Monday, July 25, 2011

Ask Us Anything: Should I Exercise Sore Muscles?

"With the summer weather, I'm spending more time outdoors and walking long distances. I notice that after I walk, my calves become sore to the touch and are very stiff. It hurts to walk, but moreso when I go up or down stairs. Do I need to give my legs a rest or is it best to keep moving even though it hurts? Will muscle develop in that area?"

Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:

Physical Therapist Richard SzabalaMuscle soreness in the calves after walking is often due to two things: Muscle tightness and or muscle fatigue.

If you have tight calf muscles, they can become sore after long distance walking. One solution is to stretch your calf muscles after your walks using the traditional runners stretch or by placing a strap around the ball of your foot and pulling back to feel the stretch in your calf.

Muscle fatigue is usually caused by doing too much too fast.

If you are just starting a walking program and you are not accustomed to walking, say, for 30 minutes, your muscles can tire easily. You can gradually get your muscles into game shape by starting with a 15 minute walk and increasing the time or distance by five minutes until you reach your desired goal.

When your muscle soreness occurs can determine your stage of injury.
  • If it occurs after walking, while resting, this is normal muscle fatigue. Usually stretching will help.
  • If the pain begins during the walk, it is your body giving you a signal to rest. You should stop at that point and use that as your target distance. This may be a sign of over doing it.
  • If the pain comes on when you start walking, hold off on walking for 2-3 weeks and start again when you are pain-free. This may be a sign that you are developing an acute muscle tendonitis. 
Shoe wear can also be a factor. Generally a good running shoe offers good arch support and can take some stress off your calf muscles. Shoe wear with too little or too much support can affect your calf muscles. If you feel you are walking on the outside of your foot, it may be too much support. If you feel like your foot collapses, it may not be enough support. I would recommend trying on several pairs of shoes and finding the one that feels the best.

To improve your fitness, you should strive to walk for a minimum of 30 minutes a day or 60 minutes every other day.

— Richard Szabala PT, OCS

Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Much Coffee Is Too Much?

"I drink six or seven cups of coffee a day. I'm generally without a cup at 3 p.m., which is when I feel tired and worn out. Is it possible that I'm depending on coffee to keep me alert? What could so much coffee do to my body? Are there any health risks? And if so, how can I reduce the amount that I'm drinking?"

Registered Dietitian Deborah Richter Responds:

Registered Dietitian Deborah RichterMost people enjoy a cup of Joe in the morning, and some people enjoy a lot of coffee through out the day.

The question about coffee and health benefits or health harm have been discussed by many. After 20 years of research, it has been determined that coffee is safe in moderation and may even offer some health benefits.

Moderation is the key. It is defined as a few cups of coffee per day. So 7 cups per day is on the high end of the recommendations.

To decrease the amount, use smaller cups or only plan to drink half the cup. There is research that indicates that the “stay alert” benefit of caffeinated coffee is best if a small amount is consumed through out the day. So, instead of that large 16 ounce coffee on the way to work, try 2 to 3 ounces consumed every hour or two.

As for health benefits, research has found that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia, have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes.

According to Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health: “There is certainly much more good news that bad news, in terms of coffee and health.”

To overcome the afternoon slump, make healthy food choices for your lunch and be sure that your meal includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy. A 3 p.m. snack of a small piece of fruit and low-fat string cheese or a Greek yogurt might be just the “pick-me-up” needed to prevent being tired. Additionally, regular physical activity significantly improves the energy levels. Take a 10 minute walk at the mid-afternoon break, or use part of the lunch hour for some brisk exercise.

The good news is that you can enjoy your coffee, but possibly less of it. Work to include the benefits of healthy eating and regular daily physical activity to maximize your health and energy levels.

— Deborah Richter, RD

Deborah Richter is a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga. She teaches diabetes education classes and provides outpatient nutrition counseling. She has helped her clients to lose weight, reduce their blood pressure and feel better about themselves through healthy eating choices.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Reduce Bloating?

"I have had continuous abdominal distention (swelling) for two years. My abdomen has a dull ache most of the time. I don't eat a lot because I feel constantly full, and when I do eat, I usually have some indigestion. I've undergone several tests, but my doctors saw no fluid, tumors, or swolen organs. What can I do to reduce the swelling?"

Registered Dietitian Deborah Richter Responds:

Registered Dietitian Deborah RichterAbdominal bloating and distension can be associated with many conditions. Since there is no specific diagnosis and recommendations from the medical assessments, my suggestion is to go back to basics of good nutrition and promotion of GastroIntestinal and bowel health.

