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The Science of Addiction: How Drugs Affect the Brain

For centuries, the theory behind drug addiction was labored in the fogs of awkward myths and misconceptions. Drug abusers were then depicted as individuals...
Aspirin tablets

Is Aspirin Really Beneficial to the Heart?

A heart attack is not something that starts and ends within minutes; rather it is an ongoing event. The damage to your heart and body can be...
obstructive sleep apnea

How to Stop Snoring: Causes, Cures, and Remedies

Snoring is often an indicator for serious health issues, and it may even lead a snorer to severe respiratory tract, lung, heart, kidney, and brain diseases. However, these are...

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Seven Surprising Benefits of Exercise in Young People

free-hand exercise

When adults exercise, their routine is generally regimented. They work out in the gym with various equipment. Younger people on the other hand have a different take on exercise. For them it means being physically active through playing. They can play tag, ride bikes, play soccer, and join a dance or gym class. When encouraged to be active and enjoy the outdoors, children build endurance, flexibility and strength.

Parents are now told to monitor the body mass index or height to weight ratio of their children because of the growing threat of childhood obesity among children ages 6 to 19. Physical activity will help children lose weight or from becoming obese, as well as start them with healthy habits. Doctors and fitness experts have touted the many benefits that exercising gives to younger people. Here are some of them.

1. Keep weight down

Walking 4 miles each day for 4x a week will burn 1,600 calories or 1/2 pound each week. Without a diet change, walking the same distance for 6 months will help you shed off 12 pounds. Teens can easily include walking into their daily routine like walking on the treadmill for 1 mile before going to school and before dinner, or walking around the track one mile during lunch period and walking the dog another mile after school.

2. Relieve stress

The amount of stress hormones is reduced by regular exercise. Your face will show reduced muscle tension. Exercise also lowers blood pressure, relaxes the blood vessels and slows the heart rate. It also helps you to think better and quicker.

3. Burn calories

Exercise makes muscles grow stronger and stronger muscles burn off more calories. Muscle mass is active tissue and the more muscle mass a person has, the more calories will be burned, even if the person (male) fails to exercise in a day. This is because males have more muscle mass so they can lose weight faster, while girls have to exercise daily to burn more calories. The youth can strengthen their muscles when they wrestle, do handstands, climb or do pull-ups, stomach crunches and push-ups.

4. Increases immunity

Moderate exercise gives your immune system a big boost to help reduce your chances of getting easily affected by the flu, colds and several viruses. Vary your exercise routine so you are not exercising too much each day to give your body time to rest, improve your immune system and prevent you from having muscle and joint pain.

play football

5. Stronger bones

Moderate, regular exercise keeps bones stronger, especially if you do weight-bearing exercises like dancing, jogging, running and walking. Strengthening or resistance exercises are also recommended to keep muscles strong and improve bone mass.

6. Improve complexion

Circulation and nutrient delivery to the skin improves with exercise, which has a detoxifying effect on the body. With exercise, oxygen delivery to the skin also improves. This boosts the production of collagen, making your skin glow. This is especially true when the youth does aerobic exercises such as basketball, swimming, walking, running, jogging, soccer, bicycling or basketball.

7. Enhance mood

The level of endorphins in the brain increases with exercise. The hormone is related with positive, happy feeling. With a higher endorphin level, the symptoms of moderate depression are reduced. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain gets a boost through exercise. This helps you keep calm.

Youth exercise can be a combination of stretching or range-of-motion exercises, conditioning or endurance exercises and strengthening exercises. The first one could be tai chi, yoga or dance. Swimming, aerobics, climbing the stairs, biking and walking are conditioning exercises.

Use free (handheld) weights, resistance bands or machines, wrist and ankle weights during strengthening exercise to make your muscles stronger. Also, drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to replenish the liquid you lost through sweat.

Image source: pixabay.com

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Smoking: Why and How to Quit Before Plastic Surgery

Healthy plastic surgeon

Are you one of the 1 in 5 Americans who smoke?

Cigarette smoke contains over 250 known toxins [1], but you’ve probably heard all of that before.

So let’s get right to the point: you might not want to quit smoking for good, but if you’re going to get plastic surgery, you’ll have to stop for several weeks beforehand and several weeks afterward. Experts recommend quitting smoking one month before the operation and waiting at least one month after the procedure before you begin to smoke again.

“Smoking around the time of surgery is linked to surgical complications including wound infection, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, prolonged hospital stay, sepsis, shock, and anastomotic leak,” according to the recent review by Dhruv Khullar, Steven Schroeder and John Maa [2].

And an anastomotic leak is even scarier than it sounds — it’s when a sewn-up connection between organs begins to leak fluids.

Despite the risks, 25-30% of people undergoing plastic surgery still smoke around the time of their operation. In the span of a year, about 10 million smokers undergo surgery.
In addition to all this, there are even more reasons why you should quit smoking around the time of your procedure.

“Smoking increases one’s risk of delayed wound healing and exposure to infection following most surgeries; however, it poses even greater risks following face lift, abdominoplasty, and mastopexy (breast lift), given the nature of these procedures. These surgeries involve more extensive dissection through elevation of skin flaps and … the body reestablishes its blood supply within the surgical field. Smoking … narrows small blood vessels and decreases the blood supply to these already compromised skin flaps.”

Plus, the skin flaps are getting less blood, and the blood traveling to them are carrying less oxygen. Not only will this increase your risk of infection and delay the healing process, but there are risks of necrosis, skin flap loss, and in cases of breast lifts, even partial or complete nipple loss.

Sounds pretty terrifying, right?

Quitting Smoking

feel like a bird

Another reason to quit smoking is that it drastically affects the wrinkling on your face [3]. The more you smoke and the longer you smoke for, the more your face will wrinkle. So, quitting smoking will not only save you money on paying for cigarettes, but you’d be less likely to want plastic surgery down the line if your face is significantly less wrinkled!

