Synthetic CBD may be a safe treatment for seizures

A nonintoxicating form of cannabidiol that chemists can make from inexpensive noncannabis ingredients can treat seizures just as effectively as herbal cannabidiol, according to recent research in rats.

The chemical structure of the synthetic cannabidiol (CBD), which has the name 8,9-dihydrocannabidiol (H2CBD), is similar to that of the CBD that occurs naturally in the plant Cannabis sativa.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Reading in the United Kingdom have shown that H2CBD can be just as effective as cannabis-derived CBD in treating rats with chemically-induced seizures.

In a Scientific Reports paper on the study, the investigators describe how both compounds reduced the severity and frequency of seizures to the same extent.

“[H2CBD is] a much safer drug than CBD with no abuse potential and doesn’t require the cultivation of hemp,” says lead study author Mark Mascal, who is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at UC Davis.

He and his colleagues explain that the use of cannabis as a “treatment of last resort for some cases of refractory epilepsy” was one of the most pressing medical arguments for legalizing marijuana.

According to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 3.4 million people, including 470,000 children, with epilepsy in the United States in 2015.

People have used cannabis to treat seizures for hundreds of years.

However, it was only just over 20 years ago that scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system, and how its interaction with cannabis compounds affected nerve cells in the brain.

Of the 100 or so cannabis compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid system, there are two major players: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its less intoxicating relative, CBD.

Because of the intoxicating effects of THC, medical research on the therapeutic use of the compounds has tended to concentrate on CBD, which does not “cause a high.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved an extract of herbal, or plant-derived, CBD for the treatment of certain seizure conditions.

Advantages of synthetic over herbal CBD

However, herbal CBD is not without its disadvantages. The researchers discuss these, and the benefits of an effective synthetic CBD, in their study paper.

A disadvantage of herbal CBD is that because it comes from cannabis, many countries class it as a controlled substance. On the other hand, because H2CBD is synthetic, its use could avoid many of the legal problems that generally arise with trying to use cannabis products.

Using CBD from cannabis also requires land to grow the cannabis plants, which brings “attendant social and environmental concerns,” write the authors.

In contrast, chemists can synthesize H2CBD in the laboratory using inexpensive, noncannabis chemicals. They can also purify H2CBD more easily than plant-extracted CBD.

Also, it is not difficult for people to convert herbal CBD into THC, and the chemicals for doing it are readily available. However, as Prof. Mascal explains, “there is no way to convert H2CBD to intoxicating THC.”

The team is already planning animal studies to evaluate H2CBD, after which, they intend to move rapidly into clinical trials.

UC Davis have also applied for a provisional patent for the use of H2CBD and derivatives in the treatment of seizures. Prof. Mascal, in the meantime, has set up a private company to press on with developing the drug.

What to expect during IUD insertion

An intrauterine device or IUD is a small T-shaped device that a doctor or nurse can implant into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

It is among the most effective forms of reversible birth control with a failure rate of less than 1%. The insertion is a minor medical procedure that only takes a few minutes.

Research has shown that while women report insertion experiences that range from painless to extremely painful, the procedure is usually less painful than they expected.

In this article, learn about what to expect during an IUD insertion. We also cover the side effects and recovery.

Preparation

Before getting an IUD, a person can speak to their doctor about which type is best for them. IUDs come in two forms:

  • The copper IUD: This version of the device kills sperm, preventing it from fertilizing an egg.
  • The hormonal IUD: This type of device releases progestin, which is very similar to progesterone, a hormone the body manufactures itself.

Progestin can prevent ovulation, which means there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. It also thickens cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg if the body does ovulate.

Hormonal IUDs may help with some premenstrual and hormonal symptoms, such as heavy bleeding or period cramps.

Copper IUDs do not offer any benefit other than contraception, so doctors do not usually recommend them for people who already experience heavy bleeding or severe cramps during menstruation.

IUDs are safe for most people to use. However, those who are allergic to copper should not use a copper IUD.

An IUD can prevent unwanted pregnancy but cannot protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

People should not use an IUD if they have had any of the following:

  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • vaginal or cervical cancer
  • a recent pelvic infection or STI

Women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant should not get an IUD, although it is safe to get an IUD soon after childbirth.

In some people, progestin increases the risk of blood clots in the leg or high blood pressure, so it is vital to tell the doctor about any cardiovascular or other health problems.

