lunes, 28 de diciembre de 2015

Why happiness is healthy

Follow CNN's Project Happy to explore what happiness means today, dive deep into the different ways we pursue it and find some tools to help make your life better. Come join us and #gethappy!

(CNN)Happiness -- you know it when you see it, but it's hard to define. 

You might call it a sense of well-being, of optimism or of meaningfulness in life, although those could also be treated as separate entities. But whatever happiness is, we know that we want it, and that is just somehow good

We also know that we don't always have control over our happiness. Research suggests that genetics may play a big role in our normal level of subjective well-being, so some of us may start out at a disadvantage. On top of that, between unexpected tragedies and daily habitual stress, environmental factors can bring down mood and dry up our thirst for living. 

Being able to manage the emotional ups and downs is important for both body and mind, said Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard School of Public Health.

"For physical health, it's not so much happiness per se, but this ability to regulate and have a sense of purpose and meaning," Kubzansky said. 

    Why be happy? 

    Many scientific studies, including some by Kubzansky, have found a connection between psychological and physical well-being. 

    A 2012 review of more than 200 studies found a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Kubzansky and other Harvard School of Public Health researchers published these findings in the journal Psychological Bulletin. 

    It's not as simple as "you must be happy to prevent heart attacks," of course. If you have a good sense of well-being, it's easier to maintain good habits: Exercising, eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep, researchers said. People who have an optimistic mindset may be more likely to engage in healthy behaviors because they perceive them as helpful in achieving their goals, Kubzansky said. 

    Lower blood pressure, normal body weight and healthier blood fat profiles were also associated with a better sense of well-being in this study. 

    For now these studies can only show associations; they do not provide hard evidence of cause and effect. But some researchers speculate that positive mental states do have a direct effect on the body, perhaps by reducing damaging physical processes. For instance, another of Kubzansky's studies found that optimism is associated with lower levels of inflammation. 

    If what you mean by happiness is specifically "enjoyment of life," there's newer evidence to support that, too. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that people ages 60 and older who said they enjoyed life less were more likely to develop disability over an eight-year period. Mobility was also related to enjoyment of life. This study does not prove that physical problems are caused by less enjoyment of life, but suggests a relationship. 

    Where happiness comes from: genes + environment

    There is substantial evidence that genetics play a big role in happiness, according to Nancy Segal, psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, and author of "Born Together -- Reared Apart." 

    Research has shown that identical twins tend to have a similar level of happiness, more so than fraternal twins. And in identical twins, one twin's happiness is a better predictor of the other twin's current or future happiness than educational achievement or income, Segal said. 

    "If you have happy parents and happy children, I think that people usually assume it's because the children are modeling the parents," she said. "But that's not really so. You need to make the point that parents pass on both genes and environments."

    What's more, there seems to be a certain level of happiness that individuals have generally, to which they usually gravitate, Segal said. That level depends on the person, and the situations he or she is in.

    Even if genetics has a big influence, though, that doesn't mean anyone is biologically stuck being unhappy, she said. It might take more work if your baseline mood is low, but certain therapies have proven useful for elevating psychological well-being. 

    The environment is still quite important for psychological well-being, too, Kubzansky said. 

    "To say to someone, 'Don't worry, be happy,' is kind of not looking at the whole picture of, what are the environmental constraints on things they can do?" Kubzansky said. 

    Money and time

    You might be thinking: "Maybe I would be happier if I had more money." There's that old cliché "money doesn't buy happiness" -- but is it true? A 2010 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that emotional well-being rises with income up to a point, which seems to be a household income of $75,000. Day-to-day happiness did not increase with higher incomes.

    But when participants were asked about overall satisfaction with their lives, that did continue to rise in conjunction with income, even after $75,000, Princeton University researchers Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found. Their results show a sharp distinction between how people see themselves in terms of happiness "today" vs. life satisfaction. 

    "More money does not necessarily buy more happiness, but less money is associated with emotional pain," Kahneman and Deaton wrote. "Perhaps $75,000 is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals' ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure."

    Would you be happier if you bought the car you always wanted? Several studies suggest experiences make us happier than possessions. That's partly because once you have purchased something, such as a new car, you get used to seeing it every day and the initial joy fades, experts say. But you can continue to derive happiness from memories of experiences over time. 

    Experiences form "powerful and important memories that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world," Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University, told CNN in 2009. 

    But if you're in the market for a birthday present for your sweetheart, a material object can still be meaningful, becoming a keepsake with sentimental value that increases over time, Gilovich said.

    Or maybe you'll be happier once you've lived longer. Research has also found that some sense of happiness may come with age. 

    Older adults may be able to better regulate their emotions than younger people, expose themselves to less stress and experience less negative emotion, Susan Turk Charles, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, told CNN in 2009. More science needs to be done on whether the diminished negative response is also associated with a feeling of happiness. 

