Aug
03
2019

The Best Ways To Prevent Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death, that’s why it is important to learn about the best ways to prevent cancer. Generally speaking you want to remove cancer-producing substances (carcinogens) from your diet. But diet is only part of your lifestyle that can contribute to cancer. I shall list some of the more important dietary factors below and briefly touch on important other factors.

Avoid burning your meat

When you use the BBQ, you should avoid burning your meat. Even though the marks of “charring” are considered desirable on meat from the grill, this is really burnt! As a matter of fact it is a lot better to use a slow cooker at low heat and simply cook your food longer. This way you don’t create carcinogens. Avoiding to burn your meat is particularly important for the red meats.

Sugar and an overabundance of starchy foods can cause cancer

You never thought that sugar and an overabundance of starchy foods could cause cancer, but they do. The reason is that the metabolism of cancer cells is using 10- to 12-times more sugar than the metabolism of normal cells. The worst thing a cancer patient can do is to over-consume sugar. Replace sugar by stevia, which is a harmless, plant-based sweetener and does not lead to an insulin reaction. Avoid all other sugar substitutes, as there are other heath problems with most of them.

Avoid phthalates

Those who have a craving for macaroni and cheese are out of luck. This food contains phthalates that are part of the ingredients of almost every sample of cheese powder used to manufacture macaroni and cheese. Phthalates can cause infertility and breast cancer. So you must definitely avoid macaroni and cheese, at least the stuff from the box. Prepare your own!

A high fat diet

What does a high fat diet do? It increases the risk for breast cancer. But it can also increase colorectal cancer risk. Limit your fat intake to about 10% of saturated fat. That is the recommendation of the FDA. Increase your consumption of fish and seafood. Only one proviso: predator fish like shark, marlin, tilefish, swordfish and grouper are high in mercury. But wild salmon, sardines and oysters are low in mercury. You can also enjoy shrimps and prawns.

Take high dose vitamin D3 supplements

High dose vitamin D3 supplements help you to avoid cancer. There are strong statistics showing that vitamin D3 is a powerful tool to lower your risk of developing cancer. Your family doctor should take a blood test called 25-hydroxy vitamin D level to make sure that you absorb enough vitamin D3. There are slow and fast absorbers and the only thing to know how well your gut absorbs vitamin D3 is in doing this blood test.

Also, curcumin (turmeric) 500 mg once per day is good for cancer prevention.

Take enough fiber

Make sure you take enough fiber, which does not only reduce colorectal cancer, but also many other cancers. When you eat plant-based food, you automatically get fiber in it. North Americans are not consuming enough fiber in their diet.

Avoid processed meat and too much red meat consumption

Processed meat and red meat cause cancer.

Beef, lamb and pork seem to contribute to causing cancer according to the WHO. Use common sense and eat fish, chicken and turkey. Reduce your beef consumption. My grandmother served beef as a Sunday dish.The rest of the week simple, plant-based foods appeared on the table. Ask your grandmother, what she used to cook. Or ask your mother what she ate as a child.

Eat moderate amounts of fruit and vegetables

The claim that fruit and vegetables would protect you from cancer is not as solid as researchers thought of in the past. Newer research has shown that a basic intake of fruit and vegetables is needed for nutrients, but consuming more than that will NOT protect you from cancer.

This link explains that eating more vegetables or fruit beyond a certain point will not do harm, but will not protect you further from cancer.

Drink green tea or black tea

If you like tea, drink green tea or black tea. Sweeten it with stevia, but not with sugar. Tea has been shown to have cancer prevention properties.

Avoid alcohol consumption to prevent cancer.

Coffee is a healthy drink and it has mild anti-cancer effects as well. It does not matter whether you drink it caffeinated or decaffeinated.

Other lifestyle issues

Quit smoking

If you are still smoking, quit smoking! Smoking is by and large the biggest risk for developing lung cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Watch your calorie intake

Eat smaller meals more often. This way the production of your digestive juices will consume some calories. In addition your taste buds are satisfied, so your hunger for food is more controlled. The end result is that you will not gain weight.

Prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes

This will help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which are established risk factors to develop cancer. Here is a review that shows you, which cancer types are caused by obesity. With regard to diabetes, there is a strong association to developing liver cancer, pancreatic cancer and endometrial cancer (=uterine cancer). There is a lesser risk (only 1.2 to 1.5-fold) to develop cancer of the colon and rectum, breast cancer and bladder cancer.

Pollution

Poor air quality with pollution can also be a factor in causing cancer. Pollution does not stay local, but travels through the stratosphere around the globe. The result is that now 10 to 15% of lung cancer in the US occurs in patients who never smoked. This translates into 16,000 to 24,000 deaths annually of never-smokers in the US. In certain cities such as Beijing lung cancer rates have doubled in 9 years between 2002 and 2011. Lung cancer in non-smokers can be caused from exposure to radon, to second-hand tobacco smoke, and other indoor air pollutants.

Bioidentical hormone replacement

When males do not replace missing testosterone in andropause they are much more prone to develop prostate cancer. Similarly, when women are menopausal and do not get progesterone supplementation, they develop a higher amount of breast cancer due to estrogen dominance. It follows from this that bioidentical hormone replacement in menopause and andropause will help to prevent prostate cancer and breast cancer.

The Best Ways To Prevent Cancer

The Best Ways To Prevent Cancer

Conclusion

There is strong evidence that certain foods can cause cancer. Other foods including supplements like curcumin and vitamin D3 can help prevent cancer. Basically, you want to avoid all that is known to cause cancer and eat more of the healthy foods that do not cause cancer. This will help to decline your cancer risk. I suggest that in addition you should quit smoking, avoid pollution as much as possible, reduce excessive alcohol intake and watch your calorie intake. By doing this you prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes, and you will move into the low-risk cancer group. We all need to work on this on an ongoing basis.

Practical hints regarding the best ways to prevent cancer

The best ways to prevent cancer is to avoid processed red meat and all other processed foods. Eat more vegetables, fruit, wild salmon and other seafood. Don’t eat red meat more often than once a week and make it red meat from grass fed animals. In addition exercise regularly, get enough sleep and practice some form of relaxation (yoga, Tai Chi, self-hypnosis etc.). This lifestyle will not only prevent heart attacks and strokes, but also the majority of cancers.

Previously published here.

Jun
08
2019

How Can We Prolong Our Lives?

The question “How can we prolong our lives?” is something that fascinates many people. It is not one thing, one activity, one diet, or one lifestyle factor that determines longevity. It is the combination of all of the things listed below that are necessary.