It’s not easy, of course.

And claiming that you quit won’t magically keep those adverse outcomes from happening unless you actually bite the bullet and stop for real.

An unfortunate part of some quitting methods is that they have similar effects on the body as actual cigarettes. Thus, other nicotine products (patch, gum, e-cig, vape, etc.) can’t be used for those two months you have to quit for [4, 5]. You can still use them for quitting, but you’ll have to let go of them before your procedure happens.

One of the first things you should do is ask your primary-care physician how to quit smoking. If they offer you help, then quitting will actually be easier.

But there are other ways to stop smoking, too!

In a smoking-cessation study, “the most effective program was the one in which participants deposited $150 first. The participants were rewarded $650 if they sustained abstinence from smoking for more than 6 months. People in the deposit-based program also got advice on quitting, access to a free counseling program and were offered nicotine-replacement therapy like gum or the patch. Of those people, 52.3% quit [6].”

It’s okay and even important to ask for help. If you can find a group of people who can help you out, medically and emotionally, then you’ll be much more likely to succeed. Gum, sprays, skin patches, and other quitting aids that deliver nicotine help you get over any symptoms of withdrawal and those nasty cravings. No one method works better than another, but the likelihood of quitting increases by 50-70% if you use at least one of them.

Vaping is tempting, but studies are still being done. E-cigarettes can help some people, but test groups’ results aren’t too optimistic.

If you’re thinking about quitting cold turkey, you might not want to bother. Only 4-7% of people are able to quit without any help.

Need more help quitting? The American Cancer Society provides great resources and information, WebMD provides proven strategies, and Quit.com provides the benefits of quitting smoking and more resources.

Final Thoughts

Quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things a person can do. But if you want to get any sort of cosmetic surgery, you’ll need to quit for at least two months—one month before the procedure and one month after. There are a lot of methods that help you to quit smoking, so take the time to find the method that works the best for you.

This post is written by Stephanie Power MD, MSc, FRCSC.

Dr. Power completed her MD and plastic surgery residency at the University of Western Ontario. As part of the UWO Clinician Investigator Program, she also completed an MSc in Medical Biophysics. In 2013 she was certified as a plastic surgeon and moved to Toronto to work in Aesthetic Surgery and Trauma & Reconstructive Surgery. Operating her practice, Power Plastic Surgery from 199 Avenue Road in Yorkville, Dr. Power maintains her practice with a focus on skin cancer.

Image source: pixabay.com


  1. Rinker B. The evils of nicotine: an evidence-based guide to smoking and plastic surgery. Annals of plastic surgery. 2013 May 1;70(5):599-605.
  2. Khullar D, Schroeder SA, Maa J. Helping smokers quit around the time of surgery. JAMA. 2013 Mar 13;309(10):993-4.
  3. Koh JS, Kang H, Choi SW, Kim HO. Cigarette smoking associated with premature facial wrinkling: image analysis of facial skin replicas. International Journal of Dermatology. 2002 Jan 1;41(1):21-7.
  4. Power S. Why is it Important to Quit Smoking Before Elective Cosmetic Surgery? Power Plastic Surgery. 2015 [updated 2015 April 15; cited 2016 Sep 10]. Available from: http://www.powerplasticsurgery.com/cosmetic-surgery/quit-smoking-before-cosmetic-surgery/
  5. Aveyard P, Begh R, Parsons A, West R. Brief opportunistic smoking cessation interventions: a systematic review and meta‐analysis to compare advice to quit and offer of assistance. Addiction. 2012 Jun 1;107(6):1066-73.
  6. Halpern SD, French B, Small DS, Saulsgiver K, Harhay MO, Audrain-McGovern J, Loewenstein G, Brennan TA, Asch DA, Volpp KG. Randomized trial of four financial-incentive programs for smoking cessation. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015 May 28;372(22):2108-17.
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How to Stop Snoring: Causes, Cures, and Remedies

Snoring is a common condition during sleep. If you snore sometimes, but it doesn't make a loud sound, then you don't need to worry because it's normal.

Studies suggest almost 45% of normal male adults and 30% of normal female adults are occasional snorers. You may be one of them if it happens infrequently. But snoring could be a serious cause for concern, if you are a frequent snorer and interrupt your partner's sleep.

Habitual or frequent snoring not just troubles the sleep pattern of others but also affects the quality and quantity of your sleep. It can lead to some serious health problems.

So, if you're here to learn how to stop snoring, read on. This in-depth article will guide you to explore the root causes of your snoring and the remedies that would best suit your needs.

Table of Contents

The Root Causes of Your Snoring

Not everyone has the same reason for snoring. In fact, the reasons vary from person to person depending on many factors, including age, sex, biological setup, nasal airways, drinking habits, overweight, etc. So, to find out an appropriate solution, you need to get to the root cause of why you're snoring.

How does Snoring Happen?

Snoring generally occurs when the airflow via the mouth and nasal pathways is physically obstructed. When a snorer breathes in and out while sleeping, the obstructed air creates vibration using soft tissues in his (or her) head and neck, and eventually, this leads to snoring.
obstruction of ventilation during sleep

