Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Free ebook] Pain: Considering Complementary Approaches

PainBookCover

 

From the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Pain is the most common reason for seeking medical care. It is also a common reason why people turn to complementary health approaches.

We have collected our information on pain into an eBook you can download to your computer or mobile device.

If you have a Web-enabled device:

 

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Order or Download Your Free Patient Packet – Tips on How to Talk with your Health Care Provider

Order or Download Your Free Patient Packet | NCCAM

From the Web page

Order or Download Your Free Patient Packet

As part of the Time To Talk campaign, NCCAM has developed a packet of helpful materials to help you begin a dialogue with your health care providers. Order your packet online or call 1-888-644-6226 and use reference code D393.

Each packet contains:

  • Backgrounder PDFBackgrounder: The backgrounder provides information about the importance of health care providers and their patients talking about complementary health practices.Download PDF

 

Order your packet online or call 1-888-644-6226 and use reference code D393.

 

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March 13, 2014 Posted by | health care, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oral Probiotics: An Introduction

From the article at the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

Introduction

Probiotics are live microorganisms (e.g., bacteria) that are either the same as or similar to microorganisms found naturally in the human body and may be beneficial to health. Also referred to as “good bacteria” or “helpful bacteria,” probiotics are available to consumers in oral products such as dietary supplements and yogurts, as well as other products such as suppositories and creams. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any health claims for probiotics. This fact sheet provides a general overview of probiotics, with an emphasis on oral products, and suggests sources for additional information.

 

Key Points

  • Although some probiotic formulations have shown promise in research, strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most conditions is lacking.
  • Studies suggest that probiotics usually have few side effects. However, the data on safety, particularly long-term safety, are limited, and the risk of serious side effects may be greater in people who have underlying health conditions.
  • If you are considering a probiotic dietary supplement, consult your health care provider first. Do not replace scientifically proven treatments with unproven products or practices.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

 

Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics

Probiotics are not the same as prebiotics—nondigestible substances that stimulate the growth and/or activity of potentially beneficial microorganisms. The term “synbiotics” refers to products that combine probiotics and prebiotics.

About Probiotics

The concept behind probiotics was introduced in the early 20th century, when Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff, known as the “father of probiotics,” proposed in The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studiesthat ingesting microorganisms could have substantial health benefits for humans. Microorganisms are invisible to the naked eye and exist virtually everywhere. Scientists continued to investigate the concept, and the term “probiotics”—meaning “for life”—eventually came into use.

Picturing the human body as a “host” for bacteria and other microorganisms is helpful in understanding probiotics. The body, especially the lower gastrointestinal tract (the gut), contains a complex and diverse community of bacteria. (In the body of a healthy adult, cells of microorganisms are estimated to outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one.) Although we tend to think of bacteria as harmful “germs,” many bacteria actually help the body function properly. Most probiotics are bacteria similar to the beneficial bacteria found naturally in the human gut.

Various mechanisms may account for the effects of probiotics on human health. Possible mechanisms include altering the intestinal “microecology” (e.g., reducing harmful organisms in the intestine), producing antimicrobial compounds (substances that destroy or suppress the growth of microorganisms), and stimulating the body’s immune response.

Probiotics commonly used in the United States include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There are many specific types of bacteria within each of these two broad groups, and health benefits associated with one type may not hold true for others.

 

Government Regulation of Probiotics

Government regulation of probiotics is complex. Depending on a probiotic product’s intended use, the FDA might regulate it as a dietary supplement, a food ingredient, or a drug. Many probiotic products are sold as dietary supplements, which do not require FDA approval prior to marketing. Dietary supplement labels may make claims about how the product affects the structure or function of the body without prior FDA approval, but they cannot make health claims (claims that the product reduces the risk of a disease) without the FDA’s consent. (For more information about dietary supplements, seeUsing Dietary Supplements Wisely.) A product that is marketed as a drug must meet more stringent requirements. It must be proven safe and effective for its intended use through clinical studies (tests in people) and be approved by the FDA before it can be marketed.

