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Is Marijuana Good or bad?

According to the National Institutes of Health, people have used marijuana, or cannabis, to treat their ailments for at least 3,000 years. However, the Food and Drug Administration have not deemed marijuana safe or effective in the treatment of any medical condition, although cannabidiol, a substance that is present in marijuana, received approval in June 2018 as a treatment for some types of epilepsy.
a man holding a marijuana leaf

Marijuana is being increasingly legalized in the U.S., but is it safe?

This tension, between a widespread belief that marijuana is an effective treatment for a wide assortment of ailments and a lack of scientific knowledge on its effects, has been somewhat exacerbated in recent times by a drive toward legalization.

Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia have now made marijuana available for medical — and, in some states, recreational — purposes.

A recent study published in the journal Addiction also found that use of marijuana is increasing sharply across the United States, although this rise may not be linked to the legalization of marijuana in participating states. Nevertheless, this rise in use is prompting major public health concerns.

In this article, we look at the scientific evidence weighing the medical benefits of marijuana against its associated health risks in an attempt to answer this simple question: is marijuana good or bad?

What are the medical benefits of marijuana?

Over the years, research has yielded results to suggest that marijuana may be of benefit in the treatment of some conditions. These are listed below.

Chronic pain

Last year, a large review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine assessed more than 10,000 scientific studies on the medical benefits and adverse effects of marijuana.

One area that the report looked closely at was the use of medical marijuana to treat chronic pain. Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability, affecting more than 25 million adults in the U.S.

The review found that marijuana, or products containing cannabinoids — which are the active ingredients in marijuana, or other compounds that act on the same receptors in the brain as marijuana — are effective at relieving chronic pain.

Alcoholism and drug addiction

Another comprehensive review of evidence, published last year in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, revealed that using marijuana may help people with alcohol or opioid dependencies to fight their addictions.

But this finding may be contentious; the National Academies of Sciences review suggests that marijuana use actually drives increased risk for abusing, and becoming dependent on, other substances.

Also, the more that someone uses marijuana, the more likely they are to develop a problem with using marijuana. Individuals who began using the drug at a young age are also known to be at increased risk of developing a problem with marijuana use.

Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety

The review published in Clinical Psychology Review assessed all published scientific literature that investigated the use of marijuana to treat symptoms of mental illness.

a man feeling depressed

Evidence to date suggests that marijuana could help to treat some mental health conditions.

Its authors found some evidence supporting the use of marijuana to relieve depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

That being said, they caution that marijuana is not an appropriate treatment for some other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and psychosis.

The review indicates that there is some evidence to suggest that marijuana might alleviate symptoms of social anxiety, but again, this is contradicted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine review, which instead found that regular users of marijuana may actually be at increased risk of social anxiety.

Cancer

Evidence suggests that oral cannabinoids are effective against nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and some small studies have found that smoked marijuana may also help to alleviate these symptoms.

Some studies on cancer cells suggest that cannabinoids may either slow down the growth of or kill some types of cancer. However, early studies that tested this hypothesis in humans revealed that although cannabinoids are a safe treatment, they are not effective at controlling or curing cancer.

Multiple sclerosis

The short-term use of oral cannabinoids may improve symptoms of spasticity among people with multiple sclerosis, but the positive effects have been found to be modest.

Epilepsy

In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of a medication containing cannabidiol (CBD) to treat two rare, severe, and specific types of epilepsy — called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome — that are difficult to control with other types of medication. This CBD-based drug is known as Epidiolex.

CBD is one of many substances that occurs in cannabis. It is not psychoactive. The drug for treating these conditions involves a purified form of CBD. The approval was based on the findings of research and clinical trials.

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A study published in 2017 found that the use of CBD resulted in far fewer seizures among children with Dravet syndrome, compared with a placebo.

Dravet syndrome seizures are prolonged, repetitive, and potentially lethal. In fact, 1 in 5 children with Dravet syndrome do not reach the age of 20 years.

In the study, 120 children and teenagers with Dravet syndrome, all of whom were aged between 2 and 18, were randomly assigned to receive an oral CBD solution or a placebo for 14 weeks, along with their usual medication.

MRI scans of the brain

Research indicates that marijuana could help to treat epilepsy.

The researchers found that the children who received the CBD solution went from having around 12 seizures per month to an average of six seizures per month. Three children receiving CBD did not experience any seizures at all.

Children who received the placebo also saw a reduction in seizures, but this was slight — their average number of seizures went down from 15 each month before the study to 14 seizures per month during the study.

The researchers say that this 39 percent reduction in seizure occurrence provides strong evidence that the compound can help people living with Dravet syndrome, and that their paper has the first rigorous scientific data to demonstrate this.

However, the study also found a high rate of side effects linked to CBD. More than 9 in 10 of the children treated with CBD experienced side effects — most commonly vomiting, fatigue, and fever.

The patient information leaflet for Epidiolex warns of side effects such as liver damage, sedation, and thoughts of suicide.

What are the health risks of marijuana?

At the other end of the spectrum is the plethora of studies that have found negative associations between marijuana use and health. They are listed below.

Mental health problems

Daily marijuana use is believed to exacerbate existing symptoms of bipolar disorder among people who have this mental health problem. However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report suggests that among people with no history of the condition, there is only limited evidence of a link between marijuana use and developing bipolar disorder.

Moderate evidence suggests that regular marijuana users are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, and there is a small increased risk of depression among marijuana users.

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Marijuana use is likely to increase risk of psychosis, including schizophrenia. But a curious finding among people with schizophrenia and other psychoses is that a history of marijuana use is linked with improved performance on tests assessing learning and memory.

Testicular cancer

Although there is no evidence to suggest any link between using marijuana and an increased risk for most cancers, the National Academies of Sciences did find some evidence to suggest an increased risk for the slow-growing seminoma subtype of testicular cancer.

Respiratory disease

Regular marijuana smoking is linked to increased risk of chronic cough, but “it is unclear” whether smoking marijuana worsens lung function or increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma.

A 2014 study that explored the relationship between marijuana use and lung disease suggested that it was plausible that smoking marijuana could contribute to lung cancer, though it has been difficult to conclusively link the two.

The authors of that study — published in the journal Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine — conclude:

There is unequivocal evidence that habitual or regular marijuana smoking is not harmless. A caution against regular heavy marijuana usage is prudent.”

“The medicinal use of marijuana is likely not harmful to lungs in low cumulative doses,” they add, “but the dose limit needs to be defined. Recreational use is not the same as medicinal use and should be discouraged.”

So, is marijuana good or bad for your health?

There is evidence that demonstrates both the harms and health benefits of marijuana. Yet despite the emergence over the past couple of years of very comprehensive, up-to-date reviews of the scientific studies evaluating the benefits and harms of the drug, it’s clear that more research is needed to fully determine the public health implications of rising marijuana use.

marijuana

More research is needed to confirm the harms and benefits of marijuana use.

Many scientists and health bodies — including the American Cancer Society (ACS) — support the need for further scientific research on the use of marijuana and cannabinoids to treat medical conditions.