Causes of Obstructed Airflow through Nose and Mouth

Airflow through the nasal passages and mouth can be obstructed by a combination of factors, including:
  • Congested nasal passages: Frequent smoking, sinus infection, and high allergic sensitivity can be causes of your snoring because these results congested nasal passages. Accordingly, anatomical defects of the nose or nasal polyps can also cause airflow obstruction.
  • Throat and tongue muscle weakness: While you're asleep, the muscles of your throat and tongue relax and this allows them narrowing the airways. Eventually, when the airflow is obstructed, it vibrates the tissues surrounding the opening and results in the loud sounds of snoring. This muscle weakness can result from sleeping medications, alcohol intake, and deep sleep.
  • Bulky throat and nasal tissue: Floppy or too much tissue surrounding the nasal passages and throat can make a snorer's airflow more prone to vibrate. Being overweight or out of shape is the major cause of bulky tissues.
  • Snoring
  • Abnormally long soft palate and long uvula: If the soft palate, a muscular extension of the bony roof of the mouth, and uvula (a small extension at the back of the soft palate) are abnormally long, they can narrow the air passages from the nose to the throat. These abnormally long structures eventually result in airflow obstruction and cause snoring by vibrating and bumping against one another.
  • Large tonsils: Tonsils are anatomically designed to identify and fight infections, and they usually swell when they fight with bacteria or microorganisms. However, most often these tissues don't go back to their usual size and remain enlarged. These enlarged tissues later narrow the airway and result in snoring.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): Airflow obstruction can also result from a life-threatening sleep condition, obstructive sleep apnea (a severe breathing difficulty during sleep, which keeps the snorer waking up repeatedly for breathing). Louder snoring is often associated with more severe OSA. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine already supported this association and found that snoring intensity was increased when OSA became more severe. (1)

Other Potential Risk Factors

Other risk factors that may contribute to your habitual snoring include:
  • Smoking tobacco or cigarettes: Tobacco smoke inflames the throat and nasal passages, which gradually narrows of the airways, and eventually results snoring following breathing difficulty during sleep. A study in 294 men with sleep apnea published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reported that those who were smokers snored for a greater percentage of the night than nonsmokers did. (2)
  • Being overweight: Overweight or obese people usually have a large amount of fat around their neck, and as fat around the throat can narrow the airway, they are more prone to snore or have OSA. Studies suggest that individuals with a neck circumference of greater than 17 inches generally snore a lot.
  • Drinking alcohol: While you're asleep, alcohol depresses a specific region of your brain, which involves in regulating respiration. This action can desperately relax your throat and tongue muscles, and increase the narrowing of your airways.
  • Consuming sleeping or sedative pills: In some people with snoring problem, intake of sleeping medications produces somewhat similar effects like drinking alcohol following the same mechanism -- by relaxing the muscles surrounding the throat and tongue.
  • Being a man: Men have narrower airways than have women, and this structural difference makes them more likely to snore or have OSA.

Cures, Solutions, and Remedies to Stop Your Snoring

If you're finding a solution to stop snoring, you can go for a number of treatment options, including lifestyle changes, anti-snoring devices, surgical interventions, and medications.

Among these options, lifestyle changes can be the healthiest one for you if your condition isn't severe. However, many people often go for the anti-snoring devices first, but unfortunately, most of those products don't actually help at all.

Although there are some anti-snoring devices that really helps stop snoring, but finding the right one for your snoring problem can appear as a daunting task. Moreover, not everyone has the same reason of snoring, so what worked for others mightn't work for you.

For this reason, to stop your snoring, the first step should be to understand and evaluate the root cause of your snoring. A careful observation of your snoring while sleeping can help identify when you snore, what makes it worse, and why you snore, and for that, you may need your partner's help to monitor your snoring.

Understand How You Sleep to Discover Why You Snore

While you're asleep, the different ways you sleep and your sleep positions can play a big part in your snoring. Sleeping ways and positions that may contribute to snoring include:
  • Open mouth snoring: Indicates a possible relation with your throat tissues.
  • Close mouth snoring: Directs to a likely problem related to your tongue.
  • Snoring on your back: Usually points to mild snoring if it's the only position you snore.
  • Snoring in all positions: Mean your snoring is actually severe or you have OSA, and you need an immediate medical attention.

Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies to Stop Snoring

Snoring isn't often considered a medical condition, except when it is associated with obstructive sleep apnea. To stop your snoring, you can do many things on your own. Lifestyle changes and home remedies are two of the most effective options you can try if you want a long lasting solution for your snoring.

Lifestyle Changes to Stop Snoring

To treat your snoring, your doctor or GP initially will advise you to make some lifestyle changes, which may include:
  • Lose weight, if you have gained extra fats around your neck.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and sleeping or sedative pills before bed.
  • Perform regular exercise.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Establish a regular routine for sleeping.

Home Remedies to Help Stop Snoring

You can use a number of home remedies to reduce the severity, frequency and loudness of your snoring.
  • Sleep on your side. When you're lying on your back, the muscles of your throat and tongue relax and results narrowing of the airways. To avoid obstructing the airflow, make a habit of sleeping on your right side. However, if you find it difficult to stay in your position during sleep, use the tennis ball trick to avoid sleeping on your back.
  • Elevate the head of your bed. Elevating the head of your bed 4 inches to 6 inches using bricks or solid stuff may help you to breathe ease and reduce snoring during sleep.
  • Keep the nasal passages clear. If you're having breathing problems for a stuffy nose, keep your nasal passages clear. Treat your breathing problems promptly, because a stuffy nose not only makes the inhalation difficult but also creates an empty space in your throat, which eventually leads to snoring. Try using nasal strips or disks, or a preservative free nasal saline to keep the airflow uninterrupted.
  • Treat nasal congestion or obstruction promptly. Suffering with seasonal allergies or having a deviated septum can congest your nose and obstruct smooth airflow through the nose. Try using medicines like decongestants and nasal corticosteroid sprays. These medicines can open the air passage, allowing an uninterrupted airflow, and may decrease snoring. However, oral or spray decongestants must be used for a short duration unless your doctor advised you to continue.
  • Keep the bedroom air moist. The membranes of the nose and throat are usually very sensitive when exposed to dry air and often, dry air irritates the membranes, which in turn causes narrowing of air passages. Try using a humidifier to keep your bedroom moist.
  • Perform throat and tongue exercises. Throat exercise has proven to be an effective way to reduce snoring gradually. As weak muscles around the throat and tongue can cause snoring, you may try throat and tongue exercises to strengthen the muscles. Curling the tongue repeatedly and pronouncing each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) for a few times a day loudly can strengthen the upper respiratory tract muscles and thereby reduce snoring. Try practicing these exercises for 30 minutes a day.

