Posted by & filed under Stress, Studies.

`

One thing lovers of acupuncture agree upon is that a session leaves them feeling at peace, calm, and relaxed, and decreases their overall level of stress.

While the empirical evidence is there, Wang, et al. sought to scientifically determine what brain activity is occurring that causes a decrease in stress in acupuncture patients.

 

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Cortex Axis (HPAA) includes the three endocrine glands: the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenal glands. These organs are a major part of the system that controls stress reactions and regulates many of the body’s processes, including mood and emotions. The Glucocorticoid Receptor (GR) is expressed in almost every cell in the body, and is involved in controlling development, metabolism, and immune response. Previous research found that stress affected GR expression, and previous acupuncture research had linked stimulation of the HPAA to stress reduction, but changes in the GR linked to acupuncture treatments had not yet been clearly shown. In this study, researchers focused on these areas to determine how acupuncture reduces stress.

The researchers were able to conclude that the effect of acupuncture on stress reduction was achieved via HPAA functional regulation by stimulating different acupuncture points throughout the body. While more research will need to be done to confirm the findings of this study, it’s exciting to see scientifically-based evidence for how acupuncture decreases stress and how it can have an effect on patients’ mood and emotions.

Posted by & filed under Lifestyle Tips, Stress.

Beautiful girl at green field, photo 5

 

Breathe
Take a deep breath. Do it, right now. Breathe deep in through your nose, down into your abdomen and feel your belly expand as your chest simultaneously rises; then exhale slowly through your mouth. Feel different? Breathing deeply slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and helps deliver oxygen to your body. Conversely, when we are experiencing stressful situations, our breathing tends to become more shallow and can lead to reduced levels of oxygen obtained from each breath. The next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try taking one slow, deep breath. Or two, or three. Sometimes, all we need is to take a few seconds out of our day to remind ourselves to breathe.

Meditate
Just a few minutes of daily meditation can reduce anxiety and make one more resilient to stress. Meditation is a practice, and it can be a frustrating practice for the novice. If you have found that you are unable to simply, “let you thoughts drift by like clouds in the sky,” try this meditative tool: Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and start to breathe deeply, mentally counting a full breath-in-breath-out circuit as “One”. Your second breath is “Two”. Continue this process until you reach ten, then start back over at one. If you continue counting past ten, you may start focusing too much on the counting process. However, by only counting to ten and then returning to one, we hit a point where we are no longer actively thinking about counting. It’s just enough focus to draw your attention away from other distracting thoughts, but subtle enough to allow your thoughts to fall into a meditative rhythm. A meditation practice can start with as little as one minute a day. After a week, try adding another minute. And remember, like any activity or skill set, practice improves the ease and quality of your experience.

Laugh
The adage tells us that laughter is the best medicine, and modern research has shown us that laughter is indeed therapeutic. According to the Mayo Clinic, laugher can induce physical changes in your body such as stimulating organs by increasing your intake of oxygen-rich air, releasing endorphins that affect mood and pain, activating and relieving your stress response, and soothing tension by stimulating circulation. It can even improve your immune system via it’s stress-reducing effects. It’s also worth noting that fake laughter inevitably leads to real laughing. The next time you are stuck in traffic or waiting at your fifth red light when you’re already late, just try laughing and see how your disposition improves.

Visualization
Sometimes we aren’t able to physically remove ourselves from a stressful situation, so just pretend! Close your eyes (if possible) and imagine a place where stress doesn’t exist. This place can be real or imagined, but is a place where you mentally travel. Common visualization destinations include places in nature such as a sunny beach on a tropical island or a lush forest in the mountains, or places from our memories such as the playground as a child or curled up watching a movie with a loved-one. Mentally traveling to our safe, stress-free environments can provide the brief respite we need to get through a long day.

Get Outside
When life hands us stressful situations, sometimes we simply need to step away to aid our mental health. This could be as simple as taking a break from a stressful project by getting out of your office or stepping away from your computer. Physically getting outside provides additional benefits: Studies have linked low levels of Vitamin D with worsened mood and decreased cognitive function. Getting outside for a few minutes of sun exposure and some fresh air can do wonders for your mood and overall stress level. As always, be cautious with sun exposure, each person’s proper length of sun exposure will be different, and is determined by your skin color (lighter skin has less protective melanin, but produces Vitamin D at faster rates), as well as the season.

