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Bacteria help kids stay healthy! March 30, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Allergies, Alternative medicine, Antibiotics, Colds, Diet, Dreamhealer, Experiments, Healing, Health, Integrative Medicine, naturopathic, Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathy, Research, Skeptics.
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adam healer bacteria

By: Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden

Breaking news: Bacteria help kids stay healthy! In a study published this month in the Journal of Pediatrics, scientist found that daily probiotics help toddlers avoid certain infections. Researchers enrolled 300 children, ages 6 months to 36 months, in day care centers in a double-blinded study. Half of the children received placebos and half received probiotics.

For the children who received probiotics, it was found that there was a reduction in frequency and duration of diarrhea episodes. And surprisingly, there was also a reduction in respiratory tract infections in the children who took probiotics.

The children in the study received the probiotic Lactobaccillus reuteri daily for three months. In addition to the already-mentioned health benefits, the study found a reduction in the number of doctor visits, antibiotic use, absenteeism from day school and parental absenteeism from work.

Other studies on probiotics have found that probiotics may help in reducing acute diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, atopic eczema, tooth decay, C. diff. bacteria colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, including pouchitis.

So what is this miracle drug? Probiotics are live microorganisms numbering over 100 trillion, including over 500 bacterial species, which normally reside in the human intestinal tract. These microorganisms help in digestion, provide the body with nutrients, help the immune system and help keep harmful microorganisms in check.

Common probiotics are Lactobacillus bulgaris, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus acidophilus and casei, and Bifidobacteria. One can maintain a healthy balance of these “good bacteria” in the body by taking products which contain live and active cultures of these bacteria. These can include the pill and liquid probiotic supplements, as well as foods such as yogurt, and fermented foods such as brewer’s yeast, miso, sauerkraut or micro algae.

If you need additional nondairy yogurt options, yogurts made from rice, soy and coconut milk are available on the market. Some of these can contain added probiotics that provide the same benefits as regular yogurt. To ensure that you are getting the benefit of the probiotics in the foods that you are eating, pick those that state “live and active cultures” on the label. Also look for supplements that are not close to their expiration date, as the live bacteria dwindle over time.

Retrieved from: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2014/03/28/3027893/integrative-medicine-probiotics.html

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Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes March 2, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Dreamhealer, Experiments, Genetics, Healing, Naturopathic Medicine, Research, Workshops.
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By: Dan Hurley

Your ancestors’ lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.

Darwin and Freud walk into a bar. Two alcoholic mice — a mother and her son — sit on two bar stools, lapping gin from two thimbles.

The mother mouse looks up and says, “Hey, geniuses, tell me how my son got into this sorry state.”

“Bad inheritance,” says Darwin.

“Bad mothering,” says Freud.

For over a hundred years, those two views — nature or nurture, biology or psychology — offered opposing explanations for how behaviors develop and persist, not only within a single individual but across generations.

And then, in 1992, two young scientists following in Freud’s and Darwin’s footsteps actually did walk into a bar. And by the time they walked out, a few beers later, they had begun to forge a revolutionary new synthesis of how life experiences could directly affect your genes — and not only your own life experiences, but those of your mother’s, grandmother’s and beyond.

The bar was in Madrid, where the Cajal Institute, Spain’s oldest academic center for the study of neurobiology, was holding an international meeting. Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal, had never studied psychology or neurology, but he had been talked into attending by a colleague who thought his work might have some application. Likewise, Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist, had been talked into attending by the same colleague, who thought Meaney’s research into animal models of maternal neglect might benefit from Szyf’s perspective.

“I can still visualize the place — it was a corner bar that specialized in pizza,” Meaney says. “Moshe, being kosher, was interested in kosher calories. Beer is kosher. Moshe can drink beer anywhere. And I’m Irish. So it was perfect.”

The two engaged in animated conversation about a hot new line of research in genetics. Since the 1970s, researchers had known that the tightly wound spools of DNA inside each cell’s nucleus require something extra to tell them exactly which genes to transcribe, whether for a heart cell, a liver cell or a brain cell.

One such extra element is the methyl group, a common structural component of organic molecules. The methyl group works like a placeholder in a cookbook, attaching to the DNA within each cell to select only those recipes — er, genes — necessary for that particular cell’s proteins. Because methyl groups are attached to the genes, residing beside but separate from the double-helix DNA code, the field was dubbed epigenetics, from the prefix epi (Greek for over, outer, above).

Originally these epigenetic changes were believed to occur only during fetal development. But pioneering studies showed that molecular bric-a-brac could be added to DNA in adulthood, setting off a cascade of cellular changes resulting in cancer. Sometimes methyl groups attached to DNA thanks to changes in diet; other times, exposure to certain chemicals appeared to be the cause. Szyf showed that correcting epigenetic changes with drugs could cure certain cancers in animals.

Geneticists were especially surprised to find that epigenetic change could be passed down from parent to child, one generation after the next. A study from Randy Jirtle of Duke University showed that when female mice are fed a diet rich in methyl groups, the fur pigment of subsequent offspring is permanently altered. Without any change to DNA at all, methyl groups could be added or subtracted, and the changes were inherited much like a mutation in a gene.

Now, at the bar in Madrid, Szyf and Meaney considered a hypothesis as improbable as it was profound: If diet and chemicals can cause epigenetic changes, could certain experiences — child neglect, drug abuse or other severe stresses — also set off epigenetic changes to the DNA inside the neurons of a person’s brain? That question turned out to be the basis of a new field, behavioral epigenetics, now so vibrant it has spawned dozens of studies and suggested profound new treatments to heal the brain.

According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.

Like silt deposited on the cogs of a finely tuned machine after the seawater of a tsunami recedes, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandmother’s knobby knees, but also her predisposition toward depression caused by the neglect she suffered as a newborn.

Or not. If your grandmother was adopted by nurturing parents, you might be enjoying the boost she received thanks to their love and support. The mechanisms of behavioral epigenetics underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies, too. And for those unlucky enough to descend from miserable or withholding grandparents, emerging drug treatments could reset not just mood, but the epigenetic changes themselves. Like grandmother’s vintage dress, you could wear it or have it altered. The genome has long been known as the blueprint of life, but the epigenome is life’s Etch A Sketch: Shake it hard enough, and you can wipe clean the family curse.