Alternative Remedies to Stop Snoring

Based on the clinical trial reports, alternative remedies that might help stop your snoring include:
  • Singing can improve the tone and strength of pharyngeal muscles, a group of muscles near the soft palate and upper throat. A randomized controlled trial published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery reported that daily singing exercise for 3 months significantly reduced the severity, frequency, and loudness of snoring in participants. (3)
  • Playing the didgeridoo (a musical instrument from Australia) is another alternative treatment for snoring. Regular practicing of this musical instrument can effectively strengthen the muscles of soft palate and throat, and thereby reduce snoring.

    A randomized control trial performed to evaluate the effectiveness of this instrument, published in the British Medical Journal, found that regular playing of a didgeridoo was an effective treatment for reducing daytime sleepiness and snoring in participants with moderate OSA. (4)

Medical Treatments for Snoring

If you've tried the alternative and self-help solutions but failed to reduce the frequency or loudness of your snoring, then you probably have developed a more severe condition. However, don't give up hope, because you can still try medical treatment. Consult with a doctor specialized in ear, nose, and throat. Your doctor may recommend some tests to see whether you have a nasal deformity or developed OSA or other respiratory issues. Depending on the severity of your snoring, your doctor may suggest:
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): A standard and effective treatment for OSA but not so popular among people suffering from snoring. CAPA is a small pump machine that helps to keep your airway open while you're asleep. Using this machine involves wearing a mask over your nose as well. The pump machine blows pressurized air into the mask and keeps the airway open by forcing air through it.
  • Oral appliances: These devices are front-line treatment for snoring. People who feel uncomfortable with CAPA often use these devices to keep their air passage open during sleep.

    Oral appliances are somewhat form-fitting dental mouthpieces. They usually work by pushing the tongue and jaw forward in order to improve the airflow. A dentist specialized in sleep disorders molds an oral appliance to fit in a particular patient's teeth.

    Oral appliances have proven effective for both severe and non-severe snoring. A clinical study published in the Clinical Evidence written that oral appliances were seemed effective in reducing severe and non-severe snoring. However, the study also predicted that these devices might not perform as effective as CAPA. (5)

Surgical Treatments for Snoring

Surgical treatments are considered as the last and final option for snorers who have tried just about all other treatment options but failed to improve their condition. For most cases of snoring, surgical treatments are used to modify the size of nasal passage by removing extra tissues or correcting nasal deformities. Surgical treatments that might help cure your snoring include:
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): This surgical treatment is often preferred when it's diagnosed that the soft tissue in the mouth is responsible for causing the snoring. To establish a smoother airflow through the mouth and nose, surgeons specialized in UPPP will increase the size of nasal passage by removing the uvula, shortening the soft palate, and eliminating some excess tissue in the throat.
  • Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP): An outpatient surgery that uses a hand-held laser beam to eliminate the uvula and shorten the soft palate.
  • Radiofrequency palatoplasty: In this outpatient procedure, the surgeon uses a low-intensity radiofrequency to shrink and stiffen the soft palate and uvula so that they are less likely to vibrate.
  • Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy: This surgical procedure can be used when it's confirmed that enlarged tonsils and adenoids are obstructing the nasal passage during sleep.
  • Nasal septoplasty: This surgical procedure is done to resize and straighten the bone and tissues that are identified as nasal deformities.

Medical Reference

  • Mayo Clinic Staff (2012). Snoring - MayoClinic.org.
  • E. Gregory Thompson, MD (2011). Snoring - WebMD.com.
  • Collop NA, Cassell DK (2002). Snoring and sleep-disordered breathing. In TL Lee-Chiong Jr et al., eds., Sleep Medicine, pp. 349-355. Philadelphia: Hanley and Belfus.
  • Strohl KP (2006). Ventilatory control during wakefulness and sleep. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 14, chap. 6. New York: WebMD.
  1. Maimon N, & Hanly PJ. (2010) Does snoring intensity correlate with the severity of obstructive sleep apnea?. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 6(5), 475-8. PMID: 20957849.
  2. Bearpark H, Elliott L, Grunstein R, Cullen S, Schneider H, Althaus W, & Sullivan C. (1995) Snoring and sleep apnea. A population study in Australian men. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 151(5), 1459-65. PMID: 7735600.
  3. M. P. Hilton, J. O. Savage, B. Hunter, S. McDonald, C. Repanos, & R. Powell. (2013) Singing Exercises Improve Sleepiness and Frequency of Snoring among Snorers—A Randomised Controlled Trial. International Journal of Otolaryngology and Head, 2(3), 97-102. DOI: 10.4236/ijohns.2013.23023
  4. Puhan MA, Suarez A, Lo Cascio C, Zahn A, Heitz M, & Braendli O (2006). Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomised controlled trial. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 332 (7536), 266-70 PMID: 16377643
  5. Hensley M, Ray C (2009). Sleep apnoea, Clin Evid (Online). 2009: 2301
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13 Best Superfoods that will Make You Amazingly Healthier


Even if you are not a diehard foodie, you have probably heard a thing or two about superfoods by now. Although the official definition of superfood is still lacking, the buzzword is mostly used to denote dietary ingredients with a high content of essential nutrients, including proteins, essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.

These nutrients not just nourish the body but also help prevent a range of diseases. The additional advantage is that they don't contain synthetic fats, food additives, and added sugars.

However, not all superfoods are equally beneficial for health. Certain superfoods are more healthier than others are.

We’ve compiled a list of 13 best superfoods that can amazingly boost your health and wellbeing. Check them out!

