Anyone who's seen Dr. Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show before knows that one of his favorite topics is…poop. Just when we thought there was nothing left to say on this topic, we received this anonymous e-mail:
"Dr. Oz: I'm so embarrassed. This morning I had a B.M. [bowel movement], and I looked in the toilet to see if it was S-shaped. I saw what looked like dozens of tiny long worms. How could worms get in my poop? What do I do?"
"That's why Anonymous wants to remain anonymous," Oprah jokes.
Dr. Oz says Anonymous most likely has pinworm—the most common worm parasite in North America and Europe—which he says affects 20 percent of the kids in the United States. "By the way," Dr. Oz says, "[pinworm] is not dangerous."
"What happens is the little eggs get in your mouth, they hatch, they become active worms in the colon, and then the mothers go out of your anus at night when you're sleeping. They secrete little eggs and a chemical that makes your bottom itch. So you itch your bottom, you get the eggs on your fingertips, you put it on the toys you're playing with or a dish, and then it gets converted to someone else."
If you think your child has pinworm, Dr. Oz says there's a very easy test. "Take a piece of tape. Tape it over their [anus] at nighttime, and when the mother comes out and lays the eggs, you'll capture the eggs in the tape. Then take the tape to your doctor," he says. "It sounds spooky. It's very effective. You catch the eggs, you make a diagnosis, it's a simple treatment [of oral pills without many side effects]—not a big deal."
Parasites are incredibly common and not just found in children. Dr. Oz says 90 percent of humans will have a problem with parasites in their lifetime.
Can eating sushi lead to parasites?
In a word, no.
Dr. Oz says you can eat all the sushi you want without worrying about getting a parasite. "There's no question when the fish die there are often parasites in the gut that will go into the meat," Dr. Oz says. "But all the fish—sushi—that's served in this country is supposed to be frozen before you eat it. … It keeps it tasting fresh but it also kills the parasites, which is why they do it."
If for some reason the fish wasn't flash frozen, Dr. Oz says any well-trained sushi chef should be able to identify it as possibly harmful.
Can you get a bacterial infection from swimming in a lake?
Swimming in a lake could lead to some kind of parasitic infection, Dr. Oz says. "The most common waterborne parasite is called giardia, and giardia actually afflicts about 3 million people a year."
Giardia irritates your intestinal tract—similar to the feeling of a stomach virus. To tell the difference, Dr. Oz says you can take a blood test for it or you can watch your poop. Since it affects your ability to absorb food correctly, if you have giardia your poop will float. "That's one of the clues we'll sometimes look for when you have an intestinal parasite. It will destroy the way that you actually digest food."
Dr. Oz says the problem is that giardia is found in a lot of water in the United States—especially water that hasn't been purified or filtered.
If there's one thing Dr. Oz likes as much as talking about poop, it's props! This time he's brought along a real doozy.
"Wormzilla" is a tapeworm—a type of parasite that can grow up to 30 feet long.
Tapeworms attach their suckers to the hosts' stomach and siphon calories. The only thing their long bodies do is use up the calories they steal. "In fact, one of the things that folks who have tapeworms complain of is weight loss," Dr. Oz says.
The most common reason people get tapeworms is from eating raw meat. "Which," Dr. Oz says, "is the main reason humans began to cook their food."
Dr. Oz says other parasites may have played huge roles in human history. Some people think that hookworm may have cost the South the Civil War. People who didn't wear shoes were particularly vulnerable to contracting a hookworm infection, sometimes called "Southern anemia," which left the host weakened. Because many Southerners who didn't wear shoes as children developed "Southern anemia," they grew up to be poor choices to be Confederate soldiers. Meanwhile many Northern children wore leather shoes growing up and never contracted hookworm and remained healthy.
"You know how the hookworm got to the South? In the slave ships," Dr. Oz says. "It goes full circle."
Dr. Oz has already introduced Oprah to acupuncture. While that's a terrific way to get relief, it's not a technique people can do at home. For simple relief of headaches and stress, Dr. Oz says he likes acupressure. "The basic principle of acupuncture and acupressure are the same," he says. "The traditional Chinese technique is that you actually have energy meridians that go up your arm, and these lines of energy get disrupted sometimes and they can cause some of the subtle things that we complain about."
There's a simple acupressure technique that Dr. Oz says you can try on yourself.
Take your hand and pick a spot that's halfway between your thumb and your index finger. "If I push there gently with the tip of my finger, there's a little bit of discomfort," he says. Doing this for a few minutes is an effective treatment for headaches.
