Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia. Dementia is a broader term for conditions caused by brain injuries or diseases that negatively affect memory, thinking, and behavior. These changes interfere with daily living.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age 65. If it’s diagnosed before then, it’s generally referred to as early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease. Learn more about the basics of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s facts

Although many people have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, some aren’t sure exactly what it is. Here are some facts about this condition:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic ongoing condition.
  • Its symptoms come on gradually and the effects on the brain are degenerative, meaning they cause slow decline.
  • There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s but treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve quality of life.
  • Anyone can get Alzheimer’s disease but certain people are at higher risk for it. This includes people over age 65 and those with a family history of the condition.
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t the same thing. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia.
  • There’s no single expected outcome for people with Alzheimer’s. Some people live a long time with mild cognitive damage, while others experience a more rapid onset of symptoms and quicker disease progression.

Each person’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease is different. Find out more details about how Alzheimer’s can affect people.

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s

The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, these two conditions aren’t the same. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia.

Dementia is a broader term for conditions with symptoms relating to memory loss such as forgetfulness and confusion. Dementia includes more specific conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and others, which can cause these symptoms.

Causes, symptoms, and treatments can be different for these diseases. Learn more about how dementia and Alzheimer’s disease differ.

Alzheimer’s disease causes and risk factors

Experts haven’t determined a single cause of Alzheimer’s disease but they have identified certain risk factors, including:

  • Age. Most people who develop Alzheimer’s disease are 65 years of age or older.
  • Family history. If you have an immediate family member who has developed the condition, you’re more likely to get it.
  • Genetics. Certain genes have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Having one or more of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s disease. It simply raises your risk level.

To learn more about your personal risk of developing the condition, talk with your doctor. 

Alzheimer’s and genetics

While there’s no one identifiable cause of Alzheimer’s, genetics may play a key role. One gene in particular is of interest to researchers. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is a gene that’s been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms in older adults.

Blood tests can determine if you have this gene, which increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Keep in mind that even if someone has this gene, they may not get Alzheimer’s.

The opposite is also true: Someone may still get Alzheimer’s even if they don’t have the gene. There’s no way to tell for sure whether someone will develop Alzheimer’s.

Other genes could also increase risk of Alzheimer’s and early onset Alzheimer’s.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Everyone has episodes of forgetfulness from time to time. But people with Alzheimer’s disease display certain ongoing behaviors and symptoms that worsen over time. These can include:

  • memory loss affecting daily activities, such as an ability to keep appointments
  • trouble with familiar tasks, such as using a microwave
  • difficulties with problem-solving
  • trouble with speech or writing
  • becoming disoriented about times or places
  • decreased judgment
  • decreased personal hygiene
  • mood and personality changes
  • withdrawal from friends, family, and community

Symptoms change according to the stage of the disease. 

Alzheimer’s stages

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms will gradually worsen over time. Alzheimer’s is broken down into seven stages:

  • Stage 1. There are no symptoms at this stage but there might be an early diagnosis based on family history.
  • Stage 2. The earliest symptoms appear, such as forgetfulness.
  • Stage 3. Mild physical and mental impairments appear, such as reduced memory and concentration. These may only be noticeable by someone very close to the person.
  • Stage 4. Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at this stage, but it’s still considered mild. Memory loss and the inability to perform everyday tasks is evident.
  • Stage 5. Moderate to severe symptoms require help from loved ones or caregivers.
  • Stage 6. At this stage, a person with Alzheimer’s may need help with basic tasks, such as eating and putting on clothes.
  • Stage 7. This is the most severe and final stage of Alzheimer’s. There may be a loss of speech and facial expressions.

As a person progresses through these stages, they’ll need increasing support from a caregiver. 

Early onset Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s typically affects people ages 65 years and older. However, it can occur in people as early as their 40s or 50s. This is called early onset, or younger onset, Alzheimer’s. This type of Alzheimer’s affects about 5 percent of all people with the condition.

Symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s can include mild memory loss and trouble concentrating or finishing everyday tasks. It can be hard to find the right words, and you may lose track of time. Mild vision problems, such as trouble telling distances, can also occur.

Certain people are at greater risk of developing this condition. 

The only definitive way to diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s disease is to examine their brain tissue after death. But your doctor can use other examinations and tests to assess your mental abilities, diagnose dementia, and rule out other conditions.

They’ll likely start by taking a medical history. They may ask about your:

  • symptoms
  • family medical history
  • other current or past health conditions
  • current or past medications
  • diet, alcohol intake, or other lifestyle habits

From there, your doctor will likely do several tests to help determine if you have Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s tests

There’s no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor will likely do several tests to determine your diagnosis. These can be mental, physical, neurological, and imaging tests.

Your doctor may start with a mental status test. This can help them assess your short-term memory, long-term memory, and orientation to place and time. For example, they may ask you:

  • what day it is
  • who the president is
  • to remember and recall a short list of words

Next, they’ll likely conduct a physical exam. For example, they may check your blood pressure, assess your heart rate, and take your temperature. In some cases, they may collect urine or blood samples for testing in a laboratory.

Your doctor may also conduct a neurological exam to rule out other possible diagnoses, such as an acute medical issue, such as infection or stroke. During this exam, they will check your reflexes, muscle tone, and speech.

Your doctor may also order brain-imaging studies. These studies, which will create pictures of your brain, can include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs can help pick up key markers, such as inflammation, bleeding, and structural issues.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans take X-ray images which can help your doctor look for abnormal characteristics in your brain.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET scan images can help your doctor detect plaque buildup. Plaque is a protein substance related to Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Other tests your doctor may do include blood tests to check for genes that may indicate you have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Alzheimer’s medication

There’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor can recommend medications and other treatments to help ease your symptoms and delay the progression of the disease for as long as possible.

For early to moderate Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe medications such as donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon). These drugs can help maintain high levels of acetylcholine in your brain. This is a type of neurotransmitter that can help aid your memory.

To treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe donepezil (Aricept) or memantine (Namenda). Memantine can help block the effects of excess glutamate. Glutamate is a brain chemical that’s released in higher amounts in Alzheimer’s disease and damages brain cells.

Your doctor may also recommend antidepressants, antianxiety medications, or antipsychotics to help treat symptoms related to Alzheimer’s. These symptoms include:

  • depression
  • restlessness
  • aggression
  • agitation
  • hallucinations

Other Alzheimer’s treatments

In addition to medication, lifestyle changes may help you manage your condition. For example, your doctor might develop strategies to help you or your loved one:

  • focus on tasks
  • limit confusion
  • avoid confrontation
  • get enough rest every day
  • stay calm

Some people believe that vitamin E can help prevent decline in mental abilities, but studies indicate that more research is needed. Be sure to ask your doctor before taking vitamin E or any other supplements. It can interfere with some of the medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to lifestyle changes, there are several alternative options you can ask your doctor about. 