Longevity is partially inherited from your mother

The reason for this is that mitochondria in your body cells come from your mother’s body. As you know, the egg (ovum) contains the mitochondria (the energy packages of the cell). The sperm that is the winner penetrating the ovum is shedding the tail outside the ovum. The tail of the sperm had loads of mitochondria in it to give it the energy to wiggle its way up the Fallopian tube to meet the ovum. This is the reason why we all inherit our mitochondria from our mother. If there is longevity on your mother’s side, you likely will have the longevity gene as well. So, this certainly helps, but on the other hand, we cannot pick our ancestors! Don’t be discouraged! There is enough that you can do.

Diet

The best type of diet is a Mediterranean-type diet. There is a new fasting mimicking diet, that likely turns on latent longevity genes that need to be intermittently activated, if we are serious about wanting to increase longevity. Dr. Longo is the inventor of the fasting mimicking diet. I have discussed this in detail here. Briefly, it consists of eating 500 to 600 calories on 5 consecutive days. The rest of the month you eat normally. The important part is that Dr. Longo has shown in humans that telomeres get elongated by the 5-day protocol per month. Longer telomeres means longer life. This is what we want, because this adds life to our life expectancy!

Lifestyle

Don’t smoke and don’t do drugs. Drugs interfere with our hormone- and other cell surface receptors. Our body cells don’t like artificial chemicals from outside. Don’t overlook the fact, that alcohol is also a drug! Alcohol is a nerve and cell poison. It has been shown to even be toxic, so don’t drink all the time. If you want a drink here and there, you probably get away with it. But binge drinkers (6 drinks or more in one evening) are out of luck; their life expectancy is shorter than that of non-drinkers.

Exercise

Regular exercise recharges your mitochondria to give you extra energy. It conditions your heart and lungs and also your muscles. Many people think exercise would cause weight loss. But it is not leading to that much weight loss at all! What is more important is the fact that it is reducing the overall mortality from many diseases by up to 47%! Exercise also improves blood sugar control, energy levels and sleep patterns. There are also hidden benefits, as the heart is being conditioned and the lungs are improving their vital capacity from regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercises like running or using a treadmill. But muscle strength also benefits from regular exercise.

Get enough sleep

You need 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and it is best to go to sleep between 10 or 11 pm. During your sleep your brain is being renewed and your hormones are reloaded. There is a diurnal hormone rhythm that ensures you have enough energy for the following day. 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.

Vitamins and supplements

Some minimum vitamin and mineral supplements are helpful for longevity: Mornings: 2 capsules of molecularly distilled fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids). Two tablets of vitamin C 500 mg chewable, one capsule of 150mg of chelated magnesium, resveratrol 500mg, vitamin B complex B-50, zinc 30mg, vitamin K2 two capsules of 100 micrograms, vitamin D3 5000IU every morning, CoQ-10 400mg. Evenings: 2 capsules of molecularly distilled fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids). Vitamin B complex B-50, chelated magnesium 150mg, melatonin 3mg to fall asleep, valerian root 500mg capsule (if you have anxious thoughts); you may repeat melatonin and valerian root in the middle of the night, if you wake up at 2AM or 3AM in the morning.

Brief explanation for vitamin and mineral replacement

In case you wonder about the rationale of my suggestion for vitamin and mineral replacement, here is a brief explanation: vitamin C stimulates the adrenal glands and helps support the immune system. You get more energy and get fewer infections. Molecularly distilled fish oil is anti-inflammatory, helps prevent osteoporosis, but also prevents heart attacks by preventing inflammation of the arteries. Magnesium and zinc are co-factors in hundreds of biochemical reactions inside our cells, so this helps your metabolism.

Resveratrol an anti-aging supplement

Resveratrol is a bioflavonoid derived from red grapes. It has multiple beneficial effects. It lowers blood pressure, helps to control diabetes better and prevents osteoporosis. But resveratrol also elongates telomeres, which translated into a longer life and less diseases. B complex vitamins are good for energy and many metabolic processes. Vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 work together to get calcium out of our arteries and deposit calcium into our bones. This prevents osteoporosis, which is particularly important for postmenopausal women, but is also important for men. Resveratrol also prevents heart attacks and strokes. CoQ-10 is important to lower cholesterol, but also supports the metabolism of mitochondria, the energy packages of our cells.

Hormone deficiencies

We all know that there is menopause for women and andropause for men. But there are silent hormone deficiencies that are less well known. For instance melatonin secretion gets reduced fairly quickly after the age of 20. Between the age of 50 and 60 you are basically deficient for melatonin, so using a supplement of melatonin tablets would be very reasonable. Another hormone, namely human growth hormone (HGH) is very likely deficient in us by the time we are 50 to 60 years old. I will deal with this further below.

Menopause

Women get into menopause between 45 and 55, but they can get there earlier or later. Women are missing estrogen and progesterone. Many women were horrified by the Women’s Health Initiative result in 2002. But this trial involved synthetic hormones that the body did not like. So women got breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes from Premarin and Provera, both synthetic hormones. Had physicians been sensible and put them on bioidentical hormones instead, they would have prevented heart attacks, strokes and osteoporosis. They would also have prevented breast cancer and colon cancer. The proper way to replace missing hormones in women with menopause is to replace them with bioidentical progesterone cream and bioidentical estrogen cream.

Andropause

Men get into andropause between 55 and 65. The testicles will no longer provide the man with enough testosterone. This leads to lack of sex drive, erectile dysfunction, but also to more heart attacks, muscle weakness and a lack of energy. The problem is that there is not enough testosterone to stimulate the mitochondria. Mitochondria are very prominent in the heart muscle, skeletal muscles, but also in the brain. When the doctor confirms a lack of testosterone with blood tests, he orders replacement with bioidentical testosterone cream or by a simple testosterone injection twice per week. The man will feel better after a short period of time (4 to 6 weeks) as all his functions return back to normal.

Many speakers at anti-aging conferences, which I attend every December in Las Vegas, seem to agree that bioidentical hormone replacement adds 10 to 15 years of life both in men and women. It also gives people renewed energy, and they look younger.

Human growth hormone

Many people do not know that human growth hormone (HGH) is important for longevity in adults. In childhood it was important for bone growth. Growth hormone deficiency is the one factor that has been underestimated. The discussion of dwarfs in comparison to their healthy brothers and sisters showed us the following. Growth hormone production can add between 19 and 34 years (average 26.5 years) of life. Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Belgium has done blood tests (IGF-1) and lately also 24-hour urine metabolite tests of growth hormone on aging patients and found that many were deficient with regard to HGH production. These were patients where Dr. Hertoghe already replaced their thyroid hormones, if abnormal and replaced their sex hormones when they were low.

Symptoms of human growth hormone deficiency

But they lost hair, developed old looking faces with wrinkles. In addition, a loss of subcutaneous fatty tissue is giving the face a hollow appearance. They also had muscle and joint pains and thin skin, particularly over the back of their hands.

