Gastrointestinal Distress: Check Your Blood Pressure Meds

By Mary Jane Dittmar

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have reported an association between Benicor® (Olmesartan) prescribed for high blood pressure and symptoms of celiac disease, including chronic diarrhea and substantial weight loss. Joseph Murray, M.D., Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and lead author of the study, explains that an association between the medication and celiac disease (caused by an allergy to gluten) has been identified and that more study is needed to determine why that association exists.

The findings were based on a study of 22 patients treated by Mayo Clinic physicians between 2008 and 2011. The patients were experiencing severe symptoms of celiac disease but did not respond to treatments for that disease such as a gluten-free diet. In addition, their blood test results were not those usually found with celiac disease. Dr. Murray checked the patients’ medication lists and noted that the participants were taking all taking Olmesartan. He removed it from their regimen, and the patients showed improvement.  

If you are taking Olmesartan and are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, consult with your medical provider and reference this study. It could prevent a misdiagnosis and help get you relief sooner. Do not stop any medications without talking to the doctor first. Effects of High Blood Pressure Drug May Mimic Celiac Disease.

Check before giving a medication to the youngest members of your family. Historically, not all drugs have been studied for use in children even though they may be prescribed for them. Congress recently passed legislation to increase studies for drug use in pediatrics and to have those findings incorporated in product labeling. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created the Pediatric Labeling Information Database, which contains the information obtained from the studies conducted under the new legislation. You can access this database through the FDA Web Site,; search for “pediatric database.”

What’s Your “Conquer Germs” IQ?

We hear much about protecting against bacterial and viral infections through awareness and proper hand-washing. Are we vigilant enough in our efforts to combat the spread of germs? What’s your “Conquer Germs” IQ? Do you still agree with this score after reading the following, or do you had to revise your score?

Have you ever considered your workplace’s break room as a haven for bacteria and viruses? A study by a division of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation (which sells disinfecting materials to offices and other consumers) found the following after their researchers took almost 5,000 swabs from office buildings containing almost 3,000 employees over a period of two years:

▪ Three-quarters of break room faucet handles and almost a quarter of refrigerator door handles had a high degree of contamination.

▪ Many of the sponges workers use to clean their coffee cups were tainted with E. coli.

The consultant who oversaw the research study recommends that “companies clean more carefully and employees wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer more often.” Read on …

A project involving food preparation at home also revealed some eye-opening information about food safety. Researchers filmed close to 200 California residents preparing salad and hamburgers at home for two studies conducted by the University of California at Davis. Some of their disturbing findings follow:  

▪ Only 43 percent washed their hands before beginning to prepare the food. In addition, about 25 percent of those who did wash their hands scrubbed only two seconds instead of the recommended 20 seconds.

▪ About a third of the participants did not wash their hands directly after handling ground beef, and more than three-quarters of them engaged in activities that could transfer illness-causing bacteria to other surfaces, such as touching lettuce or tomatoes directly after handling raw meat.

▪ Less than half of the participants washed each leaf of lettuce under running water with gentle rubbing; 15 percent did not wash the lettuce at all; 8 percent did not wash the celery.

▪ The vast majority of volunteers did not use a thermometer to determine that the hamburgers had reached the 160°F temperature recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

And, if you do a lot of traveling, consider the following: Top sources of aerobic bacteria in hotels are found in bathrooms sinks and on bathroom floors, the main light switches, and the TV remotes. The remotes revealed a mean of 67.6 colony-forming units of bacteria per cubic centimeter squared. It’s a good idea to take sanitary wipes on your trips and use them to clean these areas when you enter your hotel room.

AHA: Ozone exposure linked to potential heart attacks

A recent study showed that young, healthy adults exposed to ozone for two hours experienced changes in their cardiovascular system. Ground level ozone is created when pollutants from vehicles, power plants, industry, chemical solvents, and consumer products react in the presence of sunlight. Recent epidemiology studies have reported associations between acute exposure to ozone and death, but little is known about the underlying pathophysiological pathways responsible. Robert B. Devlin, Ph.D. was the study’s lead author. He is senior scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, NC.

The researchers focused on a single, short-term exposure to ozone. Twenty-three volunteers, ages 19 to 33, were exposed to 0.3 parts per million of ozone.  They  were exposed to clean air and then to ozone-polluted air at least two weeks apart. During each exposure, participants alternated between 15-minute periods of stationary cycling and rest.

Tests were taken immediately after and the morning after the ozone exposure. They showed significant ozone-induced vascular changes, including an increase in blood levels of interleukin 1beta, a signature marker of inflammation that appears to play a key role in heart disease, a decrease in plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 and plasminogen, which play an important role in dissolving blood clots that may form along arterial walls, and a change in heart rhythm. “New evidence links ozone exposure to potential heart attacks,” June 25, 2012.

“People can take steps to reduce their ozone exposure, but a lot of physicians don’t realize this,” Devlin said. The EPA website, (look for “Air-Quality Basics” (middle right-hand side) explains how you can reduce ozone exposure.

Read also the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on air pollution and cardiovascular disease

Photos courtesy of  


MARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.

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