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Sunday, November 22

The Amazing Link Between Sleep and Memory

Napping is a guilty pleasure... one all of us, if we’re lucky, engage in at one time or another, especially during the cold, dark months of winter.

And it seems interestingly that new research has found the link between sleep and memory and that short naps help actually improve to our creativity and our ability to see the big picture.

Too many of us, in our got-to-be-everywhere, 24/7 world, try to act like sleep is something we can do without. But we can’t.

Enter the power nap... a short 15 to 20 minute rest period outside our normal nightly routine, just enough to get us through.

Sleep depravation is a major problem that’s a factor behind many types of accidents, not the least of which happen when driving.

Surveys show that most adults don’t get the seven to eight hours recommended each night to recharge, rebuild and remember.

Over time, lack of sleep can seriously impact the body, leaving you open to diabetes, heart disease and other dangerous conditions.

You only have to think about when you have been ill, and restorative nature of sleep, and how you wake feeling better.

In fact, sleep is as important as a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise keeping the body strong and healthy.

“Not only do we need to remember to sleep, but most certainly we sleep to remember,” says Dr. William Fishbein, a cognitive neuroscientist at the City University of New York, one of our nation’s leading urban public universities. Dr. Fishbein presented the sleep and memory research last week In Washington D.C. at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

As a natural part of aging our sleep becomes more fragmented, we wake more often during the night. Serious conditions like sleep apnea, where breathing stops for short periods so that you are jolted wake, make getting a good night’s sleep impossible.

But fragmented sleep impacts us effects us for days as well. Research on both animals and human subjects shows that we continue to struggle for weeks, even after our sleeping patterns return to normal.

The most recent research on sleep has focused less on the duration of your sleeping period and more on the quality of the sleep, termed sleep intensity.

This period of very deep sleep, known as slow wave sleep (not as well known as dreaming REM sleep) comes first, helping the brain process memories so they stay put. Dr. Fishbein had suspected a bigger role for slow wave sleep periods... perhaps the reason power naps leave us so refreshed.

In the research, 20 English-speaking college students were shown lists of Chinese words of two characters - mother, sister, maid. Then half the students took a nap, and were closely monitored to be sure they didn’t go from slow wave sleep to the REM (dreaming) stage.

When they woke, they took a multiple-choice test of Chinese words they’d never seen. Subjects who napped (an unheard of 90 minute nap) did much better at automatically learning that the first of the two-pair characters in the words they’d memorized earlier always meant the same thing - female. This group, more than the non-nappers were more likely to choose a new word with characters that meant “princess” not “ape.”

“The nap group has essentially teased out what’s going on,” Fishbein concludes.

Another study used a different approach to prove the importance of slow wave sleep on memory.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin interrupted subjects’ slow wave sleep with a beep that was just loud enough to disturb sleep, but not fully rouse the subject.

Upon waking those people who’d been beeped couldn’t remember a task they’d learned the day before as well as subjects whose slow-wave sleep hadn’t been disrupted by the tone.

The “take to bed” message is this.

If you suspect sleep apnea, get yourself treated. Just as you eat well and exercise to keep your body (and mind) healthy, do all you can to foster good sleep habits so your body, mind and memory get the chance to recharge.

Regularly depriving yourself of sleep... and then playing catch up on the weekend is sleep’s version of binge eating - not healthy for the long haul.

As for all you nappers out there... take heart; the sum of all this latest sleep research stands in support of those sleep and memory, and that power naps leave you recharged and ready to go. -Kirsten Whittaker

Thursday, November 19

Sleeping in a dark room may prevent depression

Do you fall asleep while reading, with a lamp still turned on? Doze off with the glow of a television in your bedroom? Perhaps you turn off the lights when you go to bed. But think about it: is your room really totally dark? Maybe there's a light from a clock radio or night light or perhaps street lights peek through the bedroom blinds. This not-completely-dark room might not keep you awake but it could lead to symptoms of depression. That's the conclusion of a new study presented recently in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and slated for publication in the December 28, 2009, issue of the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

The Ohio State University research involved 24 male laboratory mice. Half were housed in light for 16 hours a day and darkness for 8 hours, while the others lived in a lighted area 24 hours a day. Half of each group of lab animals had opaque tubes in their cages where they could escape the light at any time. The other half had tubes that were clear and did not offer any respite from the light.

After three weeks, the researchers used a series of tests to measure depression and anxiety in the rodents (including several tests used by drug companies to test anti-depressive and anti-anxiety drugs on animals before they are tried on people). For example, mice usually like to drink sugar-laced water. But if they have symptoms of depression, they don't drink as much. Researchers assume this is because they don't get the pleasure they would normally get from the sweet water due to depressive symptoms. In all the tests, the mice who had to live and sleep in constant light with no chance of spending time in darkness showed more depressive-like symptoms than the animals with normal light-dark cycles.

"The ability to escape light seemed to quell the depressive effects," Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a graduate student in psychology at Ohio State University, said in a statement to the media. "But constant light with no chance of escape increased depressive symptoms."

The scientists concluded that the use of artificial light at night may have harmful effects on human health. "This is important for people who work night shifts, and for children and others who watch TV late into the night, disrupting their usual light-dark cycle," Fonken said. -naturalnews

You don't need your appendix, right? Wrong!


The appendix is a small, tube-like organ located in the lower right area of the abdomen and attached to the first part of the colon. Researchers have theorized this seemingly superfluous bit of our internal body is simply a remnant of the time when early humans ate a huge amount of plant matter. The appendix, the theory goes, once helped with fermentation and digestion of all that roughage ancient hominids consumed. But when it comes to modern-day humans, mainstream medicine says the appendix has no known function and is virtually useless. However, the latest research suggests it is this idea that should be thrown away -- not the human appendix.

