Monday, April 30, 2012

Olive Oil And Fish Protect Your Pancreas

Your pancreas is a hardworking organ, supplying hormones you need to promote proper digestion. Pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, can be an acute or chronic condition that may threaten your health and your life.
If you want to reduce your risk of pancreas damage, the Mediterranean diet, rich in virgin olive oil and fish, may lower the inflammation that can injure pancreatic cells. A study conducted by a research group at the University of Granada has found that oleic acid and hydroxytyrosol (concentrated in virgin olive oil) and omega-3 fats (found in fish) affect the cellular mechanisms involved in the development of acute pancreatitis.
The author of the study, María Belén López Millán, says: “…there is increasing evidence that there are oxidative-inflammatory processes involved in the origin of chronic diseases and that diet plays an important role in such processes. The antioxidant (phenolic compounds) and antiinflammatory (omega-3 fatty acids) effects of diet components (nutrients and bioactive compounds) prevent… the pathological incidence of oxidative-inflammatory processes.”

Fast Food And Margarine Marginalize Your IQ, Shrink Your Brain

As you age, your brain may shrink. This shrinkage is linked to reductions in your thinking abilities and mental powers as well as being a sign of an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
To lower your chances of this disquieting brain development, shun margarine and fast food, and fill your diet with fish, fruits and vegetables. Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland have found that when your diet is high in the omega-3 fatty acids in fish as well as vitamins C, D, E and B, your brain stays healthier as you age. In contrast, people whose meals frequently contain the trans fats in fast food, baked goods, processed food and margarine are more likely to have shrunken brains and poor scores on thinking tests.
The study involved 104 people with an average age of 87 and very few risk factors for memory and thinking problems. Blood tests were used to determine the levels of various nutrients present in the blood of each participant. All of the participants also took tests of their memory and thinking skills. A total of 42 of the participants had MRI scans to measure their brain volume.

On my wedding day. June 18, 2005

The High Risk of Snoring And Sleep Apnea

Although loud snoring is the stuff of comedy routines, congested or interrupted breathing while you sleep is no laughing matter. Aside from waking other sleepers, it may represent a serious risk to your health. If you are one of the 13 million Americans who have this problem and haven’t realized it is a significant threat to well-being, it’s time to take preventive measures.
Snoring Danger
Snoring is related to what’s called sleep apnea, the temporary obstruction of breathing while you sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, snoring plagues about two of every three couples.
If you snore, it can mean you have a greater chance of high blood pressure and heart disease. Added to that, if your sleeping partner is routinely awakened at night by snoring, it can cause distressing relationship problems. Until you lose sleep because your partner snores, you cannot imagine how disturbing this is. Snoring may seem humorous, but if you find yourself moving to a different room just to finish a night’s sleep you know it is no laughing matter. It can severely test any relationship.
Snoring has the same underlying causes as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The airway obstruction in the throat is caused by the soft palate collapsing together with the base of the tongue. It can also be connected to a failure of the brain to signal the need for a breath during sleep (a.k.a. central sleep apnea). In most cases, snorers are subject to sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Conventional medicine considers you to have a serious problem with apnea when you experience more than 10 apneic episodes an hour leading to low blood oxygen. These apneic events, aside from being linked to cardiovascular difficulties, also cause sleepiness during the day. Other serious health risks can also be involved.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea has become a huge problem in American adults, occurring in 9 percent of all men and 4 percent of women, affecting a total of around 13 million adults. Apnea is easily detected with an overnight sleep study that measures your blood oxygen, exhaled carbon dioxide and respiratory rate.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that more than 80 percent of sleep apnea sufferers remain undiagnosed1. That is why these conditions mandate checking for apnea:
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Trouble concentrating or memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Loud snoring
  • Restless sleep at night
Soft Tissue Collapse
Several different conditions can cause the soft tissue in the throat to collapse together and block airflow. If you are overweight, you have a higher likelihood of having a problem with snoring and sleep apnea, but many of my patients with OSA are not obese or even overweight. In these cases, the throat occlusion can often be from weak and flabby muscles of the pharynx, naturally narrowed bones of the mouth or mucus congestion (from allergies) in the throat.  If you suffer sleep apnea, drinking alcoholic beverages at night and smoking worsens the condition.  
No Apathy About Apnea
You’d recognize apnea’s seriousness if you witnessed apneic episodes. It makes you want to shake the victims out of fear they are going to suffocate to death. But, even if left alone, people suffering apnea seem to recover and wake up, although they’re not really awake. The condition cuts short the stage of sleep that restores personal energy, the stage called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Hence the daytime sleepiness that follows.  
Sleep apnea does not kill from suffocation during sleep. Instead, it stresses relationships and carries long-term health risks when it continues untreated. The health risks of moderate to severe sleep apnea include:
  • Three times the risk of dying this year.2
  • Four times the risk of stroke.
  • Tripled risk of heart disease.3
  • Doubled risk of high blood pressure.4
  • Increase in your chance of a car accident by six times according to a New England Journal of Medicine report (about 100,000 crashes annually in the U.S. are directly caused by drowsy drivers).5
  • Lowered sex drive and increased irritability.
  • High levels of anxiety or depression.

