Treating Depression with Light Therapy

Research reveals bright light treatment is more than just a way to beat the winter blues.

Depression is a disease that touches many lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6.4 percent of Americans suffer from some type of depression. It’s the leading cause of disability in the United States. Antidepressant medications are widely prescribed to help patients deal with the symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, they’re effective in only 55-60 percent of cases, leaving many depression sufferers searching for a viable alternative.

Light therapy has long been used to combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s linked to the changing of the seasons. But what about depression that has nothing to do with the seasons? According to Dr. Barbara Parry, MD, a professor of psychiatry at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, exposure to bright light is an effective treatment for other types of depressive disorders too.

“Light therapy initially was used to treat seasonal affective disorder (or winter depression), but more recently has been found to be even more efficacious than antidepressants for non-seasonal depression,” says Parry.

New Evidence in Favor of Light Therapy

Recent research confirms the efficacy of treating non-seasonal depression with bright light. Scientists from the University of British Columbia (UBC) studied the effects of light therapy on the disease, both as a standalone treatment and in combination with the antidepressant fluoxetine. The study, led by UBC professor and psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Lam, MD, involved 122 patients who were exposed to a fluorescent light box for 30 minutes upon waking every day for eight weeks.

The results of the study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, showed that many patients benefited from light therapy and experienced positive effects on their mood. Light therapy helped both the patients taking fluoxetine and those who took none.

Another recent study examined the effects of light therapy on depressed cancer survivors. Patients who were exposed to a bright white light box 30 minutes each morning for four weeks experienced an improvement in their depressive symptoms. Other patients who followed the same routine with a dim red light box reported no change in symptoms.

The results of these studies should provide hope to people suffering from depression who find no relief from the current crop of treatments. “More and more people are seeking help because there is less stigma about having depression,” Lam said in a news release from UBC. “It’s important to find new treatments because our current therapies don’t work for everyone. Our findings should help to improve the lives of people with depression.”

The Advantages of Light Therapy

Light therapy for non-seasonal depressive disorder isn’t necessarily faster-acting than antidepressants. According to Parry, patients using light therapy for SAD tend to see results quickly, in as little as three to four days. However, for those suffering from non-seasonal depression, the effects of light exposure take longer to kick in – about five to six weeks.

That’s approximately the same amount of time it takes to experience relief with antidepressant medications (four to six weeks). However, the positive effects of antidepressants come at a cost. Users report a variety of side effects, including insomnia, lethargy, migraines, weight gain, decreased sex drive, and even suicide.

Light therapy generally results in fewer side effects, making it an excellent alternative for people who wish to avoid the unpleasant and possibly harmful effects of antidepressants. “It is a viable alternative treatment for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding who are concerned about the small, but potentially adverse, effects of antidepressant medication on their child,” says Parry.

Those who avoid medication due to cost or lack of availability are also good candidates for light therapy. The initial investment in a fluorescent light box ranges from $40 to $300. The treatment itself is as simple as plugging in the box at home and basking in its glow for 30 minutes each morning. There’s no need to disrupt the morning routine either – reading, eating, drinking coffee, checking email, shaving, and putting on makeup are all acceptable activities during a light therapy session.

Combining Treatments for Maximum Effect

 While light therapy alone is an effective treatment for depression, its impact improves when combined with other treatments, such as psychotherapy, medication, or sleep therapy. The UBC researchers found that the patients who reported the most improvement in depressive symptoms were those who also took an antidepressant. Parry is currently researching the impact of combining light therapy with shifts in sleeping schedules. According to her, “Light treatment can work faster and its effects can be enhanced by combining it with sleep therapy.”

 

Article sources:

Barbara Parry, MD, professor of psychiatry at University of California San Diego School of Medicine

Lam, Raymond W., MD. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016; 73(1): pp 56-63.

National Institute of Mental Health: “Antidepressants: A Complicated Picture”

News release, Mount Sinai Hospital/Mount Sinai School of Medicine

News release, University of British Columbia

 

 

 

5 Simple Tips For Instant Stress Relief

With working commitments, social ventures and personal projects eating away at our time, we spend most of our time experiencing some variation of stress. While at first, feelings of anxiety might start to interfere with what we do, over time, we become acclimatized to new tensions which might soon become just another part of our daily routine. Adapting to stress like this can be manageable for brief periods of time but, gradually, the feeling can start to have a detrimental effect on our general wellbeing, making carrying out the most normal of tasks a real struggle.

