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Seniors Don't Need Calcium, Vitamin D Supplements

Seniors are wasting their time and money taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to ward off the brittle bones of old age, a new review concludes.

It turns out there's little evidence supplements protect against hip fracturesand other broken bones in older folks, according to data gathered from dozens of clinical trials.

"The routine use of these supplements is unnecessary in community-dwelling older people," said lead researcher Dr. Jia-Guo Zhao, an orthopedic surgeon with Tianjin Hospital in China. "I think that it is time to stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements."

Not all experts agreed with this conclusion, however. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Smith says the study makes a "bold leap" by arguing that these supplements do no good at all.

"The big picture, which seems to be lost in this study, is that the personal health cost of a hip fracture can be catastrophic," said Smith, an assistant professor of orthopedics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

"The potential benefit of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in preventing even a small number of hip fractures far outweighs the otherwise minimum risks associated with routine calcium and vitamin D supplementation in at-risk populations," Smith added.

It's been longstanding medical advice that aging people focus on getting enough calcium and vitamin D to preserve their bone health as they age.

About 99 percent of the calcium in the human body is stored in the bones and teeth, and the body cannot produce the mineral on its own, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Too little calcium can lead to osteoporosis. The body also requires vitamin D to absorb calcium.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women aged 50 or younger and men 70 or younger should get 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. Men and women older than that should get 1,200 mg daily.

For their analysis, Zhao and his colleagues combed through medical literature to find clinical trials that previously tested the usefulness of calcium and Vitamin D supplements. They wound up with data from 33 different clinical trials involving more than 51,000 participants, all of whom were older than 50 and living independently.

Most of the clinical trials took place in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, Zhao said. The dosage of the supplements varied between the clinical trials, as did the frequency at which they were taken.

The pooled data revealed no significant association between calcium or vitamin D supplements and a person's risk of hip fracture or other broken bones, compared with people who received placebos or no treatment at all.

Calcium and vitamin D are still essential to bone health, but these results indicate you should get them through your diet and lifestyle rather than from supplements, Zhao explained.

"Dietary calcium is irreplaceable for skeletal health," Zhao said. "Milk, vegetable, fruit and bean products are the most important food sources of calcium."

"Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin in response to ultraviolet-B radiation in sunlight, and dietary sources of vitamin D are limited," Zhao continued. Exercising out in the sunshine should provide a person with all the vitamin D they need.

Potential dietary sources of these nutrients prove one of the weaknesses of the evidence review, Smith argued.

"While this study addresses concerns regarding calcium and vitamin D supplementation, it fails to address or even consider whether the patients in question are obtaining either adequate calcium and vitamin D intake in their diets or sunlight exposure, obviating the need for supplementation," Smith said.

The evidence review also included a large amount of data from the Women's Health Initiative, a federally funded study of aging U.S. women, said Andrea Wong, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs with the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers.

"Unfortunately, the WHI data has been widely acknowledged as having limitations of its own having to do with subjects not taking the supplements as directed by the protocol, as well as those who took calcium and vitamin D supplements on their own, outside the protocol, before and during the study," Wong said.

Inclusion of the WHI might have skewed the overall results of the review, Wong argued.

In addition, later reviews of the WHI data indicated that people who started taking calcium and vitamin D supplements had a reduced risk of hip fractures and other broken bones, Wong said.

"CRN recommends that people discuss their individual needs for calcium and vitamin D with their health care practitioners," she said.

"If there is the possibility of reducing the risk of a devastating fracture by supplementing with calcium and vitamin D, as some research has found, people should not be dissuaded from supplementation by a meta-analysis that is meant as a general recommendation and may not apply to each individual," Wong added.

The new analysis was published Dec. 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Do Girls Think Boys Are Smarter?

As a pediatrician, I enjoy talking with my patients about school. Recently, I saw a 9-year-old girl and asked about her favorite subject. She smiled and told me art, and then proceeded to say she didn’t like math. When asked why, she responded that she wasn’t very good at it.

Girls of all ages have internal biases about their abilities and can have low self-esteem more frequently than boys their own age. Now, recently published research seems to suggest girls think boys are smarter than they are, starting at about age 6.