Can’t Sleep? Thank Your Parents

If you suffer insomnia, you may have inherited your inability to sleep from your mother and father. Researchers at Université Laval’s School of Psychology in Quebec have found that if another member of your family has insomnia, your chances of tossing and turning at night increase by 67 percent. And if three other members of your family are up at night, your risk of insomnia may go up by a startling 314 percent.
The research team at Laval looked at the sleep habits of more than 3,400 people in reaching their conclusions. They found that 40 percent of insomniacs had a family where at least one other person also suffered a sleep disorder.

Beating Depression With Natural Methods

Many folks treat their depression with psychotherapy or prescription antidepressant drugs. And though many experts think a combination of these two are effective, no scientific evidence supports this supposition. In reality, simple, natural measures like more sleep, exercise and efforts at sustaining a positive attitude work better to combat depression than medication.
Widespread Effects
Depression affects more than 20 million Americans and represents a serious mental health problem. It is believed to involve a genetic predisposition and the chemical composition of the brain, where symptoms like loss of energy, fatigue, prolonged feelings of deep sadness, loss of interest in things, and even thoughts of suicide stay front and center for an extended period of time.
According to the insights of Joseph Mercola, M.D., “The fact is, psychiatry still doesn’t understand what causes psychological distress, and the primary theory proposed; the idea that unwanted behavior and depression are due to an imbalance of serotonin and dopamine in your brain has never been proven.
“On the contrary, research has proven the theory is wrong, yet this evidence has been swept under the proverbial rug.
Despite what the slick advertisements say, psychotropic drugs have no measurable biological imbalances to correct — unlike other drugs that can measurably alter levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and so on.”
Factual Disturbance
This is a disturbing fact to swallow. But the implications of this situation are worrisome. Several scientific, peer-reviewed studies have shown that anti-psychotic drugs increase your risk of cardiac disease at low doses and anti-depressants show the same risk at higher doses. Research in The New England Journal of Medicine, for example, found that “antipsychotic drugs doubled the risk of sudden cardiac death.” (Mercola’s full article and a disturbing video on the subject are here.
I’ve read several studies and even more books by experts claiming that low levels of serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter in the brain, leads to depression. This theory holds that due to lack of sleep and poor diet one’s serotonin level drops, and does not increase, thus leaving one with symptoms of depression, body ache and even migraine headaches. Pain symptoms aside, a report by the National Institute of Mental Health found the serotonin theory to be false after testing the serotonin levels in depressed patients. These researchers conclude:
“There is no evidence that there is anything wrong in the serotonergic system of depressed patients.”
Even though that report came out way back in 1983, hundreds of chemical and natural anti-depressant meds and supplements have hit the market since then. What a shame. While we yet may not be able to pinpoint the root cause of depression, there are promising natural and cost-free solutions for symptomatic relief. 
A paper co-written by Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, points to a “positive activity intervention” as an effective means to dealing with depression. “Depressed individuals need to increase positive emotions in their life, even a minute here and there,” she said. Her findings demonstrate proof that carrying out “random acts of kindness” is indeed a strong therapy against depression.
Lyubomirsky and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis on the therapeutic benefits of positive emotion on those who suffer from depression. They found clear scientific evidence that helping others or finding positive things in your own life decreases depression symptoms while increasing good feelings about yourself.
This research identifies four “positive activity interventions” that help reduce and prevent episodes of depressions: 1) being kind to others, 2) expressing gratitude, 3) thinking optimistically and 4) meditating on the good things in life. In other words, being and thinking like a “good person” keeps one from falling into a depressive mode, and helps one out of them as well.
“The most significant feature of depression,” says Lyubomirsky, “is the absence of positive emotion — just a feeling of nothing, of emptiness.” This is interesting to me, because it hints that as we move away from our inherent positive human nature (being kind and happy), we move in the direction of depression (which is less like life and more like death).
It seems this study confirms the concept of the so-called Law of Attraction, “That which is like unto itself is attracted,” or “like attracts like.” As Lyubomirsky notes, “Not only can being positive improve your mood, it can develop into a self-sustaining upward spiral.” One positive event, action or thought attracts another and then another, until the person who was depressed has raised his energy levels to resonate in positivity and happiness. There is no depression in such a state.
Years ago Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., wrote a book called The Power of Intention. In the book he discusses studies on how merely observing a good or kind action raises the mood of onlookers. Dyer connects these mood-raising episodes to an increase in serotonin. While we know that serotonin is probably not responsible for these mood improvements, still, mood changes occur because of positive events.
Mood News
The best news is that you don’t need a doctor or a prescription to lift depression. You can do positive things, focus on those things and people for which you are most grateful, find things you love to do and share your good experiences with others.
Exercising can help with this; it boosts the feel-good chemicals in the body and gets the blood moving to help the body feel better. Eating well nourishes body and brain, too. Meditating or engaging in yoga or tai chi can also help reduce stress and relax body and mind.
When you can move the body, eat well, reduce stress and get adequate deep sleep, it is easier to feel good in your body. Feeling good in the body is a fundamental part of feeling good about life and your place in the world. From that vantage point you can think better thoughts, express gratitude and seek to carry out random acts of kindness. A more self-directed, healthy and proven remedy for the symptoms of depression has not been found. Yes, sometimes the simplest solutions are the strongest solutions. Have fun!

