Feb
01
2020

About the Opioid Epidemic

Dr. Anna Lembke gave a talk about the opioid epidemic on Dec. 13, 2019. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019. The full title of her presentation was “From Freud to Fentanyl: Update on the Opioid Epidemic.” Dr. Lembke is an associate professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. From 1999 to 2010 opioid sales went up 6-fold. Opioid treatment admissions and opioid deaths have risen 5-fold in the same time period. Physicians prescribe too many opioid pills. One slide summarized how patients got opioid pills. 53% had pain pills given by friends for free or bought opioids from them. 37.5% received pain pills from a doctor by prescription. 6% bought pain pills from a drug dealer or a stranger. In about 3.4% it was not traceable how the persons using drugs obtained them.

Compassionate doctor and drug-seeking patient

The doctor went through medical school wanting to care about patients. Compassion to help is a powerful motivating force. On the other hand, most patients are glad that the physician wants to help and they do their part to contribute to healing. Except, there is a small percentage of patients who take advantage of a soft-hearted physician. They will demand prescriptions, even if they are not in pain. They may do this to sell the drugs to get some extra income. Others take more pills than what the doctor  prescribed, because they want to get high on the drugs. Patients who have an addiction to pain pills, have a process in their brain, called neuroadaptation. Whenever the dosage in the blood goes down, they are now adapted to taking more pills.

About the opioid epidemic and the role of Big Pharma

Pharmaceutical marketing spent more than 26 billion USD in 2012. This consisted of drug representatives visiting doctor’s offices and giving hand-outs of free samples to physicians. There were promotional mailings, advertisements, direct-to-consumer advertising and educational and promotional meetings. In addition, pharmaceutical marketing included sponsoring clinical trials. In 1980 there was still an opinion that pain drugs would be harmless and in the majority of cases would not be the cause for abuse.

Purdue Pharma, the producer of the pain pill OxyContin, was caught in secretly pushing the sales of OxyContin in order to sell more of their drug suboxone, which helps with drug withdrawal.

A law suit against Purdue Pharma brought the  “project Tango” to light.

Three myths about drug addiction

Myth #1: Opioids work for chronic pain

The pain pill producers have been pushing for the concept that pain pills would work for chronic pain. However, clinical studies showed that pain pills will only work for acute pain and when it becomes chronic pain, pills against pain become less reliable. People who take pain pills for chronic pain enter into a vicious cycle. They need to take more pain pills to experience relief from pain. But they often do not realize that the drug withdrawal pain is what gets them into seeking more drugs.

Purdue stated this:“We now know that many patients with chronic, non-malignant pain respond very well to opioids. The barriers to vastly improved treatment for hundreds of thousands of people in pain, are simply the misinformation and prejudice of doctors, pharmacists and regulatory bodies.” Purdue Physicians’ Pain Management Speaker Training Program, April 1997

Myth #2: When it comes to opioids, no dose is too high and no duration is too long

This reflects what Purdue says to increase its pain medication sales.“Opioids are effective, easily titrated, and have a favorable benefit-to-risk ratio. Large doses of opioids may be necessary to control pain if it is severe, and extended courses may be necessary if the pain is chronic.” Purdue Physicians’ Pain Management Speaker Training Program, April 1997

Evidence from unbiased researchers show that opioids taken in high doses and taken over long periods of time harm patients.

Patients develop cardiac arrhythmias, depression and may commit suicide. Other symptoms are  constipation, addiction, cognitive impairment, hormonal imbalances and  death. In addition, opioids can cause an annoying skin hypersensitivity.

Research further showed that gradual opioid withdrawal improves chronic pain (2017 study by Frank et al.)

Myth # 3: Less than 1% will get addicted to pain pills

Purdue stated:
“Contrary to our teaching, addiction is very rare and possibly nonexistent as a result of treating such patients with opioids.” Purdue Physicians’ Pain Management Speaker Training Program, April 1997

Here is the truth: A meta-analysis of 38 studies showed that people abused pain pills on average between 21 and 29%. Addiction rates were between 8% and 12%. These figures likely are under estimates. The authors said that the real figure of opioid abuse is likely about 40%.

Poor people treated differently

Poor people on Medicaid in the US receive twice the rate of opioids as do non-Medicaid patients. But Medicaid patients die at 6-times the rate from prescription overdoses. Often patients receive a prescription for pain pills and also a prescription for benzodiazepines. The doctor prescribes benzodiazepines for sleep problems or anxiety. Drug interactions of two potentially addicting drugs likely are more detrimental on the long-term.

Examples of a doctor’s visit (YouTube display)

Dr. Lembke played a YouTube video where she was role-playing her previous behavior as a supportive physician who prescribed opioids to patients (drug-seeking patient and supportive physician).

However, she said that she learnt from experience. In the meantime, when she finds out from a computer program that a patient is deceiving her, she behaves differently (doctor non-supportive towards a doctor-shopping drug addict).

About the Opioid Epidemic

About the Opioid Epidemic

Conclusion about the opioid epidemic 

The topic of opioid addiction is multifaceted. I summarized a lecture presented at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019 by Dr. Lembke. She talked about the opioid epidemic and the difficulties keeping the science of opioids separated from the marketing by Big Pharma. Three myths of Big Pharma were analyzed and on every occasion the truth was the opposite of the myth. Chronic pain does not respond to opioids, yet many physicians keep on prescribing these drugs. Medicaid does not help poor patients. They get twice the opioid prescriptions as non-Medicaid patients get. But Medicaid patients die at 6-times the rate from prescription overdoses. There are many unanswered questions regarding opioids. Hopefully, more judicious prescribing by physicians and alternative ways of treating pain by chiropractors, physiotherapist and acupuncturists will gradually improve the situation.

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Jan
11
2020

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a presentation in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2019 where he stated that centenarians are positive thinkers. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. The topic of his talk was “Positive Psychological Attitudes of Centenarians “.

Dr. Hertoghe is an endocrinologist in Belgium. Dr. Hertoghe took an interest in people above the age of 100. He felt that these people are special people with a very optimistic outlook on life. He went on to study the literature about this topic in detail and this is what this talk was about.

The oldest man, Gustav Gerneth died at 114 years 7 days in Germany (Oct. 22, 2019). The oldest female is Japan’s Kane Tanaka at 117 years (birthday Jan. 2,1903).

So, what is their secret to age that well? Here is what Dr. Hertoghe found out about centenarians.

Attributes of centenarians

Centenarians have a will to live. They adapt to changes; they have a sense of purpose, and they stay active. Other psychological features show that they have is a positive mood and they avoid stress and anxiety. Another important attribute is self-determination. They are very sociable, have close family ties, love their relationships and often have a strong religious faith. There is a connection between their basic values and beliefs and their spirituality. Centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. Centenarians have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old.

In the following I am reviewing the details that Dr. Hertoghe gave. He covered 13 subtopics regarding causes of longevity in centenarians.

The will to live

It takes courage to grow old and all centenarians have this. They say “Life is worth living”. They have a certain resiliency in a world that has an obsession about youth. Despite negative experiences they had to overcome they do not give up and they enjoy life as much as they can. A Finnish study examined 400 individuals aged 75-90 and followed them for 10 years. Group 1 who wished to live less than 5 years had a mortality rate of 68%. Group 2 wished to live for 5-10 years. They had a mortality of 45.6%. The last group, group 3 wanted to live more than 10 years. Their mortality was only 33.3%. Be careful what you wish for!

