New science about heart disease, sulfate, glyphosate, sunlight, statins, and aluminum

I listened to a podcast earlier this week that was pretty scientific (for me), yet fascinating. The Bulletproof Exec (Dave Asprey) interviewed Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior researcher at MIT. For three decades she’s been doing interdisciplinary research where biology and computers intersect.

It was so full of information, I could hardly keep up with the podcast while driving. Later I went online to read the actual transcript. Here’s the link, and the page also has video of the Facetime-Like conversation.

I am not a scientist, but the findings and recommendations that I found intriguing in this lengthy and wide-ranging conversation are listed below. If you want to learn more about any of this, there’s a lot of good information available online. There are open-access scientific journals and papers available on the internet that are free. And you can google “Seneff”.

  • The cause of heart disease isn’t high cholesterol, it’s a deficiency in sulfate.

Continue reading

Report on effective treatments for fibromyalgia

A few folks with fibromyalgia have come to me for bodywork. Fibromyalgia, if you don’t know, is a condition of chronic pain with tender points located in various places on the body.

There’s a lot of mystery about it. It used to be thought by doctors to be “all in the head” (which basically means they don’t know, so it must exist just in your mind), but we know better now. A couple of years ago, scientists pinpointed the cause.

In my bodyworker role, I’ve noticed that some fibromyalgia sufferers prefer very light touch, while others prefer medium pressure and don’t mind, in fact prefer it, if I do deep tissue work in the tensest, tightest places, such as the upper trapezius. Continue reading

I just applied for the 60-day food challenge!

The Human Food Project has opened a 60-day challenge that involves changing your diet for 2 months, recording it, and sharing the results. I’ll summarize, and you can click here to read the original invitation and apply. (I think they add you to their mailing list even if they don’t accept you, so you’ll be notified of results.)

The researchers are seeking 25-30 super-motivated people to participate. It’s not an easy challenge. However, if you are skeptical about the role of your gut microbes on your overall health, and you have been eating processed food and junk food (or you’ve been eating a healthier diet that includes a lot of whole grains), participating in this challenge will let you experience first-hand (for most of us, the best proof possible) the connection between diet and well-being.

You also get before-and-after data on the composition of your very own gut bugs. They want to measure before and after the 60 days to see if they can shift things, decreasing levels of opportunistic pathogens and increasing the microbes that increase health.

I told you it wasn’t easy. Besides the diet (more on that later), they want you to:

  • spend a lot more time outside
  • keep your home and office windows open to breathe more fresh air
  • spend more time being dirty and in the dirt (gardening, anyone?)
  • spend more time with pets and livestock if you don’t have pets, visit other people’s pets and visit a farm)
  • swim in natural bodies of water rather than chlorinated pools

Basically, they want you to live — for 60 days — with more connection to the wild world, connecting with the “microbial metacommunity.” (Love that phrase!)

Here’s the diet part. There’s no meal plan, but it’s about eating unprocessed foods as much as possible:

  • eat 30-plus species of plants each week (let’s see, I have on hand avocado, kale, onion, carrot, parsley, dill, green onion, raspberry, red pepper, jalapeño, ginger, garlic, collards, tomatoes, cashews, walnuts, spinach, celery, lemon, cabbage, chia seeds, goji berries, olive oil, coconut oil, mint, thyme, rosemary, hemp seeds, capers, and mustard — that’s 30 right there)
  • eat lots of onions, leeks, and garlic
  • eat the whole plant as much as possible (not just the broccoli tops but the tough stems too) — the goal here is to eat 30-80 grams of fiber a day from numerous sources
  • when you cook veggies, take care not to overcook them
  • eat no grains at all, not even rice
  • eat beans and lentils (so this is not a Paleo diet)
  • eat as much meat, poultry, fish, and game as you like, but avoid anything raised on growth hormones or antibiotics (no factory-farmed animal products)
  • only drink filtered water, not tap water

I didn’t see anything about dairy or sugar, so I assume you can include them if you want. Apparently alcohol is also okay, but they recommend you take your “booze cruise” after the challenge.

I applied to do it! I’m not sure I’ll qualify. The researchers say they are very interested in people who are currently eating lots of whole grains. I eat a gluten-free diet. I’ve gone for a few weeks not eating grains of any kind, and then after talking with a friend currently studying nutrition, last weekend I added back quinoa, rice, Ezekiel bread, and the occasional corn tortilla, going for 1-2 servings per day.

Keep ya posted about whether I get in!

Science says massage relieves stress!

Researchers assigned healthy adults to receive 45 minutes of Swedish massage while the control group received light touch “using highly specified and identical protocols.”

(This is from a New York Times article, Regimens: Massage Benefits Are More Than Skin Deep. Here’s the abstract.)

