Germs, toxins, difficulty sleeping

Created date

May 21st, 2013
Man with insomnia

Q. I always rinse off most fruits and vegetables before eating them, but I wonder if that’s enough to remove germs or toxins?

A. Any fresh produce can have bacteria or pesticides and other toxins, even if it’s grown at home, organically, or found at a farmer’s market. So it’s a good idea to thoroughly wash everything under cool running tap water, and then dry it with a paper towel or clean dishcloth to further reduce any contaminants. Use a scrub brush on firm produce, such as cucumbers. Even if you plan to peel something, you should still wash it to reduce the chance that contaminants are transferred from your knife. The Food and Drug Administration also suggests that you avoid soap, detergents, or commercial produce washes as they have not been shown to be any more effective than plain water. If, however, an item is in a package and prewashed, the FDA says it’s okay to eat without additional washing.

Q. I have difficulty sleeping as I get older. Is my body telling me I need less sleep than I used to?

A. Studies show that older adults need just as much sleep as younger adults—about seven to nine hours a night. But many seniors have trouble falling asleep, wake up several times during the night, or awaken early and can’t get back to sleep. There can be a number of reasons behind this, including medical conditions, emotional disorders, medication side effects, and some studies show that older adults produce less melatonin, the hormone that facilitates sleep. Some people just aren’t as active as they used to be during the day. But no matter the reason, there are several medical problems associated with poor sleep quality, such as depression, memory problems, falls, and a poor quality of life. See your primary doctor to determine if there’s a treatable reason for your sleep problems.

Dimitri Cefalu, M.D.

Medical Director, 

Tinton Falls, NJ

Dr. Cefalu received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., and his medical degree from the University of Palermo in Palermo, Italy. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J. He is board-certified in internal medicine and joined Seabrook in April 2001.