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What’s the Best Treatment for an Ear Infection?
Although more common among children, ear infections in adults can be more serious and more likely to require medical treatment. Viruses, fungi, and bacteria can cause ear infections in adults. Some adults with chronic conditions may be more likely to develop them.
Experts estimate that 80–90% of children develop a middle ear infection before they start school. However, ear infections in adults are also not uncommon. A 2021 study finds that middle ear infections in adults occur at a rate of about 5.3 per 1,000 adults annually. Researchers also estimate that about 10% of people will experience outer ear infections in their lifetimes. What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
Ear infections generally fall into three categories, depending on which part of the ear they affect: inner, middle, and outer.
The inner ear includes the cochlea, which sends information about sound to your brain. It also includes the semicircular canals, which help your body determine its position. Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis are two adult inner ear infections that are usually viral.
The middle ear area includes the eardrum and the space behind it where three bones help conduct sound waves to the cochlea. People with middle ear infections often have an upper respiratory virus that causes part of their ear to become blocked. This blockage then traps fluid behind the eardrum.
The outer ear includes the ear canal and the auricle, the external part many people think of as the ear. Outer ear infections affect adults more often than children and can be very painful without treatment.
What are the causes of ear infections?
Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can all cause ear infections in adults. However, different parts of the ear become infected for different reasons.
While viruses commonly cause inner ear infections, doctors often do not know the cause when diagnosing the condition. Therefore, they may recommend resting and staying hydrated instead of prescribing antibiotics.
The virus that causes chickenpox and shingles can cause labyrinthitis when it reactivates. A middle ear infection can also spread to the inner ear.
Middle ear infections commonly develop due to an upper respiratory virus, influenza, or cold. These viral infections can clog up the eustachian tube, which runs from the ear to the throat. This clog keeps fluid in the ear from draining and can result in a secondary bacterial infection.
The bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are responsible for most outer ear infections. These bacteria can enter the ear canal from several sources:
warm weather conditions
Inner ear infection symptoms can include:
vertigo or dizziness
nausea and vomiting
tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
Middle ear infection symptoms can include:
fluid draining from the ear
muffled hearing or hearing loss
the sensation of fullness in the ear
Outer ear infection symptoms can include:
pain when pressing or pulling on the ear
the sensation of fullness in the ear
How do doctors diagnose ear infections?
To diagnose an ear infection, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They will feel your lymph nodes and look in your ears with an otoscope, a lighted device with a magnifying lens. They may also check to see if your eardrum moves, which helps them determine if it is healthy.
Depending on the type of ear infection and severity of symptoms, your doctor also might conduct a hearing or imaging test. These additional tests can help them rule out other conditions.
How are ear infections treated?
Treating viral inner ear infections typically involves getting adequate rest, staying hydrated, and taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. In some cases, steroids and vestibular system suppressants may be necessary. If a bacterial infection is a cause, doctors may prescribe antibiotic ear drops or oral antibiotics.
For a bacterial middle ear infection, doctors may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics. Some people experience chronic middle ear infections or fluid remaining in their ear after taking antibiotics. To treat this, a doctor may perform a minor procedure to place tubes in the affected eardrum to allow the fluid to escape. This procedure can also help prevent middle ear infections and make them easier to treat with antibiotic ear drops.
You can often manage outer ear infections with antibiotic ear drops and pain relievers. Your doctor may also need to clean the ear canal to allow topical treatments to work. Treatment with an oral pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) usually helps alleviate fever and pain within a few hours. Many doctors will actually recommend alternating between Tylenol and Motrin for the best effect.
If the infection is bacterial (rather than viral) you may receive a prescription for an oral or topical antibiotic. Here are some of the antibiotics doctors prescribe to treat an ear infection:
Augmentin (amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate)
Cortisporin (neomycin/polymxcin b/hydrocortisone) solution or suspension
Cortisporin TC (colistin/neomycin/thonzonium/hydrocortisone) suspension
Ciprodex (ciprofloxacin/dexamethasone) suspension
Cipro HC (ciprofloxacin/hydrocortisone) suspension
Ciloxan (ciprofloxacin) solution
Ocuflox (ofloxacin) solution
Floxin (ofloxacin) solution
Acetasol HC (hydrocortisone/acetic acid) solution
Your doctor will assess the type of bacteria likely causing your ear infection to determine which antibiotic to give you. Most people begin feeling relief within 24 hours of starting a course of antibiotics, and symptoms should improve significantly within 48-72 hours.
