If you’re 14+ then must drink water before brushing your teeth

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If you're 14+ then must drink water before brushing your teeth

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You all have heard that Drinking water before brushing your teeth is a good habit but some buy it as a myth. Well, this isn’t a myth, it’s a fact and proved by many doctors and health specialist.

Good for Brain and Oxygen

When you wake up, your body is in relax mode and with drinking water, it boosts your brain and supplies rich oxygen to your blood stream. This will help you to get more energy and you’d be fresh for all day.

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Good for Skin and Marks

When you drink water before brushing up, the oxygen generates in your blood give advantage to the facial skin and it clears out bacteria and infections from your face which results in good skin.

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Good for acidity and Gas problems

It also reduces the acidity forming up in your stomach and gives efficient amount of Folic acid to your intestine which boosts up your intestine.

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Health experts and doctors reveal the pills and supplements they take

Health experts and doctors reveal the pills and supplements they take

When it comes to supplements, health experts have their own preferences (Image: Getty Images)

One in three Brits now take a daily nutritional supplement. And the UK vitamins, herbs, enzymes, amino acids and minerals market is estimated to have netted and incredible £442million last year alone, according to research by Mintel.

Yet when it comes to NHS guidelines, the Department of Health only recommends vitamin D during winter, folic acid in early pregnancy and, for children aged six months to five years, daily vitamin A, C and D, adding that most people should get all the nutrients they need by having a varied and balanced diet.

So what supplements do medical ­professionals believe are worth paying for? We asked a group of doctors and health experts which pills they pop.

Dr Miriam Stoppard, GP and medical writer

I’ve never been keen on taking vitamins or supplements of any kind unless there’s a medical need for them.

I know this is boring but I need to know there’s proof that something is effective before I’m prepared to take it.

With supplements there’s really no scientific evidence they work, so I pass.

My own preference is to use foods as ‘supplements’ (Image: Daily Mirror)

One of my major reasons for not taking them is that the body isn’t designed to absorb our essential nutrients in tablet or capsule form.

They simply pass through the intestine and are excreted.

Vitamins and essential minerals must be part of the hundreds of micronutrients that are found in foods in order for the body to use them.

My own preference is to use foods as ‘supplements’, including Brazil nuts for selenium, broccoli for calcium, dark green leaves for iron and folic acid, oily fish for omega 3, avocado for omega 6, eggs for the B vitamins, bananas for potassium, seafood for zinc and iodine, yellow/orange fruit and veg for betacarotene, tomatoes for lycopene, mushrooms for chromium… The list goes on and on.

Pharmacist Shabir Daya, CEO of Victoria Health

I consider a multivitamin to be my insurance policy against possible deficiencies, even when my diet is rich in healthy foods.

I tend to go for food state multivitamins such as Alive Ultra Potency Multivitamins, which are easier to absorb.

Tablets and capsules may be compromised as they have to pass through the harsh acidic environment of the stomach

Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids and promote a stronger immune system, cardiovascular health, plus joint and vision health, aside from reducing inflammation which is one of the causal factors for the ageing of the body.

I have just started using Viridian Nutrition’s Trout Oil Capsules as most other fish oils (especially liver oils) tend to be highly refined and may even contain heavy metals or other contaminants.

I take a vitamin D3 supplement on an almost daily basis.

I opt for Better You’s DLux Sprays which provide rapid absorption through the tiny blood vessels inside the cheeks and under the tongue, delivering almost the entire dose into the bloodstream.

Tablets and capsules may be compromised as they have to pass through the harsh acidic environment of the stomach.

I also take Mega Probiotic ND by Food Science of Vermont, which provides eight acid-resistant strains of probiotic bacteria to colonise the gut where they can enhance the immune system, help digest food more efficiently and prevent pathogens from taking a hold within the body.

Most of us simply do not have sufficient of these beneficial bacteria because of stress, poor diet, antibiotic usage and pollutants.

Dr Sohere Roked, GP and hormone specialist

I don’t always take the same supplements but at the moment I am taking a vitamin D3 mouth 
spray (4,000IU per day), because I use an SPF moisturiser to slow down skin ageing, so my level tends to be on the low side.

