Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Latest in Cancer Treatment

A photo of a cancer pating laying in bed. She is listening to her doctor.
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Part of what makes cancer so dangerous is that many cancers (especially those that attack organs) metastasize. Metastasis is when malignant cells or diseased organisms spread to other parts of the body by traveling through the blood, lymphatic system, or membranous surfaces. Metastasis makes it difficult for the immune system to even recognize that anything is wrong. That is why it sometimes takes so long before cancer is diagnosed.
Recent research has shown that a possible reason that tumors become “invisible” to the immune system is because they develop a deficiency in a certain protein called interleukein-33, or IL-33 for short. IL-33 seems to act as a marker for the immune system, allowing it to communicate that something is wrong and then attack the problem. Losing IL-33 and becoming invisible is obviously in the cancer’s best interest, but researchers are looking for ways to combat that.
Researchers think that by reintroducing IL-33 to tumors which have begun to metastasize, they might be able to keep them on the immune system’s radar. It’s important to realize that when tumors are noticed and removed, cancer patients often suffer relapses because once a cancer has metastasized, it won’t ever produce IL-33 again. In other words, if you don’t get rid of all of the cancer within a single procedure, it could come back. But reintroducing IL-33 gives the body a chance to fight cancer on its own terms.
Finding ways to use the immune system to fight against cancer is one of the major goals of cancer research, as the body provides a wonderful resource for healing itself. Unfortunately, things like cancer can adapt a lot faster than our bodies can, but with a little help from science now and then, the immune system has a much better chance of winning these biological wars.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

9 Fraudulent Foods That May Be Ripping You Off

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The Congressional Research Service has just released a list of nine food categories with the highest reported instances of food fraud. Food fraud is when food manufacturers purposefully mislead consumers by mislabeling their products.

The most common form of this takes place when cheap ingredients are substituted for their more expensive counterparts. The consequences are horrific, and in some cases, even deadly. But consumers can protect themselves from falling victim to this scam by educating themselves about the most common food archetypes. Read on to learn more about why each one of these food categories is a target for con artists.


Certain varieties of fish can be quite expensive, leaving a huge loophole in which shady seafood companies can take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Oceana, an ocean conservation group, conducted a study on more than 25,000 seafood samples. The group found that one in five samples were incorrectly labeled.

Olive Oil

Like fish, olive oil can be expensive. Companies looking to make a quick buck are mixing cheaper oil varieties (such as canola, seed, and peanut oils) in with actual olive oil and passing it off as premium extra virgin olive oil.

Dairy Products

Milk is one of the most tampered with products on the market, probably because it’s so easy to get away with. Milk powders, urea, and rennet are among the most popular additives found in cheeses, yogurt, and infant formulas. They are used to recreate the creamy consistency of milk, but in actuality are just cheap, unhealthy knockoffs.

Natural Sweeteners

Maple syrup falls victim to this fraudulent activity all the time. In fact, most of the syrups sold in super markets are merely high fructose corn syrup, which is just a euphemism for overly processed sugar. Honey often falls victim to this practice as well. Real raw honey should be minimally processed, and is usually a bit pricey.

Fruit Juice

That “100% juice” sitting in your fridge? Yeah, it’s more than likely watered down or infused with food dye.

Coffee and Tea

Low-end coffee is often low-end because there are leaves, twigs, and other debris mixed into it. The same goes for tea, where mysterious shrubs, weeds, and herbs are mixed in with color dyes to impersonate the real deal.  


Take special care when purchasing pepper, saffron, turmeric, star anise, paprika, and chili powder. These are among the most common spices that are filled with counterfeit ingredients and artificial flavorings.

Organic Foods

Unless a product is specifically labeled “USDA Certified Organic,” it should be approached with caution. Any company can label their product “organic” or “all-natural” without oversight from the federal government. That’s why the only way to protect against non-organic products being sold as organic products is to make sure it is USDA certified.

Clouding Agents

Clouding agents are used to visually deceive consumers. They make products like jams, juices, and soups look more visually appealing by creating a murky effect. Of particular concern is a recent trend by some manufacturers who are replacing the typical solution with the plasticizer Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). Studies have linked DEHP with cancer and reproductive complications.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Eat Your Way Out of a Depression

The silhouette of a man hunched over in a chair. He looks down and out.
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Many people turn to food when they’re depressed. The usual culprits include pizza, ice cream, and cookies. Unfortunately, junk food items like these can actually worsen the symptoms of depression. That’s because foods high in fat, sugar, and salt create a “crash” effect. Much like drugs, these foods provide an instant high immediately after being consumed. The salt, sugar, and fat releases dopamine in the brain, the compound responsible for human pleasure. But by the time the high wears off, these high-caloric foods cause the consumer to feel bloated, lethargic, and mentally foggy. That’s the last thing that someone who is depressed needs.

