Medical News Today: Could video games help treat chronic back pain?

As far as health is concerned, video games tend to receive bad press. However, in the case of chronic low back pain, they may make a positive difference to people’s lives.
Low back pain illustration gym
Chronic low back pain can be debilitating and is difficult to treat.

Over the years, the debate surrounding video games and their impact on psychological and physical health has often reached fever pitch.

Some researchers have concluded that they negatively impact certain types of cognitive performance.

Others worry that video games offer more opportunity to remain sedentary in our increasingly inactive lives.

The debate is ongoing and will, no doubt, rage on. Now, however, researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia are attempting to harness video games to assist in a specific health problem: chronic low back pain.

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Back pain and video games

Low back pain has become the most disabling and costly musculoskeletal condition in the United States. Older adults are most commonly affected, and over time, the condition tends to get worse, creating a significant negative impact on an individual’s ability to move around and complete daily tasks.

A new study, published recently in the journal Physical Therapy, looked at chronic low back pain in people over the age of 55.

Specifically, the team studied the benefits of self-managed, home-based video game exercises on a Nintendo Wii-Fit-U. At this point, it is worth noting that the researchers received no funding from Nintendo.

In all, they asked 60 participants to carry out video game-guided exercises three times every week for 8 weeks; each session lasted 1 hour.

These were all carried out unsupervised and at home. Their results were compared with those of a group who carried out the same exercises but under the guidance of a physiotherapist.

The video game-aided exercises produced measurable benefits. As lead researcher Dr. Joshua Zadro explains, “[P]articipants experienced a 27 percent reduction in pain and a 23 percent increase in function from the exercises.”

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Battling ‘poor compliance’

These results are important; as Dr. Zadro says, “Structured exercise programs are recommended for the management of chronic [low back pain], but there is poor compliance to unsupervised home-exercises.”

He claims, “Our study, however, had high compliance to video game exercises, with participants completing on average 85 percent of recommended sessions.”

Dr. Zadro thinks that compliance was relatively good in this study because the video game gives clear instructions, encouragement, and feedback; the interactive experience also provides participants with a score, which boosts motivation.

The scientists believe that promoting exercise for low back pain in this way could benefit a great many people.

“This home-based program has great potential as supervised physiotherapy visits can be costly, and people who live in remote or rural areas can face barriers accessing these services,” he explains.

“Older people with poor physical functioning also prefer home-based exercises as traveling to treatment facilities can be difficult.”

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Given the enormous global cost of chronic low back pain, increasing an individual’s capacity to self-manage their pain, while reducing the need for therapist supervision, should be a priority.”

Senior study author Paulo Ferreira, an associate professor

Being able to do these exercises unsupervised at home would be a cost-effective and convenient solution as the video game modules are relatively cheap. The exercises could be completed at a time to suit the patient and fit easily into their schedule.

Currently, low back pain costs the U.S. more than $100 billion each year. Finding ways to minimize symptoms in the simplest possible way is therefore vital.

Also, as the U.S. population ages, the number of people with low back pain is likely to increase, so understanding how best to manage it is a pressing concern.

Dr. Zadro warns, “The global population of people over 60 years old is expected to triple by 2050, so more research on this population is extremely important.”

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Medical News Today: The Mediterranean diet reduces stroke risk, too

In the largest study of its type, scientists conclude that adhering to the Mediterranean diet might reduce the risk of stroke. The benefits are particularly pronounced for women over 40.
Mediterranean diet
Is reducing stroke risk another benefit of the Mediterranean diet?

When it comes to alleged health benefits, the Mediterranean diet fares incredibly well.

Increasing one’s intake of fresh fish, nuts, fruits, cereals, and potatoes while reducing dairy and meat seems to be a veritable panacea.

In recent years, the diet has grown in popularity, and a body of research has now developed to support many of the varied health claims.

Potential health benefits include extending lifespan, minimizing diabetes risk, reducing body mass index (BMI), and slowing cognitive decline.

Studying the impact of dietary choices on a population is notoriously challenging, but the amount of evidence supporting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet is close to overwhelming.

Recently, the Universities of East Anglia, Aberdeen, and Cambridge — all in the United Kingdom — joined forces to discover whether everyone’s favorite diet might also reduce the risk of stroke. Earlier this week, their findings were published in the journal Stroke.

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Mediterranean diet and stroke risk

In all, the study used information from 23,232 white people, aged 40–77, over a 17-year period. The data were taken from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer study, a project initially set up to investigate “the connection between diet, lifestyle factors, and cancer.”

To gauge the participants’ diets, the scientists asked them to use 7-day diaries; everything that they consumed was noted down for a 1-week period. This method is more reliable than the often-used food-frequency questionnaires, which ask participants how frequently they tend to eat certain items.

The authors say that this is the first time that 7-day diaries have been used on such a large group of people.

Next, they assessed how closely each participant followed the Mediterranean diet and sorted them into four groups depending on how cloesly they adhered to it.

The team concluded that a Mediterranean-style diet reduced the risk of stroke by 17 percent.

When they split the data into men and women, the effect was much more pronounced in women; those who followed the diet most closely had a 22 percent reduction in stroke risk. However, among men, there was only a 6 percent reduction, which was not statistically significant.

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It is unclear why we found differences between women and men, but it could be that components of the diet may influence men differently than women.”

Lead study author Ailsa A. Welch, Ph.D.

Benefits for those at risk

There are other potential variables that might help explain the sex differences in stroke risk. Welch explains, “We are also aware that different subtypes of stroke may differ between genders. Our study was too small to test for this, but both possibilities deserve further study in the future.”

When looking at people already at risk of cardiovascular disease, the data revealed that, across all four groups of Mediterranean diet scores, there was a 13 percent reduction in stroke risk.

This effect was, again, predominant among women, who saw a 20 percent reduction in risk.

Our findings provide clinicians and the public with information regarding the potential benefit of eating a Mediterranean-style diet for stroke prevention, regardless of cardiovascular risk.”

