Infertility

Medical experts have warned that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for the majority of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) deaths in the country.

President, NCD Alliance Nigeria, Olorogun Dr. Sonny F. Kuku, in his opening remarks during a webinar on, “Non-communicable Diseases and COVID-19 in Nigeria – The response”, held Tuesday, July 21, 2020, said: “… We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and unfortunately, people with NCDs are at greater risk. It is impacting the poorest people and most vulnerable. People with hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are the most vulnerable. We are now seeing stroke as symptom. This means COVID-19, which is an infectious disease is manifesting as an NCD in the form of stroke…”

Vice President, Scientific Affairs, NCDs Alliance Nigeria, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, has said blamed the situation on the nation’s years of lack of commitment to the course of NCDs. The cardiologist said NCDs account for 29 per cent of deaths in Nigeria.

Akinroye, at the launch of the New Civil Society Solidarity Fund on NCDs in response to COVID-19, harped on the need to strengthen the healthcare system, intensify awareness, increase access to care and treatment, and vote more money for NCDs care and management.

However, the NCD Alliance Nigeria and 19 other global and national NCD Alliances have been awarded $300,000.

Akinroye added that regional and national NCD Alliance including NCD Alliance Nigeria would get $15,000 to address the critical needs of people living with NCDs during the pandemic through advocacy and communication activities that would support stronger organisational stability and resilience

According to the cardiologist, COVID-19 shows many connections between it and NCDs stating that people living with NCDs are more vulnerable to COVID-19 with a substantially higher risk o becoming severely ill or dying from the virus.

The expert said that actions taken to control NCDs in Nigeria include the launch o the First Multi-Sectoral Action Plan or Prevention and Control o NCDs by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the NCD Alliance Nigeria Publication of the Handbook on Civil Society Organisation in NCDs.

“Activities in Nigeria will include the development of a database of people living with NCDs in Lagos, Osun, and Federal Capital Territory and by NCD area of focus. Also, establishment and support for people living with NCDs with skills and knowledge, and connect them to NCD Alliance Nigeria, federal Ministry o Health, World Health Organisation and State Ministry of Health in the four states,” he added.

Akinroye further stated that they would build capacity for people living with NCDs on advocacy for their rights to health, prevention, access to treatment and care; provision of support and empowerment

He explained that NCD Alliance Nigeria would develop a directory and a database in the states by area of focus cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, sickle cell disease, respiratory diseases and mental health and also develop advocacy communication materials targeting Lawmakers, Policymakers and opinion leaders that are persuasive and effective to improve prevention, care and access to treatment for people living with NCDs.

The expert, however, tasked the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to mobilise for more testing and awareness amongst the grassroots and also provide free hypertensive and diabetic drugs or the vulnerable population.

Executive Director, NCD Alliance Nigeria, Prof. Akin Osibogun, also presented a paper on “NCDs in Nigeria and COVID-19: The Nigerian experience.”

Osibogun is a consultant public health physician/epidemiologist, a member of Lagos State COVID-19 Response Team and former Chief Medical Director (CMD), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba.

Member, Nutrition Committee, Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) and Food Scientist, Prof. Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, spoke on “COVID-19 and Nutrition: Gathering evidence.”

Akinroye delivered a paper on “People Living with NCDs in Nigeria and COVID-19.”

Adeyemi, who is Vice chancellor of Bells University of Technology Ota, Ogun State, and the pioneer Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State, said functional foods are important to boost the immune system.

Adeyemi said that a well functioning immune system is key to providing robust defence against pathogenic organisms. Adeyemi noted that mortality in people living with NCDs is likely the result of immune decline or impaired immune response.

The expert said that energy is required to fight the virus likewise, protein to produce essential antibodies.

He encouraged intake of Phytochemicals like quercetin from onions, phloretin and also Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) as well as conventional foods containing bioactive food compounds like vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, fish and meat.

“Eat fresh and unprocessed food every day like fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains and animal products. Eat a moderate amount o fats and oils. Eat at home to reduce your rate of contact with other people,” he added.

Adeyemi urged the consumption of plant food such as grains, legumes and oilseeds, fruits and vegetables containing vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals.

He, however, stressed on the need to avoid the intake of caffeine, trans fat while also limiting the intake of salt because they are predisposing factors that contribute to morbidity o patients with COVID-19.

According to a study published in Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences and titled “COVID-19 and Nutrition: Review of Available Evidence”, nutritional support is indicated for depleted patients with respiratory diseases because it provides not only supportive care, but direct intervention through improvement in respiratory and peripheral skeletal muscle function and in exercise performance.

The researchers noted: “A combination of oral nutritional supplements and exercise or anabolic stimulus appears to be the best approach to obtaining significant functional improvement. Patients responding to this treatment even demonstrated a decreased mortality. Furthermore, weight loss and malnutrition opens the door of infection reoccurrence. Poor response was related to the effects of systemic inflammation on dietary intake and catabolism.

“Dietary management of pre-existing diseases has been suggested as a strategy to minimise the potential risk of COVID-19 infection in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s and Colitis. WHO, dietetic associations and dietitians have been calling for patients with pre-existing conditions to continue abiding by their dietary advice and nutritional therapy steps received from their dietician if tested positive for COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) survey, prevention and treatment services for NCDs have been severely disrupted since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The survey, which was completed by 155 countries during a three-week period in May, confirmed that the impact is global, but that low-income countries are most affected.

This situation is of significant concern because people living with NCDs are at higher risk of severe COVID-19-related illness and death.

Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “The results of this survey confirm what we have been hearing from countries for a number of weeks now.

“Many people who need treatment for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have not been receiving the health services and medicines they need since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s vital that countries find innovative ways to ensure that essential services for NCDs continue, even as they fight COVID-19.”

The main finding is that health services have been partially or completely disrupted in many countries. More than half (53 per cent) of the countries surveyed have partially or completely disrupted services for hypertension treatment; 49 per cent for treatment for diabetes and diabetes-related complications; 42 per cent for cancer treatment, and 31 per cent for cardiovascular emergencies.

Rehabilitation services have been disrupted in almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of countries, even though rehabilitation is key to a healthy recovery following a severe illness from COVID-19.

In the majority (94 per cent) of countries responding, ministries of health staff working in the area of NCDs were partially or fully reassigned to support COVID-19.

The postponement of public screening programmes (for example for breast and cervical cancer) was also widespread, reported by more than 50 per cent of countries. This was consistent with initial WHO recommendations to minimize non-urgent facility-based care whilst tackling the pandemic.

But the most common reasons for discontinuing or reducing services were cancellations of planned treatments, a decrease in public transport available and a lack of staff because health workers had been reassigned to support COVID19 services. In one in five countries (20 per cent) reporting disruptions, one of the main reasons for discontinuing services was a shortage of medicines, diagnostics and other technologies.

Unsurprisingly, there appears to be a correlation between levels of disruption to services for treating NCDs and the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak in a country. Services become increasingly disrupted as a country moves from sporadic cases to community transmission of the coronavirus.

Globally, two-thirds of countries reported that they had included NCD services in their national COVID-19 preparedness and response plans; 72 per cent of high-income countries reported inclusion compared to 42 per cent of low-income countries. Services to address cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease were the most frequently included. Dental services, rehabilitation and tobacco cessation activities were not as widely included in response plans according to country reports.

Seventeen percent of countries reporting have started to allocate additional funding from the government budget to include the provision of NCD services in their national COVID-19 plan.

Encouraging findings of the survey were that alternative strategies have been established in most countries to support the people at the highest risk to continue receiving treatment for NCDs. Among the countries reporting service disruptions, globally 58 per cent of countries are now using telemedicine (advice by telephone or online means) to replace in-person consultations; in low-income countries, this figure is 42 per cent. Triaging to determine priorities has also been widely used, in two-thirds of countries reporting.

