DEAR DR. ROACH: In a recent column, you wrote, “Being anxious all the time isn’t good for you.” What damage can it cause, other than just an unpleasant feeling? — J.
ANSWER: The mind affects the body, and vice versa. In the case of anxiety, continuous levels of strong emotions trigger the release of stress hormones, including epinephrine (adrenalin) and cortisol. These can cause high pulse rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which increase risk of heart disease and stroke. Reduction of anxiety reduces this excess risk.
I strongly prefer to start with non-pharmacologic treatment of anxiety. Simple techniques like mindful breathing, yoga and tai chi can go a long way toward reducing anxiety levels. Cognitive behavioral therapy by a psychologist may be the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders.
DEAR DR. ROACH: I am a 72-year-old woman, and I have been told by various doctors that I have pancreatitis and, some said, pancreatic insufficiency. Can you explain the difference? I have never been told to avoid alcohol, as you mentioned in a recent column, although I do not drink alcohol in any form. I did have ulcerative colitis for more than 25 years, and finally had it removed, and I was doing great. After a few more years I started having severe gas pain and diarrhea, and discovered that I needed a prescription of Creon and a diet with a very low intake of fats. Recently my sugar level has been borderline, so when I can, I use sugar substitute. — H.H.
ANSWER: The pancreas has two main jobs: making enzymes that help digest food, especially fat, and making insulin. Pancreatic insufficiency is when the pancreas can’t do its job, and the first job to go is making the digestive enzymes. The symptoms may include bloating or loose stools, and many people notice fat in their stools, which has a peculiar odor and floats.