Sure, an appendix can sometimes become blocked and inflamed, a condition known as appendicitis. And if not treated, an appendix in this state can rupture and spread life-threatening infection into the body. So, following their belief the appendix is nothing but a potential liability, doctors are often willing and even enthusiastic about removing a perfectly healthy appendix.

A case in point: a study by University of Miami gynecologists and obstetricians, published in 2003 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded the removal of an appendix (a procedure dubbed an appendectomy) at the time of "benign gynecologic procedures does not increase postoperative complication rates or length of hospital stay." So, based on the fact cutting out a healthy appendix didn't result in longer hospital stays or more immediate post-surgery problems, the doctors recommended routinely including appendectomies in all abdominal hysterectomies in order to avoid any possibility of appendicitis in a woman's lifetime.

But what if the appendix has remained in humans for thousands upon thousands of years for a reason? What if your appendix helps sustain health? What if it is better to keep all your original parts -- including organs -- when possible, and that includes your appendix? There's growing evidence the appendix isn't just a useless piece of tissue. And new research is showing it could, in fact, play an important role in keeping the gastrointestinal tract healthy and the immune system strong.

Recently, scientists have found evidence the appendix may play a role in helping the immune system by maintaining internal flora found in the human gut known as symbiotic bacteria. These bacteria live in symbiosis (meaning they maintain a close ecological relationship) with other organisms in the digestive tract. For example, symbiotic bacteria may work together to help break down fiber containing foods and they may also help produce vitamins.

In a study published October 22nd in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, researchers from the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Arizona State University concluded that the appendix does have a purpose. It is a highly specialized organ that has been maintained in mammalian evolution for 80 million years or more. The reason? To harbor symbiotic bacteria essential for health. The scientists call the appendix a kind of "safe-house for symbiotic gut microbes" that probably evolved to preserve health-protecting internal flora during times of gastrointestinal infection. "This function is potentially a selective force for the evolution and maintenance of the appendix, and provides an impetus for reassessment of the evolution of the appendix," the scientists stated. -naturalnews

Wednesday, November 18

Rejuvenate and replenish your skin with nature's gift from bees.

Honey is a natural humectant, that moisturizes and leaves even tired skin incredibly smooth.

Masks are an important part of a skin care routine as they deep cleanse the skin and take away dead skin cells.

Remember to use a mask once a week and keep using them. It only takes a short amount of time each week to be on the right road for clean healthy looking skin.

When applying masks it is important to stay away from the eye area as the skin is very delicate and you do not need to put pressure on that skin and to avoid entering the eye. Use local and organic ingredients where possible.

Honey is fabulous for normal skin types. Place a cloth in warm water and apply to face and neck. Smear on honey, and leave for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water, then use cool water. Use once per week. This will leave your skin soft and glowing.

For dry skin types mix honey with oats, yogurt and ground almonds. Apply to face, leave for five minutes and wash with lukewarm water.

Mix together 1 tablespoon honey, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon almond oil and 1 tablespoon yogurt. Honey stimulates and smoothes, egg and almond oil penetrate and moisturize, and yogurt refines and helps tighten pores. Apply to face, leave for five minutes and wash with lukewarm water.

The yoghurt gives the mask a creamy base and a source of lactic acid (AHA) which helps to exfoliate your skin. It also helps reduce bacteria on the skin.

Another variation is to mix together; 2 tablespoons organic honey, 2 tablespoons Sweet Almond oil, 5 drops essential oil of Rose and 1 drop Vitamin E oil. Massage onto clean face and neck with fingertips. Relax for 15 minutes, then rinse off with lukewarm water. Gently pat dry to reveal a fresh, soft complexion.

For oily skin, mix 1/2 cup fine oatmeal with enough honey to form a stiff paste, adding a little rose water if it is too stiff. Cleanse the face and apply the mask, leaving it on for about 30 minutes, then remove with warm water and a soft cloth. -ecobites

Monday, November 16

Can Apple Cider Vinegar Cure Candida?

There's plenty of natural cures that are obtainable for yeast infections, five of the most popular being apple cider vinegar for yeast infection. Before you go off trying to use Apple cider vinegar in a way that it is not intended, you should note that in order for it to work well you require to drink it every day. Some people have a difficult time doing this but it is not necessary for you to take a spoonful of it straight. What you require to do is to mix it in with a small bit of water so that you do not have such a strong vinegar taste whatever you are drinking it.

Would you be surprised to learn that a yeast infection can actually come from a number of different types of yeast? Mainly, it is a type of yeast that is known as Candida and it can certainly cause a lot of problems for us as individuals. Although the yeast is inside of us at all times, there's times whenever it grows to the extent where it becomes a real problem. This is not because the yeast itself is a problem but it is because there is an imbalance in our body and it is no longer able to fight it off naturally.

Five of the reasons why apple cider vinegar works so well is because it helps to bring our body back in to a balance that it is no doubt lacking. Not only is apple cider vinegar lovely for curing Candida infections, it is also great for keeping us in overall lovely health. Some people that have been taking apple cider vinegar for years swear by the results and they never ever get sick, let alone having a yeast infection. When you are able to balance your body in this way, surprisingly lovely things can happen.

Although it may seem like a simple cure, you would be surprised with how well a natural yeast infection cure like apple cider vinegar works. Five times you start to see the health benefits that come from drinking a small bit of this liquid every day, you will make it a part of your life long health regime. Not only will it help to keep the yeast infections from recurring again, it will make you feel great overall. It is certainly a part of your natural health that you should not ignore. -R Kusuma

Saturday, November 14

Diet is a Key to Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis


Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and thin, and prone to fracture, particularly in the hips and spine. There can be few symptoms of osteoporosis until a fracture occurs, so it can only be diagnosed by a bone scan. Approximately one in four post-menopausal women develops osteoporosis. Certain other factors are thought to be risk factors for developing osteoporosis including family history, heavy alcohol use, hyperthyroidism and hyper parathyroidism, smoking, long term use of anticonvulsants and glucocorticosteroids and being white or Asian race. Dietary-wise, those people who eat an imbalanced diet resulting in too many acidifying foods are more likely to develop osteoporosis. The body must strictly keep the blood mildly alkaline. If many acidic foods are eaten, the body has to leech alkalizing calcium from the bones to keep the blood at the mildly alkaline level. Therefore, eating a healthy diet is vital for healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis.

