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Natural Remedies to Soothe a Sore Throat: Propolis, Ginger, and More!

A sore throat is a common health ailment that may arise from throat irritation, microbial infection, or even both. While a mild and uncomplicated sore throat usually goes away on its own, natural remedies are also readily available to soothe the discomfort and irritation.

Here are some remedies from nature you may consider to soothe a sore throat:

1. Propolis

Propolis has been commonly used worldwide as a traditional medicine since ancient times. Propolis comes from natural resins that bees collect from trees so as to build and protect their hives. Propolis owes its medicinal properties to the many components such as plant essential oils and flavonoids which have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. The soothing benefit of propolis for sore throat is even affirmed by a recent clinical trial in 2020 showing more patients treated with propolis had an earlier resolution of symptoms compared to those with no treatment.

2. Ginger

The popular use of ginger to soothe throat irritations is supported by tradition and laboratory studies of its components. Compounds such as gingerols and shogaols found in ginger have been shown to possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities which could be beneficial in relieving sore throats.

3. Peppermint

The cooling sensation of peppermint has led to its wide application as a soothing remedy for various aches and pains, including that of the throat. Additionally, it also contains substances that may address the inflammation associated with a sore throat.

4. Sage

Sage is an herb native to the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. It is widely used to add flavor to dishes.  In traditional medicine of Europe, sage has also been used in a variety of conditions including sore throat. Owing to this benefit of sage, its medicinal properties have been studied. In one clinical trial, it was found that a throat spray made with sage was able to achieve pain relief in patients with sore throat.

5. Clove

Clove oil contains eugenol, a substance known to possess antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties. One study reported that eugenol has wound-healing benefits for the mouth comparable with chlorhexidine.

These natural remedies are available in their raw form or in ready-to-use preparations and combinations such as teas, lozenges, and throat sprays. While these remedies may be helpful in soothing a sore throat, it still is best to consult your doctor especially when symptoms are persisting or worsening.

References:

Semwal R.B., et al. Gingerols and shogaols: Important nutraceutical principles from ginger. Phytochemistry. 2015;117:554-568.

McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytother Res. 2006;20(8) 619-633.

Ghorbani A., Esmaeilizadeh M. Pharmacological properties of Salvia officinalis and its components. J Tradit Complement Med. 2017;7(4) 433-440.

Batiha G.E., et al. Syzygium aromaticum L. (Myrtaceae) : Traditional Uses, Bioactive Chemical Constituents, Pharmacological and Toxicological Activities. Biomolecules. 2020;10(2) 202.

Jesudasan J.S. et al. Effectiveness of 0.2% chlorhexidine gel and a eugenol-based paste on postoperative alveolar osteitis in patients having third molars extracted: a randomised controlled clinical trial. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2015;53(9) 826-830.

What to Do When Your Throat Hurts

Having that scratchy feeling on your throat that hurts when you swallow? That could be a sign that your throat is irritated, inflamed, or even infected.

Most sore throats are caused by viral infections such as the common cold or flu. Some throat problems are generally minor and may go away on their own.

Here are some ways that may help you relieve sore throat:

1.Try hot tea like chamomile tea with lemon or some hot soup. Ginger tea may also help.

2. Gargle with warm salt water that can help soothe a sore throat and break down secretions.     

3. Keep your throat moist with lozenges or water.

4. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids.

5. Gargle with warm salt water or use ice chips.

6. Throat sprays such as those with propolis and over-the-counter pain relievers can help, too. Propolis has properties that can heal wound effectively like in sore throats.

7. You may use a humidifier or vaporizer, especially when sleeping, to keep air from getting too dry.

If the sore throat persists for several days or is accompanied by fever, please consult your doctor.

Reference:

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/03/soothing-sore-throat

https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/sore-throat-natural-remedies

Esposito C et al. Phytomedicine (2020), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2020.153368

Getting Rid of Acid Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disorder or GERD is a condition wherein the stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus causing irritation to its lining. The lower esophageal sphincter, or the muscle that controls the passage between the esophagus and stomach, doesn’t close completely, leading to the back flow of stomach acid and food up into the esophagus.

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn or a burning sensation in the area of the upper abdomen and chest. At times, reflux may also lead to difficulty in swallowing, cough, lump in your throat, sore throat, hoarseness, and worsening of asthma.

If you are affected by GERD, here are some lifestyle changes that may help reduce the frequency of acid reflux:

1. Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly. A full stomach increases the risk for reflux.

2. Avoid foods that trigger reflux such as mint, tomatoes, onions, garlic, spicy meals, chocolate and fatty foods.

3. Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol and carbonated beverages and drinks that may trigger reflux.

4. Stay up after eating. Don’t lie down after a meal. Take your meals three hours before going to bed.

5. Avoid vigorous exercise for a couple of hours after eating especially if it involves bending over.

6. Sleep on an incline or elevate the head of your bed; ideally, your head should be 6 to 8 inches higher than your feet.

