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What does unexplained bruising mean—and what can you do about it?

GETTY IMAGESANDY LO PÒ

We’ve all been there—a shin to a coffee table or a trip on the sidewalk can leave you with a black-and-blue or two. But what is a bruise, exactly? “A bruise is a reflection of minor injury to the blood vessels under the surface of the skin. If these vessels are damaged, a small amount of blood can leak out, giving the classic blue, black or purple discoloration,” says Cory Fisher, DO, family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic.

But what if you seem to be bruising easily, developing bruises on your legs, arms, and other parts of your body from even just a slight bump, or seemingly out of nowhere? Keep reading to find out what else could be causing your unexplained bruising—and how to heal a bruise faster.

1You take certain supplements

Supplements

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Some dietary supplements may contribute to unexplained bruising, including feverfew, garlic, ginger, gingko, ginseng, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), saw palmetto, and vitamin E. This is a good reminder to talk to your doctor before you take any supplement for any reason—not only can they can interact with other meds you’ve been prescribed, but they also aren’t FDA-regulated, so you may not be swallowing exactly what you expect.

2You’re a woman

Some dietary supplements may contribute to easy bruising, including feverfew, garlic, ginger, gingko, ginseng, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), saw palmetto, and vitamin E. This is a good reminder to talk to your doctor before you take any supplement for any reason.

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Unfair, but true: Women tend to bruise more easily than men. Guys have thicker skin, and they also have more collagen, which holds blood vessels more securely in skin and protects them from trauma.

Estrogen also plays a role in unexplained bruising. Studies have shown that it prevents blood vessel walls from building. And it also acts as a vasodilator, which means it opens up blood vessels. If trauma happens, more blood can slip out before it’s able to clot.

3You’re getting older

Woman Getting Older

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“Skin gets thinner as you age, and blood vessels get more friable,” both which make you more prone to unexplained bruising, says Dr. Fisher. With thinning skin, you lose fat and collagen that previously protected your blood vessels. And your blood vessels also lose elasticity, making them more prone to break”

4You’re taking meds that thin your blood

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If you’re on a blood-thinning medication to treat heart arrhythmia or blood clots, that’s a simple explanation for unexplained bruising, says Dr. Fisher. But you may also be taking other drugs that have a blood-thinning effect without even realizing it, like ibuprofen or aspirin.

5You have a blood disorder

Blood Disorder Hemophilia

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Hemophilia and von Willebrand disease are both blood disorders that can cause easy bruising, says Dr. Fisher. Hemophilia is a rare condition that affects the blood’s ability to clot, putting someone at risk for severe bleeding from just a slight injury. Von Willebrand disease is a milder and somewhat more-common clotting disorder often characterized by bleeding during dental work, long-lasting nosebleeds, blood in urine or stool, and heavy periods.

6You’re taking antidepressants

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“Some of the most well-studied include SSRIs, like fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram, and bupropion, can interact with platelets, which are an important part of the clotting process,” says Dr. Fisher.

7You have a vitamin deficiency

Orange Slices

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Deficiencies in vitamin C and vitamin K can cause unexplained bruising—but if you live in a developed nation and have regular access to healthy food, then it’s highly unlikely this one applies to you. These deficiencies typically occur only in severely undernourished populations, explains Dr. Fisher.

8How to get rid of a bruise fast

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First, the bad news: It can take up to two weeks for a bruise to heal, and there’s not a whole lot you can do to make them disappear faster. “As the body absorbs this lost blood, it goes through a few phases. After just a few days, the blue/black/purple discoloration and any swelling will typically improve and the color changes to green or yellow,” says Dr. Fischer. “It may then look light brown before healing completely.” But there are a couple tricks that may speed healing. Right after you’ve thwacked your knee or bumped your elbow, grab an ice pack and hold it on the affected area for 10 minutes a few times a day. This will constrict the blood vessels, in turn slowing the spread of the purple discoloration in the first place.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/g22117306/causes-of-bruising-easily/

Early into my first hospital job, I used to wait to eat breakfast until after morning rounds. Um, yeah, that was a bad idea. Even when I tried to have a snack like a piece of fruit beforehand, I found myself feeling irritable and impatient, ravenous and unable to really concentrate on what other team members were saying—not conducive to a productive day.