Get Moving!
We all know that exercise is necessary for a healthy cardiovascular system and helps to maintain a healthy body mass index, but did you know that exercise also reduces stress? Physical activity increases your body’s production of endorphins, which are your brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. In addition to elevating your mood, endorphins are also your body’s natural pain-relievers. Even a two-minute break to march in place at your desk or take a couple flights of stairs can be enough to feel a palpable shift in your body and mood.

Find Connection
A Swedish proverb states, “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow”. One of our greatest limitations is the belief that we are alone in our life experience, while wallowing alone in our fears or frustrations or sadness can lead to feelings of isolation. By connecting with loved ones, we are able to process through our struggles and seek direction. Finding connection improves our overall view on life and reminds us that we have a place to turn when life seems challenging.

Prepare a Cup of Tea
Some studies suggest that Chamomile tea may have anti-anxiolytic and anti-depressive qualities; however, even the act of making a cup of tea can have a meditative effect on the body. Filling the kettle, putting it to boil, listening for the water, placing the tea in the mug or teapot, pouring the water, waiting the allotted steep time, removing the tea, and then, finally, getting to enjoy the fruits of your labor – it creates a process that allows you to flow through an activity mindlessly, and then you get a cup of tea at the end of it! If you are preparing tea for the evening, ensure that it is a caffeine-free tea (note: black, oolong, green, and white teas all have varying amounts of caffeine).

Decompress
Do you have a method for transitioning from your work-filled day to your friends and family-filled evening? By establishing a post-work decompression routine, you can consciously shift away from the stressful distractions of your day towards a relaxing and rejuvenating evening. Your routine can include any of the other suggestions on this list, as well as activities like changing into comfortable clothes, taking a shower, or simply washing your face. Personally, my decompression routine involves spending five minutes to wash and massage my feet. Since I am on my feet all day, they appreciate a little extra love in the evening. If I still feel wound-up after that, I will take a few minutes to breathe deeply while rolling my neck (allowing my head to dip and then slowly swing side-to-side), and perform self-massage on my neck and shoulders.

Posted by & filed under Stress, Studies.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has experienced an extreme emotional trauma that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The National Institute of Health reports that PTSD affects approximately 7.7 million American adults, but can occur at any age, including childhood. Symptoms may start within three months after an event, but can take years in some cases, and include intrusive memories; avoidance of people or places that may spark memories of the event; negative changes in a person’s thinking, mood, self-image, or relationships; and changes in emotional responses including being easily angered, tending towards listlessness or emotional numbness, and a sense of hopelessness.

It is important to seek help if a person is having disturbing thoughts or feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if the symptoms experienced are severe, or if the person is having trouble getting their life back on track. It is also important that the person be in contact and communication with their doctor or mental health provider to be aware of all available treatment options. Researchers are currently studying risk and resilience factors, and hope to someday be able to predict who is at greater risk of PTSD and how we can prevent it.

The National Institute of Mental Health says there are factors that may increase a person’s resilience and reduce the risk of PTSD, including:

•   Seeking out support from other people, such as friends and family
•   Finding a support group after a traumatic event
•   Feeling good about one’s own actions in the face of danger
•   Having a coping strategy, or a way of getting through the bad event and learning from it
•   Being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear

Treatment for PTSD includes psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) in either a private setting or group dynamic. One type of therapy is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and includes Exposure Therapy, where patients are safely exposed to their trauma, allowing them to develop tools to cope with their feelings; Cognitive Restructuring, where patients make sense of their memories and process guilt or shame that may be associated with their experiences; and Stress Inoculation Training, where the person learns how to reduce their anxiety by looking at their memories in a healthy way. According to Engel, et al., when coupled with traditional PTSD care, acupuncture has been found to have a significantly greater impact on PTSD in service members than usual PTSD care alone, including symptoms of depression, pain, and mental and physical health functioning. Combined with traditional treatment options, acupuncture can assist in the transition back to a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthful life.

Posted by & filed under Digestion, Home Remedies.

 everybody poops!

Regular and consistent, daily bowel movements are generally representative of good digestive health. The regularity and consistency of our bowel movements will vary based on diet, hydration, lifestyle, and stress; however, there are certain steps that we can take to improve our elimination regularity. Having a nutritious dietary regimen starts by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and staying well hydrated. Creating lifestyle habits that include proper exercise and stress reduction will also contribute to healthy bowels. In addition to these factors, consider adding the following habits into your routine:

 

abdominal massage

Abdominal massage: Sometimes our bowels respond well to a little self-love. For best results, abdominal massage should be performed before getting out of bed in the morning, but can be practiced at any point throughout the day, or even just before bed.

