Indian spice may delay liver damage and cirrhosis

2010 study posted for filing
Contact: Emma Dickinson
BMJ-British Medical Journal

Curcumin improves sclerosing cholangitis in Mdr2 -/- mice by inhibition of cholangiocyte inflammatory response and portal myofibroblast proliferation

Curcumin, one of the principal components of the Indian spice turmeric, seems to delay the liver damage that eventually causes cirrhosis, suggests preliminary experimental research in the journal Gut.

Curcumin, which gives turmeric its bright yellow pigment, has long been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders.

Previous research has indicated that it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which may be helpful in combating disease.

The research team wanted to find out if curcumin could delay the damage caused by progressive inflammatory conditions of the liver, including primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Both of these conditions, which can be sparked by genetic faults or autoimmune disease, cause the liver’s plumbing system of bile ducts to become inflamed, scarred, and blocked. This leads to extensive tissue damage and irreversible and ultimately fatal liver cirrhosis.

The research team analysed tissue and blood samples from mice with chronic liver inflammation before and after adding curcumin to their diet for a period of four and a period of eight weeks.

The results were compared with the equivalent samples from mice with the same condition, but not fed curcumin.

The findings showed that the curcumin diet significantly reduced bile duct blockage and curbed liver cell (hepatocyte) damage and scarring (fibrosis) by interfering with several chemical signalling pathways involved in the inflammatory process.

These effects were clear at both four and eight weeks. No such effects were seen in mice fed a normal diet.

The authors point out that current treatment for inflammatory liver disease involves ursodeoxycholic acid, the long term effects of which remain unclear. The other alternative is a liver transplant.

Curcumin is a natural product, they say, which seems to target several different parts of the inflammatory process, and as such, may therefore offer a very promising treatment in the future.



Virus infections may be contributing factor in onset of gluten intolerance

2010 study posted for filing

Contact: Paivi Saavalainen
Academy of Finland

Recent research findings indicate a possible connection between virus infections, the immune system and the onset of gluten intolerance, also known as coeliac disease. A research project in the Academy of Finland’s Research Programme on Nutrition, Food and Health (ELVIRA) has brought new knowledge on the hereditary nature of gluten intolerance and identified genes that carry a higher risk of developing the condition. Research has shown that the genes in question are closely linked with the human immune system and the occurrence of inflammations, rather than being connected with the actual breakdown of gluten in the digestive tract.

“Some of the genes we have identified are linked with human immune defence against viruses. This may indicate that virus infections may be connected in some way with the onset of gluten intolerance,” says Academy Research Fellow Päivi Saavalainen, who has conducted research into the hereditary risk factors for gluten intolerance.

Saavalainen explains that the genes that predispose people to gluten intolerance are very widespread in the population and, as a result, they are only a minor part of the explanation for the way in which gluten intolerance is inherited. However, the knowledge of the genes behind gluten intolerance is valuable in itself, as it helps researchers explore the reasons behind gluten intolerance, which in turn builds potential for developing new treatments and preventive methods. This is essential, because the condition is often relatively symptom-free, yet it can have serious complications unless treated.

Researchers have localised the risk genes by using data on patients and on entire families. The material in the Finnish study is part of a very extensive study of thousands of people with gluten intolerance and control groups in nine different populations. The research will be published in a coming issue of Nature Genetics.

Research into hereditary conditions has made great progress over the past few years. Gene researchers now face their next challenge, as a closer analysis is now needed of the risk factors in the genes that predispose people to gluten intolerance. It is important to discover how they impact on gene function and what part they play in the onset of gluten intolerance.

Gluten intolerance is an autoimmune reaction in the small intestine. Roughly one in a hundred Finns suffer from this condition. The gluten that occurs naturally in grains such as wheat, barley and rye causes damage to the intestinal villi, problems with nutrient absorption and potentially other problems too. Gluten intolerance is an inherited predisposition, and nearly all sufferers carry the genes that play a key part in the onset of the condition. The only known effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.




More information:

Academy Research Fellow Päivi Saavalainen, University of Helsinki, tel. +358(0)9 474 25086,

Academy of Finland Communications
Riitta Tirronen, communications manager
tel. +358(0)9 7748 8369

Licorice extract provides new treatment option for canker sores

Re-post for filing 2008

Contact: Stefanie Schroeder
Academy of General Dentistry

CHICAGO (May 22, 2008) – What common oral condition appears as shallow ulcers of different sizes, affects one in five Americans, can be caused by food allergies and hormonal changes, and also can cause severe mouth pain? Commonly referred to as “canker sores,” recurrent aphthous ulcers (RAU) now can be treated by an extract in licorice root herbal extract, according to a study published in the March/April 2008 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry’s (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal.