Voodoo Genetics 

Twenty years after helping to set off a revolution, Meaney sits behind a wide walnut table that serves as his desk. A January storm has deposited half a foot of snow outside the picture windows lining his fourth-floor corner office at the Douglas Institute, a mental health affiliate of McGill. He has the rugged good looks and tousled salt-and-pepper hair of someone found on a ski slope — precisely where he plans to go this weekend. On the floor lays an arrangement of helium balloons in various stages of deflation. “Happy 60th!” one announces.

“I’ve always been interested in what makes people different from each other,” he says. “The way we act, the way we behave — some people are optimistic, some are pessimistic. What produces that variation? Evolution selects the variance that is most successful, but what produces the grist for the mill?”

Meaney pursued the question of individual differences by studying how the rearing habits of mother rats caused lifelong changes in their offspring. Research dating back to the 1950s had shown that rats handled by humans for as little as five to 15 minutes per day during their first three weeks of life grew up to be calmer and less reactive to stressful environments compared with their non-handled littermates. Seeking to tease out the mechanism behind such an enduring effect, Meaney and others established that the benefit was not actually conveyed by the human handling. Rather, the handling simply provoked the rats’ mothers to lick and groom their pups more, and to engage more often in a behavior called arched-back nursing, in which the mother gives the pups extra room to suckle against her underside.

“It’s all about the tactile stimulation,” Meaney says.

In a landmark 1997 paper in Science, he showed that natural variations in the amount of licking and grooming received during infancy had a direct effect on how stress hormones, including corticosterone, were expressed in adulthood. The more licking as babies, the lower the stress hormones as grown-ups. It was almost as if the mother rats were licking away at a genetic dimmer switch. What the paper didn’t explain was how such a thing could be possible.

“What we had done up to that point in time was to identify maternal care and its influence on specific genes,” Meaney says. “But epigenetics wasn’t a topic I knew very much about.”

And then he met Szyf.

Postnatal Inheritance 

“I was going to be a dentist,” Szyf says with a laugh. Slight, pale and balding, he sits in a small office at the back of his bustling laboratory — a room so Spartan, it contains just a single picture, a photograph of two embryos in a womb.

Needing to write a thesis in the late 1970s for his doctorate in dentistry at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Szyf approached a young biochemistry professor named Aharon Razin, who had recently made a splash by publishing his first few studies in some of the world’s top scientific journals. The studies were the first to show that the action of genes could be modulated by structures called methyl groups, a subject about which Szyf knew precisely nothing. But he needed a thesis adviser, and Razin was there. Szyf found himself swept up to the forefront of the hot new field of epigenetics and never looked back.

Until researchers like Razin came along, the basic story line on how genes get transcribed in a cell was neat and simple. DNA is the master code, residing inside the nucleus of every cell; RNA transcribes the code to build whatever proteins the cell needs. Then some of Razin’s colleagues showed that methyl groups could attach to cytosine, one of the chemical bases in DNA and RNA.

It was Razin, working with fellow biochemist Howard Cedar, who showed these attachments weren’t just brief, meaningless affairs. The methyl groups could become married permanently to the DNA, getting replicated right along with it through a hundred generations. As in any good marriage, moreover, the attachment of the methyl groups significantly altered the behavior of whichever gene they wed, inhibiting its transcription, much like a jealous spouse. It did so, Razin and Cedar showed, by tightening the thread of DNA as it wrapped around a molecular spool, called a histone, inside the nucleus. The tighter it is wrapped, the harder to produce proteins from the gene.

Consider what that means: Without a mutation to the DNA code itself, the attached methyl groups cause long-term, heritable change in gene function. Other molecules, called acetyl groups, were found to play the opposite role, unwinding DNA around the histone spool, and so making it easier for RNA to transcribe a given gene.

By the time Szyf arrived at McGill in the late 1980s, he had become an expert in the mechanics of epigenetic change. But until meeting Meaney, he had never heard anyone suggest that such changes could occur in the brain, simply due to maternal care.

“It sounded like voodoo at first,” Szyf admits. “For a molecular biologist, anything that didn’t have a clear molecular pathway was not serious science. But the longer we talked, the more I realized that maternal care just might be capable of causing changes in DNA methylation, as crazy as that sounded. So Michael and I decided we’d have to do the experiment to find out.”

Actually, they ended up doing a series of elaborate experiments. With the assistance of postdoctoral researchers, they began by selecting mother rats who were either highly attentive or highly inattentive. Once a pup had grown up into adulthood, the team examined its hippocampus, a brain region essential for regulating the stress response. In the pups of inattentive mothers, they found that genes regulating the production of glucocorticoid receptors, which regulate sensitivity to stress hormones, were highly methylated; in the pups of conscientious moms, the genes for the glucocorticoid receptors were rarely methylated.

Methylation just gums up the works. So the less the better when it comes to transcribing the affected gene. In this case, methylation associated with miserable mothering prevented the normal number of glucocorticoid receptors from being transcribed in the baby’s hippocampus. And so for want of sufficient glucocorticoid receptors, the rats grew up to be nervous wrecks.

To demonstrate that the effects were purely due to the mother’s behavior and not her genes, Meaney and colleagues performed a second experiment. They took rat pups born to inattentive mothers and gave them to attentive ones, and vice versa. As they predicted, the rats born to attentive mothers but raised by inattentive ones grew up to have low levels of glucocorticoid receptors in their hippocampus and behaved skittishly. Likewise, those born to bad mothers but raised by good ones grew up to be calm and brave and had high levels of glucocorticoid receptors.

Before publishing their findings, Meaney and Szyf conducted a third crucial experiment, hoping to overwhelm the inevitable skeptics who would rise up to question their results. After all, it could be argued, what if the epigenetic changes observed in the rats’ brains were not directly causing the behavioral changes in the adults, but were merely co-occurring? Freud certainly knew the enduring power of bad mothers to screw up people’s lives. Maybe the emotional effects were unrelated to the epigenetic change.

To test that possibility, Meaney and Szyf took yet another litter of rats raised by rotten mothers. This time, after the usual damage had been done, they infused their brains with trichostatin A, a drug that can remove methyl groups. These animals showed none of the behavioral deficits usually seen in such offspring, and their brains showed none of the epigenetic changes.

“It was crazy to think that injecting it straight into the brain would work,” says Szyf. “But it did. It was like rebooting a computer.”

Despite such seemingly overwhelming evidence, when the pair wrote it all up in a paper, one of the reviewers at a top science journal refused to believe it, stating he had never before seen evidence that a mother’s behavior could cause epigenetic change.

