Monthly Archives: August 2021
Depression and Osteoporosis
This is another article by Professor John Studd. See his CV in my last Blog – Dracula Depression.
Download this article as a PDF (63Kb)
Published in ‘Climateric’. 2010
“PROFOX” – The post HRT nightmare
The imaginary hybrid drug PROFOX is an anxious prediction of a therapeutic disaster for post menopausal women who need treatment for low bone density, depression , pelvic atrophy and vasomotor symptoms but are denied estrogens.
Physicians and psychiatrists have been slow to accept the clear benefits of estrogen therapy in the treatment of osteoporosis and depression. Is it an honest fear of side effects, ignorance of hormone therapy, misinterpretation of the data or simply a territorial hold on the condition which then condemns women to sub optimal therapy?
Although estrogens have been proven to prevent fractures in a mixed risk population and that the benefits on bone density and histology are dose dependant it has been relegated to a treatment to be used if others fail or if the woman has severe menopausal symptoms. This protection from estrogens effects not only the skeleton but also the intervertebral discs which make up one quarter of the length of the spinal column. This latter benefit is not produced by bisphosphanates. This failure of physicians to familiarise themselves with estrogen therapy has, in their minds, been justified by the results of the WHI study and by the regulatory bodies who have advised that estrogen should not be first choice therapy for osteoporosis. But in reality the physicians objections to estrogen therapy antedated the WHI study by many years. Specialists are a product of their training which for non gynaecologists does not include the subtleties of the use , the dose and route of various estrogens , gestogens and occasionally androgens.
Updated information and interpretation of the WHI study indicates that HRT, particularly estrogen alone, is both safe and protective in the younger postmenopausal woman below the age of 60. Such therapy is associated with fewer fractures , less colon cancer , fewer heart attacks , possibly less breast cancer and certainly fewer deaths. It should, in the minds of many workers, be first line therapy in this situation. However, Fosamax Once Weekly is an inexpensive alternative recommended by NICE as first line therapy and preferred by physicians. It produces lesser skeletal and systemic benefit than estrogens but it does not confuse the medical attendant with hormonal side effects such as bleeding, mastalgia and occasional PMS symptoms. These are problems that can be dealt with by any competent general practitioner but have not been learned by specialist bone physicians and rheumatologists who also seem to be complacent about considerable long term side effects of bisphosphanates.
A similar ‘turf war’ occurs with the commonplace depression in perimenopausal women. These women with estrogen responsive depression often have a history of postnatal depression and premenstrual depression which have all been shown to be effectively treated by transdermal estrogens in good controlled trials in the most prestigious journals . It is therefore surprising that none of these studies have been repeated by those mostly responsible for the treatment of depression in women. This neglect is either due to the unlikely belief that these studies are perfect or because psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry do not want to show the benefits or even the superiority of estrogens. For example there is only one placebo controlled study demonstrating that transdermal estrogens are effective in treating severe premenstrual depression by suppressing ovulation but there are now 50 similar studies showing that SSRIs are useful. Why should the industry fund studies that reveal that their high profit in patent drug is less effective than the much less profitable estrogens?
Psychiatrists almost invariably refuse to accept these data relying upon psycho therapy , SSRI’s and even ECT particularly in the private sector. Once again it is to the disadvantage of the women that psychiatrists have not chosen to become aware of this modality of treatment. It is commonplace to see women with perimenopausal depression who have been taking many mood stabilizing drugs for many years .They claim to have been last well during their last pregnancy after which they started or recommenced antidepressants for post natal depression , later pre menstrual depression and climacteric depression. It is difficult to obtain precise data but antidepressants are now used by about 30% percent of women in the UK and there is even a move to use this drug for the treatment of vasomotor symptoms. It is barely effective but it is becoming a new indication for SSRI therapy.
The nightmare for the future is that postmenopausal women with hot flushes, depression , sexual problems and low bone density, who need estrogens perhaps with testosterone, will be given a SSRI and bisphosphanate combination . PROFOX, a Frankenstein combination of PROzac and FOsamaX . As these two drugs are now available as cheap generics they are already being prescribed together. Unfortunately this warning of a single preparation is not a fanciful aberration as we already have close to the market a combination of a SERM for osteoporosis combined with oestrogens to prevent the symptoms of oestrogen deficiency. This was a joke comment at a British Menopause Society debate 10 years ago but has now become a reality. Unless the regulatory authorities consider the current safety data in the under 60s and modify their resistance to HRT the spectre of PROFOX will be upon us. It is a vision of the future which must be avoided.
