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Baking soda may help combat rheumatoid arthritis

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New York, April 30: Drinking baking soda daily may help reduce the destructive inflammation of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, say scientists.

While the immune system normally protects us from disease and infection, in someone who has an autoimmune disease the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body by mistake.

Drinking baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, tells the spleen — which is part of the immune system — to go easy on the immune response, the study said.

“Certainly drinking bicarbonate affects the spleen and we think it’s through the mesothelial cells,” said study co-author Paul O’Connor from Augusta University in Georgia, US.

The findings, published in the Journal of Immunology, showed that when rats or healthy people drink a solution of baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, it becomes a trigger for the stomach to make more acid to digest the next meal.

And for the mesothelial cells sitting on the spleen, it tells that there is no need to mount a protective immune response.

“It’s most likely a hamburger not a bacterial infection,” is basically the message, O’Connor said.

In the spleen, as well as the blood and kidneys, the researchers found after drinking water with baking soda for two weeks, the population of immune cells called macrophages, shifted from primarily those that promote inflammation, called M1, to those that reduce it, called M2.

“The shift from inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory profile is happening everywhere,” O’Connor said. “We saw it in the kidneys, we saw it in the spleen, now we see it in the peripheral blood.”

The shifting landscape is likely due to increased conversion of some of the proinflammatory cells to anti-inflammatory ones coupled with actual production of more anti-inflammatory macrophages, he added.

The scientists also saw a shift in other immune cell types, like more regulatory T cells, which generally drive down the immune response and help keep the immune system from attacking our own tissues.

That anti-inflammatory shift was sustained for at least four hours in humans and three days in rats, the study said.

“It’s potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease,” O’Connor said.

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Natural ways to boost immunity in children

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New Delhi, Jan 21: It is natural for parents to protect their children from any harm, including the endless array of germs they are exposed to every day.

As children grow up, they are continuously exposed to various germs, especially in places such as daycare centres and preschool. Children with low immunity are highly susceptible to various types of infections. The high incidence of infections has led to an increased and inappropriate use of antibiotics, which has further resulted in antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance, a widespread problem, takes places when microbes build resistance against the medications intended to kill them due to overuse. It is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. The best way to tackle this is to build a strong immunity, which naturally protects your child from infections. Dr. Rajesh Kumawat, Head – Medical Services & Clinical Development, The Himalaya Drug Company, shares a few tips that can help boost your child’s immunity.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet that comprises all fundamental components like proteins, minerals, vitamins, micronutrients and unsaturated fats in optimum quantity, helps build the immunity required to fight against various infections or diseases in children. Citrus fruits, carrots, green leafy vegetables, beans, strawberry, yogurt, garlic, and ginger help build immunity with their immunity-boosting properties.

Adequate Sleep

Sleep deprivation suppresses the functionality of the immune system, which makes children susceptible to infections. Adequate sleep is an absolute necessity to rejuvenate the body. Newborns need up to 18 hours of sleep a day, toddlers require 12 to 13 hours, and preschoolers need about 10 hours of sleep.

Hygiene

Maintaining hand hygiene before and after each meal, after playtime, handling pets, blowing the nose, using the restroom and arriving home from daycare helps prevent infections in children.

Herbal Solutions

Despite taking proper care, children’s immunity may be affected. Consumption of herbal dietary supplements like Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Guggulu (Balsamodendron mukul) can help children stay healthier as they help build immunity.

“Naturally obtained supplements strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Guduchi, Yashti Madhu, and Guggulu are natural sources of antioxidants. The antiviral property of Yashtimadhu also helps manage asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. The anti-inflammatory property of Guggulu helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Kumawat added.

“Naturally obtained supplements strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Guduchi, Yashti Madhu, and Guggulu are natural sources of antioxidants. The antiviral property of Yashtimadhu also helps manage asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. The anti-inflammatory property of Guggulu helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Kumawat added.

A combination of herbs may be a safe and effective adjuvant to antimicrobials in the management of recurrent infections. When co-prescribed with antibiotics, herbs may
have a role in faster recovery, reduces the duration and cost of therapy, besides preventing reinfections.

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Anti-inflammatory drugs may put you at heart attack risk

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If you have been hit by the winter cold and are thinking about taking medicines that relieve your aches, pains and congestion, be careful. Those may also put your heart at risk, the American Heart Association has warned.

A study has showed that both decongestants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), found in many cold medicines, were listed as medications that could increase blood pressure.

People who used NSAIDs while sick were more than three times as likely to have a heart attack within a week compared with the same time period about a year earlier when participants were neither sick nor taking an NSAID.

“People with uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid taking oral decongestants. And for the general population or someone with low cardiovascular risk, they should use them with the guidance of a health care provider,” said Sondra DePalma, from the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

Decongestants like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine constrict blood vessels. They allow less fluid into your sinuses, “which dries you up”, said Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Univerity’s Ciccarone Center in Baltimore.

The biggest concerns are for people who have had a heart attack or stroke, or have heart failure or uncontrolled high blood pressure, Michos said, in the paper published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Importantly, healthy people might also be at risk.

For the study, researchers looked at nearly 10,000 people with respiratory infections who were hospitalised for heart attacks.

Participants were 72 years old on average at the time of their heart attacks and many had cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

People who are sick should use both classes of medications — decongestants and NSAIDs — judiciously and understand the potential side effects.

In addition, decongestants should not be taken longer than seven days before consulting with a healthcare provider, DePalma said.

One should also rest and drink plenty of fluids if symptoms are mild or moderate, DePalma noted.

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What is to be blamed for childhood cancer?

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Representative Image , Image Credit : J Pat Carter/AP

A team of researchers has thrown light on the community beliefs about what causes cancer in children, an area which remains understudied, finds a latest research.

“Few childhood cancers are attributed to genetics or environmental factors, so when children are diagnosed with cancer, families often wonder ‘why me/why us’?” said lead author Janine Vetsch, postdoctoral research candidate from UNSW Sydney in Australia.

For the study, the team examined the beliefs of more than 600 participants — parents and childhood cancer survivors — about the causes of childhood cancer, and compared them with beliefs of 510 members of the general population.

Findings, published in Acta Oncologica, revealed that more than seven out of 10 childhood cancer survivors and survivors’ parents believed that chance or bad luck caused the cancer.

This led to most parents and survivors seem to understand that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the cancer, according to Vetsch.

However, around one in five families did believe that environmental factors and genetics played a role, despite only limited available scientific evidence, results further showed.

“It looks like healthcare professionals are successfully helping most families arrive at that view,” said Vetsch.

Such views could lead to stigma. Hence, it is important to increase community knowledge of childhood cancer causes in general.

There is a need to encourage doctors to talk about the causes with affected families to address unhelpful misconceptions,” Vetsch suggested.

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