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News: Flu During Pregnancy May Increase Child’s Risk of Bipolar Disorder

Jun 19, 2013 - 0 comments





Bipolar Disorder


Mental Health

As if mothers-to-be don’t have enough to be cautious about, new research shows that catching the flu during pregnancy may increase a child’s risk of developing bipolar disorder later in life, according to a study published online in early May in JAMA Psychiatry.

Bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood that range from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. This can affect energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. While previous studies have revealed a link between flu infection and schizophrenia, this is the first to reveal a connection between maternal flu and bipolar disorder.

This doesn’t mean pregnant women should become overly paranoid about getting sick, said Elaine Brown, MD, a Montana-based ob/gyn and expert in MedHelp’s pregnancy, women’s health, birth control and fertility/infertility forums. But it’s a good idea to get the flu vaccine and avoid high-risk situations, such as the emergency room during flu season. “I believe the benefits of the vaccine seem to out weigh the risks,” she said.

In this particular study, researchers recruited more than 19,000 pregnant women between 1959 and 1966, and collected data on influenza infection. From 1981 to 2010, the team tracked cases of bipolar disorder in these women’s children. While researchers admitted the sample size was not very large, they discovered 92 cases in which offspring developed bipolar disorder.

Authors of the study concluded that women who are exposed to the flu during pregnancy have four times the risk of their child developing bipolar disorder. According to researchers, this risk is slightly higher during the second or third trimesters. Flu exposure was also linked to a nearly sixfold increase in a sub-type of bipolar disorder described in the study as having psychotic features.

Brown is skeptical about the connection between flu and bipolar disorder, because both are very common. However, she thinks the link between the subtype of bipolar disorder with psychotic features and flu in pregnancy is noteworthy, because it is less common and the diagnosis is based on objective rather than subjective criteria. Overall, Brown said more research is needed on the subject.

Using objective rather than subjective methods for visualizing how the brain functions might make diagnosing mental illness easier in the future, she said. “It will be easier to postulate how a virus, such as the flu virus might affect the development of the fetal brain and result in bipolar disorder,” she said. “This will make studies such as this one easier to believe or disbelieve.”

Currently there is no sure way to prevent bipolar disorder, but getting the flu shot might be a way to prevent your child from developing this illness later in life. Other risk factors for bipolar disorder include: having a blood relative with the disorder, periods of high stress, drug or alcohol abuse or major life changes.

How important do you think it is for mothers to get the flu vaccine? Please share your comments!

Fact or Fiction: Does Eight Glasses of Water a Day Keep You Hydrated?

May 16, 2013 - 4 comments






You know how important it is to stay hydrated — after all, your body is 60 percent water, right? From aiding digestion to flushing out toxins, water is essential to your health.  

But how much water does your body really need? You’ve probably heard of the “8x8” rule — that you should drink eight ounces (one glass) of water eight times a day. Sound like a lot? Don’t sweat it. According to a study published by the American Physiological Society, no scientific evidence exists supporting this long-touted rule — in fact, no one seems to know exactly how that 8x8 rule became so widely accepted. According to Mayo Clinic, the only reason this rule has become mainstream is because it’s so easy to remember.

Turns out, there are no hard-and-fast rules to live by when it comes to staying hydrated. In reality, your daily fluid needs are affected by many factors, including your health, your activity level and the climate you live in. However, there are some general guidelines. The Institute of Medicine determined that men should consume a total of about 13 cups worth of liquid from both food and drink; women should aim for about nine cups total.

But you don’t need to start downing glass after glass of water. Your total water intake includes water from other beverages as well as water from your food. However, that’s not an excuse to ditch your water bottle in favor of juice, soda or coffee — water helps provide your body with essential minerals, and is free of caffeine, calories and added sugars, all of which can be harmful in excess.

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re drinking enough water, the most accurate way to measure hydration is pay attention to the color of the urine you produce. According to Mayo Clinic, you’re aiming for urine that is a light shade of yellow. If you’d rather not keep track of every trip you take to the bathroom, try to avoid feeling parched by sipping fluid regularly and making sure to drink a beverage both with and in between each meal. Keep in mind that if you engage in rigorous exercise, live in a hot or humid climate or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may need to drink even more water. But be careful not to overdo it — drinking too much water can interfere with your kidney function and can have serious health consequences.

MedHelpers, tell us about your hydration habits! What's the first thing you reach for when you're thirsty? Do you follow the 8x8 rule?

Fact or Fiction: Does Milk Make You Breakout?

Apr 11, 2013 - 3 comments

Eating right and drinking enough water is the path to a youthful glow — but one part of that balanced diet may put a damper your efforts: dairy. There’s evidence suggesting that drinking milk could be a reason for those pesky pimples.  

While the subject is still controversial, many researchers have found a positive correlation between milk intake and the occurrence of acne. In a 2008 study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers examined the diets of over 4,000 teenaged boys and found that those who drank the most milk had the most acne. This study supports previous studies, one of which researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health asked over 6,000 teenage girls to report their dietary intake on questionnaires over a three-year period. This study also showed a positive association between the intake of milk and acne.

Why milk? Milk comes from cows that have just given birth, meaning hormone levels, like estrogen, are very high. Consuming these extra hormones may be the catalyst to extra oil production, acne or breakouts.

But if you think the key to great skin is just to ditch the milk completely — unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Just because there’s a positive correlation between dairy intake and acne, doesn’t mean it directly causes it. Your best bet for great skin is to eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get a good night’s rest every night.

What’s your secret to keeping your skin youthful and blemish-free, MedHelpers? Share your tips in the comments below, and click on the link below for 6 nutrients that will leave your skin looking radiant!

Fact or Fiction: Does Vitamin C Cure the Common Cold?

Mar 29, 2013 - 1 comments

When you feel a cold coming on, your first instinct may be to chug some orange juice or stock up on vitamin C supplements. But will that extra boost of vitamin C really help you cure — or avoid — a cold?

Contrary to popular belief, vitamin C has no proven effect on preventing the common cold – and upping your intake won’t help you recover faster once you’re feeling sick, either. In more than 30 clinical trials with over 10,000 participants, researchers examined the effects of taking a daily vitamin C for cold prevention. They found no reduction in risk of developing a cold, and for those who already had the virus, no decrease in severity of cold symptoms.

There are a few exceptions, of course. In people who took high doses of vitamin C supplements daily as a preventative measure, the researchers found that when those people did catch cold, the duration of their colds were shortened by about half a day. And researchers also found that in people whose bodies are under high levels of physical stress in extremely cold conditions (they studied marathon runners), a daily dose of vitamin C cut the risk of catching a cold in half.

But for most of us, that extra glass of juice when we feel the sniffles coming on won’t do much. A better bet? Wash and sanitize your hands regularly to prevent the spread of germs, and keeping your immune system in tip-top shape by getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and lowering your stress levels!