Vitamin D supplements could help Crohn’s patients

Vitamin D supplements could help Crohn’s patients fight fatigue, improve quality of life


Published May 20, 2013

  • vitamins supplements
Scientists have long known that Crohn’s patients – even when they are in remission – suffer from fatigue and low quality of life.So when Tara Raftery, a research dietitian at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, who works specifically on Crohn’s disease, saw emerging evidence suggesting a lack of vitamin D may alter muscle function and strength she decided to set up a study investigating the possible effects of vitamin D on fatigue and quality of life in Crohn’s patients.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition  with no known cure and often causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, mouth sores and joint pain. Patients often feel extremely fatigued – either from the extensive medicines they have to take or from the disease itself.

“Some research has suggested that vitamin D supplementation might influence muscle strength and quality of life,” Raftery told “But this was yet to be shown in Crohn’s disease.”

Raftery said she and her doctorate supervisor, Maria O’Sullivan, performed a three-month study, where half of the participants – all Crohn’s patients who were in remission –  were given vitamin D supplements and the other half were given a placebo.

“So at the start of the study, we measured their baseline vitamin D levels,” Raftery said. “We also measured fatigue and quality of life by using validated questionnaires, and we measured hand-grip strength – this gave us a proxy measure of their muscle strength.”

At the end of three months, the researchers repeated those measures.

“What we found, was in the participants who received the vitamin D supplements (of 2,000 International Units per day), their hand-grip strength was significantly stronger than those who took the placebo,” Raftery said. “We measured both the dominant and non-dominant hand grip strength at baseline. After three months, those who had received the vitamin D supplement had significantly stronger hand grip, in both hands, compared to those who were randomized to the placebo pill.”

Raftery said they also found the patients who had vitamin D levels of above 30 ng/ml had a significantly higher quality of life compared to those patients who had less than that and those patients taking the placebo.

“In terms of fatigue, what we found was that when the levels were 30ng/ml  or more, the patients reported significantly less physical fatigue, as well as mental and general fatigue,” Raftery said.

Raftery said these findings are the first to suggest the potential benefits of vitamin D supplementation in Crohn’s patients to improve muscle function, fatigue and quality of life.

While more studies need to be done, researchers are hopeful. Raftery is currently conducting a larger study – containing more participants studied over a one-year period – to confirm her initial findings.

“What I would recommend, is that patients with Crohn’s disease discuss supplementation with their doctor and also have their levels rechecked about three months after supplementation begins,” Raftery said. “Vitamin D supplementation is safe for most people, but not everyone . . . mega-doses should be avoided and many countries have set upper limits of 2,000-4,000 International Units a day for adults.”

Raftery will present her findings at Digestive Disease Week in Orlando during the week of May 20.

Read more:


Young stroke victim recovers with help from new electrical stimulation technology

Young stroke victim recovers with help from new electrical stimulation technology


Published May 20, 2013

  • Wes CHoP ICU.jpg

    After his stroke, Wes (pictured here) was treated in the intensive care unit of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. ((Schlauch family))

  • Wes Hill Formal.jpg

    Wes, using his cane, on his way to high school prom. ((Schlauch family))

  • Wes in Hill Game.jpg

    SONY DSC ((Schlauch family))

  • Wes Schlauch_Hill School Graduation.jpg
    (Schlauch family)
When Wes Schlauch, of Breinigsville, PA, was 16 years old, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed the entire right side of his body. Miraculously, three years later, Wes is not only walking and talking – he’s even sending text messages, attending college and going on fishing trips with friends.
Wes’ positive attitude, devotion to rehabilitation and strong support system has had much to do with his success. But Wes has also benefitted tremendously from a cutting-edge technology that is revolutionizing therapies for patients suffering from brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases: a new treatment known as functional electrical stimulation (FES).FES has been pioneered by companies like Bioness Inc., based in Valencia, CA., which created the devices that Wes uses. The devices – which Wes wears on both his right hand and leg – use electricity to stimulate the damaged portions of his brain and the neural connections between the brain and muscles.

