What the Yuck?!
Your Most Personal Questions Answered
I keep getting yeast infections. Could my Spanx be to blame?
Spanx are hard to quit, for sure. You don’t have to go cold turkey. Just save your slimmers for short-term use and special occasions.
Q: Do flip-flops really protect me from catching something in the gym shower?
Your gym should be frequently cleaning the showers (and the walls, which are equally gross) in between users. If you don’t notice your health club doing this essential step, wait until you get home to shower off.
I have one breast that's much bigger than the other. Is that weird?
As long as this size difference isn’t new, you’re OK. But if one breast has suddenly gotten bigger or feels different (thicker, fuller, or lumpy), you need to be checked out by your doc. A unilateral (one-sided) change could be a sign of a cyst or even a tumor.
Are women with large breasts more likely to get breast cancer?
Big boobs can also make feeling lumps or detecting tumors more difficult. Larger breasts have more tissue, and the more tissue there is, the more you have to feel and inspect. That's why it’s important for women with larger breasts to visit their doctor annually (if not more often) for a clinical breast exam, and to get yearly mammograms if over 40.
RELATED: The Perfect Breast Shape, According to Science
Q: Suddenly, my bowel movements are green! What could that mean?
Most diet-related stool-color changes will clear up in a day or two, after the food makes its way through your system. But if the color persists or changes to a red or even black color, or if you have other symptoms like constant urges to go to the bathroom, vomiting, or stomach cramps, see your doctor promptly.
Does pubic hair have a point?
Q: Why do I seem to get drunk faster on Champagne than other drinks?
Also, because the Champagne-making process involves two fermentations, it contains more of certain chemicals (called congeners) that make hangovers worse. Guess that’s why we save it for special occasions!
Q: I've been craving sweets lately. Could that mean I have diabetes?
To break the cravings cycle, stick to three or more healthy meals a dayno skipping! Blowing off a meal can cause your blood sugar to drop and your body to seek a sugary solution.
Q: When celebs are hospitalized for exhaustion, what do they have exactly?
It is true that if you really overtax your bodyby abusing alcohol or drugs, not sleeping for days on end, starving yourself, or undergoing extreme physical stress (as you might experience doing your own stunts or filming in a remote location)you can wear yourself out and suffer physical symptoms such as a weakened immune system, malnutrition, dehydration, depression, and anxiety as a result.
So if a star gets the "exhaustion" label, it could be any or all of the above. Or she may just be wiped out. She checks into a clinic for a little R&R; we eat ice cream in our pajamas and watch “Oprah”!
I think I’m addicted to sugarI crave sweet snacks three or four times a day.
Another possible cause is low blood sugar. Eating is the best way to get it back up and break the cravings cycle. Have three meals a day—no skipping! Blowing off a meal can cause your blood sugar to drop and your body to seek a fix, like a hit of chocolate. Also, choose healthy foods that keep your blood sugar stable.
And when you do want something sweet, make life easier by reaching for smart hunger busters like fruit, or two or three peanut M&Ms. (The protein and fat in the nuts will slow the candy’s absorption, so your blood sugar won’t spike so high.) There’s no need to swear off all sweets, though. New research shows that if you deny yourself treats, you’ll tend to binge when you do eat them. So live a little!
My flow is so heavy that even super-absorbent tampons aren't enough. What can I do?
There is also a possibility that fibroids or polyps are causing your heavy periods. If that’s the case, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them.
When is the color of your stool a cause for concern?
Bright red blood in your stool could signal a polyp in your large intestine or rectum, rectal inflammation, diverticulosis, or even colon cancer. (Not to be confused with just a small smear of blood on your toilet paper, most likely caused by an anal fissure or hemorrhoid.) Tarry black stool can be a sign of older blood from higher up in your digestive tract, possibly due to a stomach or upper-gastrointestinal ulcer. And yellow stool may indicate a problem with fat digestion and absorption.
Most diet-related color changes will clear up in a day or two. If the unusual colors persist, or if you also have constant urges to go, vomiting, or stomach cramps, see your doc.