Don’t Sleep On Negative Feelings And Emotions

Difficult decisions can be made easier if you “sleep on it.” In contrast, after unfortunate news, trauma, a big argument or any emotional upset, sleep makes your bad feelings worse. So reduce mental strain after unpleasantness by staying awake for a while even if it’s the middle of the night. Otherwise, giving in to sleep magnifies and promotes your unsettled feelings.
Reining In Emotions
I previously wrote an article about the roleexcessive emotions play in poor health, a relationship described in the theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). I have also noted how the body is merely energetic vibrations. By changing your vibration, you can change your health. Vibration is energy. When we do, feel or even think negative things our body energy shifts. To get the essence of this concept, just think about a time when you felt invigorated or content, and then compare that to how you feel when you’re anxious, panicked or depressed.
A recent study by researchers at University of Massachusetts (Amherst), published in Journal of Neuroscience, found that sleeping soon after a traumatic event locks in bad memories and emotions. This is an important concept; extended time spent in a poor emotional state is not healthy. Too much sadness can lead to depression. Too much crying impacts the lungs, which help regulate oxygen in the body. Wallowing in bad memories and reflecting on hard or emotional times brings those moments into the present and makes you live them all over again. It also impairs your feelings, your emotions and your energy in the present. Repeatedly reliving negative experiences is virtually the same as having those experiences again and again in the present. Negative memories and emotions trigger one another and set the body into a frequency of unhealthy energy.
The Real Thing
The Amherst researchers found that you don’t even have to experience an actual, negative event to suffer. Merely seeing troubling images in your mind is enough to cause lasting emotional trauma, if you sleep on it. The team conducted the study by showing unsettling images to more than 100 people and asked for their immediate responses. The initial image responses were matched against responses to the very same images 12 hours later. To test whether sleep locks in the turbulent emotions triggered by these types of pictures, half of the respondents slept during the 12-hour break and the other half did not.
The respondents who slept after exposure to unsettling images had a similar strong reaction to them on their second viewing 12 hours later. University of Massachusetts neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer, one of the study’s co-authors said, “Not only did sleep protect the memory, but it also protected the emotional state.” In other words, the strength of the unpleasant emotional reaction, the feelings associated with it and the thoughts about it were kept intact and unaltered when respondents went to sleep with the unsettling images fresh in their mind. In fact, some of the respondents stated that their negative emotions were amplified and even worse on second viewing.
Don’t Close Your Eyes
The respondents who did not sleep were better off, in this case, because their reaction to the images the second time was less severe than when first seeing them. What’s even more interesting: Those respondents who did not sleep in some cases were able to so effectively put the memory of the images out of their minds that they found it difficult to even remember whether they had seen some of the images previously.
The lesson here is that when something traumatic happens, even if it is virtual (such as fears or emotions from watching a movie), it is best to stay awake and not sleep it off. According to Spenser, “This study suggests the biological response we have after trauma might actually be healthy. Perhaps letting people go through a period of insomnia before feeding them sleeping meds is actually beneficial.” It’s beneficial for the short term because the body does need sleep to repair — especially after a traumatic incident. Therefore, it is best to try to find perspective and reframe the way you see the event before sleeping.
