Sing your way to better health

Some research has shown that singing can boost immunity. Other research has found singing can help stave off moderate dementia. OSF doctor Alina Paul suggests it is possible to sing your way to better health.

Bernd Everding/Pixabay

by Tim Ditman
OSF Healthcare

CHAMPAIGN - Alina Paul, MD, has been singing for as long as she can remember. She added guitar while in boarding school in India.

Dr. Alina Paul
Alina Paul, MD
Fast forward to 2023, and the family medicine physician at OSF HealthCare finds herself singing for patients who request it to brighten their day.

“It has changed the way I treat patients,” Dr. Paul says with conviction. “Singing and playing guitar is medicine. It’s medicine for the soul.”

Hearing those tunes is not just a temporary respite for the person in for a checkup. Dr. Paul says research has shown singing can have long-term health benefits.

The benefits

· Pain levels, physical and mental, can decrease. For people suffering from anxiety and depression, singing can increase the level of endorphins, the “feel-good hormone,” as Dr. Paul puts it. This brings them out of a dreary mood.

· Some research has shown that singing can boost immunity by increasing the level of the antibody immunoglobulin A. This antibody helps fight respiratory and other infections, Dr. Paul says.

· It helps your lungs perform better.

“We’re using our lungs to sing. We take deep breaths. Certain movements of the chest wall help with lung function,” says Dr. Paul.

· Other research has found singing can help stave off moderate dementia, Dr. Paul says.

“That’s amazing,” she says.

“We see a lot of patients with dementia. When you incorporate singing or even sing to them, their memory seems to improve. They’re happier,” Dr. Paul adds.

· Dr. Paul says singing can increase oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” This can help with social bonding and a sense of belonging.

· Singing can also improve public speaking skills, especially if you sing in front of others. Simply put, the more you use your voice, the more comfortable you are with it.

Keep your well-being in mind

Dr. Paul says there are some obvious, but important health matters to keep in mind if you pick up singing.

· If singing causes your lungs or throat to hurt, take a break. If minor symptoms persist, go to an urgent care. For things like difficulty breathing, chest pain or loss of consciousness, call 9-1-1.

· If you are sick, don’t sing – or do much else – around others. When we say words, our mouth spews microparticles that can carry diseases. And when you’re sick, you should be resting and recovering.

· Be kind to your neighbors, like in an apartment building. Don’t sing loudly at all hours.

How do I start?

Don’t feel like you have to run out and join a choir, Dr. Paul says. And don’t worry if your vocal skills aren’t Grammy worthy.

“Don’t take it as an exercise. Don’t do it because you have to. Do it because you want to do it,” Dr. Paul advises.

Try singing while in the car or shower. Do karaoke with friends. You don’t even need music. Try belting out your favorite song acapella while cleaning the house. Dr. Paul says closing your eyes can help focus the activity.

“Anybody can sing. Make a point to sing. It’s like meditation. It’s very beneficial,” Dr. Paul says.

Free Dental Day in Tolono

TOLONO - Tolono Family Dental is hosting a free dental day on December 15. Located at 101 N Watson in Tolono, the practice is offering x-rays, exams, and simple cleaning services for anyone who does not have a dental insurance plan or on limited/fixed budget.

Tolono News "We are ready to give back to the community," they wrote on Facebook. "If you are on a limited income or don't have insurance please come by our office on December 15th from 2-4 pm!"

Walk-ins are welcomed at the event, but registration in advance is recommended. For more information call (217) 485-5760.

Keep an eye on amount of caffeine you consume, too much can be fatal

Samer Dabou/PEXELS

by Tim Ditman
OSF Healthcare

URBANA - A new lawsuit claims a caffeinated drink at Panera contributed to a man's death.

Legalities aside, the issue of what people - especially young people - put in their bodies is something to be aware of, says Michael Broman, PhD, MD, an OSF HealthCare cardiologist. In fact, it’s one he thinks about daily.

“My children are 8 and 10. I don’t allow them to have caffeine except under my supervision and only in very small doses,” Dr. Broman says sternly.

Caffeine basics

Dr. Broman says energy drinks, when consumed properly, can provide the desired energy boost. A college student studying for a test, for example.

But it’s caffeine consumption that you must be aware of.

Caffeine also causes dependence. As a person uses more and more over time, they start to miss it when they don’t have it. They can withdraw from caffeine. That’s one of the most worrisome side effects, especially in kids. If a child is using a lot of caffeine and they stop, they can have attention problems and headaches. It can affect their performance in school and athletics.
Dr. Michael Broman
OSF HealthCare Cardiologist

“Caffeine has clearly been linked to adverse events and toxicity when given at a high enough dose,” Dr. Broman says.

The effects of caffeine will vary from person to person. Some will be more sensitive to caffeine due to genetics. Others may be able to break down caffeine more quickly, meaning less sensitivity.

Generally though, Dr. Broman says taking in too much caffeine could lead to your heart racing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain and high blood pressure. You may also feel hyper and not able to sit still.

“Caffeine also causes dependence,” Dr. Broman adds. “As a person uses more and more over time, they start to miss it when they don’t have it. They can withdraw from caffeine.

“That’s one of the most worrisome side effects, especially in kids. If a child is using a lot of caffeine and they stop, they can have attention problems and headaches. It can affect their performance in school and athletics.”

What to know

Here’s the formula to remember: Dr. Broman says for children and adolescents, limit daily caffeine consumption to 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. (You can easily find a pounds to kilograms converter online.)

For example, if a high school student weighs 120 pounds (or around 54 kilograms), they would want to stick to 135 milligrams of caffeine per day. One PRIME Energy drink has 200 milligrams of caffeine. A 20-ounce bottle of Coca Cola has 57 milligrams. Caffeine content in coffee can vary. So be vigilant about your health and seek out the numbers. Check the product label or look up the product online before you swing by the drive thru or go to the store.

Photo: Lisa Fotios/PEXELS
The formula, though, doesn’t mean two bottles of Coke or a half swig of PRIME per day will yield no consequences for a 120-pound teenager. Rather, Dr. Broman recommends people under 18 not ingest caffeine regularly at all. Parents, teachers and coaches should watch what young people are drinking. Make the energy drink or soda a once-in-a-while treat. Water flavored with fresh fruit can be an alternative or talk to a dietitian about what’s right for you.

“A lot of these caffeinated beverages are marketed and flavored to taste good for children,” Dr. Broman says. “The drinks may also be in the store displays right next to the non-caffeinated beverages. They can look almost the same. So, it’s often difficult for a young person to figure out, ‘Is this beverage caffeinated? Is this one non-caffeinated?’”

And remember, everyone reacts to caffeine differently. Like any other ailment, know your health history and how your body responds to things. If you have significant symptoms from a caffeine overdose, call 9-1-1 and take an ambulance to the emergency department.

“People with prior cardiac conditions are way more likely to have very dangerous side effects from the use of caffeine,” Dr. Broman says.

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