Is it OK to use scented body wash on my private parts?
Much like douches, scented bath products contain chemicals that can be irritating to the urethra and vagina and can increase your risk of urinary tract and yeast infections. Stick to plain, unscented soap and water, and wash the outer part of the vulva only.
Can you workout too much?
There’s also a psychological disorder called "exercise bulimia," or compulsive exercise, in which people work out excessively, often for hours at a time. They get so obsessed with sweating off unwanted calories that it negatively impacts other parts of their life, from their career to their relationships. If that’s you, try talking to a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.
Is it ok to stick a Q-Tip in your ear?
If your ears are feeling really clogged up, see your doctor, who can suggest ear drops to use at home, or safely remove blockage for you.
To stop your pain and avoid future problems, you need to prevent the need to strain. Try a high-fiber diet plus six to eight glasses of water a day. This combo can soften your stool, making it easier to empty your bowels. The best natural fiber sources are whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, but in a pinch a supplement will do.
For temporary relief from pain or itching, you might try an OTC cream or a sitz bath (an apparatus that allows you to soak your bum in warm water while sitting on the toilet). Ask your doctor about adding salt or baking soda to the water for additional relief.
What Are the Signs of IBS?
To combat the messy effects of this gut-brain connection, try an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine, such as Imodium, on the mornings you know you’ve got something stressful ahead of you, like a meeting with the boss. Relaxation techniques (yoga, cardio, or meditation) may also help. In any case, see your doctor to confirm that you have IBS; she may want to rule out other conditions, or she may suggest therapy and possibly an antidepressant, among other treatments, to ease the problem.
What's causing these weird bumps on my thighs?
The condition will sometimes go away on its owngive it a weekbut if it doesn’t, moisturizing while your skin is wet could fix it. Look for a moisturizer like Eucerin Plus Intensive Repair Lotion ($11.99; drugstores) with urea or propylene glycol, chemicals that can help soften rough skin. Also, twice daily, apply a nonprescription lotion that contains lactic acid (such as AmLactin, $14); lactic acid should remove the extra keratin.
I bruise really easily. Should I be worried?
If you experience nosebleeds along with bruising, or if the bruises are large and painful or appeared after you began taking a new medication, see your doctor to rule out a serious illness or drug complication.
Sometimes I see little brown specks floating in my field of vision. Should I be worried?
If you start having them while seeing flashes of light, though, or suddenly get a bunch at once, see an ophthalmologist right awayyou could have a tear in your retina, which may lead to vision loss if not treated ASAP.
I’ve heard of a company claiming to be making ice cream out of human breast milk. Is this safe to eat?
The cow’s milk found in dairy products we get in stores, however, is protected by a web of FDA safety requirements designed to ensure that it comes from healthy livestock and is processed to avoid possible contamination. This is one case where breast isn’t best.
What's up with those UV-light dryers at the nail salon? Could they make you wrinkle faster? Or even give you skin cancer?
In fact, a recent report in Archives of Dermatology said that using them may be a risk factor for the development of skin cancer. Also, we know that UV light increases your risk of cancer (and wrinkles), and if you're going to the nail salon every two weeks (or weekly), that will add up to significant exposure. My two cents? Use them sparingly, or, better yet, let your nails dry on their own. It may take a bit longer, but it's worth the effort to save your skin.
Can I have caffeine before a workout or race?
Another potential side effect? Diarrheasomething you definitely don't want during a race.
Do I need to buy new makeup after I get a cold sore?
All this might be a big bummer, but at least you don't need to worry about reinfecting yourself with contaminated makeup, since you already have HSV-1 for life. However, the virus is very contagious, and it can pass to someone else even when you don't have a visible lesion, so don't share your makeup with anyone.
Should I get tested for vitamin deficiency?
Does getting a concussion cause any long-term damage in adults?
Be careful to avoid another head injury soon after, while your brain is still healing, because you can develop potentially fatal brain swelling. As we've been learning from NFL players, getting multiple concussions is linked to an increased risk of dementia, so take precautions, like wearing a helmet, when you bike or ski.