Also encouraging is that more than 70 per cent of countries reported collecting data on the number of COVID-19 patients who also have an NCD.

Director of the Department of NCDs at WHO, Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, said: “It will be some time before we know the full extent of the impact of disruptions to health care during COVID-19 on people with NCDs.

“What we know now, however, is that not only are people with NCDs more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus, but many are unable to access the treatment they need to manage their illnesses. It is very important not only that care for people living with NCDs is included in national response and preparedness plans for COVID-19 – but that innovative ways are found to implement those plans. We must be ready to ‘build back better’- strengthening health services so that they are better equipped to prevent, diagnose and provide care for NCDs in the future, in any circumstances.”

According to the WHO, NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71 per cent of all deaths globally. Each year, 15 million people die from an NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; more than 85 per cent of these “premature” deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

In the short-term, eating too much sugar may contribute to acne, weight gain, and tiredness. In the long-term, too much sugar increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people in the United States consume too much added sugar. Added sugars are sugars that manufacturers add to food to sweeten them.

In this article, we look at how much added sugar a person should consume, the symptoms and impact of eating too much sugar, and how someone can reduce their sugar intake.

How much sugar is too much? 

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010-2015, on average, Americans consume 17 teaspoons (tsp) of added sugar each day. This adds up to 270 calories.

However, the guidelines advise that people limit added sugars to less than 10% of their daily calorie intake. For a daily intake of 2,000 calories, added sugar should account for fewer than 200 calories.

However, in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised that people eat half this amount, with no more than 5% of their daily calories coming from added sugar. For a diet of 2,000 calories per day, this would amount to 100 calories, or 6 tsp, at the most.

Symptoms of eating too much sugar

Some people experience the following symptoms after consuming sugar:

  • Low energy levels: 2019 study found that 1 hour after sugar consumption, participants felt tired and less alert than a control group.
  • Low mood: A 2017 prospective study found that higher sugar intake increased rates of depression and mood disorder in males.
  • Bloating: According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, certain types of sugar may cause bloating and gas in people who have digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Risks of eating too much sugar 

Consuming too much sugar can also contribute to long-term health problems.

Tooth decay

Sugar feeds bacteria that live in the mouth. When bacteria digest the sugar, they create acid as a waste product. This acid can erode tooth enamel, leading to holes or cavities in the teeth.

People who frequently eat sugary foods, particularly in between mealtimes as snacks or in sweetened drinks, are more likely to develop tooth decay, according to Action on Sugar, part of the Wolfson Institute in Preventive Medicine in the United Kingdom.

Acne

2018 study of university students in China showed that those who drank sweetened drinks seven times per week or more were more likely to develop moderate or severe acne.

Additionally, a 2019 study suggests that lowering sugar consumption may decrease insulin-like growth factors, androgens, and sebum, all of which may contribute to acne.

Weight gain and obesity

Sugar can affect the hormones in the body that control a person’s weight. The hormone leptin tells the brain a person has had enough to eat. However, according to a 2008 animal study, a diet high in sugar may cause leptin resistance.

This may mean, that over time, a high sugar diet prevents the brain from knowing when a person has eaten enough. However, researchers have yet to test this in humans.

Diabetes and insulin resistance

2013 article in PLOS ONE, indicated that high sugar levels in the diet might cause type 2 diabetes over time.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) add that other risk factors, such as obesity and insulin resistance, can also lead to type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease

A large prospective study in 2014 found that people who got 17–21% of their daily calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those who consumed 8% added sugars. For those who consumed 21% or more of their energy from added sugars, their risk for CVD doubled.

High blood pressure

In a 2011 study, researchers found a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and high blood pressure, or hypertension. A review in Pharmacological Research states that hypertension is a risk factor for CVD. This may mean that sugar exacerbates both conditions.

Cancer

Excess sugar consumption can cause inflammationoxidative stress, and obesity. These factors influence a person’s risk of developing cancer.

A review of studies in the Annual Review of Nutrition found a 23–200% increased cancer risk with sugary drink consumption. Another study found a 59% increased risk of some cancers in people who consumed sugary drinks and carried weight around their abdomen.

Aging skin

Excess sugar in the diet leads to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which play a role in diabetes. However, they also affect collagen formation in the skin.

According to Skin Therapy Letter, there is some evidence to suggest that a high number of AGEs may lead to faster visible aging. However, scientists need to study this in humans more thoroughly to understand the impact of sugar in the aging process.

How to eat less sugar

A person can reduce the amount of added sugar they eat by:

  1. checking food labels for sweeteners
  2. reducing foods with added sugar
  3. avoiding processed foods in general

Checking food labels

Added sugar and sweeteners come in many forms. Ingredients to look out for on a food label include:

  • brown sugar
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • sucrose
  • maltose
  • honey
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • raw sugar
  • molasses
  • malt syrup
  • evaporated cane juice
  • agave nectar
  • maple syrup
  • invert sugar
  • fruit juice concentrates
  • trehalose
  • turbinado sugar

Some of these ingredients are natural sources of sugar and are not harmful in small amounts. However, when manufacturers add them to food products, a person might easily consume too much sugar without realizing it.

Reducing foods that contain added sugar

Some food products contain large amounts of added sugars. Reducing or removing these foods is an efficient way to reduce the amount of sugar a person eats.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010–2015 state that soda and other soft drinks account for around half a person’s added sugar intake in the U.S. The average can of soda or fruit punch provides 10 tsp of sugar.

Another common source of sugar is breakfast cereal. According to EWG, many popular cereals contain over 60% sugar by weight, with some store brands containing over 80% sugar. This is especially true of cereals marketed towards children.

Swapping these foods for unsweetened alternatives will help a person lower their sugar intake, for example:

  • swapping soda for water, milk, or herbal teas
  • swapping sugary cereals for low sugar cereal, oatmeal, or eggs

Avoiding processed foods

Manufacturers often add sugars to foods to make them more appealing. Often, this means people do not realize how much sugar a food contains.

By avoiding processed foods, a person can get a better sense of what their food contains. Cooking whole foods at home also means someone can control what ingredients they put into their meals.

When to see a doctor

People should see their doctor if they experience the symptoms of high blood sugar. According to the NIDDK, symptoms include:

  • increased thirst and urination
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • unexplained weight loss
  • sores that do not heal

These symptoms may indicate a person has diabetes. A doctor can test for diabetes by taking a urine sample.

People should also speak to a doctor if they experience other symptoms after eating sugar, such as bloating.

Summary

Consuming too much added sugar has many adverse impacts on health, including tiredness and weight gain, and more severe conditions, such as heart disease. Added sugars are present in many processed foods and drinks.

People can reduce their sugar intake by knowing what to look for on food labels, avoiding or reducing common sources of sugar, such as soda and cereals, and prioritizing unprocessed whole foods.

If a person is concerned about weight gain, symptoms that may indicate diabetes, or other symptoms they experience after eating sugar, they should speak to a doctor.

A new trial suggests that people who eat walnuts every day may have better gut health and a lower risk of heart disease.

Nuts can be a great source of nutrients and a very healthful “pick-me-up” snack.

Walnuts, in particular, are high in protein, fat, and they are also a source of calcium and iron.

Given walnuts’ nutritional potential, some researchers have been looking at whether these nuts might actually help prevent specific health issues.

In 2019, researchers from Pennsylvania State University in State College found that individuals who replaced saturated fats with walnuts — a source of unsaturated fats — experienced cardiovascular benefits, particularly improvements in blood pressure.

The investigators explain that walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is present in plants.

