Articles

Can You “Catch” Alzheimer’s From Transplanted Material?

Some years ago I did some research on prions as part of my interest in mad cow disease. What I found was very disturbing, as well as the possible overlap between diseases like mad cow and Alzheimers. 

Now, other doctors are considering the possibility that we could be passing material from one person to another and infecting them with early Alzheimers. It’s very preliminary, but it’s based on the idea that patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human version of mad cow) who received spinal column material had early onset Alzheimers develop while other patients who didn’t receive the material did not. 

The biggest issue is that prions, the material that may have been passed, are resistant to normal sterilization procedures. Until we have larger studies on early onset Alzheimers, we won’t know if the issue is widespread or limited to people who already have a prion disease. 

 

Need Stress Relief? Do Art. Even If You “Can’t Draw.”

Doing art lowers the stress levels of most people, regardless of their level of talent. A few people continue to stress, about 25%, but most had lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels after doing creative art. The Drexel University study expected that experience would matter, but finger painting works as well as making a Monet.  

So do something nice for yourself. Doodle, sculpt, and be messy!

Are Your Teeth Grinding All Night? What To Do?

Most of us only want to “bite the bullet” occasionally, but a disturbing number of people bite the bullet, or their own teeth, all night long. 

The common medical opinion is that grinding your teeth is all in your mind. It’s called bruxism, and the Mayo Clinic defines it as ” when you grind, gnash or clench your teeth.” I love it when we give something a Latin name and pretend that means we know anything about it. 

In the same breath that the Mayo clinic says bruxism is due to stress,they also say it can be associated with a whole host of medical conditions. So don’t worry, or really worry, and grind your teeth some more. At any rate, there isn’t much to be done for it besides seeing a shrink, getting a dental guard (a plastic bullet to bite instead), or trying out botox injections. So much for conventional treatments. 

We need another plan for treating teeth grinding. Let’s start by asking if bruxism, grinding, is the same as chewing or sucking. This is a behavior we develop in childhood, called rhythmic masticatory muscle activity (RMMA). Isn’t it great when you can make thumb sucking sound clinical? According to researchers,”No relationships were found between RMMA (presence/absence) and clinically assessed tooth wear or reports of tooth clenching or grinding or craniofacial complaints.” Except that by the time we get to be adults with bruxism, more RMMA is associated with more tooth wear. Keep in mind that most adults have RMMA, 60%, and only 8% have bruxism. So suck away, or gurgle and coo to your heart’s content. Just don’t bite down.

If mouth movements don’t necessarily cause grinding, what does? Maybe micro-arousals? Someone jostling you in your sleep, a noise that partially wakes you, these are micro-arousals. “Although post-arousal RMMA occurred in all SB (sleep bruxism) patients, it was seen in only one normal subject. Moreover, tooth-grinding occurred during 71% of the evoked RMMA in SB patients.” Other researchers playing around in brains found that during sleep RMMA does not occur, so the process is associated with waking

Since bruxism has nothing to do with sleep, but with waking, my thoughts for possible treatments would include some obvious things like melatonin. In uncontrolled epileptic children, adding melatonin reduced bruxism. Another herb, Lemon balm, didn’t help with muscle movements, and the researchers didn’t measure if the bruxism was worse or better. 

There are various drugs that have been tried for bruxism, and most decrease it while sedating the person. But most have side effects from that sedation. One “drug” listed was L-tryptophan, which again was measured against motion rather than grinding.

Massage combined with splinting was more effective than splinting alone. In patients who received counseling and massage, “After 6 weeks, a mean of 60% pain decrease was reported.”

So, in the end, the alternative approach to bruxism would be, get better sleep, get counseling and massage, and use a mouth guard if you can.

 

Itchy Eyes? A Few Thoughts On Eye Drops.

As pollen season hits with a bludgeon, many people turn to antihistamines to keep their eyes from looking like something out of the Walking Dead.

Those seeking out a doctor’s prescription for itchy eyes are most often prescribed antihistamines, and most doctors do not change the prescription despite continued complaints from patients (43% found the treatment unsatisfactory in one study). 

But what about eye drops? Patients have a choice between simple saline, any number of drug preparations, homeopathic remedies, and even Ayurvedic options. For a start,”The simple washing of nasal cavities using isotonic saline provides a significant improvement and is useful, particularly in children.”

None of the eye drop options are risk-free. Of the studies available, the drug sodium cromoglicate was far less risky than anything in the steroid classes (usually words ending in -one). But patients are typically prescribed both. Of the alternative treatments, homeopathics would generally be considered less likely to cause possible side effects. But anything made in a non-sterile environment should be avoided, as washing the eyes with bacteria or viruses is always a bad idea. Commercially prepared homeopathics have shown some benefit, and usually mix in commonly prescribed remedies like euphrasia, allium, and apis. 

In preparation for the next year, you could get hold of some local honey. The honey contains the local pollens, and a small amount of the honey daily might act in the same way as Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT). In SLIT, patients place a small amount of an allergen under their tongues, which can reduce symptoms over time

If you really want to avoid itchy eyes, better get in a time machine and head back to your own birth. “Based on current systematic review evidence, the most promising intervention for the prevention of AE is the use of probiotics (and possibly prebiotics) during the late stages of pregnancy and early life.”

Is Colon Cancer Catching?

I received an email from a married couple that both came down with colon cancer at nearly the same time. The husband has an extensive history of surgeries for other reasons, and the wife has a resistant case of c. difficile. I would love to hear from any other couples out there who have both been diagnosed with colon cancer near each other. As far as I know, no one is researching this particular aspect of colon cancer. 

Three Things I Wish My Doctors Had Told Me About Recovering From Colon Cancer Surgery

Three Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me After Surgery 2015_12_22_15_55_46

  1. One: Your first bowel movements will be blood. That’s expected, don’t freak out.
  2. Two: Gas will hurt for a long time after your surgery. You will expect to hurt every time you laugh or sneeze or poop.
  3. Three: Your nerves that were cut will gradually heal back. When they do, you will hurt like something bad is happening in various parts of your body you previously didn’t know could hurt.

This painful reunion of your nerves will go on for months after your surgery.

Do call your surgeons about any pain, and realize there’s not much they can do.