Ask the Doctors: Holistic practices can make big differences

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Hello, dear readers! We hope this new year is finding you happy and healthy, and that the expectations of the holiday season didn't take their toll. Whether it's a moment of meditation, a quiet cup of tea, or a romp with the family dog, always remember to take some time for yourselves. And now, onward to your letters.

- In response to a column about an inflammatory condition known as polymyalgia rheumatica, or PMR, several of you wondered if changes to diet may be helpful. This condition causes pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints, most often in the neck and shoulders, but also the hips, thighs and lower back. Treatment includes corticosteroids, such as such as prednisone, and pain meds, such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

Research shows that lifestyle changes, including a diet to lower inflammation, can also help ease symptoms. One of the goals in this type of eating is to stabilize insulin levels. That translates to a diet low in added sugars and simple carbohydrates and rich in a variety of colorful, nonstarchy vegetables. Steer clear of alcohol, processed foods, fried foods and processed meats. Harness the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids with fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, and flax seeds, chia seeds and leafy greens.

The good news is that this condition is usually temporary. Most people see relief in about a year, although in some cases, it can take longer to resolve.

- We heard from several of you regarding the column about frozen shoulder. This is a condition in which pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint gradually makes movement difficult or even impossible.

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One reader found relief after seeing a chiropractor. "I had one session, and it fixed my frozen shoulder for good," she wrote. "That was eight years ago, and my shoulder is still fine. Really works!"

Another reader, whose doctor proposed a surgical fix, sought acupuncture instead. "After one treatment, I could lift (my arm) straight up as high as ever with no pain," he wrote. "It would save a lot of people a lot of pain if everyone knew about acupuncture."

- A recent column in which we discussed the benefits of breathing through the nose rather than the mouth prompted this question from a reader: "What about people who sleep with their mouths wide open?" she asked. "They don't have any control over how they are breathing." Many people breathe through their mouths at night due to mild sinus blockage. Blowing one's nose before bed, using a neti pot or saline nasal spray, adjusting sleep position, elevating the head, and using over-the-counter nasal or mouth strips can each be helpful. In some cases, mouth breathing can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. This is a serious sleep disorder, and it requires medical care.

As always, thank you for your letters. We're so glad you enjoy the column and find it useful. We love that you keep our mailboxes — both snail mail and email — full, and we look forward to hearing from you next month.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.


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