The little pear-shaped organ close to your liver really has an important role to play. It releases the bile pigment which helps in breaking your food down and digesting it, particularly fats. When the deposits of this fluid harden inside your gallbladder, they lead to the formation of gallstones. These stones can be as small as the size of sand-grain or as large as a golf ball. Some people may develop only one stone and some may develop too many. Usually, these stones are not harmful but in some cases they may block the passage of bile from the bladder, thereby causing inflammation and pain. This is when a gallbladder removal surgery is required. But before we proceed to that, it is important to note some signs, symptoms, causes, and risks posed by gallstones. Take a look.
Causes of gallstones
Experts are not very clear as to what causes gallstones. However, they say that the following are the major causes of gallstones.
- Too much cholesterol in bile
Normally, the bile has enough chemicals to dissolve the cholesterol excreted by your liver. But sometimes the liver produces too much cholesterol which cannot be broken down by bile. This extra cholesterol forms crystals and stays in your liver in the form of gallstones.
- Excess bilirubin in bile
When your body breaks down red blood cells, it produces bilirubin. It could be due to cirrhosis, blood disorders or biliary tract infections. This extra bilirubin may contribute to the formation of gallstones.
- Gallbladder is not emptying properly
When your gallbladder fails to empty properly, then bile can remain there in concentration. This can result in the formation of gallstones.
Signs and symptoms of gallstones
If the gallstones are not serious, they will not show many signs and symptoms. However, if they block the passage of the bladder, they may show symptoms like:
Intense pain in the upper part of your abdomenIntense pain in the centre of the abdomen, below the breast bonePain between shoulder bladesNauseaVomitingPain in right shoulderThe pain could be anything; from mild to severe. It could last for a few minutes to hours.
When should you see a doctor?
Certain signs and symptoms could be something you need to worry about. They could indicate a serious gallstone condition. These symptoms include:
Excruciating abdominal pain which makes it hard for you to sit comfortablyHigh feverChillsYellowing of skin and eyes
Gallstones can cause excruciating stomach ache
Risk factors for gallstones
Your diet and lifestyle have an impact on your risk of developing gallstones. These two are the controllable factors. However, there are some more uncontrollable risk factors for it. Broadly, the risk factors include:
ObesityEating a diet high in terms of fats and carbsDiabetes mellitusRapid weight loss in short period of timeFamily historyGender (women are at a higher risk of gallstones)Age (above 60)CirrhosisPregnancyHigh estrogen medicationCholesterol-lowering medication
However, you must not leave these medicines completely without your doctor’s approval.
This winter control asthma with inhalation therapy
Whether youre indoors or outdoors, winter will exacerbate asthma attacks. Winter is the most loved season, but it might be unpleasant for patients with lung diseases. An American Lung Association fact-sheet states that asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders and currently affects about 7.1 million children under 18 years. The World Health Organisation Global Burden of Disease Study estimates that 13.8 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) are lost yearly due to asthma, representing 1.8 per cent of the total global disease burden.
For 300 million people around the globe suffering from asthma, the cold winter months often lead to a worsening of their symptoms.
The cold environment it not suitable for asthma patients. Their lungs and airway passages are quite sensitive. To a larger extent, asthma symptoms related to winter can be in controlled and managed by precise treatment and medication. Due to the swelling in the lining of the airways which leads to their narrowing, and the sticky mucus or phlegm build-up that blocks the airways, breathing is difficult and forced for asthmatic patients.
During winter, the cold air causes airways to tighten further, making it even more difficult to breathe.
Many patients and their family members are misinformed about the causes of asthma and the treatment options available. It is a necessity to educate patients and caregivers about the disease and treatment with minimal side-effects of inhaled corticosteroids, i.e. inhalation therapy.
Many pharmaceutical organisations are running campaigns to bust myths around inhalation therapy. Often, the word steroids evokes apprehensions in the minds of patients causing them to shy away from inhalers. The steroid is produced by the human body naturally to deal with inflammation and it is also safe for children and pregnant women. The inhalation therapy consists of an inhaler pump to send the corticosteroids into airway passages.
