Ask the doc­tor

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - MEDICAL Q&A - With PRO­FES­SOR KER­RYN PHELPS

QI am 68 years old and have just re­ceived good news from a com­plete phys­i­cal and den­tal check. I walk ev­ery day, eat a healthy diet, drink al­co­hol in mod­er­a­tion and sleep well. How­ever, I’ve no­ticed I’ve started to drib­ble out of the left side of my mouth. It doesn’t hap­pen all the time but it’s no­tice­able when it does. Have you got any ideas what may be caus­ing it? C.G. Drib­bling saliva from one side of your mouth in­di­cates a loss of mus­cle tone in that side of your face. Causes in­clude Bell’s palsy (a tem­po­rary weak­ness of the fa­cial mus­cles), a mini stroke, or some other neu­ro­log­i­cal or neu­ro­mus­cu­lar prob­lem. You will need to go back to your doc­tor as this is a new symp­tom, which may need a spe­cial­ist opin­ion.

QI’ve no­ticed that my bowel move­ments are quite ex­treme. I’ll swing be­tween be­ing con­sti­pated with a dull pain in my belly to other days hav­ing di­ar­rhoea. What could the ex­pla­na­tion be? G.W. Your gut is telling you some­thing. Pay a visit to your doc­tor, who may ar­range in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­clud­ing a stool pathogen test and a di­etary as­sess­ment look­ing at fi­bre con­tent and pos­si­ble food in­tol­er­ances (such as lac­tose). De­pend­ing on your age and other symp­toms, you may need blood tests and con­sid­er­a­tion for a colonoscopy.

QBe­cause of my job, I spend a lot of my day look­ing down – and as a re­sult I feel a lot of stiff­ness around my neck and shoul­ders. Some days it even feels like my mo­bil­ity is re­stricted. Is there any­thing I can do at home or work to re­lieve the ten­sion? P.H. If there is an oc­cu­pa­tional health of­fi­cer at work, ask them to as­sess the er­gonomics of your work sta­tion. Try to ar­range your work sched­ule so that you have reg­u­lar breaks where you can change po­si­tion, move around and stretch. A phys­io­ther­a­pist will show you some stretches and ex­er­cises you can do to avoid neck stiff­ness.

QI’m 30 and suf­fer from adult acne around my chin and mouth area. I’m cer­tain it changes with my hor­mones. Is there any med­i­ca­tion or sup­ple­ments I can take, or any other di­etary or life­style changes worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing? C.S. Your skin is of­ten a re­flec­tion of your in­ner well­be­ing, so pay at­ten­tion to your life­style. That means ex­er­cise, sleep, nu­tri­tion (avoid re­fined su­gars and pro­cessed foods), stress, and not smok­ing. In­clude pro­bi­otics and pro­bi­otic foods. Make a note to see if cer­tain foods (such as choco­late or nuts) make it worse. Drink plenty of water. The herb Vi­tex ag­nus cas­tus can be help­ful in reg­u­lat­ing your hor­mones. You can use over­the-counter treat­ments like ben­zoyl per­ox­ide or retinoids to man­age the spots. Hor­monal med­i­ca­tions are also avail­able.

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