Medical News Today: What to do about clogged milk ducts

The breasts contain a series of ducts that carry milk from the mammary glands to the nipples when a woman is breastfeeding. A clogged duct can cause intense pain, swelling, and itchiness.

A 2011 study of 117 breastfeeding women found that 4.5 percent experienced clogged ducts at some point during the first year of breastfeeding. A duct that remains clogged can cause mastitis, a painful infection in the breasts.

Although a clogged milk duct can be painful, it is often treatable with home remedies. In this article, we look at the symptoms and causes of clogged ducts, home remedies to try, and when to see a doctor.


Woman with clogged milk duct showing doctor site of pain in chest
A blocked milk duct can cause pain in the breast.

The most common symptoms of a clogged duct include:

  • pain in a specific location in the breast
  • a swollen, tender lump in the breast
  • heat and swelling in the breasts
  • slower milk flow on one side
  • skin that looks lumpy in one area
  • a small white dot on the nipple called a milk bleb

Occasionally, a clogged duct can cause a low fever. As a fever can also occur due to a breast infection, people who experience fever alongside breast pain should see a doctor.

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Clogged milk ducts are most common in women who are breastfeeding, have recently given birth and opted not to breastfeed, or have recently stopped breastfeeding.

Blocked ducts are more likely to occur if a breastfeeding woman does not thoroughly drain the breast as this can allow milk to accumulate and block the duct.

Women experiencing other breastfeeding difficulties, such as oversupply, a baby with a weak latch, or pain that impedes frequent nursing, are more vulnerable to clogged ducts.

However, anyone who is breastfeeding can experience a clogged duct. Some risk factors include:

  • a recent change in feeding pattern
  • a poor latch by the baby
  • not fully draining the breasts during each nursing session
  • an irregular breastfeeding schedule
  • short or skipped breastfeeding sessions
  • pressure on the breasts due to an uncomfortable nursing position, tight-fitting clothes, or a bra with underwire

Occasionally, people can get a clogged milk duct that is unrelated to breastfeeding.

Treatment and home remedies

Epsom salts in wooden bowl and spoon on table.
An Epsom salt bath may help clear a clogged milk duct.

It is usually possible to treat the symptoms of a clogged duct at home. Most clogged ducts resolve within 1–2 days, with or without treatment.

Regular, consistent breastfeeding is the fastest way to resolve a clogged duct. It is essential to empty the breast with the clogged duct completely during each breastfeeding session. A fully drained breast feels lighter and produces little or no milk on squeezing.

Using a breast pump to express milk after each breastfeeding session can help if the baby has a weak latch or cannot drain the breast entirely.

Some other strategies that can clear the clogged duct and relieve pain include:

  • Applying a heating pad or warm cloth for 20 minutes at a time. Allowing hot water to flow onto the breasts in the shower can also be beneficial.
  • Soaking the breasts in warm Epsom salt baths for 10–20 minutes.
  • Changing breastfeeding positions so that the baby’s chin or nose points toward the clogged duct, making it easier to loosen the milk and drain the duct.
  • Breastfeeding the baby on all fours, or in any other position that places the baby under the breasts. Gravity can help drain the breasts and remove the clog.
  • Massaging the clog, beginning just above it and pushing down and out toward the nipple.
  • Avoiding pinching or trying to “pop” the clog.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing and not wearing bras with underwire.

Sometimes a clogged duct is intensely painful or does not go away with home remedies. A clogged duct that does not resolve can lead to mastitis, which is inflammation of the breasts due to infection. Although mastitis can be painful, a doctor can usually treat it with antibiotics.

People should not try to treat mastitis or suspected mastitis at home. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible for treatment will reduce the risk of complications.

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Baby breastfeeding
Regular breastfeeding will help to prevent a clogged milk duct.

The most important strategy for preventing clogged ducts is allowing the baby to drain each breast completely during a breastfeeding session.

A newborn can take 15–30 minutes to empty the breast, so patience is key.

Some signs that the baby has drained the breast include:

  • not hearing swallowing when the baby sucks
  • the breast feeling lighter
  • no sense of fullness or tingling in the breast

Some other steps that can reduce the risk of a clogged duct include:

  • wearing loose-fitting clothing, such as a comfortable nursing shirt and a wire-free bra
  • avoiding positions that put a lot of pressure or weight on the breasts
  • breastfeeding on demand or on a regular schedule that allows frequent drainage

Women who have an oversupply of breast milk, which is more milk than the baby needs, have a higher risk of developing a clogged duct. A lactation consultant can offer advice on reducing this excessive supply.