In retrospect it’s silly, but I remember feeling pressured to hold out because that’s what I saw my new coworkers doing, but as a morning exerciser who doesn’t function well without a solid breakfast, I got over that pretty quickly. It took about a month of white-knuckling it to realize waiting to eat until 9 a.m. — four hours after I’d woken up — was just not going to work. Besides, who wants to be the ragey new girl?

Instead, I started eating before rounds so that by the time I got there, I was focused, energized, and ready to start seeing patients after the meeting. It was a total game-changer. Even now that I no longer work in a hospital setting, a balanced breakfast is a must.

The reason a balanced morning meal is so important is because it supports stable blood sugar, which is essential to maintaining your energy and a positive mood—key to having a productive, enjoyable day with smooth interactions.

Here’s a simple explanation to spare you the gray hairs I got in biochemistry class: Consuming protein and fat along with carbohydrates buffers the breakdown of those carbs, slowing digestion so you don’t experience a sharp spike and then crash in blood sugar. Fiber also helps slow the process, which is why foods like berries, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and beans are a better choice compared to more refined carbs like white bread, pastries, and white potatoes.

When helping my clients establish sustainable routines, breakfast is almost always part of the discussion. How are you fueling your morning? How can you make it easy and enjoyable to stay on track with your goals?

A common mistake I see is someone eating a big bowl of oatmeal with banana and drinking a (sugar-sweetened) almond milk latte, then wondering why they’re starving shortly after. Sure, you’re getting plenty of complex carbs and fiber, but almost zero fat or protein to balance out the meal. Another big one: Gulping down a smoothie with three servings worth of fruit (it can be hard to tell how much is in there when it’s all getting liquified) with sweetened almond milk and maybe a tablespoon of nut butter, which isn’t enough to balance out all the carbs in the fruit and sugar in the almond milk, so they wind up wiped and hangry come 10 a.m.

The good news is that there are lots of delicious ways to balance your blood sugar in the morning. Here are my top five blood sugar–balancing breakfasts.

1. Avocado & Egg Over Greens

I relied on this one a lot when I had a networking meeting that met at 6:45 a.m. every Wednesday. Even for an early riser, I found it a struggle to get my energy up later in the day — until I started bringing this for breakfast. I’d often add a small orange or side of berries to round it out.

Why it works: You’re getting a powerful combination of protein, fat, and fiber, plus some complex carbs and brain-boosting antioxidants in the fruit. It’s really versatile because you can enjoy with cooked greens (awesome if you have leftovers) or over raw greens for more of a breakfast salad. If you’re making this at home, fried or scrambled eggs are great, and poached are perfect if you enjoy that runny yolk (easy hack: you can even poach eggs in the microwave). Taking your breakfast to go? Do hard-boiled eggs.

2. Oatmeal With Egg Cooked In

I brought a variation on this almost every day for breakfast when I worked in clinical. The oats provided those good carbs, and I’d also cook in chia seeds or ground flax for added fiber and plant-based omega-3s. An egg whisked in during cooking contributes protein, fat, and important nutrients like choline and vitamin D, which are key for cognitive function. Topping your bowl with a drizzle of nut butter adds more healthy fats and fiber, plus a little extra protein.

Just be mindful of portion sizes. I usually recommend ⅓ cup of rolled oats or 3 tablespoons of steel-cut plus 1 tablespoon of chia or flax, cooked with water and whatever spices you like. If you’ve already got protein from the egg, you can keep the nut butter to a teaspoon or two. Plant-based eaters might want to use a full tablespoon or two, or mix in a plant-based protein powder or a protein-rich non-dairy milk like pea-protein milk instead of water to cook their oats. Here’s an easy recipe if you want to try it for yourself.

Even if I wasn’t a dietitian, I’d think oats make a delicious vehicle for veggies. You can sneak them in with this zucchini bread-inspired recipe or enjoy savory oats made with savory spices and with leftover cooked veggies tossed on top along with a little goat cheese or tahini (yes, way).