This article below appeared on Dr John Studd’s web site recently. (www.studd.co.uk). A look at Dr Studd’s CV would show that he is one of the worlds foremost experts on womens health and hormones’. He discusses a recent artilcle in a medical journal by a psychiatrist writing about the treatment of Depression in women, and their hormones.
Here is his Biography:
Professor John Studd, DSc,MD,FRCOG was Consultant Gynaecologist at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London and also Professor of Gynaecology at Imperial College. He qualified in 1962 and has worked and trained in Birmingham. Zimbabwe and London. He was Consultant Gynaecologist in Salisbury, Rhodesia and Consultant and Senior Lecturer at the University of Nottingham and moved to London in 1974 as Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at King’s College Hospital. Six years ago he was invited to join the staff at the new Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London.
His early research was on chronic renal disease and high blood pressure in pregnancy (MD thesis) but later started the first menopause clinic in the county in Birmingham in 1969. This hormone treatment for the menopause was so controversial at that time that the clinic was closed down for three months following protests from the BMA. However, the optimism placed in HRT has been confirmed and John Studd has continued to work on specific treatments for menopausal symptoms. He pioneered the sequential oestrogen/progestogen treatment and also the continuous combined oestrogen/progestogen non-bleeding treatment. He has championed the use of hormone implants for women with osteoporosis or with severe depressive or sexual problems after the menopause and as an almost routine route of HRT after hysterectomy.
He first described the use of oestrogen patches and oestrogen implants for the treatment of severe PMS and runs a PMS/Menopause clinic at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, the Lister Hospital and the Wellington Hospital.
He is also shows the efficacy of moderately high dose transdermal oestrogens for the treatment of hormone responsive depression in women, particularly post-natal depression, pre-menstrual depression, menopausal depression and post-hysterectomy depression. He has a D.Sc. for 25 years of published work on oestrogen therapy in women. He has written more than 500 scientific articles and written or edited more than 25 post-graduate books on gynaecology and realises the he needs to write one for the public. This is much more challenging.
He is Founder and Vice-President of the National Osteoporosis Society and has been a Council Member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for 12 years and a Past-President of the Section of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Society of Medicine. In 2005-2007 Professor Studd was Chairman of the British Menopause Society.
Dr O has two items in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, which confirm my belief that oestrogen to psychiatrists is like garlic to Dracula. It is equally illogical. It is unbelievable that for an article on Postnatal Depression, oestrogen has a brief last paragraph footnote informing that oestrogen can act like an antidepressant by the effect upon the dopaminergic and serontonergic receptors. Indeed it does and for this and other logical reasons as well as scientific and clinical evidence that should be used in those conditions of depression in women related to changes in oestrogen levels. These will include premenstrual depression, postnatal depression and peri-menopausal depression. These have all been shown in double blind trials to be responsive, greater than placebo to transdermal oestrogens, yet the original Lancet paper showing the beneficial effect of this on postnatal depression is not featured in the text or references although the co-authors were psychiatrists, Dr Alan Gregoire and the distinguished expert on postnatal depression the late professor Chani Kumar .It is bad enough that these studies have not been repeated by those responsible for the care of depression i.e. psychiatrists but the refusal to reference and discuss such a paper is intolerable.
There is good evidence that postnatal depression, premenstrual depression and peri-menopausal depression confirm the same vulnerable women and it is a commonplace experience that depressed 45-year-old women will say that they were last well when they were last pregnant 10+ years ago. They then developed postnatal depression and were put on antidepressants. When the periods returned they developed a cyclical depression and towards the menopause the depression became less cyclical so they no longer even have 7 good days a week but every day as the depression is now continuous.
The tragedy is that these women were given antidepressants of doubtful value and certain side effects at the time of their postnatal depression. Over the years they then suffer ineffective multi-drug therapy frequently with ECT (particularly in the private sector). At this stage it is difficult for women to come off these powerful drugs, which they probably shouldn’t have had in the first place. It is true that women with postnatal depression and other types of hormone responsive depression do not have different hormone levels than those without depression. Nobody ever said that they did. It is simply a response to changes of oestrogen and no doubt progesterone in women, who, for some reason, are biochemically vulnerable to these hormonal changes.