Replacement of growth hormone

He replaced their missing HGH using daily HGH self-injection with a tiny needle (similar to diabetes injections). Within 1.5 to 3 years the wrinkles disappeared, the faces started to look younger and patients did feel younger. Their muscle and joint pains had disappeared and their hair grew back. The dosage range is between 0.1mg and 0.3mg, a tiny amount of HGH daily. This is not inexpensive, but some health care plans pay for this, as a lack of HGH is a true hormone deficiency.

How Can We Prolong Our Lives?

How Can We Prolong Our Lives?

Conclusion

I have given you an overview of the important elements of what increases longevity. The key is to have a healthy, balanced diet and leave junk food out. Don’t smoke and don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol. No alcohol consumption would be best, because alcohol essentially is a nerve poison and can lead to dementia. Exercise regularly to lower mortality and strengthen your heart and lungs. Get enough rest and sleep to refresh your diurnal hormone rhythm. When we age, it is important to keep an eye on our hormones. You need a physician who is knowledgeable about it.

Hormone replacement

Hormones that are missing need to be replaced by bioidentical hormones. In addition you need to know what the level of IGF-1 is. HGH controls the IGF-1 level. If IGF-1 is low, you need HGH replacement. Studies have shown that replacement of missing HGH may be able to add 2 decades of good life. All of the other hormones replaced by bioidentical hormones will add 10 to 15 years. As stated in the beginning, there is not one thing only that increases longevity, but a combination of all these factors.

First published here: https://www.quora.com/What-increases-longevity/answer/Ray-Schilling

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Apr
13
2019

New Alzheimer’s Genes

A recent genetic study summarized in a CNN article describes the detection of new Alzheimer’s genes. First of all, it appears that Alzheimer’s genes and trigger factors have to interact to cause Alzheimer’s disease. Secondly, in a 2013 study the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project had examined a population of 75,000 Alzheimer’s patients. Thirdly, in a new Feb. 28, 2019 publication of the same research group the population of Alzheimer’s disease patients had been enlarged to 94,437. This gives the study a higher statistical power. Previously the group had identified 20 genetic risk loci for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). In the 2019 study 5 new genetic loci for Alzheimer’s disease were identified. Specifically, one of them is the neurological and immune-mediated disease haplotype HLA-DR15. It is a risk factor for LOAD.

Reconfirmation of some older Alzheimer’s research findings

Notably, this latter finding shows that immunity, lipid metabolism, tau binding proteins, and amyloid precursor protein (APP) metabolism are all sharing a connection in the development of late Alzheimer’s disease. In the past they have been implicated in the development of familiar Alzheimer’s disease. Now it became apparent that changes in the immune system, changes in the lipid metabolism and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease have an association also in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Research from 2016 showed that in obese patients the metabolic syndrome can indeed trigger the genotype CYP46 to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

It seems that a variety of factors, like the CYP46 genotype and the metabolic syndrome with elevated cholesterol levels are interacting to cause amyloid beta plaques. In addition, neurofibrillary tangles from tau protein deposits are also part of the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. These appear to lead to damage of nerve cells.

Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

Inasmuch as it has become clear how many factors have to come together to trigger the development of Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to point out the factors that counter the development of Alzheimer’s.

Several genetic loci have to work together to cause Alzheimer’s

Research has defined many genetic loci tcyphat have impact on the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have stated that in order to develop Alzheimer’s disease several of these genes and risk factors that trigger the genes into action must occur in combination. This is in contrast to Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease where only one genetic mutation causes the disease.

Resveratrol

Certainly, this powerful antioxidant from the skin of red grapes has a positive effect on early Alzheimer’s patients with improvement of their memory.

Correction of hormone deficiencies

With older age many of our hormones are decreasing or vanishing. But replacement of the missing hormones with bioidentical hormones has shown to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This link explains that replacement of low testosterone in males and estrogen replacement in females is important to prevent Alzheimer’s. In addition, in women progesterone also has a neuroprotective function. Melatonin in both sexes is a powerful anti-oxidant hormone that preserves brain tissue. Thyroid hormone, if low, also needs replacement to maintain memory.

Other lifestyle factors affecting the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

Sugar and too much starchy food

Heavy consumption of starchy foods like potatoes, rice, bread and pasta as well as sugar are risk major factors. They contribute to the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Sugar consumption (and starch, which gets metabolized within 30 minutes into sugar) causes oxidization of LDL cholesterol and plaque formation of all the blood vessels including the ones going to the brain. On the long-term this causes memory loss due to a lack of nutrients and oxygen flowing into the brain.

Lack of exercise

Lack of exercise is an independent risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise increases the blood supply to the brain, strengthens neural connections and leads to growth of neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain. Exercise also increases mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins.

Vitamin D intake

A 2014 study showed that a low vitamin D level had a strong association with a high risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the findings were as follows.

  • Vitamin D level of less than 10 ng/ml: 122% increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Vitamin D level 10 to 20 ng/ml: 51% increased risk of Alzheimer’s

The same research group found in two trials that vitamin D deficiency leads to visual memory decline, but not to verbal memory decline.

Generally supplements of vitamin D3 of 5000 IU to 8000 IU are the norm now. But some patients are poor absorbers and they may require more- up to 15,000 IU per day. The physician can easily determine what the patient needs in the dosage of vitamin D3 by doing repeat vitamin D blood levels (as 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels). The goal is to reach a level of 50-80 ng/ml. The optimal level with regard to nmol/L is 80 to 200, according to Rocky Mountain Analytical, Calgary, AB, Canada.

Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation leads to memory loss, but so does the use of aspartame, the artificial sweetener of diet sodas. Make your own homemade lemonade. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Add mineral water to fill an 8 oz. glass. Add a tiny bit of stevia extract for sweetening. Stir and enjoy. Stevia has been in use for thousands of years and is non-toxic contrary to other artificial sweeteners.

Avoid insulin overproduction

I already mentioned the effect of sugar consumption above. But here I am mentioning it again because of the insulin reaction to sugar. An overload of refined carbs leads to an overstimulation of the pancreas pouring out insulin. Too much insulin (hyperinsulinemia) causes hormonal disbalance and leads to diabetes type 3, the more modern name for Alzheimer’s. All starch is broken down by amylase into sugar, which means that anybody who consumes starchy food gets a sugar rush as well. Too much sugar in the blood oxidizes LDL cholesterol, which leads to inflammation in the body. The consequence of chronic inflammation is as follows: hardening of the arteries, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s and brain atrophy, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. It is because of this that a Mediterranean diet or a MIND diet is a sensible pollution for Alzheimer’s patients. Both of these diets have been shown to be anti-inflammatory.

