Pregnancy

Scientists have continued to advance efforts to identify and validate plants and natural products with antiviral properties, especially against the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV2).

Nigerian researchers have identified ginger, garlic, onion, bitter kola, alligator pepper, black seed, turmeric, bitter leaf, zinc and vitamin C to have the capacity to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The study titled “Frugal Chemoprophylaxis against COVID-19: Possible preventive benefits for the populace” was published in the International Journal of Advanced Research in Biological Sciences.

The researchers from Departments of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State; University of Lagos, Lagos State; and Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, led by Dr. Teibo John Oluwafemi, concluded: “…The pathophysiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection, is associated with aggressive inflammatory responses which uncontrolled inflammation inflicts multi-organ damage leading to organ failure, especially of the cardiac, hepatic and renal systems and most patients with this infection who progressed to renal failure eventually death.

“In this review, some medicinal foods were elucidated, which include ginger, garlic, onion, bitter kola, alligator pepper, black seed, turmeric, bitter leaf, zinc and vitamin C which possess potent pharmacological activities which include anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-pyretic properties, inhibition of viral replication properties against the symptoms displayed by SARS-COV-2 infection. These frugal medicinal foods offer great chemoprophylaxis benefits and can play potent roles in the prevention and curtailing of the community spread of COVID-19 as it enhances boosted immunity and defense of the body system as a result of its cost effectiveness and availability.

“We hereby recommend that further research should be done to evaluate the protective roles of these medicinal foods on COVID-19 infection as well as promote the development of drugs and improved plant medicines as this outcome can prepare the global populace against subsequent global outbreak of viruses.”

Also, another research found that curcumin, a natural compound found in the spice turmeric, could help eliminate certain viruses.

A study published in the Journal of General Virology showed that curcumin could prevent Transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) – an alpha-group coronavirus that infects pigs – from infecting cells. At higher doses, the compound was also found to kill virus particles.

Infection with TGEV causes a disease called transmissible gastroenteritis in piglets, which is characterised by diarrhoea, severe dehydration and death. TGEV is highly infectious and is invariably fatal in piglets younger than two weeks, thus posing a major threat to the global swine industry. There are currently no approved treatments for alpha-coronaviruses and although there is a vaccine for TGEV, it is not effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

To determine the potential antiviral properties of curcumin, the research team treated experimental cells with various concentrations of the compound, before attempting to infect them with TGEV. They found that higher concentrations of curcumin reduced the number of virus particles in the cell culture.

The research suggests that curcumin affects TGEV in a number of ways: by directly killing the virus before it is able to infect the cell, by integrating with the viral envelope to ‘inactivate’ the virus, and by altering the metabolism of cells to prevent viral entry.

Lead author of the study and researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Bioengineering, Dr. Lilan Xie, said: “Curcumin has a significant inhibitory effect on TGEV adsorption step and a certain direct inactivation effect, suggesting that curcumin has great potential in the prevention of TGEV infection.”

Curcumin has been shown to inhibit the replication of some types of virus, including dengue virus, hepatitis B and Zika virus. The compound has also been found to have a number of significant biological effects, including antitumor, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities. Curcumin was chosen for this research due to having low side effects according to Xie. They said: “There are great difficulties in the prevention and control of viral diseases, especially when there are no effective vaccines. Traditional Chinese medicine and its active ingredients are ideal screening libraries for antiviral drugs because of their advantages, such as convenient acquisition and low side effects.”

The researchers now hope to continue their research in vivo, using an animal model to assess whether the inhibiting properties of curcumin would be seen in a more complex system. “Further studies will be required, to evaluate the inhibitory effect in vivo and explore the potential mechanisms of curcumin against TGEV, which will lay a foundation for the comprehensive understanding of the antiviral mechanisms and application of curcumin” said Xie.

Meanwhile, the researchers from Departments of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State; University of Lagos, Lagos State; and Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, reviewed some medicinal foods, leafs and spices that has chemoprophylaxis and potent pharmacological activities which include anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-pyretic and inhibition of viral replication properties against the SARS-COV-2 symptoms and elucidated their bioactive compounds with their mechanism of action and suggested possible preventive roles they play in the abating the spread of the COVID-19 and reduce the cases globally in a bid of raising the immune system function and possible abate the development of symptoms and general health function.

The researchers said frugal chemoprophylaxis, using natural products and foods were considered due to some factors which include readily available, cost effective as well as economical provident due to the current state of the global economy and as such foods, herbs and spices that are already known globally are considered.

They presented the preventive potentials of some medicinal foods, natural products and their role in mitigating as well as abating the community spread of COVID-19 globally and enhancing immune system function.

Top on their list is alligator pepper/grains of paradise (Aframomum melegeuta). According to the study, alligator pepper is one seed with many healing power and of great benefits to mankind. The seeds of the plant are used to flavour foods and as components of traditional African medicine. Alligator pepper has been reported to have anti-ulcer, anti-microbial, anti-nociceptive, anti-plasmodial, hepato-protective and anticancer activities. Aframomum melegueta is mixed with other herbs for the treatment of common ailments such as body pains, diarrhoea, sore throat, catarrh, congestion and rheumatism in Nigeria. Diabetes, a major underlying disease of people afflicted with COVID-19 might also be combated by Aframomum melegueta.

A myriad of compounds found in Aframomum melegueta such as 6-paradol, 6-shagaol, 6-gingerol, oleanolic acid and acarbose exert an anti-diabetic effect by inhibiting enzymes such as α-amylase and α-glucosidase. These enzymes are responsible for digestion and break down of carbohydrates and polysaccharides from food into simple sugars to increase blood glucose levels. Among the compounds, 6-gingerol and oleanolic acid are more effective in inhibiting the enzymes.

