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Is Strep Linked to Scary Kids’ Behavior Disorder?

When Garrett Pohlman was diagnosed with strep throat in 2007, his illness didn’t respond to antibiotics. Then the strange behaviors began.

Diana Pohlman says her son, who was 7 years old at the time, had been easygoing up to that point. But he developed severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms overnight. He became paranoid – worrying about things like radiation from the TV and light switches. He had tics and anorexia and started having frequent episodes of rage.

“He was not anyone I recognized. He was a completely different child,” she says. “It was a nightmare. At first I thought maybe he had been molested. Then I thought he had a brain tumor.

“He became so delusional he would climb on the roof thinking it was the front door. He would jump in front of cars and out of moving cars, and he had self-harm fantasies. He was afraid to leave the house. We had to pick him up and wrap him in a sheet to get him out of the house. At the age of 7,” Pohlman says.

 

He was not anyone I recognized.
He was a completely different child.
Diana Pohlman

The search for answers was long and expensive. After many months, the family found their way to a psychiatrist who knew about a disorder called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, or PANDAS, a condition she says several specialists didn’t know about. That led to medical treatment that included long-term antibiotics, having his tonsils and adenoids removed, and eventually two rounds of immunoglobulin, or IVIG treatments.

Recovery was slow, but after 2 years, by the age of 9, Pohlman says the severe symptoms stopped. For another 2 years, he had what she calls mild and manageable symptoms that eventually dissipated.

But rather than move on from PANDAS, the boy’s mother decided she needed to help other parents trying to figure out these mysterious symptoms. She founded the nonprofit PANDAS Network in 2009 to raise awareness, support families, and push for more research to better understand how to diagnose and treat the condition.

“When I realized doctors didn’t understand it, I thought I better not quit working on this because how will anyone else ever get help,” Pohlman explains. “It is abysmal. It has been shocking how misinformed doctors are about the term ‘PANDAS.’ ”

Little is known about how or why the syndrome happens, and not all doctors believe there is a connection. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recognize a link between strep and the syndrome.

“You will not find consensus from pediatric infectious disease doctors that PANDAS even exists, much less what to do about it and how to manage the patients,” says Meg Fisher, MD, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. “We still haven’t had the definitive article or study or demonstration to really get some solid clinical evidence behind this. My problem is, even if you believe in the syndrome, it’s totally unclear what you should do to help those patients. All of the information is anecdotal.”

What Is PANDAS/PANS?

Susan E. Swedo, MD, at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), first identified PANDAS in the 1990s after she reported on a link between the fast onset of OCD and group A streptococcus, more commonly known as strep.

You will not find consensus from pediatric infectious disease doctors that PANDAS even exists, much less what to do about it and how to manage the patients.
Meg Fisher, MD, Unterberg Children’s Hospital, Monmouth Medical Center

PANDAS happens when strep triggers a misdirected immune response that causes inflammation in a child’s brain. Pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome, or PANS, is a larger umbrella term that has to do with cases with a trigger other than strep, including infections like walking pneumonia or the flu.

Both disorders appear in childhood, typically between the ages of 3 and 12. While blood tests may help identify infections, there are no lab tests or other indicators for PANDAS or PANS.

Doctors diagnose the syndrome when children suddenly get severe OCD or eat a lot less food, along with at least two of the following symptoms: anxiety, depression, irritability or aggression, behavioral regression, ADD- or ADHD-like symptoms affecting schoolwork, sensory or motor problems, troubled sleep, and frequent urination.

The PANDAS Network says in some cases, the emotional symptoms can weaken children and make them homebound. Other children are OK at school but fall apart at home. The NIMH describes the start of symptoms as “dramatic,” happening “overnight and out of the blue.”

“The consensus of scientists and clinicians is that it needs to be sudden and severe,” says Margo Thienemann, MD, co-director of the PANS program at Stanford University Medical Center in California. “Sudden can be overnight. Some people can say exactly what time it started or that it happened over a couple of days. But they all say this isn’t their child anymore. Even if they don’t believe someone can be possessed, it feels that way. What happened? Why are they doing these things? Why can’t they stop?”

Swedo estimates that it impacts about 1% of elementary school-aged children and is likely under-diagnosed. The PANDAS Network estimates 1 in 200 children have it. Thienemann says her program at Stanford has seen more than 250 patients since it started in 2012. But she says that since their staff is small, they have to narrow down who gets in. One year, they turned away 1,000 patients because they couldn’t handle any more.

