Beware: Mixing herbal products with medication could be dangerous

Published: Friday, February 02, 2018 @ 1:44 PM

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If you're currently taking medications for depression, HIV, heart disease, cancer or epilepsy, you should avoid combining herbal remedies with your treatment, a new scientific review suggests.

The research, published last month in the "British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology", warns of major complications when common herbal supplements are taken in conjunction with cancer treatments, antidepressants, statins and other medications. St. John's Worts, cranberry, goji juice, green tea, sage, flaxseed, ginkgo biloba and ginseng could all lead to adverse effects.

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Led by Dr. Charles Awortwe, of the University of Stellenbosch in Tygerberg in South Africa, the research examined dozens of cases in which alternative treatments had diluted or increased the potency of medications— or caused other potentially harmful side effects.

"Intake of herbal medicines and prescribed medications is a common practice especially in patients with hypertension, diabetes, cancer, seizures and depression," Awortwe told The Telegraph, commenting on the real life implications of his research.

"Assessment and subsequent mechanistic studies of herbs with clinically relevant herbal drug interactions must be publicized to alert both clinicians and patients about the need to avoid co-usage of certain herbal medicines with specific prescribed medications," he said.

Overall, nearly 30 percent of patient cases reviewed by the study saw serious complications when combining herbal supplements with their medication treatments.

Among the concerning cases, some cancer patients saw their drugs stop working all together after using ginseng, individuals with HIV saw their bloods' virus levels rise dramatically after taking ginkgo supplements, and transplant patients rejected kidneys after taking chamomile. Taking St. John's Wart may also lead to internal bleeding among patients using blood-thinning medications.

The study authors warns that the risks are particularly serious for middle-aged and elderly patients. In general, combining herbal treatments with medication can lead to "life-threatening adverse drug events, prolonged hospitalization and loss of life," according to the researchers.

"If you are taking herbal remedies you should disclose it to your clinician," Awortwe said, according to The Guardian. "A potential interaction and its consequences can be very detrimental to the health of the patient."

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Dr. Sotiris Antoniou, of the United Kingdom's Royal Pharmaceutical Society, commented on the study, saying: "If you are taking herbal medicines, you should let your doctor or pharmacist know, so they can ensure that it is safe for you to take them with statins or warfarin and there are no interactions which could increase the risk of experiencing side effects," according to The Daily Mail.

Dr. Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, also commented on the study, saying it demonstrated that natural remedies could still have serious biological effects.

"They might cause harm to many patients who use herbal treatments," Ernst said. "It is therefore important that consumers are warned of the danger and think twice before self-medicating with herbal remedies."

Previous research has shown that natural supplements and multivitamins have little if any impact on slowing down the progress of cognitive decline of chronic diseases such as heart diseases or cancer. A 2013 review of 27 past clinical trials conducted by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force led three prominent doctors to publish an editorial arguing that taking vitamins and minerals is a waste of money.

"The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified and they should be avoided," the physicians wrote at the time, according to Scientific America.

"Supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful," they warned.

Patients should be more aware of the potentially negative consequences of such supplements, particularly when combined with medication, scientists have warned.

"Prescription-only medicines are prescription-only for a reason – they are potent and their use should be supervised by a healthcare professional so your treatment can be monitored and any adverse reactions dealt with," a spokesperson for the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said.

"If you are taking medicines, and also taking herbal medicines, please read the patient information provided and if you have any further questions, speak to your healthcare professional."

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Don't ever eat raw cookie dough, FDA warns

Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2017 @ 10:53 AM

FDA Warning Says Never Eat Raw Cookie Dough

If you just can't resist eating the last bits of raw cookie dough from the bowl while baking, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a message for you: don't.

>> Read more trending news

As holiday bakers took to kitchens nationwide last week, the FDA reminded people to refrain from eating raw cookie dough or face the possibility of getting sick.

The warning comes after the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local and state officials investigated an E. coli outbreak linked to raw flour that in 2016 sickened 63 people in 24 states.

The outbreak started in December 2015. The CDC determined at least half of those who fell ill made something at home with flour. Subsequent tests linked the outbreak with General Mills flour produced in Missouri, and the company issued a voluntary recall of 10 million pounds of flour.

<p>What is E. coli and how to avoid it</p>(Bryan Erdy/News | WSBTV)

Although many people know about the danger of getting salmonella poisoning from raw dough, fewer people may be aware that eating raw flour carries its own risks.

"Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria," Leslie Smoot, a senior advisor in the FDA's Office of Food Safety, said last year.

The bacteria is killed during cooking or processing through boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving or frying. However, raw dough does not go through any of those "kill steps," according to the FDA.

For anyone who still hopes to use raw cookie dough in something like homemade cookie dough ice cream, authorities suggest using commercially made dough.

"Manufacturers should use ingredients that include treated flour and pasteurized eggs," FDA officials said.

The FDA released the following food handling tips for handling raw flour:
  • Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
  • Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily due to its powdery nature.
  • Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.

