Treatment for Epstein-Barr Virus May Help People With Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers say the new immunotherapy can help bolster T cells that can then help relieve MS symptoms.

Another clinical trial using the immunotherapy is being organized. Getty Images

Australian scientists say they’ve found a new immunotherapy that’s showing promise as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

The therapy is based on a treatment for Epstein-Barr virus.

The connection between Epstein-Barr and multiple sclerosis (MS) was made more than 40 years ago. Recent scientific research continues to show a correlation.

At times, researchers have suggested that a vaccine for Epstein-Barr could be an answer to MS.

This potential new treatment is based on the theory of Dr. Michael Pender, a professor at The University of Queensland and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in Australia.

Pender unveiled a new theory in 2003 that MS is caused by an accumulation of cells in the brain infected by Epstein-Barr and that a therapy targeting the virus could potentially stop the progression of MS.

“(Epstein-Barr) affects B cells and once affected, never leaves these B cells,” Pender told Healthline. “In healthy people, the immune system works all the time keeping the virus under control by using T cells.”

A common infection

About 90 percent of the public is infected with Epstein-Barr, although many don’t suffer from any serious effects.

All MS patients have the virus, Pender said.

Pender proposes that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) could accumulate in the body, causing other chronic autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.

He suggests that people who present with these conditions may have a decrease in these T cells that control the virus.

“This is the same process that causes chronic intestinal issues like irritable bowel disorder (IBD). It is the accumulation of EBV cells in the gut causing flora to get out of balance,” Pender told Healthline.

Boosting T cells

The immunotherapy treatment involves isolating T cells, then stimulating them in a laboratory environment and retraining them to be more effective T cells.

“We are giving back the T cells that are doing a good thing — like managing the EBV. They are removed and grown and given back to the patient,” Pender said. “These cells will go back into the brain and start killing the cells creating the damage.”

Five years ago, Pender treated the first patient with T-cell immunotherapy in a phase I trial supported in part by MS Research Australia.

In the latest study conducted this year, seven of 10 participants said it alleviated symptoms for up to three and a half years.

The study was supported by California-based Atara Biotherapeutics, a T-cell focused company.

“If this theory is correct, then a targeted EBV treatment such as T cells could kill infected cells in the brain,” said Pender.

“This is very early but exciting and promising,” said Kathy Costello, a nurse practitioner at the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Center in Maryland and the associate vice president of healthcare access for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“EBV has been looked at and thought to be one of the risk factors for MS, but there are many, many more people with EBV than who ever get MS. It’s unlikely that it’s the only cause or only risk factor for MS,” Costello told Healthline.

“There are many researchers looking at EBV and how it plays a role in MS,” she added. “More people believe that infection of EBV triggers the disease, or risk of development of MS, like smoking cigarettes, taking vitamin D, watching weight/obesity. They all contribute to the risk of developing MS.”

Top 4 Cancer Screenings That Should Be on Your Radar in 2019

Many of the lives lost to cancer each year could’ve been saved through earlier detection. Here are four screenings that should be at the top of your list in the new year.

As the new year approaches, there’s no better time to schedule those cancer screenings your doctor has been recommending.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 610,000 people were expected to die from cancer in 2018.

But many of the lives could’ve been saved through earlier detection.

“Cancer screening is so critical because early on in early stages of cancer there are no signs of the disease, and that is precisely when the cancer is most treatable,” Dr. Carmen Guerra, national board scientific officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told Healthline.

Guerra urges people to learn more about the guidelines from the ACS and to keep screenings for these four cancer types at the top of their list.

1. Breast cancer

Women ages 40 to 44 years old who are not at increased risk for breast cancer should be offered the choice to start an annual mammogram.

“Between 45 and 54 years old, women should definitely get a mammogram every year. After 55 they can switch to every other year or continue yearly mammograms,” said Guerra.

While there is no age maximum for a mammogram, women should discuss with their doctor what screening is best for them after age 54.

“If their physician believes they will live for another 10 years or longer, he or she may recommend screening,” Guerra said.

She also points out that even if you don’t have a history of breast cancer in your family, you should still follow these guidelines.

“The truth is over 90 percent of the cases occur in people without a family history. Also, many patients tell me that they don’t feel a breast lump [during self-exams] so they don’t need screening,” Guerra said. “Mammograms detect tumors that are not able to be captured with a self-exam or even a clinician exam. Some breast cancers are the size of an eyelash. That’s what a mammography detects, something you could never feel with an exam.”

Women who are at increased risk of breast cancer due to personal history, genetic history or because they carry a gene mutation, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, should talk with their doctor about screening options, such as an MRI scan.

2. Cervical cancer

All women should begin cervical cancer screening at the age of 21.

Between 21 and 29, screens should be conducted with a Pap smear every three years.

Starting at age 30 and continuing all the way up to 65 years old, in addition to a Pap smear every 5 years, women should also have an HPV test.

“We know there’s a strong link between HPV and cervical cancer,” said Guerra. “After 65, women can discontinue cervical cancer screening if their last two Pap smears over the last 10 years were normal.”

For women who have had the HPV vaccine, Guerra says, the ACS is currently looking into whether or not screening is still needed.

“I’m on the panel that’s looking at that question now. We don’t know yet if women will have to continue cervical cancer screening in the same way I just stated. New guidelines may come out in the next year or so and may affect the recommendations,” she said.