Aframomum melegueta is suitable for consumption by diabetic patients; its consumption will help a diabetic patient stay healthy. The ethanolic seed extract and stem bark of Aframomum melegueta contains phytochemicals such as tannins, saponins, flavonoids, steroids, terpernoids, cardiac glycosides and alkaloids that possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds, which are natural antioxidant, are believed to scavenge free radicals and offer protections against viruses, allergens, microbes, platelet aggregation, tumours, ulcers and hepatotoxins (chemical liver damage) in the body. To support this claim of anti-inflammatory properties of Aframomum melegueta Ilic et al. reported that ethanolic Aframomum melegueta extract inhibited cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Compounds that inhibit COX-2 activity are capable of reducing inflammatory responses. The most active COX-2 inhibitory compound in the Aframomum melegueta extract was [6]-paradol, while [6]-shogaol was found to inhibit expression of a pro-inflammatory gene, interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β).

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) belongs to the family of ginger (Zingiberaceae) and natively grows in India and Southeast Asia. The plants rhizomes contain several secondary metabolites including curcuminoids, sesquiterpenes, and steroids with the curcuminoid curcumin being the principal component of the yellow pigment and the major bioactive substance. It has been used as traditional medicine from ancient time, especially in Asian countries. Plants as a rich source of phytochemicals with different biological activities including antiviral activities are in interest of scientists. It has been demonstrated that curcumin as a plant derivative has a wide range of antiviral activity against different viruses. Inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) enzyme due to rate-limiting activity in the de novo synthesis of guanine nucleotides is suggested as a therapeutic target for antiviral and anticancer compounds.

Among the 15 different polyphenols, curcumin through inhibitory activity against IMPDH effect in either noncompetitive or competitive manner is suggested as a potent antiviral compound via this process.

Furthermore, protein molecules encoded by the SARS-CoV-2 genome are potential targets for chemotherapeutic inhibition of viral infection and its replication. These intriguing targets include the spike protein (S), which mediates the entry of the virus, the SARS-CoV-2 main protease (3CL protease), the NTPase/helicase, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, the membrane protein (M) required for virus budding; the envelope protein (E) which plays a role in coronavirus assembly and the nucleocapsid phosphoprotein (N) that relates to viral RNA inside the virion and possibly other viral protein-mediated processes. With such a drastic increase in molecular and biochemical information about various components of the SARS-CoV-2 and their cellular targets, it is important and timely to again evaluate anti-SARS-CoV-2 activities of various turmeric phyto-compounds. It is to be noted that in vitro studies have positively demonstrated effective antiviral properties of curcumin against enveloped viruses such as Dengue virus (DENV), influenza virus and emerging arboviruses like the Zika virus (ZIKV) or chikungunya virus (CHIKV), which are similar to the SARS-CoV-2 an enveloped virus.

Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) commonly called bitter leaf is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Vernonia that has about 1,000 species of shrubs. Bitter leaf is a seedless plant, green in colouration with a characteristic odour and bitter taste. It has different names such as ‘Omjunso’ in East Africa especially Tanzania, ‘Ewuro’ in Yoruba, Etidot (Ibibio), Ityuna (Tiv), Oriwo (Edo), Chusa-dokiShiwaka (Hausa), and ‘Omubirizi’ in southwestern Uganda.

Vernonia amygdalina is known as food and medicinal plants used in Asia and Africa (West Africa) due to its pharmacological effects which include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes, anticancer, anti-malaria etc. One major properties of considering Vernonia amygdalina in the management of COVID-19 is its antioxidants property. Antioxidants inhibit deleterious effects of free radicals that are capable of deteriorating lipid biomembranes in the human body.

Researchers in the field of medical sciences have observed free radical scavenging ability and antioxidant property in Vernonia amygdalina. Vernonia amygdalina has been documented to possess antioxidant properties, which correlates to its medicinal properties. Antioxidant activities of bioactive compounds isolated from Vernonia amygdalina leaves have been established from various studies.

Farombi and Owoeye (2011) observes phytochemicals compounds such as saponins and alkaloids, terpenes, steroids, coumarins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, xanthones, anthraquinones, edotides, sesquiterpenes extracted and isolated from Vernonia amygdalina to elicit various biological effects in humans including cancer chemoprevention. The chemoprophylaxis properties of Vernonia amygdalina was attributed to their abilities to scavenge free radicals, induce detoxification, inhibit stress response proteins and interfere with DNA binding activities of some transcription factors.

Nigella sativa, commonly known, as black seed is native to Southern Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia and it is cultivated in many countries in the world like Middle Eastern Mediterranean region, South Europe, India, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Nigella sativa is regarded as a valuable remedy for various ailments, the seeds, oil and extracts have played an important role over the years in ancient Islamic system of herbal medicine. Bukhari reported that Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told, “There exists, in the black grains, health care of all the diseases, except death”.

Many studies have been carried out to affirm the acclaimed medicinal properties emphasized on different pharmacological effects of N. sativa seeds such as antioxidant, anti-tussive, gastro protective, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, immunomodulatory and anti-tumor properties, hepatoprotective effect, protective effects on lipid peroxidation, antibacterial activity, antiviral activity against cytomegalovirus have been reported for this medicinal plant.

It should be noted that the seeds of N. sativa are the source of the active ingredients of this plant.

Thymoquinone (TQ), dithymquinone (DTQ), which is believed to be nigellone, thymohydroquinone (THQ), and thymol (THY), are considered the main phytochemicals of the seed.
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Nigella sativa seeds contain other ingredients, including nutritional components such as carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, mineral elements, and proteins, including eight of the nine essential amino acids. The potential immune-modulatory and immunotherapeutic potentials of Nigella sativa seed active ingredients, most especially TQ will show a promising therapy in managing COVID-19 virus.