What’s the difference between antibiotic solutions and suspensions?
Solutions are liquids where the active ingredients are dissolved. Suspensions are liquids in which the particles are suspended, or scattered throughout the liquid, and not quite dissolved. Some medications are stable as a suspension but not as a solution.
The main difference between the two is how irritating they might be. Antibiotic solutions are generally more irritating than suspensions because solutions have a more acidic pH of 3-4, whereas suspensions have a less acidic pH of 5. (The pH scale ranges from 0-14 where 0 is the most acidic or irritating, 7 is neutral neither acidic or basic, and 14 is the most basic or least irritating.)
Solutions may also contain alcohol to help kill bacteria, but the alcohol can be extremely irritating when these solutions are applied.
Can Covid start with ear pain?
Is an ear infection a symptom of COVID-19? Ear infections and COVID-19 share a few common symptoms, most notably fever and headache. Ear infections are not a commonly reported symptom of COVID-19.
When should I go to the doctor for an ear infection?
You should contact your doctor immediately if: The symptoms do not improve within 3 days. Body temperature rises above 100.4 degrees as an accompanying fever could indicate a more serious infection. Ear infections are being experienced regularly, as they can eventually lead to hearing loss.
What are the risk factors for ear infections?
People who are more likely to develop ear infections may have chronic conditions, such as:
weakened immune system
allergies or eczema
conditions that require long-term antibiotic use
recurrent ear infections
exposure to secondhand smoke
What are some potential complications of ear infections?
Ear infections can spread to other parts of the ear, head, or neck without effective treatment. Ear infections can also cause:
mastoiditis, or an infection of the bone just behind the ear
permanent hearing loss
persistent balance issues
Can ear infections be prevented?
Preventing ear infections often includes routine best practices for good health. You can help prevent ear infections by:
getting your annual flu shot
practicing good handwashing and hygiene techniques
never using cotton swabs in your ear
routinely disinfecting earbuds and hearing aids
getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, and exercising
Will an ear infection in go away on its own?
While some ear infections may go away on their own, others will require medical treatment. Talk with your doctor to determine the type of ear infection you have and the proper treatment plan.
How can I treat an ear infection myself?
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain and fever reliever
Drying eardrops for an ear infection
Which ear drops are good for ear pain?
Antipyrine and benzocaine otic are used to relieve ear pain and swelling caused by middle ear infections. It may be used along with antibiotics to treat an ear infection. It is also used to help remove a build-up of ear wax in the ear. Antipyrine and benzocaine are in a class of medications called analgesics.
While ear infections are more common in children, adults can get them as well. Ear infections can develop in any part of the ear and may cause vertigo, itching, hearing loss, or fever.
While viral ear infections may only require OTC pain treatment, doctors typically prescribe oral or topical antibiotics for bacterial ear infections. With prompt treatment, most ear infections will clear up within a week.
Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms consistent with an ear infection.
www.goodrx.com Ronilee Shye, PharmD, BCGP, BCACP, CDE
HEALTHY HABITS TO ADOPT TODAY
It’s vital to take care of yourself. We all know this, yet it can be hard to find the motivation and willpower to do so in this busy world. This guide is here to help! We’ll explore five healthy habits that you can easily begin to adopt today, whether you’re trying to reduce stress, eat better, or improve your mental health.
Most people who have tried mindful eating have found that what works best is eating less overall. This is because they are more aware of what and how much they are consuming. One good way to do this is to use smaller plates, bowls, and utensils. This can help prevent overeating before it’s too late to turn back.
Taking Time for Yourself
One important habit to adopt for better health and well-being is taking time for yourself every day. Take a long shower, go for a walk, or play an instrument —whatever you love to do, do it every day and notice the difference it makes on your stress and happiness levels.