“The idea is that by using the electrical stimulation to make the muscle fire, his brain will retrain and relearn, and his muscles will fire more automatically without it in the long term,” Jolene Hammer, a physical therapist at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Bethlehem, PA., who works with Wes, told

FOUR IN 100,000
Strokes are incredibly rare among children and teenagers like Wes.

“From after the newborn period through age 18, the incidence (of stroke) that we estimate is about four in 100,000 children per year,” Dr. Rebecca Ichord, director of the pediatric stroke program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who treated Wes, told

According to Ichord, Wes’ stroke was likely triggered after he experienced whiplash while playing hockey. Doctors believe that one of the arteries in Wes’ neck twisted and dissected, causing the walls of the artery to separate. This caused a blockage in Wes’ blood flow that led to the formation of a clot – resulting in a stroke.

Wes’ stroke was particularly devastating because it occurred in his baseline artery, which facilitates blood flow to critical parts of the brain.

“(His) was one of the most severe types of strokes; when you block the baseline artery, you block critical parts of brain systems that control all elements of function,” Ichord said. “The mortality is relatively higher than in other types of stroke and long term handicap can be devastating.”

Luckily, Wes was able to receive a clot-dissolving therapy within eight hours of his stroke, which restored blood flow to the injured part of his brain. However, Wes still had a long journey ahead of him. The right side of Wes’ body was paralyzed – a condition called hemiparesis.

“I remember lying in the hospital bed and looking up at the ceiling, because that’s all I could do,” Wes told “My respiratory therapist told me to visualize myself getting better so I just visualized myself getting out of that situation.”

Eventually, Wes stabilized and was moved to a rehabilitation facility where he had to relearn basic daily tasks, like dressing himself and eating – all the while confined to a wheelchair.


Fortunately, Wes didn’t stay in his wheelchair for long.  He soon progressed to a walker and then to a cane. As Wes regained his strength, he was able to begin FES treatments, with the help of his rehabilitation team.

To regain the use of his right hand, Wes eventually began using the Bioness NESS H200® Hand Rehabilitation System – an external device that Wes wears on his hand and arm.

“That’s helped me be able to be more dexterous with my movements and has overall helped my hand big time,” Wes said. “It used to be that my hand was in a fist, and I wasn’t able to use it at all. I got the H200 device and I was able to use my hand nicely.”

“I’ve even been known to text with my right hand,” Wes added.

Later, Wes progressed to the NESS L300™ Foot Drop System, which allowed his foot to move more freely.

“As he’s been using it, I see that he’s now able to start to actively move those muscles without it that he wasn’t before…Now, he can lift his foot and be aware of it and pull it up on his own,” Hammer said. “He has gotten to be able to lift his toe up and to be able to activate his hamstring.

Just last week, Wes took home a new device – the L300 Plus – which he will wear on his thigh to stimulate his hamstring. Wes will use this in conjunction with the L300 in order to gain further control over his leg, bolstering his ability to walk and even maneuver stairs.

Though Wes gets fatigued easily (especially when using the devices), he is building up his tolerance and strength, and he eventually hopes to be able to wear both the L300 and L300 Plus for full days.

“It’s helped my walking a ton and being able to walk around the community is a lot better for me as opposed to just being in a wheelchair like I was before. Now I’m on a cane. It’s helped me a lot,” Wes said.

Wes’ doctors hope that technology like the Bioness devices will eventually help repair the damaged parts of Wes’ brain to some extent.

“I think it’s a cutting edge way to start to work on retraining the muscle and hopefully to play into neuroplasticity, to activate the brain to make new connections and to activate these muscles,” Hammer said.

Wes continues to make extraordinary advances in his treatment and personal life – even making the dean’s list at college.

“His speech is also a little affected, but he can still communicate,” Ichord said. “And his cognitive learning abilities, personality and sense of humor (were) all preserved; the thinking part is doing well and was never directly affected.”

Wes credits his experience as a hockey player for giving him his strong work ethic.

