What about soup

Eating soup before meals is a traditional habit many people have forgotten; particularly on urban areas where fast food is many times the routine.

Soup is mostly liquid, so it takes longer to eat than solid food and it can fool your brain and stomach and control your appetite. Also, soup is full of nutrients and fibers which can prevent many diseases.

I was learned this habit with my family and many times it’s me who cooks the soup.

To prove that it’s easy to cook and to help spread this habit again I went to the kitchen and took some photos of how to cook soup.

I like to cook simple soup. Some vegetables swimming on water blended with potatoes is fine but I like to add carrots, beans or other things I may have on the fridge. I call it iSoup

First, I put the water boiling. With this saucepan I can cook soup for 8 persons. As in my house every meal I have 4 people eating I just keep it on the fridge and it lasts for two meals.




Then I add potatoes and carrots:



When it’s all cooked I blend everything (and yes, cooked potatoes also blend, it's not just the iphone):

Now it’s just adding the swimmers and some salt (not too much) and let them cook:

It’s done. You can now add some olive oil. I particularly like to, in my soup plate, add bread to the soup and the olive oil above it but do it as you like…


What about HIV - Why HIV is smarter than us?

7 reasons why HIV is smarter than us?

A genius is often related to a person who shows an exceptional natural capacity of intellect or denotes the possession of a superior talent in any field.

In the field of viral infection, I consider HIV one of the smartest viruses we know.

Viruses do not have a cell structure and although they reproduce, they do not metabolise on their own and therefore require a host cell to replicate and synthesise new products.

There is still a debate about consider or not virus a living form.

What’s so special about HIV?

1) It attacks the immune system

It’s a known fact that in a war, if we destroy the enemy defences it will be vulnerable.

HIV infects our immune system, your body's natural defense against disease and it particularly targets your "CD4 cells," which includes Th CD4+ cells and macrophages.

HIV takes command of these cells and uses them to reproduce itself, creating millions of new viruses every day.

Th (T helper) cells cannot kill infected cells or pathogens. Th cells are involved in activating and directing other immune cells, and are particularly important in the immune system. They are essential in determining B cell antibody class switching, in the activation and growth of cytotoxic T cells, and in maximizing bactericidal activity of phagocytes such as macrophages.

So, HIV attacks a central point in the immune system and the immune response against the virus will cause even more T cell CD4+ depletion and will help to spread the virus.

HIV also multiplies and remains in immune cells, especially macrophages, for a long time, increasing its chance of spreading to others through exposure.

2) HIV is always changing

HIV is not just one single strain of virus, there are multiple strains that change and adapt quickly within the host, which makes it difficult to the immune system to attack the virus and even more difficult to develop a vaccine.

3) Undetected infection and long latency period

A person can be infected with HIV without developing AIDS.

Many times, when someone is infected develops an Acute Retroviral Syndrome with flu-like symptoms between one and six weeks after infection and that last for two to three weeks. These symptoms are not specific of HIV infection, so it can be undetected.

The virus can also remain in a person's body for many years without causing serious health problems.

During this period, the virus is said to be latent, or inactive. Eventually, however, most people who are infected with HIV develop AIDS. The AIDS phase is related to severe immune dysfunction and opportunistic infections and causes dead with one or two years.

The bigger problem is that during latency period the virus can infect other persons, in particular their sexual partner. Someone can spread the virus without knowing.

4) Transmitted through sex and blood (needles and Mother-to-child) and breast milk.

HIV was first identified as mysterious illness affecting a few gay men in 1981. No one would imagine that something that is not transmitted through air and food would become the epidemic of the 20th.

Sexuality is maybe the weakest feeling among people. It can make them irrational and create taboos that only help to spread the virus.

HIV can affect everyone, it can’t be identified by the good or bad looking of someone but many people still think it can only infect gay men and drug users.

It is important to take steps to reduce your risk of getting HIV. Not having (abstaining from) sex is the most effective way to avoid HIV. If you choose to be sexually active, having sex with one person who only has sex with you and who is uninfected is also effective.