“Of course he hadn’t,” Szyf says. “We wouldn’t have bothered to report the study if it had already been proved.”

In the end, their landmark paper, “Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior,” was published in June 2004 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Meaney and Szyf had proved something incredible. Call it postnatal inheritance: With no changes to their genetic code, the baby rats nonetheless gained genetic attachments due solely to their upbringing — epigenetic additions of methyl groups sticking like umbrellas out the elevator doors of their histones, gumming up the works and altering the function of the brain.

The Beat Goes On

Together, Meaney and Szyf have gone on to publish some two-dozen papers, finding evidence along the way of epigenetic changes to many other genes active in the brain. Perhaps most significantly, in a study led by Frances Champagne — then a graduate student in Meaney’s lab, now an associate professor with her own lab at Columbia University in New York — they found that inattentive mothering in rodents causes methylation of the genes for estrogen receptors in the brain. When those babies grow up, the resulting decrease of estrogen receptors makes them less attentive to their babies. And so the beat goes on.

As animal experiments continue apace, Szyf and Meaney have entered into the next great step in the study of behavioral epigenetics: human studies. In a 2008 paper, they compared the brains of people who had committed suicide with the brains of people who had died suddenly of factors other than suicide. They found excess methylation of genes in the suicide brains’ hippocampus, a region critical to memory acquisition and stress response. If the suicide victims had been abused as children, they found, their brains were more methylated.

Why can’t your friend “just get over” her upbringing by an angry, distant mother? Why can’t she “just snap out of it”? The reason may well be due to methyl groups that were added in childhood to genes in her brain, thereby handcuffing her mood to feelings of fear and despair.

Of course, it is generally not possible to sample the brains of living people. But examining blood samples in humans is routine, and Szyf has gone searching there for markers of epigenetic methylation. Sure enough, in 2011 he reported on a genome-wide analysis of blood samples taken from 40 men who participated in a British study of people born in England in 1958.

All the men had been at a socioeconomic extreme, either very rich or very poor, at some point in their lives ranging from early childhood to mid-adulthood. In all, Szyf analyzed the methylation state of about 20,000 genes. Of these, 6,176 genes varied significantly based on poverty or wealth. Most striking, however, was the finding that genes were more than twice as likely to show methylation changes based on family income during early childhood versus economic status as adults.

Timing, in other words, matters. Your parents winning the lottery or going bankrupt when you’re 2 years old will likely affect the epigenome of your brain, and your resulting emotional tendencies, far more strongly than whatever fortune finds you in middle age.

Last year, Szyf and researchers from Yale University published another study of human blood samples, comparing 14 children raised in Russian orphanages with 14 other Russian children raised by their biological parents. They found far more methylation in the orphans’ genes, including many that play an important role in neural communication and brain development and function.

“Our study shows that the early stress of separation from a biological parent impacts long-term programming of genome function; this might explain why adopted children may be particularly vulnerable to harsh parenting in terms of their physical and mental health,” said Szyf’s co-author, psychologist Elena Grigorenko of the Child Study Center at Yale. “Parenting adopted children might require much more nurturing care to reverse these changes in genome regulation.”

A case study in the epigenetic effects of upbringing in humans can be seen in the life of Szyf’s and Meaney’s onetime collaborator, Frances Champagne. “My mom studied prolactin, a hormone involved in maternal behavior. She was a driving force in encouraging me to go into science,” she recalls. Now a leading figure in the study of maternal influence, Champagne just had her first child, a daughter. And epigenetic research has taught her something not found in the What to Expect books or even her mother’s former lab.

“The thing I’ve gained from the work I do is that stress is a big suppressor of maternal behavior,” she says. “We see it in the animal studies, and it’s true in humans. So the best thing you can do is not to worry all the time about whether you’re doing the right thing. Keeping the stress level down is the most important thing. And tactile interaction — that’s certainly what the good mother rats are doing with their babies. That sensory input, the touching, is so important for the developing brain.”

The Mark Of Cain 

The message that a mother’s love can make all the difference in a child’s life is nothing new. But the ability of epigenetic change to persist across generations remains the subject of debate. Is methylation transmitted directly through the fertilized egg, or is each infant born pure, a methylated virgin, with the attachments of methyl groups slathered on solely by parents after birth?

Neuroscientist Eric Nestler of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York has been seeking an answer for years. In one study, he exposed male mice to 10 days of bullying by larger, more aggressive mice. At the end of the experiment, the bullied mice were socially withdrawn.

To test whether such effects could be transmitted to the next generation, Nestler took another group of bullied mice and bred them with females, but kept them from ever meeting their offspring.

Despite having no contact with their depressed fathers, the offspring grew up to be hypersensitive to stress. “It was not a subtle effect; the offspring were dramatically more susceptible to developing signs of depression,” he says.

In further testing, Nestler took sperm from defeated males and impregnated females through in vitro fertilization. The offspring did not show most of the behavioral abnormalities, suggesting that epigenetic transmission may not be at the root. Instead, Nestler proposes, “the female might know she had sex with a loser. She knows it’s a tainted male she had sex with, so she cares for her pups differently,” accounting for the results.

Despite his findings, no consensus has yet emerged. The latest evidence, published in the Jan. 25 issue of the journal Science, suggests that epigenetic changes in mice are usually erased, but not always. The erasure is imperfect, and sometimes the affected genes may make it through to the next generation, setting the stage for transmission of the altered traits in descendants as well.

What’s Next?

The studies keep piling on. One line of research traces memory loss in old age to epigenetic alterations in brain neurons. Another connects post-traumatic stress disorder to methylation of the gene coding for neurotrophic factor, a protein that regulates the growth of neurons in the brain.

If it is true that epigenetic changes to genes active in certain regions of the brain underlie our emotional and intellectual intelligence — our tendency to be calm or fearful, our ability to learn or to forget — then the question arises: Why can’t we just take a drug to rinse away the unwanted methyl groups like a bar of epigenetic Irish Spring?

The hunt is on. Giant pharmaceutical and smaller biotech firms are searching for epigenetic compounds to boost learning and memory. It has been lost on no one that epigenetic medications might succeed in treating depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder where today’s psychiatric drugs have failed.

