Migraines could be caused by gut bacteria, study suggests

Migraine sufferers have a different mix of gut bacteria that could make them more sensitive to certain foods, scientists have found.

The study offers a potential explanation for why some people are more susceptible to debilitating headaches and why some foods appear to act as triggers for migraines. The research showed that migraine sufferers had higher levels of bacteria that are known to be involved in processing nitrates, which are typically found in processed meats, leafy vegetables and some wines.

Antonio Gonzalez, a programmer analyst at the University of California San Diego and the study’s first author, said: “There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines - chocolate, wine and especially foods containing nitrates. We thought that perhaps there are connections between what people are eating, their microbiomes and their experiences with migraines.”

When nitrates in food are broken down by bacteria in the mouth and gut they are eventually converted into nitric oxide in the blood stream, a chemical that dilates blood vessels and can aid cardiovascular health by boosting circulation. However, around four in five cardiac patients who take nitrate-containing drugs for chest pain or heart failure report severe headaches as a side effect.

How placebos can work even when patients know they're not real

Taking a placebo helps to ease pain even when patients know it isn't the real thing, scientists claim.
Fake medication was found to cut initial back discomfort and disability by a third, a study found.  While patients who had their usual drugs - which have previously found to be ineffective - reported no reduction in their pain.  Experts say the findings could be an end to the ethical issue of deceiving patients by telling them they are taking fake drugs. 

Back pain causes more disability than any other condition, with 40 per cent of working-age Britons suffering from the complaint in the past year. Treatment costs the economy £1 billion a year and when lost earnings are factored in, the bill reaches £12 billion. 

Portuguese researchers studied 97 adults with low back pain lasting for around three months. They were randomly assigned to three weeks of treatment of their usual medications alone, or with placebos on top. But unlike usual studies, patients knew they were taking a placebo and were explained about how their body may respond to the sham pills anyway. Measures of back pain and disability were compared between both groups.

Source  - Daily Mail

Vitamin D deficiency associated with heightened depression, study finds.

A lack of vitamin D – common in the UK during the autumn and winter months – has been associated with increased symptoms of depression, according to a new study.
Earlier this year everyone in Britain was recommended to take supplements of the vitamin during the darker months. While it is found in a few foods like oily fish, most people get vitamin D from a natural effect on the body caused by sunlight. Low levels are associated with bone conditions such as rickets and osteoporosis, but it can also affect muscle tissue and has been found to be associated with normal levels of dopamine, a chemical linked to mood, in the brain.
In the new study, which was revealed at the International Early Psychosis Association in Milan, scientists tested vitamin D levels among 225 patients being treated for psychotic disorders and another 159 well people. They found a significant association between low levels of vitamin D and “higher levels of negative symptoms and of depression” among people with psychosis. They also found a significant link to reduced verbal fluency and cognitive impairments.
In a paper in the journal Schizophrenia Research, the researchers, from Norway, suggested vitamin D could be used to help treat patients. “In a clinical setting, this could support vitamin D as adjuvant therapy in treating co-morbid depressions in psychotic disorders,” they wrote.