How to Strengthen Your Immune System to Ward Off Illness

Fears regarding the coronavirus have sparked widespread curiosity about how to boost the immune system. A strong immune system helps protect the body from disease-causing pathogens and helps the body remove foreign and harmful pathogens from the body. 

There is no one way to guarantee that you won’t ever get sick, whether it’s with coronavirus or from a common cold. But there are things you can do every day to support your immune system and give it the best chance to fight off illness.  

Get Plenty of Quality Sleep

Sleep is the body’s way of restoring and recovering. Sleep is also an important part of strengthening the body’s immune system. While sleeping, the body releases a special protein, called cytokines, that are essential in targeting infections. Research tells us that sleep deprivation (getting less than the recommended amount of sleep for days, weeks, or even months) makes the body susceptible to many diseases, including chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. 

This doesn’t mean that sleeping more than necessary will support the immune system. In fact, researchers know that sleeping too much can contribute to the same health risks as sleeping too little. But it does mean that not getting enough good quality sleep can make someone more susceptible to getting sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, while teenagers get anywhere from 8 to 10.

Eat a Well-Rounded Diet to Keep the Gut-Microbiota Healthy

The gut microbiota is a colony of billions of microorganisms, like bacteria, viruses, and fungi, found in the gastrointestinal tract. The gut microbiota helps the body digest food and also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Scientists know that roughly 70% of the body’s immune system is found in the gut

The gut microbiota is healthier when there is a more diverse population of microorganisms. Foods that are known to harm the gut microbiota and decrease the diversity of microorganisms include greasy and packaged foods and even drinking too much alcohol. A varied diet rich in high-fiber foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, promotes a more diverse population of the gut microbiome.

Get a Handle on Stress

The current situation around COVID-19 may be stressful for some. Fear and anxiety can bring up strong emotions and can lead to overwhelming stress. Researchers know that stress, whether emotional or physical, negatively affects the immune system. Chronic stress lasting days or even years has a particularly detrimental effect on the immune system. 

Some examples of ways to manage stress include:

  • Deep breathing techniques: Shallow breathing is part of the stress response. Practicing deep breathing, also called belly or diaphragmatic breathing, gets more oxygen to the brain, which helps calm the nervous system and induce calmness. 
  • Creating and sticking to a routine: Routines can help improve mental health and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.  
  • Exercise or be active every day: Exercise decreases tension, improves mood, and is even proven to help improve sleep quality.

Sources:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768894/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394987/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5056590/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190902142015.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465119/
https://www.stress.org/take-a-deep-breath
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/

Biologics vs Traditional Prescription Drugs: How Biologics Are Being Used to Heal a Wide Range of Conditions From Eczema to Arthritis

Prescription medications have traditionally been manufactured using chemical substances. More and more, physicians are treating patients diagnosed with a wide range of conditions with a new class of drugs, called biologics or biologic medicine.

What is Biologic Medicine?

In contrast to traditional medications that are made using chemical compounds, biologics are made using living cells from humans, animals, organisms like bacteria, and even plants. The oldest example of a biologic is a vaccine. Vaccines contain a very small amount of certain molecules, called antigens, from harmful pathogens that can cause deadly diseases. When a vaccine is administered, these antigens help teach or train the body’s immune system to recognize and attack harmful pathogens, like viruses, in the case of infection. Insulin is another example of a biologic. Insulin used to be isolated from the pancreas of pigs and cows. It was then sterilized before given to patients. But today, scientists can also use bacteria to produce synthetic human insulin. 

How Are Biologics Made?

Manufacturing biologic medicine requires tissue or cells from living organisms. Scientists genetically modify these living cells to produce certain molecules, like proteins and enzymes, found in the human body that can interact with the immune system. 

How Do Biologics Work?

