Harvard Health Blog

Join the discussion with experts from Harvard Health Publishing and others like you on a variety of health topics, medical news and views.

Healthy eating through the holidays

At this time of year, with parties and food gifts it’s extremely easy to give in to temptation and overindulge. If you have been trying to make healthier eating choices (or want to start), here are some suggestions for how to eat healthy through the holiday season and still enjoy yourself.

Getting your baby to sleep through the night: The good (and maybe not-so-good) news

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Parents of newborns may be disappointed to learn the results of a Canadian study: even at one year, nearly half of the babies in the study did not sleep a full eight hours. However, the babies did not experience any adverse developmental effects, and parents should remember that children will eventually sleep through the night.

Putting a stop to leaky gut

Matthew Solan

Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

In an unhealthy gut, the lining of your intestine weakens, causing bacteria and toxins to leak into the body, triggering inflammation. The most common causes are genes and diet, with age playing a role as well. But diagnosing the condition is challenging, and may require trying different treatment approaches.

Hormone therapy for depression: Are the risks worth the benefits?

Many women going through menopause experience symptoms of depression. Hormone therapy may help some women avoid depression, but carries an increased risk of blood clots or stroke. A woman should talk with her doctor and carefully evaluate of the risks and benefits of hormone therapy compared to other treatments for depression.

Inducing labor at full term: What makes sense?

Toni Golen, MD


A large study of first-time mothers compared inducing labor with waiting for labor to begin. Under certain circumstances, it found inducing labor may be safer for some women. A pregnant woman considering induction should discuss the option with her doctors and providers.

The introvert’s guide to social engagement

Matthew Solan

Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Research shows that regular social interaction can lower risk for heart disease, depression, and early death, but not everyone is comfortable in social settings. If this describes you, there are still ways you can socialize without going beyond your comfort zone.

Is hand sanitizer better at preventing the flu than soap and water?

John Ross, MD, FIDSA

Contributing Editor

In an eight-month study of toddlers in day care, researchers compared handwashing with soap and water to frequent and rigorous use of hand sanitizer. While the results were better for the hand sanitizer group, the study conditions may not reflect real-world hand hygiene.

Behavioral weight loss programs are effective — but where to find them?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

Behavioral programs (intensive diet and lifestyle change) work well for weight loss, but they are not common, and many are not covered by insurance. There are other options, such as creating your own program, joining a group, or using a smartphone app.

AFM: The scary polio-like illness

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an illness with symptoms that are somewhat similar to polio — weakness and loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs — but with an unknown cause. AFM is more common in children and emerges suddenly, but there is no known treatment or cure.

Personal sound amplification products: For some, an affordable alternative to hearing aids

Personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) are devices that provide some measure of hearing assistance, less than that of a full-fledged hearing aid but at a more reasonable price, that may encourage more people to accept hearing assistance and to do so starting younger.