1. Natural relief for Crohn's, IBS and more

    The only thing worse than a stomach problem is a stomach problem that never, ever goes away.

    If the pain, bloating and other symptoms aren't bad enough, there's also the embarrassment of knowing you might have to dash from your job, meeting or dinner in a desperate run for the bathroom.

    Your own doctor will keep trying different meds until he finds one that kinda-sorta works without causing too many side effects, but there are much better approaches for recurring stomach issues.

    And the latest research shows that a promising approach for IBS may work just as well for Crohn's disease: vitamin D3.

    Researchers at the Weill-Cornell Medical Center in New York gave either common 1,000 IU doses or 10,000 IU mega-doses of natural D3 (as opposed to the synthetic D2 often given via prescription) to 15 Crohn's patients every day for six months.

    And those who got the higher doses had fewer symptoms.

    Obviously, it's a very small study -- but the other research on D3 confirms that this stuff can work wonders for an out-of-control digestive system, and it's not the only safe and natural option for getting your gut back under control.

    One of those options is about as safe and natural as they come: nothing at all.

    Earlier this year, a groundbreaking study found that placebos helped bring about a remarkable level of improvement in IBS patients -- remarkable, because it even worked when the patients knew they were taking a placebo!

    All told, 59 percent of the people who knowingly took their nothing pills got irritable bowel relief -- versus just 35 percent in the control group. That's actually in line with or even better than the drugs most often given for the condition.

    But that's no surprise -- because many of those drugs were never very effective to begin with. In fact, the overall success rate of meds for IBS and Crohn's disease is embarrassingly low.

    Along with vitamin D3 and even those placebos, cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy and hypnotherapy have all proven to be better choices for relief from recurring stomach problems… and they come with none of the side effects of meds.

  2. Placebos for asthma relief

    It's a breath of fresh air for asthma sufferers -- and yet that's all it is: Air.

    Believe it or not, plain old air delivered via an asthma inhaler can actually bring as much relief as an inhaler filled with a common asthma med.

    And that's nothing to wheeze at.

    Researchers asked 39 asthma patients to make 12 visits to a medical clinic, spaced between three and seven days apart, to try one of four treatment options at each visit: an inhaler with the drug albuterol, an inhaler with plain air, sham acupuncture, or nothing at all.

    By the end of the study, everyone had tried everything three times. And after each treatment (or lack of treatment), the volunteers were given tests to measure lung function and asked to rate their level of improvement on a scale of 1 to 10.

    The only thing that didn't work much was no treatment at all -- and even that left some patients feeling at least a little better, with an average reported improvement of 21 percent.

    The drug, empty inhaler and sham acupuncture, on the other hand, led to improvements of 50 percent, 45 percent and  6 percent, respectively -- a difference the researchers say was not statistically significant.

    The drug did win when it came to more objective measures -- it actually did a much better job of opening the airways, boosting lung function by 20 percent versus 7 percent for everything else (including no treatment at all).

    But here's the thing: The patients didn't actually feel the difference -- and that's what really counts, right?

    It's not the first case of fake treatments leading to real relief: Other studies have shown that placebos can work for everything from pain to depression to stomach disorders.

    One groundbreaking study found that placebos can even work when people know they're taking one.

    But for a condition like asthma, a placebo alone often won't be enough.

    Asthma is often triggered or worsened by weight, allergies (including food sensitivities) and stress -- and if you can get all three under control, you'll find yourself breathing easier than ever.

    You might reach the point where you won't need an inhaler anymore -- even if it's just an empty one.

  3. Playing tricks with placebos

    Placebos are often thought of as sugar pills--a "blank" pill with no real effects to use in drug studies. But like so much of medicine, that's just a myth. In fact, a placebo can be just about anything a researcher--or the drug company funding the research--wants it to be. And they don't even have to tell us what's in it...

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