Preventing Alzheimer’s

Just as there’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are no foolproof preventive measures. However, researchers are focusing on overall healthy lifestyle habits as ways of preventing cognitive decline.

The following measures may help:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try cognitive training exercises.
  • Eat a plant-based diet.
  • Consume more antioxidants.
  • Maintain an active social life.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before making any big changes in your lifestyle.

Alzheimer’s care

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you may consider becoming a caregiver. This is a full-time job that’s typically not easy but can be very rewarding.

Being a caregiver takes many skills. These include patience perhaps above all, as well as creativity, stamina, and the ability to see joy in the role of helping someone you care about live the most comfortable life they can.

As a caregiver, it’s important to take care of yourself as well as your loved one. With the responsibilities of the role can come an increased risk of stress, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.

If you choose to assume the role of caregiver, you may need to enlist the help of professional caregivers as well as family members to help. 

The statistics surrounding Alzheimer’s disease are daunting.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s is the sixth most common cause of death among U.S. adults. It ranks fifth among causes of death for people 65 years and older.
  • A study found that 4.7 million Americans over the age of 65 years had Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Those researchers projected that by 2050, there will be 13.8 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.
  • The CDC estimates that over 90 percent of people with Alzheimer’s don’t see any symptoms until they’re over 60 years old.
  • Alzheimer’s is an expensive disease. According to the CDC, about $259 billion was spent on Alzheimer’s and dementia care costs in the United States in 2017.

The takeaway

Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease in which there are many unknowns. What is known is that the condition worsens over time, but treatment can help delay symptoms and improve your quality of life.

If you think you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s, your first step is to talk with your doctor. They can help make a diagnosis, discuss what you can expect, and help connect you with services and support. If you’re interested, they can also give you information about taking part in clinical trials.

senior man with headache

All Sweetened Drinks Can Raise Heart Disease Risk

Some sweetened beverages can have more sugar than a 12-ounce can of Coca Cola. 

It’s not news that too much sugar isn’t good for you.

Indeed, soda, candy, and sticky-sweet confections can take a toll on your waistline, not to mention your teeth.Now, the specific connection between diseases and sugary beverages, such as soda, sports drinks, and sweetened coffee beverages, is clearer.

Earlier this month, the journal of the American Heart Association released findings that show people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and some cancers.No matter what drink you take, excessive consumption [of sugar] is a problem. High overall sugar intake from any drink like coffee with sugar or juices can lead to problems. Higher consumption of sugar leads to increased incidence of weight gain and diabetes, which in turn leads to increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.This study joins previous research that points to the relationship between a high-sugar diet and negative heart health outcomes.However, in this one, the authors controlled for other dietary factors, physical activity, and body mass index, items that could be independently linked with sugar-sweetened beverages.The results still pointed to the damaging effects sugary beverages may have, regardless of other possible cardiovascular risk factors.

Sugar replacements are risky, too

A secondary finding of the Circulation study suggests people who replace one sugary drink per day with an artificially-sweetened drink (such as a diet soda) have a slightly lower risk of death.However, if a woman drinks four or more artificially-sweetened drinks per day, she has a higher risk of death.Low-calorie drinks, while containing less sugar, also carry an increased risk. 

What beverages are not OK?

Soda is the poster star of sugar problems, but Americans are actually drinking fewer sugary drinks like soda today than any time in the past decade.

Yet, 1 in 10 people still get more than a quarter of their daily calories from sugar.

That’s not all coming from soda.

A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola Classic has 39 grams of sugar. You may be unlikely to reach for the syrupy soda after a workout, but the Gatorade you down on your way out the door has 34 grams.

Feeling a little sluggish in the afternoon? Instead of a 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi (69 grams), you may take a quick jaunt down to Starbucks for a Grande Mocha Frappuccino (skim milk and no whip, please), which has —are you ready? —59 grams of sugar. Even the extra 500 steps won’t burn off that sugar crush.

Are you stocking sugary “smoothies” in your fridge, sipping them on your commute to the office, as a way to get more fruit into your diet? A 15.2-ounce bottle promises apples, bananas, blueberries, and blackberries — all while delivering 55 grams of sugar.

Does fruit provide a bit of a health halo for that much sugar? 

“Any liquid source of sugar, even if it is a naturally occurring form that is in a concentrate, will have the same impact,” she told Healthline. “The blood sugar and insulin levels still spike and fall with all of these options. You can dress up a drink with over 10 grams of sugar any way you like, but in the end, it’s still just sugar.”

More than 60 different names for sugar could be listed on an ingredient label.

Fruit juice concentrate seems natural, but it’s a form of sugar. Brown rice syrup? That’s sugar. Beets are healthy, so what about beet sugar? Still sugar.

If, however, you’re not keen to memorize five dozen random words, keep this rule in mind: water is best.

How to quit sugar for good

Drinking water in place of sugary drinks is a healthy choice that could contribute to longevity. Diet soda may be used to help frequent consumers of sugary drinks cut back their consumption, but water is the best and healthiest choice.

To get your daily sugar consumption down, it’s important to understand what you’re actually eating in a day. A food diary can help.

Whether you record your food in a smartphone app or hand-write everything in a notebook, jotting down what you typically eat for several weeks will give you an idea of what you’re taking in and how much, if any, you need to cut to reach recommended guidelines.Per the American Heart Association, men should consume no more than nine teaspoons or 36 grams of added sugar a day, and women no more than six teaspoons or 25 grams of added sugar per day. To put this in perspective, one 12-ounce can of regular soda has eight teaspoons of sugar.

From there, the process of cutting back begins. Ask what you can reasonably get rid of. If cravings occur… you can look toward fresh fruit like berries or apples. If cola is your big thing, start there, and try a cold turkey approach, not replacing a regular soda with a diet option.It’s not an easy task. Research shows sugar has qualities that may cause an addiction, and your body will call out for it.

Part of your goals must involve support from family and friends and an environment in which sugar is not easily accessible. If this is too tough to do, then consider simply slashing all foods from your diet that have more than four grams of added sugar per serving.New regulations from the Food and Drug Administration require food manufacturers to list added sugar on food labels, beginning in 2020. This will make identifying surprising sources of sugar easier.

What diet is best for older adults?

A new study has revealed that a diet rich in protein and low in calories can help older adults with obesity lose more weight while maintaining muscle mass and improving bone density.

Older adults often lose bone density and muscle mass when they concentrate on shedding weight.

This unwanted bone and muscle loss can result in mobility issues and can even increase a person’s risk of injury.

A recent study, which Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, is the lead on, has shown that a high-protein, low-calorie diet can help adults avoid these problems.

Several peer-reviewed journals, which include Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have accepted four research papers from the study for publication.

The researchers randomly selected 96 adults over 65 years of age and assigned them to one of two groups.

They put the first group on a 6-month, low-calorie meal plan that was also high in protein — more than 1 gram (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. They assigned the other group to a weight-maintenance plan that included 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight.