The diagnosis of reproductive depression is not based upon blood tests but on the history relating the current depression to the history of being in good mood during pregnancy followed by postnatal depression. There is also a history of previous premenstrual depression and perhaps the history of menstrual headaches is a further clue to the cyclical and endocrinological basis for this condition.
I am very pleased that Dr. O reports that the article most read by psychiatrists last month was ‘Oestrogen relieves psychotic symptoms in women with schizophrenia’. This has of course been known for more than ten years. I am not reassured that psychiatrists have an interest in this but I would be more impressed if they actually used oestrogens for such an indication. But they do not. Similarly psychiatrists must learn how to use oestrogens for certain sorts of depression in women as an effective safe alternative to their usual armamentarium. It would surprise them to discover how frequently “bipolar depression” disappears once the cyclical mood changes of PMS are ablated by transdermal estrogens. In reality the psychiatrist’s dismissal of the evidence and refusal to study the issue further is merely a turf war resulting from their inadequate knowledge of the basic practicalities of hormone therapy.
How does COVID affect the brain? Two neuroscientists explain
August 11, 2021 6.14am AEST
- Trevor Kilpatrick Professor, Neurologist and Clinical Director, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
- Steven Petrou Professor and Director, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
Steven Petrou is an equity holder and paid consultant of Praxis Precision Medicine, though the company is not currently doing any work that relates to COVID-19. He receives funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund and Praxis Precision Medicines.
Trevor Kilpatrick does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
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Scientists are becoming more and more concerned with the emergence of a syndrome termed “long COVID”, where a significant percentage of sufferers of COVID-19 experience long-lasting symptoms.
The risk of long COVID is no longer thought to be directly linked with either age or the initial severity of the COVID illness. So younger people, and people with initially mild COVID, can still develop long-COVID symptoms.
Some long-COVID symptoms begin quickly and persist, whereas others appear well after the initial infection has passed.
Symptoms include extreme fatigue and ongoing breathing complications.
What particularly concerns us as neuroscientists is that many long COVID sufferers report difficulties with attention and planning — known as “brain fog”.
So how does COVID affect the brain? Here’s what we know so far.
How does the virus get to our brains?
There’s evidence connecting respiratory viruses, including influenza, with brain dysfunction. In records of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, reports abound of dementia, cognitive decline, and difficulties with movement and sleep.
Evidence from the SARS outbreak in 2002 and the MERS outbreak in 2012 suggest these infections caused roughly 15-20% of recovered people to experience depression, anxiety, memory difficulties and fatigue.
There’s no conclusive evidence the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID, can penetrate the blood brain barrier, which usually protects the brain from large and dangerous blood-borne molecules entering from the bloodstream.
But there’s data suggesting it may “hitchhike” into the brain by way of nerves that connect our noses to our brains.
Researchers suspect this because in many infected adults, the genetic material of the virus was found in the part of the nose that initiates the process of smell — coinciding with the loss of smell experienced by people with COVID.
How does COVID damage the brain?
These nasal sensory cells connect to an area of the brain known as the “limbic system”, which is involved in emotion, learning and memory.
In a UK-based study released as a pre-print online in June, researchers compared brain images taken of people before and after exposure to COVID. They showed parts of the limbic system had decreased in size compared to people not infected. This could signal a future vulnerability to brain diseases and may play a role in the emergence of long-COVID symptoms.
COVID could also indirectly affect the brain. The virus can damage blood vessels and cause either bleeding or blockages resulting in the disruption of blood, oxygen, or nutrient supply to the brain, particularly to areas responsible for problem solving.
The virus also activates the immune system, and in some people, this triggers the production of toxic molecules which can reduce brain function.
Although research on this is still emerging, the effects of COVID on nerves that control gut function should also be considered. This may impact digestion and the health and composition of gut bacteria, which are known to influence the function of the brain.
The virus could also compromise the function of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, often known as the “master gland”, regulates hormone production. This includes cortisol, which governs our response to stress. When cortisol is deficient, this may contribute to long-term fatigue.
This was a recognised phenomenon in patients who were diagnosed with SARS, and in a disturbing parallel with COVID, people’s symptoms continued for up to one year after infection.
Given the already significant contribution of brain disorders to the global burden of disability, the potential impact of long COVID on public health is enormous.
There are major unanswered questions about long COVID which require investigating, including how the disease takes hold, what the risk factors might be and the range of outcomes, as well as the best way to treat it.
It’s crucial we begin to understand what causes the wide variation in symptoms. This could be many factors, including the viral strain, severity of the infection, the effect of pre-existing disease, age and vaccination status, or even the physical and psychological supports provided from the start of the disease.
