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October 13, 2007

Health Q&A

By Emily Bennett

This week’s health concerns include overcoming caffeine addiction, how to do Kegel exercises, and why calcium is essential for women.

If you have a health question, submit it to Emily at

Caffeine addiction

I have been trying to quit having my morning coffee, and caffeine in general, but ever since I began, I have these awful headaches. Is there any go-between that can help me get off caffeine without creating an addiction to something else?

Jittering Jen

Hi Jen,

Quitting that morning coffee is difficult for many women because of that instant jolt, but caffeine does have some negative effects on the body (for starters, it makes cellulite more noticeable when ingested regularly and causes dehydration).

And because it’s awful to go from that great jolt to a headache every morning, it’s normal that you would want to find a go-between in the meantime. What you can do is:

• Hold out; the headaches will subside in about five days.
• Have a smaller dose of caffeine (green tea has 30 mg of caffeine per cup; coffee has over 100)
• Take aspirin

Before you know it, you will be over caffeine and enjoying your mornings without it.

What you can do to ensure that you don’t go back to your caffeine addiction is drink something warm in the morning that doesn’t contain a significant amount of caffeine. Hot chocolate, herbal teas and even hot water with lemon will give that warm feeling on cool days without turning you into a jittery mess.


How much milk women need

Dear Emily,

How much milk should I be drinking? I am 29 years old and weigh 120 pounds, and I drink maybe one cup a day, if that.


Hi Caroline,

You need a lot more milk than that per day if you want to maintain healthy, strong bones. One cup of milk has about 300 mg of calcium and women in their late 20s and early 30s need at least three times that to satisfy their needs.

You should be getting about 1,000 mg of calcium each and every day, in the form of milk, yogurt, cheese, soy milk, collard greens, sardines, or supplements.

It’s very important to get an adequate supply of calcium, otherwise, when you’re older, your body will let you down, as your bones will get weaker and there’s a good chance that you’ll develop osteoporosis (a disease that makes bones prone to fracture). Women are 4 times more likely than men to develop this disease.


Kegel exercises for women

Dear Emily,

Whenever I sneeze, cough or laugh, I pee a little bit. I’m only 25 and this is really starting to worry me. Am I broken?


Dear Trina,

What you describe is likely cause by weak pelvic floor muscles, and while this is commonly attributed to child birth, it’s possible you were born with this problem and it progressed as you got older.

What you need to do is exercise and strengthen your pelvic floor by performing Kegel exercises (developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel) regularly. This will help you maintain bladder control and might even help enhance your orgasms.

The next time you urinate, try to stop your urine midstream. Even if you are unable to do so completely, you at least know that you’ve located your pelvic floor muscles.

Every day, contract this muscle, hold it for one second, then release. Repeat it 10 times. Do another two sets of this exercise.

Your objective is to work your way to three sets of 20 repetitions. And there’s no excuse not to do this every single day; you can perform these exercises anywhere, any time.

Of course, results will not be immediate; it will take about three weeks before you notice a difference.

Good luck,

Is eating at night okay?


Can you please settle a bet I have with my friend? She is convinced that if you don’t eat after 6 p.m., you will lose weight. I believe a calorie is a calorie is a calorie no matter what time of day it is ingested. Who’s right?


Hi Shauna,

You are both right. A calorie is a calorie and whether you dine at 6 at 8 or at 10, what matters is not when you eat, but rather what you eat. But then again, cutting off food at 6 p.m. will inevitably restrict calorie intake, resulting in weight loss.

The reason many people believe that you gain weight when eating past a certain time is because that’s when the “munchies” take effect and people usually reach for ready-made, unhealthy finger foods like chips and chocolate. After all, if any woman ate carrots at 10 p.m., do you really think she’d think she’s going to get fat? Of course not.

A small amount of carrots and a small amount of chocolate may weigh the same going in but the calorie content of each is quite different.


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