Getting Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep to match your busy daily routine optimizes your health and improves your well-being. Most adults should aim to get between six and eight hours of sleep every night. Turning off electronic devices before bed, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and ensuring that light and noise don’t interrupt your bedroom are all crucial aspects of developing a healthy sleep routine.
Creating Healthy Routines
One of the most crucial aspects of healthy living is creating healthier daily routines. Routines save time and help to keep you on track. Routines can be as simple as eating breakfast every morning or drinking a glass of water before bed. To create new routines, it’s important to take note of what you’re currently doing in your day-to-day life. Then, find one unhealthy thing that you could replace with something healthier. As time goes on, you can keep swapping negative habits for more positive ones and reap the benefits!
Once you adopt a few healthy routines, it becomes easier to find other areas of your life that could be improved and take action to make them healthier. Trying out at least one of the healthy habits above can start you on a path to a happier and more rewarding, healthy lifestyle.
3 CAUSES OF DIZZINESS THAT SHOULDN’T BE OVERLOOKED
Before you seek emergency services for your dizziness, it’s important to understand why you’re feeling this way in the first place. While dizziness is the second most popular reason to go to the doctor, few people know why they started feeling dizzy in the first place.
Dizziness is estimated to affect 70% of the population at some point in their lives. Here are three reasons you might be feeling dizzy and whether or not you should receive urgent care because of it.
CAUSES OF DIZZINESS
- Low blood pressure — Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, can make an individual feel dizzy and even lethargic. Some drops in low blood pressure, known as orthostatic hypotension, can also make you feel dizzy when you stand up quickly. Hypotension is usually a symptom of another condition, but it can also be a chronic problem on its own. Visit a doctor for a diagnosis or go to an urgent care nearby if you’re suffering from signs of shock.
- Benign positional vertigo — Vertigo is a medical condition that affects your sense of balance, causing spinning or swaying sensations when you tilt your head, turn over, lay down, or get up. It’s a disturbance in the fluid of the inner ear when crystals of calcium carbonate enter the canals of your ears. BPV requires a medical diagnosis and can be a lifelong issue.
- Excessive exercise — Exercise is necessary for a healthy mind and body but over-exerting yourself during a workout can cause symptoms of dizziness. Be sure to take periodic breaks and drink plenty of water during your workout. You should also avoid working out on an empty or overly full stomach.
WHEN SHOULD I VISIT AN URGENT CARE NEAR ME?
You should visit a doctor or urgent care facility if your short bout of dizziness doesn’t go away or repeats frequently. You should also go to a pedi center or emergency services if you or your child has sustained a head injury, experienced blurred vision, or loses consciousness.
Ignoring your dizziness could result in potentially life-threatening damage. Contact your local urgent care, emergency services, or primary care physician when you want to talk about your repeated bouts of dizziness.
3 SIMPLE STEPS TO FOLLOW IF YOU CATCH THE FLU
The common cold is pretty darn common. Each year, Americans catch approximately one billion colds. Each one will vary in severity, and each person will respond to getting sick differently, but on the whole, colds are fairly innocuous. The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. The flu, on the other hand, has the potential to be deadly. How you respond to each of these, then, will be very different. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue.
How to Respond to the Flu
Contracting influenza is a miserable experience. It can knock you out of commission for several days and potentially threaten your life. If treated properly, however, this shouldn’t happen. So, in order to take the right precautions, here’s how to handle influenza.
Step Zero: Before you catch the flu — before it’s even flu season — go get vaccinated. This will greatly improve your chances of going through the entire flu season without getting sick.
Step One: So, you caught the flu? Right now, you’re probably feeling pretty bad and want it to end. What should you do to make that happen? First of all, stay home. You won’t help anyone by exposing them to flu germs. Second, drink plenty of water. This will keep you hydrated as your body sweats from the fever. Wait until your fever dies down before doing any strenuous activity.
Step Two: If your fever isn’t dying down, or if you don’t feel like you’re getting better, consider contacting your doctor. If any of the following symptoms present themselves, you might be in need of emergency care at a local hospital:
- Dizziness or confusion
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent vomiting even after only drinking water
- Improved symptoms followed by drastic worsening of symptoms
Step Three: As you recover, hopefully without needing emergency care, slowly reintroduce your regular diet. Getting the proper amount of nutrients is important at any time, but it’s critical following a nasty illness like the flu.