Biologic drugs work by targeting and affecting the function of specific cells or chemicals in the immune system. Each medication targets a different cell or chemical in the immune system, depending on the condition it treats. For example, biologic medicines used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own healthy tissue and causes inflammation and damage of the joints) are used to suppress the immune system by targeting T-cells associated with inflammation and joint tissue damage.  

What Are the Benefits of Biologics?

Biologics work by targeting a specific component of the immune system. Traditional prescription medications of chemical origin circulate through the entire body, affecting multiple organ systems and causing a wide range of side effects. Most biologic medications do not cause systemic side effects. However, they do come with their own set of side effects. For example, some biologics suppress the immune system, which can increase one’s risk of certain infections, like tuberculosis and sepsis. 

How Are Biologic Medications Administered?

As of now, biologics are not administered orally and must be administered either via injection or intravenous infusion. The molecular size of biologics—that being much bigger than chemically-derived drugs like, for example, aspirin—does not allow them to pass through the intestinal walls and therefore be absorbed by the body. Biologics are also sensitive to the chemical conditions of the gastrointestinal system and can be destroyed before being absorbed by the body. 

The Future of Biologics

The development of biologics has increased dramatically in the past two decades. The majority of biologic medicines available today are used to treat people with autoimmune disease, systemic diseases like cancer, and rare genetic diseases. Researchers continue to search for biologics that can help treat patients with all kinds of conditions. Since most patients prefer to take medications orally, researchers also continue to find ways to make biologics that can be taken orally.


Sources:

https://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/understanding-vaccines/vaccines-work/
https://arthritis.org/drug-guide/biologics/biologics
https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bcp.12202
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zqqs2nb/revision/1
https://www.diabetes.co.uk/insulin/animal-insulin.html
https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-05/first-plant-derived-biologic-drug-approved-human-use-fda/
https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/research/review-article/recent-advances-in-the-oral-delivery-of-biologics/20207374.article?firstPass=false
https://www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/understanding-biologic-treatments-for-ra#3

How Working With Your Pharmacist Can Help You Adhere to Your Treatment Plan and Improve Your Health

Treatment Non-adherence at a Glance
50% of patients in developed countries don’t take their medications as prescribed. 
20% to 30% of new prescriptions are never filled.
Poor adherence causes 30% to 50% of treatment failures and 125,000 deaths per year in the US among patients diagnosed with a chronic disease. 

Patients diagnosed with chronic illness, like diabetes or high blood pressure, and complicated medication regimens are at an increased risk of not taking medications as instructed. Treatment adherence is the term used when patients take medications exactly as instructed by their doctor. The World Health Organization estimates that only 50% of patients in the US diagnosed with chronic illness adhere to treatment. 

Pharmacists play an important role in helping patients adhere to their treatment plan. How can patients work with their pharmacists to achieve treatment adherence? First, it’s important for patients to understand why they should adhere to treatment instructions.

Why Is it Important to Adhere to Medication and Treatment Plans?

The benefits of adhering to treatment instructions include saving you time and money, but most importantly it can save your life. Medication adherence:

  • Decreases overall medical expenses by reducing the risk of hospitalization. Health complications caused by medication non-adherence can require immediate hospital assistance. For example, not adhering to diabetes medications can cause extremely high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and diabetic coma. 
  • Prevents or delays the condition from getting worse. 
  • Decreases risk of death due to health complications associated with medication non-adherence.

How Can Your Pharmacist Help You Adhere to Your Treatment Plan?

Medication Therapy Management Programs

Medication therapy management (MTM) programs allow pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to work one-on-one with patients. These programs include a review of the patient’s medications and an action plan to support the patient’s adherence. In some cases, the pharmacist comes to the patient’s home. Other pharmacies make appointments at their location. Ask your pharmacy if they offer medication therapy management programs. 

Consolidating Medications to Make Pick-up Easier

Pharmacies can coordinate prescription refills so that you can pick up all of your medications on the same day each month, instead of having to come in multiple times for multiple medications. 