New Alzheimer's Genes

New Alzheimer’s Genes

Conclusion

At the present time research knows of a total of 25 genetic risk genes for Alzheimer’s disease. It appears that they have to interact, and lifestyle factors can be a trigger to cause Alzheimer’s disease. This means that we can interfere with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Get into some form of regular exercise like swimming, walking or Yoga exercises. Refrain from eating sweets and starchy foods. Adopt a Mediterranean diet or a MIND diet. Replace any missing hormones with bioidentical ones to re-establish your hormone balance. Watch your vitamin D3 intake. We need a lot more of it than what was previously known t to prevent the onset of this disease. Ensure you get enough sleep. This helps your brain to regenerate overnight. A resveratrol supplement every day will improve your memory, as a study has shown.

These are some of the easy steps you can do to avoid getting Alzheimer’s disease.

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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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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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Jul
22
2017

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Relaxation can calm your mind, but new research has shown that relaxation reduces inflammation as well.

This article is based on a research paper in Frontiers in Immunology in June of 2017.

It concentrated on the calming effect of meditation on the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), which causes inflammation. We know that overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system activates the inflammatory pathway by expressing the genes responsible for NF-κB. These authors showed that the reverse is true also, namely that  meditation suppresses inflammation.

This metaanalysis of 18 research papers included 846 participants.

Here are brief summary findings of these 18 studies. Note that diverse relaxation methods had very similar results on the genes expressing inflammatory markers.

1. Qigong practitioners

First of all, a group of Qigong practitioners had 132 downregulated genes and 118 upregulated genes when compared to non-meditating controls. Meditation strengthens the immune system and delays cell death.

2. Sudarshan Kriya yoga

Also, one form of yoga breathing is Sudarshan Kriya yoga. Subjects who practiced this form of breathing yoga for 1 hour per day did not have the stress-related response on white blood cells. In contrast, the controls who did not meditate this way showed no change in the white blood cell response to stress. Those practicing yoga had a strengthened immune system. The meditators also showed strengthening of genes that inhibit cell death.

3. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Furthermore, eight patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia were practicing the “seven yoga breathing patterns”; the popular Indian yoga teacher, Swami Ramdev, developed these. Those patients practicing the breathing yoga technique activated 4,428 genes compared to controls. They showed an up to twofold upregulation, which strengthened their immune system.

4. Loneliness in older people

Another study noted that loneliness in older people causes inflammation, morbidity and mortality. 55-85 year old volunteers were taking a course of mindfulness-based stress reduction. The researchers wanted to find out whether it was due to increased inflammation that older people were more susceptible to disease. The physicians tested blood mononuclear cells for genome-wide transcriptional profiling. Those older persons who had reported loneliness had more transcription factors for nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) than controls without feelings of loneliness. After an 8-week course those who no longer felt loneliness had a reversal of proinflammatory gene expression. The genes that had changed expression were located on monocytes and B-lymphocytes; these are cells of the immune system.

5. Care workers for patients with mental health problems

Care workers who looked after patients with mental health problems or chronic physical problems often have stress-induced chronic inflammation markers in their blood. A study involving 23 caregivers used a practice of Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM) assisted by an audio recording every day for 8 weeks. The subjects filled in questionnaires for depression and mental health before and after the 8-week trial. Physicians also took blood samples for transcriptional profiling before and after the KKM trial.

Meditation effects genes and reduces inflammation

The KKM meditation group had significantly less depressive symptoms and showed improvements in mental health. There were down-regulations in 49 genes and up-regulations in 19 genes compared to the controls. The pro-inflammatory NF-κB expression showed a decrease; the anti-viral gene expression showed an increase. This was measured using the IRF-1 gene. This gene controls the expression of the interferon-regulatory factor 1 (IRF-1 gene), which controls the immune response to viral infections. The interesting observation here was that a time of only 8 weeks of meditation was able to reduce inflammatory substances in the blood and could activate the immune system to fight viruses better. Further tests showed that it was meditation that stimulated the B cells and the dendritic cells.

6. Younger breast cancer patients

Younger breast cancer patients taking a mindfulness meditation course: Another study involved younger stable breast cancer patients after treatment that also had insomnia. Patients with both breast cancer and insomnia often have a lot of inflammatory markers in the blood. In a study with 80 patients 40 underwent treatment with Tai-Chi exercises, the other group of 40 with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Tai-Chi exercises reduced IL-6 marginally and TNF (tumor necrosis factor) significantly. There was a 9% reduction with regard to the expression of 19 genes that were pro-inflammatory; there was also a 3.4% increase with regard to 34 genes involved in regulating the antiviral and anti-tumor activity in the Tai-Chi group when compared to the cognitive-behavioral therapy group.

Measurable results of mindfulness meditation course

While cognitive therapy has its benefits, the winner was the Tai-Chi group where there was down-regulation of 68 genes and up-regulation of 19 genes. As in the prior study there was a decrease of the pro-inflammatory NF-κB expression, which reduced the inflammatory response.

7.  Study with fatigued breast cancer patients

In another breast cancer study with fatigued breast cancer patients the patients practiced 3 months of Iyengar yoga. After 3 months of yoga 282 genes showed up-regulation and 153 genes showed down-regulation. There was significant lowering of the expression of NF-κB. This suggests a lowering of inflammation. At the same time questionnaires showed that the fatigue factors experienced a reduction 3 months after initiating yoga exercises.

8. Mindful meditation used in younger breast cancer patients

A group of 39 breast cancer patients diagnosed before the age of 50 received six weekly 2-hour sessions of mindful awareness practices (MAP). This program is very suitable for cancer survivors. In addition to the group sessions the patients also did daily exercises of between 5 minutes and 20 minutes by themselves. The control group consisted of patients on a wait list. The investigators used several psychological measure (depression and stress) and physical measures (fatigue, hot flashes and pain) to assess their progress. Gene expression in the genome and inflammatory proteins were measured at baseline and after the intervention.

Effects of mindful awareness practices

Mindful practices showed clear benefits: they reduced stress, and sleep disturbances, hot flashes and fatigue showed improvement. Depression also shoed a marginal reduction. There were 19 pro-inflammatory genes that were mad ineffective, but not in the control group that did not do mindful practices. Gene tests revealed that transcription factor NF-κB had significant down-regulation. Conversely the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid receptor and the interferon regulatory factors showed higher values. Genes with down-regulation came from monocytes and dendritic cells while genes with up-regulation came from B lymphocytes.

9. Telomerase gene expression

Lifestyle modification changes telomerase gene expression: 48 patients with high blood pressure enrolled in an extensive lifestyle program teaching them about losing weight, eating less sodium, exercising, adopting a healthy diet and drinking less alcohol. The other choice was to use transcendental meditation (TM) combined with health education with weekly sessions for 4 months. It turned out that both programs led to an increased expression of telomerase genes. Both groups did not show telomerase changes, but the authors stated that the observation time was too short for that to occur. The extensive health education program turned out to be better for patients with high blood pressure as it decreased the diastolic blood pressure more and resulted in healthier lifestyles.