For an added benefit, before performing the abdominal massage, lay on your back and pull both your knees to your chest and hold for one minute. Then pull your right knee to your chest with your left left out straight for one minute, then switch. These positions put your bowels in a comfortable position, and can help stimulate movement.


Tips to remember while performing abdominal massage:

- You may feel pressure as you press into your abdomen, but there should never be pain.

- You may notice internal rumbling sensations during or after the massage. This is completely normal, and is a sign that your intestines are responding with peristalsis.

- Your colon ascends on the right side of your abdomen, runs horizontally above your umbilicus, and then descends on the left. If you were looking at your own body, your colon would be traversing your abdomen in a clockwise fashion. One key tip to remembering the flow of your bowels is the following: “food Leaves through the Left side of your body.”

To Perform an Abdominal Massage:

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Starting on the lower right portion, slowly press into your abdomen using a circular, kneading motion, working vertically up the ascending colon, toward your ribs.
  3. Continue along your transverse colon, horizontally, just below your ribcage.
  4. Work down your descending colon along the left side of your abdomen.
  5. The entire circuit should take 15 to 30 seconds, depending on your personal preference.
  6. I recommend completing the circuit five times, but feel free to repeat it more, so long as you remain comfortable throughout the entire process.

Set Your Descending Colon up for Success!

When seated on a typical American toilet, the puborectalis muscle puts pressure on the descending colon, which can make stool passage difficult. When in a squatting position, however, the colon is positioned for a smooth transport of its contents. With this knowledge, you can add these habits to your routine:

- If it doesn’t put pressure on your knees or back, try squatting down for five or ten minutes in the morning. If you want to be doubly productive, you can hold this position while peeling an orange or checking your e-mail on your phone. You may notice internal rumblings or the passage of gas while in this position. Rest assured that this is completely normal.

- To up the ante, use your left hand to massage your descending colon while squatting.

- If squatting isn’t a possibility for you, no problem! While sitting on the toilet, take the bag out of your trashcan, flip the can over, and place your left foot on top. You can then incorporate the abdominal massage while in this position as well.

 

For more information on your digestive track, check out this post

 

 

Posted by & filed under Digestion, Home Remedies, Recipes.

 gingerminttea

This recipe is delightfully simple, great for digestion as well as sore throats, and totally yummy! Even better, it makes a lovely iced tea in the summer or a hot tea in the winter. It’s also caffeine-free, so it can be enjoyed any time of day.


Ingredients:

– 3 freshly-cut slices of fresh ginger (about a quarter inch thick, each)
– 5 leaves of fresh mint

Optional Ingredients:
– 1 Tbs honey
– 1 squeeze of lemon juice


Preparation:

Step 1: Bring water to a boil on the stovetop

Step 2: Place the ginger and mint into a mug

Step 3: Pour hot water over the ginger and mint

[Step 4: Let the tea steep for five minutes and, if desired, use a strainer to separate the tea from the ingredients.]

[Step 5: If you are going to add honey and/or lemon, now would be the ideal time to add these ingredients.]

Step 6: Let cool to a reasonable temperature and enjoy!


Additional info:

Lemon juice makes an excellent addition, as does honey, and both are especially wonderful if you have a sore throat or a cold.

Posted by & filed under Digestion, Lifestyle Tips.

0

There are certain lifestyle habits that have a direct effect on dyspepsia: overeating or eating too quickly; overconsumption of fatty, greasy, or spicy foods; overconsumption of caffeinated, carbonated, or alcoholic beverages; chocolate (which can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which connects the esophagus to the stomach); nicotine; and anxiety and emotional stressors.

Whether or not you encounter digestive discomfort on a regular or semi-regular basis, there are basic dietary guidelines that most people can abide by. The following is a list of helpful tips to help optimize your digestive experience:

 

Drink Water: 
Drink a glass of room temperature or warm water first thing in the morning. This will start your day with proper hydration, and also helps to stimulate your digestive tract. Many people add lemon juice to warm water as an additional digestive aid. [Personal tip: I leave a full glass of water on my bathroom sink the night before, so it’s ready and waiting in the morning when I’m still bright eyed and bushy tailed.]

Eat Breakfast: 
Eat a nutritious breakfast within the first hour and a half of waking. This breaks your nighttime fast and awakens your metabolism.

