Monday, April 26, 2010


Why you can’t eat just one

In a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers found that junk food can be as addictive as cocaine or heroin.

As part of a 40-day experiment, one group of rats were fed a nutritionally balanced diet while another group of rats were given a diet consisting of bacon, sausage, cheesecake, pound cake, frosting and chocolate.

As would be expected, this group of rats eating junk food gained more weight. They also became less active than the other rats.

In addition, they would eat this food even if given a mild electric shock, and refused to eat when their diet was replaced with a nutritionally balanced diet.

The researchers attributed this behavior to the release of dopamine by the brain, which occurs naturally in varying amounts, giving us the feeling of satisfaction or pleasure as a response to different enjoyable experiences, such as eating desserts.

Dopamine is the same chemical that is released in large amounts in cocaine and heroin addicts.

When dopamine is released in excess amounts, an alteration in brain chemistry occurs such that more stimulus is needed to produce the same results. Thus, the compulsive eating of junk food in order to obtain the same pleasure.

While, experiments in rats may not be directly applicable to humans, it may help explain a contributing factor to human obesity.

Junk food is addicting and can lead to weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle. This may be why you “can’t eat just one.”

Dr. Paul H. Deutsch is board-certified in Internal Medicine, a member of The William W. Backus Hospital Medical Staff and in private practice in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Dr. Deutsch or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

Monday, April 19, 2010


Autism is common and often misunderstood

The likelihood that a child has autism is much higher than many people realize.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 1 in every 110 American children has been diagnosed with autism, including 1 in 70 boys. It is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.

According to, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a variety of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by difficulties in communication, social impairments, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Autism spectrum disorders can range from mild forms to severe forms. However, although autism spectrum disorders vary significantly in presentation and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic class and affects every age group.

As a registered nurse with two nephews diagnosed with ASD, I can assure you that ASD can affect any family. It is difficult to come to terms that your beloved child may have a problem but I can reassure you that being properly informed and obtaining early intervention is crucial.

This is why The William W. Backus Hospital Education Department has organized a community education program, “Could My Child have Autism?” as part of its ongoing Family Matters series. The free program will be held from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm May 13 in the Backus Hospital entry-level conference rooms. To register, call (860) 889-8331 Ext 2495. Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician Dr. Dumont-Mathieu will discuss recognizing the signs, getting a diagnosis and accessing resources, and a Backus Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services Department will be on hand to talk about the pediatric services it offers, including speech therapy.

A child’s parents or primary caregivers usually are the first to notice signs of ASD. One of the most common signs of autism is impaired social interaction. This can be noticed as early as infancy.

Children with ASD also tend to start speaking later than other children, may not respond to their name and often avoid eye contact. They may refer to themselves by their name instead of “I” or “me.” They have difficulty interpreting what other people are feeling or thinking because they do not understand social cues, such as tone of voice, or facial expressions. These children also do not know how to interact and play with other children. Many children with ASD engage in repetitive movements such as rocking or twirling, or in self-abuse behaviors such as biting or head banging.

Scientists are not certain about what causes ASD, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role. There is no cure for autism but early therapies and intervention can make extraordinary differences in a child's development. How a child is functioning now may be very different from how he or she will function later on in life.

Lisa Cook is a registered nurse with the Backus Hospital Education Department. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal physician. E-mail Ms. Cook or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at


Monday, April 12, 2010


Healing is not always high tech

What does it mean to heal? Webster’s Dictionary lists the primary definition of “healing” as “to make or become healthy, sound or whole.” This describes perfectly the therapeutic potential for a patient experiencing a Healing Touch session.

Healing Touch is an energy medicine in which the practitioner uses light or near-body touch to clear, balance and energize the human energy system in an effort to promote healing for the mind, body and/or spirit.

Healing Touch works with the body’s energies to support the natural ability to heal. In this time of high-tech medicine, it is used to complement traditional treatments by providing the patient with a time to relax, re-focus and resolve any feelings of anxiety and fear that often accompany a hospital visit. Amid the machines, tests and pills, a gentle, loving touch can be the ideal experience to help restore the balance of mind, body and spirit.

Although they are often thought of as synonymous, healing is not the same as curing. Healing is about being in balance and may sometimes refer to the acceptance of difficult life events, repairing relationships or releasing old wounds. Curing is the absence of disease and symptoms.

It is possible for a person to be cured but not healed, healed but not cured. Experiencing Healing Touch can help both patients and family members release stress and find acceptance during difficult times.

Patients, family members, nurses or physicians can request that I give sessions to hospitalized patients by calling me at 860-889-8331 or by calling our Center for Healthcare Integration at 860-889-8331, ext. 2483. I also teach classes for people who want to learn the technique.

As a registered nurse and a Healing Touch practitioner, I am truly humbled when I am asked to give a healing session. Healing Touch is like an intimate dance between the “healer” and the “healee” — from the first light touch given by the Healer a connection is formed. As the session continues the Healer works from the heart to follow founder Janet Mentgen’s vision of doing “whatever is for the client’s highest and best good.”

Healing Touch is performed with a passionate desire to bring peace and tranquility to the mind and spirit — and physical comfort to the body.

I frequently see patients who are visibly frightened, and can see and feel their energy change during a session. Often a healing session provides the only time of true rest and relaxation for long-term patients, and the changes that occur in their physical and emotional demeanors tell me that they had a necessary and gratifying experience.

When I am able to use Healing Touch to assist someone in releasing their pain and reach a calm, peaceful state, the gifts of energy balance are received by both the patient and myself.

Healing Touch has many beneficial outcomes for patients, family members and even healers. It helps us strive, in an uncomplicated way, for our own healing. It helps us find balance in our lives and to truly embrace all the ways in which we define what it means to heal.

Paula Novak, a registered nurse and certified Healing Touch practitioner, is the Clinical Coordinator for Healing Touch and Integrative Care at The William. W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Ms. Novak or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

Monday, April 05, 2010


Learn the dangers teens face on the Internet

In many ways, Facebook and other social media sites have made teenagers easy targets and give parents reason to worry-around-the-clock.

They are networking at an unprecedented pace, from the cell phones, laptops and other devices; in their cars, bedrooms and classrooms. Whether it is “sexting,” “texting” or “twittering,” the lines of communication are open and rapidly expanding.

Experts say that parents, teachers and other professionals must keep up with these trends and increase their own knowledge of the Internet and its potential dangers.

The Backus Nursing Education Department wants to help by presenting “Keeping Our Teens Safe in a Technological World,” featuring guest speaker Norwich police detective Mark Lounsbury. The free event, part of the ongoing “Family Matters” series, will be held, Thursday, April 8, in the Backus Hospital entry level conference rooms from 6:30—8 p.m. Registration is required by calling 860-889-8331, ext. 2495.

Lounsbury said he sees a range of awareness in parents when it comes to Internet usage by teens — some parents who have little knowledge of the Internet while others are more aware of parental controls and know where their kids go online.

He believes the most important thing is to keep an open dialogue, so kids feel comfortable going to their parents if anything strange happens to them online. In other words — don’t totally restrict them from the Internet, but instead talk to them about what is safe and what isn’t.

Alice Facente is a registered nurse and clinical educator with the Backus Education Department at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

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