When to see a doctor

A clogged duct can be painful, but it is not a medical emergency. However, it is best to see a doctor if the following symptoms occur:

  • intense pain
  • a clogged duct that does not go away after 1–2 days
  • fever
  • swollen, red breasts
  • clogged ducts that keep coming back

A clogged duct can often signify an unsuitable breastfeeding position or a problem with the baby’s latch. These issues are common when the woman or baby is new to breastfeeding and still mastering this skill.

Working with a lactation consultant can help breastfeeding women reduce the risk of a clogged duct. La Leche League meetings may also be helpful.

These meetings offer women the chance to try a variety of suitable breastfeeding positions and seek advice from people with lots of breastfeeding experience.

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Medical News Today: Is it time to dismiss the myths and fears about psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a long-lasting noncontagious skin condition that can cause much discomfort. Because of its unpleasing appearance, psoriasis is often accompanied by stigma. A new study reveals that myths surrounding the skin condition still persist in this era of readily available information.
person with itchy skin
Unfortunately, too many misconceptions about psoriasis still persist, a new study finds.

Characterized by reddish, scaly lesions capable of causing itching, burning sensations, or both, psoriasis affects people’s quality of life to a great degree.

Beyond having to manage the physical discomfort caused by this disease, people with psoriasis also have to face social stigma based on the misconceptions that their peers may have about the disease.

Although psoriasis is not contagious, many people still believe that coming into contact with a person with this condition could have harmful effects.

This and many other myths and ungrounded fears persist to this day in the United States — so suggests a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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Psoriasis is surrounded by stigma

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia recently decided to find out how many people — both from the public at large and among medical professionals — still believe myths surrounding psoriasis and therefore avoid contact with those who have this skin condition.

“Although it’s widely recognized that the appearance of psoriasis can negatively impact patients’ social, professional, and intimate relationships,” explains senior study author Dr. Joel M. Gelfand, “we wanted to quantify the perceptions patients with psoriasis face on a daily basis in order to understand how pervasive they are.”

To do this, the scientists sent dedicated surveys to two different cohorts of participants: 198 people randomly recruited through an online data collection service, and 187 medical students enlisted via e-mail.

Alongside the survey, the researchers also sent all the participants images displaying people with psoriasis, as well as close-ups of psoriasis lesions.

While the medical students who responded did not seem to believe in common stereotypes about people with psoriasis, the responses that the researchers received from members of the general public were much less encouraging.

Around 54 percent of these respondents said that they would not consider dating a person with psoriasis, and 39.4 percent said that they would not so much as shake hands with someone with the condition.

Moreover, 32.3 percent of the people in this cohort replied that they would not like a person with psoriasis to come into their homes.

Enduring stereotypes seemed to contribute to these discriminating attitudes, as 26.8 percent of the respondents believed that psoriasis was not a serious condition, and 27.3 percent of the web service participants thought that psoriasis was contagious.

About 57 percent of the respondents also characterized people with psoriasis as insecure, while 53 percent said that such individuals were sick and 45 percent rated them as unattractive.

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A need for ‘better education’

Still, the researchers note that even among the respondents pertaining to the general public, those who already knew someone with psoriasis, or had some previous knowledge of the condition, believed fewer stereotypes and were less likely to express stigmatizing views.

This, the investigators say, suggests that there is a need to provide people with more and better information about this skin condition, aiming to dismantle pervasive myths and fears.

It’s possible that better education about the disease, as well as contact with individuals with psoriasis, may help to dispel myths and stereotypes and reduce negative perceptions.”

First study author Rebecca Pearl

“Future studies should evaluate the effects of education campaigns on people’s attitudes toward those with psoriasis, as well as efforts to incorporate patients with psoriasis into general medical education for physicians and other healthcare providers,” adds Dr. Gelfand.

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Medical News Today: Exotic fruit may help fight obesity

An unusual fruit, native to the Amazon, may be useful in the fight against obesity and metabolic disorders by positively influencing gut bacteria.
camu camu
The camu camu packs a nutritional punch.

Obesity increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

By 2030, it is estimated that more than 1 billion people on earth will be overweight.

So, understanding the mechanisms involved in obesity and the conditions it promotes is vitally important.