Suddenly, sex is painful for me. Should I worry?
Is it possible to be literally addicted to chocolate?
I get way more mosquito bites than other people. Why—and what can I do about it?
To protect yourself, limit skin exposure by wearing long sleeves and pants; avoid wearing perfume and dark colors (which may attract mosquitoes); and try an insect repellent with DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin.
I love to travel, but I always end up constipated. Any way to prevent that?
My doctor told me I have borderline high cholesterol and should watch my diet. I don't eat a lot of fatty foods, so what else should I do?
If you want to raise "good" HDL cholesterol, increase aerobic exercise: Working out frequently can boost HDL by up to 5 percent in two months. Shoot for 30 minutes a day five days a week.
My skin gets really itchy whenever I work out. What's going on?
More rare is an allergic reaction called cholinergic urticaria, which is an outbreak of itching or hives caused by your own sweat. For most people, the condition will go away on its own. You can take an antihistamine for it, but do check with your doctor first, especially if you're also experiencing shortness of breaththat signals a true anaphylactic reaction from exercise and can quickly turn into an emergency. Your doctor can prescribe medications and advise you on other preventive steps so you can get your sweat on safely.
I think I might have a food intolerance. Can I do an elimination diet on my own?
The exceptions: If you think you have a gluten intolerance, it's a good idea to be tested by a doctor for celiac disease, an immune response in the gut, before you eliminate it from your diet. And if you're not sure what may be causing your symptoms or you think you have multiple intolerances, it may be useful to have a registered dietitian (find one at eatright.org) help you map out a more complicated plan in which you slash your intake down to basics, then slowly add foods back.
My boobs are naturally lumpy. How will I know if I find a bad one?
Does eating sugar really depress the immune system?
We do know that obese people tend to have weakened immunitywhich means anything that increases weight, including sugar and excess calories, can be harmful to your immune system. Plus, if you are eating a lot of sugar, those foods could be replacing healthy whole foods that support your immune system. Bottom line: If you're trying to keep sick days at bay, stick to nutrient-dense foods and keep your sugar intake low.
I want to be proactive about staying healthy. Should I get a full-body scan?
Is it true that a hair dryer is loud enough to harm your hearing?
Recently my lips got very itchy after I ate shrimp. Could I have suddenly become allergic?
Is laser hair removal really safe?
I started a new birth control pill two months ago and have been spotting a lot. What gives?
But there's a slight chance that overall hormone levels aren't yet high enough (maybe because you've been on antibiotics or had an illness with vomiting), which might cause the pill to be ineffective. Use a backup form of birth control, and keep panty liners in your bag. Also, take the pill at the same time every day to help keep hormone levels consistent.
If the spotting lasts longer than three months or becomes heavier, see your doctor, who can rule out an infection or other issue and recommend a different method of birth control.
Do those brain-training games and apps actually do anything to improve memory?
If you're looking to improve the health and function of your brain, you're probably better off getting regular exercise, managing your stress and eating more brain foods, like leafy green vegetables (for the B vitamins) and fatty fish (for the omega-3s).
I feel drowsy all the time, even when I get plenty of sleep. Why could that be?
In rarer cases, it could signal something more serious. Sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder that occurs when your breathing is interrupted at night, causing you to briefly wake up. This can happen up to hundreds of times a night, preventing you from going into a deep sleep. Loud snoring is another telltale symptom of sleep apnea.
Drowsiness can also signal hypothyroidism, which means your thyroid gland isn't producing enough of the hormones needed to regulate your metabolism. Other symptoms include dry skin and sensitivity to cold. Check with your doctor, who can run blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.
The skin under my eyebrows is really flaky! Could I have dandruff there?
If that doesn't work, the flakes are apt to be dandruff. It sounds weird, but you can get dandruff in every area your hair growsincluding your eyebrows. Wherever you find it, dandruff is typically caused by oily skin or sensitivity to certain products. Massaging a small amount of a mild dandruff shampoo into your eyebrows can help. But if the condition persists or you're itchy, be sure to see a dermatologist, who may prescribe a medicated shampoo. She can also rule out a more serious skin condition, such as eczema or dermatitis.