3. Plant-Powered Smoothie Bowl

Photo: @SStajic

A smoothie can totally make a satisfying, stabilizing breakfast. Just make sure to keep portions in check on the fruit and work in some healthy fat and protein. If numbers are helpful, aim for about 2 parts veggies to 1 part fruit. By the way you can use frozen greens if fresh isn’t available or convenient. I do it all the time.

Also, don’t be afraid to get weird with your mix-ins. This may sound crazy, but if you’re a smoothie bowl or nice cream fan, I think you’ll love this: frozen riced cauliflower in a smoothie. Seriously. It gives your smoothie a rich, creamy texture and absolutely no funky cauliflower taste, but you still get to reap all those nutritional benefits like fiber, B-vitamins, and potassium.

Here’s my basic recipe. It makes a great blank canvas for add-ins. Sometimes I’ll add in pumpkin puree or cooked kabocha squash. Cocoa powder is also a delicious way to add flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water (or your favorite plant-based milk)
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 scoop pea protein powder or your favorite nut butter
  • ¼ of a ripe avocado
  • ¾ cup frozen riced cauliflower
  • 1 cup frozen or 2 cups fresh spinach
  • ½ a frozen banana
  • ½ cup frozen berries
  • For garnish: 1 tablespoon chia seeds or a combo of your favorite seeds, coconut flakes, nuts, and/or cacao nibs

Method

  1. Add water or plant-based milk, ice, pea-protein powder, avocado, cauliflower, spinach, banana, and berries to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and garnish with chia seeds on top. Enjoy with a spoon.

4. Veggie Omelet

Whether you’re making it from scratch or using leftover cooked vegetables, a colorful omelet is a great way to start your day, thanks to the combination of protein, fat, and fiber. Adding a side of fruit, roasted potato, or whole grain or sweet potato toast provides some complex carbs. If you need a make-ahead option, try a frittata or minis made in muffin cups.

Don’t eat eggs? No problem. A tofu and veggie scramble also makes for a winning breakfast. You’ll still get some healthy fat from the oil used in cooking, and if you’re enjoying yours with whole grain or sweet potato toast, a spread of nut butter or tahini adds some additional staying power. Avocado slices are also delicious on top of a tofu scramble.

5. Yogurt Bowl

Plain low-fat or whole milk Greek or Icelandic yogurt make a great base for a high-protein meal or snack. I love to mix in chia seeds, vanilla extract, and cinnamon and top my bowl with beautiful berries, fresh or frozen—both are great! Want a little something more? Drizzle a teaspoon of nut butter or garnish with cacao nibs, coconut flakes, or your favorite nuts or seeds.

My favorite weird-is-good mix-in is cocoa powder. Aside from enjoying delicious flavor, you’ll get an extra gram or two of fiber and a fluffy texture. Kefir is another great option if you prefer a thinner texture over the thick strained yogurt varieties. It’s also almost completely lactose-free, making it a suitable option if you’re sensitive to dairy. Just go slow with sweeteners—a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, or jam go a lot further than you might think.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/best-blood-sugar-balancing-breakfast-recipe

Acid reflux, and the resulting heartburn, has been steadily on the riseover the past two decades. In fact, as many as 60 million Americanssuffer from this uncomfortable post-meal sensation on a regular basis. But you might be surprised to learn that experts still can’t agree on the cause of the disorder—or the best way to treat it.

For starters, acid reflux—also known as gastroesophageal reflux—is the expulsion of stomach contents back into the esophagus. And that’s about as fun as it sounds: The acidity of this fluid burns the esophageal lining causing a painful burning sensation in the chest. Repeated exposure to stomach acid can cause serious damage to the esophagus and increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Unfortunately, while there are over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat acid reflux, they can be expensive and come with a host of long- and short-term side effects, like increased risk of nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis, and dependency (more on that in a bit). The good news is, there are many lifestyle changes and natural remedies that might offer relief and even target the underlying causes of acid reflux. But first, let’s get back to why you might want to consider treating acid reflux without medication.