10. Older patients with insomnia

Mind-body interventions for older patients with insomnia: Examiners divided a sample of 120 older adults with insomnia into two groups. They treated one group with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the other group with Tai Chi. The control group consisted of a group of people participating in a sleep seminar. 4 months after the intervention the CBT group had a significantly reduced C-reactive protein (CRP). The pro-inflammatory markers were lower in both groups after 2 months and in the Tai Chi group this remained low until 16 months. Gene expression profiling showed that CBT downregulated 347 genes and upregulated 191 genes; the Tai Chi group had downregulated 202 genes and upregulated 52 genes. The downregulated genes were mostly inflammatory genes while the upregulated genes controlled mostly interferon and antibody responses.

11. Patients with bowel disease

19 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and 29 patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) were treated with a relaxation response-based mind-body intervention. This consisted of 9 weekly meetings, each lasting 1.5 hours and practices a home for 15-20 minutes. The participants were taught breathing exercises and cognitive skills designed to help manage stress. At the end of the mind-body intervention and at a follow-up visit 3 weeks later participants of both the IBS and IBD groups scored higher in quality of life and lower in the level of anxiety they had before. They had reduced symptoms of their conditions.

Results of relaxation response-based mind-body intervention on IBS patients

The IBS group showed an improvement in 1059 genes. These were mostly improvements in inflammatory responses, in cell growth, regarding proliferation, and also improvements in oxidative stress-related pathways. The IBD group showed improvements in 119 genes that were related to cell cycle regulation and DNA damages. Other genetic tests showed that NF-κB was a key molecule for both IBS and IBD. The main finding was that relaxation response-based mind-body intervention was able to down regulate inflammation in both IBD and IBS.

12. Caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients receiving a course of MBSR

25 caregivers participated in a course of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). Using 194 differently expressed genes the investigators could predict who would be a poor, moderate or good responder to the MBSR intervention. These genes related to inflammation, depression and stress response. 91 genes could identify with an accuracy of 94.7% at baseline whether the person would receive psychological benefits from the MBSR program.

13. Higher state of consciousness in two experienced Buddha meditators

Genetic tests showed, similar to the description of other cases that genes affecting the immune system, cell death and the stress response experienced stimulation. EEG studies in both individuals during deep meditation were almost identical with an increase of theta and alpha frequency ranges.

14. Rapid gene expression in immune cells (lymphocytes) in the blood

One study used gentle yoga postures, meditation and breathing exercises. 10 participants recruited at a yoga camp had yoga experience between 1.5 months and 5 years. Their response resulted in 3-fold more gene changes than that of controls. Otherwise the findings were very similar to the other studies.

15. Genomic changes with the relaxation response

The relaxation response (RR) is the opposite of the stress response.  One study examined how various modes of entering into the relaxation response like yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and repetitive prayer would lead to beneficial gene effects. As in other studies inflammation was reduced and the immune system was stimulated from the relaxation response. This was verified with detailed gene studies. The authors noted that different genes were activated in people who had done long-term RR practice versus people who practiced RR only for a shorter time. There were distinctly different gene expressions.

16.  Energy metabolism and inflammation control

Relaxation responses beneficial for energy metabolism and inflammation control: Experts with experience in RR were compared with a group of novice RR practitioners. Experts and short-term practitioners expressed their genes differently at baseline. But after relaxation both experts and novices had gene changes in the area of energy metabolism, electron transport within the mitochondria, insulin secretion and cell aging. The upregulated genes are responsible for ATP synthase and insulin production. ATP synthase is responsible for energy production in the mitochondria and down regulates NF-κB pathway genes. Inflammation was reduced by these changes. All these beneficial gene changes were more prominent in expert RR practitioners. Other beneficial changes noted were telomere maintenance and nitric oxide production in both expert and novice RR practitioners.

17. Relaxation changes stress recovery and silences two inflammatory genes

Mindfulness meditation changes stress recovery and silences two inflammatory genes: Experienced meditators were tested after an intensive 8-h mindfulness meditation retreat workshop. Two inflammatory genes were silenced by mindfulness meditation compared to controls. Other genes that are involved in gene regulation were found to be downregulated as well. These experienced meditators had a faster cortisol recovery to social stress compared to controls.

18. Vacation and meditation effect on healing from disease

This last study investigated the effect of a 6-day holiday retreat. One group was offered a 4-day meditation course, one group was the control group just holidaying and the third group was an experienced meditation group who also took the retreat meditation course. Depression, stress, vitality, and mindfulness were measured with questionnaires. All groups were positively changed after the holiday and remained this way at 1 month after the retreat. 10 months after the retreat novice meditators were less depressed than the vacation control group. At the center of the experiment was the gene expression study.

Effects of holiday and meditation

390 genes had changed in all of the groups. The authors assumed that this was due to the relaxation experience of the retreat. The genes involved related to the stress response, wound healing, and injury. Other genes measured inflammation (control of tumor necrosis factor alpha). Another set of genes measured the control of protein synthesis of amyloid beta (Aβ) metabolism, which causes Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. All groups had markers that indicated less risk of dementia, depression and mortality, which was likely due to the relaxation from the retreat.

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Conclusion

This study is a meta-analysis of 18 research papers. The authors found that very different approaches to relax the mind have fairly consistent universal effects on reducing inflammation. Most of this work was done with genetic markers. No matter what type of relaxation method you use, you will have beneficial effects from it. But the beneficial effect is not only strengthening the immune system, it also improves sleep, depression, anxiety and blood pressure. In addition it is improving your stress response, wound healing, risk of dementia and it reduces mortality. We don’t quite understand all of the details yet.

What is definitely documented is the effect of the mind-body interaction. It also points clearly to the relaxation response from meditation and similar relaxation methods. This has been proven beyond any doubt through genetic tests.

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Dec
03
2016

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 just 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. When they were allowed to use electronic media, this 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.

Result of the study on electronics in the bedroom

  1. When media bedtime use was allowed, there was a 2.17-fold higher risk of not getting enough sleep quantity. This was compared to kids who did not use media devices in the bedroom.
  2. There was a 1.46-fold risk of having poor sleep quality.
  3. There was a 2.72-fold risk of excessive daytime sleepiness.
  4. Even children who had access to media use, but did not use it at night had similar findings. They had a risk of 1.79-fold to get inadequate sleep quantity. There was a 1.53-fold risk of poor sleep quality. And excessive daytime sleepiness was present with a 2.27-fold risk.

Melatonin level influenced by electronics in the bedroom

Physicians researched the diurnal hormone rhythm and sleep pattern for decades. Essentially two hormones work together.

