A growing body of research evidence is supporting the claim thatmeditation is good for our health. With benefits ranging from fewer colds to pain management, meditation seems to allow people to cultivate a sense of clarity and calm that can permeate all aspects of life and that improves with practice.
Here are some of the many beneficial effects that scientists have identified in studies:
- Stronger immune system. Meditators experienced fewer wintercolds and flus (Barrett et al. 2012) and produced more antibodies in response to a flu vaccine (Davidson et al. 2003) than those who did not meditate.
- Enhanced attention. After 3 months of meditation training, subjects had better attention and used their resources more efficiently (Slagter et al. 2007).
- Lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease.Transcendental meditation lowered blood pressure among African Americans with heart disease and was associated with a 43% reduction in risk of death, heart attack and stroke (Schneider et al. 2009).
- Less anxiety and depression. A research review found that both Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy had broad applications for people with depression and anxiety (Marchand 2012).
- Increased feelings of compassion and empathy. Mindfulness training helped to increase self-compassion and empathy in people with mood disorders (Farb, Anderson & Segal 2012).
- Fewer binge episodes. A group of women who practiced mindfulness meditation for 6 weeks cut their binge eating episodes by half after experiencing meditation (Kristiller & Hallett 1999).
- Lower blood sugar. Patients with metabolic syndrome lowered blood pressure and blood sugar and improved insulin regulation after practicing transcendental meditation for 16 weeks (Paul-Labrador et al. 2006).
- Improved sleep. A literature review found that consistent meditators using a variety of meditation styles experienced better sleep quality than people who did not meditate (Nagendra, Maruthai & Kutty 2012).
- Better pain management. The same literature review showed that both Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Zen meditation helped people with pain management (Nagendra, Maruthai & Kutty 2012). In another study, expert meditators experienced the same intensity of pain as novices, but felt less unpleasantness (Lutz et al. 2012).
Changes in the Brain
Researchers are using modern technology to explore how meditation is able to provide these (and other) benefits. Findings confirm that meditation practice creates structural changes in the brain, which is significant, because neuroscientists used to think the brain’s development reached a peak in adulthood and then declined with age. Research is now showing that how we use the brain impacts its development and function (just as how we use the body affects its health and function).
The structural changes in the brain that occur with meditation are associated with improved functionality: enhanced concentration, better ability to learn and remember, more ability to tolerate pain and less emotional reactivity toward external stimuli. In multiple studies, people who meditate have better attention, concentration, emotion regulation, pain tolerance and memory than those who do not.
Note: See www.ideafit.com/meditation-brain for specific research findings on how meditation changes the brain.
The Fountain of Youth?
New lines of research show that meditation may lead to biological changes that decrease the inflammation response of the immune system on a cellular level and can contribute to looking and feeling younger. Two separate studies of meditation, one involving the practice of a Kirtan Kriya meditation from kundalini yoga and the other involving qigong practice, a moving meditation, both identified improved telomerase activity, which is linked to cellular health (Black et al. 2012; Ho et al. 2012).
“Telomerase is an important enzyme that protects us from aging by guarding the shortening of telomeres during cell division,” said study author Rainbow T. Ho, director of the Centre on Behavioral Health at the University of Hong Kong. This reduction in inflammation may be related to optimizing health and slowing damage from the aging process.
For more information on meditation, plus a full list of references, please see “Meditation: Push-Ups for the Brain” in the online IDEA Library or in the January 2013 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.
For the latest research, statistics, sample classes, and more, “Like” IDEA on Facebook here.
© 2013 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.
Oxidative stress is directly related to Alzheimer’s disease onset, according to D. Allan Butterfield, director of the Center of Membrane Sciences at the University of Kentucky. The brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients exhibit intense damage from oxidative stress in the form of free radical formation, inflammation, the degeneration of fats and proteins, and damage to DNA and RNA.
Pomegranate juice is a good source of vitamin E. Recent research links high concentrations of vitamin E in the diet to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease onset. A 2010 study led by Yian Gu of Columbia University Medical Center followed 2,148 adults 65 years of age and older; of this group, 253 developed Alzheimer’s disease. The group that developed Alzheimer’s ingested significantly less vitamin E in their diet. The researchers hypothesized that vitamin E’s powerful antioxidant effect helped the first group ward off Alzheimer’s. The study results were published in the journal “Archives of Neurology.”
Pomegranate juice is also an excellent source of folate. Folate deficiency has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Butterfield notes that evidence exists that Alzheimer’s patients are deficient in folate, and that folate supplementation may help to retard the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Pomegranate juice therefore may help Alzheimer’s patients manage their condition and may help to slow down the disease.