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4 bizarre ways people are trying to beat death and aging

Published: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 10:54 AM

WATCH: Professor Says First Successful Human Head Transplant Using Cadavers Performed

Death −it's an inevitable reality. Humans have been coming to terms with that fact for centuries.

There are various theories on living longer, religious beliefs and theories on the afterlife. However, no matter the belief system we ascribe to, we are still certain that death− whether it be an end or a transition − is coming for all of us.

»RELATED: Breakthrough discovery helps scientists reverse aging cells in humans 

In spite of that, there are thousands of people finding unique ways to potentially beat death − or at least beat aging.

Some wealthy investors and renowned scientists are working very hard on trying to do just that.

Several startups and tech companies are actively working to help you beath death.

"I have the idea that aging is plastic, that it's encoded. If something is encoded, you can crack the code," said Joon Yun, a doctor who runs a health-care hedge fund and has given $2 million to fight aging and death, according to The New Yorker.

"If you can crack the code, you can hack the code!"

Although nobody has yet been scientifically proven to live forever, many scientists believe that it will someday be possible. Here's a look at some of the ways people are trying to become immortal. Some of it may sound a lot like “Black Mirror”, but this isn't science fiction.

Blood transfusions from teenagers

Harvesting the blood of teens in the hopes of achieving eternal youth may seem like something from “Twilight” or the plot of a horror film. But there's actually a startup doing this.

Ambrosia, based in Monterey, California, offers young blood transfusions to individuals 35 or older for $8,000 a pop, The Guardian reported in August 2017. Although the project is still dubbed "a study," Dr. Jesse Karmazin, who runs the project, suggests that it could combat aging.

The new research comes after a 2014 Harvard study showed that older mice injected with blood from younger mice had improved memory and ability to learn. Whether or not similar results will be shown in humans remains to be seen. But as of last year, about 100 older adults had signed on to pay the hefty price and receive the 1.5 liter injections of teenagers' blood, according to CNBC.

Head transplants to new bodies

In late 2017, Dr. Sergio Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, drew international outcry when he claimed that he would perform the first live human head transplant very soon.

»RELATED: Professor: Team has performed first successful human head transplant using cadavers

Essentially, Canavero aims to take a living patient whose body is physically disabled and transplant their head on a fully-functioning body. While the doctor and his team have been experimenting with the procedure using cadavers, many in the medical community have warned that the technique just isn't advanced enough to make this feasible.

"Attempting such a thing given the current state of the art would be nothing short of criminal, and as a neuroscientist, I would really quite like the general public to be reassured that neither I nor any of my colleagues think that beheading people for extremely long-shot experiments is acceptable," Dr. Jan Schnupp, professor of neuroscience at City University of Hong Kong, told The Independent.

But Canavero dismisses concerns, telling USA Today: "Bioethicists need to stop patronizing the world."

Uploading consciousness to the cloud

What if you could make a digital back-up of your consciousness and memories? Could you live forever in a digital world or perhaps one day be downloaded into a younger, healthier body?

Tristan Quinn, a Russian internet millionaire has bet a hefty portion of his fortune on doing just that.

"The ultimate goal of my plan is to transfer someone's personality into a completely new body," Quinn said, explaining that he is attempting to unlock the secrets of the human brain and then upload an individual's mind to a computer, according to the BBC.

"Within the next 30 years, I am going to make sure that we can all live forever," he promised in 2016.

And Ray Kurzwell, director of engineering at Google, is on the same page as Quinn.

"We're going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates and the biological part is not important any more," Kurzwell said, according to Express. He went on to suggest humans would have machine bodies by 2100.

Freezing corpses in hopes of future reanimation

In late 2016, news of a 14-year-old girl's decision to be cryogenically frozen after her death from cancer made headlines. The technology suggests that frozen individuals will one day be able to be reanimated when technology and science have developed further.

Scientifically, it's unclear whether this will actually work, but it hasn't stopped many individuals from deciding to take the gamble. 

Currently, three organizations in the world offer the cryogenic freezing: the Cryonics Institute in Michigan – where the teenage girl is now preserved, Alcor in Arizon and KrioRus in Russia, according to Express. The Cryonics Institute charges $28,000 plus a one-off membership fee of $1,250.

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5 questions every man in his 40s should ask his doctor

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 2:28 PM

Here are 5 health questions every man in his 30s should ask his doctor Do I need any immunizations? Should I be worried about this blemish on my skin? Should I be concerned about heart disease? Is my back pain normal? What are the main signs of depression and other mental health conditions?

Men are notorious for not wanting to go to the doctor unless they're desperate. But routine doctor's visits – especially when you hit your 40s and beyond – can help you be as healthy as possible. Getting regular care and screenings can help your doctor catch and treat issues while they're in their earliest stages.

»RELATED: 4 health questions every man in his 30s should ask his doctor

The following are five questions every man in his 40s should ask at his next doctor's exam:

What screenings do I need?