Ginger, with the botanical name Zingiber officinale is a commonly used spice and belongs to the family Zingiberaceae. Its local names are Ata-ile, Jinja, and Cithar among the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa folks of Nigeria. Commonly, ginger can be found in subtropical and tropical Asia, Africa, Far East Asia, China, and India. It can be used as a component in curry powder, sauces, ginger bread, and ginger-flavoured carbonated drinks and also in the preparation of dietaries for its aroma and flavour. Investigations reveal that ginger possesses several biological properties such as anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative, antimicrobial, neuro-protective, cardiovascular protective, antidiabetic and anti-nausea, antiemetic activities and chemo-protective effects.

Its main bioactive components are 6-gingerol, 6-shogaol which are phenolics, thus accounting for its various bioactivities.

Till date, there are no antiviral therapeutics that specifically target human corona viruses, and thus completely eradicating the pandemic. Even though several potential vaccines have been developed, such as recombinant attenuated viruses, live virus vectors, or individual viral proteins expressed from DNA plasmids.

However, none have been yet approved for use. The limitation with the use of vaccines is a propensity of the viruses to recombine, thereby posing a problem of rendering the vaccine useless and potentially increasing the evolution and diversity of the virus into a more virulent form. It therefore implies that a preventive approach could be a better option.

Possible Mechanism of action of ginger against Corona virus: Virus–receptor interactions play a key regulatory role in viral host range, tissue tropism, and viral pathogenesis. Many α-coronaviruses utilise amino-peptidase N (APN) as their receptor, SARS-CoV and HCoV-NL63 use angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as their receptor, MHV enters through CEACAM1, and the recently identified Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) binds to dipeptidyl-peptidase 4 (DPP4) to gain entry into human cells. Following receptor binding, the viruses then proceeds into the cytosol of the host.

A possible mechanism of preventing access of the viruses into the host’s cell could be the inhibition of microbial binding to cellular receptors. In the antimicrobial mechanism of ginger, inhibition of receptor binding has been identified as a major mechanism.

Hitherto, ACE-2 has been associated with an obscure function, not until in recent times with the widespread of COVID-19. It is now established as a protein being recognised by various corona viruses to gain entry into hosts cell, suggesting it to be a therapeutic target in the treatment of the disease.

The researchers noted: “We propose that both ACE receptor antagonism and agonism can be an effective mechanism of ginger in its chemo preventive strategy against corona viruses. This claims are supported by a recent report of Cava et al. who demonstrated through computational methods that anti-ACE 2 compounds could be effective in blocking the replication of SARS-CoV variant.

“Moreover, Huentelman et al. also used docking methods to predict the inhibitory ability of small molecules against ACE 2 enzymes, and possibly inhibiting SARS corona virus S protein mediated cell fusion, and high binding affinity was scored. In addition, different bioactive compounds in ginger have been shown to have different effects on ACE2. One mechanism is through ACE 2 inhibition.

“A study by Alu’datt et al. in the bid to evaluate the anti-hypertensive activity of ginger, demonstrated that its methanolic extract has excellent inhibitory activity on ACE 2 at an extraction temperature and time of 400C and six hours respectively. To further corroborate our hypothesis, 3-3’-digallate, a phenolic compound present in ginger was found to interact with ACE2 receptor in recent computational modelling studies. Taken together, we suggest that the intake of ginger might be beneficial for both prevention and treatment of the pandemic COVID-19. Ginger is able to inhibit ACE-2, thereby preventing the binding of the corona virus to the protein.”

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a widely consumed spice in the world, and it contains diverse phytochemicals such as organosulphur compounds, saponins, phenolic compounds, and polysaccharides. However, its major bioactive compounds are the organosulphur compounds including allicin, alliin, diallylsulphide, diallyldisulphide, diallyltrisulphide, ajoene, and S-allyl-cysteine. It has been reported that garlic and its constituents exhibit different bioactivities such as anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, reno-protective, anti-atherosclerotic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antihypertensive activities.

The researchers noted: “From the foregoing, worthy of relevance to our subject matter among the bioactivities of garlic is its antiviral properties. We suggest that this could be due in part to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative abilities. The antiviral potential of garlic extracts has been demonstrated against influenza virus and entero-virus, herpes simplex type 2, dengue virus, Infectious Bronchitis virus, Newcastle Disease virus etc.

“Major challenges in treating viral diseases are the development of resistance in the virus against the antiviral drugs, due to the high mutation rate of the viral RNA Polymerase and some of the antiviral drugs can also induce negative side effects in the body. Therefore, it is necessary to find alternative therapies in natural plants and their products, out of which garlic stands out significantly, because of its robust pharmacological bioactive components as stated above. Below is a possible mechanism of action of garlic for the prevention and treatment of the human corona virus.

“…Interestingly, allicin and quercetin, which are bioactive compounds of garlic were found to exhibit inhibitory action on the COVID-19, thereby demonstrating similar binding affinity when compared to other potent peptide inhibitors such as Nelfinavir and lopinavir in an in silico study of protein-protein docking.

“Furthermore, it was demonstrated by Weber et al. that treatment of different bioactive components of garlic against different viral strains led to the inhibition of viral adsorption or penetration. Taken together, we suggest that through this mechanism, garlic could prevent the attachment of the corona virus to the host’s cellular machinery.”

In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week, Medela breast pump announced its new partnership with The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) to improve breastfeeding support and resources in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) in Nigeria. Medela is one of the breast pumps recommended by doctors and used in hospitals.

