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Adaptogens For Modulating The Immune System: The Role Of Herbal Medicine In Autoimmune Disease

Although adaptogens have been used in the form of tonics, rasayanas, or restoratives in Russia, China, India and the Americas for centuries, they’re fairly new to modern medicine. In the United States, adaptogens first came under medical scrutiny in the late 1940s. During these early studies, the physiological effects of adaptogens, such as increased resistance to infectious agents, were easily demonstrated. However, the immune system hadn’t been discovered. Thus, adaptogens were thought to benefit the body’s physiology through non-specific means.

Adaptogens in Mainstream Medicine

With the discovery of the immune system in the 1960s and a better understanding of white blood cell function, scientists had the means to accurately study the effects of adaptogens, which are also referred to as immunomodulators. Consequently, in 1968, the scientists Israel Brekhman and I.V. Dardymov formally described adaptogens as nontoxic; capable of increasing the body’s resistance to physical, chemical and biological stressors; and having a normalizing effect on the body.

In addition to modulating the immune system, adaptogens are reported to balance the endocrine system and help the body heal itself (maintain homeostasis). Adaptogens are also thought to help the body cope with the effects of long-term stress as well as immediate stressors.

For instance, adaptogens such as Eleutherococcus (Siberian ginseng), Avena sativa, and skullcap are reported to improve and strengthen adrenal glands exhausted by years of long-term stress.

Specific Adaptogens

In general, adaptogens are all potent antioxidants and they’re reported to improve endurance and produce effects associated with stress reduction, for instance, improved sleep and enhanced athletic performance. Specific adaptogens are associated with specific properties. For instance,Rhodiolarosea is reported to reduce the neurasthenic effects caused by physical and mental stress and has sexual-stimulating properties.

Active Ingredients

Studies show that adaptogens contain a variety of phytochemicals that are responsible for their antioxidant and immunomodulating properties. These phytochemicals include: Triterpenes, which include the plant sterols, sterolins and saponins; Phenylpropanoids, including the bioflavinoids, and lignans; and Oxylipins, including the hydroxylated fatty acids.

Read Also: Practical Care-giving For An Alzheimer’s Patient: Caring For A Person With Alzheimer’s Can Be Difficult And Intense

Using Adaptogens

Adaptogens can have individual effects depending on the general health, constitution, and specific nutrient deficiencies, and medical conditions present in an individual. Like all herbs, adaptogens should be used under the direction of a naturopath or herbalist who can advise of interactions with other herbs and prescription medicines. Individual adaptogens may be used or tonics containing several complementary adaptogens.

As immunomodulators, adaptogens strengthen weakened immune systems, offering benefits in autoimmune disease.

Practical Care-giving For An Alzheimer’s Patient: Caring For A Person With Alzheimer’s Can Be Difficult And Intense

There are many practical implications to caring an Alzheimer’s patient. Here is a basic guide to what may be encountered.

Driving

The ability to drive is normally decided on a case by case basis. If there is any chance of the person getting lost or endangering lives, then driving should not be allowed.

Dressing

Many patients hold on to this area of control. So long as they are dressed appropriately for the weather and don’t have their underwear on top of outer garments, it is best to allow them to retain this freedom as long as possible.

Grooming Issues

A patient may reach the stage where he cannot attend to any personal grooming. In this case:

  • Keep the patient’s hair in a short, easy style to manage
  • Allow male patients to grow a beard to do away with the daily shaving ritual
  • Keep nails trimmed and check for ingrown toenails
  • Dress the patient in loose, easy to fasten clothing

Personal Hygiene

Patients in advanced stages of the disease will generally require assistance to bathe. Here are some points to be aware of:

  • Fear of running water or water falling on the head is common
  • Shower or bath chairs can make the process easier
  • Use non-slip mats in baths and showers
  • Sponge baths can suffice on alternate day so long as the genital area is kept clean
  • Modesty can be an issue. Allow the person to wear a robe in the shower for this reason.

Oral Hygiene

Alzheimer’s patients will reach the stage where they need assistance with brushing their teeth. Check for raw patches and ill fitting dentures as part of daily care. Swabs impregnated with toothpaste are available if the patient will not open his mouth properly. (Be careful of being bitten).

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Incontinence

This occurs for two main reasons:

  • Age related conditions such as weakened pelvic muscles
  • Confusion when trying to find a bathroom and inability to get clothes off quickly

Try not to make a fuss if an accident happens. Rather schedule regular bathroom visits and look for signs that the patient needs the toilet. There is an excellent range of adult pads and diapers available if incontinence becomes a big problem.

Bedsores

If the patient is bedridden, turn him every three hours to prevent bedsores from forming. A sheepskin can help cushion tender flesh.

You may also like: Understanding Sunscreen SPF Numbers.

Eating

Keep meals to a regular schedule and make sure the patient is eating enough. Swallowing becomes difficult for some in the latter stages of the disease.

  • Serve food cut into small pieces
  • Offer finger foods
  • Serve the patient in a room where he is comfortable
  • Keep distractions to a minimum

Exercise

Light exercise is to be encouraged. Look at things like walking, dancing and gardening. If the patient enjoyed swimming in the past, the caregiver could swim with him, ensuring he is wearing a life jacket.