Reducing the Risk of Drug-Drug Interactions

If you’re taking multiple medications, pharmacists are able to identify possible interactions between two or more medications—called a drug-drug interaction. Drug-drug interactions can cause adverse side effects. Adverse side effects are one of the main reasons why patients stop taking their medications. If your pharmacist sees that there is the possibility of a drug-drug interaction, he/she can work with your doctor to find an alternative prescription and reduce the risk of adverse side effects. 

Get to Know Your Pharmacist and Keep in Touch

Having a personal connection with your doctor and your pharmacist is a big part of medication adherence. If you have questions about your medication, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or your pharmacist. Taking medications exactly as instructed by your doctor could save your life. 


Sources:

https://www.who.int/chp/knowledge/publications/adherence_report/en/
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/special-features/why-you-need-take-your-medications-prescribed-or-instructed
https://www.pharmacist.com/medication-therapy-management-services
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170707135143.htm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068890/

Can Your Mindset Affect Your Health? How Gratitude Boosts Your Immune System, Improves Heart Health, and More

New research is providing mounting evidence that gratitude has a major impact on physical and mental health. What is gratitude? In short, gratitude is being thankful—noticing and appreciating the positive things in life. 

Gratitude promotes optimism and happiness, but it can also provide important health benefits. 

Gratitude Improves Heart Health 

Recent studies suggest that gratitude could help improve heart health in people with cardiovascular disease. Researchers observed the effects of journaling gratitude on the health of patients diagnosed with heart failure. In this study, participants were randomly given a journal and asked to write two to three things they felt grateful for every day for eight weeks. Participants who journaled continued to receive their normal treatment. 

Laboratory testing of patients who participated in gratitude journaling showed a reduction of inflammation and an increase in heart rate variability (HRV) compared to patients who did not journal. Inflammation contributes to heart failure. HRV refers to the variation in time intervals between heartbeats and is an important indicator of heart health. Contrary to what most people may think, a healthy heart does not beat with perfectly timed variations between each beat. Instead, it beats at different intervals with variations of milliseconds. These variations are indicative of a healthy heart. Heart failure leads to a loss of HRV, meaning that there is less variation in these time intervals.

Gratitude Boosts the Immune System

Gratitude promotes optimism, a characteristic that has been proven to strengthen the immune system. One study observed the effects of optimism (expecting that good things rather than bad things will happen) among first-year law students. The results of this study found that when first-year law students were optimistic, and had relocated away from previous relationships and commitments, they experienced an increase in CD4+T cells (a type of immune cell that helps regulate the immune system) and an overall stronger reaction of the immune system.

Gratitude Helps Improve Mental Health 

Gratitude writing can help improve mental health in adults. One study observed the effects of gratitude writing on mental health. For this study, nearly 300 adults participated (most of whom were college students) who reported low mental health and were seeking psychotherapy. Patients were placed in one of three categories: a) therapy only, b) therapy with expressive writing (the patient’s thoughts and feelings), c) and therapy with gratitude writing (expressing gratitude to others). Patients who participated in gratitude writing in addition to therapy reported significant improvements in mental health, even 12 weeks after completing the writing exercise, compared to patients in the other two groups.

How Can You Incorporate Gratitude Into Your Day? 

A gratitude practice only requires a few minutes a day. Here are some ideas to help you get started practicing gratitude:

  • Journal 3 things that you’re grateful for every day. You can also add why you’re grateful for these things.
  • Each day, or anytime you have a thought of gratitude, write something that you’re grateful for on a piece of paper and place it in a jar. At the end of each week, month, or even at the end of the year, take them out and read what you wrote.
  • Write a gratitude letter to someone who helped you during a time of need, and express how thankful you are for them. It’s not necessary to send the letter. 
  • Share your gratitude with others. This can be as simple as saying “thank you” to someone who does something nice for you or giving someone a compliment. 


