Avoid Getting Sick This Winter Naturally: Try Elderberry

I love my job. I blog about it, I rap about it, I sing about it. But I REALLY love my VACATIONS. Vacations away. Stay-cations at home. They all provide an invaluable reset, catch-up, self-care that is so needed.

See, I work a lot. I can easily put in 80 plus hours per week of work seeing patients in the office, delivering babies, returning calls, doing surgeries, providing results, reviewing labs. That doesn’t leave as much time as I would like to see my kids, to open mail, to write (which I really enjoy if you haven’t noticed) and to do other things I love.

I was less than thrilled when I woke up Monday morning in chilly Chicago feeling congested and stuffy with sinus pressure and a scratchy throat.

Not my week off. Not my kids’ Spring Break. Not now.

Hark, I remember seeing my husband popping these herbal Elderberry lozenges that were supposed to keep away colds. And wasn’t he eating Kiwi fruit like it was going out of style when he felt like he was getting sick?

So I riffled through our junk drawer in the kitchen (don’t judge. If you don’t have a junk drawer you need one.) There they were. Sambucus Elderberry Lozenges.

I probably had two or three throughout the next 24 hours, and maybe another two Kiwi fruit. What usually happens when I get sick is I spend day 1 with a nose that won’t stop running. Day 2 involves a nose that I can’t unplug. Day 3 is characterized by a stuffy head and snot-a-plenty. Day 4 starts the up-swing. This time, day 1 was Monday. I found the Sambucus lozenges in the afternoon on Monday. I had one then and another couple on Tuesday with the Kiwi Fruit.

By Wednesday, I was a new woman.

My wellness caught me by surprise. It was like one of those movie moments where the actor just escaped death and comically touches his or her face and body to see if they are still there. I was like, “Wait, I feel good? How is this real?”

Oh, it was real.

Sambucus ebulus  is an ancient medicinal herb. Elderberry is another name for it —Pliny the ‘Elder’ first described its therapeutic use. A few studies demonstrate that elderberries have anti-inflammatory properties. Elderberries may even have anti-microbial and anti-viral activities. Regarding the common cold, one study shows that elderberries may decrease the duration of a cold by a couple of days in air-travelers.(4, 5).

What I’m telling you is that I am a believer and I will from henceforth keep these little purple gems stocked up in my house for the anytime-I-feel-a-little-something-coming-on consumption.

I hope you too can find relief with these lozenges and Kiwi fruit. I think Kiwi are in season. I just bought some from Coscto. Check out this post about other proven home remedies to cheat colds, like Sambucus. Especially since winter doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon here in the Midwest.

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Some Thing Are GOOD For Your Vagina, and some things are not. I’ll share both…

If I hear “the vagina is a self-cleaning oven” one more time, I’m going to scream.

In this post I will list:

  1. Common things that do not belong inside of the vagina
  2. Reasons why they do not belong
  3. A few items and products that are allowed inside of the vagina and can improve pelvic health.

First of all, outside of the heat within, there is nothing oven-like about the vagina. Nothing “cooks” in the vagina. If you want to use the analogy more accurately, the uterus should be the oven. Also, when was the last time you used the self-cleaning function on your oven? If I spill something, I either wipe it up/clean it off immediately, or I give Easy-Off some business (I don’t have any business ties with that product, but it works.

Maybe if you slather your oven with soil and chia seeds (like a oven-shaped chia pet) with the chia representing normal bacteria, lactobacillus, the two could resemble each other. I actually like the idea of the vagina as a jungle a little better. Yes, I said a Jungle.

The vagina is like my house. It may be messy, but it is not dirty. Lol.

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If you imagine a jungle, it has the right balance of predators and pray, of algae, even of bacteria. If someone dropped off a new species of frogs that multiplied too quickly, it may eat too much foliage and offset the balance for the other species of plants and animals to thrive. How do you fix that problem? I know what you WOULD NOT  want to do. You wouldn’t want to show up with a turbo water hose and try to wash away the whole jungle. You may wash away the frogs, but also everything else that is supposed to be there.

That is exactly what douching does.

It washes away everything, even the good bacteria. While you may feel fresh temporarily, the opportunity for infections to regrow in the setting of a disturbed ecosystem. Okay, I’m finished with the jungle analogy. But do you now see why we gynecologists don’t like douche?

Here are my top five offenders.