The problem with acid reflux medications.

Due to the uncomfortable—and in some cases, unbearable—symptoms, many people turn to over-the-counter and prescription medications for quick heartburn relief. The most common types of medications used are H2 blockers and proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), which both suppress stomach acid production really effectively. But as with any drug, there can be side effects. The short-term effects of these drugs may include constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. All uncomfortable but not particularly worrisome or serious.

Long-term use of H2 blockers and PPIs, however, can have more serious consequences. Stomach acid plays a crucial role in breaking down food for proper digestion and absorption, so continual suppression of the acid may lead to nutrient deficiencies. Additionally, PPIs may increase blood levels of the hormone gastrin, which can leach calcium from the bones. This combination can increase the risk for bone fractures and osteoporosis. The acidity of the stomach also works to kill bacteria that can cause illnesses. So, chronically low stomach acid levels can leave you at risk for infections.

Another issue with H2 blockers and PPIs is dependence. In order to try to maintain a balance, the body responds to acid-suppressing drugs by attempting to increase production of acid. This is held at bay by the continued use of the drugs, but once medication is stopped, the floodgates are opened. The body overproduces acid, making acid reflux symptoms even worse. This is called rebound acid hypersecretion. Many people incorrectly interpret this to mean they should continue using H2 blockers or PPIs. Fortunately, with lifestyle changes and natural therapies, it is oftentimes possible to quell the symptoms of acid reflux and heal the root causes without medication.

The basics of managing and preventing acid reflux naturally.

If you suffer from acid reflux, you likely know there are many modifiable lifestyle factors that can help you manage and prevent the uncomfortable symptoms. For starters, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking can greatly decrease your risk of acid reflux and improve overall health.

Meal timing and post-meal behavior can also help prevent the onset of acid reflux. The NIH recommends not eating within three hours of bedtime and remaining upright during this time period. The idea is to give the stomach enough time to properly and completely digest a meal before lying down, which minimizes the risk for acid reflux. (Not to mention, if you’ve been meaning to try intermittent fasting, which has been linked with an entire other set of health benefits, this could be a great excuse to start.) It’s important to ensure the stomach can properly and completely digest a meal in order to minimize the risk for acid reflux. Another proven method to aid in digestion is to avoid constricting the stomach, with tight clothing or bad posture. Staying mindful during mealtime and not overeating may also help you avoid heartburn and ease digestion, as stomach distention can cause the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach to relax, allowing for the backward flow of contents. Just one more good reason to slow down and eat more mindfully, right?

Sleeping with an elevated head and chest may encourage the flow of digestion and decrease the risk for heartburn as well. Unfortunately, stacking pillows may not offer enough support, so the Cleveland Clinic suggests using wooden blocks to prop up the head of the bed. Surprisingly, body orientation during sleep may also affect the risk for acid reflux. The esophagus-stomach connection is located on the right side of the body, so sleeping on the left side of the body may keep acid away from this opening and decrease the occurrence of acid reflux.

Foods that fight acid reflux.

For anyone with acid reflux, it’s probably no shock to learn that what we eat can have a significant impact on your likelihood of suffering from heartburn. Traditionally, patients have been advised to avoid acidic foods and drinks like tomatoes, citrus fruits, and coffee. It’s believed that eating these foods may increase the acidity of the stomach and therefore the acidity of the contents that come in contact with the throat, exacerbating pain symptoms. Limiting these foods will not prevent acid reflux, but they may diminish the pain it causes by decreasing the acidity of the bile. In general, alcohol, peppermint, spicy food, chocolate, and fatty foods are thought to trigger heartburn symptoms and should be avoided.

Conversely, some researchers argue that eating acidic foods may actually be beneficial for those suffering from acid reflux and even recommend taking HCL, which is stomach acid. The consumption of acidic foods or HCL supplements may signal the body to slow production of hydrochloric acid, thereby decreasing the acidity levels of the stomach and acid reflux. One study found that the consumption of acidic foods successfully decreased the incidence of heartburn when coupled with a low-carbohydrate diet.