Sources:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_gratitude_be_good_for_your_heart
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27187845
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14502297
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1948078/
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10503307.2016.1169332?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=tpsr20
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27139595

How Fertility Drugs Work: What Types of Fertility Drugs are Available and How They Increase the Chance of Pregnancy

Infertility is a reproductive condition that affects approximately 10 to 15 percent of couples in the US. It occurs when an irregularity in the body’s reproductive system prevents the conception of a child. Infertility affects both men and women, so it’s possible for both partners to have a fertility issue that needs to be diagnosed and treated. 

Infertility is generally treated with medications and surgery (about 85-90% of cases). Treatments can also include methods like weight loss, lifestyle changes, treating underlying conditions that can affect fertility, and even assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

Fertility medications can come in the form of pills, injectables, or vaginal suppositories. The type of fertility treatment prescribed depends on multiple factors, including the cause of infertility, a patient’s medical history, and his/her age.

What Types of Fertility Drugs Are Available?

Fertility Drugs for Women

  • Medications that stimulate ovulation: Ovulation stimulation drugs stimulate the production and release of certain hormones—GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and/or LH (luteinizing hormone)—in the body to prompt the ovaries to make eggs.
  • Hormones that control ovulation for the process of artificial insemination: During assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments like IVF, certain drugs may be prescribed for different stages of the process. Hormones can be used to either stimulate or prevent ovulation, to help the body release several eggs at once, and to support early pregnancy.

Fertility Drugs for Men

Men’s fertility issues can stem from low levels of testosterone and high levels of estrogen. Low testosterone can affect the number of sperm cells the testicles produce, the health of the sperm cells, and the sperm’s ability for movement. The types of drugs used to treat male infertility include:

  • Medications that increase testosterone levels: Medications can be used to increase certain hormones in the body that then stimulate and increase the production of testosterone. Increasing testosterone levels helps the body increase sperm cell count (the number of sperm cells that are produced by the testicles).
  • Medications that decrease estradiol (estrogen) levels: Elevated estradiol (a type of estrogen) in men can affect sperm health. Certain medications can be used to prevent a process in the body where testosterone turns into estradiol. This results in decreased estradiol levels and increased testosterone, improving sperm count and sperm health. 

Fertility Drugs for Treating Medical Conditions in Both Men and Women

Fertility drugs can also include medications used to treat underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to infertility.

Your doctor may choose to treat a condition before starting infertility treatment or to implement fertility treatment alongside treatment for the condition. Some examples of medical conditions that can affect infertility include: 

  • Untreated diabetes
  • An infection of the reproductive tract
  • Conditions of the thyroid

When Should You Seek Help for Infertility?

If you and your partner have been trying to conceive without having success for 12 months, talk to your doctor about possible fertility issues. Getting the right diagnosis is essential to creating a successful fertility treatment plan. 


Sources:

https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2016/June2016/Infertility-Treatment-The-Pharmacists-Expanding-Role
https://www.reproductivefacts.org/faqs/quick-facts-about-infertility/
https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/infertility/overview-of-infertility
https://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/fertility-drugs#1
https://www.verywellfamily.com/fertility-drugs-1960184
https://healthcare.utah.edu/fertility/treatments/male-fertility-drugs.php

Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Cancer: What Is it and How Does it work?

Cancer has traditionally been treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. But these treatments are often accompanied by painful side effects and, in addition to killing cancer cells, some of these treatments also kill the body’s healthy cells. 

Researchers have been dedicated to finding new cancer treatment options that can be used in combination with traditional cancer treatments or alone. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a relatively new treatment option for cancer patients that helps the body’s immune system kill cancer cells. What exactly is immunotherapy and how does it work? First, it’s important to understand how the body’s immune system works.

