D-Mannose: UTI Prevention and Treatment

D-mannose: what is it, how is it useful in preventing and treating UTIs, and where can you find it? All these questions and more answered, along with dosage recommendations based on successful clinical trials. 

If you suffer from recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), then you are already well aware that unsweetened cranberry juice is on the top of the home remedy list. You may not know that one of the aspects of cranberry juice that makes it so helpful is a compound known as D-mannose, a type of sugar related to the better-known substance glucose. This simple sugar is found naturally in the body and in a variety of foods, and recent clinical trials are discovering that D-mannose UTI treatment is a promising possibility. Read on to learn more about D-mannose, its other dietary sources, and how it may help those dealing with recurrent UTIs.

D-mannose for UTI treatment and prevention.

Symptoms and Risk Factors of UTI

Urinary tract infections do not always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do those symptoms could include:

  • A persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation during urination
  • Passing small, frequent amounts of urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pink-, red-, or cola-colored urine (a sign of blood in the urine)
  • Unusually strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain, especially in women, in the center of the pelvis and around the pubic bone

Women are more at risk of developing UTIs because the urethra is shorter in female anatomy, which thus shortens the distance bacteria has to travel to reach the bladder. Sexual activity increases this risk, as well as certain types of birth control like diaphragms and spermicidal agents. Menopause can leave women more vulnerable to UTIs as well, and conditions like diabetes, or requiring the use of a catheter.

What Is D-Mannose for UTI?

D-mannose is a simple sugar, meaning it consists of only one molecule of sugar. While it naturally occurs in your body, D-mannose can also be found in some plants in the form of starch. Fruits and vegetables that contain D-mannose include:

  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Cranberries (and cranberry juice)
  • Green beans
  • Oranges
  • Peaches

D-mannose is also included in certain dietary supplements, and is available as a powder or in capsule form. Some supplements are made exclusively of D-mannose, while others may include additional ingredients like cranberry, hibiscus, dandelion extract, rose hips, or probiotics. D-mannose is often taken to treat or prevent urinary tract infections because it is able to stop specific bacteria from growing inside the urinary tract. The question is: does the use of D-mannose effectively treat UTIs?

The Science Behind D-Mannose UTI Treatment

There is scientific evidence detailing how D-mannose works to combat the bacterium that causes infections in the urinary system. Escherichia coli (E. coli) causes an estimated 90% of UTIs. When E. coli gets into the urinary tract, it latches onto the cells and starts to grow, causing an infection. Researchers believe that D-mannose, whether consumed in foods or ingested via D-mannose supplements, can work to prevent UTIs by stopping the E. coli bacteria from attaching to the cell walls in the first place.

When D-mannose is consumed, it travels through the same digestive pathways as all the other foods you eat, eventually finding its way to your kidneys and urinary tract for elimination from the body. Once arrived, if there are any E. coli bacteria present, D-mannose combines with them before they can attach to your cells, and carries them out of your body during urination.

While there hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of research done on those with chronic or acute urinary tract infections, a few pilot studies show promising support of D-mannose’s potential in preventing and clearing up UTIs.

  • One 2013 clinical trial evaluated the effect of D-mannose supplementation on 308 women who had a history of recurrent UTIs. Over a 6-month period, D-mannose worked about as well as the antibiotic treatment nitrofurantoin, without the potential adverse effect of developing antibiotic resistance.
  • A 2014 study of 60 adult women found that D-mannose, when compared to the antibiotic trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, appeared to be a safe and effective treatment and prevention tool. Not only did D-mannose reduce UTI symptoms in those women with active infections, but it was also more effective than the antibiotic in preventing recurring infections.
  • Another study in 2016 tested D-mannose’s effects on 43 women with active UTIs, observing that by the end of the study, most of the women had improved symptoms.

Where to Buy D-Mannose for a UTI and How to Use It

There are many D-mannose products that are widely available at pharmacies, health food and wellness stores, or for purchase online. When choosing a D-mannose product, keep in mind these three questions:

  • Are you seeking to prevent infection or to treat an active UTI?
  • What is the dose you’ll have to take?
  • What is the type of product you want to consume? (Powder or capsule? D-mannose alone or in a combined supplement?)

D-mannose is most often used for preventing UTIs in people who have them frequently, or for treating the symptoms of active urinary tract infections. How much D-mannose to take for a UTI depends on whether you’re treating or preventing, and based on the dosages used in the above-mentioned clinical research, suggested dosages are:

  • For preventing frequent UTIs: 2 grams of D-mannose once per day, or 1 gram twice per day.
  • For treating active UTIs: 1.5 grams of D-mannose twice per day for 3 days, then once per day for the following 10 days; or 1 gram 3 times per day for 14 days.

As far as the difference between capsules and powders, that is solely up to your personal preference. You may prefer a powder if you don’t like to swallow large capsules, if you want to avoid the fillers that are often included in manufacturers’ products, or if you have dietary restrictions on gelatin capsules. Many products provide you with 500-milligram capsules, meaning you may need to take 2-4 capsules to get the dose you’re looking for. Powder on the other hand would allow you to do your own measuring. D-mannose powder can be dissolved in a glass of water for drinking, or combined into smoothies. The powder easily dissolves, and in plain water D-mannose has a sweet taste.

Possible Side Effects of Taking D-Mannose

Most people taking D-mannose do not experience any side effects, but some have reported loose stools or diarrhea. Those with diabetes should consult a health care professional for medical advice before taking D-mannose, as it is a form of sugar and may need to be carefully monitored in relation to blood sugar levels.

Those with an active UTI should also consult a trusted health care provider, because the ability of D-mannose to treat an active infection for some may not be a sure-fire solution for all. Delaying antibiotic treatment of an active infection could allow enough time for the infection to spread to the kidneys and the blood, resulting in a much more serious medical condition.

D-Mannose Gets an “A” for Effort

While more research needs to be done on D-mannose’s potential for treating UTIs, it’s nevertheless a safe option to try for those who want to prevent UTIs and bladder infections from occurring in the first place. Talk with your doctor about whether this supplement might be the key to arming your immune system against invading urinary tract bacteria.

Serrapeptase: The Science Behind the Supplement

Mostly used by health care professionals in Japan and Europe for reducing inflammation after trauma, surgery, or in other inflammatory circumstances, serrapeptase is also available as a dietary supplement for its various health benefits. Find out what serrapeptase is, how it was discovered, and which of its supposed benefits have the strongest evidence backing them.

Serrapeptase, also known as serratiopeptidase, serratia peptidase, or silk worm enzyme, is an isolated enzyme from bacteria found in silk worms. Mostly used by health care professionals in Japan and Europe for reducing inflammation after trauma, surgery, or in other inflammatory circumstances, it is also available as a dietary supplement for its various health benefits. This article will explore the science behind those health claims, discuss the potential side effects of serrapeptase, and help you decide whether this anti-inflammatory is right for you.

What Is Serrapeptase?

The serrapeptase enzyme is a proteolytic enzyme, which means it has the ability to break down proteins into their building blocks, amino acids. It’s an enzyme produced by the bacteria living in the silk worm’s digestive tract, and specifically it’s the enzyme that allows an emerging moth to dissolve and digest its own cocoon. If you’re the kind of person who finds bugs and worms to be skin-crawlingly gross, it might do you well to think less about where this enzyme comes from, and more about what it and other proteolytic enzymes like bromelain, chymotrypsin, and trypsin can do to benefit you.

Discovered throughout the 1950s, these enzymes were used in the United States to relieve the inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-surgical swelling. By 1957, the Japanese were using serrapeptase in the same manner, and in the 1990s these different enzymes were compared and it was found that serrapeptase was the most successful at reducing inflammatory responses. Since then it has become more widely used in Europe and Japan for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

The Benefits of Serrapeptase

Though serrapeptase is relatively new to the medicinal scene, there have nevertheless been many studies done to document its effectiveness and safety. Here are some of the benefits that have been observed from the use of serrapeptase.

Serrapeptase supplements: the science and the speculation.

May Reduce Inflammation

This is the health benefit serrapeptase is best known for, reducing inflammation in instances like tooth removal or post-surgery recovery. It’s thought that serrapeptase works by decreasing inflammatory cells at the site of injury. The anti-inflammatory effects of serrapeptase were shown in a clinical trial on the surgical removal of wisdom teeth, and serrapeptase was found to be more effective at improving lockjaw than more powerful drugs like ibuprofen and corticosteroids.

Though corticosteroids improved facial swelling more effectively on the first day post-surgery, the differences on the second day were insignificant. While more research is still needed to define the best uses of serrapeptase going forward, the researchers in the study did note that serrapeptase had a better safety profile than the other drugs analyzed, which may make it particularly useful in cases of drug intolerance in patients, or those who have adverse side effects with stronger drugs.

May Prevent Infections

There is evidence that serrapeptase may decrease the risk of bacterial infection by acting as a “biofilm buster,” so-called because bacteria have the ability to join together and form a protective barrier or film around themselves. The biofilm shields them from antibiotics long enough that their rapid growth can take place and cause infection. Serrapeptase can inhibit the formation of biofilms, increasing the efficacy of antibiotics in cases like Staphylococcus aureus (Staph. aureus), or staph infection, one of the most common opportunistic dangers associated with hospital stays.