High-protein, low-calorie

Those in the high-protein, low-calorie diet group experienced the most weight loss, but more revealing was that those in this group maintained their muscle mass. They also lost weight on the stomach, hips, thighs, and rear, which can decrease the risk of certain medical conditions, including diabetes and stroke.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the participants in the high-protein group improved their bone quality, and they gained 0.75 points on their Health Aging Index scores, involving longevity and mortality biomarkers.

Consequently, the study asked those in the weight-loss group to use four meal replacements every day and to prepare two meals of lean protein and vegetables each day. The team allowed each participant one healthy snack per day to wrap up a low-calorie, high-protein meal plan. Those in the other group were instructed to maintain their regular diet and usual activities.

Older adults have unique nutritional needs and may need to make changes to their diets as the years go by. Muscle mass can decrease as a natural part of aging, and people do not burn calories at the same rate as they do during their younger years.

Targeting nutrient-dense foods is essential for older adults, and avoidance of high-calorie foods that lack vital nutrients is crucial.

Beneficial foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes, and low-fat dairy. Portion control may also be necessary — for older adults especially — as people may eat more food than they need.

It can be challenging to cook for a smaller family, so experts sometimes suggest cooking ahead and freezing portions to eat later when cooking is less appealing.

The particulars of this latest study seem to mirror the nutritional needs of older adults. However, the authors suggest that the addition of more protein may be the key to avoiding some of the unhealthful pitfalls that can take place when an older adult loses weight.

This study suggests that a diet high in protein and low in calories can give seniors the health benefits of weight loss while keeping the muscle and bone they need for better quality of life as they age.

Interaction between immunity and gut bacteria influences aging

A mechanism that links the immune system, gut bacteria, and aging has come to light in recent research.

An imbalance in the gut bacteria may be what drives aging.

Immune system dysfunction can disrupt gut bacteria in ways that promote aging-related changes in the body, claim scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

A study paper in the journal Immunity details how the scientists used genetically-altered fruit flies to reach their conclusions.

They introduced a dysfunction in the fly’s immune system by switching off a gene. This led to an imbalance in gut bacteria, or microbiota, that produced an excess of lactic acid.

The excess lactic acid generated chemicals called reactive oxygen species that can damage cells and have links to aging-related changes in organs and tissues.

Need to understand commensal dysbiosis

The guts of nearly all animals are home to large colonies of bacteria and other microorganisms that are collectively known as commensal microbes.

There is increasing evidence that commensal microbes influence the immune system and other functions in the body and live in balance with them.

Disruption to this balanced co-existence is known as commensal dysbiosis and can occur for various reasons, such as illness and use of medication.

Studies have also linked commensal dysbiosis to various disease-related changes as well as a shorter life span.

The biological nature of these relationships, however, and the mechanisms that link them, remain somewhat unclear.

The team decided to investigate this further by using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as their model organism. Scientists often use this species to study gut bacteria and genetics.

Commensal dysbiosis shortened life span

In previous work, latsenko had identified a gene that enables the immune system in fruit flies to detect potentially harmful foreign bacteria and attack them. The gene is called peptidoglycan recognition protein SD (PGRP-SD).

For the new investigation, the team bred a mutant strain of immune-impaired fruit flies by switching off their PGRP-SD genes.

The result was that the immune-impaired flies did not live as long as normal flies. They also had much higher numbers of the bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum.

L. plantarum is a gut bacterium that produces lactic acid. The scientists found an excess of lactic acid in the immune-impaired flies, together with an associated increase in reactive oxygen species.

Activating PGRP-SD, on the other hand, “prevented commensal dysbiosis” in the flies and caused them to live longer.

“Lactic acid, a metabolite produced by the bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum,” Prof. Lemaitre explains, “is incorporated and processed in the fly intestine, with the side-effect of producing reactive oxygen species that promote epithelial damage.”

Igor Iatsenko calls for further studies to find out more about metabolic interactions between commensal bacteria and the body during aging.

Top 5 natural antihistamines for allergies

People with allergies may find relief by using natural plant extracts and foods that act as antihistamines.

Antihistamines are substances that block histamine activity in the body. Histamine is a protein that triggers allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy eyes, and a scratchy throat.

Over-the-counter and prescription antihistamine medications are effective for symptom relief, but they can cause side effects, such as drowsiness and nausea. As a result, some people wish to try natural alternatives.

In this article, we describe the five best natural antihistamines, and we take a look at the science behind them.

1. Vitamin C

There are a number of natural antihistamines that may help relieve allergy symptoms.

Vitamin C boosts the immune system. It also acts as a natural antihistamine.

According to a 2018 study on vitamin C in the treatment of allergies, oxidative stress plays a key role in allergic diseases. As vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it may act as a treatment for allergies.

The researchers observed that high doses of intravenous vitamin C reduced allergy symptoms. They also reported that a deficiency in vitamin C might lead to allergy-related diseases.

Another study from 2000 suggests taking 2 grams (g) of vitamin C daily to act as an antihistamine.

The vitamin is present in many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • cantaloupe melon
  • cauliflower
  • citrus fruits
  • kiwifruit
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes and tomato juice
  • winter squash

2. Butterbur

Butterbur is a plant extract from a shrub that grows in Asia, Europe, and some parts of North America. People often use butterbur to treat migraines and hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), butterbur may have antihistamine effects.

A 2007 review of 16 randomized controlled trials, testing 10 herbal products, suggests that butterbur could be an effective herbal treatment for hay fever.

This review suggested that butterbur was better than a placebo, or as effective as antihistamine medications, for relieving allergy symptoms.

However, the authors of the review point out that some large studies received funding from industry manufacturers, and so further independent research is needed.

Most people tolerate butterbur well, but it may cause side effects such as:

  • breathing difficulties
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • a headache
  • itchy eyes

Raw butterbur extracts contain certain compounds called alkaloids that can cause liver damage and cancer. Extracts of butterbur that do not contain these substances are available. However, no studies have looked into the long-term effects of using these products.

The plant extract can also cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivities to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies.

3. Bromelain

Pineapple juice contains the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain.

Bromelain is an enzyme found in the core and juice of pineapples and is also available as a supplement.

Bromelain is a popular natural remedy for swelling or inflammation, especially of the sinuses and following injury or surgery.

Research on mice suggests that bromelain can reduce allergic sensitization and allergic airway disease thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties.

In some people, oral supplementation of bromelain may cause adverse reactions such as:

  • changes in menstruation
  • digestive upset
  • an increased heart rate

People who are allergic to pineapple should avoid bromelain.

4. Probiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms that might offer health benefits by helping the body maintain a healthful balance of gut bacteria.

Probiotics may boost a person’s immune system, which can help the body fight off allergies.

The NCCIH say that the evidence for probiotics is mixed and that some probiotics may help while others may not.