Over recent years, it has become clear that gut bacteria form part of this mechanism; they play a role in metabolism and therefore influence obesity-related diseases.

Because consuming fruit improves the diversity of bacteria in the gut, benefits overall health, and reduces weight gain, it has become of particular interest to obesity researchers.

Specifically, fruits that are high in polyphenols are considered to be most beneficial. For instance, some researchers have discovered that fruit extracts rich in these chemicals can reduce weight gain and improve insulin resistance.

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What is camu camu?

Researchers from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine in Canada recently decided to investigate the potential benefits of an Amazonian fruit called camu camu (Myrciaria dubia).

Native to Peru and Brazil, the camu camu is a reddish-purple fruit that is similar to a cherry. Though indigenous people have long harvested the fruit, it has only recently started being cultivated and sold to a wider market. Camu camu is particularly popular in Japan.

Although the acidic camu camu won’t win any prizes for its flavor, which has been likened to a mix of sour cherry and lime, it is particularly rich in potentially healthful phytochemicals.

In particular, it has high levels of antioxidants, including ellagic acid (which might protect against some chronic diseases), ellagitannins (which are thought to safeguard vascular health), and proanthocyanidins (a chemical with a range of posited health benefits).

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Camu camu’s nutrient load

Camu camu also boasts an impressive vitamin C cargo of around 3,000 milligrams per 100 grams; that’s 20–30 times more than kiwis, giving it one of the highest vitamin C contents of any fruit.

The fruit’s impressive nutritional haul was what intrigued study co-author Prof. André Marette; he wanted to know whether camu camu could positively affect metabolic disease and obesity.

To investigate, he and his team fed mice a high-fat, high-sugar diet for 8 weeks. They gave half of the mice extract of camu camu each day. The findings were recently published in the journal Gut.

By the end of the study, the mice that consumed camu camu extract had gained 50 percent less weight than those who did not consume the extract.

When the team looked at the mice’s insulin resistance, there were noteworthy changes there, too. Both glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity improved; meanwhile, levels of endotoxins and inflammation decreased. Specific changes in the animals’ microbiome were also measured.

All these changes were accompanied by a reshaping of the intestinal microbiota, including a blooming of Akkermansia muciniphila and a significant reduction in Lactobacillus bacteria.”

Prof. André Marette

Low levels of A. muciniphila have been linked to inflammation and specific conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

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Transplanting the microbiome

In the next phase of their experiments, they transplanted the gut bacteria from the camu camu-fed mice into germ-free mice, which are animals bred to have no gut bacteria. These rodents also saw the beneficial metabolic changes seen in the camu camu-fed mice, although only temporarily.

Prof. Marette takes this as evidence that the camu camu “exerts its positive metabolic effects, at least in part, through the modulation of the gut microbiota.”

The next, natural step is to take this research to humans; and because the fruit is already widely marketed, safety concerns are minimal.

Of course, no single fruit is going to cure obesity or metabolic disease; both are complex and multifaceted. However, because of the prevalence of obesity, if a fruit compound could help — even in a relatively minor way — it might have a significant impact for the population at large.

It is tempting to jump the gun, but proof of camu camu’s ability to alter metabolism in humans will be needed first and foremost.

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Medical News Today: Deadly venoms may drive medical advances

Despite the fast pace of research, there are still many diseases that defy treatment. A paper, recently published in the journal Science, asks whether venom might help design innovative treatments.
Deathstalker scorpion
Deadly scorpion venom may soon help save lives.

Venomous plants and animals are incredibly common — 15 percent of Earth’s biodiversity, according to the authors — occupying every ecological niche and habitat.

From worms to lizards and from arachnids to mammals, venom has proven to be a winning tool in the game of survival.

Venom is so effective that it actually evolves independently in a variety of species; but can we harness these toxins and use them to our advantage?

Until recently, harvesting venom and dissecting it on a molecular level was hard; many venomous animals are small, making it challenging to harvest. Also, venom is often a complicated cocktail of chemicals.

However, this is slowly changing as technology steadily improves, and its full potential is coming into focus.

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Advances open new doors

Lead study author Mandë Holford, of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Hunter College — both in New York City, NY — believes that toxic animals may hold clues to the treatment of a range of conditions, including diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and chronic pain.

Certain technological breakthroughs have helped develop better insight into venom. For instance, advances in omics — the identification and quantification of biological molecules that make up an organism — are providing deeper insight.

Scientists can now peer into a species’ genome and draw a picture of the evolutionary changes that have unfolded over generations.

