Alcohol may be less harmful for people over 50

A recent study examines the health impact of consuming alcohol at different ages. The authors conclude that, for people over the age of 50, the health risks may be less severe.

Older adult wine
If alcohol does have protective effects, they are not distributed evenly across all ages.

Heavy drinking is linked to a range of serious health consequences.

These include certain cancers, liver and heart disease, and damage to the nervous system, including the brain.

However, as has been exhaustively covered in the popular press, drinking in moderation might have certain health benefits.

A number of studies have concluded that drinking alcohol at a low level could have a protective effect.

One study, for instance, found that light and moderate drinking protected against all-cause mortality, as well as mortality related to cardiovascular disease.

It is no surprise that these stories have been well-received and widely read, but not all researchers agree, and the debate is ongoing.

A recent study led by Dr. Timothy Naimi, of the Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts, adds further fuel to an already rampant blaze.

The authors take aim at the methodology used in earlier studies, and they published their findings in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs earlier this week.

A fresh approach

The researchers argue that the way that earlier studies measured alcohol’s impact on health might be flawed. Specifically, they note that the studies are generally observational and usually recruit participants over the age of 50.

The authors argue that this is problematic because it excludes anyone who might have died due to alcohol before the age of 50. As they dryly point out, “Deceased persons cannot be enrolled in cohort studies.”

Dr. Naimi first outlined his concerns about this inherent selection bias in a paper published in the journal Addiction in 2017.

Those who are established drinkers at age 50 are ‘survivors’ of their alcohol consumption who [initially] might have been healthier or have had safer drinking patterns.”

Dr. Timothy Naimi

According to the authors, almost 40 percent of deaths due to alcohol consumption occur before the age of 50.

This means that the vast majority of research into the potential risks of alcohol do not take these deaths into account and could underestimate the real dangers.

To reinvestigate, the authors dipped into data from the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact Application which is maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, this application “provides national and state estimates of alcohol-related health impacts, including deaths and years of potential life lost.”

The difference of age

The analysis showed that the level of an individual’s alcohol-related risk was heavily influenced by age.

In total, 35.8 percent of alcohol-related deaths occurred in people aged 20–49. When looking at deaths that were prevented by alcohol consumption, the scientists found only 4.5 percent in this age group.

When they looked at individuals aged 65 or over, it was a different story: Although a similar 35 percent of alcohol-related deaths occurred in this group, the authors found a huge 80 percent of the deaths prevented by alcohol in this demographic.

The researchers also saw this stark difference between age groups when they looked at the number of potential years lost to alcohol.

They showed that 58.4 percent of the total number of years lost occurred in those aged 20–49. However, this age group only accounted for 14.5 percent of the years of life saved by drinking.

Conversely, the over-65 group accounted for 15 percent of the overall years of life lost, but 50 percent of the years of life saved.

The authors conclude that younger people “are more likely to die from alcohol consumption than they are to die from a lack of drinking,” but older people are more likely to experience the health benefits of moderate drinking.

Although the conclusions are not explosive, they bring us a more complete understanding of alcohol’s impact on health: Moderate drinking may benefit people of a certain age group, but heavy drinking is harmful to all.

9 Essential Oils for Diabetes Aromatherapy

Diabetes affects the way that the body produces and uses insulin, and it can lead to various symptoms and complications. Some believe that aromatherapy, or treatment with essential oils, may help.

Read on to learn more about which oils may benefit people with diabetes, how to use them, and what precautions to take.

Essential oils, Aromatherapy, and Diabetes

Essential oils are concentrated versions of certain compounds in plant matter.

A person can easily find an essential oil in the peel of a citrus fruit. Peeling an orange, for example, releases the essential oil, spreading the scent of fresh oranges.

Aromatherapy involves inhaling or otherwise absorbing compounds from these oils for medicinal purposes.

The body can readily use many of these compounds. Since ancient times, people have used essential oils in various ways, and some of their compounds have formed the basis of several Western medications.

The following essential oils may help reduce the effects of diabetes.

Coriander seed

Coriander seed essential oil for diabetes
Coriander seed essential may help lower blood sugar levels.

Coriander — or cilantro — seed grows all over the world. In many traditions, coriander seed is a remedy for digestive issues, such as indigestion, diarrhea, and flatulence.

Coriander seed essential oil may also help in the fight against diabetes. In a study from 2009, scientists found that an extract from coriander seed reduced blood sugar levels in rats with diabetes.

The researchers noted that the beta cells in the pancreas were more active after using coriander seed oil. This may help increase insulin levels and reduce blood sugar.

Coriander seed oil is available for purchase online.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) essential oil may help people with high blood sugar levels, according to a study published in 2015. Researchers found that the essential oil of lemon balm helped encourage cells to consume glucose.

The team carried out the test in a lab, not with humans, but it suggests that the oil may be beneficial for blood sugar levels when a person uses it in a diffuser or applies it to the skin.

Lemon balm essential oil is available for purchase online.

Clove bud

In an animal-based study, researchers found that clove bud essential oil could play a role in preventing or managing type 2 diabetes.

The team discovered that the oil reduced levels of enzymes in the pancreas in a way that may combat diabetes.

Also, they noted that clove bud essential oil might specifically help manage or prevent features of diabetes that result from oxidative stress.

This occurs when the body does not produce enough antioxidants to battle free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage cells throughout the body.

Clove bud essential oil is available for purchase online.

Black seed

People have used black seed, or Nigella sativa, in traditional medicine to treat many conditions, including diabetes.

Scientists tested the effects of Nigella sativa seed and its essential oil on diabetes in a rat model and reported their findings in 2014.

They concluded that both the seed and essential oil could be useful treatments for high blood sugar and the issues that come with it.

The researchers also found that Nigella sativa is rich in antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of diabetes complications that result from oxidative stress.

Using black seed essential oil, alongside a varied and healthful diet, may help reduce blood sugar to safe levels.

Black seed oil is available for purchase online.

Black pepper

People with type 2 diabetes often have high blood pressure and circulatory problems.

A 2013 study found that essential oil from a common kitchen spice, black pepper, might help manage or prevent type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

The researchers noted that the oil contains a lot of antioxidants and that it may help block certain enzymes that may contribute to diabetes and high blood pressure.

Black pepper essential oil is available for purchase online.

