Tag Archives: Immunotherapy

An Abundance of Remedies but Little Relief

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Allergies are a worldwide problem. Skin testing is sometimes helpful as part of a treatment plan.

In Brief:

*Despite dozens of over-the-counter and prescription remedies, millions of allergy sufferers seek better relief.

*Allergies are often overlooked by doctors and patients but can lead to serious health problems, including asthma in children.

*Rush immunotherapy regimens offer a fast response — and hold out hope for long-term relief — but require close monitoring.

*Under-the-tongue remedies offer an alternative for the needle shy but aren’t yet F.D.A.-approved.

*With more than 35 over-the-counter remedies and 28 prescription medications crowding the market, you’d think it would be easy for hay fever sufferers to find relief.

Think again.

Most of the estimated 50 million Americans who suffer the runny noses, raw and itchy eyes, clogged sinuses and hammering headaches of allergic rhinitis, as hay fever is medically known, aren’t getting the relief they seek. According to a 2005 survey conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than half say they’re “very interested” in finding a new medication. One in four reports “constantly trying different medications to find one that works for me.”

Why is it so hard to find an effective treatment?

One problem, experts say, is that allergic rhinitis isn’t taken seriously enough, by doctors or allergy sufferers. “Allergic rhinitis is typically a doorknob complaint,” said Dr. Bradley Marple, professor of otolaryngology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. “Patients wait until they’re almost out the door before they say, ’Oh, and by the way, my allergies have been acting up.’” Too many doctors quickly write a prescription or recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine but fail to follow up to see if it worked.

Four out of five allergy sufferers never even make it to the doctor’s office, relying instead on over-the-counter remedies, according to the A.A.F.A. survey. “Unfortunately, that usually means there’s no treatment plan in place,” said Dr. Marple. “A patient may try one antihistamine and if it doesn’t work try another, when what they really need is a decongestant, or a drug that targets another part of the allergic reaction, or a corticosteroid nasal spray.”

That’s too bad, and not only because it means needless suffering. Allergies can lead to sleep problems and set sufferers up for more serious respiratory problems. Children with allergic rhinitis are three times more likely than their non-sniffling counterparts to develop asthma. Kids and adults alike are more likely to develop sinus and ear infections, especially if their allergies go untreated.

The strongest argument for taking allergies seriously comes from results of an ongoing experiment called the Preventive Allergy Treatment Study in Denmark. Seven years after completing a course of allergy shots aimed at quieting an overcharged immune response to harmless substances such as pollen, children in the study were more than four times less likely to develop asthma.

“Those results are really remarkable,” said Dr. Harold Nelson, an allergist at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver. Along with other evidence, he explained, they show that immunotherapy doesn’t just alleviate symptoms but actually changes the immune system of people with allergies, restoring it to normal.

Unfortunately, few studies have been done to compare one course of allergy treatment with another. Instead, physicians must rely not on evidence-based research but what’s referred to as “expert opinion.” And as Dr. Marple said, “experts can disagree.”

Still, a consensus on the basic plan of attack is emerging.

For mild to moderate allergic rhinitis, over-the-counter remedies are a reasonable first step. Decongestants work by constricting tiny blood vessels and shrinking swollen and inflamed tissue in the lining of the sinuses. Antihistamines block one of the biochemical steps of the allergic process.

If over-the-counter medicines don’t work, it’s time to talk to a doctor or allergist. Many prescribe corticosteroid nasal sprays, which suppress the allergic process at the heart of the problem.

Typically, immunotherapy is the last resort. The treatment involves identifying the specific culprit that’s causing the problem through a series of skin tests or, in some cases, a blood test. Tiny doses of allergen are then injected under the skin in a weekly series of allergy shots to desensitize the immune system.

Some doctors now offer an accelerated protocol called rush or cluster immunotherapy, in which patients receive several shots a day, spaced half an hour apart. “Instead of the six to eight months it usually takes with standard immunotherapy, we can get to maintenance levels in four weeks,” said Dr. Nelson. Because this rush procedure can lead to serious immune reactions, including shock, it must be closely monitored. A ragweed vaccine given over six weeks is also currently in testing.

For the needle-shy, another advance is making immunotherapy more attractive: the use of allergens that dissolve under the tongue. Although widely used in Europe, sublingual allergens haven’t yet won F.D.A. approval in the United States. Allergists are free to prescribe them, but insurance companies won’t cover the cost. Another drawback is that sublingual allergens are only about half as effective as injections in desensitizing the immune system. But patients can take them at home, rather than having to make an office visit for each treatment – an important advantage.

For his part, Dr. Nelson thinks more patients should consider immunotherapy, especially those with severe and persistent allergic rhinitis. “Medications work only as long as you keep taking them,” he said. “Immunotherapy is the only treatment we have that alters the immune system, restoring the same response to allergens like ragweed that we see in normal nonallergic people.”

Unlike pills and nasal sprays, in other words, immunotherapy holds out the possibility of something far better: a cure.

Sources:The New York Times: June 10 ’08

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Scientists find ‘key’ to man’s infertility

: Researchers at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have identified an immune substance in human semen that appears to determine the fertility of a man.

Dr Yousef Al-Abed says that the substance called macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is the key to helping sperm mature, which is necessary for its union with an egg. The findings, published in Molecular Medicine, attain significance as they may lead to a diagnostic test to determine fertility status.