Thienemann says this is why they have helped write guidelines to allow health care providers to identify and treat these children. “It takes a multidisciplinary team to manage. A psychiatrist, pediatrician, or rheumatologist can’t do it alone. You need all these different vantage points to diagnose and coordinate care,” she says.

There are now PANS centers in California and Arizona, and some doctors around the country treat the disorder.

The NIMH says research suggests IVIG can ease symptoms and may be used in severe PANDAS cases, but it warns it has many side effects — including nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness — and there is a chance of infection with this sort of procedure. Parents say it is also expensive and often not covered by insurance.

Some families say they also see improvement when they have their children’s tonsils and adenoids removed, although no studies show that works.

streptococcus pneumonia bacteria

Controversy

Not all in the medical community agree that strep or other infections can trigger these kinds of behaviors. There is also much debate about whether treatments are effective.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recognize a link between strep and PANDAS, a March 2017 article in AAP News, sent to the group’s 66,000 pediatrician members, discusses the disorders and the controversy around them. While it’s not the group’s official policy, the article says pediatricians should consider PANS anytime a child “has an abrupt behavior change with obsessive thoughts,” and it points them to material that shows them how to diagnose it.

Fisher says it’s complicated for pediatricians, since there is no evidence that taking out tonsils and adenoids is helpful or that antibiotics work. She says many pediatricians worry that young patients will become resistant to antibiotics if you prescribe them long-term, and many have concerns about IVIG side effects.

“I understand the parents’ frustration, because finding a physician for these patients is very difficult. There are a lot of doctors who are, quote unquote, PANDAS specialists, but there is nothing that is evidence-based about what they are doing,” she says. “Our goal is first do no harm, and it is hard to know how best to help these patients. It is a very frustrating thing. I wish someone would come up with some solutions.”

Thienemann says most parents who find their way to her program are frantic because they can’t get help anywhere else. “Part of that desperation is nobody would listen to them. People say my pediatrician won’t do anything, and my child is trying to jump out of moving cars or a window. They can’t get out of the house, can’t sleep, are urinating on themselves, and have severe separation anxiety,” she says.

 

There is something medically wrong. There isn’t a finger to be pointed. There are questions to be asked and answered.
Ali Claypoole

Parents say it is obvious something isn’t right.

“I thought she had schizophrenia or severe mental illness,” says Kelly, a mother in Maryland who asked that we not use her last name to protect the privacy of her 7-year-old daughter, Maggie, who has PANDAS. “It was rapid-onset OCD, and then we were spending our entire life trying to keep her from jumping out of cars, hurting herself, biting us, and losing her mind.”

“There is something medically wrong. There isn’t a finger to be pointed. There are questions to be asked and answered,” adds Ali Claypoole, whose son, now 9 years old, first showed PANDAS symptoms at the age of 6. “Our world is turned upside down, and from where I am, it’s almost like parents are more informed than the doctors. I find the civilian community is much more understanding, interested, and willing to learn about this than the medical community. It makes me mad.”

Going Forward

More research is now being done.

In a 2017 large-scale study of key parts of the PANDAS theory, researchers looked at 17 years of data out of Denmark and found that young patients with a positive strep test had higher chances of having of mental disorders, especially OCD and tic disorders, compared with those without a positive strep test. Non-strep throat infections also carried a higher chance of these types of mental disorders in children, although it was less – perhaps pointing to the chance that other infections can trigger the symptoms.

It is really the brain inflammation  
that is central to this disease.
Dritan Agalliu, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center

In 2016,  Dritan Agalliu, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, published a study showing that immune cells produced in the nose after multiple strep infections appear to be the culprit for the disease. These cells enter the brain via the nerves that are responsible for the sense of smell, and they damage the blood vessels and synapses in the brain.

Agalliu says this research helped explain a crucial step in the disease: how antibodies that the body makes to attack strep or other infections cross the blood/brain barrier in these children and attack parts of their brain by mistake; similar to what happens in other autoimmune diseases of the brain, like multiple sclerosis.

The NIHM recently awarded Agalliu nearly $2 million to keep studying the disorder. He says it should be called post-streptococcal basal ganglia encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. He’s also doing research funded by a private donor, looking at genetic chances of having the disorders to understand why a small number of children who get multiple strep infections are prone to get the disease.

“It is really the brain inflammation that is central to this disease. If we think about PANDAS/PANS this way, it will relieve a lot of controversy and make therapies more acceptable for patients,” Agalliu says. “I am hoping with our next publication, we can alleviate any potential question that this is an autoimmune disease.”