For most colds, you should be able to take some basic over-the-counter medication to suppress the symptoms until your body recovers naturally. For the flu, however, a lot more is at stake. It is possible you will need emergency care at some point, so be vigilant of the dangerous warning signs mentioned above.
Chronic Headaches and Migraines
How to Treat and Prevent Chronic Headaches and Migraines
Can’t find relief from chronic headaches and migraines? You’re not alone! Chronic headaches and migraines are among the most common neurological disorders in the world. People experience different symptoms, but often it is intense pain in the head that can be debilitating. This pain can be either chronic or acute.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Headaches and Migraines?
When you’re suffering from chronic headaches and migraines, your quality of life takes a significant blow. Headaches can last for days at a time and make it difficult to do the things you enjoy.
People with chronic headaches or migraines may experience a variety of symptoms including pressure or pain on either the left or right side of the head, sensitivity to light, pulsating pain, nausea, and vomiting.
What Are the Causes of Chronic Headaches and Migraines?
Neurological disorders are one major cause of chronic headaches and migraines. The most common causes of such problems are stress, allergies, and too much screen time. Other conditions that can lead to headaches and migraines include vascular disorders (high blood pressure), infections (meningitis), depression (situational headache), sinusitis (sinus headache), low oxygen levels in the brain (hypoxia), and post-traumatic stress disorder.
What Are the Risk Factors for Chronic Headaches and Migraines?
The risk factors for chronic headaches and migraines include stress, heredity, day-to-day activities such as living with pets or smoking cigarettes, dieting habits, lack of sleep, and dehydration. Some people have been found to have a genetic predisposition that can cause them to be more susceptible to chronic headaches and migraines.
Complications of Chronic Headaches and Migraines
The two most common headaches are migraines and chronic headaches. Migraines are characterized by intense, throbbing pain, which is typically on one side of the head. The pain can last anywhere from four hours to three days. Chronic headaches are not as intense as migraines, but they last longer.
Complications of Migraines
Migraine sufferers are more likely to have depression and anxiety than those without migraines. They also have a higher chance of experiencing a stroke or heart attack than people who don’t suffer from migraines. They’re also more likely to be on medication for hypertension.
Complications of Chronic Headaches
Chronic headaches are debilitating. They can interfere with personal life, work, and relationships. Fortunately, there are treatments that can help manage the pain. Understanding what causes chronic headaches can also help people identify triggers and better learn how to avoid them.
The side effects of chronic headaches can be so severe that people may need to take a prescription medication just to function normally. This usually leads them to find pills for chronic headache relief such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Can You Prevent Chronic Headaches and Migraines?
Migraines are often caused by hormonal changes, poor diet, stress, and other triggers. There are many things you can do to help prevent migraines. These include making lifestyle changes or taking medication. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can also help prevent chronic headaches, migraines, and relieve tension and release some of that built-up energy that is making your headache worse.
How are Chronic Headaches and Migraines Diagnosed and Treated?
Doctors diagnose chronic headaches and migraines by looking for common causes such as sinusitis or cerebral venous thrombosis. They may then recommend treatments for these causes if they are found. The most common treatment for people with chronic headaches is migraine medication such as Amitriptyline and Topiramate.
However, there are other options for relieving pain caused by chronic headaches and migraines such as human tissue product therapy. Human tissue product therapy is a branch of regenerative medicine that studies the use of human cells and biomaterials to regenerate, repair and replace tissue.
Headaches and Migraines can be defined as a combination of symptoms that cause pain in the head, neck, and/or face. Some people get relief from their headaches with simple remedies such as taking a warm bath, drinking lots of water, or resting.
There are many ways to prevent chronic headaches and migraines like regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and stress management techniques like meditation or acupuncture. However, chronic headaches and migraines are not always so easy to relieve.
Accelerated Urgent Care | September 20, 2021
The Four Origins of Pink Eye
First, your eye feels scratchy or uncomfortable. Next, you might notice redness, swelling, or discharge. They all add up to what doctors call conjunctivitis—though most people know it by the everyday name pink eye.
