What does stress do to the human body

How many saber-toothed tigers tried to maul you to death today? Hopefully, the stressors in your life don’t involve an apex predator chasing you through the bush, as was the case for our cavemen ancestors. Still, stress affects us the same way it did them. We are wired for stress physiologically much the same way we were millennia ago, with our primordial fight or flight response well alive within us to keep us alert and safe.

Though not all stress is bad, we need a break from bad stressors, otherwise our health may begin to deteriorate.

Modern humans battle bad stressors that might not seem like a fight or flight scenario — staying in an unhealthy or challenging relationship with a partner; financial hardships; job dissatisfaction; drug and alcohol abuse; nagging in-laws — all this distress may cause the body to:

• Elevate blood pressure
• Increase heart rate
• Slow down digestion and metabolism
• Flood the bloodstream with chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol
• Tense up muscles

Have a white-knuckle commute on the freeway to work every morning? Welcome to this modern life’s version of the caveman being chased by the saber-tooth tiger. Though you might not have to flee your car and run, the same chemical cocktails are coursing through your body as the caveman’s.

Cortisol is one of those chemicals. Like adrenaline, it helps us deal with stress, but too much of it can be harmful to the body. Research has linked it to body fat storage around the abdomen. In turn, piling on the pounds around the belly can lead to heart disease.

Excessive cortisol flooding the bloodstream can lead to adrenal exhaustion. Some doctors believe that adrenal exhaustion (think: someone who is constantly tired) is the main culprit behind every chronic disease. Dr. Lawrence Wilson isn’t alone in thinking that the mainstream medical profession often fails to recognize adrenal burnout as a real health concern.

WebMD reports that 75 to 90 percent of all doctor visits are stress-related, but in its assessment of stress on the body, nowhere does it mention adrenal fatigue due to excess cortisol, which is sometimes referred to as “the stress hormone.”

Failing to cope with bad stress, and thus severely fatiguing the adrenal glands (which rest over the kidneys), has a domino effect on the body’s many symptoms and functions, including:

Hormonal (hormonal pathways can be disrupted)

Musculoskeletal (you won’t burn fat as efficiently and gain muscle)

Immune (adrenal fatigue from bad stress wreaks havoc on the immune system)

Digestive (bad stress slows digestion, chronic digestion problems may arise)

Cardiovascular (adrenal fatigue can lead to heart palpitations and other problems)

Obesity:

People who suffer long-term stress may also be more prone to obesity, according to a new study from University College London. The research, which involved examining hair samples for levels of cortisol and was published in the journal Obesity, showed that exposure to higher levels of cortisol over several months is associated with being more heavily, and more persistently, overweight.

While stress and weight long have been thought to go hand-in-hand (think stress eating and comfort foods), this study confirms the link by examining long-term cortisol levels in more than 2,500 men and women over a four-year period.

“People who had higher hair cortisol levels also tended to have larger waist measurements, which is important because carrying excess fat around the abdomen is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and premature death,” Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health) who led the research, said in a press release. “Hair cortisol is a relatively new measure which offers a suitable and easily obtainable method for assessing chronically high levels of cortisol concentrations in weight research and may therefore aid in further advancing understanding in this area.”

Weakened immune system:

As if mounting bills and a tenuous marriage weren’t enough stress to make your blood vessels dilate, your pupils enlarge, your breathing rapidly increase and your sweat glands kick into overdrive, perhaps reading that eating an unhealthy diet also plays a major role in contributing to adrenal fatigue.

How? Eating the wrong foods over many years can break down the mucosal barrier in your gut. Think of the mucosal barrier as the body’s second skin as well as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens, or unwanted nasty critters invading your gut.

Your immune system lies mostly in your gut, so if over the years you continue eating poorly, the integrity of the mucosal barrier system becomes severely compromised. In the long run, digestion is compromised. With most of your immune system residing in your gut, your immune system will weaken.

Concerned about what stress has done to your body? Seek a medical professional or alternative health practitioner who understands adrenal fatigue and knows how to restore hormonal pathways. A nutritional approach to battling stress should also be applied.

credit: Judd Handler

How to make Coffee salt

 

When you add coffee to food, you add complexity to the flavor. Coffee complements sweet foods like chocolate cake or brownies, red meat like beef or lamb, and nuts. Coffee can be used as an ingredient in recipes, but a quick way to add the the complex, brightening flavor of coffee to foods is to sprinkle it on some coffee salt. You can buy coffee salt or espresso salt, or you can easily make it yourself for a lot less money.