In the morning when you open your eyes, light enters our eyes and is registered in the hypothalamus. There are also links from the hypothalamus to the pineal gland, where melatonin is synthesized and stored. The light signal stops the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland, although it is still being produced during the day in the pineal gland, but stored there until the evening hours set in. You may have noticed that you start yawning when the light dims in the evening. That’s when melatonin is released into your system to let you know it’s time to slow down and go to sleep.

Balance of melatonin and cortisol

Of course, we have electrical light and can turn night into day if we choose to! This works for a limited time, but eventually tiredness sets in, and melatonin wins the upper hand. Melatonin is the master hormone of the circadian rhythm.

It is interesting to note that cortisol does exactly the opposite. Cortisol is the adrenal gland hormone that helps us cope with stress. When we are fully awake, we need cortisol to cope with the various stress situations of the day. Melatonin inhibits cortisol secretion and cortisol inhibits melatonin secretion, and they are natural opponents working together for your common good. This is part of the circadian rhythm. We can measure these hormones, and this is how researchers have found out how these two hormones work together.

What light stimulation does to your hormones

Too much exposure of children or adults to electronic devices overstimulates the brain and sends signals to the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. In between the hypothalamus and the adrenal glands a cascade of hormones regulates this. The hypothalamus sends CRH, the corticotropin-releasing hormone to the pituitary, which stimulates in turn the release of the messenger hormone ACTH to produce more cortisol in the adrenal glands. It is the extra cortisol that keeps kids awake. The same applies to adults who invite electronics into their bedroom. All the excitement from watching the various media gadgets leads to extra cortisol. And we just learnt that cortisol counteracts melatonin. 

What can parents do about electronics in the bedroom?

First of all, parents need to be firm with their kids. They need to explain to them that electronics are staying out of the bedroom. There needs to be a cooling down period one hour before bedtime where they do not watch TV, use the cell phone or other electronic gadgets. They may rebel against this first, but when they sleep better, they likely will be more agreeable. Here is a list that contributes to better sleep habits and better sleep quality:

List for better sleep habits

  • 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 get 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 help also to develop a sleep routine.
  • Caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs must be avoided. Smokers should butt out no later 7PM, as nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Getting into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym is beneficial.
  • Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.

More points for the better sleep habit list

  • It is not a sensible idea to use the bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. It paves the way to the stimulus of the cortisol effect that keeps us awake. The bedroom is a place of rest and should be comfortable and relaxing.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Some thoughts about sleep aids after electronics in the bedroom are removed

Sometimes an adolescent will have trouble falling asleep. Here is the solution of what to do: at the time the youngster is having problems sleeping, there is too much cortisol on board, which prevents the pineal gland to release melatonin. What is missing is melatonin.

The first step is to take 3mg of melatonin at bedtime. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If the youth does not fall asleep within that time frame he or she is likely thinking too much. If that were the case, I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian root (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with the melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases. If the child still cannot sleep, see your physician. The adolescent may need sleep studies done or may have problems with the thyroid (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which may need to be checked. Physicians need to check out other medical problems, including depression. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems.

Electronics In The Bedroom

Electronics In The Bedroom

Conclusion

A new study has shown that electronics in the bedroom will often keep children awake. It has become a huge problem in schools where students fall asleep or have problems paying attention. There are simple rules regarding a quiet bedroom without electronics that will go a long way of rehabilitating a child who has sleeping problems because of electronics. There are natural ways to help nature along, if the simple measures don’t work. Melatonin and valerian root help to calm the mind and help catching some healthy sleep. If the problem were persisting, an appointment with the family physician would be in order.

Even though this article deals with children and adolescents and the use of electronics in the bedroom, the same applies to adults. They are not immune to the stressors that disrupt sleep. They are just as likely to feel tired and sluggish after a restless sleep, and their performance at the workplace will suffer. Sleep hygiene is as important for adults as it is for adolescents.

Nov
12
2016

Stress Drives Our Lives

Every year the American Psychological Association (APA) monitors the American public how stress drives our lives. This yearly report has been compiled since 2007. About 75% of the people questioned reported that they have experienced moderate to high stress over the past month.

Symptoms when stress drives our lives

What kind of symptoms can stress cause? It can cause sleep deprivation, anxiety, headaches and depression. But there can be more symptoms from any disease that stress may cause. The “Stress in America” report from February 2016 shows on page 5 that unhealthy life habits are used by low-income Americans to cope with stress. A bar graph shows that watching television or movies for more than 2 hours per day is common. Another way of coping is to surf the Internet more often, take more naps or sleep longer. Eating more, drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking more are other unhealthy ways to cope with stress.

As the stressed person gains extra weight and eventually becomes obese, there is a higher rate of diabetes that can develop with all of its complications.

Causes of stress in our lives

The “Stress in America” survey was based on 3,068 adults in the US who completed the survey during August 2015. 72% were stressed out about financial issues. 22% of these said that they were extremely stressed in the past month as a result of money concerns. Other common concerns were work, the economy, family responsibilities and concerns about personal health. Average stress levels among Americans decreased when compared to 2007. On a 10-point stress score respondents rated their stress at 4.9 in 2016 compared to 6.2 in 2007. But according to the American Psychological Association this is much higher than a stress rating of 3.7 considered to be a healthy level.

Stress affects people from all walks of life, workers, women, young adults, students and those with lower incomes.

“Stress is caused by the loss or threat of loss of the personal, social and material resources that are primary to us” Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, a clinical psychologist from Rush University Medical Center said. “So, threat to self, threat to self-esteem, threat to income, threat to employment and threat to our family or our health…” is what causes stress.

Stress drives our lives causing disease

When stress is too much for our system, we are starting to see pathology develop. “Stress is seldom the root cause of disease, but rather interacts with our genetics and our state of our bodies in ways that accelerate disease” professor Hobfoll says. The following are common diseases that can result from chronic stress.

Heart attacks and strokes

In a 2015 Lancet study 603,838 men and women who worked long hours were followed for a mean of about 8 years with respect to heart disease or strokes. All of the subjects were free of heart attacks and strokes when they entered into the study. There were a total of 13% more heart attacks in those who worked extra hours in comparison to those who worked 40 hours per week or less. With respect to strokes there were 33% more strokes in those who worked long hours. Researchers noted a dose-response curve for strokes in groups with various workloads. Compared to standard working hours there were 10% additional strokes for 41-48 working hours, 27% for 49-54 working hours and 33% for 55 or more working hours per week.

Stress drives our lives and causes substance abuse

In order to cope with stress many of us treat daily stress with alcohol. It makes you feel good subjectively, but it can raise your blood pressure causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. A low dose of alcohol may be healthy, but medium and high doses are detrimental to your health.

Next many people still smoke, although scientists have proven long time ago that it is bad for your health. It can cause heart attacks, various cancers and circulatory problems leading to leg amputations.

