Move over, Dr Google…
We’ve tackled all those personal health and wellness questions you really didn’t want to ask
ever found yourself Googling personal health questions late at night? You’re not alone. One in 20 online searches are health related, and new research says over 50% of us are hunting for a cure elsewhere because we’re too embarrassed to tell someone. Well, here at GLAMOUR, we believe that health should be a cringe-free zone. Which is why we’ve gone straight to the professionals for the best advice on some of your burning biological questions.
Q “I’m 30 and still get pimples. What can I do?”
While most of us thought pimples would be left behind in our teenage years, half of adult women suffer with acne. Reducing stress (which is easier said than done), eating healthily and special skin cleansing products can help. “If you’re repeatedly getting spots that leave scars or are cystic – large, painful breakouts deep in the skin – then oral medicine is often advised, as lifestyle and diet changes may not be enough to control what is probably being driven by your hormones or genetics,” says dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto.
Youtube star Katie Snooks tried antibiotics for nine years before her dermatologist prescribed severe acne drug Roaccutane, containing isotretinoin and used mainly as a last resort for acne. “I was so self- conscious about my skin, I thought people would think I didn’t wash it properly. Roaccutane is a strong drug (with potentially serious side effects including migraines, hearing loss and depression), so it’s not for everyone, but after 10 months, it cleared my acne.”
If you don’t want to go down the medication route, you could also try cutting out milk. “Research continues to link cow’s milk to acne,” adds dermatologist Dr Daniel Glass.
Q “Why is my stomach so bloated?”
That food baby after a heavy takeaway is one thing, but persistent, uncomfortable belly bloat could be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). “One in five people suffer from it, and insoluble fibre (wheat bran, vegetables and wholegrains) and foods in the FODMAPS range (certain carbohydrates) can trigger bloating and make IBS worse,” says gastroenterologist Dr Andrew Millar. “Cut these foods, one at a time, to see which makes the most difference.” And pop some probiotics, as they help restore the natural balance of good gut bacteria, and can reduce bloating.
Six out of 10 IBS sufferers are too embarrassed to seek help, but fitness blogger Charlie Watson says talking about her condition has helped her manage it, “I kept my IBS hidden for years. I’d panic before nights out with friends, terrified that I’d be sitting in the bathroom all night – and the stress of it made my symptoms worse. But now, I’m far more open, which has, in turn, reduced my bowel-related anxiety.
“Humour helps, especially when it comes to my fiancé, who also makes it into a joke (not in a mean way). He’s very understanding when we need to find a random café for the 20th time on a road trip.
“And when anyone asks about my time goals for a marathon, I always say that my main aim for any race is to not head for any nearby bushes. Sharing real and funny stories on my blog (therunnerbeans.com) has made it easier to talk about IBS in real life.”
Q “Why don’t I like being around people any more?”
We all have days when we want to pull the duvet back over our heads and hide from the outside world, but feeling intense anxiety ( palpitations, upset stomach, panic attacks) in everyday social situations is a red flag for social anxiety – and Google searches for the disorder increased 50% during the past year. “Many people discount this type of anxiety as everyday stress and don’t speak up for fear of being called ‘just shy’,” says mentalhealth expert Lucy Lyus. “But it’s not the same, and it’s important to seek help if it’s disrupting your daily life.”
4 Steps to coping with social anxiety
Next time you’re struggling, remember clinical psychologist Dr Catherine Green’s CARE acronym: Confront the situation. Anxious thoughts are horribly unreliable. Concentrate on what is happening, not what you’re feeling, and ask yourself, ‘ Is it as bad as I feared?’ Avoid safety-seeking strategies: things you do to avoid embarrassment, like dodging eye contact or editing yourself when talking, as it will feed your self-consciousness. Refocus attention away from your thoughts to the conversation or task at hand. Encourage yourself to stand up to the anxiety. Remember: you’re not alone, this is really common and it’s natural to feel anxious to some degree in social situations.
Q “My period has changed colour, should I be worried?”
Ah, periods. When it comes to colour, we can be met with a rainbow of shades (except blue, that only happens in TV ads). “Brown at the start of your period is usually leftover womb lining from the previous cycle, and towards the end it tends to be old blood,” says gynaecologist Dr Pandelis Athanasias. “It’s entirely healthy.” But if you notice bleeding of any colour between periods, after sex or after the first three months of hormonal contraception, see your GP. “It could just be spotting, but it could also be a warning sign for something that needs treating,” adds gynaecologist Dr Shazia Malik.
Q “Is it normal for my vagina to smell?”
Yep. “All vaginas have a unique smell due to natural sweat,” says Dr Malik. “You might notice a slight change when you ovulate, just before or after a period, if you’re dehydrated, recently had antibiotics or are on the Pill.” But if there’s an obvious, stronger odour, you may have a bacterial infection that needs treating. Step away from ‘ freshening’ products – your vagina is not meant to smell of roses. Same for vaginal douches: “Vaginas are self-cleaning – the secretions get rid of sloughed-off skin cells and unhealthy bacteria. Douches can upset the balance of healthy bacteria and increase the risk of infection.”