Helichrysum and grapefruit

Weight management is a key factor in controlling type 2 diabetes symptoms. While being overweight does not cause every case of diabetes, it can increase the risk or make symptoms worse.

Losing weight is a first-line treatment for many people with diabetes. This involves exercise and changes to the diet, but essential oils may help.

According to a study published in 2015, when rats with obesity consumed extracts of either Helichrysum or grapefruit as supplements, they gained less weight and had fewer signs of inflammation and less excess insulin than rats who did not consume any supplements.

Future research may show that both Helichrysum and grapefruit can help people lose weight if they use these extracts properly.

For example, after a workout, a massage with a base oil that contains Helichrysum or grapefruit essential oils may help promote relaxation and weight loss.

Helichrysum and Grapefruit essential oils are available online.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon essential oil for diabetes
Cinnamon essential might improve insulin sensitivity and other features of diabetes.

Cinnamon is a popular spice in desserts and other aromatic dishes. Its flavor seems to boost sweetness without adding more sugar.

Also, research suggests that it may help people with diabetes. Before publishing their findings in 2010, scientists determined that cinnamon may benefit insulin sensitivity, sugar and fat levels, inflammation, blood pressure, and even bodyweight.

Regularly consuming cinnamon and using the essential oil may help control some features of diabetes in some people.

Cinnamon essential oil is available for purchase online.

Lavender

The lavender essential oil has numerous uses in traditional and Western medicine, and according to research published in 2013, it may help relieve diabetes symptoms.

Researchers found that in animal experiments, lavender essential oil helped balance high blood sugar levels and protect against oxidative stress, which causes complications in people with diabetes.

Lavender oil is available for purchase online.

How to use essential oils for diabetes

essential oil diffuser for aromatherapy surrounded by succulent flowers and cactus in plant pots
A diffuser is one way of using essential oils.

Diabetes is a complex disease that may respond to aromatherapy, which is the practice of using essential oils as treatment. However, it may not help or be safe for everyone.

There are various forms of aromatherapy, but it is always important to follow directions carefully to avoid any adverse effects.

Inhaling and applying to the skin are the two main ways of using oils. receptors in the nose and capillaries of the lungs pick up the particles of many essential oils and carry them into the bloodstream.

  • In a diffuser: Add a few drops of essential oil to an aromatherapy diffuser and take long, deep breaths of the vapor. The aim is to allow beneficial compounds to enter the body. A diffuser spreads the particles of oil through the air.
  • Inhaled directly: Float a few drops of oil on some hot water to make an individualized diffuser.
  • On a piece of cotton: Put a few drops on a piece of cotton or tissue and inhale.
  • Diluted on the skin or in a massage: Some particles may be small enough to pass through the skin, where they may enter the bloodstream or provide localized treatment. Always dilute an essential oil in a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil.

As part of a massage, oils can also help a person relax, reducing stress levels.

People can also apply diluted essential oils to bath salts, lotions, or wound dressings.

Click on the links to find diffusers and carrier oils for purchase online.

Cautions

Not all oils are healthful for everyone, whether in a diffuser or on the skin.

For example, some oils can irritate the lungs and be dangerous for people with breathing problems, such as asthma.

Below are some health considerations for different methods of aromatherapy:

In a diffuser

People with asthma should not use essential oils, as they can cause irritation and trigger potentially life-threatening symptoms. Anyone who experiences breathing problems when using essential oils should stop using them at once.

Pregnant women, children, and pets may also experience adverse reactions, and a person should consider them before using a diffuser.

On the skin

It is crucial to dilute an essential oil, by mixing it with a carrier oil, before using it on the skin. For example, add a few drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil.

Allergies

Before using a diluted essential oil mixture, try applying a dime-sized amount to the forearm to check for allergies. If no indications of allergies appear after 24–48 hours, it should be safe to use the diluted oil.

Hormonal impact

In 2018, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences noted that some essential oils, including lavender, contain substances that may disrupt hormonal activity when people apply them to the skin. This may lead to the unwanted growth of breast tissue in prepubescent males.

Never swallow an essential oil, as many are toxic.

Outlook

Essential oils may help people with diabetes as an accompaniment to their regular treatment. However, research has not yet confirmed that any essential oil effectively treats diabetes, and some uses may not be safe.

People who use these oils should do so in addition to their regular treatment and consider the precautions mentioned above.

It is best to speak to a doctor before using essential oils, and a person should not use them on or around children without first seeking medical advice.

When a person uses them safely, essential oils may help combat diabetes, including its symptoms and side effects.

Regardless of a person’s treatment plan, it is important to learn as much as possible about the disease, as this can improve outcomes and lead to a better quality of life.

What are the best foods to fight 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 bag
What 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 products
Edamame 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 carrots
Carrots 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 vegetables
Cruciferous 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 (potassiumcalcium, 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.

salmon
Salmon 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 fruits
The 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, magnesiumcopper, 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!

Everything you need to know about wet dreams

In this article, we look at the facts about wet dreams and debunk some of the myths surrounding this normal, healthy occurrence.

What are wet dreams?

man awake in bed with possible wet dream
A wet dream is known medically as a nocturnal emission and may affect both men and women.

Wet dreams are when a person orgasms involuntarily while they are sleeping because of a dream, which may or may not be erotic.

They are called wet dreams because when a male has this type of dream, he may awaken with wet clothing or bedding. This is because semen, the fluid containing sperm, is released during ejaculation.

However, the same term is also used to refer to when a woman orgasms during sleep.

Wet dreams are not caused by masturbation during sleep; they occur without any manual stimulation.

Research has found that, on average, 8 percent of dreams have some sexual content. In the same study, both men and women reported having an orgasm in about 4 percent of their erotic dreams.

The facts and myths about wet dreams

There are many myths about wet dreams, which can make them confusing or cause anxiety if a person does not know what to expect.

1. Wet dreams do not reduce sperm count

Some people believe that wet dreams will reduce a man’s sperm count. However, wet dreams are a way for the testicles to remove older sperm and help with the natural formation of new, healthy sperm in the body.

2. Women can have wet dreams

Many people associate wet dreams with men or, more specifically, adolescent boys, but women can also have wet dreams.

A female wet dream may result in orgasm as well as additional vaginal secretions from arousal.

Men may be more prone to wet dreams because they naturally produce several erections a night.