Guerra also notes that the FDA has approved the HPV vaccination to be offered to people 27 to 45 years, which is an update from the approval of up to 26 years old.

“It’s new, but hasn’t been implemented widely yet. Talk with your doctor,” she said.

3. Lung cancer

Lung cancer kills more people than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Screening for lung cancer involves a low-dose CAT scan of the chest for people who are known to be at higher risk of developing the disease.

Recommendations are to screen people (men and women) who are 55 to 74 years old, and who currently smoke or have smoked in the past, but quit in the last 15 years.

“They have had to have smoked approximately 30 pack years or more. What that means is smoking one pack a day times 30 years or half a pack a day times 60 years,” Guerra explained.

In addition to screening, she suggests smoking cessation counseling.

“Smoking rates have been declining since the publication of the reports of the Surgeon General in 1964. That began to raise awareness of the harms of smoking and a lot of public health research and investment has been put into smoking cessation,” Guerra said. “We suspect that all, along with improvement in treatment, has something to do with declining rates of lung cancer.”

4. Colon cancer

Screening for colon cancer not only detects cancer early, but by removing polyps, which can turn into cancer, the screening can actually prevent cancer.

“This is the only cancer screening that can do this,” Guerra said.

Recommendations for colon cancer screening changed earlier this year.

Previously, the ACS stated that anyone over 50 years old should start screening with colonoscopy or a stool-based test. The new guidelines lowered the age to 45 years old.

“There is a concerning increased rate of colon cancer that we are seeing in younger individuals, even millennials, and we don’t know why. To better address this new trend, the recommendations were lowered and should continue through age 75,” said Guerra.

Between the ages of 76 and 85, you should talk with your doctor about whether screening makes sense, and once you reach 85, screening should stop.

Your healthcare provider will also determine how often to screen, but generally, screening is performed once every 10 years with a colonoscopy. If no polyps are found, then screening may continue in intervals of 3 or 5 years.

For those who are concerned that colonoscopy is embarrassing or painful, Guerra says, “The truth is people who have had a colonoscopy almost universally say that the worst part is the prep, which may vary, but generally consists of a liquid you take in two portions and a clear liquid diet.”

She adds that most people don’t remember the procedure because they receive a sedative that helps them sleep.

“Sometimes the sedative is combined with a medicine that makes you forget things, so most people wake up and don’t think they had the colonoscopy, yet it’s over,” Guerra said.

Is it possible to screen too much?

Concern about over-testing and over-screening is a legit one, says Guerra. Doing so can lead to negative consequences such as time spent, cost, and in some cases harmful health effects, such as exposure to radiation (from mammograms).

However, she says this is more reason to adhere to the guidelines.

“For instance, the reason breast cancer screening focuses on age 45 to 54 is because if you were to plot all the cases of breast cancer that occur, it looks like a bell curve that has a peak at those years. Then it falls down,” she said. “As it falls, it’s okay to cut back on screening because the risks are also falling.”

She adds that work needs to be done to get more doctors and patients to realize this.

“Patients want to receive good care, and to them the yearly screening means good care, but it’s actually complex,” Guerra said. “Good care means cutting back for some people. The guidelines are based on a lot of scientific data.”

Think You’re Metabolically Healthy? Only 12% of Americans Fit the Bill

If you think you’ve got good metabolic health just because you see a “normal” weight on the scale, think again.

New research shows that an “alarmingly low” number of American adults are achieving optimal metabolic health, leaving the majority of people at increased risk for serious diseases.

In a study published last month in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill evaluated data from 8,721 adults from the 2009 to 2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They found that just 1 in 8 adults in the United States have optimal metabolic health.

They defined metabolic health as having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference, without using medications. These factors directly relate to a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Participants who were obese fared the worst, with just 0.5 percent achieving optimal metabolic health. However, less than half of those who were underweight and less than a third of participants with normal weights had optimal metabolic health.

“We need to look at metabolism beyond just body weight,” said Dr. Rekha Kumar, endocrinologist at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. “There has been a push to address obesity through public health measures, but this study shows us that even people who are a normal weight seem to be developing diseases that we typically correlate with obesity.”

The report also showed that certain demographics and lifestyle factors affect metabolic health.

Those with the highest rates of metabolic health included women, people under the age of 40, nonsmokers, those who physically active, and those who had at least some college education.

Non-Hispanic black participants and people 60 years old and older were least likely to be metabolically healthy.

“Lifestyle factors play into our health. We’re not isolated to just our numbers — we have to look at everything all together,” said Dr. Samantha Nazareth, a double board-certified gastroenterologist in New York City.

Explaining the low rates of metabolic health

There’s no standard definition in the medical community for metabolic health. As such, the estimated occurrence may change quite a bit depending on which factors are considered.

While this is the first study on metabolic health in the United States, other researchers have looked at similar data to determine that some 23 percent of adults have metabolic syndrome. This condition occurs when a person fails to meet at least three of five ideal measurements of things like blood pressure and glucose levels.

The latest report considers a person to be metabolically healthy only if they meet ideal levels of all five criteria.

What’s considered optimal has become stricter over the years as well. In the report, the researchers used “the most recent and restrictive” cutoffs from scientific societies and government agencies, which drove down the prevalence of metabolic health.

