Jul
03
2022

Can Surgery Help with Snoring?

Snoring is a common problem in people, and so the question is: can surgery help with snoring? About 25% of adults snore regularly, 45% snore occasionally. You are more likely to snore when you are overweight. Other factors are being a middle-aged or older male or a postmenopausal woman. Over the last decades various surgical procedures were in development in an attempt to cure snoring.

Obstructive sleep apnea

A person with obstructive sleep apnea has a problem of a relaxed rooftop in the mouth, where the uvula drops down. At the same time the tongue is falling backwards and together with the relaxed rooftop this leads to intermittent obstruction of the airway. The end result is loud snoring, which can lead to intermittent cessation of breathing. A positive pressure device is a common remedy for this condition, which keeps the airway open during your sleep. It is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). However, this system is somewhat noisy, and about 50% of patients find it disturbing and cannot tolerate it. Many patients prefer a surgical, permanent solution.

Classification of snoring

Most snorers have primary snoring. Among these patients there is a minority who stop breathing periodically, which lowers the blood oxygen content. The patient awakes from this and tightens the muscles in the palatine-pharyngeal area and then breathes normally again for a while. These patients have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, when deeper sleep is reached in OSA patients the cycle repeats itself. A clinical test how to distinguish between primary snoring and OAS is a polysomnography study, which also goes by the name of a sleep study.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty

This sounds like a tongue twister! In lay terms it is a surgical procedure which removes the uvula and the adjacent tissues of the palate and throat walls. There are side effects like swallowing problems, throat changes and the permanent feeling of a foreign body in the throat. Since the original design several modifications were introduced, which reduce the side effects of this procedure, but do not entirely eliminate them.

Somnoplasty or radiofrequency ablation

For patients with primary snoring, who do not have OSA a new procedure utilizes low levels of radiofrequency heat energy to create finely controlled localized burns in the lining of the soft tissues of the palate. This tightens the palate tissue and avoids the vibrations that cause snoring. The procedure can be done in the office setting under local anesthetic. It takes only about 30 minutes. When researchers compared pre-treatment scores with scores after three years following two ablation radiofrequency treatments there was a significant reduction of the snoring activity. Somnoplasty is another name for the FDA approved ablation radiofrequency treatment. This treatment works well for patients with primary snoring, but is not so successful for patients with OSA.

Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA)

The physician orders this fairly invasive surgery for patients with OSA who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure. The goal of the surgery is to remove the two obstruction points where the patient chokes at night. This occurs most often behind the palate and behind the tongue. MMA was introduced more than 35 years ago. On the plus side, the success rate is about 90%. The minus side is the fact that it is major invasive surgery where the surgeon moves both the upper and lower jaws forward opening up the two choke points in the back. The surgery lasts about 6 hours and it takes approximately 6 weeks for it to heal.

Hypoglossal nerve stimulation

An alternative for patients with moderate to severe OSA is the use of hypoglossal nerve stimulation. Patients with OSA have a weakness in the muscle tone of the muscles that push the tongue forward. When they fall asleep the tongue tends to fall backwards obstructing the airways. This can be remedied with the use of hypoglossal nerve stimulation that stimulates the muscles that push the tongue forward.

Results with hypoglossal nerve stimulation devices were encouraging, as more than 80% of patients with OAS who had this device inserted had a successful treatment outcome. 4 years later, in the same patients there was still effectiveness of the hypoglossal nerve stimulator and the improvement in quality of life remained the same.

Can Surgery Help with Snoring?

Can Surgery Help with Snoring?

Conclusion

There are several procedures that can help patients with primary snoring or patients with an obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). For patients with primary snoring, who do not have OSA a new procedure utilizes low levels of radiofrequency heat energy to create finely controlled localized burns in the lining of the soft tissues of the palate. This tightens the palate tissue and avoids the vibrations that cause snoring. In patients with obstructive sleep apnea a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) is a common remedy for this condition, which keeps the airway open during their sleep. But only about 50% of patients tolerate this procedure.

More surgical procedures

The uvulopalatopharyngoplasty can help a certain number of patients. Here the ear/nose/throat surgeon removes the uvula and the adjacent tissues of the palate and throat walls. The surgeon does this under general anaesthesia, and patients will take about two weeks to fully recover. Another more invasive procedure is the maxillomandibular advancement (MMA). The goal of the surgery is to remove the two obstruction points where the patient chokes at night. This occurs most often behind the palate and behind the tongue. The surgical procedure is in use for more than 35 years and the success rate is about 90%. However the surgery will take several hours, and recovery of the patient will take about 6 weeks.

