Tag Archives: Brain

Ilex vomitoria

Botanical Name : Ilex vomitoria
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Genus: Ilex
Species: I. vomitoria
Kingdom:Plantae
Order: Aquifoliales

Common Names: Yaupon or Yaupon holl (The word yaupon was derived from its Catawban name, yopún, which is a diminutive form of the word yop, meaning “tree”. )

The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was Ilex vomitoria that caused it (hence the Latin name). The active ingredients, like those of the related yerba mate and guayusa plants, are actually caffeine and theobromine, and the vomiting either was learned or resulted from the great quantities in which they drank the beverage coupled with fasting. Others believe the Europeans improperly assumed the black drink to be the tea made from Ilex vomitoria when it was likely an entirely different drink made from various roots and herbs and did have emetic properties.

Habitat : Ilex vomitoria is native to North America from Maryland south to Florida and west to Oklahoma and Texas. A disjunct population occurs in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It generally occurs in coastal areas in well-drained sandy soils, and can be found on the upper edges of brackish and salt marshes, sandy hammocks, coastal sand dunes, inner-dune depressions, sandhills, maritime forests, nontidal forested wetlands, well-drained forests and pine flatwoods.

Description:
Yaupon holly is an evergreen shrub or small tree reaching 5–9 meters tall, with smooth, light gray bark and slender, hairy shoots. The leaves are alternate, ovate to elliptical with a rounded apex and crenate or coarsely serrated margin, 1-4.5 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, glossy dark green above, slightly paler below. The flowers are 5–5.5 mm diameter, with a white four-lobed corolla. The fruit is a small round, shiny, and red (occasionally yellow) drupe 4–6 mm diameter containing four pits, which are dispersed by birds eating the fruit. The species may be distinguished from the similar Ilex cassine by its smaller leaves with a rounded, not acute apex.
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Cultivation:
Succeeds in most soils so long as they are not water-logged. This species is not fully hardy in Britain, the plants are incapable of withstanding our hardest winters. A slow-growing species in the wild, often forming dense thickets from root suckers. The leaves remain on the plant for 2 – 3 years, falling just before the appearance of new leaves in the spring. Flowers are produced on the current year’s growth. Resents root disturbance, especially as the plants get older. It is best to place the plants into their permanent positions as soon as possible, perhaps giving some winter protection for their first year or two. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It can take 18 months to germinate. Stored seed generally requires two winters and a summer before it will germinate and should be sown as soon as possible in a cold frame. Scarification, followed by a warm stratification and then a cold stratification may speed up the germination time[78, 80]. The seedlings are rather slow-growing. Pot them up into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame for their first year. It is possible to plant them out into a nursery bed in late spring of the following year, but they should not be left here for more than two years since they do not like being transplanted. Alternatively, grow them on in their pots for a second season and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Give them a good mulch and some protection for their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of almost ripe wood with a heel, August in a shaded position in a cold frame. Leave for 12 months before potting up. Layering in October. Takes 2 years
Edible Uses: Native Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea, commonly thought to be called asi or black drink for male-only purification and unity rituals.

A mildly stimulating beverage containing caffeine is made from the dried and roasted leaves. The tea is stimulating and intoxicating. The leaves are first steeped in cold and then in boiling water. They are also used to flavour ice cream and soft drinks.

In 2013 a company in Cat Spring, Texas began selling yaupon tea online for people interested in the local food movement. Other companies have opened in Florida and Georgia

Medicinal Uses: A decoction of the leaves is emetic. The plant was used ritually by several N. American Indian tribes. The leaves were toasted over a fire and then boiled for several hours. The resulting thick black liquid was then drunk and this was followed by immediate vomiting. This was often used a a purification rite prior to hunting.

Other Uses: Ornamental
Ilex vomitoria is a common landscape plant in the Southeastern United States. The most common cultivars are slow-growing shrubs popular for their dense, evergreen foliage and their adaptability to pruning into hedges of various shapes. These include:

* ‘Folsom Weeping’ — weeping cultivar
* ‘Grey’s Littleleaf’/’Grey’s Weeping’ — weeping cultivar
* ‘Nana’/’Compacta’ — dwarf female clone usually remaining below 1 m in height.
* ‘Pride of Houston’ — female clone similar to type but featuring improvements in form, fruiting, and foliage.
* ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’/’Stokes Dwarf’ — dwarf male clone that grows no more than 0.6 m tall and 1.2 m wide.
* ‘Will Flemming’ — male clone featuring a columnar growth habit.