    Happiness: Living in the moment

    But what about right now -- what can we do to make ourselves feel more positive?

    If you're seeking to increase your own sense of happiness, try mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness means being present and in the moment, and observing in a nonjudgmental way, Susan Albers, psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told CNN in 2010. 

    Can mindfulness help manage pain and mental illness?

    Mindfulness comes from Buddhism and is key to meditation in that tradition. Therapies for a wide variety of conditions, including eating disorders, depression and PTSD, incorporate mindfulness. Focusing on the here and now is a counterbalance to findings that mind-wandering is associated with unhappiness

    Activities such as keeping a gratitude diary and helping other people are also associated with feelings of well-being, Kubzansky said.

    A variety of smartphone apps are also available that claim to help you monitor and enhance your moods. But don't feel you have to face emotional challenges alone; a professional therapist can help you get to where you want to be. 

    If a sense of well-being makes a healthier person, then policy-makers should also promote large-scale initiatives to encourage that, Kubzansky said. Creating parks to encourage exercise and insituting flexible work-family initiatives are just some of the ways that communities can become healthier as a whole. 

    So remember: A glass half full might be healthier than a glass half empty.

    viernes, 25 de diciembre de 2015

    Threat and the Body: How the Heart Supports Fear Processing

    Mental processes depend upon a dynamic integration of brain and body. Emotions encompass internal physiological changes which, through interoception (sensing bodily states), underpin emotional feelings, for example, cardiovascular arousal can intensify feelings of fear and anxiety. The brain is informed about how quickly and strongly the heart is beating by signals from arterial baroreceptors. These fire in bursts after each heartbeat, and are quiet between heartbeats. The processing of fear stimuli is selectively enhanced by these phasic signals, and these inhibit the processing of other types of stimuli including physical pain. Behavioural and neuroimaging studies detail this differential impact of heart signals on the processing of salient stimuli, and add to knowledge linking rhythmic activity in brain and body to perceptual consciousness.
    The timing and strength of each heartbeat is signalled in chunks to the brain by arterial baroreceptors. This is the basis of the interoceptive representation of cardiovascular arousal.
    Recent studies show that fear signals are judged more fearful during heartbeats (when baroreceptors are activated) than between heartbeats (when baroreceptors are quiescent). At the limit of perception, fear signals are more easily detected during heartbeats than between heartbeats.
    The enhancement of fear processing by heartbeats indicates a selective, differential influence of physiology on motivationally relevant functions as the processing of painful stimuli is inhibited by heartbeats.
    Physiological fluctuations in the body dictate sensory sampling and the contents of perceptual consciousness.
    Characterisation of these selective cardiac interoceptive effects will inform emotional neuroscience and may lead to new treatment approaches for anxiety.

    miércoles, 23 de diciembre de 2015

    Massage: Get in touch with its many benefits

    Massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being. See if it's right for you.

    By Mayo Clinic Staff

    Massage is no longer available only through luxury spas and upscale health clubs. Today, massage therapy is offered in businesses, clinics, hospitals and even airports. If you've never tried massage, learn about its possible health benefits and what to expect during a massage therapy session.

    What is massage?

    Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. There are many different types of massage, including these common types:
    * Swedish massage. This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
    * Deep massage. This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
    * Sports massage. This is similar to Swedish massage, but it's geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
    * Trigger point massage. This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.

    Benefits of massage

    Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It's increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.
    Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.
    While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:
    * Anxiety
    * Digestive disorders
    * Fibromyalgia
    * Headaches
    * Insomnia related to stress
    * Myofascial pain syndrome
    * Soft tissue strains or injuries
    * Sports injuries
    * Temporomandibular joint pain
    Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often produces feelings of caring, comfort and connection.
    Despite its benefits, massage isn't meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you're trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.

    Risks of massage

    Most people can benefit from massage. However, massage may not be appropriate if you have:
    * Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
    * Burns or healing wounds
    * Deep vein thrombosis
    * Fractures
    * Severe osteoporosis
    * Severe thrombocytopenia
    Discuss the pros and cons of massage with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or you have cancer or unexplained pain.
    Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. But massage shouldn't ordinarily be painful or uncomfortable. If any part of your massage doesn't feel right or is painful, speak up right away. Most serious problems come from too much pressure during massage.

