23rd January 2000

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Sweet news for migraines

There is strong evidence of a genetic risk - if one parent is a sufferer then a child has a 40 per cent chance of getting migraines, too - but they can also disappear, as suddenly as they started, in middle age. For those who are still suffering, this is one good reason to look forward to celebrating your half-century.

Migraine sufferers may think they have little to celebrate, but for those who cannot resist indulging in chocolate there is some excellent news. According to new research by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh, and contrary to popular belief, chocolate does not play a significant role in triggering typical migraine-type headaches.

For years chocolate has topped the list of the common food triggers believed to cause this condition, which affects an estimated five million Britons. So the research, carried out by the University's Pain Evaluation and Treatment Institute, turns conventional wisdom on its head.

In the study 63 women, all suffering from chronic headaches with 50 per cent suffering from migraines, spent two weeks following diets that restricted their intake of amine. Amine is found in chocolate and other foods - including dates, citrus fruits, yeast, nuts, dairy products and red wine - that are believed to cause headaches.

Each participant then underwent double-blind clinical trials in which they were given two samples of chocolate and two of carob in random order. They kept diaries monitoring diet and headaches, and the researchers concluded that despite the women's own beliefs about chocolate causing headaches, it was no more of a culprit than carob.

Nutritionists claim that food triggers are responsible for up to 90 per cent of migraine cases but even they accept that it is difficult for sufferers to identify which foods they are reacting to. One woman discovered that her headaches were triggered by cinnamon, which is unlikely to be on the list of foods your doctor suggests that you avoid.

Elimination and rotation diets can help to pinpoint more obvious culprits but the task is made more problematic by the fact that it can take someone more than a week to react to a food.

No two migraines are the same, says Penny Povey, a medical herbalist who practises at Farmacia in London. She treats women who suffer migraines caused by hormomal disturbances around menstruation - so severe that they spend three days in bed vomiting - and migraines that more closely resemble cluster-type headaches in men.

Many sufferers will recognise her description of flashing lights and the need to retreat to somewhere quiet and dark, while others know that their headaches are the result of a food allergy.

Homoeopathy, which has proved to be highly effective for many sufferers, keys into these differences and makes a point of prescribing remedies not only for the type of pain, but also how it starts. If the headache is worse on the right side, for example, and if trying to concentrate makes the pain worse, your homoeopath is likely to suggest Lycopodium 6c - this figure denotes the strength or potency of the dilution. Blurring of the vision and vomiting would suggest Iris 6c. A throbbing, blinding headache with a feeling of congestion in the head would probably be best treated by Natrum mur. 6c.

Whatever the type of pain, the herb feverfew has an excellent track record in helping to keep migraines at bay when taken daily. It can take up to a month to kick in, so you need to persevere and take 50 drops of a tincture with your breakfast each morning, says Ms. Povey, who has formulated a migraine remedy that also includes the mild sedative valerian for those who sense the onset of a migraine headache.

In another American study by scientists at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, taking fish-oil capsules daily was also shown to halve the number of migraine attacks and reduce the pain of those that did occur. In the trial, 60 per cent of subjects benefited from the supplement, which reduced the number of attacks from two a week to two a fortnight. Men reported more relief than women. If you are going to investigate this nutritional approach, take fish oils made from an unpolluted source.

Many sufferers have been found to be deficient in magnesium, but Gareth Zeal, a nutritional adviser to the GNC retail chain, says that you need to take a hefty dose - two 500mg tablets daily - to benefit. Vitamin B2 has also been shown to help to reduce the number of attacks, and as the B vitamins work best when taken together, take a B-complex supplement, which provides the equivalent of 400mg of B2 daily.

The immediate cause of a migraine headache is a constriction and then a swelling of the arteries that supply the brain. Why this should suddenly happen between the ages of ten and 30, and why these headaches are three times more common in women than men, is anybody's guess, although abnormally low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin have been identified in sufferers.

There is strong evidence of a genetic risk - if one parent is a sufferer then a child has a 40 per cent chance of getting migraines, too - but they can also disappear, as suddenly as they started, in middle age. For those who are still suffering, this is one good reason to look forward to celebrating your half-century.


Does diabetes mean daily injections?

Many people are not happy when they are diagnosed with diabetes.This is often because they have heard that people with diabetes need daily insulin injections for the rest of their lives.

Now diabetes occurs because your body does not make enough insulin - the chemical that helps change sugar from the foods you eat into energy that your body can use.

Without enough insulin to metabolise this sugar, it collects in your blood, and if this goes on for a long time, the high concentration of blood sugar can damage organs like your eyes, kidneys, heart and nerves.

