Posts tagged: health issue

Fatty Liver Does Not Show Up In Scans Until It Is Too Late – Here Are 7 Early Warning Signs To Look Out For

Fatty Liver Does Not Show Up In Scans Until It Is Too Late - Here Are 7 Early Warning Signs To Look Out For
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Fatty liver disease is pretty self-explanatory; it is a condition characterized by a build-up of extra fat in the liver. Typically, fatty liver disease occurs in two ways: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or alcoholic liver disease (ALD). Both kinds are equally worrying and suggest that drastic change in lifestyle choices to prevent further damage to your liver. In fact, the symptoms for this kind condition are quite vague and you don’t really know how serious it is until it is too late.

Concerning Health Consequences Of Fatty Liver

Liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCCA/HCC) affects millions of people all over the world. According to the American Cancer Society, over 700,000 people each year are diagnosed with liver cancer, with liver cancer ranking high as one of the leading causes of cancer deaths worldwide. Approximately 600,000 deaths each year are due to liver cancer. In fact, the incidence rates for liver cancer have tripled since 1980; mortality rates have seen a 3 percent steady increase each year since 2000. So how does fatty liver disease fit into all this? [1]

Fatty liver disease, whether due to a bad diet or a drinking problem, is a serious condition where the liver becomes inflamed due to fat deposits. The persistent liver injury or damage eventually causes scarring of otherwise healthy tissue, which is now called cirrhosis, a more serious form of liver disease. Cirrhosis is practically irreversible, even with proper diet and lifestyle changes, so it goes without saying that prevention is the key. According to the Mayo Clinic, roughly 20 percent of non-alcoholic liver disease progresses to liver cirrhosis. In 2016, Marengo, et. al. mentioned that the burden of hepatocellular carcinoma can be attributed to the rising rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic liver disease, which are replacing alcoholic liver disease as primary contributors to developing liver cancer. [2][3]

So what warning signs should you watch out for? Here are seven of the most common signs that you may be suffering from a fatty liver. The first few signs are quite general and can lead to other diagnoses but they are warning signs all the same, especially if they all occur together.

1. Pain – Pain, specifically abdominal pain, usually in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen can be a sign of an inflamed liver. The pain can also radiate to the back or to the entire abdomen. Inflamed liver tissue can be detected during a physical exam, wherein the abdomen is palpated, but usually this signifies that the liver damage is already moderate to severe. In fact, fatty liver tissue is quite hard to detect even in abdominal scans until it is, quite simply put, too late.

2. Poor appetite – If your abdomen hurts, there is a high likelihood that you won’t have much of an appetite. However, aside from the discomfort, a fatty liver that has become inflamed and enlarged may also compress your stomach and lead to a decrease in appetite.

3. Weight loss – A combination of pain and poor appetite can lead to eventual weight loss and the fourth warning sign on this list. You may be wondering why weight loss is a warning sign when obesity is one of the causes of fatty liver disease. If a person is obese or overweight drastically loses weight accompanied by the other symptoms on this list, chances are the weight loss was due to the progression of liver disease.

4. Fatigue and weakness – Fatigue and weakness are general symptoms for any sort of illness. Because of poor nutritional intake, persistent abdominal pain, and weight loss, people affected by fatty liver disease will find themselves with easy fatiguability and generalized weakness.

5. Confusion – Mental confusion is caused by the build of toxic substances in the blood which can cause problems with your brain and neurologic system. Remember, one of the main functions of the liver is to help detoxify the blood and metabolize certain nutrients and substances. If the liver tissue is damaged, it can cause a build up of harmful substances in the blood, very similar to delirium and confusion caused by kidney failure (the kidneys also filter out toxins from our blood). Difficulty concentrating and confusion are signs that your liver may not be functioning at optimal levels.

6. Ascites – Ascites is a term used to described fluid build-up in the abdomen. This symptom, along with jaundice, is actually a late warning sign, signaling that the fatty liver problem may have progressed to cirrhosis. Fluid build up in the abdomen is actually a form of third-spacing, wherein the excess fluid becomes trapped in the space outside of the vessels in the abdomen or the peritoneal cavity. The fluid build-up can be caused by a variety of factors, such as portal vein hypertension, hepatic insufficiency, and abnormal albumin levels in the blood – all three of which are caused by liver disease. [4]

7. Jaundice – The most apparent sign, and quite a late warning sign to be honest, is jaundice. Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin, sclera (the whites of the eyes), and mucous membranes. The yellowing of the skin is caused by excess bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia), which is processed by liver tissue and excreted in the urine (the reason why our urine is yellow). [5]

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or a combination thereof, please seek prompt medical attention.

References:

[1] American Cancer Society. Key Statistics About Liver Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/about/what-is-key-statistics.html

[2] Mayo Clinic. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567

[3] Marengo, A., Rosso, C. & Bugianesi, E. (2016). Liver Cancer: Connections with Obesity, Fatty Liver, and Cirrhosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26473416

[4] Arroyo, V. (2002). Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of ascites in cirrhosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15115971

[5] Sullivan, J. & Rockey, D. (2017). Diagnosis and evaluation of hyperbilirubinemia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28333690

How The Bacteria In Our Gut Influence Our Minds

How The Bacteria In Our Gut Influence Our Minds
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Image © shutterstock.com (under license)

Can’t focus? Feeling anxious or depressed? Easily stressed? It turns out the common phrases, “butterflies in the stomach” and “having a gut feeling,” have scientific truths. Researchers have discovered complex bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut. Some scientific sources have even gone as far as referring to the gut as the “second stomach” – and rightfully so. Read on for more on the intriguing relationship between mental health and gut microbes.

How Do Bacteria Alter the Brain?