This common condition occurs when the conjunctiva—the thin, smooth layer of tissue lining the surface of your eye and the inside of your lid—becomes irritated or infected. Most often, this occurs due to viruses or bacteria.
“Conjunctivitis is basically like getting the common cold for your eye,” says Gene Kim, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology and visual science with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston and a member of the Robert Cizik Eye Clinic.
Pink eye symptoms are usually mild, but in severe cases, your vision can be affected—and threatened. Simple cases can usually be treated at home with artificial tears and cold compresses, says Radha Ram, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist and adult strabismus surgeon with Texas Children’s Specialty Care in Austin. But in more severe cases, prescription eye drops or medications may be required.
The four origins of pink eye
Like many things in life, there are many roads to contracting pink eye. The first of which is called viral conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis is exactly as it sounds, a virus that is easily transmitted from person to person. It is highly contagious and is usually caused by viruses such as adenoviruses.
Bacteria is a large contributor to many different infections; this includes bacterial conjunctivitis. This is the most common origin of pink eye that is common among both adults and children. There are quite a few types of bacteria that may be responsible for the infection. A few of these bacteria include Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, etc.
Everyone hates allergies. It just so happens that allergies would be responsible for the third origin of pink eye. Allergies may come from many different sources such as pollen, molds, animals, and even some medications. The good thing about allergic conjunctivitis is that it is not contagious like the other two origins mentioned. Usually, this type of pink eye only isn’t year-round and only occurs seasonally.
The fourth and final potential origin for pink eye is caused by irritants. An irritant could be anything from fumes to dust. Just about anything that bothers someone’s eyes could cause a reaction resulting in a case of conjunctivitis. The good news is that it isn’t contagious like viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.
It’s important to stop wearing contact lenses while affected by conjunctivitis. It often resolves on its own, but treatment can speed the recovery process. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with antihistamines. Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic eye drops.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before you use any at-home remedies for pink eye.
A cold compress will soothe that annoying itchiness. When using a cold compress, be sure to use purified water to keep the area clean. You also need to re-sterilize your water and cloth each time you apply.
Chamomile is a natural herb often used for its soothing antibacterial properties. Simply brew a cup of chamomile tea, remove the tea bag and let it cool, then place it gently over your eye. Tip: lie down before applying the tea bag so that it doesn’t need to be held in place.
Baking soda whitens your teeth, but it also soothes an itch. Just dissolve one teaspoon of baking soda into warm, sterilized water and apply with a clean cotton swab.
Coconut oil (the organic variety is recommended) is another natural anti-bacterial home remedy. Apply it to the eyelid with a clean cotton ball before going to sleep and upon waking. This will help soothe the infection and itchiness.
Salt water in your tears can cleanse infection, so why not apply it by preparing a solution, using a teaspoon of salt dissolved in a cup of sterilized water? This creates some natural DIY eye-drops.
Accelerated Urgent Care | October 26, 2021
Can you use medications past their expiration date?
By Jeanine Bradley, RPh, Cert. MTM, Ch Herbalist
How important is the expiration date on your medication bottle? A lot of us will look at expiration dates on food as more of a suggestion than a rule. If it passes the sniff test and there’s no visible mold growth, it’s fine, right? Maybe not. But how do expiration dates apply to medications when the pills that have spent years in your cupboard look the same as the ones fresh from the store?
How do medications expire?
Most medications are made up of active and inactive components. The inactive parts are, in part, meant to stabilize the active components. The active parts can be complex and sometimes unstable, meaning that with time and exposure to outside factors such as heat, light, or water, they’ll break down and no longer be able to perform the job they’re designed to do. This process happens over time, meaning that the medication will gradually lose active components and become less and less effective.
What does the expiration date mean?
The expiration date is the date by which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug. These tend to be conservative estimates to be safe as there is evidence that a lot of medications will still be good months to several years past their posted expiration date. For proper storage, keep your medications away from heat, light, and humidity. Any bathroom that has a shower is generally not a good place to keep your medications.
Are expired medications safe to take?