3. Wet dreams do not reduce a person’s immunity

Some people believe that wet dreams can cause a person to have lower immunity to things such as a cold or infection. This is a myth and has no basis in fact.

However, wet dreams can help reduce excess sperm in the testicles, which is a healthy function for a male’s reproductive system.

4. Wet dreams only happen during puberty

Teenagers sitting on a wall with smart phones in hand
Wet dreams are more common in puberty due to hormonal changes, but they can also happen during adulthood.

While wet dreams are most common during puberty, they can also happen during adulthood.

Wet dreams tend to occur more often in puberty due to hormonal changes. Hormone levels in adults are much more consistent, making it less likely that they will have a wet dream.

Wet dreams may also be more frequent during adolescence because younger boys may not frequently be masturbating or having sex, so the older sperm is released during sleep instead.

5. Wet dreams are not a sign of illness

It is a myth that wet dreams are a result of an underlying illness or medical condition. In fact, the opposite is true.

Wet dreams are a normal occurrence and may be a sign of healthy sexual functioning.

6. Masturbation probably cannot prevent wet dreams

While masturbation may reduce the number of wet dreams a person experiences, it does not guarantee a person will never experience them.

Evidence linking masturbation and wet dreams is lacking, but a person can experiment to see if it helps in their situation.

Try masturbating before bed for a week or more, followed by the same length of time without masturbating, to see if there is a difference in the frequency of wet dreams.

7. Wet dreams will not shrink a penis

Some people believe that wet dreams reduce the size of the person’s penis. However, there is no scientific evidence for this.

There are no illnesses, conditions, or natural occurrences that will cause the male reproductive organ to shrink.

8. Some people never have wet dreams

Wet dreams are a natural occurrence for both men and women. They cannot be controlled or stopped, and a person should not feel ashamed to have them.

How often wet dreams occur varies between individuals. People may have:

  • no wet dreams ever
  • only a few, sporadic wet dreams during adolescence
  • several, frequent wet dreams throughout adolescence but none in adulthood
  • regular or sporadic wet dreams throughout their life

9. Wet dreams are not always erotic dreams

Wet dreams are often associated with sexual or erotic dreams. However, this is not always the case.

A person can have a wet dream without dreaming about sexual activity and may become aroused due to stimulation from friction with the bedding or other factors.

10. Sleeping on the stomach may induce a wet dream

One study suggests that sleeping on the stomach makes it more likely the person will experience a sexual dream.

The evidence is limited, however, and more studies need to be done to determine if sleep position plays any role in whether a person experiences wet dreams.

Prevention and coping

Having sex more frequently may help to reduce wet dreams, but this is not proven.

While there is no proven way to prevent wet dreams, there are some techniques that may reduce them. However, these methods do not guarantee any results.

If wet dreams make a person embarrassed or uncomfortable, or they are negatively affecting their life, the following methods to reduce or eliminate wet dreams might help:

  • masturbating or having sex more frequently
  • meditating or practicing relaxation techniques before bed
  • speaking to a psychologist or counselor about dreams

A person experiencing wet dreams needs to know that it is a perfectly natural occurrence and that climaxing during sleep is an involuntary reaction that cannot be prevented.

Having wet dreams is not a sign that a person is not having enough sex or that they are unhappy with their sexual partner.

A person experiencing regular wet dreams in adulthood should be open and comfortable speaking with their partner about their experiences. This can reduce anxiety and any embarrassment a person may feel.

A person embarrassed by their wet dreams may wish to speak to a counselor.

Outlook

Not everyone will experience a wet dream, but for people who do, it is important to remember they are a normal, healthy part of life.

Wet dreams are often associated with teenage males, but they occur in both men and women and may continue after puberty.

Home and natural remedies for upset stomach

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Everyone experiences an upset stomach and indigestion, or dyspepsia, from time to time after eating or drinking. The condition is usually no cause for concern, and it is often possible to treat the symptoms using home remedies.

Common symptoms of an upset stomach and indigestion include:

  • heartburn, or acid reflux
  • nausea
  • bloating
  • gas
  • belching, sometimes bringing up bitter or foul-tasting fluid or food
  • farting
  • bad-smelling or sour breath
  • hiccupping or coughing

This article looks at 21 of the most popular home remedies for an upset stomach and indigestion. We also explain when to see a doctor.

Twenty-one home remedies

Some of the most popular home remedies for an upset stomach and indigestion include:

1. Drinking water

Glass of water being poured which is a home remedy for upset stomach

The body needs water to digest and absorb nutrients from foods and beverages efficiently. Being dehydrated makes digestion more difficult and less effective, which increases the likelihood of an upset stomach.

In general, the Health and Medicine Division (HMD) recommend that:

  • women should have around 2.7 liters (l), or 91 ounces (oz), of water a day
  • men should have about 3.7 l, or 125 oz, of water a day

Around 20 percent of this will come from food, with the rest coming from beverages. For most people, a good figure to aim for is approximately 8 or more cups of water a day. Younger children require slightly less water than adults.

For those with digestive issues, it is imperative to stay hydrated. Vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration very quickly so people with these symptoms should keep drinking water.

2. Avoiding lying down

When the body is horizontal, the acid in the stomach is more likely to travel backward and move upward, which can cause heartburn.

People with an upset stomach should avoid lying down or going to bed for at least a few hours until it passes. Someone who needs to lie down should prop up their head, neck, and upper chest with pillows, ideally at a 30-degree angle.

3. Ginger

Ginger is a common natural remedy for an upset stomach and indigestion.

Ginger contains chemicals called gingerols and shogaols that can help speed up stomach contractions. This may move foods that are causing indigestion through the stomach more quickly.

The chemicals in ginger may also help to reduce nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

People with an upset stomach could try adding ginger to their food or drinking it as a tea. Some all-natural ginger ales may also contain enough ginger to settle an upset stomach.

Ginger tea is widely available to buy in supermarkets and online.

4. Mint

In addition to sweetening the breath, the menthol in mint may help with the following:

  • preventing vomiting and diarrhea
  • reducing muscle spasms in the intestines
  • relieving pain

Researchers have found that mint is a traditional treatment for indigestion, gas, and diarrhea in Iran, Pakistan, and India.

