Dana Sparks @danasparks

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1 day ago by @danasparks · View  

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Hearing loss spurs doctor to pay it forward

Greta smiling and talking with patientToday, Greta Stamper, Au.D., Ph.D., is a doctor of audiology in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. But her connection to Mayo Clinic dates all the way back to her childhood.

Growing up in Iowa, Dr. Stamper was introduced to Mayo at age 10, when her parents took her to see Michael Schultz, Au.D., an audiologist in the Mayo Clinic Health System. Diagnosed with a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss at age 8, she had made many visits to hearing health care professionals before she met Dr. Schultz. But he was different.

“Dr. Schultz was the first person who I could actually talk to about my hearing loss, and he helped me tremendously throughout my adolescence when I struggled to accept my hearing loss,” says Dr. Stamper, recalling daily challenges with peers who didn’t realize she had difficulty with her hearing.

With Dr. Schultz’s encouragement, Dr. Stamper went on to pursue a career in audiology, graduating in 2009 from the University of Iowa with a doctorate of audiology. Then she was selected to complete a one-year audiology externship at Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences in Florida. Read the rest of Greta's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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3 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Home Remedies: Having chronic hives

a woman scratching her itchy skin rash, hives

Hives, also known as urticaria (ur-tih-KAR-e-uh), are reddened, itchy welts that may be triggered by exposure to certain foods, medications or other substances.  The welts vary in size and appear and fade repeatedly as the reaction runs its course.

Chronic hives are a condition in which the welts last more than six weeks or recur over months or years. Chronic hives usually aren't life-threatening, but the condition can be very uncomfortable and interfere with sleep and daily activities. Often, the cause is not clear and in some cases, chronic hives are a sign of an underlying health problem, such as thyroid disease or lupus.

You can try various treatments to relieve your symptoms. For many people, antihistamine and anti-itch medications provide relief from chronic hives.

Chronic hives signs and symptoms include:

  • Batches of red or white welts (wheals), usually on the face, trunk, arms or legs.
  • Welts that vary in size, change shape, and appear and fade repeatedly as the reaction runs its course.
  • Itching, which may be severe.
  • Swelling that causes pain or burning (angioedema), especially inside the throat and around the eyes, cheeks, lips, hands, feet and genitals.
  • A tendency for signs and symptoms to flare with triggers such as heat, exercise and stress.
  • A tendency for symptoms to recur frequently and unpredictably, sometimes for months or years.

These precautions may help prevent or soothe recurring skin reactions of chronic hives:

  • Wear loose, light clothing.
  • Avoid scratching or using harsh soaps.
  • Cool the affected area with a shower, fan, cool cloth or soothing lotion.
  • Keep a diary of when and where hives occur, what you were doing, what you were eating, and so on. This may help you and your doctor identify triggers.
  • Avoid known triggers, such as certain foods or additives, alcohol, pain relievers, heat, cold, exertion, and stress.

Related article: Mayo Clinic Q and A: Chronic Hives Come and Go With No Clear Pattern

Alternative medicine

More study is needed, but some evidence supports the following alternative medicine approaches for providing relief of symptoms:

  • Diet restrictions, such as eliminating yeast, food additives and other things that may cause the skin reaction (allergens)
  • Supplements, such as vitamins B-12, C and D, fish oil, and quercetin
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Acupuncture, sometimes with an herbal wash of burdock

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you have:

  • Severe hives
  • Hives that don't respond to treatment
  • Hives that continue to appear for several days

Seek emergency care if you:

  • Feel dizzy
  • Have severe chest tightness or trouble breathing
  • Feel your tongue or throat swelling
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4 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Stem cells splash down from space

SpaceX Dragon landing with stem cell research

After nearly a month orbiting the Earth attached to the International Space Station, the SpaceX Dragon capsule containing Dr. Abba Zubair's stem cell research detached from the station and returned to Earth. The Dragon was recovered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California, on March 19. After SpaceX turns over the contents of the Dragon to NASA, the research will be sent back to Dr. Zubair’s lab at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus for analysis and further scientific study. Research updates will be posted on the Mayo Clinic News Network when available. [Photo Courtesy: SpaceX]

View official SpaceX photos.

Below are previous reports explaining the research:

NASA astronaut working on Dr. Zubair's stem cell research on space station

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Zubair are in the downloads.

Journalists: A broadcast-quality video pkg (3:02) is in the downloads. Read the script.
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4 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: Personal and global meaning

two hands holding a clay model of the earth, the world, a globe
Dr. Amit Sood
 says, "It is easier and more useful to make your life more meaningful than to search for the ultimate meaning of life."

Dear friend,

Our mind doesn’t have access to the ultimate meaning of life. Answers to questions about what the world is and how it was created can take us closer to the meaning. However, until we have a solid answer for the question of why the world was created, we will stay relatively ignorant.

Science has done a phenomenal job of answering the what and the how, but it hasn’t moved an inch closer to answering the why. Knowledge that doesn’t answer the why is limited. Awareness of the unimaginably large size of our universe (estimated at ninety-one billion light-years) creates a sense of awe—about the vastness of it all. Knowledge about the subatomic quantum world with awareness of the power of intentionality is truly fascinating. But the details of physics at both the cosmic and the quantum levels still leave the curious mind dissatisfied.