Jan
08
2022

Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression

A new study describes that sleep training to prevent insomnia and depression is desirable. Notably, the study published in JAMA Psychiatry took 291 people age 60 years and older and followed them for three years. In this case half the participants received treatment with sleep training, the other half treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy. The other half was the control who received sleep education therapy from a public health educator. It is important to realize that both groups received 120 minutes weekly group sessions for two months. That is to say, following training of 2 months the subjects were followed for 36 months. It must be remembered that they completed monthly questionnaires to monitor for depression and insomnia. At the end of the study almost 1/3 of the cognitive behavioral group still were free of insomnia.

The control group who received sleep education therapy initially showed no longer any

improvement. In other words, the initial progress did not last with sleep education only. The study was also published in CNN.

Results about rates of depression

Those subjects of the cognitive behavioral therapy group who had a sustained remission of their insomnia disorder had a rate of 82.6% less depression. This was in comparison to the subjects who did not sustain their treatment against insomnia. Dr. Pim Cuijpers commented that the results of the study show “a completely new and innovative way” of tackling the growing problem of depression. Dr. Cuijpers is a professor of Clinical Psychology at the Free University of Amsterdam.

A brief background about depression in older patients

Depression is common in people above the age of 60. About 30-50% of this age group develop depression. Part of this could be that older people often do not get enough sleep as middle-age or younger adults do. Melatonin production declines with older age and this may play a role in insomnia of older people. On the other hand, one of the major symptoms of depression is a lack of sleep. It seems that a lack of REM sleep, the deep sleep that makes us dream, is responsible for both troubles, sleeping (insomnia) and depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy administered by a therapist is effective for insomnia

It is important that a therapist administers the cognitive behavioral therapy. There are recordings available online that provide cognitive therapy, but they are not individualised. Dr. Irwin said: “That’s why CBT-I is so effective in person, because the therapist is helping that individual navigate and negotiate with themselves — and it can be really hard work,” Irwin added. “I believe that’s also why CBT-I apps or online tools often don’t work — people get frustrated, disappointed or angry at themselves, and they basically stop the work.”

The rationale for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT for insomnia has five components: Stimulus control, sleep restriction, sleep hygiene, relaxation and cognitive behavioral therapy. Researchers gave the program the name CBT-I. Sleep hygiene and relaxation involve these sleeping habits: going to bed at the same time every day, eliminating noise and blue light from electronic devices. Also, you want to keep your bedroom cool, take warm baths and do yoga for relaxation.

Stimulus control and sleep restriction

Stimulus control involves getting out of bed, if you can’t sleep. Dr. Irvin said: “Most people stay in bed, fretting about not falling asleep, which then turns the bed into a negative space. Instead, people are taught to get up after 10 minutes of tossing and turning, do quiet, non-stimulating activities, and not to come back to bed until they are sleepy.” Sleep restriction means that a person lies in bed only to sleep plus 30 minutes. It is a way to make people with insomnia get out of bed instead of lying there awake.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy disrupts irrational thoughts and beliefs about sleep. Patients with insomnia often think “I can never sleep” or “I might die if I don’t sleep tonight.” A therapist has training to help the patient find a way back to a more realistic mindset. Eventually the patient accepts the bed as a welcoming place.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in preventing depression

Dr. Irwin pointed out that chronic insomnia often leads to depression. A dangerous consequence of depression can be preoccupation with suicide. A certain percentage of patients with depression in any age group want to kill themselves. This is where cognitive behavioral therapy can intervene and make a huge difference. As mentioned earlier almost 1/3 of patients who received cognitive behavioral therapy for two months retained their normal sleep pattern. It was among this group that 82.6% had no depression compared to a control group. These are very important statistics. Dr. Irwin said: “We have shown that we can actually target insomnia with cognitive behavior therapy and prevent depression from occurring”.

Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression


Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression

Conclusion

A new study in JAMA Psychiatry describes that sleep training to prevent insomnia and depression is feasible. Sleep researchers used cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for two months on subjects who suffered from insomnia. The treatment group had profound effects with respect to improving insomnia and depression. Almost 1/3 of subjects treated with cognitive behavioral therapy returned to a normal sleeping pattern. And this subgroup of patients had 82.6% less depression. The lead author, Dr. Irwin thinks that cognitive behavioral therapy could become the new way of how to treat and prevent depression.

Nov
13
2021

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

Early October 2021 CNN had an article about how to fall asleep quicker. Most people take 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep.

Sleep environment

It is important to arrange a sleep environment where you can sleep well. This includes bedroom darkening and keeping the room temperature of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 20 degrees Celsius). Make sure your bed is comfortable and use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Do not read in the bedroom, keep your cell phone in another room and do not have a TV or computer in the bedroom. These produce blue light, which stimulates your brain. This is exactly what you do not want to have in your bedroom.

Normal sleep duration for different ages

There are always exceptions to rules. In this case there is a rare gene that allows the carrier to sleep only 5 hours at night and still have normal energy during the day. It is called short sleep gene.

Here are the hours of sleep that everybody else needs every night in different age groups:

  • Adults: 7-8 hours
  • School-age children: 12 hours
  • Teenagers: 8-10 hours

If you get the proper hours of sleep, but you are still tired during the day, you may have a lack of quality of sleep. Older people often have to go to the bathroom several times during the night. As it takes some time to reach the deepest level of sleep at night (REM sleep) older people often miss significant amounts of REM sleep during which they dream. The end result is a lack of energy during the day.

Conditions that interrupt your sleep

There are some medical conditions that can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is one such condition that 25 million Americans have. A person with this kind of condition snores, gasps, chokes or stops breathing periodically during the course of the night. Restless leg syndrome is another condition, which interferes with a restful, deep sleep. Other conditions are chronic pain, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and gastroesophageal reflux. Medication can affect sleep depth as well.

Falling asleep naturally

Despite many studies it is not clear why some people have no problem falling asleep while others find it difficult. Taking 10 to 20 minutes of falling asleep is normal. If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes of trying, go to a dim room and do something calming until you feel drowsy again. Then return to your bed. Follow the same procedure, if you wake up in the middle of the night and you have difficulties falling asleep again. Deep breathing, yoga and meditation are proven remedies to pipe down and help you to fall asleep.

Monitoring sleep at a sleep clinic

A sleep study can be very helpful in diagnosing sleep disturbances.  The sleep expert measures several body functions simultaneously. These are heart rate, air flow, blood oxygen level, breathing rate, brain wave activity, muscle movements and eye movements. During a night sleep study, a polysomnogram records all these body functions automatically. The finding helps the sleep expert to diagnose and treat the sleep disturbance.

Self-help supplements for insomnia

My regular sleep supplement every night is 3 mg of melatonin.

Sometimes this is not enough, because I watched an exciting movie or I wrote too much for Quora online. When I can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, I take a capsule of 500 mg of valerian root. I would say that this helps in 95% of the nights to fall asleep.

If for some reason I still can’t fall asleep, I use 25 drops of  Passion Flower Extract:  I find that this is very reliable and puts me to sleep within 15 to 20 minutes of taking it. This way I am avoiding prescription narcotics and I am not getting addicted to benzodiazepines. The last step (Passion Flower Extract) I require only once or twice a month. The chemical in the Passion Flower Extract is very similar to benzodiazepines, which means you don’t want to take this every night or your system could get addicted to it.

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

Conclusion

Falling asleep is something we all can learn. It starts with a quiet and relaxing bedroom ambience. We need to allow for enough sleep duration. Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep, children and youth more. Deep breathing, yoga and meditation are proven remedies to prepare you to fall asleep easier. When all fails there are a number of self-help supplements you can take to help you ease into sleep. If you still have problems falling asleep a sleep study can be very helpful in diagnosing sleep disturbances. In a sleep clinic your heart rate, air flow, blood oxygen level, breathing rate, brain wave activity, muscle movements and eye movements are recorded with a polysomnogram. The doctor from the sleep clinic can formulate the diagnosis of the sleep disorder and help you overcome any identified problems.

The subchapter “Self-help supplements for insomnia” was published by me earlier here.