Depending on the medication, it could be. There are very few products currently on the market that produce actively harmful chemicals when they start to degrade. Of course, as mentioned, medications get less effective as they degrade, and not getting the full dose can be dangerous for some medications that require a specific amount to be in the body. For example, if the medication is for a potentially serious medical condition such as a blood thinner for stroke prevention, you could be putting your life in danger by taking expired medication. If you find yourself questioning whether a medication would be safe to take expired, it’s probably best to play it safe and dispose of it or ask your pharmacist.
Resource: Living Well by Seniors Sunset Times
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Vagus Nerve Stimulation at The Ear Strengthens Communication Between Stomach and Brain
The finding might open up new avenues to treat eating disorders and obesity.
Editorial Director; IFLScience.com
New research from the University Hospitals of Tübingen and Bonn has shown for the first time that non-invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve can strengthen the communication between the stomach and the brain, opening up new therapeutic avenues for various disorders and human health.
The vagus nerve is considered one of the most complex cranial nerves in our central nervous system because of its central role in human behavior, connecting various bodily signals with the brain in a “superhighway” of connectivity. This nerve is responsible for regulating internal organ functions such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and digestion.
For example, the vagus nerve signals to the brain when the stomach is empty to help support the directive search for food to eat. The nerve plays a central role in digestive processes and, therefore, the communication relayed via this nerve pathway has important implications for human health.
“We showed for the first time that electrical stimulation strengthens the coupling between signals from the stomach and the brain – and we can do it within a few minutes,” said Professor Nils Kroemer.
The researchers investigated 31 subjects who underwent vagus nerve stimulation at the ear while simultaneously receiving functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record brain activation. At the same time, electrogastrogram recordings were made over their stomach regions to record signals from the digestive tract. They found that vagus nerve stimulation increased coupling between the stomach and brain and it was widespread, especially in areas of the brain that normally connect more strongly with the stomach before the stimulation was applied.
“We observed that vagus nerve stimulation increased coupling with signals from the stomach in the brainstem and midbrain,” explained Kroemer. “These regions are important because they are the first targets of the vagus nerve in the brain. Changes in the midbrain may already mediate our actions.”
The researchers say the new discovery could open up new therapeutic avenues for depression, obesity, and eating disorders in the future. The findings are reported in the journal Brain Stimulation.
Ways To Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve for Better Physical and Mental Health
Thinking about how to come out of the traps of stress, anxiety, and depression? Well, don’t feel trapped anymore. A new study found that stimulating the vagus nerve helps in better management of your physical and mental health. Read on to know how the vagus nerve works so that you can better deal with your nervous system.
Stress and anxiety initiate an inflammatory response in our bodies. If untreated it can lead to the development and persistence of many diseases. Other than using medications, the best way to combat inflammatory conditions (including all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus, and more) is to engage the vagus nerve and improve your vagal tone.
“By developing an understanding of the workings of your vagus nerve, you may find it possible to work with your nervous system rather than feel trapped when it works against you.”
— Dr. Arielle Schwartz, Clinical Psychologist
The word “vagus” means “to wander” in Latin, which accurately represents the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in our body that extends from the cerebellum and brainstem and wanders all over the body and branches multiple times and reaches various organs like the pharynx, larynx, heart, esophagus, stomach, gut, lungs, liver, spleen, and pancreas.
The activity of the vagus nerve is known as vagal tone.
The Vagus nerve is an important part of the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for “rest and digestion”, which is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for “fight or flight”. The Vagus nerve is a key player in speech, taste, swallowing, respiration, heart function, digestion, and excretion. It communicates with different organs with the help of neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and hormones. Any damage to the nerve can hamper all physiological activities.
What causes vagus nerve damage?
Excessive stress or prolonged use of certain medications disrupts the vagus nerve. Inflammation and infections are other causes of poor vagal tone or functioning. This results in sleep problems, digestive issues, difficulty in breathing, lung and skin problems.
