Latest in Health News: Gluten-Free, Detecting a Stroke, Health Care Spending, and More!

gluten-free

credit: NYTimes.com @Lou Beach

Gluten-Free, Whether You Need It or Not

There’s been a lot of talk recently about gluten, wheat, and the potential benefits of nixing them from your diet. We even featured our own article around the good and bad of grain consumption. But is it just another fad diet? Will it fade into the darkness like so many before it? Or is there actually something to it?

For people who have celiac disease, avoiding gluten is a no-brainer. With this disease, ingesting gluten causes the immune system to attack the walls of the intestine, leading to vomiting, chronic diarrhea or constipation. Most people who have celiac disease don’t know it. What’s even more scary is that more and more people seem to be contracting the disease, according to comparisons to blood samples taken from a century ago.

For most people without celiac disease, it seems that gluten ingestion doesn’t cause any problems. Some, however, report health benefits after giving up on gluten, including alleviation of symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis. Experts remain skeptical about how directly related gluten ingestion is to such results.

A recent study, however, claims to prove that gluten sensitivity (that is, experiencing adverse effects from gluten even if you don’t have celiac disease) exists. People who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, did not have celiac and were on a gluten-free diet were given bread and muffins to eat for up to six weeks. One group had gluten-free, the other regular. Those in the gluten group reported feeling significantly worse.

Dr. Stefano Guandalini, medical director of the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center, holds that gluten sensitivity is very rare among our population. “Less than 1 percent,” he says. However, he recognizes that any such number at this point is speculation. More research needs to be done.

Health Care Spending In America, In Two Graphs

We all know healthcare costs have been rising by the decade. No surprise there. But where is all the money going? Are we spending the same percentage now on hospitals, for example, that we were in 1970? Perhaps more importantly, where is the money coming from?

This article from NPR News first looks at the trends in health care spending and then breaks down reasons for some of the possible changes over the decades. Here’s how funds are dispersed, then and now:

money goes

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Credit: Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

As you can see, not much has changed. We still spend the most on hospitals and medical professionals. In contrast, there have been major shifts in where all the money is coming from:

money comes

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Credit: Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

The largest shift is out-of-pocket going from a third of the money source to approximately an eighth. Analysts think this is due to health insurance plans becoming more comprehensive in their coverage.

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credit: iStock @JuSun

The Effects Of Diabetes On Male Fertility

There is a long list of well-known reasons why one should do everything in his or her power to prevent the onset of diabetes. Recent studies are making that list longer by showing that the chronic illness can have even broader effects, especially for males.

Diabetes is either a deficiency of insulin or an insensitivity of insulin, both of which result in elevated blood glucose levels. As a reminder, the blood is responsible for shuttling nutrients to all the cells of the body; cells get the bad along with the good. When the sperm in the testes is exposed to excess sugar, chances of defects leading to infertility rise.

It might sound like you’re in the clear as long as you don’t have diabetes, but not so fast. We must remember the main effect of diabetes: high blood glucose levels. Thus, even if you’re not diabetic, you could still be putting your fertility at risk simply by maintaining glucose levels that are higher than normal. Research has shown a direct link between blood sugar levels and sperm quality: more blood sugar means more malformed or dead sperm in semen. Total sperm count also suffers under high glucose levels.

These two correlations have additive effects. If an individual has less overall sperm and a higher percentage of that sperm is defective, infertility skyrockets. Check out the full article to learn more.

What Happens During A Stroke

130215120310-stroke-illustration-brain-blood-block-story-topCNN put together a concise overview of what a stroke is, the risk factors, and how to notice it in its early stages. Here are some key take-aways:

  1. Use the F.A.S.T. acronym to identify symptoms: If you see Face drooping, Arm weakness or Speech difficulty, it’s Time to call 911.
  2. Other symptoms include sudden numbness in the legs, sudden confusion or trouble seeing, sudden dizziness or loss of balance, or a sudden severe headache.
  3. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke, according to the American Stroke Association. Smoking can also play a role.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.