However, there is an obstacle to this: marijuana is classed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which deters the study of marijuana and cannabinoids through its imposition of strict conditions on the researchers working in this area.

If you happen to live in a state where medical use of marijuana is legal, you and your doctor will need to carefully consider these factors and how they relate to your illness and health history before using this drug.

For instance, while there is some evidence to support the use for marijuana for pain relief, you should certainly avoid marijuana if you have a history of mental health problems.

Remember to always speak to your doctor before taking a new medicine.

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11 Small Daily Habits That’ll Seriously Speed Up Your Metabolism

These easy actions ensure you’ll burn fat 24/7…

1. When You First Wake Up

Eating breakfast helps jump-start your metabolism – especially if you do it within one hour of waking up. “Your metabolism went into rest mode over night, so your first meal of the day revs it up again,” says Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. To work the kick-start effect to the max, choose foods high in fibre and protein, like whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and berries.

2. During Your Commute

Parking further away from your office may sound like a small step, but it can actually boost your metabolism in a big way because it forces you to move more. “Getting your heart rate up for a short period of time keeps it elevated afterward, which boosts your metabolism overall,” says Doug Barsanti, a strength and conditioning specialist. Another good idea? Take the stairs to get to your floor.

3. When You First Get to the Office

Go ahead and grab a cup of coffee. Research shows that caffeine boosts your metabolic rate, albeit mildly, says David Katz, author of Disease Proof. Just watch all the caramel-cream-whatever concoctions – those are so sugary that they’ll negate coffee’s benefits.

4. At Work

We hereby grant you permission to schmooze with your colleagues – as long as you don’t do it over Whatsapp. “Moving more at every opportunity, even if it’s just to get up to go to the bathroom, keeps your heart rate going and therefore boosts your metabolism,” says fitness instructor Shirley Archer. Try walking across the office to talk to colleagues rather than emailing them.

5. When You’re Buying Lunch

Pick the right foods and you’ll stoke your metabolism. “Nothing beats a chicken sandwich on whole-grain bread with lettuce, tomato and mustard and a piece of fruit on the side,” says Gans. “The protein-carb combo will give you energy to get through your day without dragging.”

6. At the Water Cooler

When it comes to water, colder is better. “Your body burns more kilojoules in colder temperatures because it has to work harder to keep you warm – so by drinking cold water, you end up burning more than if you guzzled room-temp H20,” says evolutionary biologist Lisa Gain. (Sadly, the same does not hold true for ice cream, which is too high-kilojoule to get the effect.)

7. During Your Workout

It’s all too easy to get into a cardio routine and stay at the same pace for your entire workout, but don’t! Intervals are your friend, says Barsanti. “Short, high-intensity exercise boosts your metabolism. So when you’re on the treadmill or elliptical, sprint for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, and repeat this pattern for 10 minutes.” Pro tip: Make a playlist with fast and slow songs to help you vary your rhythm without even thinking about it.

8. Post-Workout

Good news for chocolate lovers! Drinking chocolate milk post-workout helps keep your metabolism going strong. “When you exercise, your body loses glucose,” says Gans. “You need to restore it right away to keep your metabolism on track.” Chocolate milk is ideal because it has the perfect combo of carbs and protein. Sweet.

9. At Dinner

Some studies suggest that eating spicy foods may boost your metabolism – so top your meals with chilli peppers and Tabasco. Bonus: Spices are naturally fat-free, so there’s no need to stress about kilojoule counts.

10. In the Evening

Take a minute to relax and your metabolism will thank you. Why? “When you get stressed, your body releases cortisol, and too much cortisol slows down your metabolism,” says Archer. To prevent this, do whatever relaxes you most, like yoga, talking to a soothing friend or meditating.

11. At Bedtime

Sleep is key to boosting your metabolism. “Your body needs it to fully restore and recover from the day and keep your muscle mass and hormones circulating properly,” says Archer. Aim for seven to eight hours a night to keep your metabolism in tip-top shape.

What!!! -Risk of breast cancer’s return continues long after treatment ends!

A recent analysis has found that even 20 years after receiving a diagnosis of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, the risk of the cancer’s return looms large. Should treatment be extended?
Nurse with breast cancer ribbon

A new study brings the length of breast cancer follow-up treatment into question.

Estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer is the most common breast cancer type, accounting for around 80 percent of all breast cancer cases.

In short, ER-positive breast cancer flourishes in response to estrogen. The standard treatments for this cancer type are tamoxifen, which blocks the effects of estrogen, or aromatase inhibitors, which stop the production of estrogen.

Even once the cancer has gone, these drugs are taken daily for 5 years. Tamoxifen reduces recurrence by half during treatment, and by almost a third in the 5 years following treatment.

Aromatase inhibitors, which will only work in women who are postmenopausal, are even better at reducing the risk of recurrence.

Should treatment be extended?

Over recent years, research has found that extending the length of time that these medications are taken could reduce risks further still. Some cancer researchers are asking whether they should be continued for 10 years.

But these drugs are not without disadvantages. Although side effects are rarely life-threatening, they can substantially impact a woman’s quality of life. Side effects often mimic menopause and include hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and vaginal dryness. Aromatase inhibitors also carry an increased risk of osteoporosis, among other conditions.

As the authors of the current study write, “[D]ecisions about extending adjuvant endocrine therapy after 5 years without any recurrence need to balance additional benefits against additional side effects.”

The analysis was carried out by researchers from the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG). This group has been pooling research into a single dataset since the 1980s, looking at all aspects of breast cancer.

For this study, they took data from 88 clinical trials, including those of 62,923 women with ER-positive breast cancer. Their findings are published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Long-term risk of recurrence

They found that in women who were cancer-free and in therapy for 5 years, a substantial number saw the cancer spread throughout the body over the following 15 years.

Even though these women remained free of recurrence in the first 5 years, the risk of having their cancer recur elsewhere (for example in the bone, liver, or lung) from years 5 to 20 remained constant.”

Senior study author Dr. Daniel F. Hayes

The risk was directly related to the size of the original cancer and the number of lymph nodes that it affected. Specifically, larger cancers and those that affected four or more lymph nodes carried the greatest long-term risks.

Even if the patients were recurrence-free when they stopped the endocrine therapy, they had a 40 percent risk of cancer recurrence within 15 years.

Women whose original cancers were smaller and did not involve the lymph nodes had a 10 percent risk over 15 years.

As lead study author Hongchao Pan, Ph.D. — from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom — says, “It is remarkable that breast cancer can remain dormant for so long and then spread many years later, with this risk remaining the same year after year and still strongly related to the size of the original cancer and whether it had spread to the nodes.”

Medical News Today got the opportunity to speak to Dr. Hayes, and when asked whether or not he was surprised by the results, he replied, “There have been much smaller studies to suggest this phenomenon […] Our results absolutely validate these and confirm the relentless risk of distant recurrence over the 2 decades after diagnosis.”

What happens next?

The team now wants to understand whether there is a subset of women with ER-positive breast cancer that has a low enough risk so that extended endocrine treatment would not be needed.

Although the analysis took thousands of women into account, the researchers are quick to note that they received their diagnosis decades ago and treatment has since improved. Dr. Hayes told MNT that “it appears that prognosis is better for patients diagnosed over the last 10–15 years.”

