach, and small intestine, the mucosa contains tiny glands that produce juices to help digest food.

The digestive tract also contains a layer of smooth muscle that helps break down food and move it along the tract. Two digestive organs, the liver and the pancreas, produce digestive juices that reach the intestine through small tubes called ducts. The gallbladder stores the liver’s digestive juices until they are needed in the intestine. Parts of the nervous and circulatory systems also play major roles in the digestive system by preparing the stomach for digestion and absorption of food.

Tips for your health
Take the following steps to help keep your digestive system healthy: 

  • Do not smoke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Learn how to reduce your level of stress.

For more information: www.niddk.nih.gov

Share

Keep germs off the guest list at holiday meals

Share

Uncooked turkey in a pot

Keep all your guests healthy by following these food safety tips from the Snohomish Health District.

Proper planning.

Make sure your kitchen has everything you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for cooling and storage, paper towels and soap.

Store foods in the refrigerator at 41°F or below or in the freezer at 0°F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.

Safe shopping. 

At the grocery store, bag raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don’t buy bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Buy cold foods last and bring foods directly home from the store.

Always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours. Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator or under cold-running water. Never defrost the turkey at room temperature.

Working in the kitchen. 

Got extra helpers in the kitchen? Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, visiting the restroom, or changing a baby’s diapers. Keep all work surfaces sanitized, too. Spray or wipe on a solution of 1 tsp of unscented bleach per gallon of cold water.

When baking holiday treats, remember that no one should eat raw cookie dough or brownie batter containing raw eggs. Make eggnog with pasteurized eggs and pasteurized milk, or simply buy it ready-made with those ingredients.

Adding a nip of brandy or whiskey will not kill the germs. When making homemade eggnog, be sure to cook the mixture to 165°F, then refrigerate.

Cook. 

Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the

harmful bacteria that cause illness. Cook your turkey to a minimum of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, including the stuffing.

The healthiest method is to prepare and cook the stuffing separately – outside the bird. Test the bird’s temp in the thickest part of the thigh, the breast, and the inside. Don’t let the tip of the thermometer rest against bone.

Potluck contributions. 

Remember to keep hot foods hot (135°F or higher) and cold foods cold (41°F or below). To help keep foods hot wrap dishes in foil, cover them in heavy towels, or put them in insulated containers designed to keep food hot.

For cold foods, put them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs, or use an insulated container with a cold pack so they remain at 41°F or lower, especially if traveling for more than half an hour.

Buffet, anyone? 

If you set up food in a buffet line, take care to put spoons in each dish for self-service, and assist children in filling their plates. No fingers allowed!

Wrap it up! 

Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with the date it was prepared. Reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 41°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of an at-home food-borne illness.

Eat cooked turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days and gravy in 1-2 days. Cooked turkey keeps up to 4 months in the freezer. Reheat leftovers to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, and bring gravy and sauces to a boil before serving. Microwaved leftovers shouldn’t have cold spots (bacteria can survive). Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.

Following these food safety steps at your house will make the meal a happy memory for everyone. Happy, healthy holidays from the Snohomish Health District!

Additional resources:

Free kit

The Holiday Food Safety Success Kit at www.holidayfoodsafety.org provides food safety advice and meal planning in one convenient location.

The kit includes information on purchasing, thawing and cooking a turkey; a holiday planner with menus, timelines, and shopping lists; and dozens of delicious (and food-safe) recipes. ]

The kit also has arts and crafts activities and downloads for kids so they can join the holiday fun.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

1-888-SAFEFOOD: For questions about safe handling of the many foods that go into a delicious holiday meal, including eggs, dairy, fresh produce and seafood.

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaNothing can ruin a party quite like food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 31 pathogens known to cause food-borne illness.

Every year there are an estimated 48 million cases of illness, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to food-borne diseases.

Typical symptoms of food-borne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps which can start hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.

The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment.

But food-borne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk such as infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition or medication that weakens the immune system.

Share

Start at the store

Share

FoodEvery year, 1 out of 6 people gets sick from foodborne illness!