Jan
09
2021

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Notably, the January 2021 issue of the Life Extension magazine informs you that melatonin is more than a sleeping aid. It contains an interview between Dr. Roman Rozencwaig and a Life Extension (LE) magazine reporter. It must be remembered that Dr. Rozencwaig dedicated much of his career to the healing effects of melatonin. Another keypoint is that in 1987 Dr. Rozencwaig published a paper together with two other researchers. Specifically, it showed that melatonin production by the pineal gland declines in older age. Markedly, they stated that this is the reason why people age and why diseases of aging develop. Another key point is that Dr. Rozencwaig also stated that taking oral melatonin can promote a healthier life.

Melatonin deficiency causing aging and various illnesses

With the aging process the pineal gland calcifies and melatonin production is steadily declining. Surely, along with this is a deterioration of the circadian hormone rhythm. Meanwhile, the neuroendocrine system in the brain gets disorganized. Accordingly, this causes various diseases to occur. To emphasize, Dr. Rozencwaig says that a proper balance between melatonin and neurotransmitters is what we need to maintain health and longevity. As a result, a daily intake of melatonin supports healthy aging and longevity.

The many clinical effects of melatonin

Oral melatonin tablets help you to fall asleep easier, particularly the population that is older than 60 years.

But besides that, melatonin has many other clinical effects.

  • Melatonin improves immunity, which improves resistance against infections. It helps also in cancer prevention
  • Melatonin maintains the circadian hormone rhythm by synchronizing pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production
  • It protects the brain and may prevent Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and others
  • Melatonin modulates anti-inflammatory cytokinins in different diseases

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin slows down the aging process. There are multiple intertwining reasons for this. 

Melatonin’s actions against the aging process 

  • Melatonin regulates gene expression. This means that some signs and symptoms of aging can be reversed through genetic switches
  • Because melatonin regulates the immune response, the body is more protected against viral, bacterial and parasitic infections
  • Melatonin helps to overcome chronic inflammation that produces cytokines
  • Melatonin is also liver-protective through stimulation of an enzyme (AMPK). This enzyme regulates cellular metabolism.
  • There are other processes that melatonin is involved in: energy metabolism by protection and restoration of mitochondria.
  • Melatonin protects against osteoporosis by balancing and regulating bone formation versus bone loss.

More actions of melatonin

  • An important function of melatonin is the stimulation of antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD)
  • Melatonin regulates sirtuins, which are proteins that maintain cellular health. They protect you from obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and strokes, dementia and more
  • As already mentioned, melatonin is a neuroprotective agent and may prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Melatonin stimulates apoptosis of cancer cells.
  • Oral health and melatonin are related. Melatonin suppresses herpes infections and periodontal disease. Melatonin prevents oral cancers to a certain degree. In addition, dental implants survive better when melatonin is present in saliva.

Prevention of cognitive decline

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin stops much of the cognitive decline of aging. To achieve this the following processes take place.

  1. Melatonin improves the sleeping pattern and increases the amount of REM sleep.
  2. During sleep melatonin removes toxic amyloid and tau proteins. We know that with Alzheimer’s disease these are the proteins that accumulate in the brain.
  3. Melatonin improves myelination of white matter in the brain. This prevents brain atrophy of old age.
  4. The brain is metabolically very active and produces toxic free radicals. But melatonin is a strong antioxidant dealing with free radicals. Melatonin can cross the blood brain barrier and stimulates enzyme production to eliminate toxic reactive oxygen species.
  5. Chronic inflammation also increases with age, but melatonin deals with this condition in the brain.
  6. Here are 3 subtypes of melatonin receptors. The body integrates the multitude of actions of melatonin with the help of these receptors.
Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Conclusion

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that has many other useful protective qualities as explained. The body integrates various functions like anti-aging, anti-free radical activity, neuroprotection in the brain and more. Melatonin even synchronizes pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production. This helps to integrate the effect of melatonin, which benefits the body in many ways. Melatonin prevents Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, strokes and dementia. Melatonin production deteriorates from the age of about 60 onwards. It is important to supplement with melatonin at nighttime from that age on. Usually, you only need small amounts of melatonin, between 1mg and 3 mg at bedtime. This prevents most of the serious diseases of old age, stimulates your immune system and lets you age gracefully.

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Oct
17
2020

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

A recent article by CNN describes what can happen to your body over months of isolation at home. The article is rather negative showing all the possible things that can go wrong. I have been isolated as well since March 2020. I handle the isolation differently than described in the article. I will comment to each point what can be done differently to avoid the complications mentioned.

