Alcohol – Effects on the Body

I’m a university student and you can bet that I’ve seen a lot of people under the influence of alcohol. They can be loud, giggly, emotional, and sometimes really tired.

I wanted to see just what effects alcohol has on our bodies, so posts about the different effects of alcohol will be popping up every now and then. For now, I thought it would be cool to see the list of effects alcohol has been found to have on our bodies.

Some of these effects are real extremes, so take them lightly. ūüôā

List of the effects of alcohol on our body

Short-term effects

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Makes you urinate more frequently (stay tuned, we’ll be talking about this one shortly!)
  • Flushed appearance
  • Reduced cognitive and motor skills(which is why you shouldn’t drink and drive!)
  • Loss of inhibitions and more confidence
  • Blurred vision (aka beer goggles) and slurred speech
  • Intense moods, e.g. aggression, elation, depression
  • Headache
  • Blackouts
  • Alcohol poisoning, which is really lethal

Diseases/conditions (in extreme cases!!!)

  • Can lead to the development of heart disease after long-term excessive use.
  • Potential cancer developing effects
  • May cause pancreatitis, which can lead to the development of diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anemia

Effects on our reproductive systems?!

  • Linked to damaging fertility (extreme case)
  • Small amounts of alcohol can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle
  • Alcohol can reduce the amount of testosterone a man produces
  • May affect the quality of a man’s sperm

And this is just a sampling of all of the effects of alcohol. In a couple of weeks, we’ll be talking about urination so that we can get to explore the effects of alcohol on it the week after :).

So, take it easy with eggnog for now, ladies and gents. No need to binge drink, it may just lead to some unhealthy effects!

I will be on hiatus until the first week of January, due to the holidays but Happy holidays and Happy New Year ūüôā¬†Stay safe!

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Breast Health

The month of October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so naturally I’m talking about Breast Health on the first of November. But since all diseases need year-long awareness, let me carry this one into November.

Who needs to monitor their breast health?

We all have breasts! That’s right, breasts for everyone! The only difference between female and male breasts is that male breasts lack specialized lobules, which are divisions of the breast required to aid in the production and excretion of milk. Apparently, Mother Nature thought men didn’t need to be able to produce milk, but I’m sure there are plenty of mothers out there that would argue otherwise.

Either way, there is only one difference between male and female breasts, which means that both women and men need to continuously monitor their breast health.

Why monitor breast health?

Breast cancer usually originates in the lobules of your breasts, which is probably a super great reason to keep an eye on them. And a scary one.

But I thought men don’t have lobules, so why do they get breast cancer?¬†is probably what you’re thinking. Well, calm down, I’ll explain.

Men don’t have the lobules required to produce milk; they¬†do,¬†however,¬†have lobules.¬†The good ol’, regular lobules that give your breast its mass. So guys, girls, everyone, check your breasts regularly.

How do you do it though?

Here are some tips brought to us by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation:

  • Know how your breasts normally look and feel
  • Look and feel for changes, such as
    • Lumps
    • Thickening of the skin
    • Nipple changes and/or discharges
    • Redness of any part of the breast
    • Skin changes (rashes, colour, etc)
    • Dimpling or puckering of the skin or nipple
    • Swelling or pain in the breast area or under arm

Make sure to look and feel at each of these regions:

  • Each whole breast
  • Under and above each breast
  • Under both arms

If you’re ever worried, contact your family physician and set up an appointment. It is always better to be safe.

Next week we’ll look at the established Risk factors for Breast cancer to keep this ball of awareness rolling. Hope your Halloween night was great! Stay safe, lovelies! ūüôā

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Eye Discharge

Ever wake up from a nice nap or a great sleep to find little white crusties in the corner of your eyes? Sometimes, they might even be slimy! But what are those things and why do we find them?

What are Eye Crusties aka Dream dust aka Rheum aka Sleep?

When I was little, one of my friends told me that those little white/yellowish crusties were called ‘dream dust’ and we got them because the Sandman wanted us to have nice dreams. So for years, that’s what I’ve been referring to them as, though I was almost 100% sure the reasoning wasn’t on par.