I take a curcumin tablet – it is a turmeric extract which has anti-inflammatory effects

Vitamin K2 is important for cardiovascular and bone health, and works in tandem with the D3. It is a hugely underrated vitamin in my opinion and a recent blood test showed my levels were low.

I also take a curcumin tablet – it is a turmeric extract which has anti-inflammatory effects and is also a strong antioxidant, as well as a rainbow trout oil to provide omega-3 fatty acids.

Recently I have started taking Dermacoll collagen supplement to trick my skin into boosting its own collagen production.

It’s a superior quality bovine collagen which is more similar to human collagen than marine types.

Finally, for gut health maintenance, I take OptiBac Extra Strength probiotics and drink Chuckling Goat kefir, a fermented milk drink, each morning.

Dr Rosemary Leonard MBE, GP and medical writer

The only supplement I take every day is 800IU of vitamin D, although I stop this in the summer months when I spend a lot of time gardening.

Otherwise I try to eat a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which is by far the best way of obtaining all the nutrients I need.

I’m aware that sometimes, especially when I’ve had a long busy day in the surgery, that my diet isn’t as good as it should be (Image: Getty Images)

I have oily fish (usually salmon) and also some red meat at least once a week.

However, I’m aware that sometimes, especially when I’ve had a long busy day in the surgery, that my diet isn’t as good as it should be, so the following day I take a balanced multivitamin and mineral supplement.

I certainly don’t take one every day though, as this would mean I would be having an excess of vitamin A, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Dr Stefanie Williams, medical doctor and specialist dermatologist at Eudelo

Genetic tests found I am predisposed to not converting B vitamins into the form the body can use, so I take a methylated B vitamin supplement which is a formulation which is more easily processed.

Being low on B vitamins can affect my mood and energy, and it also increases risk of certain diseases in the future.

Being low on B vitamins can affect my mood and energy

The same tests showed my vitamin D level is often low and I am less able to absorb it from food and sunshine.

I also have low iron levels, so I take that daily as well as a superfood supplement to make sure I have enough antioxidants.

Currently, I’m taking probiotics to help replenish my good gut bacteria as I’ve just finished a course of antibiotics for a tooth infection.

Dr Victoria Manning, aesthetic doctor

I’m one of these people that worries about everything.

I used to take beta blockers to help me calm down, but after I had an operation to remove a gallstone a friend recommended I try Zenflore to help me recover.

It’s a live culture probiotic with selected B vitamins which specifically target mood.

Treating the gut as a primary cause of health problems makes sense to me

I used to get palpitations but since I’ve been taking the probiotic the butterfly effect has calmed down and my sleep has also improved – previously I was waking up once or twice a night.

Now I just sleep straight through.

Treating the gut as a primary cause of health problems makes sense to me, so I take this daily now.

I also take a range of bio-identical hormones, a natural alternative to HRT, after blood tests revealed a hormonal imbalance.

In my capacity as a GP I’ve seen many women struggle with the menopause and HRT over the years so I wanted to find a different way to help them – and myself.

These are formulated specifically to suit the individual based on their blood test results and have made a big difference to my menopausal symptoms, tiredness, thinning skin and hair, weight gain and bone density.

Professor Angus Dalgleish, leading cancer specialist and Principal of the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy (ICVI)

Personally, I have been taking a daily anti-inflammatory for three decades. For years, I took aspirin on a daily basis to keep inflammation at bay.

Inflammation can aid and abet the development of cancer tumours and their spread around the body.

I take vitamin D3, which is the best form because it is bio available

It has been known for a long time that daily aspirin will reduce polyps developing into cancer by 50%.

Also, we know that those with inflammatory activity react far less efficiently to cancer treatment, so it is a good idea to stay on top of this.

Now I take 500mg of bromelain, an enzyme found in the core of pineapples, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and an excellent alternative to aspirin.

Currently, I also take vitamin D3, which is the best form because it is bio available, which means it’s absorbed very well by the body.

Other variants of vitamin D, for example, D2, are ineffective, which is why some early studies of the vitamin were negative.

Colombia’s ‘Madonna’ helps LGBTQ people fleeing Venezuela

Colombia's 'Madonna' helps LGBTQ people fleeing Venezuela

Seven Venezuelan sex workers currently live with Madonna Badillo [Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera]

Maicao, Colombia – Gusts of hot desert wind drift through the broken window, shattered by a stone, in the house that Madonna Badillo shares with seven Venezuelan sex workers.

