Traumatic brain injury (TBI) encompasses a wide range of injuries, neurological problems, and outcomes. On one end of the spectrum is a concussion, which can be mild and short lasting. At the other end of the spectrum, traumatic brain injury can be lethal or leave patients with chronic mental and physical problems. Despite this range of severities, traumatic brain injury is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, affecting over 13 million people. People who suffer from chronic symptoms related to traumatic brain injury may struggle with chronic seizures, memory problems, concentration problems, agitation, among others. TBI can have profoundly worsened a person’s quality of life and overall well-being.
Unfortunately, little can be done to treat traumatic brain injury directly. Aside from treating symptoms, the main treatment for TBI is to have the patient to rest and avoid stimulation in an effort to give the brain time to heal. Patients can regain some function through intensive work with physical, occupational, speech, and recreational therapist. However, the brain’s ability to heal itself is limited compared to other tissues of the body. In short, the brain has very little capacity to make new brain cells after we are born. So once TBI has occurred, patients either need to depend on other healthy areas of the brain or simply adapt to their circumstances.
Fortunately, researchers are finding ways to improve on nature through hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Drs. Shandley, Wolf and other hyperbaric medicine researchers recruited a group of 28 military veterans who sustained a traumatic brain injury in Iraq or Afghanistan. These individuals had ongoing cognitive problems as a result of their brain injuries. Researchers placed some study participants in 2.4 atm avoid hundred percent oxygen, while the others simply underwent a placebo experience at basically normal pressure and oxygen levels. The two groups underwent 30 exposures each and took a cognitive test before and after these treatments.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increased the number of stem cells in the blood of patients with TBI. In other words, hyperbaric oxygen treatment was able to move stem cells from the bone marrow and perhaps other tissues into the bloodstream. At the same time, those treated with hyperbaric oxygen performed better on tests of cognition including ImPACT, BrainCheckers, and PCL-M test. Moreover, no adverse effects of treatment were observed. Taken together, these results suggest 30 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen treatment at 2.4 atm was able to increase stem cells in the blood and improve cognition in US warfighters who suffered traumatic brain injury during combat. These results are encouraging news for the millions of veterans and nonveterans who sustained a traumatic brain injury every year.
Reference: Shandley, S. et al. (2017). Increased circulating stem cells and better cognitive performance in traumatic brain injury subjects following hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society. 2017 May-Jun;44(3):257-269.
You probably already know that leafy greens are considered the holy grail of nutrition. While they’re low in calories, they’re also rich in the key vitamins and minerals needed to help our body function its best. Yet, a lesser-known aspect of these powerful veggies is that not all are created equal, and in fact, some are far more nutritious than others. Browse through some of the most popular salad greens, ranked from least nutritional to healthiest, below.
#7 Butter Lettuce
While swapping out wraps or bread for butter lettuce is a healthy way to enjoy your favorite sandwich without the carbs, butter lettuce has only small amounts of iron and calcium. It is, however, a good source of vitamin A, which still makes it a strong contender in the realm of salad greens.
#6 Green/Red Leaf Lettuce
Often found in packaged mixed greens, red and green leaf lettuce is well-liked for its mild taste, making it the perfect base for salads with flavorful ingredients. It can also deliver a significant dose of vitamins A and K. Since it’s low in fiber, consider pairing it with some fibrous veggies, including cauliflower, celery, and green peppers.
Perhaps the most popular lettuce of all, romaine has a fresh flavor and a rewarding crunch. Although it’s versatile enough to accommodate virtually any toppings, it isn’t quite as nutritional as some of the other types on this list. It does, however, have a high concentration of folic acid, which supports fetal health.
Often overlooked here in the U.S., watercress is a popular salad green in Europe. It’s has a higher nutritional value than romaine and leaf lettuce, and delivers nearly the entire daily recommended intake for vitamins A and K. Surprisingly, it’s also a great source of vitamin C.