Overeating is another common problem. Comfort food relieves stress, but it puts on extra pounds. As you know it is easier to put weight on than get it off. Being overweight or being obese has its own problems: arthritis in the hips and knees makes walking more difficult. The metabolic syndrome sets in, which is a characteristic metabolic change causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. The more weight you carry, the less likely you are to exercise. This deteriorates your health outlook.

Diabetes

Stress causes too much cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar, and when chronic can cause diabetes. In addition unhealthy eating habits associated with stress can cause weight gain and high blood sugars leading to diabetes.

In a 2012 California study 148 adult Korean immigrants were examined. They all had elevated blood sugars confirming the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. They had a  elevated waist/hip ratio.

A high percentage of the study subjects had risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This included being overweight or obese and having high blood glucose readings. 66% of them said that they were feeling stressed, 51% reported feeling anxious, 38% said they were feeling restless, 30% felt nervous and 3% said they were feeling hopeless.

An Australian long-term follow-up study computed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Stress was a major contributor to diabetes.

A 30-day episode of any anxiety disorder had a 1.53-fold risk to cause diabetes. A depressive disorder had a 1.37-fold risk to cause diabetes and posttraumatic stress disorder had a risk of 1.42-fold to cause diabetes.

Infertility

Stress changes hormones in women causing ovulation problems and infertility. 1 in 8 couples in America have problems getting pregnant. Physicians identified stress as at least a contributing factor. But in men stress can also reduce sperm count and semen quality as this study describes.

Alzheimer’s disease

A 2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 woman aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychologists assessed the stress score in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other dementias). The risk of dementia was higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past. Women who had stress on one, two or three examinations suffered from higher dementia rates later in life. Researchers compared this to women did not have any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher after one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher after three stressful episodes.

Remedies for stress

Before you can attempt to remedy stress, you must first detect that you are under stress. You can recognize this when you have problems sleeping, you suffer from fatigue, when overeating or undereating is a problem, and if you feel depressed. Others may feel angry or are irritable. Some bad lifestyle habits may also make you aware that you are under stress. You may smoke or drink more in an attempt to manage stress. Some people abuse drugs.

Here are some suggestions how to remedy stress:

  1. Seek support from family, friends or religious organizations. If you engage in drugs or alcohol overuse or you feel suicidal, it is best to seek the advice from a psychiatrist or psychologist.
  2. Engage in regular exercise. This produces endorphins, the natural “feel-good” brain hormone. This reduces symptoms of depression and improves sleep quality.
  3. Do something that increases pleasure, such as having a meal with friends, starting a hobby or watching a good movie.
  4. Positive self-talk: avoid negative thoughts like “I can’t do this”. Instead say to yourself “I will do the best I can”. Psychologists have developed a technique where they teach patients how to turn negatives into positives. Psychologists call this therapy “cognitive therapy”. You may want to seek the advice of a psychologist to have a few cognitive therapy sessions.
  5. Daily relaxation: you may want to use self-hypnosis, tai-chi exercises or meditation to reduce your stress levels.
Stress Drives Our Lives

Stress Drives Our Lives

Conclusion

Stress is very common. Diverse diseases like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease can all be caused by stress. It is important to minimize the impact of stress by seeking family support and support from friends. Engaging in regular exercise will release endorphins and make you feel better. Relaxation exercises and seeking counselling can all help you to manage stress. You cannot ignore or simply tolerate this force in your life. Stress is indeed there, but we can make a difference by managing it to avoid that stress manages us.

Nov
05
2016

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

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.

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

Evidence of health risks of night shifts

1.There are several publications that showed evidence of health risks of night shift workers. Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts.A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.

2.This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Researchers compared blood tests from daytime workers to blood tests from night shift workers. They also obtained inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

Higher mortality and higher cancer risk in nighttime workers

3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.

4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.

5.In a study from China 25,377 participants were included in a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work in this study showed no effect with regard to cancer development.

BMI and estrogen levels higher in women nighttime workers

6.A Polish study examined hormones and the body mass index (BMI) among 263 women who worked night shifts and 269 women who worked day shifts. When night shift workers had worked more than 15 years at nights, their estrogen levels, particularly in postmenopausal women were elevated compared to the daytime workers who served as controls. The BMI was also increased in the nighttime workers.

Risk for chronic lymphocytic leukemia higher in nighttime workers

7.Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): a study in Spain showed that working for more than 20 years in rotating night shifts was associated with a 1.77-fold higher risk of developing CLL. The authors noted that melatonin levels in that group were much lower than in controls that worked only day shifts. Working in straight night shifts did not show higher risks of CLL compared to daytime workers.

8. In a Korean study from Seoul 100 female medical technologist who worked nighttime had their melatonin levels tested, which were compared to daytime workers.  They measured 1.84 pg/mL of melatonin for the nighttime workers compared to 4.04 pg/mL of melatonin in the daytime workers. The authors felt that this is proof that the diurnal hormone system has been disrupted. Altering the melatonin level also changes the circadian hormone rhythm.

Flatter cortisol curves at night in nighttime workers, also increased diabetes risk

9.A group of 168 female hospital employees doing rotating nightshift work in Southern Ontario hospitals were compared to 160 day workers. Cortisol production was assessed. Cortisol production in day workers and in shift workers on their day shift was similar. However, shift workers on their night shift had flatter cortisol curves and produced less cortisol. The authors felt that this disruption of cortisol production would explain why rotating night shift workers have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

10.A Danish study with female nurses followed 28,731 nurses between 1993 and 2015. Researchers measured the incidence of diabetes in rotating nighttime nurses in comparison to the data from daytime nurses. Night shift workers had a risk between 1.58-fold to 1.99-fold when compared to daytime workers to develop diabetes. The risk for evening shift workers was less (between 1.29-fold and 1.59-fold).

Diurnal hormone rhythm behind health risks of night shifts

Your body has its own rules. It rewards you, if you sleep 7 to 8 hours during the night, but it will penalize you severely, if you turn it upside down. The reason is our built-in diurnal hormone rhythm. A peak of melatonin regulates sleep during the night. Melatonin is released by the pineal gland (on the base of the skull) when it gets dark outside. Daytime wakefulness regulates the release of 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 is highest in the morning, human growth hormone is highest between midnight and 3 AM etc.

Adjustment of the diurnal hormone system

When you work daytime shifts, your diurnal hormone rhythm works just fine. But if you work nighttime shifts, your hormones have to adapt. This is very similar to traveling east or west where you cross several time zones. Your internal diurnal hormone system has to adjust to these changes. Typically it takes 1 day to adjust to a 1-hour time zone difference.

