Monday, April 30, 2007

Dirt 'boosts happiness'

Exposure to dirt may be a way to lift mood as well as boost the immune system, UK scientists say.

Lung cancer patients treated with "friendly" bacteria normally found in the soil have anecdotally reported improvements in their quality of life.

Mice exposed to the same bacteria made more of the brain's "happy" chemical serotonin, the Bristol University authors told the journal Neuroscience.

Common antidepressants work by boosting this brain chemical.

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Tea 'could cut skin cancer risk'

Drinking just two cups of tea per day could cut the risk of developing skin cancer, a study suggests.
The US research compared the tea-drinking habits of 1,400 people with skin cancer and 700 who had not developed the disease.

The study, in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, suggests chemicals in tea could have a protective effect.

But British cancer experts warned that the best way to guard against the disease was to protect the skin.

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Mediterranean diet 'could prevent asthma'

Eating a Mediterranean diet could help protect children from respiratory allergies and asthma, a study suggests.

UK, Greek and Spanish researchers assessed the diet and health of almost 700 children living in rural areas of Crete, where such conditions are rare.

They found those with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables were protected against both conditions.
UK experts said the study, in Thorax, added to existing evidence that diet could help control asthma symptoms.

Source - BBC News

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Alcohol 'makes fruit healthier'

Strawberries are good for you but having them in a cocktail may make them even healthier, a study suggests.
The fruit contains compounds that can protect against cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
But having them with alcohol, such as in a daiquiri, boosts these antioxidant properties, the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture says.
Nutritionists said the "detrimental effects" of such drinks could cancel out such benefits.

The most common cocktail to include strawberries is the daiquiri - which also includes lime or lemon juice, strawberry liqueur, sugar - and rum.

Source - BBC

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Omega 3 'significantly' improves behaviour of hyperactive children

Omega-3 fish oil can help children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, a study published today suggests.
Results from "the largest, clinical-based omega-3 and omega-6 trial of its kind" bolstered views that fatty acids relieve aspects of the condition.
The tests were undertaken by the University of South Australia and an Australian government research body.

They involved 132 children aged between seven and 12 with ADHD symptoms and the active fatty acid used was Equazen's eye q supplement.
For 15 weeks, during the first half of the test, children were split into three groups.
One took eye q, the second took eye q and a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, while the third took placebo palm oil capsules.
All children were then given eye q and the multivitamins/minerals.
At the end of the 30-week-long trial, almost half of the children taking eye q for the whole study saw "significant" reductions in ADHD symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, researchers said.
After the placebo group switched to the combined oil supplement for 15 weeks, they showed significant improvements in parent behaviour ratings and attention span.

Source - Daily Mail

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Herbal remedy shown to have anti-cancer effect

A widely used herbal supplement taken to aid digestion has been found to have powerful anti-cancer properties. Triphala, made from the dried and powdered fruit of three plants, is the most popular Ayurvedic remedy in India. It is used to stimulate the appetite, treat intestinal disorders and act as a laxative.
Indian scientists have claimed for years that Triphala has value as a detoxifying and anti-cancer agent. Now researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute say they have shown that it can prevent or slow the growth of pancreatic cancer tumours implanted in mice.
Millions of cancer patients turn to herbal supplements and vitamin pills in the hope that they can boost their immune systems and help fight the disease. Many take them out of disaffection with conventional medicine but doctors warn that exaggerated claims are being made for their effects.
The latest findings, presented to the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Los Angeles yesterday, suggest some herbal preparations may have genuine anti-cancer action.
Mice grafted with human pancreatic tumours were fed one to two milligrams of Triphala for five days a week. By the end of the study, their tumours were half the size of those in a control group of mice fed saline (salt solution) only.
Sanjay Srivastava, the assistant professor in pharmacology who led the study, said: "We discovered that Triphala fed orally to mice ... was an extremely effective inhibitor of the cancer process. Triphala triggered the cancerous cells to die off and significantly reduced the size of tumours without causing any side effects."

