Teenage Girls, Hormones and Stress

August 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Natural Medicine

Teenagers and hormones are almost a joke – and certainly appear in enough tv sitcoms and magazine articles for us to take the state for granted – but could supplementing with natural hormones help teenage girls in particular?

Dr David Zava is the CEO of ZRT Labs and the co-author with Dr John Lee of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer and he has been involved for many years with analyzing and tracking the effect of natural hormones. A particular problem can be seen in teenage girls and came to his attention through a retired nurse who asked his advice.

She wanted to have more information on the use of progesterone cream to normalize cycles in teenagers as she had found that both her own daughters had benefited from using progesterone in the latter half of the cycle to normalize their cycles when they were stressed. The teens are like a pressure cooker and stress is endemic: whether over schoolwork, exams, appearance, peer pressure and so on and often can result in depression and hormone related migraines. She was curious as she found that such stress was often is responsive to rebalancing estrogen with progesterone but could find little literature or information on the subject so turned to an expert for his opinion.

Dr Zava confirmed her own research that there have been no double-blind, placebo controlled studies with thousands of subjects as this is expensive and as natural progesterone is not patentable there is no interest from pharmaceutical companies in funding trials. The trials that are done tend to be small scale and anecdotal, and there are numerous studies indirectly supporting its use. For instance in one trial for a small group of teens with PMS. Half were given progesterone cream for the last two weeks of the cycle, half on placebo, and there was indeed substantial improvement in the group taking the cream. One study showed that in the first year after starting to menstruate 80% of girls did not ovulate, meaning they did not make progesterone. Three years after their periods had started 50% did not ovulate, and by the sixth year 10% did not ovulate. That represents a lot of girls with premenstrual bloating, weight gain, mood swings, irritability and anxiety – all of which are symptoms of oestrogen dominane.

Unfortunately there is a considerable amount of oestrogen in the environment which means that teens and young adults are much more likely to be estrogen dominant – and accounts for the increasing number of teenage boys with ‘breasts’. In teenagers the adrenal glands can pick up some of the slack in progesterone production if it is not being produced in the right quantities by the ovaries, but in a stressed young adult the adrenals will be busy elsewhere.

The suggested therapeutic dose suggested by Dr Zava and doctors in the USA who specialize in treating teenagers is 15 to 20 mg of progesterone cream during the last week or ten days of the menstrual cycle can be enormously helpful. You can find more articles on hormone balance at www.bio-hormone-health.com and if you are interested in Dr Zava’s work you will find more on his website at www.zrtlab.com.

Doctors Warn of Dangers of Energy Drinks for Children

July 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, featured, Health

There are times we all need a pick me up, and with the young – particularly teenagers the new energy drinks are a fast fix. Usually full of sugar, caffeine and other ingredients such as ginseng and taurine they are easily available and very attractive to the eye. However, in a new report, experts are now urging children and teenagers to avoid them because of possible health risks.

“Children never need energy drinks,” according to Dr. Holly Benjamin of the American Academy of Paediatrics who worked on the new report. “They contain caffeine and other stimulant substances that aren’t nutritional, so you don’t need them.” Experts fear that kids are more vulnerable to the contents of the drinks than adults because if you drink them on a regular basis, it stresses the body. You don’t really want to stress the body of a growing person.”

The report speaks of the jumble of ingredients in the energy drinks which include vitamins and various herbal extracts which could have potential side effects that are not yet entirely understood. The report acknowledges that while there are not many documented cases of harm linked directly to the drinks, the stimulants contained within can disrupt the hearts rhythm and in some rare cases can lead to seizures.

Benjamin states that she recently saw a 15 year-old boy with ADHD who came to the hospital suffering from a seizure after drinking two bottles of Mountain Dew, a soft drink containing caffeine. The boy had also been taking stimulant ADHD medications and perhaps the combination of the drug and the extra caffeine had pushed him over the edge.

93% of Unborn babies found to have GMO toxins

If you thought that the fuss over GM crops was over the top then maybe this new study from Canada will make you change your mind. The biotechnology industry has always claimed that a certain genetic pesticide used in the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops does not end up in the human body upon consumption. Not true.

Researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, in Canada have proved that Bt toxin, which is used in GM corn and other crops, definitively makes its way into the blood supply and was found in the bloodstreams of 93 percent of the pregnant women they tested.

If you are feeling complacent because you don’t eat GM modified foods then their study – which was just published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology – reveals that Bt toxin enters the body not only through direct consumption of GMOs, but also from consumption of meat, milk and eggs from animals whose feed contains GMOs. And that is virtually impossible for you to monitor on an individual basis. Among all women tested, 80 percent of the pregnant group tested positive for Bt toxin in their babies’ umbilical cords, but also a staggering 69 percent of non-pregnant women also tested positive for Bt toxin.

GM crops have been given approval in many countries because it was believed (and heavily promoted) that they were the same as conventional crops. The biotechnology industry has claimed for years that the alterations and chemicals used in GM crop cultivation pose no risk whatsoever to human health, and that any GM substances that remain in food are broken down in the digestive system. Now that it has been revealed that such claims are untrue many pressure groups are urging governments to pull GMOs from their food supplies.

“This research is a major surprise as it shows that the Bt proteins have survived the human digestive system and passed into the blood supply — something that regulators said could not happen,” said Pete Riley from GM Freeze, an alliance of organizations united against GMOs. “Regulators need to urgently reassess their opinions, and the EU should use the safeguard clauses in the regulations to prevent any further GM Bt crops being cultivated or imported for animal feed or food until the potential health implications have been fully evaluated.”

I am always wary of research that is funded by the interested parties, and most of the studies that have been used to validate the safety of GMOs have been conducted by the companies that created them in the first place. This does not, to me, make them a credible source for reliable safety data. Although Governments in North and South America, as well as throughout Europe, have essentially welcomed GMOs into the food supply this was based on evidence and reassurances from the companies themselves, and with this new independent study it certainly seems to be time to reassess the situation.

The easier and immediate solution is wherever possible to eat local organic, certified foods where you know their source or point of origin and ensure a reasonably high level of vitamin C intake (500-100mg a day) to help flush toxins from your system.

Concern Over Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy Linked to Lower IQ in Children

Exposure to pesticides is known to carry health risks in both adults and children, but a new study at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health, has found a clear link between intelligence rates and prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides.

Organophosphates (OP) are a class of pesticides that are widely used on food crops and are well documented neurotoxicants. Indoor use of chlorpyrifos and diazinon, two common OP pesticides, has been phased out over the past decade, primarily because of health risks to children. However, this is the first time that exposure to their use has been linked to lower intelligence scores in children when they reach the age of 7.

The researchers found that every tenfold increase in measures of organophosphates detected during a mother’s pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall IQ scores in the 7-year-olds. Children in the study with the highest levels of prenatal pesticide exposure scored seven points lower on a standardized measure of intelligence compared with children who had the lowest levels of exposure.

What this means in practice is that those children who have been exposed are also potentially being handicapped by having below average IQ rates and may possibly need more specialised education and support at school.

This is not an isolated study but part of a trio on pesticide exposure and childhood IQ that was published online April 21 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The other two studies — one at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the other at Columbia University — examined urban populations in New York City, while the UC Berkeley study focused on children living in Salinas, an agricultural center in Monterey County, California. The researchers sampled pesticide metabolites in maternal urine and umbilical cord blood levels of a specific pesticide, chlorpyrifos. A previous study also found an association between prenatal pesticide exposure and attention problems in children at age 5.

What is unusual is that these figures appear not just in urban areas but are consistent across all the population, which means that these pesticides have entered the food chain and are being consumed by everyone.

However, the really significant finding is that while markers of prenatal OP pesticide exposure were significantly correlated with childhood IQ, exposure to pesticides after birth was not. This suggests that exposure during fetal brain development was more critical than childhood exposure.