When I started looking into this, ¬†I found that the real name for the eye crusties actually is¬†Sleep,¬†but the scientific umbrella term for it is Rheum. Sleep is a type of Rheum,¬†which in turn is¬†simply discharged mucous. You might remember seeing¬†the term rheum on Benylin¬†bottles, or other cough and cold syrups, for the French translation. The term¬†sleep just refers to the¬†rheum that is discharged when one is sleeping. Fitting, I’d say.

But sleep does include the discharge from your nose and mouth while you’re sleeping as well.¬†There is a specific term for the mucous that is discharged from our eyes while we sleep:¬†gound.¬†Gound¬†is mainly composed of an oil produced by a sebaceous gland that line our eyelids, mucous, and some other particles like dust and skin cells. We actually produce¬†gound¬†during the day, but we blink it away which doesn’t give it the chance to clump.

Main point: eye crusties = mucous discharge.

Why does it happen?

Mucous likes to help our bodies protect themselves against infectious diseases.  So the discharge of mucous from our eyes while we sleep might just be our eyes protecting themselves from infections; the mucous usually carries away the harmful agents, be it makeup or bacteria, towards the corners of our eyes (known as the inner canthi and the outer canthi).

If you have a cold or the flu, you are more likely to produce gound to excrete the bacteria that are making you sick. If you don’t take off your makeup before you go to bed, you’re likely to produce a lot of gound too.

Worries?

On its own, these discharges of mucous shouldn’t be too alarming. But if they are coupled with other symptoms involving the eye, such as inflammation or visual changes, they can indicate more worrying conditions such as Conjunctivitis or a corneal ulcer. Consult with your physician if there are multiple symptoms.

Sometimes, the excessive production of gound can lead to your eyes being glued shut. In this case, it is best to place a warm washcloth on your eyes to loosen them. Just make sure to dispose or wash the washcloth thoroughly, since reusing it can just bring those harmful agents back into your eyes!

 

And that’s really all there is to say about eye crusties. Now you’ll know that they’re proof that your body wants you to stay healthy!

Have a suggestion? Why not place it here?

 

Hiskey, D. 2011. What the ‘sleep’ in your eyes is. TodayIFoundOut.com. <http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/02/what-the-sleep-in-your-eyes-is/>. August 27, 2013.

IMG Health Publications. 2013. Eye discharge. EyeHealthWeb.com. <http://www.eyehealthweb.com/eye-discharge/>. August 27, 2013.

 

Stomach Flu aka Gastroenteritis

There seems to be a bug going around, causing everyone to be at home, sick to their stomachs – literally. There are lot of bugs in this world, but the stomach flu, or¬†gastroenteritis, is not caused by any one of them. So what does cause the stomach flu and why is it so easy for us to catch it? Let’s first look at the difference between the stomach flu and what the term ‘flu’ is commonly associated with now-a-days.

Stomach Flu vs. the Flu

Sounds ridiculous that the two should be different considering they both have the same terms, but the stomach flu and what we refer to as “the flu” are completely different conditions. The flu refers to Influenza viruses, which we talked about last week. The stomach flu, however, can be caused by viruses, bacteria or other¬†endoparasites.¬†Want to know more? Here’s¬†a¬†list of the specific organisms¬†that can cause the stomach flu.

So, what does ‘Gastroenteritis’ mean?

Gastro¬†is the Greek word for ‘stomach’, while¬†Entero is Greek for ‘intestine’. The suffix¬†-itis¬†indicates that the disease ¬†is characterized by an inflammation of some sort. Therefore, Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and the intestine, the inflammation being caused by your immune system in response to the harmful organism. This inflammation of the stomach and intestine can lead to digestive problems, which is why you experience diarrhea or vomit when you have the stomach flu.

How do we get infected?

Each endoparasite works differently. The viruses that cause the stomach flu act in the same manner as influenza. Bacteria are able to use the nutrients we have in our bodies to sustain themselves; the parasitic bacteria, however, release their waste products from the digestion of the nutrients into our bodies. Some of these waste products can be toxic to our body, which causes our immune system to react via the inflammation of  the stomach and intestine.

What are some symptoms?

The symptoms are all signs of your immune system trying to stop this infection from further harming you. You won’t always experience all of the symptoms, it really depends on how dangerous the endoparasite is and how long it takes your immune system to recognize it.

