I’m head over heels for my new significant other, but he hates using condoms. I trust him, but with all the STDs going around, I just have to insist on it. How can I make it a better option for him? ± Gladys K., Brooklyn, New York
A: The second-best way to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases and practice birth control while you’re at it is for the man to wear a condom. Unfortunately, many guys say that for one reason or another, the prophylactics are uncomfortable: too big, too small, too tight, not tight enough. But that doesn’t mean you or he can skip using one.
You are smart to be concerned about STDs. This past year in the U.S., cases of chlamydia increased by 4.7 percent to 1.5 million cases; gonorrhea is up 18.5 percent to more than 460,000 cases; and primary and secondary syphilis is up 17.6 percent to almost 28,000 cases. And we haven’t even mentioned human papillomavirus (HPV) — it’s virtually universal among sexually active people. Fortunately, there’s a new product that might help make condoms a more appealing form of protection.
After getting Food and Drug Administration approval, an American company named ONE has started marketing custom condoms in 60 different sizes, under the brand name myONE Perfect Fit. (They’re an extended partner of the U.K.-based company TheyFit, which has 66 different sizes.)
The Long and the Short of It: The company offers a downloadable measuring kit on their website or you can enter your own numbers if you know them (length and girth). They also provide recommendations. Sources claim that soon after myOne came to market, customers had ordered condoms in all 60 sizes ranging from 4.9 to 9.4 inches long and 3.5 to 5 inches in circumference.
We hope that helps Gladys and good luck with your new beau.
Can you explain the basics of having a healthy gut biome? You hear about all these bacteria that are good for you, but it sounds a little wacky and confusing. — Sandy G., Anderson, Indiana
If it’s any consolation, you’re not much more confused than the researchers who study the complex world of the intestinal microbiome. Some fascinating research is going on, and you can participate: Check out the crowd-sourced research project AmericanGut.org and become a citizen scientist. Also, take a look at the Human Microbiome Project for detailed info at https://hmpdacc.org.
What we do know is that your gut contains about 100 trillion microbes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea (a sort-of bacteria) and eukaryotes (little buggers that are built a bit differently than bacteria). That’s 10 times as many microbes as there are cells in your whole body. We have these trillions of ride-along microbes to help extract energy from food, help in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and to make sure we have enzymes and nutrients needed for a healthy immune system and regulation of blood glucose. (They also can create some compounds that damage your health.)
Diet appears to have the greatest influence on the composition of the microbiome (not just what bugs are there, but their proportions). The best diet for a healthy gut biome:
• Is rich in high-fiber foods, such as 100 percent whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies. These are prebiotics that feed the health-promoting gut bacteria.
• Eliminates red meat, egg yolks and cheese. The carnitine, lecithin and choline in these foods feed bacteria that produce their own waste products that fuel inflammation. That, in turn, increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, memory loss and kidney failure over time (like 40 years).
• Avoids processed foods. Emulsifiers, for example (read the ingredient labels) can promote leaky gut, letting inflammatory and disease-causing molecules escape from your intestines into your bloodstream. Not good.
As for taking probiotic supplements, we like taking them because the gut needs all the help it can get. Our favorites are Culturelle and Digestive Advantage.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of theWellnessInstitute at the Cleveland Clinic.