Stay safe in the sun this summer

I intended to write this article on the first day of summer. But as I sat on my sun-kissed desk in California, a place known for its warm, dry summers, opal sky and scantily-clad liberals, I figured I better check the weather in London before continuing. With a few weeks of drizzle and clouds, it seems that summer in London is finally on the horizon.

The following are some of the health benefits that exposure to sunlight can bring, including tips to stay safe.

Whereas exposure to excessive levels of sunlight is detrimental to our health, moderate exposure can boost our physical and mental state. The aim is to enjoy the sun sensibly, to make enough vitamin D, while not increasing the risk of skin cancer.

 

HEALTH BENEFITS

 

1) Improves the quality of sleep

Waking up in sync with the sun’s natural light switches off melatonin, a hormone made in your pineal gland, associated with sleep onset. This is the reason why you feel alert during your waking hours and tired at bedtime – and discombobulated when you cross time zones after a long-haul flight. It is, therefore, a good idea to open the curtains in the morning and avoid artificial light once the sun goes down.

People with irregular sleeping schedules often have trouble sleeping or feel tired during waking hours. Several studies have shown that chronic disruption of circadian rhythms can lead to weight gain, slower thinking, and other physiological and behavioural changes – analogous to the changes observed in people who experience shift work or jet lag.

 

2) Reduces risk of some cancers

Prolonged sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, but vitamin D is also known to be protective against several cancers, including of the colon, kidney and breast. In a study conducted by the US National Cancer Institute, it was found that high levels of sunlight were significantly associated with reduced mortality from breast and colon cancer. Similar effects were seen in the bladder, womb, oesophagus and stomach cancer.

 

3) Improves mood

Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. It’s no surprise that spending time outdoors improves mood and relieves stress. Lack of sunlight exposure in some people can even trigger a type of depression known as a seasonal affective disorder, which is treated with light therapy.

 

4) Lowers blood pressure

Rates of hypertension tend to be higher in the winter and in countries farther from the equator. A possible explanation is that exposure to sunlight causes nitric oxide in the skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which can help widen blood vessels and lower the pressure inside them.

 

5) Can help with some skin disorders

Sunlight can improve several skin complaints, such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. Indeed, eczema and psoriasis are sometimes treated with UV light (phototherapy). However, sunlight can aggravate other skin conditions, particularly rosacea.

 

6) Improves the musculoskeletal system

It is common knowledge that vitamin D is important for healthy bones by helping the body absorb calcium. In a 2013 large Danish study, researchers found that having a history of skin cancer was linked to a lower risk of hip fractures. This may be because those who developed skin cancer also had prolonged sun exposure.

Vitamin D is also important to muscle health, and people with low levels are more likely to experience muscle cramps and joint pain.

 

TIPS TO STAY SAFE

 

There are of course risks associated with sunlight. Prolonged exposure causes damage to the epidermis and to other parts of the skin such as the supporting elastic tissue in the dermis. This damage is known as actinic (solar) elastosis, and gives the skin a baggy, wrinkled appearance. A significant risk factor for malignant melanoma is sunburn, especially during childhood.

 

1) Duration

One of the major benefits of basking in the sun is to make vitamin D, which is useful because there is very little found in typical dietary sources. To prevent deficiency of vitamin D, it is recommended to have 2-3 sun exposures per week. Each exposure should last 20-30 minutes and be to bare skin.

 

2) Stay hydrated

Aim to drink more than the standard eight glasses a day. And get creative: put some frozen berries in your water or even some mint leaves and lime slices. Opt for snacks with high-water content such as watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes and cucumbers.

 

3) Wear sunscreen

Look for at least an SPF 30 and wear it when you know you’ll be out and about during the day. Wear sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection. Blocking UVB may prevent burning (which is what the SPF number indicates), but UVA still delivers skin-damaging radiation (and isn’t rated).

 

CONCLUSION

To summarise, try to have 2-3 sun exposures per week, but avoid the sun when it is strong; and when you think you’re exceeding the recommended limit, cover up, or use high-factor sunscreen.

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Red meat intake linked with higher risk of death in study of 81,469 adults

Increased red meat intake — especially processed red meat — is tied to increased risk of death over 8 years, according to results today in the British Medical Journal.