He added, “More than half of our patients were entered before 2000, and of course, we only have 20 years of follow-up on patients who were followed for 20 years — so, overall, it is possible that the data in our paper overestimate the absolute risk distant recurrence/year.”

However, we are pretty certain that they do not overestimate the concept that distant recurrences continue without abatement.”

Dr. Daniel F. Hayes

MNT also asked Dr. Hayes about future research to be conducted by the EBCTCG. He said, “There are several ongoing analyses asking a number of questions. We will continue to address issues of the risks of recurrence, and the benefits of various endocrine therapy strategies as we gather more data.”

It is likely that these findings and others like them will be used to advise longer treatment plans for women with more aggressive ER-positive tumors. As Dr. Hayes told us, “[O]ur data will help patients make a better-informed decision.”

The best foods to delay aging

Eat well for a long and healthy life – that’s a mantra that we’re all familiar with, but what are the best foods to help us achieve that goal? In this article, we give you an overview of some of the most healthful and nutritious foods.
person holding grocery bagWhat are the best foods for a healthful diet? We investigate.

Official figures indicate that, currently, the top three countries in the world with the highest life expectancy are the Principality of Monaco, Japan, and Singapore. These are places where the inhabitants experience a high quality of life, and an important element of that is eating healthful meals.

Often, we find praise for “superfoods” in the media – foods so high in nutritional value that they are seen as dietary superheroes.

Nutritionists reject the term “superfoods” as a buzzword that can influence people to place too high an expectation on a limited range of foods when, in reality, a balanced diet and healthful lifestyle require more effort than eating your five-a-day.

Still, there are certain foods that are more nutritious than others, and many that, as research has shown, have a protective effect against a range of diseases. Here, we give you an overview of some of the best foods that you may want to consider including in your diet in your quest for a happy, healthy life.

Edamame (soybeans)

Edamame, or fresh soybeans, have been a staple of Asian cuisine for generations, but they have also been gaining popularity on the Western front of late. Soybeans are often sold in snack packs, but they are also added to a varied range of dishes, from soups to rice-based meals, though they are served as cooked and seasoned on their own, too.

tofu, edamame, and soy productsEdamame and tofu are rich in isoflavones, which may have anti-cancer properties.

The beans are rich in isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen – that is. plant-derived, estrogen-like substances. Isoflavones are known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antimicrobial properties.

Thus, they can help to regulate the inflammatory response of the body, slow down cellular aging, fight microbes, as well as, reportedly, protect against certain types of cancer.

Edamame are rich in two types of isoflavones, in particular: genistein and daidzein. A study covered last year on Medical News Today found that genistein could be used to improve breast cancer treatment.

In the meantime, the study authors note that “lifetime intake of soy […] has been linked to reduced risk of breast cancer,” so we may want to include soybeans in our normal diet.

Tofu (soybean curd)

Similarly, tofu, a white cheese-like product made of soybean curds, has been linked to a wealth of health benefits for the same reasons. Tofu is often found cooked in typical Eastern Asian dishes; it can be fried, baked, or boiled (for instance, in soups).

As a soy product, it is rich in isoflavones, whose health benefits we’ve outlined above; it is also a good source of protein, and it contains all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to synthesize protein.

Moreover, it is also rich in minerals, which our bodies need to keep our teeth and bones strong and healthy, and to derive energy. Tofu is a source of calcium, iron, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and copper.

Some specialists also suggest that eating tofu can make you feel fuller for longer, so incorporating it into your meals may help to prevent overeating.

Carrots

This common culinary ingredient, best known in its orange variety, is famously recommended for its high content of beta-carotene, a pigment — and carotenoid — that gives the widespread version of this root vegetable its color.

selection of carrotsCarrots can protect against age-related eyesight damage.

Beta-carotene can be converted by our bodies into vitamin A, which, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication.” Our bodies cannot produce vitamin A on their own, so it must be derived from our diet.

This pigment is also an antioxidant that can protect the cells in our bodies from the aging damage caused by free radicals.

Moreover, research has shown that foods rich in carotenoids — and, of course, carrots are a prime example here — can protect against age-related macular degeneration, the vision damage caused by old age.

Some varieties of carrots, such as white carrots, do not contain the orange pigment beta-carotene, but they do all contain falcarinol, a nutrient which, some studies claim, may have a protective effect against cancer.

While raw carrots may be best for health, as they retain their nutrients, there are also ways of cooking carrots that can keep most of their nutrients “locked in.”

In an interview, one researcher who investigated the anti-cancer effect of falcarinol from carrots, Kirsten Brandt — from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom — suggests that we may want to boil our carrots whole if we want them cooked, but still bursting with nutrients.

Chopping up your carrots increases the surface area so more of the nutrients leach out into the water while they are cooked. By keeping them whole and chopping them up afterwards you are locking in nutrients and the taste, so the carrot is better for you all round.”

Cruciferous vegetables

Another important type of food on our list are cruciferous vegetables — also known as “Brassica vegetables” — which include a wide array of green foods, such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, radish, and kale.

basket of cruciferous vegetablesCruciferous vegetables can bring a wealth of health benefits.

These vegetables boast an especially rich nutrient content, including many vitamins (C, E, K, and folate), minerals (potassium, calcium, and selenium), and carotenoids (lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin).

Cruciferous vegetables also contain glucosinolates, the substances that give these greens their characteristic pungent flavor. These substances have been found to bring diverse health benefits.

Some glucosinolates seem to regulate the body’s stress and inflammation response; they have antimicrobial properties, and some of them are being investigated for their anti-cancer potential.

One recent study covered on MNT found that leafy greens, including some cruciferous vegetables such as kale and collard greens, helped to slow down cognitive decline. Consequently, the study researchers suggest that “adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health.”

Kale, broccoli, and cabbage have also been shown to have a protective effect on heart health, thanks to their vitamin K content.

Finally, cruciferous vegetables are also a great source of soluble fiber, which plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels and diminishing the absorption of fat, thus helping to prevent excess weight gain.

Salmon

Recent studies have suggested that consumption of meat — mostly red meat, but also some kinds of poultry meat — could be harmful to our health in the long run. A good alternative for protein in this case is fish, and salmon, in particular, affords many nutritional benefits.

salmonSalmon could protect cognitive health, researchers say.

Salmon is packed with protein, and also contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which is said to be beneficial for eyesight. Research has demonstrated that omega-3 protects against dry-eye syndrome, characterized by insufficient lubrication of the eyes, which can lead to soreness and blurred vision.

Moreover, omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with brain health, and research suggests that they can stave off cognitive decline associated with aging.

Salmon also has a high potassium content and, according to a new study reported on MNT last autumn, potassium can prevent the onset of heart disease.

Additionally, this type of fish is rich in the mineral selenium, which contributes to the health of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland helps to regulate hormonal activity and is involved in metabolic processes.

Although both farmed and wild salmon are available on the market, wild salmon has been found to be more nutritious overall, with a higher protein content, and also to have less saturated fat, which means that it is more healthful, and better for weight management.