  1. Douche- especially with antiseptics like peroxide. That’s a big PLEASE DON’T.
  2. Jade
  3. Cucumber
  4. Detox sacks/pearls
  5. Any kind of soap or body wash

It is important that we review what I mean by the vagina.

The vagina is the inside, the vulva is the outside.

The vagina is the tube portion. it extends to a degree to what is between the labia, or the lips. When you clean the external portion, especially the part that contains hair follicles and skin like that on the rest of your body, soap and body wash is acceptable. For some the skin of the vulva is more sensitive that others. Some can only use soaps formulated for sensitive skin in that area.

When people say, “Don’t clean the vagina with anything but water,” they literally mean the inside portion. I would even venture to say, you don’t even NEED to clean the inside of the vagina with water. I mean you can rinse between the labia, but you don’t NEED to clean the tube portion with anything. It’s a jungle with an ecosystem, remember. The outside, however, will very likely need more than water. Especially after a good spin class at the gym or a hot summer day. Scrub a dub dub, please.

So what is wrong with the items on my list?

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These are eggs. Color: Jade.

Jade is a porous rock. That means things, namely germs, can hide in the crevices. Doctors worry about bacterial growing on these items and increasing a woman’s risk for vaginal infections and even toxic shock.

Cucumbers have no acidic quality to promote healthy lactobacillus growth. They can harbor both bacteria and fungi that are unwelcome in your vagina. Also, depending on the way the cucumber is prepared (I can’t believe I am talking about preparing a cucumber for vaginal insertion like that is a thing,) it could damage the tissue on the inside of the vagina and make it more susceptible to infections, especially sexually transmitted ones. A person may feel “fresher” temporarily, but the disruption can definitely be harmful.

Womb Detox sacks or pearls often claim to treat fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis and other infections, however fibroids form as a result of hormones and genetics, not toxins. Herbs that claim to remove them often have no scientific backing or logical explanation as to how they do so. To LITERALLY add insult to injury, many claim that a woman should expect to feel irritation, sometimes odor and often increased discharge during the process. Those symptoms are glaring signs of a problem, though. Some you are supposed to leave for days- toxic shock much? Just NO.

I already said my piece about douche and soaps. I just can’t leave my readers with nothing left to put in their vaginas. (Really, Dr. Wendy?)

What neighbors are welcome in your beautiful vaginal neighborhood?

  1. A Tampon, for 8 hours or less of course.
  2. A Diva Cup- apparently they work wonders for many women. Lots of my patients use them.
  3. Olive Oil- a nice natural moisturizer for the external vulva, especially for menopausal ladies. Check out this post about this exact subject.
  4. Boric acid suppositories- In selected circumstances and under the direction of your doctor, these can help reset the pH in the vagina. Click here to read this post is all about this subject. It cannot be stressed enough, the suppositories are placed IN THE VAGINA ONLY. If swallowed, they can cause serious harm.
  5. Probiotics- though there are not yet vaginal probiotic suppositories, there are oral ones that have scientific evidence backing their vaginal bacterial improvement. Click here for a post all about the specific probiotics studied.

What is a Yoni anyway?
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The term Yoni was not taught in medical school or residency. I had to do a little research and found some pretty cool stuff. The term originates from the noun Yonis, from Hinduism. Check out this definition:

1. The female genitalia, regarded as a divine symbol of sexual pleasure and matrix of generation and the visible form of [the goddess] Shakti 
2. An image of these as an object of worship

Powerful, right? Divine? Absolutely. I am here for this definition. It further supports the point that something so powerful and divine does not require cleaning or detoxifying. It just doesn’t.

Resist the urge to put gimmicks and quick fixes in your vagina. If you think something is off, or not quite right, please see a qualified health professional for evaluation and advice. Some people seem to be more prone to problems in this arena than others, but we can work together to keep you as healthy and whole as possible. You and your “self cleaning oven.” (Screaming inside.)

Check out my latest video that inspired this post, and don’t forget to sign up to follow us here at The Gyneco-(b)Logic.

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Deodorant: To stink or not to stink. Five things you should know about deodorant as a woman.

Deodorant is a regular use item, or at least it should be (in my opinion.)

If you are natural, that’s great, but natural smell is often synonymous with straight up funk! So we learn as we approach puberty, or maybe even before, that every shower should be accompanied by a deodorant or antiperspirant of some sort. If not, you can pretty much count on sitting alone in the lunch room after PE.