The researchers took blood samples immediately before and for up to an hour after the massage.

Those who received Swedish massage had significant decreases in stress hormones. Their white blood cell counts went up as well, indicating the immune system was stimulated.

If replicated, these findings may have implications for managing inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.

Those who received light touch showed higher levels of oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone, and greater decreases in a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol.

So basically, massage relieves stress and light touch increases bonding.

Now that science says so, the skeptics can come get on the table and experience it for themselves!

Several things pop out. One is that the research was sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. I’m pretty sure the NIH is heavily biased toward MDs and western medicine, and that NCCAM fields like massage and acupuncture are considered flaky and suspect.

But if 75 or 90% of illness is stress-related, shouldn’t the NIH be emphasizing research on stress relief to prevent illness? That would be a great use of my tax money!

I would like to see more studies done on massage.

  • I’d like to see the blood tested to see how long these changes last, because my strong hunch is that if a massage recipient can avoid stress afterwards, the massage keeps working on the body for hours. Maybe 24 or 48 hours, but no one knows, because no one has studied it. Yet.
  • Could a control group be added of people who don’t receive massage or light touch?
  • Scientific study of prenatal massage and its effect on the women — and their childbirth and babies — would be wonderful.
  • I’d also like to see recipients’ brain waves tested, before, during, and after massage.
  • Does massage work equally well on everyone? Are there people who don’t benefit and “super beneficiaries”?
  • This study was on the effects of a single massage. I’d like to see longitudinal studies done of the long-term effect of regular massage: people who receive massage weekly, biweekly, and monthly for at least a year, five years, and ten years. All we have now is anecdotal evidence that people who receive regular massage are healthier into their senior years, falling and getting sick less often and recovering faster when they do.

The other thing that popped out was that the researchers were surprised by the results! They must have never received a massage. I wonder if they do now.

When I read the abstract, I saw that the authors did a follow-up study in 2012 on the effects of repeated massage. So I did get one wish, but these subjects received Swedish massage or light touch either weekly or twice a week for just five weeks. Otherwise, it was the same as the first study, which means they looked for changes for up to an hour after each massage.

Those receiving weekly Swedish massage sustained a higher level of white blood cells like those receiving a single massage, with minimal effect on stress hormones. Come on, not even the first massage changed stress hormone levels? That contradicts the first study!

Those receiving twice-weekly massage had increased oxytocin levels and lower stress hormone levels. So people getting more frequent massage bond more easily. I wonder if they used the same massage therapist each time.

The abstract says nothing about the light touch group. (And by the way, I have a hard time reading scientific research and understanding the findings and implications in plain English. This is the best I can do. If you know better, please comment!)

The authors conclude:

There are sustained cumulative biologic actions for the massage and touch interventions that persist for several days or a week, and these differ profoundly depending on the dosage (frequency) of sessions. Confirmatory studies in larger samples are needed.

Yes. And I am very glad that this research is happening and raising more questions.

The dancing genes, sociability, transcendence, and genetic flexibility

A recent article published online says that dancers are genetically different. Some Israeli researchers found that dancers show consistent differences from the general population in two genes.

The researchers said this did not surprise them, because studies have found that athletes and musicians have genetic differences.

I can only speak for myself, but my dance is very connected to music — my movement is a way to participate musically, as if I were playing an instrument. It’s also very physical.

I did a little Googling to see if I could find which specific genes differ in athletes and musicians, but I didn’t find anything that was very clear. Race seems to be the biggest issue in the media when it comes to genetics, athletes, and musicians.

The researchers studied dancers and advanced dance students and found they had variants in two genes, those affecting serotonin transport and arginine vasopressin reception.

Serotonin (“the happiness molecule”) is a neurotransmitter that contributes to spiritual experience — the capacity for transcendence and a proclivity to spiritual acceptance. (See this Psychology Today article for more about that.) It also affects optimism, the healing of wounds, resilience from stress, metabolism, sleep, and more.

“Serotonin transport” sounds like a dance inside the body!

Interestingly, exercise can raise serotonin levels in the body, so dancing itself reinforces dancers’ high serotonin levels!

I admit — I get into an altered state from ecstatic dance. That’s why they call it ecstatic dance, I suspect. 😉

The vasopressin receptor modulates social communication and affiliative bonding. Wikipedia says “…accumulating evidence suggests it plays an important role in social behavior, bonding, and maternal responses to stress.” It has a very similar structure to oxytocin (“the love hormone”), and the two can cross-react.

When the results were combined and analyzed, it was clearly shown that the dancers exhibited particular genetic and personality characteristics that were not found in the other two groups.

The dancer “type,” says Ebstein, clearly demonstrates qualities that are not necessarily lacking but are not expressed as strongly in other people: a heightened sense of communication, often of a symbolic and ceremonial nature, and a strong spiritual personality trait.