Signs of underperforming vagus nerve
- Anxiety and depression
- Weight gain
- Abdominal pain
- Memory loss
- Temperature dysregulation
- Joint and muscle pain
Various biological processes represent the activity of the vagus nerve. An increase in vagal tone activates the parasympathetic nervous system. An increase in heart rate during inhalation and a decrease in heart rate during exhalation represent a healthy vagal tone. Bigger the difference between inhalation heart rate and exhalation heart rate, the higher the vagal tone.
Why is the vagus nerve and vagal tone important for physical and mental health?
With poor vagal tone, the body needs more time to relax and perform primary functions as the movement of wastes via the GI tract due to bacterial overgrowth. Bad gut microbes in turn influence the activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis via the vagus nerve. The disturbed HPA can affect neuronal cellular activity in the brain and lead to inflammation and neurodegeneration. As mentioned earlier, the vagus nerve wanders all over the body so if it is not working well, multiple functions are affected.
This nerve influences respiratory rate, heart rate, digestive function, all of which can greatly impact your mental health. But, the most important thing is the “tone” of the vagus nerve. According to a publication by Jordan Fallis, there is a positive feedback loop between high vagal tone, positive emotions, positive social connections, and good physical health.
People with a high vagal tone tend to have strong social connections, and experience positive emotions, and better physical health. On the other hand, people with low vagal tone experience depression, loneliness, negative feelings, and heart attacks.
Vagus nerve is also associated with brain health and gut health. You can consider vagal tone index as your body’s gut feeling that sends signals to the brain that leads to feedback loop of more positive emotions or negative emotions. Thus, the vagus nerve is important for both physical and mental health.
Our body’s immune system releases some signals called cytokines, which determine the vagal tone index. So, stimulating the vagus nerve can help treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, without the use of pharmaceutical drugs.
Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kok of the University of North Carolina used a loving-kindness meditation (LKM) technique to investigate if positive emotions, robust social connections, and physical health influence one another in a self-sustaining upward spiral dynamic and feedback loop. The technique helped the participants become better at self-generating positive emotions and making close-knit human bonds. The study results revealed an increase in vagal tone in participants.
Stimulating the vagus nerve and increasing the vagal tone can help treat different brain and mental health conditions:
- Anxiety disorders
- Alcohol addiction
- Bulimia nervosa
- Poor memory
- Traumatic brain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Benefits of having a high vagal tone:
- Low blood pressure
- Improves blood-sugar regulation
- Reduce migraines and headaches
- Improves blood circulation
- Better mood
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Lower risk of heart stroke
- Improves digestion
- Fosters positive emotions
- Improves mental well-being
How Does Vagus Nerve Stimulation Reduce Inflammation?
The Vagus nerve reads the gut microbiome and initiates a mechanism to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. That’s how a gut microbiome can influence your mood, stress level, and overall inflammation.
Ways To Increase Vagal Tone:
This technique stimulates the vagus nerve and helps mitigate stress and anxiety. You can also try this breathing technique before bed to have a good night sleep. Here are simple steps to follow:
- Lay down on your back
- Elevate your legs
- Make sure your knees are at 90 degrees (on a box or bench)
- Breathe slowly, take 10-20 slow breaths
- Put one hand on your upper chest and other hand over your belly button
- Inhale so that your lower hand on belly is moving upward
- If you see only upper hand is moving upon inhaling, practice filling your belly with air
Exposure to cold boosts parasympathetic activity and activates cholinergic neurons through the vagus nerve, which increases vagal tone. Here are few quick tips to do:
- You can splash cold water on your face 10–20 times a day
- Take a shower with a quick 10-second blast of cold or hot-cold contrast showers
- Walk a small distance in winters in a t-shirt and shorts.
Chanting mantras, singing or gargling
The Vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, so it is stimulated by – singing, humming, gargling, and chanting mantras. Also, these activities have a biologically soothing effect. Start humming your favorite tune when cooking or gardening or taking shower.
Yoga and meditation
Yoga and meditation are two important relaxation techniques and are well known to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Both practices stimulate the vagus nerve and vagal tone. Daily yoga increases gastric motility, which is important for the easy movement of food through the digestive tract. Yoga does this by stimulating the vagus nerve. Daily meditation promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself. This technique reduces sympathetic “fight or flight” activity and increases vagal modulation.
