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by James Thomas, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 | Categories: Weight Loss

Saxenda: The UK’s New Weight Loss Injection

In January of this year, a new weight loss treatment was quietly approved for use in the UK. Branded under the name Saxenda, this treatment contains the active ingredient liraglutide, and works by making you feel full and satisfied, thereby curbing food cravings.

Previously, liraglutide was only licensed for use as a diabetes treatment. Under the brand name Victoza (and in lower doses) it can be prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes to help them maintain a healthy blood sugar level. When it was discovered that patients were losing weight as a result of taking Victoza, researchers began to explore the potential of liraglutide as a safe weight loss treatment.

Since Saxenda was officially approved for this use in the UK, the treatment has steadily grown in popularity. In August, the Daily Mail published a profile on a UK businesswoman called Caroline Balazs. As explained in the article, Balazs, an aesthetic specialist, has found success with using liraglutide for weight loss and is one of a handful of practitioners in the UK making it available to her patients under the label SkinnyJab Clinics.

With many people likening the treatment to Botox, it’s expected that Saxenda will grow in popularity. But the question is: does it actually work?

How Saxenda Works

Saxenda works by mimicking a hormone made in the intestines called GLP-1 which helps you feel full after eating. In essence, it decreases your hunger and need to eat. This action assists in weight loss, particularly in conjunction with exercise and a healthy diet.

In one clinical trial, it was found that more than 60% of patients lost at least 5% of their weight while taking Saxenda; 31% lost more than 10%. Saxenda has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Taking Saxenda Safely

Saxenda is designed for use by people with a BMI over 30, or over 27 if the patient also suffers from a weight-related issue such as high blood pressure. It should be administered once a day, starting with a low dose and building up to a higher dose each week. The treatment is designed to be injected subcutaneously (i.e. under the skin) and is normally administered in the abdomen, thighs or upper arm.

Common side effects of Saxenda include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation – although these usually go away within a few weeks. Some people also experience discomfort in their stomach, heartburn, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia and hypoglycaemia. When compared with other weight loss treatments, however, liraglutide tends to be easier to tolerate.

The main thing to bear in mind when taking Saxenda is that you should always obtain it from a licensed clinic or pharmacy, and you should always take it as directed. You should never use more than instructed, and you should never use it without telling your prescribing doctor if you are diabetic. If you have diabetes, you will likely need a different dose to prevent your blood sugar from getting too low. 

At The Online Clinic, we can safely prescribe Saxenda to suitable patients who have completed our online questionnaire. To find out more, click here.

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by James Thomas, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 | Categories: Womens Health

World Contraception Day

World Contraception Day is an international campaign day launched ten years ago by the European Society of Contraception (ESC). The ESC was concerned that the high number of unplanned teenage pregnancies and the rate at which young people were being infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) because they were not taking steps to protect themselves during sex.

World Contraception Day has the support of 16 Non-Governmental Organisations, medical and scientific bodies and governmental organisations from around the world. The day aims to improve young people’s awareness of the various methods of contraception available to empower them so they can make an informed choice when it comes to their reproductive and sexual health.

Since it was founded in 2007, the Your Life campaign has encouraged young people around the globe to talk more openly about sex, contraception and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The various educational and scientific events, which are held in over 70 countries, as well as online, have reached an estimated 110 million people.

In order to spread the message about safe sex, 10 World Contraception Day Ambassadors have been appointed as part of a 3-year project with Women Deliver, a leading global advocate for the health, rights and well-being of girls and women. These ambassadors are young people from around the world. Each ambassador will tell their own story so they can offer a unique perspective on what it means to be a young person seeking information about sexual health and reproduction in their local communities.

Unplanned pregnancies are a serious public health issue. It's estimated that 225 million women who would like to prevent pregnancy do not use an effective method of contraception.

To celebrate World Contraception Day, here is a quick guide to the various types of contraception, which are available. 

Non-hormonal Contraception

Non-hormonal methods of contraception usually take the form of a barrier, which is placed between the sperm and the ova. The forms of non-hormonal contraception, which are currently available are:

  • Condoms
  • IUD coil
  • Diaphragm
  • Cervical cap

Hormonal Contraception

Hormonal contraception - commonly referred to as "the pill" alters the hormonal balance of the female body to suppress ovulation. There are two forms of hormonal contraception. 

Progestogen-only Method

The progestogen-only pill causes the cervical mucus to thicken and prevents the ova from attaching itself to the lining of the uterus.

The Combined Method

The combined pill contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen. While the progestogen thickens the cervical mucus, the oestrogen suppresses the release of the ova.

Hormonal Patches and Implants

If you do not want to worry about taking a pill every day, you may wish to opt for a hormonal patch or implant. Hormonal patches are applied to the skin once a week and have the same effect as oral contraceptives.

A birth control implant is a small plastic rod, which is implanted under the skin in your arm. The implant will slowly release hormones into your body to prevent you from becoming pregnant. Implants are a long-term solution, which can last up to 3 years.

It is important to remember that birth control methods will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections. The only effective protection against STI is to use a condom.