Results also suggested that substituting red meat with healthier alternatives, such as whole grains or vegetables, may lower the risk for death.

 

Making sense of the beef with red meat

This long-term study provides further evidence that reducing red meat intake while eating other protein foods or more whole grains and vegetables may reduce risk of premature death.

Red meat, especially processed meat, contains saturated fat, high levels of sodium, preservatives, and potential carcinogens that can contribute to health problems.

Eating red meat has been tied to increased risk for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Processed red meat, like hot dogs and bacon, has been linked to an even larger number of health problems, as well as increased risk for death.

 

Study details

The authors of the study analysed data from two prospective US cohort studies: the Nurses’ Health Study (53,553 women) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (27,916 men). Participants were free from cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline.

An important factor in the study is that the researchers looked at the change in consumption over time, rather than actual intake of red meat.

After adjusting for age, race, smoking, alcohol consumption, and several other factors, including baseline red meat consumption, the researchers found that increasing total red meat consumption by up to 3.5 servings per week over 8 years was linked to 10% higher risk for death compared with no change in red meat consumption.

When they distinguished between processed and unprocessed red meat, they found a similar trend, with the risk associated with processed meat higher than that for unprocessed meat. Specifically, increased consumption of processed red meat by up to 3.5 servings per week was tied to 13% increased risk for death, whereas the same increase in unprocessed red meat consumption was tied to 9% increased risk for death.

Results were similar regardless of age, physical activity level, diet quality, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Results were also similar with 4- and 12-year changes in consumption.

Risk for death decreased when one serving per day of red meat was replaced with one serving per day of nuts, whole grains, vegetables without legumes, dairy, eggs, and legumes.

 

Consistent with previous data

During the past decade, much has been written on diet and the association with cancer risk. A number of studies have found varying associations between the consumption of red meat and cancer.

In a recent study, published this year in the International Journal of Epidemiology, authors found that consuming a moderate amount of red or processed meat is associated with an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.

According to their findings, an average of 76 grams of red meat or processed meat a day, which is in line with current government recommendations from the United Kingdom, was associated with a 20% higher chance of developing colorectal cancer as compared to consuming only about 21 grams a day.

The primary dataset used in this study is the UK Biobank cohort, comprised of almost 500,000 participants.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund published several reports during the past 10 years or so on the effect of diet, nutrition, and/or physical activity on risk for several cancer types.

Their most recent study, published in 2017, found that consuming red meat and processed meat may increase the risk for colorectal cancer, as may drinking two or more alcoholic beverages per day. On the flip side, eating whole grains daily and ramping up activity levels can reduce the risk.

 

Conclusion

It is becoming increasingly clear that replacing meat with healthy plant based foods, such as vegetables or whole grains, can improve longevity.

But the health benefits of keeping meat of the menu is only one side of the issue. For conscience-stricken individuals, it is the colossal death and destruction caused by animal agriculture that makes meat unpalatable.

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Teenagers are at risk using cannabis, experts warn

Researchers from UK and Canada carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis that measured cannabis use during adolescence, and evaluated the risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality during young adulthood.

Among a cohort of 23,317 individuals, adolescent cannabis consumption was associated with a 37% increased risk of developing depression later in life.

The authors note that these findings should act as a warning to families and inform public health policy and governments to apply preventive strategies to cannabis use among youth.

 

The risks of cannabis

This study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, is the first to quantify the actual risk in this way.

Among the increased risks of depression, the authors also investigated whether there was an association with anxiety and suicide attempts.

There was an increased risk of anxiety developing in young adulthood, but this was not considered statistically significant.

However, teenagers who used cannabis were three times more likely to try to kill themselves. The association between cannabis and suicidal behaviour has also been reported in previous studies.

Short term side effects of cannabis use range from anxiety and paranoia to problems with attention, memory and coordination. This explains why stoned drivers are twice as likely to crash their cars as nonusers.

Mental health problems are one of the greatest long-term effect concerns. Daily users have a doubled risk of developing schizophrenia in their lives compared to the general population, though the risk of other less serious mental health issues is even greater. Other issues include adverse birth outcomes during use in pregnancy and increased prevalence of respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis.

 

Cause and correlation

This study does not definitively prove that cannabis use causes depression and suicidal ideation. At best, one can only conclude that there is a strong correlation.