Is there any real benefit to the alkaline diet?
Nevertheless, the diet probably won't hurt you. It boils down to consuming more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and cutting back on sodium and saturated fat, both of which are certainly healthy changeseven if they're not revolutionary.
Every time I exercise outside in the summer, my allergies take over. What can I do?
Also, it's helpful to wear a hat and sunglasses to keep pollen out of your hair and eyes. And when you get back, take a shower and put your clothes in the wash immediately to stop allergens from spreading in your home.
Finally, keep the drug levels in your system steady by taking your meds regularly during high allergy season.
I've heard that as long as a mole has hair growing out of it, it's not cancerous. Is that true?
You should already be scheduling annual skin checks with your derm, but don't be shy about having anything troublinga changing mole or a new growthinvestigated as soon as possible. Melanoma can be highly aggressive, so early treatment is key.
I can't seem to get rid of my yeast infection. What's going on?
Yeast infections normally easy to remedy with over-the-counter creams. There are a few possible reasons why yours is proving extra tough to shake. First, you might not have a yeast infection. Other problems, like bacterial vaginosis, can cause itching or discharge that require antibiotics rather than antifungals to treat.
If it is in fact yeast, you might need prescription antifungal pills in addition to creams. Less commonly, a persistent infection may signal a more serious condition, such as diabetes or an immune system disorder.
But some women just seem to have a yeast problem that requires a few extra steps. Excess heat and moisture down there create a hospitable environment for yeast. And avoid spermicidal creams and scented tampons or pads. Chemicals in these products can throw off the vagina's natural pH balance.
All of a sudden I'm sweating a lot more than I used to. Is something wrong?
Certain drugs, like some antibiotics, antidepressants and pain relievers, can also cause excessive sweating. Your doc may be able to prescribe an alternative. Increased sweating can also be a symptom of an over- or underactive thyroid gland.
Another cause? Low blood sugar, which happens when the body overproduces insulin after, for example, a large carb-heavy meal. Other symptoms can include nausea and feeling weak or dizzy. Low blood sugar may also signal that your adrenal glands aren't producing enough hormones. The condition is fixable with medication, so see your doctor if you notice a big, sudden change in the sweating department.
Should I try to eat super healthy right before I get my cholesterol tested?
I can't seem to lose weight. Is something wrong with me?
Another possibility is an underactive thyroid, the gland that produces hormones that regulate your metabolism. Signs include weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and constipation. Your doctor can do a blood test and prescribe meds to get your metabolism back on track.
A rarer culprit is Cushing's syndrome. This is when you have too much of the hormone cortisol. It is most commonly due to long-term, high-dose use of corticosteroid drugs. Your doctor can taper your dose. If meds aren't to blame, your adrenal glands could be producing excess cortisol; the problem may be treated with surgery.
My doctor wants me to take a high dose of vitamin D. Should I?
Research linking vitamin D deficiency to poor health has been piling up over the last decade. In fact, two recent studies in BMJ found that people with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to die from cancer and heart disease and suffer from other diseases. And it's hard to get what you need from food alone. Though there is some in fortified milk, many fortified breakfast cereals and fatty fish like salmon, the main way to get vitamin D is via sun exposure, which can be challenging as the days get shorter in the fall. If you don't live in a sunny climate, it's a good idea to take a daily supplement (I recommend 1,000 IU) to keep your levels up.
When I get a massage, I'm always told to drink lots of water after to flush the toxins from my system. Is that for real?
Sex hurts at certain times in my cycle. What's going on?
But if sex hurts regularly, get checked for endometriosis, which is when tissue that usually lines the inside of your uterus grows outside of it. The pressure caused by sex on this area may lead to pain. Other symptoms include intense menstrual cramps, heavy periods and infertility. Your doc will likely do a pelvic exam and ultrasound to look for signs of endometriosis, but to confirm the diagnosis you might need laparoscopic surgery. Milder cases of endometriosis can be treated with birth control pills; more serious cases require surgery to remove the tissue growth.