I believe the ultimate why (meaning) that will satisfy the human mind will be complete in itself, not depending on anything external to validate it. It will be resilient to the paradigm of life and death. I don’t presently know how to reach that why.

I do, however, know how to align my limited mind with what I believe is my primary evolutionary responsibility—to help create a safer, happier, kinder world for our planet’s children. Despite my good intentions, my personal ability to accomplish this goal is extraordinarily limited. I can influence only a minuscule part of the world in a very small way.

Minuscule, however, is better than nothing. If I procrastinate, waiting for the day when I have complete access to the global meaning or collecte the resources to influence a large part of the world, I will reach nowhere.

I believe contextual, transient meanings all converge to a global meaning. If I can take hold of my own little meaning and pursue it to the deepest place it can take me, the reflection of the global meaning might reveal itself. That will be enough.

Questions of who created the sound and why aren’t answerable. The immediate value comes in knowing how to turn the sound into music. Similarly, our minds in their current state of evolution cannot know who created the world or why. We can understand how to make the world a better place—one where we create more music than noise and also hear music behind the noise. And that is enough.

May you hear more music than noise; may you hear music behind the noise.

Take care.

Dr. Sood 2

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.
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4 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Making Mayo's Recipes: Cracked wheat chili

Try this quick, zesty vegetarian chili packed with bell peppers, bulgur wheat, beans, tomatoes and spices. The bulgur wheat looks like ground beef and adds a lot of fiber. As a result, this healthy vegetarian chili looks a lot like traditional chili.

Each Thursday one of the 100+ tasty video recipes from the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program is featured on the Mayo Clinic News Network, just in time for you to try at the weekend. You can also have the recipes delivered via the Mayo Clinic App.

Created by the executive wellness chef and registered dietitians at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. Find more recipes and other healthy-living insights on the Mayo Clinic App

Journalists: The broadcast-quality video (1:50) is in the downloads.


  1. 2 teaspoons olive oil
  2. 2 cups chopped onion
  3. 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  4. 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  5. 6 cloves minced garlic
  6. 4 cups water
  7. 1 1/2 cups dry bulgur wheat
  8. 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained
  9. 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained
  10. 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes
  11. 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  12. 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  13. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  14. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  15. 1 teaspoon onion powder
  16. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  17. 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


In a medium soup pot, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water, bulgur, kidney beans, black beans, tomatoes, chili powder, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly as the water is absorbed into the bulgur.

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5 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Women's Wellness: Sex and gender in medical research

a diverse group of women representing women's healthTransforming medical practice through sex and gender-based research has been the focus of physiologist and surgical researcher Virginia Miller's work for over 25 years. She says the world is at a unique place in history there is an opportunity to change the way medicine is practiced. Dr. Miller directs the Women's Health Research Center and she wrote the article below for Mayo Clinic's Office of Women's Health.

Your doctors and other health care providers pride themselves in providing treatments to their patients that are based on rigorous scientific proof. However, a closer look at the “scientific proof” indicates that such proof often does not account for the sex of the patient.  Many commercials advertise ways to discover the DNA to define your ancestry. The DNA that is basic to defining whether you are male or female is located on the sex chromosomes: XX for females and XY for males. These chromosomes define biological sex, and the genes on these chromosomes direct the development of reproductive organs, such as the ovaries for women and testes for men, and secretion of hormones, estrogen and testosterone, that influence all aspects of health and disease.

In women, the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries varies across the lifespan. For example, production of estrogen increases at puberty, preparing a women’s body for reproduction. However, loss of ovarian function (and estrogen) before the age of 45 results in premature aging. Secretion of hormones during pregnancy allows a woman’s body to adapt to carry a baby to term. Pregnancy marks a dramatic change in how a woman’s body functions, from how much blood her heart pumps, how much fluid must be cleared by the kidneys, how the muscles and skeleton adjusts to excess weight, and brain behaviors needed to nurture the newborn baby.

Watch: Dr. Virginia Miller discusses sex and gender-based medical research.

Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Miller are in the downloads.

Problems that arise during pregnancy such as high blood sugar (diabetes) or high blood pressure can set a woman on a path for other diseases after the baby is born. These changes, although remarkable, are often ignored by researchers and medical practitioners! A review of scientific studies indicates that most studies are conducted on male animals or men. When women are included, the results are not reported separately for men and women. Also, attention is not given to the hormonal status (e.g., premenopausal or postmenopausal) or a women’s pregnancy history. The absence of this information from studies and the medical history does not allow treatments to be individualized to the patient. One size, condition or treatment does not fit all!

New policies are being put into place that will change the way science is conducted and reported. More women will be included in studies and results of those studies will be reported by sex. Medical history will include information about hormonal status as well as pregnancy history — beyond how many pregnancies or live births a woman has had, including information about problems such as preterm birth, diabetes and high blood pressure during the pregnancy.