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Eczema treatment that comes up to scratch

A herbal cream helped to soothe one mother and daughter’s painful itch

When 38-year-old Jacquie Terry’s daughter, Hope, was 1, a photographer offering portraits in a local supermarket refused to take her photograph. “Unless you put some make-up on her the baby will look so awful you won’t buy the photograph,” he said. Hope’s eczema, having initially been in small patches, had suddenly spread to her face and was inflamed, as it became infected when she scratched.
Terry had expected Hope to contract eczema as Hope’s father has eczema and it tends to run in families. Terry also has psoriasis on her scalp and leg, an inherited skin condition that began during her finals at university. Hope’s eczema was worst on the back of her knees, neck and joints. As well as scratching when she felt anxious, itching would keep her awake at night, and sometimes she would scratch so badly that she drew blood. The eczema would then become infected and a course of antibiotics would be needed, as well as treatment for the condition. This progressed from heavy-duty moisturisers to hydrocortisone and stronger steroid creams, as each one proved ineffective.
Steroid creams are prescribed during eczema flare-ups as they act by reducing inflammation quickly. The strength of steroid cream that a doctor prescribes depends on the age of the patient, the severity of the condition, and the size of the area to be treated.
Hope is now 6 and for the past five years, against her better judgment, Terry has been treating her with steroid creams. Both her GP and her friends had warned against long-term use of the creams.

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The last straw came when Hope said she didn’t want to wear shorts for PE because of the skin on her legs. When a friend suggested cardiospermum gel, Terry did some research.
Cardiospermum is one of the commonest herbs used for skin problems in Sri Lanka. Its botanical term is Cardiospermum halicacabum, but is locally known as balloon vine. This wiry climber’s main antiinflammatory powers are said to lie mostly in its leaves and seeds, which have been used for hundreds of years in Sri Lanka for skin dryness and eczema, as the seeds contain triterpenoids, which have an antiinflammatory effect and antibacterial qualities.
Terry and Hope embarked on a course of treatment two months ago, using the hypoallergenic cardiospermum gel that she found online.
“I was dubious at first,” says Terry, “as I had relied on the steroid for so long I didn’t think anything else would work on Hope. Also, the gel smells a bit like compost, but it feels cooling and seemed to absorb really quickly, and the smell doesn’t linger.
“Hope’s skin is really good at the moment. We used the gel twice a day and it soothed the itching almost immediately. She absolutely hates having creams put on, probably because her skin has been so sensitive before, so the fact that the cardiospermum is in a gel, and is not messy or irritating or greasy, has made the whole process much easier.”
Terry is also using the gel for the psoriasis patches on her legs and claims “it is definitely breaking down the rough patches and making them smoother”.

Source - Times

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Fast way to heal

Can a liquid diet cure bowel disease? It helped one woman

Heather Auty-Johns, 48, had always enjoyed good health. But all that changed when she went on holiday to Florida in May 2004. Instead of a pleasant break Auty-Johns spent the two weeks feeling “really uncomfortable in my stomach and extremely tired”.
Back home in London, she went to her GP because on the first day of her holiday she had also started to pass blood from her bowel. Her GP treated her as an emergency, and Auty-Johns had a sigmoidoscopy, an examination of the lower part of the colon, followed by several colonoscopies, enabling doctors to look at the whole of her large intestine.
“These procedures were horrendous as my colon was so inflamed and sore. The bleeding was worse and I started to pass a lot of mucus. Some days I felt too scared to eat anything, as the pain afterwards was so intense. I felt drained and was going to bed as soon as I got home,” says Auty-Johns. Four colonoscopies later and over a year after the symptoms began, tests showed that her bowel was covered with ulcers. The diagnosis was ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine or colon. It is a type of auto-immune disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. It seems only to affect those who are genetically susceptible, and the susceptibility is passed down in families. What triggers the condition is unconfirmed; it may be particular types of bacteria getting into the digestive tract.

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In January 2006 Auty-Johns, a human resources manager, was put in touch with Gina Shaw, a natural hygiene practitioner. Shaw explained that the recommended fasts could be juice-only or water-only, and that such fasting removed the body’s need to use energy for digestion. “This, along with complete rest, gives the body the opportunity to focus on detoxifying and repairing itself,” she says. “This works especially well on bowel diseases such as colitis, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.”

Source - Times

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