As part of this partnership, Medela and The Wellbeing Foundation Africa will work together to improve the support offered to new mothers in Nigeria by delivering NICU-specific education and training on the value of human milk and how to build sufficient milk supply for long-term breastfeeding. This work will involve frontline healthcare workers, nonprofit organisations and government agencies.

Founder and president of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Toyin Ojora Saraki, said: “Medela’s long history as a global player in breastfeeding research, products, technology and innovation is the perfect partner for Wellbeing Foundation Africa in our quest to improve Nigeria’s prevalence of breastfeeding and our focus on NICU support.

“Ensuring new mothers are wholly supported to breastfeed is not only critical for the health and wellbeing of the baby: it can be linked to all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

Nigeria ranks 6th worst country in the world for infant mortality and complications due to prematurity, which is the leading cause of death. In children younger than five years, 47 per cent of deaths occur in the first 28 days of life, many of them are preventable and can be addressed through improved nutrition with mother’s milk. Today Nigeria has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world with only 17 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their children through six months. To improve these statistics, the United Nations set a global goal to improve breastfeeding rates to 50 per cent by the year 2030. Medela hopes to contribute to the solution through this partnership with the WBFA. As a supporting member of the Global UN Compact and the UN’s Every Woman, Every Child initiative, Medela is committed to partnering with organisations to improve breastfeeding rates globally to meet the 2030 Breastfeeding goals. Medela’s new global corporate social responsibility program, Medela Cares, is dedicated to improving the lives of moms, babies and patients through education and support, as well as through technologies, research and services.

“Research shows us that breast milk is critical for growth and overall health for newborns and is a low-cost and highly effective intervention that can prevent infant death,” said Annette Brüls, CEO of Medela worldwide. “We are thrilled to partner with The Wellbeing Foundation Africa as part of our commitment to the UN’s Every Woman, Every Child movement to better the lactation care provided to mothers and ultimately improve the infant feeding and health outcomes in Nigeria.”

The partnership will commence with a webinar on August 7, 2020 about Breastfeeding in High Risk Countries, a panel discussion with Her Excellency Toyin Saraki, Founder WBFA, Annette Brüls, CEO of Medela, Dr. Prof. Diane Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, and Rita Momoh, lead midwife at WBFA, moderated by Tolu Adeleke, founder of Tolu The Midwife Healthcare Solutions and CEO of Maternity Hub (Nigeria). This group will discuss the need to address infant mortality and share how midwives and mothers can be supported to champion breastfeeding efforts in high-risk countries such as Nigeria.

Women on birth control pills could be at a higher risk of dying if they are exposed to coronavirus, experts have warned. It is already well known that some types of birth control can increase the risk of blood clots.

But researchers say that being infected with Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) causes the threat of blood clotting to be even higher.

Doctors have been learning more about the virus as the pandemic unfolds, but studies show that it can cause clots, also known as thrombosis, and could be contributing to the number of people who are dying.

Medical experts have previously warned that up to a third of patients who are seriously ill with COVID are developing thrombosis. Now, new research from the US suggests that pregnant women, taking the Pill or on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) face the same danger.

Study co-author, Dr. Daniel Spratt, of Maine Medical Center in Portland, United States of America (USA), said: “During this pandemic, we need additional research to determine if women who become infected during pregnancy should receive anti-coagulation therapy – or if women taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy should discontinue them.”

Coronavirus can cause blood clots to form – even in previously healthy people, said Spratt.

What is more, oestrogen fuels potentially deadly deep vein thrombosis in some mothers-to-be – and in women using the pill or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

The blockages usually start in the legs, but they can move up – triggering a heart attack or stroke. Oral contraceptives are known to carry a small risk of the condition – which may be exacerbated by the coronavirus, according to the paper published in the journal Endocrinology.

Announcing their findings, the team said: “If infected with Covid-19, these women’s risk of blood clotting could be even higher.”

Spratt said: “Research that helps us understand how the coronavirus causes blood clots may also provide us with new knowledge regarding how they form in other settings and how to prevent them.” The links between blood clots and COVID-19 – including the effects of oestrogen therapy or pregnancy – are complicated. Spratt said several studies using innovative animal and tissue models will be required to shed light on them.

Birth control pills remain the most popular method of contraception in the UK – despite alternatives such as injections and implants.

More than three million British women take them at any one time, despite potential side effects ranging from depression to mood changes. They also carry up to a fourfold increase in a woman’s chance of developing a blood clot.

Most contain oestrogen and a synthetic form of progesterone – the hormones that sustain pregnancy and, by imitating the condition, prevent it. But they also raise clotting factors. For the average woman, the absolute risk of a blood clot just one in a thousand – but the threat of coronavirus may raise this significantly.

Spratt said: “As more information emerges regarding the effects of COVID-19, questions arise as to whether infection aggravates blood clots and strokes associated with combined oral contraceptives and other oestrogen therapies, as well as pregnancy-associated risks.”

“Rates of strokes double from about four to eight in 100,000 young women a year, while similar figures have been found for older women on HRT.”

Spratt said: “In pregnancy, the risk of blood clots increases four to fivefold. The mechanisms for these and the duration of the effect after discontinuing therapy remain unclear.

“A common recommendation is to discontinue oestrogen-containing preparations two weeks before planned activities that may cause thrombosis such as surgery or long flights.”

He added: “Conversations between clinicians, researchers, endocrinologists and haemotologists are necessary to explore potential interactions between COVID-19 and pregnancy or oestrogen therapy that could guide management.”

Doctors in France have described what they said was the first confirmed case of a newborn infected in the womb with COVID-19 by the mother.

