Ask the Physician: Dr. Christy Valentine Answers Your Health Concerns

Ask the Physician: Dr. Christy Valentine Answers Your Health Concerns

As women, we all encounter health questions on a regular basis and, with the wealth of information available on the internet, we can get overwhelmed and sometimes encounter conflicting information. Add on top of that, some information is not specific to females, it can get even more confusing. So, we at NolaWoman.com have partnered with Dr. Christy Valentine of Valentine Medical Center to answer your concerns about health care for you and your family. We’d love to hear from you so feel free to email the Dr. Valentine at ask@valentinemedcenter.com

I hate the calories in regular soda, so I drink a lot of diet drinks. My coworker always tells me how unhealthy low calorie sodas are; is that fact or fiction?

Soda is never the healthiest option available, but at least diet soda cuts out some calories
Soda is never the healthiest option available, but at least diet soda cuts out some calories

There are many reasons why regular, full-sugar sodas aren’t a healthy option. Standard sodas contain high levels of sugar and calories, which can cause weight gain or more serious conditions like type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The verdict on diet soda, however, isn’t as straightforward.  Several studies have been conducted in on the healthfulness of diet sodas, but the results have not yielded clear conclusions, and often just confuse consumers.

On the one hand, zero-calorie sodas don’t add calories to your diet. They are also a good alternative for those who have to watch their sugar intake, like diabetics. Some studies have even suggested they may be better for your teeth, since bacteria can’t live on artificial sweeteners (which are used in diet drinks).

On the other hand, many people prefer to avoid these artificial sweeteners because they aren’t natural. It is a common misconception that artificial sweeteners cause cancer, which may be why your coworker warned you against diet soda completely. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, there's no scientific evidence that any artificial sweetener causes cancer or any serious health problems.

The bottom line is: diet soda is often a better choice than regular soda, but it still isn’t the best choice. Breaking the habit and forgoing soda completely is the most healthful option.

There are many different flavors and brands of diet sodas to choose from, but all will have fewer calories than their counterparts
There are many different flavors and brands of diet sodas to choose from, but all will have fewer calories than their counterparts

My advice is to enjoy diet soda in moderation. Try to drink water more than any other beverage throughout the day. If you’re craving something carbonated, reach for sparkling water instead; if you need caffeine, have an unsweetened tea or coffee. Beverages like soy or skim milk are also healthy and nutritious choices.

I have occasional breast pain (sporadic soreness and tenderness to touch). I haven’t had my first mammogram yet, but should I? Is this a sign of breast cancer?

Let me start by saying – you are not alone. Many women experience breast pain. This pain, referred to as “mastalgia,” can include tenderness, tightness or a sharper, burning sensation. Often times, the tenderness is associated with normal monthly changes in hormones due to your menstrual cycle. But breast pain can also occur continuously.

There are two types of breast pain, cyclical (associated with menstrual periods) and noncyclic. Cyclical breast pain is the most common and often experienced simultaneously with ovulation. This pain can continue until the beginning of the menstrual cycle.

Noncyclic breast pain is much less common than cyclical, and it does not vary with the menstrual cycle. This particular pain is usually always present, and occurs in one specific location. It could be caused by trauma or arthritic pain in the chest or neck. Unexplained, persistent breast pain should to be evaluated by your doctor.

Breast pain is not commonly associated with breast cancer. However, in some cases, painful lumps are caused by breast cancer. If you consult your physician, they will most likely perform a physical examination and decide whether or not it is necessary to order a mammogram, ultrasound or biopsy.

Cyclic breast pain is normal, however, if you're worried, it's best to see a doctor anyway
Cyclic breast pain is normal, however, if you're worried, it's best to see a doctor anyway

If it is determined that your pain is caused by a cyst, your physician will evaluate it to determine if further action is necessary; many cysts don’t require treatment at all, unless they are large and particularly painful. Should your physician deem it necessary, they will perform a procedure to remove the liquid contents of the cyst. Depending on where the pain originates, treatment may include analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs and compresses.

Cysts can form in women of any age, but particularly in women 35 to 50. If you have cysts, they will likely disappear after menopause; consult your doctor regardless to ensure everything you are experiencing is normal.

As a vegetarian, is it safe for me to enforce a vegetarian lifestyle in my child’s diet as well?

As it turns out, vegetarianism among kids has been increasing over the past decade, as parents choose vegetarian lifestyles for themselves and their families.

The good news is that vegetarianism is a relatively natural diet that contains many health benefits. Studies have shown that well-fed vegetarian children may actually be healthier than children who consume meat. This is partially due to avoiding contamination from hormones and chemicals consumed by food animals, and partially because vegetarian children typically eat more nutritious foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.).

It is, however, important for vegetarian parents to remember that there are different nutritional requirements for children than for themselves.

A vegetarian diet can be good for your kids, as long as they still get the right nutrients
A vegetarian diet can be good for your kids, as long as they still get the right nutrients

Here are a few things to keep in mind when raising vegetarian children:

• Don’t overcompensate for protein by feeding your child a diet too high in saturated fat and calories.
• Remember to actually replace the meat you are removing. Think about adding more protein choices like beans, soy products and low-fat dairy.
• Possible nutritional deficiencies can be accommodated for by supplementing plant sources of vitamins and minerals that are missing. Daily multivitamins will also help ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. If you prefer your child only receive vitamins through the foods they eat, there are multivitamin shake supplements that can be added to a child's meal regimen.
• Talk to your child about the vegetarian diet and why you’ve chosen it for the family. Listen to them when they share concerns, or simply want to try a different diet. Make this lifestyle a partnership, not a dictatorship.

Regardless of what you decide, remain focused on encouraging balanced eating habits. A child who is inspired by smart eating is more likely to maintain a lifetime of good health.


(The information included in this Site is for general information purposes and discussion of medicine and health-related subjects only. Nothing contained in the Site is intended to establish a physician-patient relationship with the Author, to replace the services of a trained physician or health care professional, or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always consult a licensed physician or appropriately-credentialed health care worker in all matters relating to your health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Site or in any linked materials. Readers shall not make any health or medical related decision based in whole or in part on anything contained in the Site.)