5. Quercetin

Quercetin is an antioxidant flavonoid found in many plants and foods. Research suggests that adding quercetin to the diet may help to relieve allergy symptoms.

Research reports that quercetin can have anti-allergic and antihistamine properties.

In one animal study, researchers found that quercetin could reduce the respiratory effects of allergies in mice by lowering airway inflammation.

However, the evidence for its effectiveness is mixed, and according to the NCCIH, there is not enough evidence to suggest that quercetin can relieve allergic rhinitis.

Quercetin is naturally present in many foods and herbs, including:

  • apples
  • berries
  • black tea
  • broccoli
  • buckwheat tea
  • grapes
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • green tea
  • peppers
  • red onions
  • red wine

However, taking supplements of quercetin will work better in the treatment of allergies than eating foods that contain it. This is because foods contain significantly lower levels of the flavonoid.

Quercetin is generally safe for most people. It may cause headaches and tingling in the arms and legs of some people. Very high doses, especially when taken long-term, may cause kidney damage.

Other natural remedies

The NCCIH state that there is not enough evidence to suggest that the following natural products can help with the symptoms of allergic rhinitis:

  • astragalus
  • grape seed extract
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • stinging nettle
  • Pycnogenol
  • spirulina

Alternative allergy treatments

If natural antihistamines do not reduce a person’s allergy symptoms, they may need to seek alternatives.

Other methods to treat and prevent allergy symptoms include:

Avoiding the allergen

Allergy avoidance is typically the first line of defense against symptoms. Try to identify the allergen, which might be pollen, pet dander, or mold spores, and reduce exposure to it as much as possible.

Medications

Allergy shots may be helpful for people with severe allergies.

Allergy medicines can cause the immune system’s reaction to the allergen to calm down. Antihistamines work by breaking down histamine in the body.

Antihistamine medications can reduce symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, and sinus pressure.

Medications for allergies are available OTC or by prescription and include:

  • oral medications
  • liquids
  • nasal sprays
  • eye drops

Immunotherapy

People with severe allergies may benefit from immunotherapy. This treatment is also suitable if allergy medications do not relieve symptoms.

During immunotherapy, a healthcare professional will give a person a series of injections that contain tiny amounts of the allergen. This treatment may take place over several years and aims to desensitize the body to the allergen.

For people with pollen allergies, doctors may recommend sublingual immunotherapy. This involves placing a tablet under the tongue until it dissolves.

Epinephrine treatment

Those with severe allergies may need to carry an emergency epinephrine shot (Auvi-Q, EpiPen) with them at all times. Giving this treatment at the onset of an allergic reaction can reduce symptoms and may save a person’s life.

Takeaway

Living with allergies can be challenging, especially when symptoms are at their worst. Seek help and advice from a doctor when dealing with allergy symptoms.

Some natural substances can have antihistamine properties, meaning they can break down the chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. More evidence is needed to find out how effective these natural remedies are.

For the best chance of relief, try to limit or avoid exposure to the allergen. Practice good self-care techniques and consider using natural antihistamines.

As the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate supplements, and natural remedies can interfere with certain medications, it is essential to speak to a doctor before beginning any new supplement or herbal remedy.

12 natural cough remedies tips 

Coughs play a role in clearing irritants and infections from the body, but persistent coughing can be annoying. The best treatment for a cough will depend on its underlying cause. There are many possible causes of coughs, including allergies, infections, and acid reflux.

Some natural remedies may help to relieve a cough. However, it is important to remember that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor herbs and supplements, so people who use them may be at risk of using low-quality products and impurities.

You should also be aware that some herbs and supplements can interfere with medications, which may result in unwanted side effects.

If a cough is severe or persists for more than a few weeks, it is essential to seek medical advice.

1. Honey tea

A popular home remedy for coughs is mixing honey with warm water.

According to some research, honey may relieve coughs.

A study on treatments for nighttime coughing in children compared dark honey with the cough-suppressing medication dextromethorphan and with no treatment.

The researchers reported that honey provided the most significant relief from coughing, followed by dextromethorphan.

Although the benefits of honey over dextromethorphan were small, parents rated honey most favorably of all three interventions.

To use honey to treat a cough, mix 2 teaspoons (tsp) with warm water or an herbal tea. Drink this mixture once or twice a day. Do not give honey to children under 1 year of age.

2. Ginger

Ginger may ease a dry or asthmatic cough, as it has anti-inflammatory properties. It may also relieve nausea and pain. One study suggests that some anti-inflammatory compounds in ginger can relax membranes in the airways, which could reduce coughing. The researchers mainly studied the effects of ginger on human cells and animals, so more research is necessary.Brew up a soothing ginger tea by adding 20–40 grams (g) of fresh ginger slices to a cup of hot water. Allow to steep for a few minutes before drinking. Add honey or lemon juice to improve the taste and further soothe a cough.

Be aware that, in some cases, ginger tea can cause stomach upset or heartburn.

3. Fluids

Staying hydrated is vital for those with a cough or cold. Research indicates that drinking liquids at room temperature can alleviate a cough, runny nose, and sneezing.

However, people with additional symptoms of a cold or flu may benefit from warming up their beverages. The same study reports that hot beverages alleviate even more symptoms, including a sore throat, chills, and fatigue.

The symptom relief was immediate and remained for a continued period after finishing the hot beverage.

Hot beverages that may be comforting include:

  • clear broths
  • herbal teas
  • decaffeinated black tea
  • warm water
  • warm fruit juices

4. Steam

A wet cough, which is one that produces mucus or phlegm, may improve with steam. Take a hot shower or bath and allow the bathroom to fill with steam. Stay in this steam for a few minutes until symptoms subside. Drink a glass of water afterward to cool down and prevent dehydration.

Alternatively, make a steam bowl. To do this, fill a large bowl with hot water. Add herbs or essential oils, such as eucalyptus or rosemary, which may also relieve decongestion. Lean over the bowl and place a towel over the head. This traps the steam. Inhale the vapors for 5 minutes. If the steam feels hot on the skin, discontinue until the skin cools down.

5. Marshmallow root

Marshmallow root is an herb that has a long history of use as a treatment for coughs and sore throats. The herb can ease irritation resulting from coughing because of its high mucilage content. Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance that coats the throat.

One small study revealed that an herbal cough syrup containing marshmallow root, along with thyme and ivy, effectively relieved coughs resulting from common colds and respiratory tract infections. After 12 days of taking the syrup, 90 percent of the participants rated its effectiveness as good or very good.

Marshmallow root is also available as a dried herb or a bagged tea. Add hot water to either and then drink it immediately or allow it to cool first. The longer the marshmallow root steeps in the water, the more mucilage will be in the drink.

Side effects can include stomach upset, but it may be possible to counter this by drinking extra fluids.