The Immune System Protects the Body From Harmful Infections, Even Cancer

Infections and illnesses can occur from bacteria, viruses, other microorganisms like parasites, and even genetic mutations. The immune system recognizes harmful substances that can make a person sick by identifying specific structures on the cell surface, called antigens. All cells have antigens, but the antigens on the body’s healthy cells are different than the antigens found on the cells of harmful substances. When the body recognizes a harmful cell, it sends special immune cells, called T cells, to attack it. There are many different types of immune cells that all work together to identify and attack threatening substances in the body. 

The immune system is capable of identifying cancerous cells and fighting against them. But cancer cells can mutate and change in a way that makes them undetectable by the immune system. When this happens, cancer cells can divide and reproduce at a very fast rate. 

How Does Immunotherapy Treat Cancer?

Immunotherapy works with the body to restore a compromised immune system or to modify and strengthen a healthy immune system to help it identify and kill cancer cells. 
Immunotherapy can work in a few different ways:

Immunotherapy works with the body to restore a compromised immune system or to modify and strengthen a healthy immune system to help it identify and kill cancer cells.

  • Cancer vaccines: Expose the body to antigens associated with certain types of cancers, so that the immune system can easily identify threatening cancer cells and destroy them. 
  • Monoclonal antibodies and tumor-agnostic therapies: Monoclonal antibodies attach to cancer cells to help the immune system identify them. Tumor agnostic therapies help the immune system to identify tumors throughout the body that have the same mutation. 
  • Non-specific immunotherapies: Given at the same time as other cancer treatments. Non-specific immunotherapies stimulate and strengthen the overall immune system, instead of focusing on one specific type of cell.  
  • T-cell therapy: T-cells are special kinds of immune cells. With T-cell therapy, the patient’s T-cells are isolated from a blood sample, altered in a laboratory so that they can identify cancer cells, and are then placed back into the body.  
  • Oncolytic virus therapy: Uses genetically modified viruses that attack cancer cells, but leave the patient’s healthy cells unharmed. 

Although there are numerous different types of immunotherapy, the result of each one is the same—a restored or improved immune system that is better equipped to fight cancer cells.

Can Immunotherapy Be Used to Treat All Types of Cancer?

Immunotherapy is currently used to treat many types of cancer, like breast cancer, skin cancer, and colorectal cancer, but it is not yet available to treat all types of cancer. Scientists continue to develop and research immunotherapies to be able to treat as many cancer patients as possible. 

The Future of Immunotherapy

Today, immunotherapy is mostly given by intravenous infusion or by injection. Less commonly, an immunotherapy that can be administered as a pill and, in the case of skin cancer, as a cream. However, new advancements in research show that, in the future, all immunotherapies might have the potential to be administered as a pill, significantly simplifying the treatment process and improving the patient experience.  


Sources:

https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/immunotherapy-and-vaccines/understanding-immunotherapy
https://www.cancer.org/content/cancer/en/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/immunotherapy.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/immunotherapy
https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/immunotherapy-and-vaccines/side-effects-immunotherapy
https://www.technologynetworks.com/cancer-research/articles/future-cancer-immunotherapy-treatments-could-be-administered-by-a-pill-327926

How Can Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) Help Aging Men?

Testosterone is a hormone that is important for the male body. It regulates sex drive, maintains bone mass, and helps facilitate the production of red blood cells. As men age, levels of testosterone decline. Between the ages of 30 and 40, testosterone levels in men can start to decrease by as much as one percent every year. When men reach the age of 50, testosterone levels can get very low (referred to as hypogonadism or low-t), triggering a wide range of symptoms, including erectile dysfunction and fatigue.

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is a type of hormone replacement therapy that aims to increase testosterone levels in the body and treat symptoms of low-t in men. TRT can be administered in many forms, including injections, skin patches, or even as a pill. How can TRT help men who are losing testosterone due to aging? 

Treating Mood Disorders

Studies have shown that men with lower levels of testosterone are more likely to develop depression compared to men with higher testosterone levels. An analysis of 27 research studies that, in total, included more than 1,800 men shows that testosterone treatments can help reduce depressive symptoms in men. A separate study discovered that testosterone increases the number of proteins that transport serotonin throughout the brain. Serotonin is an important chemical in the body that helps regulate mood, and low serotonin levels have been linked to depression.