    What you can expect during a massage

    You don't need any special preparation for massage. Before a massage therapy session starts, your massage therapist should ask you about any symptoms, your medical history and what you're hoping to get out of massage. Your massage therapist should explain the kind of massage and techniques he or she will use.
    In a typical massage therapy session, you undress or wear loose-fitting clothing. Undress only to the point that you're comfortable. You generally lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet. You can also have a massage while sitting in a chair, fully clothed. Your massage therapist should perform an evaluation through touch to locate painful or tense areas and to determine how much pressure to apply.
    Depending on preference, your massage therapist may use oil or lotion to reduce friction on your skin. Tell your massage therapist if you might be allergic to any ingredients.
    A massage session may last from 10 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of massage and how much time you have. No matter what kind of massage you choose, you should feel calm and relaxed during and after your massage.
    If a massage therapist is pushing too hard, ask for lighter pressure. Occasionally you may have a sensitive spot in a muscle that feels like a knot. It's likely to be uncomfortable while your massage therapist works it out. But if it becomes painful, speak up.

    Finding a massage therapist

    Ask your doctor or someone else you trust for a recommendation. Most states regulate massage therapists through licensing, registration or certification requirements.
    Don't be afraid to ask a potential massage therapist such questions as:
    * Are you licensed, certified or registered?
    * What is your training and experience?
    * How many massage therapy sessions do you think I'll need?
    * What's the cost, and is it covered by health insurance?

    The take-home message about massage

    Brush aside any thoughts that massage is only a feel-good way to indulge or pamper yourself. To the contrary, massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever. You can even learn how to do self-massage or how to engage in massage with a partner at home.

    lunes, 21 de diciembre de 2015

    Top 10 Reasons to Get a Massage

    Stimulate and Detoxify the Body: The lymph system is the body's natural defense against toxins and impurities. Massage Therapy stimulates the flow of toxic waste from the muscles, organs and tissues for improved health and digestion.

    Relax Muscle Tension and Improve Flexibility:  Massage Therapy stimulates blood circulation increasing oxygen and nutrient flow to connective tissue and muscles.  This helps remove adhesions in the muscles as well as lubricate joints for increased flexibility. 

    Recover From Injury Faster:  Massage Therapy can break up scar tissue for more efficient movement. It can improve functional abilities and range of motion. 

    Improve Posture:  Massage Therapy can improve posture by helping to train muscles to be in the right position allowing for better support to our structure. 

    Prevent Injury or Illness:  Tense muscles tighten and pull the body out of alignment and restrict circulation.  Regular Massage Therapy can increase circulation and relax the body  to prevent chronic conditions from taking hold. 

    Enhance and Maintain Good Health:  Massage Therapy is to the human body what a tune up is to a car.  It helps to reduce heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens immunity by boosting lymphocytes.

    Improves Attitude and Increases Alertness: You cant help but feel good after a  massage leading to a more positive disposition.  Massage Therapy also stimulates brain wave activity.

    Relieves Pain:  Massage Therapy helps block the nervous systems pain receptors and increases blood flow to the muscles.  It can increase mobility to the joints to help reduces arthritis pain, ease the pain of migraines, pregnancy, cancer and fibromyalgia.

    Reduces Stress:  Massage Therapy calms the body and relaxes the mind helping to reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels.  Considering the detrimental effect of stress on your body, this can lead to a major difference in your overall well being.

    It Feels Wonderful:  Any one who has had a massage can attest that you feel like a new person afterwards.  In addition to all the health benefits listed above Massage Therapy boosts endorphins, the same hormone associated with a runners high.  If you have never had a professional massage, now is the time to try!

    domingo, 20 de diciembre de 2015

    sábado, 19 de diciembre de 2015

    Regular Massage Benefits

    If you've ever had a massage, you know it is pleasant and relaxing. You may not have realized it can also have physical and emotional benefits if it is done regularly. There are several types of massage, from deep-tissue therapies to gentle Swedish treatments. They don't replace medical treatment, but they can benefit your body and mind if you have them done on an ongoing basis.
    Pain Relief
    Regular massages help with pain management. The therapist can concentrate on stiff muscles and specific problem areas, loosening them and increasing blood circulation. This temporarily relieves pain from sports injuries, arthritis and other conditions. You may not need as much pain medication if you get massages regularly.
    Immune System Support
    Many studies have shown regular massages support immune system function and drecrease stress-related hormones that can lower immunity. For example, New Jersey researchers found college students who were stressed about an upcoming exam had better immune system function and less anxiety when they received a massage.
    Fibromyalgia Relief
    Studies at the Touch Research Institutes in Miami showed that massage relieves fibromyalgia-related pain. The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology reports massage therapy lowered stress hormones, anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia sufferers and worked more quickly than transcutaneous electrical stimulation.
    Stress Management
    Regular massages are an effective stress- management technique. Stress is often caused by being over-committed and overwhelmed with home, work and family obligations. A weekly or bi-weekly massage forces you to take time out for yourself for a pleasurable, relaxing activity.
    Management of Emotional Disorders
    Massage therapy can help you to manage emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety as part of an overall treatment plan. Massage is soothing, nurturing and relaxing. It can improve your state of mind if you concentrate on releasing negative thoughts during the treatment. You can incorporate visualization exercises in which you picture yourself in pleasant surroundings during the massage.
    Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
    Tiffany Field, executive director of the Touch Research Institutes (TRI) in Miami, discovered massage can improve ADHD symptoms in teenagers. Adolescents who received ten or 15 minute massages for 10 consecutive days all showed positive changes. They felt happier and their teachers reported better behavior. Other TRI studies have shown that youngsters with ADHD benefit from twice-monthly massage therapy.