Both animal and test-tube studies have shown that serrapeptase combined with antibiotics was more effective than treating Staph. aureus with antibiotics alone, including those strains that have become drug-resistant. An example of a drug-resistant form of staph infection is MRSA (methicillin resistant Staph. aureus), an especially dangerous infection to those who are already hospitalized in immune-compromised states.

May Reduce Pain

Pain being a symptom of inflammation, serrapeptase has been known to reduce pain by inhibiting certain compounds. For example, in one double-blind study that examined the effects of serrapeptase in about 200 people with inflammatory conditions of the ear, nose, and throat, researchers found that those who took a serrapeptase supplement had significant reductions in mucus production and pain severity than did those who took a placebo.

Another study found that serrapeptase reduced pain significantly compared to a placebo in 24 participants following the removal of their wisdom teeth. More research is needed for scientists to be sure of serrapeptase’s effects, but these findings show promise for those hoping to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) after medical procedures.

May Help Dissolve Blood Clots

It is thought that by acting to break down fibrin (a protein formed in blood clots) as well as damaged and dead tissue, the serrapeptase enzyme could help treat atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis involves plaque buildup inside your arteries, which leads to a hardening and narrowing of the arteries and an increased danger from blood clots.

If serrapeptase is successful at dissolving plaque or blood clots, it could reduce a person’s risk of stroke or heart attack. However, not enough studies have been done showing a direct effect, and so while there is potential that serrapeptase has a role in treating blood clots, more research is warranted.

May Be an Aid Against Chronic Respiratory Disease

Chronic respiratory and chronic airway diseases affect the lungs and breathing apparatuses of the body. Serrapeptase’s potential to clear mucus and reduce inflammation in the the lungs could help improve breathing in those with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pulmonary hypertension, which is a form of high blood pressure in the vessels of your lungs.

These chronic conditions are ongoing and incurable, and yet managing the symptoms effectively (as with increased mucus clearance and better dilation of air passages) can greatly improve a person’s quality of life. One month-long study of 29 participants with chronic bronchitis involved a test group that was given 30 milligrams of serrapeptase per day, which resulted in less mucus production than the control group, better lung-clearing ability, and greater ease of breathing.

May Treat Endometriosis

Due to the potential serrapeptase has for targeting dead tissue and scar tissue throughout the body, some believe there is potential in using serrapeptase for endometriosis treatment. Endometriosis occurs when endometrial cells grow outside the uterus, in the tissues surrounding the pelvic area, causing pain and often issues with fertility.

Likewise with conception issues arising due to ovarian or uterine cysts, serrapeptase for fertility is another natural therapy that currently has more anecdotal evidence than scientific research done on it, though that does not mean the research won’t be done, nor that it wouldn’t be a safe supplement to try in consultation with a qualified health care professional.

May Help Relieve Alzheimer’s Disease

One study on rat models revealed that the proteolytic enzymes nattokinase and serrapeptase may have a therapeutic application in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, modulating the different factors that characterize the disease. Oral application of these enzymes provided a decrease in transforming growth factor, acetylcholinesterase activity, and interleukin-6, all of which are found in high levels among patients with Alzheimer’s disease. While more research still needs to be done, Alzheimer’s is a medical condition that needs any relief options available.

Potential Serrapeptase Side Effects

Because it’s such a new commodity, people are rightly concerned that there could be potential serrapeptase dangers. There are not many published studies touching on potential adverse reactions to taking serrapeptase, however some studies have reported the following side effects.

As there is a lack of data on the long-term safety and tolerability of this enzyme, should any side effect occur after you take it, you should stop immediately and seek medical advice. What works for some may not work for all, and so your judgement is paramount when it comes to whether you’re getting the benefits you want.

How to Take Serrapeptase

It’s advised against taking serrapeptase with any sort of blood thinner, or other dietary supplements like turmeric, garlic, or fish oil which could increase a risk of bruising or bleeding. For serrapeptase dosage, it’s recommended to take between 10-60 milligrams per day (the range used within the various studies) on an empty stomach, and to avoid eating for at least 30 minutes afterwards.

When purchasing the supplement, choose a product in an enteric-coated capsule to prevent your stomach acid from neutralizing the enzyme before it reaches your intestine. Without a strong enough capsule, the enzymatic activity could be deactivated before it has a chance to work.

How long does it take serrapeptase to work after you take it? For pain and swelling it can have immediate effects post-surgery, but for more gradual or ongoing treatments, the effects might be felt over a period of weeks. It truly depends on your condition, your health, and how you’re using the supplement.

The Secrets of Serrapeptase

Our understanding of serrapeptase is far from comprehensive at this moment. There is one study linking it to treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome and anecdotal evidence suggesting serrapeptase for weight loss (albeit temporary). There are far more clinical studies on the use of serrapeptase for reducing inflammation, fighting infections, and preventing blood clots, but researchers are still exploring its uses. Should you be interested in seeing what serrapeptase supplementation can do for you, we only ask that you do so wisely, and with a willingness to consult a medical professional about any results you find, be they bad or good.

Unexplained Weight Loss: What Could It Mean?

Unexplained weight loss could be due to dangerous underlying causes, from infections, to disorders, to conditions as serious as congestive heart failure and cancer. 

Under normal circumstances, people have to work hard to control their weight, whether they’re trying to slim down or bulk up. Sudden, noticeable, weight loss is often a symptom of an underlying health concern, and unexplained weight loss is even more worrying, as it could be an indication that something is wrong with your body, but is currently undiagnosed. This article will detail some of the usual suspects behind unintentional weight loss, so you can better understand how important it is to identify the underlying cause.

How Much Weight Loss Is Concerning?

It’s common to fluctuate between 1-3 pounds per day according to your scale; those are just the vagaries of water weight. However, a loss of 10 pounds or more (or 5% of your body weight) over a 6-12 month period with no known reason warrants concern. If you’ve changed your habits, changed your diet, or undergone a change in life that could explain the reduction in weight, then it may not be that unusual, but you may benefit from asking yourself some questions.

  • Did you start a new job?
  • Did you move to a new area?
  • Are you under some known form of stress (whether happy or unfortunate—i.e. planning a wedding or caring for a sick loved one).
  • Has there been a change in your relationship status?

It’s important to know, because while this sort of steady weight loss would be welcome if you’d changed your diet with the intention to lose weight (by transitioning from processed to whole foods for example), if no alterations to your diet or lifestyle have been made and your weight has still gone down this dramatically, there may be some serious underlying reasons.

Losing Weight Without Trying: Am I Sick?

Unexplained weight loss could be the first sign of sickness, yes. You should contact a doctor or health care professional right away to seek evaluation, as the causes for unexplained weight loss can be quite serious, from infections, to thyroid issues, to the terrifying prospect of cancer (but please don’t go to the extreme scenario…just go to a doctor!).

The good news is that doctors quickly find the cause of abnormal weight loss in over 75% of cases. In fact, even if you think you know the cause, something like general stress and anxiety could be masking a physical health problem, and you should make an appointment to be sure this weight loss isn’t caused by a combination of issues or that it isn’t taxing your health in other ways.

If the first examination isn’t thorough enough, seek a second opinion to rule out other causes. Blood tests, a urinalysis, a thyroid panel, liver and kidney function tests, a blood sugar test, or imaging studies may need to be done to make sure there are no red flags in your health profile.

Your doctor may ask:

  • Have you made any changes in your exercise or diet recently?
  • Has this sort of weight loss ever happened to you before?
  • Do you have any dental problems or mouth sores that could impede your ability to eat normally?
  • Is there a history of any particular illness that runs in your family?
  • Do you have any other concerning symptoms (palpitations, excessive thirst, sensitivity to heat or cold, a persistent cough, shortness of breath)?

Consider your overall health as you prepare for your appointment, so you can make sure your doctor is informed of any symptom that might be relevant to your condition.

Why Diagnosis Is Important

There are many medical conditions that might lead to unintentional weight loss. The American Cancer Society points out that 50% of all cancer patients have a form of cancer cachexia, a wasting syndrome that involves unintentional weight loss and brings on the death of about 20% of cancer patients.

It is the same with cardiac events. One study explicitly states, “Unintentional weight loss was an independent predictor of poor outcomes.” Unintentional weight loss brings about higher morbidity, mortality, and bodes ill for anyone already battling a disease. That is why identifying and treating unexplained weight loss is so important, especially in older adults (above age 65), who are all the more at risk of serious consequences from any sudden change in health.

Possible Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss

We’ll now run down some of the common causes of unintentional or abnormal weight loss.

Unexplained weight loss: possible underlying causes.

Endocrine Conditions

Endocrine conditions include hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), diabetes, and Addison’s disease (wherein the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones). The thyroid gland is located in your neck, is somewhat butterfly-shaped, and controls your metabolism. An issue with the thyroid gland could be accompanied by heart palpitations, and if type 2 diabetes is at play, you’re likely to experience increased thirst and excessive urination as your body tries to expel all the glucose it can’t absorb.

Infections

Infections include anything from parasites, bacterial infections, and viruses (which HIV/AIDS patients are more susceptible to), along with conditions like endocarditis (an infection of the heart valves), or tuberculosis (an infection of the lungs). In these instances, your body is losing weight because it is using all of its resources to fight off an invasion.

Cancer

Weight loss can sometimes be one of the earliest symptoms of cancer, such as from lung cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, or blood-related cancers like lymphomas and leukemias. About 40% of cancer patients report having experienced weight loss around the time of their diagnosis, and studies have shown that unintentional weight loss is the second highest predictor for certain cancers. Weight loss often occurs as a result of cancer due to the body’s nourishing efforts being hijacked to support an abnormal tumor growth. Doctors will often check first for tumors in the bowels, colon, and esophagus, which can impede swallowing and quickly contribute to unintentional weight loss.