Study co-author Prof. Phyo Myint

The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet appear to know no bounds. However, it is important to note that this is an observational study, and, therefore, cannot prove cause and effect. More studies will be sure to follow.

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Medical News Today: ‘Gut feeling’ may be a hardwired ‘sixth sense’

A new study, published in the journal Science, has found that the process through which the gut communicates with the brain is much quicker than previously believed, relying on synapses more than it does on hormones.
woman holding her belly
Nerves before an important meeting can make us feel sick, and now, new research helps us understand why.

Over the past 2 decades, the gut-brain axis has been thoroughly documented.

This started with a study in the early 1990s that showed that oral antibiotics can successfully treat a brain disorder called hepatic encephalopathy.

Fast forward to 2013, when research revealed that the bacteria in our guts influence anxiety and depression.

Even more recently, a review that was published only last month made it clear that gut bacteria can influence mood and emotions, highlighting their connection with a range of psychiatric disorders.

Medical News Today have also reported that changing the composition in our gut microbiota could enhance our resilience to stress, and that eating fiber promotes a more diverse range of gut bacteria, which, in turn, keeps our brains healthy and young for longer.

These studies are unraveling, bit by bit, the gut’s vast influence on the brain, but the exact process through which this “second brain” influences our mental states and behavior remains unclear.

Some scientists believe that the main way in which the gut communicates with the brain is through hormones that are released into the bloodstream. However, a new study challenges this claim.

Researchers led by Diego Bohórquez, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC, suggest that the “conversation” between the gut and the brain occurs much more quickly and is more direct than previously believed.

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The biological basis for a sixth sense

Bohórquez and colleagues set out to examine the process through which the gut tells the brain that it is full, curbing the appetite.

The scientists built on their previous research, in which they showed that the sensory cells in the gut lining have nerve endings resembling synapses. At the time, the findings suggested to the researchers that these cells could be part of a larger neural network.

So, in the new study, the researchers wanted to map this neural circuit. To this end, they modified a rabies virus so that it would become fluorescent and thus detectable. The researchers administered the virus to mice.

Bohórquez and his colleagues were able to trace the virus and watch it traverse the vagus nerve to reach the brainstem. Then, the researchers grew laboratory cultures of sensory gut cells together with vagal neurons.

Their experiment revealed that neurons move toward the gut cells in an attempt to connect and fire signals.

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Finally, the team added sugar into the petri dish, which accelerated the neuronal firing rate to the point of milliseconds. The results suggested to the researchers that glutamate could serve as a messenger that conveys the information from the gut to the brain.

“Scientists talk about appetite in terms of minutes to hours. Here we are talking about seconds,” says Bohórquez, highlighting the contribution of the study.

Given the rapidity with which the information is sent from the gut to the brain, explain the authors, we can speak of a “gut sense” in the same way that we talk about the sense of touch or smell.

We think these findings are going to be the biological basis of a new sense […] One that serves as the entry point for how the brain knows when the stomach is full of food and calories. It brings legitimacy to [the] idea of the ‘gut feeling’ as a sixth sense.”

Diego Bohórquez

The findings have “profound implications for our understanding of appetite,” continues Bohórquez.

“Many of the appetite suppressants that have been developed,” he notes, “target slow-acting hormones, not fast-acting synapses. And that’s probably why most of them have failed.”

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Medical News Today: What causes yellow stool?

The color of a normal stool is brown due to healthy levels of excreted bilirubin and bile. Sometimes a person may notice stool of a different color, including yellow.

Stool can change color for a variety of reasons, including diet and underlying medical conditions.

In this article, we look at the causes of yellow stool in adults and infants, as well as when to see a doctor.


Possible causes of yellow stool include:

1. Diet

Turmeric powder and root
Turmeric in the diet can turn stool yellow.

What a person eats can affect the color of their stool.

Carrots, sweet potatoes, turmeric, and foods that contain yellow food coloring may turn someone’s stool yellow.

A diet high in fat or gluten can also lead to yellow stool.

If a person regularly has yellow stool due to their diet, they should try avoiding fatty foods, processed foods, gluten, or anything that causes an upset stomach.

2. Stress

Stress and anxiety can have many physical effects on the body, including speeding up the digestive process.

As a result, the body may not be able to absorb all the nutrients in food, which may lead to diarrhea or yellow stool.

Taking steps to relieve stress by reducing commitments, practicing yoga, or seeing a therapist, may help reduce the physical symptoms.

3. Celiac disease

If people with celiac disease eat gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley, their immune system responds by attacking the tissues of their small intestine.

This immune response causes tissue damage and compromises the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients.

In addition to yellow stool, symptoms of celiac disease can include:

There is no cure for celiac disease, but a person can effectively manage the condition by avoiding gluten.

4. Disorders of the pancreas

Different disorders of the pancreas can cause yellow or pale stool. These problems include:

In people with these conditions, the pancreas is unable to provide enough enzymes for the intestines to digest food. Undigested fat can lead to yellow stool that also looks greasy or frothy.

5. Liver disorders

Disorders of the liver, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lower or eliminate bile salts in the body.

Bile salts are essential for digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Removal of these salts can result in yellow stool.

6. Gallbladder disorders

Gallbladder problems and gallstones can also reduce the level of bile salts in the body. This reduction can lead to a variety of symptoms, including:

  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • jaundice, or yellowing skin and whites of the eyes
  • pale stool

The treatment will depend on the specific gallbladder issue. Treatment for gallstones, for example, may include medication to dissolve the stones. In some cases, a person may need surgery.

7. Gilbert syndrome

Gilbert syndrome is a genetic liver disorder that affects 3 to 7 percent of people in the United States.

People with Gilbert syndrome have periods when their bilirubin levels are too high. Symptoms include mild jaundice and yellow stool.

However, the symptoms can be so mild that most people do not notice them or know they have the condition.

8. Giardiasis

Giardiasis is a common intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite. It is commonly called “beaver fever.” A person can contract the giardia parasite by ingesting giardia cysts, usually through unclean food or water.

