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posted: 11/26/2012 6:00 AM

Your health: Can you catch an itch?

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  • A new study reports that itching can be contagious.

    A new study reports that itching can be contagious.

Daily Herald report

Contagious itching?

You know how seeing someone scratching an itch makes you feel itchy, too? That's perfectly normal, a new study says -- especially for those who tend to be on the neurotic side, according to The Washington Post.

Research published online last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offered evidence of the neurotic basis of contagious itch. In the study, conducted by psychologists in Britain, 51 healthy adults watched videos of people either scratching parts of their upper bodies or merely tapping those areas with their fingers.

The participants reported whether they felt an urge to scratch -- and, if so, how strong it was -- when viewing each video. The volunteers also were videotaped as they watched, so the researchers could document how often they actually scratched themselves.

A big majority -- 64 percent -- scratched themselves at least once while watching images of others scratching themselves.

MRI scans of participants' brains also revealed that seeing someone scratch triggers activity in the parts of the brain that are activated when a person has an itch.

Alas, it is apparently not empathy that makes us share the urge to scratch. It is neuroticism. People in the study whose personality profiles included a high degree of that trait were more likely than less neurotic participants to report feeling itchy when watching others scratch.

Digestive relief

When digestive drama hits, many people turn to the drugstore or supermarket for help. Probiotics and other supplements have become increasingly popular alternatives to such standbys as Pepto-Bismol and Maalox, says The Washington Post.

This month's issue of Women's Health looks at the best and worst of these remedies. For long-term digestive health, the magazine recommends probiotics, which can be found in pills and fermented foods. To combat gas and bloating, digestive enzymes do the trick better than fiber-rich psyllium, which is found in Metamucil. Turmeric, an anti-inflammatory spice and apparent "gut health superstar," according to the magazine, beats licorice extract for pain relief.

Burn off the treats

'Tis the season for turkey, stuffing and a slice -- or two -- of Grandma's pecan pie. For those of us who have trouble fending off the holiday weight gain, a new workout DVD might jump-start the calorie burn, according to The Washington Post.

"Spark People: Total Body Sculpting" was released Nov. 20 and includes three interval workouts including a ballet-inspired barre routine (using a chair and weights), an "equipment-free fat blaster" and a dumbbell workout. The 69-minute DVD comes with an interactive exercise calendar and "bonus moves to tone your butt and legs."

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