Use of Probiotics in the United States

In the United States, probiotics are available as dietary supplements (including capsules, tablets, and powders) and in dairy foods (such as yogurts with live active cultures). According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, “prebiotics/probiotics” ranked fifth among natural products used for children, but were not among the top-ranking products for adults. Although probiotic products are more popular in Europe and Japan than in the United States, the U.S. consumer market for probiotics is growing rapidly.

Although the FDA has not approved any health claims for probiotics, they are used for a variety of gastrointestinal conditions such as infectious diarrhea, diarrhea associated with using antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease). Probiotics are also being used for preventing tooth decay and for preventing or treating other oral health problems such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Some—but not all—probiotic formulations have been widely studied and show considerable promise. However, the rapid growth in marketing and consumer interest and use has outpaced scientific research on the safety and efficacy of probiotics for specific health applications.

 

What the Science Says

The potential of probiotics to benefit human health in many different ways has stimulated great interest and activity among researchers. For example, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Probiotic and Prebiotic Working Group, a trans-NIH effort to identify gaps and challenges in prebiotic/probiotic research.

Probiotic research is moving forward on two fronts: basic science (laboratory studies) and clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of probiotics for various medical conditions. Many early clinical trials of probiotics have had methodological limitations, and definitive clinical evidence to support using specific probiotic strains for specific health purposes is generally lacking. Nevertheless, there is preliminary evidence for several uses of probiotics, and more studies are under way. In particular, a recent review of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of probiotics in acute infectious diarrhea concluded that there was evidence that probiotics may shorten the duration of diarrhea and reduce stool frequency but that more research was needed to establish exactly which probiotics should be used for which groups of people.

In 2008, the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases published a special issue on probiotics, which included an overview of clinical applications. Based on a review of selected studies, the authors classified several applications according to the strength of evidence supporting the efficacy of probiotics in prevention and/or treatment. For example, the authors concluded that strong evidence exists for acute diarrhea and antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and substantial evidence exists for atopic eczema (a skin condition most commonly seen in infants). Promising applications include childhood respiratory infections, tooth decay, nasal pathogens (bacteria harbored in the nose), gastroenteritis relapses caused by Clostridium difficilebacteria after antibiotic therapy, and inflammatory bowel disease. The authors also discussed various potential future applications.

Studies also indicate that probiotics may reduce side effects associated with treatment for Helicobacter pylori infection, the cause of most stomach ulcers. A systematic review suggests that there is strong evidence that probiotics may reduce the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a severe intestinal condition of premature newborns. Other potential future applications include use in reducing cholesterol levels, treating obesity, and managing irritable bowel syndrome.

 

Safety and Side Effects

It appears that most people do not experience side effects from probiotics or have only mild gastrointestinal side effects such as gas. But there have been some case reports of serious adverse effects, and research on safety is ongoing. A 2008 review of probiotics safety noted that Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been widely studied in clinical trials for a variety of conditions and generally found to be safe. Nevertheless, a recent review of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium noted that the long-term, cumulative effects of probiotics use, especially in children, are unknown, and also pointed to evidence that probiotics should not be used in critically ill patients. Similarly, a 2011 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality assessment of the safety of probiotics, partly funded by NCCAM, concluded that the current evidence does not suggest a widespread risk of negative side effects associated with probiotics. However, the data on safety, particularly long-term safety, are limited, and the risk of serious side effects may be greater in people who have underlying health conditions.

Concerns have also been raised about the quality of probiotic products. Some products have been found to contain smaller numbers of live microorganisms than expected. In addition, some products have been found to contain bacterial strains other than those listed as ingredients.