However, farmed salmon is a more sustainable resource, and specialists say that the differences between farmed and wild caught salmon may not be so stark as to motivate us to prefer one type over the other.

Citrus fruits

Finally, citrus fruits are the unsung heroes of a healthful diet; these include a number of fruits that are now available worldwide, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, clementines, mandarins, and tangerines.

basket of citrus fruitsThe flavonoids in citrus fruits have been cited in connection to longer lifespans.

For a long time, citrus fruits have been recommended by nutritionists and grandmothers alike for their high content of vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties, and is said to bring a wide array of health benefits, including to reduce inflammatory damage, and to fend off infections.

Specialists point out, however, that this type of fruits goes well beyond just vitamin C when it comes to nutritional content.

The fruits are abundant in other macronutrients, including sugars, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.”

If this list of dietary goodies hasn’t colored you impressed, the specialists then go on to explain how citrus fruits contain even more organic compounds — such as flavonoids, coumarins, and carotenoids — that have been said to have protective effects against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Research has shown that flavonoids — in which citrus fruits are particularly rich — can “prevent or delay chronic diseases caused by obesity.”

Flavonoids have also garnered a lot of scientific attention for their anti-cancer potential, and consumption of especially flavonoid-rich citrus fruits has been associated with a significantly prolonged lifespan.

The inhabitants of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, known to be some of the longest-living populations of the world, regularly eat shikuwasa, also known as “shequasar,” a citrus fruit typical of the region, which contains more flavonoids than most other citrus fruits.

Drinking shikuwasa juice rich in flavonoid content has also been linked to better liver health.

Although all of the foods mentioned above are appreciated for their significant health benefits, we should not forget that well-being and longevity cannot be achieved without a balanced, inclusive diet and a healthful lifestyle.

Moreover, current studies suggest that our genetic makeup may have an important say as to which foods work best for our health. So, keeping our list of nutritious foods in mind, make sure you follow the healthful diet that is most effective for you!

All you need to know about inflammation

Inflammation is a defense mechanism in the body. The immune system recognizes damaged cells, irritants, and pathogens, and it begins the healing process.

When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it. The signs and symptoms of inflammation can be uncomfortable but are a show that the body is trying to heal itself.

Fast facts on inflammation
  • Inflammation is the body’s attempt at self-protection to remove harmful stimuli and begin the healing process.
  • Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response.
  • Infections, wounds, and any damage to tissue would not be able to heal without an inflammatory response.
  • Chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions, including some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response.

It can be beneficial when, for example, your knee sustains a blow and tissues need care and protection. However, sometimes, inflammation can persist longer than necessary, causing more harm than benefit.

Wound healing

Our immediate reaction to a swelling is to try and decrease it. However, it is important to remember that inflammation is an essential part of the healing process.

The first stage of inflammation is often called irritation, which then becomes inflammation. Inflammation is followed by the discharging of pus. The granulation stage comes next, and new tissue is formed in the wound.

Without inflammation, infections and wounds would never heal.

Innate immunity

When a person is born, certain defenses in the immune system are naturally present in the body. This is known as innate immunity.

It is different from adaptive immunity, which we develop after an infection or vaccination when the body “learns” to fight a specific infectious agent.

Innate immunity is generally nonspecific, while adaptive immunity is specific to a particular pathogen. Inflammation is one example of an innate immune response.

Symptoms

Symptoms of inflammation vary depending on whether the reaction is acute or chronic.

The effects of acute inflammation can be summed up by the acronym PRISH. They include:

  • Pain: The inflamed area is likely to be painful, especially during and after touching. Chemicals that stimulate nerve endings are released, making the area more sensitive.
  • Redness: This occurs because the capillaries in the area are filled with more blood than usual.
  • Immobility: There may be some loss of function in the region of the inflammation.
  • Swelling: This is caused by a buildup of fluid.
  • Heat: More blood flows to the affected area, and this makes it feel warm to the touch.

These five acute inflammation signs only apply to inflammations of the skin. If inflammation occurs deep inside the body, such as in an internal organ, only some of the signs may be noticeable.

For example, some internal organs may not have sensory nerve endings nearby, so there will be no pain, such as in certain types of lung inflammation.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation present in a different way. These can include:

  • fatigue
  • mouth sores
  • chest pain
  • abdominal pain
  • fever
  • rash
  • joint pain

Causes

Inflammation is caused by a number of physical reactions triggered by the immune system in response to a physical injury or an infection.

Inflammation does not necessarily mean that there is an infection, but an infection can cause inflammation.

Three main processes occur before and during acute inflammation:

  • The small branches of arteries enlarge when supplying blood to the damaged region, resulting in increased blood flow.
  • Capillaries become easier for fluids and proteins to infiltrate, meaning that they can move between blood and cells.
  • The body releases neutrophils. A neutrophil is a type of white blood cell filled with tiny sacs that contain enzymes and digest microorganisms.

A person will notice inflammation symptoms after these steps take place.

Acute inflammation

An acute inflammation is one that starts rapidly and becomes severe in a short space of time. Signs and symptoms are normally only present for a few days but may persist for a few weeks in some cases.

Examples of diseases, conditions, and situations that can result in acute inflammation include:

Chronic or acute inflammation

These are the two types of inflammation that differ in how quickly symptoms escalate and how long they last.

The following table shows the key differences between acute and chronic inflammation:

Acute Chronic
Caused by Harmful bacteria or tissue injury Pathogens that the body cannot break down, including some types of virus, foreign bodies that remain in the system, or overactive immune responses
Onset Rapid Slow
Duration A few days From months to years
Outcomes Inflammation improves, turns into an abscess, or becomes chronic Tissue death and the thickening and scarring of connective tissue

What’s to know about inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease refers to a number of long-term conditions that involve inflammation of the gut. Click here to learn more.
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What is chronic inflammation?

This refers to long-term inflammation and can last for several months and even years. It can result from:

  • failure to eliminate whatever was causing an acute inflammation
  • an autoimmune disorder that attacks normal healthy tissue, mistaking it for a pathogen that causes disease
  • exposure to a low level of a particular irritant, such as an industrial chemical, over a long period

Examples of diseases and conditions that include chronic inflammation:

Rheumatoid arthritis involves chronic inflammation.

Although damaged tissue cannot heal without inflammation, chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, periodontitis, and hay fever.

Inflammation needs to be well managed.

Is inflammation painful?

When people have inflammation, it often hurts.

People will feel pain, stiffness, discomfort, distress, and even agony, depending on the severity of the inflammation. The type of pain varies. It can be described as constant and steady, throbbing and pulsating, stabbing, or pinching.

Inflammation primarily causes pain because the swelling pushes against the sensitive nerve endings. This sends pain signals to the brain.

Other biochemical processes also occur during inflammation. They affect how nerves behave, and this can enhance pain.

Common treatments

As mentioned earlier in this article, inflammation is part of the healing process. Sometimes, reducing inflammation is helpful, though not always necessary.

Anti-inflammatory medications

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be taken to alleviate the pain caused by inflammation.

They counteract an enzyme that contributes to inflammation. This either prevents or reduces pain.

