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When science takes a U-turn: the peanut allergy edition

So…if you thought pregnancy + peanut butter = a child with a nut allergy, it turns out the math doesn’t quite add up. New research now suggests pregnant women who eat peanuts or tree nuts are actually less likely to give birth to children with nut allergies than women who avoid eating peanuts or tree nuts.

If it feels like another tree of conventional wisdom just fell in the internet’s dark forest of health information, we know. But scientific data can be hard to debate.

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Regular pelvic exams, are they necessary?

Pelvic exam. Just the thought causes women of all ages to shudder. Yet, year after year, ladies make pelvic exam appointments because it’s the right thing to do.

What if it wasn’t necessary to endure the awkward and often uncomfortable procedure?

Susan Perry of MinnPost challenged the tradition in an article citing the New York Times, which said:

An increasing number of experts now challenge the value of this time-honored practice, which is done as a matter of course when women come in for routine gynecological checkups or Pap smears.

To clear up some questions, Health Talk turned to Carrie Ann Terrell, M.D., director of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School and director of the Women’s Health Specialists Clinic.

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Wait, you’re telling me PMS might not be real?!

When I heard that PMS might not actually be real, my first thought was, “hey doctors, stay out of my lady business!”

My second thought was, “I need to talk to a lady business expert myself to see what she has to say. Stat.”

What sent me on this quest for information? A recent WCCO “Good Question” with Carrie Ann Terrell, M.D., director of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School and the director of Women’s Health Specialists Clinic. In the WCCO segment, the host attempted to uncover whether or not PMS (gasp!) might not be as real as sitcoms and movies tell us.

It seemed the topic many men have avoided like the plague had been broached, but I still needed more answers.

To get to the bottom of the controversy, I followed up with Terrell for a deeper look at what could very well be the biggest secret we women have unknowingly shared: the truth about PMS.

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Pencil in a little “YOU” time. Doctor’s orders.

When it comes to personal wellbeing, many women hold off visiting the doctor until there’s something wrong, even though most health organizations recommend annual exams.

But according to Dr. Peter Argenta, a University of Minnesota Physicians OB/GYN and gynecologic oncology expert, the importance of a yearly exam is twofold:

1. Building the patient-physician relationship. A woman should have an established relationship with a physician who knows how she looks when she’s well, which will help her doctor better interpret changes that happen if she’s sick. Annual exams help build this relationship.
2. Preventative screening. For women at normal risk, preventative screening is recommended to start at age 21, when women should begin cervical cancer screening. Breast cancer screening begins at age 40, and colon cancer screening starts at age 50.

“Most conditions are better treated early in the course of disease, including common conditions such as hypertension and diabetes,” said Argenta. “Some conditions such as colon and cervix cancer can be avoided entirely with routine health maintenance and in these cases, an ounce of prevention may be worth more than a pound of cure.”

So, when do women need to start annual checkups?

Argenta recommends starting annual exams at or around age 18 for women. While this is not a time that medical problems typically present themselves, it’s a great time to start talking about preventative care and building a relationship with a physician. A woman should feel comfortable enough with her doctor to ask about her weight, diet, upcoming screenings and any medications, knowing the doctor is familiar with her history.

For women who want to know what else they can do to stay healthy, Argenta shares the same advice with each of his patients: “Stop or don’t start smoking, wear your seatbelt and monitor your weight no less than once a month. Doing these three things demonstrably saves lives.”

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