Intestinal Conditions

Conditions like celiac disease, peptic ulcer disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and pancreatitis can lead to unexplained weight loss in those who have yet to be diagnosed.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder wherein the small intestine is damaged by gluten intake, leading to GI symptoms like diarrhea and bloating. According to the Mayo Clinic, when the immune system sees gluten as a threat, it reacts, and that reaction means your body doesn’t have a chance to absorb its nutrients properly. Likewise, in an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s, the body’s reaction leads to malabsorption and unexplained loss of weight.

Those with chronic pancreatitis lose weight due to the fact that their body cannot produce enough digestive enzymes to properly break down food (and this may come with nausea, particularly from eating fatty foods).

Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure may cause weight loss due to a lack of sufficient blood flow to the GI tract. In a 2014 study researchers observed that those who had the most dramatic unintentional weight loss were indeed those who had the lowest blood flow to their intestines. Inadequate blood flow makes it harder to absorb nutrients, and the nausea and fatigue associated with congestive heart failure could lead to a loss of appetite.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa can cause dangerous weight loss, and while it might not be a completely unknown cause to the person suffering from the condition, it can be an indicator to a loved one or parent that something is wrong. Moreover, because of the nature of body dysmorphia, those coping with these eating disorders may not fully realize just how significant their weight loss is until it starts causing other health symptoms due to malnutrition.

Psychological Conditions

Depression and anxiety disorders often come with loss of appetite as a side effect, and can be an underlying cause of unexplained weight loss. It often goes unnoticed until the weight loss is significant enough, and will involve a different sort of diagnosis, as these are not conditions that can be found via imaging scan or blood test.

Drug Abuse

Be they extralegally obtained drugs or prescription medications, drug dependence can alter your body’s metabolic and digestive processes, and change your eating habits. Side effects from medications could lead to nausea, loss of appetite, or laxative effects that can contribute to unintentional weight loss as well.

Neurological Conditions

Unintentional weight loss is frequently seen in those with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. This is possibly due to the increased energy expense of rigidity, tremors, or dyskinesia (involuntary movements) associated with Parkinson’s, or the reduced energy intake due to poor health, stress, or the side effects of medication.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

When the immune system causes inflammatory reactions in healthy tissues, as in those with rheumatoid arthritis, it can also lead to a loss of appetite or an inflammation of the gut that interrupts nutrient absorption.

Reproductive Issues

Unexplained weight loss during menopause is unnatural, as it’s more common that menopause cause weight gain in women experiencing the change. Unintentional weight loss surrounding menopause could indicate that the changes in hormones has caused or made you susceptible to some other condition (stress, diabetes).

Likewise, unexplained weight loss during pregnancy is the opposite of the normal course of order. In the first few months, a loss of appetite due to morning sickness could be the culprit behind unintentional weight loss, but excessive weight loss could be a sign of a thyroid dysfunction or hyperemesis, a pregnancy complication that entails vomiting, severe nausea, dehydration, and weight loss. Your obstetrician should be made aware of any such symptoms.

An Explanation Is Necessary

Unknown causes of weight loss include a lot of scary and potentially life-threatening concerns. It’s normal for your weight to fluctuate by a few pounds here or there throughout the course of the year, but if you cannot determine a cause for sudden, steady weight loss, it’s important to consult with a medical professional and investigate: in fact, it could save your life.

Lower Respiratory Tract Infection and Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases

Lower respiratory tract infection is often used as a synonym for pneumonia. However, this condition can refer to a host of illnesses affecting the airways below the larynx. Read on for the types, causes, and treatments of LRTIs.

Lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) is often used as a synonym for pneumonia. However, this condition can refer to a host of illnesses that affect the airways below the larynx. While many people recover quickly from LRTIs, these diseases can be very serious. In fact, the European Lung Foundation notes that acute lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of sickness and death in people around the globe. For this reason, individuals with acute and chronic lower respiratory diseases should not hesitate to seek medical attention.

Types of Lower Respiratory Tract Infection

Because there are several types of lower respiratory tract infections, it can be difficult to determine which one you have. Below are some of the more common lower respiratory tract diseases, along with symptoms to look out for.

Acute Bronchitis

Usually short lasting, this condition affects both adults and children. The most common symptom is a cough that doesn’t go away. With bronchitis, the cough can be dry or wet. You may also suffer from fatigue, post-nasal drip, headache, and shortness of breath. Because of a chronic cough, many bronchitis sufferers also have trouble sleeping.

Bronchiolitis

Affecting the lower airways, this illness is most common in babies under 2 years of age. Coughing and wheezing are the most likely symptoms. Bronchiolitis tends to occur in the winter but can develop at any time of year. If your child experiences audible wheezing, vomiting, or lethargy, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.

Pneumonia

A lung infection, pneumonia results from various organisms, including bacteria and fungi. The condition may result in cold-like symptoms lasting for up to 4 weeks. Coughing, fever, whole body fatigue, and trouble breathing are common. In some cases, pneumonia patients develop a buildup of fluid around the lungs, a condition known as pleural effusion. Children under the age of 2 and those with underlying health conditions should be seen by a health care provider if they develop pneumonia to prevent potentially serious side effects.

Note that upper respiratory infections that start out affecting the upper respiratory tract, like the common cold or flu with milder symptoms such as runny nose and sore throat, can develop into more serious illnesses, such as infection of the lungs. For this reason, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you’re feeling ill.

Lower respiratory tract infection is often used as a synonym for pneumonia.

Causes of Lower Respiratory Tract Infection

Acute and chronic lower respiratory diseases are caused by both viral infections and bacterial infections. These conditions spread by direct contact with infected persons or through the air after an infected person has coughed or sneezed.

In most cases, healthy individuals who have become infected with a virus will form antibodies to fight it off. They are then immune from acquiring that form of the virus again. However, if your lower respiratory tract infection is caused by bacteria, you may need medical intervention to get well.

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood you will develop a lower respiratory infection. Children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are more prone to dangerous infections.

Most cases of pneumonia in adults stem from contact with the Streptococcus pneumoniae or Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, but some viruses can also cause pneumonia, most commonly the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children, and sometimes influenza.

Individuals who are hospitalized may contract a different type of pneumonia resulting from hospital germs. Those in long-term care facilities are at high risk for healthcare-acquired pneumonia. Hospital-pneumonia and healthcare-acquired pneumonia patients often need supportive care and medication in order to make a full recovery.

Finally, community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) can be contracted in a community setting outside of hospitals, nursing homes, or other healthcare institutions. CAP is the primary cause of death from infectious diseases in developed countries.

Antibiotic Treatment for Lower Respiratory Infection

Lower respiratory tract infection recovery times vary based on the infection type. In many cases, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and expedite recovery. It’s important not to overuse antibiotics, as doing so can lead to antibiotic resistance. When this happens, bacteria mutate and become resistant to the effects of certain drugs.

Some of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics for lower respiratory infections include: Amoxicillin, Augmentin, and Doxycycline. If your doctor recommends antibiotics, make sure to take the entire course as prescribed to avoid creating superbugs.

It’s important to note that not all cases of lower respiratory infection require antibiotics. Acute bronchitis usually resolves on its own, provided that patients drink plenty of fluids and get enough rest. If you’ve been sick for more than a week with a lower respiratory infection and don’t seem to be improving, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

What Are Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases?

Many lower respiratory diseases are acute, and patients tend to recover within a short period of time. However, some patients suffer from chronic lower respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), COPD was the third most common cause of death in the United States in 2011.

A term for a group of diseases, the lung disease COPD refers to conditions that compromise airflow and breathing. These diseases include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and even asthma, and can lead to acute respiratory failure. While some conditions like asthma are genetic, others result from environmental factors. You can reduce your odds of developing COPD by:

You can minimize the severity of COPD by visiting your doctor regularly to ensure these conditions are detected early when treatment is most effective.

Essential Amino Acids and Recovery

You may get relief from a lower respiratory disease with antibiotics, but even so the ailment can take a lot out of you. Even with successful antibiotic therapy, your immune system must be functioning at peak performance, yet the stress of the disease often limits the immune system’s efficiency. In addition, the stress of the disease, coupled with poor appetite and a low level of activity, will result in loss of muscle mass and strength, which may lead to a long-term loss in physical function.

Optimal nutritional intake is the best way to support your immune function and to minimize the loss of muscle mass. In fact, the primary goal of recovery is to replace lost muscle mass and function.

When you are sick and battling a lower respiratory infection, it is particularly important to maintain your intake of essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the key components of the diet that support the synthesis of new proteins, and they cannot be produced in the body.

To make sure you’re getting the amino acids your body needs to recover, eat a variety of high-quality protein food sources, including fish, eggs, meat, and dairy products. Taking a dietary supplement of essential amino acids will also help ensure an optimal level of intake of these vital nutrients, particularly if you find it difficult to eat the amount of protein food sources required for healthy immune function.

As your appetite returns, these dietary supplements of free essential amino acids will help support muscle growth and improve function in a way that you cannot achieve with normal dietary protein food sources alone.

