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

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

Scientists have just teleported quantum information over a record 7 kilometers

 

Last year scientists managed to teleport photons over 100 kilometers, smashing previous records. While impressive, their method used lasers to control the entanglement of the particles involved. This allowed them to achieve successful teleportation over a vast distance, but it’s not a practical methodology for putting this technology to use.

But now scientists have achieved a new benchmark in teleportation. Two independent teams, one in Calgary, Canada, and another in Hefei, China, have used city optical fiber cables to teleport quantum information over 7 kilometers. That might not sound like much compared to previous feats, but because they used cables instead of lasers — city cables, no less — it means the technology is far more feasible, reports New Scientist.

If you’re a bit behind, still astonished by the fact that teleportation is possible in the first place, then buckle up. Quantum teleportation is a real thing thanks to an uncanny quantum property known as entanglement, something so anti-intuitive that Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” Basically, it’s possible to link two particles together in such a way that whatever happens to one also happens to the other instantly, no matter how far apart the two entangled particles are from each other. It seems like magic, but it’s a feature that’s been thoroughly tested.

There’s a catch, though. It doesn’t quite work like the teleportation devices from “Star Trek” that you might be accustomed to. This technology can’t transport people or large objects across distances instantaneously. It can only teleport information — but that’s still pretty incredible.

The potential benefit of teleportation technology like this is that the information being teleported is almost impossible to hack. When information can be transported instantaneously across a distance, then there’s no time to intercept it. The flipside is that the information is also difficult to keep intact. Keeping particles entangled is a delicate procedure, which is why successful teleportation across a distance measured in kilometers is so impressive.

That the experiments were successful using existing telecommunication infrastructure in modern cities means that quantum-encrypted information could become commonplace sooner rather than later.

“The two experiments can be seen as milestones on the path to a long-term goal, namely to build a fiber-based quantum internet connecting large cities,” explained Johannes Kofler from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics.

credit:Bryan 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

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

 

6 ways a womans body will change when she turns 50

For many, 50 is the new 40. It’s a time of life when we mellow, become more content, have more of life under control. However, when it comes to your health, there are always things to rein in, especially if you’ve acquired some bad habits over time. Read on as our experts direct you to six things you should do during this decade to improve your health.

 

1. You’ll need a colonoscopy.

 

Provided you don’t have a family history or personal risk of colorectal cancer (in which case you’ve probably had a colonoscopy already), regular screening beginning at age 50 is recommended to prevent colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, preventing colorectal cancer (and not just finding polyps and cancer early) is a major reason for getting tested at this age. Talk with your physician about screening options.

 

2. You may need some vaccines.

 

While you may think things like the pneumonia vaccine are reserved for the elderly, think again, says Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who suggests you get this vaccine every five years starting at age 50 if you’re at high risk — meaning you have asthma or diabetes. At 50, be sure to get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster vaccine, which you need every 10 years. If you’ve never had the chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you can get the vaccine as an adult. And the CDC also recommends getting a flu shot.

3. Women will go through menopause.

 

During this decade you’ll experience lengths of time without your period or your period will end, Bitner says. Expect to experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, low libido, consistent hot flashes, night sweats, belly fat weight gain and fatigue. “You may also start to deal with wrinkles, hair loss and pelvic prolapse,” she adds.

 

4. Your risk for heart disease may increase.

 

“In the first five years after menopause, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease escalate quickly if you aren’t living a healthy lifestyle and/or on menopause hormone therapy,” says Diana Bitner, MD, a physician at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even if you don’t have a family history of heart disease, at 50, ask your physician for a baseline electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which can help detect heart problems, Bitner says.

 

5. Expect aches and pains.

 

“At 50, all the folks who were lucky enough to get good genes from their folks begin to suffer from what others started noticing at 40,” says Barbara Bergin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Austin, Texas. “I never hear anyone say, ‘Everything went downhill at 60,’ because by then no one is surprised by the sudden onset of pain.” At 50, it’s likely you’ll notice that your knees and back feel tight if you’re been sitting for a while. “Your back and knees may feel painful when you stand up, too,” she says.

 

6. Your emotional health may suffer.

 

As your hormone levels fluctuate during menopause, your mood may be affected. It’s not uncommon for women going through menopause to feel depressed and have mood swings from happy highs to teary lows. Plus, getting a poor night’s sleep (or several of them) due to hot flashes would put anyone in a bad mood. Which is why it’s all the more important to find a way to cope. “Forming and/or using existing social networks and talking to friends will help you stay emotionally healthy,” Bitner says. Time to phone a friend.

 

 

Why can we sense when people are looking at us?

