Tagged: saliva

Grandma probably was right – quit boiling your kid’s pacifier!

For years, health officials have told parents not to share utensils with their babies or clean their pacifiers by putting them in their mouths, arguing that the practice spreads harmful germs between parent and child. But new research may turn that thinking on its head.

In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, scientists report that infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically rinsed or boiled them. They also had lower rates of eczema, fewer signs of asthma and smaller amounts of a type of white blood cell that rises in response to allergies and other disorders.

The findings add to growing evidence that some degree of exposure to germs at an early age benefits children, and that microbial deprivation might backfire, preventing the immune system from developing a tolerance to trivial threats.

The study, carried out in Sweden, could not prove that the pacifiers laden with parents’ saliva were the direct cause of the reduced allergies. The practice may be a marker for parents who are generally more relaxed about shielding their children from dirt and germs, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the research.

“It’s a very interesting study that adds to this idea that a certain kind of interaction with the microbial environment is actually a good thing for infants and children,” he said. “I wonder if the parents that cleaned the pacifiers orally were just more accepting of the old saying that you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt. Maybe they just had a less ‘disinfected’ environment in their homes…”

…Health authorities tell parents to do things that can lower the rate of transmission to their children, like not sharing utensils or putting their mouths on pacifiers.

But Dr. Joel Berg, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, said those efforts are misguided, since parents are bound to spread germs simply by kissing their children and being around them. “This notion of not feeding your baby with your spoon or your fork is absurd because if the mom is in close proximity to the baby you can’t prevent that transmission,” he said. “There’s no evidence that you can avoid it. It’s impossible unless you wear a mask or you don’t touch the child, which isn’t realistic.”

Dr. Berg, who does salivary research at the University of Washington, said the new findings underscore something he has been telling his patients for years, that “saliva is your friend.” It contains enzymes, proteins, electrolytes and other beneficial substances, some of which can perhaps be passed from parent to child.

“I think, like any new study, this is going to be challenged and questioned,” he said. “But what it points out pretty clearly is that we are yet to fully discover the many and varied benefits of saliva.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it, again. The immigrants on either side of my family who didn’t live to be older than the average American were the cigarette smokers. The rest all beat the numbers by decades. And they weren’t squeaky clean-freaks.

Simple spit and blood tests might detect burnout beforehand

Your blood and the level of a hormone in your spit could reveal if you’re on the point of burnout, according to research undertaken by Dr. Sonia Lupien and Robert-Paul Juster…In addition to professional and personal suffering, burnout puts distressed workers at further risk of physical and psychological problems if ignored. This is significant, as burnout, clinical depression, or anxiety related to the workplace affects at least 10% of North Americans and Europeans, according to estimates prepared by the International Labor Organization.

“We hypothesized that healthy workers with chronic stress and with mild burnout symptoms would have worse physiological dysregulations and lower cortisol levels – a profile consistent with burnout,” Juster explained. Cortisol is a stress hormone involved in our bodies stress response and naturally as part of our body’s daily rhythm. Cortisol levels are often high in people suffering from depression, while it tends to be low in cases of burnout. Too much cortisol can be as bad as too little when it comes to both mental and physical health.

Chronic stress and misbalanced cortisol levels can exert a kind of domino effect on connected biological systems. The term “allostatic load” represents the physiological problems or ‘wear and tear’ that ensue in these different systems related to risks for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and immune problems. By looking at various factors such as insulin, sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation, an allostatic load index can be constructed and then used to detect problems before they occur.

“The strength of the allostatic load model is its flexible inclusion of numerous biological systems that get strained by chronic stress. Complementary use of saliva samples and validated questionnaires allows us to go beyond measuring susceptibilities to, say, metabolic syndromes or heart problems, but also into the realm of mental health,” Juster said…

If you’ve reached the point where you’re spitting blood – you’re already burned out.

OK. RTFA. It calls for extending research because one of the things they determined is that accepted hormone treatment for stress may just be the exact opposite of what patients need.

