Friday, September 26, 2008


Learn about painful arthritic conditions

Nationally, millions of people suffer from arthritic conditions such as psoriatic and ankylosing spondylitis.

Locally, we see people with these painful and often misunderstood diseases every day at the Backus Arthritis Center. And more than ever before, patients want to play a role in their own healthcare and learn more about these diagnoses and the treatment options.

Gone are the days when patients simply took the advice of their doctors and that was that. They want to play a role in their own healthcare, and I wholeheartedly encourage that.

I know firsthand that people want to learn. When I presented a fibromyalgia community education event, we packed the room with more than 100 people and had to turn people away. When I announced a rheumatoid arthritis public education event last week, it filled up immediately.

That’s why I plan to continue my role in educating the public. On Oct. 14 from 5-6:30p.m. at the Backus Outpatient Care Center at 111 Salem Turnpike in Norwich, I will offer an update on treating psoriatic and ankylosing spondylitis.

Psoriasis is a non-contagious, lifelong skin disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis. About 10-30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a rheumatic disease that causes arthritis of the spine and sacroiliac joints (where the spine meets the pelvis) and can cause inflammation of the eyes, lungs and heart valves. It varies from intermittent episodes of back pain that occur throughout life to a severe chronic disease that attacks the spine, peripheral joints and other body organs, resulting in severe joint and back stiffness, loss of motion and deformity as life progresses.

The program is free and open to the public, but registration is required and seating is limited. Call 823-6313 to register, and learn how these conditions can be managed and how your quality of life can improve.

Sandeep Varma, MD, is a rheumatologist and Medical Director at the Backus Arthritis Center, located at the Backus Outpatient Care Center in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Varma and all of the Healthy Living columnists at or comment on their blog at


Eat your cake and get your fiber too?

One of the positive legacies of diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins is that people have become more aware of the carbohydrates and sugars they consume.

There have also been more high fiber foods available in the grocery stores. Recently I have noticed that everything seems to contain fiber – soy milk, juice, yogurt, even ice cream. It’s like a dream come true, I can eat my cake and get fiber too.

My kids do not like whole wheat pasta, but lo and behold I find on the grocery store shelf a pasta that is high in fiber, but tastes just like regular pasta. My kids like it, in fact I have pulled the wool over their eyes, so I buy more. Reading the label I discover that the fiber source is inulin, so my dietitian curiosity gets the best of me and I start checking this out, what is inulin and what is it doing in my pasta?

Inulin is an isolated fiber, as are polydextrose and maltodextrin. These indigestible carbohydrates do little to change the texture of the foods they are added to and add a slight sweetness.

Because they are not digested, manufacturers are considering them dietary fiber on the nutrition facts panel. These fibers are not shown to have the same effects in the body as the soluble and insoluble fibers found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Isolated fibers can be found in juices, fiber bars, ice cream, soy milk as well as pasta. I am sure there are also other food sources that I am leaving out.

Insoluble fiber found in whole grains is useful in the prevention of constipation and diverticular disease. Soluble fiber found in oats, barley, fruits and vegetables are linked to lower risks of heart disease and diabetes. Both types of fiber are useful in weight control. Isolated fibers have not been shown to have these same beneficial effects.

Recommended fiber intake is for 21-25 grams for women and 30-38 grams for men per day. These recommendations are for a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, and are based on the amounts that seem to lower risk for heart disease. However, other factors in foods, such as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals may play a role.

Either way you can not go wrong with natural fiber containing foods; whole grain cereals, whole grain pasta, whole grain breads, fruits, vegetables and dried beans.

Your daily fiber goals can be easily achieved by eating two servings of fresh or frozen fruit, two servings of fresh or frozen vegetables, two servings of whole grain bread or pasta and a serving of dried beans or nuts each day.

For a high fiber sweet, try homemade oatmeal cookies, fruit crisp made with an oatmeal topping or simply add ground flax seed or bran to home made baked goods, ice cream, yogurt or pudding.

Mary Beth Dahlstrom Green is a dietitian at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you would like to comment on this column or others, go to the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Green and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

Friday, September 12, 2008


Healing yourself can help you be more compassionate to others

The grocery store scene was profoundly disturbing. I’m not surprised by things coming up in the check-out line; impatience (sometimes my own), indifference to each other maybe, and on a good day some kindness.

Yesterday there was anger in that line because someone left for a minute and came back. It happened between two people and escalated into a tirade of racial slurs on one side and quiet tolerance on the other. The cashier caught in the line of fire avoided taking sides to diffuse the tension.

I found myself filled with negativity towards the aggressor yet I know that kind of violence always comes from deep woundedness and so tried my best to muster some compassion for that person as well. I know when I don’t attend to healing my own wounded places I am most apt to hurt others. Giving attention to healing them is the entry point for growth and change. “The crack is where the light comes in,” in the words of author Leonard Cohen.

These are challenging and extraordinary times in many ways, from politics, to healthcare, from the global crisis to the economy. The burgeoning strain can create fear and an illusion of separation, an us-against-them attitude, when really the planet and this life on it belongs to us all.

Our best contribution requires us to do our own personal work, to strengthen our interior life and what will spring from that place will unite rather than separate us. It is where tolerance, integrity and compassion are manifest. It is where our inner wisdom guides us whether we are healing from disease or despair, yearning for more peace and balance in our lives or knowing we could be living with more joy.

Whatever your practice or path, now is the time to attend to healing personally so that collectively we can be prepared to support peace, tolerance and global health.

In the words of the poet Juan Jimenez:
I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.

The intent of all of our programs at the Backus Hospital Center for Healthcare Integration (CHI) is to encourage people to be actively involved in their wellness, to access their inner healer, and to reconnect with their health and wholeness.

A four part series “Awakening the Inner Healer” is being offered for people who are living with cancer. On Thursday, September 18, Dr. Peter D’Adamo, naturopathic physician and best selling author of Eat Right 4 Your Type, Cancer – Fight It With The Blood Type Diet will speak on “Survivorship: How naturopathic type nutrition strategies can turn you into an exceptional cancer patient”.

Amy Dunion, a registered nurse and massage therapist, is Coordinator of The William W. Backus Hospital’s Center for Healthcare Integration. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dunion and all of the Healthy Living columnists at, or comment on their blog at

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Children safer in Norwich because of new defibrillators

There’s something new in Norwich schools this year, and it has nothing to do with books, programs or teachers.

It has to do with saving lives.

Thanks to the generosity of the community and the Backus Foundation, more than 30 automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have been placed throughout Norwich, in schools and athletic fields.

Twenty-two of them have been allotted to Norwich Public Schools, with the rest going to the Norwich Recreation Department and Norwich Free Academy.

This is all the result of the community coming together following the tragic death of Larry Pontbriant, a 15-year-old who died following cardiac arrest during a running event at Mohegan Park.

The Backus Foundation donated 10 AEDs to the Larry Pontbriant Athletic Safety Fund in support of the hospital’s mission to improve the health of the community, and many other individuals and groups have stepped up as well.

This is an important safety measure. Many times we don’t think of young people having heart conditions, but it can happen to anyone. Many young athletes die each year nationwide due to cardiovascular disorders, and some of these deaths could be prevented if AEDs were more widely available.

Now, in Norwich and some surrounding towns, they are. And our children are safer because of it.

Ravi Prakash, MD, is a pediatrician on the Backus Hospital Medical Staff with a private practice in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dr. Prakash and all of the Healthy Living columnists at, or comment on their blog at

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?