1. Acai

Native to Central and South American rainforests, acai berry touts higher antioxidant content than any other berry out there, and to human benefit, no less. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows that the consumption of acai pulp and juice can significantly boost antioxidant activity in the blood [1]. Full of anthocyanin and oleic acid, unsweetened fresh or frozen acai has anti-aging and immune boosting properties. It can also promote weight loss and cognitive function and ward off heart disease, gut glitches, and some types of cancer.

2. Barley

A portion of barley a day can keep cholesterol away from your blood system. According to a 2010 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, regular intake of beta-glucans found in barley can reduce total and LDL cholesterol concentrations [2]. If you are suffering from (or just wish to prevent) hypercholesterolemia, add this grain to your delicious breakfast servings and hack cholesterol control like a super-foodie.

3. Blueberries

Blueberries are not just a mouthful of yum: they also pack tons of vitamins, phytochemicals, soluble fiber, and antioxidants which counteract colon cancer, skin aging, heart disease, and late-life memory problems. A 2012 study showed that women who ate three or more portions of blueberries and strawberries stood a 32% lower risk of heart attack compared to the ladies in the control group that berried up the menu once a month or less [3].

4. Cacao

Rich in flavonoids, phytochemicals, and antioxidants and low on calories, raw and nonalkalized cacao powder can slash the risk of cardiovascular problems, cancer, and heart disease. A 2012 study by the American Heart Association has shown that regular intake of dark cacao can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart and brain, and boost blood vessel elasticity and cognitive function in the elderly population with mild cognitive impairment [4].

5. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are laden with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, niacin, potassium, thiamine, and Vitamin B2 fiber. Alongside all this micronutrient goodness, chia seeds also have a minimal calorie count, which makes them ideal for weight watchers. In addition to that, studies have shown that regular chia seed consumption can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, thus slicing the risk of diabetes type 2 and heart disease.

6. Garlic

Garlic may not smell like a bed of roses, but it sure packs a hefty portion of Vitamins C and B6, selenium, manganese, and antioxidants. A 2012 review showed that garlic is efficient against colds, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and high cholesterol [5].

7. Goji berries

Native to Central Mongolia and Tiber, goji berries are a traditional Chinese remedy for poor circulation, immune system glitches, and eyesight problems. A 2008 study found that frequent intake of goji berry promotes overall wellbeing, brain activity, and digestion [6]. Apart from this, a well-known 1994 Chinese study also demonstrated that goji polysaccharides combined with immunotherapy could not only prevent, but also regress cancer [7]. Rich in Vitamin A, B2, and C, iron, selenium, and antioxidants, both dried and fresh forms of goji berries can be used with ease.

8. Green tea

Native to China, green tea is a cupful of antioxidants, B vitamin complex, folate, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, and the list of its health benefits includes weight loss, cholesterol reduction, and Alzheimer’s disease and cancer prevention. A 2013 review of 11 studies found that the daily intake of green and black tea could lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease [8].

9. Hemp seed

Extremely rich in polyunsaturated and essential fatty acids, protein, Vitamin E, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, and zinc, hemp seeds are good for tummy, skin, nervous system, and cardiovascular health. Hemp seed is rich in the amino acid arginine, and a 2005 study shows that arginine intake impacts nitric oxide production, contributing to blood pressure reduction and a lower risk of heart disease [9].

10. Kale

One of the world’s healthiest dark leafy green foods, kale has been found to diminish the risk of cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and asthma, and it has also been linked to improved bone health and blood glucose control in diabetics. Kale is also low in calories and contains micronutrients important for healthy skin and hair, so it definitely deserves a place on everyone’s plate.

11. Maca powder

Grown in the Andes, maca root functions as an adaptogen and can boost endurance, stabilize energy, and enhance the regeneration of damaged cells and tissue. Several studies found that maca powder could boost male fertility and libido and alleviate hormonal swings in menopause, as well as counteract the negative effects of stress.

12. Pomegranate

A go-to for fiber, Vitamins A and E, iron, and antioxidants, pomegranate is an effective remedy for high blood pressure, heart disease, inflammation, and some types of cancer. A 2006 study established that a single glass of pomegranate juice a day could slow down prostate cancer development in men with recurring prostate cancer [10].

13. Quinoa

Quinoa is the native Peruvian seed that has gained a lot of buzz over the past few years. It is gluten-free and full of fiber, iron, B-vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, folate, antioxidants, and vitamin E. Ranking low on the glycemic index, quinoa is one of few plant foods which packs complete protein and all essential amino acids. Moreover, studies have shown that it can be extremely efficient in lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides [11].

So, should you tweak your menu to make room for an extra superfood ration? You by all means should!! And for better outcomes, you should pick your super-servings based on our short list of superfoods which deserve a place on everyone’s plate.

This is a guest post contributed by Samantha Olivier. Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter, or in a tea shop.


