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Keeping healthy at yuletide

By Chukwuma Muanya
23 December 2021   |   2:59 am
The Yuletide is here again! Yuletide, synonymous with Christmas, is a period between December 21 and January 1. It is a season of celebration and merriment, but it comes with ‘dryness’.

Fruits and vegetables

The Yuletide is here again! Yuletide, synonymous with Christmas, is a period between December 21 and January 1. It is a season of celebration and merriment, but it comes with ‘dryness’.

It comes from high temperatures and low humidity, which increases the likelihood of transmission of organisms causing diseases such as Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM), conjunctivitis, measles, chickenpox, cholera, hangover, skin diseases, diarrhoea, cold, cough and catarrh, and vomiting among others.

Also, there are other ailments induced by overeating and drinking alcohol during Yuletide such as hangover, obesity, stomach upset, indigestion and so on.

The Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), had earlier warned of climate-induced diseases such as malaria, cerebrospinal meningitis and respiratory diseases in many parts of Nigeria.

However, The Guardian in this special report provided natural remedies to some of the diseases associated with the season.

Regular exercise protects against fatty liver associated diseases
EXERCISE not only trains the muscles but can also prevent the development of the fatty liver. A new study by the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), Helmholtz Munich and Tübingen University Hospital showed which molecular adaptations, in particular of the liver mitochondria, can be observed in this process. The study was published in Molecular Metabolism.

Worldwide one in four persons suffers from non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD, also called metabolic liver disease MAFLD). Those affected often have type 2 diabetes as well as an increased risk of liver cirrhosis and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, NAFLD is associated with increased mortality. An imbalance between energy intake and consumption is discussed as a cause for the disease. This leads to fat deposits in the liver and over time impairs the function of the mitochondria- both risk factors for the development of hepatic insulin resistance and liver inflammation.

To prevent and treat NAFLD, lifestyle modification with increased physical activity is recommended. To what extent regular exercise alters the adaptation of the liver to increased energy intake and what role skeletal muscle plays in this process was investigated by scientists at the Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry at Tübingen University Hospital and at the Institute of Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases (IDM) of Helmholtz Munich at the University of Tübingen. The researchers collaborated with the Institute of Experimental Genetics (IEG) at Helmholtz Munich, the Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences in Dortmund, and the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China.

Exercise can prevent fatty liver disease caused by overnutrition
IN the study conducted by Dr. Miriam Hoene and Dr. Lisa Kappler, mice were fed a high-energy diet. Some of the mice also received regular treadmill training. Following the six-week intervention, the researchers examined the animals’ livers and muscles for changes in the transcriptome, the mitochondrial proteome, lipid composition, and mitochondrial function.

The results showed that training regulated important enzymes of glucose and fructose degradation in the liver as well as the mitochondrial pyruvate metabolism. In this way, the substrate burden for mitochondrial respiration and lipid synthesis can be reduced. As a consequence, less fat is stored in the liver- and specific lipids such as diacylglycerol species are lowered. Moreover, glucose control improves in the exercise-trained mice. In addition, an increased respiratory capacity of the skeletal muscles relieves the metabolic stress in the liver.

The systems biology data offer a comprehensive insight into the molecular adaptation of the liver and muscles to a high-energy diet, training, and combinatorial effects. “The results fit in very well with the approaches of ongoing clinical studies in which inhibitors are tested against some of the targets found here, such as the mitochondrial pyruvate transporter,” said DZD scientist Prof. Dr. Cora Weigert, head of the study and professor of molecular diabetology at Tübingen University Hospital. “They also show that regular physical activity regulates many targets at the same time key nodes of metabolic pathways, an effect that cannot be achieved with monotherapy.”

Garlic, Aloe vera, vinegar, others for conjunctivitis
DO you have ‘Apollo’, pink (red) eye or rather conjunctivitis? Nigerian researchers say a combination of personal hygiene of frequently washing of hands and face with diluted disinfectants and the use of local herbs such as garlic, Aloe vera, potato, lemon and apple cider vinegar could prevent and treat the Harmattan/dry-season associated ailment.

How to prevent Lassa fever, coronavirus infection
ON what most Nigerians can do to prevent getting infected, former Director-General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, had told The Guardian in an exclusive interview: “To minimise the risk of infection, we advise members of the public to ensure their environment is kept clean at all times to avoid contact with rodents. Members of the public are also advised to practice good personal hygiene and ensure proper storage of food to avoid contamination by rodents. Health care workers should maintain a high index of suspicion as Lassa fever can present with a fever just like malaria and other illnesses. It is very important that health care workers maintain standard care precautions when managing patients”

Natural remedies for cholera, diarrhoea
CAN a combination of corn-pap; bitter leaf, guava, black tamarind, local clay and activated charcoal provide a novel drug for the prevention and treatment of cholera and diarrhoeal diseases?

