Body

8 annoying niggles that actually keep you healthy

Hayfever, hot flushes and mosquito bites are on the list of life’s more annoying ailments, but there can be an upside to these minor complaints...

By Helen Foster

When you're sneezing all summer due to allergies, or laid up with a migraine (again), it's probably hard to see any good sides – but actually science is finding that some minor ailments could actually protect us against some major ones.

1. Rhinitis might help you live longer

Want to stop the sniffles and still protect your health?

Try the supplement pycnogenol. This extract of pine bark has been shown to reduce rhinitis symptoms – and now, Italian researchers have found it also helps fight early-stage high blood fats and sugars linked to future ill health.

2. Those with eczema have a lower risk of skin cancer

This could be due to eczema protecting your skin. Eczema puts the skin on high alert to defend itself from pathogens like bacteria and viruses and that same defence mechanism may guard against cancer in some situations, says the study's author Professor Fiona Watt from Kings College London.

Boost your benefi t further by taking fish oils – they can reduce eczema symptoms, plus recent work shows they also help stop sunlight-induced suppression of the immune system, potentially increasing our natural defences against skin cancer.

3. Morning sickness may reduce risk of miscarriage

Few conditions are more misnamed than morning sickness but, whether you, a friend or daughter are suffering first thing or all day, take heart – according to an analysis of studies by doctors in Canada, morning sickness is associated with a hormone profile that decreases risk of miscarriage and premature birth.

"While it's hard to give all the advice that can help reduce symptoms here, eating small meals every one to two hours, including a little protein to balance blood sugar, and drinking cold fluids 20 to 30 minutes before or after a meal are beneficial," suggests study co-author Caroline Maltepe from Toronto's Motherisk Program at The Hospital for Sick Children.

4. Migraine could cut your breast cancer risk

Scientists aren't sure exactly why yet. "But both migraine and breast cancer are hormonally related," says Professor Christopher Li from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the US.

"And it may be that the sensitivity and cycling of hormones that relate to migraine may be in patterns that somehow also reduce breast cancer risk for certain types of the disease."

To help lower risk of both conditions reduce your alcohol intake. "It can be a migraine trigger in some women, but it's also the dietary factor most consistently associated with an increased risk of breast cancer," says Professor Li.

5. Hot flushes cut breast cancer risk

Professor Li has also found this link. Women with the worst menopause symptoms also have a 40 to 60 per cent lower risk of the two most common types of breast cancer.

Want to fight both with one change? Start exercising. New UK research has found that regular exercise (five 45-minute sessions of moderate exercise a week) reduced the frequency and severity of hot flushes, and exercise also cuts breast cancer risk.

6. Being a mosquito magnet may signify a lower risk of heart disease

Mosquitoes like to bite those with blood type O – in fact, they are twice as likely to nibble on them than those with types A or B. Why is this important?

Because type O is also associated with a 23 per cent lower risk of heart attack. The reason, say US researchers, is type O blood is less prone to excessive clotting than types AB or B.

To protect against both mosquito bites and heart disease, maintain a healthy weight. Not only does excess weight increase heart disease risk, the larger you are the more carbon dioxide you emit, which attracts mosquitoes.

7. Being prone to fillings protects you against head and neck cancer

No, it's not just because your dentist might spot early signs of these cancers while he's drilling. Instead Dr Mine Tezal from the University at Buffalo in the US explains it's because cavities are caused by lactic acid produced by a certain type of bacteria on the teeth, bacteria which also produce compounds that seem to protect us against tumours.

The more bacteria you have the higher your risk of fillings, but also potentially, the higher your cancer protection.

8. Gout reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease

In fact, having gout drops your risk by almost a quarter, say experts in the US and UK. The reason is thought to be that the high levels of uric acid that build up and trigger gout may also be neuro-protective.

If you don't like the aches and pains of gout, cut back on sugary soft drinks. These increase risk of gout attacks but are also linked to a potentially higher risk of Alzheimer's in later life. Cutting back could reduce the risk of both.

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