Adaptability

This describes the capacity to overcome adversity and your ability to adjust. In a study of 7400 Chinese centenarians’ resilience to changes was measured with psychometric psychological tests. The majority of subjects did not qualify for being resilient. Only 9% of male centenarians and 6% of female centenarians had the resiliency where they qualified for high adaptability. This high resilience group was associated with 2%-4% lower mortality risk. They had a 36%-55% higher odds of not developing cognitive impairment and they rated themselves as being in good health and having a “good life” satisfaction. These resilient centenarians had a 7%-12% higher probability of not developing a physical disability. Short-term health decline was not associated with these high resilient centenarians.

A sense of purpose

Centenarians can still contribute to society. Tao Porchon-Lynch turned 100 in 2014. She opened the Westchester Institute of Yoga in 1982 and is still practicing yoga. There are many ways how centenarians express a sense of purpose. Males often work in their old job, but only part-time. They may help with babysitting the great-grandchildren. Others do volunteer service. Still others may enrol in a university and study what they always wanted to do.

In a 2016 publication people older than 65 were followed between February 2011 and November 2014. Those who had neither hobbies or a purpose in life did not fare well. They had a risk of mortality of 2.08-fold compared to those with a sense of purpose. Dr. Hertoghe provided 9 more references regarding studies that showed the same finding.

Remaining active

If a centenarian remains active and moves about several hours per day, the body functions are preserved. Anna Mary Robertson Moses who was known by her nickname “Grandma Moses” took up painting at age 78. She died at age 101 in 1961.

Positive emotions

One study of 54 Ashkenazi Jewish older adults (aged 98-107) compared those with positive emotions to those with negative emotions. The researchers noted that a positive attitude about life allowed centenarians to live longer.

A study involving 2282 Mexican Americans aged 65 to 99 showed that positive affect scores were a predictor for the following. Subjects with a high positive affect had a 52% lower probability of becoming physically disabled. They were 36% less likely than the negative controls to lose their walking speed. In addition, they were 47% less likely to die during the two-year observation period than their negative controls.

Nurses’ Health Study and Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study

Two studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study measured optimism. The researchers found that those with the highest optimism scores had a 1.5-fold higher probability in women and 1.7-fold in men to survive to age 85. This was compared to a control with the lowest optimism scores. Dr. Hertoghe provided 19 more studies that showed the effects of positive emotions regarding long term survival. For brevity reasons I will not dwell on them here.

Better stress management

Centenarians avoid excessive stress and attempt to relax instead.  It has been known since the ground-breaking work by Dr. Hans Selye that stress undermines longevity. By using relaxation methods intermittently one can reduce the stress response, which normalizes the excessive ACTH production in the pituitary gland and the concomitant cortisol production in the adrenal glands.

Self-determination

Long-living people have a strong willpower and are determined to succeed with what they want. They have a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Centenarians have concerns for others, but they also have a healthy regard for themselves. Dr. Hertoghe provided 4 references to illustrate this, but for brevity reasons I will omit them here.

Social involvement

Centenarians have an active social life. They are involved with their family, with the community including often church communities. Sociability has a 2.3-fold higher probability of survival (mortality reduced by 57% due to sociability).

Practicing religion

Those who are centenarians were often raised in religious families. They developed a strong faith in God. A common theme among centenarians is that they trust in God and believe it is His will that they lived a long life. They also believe that eventually God will call them “home” when He is ready for them. Centenarians who practice religion have a strong belief in an afterlife, which sustains them to live and they accept death when it comes. In a 2017 study 18,370 participants aged 50 and older were interviewed in 2004 and followed for all-cause mortality to 2014. Regular church attendants had a mortality that was 40% less than those who did not attend. Dr. Hertoghe provided 20 more references that showed similar findings.

Spiritual involvement

Attributes of spiritual involvement are high ethical principles, resilience and hope that everything will turn out OK. Dr. Hertoghe cited from 7 different references that the average effect of spirituality leads to a 2- to 4-fold greater survival over 17 years.

A feeling of freedom

This makes centenarians less concerned what other people think of them. Dr. Helen Langner, a psychiatrist, still does a part-time psychiatric practice at age 100. She says about a feeling of freedom: “In old age, there’s often a sense of personal freedom because there is less pressure of a career or the responsibilities of work or raising a

family. It can and should be a time for people to do the things that are important to them and a time to enjoy. “

A feeling of youth

Many centenarians are young at heart. Even though they may look physically old, they don’t feel old in their heart.

What is the centenarian spirit?

When people are older than 100 years, they often have a mix of humor and eccentricity; they express emotions openly and they are happy people. They accept the death of spouses, siblings and significant others.

By the way, humor has a strong predictive survivor value. In a study that researchers conducted over 15 years, there was a clear positive effect of humor regarding mortality. A sense of humor reduced the all-cause mortality by 48%. In women humor lowered mortality regarding cardiovascular disease by 73%. Humor reduced death due to infections in women by 83%. Men had a non-significant reduction of all‐cause mortality by 12% and a significant lower mortality due to infections by 74%.

Dr. Hertoghe cited three more publications that showed the power of humor in reducing disease and disability.

Jeanne Louise Calment 

As an illustration for humor Dr. Hertoghe introduced Jeanne Louise Calment to the audience. She was a French woman who broke the record for being the oldest centenarian in the world.  Jeanne Calment died on August 4, 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. She was asked by someone: “Why do you live so long?” She replied: “Because God has forgotten me…” Next question: “How do you consider your future life?” “Very, very short”. Last question:” What do you think of your wrinkles?” “The only wrinkle I have is the one I am sitting on”.

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Conclusion

Centenarians have certain attributes that make them more resilient than others who die earlier. They have a will to live, an ability to adjust, a sense of purpose and they stay active. Their psychological make-up is such that they have a positive mood and they tend to avoid stress and anxiety. They have a sense of self-determination. They are very sociable, have close family ties, love relationships with people around them, and often have a strong religious faith. Their spirituality has a connection to their basic values and beliefs. Centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. They have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old. But they also have humor as documented above with the oldest woman that lived. She was 122 years and 164 days old when she died in 1997.

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Mar
09
2019

Live The Life That We Evolved For

A review article at CNN by a psychiatrist recommends that we live the life that we evolved for. Dr. Arash Javanbakht, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI explains that man lived on this planet only since 200,000 years. But it takes about 1 million years for evolutionary changes to take place. As a result of this we tend to still behave in our lives the way we may have reacted 10,000 years ago. It is useful to think back of us being hunters and gatherers.

Anxiety, an ancient emotion

Anxiety, for instance, is an emotion that goes far back to 10,000 years ago when humans had to be part of the tribe. If an opposite tribe was fighting them chances were high that they could get killed. Even if your own tribe did no longer like you, there was a strong possibility that you were driven out or killed. This left us with an inheritance going back many millennia of anxiety. In modern life though it is the boss who does not like something you did. It could be a deadline for a school or college project that makes us anxious or some political news. The reasons have changed, but anxiety is still there!

Live the life that we evolved for: assess what we eat

Food was very scarce 10,000 years ago. When the tribe finally caught some prey, there was a feast where fatty food, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds were eaten. Refined sugars were not available. You did not know when the next time would come where you had ample food. Today we still behave this way: we eat what we can and eat some more. The only problem is that there is no longer the pattern of famine orfeast. Instead there is easy access to the fridge with all kinds of food. We also have access to fast food places. And we drink sodas, eat candies and other sweets. Eventually we end up fat and fatigued.

Live the life that we evolved for: which way do we move?