Badillo fixed the window many times before but eventually gave up. Harassers have repeatedly hurled rocks at the home as an act of aggression against her and the transgendered people taking refuge here.

Since 2017, an estimated one million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia, leaving behind a crippling economic meltdown, political persecution and extreme medicine and food shortages.

But for the most vulnerable groups, such as the LGBTQ population, there are few allies in Colombia.

For that reason, Badillo, a 49-year-old trans woman, has opened the doors of her humble home near Colombia’s border with Venezuela.

Her service started two years ago, just as migration from Venezuela started to swell, when she noticed two young trans women, named Champagne and Nicole, marooned in the dusty streets of Maicao.

“No one wanted to rent them a room because there is a lot of discrimination towards our population,” says Badillo at her home. “They were so skinny. Because of the situation [in Venezuela], they go hungry.”

The two-bedroom home has only basic furnishing, a few electric fans, and a muddy backyard reeking of sewage. In the living room stands a life-size figurine of Jesus.

“My house isn’t a palace, but they are able to live freely and I don’t charge them for rent or anything, so they help out buying food and things,” she says.

“Because of what’s happening in Venezuela, and as our neighbour country and members of the LGBT community, I find myself wanting to help them and give them refuge.”

Born to a Venezuelan Wayuu mother and a Colombian Guna father, Badillo says her cross-border indigenous heritage motivates her to continue helping.

Badillo’s home bears the signs of her own struggle throughout the years. The broken window, a scar of repeated attacks, is only one.

“‘F***ots, get out of here’ – they shout things like that,” she says.

In a stack of newspaper clippings sit several hundred photos and articles of the American pop star Madonna Ciccone, whose moniker Badillo adopted three decades ago when she began her transition to a woman.

Badillo once had a vast collection of Madonna photos, LPs and cassettes, but they were destroyed when torrential rains flooded her home and ravaged Maicao around 30 years ago.

“She has been my alter ego since I was very young, during the 80s. I identify with her. She’s a chameleon,” Badillo says.

“When I present myself to people, I believe they are thinking: ‘Who’s that girl?” she says with a laugh, alluding to her favourite Madonna song.

For Badillo, growing up in Maicao came with a lot of obstacles as an “extremely prejudice and machista place”.

Badillo says she was the first openly trans woman in Maicao, and during the 1980s, she endured discrimination, harassment and violence at the hands of intolerant townspeople.

“There are a lot of people from the LGBT population crossing over who don’t feel secure and they confide in me,” she says. “I tell them to take care of themselves here because there’s a lot of homophobia.”

Wilson Castaneda, director of Caribe Afirmativo, a leading Colombian LGBT rights group working in the Caribbean region, says that despite the challenges Badillo faced, she “created her trans identity with dignity and made a place for herself”.

“It was difficult and she faced a lot of insult and negativity, but she persisted; because she didn’t want to leave her hometown,” Castaneda says.

Colombia Diversa, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group, says attacks against LGBTQ people, especially trans women, are reaching worrying levels.

The most recent statistics, from the end of 2017, show that over 109 members of the LGBT population in Colombia were murdered that year. Of that total, trans women accounted for 36.

Some of those Badillo takes in are living with HIV/AIDS and facing death because of the lack of antiretroviral medication in Venezuela. The migrants, like hundreds of thousands of the Venezuelans who have fled, often arrive in Colombia with little money and possessions.

Isabella Ferrer is a 19-year-old trans sex worker and beautician who fled the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo. She says she knew many people who were unable to get access to antiretroviral medication.

“She was like this,” Ferrer recalls, holding up her finger to describe how skinny her Venezuelan sex worker colleague had become.

“She died. It was impossible to get the medicine. She was about the same age as Madonna [Badillo],” she explains.

Ferrer, who learned of Badillo from a news segment on television, has lived here for two months. “I saw Madonna on TV. She was being interviewed, so it was a complete coincidence,” Ferrer says.

“After that, I spotted her outside. I saw her during the day walking down a street and I asked her, ‘Are you the Madonna that was on TV?'”

Since then Badillo has shared her home with her – one of roughly 25 Badillo estimates have come and gone over the past two years.