Symptoms of giardiasis include:

  • stomach cramps
  • foul-smelling diarrhea
  • yellow diarrhea
  • nausea
  • fever
  • headaches
  • weight loss

A doctor can diagnose giardiasis by testing a stool sample. Treatment involves antibiotics and can last for up to a few weeks. Rarely, the infection can be long-term.

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In infants

In infants, shades of yellow, brown, and green are all common stool colors. The best stool color for breastfed babies and infants is a mustard-like yellow.

People should speak to a doctor if an infant has red, black, or white poop, as this can indicate a problem.

When to see a doctor

woman speaking to a female doctor
Speak to a doctor if color changes last for several days.

Yellow stool is usually due to dietary changes or food colors. However, if the color change continues for several days or other symptoms are present as well, it is best to see a doctor.

A person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms with yellow stool:

  • a fever
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • pus-filled stool
  • inability to urinate
  • trouble breathing
  • passing out
  • lack of awareness
  • confusion or mental changes

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The cause of yellow stool is usually related to a person’s diet, but it can also be the result of underlying health problems.

It is essential to look out for additional symptoms and see a doctor if the yellow color persists. The treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

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Medical News Today: What to know about the anti-smooth muscle antibody test

Certain health conditions, including liver disease and hepatitis, cause the immune system to produce anti-smooth muscle antibodies. Doctors use a blood test to check for these antibodies.

Anti-smooth muscle antibodies (ASMAs) attack several structural proteins in smooth muscle, affecting the liver and other tissues.

The presence of ASMA in the blood indicates that a person may have autoimmune hepatitis or another disease that damages the liver.

In this article, we take a close look at the ASMA test, including its uses, the procedure, and how to interpret the results.

What is an ASMA test used for?

Gloved hand holding blood sample for asma test
An ASMA test can help diagnose certain liver conditions.

Doctors use the test to check for ASMA in the blood. The antibodies attack the smooth muscle in a person’s body.

The ASMA test can help a doctor determine whether a person has a disease that damages the liver, such as autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, or primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Also, levels of ASMA can be elevated if a person has hepatitis C, infectious mononucleosis, or certain cancers.

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An ASMA test is carried out in the same way as any routine blood test.

Check with a doctor about necessary preparations, such as fasting, though the ASMA test does not usually require any.

During the test, a technician draws blood from a vein in the arm, taking the following steps:

  • The person will sit with an arm resting on a table.
  • The technician will tie an elastic band around the middle of the upper arm, making the veins more visible.
  • The technician will find a suitable vein and rub an antiseptic on the area to clean it.
  • They will insert a needle into the vein and draw the necessary amount of blood.
  • The technician will remove the needle and apply pressure to the insertion site.
  • They will remove the arm band and place an adhesive bandage over the site.

A person will likely feel a slight pinch when the technician inserts the needle. Any discomfort will usually fade after a few seconds.

The technician will send the vial of blood to a laboratory. After testing the blood for the presence of ASMA, the lab will usually return the results to the doctor’s office within a few days, though the timing depends on the lab.


Doctors consider the ASMA test a low-risk procedure. Any side effects will be mild and may include bruising around the insertion site or light-headedness.

Anyone who has a bleeding disorder or is taking blood thinners should let the technician know in advance.

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Interpreting the results

The doctor will receive the results from the lab and interpret them, then contact the person for a phone consultation or follow-up appointment.

The results of an ASMA test are either normal or abnormal.

Normal results

Normal results indicate that a person has either none of the antibodies in their blood or only a trace amount.

Abnormal results

Doctor explaining something to patient at desk with various devices on it
A doctor will explain the ASMA test results.

These indicate that a person has higher amounts of ASMA in their blood.

The medical community considers results to be abnormal when the amount of ASMA in the blood sample corresponds to a titer of greater than 1:40.

These results can suggest that a person has:

  • an autoimmune liver disease
  • chronic hepatitis C infection
  • infectious mononucleosis
  • cancer of the breast or ovaries
  • a melanoma

When ASMA levels are high, a doctor will likely request further tests to determine the cause. For example, they may also order an F-actin antibody test to check for antibodies that can indicate hepatitis.

If the results are inconclusive, a doctor may need to perform the test more than once. Also, different labs may return different values.

After determining why ASMA levels are high, the doctor will confirm and explain the diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.


The ASMA test is a low-risk procedure similar to any routine blood test.

The doctor’s office sends the blood sample to a lab. A lab technician will analyze the levels of ASMA in the blood and return results.

The ASMA test can help a doctor to diagnose autoimmune disorders in the liver and other conditions.

If ASMA levels are high, the doctor may request additional testing before making a diagnosis and recommending a course of treatment.

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Medical News Today: The 10 best probiotics for vegans

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the body and provide several health benefits. They are also present in some foods and supplements.

While yogurt is one of the most popular dietary sources of probiotics, it is not suitable for vegans. Luckily, there are many other ways for people on a plant-based diet to eat more probiotics.

In this article, we list the best vegan probiotics, as well as their health benefits.

The best vegan probiotics

The best vegan probiotic foods include:

1. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut in a jar which is a good source of vegan probiotics
Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics and vitamins C and K.

Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish that is popular in many Eastern European countries.

It is rich in probiotics, as well as potassium and vitamins C and K. People can make sauerkraut by letting finely cut cabbage ferment in brine, which is a highly concentrated saltwater solution.

The Lactobacillus bacteria on cabbage convert its sugars into lactic acid. The result is a crunchy and sour condiment that works well in sandwiches, salads, or on its own.

Many health-food stores and supermarkets also sell sauerkraut. It is best to choose an unpasteurized product, as pasteurization destroys much of the beneficial bacteria.

Sauerkraut is also available to purchase online.

2. Kimchi

Kimchi is a spicy, fermented cabbage dish that is popular in Korean cuisine. It contains probiotics, vitamins, and antioxidants. The process for making kimchi is similar to that of sauerkraut, but it also includes spices and some other vegetables.

People can make kimchi at home or find it in health-food stores. Vegans who are eating out should check that restaurant kimchi does not contain seafood.