  1. Mertens-Talcott SU, Rios J, Jilma-Stohlawetz P, Pacheco-Palencia LA, Meibohm B, Talcott ST, Derendorf H. Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in human healthy volunteers. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2008 Aug 12;56(17):7796-802.
  2. AbuMweis SS, Jew S, Ames NP. β-glucan from barley and its lipid-lowering capacity: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. European journal of clinical nutrition. 2010 Dec 1;64(12):1472-80.
  3. Cassidy A, Mukamal KJ, Liu L, Franz M, Eliassen AH, Rimm EB. High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women. Circulation. 2013 Jan 15;127(2):188-96.
  4. Desideri G, Kwik-Uribe C, Grassi D, Necozione S, Ghiadoni L, Mastroiacovo D, Raffaele A, Ferri L, Bocale R, Lechiara MC, Marini C. Benefits in Cognitive Function, Blood Pressure, and Insulin Resistance Through Cocoa Flavanol Consumption in Elderly Subjects With Mild Cognitive Impairment The Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study. Hypertension. 2012 Sep 1;60(3):794-801.
  5. Stabler SN, Tejani AM, Huynh F, Fowkes C. Garlic for the prevention of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in hypertensive patients. The Cochrane Library. 2012 Jan 1.
  6. Amagase H, Nance DM. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study of the general effects of a standardized Lycium barbarum (goji) juice, GoChi™. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008 May 1;14(4):403-12.
  7. Cao GW, Yang WG, Du P. [Observation of the effects of LAK/IL-2 therapy combining with Lycium barbarum polysaccharides in the treatment of 75 cancer patients]. Zhonghua zhong liu za zhi [Chinese journal of oncology]. 1994 Nov;16(6):428-31.
  8. Hartley L, Flowers N, Holmes J, Clarke A, Stranges S, Hooper L, Rees K. Green and black tea for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. The Cochrane Library. 2013 Jun 18.
  9. Wells BJ, Mainous AG, Everett CJ. Association between dietary arginine and C-reactive protein. Nutrition. 2005 Feb 28;21(2):125-30.
  10. Pantuck AJ, Leppert JT, Zomorodian N, Aronson W, Hong J, Barnard RJ, Seeram N, Liker H, Wang H, Elashoff R, Heber D. Phase II study of pomegranate juice for men with rising prostate-specific antigen following surgery or radiation for prostate cancer. Clinical Cancer Research. 2006 Jul 1;12(13):4018-26.
  11. Vega‐Gálvez A, Miranda M, Vergara J, Uribe E, Puente L, Martínez EA. Nutrition facts and functional potential of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd.), an ancient Andean grain: a review. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2010 Dec 1;90(15):2541-7.
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Helpful Medications to Treat Allergy Symptoms

crimson pills

Allergic symptoms are your body’s reactions to something, such as food or drug, which causes little or no problem to most other people. So, because allergic sensitivity vary from person to person, there are many different types of medicine to treat allergies. A doctor or board certified allergist often makes the best suggestion about the most appropriate medicine to treat allergies.

The most common medications used to treat allergy symptoms are antihistamines and decongestants, which are often used in combination. However, sometimes multiple medications are used, depending on the patient’s symptoms. Following are some of the classes of medications that are often used to treat allergies.


Histamine is a chemical the body releases during an allergic reaction, causing symptoms such as runny nose, swollen nasal passages, sneezing, running eyes and nasal stuffiness. Antihistamines cannot cure allergy symptoms, but they block the effect of histamine and provide relief from allergy symptoms.

Antihistamines that are from the first generation of these medicines, such as diphenhydramine, can cause side effects like drowsiness and sedation. The newer antihistamines, such as cetirizine, and levocetirizine, are less likely to cause drowsiness and are safer for daytime use.

Antihistamines work best if they are taken before the symptoms arise. In doing so, they will have a chance to build up in the system before exposure. For example, if you need to travel to a place, taking an antihistamine pill before the journey begins will help you to cope with mild allergic reactions.

Leukotriene Inhibitors

These are a novel class of medications to ease the symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis. They work by blocking the activity of leukotrienes, inflammatory chemicals that are released when the body is exposed to an allergen or allergy trigger. The release of Leukotrienes leads to airway muscles tightening, excess mucus and fluid production, and inflammation and swelling in the lungs.


Bronchodilators are medications that widen the bronchial tubes by relaxing the tight lungs muscles and dilating the respiratory airways. They increase airflow to the lungs and make breathing easier.

Bronchodilators are often used for the treatment of chronic or long-term breathing problems. In particular, conditions in which the airways become narrowed and inflamed, for example asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Allergies and asthma are closely interlinked and often occur together. If you have asthma and are highly sensitive to allergens such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander, a bronchodilator can be helpful to alleviate your symptoms.


Decongestants are over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are used to relieve nasal congestion (blocked or stuffy nose) caused by allergies. They primarily work by constricting the blood vessels of the nose, throat and sinuses and decreasing the fluid that leaks out of the nose. Decongestants come in several different dosage forms, such as pill, syrup, nasal spray and nasal drop.

Nasal Steroids

Nasal steroids, also called corticosteroids, are cortisone-like medications. They alleviate allergy symptoms by reducing swelling and congestion in the nose. Unlike oral steroids that are taken by mouth, nasal steroids are delivered directly to the nose, throat and lungs. These medicines also have very few side effects. Flovent and Pulmicort are two the most effective medications to decrease inflammation in the airways.

Disclaimer: Information in this article is not intended as medical advice. Consult with your GP about the purported effects and adverse effects of these medications.

Image source: psyberartist, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr
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Myths and Facts You Need to Know about Herbal Remedies

Herbal Medical Shop

Many devotees of herbs often have a common misconception that herbal remedies are safe and don't cause any side effects. But the truth is they carry as same health risks as the conventional treatment and can cause you considerable harm.

In fact, the pitfalls of using herbal remedies are many, and there are a lot of myths to beware of! So if you wish to try alternatives to modern medicines, it’s important that you know all the facts.

Accordingly, in this article, I want to discuss some of the common misconceptions about herbal medicines.

Herbal medicines are natural so can’t be harmful.

Well, it’s true they’re from nature, but that doesn't simply mean they are all harmless and safe. All the fruits and vegetables we eat are obtained from nature, but does this mean they can’t cause troubles to our body. Of course, they certainly can! Even an onion can upset your stomach if you eat more of it.

Many of our modern drugs are derived from medicinal plants. If herbal medicine can’t cause any harm because of having natural substances, isn’t it strange that those same substances when isolated and/or synthesized are becoming harmful.

Herbs have no side effects.

No offence, but it’s a blatant lie that manufacturers of these remedies publicize to promote their products. Of course, herbs can cause serious side effects. In fact, a majority of experienced practitioners are concerned about some of the serious adverse effects (e.g. contact dermatitis, colon perforation, hepatotoxicity, coma and death) of herbal preparations [1].