“She’s fabulous. I love her personality. Although, if you get on the wrong side of her, she’ll tell it how it is. She doesn’t mince her words,” Ferrer says while straightening her blonde wig before a night of work.

Badillo herself, who has never been a sex worker but a stylist and beauty product saleswoman, was diagnosed with HIV more than 25 years ago and blames her own promiscuity as a young woman. She has also been battling cancer since two years ago and now lives with a colostomy bag.

“I faced lots of discrimination because there’s a lot of stigma around the illness, even nowadays there are people who don’t understand,” she explains

“I’ve had clients who’ve left me because they think that when I pluck their eyebrows they’re going to catch it, or even just by touching them.”

Although hard data on the issue is scarce, Caribe Afirmativo says many Venezuelan migrants living with the disease have gone without medication and cross over to Colombia. They arrive in areas with poor HIV care, even for Colombians. People have to wait a long time to get assessments for medicine and it often leads to AIDS.

“Last year, in Barranquilla, eight gay Venezuelan men died of AIDS while waiting to be assessed to get their medicine,” Castaneda says.

“One thing that happens is that many Venezuelans who arrive can’t find formal employment and end up in sex work. Some of them use protection, some don’t, and this has caused a rise in the virus and a greater risk to Venezuelan people living in this situation,” he adds.

Another problem stems from the undocumented status of many Venezuelan migrants. Worried of possible deportation at health centres, many do not attend medical checks.

“We can say that the situation of Venezuelans living with HIV in Colombia is a humanitarian crisis and we need to see an immediate response by the government,” Castaneda says.

In recent years, Castaneda and many NGOs have invited Badillo to speak about HIV/AIDS prevention at schools in Maicao and elsewhere in Colombia.

Badillo says she has endured discrimination and violence over the years [Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera]

Badillo also takes her migrant guests to a local LGBTQ safe house, Caza de Paz, where they can obtain medical tests free of cost.

“Thank God, I have been able to live with this illness,” Badillo says. “I’ve been on national radio, TV and in newspapers and I go and speak at schools about HIV. I am also very involved with spreading this message within my own community.”

Although she recognises the hardships she’s endured, Badillo insists that trans women ought to be proud and determined in their quest for equity and equality.

“We may be ‘different’ to other people,” she concludes, “but we still have the same rights as anyone else.”

Google and Verily using AI to screen patients for diabetic eye conditions

Google and Verily using AI to screen patients for diabetic eye conditions

Google and Verily’s algorithm in use at the Aravind Eye Hospital in India. Verily

and Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences arm, are using machine learning to screen for diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME), two eye conditions that can lead to blindness. The goal is to enable automated screening that can detect disease sooner and provide more people with access to screenings.

Verily, part of Alphabet, has been working with the search giant to conduct clinical research around the world and particularly in India, where studies showed the algorithm was as good at assessing images for disease as general ophthalmologists and retinal specialists, according to a Monday from the companies. The results of the research led to the “first real world clinical use of the algorithm” at Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India, this year, the companies said.

The algorithm received the , certifying that it’s met safety, health, and environmental protection requirements in the European Union, according to the post.

In India, several cases of DR are undiagnosed because of a shortage of more than 100,000 eye doctors and a lack of screening for 66 million diabetics, the companies said. Machine learning could help more people get appropriate screenings, according to Dr. R. Kim, chief medical officer and chief of retina services at Aravind Eye Hospital.

“By integrating Verily and Google’s retinal diagnostic program into our screening process, we can improve our efficiency, giving physicians like myself more time to work closely with patients on treatment and management of their disease while increasing the volume of screenings we can perform,” Dr. Kim said in a statement.

At Aravind Eye Hospital, technicians take an image of each eye, and the algorithm then assesses the image for DR and DME. The technicians get quick feedback to determine whether a patient needs to be referred to a doctor.

Aravind’s vision centers provide care to remote and rural parts of India. Verily and Google said they believe their algorithm could help in other parts of the world with a shortage of eye doctors and a growing number of people with diabetes. The companies also recently began a study with Rajavithi Hospital in Thailand to examine the algorithm’s impact in a national DR screening program. In addition, they’re working with Nikon and its subsidiary Optos to find other areas where machine learning tools that screen for diabetic eye disease could be helpful.