6. Salt-water gargle

This simple remedy is one of the most effective for treating a sore throat and wet cough. Salt water reduces phlegm and mucus in the back of the throat which can lessen the need to cough.

Stir half a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water until it dissolves. Allow the solution to cool slightly before using it to gargle. Let the mixture sit at the back of the throat for a few moments before spitting it out. Gargle with salt water several times each day until the cough improves.

Avoid giving salt water to younger children as they may not be able to gargle properly, and swallowing salt water can be dangerous.

7. Bromelain

Pineapples contain bromelain, which may help to treat a cough.

Bromelain is an enzyme that comes from pineapples. It is most plentiful in the core of the fruit.

Bromelain has anti-inflammatory properties and may also have mucolytic properties, which means that it can break down mucus and remove it from the body.

Some people drink pineapple juice daily to reduce mucus in the throat and suppress coughing. However, there may not be enough bromelain in the juice to relieve symptoms.

Bromelain supplements are available and may be more effective at relieving a cough. However, it is best to speak with a doctor before trying any new supplements.

It is possible to be allergic to bromelain, and this herb can also cause side effects and interact with medications. People who take blood thinners or specific antibiotics should not take bromelain.

8. Thyme

Thyme has both culinary and medicinal uses and is a common remedy for a cough, a sore throat, bronchitis, and digestive issues.

One study found that a cough syrup consisting of thyme and ivy leaves relieved coughing more effectively and more rapidly than a placebo syrup in people with acute bronchitis. Antioxidants in the plant may be responsible for its benefits.

To treat coughs using thyme, look for a cough syrup that contains this herb. Alternatively, make thyme tea by adding 2 tsp of dried thyme to a cup of hot water. Steep for 10 minutes before straining and drinking.

9. Dietary changes for acid reflux

Acid reflux is a common cause of a cough. Avoiding foods that can trigger acid reflux is one of the best ways to manage this condition and reduce the cough that accompanies it.

Every individual may have different reflux triggers that they need to avoid. People who are unsure of what causes their reflux can begin by eliminating the most common triggers from their diet and monitoring their symptoms.

The foods and beverages that most commonly trigger acid reflux include:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • chocolate
  • citrus foods
  • fried and fatty foods
  • garlic and onions
  • mint
  • spices and spicy foods
  • tomatoes and tomato-based products

10. Slippery elm

Native Americans traditionally used slippery elm bark to treat coughing and digestive issues. Slippery elm is similar to marshmallow root as it contains a high level of mucilage, which helps to soothe a sore throat and cough.

Make slippery elm tea by adding 1 tsp of the dried herb to a cup of hot water. Steep for at least 10 minutes before drinking. It is important to note that slippery elm can interfere with the absorption of medications.

11. N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

NAC is a supplement that comes from the amino acid L-cysteine. Taking a daily dose may lessen the frequency and severity of a wet cough by reducing mucus in the airways.

A meta-analysis of 13 studies suggests that NAC can significantly and consistently reduce symptoms in people with chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a prolonged inflammation of the airways that causes mucus build-up, a cough, and other symptoms.

The researchers suggest a daily dose of 600 milligrams (mg) of NAC for people without airway obstruction, and up to 1,200 mg where there is an obstruction.

NAC can have severe side effects, including hives, swelling, fever, and difficulty breathing. Anyone considering this approach should speak to a doctor first.

12. Probiotics

Miso soup is rich in probiotics.

Probiotics do not directly relieve a cough, but they may boost the immune system by balancing the bacteria in the gut.

A superior immune system can help to fight off infections or allergens that may be causing the cough.

One type of probiotic, a bacteria called Lactobacillus, provides a modest benefit in preventing the common cold, according to research.

Supplements containing Lactobacillus and other probiotics are available at health stores and drug stores.

Some foods are also naturally rich in probiotics, including:

  • miso soup
  • natural yogurt
  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut

However, the number and diversity of probiotic units in foods can vary greatly. It may be best to take probiotic supplements in addition to eating probiotic-rich foods.

Tips to help prevent a cold

It is not always possible to avoid getting a cough, but the following tips can reduce the risk:

  • Avoiding contact with people who are sick: Maintain a safe distance from people who have a head cold, flu, or a cough.
  • Washing hands regularly: Use soap and warm water to remove bacteria and viruses from the skin. Teach children how to wash their hands properly. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer outside the home when necessary.
  • Using disinfectant: When a family member is ill, clean the kitchen and bathroom regularly with a disinfectant. Wash bedding, towels, and soft toys on a hot wash.
  • Staying hydrated: Drink enough water, herbal teas, and other beverages to avoid dehydration.
  • Reducing stress: Stress affects the immune system and increases the risk of getting sick. To alleviate stress, a person can exercise regularly, meditate, do deep breathing, and try progressive muscle relaxation techniques.
  • Getting enough sleep: Aim to sleep for 7–9 hours each night to stay fit and healthy.
  • Taking immune-boosting supplements: Consider taking zinc, vitamin C, and probiotics during cold and flu season to keep illness at bay.

Allergy symptoms can sometimes mimic those of a cold. Reduce allergy flare-ups by avoiding triggers such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and mold. See a doctor about getting allergy shots or medications.

When to see a doctor

See a doctor if the following symptoms accompany a cough:

  • foul-smelling green or yellow phlegm
  • chills
  • dehydration
  • fever over 102°F
  • fever that lasts for more than 3 days
  • weakness

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department if a cough:

  • brings up blood
  • causes breathing difficulties

QI deficiency explained in traditional Chinese medicine

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), qi is the vital energy that circulates through the body at all times. Practitioners believe that a qi deficiency is linked to the spleen and that rest and eating certain foods can treat the imbalance.

The concepts of TCM are not based in modern science but have their roots in ancient Chinese practices. TCM includes herbal remedies, acupuncture, and exercises such as tai chi or qigong.

While there is no scientific proof for qi or a deficiency of qi, many people understand these terms as ways to describe issues in the body as a whole — rather than taking the rigorous route that medical science does.

In this article, we will explore what a qi deficiency is, its symptoms and causes, and how it might be treated with rest and diet.

What is a qi deficiency?

According to TCM, qi is life force or vital energy. Everything in the world is made up of qi, including the physical body and the feelings a person has.

Followers and practitioners of TCM believe that to be balanced in life and free from physical or mental health issues, a person must have balanced qi. They suggest that illnesses or other conditions only appear when there is a qi imbalance or deficiency in the body.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) define qi as a vital energy that flows through the body, helping to maintain a person’s health. The NCCIH are interested in the ideas of TCM but do not focus on specific concepts, such as qi. Instead, the NCCIH take a more scientific view, looking at how these practices affect the body and their use in symptom management.

What are the symptoms?

Roughly translated, qi means energy, so, simply put, a qi deficiency means low energy. This low energy can affect the body as whole or just specific organs that cause different symptoms.