This is because of the impact cannabis has on the developing brain.

The adolescent brain is still under development and psychotropic drugs used during this time may disturb neurodevelopment, especially of the frontal cortex and limbic system.

To definitively confirm causation, studies would have to be conducted on young people, which of course is deemed unethical.

However, it doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to postulate a causative link between a powerful mind-altering drug and mental health issues.

 

Conclusion

The cannabis leaf has become the symbol of the supposed sovereignty over the self, and propaganda runs rampant on social media to portray it as an astonishing wonder drug. There is thus an urgent need to implement better drug use prevention programs and interventions aimed at educating adolescents to resist peer pressure on drug consumption.

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‘Give HIV the Finger’

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s defence against infectious organisms and other invaders. If HIV is left untreated, a person’s immune system will get progressively weaker until it can no longer fight off life-threatening infections and diseases. However, the rate at which HIV progresses varies depending on age, general health and background. Testing regularly for HIV means you can get antiretroviral treatment if you need it and stay healthy.

The ‘give HIV the finger’ pun refers to the free postal finger-prick test that people can receive for testing without attending a clinic.

 

HIV in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (UK) has a relatively small HIV epidemic, with an estimated 101,200 people living with HIV in 2015. Just over 5,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2016, according to the data from Public Health England. This is an 18% decline from 2015.

The epidemic is largely concentrated among certain key populations, including men who have sex with men and black African populations. 54% of diagnoses were among gay and bisexual men; 19% and 22% among heterosexual men and women, respectively.

Late diagnosis is an important predictor of morbidity and premature death in people with HIV. In 2016, 42% diagnoses were made at a late stage of infection when treatment is less effective.

 

Current Screening Tests

HIV postal test kits allow people to take a finger-prick blood sample themselves. The samples are sent to a local laboratory for HIV testing. The test is highly accurate and can detect HIV within four weeks after infection.

These tests give a result of ‘reactive’ (positive) or ‘non-reactive’ (negative); reactive results are further classified into ‘high’ and ‘low’ reactive tests. A highly reactive result is suggestive of a HIV infection.

Patients providing a specimen reactive in the screening assay, but not confirmed to be consistent with HIV infection, should be retested using a fresh blood specimen collected at least two weeks later.

Ideally, a HIV antibody test should be performed on venous blood. Most laboratories in the UK use ‘fourth generation’ HIV screening tests. They detect anti-HIV (nearly all can detect the three main Ig classes: IgM, IgG and IgA) and p24 antigen. All patients whose first specimen indicates evidence of HIV infection must have their HIV status confirmed by tests on a second sample collected at another time.

HIV home sampling could potentially improve our ability to identify cases of HIV by targeting people at risk who do not use traditional testing venues such as sexual health clinics. The results data collected between 2015 and 2016 showed that 1.1% of tests submitted via the national postal testing scheme were ‘reactive’ and 0.7% were ‘high reactive’, compared to just 0.3% of tests finding HIV positive results from specialist sexual health clinics.

 

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

The definition of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is based on a potentially life-threatening infection or cancer seen in the immunosuppressed. Patients who have been diagnosed with AIDS have a greater risk of opportunistic infections. The most common AIDS-defining illnesses include:

  1. Tuberculosis
  2. Recurrent bacterial pneumonia
  3. Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia
  4. Kaposi’s sarcoma
  5. Lymphoma
  6. Cerebral toxoplasmosis
  7. Cryptococcal meningitis
  8. Intestinal cryptosporidiosis

Patients diagnosed late during HIV infection are at an increased risk of developing AIDS and are more likely to transmit HIV to others. This is one of the key challenges facing the UK, despite rates of late diagnosis being on the decline. In 2017, 428 people died from AIDS-related illnesses due to being diagnosed late. Nevertheless, the number of people diagnosed with AIDS-defining illnesses is declining and fell by 25% from 2015 to 2016.

 

Counselling

Patients identified as being at high-risk for HIV or those with concerns should be offered more in-depth discussion or counselling, in addition to a test. A brief pre-test discussion, explaining that routine HIV testing is recommended, is appropriate, with the aim of obtaining informed verbal consent.