In a study published in Journal of Science, researchers assigned various tasks to a group of 5-7 year old children. In one task, they told the children a story about a “really, really smart person” (a child-level description of brilliant). When asked whether it was the picture of a professionally dressed man or woman, girls 6 and above were more likely to point to the picture of a man. In a related task, girls were more likely to shy away from games that were supposedly for “children who are really really smart.” Younger girls, below age 6, did not seem to have these biases, researchers said.

I reached out to two experts to get their thoughts on these findings.

Heather Pressley, VP of Programming for Girls on The Run (GOTR), oversees program development for the organization, a physical activity-based positive youth development program for girls in grades 3-8. She’s also a former teacher and has a PhD in urban education.

Pressley felt the findings of this study were not surprising. “It may be because at age 6, most girls enter school and have the influence of others that may be subconsciously biased. Schools, teachers, parents and other students may unintentionally propagate these feelings in girls.”

Pressley suggested that teachers and administrators recognize their own possible subconscious bias and give both genders the same exposure to different subjects. This would promote the same confidence and competence in all areas. Additionally, they should put girls in extracurricular programs which have a “mastery climate” and a “growth mindset” – showing that talents and strengths can be developed, as opposed to believing you’re good at something or you aren’t — to help them consider subjects such as science or mathematics, she says.

Kristin Carruthers, a clinical psychologist who practices at Child Mind Institute and specializes in ADHD and behavorial disorders, felt similarly.

Carruthers said we could potentially change this by praising girls regularly about their “smartness.” Talk about their accomplishments – like helping calculate the cost of an item in a store or doing well on a math test — to help increase self-esteem and confidence. Long-term, low self-esteem could influence college choices and careers. Because they think they are not smart, some girls are less likely to take on what they perceive as challenges.

Women are inclined to pick majors that are not in science, math or technology, traditionally viewed as “challenging” subjects. In the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report, less than 30% of women graduated with degrees in science and engineering in 2014, and interestingly this has changed by just 1% over the last decade.

Low self-esteem also can be a risk factor for other issues such as anxiety, depression, weight gain, and eating disorders, and it can affect other facets of life and can play out as difficulty in relationships.

Here are some actions I recommend for parents:

1. Let your daughter know, at every opportunity, that she can do whatever she wants as long as she puts her mind to it.

2. Treat your sons and daughters the same way. If you ask your daughter to help with the dishes, ask your son just as often.

3. Be vigilant about media in the home, on the internet and on tablets and phones. If you see a commercial or a video portraying a woman in a stereotypical role, talk to your kids about it. Use it as a teaching moment.

4. If you see a good role model who is a woman, point her out and talk about it with your children. This could be a tennis star or a CEO of a company, or just the high school kid next door who is an A+ student.

Most important, be a good role model yourself. Kids are more likely to do what we do, not what we preach. If a girl sees her mother being critical of herself, especially of how she looks or how intelligent she is, she’s encouraged to do the same.

Remember, moms need to celebrate themselves and their accomplishments. If we do that, it will help teach our daughters to do that too, and hopefully to take on challenges because they think they are worthy of them.

Where Salt Is Hiding (and Why You Need to Find It)

Have you been told you need to cut back on sodium? This advice is frequently given by doctors, especially to those with high blood pressure – but it’s easier said than done. In reality, cutting back on sodium can be very hard to do.

When people think about reducing sodium in their diets, they assume that means eliminating the salt shaker at the table – one of the most common things I hear from my patients is that they “never add salt to their food.” Unfortunately, that by no means ensures they are eating a low sodium diet.

In fact, only 5% of dietary sodium is added during home cooking and only 6% is added at the table. More than 75% of the sodium Americans eat comes from restaurant, prepackaged, and processed foods. The remaining 12% of dietary sodium occurs naturally in foods. In other words, your food is loaded with sodium even before you pick up the salt shaker!

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people consume under 2300 mg of sodium per day, which is the amount of sodium found in one teaspoon of salt. But remember, 2300 mg is the upper limit of recommended sodium intake – aiming for under 1500 mg is better. Even people who are very active and lose sodium through sweating don’t need more than 1500 mg/day. The average American takes in twice that much: 3400 mg/day.

Where are we getting all of this sodium? More than 40% of the sodium we are eating every day comes from only a handful of foods:

Top Sources of Sodium

Breads and rolls
Cold cuts and cured meats
Pasta dishes (not including mac and cheese)
Meat dishes
Let’s take a look at a typical sandwich that most people would assume is a healthy choice. This graphic from the CDC shows that, in reality, that “healthy” sandwich is actually a salt bomb.