“These are the appropriate levels for the definitions of ‘normal’ for each factor,” said Dr. Rosemary Ku, a dual board-certified physician and founder of the digital health nonprofit Cure Chronic Disease.

“One of the biggest changes here was the blood pressure threshold. The standard for metabolic syndrome was 130/85, but in this study, they considered 120/80 to be optimal,” she said.

“It’s not that we use strict guidelines to label people with diseases that they don’t have. We want people to understand what their health risks are,” Kumar added.

Interestingly, the inclusion of waist circumference made a relatively large impact on the findings, bringing the portion of people with optimal metabolic health from 17.6 percent to 12.2 percent.

While the researchers determined the waist circumference of each participant using a consistent method, there’s no standardization for how doctors should measure their patients’ waists, Ku says.

Nevertheless, a large waist circumference is an important factor to note when evaluating a patient, Kumar says.

“Waist circumference can be considered a surrogate marker for someone’s metabolic health. It implies there’s visceral fat, a dangerous type of fat that gathers around the organs and increases a person’s risk for heart disease and heart attacks,” she explained.

How do you improve your metabolic health?

Having poor metabolic health means you have a higher chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, or stroke.

Understanding your risks starts by getting your annual physical.

“Ask your doctor about whether or not it would be appropriate to be screened for chronic disease risk,” Ku said. “They can easily order a routine lab screening that looks at those factors, like your cholesterol and blood sugar.”

Making diet and lifestyle changes can help improve your metabolic health. Ku, Nazareth, and Kumar emphasize the importance of quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly throughout the week.

Those habits not only work to improve your metabolic health, but also offer a range of other benefits for the body and mind.

“Sleep hygiene should also be incorporated into improving metabolic health. That has taken a hit on our modern society with technology and what often feels like a 24-hour workday for people,” Kumar said.

Shifting public health measures to target everyone (not just those with obesity) is also essential in helping improve the rate of optimal metabolic health throughout the country, Kumar adds.

“All those campaigns focused on increasing someone’s physical activity. Reducing sugar intake and reducing saturated fats in the diet shouldn’t just be targeted at people with a weight problem, but to all people. We need to understand that even if you don’t have a weight problem, you might still have a metabolism problem,” she said.

Most People Lie to Their Doctor: Here’s Why

When a physician asks health-related questions, they usually expect the wholehearted truth. After all, honesty is supposed to be the best policy. However, if you’ve stretched the truth to your doctor, you may not be alone.

A new study shows that between 60 and 80 percent of patients say that they haven’t told their doctors the truth or have withheld information from them.

This study was published in the JAMA Network Open journal by researchers at University of Utah Health and Middlesex Community College, Connecticut, in conjunction with authors from the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and the University of Iowa.

They found that the most common reason for withholding information is patients not wanting to feel judged or lectured.

“While the idea that patients may not share everything with their clinicians is perhaps to be expected, we were surprised at how common it appears to be for patients to withhold information or beliefs,” said study co-author Brian Zikmund-Fisher, PhD, research associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan in a released statement.

What the study found

Researchers examined results from over 4,500 responses across the country using two different surveys. One survey captured the responses from 2,011 participants averaging 36 years old. The other online survey was given to 2,499 participants with an average age of 61.

In both survey groups, those who were female, younger, or self-reported having poor health were more likely to respond that they failed to provide truthful answers.

With input from health service researchers, physicians, and psychologists, as well as group meetings and pilot testing, the surveys were refined to include seven questions. These questions covered areas that survey participants may not have been candid about, such as whether they had been adhering to treatment.

If a participant answered they hadn’t been truthful for any of the seven questions, they were then asked to recall why they made that choice.

The primary reasons for failure to disclose information were highest for items involving physician communication, which included disagreement with a physician’s recommendations and not understanding their medical instructions. This is followed by nondisclosure of relevant health behaviors, such as eating an unhealthy diet.

“There are certain topics where patients tend to not always tell you what is going on. I think that is particularly true in scenarios when a patient does not know you that well or there is a sensitive subject” says Dr. Barbara Keber, chair of family medicine at Northwell Health’s Glen Cove Hospital in Glen Cove, New York.

Study participants didn’t disclose information with their physicians primarily because they didn’t want to be judged or lectured about their behavior. This was followed by the lack of desire to hear how bad the behavior was for their health, as well as simply being embarrassed about their health choices.

Other responses included not wanting information in their medical record, not wanting to take up their healthcare provider’s time, and wanting their healthcare provider to like them.

“Most people want their doctor to think highly of them,” said Angela Fagerlin, PhD, senior study author and professor and chair of population health sciences at the University of Utah Health, in a statement.

“They are worried about being pigeonholed as someone who doesn’t make good decisions,” she said.

The risks of keeping information from your doctor

Patients withholding information about their health can make it more difficult for healthcare professionals to provide the right care, and it can be dangerous to the patients’ health.

Patients who aren’t forthright with their health information face unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening side effects from regimens their doctors give them.

“Healthcare clinicians need complete and accurate information about patient behaviors and beliefs if they are to best serve and guide their patients,” said Zikmund-Fisher.

Zikmund-Fisher acknowledged busy doctors can take steps to try to get their patients to be comfortable and open with them.

“Perhaps by acknowledging how common it is for patients to withhold information, clinicians may be able to make it easier for patients to share their concerns and acknowledge their less-than-ideal behaviors,” Zikmund-Fisher said.