Now is the time to unwind. While some sorts of stress can help us to reach our goals, there comes a point in which we have to switch off, for the benefit of our overall health. By simply incorporating these simple steps into your daily routine, you can not only help to eliminate feelings of anxiety but also, increase your productivity and general outlook. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Work It Out

When things get too much, it can be tempting to curl into a ball and shut off from the world around you but there’s a good reason why you should get out and about. Exercise is one of the best stress busters out there, helping your body to relieve built up tensions by working up a sweat. Increasing your heart rate and really working out your muscles is a great way to get rid of tensions that you carry home with you and by the time your workout is complete, you might just have a new outlook on life.

Take A Dip

If you’re struggling to get to sleep after a long and stressful day, then the soothing powers of a bath might be all that you need. Taking half an hour in which to lie down in a bath can help you to work through any tensions you might be feeling from your working day. In order to really switch off, leave your phone in another room and turn down the lights. By the time you emerge, you will be able to face your stress with a new perspective and feel recharged to take on any challenge.

Talk To Yourself

While talking out your problems with your nearest and dearest is a great way of getting on top of any stress, you can also try using self-motivation as a way in which to quash tension when noone else is around. Using a series of daily mantras can both help you to relax and find a positive solution to the problem that you might be facing. The more often that you remind yourself that stress is not your friend, the more easily that you will be able to believe it.

Eat Away Your Stress

While tucking into a tub of ice cream is of something we are all guilty, there’s a good reason why you should turn to something a little more healthy when stress hits. Healthy foods such as blueberries, salmon, dark chocolate and yogurt all are renowned for their stress-busting abilities, helping to restore imbalances that arise in your body. As soon as you feel your anxiety levels mounting, try incorporating more of these foods into your regime. Your body will start to feel the benefits straight away.

Look To The Future

When things get really bad, it is easy to dwell on the past and go over all of the mistakes that you might have made. In times of stress, we might be our own worst enemies and in order to improve the situation, it pays for us to look towards a positive future. While learning from past mistakes can help us to move forwards, there comes a time in which we must stop dwelling on what happened before and focus on where we’re moving next. We can’t change what happened in the past, but we do hold an active power over the future; it’s time to take it by both hands.

When stress mounts, running away from your problems might seem like the easiest solution but tackling them head on can help you in more ways than one. Approaching anxiety as a temporary problem is one of the best ways in which to get over times of worry; while things might seem to be mounting up, problems you might experience will eventually pass. You don’t have to let stress take an active role in your life; you decide what happens next.

Why Some People Suffer from Anxiety More Than Others

Most people have experienced anxiety. A test, a new job, and moving can all cause you to feel nervous. While these are typical anxiety-causing situations, some people become just as nervous over other situations that aren’t as life changing. These people tend to have an increased risk for anxiety.

New research suggests people who suffer from anxiety more than others perceive the world differently. It’s not about what happens in life, it’s about how those situations are perceived.

In the study, which was published in Current Biology, researchers found that people who were anxious most of the time do not have the ability to distinguish between a safe and unsafe stimulus. Every stimulus is viewed as unsafe, which causes nervousness.

Anxiety and Over-Generalizing Situations

The study found that people who were more likely to become anxious seemed to over-generalize. For instance, when one bad thing happens, they believe everything around them is bad. They perceive their world as negative. This creates more anxiety and then they fuel it more with more negativity.

Testing concluded people who had an emotional experience end up with plasticity in their brain circuits. Those plastic changes lasted much longer than those who didn’t suffer from anxiety issues. This caused them to be at a higher level of nervousness for much longer, which then led them to take other situations and roll them into the first nerve-wrecking one.

Functional magnetic resonance images (fMRIs) of the brains of people in the study showed that anxiety activates many brain regions, particularly in the amygdala. This is the region most responsible for fear, anxiety, and sensory. This indicates that those who experience anxiety often may end up changing those areas of the brain. This then leads them to become more anxious throughout their life. This explains why some people seem to become nervous over situations that don’t normally cause anxiety in others.