There’s also increasing interest in looking at PANDAS as a type of Sydenham chorea, defined by abnormal movements, OCD, mood swings, and other emotional symptoms that follow strep infection.

The NIMH now has a group for PANDAS and PANS. The PANDAS Network is working to make information about the disorders part of continuing medical education for pediatricians, and a working group has created handouts to educate school personnel nationwide to help children with these disorders get back to their classrooms.

So will children outgrow PANDAS? Like most other things associated with this disorder, there is no consensus.

Doctors who focus on the disorders say when patients can get to them, improvement is possible. “If we get people as early as possible, maybe even at the onset of illness, I think we do a good job of being able to tamp down inflammation and help them a lot and maybe get them all the way better,” Thienemann says. “If someone has been dealing with it for 10 years, I think they may develop ongoing autoimmune problems and there may be damage to their brain. Recovery might not be as complete, but I think we can still help them.”

Three years after he first showed symptoms, Claypoole’s son had a full remission at the age of 9 after IVIG treatments. But after a few months, he got strep again and the PANDAS symptoms returned, but they were less severe. Kelly’s daughter Maggie has seen her symptoms subside for a while, only to return. Her doctors prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories after each new episode. She takes both medications daily for months on end. She has also had two rounds of IVIG. “Every time we do an intervention, the baseline gets better, but it doesn’t end the problem. She is not symptom-free,” Kelly says.

Pohlman says her son, now 17, is a straight-A student who plays football and the cello and is applying to college. He is symptom-free.

“Once I understood that Garrett’s brain was on fire from an infectious illness, I barely could believe his body would have the capacity for a full recovery,” she says. “Could he have the normal life I had expected for my child? So I look at him now in amazement.”

 

By Jennifer Clopton       Nov. 10, 2017     WebMD Article Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on November 10, 2017

Sources
Ali Claypoole, Maryland.
Kelly, Maryland. (Requested not using last name)
Dritan Agalliu, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center, New York City.
Meg Fisher, MD, Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, NJ.
Diana Pohlman, executive director, PANDAS Network, Stanford, CA.
Patricia Rice Doran, EdD, associate professor, Department of Special Education, Towson University, Maryland.
Margo Thienemann, MD, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA.
AAP News: “PANDAS/PANS treatments, awareness evolve, but some experts skeptical.”
American Academy of Pediatrics Red Book: “Group A Streptococcal Infections.”
National Institute of Mental Health: “PANDAS, Questions and Answers.”
National Institute of Mental Health: “Guidelines published for treating PANS/PANDAS.”
PANDASNetwork.org: “What is PANS?” “What is PANDAS?” Symptoms,” “Statistics,” “Our Mission.”
K. Chang, Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, Feb. 1, 2015.
R. Kurlan, Pediatrics, June 2008.
S Orlovska, JAMA Psychiatry, July 1, 2017.
K.A. Williams, Brain Research, August 18, 2015.
T Dileepan, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, January 4, 2016.

source: WebMD 
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Lack Of Sleep May Mess With Your Health On A Molecular Level

The impact goes far beyond grogginess and irritability. In many cases, sleep loss can give certain diseases the upper hand.

You no doubt have heard about the need to get a proper amount of sleep. Public health authorities continually declare we all need on average seven hours of slumber every night to be at our best. Yet while these recommendations come with a warning about the troubles stemming from a lack of sleep, when it comes to what happens inside our bodies, the details are usually few and far between.

Now, thanks to a team of Australian researchers, we have a clearer understanding of what happens at the molecular level when we disrupt these needed times of rest. The work reveals the impact goes far beyond grogginess and irritability. In many cases, sleep loss can give certain diseases the upper hand.

The team focused on the effects of what is known as the circadian rhythm. This biological phenomenon exists in all living organisms — even bacteria — and dictates when bodies should be active or at rest. The discovery was considered of such great importance the original researchers were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine.

When the circadian rhythm was discovered, it was a mystery and any connection to health was speculative at best. But by 2007, researchers began to understand how disruptions in this rhythm can lead to health problems. A new branch of sleep medicine was developed in which disorders such as jet lag and altered timing of sleep became conditions worth documenting and treating based on our wake-sleep schedules.

Yet the studies did not stop there. Secondary consequences — known as sequelae — also were investigated and showed symptoms such as weight gain and poor decision making were directly linked to a lack of proper rest. As for the Australian researchers, they focused on a different problem with a much wider scope for health. Their interest lied in inflammation, one of the most troublesome issues in health today.