 

Other methods to increase the uptake of testing

The Department of Health recommendation is that patients who come from countries where prevalence of HIV infection is high (>0.5%), all adults presenting to the emergency department in the UK should be tested (with consent). Also, all new patients registering at a GP should be tested. Testing in other outpatient departments, e.g. colposcopy and dermatology should also be carried out.

All patients attending sexual health clinics should be offered a HIV test on an ‘opt-out’ basis, and an information leaflet should be used to increase uptake of HIV antibody testing.

 

The future

Not too long ago, a diagnosis of HIV and AIDS was considered to be a death sentence. This has fortunately changed over the past decade, owing to significant progress made in the provision of antiretroviral treatment and gradual upliftment of the stigma that is attached to the condition.

Progress is still to be made, however, as late diagnosis rates continue to be high. People living with an undiagnosed infection have worse health outcomes and pose a public health risk as they are more likely to pass the virus on to others. Homosexual men and black Africans are still at a heightened risk of HIV. Further, the younger generation has lost some fear of HIV because of the success of treatment, causing them to engage in risky behaviours. These issues can be rectified by narrowing the gaps in HIV prevention and education schemes.

If you have any concerns or questions, you can get help from sexual health clinics, charities, or your GP.

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Is Obesity A Disease Or A Choice?

Obesity is a very important public health problem. The rates are now very high, with over 25% of the UK population and 33% of the US population classified as obese.

Obesity itself results in significant reductions in quality of life but it also leads to a range of serious health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Changes in diet and exercise seem to be the most sensible first-line solution, however health education programs have failed to halt the rising numbers of obese people. This suggests that intrinsic factors, such as genetics, might be important.

This raises an important question: Is obesity a disease or a choice?

 

Recent poll

A recent poll on Medscape revealed some interesting opinions about obesity among healthcare providers. One of the questions asked was ‘How often do you think lifestyle choices are the underlying cause?’ 75% of medical professionals chose either ‘often’ or ‘always’.

When asked what interventions they typically recommend for their obese patients, over 90% selected ‘diet and exercise’. Further, more than 30% of healthcare providers do not consider obesity to be a disease state. However, if obesity is viewed as a disease it may aid toward objectively assessing the factors that lead to it, thus offering better prevention and treatment strategies.

 

What makes obesity a disease?

Obesity is a complex entity that can have many causes. The first, most obvious, argument for why obesity is a disease is that it is associated with impaired body function. It causes, exacerbates, or accelerates more than 160 co-morbid conditions that arise as metabolic, structural, inflammatory, degenerative, neoplastic, or psychological complications. Further, it can significantly affect quality of life or impair longevity.

Taking this into account may prove effective in dealing with its biopsychosocial and economic ramifications.

 

Common assumptions about obesity

It is a common assumption among both healthcare providers and the general public that obesity is a self-inflicted condition. In other words, obesity is thought to be the result of a lack of self-discipline due to addiction to excess or unhealthy foods, and thus these patients are largely responsible for this condition. If patients are not losing weight with diet and exercise, it is because they are not trying hard enough or are cheating on their lifestyle modifications.

Another assumption is that obesity started only in the past 50 or so years. Although the incidence has increased significantly in the recent past, it is in fact a centuries-old condition.

Lifestyle modifications have an increasingly robust representation in evidence-based medicine. However, given the complex and multifactorial nature of obesity, management can fail despite earnest efforts by patients and is often successfully augmented by the addition of pharmacotherapy or surgery.

 

Treatment must be individualised

It is important to realise that for many patients, obesity is multifactorial. There is a wide heterogeneity in the causes and manifestation of obesity, which leads to wide interpatient variability in the response to different therapeutic strategies. It is for this reason that management of obesity needs to be individualised for each patient.

It is therefore important to accept that obesity is not merely a condition arising from ‘food addiction’. In fact, more than 100 aetiologies of obesity have been identified, and we’ve merely scratched the surface at recognising the causal factors.

 

 

Conclusion

The question of obesity being a disease or choice is like the false dichotomy of nature vs nurture. There is no simple either/or answer to this question. It is much more likely to be a combination of both factors.

Obesity involves a complex interplay of underlying medical conditions, such as genetic or endocrine factors, in addition to environmental influencers. Environment plays an important role. Factors such as eating schedules, physical activity, sleep health and medications, can affect weight management.