The baby boy, born in March, suffered brain swelling and neurological symptoms linked to COVID-19 in adults, but has since recovered, they reported Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Earlier research had pointed to the likely transmission of the virus from mother to foetus, but the study offers the first solid evidence, said senior author Daniele De Luca, a doctor at Antoine Beclere Hospital near Paris.

“We have shown that the transmission from the mother to the foetus across the placenta is possible during the last weeks of pregnancy,” he said.

Last week, researchers in Italy said that data on 31 pregnant women hospitalised with COVID-19 “strongly suggested” that the virus could be passed on to unborn infants.

A JAMA study in March reporting on a similar number of pregnant COVID-19 patients came to a similar conclusion.

But evidence remained circumstantial.

“You need to analyse maternal blood, amniotic fluid, the newborn’s blood, the placenta, et cetera,” De Luca said by phone.

“Getting all of these samples during a pandemic with emergencies everywhere has not been easy. This is why it has been suspected but never demonstrated.”

De Luca and his team pulled together this data for the case of a pregnant woman in her twenties admitted to his hospital in early March.

Because the baby was delivered by caesarean section, all of the potential sources and reservoirs of the virus remained intact.

The concentration of SARS-CoV-2, the technical name given to the virus, was highest in the placenta, the researchers found.

“From there it passed through the umbilical cord to the baby, where it develops,” De Luca said. “That is the pathway of transmission.”

‘Bad news’
The baby began to develop severe symptoms 24 hours after birth, including severe rigidity of the body, damage to white matter in the brain, and extreme irritability.

But before doctors could settle on a course of treatment, the symptoms began to recede. Within three weeks, the newborn had almost fully recovered on his own.

Three months later, his mother is without symptoms.

“The bad news is that this actually happened, and can happen,” De Luca said. “The good news is that it is rare — very rare compared to the global population.”

Among the thousands of babies born to mothers with COVID-19, no more than one or two percent have tested positive for the virus, and even fewer show serious symptoms, said Marian Knight, a professor of maternal and child population health at the University of Oxford who was not involved in the research.

“The most important message for pregnant women remains to avoid infection through paying attention to hand washing and social distancing measures,” she said.

Others said the case study shed light on how the virus passes from mother to child.

“This report adds knowledge to a possible mechanism of transfer to the baby, via the placenta,” commented Andrew Shennan, a professor of obstetrics at King’s College London.

“But women can remain reassured that pregnancy is not a significant risk factor for them or their babies with COVID-19.”

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.

After examining the link between metabolites in urine and overall health, researchers created a 5-minute test to reveal a person’s nutritional fingerprint.

Research finds a new way to look at the relationship between what we eat and our health.

It might seem obvious that good nutrition is linked to good health. Still, it has proven difficult to identify specific links between foods and health outcomes. Two new studies from scientists at Imperial College London (ICL), United Kingdom, and various collaborators report insights from the analysis of metabolites in urine.

The researchers have created a 5-minute urine test that can capture a person’s “nutritional fingerprint.”

“Diet is a key contributor to human health and disease, though it is notoriously difficult to measure accurately because it relies on an individual’s ability to recall what and how much they ate. For instance, asking people to track their diets through apps or diaries can often lead to inaccurate reports about what they really eat,” explains study author Joram Posma, of ICL’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion, and Reproduction.

“This research reveals this technology can help provide in-depth information on the quality of a person’s diet and whether it is the right type of diet for their individual biological makeup.” — Joram Posma, study co-author

The first study reveals links

Scientists from ICL and their collaborators — from Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Murdoch University in Australia — authored the first of the two studies. It appears in the journal Nature Food.

Metabolites are molecules that the body produces during cellular metabolism, and some are measurable in a person’s urine.

Working with 1,848 study participants in the U.S., the researchers were able to identify associations between 46 different metabolites and food types.

Co-author Paul Elliot, Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at ICL, explains:

“Through careful measurement of people’s diets and collection of their urine excreted over two 24-hour periods, we were able to establish links between dietary inputs and urinary output of metabolites that may help improve understanding of how our diets affect health. Healthful diets have a different pattern of metabolites in the urine than those associated with worse health outcomes.”

Metabolites were linked with the ingestion of alcohol, citrus fruit, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose, red meats, and other animal proteins, such as chicken. Nutrients, including vitamin C and calcium, were also associated with metabolites in the study.

Metabolites’ associations with health outcomes also became apparent in the data. For instance, the scientists found that the metabolites formate and sodium were linked to obesity and higher blood pressure.

The second study and the 5-minute fingerprint

For the second research project, which also appears in Nature Food, the ICL team worked again with scientists from Murdoch University, along with researchers from Newcastle University and Aberystwyth University, both in the U.K.

The study reports that the scientists were able to produce an easy-to-administer urine test that could reveal a person’s metabolite profile in the form of a Dietary Metabotype Score (DMS).

Study author Isabel Garcia-Perez, of Imperial College, says:

“Our technology can provide crucial insights into how foods are processed by individuals in different ways — and can help health professionals, such as dietitians, provide dietary advice tailored to individual patients.”

In evaluating the test, the scientists conducted experiments with 19 people whom they instructed to follow one of four types of diets (ranging from very healthful to unhealthful) strictly based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) guidelines. The healthiest adhered 100% to the WHO recommendations, and the least healthy just 25% of them.

The study authors found that even among those who reported following the same diet, there were differences in the DMS.

WHO recommendations contain a great deal of latitude in the choice of specific foods. One recommendation, for example, is, “Fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g., lentils and beans), nuts, and whole grains (e.g., unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, and brown rice).”

The researchers found that, in general, the more healthful the person’s diet, the higher the DMS. Those with higher scores also had lower blood sugar and excreted an increased amount of energy from the body in the urine.

