Better living through chemistry… or what?
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What exactly are the benefits and risks of taking that aspirin a day?
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Tagged aspirin and migraines, aspirin benefits, aspirin risks, aspirin therapy for heart attack prevention, routine aspirin therapy
Food allergies develop when the immune system reacts inappropriately to food proteins. They can cause a wide range of symptoms, from abdominal pain and cramping, to headaches, hives, inflammation, and anaphylaxis. Onset of symptoms can be immediate, but may take several hours, depending on the severity of the allergy. The most common allergy-causing foods are nuts, shellfish, fish, wheat, eggs, cow’s milk or lactose, and soy.
What Causes Food Allergies?
Food allergies are caused by inappropriate immune system reactions to food proteins, but why do these reactions occur? The immune system generates infection-fighting cells that are highly specific, and in a healthy immune system any cells that react to food proteins are destroyed or never become activated. In someone with a food allergy, some immune cells become primed to react strongly to certain food proteins. The symptoms of a food allergy are essentially the symptoms of a very strong and highly specific immune response, in which the responding immune cells release histamines and other chemicals that cause inflammation in the affected area.
The allergic response has two phases, and one or both may occur during an allergic attack. In an acute phase reaction, the symptoms appear immediately on contact with the allergy-inducing food, and can include facial itching and swelling, and throat swelling. In severe cases the swelling may cause the airway to close. Late-phase symptoms typically develop between two and four hours after the exposure to the allergic food, and involve digestive problems such as vomiting and diarrhea, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
Risk Factors for Allergy Development
While the allergic response itself has been well-documented, the reason why the immune system becomes sensitized to response to food proteins is not clear. What is clear is that rather than there being one single factor that causes people to develop allergies, there are instead a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood that a given individual will become allergic to one or more substances.
The strongest factor is simply genetic inheritance: parents with allergies are more likely to have children who develop allergies, and 70% of pairs of identical twins have the same allergies. Genetic predisposition is only a risk factor, however; while the tendency to develop allergies does run in families, genetic inheritance isn’t the only influence.
Preventing and Treating Symptoms of Food Allergy
The most effective way to prevent symptoms of food allergy is simply to avoid the foods that cause symptoms. However, for someone with an allergy, it’s always a good idea to be prepared with medication on hand in case allergy-inducing food is accidentally eaten.
Depending on the severity of the allergy, medication ranges from antihistamines and other anti-inflammatory medications, to immune system-suppressing glucocorticoids, to epinephrine injections. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is typically prescribed for people with severe and potentially life-threatening allergies with immediate-onset symptoms, and is administered as an injection to limit the massive and rapid swelling that occurs.
While all of these medications effectively treat the symptoms of food allergies, they’re not able to cure the condition. However, while some children do grow out of food allergies, any allergies a person has as an adult are typically there for life. It should be noted that while most allergy medications are not subject to abuse, some over-the-counter allergy medications can cause dangerous side effects when taken with alcohol, benzodiazepines, and certain types of painkillers.
Reports on Georgia’s drug use, and that of many other states, indicates that allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine are also subject to abuse, largely because they are used in the production of methamphetamine. All allergy medications should therefore be kept close at hand, not only out of necessity, but also to prevent abuse.
Can Allergies be Prevented?
If you have one or more allergies, there are plenty of options for preventing the symptoms, but there is currently no way to prevent allergies from developing in the first place. In fact, there is evidence that allergies are more common in children than they were even a decade ago—in the US, for example, around 6% of children have food allergies, and around 12% have asthma.
There are many theories as to why increasing numbers of children are developing allergies. For example, factors such as reduced sun exposure, reduced physical activity, increased exposure to chemicals, and overuse of antibiotics, might play a role, because all of these things are known to weaken and disrupt the immune system.
The most popular theory about the increase in allergies among children in developed countries is that because children are in general healthier and affected by fewer types of infections, their immune systems may be less adept at making the distinction between harmful and benign proteins. They are therefore more likely to react inappropriately to harmless substances such as food and pollen.
A candida overgrowth is an infection caused by the yeast known as Candida albicans. Sometimes referred to as candidiasis or a yeast infection, an infection with this organism can lead to oral or genital thrush, and in some cases, systemic diseases with severe symptoms. As with many other infections, stress can make the symptoms of a candida overgrowth worse, and there are several other risk factors and lifestyle behaviors that can also worsen the effects of the disease. While a candida overgrowth can have some very unpleasant consequences, treatment is readily available, and is typically highly effective.
