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Benefits of Breastfeeding

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Some mothers decide to breastfeed their babies when they are born while others would rather not embark on this journey. The topic of breastfeeding tends to be a pretty sensitive one as there is a big divide amongst women who breastfeed and those who do not. While there are plenty of benefits to both mom and baby when it comes to breastfeeding, it is not for everyone and that’s ok too. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a mother breastfeeds her baby for the first year of life and there are many benefits of doing so.

Nutrition Basics
Breast milk is made up of all the right amounts of vitamins, fat and protein that a baby needs to thrive. This milk comes in a much more safe and natural form whereas store bought formula can be based off of not so great ingredients such as corn syrup solids and sugar. Not to mention that there is a perfect form of antibodies that help a baby develop a really strong immune system. This can be beneficial in helping fight off bacterial and viral based illnesses.

Development
Breastfeeding benefits are not just nutritionally based. There have been studies that show children who were breastfed for at least the first six months of like had higher IQ scores than those that were fed solely from formula. This isn’t just due to nutrition but also thanks to the physical contact a baby receives while they are nursing. Eye contact, skin to skin contact and being held can all help a child’s emotional and intellectual development. Babies that are breastfed are at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome as well.

Immune Support
The benefits of breastfeeding occur during the period of time that a baby nurses but these benefits can often last a lifetime. Breastfeeding has been proven to reduce a lifetime risk of allergies and asthma. There is a decrease in ear infections, illness and stomach upset when breastfeeding takes place. More research will be done in the future to determine other benefits, but it is suspected that breastfeeding can reduce a number of cancers, diabetes and also obesity later on in life.

Benefits For Mom
In addition to breastfeeding being beneficial for the baby that is receiving the mother’s milk, nursing can also benefit the mother as well. With all of those extra calories being given to the baby, those post partum pounds can be shed quite fast. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released during the nursing process and the uterus reacts by shrinking faster than normal. As for long term benefits, breastfeeding can decrease the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer throughout the rest of the mother’s life, not just the months where breastfeeding occurs.

The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the benefits of formula feeding is nursing is something you can accomplish. It’s not an easy journey to embark on but it is worth the work that you put into it. Utilizing the services of a trusted and reputable lactation consultant can help you address any issues that might be going on whether it be an issue with latching, staying latched or milk production. It is important to remember that only you can decide what is best for your baby. You may want to enlist the help of your medical professional as well when determining what is best for you and baby. Certain prescription medications can be harmful to a baby if passed through the breast milk, so always check with your doctor regarding this fact as well.

 

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Understanding Meningitis

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Image is from Pinterest

Meningitis is a fairly rare infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called meninges, hence the term meningitis. There are several types of meningitis:

  • Bacterial Meningitis is contagious among people in close contact and can be deadly.
  • Viral Meningitis is usually less severe, and most people recover completely from it.
  • Fungal Meningitis is rare and usually only appears in people with compromised immune systems.

How Does it Happen?

Most of the time, meningitis is caused by virus or bacterial infection. It begins elsewhere in the body, such as the upper respiratory tract, sinuses, or ears, and then spreads to the meninges. It can also be caused by medications, autoimmune disorders, or fungal infections, but these are more rare.

Bacterial Meningitis

This is a very serious illness that requires immediate medical attention. Death or permanent damage to the brain or other areas of the body can occur within hours if left untreated. There are several different kinds of bacteria that can cause it:

  • Meningococcus, which is the most common
  • Pneumococcus, which occurs in older patients with a weakened immune system
  • Haemophilus Influenza, type B, was common in infants and small children until a vaccine came out called hib.

Vaccines are also available for Meningococcus and Pneumococcus bacteria and are highly recommended for people with a special risk, such as a compromised immune system.

An infected person can pass the bacteria by sneezing or coughing. It is important for you to contact your health care provider if you are exposed to meningitis to find out what you can do to prevent contracting it. When bacteria gets into your bloodstream, it can travel to your brain and cause meningitis.

Viral Meningitis

This form of meningitis is more common and is usually less severe. There are many viruses that can trigger it, several of which cause diarrhea. Viral meningitis patients usually recover completely and are less likely to incur any brain damage.

