Last updated September 28, 2017 at 9:54 am
The Check Up is a weekly feature highlighting some of the best, most fascinating, most important, or simply unmissable health, medical, and human stories from around the web.
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
Let’s start with big smiles because we are in total control of our oral health! A recent Australian study compared tooth decay between twins and determined that genetics have almost nothing to do with the state of your teeth. Just like your gut and your skin, your mouth has a microbiome. That microbiome includes some inherited bacteria and some bacteria from your environment. But the inherited bacteria doesn’t contribute to tooth decay, and it decreases as you age. Meanwhile, bacteria from your environment chomps down on any sugar that you eat, poops it back out as acid, and boom! Tooth decay. Okay, that’s not exactly how it works, but pretty close.
Virus Evolution Gets Messy
I’m not saying I assumed that virus evolution was simple, but I had no idea it was quite this complicated – or interesting. There are basically two ways a virus can evolve: alongside a single host species, shadowing that species evolution; or by jumping between different species. It turns out that the latter is way more common than we ever realised, and far outnumbers the prevalence of the former. So something like swine flu, which jumped across from pigs, is way more common than Hepatitis B, which has been evolving with us for more than four million years. This article is a long read but it’s worth it – and it will make you confident in science and our ability to tackle viruses, not terrified of them.
Rolling into Bed
There are a lot of ways to relax and unwind before your head hits the pillow, and one of those ways could, possibly, maybe, if it is a legal option, be to use marijuana. Where medicinal marijuana is available it’s commonly prescribed for insomnia, but recent research has looked at whether it actually works as a sleep aid. While the effects are different for every individual, the take home message is: yes, until it doesn’t. If you use cannabis every night, the effects will decrease over time, and then if you stop your sleep will get worse as you withdraw.
Lady Gaga and Chronic Pain
Bad news with a silver (or maybe rainbow or unicorn or raw meat) lining: Lady Gaga has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Obviously this is terrible news for her and for her fans – especially as the chronic pain the disease causes forced her to cancel her tour. But her outspokenness will do wonders for the visibility of the disease – I can’t help but think of Michael J Fox and Parkinson’s disease. And I have to admit that I didn’t know much about fibromyalgia, but I’ve come away from this article aware of the warning signs and that I’m right in the demographic to contract it – Lady Gaga is only a few days older than I am. This also shines a light on the importance of trusting people regarding their symptoms. Gaga is copping a lot of flack ,and being accused of faking it. There are a lot of things that are fake about Lady Gaga, but chronic illness is not one of them.
You Have More Than Five Senses
And finally, there’s more to our experiences of the world than sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste – my favourite ‘extra’ sense is proprioception.