Our ancestors had to run and walk many miles a day to find food. They may have been attacked by wild animals and had to flee. They also needed to chase a prey for food. Constant movement was the order of the day. What are we doing today? We did not evolve to step into a car and drive to work. We also did not evolve to sit at a desk from 9AM to 5PM. In the evening we sit in front of the TV or lie on a couch eating munchies and drinking beer.

Our modern life

It is no wonder that we gain weight, that our heart and lungs do not get conditioned, and that our muscles are a pile of mush. We need to think back what our bodies were built to do. Perhaps a long walk would be healthier than sitting all the time. Some of us do not mind to visit a gym daily and build an exercise routine into the day. This mimics the activities of the hunter/gatherers and is a lot better for our bodies.

Live the life that we evolved for: sleep problems

Many people today have problems to fall asleep. The sun had 100% control of the diurnal rhythm in the past. Now we have artificial lightning, blue light from TV’s, computer screens and iPhones. We are constantly getting stimulated. In addition, the stories we read or see on TV get us excited, so that the stress hormone, cortisol is released and melatonin, the sleeping hormone gets suppressed. Taken all this together, it is not really a wonder we have problems sleeping. Relaxation methods can help us to tone down before we go to sleep. You may want to meditate, do self-hypnosis, practice some yoga or just lie still and relax, clearing your mind, and more importantly switch the TV off and put the computer on “sleep”. Sleep for you comes easier this way.

Live the life that we evolved for: our fears

10,000 years ago fear was a normal part of our lives. There were predators you had to fear. There were tribal wars where you had to fight for your survival. You had to fear starvation. The fight/flight response was a reality. Compare this to our lives now. We may fear an exam, a meeting at work or agonize what to wear for a party. We have no real existential fears unless you live in a war zone. Many people may feel that they do not have enough fear in their lives, so they get drawn to horror and mystery stories, computer games, haunted houses etc. But this is fodder for anxiety!

Live the life that we evolved for: how to feel better

When we adopt a pet, let’s say a dog, we understand that it needs food, exercise, love and sleep. But when it comes to the human animal in us, we find it hard to understand that we need that too. In fact, we need to live the life that we evolved for. We need some form of exercise all the time, because that is what we were meant to do 10,000 years ago and our bodies are still built for that. When you walk the dog, you may make new friends or even a date. If you go to the gym, you realize that your muscles work better and begin to make your body fitter. You will also feel better about yourself. You appreciate that your mood is lifting, and you feel the increased energy and strength.

Dr. Arash Javanbakht said about the bottom line:

“If we treated our body the way responsible dog owners treated their dog, we would live a much happier life.”

Live The Life That We Evolved For

Live The Life That We Evolved For

Conclusion

It takes people 1 million years for evolutionary changes. We do not change our behavior fast. Dr. Arash Javanbakht, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI compared our lives now with the lives of the hunters/gatherers in the past. People ate fatty food, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds when a prey was hunted. But then there was an episode of fasting. People then had to walk and run all day long to catch some food again or they had to run to escape from a predator. Nowadays we use cars for transportation, use the elevator to get upstairs and walk from the table at home to the TV set. If we do not move enough and we eat the wrong foods, we do not turn fit but we turn fat.

Our modern lives

We also use LED lights from TV’s, computers, iPhones and tablets that interfere with our diurnal hormone rhythm. It is not about going back to sending smoke signals, but it is all about setting limits and when to stop and disengage from social media and the phone. Not setting limits is part of why we have problems to sleep. Stress can also be a factor of insomnia. Dr. Javanbakht says that we need to relearn how our bodies were built. We need proper nutrition without high-energy carbs. In addition we need regular exercise that will help us to relax and feel more energy. Anxieties will lift and we will feel better about ourselves.

Nov
03
2018

When you are sleepless

You are not alone when you are sleepless. Insomnia is a widespread problem in society.

Previous review of the topic of insomnia

I have reviewed the topic of insomnia before in a blog.

Briefly I pointed out that in some people there is a mutation of the gene that controls the circadian sleep rhythm. It is called the CRY1mutation. Some people have sleep disturbances from working night shifts. I mentioned the blue light of electronics that is produced by the TV screens or computer screens. The more you are exposed to it, the more it stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. This undermines the melatonin production, and as a result the person finds it extremely difficult to fall asleep. Children playing with i-phones, tablets or watching children’s programs on television can have sleep disturbances from the blue light. Blue has the frequency that over stimulates the brain and interferes with melatonin production. Drug and alcohol abuse can also interfere with the normal circadian sleep rhythm and cause insomnia.

Hormone factors of insomnia

For natural sleep to occur, we need melatonin which the pineal gland releases in the evening. It initiates and maintains sleep during the night. The natural opponent of melatonin is cortisol, the stress hormone, from the adrenal glands. Both hormones need to be in balance to allow you to sleep normally. Shortly before we wake up in the morning melatonin production goes down and cortisol production is up. Cortisol levels are low at night and high during the day. So it is cortisol that keeps us going throughout the day. But an excess of cortisol from chronic stress can also interfere with falling asleep and sleeping through the night.

Stress and insomnia

When we feel stressed, cortisol production goes way up. This has consequences regarding our sleep pattern. It can interfere with falling asleep, causes us to wake up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and can give us problems falling asleep again. Chronic stress exposure leads to high cortisol production by the adrenal glands, which in turn will lower melatonin and cause sleep disturbances. Older people (above the age of 50) have very little melatonin production left, as there is an age-related decline of melatonin production. The melatonin production is highest in younger years and lowest in older age.

What to do when you are sleepless

There are several over-the-counter remedies, which in combination can be quite effective.

Melatonin for when you are sleepless

Melatonin (3 mg at bedtime) is a good start to see what it does for your sleeplessness. Taking a small amount of melatonin at bedtime we can re-establish the balance between cortisol and melatonin, which helps the circadian hormone rhythm and sleep pattern to come back. Some people wake up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to fall asleep again. If this happens at 3 AM, a good remedy at this time is to take another 3 mg of melatonin. Melatonin stays in the system for about 4 hours. Light during the day de-activates the effect, when light hits the retinas upon opening your eyes. You should not exceed 6 mg of total melatonin overnight. Otherwise it will interfere with the balance of cortisol and melatonin, lowering cortisol levels, which would rob you of energy during the day.

Phosphorylated serine (Seriphos)

A supplement that is freely available in the US (but not in Canada) consists of a simple amino acid. As this link shows (second item in the link) phosphorylated serine Seriphos) helps to down-regulate cortisol levels (lowering them). This means that melatonin gets the upper hand and you can sleep again.

The dosage for phosphorylated serine (Seriphos) varies from person to person, but will be in the range of 1000 mg to 3000 mg in the evening. After about 30 days the circadian rhythm may have recovered and you can stop the Seriphos. A one-day pause is required once a month for resetting the hormone receptors. Should you still have problems sleeping, you can continue with it for another month and pause again for a day. Seriphos has very few side effects.

Valerian root capsules

Another useful sleep aid is valerian root (as capsules). 500 mg to 1000 mg will help you to relax. It does not have the side effect of feeling groggy the next morning.

Other considerations when you are sleepless

Hormone problems like thyroid abnormalities (too much or too little thyroid hormones) are issues that your doctor has to investigate. Women in menopause often have sleep disturbances due to a lack of estrogen and progesterone. A knowledgeable healthcare professional is able to take care of that by prescribing bioidentical hormone creams.