Raw and cooked mint leaves are both suitable for consumption. Traditionally, people often boil mint leaves with cardamom to make a tea. It is also possible to powder or juice mint leaves and mix them with other teas, beverages, or foods. Mint leaves are widely available in health stores and online.

Sucking on mint candies might be another way to help reduce the pain and discomfort of heartburn.

5. Taking a warm bath or using a heating bag

Heat may relax tense muscles and ease indigestion, so taking a warm bath may help to ease the symptoms of an upset stomach. It could also be beneficial to apply a heated bag or pad to the stomach for 20 minutes or until it goes cool.

 

6. BRAT diet

Doctors may recommend the BRAT diet to people with diarrhea.

BRAT stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. These foods are all starchy, so they can help bind foods together to make stools firmer. This may decrease the number of stools a person passes and help ease their diarrhea.

As these foods are bland, they do not contain substances that irritate the stomach, throat, or intestines. Therefore, this diet can soothe the tissue irritation resulting from the acids in vomit.

Many of the foods in the BRAT diet are also high in nutrients such as potassium and magnesium and can replace those lost through diarrhea and vomiting.

7. Avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol

Smoking can irritate the throat, increasing the likelihood of an upset stomach. If the person has vomited, smoking can further irritate the tender tissue already sore from stomach acids.

As a toxin, alcohol is difficult to digest and can cause damage to the liver and stomach lining.

People with an upset stomach should avoid smoking and drinking alcohol until they are feeling better.

8. Avoiding difficult-to-digest foods

Some foods are harder to digest than others, which increases the risk of an upset stomach. Anyone with an upset stomach should avoid foods that are:

  • fried or fatty
  • rich or creamy
  • salty or heavily preserved

9. Lime or lemon juice, baking soda, and water

Some studies suggest that mixing lime or lemon juice in water with a pinch of baking soda can help to relieve a variety of digestive complaints.

This mixture produces carbonic acid, which may help to reduce gas and indigestion. It may also improve liver secretion and intestinal mobility. The acidity and other nutrients in lime or lemon juice can help to digest and absorb fats and alcohol while neutralizing bile acids and reducing acidity in the stomach.

Most traditional recipes recommend mixing the following quantities:

  • 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon (tsp) of baking soda
  • 8 oz of clean water

10. Cinnamon

cinnamon sticks and power are a home remedy for upset stomachShare on Pinterest
Substances in cinnamon may help to reduce gas and bloating.

Cinnamon contains several antioxidants that may help ease digestion and reduce the risk of irritation and damage in the digestive tract. Some of the antioxidants in cinnamon include:

  • eugenol
  • cinnamaldehyde
  • linalool
  • camphor

Other substances in cinnamon may help to reduce gas, bloating, cramping, and belching. They may also help to neutralize stomach acidity to reduce heartburn and indigestion.

People with an upset stomach could try adding 1 tsp of good-quality cinnamon powder, or an inch of cinnamon stick, to their meals. Alternatively, they could try mixing the cinnamon with boiling water to make a tea. Doing this two or three times daily may help to relieve indigestion.

11. Cloves

Cloves contain substances that may help to reduce gas in the stomach and increase gastric secretions. This can speed up slow digestion, which may reduce pressure and cramping. Cloves may also help to reduce nausea and vomiting.

A person with an upset stomach could try mixing 1 or 2 tsps of ground or powdered cloves with 1 tsp of honey once a day before bedtime. For nausea and heartburn, they could combine the cloves with 8 oz of boiling water instead to make a clove tea, which they should drink slowly once or twice daily.

12. Cumin

Cumin seeds contain active ingredients that may help by:

  • reducing indigestion and excess stomach acids
  • decreasing gas
  • reducing intestinal inflammation
  • acting as an antimicrobial

A person with an upset stomach could try mixing 1 or 2 tsps of ground or powdered cumin into their meals. Alternatively, they could add a few teaspoons of cumin seeds or powder to boiling water to make a tea.

Some traditional medical systems suggest chewing a pinch or two of raw cumin seeds or powder to ease heartburn.

Cumin seeds are available to purchase online.

13. Figs

Figs contain substances that can act as laxatives to ease constipation and encourage healthy bowel movements. Figs also contain compounds that may help to ease indigestion.

A person with an upset stomach could try eating whole fig fruits a few times a day until their symptoms improve. Alternatively, they could try brewing 1 or 2 tsps of fig leaves to make a tea instead.

However, if people are also experiencing diarrhea, they should avoid consuming figs.

14. Aloe juice

The substances in aloe juice may provide relief by:

  • reducing excess stomach acid
  • encouraging healthy bowel movements and toxin removal
  • improving protein digestion
  • promoting the balance of digestive bacteria
  • reducing inflammation

In one study, researchers found that people who drank 10 milliliters (ml) of aloe juice daily for 4 weeks found relief from the following symptoms of gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD):

  • heartburn
  • flatulence and belching
  • nausea and vomiting
  • acid and food regurgitation

15. Yarrow

Yarrow flowers contain flavonoids, polyphenols, lactones, tannins, and resins that may help to reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces. They do this by acting on the main digestive nerve, called the vagus nerve. A reduction in stomach acid levels can reduce the likelihood of heartburn and indigestion.

A person with an upset stomach could try eating young yarrow leaves raw in a salad or cooked in a meal. It is also possible to make yarrow tea by adding 1 or 2 tsps of dried or ground yarrow leaves or flowers to boiling water.

16. Basil

Fresh basil on a board

Basil contains substances that may reduce gas, increase appetite, relieve cramping, and improve overall digestion. Basil also contains eugenol, which may help to reduce the quantity of acid in the stomach.

Basil also contains high levels of linoleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

A person with an upset stomach could try adding 1 or 2 tsps of dried basil leaves, or a couple of fresh basil leaves, to meals until their symptoms lessen. For more immediate results, they could mix half a teaspoon of dried basil, or a few fresh leaves, with boiled water to make a tea.

17. Licorice

Licorice root contains substances that may help to reduce gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining, as well as inflammation relating to peptic ulcers.

Someone with an upset stomach could try drinking licorice root tea several times a day until their symptoms improve. Licorice root teas are widely available online, but it is also possible to make them at home by mixing 1 or 2 tsps of licorice root powder with boiling water.

