Friday, November 9, 2012

Health Care and Spit (Saliva)

When you are born, one amazing physical action starts immedicately so you can begin to swallow. Your body begins to create saliva in your mouth, and it is an essential body fluid created on a constant basis. When you are a child, you start calling that liquid spit. But it is technically known as saliva, which is part of your physical makeup and stays with you for the rest of your life.

Spit, or saliva, is a clear liquid that's made in your mouth 24 hours a day, every day. According to KidsHealth.org, spit is made up mostly of water, with a few other chemicals. The slippery stuff is produced by the salivary glands. These glands are found on the inside of each cheek, on the bottom of the mouth, and under the jaw at the very front of the mouth. They secrete, or ooze, about 2 to 4 pints (or about 1 to 2 liters) of spit into your mouth every day!

Spit is necessary, according to KidsHealth, for lots of reasons. Saliva wets food and makes it easier to swallow. Without saliva, a grilled cheese sandwich would be dry and difficult to gulp down. It also helps the tongue by allowing you to taste. A dry tongue can't tell how things taste — it needs saliva to keep it wet. Spit helps begin the process of digestion, too. Before food hits your stomach, saliva starts to break it down while the food's still in your mouth. It does this with the help of enzymes special chemicals found in the saliva. The combination of chewing food and coating it with saliva makes the tongue's job a bit easier — it can push wet, chewed food toward the throat more easily. Saliva also cleans the inside of your mouth and rinses your teeth to help keep them clean. (But remember that spit isn't enough to keep teeth in tip-top shape; you still need to brush and floss.) The enzymes in saliva also help to fight off infections in the mouth. More info can be found at this site: http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/yucky/spit.html .

Spit, or saliva, has historically been used in common cases to help reduce infection, and even Jesus is recorded in the Bible to have used His own saliva to heal blind people. Jews regarded spittle as medicinal to the eyes when diseased, according to Barne’s Commentary on the Bible. In the New Testament book of the Gospel of John 9:6, Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. When the man went to a nearby pool, and washed his eyes, he could see. A healing occurred that was recorded as a miracle.

According to ScienceDaily.com, the largest of the salivary glands -- the parotid -- secretes important proteins into the saliva. As with all salivary glands, it has multiple secretion pathways, therefore it must sort proteins destined for saliva into the correct pathway for secretion. This can be tricky as there are seven possible pathways. One pathway takes proteins to the salivary duct, other pathways carry different proteins to the 'back' side of the cell to be secreted into the blood or to form a supportive matrix for the cells. Transport along these pathways occurs by sorting the proteins into vesicles (hollow membrane sacs) that carry their "cargo" to the correct destination. More details on production of saliva and, especially treatment for people who suffer “dry mouth,” can be found at this website: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602143208.htm .

Many seniors and other individuals suffer from "dry mouth," which is a condition that is created when you are taking certain medications, including chemotherapy. Often, this results in bleeding and receding gums and significant oral hygiene problems. There is not enough saliva created dute to the body's inablility to produce it when too many medications are being taken that affect the glands' ability to generate spit. Called xerostomia, "dry mouth" is the feeling that there is not enough saliva in the mouth, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Everyone has a dry mouth once in a while--due to being nervous, upset, or experiencing stress. But, if you have dry mouth all the time, it can be uncomfortable and lead to more serious health problems. It can also be a sign of certain diseases and conditions, such as using certain drugs. Much more info can be found about this topic at this site: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/drymouth/drymouth.htm .

According to CNNHealth.com, since people have different eating habits in different places, you might think an American's saliva might look a lot different from, say, a South African's. But a new study published in the journal Genome Research finds that bacteria in saliva may not be as related to environment and diet as you might think. In fact, researchers found that the human salivary microbiome -- that is, the community of bacteria in saliva -- does not vary greatly between different geographic locations. That means your saliva is just as different from your neighbor's as someone's on the other side of the planet. Additional material about this research can be found at this site: http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-03/health/saliva.spit.survey_1_saliva-bacteria-dna?_s=PM:HEALTH .

According to ScienceNews.org, that frothy fluid in your mouth holds all kinds of clues to the body’s happenings. A significant amount of data can be found at this website: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/335816/title/A_Spitting_Image_of_Health . Here are six positive results from testing spit:

--Drug use: Saliva can reveal drug use, whether for therapy or recreation.
--Hormones: Commercial test kits gauge estrogen, testosterone and cortisol levels from saliva.
--HIV: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a test that looks in oral fluid for antibodies known to be present in people with HIV infections.
--Age: A recent study suggests that genetic clues in spit can pinpoint age to within five years.
--Cancer: Messenger RNA signatures for breast and pancreatic cancer have turned up in saliva.
--Heart disease: The protein troponin T in spit may pinpoint people having heart attacks.

The production of saliva in your mouth is critical for your overall health. Too little can result in significant dental and other medical issues. Too much is not good either. If you suffer from any health related problems relative to your salivary glands, dry mouth, or other issues, see your doctor. They can help prescribe treatment and offer suggestions for specialty care. Spit, you need it.

Until next time.


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