Knowing more about the evolutionary history of venomous species can help us make more targeted decisions about the potential use of venom compounds in treating illnesses.”

Mandë Holford

Holford continues, “New environments, the development of venom resistance in its prey, and other factors can cause a species to evolve in order to survive. These changes can produce novel compounds — some of which may prove extremely useful in drug development.”

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved just six drugs derived from venom. This, Holford and colleagues believe, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Because of the rich diversity of natural venoms and their high specificity, they could be useful templates for drug designers.

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The future of venom research

Discussed in the new paper are a few examples of where venom might prove useful. For instance, peptides derived from a venomous sea anemone could help treat autoimmune diseases by targeting specific ion channels on T cells.

Also, neurotoxins derived from the Conus magus — a species of sea snail — may provide effective treatments for chronic pain that do not cause addiction.

Another example is the deathstalker scorpion, which produces chlorotoxin; this bonds selectively to malignant cells, making it useful for signposting tumor cells before surgery to ensure that all cancerous tissue is removed.

Chlorotoxin has also been studied as a potential vehicle for transporting anticancer drugs to their target.

Spider toxins, according to the report, might one day yield an ecofriendly way for farmers to rid crops of pests. Rather than the traditional, broad-spectrum insecticides that can be toxic to other animals and build up in watercourses, natural, protein-based pesticides are highly specific to their target species and biodegradable.

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Venom is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, but using these toxins as medicine is nothing new. The first recorded example was relayed by historian Appian of Alexander more than 2,000 years ago.

According to him, after Mithridates received a sword wound to the leg, Scythian doctors saved his life by applying “a small amount of steppe viper venom,” which stopped the bleeding.

As one author points out, “The ancient Scythian healers would not be surprised to learn that crystallized venom […] is now a major export to emergency rooms around the world.”

Venom still has many secrets left to be revealed, and technological advances will help us steadily unravel them. The burgeoning field of venomics is certainly one to watch.

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Medical News Today: What role does insulin play in immunity?

Insulin helps regulate our blood sugar levels, and people whose bodies do not make enough insulin — or are resistant to it — are exposed to diabetes and obesity. Does insulin also play a role in how our bodies mount immune responses?
insulin text
Researchers investigate how insulin affects immune responses.

Recently, specialists from the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI) in Canada have investigated the impact of insulin on the immune system.

How did they come to realize that insulin played any role in immunity at all?

Dr. Sue Tsai and team saw that people with type 2 diabetes, or with obesity that places them at risk of diabetes, have much poorer immune responses to infections and pathogens compared with healthy people.

A quick and effective immune response is vital to how efficiently the body can destroy viruses and fight infections, so it is important to understand which factors contribute to a weakened immune system.

Previous research from the TGHRI revealed that a type of immune cell called T cells found in abdominal fat induce pro-inflammatory responses, which negatively affects the body’s responsiveness to insulin.

This suggests the existence of an important link between chronic inflammation, poor immune responses, and insulin resistance.

Such findings motivated the scientists to delve deeper into the possible interactions between insulin and T cells, and why these immune cells might stop responding to the hormone.

“The link between insulin and the immune system is not obvious,” says Dr. Tsai, “it is fascinating to learn that immune cells, which require energy and nutrients for proper functioning just like all other cells in the body, are also regulated by metabolic signals from insulin.”

The results of the new study now appear in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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Insulin ‘a novel co-stimulator’ of immunity

Dr. Tsai and team were able to pinpoint an insulin signaling pathway that boosts the activity of T cells, allowing them to quickly multiply and send out further signals, activating the rest of the immune system as necessary.

We have identified one of metabolism’s most popular hormones, specifically the insulin signaling pathway, as a novel ‘co-stimulatory’ driver of immune system function.”

Study co-author Dr. Daniel Winer

“Our work characterizes the role of this signaling pathway in immune cells, mainly T cells, opening up avenues in the future to better regulate the immune system,” he explains.

The researchers worked with mice that they genetically engineered to express T cells that did not have insulin receptors, so as to simulate insulin resistance.

To see how effective the T cells were, the scientists exposed them to different types of pathogens, including the H1N1 strand of flu.

The research team found that the T cells without insulin receptors had weaker responses and needed more “danger” signals than usual in order to react to the threat.

This, explains Dr. Winer, is because “the insulin receptor or signaling molecule is like a second push to the immune system to ensure that it can fight off the infection with the best possible weapons it has.”

