In the News: Night-Time Eating May Lead to Health Issues, Brisk Walking Might Help Older Women Live Longer, Effectiveness of Basic Painkillers Over Opioids

Basic painkillers are shown to be just as effective as opioids In a new study published in JAMA, scientists investigated whether alternative painkillers could be as effective in treating pain as stronger opioids. The scientists studied more than 400 people who came to emergency rooms in the Bronx, New York, for arm or leg strains, sprains, or fractures. They were randomly assigned to receive either non-opioid painkillers (ibuprofen and acetaminophen, or a variation of an opioid-based painkiller. After two hours, the doctors asked the people to rate their pain on a scale from 1-11 and compared their responses. There was not much difference found between the pain ratings among those who were given the non-opioid pain relievers and the opioid-based ones. While this study only looked at one type of pain (caused by arm or leg injuries), it still highlights possible ways that opioid prescriptions can be reduced. This is relevant, considering studies have shown that nearly 19 percent of people leave emergency rooms with an opioid prescription, and even short-term use can lead to long-term addiction. Watch this clip to learn more about opioid addiction. (T)

Late-night eating may lead to diabetes and heart disease. Emerging research from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City suggests that late-night eaters may be predisposed to diabetes and heart disease. The study outlined a series of experiments on rats, focusing on blood fat levels and the impact of sleep cycles and time of day on their fluctuation.The results suggested that late-night eating habits dictated by our biological clocks can lead to higher levels of triglyceride, or blood fat. This, in turn, is tied to higher risk of metabolic and heart diseases. The professor leading the study warned that these dangerous out-of-sync patterns are now fairly common in westernized countries where late-night dinners are normal. (MN)

Brisk walking may increase longevity in women. A large study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA measured physical activity in older women with sensitive activity trackers and then followed them for up to four years. The study found that there was a strong relationship between the amount of exercise recorded on the women’s activity trackers and a lower risk of death from all causes during the follow-up period. The most active 25 percent of the women had a 60–70 percent lower risk of dying over the follow-up period than the least active 25 percent. While many studies have shown that physical activity lowers mortality rate, previous studies have relied heavily on self-reported physical activity, with self-reports tending to be less precise. Want to shed a few pounds? Find out how to walk off your weight here. (MN)

Q & A With Fitness Expert Jay Cardiello

Athlete running road silhouette

Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jay Cardiello, a fitness professional, author, and TEDx presenter who beat the Guinness World Record for one-minute chin-ups earlier this year. Read on to find out how he trained for this event, stayed motivated, and achieved his goals.


In the News: Teen Moms at Risk of Heart Disease, Scientists Find New Mechanism to Block Unwanted Thoughts, Climate Change May Be Causing Health Issues for Millions

Teen moms at risk of heart disease. According to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association, women who have given birth as teens are more likely to develop heart disease than those who get pregnant when they’re older. In a study conducted by Catherine Pirkle, Ph.D., her team looked at 1,047 women between the ages of 65-74 living in Albania, Brazil, Canada, and Colombia. Using the Framingham Risk Score (FRS), they found that women who had their first pregnancy before they turned 20, had a way higher risk of heart disease compared to women who got pregnant later in life. In trying to find an explanation for these results, they identified two potential reasons: first, the possibility that adolescents who have children early on may have a reduced chance of achieving a higher education and a smaller earning potential. Secondly, due to financial struggles and a lack of education they may feel more stressed on a regular basis and take part in unhealthy behaviors. Take this quiz to find out if you’re at risk of heart disease. (MN)

Scientists find a new mechanism to block unwanted thoughts. According to new research published in Nature Communications, a group of scientists used a procedure known as ‘Think/No-Think’ to uncover a new process that allows the prefrontal cortex to block out certain thoughts. Using a mix of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the scientists were able to see how the brains of participants changed when trying to inhibit certain thoughts. They were able to pin down the specific neurotransmitter responsible for the blocking, known as GABA. When nerve cells release it, it can pause activity in other connected cells, and they found that concentrated areas of GABA in the hippocampus (the part of the brain linked to memory), could indicate participants’ ability to successfully shut out certain memories and thoughts. Feeling foggy lately? Watch this clip to learn about three foods to boost your memory. (SD) 