But it is going to be a leap. How could we be sure that epigenetic drugs would scrub clean only the dangerous marks, leaving beneficial — perhaps essential — methyl groups intact? And what if we could create a pill potent enough to wipe clean the epigenetic slate of all that history wrote? If such a pill could free the genes within your brain of the epigenetic detritus left by all the wars, the rapes, the abandonments and cheated childhoods of your ancestors, would you take it?

Retrieved from: http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes#.UxPna_RdXWo

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Scientists Finally Show How Your Thoughts Can Cause Specific Molecular Changes To Your Genes December 31, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Dreamhealer, Energy Healing, Experiments, Genetics, Healing, Integrative Medicine, Meditation, Naturopathic Medicine, Spirituality.
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By: Michael Forrester

With evidence growing that training the mind or inducing certain modes of consciousness can have positive health effects, researchers have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body. A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of intensive mindfulness practice.

The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.

The study was published in the Journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Mindfulness-based trainings have shown beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies and are endorsed by the American Heart Association as a preventative intervention. The new results provide a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects.

Gene Activity Can Change According To Perception

According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, gene activity can change on a daily basis. If the perception in your mind is reflected in the chemistry of your body, and if your nervous system reads and interprets the environment and then controls the blood’s chemistry, then you can literally change the fate of your cells by altering your thoughts.

In fact, Dr. Lipton’s research illustrates that by changing your perception, your mind can alter the activity of your genes and create over thirty thousand variations of products from each gene. He gives more detail by saying that the gene programs are contained within the nucleus of the cell, and you can rewrite those genetic programs through changing your blood chemistry.

In the simplest terms, this means that we need to change the way we think if we are to heal cancer. “The function of the mind is to create coherence between our beliefs and the reality we experience,” Dr. Lipton said. “What that means is that your mind will adjust the body’s biology and behavior to fit with your beliefs. If you’ve been told you’ll die in six months and your mind believes it, you most likely will die in six months. That’s called the nocebo effect, the result of a negative thought, which is the opposite of the placebo effect, where healing is mediated by a positive thought.”

That dynamic points to a three-party system: there’s the part of you that swears it doesn’t want to die (the conscious mind), trumped by the part that believes you will (the doctor’s prognosis mediated by the subconscious mind), which then throws into gear the chemical reaction (mediated by the brain’s chemistry) to make sure the body conforms to the dominant belief. (Neuroscience has recognized that the subconscious controls 95 percent of our lives.)

Now what about the part that doesn’t want to die–the conscious mind? Isn’t it impacting the body’s chemistry as well? Dr. Lipton said that it comes down to how the subconscious mind, which contains our deepest beliefs, has been programmed. It is these beliefs that ultimately cast the deciding vote.

“It’s a complex situation,” said Dr. Lipton. People have been programmed to believe that they’re victims and that they have no control. We’re programmed from the start with our mother and father’s beliefs. So, for instance, when we got sick, we were told by our parents that we had to go to the doctor because the doctor is the authority concerning our health. We all got the message throughout childhood that doctors were the authority on health and that we were victims of bodily forces beyond our ability to control. The joke, however, is that people often get better while on the way to the doctor. That’s when the innate ability for self-healing kicks in, another example of the placebo effect.

Mindfulness Practice Specifically Affects Regulatory Pathways

The results of Davidson’s study show a down-regulation of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes include the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which regulate the activity of other genes epigenetically by removing a type of chemical tag. What’s more, the extent to which some of those genes were downregulated was associated with faster cortisol recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera.

Biologists have suspected for years that some kind of epigenetic inheritance occurs at the cellular level. The different kinds of cells in our bodies provide an example. Skin cells and brain cells have different forms and functions, despite having exactly the same DNA. There must be mechanisms–other than DNA–that make sure skin cells stay skin cells when they divide.

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affected certain regulatory pathways.

The key result is that meditators experienced genetic changes following mindfulness practice that were not seen in the non-meditating group after other quiet activities — an outcome providing proof of principle that mindfulness practice can lead to epigenetic alterations of the genome.

Previous studies in rodents and in people have shown dynamic epigenetic responses to physical stimuli such as stress, diet, or exercise within just a few hours.

“Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression,” Davidson says.

“The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions,” Kaliman says. “Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.”

Subconscious Beliefs Are Key

Too many positive thinkers know that thinking good thoughts–and reciting affirmations for hours on end–doesn’t always bring about the results that feel-good books promise.

Dr. Lipton didn’t argue this point, because positive thoughts come from the conscious mind, while contradictory negative thoughts are usually programmed in the more powerful subconscious mind.

“The major problem is that people are aware of their conscious beliefs and behaviors, but not of subconscious beliefs and behaviors. Most people don’t even acknowledge that their subconscious mind is at play, when the fact is that the subconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind and that we operate 95 to 99 percent of our lives from subconscious programs.

“Your subconscious beliefs are working either for you or against you, but the truth is that you are not controlling your life, because your subconscious mind supersedes all conscious control. So when you are trying to heal from a conscious level–citing affirmations and telling yourself you’re healthy–there may be an invisible subconscious program that’s sabotaging you.”

The power of the subconscious mind is elegantly revealed in people expressing multiple personalities. While occupying the mind-set of one personality, the individual may be severely allergic to strawberries. Then, in experiencing the mind-set of another personality, he or she eats them without consequence.

The new science of epigenetics promises that every person on the planet has the opportunity to become who they really are, complete with unimaginable power and the ability to operate from, and go for, the highest possibilities, including healing our bodies and our culture and living in peace.

Article sources:
wisc.edu
brucelipton.com
ts-si.org

Read more http://www.tunedbody.com/scientists-finally-show-thoughts-can-cause-specific-molecular-changes-genes/#

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Improve your performance with this mantra: ‘I am excited’ December 27, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Dreamhealer, Emotion, Experiments, Health, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Research.
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By: Relaxnews

Next time you’ve got a public speaking engagement or exam coming up, psych yourself up by telling yourself how excited you are rather than trying to calm down and you may actually perform better.

That’s according to a new Harvard study published by the American Psychological Association,  which found that affirmative statements like “I’m excited” helped people improve their performance compared to self-pep talks that urged relaxation such as “I am calm.”

“People have a very strong intuition that trying to calm down is the best way to cope with their anxiety, but that can be very difficult and ineffective,” said study author Alison Wood Brooks in a statement.

“When people feel anxious and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are thinking about how things could go well.”

