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The World Health Organization and numerous other health care agencies (both government and private) have established that tanning beds are detrimental to health.

The UVA & UVB radiations emitted by the beds are carcinogenic for the skin. They can damage the DNA of skin cells leading to skin cancer. The rays also accelerate skin aging due to loss of elasticity and can cause eye damage.  The rays have a cumulative effect over the years; the longer the exposure,  the greater are the risks of development of skin malignancies, especially in a person under 30.  Certain connective tissue diseases like Lupus, can exacerbate after use of tanning in beds or sun bathing.

However, comparing the use of tanning beds to smoking is like comparing apples to oranges. Both are carcinogenic,  but affect different body systems which cause cancer by different mechanisms.

Answer submitted by Dr. Nidhi Tiwari who specializes in Internal Medicine and is with Provena Medical Group and is a member of the Provena Mercy Medical Center Medical Staff.

Certain ethnic groups are more at risk for developing diabetes.  African Americans are one of these groups.  Being overweight is another significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. 

Who is at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes?  

  • People with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and/or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
  • People over age 45
  • People with a family history of diabetes
  • People who are overweight
  • People who do not exercise regularly
  • People with low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives)
  • Women who had gestational diabetes, or who have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth

 Visit to take the FREE Diabetes Risk Test.

If you believe you are risk, you may want to schedule an appointment with a physician for a physical exam.  Part of that exam would most likely include a blood test to check if you have diabetes.

Answer submitted by Rita Smith, RN, MSN, CDE, Certified Diabetes Educator at the Provena Mercy Medical Center for Diabetic Wellness.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley and can be found in a large variety of foods that we eat.  Gluten-free nutrition therapy is only indicated for individuals who suffer from gluten intolerance or have a condition called celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune ailment in which a person is unable to metabolize gluten and causes symptoms including diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal distention, and electrolyte depletion.

Today, many people who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease and experience no symptoms have given up gluten in an attempt to lose weight. A gluten free diet eliminates any food containing wheat, barley or rye. Bread, pizza, pasta, most cereals, cookies and cakes made with traditional white or whole wheat flour all contain gluten, so therefore are not allowed on a gluten-free diet.  Gluten is also present in not so obvious products as well including many soups, pasta sauces, salad dressings, packaged meals and frozen dinners which contain gluten in the form of soy sauce, barley malt or modified food starch. A strict gluten free diet requires you to study food labels to avoid gluten-containing ingredients.

 The demand for gluten free products is very high and there are more products on the market today that are “gluten-free.” Gluten-free products were not readily available in the past. The little amount of gluten-free foods that were available in the past did not taste very good. Going gluten free is easier than ever nowadays because of improvements in labeling and greater awareness. Stores such as Whole Foods even have specific shopping guides for gluten free shoppers.

 A gluten-free diet that eliminates refined flour and simple sugars (such as those found in packaged cookies and snacks) will improve health and help with weight loss. Many people report feeling better and more energized after giving up gluten. For these reasons, people who do not have gluten intolerance may follow a gluten-free diet to aid in weight loss. However those who follow a gluten-free diet for weight loss still need to be careful because gluten-free products may still contain a significant amount of calories. In fact, some gluten-free products have more calories than their gluten-containing counterparts because of added sugars and the presence of white rice flour and potato starch. Gluten-free on a label does not mean that a product is low calorie or healthful.

In conclusion, if your doctor prescribes you a gluten-free diet, you must follow it. If you follow a gluten-free diet for weight loss, it is important to still follow sound nutritional practices which means including a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and proteins, and limiting refined sugars and fatty/fried foods.

Answer submitted by Mia Handell, registered and licensed dietitian at Provena Mercy Medical Center.

The long term consequences of poor posture can be neck or back pain, a stooped appearance, rounded shoulders with forward head, and in some cases balance difficulties when walking.  We have all seen those people who are slumped over as they walk.  

Good posture gives us a more pleasant appearance.  Our clothing will fit better and it can be easier to breath since the lungs have more room to expand.