Climate change may be hurting the health of millions. With the effects of global warming becoming increasingly apparent over recent years, scientists are studying the ways in which climate change impacts public health. While it’s clear that hurricanes, wildfires, and heat waves can cause causalities and illnesses, there are also other ways that climate change can create further health problems as well. Fluctuating weather patterns can cause the spread of infectious illnesses like malaria, cholera, and West Nile virus, and a longer-than-usual allergy season could create further health problems. Lyme disease cases have tripled, and a lack of rain or too-hot temperatures can also shrink the number of crops that can be harvested each season, leading to malnutrition in certain parts of the world. Since the effects of climate change are becoming too obvious to ignore, this can cause policymakers to consider it a full-blown health crisis and rally behind those who are trying to reverse the damage and find a way to improve the health of millions. (T)

In the News: Heart Stent Effectiveness Questioned, A Better Recovery Method for Marathon Runners Has Been Discovered, Number One Cause of Stress for Americans Revealed

Heart stent effectiveness questioned. In a new study, 200 people with chest pain were randomly assigned to either receive a stent, which requires a surgical procedure or undergo a placebo procedure in which the doctors only threaded a catheter through without inserting a stent. Six weeks later, they evaluated all of the people on a treadmill test. There were no significant differences in how much exercise the two groups could do, or in how much chest pain they reported. The findings of the study raise questions about whether or not stents should be used as often, or at all, to treat chest pain. Chest pain can also be a sign of a heart attack. Read up on the other warning signs of a heart attack here.  (NYT)

A new recovery method for runners discovered. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden published a new study in the Journal of Physiology that tested how best to help tired muscles recover after draining workouts and competitions. Several fit participants were instructed to do physically challenging interval exercises in a performance lab. Cuffs were placed on the muscles that either warmed to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or cooled to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, after which both groups were instructed to do the same exercises again. The physical strength and performance were found to be “markedly better” in the group whose muscled had been warmed up beforehand. According to an analysis of the data, warming muscles probably aids in recovery by supporting the muscles’ uptake of carbohydrates. (NYT)

The number one cause of stress for Americans revealed. The American Psychological Association (APA) just released the results of its annual Stress in America survey, which revealed that the biggest stressor Americans face is the state of the U.S. 63 percent of survey participants said the future of the nation is a “very” or “somewhat” significant source of stress. Other common stressors follow close behind, with money at 62 percent and work at 61 percent. The new survey results show similar levels of stress to last year, but the effects of stress on people’s health seem to be more pronounced today; more people than in 2016 reported symptoms of stress, like headaches, stomachaches, and feeling anxious or overwhelmed. More positively, over half of Americans reported that stress over the nation has inspired them to volunteer and support causes they love. Feeling stressed? Take this quiz to find out where you stand. (T)

Everything You Need to Know About Natural GERD Remedies

Young woman in pain

By: Scott Gabbard, MD

We spoke with Dr. Scott Gabbard, a doctor who specializes in gastroenterology and hepatology to learn more about natural remedies for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Take a look at his answers below to get the scoop on alternative cures for this often painful and comfortable condition. 

What are the natural remedies for GERD? 

This is a great question.  I think that lifestyle changes should be first-line therapy for GERD.  Here are a few things that have been shown to help reflux in clinical trials:

–Weight loss of 3 BMI points (if the patient has BMI > 30)

–Limiting meals to 500 calories and 15-20 grams of fat (this may mean 4 meals per day, instead of 3)

–Smoking cessation

–Use of antacids or alginate.  Alginate floats on top of the acid in the stomach and can help post-prandial (after-meal) symptoms

–Sleeping at an inclined position with a wedge (regular incline wedge)

Building on the above comment, we demonstrated that sleeping with a reflux sleep system (that positioned patients at an incline and on the left side) reduced nocturnal heartburn/regurgitation by 70%; and reduced nocturnal cough by almost 50%.