After age 40, family history plays a greater role in what your particular health concerns may be, according to Men's Journal. For example, if you have a family history of colon or prostate cancer, you'll want to start getting screened every five years in your 40s rather than waiting until the usually-recommended age of 50.

You'll also want to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol by getting a full lipid panel every three years – or more often if there's an issue. You should also have your blood glucose level checked, particularly if you're overweight.

Could I be depressed?

Middle-aged men can be at risk for depression or even suicide, but they're often less likely to seek help than women are. Suicide rates for men ages 45 to 64 increased by 43 percent in the years from 1999 to 2014, according to Men's Health.

Many men who are suffering from depression may not experience the typical sadness that's associated with this disorder. They may have a change in sleep patterns, fatigue, a diminished interest in sex or feeling a lack of purpose and connection to life. Increased substance abuse is also a common indication that you may be depressed.

Should I be tested for sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. This deprives your brain and the rest of your body of the oxygen it needs to function at your best and increases your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and type 2 diabetes, WebMD says.

If you're a man over 40, you're at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, especially if you're overweight. Other risk factors include having a neck size of 17 inches or greater, a family history of sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and nasal obstruction due to allergies or sinus issues.

If your doctor thinks you may have sleep apnea, he or she can refer you to a sleep specialist. A sleep study, which measures and records what happens to your body as you sleep, can help confirm or rule out the presence of sleep apnea.

Should I be taking a statin?

Statins are cholesterol-busting drugs, and they're now recommended for people ages 40 to 75 who have one or more risk factors that make them have a 10 percent or greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years. The Washington Post says that with these new guidelines, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has greatly expanded the number of people who should take statins.

Risk factors that could cause your doctor to recommend statins include smoking or having high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.

How can I reduce or prevent a "spare tire?"

As men hit middle age, many tend to gain weight around the middle, which is commonly known as a "spare tire," WebMD says. Studies show that gaining weight in this area is a predictor of heart disease and diabetes, even more so than overall obesity is.

Talk to your doctor about what you can do to lose weight and target extra weight around the middle. He or she can point you to a weight loss and fitness plan that's appropriate for your age, weight and any health considerations you may have.

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Trying to beat those sugar cravings? Go to sleep, says a new study

Published: Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 3:20 PM

If you're trying to lose weight, dump added sugar from your kitchen. Added sugars are those that are put into food or drink during processing or preparation. Foods such as fruits contain naturally occurring sugar, but they also provide important nutrients such as vitamins, protein and fiber. Added sugars may make you feel tired and hungry within an hour or two of eating them. You'll be tempted to reach for another sugary food, adding even more empty calories to your diet, and the cycle may repeat itse

Cookies, and brownies and sodas, oh my! If those thoughts are often on your mind, you may need a little more sleep, according to a new study out of the United Kingdom.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on Tuesday, found that sleeping longer hours may reduce cravings for sugary foods.

»RELATED: Sugar can fuel cancerous cells, study says

A small group of 21 participants participated in a 45-minute sleep consultation at the beginning of the study. By following simple tips such as establishing a relaxing pre-bedtime routine and going to bed at a recommended time, they were able to sleep up to 1.5 hours more each night. Another group didn't receive the consultation.

Each person in the study wore a wrist monitor to record his or her sleep for seven days, and participants also recorded what they ate during this time period. When participants increased their amount of sleep, they reduced the amount of sugar in their diet by as much as 10 grams the next day compared to the amount they took in before the study. They also ate fewer carbs when compared to participants who didn't sleep more.

"We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalized approach," lead researcher Haya Al Khatib, a professor from in the Department of Nutritional sciences at King's College London, said in the statement. "Our results also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices."

»RELATED: 5 easy ways to improve your sleep 

The group that slept longer was given a suggestions on how to get a better night's sleep , like avoiding caffeine before bedtime, establishing a relaxing routine and not going to bed too full or hungry — as well as a recommended bedtime suited to their lifestyle.

"Sleep duration and quality is an area of increasing public health concern and has been linked as a risk factor for various conditions," Khatib said. "We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalized approach."

In addition to spending more time sleeping, the following tips from Live ScienceWebMD and doctoroz.com can help you reduce your sugar cravings:

Don't have sugary foods at home – if you don't have sugary foods in your house, they won't be as easily accessible.

Choose another sweet treat – Satisfy your sweet tooth with a piece of fruit instead of candy or a similar unhealthy snack.

Keep portion-controlled servings – Buy sugary snacks that are individually wrapped, such as ice cream sandwiches, and limit yourself to eating just one at a time.

Dilute sugary drinks – If you love sugary sodas or juice, try diluting them with an equal amount of seltzer to cut your sugar intake in half. As you get used to the reduced sugar, continue to increase the amount of seltzer.

Try chewing gum – Chewing a stick of gum can help reduce sugar cravings.

Combine foods – Satisfy your sugar craving by combining what you're craving with a healthier option. For example, try eating chocolate chips mixed with some almonds.

Eat regularly – If you eat regular meals and snacks, your blood sugar is less likely to dip and cause you to make unhealthy choices and reach for sugary foods.

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