How green tea alters our perception of flavor

While trying to figure out what makes certain beverages cloudy, Cornell researchers made the startling discovery that certain chemicals in green tea — and perhaps red wine — react with saliva in ways that can alter how we perceive flavors.

Specifically, regular consumption of the polyphenol-rich drinks can boost astringent sensations and our sensitivity to acids, reports Karl Siebert, professor of food science, Cornell University. Siebert also discovered that we all have varying levels of polyphenols already stored in our systems.

Siebert, who worked for 18 years in a brewery before becoming an academic, stumbled upon the finding while studying the relationship between polyphenols — chemical compounds found in plants — and protein chains in such drinks as beer and apple juice…

Siebert’s group discovered the strong effect of pH on haze formation, peaking at a pH level near 4. More acidic beverages like grape juice don’t get as cloudy. Higher pHs also lead to less haze.

These findings led Siebert to question whether the same thing happened in people’s mouths

He then measured the polyphenol levels in saliva of people on days before, during and after they consumed several cups of green tea. This showed that saliva normally contains polyphenols, and there are large differences among individuals. Regular red wine and green tea drinkers had the highest levels. Drinking green tea was shown to elevate the saliva polyphenol levels.

“I would expect that red wine drinking would also, but we didn’t demonstrate this,” Siebert said…

“It appears that there is a metabolic pool of polyphenol that is influenced by dietary habits, and that the salivary polyphenol level influences perception of astringency caused by acids,” Siebert said.

RTFA. I’ll watch for an easily accessible copy of the original research – and the work that follows on from this study. Siebert thinks it may explain the “French paradox” – how they have a relatively low incidence of heart disease, despite their diet rich in saturated fats.

Surprising news about spit

Because the human body harbors 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells, scientists are trying to understand more about the bacteria we carry. The human mouth is a major gateway for bacteria into the body and it contains a diverse array of microbial species. Yet scientists know little about this diversity and how it relates to diet, environment, health and disease.

“We are interested in this because by studying the bacteria we can get more insights into human populations than we would get from just studying the human DNA,” Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, who led this study…

But when comparing samples from different geographic areas they found not much variation, suggesting that bacteria within the mouth of a person’s neighbor is likely to be just as different as someone on the other side of the world.

The findings could help better understand human migrations and populations as well as providing background for future studies looking at the influence of diet, cultural factors and disease on differences in saliva bacteria.

The saliva microbiome does not vary substantially around the world,” Stoneking said in a statement. “Which seems surprising given the large diversity in diet and other cultural factors that could influence the human salivary microbiome.”

Who’da thunk it?

OK. Aside from my predictable smartass remark, I really am surprised. Because anyone who’s traveled through strongly divergent cultures knows there is a noticeable and immediate difference between nations and cultures in another bodily fuid – sweat.

True, there’s perhaps more of an influence of cuisine; but, I would have thought the results were similar in saliva. Now, I have to learn more. As ever.

Licking your wounds really works

A report by scientists from The Netherlands identifies a compound in human saliva that greatly speeds wound healing. This research may offer hope to people suffering from chronic wounds related to diabetes and other disorders, as well as traumatic injuries and burns. In addition, because the compounds can be mass produced, they have the potential to become as common as antibiotic creams and rubbing alcohol.

“We hope our finding is ultimately beneficial for people who suffer from non-healing wounds, such as foot ulcers and diabetic ulcers, as well as for treatment of trauma-induced wounds like burns,” said Menno Oudhoff, first author of the report.

Specifically, scientists found that histatin, a small protein in saliva previously only believed to kill bacteria was responsible for the healing.

“This study not only answers the biological question of why animals lick their wounds,” said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, “it also explains why wounds in the mouth, like those of a tooth extraction, heal much faster than comparable wounds of the skin and bone. It also directs us to begin looking at saliva as a source for new drugs.”

Fascinating stuff. It would seem reasonable to conclude that products that mimic the capabilities of saliva would be something easily synthesized and mass-produced.