Sodium is sneaky. It hides in plain sight. The items we think are good for us because they’re “lean” or “high in protein” or “whole grain” might be loaded with sodium – and not even taste salty.  To really get a sense of how much sodium you are ingesting, you have to start being a detective and reading nutrition panels (I bet you’ll be shocked). And don’t forget to look at your beverages – Gatorade has 110 mg per cup.

It’s worth all the detective work, though – an overload of sodium sets the stage for increased heart attack and stroke risk. Extra sodium in our blood stream causes more water to be retained inside our blood vessels, increasing blood volume and causing blood pressure to rise. Higher blood pressures mean more wear and tear on your arteries, accelerating plaque buildup and predisposing you to blood vessel rupture. And that translates into an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Increased water retention inside blood vessels can also lead to edema – the accumulation of fluid within tissues, like those in your feet and around your ankles. If you get ankle swelling, one of the most important things you can do is reduce the amount of sodium in your diet.

And, if your heart function is compromised for any reason, increasing blood volume can put an extra strain on your heart leading to shortness of breath and even fluid accumulation in the lungs. Patients diagnosed with congestive heart failure have to be especially careful about reducing sodium in their diet.

Should You Be Using a Skin Mask?

Skin masks, though trendy, are really nothing new. Women have been putting hope in them since ancient times. Egyptian and Greek women made theirs with clay. Roman women were convinced that sheep oils were beneficial – but the smell was horrible. Other interesting Roman mask ingredients were urine, bile, swan’s fat, and excrement (yum!).

Though women have been using masks for thousands of years, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re essential to beautiful skin. Remember – back then, women didn’t really have many choices in skin care!

So, are masks really necessary? Let’s examine some of the myths about their power.

Myth #1: Masks are purifying. False. What exactly would a mask be purifying anyway? When you think about it, skin doesn’t really need purifying. Sure, our pores can get clogged sometimes, but that’s a different issue. Your face doesn’t sweat much, so that’s not a problem. Environmental pollutants? They can sit on top of the skin, but they can’t penetrate it because the molecules are too big. Drugs, alcohol, and other chemical contaminants are ingested and eliminated through the kidneys and liver primarily – not the skin. Bottom line: Skin purification is a marketing concept.

Myth #2: Masks can unclog pores. True. If you exfoliate first and then use an alpha hydroxy acid mask (or some clay masks) it can soften the dead cell plugs and make them easier to remove. Also, the “sticky” masks that dry and then peel off, like the Biore strips for the nose, can take some of the plugs and dead skin cells with them as you peel them off.

Myth # 3: Masks can hydrate. True. Skin hydration happens from both the inside and the outside. Yes, you absolutely need to drink water to keep your skin hydrated. But anyone who lives in the desert, flies a lot, or works in air conditioning can tell you that the humidity in the environment makes a difference. So, if you use a moisturizing mask and leave it on for at least 15-20 minutes, you can help hydrate your skin temporarily.

Myth #4: Masks can feed and nourish the skin. True and false.True in that skin can absorb minerals, lipids, hydration, vitamins, etc. from external sources, like masks and other cosmetics. These products can give our skin a boost when used regularly.

But false in that the best, most stable, consistent nourishment and hydration for any organ comes from our circulation, our bloodstream – not from the outside.

Now that we’ve talked what masks really can – and can’t – do, which kind of mask should you use?

The Clay Mask. Natural clay can have up to 75 different minerals in it, but it also has a lot of unwanted bacteria and other microorganisms. Clay sold in masks has to be processed to get rid of the bacteria which may alter the mineral content. Still, clay masks tend to be oil absorbing and nice for acne-prone and oily skin.

The Peel-off Mask. Charcoal-based or other sticky masks cling to the skin when they dry. When you peel them off, they pull dead skin, bacteria, hairs, and debris off the face. Peeling off the mask may be painful, so it should be done slowly. They are not the best option for people with sensitive or dry skin. Charcoal masks are recommended for those with oily, acne-prone skin, as they reduce excess oil and can help remove blackheads and whiteheads (comedones).