This species is occasionally used for hedging in the southern states of America. Wood – hard, heavy, strong, close grained. It weighs 46lb per cubic foot. Too small for commercial exploitation, the wood is used locally for turnery, inlay work, woodenware etc.

Known Hazards:
Although no specific reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, the fruits of at least some members of this genus contain saponins and are slightly toxic. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and stupor if eaten in quantity. The fruit is poisonous.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilex_vomitoria
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_UZ.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ilex+vomitoria

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Artemisia japonica

Botanical Name : Artemisia japonica
Family: Asteraceae
Subfamily: Asteroideae
Tribes: Anthemideae
Subtribes: Artemisiinae
Genus: Artemisia
Species: Artemisia japonica

Synonyms : A. mandschurica. A. subintegra. Chrysanthemum japonicum.

Habitat : Artemisia japonica is native to E. Asia – China, Japan, Korea. It grows on the forest margins, waste areas, shrublands, hills, slopes, roadsides; low elevations to 3300 m. Anhui, Fujian, S Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, S Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, E and S Liaoning, S Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, E Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang [Afghanistan, Bhutan, N India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, E Russia, Thailand, Vietnam].

Description:
Artemisia japonica is a perennial herb growing 50-130 cm tall; rootstock 1.5-2.5 cm thick, woody, upper parts puberulent or glabrescent, strongly aromatic. Sterile stems 5-30 cm, leaves clustered at apex; leaf blade spatulate, 3.5-8 × 1-3 cm, pinnately lobed, toothed, apex rounded. Basal and lower stem leaves ± sessile; leaf blade oblong-obovate to broadly spatulate or flabellate, (3-)4-6(-8) × (1-)2-2.5(-3) cm, puberulent or glabrescent, obliquely pinnatipartite or -cleft from apex to center, few serrate apically. Middle stem leaves: leaf blade spatulate, cuneate, or narrowly spatulate, 2.5-3.5(-4.5) × 0.5-1(-2) cm, obliquely partite or cleft and few serrate at apex or lobes linear. Uppermost leaves 3-cleft or entire; leaflike bracts elliptic, lanceolate, or linear-lanceolate. Synflorescence a ± narrow panicle, 15-20 × 3-15(-20) cm panicle; branches almost horizontal or obliquely patent, 3-20 cm. Capitula many, nodding, shortly to long pedunculate. Involucre ovoid or subglobose, 1.5-2.5 mm in diam.; phyllaries glabrous, outermost ovate, very narrowly white scarious on margin, apex acute. Florets 12-15(-20), yellow. Marginal female florets 3-8(-11); corolla narrow, 2-toothed. Disk florets 5-10, male. Achenes dark brown, 0.8-1 mm, obovoid. Fl. and fr. Jul-Nov. 2n = 18, 36, 37.

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It is in flower from Aug to October, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.
Edible Uses: ….Young leaves – cooked. Used as a vegetable.

Medicinal Uses:

Depurative; Digestive; Febrifuge; Skin; Women’s complaints.

The leaves are digestive. A decoction of the leaves is said to promote a plump figure, but too much is said to be deleterious and can cause hypertension. The expressed juice of the plant is used in the treatment of vaginitis. It is also used to treat skin diseases. Theplant is used for making antitoxifying and antifebrile drugs.

Other Uses:….Incense…..The powder of the dried plant is used as an incense

Known Hazards: Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, skin contact with some members of this genus can cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions in some people.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Resources:
https://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_japonica
http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=200023247
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Artemisia+japonica

HOW TO KEEP MEMORY SHARP

By age 60, more than half of adults have concerns about their memory. However, minor memory lapses that occur with age are not usually signs of a serious problem, such as Alzheimer’s disease, but rather the result of normal changes in the structure and function of the brain. This report describes these normal age-related changes and other more serious causes of memory loss — and how to distinguish between them.

The way you live, what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body can affect your memory just as much as your physical health and well-being. Here are five things you can do every day to keep both your mind and body sharp.