    jueves, 17 de diciembre de 2015

    10 Health Benefits of Sea Salt

    Sea salt is rapidly becoming more popular, as more and more people are learning about all the health benefits that the salt has to offer. The salt is obtained naturally from the sea, and does not go through any processing that alters the natural make-up of the salt.
    Thus it contains many essential trace minerals that your body needs in order to be healthy. This natural salt is healthier than the iodized salt available in the market. Read about the ten great benefits to adding sea salt to your diet:
    Strong Immune System – Sea salt naturally helps you to build up a strong immune system so that you can fight off the cold virus, the fever and flu, allergies and other autoimmune disorders.
    Alkalizing – Sea salt is alkalizing to the body, as it has not been exposed to high heat and stripped of its minerals, nor does it have any harmful man-made ingredients added to it. Thus it can help you to prevent and reverse high levels of acids in the body, which in turn eliminates the risks for serious and life-threatening diseases.
    Weight Loss – Believe it or not, but sea salt can also help you in weight loss. It helps the body to create digestive juices so that the foods you eat are digested faster, and it helps to prevent buildup in the digestive tract, which eventually can lead to constipation and weight gain.
    Skin Conditions – A sea salt bath can help to relieve dry and itchy skin as well as serious conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The bath naturally opens up the pores, improves circulation in the skin and hydrates the tissues so that your skin can heal.
    Asthma – Sea salt is effective in reducing inflammation in the respiratory system. Thus the production of phlegm is slowed down so that you can breathe easier again. Some say that sprinkling sea salt on the tongue after drinking a glass of water is just as effective as using an inhaler. But the great thing about sea salt is that it has no side effects when taken in moderation.
    Heart Health – When salt is taken with water it can help to reduce high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and help to regulate an irregular heart beat. Thus sea salt can help to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
    Diabetes – Sea salt can help to reduce the need for insulin by helping to maintain proper sugar levels in the body. Thus the salt is an essential part of the diet if you are diabetic, or at risk for the disease.
    Osteoporosis – Just over 1/4 of the amount of salt that is in the body is stored in the bones, where it helps to keep them strong. When the body lacks salt and water it begins to draw the sodium from the bones, which then eventually can lead to osteoporosis. Thus by drinking plenty of water and consuming salt in moderation you can prevent osteoporosis.
    Muscle Spasms – Potassium is essential for helping the muscles to function properly. Sea salt not only contains small amounts of potassium, but it also helps the body to absorb it better from other foods. Thus it is effective in helping to prevent muscle pains, spasms and cramps.
    Depression – Sea salt also has shown to be effective in treating various types of depression. The salt helps to preserve two essential hormones in the body that help you to better deal with stress. These hormones are serotonin and melatonin, which help you to feel good, and relax and sleep better at night.

    sábado, 12 de diciembre de 2015

    King of Bitters (Andrographis paniculata)

    King of Bitters, also called Andrographis, is a traditional Chinese, Southeast Asian and Indian herb, and used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. The herb has been revered for treating infectious diseases and highly regarded also as having a preventative effect from many diseases, due to its powerful immune strengthening benefits. The global flu epidemic of 1919 was one of the most devastating infectious outbreaks in world history, killing millions worldwide, in many countries. However, in India, the amazing prophylactic benefits of Andrographis was credited with stopping the deadly virus. It is a potent stimulator of the immune system by two direct ways ... 
    (1) antigen- specific response: antibodies are made to counteract invading microbes, 
    (2) non-specific immune response: macrophage cells scavenger and destroy invaders. King of Bitters activates both responses, making it effective against a variety of infections and oncogenic, cancer-causing agents. 

    Research, shows it supports healthy cellular communication through a process called signal transduction pathways - as healthy signal transduction allows for effective intra-cellular communication of receptor sites, cellular metabolism and cell division. Strong receptors and pathways are important to counteract interference to the cell cycle. Such interference is the basis for the development of cancer and viral infections. Japanese researchers have reported that Andrographis stopped cancer cells from multiplying. 
    Positive results have been seen in relation to stomach, skin, prostate and breast cancer cells, in test-tube studies. Andrographolides in the plant are thought to enhance immune function such as production of white blood cells (scavengers of bacteria and other foreign matter), release of interferon, and activity of the lymph system. Scientists also believe that the herb can join with modern technology in the fight against AIDS. Research, shows that compounds from various plants are not able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, however andrographolides from King of the Bitters has been found to do so, and concentrates in the brain and with beneficial effects to the central nervous system. 