DIY Coffee Salt:

2 tablespoons sea salt or other course salt
3 tablespoons course good ground coffee (You can grind the beans yourself or use already ground coffee)
Combine the salt and coffee thoroughly by mashing them together using a mortar and pestle or whirling them until just combined in a food processor or spice grinder.
Uses for coffee salt

Rub on steaks, roasts or burgers
Sprinkle it on popcorn
Sprinkle on ice cream (think vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce)
Sprinkle it on top of buttercream frosting on a cupcake
Add to vegetables before roasting
Use it as the salt on the rim of a cocktail that usually gets plain salt
When making biscotti with chocolate chips, add a little melted chocolate to the end of the biscotti after they’ve cooled, then sprinkle with the coffee salt and allow the chocolate to firm up.
Add a pinch to hot chocolate

 

Creidt: Robin Shreeves

What is golden milk?

 

The golden-hued spice turmeric is considered a miracle remedy these days, but turmeric’s health benefits have been known for centuries. This spice originally imported from India is part of the ginger family and has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking for thousands of years.

The magic ingredient is curcumin, which is credited with giving turmeric its greatest benefits, from fighting inflammation to blocking cancer and even helping with indigestion.

We could all use a daily dose of turmeric, and one way to get that daily dose is to make golden milk, or golden milk latte as it’s sometimes called. There are many variations of golden milk, but the basic ingredients are turmeric, a little black pepper, and milk — cow, almond, coconut or other.

The pepper helps with the absorption of curcumin, making it more bioavailable to the body. Adding a pinch of pepper to the golden milk will increase its benefits.

Other ingredients that are often used in golden milk are ginger, cinnamon, coconut oil, cayenne pepper, cardamom and vanilla. To sweeten the drink, you can use honey, maple syrup or dates. Traditionally, beverages made with turmeric for health benefits didn’t contain sweeteners, but many modern recipes include them to appeal to the modern sweet tooth.

I like the recipe used below in this video from Clean & Delicious because you can use either fresh or dried turmeric and ginger, and the rest of the ingredients are ones I always have on hand.
Here’s the golden milk recipe in case you want more specifics:

1 tsp. fresh ground turmeric (or 1/2 tsp. dried)

1/4 tsp. fresh ground ginger (or 1/8th tsp. dried)

1 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch of black pepper

1tbsp. honey

1 tsp. coconut oil

2 cups unsweetened almond milk*

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.

Gently heat over medium low flame, whisking until al the ingredients have come together and the milk is heated through.

*You can use any milk you prefer, just note, if you use a milk with fat in it, you can eliminate the coconut oil.

Makes 2 servings

Calories: 98; Total fat: 5.4g; Carbohydrate: 12.3g; Fiber: 1.9g Sugars: 8.8g; Protein: 1.2g

Credit: Robin Shreeves

Intelligence based on pupil size?

Looking directly into another person’s eyes can reveal a lot about them. In fact, poker players often cover their eyes with sunglasses for fear of giving a tell, and some studies have shown that staring into another person’s eyes can create deep feelings of intimacy for those involved.

Now, it turns out, a person’s eyes might also reveal something unexpected and controversial: their level of intelligence, reports Discover.

In the new study, psychologist Jason S. Tsukahara and colleagues found a positive correlation between pupil size and cognitive ability. Of course, dilated pupils occur when the eye needs to let in more light, such as when you need to adjust to the dimmer light of a dark room. But what could having larger-than-average pupil size have to do with IQ? It turns out, changes in pupil size happen in a number of circumstances that don’t necessarily relate with changes in light levels.

“Starting in the 1960s, it became apparent to psychologists that the size of the pupil is related to more than just the amount of light entering the eyes. Pupil size also reflects internal mental processes,” wrote the researchers. “For instance, in a simple memory span task, pupil size precisely tracks changes in memory load, dilating with each new item held in memory and constricting as each item is subsequently recalled.”

So could this mean that people with generally larger pupils have more active minds? It’s certainly possible, but as any serious scientist will tell you, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. The researchers suggested another possibility: that both intelligence and pupil size might be influenced by some other shared factor.

“Neuroscience research has shown a close association of pupil size with activity in the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system. [In the brain, norepinephrine] modulates the gain of target neurons to be more sensitive to incoming signals (both excitatory and inhibitory)… this modulation of neural gain has an effect on the strength of functional connectivity throughout the brain,” they wrote.