Pomegranate juice is also abundant in polyphenols, which have shown significant positive effects on the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients. Polyphenols boost the brain cells’ resistance to oxidative stress, help to control the degeneration of fats and also appear to avert the death of the cells, notes Butterfield .
Antioxidants in pomegranates include polyphenols, such as tannins and anthocyanins. In fact, pomegranates may have even more antioxidant power than cranberry juice or green tea, Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, a nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research, has written in the AICR’s “Nutrition Wise” newsletter.
As for other possible health benefits, while more studies are needed, there are indications that:
- Pomegranate juice may improve blood flow to the heart in people with ischemic coronary heart disease (CHD). In a study of 45 people with CHD and myocardial ischemia (in which not enough blood gets to the heart muscle), participants who drank about 8 fluid ounces of pomegranate juice daily for 3 months had less ischemia during a stress test. Study participants who did not drink the juice, meanwhile, had evidence of more stress-induced ischemia. The study noted no negative effects to drinking pomegranate juice (even on blood sugar levels or body weight). Lead researcher, Dean Ornish, MD, believes pomegranate juice may even be able to help prevent heart disease in people who do not already have it.
- Pomegranate juice may slow prostate cancer growth. Antioxidants are known to help prevent and repair DNA damage that can lead to cancer. “Pomegranate juice won’t fend off cancer by itself, but studies suggest it may be a wonderful addition to the balanced, plant-based diet recommended by the American Institute of Cancer Research,” says Collins. Men who have already had preliminary treatment for prostate cancer may benefit from a daily dose of pomegranate juice. The juice appeared to suppress the growth of cancer cells and the increase in cancer cell death in lab testing, according to research from UCLA. Allan Pantuck, MD, said in an email interview that he guesses a combination of elements in pomegranates — rather than any single component — is probably responsible for these health effects.
I know this video is long, but please take the time to watch. I really didn’t think I would sit and watch the entire thing, but I was so fascinated that I couldn’t tear myself away. This is the researched and scientific study of the evolution of man and our diet, from millions of years ago to present day, as well as the health implications of the changes we have made to our diet. This presentation will answer any question you have as to whether our diet should be meat based or vegetarian. It discusses grains and the implications on our health. It shows how dairy contributes to osteoporosis by disrupting our acid-base balance. He also talks about oils and sugars and the effect on our health. I found it interesting that the year that high fructose corn syrup was introduced into our diet was the same year I started gaining weight as a child. Make sure you listen to questions from the audience at the end where he addresses how our diet increases inflammation in our body and it’s effect on the liver. I was shocked to find out that people are now primarily getting cirrhosis of the liver from obesity, rather than alcohol use!
Gluten: What You Don’t Know Might Kill You
Something you’re eating may be killing you, and you probably don’t even know it!
If you eat cheeseburgers or French fries all the time or drink six sodas a day, you likely know you are shortening your life. But eating a nice dark, crunchy slice of whole wheat bread–how could that be bad for you?
Well, bread contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and oats. It is hidden in pizza, pasta, bread, wraps, rolls, and most processed foods. Clearly, gluten is a staple of the American diet.
What most people don’t know is that gluten can cause serious health complications for many. You may be at risk even if you don’t have full blown celiac disease.
In today’s blog I want to reveal the truth about gluten, explain the dangers, and provide you with a simple system that will help you determine whether or not gluten is a problem for you.
The Dangers of Gluten
A recent large study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with diagnosed, undiagnosed, and “latent” celiac disease or gluten sensitivity had a higher risk of death, mostly from heart disease and cancer. (i)
This study looked at almost 30,00 patients from 1969 to 2008 and examined deaths in three groups: Those with full-blown celiac disease, those with inflammation of their intestine but not full-blown celiac disease, and those with latent celiac disease or gluten sensitivity (elevated gluten antibodies but negative intestinal biopsy).
The findings were dramatic. There was a 39 percent increased risk of death in those with celiac disease, 72 percent increased risk in those with gut inflammation related to gluten, and 35 percent increased risk in those with gluten sensitivity but no celiac disease.
This is ground-breaking research that proves you don’t have to have full-blown celiac disease with a positive intestinal biopsy (which is what conventional thinking tells us) to have serious health problems and complications–even death–from eating gluten.
Yet an estimated 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don’t even know it. They ascribe their ill health or symptoms to something else–not gluten sensitivity, which is 100 percent curable.
And here’s some more shocking news …
Another study comparing the blood of 10,000 people from 50 years ago to 10,000 people today found that the incidences of full-blown celiac disease increased by 400 percent (elevated TTG antibodies) during that time period. (ii) If we saw a 400 percent increase in heart disease or cancer, this would be headline news. But we hear almost nothing about this. I will explain why I think that increase has occurred in a moment. First, let’s explore the economic cost of this hidden epidemic.