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3. Pickled vegetables

Pickling vegetables in brine creates a tasty, probiotic-rich snack or side dish that is suitable for vegans. It is possible to ferment almost any vegetable, but some of the most popular options include:

  • cucumbers
  • carrots
  • radishes
  • green beans
  • cauliflower
  • red bell peppers

For extra flavor, people can add herbs and spices, such as:

  • garlic
  • bay leaves
  • black peppercorns
  • coriander seeds

Although fermented vegetables are rich in several nutrients, they also contain a lot of sodium. To avoid the risks of a high-salt diet, such as high blood pressure and water retention, people should enjoy pickled foods in moderation.

4. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has had a revival in recent years. To brew kombucha, people will need a SCOBY starter, which is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This gelatinous mass does not look very appetizing, but it is full of beneficial microorganisms.

SCOBY starters are available online or in health-food stores. Alternatively, people can buy ready-brewed kombucha in some coffee shops and supermarkets.

Kombucha contains low levels of alcohol. Some versions contain enough alcohol to classify them as beer, so they may not be suitable for some people, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

5. Water kefir

Water kefir is a probiotic beverage. As with kombucha, it requires a starter culture of bacteria and yeast, which comes in the form of water kefir grains. These are available online, in health-food stores, or from fermented-food enthusiasts.

Water kefir grains help ferment sugar water, juice, or coconut water to form a mild-flavored and healthful drink. With proper care, the grains grow regularly and survive for years.

Vegans should avoid milk kefir and milk kefir grains, as these are dairy-based.

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6. Tempeh

Tempeh is a soy-based food that is similar to tofu but involves the fermentation of the soybeans. As a result of this fermentation, tempeh is rich in probiotics and protein. Its firm texture makes it suitable for use in a variety of dishes.

Vegans can use tempeh in salads, stir-fries, burgers, sandwiches, and more. It is also an excellent source of protein.

7. Sourdough bread

Traditional sourdough bread requires a sourdough starter, which is a combination of flour and water that has fermented for several days.

A person must regularly “feed” the starter with flour to allow them to use it again and again to make fresh sourdough bread.

Not all sourdough bread contains probiotics, so it is essential to check the ingredients first. Many stores and companies do not use a fermented starter culture to make their sourdough.

8. Miso

Miso soup
Many recommend miso soup as a probiotic option for vegans.

Rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, and beneficial bacteria, miso soup is a great option for vegans looking for a probiotic fix.

Other uses for miso paste include:

  • salad dressings
  • stir-fry sauces
  • marinades

It is vital to use warm, rather than hot, water when making miso soup, as high temperatures kill probiotic bacteria.

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9. Fortified dairy alternatives

Some fermented dairy alternatives, such as soy- and nut-based milk and yogurts, contain live cultures. Manufacturers add these beneficial bacteria to dairy alternatives to boost their health benefits.

A person can check the label for Lactobacillus and other probiotic strains in these products.

10. Supplements

While probiotic-rich foods are a good option for vegans, not everyone has the time to make these foods, and some people may not like how they taste. In these cases, supplements offer an easy alternative.

Not all probiotic supplements are suitable for vegans, however, so always check the label carefully.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate probiotic supplements, so there is no guarantee that these products contain the strains of bacteria that the manufacturers claim they do. People should research products before buying them and ensure that they come from a reputable source.

Probiotic supplements are available in health-food stores, some pharmacies, and online.

Benefits of probiotics

Research into the benefits of probiotics for health is ongoing. Researchers are discovering that different strains of bacteria have a range of effects on the body. It may be best to eat a variety of probiotic-rich foods to ensure that different strains enter the body.

Some of the potential benefits of probiotics include:

  • Improved digestion: Probiotics help break down food and speed up digestion. They may also reduce constipation and symptoms of Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Reduced risk of cancer: Studies indicate that disturbances of the gut microbiota may play a role in various diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colitis-associated cancer. As a result, researchers suggest that probiotics may help prevent these diseases.
  • Vaginal health: The vagina contains an abundance of bacteria. Antibiotics, spermicides, and birth control pills can throw off the delicate balance in the vaginal tract, leading to infection. Probiotics may restore the balance and help prevent these issues.
  • Mental health: Experts believe that good gut health may influence mental health. Research suggests that probiotics may reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, although additional studies are necessary to confirm this.
  • Fewer antibiotic side effects: Over a third of people who take antibiotics develop antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). Therefore, some doctors recommend that people take probiotics alongside antibiotics to prevent AAD.
  • Reduced risk of metabolic diseases: Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are types of metabolic disease. Regularly consuming probiotics may prevent and treat these conditions.
  • Diabetes management: Other research reports that probiotics may improve glycemic control and lipid metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes.


Probiotic bacteria offer many health benefits, including a reduced risk of disease and improved vaginal and mental health.

To further support healthy gut flora, a person can also regularly consume foods rich in prebiotics, which are fibers that feed gut bacteria and help them thrive.

Probiotic-rich foods are a delicious way to include more beneficial bacteria in the diet. Even without eating dairy, vegans can enjoy an array of fermented foods and drinks that boost their gut health and overall well-being.

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Medical News Today: High-fiber foods for a healthful diet

When a person includes high-fiber foods in their diet, it has many benefits, such as keeping the gut healthy, boosting heart health, and promoting weight loss.

According to the most up-to-date Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the adequate intake (AI) of fiber for adult men is 33.6 grams (g) per day, and 28 g for adult women.

But most people in America do not meet this goal. The average fiber intake in the United States is 17 g, and only 5 percent of people meet the adequate daily intake.

People need to get both soluble and insoluble fiber from their diet. Eating a varied high-fiber diet means getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

In this article, we provide a list of 38 healthful, high-fiber foods — explaining how much fiber each one has — to help people boost their daily fiber intake.

High-fiber legumes

Navy beans which are a high-fiber food
Navy beans contain 10.5 g of fiber per 100 g and are also high in protein.

Legumes are fiber-rich plant-based foods that include beans, lentils, and peas.