Body temperature, blood pressure, feeding times 

… are all affected.

The author’s investigations stems from a relatively recent finding from 2015. Researchers learned of a connection between our immunity and a small section of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, more commonly known as the SCN. At just under two millimetres in length, you might think this region would have little effect on us. Yet close to 20 years of research has revealed this tiny region seated deep in the brain is the primary regulator of the circadian rhythm. As studies have shown, the area also impacts almost all of our bodily processes.

The extent of influence on our bodily functions by the SCN is fascinating. Body temperature, blood pressure, feeding times and (not surprisingly) the feelings of wakefulness and tiredness are all affected by this little region. The 2015 study shows the immune system also responds to the calls from this region, altering how it functions during the course of a day. During the day and into the early evening, our immunity is active. Late at night and into the early morning hours, it is at rest. The balance ensures the forces maintain a proper balance and do not end up hyperactive or fatigued.

With this in mind, the Australian researchers explored the consequences to immune balance as a result of sleep deprivation. They found studies both in animals and humans revealing even a slight change in our regular circadian rhythm can lead to the development of low-level inflammation. For the authors, the rise of inflammation could worsen chronic diseases such as allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. No to mention the inflammation also leads to a poorer response to infection.

Thanks to this overview, the Australian researchers have shown at the microscopic and molecular levels why getting those seven hours of sleep is so important. They underscore the necessity of making sure people take better care of their health when faced with disruptions to the sleep cycle as a result of shift work, time zone travel and other disturbances. Perhaps most importantly, for those who cannot change their sleep schedules, the inner struggles may require us to be more observant of our behaviours.

As to how to accomplish this balance, the authors suggested treatment options focusing on inflammation as a target. While this direction will no doubt take years to achieve, there may be more natural options to improve the outlook. Proper diet and exercise can help to minimize the extent of inflammation. In addition, the use of melatonin also can provide some assistance. Then there is the potential for probiotics. While still in the early stages, we may be able to one day find a mixture designed to help us stay balanced when the world around us is being disrupted.

11/06/2017    Jason Tetro Microbiology, Health & Hygiene Expert
 


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Boost Bacteria to Bolster Your Brain

How can boosting bacteria in your body improve your brain health? Called the “second brain” by leading scientists, a healthy balance of flora in the gut helps to determine whether you’ll have a great memory and a strong resistance to brain disease.

And what happens in the gut plays a significant role in your brain health.  Restoring beneficial bacteria and some healthy yeasts in your intestines (yes, some yeasts are beneficial, just not the ones that cause yeast infections) can go a long way toward protecting your mental faculties and preventing brain diseases altogether.

Frequently when I tell people about this connection between intestinal and brain health—what is known as the gut-brain axis, they tell me that they are covered because they eat yogurt on a regular basis.  While yogurt may (or may not) help boost intestinal flora depending on whether it contains any live cultures at all, we need to give our guts a lot more than yogurt to help us establish a strong and healthy brain for life.

Let’s explore some of the exciting research into the link between beneficial microbes in our gut and our overall brain health.

Some probiotics actually function as antioxidants within the body, which can not only reduce the effects of free radical damage and aging, it is especially good news in the prevention and treatment of brain diseases.

That’s because the brain is vulnerable to free radical damage. Additionally, research at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found that consuming certain strains of probiotics could actually produce many brain health benefits, including improved sensory and emotional processing.

Since the brain plays a significant role in whether we suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, probiotics may also be helpful in addressing these serious health concerns. In animal studies conducted by the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and published in the medical journal Gastroenterology, the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum eliminated anxiety and normalized behavior.  It appeared to work by reducing the excitability of the nerves in the gut that connect through the vagus nerve to the central nervous system, and in doing so, eliminated anxiety.

Hungarian researchers found that intestinal inflammation is one of the key factors involved in depression and that treating the inflammation with probiotics (along with B complex vitamins, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids) reduced depressive symptoms.

Additional French research demonstrates the power of boosting specific strains of probiotics to boost mood and psychological health.  They found that healthy study participants experienced reduced psychological stress, depression, anxiety, and anger and hostility, as well as improved problem-solving skills when taking the Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum for 30 days.

While you can still enjoy yogurt if you are already doing so, please keep in mind that the above strains are not typically found in yogurt.  I’m not aware of any yogurt that contains the best brain-boosting strains.

Take a probiotic supplement containing proven strains of brain-boosting probiotics such as  Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus helveticus on a daily basis.  Store your probiotics in the refrigerator, and take them on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning with a large glass of water tends to work well for most people.

