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Chronic Muscle Aches Should Not Be Ignored

Regular exercisers should expect their muscles to feel sore on the day after they exercise intensely, but if the soreness doesn't go away, they need a medical evaluation. When you exercise vigorously, your muscles are injured. Muscle biopsies taken on the day after intense exercise show bleeding into the muscle fibers and disruption of the Z-bands that hold muscle fiber filaments together as they slide by each other. The soreness you feel should usually disappear within 48 hours, and even with the most severe workouts, it should disappear within a week or two.

If the soreness remains after a few weeks, you should check with your doctor. You may have an infection anywhere in your body, an autoimmune disease or other treatable condition. Doctors may call your chronic muscle soreness fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or multiple chemical sensitivities. These diagnoses are an admission by the physician that he hasn't the foggiest idea of the cause. There are reports of people with muscle pain and normal liver tests who are then found to have hepatitis C, which can be effectively treated. If you have urinary tract symptoms in addition to your muscle pain, you may be infected with mycoplasma or other bacteria which can be treated with antibiotics. You could have Lyme disease or some type of reactive arthritis. Don't accept a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia until you have a thorough evaluation for a hidden infection or other treatable causes.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can I tell if I have polycystic ovary syndrome, and how is it treated?

The symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are fat stored in the belly, dark facial and body hair, infertility, acne and irregular periods. A woman is born with about 4 million eggs. Each month one egg ripens and pops off the ovary into the uterus. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have eggs that remain on the ovary to form cysts. PCOS is diagnosed with a sonogram of the ovaries. The symptoms are caused by high blood insulin levels.

Your pancreas releases insulin when your blood sugar level rises. Anything that prevents blood sugar levels from rising too high lowers insulin and treats PCOS. When these women are given metformin (Glucophage), a diabetic medication, and placed on a diabetic diet, their periods become regular, they lose weight, their acne and facial hair disappear and they become fertile. Women with PCOS should avoid refined carbohydrates (any foods made with flour, white rice or milled corn) and added sugars. Don’t avoid fruits or root vegetables, but eat them only with other foods to slow the rise in blood sugar. If you think you may have PCOS, take this information to your doctor.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I see breakfast cereal with gingko biloba in the supermarket. Is it worth the extra cost?

I hope that you are an educated consumer and will not be fooled by the unbelievable advertising on some food packages. For example, labels on ginseng tea and gingko- fortified cereal both claim they will promote sharp thinking. There is no solid evidence that either ginseng or gingko improve thinking, but for this discussion, let’s assume they do. Ginseng is a stimulant just like an amphetamine. If you were to take too much ginseng, you would get diarrhea and a headache; a massive overdose could raise your blood pressure, cause a stroke and even death. If the correct dose of ginseng is contained in one cup of the tea, that means that you are taking a drug when you drink a cupful; two cups can give you a headache and five may kill you.

It’s the dose that makes a poison. If a substance is to cause a health benefit, you have to eat an exact dose. If you take less, you don’t receive any benefit. If you take too much, you can suffer unpleasant side effects or even die. Drugs and supplements specify the dose on the bottle; if you take a whole bottle-full instead of one pill and die of an overdose, the manufacturer will not be held responsible. But nobody measures exact portions of food. What happens if you drink the ginseng tea all day to quench your thirst?

The same applies to gingko-fortified cereals. How much cereal do you have to eat to improve your mind? What happens if your child likes the flavor and eats the whole box? Foods that truly contain medicines would harm you if you ate too much. Of course the food manufacturers are not stupid, so they put in so little of the substance that it cannot possibly harm you in any amount – and therefore, of course, cannot have any benefit. This is deceptive advertising at its worst. Save your money.

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Favorite recipes for your holiday feast (some healthful "trimmings" to enjoy with your turkey)

Sweet Potato-Cranberry Salad

Wild Rice with Cherries

Portobello Mushroom Casserole

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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