You’ve probably heard that the brain is the most complex object in the known universe. So how does a bunch of bacteria in your gastrointestinal system influence such a sophisticated and powerful organ?

The intricate link between the digestive system and the brain is facilitated by the vagus nerve. This cranial nerve is part of the gut-brain axis that extends from the brainstem to gut, via lungs, esophagus, and heart. Interestingly, up to 90% of the vagus nerve is exclusive to the gut-brain communication network. So where do the bacteria come into play?

Your gut bacteria break down your dietary intake into short-chain fatty acids that enter the bloodstream. In turn, the blood releases hormones and neuroactive compounds that stimulate the brain, affecting various functions. According to a study [1] published in the Journal of mSystems, gut microbes can even influence gene expression through microRNAs.

The Impact Of Imbalance In Gut Bacteria

According to an article appearing in the Harvard School of Public Health [2], there are trillions of microorganisms or microbes in the human body, with the gut claiming the biggest share. This complex network of microbiota consists of both harmful (pathogenic) and helpful (symbiotic) microbes. Although these two categories typically coexist peacefully, the balance can be disturbed by anti-biotics, certain diets, and infectious diseases.

Dysbiosis or an imbalance of harmful and healthy gut bacteria is linked to a host of neurological health issues ranging from stress, depression, anxiety, autism to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. For a better understanding of the importance of the gut-brain connection, consider the following research studies:

• According to a study [3] published in the Journal of Psychology, “germ-free” mice produced up to 2 times the amount of stress hormone in comparison to a “normal mice” that were in contact with microbes.

• In another study [4], researchers concluded that their findings supported a connection between Autism Spectrum Disorders and the gut microbiome’s influence on the brain. They went on to support the idea of probiotic treatment to address pathogenic bacteria in the GI and improve autism behavioral symptoms.

What are the implications of the elaborate gut-brain connection? In the words of Hippocrates, “All disease (including mental disorders) begins in the gut.” This suggests that medical experts could leverage the power of microbes and a healthy gut to treat or prevent neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders.

References:

[1] Yuan, C., Burns, M. B., Subramanian, S., & Blekhman, R. (2018). Interaction between host MicroRNAs and the gut microbiota in colorectal cancer. MSystems, 3(3), e00205-17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954203/

[2] The Microbiome. (2019). https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/microbiome/

[3] Sudo, N., Chida, Y., Aiba, Y., Sonoda, J., Oyama, N., Yu, X. N., … & Koga, Y. (2004). Postnatal microbial colonization programs the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal system for stress response in mice. The Journal of physiology, 558(1), 263-275. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1664925/

[4] Hsiao, E. Y., McBride, S. W., Hsien, S., Sharon, G., Hyde, E. R., McCue, T., … & Patterson, P. H. (2013). The microbiota modulates gut physiology and behavioral abnormalities associated with autism. Cell, 155(7), 1451. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3897394/

Inspiring Story – This Amazing Man Saved Over 160 People From Suicide

Inspiring Story - This Amazing Man Saved Over 160 People From Suicide
Wikipedia(PD)

The Gap is an ocean cliff located in Sydney, New South Wales that is a popular visitor destination among tourists who revere the placed for its spectacular beauty. However, the place has sadly also gained infamy as a suicide spot over the years. It is estimated that about 50 jumpers a year plunge to their deaths from these beautiful but deadly cliffs which are located at the entrance to Sydney Harbor.

The suicide rate at The Gap could have been higher if not for the “heroic” efforts of one incredibly compassionate man. Don Ritchie has now officially saved the lives of more than 160 potential jumpers over a 50-year period – though the “unofficial” number could be way higher: The former insurance salesman’s family claimed that the number of people their patriarch had saved may have approached 500! Known across Australia as “the Guardian of the Gap”, Ritchie lived across the street from the famous suicide spot.

In his younger days, Ritchie actually physically prevented people from taking their lives at the notorious suicide spot by physically restraining them – while his wife, Moya, called the police. However when older, he changed his strategy, striking up a conversation with them, then, inviting them for coffee or breakfast at his house. According to Ritchie, he would always act in a friendly manner and would ask them questions such as “Is there something I could do to help you?” or “What are you doing over here?” That approach had helped him pull the suicide attempters back from their desperate state of mind.

Ritchie’s heroic deeds didn’t go unnoticed. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, in addition to numerous other community awards. He was also named a “local hero of the year” in Australia in 2011. This legendary man died of natural causes on May 13, 2012, age 86.

The Australian government had implemented several measures to dissuade those at risk of suicide at The Gap. Between 2008 and 2011, security cameras were installed to monitor the area, counseling phone booths were erected, and information booths from nonprofits The Black Dog Institute and beyondblue were made available. Both organizations are committed to addressing issues associated with depression, anxiety disorders, and related mental disorders.

These preventions approaches had reduced the number of deaths at hotspots including The Gap, says a University of Melbourne study [1]. Professor Jane Pirkis, lead author, noted that interventions to restrict access to The Gap resulted in 91 percent fewer suicides per year when looked at in combination with other methods. Suicide methods at high-risk locations have a small impact on overall suicide rates, but attract high-profile media attention which can lead to copycat acts, Pirkis adds. The study proposed blocking to a hotspot as a part of overall regional and national approach to suicide prevention.

Suicide remains a major public health issue around the world, with about 800,000 suicide deaths [2] annually, according to the website of the World Health Organization. The website notes that for each adult who died of suicide, there may have been more than twenty others attempting suicide.

References:

[1] Pirkis J et. al. (2007). The Newsworthiness of Suicide. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1521/suli.2007.37.3.278/abstract

[2] World Health Organization: Suicide Prevention http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/