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1. Manage your stress. The constant drumbeat of daily stresses such as deadline pressures or petty arguments can certainly distract you and affect your ability to focus and recall.Always negative thinking against an agenda is the bigger problem is an ongoing sense of anxiety — that can lead to memory impairment. If you don’t have a strategy in place for managing your stress, protecting your memory is one reason to get one.Positive thinking, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and a “mindful” approach to living can all help.

2. Get a good night’s sleep. People who don’t sleep well at night tend to be more forgetful than people who sleep soundly. A good night’s sleep is essential for consolidating memories. The most common reason for poor sleep is insomnia — difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Unfortunately, many medicines used to treat insomnia can also impair memory and general brain function. That’s why it’s best to try improving your sleep habits first and turn to medication only if those steps don’t help. If you do need sleep aids, use the lowest dose for the shortest time needed to get your sleep back on track.

3. If you smoke, quit. Easier said than done, certainly — but if you need additional motivation, know that smokers have a greater degree of age-related memory loss and other memory problems than nonsmokers. People who smoke more than two packs of cigarettes a day at midlife have more than double the risk of developing dementia in old age compared with nonsmokers. However, those who stop smoking by midlife and those who smoke less than half a pack a day have a similar a risk of dementia as people who have never smoked.

4. If you drink alcohol, do so moderately. Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk for memory loss and dementia. People with alcoholism have difficulty performing short-term memory tasks, such as memorizing lists. Another type of memory loss associated with alcohol use is called Korsakoff’s syndrome. In this condition, long-term vitamin B1 deficiency, combined with the toxic effects of alcohol on the brain, can trigger sudden and dramatic amnesia. In some cases this memory loss is permanent, but if caught early, it can be reversed to some degree.

5. Protect your brain from injury. Head trauma is a major cause of memory loss and increases the risk of developing dementia. Always use the appropriate gear during high-speed activities and contact sports. Wear a helmet when bicycling, riding on a motorcycle, in-line skating, and skiing. Wear seat belts when riding in motor vehicles. Car accidents are by far the most common cause of brain injury, and wearing a seat belt greatly reduces the chances of severe head injury.

Source: Advice from Harvard Medical School

Bone Broth Is A Most Nourishing Food And good For Any Ailment

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Bone broth has a long history of medicinal use. It’s known to be warm, soothing, and nourishing for body, mind, and soul.

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Physicians harkening as far back as Hippocrates have associated bone broth with gut healing. And while the importance of gut health is just now starting to fill our medical journals, this knowledge is far from new.

In fact, you could say modern medicine is just now rediscovering how the gut influences health and disease.

Many of our modern diseases appear to be rooted in an unbalanced mix of microorganisms in your digestive system, courtesy of a diet that is too high in sugars and too low in healthful fats and beneficial bacteria.

Digestive problems and joint problems, in particular, can be successfully addressed using bone broth. But as noted by Dr. Kaayla Daniel, vice president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and coauthor (with Sally Fallon Morell) of the book, Nourishing Broth, bone broth is a foundational component of a healing diet regardless of what ails you.

BENEFITS OF BONE BROTH :

Leaky gut is the root of many health problems, especially allergies, autoimmune disorders, and many neurological disorders. The collagen found in bone broth acts like a soothing balm to heal and seal your gut lining, and broth is a foundational component of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, developed by Russian neurologist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

The GAPS diet is often used to treat children with autism and other disorders rooted in gut dysfunction, but just about anyone with suboptimal gut health can benefit from it.

Bone broth is also a staple remedy for acute illnesses such as cold and flu. While there aren’t many studies done on soup, one study did find that chicken soup opened up the airways better than hot water.

Processed, canned soups  may not work as well as the homemade version made from slow-cooked bone broth. If combating a cold, make the soup hot and spicy with plenty of pepper.

The spices will trigger a sudden release of watery fluids in your mouth, throat, and lungs, which will help thin down the respiratory mucus so it’s easier to expel. Bone broth contains a variety of valuable nutrients in a form your body can easily absorb and use. And these are:

1. Calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals……Components of collagen and cartilage

2.Silicon and other trace minerals………….Components of bone and bone marrow

3.Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate……….The “conditionally essential” amino acids proline, glycine, and glutamine

These nutrients account for many of the healing benefits of bone broth, which include the following:

1.Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage and collagen.