In spite of these new policies, there are many forces at work that slow progress. First, there are political pressures —  how money is spent for research, changes in medical insurance opportunities and the lack of understanding among lawmakers that women’s health is more than reproductive rights. Remember, the No. 1 killer of women is heart disease, more women than men suffer from autoimmune diseases and more women than men die of some types of lung cancer. These are just a few of the health issues women face that need more research and perhaps treatments that will work differently in women compared to men.  Second, all of us have conscious and unconscious biases that influence how we interact with each other, including how health care providers interact with their patients and vice versa.  These interactions can be improved with education and by patients becoming advocates for their own health. Third, the current structure of medical training does not consistently include topics of sex-differences. New educational materials are being developed to correct this problem.

So what does the future hold for medical practice? Researchers and medical practitioners need to see their work and patients through a sex and gender lens. While sex is biological, gender, on the other hand, is a psychosocial construct that reflects environments and behaviors that influence health, such as culture, type of job, income, living conditions (partner status, children, and extended family), that influence stress, nutrition, activity, attitudes and access to health care services. Science needs to provide the evidence, and health care professionals need to develop and utilize the information in ways that keep the needs of their patients first.Women's Wellness logo

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6 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Discovery's Edge: Cell research on amyloidosis

At Mayo Clinic, Marina Ramirez-Alvarado, Ph.D., studies one type of protein abnormality associated with a complex and incurable disease called light chain amyloidosis. This type of amyloidosis is the most common and can affect the heart, kidneys, skin, nerves, and liver. Dr. Ramirez-Alvarado and her team just published a paper on their most recent findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

In the paper, Dr. Ramirez-Alvarado and her team use live cell fluorescence microscopy to show how these abnormal proteins invade cells.

Abnormal Antibodies
In light chain amyloidosis, the proteins in question are produced within the body’s bone marrow. Bone marrow contains white blood cells called plasma cells that are responsible for manufacturing antibodies. Antibodies are large Y-shaped proteins that help the immune system identify and neutralize pathogens. Antibodies are made up of two parts: “light chain” proteins in the two arms of the Y, and “heavy chain” proteins for the base of the Y. Read the rest of the article.
Find more research news on Discovery's Edge.

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6 days ago by @danasparks · View  

In the Loop: Makeover is good medicine for young cancer patient

makeup artist, Adrian Rios with cancer patient ClarissaAs a professional makeup artist, Adrian Rios is used to working in a variety of settings, from fashion shows and speaking events to photoshoots and television interviews. But one day last month, he set up shop in a rather unusual place, even for him: a waiting room outside the Proton Beam Therapy Program on Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus.

Adrian was there to meet Clarissa Sanchez, a 15-year-old beauty and fashion enthusiast receiving treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. It had been a while since Clarissa had much to smile about, and Rosie Lerma, a patient experience coordinator at Mayo, hoped a makeover might change that. After learning about Clarissa's love of makeup, Rosie reached out to Adrian — who happens to be her son — and asked him to take on this very special assignment.

Adrian readily accepted. And on Feb. 8, he and Clarissa "had a conversation through makeup," Adrian tells us. "We laughed, shared experiences, and chatted about different makeup looks we love." As they talked, Adrian delivered his own kind of medicine, applying makeup, and recreating the brows and lashes that chemotherapy had taken away. Read the rest of Clarissa's story.
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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Sun, Mar 19 at 10:03am EDT by @danasparks · View  

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Slaying the dragon of pancreatic cancer

Dr. Mark Truty in surgery scrubs standing in hospital corridorThomas Hoffman of Spearfish, South Dakota, was 56 years old, weighed 235, and had been diagnosed with prediabetes when he began to diet. As the pounds melted away, his wife became alarmed at his rapid weight loss. Then one morning, he awoke and his wife told him he was completely yellow — not from the sun streaming into the bedroom, but from jaundice. Thomas went to a local emergency room.

“The doctor comes in and gives us the news: ‘You have pancreatic cancer. You’ve got six months to live. Get your stuff together,’” Thomas says. “What do you do?”

What his doctors did was send Thomas to Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus, where he met Mark Truty, M.D., a surgical oncologist, who is rewriting the protocol for treating stage III pancreatic cancer, with notable success. Dr. Truty started Thomas on chemotherapy right away, followed by radiation therapy and then an extensive surgery. After that came more chemo. Now, nearly three years after his diagnosis, Thomas remains cancer-free.

“I’ve gained my strength back where I can ride my Harley again,” Thomas says. “I’m never going to be 100 percent. But hey, I’ll live with whatever it takes. I just want to be as normal as I can. I can do my little hobbies. I can help my son out. I can see my grandkids. I help my wife in her business. I just do what I do.” Read the rest of Thomas' story. ___________________________________________________________

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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Fri, Mar 17 at 3:30pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Home Remedies: Darn that diaper rash

baby on a table having diaper changedDiaper rash can alarm parents and annoy babies. The rash causes reddish, puffy, irritated skin in the diaper area. The rash generally is caused by a combination of moisture, acid in urine or stool, and chaffing of diaper fabric on your baby's skin. Some babies also get a rash from the detergent used to launder cloth diapers, or from plastic pants, elastic, or certain types of disposable diapers and wipes. Sometimes a yeast infection may be the cause of a rash. It usually clears up with simple at-home treatments, such as air drying, more frequent diaper changes and ointment. (Diaper rash usually affects babies, though anyone who wears a diaper regularly can develop the condition.)  Information written by Mayo Clinic Staff.