“I work hard, I always did – back from when I was 16 on. I worked as hard as I could and…I really want to get back on the ice. That’s my main motivating factor,” Wes said.

Wes continues to impress his physical therapists and doctors every day, and Hammer said she has high hopes for Wes’ future progress.

“I’ve been a therapist for a long time and he’s an extraordinary young man – one of the most motivated people I’ve met. If every patient worked as hard as him, I’d be out of a job,” Hammer said.

Read more:

Shopping Around Brings Steep Prescription Drug Savings

Prescription drug prices at U.S. pharmacies can vary widely, and failing to shop around could result in people overpaying by as much as $100 or more a month on average, depending on the drug, a new study finds.


Researchers at Consumer Reports called more than 200 pharmacies across the United States to get retail prices (out-of-pocket costs) for a one-month supply of five popular medicines that have recently gone generic. The medicines were: the diabetes drug Actos (pioglitazone); the antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram); the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor (astorvastatin); the blood thinner Plavix (clopidogrel); and the asthma drug Singulair (montelukast).

For a one-month supply of these drugs, there was a $749 difference between the highest– and lowest-priced stores—a more than four-fold difference, according to the study in the May issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

drug savings 2

Overall, Costco outlets had the lowest retail prices and CVS had the highest, the report found. Among the specific findings:

  • A month’s supply of generic Lipitor cost $17 at Costco, compared with $150 at CVS. Prices at Rite Aid and Target were also high.
  • A month’s supply of generic Lexapro cost $7 at Costco and $126 at CVS. On average, Rite Aid, Walgreens and grocery store pharmacies also charged higher prices.
  • A month’s supply of generic Plavix cost $12 at, and $15 at Costco, compared with $180 at CVS.

Different business approaches are one reason for the wide price variations, according to Lisa Gill, prescription drugs editor at Consumer Reports. “It really comes down to a store’s business model. For example, big box stores tend to use their pharmacies as a way to get consumers through the door with the expectation that they’ll buy other things,” she explained in a Consumer Reports news release.

If you want to get the best deals, shop around and always request the lowest price, Gill advised. “A consumer can’t assume that the price of their prescription medications is set in stone,” she said. “One of the big takeaways is that you have to ask for the best price and see if your pharmacist will work with you. Especially for the independent pharmacies, if they want to retain your business and loyalty, they will help you get the best price,” she said.

Other ways to save money include:

  • Using generic drugs, which contain the same active ingredients as brand name drugs.
  • Getting refills for 90 days, not 30 days. Most pharmacies offer price reductions on a three-month supply of a medicine.
  • Look for other discounts. All chain and big-box pharmacies offer discount generic drug programs, with some selling hundreds of generic drugs for $4 a month or $10 for a three-month supply.
  • Try shopping in rural areas. The study found that some grocery store pharmacies and independent drug stores had higher prices in cities than in rural locations. For example, a 30-day supply of generic Actos cost $203 at a pharmacy in Raleigh, N.C., compared with $37 at a pharmacy in a rural area of the state.


Shared from Wellstyles April 2013 Monthly Newsletter by the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) from Rebecca McGonigle.


27 Easy Ways To Eat Healthier

1. Bananas, eggs, and peanut butter are all you need to make healthy, gluten-free pancakes.

Bananas, eggs, and peanut butter are all you need to make healthy, gluten-free pancakes.

Lots of protein and lots of happiness! Recipe here.

2. Dates are a great way to naturally sweeten smoothies and shakes.

Dates are a great way to naturally sweeten smoothies and shakes.

You can drink this date, banana, and coconut shake for breakfast with a clean conscience.

3. Put fruit compote on pancakes or waffles instead of butter and syrup.

Put fruit compote on pancakes or waffles instead of butter and syrup.

Try this recipe for Chai pancakes with cranberry compote.

4. Upgrade sandwiches by spreading them with avocado instead of mayo.

Upgrade sandwiches by spreading them with avocado instead of mayo.

Yeah, no, for real, mayo can take a hike. Avocado can be the main event of the sandwich too: This chickpea and avocado sando is better and better for you than some slimy cold-cut deal.