According to a research article published in Respiratory Medicine journal, the correlation between inhalation therapy for asthma and clinical efficacy is positive, with improved symptom-control and lung-function shown in most studies of adults, adolescents and children.
In the inhalation therapy, the inflammation of the airway requires a very small quantity of corticosteroids — around 25 to 100 micrograms — but when it is consumed through the oral/intestinal route the amount administered is very large — about 10,000 micrograms, since only a fraction of the drug reaches the lungs. This means that every time an asthma patient pops a pill or a tablet, he/she is actually taking almost 200 times the amount of medication required, leading to ill-effects on health.
Inhalation therapy directly gives body only that amount of steroid needed to control the symptoms. Against this, oral medication first gets dissolved in the blood and then reaches various organs, including the lungs.
Thus, inhalation therapy is a simple and easy solution for asthma patients to enjoy their winter to the fullest.
Some nose, throat bacteria less likely to develop into flu: Study
US researchers have identified a cluster of nose and throat bacteria that made their hosts less likely to get flu.
The researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) looked at samples of nose and throat bacteria and used DNA sequencing to identify which bacteria were present.
Analysing the bacterial composition across all samples, they found five clusters.After taking into account other known factors that could affect an individual’s
susceptibility to influenza, such as age, exposure to tobacco, crowded household and flu vaccination, the researchers then looked to see if individuals with a given cluster were less likely to get influenza.
“We looked at who had which cluster and whether it makes a difference on whether they got influenza, and it does,” said lead author Betsy Foxman, Professor at UM. “That’s the exciting thing about it. It tells us if you have this bacterial community, you have lower risk for getting the flu. That’s big news because it really hasn’t been shown before.”
However, the findings published in PLOS ONE journal also bring new questions.”Is it really possible to push someone’s microbiome in a way that would make a difference? Is it possible that we could tell people – ‘Here’s your microbiome pill?'” Foxman said, adding that “It’s a very long road and we’re at the beginning.”
Researchers hope that similar studies can be done in a different population and possibly follow them longer for secondary bacterial infections.”We know we are always going to need new antibiotics but this way we could hold on to them longer and, presumably, if we could intervene in this way there would be fewer side effects,” Foxman said.
For the study, the team enrolled 717 participants from 144 households. Household members of individuals with confirmed influenza were recruited for the study and followed for 13 days or until they developed influenza, whichever came first. They included only the 537 individuals who tested negative for influenza at the beginning of the study.
Taking artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute? Study says it may not be effective
While some people who are trying to avoid sugar are increasingly opting for artificial sugar, a recent study has revealed that taking artificial sugar may not be a good idea after all.”Growing concerns about health and quality of life have encouraged people to adapt healthy lifestyles and avoid the consumption of food rich in sugars, salt, or fat to prevent obesity and other non-communicable diseases. With increased consumer interest in reducing energy intake, food products containing non-sugar sweeteners (NSSs) rather than simple sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides) have become increasingly popular”, the study stated.
But replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners used in Diet Coke and other soft drinks has no effect on weight loss and their long-term health effects are still poorly understood, the review said. The study titled ‘Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials and observational studies’ was led by the University of Freiburg and published in the BMJ.
It also highlighted the absence of research on the long-term health effects of sweeteners when taken over years or decades. In this comprehensive systematic review, a broad range of health outcomes was investigated to determine a possible association with non-sugar sweetener used by a generally healthy population.
“The studies were set up to look at different types of sweeteners, measuring weight, blood sugar (glycaemic) control, oral health, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, mood and behaviour in consumers. For most of them, there was no statistical difference in weight loss or health benefits of adults and children using higher doses of sweeteners rather than small amounts or none”, a report in The Guardian stated.
This comprehensive systematic review covers a broad range of benefits and harms of NSSs in a generally healthy population of adults and children, following rigorous systematic review methods. “Overall, we included 56 studies of adults and children, which assessed the associations and effects of NSSs on different health outcomes.
For most outcomes, there seemed to be no statistically or a clinically relevant difference between NSS intake versus no intake, or between different doses of NSSs. No evidence was seen for health benefits from NSSs and potential harms could not be excluded. The certainty of the included evidence ranged from very low to moderate, and our confidence in the reported effect estimates is accordingly limited”, the study stated.