Health, Medicine & Nutrition
How to get through the holidays while grieving, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Raquel Schott   
Monday, 19 December 2011 15:01

BOSTON— Each year, more than two million men, women, and children die in the United States, leaving behind loved ones who mourn them. The holidays are often the most difficult time of the year for people who are grieving.

“If the grief is fresh, holiday cheer can seem like an affront and celebrations may underscore how alone people feel,” notes Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. The following strategies, explored in depth in the December 2011 issue, may help people who are grieving to cope with the holidays.

Start a new tradition. During a holiday dinner, place a lighted candle on the dinner table, leave an empty chair, or say a few words of remembrance.

Change the celebration. Go out to dinner instead of planning an elaborate meal at home. Or schedule a trip with friends.

Express your needs. People who are grieving may find it hard to participate in all the festivities or may need to let go of unsatisfying traditions. It’s all right to tell people you’re just not up to it right now or to change plans at the last minute.

Help someone else. It may also help to volunteer through a charitable or religious organization. Make a donation to a favorite cause in memory of the person who died.

Give yourself time. The grieving process doesn’t neatly conclude at the six-month or one-year mark. Depending on the strength of the bond that was broken, grief can be life-long. Nevertheless, grief does usually soften and change over time. With time, the holidays will become easier to handle.

Read the full-length article: “Handling holidays and difficult times”

Also in this issue:

  • The normal process of grieving
  • Beyond the five stages of grief
  • How people can help themselves while grieving
  • Coping with complicated grief
  • How long does grief last?

The Harvard Mental Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $59 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).


USDA to Unveil Revised National Nutrient Management Standard PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by USDA Communications Office   
Monday, 19 December 2011 14:59

Standard will address water quality issues such as loss of nutrients from farm fields

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2011 – TODAY, USDA will unveil its revised national nutrient management standard during a media conference call. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White will explain how NRCS will help farmers and ranchers use voluntary technical and financial assistance to develop nutrient plans to address resource concerns such as water, soil and air quality. This conservation standard is particularly important because three major cropland studies have identified that loss of nutrients from farm fields contributes to degraded water quality in three major water bodies—Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

Braley Introduces Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:16

Iowa Congressman teams up with Olympic gold medalist to combat childhood obesity


Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today teamed up with gymnast, Olympic champion and West Des Moines resident Shawn Johnson to introduce the Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act, a bill that will combat childhood obesity by promoting the use of innovative technology to improve physical education programs in schools.

“Shawn Johnson has inspired countless young Iowans with her Olympic success,” Braley said.  “She’s inspired me with her work as an advocate for improved physical fitness.  That’s why naming this bill the Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act is such a fitting tribute.


Braley continued, “The Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act will improve physical education in schools by incorporating new technology in the curriculum, allowing instructors to better tailor instruction to individual students through the use of equipment like heart monitors.  Expanding technology use in PE class will make fitness more engaging for kids and more effective, teaching students how to stay active and combating childhood obesity.  And as Shawn knows, staying healthy starts with learning healthy habits.”

Shawn Johnson said, “To me, this is about finding new opportunities to get young people excited about fitness and exercise.  Kids of all ages use technology in their lives every day, from video games to iPods to cellphones.  Using technology in PE class is the obvious next step, an opportunity to make exercise more fun for young people.  And if we can do that, I think kids and teenagers will be more likely to go to the gym and make it a habit.”

Shawn Johnson, who won one gold and three silver medals in gymnastics at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, has long been an advocate for exercise and physical fitness.  In March, Shawn visited Capitol Hill where she met with Congressional leaders in support of the Paralympics.  It was during this visit that Braley and Shawn learned of their mutual interest in improving physical education programs in schools.

The Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act would expand to more local schools a physical education program pioneered by the University of Northern Iowa and the Grundy Center (Iowa) School District.  Since 2004, UNI and Grundy Center Schools have partnered together to improve PE classes through the use of technology.