Examples of NSAIDs include naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, which are available to purchase online.

Avoid the long-term use of NSAIDs unless advised by a doctor. They increase a person’s risk of stomach ulcers, which can result in severe, life-threatening bleeding.

NSAIDs may also worsen asthma symptoms, cause kidney damage, and increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Acetaminophen, such as paracetamol or Tylenol, can reduce pain without affecting the inflammation. They may be ideal for those wishing to treat just the pain while allowing the healing factor of the inflammation to run its course.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids, such as cortisol, are a class of steroid hormones that prevent a number of mechanisms involved in inflammation.

There are two sets of corticosteroids:

Glucocorticoids: These are prescribed for a range of conditions, including:

  • arthritis
  • temporal arteritis
  • dermatitis
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
  • systemic lupus
  • hepatitis
  • asthma
  • allergic reactions
  • sarcoidosis

Creams and ointments may be prescribed for inflammation of the skin, eyes, lungs, bowels, and nose.

Mineralocorticoids: These are used to treat cerebral salt wasting, and to replace important hormones for patients with adrenal insufficiency.

The side effects of corticosteroids are more likely if taken by mouth. Taking them with inhalers or injections can reduce the risk.

Inhaled medications, such as those used long-term to treat asthma, raise the risk of developing oral thrush. Rinsing the mouth out with water after each use can help prevent oral thrush.

Glucocorticoids can also cause Cushing’s syndrome, while mineralocorticoids can cause high blood pressure, low blood potassium levels, connective tissue weakness, and problems with the levels of acids and alkalis in body tissue.

Herbs for inflammation

Discuss any possible use of herbal supplements with a doctor.

Harpagophytum procumbens: Also known as devil’s claw, wood spider, or grapple plant, this herb comes from South Africa and is related to sesame plants. Some research has shown it may have anti-inflammatory properties. Various brands are available to purchase online.

Hyssop: This is mixed with other herbs, such as licorice, for the treatment of some lung conditions, including inflammation. The essential oils of hyssop can lead to life-threatening convulsions in laboratory animals. Caution is advised.

Ginger: This has been used for hundreds of years to treat dyspepsia, constipation, colic, and other gastrointestinal problems, as well as rheumatoid arthritis pain. Ginger may be purchased online in supplement form.

Turmeric: Current research is looking into the possible beneficial effects of turmeric in treating arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and some other inflammatory conditions. Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, is being invested for the treatment of several illnesses and disorders, including inflammation. Supplements with turmeric and curcumin are available.

Cannabis: This contains a cannabinoid called cannabichromene, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. However, cannabis is not legal in many places.

Inflammation diet

There are several foods that can have been shown to help reduce the risk of inflammation, including:

  • olive oil
  • tomatoes
  • nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
  • leafy greens, including spinach and kale
  • fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
  • fruit, including blueberries and oranges

Avoid eating foods that aggravate inflammation, including:

  • fried foods, including French fries
  • white bread, pastry, and other foods that contain refined carbohydrates
  • soda and sugary drinks
  • red meat
  • margarine and lard

While these dietary solutions do not alone hold the key to controlling inflammation, they can help prime the immune system to react in a measured way.

We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means we may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.

Lucid dreaming: Controlling the stories of sleep

Have you ever started dreaming and suddenly realized that you were in a dream? Have you ever managed to gain control over your dream narrative? If your answer to these is “yes,” you’ve experienced what is called lucid dreaming.
dream image

What is lucid dreaming, and how can you achieve it?

Lucid dreaming has recently been popularized by movies such as Inception.

The movie features impressive dream artisans who are able not just to control the shape and content of their own dreams, but also those of others.

Such feats of dream manipulation may not seem possible to the same extent in our real lives, but they are not altogether absent.

In fact, certain people are able to experience something referred to as lucid dreaming, and some of them are able to control some of the elements of their nightly dreams.

In his much-cited poem, Edgar Allan Poe once wrote, “All that we see or seem/Is but a dream within a dream.”

Whether or not he is right is a matter for philosophers to debate, but the boundary between dream and reality is something that lucid dreaming seems to explore.

In this Spotlight, we look at what qualifies as lucid dreaming, whether these experiences can have any practical applications, and how one might be able to become a lucid dreamer.

What is lucid dreaming?

Typically, when we dream, we are not conscious that the dream is not real. As a character from the movie Inception quite aptly puts it, “Well, dreams, they feel real while we’re in them right? It’s only when we wake up then we realize that something was actually strange.”

However, some of us are able to enter a dream and be fully aware of the fact that we are actually dreaming.

“A lucid dream is defined as a dream during which dreamers, while dreaming, are aware they are dreaming,” specialists explain.

The very first record of lucid dreaming appears to feature in the treatise On Dreams by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. In it, he describes an instance of self-awareness during a dream state.

“[If] the sleeper perceives that he is asleep, and is conscious of the sleeping state during which the perception comes before his mind, it presents itself still, but something within him speaks to this effect: ‘The image of Koriskos presents itself, but the real Koriskos is not present,'” he wrote.

It is unclear how many people actually experience lucid dreaming, though certain studies have tried to gather information regarding its prevalence; and it seems that this phenomenon may be quite common.

For instance, a study conducted in Brazil surveyed 3,427 participants with the median age of 25. The results of the survey indicated that 77 percent of the respondents had experienced lucid dreaming at least once.

When does it happen, and what is it like?

Like most dreams, lucid dreaming will typically occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. For some people, it occurs spontaneously. However, others train themselves to start dreaming lucidly, or to become better at it.

As one experienced lucid dreamer told Medical News Today:

[M]y lucid dreaming […] occurs when I’m waking up, or sometimes if I’ve woken up briefly and I’m going back to sleep. Nowadays I can pretty much do it on a whim, as long as I’m in that half-asleep half-awake process.”

The degree to which a person can influence their dream if they are lucid while dreaming also varies to a great extent. Some people may simply wake up immediately upon realizing that they had been dreaming.

Other people may be able to influence their own actions within the dream, or parts of the dream itself. The lucid dreamer who spoke to MNT told us that she was able to manipulate the dream narrative in order to create a pleasant experience for herself.

“Usually I can control the narrative in the dream, so for example if I’m unhappy with the way things are going in the dream, I can change it,” she explained.

What are its applications?

Lucid dreaming is certainly an attractive and fascinating prospect — being able to explore our own inner worlds with full awareness that we are in a dream state is intriguing and has an almost magical flavor about it.

silhouette on dark background

Lucid dreaming can help people get rid of their nightmares and resolve their fears.

However, can lucid dreaming have any practical applications?

Dr. Denholm Aspy, at the University of Adelaide in Australia, is a researcher who specializes in lucid dreaming.

He explained for MNT that this experience can actually be therapeutic.

Its main application, Dr. Aspy said, is to address nightmares — especially recurring nightmares, which may affect a person’s quality of life.

The practice of learning to lucid dream in order to stop nightmares from occurring or reoccurring, he explained, is called “lucid dreaming therapy.”

“If you can help someone who’s having nightmares to become lucid during that nightmare,” he explained to us, “then that gives them the ability to exert control over themselves or over the nightmare itself.”