  • Skin signs. Diaper rash is marked by red, tender-looking skin in the diaper region — buttocks, thighs and genitals.
  • Changes in your baby's disposition. You may notice your baby seems more uncomfortable than usual, especially during diaper changes. A baby with a diaper rash often fusses or cries when the diaper area is washed or touched.

Generally, diaper rash can be treated at home with these practices:

  • Keeping diaper area clean and dry. The best way to keep your baby's diaper area clean and dry is by changing diapers immediately after they are wet or soiled. Until the rash is better, this may mean getting up during the night to change the diaper.After you've gently cleaned and dried the skin, apply a cream, paste or ointment. Certain products, such as zinc oxide and petroleum jelly, work well to protect the skin from moisture. Don't try to scrub off this protective layer completely at the next diaper change, as that could hurt the skin more. If you do want to remove it, try using mineral oil on a cotton ball.
  • Increasing airflow. To aid the healing of diaper rash, do what you can to increase air exposure to the diaper region. These tips may help:
    • Air out your baby's skin by letting him or her go without a diaper and ointment for short periods of time, perhaps three times a day for 10 minutes each time, such as during naps.
    • Avoid airtight plastic pants and diaper covers.
    • Use diapers that are larger than usual until the rash goes away.
  • Applying ointment, paste, cream or lotion. Various diaper rash medications are available without a prescription. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for specific recommendations. Some popular over-the-counter products include A + D, Balmex, Desitin, Triple Paste and Lotrimin (for yeast infections).Zinc oxide is the active ingredient in many diaper rash products. They are usually applied to the rash throughout the day to soothe and protect your baby's skin. It doesn't take much – a thin covering will do. The product can be applied over medicated creams, such as an antifungal or a steroid, when necessary. You could also apply petroleum jelly on top, which helps keep the diaper from sticking to the cream.Ointments, pastes or creams may be less irritating than lotions. But ointments and pastes create a barrier over the skin and don't allow it to receive air. Creams dry on the skin and allow air through. Talk with your doctor about what type of product would be better for your child's rash.As a general rule, stick with products designed for babies. Avoid items containing baking soda, boric acid, camphor, phenol, benzocaine, diphenhydramine, or salicylates. These ingredients can be toxic for babies.
  • Bathing daily. Until the rash clears up, give your baby a bath each day. Use warm water with mild, fragrance-free soap.

The following alternative treatments have worked for some people:

  • Witch hazel (winter bloom), a flowering plant. A study showed that applying an ointment made with witch hazel to diaper rash helped. The study included 309 children.
  • Human breast milk. Results are mixed on whether human breast milk applied to diaper rash is better than other treatments. One study showed that applying breast milk to diaper rash is an effective and safe treatment. Infants with diaper rash were treated with either 1 percent hydrocortisone ointment or breast milk. The study included 141 infants. Treatment with breast milk was as effective as the ointment alone.Another study compared human breast milk with a cream made from zinc oxide and cod liver oil. Newborns with diaper rash were treated with the cream or the breast milk. The study included 63 newborns. Treatment with the cream was more effective.
  • Calendula and aloe vera. A study comparing aloe vera and calendula in the treatment of diaper rash in children found each to be an effective treatment of diaper rash.
  • Shampoo clay (bentonite). A study showed that shampoo clay was effective in healing diaper rash and that it worked faster than calendula. The study included 60 infants.
  • Other substances. Other natural remedies have been tried, including evening primrose and a mixture of honey, olive oil, and beeswax. Further study is needed to prove their effectiveness for treating diaper rash. Some of these substances may promote bacterial growth.

When to see a doctor:

  • Is severe or unusual
  • Gets worse despite home treatment
  • Bleeds, itches or oozes
  • Causes burning or pain with urination or a bowel movement
  • Is accompanied by a fever

If your baby's skin doesn't improve after a few days of home treatment, talk with your doctor. Sometimes, you'll need a prescription medication to treat diaper rash.

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Thu, Mar 16 at 5:00pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: The enemy of compassion is ...

young sad, suffering child sitting alone on streetDr. Amit Sood says, "Let go of fear, if you wish to be compassionate."

Dear friend,

We were visiting Orlando, Florida. A bus pulled up to drop off a few passengers. A girl, about eight years old, didn’t seem too well. As she was coming out, right before exiting, she threw up. The floor was littered with food. Everyone took four steps back. Suddenly she had become untouchable. I could see fear in people’s eyes. “Is she infectious…What if she has E. coli…I hope I don’t get that bug…I need to watch my kids.” Amid perception of personal threat, we all closed in. Meanwhile, the girl’s elderly grandmother, with much effort, picked her up and took her out of the bus. People covered their noses, repulsed by the secretions.

Do you know what was missing? Compassion.