Life-Threatening Sepsis: Here’s What You Need to Know

Sepsis occurs when your body goes into overdrive trying to fight an infection and instead turns on itself, creating a toxic situation that can lead to tissue damage and organ failure. Sepsis can become life-threatening very quickly. Here’s what you need to know about sepsis, what symptoms to look out for, and how it is diagnosed and treated.

Sepsis occurs when your body goes into overdrive trying to fight an infection and instead turns on itself, creating a toxic situation that can lead to tissue damage and organ failure. Sepsis can become life-threatening very quickly and medical attention is needed immediately. Here’s what you need to know about sepsis, what symptoms to look out for, and how it is diagnosed and treated.

What Is Sepsis?

Your immune system is armed to protect you against invading viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. However, there are times when the chemicals released by your immune system that normally fight off these invaders cause inflammation that spreads throughout the body. This overwhelming reaction of your body to this unwieldy inflammatory response is called sepsis.

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness because a domino effect can occur, where blood flow decreases due to blood clots and leaky blood vessels, blood pressure drops, and organs can be weakened, damaged, and potentially fail. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of sepsis cases in the United States increases every year. In fact, the NIH reports that in the U.S., sepsis causes more deaths than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS combined.

What Causes Sepsis?

A variety of infections can be responsible for leading to sepsis, but most common infections of the kidneys, blood, and stomach are to blame. The source of infection can also come from your skin, urinary tract, or lungs. E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus are the most common causes of a bacterial infection that leads to sepsis. If an infection spreads to your bloodstream, it can progress to severe sepsis and you will most likely need medical care in an intensive care unit. There are incidents where bacteria is introduced to your body via a catheter or IV tube while being treated for another illness, and without proper immune function the infection spreads.

Who Gets Sepsis?

Sepsis can affect anyone, but babies younger than a year old, people 65 years and older, and individuals with compromised immune systems or chronic illnesses are at a higher risk. If you have a chronic condition like kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, or lung disease, your chances of developing sepsis are higher too. Severe sepsis affects more than a million Americans annually, and 15% to 30% of those cases are fatal.

Sepsis Symptoms

Sepsis has three stages, beginning with sepsis, progressing to severe sepsis, and potentially leading to septic shock, a life-threatening situation. Symptoms of sepsis can include a combination of signs or only one. You may experience:

  • High fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweaty or clammy skin
  • Shivering
  • Increased heart rate
  • Disorientation or confusion

Your condition can turn into severe sepsis when your vital organs and tissues become damaged from the increased inflammation and deteriorating functions of the body. Your skin may become discolored or you may have an irregular heartbeat and difficulty breathing, become extremely weak, experience decreased urination, and even lose consciousness. Severe sepsis can have lasting effects on the body, leaving you more susceptible to other infections in the future.

If your condition proceeds into septic shock, you may experience a drastic drop in blood pressure. Other symptoms of septic shock include a rapid heart rate and affected mental status. This is a serious medical emergency since around 50% of people who have septic shock do not survive.

How Is Sepsis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will discuss your symptoms, any ongoing conditions, and your medical history. A blood test may be ordered to look at your white blood cell count and to see if bacteria or another type of infection is present. Blood results can also reveal oxygen and electrolyte levels and the condition of your kidneys and liver. A chest X-ray or CT scan can also help diagnose your condition and identify if you have an infection, where the infection lies, and how your organs are functioning.

Doctors assess the severity of the sepsis infection using the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). SIRS is defined by a diagnosis of two or more of the following:

  • Fever higher than 100.4 °F (38 °C) or less than 96.8 °F (36 °C)
  • Heart rate that exceeds 90 beats per minute
  • Respiratory rate of more than 20 breaths per minute or arterial carbon dioxide tension (PaCO2) of less than 32 mm Hg
  • Abnormal white blood cell count

The severity of sepsis is also determined by the quick sequential organ failure assessment (qSOFA), which doesn’t require any lab tests and measures three criteria:

  • Low blood pressure
  • High respiratory rate (greater than 22 breaths per minute)
  • Glasgow coma scale score of less than 15 (used to assess your level of consciousness)

Meeting two or more of the above criteria means you have a positive qSOFA.

Treatment of Sepsis

The biggest goal of treating sepsis is to eliminate the infection, maintain steady blood pressure, and protect against tissue damage and organ dysfunction. Immediate medical attention is essential to prevent sepsis from progressing into septic shock or death.

If your doctor suspects sepsis, you will head to the ICU for medication and monitoring. You may be given an IV of antibiotics to begin clearing the infection, intravenous fluids, insulin to normalize blood sugar, medication to minimize inflammation and lessen pain, and medication to increase blood pressure if necessary.

If you are in a life-threatening situation and your condition is poor, you may need dialysis or breathing assistance to lessen the stress on your organs. If the infection is serious, it may need to be surgically removed to prevent further spreading. Unfortunately, there is no one medicine that can reverse sepsis or the attack of your immune system. Doctors typically employ a combination approach of various drugs and methods.

Recovery time will vary from person to person, according to the stage of sepsis and additional ailments or health concerns. If medical attention is received promptly and no organs or tissues are permanently damaged, a full recovery is likely. If you or someone you know has been fighting an infection and begin to show any signs of sepsis, get to a doctor as soon as possible. Always wash hands well and keep any wounds clean and bandaged until completely healed to prevent infection.

Sepsis occurs when your body goes into overdrive trying to fight an infection and instead turns on itself, creating a toxic situation that can lead to tissue damage and organ failure

Everything You Need to Know About Mumps

Mumps is a viral disease that affects the salivary glands, causing swelling. Contagious diseases such as mumps are not dangerous just for us—we can easily transmit them to the people around us, as is the case with mumps.

Contagious diseases such as mumps are not dangerous just for us—we can easily transmit them to the people around us, as is the case with mumps.

What is mumps? Mumps is a viral disease that affects the salivary glands, also called the parotid glands. These glands are responsible for producing saliva. They are located behind and below your ears. The mumps virus causes swelling of the salivary glands.

When people think about the mumps, they usually think about mumps in children, but adults can also get the virus—and outbreaks are possible. Mumps outbreaks can occur any time of year, especially in crowded environments, classrooms, athletic teams, and college dorms. Mumps in adults often occurs with behaviors such as kissing or sharing cups. It’s typical for health departments to contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when they experience an unusually high number of mumps cases, as well as cases of other vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2016 and 2017, for example, some outbreaks of mumps on college campuses were reported to the CDC. In 2018, over 2000 Americans were diagnosed with mumps.

Mumps Symptoms

Symptoms of mumps usually appear between 12 and 25 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, but 30% to 40% of people affected do not have any symptoms at all. When mumps symptoms develop, they include:

  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain while chewing or swallowing

Complications of mumps, such as hearing loss, are rare and might involve inflammation in other parts of the body such as:

  • Testicles: This condition, called orchitis, causes swelling in one or both testicles.
  • Pancreas: This condition, called pancreatitis, causes pain in the upper abdomen, along with nausea and vomiting.
  • Ovaries and breasts: This condition causes inflammation in the ovaries (oophoritis) or breasts (mastitis). If a woman has mumps during pregnancy, she may experience a miscarriage.
  • Brain: A condition called encephalitis causes inflammation of the brain and can lead to neurological problems. Fluid around the brain and spinal cord, a condition called meningitis, occurs when the virus spreads through the bloodstream and infects your central nervous system.

Mumps in Children

If your child has mumps, the first thing you have to do is keep him or her away from other children and anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated—a person stays contagious until the swelling goes down, which is about a week. If your child has a fever or is in pain, you may give them ibuprofen, but do not give him/her ASA (acetylsalicylic acid). Give your child plenty of water or other fluids often to keep him/her hydrated. Monitor complications and call your doctor if your child develops:

  • Fever of 103 °F (39 °C) or higher
  • Issues eating or drinking
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Swelling and inflammation of the testicles

Mumps Vaccine

There is a vaccine to prevent mumps, which is given as part of the measles-mumps-rubella MMR, a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. You do not need a mumps vaccination if you had two doses of the MMR vaccine after 12 months of age, had one dose of MMR and you’re not at high risk of mumps exposure, or you were born before 1957.

Doctors do not recommend the vaccine to pregnant women or women who plan to get pregnant within the next 4 weeks, people who are allergic to the antibiotic components, or people with cancer, blood disorders, and diseases that affect the immune systems, such as HIV.

Doctors recommend that you get a vaccine if you:

  • Were born in 1957 or later
  • Are a nonpregnant woman of childbearing age
  • Attend college or other postsecondary schools
  • Work in a school, hospital, or other medical facilities
  • Plan to travel overseas

Can You Get Mumps if You Have Been Vaccinated?

In the United States, the MMRV vaccine offers protection for 95% of people, leaving about 5% of people vulnerable. This is the reason why two doses are often recommended; the first dose at 12 to 15 months and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. Even with two doses, some patients may not produce the quality or quantity of antibodies needed for life-long protection.

If You Had Mumps, Can You Get Mumps Twice?

People who have had mumps are usually protected for life against another mumps infection, but second occurrences may happen. They are, however, rare.

Mumps Remedies

If you or your child has mumps, rest and patience are crucial. The doctor can not help to speed up recovery, but you can follow these tips to reduce the discomfort and make sure others do not get infected.