In recent years there has been a concern with the use of aluminum containing antiperspirants when it comes to breast cancer risk. In fact, as I type in aluminum deodorant in my search engine, one of the first thinks that comes up is “aluminum deodorant risk.”

Dr. Google Strikes Again

But, the question has value and the results are interesting. The first thing I want share is that there is a difference between deodorant and antiperspirant. Sidebar: I am actually going to include five points in this post, unlike the vague five of my last post. It was still a great post though…

  1. Antiperspirants contain ingredients like aluminum salts that block the sweat ducts and prevent perspiration. Deodorants absorb wetness and neutralize odors. If you choose a deodorant over an antiperspirant, you should be prepared to “pit out” in stressful situations because you WILL sweat.

If you prefer an antiperspirant I would like to share some concerns about aluminum antiperspirant use that have been challenged.

What concerns have been disproven:

2. Aluminum does not cause breast cancer. The initial concerns were not founded or replicated in research on the subject.

3. Aluminum does not cause Alzheimer’s disease. The research in that space was also not reproduced in enough data to demonstrate a correlation between aluminum and Alzheimer’s.

4. Aluminum salts in antiperspirants are not absorbed into the skin or blood stream to any significant degree. These salts form a chemical reaction with water in the duct and block the actual sweat duct where applied. For those who think that we humans should sweat, feel free to sweat in other areas of your body. Under the arms where odor is likely to form? I’ll pass.

But there are concerns with any commercial skin care product that you should look out for.

Parabens have some estrogenic qualities, though not conclusively linked to breast cancer. I try to avoid skin products containing parabens for myself and especially for my children. Few antiperspirants contain parabens but it is worth checking the label, especially in adolescents.

5. Natural deodorants exist as well. The Environmental Working Group is an organization that has closely scrutinized thousands of products and rated them based on ingredients and manufacturing practices. They have a whole section on deodorants here. 

Since becoming a mother of three, I find that what I put on my skin and under my arm pits gets a higher level of scrutiny. There is nothing like motherhood to level up a baseline level of paranoia. (No shade to the ladies without kids. You have the right to be just as paranoid as I am.) I appreciate the results of this investigation giving me license to be de-funkdafied (#dabrat) in peace. I don’t want to put my kids or my co-workers at risk of a nasal offense if I don’t have to.

My sons still have aluminum and paraben free deodorant. Somethings may never change.

Dr. Wendy’s Personal Laser Journey with SculpSure

If you asked me about the laser body sculpting device, SculpSure, that we have in my office, then you have heard me tell the story that I was the first one on the machine. I was the first to be strapped in as my co-workers looked at me waiting to see if I would combust.

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It was kind of funny actually. As the deep warming and cooling cycles of SculpSure began, my co-workers asked if it hurt. I remember telling them it didn’t hurt, as much as it was rather intense at times. The crazy part was, despite the warmth I was feeling, my skin was cool. We each slid our fingers between the applicators and my skin. Cool to the touch.

Why am I telling you this now?

Well, it has been exactly one year since my three-kids-later belly was zapped back to its original greatness (dramatic much?) But really, SculpSure restored my midsection and my confidence.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am always generally confident and proud, but we all have areas that we are self-conscious about. My small frame did not house my pooch very well. My children, who have jerk tendencies, were happy to ask me regularly if I was having another baby. They don’t ask anymore.

My office is running a special through April 1, 2018 here in Chicago. If you want to come in for a free SculpSure consult, just fill out the form below or call 312-263-5517, extension 7. I’m just saying, you won’t regret it.

Stop, The Love You Save May Be Your Own: Birth control and other options for preventing pregnancy until you’re ready

Beginning with fundamentals, the basic principle that must be dealt with first is

Sex in Man + Woman = Egg + Sperm = Baby.

I have to break down the basics because I often hear statements like this:

“I only did it  once.”

“We weren’t trying.”

“How did this happen?”

What’s more is that I ask every patient if there are sexually active. If they say yes, I ask if they are using condoms or any other form of birth control. If they say no, then I say, “do you want to get pregnant?” The question is not a sarcastic one, nor is it meant to embarrass the patient. The answer is almost always an emphatic, NO.

