Meditation or Vacation?

Research shows that meditation has a positive effect on your mental health, helping to improve mood and lower stress levels. But a 2016 study has found that the practice may also have quantifiable physical health benefits, too. In fact, when compared with the de-stressing health benefits of a relaxing vacation, meditation’s effects may be even stronger and longer-lasting.

For the study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School recruited 94 healthy women, aged 30-60 years. Thirty of these women were experienced meditators who had enrolled in a six-day meditation retreat at a resort in California. The remaining 64 women were not regular meditators and half of these women were randomly selected to simply enjoy the vacation, while the other half followed a meditation training program run by the Chopra Center for Well Being. The meditation training involved classes in mantra meditation, yoga and self-reflection, all designed by best-selling author and spiritual guru Dr. Deepak Chopra, although he was not part of the study.

For all three groups, researchers collected blood samples and self-reported wellness surveys immediately before and after the retreat as well as one month and 10 months later. They examined more than 20,000 genes from each participant to understand what biological changes were occurring in the body.

Researchers found that all three groups showed some differences in their molecular makeup after a week at the resort. The most significant changes in their “post-vacation biology” were in molecular pathways related to stress response and immune system function.

Evaluations of the participants’ self-reported wellness surveys found that the women who learned meditation techniques at the retreat reported fewer symptoms of depression and less stress than their non-meditating peers. They also maintained these benefits for a longer period than the women who did not meditate. Studies have shown that these mental health benefits have direct physical health benefits, too, resulting in lowered blood pressure and heart rate, improved digestion, more physical energy, and a more robust immune system.

“Based on our results, the benefit we experience from meditation isn’t strictly psychological; there is a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function,” said study co-author Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, a neurology professor at Harvard University and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, in a statement.

One thing that wasn’t clear was whether the women who learned to meditate continued to do so after the retreat or if the mental and physical benefits they reported were the direct result of their one week of practice. But either way, the benefits of meditation were evident long after the initial sessions.

Meditation can change your genes

On top of helping to ease stress and symptoms of depression, another study discovered that meditation can even help lower blood pressure.

A 2018 Harvard study analyzed 24 people who suffer from high blood pressure. They attended weakly relaxation sessions with a trainer and listened to a meditation CD at home for eight weeks. The study found that meditating for just 15 minutes day (for at least eight weeks) alters the expression of the genes that regulate inflammation, glucose metabolism, circadian rhythms and immune regulatory pathways.

“With the new guidelines, patients and physicians alike are going to be more and more interested in non-drug therapies that might control blood pressure or potentially augment their medications,” Dr. Randall Zusman told NPR.

In other words, daily meditation can be beneficial for your physical and mental health.

Credit: Jenn Savedge

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

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.

 

 

What is genetically edited food?

The USDA says this method of tampering with a food’s genes is not the same as genetically modifying it.

I wasn’t familiar with the term “genetically edited” food until I read an NPR feature last week about genetically edited mushrooms. While it may seem like genetically edited is another way to say genetically modified, editing is not the same as modifying, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) have had their genes altered in some way. Genetically modified salmon, for instance, has had its genes modified to grow faster than natural salmon. GMO salmon can grow to full size in 18 months. Non-GMO salmon take three years to grow to full size. The purpose of genetically modified food, whether it’s an animal or plant, is to introduce a new, desirable trait to the organism. (And yes, what’s desirable depends on who you talk to.)

A genetically edited organism does not have a gene altered to introduce a new trait. Instead, it has a gene taken away using a four-year-old technology called CRISPR. In the case of the mushroom mentioned earlier, Yinong Yang, a Penn State researcher, snipped out “a tiny piece of DNA from one particular gene in a white button mushroom,” NPR reports. With that gene gone, the mushroom produces less of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, making the mushroom brown more slowly. An undesirable trait was removed from the organism.

Yang asked the USDA if his genetically edited mushrooms would be regulated as a GMO. The government agency said since no new DNA was introduced, and there is no evidence the edited white button mushrooms would bring any problems with weeds or become a pest to other plants, the USDA does not need to regulate them.