Additionally, kimchi—the national dish of Korea which is typically a fermented mixture of cabbage, chilis, and garlic—frequently contains a much more diverse group of beneficial microbes than yogurt, making it an excellent choice as a brain boosting food. Some types contain fish sauce so if you’re vegan be sure to choose a fish sauce-free option. It is delicious on sandwiches, over brown rice, or as a side-dish to many foods.  Be sure to choose kimchi that hasn’t been pasteurized to ensure the cultures are still intact.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook           October 5, 2017
source: www.care2.com


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The Hidden Food Ingredient Linked to Pain and Inflammation

There’s a food additive so ubiquitous in the food industry it is found in most packaged foods, restaurant sauces and even many foods that have been “certified organic.” That ingredient is carrageenan. While the additive starts out harmless enough (it comes from the seaweed known as Irish moss) it is then processed to extract the ingredient known as carrageenan, which acts as a thickener or emulsifier for many prepared foods.

Like most people, I originally thought that carrageenan was a harmless extract from seaweed, so I didn’t give it much consideration. Then I heard that researchers were giving animals carrageenan to induce pain and inflammation as a way to prepare the animals for scientific studies exploring anti-pain drugs. That was the first I’d heard of carrageenan being used for harm. So I began to investigate.

Dr. Joanne Tobacman has conducted many studies on the effects of carrageenan consumption, including one in the Journal of Diabetes Research. After eating carrageenan for only six days, animals fed carrageenan developed glucose intolerance, an umbrella term used to describe impaired metabolism involving excessively high blood sugar levels. Dr. Tobacman found that the food additive caused blood sugar levels to skyrocket, indicating that it may lead to the development of diabetes. She indicates that carrageenan used in animals’ diets so commonly cause diabetes that the additive could be used for mouse models of the study of diabetes.

She also found that carrageenan causes intestinal and systemic inflammation in animal studies. Considering that inflammation is a well-established factor in most chronic disease, including: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, pain disorders and many others, any food additive in common use is a serious concern. Dr. Tobacman also indicates that the amount of carrageenan found in most peoples’ diets is sufficient to cause inflammation.

 

Sources of Carrageenan

Carrageenan is found in common foods, including:

  • infant formula
  • ice cream
  • cream
  • butter
  • soy milk
  • almond milk
  • rice milk
  • cottage cheese
  • sour cream
  • yogurt
  • coffee creamers
  • vegan cheese alternatives
  • egg nog
  • protein supplements
  • aloe vera gel
  • deli meats
  • juices
  • puddings
  • pizzas
  • chocolate bars
  • coffee beverages
  • many packaged foods

Additionally, some supplements, particularly those involving gel caps, commonly contain carrageenan. And, most grocery store rotisserie chickens typically contain the additive.

The Cornucopia Institute has compiled a comprehensive list of organic foods that contain carrageenan, since the ingredient is legally allowed in foods bearing the label “organic” or “certified organic.”

 
a Care2 favorite by Michelle Schoffro Cook      About Michelle
Follow Michelle at
@mschoffrocook
source: www.care2.com


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The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

There are few things more more ritualistic—and to many, more sacred—than a morning cup of joe. 64% of Americans drink at least one cup a day—a statistic that’s barely budged since the ’90s. Despite warnings from doctors over the years that coffee may be hard on the body, people have remained devoted to the drink.

Luckily for them, the latest science is evolving in their favor. Research is showing that coffee may have net positive effects on the body after all.

Is coffee bad for you?

For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease and stunt growth. They worried that people could become addicted to the energy that high amounts of caffeine provided, leading them to crave more and more coffee as they became tolerant to higher amounts of caffeine. Experts also worried that coffee had damaging effects on the digestive tract, which could lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn and other ills.

All of this concern emerged from studies done decades ago that compared coffee drinkers to non-drinkers on a number of health measures, including heart problems and mortality. Coffee drinkers, it seemed, were always worse off.

But it turns out that coffee wasn’t really to blame. Those studies didn’t always control for the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking, drinking and a lack of physical activity. If people who drank a lot of coffee also happened to have some other unhealthy habits, then it’s not clear that coffee is responsible for their heart problems or higher mortality.

That understanding has led to a rehabilitated reputation for the drink. Recent research reveals that once the proper adjustments are made for confounding factors, coffee drinkers don’t seem have a higher risk for heart problems or cancer than people who don’t drink coffee. Recent studies also found no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack.