Many people worry about pain during an IUD insertion. However, a recent study found that women’s self-reported pain, following IUD insertion, was significantly lower than the pain they expected to experience.

Some research suggests that anxiety before the procedure can make insertion feel more painful. Working with an empathetic doctor or nurse, who is willing to take time to discuss the procedure and offer reassurance, may help.

A person may wish to consider asking a doctor what previous experience they have of inserting IUDs. Similarly, they can tell the doctor if they are feeling nervous about what is going to happen.

Some people report that taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication, such as ibuprofen, before the procedure helps reduce pain afterward.

During the procedure

During the procedure, a person will remove their undergarments and other clothing from the waist down. They will then lie on their back, usually with their legs in stirrups. A doctor or nurse will offer a sheet to cover the thighs to help a person feel more comfortable and less exposed.

The doctor will first conduct a pelvic exam using the fingers, then cleanse the vagina and base of the cervix with an antiseptic solution.

They will then insert a speculum into the vagina to separate the walls, enabling them to see better. Using a small instrument, they will insert the IUD into the uterus through a small opening in the cervix.

Some people experience cramping similar to or sometimes more intense than menstrual cramps. If the pain feels unusual or unbearable, the person must tell the doctor. The whole process usually takes only a few minutes.

After the insertion

Some people feel dizzy or faint after an IUD insertion, so it can be a good idea to have someone accompany them for the journey home.

It is usually safe to return to work or school right away. However, if a person is feeling intense pain or cramping, they may wish to rest for a day.

Following insertion of an IUD, it is normal to notice some spotting. According to Planned Parenthood, spotting can last up to 3–6 months.

The individual should ask the doctor how long to wait before having unprotected sex. IUDs cannot prevent STIs, so it is important to practice safer sex with new or untested partners.

Aftercare

One of the main benefits of an IUD is that it requires no special care. In the days following insertion, it is common to experience some cramping and spotting. OTC medication can help reduce these symptoms. Any pain should disappear in a few days.

The IUD attaches to a string that enables a doctor or nurse to remove the device. Some women can feel the string with their fingers. It is best to leave it alone. The string is not dangerous but pulling it could move or even remove the IUD.

If the string causes irritation or if a partner can feel the string during sex, a person can ask a doctor to trim it.

In rare cases, an IUD can come out on its own. If this happens, it is possible for the person to become pregnant. Anyone whose IUD has fallen out should call a doctor and not have unprotected sex.

Side effects

Copper and hormonal IUDs can cause side effects, although these usually resolve after a few months.

Side effects of the hormonal IUD can include:

  • spotting
  • missed periods or no periods
  • headaches
  • bloating
  • nausea
  • breast tenderness
  • changes in breast size
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • low libido
  • weight gain

Not everyone experiences side effects or all of the above that doctors associate with IUDs.

Side effects of the copper IUD can include:

  • pain and cramping
  • a backache
  • long and heavy periods
  • irregular periods
  • spotting

Complications with an IUD are relatively rare, but can include:

  • the IUD falling out
  • problems associated with the hormonal IUD, such as changes in blood pressure or blood clotting.
  • an ectopic pregnancy, or pregnancy outside of the uterus
  • infection following insertion
  • pelvic inflammatory disease, if a person already has an infection before the IUD insertion
  • damage to the uterus

People with a history of cardiovascular disease, those who smoke, and those who are over 35 years old are more likely to have complications from a hormonal IUD.

It is a myth that IUDs can travel to other areas of the body, such as the brain or lungs.

Removal

IUDs can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 12 years and sometimes longer. It is possible to remove the IUD at any time.

During removal, a nurse or doctor will ask a person to lie on their back and put their feet in stirrups.

They will insert a speculum to open the vagina and then gently tug on the IUD string. This causes the IUD to fold and pass through the cervix. A person may experience cramping during removal, but the procedure only takes a few minutes.

Sometimes the IUD is harder to remove. If this happens, a doctor might use smaller instruments to take it out. Very rarely, if an IUD is stuck, a person may require surgery to remove it.

When to see a doctor

People should see a doctor if the following symptoms appear shortly after IUD insertion:

  • a fever above 101°F
  • chills
  • intense or unbearable cramping
  • strong, sharp pain in the stomach
  • very heavy bleeding

Call a doctor for these symptoms at any time after insertion:

  • a missed period with a copper IUD
  • a positive home pregnancy test
  • an IUD that falls out or seems to be coming through the cervix

Summary

An IUD is an excellent option for people who want long-term birth control without remembering to take pills, receive injections, or use condoms.

