Stress and unhealthy eating can weaken the immune system

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Anti-inflammatory diet can work wonders for gut health and avert autoimmune disorders

New Delhi, 22 April 2019: A recent research conducted on mice discovered that having too much molecular switch called VGLL3, which regulates immune response genes in skin cells, lead to autoimmune diseases. The study published in ‘JCI Insight’ pointed a key role for VGLL3. Three years ago, a team of University of Michigan researchers showed that women have more VGLL3 in their skin cells than men.

One of the basic foundations of the human body, the immune systems, protects us from many diseases. However, even this system can sometimes turn against the body and cause tissue destruction and degenerative diseases by attacking the healthy cells. This condition leads to what are known as autoimmune disorders (AID).

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “AID often mimic several other health conditions and therefore, an accurate diagnosis is often difficult. They can affect different parts of the body. However, it is imperative to watch out for some symptoms and get tested if they prolong. Some of these include new allergies; heightened sensitivity to chemicals, foods, or smells; lack of energy; absence of any sickness since the immune system is busy attacking itself; brain fog; and even anxiety and depression. People with certain risk factors are more prone to AID than others. Genetic predisposition to the condition is an important aspect. Apart from this, their prevalence is more in women due to hormonal changes. In some, AID can set in during the childbearing years. Some other factors include age, ethnicity, certain bacterial or viral infections, and diet and exposure to chemicals and environmental toxins.”

Some examples of AID include multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic thyroiditis, among others. Over 80 million types of AID affect approximately 100 million people worldwide. 1 In India, at least 10% of the population suffers from various such conditions making them an important reason for morbidity and mortality.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “AID can be diagnosed with a complete blood count test. A deviation from the normal level of white and red blood cells can indicate some underlying issue. A few other tests that can detect an inflammation characteristic to AID are the C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate test. As each AID has markedly different symptoms, the treatment can also vary accordingly. For instance, celiac disease needs to be managed with a gluten-free diet. Other conditions may require therapy or medication.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Our eating patterns have a major role in the prevention of AID. It is imperative to avoid eating an unhealthy diet as processed foods can not only lead to inflammation but also set off an immune response.
  • A healthy and balanced diet can do wonders for gut health and further, a strong immune system. A diet rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins A and D, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, pro-biotics, glutamine, and flavanols can avert the onset of autoimmune diseases.
  • It is also a must to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day as it helps in boosting the body’s natural anti-inflammatory mechanism.
  • Stress is a major factor triggering inflammation, and therefore, it is a good idea to practice relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.

Fatty liver disease sets in without apparent symptoms

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In the absence of precautions, the condition can progress rapidly and cause complete scarring of the liver

New Delhi, 21 April 2019: There has been a rise in the cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) this year as compared to 2018. While there are no definite statistics available yet, doctors indicate that they have been observing at least 10 to 12 new cases every month, with patients across age groups. Fatty liver disease is a disorder that occurs due to excessive build-up of fat, which leads to scarring of the liver.

Not all types of NAFLD are lethal, but they’re not benign either. Once detected, the patient must undergo further tests to know if the liver is scarred or inflamed. About 20% of liver inflammation cases have a chance of developing cirrhosis. It is known as a silent killer due to an apparent lack of symptoms till the condition progresses.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “NAFLD is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. As the name implies, the main characteristic of this condition is too much fat stored in liver cells. A healthy liver should contain little or no fat at all. The main complication of NAFLD is cirrhosis, which is late-stage scarring (fibrosis) in the liver. Cirrhosis occurs in response to liver injury, such as the inflammation in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.  As the liver tries to halt inflammation, it produces areas of scarring (fibrosis). With continued inflammation, fibrosis spreads to take up more and more liver tissue.”

Some signs and symptoms of this condition include enlarged liver, fatigue, pain in the upper right abdomen. When it progresses to cirrhosis, it can cause ascites, enlarged blood vessels and spleen, red palms, and jaundice.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Those with NAFLD have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease and it is one of the most common causes of death in them. About 10% weight loss can improve fatty liver and inflammation.”

There are reports to indicate that cinnamon (dalchini) can help improve lipid profiles and NAFLD due to its antioxidant and insulin-sensitizer properties.

Some tips from HCFI to reduce the risk of NAFLD

  • Eat a healthy plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.
  • If you are overweight or obese, reduce the number of calories you eat each day and get more exercise. If you have a healthy weight, work to maintain it by choosing a healthy diet and exercising.
  • Exercise most days of the week. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Both late night meals and skipping breakfast can be detrimental to health

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First meal of the day should be nutritious while the last one must be early and light

New Delhi, 20 April 2019: People who skip breakfast and eat dinner near bedtime may have worse outcomes after a heart attack, a study has warned. It found that people with the two eating habits had a four to five times higher likelihood of death, another heart attack, or angina (chest pain) within 30 days after hospital discharge for heart attack. It is also recommended to have a minimum two-hour interval between dinner and bedtime.

Skipping breakfast was defined as nothing before lunch, excluding beverages, such as coffee and water, at least three times per week. Late-night dinner eating was defined as a meal within two hours before bedtime at least three times per week.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Indians have a tendency of gaining more fat around the abdomen, which can lead to insulin resistance. One of the primary reasons for this is the lifestyle people lead today. On-the-go and fast-paced lives mean people skip their breakfast and end up eating unhealthy, quick-fix meals through the remainder of a day. It is important to understand that even a5% reduction in body weight combined with regular to moderate intensity exercise can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by more than 50%. Those without diabetes or at a risk of developing this condition should focus on switching to a healthier lifestyle and maintaining an ideal BMI.”

Diet affects diabetes risk independent of a person’s weight. Type 2 diabetes is known as a silent killer. By the time a diagnosis is done, other associated health complications may already be present.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “People who are obese should aim at limiting the intake of complex carbohydrates as they tend to increase blood sugar levels and the production of insulin. In those with insulin resistance, this surge can lead to further weight gain. Apart from this, aim at getting about 30 to 45 minutes of physical activity every day, five times a week.”

Some tips from HCFI.

  • Exercise every day and consume a healthy diet.
  • Get your blood glucose levels monitored at regular intervals.
  • Do not consume refined sugar in any form as this can get absorbed into the blood stream more easily and cause further complications.
  • Reduce stress through activities such as meditation and yoga.

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