The best thing you can do to improve your posture is to be aware of it.   It takes conscious thought to maintain proper posture, but there are a few things that can help.

  •  Each time you pass a surface where you can see your reflection, look and think about how you are moving.
  • As you are sitting in a chair or at the computer, sit upright, use the back of the chair. 
  • A couple of simple exercises may help:  squeezing your shoulder blades together 10 times-3 sessions per day or rolling your shoulders backwards (not forwards) 10 times-3 sessions per day.
  • Lastly, keep your chin tucked in. Take a deep breath and relax your shoulders. 

If you do these simple things, you will be able to maintain good posture.

Answer submitted by Jill Luminais PT CEASII, a Senior Physical Therapist and a Certified Ergonomic Specialist at Provena Mercy Medical Center.

Unfortunately, with this economy you are not alone.  Losing your job can be a shock to your system.  When you lose your job, you will experience a series of losses.  The loss of income can be devastating.   You may feel the loss of social contact and miss the work friendships you have made.  It is very common to lose self-esteem when you lose your position and are unemployed.

 One of the first things you should do is take a realistic look at your finances.  See where you can cut back.  Cancel services that you do not need such as expensive cable tv and movie stations.  Check out low cost or no cost social activities at your local park district and library.  It is important to stay socially connected so you don’t feel isolated.  Often people feel a greater sense of self worth when they volunteer in their community.

 It is important to establish a new routine.  Don’t sleep in and don’t watch tv all day long.  Wake up in the morning, get dressed and approach your job search as if it was your new full-time job.  Keep regular hours and set clear goals for yourself such as callling a set number of contacts who may help with finding a new position.  Set time in your day to exercise.  You do have the time now to take a walk regularly and you’ll want to be in great shape when you arrive at your new job. 

 Remember to talk to family and friends.  It can be helpful to let others know how you are feeling.  Your family and friends can help support you emotionally (and perhaps financially) in this difficult time and they may have some excellent ideas and contacts to help you find a new position. 

 If you find yourself losing hope, feeling depressed, unable to sleep, drinking too much or having suicidal thoughts do not hesitate to seek help immediately.  Provena Mercy’s Behavioral Health Services offers free mental health assessments.  Call 1-630-801-2657 to schedule a confidential asssessment.

Answer submitted by Carol Doyle, Director of Business Development & Licensed Clinical Social Worker from  Provena Mercy Medical Center Behavioral Health Services.

Sweets are everywhere and they seem to grow exponentially during the holiday season. With so many extra temptations, it is especially nice to get through the holidays without any weight gain.  One common tactic is to avoid sugar, replacing it with artificial sweeteners.    But, how does this affect our health?    

Many people try to avoid sugar in their diet without understanding the effects of sugar.    People tend to choose to eat fat-free or sugar-free foods because they think they are “safe.”  However, if they overeat these so-called “safe” foods, they will still end up gaining weight because weight gain is caused by eating too many calories. People try to avoid sugar for several reasons including prevention of cavities, and the belief that all simple carbohydrates are “bad.”  All carbohydrates are technically sugar. Before your body will use the carbohydrates in table sugar, a baked potato, or an apple, it must break this carbohydrate down into glucose which is the form of sugar that your body can burn for energy.

For the average person, there’s nothing wrong with sugar per se, unless all the sweet foods in your daily diet are keeping you from eating and drinking the nutritious foods you need. But for people who are trying to lose weight, or have to watch their blood sugar because of diabetes, too much sugar can be a problem. That’s where artificial sweeteners can come in handy. According to the International Food Information Council, these low-calorie sweeteners are safe to use, provide sweetness without calories, and provide a choice of sweet foods.

The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners which are: acesulfame potassium (Sunett), aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), sucralose (Splenda), D-Tagatose (Sugaree), and saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low).   A lot of research has been done on these sweeteners to determine their safety. There has been criticism regarding saccharin because of research done in the 1970s that said that the use of these sweeteners can cause cancer in rats, however, further extensive research has been done since and it has been proven that several things that happen in animals cannot happen in humans, and saccharin has been deemed safe to use.

