Fun Facts about Hugging

hugStory at-a-glance 

Hugging increases levels of the “love hormone” oxytocin, which is beneficial for stress levels, heart health, and more

A 20-second hug reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate Continue reading

New Cancer Therapy Is Music to Your Ears

Cancer therapy is a gold mine these days of health breakthroughs (it really is), as we learn more and more how to challenge the disease and improve quality of life. A new study has unearthed evidence that may be music to the ears of a cancer patient.

Researchers found that such patients may benefit from sessions Continue reading

Yoga Boosts Stress-busting Hormone, Reduces Pain: York U Study

TORONTO-A new study by York University researchers finds that practicing yoga reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain in women with fibromyalgia.

The study is the first to look at the effects of yoga on cortisol levels in women with fibromyalgia. The condition, which predominantly affects women, is characterized by chronic pain and fatigue; common symptoms include muscle stiffness, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal discomfort, anxiety and depression.

Previous research has found that women with fibromyalgia have lower-than-average cortisol levels, which contribute to pain, fatigue and stress sensitivity.  Continue reading

Pleasures such as Food, Sex and Other Reduce Stress via Brain Pathways

Food, sex and other pleasurable activities can reduce stress by inhibiting anxiety producing pathways in the brain. Researchers from University of Cincinnati say new studies provide a clearer understanding of why consuming “comfort food” is appealing during times of stress.

Yvonne Ulrich-Lai, PhD, research assistant professor, James Herman, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Stress Neurobiology and professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at UC, and colleagues conducted studies on rats, observing their response to the pleasures of tasty sweets and sex.

Pleasure Lowers Stress Hormones and Heart Rate

For the study, researchers gave the rodents a sugar solution twice a day for two weeks and then gauged their reaction to stress, physiologically and behaviorally. The rats given the solution had lower stress hormones and heart rates when they were restrained in ventilated tube, compared to the control group. Stress responses were lower in response to saccharin and from exposure to sexually responsive partners.

When the researchers gave sucrose directly into the stomach, the rats did not have the same response, showing the”pleasurable properties of tasty foods, not the caloric properties were sufficient for stress reduction,” says Ulrich-Lai.

The scientists also found when they blocked signals to an area of a brain structure that regulates stress the rats did not experience reduced anxiety. The rats exposed to pleasurable food and sex had a lower stress response.

“Our research identifies key neural circuits underlying the comfort food effect,” notes Ulrich-Lai. “Further research is needed, but identification of these circuits could provide potential strategies for intervening to prevent or curtail increasing rates of obesity and other metabolic disorders.” Food, sex and other pleasurable activities actually work to inhibit stress pathways in the brain that the scientists also say can last up to 7 days.

Fat Deficiency Kills More People Every Year than Breast Cancer

Omega-3 deficiency is the sixth biggest killer of Americans, according to a new study.

Harvard University researchers looked at 12 dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors such as tobacco smoking and high blood pressure, and used a mathematical model to determine how many fatalities could have been prevented if better practices had been observed.

The study determined that there were 72,000-96,000 preventable deaths each year due to omega-3 deficiency, highlighting the importance of establishing a dietary reference intake (DRI) for omega-3 forms such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

Another study found that a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) decreased blood pressure and heart rate in kidney disease patients.

People with chronic kidney disease (CKD), which increases the risk of heart disease, experienced improvements in both blood pressure and heart rate following supplementation with four grams of omega-3 fats.

Furthermore, when the omega 3’s were taken in combination with coenzyme Q10, the blood pressure reducing benefits were enhanced. CKD is linked to increased prevalence in all-cause mortality, cardiovascular events and hospitalization.

In addition to benefitting your physical health, omega-3 fats can also be good for your mind.

Researchers have shown that depressed patients have, on average, lower levels of omega-3 in their blood than nondepressed individuals. A greater severity of depression is also linked to lower levels of omega-3. A number of well-controlled depression treatment studies have found therapeutic benefits following omega-3 supplementation.

What exactly is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback training teaches how to consciously change and control the body’s vital functions that are normally unconscious, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure, through information provided by electronic devices.

Biofeedback is a relatively new field. It was only during the late 1960’s that scientists believed that these normally unconscious, autonomic functions could be voluntarily controlled. Barbara Brown, Ph.D., at the Veterans Administration Hospital in California, Elmer Green, Ph.D, and Alyce Green of the Menninger Foundation in Kansas first used EEG biofeedback to observe the various states of people practicing yoga. Another person who was instrumental in bringing biofeedback to the public attention is Joe Kamiya, who taught subjects how to attain states of euphoria without drugs.

Biofeedback is currently used by physicians, physiologists, kinesiologists, and psychologists.

How Biofeedback Works

Electrodes, which look like stickers with wires attached to them, are placed on the client’s skin. The client is then instructed to use relaxation, meditation, or visualization to bring about the desired response, whether it is muscle relaxation, lowered heart rate, or lower temperature. The biofeedback device reports progress by a change in the speed of beeps or flashes, or pitch or quality of the tone.

The results of biofeedback are measured in the following ways:

• skin temperature
• electrical conductivity of the skin, called the glavanic skin response
• muscle tension, with an electromyograph (EMG)
• heart rate, with an electrocardiograph (ECG)
• brain-wave activity, with an electroencephalograph{EEG)

Conditions Treated by Biofeedback

Biofeedback is particularly useful with can help with stress-related conditions where there is sympathetic or adrenal stress. It is also useful for conditions where there is inadequate control over muscle groups or muscle dysfunction. Conditions treated with biofeedback include:

• stress
• headaches
• asthma
• muscle injury
• pain relief
• insomnia
• TMJ
• high blood pressure
• digestive disorders
• attention deficit disorder
• incontinence
• poor posture
• tennis elbow
• golfer’s elbow
• irritable bowel syndrome
• hyperactivity
• Raynaud’s disease
• ringing of the ears
• constipation
• twitching of the eyelids
• esophageal dysfunction