“Anxiety traits can be completely normal; there is evidence that they benefited us in our evolutionary past. Yet an emotional event, sometimes even a minor one, can induce brain changes that can potentially lead to full-blown anxiety.” according to Professor Rony Paz of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders

It can be difficult to know whether you’re an anxious person, or you have an anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder. The symptoms are:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feeling tense
  • Always anticipating the worst
  • Irritable
  • Restless
  • Looking for signs of danger
  • Feeling as though your mind has gone blank
  • Experiencing a pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Stomachache
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Increase in urination
  • Tremors
  • Twitches
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Medical professionals often look for signs of anxiety and how it affects the person’s life. If it interferes in school, work, and relationships for more than 2 weeks, this indicates a problem that should be treated.

Treating Anxiety Disorder

Some people can deal with their anxiety; they simply live with it. Other people can’t function at school, work, and with others because of it. These people often have to seek professional help from a medical doctor or psychiatrist.

A medical doctor or psychiatrist can assess the anxiety to find out if there is an anxiety disorder causing the problem, or if there is some other medical condition causing it. Identifying the cause is essential since that is what will be treated. Some people who feel anxious have a medical condition that can be treated, which will keep them from feeling that way. Others will need anti-anxiety medication to help balance brain chemistry. Some medications for anxiety will slow down the neurotransmitters in the brain, which will calm the person and help them perceive situations differently.

Therapy is another great way to treat anxiety. Since a large part of the mental health issue is the way people perceive situations, a therapist can help the person come to alternative conclusions. With cognitive behavioral therapy in particular, people can learn how to use their thoughts to change the way their brain and body respond to situations. In time, the brain will be less likely to perceive every situation as a threatening one.

If you are suffering from anxiety, seek help. You do not have to live with it.

What Women Need to Know About Thyroid Disorders

Women are at a high risk of developing a thyroid disorder. In fact, the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service reports 1 in 100 American suffer from it. If you’re a woman, you need to know what it is, what it does, and how to treat it effectively.

About the Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland is what keeps your body functioning optimally. The gland is located in front of the larynx. It’s job is to produce and secrete hormones, which reach every cell and organ in the body.

It controls:

  • Body temperature
  • Cognitions
  • Heart rate
  • Organ functions

When someone suffers from thyroid disease, they either have too many hormones produced or not enough – hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can make you feel ill and cause medical conditions. Each of them have their own distinct symptoms.

Hyperthyroid symptoms include:

  • Losing weight
  • Inability to tolerate the heat
  • Increase in bowel movements
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Enlarging of the thyroid gland
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tiredness

Hypothyroid symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Inability to tolerate the cold
  • Dry or brittle hair
  • Memory difficulties
  • Depression and irritability
  • High cholesterol
  • Slow heart rate
  • Decrease in bowel movements or constipation

While these symptoms are easily identified, diagnosing thyroid conditions can be difficult.

The Problem with Diagnosing Thyroid Disorder

It’s quite similar to find out if someone suffers from thyroid disease. A doctor just needs to check the hormone levels of the thyroid with a blood sample. The clinical term is checking your TSH.

The problem is that the symptoms are common of many other medical conditions. Doctors usually start with the most common conditions first when pinpointing a diagnosis. Thyroid doesn’t seem to be at the top of their list.

Once the blood test is taken, doctors often disagree on the levels it takes to justify a thyroid problem. For a long time, doctors thought when the TSH level was 0.5 to 5.0 was okay, but now they believe that range way too far apart, so many people with the disease wouldn’t be diagnosed.

The National American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists decided to narrow the range to .03 to 3.0 for what is considered normal. Any levels below .03 will constitute hypothyroidism, and any levels over 3.0 will indicate hyperthyroidism. Of course, the narrow margin has caused push back from some endocrinologists who believe that many people who don’t have thyroid disorder will be diagnosed with it.

The best doctors will use the test results only as one piece of information for a diagnosis. For example, if someone has a high TSH level, but no other symptoms of thyroid disorder, they will likely not give that diagnosis. If the TSH level is considered normal, but the person has all of the symptoms, the doctor may still conclude that the thyroid is malfunctioning.

A complete clinical examination is needed to determine the cause of the symptoms and blood test results. Some of the factors doctors consider are:

  • Does the person have diabetes or an autoimmune disorder?
  • Did the person have radiation treatment to the thyroid area?
  • Have other family members suffered from thyroid disorder?
  • Is there a chance for pregnancy or menopause?
  • Is the patient a woman? Women are three times more likely to suffer from it.
  • Does the person have an enlarged thyroid gland?