Aspartame is another sweetener that has had criticism. Some blame aspartame for causing brain tumors and chronic fatigue syndrome which is not true. The only people for whom aspartame is a medical problem are those with the genetic condition known as phenylkenoturia (PKU), a disorder of amino acid metabolism. Those with PKU need to keep the levels of phenylalanine in the blood low to prevent mental retardation as well as neurological, behavioral, and dermatological problems. Since phenylalanine is one of the two amino acids in aspartame, people who suffer from PKU are advised not to use it. Some people can be sensitive to sweeteners and experience symptoms such as headaches and upset stomach, but otherwise, there is no credible information that aspartame — or any other artificial sweetener — causes brain tumors, or any other illness.

Another sweetener that has become very popular is Stevia, however it is not yet FDA approved so it cannot be sold as an artificial sweetener. Stevia can be, and is, only sold as a dietary supplement. More research needs to be done on Stevia so it is recommended to be cautious when considering the use of it.

Sugar alcohol is different than regular sugar. You may see an ingredient list have words such as sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt, or mannitol. These are different types of sugar alcohols. They are a form of artificial sweetener, however each of these sweeteners occurs naturally in various plants. Some sugar alcohols can be just as sweet as sugar. The main appeal of sugar alcohols is that they have fewer calories than the more common sugars such as sucrose and fructose. They can also serve as texturizers which can lend the same kind of moistness and chewiness they would have if sugar were uses. They also decrease the incidence of cavities! You may have seen some chewing gums like “Trident” advertising that chewing their gum decreases tooth decay. This is because of the xylitol (sugar alcohol) that is in the gum. The reason sugar alcohols are lower in calories is that our bodies cannot digest them as quickly or as completely as sugars. If sugar alcohols are consumed in moderation they have little or no effect on blood sugar levels, which makes them appealing to people are trying to lower their sugar intake. But the one downside of the sugar alcohols, is that the lack of digestibility of them can have a laxative effect, which can cause side effects such as gas and in severe cases causing diarrhea.

 Since sweeteners are so much sweeter than sugar, a very small amount is needed to achieve the same sweetness one gets from sugar. If used normally, the amounts you take in are so minuscule as to be of no concern at all. The main purpose of artificial sweeteners is to help people reduce caloric intake and/or control diabetes. If you don’t need to watch your calories or your blood sugar, there is no real reason to use the sweeteners unless you just happen to like the taste. But if you need to control your sugar and caloric intake, artificial sweeteners are a safe, effective way to do that.

Answer submitted by Mia Handell, registered and licensed dietitian at Provena Mercy Medical Center.

As you probably know, there are two different types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2.  They both have different causes yet they also have two common factors.  First you must inherit a predisposition to the disease and secondly something in your environment triggers the diabetes. Genes alone are not enough.  

 According to the American Diabetes Association,  people with type 1 diabetes need to inherit risk factors from both parents.  However, that alone is not enough to cause type 1 diabetes.  Environmental factors are also important.  One environmental trigger may be related to cold weather as type 1 diabetes more often develops in the winter than summer and is more common in colder climates.

 In type 2 diabetes, family history of the disease is one of the strongest risk factors for getting the disease.  However, again environmental or life style factors are also very important.  Such things as obesity and lack of exercise or sedentary life style are risk factors for diabetes.

Provena Mercy Medical Center is a proud sponsor of the Annual Step-Out Walk to Fight against Diabetes on Saturday, October 16, 2010 at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles.   Every dollar raised through Step Out plays an important role in supporting the Associations mission: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. For more information or to register, please visit or call 1-888-DIABETES.

Answer submitted by Maria Aurora Diaz, Board Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner, Advanced Practice Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator & Clinical Manager of the Provena Mercy Medical Center for Diabetic Wellness.

All of us are concerned with getting the most out of our food, whether it is taste, quality, texture, and overall nutrition. The most nutrient dense foods are those eaten immediately after picked or caught, however not all of us are farmers, hunters, and/or fishermen. With modern technology, most of our food supply is processed for the benefits of consumer safety and food variety. 