    Description: Easy to grow, annual/biennial bush to 1 meter high, with lanceolate leaves 4-12cm long. Small white flowers 1-2 cm long, set along a thin upright stem. Tubular flowers can have purple coloured flecks on the inside of the lip-like formation. A fine oblong seed capsule 1.5 cm long contains several very small round seeds. Seeds will readily disperse if not picked. Leaves have no aroma. Flavour of the whole plant is extremely bitter. Propagation is by seeds, cuttings and layering stems. Plant seeds, spring and summer, germination may be in 10- 30 days. Plants will grow in a wide range of soils, in full sun or shade and thrives in moist conditions. 
    Constituents: flavonoids, iterpenoid lactones (andrographolides), paniculides, farnesols, polyphenols, arabinogalactan, protein 

    Actions: Adaptogen (helps to normalise a physical function, depending on what the individual needs, e.g. it will lower high blood pressure, but raise low blood pressure; Antibacterial (fights bacterial activity); Antibiotic; Analgesic (pain reliever); Anti-inflammatory (reduces swelling); Antioxidant (helps in protecting the body from free radical damage); Anti-diabetic; Anti-acne (protects skin from pimples); Anti-carcinogenic (activity against different types of cancer, and leukemia; Anti-thrombotic (blood clot preventative); Anti-viral (inhibits viral activity); Anti-microbial (significant activity in fighting the common cold, flu, respiratory infections); Antiperiodic (counteracts periodic/intermittent diseases such as malaria); Antipyretic (reduces fever, usually caused by multiple infections or toxins); Bitter tonic; Blood purifier; Cardio-protective (protects heart muscles); Choleretic (alters the properties and flow of bile); Digestive (promotes digestion); Depurative (acts to clean and purify the body, particularly the blood); Expectorant (promotes mucus discharge from respiratory system); Hepato-protective (helps to protect liver and gall bladder functions); Hypoglycemic (blood sugar reducer); Immuno-stimulant; Laxative; Prophylactic (helps prevent disease); Sedative; Thrombolytic (blood clot buster); Vermicidal (used to kill intestinal worms and helps support the intestines). 

    Medicinal Uses: A herb with many uses! In Indian traditional medicine, many different formulas contain the herb. In Chinese medicine it has had a wide therapeutic use, treating many ailments, including gastrointestinal complains, throat infections, to dispel toxins and for increasing biliary flow. Other reported therapeutic uses include: coughs, headaches, edema, earache, pain conditions, inflammation and muscular pain, arthritis, rheumatism, fibro myalgia, multiple sclerosis, depression, diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, candida, lupus, diabetes, piles, fevers, fatigue, hepatitis, herpes, leprosy, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes and other lymphatic conditions, jaundice, dyspepsia, dermatitis, eczema, burns, pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis, chicken pox, mumps; sluggish liver, spleen, kidneys and adrenal glands; sleeplessness, vaginitis, and constipation. It has had use as a replacement for quinine in treatment of malaria (still a prevalent disease in many tropical and subtropical countries). 
    Over the last 20 years Andrographis has become popular in Europe and the USA as a treatment for colds and respiratory infections (several double-blind clinical trials have shown that it can reduce the severity of symptoms). Using the herb can also prevent the occurrence of the common cold. Also, present day research has found that the antioxidant compounds in the plant have a powerful effect on the liver, noted as being as effective as silymarin, from Milk Thistle. The herb can improve gall bladder function and increase bile flow, thereby aiding digestion. The herb has been used against Escherchia coli, Salmonella typhae and other fungal conditions. Andrographis promotes a healthy heart by helping to prevent blocked arteries and blood clots. One of the main active constituents in the plant is andrographolide, a very bitter substance... but bitter herbs, generally, have an affinity with the heart, also liver, gall bladder; and also have a cooling effect on the body and can bring down a temperature. 