During the study, the researchers collected semen samples from men three to five days after a period of sexual abstinence. While 68 men had problems conceiving, 27 were healthy controls. When the researcher were analysing the levels of MIF, they did not have any idea as to whether the samples came from infertile men or from healthy controls.

It was observed that the MIF levels in men with infertility problems were either too high or too low, while healthy controls had levels that were just right.

Upon adding MIF into petri dishes filled with healthy sperm, the researchers noted that their count had decreased, and motility impaired.

Dr Al-Abed also wonders whether MIF can work as a form of male contraceptive, if it has a role in infertility.
MIF is a key player of the immune system that has also been linked to many autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes and sepsis.

Dr Al-Abed has been trying to identify and design small molecules that would block the activities of MIF.

Past studies have found MIF plays a key role in sperm maturation. But it has also been linked to several autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes and sepsis, which is a systematic inflammatory response to infection.

Unusually high levels of macrophage migration inhibitory factor have also been found in individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

About 15% of couples attempting to get pregnant for the first time experience problems conceiving. About 40% of infertility problems are due to disorders in the male.
Source:The Times Of India

Cancer

Conventional cancer treatments, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, are often highly effective in battling this frightening illness. Gentle natural therapies may be used in conjunction with traditional methods to help curb their troublesome side effects and even boost their potency.

Symptoms
Unusual bleeding or discharge.
A change in either bowel or bladder habits.
Chronic indigestion or difficulty swallowing.
Unexplained increased appetite or weight loss.
A sore that doesn’t heal.
Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles, or elsewhere.
Persistent cough, hoarseness, or sore throat.
A change in a wart or mole.
Unexplained fatigue.

When to Call Your Doctor
If you have any symptom of cancer for two weeks or longer, and there is no other obvious cause.
Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.

What It Is
There are more than a hundred types of cancer, all marked by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Most begin as solid tumors, from which cancer cells can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Untreated, cancer cells can overpower normal cells and sap the body’s vital nutrients, resulting in grave illness or even death…...click & see

What Causes It
Why healthy cells turn cancerous is unknown. But such factors as smoking, excessive sun exposure, pollutants, stress, and a poor diet appear to play a role. Any of these may weaken the immune system, which is then unable to attack cancer cells effectively, or expose the body to free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules that can damage cells. Heredity also seems to be a key element in the development of many types of cancer.

How Supplements Can Help
In cancer treatment, supplements stir especially intense debate. Studies conflict, and a parade of fraudulent “miracle cures” are offered — usually at a steep price. But a number of supplements, taken daily over the long term, do show special promise as valuable additions to conventional cancer therapies.
Vitamin A, along with the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids (especially beta-carotene and lycopene), selenium, and coenzyme Q10, helps protect cells from free radicals and may inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. These supplements may be particularly beneficial for people who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation — procedures that damage healthy cells as they attack cancer cells. Amino acids may speed healing and slow tumor growth as well.

Rotating echinacea in three-week cycles with extracts of medicinal mushrooms and other immune-boosting herbs may help to strengthen overall immunity during cancer treatments. (Vitamin C also bolsters the immune system, aiding it in fighting off any cancer cells remaining in the body after treatment.) The Coriolus versicolor mushroom has shown particular promise against lung, stomach, and colon cancers. Taking a liver detoxification formula (sometimes called a lipotropic combination in health-food stores) to help prevent the buildup of dangerous cancer-promoting toxins in the body may also be a good idea.

What Else You Can Do
Eat a balanced diet, rich in vitamins and minerals.
Join a support group: Studies show this step can prolong your survival.
Try exercise, meditation, biofeedback, massage, or imaging techniques to help reduce stress, lessen anxiety, and ease symptoms.
If nausea is a problem during chemotherapy, try ginger (100 to 200 mg every four hours, or a cup of ginger tea, as needed). Take it with food to avoid stomach irritation. Relaxation tapes or acupuncture may also help.

Supplement Recommendations
Vitamin A
Vitamin C/Vitamin E
Carotenoids
Selenium
Coenzyme Q10
Amino Acids
Echinacea
Mushrooms


Vitamin A

Dosage: 50,000 IU a day for 1 month, then 25,000 IU a day.
Comments: Take only 5,000 IU a day if you may become pregnant.

Vitamin C/Vitamin E

Dosage: 2,000 mg vitamin C 3 times a day; 400 IU vitamin E twice a day.
Comments: Vitamin C helps boost the effects of vitamin E.

Carotenoids
Dosage: 3 pills mixed carotenoids a day with food.
Comments: Each pill should supply 25,000 IU vitamin A activity.

Selenium

Dosage: 200 mcg a day.
Comments: Don’t exceed 600 mcg daily; higher doses may be toxic.

Coenzyme Q10

Dosage: 200 mg each morning.
Comments: For best absorption, take with food.

Amino Acids
Dosage: Mixed amino acids (see label for dosage), plus NAC (500 mg 3 times a day) and L-glutathione (250 mg twice a day).
Comments: Take L-glutathione separately from other amino acids.

Echinacea
Dosage: 200 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Rotate in 3-week cycles with astragalus (400 mg twice a day), pau d’arco (500 mg twice a day), and mushrooms (below).

Mushrooms
Dosage: 500 mg reishi, 400 mg shiitake, 200 mg maitake 3 times a day; and/or 3,000 mg Coriolus versicolor divided into 2 daily doses.
Comments: Avoid reishi mushrooms if you’re on anticoagulants.

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.

Source:Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs (Reader’s Digest)