The most at risk occupations are exposure are farm workers, gardeners, florists, pesticide applicators and anyone working at a manufacturer of such products.
A simple precaution that pregnant women could take would be to switch to as organic diet as possible, particularly for grains, vegetables and meat products. At home, or in the garden, then use natural nonchemical insecticides and pesticides.

No More Needle Testing For Premature Babies Thanks To Irish Scientists

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have pioneered a new needle-free test to take the sting out of medicine testing in premature babies. The research will not only lead to greater accuracy in prescribing, but will also significantly reduce the trauma of such tests for newborn infants and their families. The latter alone ought to entitle them to a medal from grateful parents.

In the first published research project worldwide on this new approach to testing medicines in children, the findings were announced in leading US medical journal Pediatrics, though I would have thought a banner heading in the Lancet might be more appropriate. The study, which involves the use of blood spots obtained from a simple heel-prick, took place in the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s.

Principal Investigator, Queen’s Professor of Pharmacy Practice James McElnay said: “This type of testing will obviously reduce the discomfort of medicine testing in these vulnerable patients. What is even more important, however, is that it will ensure maximum accuracy in calculating the most appropriate dose of a medicine for a sick child.

“Some 80 per cent of infants in intensive care in hospitals receive medicines which have not been appropriately tested or licensed for use in such young patients, and the dosage is usually calculated based on licensed doses for adults or older children. Sizable blood samples are then required to measure the concentrations of the drug in the infant’s bloodstream. Our work opens up opportunities for using the same approach to study other medicines which are used in this manner in children, and we are currently studying a number of these.”

It has always been a concern that there is so little known about the proper dosage for premature children and if this new development eradicates that uncertainty it is even more important.

The Queen’s study involved the antibiotic metronidazole. The research team used single drops of blood collected on blotting paper from premature infants who were receiving the medicine as part of their routine care. The ‘spots’ were dried, analysed in the University’s School of Pharmacy, and the results used to develop dosage guidance for doctors.

Scientists develop genetically modified cows to produce “human” breast milk

April 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Health, Strange But True

I debated with myself whether or not to comment on this, as it has certainly had widespread attention in the newspapers. It seems that I won the debate so here goes. The words ‘genetically modified’ never inspire me with confidence and attempting to give babies such a product truly worries me.

China Agricultural University Scientists have bred 300 cattle that have been given human genes to make their milk contain the same nutrients and fat content as breast milk. Professor Li, who led the research, and his team used cloning technology to introduce human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows According to the Professor, the product could offer mothers an alternative to conventional infant formula. Why? There are already plenty of alternatives available to women who do not wish to, or cannot, breastfeed and it is already well established in the nutritional field that cow’s milk is not natural to babies, and indeed can be the cause of a basic allergic reaction in many.

Human milk differs from cows’ milk in several important ways. It contains high quantities of nutrients beneficial to a baby’s growth and immune system. It provides, without question, the best possible start in life for an infant’s health. Cows’ milk is much harder for a baby to digest, has less fat and fewer carbohydrates and contains no antibodies that protect against disease.

One variety of the GM cows produced milk containing lysozyme – an antimicrobial protein found in breast milk that protects babies from infection. They also created cows that produced human lactoferrin, a protein which boosts the immune system. A third human milk protein called alpha-lactalbumin was also expressed in the milk. Prof Li claims his team has boosted the milk’s fat content by a fifth and changed the levels of solids to make it close to the composition of human milk. The developers say it could help mothers who cannot breastfeed their babies and do not want to use formula but why they imagine giving an artificially altered milk is any better than a formula is something I have not yet got to grips with. The developers also claim ‘The milk tastes stronger than normal milk, and within ten years, people will be able to pick up these human-milk-like products at the supermarket.’ Alongside the other genetically modified products that will no doubt have crept into the marketplace, and some scientists in 20 years time will be getting a grant to investigate this is why these products are causing health problems in the consumer.

And just who is willing to take such a risk with their baby’s health? Or new product carry risks, and the risks are usually not apparent until the product has been in use in some time — would you gamble with your child’s health on that basis? Breast milk is promoted worldwide for the very good reason that it is perfectly suited to the babies health and growth and no cows’ milk is ever going to be able to match that.