In other words, it’s possible that the key factor here is higher norepinephrine signaling. It would make sense that more intelligent people should be more sensitive to excitatory and inhibitory signals in the neural system. If higher norepinephrine levels are also correlated with larger pupil size, then the connection makes sense.

Of course, the study will need to be expanded to make sure the correlation does, in fact, exist. And it should also be noted that there are many other factors that relate to IQ than pupil size or norepinephrine signaling, so these factors hardly make for a conclusive intelligence test. Still, it’s an interesting twist on the old notion that the eyes are the windows to the soul.

source: Bryan Nelson

The secret ingredient in the Mediterranean diet.

You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet. It’s touted everywhere from morning news shows to magazine articles as one of the most healthful eating styles around, but you may not know how or why this diet — which is filled with fruits and vegetables from places like Italy, Greece and Turkey — is so good for you.

Science is only just beginning to decipher why eating some foods, skipping others or combining them in the right ways can thwart illness and ward off disease.

What does the Mediterranean diet look like?

“The Mediterranean diet includes foods and beverages native to the land for which it’s named. Rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, beans, legumes, a variety of herbs and spices, wine, fish, seafood and olive oil, this meal plan may reduce the risk of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions like arthritis,” says Martina Cartwright, a registered dietitian.

The foundation of the diet consists of fruits like apricots, citrus, dates, figs, grapes, apples and pears; veggies like tomatoes, avocados, kale and dark green leafy spinach, onions, garlic and leeks, celery, carrots, cabbage and cucumbers; beans and legumes like chickpeas (hummus), fava beans and kidney beans; nuts like cashews and almonds; red wine (a glass a day); fish three times a week and a serving or two of low-fat dairy or yogurt each day (think Greek yogurt). Olive oil is recommended for cooking and is the main source of dietary fat in salad dressings and baking along with fats from avocado and nuts.

Why is this food regimen so healthful?

“The Mediterranean diet has been shown to significantly reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and for recurrence of cardiac events. It also reduces risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease, and is associated with fewer cardiovascular- and cancer- related deaths, decreased risk of stroke and depression, improved physical functioning, and a slower rate of cognitive decline,” says Julieanna Hever, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition.”

“The mechanism for how the diet works is unclear. However, the theory is that since the diet is rich in anti-inflammatory fats (olive and fish) and antioxidants (which help with cell repair and include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and phytochemicals), it helps the body’s repair mechanisms,” Cartwright says.

A 2016 study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress backs up the heart health benefits, even among those who are already showing signs of cardiovascular disease.

Using 25,000 random adults from the Italian region of Molise, researchers found 1,197 with histories of heart disease. Those participants who adhered closely to the diet saw their death rate from any cause drop by 37 percent over the study’s seven year period. The researchers acknowledged that their study was “observational” and that further research was needed to establish a causal link.

The Molise researchers may need only to look at a 2014 study that may have unearthed a “secret ingredient” that gives the Mediterranean diet such a powerful effect on health and longevity. When the unsaturated fat in olive oil meets the naturally occurring nitrates that many Mediterranean vegetables (such as tomatoes, eggplant, garlic and leafy greens) are rich in, a special kind of molecule is produced called nitro fatty acids.

How do nitro fatty acids work?

Researchers from King’s College London and the University of California, Davis used genetically engineered mice to figure out how this biochemical process worked.

Beneficial omega-6 fats are normally broken down in the body by an enzyme, but these nitro fatty acids block the action of that enzyme. As a result, the “good fats” stay in the blood longer, where they may have a long-lasting effect.

“The Mediterranean diet may reduce inflammation and blood pressure through a unique combination of dietary fats and nitrogen-rich vegetables. When consumed together in a meal, this dynamic duo form a type of fat that may help reduce blood pressure, bad cholesterol and perhaps inflammation,” Cartwright says.

The theory is, the longer the good fats stick around, the more opportunity they have to elicit healthful benefits in the body.

Hever says she believes the benefits of the diet stem from the fact that it is plant-heavy, providing opportunities for synergy to occur, as mentioned in the research. “Synergy between phytochemicals and other nutrients in plant foods work harmoniously to enhance immune function and protect against chronic degenerative diseases,” she says.

In fact, she believes there are likely thousands of similar reactions that are the result of consuming a wide variety of plant foods.