While there are many questions about long COVID, there’s certainty about one thing: we need to continue doing everything we can to prevent escalating COVID cases, including getting vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible.
Poor gut health can lead to these chronic diseases
Recent studies have shown that certain diets can lead to poor gut health—which, in turn, can increase the risk of several neurodegenerative diseases and other chronic conditions.
Research increasingly shows that gut health plays a role in the development of brain diseases.
According to a recent review published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation, evidence is mounting that the microbiota in your gut can influence cognitive dysfunction, neurodegeneration, and the pathogenesis of certain cerebrovascular diseases. Gut microbiota can prompt the activity of cytokines and inflammation in the central nervous system, which can lead to an increased risk of developing brain conditions like depression, Alzheimer disease, autism, stroke, and more.
Authors of the review cite studies that have shown that gut health plays a role in “bidirectional brain-gut signaling through humoral, neural, and immunological pathogenic pathways.” Bacteria in the gut are altered by the kinds of foods you eat, among other factors, resulting in the production of neurotransmitters or neuromodulators in the intestine, which affect the central nervous system.
Moreover, studies using animal models have indicated that gut microbiota can affect the blood-brain barrier (BBB). For example, experiments using rodents indicate that a loss of “normal intestinal microbiota” can lead to increased permeability of the BBB, while a pathogen-free microbiota can boost BBB functionality.
While further research is required to fully understand the relationship between gut health and brain health, currently available evidence indicates that what you eat affects your gut microbiome, which affects your chances of developing certain conditions.
Based on current research, here are five diseases spurred by poor gut health, and how to tailor your diet to avoid them.
According to the aforementioned review, gut microbiota play a large role in the development of depression, stress, and anxiety.
People living with irritable bowel syndrome are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression or anxiety, and often experience mild verbal memory dysfunctions. Evidence suggests that a contributing factor is gut-derived isovaleric acid crossing the BBB and disrupting synaptic neurotransmitter release. Fortunately, treatment with probiotics like Lactobacillus rhamnosus, can help alleviate symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.
While neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by the loss of neurons, one of their common features is neuroinflammation and higher intestinal permeability. According to the aforementioned review, gastrointestinal disorders are closely linked to these conditions, including Parkinson disease (PD).
Researchers noted that PD is associated with a range of intestinal dysfunctions, and that bowel inflammation can lead to neuroinflammation, which prompts dopaminergic neuronal loss. Evidence suggests that butyrate-producing and anti-inflammatory bacteria (like Blautia, Coprococcus, and Roseburia) tend to be found in significantly lower quantities in PD patients, while the pro-inflammatory Ralstonia is increased.
Studies have recently illuminated the role that microbial dysfunction plays in the activation of neuroinflammation and the formation of amyloids in the brain, both of which characterize Alzheimer disease (AD).
According to the Journal of Neuroinflammation review, the release of lipopolysaccharides (which are found in the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria) has been found to trigger inflammation and promote amyloid fibrillogenesis in the brain. The authors also noted that the presence of bacterial metabolites in the gut has been shown to worsen AD. Conversely, research shows that probiotics (like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria) may improve symptoms of AD, including memory and learning dysfunction, in animal models.
While it’s commonly known that environmental factors, like obesity and smoking, can contribute to the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS), the review notes that changes to the microbiome and prevalence of “leaky gut” are often found in MS patients.
The authors of the review cite a small study, which found that poor gut microbiota profiles (for example, those with an abundance of Fusobacteria) were associated with increased risk of relapses in MS patients. Other studies have found that certain bacteria are commonly found in increased amounts in MS patients, implying that changes in the intestinal microbiota ecosystem are linked with the development of MS.
Finally, the review states that gastrointestinal microflora and infection have been linked with the immune system and, in turn, ischemic stroke processes.
The authors cite a study which demonstrated that treatment with antibiotics can increase regulatory T cells and assist in the trafficking of effector T cells following the occurrence of a stroke. Other research suggests that increases in gram-negative bacteria can increase risk of stroke.
Tailor your diet to protect your brain
Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, like the Mediterannean-style diet or the DASH diet, have been shown to benefit brain function and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases by lowering gut inflammation.
On the other hand, a diet that’s high in sugars, saturated fatty acids, and animal proteins, has been shown to increase levels of bacteria like Firmicutes and Proteobacteria, which in turn increase the risk of brain dysfunction.