The Alpha-Hydroxy Acid Mask. Due to the acidity of these masks, they are not great for those with sensitive skin. They provide “chemical” rather than peel-off exfoliation. These masks are good for unplugging pores and getting the skin cells a little more active to get back that “glow.” Stronger ones are best done by a good aesthetician or in your doctor’s office.

The Sheet Mask. Not advised unless from an established company. These are made of a fabric soaked in a serum that is placed over the face and left to sit. The sheet traps in the serum and allows absorption into the skin. An article in Racked, a media journal focusing on pop culture and fashion, reports unsanitary packaging processes that raise concern for the safety of sheet masks. According to the article, several Korean brands use at-home packaging, rather than packaging in a sanitary factory or facility, making the safety of these products questionable.

The Moisturizing Mask. These come in many forms, including varieties that are more organic and natural. Great for dry skin, a pre-event pick up, sensitive skin, relaxation, etc. It’s hard to go wrong with these unless you have acne and oily skin.

In short, the right mask for the right skin type can be a good supplement to a great skin care regimen.

The No. 1 risk factor for all the big diseases -- cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s -- is aging.

But instead of treating the diseases, could a drug treat the aging process itself?

That’s the idea behind a growing area of research drawing extensive support from both government and private donors, including millions from Silicon Valley executives like Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. While federal science agency budgets have struggled in the past decade, funding at the National Institute on Aging has risen more than 50% since 2007.

Researchers are seeking a drug to push back the most serious consequences of aging -- and keep people healthy, active, and alert years longer, a notion they call “health span.”

“I’m not interested in creating a population that lives to be 200, because that would be a problem for the world we live in,” says Corinna Ross, PhD, a biologist at Texas A&M University in San Antonio. “But if we can keep people out of nursing home care and reduce the number of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, that would be ideal.”

What scientists know about aging has advanced sharply in the past 2 decades as they learn more about what drives the aging process within cells. With the race on to find an anti-aging pill, two of the most promising ones are drugs that already exist: metformin and rapamycin.


Doctors have prescribed metformin, the most common drug to treat type 2 diabetes, for about 60 years. But it’s received new attention as a possible anti-aging drug after researchers in Britain found that people with diabetes who took it outlived some of their peers who did not have the disease by 15%.

“They compared them to a whole bunch of people who were matched for weight and smoking and [other factors] but who didn’t have diabetes,” says Steven Austad, PhD, chairman of the biology department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “It turned out the diabetics on metformin were living longer than the non-diabetics who were not on metformin. ... It was very, very intriguing.”

Austad is a bio-gerontologist and scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research. The organization is trying to raise about $65 million in federal and private funding for what Austad says would be the first human trial of an anti-aging drug. Researchers would give the drug to people ages 65 to 80 with no chronic conditions, then wait to see how long it takes until their next major health problem shows up, Austad says.

Scientists believe the drug works in the mitochondria, the powerhouses in the body’s cells that convert sugars like glucose into energy. Austad says metformin makes those powerhouses run more efficiently, reducing the release of substances known as free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells, hurting their ability to reproduce and causing defects.

Metformin may also activate an enzyme that controls the body’s demand for energy. Austad says that activation mimics the effect of a low-calorie diet, something researchers say can extend life span in laboratory animals.



Biologist Ross is one of several scientists who have looked into the potential life-extending effects of rapamycin. This potent drug, also known as sirolimus and the brand name Rapamune, is most often used in chemotherapy and to keep the bodies of transplant patients from rejecting a new organ. Studies show that the drug can extend life span in mice, roundworms, and monkeys known as marmosets.

Like metformin, rapamycin works on a cell’s mitochondria, where it may change how cells burn glucose, Ross says. Researchers suspect rapamycin can keep the mitochondria running smoothly longer.

“The image I teach to my students is the idea of a factory running out of control, and it’s just spewing stuff out the windows, and you’ve got a negative cascade effect,” Ross says. Preventing mitochondria running wild and burning out can head off effects like inflammation -- a common contributor to age-related diseases.

Rapamycin “works in everything from yeast to mice. It works in multiple mouse strains and backgrounds. It works in both sexes,” says biologist Brian Kennedy, PhD former president of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, CA. “I think it’s really exciting.”

For example, the drug has extended life span in mice by 30% to 50%, Austad says. And multiple animal studies show its promise for protecting against cancer and heart disease, as well as degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s.

But it has some powerful side effects.