I’ve seen several headlines since the NPR report last week that claim genetically edited foods will not be regulated. That’s inaccurate. The USDA said it would not regulate these mushrooms, but the agency ended the letter to Yang with the following statement: “Please be advised that your white button mushroom variety described in your letter may still be subject to other regulatory authorities such as the FDA or EPA.”

Whether some form of government regulation will happen for genetically edited foods hasn’t been decided. This mushroom is the first food created using this technique, according to The Washington Post. The company that paid for the mushroom research has no immediate plans to sell the mushrooms. There’s a lot more work and government scrutiny before a genetically edited food comes on the market — regulated or not.

At least, let’s hope much more government scrutiny will be done on genetic editing for food. CRISPR can be used for more than simply keeping fruits and vegetables from browning quickly. The method is also being considered as a way to remove undesirable traits in human beings, like the ability to inherit a devastating disease — something that should come only after years of testing for safety and side effects, and necessary regulations.

credit: Robin Shreeves

This simple sitting test could predict how long you will live

It’s a question we often ponder, especially as we age: How many years do I have left? Well, thanks to Brazilian physician Claudio Gil Araujo, there’s now a simple test you can perform right at home, in just a few seconds, that could predict how many years you have left to live, according to Discover.

Araujo came up with the test after noticing that many of his patients, especially older ones, often have difficulty with simple feats of balance and strength, such as picking up something off the floor or getting up out of a chair. Since balance and conditioning problems are known to increase the risk of dangerous falls and accidents (and can also harm cardiovascular health), he wondered if a patient’s flexibility, balance and strength could be used as a measure of life expectancy.

His idea was that patients might be more motivated to get in better shape if they had a more tangible way of conceptualizing how their overall health was being affected by their conditioning. If a patient is simply told to get in shape, they’re not likely to change their behavior. But if they’re told “if you don’t get into better shape, you could be dead in five years,” they’re apt to take notice.

Of course, the test also needed to be simple. If it required expensive equipment or measuring devices, the test probably wouldn’t be accessible to many people. So Araujo and colleagues developed the sitting-rise test, or SRT. It requires no equipment whatsoever and can be performed in seconds.

Sit and stand test
In fact, you can grab a friend try the test out yourself right now. A simple illustration (at right), provided by Discover, can help you to visualize the steps. It’s recommended that you wear loose or comfortable clothing.

Begin by standing upright in the middle of a room. Without using your arms or hands for leverage, carefully squat into a cross-legged sitting position. Once you’re comfortable, attempt to stand back up from the sitting position — again, without using your arms for help.

The test is scored on a point scale between 1 and 10 (5 points for sitting, 5 more points for standing back up). Each time you use an arm or knee for help in balancing during the test, you subtract one point from 10 possible points. Half a point is subtracted each time you lose balance, or when the fluidity of the feat becomes clumsy.

It seems like a pretty rudimentary test of conditioning, but Araujo found that it could predict life expectancy with alarming accuracy. He tested it on more than 2,000 of his patients aged 51 to 80, and found that people who scored less than 8 points on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years. Those who scored three points or less were five times more likely to die within that same time period. Overall, each point achieved in the test accounted for a 21-percent decrease in mortality.

Araujo’s study was only performed on patients older than 50, so the results won’t mean the same thing for younger individuals taking the test. But regardless of your age, the test should provide a useful benchmark for your overall health. If you’re younger than 50 and have trouble with the test, it ought to be a wake-up call. The good news is that the younger you are, the more time you have to get into better shape.

Credit: Bryan Nelson

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

9 ways that dogs tell you they love you

Dogs have lived alongside us for thousands of years, earning the reputation as “man’s best friend” for good reason. But while some people may be quick to dismiss a dog’s devotion as simply a relationship based on need, experts say that’s just not true.