18. Spearmint

Like mint, spearmint is a common remedy for many digestive complaints, including:

  • nausea
  • stomach and intestinal spasms
  • gastrointestinal infections
  • diarrhea

Most people find that the easiest way to consume spearmint is to drink prepared herbal teas in which spearmint is the primary ingredient. There are many such teas available online.

It is usually safe to drink spearmint teas several times daily until symptoms improve. Sucking on spearmint candies may also help to reduce heartburn.

19. Rice

Plain rice is useful for people with many types of stomach complaints. It can help by:

  • adding bulk to stool
  • absorbing fluids that may contain toxins
  • easing pain and cramps, because of its high levels of magnesium and potassium

Someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea could try slowly eating half a cup of plain, well-cooked rice. It is best to wait until at least a few hours after the last episode of vomiting. The person may continue to do this for 24–48 hours until diarrhea stops.

Rice is also part of the BRAT diet that doctors often recommend.

20. Coconut water

Coconut water contains high levels of potassium and magnesium. These nutrients help to reduce pain, muscle spasms, and cramps.

Coconut water is also useful for rehydrating and is a better option than most sports drinks as it is also low in calories, sugar, and acidity.

Slowly sipping on up to 2 glasses of coconut water every 4–6 hours could ease upset stomach symptoms.

21. Bananas

Bananas contain vitamin B6, potassium, and folate. These nutrients can help to ease cramps, pains, and muscle spasms. Bananas can also help by adding bulk to loose stools, which can alleviate diarrhea.

An upset stomach and indigestion should not usually cause concern. For most people, symptoms should go away within a few hours. As older adults and children can become dehydrated much more quickly, they should seek medical attention for vomiting and diarrhea that lasts for more than a day.

People with severe, frequent, or persistent stomach problems should talk to a doctor. It is also best to seek medical attention if the following symptoms are present:

  • continual or uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhea
  • chronic constipation
  • fever
  • bloody stool or vomit
  • inability to pass gas
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • arm pain
  • unintentional weight loss
  • a lump in the abdomen or stomach
  • difficulty swallowing
  • history of iron-deficiency anemia or associated conditions
  • pain when urinating

How often should a man release sperm?

 

Ejaculate contains fluid from the prostate, seminal vesicles, and bulbourethral glands. Though it contains a wide variety of substances, including citric acid, cholesterol, mucus, and water, its primary job is to deliver sperm.

Research shows that the frequency with which a man ejaculates may affect his health, sperm count, and overall well-being.

While no evidence says that not ejaculating causes serious health problems, frequent ejaculation may reduce a man’s risk of prostate cancer. Having satisfying sex with a partner may also improve a man’s health.

This article looks at how often a man should release sperm, whether there is a link between ejaculation and cancer, and the effects of ejaculation on the body.

What is normal?

Many men may wonder whether their sexual behavior is normal. They may fear that they are not having as much sex as their peers, or that they are masturbating too frequently.

The truth is that there is no “normal” number of times a man should ejaculate. Average ejaculation frequency varies according to many factors, including a man’s:

  • age
  • health
  • relationship status

According to the 2015 Sexual Exploration in America Study, partnered sex — and the ejaculation that usually accompanies it — is most frequent among men ages 25–29, with 68.9% reporting vaginal intercourse during the last month. The figure drops slightly to 63.2%, among men in their 30s, and declines with each decade of advancing age.

Research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that masturbation was common across a man’s lifespan. Men of all age groups reported masturbation in the past month. Solo masturbation was more common than partnered sex during adolescence and in those about 70. Partnered masturbation was highest among men ages 30–39.

What is safe?

No guidelines state the ideal frequency with which a man should ejaculate, whether on his own or with a partner. Myths exist about the dangers of regular masturbation. However, according to Planned Parenthood, there is no evidence that frequent masturbation is harmful.

Likewise, most people do not consider frequent consensual sex with a partner to be harmful to either party as long as both partners:

  • feel comfortable in their actions
  • avoid sexual activities that cause pain
  • adopt safer sex strategies

2015 study found that men who ejaculated daily over 14 days experienced slight decreases in the number of sperm in their ejaculate. However, the reduction did not cause sperm count to fall below normal thresholds. Also, frequent ejaculation did not affect other measures of sperm health, such as sperm motility and morphology.

Research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that partners who have sex at least weekly report being happier with their relationships. More frequent sex did not increase relationship satisfaction, but it also did not cause it to decline.

Is there a cancer link?

Men who ejaculate frequently may have a lower risk of prostate cancer, according to a 2016 study that followed men for nearly 2 decades.

Researchers found that men ages 40–49 that ejaculated more frequently had a lower risk of prostate cancer. Men with the lowest risk ejaculated at least 21 times per month.

The study did not establish that ejaculation could prevent cancer in younger men. The researchers remain unsure whether frequent ejaculation fights prostate or any other cancer in men under 40.

There is no evidence that frequent ejaculation is harmful to younger men.

Effects on the body

Ejaculation may offer numerous health benefits. Ejaculation from partnered sex may be particularly beneficial because:

  • Sex is a form of exercise. Exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesitydiabetes, and many other health problems.
  • Sex may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Research that followed men with erectile dysfunction found that those who had sex less than once a month were more likely to develop heart disease.
  • Sex may relieve stress and improve mood.
  • Having sex at least once per week may improve the immune system.
  • Ejaculation may offer pain relief for chronic pain and the pain associated with several conditions.

Many men also find that ejaculation, whether alone or with a partner, helps them sleep.

Men who worry about sperm production should know that the body continually produces sperm. Frequent ejaculation will not cause the body to run out. Although it takes the average sperm about 74 days to fully mature, the body makes millions of sperm each day.

Men with healthy, normal sperm counts should not worry about the effects of regular ejaculation. Those with a low or marginal sperm count should discuss ejaculation frequency with a knowledgeable doctor or reproductive endocrinologist.

Summary

Most research suggests that frequent ejaculation offers several health benefits. There is no evidence that regular ejaculation causes any health issues. More frequent ejaculation may mean a man gains more health benefits.

The positive benefits of ejaculation do not mean that all men must ejaculate frequently. Men who prefer to avoid sex, asexual men, men for whom ejaculation is painful, and many other men may find that the discomfort of ejaculation outweighs any benefits.

Men who only want to have sex with a partner may limit their ejaculation because of relationship problems, fatigue, or because their partner does not want to have sex.