#3 Swiss Chard
Also, a less popular veggie, swiss chard has similar properties to watercress with lots of vitamins A, C, and K. Yet, it also has iron and calcium, a critical nutrient for supporting bone health. This green from the beet family can be enjoyed raw, but it has less bitterness when cooked. If you don’t find it appealing on its own, consider incorporating it into a soup, omelet, or stir fry.
It should come as no surprise that spinach falls so high on the list. Although it has a mild flavor, it provides a wealth of nutrients, including vitamins C and K, as well as fiber and iron. It also has lots of folic acid. While fresh fruit and nuts come together to form a delicious spinach salad, it can also be blended into smoothies without altering the overall taste.
Often hailed as a “super food,” kale is certainly deserving of its spot as the healthiest salad green. In addition to fulfilling your daily requirements for vitamins A, C, and K, the veggie is a rich source of phytonutrients. These compounds found in plants have powerful benefits, including cancer prevention, heart health, and immune system support.
As you can see, it’s a good idea to switch up your go-to salad every now and then to reap the greatest benefits that greens have to offer. Whether you’re a longtime kale connoisseur or you’re just starting to broaden your horizons for salad greens, there are many ways a variety of leafy vegetables can help you achieve and maintain your best version of health.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a degenerative condition that is hereditary caused by mutations to a gene called dystrophin. The condition affects both skeletal and cardiac muscles, impairing physical mobility and leading to weakened heart and respiratory functioning. Current treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy aim to control the symptoms of the condition and enhance the quality of life, but there is no known cure.
Given the need for effective therapies in Duchenne muscular dystrophy and the success of stem cells in treating other degenerative conditions, research has begun to focus on how cell therapies may be able to help Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients. Mesenchymal stem cells have been considered as an approach to this form of therapy.
Much of the research to date has emphasized autologous sources of stem cells that come from the patient themselves – such as from bone marrow or adipose tissues. However, a recent study, published in Biomaterials, investigated the impact of allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells – which comes from someone other than the patient – on Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Specifically, the researchers looked at the therapeutic effects of placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells.
The scientists found that using placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells may be able to reduce the amount of scarring and thickening of the connective tissue of the cardiac muscles and diaphragm in Duchenne muscular dystrophy while also minimizing inflammation. These promising findings demonstrate the potential to use stem cells to reverse the pathology of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and not just to address the symptoms. Future research will help to determine if regenerative therapy could have a meaningful impact on the course of this condition.
Reference: Bier et al. 2018. Placenta-derived mesenchymal stromal cells and their exosomes exert therapeutic effects in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Biomaterials, 174, 67-78.
At one point or another, you’ve probably come across something about the “keto diet,” whether it’s a friend who’s lost weight on it or an article on the newsstand. Indeed, it appears that following ketogenic (keto for short) eating principles is the latest dieting fad which has taken the masses by storm. While it does have the potential to spur significant weight loss, however, it also carries certain risks. Here’s what you need to know before going keto.
What Is the Keto Diet?
At the most basic level, keto is a low-carb, high-fat approach to eating. It bears similarities to the Atkins diet and similar low-carb eating plans. Essentially, it requires dieters to drastically limit their intake of carbohydrates (which are found in everything from breads, pasta, and cereal products to fruit) and to replace them with fat. For those who follow the plan strictly, it means breaking down nutrition as follows:
- 75% fat
- 20% protein
- 5% carbohydrates
The average American diet consists of 50-65% of carbohydrates, so the keto diet requires a major dietary overhaul for most people. By making these changes, you’ll send your body into a different metabolic state known as ketosis.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is the process by which the body uses stored fat for energy. This occurs when there isn’t enough glucose to provide energy. As stored fat is burned, a buildup of acids known as ketones develop, which can supply the brain with energy. To determine whether they’ve reached ketosis, many individuals who pursue the diet use urine strips or blood pricks. Eventually, however, most people become able to recognize the feeling of being in ketosis.
Keto Meal Planning
Most variations of the keto diet require a strict, principled approach to eating in which high-fat foods like oils, butter, avocado, cheese, coconut, and nuts are used to satisfy the appetite. Non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, peppers, and cucumbers, as well as leafy greens, are also permitted. Meats, eggs, and fish can be consumed regularly as well.
