Your Sense Of Smell May Go Shortly Before Death

Failing sense of smell may be the canary in the coal mine as they put it in predicting death among the elderly according to a new study. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE, showing that 395 of participants in the study lost their smell and died within 5 years. 19% of those described with moderate smell loss and 10% of those who had a healthy sense of smell died within the same period of time.

The study came from the University of Chicago, and it was part of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP). It was, as Agence France-Presse puts it, the first in-home study of social relationships and health in a large, nationally representative sample of men and women ages 57 to 85. Agence France-Presse describes it saying, The hazard of smell loss were ‘strikingly robust’, according to researchers, who said that olfactory dysfunction was better at predicting mortality than a diagnosis of heart failure, cancer or lung disease.

The only thing that was a more powerful predictor of impending death was severe liver damage.

It’s still not 100% clear what the connection between your sense of smell and death is. Martha McClintock, a senior author in the study says, Obviously, people don’t just die because their olfactory system is damaged. Some researchers, for obvious reasons, believe that it could be an indication or symptom of other problems.

Jayant Pinto, associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study says, It doesn’t directly cause death, but it’s a harbinger, an early warning that something has gone badly wrong, that damage has been done. Our findings could provide a useful clinical test, a quick and inexpensive way to identify patients most at risk.

The NSHAP study was conducted in 2 stages. In the first stage, 3,005 participants were involved between 2005 and 2006, and they measured how well participants were able to identify 5 well-known scents. In the second section, 5 years later, they identified who out of the 3,005 were still alive. 12.5% were dead, and there were 2,565 left living.

Is Fashion Increasing Your Risk of Skin Cancer?

In the past century, everything has changed. We have looked at sunbathing a different way. Swimsuits have gotten skimpier and skimpier, even in their most modest form, and at the same time, skin cancer has come more common. If you’re wondering if they’re connected, you’re not the only one.

A new article has been published by researchers from New York University’s Langone Medical Center that looks at skin cancer from social and cultural perspectives. Different trends are coming into play including being tan, different clothing styles, social norms, and travel patterns that lead to higher incidence of melanoma.

They’re not saying that swimsuits are the direct cause of the rise of skin cancer, specifically the deadliest form, melanoma. Luckily, doctors are getting better at seeing its earliest stages, and maybe that explains part of the rise as well. We see it more readily.

The researchers looked at store clothing catalogs, and they used the rule of nines, which is a standardized system that is used to measure the percentage of the body’s surface that could be affected by the sun to look at sun exposure. They then looked at those against melanoma rates throughout the 20th century.

They found a clear correlation, finding that the tanner we get, and the more our clothes have changed, the more melanoma rates have gone up.

Is Gluten Causing Your Depression?

Gluten, the bane of all of our existences and the cause of all of the health problems we face, or at least that’s what the popular media has told us lately. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley, and it is commonly found in many different foods. The only people who have been confirmed to be harmed by gluten are those who have Celiac disease for example, but yet every celebrity is out there parading around on gluten free diets to lose weight. When people who actually have bad reactions to gluten stop eating it, many end up gaining weight, because their bodies can finally absorb the nutrients.

In those few people (1% of the population) gluten could actually be considered to be downright poisonous. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the gut is destroyed by gluten and its reactions to gluten. Over time, it can lead to weight loss, diarrhea, malnutrition, and it can even lead to death if not treated by cutting out gluten. It can also manifest in neurological issues, skin issues, and arthritis. There are even some who have stopped eating gluten and seemingly stopped suffering from issues like depression, but it depends on the person, and the problem is that 18% (not 1%) of people are buying gluten free food with no diagnosis and no real problems.

In some studies of these types of people who claim they have gluten sensitivities, they didn’t react to foods when they didn’t think they had gluten. They are just spending more money for different packaging with no measurable health benefits, but plenty of extra calories in many of the foods.

There is still of course new research always coming out. Some studies have suggested that patients with IBS do better without gluten. Others have suggested that it’s not the wheat so much as the FODMAPs that were causing the reactions. A commentary in Gastroenterology said: Non-celiac wheat sensitivity is a more appropriate label than non-celiac gluten senstivity. Gluten-free processed foods sometimes contain plenty of FODMAPs, by the way, and FODMAPs are tolerated well by a lot of people, just not by all. IN fact, many FODMAPs are a great source of prebiotics that help keep the gut healthy by providing food for the microbiome in the colon.

In 2014, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics published a review called, Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-celiac gluten sensitivity – an exploratory study. In celiac patients, there are sometimes signs of depression and anxiety, but it may apply to non-celiac sufferers as well? One study took non-celiac sufferers who supposedly had a non-celiac gluten sensitivity and gave them gluten bread for 3 days. There was no change in their experience with depression and anxiety. 22 participants were then brought together from another study of self-reported people with non-celiac gluten sensitive patients with irritable bowel. Celiac disease had been ruled out, and they were put on a gluten free diet for 6 weeks with low FODMAP.

They were asked to add certain challenge foods for 3 days, and then they had a washout period between these challenges. They tracked their mental state, gastrointestinal symptoms, and cortisol was independently measured.