    Studies in China show King of the Bitters is effective in preventing the formation of blood clots and preventing the re-clogging of arteries after angioplasty (a technique used to treat blocked arteries by inserting a balloon into the blood vessels which is then inflated to widen the artery). Further research shows that the herb activates fibrinolysis, a natural process in the body in which blood clots are dissolved. It also relaxes the smooth muscle in the walls of blood vessels and has a blood pressure-lowering effect. Research shows the benefits of the herb for digestive functions, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers. Its ability to fight infections and boost the immune system is what we all need to be aware of and utilise... as the herb, is waiting to be of service. With the media reporting, that scientists are saying, the ‘super-bugs’ of our present age are appearing to be resistant to the most powerful antibiotics, the medicinal powers of King of the Bitters could help give us some protection. Some people have been seeking out the plant as possible protection from Avian flu. 
    Dosage: Various literature refers to varying dosage (as you will see by the following): from .5 to 6 grams daily of dried herb made as an infusion (or crushed to a fine powder and placed in gelatin capsules), or 3 - 12ml daily of 1:2 fluid extract. I teaspoon of the dried leaf is 5 grams. To make the infusion, place 1 teaspoon of the dried leaf tea in a teapot or tea infuser and pour over 1 cup of boiling water, allow to steep 5-10 minutes; sip before meals. If using the fresh plant, to make an infusion, 10 to 12 grams would be a similar dose. It would be recommended to gradually build up to the higher amount, particularly as a tea, due to the bitter flavour (infact a lower dose of 2-3 mature-size leaves per cup of boiling water maybe found sufficient as a general dose). At the dose of 6 grams of dried leaves daily, no reported side effects, have been recorded by one Australian company, that have the herb available. 

    On a world wide web site, I noted a doctor s personal opinion, recommending: when taken in tablet form - to take for 14 days at a time and then break for awhile, as he felt there may be a risk of overstimulating the immune system with certain herbs, perhaps in rare cases leading to aggravating autoimmune conditions. Friends, who are familiar with this herb from living in the Solomon Islands, regularly make Andrographis as a tea, usually drinking it on an empty stomach before a meal. They infuse 2-3 leaves in 1 D2 a cup of boiling water, swallowing it down pretty quickly and follow it with something sweet, like a couple dried cranberries (sultanas, or fresh fruit could also be used). An alternative way to take the edge off the severe bitterness, would be to add several tiny pieces of natural licorice root (as it has natural sweet properties). Combining the bitter herb with licorice would be most advantageous, as licorice has a beneficial action through the 12 meridians, reaching organs, muscles and nerve cells, and also having the effect of lengthening the period of time that a tonic formula (like Andrographis) will act in the body. 

    Extracts of Andrographis are sometimes prepared with the addition of licorice. Note: licorice should be avoided by pregnant women, myasthenia gravis sufferers (rare muscle disease), and people with high blood pressure, cardiac or kidney conditions. 
    Another natural plant sweetener often used to make medicine more palatable is stevia (leaves considered to be 300 times sweeter than refined sugar, but without the kilojoules). The herb, made as an infusion is used as a wash on the skin for rashes, burns and inflammation. Caution: In human studies the herb has not been associated with any major side effects. Bitter herbs may aggravate heartburn and ulcers. Large oral doses may cause gastric discomfort or vomiting. If intestinal upset occurs, reduce the amount taken, or take with meals. 
    Side effects are said to be rare (itching of skin has been observed). Refrain from use if gall bladder disease is known. Do not take while breastfeeding, during pregnancy (can be abortive), or if pregnancy is anticipated (may impair fertility). In almost every other respect, Andrographis has extremely low toxicity. It is not likely to be a herb that anyone would wish to take more of than the recommended dose, due to its extreme bitterness. King of Bitters has had many uses for thousands of years, that could now benefit our health and wellbeing in this century.

    Professional International Certified Courses at ITM Thai Hand Amsterdam, January 2016.

    Level 1: Foundation of Thai Massage (Nuad Bo Rarn) : intensive Monday 4 January to Thursday 7 January from 13.00-16.00 (4 days)

    Level 1: Acupressure Therapy Massage for Health (Wat Po Style):
January: starts Wednesday 6 January from 20.00-22.00 (6 weeks once a week) 

    Level 1: Thai Table Massage:
January: starts Thursday 7 January from 20.00-22.00 (6 weeks once a week)

    Thai Abdominal Massage (Chi Nei Tsang):
January: starts Friday 8 from 13.00-16.00 (5 weeks once a week)

    Level 2: Intermediate Thai Massage (Nuad Bo Rarn):
January: intensive Monday 11 January to Thursday 14 January from 13.00-16.00 (4 days)

    Level 1: Acupressure Therapy Massage for Health (Wat Po Style):
January: intensive Monday 18 January to Thursday 21 January from 13.00-16.00 (4 days)

    Level 3: Advanced Sen – Energy Lines Thai Massage (Nuad Bo Rarn):
January: starts Monday 18 January from 20.00-22.00 (10 weeks once a week)

    Level 2: Intermediate Thai Massage (Nuad Bo Rarn):
January: starts Tuesday 19 January from 20.00-22.00 (10 weeks once a week)

    Level 2: Intermediate Thai Massage (Nuad Bo Rarn):
January: starts Friday 22 January from 20.00-22.00 (10 weeks once a week)

    Level 1: Foundation of Thai Massage (Nuad Bo Rarn):
January: Intensive Weekend Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 January from 11.00-18.00