If you’ve ever felt like someone was watching you, you may have attributed that awareness to a sense of unease or a prickling on the back of your neck. But there’s nothing psychic about it; your brain was simply picking up on cues. In fact, your brain is wired to inform you that someone is looking at you — even when they’re not.

“Far from being ESP, the perception originates from a system in the brain that’s devoted to detecting where others are looking,” writes social psychologist Ilan Shrira. This concept may sound confusing, but it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it as a survival instinct.

Many mammals can tell when another animal is looking at them, but the human “gaze-detection system” is particularly good at doing this from a distance. We’re able to easily discern where someone is looking.

This system is especially sensitive when someone is looking at you directly, and studies have found that particular cells fire when this happens.

“Gaze perception — the ability to tell what someone is looking at — is a social cue people often take for granted,” Colin Clifford, a psychologist at the University of Sydney’s Vision Center, told the Daily Mail. “Judging whether others are looking at us may come naturally, but it’s actually not that simple as our brains have to do a lot of work behind the scenes.”

When you catch someone looking at you, what is it that clued you in? Often, it’s as simple as the position of the person’s head or body.

If both the head and body are turned toward you, it’s clear where the person’s attention is focused. It’s even more obvious when the person’s body is pointed away from you but their head is facing you. When this happens, you immediately look to the person’s eyes to see where they’re looking.
Human eyes are different from those of other animals in this regard. Our pupils and irises are darker from the white part of the eyeball known as the sclera, and this contrast is why you can tell when someone’s looking at you or simply looking past you.

Other species have less visible sclera, which is advantageous for predators that don’t want their prey to know where they’re looking. However, human survival is more dependent on communication, which is why we evolved to have larger, white sclera, which help us make eye contact.

But when head and body positions don’t provide much information, research shows that we can still detect another person’s gaze extraordinarily well because of our peripheral vision.

We evolved to be this sensitive to gaze to survive. Why? Because every look someone throws your way is a potential threat.

Clifford tested this by asking study participants to indicate where various faces were looking. He found that when people couldn’t determine the direction of a gaze — because of dark conditions or the faces were wearing sunglasses — people typically thought they were being watched.

He concluded that in situations where we’re not certain where a person is looking, our brain informs us that we’re being watched — just in case there’s a potential interaction.

“A direct gaze can signal dominance or a threat, and if you perceive something as a threat, you would not want to miss it,” Clifford said. “So simply assuming another person is looking at you may be the safest strategy.”

credit: Laura Moss

Why lack of sleep gives you the munchies

Looking for a better way to lose weight? Maybe it’s time to stop counting calories and start counting sheep. A new study has found a link between poor sleep and the marijuana-like “munchie” cravings that may be causing Americans to pack on the pounds.

The study, published recently in the journal Sleep, was a small but intense experiment that carefully controlled the sleep and diet of 14 20-somethings who agreed to spend several days at the University of Chicago’s sleep lab. On some nights, participants were allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours, while on others they were only allowed to snooze for 4.5 hours. Each day, the participants were given a large meal at 3 p.m. and allowed to snack from then until their next meal at 7 p.m.

Researchers found that all of the participants binged at that afternoon meal, consuming roughly 90 percent of their caloric needs at one sitting. But it was the participants who were deprived of sleep who continued to snack right up until their next meal, consuming as many as 1,000 additional calories, primarily from low-nutrient, high-reward foods (i.e. junk food.)

Blood tests revealed that the sleep-deprived participants had higher levels of a chemical called endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in their bloodstream than those who got a full night’s sleep. 2-AG is a chemical made in the brain that resembles chemicals found in marijuana. It affects pain, pleasure and appetite and has been linked to the “munchies” that pot smokers report feeling after getting high.

Typically, blood levels of 2-AG bottom out overnight but slowly build throughout the day before peaking in the late afternoon and early evening. For the sleep-deprived volunteers, 2-AG levels rose higher than they did for their well-rested peers and stayed high through the evening. This is the same period in which sleep-restricted participants noted feeling hungrier and having a stronger desire to eat. When given snacks at this time, they ate nearly twice as much fat as when they had slept for eight hours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of Americans are sleep deprived, defined as getting less than seven hours of sleep each night. Guess how many Americans are also considered obese? One-third.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

Of course, diet and exercise are critical components for maintaining a healthy weight. But as this research points out, a good night’s sleep may play an even bigger role in the weight loss equation than previously thought.

Bottom line: If you’re trying to lose weight, get to bed at a reasonable hour. You’ll be more likely to resist that late afternoon junk food binge if you’re not fighting the sleep-deprivation munchies.

Credit: Jenn Savedge