2.Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses etc.
Indeed, Dr. Daniel reports2 chicken soup — known as “Jewish penicillin“—has been revered for its medicinal qualities at least since Moses Maimonides in the 12th century. Recent studies on cartilage, which is found abundantly in homemade broth, show it supports the immune system in a variety of ways; it’s a potent normalizer, true biological response modifier, activator of macrophages, activator of Natural Killer (NK) cells, rouser of B lymphocytes and releaser of Colony Stimulating Factor.

3.Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis3 (whole-body inflammation). Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.

4.Promotes strong, healthy bones: Dr. Daniel reports bone broth contains surprisingly low amounts of calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals, but she says “it plays an important role in healthy bone formation because of its abundant collagen. Collagen fibrils provide the latticework for mineral deposition and are the keys to the building of strong and flexible bones.”

5.Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the gelatin in the broth. Dr. Daniel reports that by feeding collagen fibrils, broth can even eliminate cellulite too.

In the conclution it can be said :Bone Broth—A Medicinal ‘Soul Food

Slow-simmering bones for a day will create one of the most nutritious and healing foods there is. You can use this broth for soups, stews, or drink it straight. The broth can also be frozen for future use. Making bone broth also allows you to make use of a wide variety of leftovers, making it very economical. Bone broth used to be a dietary staple, as were fermented foods, and the elimination of these foods from our modern diet is largely to blame for our increasingly poor health, and the need for dietary supplements.

“I would like to urge people to make as much broth as possible,” Dr. Daniel says in closing. “Keep that crockpot going; eat a variety of soups, and enjoy them thoroughly.”

Resources: Mercola.com

BALANCE DISORDER

Definition:
A balance disorder is a disturbance that causes an individual to feel unsteady, for example when standing or walking. It may be accompanied by feelings of giddiness or wooziness, or having a sensation of movement, spinning, or floating. Balance is the result of several body systems working together: the visual system (eyes), vestibular system (ears) and proprioception (the body’s sense of where it is in space). Degeneration or loss of function in any of these systems can lead to balance deficits
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Balance disorders can be caused by certain health conditions, medications, or a problem in the inner ear or the brain.

Our sense of balance is primarily controlled by a maze-like structure in our inner ear called the labyrinth, which is made of bone and soft tissue. At one end of the labyrinth is an intricate system of loops and pouches called the semicircular canals and the otolithic organs, which help us maintain our balance. At the other end is a snail-shaped organ called the cochlea, which enables us to hear. The medical term for all of the parts of the inner ear involved with balance is the vestibular system.

Symptoms:
When balance is impaired, an individual has difficulty maintaining upright orientation. For example, an individual may not be able to walk without staggering, or may not even be able to stand. They may have falls or near-falls. The symptoms may be recurring or relatively constant. When symptoms exist, they may include:

*Dizziness or vertigo (a spinning sensation)
*Falling or feeling as if you are going to fall
*Lightheadedness, faintness, or a floating sensation
*Blurred vision
*Confusion or disorientation

Some individuals may also experience nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, faintness, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, fear, anxiety, or panic. Some reactions to the symptoms are fatigue, depression, and decreased concentration. The symptoms may appear and disappear over short time periods or may last for a longer period.

Cognitive dysfunction (disorientation) may occur with vestibular disorders. Cognitive deficits are not just spatial in nature, but also include non-spatial functions such as object recognition memory. Vestibular dysfunction has been shown to adversely affect processes of attention and increased demands of attention can worsen the postural sway associated with vestibular disorders. Recent MRI studies also show that humans with bilateral vestibular damage undergo atrophy of the hippocampus which correlates with their degree of impairment on spatial memory tasks

Causes:
Problems with balance can occur when there is a disruption in any of the vestibular, visual, or proprioceptive systems. Abnormalities in balance function may indicate a wide range of pathologies from causes like inner ear disorders, low blood pressure, brain tumors, and brain injury including stroke.

Many different terms are often used for dizziness, including lightheaded, floating, woozy, giddy, confused, helpless, or fuzzy. Vertigo, Disequilibrium and pre-syncope are the terms in use by most physicians and have more precise definitions.

*Vertigo: Vertigo is the sensation of spinning or having the room spin about you. Most people find vertigo very disturbing and report associated nausea and vomiting.

*Disequilibrium: Disequilibrium is the sensation of being off balance, and is most often characterized by frequent falls in a specific direction. This condition is not often associated with nausea or vomiting.