Is coffee good for you?

Studies show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, thanks to ingredients in coffee that can affect levels of hormones involved in metabolism.

In a large study involving tens of thousands of people, researchers found that people who drank several cups a day—anywhere from two to four cups—actually had a lower risk of stroke. Heart experts say the benefits may come from coffee’s effect on the blood vessels; by keeping vessels flexible and healthy, it may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks.

It’s also high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. That may explain why some studies have found a lower risk of liver cancer among coffee drinkers.

Coffee may even help you live longer. A recent study involving more than 208,000 men and women found that people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that some of the chemicals in coffee may help reduce inflammation, which has been found to play a role in a number of aging-related health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some evidence also suggests that coffee may slow down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging.

One downside is that people may become dependent on caffeine (no surprise to any regular caffeine-drinker who takes a coffee break). The symptoms—headaches, irritability and fatigue—can mimic those of people coming off of addictive drugs. Yet doctors don’t consider the dependence anywhere close to as worrisome as addictions to habit-forming drugs like opiates. While unpleasant, caffeine “withdrawal” symptoms are tolerable and tend to go away after a day or so.

How much coffee is safe?

Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, especially in the digestive tract. But studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe. Sticking to those boundaries shouldn’t be hard for coffee drinkers in the U.S., since most drink just a cup of java per day.Moderation is key. But sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

Alice Park   May 05, 2017    TIME 
source: time.com


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Those Burgers Aren’t JUST Making Us Fat—They’re Messing With Our Immune Systems, Too

New research reveals that high-fat diets can impair memory and make our immune systems attack our own bodies.

A junk food diet is clearly not healthy. Burgers widen our waistlines, raise our cholesterol levels and tighten our arteries. But scientists now think that even before it shows up as additional pounds on the scale, junk food is changing our bodies in other, surprising ways. It’s actually a form of malnutrition that could be making our immune systems attack our own bodies.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Immunology, scientists at Australia’s University of New South Wales investigated a typical western diet—one that’s high in saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Specifically, they looked at the diet’s impact on immune cells called T lymphocytes, or T cells.

The researchers fed mice a high-fat diet for nine weeks to see what effect it would have on the T cells before the mice gained weight. The results surprised study leader Abigail Pollock. “Despite our hypothesis that the T cell response and capacity to eliminate invading pathogens would be weakened we actually saw the opposite: the percentage of overactive T cells increased,” she explained.

This might sound great, but having more T cells doesn’t necessarily mean your immune system is stronger. In fact, when the immune system goes into overdrive, it attacks healthy parts of the body, resulting in autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Cell membranes—the bags that hold cells together—are made up of layers of fatty lipid molecules. Looking closely at the T cells, the scientists found that having extra fats in the diet actually changed the amount of lipid molecules in the cell membrane, which in turn, said Pollock, “changes the structure of the cell, altering the responsiveness of the T cells and changing the immune response.”

Altering immunity

The team had shown previously that altering the lipid content of T cell membranes affects how they signal and activate each other, but this is the first time the effect has been shown in a living animal. More research is needed, they say, to figure out exactly what’s happening and determine which fats we could avoid to make sure our immune systems don’t go into overdrive.

Indeed, this is not the first study to show that a high-fat diet impacts the immune system; almost 20 years ago, scientists at the University of Oxford in the U.K. studied rats on diets rich in different fats. They found that the lymphocytes of rats fed a high-fat diet rich in palmitic acid grew more, whereas natural killer cells—another type of immune cell—of rats on a high-fat diet rich in stearic acid grew much less.

More recently, scientists at the University of Ulsan in South Korea compared obese mice on a high-fat diet and non-obese mice on a normal diet, and found that the obese mice had significantly lower levels of immune cells, including T cells, in their lymph nodes, where the immune cells wait until they are needed by the body. The lymph nodes near the intestine were much lighter in the obese mice and contained far fewer T cells than those of the control mice.

The scientists concluded that the accumulation of fat around the organs—visceral fat—due to a high-fat diet causes cells in the lymph nodes to self-destruct: “Dietary fat-induced visceral obesity may be crucial for obesity-related immune dysfunction,” they explained.

A high-fat diet won’t only affect your immune system; it could also impair your memory—and that of your kids. When they fed pregnant mice a diet high in lard, scientists at Capital Medical University in China found that the fat in their offspring’s brain was altered. The authors explain in their study: “Our research demonstrated that long-term high lard diet […] changed the brain fatty acids composition and damaged the memory and learning ability of mice.”