A general qi deficiency may cause some overall symptoms of fatigue and illness.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences uses the following five signs and symptoms to diagnose a qi deficiency:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath or no desire to talk
  • spontaneous sweating
  • a swollen tongue with teeth marks on the side
  • a weak pulse

Causes of qi deficiency

The study also outlines a range of possible factors that can lead to a qi deficiency.

The authors suggest that there could be a link between qi deficiency and aging.

Some practitioners believe that there is a relationship between qi deficiency and chronic medical diseases and their complications, such as heart disease, hypertension, or stroke.

Qi deficiency may also result from using too much qi in daily life. Many people in the western world are constantly working or on-the-go, leading busy lives, leaving no time to relax.

According to TCM, leading such a stressful life with little downtime may quickly drain the body of vital energy, making a person more susceptible to qi deficiency and the illnesses that follow. Think of qi deficiency as being burned out, a condition that can cause the symptoms and conditions associated with stress.

Treatments for qi deficiency

TCM places great importance on treating the body as a whole rather than merely managing symptoms. Where western medicine might treat tiredness with stimulants, such as coffee, TCM concerns itself with addressing the issues causing the fatigue in the first place.

There is little quality scientific research to support topics such as qi and qi deficiency, and most of the evidence for treating qi deficiency is anecdotal.

That said, many people may find relief from symptoms by making some changes in their diet and lifestyle to support their qi balance or using alternative therapies, such as acupuncture.

Focus on rest

People with qi deficiency may work too hard, are always on the go, and never have downtime. To help balance the qi in the body, many TCM practitioners recommend a heavy focus on rest.

This can include:

  • taking breaks throughout the day.
  • making time to take a nap.
  • doing relaxing activities, such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong.

Improve sleep patterns

People with a qi deficiency may have a tendency towards stress and may benefit from improving their sleep patterns. A study published in Experimental Neurobiology reports that excessive stress is bad for both the body and the brain. Stress may activate the brain at night, making sound sleep difficult.

Reducing stress levels may help a person sleep better and have more energy or qi throughout the day. Try to find a set time to go to sleep and wake up each day, and aim to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

Best foods for a qi deficiency

TCM suggests that a qi deficiency might be influenced by the spleen, which carries qi to other parts of the body. This is why a qi deficiency might occur in any area of the body.

To balance qi, TCM practitioners recommend eating foods that are good for the spleen.

Foods to eat

A healthful diet for a balanced qi includes:

  • fermented foods for digestive health, including sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir
  • healthful, energizing fats, such as olive oil, salmon, coconut oil, and avocados
  • a wide variety of lightly cooked fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  • adaptogenic herbs, such as ginseng, should be taken under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner or trusted TCM practitioner

Foods that are good for spleen qi include yang tonic foods and qi-circulating foods. According to TCM, these foods might warm the spleen and increase energy flow to the body.

Foods to eat for spleen qi include:

  • lentils
  • quinoa
  • oats
  • malted grain beverages
  • root vegetables including sweet potato and taro
  • pumpkin and other squash
  • miso soup
  • orange peels
  • mustard leaf

Foods to avoid for spleen qi include:

  • refined sugar
  • refined grains
  • fried or salty foods
  • iced or refrigerated foods or drinks
  • dairy products
  • citrus fruits
  • pork
  • yeasty foods, such as beer or dough
  • banana

Spleen qi deficiency

In western medicine, the spleen is considered a non-vital organ. It is a small organ that helps filter blood and is part of the immune system, but people can live without it.

In TCM, the spleen is central to digestion and is considered a vital organ. The spleen is said to pull qi from all the foods we eat and deliver it to the rest of the body. When a TCM practitioner suspects a qi deficiency, they often look to treat the spleen first.

TCM pairs the stomach and spleen as the sources of digestion and the digestive system as a whole. Any imbalances in the spleen qi would create what western medicine calls gastrointestinal issues.

Spleen qi deficiency may cause symptoms such as:

  • loss of appetite
  • nausea or diarrhea
  • gas or bloating
  • varicose veins
  • hemorrhoids
  • acid reflux
  • trouble waking up in the morning
  • brain fog throughout the day
  • diabetes
  • eating disorders

Other types of qi deficiency

TCM works on the basis that qi is everywhere in the body, so a qi deficiency in one body system or organ might cause different symptoms to a qi deficiency in another. For example:

Symptoms of a heart qi deficiency may include:

  • sweating without exerting oneself
  • palpitations when moving
  • anxiety
  • nightmares or restless sleep
  • mood swings

Symptoms of a lung qi deficiency include:

  • a cough, which may be mild but continuous
  • shortness of breath
  • low speaking voice
  • a tendency to catch colds

Symptoms of a kidney qi deficiency include:

  • cold limbs
  • asthma
  • hair loss
  • urinary problems
  • very clear urine

10 home remedies for wheezing

Wheezing is a common symptom of various respiratory disorders that cause tightening in the throat. There are several ways a person can stop their wheezing at home without using an inhaler, but these will depend on the cause.

Wheezing happens when the airways are tightened, blocked, or inflamed, making a person’s breathing sound like whistling or squeaking. Common causes include a cold, asthma, allergies, or more serious conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Steam inhalation is an effective home remedy for wheezing.

The following home treatments for wheezing aim to open up the airways, reduce the irritants or pollution that a person breathes in, or treat the underlying causes of the wheezing.

If a person has asthma or another medical condition that causes wheezing, they should speak to our doctors in clinic and use the medications prescribed for it, such as an asthma inhaler.

Effective home remedies for wheezing include:

1. Steam inhalation

Inhaling warm, moisture-rich air can be very effective for clearing the sinuses and opening up the airways.Peppermint essential oil may have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. Research suggests that it may relax the muscles of the respiratory system, which could help to relieve wheezing and other respiratory problems.

If a steam bath does not appeal to you, a sauna room or hot shower can also help loosen congestion. Gently tapping on the back or chest and breathing deeply can help the steam work even better.

2. Hot drinks

Warm and hot drinks can help to loosen up the airways and relieve congestion.

Honey is a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, so adding a teaspoon of honey to a hot drink may further improve a person’s symptoms.

A 2017 study found that eating one tablespoon of honey twice a day, along with other treatments, helped to relieve throat congestion.

Some people find that peppermint or other menthol teas work well. A person can try experimenting with different teas to find one that helps.

3. Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises may help with COPD, bronchitis, allergies, and other common causes of wheezing.

A 2009 study found that certain yoga-inspired breathing techniques could help with breathing difficulties related to bronchial asthma, including wheezing.

Breathing exercises often include deep, regular inhalations and exhalations. A doctor or respiratory therapist can help with deciding the most effective breathing techniques.

A person may find that they have trouble breathing during a panic attack. Deep breathing exercises can also assist here. It may help to try slow breathing, focusing on breathing deeply into the stomach, and counting breathes.

4. Humidifiers

A humidifier may help to reduce wheezing.