Thankfully, you can take action at the grocery store to stay healthy.

When shopping, pick up non-perishable foods first, followed by refrigerated/frozen items, and deli counter items last.

Make sure you’re purchasing food that is fresh, the sell-by date is current, and that it has been kept at the correct temperature.

Place cold items together in the cart to retain coldness.

Have meat and poultry bagged separately from other food items.

Refrigerate all perishable items immediately upon returning home.

This week, try to plan your shopping ahead of time so that you can make your grocery run quick, efficient, and most importantly, safe!

 

About the Monday Campaigns:

The Healthy Monday Tips is produced by a national health promotion initiative called the Monday Campaigns.

The thinking behind the initiative derives from two studies done at the Center for a Liveable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health by Jullian Fry and Roni Neff.

In one study, they reviewed the scientific studies that looked at ways to get people to adopt healthy habits.

In that review, they found that one of the most effective ways to keep people on track is simply to remind them from time to time to stick to it.

But when would be the best time send those reminders?

Fry and Neff decided to look at Monday, which many of us consider the start of our week.

To better understand how we thought and felt about Monday, they reviewed the scientific literature as well as cultural references to Monday in movies, songs, books and other forms of art and literature, even video games.

They noted that a number of scientific studies have found that we may suffer more health problems on Monday. For example, a number of studies find that Americans have more heart attacks and strokes on Monday.

There is also evidence that we have more on-the-job injuries on Monday, perhaps because we are not quite back into the swing of things, or are still recovering from our weekend.

Fry and Neff also found that while many of us, facing the return to work, may dread Mondays, Monday is also seen as a day for making a fresh start.

Fry and Neff concluded that Monday might be a good day for promoting healthy habits. Calling attention to the health problems linked to the first day of the work week, such as heart attacks and on-the-job injuries, makes Monday a natural day to highlight the importance of prevention.

And the Monday’s reputation as a day to make a fresh start offers the opportunity to help people to renew their efforts to adopt healthier habits.

Fry and Neff’s findings are put into practice by the Monday Campaigns, which helps individuals and organizations use Monday as a focus for their health promotion efforts, providing free research, literature and artwork, and other support.

To learn more about Healthy Mondays:

Enhanced by Zemanta
Share
Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Salmonella in eggs: An unwelcome summer visitor

Share
Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Photo by Sanja Gjenero

CDC Features

Eggs and summer go together: deviled eggs, homemade ice cream, and potato salad.

But, just a few hours outside of the refrigerator and your eggs can create lasting memories that you’d rather forget.

This summer, make sure that eggs carrying Salmonella don’t come to your next outing.

Summer is the perfect season for Salmonella, a germ that commonly causes foodborne illness–sometimes called food poisoning.

Warm weather and unrefrigerated eggs or food made from raw or undercooked eggs create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow.

Many germs grow to high numbers in just a few hours at room temperature.

Although anyone can get Salmonella food poisoning, older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for serious illness.

A person infected with Salmonella usually has a fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage.

The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without antibiotic treatment. But, in rare cases, people become seriously ill.

In the United States, Salmonella infection causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other germ found in food, resulting in $365 million in direct medical costs annually.

Wondering if you haveSalmonella food poisoning?

salmonella on cultured human cells

Salmonella / CDC

See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have:

  • Diarrhea along with a temperature over 101.5°F
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
  • Bloody stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as
    • Making very little urine
    • Dry mouth and throat, and
    • Dizziness when standing up

Salmonella can be sneaky

You can get Salmonella from perfectly normal-looking eggs. Salmonella can live on both the outside and inside of eggs that appear to be normal. Chicken feces on the outside of egg shells used to be a common cause of Salmonella contamination. To counter that, regulators in the 1970s put strict procedures into place for cleaning and inspecting eggs. Now, Salmonella is sometimes found on the inside of eggs; it gets there as the egg is forming.

Good news for egg lovers

Professionals from public health, government, and the food industry are continually working to reduce the risks of Salmonella in eggs. Here are just a few contributions made thus far:

Be proactive. Reduce your risk.

