Time to hydrate

All this week we’re focusing on Nutrition and Hydration Week, an awareness campaign that could be custom made for us. It’s aim is to spread the important message of maintaining health by considering our nutrition and hydration.

Today we’re looking at the most basic and yet the most vital aspect of nutrition and hydration: Water.

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Why not try infusing your water with fresh fruits or herbs for extra flavour?

Aqua. H2O. Whether you take it still, sparkling, tap or bottled, infused or iced there is no escaping the importance of water to our bodies.

Our bodies are roughly two thirds water and it role is crucial. It can be incredibly difficult to know how much to drink, especially once you start to consider the impact of the exercise, weather and general state of health.

Water is not just important for the normal functioning of our bodies. It can have a crucial role in weight loss. Drinking with your meal or between meals can help to increase your sense of fullness. Those hunger pangs might not be hunger, often it’s thirst.

The human body has evolved to be a highly sophisticated filtration system. A series of chemical reactions and responses triggering further reactions and responses to maintain as steady state as possible (homeostasis).

The amount we drink is triggered by our thirst response. We drink when we’re thirsty, our body utilises the fluid it needs and any excess is eliminated by the kidneys or bowels. To counteract this loss, the thirst cycle starts again.

 

The actual amounts we are recommended to drink can vary depending on what study you read. In general terms, the European Food Safety Authority suggest 2L for men and 1.6L for women. Within the UK, the average bottle of water is about 500ml – so a man would need around four of these and women just over three.

However, it starts to get more complicated when you factor in the level of activity that you engage in, your physical health, your size and weight and whether it’s a hot day or not.

I often find I am encouraging my patients to drink more, and there seems to be some confusion over what we should be drinking. Water is always going to be the best option. Alcohol may feel like it quenches your thirst but it’s a diuretic meaning you’ll pass urine more frequently which may actually dehydrate you. The hangover effect and the ubiquitous headache with alcohol, in part, is due to this dehydration mechanism. One option is to alternate your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water to help counteract the dehydration.

Fruit juices and soft drinks are also options, but these can contain high amounts of sugars so should be drunk in moderation.

The vast majority of tea and coffee, unless you choose a de-caffeinated option, contain some caffeine. Caffeine can also have a mild diuretic effect and can hinder your hydration.

Dehydration, a state whereby the body lacks fluid, may cause you to feel thirsty or pass urine which is darker in colour or stronger smelling. You might also feel sluggish, light headed and or have a dry mouth.

Children and the elderly, are more at risk of becoming dehydrated. Signs that might give your doctor cause for concern is if children are becoming drowsy, having fewer wet nappies or if they are breathing more quickly. Older people often may not realise that they are dehydrated and confusion is a common presentation of dehydration in the elderly.

Patients experiencing vomiting, diarrhoea or sweats as a result of a fever can become dehydrated quickly unless they are able to replace the extra water lost from the body.

*Originally written for The Independent July 2015, rewritten for blog post March 2017.

World Glaucoma Week: Shining a light on glaucoma

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By 2020, the number of people in the world with glaucoma is expected to reach 76.0 million. That is more than the entire population of the UK. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. Fortunately, it is highly treatable with the right medications and intervention if detected early.

This week is the 7th World Glaucoma Week. This was launched back in 2010 and the aim has been to increase awareness of the disease. The key to managing glaucoma is early diagnosis. Glaucoma generally involves high intraocular pressure (high pressure within the eye) which causes damage to the optic nerve. This is the main nerve that helps us to see.

Your optician can check the pressure in your eye with a simple painless test. By looking in your eyes they can also look for signs of damage to the optic nerve caused by glaucoma. As with high blood pressure which damages our blood vessels, the aim is to keep the pressure down. Early detection allows use of appropriate eye drops which reduce the eye pressure and minimise/stop damage to the optic nerve.

This year, the particular aims are to get national health authorities across the world (such as the NHS) to design strategies to combat glaucoma blindness. Educational materials about glaucoma should be delivered to those people at risk via all mediums including social networks. Resources should be focussed on those patients least likely to access eye care.

Thousands offer their time for free to support World Glaucoma Week and much has been achieved by the previous years. The aim is now to build on this work and reduce the effects of this potentially blinding disease. You can find out more on at the  World Glaucoma Week website.