Research shows that canned and frozen ingredients are comparable in nutrition to cooked fresh counterparts. The moment you pick a fruit or vegetable, or catch a fish, or milk a cow, food starts to change texture, taste, perhaps color, and nutrient content.  That’s why food producers usually process food as fast as possible, while nutrient content and overall quality are at their peak.  Immediate processing helps lock these qualities into food. As long as processed foods are handled properly, from the food manufacturer to the supermarket to your home, there’s little nutrient loss. Freezing, drying, and canning retain the nutritional quality of foods. Whether food is fresh or processed, it is up to you to minimize nutrient loss in your kitchen.

Nearly every food preparation process reduces the amount of nutrients in food. In particular, processes that expose foods to high levels of heat, light, and/or oxygen cause the greatest nutrient loss. Nutrients can also be “washed out” of foods by fluids that are introduced during a cooking process. For example, boiling a potato can cause much of the potato’s B and C vitamins to migrate to the boiling water. You’ll still benefit from those nutrients if you consume the liquid (i.e. if the potato and water are being turned into potato soup), but not if you throw away the liquid. Similar losses also occur when you broil, roast, or fry in oil, and then drain off the drippings.

Freezing, when properly done, is the method of food preservation which may potentially preserve the greatest quantity of nutrients. Most frozen fruits maintain high quality for 8 to 12 months. Unsweetened fruits lose quality faster than those packed in sugar or sugar syrups. Most vegetables will maintain high quality for 12 to 18 months at 0° F or lower.   Longer storage of fruits and vegetables than those recommended above will not make the food unfit for use, but will decrease its quality.
You must use good quality freezer containers to maintain the quality of frozen fruits and vegetables. A high quality container should be both moisture and vapor proof so that moisture can be kept in the product and air kept away from it. There are two types of packaging materials for home use: rigid containers and flexible bags or wrappings.
Rigid containers made of plastic are suitable for all packs and are especially good for liquid packs. They are often reusable and make the stacking of foods in the freezer easier. Cardboard cartons for cottage cheese, ice cream and milk are not sufficiently moisture-vapor resistant to be suitable for long-term freezer storage. Covers for rigid containers should fit tightly. Flexible freezer bags and moisture-vapor resistant wrapping materials such as plastic freezer wrap, freezer paper and heavy-weight aluminum foil are suitable for dry packed products with little or no liquid. Regardless of the type of storage container, press to remove as much air as possible before closing.
For more information on food storage and preservation, please visit:

Answer submitted by Mia Handell, registered and licensed dietitian at Provena Mercy Medical Center.

Yes, type 1.5 diabetes does exist, and this condition could be thought of as a hybrid between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The typical patient with type 1.5 diabetes is aged 30-50 years and is not overweight. Generally, they test positive for pancreatic antibodies, especially GAD (glutamic acid decarboxylase) which cause a  decline in insulin secretion more gradually than in type 1 diabetics. Patients with type 1.5 diabetes can initially control their sugar with oral agents, such as metfromin and sulfonylureas, however, they generally progress to insulin therapy within two to four years which is sooner than most type 2 diabetics. Some studies within the past few years have suggested treating type 1.5 diabetes with insulin from the onset may more effectively prevent/delay diabetic complications.

Answer submitted by Elisa Hofmann MD who specializes in Endocrinology.   Dr. Hofmann  is currently with  Fox Valley Endocrinology and a member of the Provena Mercy Medical Center medical staff.

This is certainly a question I am asked often. The most recent body of research does seem to be suggesting that an excess of sugar in the diet from foods or beverages may put a person at higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes. What is not completely clear, is whether the increased risk is due to the sugar itself or the increased weight a person may gain as a result of the additional calories. When we are carrying extra weight,  our body can become resistant to the action of the insulin we produce. This insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. So, if you could eat a banana split every night and not gain any weight, would you be at higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes? Maybe not, but how many of us can do that?

Answer submitted by Robert Carrara, RD LD CDE at Provena Mercy Medical CenterCenter for Diabetic Wellness 

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