Ultimately, there is no right number of times a man should ejaculate. While frequent ejaculation may offer several health benefits, no evidence proves that never or infrequently ejaculating causes specific health issues.

These common drugs may increase dementia risk

A common class of drugs that doctors prescribe for a number of conditions — from bladder problems to Parkinson’s disease and depression — may increase a person’s risk of dementia, a large new study concludes.

some common drugs may increase dementia risk

New research by scientists from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom has analyzed the link between a certain class of drugs and the risk of dementia.

The drugs in question, called anticholinergics, work by inhibiting a chemical messenger called acetylcholine.

Their effect is to help relax or contract muscles, and doctors can prescribe them to help treat bladder conditions, gastrointestinal problems, and some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

In their new study, which looked at data from tens of thousands of participants, the researchers concluded that anticholinergics may increase a person’s risk of developing dementia.

The National Institute for Health Research funded this study, and the scientists published their findings yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

An almost 50% increase in risk

For their study, lead researcher Prof. Carol Coupland and team analyzed the medical records of 58,769 people with dementia and 225,574 people without dementia. They were all 55 years old or above at baseline.

Among those with dementia, 63% were women and the average age was 82. For each person with dementia, the researchers found five control matches of the same age and sex and who attended the same general practice to receive medical care.

Prof. Coupland and colleagues sourced the data from the QResearch database and looked at medical records from between January 1, 2004 and January 31, 2016.

The researchers found that anticholinergic drugs in general were associated with a higher risk of dementia. More specifically, however, anticholinergic antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, bladder drugs, and epilepsy drugs were associated with the highest increase in risk.

Among these, the most frequently prescribed drugs were antidepressants, anti-vertigo drugs, and bladder antimuscarinic drugs (for the treatment of overactive bladders).

These results remained even after the researchers controlled for confounding variables (or known risk factors for dementia), including body mass index (BMI), smoking status, alcohol use, cardiovascular problems, and the use of other medication, such as antihypertensive drugs.

All in all, the researchers concluded that people aged 55 or over who had taken strong anticholinergics on a daily basis for at least 3 years had an almost 50% higher chance of developing dementia than people who had not used this type of medication.

“This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” explains study co-author Prof. Tom Dening.

“However,” he warns, “it’s important that [people] taking medications of this kind don’t just stop them abruptly, as this may be much more harmful. If [people] have concerns, then they should discuss them with their doctor to consider the pros and cons of the treatment they are receiving.”

‘Risks should be carefully considered’

To assess the strength of anticholinergic drugs and how often the participants took them, the team looked at available information about prescriptions over a period of 10 years.

However, they note that this is an observational study, so they cannot confirm whether the drugs are directly responsible for the increased risk of dementia.

The researchers add that doctors may have prescribed some of these drugs to their patients precisely for the treatment of very early dementia symptoms.

Nevertheless, Prof. Coupland argues that the “study adds further evidence of the potential risks associated with strong anticholinergic drugs, particularly antidepressants, bladder antimuscarinic drugs, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, and epilepsy drugs.”

The risks of this type of medication should be carefully considered by healthcare professionals alongside the benefits when the drugs are prescribed and alternative treatments should be considered where possible.”

Prof. Carol Coupland

“These findings also highlight the importance of carrying out regular medication reviews.”

“We found a greater risk for people diagnosed with dementia before the age of 80, which indicates that anticholinergic drugs should be prescribed with caution in middle-aged people as well as in older people,” she concludes.

Can peanut butter affect weight gain?

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Peanuts are a nutrient dense food that contains vegetable proteins and healthful fats.

Overeating peanut butter may increase the number of calories and fat in someone’s diet. If a person is eating more calories than they need, they may gain weight.

Peanut butter can be a nutritious food when people eat the right amount. In such instances, peanut butter may help a person with weight loss.

In this article, we discuss the effect of peanut butter on weight.

Can it help with weight gain?

peanut butter on a knife that is sat on top of tub. It is good for a snack and weight gain
Peanut butter contains fats that are healthful for the body.

If a person consumes more calories than they burn off, they may gain weight.

32 gram (g) portion (2 tbsp) of peanut butter contains 190 calories and 16 g of fat, which is 21% of a person’s recommended daily value of fat.

Although peanut butter contains high levels of calories and fat, it may not encourage long-term weight gain when eaten as part of a balanced diet.

Although peanut butter contains high levels of fat, it contains low levels of saturated fats and significant amounts of good fats that are healthful for the body.

Peanut butter may also help people fill fuller, so they may not need to eat so much.

study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed the relation between protein-rich foods and weight.

The researchers found that peanut butter was associated with mild weight loss when individuals consumed it in place of some carbohydrates.

Can it help with bodybuilding?

As well as being high in fat, peanut butter also contains high levels of protein.

A small study looked at nutritional strategies employed by 51 competitive bodybuilders and found that they consumed more protein and carbohydrates and lower amounts of fat.

According to researchers, the recommended dietary protein intake for bodybuilders in the off-season is 1.6–2.2g per kilogram of body weight a day.

study published in Obesity showed that a high protein diet was effective in helping male participants lose weight and body fat while preserving lean body mass.

The study lasted just 12 weeks, so researchers are unclear whether people who continue to follow the diet for more than the 3 months will maintain the muscle mass.

Since bodybuilders strive for high muscle mass and lean body mass, peanut butter, and other types of nut butter may be a beneficial food choice.

Can it help with weight loss?

Studies have demonstrated that peanut butter may help people lose weight.

According to researchers, there is an association between those who eat nuts daily, including peanuts, and a lower risk of obesity.

A large study conducted over 5 years, with participants from 10 European countries, supports this finding. The researchers concluded that those who ate the most amount of nuts, including peanuts, gained less weight and had a lower risk of having obesity over 5 years.

A small, short-term study showed that resistance-trained athletes who lost weight by consuming a low calorie and high protein diet maintained lean body mass.

Researchers have also demonstrated that people who eat nuts regularly may have a higher resting energy expenditure. People with higher resting energy expenditure may burn more calories during a nonactive period. This study only had 15 participants, so these findings require more research to support them.

This calorie-dense and high-fat food can help people feel full. When people feel full, they are less likely to continue eating. Although peanut butter is high in calories, people may be less likely to overeat.

These findings suggest that nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter, can be a healthful food option for people who want to lose weight due to its high protein content.