Then the pause… because if you aren’t trying to get pregnant, what are you don’t to prevent it? When I hear, “well, I don’t have sex that much,” I can’t help but think, do you think you only produce a baby after having a certain amount of sex? Sure couples can try for a long time to get pregnant, but it only takes one time to actually conceive. If you remember the movie, Look Who’s Talking, the classic ’80’s movie with John Travolta and Kirstie (I thought her name was Kristie for the longest) Alley, the sperm swims and swims and gains admission to the egg to make the hilarious talking baby who we all fell in love with. That conception scene was amazing, timeless, and still available for viewing on YouTube. Did you know Bruce Willis was the voice of Mikey? Summary of this point: If you aren’t preventing pregnancy, you ARE “trying.” Oh and the pull-out method doesn’t count.*

Early pregnancy, early ultrasound, pregnancy confirmationOn average, not adjusting for age or risk factors, after one year of unprotected intercourse, 86 out of 100 women will get pregnant. Pull-out decreases chances of conception, but enough semen is released prior to ejaculation to leave a substantial chance of conceiving. To be specific, in 1 year of regular unprotected sex using the pull-out method, 22 women out of 100 will be pregnant. The Rhythm method will leave 24 out of 100 women pregnant, and a startling 18 women will be pregnant who use the traditional male condom (sorry rubbers). Part of that risk comes from improper or inconsistent use, while part of it comes from failure of the method itself (a hole for example). I still believe wholeheartedly in condoms for reducing STD transmission, but condoms are not the best at pregnancy prevention. The most comprehensive and accurate contraceptive statistics can be found on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website. My highlight real includes implants, and IUDs. Less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women in 1 year. These methods aren’t for everyone, but they will bring your Oops chances down substantially.

nss2erzqwgw-freestocks-orgAnyway, if you don’t want to get pregnant, but you do want to have sex, birth control is a must-have EVERY TIME. The only absolute 100% effective form of contraception is abstinence, which I believe in, support, and practiced myself in my pre-marital days, (fyi, tmi). Now that I’ve made that statement, let’s tackle types of contraception: barrier, pill, patch, ring, shot, IUD, implant and permanent sterilization. Barrier methods include condoms and diaphragms with spermicide. Yes, some women still use diaphragms. They are fit to a woman’s uniquely sized vagina by us gynecologists in the office and ordered at the pharmacy. Proper diaphragm use entails filling the rubber cup with spermicide and placing it in the vagina. A diaphragm can be inserted as many as 6 hours before intercourse and SHOULD stay in place for 6 hours after intercourse. The reason for t is that the spermicide-diaphragm combo has to remain in place long enough to kill the sperm. If that isn’t sexy enough for you, pills can possibly do the trick.

There are different kinds of birth control pills. The term the pill can include combined estrogen-progesterone pills (COCs) or progesterone only pill. 9 women out of 100 will become pregnant over the course of a year on a pill. COCs stop you from ovulating, or releasing an egg, and they regulate the menstrual cycle. They need to be used with caution in smokers, women over the age of 35, and shouldn’t be used in women with certain types of migraines or blood clotting disorders. Blood clotting disorders are not to be confused with blood clots that may come out of your body during a heavy period. The clotting disorders that preclude COC or estrogen use are the ones that develop deep clots within the legs or lungs. These clots can be life threatening and increased estrogen levels can make them more likely to form. Progesterone only pills, implants or IUDs, or even hormone free IUDs may be options for women with clotting disorders. For the sake of perspective, the risk of developing a blood clot off of birth control is about 4 in 10,000, or 0.04%. On an estrogen containing birth control, the risk is about 10-14 in 10,000, or about 0.1%. In pregnancy the risk is about 5 times that of the no birth control group (the NBCs), which is 0.2% (1 in 500). The risk is about 20 times higher in the postpartum period than the NBCs, or about 1% (1 in 100).iuds-various

Permanent options like tubal ligation during c-section, laparoscopic tubal ligation, or hysteroscopic tubal occlusion are all extremely effective methods of birth control. You MUST be ABSOLUTELY SURE you don’t want to have any more babies when you choose this method. There is no consistently successful reversal of a tubal ligation and the risks are not small in attempting to restore fertility. When I ask my patients if they want their tubes tied, say in the setting of a scheduled c-section, if they say “I think I do” with the pensive, unsure emoji hovering over their head, I generally respond with “you didn’t say it right.” You need to know that you know that you know that you don’t want to have any more children EVER. If you aren’t 100% certain, a LARC (long acting REVERSIBLE contraceptive) can offer you the same effectiveness with the reversibility in case you really do lose your mind and want more.