During the dry winter months, wheezing often gets worse. A humidifier in the bedroom can help loosen congestion and reduce the severity of wheezing.

A person can add peppermint or other oils to the water in the humidifier, though they should check the humidifier’s instructions before adding anything other than water.

5. Air filters

Many conditions that cause wheezing can get worse when the air is polluted or in response to allergens. A home air filter can reduce the presence of irritants that may trigger wheezing and breathing trouble.

6. Identifying and removing triggers

Chronic illnesses such as asthma and allergies may get worse in response to certain triggers, such as stress or allergens. Controlling these triggers, as much as possible, can help.

For instance, a person with a chronic respiratory condition who also has allergies might take allergy medication and avoid allergy triggers.

7. Allergy medications

People with allergies can benefit from a wide variety of allergy medications, including decongestants, corticosteroid tablets, and antihistamines.

Nasal sprays may be especially helpful to relieve a tight chest, congestion, and inflammation that can cause wheezing.

More severe allergies may require prescription allergy medication.

8. Allergy immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a process of retraining the immune system not to react to allergens.

The most common form of immunotherapy is allergy shots. A person may need several treatments, but over time, immunotherapy can reduce the frequency of wheezing.

Immunotherapy may also be helpful for people with other chronic conditions, such as COPD, who also have allergies.

9. Bronchodilators

Bronchodilators are medications that help relax the lungs and prevent the airways from narrowing. They can help with wheezing caused by COPD and asthma.

Bronchodilators come in two forms:

  • Short-acting bronchodilators. Sometimes known as rescue inhalers, these can stop an asthma or COPD attack.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators. This variety helps relax the airways over the long-term, reducing the frequency and severity of wheezing episodes.

Bronchodilators should be obtained from a doctor and can then be used at home, as needed.

10. Other medications

A wide variety of medications can treat wheezing that is due to underlying illness. A person who experiences wheezing due to a severe allergic reaction, for instance, may require epinephrine or corticosteroids.

People with heart health issues may take blood pressure medication or blood thinners to prevent further damage to the heart.

It is vital to discuss with a doctor whether medication might help, and how various medications may interact with one another.

Outlook

The long-term outlook for wheezing ultimately depends on its cause. Even when wheezing is due to a chronic illness, it can often be well-managed with medication and home treatments.

Ongoing medical care remains important, however, and people whose symptoms do not improve should consult a doctor. Consider tracking symptoms to identify any underlying triggers for symptoms.

If wheezing is causing concern, it is essential to remain calm, as panicking can worsen wheezing. Keep the breathing slow and regular and seek medical treatment when appropriate.

Even when wheezing is due to a serious medical condition, medications can improve symptoms.

Allergic Reaction and Treatments

 

Treating allergic reactions

Allergies are a common cause of illness and can occur at any stage in someone’s life. Numerous different things cause allergies from pollen to food to medication, meaning it is not always easy to know the best treatments or home remedies.

What is an allergic reaction?

Many people have allergies, which may cause symptoms such as coughing and sneezing.

An allergic reaction occurs when cells in the immune system interpret a foreign substance or allergen as harmful.

The immune system overreacts to these allergens and produces histamine, which is a chemical that causes allergy symptoms, such as inflammation, sneezing, and coughing.

Mild allergic reactions can usually be treated with home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications

Fast facts on treating an allergic reaction:

Most minor allergy symptoms can be treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, or decongestants.

Saline nasal rinses can be used for congestion-related allergy symptoms.

Corticosteroid creams can treat skin rashes related to allergies.

mmunotherapy is a long-term treatment option for chronic allergy symptoms.

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency, and people should call 911 if they suspect someone is having an anaphylactic reaction.

Treating allergic reactions

Many mild to moderate allergic reactions can be treated at home or with OTC medications. The following treatments are commonly used to reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction:

Antihistamines

Antihistamines can help to treat most minor allergic reactions regardless of the cause. These drugs reduce the body’s production of histamine, which reduces all symptoms, including sneezing, watering eyes, and skin reactions.

Second-generation antihistamines, including Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine), are less likely to cause drowsiness than first-generation antihistamines, such as Benadryl.

Antihistamines come in several forms, usually to help deliver the medication closer to the source of the reaction or make it easier to consume, such as:

  • oral pills
  • dissolvable tablets
  • nasal sprays
  • liquids
  • eye drops

Antihistamines in these forms are available from pharmacies, to buy online, or on prescription from a doctor.

Antihistamines can also be taken to prevent allergies. Many people with seasonal or pet allergies will begin taking antihistamines when they know they are going to be exposed to an allergen.

A person who is pregnant or has a liver disorder should consult their doctor before taking antihistamines.

Nasal decongestants

Nasal decongestant pills, liquids, and sprays can also help reduce stuffy, swollen sinuses and related symptoms, such as a sore throat or coughing.

However, decongestant medications should not be taken continuously for more than 72 hours.

Nasal decongestants are available over the counter and online.

Anti-inflammatory medication

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may also be used to help temporarily reduce pain, swelling, and cramping caused by allergies.

Avoid the allergen

The best way to treat and prevent allergic reactions is to know what triggers the reaction and stay away from it, especially food allergens.

When this is not possible or realistic, using antihistamines or decongestants when in contact with allergens can help to treat the symptoms.

Use a saline sinus rinse

A saline sinus rinse may treat symptoms such as a runny or itchy nose.

When allergies cause sinus problems, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) recommend a person rinse their sinuses with saline. This can remove allergens and clear the airways.

The AAAAI recommends the following saline recipe:

  • mix 3 teaspoons of salt (without iodide) with 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • add 1 teaspoon of this mixture to 8 ounces of boiled water
  • dissolve the mixture in the water then use as a saline rinse

Sinus rinsing devices can be purchased online or from a pharmacy.

Treating environmental allergies

For airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust, and mold spores, additional treatment options include:

  • throat lozenges with soothing ingredients, such as menthol, honey, or ginger
  • shower and wash all clothing after being exposed to an allergen
  • exercise for a few minutes to help reduce nasal congestion

Treating allergies on the skin

For allergic reactions that cause skin symptoms, including those associated with allergens found in animal saliva, poisonous plants, drugs, chemicals and metals, additional treatment options include:

  • Topical corticosteroid creams or tablets. Corticosteroids contain steroids that reduce inflammation and itching. Mild forms of these creams can be found online, and a doctor can prescribe stronger versions.
  • Moisturizing creams. Emollient creams with soothing ingredients, such as calamine can treat skin reactions.
  • Bite or sting medication. Medication targeted to reduce allergic reactions to insect bites or stings have a similar effect to other allergy medications.
  • Ice pack. Applying an ice pack wrapped in cloth to the area for 10- to 15-minute intervals can reduce inflammation.

Treating severe allergies

People should speak to a professional if they have or suspect that they have severe or chronic allergies. You are always more than welcome to call our clinic for more information.