Anyone can be Affected by Candida Overgrowth
The yeast Candida albicans is present on the skin, in the mouth, and in the gut of most healthy people. In around one fifth of healthy women, low levels of Candida can also be detected in vaginal swabs. It’s absolutely normal for the yeast to be present in low numbers, but its growth is typically held in check by the presence of multiple types of bacteria living in the same locations. In these low, normal levels, the presence of the yeast doesn’t cause any symptoms, and it is not classified as an infection. Sometimes, however, certain things can cause the yeast to overgrow. People whose diets are high in refined starch and sugar have an increased risk of oral overgrowth, and the use of antibiotics is a common trigger for vaginal and oral yeast infections. Skin that that becomes moist for an extended period of time can also be affected by an overgrowth. Wearing wet clothing or swimwear for an extended period of time, for example, can provide enough moisture for an overgrowth to occur. In comparison to other sexually-transmitted diseases, it’s relatively rare for candida to be transmitted via sexual contact, but it’s not unheard-of. Using condoms during intercourse makes this risk fairly negligible even if one partner has an active genital candida infection.
In addition, it’s likely that in women, hormonal changes are a risk factor, as oral contraceptives, pregnancy, infertility treatment and hormone replacement therapy can all increase the likelihood of a woman developing an infection. Another common risk factor is impairment of the immune system, which can occur as a result of medication, certain illnesses, nutritional deficiency, and stress. People with impaired immune systems are also at risk of severe systemic Candida overgrowth, rather than superficial oral or skin infections.
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
In most cases, a person with a fully functional immune system will experience only local symptoms of Candida infection, meaning the symptoms are confined to the area in which the infection is located. A person who is affected by a minor localized Candida overgrowth might experience one or more of the following types of symptoms, depending on where the infection is located.
A skin overgrowth may cause problems such as rashes, hives, psoriasis, or eczema, with itching and discomfort, and redness of the affected area. If fingernails or toenails are affected they typically thicken and become discolored and brittle, and are prone to breaking. When the overgrowth occurs in the gut, common symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, or bloating, and other symptoms of digestive upset. Oral infection, also called thrush, typically causes only minor itching, but may become painful. A genital overgrowth can be very uncomfortable, particularly for women, with pain and itching of the vulva and vagina. Both men and women may note a discharge with this type of infection. A Candida overgrowth may also affect the bladder and urinary tract, causing lower abdominal pain and difficult, painful urination.
A Candida overgrowth that occurs in the gut can cause systemic symptoms ranging from mild to severe depending on the extent of the infection. This happens because when they are present in high numbers, the yeast produces large quantities of proteins that cause the walls of the intestines to become “leaky”. The yeast and its byproducts can then invade the bloodstream, which causes the infection to become systemic, rather than local. Symptoms of a systemic infection can include:
Cravings for starchy and sugary foods
Unexplained fatigue and tiredness
Insomnia or excessive sleeping
Poor concentration and memory, inability to focus, brain fog
Mood changes such as anxiety, depression, irritability, or mood swings
Localized symptoms are also likely to occur; for example, chronic oral thrush, or women may experience repeat episodes of vaginal infection
Systemic Candida infections are uncommon, but they can be very serious if left untreated, particularly in people with impaired immune systems.
Treatment is Simple and Effective
In the majority of cases, an overgrowth of Candida albicans is treatable with local application of anti-fungal medication. In the case of vaginal infection, for example, around 90% of infections are resolved with a single dose of a prescription anti-fungal cream. Mild and moderate skin infections can be treated in similar fashion. When the infection is systemic, medication may be delivered intravenously.
Internal overgrowth in the gut often requires a course of oral medication, rather than a single dose. Some people also benefit from dietary modification such as reduced intake of carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol, and fermented foods, along with probiotic supplementation.
Curing insomnia in people with depression could double their chance of a full recovery, scientists are reporting.
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Tagged how insomnia affects depression
Posted in Aging well, Boomer Health Issues, Brain Fitness, Brain plasticity, Chronic illness, Depression and aging, Fort Collins writer, Health Psychology, Improvements in health care, Learning from our elders, Memory loss, Preventative behaviors
Tagged Alzheimer's cause, alzheimer's research