7. Quit smoking. Nicotine may relax the lower esophageal sphincter and reduces the ability of the sphincter to function properly.

8. Lose weight. Excess weight puts pressure on your abdomen and loosens the lower esophageal sphincter causing acid to reflux into your esophagus.

9. Avoid tight-fitting clothes that put pressure on your abdomen and the lower sphincter of the esophagus.

You may also need medications to control reflux along with lifestyle changes.

Consult your doctor for proper advice and ask for appropriate medications such as antacids or acid pump inhibitors that reduce acid production like pantoprazole or omeprazole.

Reference: 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-20361940

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults

Ways to Prevent and Control Migraine Headache

Migraine headache is a common condition characterized by headaches with severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. The headache is also often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The attacks can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe and may interfere with your daily activities. Aside from drug therapy, prevention of triggers is important to control painful attacks.

Preventing migraine  

Some people can prevent migraines simply by avoiding the following triggers:

• Changing weather: rising humidity, heat
• Lack of sleep or oversleeping
• Fatigue
• Emotional stress
• Sensory triggers: bright or flickering lights, loud noises, strong smells
• Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in food
• Dietary triggers such as missing a meal, alcohol, chocolate, nitrates in cured meats and fish, aged cheese, and an increase or decrease in caffeine.

Several studies have also documented the role of B vitamins in preventing and alleviating pain in migraine attacks. Some researchers found that taking higher doses of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B9 (folic acid) reduced headache frequency, severity, and duration. 

Also, if you spot a migraine in its very earliest stages, you may be able to control it with over-the-counter pain relievers.

If your headache persists, you need to consult your physician for prescription drugs that are needed. Always work with your doctor to find the appropriate treatment that works best for you.

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20360201

Liampas IN, Siokas V, Aloizou AM, Tsouris Z, Dastamani M, Aslanidou P, Brotis A, Dardiotis E. Pyridoxine, folate and cobalamin for migraine: A systematic review. Acta Neurol Scand. 2020 Aug;142(2):108-120. doi: 10.1111/ane.13251. Epub 2020 Apr 30. PMID: 32279306. 

D’Onofrio F, Raimo S, Spitaleri D, Casucci G, Bussone G. Usefulness of nutraceuticals in migraine prophylaxis. Neurol Sci. 2017 May;38(Suppl 1):117-120. doi: 10.1007/s10072-017-2901-1. PMID: 28527067.

5 Ways to Manage Arthritis

Arthritis is a common painful disorder that affects your joints, making it difficult to move or stay active. There are many types of arthritis. Each type causes different symptoms and may need different treatments. While arthritis usually affects older adults, it can develop in both men and women as well as children of any age.

There’s still no definite cure for arthritis, but there are ways that can help you manage the condition.

Here are simple ways to reduce the symptoms so you can pursue the activities that are important to you.

1. Stay as active as your health allows. Being physically active can reduce pain and can improve function, mood, and quality of life for adults with arthritis.

2. Manage weight. Losing weight reduces stress on joints.

3. Keep your joints moving. Do daily, gentle stretches that move your joints through their full range of motion.

4. Quit smoking. Smoking causes stress on connective tissues, which can increase pain.

5. Talk to your doctor. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible so you can start treatment and prevent the disease from getting worse.

Depending on the assessment of your doctor, medications such as NSAIDs and paracetamol may be considered to help relieve pain.

There are also medications that combine paracetamol with B complex to address the neurologic mechanisms of the pain to further support pain relief.

Reference: 

5 Ways to Manage Arthritis, CDC

Arthritis Pain: Do’s and Don’ts, Mayo Clinic

7 Strategies to Live a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Keeping your heart healthy is something you can work on every day. When you choose healthy behaviors, you can lower your heart disease risk while also preventing other serious chronic conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and some types of cancer.
 
Here are 7 tips to get you started: 

Learn your health history

Know your risks and talk to your family and doctor about your health history.

Eat a healthy diet

Make healthy food choices like more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Eat less salt, saturated fat, and added sugar.

Move more, sit less

Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, plus muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.

Quit smoking

Smoking can decrease blood flow throughout your body and lead to high blood pressure.

Take medicines as directed

If you take medicine to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if the information is unclear. 

Rethink your drink

Substitute water for sugary drinks to reduce calories. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation by limiting consumption to no more than 1 drink a day for women (2 for men) on days that alcohol is consumed.

Monitor your blood pressure at home

Self-measured blood pressure monitors are easy and safe to use, and your doctor can show you how to use one if you need help.


 
Reference:
 
Chronic Disease, Heart Health by NCCDPHP, CDC

Nutrients that Support Immune Function

Getting enough nutrients from food and supplements is vital for the health and function of the immune cells. These nutrients help the immune system in several ways: working as an antioxidant to protect healthy cells, supporting growth and activity of immune cells, and producing antibodies.

Studies show that those who are poorly nourished are at a greater risk of bacterial, viral, and other infections.

Learn more about how key nutrients support immune function.