Recovering Bone and Muscle Mass

Men with low-t are more likely to gain weight, which can lead to serious health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease. In addition to weight gain, low-t can also cause men to lose muscle and bone mass, increasing their risk of osteoporosis and fractures. 

A recent study shows that testosterone therapy can help men 65 years and older increase bone mass and bone strength after one year of treatment with testosterone gel. The results of this study give researchers hope that testosterone may also be able to reduce the risk of fractures, but long-term studies and more research are needed to determine this. 

Improving Memory and Cognitive Function

Low testosterone levels are associated with impaired memory. One study compared the working memory ability of men with normal testosterone levels and men with extremely low testosterone levels (caused by testosterone deprivation therapy (TDT) for the treatment of prostate cancer). Men who had undergone TDT experienced memory loss at a faster rate than men with normal testosterone levels. 

Testosterone therapy has been found to help improve spatial memory (orientation) and verbal memory (remembering words and information that are said out loud) in men with low testosterone. The amount of testosterone administered to patients may play a role in testosterone’s ability to improve memory. 

Is Testosterone Replacement Therapy Right for You?

Testosterone treatment offers both benefits and risks to men. If you’re interested in learning more about testosterone therapy and whether it is right for you, talk to your doctor. Signs and symptoms of aging may occur for reasons other than low testosterone. Your doctor will test your testosterone levels to determine if you may be a candidate for TRT. 


Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/sexual-health/in-depth/testosterone-therapy/art-20045728
https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-how-testosterone-affects-men
https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/84/2/573/2864323
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2712976
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/treating-low-testosterone-levels
https://www.sciencealert.com/testosterone-therapy-could-be-one-way-of-treating-depression-in-men
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248.php
https://www.livescience.com/6403-obesity-linked-testosterone-men.html
https://www.healio.com/primary-care/mens-health/news/online/%7B65bd909f-b9ad-420a-89f8-2128df053f51%7D/testosterone-treatment-improves-bone-density-strength-in-older-men
https://www.foxnews.com/story/low-testosterone-linked-with-memory-loss
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686341/

Prescription Medications and Nutrient Depletion: What’s the Connection?

Nutrients are vital substances the body obtains from foods and liquids for growth, development, and sustaining bodily functions. Sometimes, medications can interfere with the body’s nutrient balance and cause levels of certain nutrients to become too low.

Taking medications short-term does not result in nutrient depletion. However, long-term maintenance medication regimens used to treat chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can, over time, lead to nutrient depletion. 

How do Medications Cause Nutrient Depletion?

Medications can deplete nutrients from the body in a few ways:

  • Excretion: Certain drugs can deplete nutrients by increasing urination and flushing them out of the body.
  • Decreasing absorption: Certain drugs affect the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients.
  • Increasing metabolism: Certain drugs can speed up the body’s metabolism, causing the body to use certain nutrients more quickly.

Why Is it Important to Monitor Nutrient Levels?

The body needs nutrients to execute all of its functions, including growth, development, and reproduction. There are six main groups of nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates: Provide an important source of energy to the body’s cells as well as fiber. 
  • Minerals: Essential elements needed for nerve function, fluid balance, and bone density.
  • Lipids: Fats that help the body store energy and form cell membranes for cell protection. 
  • Proteins: Form the basic building blocks of structures throughout the body like bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin and are also used to repair these structures.
  • Vitamins: Vital compounds that facilitate chemical reactions throughout the body needed for everyday functions.   
  • Water: Substance that helps the body regulate temperature, lubricate the joints and acts as a solvent to dissolve nutrients and make them available to the body.  