But just because you don't have enough natural insulin does not mean that you need to inject yourself with artificial insulin.

Today we have many medicines that can be taken in the form of tablets, which act like insulin to reduce your blood sugar.

And we can also keep our blood sugar down by other methods:

* eating the correct "low sugar" types of foods - vegetables, fruits, red rice, beans and cereals;

* reducing our weight - because fat in the body prevents insulin from working properly;

* exercising (walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, playing sports etc.) - because this physical activity helps to burn up excess sugar.

If these "natural" methods are not enough to keep blood sugar under control, your doctor can prescribe tablets that help.

There are several types of anti-diabetic tablets, which can be taken once or twice each day - and when swallowed, they behave like insulin in the body to reduce your sugar level.

Sometimes, your doctor may feel that the tablets are not doing a good job in keeping your sugar under control. Then it may be necessary to prescribe insulin injections.

Most adult Sri Lankans who develop diabetes can keep it under control without injections. Your chances of needing insulin injections are higher if:

* you developed diabetes as a child;

* you are not careful with the food you eat;

* you are not exercising enough;

* you are overweight.

Unlike in the past, when people with diabetes who were taking insulin needed to boil their syringes and needles, and injections were a real problem, nowadays even the few people who need to take injections do not find it too much of a problem. Sharp disposable needles, insulin pens and new types of artificial insulin have all contributed to making life easier for people with diabetes who require insulin.

Jokes Corner

Police officer in a quandary

A police officer walked up and ordered a parked motorist to move on, but he replied that he had to park there because he was getting a 80 kilo package from the side door of the adjacent shop. And sure enough as the officer watched, the motorist's wife - a mountain of a woman - came out of the side door and into the car. The policeman was seen scratching his head as they drove off.

Getting about minding others' business

A stewardess on a night flight observed an elderly lady who kept on anxiously peering out of the window at the blinking wing-tip light. Finally unable to stomach it any further she rang for the stewardess. "I'm sorry to bother you, dear'', she said, "but I think you ought to tell the pilot that he's left his traffic indicator on".

A typewriter in human form?

A candidate for a job as a typist was asked what he was doing before, to which he replied quite confidently, "Sir, I was a typewriter."

Honesty comes first

Father looking over school report told his small son, "Just no good, son, but one thing in your favour - with these marks you couldn't possibly be cheating".

A man not out of this world

A former Undertaker who applied for a job with a business firm was asked what he liked most about his former weird job. "Making friends with ghosts," he replied.

Fed up of showing off

Neighbour to a neighbour, "Let's make a pact. I'll stop keeping up with you, if you'll stop keeping up with me."

A parasite

Wife after borrowing money from husband, "I'll pay you back end of the month when I get your pay packet".

The best policy

A government official launched a campaign to get his staff to write letters in simple language rather than in the bureaucratic style. He began the campaign himself taking pains over his letters. The other day he received this reply to one of them, "Your letter is so clear that I fear your service in government will be short-lived."

Sales talk

In a travel bureau a clerk was overheard trying to convince a nervous woman of the safety of air travel. She remained unconvinced until he clinched the argument by saying, "Madam, if it wasn't safe would we be using the fly now - pay later plan?"

–Sent by Capt. S.N. Fernando

God only knows

Once a man asked God, "What does a billion rupees mean to you who are all powerful".

"Hardly a cent," God replied.

"Then what are a hundred thousand centuries".

"Hardly a second".

"Then my lord give me a cent," the man begged.

"In a second," replied the God.

Discount robbery

A man whose store had been robbed the night before was talking with a detective attending the scene.

"Thanks goodness the robber didn't break in the day before last," said the storekeeper.

"Why,'' asked the detective".

"Well," explained the storekeeper. "Yesterday morning marked everything down 40 percent."

The bet

Two men were standing at a bar. One man turned to the other and said, "I'll bet you Rs. 1000/- that I can bite my left eye". The wager was accepted, and the man popped out his glass eye and bit it.

"Now", he said, "I will give you a chance to win your money back. I'll bet you another Rs. 1000/- that I can bite my right eye."

"He can't have two glass eyes," thought the other man and he plunked down his money. Then the first man took out his false teeth and bit his right eye.

Terms and conditions

One day a customer walked into a pet shop and told the clerk, "I need two small, gray mice and about five dozens roaches".

Puzzled shop attendant asked the reason for this strange request.

"Well," replied the man, I'm moving out of my flat and my lease stipulates that I must leave the premises in exactly the same condition I found them.

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