The authors examined the effects of an over-the-counter medicated adhesive patch (with extract from the licorice root) for treatment of RAU versus no treatment. After seven days of treatment, ulcer size in the group who received the adhesive patch with licorice extract was significantly lower, while ulcer size in the no-treatment group had increased 13 percent.

Licorice root extract was used as a prescribed treatment for gastric ulcers until the 1970s, according to the study. In its original form, licorice root extract has a very strong taste. However, when combined with a self-adhering, time-release, dissolving oral patch, the taste is mild and pleasant.

Among the causes of canker sores, a genetic predisposition might be the biggest cause, says Michael Martin, DMD, PhD, lead author of the study. “When both parents have a history of canker sores, the likelihood of their children developing them can be as high as 90 percent,” he says.

The most serious side effect of canker sores is sharp pain in the mouth, which can interfere with an individual’s quality of life and affect their eating, drinking or speech. Dr. Martin revealed that “in addition to speeding healing of the canker sores, the adhesive patch helped to reduce pain after just three days of treatment.”

Those who experience canker sores on a regular basis can visit their dentist for treatment techniques. “Dentists can give patients the proper medication and treatment options to seal the lesions, which will prevent further infection,” says Eric Shapira, DDS, MAGD, AGD spokesperson and expert on alternative medicine. “Also, increasing vitamins and other herbs, such as Vitamin C and zinc, can help treat canker sores because they help to regenerate tissue cells,” Dr. Shapira adds.

Common causes of canker sores:

  • Local trauma and stress
  • Diet and food allergies
  • Hormonal changes
  • Use of certain medications

Common treatments of canker sores:

  • Antimicrobial mouthwashes
  • Local painkillers
  • Over-the-counter remedies (oral adhesive patches, liquids and gels)

The AGD is a professional association of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. Founded in 1952, the AGD has grown to become the world’s second largest dental association, which is the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of general dentists.

More than 786,000 persons are employed directly in the field of general dentistry. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patients’ oral health needs.

My doctor’s orders? Crisps, doughnuts and strictly no veg

*If we have a contest for worst medical advice EVER!!! I think we have a pretty good contender here – Engineering Evil

By Jo Waters

PUBLISHED:20:07 EST, 27  August 2012| UPDATED:20:07 EST, 27 August 2012

When Justin Hansen was told his gut condition  meant he’d have to follow a severely restricted diet for the rest of his life,  he was devastated.

But then he learned exactly how it would be  restricted.

‘Apparently, burgers, chips, chocolate,  full-fat milk, cakes, biscuits and sausage rolls are all ideal foods for me,’ says Justin.

Crohn's disease: Only half of the nutrients will be absorbed, so generally a patient needs to eat 50 per cent more food to make it upCrohn’s disease: Only half of the nutrients will be  absorbed, so generally a patient needs to eat 50 per cent more food to make it  up

‘The dietitian recommended I boost my calorie  intake with snacks such as sugary doughnuts, crisps and treacle  pudding.

‘I could hardly believe it. I’d have to eat  almost exclusively junk food to stay alive.’

Justin, a 51-year-old former IT consultant  who lives with his girlfriend in  Brighton, has Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory  bowel condition affecting 60,000 Britons.

Crohn’s  causes symptoms including pain,  diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss and  fatigue, but in some cases, such as  Justin’s, it leads to a complication known as intestinal failure.

Here, the inflammation destroys the tissue of  the bowel so badly that surgeons must cut out sections of the intestine.

Patients can live without a complete bowel,  says Dr Simon Gabe, a consultant gastroenterologist at St Mark’s Hospital in  Harrow, London, who treats 300 intestinal failure patients a year.

‘The average gut varies in length between 3.5  and eight metres and the critical amount you need to stay alive is one metre,’ he says.

The problem is that when the intestine is  shortened, food passes through so quickly that its calories, nutrients, fluids  and electrolytes (salts) are not absorbed into the body.

Only half of the nutrients will be absorbed,  so generally a patient needs to eat 50 per cent more food to make it up. If the  bowel is very short, as Justin’s is, they must eat more.

What’s more, going against all received  wisdom about nutrition and health, patients must avoid high-fibre foods, which  pass through the gut quickly, and stick to carbohydrates, fat and sugar.

‘We recommend eating a high-calorie, but  low-volume diet,’ says Dr Gabe.

