Thursday, May 31, 2007

Taping it is a good wheeze

Learning to cope with asthma symptoms was easier once Kate Whyman shut her mouth

I regularly sleep with my mouth taped shut. I’m not being held hostage. Nor does my husband have odd tendencies in that direction. It isn’t even to stop me snoring, though apparently it has that welcome side effect. The nightly ritual of sticking micropore tape over my lips is part of my latest attempt to put an end to asthma.
I’ve never had a full-blown asthma attack, but I’ve been wheezy for the past ten years. I’ve blamed the cats, exhaust fumes and house dust, but fastidious vacuuming, living by the sea and banishing cats from the bedroom have made no difference. When I consulted my GP, I was surprised to hear her call it asthma and prescribe me a Ventolin inhaler. Then that was upgraded to a steroid inhaler. Suddenly I was on serious medication, just to cope with my wheezes.
I still couldn’t pinpoint what was triggering my episodes, although they did get slightly worse when I was stressed, and I became increasingly alarmed at how frequently I needed to use my inhaler, sometimes more than twice a day. It was at this point, last July, that I decided to search for alternative solutions.
That’s how I found the Buteyko method, devised in the 1950s by the Russian medical scientist Dr Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko. He had noticed that sick people tend to breathe more often and more deeply, especially as they became more ill. Could overbreathing be contributing to their problems? He felt that it was and compiled a list of 150 conditions, including asthma, that could be reversed by breathing less.
The Buteyko theory rests on the assumption that overbreathing increases the amount of oxygen and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the body, and this can trigger an asthma attack (see below). In our respiratory cycle we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of metabolic reactions. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the blood stimulate breathing.
Hence, the Buteyko theory sounded counter-intuitive, as we normally associate high oxygen levels and low carbon dioxide levels with good health. But a scientific trial published last year in the journal Thorax showed that asthma sufferers using the Buteyko technique were able to reduce their need for inhalers significantly. I decided to give it a try.

Source - Times

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Inside the chinese medicine minefield

Chinese medicine clinics are popping up on every High Street. Many are reputable - but others are totally unlicensed, give bizarre diagnoses for potentially serious illnesses and charge a fortune for dubious cocktails of herbs.
The doctor checks my pulse and inspects my tongue. Then, the clinic's receptionist, who is squeezed into one corner of the windowless room of the Health Oriental Medicine Centre and acting as translator, gives Dr Jaing’s diagnosis.
The increasingly severe, agonising headaches, nausea, and dizziness I have been suffering from for the past three weeks have, she says, been caused by "wind" that has entered my brain.
"How did wind get into my brain?" I ask.
"Natural wind from outside blows in and gets trapped, causing problems," translates the receptionist, waving her fingers mystically in front of her face.
The doctor nods. Perhaps sensing my confusion, she adds that I shouldn't worry, it is "not serious problem".
I can be cured with six sessions of acupuncture, one a week, costing £150, a week’s supply of herbal tablets, costing £20, and a specially concocted tea to be drunk twice a day, for £35.
"If you have all together, is most powerful effect.
"Just one alone, less powerful. If you start treatment immediately we can cure you for ever," promises the receptionist.
Explaining that I need to think carefully, I leave the West London clinic. In reality, I'm in need of no treatment, medical or otherwise.
Clinics such as this one, offering traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) - a combination of herbal remedies and acupuncture - have mushroomed on High Streets across the UK since their emergence in the late Eighties.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, more than one in ten of us have used Chinese medicine at some point.
The number of individual practitioners has increased from around 200 in 1988 to more than 3,000 today — a figure based on membership of the three main TCM self-governing bodies: the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the British Acupuncture Council.
All three demand their practitioners are trained to degree level in TCM.

Source - Daily Mail

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Artificial food colouring warning

Parents are being advised by experts not to give their children food containing certain additives until the results of a new study are published.
UK researchers tested the effects of a range of artificial colourings on children's behaviour.
It is understood the results back previous research linking additives to hyperactivity and poor concentration.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it would not issue formal recommendations until the findings were published.
But independent experts said parents should avoid foodstuffs containing the additives.
A team at the University of Southampton tested the additives tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129) on both three-year olds and eight-to-nine year olds.

The amounts used in the study were those that an average child might consume in a day.
A source at the University told food industry magazine the Grocer that their results supported findings first made seven years ago that linked the additives to behavioural problems such as temper tantrums, poor concentration, hyperactivity and allergic reactions.

The FSA's Committee of Toxicity on Chemicals looked at the original research, known as the Isle of Wight study, which had concluded removal of such colourings from childrens' diet would produce "significant changes" in behaviour and not just in those children already showing hyperactive behaviour.
But the Committee decided in 2002 the research was inconclusive.
At a recent closed meeting the Committee noted the "public health importance" of the new findings but the results will not be acted until published in a scientific journal.
The FSA said it would be handling the findings in "the proper scientific way" and hoped they would be published in a matter of months.

Source - BBC

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