The results of the study are based on several different experiments. In one experiment, 140 participants were instructed to prepare a public speech on why they would be good work partners. Researchers videotaped the speeches and participants were told they would be judged by a committee to increase anxiety levels.

Before delivering their spiel, subjects were instructed to say either “I am excited” or “I am calm.” Judges found that those who made the first statement were more persuasive, competent and relaxed, the study says.

Similar results were observed during a math exam, with those who psyched themselves up with the mantra “I am excited” scoring an impressive eight percent higher on average compared to the “I am calm” and control groups.

In a karaoke experiment in which participants’ heart rates were monitored with a pulse meter, again singers who repeated the mantra “I am excited” scored an average of 80 percent on the karaoke machine which measures pitch, rhythm and volume. Those instructed to tell themselves they were calm, angry or sad scored 69 percent.

The moral of the study?

“It really does pay to be positive, and people should say they are excited. Even if they don’t believe it at first, saying ‘I’m excited’ out loud increases authentic feelings of excitement,” Brooks said.

A 2012 study out of the University of Chicago also found that performing math equations under anxiety prompts responses in the brain similar to physical pain.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/body-and-mind/improve-your-performance-with-this-mantra-i-am-excited-1.1608359#ixzz2ohpOvCB5

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Trade groups take ‘supplements save health care costs’ message to Capitol Hill December 11, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Big Pharma, Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Diet, Dreamhealer, Experiments, Government, Health, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Adam McLeod

By: Hank Schultz

The Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus in conjunction with the leading dietary supplement industry associations held a briefing yesterday for members of Congress to drive home the point that supplements are not only good for users’ health, but good for the nation’s health care bottom line, too.

The briefing, titled “Smart Prevention: Health Care Cost Savings Utilizing Dietary Supplements,” was held by the DSC and the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the Natural Products Association (NPA), and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA).

The message given to Congressional staffs was backed by data gather in the recent Frost and Sullivan survey commissioned by the CRN Foundation that showed that demonstrated that supplementation at preventive intake levels in high-risk populations can reduce the number of medical events associated with heart disease, age-related eye disease, diabetes, and bone disease in the United States, representing the potential for significant cost savings.

High engagement

Mike Greene, the vice president of government relations for CRN, said the message seemed to get through.  Such briefings tend to be high traffic affairs, with Congressional staffers coming and going as competing needs arise for their time.

“Typically staff members are very busy. I was interested in the simple fact that people stayed. We weren’t talking about the health benefits of dietary supplements, but we were talking about the economic benefits of dietary supplements,”Green told NutraIngredients-USA.

Part of the meeting consisted of a presentation of the report’s findings by Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, and included a statement by John Shaw, executive director of NPA.

“Chronic diseases are one of the greatest contributors to health care costs in this country,” said Mister. “If we can identify and motivate those at risk to effectively use dietary supplements, we can control rising societal health care costs, but also give sick individuals a chance to reduce the risk of costly events and, most importantly, to improve their quality of life.”

The new report by economic firm Frost & Sullivan that examined four different chronic diseases and the potential for health care cost savings when U.S. adults, 55 and older, diagnosed with these chronic diseases, used one of eight different dietary supplement regimens.

Systematic review

The report, performed a systematic review of hundreds of scientific studies on eight dietary supplement regimens across four diseases to determine the reduction in disease risk from these preventive practices. The firm then projected the rates of medical events across the high-risk populations and applied cost benefit analyses to determine the cost savings if people at high risk took supplements at preventive intake levels.

The report, demonstrated that supplementation at preventive intake levels in high-risk populations can reduce the number of medical events associated with heart disease, age-related eye disease, diabetes, and bone disease in the United States, representing the potential for significant cost savings.  Calculated potential savings in health care costs ranged as high as $3.9 billion for omega-3 supplements in the reduction of significant cardiac disease events.

 “Nutritional supplements proactively contribute to the overall health and well-being of American consumers. But as we can see from this data, the benefits of supplementation are much more far-reaching,”  Shaw said.

 “I’ve always known that dietary supplements have benefits. Most people know that.  But by doing this report we’ve shown that dietary supplements can reduce health care costs as well. This information is new and its fresh and it’s interesting to see how it has been received,” Greene said.

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Gut Microbes Linked to Autism-like Symptoms in Mice December 6, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in ADHD, Allergies, Alternative medicine, Antibiotics, Experiments, Genetics, Healing, Health, naturopathic, Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathy, Research.
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Dream healer

By: Emily Underwood

Many physicians and parents report that their autistic children have unusually severe gastrointestinal problems, such as chronic constipation or diarrhea. These observations have led some researchers to speculate that an ailing gut contributes to the disorder in some cases, but scientific data has been lacking. Now, a provocative study claims that a probiotic treatment for gastrointestinal issues can reduce autismlike symptoms in mice and suggests that this treatment could work for humans, too.

The reported incidence of gut maladies in people with autism varies wildly between published studies—from zero to more than 80%—making it difficult to establish just how commonly the two conditions go together, says principal investigator Sarkis Mazmanian, a microbiologist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. Overall, however, the evidence seems to point toward a connection. Last year, for example, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of thousands of children with developmental disabilities found that kids with autism were twice as likely as children with other types of disorders to have frequent diarrhea or colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine.

For many years, Mazmanian and his and colleagues have been studying the effects of a nontoxic strain of the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis on diseases such as Crohn’s disease, which causes intestinal inflammation and allows potentially harmful substances that should pass out of the body to leak through junctions between cells that are normally tight. Although the researchers don’t understand the mechanism, the bacterium appears to restore the damaged gut, possibly by helping close these gaps.

“The fact that we have an organism that repairs the gut makes it a very appealing” tool for testing whether gut abnormalities can contribute to autism, Mazmanian says. To explore that question, Mazmanian and colleagues at Caltech used a mouse model of autism that is thought to approximately recreate three of the disorder’s hallmark deficits: lack of social interaction, decreased communication (mice normally emit ultrasonic, birdsonglike chirps), and repetitive behaviors such as compulsive grooming or burying marbles.

The first step of the experiment was to determine whether the mice showed signs of gastrointestinal inflammation or other gut abnormalities, says microbiologist Elaine Hsiao, a postdoctoral candidate at Caltech and lead author of the study. By the time the mice were 3 weeks old, the researchers found that their intestines were indeed as leaky as those of mice that had been treated with a chemical that induces colitis. Next, the researchers tested whether they could reverse the damage by feeding the mice applesauce laced with B. fragilis for a week. A second group of autism-mimicking mice as well as a group of healthy mice ate applesauce that did not contain the bacteria. Then the group waited to see what effect the bacteria would have on the rodents’ intestines. “We didn’t know what would happen—we were hoping the bacterium would survive in the gut,” Hsiao says.