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When the immune cells were unable to “sense” insulin and respond to it, they were inefficient in fighting pathogens.

“T cells are at the heart of so many diseases,” notes Dr. Tsai. “If we can understand them at the cellular level, this will give us the best opportunity to find new pathways to target for new therapies.”

The researchers believe that, in learning more about insulin’s immunity-boosting properties, we may, in the future, be able to use this knowledge to develop more effective treatments for inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

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Medical News Today: Cardiovascular disease: Study finds best drugs for prevention

A large cohort study has identified which treatment combinations work best for people with high blood pressure who are at risk of heart disease. Taking both blood pressure drugs and statins might be the best choice, the researchers find.
organizer with different pills
Which treatments work best for preventing cardiovascular events?

Researchers from the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary University London in the United Kingdom have recently made public the results of a large long-term study that looked at the efficiency of different treatments in keeping cardiovascular disease at bay.

A combination of blood pressure-lowering drugs and statins (which are drugs that help regulate cholesterol levels) show the best results, the experts explain.

They presented the study’s results at the European Society of Cardiology annual congress, held in Munich, Germany, and they featured them in a dedicated paper now published in The Lancet.

“Patients in their mid-60s with high blood pressure were less likely to die from heart disease or stroke by age 75–80 if they had taken both calcium channel blocker-based blood pressure lowering treatment and a statin,” explains Dr. Ajay Gupta.

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Best preventive approach against stroke?

The scientists derived their results from the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial (ASCOT) Legacy study, which continued the work started by the original ASCOT.

In the new study, the investigators followed 8,580 U.K. participants who were initially recruited in 1998–2000. All of the participants had high blood pressure at baseline, as well as several risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.

The original ASCOT study had three main aims; first, to test which of two approaches to treatment — a traditional or an innovative one — would work best for preventing heart attacks.

To do so, the team gave some participants the innovative therapy, which consisted of amlodipine and, if necessary, perindopril. These are two specialized drugs that aim to lower blood pressure.

The other participants all took the traditional treatment of atenolol (another blood pressure drug), and bendroflumethiazide (which is a diuretic used to treat hypertension), to which potassium was added on a case-by-case basis.

Since the novel approach proved effective in preventing strokes and premature death after a median period of 5.5. years, the researchers stopped the trial at that point.

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The ASCOT study’s second aim was to see whether people with high blood pressure who also took statins would be any more shielded against the development of coronary heart disease. The team gave this new treatment to those with hypertension and average cholesterol levels (under 6.5 millimoles per liter).

On the basis of a randomized allocation, these participants took either atorvastatin or a placebo for 3.3 years. Once more, the trial was so successful in preventing heart attacks and strokes that it ended early.

Finally, the ASCOT study also aimed to assess the overall effectiveness of the two therapies for blood pressure in individuals with hypertension and high blood pressure (reading over 6.5 millimoles per liter).

The researchers did not give statins to this group of participants over the 5.5 years during which they were involved in the study.

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‘These results are remarkable’

Based on the ASCOT data, Dr. Gupta and team were able to assess the effectiveness of the various treatment combinations in the long-term.

They found that the study participants who had taken amlodipine and perindopril for 5.5 years had a 29 percent lower likelihood of having died due to a stroke 10 years later, compared with the participants who followed the traditional therapy for blood pressure.

Moreover, participants with average cholesterol levels at baseline who took a statin during the trial had a 15 percent lower risk of death due to heart disease and stroke after 16 years, compared with those who only took a placebo.

Also, the participants with high cholesterol at baseline who took their usual cholesterol-lowering treatment as well as the innovative blood pressure therapy saw 21 percent fewer deaths due to cardiovascular disease over 10 years.

These results are remarkable. We have previously shown that statins confer long-term survival benefits after trials have stopped, but this is the first time it has been found with a blood pressure treatment.”

Study co-author Prof. Peter Sever

Prof. Mark Caulfield, the director of the William Harvey Research Institute, also emphasizes the importance of the study’s findings for preventive medicine.

“This study confirms the importance of lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent disabling and life-shortening cardiovascular disease,” he notes.

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Medical News Today: How the brain creates the subjective experience of time

Everyone has felt, at one point or another, that time does indeed “fly” when we’re having fun. Why does it feel different depending on what we do with it? New research examines the neurological mechanisms that form the subjective experience of time.
illustration of two heads and clocks
The flow of experience is processed by our brains, creating a subjective sense of time.