    Deep Tissue and Sports Massage:
January: intensive Monday 25 January to Thursday 28 January from 13.00-16.00 (4 days)

    jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2015

    The Effect of Deep-Tissue Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

    Alan David Kaye Department of Anesthesiology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA.
    Aaron J. Kaye Department of Anesthesiology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA.
    Jan Swinford Lindsay's Day Salon & Day Spa, Lubbock, TX.
    Amir Baluch Department of Anesthesiology, University of Miami, Miami, FL.
    Brad A. Bawcom Medical student at Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA.
    Thomas J. Lambert Department of Dermatology, University of Arkansas Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX.
    Jason M. Hoover Department of Neurosurgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

    The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
    Vol. 14: Issue. 2: Pages. 125-128
(Issue publication date: March 2008)
    DOI: 10.1089/acm.2007.0665

    Aim: In the present study, we describe the effects of deep tissue massage on systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressure.
    Materials and methods: The study involved 263 volunteers (12% males and 88% females), with an average age of 48.5. Overall muscle spasm/muscle strain was described as either moderate or severe for each patient. Baseline blood pressure and heart rate were measured via an automatic blood pressure cuff. Twenty-one (21) different soothing CDs played in the background as the deep tissue massage was performed over the course of the study. The massages were between 45 and 60 minutes in duration. The data were analyzed using analysis of variance with post-hoc Scheffe's F-test.

    Results: Results of the present study demonstrated an average systolic pressure reduction of 10.4 mm Hg (p < 0.06), a diastolic pressure reduction of 5.3 mm Hg (p< 0.04), a mean arterial pressure reduction of 7.0 mm Hg (p < 0.47), and an average heart rate reduction of 10.8 beats per minute (p < 0.0003), respectively.

    Conclusions: Additional scientific research in this area is warranted.

    miércoles, 9 de diciembre de 2015

    What is the digestive system:

    The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract—also called the digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that make up the GI tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine—which includes the rectum—and anus. Food enters the mouth and passes to the anus through the hollow organs of the GI tract. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system. The digestive system helps the body digest food.

    Bacteria in the GI tract, also called gut flora or microbiome, help with digestion. Parts of the nervous and circulatory systems also play roles in the digestive process. Together, a combination of nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood, and the organs of the digestive system completes the complex task of digesting the foods and liquids a person consumes each day.

    Why is digestion important?

    Digestion is important for breaking down food into nutrients, which the body uses for energy, growth, and cell repair. Food and drink must be changed into smaller molecules of nutrients before the blood absorbs them and carries them to cells throughout the body. The body breaks down nutrients from food and drink into carbohydrates, protein, fats, and vitamins.

    Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fiber found in many foods. Carbohydrates are called simple or complex, depending on their chemical structure. Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products, as well as sugars added during food processing. Complex carbohydrates are starches and fiber found in whole-grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables, and legumes. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, recommends that 45 to 65 percent of total daily calories come from carbohydrates.1

    Protein. Foods such as meat, eggs, and beans consist of large molecules of protein that the body digests into smaller molecules called amino acids. The body absorbs amino acids through the small intestine into the blood, which then carries them throughout the body. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, recommends that 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories come from protein.

    Vitamins. Scientists classify vitamins by the fluid in which they dissolve. Water-soluble vitamins include all the B vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Each vitamin has a different role in the body’s growth and health. The body stores fat-soluble vitamins in the liver and fatty tissues, whereas the body does not easily store water-soluble vitamins and flushes out the extra in the urine. Read more about vitamins on the Office of Dietary Supplements website at www.ods.od.nih.govExternal NIH Link.

    Fats. Fat molecules are a rich source of energy for the body and help the body absorb vitamins. Oils, such as corn, canola, olive, safflower, soybean, and sunflower, are examples of healthy fats. Butter, shortening, and snack foods are examples of less healthy fats. During digestion, the body breaks down fat molecules into fatty acids and glycerol. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, recommends that 20 to 35 percent of total daily calories come from fat.

    does digestion work?

    Digestion works by moving food through the GI tract. Digestion begins in the mouth with chewing and ends in the small intestine. As food passes through the GI tract, it mixes with digestive juices, causing large molecules of food to break down into smaller molecules. The body then absorbs these smaller molecules through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream, which delivers them to the rest of the body. Waste products of digestion pass through the large intestine and out of the body as a solid matter called stool.

    Table 1 shows the parts of the digestive process performed by each digestive organ, including movement of food, type of digestive juice used, and food particles broken down by that organ.

    OrganMovementDigestive Juices UsedFood Particles
    Broken Down
    StomachUpper muscle in stomach relaxes to let food enter and lower muscle mixes food with digestive juiceStomach acidProtein
    Small intestinePeristalsisSmall intestine
    digestive juice
    Starches, protein, and
    PancreasNonePancreatic juiceStarches, fats, and
    LiverNoneBile acidsFats

    How does food move through the GI tract?