Beans are a good source of fermentable fibers. This fiber moves into the large intestine and helps to feed the diverse colony of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Researchers have found connections between a healthy gut microbiome and lower rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The following are some of the best legumes for fiber:

1. Navy beans

Navy beans are one of the richest sources of fiber. They are also high in protein. Add navy beans to salads, curries, or stews for an extra fiber and protein boost.

Fiber content: Navy beans contain 10.5 g per 100 g (31.3 percent of AI).

2. Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are a popular U.S. staple. People can eat pinto beans whole, mashed or as refried beans. Along with their high-fiber content, pinto beans are a great source of calcium and iron.

Fiber content: Pinto beans contain 9 g of fiber per 100 g (26.8 percent of AI).

3. Black beans

Black beans contain good amounts of iron and magnesium. They are also a great source of plant-based protein.

If people who follow a vegan diet combine black beans with rice, they will be getting all nine essential amino acids.

Fiber content: Black beans contain 8.7 g of fiber per 100 g (25.9 percent of AI).

4. Split peas

Split peas are a great source of iron and magnesium. They go well in casseroles, curries, and dahl.

Fiber content: Split peas contain 8.3 g of fiber per 100 g (24.7 percent of AI).

5. Lentils

There are many types of lentils, including red lentils and French lentils. They make a great addition to couscous, quinoa dishes, or dahl.

Fiber content: Lentils contain 7.9 g of fiber per 100 g (23.5 percent of AI).

6. Mung beans

Mung beans are a versatile source of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B-6.

When dried and ground, people can use mung bean flour to make pancakes.

Fiber content: Mung beans contain 7.6 g of fiber per 100 g (22.6 percent of AI).

7. Adzuki beans

Adzuki beans are used in Japanese cuisine to make red bean paste, which is a traditional sweet. People can also boil these fragrant, nutty beans and eat them plain.

Fiber content: Adzuki beans contain 7.3 g of fiber per 100 g (21.7 percent of AI).

8. Lima Beans

Not only are lima beans a great source of fiber, but they are also high in plant protein.

Fiber content: Lima beans contain 7 g of fiber per 100 g (20.8 percent of AI).

9. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a popular source of plant-based protein and fiber. They are also full of iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium.

Use this legume as a base for hummus and falafel.

Fiber content: Chickpeas contain 6.4 g of fiber per 100 g (19 percent of AI).

10. Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are a rich source of iron. Kidney beans are a great addition to chili, casseroles, and salads.

Fiber content: Kidney beans contain 6.4 g of fiber per 100 g (19 percent of AI).

11. Soybeans

Soybeans are used to make a variety of products, such as tofu, tempeh, and miso. People often use soybean products as dietary replacements for meat and dairy.

Fresh soybeans can also be eaten raw or added to salads as edamame.

Fiber content: Soybeans contain 6 g of fiber per 100 g (17.9 percent of AI).

12. Baked beans

Baked beans are rich in fiber and protein. They are available from most grocery stores. Try to buy brands with reduced sugar and salt to get more health benefits.

Fiber content: Plain baked beans from a can contain 4.1 g of fiber per 100 g (12.2 percent of AI).

13. Green peas

Green peas are available canned or fresh. Green peas are a great source of fiber, protein, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

Fiber content: Green peas contain 4.1–5.5 g of fiber per 100 g (12–16 percent of AI).

High-fiber vegetables

Among the many health benefits of vegetables, they are a great source of dietary fiber. Vegetables with a high-fiber content include:

14. Artichoke

Artichokes in a basket which are a high fiber food
Artichokes are high in fiber as well as vitamins C and K.

Artichokes are packed with vitamins C and K, plus calcium, and folate.

Grill, bake, or steam whole artichokes and use in dishes or as a side.

People often prepare just the artichoke heart above the outside leaves.

Fiber content: One medium artichoke contains 6.9 g of fiber (20.5 percent of AI).

15. Potato

As a staple vegetable, potatoes are a good source of B vitamins plus vitamin C and magnesium.

Fiber content: One large potato, baked in its skin, contains 6.3 g of fiber (18.8 percent of AI).

16. Sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are one of the starchy vegetables. They are high in vitamin A.

Fiber content: One large sweet potato, baked in its skin, contains 5.9 g of fiber (17.6 percent of AI).

17. Parsnips

Parsnips are a good source of vitamins C and K, as well as B vitamins, calcium, and zinc.

Fiber content: One boiled parsnip contains 5.8 g of fiber (17.3 percent of AI).

18. Winter squash

Winter squash vegetables are a bountiful source of vitamins A and C.

Fiber content: One cup of winter squash contains 5.7 g of fiber (17 percent of AI).

19. Broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is high in vitamins C and A. Cruciferous vegetables also have lots of antioxidant polyphenols.

Fiber content: One cup of cooked broccoli florets contains 5.1 g of fiber (15.2 percent of AI).

20. Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a popular vegetable and source of vitamins A and K and calcium. People use it in sweet and savory dishes.

Fiber content: A standard portion of canned pumpkin contains 3.6 g of fiber (10.7 percent of AI).

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High-fiber fruit

People can boost their daily fiber intake by including healthful fruits as a snack between meals. Some fruits contain more fiber than others.

21. Avocado

Avocado is full of healthful monounsaturated fats that are beneficial to heart health. They are popular in salads and for making dips.

Fiber content: One peeled avocado contains 9.2 g of fiber (27.4 percent of AI).

22. Pear

Pears are full of fiber, as well as vitamins C and A, folate and calcium. Keep a few pears in the fruit bowl, or serve them with dessert.

Fiber content: One medium pear contains 5.5 g of fiber (16.4 percent of AI).

23. Apple

Apples are a good source of vitamins C and A and folate. Make sure to eat the skin as well as the apple flesh, as the skin contains much of the fruit’s fiber.

Fiber content: One large apple contains 5.4 g of fiber (16.1 percent of AI).

24. Raspberries

Raspberries are a great source of antioxidants. These ruby-red berries also contain vitamins C and K.

Fiber content: Half a cup of raspberries contains 4 g of fiber (11.9 percent of AI).