Symptoms usually show around 1-2 days after being infected.

Here are some common symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Cramps
  • Slight to noticeable fever¬†(of 37.2¬įC /99¬įF¬†or higher)

Viral infections can last a couple of days, while bacterial infections can last for a week, sometimes more depending on the severity of the infection.

Tips for coping

REHYDRATE: You’re going to lose a lot of water from vomiting and/or diarrhea. For children, they should be given drinks with electrolytes in them. Adults tend to have more electrolytes, so they can cope with drinking sports beverages like Gatorade or Powerade. Water can be a little helpful for the purposes of rehydration but you also lose a lot of electrolytes and minerals when you vomit and/or suffer from diarrhea, so sports beverages are the better alternative. Just make sure you drink in small amounts; large amounts can lead to vomiting.

SUGAR=NO-NO: Sugar is just going to irritate you more and make your diarrhea worse. It will not help replace the minerals you lose. So put those juice boxes away and stay away from your soda/pop!

EATING: Eating small amounts of food is suggested if you’re not vomiting excessively. Some foods you can eat are bread, cereal, vegetables, potatoes or apples. Stay away from dairy products for a while and just remember to take it easy on your stomach!

MEDICAL ATTENTION: Unlike the Flu, the Stomach flu doesn’t have any vaccines. You just have to wait it out and let your body work against the infection, but make sure you see your doctor so they remain informed!

A.D.A.M., Inc. 2013. Viral gastroenteritis. PubMed Health. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001298/&gt;. March 14, 2013.

Harding, A. 2013. 13 Things you should know about the stomach flu. Health.com. <http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20568435_last,00.html>. March 14, 2013.

Gardiner, J. 2006. Gastroenteritis (stomach flu) symptoms, causes, treatments. WebMD.com. <http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/gastroenteritis&gt; March 14, 2013.

Vaccines

Remember that scare in 2009, when the swine flu (H1N1) broke out and everyone was rushing to clinics? They were worried about this new, terrifying virus and hurried to get the vaccinations that would protect them from it. And the vaccines did just that; with the help of the H1N1 vaccinations, 300 lives were saved, and roughly 1 million illnesses and 6000 hospitalizations were prevented. But what are vaccines and how do they help us?

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are preparations of agents that look like disease-causing microorganisms. These agents are considered antigens, which basically means they are something that is foreign, or unfamiliar, to our immune system. The antigens in vaccines are usually just parts of a microorganism, a dead microorganisms, or live microorganisms that have been altered to be harmless.

How do vaccines work?

The purpose of using vaccines is to familiarize your immune system to microorganisms you have yet to encounter so that it will be able to learn how to recognize this new antigen and how to attack it so that it doesn’t cause further damage to your body. ¬†Since the vaccines don’t contain the real, health-threatening organisms, when you’re injected with the vaccine, you won’t show any symptoms.

Vaccines are basically a test run for your immune system to learn how to protect you from different dangerous organisms. The cells of the microorganisms (in the vaccines and in real life) have proteins on its membranes that will allow your immune system to recognize them. Your immune system will recognize these injected cells as antigens and try to figure out a way to attack them. Different cells have different properties, so there are several ways for your immune system to dispose of these foreign agents.

Your immune system will eventually figure out a way to destroy the antigens and will keep this whole trial in its memory. It will remember two things:

  • What it found during the test run: the cells of the microorganism, any particular proteins on the cell surface, etc.
  • How it dealt with the organism to ensure your safety

It then applies that knowledge when you’re exposed to the real organisms. This artificial immunity is long-lasting, which is why it’s preferred for new dangerous diseases.

Your doctor provides you with a list of vaccinations you should be getting at certain ages, it’s in your best interest to make sure you’ve gotten them all!

Roos, R. 2013. CDC: Pandemic vaccine prevented 1 million cases, 300 deaths. CIDRAP.umn.edu. <http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/swineflu/news/feb0113panvax.html&gt; February 28, 2013

Seeley, R.R., Stevens, T.D., and Tate, P. 2008. Anatomy and Physiology (8th ed.). pp. 818, 1012. New York: McGraw-Hill.