Verily was previously working on smart contact lenses embedded with sensors that could potentially help diabetics monitor their glucose levels, but put that project on hold in November.

Great white shark’s genetic healing powers decoded: We now know more about how they heal so rapidly and, potentially, how they stave off cancer.

Watch T-cells kill cancer cells: Genetically modified T-cells are targeting cancer cells thanks to a groundbreaking discovery.

Govt giving special emphasis to tourism sector: Manipur CM

Govt giving special emphasis to tourism sector: Manipur CM

N Biren Singh

Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh on Monday told the State assembly that steps have been taken to implement Manipur Tourism Policy for promotion and development of tourism in the state.

Addressing the ongoing budget session, the chief minister pointed out various steps taken by the government which includes promotion of tourism through state and other local festivals, and showcasing state’s products to stakeholders at domestic and international events.

“Steps are also taken up for the promotion and publicity in metro cities to educate potential visitors about our destinations. Infrastructure development projects funded by ministry of tourism, ministry of DoNER and NEC through state plan are also under process,” he said.

To encourage visitors into the state, various steps towards improving connectivity have also been taken up. Helicopter services have also been introduced besides increasing the flight frequency, he said.

Expressing satisfaction over the increasing number of domestic and international tourists in the state during the past few years, Singh said that to increase awareness of the tourist destinations and to develop the required infrastructures, works were in progress under Swadesh Darshan and North East Tourist Circuit.

The chief minister added that the state government was committed to conserve the natural beauty of Loktak Lake to attract tourists.

He said, “Loktak Heritage Park will be developed to facilitate visitors to experience the natural and scenic beauty of the Lake.”

To raise awareness on the importance of Shirui Lily, the state government is planning to upgrade Sirui Lily Festival to national and international levels.

He further informed the house that a total of Rs 4171.14 lakh has been allocated in the revised estimate of 2018-19, out of which Rs 3703.14 lakh has been earmarked for development of tourism infrastructure, organising state festivals and promotion of tourism in the state.

50% of Rare Disease Patients are children

50% of Rare Disease Patients are children

‘Race For 7’ run to raise awareness for rare disease patients in Mumbai

‘Race For 7’, an initiative championed by the Organization for Rare Diseases India (ORDI), was organized in Mumbai to raise awareness for rare disease patients, 50% of whom are children. The race for 7, a first of its kind event for rare diseases in the world, symbolically represents 7000 rare diseases with 7000 people running for 7 kilometers to represent the average number of years it takes to diagnose a rare disease.

Although an estimated 1 in 20 Indians suffers from a rare disease, lack of awareness and information has created several challenges for patients and their caregivers, resulting in most importantly delayed diagnosis, decided lack of affordable and targeted care and treatment and access for the patients. Besides members of the general public, several rare disease patients and their families participated in ‘Race for 7’ to draw attention to the challenges faced by rare disease patients, especially children, and the urgency for governments and other institutions to recognize their unique needs and create enabling policies and a more supportive environment for them.

‘Race for 7’ is held in February to commemorate World Rare Disease Day which falls on the last day of February. The theme for Rare Disease Day 2019 is ‘Bridging health and social care’, focusing on the need to better coordinate all aspects of care to improve the lives of people living with a rare disease. What started as an awareness walk to commemorate World Rare Disease Day in February 2016 has now grown into a significant campaign, conducted simultaneously in multiple cities and two countries – India and the USA.

Prasanna Shirol, Founder Director, ORDI, and a father of a rare disease patient, said “50% of all rare disease patients are children. This is a fact not many are aware of and supports our urgency of spreading awareness about rare diseases. In fact, 1 in every 20 Indians, is a rare disease patient. Besides lack of access to early intervention and treatment because of the lack of widespread awareness about rare diseases, the cost of treatment where available is often prohibitively expensive. Therefore, we urgently need national and state policies that address the unique requirements of the rare disease community and enable them to lead lives of dignity and self-worth. We also need institutions like corporates and schools and colleges to create a more inclusive environment for rare disease patients.”