[L]et’s say you’re being attacked by someone in a nightmare. You could try to talk to the attacker. You could ask them ‘why are you appearing in my dreams?’ or ‘what do you need to resolve this conflict with me?'”

Dr. Denholm Aspy

“Some people,” he added, “take on superpowers or special abilities, [so] they can fight back against the attacker. And then you can also try to escape, so things like flying away, or even doing techniques to deliberately wake up from the nightmare.”

Lucid dreaming also has the potential to help people with phobias, such as fear of flying or animal phobias including arachnophobia (the fear of spiders).

“If a person has a particular phobia, then their lucid dream environment […] provides an interesting opportunity to do things like exposure therapy, where you gradually expose yourself to the thing you’re afraid of, in an attempt to gradually overcome that fear,” Dr. Aspy said.

This is possible, he said, because dream environments can provide a realistic enough experience without it actually feeling unsafe. During lucid dreaming, the individual knows that they are not in the real world, so they may safely explore their fears without actually feeling threatened.

‘Lucid dreaming is a kind of creative activity’

At the same time, lucid dreaming is also attractive as an unusual means of entertainment — kind of like the immersive experience of virtual reality.

An experienced lucid dreamer might be able to “go on an adventure” and interact with people and things in a way that they may not be able to do in real life.

The lucid dreamer who spoke to MNT said that she thinks of the experience as something akin to storytelling, which makes her feel happier upon waking up:

Lucid dreaming for me is a kind of creative activity — I get to explore what my dreams are telling me a little bit versus what my conscious mind wants. It’s not got much use apart from just being interesting and it makes me happy usually […] I tend to wake up quite content.”

“I do lucid dreaming for fun,” she went on to say. “I enjoy it, and as someone who enjoys storytelling it’s a similar experience to writing a story or playing a video game. You get immersed in a narrative that involves you in some way.”

Techniques for lucid dreaming

There are many techniques that people who want to try and achieve lucid dreaming — or who want to perfect their lucid dreaming experiences — employ.

text on billboard

Text shifts in dreams, so you may become aware that you are dreaming by trying to reread it.

A study conducted by Dr. Aspy and colleagues last year tested the efficacy of three common techniques.

The first is known as “reality testing.” This might involve verifying whether you are dreaming both in real life and during a dream.

For instance, throughout the day, a person may want to ask themselves “am I dreaming right now?” as they pinch themselves, or try to make their hand pass through a solid wall.

This technique relies on intention. In reality the pinch will hurt, but in a dream it will not. In real life the wall will remain solid and impenetrable, while in a dream the hand will easily pass through.

Another “reality check” is rereading a line of text. In reality, if we read the text on a poster, for instance, it will stay the same when we reread it. In a dream, however, the text will constantly shift.

Conducting these experiments repeatedly throughout the day may make it easier to remember to conduct them during a dream state, thus allowing the dreamer to gain awareness of the dream.

Another technique is “waking back to bed,” and it requires setting an alarm to wake up the sleeper after about 5 or 6 hours of going to sleep.

Once awake, the person should aim to remain awake for a while, before going back to bed. This technique is supposed to immerse the sleeper immediately into REM, the phase of sleep during which they are more likely to experience a lucid dream.

Finally, lucid dreaming may eventually occur through “mnemonic induction.” Once more, this is a technique that requires intent and lots of practice.

With mnemonic induction, a person must repeat to themselves, just before going to bed, a phrase such as “tonight, I will notice that I am dreaming,” so as to “program” themselves to achieve in-dream lucidity.

Dream journals and meditation

It also appears that those who find it easier to lucid dream do not have much trouble recalling their dreams on a regular basis.

“When it comes to lucid dreaming, the strongest predictor of whether you have lucid dreams or not is how good you are at remembering your ordinary dreams,” Dr. Aspy explained.

Therefore, some people who are interested in exploring their dreams with full awareness may find it useful to keep a dream journal in which they record the dreams that they have each night in as much detail as possible.

The lucid dreamer that we interviewed corroborated this idea by noting that, for a long time, she used to enjoy writing down her dreams upon waking up.

Another practice that may aid lucid dreaming is meditation, or mindfulness, as it “trains” people to become more aware of themselves and their surroundings, in general.

“A lot of people are interested in meditation and mindfulness as a way to have lucid dreams,” Dr. Aspy mentioned, explaining, “The idea there is that if you’re more aware during the day, you’re more likely to notice that you’re dreaming while you’re asleep.”

Concerns and risks

One concern that people express about engaging in lucid dreaming, if they are able to achieve it, is that they may get “stuck” in a dream and find it more difficult to wake up.

However, Dr. Aspy explained to MNT that this is not a worrying risk; normally, an individual is only able to sleep — and dream — for a set amount of time every night, so it is unlikely that anyone would get “stuck” sleeping.

He told us, “The main reason for that is — pretty much no matter what you do you are only going to, on average, only have a certain amount of sleep and dreaming every night. There are some things that you can do to increase it a little bit, but you can’t really sustain that for very long.”

Another concern is that engaging in lucid dreaming requires focus and effort, which might mean that the sleeper does not get enough rest.

However, Dr. Aspy again reassured us, noting that the lucid dreamers with whom he has worked in the past have not reported more tiredness or poorer sleep quality as a result of lucid dreaming.

At the same time, in speaking to us, he also issued a warning to aspiring lucid dreamers:

I generally recommend that people don’t pursue lucid dreaming if they have certain mental health problems.”

One example is schizophrenia, which may cause people to be unable to distinguish between some of their thoughts or fears and real-life events. In some cases, Dr. Aspy noted, lucid dreaming may actually exacerbate the condition.

Lucid dreaming may be a fascinating, helpful, or pleasant experience, but you should still consider why you are interested in achieving it, and what you expect to get from it, before trying to experiment with dream states.

Key Points In Family Planning And Maternity Health

  1. Meaning of Family Planning

Now, by definition family planning is the “practice of controlling the number of children one has and the intervals between their births, particularly by means of contraception or voluntary sterilization”.

Using family planning helps women and couples to decide for themselves when and how many children to have on their pace.

We (Health personnel) who provide family planning services caution women against having;

  • Children at a very young age (before the age of 20 years).
  • Children at an advanced age of over thirty-five (35) years.
  • Closely spaced births (sooner than twenty-four (24) months before each birth).
  • A large number of children (more than four (4).

By following this advice, maternal health and child survival are improved.

2. Services Offered to Men and Women in Family Planning #Clinics

At the family planning clinics, men and women receive:

A. Education and information on:

  • What family planning is and how it helps them and their families/partners.
  • The family planning methods which are available.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV and AIDS.
  • The causes of failure to have children and help to the couple who want a baby at times even a specific sex of the baby.

B. Family planning methods

  • Provision of family planning methods to men and women.

C. Medical History taking and examination

  • For sexually transmitted diseases.
  • For cancer of the breast.
  • For cancer of the mouth of the womb (cervix).
  • As of the care of women before starting to or continuing to use family planning methods.
  • For other medical, obstetric and gynecological problems.