“Such conversations will only occur, however, if clinicians address patients’ fears that they will be judged or lectured.”

Although the data presented is astonishing, this study has an interesting limitation: Survey participants may have withheld information about withholding information. This means the statistics could be even higher.

Keber pointed out how important it was for doctors to effectively communicate with patients.

“It all comes down to the mechanism of communication — especially in the patient that you do not know,” says Keber.

“Putting the patient at ease is key. The physician needs to open a line of communication to engage the patient, and only then will the patient engage back with you in a discussion that will allow them to open up about their health concerns.”

The bottom line

A recent study shows that between 60 and 80 percent of patients aren’t forthcoming or even lie to their physicians.

Misrepresentation most commonly occurred when they disagreed with their physician’s recommendations or misunderstood their instructions. Patients reasoned that they didn’t want to feel judged or be lectured.

More than half felt embarrassed about their health choices.

Healthy Hacks to Make 7 Holiday Starbucks Drinks Better for You

Starbucks seasonal drinks are brewing and if they bring extra joy to your holiday season, then by all means indulge in your favorite cup.

But before you place your order and take a sip, consider the following ways to make each of these seven drinks a little healthier.

1. Caramel Brulée Latte

Espresso, steamed milk, and rich caramel brulée sauce, topped with whipped cream and caramel brulée topping are the core of the Caramel Brulée Latte.

But yikes, the grande size packs in 450 calories, 70 grams of carbohydrates and 47 grams of sugar.

For some perspective, the American Heart Association recommends consuming a total of 25 grams of sugar a day for women and 50 grams for men.

“When choosing this beverage, opt for nonfat milk and hold the whipped cream to shave 130 calories and 17 grams of fat per serving (grande),” Erin Palinski-Wade, nutritionist and author of “Belly Fat Diet for Dummies,” told Healthline.

2. Chestnut Praline Latte

The grande size of the Chestnut Praline Latte using whole milk and whipped cream contains 370 calories and 39 grams of sugar. By swapping whole milk for almond milk, you can cut 110 calories and 10 grams of sugar.

Lose the whipped cream and say goodbye to 60 more calories plus 5 fewer grams of sugar.

Devin Alexander, celebrity chef and author of “You Can Have It!,” says go short, which is still 8 ounces and contains 21 grams of sugar.

“Sugar, sugar, and more sugar,” Alexander told Healthline. “You have to remember that it’s nearly impossible not to consume any other sugar throughout the day from fruit and other foods you eat, so drink smaller sizes of these drinks or share with a friend.”

She also points out that in the short-sized drink, if you get rid of the spiced praline crumbs topping, you lose 5 grams of fat and 60 calories.

“I doubt you can taste the crumbs on this, anyway,” she said.

3. Gingerbread Latte

If a seasonal drink is a must for you, Alexander says the Gingerbread Latte may be your healthiest choice at Starbucks since it contains the least amount of sugar and calories than many of its seasonal counterparts.

To keep this drink to a healthy 100 calories, Palinski-Wade says opt for the short size with nonfat milk, and skip the whipped cream.

Alexander notes that syrup in drinks like this one spike up the sugar count. She suggests asking for more nutmeg and less gingerbread syrup to get the seasonal flavor minus high amounts of sugar.

”If it’s not sweet enough, put in a zero-calorie natural sweetener,” she said.

4. Juniper Latte

Like the Gingerbread Latte, the Juniper Latte contains fewer calories than other options.

“This can be a good choice for those who wish to enjoy a festive latte more often,” Palinski-Wade said.

As with the other drinks, choosing a smaller size, as well as nonfat milk or almond milk will reduce the total fat and calorie content.

Since this drink contains a syrup, Alexander suggests skipping the dusting of pine-citrus sugar to cut back on sugar.

5. Eggnog Crème

This drink in the grande size (and when made with whole milk) provides a shocking 540 calories and 59 grams of sugar.

“Although no substitution on this beverage cuts the sugar dramatically, swapping the whole milk for almond milk can save 50 calories and 5 grams of sugar,” said Palinski-Wade.

Yet, your best bet, she added, “Is to scale down the portion and choose a kid’s serving size instead to enjoy the same great taste with half the calories.”

6. Peppermint Mocha

If you order the grande version of the Peppermint Mocha with 2 percent milk, you’ll consume 440 calories and 54 grams of sugar. Swap in almond milk and save 70 calories and 8 grams of sugar.

“But an even better option is to ask your barista to go light on the peppermint syrup and mocha sauce to cut down on the added sugar further,” Palinski-Wade said.

Alexander agrees. However, she suggests making this one and others at home.

“You can make this for 90 calories with virtually no sugar. The tiniest bit of peppermint extract can give you that flavor. For the dark chocolate, you can use a Stevia-sweetened chocolate or skip the chocolate if you use mocha sauce,” said Alexander.

At home, you can also replace store-bought whipped topping with homemade versions, such as Alexander’s, which contains 10 calories a tablespoon and is low in sugar.

7. Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

The grande size of the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha is similar in calorie count and sugar to the peppermint mocha. In addition to cutting out the whipped topping and drizzles of sugar sparkles and crispy white pearls, Alexander says consider cutting back on the mocha sauce and upping the expresso.

“Again if it’s not sweet enough this way, add a sweetener like Stevia to the mix,” she said.