Following up from that research, the team — which includes assistant research professor Kristina Petersen and Prof. Penny Kris-Etherton — have recently conducted another study to find out more about walnuts’ benefits to health.

The new study — whose findings appear in the Journal of Nutrition — suggests that incorporating walnuts into a healthful diet may benefit the gut and thus lead to better heart health.

“There’s a lot of work being done on gut health and how it affects overall health,” notes Prof. Kris-Etherton.

“So, in addition to looking at factors like lipids and lipoproteins, we wanted to look at gut health. We also wanted to see if changes in gut health with walnut consumption were related to improvements in risk factors for heart disease,” she says.

‘A small change to improve your diet’

The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial involving 42 participants with overweight or obesity aged 30–65.

They wanted to see if — and how — adding walnuts to a person’s diet might influence gut health.

To begin with, the research team asked the participants to follow a standard Western diet for 2 weeks.

Then, at the end of this period, the researchers randomly split the study participants into three groups. One group followed a diet that included whole walnuts, the second group ate a diet that included alpha-linolenic acid but in the same quantity that the walnuts would contain. The third group followed a walnut-free diet in which the researchers replaced alpha-linolenic acid with oleic acid.

The participants followed their assigned diet for 6 weeks and then switched diets until each person had followed all three eating plans.

The researchers collected fecal samples from all participants at the end of each diet regimen period. This allowed them to analyze any changes regarding the bacterial populations present in the gastrointestinal tract.

Prof. Kris-Etherton, Petersen, and their colleagues found that individuals who ate 3 ounces (oz) of walnuts as part of an otherwise healthful diet experienced improvements in heart health. The scientists say that these changes were likely mediated by improvements in gut health, as suggested by changes in gut bacteria.

“The walnut diet enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been associated with health benefits in the past,” explains Petersen.

“One of those is Roseburia, which has been associated with protection of the gut lining,” she adds. “We also saw enrichment in Eubacteria eligens and Butyricicoccus.”

The researchers explain that E. eligens has associations with a variety of different aspects of irregular blood pressure. They add that an increase in the population of this bacterium may thus suggest a lower cardiovascular risk.

They also note that an increase in Lachnospiraceae has links with lower blood pressure, total cholesterol, and “bad” cholesterol measurements.

The study did not find any significant associations between any changes in gut bacteria following the walnut-free diets and risk factors for heart disease.

“Replacing your usual snack — especially if it’s an unhealthful snack — with walnuts is a small change you can make to improve your diet,” notes Petersen.

“Substantial evidence shows that small improvements in diet greatly benefit health. Eating 2 to 3 oz of walnuts a day as part of a healthful diet could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.”

– Kristina Petersen

Just how healthful are walnuts?

The authors of the current study explain that walnuts may bring different health benefits due to the variety of nutrients that they contain.

Co-author Regina Lamendella, who is an associate professor of Biology, emphasizes that “[f]oods like whole walnuts provide a diverse array of substrates — like fatty acids, fiber, and bioactive compounds — for our gut microbiomes to feed on.”

She continues, “this can help generate beneficial metabolites and other products for our bodies.”

Going forward, the research team wants to find out whether whole walnuts might influence other measurements that determine a person’s health, too.

“The study gives us clues that nuts may change gut health, and now we’re interested in expanding that and looking into how it may affect blood sugar levels,” says Prof. Kris-Etherton.

Yet, while nutritious and healthful, do walnuts really have a significant impact on our well-being? The researchers who conducted this study suggest they might.

However, they do disclose that their trial received some funding from the California Walnut Commission, which represents the walnut growers of California. As other research suggests, studies funded by stakeholders often raise issues about trust among the general public.

Other researchers have also concluded that walnuts are “optimal healthful foods.” There are few reports of health risks associated with walnuts for people who do not have a nut allergy or gastrointestinal problems.

For now, the research into how much of a difference walnuts can make for a person’s health continues.

Fish Oil supplements could make men’s testicles bigger and boost their sperm count, a study claims.Men who took the pills, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, were found to have testicles 1.5ml larger and to ejaculate 0.64ml more sperm, on average.The men, who had an average age of 18, were included as regular supplement-takers if they had consumed fish oil for at least 60 out of the past 90 days. Larger testicles and more sperm creation are linked to higher testosterone levels and better fertility, although the study did not test how fertile the men were.

The research was published in the journal JAMA Network Open, by the American Medical Association. The experiment was described by scientists as ‘well-conducted’ and ‘insightful’ but it was clear that it did not prove fish oil makes men more fertile. Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark did their study using 1,679 young Danish men going through military fitness testing.

In Denmark military service is mandatory for all healthy men over the age of 18, so the men in the study were not yet soldiers. Each of the men was screened for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), had physical exams, gave sperm samples and then answered questions about their diets and lifestyles. If someone was considered a regular fish oil supplement user, the research found, they produced millions more sperm in an average ejaculation.

The researchers wrote in their paper: “Fish oil supplements were associated … with higher semen volume and total sperm count, and larger testicular size.”Ninety-eight men in the study said they took fish oil supplements regularly, while another 95 took vitamin D or C supplements. Men in the fish oil group were less likely to have fertility problems, which were judged against the World Health Organization’s low sperm count limit of 39 million sperm per ml of semen.

The scientists found that 12.4 percent of the men who took fish oil supplements (12 out of 98) had sperm counts below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) measure. This compared to 17.2 percent (192 out of 1,125) men who took no supplements. And the longer someone had been taking supplements for, the more sperm they were likely to produce.

The researchers added that, based on a model fit and healthy 19-year-old: “Total sperm count was 147million for men with no supplement intake, 159million for men with other supplement intakes, 168million for men with fish oil supplement intake on fewer than 60 days, and 184million for men with fish oil supplement intake on 60 or more days.”

The study did not give exact measurements for men’s testicle volume or sperm volumes – they only compared the two groups. And the scientists could not explain why – if it was true – the fish oil improved sperm quality.It was also not clear whether increased sperm volume was caused by – or caused – the change in testicle size. Scientists not involved with the research said the study had been well-conducted but it didn’t say how much fish oil the men took.

And nor did it reveal the men’s diets, which may have shown they were getting omega-3 from other sources such as fresh fish.Professor Sheena Lewis, reproductive medicine expert at Queen’s University, Belfast, said: “This is a large well-designed study and the association between fish oil intake and improved semen quality is compelling.

“However, the study focuses on healthy young men; mostly with sperm counts already in the fertile range.“There is no evidence from this study that infertile men with low sperm counts benefit from fish oil.”Dr. Frankie Phillips, of the British Dietetic Association, said missing information about the men’s diets did make the study’s results less convincing.She added: “Antioxidants, including vitamin C, selenium and vitamin A, as well as zinc and omega-3 fats all have a role in the production of healthy sperm.

“There is much focus on the diets of women who are trying to conceive, ensuring that they are in the best possible position to achieve a healthy pregnancy, but diet might also be a factor involved in men’s reproductive health.“Omega-3 is present in a both animal and plant derived foods, but oily fish stands out as an excellent source of long chain omega-3, and the UK population currently consume way below the recommended ‘at least one portion of oily fish per week”.

“So including omega-3 is already part of current dietary recommendations – this study on its own can’t prove that upping omega-3 will itself improve testicular function.”Also, according to researchers, women who have sex every week may have a lower chance of an early menopause. University College London experts asked nearly 3,000 women – who were tracked for 10 years – about how often they had sex. Women of any age who had sex each week were less likely to have been through the menopause, compared to those who did so less than once a month.

For example, those who had regular sex were 28 percent less likely to have entered the menopause at age 51, compared to their counterparts. Sexual activity included full-blown intercourse, oral sex, touching and caressing, or self-stimulation. Scientists said if a woman is not having sex and there is no chance of pregnancy, the body ‘chooses’ to stop investing energy into ovulation.