Did You Know?

Eating raw or undercooked eggs can be especially dangerous for young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

Salmonella can contaminate more than poultry and eggs. It sneaks its way into many foods—ground beef, pork, tomatoes, sprouts—even peanut butter. Here are six tips to make eggs and other foods safer to eat.

  1. Like other perishable foods, keep eggs refrigerated at or below 40° F (4° C) at all times. Buy eggs only from stores or other suppliers that keep them refrigerated.
  2. Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
  3. Do not keep eggs or other foods warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
  4. Refrigerate unused or leftover foods promptly.
  5. Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or lightly cooked unpasteurized eggs. Although restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe containing raw or lightly cooked eggs –such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing—ask to be sure.
  6. Consider buying and using shell eggs and egg products that are pasteurized. These are available for purchase from certain stores and suppliers.

 Photo of eggs courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

More Information

For more information about Salmonella, foodborne illness, and food safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, e-mail cdcinfo@cdc.gov, or visit these web sites:

Share

When is colon cancer screening covered?

Share

Questions About Colon Screening Coverage Still Vex Consumers

Photo by sanja gjenero

Photo by sanja gjenero

By Michelle Andrews

No one looks forward to screening tests for colon and rectal cancers. But under the Affordable Care Act, patients are at least supposed to save on out of-pocket costs for them.

Coverage is not always clear, however, and despite the federal government’s clarifications, some consumers remain vexed and confused.

Under the law, most health plans are required to cover a range of preventive health services without any cost-sharing by patients if they’re recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of medical experts.(The only exception is for health plans that have grandfathered status under the law.)

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Screening can catch cancers earlier, and removing polyps discovered during a colonoscopy can prevent cancer from developing in the first place.

The task force recommends colorectal cancer screening for most adults starting at age 50. These tests include colonoscopy (in which a doctor inserts a flexible tube with a video camera at the end into the anus to examine the large intestine for polyps, tumors and other abnormalities), sigmoidoscopy (a similar process that examines only the lower part of the colon) and fecal occult blood testing (which examines the stool for traces of blood).

A colonoscopy is the most thorough of the screening tests and is favored by many clinicians. But about half the time, polyps are discovered and removed during the test to determine whether they are cancerous.

This can create billing problems for patients, says Katie Keith, a research professor at Georgetown University who co-authored a report on screening colonoscopy coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

According to the study, some insurers judged that a colonoscopy with polyp removal was a therapeutic rather than a screening procedure, and subsequently billed patients for some or all of the test’s cost, depending on their coverage, which can reach $2,000, sometimes more.

In February, the Obama administration stated that for people in group and individual health plans, polyp removal during a screening colonoscopy was an integral part of the screening test and should be covered without patient cost sharing. The guidance doesn’t apply to Medicare beneficiaries, however, who may still face a co-payment if a polyp is discovered.

Other screening coverage questions remain murky. What happens, for example, if someone gets a positive result on a fecal occult blood test?In that case, the task force says a colonoscopy is required to examine the colon for polyps or other problems.

But insurers vary in whether they consider such a follow-up colonoscopy to be part of the original screening process or a separate diagnostic test, according to the report by Keith and others, including the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent project of KFF.)

“In many communities, stool testing may be common because people can’t get an appointment for a colonoscopy for months,” says Robert Smith, senior director of cancer screening at the American Cancer Society, another co-author of the report. “If they have a positive stool test, now they face the uncertainty of what it would cost to get the colonoscopy.”

Another gray area emerges when people are at higher risk for colon cancer because of family history or their own history of polyps. In these cases, patients are often advised to get a colonoscopy more often than every 10 years, the recommended frequency for people at average risk.

In February, the federal government clarified that high-risk patients could qualify for more frequent screening without cost sharing. Despite this, some patients have run into coverage snags.

Because doctors discovered three polyps during a colonoscopy five years ago, Allen Worob, 66, is considered at high risk for colon cancer. Worob’s physician advised him to get another colonoscopy in five years.