Remedies that may work, but no randomized studies available:

–Melatonin 5-6mg at night

–Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) – available in gum form

–Wearing loose clothing to reduce intra-abdominal pressure

–Chewing gum to promote saliva production

Should you try any of these remedies in combination with one another or on their own?

I generally recommend trying one at a time for patients with mild symptoms.  For more severe symptoms, these may be used in combination. I really tailor the therapy to the patient’s complaint – use the reflux sleep system if they complain of nocturnal symptoms vs. use of alginate for post-prandial symptoms.

Are the remedies on an as-needed basis or should they be part of your daily routine?

It depends on the frequency of symptoms.  I generally tell patients to use as needed, if they only have symptoms 1-2 times per week.  For more frequent symptoms (3 or more times per week), patients should incorporate them into the daily routine. Of course, some remedies should be part of everyone’s routine (smoking cessation, weight loss if obese).

How long does it typically take for a patient to see progress in their symptoms?

Everyone is different.  Some therapies work immediately (alginate), others take a few weeks. For the reflux sleep system study, we found significant improvement within two weeks, but patients continued to improve further over the next month.

What are the main GERD triggers?

Interestingly, everyone is different. In general, fatty and spicy meals tend to cause the most problems for patients.  I also believe that large portion sizes affect patients – these meals take the most time to empty from the stomach, and likely cause the lower esophageal sphincter (lower valve of the esophagus) to open -> resulting in reflux.

Can GERD ever be cured entirely?

Good question. The lower esophageal sphincter is designed to open when patients swallow (to allow food to pass into the stomach) and when the stomach fills with air (belching). In fact, even normal subjects (without GERD symptoms) have some reflux during the day. When pH tests were done on normal individuals, we have found that the general population may have up to 1 hour of reflux per day – that is considered normal. Because of this, GERD can be induced with eating large/fatty/spicy meals and being obese. That said, many patients have completely resolved their symptoms, by adhering to the lifestyle changes above.

What kind of diet do you recommend for people with GERD?

I recommend lower fat and smaller meals. Interestingly, coffee has never been shown to cause reflux, despite what many experts claim. My patients love me, as I tell them they can drink coffee again!

Any foods you recommend avoiding?

I think high-fat foods should be avoided and meals that contain a significant amount of fat/calories above what I listed.

Are natural GERD remedies as potent as drugs? 

For nocturnal heartburn/regurgitation, we found that using the reflux sleep system worked as well as proton pump inhibitors (PPI). The other remedies/lifestyle changes work well for mild symptoms, but probably not as well as PPIs for severe heartburn. However, if a patient has ulcers in the esophagus (erosive esophagitis), then PPIs are required – they are the only therapy that has been proven to heal erosions in the esophagus.

Do you recommend using drugs in conjunction with the remedies? 

In general, we recommend using PPIs in all patients with erosive esophagitis or Barrett’s esophagus. Patients with these conditions need to be on PPIs indefinitely. For patients with mild symptoms and normal esophagus on endoscopy, we generally try to maximize lifestyle therapy first. If symptoms continue, then we have patients take the lowest effective dose of medication.

Any warnings before starting to use natural remedies? 

The main points I would like to make are in regards to alarm symptoms.  Patients need to see their doctor immediately if they have any alarm symptoms (difficulty swallowing, unintentional weight loss, vomiting, signs of gastrointestinal bleeding – red blood in stool or dark tarry stools). If patients have mild symptoms without those alarm signs, then they can try the therapies listed above.