Instead, their bodies may decide to invest energy elsewhere, such as in looking after grandchildren. The theory, known as the grandmother hypothesis, says the menopause evolved to help mothers have more children. It suggests that grandmothers would aid their offspring to have more of their own children by caring for the existing grandchildren. A woman’s immune function is hampered during ovulation, making the body more susceptible to disease.

And so if a pregnancy is unlikely because of a lack of sexual activity, the body would divert its focus from a costly process to aiding existing relatives. The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. The process is a natural part of ageing and usually occurs among women between 45 and 55. Researchers used data collected from 2,936 women who took part in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) in the United States (U.S.).

The women, an average age of 45 at the start of the study in 1996, were asked if and how often they had had sex in the past six months. They were also asked whether they had oral sex, sexual touching, or engaged in self-stimulation in the last six months. The researchers found that the most frequent pattern of sexual activity was weekly (64 percent). None of the women who took part had already entered the menopause, but 46 per cent were starting to experience symptoms (known as peri-menopause). Fifty-four per cent were pre-menopausal, meaning they had not yet displayed any symptoms and were still having their periods.

Interviews were carried out both when the women first took part and then ten years later. Women who had sex weekly were less likely to experience the menopause, compared to those who had sex lass than monthly. And women who had sex monthly were less likely to experience menopause at any given age, compared to those who had sex less than monthly. Prof. Ruth Mace, who co-authored the study, said: “The menopause is, of course, an inevitability for women, and there is no behavioural intervention that will prevent reproductive cessation.“Nonetheless, these results are an initial indication that menopause timing may be adaptive in response to the likelihood of becoming pregnant.”

How can a man’s diet affect his fertility?
The body must get all the chemicals it needs from the diet, meaning what you eat controls your health. Certain foods can improve – or worsen – a man’s fertility. The general rule is that a healthy, balanced diet is better for fertility than one too high in sugar or fat.

Fruits and vegetables are good
Fruit and veg are rich in nutrients such as vitamins C and A, polyphenols, magnesium, folate and fiber, which act as antioxidants in the body. Research has suggested a direct association between the production of reactive oxygen species in sperm cells and intake of antioxidants, which help to reduce this damage by neutralizing them.

Eat foods rich in zinc, selenium and vitamin C
Zinc can be found in foods such as meat, cheese, shellfish wholegrain cereals and nuts. Inadequate intakes of zinc in the diet have been linked to low sperm count and reduced testosterone levels. Selenium can be found in foods such as brazil nuts, fish, poultry and eggs. This mineral is required for normal sperm production and development and men should aim to get 55mcg per day. Vitamin C is thought to help prevent sperm cells clumping together (common with infertility) and men should aim to get 80mg per day.

Limit dairy foods
Intake of dairy foods in association with sperm production is somewhat controversial but the theory goes that as around 75 per cent of the milk we consume comes from pregnant cows, there may be a high level of naturally occurring oestrogens, which could affect sperm production.

Limit meat intake
Although not fully proven, it has been suggested that meat and processed meats may impact on fertility in men by way of xenobiotics (mainly xenestrogens) used in the farming process. Over-exposure to these compounds, which have estrogenic effects in the body, may play a role in the decline of sperm quality in men.

Avoid excessive amounts of sugar
Excessive intake of sugary foods may lead to overweight and obesity, driving insulin resistance, which may negatively influence sperm quality as a result of inflammation and oxidative stress. Diets high in sugar can also lead to blood sugar imbalances, which may disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis impacting on sperm production.
*Culled from Daily Mail UK

Adnexal masses are lumps that occur in the adnexa of the uterus, which includes the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. They have several possible causes, which can be gynecological or nongynecological.

An adnexal mass could be:

  • an ovarian cyst
  • an ectopic pregnancy
  • a benign tumor
  • a malignant tumor

A family doctor can usually manage benign masses. However, prepubescent and postmenopausal individuals will need to see a gynecologist or oncologist.

Malignant adnexal masses require treatment from a specialist.

In this article, we discuss the characteristics of adnexal masses. We also review how doctors diagnose and treat adnexal them.

Symptoms

People report different symptoms, depending on the cause of the adnexal mass.

People with an adnexal mass may report:

  • severe lower abdominal or pelvic pain that is usually on one side
  • abnormal bleeding from the uterus
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • worsening pain during a period
  • painful periods
  • abnormally heavy bleeding during periods
  • abdominal symptoms, including a feeling of fullness, bloating, constipation, difficulty eating, increased abdominal size, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting
  • urinary urgency, frequency, or incontinence
  • weight loss
  • lack of energy
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • vaginal discharge

Different causes of adnexal masses may have similar symptoms, so doctors usually conduct further investigations to determine the exact cause.

Once the doctor has worked out the cause of the adnexal mass, they can recommend treatment and management.

Causes

Adnexal masses include a variety of different conditions that range in severity from benign growths to malignant tumors.

The cause of adnexal masses could be gynecological or nongynecological.

Some of the causes of adnexal masses include:

  • Ectopic pregnancy: A pregnancy where the fertilized egg implants somewhere outside the uterus.
  • Endometrioma: A benign cyst on the ovary that contains thick, old blood that appears brown.
  • Leiomyoma: A benign gynecological tumor, also known as a fibroid.
  • Ovarian cancer: These tumors of the ovary may be ovarian epithelial cancers that begin in the cells on the surface of the ovary or malignant germ cell cancers that begin in the eggs.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease: Inflammation of the upper genital tract, which includes the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It occurs due to an infection.
  • Tubo-ovarian abscess: An infectious adnexal mass that forms because of pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Ovarian torsion: A gynecological emergency involving a complete or partial rotation of the tissue that supports the ovary, which cuts off blood flow to the ovary.

Diagnosis

A doctor may diagnose an adnexal mass by:

  • taking a complete medical history
  • asking questions about symptoms
  • conducting a physical examination
  • obtaining blood samples

Most of the time, people will need a transvaginal ultrasound to allow doctors to evaluate the characteristics of an adnexal mass.

Females who have had a positive pregnancy test result and report abdominal or pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding might have an ectopic pregnancy. An ovarian torsion causes sudden, severe pain with nausea and vomiting. Immediate medical attention is necessary to treat both an ectopic pregnancy and ovarian torsion.

People with pelvic inflammatory disease or a tubo-ovarian abscess may experience gradual pelvic pain with nausea and vaginal bleeding.

Early ovarian cancer may sometimes present with nonspecific symptoms. Sometimes, doctors may only detect cancer when the tumor has become malignant.

Malignant tumors may have one or several of the following characteristics:

  • a solid component of the tumor
  • parts of the tumor have thick divisions larger than 2–3 centimeters separating them
  • they are present on both sides of the reproductive tract
  • the presence of fluid filled lumps

Treatment

A doctor will choose the most appropriate treatment depending on the cause of the adnexal mass. Women with an ectopic pregnancy will have to end their pregnancy. A doctor may choose one of the following procedures:

  • the administration of a single or two-dose intramuscular methotrexate
  • laparoscopic surgery
  • a salpingostomy or salpingectomy, which are surgical procedures involving the fallopian tubes

Doctors have not yet determined the optimal management of an endometrioma, according to a study that featured in Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey.

Currently, the possible treatments for an endometrioma include:

  • watchful waiting
  • medical therapy
  • surgical intervention
  • inducing ovulation and using assisted reproductive technology in females with infertility

People with pelvic inflammatory disease will require courses of intravenous antibiotics, which may include:

  • cefotetan (Cefotan)
  • cefoxitin (Mefoxin)
  • clindamycin (Cleocin)

Some people can receive treatment outside of the hospital setting with oral doxycycline (Vibramycin) and intramuscular ceftriaxone (Rocephin) or another third generation cephalosporin antibiotic. In some cases, doctors will need to add oral metronidazole (Flagyl).