Calcium is a key component of our bones. Diets high in salt and sugar can also contribute to the condition because they increase calcium excretion.

Women who have lowered estrogen levels have increased risk of osteoporosis as lack of estrogen is thought to increase certain cells which break down bone. Stomach acid is very important for avoiding osteoporosis; it is required for calcium absorption. Liver and kidney disorders can also contribute to osteoporosis because good functioning of these organs is required to metabolize vitamin D into an active useable form for the body. Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium.

Nutrient deficiencies of certain key vitamins and minerals for bone health including magnesium, boron, silica, calcium and vitamin D, vitamin K and vitamin C can contribute to osteoporosis. Long term stress is also a risk factor for osteoporosis as it increases bone dissolving adrenalin. Exercise and weight bearing activity is also a key to preventing osteoporosis as it triggers stronger bone formation by the body as a response to the extra strain.

Foods to avoid

Avoid all fizzy drinks as they contain very high levels of phosphorus which is an acidifying mineral. Avoid all sugar and white refined carbohydrates which increase calcium excretion. Cut out caffeine; three cups per day of coffee can increase the risk of osteoporosis by 82%. Avoid alcohol as it is a highly acidifying drink. Avoid adding salt to your food; it increases calcium excretion.

Avoid a diet with excessive protein levels in it as it is acidifying. Eat no more than one palm size portion of meat or fish per meal, and always have plenty of alkalizing foods with your protein. Cut down or cut out dairy products. Ironically milk can be very acidifying to the body, which in turn can leech calcium from bones.

Foods to Increase:

Increase intake of all kinds of fruits and vegetables as they are very alkalizing. Begin green vegetable juicing daily, which provides a high dosage of alkalizing nutrients quickly in an easily digestible form. Great high calcium greens include kale, spinach, broccoli and all other green leafy vegetables. Eat plenty of lettuce, celery, millet, oats and parsnips; they contain high levels of silica, which is a mineral important for bone regeneration. Increase intake of green leafy vegetables as they also contain vitamin K and magnesium, which are both found to be low in people with osteoporosis and are involved with bone health. Kelp and alfalfa prevent bone loss.

Cauliflower, onion soup, berries, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables are advisable and are high in vitamin C, which helps produce the collagen that makes up 90% of bone matrix. Use non-dairy rice and oat milk as alternatives to cow's milk. The mineral boron which is important for bone formation is found in apples, pears, grapes, peaches, almonds and hazelnuts. Eat fermented soy products 2-3 times per week in your diet, including tempeh and miso, as these are phyto-estrogens and may provide an estrogen-like effect on the body increasing bone cell production.

Lifestyle Changes

Stop smoking as it is associated with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. It is vital to begin weight-bearing exercise. This can include walking, yoga, weight training, swimming, cycling, rebounding, tennis, dancing and gentle jogging. Get some sunshine every day when you can; it promotes the natural production of vitamin D, an important vitamin for calcium absorption. Avoid long term stress as it can over-produce adrenalin which can dissolve bone.

All vegetables, especially raw vegetables, balance the acidity and alkali levels in the blood. Although it might seem that citrus fruits would have an acidifying effect on the body, the citric acid they contain actually has an alkalizing effect in the system. -naturalnews

Acupuncture: Traditional Chinese Medicine Effectively Treats Insomnia

Insomnia is a common condition in which people have difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. It is listed by the World Health Organization as a condition which has been shown to be treated effectively by acupuncture (1). Acupuncture, which actually treats the person, not the disease, helps to balance the body's energy, strengthening weak areas and moving energy where it's stuck.

Insomnia can have many causes; figuring out the cause is an important part of diagnosis and treatment. For instance, pain can cause insomnia because the person is not able to get into a comfortable position for sleeping and the pain wakes them up. In that case acupuncturists treat the pain.

Eating late at night is a common cause of insomnia. When people stop eating after 7 pm, sleep often comes much more easily and is more peaceful. According to the Chinese Clock, digestion is the strongest in the morning, between 7 am and 9 am for the Stomach, and 9 am to 11 am for the Spleen/Pancreas. Twelve hours later (7 pm to 11 pm) digestion is the weakest, and eating at this time will cause gas, bloating and indigestion, making it difficult for one to fall asleep easily. Other causes of insomnia according to Traditional Chinese Medicine are yin deficiency, an imbalance of yin and yang, heart imbalance, spleen deficiency and stagnant liver qi.

Acupuncturists take a detailed history, which includes questioning, pulse analysis and tongue diagnosis, to give a complete picture of the patient as a whole. Even if it is determined that two different patients have insomnia as a result of yin deficiency, their treatments may still be different, depending on each person's constitution (strength and type of overall body and health) and other factors.

This is what makes acupuncture so individualized and effective: there is no one prescription for a condition. Each time a patient comes in, they are re-evaluated, and each treatment is specifically selected. This is also why it is so common to see all sorts of symptoms clear up - not just the one someone has come in to treat. Rarely do acupuncturists just work on one symptom alone; in every treatment, the whole person is being addressed and treated.