25. Blackberries

Similarly to raspberries, blackberries are full of healthful antioxidants and are a great source of vitamins C and K.

Fiber content: Half a cup of blackberries contains 3.8 g of fiber (11.3 percent of AI).

26. Prunes

Prunes, or dried plums, can help promote digestive health. Although high in fiber, prunes can also be high in sugar, so eat these in moderation.

Fiber content: Five prunes contain 3.4 g of fiber (10.1 percent of AI).

27. Orange

Oranges are surprisingly a good source of fiber. Oranges are full of vitamin C, which is essential for health.

Fiber content: One orange contains 3.4 g of fiber (10.1 percent of AI).

28. Banana

Bananas are a great source of nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. They can be included in baking or eaten on their own as a snack.

Fiber content: One medium banana contains 3.1 g of fiber (9.2 percent of AI).

29. Guava

Not only is this tropical fruit a source of fiber, but it also has a very high amount of vitamin C and contains vitamin A.

Try guava in smoothies or juices. The rinds are edible, which means they can make a great fruit snack when on the go.

Fiber content: One guava fruit contains 3 g of fiber (8.9 percent of AI).

High-fiber nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds provide numerous health benefits. They contain healthful fats, high concentrations of protein, and they often have essential omega-3 fatty acids.

High-fiber nuts and seeds include:

30. Buckwheat

Buckwheat on a wooden spoon
People can use buckwheat to make soba noodles.

Despite its name, buckwheat is a seed and not a grain.

Buckwheat groats are grain-like seeds from a plant that is more closely related to rhubarb than wheat. It is rich in magnesium and zinc. Buckwheat does not contain gluten.

People traditionally use buckwheat in Japan for making soba noodles. It has also gained popularity in other countries.

People can add the groats to breakfast cereal or smoothies.

Buckwheat flour is an excellent gluten-free alternative to plain flour for baking and cooking.

Fiber content: Half a cup of buckwheat groats contains 8.4 g of fiber (25 percent of AI).

31. Chia seeds

People originally cultivated chia seeds in Central America. Not only are these edible seeds high in fiber, but they also contain high levels of omega-3s, protein, antioxidants, calcium, and iron.

People may get more health benefits from ground chia seeds. Buy them ground up or blitz the seeds into a fine powder, using a food processor or mortar and pestle.

Fiber content: Each tablespoon of chia seeds contains 4.1g of fiber (12.2 percent of AI).

32. Quinoa

Quinoa is another pseudocereal and is also an edible seed.

This seed is high in antioxidants, magnesium, folate, and copper, as well as vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-6.

Quinoa is useful for people who are sensitive to gluten. Quinoa flour is excellent for baking, and people often include the flakes in breakfast cereals.

Fiber content: Half a cup of quinoa contains 2.6 g of fiber (7.7 percent of AI).

33. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a brilliant source of healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as magnesium, and zinc.

Fiber content: A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains 1.9 g of fiber (5.7 percent of AI).

34. Almonds

Almonds are high in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant, as well as calcium and healthful, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Fiber content: Ten almonds contain 1.5 g of fiber (4.5 percent of AI).

35. Popcorn

Popcorn is a healthful, whole food snack. It is a source of zinc, folate, and vitamin A. Avoid popcorn brands high in sugar and salt.

Fiber content: One cup of popcorn contains 1.2 g of fiber (3.6 percent of AI).

Whole grains

Whole grains help to keep the heart healthy and make people feel fuller after meals. High-fiber whole grains include:

36. Freekeh

People make freekeh from roasted green wheat. They use it as a side to meat or mixed into salads to add substance and a nutty flavor.

Fiber content: Freekeh contains 13.3 g of fiber per 100 g (39.6 percent of AI).

37. Bulgur wheat

Bulgur wheat is the whole-wheat grain popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. Processing bulgur wheat involves cracking the wheat germ open and parboiling it.

Bulgur wheat is a traditional ingredient in tabbouleh and pilafs. Use it as an alternative to rice in warm salads. Bear in mind that it is not gluten-free.

Fiber content: Bulgur wheat contains 4.5 g of fiber per 100 g (13.4 percent of AI).

38. Pearled barley

Pearled barley is great as a side to meats, or in salads or stews.

Fiber content: Pearled barley contains 3.8 g of fiber per 100 g (11.3 percent of AI).

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Tips to increase fiber in the diet

The following tips can help people increase the amount of fiber they get in their diet each day:

  • avoid peeling vegetables, as the skins contain plenty of fiber, including cellulose
  • swap white bread for wholemeal bread
  • swap white rice for brown rice
  • try using steel-cut or rolled oats instead of instant oats
  • aim for at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day
  • choose starchy vegetables
  • use psyllium husk or other fiber supplements when unable to meet the adequate intake through diet


Fiber is an essential part of a healthful diet, though most people in the U.S. do not meet the recommended daily fiber intake.

A high-fiber diet helps to prevent constipation, maintain heart health, and feed the good bacteria in the gut. It can also help with weight loss.

People can increase the amount of fiber they get from their diet by choosing high-fiber foods and following certain dietary tips, such as not peeling off edible skins on fruit and vegetables.

Foods that are naturally rich in fiber have many other health benefits, too. Eating a wide variety of whole foods will help people meet their daily needs for fiber and other key nutrients.

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Medical News Today: Scientists create human esophagus in stem cell first

For the first time, researchers have managed to create a human esophagus in the laboratory. This may pave the way for new, regenerative treatments.
illustration of esophagus
The esophagus runs from the throat into the stomach.

The esophagus is the muscular tube that moves the food and liquids we ingest from our throats all the way to our stomachs.

This organ is made of different types of tissue, including muscle, connective tissue, and mucous membrane.

Scientists at the Cincinnati Children’s Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM) in Ohio have artificially grown these tissues in the laboratory using pluripotent stem cells, or stem cells that can take any form and create any tissue in the body.

