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Harvard Study Reveals What Meditation Literally Does To Gastrointestinal (Bowel) Disorders

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The hits just keep on coming when it comes to the health benefits of meditation. Research is now emerging that would justify implementing this practice within hospitals and schools (some already do) as well as including it in treatment recommendations for various diseases.

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Not long ago, an eight week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brains grey matter in just eight weeks. It was the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. Now, they’ve released another study showing that meditation can have a significant impact on clinical symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  The study showed that elicitation of the relaxation response (a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress) is a very big help.

The study comes out of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). This is the very first study where the use of the “relaxation response” was examined in these disorders, and the first to investigate the genomic effects of the relaxation response in individuals with any disorder. The report was published in the journal PLOS-ONE. (source)

Given the two studies cited above, and all of the other documented health benefits of meditation, this should open the door for more studies to examine the benefits of meditation for a wide range of diseases.

“Our results suggest exciting possibilities for further developing and implementing this treatment in a wider group of patients with gastrointestinal illness. Several studies have found that stress management techniques and other psychological interventions can help patients with IBS, at least in the short term; and while the evidence for IBD is less apparent, some studies have suggested potential benefits. What is novel about our study is demonstration of the impact of a mind/body intervention on the genes controlling inflammatory factors that are known to play a major role in IBD and possibly in IBS.” – Brandon Kuo of the gastrointestinal unit in the MGH Department of Medicine, co-lead author of the report. (source)

For those of you who are unaware, IBS and IBD are chronic conditions that produce similar symptoms which include; abdominal pain, and changes in bowel function, like diarrhea. IBD also includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which leads one to suffer from severe inflammation in all or part of the gastrointestinal tract. Science has shown us that stress intensifies these symptoms, which is why this study regarding meditation and these diseases holds a great deal of importance.

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The relaxation response has been subject to several studies that clearly show that its regular practice (induced by meditation) directly affects physiologic factors such as oxygen consumption, heart rate, blood pressure and again, stress and anxiety. It was first described over 40 years ago by Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and co-author of the paper presented in this article.

The study had 48 adult participants, with 19 of them being diagnosed with IBS and 29 with IBD. There was weekly relaxation response training, as well as in their home for 15 t0 20 mintues each day.

The study enrolled 48 adult participants — 19 of whom had been diagnosed with IBS and 29 with IBD — who participated in a nine-week group program focused on stress reduction, cognitive skills, and health-enhancing behaviors. Each of the weekly sessions included relaxation response training, and participants were asked to practice relaxation response elicitation at home for 15 to 20 minutes each day. Along with aspects featured in other group programs offered at the Benson-Henry Institute, this program included a session specifically focused on gastrointestinal health.

“Both in patients with IBS and those with IBD, participation in the mind/body program appeared to have significantly improved disease-related symptoms, anxiety, and overall quality of life, not only at the end of the study period but also three weeks later. While there were no significant changes in inflammatory markers for either group of participants, changes in expression were observed in almost 200 genes among participants with IBS and more than 1,000 genes in those with IBD. Many of the genes with altered expression are known to contribute to pathways involved with stress response and inflammation.” (source)

Meditation And How To Do It

A common misconception about meditation is that you have to sit a certain way or do something in particular to achieve the various benefits that it can provide. All you have to do is place yourself in a position that is most comfortable to you. It could be sitting crosslegged, lying down in a bed, sitting on a couch etc, it’s your choice. That being said, I do not doubt that sitting in a certain position allows energy to flow more freely through you body, but above all (in my opinion) comfort is of utmost importance.

It’s not about trying to empty your mind, and as the first study cited in this article states, it’s about the “non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.” Let the thoughts, feelings and emotions that pop up present themselves, don’t judge them, and let them pass. Make peace with whatever you are experiencing.

I also believe that meditation is a state of being/mind. One can be engaged in meditation while they are on a walk, for example, or the time they have right before they sleep. Throughout the day, one can resist judging their thoughts, letting them flow until they are no more, or just be in a constant state of peace and self awareness. Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one way to meditate.

For more articles from Collective Evolution on meditation you can click HERE.

Sources:

All sources are highlighted throughout the article.

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Intermittent Fasting Is Great, But Alternate-Day Fasting Is Having A Big Impact On My Body

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    I started alternate day fasting a few months ago. I've lost a healthy chunk of fat from my body and my weight has stabilized. Fasting is a great way to boost your health and help your body utilize its fat stores.

  • Reflect On:

    The science of fasting is very interesting, and it shows that fasting can be used as a therapeutic intervention for multiple diseases and/or to simply be healthier. Is it ignored by medicine because it doesn't generate a profit?

Several years ago I remember coming across an old study from 2013 about caloric restriction, emphasizing how it extends life span and prevents as well as helps to reverse several age-related diseases in a variety of species. This was very intriguing to me, especially given the fact that humans have been bombarded with the idea that we need to eat at least three meals a day, plus snacks in order to be healthy and fit. Fast forward to today, and fasting has become quite popular, and this is thanks to a wealth of research that’s emerged showing that not only caloric restriction, but fasting, has a number of health benefits.