Before you order

Alexander suggests thinking about the following before you dash off to Starbucks.

Note that nutritional information varies

“Most menus have a disclaimer stating that the nutritional information varies. This means [a drink] could be 800 or 40 calories,” Alexander said.

Cut what you don’t love

“Every time I work with people I ask what it is that they love about a particular food. For example, with pizza, I’ll ask, ‘Do you love the crust or cheese or meaty toppings?’ If you love a big deep crust, then put veggies on it or if you love meaty toppings, then just put it on flat bread,” said Alexander. “Do the same with ingredients in these drinks. Think about what you really love and what you could give up. Ask yourself if you like the crumbs or whipped topping more?”

Adjust your meals

If you’re going to drink a beverage high in sugar, carbs, and fat, make sure your meals the rest of the day are healthy.

“Consider the drink your dessert, and whatever meal you have before or after you drink it, make sure it doesn’t have a carb at all. For instance, get a salad with a lean protein on it,” said Alexander.

Huma Qureshi’s Post Workout Snack Is Gajak: 4 Reasons To Love This Healthy Winter Sweet

Huma Qureshi's Post Workout Snack Is Gajak: 4 Reasons To Love This Healthy Winter Sweet!

Bollywood actor Huma Qureshi has inspired many with healthy outlook towards health and her body-positive attitude. Qureshi, who often shares videos of herself working out and also shares diet tips with her followers on Instagram, has always promoted love and acceptance for all body types and shapes. The ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ actor has proven her acting chops to Bollywood lovers multiple times, but we also love her for her inspiring diet and fitness tips that she often doles out on social media. To maintain a healthy weight, mind and body, one must approach one’s diet very mindfully and turn towards healthy eating practices in the long run, instead of adopting crash diets or excessively restrictive diets. It is important to eat a healthy and proper diet during winters, as it is during the cold weather that our immune system takes a hit. There are some common winter foods that we must add to our diets for a healthy mind and body.

Gajak is one of those and Bollywood actor Huma Qureshi has found a great way to incorporate gajak in her winter diet as a post-workout snack! Qureshi posted a picture of a box full of the wintery goodness, sent in for her by her trainer. Celebrity fitness trainer Akki Sharma seemingly approves of the winter sweet as a great energising post-workout snack.

 

g5d6ammgHuma Qureshi posted a picture of a box of gajak

Gajak is a popular winter sweet that is available in north Indian states. Gajak is made from sesame seeds or til and jaggery or gur, both of which are extremely healthy for consumption during winters.

Here Are Some Incredible Health Benefits Of Eating Gajak During Winters:

1. Boosts Digestion: Sesame seeds and jaggery are both great for digestion and ensure regular bowel movements.

2. Boosts Skin Health: Sesame seeds have anti-inflammatory properties that are good for the skin, which tends to become dry and flaky during winters.

3. Boosts Energy Levels: The presence of jaggery in gajak makes it a great energiser. Even sesame seeds are great for boosting energy levels, due to the presence of high levels of good fat in them. Eating a small piece before or after your workout may boost energy or fasten recovery, respectively.

4. Satiating Fibre: Gajak is filling, as sesame seeds are rich in fibre, which makes it a good winter snack.

It’s pertinent to mention here though that if you’re watching your weight, you may want to eat small portions of gajak only once or twice a day, as it is high in fats and sugars.

Gut Health May Be a Factor in Type 1 Diabetes in Children

One of the keys to reducing the risk of type 1 diabetes may be linked to the health of a child’s intestinal system.

A recent study comparing the gut microbiota in 15 children with type 1 diabetes to 13 children without diabetes as well as 15 children with maturity-onset diabetes of the young 2 (MODY2) is revealing significant differences.

“Compared with healthy control subjects,” explains the study published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care Journal, “type 1 diabetes was associated with a significantly lower microbiota diversity.”

Researchers said children with type 1 diabetes also had higher levels of “proinflammatory” cytokines and lipopolysaccharides. Inflammation is a known contributor to the onset of autoimmune disease as well as to the development of diabetes-related complications.

The study also found that children with type 1 diabetes and the group of children with MODY2 had increased “gut permeability,” which is essentially “leaky gut syndrome.” A leaky gut means that foreign material from the gut is able to leak into other parts of the body.

This appears to happen more often to people who are “more prone to the potential of autoimmune dysfunction,” explains Jennifer Smith, registered dietician and diabetes educator with Integrated Diabetes Services.

“Their guts seem to be more permeable,” Smith told Healthline. “If they have environmental factors — in this case, it would be dietary — if there are inflammatory types of foods that cause irritation within the gut lining, it allows those things to move out of the digestive system and into our body, rather than being normally moved through your digestive system.”

Smith, co-author of the book “Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes,” adds that the irritants and allergens from the gut are then in circulation within the body.

An allergen is a type of antigen that triggers an especially aggressive response from the body’s immune system when it perceives an allergen as a threat even if it might actually be harmless to the body.

When there is a regular, consistent presence of those irritants and allergens resulting from the diet (gluten, for example), this can lead to an autoimmune response such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease.

Smith says she’s seen similar research being presented in relation to celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.

The research is showing a consistent increase of certain bacteria and a decrease of other bacteria for people with these ailments.

Diet may play a role

The research also looks at the strong role that a person’s diet contributes to their gut biome.

“Gluten and dairy have proven in research to have a tremendous implication in the onset of type 1 diabetes,” explained Smith.