So no, I don’t agree with genetically modified milk for babies and what about the poor old cows? In two experiments by the Chinese in which 42 GM calves were born, just 26 survived. Ten died soon after birth and six died within six months. A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said: ‘Offspring of cloned animals often suffer health and welfare problems, so this would be a grave concern. Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven’t already got?’

Certainly China’s rules on GM food are more relaxed than those in Europe and the GM milk would not be allowed on sale in Britain unless it was approved by the European Union and passed stringent safety tests. However, some British scientists said the research could be of huge benefit. Prof Keith Campbell, a biologist at Nottingham University and a member of the team that cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, (so not an unbiased commentator) said GM animals were not a threat to health unless scientists deliberately gave them a gene that made their milk toxic. ‘The modified milk could help boost sales of dairy products in Asia, where more than nine in ten people are lactose intolerant and cannot consume cows’ milk without suffering stomach upsets and cramps.’

What that it does for me is raise what I think is a very reasonable question, which is why is boosting dairy products a priority? If 9 out of 10 are lactose intolerant then why try to force to drink milk when it is not indigenous to their culture? It leads me to wonder just who is sponsoring this research and I suspect the dairy industry might have had a hand in writing a large cheque.

Allergies Affect More Than Your Physical Health

March 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Health

If you live in Britain you are more likely to be allergic to plums than your neighbours in Italy and Spain where peaches and apricots are responsible for a high number of allergic reactions. Apples are more likely to be a problem in France and Germany while celery and fennel make more “victims” in Switzerland and Holland. The differences depend on the various degrees of exposure to pollen or on dietary habits, but also on the diversity of allergens found in fruits and vegetables in different countries.
Allergic reactions of course affect your health but new research by The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is showing that there is an emotional impact as well.

The Academy is a non-profit organisation active in the field of allergic and immunologic diseases such as asthma, rhinitis, eczema, occupational allergy, food and drug allergy and anaphylaxis and was founded in 1956 in Florence. It is now the largest medical association in Europe in the field of allergy and clinical immunology with 6100 members from 107 countries and they were interested to study the emotional response to allergies in children.

What they found was that children who are allergic to food are found to be suffering from anxiety and are increasingly more lonely; with one allergic child out of five never attending peers’ parties, while one in four always brings along “safe” food. This level of anxiety and isolation has a dramatic impact on their quality of life as their normally active and sociable lifestyle can be severely limited and frustrated by the effort to keep them away from potentially dangerous food.

It is not just food they are giving up, but also physical activity as around 5 to 15 per cent of cases of anaphylactic shock can be triggered by physical activity following the consumption of small amounts of allergenic food that would otherwise be harmless, so one allergic child out of ten also stops every kind of exercise altogether. A study done in the hospital of the University of Padua in Italy found a staggering 17 percent of allergic children, regardless of their age, never go to a party or a picnic with friends, while 24 percent are forced to bring along something to eat.

Nor does this just apply to children: allergies are often downplayed as a minor problem, but the life of an allergic person can be hell. It is estimated that over 8.5 million people every Spring by reactions to pollen for instance. Those affected tend to be more afraid of being sick and have a higher level of anxiety about food and this constant alarm surrounding their health is taking a toll on their development and well-being.”

Another concern is that one out of three allergic patients leave home without their medication, despite the fact that it can immediately reverse any symptoms in most cases.

What Can You Do?
The Institute recommends that to prevent the spread of allergies in children their parents and any adults who come into regular contact with the child should stop smoking and improve their immunity by boosting their immune system. This is as simple as avoiding processed foods and eating good quantities of fruit and vegetables, together with supplements of antioxidants and vitamin D and herbal remedies like Echinacea can be highly effective.

Also there is hope that yoghurt can help food allergies for both prevention and treatment, but it needs to be a live probiotic yoghurt. Probiotics have an effect on the immune system and restore optimal intestinal flora and this may help the body to properly recognize the allergens, without triggering a response to food that is, in itself, harmless. Lactic acid bacteria have a well-known anti-inflammatory effect, which means that they can help ease the symptoms of food allergies.