‘Fatty, high salt, refined carbohydrate foods  such as white bread and cakes are best because they are calorie dense and low in  fibre.

‘Patients can eat as much as they can manage,  and they certainly won’t develop a weight problem.

‘If they can’t consume enough calories, they  will lose dramatic amounts of weight and waste away, so they are also given  daily intravenous nutrition into a vein through a central line in their chest to  ensure that they are getting adequate calories.

‘The liquid food passes directly into their  bloodstream. Patients are taught to administer this and most do it overnight for  eight hours, sometimes every night.’

Going against all received wisdom about nutrition and health, patients must avoid high-fibre foods, which pass through the gut quicklyGoing against all received wisdom about nutrition and  health, patients must avoid high-fibre foods, which pass through the gut  quickly

Every year 4,000 people in Britain are put on  this diet as a result of a short bowel.

As well as Crohn’s, intestinal failure can be  caused by mesenteric infarction, where a blood clot blocks the gut and the colon  has to be removed by surgery.

Another cause is intestinal dismotility,  where the gut loses the ability to propel food and becomes blocked, sometimes as  a result of a stomach virus, or a complication of diabetes or stomach surgery.

Justin’s symptoms started in October 2001.

Over the following months he developed  swollen joints, mouth ulcers and infected nail beds.

‘I’d always been fit and healthy, but  suddenly it felt as if my body was packing up on me — I was struggling to walk a  short distance,’ he says.

‘At first, the symptoms were so random, no  one could work out why — I visited my GP umpteen times.

‘It wasn’t until 2003, when I had diarrhoea  and was vomiting, that anyone took it seriously.’

Justin’s sister Lou, a nurse, sent him to  A&E. An X-ray of his bowel showed his colon was in danger of  rupturing.

Further investigations revealed Justin had  Crohn’s disease.

He had an emergency operation to remove part  of his large intestine, and then an ileostomy to remove his bowel before being  fitted with a colostomy bag.

‘That was hard enough to deal with, but then  a week after surgery complications developed,’ says Justin.

‘My bowel became ulcerated — I was  desperately ill and spent nine months in hospital. I didn’t eat for five months — my bowel was falling apart.

‘At one stage my weight dropped from 11½st to  6st (I’m 5ft 11in). A few times I closed my eyes and hoped I’d never wake up.’

Doctors stabilised Justin’s condition and  after five months he began to eat and drink again.

It was then he was told about the diet he’d  have to follow for the rest of his life, with doctors advising he needed 4,000  to 5,000 calories a day.

‘It was funny that I had packets of crisps on  prescription,’ he says. ‘But at first I struggled to eat even one  bag.

‘Gradually, though, I began to eat more. I  always had one eye on the calorific content — I remember being so desperate to  top up my calories I’d mix milk with powdered milkshake and ice  cream.

‘Ironically, I don’t like junk food or  chocolate much. The foods I craved were things such as apples and salads, which  are bad for me.’

A typical breakfast would be cereal with  sugar, white toast with butter and jam and a full English of sausage, bacon,  eggs and hash browns.

Recommended snacks for mid-morning include  sugary doughnuts, crisps or a cream cake.

Lunch can be sausage rolls, pasties or a  sandwich with butter and/or mayonnaise.

In the evening, patients are encouraged to  eat meat, fish or chicken with potatoes, rice or pasta, lots of salt, few  vegetables and a creamy rice pudding, treacle pudding or tapioca with jam and  cream.

Patients are also given supplements to ensure  they get all the vitamins and minerals they need.

However, Justin struggled to maintain the  calorie intake and after more complications and surgery had a permanent  intravenous nutrition line fitted.

He is studying for an MSc in occupational  therapy and says his health has stabilised.

Alison Culkin, a specialist dietitian at St  Mark’s Hospital who advises Justin, says: ‘These patients can find it very  difficult to consume so many calories because they often have bowel problems,  feel nauseous, have a fluctuating appetite or a colostomy bag.’

Researchers at St Mark’s are developing a  grow-your-own bowel technique, which will potentially cure patients like Justin.

Scientists aim to be able to take tissue from  a patient’s bowel and use stem cells to grow new bowel tissue in laboratories — avoiding the problem of rejection.

Justin and a team of friends recently  completed a kayak trip from Manchester to London to raise money for  the hospital.

‘I want to highlight the problems intestinal  failure patients face and give hope to newly diagnosed patients that you can  lead a normal life.

‘I’m living proof you can do extraordinary  things. I just wish my GP had diagnosed Crohn’s disease earlier.

‘Maybe I might never have had to go through  this

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