When men approach andropause (the equivalent of menopause in women), they lose testosterone production. This can cause insomnia. The doctor can verify the hormone loss by a blood test. Replacement with either bioidentical testosterone cream or injections will rebalance testosterone levels. Insomnia may disappear. It is essential not to overdose testosterone, as this can also cause insomnia.

Sleep lab for when you are sleepless

When home remedies do not help, it may be time to check into one of the sleep labs to diagnose the kind of sleep disorder you are suffering from. Here is an overview what is happening there.

Essentially you get hooked up to monitors and are encouraged to just sleep as you would normally do. The physician in charge of the lab will later explain to you what the monitors showed, and tell you what type of sleep. According to the findings your doctor will recommend what measures are appropriate to remedy the situation.

Treatment for insomnia when over-the-counter remedies fail

Short acting benzodiazepams

When anxiety is not a problem, but only insomnia is (falling asleep or staying asleep) lorazepam 1 mg (Ativan) or temazepam 10 mg (Restoril) are shorter acting benzodiazepams that will help. It is not a permanent but a short “emergency break” for intermittent use, so that the GABA benzodiazepine receptors have time to recover. Otherwise, with continuous use tolerance would set in. This means higher and higher doses of the sleep medication would be necessary to achieve the same effect. Another non-benzodiazepine is Zolpidem 5 mg (Ambien). Even though this medication is not a benzodiazepine, it works on stimulating the same GABA benzodiazepine receptors.

Longer acting benzodiazepams combined with antidepressant Trazodone

For several years the combination of a small amount of the longer acting benzodiazepams, clonazepam (Rivotril) at 0.5 mg combined with a small amount of the anti-depressant trazodone (Oleptro or Desyrel) at 50 mg at bedtime has been has been in use quite successfully.

But there is a concern of drowsiness caused by Rivotril as this link shows.

Trazodone, which is an antidepressant has a sleep cycle restoring effect at low doses and has less side effects, because it is used at ¼ the dose for a full-blown depression. Males are often complaining that it reduces their sex drive, and it may cause erectile dysfunction.

Clonazepam side effects

Rivotril was originally in use to control epileptic seizures and anxiety. The combination therapy for sleep disorders uses Rivotril at ¼ of the regular dose. Although it is good as a sleep aid, it has a long half-life and stays in the system well into the next day. This may present as sleepiness and cause falls in elderly patients because of clouded attention. Replacement by one of the medium long acting benzodiazepams could be the solution. A drug pause for 1 day will help to reset the GABA benzodiazepine receptors and prevent tolerance from happening. Knowing all those effects and side effects it is wiser to reserve the use of these medication strictly when everything else has failed!

When you are sleepless

When you are sleepless

Conclusion

As I mentioned before, you are not alone when you are sleepless. Insomnia can present as having problems to fall asleep, but it may present in others as a problem in the middle of the night waking up and having problems going back to sleep again.

I described non-conventional methods to help you to sleep using melatonin, Seriphos and valerian root capsules. If this fails, a sleep lab investigation may be necessary to get to the bottom of your insomnia problem. Physicians often prescribe short acting benzodiazepams like lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam 10 mg (Restoril).

Other possibilities to treat insomnia

There are other possibilities to treat insomnia, with a combination of a low-dose antidepressant (trazodone, brand name Oleptro in the US) and low-dose anti-seizure and anti-anxiety drug clonazepam (Klonopin or Rivotril). Anxiety can often be a big component in insomnia and this treats both. On the other hand, anxiety is a separate problem, which needs professional treatment. There can be side effects of sleepiness from clonazepam and men complain of a lack of sex drive and erectile dysfunction from trazodone. Help is available when you are sleepless. But you need professional help to work on the problem and find the solution.

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Oct
13
2018

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

The distribution of obesity in women and men is different, when they gain weight on a low fat/high carb diet. The distribution of fat follows a pear shape in women due to fat accumulated around the hips. In males excessive fat accumulates around the waist, which gives them an apple shape appearance.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have done experiments using a mouse model. They wanted to see what changes take place when obesity develops. Djurdjica Coss was the lead researcher of the study from the UCR School of Medicine.

The reason why this study was thought to be necessary

Many men and women have relatively normal weights until their mid 50’s. But when women approach menopause, they tend to accumulate fat in the thigh areas (pear-shape obesity). When their weight continues to rise, they also accumulate weight in the abdominal area. It is general knowledge that the fat in the abdominal region is metabolically more active producing inflammatory kinins.

Men above the age of 50 or 60 are also accumulating fat, but typically in the abdominal area right away. The name for this is apple-shape obesity. Unfortunately this is the fat we just discussed, metabolically active with inflammatory kinins. It is known to be the cause for heart attacks and strokes as it accelerates hardening of the arteries in the whole body. Dr. Coss found in doing experiments on mice that estrogen plays a major role in the development of obesity as discussed below.

The mouse experiments to study the development of obesity

The research team of Dr. Coss compared a group of mice that had their ovaries taken out. The ovaries in females are the main source of estrogens. They fed them a high-fat diet comparing their weight gain to that of male controls on the same diet. Obesity leads to a change in metabolism, called metabolic syndrome. This condition has an association with the production of inflammatory substances originating from the abdominal fat accumulation. Both male and female mice underwent a series of blood tests. They were also physically inspected. The female mice had the pear-type accumulation of fat, the males an apple-type fat accumulation.

More details about what obesity did to the experimental mice

In males there was a reduction of sperm count in the obese group as well as low muscle strength. In addition they were low in energy, had a lack of libido and their testosterone levels were low. The sperm number and the testosterone level had fallen to 50% of what they were when their weight was normal. This is what happens in human obese males as well. The inflammatory substances, that the abdominal fat creates, broke down the blood/brain barrier, and this affected the brain.

Among the female mice there was no neuroinflammation in the brain. There was no change in their hormones, which was quite a remarkable finding. This was a surprise and points out that beside estrogens there are other mechanisms to protect females from the effects of obesity.

Brain inflammation from obesity

Dr. Cross explained that in male mice the fat accumulation was of the apple-type. Female mice had the pear type fat accumulation. The fatty tissue in females did not release inflammatory kinins. On the other hand, the abdominal fat in the males released inflammatory kinins. These attracted macrophages, which is a cell type of the immune system. Activated macrophages now became aggressive and broke down the blood/brain barrier. This resulted in neuroinflammation of the brain. The brain normally is an immune protected site because of the blood/brain barrier. When this breaks down because of the action of inflammatory kinins from abdominal fat, the brain starts to develop memory loss like in Alzheimer’s disease.

Women before and after menopause

In females who still produce enough estrogen, fat from the pear type obesity distribution does not produce inflammatory kinins. This explains the relative protection of premenstrual women from heart attacks and neuroinflammation. But menopausal women start accumulating fat around the abdomen as well. At that point they can also develop inflammatory kinins and neuroinflammation. This is why the heart attack and stroke rate increases in postmenopausal women with apple-shape obesity.

Other studies supporting the effects of obesity in men and women 

Inflammatory substances in obese people affecting their brain

This publication shows that in a group of 141 neurologically healthy obese individuals the anti-inflammatory defense in the brain was weakened. Subsequently, various brain conditions developed because of the inflammatory substances affecting the brain.

How obesity affects your body functions

Obesity affects the body in various ways. It is particularly the apple type obesity that causes inflammatory substances circulating in the blood. A multitude of conditions can develop from this.