Fear and disgust dominated our minds, not compassion for the little girl—we were too fearful to be compassionate. Fearful of what? The child had just mild food poisoning. She would be fine in a day or two. She wasn’t even infectious. The experience taught me a lesson.

The first barrier to compassion is fear. I fear that I might get hurt. I fear that my compassion will be misjudged. I fear that my compassion might not help. I fear I will be too stretched. When I am lost in personal “what ifs,” I am unavailable for compassion.

Two types of fear hurt compassion. First is the fear of the person. This fear may occur because of potential harm from the person—intentional or unintentional. Fear provokes self-protective thoughts and actions that totally crowd one’s mind and leave no bandwidth for any other thought. The second type is fear of compassion itself. Why should that be?

People fear compassion for many reasons. Some get distressed at seeing others’ suffering and thus avoid it. Some feel compelled to follow the group norm and try to fit in if it doesn’t support compassion. Others may think compassion enables bad behavior. A few have been hurt by prior acts of compassion. Those involved in caring professions or who have seen a lot of suffering may develop compassion fatigue. Finally are those who feel their compassion will deplete their resources; finite as their energy is, they wish to use it only for the people closest to them (those who can reciprocate their compassion).

When we fear giving out compassion to others, we struggle with receiving it from them. We also are unable to be compassionate toward the self. We feel less worthy and call out compassion as weakness. We also fear that if we are kind and nonjudgmental to the self, then something bad will happen.

I need to overcome these barriers. I wish to be compassionate toward myself, to trust the compassion the world sends me, and to send compassion back to the world in return. The first step is to be compassionate toward myself, by believing that I deserve compassion.

I need to believe that I am fulfilling an important meaning that the world cares about. I need to believe that I am a kind human being. I need to pick a small part of the world and invest my time and resources to make it a little happier and more hopeful than I found it. If I am able to do that, I will not feel like an imposter in my world. Once I am self-compassionate, I will be a better receiver of the compassion sent to me, and thus I will have extra energy. That will allow me not to see compassion as depleting and be fearful of it, but to wake up each day and generously give out my compassion.

Cultivate compassion by relinquishing fear. It will give you more joy than you can ever imagine.

May you not fear compassion; may compassion remove your fears.

Take care.
AmitDr. Sood 2

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.


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Thu, Mar 16 at 3:00pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Making Mayo's Recipes: Potato Cauliflower au Gratin

This is a healthy side dish to try this weekend. Chop potatoes and cauliflower about the size of a nickel so the dish will cook evenly in 25 minutes.

Each Thursday one of the 100+ tasty video recipes from the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program is featured on the Mayo Clinic News Network, just in time for you to try at the weekend. You can also have the recipes delivered via the Mayo Clinic App.

Journalists: The broadcast-quality video (1:25) is in the downloads.

Created by the executive wellness chef and registered dietitians at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. Find more recipes and other healthy-living insights on the Mayo Clinic App


  1. 1 large potato, chopped
  2. 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  3. 2 teaspoons olive oil
  4. 1 cup sliced leeks
  5. 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  6. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  7. 1 cup skim milk
  8. 1 cup chicken stock
  9. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  10. 1 teaspoon onion powder
  11. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  12. 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  13. 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  14. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Heat oven to 375 F. In a medium saucepan, boil water. Once boiling, add potato and cauliflower to parboil. Drain, cool and set aside in a medium bowl.

Preheat a medium saute pan on medium heat; add olive oil. Saute leeks and garlic until tender. Using a whisk, add flour and stir to incorporate well. Deglaze the pan by adding in milk and chicken stock. Let come to a boil, whisking regularly. Stir in the thyme, onion powder, salt and black pepper.

Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray. Place potatoes and cauliflower in the baking dish. Pour leek and milk mixture over potatoes and cauliflower. Sprinkle with cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes to brown the top. Garnish with parsley.

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Wed, Mar 15 at 4:00pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Women's Wellness: Solving pooping problems without medication

a young woman sitting on a toilet trying to go to the bathroom

Constipation can be a serious health issue, but is most often an embarrassing and taboo topic of discussion. Millions of women and men suffer from some form of constipation and while there are over-the-counter medications, there can be other ways to relieve and even eliminate the problem. The article below was written by physical therapist Laura Meihofer for Mayo Clinic's Office of Women's Health.
Your health care provider has diagnosed you with constipation. Or maybe you notice that you have been having fewer than three bowel movements per week, passing hard, lumpy or dry stools, straining excessively, or experiencing pain with bowel movements.  You are probably wondering what to do next. You have seen commercials or advertisements for products to treat constipation. But did you know there are some simple lifestyle changes you can do yourself?

Watch: Laura Meihofer discusses treating constipation without medication.

Journalists: Sound bites with Laura are in the downloads.

Here are five simple suggestions to help you relieve or even eliminate your constipation:

1. Drink plenty of water
As food passes through your digestive system and is processed, liquid is drawn out. 1 If you consume food that does not have a high liquid content or you do not drink enough fluid throughout the day, hard, dry stools. 2 When you are properly hydrated, less fluid is absorbed during digestion — allowing for softer stools.The Dietary Reference suggests adults drink between 91 and 125 fluid ounces (2.7 to 3.7 liters) of water per day. 1,3 This recommendation includes not only drinking water but also the fluid contained in other beverages and food. Food accounts for 20 percent of your total water intake per day. It is important to note that there are many factors that affect the right amount of fluid for you, including your weight, level of exercise, age, climate you live in, current health conditions and whether you are pregnant or breast feeding. 1 If you are adequately hydrated, you will rarely feel thirsty and your urine will be colorless or light yellow.