In all 3 challenges used, there were no differences in cortisol measurements. There was no difference in gastrointestinal symptoms regardless of which challenge they took first (whey, gluten, or placebo). All participants reported the most gastrointestinal issues in the first challenge, less in the second, and less in the third. In other words, there was no negative effect.

So what happened when it came to the depression? 90% of the final participants reported being more depressed while eating gluten as compared to a placebo, but the differences were not statistically significant. In other words, it is possible that gluten might have an effect on our depression. It doesn’t directly affect the stress hormone cortisol, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an effect. However, the effect, if it were there, would be seemingly small.

Regardless, one can say that more research is needed. Maybe we shouldn’t write gluten off as a contributing factor (not a giant cause), but there is no conclusive evidence that it really has any effect right now.

What The FDA Isn’t Telling You

Traci Johnson was discovered hung on February 7, 2004 in an Indianapolis laboratory run by Eli Lilly. She had been involved in a clinical drug trial on the antidepressant duloxetine, and investigators from the Food and Drug Administration were there to investigate, coming up with inconclusive results. This left plenty of people wondering, was the drug safe or not?

Was Johnson’s death that one off situation? Now, more recently, researchers have been able to nail down differences between different types of depression from blood and urine test. They have determined that some types actually respond badly to traditional antidepressants, as Johnson did, whereas some others respond well. So what stopped them from looking for the differences before running this test?

Eli Lilly focused on the idea that this was nothing more than an isolated incident, and when any drug company chooses not to publish or reveal these types of results, it leaves the public at large partially uninformed, and in a way, if it is an isolated incident, it protects us from throwing away possibly great drugs because of those one offs.

If you read off the side effects on virtually any common antidepressant, suicide is one of the possible side effects, but only in extreme situations of course. Maybe that’s their way of revealing these types of results in an obscure way. However, the FDA claims their silence is due to the idea that some data in clinical trials is considered trade secrets or commercially protected information. In other words, if somebody dies, they hide behind trade secrets.

To be fair, the same thing can be said about measured effectiveness, and yet it’s different. Because our body chemistry is so different and we respond so differently, it’s difficult, if not impossible to find any antidepressant that is going to be effective for everybody. We’ve all been through our share of failures and side effects in trying to find the right drug.

The market is littered with stories similar to that of Johnson’s. Marketers are afraid, whether or not their product is riskier, and they don’t want you to know about these incidents, and apparently, neither does the FDA.

Eli Lilly officially lists no suicides and 2 deaths among patients who were enrolled in clinical trials for Cymbalta, which actually had suicides documented. The website now lists 10 clinical trials of Cymbalta and 5 for a drug called Yentreve, where they disclose 1 suicide and 5 deaths combined. There are 5 suicides allegedly left out of the FDA results.

Does this mean that you should swear off your antidepressants and never trust another thing your doctor says about FDA approved drugs? Not at all. Frankly, there have been many helped by antidepressants that may not work or even cause problems for others. But it does mean that you should take the FDA’s word with a grain of salt, and if you find yourself having negative side effects or things like suicidal thoughts, take them seriously and listen to yourself.

Shaving Your Lady Parts Could Hurt Your Health

Bikini waxes and Brazilian waxes specifically have been all the rage. My laser lady used to tell me about how she specialized in doing the sensitive areas around your vagina, and yes, women obsess about this one area. However, as you may have noticed, these methods can get a bit pricey. It’s not all that surprising that most women shave. Women’s health expert Andrea DeMaria reports that this could actually pose a health risk to women.

DeMaria says, Women don’t understand the risks of shaving their pubic hair, because they are safely removing hair on other parts of their bodies. She bases this on a study recently published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. According to this study, 87% of women admitted removing public hair, and 90% used a razor.

The problem is that skin around the genitals is more delicate than other areas, and it can cause injuries that aren’t necessarily visible, but they are still there. This could explain 60% of women reporting some kind of side effect like abrasion or ingrown hairs when shaving the pubic area.

Some would think that being such minor injuries, they must be harmless. The problem is that it’s not that simple. The area below your belt is moist and dark, meaning that it can easily breed bacteria. This makes you more vulnerable to all kinds of infections including STI’s like herpes and HPV reports physician Emily Gibson MD.

A 2013 study in Sexually Transmitted Infections found that shaving your pubic hair could raise your risk of molluscum contagiosum, which is known to be sexually transmitted. Your pubic hair is actually a natural barrier your body has to protect you from infection.

In short, Dr Gibson is telling you that yes, you should throw away the razor. She says, All hair removal techniques are disruptive to hair follicles, and cause an inflammatory reaction and micro-abrasions to the skin. DeMaria on the other hand believes that yes, you should be safe, but you don’t need to stop altogether. You can trim with an electric razor to start, sterilized of course, and then you need to make sure that you are always using a fresh razor free of infections. She then suggests that you pat (don’t rub) yourself dry to prevent friction and let the air circulate.

