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FDA Alerts 8 States to Steer Clear of Specific Shellfish Due to Toxin Risk

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As the summer season begins, many of us are excited to indulge in the variety of fruits, vegetables, and seafood that become available. However, for those of us who are partial to a bit of shellfish, a recent alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might put a damper on those plans. The FDA is actively cautioning residents of eight specific states to steer clear of certain shellfish types due to potential contamination and the possible risk of shellfish poisoning.

In a public service advisory issued on June 5, individuals residing in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Washington were warned to eschew oysters and bay clams from growing areas in Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay, Oregon, that were harvested from May 28 onwards. Additionally, they were instructed to avoid all shellfish species from areas in Willapa Bay, Washington, including Stony Point, Bay Center, and Bruceport, harvested from May 26 onwards.

While these shellfish were primarily distributed to restaurants and retailers within those eight states, the FDA adds a note of caution, saying that they “may have been distributed to other states as well.” The alert was precipitated by worries that these shellfish might be infected with saxitoxins or paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs), both classified as neurotoxins.

This contamination happens when molluscan shellfish ingest marine algae containing these naturally occurring toxins. Shellfish clear the toxins at varying rates, and thus, the risk to human health is heightened for those that take longer to rid themselves of the toxins. Consumption of shellfish tainted with such toxins can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).

According to a PBS News Hour report, at least 31 individuals in Oregon have fallen ill after eating such contaminated shellfish.

Should you contract PSP, symptoms typically manifest within half an hour of consumption. These symptoms vary, ranging from “tingling of the lips, mouth, and tongue to respiratory paralysis and may include these other symptoms: numbness of arms and legs, ‘pins and needles’ sensation, weakness, loss of muscle coordination, floating feeling, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, vomiting, and headache,” states the FDA alert.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) cautions that anyone who consumes infected shellfish is at risk of illness or even death. However, if patients manage to survive for 24 hours with or without respiratory support, “the prognosis is considered good,” according to the FDA. In these cases, PSP doesn’t pose the threat of lasting side effects. However, when PSP is fatal, death typically results from asphyxiation.

The FDA alert advises, “Due to the range in severity of illness, people should consult their healthcare provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble paralytic shellfish poisoning.” No antidote is currently available for PSP, and treatment usually involves respiratory support and fluid therapy.

The FDA also highlights the fact that food containing these toxins often looks, smells, and tastes normal, and the toxins aren’t neutralized when the shellfish are cooked or frozen. Individuals who consumed Oregon shellfish from May 13 onwards are urged to complete a survey to aid investigators in gauging the extent of the outbreak, according to a May 31 press release from the Oregon Health Authority.

While the primary concern is illness, this outbreak could also have significant implications for the Pacific Northwest fisheries. The shellfish industry in this region brings in an estimated $270 million annually as per PBS News Hour.

In response to this outbreak, Oregon authorities have imposed a complete ban on the harvesting of mussels, razor clams, and bay clams along the entire coastline. Commercial oyster harvesting has also been halted in three Oregon bays. Similarly, Washington officials have closed off the state’s Pacific coastline to shellfish harvesting. It is expected to take weeks, months, or possibly even a year for toxin levels to decrease, due to the varying rates at which different shellfish detoxify.

This level of PSP is the highest recorded in Oregon since 1992 when a similar harvesting closure had been enforced, PBS News Hour reports.

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Understanding Abdominal Pain: Causes, Relief, and When to Seek Help

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Experiencing abdominal pain can be due to a myriad of reasons, ranging from something as mundane as gas to more significant health conditions like appendicitis or Crohn’s disease. Recognizing the intensity of the pain and location within the abdomen can significantly aid in diagnosis.

The abdomen, situated between the chest and pelvis, is often where this discomfort occurs. Manifestations of such discomfort range from crampy, achy, and dull feelings to intermittent or sharp pains. It’s a remarkably common issue within the United States, with up to 1 in 4 people affected by this gastrointestinal symptom.

While the discomfort is typically transient, resolving with dietary changes and lifestyle modifications, it can also be chronic or indicative of a potentially drastic, life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical care.

“Determining the correct treatment for abdominal pain will ultimately depend on the root cause. This can involve a combination of natural remedies, medications, and, in more serious cases, surgical intervention,” says an expert on the topic. For instance, the fleeting pain caused by bloating might not necessitate medical treatment.

There are instances where over-the-counter (OTC) medications can alleviate abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, bloating, and nausea. However, appendicitis that results in severe pain might need a more robust treatment plan involving antibiotics and potentially an appendectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the appendix.

A healthcare professional is instrumental in creating the most effective treatment plan. While there are plenty of home remedies available to help soothe abdominal pain, it’s critical to consult a medical professional before trying anything new, as what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Always remember health is an individual journey, and taking into account personal medical history is crucial for effective treatment.