But when you meet someone how can you be sure your partner is HIV negative? You can use a latex condom to help protect both you and your partner from HIV and other STDs but if the relation goes deeper why not thinking about getting tested together.

The problem is that HIV attacks a weak part of humans. Many people are afraid of how people might react if others found out they had been tested and in a relationship if someone suggests getting tested it can be understood in many different ways.

It’s also a fact that people with risk behaviours are more likely to get tested and if the result comes negative those behaviours can be reinforced.

Maybe besides attacking immune system, HIV also attacks our culture and social relationships.

5) Ways to prevent infection might not work – poverty, education, casual mistakes and myths.

Not sharing needles – It’s an effective way to prevent HIV infection and maybe the most effective way to prevent HIV infection are the needles exchange programs. The problem is always the same: poverty, education and casual mistake. There are countries where it might get difficult to get needles; some people don’t know this is a problem or do not exchange the whole needle and all the equipment; others in a casual or desperate moment can share a needle and it’s good to remember that one injection with a needle used by a HIV+ person is enough to infect someone.

Condom use – It’s almost 100% safe preventing sexual HIV infection but one single unprotected sex relation with someone infected is enough to get infected. Also, there are some myths that unprotected oral sex is safe which is wrong. The risk is lower but not null. There is also the problem of access to condoms and correct use.

Some myths avoid condom use, particularly in Africa, as the strong belief that the West wants to control the population growth of Africa by convincing Africans to use condoms, the myth that regular infusions of sperm is required if a woman is to grow up to be beautiful, and that sleeping with a virgin or an animal will rid an infected person from the disease.

Prevent Mother-to-child infection - In the absence of treatment, the transmission rate between the mother to the child is 25%. However, when the mother has access to antiretroviral therapy and gives birth by caesarean section, the rate of transmission is 1%. The risk of infection can be also influenced by the viral load of the mother at birth and breastfeeding. When the mother doesn’t know she is infected or in countries where treatment, caesarean and milk replacement can’t be provided the mother-to-child infection can be highly prevalent.

Male circumcision – It is still in study whether male circumcision is or not an effective way to prevent HIV spread. Even if this practice really reduce HIV spread, the way this information is shared on the news can make men see circumcision as an invisible condom and take part in more risky sexual behaviour. Also, if this practice is not done with all the hygiene measures, it can even increase HIV spread.

6) Ways to prevent the spread might not work – poverty, education, social exclusion and myths.

To avoid the spread of HIV besides preventing new infections it’s important to detect infected people as soon as possible and treat and educate them to care about their health and others. However, for some groups of people HIV can be a distant concern, particularly those who are worried with money, food or living in hostile environment.

In some countries access to HIV test and treatments can be very difficult. Also, some communities refuse to accept the presence of HIV. It is often seen as something that affects other people, promiscuous people, gay people, black people, prostitutes or drug users.

Other communities create such a stigma around HIV that people are afraid to be tested and when tested positive many times they don’t adhere to the correct treatment regime (which can lead to drug resistance) neither take preventive measures to prevent the infection of others.

HIV+ people can also experience some feelings that help the virus spread or delay preventive measures to avoid it. Some of these feelings are denial - often is the first feeling people have when they are diagnosed with HIV. They think the test came out wrong and have difficulties to accept the result; anger - people want to know how they get the virus, they never imagine it would be possible and try to find someone or something to blame. They can develop anger feelings with themselves and with others; sadness and depression and fear and anxiety - when someone is diagnosed, they doesn’t know what to expect and how others will treat him. They may also be afraid of telling people because many still think HIV can be spread through casual contact.

Some of these feelings, like anger, can even cause an increase of risk behaviours (revenge) especially when someone suffers the consequences of social exclusion.

7) HIV treatment optimism can help to spread the virus

New HIV treatments have improved the health and increased the life expectancy of many HIV-positive persons. However, even with early treatment, the risk of HIV transmission still exists. The treatments have raised two new public health issues. One is that enhancements in the health and longevity of HIV-positive persons will likely be accompanied by greater sexual activity, and this in turn increases the opportunity for HIV transmission. The other issue is that the success of the new treatments may be affecting beliefs about the seriousness of HIV and consequently adherence to safer sex practices.

