Brain Supplements – Are they safe? Do they work?

This question was posed by a reader who had heard about natural brain supplements from the website Alpha Brain Review.  I checked out the website and I must admit that I found it to be very ironic as I encountered several grammatical errors on a site that was supposed to promote brain function.  Now, to be honest, nowhere does it claim that it will make you a better speller or eliminate grammatical errors, but still – if it’s helping with focus and clarity you would think that a quick read-through to double check for errors would be in order before posting to the web.

Ok – so grammatical prejudices aside, let’s take a look at brain supplements from a medical stand point.

When considering a supplement, the first thing to ask is why?  Are you having memory problems, trouble focusing, etc. or are you just trying to ace a test for which you are not prepared?  Supplements are not a substitute for adequate preparation and they are not a substitute for a proper nutrition.  Supplements treat deficiencies. There is no reason to think that taking additional nutrients beyond the minimum necessary will have functional benefits.

And, if you’ve been having memory problems or trouble focusing and this is not normal for you – then perhaps a trip to the doctor is in order.  It could be that there’s a medical reason behind these issues.

Next to consider are the claims of the supplement.  Whenever you encounter these types of supplements, the first thing you usually see is the word natural.  The ingredients are all things you would encounter in nature.  Natural, however, isn’t always safe.  Check out the ingredients.  WebMD allows you to search for supplements and see an unbiased review that includes uses, side effects, interactions, and dosing.  This review will also include the science, identifying if there is actually evidence to support the claims that are made.

With regard to Alpha Brain, there is very little science.  The ingredients I researched are all touted to be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease, but there is insufficient evidence to support any of these claims.

There is research, however, that supports the following with regards to improving memory:

  • A healthy diet, in particular a Mediterranean diet which focuses on fruits, vegetables, and nuts with moderate amounts of dairy, fish, and poultry.
  • Challenging your brain to learn new things.
  • Exercise.

So, when it comes to supplements, brain or otherwise, do your homework.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, M.D.




Hand, Foot, and Mouth – what is that?

Foot and mouth.  Normally when I hear those words, I think of those embarrassing situations where something is said that shouldn’t have been, you know, ‘Open mouth, insert foot’.  But at Student Health, when foot and mouth is mentioned, it’s more likely to be due to Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.  And lately, we’ve it’s been mentioned a few times.

Rash/blisters on hands and feet

Rash/blisters on hands and feet

Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease is a viral illness that’s typically associated with young children, but can occur in adults.  The disease starts gradually with a fever, sore throat, poor appetite, and just not feeling well.  After a couple of days painful sores develop in the mouth.  A skin rash may also develop on the palms or soles of the feet.  In some cases fingernail or toenail loss may occur.  (These do regrow without requiring medical treatment.)

This is a contagious disease that is spread through close person-to-person contact, saliva, fluid from blisters, stool, and respiratory droplets in the air after a cough or sneeze.  Pretty much the same way as most viruses.

The best way to avoid getting Hand, Foot, and Mouth is to wash your hands often with soap and water, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and avoid close contact with someone who is infected.

If you do become ill with the disease, treatment includes:

  • Rest
  • Plenty of fluids
  • Over the counter medications to relieve fever and pain
  • Mouthwashes or sprays that numb the mouth

To aid with the discomfort of mouth sores:

  • Suck on popsicles or ice chips
  • Drink cold beverages
  • Avoid acidic foods and beverages such as citrus, fruit drink, and soda
  • Avoid salty and spicy foods
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water after meals

If your symptoms worsen or just don’t seem to get better after a couple days, seek medical treatment.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, M.D.

Free skin cancer screenings Oct. 6 at Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza

The OSUCCC-James is offering free skin cancer screenings on Monday (10/6) from 1-4:30 p.m. at Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza, Tower Building, Fourth Floor Clinic. Call The James Line at 293-5066 or (800) 293-5066 to schedule an appointment if you have any of the following conditions: moles that are changing in color, size, or shape; new growths on your skin; skin lesions that are painful, itchy, or bleeding; or sores on your skin that won’t heal.

Ebola – Why is it a problem in West Africa?

If Ebola is rare why is it a problem in West Africa?  It can all be boiled down to one word – LACK.

LACK of understanding:  People do not understand how Ebola is transmitted.  Some believe that just saying the word aloud will make the disease appear while others blame physicians for the spread of the virus.  They have hidden family members rather than sending them to facilities to avoid quarantine.

LACK of medical supplies:  Medical supplies, such as gloves and needles are reused.  If not properly disinfected,

Reuse of medical supplies contributes to the spread of Ebola.

Reuse of medical supplies contributes to the spread of Ebola.

Ebola can be transferred  to a patient who was not previously infected.

LACK of health care workers:  In this area of the world there is approximately 1 doctor for every 10,000 people.    Health care workers from other countries, dressed in hazmat suits, are often not trusted and end up going home.

LACK of proper burial techniques:  Traditional funeral practices include washing the body by hand and touching the body at the funeral.     Both the body and objects which could have been contaminated should be cleaned and disinfected.  However, burial teams have literally been chased out of town when attempting to implement these practices.

Perhaps one day, when the above obstacles are overcome, the word LACK will be used to indicate the presence of Ebola in the world.

Submitted by JoHanna D’Epiro, P.A.

Edited by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Gladys Gibbs, M.D.