  • The cholesterol shows an increase of the bad LDL cholesterol and a reduction of the good HDL cholesterol.
  • The blood pressure rises. Without treatment high blood pressure can cause strokes.
  • Type-2 diabetes often develops because the insulin production cannot keep up with the demand. A second factor is a loss of insulin receptor sensitivity. As a result the insulin receptors of the body cells become resistant to insulin.
  • The gallbladder often develops stones, which may require gallbladder surgery.
  • Some cancers are increasing in frequency: endometrial cancer, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver cancer.
  • Anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are more common, in part because of the neuro-inflammatory processes that I mentioned before.
  • Body pain and problems with physical functioning: obese people have more back pains, hip and knee pains from the extra weight. Slim people are less likely to have these problems. Obese people require more hip and knee replacement surgeries for end-stage arthritis than slim people.

Difference of metabolism in pear-shape versus apple-shape obesity

Back to the pear versus apple distribution of fatty tissue in obesity. diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes as the apple type obesity. The difference in metabolism between the two is explained in detail here.

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Conclusion

You may have heard that women tend to accumulate fat more around their hips, possibly because of hormonal factors. This is a pear-type fat distribution. In men who turn obese the fat accumulation follows an apple pattern. This type has a more aggressive metabolism in the fat tissue with inflammatory kinins accessing the blood circulation. It also affects the blood/brain barrier. Normally this barrier does not allow proteins to enter the brain. But when a person is obese, inflammatory kinins and proteins can enter the brain freely causing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Many obese people also develop type-2 diabetes leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Low fat diet from the 1980’s

The low fat diet of the 1980’s has caused a lot of obesity around the world. The problem is that merchants who provide low fat products have replaced fat with refined sugar. The liver converts refined sugar into fatty acids and triglycerides. These end up as fatty tissue. Given enough time this is causing obesity. Those who are obese need to cut out refined sugar in its many disguises. In addition they also need to cut down their starchy food intake. In the gut starchy foods break down into sugar.

When you cut out sugar and starchy foods, a person will typically lose 50 pounds in 3 months, at which point they have lost the label of “obesity”. They will also feel more energetic. The best advise for you is to maintain your weight loss with a Mediterranean diet. Research studies have shown that it is beneficial and anti-inflammatory.

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May
12
2018

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Sex usually causes positive feelings, but how is it that sex stimulates your brain? Recently this publication reviewed exactly what is going on. The reason both sexes seem to seek out sex is the fact that it is sex that stimulates the brain a certain way, which is pleasing to both partners. Due to the stimulation the brain will release hormones that make us feel good. Following sex there is post-coital afterglow for a period of time, which I have addressed under this link before. Here I am reviewing what physical stimulation of the brain takes place during sex. Next I will touch on the hormonal changes that happen during and after sex.

Diagnostic tests that show that sex stimulates your brain

Researchers performed  2005 positron emission tomography (PET scan) studies  during sex at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. They studied males males while they were having sex. The question was what part of the brain would be receiving stimulation. Another question was, what part of the brain was resting during intercourse? They found that the right hemisphere and particularly one area, the right posterior insula received stimulation, when the penis was stimulated. This area allows the man to feel relaxed and it reduces pain perception. The secondary somatosensory cortex also showed stimulation on PET scans. The stimulation of the secondary somatosensory cortex is what carries him to the height of his arousal during intercourse. The hypothalamus, which also received stimulatioh with the initiation of sex, was very quiet during the active part of lovemaking. The thalamus and right amygdala were also quiet during that phase on PET scans.

More on feelings and losing oneself during the height of sex

The same group from the Netherlands did a 2003 study using PET scans to find out what happens during his ejaculation. Male subjects had sexual stimulation (penile stimulation) by their female partners. At the time of his ejaculation the PET scan showed increased brain activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the cerebellum. The frontal brain was remarkably quiet. Other authors point out that there are profound hormone releases during lovemaking. The release of neurotransmitters like noradrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin is taking place during orgasm. Other hormones like dopamine, opioids and serotonin join the hormonal symphony of lovemaking. This leads to detachedness at the height of the orgasm, to emotional closeness and pair bonding toward the end of lovemaking. The authors of the 2003 Netherlands study concluded:

“Our results correspond with reports of cerebellar activation during heroin rush, sexual arousal, listening to pleasurable music, and monetary reward.”

Female orgasm and brain studies showing that sex stimulates your brain

It is only fair that research also studied females, similarly to the male studies. Functional MRI scans were part of a 2017 study from Newark, NJ.

It showed a much broader stimulation of brains in females than in males. Female orgasm includes stimulation of the prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, the insula, the cingulate gyrus, and the cerebellum. These areas take part in the processing of emotions and of pain. There is also some metabolic processing and decision-making. With the male ejaculation study discussed above we had seen that there was no activity in the frontal brain of the male. At this stage of his sexual arousal there is no place for decision-making for the man. Women, however, are still able to think while having an orgasm. Other studies have shown that the rhythmic sexual stimulation during sex can get women into an altered state of consciousness that feels like a trance.

Hormonal activity during and after sex documenting that sex stimulates your brain

We learned already about the profound hormone releases during the height of his ejaculation and her orgasm (noradrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin). But other hormones were also part of it: dopamine, opioids and serotonin. There are two hormones that are particularly important: endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins are part of the natural endorphins that the brain makes. They help us to feel good and they minimize pain. Their production takes place in the hypothalamus, one of the main hormone producing glands of the brain. The hypothalamus also produces the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which releases ACTH in the pituitary gland. This and cortisol are the stress hormones that make us tense. With the release of endorphins during sex, the stress reaction becomes less. More sex means less stress.

Oxytocin, the cuddling hormone

Oxytocin from the posterior pituitary gland is the cuddling hormone. It is part of the symphony of hormones that show a release during sex. Oxytocin makes you feel close to your partner, but also very relaxed. It may be responsible for the afterglow that I mentioned  in the beginning of my review that can last for up to 2 days after sex.

When sex is painful

Sex can be a bad experience, particularly for women. Many women have experienced sexual abuse in the past, and when they grow up to mature women, the past bad memories often linger on. This is called postcoital dysphoria (PCD). A 2011 Australian/US study has studied this. 32.9% of the students of that study reported ever having experienced this. There were also cases of childhood sexual abuse that were more severe. The authors also found that sexual dysfunction was worse when co-existing anxiety or depression disorders were present.

Better sleep after sex

Prolactin, another brain hormone is released during sex as well. It is responsible for calming the frontal cortex down. This leads to better sleep, but in older men it also causes better cognitive functioning. Prolactin, released during sex is thought to improve memory and to improve cognitive impairment.

In women testosterone and oxytocin are released during sex. This can improve libido (testosterone) and makes you feel like cuddling.

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Conclusion

Sex leads to a battery of hormones that the brain releases after ejaculation and/or orgasm. Both partners experience their own detachedness, which is due to a trance-like mental state where the partners experience each other intensely. The cuddling hormone oxytocin encourages bonding and contributes to a feeling of an intense closeness to each other. Endorphins release stress and amplify the emotional high. Brain studies on copulating couples have shown different stimulation patterns of parts of the brain in women and in men.

Differences in how men and women are wired

Men cannot think at the height of lovemaking because their frontal brain is completely blocked. Women, however, are able to continue to experience all emotions and are able to think at the same time. Having said that, women can easily enter into a trance from the repetitive movements of lovemaking. Whatever it is that we experience during and after sex, it is due to the relationship we have with each other, the past experience, the present experience and the hormone symphony that occurs during all of this. Enjoy what’s going on!