Treatment for Thyroid Disorder

Medication is prescribed to treat thyroid disorder. Usually, it’s one-time pill that is radioactive. It targets the gland and burns it out. This can keep the thyroid from over generating the hormone. Unfortunately, this can lead to an underproduction, which then will require thyroxine medication to replace the missing hormones (what is prescribed for people with hypothyroidism).

Getting Help for Your Thyroid Problem

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, you should make an appointment with your physician immediately. The longer you wait, the worse you may feel and the longer it will take to get your thyroid back to functioning the way it should be right now. If you’re approaching or in menopause, it’s even more important to bring up the possibility of thyroid disorder. It may be enough for the doctor to make it a priority to get your blood tested and examine you for other signs of a thyroid problem.

Why the Brain Gets a Boost from Exercise

New research explains why exercise improves our mental health and mood.

 

Exercise is not only good for the body, but for the brain as well. Vigorous physical activity has a positive impact on brain function, mental health and mood. Now researchers from the University of California-Davis Health System have discovered one of the reasons why.

The results of their recent study show that high-intensity exercise results in increased levels of glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. These two neurotransmitters regulate the chemical messaging that occurs in the brain.

Within the brain are cells that control physical and mental wellbeing. GABA and glutamate facilitate the flow of messages between these cells. Low levels of these neurotransmitters can lead to depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

In a news release from UC Davis, study lead author Richard Maddock said, “Major depressive disorder is often characterized by depleted glutamate and GABA, which return to normal when mental health is restored. Our study shows that exercise activates the metabolic pathway that replenishes these neurotransmitters.”

The findings of the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, also provide new insights into brain metabolism. Intense physical activity causes the brain to consume large amounts of glucose and other carbohydrates. In fact, it devours more of this fuel during exercise than during other demanding activities, such as solving complex math equations or strategizing during a game of chess. The researchers now believe that the brain uses the extra energy to produce more neurotransmitters.

38 healthy volunteers participated in the study. The subjects rode on stationary bikes to reach 85% of their maximum heart rate. The research team used MRI imaging to measure GABA and glutamate levels in two areas of the brain before and after exercise. They did the same for a control group that did not exercise.

While there was no significant change in the neurotransmitter levels of the control group, the subjects who exercised showed increased levels of both glutamate and GABA. These increases occurred in two different parts of the brain: the visual cortex (where visual sensory input is processed) and the anterior cingulate cortex (which regulates heart rate, emotion and some cognitive mechanisms).

While the increased levels of glutamate and GABA appeared to diminish with time, there appear to be more enduring effects as well.

“There was a correlation between the resting levels of glutamate in the brain and how much people exercised during the preceding week,” said Maddock, who is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “It’s preliminary information, but it’s very encouraging.”

Maddock and his team hope to perform further research using brain-imaging combined with exercise to determine the impact of less intense physical activity on neurotransmitter levels. They also plan to investigate which specific types of exercise are most beneficial for those suffering from depression.

 

Article sources:

News release, University of California-Davis Health System.

Voss, M. Journal of Applied Physiology, .

 

 

Beware the Beauty Products

Chemicals in cosmetics and beauty products can wreak havoc on your hormones.

 

What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in your body. Even if you buy your groceries at Whole Foods, get your pesticide-free produce at the local farmers market and have purged your kitchen cabinets of artificial flavors, you may still be exposing yourself to hazardous chemicals everyday. Many cosmetics and personal care products contain endocrine system disruptors, which may lead to health issues like allergies, infertility, and even cancer.

The endocrine system is made up of all the glands in the body that produce hormones. These hormones control our sexual function, reproduction, metabolism, growth, development, tissue function, sleep, and mood. Endocrine disruptors interfere with the normal functioning of hormones and can affect the reproductive, neurological and immune systems.

Although numerous government-funded studies have linked a variety of health problems to endocrine disruptors, the Food and Drug Administration still claims they are safe. These chemicals are widely used in cosmetics, fragrance, hair products, soaps, toothpaste and sunscreens. They probably show up as ingredients in many of the lotions and potions sitting in your medicine cabinet right now.

Even if you’ve unknowingly used products containing these hazardous chemicals for years, you can quickly reduce their levels in your body by cleaning up your medicine cabinet and detoxing from dangerous beauty products. A recent study shows that taking even a short break from using products with endocrine disruptors can lead to significant decreases in their levels in the body.