 

Saccharomyces boulardi (large cells) found along with bacteria in fermented fruit juice. Image width W: 18.3 micrometers.Saccharomyces boulardi (large cells) found along with bacteria in fermented fruit juice.
Photo Credit: SciMAT / Photo Researchers, Inc

If You Are Considering Probiotics

  • Our understanding of probiotics is a work in progress. Although probiotic products are marketed for many different uses, scientific evidence supporting specific uses is still limited, and the FDA has not approved any health claims for probiotics. Before using probiotics, learn as much as you can by talking to your health care provider and researching reliable sources of information.
  • Probiotic products may contain different types of probiotic bacteria and have different effects in the human body. The effects also may vary from person to person.
  • Do not replace scientifically proven treatments with unproven products and practices. Do not use a complementary health product, such as probiotics, as a reason to postpone seeing your health care provider about any health problem.
  • If you are pregnant or nursing a child, or if you considering giving a child a dietary supplement, such as probiotics, it is especially important to consult your (or your child’s) health care provider.
  • Anyone with a serious underlying health problem should be monitored closely for potential negative side effects while taking probiotics.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips on talking with your health care providers about complementary health approaches, seeNCCAM’s Time to Talk campaign.

 

Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of Bifidobacterium bifidum. (Microscope magnification: 16,000x, image width: 8.0 micrometers.)Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Photo Credit: SciMAT/Photo Researchers, Inc

NCCAM-Funded Research on Probiotics

Recent NCCAM-supported research on probiotics has included clinical studies1 focused on:

  • Diarrhea in infants
  • Irritable bowel syndrome and minimal hepatic encephalopathy (a complication of liver disease)
  • An antibiotic-resistant type of bacteria
  • Yogurt beverages as a way of giving high doses of probiotics to young children.

NCCAM also supports laboratory studies that explore possible mechanisms of action for probiotics, providing a foundation for clinical research. For example, recent studies have found evidence that a strain of Lactobacillus reuteri might slow the growth of certain tumors, and that Lactobacillus acidophilusmight enhance the effects of a vaccine against rotavirus infection—the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in infants and children worldwide.

NCCAM’s clinical research program has designated probiotics as a high-priority topic for upcoming projects. Studies will focus on probiotics for addressing gastrointestinal disorders in infants and children, including necrotizing enterocolitis, colic, and irritable bowel syndrome; treating and preventing antibiotic-induced diarrhea; and enhancing the effects of flu vaccine.

1. NCCAM-supported clinical research includes studies conducted under FDA-approved investigational new drug applications. Before these studies can proceed to medically vulnerable populations, researchers carry out rigorous trials to determine safety in healthy adults or people with mild medical conditions.

Color enhanced scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus. A spirochete bacteria can also be seen at center.Color enhanced scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus. A spirochete bacteria can also be seen at center.
Photo Credit: SciMAT/Photo Researchers, Inc

Key References

Top

For More Information

NCCAM Clearinghouse

The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on NCCAM and complementary health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.:
1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers):
1-866-464-3615
Web site:

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals.

Acknowledgments

NCCAM thanks the following people for their technical expertise and review of the content update of this publication: Patricia Hibberd, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital for Children; Marguerite Klein, M.S., NIH Office of Dietary Supplements; and Linda Duffy, Ph.D., and John (Jack) Killen, Jr., M.D., NCCAM.

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCAM.

* Note: PDF files require a viewer such as the free Adobe Reader.

NCCAM Pub No.:
D345
Date Created:
January 2007
Last Updated:
December 2012

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , | Leave a comment

Scientific Results of Yoga for Health and Well-Being

 

Helen yoga

Helen yoga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the Web page at the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

 

This video features the current scientific evidence for yoga as a complementary health practice, particularly for symptoms like chronic low-back pain. Viewers will also learn about research that explores the safety of yoga and how certain yoga poses can specifically affect a person’s body. The video also provides valuable “dos and don’ts” for consumers who are thinking about practicing yoga. This is the second installment in NCCAM’s The Science of Mind and Body Therapies video series.

Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Like other meditative movement practices used for health purposes, various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.

 

 

On a related note…

 

Twitter Chat: Yoga

 

The experts for this month’s chat will be Dr. Karen Sherman, senior scientific investigator at Group Health Research Institute, and NCCAM staff member and certified yoga teacher Yasmine Kloth. The chat will take place on August 21, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Join at #nccamchat.
https://nccam.nih.gov/news/events/twitterchat?nav=upd

 

 

 

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Health Education (General Public) | , , | Leave a comment

Complementary Health Practices Information from NCAAM

NCAAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) recently published these pages/articlers

  • Director’s Page – It’s Time to Talk (March 13, 2012)
    Time to Talk is a recently launched NCAAM series which encourages folks to discuss complementary health practices with their health care providers

    The director notes the following

    • We know that nearly 40 percent of Americans use some kind of complementary health practice. But we also know that most patients do not proactively disclose use of complementary health practices to their health care providers. Likewise, most providers don’t initiate the discussion with their patients. As a physician, I strongly believe that patients and their health care providers need to talk openly about all of their health care practices to ensure safe, coordinated care. Talking not only allows fully integrated care, but it also minimizes risks of interactions with a patient’s conventional treatments.

