Life & Beauty Weekly: Health

By Valerie Kalfrin for Life & Beauty Weekly


Bad breath, sweating, incontinence, gas … they’re the punch lines of a lot of jokes, but in real life, they’re so humiliating you don’t dare admit them to anyone. However, if you do experience any of these problems regularly, it’s important to let your doctor know.

“Most of these ailments are nuisances and not serious medical conditions,” says Dr. Dara Maker, a family physician at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital. “However, if you are worried about something or if you are experiencing something new, it is usually best to check in with your doctor. Besides offering you reassurance, your health-care provider may have some tricks or tips to help deal with the issue.” Read on to learn more about your most hush-hush health issues.

Foul Breath
If you’re constantly popping breath mints and you haven’t seen your dentist recently, you might want to schedule an appointment. Bad breath can be a sign of periodontal disease or other dental trouble. Brush and floss regularly, and drink plenty of water to wash away odour-causing bacteria.

It’s also possible that the problem lies farther south. Foul breath can be caused by inefficient digestion that leaves food in your stomach. Probiotics or digestive-enzyme supplements can help. Bad breath can also be a symptom of a more serious condition like acid reflux or diabetes, so talk to your doctor if it doesn’t go away.

Too Much Sweat
Excess perspiration isn’t just a matter of underarm stains on your shirt. Your entire body — including your hands, feet, face, chest and back — can be affected. Sweating can be caused by a number of factors: genetics, hormonal imbalance, thyroid conditions, stress, menopause, or even too much spicy food, so it’s best to see your doctor to find the source. Prescription antiperspirants and deodorants can help in some cases. For sweating that doesn’t respond to topical treatment, there are other medical options, such as Botox injections.

Loss of Control
Stress incontinence (the fancy name for leaking urine) is the involuntary loss of urine that occurs with physical activity, coughing, sneezing, laughing, and similar activities, Maker says. “It is the most common type of incontinence in women and is caused by weakened pelvic muscles,” she says. The tissues and muscles of the pelvic floor can loosen over time, particularly if you’ve had children or are experiencing menopause.

Fortunately, the solution can be as simple as cutting back on caffeine and taking frequent bathroom breaks. Try Kegel exercises, too: Tense your pelvic floor muscles (as if you were trying to hold back urine), hold for a count of five, and then relax. Try five reps to start, and then work up to 10. For more severe cases, options include wearing sanitary pads or a pessary (a diaphragm-like supportive device), taking medication, or getting surgery.

Burping … and Worse
We’ve all been humiliated by an earth-shaking belch or a room-clearing you-know-what. Fortunately, excessive flatulence or gas on its own is rarely serious, Maker says, and most likely the problem stems from diet.

“Common culprits include milk and dairy products for individuals who are lactose intolerant, beans and legumes, certain fruits or vegetables, whole grains, artificial sweeteners and carbonated beverages,” Maker says. “Some individuals may find over-the-counter products like Beano or those containing simethicone to be useful.” But if you’re experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhea or other intestinal trouble in addition to your gas, it’s time to visit a gastroenterologist to pinpoint the deeper problem behind it.

Valerie Kalfrin is a writer in the Tampa, Fla., area. Her work has appeared in The Tampa Tribune, Ladies’ Home Journal, and

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