She points to another recent study linking high gluten consumption in a pregnant mother and a child’s risk of eventually developing type 1 diabetes.

Regarding dairy, Smith explains that the type of protein present in the United States’ commercial dairy products is the A1 protein. It is known to be allergenic with links in the development of type 1 diabetes.

Other countries use milk from cows that are not from this particular European descent, and instead contain the “A2 protein,” which has proven to be far less allergenic.

Populations that consume primarily A2 milk have fewer cases of type 1 diabetes compared to populations drinking primarily A1 milk.

For children with an increased risk of autoimmune disease due to a family history of autoimmune disease, Smith says avoiding or reducing gluten and commercial dairy products as well as potentially taking probiotic products could improve the issue of a “leaky gut.”

That, in turn, could help to delay or prevent autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes.

Questions about the study

Some experts point out the long list of variables that complicate the results in a study like this.

“It was a small study and it was not randomized,” Dr. Stephen Ponder, a pediatric endocrinologist and 2018 Diabetes Educator of the Year, told Healthline. “I didn’t see a statement that the patients were not related, which could introduce some bias concerns, too.”

Ponder, co-author of the book “Sugar Surfing,” adds that participants also seemed to all live in the same general area, which means their food and water supply could also have an impact on their gut bacteria.

“It is intriguing to consider how microbiota varies from region to region, and even within different ethnic and racial populations, too. Which means the question about cause versus effect can’t be answered by a small study like this,” he said.

For Ponder, this research presents far more questions than answers concerning the role that our gut plays in the development of diseases such as type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.

“I hope they cast a wider net next time and look at populations in different regions, levels of glycemic control, and their ages,” he said. “As our gut microbiome is constantly churning, it must play a role in both protecting us and at times exposing us to risk.”

Kids with the Stomach Flu Don’t Need Probiotics

It may seem like common sense to help bolster stomach flu treatment in children with a course of probiotics — but you’re likely wasting your money.

Some previous studies have helped push the idea that probiotics are effective in cutting down on the agonizing symptoms of acute gastroenteritis (commonly called “stomach flu”), including diarrhea and vomiting.

But a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month, concludes that probiotic supplements have no effect on the duration or severity of acute gastroenteritis in children.

Promises of probiotics

Whether you’re shopping at the supermarket or at the health food store, you’ll likely encounter products from yogurt to supplements touting their probiotic contents. Probiotics — live “good” bacteria that are part of the complex ecosystem in our gut — are touted as a cure for everything from constipation to anxiety.

Unfortunately, despite what the producers of these products would tell you, the science just isn’t clear on these claims.

“What we found was a resounding no difference. The kids that received the probiotic and the kids that received the placebo did exactly the same in terms of every possible outcome we could think of. They had the same duration of diarrhea, the same duration of vomiting, the same duration of fever,” Dr. David Schnadower, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and first author of the study, told Healthline.

For their study, Schnadower and his fellow researchers recruited 971 children between the ages of 3 months and 4 years who presented at 10 different pediatric emergency departments around the United States for gastroenteritis.

The study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which the children were either treated with a 5-day dose of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, a commonly sold strain of probiotic bacteria, or with a placebo.

The children followed up with doctors daily for five days, then at two weeks, and finally at one month to track symptoms.

There was no significant difference whatsoever in the health outcomes for the children that took the probiotic compared with those that did not.

“I think that this study was a very well-designed study that pretty definitely shows that there really is not a benefit in using probiotics for kids who are healthy and have gastroenteritis,” said Dr. Sophia Jan, chief of pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York, who was not affiliated with the research study.

Rise of probiotics

The research comes at a time in which probiotics continue to emerge as a robust sector of the nutritional supplement industry. The global probiotics industry is expected to grow from $37 billion USD in 2015 to more than $64 billion in 2023. That growth will come despite a lack of real clinically conclusive evidence that the health claims made by these product’s manufacturers are legitimate.

“From Whole Foods to Walmart, you will see walls and walls of different probiotic products, probiotic-enriched foods, and people are buying them like candy in the belief that they are good,” said Schnadower.

Because probiotics are marketed as dietary supplements, they are not regulated for their claims by the FDA the way that pharmaceuticals and other medications must prove their efficacy and safety.

Treating the stomach flu

As far as using probiotics to treat gastroenteritis — you may have to just ride it out. That’s because despite the hope that probiotics could help, there isn’t any known cure for stomach flu.

Acute gastroenteritis remains a serious illness worldwide — it is the second leading cause of death in children under five-years old — but deaths are rare in the United States. It can be caused by a variety of pathogens, including bacteria and viruses, that cause the trademark symptoms that it is known for.

It is also highly contagious.

The most dangerous complication that occurs from acute gastroenteritis is dehydration, due to the loss of fluids from diarrhea and vomiting. Children who are immunocompromised, such as those with chronic illnesses are also at increased risk of complications.

“Most gastroenteritis will resolve on their own without a lot of intervention. Kids are miserable, certainly for several days, but the good thing is that most kids will recover fairly well on their own as long as parents continue to encourage their kid to stay hydrated,” said Jan.

It is recommended to treat children with acute gastroenteritis with small but frequent fluids, to keep them hydrated without provoking nausea or vomiting. Also important for families is hygiene, including frequent handwashing, and disinfecting areas like bathrooms that are likely to be contaminated with bodily fluids.