 

  1. List the complementary health practices you use on your patient history form. When completing the patient history form, be sure to include everything you use—from acupuncture to zinc.  It’s important to give health care providers a full picture of what you do to manage your health.
  2. At each visit, be sure to tell your providers about what complementary health approaches you are using. Don’t forget to include over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as dietary and herbal supplements. Make a list in advance, or download and print this wallet card and take it with you. Some complementary health approaches can have an effect on conventional medicine, so your provider needs to know.
  3. If you are considering a new complementary health practice, ask questions. Ask your health care providers about its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with medications (both prescription and nonprescription).

Don’t wait for your providers to ask about any complementary health practice you are using. Be proactive. Start the conversation.

  • NCCAM TiwtterChate – Join us for monthly Twitter Chats that cover a variety of health topics and complementary approaches. Each month, a different topic will be selected. An expert in scientific and health issues will be available to answer your questions. Most chats will occur on the last Thursday of each month at 1 p.m. ET. Dates, times, and topics may change, and will be announced on this page and through Twitter and Facebook.

    Find us on Twitter: @NCCAM. To participate, use the hashtag: #nccamchat.

    Upcoming Chats

    March 30, 2012 Time to Talk

    Time to Talk Campaign—an educational campaign to encourage patients and their health care providers to openly discuss the use of complementary health practices.

    April 26, 2012 Asthma and Complementary Approaches

    May 31, 2012 Yoga

 

 

 

March 16, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tea Tree Oil – Facts from the US National Institute of Health (NIH)

Tea tree oil plantation, harvesting equipment ...

Tea tree oil plantation, harvesting equipment (a Ford tractor pulling a loader wagon), Coraki, New South Wales, Australia.

 

 

Tea Tree oil facts from herbs at a glance

N C C A M: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Excerpts from the Tea Tree Oil article

This fact sheet provides basic information about tea tree oil—common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree, and has been used medicinally for centuries by the aboriginal people of Australia.

What Tea Tree Oil Is Used For

  • Tea tree oil is often used externally as an antibacterial or antifungal treatment.
  • Tea tree oil is used for a number of conditions including acne, athlete’s foot, nail fungus, wounds, and infections.
  • Other applications for tea tree oil include use for lice, oral candidiasis (thrush), cold sores, dandruff, and skin lesions

What the Science Says

  • A 2004 NCCAM-funded review examined the ability of tea tree oil to kill bacteria and found that in vitro (in a test tube) studies may provide some preliminary evidence for the use of tea tree oil as an adjunctive (additional) treatment for wounds involving difficult-to-treat bacterial infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). However, large, well-designed clinical trials on tea tree oil are lacking, and it remains unclear whether tea tree oil is effective against these emerging resistant strains of bacteria in people.
  • Some smaller-scale clinical studies have had positive results for treating athlete’s foot, nail fungus, dandruff, and acne, but more large-scale, well-designed clinical studies are needed.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • Tea tree oil contains varying amounts of 1,8-cineole, a skin irritant. Products with high amounts of this compound may cause skin irritation or contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction, in some individuals. Oxidized tea tree oil (oil that has been exposed to air) may trigger allergies more than fresh tea tree oil.

 

 

 

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tai Chi and Qi Gong for Health and Well Being: Video Now Available

From the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

This 12 minute video is an educational tool that features tai chi and qi gong as activities to enhance wellness. You can also download this video to your computer or portable media player.

Segments include introduction, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and cool down

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

The NCCAM Web site includes research-based information on treatments and conditions for both health care professionals and the rest of us.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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