Natural remedies for acid reflux.

On top of these basic do’s and don’ts, here are seven other suggestions for managing acid reflux naturally before you think about turning to PPIs and H2 blockers. They’re a great place to start, and all have some research to support their efficacy:

1. Drinking aloe syrup to prevent heartburn.

Photo: Tatjana Zlatkovic

Aloe vera is typically thought of for after-sun relief, but it can also help relieve heartburn. The same anti-inflammatory properties that soothe a sunburn can soothe an irritated esophagus and alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux. One study found that daily supplementation with aloe syrup reduced the frequency of heartburn in those diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease.

2. Chewing gum to alleviate heartburn.

One common tactic for immediate relief from the pain of heartburn is to chew gum. Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva and increases swallowing. Researchers believe that saliva plays an important role in flushing regurgitated stomach acid from the esophagus back into the stomach, providing quick relief. Try chewing gum for half an hour after a meal to keep the esophagus clear of acid.

3. Melatonin to prevent acid reflux.

Melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” is naturally present in the digestive tract and may offer some protection against acid reflux. One study found that supplementation with melatonin decreased the occurrence of heartburn, especially when paired with an over-the-counter acid reflux medication. It is not completely understood how melatonin affects acid reflux, but one explanation could be that the antioxidant properties of melatonin fight inflammation in the esophagus.

4. Acupuncture to prevent heartburn.

Heartburn is the result of the opening between the esophagus and the stomach relaxing and opening to allow the backward flow of contents. Some believe acupuncture may discourage the relaxation of this sphincter, holding the stomach closed and blocking the expulsion of acid up the esophagus. Research is limited but promising for this natural healing therapy.

5. Digestive enzymes for acid reflux.

The amount of time it takes the stomach to digest a meal and empty can play a role in acid reflux as well. Essentially, the slower the stomach empties, the longer the acid levels remain elevated and the stomach holds contents that might be expelled back up the esophagus. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can support the digestion process and promote proper gastric emptying.

6. Licorice for acid reflux.

Licorice root may be able to alleviate the painful symptoms of acid reflux. Heartburn is the result of regurgitated stomach acid irritating the lining of the esophagus. The strong anti-inflammatory propertiesof licorice root may help soothe an irritated esophagus.

7. Pickle juice to calm heartburn.

Got a jar of pickles in the fridge? The juice in the jar might just be the answer to your heartburn. For the same reason that some scientists believe acidic food may actually help with acid reflux symptoms, drinking pickle juice may signal the body to stop producing stomach acid, thereby reducing symptoms. Although the science isn’t quite there on this remedy, many people swear by it.

Acid reflux is a common complaint that affects millions of Americans every day, so it’s nice to know that there are some diet and lifestyle changes that can help reduce pain and inflammation. Just make sure to always talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your diet or lifestyle, especially if you have a chronic health problem or you’re on any medication.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/natural-remedies-for-acid-reflux

What is an ocular migraine? It sounds like a simple question, right? Answering it, unfortunately, isn’t so easy. Not all experts agree on the exact definition, but “ocular migraine” usually refers to two different things involving migraines with vision changes: migraine aura (which isn’t usually serious), and retinal migraine (which can be very serious, but is also exceedingly rare). Here’s what you should know about both.

Migraine aura

Roughly one-third of migraine headache sufferers have something called a migraine aura either just before or during the headache. It’s usually a visual disturbance that can look like “colored lights, zig-zagging patterns, dots, and prism effects that tend to shimmer or scintillate and migrate across the visual field,” explains Bradley Katz, MD, a neuro-opthalmologist at the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center who specializes in treating migraine-related light sensitivity. An aura might last for 20 to 60 minutes, and it tends to begin gradually and then build.

“It’s almost never a formed hallucination, like a cat, dog, or person—it’s typically shapes or squiggles. It can take up as much as half of a person’s visual field and give the person a kind of tunnel vision experience,” says Wade Cooper, DO, director of the University of Michigan’s Headache and Neuropathic Pain Clinic in Ann Arbor.