–Nitin

 

 

A lost art?

All week it’s National Conversation Week. Sounds simple enough, do we really need to be reminded to put down our myriad of devices to have an actual conversation?

Sadly, we do.

In these days when we can communicate via 180 characters or by stringing emoji’s together, the art of the conversation is risking being lost.

As human beings we crave social connection. Like many mammals, we are social creatures.

 

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Are we hiding behind our devices and forgetting the importance of conversation?

Communication, and conversation, is so pivotal in medicine. Whether it be breaking bad news to a patient or relative, explaining the risks of treatments, or just allowing a patient to talk and unburden themselves. Conversations are two way streets. But it’s in the area of mental health where a conversation can be the most important.

A common feature of depression is withdrawal and social isolation. A patient who is battling depression actively seeks to be alone and will often close down to the outside world. It might seem trivial, but just asking how someone is can make a real difference to the one who is suffering.

It’s a common misconception that talking about suicide with someone who is depressed will ‘put ideas in their head’. Having a conversation, or letting a friend, colleague or loved one know you are willing to have that conversation, can go some way to shining a light in their darkest of hours.

As GP’s, we work within a geographical boundary and have responsibility for the health for patients within that area. Each GP will find their patients in that area can be slightly different – younger, older, rural, urban, higher or lower socioeconomic class, and sometimes a real mixture.

Our practice area contains a high number of elderly patients and loneliness is something we see often. It is not uncommon on a home visit to sit with someone and realise you might be the only person they see that week. As a professional, it’s heartbreaking. As a human, even more so. Unfortunately as a GP in my day to day life, we don’t always have enough time to sit and reminisce with our patients, providing them that social connection they crave. Just as the health service is stretched, so is our social care system. The number of isolated elderly people living in the U.K. will only increase as medicine advances and life expectancy increases. There are charities and organisations which try to help combat the loneliness by providing outreach programmes and day centres.

For me, I wish that we all took ten minutes out of our day to have a conversation with someone who might really need it. We exist in communities but live in our own bubbles. Say hello. Ask how they are. Listen. You don’t know if you are the only person they may speak to that day.

–Alex

World Kidney Day 2017 : Kidney Disease and Obesity

Annually, a global event is held to help drive awareness of kidney problems and how we can all help to protect these vital organs. This year the theme is ‘Kidney disease and obesity’.

Our kidneys are organs like no other in the body, acting as a filtration system for our blood helping us to eliminate toxins as well as playing a crucial role in other functions such as controlling blood pressure.

It’s a myth that kidney disease only effects elderly people, and whilst it is true that some forms of kidney problems are more common as we age, kidney disease can strike at any age.

 

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So how does obesity link to kidney disease?

It is a sad fact that obesity levels are on the rise across the world, in all age ranges. Carrying extra weight places increased pressure on so many different bodily systems – including our kidneys. Patients who are obese are at an increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure – both of which can, in turn, increase the risk of developing kidney troubles. It is estimated that by 2025, 18% of all men and 21% of all women worldwide will be obese.

What is more worrying to us as doctors is the rate of childhood obesity and the alarming frequency we see it in our clinics. Children are developing problems, normally associated with adults, at a younger and younger age. Radical action is needed to ensure that we are setting up our future generations for the healthiest possible lives.

One of our main passions in our work is promoting the preventability of disease. We know that there are many things in life, and in health, that we have no control over, but if we can help to reduce the factors that increase our risk of illness we have at least taken a step in the right direction.
Obesity is largely preventable. It isn’t easy, but it is preventable. 

 

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One of the key themes of this World Kidney Day is to promote the achievability and affordability of healthy choices in helping us to tackle the global obesity epidemic. As practicing GP’s we often hear from patients that it costs more to eat healthily, and there is some truth in that. When you can get a burger in minutes for less than a couple of pounds it is too easy to see why we as a global community battle our weight.

However being informed about healthy choices, and armed with a little forward planning, it is possible to eat well without breaking the bank. Celebrity chefs including the likes of Jamie Oliver often provide the breakdown of a cost per head per meal – and these fall well below the cost of a take away.

