Move over, Dr Google…

We’ve tack­led all those per­sonal health and well­ness ques­tions you re­ally didn’t want to ask

Glamour (South Africa) - - Contents - Visit the South African De­pres­sion and Anx­i­ety Group at sadag.org or call 080 020 5026 to speak to a coun­sel­lor.

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.”

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