Researchers from University of California, Berkeley and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas gave 100 teenage girls personal care products claiming to be free of endocrine system disruptors. Urine samples were analyzed before and after a three-day period in which the teens used the chemical-free products. After just three days, there were considerable reductions in the levels of the chemicals in the subjects’ bodies.

Metabolites of a phthalate used in fragrances dropped 27 percent after the 3-day period. Both triclosan and benzophenone-3 fell 36 percent. Methyl and propyl parabens decreased 44 and 45 percent respectively.

“Seeing the drop in chemical levels after just three days shows that simple actions can be taken, such as choosing products with fewer chemicals, and make a difference,” said study co-author Maritza Cárdenas in a news release from UC Berkeley.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors in the personal care products you use.

1. Learn what to look for on labels, then read carefully.

Always examine the list of ingredients before buying. Look out for the following:

Phthalates: Sometimes referred to as “plasticizers”, phthalates are used in PVC plastics, solvents, and synthetic fragrances. They’ve been linked to reproductive system problems such as low sperm count, decreased sperm motility and genital abnormalities.

Parabens: Used as preservatives in makeup and beauty products, parabens have been detected in breast cancer tumors and are known to mimic estrogen in the body by binding to estrogen receptors. Be careful – if an ingredient has “ethyl,” “butyl,” “methyl,” and “propyl” in the name, it’s from the paraben family, even if “paraben” isn’t explicitly written out.

Triclosan: Commonly found in products labeled “antibacterial”, triclosan is added to many products to decrease the risk of bacterial contamination. It may contribute to liver toxicity and thyroid dysfunction. Also beware of triclocarban, a cousin of triclosan.

Oxybenzone: A chemical that is nearly ubiquitous in sunscreens, oxybenzone penetrates the skin and may cause allergic reactions. Like parabens, it is estrogenic and mimics estrogen in the body. Animal studies have shown that oxybenzone alters sperm production. It’s also associated with endometriosis in women.

2. Do your research before you buy.

Two helpful websites are the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Skin Deep and GoodGuide. Each site rates tens of thousands of beauty products according to the safety of their ingredients. They also list the ingredients in each product and indicate which may be harmful and why. The Good Guide ranks each product not just for health safety, but also its societal and environmental impact.

3. Skip the scent.

Synthetic fragrances often contain phthalates. If you absolutely must have scented products, opt for those made with essential oils only.

4. Avoid “antibacterial”.

Antibacterial products are a double whammy: they expose you to the dangers of triclosan and the FDA has warned consumers that they encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Basically, they’re a lose-lose.

5. Ditch big-name manufacturers and buy artisanal beauty brands.

Small-batch cosmetics and personal care products are often made by hand and use only natural, organic ingredients.

6. Discover how to DIY.

Become your own small-batch beauty products manufacturer! There’s no better way to know exactly what’s in the products you use than to make them with your own two hands. Do a little digging on the internet and you’ll find many recipes for homemade makeup, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, moisturizer and soap.

7. Look for the EWG VERIFIED™ mark on the label.

To carry this mark, the company that manufactures the product must provide EWG with additional information beyond what’s on the label. EWG’s strict vetting process ensures that the product is free of toxins and preserved properly, and that the company is transparent with customers about ingredients and manufacturing procedures.

 

Article sources:

Darbre, R. Journal of Applied Toxicology, January-February 2004; vol 24(1): pp 5-13.

EWG: “The Trouble with Sunscreen Chemicals”

FDA: “FDA Taking Closer Look at ‘Antibacterial’ Soap”

FDA: “Parabens”

NIH: “Endocrine Disruptors”

News release, University of California, Berkeley

 

 

 

 

Do You Have a Binge Eating Disorder?

Do you feel as though you lose control of yourself when you eat sometimes? Does it make you feel depressed? You may have a binge eating disorder.

About Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is a condition in which people eat large amounts of food quickly on a regular basis. Usually, they feel uncomfortable afterwards because they have overeaten.

Binge eating disorder is not like other eating disorders. There is no purging or vomiting after eating such as in the case of bulimia. Those with this condition do not do it to lose weight. They seek to satisfy a need other than their fueling their body.

