For all the overuse of antibiotic soaps and kitchen cleaners – North Americans spend billions of dollars annually on products that don’t clean up any more effectively than plain old soap – you may be uninformed about the big problems that can come from common infections and how easy it is to avoid them.
So here’s our rundown on trouble-causing infections, such as gum disease (yes, that’s a bacterial infection!) and most ulcers, and simple, effective ways to dodge them!
• Your power – You can brush and floss away blood-sugar problems. You’ve probably heard that gum disease ratchets up body-wide inflammation that could harm your heart, but did you know bacteria growing below your gum line also can raise your risk for Type 2 diabetes? Inflammation interferes with your body’s ability to use blood sugar for fuel – raising glucose levels to dangerous heights. Plus, if you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, gum disease makes it more difficult to get your blood sugar down into a normal range, raising your risk for complications like atherosclerosis and nerve damage.
Say yes to the brush, the floss and the visit: Brush at least twice a day, floss daily and see your dental professional every six months. Follow his or her advice for treating gum disease, pronto.
• Your power – You can defeat a cancer-causing virus. We’ve known for some time that HPV (human papillomavirus) is the viral infection behind cervical cancer. Now we know it also causes 90 percent of anal cancers, 65 percent of vaginal cancers, 50 percent of vulvar cancers, 35 percent of penile cancers and 65 percent of throat cancers. These can all be thwarted with a readily available vaccine.
Say yes to the HPV vaccine: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported rates of HPV strains related to genital warts and some cancers have decreased 56 percent among U.S. teen girls since a vaccine was introduced in 2006. Yep, the vaccine works and is saving lives right now.
• Your power – You can battle another cancer-causing virus. The liver-infecting hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a prime cause of liver cancer. These days, 75 percent of HCV cases are in adults born between 1945 and 1965, but about 800,000 people with this dangerous, treatable infection don’t know it. If you get tested, you can get treated!
Say yes to an HVC check: Even if you don’t have symptoms, treatment that quells the virus reduces your risk for liver cancer. And make sure you and your kids get the HCV vaccine; 66 percent of Americans haven’t done that!
• Your power – You can stop bacteria from causing stomach cancer. Peptic ulcers come from infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. When it burrows into the inner wall of the stomach, it lets your stomach’s super-strong digestive juices boost inflammation and, left untreated, can lead to stomach cancer.
Say yes to the check-up: Don’t ignore signs that you may have a peptic ulcer. See your doc if you feel burning pain, bloating, nausea, lack of appetite or feel full on just a few bites of food. If diagnosed, you’ll get treatment with a combination of antibiotics and acid-blocking medications such as bismuth salicylate.
• Your power – Preventing a heart attack. Your digestive system plays host to trillions of bacteria. Eating too many foods rich in choline and lecithin (like whole eggs, commercial baked goods and even some supplements) and creatine (found in red meat) changes the mix of bacteria, and certain ones gain evil powers, releasing artery-clogging chemicals. Luckily, you can rebalance your system by eating right and taking probiotics; that’ll keep your heart healthier.
Say yes to the good diet: Cutting back on red meat (skinless chicken, salmon, ocean trout and beans are great alternatives), steering clear of sugary treats, eating fewer eggs and avoiding dietary supplements that contain choline or lecithin (a choline precursor) will reduce the power of bad bacteria in your gut. Vegetables and fruit, yogurt with live active cultures and fermented foods like sauerkraut all promote good bacteria.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.