Do you easily get carsick? To alleviate motion sickness, Dr. Oz says to apply pressure right between the tendons "about three finger breadths" above your wrist.
In addition to this self-treatment, you can use a motion sickness bracelet. "The bracelets actually remind you to press there," Dr. Oz says. "That's why they work so well."
It might be difficult to try this acupressure technique on your own, but it's well worth finding a partner…it can relieve stress!
First, find your trapezius muscle on your shoulder. "If you move your finger up [your shoulder, to where] it becomes your neck, you push down there," Dr. Oz says. "Part of the beauty is you've got to be able to relax your shoulders."
There are a number of places on your foot that are perfect spots for acupressure, Dr. Oz says. One is right at the base of the foot, which can get rid of tension. Another is a bone halfway up the side of your foot—good for relieving menstrual pain, bloating and constipation.
If you push on the part of the foot next to the pinky toe, it can cure blurry vision and other eye problems. Dr. Oz says the science behind the relationship between the pinky toe and eye function is one of the breakthroughs in understanding the thousands-of-years-old knowledge present in Eastern medicine.
Dr. Oz says a medical manuscript showed that when pressure was put on that part of the foot, the brain function lit up in the back of the brain. "And guess what? The back of the brain controls your eyes. The occipital lobe controls your eyes. There's no connection between those two. There's no way for us with Western medicine to understand how that's possible. But it did light up."
A Grey's Anatomy episode featuring something called the "penis fish" left some fans wondering…is that real? According to Dr. Oz, it absolutely is! Dr. Oz says the penis fish, or candiru, is a member of the catfish family that lives in the Amazon River. He says the fish can swim into a person's penis or vagina.
"When it's a baby, it's translucent and it's very small, so it actually can wiggle its way up there," Dr. Oz says. Once the fish enters a person's body, it begins to grow. "The only way to get it out is to operate," Dr. Oz says.
Can wearing briefs harm a man's fertility? Hot tubs? Bike seats?
"There have been a couple studies going both directions," Dr. Oz says. According to Dr. Oz, the testicles are located outside a man's body in order to keep them cooler so the sperm can mature at the proper rate. "If you're putting on tight pants, especially if you're getting hot for other reasons, you actually can make it a little uncomfortable for the sperm and you may influence fertility rates."
Hot tubs can present another temperature issue for men. "Most of the time, I tell folks to spend less than a half an hour in a really hot environment and you'll be okay," Dr. Oz says. "But if you go past that period of time, and some folks do, you probably can affect fertility."
Some men are concerned that riding a bicycle can affect their fertility, but Dr. Oz says impotence, not fertility, could be the issue. A bicycle seat can restrict blood flow to the penis, Dr. Oz says, so it's important to make sure the seat actually fits to your body.
"This is important for women, too, because if women don't get blood supplying to their equivalent of the penis, which is the clitoris, it doesn't get hard," he says. "And so during orgasms or during sex, it won't get hard because blood's not going to it normally, so it can actually influence the quality of sex."
My daughter is showing signs of puberty at age 7. Should I be worried?
Dr. Oz says most girls do not show signs of puberty until they are at least 8 years old, but being overweight could start the process a little earlier. "We think that what happens when you get heavy, the fat comes alive and it actually takes the hormones in your body and starts converting them to estrogen, which is what actually starts the puberty process," Dr. Oz says. "The other thing that happens is you get more insulin. Most folks don't realize what insulin does besides the fact it controls blood sugar. … Insulin is an anabolic hormone. It builds you," he says.
Although other environmental factors could contribute to early puberty, Dr. Oz says being overweight is the most common cause. "The first thing I'd start out with is tell her to go outside and play," he says. "We can talk about foods and all those things, but the number one thing that little kids need to be able to do is go outside and do the things that historically humans have always done, which is expend energy by playing and having a good time."
During a previous Ask Dr. Oz show, an audience member named Amy, who suffers from sinusitis, bravely demonstrated the use of a nose bidet, or neti pot. Dr. Oz says the device can help clear mucus from your sinuses using warm saltwater. "It's actually filling up those little nooks and crannies that you have and allowing your body to evacuate that stuff so you can actually begin to function normally," he says.
Since then, Amy says she and her husband have used the neti pot every day! "It is fantastic. I have not had one sinus headache. I haven't spent any money on any cold products," she says.