However, some points are so useful in treating insomnia that they will be strongly considered no matter what the cause, including:
  • Heart 7 (Shen Men), on the wrist, which helps calm the heart and spirit
  • An Mian, an extra point translated as Peaceful Sleep, which is on the back of the head, where the head meets the neck
  • Yin Tang, another extra point which is between the eyebrows and promotes relaxation
Moxibustion, or the burning of an herb over points on the body, can also be useful. There is a point in the middle of the heel known as the insomnia point, where moxa cones can be burned. This helps bring a person into balance and helps sleep. Moxa is a Chinese herb, also called Ai Ye (Artemisia argyi). It is dried and processed into a fiber which can be rolled into cones, placed on the skin and burned until warmth is felt.

Chinese herbal formulas can also be effective in helping balance one's energy and allowing sleep to come more easily. Diagnosing the underlying cause is very important when choosing herbal remedies. There are many formulas which could help treat insomnia; a trained acupuncturist who has studied Chinese herbs could help someone choose what is right for them. The following common formulas can be useful:
  • An Mian Pian (Sleep Peaceful Formula) for quieting the spirit
  • Gui Pi Tang (Restore the Spleen Decoction) which strengthens the energy and nourishes the heart
  • Bao He Wan (Preserves Harmony Pill) which reduces food stagnation and harmonizes digestion (if insomnia is due to eating late at night or indigestion)
No matter what the underlying cause, insomnia is a common condition which acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can have a profound effect on treating. -natural news

Footnotes:
1. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en...

References:
  • Bensky, Dan and Gamble, Andrew. Chinese Herbal Medicines: Formulas and Strategies.
  • Bensky, Dan and Gamble, Andrew. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica. Eastland Press, Inc. Seattle, WA. 1986.
  • Xinnong, Cheng, Chief Editor. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Foreign Language Press, Beijing. 1990.
  • Zhu, Chun-Han. Clinical Handbook of Chinese Prepared Medicines. Paradigm Publications. Brookline, MA. 1989
  • World Health Organization website page on acupuncture: http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en... Eastland Press, Inc. Seattle, WA. 1990

Wednesday, November 11

Hyper Pigmentation - Do you Know the Results of Sun Damage and How to Avoid them?

Sun damage is a very common threat to us all because of our frequent exposure to UV light. UV light is the most dangerous to our skin, despite that it is invisible to the eye. A small amount of exposure is healthy as is produces vitamin D. However, larger quantities damage the body's genetic material and alter the amounts and types of chemicals that skin cells make. These changes are responsible for common effects of sun damage such as burning, premature aging, wrinkling, age spots and skin cancer. It is important to be informed on what damaging effects the sun can have and what you can do to avoid them.

Did you Know About the Deeper Effects the Sun Can Have on your Skin?

Analysis has shown that UV rays do not only damage the skin's surface but go deeper to cause more lasting effects. Surface damage can be obvious in the form of sunburn and freckles, but more harm is being done than we can see. UV rays penetrate the skin and produce free radicals and that lead to collagen break down, wrinkles, and possible cancer. A lack of healthy collagen proteins also relates to a mounting number of abnormal elastin tissues. Under the effects of the sun, the enzymes that create collagen do so in a faulty manner, producing disorganized collagen tissue. Over time, this pattern of faulty rebuilding leads to wrinkles. Sun exposure also produces free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules looking for electrons, a process that can damage cells and change genetic material, leading to threats of cancer. UV exposure also is destructive to pigment producing cells and causes brown pigmentation and blotchy complexion. These reactions that occur under the skin's surface create unwanted effects that are difficult to reverse.

Did you Know the Sun is the Leading Cause of Wrinkles?

It's true. Science has proven that exposure to UV rays constitutes at least 80 percent of wrinkle development. This is because the sun damages collagen fibers. Collagen is a protein necessary for healthy, tight, and smooth skin. Elastin, a fibrous tissue, is built up which further breaks down collagen. This creates a flawed collagen fiber formation which creates wrinkles over time. Free radicals also enter our body due to UV radiation which creates molecular imbalance. This imbalance threatens cell damage that can range from collagen break down, heightened enzyme production, development of wrinkles, to skin cancer.

Did you Know Age Spots Could be More Accurately Called Sun Spots?

After years of sun exposure you can develop flat drown hyper pigmentations called age spots. Despite its name, age does not cause an age spot, the sun does! Age spots usually develop on your face, neck, chest, shoulders, arms, and back which are the parts of your body most often exposed to the sun. UV radiation damages melanocytes, your skin's cells that create melanin. These cells are found on the outermost layer of skin and are responsible for creating darker pigments in order to protect deeper layers from the damages of UV. Sun damaged melanocytes produce too much pigment and cause random dark spots that may grow over time.

How to Avoid Effects of Sun Damage

If you can, the most effective way to protect yourself from sun exposure is to avoid it during the hours when UV rays are the strongest. If you continue to find yourself outside, be sure to use sunscreen. This is important to do everyday, even if you have makeup that boasts sun protection. If your time exposed to the sun is extended, be sure to reapply sunscreen regularly. It is also important for you to know of any medications that you take that cause you to be more sensitive to sunlight. For those at higher risk, it is recommended to apply sunscreen as well as use other protective layers such as hats, glasses, and clothing that limits your skin's exposure to the sun. Prevent harmful effects of the sun by protecting yourself as well as addressing already visible signs of damage with natural skin care. -Valerie DeVette

Monday, November 9

Sun Damage - What are the Effects of Sun Exposure?

Sun damage is a dangerous and a regular threat to all. It is difficult to avoid the sun and therefore easy to be harmed by it. What can the sun do to negatively impact your skin? Studies have shown numerous harmful effects of UV radiation. These include wrinkles, spider veins, age spots, blotchy complexion and threats of skin cancer. The following familiarizes you with the most common effects, how they are caused, and what can be done to prevent them. Make sure you are informed about the risks of sun exposure in order to care for yourself now and protect yourself in the future.