In the past, tubo-ovarian abscesses required surgical removal of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. However, doctors can now prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics. A person with a ruptured tubo-ovarian abscess may still require surgery.

Ovarian torsion is a gynecological emergency. The only treatment is surgery to prevent severe damage to the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

People with leiomyomas or fibroids may receive hormonal treatments or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to control the symptoms. Once a person stops taking medication, the symptoms may return, and the fibroids may continue to grow. Surgery is the most successful treatment for fibroids.

The treatment options for ovarian cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Oncologists will consider the following factors before recommending a treatment plan:

  • the type of ovarian cancer and how much cancer is present
  • the stage and grade of the cancer
  • whether the person has a buildup of fluid in the abdomen causing swelling
  • whether surgery can remove the whole tumor
  • genetic changes
  • the person’s age and general health status
  • whether it is a new diagnosis, or if cancer has come back

Risk factors

Risk factors depend on the cause of the adnexal mass. Females with ovarian masses have an increased risk of developing ovarian torsion. More than 80% of females with ovarian torsion have masses of 5 cm or larger.

Doctors diagnose fibroids in about 70% of white females and more than 80% of black females by the age of 50 years. Other factors may increase a person’s risk of developing fibroids, such as:

  • starting periods early in life
  • using oral contraceptives before 16 years of age
  • an increase in body mass index (BMI)

Ovarian cancer can run in families. People with a family history of ovarian cancer may have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Other risk factors include:

  • inherited genetic changes
  • hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer
  • endometriosis
  • postmenopausal hormonal therapy
  • obesity
  • tall height

The likelihood of developing cancer also tends to increase with age.

Summary

Adnexal masses are lumps that doctors may find in the adnexal of the uterus, which is the part of the body that houses the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. Not all masses are cancerous, and they do not all require treatment.

Different types of adnexal mass can share many of the same symptoms. As a result, doctors need to collect a full medical history and data from physical examinations, blood tests, and medical imaging, including transvaginal ultrasounds.

Doctors need to pinpoint the location and cause of an adnexal mass to determine the appropriate management and treatment.

The muscles, ligaments, and tissues of the pelvic floor support the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs. When the supportive structures weaken or become especially tight, doctors describe it as pelvic floor dysfunction. It is a common health issue.

When a person has pelvic floor dysfunction, the organs in the pelvis may drop. They often press down on the bladder or rectum, causing a leakage of urine or stool. Or, a person with this condition may have trouble urinating or passing stool.

Keep reading to learn more about pelvic floor dysfunction — including the symptoms, treatments, and some exercises that may help.

What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

The pelvic floor is made up of muscles, ligaments, and tissues that surround the pelvic bone. The muscles attach to the front, back, and sides of the bone, as well as to the lowest part of the spine, called the sacrum.

The function of the pelvic floor is to support the organs in the pelvis, which can include the:

  • bladder
  • rectum
  • urethra
  • uterus
  • vagina
  • prostate

People with pelvic floor dysfunction may have weak or especially tight pelvic floor muscles.

When the muscles tighten, or spasm, people may have trouble urinating or passing stool. When they weaken, the organs within the pelvis may drop and press down on the rectum and bladder.

The table below outlines several common types of pelvic floor dysfunction.

Type of pelvic floor dysfunctionDescription
Obstructed defecationThis occurs when stool enters the rectum, but the body cannot fully evacuate the bowels.
RectoceleThis involves tissue from the rectum protruding into the vagina. Stool may get caught in this pocket, forming a bulge in the vagina.
Pelvic organ prolapseThis refers to the pelvic floor stretching and the pelvic organs dropping as a result of age, childbirth, or a collagen disorder.
Paradoxical puborectalis contractionThis involves a pelvic floor muscle called the puborectalis contracting. When it happens, trying to pass stool may feel like pushing against a closed door.
Levator syndromeThis involves the pelvic floor muscles spasming after bowel movements. It can cause lasting dull pain or achy pressure high in the rectum.
CoccygodyniaThis refers to pain in the tailbone that worsens during and after bowel movements.
Proctalgia fugaxThis involves painful spasms of the rectum and muscles in the pelvic floor.
Pudendal neuralgiaThis refers to irritation or damage to the pudendal nerves, which help the pelvis function.
UrethroceleThis refers to the urethra pressing into the vagina.
EnteroceleThis involves the small intestine descending and pushing into the vagina, forming a bulge.
CystoceleThis involves the bladder dropping and pushing into the vagina.
Uterine prolapseThis refers to the uterus descending and pushing into the vagina.

Symptoms

Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause a variety of symptoms, and some can interfere with daily life.

Depending on the type of pelvic floor dysfunction, a person may experience:

  • pelvic pain
  • pressure
  • a bulge somewhere in the lower pelvic region
  • stress urinary incontinence, which involves a small amount of urine leaking from the body due to an activity such as coughing
  • involuntary leakage of stool
  • incomplete urination
  • bowel movement dysfunction
  • pain during sexual intercourse

Also, some people who see their doctors about bladder overactivity find that pelvic floor dysfunction is responsible.

Causes

Many issues can cause the structures of the pelvic floor to weaken, including:

  • age
  • systemic diseases
  • lasting health issues that cause increased pressure in the abdomen and pelvis, such as a chronic cough
  • pregnancy
  • trauma during delivery
  • multiple deliveries
  • large babies
  • operative delivery

Research indicates that stress urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or both occur in about half of all women who have given birth. These issues are closely associated with birth-related injury to the pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles can also stretch naturally with age. Stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse become more common with increasing age in females, for example.

Collagen disorders can also affect the muscles’ ability to support the pelvic organs.

Meanwhile, coccygodynia usually stems from trauma to the tailbone, such as from a fall. That said, in about one-third of people with the condition, the cause of coccygodynia is unknown. The pain can make having a bowel movement difficult.

Exercises

Doctors recommend pelvic floor exercises in various situations.

They may particularly benefit pregnant women because the pelvic floor muscles can stretch and weaken during labor. Strengthening these muscles may help prevent incontinence after the baby is born. Some doctors recommend that women who wish to become pregnant start the exercises ahead of time.

Males can also benefit from pelvic floor exercises, though the dysfunction is more common in females. In males, these exercises can help prevent pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence and improve sexual intercourse.

To exercise these muscles, a person should be sitting comfortably. Then, they should attempt to squeeze their pelvic muscles without holding their breath.

It is important to isolate the correct muscles without tightening those of the stomach, buttocks, or and thighs.

Doctors recommend that females aim to do 10 long squeezes — holding each for 10 seconds — followed by 10 short squeezes. However, initially, it may be a good idea to practice holding a squeeze for a few seconds at a time.

By practicing frequently, a person should be able to add more contractions to their routine week by week. It is important to do this gradually and to avoid overworking the muscles.

Within a few months, a person may notice a reduction in their symptoms. Even if symptoms resolve completely, a person should continue strengthening these muscles.

There are physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor dysfunction. A person may find that consulting one of these professionals leads to a better outcome.

Treatment

Doctors determine the cause of pelvic floor dysfunction before recommending treatment because different types of dysfunction require different approaches.

The purpose of treatment is to relieve or reduce symptoms and improve the person’s quality of life. For some people, a combination of treatment methods works best.