The study characterizes the difference between high energy urine and low energy urine as meaning that a person with a higher DMS would be losing 4 extra calories a day, which equates to about 1,500 calories a year, and would thus avoid about 215 g of body fat annually.

Next up for the team is investigating the use of this new technology in people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rethinking diets

Aside from the obvious value of the 5-minute test, the studies suggest that it may be time to use the new findings to personalize healthful food recommendations.

Newcastle University’s John Mathers says:

“We show here how different people metabolize the same foods in highly individual ways. This has implications for understanding the development of nutrition-related diseases and for more personalized dietary advice to improve public health.”

The link between specific metabolites, foods, and outcomes also raises other considerations, according to ICL’s Gary Frost, another co-author:

“These findings bring a new and more in-depth understanding to how our bodies process and use food at the molecular level. The research brings into question whether we should rewrite food tables to incorporate these new metabolites that have biological effects in the body.”

Worried about the unique threats and challenges posed by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on human reproduction, fertility experts have instituted several studies on the impact of the virus.

The fertility experts under the aegis of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), and the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) are collaborating to advocate for patients and to gather data and resources to enhance the understanding of COVID-19 as it pertains to reproduction, pregnancy, and the impact on the feotus and neonate.

They affirmed in a joint statement made available to The Guardian by the President of IFFS, who is also the joint pioneer of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in Nigeria and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART) Maryland, Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, the importance for continued reproductive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. They said lessons learned from these experiences would be useful as humanity deals with future pandemics.

According to the joint statement, in addition to helping patients, reproductive medicine practices are uniquely positioned to gather data and help to further COVID-19 research.

They noted: “Reproductive medicine professionals and practices are essential front-line resources for screening, monitoring, and assessing the prevalence and impact of the disease on patients and their progeny through Point-of-Care data collection.

“ESHRE, ASRM and IFFS are committed to continuous monitoring of the effects of COVID-19 on gametes and reproductive tissues, collecting data on pregnant patients infected during the pandemic, and assessing the outcomes of mothers and neonates.”

Examples of these research and registry efforts by the fertility experts are:

In the United States of America (U.S.A.), the ASPIRE (Assessing the Safety of Pregnancy In the Coronavirus Pandemic) Study is a nationwide prospective cohort study of pregnant women and their offspring during the COVID-19 pandemic. All patients under the care of a reproductive medicine specialist who conceived spontaneously or with assisted reproductive technology (ART) between March 1st and December 31st are encouraged to participate.

ESHRE is gathering global case-by-case reporting on the outcome of medically assisted reproduction (MAR) conceived pregnancies in women with a confirmed infection (https://nl.surveymonkey.com/r/COVID19ART).

The affiliate society of ASRM, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) is including mandatory COVID-19-related questions in their Clinic Outcome Reporting System (CORS) registry of ART, which accounts for over 95 per cent of all ART cycles in the U.S.A.

ESHRE is gathering data and mapping MAR/ART activity during the pandemic, country by country whether and /or when they stopped offering treatment and when they have resumed care.

IFFS is conducting COVID-19-related periodic surveys to assess global trends in access to MAR/ART services.

The fertility experts concluded: “Reproductive care is essential and reproductive medicine professionals are in a unique position to promote health and wellbeing. In addition, ASRM, ESHRE and IFFS are collaborating to advocate for patients and to gather data and resources to enhance the understanding of COVID-19 as it pertains to reproduction, pregnancy, and the impact on the fetus and neonate. The lessons learned from these experiences will be useful as humanity deals with future pandemics.”

They said reproduction is an essential human right that transcends race, gender, sexual orientation, and country of origin: a human right to which the COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique threats and challenges. Reproductive health care professionals are in a special position to provide advocacy for this right and promote the health and well being of their patients.

The fertility experts said COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique global challenge on a scale not previously seen and the infectivity and mortality rates are higher than previous pandemics and the disease is present in almost every country. They also said the propagation and containment has varied widely by location and, at present, the timeline to complete resolution is unknown.

In the earliest stages of the pandemic, ASRM and ESHRE, independently recommended discontinuation of reproductive care except for the most urgent cases. More recently, with successful mitigation strategies in some areas and emergence of additional data, the societies have sanctioned gradual and judicious resumption of delivery of full reproductive care.

At least 8,000 miscarriages could be prevented each year if women at risk were given a hormone in their next pregnancy, research suggests.

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Between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of pregnancies end in a miscarriage – the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks – having a major clinical and psychological impact on women and their families.

Experts say women with such a history, who have early bleeding in their pregnancy, could benefit from progesterone – naturally secreted by the ovaries and placenta in early pregnancy and is vital for healthy pregnancies.

There are scientific and economic advantages to giving a course of self-administered twice daily progesterone to women from when they first present with early pregnancy bleeding up until 16 weeks of pregnancy to prevent miscarriage, experts from the University of Birmingham and Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage suggest in two new studies. They are calling for women at risk to be given the hormone as a standard by the British National Health Service (NHS).

The first of the studies, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, examines the findings of two major clinical trials – Promise and Prism.

Promise studied 836 women with unexplained recurrent miscarriages at 45 hospitals in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the Netherlands, and found a three per cent higher live birth rate with progesterone, but with substantial statistical uncertainty.

Prism studied 4,153 women with early pregnancy bleeding at 48 hospitals in the UK. It found a 5 per cent increase in the number of babies born to those who were given progesterone who had previously had one or more miscarriages, compared to those given a placebo.

According to the research, the benefit was even greater for women who had previous recurrent miscarriages – three or more – with a 15 per cent increase in the live birth rate in the progesterone group.