Sleeping Arrangements

Sleep problems are common and are the main reason for placing patients in residential care. To settle a patient at bedtime, try these tips:

  • Restrict caffeine to six hours before bedtime
  • Don’t allow heavy snacks close to bedtime
  • Have a bedtime routine

Keeping Track of a Loved One

In case a patient goes wandering, mark all his clothing with iron on labels giving his name, address and phone number. Mark underwear and socks as well. A medic alert or safe return bracelet are also options.

An Alzheimer’s patient generally has more than one caregiver. If they all follow the same routines and rules, life will be more settled and easier for all concerned.

Understanding Sunscreen SPF Numbers

In any pharmacy such as Boots or Superdrug, there will likely be hundreds of sunscreen products on offer in different brands and showing different numbers on specific products. These numbers refer to the level of sun protection factor and can range from very low such as factor 8 right up to factor 60, which offers all-day protection.

Understanding Sunscreen SPF Numbers

The sun protection factor number is a useful indication of the level of protection that each product is able to provide. It is well worth asking a pharmacist for advice on specific brands and which are most suitable to meet individual skin types. A simple rule of thumb is that the paler the individual’s skin tone is, then the greater the sun protection factor that is likely to be required in order to prevent sunburn and more severe forms of sun damage which may result in melanoma or other forms of skin cancer.

SPF numbers have two main uses, including:

  • to calculate minimal erythema dosage
  • to indicate absorption percentage of UVA radiation

Minimal Erythema Dose

The minimal erythema dose or MED is used to provide the individual with a measure of the length of time one may be exposed to sunlight before the skin begins to show the early signs of sunburn where the skin starts to appear very slightly pink in colour. It is the SPF number that is multiplied by the MED to work out this amount of time. An example of this is if one takes 20 minutes of exposure to the sun before exhibiting the earliest stage of sunburn, then wearing a sunscreen offering sun protection factor 10 would mean that one could remain in the sun for approximately 200 minutes before showing signs associated with sunburn.

However, if one is swimming or engaging in active sport, then even if water-resistant sunscreen has been used it will be necessary for sunscreen to be reapplied afterwards.

Check More: Recognizing And Treating Deep Vein Thrombosis: It’s Important To Know What To Look For Concerning Blood Clots.

Selecting Appropriate Sunscreen

It is worth taking time to consider which sunscreen is going to be most useful rather than just purchasing the nearest item or those on special offer. This is because different products offer very different levels of protection and are useful for various situations. Sunscreen must be broad-spectrum in order to protect one against the damaging effects of both UVA and UVB levels of radiation. Purchasing a sunscreen with an SPF number of at least 15 or ideally 20+ is advisable. Also, think about whether one is likely to be involved in water-sports and if this is the case, ensure the sunscreen is labelled water-resistant.

As highlighted above, SPF numbers are used to show the level of protection offered by a particular type of sunscreen. When multiplied by the MED, it is possible to identify roughly how long one may be exposed to sunlight before exhibiting early signs of sunburn. If in doubt it is always better to purchase sunscreen of around 20+.

Recognizing And Treating Deep Vein Thrombosis: It’s Important To Know What To Look For Concerning Blood Clots

The term “deep vein thrombosis” refers to blood clots that occur in deep veins, often in the legs, although they can occur in other areas as well. Blood clots can cause pain and other symptoms, but in some cases there are no symptoms. These clots sometimes disappear on their own, but there are major risks associated with them, the most serious being that a blood clot can break free and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of Blood Clot

As mentioned above, blood clots sometimes have no obvious symptoms. When symptoms do occur, common ones are swelling in the affected leg or area, pain in area, and/or redness and warmth. If any of these symptoms are experienced, please see a doctor right away.

It’s also important to be aware of the signs of a pulmonary embolism, in case a clot were to break free. These symptoms include chest pain that worsens when the person coughs or takes a deep breath, a sudden and unexplained shortness of breath, and producing blood when coughing, according to the Mayo Clinic in their staff article, “Deep Vein Thrombosis,” on August 8, 2009. Other signs to be aware of are feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or unexplained fainting.

Causes and Prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis

People are more likely to experience blood clots if they are immobile for long periods, such as during long car or plane rides, or when on bed rest because of illness or injury. Certain inherited blood clotting disorders can also put people at risk for deep vein thrombosis. Those who have a personal history of blood clots are also more likely to get them again.

Certain lifestyle factors also put a person more at risk for blood clots. For instance, smoking, being overweight, taking birth control pills and being pregnant all put someone at higher risk of getting clots. People who have heart failure are also more likely to develop blood clots.

To reduce the risk of developing blood clots, avoid long periods of being immobile as much as possible, lose excess weight, quit smoking and control blood pressure, as high blood pressure also increases deep vein thrombosis risk.

For those who have already had blood clots, make sure to see a doctor regularly and take any prescribed medications exactly as directed. Ask the doctor about guidelines for vitamin K intake, as it may be recommended to limit foods that are high in vitamin K, such as soybean products and leafy green vegetables.