Doctors may recommend:

  • Dietary changes: For example, eating more fiber, drinking more fluids, and taking certain medications can make bowel movements easier.
  • Laxatives: Taking a daily laxative may help people with pelvic floor dysfunction pass stool, but it is important to consult a healthcare provider first because not all laxatives are equally effective.
  • Pain relief: Some people require injections of pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication to relieve their symptoms.
  • Biofeedback: This involves electrical stimulation, ultrasound therapy, or massage of the pelvic floor muscles to help improve rectal sensation and muscle contraction.
  • Pessary: A doctor or nurse inserts a pessary into the vagina to support prolapsed organs. This type of device can help treat various symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, either as an alternative to surgery or while a person awaits surgery.
  • Surgery: When prolapse interferes with daily activities, a doctor may recommend surgery. Large rectoceles also require surgery if the person experiences symptoms.

Stem cell therapies

Researchers behind a 2016 study investigated whether a stem cell-based therapy could resolve pelvic floor dysfunction in rats.

The researchers engineered the stem cells to produce and release elastin and collagen into the pelvic floor and injected them into rats with pelvic floor dysfunction.

The elastin and collagen promoted the repair of pelvic floor structures and decreased signs of stress urinary incontinence.

In a final component of the study, the researchers developed stem cells that blocked a factor that stops the production of elastin. This promoted increased production and release of elastin into the pelvic floor.

With further studies, researchers may find that similar therapies are effective in humans.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who experiences painful bowel movements, difficulty urinating or passing stool, pelvic pain, or pain during sexual intercourse should speak with a doctor.

An unusual bulge in the lower pelvic region may also be a reason to see a doctor, though a bulge alone may not be a cause for concern.

People with pelvic floor dysfunction have plenty of treatment options. While the topic may be uncomfortable to bring up with a doctor, it is important to seek professional advice about these symptoms.

While some family doctors may not be familiar with pelvic floor dysfunction, specialists such as colorectal doctors, urologists, and gynecologists can help diagnose the issue and recommend the best course of action.

Summary

Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect anyone, but pregnant women have the highest risk.

The various types of pelvic floor dysfunction stem from different causes, and a doctor must identify the underlying issue before developing a treatment plan.

Exercises can help some people with pelvic floor dysfunction. Depending on the cause, a doctor may also recommend dietary changes, medication, a pessary, biofeedback, or surgery.

A big stress factor that isn’t usually addressed is pre-menopausal or menopause effect on sleep. If you’re 40 or over, you can agree that insomnia is real! This culprit must be addressed. Many women experience sleep problems before and during menopause when hormone levels and menstrual periods become irregular. Often, poor sleep sticks around throughout the menopausal transition and after menopause.

Hormones shift throughout women’s lives, and changes to estrogen, progesterone and other hormones can lead to recurring sleep problems well before the transition to menopause actively begins. You might think that a good night’s sleep is nothing but it becomes a precious commodity once you reach a certain age.

Hot flashes are sometimes referred to as, “personal summers.’ Any woman in this stage of life will tell you that if feels like your body has turned into an oven. Sleeplessness due to menopause is often associated with hot flashes. These unpleasant sensations of extreme heat can happen during the day or at night. Nighttime hot flashes are often paired with unexpected awakenings.

There are changes in the brain that lead to the hot flash itself, and those changes — not just the feeling of heat — may also be what triggers the awakening.

When they happen at night, hot flashes are called night sweats. Some women find that hot flashes interrupt their daily lives. The earlier in life hot flashes begin, the longer you may experience them. Research has found that black women get hot flashes for more years than white and Asian women.

Lifestyle changes to improve hot flashes
Before considering medication, first try making changes to your lifestyle.
If hot flashes are keeping you up at night, keep your bedroom cooler and try drinking small amounts of cold water before bed. Layer your bedding so it can be adjusted as needed. Some women find a device called a bed fan helpful. Here are some other lifestyle changes suggested by research:
• Dress in layers, which can be removed at the start of a hot flash.
• Carry a portable fan to use when a hot flash strike.
• Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can make menopausal symptoms worse.
• If you smoke, try to quit, not only for menopausal symptoms, but for your overall health.
• Try to maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight or obese may experience more frequent and severe hot flashes.
• Try mind-body practices like yoga or other self-calming techniques. Early-stage research has shown that mindfulness meditation, may help improve menopausal symptoms.

Here is what works for me and my suggestions from a few years of trial/errors, research, doctor’s input, etc:
1. Stop worrying about sleep! Period. It also meant I had to address other areas of my life. Most of what ails us is addressed holistically. As a first born with a type A personality, my default to is to find solutions which means my brain is working constantly. Sometimes, I ponder problems that have not yet been invented. Which also means that I’m not present in the moment. I lived in the future somewhere. However, I’ve learned to pay attention to the Here and Now, and enjoy those in my life circle. I endeavor to Live my best life and not try to fix everything. This helps quiet my mind.
2. It is perfectly okay to give yourself a limited amount of time to ‘stress or fuss’ after which you stop and move on to a mindless activity. Sleep will come.
3. Exercise is my go-to therapy. When I run, I sleep better.
4. Sex is a great precursor to sleep but only after both parties are fully satisfied. If the woman is a passive participant, she’ll have to watch her partner sleep joyfully next to her.
5. I am an avid aromatherapy advocate. We must be consistent in this. It takes a while for your body to acclimate to a particular scent. My scent of choice is lavender because it calms me.
6. I drink chamomile or any relaxing tea at night. This is a staple.
7. I love baths and my doctor suggested I take one before I sleep. I soak in the tub with bath beads, light candle. OR take a shower in the dark but rub your body with aroma oils and inhale.
8. Finally, once in a while, I find my way to my massage therapist, who usually says that my body is knotted up; however after 2 hours or so, I am loose and ready to climb in bed

Regular vaginal discharge is a sign of a healthy female reproductive system. Normal vaginal discharge contains a mixture of cervical mucus, vaginal fluid, dead cells, and bacteria.

Females may experience heavy vaginal discharge from arousal or during ovulation. However, excessive vaginal discharge that smells bad or looks unusual can indicate an underlying condition.

This articles discusses why someone may have heavy vaginal discharge and what they can do about it.

1. Arousal

Sexual arousal triggers several physical responses in the body. Arousal increases blood flow in the genitals. As a result, the blood vessels enlarge, which pushes fluid to the surface of the vaginal walls.

Arousal fluid is clear and watery with a slippery texture. This fluid helps lubricate the vagina during sex.

Other signs of female arousal include:

  • increased heart rate and breathing
  • flushing of the face, neck, and chest
  • swelling of the breasts
  • erect nipples

2. Ovulation

Cervical fluid is a gel-like liquid that contains proteins, carbohydrates, and amino acids. The texture and amount of cervical fluid both change throughout a female’s menstrual cycle.

For example, after menstruation, cervical fluid has a thick, mucus-like texture. It can be cloudy, white, or yellow.

Estrogen levels increase closer to ovulation. This causes the cervical fluid to become clear and slippery, similar to that of raw egg whites.

Cervical fluid discharge increases during the days leading up to ovulation and decreases after ovulation. Females may have no discharge for a few days after their period.

3. Hormonal imbalances

Hormonal imbalances related to stress, diet, or underlying medical conditions can cause heavier vaginal discharge.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), for example, refers to a set of symptoms that occur as a result of hormonal imbalances. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PCOS affects up to 5 million females in the United States.

Those with PCOS have higher levels of male hormones called androgens. Increased androgen levels can:

  • change the amount or texture of cervical fluid
  • cause irregular periods
  • prevent ovulation

Not everyone with PCOS will have increased vaginal discharge. Paying attention to other PCOS symptoms may help someone identify and seek treatment for the condition faster.