How to make the Mediterranean diet work for you

If you want to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your life, Cartwright says to start with plenty of fruits and veggies, then add some unsalted nuts, seeds and legumes to the mix. Sprinkle in plenty of antioxidant-rich spices like curry, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, turmeric and ginger. Add fatty fish two to three times a week. Switch to olive oil for cooking and homemade salad dressings. Eating whole grains plus some low-fat dairy are great ways to get started with this Mediterranean-inspired meal plan.

credit- Jennifer Nelson

What is immunotherapy and does it work?

Immunotherapy treatments are having their moment in the spotlight thanks to high-profile success stories and an influx of new cash and innovations in research. Former President Jimmy Carter announced that he was cancer-free just seven months after telling the world that his advanced-stage melanoma had spread to his brain. His remission is, at least in part, the result of immunotherapy treatments. And tech billionaire Sean Parker recently pledged $250 million toward cancer research programs involving promising immunotherapy treatments.

But what exactly is immunotherapy and how does it work? We’ve broken it down for you with this primer.

What is immunotherapy?

It helps to start with a basic understanding on how the immune system works. When a foreign body — such as a germ or an allergen or a cancer cell — is detected in the body, the immune system responds by sending cells to attack and neutralize the intruder. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. But some cancer cells are able to turn off those cancer-fighting cells, and this is what allows them to multiply unchecked. Unlike traditional medications that block or circumvent the immune system, immunotherapy stimulates a person’s immune system to help it fight diseases.

Some immunotherapy treatments use what’s called checkpoint inhibitors to block the mechanism that cancer cells use to fly below the radar, reports the American Cancer Society. This lets the immune system do its job of destroying those cells. Another type of immunotherapy called cell therapy involves removing the immune system cells from the patient and genetically altering them to seek out and destroy cancer cells before injecting them back into the patient. In still another type of treatment, cancer patients are injected with proteins that attach to both cancer cells and the immune system’s disease-fighting T-cells. This forces the T-cells into the fight and spurs them to destroy the cancer cells.

What types of diseases are treated with immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy has been successful in helping to minimize the symptoms felt by allergy sufferers. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergy shots — or subcutaneous immunotherapy — are the “only treatment that changes the immune system and prevents new allergies and asthma from developing.”

There is also promising new research in using immunotherapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

But by far, the biggest advances in immunotherapy research have come in the form of its potential use to treat cancers such as melanoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, lymphoma, and lung, kidney and bladder cancers.

Does it work?

With researchers constantly performing new studies, the statistics are evolving when it comes to immunotherapy effectiveness. According to this recent New York Times article, 20 to 40 percent of cancer patients have benefited from checkpoint inhibitors while 25 to 90 percent of blood cancer patients have seen improvements from cell therapy depending upon the type of cancer treated. Some of these patients have had remissions that lasted for years; others had relapses within a few months.

Some of the highest success rates have been in patients treated with both the old and the new types of treatment. Combinations of radiation and immunotherapy — such as the treatments Carter used to beat back melanoma — or chemotherapy and immunology have researchers excited about the possibility of a true cure.

What is the future of immunotherapy?

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced an initiative called Cancer MoonShot 2020, which is billed as a four-year race to subdue cancer by the start of the next decade with the “ultimate goal of vaccine-based immunotherapy tailored to the unique tumor signature of individual patients.”

Immunotherapy is the cornerstone of the Cancer Moonshot research. Health experts hope that by using these tools to rethink cancer, we can better learn how to help our own bodies tackle the disease.

Source: Jenn Savedge

Solar plane finishes historic flight around entire world

After flying across four continents, three seas, two oceans and covering 26,098 miles, Solar Impulse 2 finished its trip around the world on July 26 in Abu Dhabi, the same city where the journey began on March 9, 2015. Bertrand Piccard, who has alternated piloting duties with Andre Borschberg, made the landing.

The Solar Impulse 2, as its name implies, is a solar-powered plane. Its wings, which stretch 236 feet tip to tip, are covered by 17,000 solar cells that provide energy for the plane’s four electric motors. The plane no heavier than a car, but has the wingspan of a Boeing 747, according to the BBC. The global flight was intended to highlight how clean energy can work as a power source for transportation needs, a goal largely proven by the nearly five-day flight across the Pacific Ocean from Nagoya, Japan, to Kalaeloa, Hawaii. That leg netted Borschberg the world record for the longest uninterrupted solo flight.