With this disorder, individuals gain a lot of weight quickly. This is why 50% of people with binge eating disorder are obese or overweight.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

It can be difficult to identify binge eating disorder because it’s much different from just overeating. Almost everyone eats more than intended at times. People who suffer from this condition do it often and suffer from mental and physical side effects.

The following are some of the symptoms of binge eating disorder:

  • They eat quicker than usual.
  • They eat until they cannot eat anymore.
  • They eat when they are not hungry.
  • They often eat alone because they are embarrassed by the quantity of food they are eating.
  • They feel depressed, disgusting and guilty when they are finished.

Approximately 2% of adults in the United States suffer from this disorder – that’s about 4 million Americans.

The Causes of the Condition

Research aren’t sure what causes binge eating, but they suspect it has to do with abnormal activity in many parts of the brain. From research on other eating disorders, they believe the causes may be similar to them.

Depression – Those who suffer from depression are often more susceptible to binge eating. They turn to food for comfort because they feel as though no one else is available to them, and food is always available.

Dieting – People who diet deprive themselves of foods, and then they overindulge themselves when they have the chance.

Genetics – There’s evidence binge eating disorder runs in families. Usually, more than one person in a family suffers from the condition. This could be because there are certain chemicals being produces in sufferers that cause them to seek large quantities of food.

Addiction – Many people who suffer from this disorder also have an addictive personality. They abuse alcohol, drugs, and gamble. They exhibit impulsive behavior, which is why they often can’t control how much they eat.

The Effects of This Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder leads to many mental and physical side effects.

  • They suffer from high stress levels because their eating is troublesome.
  • They have trouble sleeping at night because of anxiety and high levels of sugar and caffeine in what they eat.
  • They feel as though there is no hope for their uncontrollable eating and they dislike the way they look, so they contemplate suicide.
  • They don’t want to be seen by anyone, so they miss work and school.
  • They may prefer eating to going out with friends, or going to work or schools. This leads to depression and financial hardships.
  • Many people who suffer from this eating disorder end up with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, heart disease, some types of cancer, anxiety disorder, depression, or personality disorders.

Many people do not realize their eating is the problem. They blame the circumstances of their life on eating too much. Some people will learn they are suffering from a medical or mental health issue and not realize it’s the binge eating that has caused it. This is why it’s important to speak to a medical professional honestly about your eating habits.

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

People do not have to live with this condition. Treatment is available from mental health professionals since a large part of the disorder has to do with how you think about food. Many people receive nutritional guidance and psychotherapy to combat their food habits. Those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorder may find help from antidepressants. Appetite suppressants are sometimes prescribed for those who really need it.

No one has to succumb to binge eating disorder. Help is available.

Gentler Cancer Treatment is on the Horizon

 

Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen have made considerable inroads in the search for a treatment that attacks cancer cells on the cellular level. This new type of treatment would target and destroy cancer cells and leave healthy cells unharmed. It would provide a gentler alternative to the more invasive cancer treatments currently used.

Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common forms of cancer treatment today. Each of these treatments is effective at killing cancerous cells, but unfortunately harms and destroys healthy cells at the same time. This results in many side effects, some of which are debilitating. In addition, the efficacy of these treatments is limited in cases where cancer has spread from the primary tumor site to other parts of the body.

In response to these issues with current cancer treatments, the researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have been working towards finding a treatment that specifically targets malignant cells. The scientists have attempted to deceive cancer cells into absorbing a cytotoxin that ultimately destroys them, while leaving healthy cells unaffected.

Physicist Murillo Longo Martins, a post-doc in X-Ray and Neutron Science at the Niels Bohr Institute, hypothesized that there must be a way to create a microscopic vehicle that could move through the bloodstream and carry the cytotoxin directly to the cancer cells. This vehicle would then incite the cell to allow the cytotoxin in, which would ultimately lead to the destruction of the cell by the cytotoxin.

Martins used tiny magnetic beads to act as the vehicle. After the beads were injected into the bloodstream, a magnet was placed at the site of the tumor. The tiny beads, attracted by the pull of the magnet, traveled towards the tumor.

Once the vehicle was created, the researchers moved on to creating the load that the vehicle would carry. They encased the cytotoxin surrounding the magnetic beads in a ring-shaped sac, essentially creating a cytotoxic parcel.