As for treating stomach flu with probiotics, save your money.

“What we are telling families is don’t spend 60 dollars on this, which will do nothing to you. Spend it on good food for your kid or save that money for college. Don’t spend it on something that doesn’t work,” said Schnadower.

Gut Health May Be a Factor in Type 1 Diabetes in Children

One of the keys to reducing the risk of type 1 diabetes may be linked to the health of a child’s intestinal system.

A recent study comparing the gut microbiota in 15 children with type 1 diabetes to 13 children without diabetes as well as 15 children with maturity-onset diabetes of the young 2 (MODY2) is revealing significant differences.

“Compared with healthy control subjects,” explains the study published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care Journal, “type 1 diabetes was associated with a significantly lower microbiota diversity.”

Researchers said children with type 1 diabetes also had higher levels of “proinflammatory” cytokines and lipopolysaccharides. Inflammation is a known contributor to the onset of autoimmune disease as well as to the development of diabetes-related complications.

The study also found that children with type 1 diabetes and the group of children with MODY2 had increased “gut permeability,” which is essentially “leaky gut syndrome.” A leaky gut means that foreign material from the gut is able to leak into other parts of the body.

This appears to happen more often to people who are “more prone to the potential of autoimmune dysfunction,” explains Jennifer Smith, registered dietician and diabetes educator with Integrated Diabetes Services.

“Their guts seem to be more permeable,” Smith told Healthline. “If they have environmental factors — in this case, it would be dietary — if there are inflammatory types of foods that cause irritation within the gut lining, it allows those things to move out of the digestive system and into our body, rather than being normally moved through your digestive system.”

Smith, co-author of the book “Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes,” adds that the irritants and allergens from the gut are then in circulation within the body.

An allergen is a type of antigen that triggers an especially aggressive response from the body’s immune system when it perceives an allergen as a threat even if it might actually be harmless to the body.

When there is a regular, consistent presence of those irritants and allergens resulting from the diet (gluten, for example), this can lead to an autoimmune response such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease.

Smith says she’s seen similar research being presented in relation to celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.

The research is showing a consistent increase of certain bacteria and a decrease of other bacteria for people with these ailments.

Diet may play a role

The research also looks at the strong role that a person’s diet contributes to their gut biome.

“Gluten and dairy have proven in research to have a tremendous implication in the onset of type 1 diabetes,” explained Smith.

She points to another recent study linking high gluten consumption in a pregnant mother and a child’s risk of eventually developing type 1 diabetes.

Regarding dairy, Smith explains that the type of protein present in the United States’ commercial dairy products is the A1 protein. It is known to be allergenic with links in the development of type 1 diabetes.

Other countries use milk from cows that are not from this particular European descent, and instead contain the “A2 protein,” which has proven to be far less allergenic.

Populations that consume primarily A2 milk have fewer cases of type 1 diabetes compared to populations drinking primarily A1 milk.

For children with an increased risk of autoimmune disease due to a family history of autoimmune disease, Smith says avoiding or reducing gluten and commercial dairy products as well as potentially taking probiotic products could improve the issue of a “leaky gut.”

That, in turn, could help to delay or prevent autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes.

Questions about the study

Some experts point out the long list of variables that complicate the results in a study like this.

“It was a small study and it was not randomized,” Dr. Stephen Ponder, a pediatric endocrinologist and 2018 Diabetes Educator of the Year, told Healthline. “I didn’t see a statement that the patients were not related, which could introduce some bias concerns, too.”

Ponder, co-author of the book “Sugar Surfing,” adds that participants also seemed to all live in the same general area, which means their food and water supply could also have an impact on their gut bacteria.

“It is intriguing to consider how microbiota varies from region to region, and even within different ethnic and racial populations, too. Which means the question about cause versus effect can’t be answered by a small study like this,” he said.

For Ponder, this research presents far more questions than answers concerning the role that our gut plays in the development of diseases such as type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.

“I hope they cast a wider net next time and look at populations in different regions, levels of glycemic control, and their ages,” he said. “As our gut microbiome is constantly churning, it must play a role in both protecting us and at times exposing us to risk.”

Can’t Work Out? Try a Hot Bath

You likely think of a relaxing bubble bath as the antidote to a stressful day.

It certainly can be that.

But new research suggests a long, hot bath may be as helpful to you as a gentle workout session, too.

British researchers report that hot-water immersion — that is, a long sit in a hot-water bath — may help reduce inflammation and control blood sugar levels in much the same way exercise does.

This is especially helpful for people who are unable to exercise or meet the weekly physical activity recommendations.

However, before you turn on your faucet and drop in a dissolving bath bomb, you should understand the limitations of these findings.

Role of inflammation in health

Inflammation after exercise, such as sore muscles and redness, is to be expected.

During brief physical stress, levels of inflammatory markers rise.

These markers signal the production of another inflammatory chemical called interleukin.

After this initial increase in inflammation, your body produces an extended release of anti-inflammatory chemicals. These substances combat the high levels of inflammation caused by the exercise.

This is a natural, normal process: Brief inflammation is followed by prolonged anti-inflammation.

However, when the anti-inflammatory process isn’t robust enough, your body may be left with chronic, low-grade inflammation.

This type of inflammation isn’t healthy. In fact, it may contribute to a number of health conditions, including obesity and diabetes.