*Pre-syncope (links to syncope, which is different): Pre-syncope is a feeling of lightheadedness or simply feeling faint. Syncope, by contrast, is actually fainting. A circulatory system deficiency, such as low blood pressure, can contribute to a feeling of dizziness when one suddenly stands up.

Problems in the skeletal or visual systems, such as arthritis or eye muscle imbalance, may also cause balance problems.

Related to the ear:
Causes of dizziness related to the ear are often characterized by vertigo (spinning) and nausea. Nystagmus (flickering of the eye, related to the Vestibulo-ocular reflex [VOR]) is often seen in patients with an acute peripheral cause of dizziness.

*Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) – The most common cause of vertigo. It is typically described as a brief, intense sensation of spinning that occurs when there are changes in the position of the head with respect to gravity. An individual may experience BPPV when rolling over to the left or right, upon getting out of bed in the morning, or when looking up for an object on a high shelf.  The cause of BPPV is the presence of normal but misplaced calcium crystals called otoconia, which are normally found in the utricle and saccule (the otolith organs) and are used to sense movement. If they fall from the utricle and become loose in the semicircular canals, they can distort the sense of movement and cause a mismatch between actual head movement and the information sent to the brain by the inner ear, causing a spinning sensation.

*Labyrinthitis – An inner ear infection or inflammation causing both dizziness (vertigo) and hearing loss.

*Vestibular neuronitis – an infection of the vestibular nerve, generally viral, causing vertigo

*Cochlear Neuronitis – an infection of the Cochlear nerve, generally viral, causing sudden deafness but no vertigo.

 

*Trauma – Injury to the skull may cause either a fracture or a concussion to the organ of balance. In either case an acute head injury will often result in dizziness and a sudden loss of vestibular function.

*Surgical trauma to the lateral semicircular canal (LSC) is a rare complication which does not always result in cochlear damage. Vestibular symptoms are pronounced. Dizziness and instability usually persist for several months and sometimes for a year or more.

   *Ménière’s disease – an inner ear fluid balance disorder that causes lasting episodes of vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus (a ringing or roaring in the ears), and the sensation of fullness in the ear. The cause of Ménière’s disease is unknown.

    *Perilymph fistula a leakage of inner ear fluid from the inner ear. It can occur after head injury, surgery, physical exertion or without a known cause.

    *Superior canal dehiscence syndrome – a balance and hearing disorder caused by a gap in the temporal bone, leading to the dysfunction of the superior canal.

  *Bilateral vestibulopathy – a condition involving loss of inner ear balance function in both ears. This may be caused by certain antibiotics, anti-cancer, and other drugs or by chemicals such as solvents, heavy metals, etc., which are ototoxic; or by diseases such as syphilis or autoimmune disease; or other causes. In addition, the function of the semicircular canal can be temporarily affected by a number of medications or combinations of medications.

 

Related to the brain and central nervous system:
Brain related causes are less commonly associated with isolated vertigo and nystagmus but can still produce signs and symptoms, which mimic peripheral causes. Disequilibrium is often a prominent feature.

*Degenerative: age related decline in balance function
*Infectious: meningitis, encephalitis, epidural abscess, syphilis
*Circulatory: cerebral or cerebellar ischemia or hypoperfusion, stroke, lateral medullary syndrome (Wallenberg’s syndrome)
*Autoimmune: Cogan syndrome
*Structural: Arnold-Chiari malformation, hydrocephalus
*Systemic: multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease
*Vitamin deficiency: Vitamin B12 deficiency
*CNS or posterior neoplasms, benign or malignant
*Neurological: Vertiginous epilepsy
*Other – There are a host of other causes of dizziness not related to the ear.

*Mal de debarquement is rare disorder of imbalance caused by being on board a ship. Patients suffering from this condition experience disequilibrium          even when they get off the ship. Typically treatments for seasickness are ineffective for this syndrome.

*Motion sickness – a conflict between the input from the various systems involved in balance causes an unpleasant sensation. For this reason, looking          out of the window of a moving car is much more pleasant than looking inside the vehicle.