You can learn more about contraception and safe sex by visiting The Online Clinic.

by James Thomas, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 | Categories: Smoking

Quitting Smoking for Stoptober?

The 1st of October sees the launch of Stoptober, the annual public health campaign, which encourages people to give up smoking for the duration of October. It is hoped that having gone a whole month without a cigarette, or other tobacco products, people taking part will find it much easier to give up for good. Research suggests that individuals who go 28 days without smoking are around five more times likely to be successful.

The Stoptober Campaign

The Stoptober campaign aims to ride this wave of success by encouraging people to give quitting a go via social media, apps, TV campaigns and radio (Talksport). Quitting tobacco for good can be a challenge. However, Stoptober allows those taking part to access lots of advice and support on the OneYou page which will help to give you the best chance of success. The campaign will also send out support via email and text message to those who have signed up to take on the challenge, to encourage them to keep on quitting. It is believed that since the first Stoptober in 2012, the increasing use of social media and the support of celebrities have inspired over 1.5 million people to try and quit smoking.

Research from University College London found that smokers are increasingly beating their addictions, with record-breaking numbers of people quitting for good in the first half of 2017. The researchers reported that the rate of successful attempts to quit was now at 19.8% - above the 15.7% average for the last 10 years. This increase is thought to be a result of the introduction of plain cigarette packaging, the growing use of e-cigarettes and increased restrictions on where and when people can light up.

The Impact of Smoking on Your Health

Despite the fact that tobacco use is the single leading cause of preventable diseases and premature deaths, there are still around 7 million smokers in the UK. It is estimated that over one hundred thousand people die of smoking relating illnesses every year across the UK. Tobacco use increases your risk of developing cancer of the lung, tongue, throat and stomach. Smoking also causes the arteries in your body to narrow, which increases your blood pressure and the chance of stroke. Smokers are also at an increased risk of heart trouble and problems with their breathing. However, quitting can help your body to repair some of the damage caused by the toxins contained in tobacco smoke, and can help to reduce the risk you will experience one of these health problems.

Ways to Quit Smoking

If you don’t think you can manage to go cold turkey when quitting, nicotine replacement therapy may be the answer. The cravings you feel when you go without tobacco are caused by reduced levels of nicotine in your body. It is often these cravings that cause people to give in and start smoking again.

However, nicotine replacement treatments (NRT) such as nicotine gum, patches or lozenges can help to stop cravings by giving your body a small amount of nicotine. Over time, you can gradually reduce the strength of the NRT you are using until you are completely free of your addiction. For the first time, Stoptober is also recommending electronic cigarettes as a way to combat your craving for nicotine, pointing out that this method only carries a fraction of the risk posed by cigarettes.

Sheila Mitchell, Public Health England marketing director said: "There are now more ways to quit smoking than ever before, but e-cigarettes stand out as the most popular method, with half of all those taking part in Stoptober last year using one. For this reason, the Stoptober campaign, most notably the TV ad, clearly position e-cigarettes as a quitting aid."

How to Get Involved

Getting involved is easy. You just need to visit the Stoptober site to sign up. Once you have signed up, you can sit back and wait for your support pack and further information to arrive. Then, on 1st October, put down your cigarettes and look forward to the healthy life which awaits you.

If you would like further advice and information about treatments, which will help you to quit smoking for good, visit The Online Clinic today.

by James Thomas, Saturday, 08 July 2017 | Categories: General Health

In 2017, vegetarianism and veganism are more popular than they have ever been. And yet, for those of us who still eat meat, there’s not much that a vegan campaigner could say to deter us from sinking our teeth into a juicy burger or our Sunday roast beef – until, that is, they start talking about the health risks.

We all know that eating too much red meat is not good for us, largely because it increases our risk of bowel cancer. Now, though, it seems that red meat could be worth avoiding for another health reason altogether: diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis is a condition affecting the colon, also known as the large intestine. It begins with diverticular disease, in which small bulges and pockets develop in the lining of the colon. Diverticulitis refers to a later stage of the condition, in which these pockets become inflamed or infected.

Diverticulitis Symptoms

The symptoms of diverticulitis include pain in the abdomen, particularly after eating; bloating; and a change in your bowel habits. It can also cause flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, feeling unwell, nausea, and vomiting. Diverticulitis can also lead to some unpleasant complications such as bleeding, urinary problems and the development of an abscess or fistula. In rarer cases, diverticulitis can lead to life-threatening conditions such as intestinal obstruction and peritonitis, both of which can require surgery.

According to research carried out recently, the unpleasant condition described above carries a clear association with the consumption of red meat. To get specific, data collected on 46,461 men between 1986 and 2012 indicated that those in the highest one-fifth for red meat consumption had a 58% increased risk for diverticulitis. Researchers suspect that red meat causes inflammation in the colon, which leads to the development of diverticulitis.