Improve social connections
Staying connected with friends and neighbors increases social support, which evokes positive emotions and increases vagal tone. Reach out to your friends no matter in which part of the world they are and laugh out loud. Laughter increases heart rate variability. Social connection and stable support improve physical and mental health.
Maintain healthy gut
Because gut microorganisms can activate the vagus nerve, through a positive feedback loop. Three things are important to maintain a healthy gut:
- Cut sugar from your diet
- Consume plenty of fiber rich food
- Eat fermented foods or a probiotic
Research shows that excessive sugar is associated with chronic inflammation of the GI tract mucosal lining that gives easy access to pathogens, which further perpetuate inflammatory signals to the brain. So, nix sugar from your diet and eat more fiber.
Daily intake of 25-plus grams of fiber improves bowel movement and allows your body to eliminate on a daily rhythm. When you poop daily, there is less stagnation of inflammatory food residues in the colon and bad bacteria that impairs brain and gut communication. Besides fiber, daily intake of probiotics is necessary to maintain optimal gut-brain signaling and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Massages like foot massages (reflexology) can increase the vagal activity and vagal tone, and decrease the “fight or flight” sympathetic response.
This is the best brain health booster. You don’t need to build six-pack abs! Simple weight lifting (1-4 times per week), sprints (1-2 times per week), and brisk walks (30-60 minutes a day) are enough to – stimulate the vagus nerve. You can also choose your favorite sport so that you will stick with it consistently. If you are obese, then you must adopt sustainable practices for weight loss. Because obesity and gut inflammation can disturb vagal activity. Also, negatively affect the connection between the brain and the GI tract. Besides exercises, follow Mediterranean diet for better results.
Add omega-3 to your diet
You must eat an omega-3 rich diet because your body cannot produce it naturally. Avocados, salmon, walnuts, olive oil and flaxseeds are some of the food sources of omega-3. Studies showed that omega-3 fatty acids help in the proper functioning of your brain and nervous system and increase vagal tone and vagal activity. Having high omega-3 improves mental well-being, heart health and lowers inflammation.
Vagus nerve is a wonderful drug-free alternative for treating inflammatory response, low mood, depression and more. Isn’t it? Stimulating vagal activity offers significant health advantages and is supported by a bulk of studies. Unlike taking drugs, it won’t burn your pocket plus fewer side effects. Increase your vagal tone and you will gain the power to control your body and mind. By stimulating the vagus nerve you can signal your body to relax, which can improve your mood and wellbeing. However, there is a need for more trials for testing if vagus nerve stimulation can improve the lives of other people suffering from other diseases including Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, and Alzheimer’s.
FINDING WHAT URGENT CARE CAN DO IN A NEW AREA
A private study conducted by Milliman revealed that between 44% and 65% of all ER episodes could’ve been taken care of in an urgent care clinic. Unfortunately, many people simply aren’t aware of what urgent care is, and where the centers are located.
WHAT CAN URGENT CARE DO?
For any parent, it is important to know when your child needs emergency services, or if it is okay to take them to urgent care. Most of the time you’ll likely be surprised to find that urgent care offers more than enough services to treat your child or yourself. Some of those services include:
- Minor Fractures
- Minor Cuts
- Physical Exams
- Certain Treatments
When asking “what can urgent care do?” turn that question around and ask yourself: Is this situation life-threatening? If the answer is no, then the chances are an urgent care clinic near you can help.
What’s the closest urgent care to my location?
If you have just moved, or you aren’t really sure where the nearest family urgent care center is located, make obtaining this information a priority. Knowing where the closest urgent care center is can save you time, money, and a trip to the hospital. It is always good to be prepared, especially when it concerns your health.
What’s the point?
The purpose of urgent care clinics is to decentralize medicine, making it less expensive, and more accessible, and reduce the strain of overpopulation that hospitals face every day. Due to the lack of primary care physician support during all too many weekly hours, and the impossibly high prices and wait times in hospitals, urgent care formed from the desire to help those who needed it but weren’t sick enough to be in a hospital.
The best urgent care center near you is one of the most important buildings to locate when you move to a new area.
Resource: By Accelerated Urgent Care | January 16, 2018