The second of the studies, published in BJOG: an international Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, looks at the economics of the Prism trial. It indicates progesterone is cost-effective, costing on average £204 (N95,976) per pregnancy.

An unpublished survey by the University of Birmingham of 130 healthcare practitioners in the UK found that before the results of the Prism study just 13 per cent offered women at threat of miscarriage progesterone. While post publication of the results in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2019 some 75 per cent now offer the treatment.

Dr. Adam Devall, senior clinical trial fellow at the University of Birmingham and manager of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said: “We believe that the dual risk factors of early pregnancy bleeding and a history of one or more previous miscarriages identify high risk women in whom progesterone is of benefit. The question is how should this affect clinical practice?”

Dr. Pat O’Brien, consultant and vice president of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “This treatment offers an increased chance of a successful birth and appears to be cost effective for the NHS, so we hope Nice will consider this important research in their next update of the guidance.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it is currently updating its guideline on the diagnosis and initial management of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage to consider new evidence on progesterone in treating threatened miscarriage.

late menopause
late menopause

Sexual problems are more common in postmenopausal women, which suggests that menopause can reduce libido.

The reduced sex drive is often caused by decreased estrogen levels, which can dampen arousal and result in sex being more painful.

In this article, we look at how menopause might affect someone’s sex drive, along with what can be done to improve libido.

Menopause and libido

What is menopause?

Menopause refers to when a woman stops having her period permanently, but it can affect more than a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Menopause can cause physical and emotional changes that impact a woman’s life, including her sex life.

Some symptoms and side effects associated with menopause include:

  • anxiety
  • bladder control issues
  • decreased sex drive and desire (libido)
  • depression
  • difficulty sleeping
  • thinning hair
  • weight gain

Each of these effects can impact a woman’s quality of life and relationship with her partner.

What is libido?

Libido refers to sexual interest and sexual enjoyment.

Some women going through menopause report reduced libido, but the causes vary from person to person.

According to one review, the reported rates of sexual problems in postmenopausal women are between 68 and 86.5 percent.

This range is much higher than in all women in general, which is estimated to be between 25 and 63 percent.

Why does menopause affect libido?

Decreased estrogen levels can result in reduced blood flow to the vagina, which can cause the tissues of the vagina and labia to become thinner. If this happens, they become less sensitive to sexual stimulation.

Decreased blood flow also affects vaginal lubrication and overall arousal. As a result, a woman may not enjoy sex as much and may have difficulty achieving orgasm. Sex may be uncomfortable or even painful.

Fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause and menopause can also affect a woman’s mental health, which in turn, may cause a decrease in her libido.

Stress can also impact a woman’s libido, as she may be juggling a job, parenting, and be caring for aging parents. The changes in hormone levels a woman may experience during menopause may make her irritable or depressed, so dealing with everyday stress may feel more difficult.

According to an article published in the Journal of Women’s Health, women who have more significant side effects associated with menopause are more likely to report lower libido levels.

Examples of these side effects include hot flashes, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and fatigue.

Other factors that make a woman going through menopause more likely to experience a reduced libido include:

  • history of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or depression
  • history of smoking
  • engaging in low levels of physical activity

A woman should talk to her doctor about how these conditions could affect her sex drive.

Tips for improving libido

There are several steps a woman can take to increase her libido. These include medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and home remedies.

Medical treatments

middle aged couple enjoying a bike ride
Spending time together on shared hobbies, exercising, and planned dates will help increase a couple’s intamacy.

If a woman experiences changes to her vaginal tissue, such as thinning and dryness, she may wish to consider estrogen therapy.

Prescription estrogen can be applied directly to the vagina in the form of creams, pills, or vaginal rings. These usually contain lower doses of estrogen than regular birth control pills.

Some women may wish to take estrogen pills that contain higher levels of hormones. This treatment, known as hormone replacement therapy, might help reduce symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood changes, but may also carry risks.

A woman thinking about hormone replacement therapy should discuss it with her doctor before starting to take any medication.

One study found that women using hormone therapies reported higher levels of sexual desire compared with women who did not.

Less commonly, a doctor may prescribe testosterone therapy. However, not all women respond to this treatment, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not approve it for treating sexual disorders in women.

A woman may not experience any changes in her sex drive after using estrogen or testosterone therapies.

A woman may also choose to see a therapist who specializes in sexual dysfunction or enhancing sex. Sometimes, couples may want to attend therapy together.

Lifestyle changes

Some women may benefit from using water-soluble lubricants during sex. These can be purchased over-the-counter at most drugstores.

However, women should avoid non-water soluble and silicone-based lubricants, as these can break down condoms used to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Increasing physical activity, such as getting 30 minutes or more of exercise on a routine basis, may help reduce menopause-related symptoms, including a low libido. Eating a healthful diet can also enhance a person’s overall sense of well being.

Changing sexual habits

There are many ways a person can foster a sense of intimacy with their partner, including:

  • Changing sexual routines: Try spending extended periods on foreplay, use vibrators or other sex toys to enhance an intimate experience, or engage in sexual activity or touching without the goal of orgasm.
  • Relieving stress together: There are many stress-relieving techniques a couple can do outside of the bedroom to increase intimacy. Examples include going on planned dates together, taking a walk, or spending time doing hobbies together, such as exercise, crafts, or cooking.
  • Practicing masturbation: Spending time alone and exploring what types of touch and sexual stimulation work well for an individual can help them talk to a partner about their needs and preferences. It can also help a person feel more comfortable with sexual activity without the pressure of a partner.

Natural remedies

Some women use natural supplements to try to increase their libido. It is important to keep in mind that the FDA do not regulate herbs and supplements, so women should be sure to choose a reputable brand.

