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PROTEIN NEEDS INCREASE FOR HARD LABORERS

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Question: I have read that athletes need extra protein in their diets. My husband is not exactly an athlete, but he uses his muscles extensively in his work, which is heavy construction labor. What should be his proportion of protein to the other food groups? He's in good health, weighs 150 pounds and is about 5 feet, 10 inches tall.

- Mrs. K.K.I.Answer: Protein needs are pretty much the same whether you are speaking of athletic situations or those posed by strenuous labor.

A fat-carbohydrate-protein mix that preserves heart health is always the first concern. Your husband's diet should supply no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and 55 percent from carbohydrates - foods such as pastas, fruits, vegetables and starches. In addition, the daily protein requirement for health is 0.4 grams for every pound of body weight. For a moderately active 150-pounder, that translates into 56 grams of protein a day.

Sports authorities recommend slightly higher daily protein intake for a person in hard training, up to a total 0.6 grams per pound of body weight. For your husband's 150 pounds, that would come to 90 grams a day.

Here are some common food items and their corresponding protein gram totals: two cups of low-fat milk, 16 grams; 5 ounces of lean meat, about 35 grams; a cup of beans, about 15 grams; a half-cup of peas, 8 grams; two tablespoons of peanut butter, 10 grams.

Question: I have had the shingles for going on nine weeks now, and they are very painful. Early on, one doctor gave me prednisone, and I did get relief, but pain returned afterward. Pain pills didn't help, and I have walked the floor and slept in a chair at night. Is there anything you know that would help the pain?

- C.F.

Answer: You're not describing the typical case of post-shingles pain, where simple pain-reliever drugs such as acetaminophen often help.

Let me suggest things to try. Perhaps you have missed one:

- Ice the painful area for two to three minutes at a time. That might numb the pain.

- Capsaicin cream applied to the skin works for some patients. It is available by prescription.

- Has your doctor tried amitriptyline? It is a potential painkiller.

- Use of a TENS device might be worth a try. "TENS" is an acronym for "transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation." It is a battery-powered device that you apply to the painful skin. It delivers a mild nerve-numbing current. Check with a pharmacist or with a medical supplier.

- If necessary, your doctor can arrange to have the pain areas anesthetized, effectively blocking the nerves.

See the shingles booklet I'm sending you. It is available by writing: Dr. Donohue - No. 28, P.O. Box 5539, Riverton, NJ 08077-5539, enclosing $3 and a self-addressed, stamped (52 cents) No. 10 envelope.

For E.Y.: The back hump is called dowager's hump. It forms with the collapse of the upper part of the spine, whose bone has been weakened by osteoporosis.

No, it can't be removed or cosmetically changed. The process can be arrested with calcium and vitamin D supplements and estrogen replacement therapy. You probably need all that to prevent bone problems in other parts of your skeleton.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him at P.O. Box 5539, Riverton, NJ 08077-5539.