When is the best time to eat it?

If a person is eating peanuts to lose weight, evidence suggests they are more beneficial when people eat them as snacks throughout the day. This is because they may stop a person from overeating.

More research is required to identify the best time to eat peanut butter if a person is consuming it for its protein content to build muscle or maintain lean body mass.

According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, consuming protein 30 minutes before sleeping may also aid in building muscle. However, this research focused on casein protein, not protein from nuts.

The researchers state eating protein after exercising is also beneficial.

Nutritional profile

The following table, adapted from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), outlines the nutritional profile of peanut butter.

We compare the nutritional content of 2 tbsp of peanut butter with added sugar and a natural peanut butter in kilocalories (kcal), grams (g), and milligrams (mg).

Peanut butter with added sugarNatural peanut butter
Calories200 kcal190 kcal
Protein8 g8 g
Total fat16 g16 g
Carbohydrate7 g7 g
Fiber1.98 g3.01 g
Sugars3 g2 g
Calcium0 mg18.9 mg
Iron0.72 mg0.998 mg
Sodium150 mg0 mg

Some brands with added sugar may contain as much as 6 g of sugar per 2 tbsp.

Natural peanut butter is a more healthful option because it contains less sugar. Processed peanut butter may have additional ingredients, including:

  • sugar
  • hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • salt
  • molasses

How to consume

Many people eat peanut butter at breakfast, on toast, a bagel, or in a smoothie. Some people use peanut butter in cooking, for example, to make sauces for vegetables. It is also great as a snack.

Alternatives

Nut butters are a great way to avoid or reduce the use of traditional dairy butter. Today, people can choose from a variety of nut butters, including almond, cashew, and hazelnut. These are available to purchase in grocery stores and online.

Seed butters are also popular. Seed butters, such as sesame butter, sunflower seed butter, and pumpkin seed butter.

However, people can also make nut butters at home.

Learn how to make nut butters at home:

Considerations

If a person has an allergy to peanuts, they should avoid peanut butter and try alternative nut or seed butters.

People who need to gain weight but are having difficulty should speak with a doctor. They may want to do a full physical examination to find out why a person cannot gain weight.

A nutritionist or dietitian may be able to help people gain weight safely.

Summary

There is not much evidence to show that consuming peanut butter will help people gain weight. However, it may be beneficial when consumed as a part of a balanced diet for those who want to lose weight, maintain their current weight, or preserve lean body mass.

Although peanuts are high in calories and fat, they may help people feel full and prevent overeating.

Scientists Think They Know How Stress Causes Gray Hair

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  • Researchers say they now think they know how stress causes gray hair.
  • The hair color change may be linked to nerves in the “fight or flight” response system.
  • Experts say stress is only one factor that can cause gray hair. Genetics also plays a major role.

 

Sorry Mom and Dad: It turns out you might not have been exaggerating when you told us your children made your hair turn gray.

Stress may play a key role in just how quickly hair goes from colored to ashen, a studyTrusted Source published this past week in the journal Nature suggests.

Scientists have long understood some link is possible between stress and gray hair, but this new research from Harvard University in Massachusetts more deeply probes the exact mechanisms at play.

The researchers’ initial tests looked closely at cortisol, the “stress hormone” that surges in the body when a person experiences a “fight or flight” response.

 

It’s an important bodily function, but the long-term presence of heightened cortisol is linked to a host of negative health outcomes.

But the culprit ended up being a different part of the body’s fight or flight response — the sympathetic nervous system.

These nerves are all over the body, including making inroads to each hair follicle, the researchers reported.

Chemicals released during the stress response — specifically norepinephrine — causes pigment producing stem cells to activate prematurely, depleting the hair’s “reserves” of color.

“The detrimental impact of stress that we discovered was beyond what I imagined,” Ya-Chieh Hsu, PhD, a lead study author and an associate professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard, said in a press release. “After just a few days, all of the pigment-regenerating stem cells were lost. Once they’re gone, you can’t regenerate pigments anymore. The damage is permanent.”

Why we go gray

But stress isn’t the only — or even the primary — reason that most people get gray hair.

In most cases, it’s simple genetics.

“Gray hair is caused by loss of melanocytes (pigment cells) in the hair follicle. This happens as we age and, unfortunately, there is no treatment that can restore these cells and the pigment they produce, melanin,” Dr. Lindsey A. Bordone, a dermatologist at ColumbiaDoctors and an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, told Healthline. “Genetic factors determine when you go gray. There is nothing that can be done medically to prevent this from happening when it is genetically predetermined to happen.”

That doesn’t mean environmental factors — such as stress — don’t play a role.

Smoking, for instance, is a known risk factor for premature graying, according to a 2013 studyTrusted Source. So kick the habit if you want to keep that color a little longer.

Other contributing factors to premature graying include deficiencies in protein, vitamin B-12, copper, and iron as well as aging due in part to an accumulation of oxidative stress.

That stress is prompted by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body that can damage tissue, proteins, and DNA, Kasey Nichols, NMD, an Arizona physician and a health expert at Rave Reviews, told Healthline.

And some degree of oxidative stress is a natural part of life.

“We would expect increasing gray hair as we advance in age, and we see about a 10 percent increase in the chance of developing gray hair for every decade after age 30,” Nichols said.

Changes you can pursue to delay premature grays include eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts and fatty fish, not spending too much time in the skin-damaging and hair-damaging ultraviolet light of the sun, and taking vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6 supplements.

That said, if you are going gray prematurely, it wouldn’t hurt to go have a checkup just in case natural genetic factors aren’t the sole culprit.

Future research

The new Harvard research is only a mouse study, so replicating the same results in a human study would be necessary to strengthen the findings.

But the Harvard research has implications far beyond graying hair, with the hair color change merely one obvious sign of other internal changes as a result of prolonged stress.

“By understanding precisely how stress affects stem cells that regenerate pigment, we’ve laid the groundwork for understanding how stress affects other tissues and organs in the body,” said Hsu. “Understanding how our tissues change under stress is the first critical step towards eventual treatment that can halt or revert the detrimental impact of stress.”

Might that also mean someday halting and reverting the march of premature gray hair? It’s too soon to tell.

“We still have a lot to learn in this area,” Hsu said.

How to Take Care of Your Eyes as You Age

What you need to know about finding and treating glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration

An illustration of a man with a telescope in a pupil of an eye.