Also, be sure to drink enough water and fluids. And remember that regular physical activity helps aid with digestion; get your walking shoes on and take a 30 minute walk! A healthy eating pattern of plant-based foods is high in fiber and does promote bowel regularity that should help to relieve the bloating and distention, as long as it is done slowly and with adequate fluids.

So what are plant-based foods?


Fresh, frozen and canned without salt are good sources of fiber and phytochemicals (plant chemicals). Aim for 3 or more servings (1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw) every day. Choose a variety of colors when selecting vegetables and fruits. Try purple eggplant and dark green spinach as well as the orange carrots, and white/tan foods like mushrooms.


Fresh, frozen, dried and canned without added sugar are another source for fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These foods have a higher water composition, which can assist with bowel regularity and decrease bloating. Aim for 2 or more servings per day, but with all the good summer choices of berries, melons, pears, peaches, why stop at just two? Again, the goal is to gradually increase the dietary fiber. Generally, a serving size is a small piece of fresh fruit the size of a tennis ball size. Dried fruits should be about a ¼ cup, golf ball size and canned fruit serving size is ½ cup.

Dried Beans, Peas, Legumes and Soy

These high fiber foods can offer 6 to 9 grams of dietary fiber and are a good source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel that slows down digestion of carbohydrates and may relieve some of the bloating. Additionally, these foods are good sources of plant based protein with no cholesterol and plenty of nutrition.

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, walnuts, pecans, flaxseed are good sources of heart-healthy fats that can be added to the diet. Watch the portion size since many nuts are about 8 to 10 calories a piece. Aim for a 1 ounce portions, NOT the whole can. Using natural nut butters can be a delicious choice with whole grain bread or crackers.

Whole Grains

Brown rice, barley, 100% whole grain bread or cereals are excellent sources of dietary fiber and taste. Try some less familiar grains like quinoa, amaranth or millet.

Additionally, since lactose intolerance may result in bloating and abdominal discomfort, avoid milk and cheese. Substitute soy milk, almond milk or rice milk.

Probiotics may help to relieve abdominal distress. The beneficial bacteria may help support gut health and immune health. By enhancing the intestinal flora, these microorganisms may help aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.

Look for the good (beneficial) bacteria such a Bifidobacteria or Lactobacilli. Sip on a frosty yogurt smoothie made with fresh berries, ice and a small amount of juice. Prebiotics is the food for the probiotics: sources can be FOS (fructooligosaccharides), inulin fiber with bananas, Jerusalem artichokes examples of food sources.

— Deborah Richter, RD

Deborah Richter is a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga. She teaches diabetes education classes and provides outpatient nutrition counseling. She has helped her clients to lose weight, reduce their blood pressure and feel better about themselves through healthy eating choices.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ask Us Anything: What are the Signs of Infertility?

"My husband and I have been trying to conceive for three months but have not had any success. I'm wondering if infertility may be the cause.

Are there any outward signs of infertility? Or any behaviors that may be inhibiting our ability to conceive? I've heard stories of Mountain Dew limiting sperm count, but don't know if these are just rumors.

Is there anything that we can do to maximize our fertility?"

Jeanne Karnath, Certified FertilityCare™ Practitioner, Responds:

Jeanne KarnathThere is no reason at this point to believe that you have an infertility issue.

If you are under the age of 35, tests to determine possible causes of infertility are usually begun if you don’t conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse.

For women over the age of 35, tests are usually begun after 3-6 months of trying to conceive.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a woman’s fertility begins to drop in her late 20’s or early 30’s and falls more rapidly after the age of 35. Depending on your age, you may want to give it more time before you seek a diagnosis.

There are many factors involved in the fertility process, including the timing of the intercourse. In order to maximize chances of conceiving, you need to be sure you are taking advantage of your time of fertility. One way to do that is through the use of Natural Family Planning.

With professional instruction, couples are taught how to identify the natural signs of fertility and infertility that occur in each cycle, so they can use the method to plan their families, whether it be to achieve or avoid a pregnancy. If there are irregularities in the cycle, these can often be discovered fairly quickly, addressed and treated cooperatively.

Some risk factors related to infertility may be smoking, family and medical history, irregular cycles and unusual bleeding.

As for the Mountain Dew myth, there have been no studies to support the claim that Mountain Dew causes infertility. However a good diet, regular exercise and prenatal vitamins are always recommended to optimize the health of all concerned.

— Jeanne Karnath, Certified FertilityCare Practitioner

Jeanne Karnath teaches Natural Family Planning at The Catholic FertilityCare Center of WNY, located at Sisters Hospital and Mercy Hospital of Buffalo.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.
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