Breast Pain: Why It’s Probably Not Cancer

Breast pain can be scary, especially when you hear so much about it in your local health news and from your doctor. You immediately think cancer, and if you go on the online diagnosis tools, it literally always tells you that it might be some form of cancer, no matter what your symptoms. You could have a bloody nose, and it would tell you that you might have cancer.

This said, Dr Michael Cowher, a breast surgeon with the Cleveland Clinic explains, The important thing for patients to realize is that while it can be a sign of cancer, it is very rare. Breast caner rarely comes with pain. The best way to find it is still by looking for lumps and other signs with your fingers. Breast pain is typically associated with hormonal changes, but here are a few of the big contributors:

Premenstrual Pain

Yes, if you’re nearing or on your period, you may experience breast tenderness and pain. Many women have heaviness in their breasts right before their periods, even experiencing pain while walking up the stairs. Higher estrogen and progesterone levels cause the milk glands and ducts to enlarge, retaining water in the breasts, causing the pain. However, this type of pain usually goes away shortly after your period when your hormones have evened out again.


This is a type of arthritis pain in the middle of the chest. It happens between the ribs and the breastbone, and it is typically caused by poor posture or aging. Women who experience costochondritis describe it as a burning sensation in the breast that can mimic a heart attack or other heart condition. If there is swelling, it could be Tietze Syndrome. You can apply heat or ice and take an ibuprofen for this.

Noncyclical breast pain

This type of pain is not related to your period, and it’s typically isolated to one specific area of the breast. Women sometimes experience this after a breast biopsy, breast injury, or trauma as well as pain from tissue or muscles around the breast. This is most common in women between 40 and 50, but it can strike pre or post menopausal women. It generally lasts for a couple years.

Fibrocystic breast condition

Fibrocystic breast condition used to be known as a disease, and it is now seen as a natural change in a woman’s breasts. More than 50% of women will experience it at some point or another. It is characterized by breast tissue that ends up feeling lump or rope-like, and it causes pain and tenderness in the upper to outer areas of the breasts right around your period.

Too much caffeine

If you drink too much caffeine, yes, that could ultimately cause breast pain. Some doctors ask about this first, because an estimated 25% of women will benefit in the area of breast pain by eliminating or reducing caffeine. A Duke University study found that 61% of women with breast pain who stopped drinking caffeine had reduced breast pain. Caffeine leads the blood vessels to dilate, causing the breasts to swell and hurt.

An old bra

I know, it seems like an odd thing to cause breast pain, but your bra is around your breasts so much, it has to do something. Dr Cowher says, I see plenty of postmenopausal women who may not have purchased a bra in several years, and that’s why they are getting pain. Both the elastic in the bra and in the body wear out as you age. Sometimes you have to adjust elastic in the bra to adjust for the elastic in the body. If you gain or lose weight, that would also be another time to get a new bra.


Mastitis is when you get an infection in the breasts. Bacteria enters, causing pockets of pus to form that need to be drained. Antibiotics unfortunately cannot penetrate the pus, and breast abscesses can also form during breastfeeding. If the infection comes with a red swelling in the breast, fever, or chills, go to see your doctor.

Thoracic outlet syndrome

Breasts have a ton of nerve endings, and in some rare cases, women have pain due to thoracic outlet syndrome. Nerves that pass through the breasts become compressed. If you experience a shooting pain, you most likely have this condition. Persistent arm pain could be a sign of other issues though like a heart attack or other heart condition. So it still should be checked out.

Subareolar abscesses

This is also known as Zuska’s disease, which causes small abscesses beneath the nipple. It also comes with painful discharge. This can be caused by smoking. So if you have it, one of the best things you can do is stop smoking. Unfortunately, this is often misdiagnosed as breast cancer, and it leads to false and unnecessary mastectomies. If treated properly, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Estrogen Causes Your Binge Eating

Women, we lose again. When it comes to weight, we already know that testosterone burns more fat, and yes, as it turns out, the ideas behind PMS are not all in our minds. Estrogen (and other female hormones in hormonal imbalances) could actually contribute to binge eating.

Yong Xu MD PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor University says, Previous research has shown that women who develop binge eating often have irregular menstrual cycles associated with a dysfunction in estrogen, suggesting the hormones play a role in this behavior. But it’s not necessarily what you would think. They compared their research to previous reports of lowering estrogen being associated with an increased binge eating behavior. As it turns out, higher estrogen levels meant less binge eating. How does that work?

Binge eating disorder, which is basically eating large amounts of food in a short period of time, is the single most common eating disorder. It is not a matter of just saying stop eating so much. For 5 to 10% of the population, this is a serious thing that is hard to control, but how do we stop it?

One would think that estrogen therapy would be obvious, but as we have seen in hormonal menopause treatments, this can come with complications of its own. Xu found that current estrogen regimens can actually increase risk of breast cancer in women.

There are a number of foods that mimic the appearance of estrogen to the body. There are studies that have shown that foods like soy for example, or some herbs can help you without the negative impacts of hormone therapy (to a limited degree of course). But they are still testing a lot of it out.


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