  • Isolation: Isolate yourself or your child during the week after you notice symptoms to prevent mumps outbreaks.
  • Rest: If you have a fever, rest in bed until the fever goes away.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids—water is always best.
  • Cold relief: Soothe swollen glands by applying ice packs.
  • Diet: Eat a gentle diet of soup, yogurt, and soft foods that are easy to chew, such as mashed potatoes or cooked oatmeal. Avoid acidic foods and beverages, such as citrus fruits or juices that may make the pain worse in your salivary glands.
  • Medication: Consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen (Advil) to ease symptoms. Adults may also take aspirin, but do not give aspirin to children. Reye’s syndrome is a rare disorder that causes brain and liver damage, and it usually occurs in children who have had a recent viral infection—taking aspirin increases the risk of Reye’s.
  • Clothes: Wear an athletic supporter and use cold compresses to reduce the pain of swollen testicles.

What Is Psoriatic Arthritis? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can affect a person with the skin disease psoriasis. It can target any joint in your body, and symptoms vary from person to person. Fortunately, there are treatments available that have shown to be effective at combating the condition and providing symptom relief.

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can affect a person with the skin disease psoriasis. It may target any joint in your body, and symptoms vary from person to person. In some individuals, psoriatic arthritis is mild, with just occasional flare-ups. In others, it can become a chronic condition that leads to joint damage, especially if not treated properly. Fortunately, there are treatment options available that have shown to be effective at combating the condition and providing symptom relief.

What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition and type of autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to activate and skin cells to grow extremely quickly, resulting in scaly white and red patches on the skin’s surface. Some people with psoriasis can also develop psoriatic arthritis, where inflammation appears in the joints and causes them to stiffen and swell. How it develops differs in people; it can appear in one joint or both and affect the spine, knees, ankles, hands, and even the toenails and fingernails. Psoriatic arthritis can appear in both genders and all ages, even in young children, but it most often affects people in their 30s and 40s.

Types of Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis can be divided into several different categories, and identifying your specific type of arthritis can help you and your health care practitioner develop an appropriate treatment plan that provides the best results.

  • Oligoarticular: Often affecting younger individuals around four years of age, this type targets four joints or less, including the joints of the ankles, wrists, elbows, and knees.
  • Polyarticular: As “poly” suggests, this kind involves many joints, typically five or more, and is the second most common type of psoriatic arthritis in young adults and children.
  • Spondylitis: Inflammation related to this type of psoriatic arthritis occurs in the spine, neck, pelvis, and other large joints, particularly the lower back. It can also affect the eyes and digestive system.
  • Enthesitis: Entheses occurs where ligaments and tendons insert into bone. Enthesitis is the inflammation of these areas and is commonly seen in the pelvis, spine, ribcage, and undersides of your feet.
  • Asymmetric: Affecting one or more joints on one side of the body, asymmetric PSA causes mild soreness and redness surrounding the joint.
  • Dactylitis: This type of psoriatic arthritis affects the toes and fingers and causes a sausage-like appearance from the extreme inflammation and swelling. Your digits can lose flexibility and become painful to move and bend.

Causes of Psoriatic Arthritis

The cause of psoriatic arthritis has not been pinpointed, but 40% of Americans who have the condition have arthritis in their family history, indicating the role genetics plays on the risk of development.

Psoriatic arthritis can result from an infection or illness that activates the immune system and, when combined with a predisposed genetic factor, causes the disease to develop.

Environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals or toxins, and even high stress, may cause the onset of psoriatic arthritis among people who already have a family history of the disease.

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can affect a person with the skin disease psoriasis.

Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms

Not everyone who has psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, and it is often not identified in the early stages because discussing skin issues is often the focus of a doctor’s appointment. There is a very large variety of arthritic conditions, many with similar symptoms. For many, signs of psoriatic arthritis do not develop until 5 or 10 years following the appearance of psoriasis, but there are exceptions when psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis occur at the same time.

The most common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are stiffness and pain in the joints, specifically in the morning, fatigue, and general difficulty moving around throughout the day. Here are some other psoriatic arthritis symptoms.

  • Joint issues: Due to the constant inflammation of psoriatic arthritis, you may have stiffness and pain in the affected joints, the area may radiate heat, and you may have skin redness surrounding the joint. You may experience arthritis flares when your symptoms become intense for a period of time before subsiding, and this cycle can continue off and on.
  • Foot pain: Psoriatic arthritis can also expand beyond the larger joints and affect the ligaments or tendons in the foot, including the Achilles tendon, causing issues particularly in the bottom of the feet.
  • Back trouble: You may have back pain, and your neck, pelvis, and areas of your spine may feel stiff and inflexible.
  • Finger swelling: This is often a beneficial sign for an accurate diagnosis because it is a defining symptom of dactylitis, a condition in which the fingers become extremely inflamed and swollen.
  • Isolated pain: Psoriatic arthritis may cause asymmetrical pain when it appears in one joint but not the other, like in your right wrist but not in the left.
  • Pitting in fingernails and toenails: Nail changes are specific to psoriatic arthritis and can help with a diagnosis. Psoriatic arthritis can cause discoloration or indentations in the fingernails and toenails, and nails can detach from the nail bed.
  • Deformed fingers: Severe cases of psoriatic arthritis can result in arthritis mutilans. Psoriatic arthritis can sometimes cause fingers to be removed from their normal alignment. When it occurs in the hands, the body can reabsorb the bones of the finger, causing the tissues to collapse. The fingers can then shrink, collapsing in on themselves and causing permanent deformity.
  • Eye issues: You may experience inflammation in your eyes that leads to vision issues such as blurriness and light sensitivity and painful, red eyes.

Psoriatic Arthritis Diagnosis

The earlier psoriatic arthritis is identified, the better, because chronic inflammation can lead to serious complications and damage to joints and tissues. If you have psoriasis and begin to show signs of psoriatic arthritis, you most likely will visit a rheumatologist who specializes in these types of conditions. Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and any changes you’ve recognized in your nails, skin, and joints. Joint destruction can be seen on an X-ray, or with an MRI or CT scan, and will help with a more accurate diagnosis.

Your doctor will likely order blood tests to ensure other conditions are not to blame and to measure the inflammation present in your body. Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout can affect similar parts of the body and cause identical symptoms, so it is important an accurate diagnosis is made to develop the most effective treatment plan.

Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment

Treatment of psoriatic arthritis will be customized to your specific symptoms and the severity of your swelling, pain, and joint inflammation. If psoriatic arthritis does not disrupt your day-to-day too greatly, simple self-care activities and exercise may be effective and medication may not be needed for an extended period of time. For others, a long-term treatment plan may be needed to deal with chronic inflammation, pain, and potential joint damage. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen or naproxen may be used for the short term to provide relief.

If you do not find relief from initial methods, your doctor may prescribe disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARDs. These medications are meant to slow a disease from progressing, lessen inflammation and pain, and minimize further joint damage.

TNF-alpha inhibitors help ease joint pain by decreasing morning stiffness and joint swelling and tenderness. These drugs do come with potential side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, and vulnerability to infection.

There are also drugs that can be injected directly into the area of the joint for temporary relief of symptoms.

Importance of Exercise

Many people with arthritis develop joint symptoms, such as stiff joints and muscle weakness, because they become sedentary and do not move around. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is essential when living with psoriatic arthritis because keeping joints and tendons moving reduces the inflammation, which in turn lessens the pain.

Joints can quickly stiffen when not in use. Building up your muscles minimizes the wear and tear on your joints. Exercise does not need to be strenuous or difficult. It can include walking, riding a bike, or water activities. Swimming and aerobics in the pool are great low-impact exercises that build muscle while being gentle on the joints. Physical therapy may also be very beneficial to help strengthen your muscles, improve flexibility, and protect joints from further damage.

Diet and Supplements

An important step to keep in mind when living with psoriatic arthritis is to remove foods from your diet that can trigger inflammation and worsen symptoms. Cut out caffeine, sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and high-fat items from your diet and replace them with anti-inflammatory foods like green leafy vegetables, cold-water fish, broccoli, walnuts, and pineapple.

You can also supplement your diet with vitamins that specifically target arthritis and the symptoms associated with such conditions. Turmeric, a yellow spice often found in Indian food, contains curcumin, a chemical with amazing anti-inflammatory powers. According to research, curcumin can help reduce inflammation in the joints, which in turn relieves the pain and stiffness you may experience.

Amino Acids and Psoriatic Arthritis

If you also have psoriasis along with psoriatic arthritis, over-the-counter ingredients that can be helpful in relieving symptoms include the amino acids glycine and methionine. In one study, it was found that psoriasis lesions have a significant loss of amino acids in these areas. When these parts of the body were injected with amino acids, it helped to supplement the deficiency and improve the skin’s condition.

The essential amino acid methionine is among a group of substances known for their cartilage-forming abilities. Methionine can be found in meat, fish, and dairy products and plays an important role in many of your body’s functions. The cartilage in our joints needs sulfur to form properly. If there is not enough sulfur available in the body, negative effects can arise over the long term. If you have a sulfur deficiency, especially in combination with psoriatic arthritis, damaged joints and tissues can take much longer to heal. Methionine can help supplement this lack of sulfur and build and strengthen the cartilage needed for healthy joints.

On top of stimulating cartilage formation, methionine is also packed full of power as a pain-reliever and an anti-inflammatory agent. Since it is able to form connective material, methionine can strengthen your hair and nails as well.

However, taking a single amino acid supplement, such as methionine, can deliver unnecessary side effects. Because amino acids work in concert with one another, giving elevated concentrations of just one can throw off optimal concentrations of all amino acids in the blood, and the desired benefits are lost. For this reason, it’s important to supplement with a balanced mixture of all the essential amino acids to keep amino acid concentrations in the body stable.