Exercise can combat the inflammation, but not everyone is able to exercise. Or they may not be able to exercise at levels adequate enough to reap the anti-inflammatory rewards.

In recent years, research has shown that raising body temperatures can also influence the body’s inflammatory response.

What’s more, research suggests this same spike in body temperature may increase the production of nitric oxide. This substance in your blood can help improve blood flow and transport glucose throughout your body.

What’s been unclear, however, is if exercise alternatives, such as sitting in a hot tub of water, can produce the same low-grade inflammation and healthy anti-inflammation responses.

What the researchers found

For this test, researchers recruited 10 overweight and sedentary men.

The participants were divided into two groups. Both groups sat in an 80°F (27°C) room for 15 minutes.

Then, the first group of volunteers participated in an immersion bath in 102°F (39°C) water up to their necks for one hour.

The second group sat in a room at ambient temperature for the same amount of time.

In 15-minute intervals, researchers took measurements of each participant’s blood pressure, heart rate, and core temperature.

Blood samples were taken before the tests, immediately after the test, and in a follow-up session two hours after the test.

The researchers took blood samples from each of the men at these points in the study so they could examine the markers for inflammation, blood sugar, and insulin levels.

Three days after the first test, the participants returned and reversed roles.

The single hot-water immersion session did produce some positive effects.

Namely, it caused the levels of interleukin (the inflammatory chemical) to rise and increased the level of nitric oxide in the blood.

The rise in nitric oxide can cause blood vessels to relax, which can lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide is also thought to improve glucose intake by your body’s tissues.

For the final stage of the test, the participants returned to complete 10 hot-water immersion sessions in 14 days. The first five sessions were 45 minutes long. The final five were 60 minutes.

Blood samples taken after the two-week treatment period saw even greater results.

Fasting blood sugar and insulin levels were down, as were levels of low-grade inflammation.

These effects are similar to the impact exercise has on your body’s inflammation and glucose levels.

In other words, the hot-water immersion sessions were similarly beneficial as exercise in these men.

“Our study shows that even a single session induces a rise in markers that may positively affect health if repeated over two weeks,” Christof Leicht, PhD, MSc, one of the study’s authors and a lecturer in exercise physiology at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, told Healthline. “It appears to be similar to exercise. One exercise session won’t do much to fitness or health, but repeated sessions show the desired effect.”

Exercise, hot water, and health

Heat and water therapies, such as saunas and hot baths, have been an area of scientific research for many years.

A 2016 study found that heat therapy can improve circulation and vascular function. This may reduce blood pressure and stiffening of the blood vessels.

Decades of research says that hot baths may improve sleep quality, too.

Your body’s core temperature rises while you’re sitting in a hot bath or sauna. Once you’re out of the hot environment, the slow temperature drop signals your body that it’s time for rest.

This may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Indeed, heat therapy’s perceived benefits makes it a target for people looking for alternative therapies.

Its relatively low cost and limited risks of possible side effects makes heat therapy a point of interest for many people looking for relief from a variety of health conditions.

This latest study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, outlines the impact heat therapy can have on inflammation markers and fasting blood sugar in your body.

Can baths replace gym time?

Leicht and his colleagues don’t go that far in their proposals.

“We do not suggest to replace exercise sessions with hot baths, as exercise has a multitude of proven positive effects, some of which are unlikely to be achieved when taking a bath at home,” Leicht said.

He cites an improvement in endurance and strength, social interactions, and the psychological benefits of exercising outside as reasons not to forego your treadmill time for a sit in a hot bath.

He does, however, suggest you supplement your workout routine with a hot bath for extra benefits.

“We would encourage people to top up their current exercise days with a hot bath or two,” Leicht told Healthline. “This especially applies to people who are restricted to adhere to recommended exercise guidelines.”

Nicky Kirk, DC, MSc, a chiropractic sports physician, also says a hot-water bath isn’t a good replacement for cardio and weight-bearing exercises.

Kirk says the benefits of exercise go beyond anti-inflammatory responses. They include decreased stroke risk, improved ability to think, decreased likelihood and severity of depression, lowered diabetes risk, and decreased risk of bone fracture.

A bath may not be this effective.

“The additional benefits of physical activity or exercise can include decreased risk of falling, decreased onset of dementia, improved joint health, and decreased risk of cancer,” Kirk told Healthline. “By immersing in water, we are losing the effects of weight-bearing on the joints and bones, the activity of the muscle pump which aids in venous return, strength and resilience of the heart as well as the musculoskeletal system.”

The men that participated in the study reported discomfort during the immersion sessions. This discomfort may be the result of the high temperature or the length of time they were required to sit in the hot water and remain immersed up to their neck.

These requirements may make adopting this type of alternative treatment difficult.

That’s why Leicht and his fellow researchers may look at research in the future that uses shorter immersion periods and lower water temperatures.

The bottom line

The results of this study indicate that hot-water baths may be beneficial for people who are sedentary or unable to exercise.

“If individuals are in a situation where their health is compromised and they are physically unable to participate in physical activity, hot-water immersion could be a useful modality to decrease some of the risk factors associated with obesity and inactivity,” Kirk said.

But for people who can exercise, this study isn’t permission to skip the gym and hit the hot tub.

Instead, you can use hot-water baths to supplement your workouts and possibly prolong your body’s natural inflammatory response.