5. Swap crispy baked zucchini for the usual fries.

Swap crispy baked zucchini for the usual fries.

You can find lots more awesome baked snack alternatives here.

For the rest of these great ideas, go to this link:



Berry Habit May Help Women Avoid Heart Attacks

Young and middle-aged women who eat blueberries and strawberries regularly may help lower their risk of a heart attach later. In a new study, researchers wanted to focus on whether substances known as anthocyanins are good for the heart. Anthocyanins are antioxidants, substances found in plants that protect and repair cells from damage. Anthocyanins provide the red, blue, and purple colors found in strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits and vegetables.


The study followed more than 93,000 women for 18 years. The women, ages 25 to 42 when they joined the study, reported on their diet every four years. A trend toward lower risk of heart attack was found in women who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries weekly, compared to those who ate fewer servings. A serving is roughly half a cup.

“Substances naturally present in red/blue colored fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of a heart attack 32% in young and middle-aged women,” says Aedin Cassidy, PhD, a researcher at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. The new findings echo those of other studies showing that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is linked with lower heart disease, says C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. Merz says the study is observational, meaning it does not prove that berries help with heart health. Women who eat berries may also have other healthy habits that could prevent heart attacks, she says.


Researchers chose blueberries and strawberries because they are among the most commonly eaten berries. They divided the women into five groups based on how much of the fruits they ate. Women who ate the most berries had the greatest impact on their heart attack risk. Cassidy and her team also looked at other factors that are known to raise heart attack risk. These included age, high blood pressure, a family history of heart attack, being overweight or obese, exercise habits, smoking, and drinking caffeine and alcohol. Women who ate more of the fruits also reported other heart-healthy habits, such as being less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise.


Cassidy says the study focused on younger women because there is not much research on preventing heart attacks in that age group. Although the actual drop in the number of heart attacks was small, Cassidy believes that eating anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables early on could pay off later, when heart attack risks rise with age. The substances may work by improving HDL “good” cholesterol, the researchers say. They may also lessen inflammation, which is linked with heart attack risk.

Although the study focused on blueberries and strawberries, many other fruits and vegetables are rich in the anthocyanins, Cassidy says. Among them: eggplant, raspberries, black currants, plums, and cherries. Eating more of these fruits and vegetables “could have a significant effect on prevention efforts,” says Cassidy.

Source: Copyright 2005-2012, WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved

logo vsmg

Reposted from Wellstyles Monthly Newsletter by Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) from Rebecca McGonigle


The Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) through its preferred provider United Healthcare (UHC) is providing the service “Source 4 Women” at this link:

Source 4 Women

healthy women

Source4Women offers free online seminars and events focused on keeping you and your family healthy. These one-hour seminars are fully interactive and include audio and video of the speaker. Best of all, there is a question and answer period with the speaker immediately following the presentation.


Upcoming topics:

May 14, 2013: The Magic of the Mediterranean Lifestyle

June 11, 2013: Smart Fitness: Most Powerful Super Foods

Register at:

women's health








logo vsmg

Sleep Better Tonight

Sleep Better Tonight

Learn what you can do throughout the day to improve the quality of your zzz’s

By Abigail Cuffey

pink, yellow and orange bed pillows

Think the solution to your fatigue is an earlier bedtime? Getting enough sleep is important, but it’s also the quality that counts—and there’s more to it than just a comfy bed. Also complicating things: As you get older, your sleep patterns change, making it harder to fall (and stay) asleep. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to be sleep-deprived. You can improve your slumber without tacking on hours in bed—and it’s not hard to do.

Every little habit—from what you eat and drink to when you exercise and watch TV—can impact your sleep. Here’s a sample day that shows you what you can do to get the best zzz’s possible. (Adjust it for your wake and sleep times.)

6:30 A.M. – Skip the snooze button. It’s tempting to turn over and squeeze in an extra 10 to 15 minutes of shut-eye when your alarm goes off, but doing that can actually make you more tired. “You spend so much energy going back to sleep and waking up again that you don’t get any additional deep sleep,” says Kathryn Lee, RN, PhD, professor and associate dean for research at the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing. And you’re more likely to wake up groggy. “So you’re using more energy but not sleeping more to make up for it.”