 

The ultimate consequence is failure of the homeostasis of weight and energy regulatory mechanisms, leading to an elevated body fat set-point.

Only when we recognise that obesity is a disease can we take the next steps of screening, diagnosing, assessing, preventing, and treating this condition.

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Gogodoc Goes To TechCrunch Disrupt

Gogodoc goes to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, USA! That’s right, the American online publisher of technology founded in 2005. They provide groundbreaking tech news showcasing amazing tech companies and startups.

TechCrunch Disrupt is an event formed by TechCrunch which showcases upcoming startups with panels of amazing speakers and one-on-one chats with TechCrunch writers and editors.

 

Our clinical lead commission Dr. Vijay Sivapalan gives a reporter a full breakdown and introduction to Gogodoc.

 

techcrunch-gogodoc

Our team flew out to San Fransico to attend this amazing event! We had the opportunity to display our services in TechCrunch’s Startup Valley which featured various top startups around the world.

 

 

 

Using Gogodoc to book an appointment with a doctor is a breeze. Download the app on your smartphone, tell us your symptoms and sit back while we bring the appointment to you. It’s that simple.

A medical practice on wheels? Now, that’s first class service.

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How Accurate Is The ECG Function In The Apple Watch 4?

The new Apple Watch 4 comes with several features, but the one that’s received the most attention is the ability to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG). An ECG is typically performed by attaching sensors to the skin which detect the electrical signals produced by the heart each time it beats.

But is Apple’s new feature sufficiently accurate to do more good than harm?

 

Portable ECG devices are nothing new

‘We’ve added electrodes into the back-sapphire crystal and the digital crown, allowing you to take an electrocardiogram’, said COO Jeff Williams, eliciting one of the day’s biggest rounds of applause. ‘This is the first ECG product offered over the counter, directly to consumers’.

It turns out that Apple’s new watch is not the first direct-to-consumer ECG. There are several different monitoring devices on the market that allow you to conduct your own ECG. One example is the monitor from AliveCor. It costs £100 and connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The company even offers a KardiaBand, also £100, which works with the original Apple Watch to add the same ECG functionality.

But let’s not concern ourselves with the novelty claim. The bigger question is whether it’s a good idea in the first place. Healthcare providers usually use ECGs in hospitals to measure the heart’s electrical activity and detect abnormalities in its rhythm. But with the latest iteration of its smartwatch, Apple wants to put an ECG on your wrist that you can use ‘anytime, anywhere’.

It sounds like a great idea, in theory.

ecg-iphone-apple

Conducting an ECG

Not only are ECG readings notoriously difficult to grasp even among medical professionals, it usually involves a more complex setup. The standard test is known as a 12-lead ECG, which simultaneously records electrical activity from multiple locations in the body giving you 12 different views of the heart.

 

Contrary to this, the Apple Watch 4 is equivalent to a single-lead ECG. On the back of the watch, there are electrodes built into the digital crown. Touching the digital crown with your finger for 30 seconds will create a closed loop that will then generate an ECG waveform.

Although it gives only one view of the heart it can still be useful. Indeed, some monitors that outpatients wear over an extended duration also offer one view.

 

‘It will save lives!’

‘Do you wind up catching a few undiagnosed cases? Sure. But for the vast majority of people it will have either no impact or possibly a negative impact by causing anxiety or unnecessary treatment’, says cardiologist Theodore Abraham, director of the UCSF Echocardiography Laboratory. The more democratised you make something like ECG, he says, the more you increase the rate of false positives – especially among the hypochondriac set. ‘In the case of people who are very type-A, obsessed with their health, and fitness compulsive, you could see a lot of them over using Apple’s tech to self-diagnose and have themselves checked out unnecessarily’.

A false positive result is when the monitoring device identifies an individual as being at risk of having a heart condition and is subsequently diagnosed as not being so. Direct-to-consumer screening devices, in general, will naturally aim to give an excess of false positives for fear of possible legal action. This would result in hordes of frantic, yet otherwise healthy, individuals rushing to see a doctor, thus placing excess pressure on the health service.

Screening for diseases is only a sieve – it will not pick up all cases, and some will be missed or develop soon after. The concern is whether home screening devices, such as Apple’s new watch, can prevent enough people from developing a serious disease to justify the burden of false positives.