It’s natural to worry about losing your vision.

After all, three of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.­—cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration—all become more common as we age.

But some drug, supplement, and lens makers, and even some doctors, take advantage of that fear, recommending treatments that are expensive, unnecessary, and even risky.

Here’s what you need to know.

Cataracts

The only way to cure cataracts­—a clouding of the lens of the eye that impairs vision­—is with surgery to replace the bad lens with an artificial one.

Though the procedure is very safe and effective, some doctors recommend needless tests or push newer types of lenses that pose risks.

Skip unneeded presurgery tests. Cataract surgery, usually performed as an outpatient procedure, requires only a local anesthetic to numb your eye.

Research shows that for most people the only pre-op requirements are that you be free of infection and have normal blood pressure and heart rate. Yet many doctors routinely order other tests, including blood counts and electrocardiograms, as would be necessary before a major procedure. That’s overkill, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Those tests can come with high co-pays and lead to false alarms that may delay surgery or force you to undergo additional tests, such as a chest X-ray or an ultrasound. So ask whether your doctor plans to recommend such tests and, if so, whether you can skip them.

Be wary of premium lenses. In standard cataract surgery, doctors remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial monofocal lens, which provides clear images at either near or far vision. There are multifocal lenses that do both, so you don’t also have to wear glasses.

But multifocal lenses cost up to $4,000—and usually aren’t covered by insurance. More worrisome, a 2012 review found that while the lenses provided better near vision, they also produced more complaints of halos and glare. Other research shows that people with multifocal lenses are also more likely to need repeat surgery.

One time you might consider a premium intraocular lens: if you have an astigmatism, or an irregularly shaped cornea.

Special lenses, called toric lenses, can correct that problem, says David Sholiton, M.D., an ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Clinic. And studies reveal that most people who get them are satisfied. But you will probably have to pay $1,000 or more out of your own pocket because insurance rarely covers them.

Glaucoma

More than 2.2 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half know it. That makes screening important.

Treatment is key, too, because glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss. But treatment, which often requires several different daily eye drops, can be expensive and complicated.

Get the right tests. Glaucoma often goes undiagnosed because it causes no symptoms until vision declines, at which point treatment no longer helps. So people ages 40 to 60 should consider being examined by an ophthalmologist or optometrist every three to five years; those older than 60 need an eye exam every one to two years.

Know you may need more than one test. Though many eye doctors screen for the disease with tonometry—a test that measures eye pressure—that’s not enough. Relying only on intraocular pressure when screening for glaucoma could miss up to half of all cases, research suggests, says ophthalmologist Andrew Iwach, M.D., executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco.

So the exam should also include an ophthalmoscopy, which involves examining your optic nerve. If you have elevated eye pressure but no other signs of glaucoma, you might not need to start treatment, which can be expensive. Instead, your doctor might screen you more often.

Go for generics. The most common treatment for glaucoma is eye drops known as prostaglandin analogs (PGAs), which lower eye pressure. Generic versions of most of those drugs are much cheaper than the brand-name versions. And per­haps because of the lower cost, patients taking them tend to do a better job of using the drops on schedule, which is important, according to an April 2015 study in the journal Ophthalmology.

Know you may need more than one drug. Many people need several drugs to control glaucoma, which usually means adding a beta-blocker drop. In that case, ask your doctor about drugs that combine medications, minimizing the number of drops.

Use proper eye drop technique. Tilt your head back and pull down the lower lid with your finger to form a pocket. Hold the dropper tip close to the eye without touching it, and squeeze one drop into the pocket. Close your eye for 2 to 3 minutes, tip your head down, and gently press on the inner corner of the eye. Try not to blink. If you need more than one drop in the same eye, wait at least 5 minutes between drops to let the first drop absorb.

Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. for people 50 and older, damages the macula, the small area near the center of your retina, causing vision loss in the center of your visual field.

The advanced disease comes in two main forms: dry AMD, the more common variety, which is treated mainly with dietary supplements; and wet AMD, the more serious form, which requires monthly injections from an ophthalmologist with one of three drugs. There are controversies about both the supplements and the drugs.

Get the right supplement. Research funded by the National Institutes of Health has shown that a specific blend of vitamins and minerals known as AREDS (vitamins C and E, plus copper, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc) cuts the risk—by about 25 percent—that dry AMD will progress.

“It’s really the only treatment,” says Neil Bress­ler, M.D., chief of the retina division at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

But not all eye supplements contain the proper formulation.

In January 2015, CVS was sued for incorrectly market­ing its Advanced Eye Health supplement as comparable to the formula used in published studies. And in an analysis of 11 eye-health supplements in the March 2015 issue of Ophthalmology, only four contained the right mix: PreserVision Eye Vitamin AREDS Formula, PreserVision Eye Vitamin Lutein Formula, PreserVision AREDS2 Formula, and ICAPS AREDS.

Be wary if your doctor suggests a genetic test to determine which supplement is best for you. Remember: The supplements have been shown to help treat only people diagnosed with AMD. Don’t bother taking any supplement with the hope that it will prevent the disease.

Consider inexpensive drugs. Each of the three drugs used to treat wet AMD—aflibercept (Eylea), bevacizumab (Avastin), and ranibizumab (Lucentis)—work equally well in slowing vision loss.

But Avastin costs just $50 per month, compared with $2,000 for the others. So experts recommend Avastin as the first choice for most people with wet AMD. But some doctors resist that advice.

First, Avastin is officially approved only as a cancer drug and doesn’t come in appropriate doses for AMD. So doctors need to get the medicine from a compounding pharmacy, which combines, alters, or—in this case—repackages ingredients. That poses some risk of contamination, and there have been reports of people being harmed by bacteria that got into Avastin. So some doctors, especially those without access to a reliable compounding pharmacy, may hesitate to prescribe the drug.

Some other physicians may have a financial reason for skipping Avastin: Medicare reimburses doctors less for it. That might help your doctor’s wallet, but it can hurt yours: People without supplemental Medicare may pay up to $400 out of pocket for Lucentis, compared with just $10 for Avastin.

Our advice: Consider Avastin, especially if you don’t have supplemental Medicare coverage. But ask whether your doctor’s compounding pharmacy is accredited by the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board, which means it must adhere to quality standards.

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