When the body is low in a certain nutrient, it’s unable to perform all of its functions properly. For example, magnesium (a mineral) plays a role in numerous functions throughout the body, including energy production, muscle and nerve function, and DNA replication (vital to cell division and reproduction). If the body is low in magnesium, this can lead to symptoms such as constipation, fatigue, and abnormal heart rhythm. Long-term magnesium deficiency may even lead to more serious conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease. 

Examples of Common Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletions 

Scientists have identified numerous drug-induced nutrient depletions. Some of these include:

  • Antidepressants—can cause folate, calcium, and vitamin D deficiency.
  • Oral contraceptives (birth control)—can cause vitamin B12, folate, calcium, and magnesium deficiency. 
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—can cause iron and vitamin C deficiency. 

Is it Possible to Avoid Nutrient Depletion When Taking Medications?

Symptoms of nutrient deficiency may not be obvious. If your doctor has prescribed a long-term maintenance medication regimen, ask him/her about the possibility of nutrient depletion. He/she may recommend periodical blood tests to monitor levels of nutrients and may prescribe supplements to restore healthy levels of nutrients, as needed.

If you’re currently taking a long-term medication and are interested in learning whether it is associated with a known nutrient depletion, or if you notice symptoms of nutrient depletion, talk to your doctor. 


Sources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/are-your-medications-causing-nutrient-deficiency
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5874849/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889157501909780
https://med.libretexts.org/Courses/American_Public_University/APUS%3A_An_Introduction_to_Nutrition_(Byerley)/Text/01%3A_Nutrition_and_You/1.03%3A_What_Are_Nutrients%3F
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224210/
https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ta3912
https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/Lipid-Biological-Functions.aspx
https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/why-is-protein-important-in-your-diet
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/functions-of-water-in-the-body/img-20005799
https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/canteen-mgr-tr1~nutrients
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322191.php#what-does-magnesium-deficiency-mean

How to Get Long-Lasting Results From Your Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year is a time when millions of Americans decide to change unhealthy behaviors and adopt healthy habits, but few people maintain their resolutions. As with any goal, it can be difficult to stay on track and achieve the final results. How can you stay focused and achieve your New Year’s health resolutions? 

Start Small

Bigger goals like, “I want to quit smoking,” can seem overwhelming. Consider breaking up bigger goals into smaller goals that are more easily attainable. For example, “This year, I want to smoke one less cigarette a week,” is a smaller more easily attainable goal that can be adjusted until you reach the bigger goal of quitting smoking.  

Other examples of smaller, achievable goals include:

  • Taking your medication on time
  • Making an appointment with your general practitioner for a general physical
  • Walking for 15 minutes a day
  • Drinking one glass of water in the morning

Define Specific Goals

When defining health goals, it’s helpful to set measurable and achievable goals. For example, “I want to lose weight” is not very specific, and “I want to lose 100 pounds in 2020”, is not very realistic. However, “I want to lose five pounds every two months, in order to lose 30 pounds within a year,” is a specific and realistic goal.

Focus on One Goal at a Time

A long list of goals that incorporates new habits can be daunting. It can lead you to be more stressed, exhausted, and distracted than you were before, and may even lead to feelings of failure and guilt. It’s not necessary, or even possible, to change every bad habit you want to change or start every good habit you want to start, beginning January 1st without slipping. Instead, focus on one goal at a time. Once you’ve achieved the first goal, then move on to the next one. 

Find Support

Making changes requires a lot of attention and energy and does not come without challenges. Having support when things seem difficult can make a big difference between reaching your health goals and not. 

Before starting your health journey, reach out to friends and/or family members and ask if they will support you throughout this process. Tell them exactly how they can support you: One day you may need some encouragement, or you may just need someone to help you with accountability (for example, maybe you need someone to send a message to once you’ve completed your goal each day).

Celebrate Milestones

Reaching any goal means passing many milestones along the way. It’s important to celebrate these milestones and recognize the hard work that goes into making a daily commitment. You can celebrate milestones by treating yourself to a gift or by sharing your success with a friend over lunch or coffee. Celebrating milestones can help build self-confidence and help motivate you to continue working towards your health goals. 