How Does the Sun Damage Skin?

Scientists have found the reactions that UV rays can cause that go beyond the skin's surface. There are visible signs of damage on the skin's surface, however, more harm is being done that we can not see. UV rays penetrate the skin and produce free radicals and that lead to collagen break down, wrinkles, and possible cancer. The destruction of collagen is also associated with a build up of abnormal elastin. The sun's harmful rays create an enzyme that produces a incompetent type of collagen tissue. This continued process of faulty collagen restoration produces wrinkles. UV exposure also results in a higher number of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules looking for electrons, a process that can damage cells and change genetic material, leading to threats of cancer. UV exposure also is destructive to pigment producing cells and causes brown pigmentation and blotchy complexion. These underlying reactions caused by sun exposure create nasty effects that are difficult to reverse.

How does the Sun Cause Wrinkles?

One of the most common effects of UV radiation is wrinkles. Wrinkles show up on the parts of your body where UV exposure is the greatest. The breakdown of collagen and creation of free radicals causes the appearance of both fine surface wrinkles as well as deep furrows. Collagen is the protein that holds your skin together to make it firm and smooth. Skin that lacks adequate collagen levels is left saggy and wrinkled. Unfortunately, collagen can not restore itself after it is damaged. Facial wrinkles are created in this manner up to 80 percent of the time.

How does the Sun Cause Age Spots?

A second common outcome of sun exposure is age spots. Our skin has a melanin pigment that helps absorb the sunlight in order to protect our skin from UV rays. Unfortunately, aging skin loses its capability to deflect UV rays and it starts to show signs of age spots. These come from the sun's ability to damage melanocytes, which are the cells that produce melanin. As time goes by, sun exposure causes more pigment than normal to be deposited in the skin. This leads eventually to flat, brown skin lesions known as age spots.

How do you Protect Yourself From the Sun?

If you are able to do so, it is most effective to stay out of the sun completely or at least during the hours of the day when the sun's rays are the strongest. If you can't keep yourself out of the sun, it is vital to use sunscreen. This is important to do everyday, even if you have makeup that boasts sun protection. If you find yourself outside for awhile, it is important to reapply sunscreen every two hours. Also be aware if you are taking any medications that cause you to be more vulnerable to the sun. For those at higher risk, it is recommended to apply sunscreen as well as use other protective layers such as hats, glasses, and clothing that limits your skin's exposure to the sun. Take care of yourself by protecting your skin from future harms due to sun damage as well as addressing already visible signs of aging with natural skin care. -Valerie DeVette

Optimism vs. Pessimism...

Some people see the glass as half empty. Others see it as half full. But is it really as simple as that? Is it possible to be a bit of both? What are the advantages and disadvantages to both? Maybe there is more to both mind-sets.

When you think about it, most people tend to be an optimist sometimes and a pessimist other times. Ironically, a lot of times things turn out how the people tend to feel about them. If a person feels like something will go well or feels optimistic about it, it usually seems to go well. The same is true of the reverse. When someone feels like something will go badly, it tends to do just that.

So why is this?

Henry Ford once said, "If you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right!" Does this mean that what we think about, whether positive or negative, tends to happen? The only answer that I can really give to that is yes, but very basically. We cannot simply think things into existence, no matter how optimistic we are, if that is all we do. And when it comes down to it, that's not really optimism, but delusion.

But then is there any real difference between pessimism and optimism if, when it comes down to it, the results aren't any different? The short answer is yes, with an added but.

Pessimism will tend to lead to bad outcomes, whether it is because you just think things will turn out poorly and thus do not take any action, or because the pessimism will color your actions and choices and as a result you tend to do things that will make the result what you expected, the bad outcome.

Now where the but comes in with optimism is that the mere act of thinking either optimistically or pessimistically will for the most part produce not much difference in outcome, with perhaps a slight edge to the optimist. However, when you add positive, productive action to that optimism, this is when truly amazing things can happen. You can be as optimistic as you want that you will find a way to get the money for that new car or new house, but unless you are including the productive action that helps to push things to that end, you will never get there. The difference between only thinking optimistically and thinking optimistically while acting in a productive manner is kind of like saying to an empty fireplace "Give me warmth and then I will put some wood in you".

I once knew a woman who always said, "I would rather expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised on the rare occasion when good happens than be disappointed all the time". This pessimistic attitude of hers has brought her nothing but misery and strife, and yet she still thinks it has nothing to do with her. She does not realize that her pessimism is coloring her entire life and making the bad things she expects to happen actually happen. My response to her was always, "I would much prefer to expect the best and enjoy what life gives me than to constantly worry about how bad things are." For a long time, we had the same results. Then I realized that I needed to do my part and put positive, productive action behind my thoughts. And while I am not where I want to be yet, I have moved much closer to it and have been much happier along the way.

So I would say to you: be optimistic! Expect the best out of life! Expecting the best out of life is better than being miserably pessimistic. Above all though my optimistic friend, don't forget to do your part to not just think but also act optimistically. -jasbirshyam

Sunday, November 8

Hormones and Migraine Headaches

What is a migraine headache?

A migraine headache is a severe pain felt on one, and sometimes, both sides of the head. The pain is mostly in the front around the temples or behind one eye or ear. Besides pain, you may have nausea and vomiting, and be very sensitive to light and sound. Migraine can occur any time of the day, though it often starts in the morning. The pain can last a few hours or up to one or two days.

We don't know what causes migraine headaches, but some things are more common in people who have them.
  • Most often, migraine affects people between the ages of 15 and 55.
  • Many people have a family history of migraine.
  • They are more common in women.
  • Migraine often becomes less severe and frequent with age.
What causes migraine?