Muscle loss

The CNN article makes the point that inactivity can make you lose muscle bulk within only one week. A lack of exercise weakens your muscle strength. And muscle strength has been associated with longevity.

My comment:

I do a brisk walk of 5 to 7 kilometers daily. This maintains my muscle bulk. But I have a treadmill in the basement and a couple of weights that I can use, if it rains outside.

There is a danger that heart and lungs get weaker

You need to raise your heart rate and you also need to perfuse your lungs through exercise. Many people do not like exercise. They sit in front of the TV for hours or they surf the net on the computer. Even just reading a book does not give you enough exercise to get your heart rate up and increase your lung perfusion.

My comment:

A brisk walk with proper distancing gives you fresh air, exercises your muscles, your heart and your lungs. It maintains your cardiovascular fitness.

Weight gain

Being home all the time allows you to look into the fridge more often and eat snacks that are processed. People tend to eat more often than 3 times a day. The end result is that you gain weight. In the beginning of the epidemic people stocked up on non-perishable foods. Often they contain more sugar and carbohydrates. Consuming these foods leads to weight gain. Wearing masks, frequent hand washing, isolation practices and change of normal routines makes people get stressed. Stress leads to overeating and weight gain.

My comment:

In the last 6 months that I did home isolation my body mass index (BMI) stayed in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. I ate three meals a day. I avoided processed foods as they are overloaded with sugar, salt and refined carbs. Once a month I do a 5-day fasting mimicking diet according to Dr. Longo. This ensures that my BMI stays within the range I indicated. Otherwise I eat a Mediterranean diet, which is anti-inflammatory.

Your posture could suffer

When you are seated in front of the computer or the TV you tend to engage in poor postures. This can lead to strains of your back, neck, shoulders and hips. Staring at the computer screen or the TV can also give you eye strain.

My comment:

The key is movement, such as getting up and walking around; doing other activities like lawn mowing, weed eating or doing dishes. This interrupts any longer stretch of bad posture.

Your sleep quality can suffer

The more exposure to sunlight during the day you get, the more vitamin D you produce in the skin. Some people lack the necessary enzymes in the skin to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. But exposure to sunlight also helps to reinforce your diurnal hormone rhythm. This is also called circadian rhythm. Avoid blue lights (TV, computer, iPhones etc.) in the evening before bedtime as this can interfere with a deep sleep later. Also go to bed early enough (between 10 and 11 PM) to allow your circadian rhythm to take over.

My comment:

Some people (above the age of 60) benefit from 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime. After the age of 60 people no longer produce enough melatonin in the pineal gland. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I take another 3 mg of melatonin prior to 3AM. Caution: after 3 AM melatonin can give you a bit of a hangover in the morning.

Your brain can slow down

The brain needs nutrition and exercise. Exercise can eliminate certain amino acid by-products that otherwise turn into neurotoxins. With exercise you even prevent neurotoxins to enter the brain.

My comment:

I find that I must at least do a brisk walk of 4 kilometers a day. It prevents back pain, helps me sleep better and keeps my mind clear. But as mentioned earlier I prefer doing a brisk walk for 5 to 7 kilometers a day. In the past (prior to March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic started) I went to the gym every day. When it finally reopened, they had one Covid-19 case at the gym. I decided that it is too dangerous to go back to the gym until a safe Covid-19 vaccine is available in the summer of 2021. I feel the same way about flying. It is not worth the risk. I can just stay local and do my own program. The pleasure of traveling can wait until the summer of next year.

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

Conclusion

A recent CNN article described the dangers of passively staying in home isolation. I felt that this article was on the negative side. I found that by including a regular brisk walking program into my daily lifestyle the day got more structured. I felt I had more energy and I had no aches or pains. If I spent too much time watching TV or spending in front of the computer, I developed back aches and felt sluggish. I incorporated a 5-day fasting mimicking diet according to Dr. Longo once per month into my regular Mediterranean diet. This allowed me to keep my body mass index in the 21.0- 22.0 range. Doing what I described above I could continue to hold my weight, have energy and stay pain free for many more months. But when the Covid-19 vaccine arrives in spring/summer of 2021 I hope that things will return to normal.

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 longtime shift workers had a 28% higher mortality compared to a control group of daytime 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

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!

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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