Other minerals and vitamins can support your joint health and help give your body what it needs to effectively combat psoriatic arthritis. Vitamin C, in particular, helps to form collagen, which is useful for lowering inflammation and helping to regenerate lost cartilage that is slowly worn away. Other important nutrients for healthy joints are magnesium and vitamin B6 since they ward off free radicals that break down cartilage in the joints and worsen symptoms.

Living with psoriatic arthritis over the long term can be challenging and exhausting, but it does not need to rob you of an active lifestyle or doing the activities you enjoy. Working with your doctor and physical therapist, as well as practicing proper self-care and exercise, can vastly improve your quality of life and keep you moving freely with much less pain.

Leaky Gut Syndrome: What It Is and What to Do About It

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged. Find out what happens to our health when the gut gets out of balance and develops leaky gut syndrome.

“Gut feeling…trust your gut…what does your gut tell you?” There’s a reason phrases like these are so common. The gut, which is also known as the body’s second brain, plays a role in more than just digesting our food. In fact, the wall of the gut contains over 100 million nerve cells—comprising what’s known as the enteric nervous system (ENS)—and scientists have found that these cells communicate with the brain and affect an astounding variety of functions related to everything from physical to mental health. So what happens to our health when the gut gets out of balance and develops leaky gut syndrome?

What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

The gut, or gastrointestinal tract, is made up of all the so-called hollow organs that stretch from the mouth to the anus—that is, the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.

In addition to its over 100 million nerve cells, the gut lining covers more than 4,000 square feet of surface area and is designed to control what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. However, if the lining of the intestinal wall becomes damaged in some way, it may develop weak spots that allow undigested food particles, toxins, and microbes to enter the bloodstream.

When this happens, it may trigger an immune response that leads to inflammation and changes in the balance of gut bacteria. In fact, several conditions are already known to be linked to leaky gut syndrome. These include:

While some controversy continues to exist regarding whether leaky gut leads to diseases outside the gastrointestinal tract, some studies have shown that the syndrome may be linked to autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Additional health problems suspected to be associated with leaky gut include:

What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?

According to Harvard Medical School, everyone has leaky gut to some degree. The reason for this is that, as alluded to earlier, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is semipermeable, which is necessary to allow for nutrient absorption, such as of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

This permeability of the gut lining is in turn governed by areas called epithelial tight junctions—areas where membranes of adjacent cells are joined together via strands of proteins to form a barrier.

Some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing decreased integrity of these tight junctions, which can lead to increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome.

However, our modern lifestyles may very well play a part in this too, as more and more evidence is pointing to the typical Western diet—with its lack of fiber and high levels of sugar and saturated fats—heavy use of alcohol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and chronic stress as significant factors in the damage to the gut lining that results in leaky gut syndrome.

How Does Leaky Gut Lead to Symptoms?

When the lining of the intestinal wall weakens, allowing food particles, toxins, and microbes to enter the bloodstream, the body’s immune system reacts to these substances as if they were foreign invaders. After all, they’re not supposed to be in the bloodstream. They’re supposed to be, in the case of food, fully digested or, in the case of microbes and toxins, neutralized and passed out of the body.

So when they end up in the bloodstream, the body’s immune system responds the way it was designed to: by increasing inflammation around the damaged area—in this case, the gastrointestinal tract—and mobilizing immune cells to fix the problem.

But if the cause of the leaky gut isn’t addressed and more foreign particles continue to leak through the intestinal wall, a vicious cycle is perpetuated that can lead to chronic inflammation as the immune system continues to attack the body.

It’s this vicious cycle that a growing body of evidence suggests may result in various systemic conditions. One of these that clearly illustrates how leaky gut works is the development of food sensitivities.

How Does Leaky Gut Cause Food Sensitivities?

As we stated, when undigested food particles wind up in the bloodstream, the immune system treats them as foreign invaders. If the same food particles keep slipping through the gut wall, the immune system may develop antibodies to them. This means that every time you eat one of these foods—which can be as varied as your diet—your immune system goes into attack mode and you eventually develop food sensitivities. However, unlike a true food allergy, a food sensitivity can be dose-dependent and show up hours after you’ve eaten the offending food.

Symptoms of Leaky Gut

Because of the interconnectedness of the gastrointestinal tract with the rest of the body, the number of symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome is incredibly varied. Complicating matters is the fact that leaky gut symptoms are usually mild in the beginning, progressing only gradually before they begin to affect the entire body.

This combination of gradual onset and wide symptom variety goes a long way toward explaining why so many people—and their health care providers—may run down blind alley after blind alley in their search for the true cause of their symptoms, which may include:

Indigestion Bloating
Diarrhea Constipation
Gas Runny nose
Congestion Mood swings
Memory loss Joint pain
Brain fog Fatigue
Eczema Allergies
Headaches Frequent infections

Diagnosing Leaky Gut Syndrome

Because of the continuing controversy surrounding leaky gut syndrome and the difficulty many health care providers have in recognizing the condition, you might think there was no way to test for the condition.

Admittedly, people suffering from the condition and their doctors do continue to rely heavily on symptoms, but there are actually several tests that can help you discover whether leaky gut is the reason for what ails you. The most common of these tests include:

  • Lactulose/mannitol test: One of the older tests for intestinal permeability, the lactulose/mannitol test measures urine for the clearance of two sugars—lactulose and mannitol—that are associated with both malabsorption and leaky gut syndrome. Using a baseline urine, followed by ingestion of a lactulose and mannitol solution and a timed 6-hour urine sample, this test measures the amount of lactulose and mannitol excreted in the urine, with lower levels indicating increased intestinal permeability. However, because rates of excretion can vary depending on dosage, timing of collection, individual factors, and NSAID usage, the lactulose/mannitol test may not always be accurate.
  • Food sensitivity test: Several labs offer food sensitivity tests that analyze the presence of antibodies and allergy-inducing proteins in either blood or saliva. Although these tests are used mainly to diagnose food sensitivities, because they detect the presence of foreign substances outside the gastrointestinal tract, their results can also be used to infer a diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome.
  • Zonulin family protein test: In people who want to avoid the sugar involved in the lactulose/mannitol test, the zonulin test may be used. This test analyzes blood for the presence of zonulin proteins—the proteins responsible for modulating the permeability of the tight junctions in the gastrointestinal tract. Theoretically, the presence of these proteins in the blood should be an indicator of damage to the intestinal lining. However, research has demonstrated that many of the tests currently on the market don’t actually detect the correct protein, so caution should be used when relying on a zonulin test as a marker for leaky gut syndrome.
  • Bacterial dysbiosis test: The bacterial dysbiosis test uses the stool, breath, or urine to measure the body’s balance of good and bad bacteria as well as opportunistic pathogens such as yeast and parasites. Depending on the type of test used, results may indicate the presence of both small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut syndrome.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Treatment of Leaky Gut Syndrome

To review, there’s evidence to suggest that leaky gut syndrome may be the result of the interplay between four factors:

  • Genetics
  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Toxins

While we may not be able to heal a leaky gut by changing our genetics, it is within our power to change our diets, manage our stress, and eliminate as many toxins from our lives as possible.

So how do we do that?

Diet

The first step to restoring gut health is eliminating the foods most commonly associated with leaky gut.

Processed Foods

Even though processed foods run the gamut from minimally processed fare, such as canned green beans, to the highly processed, such as donuts, these types of foods tend to be everywhere in the Western diet. And ultra-processed foods like donuts are the very worst for the digestive system due to their low levels of nutrients and high levels of sugar, fat, salt, additives, refined oils, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which contain higher levels of pesticides and other toxins known to damage the intestinal lining. Many of the worst offenders are instantly recognizable by their blond color—think biscuits, corn dogs, french fries, pizza, etc.

Grains

Although whole grains are considered part of a healthy diet, some grains contain what are known as lectins—proteins that, in high levels, can irritate intestinal tissues and cause tight junction proteins to malfunction. Other grains also contain proteins that are difficult to digest. The most well known of these proteins is gluten, which is fine in small doses, but the combination of wheat varieties bred to have high levels of gluten and the preponderance of gluten-containing foods in the average Western diet can put stress on the digestive system.

Carbohydrates

As we hinted at in the section on processed foods, the basic Western diet is loaded with carbohydrates. Consumed mostly in the form of simple sugars and starches, carbohydrates make up so much of the average person’s daily calories that the body can’t possibly use them all. Thus, they become food for yeast and bacteria and are one of the greatest causes of both SIBO and leaky gut.

Dairy products

Conventional dairy products are some of the most allergy-producing foods known. This is the result of several factors, including the presence of a protein called casein and the pasteurization process that kills the enzymes in dairy products (especially lactase). Conventionally raised dairy cows also eat an unnatural diet, including GMO corn and soy, which results in illnesses in the cows that are often treated with high levels of antibiotics.

If this list seems overwhelming, don’t despair. Depending on the extent of your symptoms, it’s not necessary to eliminate what may seem like absolutely everything from your diet. Choosing just a few changes that seem doable to you will still go a long way toward improving gut health.

And when your symptoms have abated, it’s fine to add some of these items back in. Just pay attention to your symptoms. If you notice symptoms with certain foods, don’t eat them. And if you notice you can handle certain amounts of foods, just moderate your intake. As with most things in life, treating leaky gut syndrome is all about finding the right balance.