Some other symptoms of PCOS to look out for include:

  • fewer than eight periods in 1 year, or periods that occur every roughly 21 days
  • excess facial and body hair
  • thinning hair or hair loss
  • acne on the face and body
  • weight gain
  • darkening of the skin on the neck, groin, or breasts
  • skin tags on the armpits or neck

Hormonal birth control, such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices, can also cause increased vaginal discharge, especially during the first few months of use.

Excess vaginal discharge and other symptoms, such as spotting and cramping, usually resolve once the body adjusts to the hormonal birth control.

4. Vaginitis

Vaginitis refers to inflammation of the vagina, which can occur from an infection or irritation due to factors such as douches, lubricants, and ill-fitting clothing.

Vaginitis can cause thick vaginal discharge that may be white, gray, yellow, or green.

Other symptoms of vaginitis include:

  • foul vaginal odor
  • an itching or burning sensation in the genital area
  • redness or inflammation of the vagina
  • pain or discomfort when urinating
  • pain during sexual intercourse

5. Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is a condition that results from an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. This vaginal infection is the most common among females aged 15–44 years.

The exact cause of bacterial vaginosis remains unclear. Females can develop bacterial vaginosis after sexual intercourse. However, this condition is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

According to the Office on Women’s Health, those who have bacterial vaginosis may notice a milky or gray-colored vaginal discharge. Some also report a strong, fishy vaginal odor, especially after sexual intercourse.

Bacterial vaginosis can also cause:

  • discomfort when urinating
  • painful burning or itching in the vagina
  • irritation of the skin around the vagina

6. Yeast infection

Vaginal yeast infections result from an overgrowth of the Candida fungus. Females of all ages can develop a vaginal yeast infection, and nearly 70% will have a yeast infection at some point in their lives.

The most common symptom of a vaginal yeast infection is an intense itching in the vagina and vulva.

Vaginal yeast infections can also cause an odorless vaginal discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese.

Vaginal yeast infections are treatable at home using over-the-counter antifungal ointments. Symptoms should improve within a few days. However, severe infections can last longer and may require medical treatment.

7. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is an STI caused by a parasite. Females can develop trichomoniasis after having sex with someone who has the parasite.

Although most people who have trichomoniasis do not experience symptoms, some may have an itching or burning sensation in the genital area.

Trichomoniasis infections can also cause excess vaginal discharge that has a foul or fishy odor and a white, yellow, or green color. It may also be thinner than usual.

What is healthy discharge?

Healthy vaginal discharge varies from person to person. It also changes throughout their menstrual cycle.

In general, healthy vaginal discharge can appear thin and watery or thick and cloudy. Clear, white, or off-white vaginal discharge is also perfectly normal.

Some females may have brown, red, or black vaginal discharge at the end of their menstrual periods if their vaginal discharge still contains blood from the uterus.

Natural hormonal changes during ovulation can cause an increase in vaginal discharge, which should return to normal after ovulation.

When to see a doctor

It is not always necessary to see a doctor about excessive vaginal discharge. However, a female may want to consider seeing their doctor if their vaginal discharge has an abnormal appearance.

Yellow, green, gray, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge could indicate an infection. Other reasons to see a doctor include:

  • itching or burning near the genitals
  • discomfort or pain when urinating
  • discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse

Possible treatment options

Treating excess vaginal discharge depends on the underlying cause.

People can reduce symptoms of vaginitis by avoiding the source of irritation. Doctors can treat bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections using antibiotics or antifungals.

Doctors can also treat trichomoniasis using antibiotics. The CDC recommend that females wait 7–10 days after receiving treatment before having sex.

Treatment for PCOS varies depending on the individual. A doctor may recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to help people manage their symptoms and regulate their hormone levels.

Maintaining a healthy body weight and eating a varied diet low in added sugars may also help improve some symptoms of PCOS. Birth control pills that contain estrogen or progestin can help balance out excess levels of androgens.

Tips for managing heavy vaginal discharge

Even healthy vaginal discharge can cause discomfort at times. Here are some tips for managing heavy vaginal discharge:

  • Wear panty liners. However, be sure not to let them become too moist, as this can increase the risk of urinary tract infections and vaginitis.
  • Choose breathable underwear made from natural fibers such as cotton.
  • Avoid wearing tight pants.
  • Avoid using hygiene products that contain added fragrances, coloring agents, or other harsh chemicals.
  • Keep the genital area clean and dry.
  • Wipe from the front to the back when using the bathroom.

Outlook

Excess vaginal discharge can occur as a result of arousal, ovulation, or infections. Normal vaginal discharge ranges in color from clear or milky to white.

The consistency of vaginal discharge also varies from thin and watery to thick and sticky. Generally, healthy vaginal discharge should be relatively odorless.

A female can speak with a healthcare professional if they notice any symptoms of an infection. Some symptoms to look out for include:

  • yellow, green, or gray vaginal discharge
  • foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese
  • itching or burning in or near the genitals

Doctors can easily treat most vaginal infections using antimicrobial medications. Depending on the severity of the infection, people may see their symptoms improving within a few days to weeks.

Lower abdominal pain is pain that occurs below a person’s belly button. Bloating refers to a feeling of pressure or fullness in the abdomen, or a visibly distended abdomen. Sometimes, these symptoms occur together.

Though occasional lower abdominal pain and bloating are common, a person should speak to their doctor if it becomes a regular occurrence. In some cases, this combination of symptoms may indicate an underlying issue that requires medical treatment.

Keep reading for more information on some of the more common causes of abdominal pain and bloating. We also outline various treatment options for this combination of symptoms.

Causes of both abdominal pain and bloating

There are several causes of combined lower abdominal pain (LAP) and bloating. Some relatively harmless, or benign, causes include:

  • consumption of high fat foods
  • swallowing too much air
  • stress

In some cases, LAP and bloating can occur as a result of an underlying medical condition, such as:

  • constipation
  • food intolerances, such as lactose or gluten intolerance
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), although this more commonly causes upper abdominal pain-gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that causes vomiting and diarrhoea
  • diverticulitis, which is inflammation or infection of part of the large intestine
  • ileus, which is a condition that slows the function of the small and large intestine
  • delayed stomach emptying, or gastroparesis, which is a complication of diabetes mellitus
  • intestinal obstruction
  • inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)

Other conditions that can cause LAP and bloating are specific to females. These include:

  • menstrual pain
  • endometriosis
  • ovarian cysts
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • pregnancy
  • ectopic pregnancy

LAP and bloating can also be due to conditions that do not necessarily affect the stomach, intestines, or reproductive organs. These conditions include;

  • drug allergies
  • side effects of certain medications
  • hernia
  • cystitis, or infection of the urinary tract infection
  • appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix
  • kidney stones

When to see a doctor

If the cause of LAP and bloating is relatively benign, symptoms should go away within a few hours to days.

A person should see a doctor if:

  • their symptoms last longer than a few days
  • their symptoms begin to interfere with their daily life
  • they are pregnant and are unsure of the cause of LAP and bloating

People should seek immediate medical attention if vomiting or the inability to pass gas occur alongside LAP and bloating.

People who experience LAP and bloating along with one or more of the following symptoms should seek emergency medical attention:

  • sudden worsening of pain
  • fever
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • bloody stool
  • unexplained weight loss
  • severe nausea and vomiting

Diagnosis

To make a diagnosis, a doctor will begin by carrying out a physical examination. An initial examination will involve applying pressure to the abdomen. This will help the doctor to check the location of pain and to feel for any abnormalities.

A doctor will also make a note of the person’s medical history, and any other symptoms they experience. They may also ask whether there is anything that triggers the pain or makes it worse.

Diagnostic tests, such as urine, blood, or stool tests, may also be necessary. These can help to identify signs of infection or other underlying conditions.