*Migraine-associated vertigo
*Toxins, drugs, medications

Pathophysiology:
The semicircular canals, found within the vestibular apparatus, let us know when we are in a rotary (circular) motion. The semicircular canals are fluid-filled. Motion of the fluid tells us if we are moving. The vestibule is the region of the inner ear where the semicircular canals converge, close to the cochlea (the hearing organ). The vestibular system works with the visual system to keep objects in focus when the head is moving. This is called the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR).
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Movement of fluid in the semicircular canals signals the brain about the direction and speed of rotation of the head – for example, whether we are nodding our head up and down or looking from right to left. Each semicircular canal has a bulbed end, or enlarged portion, that contains hair cells. Rotation of the head causes a flow of fluid, which in turn causes displacement of the top portion of the hair cells that are embedded in the jelly-like cupula. Two other organs that are part of the vestibular system are the utricle and saccule. These are called the otolithic organs and are responsible for detecting linear acceleration, or movement in a straight line. The hair cells of the otolithic organs are blanketed with a jelly-like layer studded with tiny calcium stones called otoconia. When the head is tilted or the body position is changed with respect to gravity, the displacement of the stones causes the hair cells to bend.

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The balance system works with the visual and skeletal systems (the muscles and joints and their sensors) to maintain orientation or balance. For example, visual signals are sent to the brain about the body’s position in relation to its surroundings. These signals are processed by the brain, and compared to information from the vestibular, visual and the skeletal systems.
Diagnosis:
Diagnosis of a balance disorder is complicated because there are many kinds of balance disorders and because other medical conditions — including ear infections, blood pressure changes, and some vision problems — and some medications may contribute to a balance disorder. A person experiencing dizziness should see a physiotherapist or physician for an evaluation. A physician can assess for a medical disorder, such as a stroke or infection, if indicated. A physiotherapist can assess balance or a dizziness disorder and provide specific treatment.

The primary physician may request the opinion of an otolaryngologist to help evaluate a balance problem. An otolaryngologist is a physician/surgeon who specializes in diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck, sometimes with expertise in balance disorders. He or she will usually obtain a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination to start to sort out possible causes of the balance disorder. The physician may require tests and make additional referrals to assess the cause and extent of the disruption of balance. The kinds of tests needed will vary based on the patient’s symptoms and health status. Because there are so many variables, not all patients will require every test.

Diagnostic testing:
Tests of vestibular system (balance) function include electronystagmography (ENG), Videonystagmograph (VNG), rotation tests, Computerized Dynamic Posturography (CDP), and Caloric reflex test.

Tests of auditory system (hearing) function include pure-tone audiometry, speech audiometry, acoustic-reflex, electrocochleography (ECoG), otoacoustic emissions (OAE), and auditory brainstem response test (ABR; also known as BER, BSER, or BAER).

Other diagnostic tests include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized axial tomography (CAT, or CT).

Treatment and Prevention:
There are various options for treating balance disorders. One option includes treatment for a disease or disorder that may be contributing to the balance problem, such as ear infection, stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s, neuromuscular conditions, acquired brain injury, cerebellar dysfunctions and/or ataxia. Individual treatment will vary and will be based upon assessment results including symptoms, medical history, general health, and the results of medical tests. Additionally, tai chi may be a cost-effective method to prevent falls in the elderly.

Many types of balance disorders will require balance training, prescribed by an occupational therapist or physiotherapist. Physiotherapists often administer standardized outcome measures as part of their assessment in order to gain useful information and data about a patient’s current status. Some standardized balance assessments or outcome measures include but are not limited to the Functional Reach Test, Clinical Test for Sensory Integration in Balance (CTSIB), Berg Balance Scale and/or Timed Up and Go The data and information collected can further help the physiotherapist develop an intervention program that is specific to the individual assessed. Intervention programs may include training activities that can be used to improve static and dynamic postural control, body alignment, weight distribution, ambulation, fall prevention and sensory function. Although treatment programs exist which seek to aid the brain in adapting to vestibular injuries, it is important to note that it is simply that – an adaptation to the injury. Although the patient’s balance is restored, the balance system injury still exists

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV):
It is caused by misplaced crystals within the ear. Treatment, simply put, involves moving these crystals out of areas that cause vertigo and into areas where they do not. A number of exercises have been developed to shift these crystals. The following article explains with diagrams how these exercises can be performed at the office or at home with some help: The success of these exercises depends on their being performed correctly.