Read More: Testing For H1N1 Suspended In Many Areas: Is Tamiflu Resistance Being Underreported?

Treatments for Blood Clots

One of the most common treatments for blood clots is blood thinning medication, such as Coumadin. These medications will not get rid of clots, but will keep them from getting bigger and help to keep new clots from developing. Some doctors recommend compression stockings for patients with blood clots to reduce swelling.

In an article provided to Vascularweb.org by The Society of Vascular Surgery on October 14, 2009, it’s reported that another possible treatment for blood clots can be the insertion of a screen into the a large vein in the abdomen, the vena cava. The purpose of this screen is to prevent the clot from being able to travel to the lungs in the event the clot breaks free and travels. It is often used for people who for one reason or another cannot take blood thinning medication.

Deep vein thrombosis can be a very serious condition, and it’s important to see a doctor or go to the hospital if symptoms of blood clot present, such as pain, swelling or redness in legs. Preventing this condition by not remaining immobile for long periods and practicing good self care is also a good idea.

Testing For H1N1 Suspended In Many Areas: Is Tamiflu Resistance Being Underreported?

Strain-specific testing for 2009 H1N1 influenza (swine flu) has been suspended in many areas due to the high prevalence of this pandemic strain in the human population.

Public health officials report that widespread confirmatory testing is superfluous and not cost-effective: Testing can be omitted, they say, in the majority of patients who present with flu-like symptoms because 2009 H1N1 is now the most common bug around.

Unfortunately, influenza is a very adaptable virus—some would call it “sloppy,” due to the promiscuous and random nature of its genetic acquisitions. It freely shares information with other viruses that cohabit the same infected cell; its genome shifts, drifts, and recombines faster than virologists can keep up with it.

It is influenza’s propensity for rapid genetic transformation that makes vaccine development so difficult: An immunization that appeared to be a good viral match in midsummer is suddenly rendered ineffectual as new strains emerge in the fall.

Virology Basics: The Structure of Influenza A (H1N1)

Influenza A viruses all share a common structure:
  1. A viral envelope, composed of lipoproteins and glycoproteins (including the variable “H” and “N” antigens)
  2. A viral genome, consisting of eight single, highly-segmented RNA strands that contain the codes for eleven proteins needed for construction and function of a mature virus
Structure and Function Elegantly Combine
  • The manufacture of all viral proteins takes place in the hijacked nucleus of an infected cell
  • The segmented nature of influenza’s RNA allows for free exchange of entire genes between different viruses, as well as the frequent breaking and random recombining of genetic segments
  • Polymorphisms (“many forms”) exist within the population of influenza viruses; these may be due to differences in entire gene segments or to point mutations within a single gene
  • Most polymorphisms are the result of random mutation and confer no evolutionary benefit to the virus, but some allow the virus to survive and replicate more efficiently in certain environments (higher temperatures, different species, etc.)
  • Specific polymorphisms may derive survival benefits under certain environmental pressures (the development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a classic example of one polymorphism conferring an advantage over another due to a selective force that eliminates only the susceptible bacteria)

Emerging Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) Resistance in Novel H1N1

As of March 2009, analyses of viruses circulating in the United States revealed that 98% of the “garden-variety” flu (a different H1N1 strain) was resistant to Tamiflu, a drug commonly used to treat influenza. Scientists were puzzled by the near-universal resistance of influenza to Tamiflu, and public health experts who had stockpiled the drug in preparation for a pandemic of highly-lethal H5N1 (avian flu) were understandably concerned.

Further investigation revealed that the development of Tamiflu resistance was probably not due to the overuse of the drug, but arose instead as the result of a spontaneous mutation in the viral genome. More ominous, however, was the finding that the new mutation not only conferred resistance to oseltamivir; it seemed to increase the virus’ ability to infect people. (Dharan N, et al. Infections with oseltamivir-resistant influenza A (H1N1) virus in the United States. JAMA. 2009;301[10]:1034-41)

Enter 2009 H1N1…

On June 30, 2009, a case of Tamiflu-resistant influenza A/H1N1 (pandemic “swine flu”) was reported in Denmark.

On August 15 the World Health Organization reported Tamiflu-resistant cases in patients from Hunan, China and Singapore (where H5N1 remains endemic).

On August 22 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that six cases of Tamiflu-resistant 2009 influenza A/H1N1 had been detected in the United States.

Unfortunately, only about 1,000 samples had been tested for Tamiflu resistance in the U.S. Nearly 9,000 people with swine flu had already been hospitalized here by that time, and an untold number of infected individuals remained at home, effectively excluded from the database.

Henry Niman, PhD, of Recombinomics, Inc., reports an increasing detection rate for the H274Y polymorphism that confers Tamiflu resistance in 2009 pandemic flu. He agrees that this polymorphism—apparently the result of a random mutation—has been present in the viral genome for some time, and he summarizes reports of resistant cases in Seattle, California, Texas, and North Carolina.

In other words, all across America, drug-resistant strains of pandemic H1N1 influenza are emerging; due to limited surveillance, public health officials probably aren’t cognizant of the full breadth of the problem and there may be more surprises from this ever-changing organism that are flying just beneath the radar.