Rotating shift workers have the highest risk of getting sick

In people who work permanent night shifts, the hormone changes stay adjusted and there is no further switching. But most employers want to be “fair” to everybody, so they introduced the rotating night shifts. The publications above show that this is the worst thing you can do. It messes with your diurnal hormone rhythm, and some people never switch completely to the new hours worked. They don’t get enough daytime sleep because the kids are loud during the day etc. The rotating shift workers are running the highest risk of getting sick. The get cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancer, leukemia, and they have low levels of melatonin.

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

Conclusion

Shift workers working constant night shifts is less stressful than the more common rotating shift work. This is where you work night shifts for a period of time. Then the schedule switches to day shift, and you keep on rotating. The least health risks occur with regular daytime work. People exposed to rotating night shifts suffer from poor sleep. They have a higher risk of gaining weight, getting obese and acquiring diabetes in time. They are at a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes and cancer. All-cause mortality is about twofold higher than for workers who work day shifts.

The underlying problem seems to be a disturbance of the diurnal hormone rhythm. Normally this regulates our waking/sleeping rhythm and keeps us healthy. But with nighttime work melatonin production weakens, there is less cortisol production and hormone rejuvenation during rest periods suffers greatly. This weakens the immune system, allows cancer to develop and leads to chronic inflammation causing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The remedy to prevent this from happening is to catch little naps whenever you can during the day. And, if at all possible, work daytime shifts permanently.

Sep
17
2016

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Forbes invited me to publish a blog I wrote for Quora, “Seven steps to live over 100 years”.

The topic of habits by people who live more than a hundred years has been reviewed many times in the media. It continues to be popular. Here are seven things you can do to stay healthy followed by an explanation why.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step1: Stay active

You want to stay active every day, even if you retire. You want to move and keep your mind busy. Part of that is to do a daily formal exercise routine to keep those muscles toned, which will prevent falls in the future.

Explanation: when you keep your muscles toned and you move about, your balance organ and coordination remains sharp, you are less likely to fall and break a hip. 50% of those who sustain a hip fracture die.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 2: Eat a healthy diet

Eat a Mediterranean type diet or follow the Okinawan diet. These diets contain less meat (or no meat as in the Seventh Day Adventist diet), but lots of vegetables and fiber. This keeps your cholesterol down, your arteries open and your metabolism controlled, preventing diabetes. If you are not obese and you have no diabetes, you are going to be OK with your cardiovascular system for decades to come.

Explanation: Heart attacks are still on top of the mortality list. Avoid them and you got it made, if you want to make it to 100 and beyond. But we need to stay away from the poor fats and the obsession about eating beef. Red meat, if eaten too often gives you a higher risk of getting cancer and heart disease. So eat it only once a week at the most, the rest would be chicken, turkey meat or fish. Nothing wrong with a vegetarian meal, let’s say kidney beans or lentils on a day in between. This still gives you protein for your muscles, but spares you a heart attack.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 3: Take care of your teeth

Brush your teeth and floss every day. This will control the bacteria in your mouth and prevent leakage into your blood affecting your heart valves. Studies have shown that this prevents heart attacks.

Explanation: When I heard this first about 20 years ago, I found it strange. But the literature is clear: chronic gingivitis is associated with bacteria that grow on the gums and spread into your blood. They can then colonize your heart valves and even the lining of the arteries, particularly where there is already hardening of the arteries (arterial plaque). This can lead to heart valve disease like mitral valve disease or heart attacks.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 4: prevention of disease

See your physician right away if there is a new skin lesion or anything that is different on your body. Removal of early cancer and treatment of any early medical condition is always easier to treat than waiting until it is out of control. Particularly with cancer treatment at an early stage, which usually involves only a small surgical procedure, this will reward you with a ripe old age.

Explanation: I learnt this point in general practice. Patients who waited until small problems become big problems were always much worse off than patients who saw me for small problems that we could remedy at an early stage. As mentioned above this is particularly important in cancer cases, as usually stage 1 and 2 of a cancer is curable with surgery. Once you get lymph node metastases and distant metastases, the cancer is much more difficult to treat, if at all. This is a principle that is pretty much true for any disease. The prevention factor is huge. Make use of it!

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 5: Lifestyle matters

Watch excesses like smoking (cut it out!), alcohol intake, and recreational drugs. Smoking causes heart attacks, strokes, and cancers, which shorten your life. Recreational drugs just interfere with your body chemistry and have side effects. Cut them out, if you cherish growing older than 100. Alcohol needs to be kept at a very low consumption, if you want to preserve your liver, which is your central metabolic organ. If you can’t handle moderation with alcohol consumption, cut it out. No one has died from not consuming alcohol.

Explanation: I have already explained why lifestyle choices matter. The alcohol question is one that will be discussed back and forth for centuries. There are cardiologists who tell you that men should drink 1 to 2 drinks per day and women 1 drink per day and we all live longer, because of prevention of heart disease. The wine industry makes sure that you will hear this cardiology rule. It is true that centenarians often drink one glass of red wine per day. But there are plenty of centenarians who never drank in their life. It is a matter of personal choice.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 6: Avoid obesity and diabetes

I did mention to avoid obesity under point 2 above, which is associated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Your ideal body mass index should be in the 21 to 22 range. You can achieve this by following the diets I mentioned above. You should cut out sugar and starchy foods.

Explanation: I have followed such a diet since 2001 and my body mass index is between 21 and 22. I grew up in Germany where an emphasis was put on sweets and starchy foods. Needless to say my modified Mediterranean diet deviates from the good old German diet significantly. I find healthy food very tasty.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 7: Sleep and hormones

Getting sleep regularly, having an optimistic outlook on life, and having good relationships help to keep the immune system strong and keep your hormones balanced. This in turn will keep you healthy emotionally and physically.

Explanation:

There are two comments I like to make. One is that when you have calm nerves, and your emotions are in balance, your stress hormones are under control. We know that people who are content and easy going live longer. The type A personality is the one who gets a heart attack.

The other point is that hormones have running times. When they start missing, we get menopause or andropause. When we are in our 50’s it is time to have your hormones checked by a knowledgeable health practitioner (naturopath, anti-aging physician). At this point regular physicians are mostly lack education about bioidentical hormone replacement. I mention this as in European studies it has been shown that replacement of missing hormones with bioidentical hormones resulted in more youthful lives. You can extend your life expectancy by 15 years using bioidentical hormones according to Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist in Belgium.

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Conclusion

People have had a long time fascination about the factors that lead to a healthy age above 100 years. I am suggesting that you concentrate on enjoying your life and keeping toxins out. Engage in some form of exercise or stay active all the time. Adopt a healthy diet. This is where perhaps most people go wrong. They think they can go on pouring junk foods and alcohol down their throats and never get heart disease or cancer. The truth is not quite like that. We do need to adopt a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet. We also need to limit drinking to a healthy level. Replacing missing hormones with bioidentical ones will prolong your life as well. Given these recommendations, happy journey to 100 and beyond!