Check out the below table to see a list of common herbs with known side effects.

Table 1. Some Common Herbs with Known Adverse Effects

Common Name Side Effects
Aloe vera Potentially carcinogenic; may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and severe allergic reactions
Ginseng Most commonly, trouble sleeping and headache; less commonly, vaginal bleeding, breast pain, allergic reactions and other side effects
Ginkgo biloba Severe side effect: bleeding; minor side effects: stomach upset, constipation, dizziness, headache, increased heart rate and allergic reactions
St. John's wort Photosensitivity or severe sunburn (if taken in in large doses); other common side effects include trouble sleeping, dry mouth, gastrointestinal disturbances, fatigue, anxiety, headache, dizziness and allergic reactions
Kava Liver damage, sedation, symptoms of tardive dyskinesia, acute dystonic reaction and severe allergic reactions
Ephedra Hypertension, abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, trouble sleeping, headache, anxiety, palpitations and seizure

The reason why you don’t know about these side effects is regulatory incompetence! The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other major regulatory authorities worldwide, do not require any disclosure of adverse effects on the monograph of herbal products. Thus, manufacturers have no obligation to inform consumers about the possible side effects associated with their products [1, 2].

Furthermore, herbal remedies are not regulated with the same scientific rigor required of modern medicines. The FDA does not regulate these products for purity and potency [2]. Hence, there is no guarantee that the product you’ve bought contains exactly what’s listed on the label. It can be tainted with impurities (e.g. pesticides, germs or toxic metals), or made of substances that aren’t written on the label at all.

Herbal products aren’t drugs.

Well, I believe it’s a big regulatory flaw that the FDA and other agencies still consider herbal products as dietary supplements rather than drugs. This means manufacturers don’t need to provide any evidence of safety and efficacy before putting their products on the market, as they are not subjected to the approval process by the regulatory authorities. They only need to prove that their products are safe for human consumption. Thus, manufacturers have no liability to show any proof in support for what they claim [3, 4].

Manufacturers are also allowed to make any statement they wish about the purported effect and health benefits of a certain herb as long as they add the disclaimer, "These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease" [2].

This is mindboggling. While a number of herbal products are known to cause drug-like effects and have serious adverse reactions, they are allowed over-the-counter (OTC) to consumers without being regulated or having drug status. In fact, if an herb is found to be toxic, it doesn’t ensure that the herb will be removed from the market, because the FDA often issues only a warning [3]. This means the OTC sale of that herb will not be restricted.

Herbal remedies do not interact with modern medicine.

This is a scary myth. There are some really serious interactions to watch out for. Numerous studies have shown that a number of herbal products can interact with other drugs, herbs or foods [4, 5, 6]. It is also reported that the herb-drug interactions can alter the efficacy and bioavailability of the prescription drugs [2, 4].

I want to give you one good example on this. Are you familiar with statins? Some of the names you may recognize are lipitor and crestor. In the herbal world, red yeast rice is also considered a statin.

The interaction comes through goldenseal, an herb often used as an immune stimulant. It's not best for that purpose, but is often bundled with Echinacea, which is also used to help boost the immune system. If statins and goldenseal are taken together, some serious muscle damage is likely to occur and renal failure is possible. This may be due to the berberine found in goldenseal.

Now don't get me wrong. This post isn't written to demotivate people about herbal remedies, rather it is to dispel some of the common myths surrounding the medical system.

I'm not an herb hater; personally, I believe herbs can be a wonderful alternative to our mainstream medical treatments, as they have clearly been used for thousands of years.

However, my point is there must be some validity to their safety, potency and efficacy. Consumers must be informed about the possible side effects of the product they’re buying. In addition, herbs that are known to be toxic should be restricted for OTC sales.


  1. Thornfeldt C. Cosmeceuticals containing herbs: fact, fiction, and future. Dermatologic Surgery. 2005 Jul 1;31(s1):873-81.
  2. Cupp MJ. Herbal remedies: adverse effects and drug interactions. American family physician. 1999 Mar 1;59(5):1239.
  3. Barrett S. The herbal minefield. Quackwatch Web Site. 2000 Jun 22.
  4. Elvin-Lewis M. Should we be concerned about herbal remedies. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2001 May 31;75(2):141-64.
  5. Posadzki P, Watson LK, Ernst E. Adverse effects of herbal medicines: an overview of systematic reviews. Clinical medicine. 2013 Feb 1;13(1):7-12.
  6. Messina BA. Herbal supplements: facts and myths—talking to your patients about herbal supplements. Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing. 2006 Aug 31;21(4):268-78.
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Everything You Need to Know about Botox

Over the past decades, Botox has been one of the most appreciated interventions in the beauty industry. It has been a popular aesthetic treatment, especially among the rich and famous. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Simon Cowell, and many others have used it to improve their appearance.

These days Botox has become a household name; no doubt, the celebrity factor has played a big part in this. However, despite everyone knowing what it is, most people have no idea about what is it made of and how it actually works. This is especially true of those considering the procedure for the first time.

The confusion in the prospective patients about the benefits and risks of Botox is not just because of the media hype, but also due to the glut of misinformation that can be found on the Internet.

The purpose of this article is, therefore, to provide evidence-based information on Botox ― and at the same time dispel some myths surrounding the procedure.

Table of Contents

What is Botox?

Botox is actually the trade name of a neurotoxin (botulinum toxin), which is made from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Injections containing this toxin mostly work by relaxing or paralyzing certain muscles or by obstructing the activity of certain nerves.

The mechanism of action of botulinum neurotoxin is complex. When Botox is injected into a target area of the skin, a series of events occur within the body. As a result, a neuromuscular blocking effect is produced and the release of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in activating muscles) is inhibited. These actions ultimately result in temporary paralysis of the targeted muscle.