The team — which was led by Jim Wells, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer at CuSTOM — grew fully formed human esophagi in the laboratory and detailed its findings in a paper published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

To their knowledge, this is the first time that such a feat has been achieved using only pluripotent stem cells.

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Laboratory-grown esophagus organoids might help treat a range of conditions, such as esophageal cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

They may also help treat more rare congenital diseases, such as esophageal atresia (a condition in which the upper esophagus does not connect with the lower esophagus) and esophageal achalasia (wherein the esophagus does not contract and so cannot pass food).

According to recent estimates, GERD — also known as acid reflux — affects around 20 percent of the United States population. In 2018, over 17,000 people in the U.S. will develop esophageal cancer.

As Wells and team explain in their paper, having a fully functional model of the human esophagus — in the form of a laboratory-grown organoid — contributes to a better understanding of these diseases.

The findings may also lead to better treatments using regenerative medicine.

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Key protein helps scientists grow esophagus

As they were trying to form the organoids, Wells and team focused on a protein called Sox2 and the gene that encodes it. Previous research had shown that disruption in this protein leads to a range of esophageal conditions.

The scientists cultured human tissue cells, as well as cells from the tissues of mice and frogs, to examine more closely the role of Sox2 in the embryonic development of the esophagus.

The team revealed that Sox2 drives the formation of esophageal cells by inhibiting another genetic pathway that would “tell” stem cells to form into respiratory cells instead.

They also wanted to study the effects of Sox2 deprivation in these key developmental stages. The experiment revealed that the loss of Sox2 resulted in a form of esophageal atresia in the mice.

Finally, they were able to create esophagus organoids that were 300–800 micrometers long at 2 months. The scientists then tested the composition of the laboratory-grown tissues and compared it with that of human esophageal tissue obtained from biopsies.

Wells and team report that the two types of tissue had a very similar composition. Wells comments on the clinical significance of the organoids, saying:

“In addition to being a new model to study birth defects like esophageal atresia, the organoids can be used to study diseases like eosinophilic esophagitis and Barrett’s metaplasia, or to bioengineer genetically matched esophageal tissue for individual patients.”

Disorders of the esophagus and trachea are prevalent enough in people that organoid models of human esophagus could be greatly beneficial.”

Jim Wells, Ph.D.

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Medical News Today: Fighting brain cancer with the Zika virus

Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, is incredibly hard to treat. According to a recent series of experiments, it might soon be treated with the Zika virus vaccine.
Zika virus in blood stream
Could the Zika virus (depicted here) help fight brain cancer?

On the surface, the Zika virus appears to have little in common with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

However, they share more similarities than one might imagine.

Researchers are currently attempting to exploit their common ground in the battle against this formidable type of cancer.

The study authors say that glioblastoma causes around 15,000 deaths in the United States per year.

Even if the tumor responds to therapy, it almost always returns, making it virtually incurable. It can keep coming back because, after treatment, it hides in nearby brain tissue in the form of glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs).

It was these stem cells that gave researchers pause for thought. Co-lead study author Pei-Yong Shi, Ph.D. — of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston — says, “During the Zika epidemic, we learned that the virus preferentially infects neural progenitor cells in the fetus, and causes the devastating microcephaly seen in babies born to infected mothers.”

The other co-authors of the latest study were Jianghong Man, of the National Center of Biomedical Analysis, and Cheng-Feng Qin, of the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences, both in Beijing, China. Their results were published recently in the journal mBio.

GSCs share some properties with neural progenitor cells — or cells capable of differentiating into different types of brain cells — and gave the researchers a clue.

Man explains, “We made the connection that perhaps Zika virus could also specifically infect the GSCs.”

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Common ground

In earlier studies using a mouse model of glioblastoma, researchers showed that the Zika virus can attack GSCs in the laboratory. They also found that the Zika virus was less efficient at attacking brain tissue that had already differentiated into different cell types.

If we could find a way to specifically target those GSCs that are the source of recurrence, then that might provide an option to prevent recurrence or even a cure.”

Cheng-Feng Qin

The investigators’ first priority was to ensure that they could find a safe way of introducing the Zika virus to patients. For this purpose, Shi’s laboratory developed an attenuated Zika vaccine that they named ZIKV-LAV.

An attenuated virus is still viable, or “live,” but it has been altered to make it safer. In this case, they deleted a small section of the genome to prevent it from replicating as easily.

In tests, ZIKV-LAV was non-virulent and protected both mice and non-human primates against Zika infection. When the vaccine was injected into the brains of mice, there appeared to be no physical or behavioral side effects.

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Testing the vaccine on human tissue

For their next step, the scientists tested whether the virus could kill GSCs in a mouse model. Half of the mice were injected with human-derived GSCs; the other half received the same GSCs with the addition of ZIKV-LAV.

The mice that only received GSCs developed tumors quickly, but the mice that received GSCs plus the vaccine showed delayed tumor growth. They also survived significantly longer.

The researchers hope that, in the future, the Zika vaccine could be given to patients at the time of surgery; that way, as Qin describes it, the viruses can “hunt down the GSCs and eliminate them,” thereby preventing recurrence of the tumor.

In the final leg of the study, the scientists wanted to delve a little deeper into the mechanisms that allow the Zika virus to destroy GSCs. To do this, they compared the RNA messages of standard GSCs with GSCs that had been treated with ZIKV-LAV.

From these data, they concluded that in cells treated with ZIKV-LAV, an antiviral response was sparked, leading to inflammation and eventual cell death.

Though the results are encouraging, this is just the start. Next, the researchers want to work with doctors to check the safety of ZIKV-LAV.

Also, now that they understand a little more about how the vaccine kills GSCs, they might tinker with ZIKV-LAV to make it more deadly to GSCs.

Shi is keen to make the most of virus’s deadly capabilities, saying, “As a virologist, I see that we should take advantage of the ‘bad’ side of viruses. They should have a role to play in cancer treatment.”

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Medical News Today: What are the early signs of COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a severe and progressive lung condition. However, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly improve a person’s outlook.

Some of the early signs of COPD include coughing, excess mucus, shortness of breath, and tiredness.