“IQVIA is delighted to be associated for the fourth consecutive year as the main sponsor of Race for 7, an event that has been growing in stature and impact. While rare diseases, by virtue of their definition, affect the relatively fewer number of patients, the overall number of rare disease patients is large enough to warrant more focused attention. We hope that the public will come forward in large numbers to participate in Race for 7 and help amplify the voice of the rare disease community. The race for 7 is a unique way of engaging the community with those who matter most –patients and their caregivers – for a common cause,” said Amit Mookim, Managing Director, IQVIA – South Asia. Rare Disease is a key therapeutic focus for IQVIA who has provided clinical services for more than 258 rare disease studies in 87 countries worldwide since 2011.

Prasanna stressed on the importance of having a rare disease policy and an Orphan drug Policy for holistic management of Rare Diseases for patients, in absence of any health care policy or insurance coverage and to support the Industry to develop newer drugs and research respectively.

Eating more sweet reduces memory, risks of many diseases: research

Eating more sweet reduces memory, risks of many diseases: research

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As soon as the name of Gulab Jamun, dessert, chocolate and donuts is heard, water comes in the mouth. Sweet food almost everyone likes. But do you know that by eating too much your memory can weaken your memory and you may be affected by brain disorders. According to the recent research, more sweet food than a limit affects your memory badly. This is in the study of Berlin’s Berlin-based ‘Charity University’ study.

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Why the effect of sweet things on the brain?

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Actually when you eat more sweet, then the amount of sugar in your blood (blood) increases. Due to the sugar in the blood, it causes obstruction of the brain and weakens the nerves. If you have a habit of eating more sweet daily, then your brain gets damaged in the long run, the first effect of which affects your memory.

Forgot the words and numbers after 30 minutes

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Lowering the level of blood sugar, the brain is able to do its job well, which does not create a problem of forgetting. Researchers have concluded a study of nearly 150 people, who were around 63 years old. None of these participants had diabetes diagnosis. First of all, the researchers examined the level of glucose in the participants, as well as scanning their brain, also shaping the ‘hippocampus’. ‘Hippocampus’ is a part of the brain, which is considered responsible for memory. After this the participants’ test was tested. During this time, some words were given to him and he was asked to repeat it after 30 minutes. Those who had low blood sugars, they performed better in the test. Those who had high glucose compared to this, remember fewer words.

Reducing blood sugar decreases the risk

According to the chief researcher Dr. Agnest Floyle, “Even if normal blood sugars try to reduce the levels of their sugar, it proves beneficial for their treatment. At a young age, they do not have diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Memory is affected even without diabetes.

“We know that alzheimer’s risk is caused by type 2 diabetes,” explains Dr. Claire Walton, Alzheimer’s Society’s Research Communications Manager. But this study indicates that even if there is no diabetes, blood sugar may be responsible for cure problems. To keep this under control, balanced eating and exercise can prove to be helpful.

Could pregnancy hold the key to curing MS?

Could pregnancy hold the key to curing MS?

When Nicola Andrews became pregnant with her son Alexander, she experienced an easing in her symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

When Nicola Andrews became pregnant in 2017, she was surprised to discover that she felt better than she had in years. Although she suffered from severe morning sickness, her other health problems – the overwhelming fatigue, blurred vision and weird tingling sensations in her limbs, which had blighted her daily life before pregnancy – entirely vanished.

Nicola, 33, a membership services officer for a children’s charity, from Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, has Multiple Sclerosis – a neurological disease in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, causing symptoms including pain, spasms and problems with mobility, balance and vision.

What she experienced during pregnancy – an easing, or cessation, of her symptoms – is not unusual. In fact, it’s common; for many women pregnancy puts MS into remission. Studies have shown that, in the third trimester, there is around an 80 per cent decrease in MS relapses.

While scientists have long known that pregnancy dampens down the immune system, so a woman’s body doesn’t reject the baby as a foreign object, and that this can alleviate the symptoms of several auto-immune conditions, such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis, nobody has yet discovered how or why.

Now, for the first time, an MS Society-funded study at Oxford University will attempt to find some answers and harness the power of pregnancy in order to develop new and better treatments.

“In MS, immune cells attack the brain and spinal cord,” explains immunologist Professor Lars Fugger, who is leading the project at the Oxford Centre for Neuroinflammation.