I often get told by patients that they are told that there is no need to take progesterone after a hysterectomy. That is WRONG. The natural Progesterone that I use has many benefits (compared to the synthetic form) and the study below confirms some of them. Also, search “Benefits of Progesterone”on my web- site to find many of the other good things that natural Progesterone does.
Review Altern Ther Health MeD
. 2017 Nov;23(6):24-32.
In Defense of Progesterone: A Review of the Literature
- PMID: 29055286
Context • The medical literature on the use of progesterone in postmenopausal women is often confusing and contradictory. Some physicians implicate natural progesterone in an increase in the risk of breast cancer. The chemical structure of natural progesterone (P4) is quite different from chemically altered, synthetic chemicals called progestins, which results in different actions at the cell level.
Objective • The research team intended to review the literature to examine the benefits and safety of natural progesterone and determine whether it can cause an increase or decrease in breast cancer risk.
Design • A review of the medical literature to examine the benefits and safety of natural progesterone as compared with synthetic progestins.
Intervention • Studies examined compared controls not receiving hormone therapy with women receiving estrogen alone and in combination with natural progesterone and with various synthetic progestins, such as medroxyprogesterone acetate-the most commonly used synthetic progestin.
Outcome Measures • Outcome measures included factors such as progression and survival of breast and other cancers and other epidemiological and laboratory data.
Results • A meta-analysis of 3 studies involving 86 881 postmenopausal women reported that the use of natural progesterone was associated with a significantly lower risk of breast cancer compared with synthetic progestins. Anovulation and low levels of serum progesterone have been associated with a significantly higher risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women. Use of progesterone has been linked to lower rates of uterine and colon cancers and may also be useful in treating other cancers such as ovarian, melanoma, mesothelioma, and prostate. Progesterone may also be helpful in preventing cardiovascular disease and preventing and treating neurodegenerative conditions such a stroke and traumatic brain injury.
Conclusions • Physicians should have no hesitation prescribing natural progesterone. The evidence is clear that progesterone does not cause breast cancer. Indeed, progesterone is protective and preventative of breast cancer
What’s up with this ‘fake’ food group?
You may have heard of “fake meat”—those plant-based meat alternatives made famous by offerings like the Impossible Whopper at Burger King, Beyond Meat, Tofurky, and many others. But, have you heard of “pseudograins”?
Have you heard of pseudocereals? Read on, they are not fake food.
Also called “pseudocereals,” these may sound like another category of “fake” food but, in fact, the term refers to plant-based grains like quinoa, amaranth, chia, and buckwheat—which have been consumed by humans since ancient times.
Unlike cereals, these plant foods include non-grasses that are dicotyledonous rather than monocotyledonous like the cereal family. Of note, the term cotyledon refers to an embryonic leaf in seed-bearing plants. Pseudocereals, however, harbor similar starch content, palatability, and texture as members of the cereal family. They are also cooked in much the same way, and are considered highly nutritional.
Let’s take a closer look at pseudocereals and their health benefits.
In precolonial times, pseudocereals were a main food source in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. After the Spanish conquest, however, tastes changed, and cultivation dropped off in favor of cereals and barley, according to the authors of a review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
The authors characterized pseudocereals as “subexploited” foods, which refer to foods that have been eaten by various populations for hundreds of years but were replaced in the early 20th century by other grains and foods that are more popular in the world population diet.
They added, “Due to their agronomic characteristics, ecological adaptability to adverse conditions and high nutritional value, pseudocereals’ relevance is economic, social, ecological, nutritional and functional.”
Pseudocereals contain high-quality proteins and peptides, as well as flavonoids, phenolic acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, which contribute to proposed antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cardiovascular benefits. They are also gluten-free.
Pseudocereals increase natural resource diversity, and thus are environmentally friendly. They are acclimated to thrive in hostile growing conditions, thus making them an enviable alternative in countries that lack valuable protein sources and where food production is limited.
This often-mispronounced pseudocereal (keen-wa) is one of the few vegetable sources that contains all essential amino acids. Although originally endemic to the Andes, interest in this interesting crop has spread worldwide.
The authors of the aforementioned review cite research indicating the antiproliferative effects of quinoa in colon cancer cells. Preclinical research has also shown that the peptides released by quinoa digestion may have antidiabetic properties. Other properties include radical scavenging and ACE inhibition, which is important in blood pressure control.