UNI offers a masters degree program in physical education that emphasizes the use of technology in teaching.  Graduate students in this program work as full time PE instructors in Grundy Center, where they learn to incorporate technology like heart monitors, computerized fitness assessment programs, and pocket PCs into their curriculum.  The technology allows instructors to better tailor PE activities to individual students’ ability level and teaches students to track their own progress.  UNI researchers also use data from the program to study the effectiveness of PE courses.

The Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act would seek to expand this successful model by creating a grant program to fund 10 new masters’ degree programs that emphasize the use of technology in teaching.  Universities receiving grants would partner with a local school district to implement the masters’ program.  Funds could also be used to purchase equipment and technology to enhance physical activity and fitness levels.

UNI and Grundy Center’s partnership has received national attention.  In 2009, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited the school to learn more about the program.

According to the Iowa Department of Health, the obesity rate of Iowa children in grades 9 – 12 is 11.3 percent.  Many obese and overweight children develop illnesses like heart disease or Type 2 diabetes, which require long-term medical care.

The Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act is similar to a bill Braley first introduced in 2010.

More information about the bill, including the bill text, can be found at the following link:

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Diagnoses of Celiac Disease on the Rise PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Jake Glimco   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:15

Celiac Disease Diagnoses Increasing

Celiac Disease now the #1 most frequently searched GI term on the internet

QUAD-CITIES / November 29, 2011 -- Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease of the small intestine previously thought to be rare, is increasing in frequency in the Quad-Cities. Gastroenterology practices are seeing an increase in patients diagnosed with Celiac disease and the term ‘Celiac’ has now become the single most searched-for term in gastroenterology on the internet today.  As many as two million Americans may have Celiac disease. Researchers are not certain what factors are contributing to the increased incidence, but recent Mayo Clinic research of blood samples preserved from the 1950’s indicates the prevalence of the blood markers suggesting Celiac disease has increased four-fold in the last 50-60 years

What is Celiac disease? The inside surface of most people’s small intestines resembles a dense pile carpet with the fibers, or villi, which play a vital role in the digestion of food.  But in patients with Celiac disease, their bodies attack the villi in the small intestine, sometimes to the point where the lining becomes smooth.  Without healthy villi, nutrients pass through the small intestine without being absorbed.   Patients suffering from Celiac disease do not absorb vital nutrients and can become malnourished in spite of eating the right foods in the right amounts.  These patients can become predisposed to premature bone loss, infertility, miscarriage and occasionally lymphoma and intestinal cancer, among other problems.  One-third of the population is estimated to carry a genetic marker for gluten intolerance, but only one-in-100 has the sensitivity to gluten, setting off the destruction of the intestinal villi.  

Celiac disease and infertility – Researchers who have studied women with infertility issues have found they test positive for Celiac disease-related antibodies at a rate ten times higher than the normal population.   These women do not always exhibit an iron, B-12 or folate deficiency.  This suggests there may be another mechanism besides nutritional deficiencies caused by intestinal damage impairing their ability to conceive.   Additionally, women with un-treated Celiac disease were found to enter menopause four to five years earlier than those who observed a strict gluten-free diet.

Why the increase? Researchers are not sure, but investigators are exploring what role, if any, diet and environment may play in the increase of gluten intolerance and Celiac disease.  Doctors say that triggers such as infection, pregnancy, severe emotional stress, surgery or physical injury can set off Celiac disease in those with a genetic predisposition.

Who is at risk? Caucasians of Western European descent who have a relative with Celiac disease appear to have the highest incidence of the disease.  Because Celiac disease is controlled by the same gene carrying diabetes, those with diabetes are at an increased risk. Those with other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis and liver disease, may also be at an increased risk.