Now that they had the vehicle and the parcel, the next step was to figure out how to get the cell to accept the parcel. Every cell has a protective membrane that guards against harmful substances and allows helpful substances to enter through receptors, or doorways. Each of these helpful substances must have a key that fits a specific doorway in the cell membrane. The researchers needed to figure out a helpful substance that would provide the key to allow the vehicle and its cytotoxic load to enter the cancer cell.

“I thought, why do breast cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer so often spread to the bones? Bones are composed of minerals like calcium phosphates. Do cancer cells need these substances to grow? Can these substances be used as doorways to the cell? I decided to investigate this,” explained Martins in a news release from the Niels Bohr Institute. He ultimately decided to coat the cytotoxic parcel with calcium phosphate.

The researchers conducted experiments using breast, lung and colon cancer cells, as well as healthy cells. The results were just what Martins had imagined.

“We could see that the nanoparticles with the cytotoxin were absorbed by the cancer cells. This caused the metabolism of the cancer cells to change and the cells showed signs that they were about to die. The healthy cells, meanwhile, do not show any evidences of absorbing the packages with the cytotoxin. This suggests that the method can be used to send cytotoxin around the body with reduced toxicity and could therefore be potentially safer for healthy cells,” explains Heloisa Bordallo, Associate Professor in X-Ray and Neutron Science at the Niels Bohr Institute.

Findings from the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

 

Article sources:

News release, Niels Bohr Institute – University of Copenhagen

5 Easy Ways to Squeeze Exercise into Your Day

 

You already know you should exercise more. You’ve heard that it’s good for your heart, helps maintain a healthy weight, strengthens muscles and bones, improves mental health and mood, reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers and could increase your life span. Even knowing all this, it still can be tough to find the time to exercise when your day is jam-packed with work and family obligations.

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise to improve cardiovascular health and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. That works out to approximately 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.

Michael Jonesco, DO, a sports medicine physician at the Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center, suggests that shorter spurts of intense exercise could be just as good for your health. “More intense activity is equally effective at preventing premature morbidity,” he says. “The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests 20 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week as a less time-intensive alternative.”

Jonesco goes on to say that, according to the ACSM, “duration matters little, meaning 10 minute bursts of activity several times a day are equivalent to one longer duration of exercise.”

If you’ve been skipping exercise altogether because it feels impossible to fit in long sessions at the gym, this is great news. Scattering short bouts of exercise throughout your day feels more manageable than carving out 30 minutes to hit the gym. Several mini workouts can add up to a huge impact on your health.

We asked health and fitness experts for simple ways to squeeze exercise into a busy day. Here are their suggestions.

  1. Walk to work

You have to get to the office somehow, so why not exercise on your way to work? Ditch the car, subway or bus, and lace up your walking shoes instead. Walking is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that people of all shapes, sizes and ages can do.

What if it’s too far to walk the whole way? Brad Thomas, a fitness trainer, wellness expert and founder of Brad Thomas Mind Body in New York City, suggests you “stroll the final forty [city] street blocks. This distance is equivalent to 2 miles. The average man or woman would burn over 300 calories walking just one-way.” If you don’t live in the city, park your car a reasonable distance from your workplace and walk the rest of the way.

  1. Take the stairs

Once you’ve made it to work, “take the stairs instead of the elevator”, says Dan Inglis, director of Sports Performance at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. Climbing stairs has numerous benefits. It increases aerobic capacity, raises the amount of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the blood, strengthens the legs, and improves bone density in post-menopausal women.

  1. Core work on the couch

You don’t have to be a couch potato when you’re lounging around watching TV after a long day. Exercise your core muscles while catching up on your favorite shows. Mindy Kim, a yoga instructor at TruFusion in Las Vegas, NV, suggests the following exercise: “Sit up and lean back, back long, belly button to spine. Lift legs onto the coffee table and do toe taps up and down with the option to alternate legs. You’ll start to feel the burn!”

  1. Cut loose with the kids

What could be better than spending quality time with your kids while reaping the health benefits of exercise at the same time? Activities that kids do all the time just for fun are also excellent workouts for adults. Playing hopscotch, jumping rope, running around the yard, riding bikes, doing jumping jacks, and splashing in the pool are all ways to increase your heart rate and burn calories.

From Dr. Jonesco: “I use my toddler as my own personal kettlebell.  I lift her overhead, let her ride my back as I do pushups, or add some knee bends when I’m rocking her to sleep.  She sleeps, I sweat. It’s a win-win.”