To learn more, read Don’t miss out on these 9 essential amino acids, on MDLinx.
Long before chia became a popular food item, it was famous for being the “fur” (or “hair”) on Chia pets (ch-ch-ch-Chia!). Chia is an herbaceous plant native to Mexico and Guatemala. To date, commercial interests have focused on oil extraction, which is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. The seeds, however, are also a great source of protein, minerals, dietary fibers, and phenolic compounds. These nutritional benefits have contributed to the use of chia seeds in yogurts, salads, breads, and beverages.
The authors of the aforementioned review cited research supporting the antihypertensive, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory benefits of chia.
This genus of plant consists of more than 60 species and is mostly endemic to the Andes, but is grown in other parts of Central and South America to a lesser degree. Its health benefits have been hypothesized to include decreasing cholesterol levels, hindering ACE activity, and exerting antineoplastic effects in cancer cells.
“Amaranth protein-based diets have been found to reduce food intake and body weight through reduction of rat plasma ghrelin levels and increase of postprandial leptin and cholecystokinin levels, and to modify microbiota composition in a diet-induced obesity mouse model,” according to the authors of the Food and Chemical Toxicology review. “Moreover, amaranth protein improved glucose tolerance and increased plasma insulin in a streptozotocin-induced diabetes model while protein hydrolyzates exerted significant anti-hypertensive activity in spontaneously hypertensive rats, and antithrombotic effects in Wistar rats.”
Click here to learn more about amaranth and other grains at MDLinx.
Among the pseudocereals, buckwheat has the highest levels of resistant starches. These starches are hardest to digest and absorb by the small intestine. They reach the colon where they are digested by microorganisms to yield short-chain fatty acids, which are plenty healthy, and have been demonstrated to change chemotaxis and phagocytosis, trigger reactive oxygen species (ROS), modify cell proliferation and function, and exert anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, and antimicrobial effects, as well as changing gut integrity.
According to the authors of the aforementioned review in Food and Chemical Toxicology, resistant starches have demonstrated three proven health benefits. First, they regulate blood glucose and lipid levels. Second, they facilitate intestinal microbiota. Lastly, they reduce obesity.
How to actually fix a lost voice, according to science (hint: lemon and honey doesn’t work)
April 16, 2021 5.52am AEST
- Sandra Rojas Speech pathologist and Lecturer in Voice Disorders, Department of Speech Pathology, Orthopedics & Audiology, La Trobe University
Sandra Rojas does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
La Trobe University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
View current jobs from La Trobe University
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Losing our voice, having a hoarse voice, or having any difficulties with our voice can be challenging, especially for those who need to use it for work.
For centuries, and across different cultures, people have believed home remedies to be a handy solution for different illnesses. Losing our voice isn’t an exception.
However, put simply, there’s no evidence these home remedies work to recover a lost voice. And there’s a dearth of information out there on what actually works for treating voice issues.
As a speech pathologist and lecturer in voice disorders, I help people with voice issues every day. Here’s what actually helps you recover a lost voice.
Why have I lost my voice?
There are many reasons we can develop problems with our voice. Voice quality issues can be brought on by viral infections, overuse or misuse of our voice, damage to the vocal folds, or nodules and polyps which are benign, noncancerous growths than can form on the vocal folds.
Some people such as teachers, singers, actors, clergy and lawyers are at a greater risk of developing voice difficulties. This is because they talk a lot for a living, often very loudly. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfX0%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=383913018410930176&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Ftheconversation.com%2Fhow-to-actually-fix-a-lost-voice-according-to-science-hint-lemon-and-honey-doesnt-work-158230&sessionId=f8c1b967711356555dd4b2d2370d749bb06598cb&siteScreenName=ConversationEDU&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ff2e7cf%3A1618526400629&width=550px
More often than not, what you might call “losing your voice” is the result of laryngitis, which is inflammation of the voice box (larynx). It’s often caused by a virus or overuse, and will tend to resolve in a couple of weeks.
Most home remedies don’t work for your voice
Home remedies like salt water gargles and tea with honey are mostly harmless, although there’s no evidence they work for fixing laryngitis. If you have a sore throat, they might temporarily alleviate some of this pain. But they definitely won’t reduce the roughness, hoarseness or “breathiness” of your voice.
These remedies can’t improve our voice because our vocal folds are protected by the epiglottis, so when swallowing tea or honey (or anything!), the epiglottis comes down and covers the vocal folds. The epiglottis also prevents food and drink from entering our lungs. Nothing should have direct contact with your vocal folds — if something did, it could get into the lungs and cause aspiration and pneumonia.