Quick Kidney Facts (www.worldkidneyday.co.uk)

  • Our kidneys will filter around 180 litres of blood every day. That’s the same amount as just under 55 cans of an average sized canned drink.
  • Kidney failure can be fatal without dialysis or transplant
  • 64,000 people in the UK are currently being treated for kidney failure
  • 3,300 kidney transplants take place in the UK each year but over 5,200 are still waiting
  • Every year in the UK there are an estimated 40,000 premature deaths related to chronic kidney disease

 

Why not take a few moments to read more about world kidney day on their website?

 

–Alex

 

 

 

#BeBoldForChange on International Women’s Day

So today is International Women’s Day.

The theme for this year is to be bold and make a change for women’s rights.

As doctors, we are reasonably lucky that in many regards we are on an even footing with our male colleagues. Although recent amendments to junior doctors contracts in the UK have had my female peers up in arms. Penalising women for career breaks – whether for academic advancement or for children is never acceptable, especially in a profession that at it’s core is non-judgemental to all. Even my latent inner feminist was irked by the governments decisions.

The purpose of International Women’s Day is to reflect on the progress of women’s rights, celebrate those women who have stood up to fight for equality and for our benefit – whether it be in our local community or in the wider world.

Sometimes we can be accused of being cosseted in our own little bubble, immune to the problems “over there”. The sad reality is that the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy here are not universally shared and any chance to shed the spotlight on that cannot be a bad thing.

In honour of International Women’s Day, I would like to share a few of my female heroines:

Margaret Ann Bulkley (a.k.a. Dr James Barry)

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Dr. James Barry enjoyed an illustrious career as a military surgeon, working to save lives of wounded soldiers. He is famed for being the first British surgeon to perform a successful caesarean section in Africa. However all was not what it seemed with Dr. Barry. He was born Margaret Ann Bulkley and pretended to be a man throughout her entire professional career so as to allow her to study and practice Medicine and to be accepted by peers. It was only after her death that her gender was revealed.  She was the first medically qualified female in British history. As a female in medicine, she will always have a soft spot in my heart. To have that kind of guts and determination to strive for success and passion is awe-inspiring.

Michelle Obama

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There is much to say that hasn’t already been said about the former FLOTUS. From her stellar fashion sense to her commitment to advancing education for girls, she is a tough one not to admire. The former Princeton and Harvard grad turned lawyer turned wife and mother turned first lady is a modern lesson for how belief and work can make anyone an unstoppable force. In a speech in 2009, Michelle told us ” One, that as women, we must stand up for ourselves. The second, as women, we must stand up for each other. And finally, as women, we must stand up for justice for all.” #Obama2020

Cleopatra

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Perhaps the most inspiring women in history was Cleopatra.  She beguiles long after her death in 30BC. Depicted by famous beauties of stage and screen, she is credited of using her feminine wiles for the benefit of her country. Her legend is one of beauty, wit, charm, intellect, independence and determination. It is thought she spoke as many as a dozen languages and was a political dynamite. She was also a fierce warrior, having personally led an Egyptian naval fleet to battle. She can be best be summarised by one her most famous quotes “I will not be triumphed over”.  All things considered, what’s not to love about her.   

So on the day when we celebrate women and take time to reflect on the challenges we have yet to overcome, how will you #BeBoldForChange?

-Alex

 

Welcome

We’re all on a journey.

Welcome to our very first blog post.

The Soul Medics are a husband and wife team of General Practitioners in the UK who passionately believe in promoting health and wellness. We have over twenty years of medical experience between us, in both the NHS and in private health services.
Prevention is often better than the cure, and we want to help empower others to make choices that improve not only their physical health but their emotional wellbeing. Being well is not just about being on the right medications, although we know all too well that sometimes it is needed.

Tackling problems like inactivity, obesity and stress can seem daunting, especially on your own. We’re here to share our tips, thoughts and ideas on how we can all make those positive choices.

This is a journey we are on as well, so when we are talking about being more active, choosing healthier food options or trying to improve our general wellbeing – we’re living it too.

We woke up midway through 2016 and realised we had gained several stone of weight, our fitness levels were non-existent, we were working long hours and spending little time taking care of ourselves and each other.

So we decided to make a change.

We decided to really practice all those things we had spent years telling patients about. Our journey isn’t over and we would love for you to join us on it.