Undiagnosed gluten problems cost the American healthcare system oodles of money. Dr. Peter Green, Professor of Clinical Medicine for the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University studied all 10 million subscribers to CIGNA and found those who were correctly diagnosed with celiac disease used fewer medical services and reduced their healthcare costs by more than 30 perecnt. (iii) The problem is that only one percent of those with the problem were actually diagnosed. That means 99 percent are walking around suffering without knowing it, costing the healthcare system millions of dollars.
And it’s not just a few who suffer, but millions. Far more people have gluten sensitivity than you think–especially those who are chronically ill. The most serious form of allergy to gluten, celiac disease, affects one in 100 people, or three million Americans, most of who don’t know they have it. But milder forms of gluten sensitivity are even more common and may affect up to one-third of the American population.
Why haven’t you heard much about this?
Well, actually you have, but you just don’t realize it. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity masquerade as dozens and dozens of other diseases with different names.
Gluten Sensitivity: One Cause, Many Diseases
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. (iv) These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, (v) and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric (vi) and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, (vii) schizophrenia, (viii) dementia, (ix)migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage). (x) It has also been linked to autism.(ix)
We used to think that gluten problems or celiac disease were confined to children who had diarrhea, weight loss, and failure to thrive. Now we know you can be old, fat, and constipated and still have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints,digestive tract, and more. It can be the single cause behind many different “diseases.” To correct these diseases, you need to treat the cause–which is often gluten sensitivity–not just the symptoms.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that ALL cases of depression or autoimmune disease or any of these other problems are caused by gluten in everyone–but it is important to look for it if you have any chronic illness.
By failing to identify gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, we create needless suffering and death for millions of Americans. Health problems caused by gluten sensitivity cannot be treated with better medication. They can only be resolved by eliminating 100 percent of the gluten from your diet.
The question that remains is: Why are we so sensitive to this “staff of life,” the staple of our diet?
There are many reasons …
They include our lack of genetic adaptation to grasses, and particularly gluten, in our diet. Wheat was introduced into Europe during the Middle Ages, and 30 percent of people of European descent carry the gene for celiac disease (HLA DQ2 or HLA DQ8), (xii) which increases susceptibility to health problems from eating gluten.
American strains of wheat have a much higher gluten content (which is needed to make light, fluffy Wonder Bread and giant bagels) than those traditionally found in Europe. This super-gluten was recently introduced into our agricultural food supply and now has “infected” nearly all wheat strains in America.
To find out if you are one of the millions of people suffering from an unidentified gluten sensitivity, just follow this simple procedure.
The Elimination/Reintegration Diet
While testing can help identify gluten sensivity, the only way you will know if this is really a problem for you is to eliminate all gluten for a short period of time (2 to 4 weeks) and see how you feel. Get rid of the following foods:
• Gluten (barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut, wheat, triticale–see www.celiac.com for a complete list of foods that contain gluten, as well as often surprising and hidden sources of gluten.)
• Hidden sources (soup mixes, salad dressings, sauces, as well as lipstick, certain vitamins, medications, stamps and envelopes you have to lick, and even Play-Doh.)
For this test to work you MUST eliminate 100 percent of the gluten from your diet–no exceptions, no hidden gluten, and not a single crumb of bread.
Then eat it again and see what happens. If you feel bad at all, you need to stay off gluten permanently. This will teach you better than any test about the impact gluten has on your body.
But if you are still interested in testing, here are some things to keep in mind.
Testing for Gluten Sensitivity or Celiac Disease
There are gluten allergy/celiac disease tests that are available through Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics. All these tests help identify various forms of allergy or sensitivity to gluten or wheat. They will look for:
• IgA anti-gliadin antibodies
• IgG anti-gliadin antibodies
• IgA anti-endomysial antibodies
• Tissue transglutaminase antibody (IgA and IgG in questionable cases)
• Total IgA antibodies
• HLA DQ2 and DQ8 genotyping for celiac disease (used occasionally to detect genetic suspectibility).
• Intestinal biopsy (rarely needed if gluten antibodies are positive–based on my interpretation of the recent study)
When you get these tests, there are a few things to keep in mind.
In light of the new research on the dangers of gluten sensitivity without full blown celiac disease, I consider any elevation of antibodies significant and worthy of a trial of gluten elimination. Many doctors consider elevated anti-gliadin antibodies in the absence of a positive intestinal biopsy showing damage to be “false positives.” That means the test looks positive but really isn’t significant.
We can no longer say that. Positive is positive and, as with all illness, there is a continuum of disease, from mild gluten sensitivity to full-blown celiac disease. If your antibodies are elevated, you should go off gluten and test to see if it is leading to your health problems.