Rapamycin can cause mouth sores, cataracts, and diabetes. It can also raise the risks of infection, bleeding, and some types of cancers, such as skin cancer. It can cause high blood pressure, fever, and anemia.

Kennedy says much of the rapamycin research under way is aimed at figuring out how to reduce its side effects. What researchers know about the drug’s side effects comes from people who already have serious health problems and who usually take it in combination with other drugs. But they don’t know whether those same issues would happen in healthier people taking the drug on its own.

So while rapamycin appears to produce more dramatic results, metformin is likely to get a clinical trial in humans first, Kennedy says.

“Metformin has been in millions of people. It’s pretty safe as drugs go,” he says. And as doctors and scientists delve deeper into anti-aging research, “The last thing we want is a drug that’s going to cause toxicity and have something like that happen, because that’s going to set the whole deal back.”

Ross’s marmoset study, published in 2015, was the first to look at rapamycin’s side effects in healthy primates. Like humans, marmosets have a higher risk of heart problems and metabolic illnesses when they’re obese. The study found no notable metabolic problems in a group of the monkeys who received rapamycin in human-equivalent doses for a year, and they lost significant amounts of body fat in the early months.

Beyond metformin and rapamycin, other research has looked at the potential anti-aging role of various drugs, hormones, and food compounds, with mixed or uncertain results:

  • Resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and nuts, may reduce stress that leads to cell aging. Research shows it can extend life span in yeast, worms, and fish, but these effects haven’t been demonstrated in humans yet.
  • Acarbose, a diabetes drug that can block the body’s absorption of carbohydrates, showed promise in male mice, but did little for females, Kennedy says.
  • A hormone called 17-alpha-estradiol, a type of the female hormone estrogen, has shown “great promise” in extending longevity in mice, Austad says. But its side effects haven’t been investigated enough to know what risks they may pose.

Kennedy says being able to prevent some of the most debilitating age-related illnesses holds out the hope of a better life.

“We’re better at keeping people alive with various diseases of aging, but we rarely bring them back to full health,” he says. “I think it’s going to be much better for the quality of life of the individual, and much better economically, if we can just keep them from getting sick in the first place.”

If you have high blood pressure (readings persistently over 140/90 mmHg), the most important thing you can do is eliminate the factors in your lifestyle that are driving your BP northward. Eliminate those and you might avoid the need for medications, or at least reduce the amounts required to control your readings. Here’s how lifestyle changes can impact your blood pressure:

Losing weight — 5-20 mmHg decrease per 20 lbs weight lost

Eating a healthy diet — 8-14 mmHg decrease

Reducing sodium — 2-8 mmHg decrease

Regular physical activity — 4-9 mmHg decrease

Reducing alcohol consumption — 2-4 mmHg decrease

Put all these together and you can realize anywhere from a 20 to 55 mmHg drop on your own. That’s the same kind of result you’d get from being on a bunch of medications!

Eating right should be a cornerstone of your efforts, since diet affects so many of the other factors that impact your blood pressure readings. And because sodium is so hard to avoid, you’ll need to be especially diligent in this area. One easy way to reduce sodium intake: Eat an apple or other piece of fruit or some raw vegetables before you dig into anything else you might have for lunch or dinner. You might then just have a few fewer bites of your pizza or higher sodium entrée. No, it’s not a perfect plan, but it’s simple – and over time, can represent a significant sodium reduction (while improving overall dietary quality and helping you lose weight).

And even if your blood pressure readings are only “borderline” or “mildly abnormal” right now, it’s still very important to make these lifestyle changes. Taking steps to lower your readings now can keep your blood pressure problem from progressing into something more dangerous.

The holiday season can be a challenging time for pain management. For many, the transition to colder and more blustery weather means extra aches and pains. Beyond just the winter weather, the holidays can also be a time of added stress, excessive travel, poor eating (and drinking) habits, and too little sleep. All of this can lead to inopportune pain flare-ups that put a big “bah humbug” into your season’s festivities.