Do the remedies have to be organic, locally sourced, cold pressed, or any other specifications? 

Really good question. As of now, there are no good studies to guide us. But a nice area for future research!

In the News: Exercise May Improve Brain Efficiency, Junk Food May Increase Distraction, Pesticides May Lower IVF Success Rates

Exercise may improve brain efficiency. A new study has found that just two weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) lowers the amount of blood glucose the brain has to use up for energy in participants with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. This study also found that moderate exercise for the same amount of time improves insulin sensitivity in participants as well. Using a positron emission tomography (PET scan), researchers observed these promising changes in middle-aged men and women who don’t normally exercise and have either type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. These findings seem to suggest that even a small amount of exercise can significantly change how the brain uses up energy, making it a promising option for the 29.1 million people who have diabetes in this country, along with the 8.1 million who may have this condition but aren’t diagnosed. (F)

Junk food may increase distraction. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined the impact that food has on our ability to concentrate and found that when it comes to healthy or unhealthy food, the unhealthy stuff can provide a serious distraction. In fact, when examining 18 participants, they found that any and all food imagery was distracting, but that the images of caloric and fattening foods were two times as distracting compared to the images of fruits and vegetables. When looking for an explanation, they found that sugary, high-fat foods activate the reward system in the brain, making it easy for us to succumb to distraction. Want to say goodbye to junk food? Here are six ways to kick the habit. (MN)

Pesticides may lower IVF success rates. New research has found that eating fruits and vegetables that are high in pesticides may make it harder for women to get pregnant with IVF. Scientists studied 325 female participants who were using assisted reproductive technologies and found that those with high exposure to pesticides (large numbers of which are found in strawberries, spinach, and peppers), were eating more than two servings of these fruits and vegetables and were 18% less likely to get pregnant than those who had less exposure to pesticides, and were also 26% less likely to have a live birth. While these findings do suggest that high pesticide exposure can lower IVF success rate, they don’t yet link pesticide exposure to reproductive health issues. While more research will be needed to get a better picture into what this means, eating organic produce is a good way to avoid harmful exposure to these chemicals in the meantime. Want to learn more about avoiding pesticides? Follow these guidelines. (T)

In the News: Surprising Number of Allergies Begin in Adulthood, Daydreaming Could Indicate Intelligence, Dogs May Prevent Childhood Allergies

A surprising number of food allergies begin in adulthood. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 5.7 percent of U.S. children have displayed food allergy symptoms this past year. A report in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 4 percent of U.S. adults are diagnosed with food allergies. While these findings indicate a number of people affected, it begs the question: when do these allergies develop? A new study has determined that nearly 50 percent of adults with allergies developed them in adulthood. They also found that African American, Hispanic, and Asian people are most at risk, with shellfish and peanut allergies being the most likely. With allergies on the rise, researchers are trying to understand what causes them and why there’s an upward trend. Looking for tasty recipes that are safe for allergy sufferers? Watch this clip. (MN)

Daydreaming could indicate high intelligence. If your mind wanders a lot during the day, turns out your brain may actually be more efficient than other people’s brains. A study from Journal Neuropsychologia discovered that daydreamers scored significantly higher on intelligence tests — the daydreaming may actually mean that you absorbed information faster than others and therefore can let your mind have a little break. But the study authors cautioned people not to use this data to mistake these results to justify lack of focus and ability to complete tasks. They advise a good rule of thumb to be observed in your daily life: if your mind wanders a lot but you still get everything done that you need to efficiency is the reason, but if the opposite happens laziness may be to blame. (TODAY)

Dogs may prevent childhood eczema and allergies. Two studies have shown that man’s best friend may be the key to solving childhood allergies. One study looked at babies who had a dog in the house when they were in utero and found that eczema was generally prevented in those children. The other study researched dogs’ effects on children in relation to developing asthma. The research showed that “elements that dogs carry” on themselves could protect kids against asthma. (SD)