In the meantime, there are also certain foods that can help heal your gut too. These include:

  • Fermented foods: Naturally fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi contain gut-healing probiotics and digestive enzymes.
  • Bone broth: This easily digested and nutrient-rich broth contains collagen and the amino acids arginine, glutamine, proline, and glycine, which help heal tears in the intestinal wall and support a strong gut lining.
  • Healthy fats: While refined oils contribute to inflammation and should be avoided in people with leaky gut syndrome, healthy fats—such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds and fatty fish as well as the fats found in avocados and coconut oil—are anti-inflammatory and help heal a damaged gut. In addition, coconut oil is not only rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are easier to digest than other fats, but also has antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.

Stress

All of us have to deal with stress from time to time, and it’s not always a bad thing. But when stress is keeping you up at night, messing with your diet, or just plain making you miserable, it affects both your mental and physical health. In fact, chronic stress has even been shown in research to affect the balance of gut bacteria.

Although we can’t avoid all sources of stress all the time (nor should we want to), there are several palliatives that can help reduce levels of chronic stress, which can help take the load off the gut. These include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Laughing more
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Practicing yoga
  • Learning to meditate
  • Practicing deep breathing
  • Getting plenty of sleep

Toxins

In our modern world, we come in contact with more environmental toxins than our ancestors ever had to deal with. In fact, according to the 2010 report by the President’s Cancer Panel, almost 80,000 chemicals are currently on the market in the United States, many of which are either understudied or unregulated. And multiple studies have shown that these toxins have the ability to alter the gut microbiome.

Although we can’t remove every environmental toxin from our lives, we can control the number of toxins we bring into our homes and put in our bodies. Some of the best ways to do this are by:

  • Using natural cleaning products
  • Eating organic food
  • Using natural paints
  • Avoiding artificial fragrances
  • Using natural personal care products
  • Filtering tap water
  • Avoiding plastic containers

There’s no denying the fact that a healthy gut is essential to our overall health. While some people may be more prone to dysfunction of the gastrointestinal tract due to genetic factors, for the vast majority of us, it’s our modern way of life that’s throwing us into disarray.

But good gut health doesn’t have to be a thing of the past. With a little education and some changes to our diets and daily routine, we can bring balance back to both our guts and our lives. And when we honor the importance our gut plays in our overall health, chances are it will honor us in return.

What Is Listeria and How Can You Protect Yourself?

Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the gram-positive bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to get the infection.

Listeriosis is a serious infection primarily contracted from food contaminated with the gram-positive bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency estimates that 1,600 people contract listeriosis each year and that 260 die. Fatal in one of five people, Listeria infection is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the United States, and the most vulnerable are pregnant women and their newborns, people aged 65 or older, and those with compromised immune systems.

While pregnant women have a 10 times greater risk of succumbing to L. monocytogenes, pregnant Hispanic women are 24 times more likely than other people to contract the infection. Listeria infection can result in miscarriages, premature delivery, and stillbirths. Pregnant women can transmit the infection to their unborn babies. The infection can cause serious illness and even death in newborns.

More than half of all listeriosis cases occur in people 65 and older, because the immune system and organs of older people are not as capable of recognizing and ridding the body of harmful germs, such as those that trigger food poisoning. Because older adults may also have chronic conditions, including diabetes and cancer, they may have weakened immune systems due to prescribed medications. There is also a reduction in stomach acid when people age, making it harder to kill germs and reduce the risk of illness. Thus, adults 65 years and older are 4 times more likely than the general population in the United States to get Listeria infections.

People whose immune systems are compromised due to medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, and HIV or AIDS, are susceptible to listeriosis. Treatments that interfere with the body’s ability to fend off illness, such as steroids and chemotherapy, also increase the odds of contracting a Listeria infection. Some medical conditions and treatments can weaken the immune system and enable the body to react more intensely to contaminated food.

What Is Listeria?

As explained by Larry M. Bush, MD, in Merck Manuals, most listeriosis cases are the result of eating contaminated food, such as raw food and uncooked meat, that has been improperly cooked or handled. Listeria bacteria sneak in through the bloodstream and go on a rampage, spreading to other organs. The bacteria have also been known to infect the skin of people who have direct contact with infected animals, like veterinarians, farmers, and slaughterhouse workers. A hardy germ that can even grow on refrigerated foods, Listeria can go unnoticed in the equipment or appliances where food is prepared, including in factories and grocery stores.

Listeria bacteria can contaminate food at refrigerator temperatures and even stay alive in the freezer. Pasteurizing dairy products can help kill Listeria, as can proper cooking or reheating of food. Keep in mind that Listeria bacteria are survivors and can thrive in cracks filled with food and untouched and inaccessible areas in commercial food preparation facilities where food is not adequately prepared or stored. When food needs no further cooking when bought, remaining bacteria are eaten with the food.

Listeria can grow in refrigerated, packaged, ready-to-eat products without altering the taste or smell of the food. Foods often implicated in listeriosis outbreaks are soft cheeses, delicatessen salads, unpasteurized milk, cold cuts, hot dogs, seafood, raw meat, and undercooked chicken.

Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the gram-positive bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to get the infection.

Symptoms of Listeriosis

Listeriosis can manifest with myriad symptoms according to the individual and part of the body affected. Like other foodborne illnesses, listeriosis can show up as fever and diarrhea, but these instances are rarely diagnosed, with symptoms lasting for 1 to 7 days.

The symptoms of Listeria infection normally begin 1 to 4 weeks after eating contaminated food. Some people might have these symptoms as long as 70 days after exposure, while others may experience them as early as the day of exposure.

Symptoms of invasive listeriosis, when the infection spreads beyond the gastric organs, manifest differently in pregnant and non-pregnant individuals. Although pregnant women usually have only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches, a Listeria infection while carrying can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, early delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. People who are not pregnant may have such symptoms as headache, confusion, loss of balance, a stiff neck, convulsions, fever, and muscle aches.

Invasive listeriosis involves the bacteria entering the bloodstream from the intestine and invading other organs. Bacteria may spread to the nervous system and tissues covering the brain and spinal cord (causing meningitis); eyes; heart valves (causing endocarditis); joints; and, in the case of pregnant women, the uterus and fetus. Infrequently, there can be collections of pus (abscesses) in the brain and spinal cord.

Listeriosis Diagnosis

To diagnose listeriosis, doctors take a blood sample. If symptoms of meningitis are present, doctors will do a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) to obtain a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. After culturing, the bacteria are identified to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, Listeriosis can be diagnosed when a bacterial culture is used to grow Listeria monocytogenes from a body tissue or fluid, such as blood, spinal fluid, or the placenta.

Listeriosis Treatment

Most people with Listeria infections spontaneously recover from the infection in about one week. Patients in high-risk groups, particularly pregnant women in the third trimester, usually need immediate intravenous antibiotics to stop or retard the progress before it becomes a more invasive disease. Treatment with antibiotics early on can save the life of the fetus.

The antibiotics ampicillin and gentamicin are administered intravenously to most people with listeriosis, including endocarditis and meningitis. People who are allergic to penicillin medications receive medications such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Physicians treat listeriosis-related eye infections with erythromycin, given orally, or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, given intravenously.

The course of antibiotic treatment depends on how severe the infection is. A patient with meningitis typically receives treatment for 3 weeks, while patients with brain abscesses undergo antibiotic treatment for 6 weeks. IV ampicillin is the go-to treatment for listeriosis. Bactrim (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) is another successful medication. Researchers say that every patient’s treatment ought to be customized for best results. If diagnosed with a Listeria infection, your health care team should include an infectious-disease consultant, and if pregnant, an obstetrician and a pediatric specialist.

Listeria Contamination Prevention

The CDC recommends following the safe purchasing and preparation guidelines at www.FoodSafety.gov, the federal gateway for food safety information.

In the 1990s most outbreaks involved deli meats and hot dogs. Currently, dairy products and produce are implicated in Listeria outbreaks. Recent outbreaks have been traced to soft cheeses, cantaloupe, celery, sprouts, and ice cream.

Listeria bacteria can reproduce at refrigerator temperatures, meaning that food lightly contaminated can become heavily contaminated while in the refrigerator. It is important to take precautions, especially for people at risk of serious consequences if infected. These people should not eat:

  • Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk (including feta, Brie, Mexican-style cheeses like queso fresco and queso blanco, and Camembert)
  • Refrigerated ready-to-eat foods (including luncheon meats, hot dogs, pȃtés, and meat spreads), unless heated to an internal temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C ) or until steaming hot just before serving
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood (including foods labeled nova-style, lox, kippered, smoked, or jerky), unless cooked
  • Raw (unpasteurized) milk and cheeses made from raw milk

In addition to washing raw vegetables and fruits before consumption, always wash hands and all kitchen surfaces, appliances, utensils, and cutting boards after use. Apart from sanitation, there are many ways to reduce the risk of infection.

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours in shallow, covered containers and use them within three to four days.
  • Set the refrigerator temperature at 40 °F (44.4 °C) or lower.
  • Set the freezer at 0 °F (-17.8 °C) or lower.

Listeriosis prevention is a matter of being very cautious with food selection, preparation, and storage and understanding food poisoning risks. The safe food guidelines—Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill—at www.FoodSafety.gov are some helpful best practices to follow.