I know this is controversial, but I want to weigh in on the side of flexibility when it comes to genetics. For much of my life, genes were thought to be destiny, unalterable. Now it is known that the expression of genes is much more dynamic than previously believed. They can switch on and off.

I don’t know that much about it, except that stress tends to switch on the bad genes. I don’t know which or how many genes truly create destiny and therefore cannot be influenced, except that there probably are some. We just don’t know enough about this in our current level of understanding.

I want to encourage people who believe they don’t have the dancing genes to give dancing a try.

Two left feet? That’s a myth. If you can walk, you have rhythm and coordination.

If you think you can’t dance, try just moving to some music alone in your own home if you feel self-conscious. Play something catchy, like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

Start simple, just swaying your hips to the beat, keeping your feet in place. Do you like it? Do you feel any sense of pleasure? Play with it. Add your arms. Walk to it. Make it fun and goofy!

Those dancing genes may be just sitting there waiting to be activated, for all we know, and they might help you become happier.

Boundaries checklist for healthy relationships

Relationships : A Checklist on Boundaries in a Relationship.

I believe I have posted this before, but if I haven’t, here it is now. It contrasts relationships where you give up your boundaries and when your boundaries are intact. I’ve found it helpful and bookmarked it.

It includes skills like being clear about your preferences and acting on them (I heard Byron Katie say she’s constantly asking herself what she wants), doing more when it gets results, trusting your own intuition, and only being satisfied when you are thriving (rather than coping and surviving).

Some items that I’m resonating with now:

  • Having a personal standard, albeit flexible, that applies to everyone and asks for accountability.
  • Are strongly affected by your partner’s behavior and take it as information.
  • Let yourself feel anger, say “ouch” and embark upon a program of change.
  • Honor intuitions and distinguish them from wishes.
  • Mostly feel secure and clear.
  • Are living a life that mostly approximates what you always wanted for yourself.
  • Decide how, to what extent, and how long you will be committed.

About the last one, I’m liking the new law in Mexico City that allows time-limited marriages. The couple agrees how long they want to be married. The minimum is two years. When the time is up, they either go their separate ways without divorcing or remarry for another period of time.

Love that idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have no more expensive, difficult, embittered divorces? To have a built-in time to reassess how well a relationship is going and together decide whether and for how long to continue it without getting involved with lawyers and courts?

That’s civilized, in my opinion.

~~~

Aug. 20, 2013

I’m adding another resource to this post, which continues to get views long after its original posting. It’s an article about toxic relationship habits that most people think are normal.

The article points out:

…part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are baked into our culture. We worship romantic love — you know, that dizzying and irrational romantic love that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing — and scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities. Men and women are raised to objectify each other and to objectify the relationships they’re in. Thus our partners are often seen as assets rather than someone to share mutual emotional support.

A lot of the self help literature out there isn’t helpful either (no, men and women are notfrom different planets, you over-generalizing prick.) And for most of us, mom and dad surely weren’t the best examples either.

Fortunately, there’s been a lot of psychological research into healthy and happy relationships the past few decades and there are some general principles that keep popping up consistently that most people are unaware of or don’t follow.

Here’s the link: 6 Toxic Relationship Habits that Most People Think Are Normal. 

 

A video that could help you sleep

Insomnia is a malady I have rarely had over the last few years. Only when I drink caffeine late in the day (I usually know better), and even more rarely, when I feel so disturbed about some issue in my life that my mind can’t let go of it do I lie awake at night unable to sleep and feel like a zombie the next day.

I have experienced months of insomnia every night in the past, however, and that experience has given me great compassion for those who suffer from it. A good night’s sleep is just essential for well-being.

I’ve posted about various remedies for insomnia occasionally. You can search my blog on “insomnia” to find those posts if you wish.

Cures or relief from insomnia is a topic of great interest. New information emerges. I’m interested in what works. Could it be that there is not a “one size fits all” cure for insomnia?

Today I stumbled across a video purportedly created by scientists to help you sleep. I listened to it (and did not fall asleep, but it’s morning and I am well rested already). I found it very peaceful. I can imagine that it would help me fall asleep.

Here’s the link if you want to give it a try:

http://www.wimp.com/scientistscreated/

The only other information I could find is that the video and music are by a band called Marconi Union. I don’t know if this is a band of scientists or what!

The best help I know of for insomnia (and the most expensive) is brainwave optimization.   I wasn’t experiencing any insomnia when I did the five days of brain training in June 2011. But it has been known to help with insomnia, and a study is underway to learn more about its effects on insomnia.

Even more awesome, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is undertaking this study of insomnia, and other studies are planned for migraines, mild cognitive impairment, and traumatic brain injury/concussion later this year!