One theory about the cause of migraine is the blood flow theory, which focuses on blood vessel activity in the brain. Blood vessels either narrow or expand. Narrowing can constrict blood flow, causing problems with sight or dizziness. When the blood vessels expand, they press on nerves nearby, which cause pain.

Another theory focuses on chemical changes in the brain. When chemicals in the brain that send messages from one cell to another, including the messages to blood vessels to get narrow or expand, are interrupted, migraines can occur.

More recently, genes have been linked to migraine. People who get migraines may inherit abnormal genes that control the functions of certain brain cells. And something the person's body is sensitive to in some way triggers the actual headaches.

Headache triggers can vary from person to person. Most migraines are not caused by a single factor or event. Your response to triggers can also vary from headache to headache. Many women with migraine tend to have attacks brought on by:
  • lack of food or sleep
  • bright light or loud noise
  • hormone changes during the menstrual cycle
  • stress and anxiety
  • weather changes
  • chocolate, alcohol, or nicotine
  • some foods and food additives, such as MSG or nitrates
Are there different kinds of migraine?

Yes, there are many forms of migraine headache. But, the two forms seen most often are classic and common migraine.

Classic migraine. With a classic migraine, a person has these visual symptoms 10 to 30 minutes before an attack:
  • sees flashing lights or zigzag lines
  • has blind spots or loses vision for a short time
The aura can include seeing or hearing strange things. It can even disturb the senses of smell, taste, or touch. Women have this form of migraine less often than men.
Common migraine. With a common migraine, a person does not have an aura, but does have the other migraine symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.

Migraines and Hormones

Although boys and girls report migraines in equal numbers before puberty, women have dramatically higher incidence of migraines after they begin menstruating. As many as 75% of migraine sufferers are women, according to EverydayHealth.com, and 60% of those women report that their migraines seem to be triggered by their menstrual cycle.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, 18% of women have at least one migraine per year, while only 6 to 7% of men do
  • Migraines are most common in women aged 20 to 45
  • Women's migraine headaches are more severe than men's, and are more likely to include other symptoms like nausea and vomiting
  • 60% of women experience migraines in the week before a menstrual period
  • Women are also likely to have headaches when ovulating
  • Pregnant women often report a change in headache patterns – usually fewer migraines during pregnancy and while breast-feeding, although the opposite is sometimes true
How to Prevent Migraine Headaches
  • Water –What this means is that drinking more water throughout the day can be enough to prevent most headaches. It's best to avoid coffee, soft drinks, and other sources of caffeine that can dehydrate.
  • Sleep –Sleep is vital for hormone balance, weight loss, metabolism, stress relief, and equally important for preventing headaches.
  • Exercise – The last thing anyone wants to do during a migraine is exercise, but regular activity can help prevent headaches and migraines by lowering stress levels, boosting endorphins, and supporting cardiovascular health
  • Food – While some foods can actually relieve headaches, it's been found that certain foods act as migraine triggers.
  • Medication – Headaches most often occur in tandem with other issues (such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma) that are usually medicated, and many of these drugs have side effects that include headaches. Diet pills, birth control, and blood pressure medication are also suspect.
-Cindy Paiva

Friday, November 6

Nine Ways to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the media focus of this month tends to be about curing breast cancer, with little said about how to prevent breast cancer. The bad news is that we`re no closer to a cure for breast cancer than we were 50 years ago. We have somewhat more effective chemotherapies for treating breast cancer, but they all can have terrible, even deadly, side effects and hardly qualify as a cure.

The good news is that we know a lot more about how to prevent breast cancer than we did 50 years ago.

1) Avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In 2003, the Women`s Health Initiative Study (WHI) showed a 24% increased risk of breast cancer for women using synthetic HRT such as Provera. This was followed closely by the British Million Women Study, which showed a 66% increased risk of breast cancer among women using synthetic HRT. Next came the French E3N Study, which showed a 60% increased risk. As a result of these studies, millions of women quickly stopped using synthetic hormones. In November 2006, research was released by cancer centers around the U.S. showing that breast cancer rates had dropped dramatically (7 to 15%) for the first time in decades, and in 2009 an article in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that the drop was due to the millions of women who stopped using HRT.

2) Get some exercise. There`s no need to run marathons or climb mountains; even a 20-minute walk three times a week can make a difference. A 30-minute walk 6 times a week makes a much bigger difference. According to the Nurses` Health Study, walking two miles a day cuts your risk of breast cancer in half. There are literally dozens of studies showing that regular physical exercise dramatically reduces the risk of breast cancer.

3) Minimize sugar and refined carbohydrates. White foods are out; whole grains, fresh veggies and fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs and fish are in. Too much sugar and simple carbs in the diet keeps insulin levels high, which sets up a cascade of events in the body that predisposes a woman`s body to breast cancer.

4) Use alcohol in moderation. Moderate use of alcohol, such as a glass of wine a few times a week, reduces the risk of breast cancer. Anything more increases the risk of breast cancer.

5) Avoid environmental toxins. This is easier said than done these days, but take note of some of the toxins to be minimized or avoided: pesticides and herbicides, many cleaning products, nail polish and nail polish remover, oil-based paints and paint thinners, eating or drinking from soft plastic containers, cosmetics that contain parabens, fake fragrances such as air fresheners, scented laundry soaps and most perfumes, and pressed wood and particle board furniture that off-gasses formaldehyde. Tap water from a municipal water supply or well water in a farming community can be loaded with toxins; use a water filter if necessary.

6) Manage stress. Chronic, unremitting stress, such as is often experienced by women who juggle the roles of wife, mother and employee, takes a heavy toll on the body, and in particular keeps the hormone cortisol high. When cortisol is chronically elevated, the risk of breast cancer is significantly increased. Find an activity (or inactivity) that is relaxing, and take time for it daily.