After 3 weeks, the team measured the levels of gut-derived molecules in the rodents’ bloodstream and found that the treatment had stopped up their intestinal leakage. Bacterial counts from rodents’ poop showed that although B. fragilis did not establish lasting colonies in the mice, they did “shake up the community,” of microorganisms, bringing it closer to that of the normal mice, Hsiao says. After the treatment, the autism-mimicking mice also resembled their normal peers in two behavioral tests, the authors report today in Cell. The animals no longer compulsively buried marbles in their cages and increased their ultrasonic squeaking to typical levels. They did not increase their social interactions, however, Hsiao says.

“It’s really striking that any bacterial treatment—even a transient one—could have a lasting impact on behavior,” Hsiao says. The most interesting thing about the results, she says, was not the correction of the autistic symptoms in the mice, but the clues the study provided about how the gut’s microbial population may affect the brain and behavior. The researchers found that levels of a substance called 4-ethylphenylsulfate that is produced by gut bacteria increased 46-fold in the mice with autistic symptoms, but returned to normal after treatment with B. fragilis. When the team isolated that chemical and injected it into healthy mice, the rodents showed increased anxiety, another autismlike symptom, she says. Although the substance did not provoke the symptoms seen in the previous experiment, Hsiao says that the animals’ altered response suggests that the substance could play a role in the disorder. Hundreds of other metabolic byproducts also changed in quantity after B. fragilis was administered and could have an effect, she adds.

By demonstrating that a widely used mouse model of autism does have gastrointestinal problems, and that these problems are associated with behavioral symptoms, the new research “shows us something fabulous,” says Betty Diamond, an immunologist at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York. She cautions, however, that it would be premature to use B. fragilis or another probiotic as a treatment in humans. “We don’t really understand” which bacterial species are important or how they colonize the gut, she says.

Although the findings are interesting, the study does not establish that the changing levels of microbes and the chemicals they produce caused any of the behavioral changes seen in the mice, says Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “I’d want to know more about the mechanism” by which the bacteria altered behavior in the mice before beginning to translate the findings to humans, he says. The group also didn’t investigate how the bacteria affect a normal animal, because the microbes were administered only to autistic mice, he says. It’s possible that B. fragilis could have a deleterious effect that the study didn’t detect, he says. Combined with the inherent difficulty of extrapolating findings about human autism from a mouse, he says, “I think this is less well-established than it appears.”

“We propose that after the repair of the leaky gut, neurotoxic molecules do not get into the system and cause behavioral abnormalities,” Mazmanian says. But he agrees with DiCicco-Bloom that there are alternative explanations for why the mice changed their behavior—for example, “maybe bacteria are activating nerves in the gut that are communicating with the brain,” he says. After resolving some of these questions, the group plans to initiate clinical trials in humans, Hsiao says. “We don’t want people to start applying this to humans” just yet, but “this opens the door to future research” in people.

Article retrieved from: http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2013/12/gut-microbes-linked-autismlike-symptoms-mice

Healthy lifestyle ‘slows cellular ageing’ September 25, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Aging, Alternative medicine, Dreamhealer, Energy Healing, exercise, Experiments, Healing, Health, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Research.
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Written by: Nick Collins

Healthy lifestyle changes such as eating whole foods and practising yoga could reverse the ageing of the body’s cells, a new study suggests.

Doctor Dreamhealer, Healer, Adam McLeod, DreamhealerPatients who adopted healthy diets, exercise regimes and “stress management” techniques such as meditation or yoga for five years developed younger-looking chromosomes.

The type of change seen in their chromosomes, the structures which house our genetic code, has previously been linked to a lower risk of age-related disease and greater life expectancy.

The findings, from a pilot study of prostate cancer patients, could equally apply to women and healthy men although larger studies are needed to confirm the results, researchers said.

They studied data on 35 patients who had a non-aggressive form of prostate cancer and had chosen to be regularly assessed by doctors rather than undergoing conventional treatment.

Ten of the men adopted a “lifestyle change intervention” which included eating a plant-based diet of whole foods, moderate exercise, stress management and regular group support classes, while the other 25 made no change to their lifestyle.

The scientists, from the University of California, San Francisco, examined changes in the men’s telomeres, structures which sit at the ends of chromosomes like the protective caps on the end of a shoelace.

Telomeres prevent the DNA within our chromosomes from being damaged, but as we grow older they become shorter and cells begin to age and die more rapidly.

Previous studies have linked the shortening of telomeres to a decrease in life expectancy and a greater risk of age-related diseases such as heart disease, vascular dementia, obesity, stroke, diabetes and various cancers.

But the new research found that in the group who adopted strict and comprehensive healthy changes to their diet and lifestyle, telomeres lengthened by an average of 10 per cent over five years.

The more positive changes the men made, the greater the increase in telomere length. In contrast, among those who did not alter their way of life, telomeres decreased in length by three per cent on average.

Although it is well known that a healthy diet and plenty of exercise can result in a host of medical befits, the findings published in The Lancet Oncology journal, are the first evidence of such an effect on telomeres.

Prof Dean Ornish, who led the study, said: “The implications of this relatively small pilot study may go beyond men with prostate cancer.

“If validated by large-scale randomised controlled trials, these comprehensive lifestyle changes may significantly reduce the risk of a wide variety of diseases and premature mortality. Our genes, and our telomeres, are a predisposition, but they are not necessarily our fate.”

Dr Lynne Cox, a Biochemistry lecturer at the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the study, said the findings “support the calls for adoption of and adherence to healthier lifestyles”.

It is “perhaps too soon to judge whether this increase in telomere length will correlate with increased longevity or healthspan”, she added.

Four lifestyle improvements which could lengthen telomeres

Diet

Participants adopted a diet high in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains. They cut down on refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, and lowered their fat intake to less than 10 per cent of all the calories in their diet.

Exercise

The men were asked to undertake “moderate” levels of aerobic exercise for the duration of the study, for example walking for half an hour a day, six times per week.

Stress management

Exercises participants carried out to lower their stress levels were gentle yoga-based stretching routines, breathing exercises, meditation and “progressive relaxation”, a technique which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in turn.