The CDC says Listeria effects may not arise for several weeks, at which point it’s increasingly difficult to figure out the contaminated food source. The bacterium can contaminate many foods that don’t require cooking, such as cheese, as well as foods unlikely to be affected, including fruits and vegetables like celery and cantaloupe.

The CDC recommends the following prevention techniques:

  • Using special laboratory tests and disease detectives to help quickly identify outbreaks.
  • Finding and removing contaminated food before consumption.
  • Learning from past outbreaks and conducting environmental investigations to make food safer.
  • Implementing new safety measures for food production, such as those included in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), to reduce food contamination.
  • Diligently following USDA guidelines to help reduce instances of Listeria contamination of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.
  • Working at developing a strong and effective public health system that offers the tools and resources necessary to champion food safety.
  • Investigating and creating the most effective policies and practices.

Graves’ Disease: Symptoms and Treatment for an Overactive Thyroid

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system damages the thyroid gland, which in turn begins to overproduce the thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease is now considered a highly treatable condition when it was once thought to be a fatal diagnosis.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid, causing it to produce more thyroid hormone than the body needs. Also known as exophthalmic or toxic diffuse goiter, Graves’ disease is named after Robert Graves, an Irish physician who first described the condition in 1835.

What Causes Graves’ Disease?

The immune system is designed to produce antibodies that protect us from foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. However, it can sometimes become overactive and produce antibodies that treat the body’s own tissues as foreign substances. When this happens, various autoimmune conditions can result.

Under normal circumstances, the thyroid hormone your thyroid produces controls how your body uses energy and is essential for keeping the body healthy and functioning properly.

However, when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, the overabundance of thyroid hormone throws the body’s many systems into overdrive, creating serious health risks.

According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disease, while Graves’ disease is known to affect approximately 1% of the population in the United States.

Graves’ disease results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors and is typically seen in women (though men may be affected as well) between the ages of 30 and 50.

Interestingly, Graves’ disease is also more likely to affect people who already suffer from other autoimmune disorders. Conditions associated with Graves’ disease include:

How Does Graves’ Disease Affect the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped organ found in the lower front part of the neck. Specifically, it’s located just above the collarbone (clavicle) and below the voice box (larynx).

As noted earlier, the thyroid’s job is to produce thyroid hormone, which plays an integral part in energy production for the entire body and affects everything from metabolism to heart rate.

However, the overproduction of thyroid hormone results in overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism. And Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Without treatment, Graves’ disease can cause serious health problems, including:

Graves’ disease symptoms vary from patient to patient depending on a variety of factors, including how long the disease has been present and how the individual responds to the disruption in thyroid function.

Symptoms commonly associated with this condition include:

Reddening and thickening of the skin Menstrual cycle changes
Bulging eyes Anxiety
Double vision Thyroid enlargement
Light sensitivity Hand tremor
Weight loss Heat sensitivity
Diarrhea Shortness of breath
Fatigue Rapid heartbeat

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system damages the thyroid gland, which in turn begins to overproduce the thyroid hormone.

Diagnosing Graves’ Disease

To confirm a diagnosis of Graves’ disease, your health care provider will need to perform a physical exam and speak with you regarding your family history and any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Your provider will then most likely perform a set of laboratory tests.

According to the American Thyroid Association, blood tests commonly used to confirm a diagnosis of Graves’ disease include:

  • Thyroxine (T4)
  • Triiodothyronine (T3)
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • Thyrotropin receptor antibodies (TRAbs)

Typically, with hyperthyroid conditions, T4 and T3 levels are high and TSH levels are low. If hyperthyroidism is detected, your health care provider will next check for antibodies that indicate the presence of Graves’ disease.

However, it can be difficult to diagnose Graves’ disease in the early stages, as it’s often confused with other conditions. For example, patients presenting with multiple symptoms, such as gastrointestinal issues, palpitations, sexual problems, and anxiety, may see a variety of specialists before being referred to an endocrinologist.

Treatment for Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease treatment will vary depending on the individual and the severity of the disease. Additional factors such as age and underlying medical conditions may affect treatment options as well. However, the following are the most common forms of therapy used in Graves’ disease:

  • Beta blockers
  • Antithyroid drugs
  • Radioactive iodine
  • Surgery

Beta Blockers

While beta blockers don’t treat Graves’ disease directly, they do block the effects of excess thyroid hormone on the body. They may also help to quickly relieve symptoms—such as tremors, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, and muscle weakness—while waiting for other treatments to take effect.

Antithyroid Drugs

Antithyroid medications work by blocking the production of new thyroid hormone. These drugs are also typically used in patients with a high likelihood of remission.

While antithyroid drugs do not cure Graves’ hyperthyroidism, the American Thyroid Association reports that treatment using this method results in remission in approximately 20% to 30% of cases.

However, if hyperthyroidism persists for more than 6 months, your health care provider may opt to perform definitive treatment with either radioactive iodine or surgery.

Radioactive Iodine

With radioactive iodine therapy, you’re administered radioactive iodine-131 in either capsule or liquid form. Because the thyroid cells produce thyroid hormone by taking up any form of iodine available in the bloodstream, they readily absorb the radioactive iodine, which then proceeds to destroy the cells.

While unlikely, it’s possible you may need more than one round of treatment, though there may be a waiting period of several weeks to months between treatments to allow the body to flush out any radioactive iodine that was not taken up by the thyroid cells.

Patients who undergo radioactive iodine therapy almost always develop hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone—or none at all.

However, hypothyroidism has fewer long-term health effects than hyperthyroidism and can be easily treated with daily thyroid replacement medication.

Surgery

If antithyroid drugs and radioactive iodine fail to reverse Graves’ disease, surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland is performed.

Antithyroid medications will also be given prior to surgery to bring your thyroid hormone levels into the normal range, as general anesthesia can cause a thyroid storm—a potentially fatal worsening of symptoms.

Patients who undergo surgery as treatment for their Graves’ disease will also become hypothyroid and need to be placed on thyroid hormone medication, with monitoring of thyroid hormone levels for life.

Amino Acids

Some Graves’ disease patients may also find that taking amino acid supplements helps improve their symptoms of hyperthyroidism. This is because amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are essential for the proper functioning of muscles, organs, and tissues.

Amino acids can help ensure you maintain muscle mass in the face of the weight loss that is a common symptom of Graves’ disease. They may also help restore muscle mass once your Graves’ disease has been treated.

The amino acid L-carnitine is especially noted for its ability to help prevent or treat symptoms of an overactive thyroid, including insomnia, nervousness, palpitations, and tremors.

In addition, studies have shown that supplementation with L-carnitine may help prevent—or even reverse—muscle weakness and may even prevent death from thyroid storm.

Researchers from the University of Maryland Medical System have suggested that L-carnitine may work by blocking thyroid hormone. Since Graves’ disease results from the production of too much thyroid hormone, L-carnitine may have beneficial effects for those with this condition.

However, people with hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, should avoid L-carnitine since their levels of thyroid hormone are already too low and L-carnitine may lower them even further.

It should also be noted that there are 20 different amino acids that make up the proteins our bodies need to function. And nine of these—the essential amino acids—must be obtained from either diet or supplementation.

Therefore, to optimize treatment, anyone interested in supplementing with L-carnitine should look for a formula that also provides a balanced mixture of all the essential amino acids.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system damages the thyroid gland, which in turn begins to overproduce the thyroid hormone.

Vitamins, Minerals, Foods, and Herbs

In addition to amino acids, other natural treatments—including foods—have been shown to support thyroid function and help treat the symptoms of Graves’ disease.

Vitamin D

There’s increasing evidence to suggest that vitamin D deficiency plays a role in thyroid disorders.

In fact, one study demonstrated vitamin D deficiency in 64% of those suffering from Graves’ disease, and another showed that correction of vitamin D deficiency via supplementation was actually able to reverse the onset of Graves’ disease!

Selenium

Selenium is a trace mineral that helps the body make special proteins called antioxidant enzymes. Though needed in only small amounts—hence the term “trace”—selenium is extremely important for both healthy immune function and DNA and thyroid hormone synthesis.

Studies have demonstrated that low levels of this trace mineral are associated with an increased risk of Graves’ disease. In addition, a recent meta-analysis showed that selenium supplementation was effective in restoring a euthyroid state (normal thyroid function).

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale, are known as goitrogens—substances that disrupt the production of thyroid hormone by interfering with the uptake of iodine in the thyroid gland.

While eating more cruciferous vegetables certainly won’t cure Graves’ disease, it will help block some of the excess thyroid hormone your thyroid is producing.

Herbs

Various herbs have also been shown to have a calming effect on the thyroid gland. The most well known of these include:

  • Bugleweed
  • Motherwort
  • Lemon balm

Bugleweed contains lithospermic acid and other organic acids, which have been shown to decrease levels of several hormones, particularly TSH and T4. Bugleweed has also been shown to inhibit the binding of antibodies to the thyroid cells.

While motherwort does not work directly on the thyroid, it’s been described as a natural beta blocker. This is due to its ability to help calm some of the symptoms of Graves’ disease, including palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia.

Finally, like bugleweed, lemon balm exerts an inhibitory effect on TSH and helps prevent antibodies from attacking the thyroid.

As we’ve seen, several treatment options are available for people suffering from the effects of Graves’ disease. If you believe you or someone you care about may have the condition, be sure to speak with your health care provider about your symptoms and whether additional support in the form of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, foods, and herbs might help you get back on the road to health.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system damages the thyroid gland, which in turn begins to overproduce the thyroid hormone.