The list of restricted foods spans far and wide, however. Most fruits are not permitted, nor are grains of any type, heavily processed foods, alcohol, and milk, among many other foods and drinks.
Keto Diet Benefits
Weight loss is one of the main drivers that attracts people to the keto diet. More than 20 studies have supported low-carb eating approaches, indicating that reducing carbohydrate intake can help people lose weight. This is likely due to the fact that cutting carbs also requires you to nix simple, refined carbohydrates, which are typically caloric yet have little nutritional value.
It’s also suspected that the keto diet may help to control or prevent certain diseases, including epilepsy, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and certain types of cancer.
Despite its potential benefits, however, further research is still limited, especially in terms of long-term results. There are also certain risks all participants should consider before embarking on this diet.
Keto Diet Risks
One of the most notorious impacts of the diet is the “keto flu.” As the body adapts to this new eating approach, it experiences flu-like symptoms, including headaches and fatigue. Water is also lost early on, which can lead to dehydration – a potentially serious condition. It’s therefore critical to drink plenty of water, especially at first.
The diet is also difficult to stick with. Thus, while you may see results at first, it’s important to ask whether reducing carb intake so drastically is a practical long-term eating style you can maintain.
Additionally, a high-fat diet could lead you to take in too many saturated or trans fats, found in foods like red meat, cheese, butter, and poultry skin. These can cause “bad” cholesterol to spike and put you at risk for developing heart disease. Moreover, eliminating entire food groups can lead to unfavorable byproducts like kidney stones and constipation.
Ultimately, while the keto diet may be right for certain populations, it’s a good idea to have a talk with your doctor before you make the switch. By staying hydrated, limiting saturated and trans fats, and eating a healthy variety of keto-friendly foods, you may be able to find success with this approach.
Four out of five people with multiple sclerosis experience muscle spasticity. Muscle spasticity causes increased muscle tone, uncontrollable muscle contractions, and spasms. Like severe muscle cramps, muscle spasticity can be quite painful and is one of the most troubling symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Despite being so common and so troublesome, multiple sclerosis patients with muscle spasticity have few effective treatments options. In many cases, the muscle spasticity continues even after treatment with drugs such as baclofen or tizanidine. Not only are these drugs largely ineffective, in many cases they cause substantial side effects.
Marijuana has long been known to exert a muscle relaxing (anti-spasmodic) effect. As medical marijuana is becoming legal in more jurisdictions, researchers are now carefully studying the effects of the substances within marijuana. One important example is a study conducted by Spanish researchers. In 2010, Spanish drug authorities approved the use of an oral spray that contains a combination of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), two active substances found in marijuana (Cannabis sativa). Spanish authorities approved the use of this drug for multiple sclerosis patients with moderate to severe muscle spasticity who did not benefit from other antispasmodic drugs.
Dr. Lorente Fernández and other Spanish researchers were interested in learning whether this combination of THC and CBD was able to help multiple sclerosis patients with severe muscle spasticity. The scientists found that the combination of substances found in medical marijuana was effective in 80% of patients they examined. What is striking about this finding is that every patient included in this study had failed to find relief from other medical treatments of spasticity. In other words, they had difficulty in treating muscle spasticity. When viewed in those terms, an 80% effectiveness rate is extremely impressive.
Some patients withdrew from treatment because they felt that THC/CBD did not help them within the first 30 days of starting treatment or some experienced dizziness or weakness.
Muscle spasticity is one of the most common, most troubling, and most difficult to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. While traditional medical treatments often fail, the substances in medical marijuana may offer hope. This study illustrates that 4 out of 5 multiple sclerosis patients with difficult to treat muscle spasticity achieved relief from a combination of THC and CBD, substances found in medical marijuana.
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Reference: Lorente Fernández et al. (2014). Clinical experiences with cannabinoids in spasticity management in multiple sclerosis. Neurologia. 2014 Jun;29(5):257-60.