Cyberchondria, Healthy Smoothies, Run for Fun

A Tangled Web(MD) We Weave

You do realize that WebMD is not really an M.D., right? I know it’s 2 a.m., and you are worried about that lower back pain, but did you really need to see “ovarian cancer” pop up as a possible match to your symptoms? Will you really be able to fall asleep now?

There is, of course, a term for this behavior. It is referred to as being a “cyberchondriac.” Cyberchondria is a term used to describe how people convince themselves they have an illness or condition they may not have, based on all of the information they discover on the Internet. I know people who go to their physician’s office with their self-diagnosis and back-up documentation. Are they an informed consumer or an overconfident Googler?

According to a recent poll by the researchers at Wolters Kluwer Health, only 4 percent of Americans surveyed say they believe they have experienced ‘cyberchondria.’ OK, I find this difficult to believe. My family ALONE could up this statistic significantly if we took the poll.

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Also, according the poll, 65 percent of Americans who turn to the Internet with medical questions say they trust the information they find. I have no problem trusting reputable sources. It’s when people Google their symptom and trust the myriad sources that pop up that I get concerned.

The Wolters Kluwer Health Poll states that 63 percent say they have never misdiagnosed themselves. Never? Did these same Internet surfers then order tests and draw their own blood? Do they have MRI machines in their basement?

This next finding, however, is a personal favorite.

The poll found that 40 percent of consumers prefer talking to friends and family to verify a self-diagnosis.

Now I do not deny that I talk to friends and family about my health concerns, but unless they went to medical school, they do not get to verify even the spelling of a diagnosis. There must be a spectrum of ailments in which people feel comfortable self-diagnosing. Unfortunately, the Internet is wired to match search terms with information. One cannot search “headache” without fear of seeing the term “brain tumor.”

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As consumers, we all want access to information and we all want to feel empowered. I asked Dr. Eric Kalish, a general surgeon in Wilmington, how he feels about the implications of cyberchondriac behavior.

“When patients self-diagnose through the Internet, it can serve as a barrier to obtaining an accurate treatment plan,” he says. “Patients want to advocate for themselves, but they need to understand more about the sources they are viewing as trusted ones. If they are going to Google, they need to understand what they might find and I always ask them to ask me or another health care provider any questions.”

I have an important question: What if cyberchondria is contagious? Should I Google that?


In Search of the Ultimate Smoothie

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Every summer I make the same promise to myself. I will get out the blender and I will keep myself cool and energized with fresh, delicious smoothies. Every year I treat myself to a new smoothie recipe book and it ends up being used as a coaster for the iced coffee drink I paid for down the street.

Some people struggle with life’s bigger, deeper questions about things like life and religion, but I think I am still losing sleep over the nutritional benefits of the smoothie.

The Good

• the calcium
• probiotics from the yogurt
• the servings of fruit I am supposed to have
• the taste
• potential protein source

The Bad

• the fat in the yogurt or milk
• the high sugar levels in the fruit
• carbs, carbs, carbs
• the smoothie store mystery powders
• the sweeteners

The Imposters

• The ones with ice cream? Yeah, we call them milkshakes.

I asked my friends if they consider smoothies to be a healthy snack—especially when made with fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt. It was interesting to hear how they varied on the definition of the term “healthy.” For some it came down to portion size and for others, it was the types of sweetener (agave or maple syrup?) sugar substitutes such as Splenda or Stevia? Greek yogurt vs. non-Greek yogurt? Smoothies with protein powder or without? Are we defining healthy by calories or nutrients?

Do you see why I am up at night?

This summer is going to be different. I am determined to find smoothie options right here in Delaware that I can enjoy and feel good about—both from recipes and store-bought. I am going to seek out the best smoothies in each of our three counties and use ingredients from the Delaware farmers markets to make my own at home. I will report back to you my findings and am open to suggestions. And for those readers who know how scared I am of my blender, please stop laughing.
To kick things off, I am going to try this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine:

Almond Banana Smoothie

2 large ripe bananas, peeled, sliced
2 cups almond milk or whole milk
2 cups ice cubes
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
ground nutmeg

Blend first five ingredients in blender until smooth. Divide smoothies among 4 small glasses. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.

Wish me luck.


Make a Run for It

all photos from the Delaware Marathon Running Festival

I don’t know about you, but my friends are broken into two camps—the friends who run and the friends who run from conversations about running. But when it comes to marathons, there is a third group— friends who run but laugh if you suggest they train for a marathon.

Marathon training is an intense undertaking. When I hear friends are training to run 26 miles, I immediately feel out of shape and silly for taking pride in the fact that I made a new workout mix on my iPod Shuffle.

The term “marathon” can sound daunting for some, and I get that. When I was a runner (see Multiple Sclerosis) I was just happy to work toward a 5K. When other runners would ask if I had considered running a marathon, I kept thinking, “Twenty-six miles of running up and down hills when I could be sitting on the couch drinking wine and complaining about something?” That’s a tough call. But the marathon people know how to help runners make the decision to train.

The Delaware Marathon Running Festival is Delaware’s local marathon. The festival is a weekend of races for all sorts of runners, according to their training and their goals. From the RUN 1 4 FUN children’s race on Saturday to the four-person relay (10K each) or eight-person relay (5K each) marathons, the half marathon (13.1 miles), to the 26.2-miler, Delaware has it covered. No matter what kind of runner you are, you can participate in Delaware’s Running Festival.

I know you are wondering why I am writing about this now when the Delaware Marathon happened three weeks ago. Now is the time to start getting in the mindset for next year. Let’s call it a May Day Resolution. All over Delaware we have running clubs and running clinics that help you get from couch to 5K and beyond. If you are not a runner, there is time to start slow. If you are a runner, but not the marathon type, there is time to explore one of the many options. And if you want to be a marathoner, the timing is perfect.

Now that you know the range of opportunities, you too can have plans for next year’s running festival. And the best part is that you can have wine afterward and still find something to complain about.

For your local running clubs or gym-based running clinics, see the following:

  • Pike Creek Valley Running Club,
  • Delaware Running Club,
  • Middletown Athletic Club,
  • Bear-Glasgow YMCA,
  • Downstate Delaware Striders & Riders,
  • Seashore Striders,

Health Events

Friday, June 8

Name American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Middletown
Location Silver Lake Park, Middletown
Time 6:30 p.m.
More info.


Monday, June 11

Name Miss Delaware Golf Classic III
Location Wild Quail Golf and Country Club, Wyoming
More info.

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

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