Fungal Meningitis

This type of meningitis is rare. However, if you are suffering from a compromised immune system, from HIV for example, your chances of contracting it are greater.

Who is at Risk?

While anyone can contract meningitis, there are some age groups that have a higher incidence than others. These are:

  • Adults over age 55
  • Teens and Young Adults from age 16 to 25
  • Children under the age of 5

Certain medical conditions can also put you at risk, such as chronic disease or a damaged or missing spleen, and especially immune system disorders. These disorders occur when your immune system is either overactive or under active. When it is overactive, the body attacks itself; when it is under active, it decreases your ability to fight off infections. Some examples of immune system disorders are:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Guillian Barre Syndrome
  • Psoriasis
  • Graves Disease
  • Vasculitis
  • Rheumatic Fever

Meningitis outbreaks are most likely to occur in areas where people are living in close quarters, such as a college dorm or army personnel living in barracks. This is because certain germs that cause it can be contagious. People who travel are also at higher risk, particularly if you are traveling to certain parts of Africa where the disease is known to be prevalent.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you are in one of the higher risk groups for contracting meningitis, it is still a rare disease, and there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of getting it.

 

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Understanding Tuberculosis

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Image is from CDC

Tuberculosis, TB, is an airborne bacterial infection. While other organs and tissues may be involved, it normally affects the lungs first.

What You Need To Know

While most people who have TB are not contagious, the disease is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs, laughs, sings, or talks. If you are nearby and breath in those germs, there is a chance that you can become infected.

There is a difference between having active TB disease and being infected, known as latent TB. Latent TB is diagnosed when you have the TB germs in your body, but your immune system is strong enough to keep you from getting sick, and you are not contagious.

However, if you are diagnosed with active TB disease, you will have symptoms and you will be contagious. Therefore, it is critical to see a doctor right away.

Unfortunately, there are some forms of TB that are not eliminated with the usual medications prescribed. That means the TB germs in your body are resistant to them. These types of TB are classified as MDR TB and XDR TB.

MDR TB (multi-drug resistant) is resistant to the standard medication regime for active TB and is more serious. XDR TB is resistant to both standard and secondary drugs for treatment and any treatment rendered can be longer, expensive and more difficult. These forms of TB occur when medication is mismanaged or misused. For example:

  • If you do not complete the full course of treatment
  • If your doctor prescribes the wrong treatment, dose, or duration.
  • If medication is not available
  • If medication is of poor quality

It is more common in people who:

  • Do not take their medication regularly
  • Do not take medications for the full duration of treatment
  • Contract it a second time
  • Come from places where drug-resistant TB is more common
  • Have been around someone who has it

The good news is it is not easy to contract TB. You usually have to be close to someone infected for a long time. This is why it is often spread between family members, coworkers, and close friends.

What TB Does To Your Body

If you have a weakened immune system, you are at greater risk for developing TB. Some examples of conditions, treatments, and ages that cause weakened immunity are:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Leukemia
  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Getting Chemotherapy
  • Elderly
  • Children under the age of 5

If you any of the above apply, the bacteria associated with TB is likely to settle in your lungs and start growing right away, because your immune system isn’t strong enough to fight it off. The disease will develop quickly, within days or weeks. If you are healthy and contract TB, it may take months, or even years to develop.

While TB attacks the lungs, it can also invade other parts of the body, such as:

  • Spine
  • Brain
  • Kidneys
  • Bones
  • Lymph Nodes
  • Skin

This is because the bacteria can move from the lungs through the blood and lymphatic systems. Symptoms of active disease include:

  • Cough
  • Weight Loss
  • Night Sweats
  • Fever
  • Chills

If other parts of the body are infected, symptoms specific to that area will occur. For example, if it has spread to your bones, you will have bone pain.

Despite what many people think, TB is not a disease of the past. About one third of the world’s population are infected. That is almost 2.5 billion people. Of those people 9.6 million have active TB. It is curable, however. Therefore it is important to recognize the symptoms, see a doctor right away, and follow the treatment ordered.

 

 

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