In some cases, a doctor may order one of the following imaging tests to check for abnormalities in the abdomen:

  • ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • CT or MRI

If the imaging tests come back normal, a doctor may perform a colonoscopy for a closer look inside the intestines.

Treatment

The following are some general home treatment options that may help to alleviate symptoms of LAP and bloating:

  • increasing fluid intake
  • exercising to help alleviate gas and bloating
  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications
  • taking OTC antacids

If home treatments do not work, a person should speak to their doctor about other treatment options. These will vary, depending on the cause of LAP and bloating. However, some examples include:

  • prescription medications to treat pain and bloating
  • antibiotics to help treat a bacterial infection
  • emergency surgery to remove a ruptured appendix

Prevention

There are some steps a person can take to help alleviate LAP and bloating. Two key steps include quitting smoking and avoiding trigger foods.

The following are examples of foods that may cause or contribute to LAP and bloating:

  • high fat foods
  • certain plant-based foods, such as cabbage, lentils, and beans
  • dairy products if a person is lactose intolerant
  • carbonated drinks
  • beer
  • chewing gum
  • hard candy

Also, people may benefit from increasing their intake of high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This will help to prevent constipation and associated bloating.

If an underlying condition is the cause of LAP and bloating, then treating the condition should help to alleviate these symptoms.

Outlook

There are many potential causes of lower abdominal pain and bloating. Some causes are relatively benign and easy to treat, while others may be more serious.

Occasional lower abdominal pain and bloating are usually not a cause for concern. However, people should see a doctor if their symptoms worsen, last more than a few days, or disrupt their daily activities.

People who experience additional symptoms, such as vomiting, fever, or blood in the stool, should seek emergency medical attention.

In some cases, people can prevent lower abdominal pain and bloating by avoiding foods that may trigger these symptoms.

The testicles, or balls, are oval-shaped glands that form part of the male anatomy. They sit inside a thin sack of skin called the scrotum. As a person ages, the scrotum loses elasticity, and the skin starts to sag. Certain medical conditions can also cause the skin to appear saggy.

Skin loses its elasticity over time as a person gets older, and the effects of gravity start to become more noticeable everywhere on the body, including the testicles.

Some treatments can help keep the scrotum from sagging too much, although there is no way to prevent or treat the issue completely. Sagging testicles, which people often refer to as saggy balls, are usually not a cause for concern. However, if they appear with other symptoms, such as pain on one side of the balls or in the prostate, a person should see a doctor.

In this article, we look at the possible causes of sagging testicles, as well as treatment options and when to see a doctor.

What is normal?

The testicles hang inside the scrotum, or scrotal sac. The looseness of the skin around the testicles varies among individuals, and in many people, it is naturally fairly loose. The scrotum helps protect the testicles and provides some impact resistance.

The scrotum also moves in response to heat to protect the delicate testicles and sperm inside. In doing so, it helps keep the sperm viable by preventing them from becoming too warm or too cold.

In cold weather, the skin tightens up as the cremaster muscle pulls the testicles toward the body to keep them warm. In hot conditions, the skin loosens to prevent the testicles from overheating. The looser skin allows the balls to hang away from the warm body and encourages airflow around the scrotum to keep the area cool.

As such, even in younger people, the testicles will typically sag a bit. A person will generally notice this once they start producing sperm during puberty.

As a person ages, the testicles will generally sag much more. The process may not be noticeable at first, but by the age of 50 years, most people will notice a drastic difference in how much their balls sag.

Causes

Sagging testicles are a completely normal part of the aging process. A study from 2014 verifies the decrease in skin mechanical properties with aging. The skin loses collagen with age, causing the layers of the skin to stretch more.

While this applies to the skin everywhere on the body, it may be more noticeable in certain areas, such as the face and testicles. The scrotum and testicles already hang away from the body, so more stretchy skin and the efforts of gravity can lead to the effect appearing more drastic.

Other times, sagging testicles may be the result of an underlying issue, such as a varicocele. A varicocele occurs when a vein near the testicles swells up. This swelling can cause an increased blood flow to the testicles, which heats them. The body then responds by dropping the testicles lower to prevent them from getting too hot.

According to a study in the Asian Journal of Andrology, varicoceles appear in up to 15% of males and may have an association with infertility.

Varicoceles may make a person feel as though their testicles are moving or squirming, and they may also notice pain in the area. Anyone experiencing these symptoms alongside sagging testicles should see a doctor. Sometimes, a person will not experience any other symptoms and will not notice that they have the issue.

Treatments

Although age-related sagging in the scrotum is normal, some people may be uncomfortable with its appearance or find that it gets in the way of their daily life — for example, by making it easy to sit accidentally on the testicles. Surgery is the only sure way to resolve the issue, but people can also try a range of nonsurgical methods, including those below.

Exercises

There are several different exercises that people claim can prevent or treat sagging testicles, although there is no scientific evidence to prove that they work. Still, many people perform exercises to help them work out the muscles in this area of the body.

Some people say that they feel better when doing these exercises, perhaps because they feel as though they are being proactive. Even if they are ineffective, testicle exercises are unlikely to harm the testicles or make the sagging any worse.

Two exercises that some people use are Kegels and testicular holding:

Kegel exercises

Doing basic Kegels, by finding and activating the pubococcygeal (PC) muscles, may help some people support their penis and testicle health in general. The PC muscles are the muscles that a person uses to hold back their urine stream.

The basic Kegel exercise involves contracting the muscles as though trying to cut off the urine stream. As this exercise activates the PC muscles, it may improve the strength of the pelvic floor and help with some issues in the testicles, prostate, and penis.

Testicular holding

Testicular holding is similar to weight training the testicles. Holding the testicles in one hand and pulling downward activates the PC muscles. Doing this for 5 minutes each day may activate the PC muscles more strongly than simple Kegels.

Keeping the skin healthy

As much of the sagging in the testicles is due to aging skin, it may help to keep the skin as youthful as possible.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommend several ways to protect and care for the skin, including:

  • avoiding sun exposure
  • quitting smoking
  • drinking less alcohol
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • eating a balanced diet

These tips may help improve skin health in general, which may slow the progress of saggy testicles.

Surgery

Some surgical options are available to treat overly sagging testicles. These are largely for people who dislike how their testicles look. These treatments may also help in cases where the person has problems that arise from their saggy testicles, such as accidentally sitting on their testicles too often.

In these cases, a procedure called a scrotoplasty may help keep the scrotum from hanging down as far. During a scrotoplasty, the surgeon will carefully remove extra skin from the scrotum to let the testicles rest higher up toward the body.

Surgery works to treat saggy balls, but the results are not permanent. The effect is likely to wear off over time as the skin continues to stretch with age.

In the case of a varicocele, a surgical procedure called a varicocelectomy treats the underlying issue by tying off the swollen veins. The symptoms should go away as the area heals, and this may have a positive effect on the sperm.

Other methods

There is no miracle cure for sagging testicles. People may come across other methods — such as only wearing tight briefs and avoiding sex or masturbation — on internet forums and by word of mouth, but these are not effective methods.

Other sources claim that lotions, creams, hormones, or supplements can help. Although they are probably harmless to most people, there is no evidence that these methods will work.

When to see a doctor

People who notice troubling symptoms, such as pain in their groin or prostate, should see a doctor. Anyone who wants to discuss cosmetic surgery should talk to a doctor about a referral to a trusted cosmetic surgeon.

Summary

The majority of the time, sagging testicles are a normal part of the aging process. The testicles naturally sag, even at a young age, to protect the sperm inside and keep them viable.

Anyone worried about saggy balls or other associated symptoms should contact a doctor for a diagnosis. In some cases, there may be an underlying issue to treat. In others, cosmetic surgery may help a person feel better.