To stay on top of hydration here are a few helpful tips:

  • Drink a beverage with and in between every meal, as well as before and after exercise
  • Drink fluid whenever you feel thirsty
  • Choose fluid-dense fruits and vegetables such as spinach and watermelon

2. Eat enough fiber
Dietary fiber is the portion of plant-based foods that is indigestible and cannot be absorbed. Fiber can be found in whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables5. It is divided into two subcategories: soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. 6 For people who suffer from constipation, insoluble fiber is best. Insoluble fiber increases stool bulk and aids in the movement of material through the digestive system. 7 Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, cauliflower, potatoes and green beans.

The National Institute of Medicine recommends a daily fiber consumption of 25 grams for women under age 50 and 21 grams for women over age 50. Men under age 50 should consume 38 grams of dietary fiber, whereas men over age 50 should aim for 30 grams8. Increase your fiber intake gradually to make sure your digestive system tolerates the change, and don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids.

Here are some helpful tips to increase your intake of dietary fiber:

  • Keep a fiber log to identify which meals or snacks would benefit from added fiber
  • Switch to whole grains
  • Add a serving of fruits or vegetables to each meal

3. Get enough physical activity
Aerobic activity — the use of large muscles groups for at least 10 minutes — helps fight constipation. 9 Exercise helps with digestion in several ways, including promoting the movement of food through the intestines and improving blood flow to your gut.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests a minimum of 150 minutes each week of moderate aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity. This time should be spread out over at least three days. In addition the USDA also recommends strengthening activities, such as pushups, situps or lifting weights at least two days per week.10 An easy guide to determine your activity level is to assess your ability to hold a conversation. For moderate levels of activity, you can typically say a few sentences, but for vigorous levels, you can only say a few words at a time.

Helpful tips:

  • Walk for 10-20 minutes at a conversational pace after dinner.
  • Choose aerobic activities that you enjoy.
  • Recruit a friend to exercise with you or share your goal of daily movement with your family so that they can encourage or join you.

4. Relax 
Many patients with constipation have increased levels of stress and often report symptoms of anxiety and depression. 11,12 Stress may adversely affect your body in many ways. When you are stressed, your body’s ability to digest food is decreased. Having a bowel movement depends upon your body’s ability to coordinate and integrate information between the brain, organs and muscles13. Stress overrides and blocks these communication loops and puts the body into a fight-or-flight mode. While this stress response is helpful in certain circumstances, it can be harmful if present all the time, and may impact your ability to pass a bowel movement. 11

Helpful tips for relaxation:

  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing. Focus on slowly drawing the air in through your nose as if you are smelling a beautiful flower and then slowly blowing the air out as if you are trying to make a candle flicker. Try to lengthen your inhale and exhale to 5-8 seconds each. Practice this throughout the day and while you are trying to have a bowel movement.
  • When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, choose a word or phrase to help redirect your thoughts such as “relax,” “I can do this” or “I am capable.”

5. Answer nature's call 
In order for you to have an urge to have a bowel movement, there are a few things that must occur. First, the rectum — the final place stool resides prior to leaving your body — is sensitive to stretch. When stool collects in the rectum, you perceive the sensation to void. Continuously suppressing the urge to have a bowel movement will dampen and eventually turn off this important cue.14, 15 Without knowing that you have to have a bowel movement, stool may stay in your intestine longer, becoming harder as more water is absorbed with time. If you try to have a bowel movement without an urge to evacuate, your muscles may contract instead of relax, which leads to dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles.

Helpful tips:

  • Try to have a bowel movement at the same time every day
  • Find a private bathroom if you are anxious about using a public bathroom
  • When you have the urge to have a bowel movement, stop what you are doing and go the bathroom.  Sit down, use your deep breathing exercises and try to have a bowel movement. If you are unable to pass a bowel movement after five minutes or so, try again later when you have another urge.

Constipation can be a troubling condition and often has multiple contributing factors.  If you continue to note constipation even after incorporating these five suggestions or if you experience bloody stools or unexplained weight loss, see your health care provider.  Write down which remedies you have tried and for how long so that your provider has a clear picture of the issue and he or she can help determine the best treatment plan for you.

