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Inside Health


Series that demystifies health issues, separating fact from fiction and bringing clarity to conflicting health advice.


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Series that demystifies health issues, separating fact from fiction and bringing clarity to conflicting health advice.





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What does alcohol do to the body and brain?

This week James visits a pub in Liverpool where he's joined by a trio of alcohol researchers who’ll watch carefully as he drinks two pints of lager. They’ll give him a few tests and talk through exactly what is going on in the body and brain from the very first sip to the minutes and hours that follow. James finds out we might be more at risk of harm than we may have thought - even if we drink below the recommended guidance of 14 units of alcohol per week. And we’re also going to answer some more of your insomnia questions - from whether exercise can help to why chocolate before bed might be a no-no and whether falling asleep to your favourite health podcast is good for rest… Inside Health is taking a short break for now so we'll see you in the summer. In our next series we're going to be talking about ageing and how to age well. Email your questions or thoughts to Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Gerry Holt Editor: Holly Squire Production coordinator: Liz Tuohy Studio manager: Neva Missirian


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Are more young people getting cancer?

Last month, Catherine, Princess of Wales shared she’d been diagnosed with cancer. Describing this news as ‘a huge shock’ and at age just 42, the Princess’ disease falls into a category known as “early-onset cancer” – when the disease affects those under 50. While cases in this age group are still rare, diagnosis rates over the past few years have been growing. And scientists are now on a mission to figure out why. Receiving a cancer diagnosis at any age is devastating, but younger people living with the disease face additional challenges. James Gallagher talks to Emma Campbell, a mum of three young children who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at 36. Emma shares not just how her treatment affected her life, but the difficulties in advocating for herself as a younger person trying to get diagnosed. Professor Helen Coleman, cancer epidemiologist for Queens University Belfast, has been studying these diagnostic rates in younger people and explains possible reasons why more people like Emma are finding themselves living with the disease. A series of videos recently went viral on social media from women claiming their weight loss drugs got them pregnant. These drugs – like Ozempic and Wegovy – help people lose weight by suppressing appetite, but could they impact fertility? James speaks to Dr Charlotte Moffett, lecturer in Pharmacology and Molecular Pathology at the University of Ulster, who is studying if these drugs might alter someone's ability to conceive. James is also joined in the studio by GP, Dr Margaret McCartney, who helps him answer some of your questions. Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Julia Ravey Content Editor: Holly Squire Production Coordinator: Elisabeth Tuohy TikTok credits: @Dkalsolive | @anastasiamalhotra | @coachkatierogers


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Can insomnia be fixed?

How did you sleep last night? Perhaps you couldn't drift off, or maybe you woke in the middle of the night and then couldn't nod off again. In this special edition of Inside Health we're talking all about insomnia. It’s an issue that may affect many of us at some point in our lives – but for some it goes beyond a short period of not being able to sleep and becomes something more serious. You’ve been getting in touch with your questions, and James is joined by a trio of experts ready to answer to them: Dr Allie Hare, president of the British Sleep Society and consultant physician in sleep medicine at the Royal Brompton Hospital, Colin Espie, a professor of sleep medicine at Oxford University and Dr Faith Orchard, a lecturer in psychology at Sussex University. We’re going to find out why we get insomnia, when to seek help and how much factors like ageing, menopause, needing the loo or shift work matter. And we'll look at the latest advice and treatments. Can insomnia be fixed? You can keep in touch with the team by emailing Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Gerry Holt Researcher: Katie Tomsett Production coordinator: Liz Tuohy Studio managers: Jackie Margerum & Andrew Garratt


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We go on a tick hunt

Scientists are worried about ticks. They say they’re starting to pose more of a health risk here in the UK, as our climate warms and urban areas spill into green spaces. But what are ticks, what kind of disease can they cause – and how much of a problem are they? We go on a tick hunt in Richmond Park and then head back to the lab to meet the ticks we’ve collected. We find out why new species of ticks and new diseases could be coming our way - and what you can do to keep safe. Also this week, we answer your questions on the impact of noise on our health following our recent programme. And we delve into the fascinating world of measles. It’s the most contagious virus in the world – by a long way. What is it about this virus that makes it so spectacularly good at infecting us? Keep in touch with the Inside Health team at Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Gerry Holt Editor: Martin Smith Production coordinator: Liz Tuohy


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Is intermittent fasting good for you?

Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? As the month of Ramadan comes to an end, many Muslims are concluding several weeks of time-restricted eating. But outside of religion, many of us are now choosing to eat this way for health reasons – even UK PM Rishi Sunak does a weekly fast. Claimed benefits of intermittent fasting range from weight loss to improved immune function to maybe even living longer, but do these stack up? James Gallagher gives one of these popular diets a go whilst trying to answer if restricting when we eat our food is good for us. He chats to Colin Selman from the University of Glasgow about the animal studies which inspired these claims, Claudia Langenberg from Queen Mary University on what happens in our bodies when fasting, and Lucy Serpell from UCL on the potential dangers these types of diets can pose. Plus, we visit AFC Wimbledon for an Iftar event to hear if people fasting during Ramadan experience any changes to their health. Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Julia Ravey Editor: Holly Squire Studio Manager: Giles Aspen


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Can noise harm our health?

From ear-splitting aircraft noise and the drone of traffic to the hum of an open-plan office, the world around us can feel loud. But is it getting louder? And is this having any effect on our health - and even on how long we live? We find out when living close to a road, railway or airport might go from nuisance to health hazard, with potential effects on our sleep, heart health, mood and concentration. It’ll get loud as we do some tests in a lab to explore how unwanted sound might affect the rest of the body beyond our ears, and we sift through the growing research on the impact of noise. Who might be most at risk and why? We also find out why our reaction to noise might be about more than just volume - and we go in search of some simple tips to help. Keep in touch with the Inside Health team at Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Gerry Holt Researcher: Amy Ringrose Editor: Martin Smith Production coordinator: Connor Morgans


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Coffee, nap, rave, repeat...

Ever wondered how much caffeine is too much? Or whether you’d feel better off if you took an afternoon nap? And with the rise in ‘day raving’ we’ll be looking at whether it’s better for your health to have your night out at 2pm rather than 2am. We’ll learn about the amount of caffeine in different drinks, looking at what it does to the body in the short-term and finding out more about what effects it can have when it comes to things like dementia and cardiovascular disease. Then we’ll be following a strict scientifically-approved napping schedule and hearing what impact those bonus sleep sessions can have on brain function – while catching 40 winks in some unusual locations. After that, we’ll take all that energy and party the afternoon (and early evening) away at a daytime rave to find out if that is better for our bodies than pulling an all-nighter. Along the way we’ll be joined by people who know way more about these things than us, from a Spanish sleep whizz in Manchester to a body boffin in Barry Island. Producer: Gerry Holt Presenter: Laura Foster Editor: Holly Squire Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris


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Why recovering from long Covid is a lot like training for the Olympics

BBC health journalist Laura Foster can’t get the first days of the pandemic out of her head; the stunned silence of the newsroom as the first lockdown was announced, the chaos and noise at the supermarket and the empty streets of London. But even though she was a reporter covering every twist and turn of the story, she still can’t remember the first time she heard about long Covid. The world was so engrossed by the immediate threat that few paid attention to what was happening around the edges; the people whose lives didn’t move on after that little red line disappeared from their test and whose symptoms never went away. And that problem was getting bigger and bigger by the day. We visit the UK’s very first long Covid clinic where healthcare workers started learning about this life-shattering disease in the hospital car park - and we find out why recovering from long Covid is a lot like training for the Olympics. What did we know back then – and what do we know now? And are we really any closer to seeing the end of long Covid? Details of organisations offering information and support with long Covid are available at Presenter: Laura Foster Producer: Gerry Holt Editor: Martin Smith Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris


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A guide to the perimenopause

It’s been referred to as puberty in reverse but what actually is the perimenopause? How do you know if you’re in it? What can you do to soften the symptoms and what can men do to help those they care about going through it? Inside Health is talking about the peri-menopossibilities and learning why it’s not as bad as you’ve been led to believe. Endocrinologist Professor Annice Mukherjee and Professor in Reproductive Science at University College London Joyce Harper are alongside Inside Health's resident GP Margaret McCartney and presenter Laura Foster. They're answering your questions to help demystify the perimenopause. Presenter: Laura Foster Producer: Tom Bonnett


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Speedy medicine, and is fermented food good for us?

In this episode we’re taking a look at emergency medicine outside hospitals and surgeries – and meeting the people who save seriously-ill people in unusual places. Smitha Mundasad goes on a rainy walk in the hills with the Brecon Mountain Rescue Team and meets the flying medics of London’s Air Ambulance. Will she have time for a chat before they get a call-out? We also hear from Sweden where they’re making lifesaving changes before the ambulance even arrives. And from kombucha and kimchi to keffir and sourdough, fermented food and drink is everywhere. But as these foods have exploded in popularity, so have claims of health benefits, from digestion and gut health, to immunity and mood. We start by trying some fermenting with chef Olia Hercules and then Smitha chats to fermented food “nerd” Professor Paul Cotter to sift through the evidence. Next week’s Inside Health is all about the perimenopause – the time leading up to the menopause when oestrogen starts to drop. Why is it all still such a mystery? Send us your questions – and we’ll put them to our panel. It’s Presenter: Smitha Mundasad Producer: Gerry Holt Editor: Martin Smith Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Declared interests: Professor Paul Cotter: “Research in the Cotter laboratory has been funded by PrecisionBiotics Group, Friesland Campina, Danone and PepsiCo. Paul Cotter has also received funding to travel to or present at meetings by H&H, the National Dairy Council U.S., PepsiCo, Abbott, Arla and Yakult. In addition, he is the co-founder and CTO of SeqBiome Ltd., a provider of sequencing and bioinformatics services for microbiome analysis.”