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May
05
2018

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

Chances are you heard about the benefits of drinking green tea to reduce heart disease. But the polyphenols of green tea also prevent cancer, depression and cognitive decline.

Green tea lowers cardiovascular mortality

A study in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy consisted of 807 men and women aged 65 years and older. They had urine tests for metabolites of green tea in the beginning of the study. The study went on for 12 years. 274 participants died, which was 34% of the total study group. Tests measured the total urinary polyphenol (TUP) concentration in both groups, the survivors and the participants who died. Those participants whose TUP was in the highest tertile of the TUP values had the lowest all-cause mortality. And those participants whose TUP was in the lowest tertile had the highest all-cause mortality. 

High blood pressure and stroke

A Taiwanese study from 2004 examined the blood pressure of 1507 subjects. There were 711 men and 796 women with a recent diagnosis of  high blood pressure. The investigators looked at tea consumption (green tea and oolong tea) and blood pressure reduction. They found that those who drank 120 to 599 mL/day of green tea or oolong tea decreased their blood pressure by 46%. Those who drank more than 600 mL/day of green tea or oolong tea lowered their blood pressure by 65%.

Another meta-study involving 194,965 people and 4378 strokes found that there was a reduction of strokes with increasing tea consumption. Those who drank 3 or 4 cups of green tea or black tea per day were the experimental group. Researchers compared them  to the control group that drank less than one cup of tea per day. The experimental group had a 21% lower risk of getting a stroke than the control group.

Cancer prevention more with black tea than with green tea

A meta-analysis of 18 studies from China showed that green tea and black tea consumption was beneficial for prevention of cardiovascular disease and for cancer prevention. The highest consumption of green tea reduced cardiovascular mortality by 33%. The highest black tea consumption lowered mortality by 12%. Cancer mortality turned out to be different. Green tea did not produce a reduction in mortality, but black tea lowered it by 21%.

Another study, this one from Shanghai, China, points out that there are 15 polyphenols in green tea that likely work on different target areas of the body. They target 200 different genes in humans affecting diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, muscular disease and inflammation.

Other cancers like prostate and breast cancer benefit from green tea

This study shows evidence that habitual green tea drinkers do prevent prostate cancer and breast cancer to a certain extent.

Another study investigates the effect of tea on health. One of the studies from the same authors have shown that the oxidative damage to cells from cigarette smoking can come out in a urine test. Those smokers who drank 4 cups of tea per day had a 31% decrease in their urinary biomarkers to indicate DNA damage. As DNA damage is often the first step in cancer development, these findings are important to note.

Cognitive effects of green tea consumption in dementia patients

A 2017 review of dietary supplements to improve cognitive impairment pointed out several supplements that will improve cognition. Green tea is one of them, but omega-3 fatty acids (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are also useful supplements to restore neuronal functioning.

A 2017 study from Basel, Switzerland found that green tea improved memory, reduced anxiety and activated the working memory, which could be made visible on functional MRI scans. These researchers also pointed out that green tea has this effect as a whole, you cannot attribute it to a single constituent. Separate tests of  caffeine or L-Theanine  showed that the beneficial effect was smaller than when green tea as a whole was tested.

2016 study on severe Alzheimer’s patients

This 2016 Iranian study looked at 30 patients with severe Alzheimer’s disease. A baseline assessment was first, and 2 months after taking 4 green tea pills daily another assessment followed. A blood test measured the oxidative stress before and after, so was the antioxidant level from the green tea. The oxidative stress test showed an improvement during the study. The antioxidant level in the blood was higher than before the start of the study. The cognitive function test improved only slightly.

A 2018 study from Singapore looked at the effect of drinking tea (black tea or green tea) regarding symptoms of anxiety or depression. In a group of 614 subjects who were elderly individuals, aged 60 years and above; 59% consumed tea for longer than 15 years. These tea-drinking people were significantly less depressed and significantly less anxious when they underwent psychological tests, compared to non-tea drinkers.

Depression and green tea consumption

There is a 2018 study from South Korea that looked at the link of beverages from 15 studies with depression. 347,691 participants were part  of  these 15 studies, and 20,572 cases of depression developed. Comparing a high consumption of tea or coffee to low consumption, the following statistics were the result: coffee consumption reduced depression by 27%, green tea consumption by 29%.

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

Conclusion

Bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants. But there are many more substances in green tea and coffee that are all beneficial for our health. One of the studies mentioned identified 15 polyphenols in green tea. But another study said that trying to identify one of the components as more active than the others would be a waste of time. They measured some of the factors by themselves and found that the overall effect was much smaller than green tea as a whole.

Other research has shown that the components of green tea activate several genes. This includes anti-inflammatory effects, prevention of heart attacks and strokes, lowering of blood pressure, anti-cancer effects, improvements of cognitive function, as well as improvement of depression and anxiety. As you can see the effect of green tea is diversified. Don’t hesitate to consume another cup of tea!

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Mar
31
2018

Self-Love Is Important

You need to appreciate that self-love is important, if you want stable mental health and well-being. Before you can take care of people around you, you need to practice self-love first. You cannot give love, if you don’t love yourself first. We get so busy in working hard, wanting to achieve goals and then surpass ourselves. We want to be perfect. But this is not possible without first looking after our own needs: again, self-love is important to be able to reach the goals you want to achieve.

Perfectionism can be harmful

Most of us were grew up  in the Western society thinking that perfectionism would be good for us. After all, we achieve things; we criticize ourselves and improve it even more; so finally we end up with our dream goal. What is the downside of perfectionism?

Perfectionism often comes with chronic stress, which can shorten our life span. Perfectionism leads to diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression and eating disorders. Depression can have a serious complication, namely suicide attempts and actual suicide. Perfectionists also often suffer from anxiety disorders that can make life miserable. Chronic stress together with perfectionism can weaken the immune system, which in turn can cause infections and even autoimmune diseases.

Moving away from perfectionism

The United Nations passed a resolution in 2012 saying, “pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.”

Psychologists also tell us that happiness is something we deserve to have; it is our right. A clinical psychologist in Vancouver, Canada, compares the inner critic of perfectionists to a “nasty adult beating the crap out of a tiny child”. We don’t have to beat ourselves up internally; it is not healthy for us. Don’t let the inner bully put yourself down for a minor thing that went wrong.

Start cultivating self-compassion. Self-compassion is not something that you have or do not have. According to psychologists self-compassion is something that you can learn.

The more you learn self-compassion, the less important perfectionism will be for you. You will still be productive and successful, but you will stop injuring yourself in the process.

Learning about self-compassion

Psychologists have researched how self-compassion can be developed. They even have invented an 8-week program that helps the client to build up self-compassion. These psychologists could measure a significant improvement of the level of self-compassion before taking the course and after completing it. According to Prof. Neff and associates there are three parts to self-compassion.

  • Self-kindness, which means treating yourself with understanding and forgiveness.
  • Recognition of one’s place in the shared humanity. This acknowledges that people are not perfect. It also means that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience.
  • Mindfulness, which means emotional balance and avoiding over identifying with painful emotions.

Listening to yourself

Dr. Kristin Neff has written a book that describes how to change your inner voice from a harsh voice to a softer, kinder internal voice. By becoming aware what your internal thoughts are, you can gradually change your internal talk. Profs. Neff and Germer have developed an 8-week course called “mindful self-compassion training”. In their own words “Self-compassion says, ‘Be kind to yourself in the midst of suffering and it will change.’ Mindfulness says, ‘Open to suffering with spacious awareness and it will change.'”