Related posts about constipation:


  1. Nutrition and healthy eating. Water: How much should you drink every day? - Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256. Accessed December 27, 2016.
  1. Constipation in infants and children. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003125.htm. Accessed December 27, 2016.
  1. Otten JJ, Hellwig JP, Meyers LD.DRI, dietary reference intakes: the essential guide to nutrient requirements. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2006.
  1. Water Rich Foods. The Science Of Eating. http://thescienceofeating.com/2015/01/23/water-rich-foods/. Published 2015. Accessed December 27, 2016.
  1. What is Fiber? http://www.eatright.org. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/fiber. Accessed December 27, 2016.
  1. Nutrition and healthy eating. Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet - Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983. Accessed December 27, 2016.
  1. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/fiber. Accessed December 27, 2016. 
  1. Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids: panel of macronutrients, panel of the definition of dietary fiber, subcommitee on upper reference levels of nutrients, subcommittee on interpretation and use of dietary reference intakes, and the standing committee on the scientific evaluation of dietary reference intakes. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press; 2005.
  1. Orenstein BW. Exercising Constipation Out of Your Life. EverydayHealth.com. http://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health/exercise-and-constipation.aspx. Published January 2009. Accessed December 27, 2016.
  1. How Much Physical Activity is Needed? Choose MyPlate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/physical-activity-amount. Published 2016. Accessed December 27, 2016.
  1. By Chris Iliades, MD. How Stress Affects Digestion. EverydayHealth.com. http://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/better-digestion/how-stress-affects-digestion/. Accessed December 28, 2016.
  1. Mayer EA. The neurobiology of stress and gastrointestinal disease.Gut. 2000;47(6):861-869. doi:10.1136/gut.47.6.861.
  1. Padoa A, Rosenbaum TY.The overactive pelvic floor. Cham: Springer; 2016.
  1. Ginkel RV, Buller HA, Boeckxstaens GE, Plas RNVD, Taminiau JAJM, Benninga MA. The Effect of Anorectal Manometry on the Outcome of Treatment in Severe Childhood Constipation: A Randomized, Controlled Trial.Pediatrics. 2001;108(1). doi:10.1542/peds.108.1.e9.
  1. Loening-Baucke V. Chronic constipation in children.Gastroenterology. 1993;105(5):1557-1564. doi:10.1016/0016-5085(93)90166-a.

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Tue, Mar 14 at 4:11pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Discovery's Edge: How Mayo is Transforming Medicine

“I hope you go home at night and realize that you are changing the world.” – Dr. Alex Parker to team members on transforming medicine.

At any given time, investigators at Mayo Clinic are coming up with ideas for research studies that might improve a treatment or create a totally new therapy.

Mayo’s leadership saw that some of these approaches could be progressing faster and reach the patient’s bedside sooner if they had a little more financial help at the right point. Thus, an initiative called “Transform the Practice” was born. It means what it says, transforming the practice of medicine.

“From the discoveries in our labs to translation and testing in clinical trials to application in our practice and across the world, we are committed to accelerating research and bring new solutions to patients,” says Dr. Gregory Gores, executive dean for research at Mayo Clinic.

This means that – especially in critical areas where the need is greatest – cancer, neurologic conditions, cardiovascular diseases and organ transplantation, what a doctor does for a patient a year from now may be very different from today. Read the rest of the article.
Find more research news on Discovery's Edge.

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Tue, Mar 14 at 3:00pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

In the Loop: Falcon visit is good medicine for cancer patient

A few weeks ago, Allison Hesse received an unusual request from a nurse on the oncology unit she manages at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus Rochester campus. The nurse told Hesse about one of her patients, an avid bird watcher. Like many birders, this patient kept a life list of the birds she'd seen. Not yet on that list: a peregrine falcon. The patient was fascinated by Mayo Clinic's Peregrine Falcon Program, the nurse told Hesse, and had been closely watching a feed of Mayo's falcon cam during her month-long hospital stay. Would it be possible, the nurse wondered, to arrange for the patient to see a falcon in person? Hesse said she'd see what she could do.

She began by sending an email to Tom Behrens, the longtime manager of Mayo's falcon program, to explain the situation. Behrens responded quickly and told Hesse the request came at the perfect time. A representative from the Midwest Peregrine Society was planning a trip to Rochester, and Behrens said he'd ask if she could bring a falcon along to meet the patient. She agreed, and the plan for a visit took flight. Read the rest of Allison's story.
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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Sun, Mar 12 at 2:20pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Sharing Mayo Clinic: A clear diagnosis for teen after years of pain

patient Sanan Malkadjian in hospital bed smiling 16x9— Written by Sanan Malkadjian

I was only 14 at the time. I would be ashamed of myself because of how often my stomach hurt. It came to a point where no one would believe the excruciating pain I was facing. This was pain unlike no other.

My doctors here in Michigan would blame one another. They told me it was my menstrual cycle, or I was stressing out too much, or even that I had too many bladder infections. Every single time, I was misdiagnosed.

Fast forward two years, the hospital became my second home. It was the end of my junior year of high school. I was constantly getting attacks, hopping from one doctor’s office to another. I was beyond frustrated because no one could fix me. As soon as we would come to a conclusion, an attack would strike again. My stomach felt like it was going to blow up. It felt bruised and tender. The attacks lasted three days. During that time, I couldn’t walk, eat or function properly. Read the rest of Sanan's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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Fri, Mar 10 at 2:30pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Home Remedies: What works, what doesn't, what can't hurt your cold

a woman sick in bed with cold or flu using lots of tissuesCold remedies are almost as common as the common cold, but are they effective? Nothing can cure a cold, but there are some remedies that might help ease your symptoms and keep you from feeling so miserable. Here's a look at some common cold remedies and what's known about them.