  1. Strengthen at the supermarket

While walking up and down the aisles of the supermarket, use your groceries to strengthen your arms. Cristina Osorio, a kettlebell instructor at TruFusion, suggests using baskets instead of a cart. Baskets full of food act as weights to challenge your arm muscles.

The trip home from the market is an opportunity for exercise too. “Pile up as much as you can carry and walk home (if you can) with bags in-hand,” says Osorio. “Two miles with about 10-15lbs of groceries in your hands leaves you sweaty by the time you get home.”

 

Article Sources:

Dan Inglis, director of Sports Performance at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Michael Jonesco, DO, sports medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Mindy Kim, yoga instructor, TruFusion

Cristina Osorio, kettlebell instructor, TruFusion

Brad Thomas, ACSM, MFA, MA, fitness trainer & wellness expert

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “The Benefits of Physical Activity”

American Heart Association: “Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults”

Duke University: “Benefits of Taking the Stairs”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons You Should Not Take Aspirin Daily

Research has found that aspirin can help people who are at risk for heart disease. People have started aspirin therapy on their own because of this research. If you’re one of these people, you need to know these five reasons you should not be taking it.

#1: It’s a Preventative for Low Risk Individuals

According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, one in 10 patients were found to be taking aspirin inappropriately. Aspirin therapy is recommended as a primary prevention, which reduces the risk of a first heart attack or stroke. Those who are at risk for heart attack or stroke because of previous one or other factors should not take aspirin, as it does not reduce the risk of dying from subsequent episodes.

#2: Users Need a Cardiovascular Risk Assessment

Anyone interested in starting aspirin therapy should seek an assessment from their doctor. When speaking to your doctor, be sure he is not using the Framingham Risk Score, as it is outdated. Your doctor should look at risk factor and perform a simple, safe, but effective test. Most experts believe the best way to assess heart attack risk is with a CT scan. This shows coronary calcium in the heart, or atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries. A calcium score should show how much you have inside the arteries, which then provides a reasonable prediction of a heart attack or stroke.

#3: Gastrointestinal Bleeding Is Possible

A study in Heart finds the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding increases with age. Aspirin therapy can further increase the risk, especially in women. This means that the risk of aspirin therapy far outweigh the risks of it.

Usually, men are only prescribe a daily aspirin regimen when their calcium score is high and they have other risk factors for heart attack or stroke. It is taken with caution though, especially those over the age of 65.

#4: Risk of Cerebral Hemorrhage

Aspirin has been linked to cerebral hemorrhage. Even the smallest dose of 81 milligrams can increase the risk of this devastating medical condition. Knowing the symptoms of cerebral hemorrhage can save your life:

  • Severe headache
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in the extremities
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased alertness
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficult time swallowing
  • Loss of fine motor skills
  • Problems with coordination
  • Abnormal sense of taste
  • Unconscious
  • Falling or feeling unstable when standing

#5: Possible Drug Interactions

Aspirin should not be mixed with other drugs that treat certain medical conditions. For example, when aspirin is taken with angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, the effects of the drugs may be reduced or eliminated. When aspirin is taken with anticoagulant therapies such as Heparin and Warfarin, the risk of bleeding is extremely high.

You should always speak to your doctor whenever you start taking a new medication while on aspirin therapy. It’s important you know the risks of taking both of them.

Other Important Information to Consider

If you’re generally healthy, but have a high risk of heart disease, aspirin therapy may be best for you. The only person who can tell you that you should start a daily aspirin regimen is your doctor, after he has given you a thorough examination and assessment for heart disease.

When you begin your aspirin therapy, be sure to let your doctor know of any side effects. This can help prevent any bleeding conditions that could result from taking the aspirin.

Never take more aspirin as recommended by your physician. If you suffer from another medical condition, such as a headache, check with your doctor before you increase your dose. It may be possible to take another pain reliever with the daily aspirin without increasing your risk of other medical conditions.

If you’re concerned about taking aspirin, there are many other ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. Healthy eating and exercise are the first steps. You should also work on your stress levels to keep them as low as possible. You may want to consider supplements such as Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 and fish oil. Garlic and green tea have been found to lower the risk of heart disease too.

Take care of yourself as best as you can each and every day, and follow the advice of your doctor. Heart disease is a risk, but you can reduce your risk.