The American Heart Association (AHA) does not endorse the watch, or any other products – and had no role in Apple’s ECG app. Yet this did not prevent Ivor Benjamin, president of the AHA, to give his support during Apple’s official unveiling of the watch: ‘Products that seek to provide deeper health insights, like the Apple Watch Series 4, offer great potential in getting us there’.

It’s also worth noting that the FDA has approved the ECG feature on the Apple watch, albeit with caveats. As expected, the FDA report injected a bit more modesty into the product, stating, ‘The ECG data displayed by the ECG app is intended for informational use only. The user is not intended to interpret or take clinical action’.

 

Conclusion

The Apple Watch 4 starts at £399 for the GPS-only model and increases to £499 if you upgrade to the cellular model. It offers several useful applications besides ECG monitoring and heart rate measurement. It can track falls and call emergency services if it doesn’t detect movement after a minute, alert users to low heart rates, and offers a host of fitness tracking features.

Although the Apple Watch 4 may not be as accurate as some other ECG devices, it could still prove useful for flagging up an undiagnosed heart condition and prompting further investigation. The question is whether Apple’s new feature can prevent enough people from developing a serious heart condition to justify the expense. It’s doubtful. But with all the data collected it could, with your permission, make you a research subject.

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Activated Charcoal: The New Black, Or Just Another Quack?

activated-charcoal-black-bread

I walked into a trendy hipster café the other day – the kind where dishevelled man buns are the norm and the furniture is uncomfortable. I saw a black croissant on the counter. I was impressed with the barista’s confidence that he could flog it off as edible. To add to the ridiculous selection, there was charcoal-containing fruit juice being sold as a ‘shot’. Elsewhere, I opened a pizza menu and saw an option for a charcoal crust. Some weeks later when meeting a friend for dinner, I found her sipping a pitch black mocktail made with charcoal. The next day my sister showed me a bottle of activated charcoal pills from Holland & Barrett and asked me, “does this work”?

 

Don’t be conned.

Let me begin by first saying that if you hear the word ‘detox’ in conjunction with having to take a pill or potion, you are most likely being conned.

We have all looked for a quick fix to wellness, something to cut the link between hard graft and gratification. Maintaining stamina, eating well and exercising can be difficult to balance in our busy lives. This is where pernicious charlatans seize the opportunity to sell you snake oil, tricking you with pseudoscience and the paralogism of celebrity endorsements.

When in doubt, ask for the evidence or do some research yourself. Don’t settle for an anecdote, such as ‘my friend took it and noticed a difference’. I’m talking about empirical evidence in academic journals. If that’s venturing in unknown territory for you, seek advice from your doctor.

 

What is activated charcoal, anyhow?activated-charcoal

It sounds like something you’d use to fire up the barbecue, but there’s a difference. Activated charcoal is made from carbon-containing material, like wood, coal and coconut shells, which is heated at high temperatures. The carbonised material is then exposed to oxidising atmospheres, a process called ‘activation’, which increases its overall surface area and adsorptive capacity.

Activated charcoal has long been used in emergency medicine for the treatment of drug overdose or poisoning. It is a gastrointestinal decontaminant that avidly adsorbs contents of the stomach. It is beneficial if administered to the patient within an hour of ingestion, or later if the ingestion involves an agent that delays gastric emptying or slows gut motility.

It’s not difficult to see why activated charcoal has been associated with detoxifying the body. If it’s used in emergency medicine to reduce toxic load, then it must be good for everyday use as well. However, this is false reasoning and a deep misinterpretation of its application.

 

Is it safe to eat activated charcoal?

Consuming activated charcoal may seem like an innocuous health fad, but it may be doing more harm than good.

The issue is that activated charcoal is not selective in its binding properties, meaning that some of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your food will also be removed (along with the supposed ‘toxins’).

I mentioned the charcoal-containing fruit juice being sold as a shot. If you think about it, the absorption of the vitamins in the fruit would be impaired because of the charcoal. There is literally no good reason for it to be in the drink.

On a more serious note, activated charcoal can bind with some oral medications and impair their bioavailability. This is not mentioned on the bottles or packaging of activated charcoal products, despite it potentially having serious health consequences for some people.