As with any birth control, IUDs offer both benefits and risks. If a person is unsure about whether it is the right choice for them, they can speak to a doctor to discuss their concerns.

The IUD insertion can be uncomfortable or painful for some people, but the pain usually passes. It may also cause some side effects as the body gets used to the new device.

It is best to speak with a doctor about any side effects if these interfere with a person’s overall well-being or quality of life.

7 Signs and symptoms of colon cancer in men

The digestive system is complex, which makes the symptoms of colon cancer difficult to catch. As a result, it is vital to attend regular colon cancer screenings.

Colon cancer, which is also called colorectal cancer, is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States. For men, the overall risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 22, which equates to 4.49 percent.

Many symptoms can indicate colon cancer, but if someone has these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that they have this disease. There are many other explanations for the symptoms, such as infections or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

However, anyone experiencing new symptoms may wish to visit a doctor for a diagnosis.

The symptoms of colon cancer are the same in men and women and include the following:

1. Changes in bowel habits

An upset stomach or a minor infection can often cause changes in the bowels, such as constipation, diarrhea, or very narrow, thin stools. However, these issues usually resolve within a few days as the illness subsides. Changes in the bowels that last more than a few days may be a sign of an underlying health issue. If a person has these symptoms regularly or for longer than a few days, they should see a doctor.

2. Cramps and bloating

Occasional cramps or bloating are common digestive issues that can occur due to an upset stomach, gas, or eating certain foods.

Experiencing frequent, unexplained cramps and bloating can be a sign of colon cancer, though these symptoms are more often the result of other health issues.

3. Feeling as though the bowels are not empty

If a growth turns into a blockage in the colon, it may cause the person to feel as though they can never empty their bowels. Even if their bowels are empty, they will still feel the need to use the restroom again.

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4. Blood in the stool

Seeing blood in the stool can be frightening. The stool may have streaks of fresh red blood, or the whole stool may have a darker, tarry appearance.

There are many other possible causes of bloody stools, such as hemorrhoids. However, anyone experiencing blood in their stool should still see a doctor for a diagnosis.

5. Unexplained weight loss

Suddenly and unexpectedly losing weight is a sign of several types of cancer. Unintentionally losing 10 pounds or more within 6 months may be a sign to report to a doctor. In people with cancer, the weight loss may be due to cancer cells consuming more of the body’s energy. The immune system is also working hard to fight the cancer cells. If the tumor is large, it may lead to blockages in the colon, which can cause bowel changes and further weight loss.

6. Fatigue

People with colon cancer may feel constant fatigue or weakness, possibly due to the cancer cells using extra energy and the stress of bowel symptoms. Although feeling tired now and then is normal, chronic fatigue does not go away with rest.

Chronic fatigue is generally a symptom of an underlying condition. Anyone experiencing fatigue should see a doctor to help determine the cause.

7. Shortness of breath

Once cancer begins to drain energy from the body and fatigue sets in, it is common for people to experience related symptoms, such as shortness of breath.

They may find it difficult to catch their breath or might become winded very quickly from something as simple as walking a short distance or laughing.

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Risk factors

African-Americans have a higher risk of developing colon cancer than people from other ethnic backgrounds.

Some factors may increase a person’s risk of developing colon cancer, including:

  • a personal history of digestive issues, such as colorectal polyps or IBD
  • a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer
  • some inherited gene mutations, such as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
  • getting older
  • having type 2 diabetes
  • some ethnic backgrounds, including being African American or Ashkenazi Jewish

It is not possible to prevent cancer in all cases, but making lifestyle changes to eliminate some risk factors may help a person reduce their likelihood of developing colon cancer.

Diet

As the American Cancer Society (ACS) note, a diet that is high in red meat or processed meat products increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

These foods include:

  • beef
  • pork
  • lamb
  • venison
  • liver
  • hot dogs
  • deli cuts
  • luncheon meat

Cooking meats at very high temperatures, such as on the grill or in a broiler or deep fryer, releases carcinogenic chemicals. These chemicals may also increase the risk of a person getting colon cancer, though the relationship between meat cooking methods and cancer is still unclear.

Weight

Being overweight or having obesity increases a person’s risk of developing or dying from colon cancer.According to the ACS, the link between obesity and colorectal cancer also seems to be stronger in men. Losing weight can help reduce the risk. 