7:30 A.M. – Exercise. Not only does it give you a shot of energy that’ll help you power through the day, but exercising in the morning may also decrease levels of stress hormones, making it easier for your body to wind down and fall asleep faster, says Scott Collier, PhD, director of the Vascular Biology and Autonomic Studies Laboratory at Appalachian State University. In a recent study led by Dr. Collier, people who got 30 minutes of moderate exercise at 7 a.m. (compared with 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.) significantly improved the quality of their sleep that night, spending 75% more time in deep sleep.

Woman Sleeping

11:00 A.M. – Take a breathing break. “If you don’t take time to stop during the day, falling asleep is harder. Why? When you finally try, you lie awake thinking about all of the things you haven’t had a moment to ponder,” says Diane Renz, LPC, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado. It’s kind of like slamming on the brakes of a fast-moving car and all of the junk in the back flying forward. So once or twice a day, close your eyes and take three slow, deep breaths.

1-2 P.M. – Cut out caffeine. “Caffeine is a stimulant that lasts in your system for 4 to 7 hours,” says Lawrence Epstein, MD, chief medical officer of the Sleep HealthCenters, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Make sure that by the time you’re going to bed, the stimulating effects have worn off. Coffee isn’t the only culprit: Tea, chocolate and soft drinks also contain levels that can affect your sleep. (Check out exactly how much in “Caffeine Count,” below.)

Caffeine Count 
You know that coffee’s got a lot (95 mg in 1 cup), but the amount in other items may surprise you.

Coffee ice cream, 1 cup = 48 mg 
Diet Coke, 1 can = 47 mg
Tea, 1 cup = 40 mg
Dark chocolate bar, 1.45 oz = 25 mg

3 P.M. – Go outside. Getting out in natural afternoon light (30 minutes is ideal—even if it’s cloudy) helps reset your circadian rhythm so that you’ll wind down easier when bedtime rolls around, says Donna Arand, PhD, clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio. (It’s also energizing.) If you can’t exercise in the a.m., use this time to squeeze in a brisk walk.

7 P.M. – Eat dinner. Your body needsat least 2 hours (3 for a heavy
meal) to fully digest food. Eat too close to bedtime, and it’ll be hard for your body to wind down since you’ll still be working on digesting. Try to eat dinner on the earlier side, and the same goes for drinking alcohol. “Alcohol makes you sleepy at first, but causes you to wake up as it wears off,” says Nancy Collop, MD, director of the Emory Sleep Center and President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

10 P.M. – An hour before bedtime, have a proteincarb combo snack. Your brain needs the protein to produce melatonin and serotonin, chemicals important for sleep, and the carbs help your body absorb the protein, says Dr. Lee. A few good healthy snack options: peanut butter and whole-wheat bread or peanut butter and crackers, or 1 Tbsp hummus in a mini wholewheat pita.


10:30 P.M. – Thirty minutes before bedtime, start your wind-down routine. “A lot of sleep disturbance happens because we don’t give our bodies a chance to transition from a fast-paced day,” says Dr. Renz. This can be as simple as taking off your makeup and washing your face under dim lights or doing something relaxing like reading or meditating. “This signals to your brain that the day’s over and it’s time for sleep,” says Dr. Epstein. Shut down your computer, too, since surfing the Internet and sending emails stimulates your nervous system, making it harder
to unwind.

11 P.M. – Get into bed, breathe and stretch.  Taking a few deep breaths and doing a light 30-second stretch (try sitting up and reaching toward your toes) will help you relax once you’re under the sheets, says Dr. Collop. It’s OK if it takes a little while to fall asleep (up to 20 minutes is normal). “If you’re out like a light the second you hit the pillow, it means that you’re sleep-deprived,” says Dr. Renz.

Read more: Sleep Remedies – Natural Sleep Aids – Woman’s Day