Not all types of probiotics have been shown to prevent or ease allergic symptoms though so yoghurt alone may not do the trick, but it certainly would be a good ingredient to add to the diet of anyone with food allergies – and if the allergy is to lactose then goat or sheep yoghurt could do the trick – personally I find sheep yoghurt very smooth and mild though goat is an acquired taste!

Why Energy Drinks Should Carry A Health Warning

March 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, featured, Health

Kids love them, and office workers pop the can to raise their flagging energy levels but many of the popular energy drinks (particularly in the US) can contain high levels of unregulated ingredients which could pose a health risk – particularly to children, adolescents, and young adults.
The main problem is caffeine overdose and the review found that almost half of 5,448 such overdoses reported in 2007 involved people under age 19, according to University of Miami research.  Many energy drinks contain 70 to 80 mg of caffeine per 8-oz. serving — about three times the concentration in cola drinks and surveys suggest that up to half of the energy drinks on the market are consumed by adolescents and young adults.
Other ingredients the review identified that are common to energy drinks, included taurine, L-carnitine, ginseng, guarana and yohimbine. Every gram of guarana contains 40 to 80 mg of caffeine, as well as theobromine and theophylline. Interaction with other plant compounds has the potential to increase the half-life of guarana. The authors also found a potential for drug interactions with certain energy-drink ingredients, such as 5-hydroxy tryptophan, vinpocetine, yohimbine, and ginseng.
Energy drinks have been linked to serious adverse effects in young people, including seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, and mood and behavioural disorders – none of which concern the consumers it seems. Marketed in more than 140 countries, energy drinks are the fastest growing segment of the soft drinks market and it is children, adolescents and young adults (ages 19 to 25) who account for half of the energy-drink market.
Among countries that have collected data on adverse effects associated with energy drinks, Germany has maintained records since 2002 and documented effects that included liver damage, kidney failure, respiratory disorders, agitation, seizures, psychotic conditions, rhabdomyolysis, tachycardia and cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, heart failure, and death.  Ireland documented 17 incidents, including two deaths, between 1999 and 2005. New Zealand reported 20 energy drink-associated incidents, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jitteriness,” racing heart, and agitation.
Taken to give a ‘buzz’ these drinks – like most things – are fine in moderation, but the problem lies particularly with children with underlying health problems.  These include cardiovascular, renal, or liver disease, seizures, diabetes, mood and behavioural disorders, hyperthyroidism — or those who take certain medications.  Children with these conditions may be especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of high doses of caffeine and other ingredients found in energy drinks.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits caffeine content in soft drinks, which are categorized as food, but there is no such regulation of energy drinks, which are classified as dietary supplements.  The amount of research into them has been extremely limited – as should be their consumption, by children and adults with cardiac conditions as too much caffeine is good for neither group

Risk of Steroid Treatment for Asthma in Children

Children experiencing an asthma attack who are treated with a short burst of oral steroids may have a brief and transient depression of immune response, according to a new study led by Université de Montréal. These findings, published in this month’s issue of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonology, have implications for asthmatic children who have flare-ups and who may be exposed to new contagious diseases.

Francine M. Ducharme, a Université de Montréal professor and pediatrician and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center sums it up. “There is no question that the administration of corticosteroids reduces the risk and duration of hospital admission in children with acute asthma and remains the most effective treatment for moderate and severe asthma exacerbations. However, the safety profile of these medications continues to raise concerns among parents and physicians. Concerns over their possible impact on the immune system stem from few rare reports linking or severe chickenpox infections linked with corticosteroid administration.”

The study is based on the immune response of children aged 3 to 17 years, who had arrived at the emergency department (ED) with an asthma attack. All subjects were given immune triggers (known as antigens) and the immune response between those who received corticosteroids versus those who did not were compared. “Several corticosteroid-treated children had a lower immune response, as measured by the amount of antibody produced, than non-treated kids,” says Ducharme.