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Unlocking the Parkinson’s Puzzle: Vital Vitamin Links Revealed

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Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder whose precise origins continue to elude the scientific community, may have a new suspect in its etiology: vitamin deficiencies. While physicians and scientists have long hypothesized that an interplay between genetic and environmental factors contributes to the disease’s onset, new findings suggest a possible role for the absence of certain vitamins.

A recent study undertaken in May 2024, published in the Parkinson’s Disease journal, endeavored to uncover “gut microbial features” prevalent in individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The research involved a meta-analysis of fecal matter from a group of 94 diagnosed Parkinson’s patients, juxtaposed with 73 healthy individuals hailing from Japan. The data from this study was compared with earlier studies carried out in the U.S., Germany, China, and Taiwan.

The study’s findings were illuminating. It appears that those suffering from Parkinson’s disease were lacking in bacterial genes, which may cause a deficiency in two B vitamins, namely riboflavin (B2) and biotin (B7). The researchers stated: “Pathway analysis showed that genes in the biosyntheses of riboflavin and biotin were markedly decreased in Parkinson’s disease after adjusting for confounding factors.”

Riboflavin, known as B2 vitamin, is a component of the B-complex vitamins and is commonly found in a variety of food items including meats, fortified grains, and nuts, as confirmed by the Cleveland Clinic. “Riboflavin is an essential micronutrient that helps cells develop and work well,” says registered dietitian Kayla Kopp, RD. “Healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome make small amounts of riboflavin. But your body needs more to function. That’s why it’s important to get enough of this B vitamin in your diet every day.”

Significantly, the study also highlighted how riboflavin has been shown to improve conditions such as “oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation, and glutamate excitotoxicity,” all of which are associated with Parkinson’s disease onset.

Biotin, or B7, is another B-complex vitamin that supports vital bodily functions. It is found in foods like meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables. The study notes that biotin produces anti-inflammatory substances and has the ability to decrease inflammation, providing relief from symptomatic allergies, immunological symptoms, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Given the implications of these vitamin deficiencies on health, the researchers suggest that introducing vitamin B supplements might be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. In their words, “Supplementation of riboflavin and/or biotin is likely to be beneficial in a subset of Parkinson’s disease patients, in which gut dysbiosis plays pivotal roles.”

Nonetheless, it is critical to exercise caution before hastily adopting the study’s conclusions. “I think these data are much too premature to warrant therapeutic interventions,” warns Tim Sampson, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Cell Biology at Emory University School of Medicine. He emphasizes that these findings just widen the understanding of how the gut microbiome might be contributing to Parkinson’s disease.

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Endocrinologist Reveals Top Gut Health No-Nos to Live By

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Our gut health is more important than many of us realize. With more than 100 trillion microbes, including bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses, the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in how our bodies function and respond to stress, certain foods, and even some medications. Registered dietitian Kristian Kirkpatrick, RD, calls it the ‘second brain,’ thanks to its vast influence on our overall health.

1. Limit Red Meat Intake

Endocrinologist and researcher, Max Nieuwdorp, PhD, highlights the vital role gut microbes play in the production and release of various hormones, affecting our daily processes like mood and metabolism. One of the items Nieuwdorp suggests we limit for optimal gut health is red meat. He told Business Insider, “I try to not eat meat every day.”

While red meat can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, producing “dangerous” metabolites during the digestion process, Scripps Health also warns that a diet centered around red meat may increase risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer due to its high cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium content.

2. Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods

Nieuwdorp also advocates for reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods, including sweetened breakfast cereals, processed meat, soda, and some frozen ready-to-eat meals. Instead, he recommends prioritizing fresh, additive-free foods.

Gastroenterologist Preeya Goyal, MD, explained in an interview with PIH Health that “ultra-processed foods contain large quantities of saturated fat and trans-fat, added sugar, salt, and food additives that seriously affect the gut and physical health.” Additionally, the consumption of ultra-processed foods can disrupt brain functions.

3. Use Antibiotics Only When Necessary

Lastly, Nieuwdorp suggests using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. “They drive dysbiosis in the gut,” he said.

Cleveland Clinic explains that dysbiosis means a lack of diversity in the gut’s microorganisms, which can make us vulnerable to infections. An imbalanced gut microbiome can also negatively affect our hormones and other essential microbiome services.

Harnessing the power of hormones for optimal health means nourishing our ‘second brain’ — the gut microbiome. By reducing red meat intake, avoiding ultra-processed foods, and using antibiotics only when necessary, we can better care for our gut health, positively impacting our overall wellbeing. Just like every part of our body, our gut requires thoughtfulness and care. With these tips from Dr. Nieuwdorp, we can take actionable steps to improve our gut health and consequently, our general health.

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