There is also a prevalent belief that it will help cure a hangover by detoxifying the alcohol and kebab you had last night on the lash. But considering activated charcoal will bind with the contents of your stomach or intestines, it would be useless in this case because the alcohol and dodgy food would have already been absorbed into your bloodstream.

 

A bitter pill to swallow

The detox industry is vast and highly deceptive. The products don’t work, despite anecdotal claims to the contrary. You may want to dabble in it anyway for some harmless fun but consume with caution if you are on prescription medication. There is a possibility that it will make your medication less effective.

Here’s some food for thought: instead of implementing useless detox cycles, it is better to adopt a ‘clean’ eating plan – not as a temporary diet, but a lifestyle change. There is a lot of evidence to show that a whole-food, plant-based diet does wonders for our health. This entails eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins, and healthy fats such as olive oil.

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A Spoonful Of Honey For That Cold

 

sick-cold-honeyHave you got a cough or cold?

Maybe you should think about treating it with good ol’ fashioned honey…that’s according to recent guidance by Public Health England (PHE) and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GPs like myself are being urged to encourage patients to use self care products to tackle those nasty bugs!

Self care products such as honey and over the counter cough mixtures including Beechams and Lemsip can be the key to tackle those nasty colds. They can help treat coughs and colds but also reduce the need for antibiotics.

Dr Tessa Lewis, a GP and chairwoman of the antimicrobial prescribing guidelines group, sums up the general management well.

 

“If someone has a runny nose, sore throat and cough, we would expect the cough to settle over two to three weeks and antibiotics are not needed.” 

“If the cough is getting worse rather than better, or the person feels very unwell or breathless, then they would need to contact their GP.”

 

So why is reducing the prescriptions of antibiotics a good thing, well its simple.

Taking antibiotics when you dont need them puts you and your family at risk of developing infections which are difficult to treat. It can have all sorts of nasty side effects including diarrhoea and nausea to name but a few.

You can also increase the likelihood of developing an antibiotic resistance. Which basically means when your older and genuinely in need of antibiotics to treat an infection, the antibiotics may not be as effective in treating the infection, if at all.

 

So that old saying you’ve heard over and over was right. Take a spoonful of honey for that cold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Dr Ashish Srivastava

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vape

Yes Or No? Vaping From A Doctor’s Perspective

 

 

vapingThe debate continues to rage on over Vaping. Is it safe? Does it help reduce or even stop people smoking cigarettes??

Having not been a smoker myself, but with more of my patients asking me about vaping vs smoking, I decided to look into it a little more.

There is no definitive answer to the above, as NICE (our clinical regulator) has informed us: ‘it’s too soon to tell’. E-cigarettes and Vaping are fairly young in their lives at the moment have only been around for the last decade. This has meant that there is little in the way of testing or evidence to look back at to make any firm conclusions. Basically, people have not been Vaping for long enough for us to know the long-term effects.

 

  1. Vaping is the inhalation of a water vapour.

A battery operating coil heats a liquid which contains nicotine that has been extracted from tobacco. It also includes flavourings and ‘other chemicals’ which together form the vapour that is inhaled.

It is thought that there are less ‘toxic chemicals’ in the vapour produced compared to the approximately 7,000 chemicals in tobacco cigarettes, most of which are toxic.

   

     2. There is still Nicotine in the Vape: the addiction continues:

Nicotine is still present in the vapour which means that users are still at risk of these harmful effects. These can include: addiction, withdrawal symptoms, rise in heart rate and blood pressure.

     

     3. Does it help you stop smoking?

The evidence is patchy here, but it is thought that because you can control the strength of the nicotine you can gradually wean yourself off it. The school of thought is that generally speaking those that vape are more likely to stop smoking than those who go cold turkey.

     

     4. Will it ‘explode’?

There have been several stories about vapes exploding in pockets and bags. This has been put down to misuse of the equipment. There is a standard regulated battery and coil length that is used. People who modify this e.g elongate the coil (allows for more vape), cause the battery to be overworked and can cause it to explode.

 

So – is it safe?  This would depend on the person asking it:

Ask me: a non-smoker, no addiction to nicotine, I would say – no it’s not safe.

Ask a smoker trying to quit – ‘yes, it is SAFER, than smoking a tobacco cigarette.’

 

 

 

 

 

By Dr Vibhu Kaushal

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