A recent study published in the journal African Health Sciences has validated the efficacy of corn pap (Ogi-tutu in Yoruba and Akamu in Ibo), Vernonia amygdalina (bitter leaf) and Psidium guajava (guava) in treating cholera and diarrhoeal diseases.

Herbal cures for a hangover: Blend of sweet lime, pear, mango, ginger, thyme, and coconut water could be used to overcome the alcohol-induced condition

TOP on the list of herbal cures for alcohol hangover is Phyllanthus amarus. Scientists have validated a local plant, Phyllanthus amarus, to provide relief to hangover symptoms.

Also, a beverage made from a blend of sweet lime, pear, mango peel, ginger, thyme, dates, and coconut water could be used to overcome hangover, and the consumption of this beverage with cheese, cucumber, and tomatoes may further alleviate the hangover symptoms.

Phyllanthus amarus belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. To the Efik it is called oyomokeso amanke edem; geeron-tsuntsaayee (birds millet) in Hausa; Ibo (Asaba) buchi oro, Ibo (Umuahia) ngwu; iyeke in Urhobo; and ehin olobe or eyin olobe in Yoruba.

The study was published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology.

Several natural compounds like 6-gingerol (in ginger), dehydroevodiamine, ginsenosides, linolenic acids among many others, have been recommended as a cure for a hangover. Researchers have investigated and identified nheural components (such as polyphenols) from various food sources such as fruits, mushrooms, and herbs to alleviate hangover symptoms. These natural food sources are reported to function effectively by exhibiting positive effects on the hepatic enzymes, that is by either enhancing the activity of ALDH and/or ADH and thereby assisting in aldehyde and alcohol clearance from the system, respectively. A herbal mixture “DTS 20” containing Viscum album L. (40 per cent), Lycium chinense L. (30 per cent), Inonotus obliquus (20 per cent), and Acanthopanax senticosus H. (10 per cent) has also been studied and found to reduce the oxidative stress and plasma alcohol concentrations.

According to the researchers, pear showed the highest positive effect on ALDH activity at 90.98 per cent. Orange, starfruit, and sweet lime also enhanced the ALDH activity significantly by 15.48 per cent, 22.76 per cent and 33.47 per cent, respectively.

The potential use of pear to alleviate hangover has been reported in previous studies based on their effect on the activity of the enzyme. Enhanced ALDH activity of pear facilitates in faster elimination of acetaldehyde and thus it serves as a suitable AHO. Zhang et al. (2016) reported that orange and starfruit showed a decrease in the activity of ALDH (by 11.81 per cent and 61.95 per cent, respectively) while dragon fruit did not significantly affect the ALDH activity. Wang et al. (2016b) also reported fresh orange juice to decrease the ALDH activity. This variation could be due to the differences in the sample nature and sample preparation methods. The presence of polyphenols in the fruits has been reported to enhance the activity of ADH and ALDH. However, the exact mechanism is yet to be elucidated.

Among the vegetable samples analysed, bitter gourd and carrot showed an increase in ADH activities and a decrease in ALDH activities. Tomato and cucumber samples showed an increase in the activity of ALDH (41.19 per cent and 87.25 per cent). Investigators have reported that heat-treated cucumber had the ability to enhance the activity of ALDH and ADH. The researchers said contrary to this result, their work showed a significant decrease of ADH activity by cucumber. This could be due to differences in the variety as well sample preparation method.

Recently, a variety of anti-hangover (AHO) products has been launched into the market. “PartySmart” is a formulation containing grapes, gooseberry, date palm, Phyllanthus amarus, green chiretta (Andrographis paniculata), and chicory, which is reported to significantly reduce several of the hangover symptoms, and prevent the formation of acetaldehyde adducts.

Similarly, a product named “Oh!K” containing turmeric, ginger, black pepper, green tea extracts has also been formulated. Studies have shown that this drink is an effective remedy to treat alcoholic hangovers by replenishing the body with the vital nutrients that are lost as a result of hangovers.

Another product, “DotShot” containing curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) as the principal component and other vital electrolytes, has also been reported to enhance the ALDH activity and thereby assist in the breakdown of acetaldehyde. “LIVitup” is an AHO tablet containing kalmegh ghan, a mixture of kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata) and neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves, which prevents hangover symptoms by reducing the acetaldehyde build-up in the body after alcohol consumption. The fruit juice blend developed, as AHO formulation in the present study is a simple, effective, economical, and ready-to-prepare alternative to these formulations with good sensory appeal.

MEANWHILE, previous studies had shown that having bitter kola as a companion and working out regularly can ameliorate the negative impacts and even lower blood pressure, ulcer, and boost sperm count. In fact, they say bitter kola can detoxify and protect the liver from any alcohol and food poisoning effects.