What’s in your burger and fries?

A junk food diet is rich in fat, but there are all sorts of other harmful things lurking in there too. Firstly, junk food is highly palatable—it tastes good. This makes us eat more and more, which is an even bigger problem because it’s also very high in calories. A small cheeseburger is 300 calories, the same as a whole (nutritious) meal. And you would rarely just eat a cheeseburger; adding fries (230 calories) and a soda (170 calories) takes the total to a whopping 700.

An excessive calorie intake leads to obesity, which has an impact on the immune system. Norwegian researchers found that being overweight led to inflammation—a sign of an overactive immune response. They studied this on a molecular level, to establish a link between metabolism, inflammation, heart attack and stroke. Their theory is that overeating provides our cells with too much energy and the tiny cellular engines—mitochondria—can stall.

“We believe that long-term stress on the mitochondria may cause metaflammation,” explained Dr. Arne Yndestad of Oslo University Hospital. “A metaflammation is a low-grade chronic inflammation over many years, and unfortunately it’s a condition that’s difficult to detect.”

There’s more. According to World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) we eat on average 8.1 grams of salt a day—about a third more than the recommended 6 grams. Junk food is high in salt; a junk food meal can tip you over the limit of your daily intake.

What’s the problem? Salt is implicated in making our immune systems go haywire. In three separate studies published in Nature, scientists showed that high salt intake increase production of T cells, taking them to harmful levels. One of the studies showed that feeding mice with multiple sclerosis a high salt diet made their disease progress faster.

One of the researchers, Dr. Vijay Kuchroo of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, points out that the evidence is not yet definitive, but “is building a very interesting hypothesis [that] salt may be one of the environmental triggers of autoimmunity” and that it’s not yet possible to predict the effect salt has on autoimmunity and the development of diseases like type 1 diabetes.

 

Not-so-happy meals

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s a bleak picture for kids too. In 2015, WASH carried out an international study on the salt content of children’s meals, concluding that 8 out of 10 meals had more than 1 gram of salt per serving, tipping the maximum recommended serving per meal.

“The more salt you eat as a child, the more likely you are to have serious health issues in later life,” said Prof. Graham MacGregor, WASH chairman and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London. “This can include high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease. That is why it is vitally important that children do not get used to the taste of salt.”

Unfortunately, our kids might be at a disadvantage from the outset: the gut bacteria they inherit can have an impact on their immune health. Babies get their gut bacteria—their microbiota—from their mothers at birth and this continues to be shaped through breastfeeding. The microbiota is known to have an impact on our immunity; Spanish researchers found that children with type 1 diabetes had different gut bacteria compared to healthy children.

In his review “Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity,” Dr. Ian Myles of the National Institutes of Health gives an overview of what we know about the effects of a western diet on the immune system. The bacteria found in children’s intestines can have a surprisingly big impact, he says. “Our bodies are a kind of mini-ecosystem, and anything that disturbs our bacteria can alter our health in profound ways,” he said in an interview with Time.

They might also be inheriting a genetic preference for unhealthy food. Researchers at Imperial College London have identified a gene linked to cravings for high-calorie foods. They asked 45 people to look at photos of high- and low-calorie foods and rate how appealing they were, and monitored their brain activity. They found that people with a particular genetic change near a gene called FTO who preferred high calorie foods had more activity in parts of the brain linked to pleasure. This, say the researchers, means people with this genetic trait will find it harder to avoid junk food. And if it’s written in our DNA, there’s a chance we can pass it on to our kids.

Even more reason to stop bombarding them with adverts for junk food. Children’s food choices are strongly influenced by advertising, and many countries are already responding by restricting advertising to kids.

Immune-boosting alternatives

Switching off the TV is one way to cut junk food cravings and intake, and therefore protect our immune systems. And the same researchers who found the genetic variants that cause food cravings also found a dietary supplement that can stop those cravings. But there are plenty of other things that can boost our immunity.

The problem with junk food isn’t just the bad ingredients it contains; it’s also the good ingredients it doesn’t contain. You won’t find vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in a fast food meal, but a study by U.K. scientists revealed that these vegetables switch on immune cells in the intestines, which they say explains the link between diet and immunity.

Junk food is also low in fiber, which is known to boost immunity. According to one study, dietary fiber encourages friendly bacteria to grow in the intestine. These lactic acid bacteria can boost immunity, so eating foods that help them grow—like fiber-rich prebiotics, fermented vegetables and raw garlic—could strengthen your immune system.