Botox Injection

What does Botox do?

Botox injections are efficient in minimizing unwanted facial lines such as wrinkles caused by the aging process. These injections are typically used to correct cosmetic issues such as forehead wrinkles, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They can also be used to make the jaw line appear slimmer, combat excessive sweating in the palms, feet, and underarms, and treat migraines and cervical dystonia.

Does it hurt?

Most patients compare Botox injections to acupuncture, rating it as much less painful as a traditional injection. However, there can be some mild discomfort if the procedure is applied directly to frown lines. In this case, your specialist can recommend and apply a topical anesthetic.

Is there an age limit for Botox?

There isn't any specific age limit for those who want to take Botox injections. However, qualified professionals generally will not treat anyone under the age of 18, unless it is to treat a specific medical condition.

Wrinkles or other facial issues are major problems for older adults, as it starts to show up with aging. Individuals under 18 years of age are too young, so there is little or no chance of having facial issues like wrinkles.

There’s also not an upper age limit either. In most cases, the only difference in age is how the treatment is applied, or the amount of Botox needed for a specific condition. Outside of that, age is rarely a consideration. In fact, Botox tends to have more dramatic and visible effects on older people.

Difference between Botox treatment in men and women

  • Physiological difference. To achieve desired results, men require a higher dosage of Botox as compared to women, especially around the eyes and the forehead. The main reason behind this is that there is a physiological difference between the facial muscle strength and skin thickness of men and women.
  • Aesthetic difference. Cosmetic treatments for men and women differ aesthetically. For example, most females want a pronounced arch in their eyebrow to enhance their looks. Botox treatment is more subtle in males and most of them just want to erase obvious signs of aging without giving up their distinguished appearances. Hence, different techniques of injecting Botox are employed to maintain gender specificity.

How many units of Botox are needed?

Every person is different in his/her biological setup. Depending on the individual skin characteristics, some may require more of the neurotoxin while some will need less.

If you want to take the shots, it is important for you to discuss the treatment with a qualified cosmetic surgeon. Your surgeon can best advise you of any associated risks with the treatment. Following up as required by your doctor will allow them to assess and better measure future Botox applications to achieve your desired look.

How long does it last?

In general, The results of Botox injections can take five to fourteen days to show the effects. Your eyes and forehead furrows will become noticeably reduced within a couple of days after the procedure.

Patients are advised to follow up with their doctors two to three weeks after the shot. This will allow the doctor to check the results and note the effects of botox for future treatments.

The effects of Botox injections are not permanent; hence, recipients require repeated shots to retain the effects. By about the third month only 50% of the treatment effects will still be visible. Within 4 months that will drop to 20%, and by 6 months, there will be no visible changes.

To maintain the effects, you may require taking the shots at least 2-3 times a year.

The downtime and appearance right after treatment

For most patients, how they will look immediately after the procedure is their primary concern.

Right after a shot, the muscles around the injected area will be temporarily paralyzed. This temporary paralyzing effect will make you unable to frown, squint your eyes or raise your eyebrows. Hence, makeup should not be worn for at least three hours following a Botox treatment.

Some people may notice tiny red spots around the injected area, but these quickly fade away. In most cases, they’re gone by the time you get home.

Botox and fillers: Is there a difference?

Many people just assume that all outpatient cosmetic procedures are more or less the same when in fact they are quite different. The most common two are Botox and Dermal Fillers, and both of which are used for aesthetic purposes on an outpatient basis.

Botox is a small injection that removes wrinkles, while Dermal Fillers are a more invasive procedure that involves injecting artificial fillers under the skin. The differences, however, not end there. Botox has many uses over and above the aesthetic ones. Also, new research is being carried out with regards to using Botox for headaches and migraines, asthma and even weight loss.

Dermal Fillers, while also used for cosmetic procedures, are completely different. They’re a gel-like substance that is injected under the skin, either filling it in and stretching it tight, or reshaping it altogether. The most common procedure is lip injections, which women around the world use to increase the size of their lips.

Side effects of Botox

The most common side effect of Botox injections is a 24-hour headache. About 10% of first time patients will experience this. Other side effects include mild bruising, and less commonly, a slightly droopy appearance. These are mild side effects, and generally short term. If you have any concerns, simply contact your specialist. That’s what they’re there for.

Is there anything to worry about?

Botox and Dermal Fillers are usually considered risk free, although there are considerations unique to each individual, which should be discussed with a qualified medical professional.

For Botox injections, improper treatment can cause undesirable facial expressions. In particular, the eyelids and eyebrows can droop. While this is rare and clears up relatively quickly in most cases, no one wants to walk down the aisle looking like they’re asleep.

Because of this, if you’re considering Botox for a special event such as an engagement, wedding, or business meeting, it should be done at least two weeks before the big date. In fact, the more advance time you plan, the better it will be.

As for Dermal Fillers, generally speaking, the worst that can happen is an infection. In this case, antibiotics are used. Obviously, the desired change in appearance won’t likely be achieved.

A more serious concern, though rare, is that the fillers may interfere with blood vessels in the skin, possibly causing scans or scarring. These are rare occurrences, but they are considerations when looking into cosmetic procedures.

Does Botox work

Yes, 90% of the time, it is successful in treating wrinkles and facial creases! However, the efficacy of Botox depends on a number factors, including the recipient’s unique anatomy, recipient’s goals, the amount of dose given and choice of cosmetic surgeon.
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About Me

Welcome to Medical-Reference. My name is Imtiaz Ibne Alam. I'm a pharmacist and a freelance medical writer with 7+ years of experience in the health care industry.

I started this blog back in 2011 with an aim of making inaccessible medical information more accessible to general people. I don't know how far I'm successful in doing so, but I always give my best to debunk complex medical or scientific data and shearing those in a clear, concise way with my words.

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