Rachel, a member of the Harpo staff, benefited from the neti pot, too! "It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that it's been life-changing for me," she says. Rachel is a lifelong allergy sufferer, but since she began using the neti pot, her symptoms have eased up. "I can breathe at night. I'm not blowing my nose, you know, 30 times a day, which is my normal state of being for the last couple years," she says. "So thank you, Dr. Oz, because it was really a huge change for me and I'm very happy."
In the same Ask Dr. Oz show, Kelsey from California shared an embarrassing problem. "My feet are super stinky," she said. "I've tried wearing just open-toed shoes, and I wash my feet all the time in the shower. Nothing works."
Dr. Oz suggested a simple home remedy for Kelsey—soaking her feet in tepid iced tea. "The tannic acid in the tea will actually tan your foot a little bit, which will dry it out," he said. "That's helpful in reducing the amount of sweat, and the odor as well."
In just a few weeks, Kelsey says her smelly feet have undergone a drastic change. "Since the show, my life has totally changed. Not only did I get a haircut, but my feet don't smell anymore," she says. "Thank you, Dr. Oz, from the bottom of my sole!"
Dr. Oz says the secret to Kelsey's success is the tannic acid—which dries out the skin—but a few other simple remedies can help, too. "An open-toed shoe, ideally. Wear socks that are absorbent," he says. "But for a lot of folks, the only way to do it is to really dry it out."
Is there a cure for a hangover?
Dr. Oz says avoiding a hangover starts the night before when you are drinking. "You never really want to have alcohol without water next to it. You need the water to flush it through your system. That's pretty simple," he says. "But the alcohol you drink should be the color of water, ideally, as well." Dr. Oz says this is because darker alcohols contain more congeners, which he says are what causes hangovers.
If you wake up with a hangover, Dr. Oz says to eat something—especially eggs. "Eggs are effective because the eggs, in their yolk, have something called N-acetyl-cysteine," he says. "What it really is, is a way of giving your body antioxidants, and those antioxidants are critically important to your liver that's going to battle right now trying to cleanse all the junk that's left over."
Dr. Oz says taking aspirin can help reduce the inflammation caused by drinking. A cup of Joe doesn't hurt either. "Coffee's pretty effective, because alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol takes you down," he says. Unfortunately, when you sleep after drinking alcohol, Dr. Oz says it's not "good sleep." "[Alcohol] just sort of gets you into a sleepy period, and you're depressed all night long. Coffee's a stimulant, so it gets you going again in the morning."
Are left-handed people smarter than right-handed people?
"Well, in a way, left-handed people are smarter, and I'll tell you why," Dr. Oz says. "Left-handed people can deal with more incoming information that doesn't come in an organized way." Dr. Oz says this is because of the way the brain develops when a baby is in its mother's womb. "The left brain normally controls your right side, which is really powerful," he says. "[In left-handed people], it allows the other side, the right brain, to become an equal partner."
Because left-handed people can use both sides of their brain more readily, Dr. Oz says, they can process information coming into their brain in different ways more easily. "That's why athletes do so well when they're left-handed. And there are a lot of presidents who have been left-handed, and there are a lot of folks who, because they can deal with a lot of complicated issues at once, work pretty effectively," he says.
But Dr. Oz says although you may write with one hand, parts of the body on the other side—such as an eye—can still be dominant. To determine which eye is dominant, Dr. Oz says to cut a pencil-sized hole in a piece of paper and hold it away from your face. Look through the hole at an object using only your right eye, then only your left. Dr. Oz says whichever eye you can still see the object through the hole with is your dominant eye.
Dr. Oz says many people are dominant with one eye and dominant with the opposite hand. "There are lots of different reasons you want to know [which eye is dominant]. If you were playing sports, it's sort of helpful," he says. "But folks actually use their different parts of their brain very differently, and it's sort of cool to understand how it all comes up."
How are bunions formed? How can you prevent them?
While bunions can sometimes be genetic, Dr. Oz says wearing high-heeled shoes is often the culprit. "What classically happens is you step in these high-heeled shoes and you squish your toes into the bottom of the shoe, and the toes kink a little bit, which makes the bone [stick out]," he says.
Dr. Oz says not to worry about bunions if they aren't hurting. "It's not a big deal unless they do bother you," he says.
The best way to avoid bunions, Dr. Oz says, is to avoid shoes that are likely to contribute to their development. "Once the angle starts to go off the wrong way, your foot becomes inefficient as you walk," he says. "But that's why I think younger women in particular ought to pay attention to this issue."