Cold remedies that work

If you catch a cold, you can expect to be sick for one to two weeks. That doesn't mean you have to be miserable. Besides getting enough rest, these remedies might help you feel better:

  • Stay hydrated. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas, which can make dehydration worse.
  • Rest. Your body needs to heal.
  • Soothe a sore throat. A saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat. Children younger than 6 years are unlikely to be able to gargle properly.
     You can also try ice chips, sore throat sprays, lozenges or hard candy. Don't give lozenges or hard candy to children younger than 3 to 4 years old because they can choke on them.
  • Combat stuffiness. Over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays can help relieve stuffiness and congestion. In infants, experts recommend putting several saline drops into one nostril, then gently suctioning that nostril with a bulb syringe. To do this, squeeze the bulb, gently place the syringe tip in the nostril about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (about 6 to 12 millimeters) and slowly release the bulb. Saline nasal sprays may be used in older children.
  • Relieve pain. For children 6 months or younger, give only acetaminophen. For children older than 6 months, give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Ask your child's doctor for the correct dose for your child's age and weight. Adults can take acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or aspirin.Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 3, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children.
  • Sip warm liquids. A cold remedy used in many cultures, taking in warm liquids, such as chicken soup, tea, or warm apple juice, might be soothing and might ease congestion by increasing mucus flow.
  • Add moisture to the air. A cool mist vaporizer or humidifier can add moisture to your home, which might help loosen congestion. Change the water daily, and clean the unit according to the manufacturer's instructions. Don't use steam, which hasn't been shown to help and may cause burns.
  • Try over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications. For adults and children older than 5, OTC decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers might offer some symptom relief. However, they won't prevent a cold or shorten its duration, and most have some side effects.Experts agree that these shouldn't be given to younger children. Overuse and misuse of these medications can cause serious damage.Take medications only as directed. Some cold remedies contain multiple ingredients, such as a decongestant plus a pain reliever, so read the labels of cold medications you take to make sure you're not taking too much of any medication.

Cold remedies that don't work

The list of ineffective cold remedies is long. Some of the more common ones that don't work include:

  • Antibiotics. These attack bacteria, but they're no help against cold viruses. Avoid asking your doctor for antibiotics for a cold or using old antibiotics you have on hand. You won't get well any faster, and inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the serious and growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Over-the-counter cold and cough medications in young children. OTC cold and cough medications may cause serious and even life-threatening side effects in children. The FDA warns against their use in children younger than age 6.

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Thu, Mar 9 at 4:30pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: Appreciate what seems easy

Dr. Amit Sood says, "Appreciate what seems easy, since it often reflects insights obtained by years of toiling." 

Dear friend,

I like it easy. Easy things don’t strain my mind’s muscles. But I easily discount them. As a result, I often take easiness for granted. It risks losing value, meaning, and the joy it might provide me.

Easiness is of two types. One is ease that serves my weakness, particularly my penchant for short-term gratification. The second comes when something that once was difficult now has become easy, as I have gained experience.

Calorie consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, challenge avoidance, uncontrolled frustration, unkind words, and passive recreations are all easy. Of late, acquiring information and operating powerful gadgets have also become easy. In general, easiness that serves my short-term gratification isn’t healthy for the long term.

The other type of easiness is well earned, often after years of intense practice. Examples include cooking, creative work, driving, and meditation (if it ever becomes easy!). Such easiness is welcome because it reflects your diligence and talent and not the innate nature of the activity, which started off being difficult.

Research shows that after repeated practice, activities, such as swimming or driving, do not require as much conscious attention. The subcortical networks of the brain (which don’t need conscious engagement) come to coordinate the same activity. That’s the reason that, while you drive, you can control your car, talk with passengers, receive a phone call, listen to music, sip coffee, monitor the traffic, check directions, and speed while looking out for a police car. Think about doing any of this when you were a teenager and had just started driving. You would have been annoyed with the least distraction.

Technology is constantly making life easier for us. This is good and bad. Sending flowers by the click of a button or ordering furniture on the Internet saves time. But it takes away the joy of visiting the local furniture store, getting to know a friendly salesperson, chasing kids in the open space, letting your weight drop on plush mattresses you couldn’t afford, and enjoying the very sweet complimentary hot chocolate that you would have never purchased yourself.

Ease also leaves our attention free to roam into the mind’s wanderings. When all I have to do to fix my dinner is open the package and heat it up, I don’t need to think, smell, feel, or be creative during cooking. I could accomplish the entire task with very little attention. (You won’t believe me, but research shows that the time it takes to cook a fresh meal is about the same as the time required to heat up and serve a prepackaged meal.)

We don’t need to convert easy into difficult. Instead, we should harness the time and energy we save from not having to hand wash the clothes or manually do the dishes to spend quality time with loved ones, immerse in creative activities, and pursue emotional and spiritual growth. That, I believe, is our species’ destiny.

May you find time each day to invest in quality connections, immerse in creative activities, and pursue emotional and spiritual growth.

Take care.

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.
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