“Dogs have developed the strongest ability of all animals on Earth to form affectionate bonds with humans,” says Dr. Frank McMillan D.V.M., director of well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society, an organization helping adopters find loving companions. “Dogs don’t just love us — they need us, but not just for food and physical care. They need us emotionally. This is why the attachment bond a dog feels for his human is one of deep devotion and is, as has been often stated, unconditional.”

But how exactly does a dog say, “I love you”? Read on to find out.

Your dog wants to be close to you.

If your dog is always in your lap, leaning against you or following you room to room, it’s clear your pooch is attached to you.

“A dog’s affection is most evident in their desire to be physically close to you. This can sometimes appear to be a clinginess, and it isn’t always easy to distinguish healthy positive clinginess from insecurity, but in both cases your dog is deeply attached to you,” McMillan says.

Your dog gazes into your eyes.

When you and your pup share a long look, your dog is “hugging you with his eyes,” according to Brian Hare, a professor at Duke University who studies canine cognition, and research shows that this “hug” has a profound effect on both man and animal.

When scientists at Japan’s Azabu University took urine samples from dogs and their owners before and after 30 minutes of interacting, they found that the pairs that spent the most time gazing into each others’ eyes showed significantly higher levels of the hormone oxytocin, the same hormonal response that bonds us to human infants. “It’s an incredible finding that suggests that dogs have hijacked the human bonding system,” Hare told Science.

Does your pup jump up, wag his tail and barely seem able to contain contain his excitement when you arrive home? If so, that’s a sure sign of affection.

“This becomes even more obvious when your dog learns, like Pavlov’s dogs, that some sound signals your upcoming arrival, like the garage opener or sound of your car, and they show excitement upon hearing that sound,” McMillan says.

Your dog sleeps with you.

Dogs are pack animals that often huddle together at night for warmth and protection, so when your dog snuggles up with you, it means he considers you to be part of the family. And these canine cuddles may even help you get a better night’s sleep.

You are your dog’s safe haven.

“Much affection in animals and humans is based on how much you can be relied on as a source of comfort and support in scary situations,” McMillan says. “If your dog seeks your comfort during thunderstorms, car rides, vet visits or other frightening occurrences, then you are seeing another aspect of her attachment bond to you.”

Your dog ‘reads’ you and reacts accordingly.

A close bond with your dog may enable him to sense your mood and respond with affection. “Many dogs who sense that you are upset or not feeling well will demonstrate their affection by spending even more time by your side. They might give you licks or rest their head or paws on some part of your body,” McMillan says.

If you’ve ever yawned after witnessing another person’s yawn, you’re aware how contagious the act can be. This contagious yawning is unique to only a few species, and man’s best friend is one of them.

Researchers have even found that not only are dogs more likely to yawn after watching familiar people yawn, but also that dogs will yawn when hearing only the sound of a loved one’s yawn. So if your canine companion yawns in response to your yawns, odds are good that his affection for you enables him to empathize with you.

Your dog focuses on you.

It’s not unusual for dogs to delight in positive attention from virtually anyone, but just because your pooch loves on everyone, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you most. Pay attention to how your dog acts when in a room full of people. If he stays focused on you or ignores others while awaiting your return, you know you hold a special place in your dog’s heart.

Your dog forgives you.

“Part of the affectionate feelings your dog has for you shows up in their willingness to forgive you for things you do that make them feel bad, such as raising your voice, or misplacing your frustration on your dog by ignoring them,” McMillan says. “Forgiveness is your dog’s attempt to maintain the loving bond they share with you.”

However, even if your canine best friend doesn’t show affection in these ways, it certainly doesn’t mean your pooch doesn’t love you. Just as some people can care deeply without expressing their feelings, so can your pup.

“Be sure not to go through the list above and think that because your dog shows very few or even none of these things, he or she doesn’t love you. Odds are, love is very much there. After all, we’re talking about a dog here,” McMillan says.

And how can you show your dog some love? Engage in playtime, take a long walk, bake some yummy dog treats, or give your pup a homemade toy. Above all, McMillan says the best thing you can do is simply give your dog more of you because that’s what man’s best friend wants most of all.

credit:Laura Moss