Add Ginger:
If you have a difficult time eating first thing in the morning, or you experience morning nausea, try adding two or three slices of fresh ginger to warm or hot water. Studies have shown that ginger aids in proper digestion and alleviates nausea and symptoms of morning sickness.

Eat with Regularity: 
Don’t skip meals or let yourself become overly hungry. The regularity of our food intake helps pace our metabolism. After going several hours without food, our bodies enter a survival process referred to as, “starvation mode,” where our metabolism slows and calories are preserved. This can cause an energy crash that leads to poor nutritional choices.

But Don’t Continually Graze: 
Some people find eating several small meals throughout the day to be beneficial for their dietary habits, but take care not to continually graze. Our digestive tracts need to go through fasting periods of at least 90 minutes. During these fasting periods, migrating motor complexes (waves of activity) sweep through the GI tract, triggering peristaltic waves that help facilitate the transportation of indigestible substances.

Stay Upright:
It’s important to not lay down immediate after eating. This puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter and can cause a reflux of the stomach contents into the esophagus, leading to heartburn. Your stomach is on the left side of your abdomen, so if you must be in a reclining position, lay on your left side, allowing gravity to keep your food within your stomach. Better yet, go for a 15-minute walk after a meal. Studies have shown that an easy after-meal walk can aid gastric emptying and regulate blood sugar levels for those with type-2 diabetes.

Don’t Eat Late:
If you experience heartburn while trying to fall asleep, or wake with a cough, scratchy throat, or sour taste in your mouth, you might be eating too close to your bedtime, or laying down too soon after eating. Avoid eating within two hours prior to laying down.

Get Acupuncture:
In 2013, Lima et al performed a study of the use of acupuncture on patients with dyspepsia. Their study confirmed findings of an earlier China study, showing that acupuncture has a definitive and lasting effect on the symptoms associated with dyspepsia, including GI symptoms, as well as an improvement in overall anxiety, depression, and quality of life, factors believed to influence chronic GI discomfort.

 

Note: If you experience abdominal pain or gastric discomfort on an on-going basis, keep a food journal to see if you notice a pattern of food triggers. If dietary adjustments do not change your symptoms, consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor, as these may be signs of other internal issues.

Posted by & filed under Digestion, Studies.

0

Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a series of symptoms that present as “pain or discomfort in the stomach associated with difficulty digesting food”.

Causes of dyspepsia are often complex, and can occur for a number of different reasons, some of which include diet and lifestyle, functional anatomy, and emotional stressors, as well as antibiotics, medications, or other disorders located further down the GI tract. In 2013, Lima et al performed a study of the use of acupuncture on patients with dyspepsia. Their study confirmed findings of an earlier China study, showing that acupuncture has a definitive and lasting effect on the symptoms associated with dyspepsia, including GI symptoms, as well as an improvement in overall anxiety, depression, and quality of life, factors believed to influence chronic GI discomfort.

In addition to acupuncture, check out these tips for treating your dyspepsia.

Posted by & filed under Digestion.

0

Digestion is “the process of breaking down food by mechanical and enzymatic action in the alimentary canal (also known as the gastrointestinal or “GI” tract) into substances that can be used by the body,” and includes everything from the time food enters your mouth until it eventually leaves your body. The major players in digestion include the obvious members of the GI tract: the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines; as well as the accessory organs: the pancreas and liver.

We were all told as children to slow down and properly chew our food, but do you know why adequate mastication is so important? Saliva contains the enzymes lingual lipase and amylase, which begin the process of breaking down lipids (fats) and carbohydrates. Amylase breaks down starches into simple sugars, allowing approximately one third of starch digestion to occur in the mouth. It is also important to note that food must have a liquid consistency before it can move from your stomach to your small intestine, so thoroughly chewing your food helps properly initiate the digestion process.

When swallowed, food is transmitted through your digestive tract via peristalsis, a series of muscular contractions that first occurs as the esophagus delivers food to the stomach. Upon reaching the stomach, food then encounters our gastric enzymes. Pepsin is the primary gastric enzyme, and is responsible for breaking down proteins. Additional gastric enzymes are responsible for the continued breakdown of food, as well as killing bacteria and viruses that have been ingested.

Food generally spends one to two hours in the stomach before it is passed to the small intestines as chyme, where pancreatic enzymes and bile (made by the liver) come into play. When the chyme is fully digested, the nutrients contained within are absorbed into the blood, with 95% of the total nutrient absorption occurring in the small intestine. Water and minerals are then absorbed into the blood in the large intestine. Finally, the waste products of digestion are excreted from the body through defecation.