D. Treatment and Referral For:

  • Any problems resulting from using family planning methods.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Problems of failure to have babies (infertility).
  • Problems of women’s breasts or womb.
  • Problems resulting from menstrual periods or lack of them.

3. Health, Social And Other Benefits of Family Planning.

A. The good things about family planning to mothers.

When mothers use family planning methods space births, they:

  • Have enough time to recover from the effects of the previous pregnancy, labour, and delivery.
  • Are protected from anaemia.
  • Have tome to care for themselves, the children and the family.
  • Experience a reduction in the problems of pregnancies and labour – such as having the baby too early or heavy bleeding after delivery.
  • Are able to provide improved nutrition to the child and rest of the family.

B. The good things about family planning to children

Children also benefit from family planning through:

  • Prolonged breastfeeding which protects them from childhood illnesses, such as diarrhoea and promotes proper growth and development.
  • Improved parental and child-to-child relationships.
  • Opportunities for better education.

C. The goods things about family planning (FP) to fathers.

Fathers also benefit from  family planning. Famliy planning enables them to:

  • Plan together with their partners the size of the families they can afford to care for.
  • Gives them time to know or wait for the persons of their lives, whom they will tolerate loving for life.
  • Have the number of children they wish to have.

D. The goods things about family planning to the community.

The community also gains from FP in the way of improved quality of life of the people.

 

 

Common causes of hiccups.

Hiccups Quick Overview

Hiccups are brief and involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle.

Irritation of the nerves that extend from the neck to the chest can cause hiccups. Many conditions can cause this irritation and result in hiccups, including eating too fast and swallowing air, chewing gum, smoking, eating or drinking too much, strokes, brain tumors, damage to the vagus or phrenic nerve, some medications, noxious fumes, anxiety and stress, and in babies, hiccups may be associated with crying, coughing, or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

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Hiccups aren’t a worry normally, but if they become frequent, chronic, and persistent (lasting more than 3 hours), if they affect sleeping patterns, interfere with eating, cause reflux of food or vomiting, occur with severe abdominal pain, fever, shortness of breath, spitting up blood, or feeling as if the throat is going to close up, see a medical personnel.

There are many home solutions to heal hiccups, including holding your breath, drinking a glass of water quickly, having someone frighten or surprise you, using smelling salts, pulling hard on your tongue, and others.

For severe or chronic hiccups that are not cured with home treatment, medical treatments include medications, anesthesia to block the phrenic nerve, and surgical implantation of an electronic stimulator to the vagus nerve. Surgery to disable the phrenic nerve is a treatment of last resort.

The prognosis for hiccups is good. For most people, hiccups usually stop by themselves with no lingering effects. If hiccups continue, they may cause social embarrassment and distress, and chronic hiccups may result in speech, eating, and sleeping disorders.

What Are Hiccups?

Hiccups are sudden, involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle. As the muscle contracts repeatedly, the opening between the vocal cords snaps shut to check the inflow of air and makes the hiccup sound. Irritation of the nerves that extend from the neck to the chest can cause hiccups.

Although associated with a variety of ailments (some can be serious such as pneumonia or when harmful substances build up in the blood for example from kidney failure), hiccups are not serious and have no clear reason for occurring. Rarely, their presence causes health problems such as speech changes or interference with eating and sleeping.

What Causes Hiccups?

Many conditions are associated with hiccups, but none has been shown to be the cause of hiccups.

  • If a person eats too fast, he or she can swallow air along with food and end up with the hiccups.
  • Smoking or chewing gum also can cause a person to swallow air and get hiccups.
  • Any other practices that might irritate the diaphragm such as eating too much (especially fatty foods) or drinking too much (alcohol or carbonated drinks) can make a person prone to having hiccups.
  • In these instances, the stomach, which sits underneath and adjacent to the diaphragm, is distended or stretched. As they occur in relation to eating and drinking, hiccups are sometimes thought to be a reflex to protect a person from choking.
  • Strokes or brain tumors involving the brain stem, and some chronic medical disorders (such as renal failure) are reported to cause hiccups; trauma to the brain, meningitis, and encephalitis also may cause hiccups.
  • Damage to the vagus or phrenic nerve may cause hiccups to last a long time.
  • Problems with the liver, including swelling, infection, or masses can cause irritation of the diaphragm, which can cause hiccups.
  • Some medications that can cause acid reflux may also have hiccups as a side effect. Most benzodiazepines, including diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan) can cause hiccups. In addition, medications such levodopa (Larodopa), nicotine, and ondansetron (Zofran) can cause hiccups. Other medications that can cause hiccups include levodopa, methyldopa (Aldomet), nicotine, ondansetron (Zofran), barbiturates, opioid pain relievers, corticosteroids, anesthesia, or chemotherapy medications.
  • Noxious fumes can also trigger hiccup symptoms.
  • A baby may hiccup after crying or coughing. This is common in babies in the first year. In some instances, babies with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) could be more prone to hiccups.
  • Anxiety and stress can induce both short and long-term hiccups

What Are Symptoms of Hiccups?

Hiccups can be described as brief, irritable spasms of the diaphragm that can occur for a few seconds or minutes. They infrequently last longer in normal individuals without any underlying medical problem.

Which Types of Doctor Treats Hiccups?

Because hiccups are rarely a medical emergency, you will likely first consult your family practitioner or internist. Children may see their pediatrician.

In the case of an emergency as described above you may see an emergency medicine specialist in a hospital’s emergency department.

Other specialists who may be involved in treating hiccups include an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist, or ENT), a gastroenterologist (a specialist in the digestive tract), a neurologist (a specialist in the brain and nervous system), a pulmonologist (a lung specialist), or a psychologist.

When Should a Person Seek Medical Care for Hiccups?

A person should see a doctor if the hiccups become chronic and persistent (if they last more than 3 hours), or if they affect sleeping patterns, interfere with eating, or cause reflux of food or vomiting.

Hiccups is rarely a medical emergency. If hiccups last for more than 3 hours, occur with severe abdominal pain, fever, shortness of breath, vomiting, spitting up blood, or feeling as if the throat is going to close up, the person should seek medical attention.

How Is the Cause of Hiccups Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on physical evaluation. Laboratory testing is rarely necessary unless the hiccups are suspected to be a symptom of an associated medical condition. The tests to diagnose the associated medical condition will be done and tests will vary according to the associated condition.

How Do I Get Rid of the Hiccups?

There are a variety of home remedies to resolve hiccups, which include holding your breath to drinking a glass of water quickly. The common thread to most of these remedies is that carbon dioxide builds up in the blood or stimulating the vagus nerve will stop hiccups. Medical care is rarely needed to cure hiccups. If a person has hiccups for more than two days, they should seek medical care.

What Home Remedies Get Rid of the Hiccups?

Numerous home remedies to stop hiccups exist. The reason these remedies are thought to work is that carbon dioxide build-up in the blood will stop hiccups, which is what happens when a person holds their breath. Stimulation of the vagus nerve (the nerve that runs from the brain to the stomach) is stimulated, hiccups can also be alleviated (this is what is happening when a person drinks water or pulls on their tongue).