However it seems that these findings indicate there may be a very transient immune suppression only in some children exposed to a new antigen at the same time as a corticosteroid administration. In other words your child needs to have an attack, steroids and a new antigen such as chicken pox within a six week period. This is reassuring as it does not apply to the majority of children who suffer asthma attacks, but before your child is prescribed oral corticosteroids you need to inform your doctor about any recent exposure to chickenpox in children who did not have chickenpox or the vaccine.

The researchers recommend that all children with asthma who have not had chickenpox should be vaccinated for this condition. Yet vaccinations are not the ideal route for everyone, and there are a number of well tried homoeopathic remedies which may be suitable for your child. Seek the advice of a qualified homoepath and to find one near you consult the register at www.homeopathy-soh.org/

Acupuncture Proven Helpful for Pain Relief and Lazy Eye in Children

January 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Health

I have always been a great fan of acupuncture as it started me on my career as a health writer by treating a trapped sciatic nerve that completely immobilized me and without the 200 painkiller prescription the doctor had offered. Acupuncture has previously been found to help improve fertility, increase heart function, and assist in helping people sleep, and I know not everyone is fond of needles, but evidence also continues to mount as to its effectiveness at reducing and eliminating pain.

New findings from the University Hospital in Essen, Germany were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). They included functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans that clearly show a positive change in the metabolic activity of patients’ brains receiving acupuncture treatment.

This is a small scale study of only 18 volunteers and lead researcher Nina Theysohn, MD, from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and Neuroradiology explained why it is important. “Functional MRI gives us the opportunity to directly observe areas of the brain that are activated during pain perception and see the variances that occur with acupuncture. Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture.”

Acupuncture for pain relief has been used for centuries in China, where it originated, and is also available as an option in the Birthing Unit at my local hospital instead of epidural drugs.
The findings challenge a commonly held belief that acupuncture works primarily as a placebo and while certain brain responses to acupuncture indicate facets of a placebo response, others clearly highlight specific mechanical activities in the brain that demonstrably reduce pain symptoms.

Acupuncture and Children With Lazy Eye:
It seems that it could also potentially become an alternative to patching for treating amblyopia (lazy eye) in some older children, which can affect up to 5 percent of individuals worldwide . The report by Jianhao Zhao, M.D., of Joint Shantou International Eye Center of Shantou University and Chinese University appeared in a recent issue of Archives of Ophthalmology and said that although this problem can be corrected easily with glasses or contact lenses it only appears to be effective in children age 3 to 7 years. Over that age, and up to 12, only 30 percent respond to visual correction alone and the usual solution is to also patch over one eye and this does increase this response rate to two-thirds.

However, there are problems with patching as children do not like it, often removing the patch when out of parental supervision and those that do follow the regime can experience emotional problems through teasing or feeling different and vulnerable.

Acupuncture has previously been used to treat dry eye and myopia and so a controlled trial involving 88 children was set up where 43 were randomly assigned to the acupuncture group and received five treatments per week targeting five acupoints, or needle insertion sites. The remaining 45 children had their good eye patched for two hours a day and were instructed to do at least one hour of near-vision activities with the lazy eye, such as reading or typing.

After 15 weeks there was a 75.6 percent improvement in vision of those in the acupuncture group and lazy eye was considered resolved in 16.7 percent of patched eyes and 41.5 percent of eyes in the acupuncture group. Both treatments were well tolerated; children had no problems complying with either therapy, and no serious adverse effects were found in either group.

Acupuncture is believed to be effective because by targeting vision-related acupoints it may change the activity of the visual cortex, the part of the brain that receives data from the eyes. It may also increase blood flow to the eye and surrounding structures as well as stimulate the generation of compounds that support the growth of retinal nerves.

Whatever you want to use acupuncture for, it is essential to only use a qualified practitioner and I recommend you ask if they have treated your condition before, how often, and what the success rate is. To find a qualified acupuncturist in your area ask at your local health stores and natural health clinics for recommendations or visit www.acupuncture.org.uk

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