Good Vibrations
For unreal events, like emotions brought up in reaction to a movie or book where bad things happen to good people, finding perspective is much easier. We know these events are not real, but the study suggests that falling asleep soon after reacting to unsettling images (pictures, thoughts, visual projections) worsens their effects. By holding on to these emotions and feelings, we are changing our mood, brain chemistry and patterns of thinking about ourselves and the world. This alters our vibration and our energy, and can lead us down a dark path of self-pity, self-doubt, fear and low self-confidence. In these circumstances, which are more frequent than real-life events, switching thoughts to a focus on something more pleasant before bed may help. Read or watch something funny, remember someone you love, think of your hobby or of an upcoming event you are excited about. Changing your thoughts can change your vibrations and alter what you lock in to give it higher positive energy and good vibrations.
When it comes to real-life emotional or psychological trauma, it is hard to change our emotions or thoughts before we fall asleep. Yet, it is necessary, especially if one hopes to overcome the event rapidly. In this connection, consider a technique known as reframing that is utilized in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Basically, this simple technique helps you change the way you perceive traumatic or unsettling situations and make them less so.
This consists of three steps:
Step 1 – Identify the Problem. Try to determine the root of the upsetting situation. This means asking the questions how, what, where, why and when your problem arose. I wrote another article on how to ask “why” to get to the root of a problem. Once you can identify the why, you can move on to Step 2.
Step 2 – Align Intention with Behavior. You must grasp the necessity of aligning your actions with true, internal intentions. For instance, if your intention is to be healthy and lose weight, then understanding that you must change certain behaviors to reach that goal is crucial. Simply being upset because somebody pointed out you are overweight is not sufficient if you don’t bring your behavior into line. If this is an issue, there is work to do and you have to engage with the actions described in Step 3.
Step 3 – Setting the Way Forward. Deciding that a change is necessary is so vital because it creates motivation to change. Yes, finding out you have diabetes or arthritis or being called fat is emotionally upsetting. But obsessing over it or being mad at everyone else or even yourself doesn’t change the situation. And if you sleep while feeling these negative emotions, they amplify themselves and keep you in a negative emotional loop. So, decide to make a change for the better, think about all the wonderful things that can occur once that change is in play and you can raise your emotional state, your energy and vibration. Then, when you sleep, that new pattern of optimistic change will be locked in to your body.
These reframing steps are simple yet powerful. I do realize that in times of life-threatening events, it may be near impossible to put it them into practice. In this case, therapy and other behavioral changing therapies can be helpful. The important thing, based on the findings of this study, is that you have to make an effort to feel better before falling asleep.
And who doesn’t want to feel good? For most of our evenings, major trauma is not a problem. So go ahead and find ways to be happy or at least content and centered before drifting off to sleep and lock in those good feelings. They help your mind and emotions carry you forward to changing your quality of life.