Inactivity

Being physically inactive increases the risk of developing colon cancer. Staying active by doing even light workouts each day may help reduce this risk.

Alcohol use

People who drink heavily or regularly may also be putting themselves at greater risk of colon cancer. Men should limit their drinking to no more than two drinks per day.

Smoking

People who smoke are more likely to develop or die from colon cancer than those who do not. Smoking cigarettes also increases the risk of many other types of cancer.

Treatment

Surgery is a common treatment for colon cancer.

Colon cancer is highly treatable and often curable if the diagnosis takes place at an early stage when the cancer is only in the bowel and has not spread to other areas of the body.

Surgery is the most common first-line treatment for colon cancer, and it has a cure rate of about 50 percent.

A surgeon will remove the cancerous growth and any nearby lymph nodes as well as a section of healthy tissue surrounding the growth. They will then reconnect the healthy parts of the bowel.

Many early forms of colon cancer do not require further treatment.

If the cancer is advanced, surgeons may need to remove more of the colon, and if the disease reaches too low into the rectum, the surgeon may remove this part of the large intestine.

Sometimes, doctors recommend chemotherapy to people who may have a higher risk of recurring tumors.

When to see a doctor

In most cases, digestive symptoms do not indicate cancer. However, if the symptoms are unusual, appear more regularly, or steadily get worse, it is best to see a doctor as there is no other way to diagnose these issues.

Even if the underlying cause is not colon cancer, the doctor may be able to identify and diagnose a separate disorder for which they can recommend treatment.

Many people with colon cancer do not show any early symptoms so experiencing symptoms can be a sign that the cancer is growing or spreading. The ACS recommend that men and women with an average risk of colon, or colorectal, cancer begin screening at the age of 45 years. Doctors can diagnose and treat colon cancer in the early stages if a person regularly attends screenings.

Outlook

Anyone who notices new, unexplained digestive symptoms or is uncertain about their symptoms should see a doctor.

Early screening and diagnosis are crucial in people with colon cancer. When doctors diagnose colon cancer before it spreads, the 5-year relative survival rate is 92 percent. However, survival rates are lower among people who do not get a diagnosis until a later stage.

Replacing red meat with plant protein reduces heart disease risk

A meta-analysis of trials comparing the health effects of red meat consumption with those of other diets found that substituting healthful plant protein for red meat helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Eating plant proteins, such as tofu, may benefit cardiovascular health.

Many studies throughout the years have linked the consumption of red meat to cardiovascular disease and cancer, but the results have been inconsistent.

A recent study comparing the effects of plant protein and animal protein on the risk of cardiovascular disease found that the evidence was inconclusive.

Recent studies further investigated the link between red meat consumption and heart disease and found that red meat does not significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease when a person sticks to the recommended intake. Most of these studies focused on the potential harms of red meat, but they did not include an analysis of other specific diets.

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Red meat consumption in the United States

This new approach allowed researchers to examine a different side of the issue. Red meat consumption remains a very controversial topic, especially in the U.S., where the consumption of red meat per capita was more than 200 pounds in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although red meat consumption in the U.S. is still high, chicken production and consumption have been increasing. The U.S. per capita beef consumption is down from its peak, but it is still remarkable — it is four times as high as the global average, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

A recent survey showed that many people in the U.S. might be open to reducing their meat consumption in the future because they are becoming more aware of the associations that red meat has with nutritional and environmental health harms. The researchers suggested that education campaigns are necessary to accelerate the shift to a more sustainable diet.

Asking ‘Is red meat good or bad?’ is useless

In this latest study, the researchers analyzed data from 36 randomized controlled trials, which included a total of 1,803 participants. The team looked at blood pressure and blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins in people who ate diets with red meat. They then compared these values with those of people who ate more of other foods, such as chicken, fish, carbohydrates, legumes, soy, or nuts.

Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent.

But, our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors.”

The findings showed that there were no significant differences in total cholesterol, lipoproteins, or blood pressure between those who ate red meat and those who ate more of other types of food. However, diets high in red meat did cause an increase in triglyceride concentrations. Conversely, diets rich in high-quality plant protein lowered the levels of bad cholesterol.

If you replace burgers with cookies or fries, you don’t get healthier. But, if you replace red meat with healthy plant protein sources, like nuts and beans, you get a health benefit.”

The authors recommend that people follow healthful vegetarian and Mediterranean-style diets that provide plenty of high-quality plant protein because they offer excellent health benefits and promote environmental sustainability.

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.

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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