Part of the course is to learn how to deal with suffering when things go badly. In this case they recommend to their clients to repeat the following 3 phrases: “This is a moment of suffering,” “Suffering is a part of life,” and “May I be kind to myself.” This will take the sting away from the suffering and reduce the emotional pain.

Doubts about mindful self-compassion training?

You may have some doubts whether or not self-compassion training would work. But psychological tests regarding self-compassion ratings before and after the course have found a significant 43% difference. Similar compassion training can be found under this link.

These mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to down regulate the stress response. The hormones ACTH and cortisol in the blood were found to be much less in persons who had undergone self-compassion training. The training also was shown to increase heart rate variability, which is the body’s natural way to react to stress.

Not everybody is a good meditator. But apart from meditating there are other methods to recognize that self-love is important, as is self-compassion. You can write a letter to yourself, but pretend it comes from a close, loving friend. You could also write a letter that you pretend comes from you addressed to a person that you show compassion to.

Yoga to help you realize that self-love is important

Yoga is a great way to re-acquaint you with pleasures you experienced in childhood. Part of a yoga exercise can be “Mindful Eating”. You are simply refocusing your attention to the tastes that you may have taken for granted. Such a technique helps you to listen to yourself, become aware of your needs and train yourself in self-love and self-compassion. One of the top recommended Internet accessible yoga classes was this.

Self-love Is Important

Self-love Is Important

Conclusion

Perfectionism is widespread and is often taught in schools to be desirable. However, we become so good at this that it often turns into self-injurious behavior. We become harsh on ourselves and nothing is good enough to please us. And we expect perfection from people around us. We may even become abusive when they do not measure up to our expectations.

Dr. Kristin Neff has written a book that describes how to change your inner voice from a harsh voice to a softer, kinder internal voice. She also teaches an 8-week course at Harvard University how to develop self-compassion and self-love.

Mindful exercises in self-compassion

Mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to down regulate the stress response. It teaches you to deal with suffering when things go badly.

The bottom-line is to find your path away from perfectionism to a feeling of wholeness. And by achieving this we will free the negative energy of harsh and often unjustified criticism to give our best and succeed.

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Jul
15
2017

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Scientific papers describe how unhealthy added sugar is, so getting rid of sugar in your diet is the answer.

An article was published in CNN that describes a one-month sugar detox program.

Brooke Alpert, the co-author of the book “The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose the Weight — Look and Feel Great” describes the details of a sugar detox program.

 The first three days of sugar detox

You need to go cold turkey for three days to eliminate any sugar to break the addiction cycle. During this time you may experience anxiety, sugar craving and moodiness.

You must not consume any added sugars during the first 3 days, but also keep away from fruit. Avoid starchy vegetables. This includes corn, sweet potatoes, peas and butternut squash. You also need to avoid dairy, because of the milk sugar in it. In addition avoid grains and alcohol. “You’re basically eating protein, vegetables and healthy fats”, says Alpert. You would enjoy a breakfast with 3 eggs any style. Lunch contains 6 oz. of poultry, tofu or fish. Add a green salad. For dinner your helpings are bigger, but it would be similar to lunch, perhaps with added vegetables. Snacks can be 1 oz. of nuts or a few slices of bell peppers with hummus. Your beverages: unsweetened tea, black coffee or water.

People should avoid sweeteners according to Alpert. Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of Pediatrics and member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco agrees. He said that artificial sweeteners cause you to store more fat. Dr. Lustig added: “You also end up overeating later on to compensate for the increased energy storage”.

Day four of sugar detox

On day 4 the patient can reintroduce an apple. It will now taste a lot sweeter, because in the past sugar suppressed the natural fruit sugar taste. Full fat, unsweetened cheese and yogurt are also part of the diet. Alpert added: “Fat, fiber and protein slow the absorption of sugar, so taking out fat from dairy will make you absorb sugar faster.” Higher sugar content vegetables like carrots, snow peas and high-fiber crackers can be part of the diet in the second half of the first week.  Those who like it can also add three glasses of red wine.

Second week of sugar detox 

Add a serving of berries that are full of antioxidants. Also add an extra serving of dairy. You can also eat more starchy vegetables like winter squash and yams.

Third week of sugar detox

Barley, quinoa and oatmeal can now be added back. Grapes and clementines are now also allowable. Those who like wine can now add another glass of red wine. One ounce of dark chocolate per day can also be added. “Week three should be quite livable,” Alpert said.

Week four of sugar detox

You now can have two starches per day, like bread and rice. In addition you can enjoy high-fiber crackers. You can have 5 glasses of red wine per week. You may want to eat a sandwich. Once you have completed 31 days no fruit is off-limits. You can allow yourself the occasional indulgences like an ice cream or a piece of cake at a birthday party. “Because the addictive behavior is gone, having ice cream once or twice will not send you back to square one. The whole purpose is to give people control and ownership and a place for these foods in our life,” Alpert said.

Weight loss with sugar detox

There can be a lot of weight loss with a sugar detox; depending on how much sugar the person was consuming before the detox started. Alpert recalled that of 80 subjects who tested the sugar detox people lost between 5 and 20 pounds within 31 days. Many people reported that their belly fat was going and they had to readjust their belts. There were other things participants noted: brighter eyes, fewer dark circles around the eyes, clearer skin, more energy and not as many mood swings.

Many people are not properly educated; they reduce fat intake, but add sugar and start gaining weight. By cutting out sugar and adding healthy fats in their diet, they now feel satisfied. The sugar craving has disappeared.

Side effects of sugar detox

You may feel grumpy and weak. This likely is due to low blood sugar and a piece of fruit will help you overcome this. In other cases it could be due to too little fluid intake and when you drink some water, this feeling will pass. Make sure you have supportive family and friends through the first three-day of sugar detox. “You need people around you to help you be successful,” Dr. Lustig said. “The whole family has to do it together.” Some irritability is expected due to sugar and caffeine withdrawal. This will pass and get better with every day. There are persons who should not go on this program: diabetics, people who take medicine to control blood sugar and extreme athletes. Pregnant women should also not follow a sugar detox program.

Why it is important to limit sugar intake

The American Heart Association (AHA) clearly spelled out what the limits are for added sugars:

For men: a daily dose of 9 teaspoons of sugar from all foods,

For women: a daily dose of 6 teaspoons of sugar from all foods.

When you start reading labels, which I started to do since 2001, you realize that it is very easy to exceed these daily limits. What does this do? It makes your pancreas produce more insulin than is good for you. You start switching your metabolism into the metabolic syndrome, you gain weight, and you get inflammation. This is what the AHA is concerned about. You start developing high blood pressure; get high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and atheromatous plaques in your coronary and brain arteries. Eventually you come down with a heart attack or a stroke.

In the last 100 years sugar consumption per person has skyrocketed.

This has led to a disbalance of our diet and it is because of this that we are facing the obesity wave now. All I am saying is replace sugar with stevia extract, which to my knowledge does not have the undesirable side effects that other sweeteners do and eat a Mediterranean type diet, which we know is balanced.

Watch the maximum recommended sugar intake per day set by the American Heart Association and balance your meals, and you will do a lot better than on the Standard American diet. The Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory.

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Conclusion

We learnt about how a sugar detox can get you off sugar addiction. I also summarized why it is important to keep sugar consumption within limits set by the American Heart Association. Too much sugar can derange our metabolism, which is called metabolic syndrome. This can lead to diabetes. Eating a Mediterranean diet and keeping sugar intake low is the pathway to good health. It also keeps inflammation at bay.

