Tag Archives: Inflammation

Mushrooms as Medicine?

Mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for centuries, treating everything from asthma to gout. The food is now being marketed in the West as part of a medicinal regimen to prevent cancer, and/or stimulate higher brain function. While there are relatively few trials that have been conducted in humans to support these claims, there are studies that have confirmed the food’s anti-tumor properties.

While mushrooms are inherently healthy and low in calories, scientists at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, assert that mushrooms are particularly good for us because of what they do before humans harvest them. Viki Sabaratnam, the scientist in charge of the school’s mushroom research center, states: “Their basic function in the environment is recycling of large molecules, and in the process they produce these fruit bodies, we call them, and they accumulate some of these components.”

These components include dozens of nutrients like selenium, vitamin D, potassium, and compounds known as beta glucans, which can help fight inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is a primary contributor to many diseases associated with aging, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. In the lab, researchers have reported many promising benefits from mushrooms, ranging from killing cancer in human cells to reducing insulin resistance in diabetic mice.

While the research on humans has not been prolific, and has been re legated to small and specifically targeted populations, a few outliers exist: shitake mushroom extracts have been found to help prolong the lives of stomach cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy; maitake (hen-of-the-woods) and scaly wood mushroom extracts seem to strengthen the immune system of some breast cancer patients. Reishi extracts have been credited with reducing obesity in mice by altering gut bacteria, and in the lab, extracts of oyster mushrooms appear to inhibit growth of breast and colon cancer cells.

Sabaratnam’s research focuses on how mushrooms might someday help fight off dementia, which impacts approximately 50 million people today–with 10 million more added each year. She and her team reviewed studies of 20 different medicinal mushrooms thought to improve brain function, and about 80 different metabolites isolated from those mushrooms that were tested in cells in the lab and in mice. Their findings indicate that these metabolites improved recovery and function in damaged neural cells, and also had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

“We have shown in lab experiments, yes, some of these properties are there…but it’s quite a long way to go” in terms of the mushroom extracts’ effect on humans. The edible mushrooms that contain high levels of nutrients and antioxidants are high in fiber and lower in cholesterol, and make for a positive addition to any diet.

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The Power of Ginger

A new review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences assesses findings of 60 studies surrounding ginger—as a supplement, or ingredient in food and drink. Although experts have not yet determined a specific dosage for preventive purposes, the review concludes that ginger consumption is medically sound and helpful.

The studies “have built a consensus that ginger and its major constituents exert beneficial effects against obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and related disorders,” wrote authors from China Agricultural University. The researchers focused their studies on the different aspects of metabolic syndrome—a combination of three or more risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Metabolic syndrome now affects almost a quarter of the world’s population: a growing health problem that has reached reportedly pandemic proportions.

Scientists have researched potential strategies in order to both prevent and treat metabolic syndrome, specifically non-pharmaceutical options. As ginger has a long history of treating a variety of ailments and illnesses, due to its phytochemicals and antioxidants, the general consensus is that there are several mechanisms behind ginger’s ‘superfood powers.’ The paper details the ways in which the spice plays a significant role in fat burning, carbohydrate digestion, and insulin secretion; ginger has also demonstrated an ability to inhibit oxidative stress—a form of cellular aging—in addition to anti-inflammatory properties.

During a study in which ginger was fed to rats, ginger significantly reduced body weight and systemic inflammation, while simultaneously lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. The accumulation of studies suggest that consuming ginger can also enhance calorie burn and reduce feelings of hunger, likely associated with weight loss in overweight adults. Associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University Marie-Pierre St-Onge states that while the field is still developing in terms of assessing the impact of various spices, on humans, “The research is very promising.”

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Lyme Disease Awareness Month

The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore has recently opened a new 16,000 square-foot $24 million facility, exclusively for the treatment of patients with chronic infectious diseases.

Named for the former director of the Hopkins’ division of infectious diseases, the John G. Bartlett Specialty Practice is expected to see approximately 170 patients each day. David Thomas, MD, director of the infectious diseases division at Johns Hopkins, explains that the geographic region of East Baltimore “has a greater burden of infectious diseases than most other regions of the country.”

The timing is particularly significant this month, as May represents Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Researchers and scientists across the country have consistently warned that the numbers of those afflicted with Lyme are expected to rise, calling the disease “a major U.S. public health problem.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are seeking to combat the rising epidemic, collaborating with local lawmakers and public health officials to raise awareness about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. Lawmakers in New York have recently spoken out in order to educate the public and medical community, in addition to fundraising money for further research.

There are approximately 329,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, and the number of those infected is expected to increase. According to Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the illness is on track to produce its worst numbers in 2017. Moreover, many experts believe the true number of Lyme cases is higher than reported, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention require ‘objective measures’ like positive blood tests or rashes; therefore, estimates indicate that CDC surveillance only captures approximately 10% of reportable Lyme cases. There is currently no vaccine for Lyme disease, and many physicians have noted that the FDA-approved blood tests are often inaccurate.

In order to learn more about the complex, multi-faceted nature of chronic infectious diseases, sign up for our upcoming Chronic Infections, Inflammation, and Biotoxins Symposium in Las Vegas, on August 12th. Experts will review the epidemiology of chronic infections from a global public health perspective, while discussing the application of advanced diagnostic techniques, including nanotechnology and genomic sequencing.

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