Social support

The men were asked to attend one hour-long group “social support” session each week, led by a clinical psychologist.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10312716/Healthy-lifestyle-slows-cellular-ageing.html

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You’re What Kind of Doctor? July 20, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Dreamhealer, exercise, Experiments, Healing, Integrative Medicine, naturopathic, Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathy.
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Article written by Dr. Michael Stanclift, N.D.

“Wait, you’re what kind of doctor? A nat-uro-pathic doctor? What’s that?”

I get this question all the time. It’s not so surprising when it comes from someone I meet in a coffee shop or on an airplane, but I still hear it from other doctors, too. In fact, it’s more surprising when someone (outside of Seattle or Portland) has actually heard of what I do. To be fair, I’d never heard of an audiologist until one moved in as a housemate.

My profession is rather small, and we’re yet to be licensed in every state. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are currently licensed to practice as medical professionals in 16 states, and two U.S. territories, and five provinces in Canada.

What we do probably wouldn’t make for a popular TV show like House or Grey’s Anatomy. Preventing heart disease and cancer through diet or helping someone break the pattern of insomnia is not nearly as exciting as rare diagnoses or ethically questionable emergency transplant surgeries. In fact, when some “alternative” health approach is portrayed on one of these shows, you can be fairly certain it’s why the patient is so ill. Ironic, considering the now-famous JAMA article reporting “medical treatment” as a leading cause of death in the United States.

When I say “naturopathic doctor,” to some folks it conjures up ideas of magic wands, potions, and Kramer’s holistic healer friend on Seinfeld. These sorts of clips (though hilarious!) highlight the misconceptions around what we do. Hopefully this article will help clarify what kind of training an ND gets and what they can do.

Licensed Naturopathic Doctors Have Scientific Medical Training:

Applicants to accredited naturopathic medical colleges need a bachelor’s degree and a competitive GPA in scientific prerequisites, just like applicants to “conventional” medical schools.

After admission, the course work of the first two years of naturopathic and “conventional” medical school is comparable both in subjects and in hours of training. We learn all the basic medical sciences like anatomy, pathology, and biochemistry. Unlike Kramer’s holistic healing friend, we learn to use the same labs, physical exams, and medical imaging (X-ray, CT, MRI) that hospitals and clinics utilize to diagnose diseases and monitor health. It’s pretty rare for me to have to break out the magic wand or have someone drink a cup of tea while wearing the pyramid hat!

Our clinical training is a bit different from “conventional” medical clerkships. As ND students, we spend all our clinical time in a family practice (outpatient) setting, under the supervision of an attending (usually ND) physician. Our training includes minor surgery, like removing a mole, but we don’t go into the major surgeries that happen in hospitals. Instead of rotating through a variety of medical specialties, we learn when and how to refer to specialists to diagnose or treat conditions beyond our scope, just like any other family doctor. There are few residencies available for NDs, and since all of our clinical time is spent in family medicine, we tend to go straight into private practice with other medical providers.

Depending on the state, our naturopathic medical license covers everything from dietary advice to pharmaceuticals and suturing wounds. For instance, in California my license is nearly identical to that of a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. In Washington and Oregon, the license covers a greater scope of practices and ND care is covered by nearly every insurance provider. Unfortunately, health insurance doesn’t cover ND services in every state we’re licensed to practice in, but our professional organization, the AANP, is working to change that.

Naturopathic Medicine Is Not the Same Thing as Homeopathy

Homeopathy means to give a medicine in a very small dose. Scientifically, we don’t know why it works, because the doses are so small. Naturopathic medicine is not how medicine is given specifically, but based on our six principles. Naturopathic medicine refers to an approach to treating people, and tends to favor natural and low-force interventions. Our treatments with patients might include dietary changes, supplementary nutrients, exercise, herbal medicine, pharmaceuticals or homeopathy. So homeopathy can be part of an ND’s treatment plan, but it’s not the only tool in the shed. That said, other medical providers may use homeopathy as well, and it doesn’t make them naturopathic doctors.

Naturopathic Doctors Work Alongside Medical Doctors

Some folks assume that NDs are against “conventional” medicine, but this isn’t true. Health care is best provided by a team, and NDs are only one part of the team. There are times when we shine, and times when specialists or other medical providers are best suited for the task at hand. We refer our patients to surgeons, cardiologists, and ERs when it’s clear their conditions are beyond of our scope of training.

Naturopathic Doctors and “Naturopaths” Are Different Things

This is probably one of the most confusing things in our field. Even in a state like California, where NDs are licensed as medical providers and the term “naturopathic doctor” is protected by law, people with questionable training can call themselves “naturopaths.” Someone operating as a “naturopath” can see clients as long as they don’t “practice medicine.” Luckily for patients, there are national and state professional associations for NDs, and departments in each state to check whether someone you’d like to see has passed their board exams and has a current license. Not every licensed ND will be a member of their professional organization (like me, since I live outside the U.S.), but they are a good place to start when looking for someone in your area.

Another thing patients need to look out for are people who advertise themselves as an ND (or NMD) without having a license. I’ve reported several people like this to California’s Naturopathic Medicine Committee in the last year. So the moral of the story is, check to see that your health care providers have current licenses issued by the state (they should also be displayed for you to see in their office).

What Makes Naturopathic Doctors Different

Our patients often tell us the face-to-face time we spend with them is a lot longer than other doctors they’ve seen. We spend that time getting to know each patient as a person. We ask about everything that’s going on with them physically, emotionally, and oftentimes spiritually. When making a specific recommendation or prescription, we spend time explaining treatment options and answering questions. We aim to teach our patients about their health, and how they can care for it.

Our treatments are advised using the therapeutic order, where we start by laying the basic foundations for healthy living, and use higher-force interventions (like specific nutrients, drugs and surgeries) as conditions become more severe. In this way, we also work with patients who haven’t developed a disease yet, and simply seek to improve their health whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually. We consider the term “health care” from its true meaning.

We know our patients are literally atoms, molecules, cells and organs, but we appreciate that they are so much more those physical components. We each exist uniquely in the world, with different values and priorities, and as NDs we believe our health care should reflect that.

So yeah, some of us are a little “out there,” and “touchy-feely.” But that’s not all that guides our practice. Remember, naturopathic doctors go to real medical school. We take realboard exams. Our “hippie” medicine works, and what we do is becoming less “alternative” and more “conventional” everyday.