In addition to celebrating milestones, it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself throughout the process. If you miss a day or two, your goal will not be ruined. Remind yourself that no one is perfect and continue working on your New Year’s resolutions the following day. 


Sources:

https://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-failure-advice-jonathan-alpert-2018-12
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/support-achieve-health-goals/art-20270836
https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-start-losing-weight-3495465
https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/stopping-smoking/how-to-stop/cutting-down-to-quit
https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/smart-goals
https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resolution

What Are Mitochondrial Disorders and How Common Are They?

Mitochondrial disorders are genetic disorders that affect the mitochondria—an important cellular structure. Within each cell are structures called organelles that perform a specific function, like protection or cell division. Mitochondria are responsible for generating more than 90 percent of the cellular energy that sustains organ function, and therefore our lives.

How Do Mitochondrial Disorders Affect Health?

Mitochondria act as a digestive system for cells. They take in nutrients from the food and beverages we consume and turn them into energy-rich molecules that are then used by the cell to perform other functions, like growth and division. Certain cells like muscle and liver cells require thousands of mitochondria, while other cells like red blood cells do not need any.

Mitochondrial disorders occur when the mitochondria cannot produce enough energy for cells to use, and therefore are unable to properly carry out their functions. When this happens, it can lead to serious symptoms. 

The symptoms of mitochondrial conditions can vary greatly because they can affect cells in any system of the body, and sometimes in more than one. Mitochondrial disorders affect each person differently, but common symptoms can include:

  • Muscle weakness and/or intolerance to exercise
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Movement disorders
  • Respiratory complications

How Common Are Mitochondrial Disorders?

It is estimated that nearly two million people in the United States have a mitochondrial disorder, and that about 1,000 to 4,000 people each year are born with a mitochondrial condition. Mitochondrial disorders can affect people of all ages but are primarily diagnosed in children. 

How Do Mitochondria Disorders Occur?

Mitochondrial disorders can be inherited (a gene is passed onto a child from the mother, the father, or both) or the result of a random error. Genetic mutations associated with mitochondrial disorders are caused by defects in either the DNA of the mitochondria or the nucleus.

Mitochondrial disorders can develop in the following ways:

  • Autosomal recessive: Two copies of a mutated gene are needed in order for the disorder to develop. A genetic mutation is inherited from both the mother and the father.
  • Autosomal dominant: Only one mutated gene is needed in order for the disorder to develop. The genetic mutation can be inherited from either the mother or the father.
  • Mitochondrial: The mitochondria have their own DNA, apart from DNA found in the cell’s nucleus. Some mitochondrial disorders occur as the result of a genetic mutation in the mitochondrial DNA—this is referred to as mitochondrial inheritance. Mitochondria are only passed down from the mother. If a male inherits a disorder related to mitochondrial DNA, he cannot pass it onto his children. 
  • Random mutation: Sometimes, a mistake in cell division can result in a random error in DNA. These types of mutations are not inherited by either parent.

Treatment Options for Mitochondrial Disorders

There currently is no cure for mitochondrial disorders. Treatments consist of relieving symptoms and delaying or halting the progression of the disease. Current treatments for mitochondrial disorders include:

  • Diet therapy as prescribed by a doctor and guided/monitored by a registered dietitian
  • Vitamins and supplements as prescribed by a doctor
  • Exercise as indicated by a doctor
  • Therapies specific to the symptoms of each individual, like speech therapy, respiratory therapy, and physical therapy


Sources:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15612-mitochondrial-diseases
https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/7048/mitochondrial-genetic-disorders
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5967365/
https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/eukaryotic-cells-14023963/
https://www.toppr.com/guides/biology/the-fundamental-unit-of-life/cell-organelle/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21698761
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15612-mitochondrial-diseases/management-and-treatment