“Many of the current drugs offered to patients are designed to suppress the immune system, but they often have serious side effects and patients can catch infections. During pregnancy, women with MS find that their disease is reduced, even after stopping their medications, which suggests that their bodies are capable of suppressing disease directly – and that happens without side effects,” he says.

“We want to identify what specifically drives this reduced disease. Once we have identified these targets, we hope to be able to either design new drugs or to re-purpose drugs already used for other diseases, which may offer protection with fewer side effects.”

The Oxford University team also wants to gain more general knowledge about pregnancy and MS, as women are often diagnosed at the time in life when they want to start a family.

“Although symptoms of MS are frequently reduced during pregnancy, patients often suffer relapses following birth. The combination of a new baby and a major relapse is a very difficult situation, and it is important that we understand why this happens, so that we can not only inform patients of the risks involved but also design treatment strategies which could help prevent this,” adds Prof Fugger.

His research, he explains, will isolate the cells of the immune system and examine them at a single cell level in order to identify the gene expression – the mechanisms – by which the immune system modulates disease during pregnancy. Samples have already been collected from a cohort of female MS patients and from healthy control subjects, who donated blood before pregnancy, in each trimester and after giving birth.

“Previous studies have grouped the cells into generic populations, which has missed many important subtleties. We will examine each cell independently, which will allow us to see all the small and yet potentially critical changes which occur at an individual level.”

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, says she has heard stories of women who were, in the past, advised not to have children for fear of making their condition worse. “We now know that there’s no long-term impact on MS from pregnancy, or impact on its trajectory, so women shouldn’t worry about that,” she insists.

Nicola was diagnosed with MS in December 2014 – four months before her wedding to husband Robert – following symptoms including optic neuritis (blurred vision), a numb face, and pins and needles in her legs. She was devastated and worried about whether it was safe to have children. “I was scared,” she recalls.

“There isn’t a lot of information out there. But other women, my neurologist and MS nurse reassured me. The main complication was that I had to come off my medication three months before conceiving, as techfidera [a disease modifying drug for relapsing-remitting MS] can’t be taken during pregnancy. That rather took the spontaneity out of it. Fortunately, I got pregnant straight way.”

The improvement to her MS symptoms was impossible to ignore: “I felt so much better. Yes, I was tired in pregnancy, like everyone, but I no longer had the MS fatigue, which is like having concrete blocks strapped to your feet while you try to walk. You can’t think, or move, or talk. Pregnancy tiredness is relieved by a good sleep; fatigue isn’t.”

One theory is that pregnancy’s protective effect might have something to do with the way the particular balance of female hormones changes the way immune system cells behave – although there is not yet any conclusive evidence of this, and Professor Fugger won’t speculate. “We simply don’t know,” he says. We are doing this research in a hypothesis-free, agnostic way. There is no evidence that it’s sex hormone specific.”

Whatever the academics uncover, it certainly won’t be as simple as prescribing oestrogen and progesterone to MS patients and expecting an improvement. What little research that has been done in this area has not found a protective effect from either the contraceptive Pill or HRT, or a significant menopausal impact. But we do know that relapsing-remitting MS now affects three times as many women as men – again, doctors aren’t sure why.

Professor Fugger’s team hope that their research can be used to develop treatments for men as well as women, and for other auto-immune diseases, too. “Similar regulation of disease is also observed in pregnancy in rheumatoid arthritis, uveitis, and psoriasis, suggesting there are pathways common to multiple autoimmune diseases. So, finding treatments which regulate disease in MS patients may have a far wider application,” he says.

Credit: Alan Lewis-Photopress Belfast

The MS Society believes that with research, MS can be stopped. They’re working with autoimmune charities, JDRS (the type 1 diabetes charity) and Versus Arthritis, to understand the common mechanisms of these conditions – and hopefully develop prevention strategies.

Nicola has not had a relapse since son Alexander, now four-and-a-half months old, was born – although she says her fatigue has flared up a little. She is now back on medication, which means she can’t breastfeed. But an MRI scan performed a month after she gave birth revealed no active lesions on her brain or spinal cord, proving conclusively that pregnancy had put her MS into remission.

“Every MRI I’ve had before showed new lesions and new disease activity, even while I was taking my drug,” she says. “So this was amazing. I know not all women are so well when they’re pregnant, but I definitely think there’s something in a treatment based on its protective effects. I’d like to have another baby, and I don’t want to leave it too long in case my MS gets worse, but not yet. Having a child when you have MS is always a big decision.”