The two exercises explained in the above article are:

*The Brandt-Daroff Exercises, which can be done at home and have a very high success rate but are unpleasant and time consuming to perform.

*The Epley’s exercises are often performed by a doctor or other trained professionals and should not be performed at home. Various devices are available      for home BPPV treatment.

Ménière’s disease:
  *Diet:
Dietary changes such as reducing intake of sodium (salt) may help. For some people, reducing alcohol, caffeine, and/or avoiding nicotine may be               helpful. Stress has also been shown to make the symptoms associated with Ménière’s worse.

 *Drugs:
#Beta-histine (Serc) is available in some countries and is thought to reduce the frequency of symptoms
#Diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (Diazide) have also been shown to reduce the frequency of symptoms
#Aminoglycoside antibiotics (gentamicin) can be used to treat Ménière’s disease. Systemic streptomycin (given by injection) and topical gentamicin         (given directly to the inner ear) are useful for their ability to affect the hair cells of the balance system. Gentamicin also can affect the hair  cells of the cochlea, though, and cause hearing loss in about 10% of patients. In cases that do not respond to medical management, surgery may be indicated.

      *Surgery for Ménière’s disease is a last resort.
#Vestibular neuronectomy can cure Ménière’s disease but is very involved surgery and not widely available. It involves drilling into the skull and  cutting the balance nerve just as it is about to enter the brain.
#Labyrinthectomy (surgical removal of the whole balance organ) is more widely available as a treatment but causes total deafness in the affected ear.

Labyrinthitis:
Treatment includes balance retraining exercises (vestibular rehabilitation). The exercises include movements of the head and body specifically developed for the patient. This form of therapy is thought to promote habituation, adaptation of the vestibulo-ocular reflex, and/or sensory substitution. Vestibular retraining programs are administered by professionals with knowledge and understanding of the vestibular system and its relationship with other systems in the body.

Bilateral vestibular loss:
Dysequilibrium arising from bilateral loss of vestibular function – such as can occur from ototoxic drugs such as gentamicin – can also be treated with balance retraining exercises (vestibular rehabilitation) although the improvement is not likely to be full recovery

Medication:
Sedative drugs are often prescribed for vertigo and dizziness, but these usually treat the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. Lorazepam (Ativan) is often used and is a sedative which has no effect on the disease process rather helps patients cope with the sensation.

Anti-nauseants, like those prescribed for motion sickness, are also often prescribed but do not affect the prognosis of the disorder.

Specifically for Meniere’s disease a medication called Serc (Beta-histine) is available. There is some evidence to support it is effective to reduce the frequency of attacks. Also Diuretics, like Diazide (HCTZ/triamterene), are effective in many patients. Finally, ototoxic medications delivered either systemically or through the eardrum can eliminate the vertigo associated with Meniere’s in many cases, although there is about a 10% risk of further hearing loss when using ototoxic medications.

Treatment is specific for underlying disorder of balance disorder:

#anticholinergics
#antihistamines
#benzodiazepines
#calcium channel antagonists, specifically Verapamil and Nimodipine
#GABA modulators, specifically gabapentin and baclofen
#Neurotransmitter reuptake inhibitors such as SSRI’s, SNRI’s and Tricyclics

Research:
Scientists at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) are working to understand the various balance disorders and the complex interactions between the labyrinth, other balance-sensing organs, and the brain. NIDCD scientists are studying eye movement to understand the changes that occur in aging, disease, and injury, as well as collecting data about eye movement and posture to improve diagnosis and treatment of balance disorders. They are also studying the effectiveness of certain exercises as a treatment option.

Other projects supported by the NIDCD include studies of the genes essential to normal development and function in the vestibular system. NIDCD scientists are also studying inherited syndromes of the brain that affect balance and coordination.

The NIDCD supports research to develop new tests and refine current tests of balance and vestibular function. For example, NIDCD scientists have developed computer-controlled systems to measure eye movement and body position by stimulating specific parts of the vestibular and nervous systems. Other tests to determine disability, as well as new physical rehabilitation strategies, are under investigation in clinical and research settings.

Scientists at the NIDCD hope that new data will help to develop strategies to prevent injury from falls, a common occurrence among people with balance disorders, particularly as they grow older.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_disorder
http://www.medicinenet.com/vestibular_balance_disorders/article.htm#what_is_a_balance_disorder