Here are some easy strategies to help you get through the holidays with less pain and more joy:

1. Have a Communication Strategy: Holiday get-togethers with friends and family, or even meeting new people at parties, can sometimes lead to stressful social interactions. Whether it be awkward conversations about your health or heated arguments about politics, holiday chatter has the potential to escalate your anxiety and anger and tense up those already sore body parts. When you hear somebody start to press your buttons, try not to fire back; instead, take some slow deep breaths and transition the conversation topic or smile and move on to a different group. If you know you are going into a stressful situation, have a partner with you, where the two of you agree ahead of time to work together to unwind from toxic conversations. Keep in mind that you can’t control what others say or do, but you can control how you react to it!

2. Eat Plants First: It’s no secret that many Americans put on a few pounds around the holidays. All of the yummy baked goods, along with social gatherings that involve eating, can take its toll. First, foods with added sugar or a lot of carbohydrates (cookies, cakes, etc.) create blood glucose spikes which promotes inflammation at a cellular level. Processed foods are likely high in salt and artificial ingredients which further increases swelling and bloating. And gaining just a few extra pounds can put added stress on painful joints and spines.  To avoid missing out on all of the goodies, start off by eating the healthy choices first, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and lean protein. Then when you move on to more decadent choices, you will be less likely to over-indulge.

3. Pace Yourself: Try not to schedule too many activities in one day and avoid putting yourself in situations that are too physically taxing. Set aside some time in your day to relax, meditate, exercise, or just go for a nice walk to avoid burnout. If you are traveling, check your bags at the curb and avoid the stress of lugging them on the plane or train and hoisting them into the overhead bin. Make a point to avoid prolonged sitting or driving if that bothers your back, and set a timer to take breaks when doing physical tasks like shoveling snow or hanging lights.

4. Watch Your Mood: For a variety of reasons, I see a lot of my patients struggle with extra levels of depression, anxiety, and stress this time of year. If you can relate, then consider doing some preventive work to avoid excessive mood swings. Spend a few minutes each day engaging in activities that calm your nervous system. That could mean pulling out an adult coloring book, listening to relaxing music, or trying some therapeutic breathing exercises. Avoid the winter blues by making a point of getting outdoors in the middle of the day, or try some phototherapy with a light box for 20 minutes. Be sure to unplug from your smartphone and social media, and try boosting your mood with 30 minutes of an activity you enjoy. Don’t hesitate to seek help from a counselor or trusted resource as opposed to fighting it alone.

5. Stay on Top of Your Sleep: Poor sleep directly correlates with more pain, so burning the candle at both ends won’t do you any favors. Engage in healthy sleep hygiene habits during the holidays as much as possible and try to stick to your normal sleep cycle whenever possible. So, avoid shopping online at all hours of the night and don’t be the last one to leave a party. Alcohol consumption can interfere with high-quality REM sleep, so look for healthy alternatives like sparkling water. Poor sleep or too much alcohol can also set you up for a bad headache the next day.

For the next few weeks, try to slow down and be in the moment. “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and a glorious New Year!

When I was going through cancer treatment, some friends from my daughter’s school organized a meal train for our family. Other friends visited from the East Coast and cooked for us. We were grateful for all of it.

And, if I’m being really honest – it would have been great if it had continued for a few months after the high drama. I love to cook, but during cancer treatment and a long time afterward, I just felt too tired to do it.

Back in 2010, when I was going through cancer, I pretty much just had to suck it up. But now there’s another solution: meal kits.

I’m still not sure if I would do meal kits, because I hate being told what to do. But some of my support group acquaintances swear by them. They say that the kits reduce hassle and can be cost-effective. One woman even said that doing meal kits for a year helped her lose weight.

If you don’t like cooking, if you’re overwhelmed, it seems like this can be a super solution. Meal kits in just a few years have grown into a $ 1.5 billion business and are expected to double in the next few years.

There are now nearly 100 different meal kit companies jostling for market share. All offer coupons and deals for the first order.

You can order according to a special diet (see “gluten-free” or “paleo”), or eliminate certain ingredients, or specify calorie count or the maximum time you want to spent preparing what’s delivered. Some services even link to a grocery delivery service like Instacart.

Prices also vary. But at a minimum, you’ll pay approximately $ 9 to $ 12 per meal. So for about $ 60 a week per, you can order a week’s worth of dinners for one person. The ingredients will arrive prepackaged with relevant recipes. It’s kind of a middle ground between homemade pasta and take-out.

I’m no expert in the pros and cons of meal services, but you can find some good comparisons herehere and here.

Cancer’s difficult enough without stressing about dinner, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, check it out.

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