A doctor can prescribe medications that contain much stronger doses of the compounds found in OTC products.

Treatment options for chronic or severe allergies include:

  • Immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Immunotherapy can be between 90 and 98 percent effective at reducing allergic reactions to insect stings, for instance.
  • Prescription asthma medications, such as bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids.
  • Oral cromolyn can be taken for food allergies.
  • Drug desensitization therapy is used for specific allergens.

Natural remedies for allergic reactions

Many traditional medicine systems use herbal supplements and extracts to both treat and prevent allergic reactions, especially seasonal allergies.

Though there is little scientific evidence to support the use of most alternative or natural remedies, some people may find that some can provide relief from their symptoms.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians recommend the following natural treatments for allergies:

  • Dietary changes. A low-fat diet high in complex carbohydrates, such as beans, whole grains, and vegetables may reduce allergy reactions.
  • Bioflavonoids. These plant-based chemicals found in citrus fruits and blackcurrants may act as natural antihistamines. These can also be taken as supplements.
  • Supplements. Flaxseed oil, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E are suggested to improve allergy symptoms.
  • Acupuncture. Acupuncture treatments may help some people to find relief from their symptoms.

Learn more about diastole and systole in your blood pressure

The terms diastole and systole refer to when the heart muscles relax and contract. The balance between diastole and systole determines a person’s blood pressure.

The heart is a pump that supplies all tissues and organs of the body with oxygen-rich blood. The heartbeat is caused by the heart muscles relaxing and contracting.

During this cycle, the period of relaxation is called diastole and the period of contraction is called systole.

What are diastole and systole?

Diastole is when the heart muscle relaxes and systole is when the heart muscle contracts.

Diastole is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Diastole is when the heart muscle relaxes.
  • When the heart relaxes, the chambers of the heart fill with blood, and a person’s blood pressure decreases.

Systole is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Systole is when the heart muscle contracts.
  • When the heart contracts, it pushes the blood out of the heart and into the large blood vessels of the circulatory system. From here, the blood goes to all of the organs and tissues of the body.
  • During systole, a person’s blood pressure increases.

Differences

The heart is a pump composed of four chambers. It is divided in the middle into a right and left side, and each side is divided further into two chambers — the upper and lower chambers.

The two upper chambers of the heart called the atria receive the blood that is entering the heart. The two lower chambers are called the ventricles. They pump the blood out of the heart to the rest of the body.

To pump the blood around the body, the heart contracts and then relaxes over and over again in a cycle called the cardiac cycle. The cycle begins when the two atria contract, which pushes blood into the ventricles. Then, the ventricles contract, which forces the blood out of the heart.

The deoxygenated blood that comes back from the body to the right side of the heart is then pumped through the lungs where it picks up oxygen. The oxygenated blood then travels to the left side of the heart and is pumped to the rest of the body.

Diastole and systole affect a person’s blood pressure differently, as follows:

  • When the heart pushes blood around the body during systole, the pressure placed on the vessels increases. This is called systolic pressure.
  • When the heart relaxes between beats and refills with blood, the blood pressure drops. This is called diastolic pressure.

What is a healthy blood pressure?

Normal blood pressure will be under 120/80 mmHg.

When a person receives their blood pressure results, they will see two numbers that represent the diastole and systole measurements. These measurements are given as millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

The first number is the systolic pressure and the second is the diastolic pressure.

According to the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) updated 2017 guidelines, the current blood pressure categories are:

  • Normal blood pressure: under 120/80 mmHg
  • Elevated blood pressure: a systolic pressure of between 120-129 and a diastolic pressure of under 80
  • Stage 1 hypertension: a systolic pressure of between 130-139 or a diastolic pressure of between 80 and 89 mmHg
  • Stage 2 hypertension: a systolic pressure of at least 140 or a diastolic pressure of at least 90 mmHg

These updated guidelines are likely to place 46 percent of Americans in the category of having high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is always measured when the person is at rest and over several days. Its measurements are also called blood pressure readings.

High blood pressure

Gender and age may increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure or hypertension is when a person has abnormally high pressure against the walls of their blood vessels. This condition develops gradually over many years and may go unnoticed for a long time, as there are often no symptoms.

The following risk factors increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure:

  • Age. Blood pressure is usually higher with age.
  • Gender. Men are more likely to have high blood pressure before the age of 55, but women are more likely than men to have the condition after the age of 55.
  • Race. High blood pressure is more common in African Americans than Caucasian or Hispanic Americans.
  • Family history. Having a family member with high blood pressure increases the risk of a person developing high blood pressure in the future.
  • Obesity. A person who is overweight or obese is more likely to develop high blood pressure. This is because a higher volume of blood circulates through blood vessels to supply the cells with oxygen and nutrients. Because there is more blood circulating, there is a higher pressure on the vessel walls.
  • Lifestyle habits. A lack of physical activity, smoking tobacco (including second-hand smoking), drinking too much alcohol, consuming too much salt (sodium) or too little potassium, and stress may increase the risk.
  • Certain chronic conditions. Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy. In some cases, pregnancy can cause high blood pressure.

When left untreated, high blood pressure can cause complications and, eventually, serious health problems, such as:

  • Heart attack. A block in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the heart, preventing that portion of the heart from getting oxygen.
  • Stroke. A stroke happens when there is a block in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, preventing that portion of the brain from getting oxygen.
  • Heart failure. Failure of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands, caused by the increased pressure on the vessels.
  • Peripheral artery disease. This is the narrowing of blood vessels other than those that supply the heart or the brain, most commonly of the legs. Blood flow to that part of the body is affected.
  • Aneurysm. An aneurysm is the development of an abnormal bulge in a blood vessel wall, which may press on other organs, block blood flow, or eventually burst.
  • Chronic kidney disease. Kidney disease can be caused by narrowing of blood vessels in the kidneys, which prevents them from working properly.

Low blood pressure

Low blood pressure or hypotension occurs when a person has abnormally low blood pressure against the walls of their blood vessels.

Risk factors that increase a person’s chance of developing the condition include:

  • Age. People older than 65 are more likely to experience a drop in blood pressure while standing up, or after eating. Children and young people are more likely to experience a rapid drop in blood pressure accompanied by dizziness, blurred vision, and fainting, which is known as neurally mediated hypotension.
  • Certain medications. High blood pressure medicines, including diuretics, can cause hypotension.
  • Certain diseases. Conditions such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, and some heart conditions increase the risk of low blood pressure.
  • Other factors. Pregnancy, standing in the heat, or standing still for long periods of time can also cause low blood pressure.

A person with mild low blood pressure may experience fatigue, fainting, or dizziness.

More severe forms of low blood pressure can compromise oxygen-rich blood flow to the body’s major organs, including the brain. If this happens, a person may feel sleepy, confused, or light-headed. In serious cases, this can evolve to heart or brain damage.