What happens in the brain during an aura? “In the back of the brain, where we process visual information, there’s a wave of energy. It starts in the way back and slowly moves forward toward the front of the brain. As it moves forward, it gives you too much energy at first—those are the spots and sparkles that you see. After that, because you’ve burned all that energy out, now you’ve got low energy—that’s the dark spot that you see afterward,” says Dr. Cooper.

It’s also possible to develop a migraine aura without having a headache. “That’s far less common. It’s more likely to happen as you mature. Someone might have migraine aura with headache at a younger age and then just the aura as they get older,” says Dr. Cooper.

The triggers for migraine aura are the same as the triggers for migraine headache (certain kinds of lighting, stress, dietary choices, dehydration, lack of sleep, an infection, certain smells, loud sounds, a weather change, intense physical exertion, or certain medications). But how come some migraine sufferers experience auras and others don’t? What’s the underlying cause? “We don’t know. It’s suspected that some people may have a genetic predisposition,” says Dr. Katz.

It should be noted that, though they’re less common, migraine auras can manifest in ways that aren’t visual. “There can be olfactory auras, where you think you smell something bad and chemical-like, but it’s almost like a hallucination because it’s not there and nobody else can smell it. Others can suddenly become confused, have trouble speaking or thinking of words, or experience numbness or tingling on one side of the body—stroke-like symptoms,” says Dr. Katz. But those types of migraine auras wouldn’t be considered “ocular” because they don’t involve the eyes.

The bottom line: Though migraine aura can be frightening to experience, it’s generally not considered a serious condition and it’s often treatable. If you ever experience the symptoms mentioned above, make an appointment with your primary care provider and he or she may either provide treatment or refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist, for further evaluation and treatment.

Retinal migraine

A retinal migraine is different from a migraine aura. It’s characterized by temporarily reduced, blurry, or dimmed vision or total blindness in only one eye, which may occur before or during a migraine headache. This happens when the blood vessels to the eye abruptly start narrowing. It typically lasts 10 to 20 minutes, but could last for up to an hour.

A retinal migraine is far less common than a migraine aura. “It’s about as rare as rocking horse manure. You almost never see it,” says Dr. Cooper. A retinal migraine is more likely to occur in women, people under the age of 40, people with a personal or family history of migraines or other headaches, and people with certain underlying medical conditions (such as lupus, epilepsy, sickle cell disease, and a hardening of the arteries).

For those who develop retinal migraines, there are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription medication treatments that can provide relief, including aspirin, beta-blockers, calcium-channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, and anti-epileptics.

The important thing to remember is that unlike a migraine aura, a retinal migraine is serious. So if you notice any of the symptoms above, call your doctor immediately because in rare cases, it can damage the retina and blood vessels and lead to vision loss that’s irreversible.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/health-conditions/a22064209/ocular-migraine/

Plastic straws are well-known for their massive environmental consequences, often finding their way into the oceans and various waterways. The issue has caused multiple cities (we’re looking at you Malibu, Seattle, and Vancouver) and even the United Kingdom to ban single-use plastic straws entirely.

But recently, a new article published in the Washington Post shined a light on another negative impact of plastic straws: their direct impact on human health. According to the author Christy Brissette—an R.D. and nutrition writer—on top of the obvious negative environmental impact, there are a number of personal health reasons to avoid plastic straws as well.

What are they, exactly? For starters, drinking through a straw can cause more air to enter the digestive system, increasing the likelihood that you’ll experience gas and bloating from whatever you’re drinking. Also on the list is an increased risk for cavities (because straws tend to send sugary and acidic beverages to certain teeth) and even wrinkles—as the regular use of straws can lead to “pucker lines,” or the same types of wrinkles that smokers get around their mouths.