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What about sleeping pills

Everyone in a lifetime will occasional have sleepless nights.

It can happen due to many things like stress, pain, drinking to much coffee, being in love. It’s something natural.

But when you frequently have problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or experience nonrestorative sleep, often for no apparent reason you may be suffering from chronic insomnia.

It’s a bad cycle. The factor that caused insomnia in the first place does not disappear, not sleeping hinders body and mind rest, generates more stress and more concerns about not falling asleep which may worsen the insomnia problems.

This is when people look for help and when sleeping pills are the solution.

It’s a common problem that may be temporary or chronic. As many as one in ten Americans have chronic insomnia, and at least one in four has difficulty sleeping sometimes.

Sleeping pills always existed in the form of herbs and teas that induce sleep but the revolution started when pharmacology discovered benzodiazepines which replaced the use of barbiturates.

Benzodiazepines and barbiturates works on neurons with GABA receptors. GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain and that’s why these drugs are also tranquilisers and anti-anxiety.

Barbiturates activate GABA receptors directly which explain why they are so dangerous. Its effect can change from sedation, sleep, general anesthesia, coma and dead (mostly because we stop breeding) with just some differences in the dosage. Benzodiazepines also work on GABA receptor but not directly as barbiturates, they just make GABA receptor more likely to link endogenous GABA. They can also cause anesthesia, coma and dead but the dosage must be enormously higher and most the time that happens there are associations with other nervous system depressors like alcohool. This is why benzodiazepines are considered a safe drug; its action is always limited by endogenous GABA. Examples of this group are triazolam, temazepam and nitrazepam but other names are more known like Valium®, Librium®, Halcion®, and Xanax®.

A new generation of sleeping pills appeared and includes zopiclone and zolpidem but its action is almost the same as benzodiazepines differing only in the time they are active. The new generation works faster which prevent side effects in the morning like drowsiness or headaches.

So, doctors now have safe drugs, they work, they are easy to prescribe, pharmacology industry does a lot of marketing around them, if you go to a doctor saying you can’t sleep what is more likely to happen?

Probably he will give you a benzodiazepine and may be that’s the reason why these drugs are top sellers and why there are so many variations on the basic benzodiazepine theme.

When taken as directed for short periods (no more than two weeks), they might work breaking out the bad cycle that worsens the insomnia. One or two nights under benzodiazepine effect can work to regularize the sleep.

But the insomnia has always a cause, and if the patient does not find it, the insomnia will come back and the patient may feel the only thing that can help him is the pill that worked the other time. This feeling supported by the doctor believes that the pill is safe and the best for the patient problem creates chronic benzodiazepine users. It develops a conditioned reflex – “I can only sleep well if I take the pill”, that tries to artificially create good night’s sleep.

Chronic benzodiazepine consumption is a polemic issue because there is no clear evidence of a therapeutic use longer than 4 weeks but there are evidence that the abuse of these drugs are associated with a risk of tolerance and addiction. Other side effects are being associated to these drugs especially in the eldery individuals. After all, benzodiazepines are not that safe.

Tolerance to the hypnotic effects (sleep induction) develops quickly which makes long-term management of insomnia difficult. Patients typically notice relief of insomnia initially, followed by a gradual loss of efficacy but many patients keep taking these pills because they claim a (subjective) positive effect without raising the dose.

After a few months using this drugs if the patient abruptly stops taking them some withdraw effects should occur, that’s why stop taking benzodiazepine should be done by gradually reducing dosage and with professional help.

What about alternatives to sleeping pills?

There is evidence that behavioural treatment works as well as the pills in the short term and even better in the intermediate and long term.

These treatments include stimulus control, relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene and intend to regularize sleeping habits. I recommend you to read this for more details about these treatments.

Despite this evidence, it is clear that these treatments are underused, not only in the sleep field, but also for anxiety and depression.

I believe it’s important to understand that some changes in our life can affect our sleep as many other aspects of our health, the pills will help but only with proper understanding of how they work and what is its intention. In the end the patients are the ones who solve their problems, all the pills are just a part of the solution, not the whole solution..

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