This is concerning because, while it’s common to be aware of the bowel cancer risk associated with eating red meat, many people will never have heard of diverticulitis. As a result they may they putting themselves at risk of developing the condition by eating too much red meat – this is a particular concern for people who fall into the following high-risk categories:

  • People who smoke
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Frequent use of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen
  • Having a history of constipation
  • Having a family member with diverticular disease

It’s also thought that diverticular disease and diverticulitis are associated with not eating enough fibre.

The good news is that there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from developing diverticulitis – and they don’t just revolve around cutting out red meat.

Preventing Diverticulitis

The first piece of advice that many doctors will give to someone with diverticular disease is to increase fibre intake. You can increase your fibre intake by consuming more fruits and vegetables, and eating starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, and brown pasta and rice. Pulses and beans are a particularly good source of fibre, as are nuts.

Other preventative measures include quitting smoking, losing weight and exercising more. Going by the study mentioned above, it’s also a good idea to limit your consumption of red meat – the NHS recommends that you should eat no more than 70g of red meat and processed meat a day. As explained by The Telegraph here, that equates to just under 500g of red meat and processed meat a week, which means that, over the course of seven days, you could eat one steak, one pork chop, two pork sausages and a portion of Bolognese sauce.

Treating Diverticulitis

If you do develop diverticulitis, it may be that it can be treated safely at home with a course of antibiotics. During this time you may be advised to stick to a liquids-only and later a low-fibre diet, to avoid putting too much strain on your colon. Once the diverticulitis has been treated, you will likely be advised to adopt a high fibre diet. It can also be helpful to lose weight, quit smoking and start exercising more.

If the condition is more serious, you may require hospital treatment and even surgery. You can read more about these treatments via the NHS.

Find out more about diverticulitis at our diverticulitis page.

by James Thomas, Saturday, 08 July 2017 | Categories: Asthma

If you’ve spent any time at all scrolling through the Daily Mail website, you’ll “know” that just about everything gives you cancer – whether it’s processed meat, chips, the contraceptive pill, or even having children. We live, in other words, in an age of shocking headlines, where our newspapers push scare tactics and a "can’t win" mentality that says – no matter what we do – we will find ourselves doomed to ill-health and unhappiness.

It’s with some scepticism, then, that you might find yourself approaching the asthma study carried out by the University of Liège back in March. Using mice, researchers examined how exposure to microbes could affect lung health. The findings indicated that the presence of bacterial DNA actively modified the immune environment of the lungs, which in turn helped to prevent the development of asthma. In simple terms: exposure to dirt was shown to be beneficial – and living in an environment that was too clean was shown to predispose you to asthma.

Time to Rethink Guidelines?

The reason this study is particularly frustrating is that all current guidance on asthma management stresses the importance of cleanliness. Just last year, we reported on new research that showed how "indoor pollution" – in other words dust, dirt, irritants and smoke within the home – play a worrying role in the severity of children’s asthma symptoms.

How, then, may we reconcile that knowledge with this new study? Well, the first thing to note is that this study has only been carried out on mice – although human studies have been planned. Secondly, it’s not clear from this research what constitutes "good" versus "bad" microbes. Lastly, the study seems to suggest that these findings are best applied in a preventative, as opposed to curative, manner. In other words – though this will require further consideration when more studies have been carried out – some exposure to microbes may be beneficial before, but not after, a person has developed asthma.

Going forward, asthma sufferers should not make changes to their asthma management – and parents wary of their children developing asthma shouldn’t stop vacuuming or washing their hands! For more guidance on good asthma management, read on.

Keeping Your Asthma Under Control

Many people with asthma do not consider it a serious or life-threatening condition, but that is largely because they are able to manage it well. Four simple rules for successfully managing asthma are:

  • Using your inhalers and medications correctly
  • Avoiding your triggers
  • Having a written Asthma Action Plan
  • Regular asthma reviews with your asthma doctor or nurse

Inhaler Use

If you only use a reliever inhaler, you should not be using it to treat asthma symptoms more than three times a week. Using it this frequently indicates that your asthma is not well-managed and that you probably require a preventer inhaler as well.

If you use a preventer inhaler you need to make sure you take it as directed – usually this means taking it twice a day. If you don’t use your preventer in this manner, you will not benefit from its protective effects. It’s also important to make sure you are using your inhalers correctly. You can do this by getting guidance from your doctor or nurse at your next asthma review.

To learn more about asthma medications, consult this guide from Asthma UK.

Asthma Triggers

Asthma symptoms are "set off" by certain triggers. These triggers vary from person to person; however, common ones include:

  • Allergens such as dust mites, pollen, and animal dander
  • Food allergies
  • Airborne irritants such as cigarette smoke and pollution
  • Infections of the upper airways such as the common cold
  • Food additives such as sulphites
  • Strong emotions such as stress or laughter
  • Weather conditions such as thunderstorms
  • Indoor conditions such as mould and damp
  • Exercise

One of the best things you can do for your asthma is to take note of your personal triggers in your Asthma Action Plan and try to avoid them as best you can. Because it’s not always easy to avoid these triggers, it’s even more important to make sure you are taking the correct medications and using your inhalers properly.

To find out more about asthma, and the medications available to treat it, visit our Asthma page.

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