Some natural remedies used to increase libido in women include:

  • black cohosh
  • red clover
  • soy

A woman should discuss these remedies with a doctor before taking them to ensure they will not interact negatively with other prescriptions and supplements she may be taking. Soy contains estrogen, so it may react with other estrogen therapies.

When to see a doctor

A woman should speak to her doctor whenever perimenopause or menopause is having a significant impact on her day-to-day activities, including sexual activity.

Sometimes, a doctor can recommend changes in health habits as well as discuss whether prescription medications may help relieve the symptoms, including a low libido.

Speaking with a doctor can also rule out any other underlying medical conditions that may cause a reduced libido. These conditions include urinary tract infections, uterine prolapse, endometriosis, or pelvic floor dysfunction.

Outlook

While some women do experience a decreased libido in menopause, others do not.

Some women may even experience a heightened libido after menopause. This can be due to reduced stresses over pregnancy and fewer child-rearing responsibilities.

If a woman’s libido is impacted after menopause, she should talk to her doctor about treatments that could enhance her quality of life.

Certain foods and drinks contain compounds that may improve vaginal health and symptoms of vaginal conditions. These include probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented food and beverages.

The vagina uses natural secretions, immune defenses, and “good” bacteria to keep itself healthy. Eating a healthful, balanced diet might also further prevent infections and improve vaginal conditions.

This article discusses what little research there is into the effects of diet on vaginal health, looks at dietary choices for common vaginal conditions, and identifies other ways to improve vaginal health.

People should speak to a doctor before using diet to address any health concerns.

Balancing pH levels

The vagina is a moderately acidic environment with a pH of around 4.5. This acidity helps healthful bacteria to grow and prevents harmful microbes from developing.

Some good bacteria, such as probiotics, may help balance vaginal acidity levels.

Probiotics

Lactobacillus species bacteria is the most dominant type of “good” bacteria found in a healthy vagina.

Research has suggested that Lactobacillus could benefit vaginal health in the following ways:

  • regulating the microflora in the vagina
  • improving the vagina’s acidity levels
  • stopping harmful microbes from attaching to the vaginal tissues
  • working with the body’s immune system

2016 study indicated that using vaginal Lactobacillus supplements after taking antibiotics hindered bacteria growth in people with bacterial vaginosis (BV), and significantly reduced vaginal pH.

2015 review study found “no significant evidence” that probiotics were more beneficial than using a placebo or no treatment. However, the authors noted that due to a lack of evidence, “a benefit cannot be ruled out.”

Probiotic supplements are available, but some nutritionists recommend getting them from fermented foods and drinks, such as:

  • yogurt and kefir
  • kimchi and sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • tempeh
  • kombucha

Prebiotics

Prebiotic compounds may also help stabilize vaginal pH by promoting the growth of healthy bacterial populations. Foods rich in prebiotics include:

  • leeks and onions
  • asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke
  • garlic
  • whole wheat products
  • oats
  • soybeans
  • bananas

It is important to note that prebiotics can worsen bowel conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Preventing UTIs

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria enter parts of the urethra, bladder, or kidneys, causing symptoms such as burning or pain during urination and bad smelling or cloudy urine. According to the Urology Care Foundation, about 60% of women will experience a UTI at some point.

Drinking lots of fluids might help prevent a UTI.

Cranberry juice

According to the Urology Care Foundation, drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry tablets may prevent UTIs from developing.

Research supports this idea — in a 2016 study, researchers found that drinking 8 ounces (oz), or 240 milliliters (ml) of a 27% cranberry juice drink each day for 24 weeks lowered the rate of UTIs in adult women who had recently had a UTI.

Cranberries are rich in antibacterial compounds that kill bacteria. These include antioxidants and organic acids, such as:

  • proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins
  • organic and phenolic acids
  • vitamin C
  • flavanols and flavonols

Research into diet and UTIs has mainly focused on cranberries, but many fruits, especially citrus fruits and berries, are also rich in antioxidants and may have similar effects.

Reducing candida infections

Candida infections, or yeast infections, are the second most common cause of vaginitis, or vaginal inflammation.

There is no scientific proof that any foods can reduce candida infections. However, some foods contain ingredients that the fungus uses to grow. These ingredients include refined sugar, preservatives, yeasts, fungi, allergens, and trace antibiotics. People may benefit from avoiding these foods.

Researchers are studying the possible benefits of natural remedies with antifungal, anti-inflammatory, or antioxidant properties for candida infection, including tea tree oil, coconut oil, and garlic.

Other ways to improve vaginal health

Regularly eating a healthful, balanced diet that contains fermented products with probiotics and prebiotics can improve vaginal health.

Following some of these lifestyle habits might also help:

  • cleaning the genital region with mild, unscented soap before rinsing well and patting dry daily or as needed during menstruation
  • wiping from front to back
  • using antibiotics appropriately and only when necessary
  • reducing sweat around the vagina
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • staying hydrating
  • reducing stress
  • wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear

Avoiding or limiting things that can imbalance the body’s systems or irritate the vagina can help, such as:

  • douching
  • holding in urine or rushing urination
  • personal care products with dyes, flavors, or fragrances
  • spermicidal foam or diaphragms
  • tight pants or underwear
  • smoking
  • prolonged exposure to moisture
  • alcohol
  • processed or heavily refined foods
  • foods or drinks with artificial hormones

Summary

Many nutrients contribute to vaginal health. Eating a healthful, nutrient-rich diet can improve all body systems.

Certain nutrients, antioxidants, and probiotics may have particular benefits for vaginal health. However, researchers need to do more studies to work out which nutrients help boost vaginal health and prevent vaginal infections.