One thing to beware, especially if you have a reflux disorder, is consuming excessive amounts of tea and lemon. Lemon is acidic, and so are some teas, so having a lot of them could actually lead to acid reflux coming up the oesophagus and irritating your throat and vocal folds.
Read more: Explainer: what is gastric reflux?
What’s more, if you’re using home remedies, you might delay seeking professional medical attention, for example from a speech pathologist or an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT). Delaying treatment could have further negative consequences if your voice issues are due to something more sinister than a cold or flu.
If your voice takes more than a week or two to recover, or you’re worried about your voice, it’s good to seek medical advice. Make sure to visit your GP at first, who may recommend a speech pathologist or ENT specialist.
So what does work for a lost voice?
Research suggests using a humidifier might be an effective option. This can help by keeping vocal folds hydrated, helping with the vibration of the vocal folds and therefore reducing roughness and hoarseness. Because the tiny water droplets in humidified air are inhaled rather than swallowed, they can bypass the epiglottis and have direct contact with our vocal folds.
Drinking lots of water can also benefit our vocal folds. Even though water doesn’t have direct contact with our voice box, it hydrates the cells in our body.
You should also rest your voice, although it depends on what’s causing your symptoms. In a case of acute laryngitis caused by an infection, your doctor might suggest you completely rest your voice. Similarly, if you’ve had trauma or surgery to your voice box, your doctor might suggest refraining from talking at all for a certain period.
But some ENTs won’t recommend completely resting your voice in other instances. For some voice disorders, your specialist might recommend you start doing voice exercises. One example is “straw phonation”, where you put a straw into a glass of water and speak through it in various ways, depending on the desired outcomes of the treatment.
If you have a hoarse voice but cannot rest it, it’s better to talk at a low volume in a consistent tone — but don’t whisper! Whispering too much can put more strain on your voice box than regular speech.
So if you lose your voice, don’t forget: drink lots of water, use a humidifier if you can, rest your voice, and don’t worry about gargling salt water or drinking lemon and honey tea.
How to Get Things Done When You Don’t Want to Do Anything
The drive to be your best can be hard to muster right about now. Here are some ways to get your mojo back.
- From The NEW York Times.
By Cameron WalkerJuly 28, 2021Leer en español
This April, I was feeling good. I’d figured out the public pool’s lane-reservation system and swam several times a week. I couldn’t wait to write new stories once my kids went back to school. With vaccines on their way, I even made travel plans.
Three months later, I’m in a slump. The pool stopped requiring reservations, but I haven’t been since June. Between Covid-19 variants and Western wildfires, I’m not fired up about a family road trip. And when my editor asked me to research a story about motivation, all I could think was: Ugh.
Motivation is the energy that gets us to take action — and I’m not the only one finding it hard to come by. Some of us might have full-on burnout after a year-plus of loss, grief and pandemic challenges. Others could feel more like I do — nothing’s terribly wrong, but we can’t quite find our spark. Whatever situation we’re in, a closer look at motivation might give us more fuel to move forward, both day-to-day and into an uncertain future.
The Forces That Move
As you look for your motivation, it helps to think of it falling into two categories, said Stefano Di Domenico, a motivation researcher who teaches at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
First, there’s controlled motivation, when you feel you’re being ruled by outside forces like end-of-year bonuses and deadlines — or inner carrots and sticks, like guilt or people-pleasing. It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re not in the driver’s seat. Often when people say they’ve lost motivation, “what they really mean,” Dr. Di Domenico said, “is ‘I’m doing this because I have to, not because I want to.’”
The second kind, autonomous motivation, is what we’re seeking. This is when you feel like you’re self-directed, whether you have a natural affinity for the task at hand, or you’re doing something because you understand why it’s worthwhile.
I wanted more of that feeling. But when it came to this story, I found that motivation touches so many parts of our lives — school, work, exercise, volunteering, health — that I didn’t know where to begin.
I needed to start small. So I started with a cup of tea.
Tiny, Well-Timed Treats
Looking forward to a reward isn’t the best for long-term motivation. But several studies suggest that pairing small, immediate rewards to a task improves both motivation and fun.
Lora Park, an associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, ran marathons before kids but now finds it can be hard to find a workout window before dark. When she uses the treadmill for an evening workout, she pairs it with Netflix to make running inside more pleasant.