tom-hanks-tooth-removalI know you didn’t think I was going to make my way through the contraceptive topic without talking about vasectomy. Sure, this is not my organ of specialty, but vasectomy is a very reasonable method of contraception. It is one of the least invasive methods of permanent contraception. You just need to make sure that the significant other goes for that confirmatory test ensuring no sperm remain in the ejaculate. Initially, the situation is like that of pipes after you turn the water off. You have to get the remaining water out of the pluming before you start disconnecting pipes. Tell him I said its okay. Manly men get “snipped” too.  He can crush a beer can on his forehead and go mow the lawn bare chested after it’s all done.

g8xdo1q1kig-rachael-walkerA common question that is posed is how will birth control impact a woman’s long-term fertility. You shouldn’t worry significantly about fertility after birth control, any more than you would worry about fertility not having been on birth control. The modifiable factor that matters most for fertility is not the length of time you have been on birth control, it is the age that you try to conceive. Fertility changes every year. There is not a magic change that occurs at 35 as many women believe. Every year from when we start menstruating until we become menopausal, our fertility is decreasing and our risks of complications increase. This is a gradual change that becomes slightly more rapid at 35, but a 22-year-old is more fertile than a 27-year-old, who is more fertile than a 32-year-old. While some women have menstrual cycle irregularities that may take a small amount of time to normalize after stopping birth control, some women get pregnant while on birth control, meaning there isn’t a purge period that every woman automatically needs to resume fertility.

The take home point: Use whatever method suites you best for as long as you don’t want to conceive, but never take fertility for granted because you don’t know what hand you’ll be dealt when you are “ready.” Oh and being 40-plus is NOT considered birth control. Surprise babies can occur all of the way up to menopause. The little miracles!

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*Dr. McDonald PRETENDS she is a singer sometimes. Her cover of My Boo will have you second guessing some less-than-effective birth control methods.

What Did This Doc Do To Her FEET?

We haven’t featured a Logic-al Choice product in a while. It’s not for lack of retail-love, but more so because I wanted to present something more interesting and fun than the latest lipstick or handbag. How about the latest favorite in foot beauty pedicure products?

Intrigued?

Summer is coming and those toes will soon be in the open. Don’t think that that peep-toe shoe is hiding anything. We can still see if your feet are under performing.

I have been criticized in the past for not keeping my feet well maintained in the winter. I keep the nails clipped for shoe comfort only. Cuticles, nails, or extra pedile skin (I just made up the term pedile, but I like it) are not my priority when it’s cold outside.

Enter spring-winter mix for us in Chicago- sounds like CaramelCrisp CheeseCorn Chicago Mix at Garrett’s. One day it may be 40 degrees, then the next day 75 degrees . Any given day may be a potential open toe day. One has to be ready. A single spring end-hibernation pedicure is not going to completely buff away months of heel skin collection. I don’t even want that pedicurist scrubbing hard enough to buff me down. These pit bulls are sensitive.

So what’s my solution?

It was a late night at Prentice Women’s Hospital when one of the nurses began talking about this new foot exfoliation product that she had tried. She was marveling that she initially thought it didn’t do anything. Less than a week after trying this stuff, she began to slough like a snake.

Intrigued? Check this out. These pics are my own feet during Patchology PoshPeel Pedicure.

Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure peeling

Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure close up of peeling skin
Up close and personal!

Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure Review: I have now used this stuff twice because of how much I love it. I used it once last fall, and again a couple of weeks ago. Completely painless and thorough. The only downside is that I need to wear socks the whole time that the slough is in progress because the dead skin volume is abundant. Is it just me? Possibly.

To use it, you pour this clear solution into the foot bags and put your feet in them for about an hour. The bags have stickers to wrap around your ankles so that  they don’t move and you can walk around.

After my most recent treatment, I went to get a pedicure for nail beautification and general relaxation. The pedicurist didn’t have to buff my feet AT ALL. They were already smooth as baby feet. If I ever become a professional singer, I can call myself Wendy “Babyfeet” McDonald. Maybe not the brand I was shooting for, but it’s catchy!

Check this stuff out if you won’t be grossed out by your own painless shedding. I loved it and will be doing it again in a few months.

Scrub blue nail color
I call this nail color Scrub Blue. I also like Mammogram Mauve and Speculum Silver (smh)