So now you see–that piece of bread may not be so wholesome after all! Follow the advice I’ve shared with you today to find out if gluten may be the hidden cause of your health problems. Simply eliminating this insidious substnace from your diet, may help you achieve lifelong vibrant health.
That’s all for today. Now I’d like to hear from you …
Are you one of the millions that have been lead to believe gluten is perfectly safe to eat?
How do foods that contain gluten seem to affect you?
What tips can you share with others about eliminating gluten from your diet?
Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD
(i) Ludvigsson JF, Montgomery SM, Ekbom A, Brandt L, Granath F. Small-intestinal histopathology and mortality risk in celiac disease. JAMA. 2009 Sep 16;302(11):1171-8.
(ii) Rubio-Tapia A, Kyle RA, Kaplan EL, Johnson DR, Page W, Erdtmann F, Brantner TL, Kim WR, Phelps TK, Lahr BD, Zinsmeister AR, Melton LJ 3rd, Murray JA. Increased prevalence and mortality in undiagnosed celiac disease. Gastroenterology. 2009 Jul;137(1):88-93
(iii) Green PH, Neugut AI, Naiyer AJ, Edwards ZC, Gabinelle S, Chinburapa V. Economic benefits of increased diagnosis of celiac disease in a national managed care population in the United States. J Insur Med. 2008;40(3-4):218-28.
(iv) Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac sprue. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8. Review.
(v) Sedghizadeh PP, Shuler CF, Allen CM, Beck FM, Kalmar JR. Celiac disease and recurrent aphthous stomatitis: a report and review of the literature. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2002;94(4):474-478.
(vi) Margutti P, Delunardo F, Ortona E. Autoantibodies associated with psychiatric disorders. Curr Neurovasc Res. 2006 May;3(2):149-57. Review.
(vii) Ludvigsson JF, Reutfors J, Osby U, Ekbom A, Montgomery SM. Coeliac disease and risk of mood disorders–a general population-based cohort study. J Affect Disord. 2007 Apr;99(1-3):117-26. Epub 2006 Oct 6.
(viii) Ludvigsson JF, Osby U, Ekbom A, Montgomery SM. Coeliac disease and risk of schizophrenia and other psychosis: a general population cohort study. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2007 Feb;42(2):179-85.
(ix) Hu WT, Murray JA, Greenaway MC, Parisi JE, Josephs KA. Cognitive impairment and celiac disease. Arch Neurol. 2006 Oct;63(10):1440-6.
(x) Bushara KO. Neurologic presentation of celiac disease. Gastroenterology. 2005 Apr;128(4 Suppl 1):S92-7. Review.
(xi) Millward C, Ferriter M, Calver S, Connell-Jones G. Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD003498. Review.
(xii) Green PH, Jabri B. Coeliac disease. Lancet. 2003 Aug 2;362(9381):383-91. Review.
Mark Hyman, M.D. practicing physician and founder of The UltraWellness Center is a pioneer in functional medicine. Dr. Hyman is now sharing the 7 ways to tap into your body’s natural ability to heal itself. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos onYoutube and become a fan on Facebook.
Last year I wrote a post called “What you should know about essential fatty acids” describing why it is so important that we are consuming enough omega 3’s. In a nutshell, omega 3’s are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and are linked with preventing and treating heart disease, strokes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, depression/bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, asthma, and breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
For people like myself, who don’t like fish, we must get the required amount of omega 3’s from supplements. These days, there is so much pollution in the oceans (mercury, oil spills, toxic radiation) that I’ve even given up fish oil supplements. There’s just no way to know where that fish oil comes from or how toxic it may be.
Arbonne’s Omega-3 Plus is what I have started using to ensure I get my omega 3 fatty acids. These vegan capsules (gelatin capsules cannot be digested keeping you from absorbing any of the supplement) are gluten free. They contain a proprietary blend of flax, chia, perilla, black raspberry, pomegranate, and pumpkin seed oils. Two capsules provide 1000mg of omega 3 fatty acids.
For more information, or to purchase Omega-3 Plus go to www.shannonmorgan.myarbonne.com
A little chocolate
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From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.
A little dark chocolate may reduce the risk of heart failure. But before everyone builds an appetite, let’s emphasize the “little.”
At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, researcher Murray Mittleman examined data on middle-aged and older women in Sweden, who ate dark chocolate.
“A typical serving in this study would be approximately a half to two thirds of a standard chocolate bar in the U.S.” (7 seconds)
Those who ate one or two servings a week had about a one-third lower risk of developing heart failure. But those who ate one serving or more a day didn’t get the benefit – and Mittleman thinks it’s because the extra chocolate created extra calories.
The study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Learn more at hhs.gov.
HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.