Link to original article.

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Paralyzed Patient Moves Prosthetic Arm with her Mind May 7, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Dreamhealer, exercise, Experiments, Health, Research.
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Experimental robotic technology may also someday help people with amputations as well, experts hope.

The technology, known as brain-computer (or brain-machine) interface, is in its infancy as far as human use—though scientists have been studying the concept for years. But experts say that people with paralysis or amputations could be using the technology at home within the next decade.

It basically boils down to people using their thoughts to control a robot arm that then performs a desired task, like grasping and moving a cup. That’s done via tiny electrode “grids” implanted in the brain that read the movement signals firing from individual nerve cells, then translate them to the robot arm.

“We have the ability to capture information from the brain and use it to control the robotic arm,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara, who presented her team’s latest findings on the technology Tuesday, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, in New Orleans.

However, she stressed, “we still have a ton to learn.”

Right now, the robot arm is confined to the lab. After getting their electrodes implanted, study patients come to the lab to work with the robotic limb under the researchers’ supervision. So far, Tyler-Kabara and her colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have tested the approach in one patient. Researchers at Brown University in Providence, R.I., have done it in a handful of others.

One of the big questions, Tyler-Kabara said, is “how much control is enough?” That is, how well does the mind-controlled arm need to work to bring real everyday benefits to people?

At the meeting on Tuesday, Tyler-Kabara presented an update on how her team’s patient is faring. The 53-year-old woman had long-standing quadriplegia due to a disease called spinocerebellar degeneration—where, for unknown reasons, the connections between the brain and muscles slowly deteriorate.

Tyler-Kabara performed the surgery, where two tiny electrode grids were placed in the area of the brain that would normally control the movement of the right hand and arm. The electrode points penetrate the brain’s surface by about one-sixteenth of an inch.

“The idea is pretty scary,” Tyler-Kabara acknowledged. But her team’s patient had no complications from the surgery and left the hospital the next day. There’ve been no longer-term problems either, she said—though, in theory, there would be concerns about infection or bleeding over the long haul.

The surgery left the patient with two terminals that protrude through her skull. The researchers used those to connect the implanted electrodes to a computer, where they could see brain cells firing when the patient thought about moving her hand.

She was quickly able to master simple movements with the robotic arm, like high-fiving the researchers. And after six months, she was performing “10-degrees-of-freedom” movements, Tyler-Kabara reported at the meeting.

That includes not only moving the arm, but also flexing and rotating the wrist, grasping objects and affecting several different hand “postures.” She has accomplished feats like feeding herself chocolate.

The researchers initially used a computer in training sessions with the patient, but after that the robot arm is directly linked to the electrodes—so there is no need for “computer assistance,” according to Tyler-Kabara.

Still, before the technology can ultimately be used at home, she said, researchers have to devise a “fully implanted” wireless system for controlling the robot arm.

Another expert talked about the new technology.

“This is one more encouraging step toward developing something practical that people can use in their daily lives,” said Dr. Robert Grossman, a neurosurgeon at Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston, who was not involved in the research.

It’s hard to put a time line on it all, Grossman said, since technological advances could changes things. He also noted that several research groups are looking at different approaches to brain-computer interfaces.

One, Grossman said, is to do it noninvasively, through electrodes placed on the scalp.

Study author Tyler-Kabara said that noninvasive approach has met with success in helping people perform simple tasks, like moving a cursor on a computer screen. “But I don’t think it will ever be good enough for performing complicated tasks,” she said, noting that it can’t work as precisely as the implanted electrodes.

A next step, Tyler-Kabara said, is to develop a “two-way” electrode system that stimulates the brain to generate sensation—with the aim of helping people adjust the robot’s grip strength.

She said there is also much to learn about which people will ultimately be good candidates for the technology. There may, for example, be some brain injuries that prevent people from benefiting. Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The research is being funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of Pittsburgh.

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Article retrieved from: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-04-paralyzed-patient-prosthetic-arm-mind.html?utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer:%2BWardPlunet%2Bon%2Btwitter&buffer_share=1f91a

Sleeping It Off: How Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality March 15, 2013

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alcohol, Experiments, Health, Research, Sleep.
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Having a drink (or two) is one way to nod off more quickly, but how restful is an alcohol-induced slumber?

The latest research, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, shows that while a nightcap may get you to doze off, you’re more likely to wake up during the night and may not feel as rested following your sleep.

Scientists reviewed 20 studies that included 517 participants who were tested in 38 sleep laboratory experiments. The volunteers drank varying amounts of alcohol, ranging from a low of one to two drinks, a moderate amount of two to four drinks, to a high of four or more drinks. While some experiments examined the results of only one night of drinking, others extended into several consecutive nights. Most of the participants were healthy young adults, and none had drinking problems.

“This review confirms that the immediate and short-term impact of alcohol is to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep,” lead author of the study Irshaad Ebrahim, director of the London Sleep Center, said in a statement. “In addition, the higher the dose, the greater the impact on increasing deep sleep.”This helps explain why so many people rely on alcohol to fall asleep, despite warnings from experts that it merely postpones and can worsen insomnia. “The effect of consolidating sleep in the first half of the night is offset by having more disrupted sleep in the second half of the night,” Ebrahim said.That presents a more complicated picture of how alcohol affects sleep, and the trade-off may have implications for understanding how sleep can impact overall health as well. At all doses studied, alcohol increased deep or so-called slow-wave sleep (SWS) during the first part of the night. This type of slumber is associated with healing and regeneration of bones, muscles and other tissues, as well as maintaining a strong immune system.“SWS or deep sleep generally promotes rest and restoration,” Ebrahim said, cautioning, however, that alcohol increases in this stage can worsen sleep apnea and sleepwalking in people who are prone to those problems.

In contrast, drinking has long been known to reduce REM sleep, the deepest sleep stage in which most dreams occur and during which memories are likely stored and learning occurs. And the current review suggests that it’s the amount of alcohol people drink that may have the biggest effect on their sleep quality. One or two drinks, for example, can increase slow-wave sleep while not affecting deeper REM sleep. But more alcohol can cut into the time spent in the REM stage. So that nightcap may be helpful in getting you to doze off, while a wild night of heavy drinking is likely to make you more restless. Moderation, it seems, is the key to a good night’s sleep.

Article retrieved from: http://www.healthland.time.com
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