Posts Tagged ‘Headache’

Salvia divinorum: From Ancient Shaman to Miley Cyrus


Miley Cyrus’ documented celebration of her entry into adulthood has transformed a shaman’s sacred herb into one of the hottest new drugs (and legal one at that) on the market.  Since the YouTube leak of Miley Cyrus smoking Salvia divinorum from a bong on her 18th birthday hit the internet, Google searches for “salvia” in the United States spiked 600% (even Saturday Night Live took a jab at Cyrus for her Salvia indulgence).  What is this wacky Mexican herb that has suddenly found its way to the main stream thanks to Cyrus’ accidental celebrity endorsement?  Is it really as safe is people make it out to be?  We dive into the ancient roots of the herb, its affects on the body and, most importantly, its potential health risks.

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12 2010

What’s New With the Flu: 2010 Influenza Update

by Rebecca Shatsky, MD 2011

If you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet this year, there is no time like the present. Last year’s flu season left the whole world reeling with the introduction of our new friend H1N1: schools across America were closed, people stood in line for hours to get vaccinated and medical intensive care units in hospitals across the country were full of unsuspecting otherwise healthy patients who were unlucky enough to come down with this highly transmissible infection.  One little shot could prevent all this chaos and leave you resting comfortably at night.  Seems like a no-brainer to us.

Although the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” caused quite the stir last year, the world somehow emerged relatively unscathed at the end of the natural flu season. In August 2010, the World Health Organization officially declared the H1N1 pandemic to be over.  But now, as the temperature drops and we inch towards cold and flu season, the panic of 2009 is starting to reemerge, as is the question (that has really yet to be addressed by the media), “Whatever happened to swine flu?”  So before this year’s flu virus starts spreading like wildfire, we at House Call, MD would like to take the opportunity to explain the natural course of the seasonal flu, what was different about last year’s pandemic and what to expect this upcoming flu season.

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10 2010

Energy Drinks: Giving you Wings or Withdrawal?

MD 2011 |

It’s the problem we all share. As you walk into your doctor’s office in the wee hours of the morning to squeeze in an appointment before work, chances are your doctor has the same drink in hand: a cup of coffee.  Let’s face it: America’s capitalistic, workaholic attitude thrives on caffeine so its no wonder that it’s the first thing we reach for in the morning…and at 2 o’clock in the afternoon…and after dinner.  Now, since we’re American, we have to do everything bigger and better bringing us to the Energy Drink. Heavily advertised as a beverage that will literally “energize you” with every sip, it’s not hard to imagine why this new segment of the beverage market has grown so rapidly (200 new brands were introduced to the US market in a one year period).  What exactly is behind these “magic potions?” Do the new “natural” ingredients really make an energy drink better than a cup of coffee?

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10 2010

The Anatomy of a Hangover

by Joshua Goldman, MD, MBA

The Hangover

Anyone who drinks alcohol has woken up the morning after a big night out feeling like death (if you have no idea what we are referring to we recommend you see the recent hit The Hangover).  Yes, this is the hangover you masterfully crafted during your night out on the town.  We’re here to help you understand what causes you to feel so bad and recommend some tips to get you back to 100% as quickly as possible.

Apparently proving the underlying physiologic cause of a hangover is not at the top of the NIH’s To Do List.  As such, the verdict is still out as to the exact mechanism of a hangover but scientists believe it is a combination of four effects in your body:

1. Vasopressin Inhibition: Your Ticket to Dehydration
One of alcohol’s effects on the brain is to decrease the amount of vasopressin it produces.  Vasopressin, also known as anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), is produced in the pituitary gland and, when released into your bloodstream, prevents your body from excreting water in your urine.  When under the influence of alcohol, you body’s vasopressin level decreases and you lose more water in your urine (yes, this is why you pee so much when you’re drinking).  The effect is so strong that for every pint of beer you drink, you can lose up to 4 pints of water.  This is why you will undoubtedly be dehydrated the next morning. The vasopressin-induced hangover effects are from dehydration and include:

  • Dry Mouth – Your body’s signal that you are dehydrated

  • Headache – Less water in your body means less water in your brain.  As your brain shrinks from dehydration, it pulls on the membranes surrounding it causing pain.  Enter the headache.

  • Fatigue & Nausea – When water is lost in the urine, sodium, potassium, and magnesium go with it. Loss of these vital electrolytes can cause feelings of nausea and fatigue

2. Congeners of Alcohol: Inevitable Toxins
Congeners are alcohol derivatives that form as byproducts of the fermentation process utilized in alcohol production.  Congeners of alcohol are toxic and cause a number of damaging effects on the body leading to typical hangover symptoms.  These congerners are found in higher concentrations in darker alcohols such as red wine, whiskey, bourbon, and brandy.  One study found that when subjects drank and equivalent amount of bourbon and vodka, 33% of bourbon drinkers reported hangover symptoms while only 3% of vodka drinkers reported such symptoms.

3. Acetaldehyde: Toxins that Keep on Giving

The breakdown process of alcohol is quite complex.  What you need to know is that acetaldehyde, one of the products formed in a step in the process, wreaks havoc on your body.  Your body requires another chemical, glutathione, to breakdown acetaldehyde and clear it from your body.  The problem is that when you drink a LOT of alcohol, you run out of glutathione and are stuck with the toxic acetaldehyde in your system while your liver makes more glutathione.  Women have fewer of the necessary enzymes and less glutathione than men, making their hangovers longer and more painful.  The miserable effects of acetaldehyde include headache, nausea, and vomiting.

4. Glutamine Rebound: The Sleep Buster
Another one of alcohol’s effects on the brain is to suppress a chemical stimulant in your brain called glutamine.  When you stop consuming alcohol, your brain counters the suppressive effects of alcohol by secreting more glutamine that normal.  The increased level of glutamine stimulating your brain prevents you from sleeping as deeply as you normally would and leads to fatigue the next day.  If your glutamine rebound is especially strong, you may experience tremors, anxiety, and restlessness from glutamine’s stimulant effects.

Now you know why hangovers are so miserable, and knowing is half the battle.  Stay tuned for an upcoming article about hangover cures: myths, miracles, and proven remedies.


09 2009

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