For more information, visit mssociety.org.uk

High blood pressure: Could you have hypertension? See a GP if you have these symptoms

According to the NHS, over one in four UK adults have high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. However, many of these people will be unaware they have it. It’s vital to know if you have high blood pressure or not, as it can lead to serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes. In order to determine how healthy your blood pressure is, you can get it checked at your GP surgery and in some pharmacies. It’s also possible to buy a blood pressure monitor for home use, while some workplaces also offer blood pressure checking services.

The NHS advises all adults over the age of 40 get their blood pressure checked at least every five years.

“Getting this done is easy and could save your life,” said the NHS.The reason many people don’t know they have high blood pressure is because it rarely has symptoms. This is why it’s important to regularly check it.

However, in some cases, when blood pressure is extremely high, some symptoms can start to appear. This is known as malignant hypertension, or a hypertensive crisis.

Malignant hypertension happens when blood pressure spikes suddenly and extremely, and is considered to be a medical emergency.

High blood pressure: Could you have hypertension? See a GP if you have these symptoms

High blood pressure rarely has noticeable symptoms (Image: Getty Images)

If this happens, it can cause symptoms including severe headaches, vision problems, chest pain and nosebleeds.

It’s possible to prevent malignant hypertension from occurring by checking blood pressure and keeping it under control if it is high.

It develops rapidly and is often a result of high blood pressure not being controlled properly.

According to the NHS, normal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher. Malignant hypertension is considered to be 180/120mmHg or higher.

The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked (Image: Getty Images)

Malignant hypertension can cause symptoms such as severe headaches (Image: Getty Images)

“If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes,” said the NHS.

“Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions.”

According to the NHS, even reducing high blood pressure by a small amount can help lower the risk of health complications, so it’s vital to know your reading.

High blood pressure can be lowered by making healthy lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet, drinking less alcohol and getting more exercise.

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to keep high blood pressure under control.

High blood pressure: Four ways to lower blood pressure

High blood pressure puts extra stress on blood vessels and vital organs. It increases the risk of some life-threatening heart conditions, including heart attacks and strokes.

Hypertension can often be prevented, and blood pressure reduced, by making some diet or lifestyle changes.

Healthy diet

Cutting back on the amount of salt in your diet is a great way to lower blood pressure.

Salt raises blood pressure, and the more you eat, the higher your blood pressure is likely to be.

Aim to eat less than 6g of salt a day – the equivalent to about a teaspoonful.

Alcohol

Blood pressure could be raised if you regularly drink too much alcohol.

Those most likely to have hypertension are people that regularly exceed the week recommended limits.

All adults are advised to drink less than 15 units of alcohol in a single week.

Weight loss

If you’re overweight, the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body, which raises blood pressure.

Losing just a few pounds could make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health.

Exercise

Staying active is one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure.

It helps you to lose weight, while also keeping the heart and blood vessels in good condition.

All adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week.

5 most common early signs of cancer

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Signs and symptoms are both signals of injury, illness, disease – signals that something is not right in the body.

The following is a list of 5 most common signs of cancer.

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1. Unusual bleeding or discharge

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Unusual bleeding can happen in early or advanced cancer. Coughing up blood may be a sign of lung cancer. Blood in the stool (which can look like very dark or black stool) could be a sign of colon or rectal cancer.

2. Unexplained, significant weight loss

One of the most common presenting complaints in people with cancer is unexplained weight loss. Some people report suddenly dropping two to three clothes sizes.

3. Excessive tiredness

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This can be due to higher metabolic demands on the body because of the high energy requirements of cancerous cells. Tiredness that does not get better with rest is a reason for concern. Some cancers may cause blood loss (like gastrointestinal tract cancers) which can also cause tiredness.

4. Cough that doesn’t go away

A cold or the flu can make you hack away, but it’s also a potential symptom of lung cancer, along with red flags like chest pain, weight loss, hoarseness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. See your doctor if you can’t seem to shake it, especially if you’re a smoker.

5. Skin changes

A telltale sign of skin cancer is a growth that starts to look different or a sore that doesn’t heal.

Source: http://www.webmd.com