Try these methods at home to get rid of the hiccups:

  • Hold your breath.
  • Drink a glass of water quickly.
  • Have someone frighten you (or better, surprise) the person
  • Use smelling salts.
  • Have the person pull hard on their tongue.
  • Place one-half teaspoon of dry sugar on the back of the tongue. (Repeat this process 3 times at 2-minute intervals, if necessary use corn syrup, not sugar, in young children.)

There are many other suggestions to get rid of the hiccups such as “name 10 famous bald men;” “stick a finger in the ear;” tickling the palate with a swab; or swallowing a tablespoon full of honey (this distracts the person with the hiccups and may help the diaphragm relax). However, a person should only try those methods they are comfortable, and be aware that some methods are not suitable for infants (honey, sugar methods), elderly with swallowing problems, and others with health problems. Call your doctor for further information if individuals have any questions about home remedies or if they fail to stop the hiccups.

What Is the Medical Treatment for Hiccups?

Treatment for getting rid of the hiccups depends on how severe the hiccups are.

  • For the common hiccups that will usually stop on their own, home remedies are generally sufficient to cure the symptoms.
  • For more severe, persistent hiccups (usually lasting over to 2 days), the doctor may try medications to manage the patient’s hiccups. Chlorpromazine (Thorazine) is usually the first prescription medication tried for hiccups, although drugs such as baclofen (Lioresal) and medications for convulsions such as phenytoin (Dilantin) have also been successful.
  • Anesthesia to block the phrenic nerve and surgical implantation of an electronic stimulator to the vagus nerve has been effective. Surgery to disable the phrenic nerve (the nerve that controls the diaphragm) is often the treatment of last resort.

What Is the Outlook for a Person Who Has the Hiccups?

In healthy people, hiccups usually go away by themselves with no serious effects after that. If hiccups continue, however, they may cause social embarrassment and distress, and if prolonged may result in speech, eating, and sleeping disorders.

 

The cure of a hangover

A hangover is a collection of signs and symptoms linked to a recent bout of heavy drinking. A person with a hangover typically experiences a headache, feels sick, dizzy, sleepy, confused, and thirsty.

Hangovers can occur at any time of day, but are usually more common in the morning directly after a night of heavy drinking.

As well as physical symptoms, the person may experience elevated levels of anxiety, regret, shame, embarrassment, and depression. The severity of a hangover is closely linked to how much alcohol was consumed, and whether the sufferer had enough sleep; the less sleep, the worse the hangover.

It is impossible really to say how much alcohol can be safely consumed to avoid a hangover – it depends on the individual and other factors, such as how tired they were before they began drinking, whether they were already dehydrated before the drinking began, whether they drank plenty of water during their drinking session, and how much sleep they got afterward.

Fast facts on hangovers:

  • Hangovers are caused by overconsumption of alcohol.
  • Symptoms include headache, nausea, sensitivity to light, and fatigue.
  • The best method of prevention is to drink alcohol in moderation, or avoid it altogether.
  • The most effective cures are rest, rehydration, and sleep.

Cure

woman drinking whiskey

Unfortunately not. Symptoms can be alleviated by drinking water, replacing electrolytes in the body through food, and resting. In the vast majority of cases, hangovers go away after about 24 hours. Responsible drinking can help avoid hangovers.

There is no “treatment” for a hangover – the best way to avoid one is either not to drink, or to drink sensibly and within the recommended limits. Our article what is the best hangover cure? features some of the common myths and suggests some methods of prevention.

A hangover has to run its course, and that can be best done with rest, drinking plenty of water, perhaps some painkillers, and simply waiting.

Do not go for a “hair of the dog” – an alcoholic drink to get rid of a hangover. This is a myth, and will likely just prolong hangover symptoms.

The following tips may help:

Drink: Sip water throughout the day. Water is the best fluid.

Eating: Go for bland foods, such as crackers or bread, which may raise blood sugar and are easy on the stomach. Fructose-containing foods might help metabolize (break down and get rid of) the alcohol more rapidly.

Pain: Some people may take a painkiller. Be aware that certain painkillers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, paracetamol) attack the liver in high concentrations, while aspirin might not be ideal for a very delicate stomach. If you are not sure what to choose, ask a qualified pharmacist.

Rest: Sleep may help speed up recovery. Have some water next to the bed.

In short, you should not drink more than you know your body can handle.

Symptoms

woman with bloodshot eye

Bloodshot eyes are one of the most visible symptoms of a hangover.

The signs and symptoms of a hangover generally start to occur when the blood alcohol drops considerably.

Typically, this happens in the morning after a night of high alcohol consumption, and may include:

  • accelerated heartbeat
  • anxiety
  • bloodshot eyes
  • body and muscle aches
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • halitosis (bad breath)
  • headache
  • hypersalivation
  • flatulence
  • lethargy, tiredness, fatigue, listlessness
  • nausea
  • photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • problems focusing or concentrating
  • sensitivity to loud sounds
  • depression (dysphoria)
  • irritability
  • moodiness
  • stomachache
  • thirst
  • trembling or shakiness, erratic motor functions
  • vomiting

If the individual has the following more severe signs and symptoms when or after drinking, they may have alcohol poisoning. This is a medical emergency. Seek medical help as soon as possible if any of the following occur:

  • breathing loses its regular rhythm
  • breathing slows down to less than eight inhalations per minute
  • confusion or stupor – the drinker is in a daze
  • fits
  • the body temperature drops
  • passing out
  • the skin becomes pale, or takes on a blue tinge
  • vomiting continues and does not stop

The symptoms vary in severity, and some people may experience some more strongly than others.

Causes

A hangover is a consequence of having consumed too much alcohol, which causes several adverse effects:

Urination: Alcohol makes a person urinate more, which raises the chances of dehydration. Dehydration can give the individual that sensation of thirst and lightheadedness.

Immune system response: Alcohol may trigger an inflammatory response from the immune system. This can affect appetite, concentration, and memory.

Stomach irritation: Alcohol consumption raises the production of stomach acids; it also slows down the rate at which the stomach empties itself – this combination can lead to nausea, vomiting, or stomachache.

Drop in blood sugar: Some people’s blood sugar levels can fall steeply when they consume alcohol, resulting in shakiness, moodiness, tiredness, general weakness, and even seizures in some cases.

Dilation of blood vessels: Alcohol consumption can cause the blood vessels to dilate, which can cause headaches.

Sleep quality: Although sleeping when drunk is common, the quality of that sleep will often be poor. The individual may wake up tired and still sleepy.

Congeners: These are substances that are produced during fermentation and are responsible for most of the taste and aroma in distilled drinks (whisky or gin, for example). They are known to contribute to symptoms of a hangover. Examples of congeners include esters and aldehydes.

Toxic byproducts: Alcohol metabolism produces toxic substances that can cause many of the symptoms of hangovers.

The body processes alcohol at a certain rate. Consuming more alcohol before the body has had time to recover means the likelihood of a hangover increases.

Prevention

The easiest way to prevent a hangover is to moderate or avoid alcohol intake.

Drinking plenty of water alongside alcoholic beverages or consuming a late-night meal after a session of heavy drinking may also temper the hangover that may occur the following morning.

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