7) Get plenty of sleep in a dark room. This is one of the best ways to manage stress! Sleep gives the body time to rest, repair and heal. Sleeping in a dark room encourages the production of the hormone melatonin, which reduces the risk of breast cancer. Plenty of sleep might be 7 hours for some women and 9 hours for others.

8) Avoid chemical contraceptives if at all possible. Birth control pills, patches, shots and implants impart a modestly higher risk of breast cancer, which increases the longer they are used. Teens who use chemical contraceptives have triple the lifetime risk of breast cancer. Chemical contraceptives contain the same synthetic hormones as synthetic HRT (see #1), often in higher doses. The barrier methods of contraception such as the diaphragm, cervical cap and sponge, use gels and creams that aren`t entirely safe, but appear to be safer than chemical contraceptives when it comes to breast cancer risk.

9) Keep the vitamin D tank full. By now the research is indisputable that women with vitamin D deficiency have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer. Get some sun, take a vitamin D supplement, and if in doubt, test your vitamin D levels. And by the way, vitamin D is also very protective against the flu! -naturalnews

References

Beral V et al, "Breast cancer and hormone-replacement therapy in the Million Women Study," Lancet 2003 Aug 9;362(9382):419-27.

Chlebowski RT, Kuller LH, Prentice RL, "Breast Cancer after Use of Estrogen plus Progestin in Postmenopausal Women," NEJM Vol 360:573-587 February 5, 2009.

Fournier et al, "Use of different postmenopausal hormone therapies and risk of histology- and hormone receptor-defined invasive breast cancer," J Clin Oncol 2008 Mar 10;26(8):1260-8.

Fournier et al, "Unequal risks for breast cancer associated with different hormone replacement therapies: results from the E3N cohort study," Breast Cancer Res Treat 2008 Jan;107(1):103-11.

Fournier et al, "Breast cancer risk in relation to different types of hormone replacement therapy in the E3N-EPIC cohort," Int J Cancer 2005 Apr 10;114(3):448-54.

L`Hermite et al, "Could transdermal estradiol+progesterone be a safer postmenopausal HRT? A review," Maturitas 2008 Vol 60, Issue 3, Pages 185-201.

Lee et al, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Breast Cancer," Warner Books, 2003.

Thursday, November 5

Prevent Breast Cancer with Vitamin D and a Vegan Diet


In 1940, the risk of a woman getting breast cancer was one in 20. Today that number is one in eight. Risk factors for breast cancer include genetics, family history, and diet. Western diets have changed dramatically since 1950- and not for the better. As our food is filled with more preservatives, toxins, and unnatural fillers and as fast food restaurants appear on every corner, cancer rates consequently have skyrocketed.

The best cure is prevention. The National Cancer Institute estimates that as much as 80% of cancer cases are preventable. Maintaining a healthy diet is the number one thing you can do to prevent yourself from getting breast cancer. A diet low in sugar, dairy, and meat and high in leafy greens, fruits and vitamin D can prevent disease and promote well-being.

Vitamin D is an immune system booster that aids the body in attacking breast cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and multiplying. "Vitamin D is a key component in helping the body respond to many different kinds of assaults and stimuli," says Robert Heaney, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Creighton University. "In the absence of it, you're asking the body to defend itself with one hand tied behind its back."

You can get vitamin D from mushrooms, dark leafy green vegetables, fish oil, soymilk and rice milk. In the summer, spend some time in the sun. Sunlight exposure stimulates vitamin D production in the skin. According to Dr. Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, fair-skinned people need about 10-15 minutes of sunshine a day while darker skinned individuals can benefit from up to an hour of sun exposure. In the winter months Dr. Oz recommends taking vitamin D supplements.

In addition to getting enough vitamin D, maintaining a healthy diet is key to breast cancer prevention. Breast cancer survivor Elaine Sloan attributes her vegan diet to keeping her cancer-free for 17 years since her diagnosis.

"Before my mastectomy, I ate lots of eggs, cheese, and other dairy products," says Sloan. "I knew I had to make some changes if I wanted to live a long, healthy life. My son suggested I consider a vegan diet. After reading that high-fat diets may well contribute to breast cancer, I knew that going vegan would be a step in saving my life in the future."

Studies have shown that a diet high in animal products and dairy- which is full of hormones and saturated fat- can cause breast cancer, while vegan diets can help prevent and even reverse it. A vegan diet is a plant-based diet where all animal products such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy are avoided.

There are several ways that a vegan diet reduces the risk of breast cancer. When our body is overloaded with toxins, it is unable to fight off disease. However, the body naturally wants to heal itself and we can help it do that by eating the proper nutrition. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "People consuming a low-fat vegetarian diet tend to have higher levels of natural killer cells, which appear to make the immune system more effective in destroying tumors."

A diet high in animal fat, especially the carcinogens found in cooked red meat, and the fat-soluble hormones found in milk from cows can be toxic to your system. According to Arthur Upton, former Director of The National Cancer Institute, "Both breast cancer and colon cancer have been generally associated with the level of consumption of animal fat."

A diet high in fruits and vegetables is beneficial because of the phytochemicals found in produce, which aid the immune system in destroying tumors. Plant-based dieters tend to get the recommended amount of servings of produce while those following a typical Western diet do not.

Western countries have much higher rates of breast cancer than Asian countries such as Japan where the diet is much lower in animal fat. When Japanese women are raised on Western diets, their breast cancer risk dramatically increases.

"A Harvard Medical School study of more than 90,000 women revealed that the women who ate the most meat were nearly twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those who did not eat much meat," says Sloan. "Personally, I don't need another study to tell me that meat, eggs, and dairy products are unhealthy and vegan foods are wholesome and beneficial. I can feel the difference for myself."