As for what’s next for Solar Impulse 2, Borschberg wrote that the plane was designed to travel 2,000 hours but has only flown for 700, so it still has plenty of time left in the air. To that end, Borschberg sees the plane contributing to more solar energy testing and to the development of unmanned solar-powered vehicles, including drones.

credit: Noel Kirkpatrick

Bees have trouble foraging when air pollution rises.

Bees have a laundry list of problems going against them these days. Among them is air pollution, and a new study shows just how air pollution is affecting bees’ ability to find food. By studying how changes in air chemistry affect foraging patterns of bees, researchers from Penn State illustrate that a rise in air pollution is a serious problem for pollinators.

According to PhysOrg:

Air pollutants interact with and break down plant-emitted scent molecules, which insect pollinators use to locate needed food, according to a team of researchers led by Penn State. The pollution-modified plant odors can confuse bees and, as a result, bees’ foraging time increases and pollination efficiency decreases. This happens because the chemical interactions decrease both the scent molecules’ life spans and the distances they travel.
The real kicker is that the breakdown process actually creates even more air pollutants which speeds up the breakdown.

Without bees able to find food and thus pollinate plants, not only do bee populations decline but so do many species of plants that rely on their pollination, including crops that humans rely on for food. Decreasing air pollution isn’t only for the best interest of pollinators and plants, but for our own survival as well.

Alternative medicine is now a $30 billion industry. But does it work?

Report finds that 59 million Americans use complementary medicine.

Alternative medicine is big business in the U.S. A new report found that Americans spent more than $30 billion on alternative therapies in 2015. That includes treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture as well as supplements, yoga and meditation.

The report, released jointly by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 59 million Americans sought out some type of alternative therapy. Most of the alternative therapies are being used by adults, not children, the researchers found. Of the $30.2 billion, about $28 billion was spent on adults, compared to $1.9 billion for children.

Researchers estimated that one out of five Americans spent money on at least one type of alternative therapy, which could include practices such as Ayurveda, biofeedback, chelation therapy, chiropractic manipulation, energy healing therapy, tai chi, hypnosis, naturopathy, progressive relaxation and massage therapy.

Overall, spending on alternative remedies amounted to just around 9 percent of out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures. But the report found that Americans with lower incomes were shelling out more of their income proportionally than their more affluent peers. Families making less than $25,000 per year spent around $314 per person on complementary medicine and $389 per person on natural supplements. Families earning more than $100,000 per year spent an average of $518 per person on alternative treatments and $377 each on supplements.

While there have been studies confirming the therapeutic benefits of some treatments — such as acupuncture and yoga — other forms of complementary medicine, namely homeopathy, guided imagery, energy healing and some natural supplements have faced severe scrutiny for the lack of scientific data to support their use.

Yet despite this lack of data, the alternative medicine industry is continuing to grow in the U.S. And according to researchers, this confirms the need for more research into to ensure that the products and treatment options offered are safe.

Credit: Jenn Savedge

Tepache: Meet your kombucha replacement

PREP TIME
15 minutes
YIELD
About 3 quarts
EQUIPMENT
Chef’s knife Small saucepan Wooden spoon or spatula Cutting board Newspaper (optional) 1 gallon-sized Mason jar with spigot and lid
INGREDIENTS
10 cups filtered water
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
1 whole organic pineapple with skin, cubed, trimmed top and bottom
8 ounces Mexican beer, optional
COOKING DIRECTIONS
Bring 1 cup water to a full boil. Slowly stir in brown sugar until completely dissolved. Add cinnamon and cloves. Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool.
Meanwhile, halve, quarter and cube pineapple into 1.5-inch sections, about 2.5 to 3 cups worth. Place sections in jar. Pour 9 cups water over pineapple almost to the neckline. Add syrup to jar. Seal and give jar a gentle shake distributing liquids evenly. Place in a warm location to ferment, shaking once or twice. Within 24 to 48 hours bubbles will begin to appear. Taste. Add beer, if needed, to hasten fermentation process, wait another 12 to 18 hours.
Decant tepache into a glass pitcher and chill before serving. Serve with ice. Pour remainder into glass bottles with rubber stoppers or jars with airtight lids. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
The drink — which is made from the skin or fruit of whole pineapples — hails from Mexico and is often sold by the cup on street corners by vendors hawking all manner of fruit-based “agua fresca.” (That’s fresh water in Anglo parlance.) And much like other food trends to sweep the United States, the tangy-sweet beverage is making inroads among health-conscious consumers, adventurous eaters and anyone on a quest to make their own version of fermented drinks like cider or kombucha at home.

credit: Enrique Gili