Space and time are closely related — not just in physics, but also in the brain.

This intimate connection becomes clearer when we take a look at how our brains form episodic memories.

Episodic memories are autobiographical memories — that is, memories about specific events that happened to someone at a specific point in time (and space).

The memory of that first kiss, or of the glass of wine you shared with your friend last week, are both examples of episodic memories. By contrast, semantic memories refer to general information and facts that our brains are capable of storing.

Episodic memories have a pronounced “where” and “when” component, and neuroscientific research shows that the brain area that processes spatial information is close to the one responsible for the experience of time.

Specifically, a new study reveals the network of brain cells that encode the subjective experience of time, and these neurons are located in a brain area adjacent to the one in which other neurons encode space.

The new study was conducted by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim, Norway. Albert Tsao is the lead author of the paper, which is now published in the journal Nature.

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Neurons that change with time

Over a decade ago, two of the researchers who worked on the recent study — May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser — discovered a network of neurons called grid cells that were responsible for encoding space.

This area is called the medial entorhinal cortex. In the new study, Tsao and colleagues hoped that they would find a similar network of brain cells that encodes time.

So, they set out to investigate the neurons in a brain area that is adjacent to the medial entorhinal cortex (in which grid cells were discovered). This area is called the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC).

Initially, the researchers were looking for a pattern but struggled to find one. “The signal changed all the time,” says study co-author Edvard Moser, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, also in Trondheim, Norway.

So, the researchers hypothesized that perhaps the signal did not just change over time, but that it changed with time.

“Time […] is always unique and changing,” says Prof. Moser. “If this network was indeed coding for time, the signal would have to change with time in order to record experiences as unique memories.”

So, the researchers set out to examine the activity of hundreds of LEC neurons in the brains of rodents.

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Experience affects LEC time-coding signals

To do so, Tsao and colleagues recorded the neural activity of rats for hours, during which time the rodents were subjected to a range of experiments.

In one experiment, the rats ran around in a box whose walls changed color. This was repeated 12 times so that the animals could define “multiple temporal contexts” throughout the experiment.

The team examined the neuronal activity in the LEC, distinguishing between the brain activity that recorded changes in wall color from that which recorded the progression of time.

“[Neuronal] activity in the LEC clearly defined a unique temporal context for every epoch of experience on the timescale of minutes,” write the authors.

The experiment’s results “point to the LEC as a possible source of temporal context information necessary for episodic memory formation in the hippocampus,” add the researchers.

In another experiment, the rats were free to roam through open spaces, choosing which actions to take and which spaces to explore in the pursuit of bits of chocolate. This scenario was repeated four times.

Study co-author Jørgen Sugar summarizes the findings, saying, “The uniqueness of the [neuronal] time signal during this experiment suggests that the rat had a very good record of time and temporal sequence of events throughout the 2 hours the experiment lasted.”

We were able to use the signal from the time-coding network to track exactly when in the experiment various events had occurred.”

Jørgen Sugar

Finally, a third experiment obligated the rodents to follow a more structured path, with more limited options and fewer experiences. In this scenario, the rats had to turn either left or right in a maze, all the while searching for chocolate.

“With this activity, we saw the time-coding signal change character from unique sequences in time to a repetitive and partly overlapping pattern,” Tsao explains.

“On the other hand,” he continues, “the time signal became more precise and predictable during the repetitive task.”

“The data suggest that the rat had a refined understanding of temporality during each lap, but a poor understanding of time from lap to lap and from the start to end throughout the experiment.”

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How LEC neurons encode experience

According to the study authors, “When animals’ experiences were constrained by behavioral tasks to become similar across repeated trials, the encoding of temporal flow across trials was reduced, whereas the encoding of time relative to the start of trials was improved.”

As Tsao and his colleagues conclude, “The findings suggest that populations of [LEC] neurons represent time inherently through the encoding of experience.”

In other words, say the researchers, the LEC “neural clock” works by organizing experience into a precise sequence of distinct events.

Our study reveals how the brain makes sense of time as an event is experienced […] The network does not explicitly encode time. What we measure is rather a subjective time derived from the ongoing flow of experience.”

Albert Tsao

According to the scientists, the findings suggest that by changing the activities and the experience, one can alter the time signal given by LEC neurons. This, in turn, changes how we perceive time.