At first, Worob’s insurer told him that the procedure would cost him nothing if no polyps were found but that he’d owe the full $2,500 charge if a polyp was discovered. (Worob’s primary coverage is through his wife’s group health plan, supplemented by Medicare.)

After more discussions with his insurer, Worob, who lives in Rochester, N.Y., was told the procedure would be covered without any out-of-pocket charge whether or not any polyps were found.

But Worob didn’t want to take any chances. He decided to wait for a letter from his insurer spelling that out before getting the test.

“Just because [the goveernment] has clarified the law, it doesn’t mean anybody’s going to follow it,” he says. “I can’t take a $2,500 hit.”

Despite the administration’s explanations, questions remain, says Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group.

“The [Department of Health and Human Services] has issued clarifications on some scenarios related to colonoscopy screening, but other questions are being raised and we may need to ask for further clarification,” she says.

Photo courtesy of sanja gjenero

This article was produced by Kaiser Health News with support from The SCAN Foundation.

Please send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column to questions@kaiserhealthnews.org.

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Share

E. coli outbreak leads to expanded recall of frozen food products

Share

Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!The Washington State Department of Health is warning people that several types of frozen food products – Farm Rich, Market Day, and Schwan’s brands – have been recalled due to possible contamination with E. coli.

 

The products were distributed widely throughout Washington.

The recalls are related to a national E. coli outbreak that sickened 27 people from 15 states, including a Pierce County woman in her 20s.

“The foods in this recall were sent to stores throughout our state,” said Dave Gifford, Food Safety program manager. “E. coli can be very serious. We’re asking people to look at the recall list, check their freezers carefully, and throw out any of these products that they find.”

The type of E. coli in this outbreak is a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 (STEC O121), which is similar to E. coli O157:H7.

It can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. It can sometimes result in severe, life-threatening illness.

The recalled product list continues to expand and now includes several varieties of frozen snacks and mini-meal products.

The full list of the products currently covered by the recall is on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website; more info is on the Food Safety Program website.

Share

Insurance plans must now cover cost of breast pumps for nursing moms

Share

International Breastfeeding SymbolBy Zoe Chace, NPR News

This story comes from our partner .

Health insurance plans now have to cover the full cost of breast pumps for nursing mothers.

This is the result of a provision in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and the new rule took effect for many people at the start of this year.

It’s led to a boom in the sale of the pumps, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

Yummy Mummy, a little boutique on New York’s Upper East Side, has suddenly become a health care provider/online superstore. The company has been hiring like crazy, and just opened an online call center and a warehouse in Illinois.

Yummy Mummy even hired somebody to talk to customers’ health insurance companies.

And new moms now seem more likely to splurge on fancy new breast pumps. Caroline Shany, a Yummy Mummy customer, spent her own money to buy a breast pump for her first baby. She may buy another one now because insurance will pick up the tab.

“Why not?” she says.

Weird things happen when you take price out of the equation for consumers. For one thing, they stop looking for the best price. But even though breast pumps are free for new moms, somebody has to pay for them.

“Health insurance premiums are driven by how much we spend on health care,” says Harvard health economist Katherine Baicker. “The more things that are covered by health insurance policies, the more premiums have to rise to cover that spending.”

Advocates of requiring insurance companies to pay for breast pumps say that the measure will pay for itself in the long run.

UCLA’s School of Public Health Dr. Linda Rosenstock, who chaired the team that recommended this provision, says the science is unequivocal. Preventive-care spending upfront leads to  fewer health problems down the road.  Babies who are breast fed tend to be healthier, and paying for breast pumps should mean more babies are breastfed.

Economist Baicker isn’t sure that eliminating the cost of the breast pumps really induces much extra breastfeeding. She thinks that most of the money spent will go towards people who would have been breastfeeding anyway.

“So the question is whether the value that those people get from the breast pumps is worth the cost in terms of increased health spending and increased premiums,” she says.

The outcome may depend partly on how the new rules are implemented. Insurers are still trying to figure out whether to pay for extra-fancy breast pumps, or just basic models.

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Share