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May
13
2017

Results Of Insomnia Studies

Results of insomnia studies are focusing on all angles of insomnia. We know for some time that the circadian rhythm is linked to deep REM sleep, which we only reach about 2 hours into our nightly sleep. There are several reasons why our normal sleep pattern can get disrupted.

1. Night owls have a CRY1 mutation

A recent publication on March 27, 2017 has detected a mutation of the human circadian clock called CRY1. This is a dominant gene that is responsible for delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD). People with this genetic feature tend to go to sleep 2 hours later than the average person every day.

It occurs between 0.2% and 10% in the general population and is inherited by the autosomal dominant mode.

This gene is responsible for the phenomenon of persons being “night owls”.

2. Sleep deprivation in nursing homes

Another publication has zeroed in to what happens in the frail elderly who live in nursing homes.

Here is what sleep researchers have found out about nursing homes.

  • Older people also need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, not less as previously thought.
  • Let people sleep at night, and give them undisturbed sleep. The practice of waking them up every 2 hours is unnecessary and undermines a restful sleep with normal amounts of REM sleep.
  • The color of light matters: Blue/purple light coming from TVs, iPod’s, laptops or cell phones stimulates serotonin production that wakes you up. In contrast to this orange/red light stimulates melatonin production that facilitates sleep. A nursing home owner, Guildermann said: “We have made it darker at night, and what light they do have is orange/amber/red light, and we are having phenomenal results.”
  • Sleep, exercise and nutrition are the biggest components of health.

3. Night workers

One of the news stories in 2016 was about health risks of night shifts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2000 that 15 million workers (16.8 % of the working population) were doing alternative shifts (night shift work mixed with daytime shifts). In 2016 they reported 14.8% were working alternate shifts. Among blacks, Asians and Latino Americans the percentage of working alternative shifts was higher, namely 20.8%, 15.7% and 16%, respectively.

Effect of shift work on your diurnal hormone rhythm

Shift work is more common in certain industries, such as protective services like the police force, food services, health services and transportation.

Your body rewards you, when you sleep 7 to 8 hours during the night, but it will penalize you severely, if you turn it upside down. The reason is the diurnal hormone rhythm that we all have built in. Sleep is regulated by melatonin during the night, which is released by the pineal gland (on the base of the skull). Daytime wakefulness is regulated by the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands. These two hormones inhibit each other, cortisol inhibits melatonin and melatonin inhibits cortisol. All the other hormones are also regulated according to the diurnal rhythm: testosterone, for instance is highest in the morning, human growth hormone is highest between midnight and 3 AM.

Studies about the effects of shift work

There are examples of what happens when you do shift work for several years:

  1. A) A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 260% higher mortality compared to a control group of daytime white collar workers: Shift work and mortality.
  2. B) A study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 147% higher mortality rate in the night shift workers: Shift Workers’ Mortality Scrutinized. Shift workers work at night and sleep during the day. This can be done, but it is against the physiology of your body, as I explained above. Remember that melatonin does not only regulate your sleep, it also is one of the main stimulant hormones of the immune system. If you manipulate your diurnal hormone rhythm by staying awake during the night and sleeping during the day, you pay the price by an increased risk of mortality (increased risk of death). I think this is not worth it!

4. What to do when you cannot sleep?

The first step is to take 3mg to 5mg of melatonin at bedtime. It should be taken between 10PM and 11PM. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If you do not fall asleep within that time frame you are likely thinking too much! Relaxation before going to sleep should be part of your evening ritual. It can happen that we experience demanding, stressful days, and despite all better effort, it is difficult to be entirely relaxed. After demanding days like that I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with the melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases.

Medical tests and sleep studies

If you cannot sleep, see your physician. Sleep studies may be required or you may have problems of the thyroid (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which may need to be checked. Other medical problems including depression have to be checked out as well. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems the next day or the feeling of a mild hangover.

5. Telomeres and insomnia

Some people have no problem disciplining themselves to go to sleep between 10PM and 11 PM, which seems to be the window of opportunity to catch a good night’s sleep. Others are so used to do their late night activities (reading, watching TV, being online, going to the pub etc.) that they finally drop into bed at 1 or 2 AM. People need 7 to 8 hours of good sleep; even hard-core party goers need to get that much sleep. Nature does not make exceptions! When you go to bed only at 1AM or 2AM, it is difficult to get enough sleep.

Healthy telomeres with healthy sleep pattern

It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep. Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10 PM and 11 PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours.

6. Electronics in the bedroom

There is new research showing that electronics in the bedroom can interfere with a normal sleep pattern. Dr. Ben Carter is the lead author and a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London. He completed a study involving 125,198 children with an average age of 14½ years. There were about equal amounts of males and females. Both sexes had the same problem. Allowing the use of electronic media interfered with their sleep time. What electronic devices are we talking about? Watching TV, using the computer, the cell phone, tablets and computer games. The study was originally published at JAMA Pediatrics.

The blue/purple light of the TV screen or a computer screen stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. This undermines the melatonin production and as a result the person finds it extremely difficult to fall asleep.

What contributes to better sleep habits

Here is a list that contributes to better sleep habits and better sleep quality:

Sleep friendly environment in the bedroom

Ensure that the bedroom is dark, soundproof, and comfortable with the room temperature being not too warm. It is important to develop a “sleep hygiene”. This means going to sleep around the same time each night, to have some down time of 1 hour or so before going to bed and getting up after the average time of sleep (for most people between 7 to 9 hours). Sleeping in is not a solution, and an alarm clock will also help to develop a sleep routine.

Avoid stimulating drinks, drugs and nicotine

You need to avoid caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs. Smokers should butt out no later than 7PM, as nicotine is a stimulant.

Adopt a regular exercise program

Getting into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym is beneficial.

No heavy meal at night

Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.

No computer in the bedroom

It is not a sensible idea to use the bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. It stimulates by cortisol production, which keeps us awake. The bedroom is a place of rest and should be comfortable and relaxing.

What to do when waking up at night

Some sleepers wake up at night, and they are wide-awake! Leaving the bedroom and relaxing in the living room for a while can help. It goes without saying that playing video games will not help! An alternative is to take 3 mg of melatonin, which will helps to fall asleep faster, but melatonin will wear off after about 4 hours.

Self-hypnosis recording

A self-hypnosis recording is a useful adjunct to a sleep routine. Listening to it before going to sleep helps to focus on relaxation and to stop ruminating about the day and its events. Keep the volume low.

Results Of Insomnia Studies

Results Of Insomnia Studies

Conclusion

Recent results of insomnia studies have reconfirmed that we need our regular sleep to maintain our health. We have seen that some nursing homes have a practice of waking the client up every 2 hours. Nursing homes must abandoned this as it interferes with the restorative deep REM sleep. In turn this will interfere with hormone restoration overnight.

Children and adolescents must limit their time in front of the TV, iPhones and computer screens. The blue light has the frequency that over stimulates the brain and interferes with melatonin production. Some people work overnight as shift workers or party until the wee hours in the morning. This causes your telomeres in your body cells to shorten. As people restore their sleeping pattern to normal, the telomeres length will remain stable.

Important to restore normal sleep pattern

Even people who are night owls due to an inborn CRY1 gene that is responsible for delayed sleep phase disorder can normalize their sleep pattern by following a strict sleep hygiene. As people get older they lose the ability to make melatonin, but they can counter this by taking melatonin tablets at bedtime.

Remember what I said earlier: Sleep, regular exercise and good nutrition are the biggest components of health.

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