Finally, the results suggest that episodic memories form by integrating spatial information from the medial entorhinal cortex with information from the LEC in the hippocampus.

This allows “the hippocampus to store a unified representation of what, where, and when.”

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Medical News Today: Is it safe to take Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy?

People often get stomach upsets and diarrhea during pregnancy, but is it safe to take Pepto-Bismol for these symptoms when pregnant or breastfeeding?

Pepto-Bismol is an over-the-counter medication used to relieve an upset stomach, heartburn, and diarrhea.

It is usually safe to use when not pregnant. However, many medications can cross the placenta, making them unsafe during pregnancy.

This article will explore the safety and risks of using Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as suggest other drug groups that may help relieve an upset stomach.

Is it safe to use Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy?

Pepto-bismol during pregnancy
Pepto-Bismol reduces inflammation of the stomach lining, which may help to relieve an upset stomach.

While Pepto-Bismol is shown to be safe for most people, scientists cannot say for sure that it is safe during pregnancy.

Pepto-Bismol is a compound called bismuth subsalicylate. This medication has several effects:

  • It is an anti-inflammatory that reduces inflammation of the stomach lining, which may help to relieve an upset stomach.
  • It slows the movement of the stomach, which can help reduce cramping and discomfort associated with diarrhea.
  • It reduces acid in a person’s stomach and coats the throat, which can help relieve mild heartburn.

There is little evidence that Pepto-Bismol causes harmful side effects during pregnancy, though there is little research to say that it is safe either.

The main concern around taking any medication during pregnancy is the absence of research on safety. This shortcoming is because it is not ethical to perform drug tests on women who are pregnant due to the possible risks to the woman and baby.

Pepto-Bismol may not be safe to use during pregnancy because, as with aspirin, it is a salicylate. This group of medications is anti-inflammatory and known to have effects related to bleeding.

For this reason, many doctors restrict the use of Pepto-Bismol during the third trimester, as they want to reduce any bleeding risks during delivery.

Also, birth abnormalities that impact a developing baby’s heart are known to be the result of salicylates. Experts have not reported these complications with Pepto-Bismol but have seen them with aspirin and similar drugs.

Birth abnormalities from salicylates are more common when people take them for a long time, or when they take more than the recommended amount.

People may prefer to avoid Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy as several alternative medications have proven to treat the same problem.

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Is it safe to use Pepto-Bismol when breastfeeding?

There is very little research into the effects of Pepto-Bismol on breastmilk or breastfed infants.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it may be better to avoid Pepto-Bismol when breastfeeding, as it is possible that breast milk can absorb salicylate.

Alternatives to Pepto-Bismol during pregnancy

Pepto-bismol during pregnancy doctor
It is important to speak with a doctor before taking any medication while pregnant.

Many people experience an upset stomach, heartburn, or diarrhea during pregnancy. Persistent diarrhea can interfere with a person’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, which may affect the developing baby.

Certain medications may be safe to use while pregnant, as long as a person does so under a doctor’s care and instructions. Medicines that may be safe can include specific antacids, acid reducers, and proton-pump inhibitors.

It is essential for people to remember that recommendations about various medications are subject to change based on new research, including the information given here.

Due to the ever-changing picture, people should always talk to their doctor before taking any medication while pregnant.

Lifestyle changes

Doctors may recommend a combination of medications and lifestyle changes to reduce the symptoms a person is experiencing.

Lifestyle modifications to reduce upset stomach, nausea, and heartburn can include:

  • eating several small meals a day instead of large meals
  • not eating for 3 hours before bed
  • avoiding foods that trigger upset stomach symptoms, such as spicy foods or caffeinated beverages
  • elevating the head of the bed with pillows or a foam wedge when resting or sleeping
  • choosing bland foods that help upset stomachs, such as ginger ale or plain crackers

It is also essential for people to stay hydrated if they experience diarrhea. Drinking clear liquids and eating a bland diet can usually help while diarrhea resolves.

If diarrhea persists beyond a few days, people should contact a doctor for possible prescription medications and treatments.

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Pepto-Bismol is not a well-researched medication in regard to safety during pregnancy. As a result, people may wish to avoid this drug when they are pregnant and breastfeeding.

If someone has concerns about taking any medication during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, they should talk to their doctor.

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Medical News Today: How to stop or speed up your period

When your period comes at an inconvenient time, it can get in the way of your plans. Are there ways to speed up your period or make it stop once it has started?

The research on controlling periods in this way is limited, but certain methods may work for some people.