Another study published in the journal Molecules and titled “Natural Products for the Prevention and Treatment of Hangover and Alcohol Use Disorder” confirmed that mango flesh and peel had ameliorating effects on plasma alcohol levels and increased the activities of ADH and ALDH in mice.

Also, the extracts of thyme (Thymus vulgaris) have detoxifying and antioxidant effects. The leafy parts of thyme and its essential oil have been widely used in food for flavor, aroma and preservation and also in traditional medicines. The essential oil of thyme has shown free radical scavenging and antibacterial activity, and it could detoxify alcohol toxicity.

The study also identified ginger. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been used as an important ingredient in cooking and traditional herbal medicine for a long time. It exhibits antioxidant potential and hepatoprotective activity. 6-Gingerol as the major bioactive constituent of ginger could efficiently scavenge various free radicals. The antioxidant compounds of ginger may modulate the oxidative stress induced by alcohol. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), ascorbic acid, and Glutathione (gamma-glutamyl-cysteinyl-glycine; GSH) levels were decreased, and Glutathione S-transferases activity was increased in alcohol-treated rats. However, after treatment with the extract of ginger, these parameters came to normal.

Owing to the antioxidant effect of ginger, Zingiber officinale is recommended to be used as a natural product to treat alcohol toxicity. The water extract of ginger could decrease the levels of both l-γ-glutamyl transpeptidase and butyrylcholinesterase. A formula (KSS formula) consisting of pith of citrus tangerine, the rhizome of Zingiber officinale, and brown sugar has been traditionally used in China for the treatment of discomfort after excessive alcohol ingestion. In a clinical effectiveness evaluation study, the hangover symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea were alleviated after the administration of formula in scheduled prophylactic doses.

Excessive alcohol consumption caused alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). The ginger essential oil and citral exhibited hepatoprotective activity against AFLD in mice. The amounts of metabolites in serum such as d-glucurono-6,3-lactone, glycerol-3-phosphate, pyruvic acid, lithocholic acid, 2-pyrocatechuic acid, and prostaglandin El increased after alcohol administration, but the levels were recovered in treatment groups. Therefore, ginger could be used as a candidate for the prevention and treatment of hangovers and organ damages induced by overconsumption of alcohol through its antioxidant action.

Bamboo, alligator pepper for measles, yellow fever, smallpox, chickenpox and polio
Also, local plants have been successfully used to treat measles in the country. The plants include Bambusa vulgaris; Aframomum melegueta (grains of paradise, Guinea grains or alligator pepper, ehin-edo in Edo, ose oji in Igbo, erhie in Urhobo, ata-ire in Yoruba); Elytraria marginata (ewe eso in Yoruba); Peperomia pellucida; Vernonia amygdalina (bitter leaf in English, oriwo in Edo, chusar doki in Hausa, atidot in Ibibio, onugbu in Igbo, ityuna in Tiv, and ewuro in Yoruba).

Others are Momordica charantia (African cucumber/ Balsam pear, daddagu in Hausa, iliahia in Igala, kakayi in Igbo and ejirin weeri in Yoruba); Newbouldia laevis (fertility plant or tree of life, ogirishi in Igbo, akoko in Yoruba, ukhimi in Esan); and Ocimum gratissimum (scent leaf, sweet basil, efinrin ajase in Yoruba, ebavbokho in Bini, aai doya ta gida in Hausa, and nchuanwu in Igbo.

Neem for chickenpox, shingles, herpes, hepatitis
A decoction from the leaves of Neem tops the list of herbal remedies for Chickenpox and other skin diseases. Botanically called Azadirachta indica, Neem also popularly known as Dogonyaro in Nigeria belongs to the Meliceae family. The common tree tops the list of plants that have been scientifically verified to effectively treat chickenpox.

Until now, Neem extracts have been shown to possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, potent antiviral and anti-cancerous properties.

Neem has been found to be an effective antiseptic for the treatment of viral infections including smallpox. Indian researchers in a study published in the Journal of Biological Sciences noted that Neem extracts have been shown to possess potent antiviral properties against different viruses including herpes simplex virus type-1 infection and chickenpox. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Clinical Nutrition (IJCN), there are certain compounds in Neem that demonstrate a unique ability to surround viruses, which prevents them from causing infection.

The researchers wrote: “So depending upon the nature or kind microbes minimum amount required to stop the growth. Neem also inhibits viral multiplication by interacting with the surface of the cells to prevent the cell from becoming infected by the virus. Neem has been observed to be effective against a number of viral pathogens in various clinical studies demonstrating it contains unique properties to inhibit viral disease. Neem is one of just a few known antiviral agents.”