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Bladder, bowels and sex: Learning to live after my mountain accident

In 2016, Niall McCann was left with a bruised spinal cord when he crashed his speed glider into the side of a mountain at 50mph. He shares his journey to recovery and some unexpected life lessons he has had to navigate, from soiling himself in inconvenient places and not being able to control his flatulence, to having to re-learn how to have sex again. We also hear from a Brecon Mountain Rescue medic on what looked like an “unsurvivable” situation and Niall’s surgeon on fixing his “exploded” spine. Presenter: Smitha Mundasad Producer: Gerry Holt Editor: Holly Squire


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Living in a Bacterial World

This week we’re exploring our microbial metropolis. Smitha Mundasad heads into the lab to meet the bacteria that live on her skin – and on her family’s dirty laundry – to understand what’s there, and why. She goes antibiotic-hunting around her house to find out whether bacteria on a washing up sponge, a fluffy cushion, the bottom of a shoe – and even some of her kids’ play slime – could hold the key to helping scientists find new medicines. Next, Smitha wants to find out the answer to how often we should wash ourselves – and our clothes – for good health, but, as she finds out, this question is not as simple as it sounds. It turns out there's a big difference between cleanliness and hygiene – and the confusion between these two rather important words could be having an impact on our health… Presenter: Dr Smitha Mundasad Producer: Gerry Holt Editor: Holly Squire


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How do cold and flu remedies help when we're ill?

As the nights draw in and the spluttering sounds of coughs and colds seem to be all around us, presenter James Gallagher is getting ahead this year and stocking up his medicine cabinet. He gets some help from Inside Health’s resident GP Margaret McCartney and virologist Lindsay Broadbent from the University of Surrey to take look at a few of the nation’s best-loved remedies and find out what they will actually do to help him when he, inevitably, gets ill. Presenter: James Gallagher Speakers: Dr Margaret McCartney, GP and expert in evidence-based medicine Dr Lindsay Broadbent, Lecturer in Virology at the University of Surrey Reshma Malde, Superintendent Pharmacist, John Bell & Croyden Producer: Tom Bonnett


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What's stopping us from exercising in older age?

Exercise in older age is high on the agenda, but the idea that with age comes bags of time and a desire to ‘get out there’ isn’t true for a lot of us. How do you juggle exercise around caring for partners, grandchildren or staying in work? What if you haven’t exercised for years? What can your body take, and how has it changed with age? James Gallagher hears how octogenarian athlete ‘Irongran’ keeps going, he explores the mental and physical barriers that stop us exercising, and he finds out what he might feel like in 40 years as he pulls on an ageing suit. Presenter: James Gallagher Guests: Edwina Brocklesby, athete and founder of SilverFit Dr Dan Gordon, Associate Professor in Cardiorespiratory Exercise Physiology, Anglia Ruskin University Dr Katrina McDonald, judo specialist and Senior Lecturer in Sports and Exercise Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University Dr Josephine Perry, sports psychologist and founder of Performance in Mind Professor Cassandra Phoenix, Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences at the University of Durham Dr Dharani Yerrakalva, GP and NIHR Doctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge Producer: Tom Bonnett


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Inside a sexual assault referral centre

The issue of sexual assault hasn’t been far from the headlines in recent weeks - but what kind of help is available for people who have been through it? James visits Saint Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester where he meets the people who offer invaluable medical and emotional support to patients. He also talks to a young woman who describes her experience of using the service, which she credits with saving her life. And why does Covid-19 seem to be flooring people again? James finds out that the body’s own defences are partly to blame. Lastly, is it safe to flush dog poo down the toilet? We clear up a family debate… Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Gerry Holt Content editor: Erika Wright Production coordinator: Jonathan Harris Technical producer: Tim Heffer If you have been affected by child or adult sexual abuse or violence, details of help and support are available at, or you can call for free, at any time to hear recorded information on 0800 077 077.