    The large, hollow organs of the GI tract contain a layer of muscle that enables their walls to move. The movement of organ walls—called peristalsis—propels food and liquid through the GI tract and mixes the contents within each organ. Peristalsis looks like an ocean wave traveling through the muscle as it contracts and relaxes.

    Esophagus. When a person swallows, food pushes into the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. Once swallowing begins, it becomes involuntary and proceeds under the control of the esophagus and brain. The lower esophageal sphincter, a ringlike muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach, controls the passage of food and liquid between the esophagus and stomach. As food approaches the closed sphincter, the muscle relaxes and lets food pass through to the stomach.

    Stomach. The stomach stores swallowed food and liquid, mixes the food and liquid with digestive juice it produces, and slowly empties its contents, called chyme, into the small intestine. The muscle of the upper part of the stomach relaxes to accept large volumes of swallowed material from the esophagus. The muscle of the lower part of the stomach mixes the food and liquid with digestive juice.

    Small intestine. The muscles of the small intestine mix food with digestive juices from the pancreas, liver, and intestine and push the mixture forward to help with further digestion. The walls of the small intestine absorb the digested nutrients into the bloodstream. The blood delivers the nutrients to the rest of the body.

    Large intestine. The waste products of the digestive process include undigested parts of food and older cells from the GI tract lining. Muscles push these waste products into the large intestine. The large intestine absorbs water and any remaining nutrients and changes the waste from liquid into stool. The rectum stores stool until it pushes stool out of the body during a bowel movement

    How do digestive juices in each organ of the GI tract break down food?

    Digestive juices contain enzymes—substances that speed up chemical reactions in the body—that break food down into different nutrients.

    Salivary glands. Saliva produced by the salivary glands moistens food so it moves more easily through the esophagus into the stomach. Saliva also contains an enzyme that begins to break down the starches from food.

    Glands in the stomach lining. The glands in the stomach lining produce stomach acid and an enzyme that digests protein.

    Pancreas. The pancreas produces a juice containing several enzymes that break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in food. The pancreas delivers digestive juice to the small intestine through small tubes called ducts.

    Liver. The liver produces a digestive juice called bile. The gallbladder stores bile between meals. When a person eats, the gallbladder squeezes bile through the bile ducts, which connect the gallbladder and liver to the small intestine. The bile mixes with the fat in food. The bile acids dissolve fat into the watery contents of the intestine, much like how detergents dissolve grease from a frying pan, so the intestinal and pancreatic enzymes can digest the fat molecules.

    Small intestine. Digestive juice produced by the small intestine combines with pancreatic juice and bile to complete digestion. The body completes the breakdown of proteins, and the final breakdown of starches produces glucose molecules that absorb into the blood. Bacteria in the small intestine produce some of the enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates

    What happens to the digested food molecules?

    The small intestine absorbs most digested food molecules, as well as water and minerals, and passes them on to other parts of the body for storage or further chemical change. Specialized cells help absorbed materials cross the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. The bloodstream carries simple sugars, amino acids, glycerol, and some vitamins and salts to the liver. The lymphatic system, a network of vessels that carry white blood cells and a fluid called lymph throughout the body, absorbs fatty acids and vitamin.

    How is the digestive process controlled?

    Hormone and nerve regulators control the digestive process.

    Hormone Regulators

    The cells in the lining of the stomach and small intestine produce and release hormones that control the functions of the digestive system. These hormones stimulate production of digestive juices and regulate appetite.

    Nerve Regulators

    Two types of nerves help control the action of the digestive system: extrinsic and intrinsic nerves.

    Extrinsic, or outside, nerves connect the digestive organs to the brain and spinal cord. These nerves release chemicals that cause the muscle layer of the GI tract to either contract or relax, depending on whether food needs digesting. The intrinsic, or inside, nerves within the GI tract are triggered when food stretches the walls of the hollow organs. The nerves release many different substances that speed up or delay the movement of food and the production of digestive juices. 

    Points to Remember

    • Digestion is important for breaking down food into nutrients, which the body uses for energy, growth, and cell repair.
    • Digestion works by moving food through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
    • Digestion begins in the mouth with chewing and ends in the small intestine.
    • As food passes through the GI tract, it mixes with digestive juices, causing large molecules of food to break down into smaller molecules. The body then absorbs these smaller molecules through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream, which delivers them to the rest of the body.
    • Waste products of digestion pass through the large intestine and out of the body as a solid matter called stool. 
    • Digestive juices contain enzymes that break food down into different nutrients. 
    • The small intestine absorbs most digested food molecules, as well as water and minerals, and passes them on to other parts of the body for storage or further chemical change. Hormone and nerve regulators control the digestive process.