Immune-boosting antioxidants are also hard to find in your hamburger (unless it’s topped with mushrooms), so eating plenty of sweet potato, elderberry and low-fat yogurt will help.

In his review on fast food fever, Dr. Myles wrote: “While today’s modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.”

So the next time you’re tempted by a meal deal, consider cooking up some vegetables with chicken and a refreshing yogurt and berry dessert instead. Your immune system—and your memory—will thank you for it.

By Lucy Goodchild Van Hilten / AlterNet September 30, 2016
Lucy Goodchild van Hilten is a freelance writer. Read more of her work at telllucy.com.


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9 Reasons To Stop Eating Processed Foods

“There’s a lot of processed food in North America,
and I know that can make some tourists
who are used to fresh food feel sick.”
– Wolfgang Puck

Wolfgang Puck is a famous chef and restaurateur that was born in Austria. As a foreign-born food expert, Puck is knowledgeable in regards to the prolific presence of processed food that is unique to the United States and other countries. He is one among many experts that testify to the harmful nature of food that undergoes processing.

As a reference, processed food is defined as “any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat.” This rather ambiguous definition doesn’t identify what makes some (not all) processed foods harmful. Mechanical processing – the physical actions required to grow, harvest and produce foods – doesn’t alter the nature of food and isn’t harmful.

Chemical processing – altering the chemical makeup of foods through additives and other artificial substances – can indeed be harmful to one’s health. Artificial substances include sweeteners, preservatives and other elements. The inherent risk of such substances is a public safety concern in many countries, and for legitimate reasons.

HERE ARE NINE REASONS TO STOP EATING PROCESSED FOODS IMMEDIATELY:

1. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNTS OF SUGAR OR CORN SYRUP
Foods that contain sugar essentially contain empty calories. In other words, these calories provide no nutritional value. Studies have shown that these empty calories can have a harmful effect on the metabolism and cardiovascular system. The diabetes epidemic also strongly correlates with sugar consumption. Corn syrup, particularly of the high fructose variety, has been found to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, dementia and liver failure.

2. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN TOO MANY ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS
Many ingredients listed on the labels of processed foods cannot be properly read. This is because these ingredients are chemicals, and most chemicals have unpronounceable names. Many additives and preservatives contribute to potentially harmful physical effects, from common fatigue to heart disease.

junk food

3. PROCESSED FOODS ARE HIGH IN REFINED CARBOHYDRATES
Refined carbohydrates are sugars and starches that have been modified (refined). The problem is that this refinement process empties the food of its nutritional value, including its fiber content.  Of course, many sugars and starches contribute to a number of adverse health conditions.

4. PROCESSED FOODS ARE USUALLY LACKING IN NUTRIENTS
The processing of food often empties the food of its nutritional value. Even though many of these foods are infused with synthetic (read: artificial) nutrients, the quality of nutrition derived from such is far superior compared to whole, unprocessed foods.

5. PROCESSED FOODS ARE LOW IN FIBER CONTENT
Fiber has many different roles to play in the development and maintenance of a healthy body. Primarily known to aid digestion, fiber also helps to: produce healthy bacteria, slow the absorption of carbohydrates, and create feelings of satiety.

6. PROCESSED FOODS HARM METABOLIC FUNCTION
Because of the chemical makeup of processed foods – absence of fiber, nutrition, satiety and sustenance – our digestive system and metabolism operate poorly. The cumulate effects result in more food consumed and less food energy expended. In other words, we eat more stuff and burn less fat and calories as a result of eating processed foods.

7. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN PESTICIDES
To grow and harvest GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms), farmers must use pesticides and herbicides to preserve the area where they are grown. Often, these pesticides and herbicides will penetrate both the soil and the crop itself. Needless to say, chemicals designed to eradicate insects and vegetation are not well-received by the human body. These chemicals have been linked to an assortment of functional and developmental problems, including cancer.

8. PROCESSED FOODS CAUSE INFLAMMATION
Various studies have shown that artificial ingredients such as processed flours, vegetable oils and refined sugars can cause or worsen cases of inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to a variety of maladies including dementia, respiratory problems and neurological disorders.

9. PROCESSED FOOD IS OFTEN HIGH IN TRANS-FAT OR VEGETABLE OIL
Hydrogenated oils such as vegetable oil often contain an excessive amount of Omega-6 fatty acids, which has been linked to inflammation and oxidation issues. Studies have demonstrated that these substances carry and increased risk of heart disease.

source: www.powerofpositivity.com    JULY 26, 2016