People can also use a form of hormonal birth control to plan when to have their periods or stop them entirely.

In this article, we look at how to speed up or stop your period after it has started, and provide long-term solutions for managing periods.

Can you make your period stop once it has begun?

Woman with tampon in hand hoping to stop periods after they have started
Tampons may block menstrual flow, causing a period to last longer.

People may want to speed up their period for a range of reasons, such as an upcoming life event or holiday. This is particularly relevant to those who have irregular cycles, which make it harder to plan ahead.

There are no foolproof ways to make a period stop, but some methods can increase the speed at which the menstrual blood leaves the uterus, which may shorten the period.

People can try the methods below for speeding up a period once it has started:

Having an orgasm

Sex or masturbation that leads to orgasm can stimulate contractions in the uterus, which may result in more menstrual blood leaving the body through the vagina.

Although there is no scientific evidence to support this technique, there are no adverse side effects, so it is not risky to try it.

Getting some exercise

The movement of the muscles during exercise may also help more uterine blood exit the body, potentially reducing the duration of a period.

Exercise can also help relieve cramping in some people. Again, there is not much research on this, but it is worth trying as exercise offers many other benefits.

Avoiding using tampons

Tampons soak up menstrual blood, but they may also block some menstrual flow from the vagina, which could extend the duration of bleeding.

Sanitary pads should not hinder the menstrual flow, so some people feel that using them can help their period to end sooner.

Stopping periods when using birth control

People who are taking the combined contraceptive pill can plan their period to some extent as they know that it will come during the week that they are taking either the dummy pills or no pills.

If they have started their placebo pills or pill break for the week and their period has commenced, they could begin taking their next pack of pills.

Doing this will increase the level of hormones in their body, which may shorten the duration of bleeding, although there is no guarantee of this.

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Ways to stop periods long-term

People can stop their periods in the long term by using hormonal birth control. Doctors refer to this as “menstrual suppression.”

Long-term methods for stopping your period include:

Intrauterine devices (IUD)

IUD on plain background
A hormonal IUD may stop most periods.

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of contraception that a doctor inserts into the uterus through the cervix.

People can get a hormonal or non-hormonal IUD. Hormonal IUDs may stop periods up to 80 percent of the time.

An IUD is a long-term contraceptive solution that will need replacing after 3–10 years, depending on the type and brand.

However, early removal of the device is possible for people who want to become pregnant or do not like having the IUD.

The combined pill

Combined birth control pills contain the hormones estrogen and progestin, which help suppress ovulation and keep the lining of the uterus thin.

People take active pills for 3 weeks and then either placebo pills or no pills for 1 week, during which they will get their period.

One way to stop periods is to skip the placebo or pill-free week and begin a new pack instead. This delivers a constant amount of hormones and should prevent a period from occurring.

According to estimates, this method works up to 80 percent of the time.

There are also some prescription pills available that only give people a period every 3 months. People can discuss this option with their doctor if they are interested.

Progestin shots

The DMPA shot, also known by the brand name Depo-Provera, is an injection of progestin that doctors deliver either under the skin or into the muscle. This medication inhibits the menstrual cycle.

After about 1 year of getting injections every 3 months, an estimated 70 percent of women do not get their periods.

Contraceptive implants

A contraceptive implant is a small device that a doctor will place just below the skin in a person’s arm.

The implant contains progestin, which helps inhibit ovulation and prevent follicle development, resulting in fewer or absent periods.

This method works to suppress periods in up to 41.25 percent of people after 3 years.

Is it safe to stop your period in the long term?

Combined hormonal contraceptive pill as birth control.
A doctor can advise on the risks of using birth control to stop periods.

According to the National Women’s Health Network, there is no evidence that skipping periods using birth control is harmful to health.

However, there are some possible side effects of taking certain types of hormonal birth control over many years.

For instance, according to the American Cancer Society, the long-term use of birth control may increase a person’s risk of certain kinds of cancer. Conversely, it may decrease the risk of other cancer types.

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People may wish to speed up or stop their period for many reasons. It may be particularly important for people in specific careers, such as those working as deployed military personnel or astronauts.

Some people use hormonal contraception to reduce the frequency of periods. It can also sometimes minimize the severity of menstrual pains and make periods less heavy.

People should talk to their doctor before deciding to stop or reduce their periods. There are many types of birth control pill, and different ones will suit different people.

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Medical News Today: What to know about Foley bulb induction

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