COPD is a long-term lung disease that causes the obstruction of a person’s airways and makes it difficult to breathe. It is a progressive condition, which means that it tends to gets worse over time. Without treatment, COPD can be life-threatening.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Burden of Disease Study reported that COPD affected around 251 million people worldwide in 2016. The study also estimated that COPD caused 3.17 million deaths globally in 2015.

There is no cure for COPD, but appropriate treatment can relieve a person’s symptoms, reduce their risk of death, and improve their quality of life.

In this article, we describe the early signs and symptoms of COPD. We also cover when to see a doctor and diagnosis.

Early signs and symptoms

Senior man with COPD coughing into tissue.
A person in the early stages of COPD may experience chronic coughing.

In its early stages, COPD may not cause any symptoms, or they may be so mild that the individual does not notice them at first.

The symptoms and severity of COPD can also vary from person to person. However, because the disease is progressive, symptoms often get worse over time.

The early signs and symptoms of COPD can include:

Chronic cough

A persistent, or chronic, cough is often one of the first symptoms of COPD. A person may experience a chesty cough that does not go away on its own. Doctors generally consider a cough that lasts for longer than 2 months to be chronic.

Coughing is a protective mechanism that typically occurs in response to irritants, such as inhaled cigarette or tobacco smoke, getting into the lungs. Coughing also helps remove phlegm, or mucus, from the lungs.

However, if a person has an ongoing cough, this may signify a problem with their lungs.

Excess mucus production

Producing too much mucus can also be an early symptom of COPD. Mucus is essential for keeping the airways moist, and it also captures germs and irritants that get into the lungs.

When a person inhales an irritant, their body produces more mucus, which can lead to coughing. Smoking is a very common cause of excess mucus production and coughing.

Long-term exposure to irritants can damage the lungs and lead to COPD. Other lung irritants can include:

  • chemical fumes, such as those from paints and strong cleaning products
  • dust
  • pollution, including car exhaust fumes
  • perfumes, hairsprays, and other spray cosmetics

Shortness of breath and tiredness

The obstruction of the air passages can make it more difficult for a person to breathe, which can lead to shortness of breath. This is another common symptom of COPD.

At first, shortness of breath may only occur after exercise, but it can worsen over time. Some people cope with their breathing difficulties by becoming less active, which can lead to them becoming less physically fit.

A person with COPD needs to exert extra effort to breathe. This exertion can result in lower energy levels and feeling tired all the time.

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Other symptoms of COPD

Woman with shortness of breath and chest pain
Chest pain and tightness are potential symptoms of COPD.

Because their lungs are not functioning normally, people with COPD are more likely to experience chest infections, including the common cold, flu, and pneumonia.

Other symptoms of COPD can include:

  • wheezing, or noisy breathing
  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • chest tightness
  • unintentional weight loss
  • swelling in the lower legs

A person with COPD may also experience flare-ups. This is when symptoms suddenly become worse for a time. Triggers of COPD flare-ups can include chest infections and exposure to cigarette smoke and other lung irritants.

When to see a doctor

A person who experiences any of the above symptoms regularly should see a doctor. It is possible to experience some of these symptoms without having COPD, as several other conditions have similar signs and symptoms.

A doctor can usually distinguish between COPD and other diseases. Early diagnosis of COPD can allow a person to receive treatment sooner, which can help slow the progression of the disease before it becomes severe or life-threatening.

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X-ray of chest focusing on ribcage and lungs
A doctor may recommend a chest X-ray to diagnose COPD.

A doctor will start by asking the individual about their symptoms and medical history, including whether or not they smoke and if they have had exposure to any lung irritants.

The doctor may also perform a physical examination and check for wheezing or other signs of lung problems.

To confirm their diagnosis, a doctor may order some tests, such as:

  • Spirometry. This is where a person breathes into a tube that connects to a machine called a spirometer. The spirometer measures how well a person’s lungs are working. To begin the test, the doctor may ask the person to inhale a bronchodilator, which is a type of medication that opens up the airways.
  • Chest X-ray or CT scan. These imaging tests allow a doctor to see inside a person’s chest to check for signs of COPD or other medical conditions.
  • Blood tests. The doctor may order blood tests to check oxygen levels or rule out other conditions that cause similar signs and symptoms to COPD.

What is COPD?

COPD is the term for a group of lung diseases that tend to worsen over time. Examples include emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

The lungs consist of many tubes, or airways, that branch into even smaller tubes. At the ends of these airways are tiny air sacs that inflate and deflate during breathing.

When a person breathes in, oxygen moves down these tubes and passes through the sacs into the bloodstream. When they breathe out, carbon dioxide gas, which is a waste product, leaves the bloodstream and passes out through the air sacs and airways.

In people with COPD, chronic inflammation of the lungs blocks the airways and can make breathing more difficult. COPD also causes coughing and increased mucus production, which can lead to further blockages. The airways and air sacs can become damaged or less flexible.

The most common cause of COPD is smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, up to 75 percent of people with COPD either smoke or used to smoke. However, long-term exposure to other irritants or harmful fumes may also cause or contribute to COPD.

Genetics may also increase the risk of developing COPD. For example, people who have a deficiency in a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin may be more likely to develop COPD, especially if they smoke or get regular exposure to other lung irritants.

The signs and symptoms of COPD most often start in people aged 40 years or older.

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COPD is a common condition. However, some people mistake its symptoms for the normal signs of aging, which can mean that they do not get a diagnosis. Without treatment, COPD can become progressively worse over time.

COPD can be a significant cause of disability. An individual with severe COPD may struggle with day-to-day tasks, such as climbing a flight of stairs or standing for prolonged periods to cook a meal. Flare-ups and complications can also severely impact a person’s health and quality of life.

There is no cure for COPD, but the early diagnosis and treatment of this condition can greatly improve a person’s outlook. Appropriate treatment and lifestyle changes can relieve symptoms and slow or halt COPD’s progression.

Treatment options include medications, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Lifestyle changes involve doing regular exercise, eating a healthful diet, and stopping smoking.

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