The good news is that there are plenty of healthy, mood-lifting alternatives to these junk-food cravings. The following comprises a list of nutritious substitutes that can help ease the symptoms of depression:

Sweet tooth?
Say hello to dark chocolate. Eaten in moderation (about 1.5 ounces per day), dark chocolate can provide numerous health benefits. Cocoa has a ton of antioxidants that ward off infections, fight the signs of aging, and boost energy levels. The tricky thing to watch out for is sugar content. Generally speaking, a higher cocoa percentage equates to less sugar. Consumers should aim for at least 72% cocoa in order to feel the uplifting effects of dark chocolate. 

Craving carbs?
Despite weight-loss experts touting the benefits of zero-carb diets, whole grains actually provide the body with much needed fiber, protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. These nutrients are essential in providing the energy the body needs to combat stress. However, bad carbs (such as white bread) cause insulin levels to spike. Spiked insulin levels can result in mood swings, fatigue, and irritability. If depression is taking its toll, ditch the overly processed bleached flours and instead opt for whole grains.

Can’t live without salt?
People who love salt are merely people who love flavor. There’s nothing wrong with that. But why not simultaneously enjoy flavor and health? For a sweet flavor, try some cinnamon, nutmeg, or saffron. For a spicy flavor, try cayenne, curry, cumin, or turmeric. Rosemary, basil, and thyme are also great options and taste delicious when used in soups.

In conclusion, it’s important not to feel guilty about having junk food cravings. The human body has evolved over time to crave foods high in fat, sugar, and salt because the extra calories could be stored as fat in times of starvation. However, in times of depression, just think of those extra calories being stored as extra hours of distress.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What’s So Great About Essential Oils?

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Essential oils? What are they? They must be important, right? 

Essential oils are not the same as vegetable oils, which are commonly used for cooking. Essential oils are incredibly concentrated non-water soluble compounds distilled from the various leaves and roots of flowers and plants. They are extremely potent due to their high concentration levels. Because of this high concentration, improper use can lead to irritation and discomfort. However, when used correctly, essential oils provide a variety of benefits depending on the plant that they are derived from.

The best way to use essential oils is through aromatherapy and topical use. The small molecules of the oil are either absorbed through the skin or more gently through the air and into the respiratory system. If applied topically, they should be diluted with a carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil. Essential oils should never be ingested.

While most people use essential oils in place of candles or air fresheners, certain essential oils have can be used for health purposes. For example, mixing peppermint oil into steamed water is a great way to clear up congestion. Peppermint oil can also be used to increase mental alertness. Meanwhile, lavender acts as a natural disinfectant. Lavender is also known for relieving migraines and aiding in relaxation. Citrus oils, on the other hand, provide an uplifting feeling when used in aromatherapy. As a topical treatment, citrus oils are astringent and antiseptic. Tea tree oil is also known for its antibacterial properties and works great when mixed with lavender or citrus as a natural cleaning product. Tea tree oil is also commonly used as a treatment for acne.

Incorporating essential oils into your lifestyle can help you cut down on the amount of chemicals you are using. This is important for two reasons: for one, it reduces your carbon footprint. For two, it limits the amount of toxic chemicals your body absorbs. However, make sure you use essential oils with caution. Improper use can result in allergic reactions. And remember: essential oils are not meant for consumption.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Where My Ladies At? Women in Urology

A photo of a doctor holding a sign that reads, "urology."
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If you’re in the market for a urologist, chances are you’ll be seeing a male doctor. According to a poll from WebMD, only about 8% of urologists are female.

It’s not so surprising, right? If a gent is seeking professional help on a problem with his downstairs plumbing, he’s likely to prefer seeing a man over a woman, isn’t he?

Urology is more than doting on the dingus, though.

“It’s not all male genitalia!” says Dr. Leslie Rickey, urologist and associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. “It’s the kidneys and the urinary tract. And as you may or may not be aware, there are a lot of women leaking urine out there.”

Rickey is also the president of the Society for Women in Urology (SWIU). Started in 1980 in San Francisco, the SWIU now has more than 650 members, 250 of which are board-certified urologists. Its mission, according to its website, is to “support the professional development and career advancement of women urologists and urologic researchers through education, advocacy, and mentorship.”

It’s that mentorship that many female urologists have said tops the list when it comes to their education and decision to focus on urology. Increasing numbers of women both in the field and running the classroom have encouraged more women to go into urology—though not always without resistance. A New York Times article from 2008 reported that female urologists are often mistaken for nurses or called unprofessional names like “babe,” “sweetheart,” and “honey,” particularly during training.

Still, there’s definitely a place for women in urology. If male patients might prefer a male doctor, the same can be said of female patients and female doctors. Incontinence or other urinary tract issues are sometimes easier to discuss with someone of your own gender.

Dr. Christina Pramudii, a urologist in Houston, says of her former workplace, “As soon as the women learned that there was a female urologist, they just flocked.” This is probably what led Pramudii to start a women-only practice based on the need she saw in her previous position. “For women it’s just so nice to have a women-only place,” she says. “I could just see a need for that.”

In the end, the gender of your urologist isn’t what matters so much as their ability to make you comfortable sharing your problems and to provide the best care possible.

Do you find that you are more comfortable with a urologist of the same gender? I’d love to hear your thoughts.