1. Vitamin C – stimulates the formation of antibodies and the activity of white blood cells

2. Iron – a component of enzymes critical for immune cell function.

3. Vitamin A – helps protect against infections by keeping skin and other body tissues healthy.

4. Vitamin D – helps regulate antimicrobial proteins that can directly kill pathogens.

5. Vitamin E – protects the integrity of cell membranes.

6. Zinc – needed for wound healing and supports immune response.

References: 

Support your immune function with good nutrition, by Mayo Clinic.

Nutrition and Immunity, Harvard Education

Preventing Gassy Abdominal Pain due to Belching and Bloating

Swallowed air accumulating in the stomach can either move up and lead to belching or move into the small intestine and pass out as rectal gas (flatus).

Meanwhile, bloating refers to the uncomfortable sense of fullness in the upper abdomen. This can be due to the accumulation of gas and/or undigested food in the digestive tract. Gas that accumulates in the digestive tract can result in abdominal pain which may also radiate up to the chest. 

Here are some tips to prevent accumulation of unwanted gas in the abdomen that may lead to belching and/or bloating:

1. Avoid intake of carbonated beverages such as soda and beer.


2. Avoid intake of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beans, and bran; these vegetables contain difficult to digest carbohydrates which are converted by the gut bacteria to gas.


3. If you are lactose intolerant, intake of milk and other dairy foods should be avoided; non-dairy alternatives such as soy or almond milk may be taken instead.


4. Avoid sugar-free chewing gum or hard candies; these food items may contain mannitol or sorbitol as sweeteners which can cause flatulence.


5. Keep a symptom diary to track down and eliminate the food items that could be triggering your belching and bloating.


6. If weak abdominal muscles are suspected as a possible cause of abdominal distension, abdominal-tensing exercises may be helpful.

If symptoms fail to adequately respond to the non-medical strategies mentioned above, a consultation with your doctor should be sought for prompt diagnosis and management with appropriate medications.

Drugs such as simethicone with digestive enzyme preparations, charcoal tablets, prokinetics, antispasmodics and antibiotics may also be considered depending on the assessment of your doctor.


Reference:

Modi, R and Levitt, M. Belching, bloating, and flatulence. American College of Gastroenterology. July 2013.

Disclaimer:

*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor.

Tips to Avoid Leg Cramps

The sudden, involuntary, and intense muscle pains affecting your calf, foot or thigh are what we refer to as leg cramps. Sometimes the cramp may cause your leg to spasm or tighten uncontrollably.

Although leg cramps can strike at any time, they become more common as people age. Among people over 60, almost half report having leg cramps, while about a third say they are awakened by cramps at night, and 15% report weekly episodes.

Here are some tips to prevent painful episodes of leg cramps:

1. Exercise your legs.

2. Stretch your muscles before and after you exercise to improve flexibility.

3. Stay hydrated; drink 6-8 glasses of water each day and don’t take in as much alcohol and caffeine.

4. Sleep in a proper position; use pillows to keep your toes pointed upwards if you sleep on your back, or if you lie on your front, try hanging your feet over the end of the bed.

5. Gently stretch your leg muscles before you go to sleep.

6. Keep blankets and sheets loose around your feet so that your toes are not distorted.

7. Wear shoes that fit you well and support your feet.

8. Consider taking daily Vitamin B complex; studies suggest that taking a capsule daily containing B vitamins may prevent cramps. 

If your leg cramps persist despite the strategies above, a consultation with your doctor should be sought so that your condition will be promptly managed with appropriate medications.

References:

Is there hope for leg cramp sufferers? Harvard Health Publishing. 14 February 2017

Leg cramps. Cleveland Clinic. 3 August 2020

Disclaimer:

*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor.

The Importance of Micronutrients

Micronutrients, often referred to as vitamins and minerals, are vital to the healthy development of the body, well-being, and disease prevention. However, not everyone manages to eat a healthy diet. Dietary supplementation can play an important role when nutritional requirements are not met through diet alone.

Though micronutrients are only needed by the body in small amounts, their impact on our health is critical. Therefore, regularly taking the recommended amount is important. Failing to maintain even those small quantities required by the body may cause severe and even life-threatening conditions.

Some of the functions of essential micronutrients are outlined below:

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is important for normal brain development and for keeping the nervous and immune systems healthy.

Iron

Iron is the essential component of hemoglobin, the compound which allows red blood cells to deliver oxygen to the different parts of the body.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A supports healthy eyesight, skin, and immune system functions.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important in building strong bones by helping the body absorb calcium.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a role in wound healing and controlling infections. It is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals that are harmful to the body.

Vitamin E

Its main role is to act as an antioxidant, scavenging “free radicals” that can damage body cells. Vitamin E also enhances the immune function and prevents clots from forming in the arteries.

Zinc

Zinc promotes immune system functions and helps the body resist infectious diseases including diarrhea and pneumonia.

References: 

https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/micronutrient-malnutrition/micronutrients/index.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/micronutrients-have-major-impact-on-health

www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-c/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-b6/art-20363468