I gave it a try. I found a favorite mug that I only use while writing and made a special tea or hot chocolate to sip in front of the computer.Sign up for the Well Newsletter Get the best of Well, with the latest on health, fitness and nutrition. Get it sent to your inbox.
Find Your Why
Tea can only take you so far, though. Clinical psychologist Richard M. Ryan, one of two scientists who developed a well-known approach to understanding motivation called self-determination theory, encourages those seeking lasting motivation to take a deep dive into their values.
Dr. Ryan, a professor at Australian Catholic University in North Sydney, said that when you connect the things that are important to you to the things you need to do — even the drudgeries — you can feel more in control of your actions. What do you love about your work? What core value does it meet?
Writing about your values can be a good start, said Tanaya Winder, an Albuquerque-based motivational speaker and poet. Ms. Winder, who teaches workshops on reconnecting to your sense of purpose, often has students free write about what makes them come alive.
Go Far, Together
I tried writing down a few words that resonated with my values. One that kept coming up for me was connection — another key part of motivation.
Ms. Winder said she draws her sense of purpose from her community — she is Duckwater Shoshone, Pyramid Lake Paiute and Southern Ute — and suggested considering how your motivation is tied to the people around you, whether that’s your family or your basketball team.
Social connections like this are critical to rekindling motivation, Dr. Park said, especially following the pandemic’s forced isolation. “Without that fundamental connection, motivation just starts to wither.”
Feeling blah at work? Contact colleagues to collaborate on a project or to ask for specific advice relevant to their expertise. Or organize a brainstorming session, after-work meet-up or other activity to create that connection.
Reaching out lifts others, too. “Letting someone know that you are thinking of them is enough to kick-start their motivation,” and reminds them that you care, Dr. Park said.
Recently, she sent a spontaneous thank-you note to a former college professor, thanking her for teaching a challenging, inspiring class. The professor responded quickly, saying that Dr. Park’s email had raised her flagging spirits.
A Friendly Game of Motivation
People also motivate each other through competition. In a 2016 study, researchers grouped students in an 11-week exercise program into small, online social networks: some groups were competitive, others provided support. Students in competitive groups exercised much more often than those in supportive social networks, said Damon Centola, the senior author of the study and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
People around us influence us more than we might like to believe — so harness that influence by seeking out a dose of competition when you need motivation to exercise, said Dr. Centola, whose book, “Change: How to Make Big Things Happen,” looks at how social networks fuel change.
I needed a little of both: I haven’t returned to the pool, but I heard about a friend’s half-marathon and got the urge to push myself, so I found a fall trail race and started training.
Have Some Self-Compassion
When it comes to writing, though, competition just stresses me out. My internal monologue becomes a mean spirited aerobics instructor who says things like, “You’re lazy and ungrateful!” and “Finish this story, or you’ll never work again!”
This doesn’t help. Treating ourselves with compassion works much more effectively than beating ourselves up, said Kristin Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “People think they’re going to shame themselves into action,” yet self-compassion helps people stay focused on their goals, reduces fear of failure and improves self-confidence, which can also improve motivation, she said.
To start, Dr. Neff suggested pausing to ask yourself what you need. Maybe you’ll find it’s time to refocus on your purpose, or notice you’re ready to ask for outside support. Sometimes simply acknowledging you’re going through a hard time, and that this is a normal part of life, is all it takes.
Self-compassion doesn’t mean you’ll go soft or lose your drive, Dr. Neff said. Her new book, “Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive,” highlights a study of university students who did poorly on a challenging vocabulary test. Students who were encouraged to be compassionate toward themselves after the test studied longer and performed better on a follow-up test, compared to students given either simple self-esteem-boosting comments or no instruction.
“The key thing about self-compassion and motivation is that it allows you to learn from your failures,” Dr. Neff said.
You’re Not Alone
And I’ve got plenty of failures to learn from, so on a morning run, I gave self-compassion a try. What did I need? First, exercise and more sleep. I could consider new approaches to this story and ask some colleagues for advice. Then I realized what I really needed to do: pay attention.
I looked around. Even at dawn, I wasn’t alone: I saw dog walkers and maintenance workers, people commuting to work, people pulling up their masks. I imagined people in hospitals and homes, starting a new day whether they felt like it or not. The idea of all of us, trying and failing and trying again, carried me to the end of the run and to the end of this story. And if you’re still reading, you’ve found enough motivation to get here, too.