According to Brissette, the chemicals plastic straws are made from should also be cause for some concern. It’s suspected that one in particular, polypropylene, can leach into water and might affect estrogen levels in humans. According to Jolene Brighten, a naturopathic doctor and founder of Rubus health, it’s a good idea to avoid eating and drinking out of plastic altogether: “It’s a common misconception that BPA-free plastics mean less of an estrogenic affect. Plastics in general pose a major threat to health by leaching endocrine disruptors (chemicals that interfere with your hormones). I recommend avoiding plastics, especially those that come into contact with your food, as often as possible.” So besides the fact that by the year 2050 the plastic in our oceans will outweigh the fish, this should serve as some added motivation to say no to plastic straws and replace them with more sustainable alternatives.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/plastic-straws-unhealthy-for-humans

Folic acid fortification not only protects developing babies against certain birth defects but also supports healthy brain development through the teenage years, researchers report.

“It’s been known for more than 20 years that prenatal exposure to folic acid protects the fetus against spina bifida and other neural tube defects,” said senior study author Dr. Joshua L. Roffman from Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown.

“But our findings are among the first to link prenatal folic acid exposure to improved brain health outcomes in young people,” and to show the effect is due to specific changes in brain development, he told Reuters Health in an email.

The researchers evaluated associations between prenatal folic acid exposure, maturation of the brain’s cortex, and the risk of psychiatric disorders in youths 8 to 18 years of age born before, during, and after full implementation of folic acid fortification of grain products between 1996 and 1998.

Brain cortex thickness was greatest in youth born after full implementation of folic acid fortification, intermediate in those born during the rollout and lowest in those born before folic acid fortification, according to the report in JAMA Psychiatry.

After the brain reaches its full thickness, the cortex begins to thin in a selective pruning process. Delayed thinning has been associated with higher intelligence, whereas accelerated thinning has been associated with schizophrenia and autism, the researchers note.

In this study, folic acid fortification was associated with slower thinning of the brain cortex, and this delayed thinning was associated with lower odds of developing psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

“Despite longstanding recommendations that women of child-bearing age take folic acid to protect against neural tube defects, especially in the event of unplanned pregnancy, most women who are capable of pregnancy do not take prenatal folic acid supplements (e.g., prenatal vitamins), and less than half of the world’s population lives in countries that require folic acid fortification of grain products,” Roffman said.

The results demonstrate that prenatal folic acid may confer additional protective, long-lasting effects on brain health, beyond its effects on neural tube defect prevention, he added.

“Even if such benefit ultimately proves to be small or limited to a certain population, given that folic acid during pregnancy is safe for both mother and fetus, inexpensive, and readily available, these findings may help compel its wider use,” Roffman said.

“This study provides additional evidence in support of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s recommendation that all women of childbearing age consume 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folic acid daily,” said Dr. Patrick J. Stover from Texas A&M University in College Station, who wasn’t involved in the research.

“This study provides additional evidence that all countries should use folic acid fortification or other effective approaches to ensure women have adequate levels of folic acid intake during pregnancy,” he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2IQonuB JAMA Psychiatry, online July 3, 2018.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-folic-acid/folic-acid-linked-to-healthy-brain-development-through-childhood-idUSKBN1JU2VI

Older women who took a probiotic supplement had less weakening of bones than women who didn’t take the supplements.

A probiotic supplement could be good for your bones, a new study suggests.

Researchers studied 90 women, 75 to 80 years old, all generally healthy but with low bone mineral density. They measured their bone density at the start of the study, and then randomly assigned them to a placebo or to two daily doses of freeze-dried Lactobacillus reuteri, an intestinal tract microbe that occurs naturally in many, but not all, people.

After one year, they measured the women’s bones again. The reduction in density in the shin bone was nearly half as large in women taking L. reuteri supplements as in those taking the placebo. Side effects, most commonly gastrointestinal symptoms, were similar in the treatment and placebo groups. The study is in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

The lead author, Dr. Anna G. Nilsson, said that why this happens is unclear. “Perhaps estrogens could be affected by probiotics,” she said, “and there is some discussion about calcium absorption, a change in the calcium regulating hormones.”

Dr. Nilsson, an associate professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said that it is not yet time to advise women to take probiotics. “This is the first study in humans,” she said. “We need confirmatory studies. And we’ve only studied one strain of L. reuteri, the type used in animal studies.”