How can I tell if I have Celiac disease? Symptoms vary and can include:

  • Gas, recurring abdominal bloating and pain
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stool
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Tingling or numbness in the legs due to nerve damage
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Behavioral changes (irritability in children)
  • Delayed growth in children or failure to thrive in infants
  • Pale sores inside the mouth
  • Itchy skin rash, especially around the elbows.

It is believed Celiac disease often goes un-diagnosed because these symptoms are attributed to other problems; and while most health care providers know about the disease, it is not always considered as a potential diagnosis when patients have symptoms.

Diagnosing Celiac disease: Because the symptoms of Celiac disease can mimic other diseases, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, it is often recommended that patients suspected of having this affliction undergo an upper endoscopy (EGD) to obtain a sample of the tissue (biopsy) from the small intestine. An upper endoscopy involves passing a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera, or endoscope, through the mouth and stomach and into the small intestine.  Tiny instruments are then passed through the tube to obtain a tissue sample for the biopsy.  Blood tests to check for high levels of antibodies are available, but the results are less reliable than a biopsy.  To insure the accuracy of any tests for Celiac disease, it is important patients do not prematurely eliminate gluten-containing foods from their diet.

The GOOD news:  The vast majority of cases of Celiac disease can be effectively treated.  With adherence to a gluten-free diet, intestinal damage can be completely reversed in two years.  People with Celiac disease must remain on a gluten-free diet for life, but drugs or surgery are usually not required.  While it is true a gluten-free diet eliminates wheat-based goodies like cake, cookies and beer, there has been an explosion of non-gluten options which makes sustaining a gluten-free diet much easier. Gluten-free substitutions, once only available at health food stores and on the internet, are now available in most supermarkets and even some local restaurants.  However, even traces of gluten on cooking utensils or manufacturing equipment can be enough to trigger a reaction.

About Gastroenterology Consultants

Gastroenterology Consultants is an accomplished group of board-certified gastroenterologists and supporting physicians specializing in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal diseases. Our state-of-the-art facility with an adjacent AAAHC accredited endoscopy center is located in Moline, IL, and proudly services the Quad-Cities and surrounding communities.

At Gastroenterology Consultants, we provide a wide range of endoscopic services. Apart from routine endoscopic services, our facility offers motility studies, 24-hr pH (Bravo), Lap, therapeutic ERCP’s performed in hospital setting, endoscopic ultrasound with fine needle aspiration, Celiac blocks, video capsule, endoscopic anti-reflux procedures, ultrasound guided liver biopsies and pathology.  Most recently, GI Consultants became the first GI practice in the Quad-Cities area to offer the BARRX HALO Radio Frequency Ablation system, a minimally-invasive treatment for pre-cancerous Barrett’s esophagus.



Grassley Statement at Express Scripts/Medco Merger Hearing PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:08

Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Senate Committee on the Judiciary,

Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights

Hearing on “The Express Scripts/Medco Merger: Cost Savings for Consumers or More Profits for the Middlemen?”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.  Whether people know it or not, this proposed merger will affect them.  Prescription drugs are a daily part of many folk’s lives.  How those drugs are paid for and determining who gets paid what is a complex process.  At the heart of all of this are the Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs.

The combination of Express Scripts and Medco would create a company that processes almost one-third of all PBM-administered prescriptions.  Basically, one in four individuals who receive prescription drugs through a health plan will be impacted.  So, this is an important matter.  I expect the Federal Trade Commission will examine this merger rigorously, as they should.

Today this Committee has the opportunity to hear some practical concerns with the merger in a public forum.  I’m sure there will be much discussion on the legal issues that will be part of the Federal Trade Commission’s review.  However, we get the chance to listen to those who support and oppose the proposed merger. I expect the discussion will be fruitful and informative.

I’ve heard from a large number of Iowa pharmacists who raise concerns.  I’m interested to hear about the effect this merger will have on them and consumers.  There are also transparency and competition issues that deserve discussion and today’s a great opportunity to do so.

Again, thank you for holding this very important hearing, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.

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