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Migraines and Headaches

1 in 7 people live with migraines around the world, and the condition costs the UK economy billions each year. Attacks can be debilitating and all-consuming, but a new treatment recently approved by NICE might even help the most stubborn cases find some relief. James Gallagher is joined by neurologist Alex Sinclair from the University of Birmingham, GP Richard Wood from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, and physiotherapist Anne-Marie Logan from St George’s University Hospitals to answer your questions on migraine and headache; from understanding why migraines exist in the first place, to if foods like takeaways could be triggers, and what these new treatments mean for the future of migraine management. Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Julia Ravey Editor: Erika Wright Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Technical Producers: Sue Malliot and Donald Macdonald


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When does sitting become bad for health?

How many hours do you spend sitting down per day? Six? Maybe eight? Or 10? Between commuting, working and relaxing, sitting can soon add up to hours and hours. In this week’s Inside Health we’re going to delve into the science to find out exactly how much sitting is too much; when does it become worrying for our health? James visits the lab at Leicester University where he meets Professor Charlotte Edwardson to explore what prolonged sitting does to the body and he’ll find out whether there’s anything you can do to offset the effects of sitting a lot. We’ll hear about the origins of sitting research - and just because we like to explore every angle on a topic, we’ll hear all about why standing too much can also be a worry. James visits a school in east London where the children are really focusing on how much time they spend sitting. They’re taking part in the Active Movement programme with the aim of bringing lots of action into the school day - and take it home too. Sounds nice and relaxing doesn’t it? Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Gerry Holt Editor: Erika Wright Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Producer: Matthew Chamberlain


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Why is syphilis making a comeback?

When the Government released the latest statistics on STIs in the summer, one in particular stood out. Syphilis. A sexually transmitted infection which might make you think more 1823 than 2023. But figures in England are currently at their highest since 1948, a rise which is reflected across the UK. James Gallagher speaks to people who have first-hand experience with syphilis to work out why we aren't talking about the disease and it's increase more. And James gets on his bike with resident GP Margaret McCartney to find out whether tracking her stats via her many exercise monitors is improving her physical and mental health or making it worse. Dr Brendon Stubbs, Clinical-academic physiotherapist at Kings College London and Dr Eoin Whelan, Professor in Business Analytics & Society at the University of Galway help unpick the evidence. Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Clare Salisbury Editor: Erika Wright Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Producer: Sarah Hockley


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On the trail of a new street drug

What happens when a new drug hits the UK’s streets? And how are illicit drugs here changing – and why? James follows the trail of the first case of “zombie drug” xylazine in the UK and hears some powerful personal stories along the way. The story begins in Solihull, in the West Midlands, where 43-year-old Karl Warburton was found dead in May 2022. He had a mix of xylazine, heroin, fentanyl and cocaine in his body. James visits a local addiction clinic where Mark describes the fear and compulsion many addicts face. He tells James about his journey to recovery and we meet Simon who’s on a mission to help people like Mark into a new life. Next, James meets toxicologists at a busy hospital lab in Birmingham where he finds out how xylazine was first detected. Then he travels to London to meet a university academic who first raised the alarm about the drug, and visits a cramped room containing the paper records she keeps detailing every drug death in Britain from the past 25 years. James goes on a surprising and, at times, emotional journey as he gets a rare insight into the world of illegal drugs and the parts of the NHS that treat addiction. Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Gerry Holt Editor: Erika Wright Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Technical producer: Andrew Garratt Locations: Solihull Integrated Addiction Services, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust Department of Toxicology, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital The National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (NPSAD), King’s College London


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What difference could new Alzheimer’s disease drugs make?

Until recently, breakthroughs in treating Alzheimer’s disease were non-existent. But two new drugs have shown promise in moderately slowing memory and thinking problems for people with early-stage disease. While welcoming the idea of a ‘new era’ for treating Alzheimer’s disease, how much of a difference could these drugs make for people living with the condition? James Gallagher visits a Memory Café in Doynton to hear about the daily challenges people living with dementia face, and their feelings about the new treatments on the horizon. Lauren Walker, Alzheimer’s disease researcher at Newcastle University, gives an overview of the protein these drugs target in the brain, and Liz Coulthard, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at the University of Bristol, explains how these treatments might impact patient's lives. After listening to our “How hot is too hot for human health?” programme, one of our listeners contacted to ask how the heat experienced during a hot flush impacts the body. James asks Clare Eglin, lecturer in applied physiology at the University of Portsmouth, what happens in the body during a hot flush and hears about how many others symptoms are actually caused by the menopause from GP, Margaret McCartney. Presenter: James Gallagher Producer: Julia Ravey Editor: Erika Wright Production Co-ordinator: Johnathan Harris Technical Producer: Tim Heffer