Following a vegan diet has many health benefits. "Since I switched to a vegan diet, my energy level has increased, my cholesterol level has decreased, and I feel healthier overall," says Sloan. "But the best health benefit is the peace of mind I get from knowing that I'm much less likely to have a breast cancer relapse." -naturalnews

New Blood Test for Detecting Breast Cancer Comes Soon

Ah ... ladies ... can you imagine the freedom of life without mammograms? That yearly dread - the compression, the anxiety, the direct radiation to delicate tissue - may all be a thing of the past.

A new blood test is in development that may prove to be even more effective than mammograms. Mammograms give false negatives 10% of the time, false positives 20% of the time. In addition to false positives, there is increasing concern regarding possible harm from mammograms.

In a study involving 5,685 women, published in the July 15, 2000 issue of the International Journal of Cancer, the association between diagnostic radiation exposure and breast cancer was examined. The results of this study conclude that some forms of low-dose radiation may increase the risk of breast cancer. The study also found that women who underwent diagnostic chest x-rays for pneumonia or tuberculosis had more than twice the normal risk of breast cancer.

An article published in the January 28, 2009 Journal of the American Cancer Institute goes so far as to say that early mammograms may actually harm women who carry the BRCA gene.

"The risk of radiation-induced breast cancer may outweigh the benefits of mammography in women under the age of 30 who carry a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2, according to a mathematical modeling study."

Dr. Russell L. Blaylock estimates that annual mammograms increase the risk of breast cancer by two percent a year. So over 10 years the risk will have increased 20 percent.

An authority on the negative health effects from ionizing radiation, Dr. John W. Gofman estimates that 75% of breast cancer cases can be prevented my limiting or avoiding exposure to such radiation procedures such as mammography and x-rays.

The debate over whether mammograms save lives rages on. If you or someone you know had a lump discovered and subsequently removed after discovery by a mammogram, no doubt, you know there is value in screening. That is the beauty of this new blood test. Women can continue to be screened, without the risk of added radiation.

This new blood test, called the BC-SeraPro, measures the concentration of certain proteins in the blood that indicate breast cancer. These proteins, "blood markers," can indicate whether or not a system is functioning properly. This test may offer the opportunity to treat breast cancer at its earliest stage. Researchers are hoping that this test will catch breast cancer even before it shows up on a mammogram.

"This is a test for measuring the concentration of proteins in the blood and how they differ from the normal state will tell is about the presence of disease," says Ira Goldknopf, Ph.D., director of proteomics at Power3 Medical in the Woodlands, Texas. Dr. Goldknopf further states: "The method analyzes specific proteins and these proteins show what is going on with the patient in terms of the disease and how the disease is playing out on the patient."

The BC-SeraPro has a 90% success rate. The test should be available in breast cancer clinics early next year.

Provista Life Sciences is already offering a blood screening called the BT Test, or Biomarker Translation Test. The BT test screens for multiple cancer-related proteins. Will Gartner, President and CEO of Provista Life Sciences states: "With an accuracy rate above 80 percent, the BT Test gives women and their doctors another crucial measure for early breast cancer detection. We are thrilled to be able to offer more women the opportunity to catch the disease in its treatable phase, when life-saving treatment is most effective."

Currently, the BT Test is prescribed by doctors to be used in conjunction with annual mammograms. The BT test is strongly recommended for women at heightened risk for breast cancer, along with women with dense breast tissue.

In a previous study reported in the August 4, 2006 issue of the ACS` Journal of Proteome Research, 250 breast cancer patients and 95 patients without breast cancer were administered a blood test measuring the presence of breast cancer. The results of test had demonstrated that they could recognize the presence of breast cancer in the blood about 95 percent of the time. The researchers state:

"Better blood-based testing may aid in early diagnosis, may reduce the need for open biopsy and could provide new modalities for monitoring of therapy." -naturalnews

Tuesday, November 3

Fasting For Weight Loss - Healthy or Hazardous?


Fasting for weight loss is a controversial topic, because many people believe it is an extreme dieting method. The simple truth is that fasting can be followed in a safe and controlled way, and allows for accelerated weight loss without experiencing starvation mode, and without divesting your body of the essential nutrients and vitamins that are required for optimal health. Follow these tips to decide if fasting for weight loss is a good plan for you!

Is Fasting For Weight Loss Safe?

Brad Pilon, creator of the forward-thinking diet plan "Eat Stop Eat", revealed that scientific research demonstrates that fasting weight loss diets actually increase the action of fat burning enzymes, allowing you to lose weight quicker and easier than ever before. Your metabolism is increased for longer periods of time, and via fasting, food addiction is eliminated, which is a common and contributing element for the overweight issues in our country.

Will My Body Go Into Starvation Mode?

As long as you pursue a fasting weight loss plan closely and correctly, your body's fat burning hormones will be naturally boosted, and as a result, the weight lost will have a higher ratio of actual body fat, instead of lean muscle mass. The weight loss will be even and consistent, and many dieters following a fasting for weight loss program have raised amounts of energy without feeling lethargic as they might on other diet plans.

How Fast Is Fasting?

By fasting for 24 hour periods one to two days every week, your body will naturally and rapidly begin to lose weight. Because you'll be creating such a calorie deficit on the days that you're fasting, those who stick to the plan faithfully can fairly expect to lose at least two pounds per week -- especially when combined with regular exercise and weight training. But even for those who are not fitness fanatics, a fasting weight loss diet can easily lead to quick weight loss safely and effectively.

Fasting for weight loss requires some self-discipline, and it's an excellent choice for dieters looking to lose weight rapidly and have increased energy without having to micro-manage a diet plan. To learn more about fasting for weight loss and discover if it's the right plan for you, just follow these steps:

Visit The Best Diets Plans to learn about the "Eat Stop Eat" program, which provides you with a step-by-step guide on making fasting for weight loss easy, safe, and enjoyable! Learn more about this amazing and effective weight loss program. -Scarlett Miller
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