Fasting has been shown to extend life, protect against neurodegenerative and age-related diseases, ‘starve’ certain cancer cells, reverse and manage type two diabetes, trigger new stem cell generation and help people lose weight. If done for a long enough time, although we don’t quite know exactly how long, fasting also actives autophagy, the body’s self-cleaning system, which allows the cell to get rid of old cell machinery, breaking them down into smaller parts to be reused by the cell. Fasting stimulates the production of ketone bodies in the blood, which have also been shown to have a number of benefits and is one of many mechanisms by which fasting benefits the body.

Fasting Is Beneficial

When you eat food, that food is converted into glycogen which your body then burns. When you fast, your body uses up stored fat for energy after its glycogen reserves are depleted, and the process of the body switching from burning glucose to efficiently burning fat is something that seems to have been built into our biology, meaning we are designed to go short, or even prolonged periods of time without any food, and that this ‘stress’ on the body actually benefits us in many ways.

There is absolutely no evidence that, for the average person, fasting can be dangerous. In fact, all evidence points to the opposite. If you’re on prescription medication, or experience other medical problems, then there are obviously exceptions. But it’s quite clear that the human body was designed to go long periods of time without food, and that it’s completely natural.

If you want to learn more about the science of fasting, there is plenty of research out there. Sifting through scholarly articles on the subject will yield many interesting results. You can find a number of lectures on Youtube as well. The main takeaway for me after studying fasting and its mechanisms for fifteen years now is that it’s an extremely healthy and safe practice with a number of health benefits, and I wanted to share my current experience instead of simply diving deep into the science of it all.

My Alternate-Day Fasting Experience

I have found that the research directly correlates with my experience of fasting on a regular basis, and it’s something I’ve been doing for fifteen years. I have done a lot of prolonged fasts in my life, weekly fasts, as well as many periods of intermittent fasting where I condense my eating period to a time of 5-8 hours. But only within the past few months have I tried alternate-day fasting, and so far it’s the fasting method that’s been the most successful for me. Everybody is different, and at the end of the day you just have to find what works for you.

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I’ve always put on weight quite easily, and have had no problem storing food. Perhaps it’s genetics, my family has a strong and long history of type two diabetes, hinting to the idea that insulin levels in my family can remain high, thus making it impossible to access my fat stores. Obviously, fasting drops your insulin levels, allowing your body to access and burn its fat reserves which, again, has been shown to have a tremendous amounts of benefits.

Alternate-day fasting has given me something consistent to go with when it comes to maintaining and stabilizing my weight. For me, intermittent fasting just wasn’t doing it, I found I could not eat what I enjoy without packing on extra fat and slowly increasing my weight. I also did many prolonged fasts, which helped me drop my extra fat, but then I’d put it back on. This was true for me even whilst eating a healthy, whole grain fully plant-based diet.

With alternate-day fasting, I do not gain weight, and my energy levels have increased to the point where I am now working out at the end of every fast. I’ve never experienced so much energy an I’ve never felt so alert. I had a glimpse of it with intermittent fasting, but the period without food just wasn’t long enough for me, I feel, to really tap into the benefits of fasting.

Simple Schedule

So what does alternate-day fasting look like? It’s when you eat one day, and then fast the next. Simple.

So, for example, what I do is I will eat on a Monday, and then have my last meal in the evening. Then, I wait until Wednesday morning to eat again. So, I am doing 36-40 hour fasts, quite often. What recommended alternate-day fasting looks like is eating on Monday, and then not eating until 24 hours after, or Tuesday night. Or, eating on Monday, and then restricting your calorie intake the next day to only 500 calories., and then repeat throughout the week.

I’ve been fasting for a quite a long time, so my body is quite fat adapted. It’s not difficult for me to fast and when I do I do not feel hungry at all, which means my body has adapted itself to ‘consuming’ it’s stored energy. I am at the point where alternate-day fasting for me usually means not eating for at least 40 hours and after a workout, and every now and then I will extend my fast to 72 or more hours and throw in a workout at the end those fasts as well. The food I eat during my eating periods is, again, a whole foods plant-based diet.

Related CE Article going into more detail: What Working Out In A Fasted State (Not Eating) Does To Your Muscles

Weight Loss

That’s how I do it, and doing it this way I dropped nearly 20 pounds before eventually stabilizing my weight. I usually do alternate-day fasting, but every now and then I will eat two days in a row here and there. So I am not extremely strict on myself, but then again, my fasting periods are longer and I believe it’s easier for me simply because I am well adapted to the practice, and my body type and perhaps my genetics helps me have an easier time with it.

If you’re looking to shed some fat from your body, it’s something I recommend you try, it’s great because it forces you to enter into a fat period for a longer state than intermittent fasting, and allows you to utilize more of your fat reserves.

You can look at alternate-day fasting as an ‘extreme’ form of fasting, although there is nothing extreme about it and it’s completely safe. If you’re someone who has never fasted before, I recommend you start off with intermittent fasting, as fasting alone for someone who has never practiced it can be quite difficult at first until your body gets used to it.

Resources

If you’re looking for some great resources on this topic beyond simply reading and searching for scholarly peer-reviewed publications on the subject via online journal databases (there are lots), you can visit Dr. Jason Fung’s website blog here. There are a lot of great informative articles on the subject there.

Another great resource is Krista Varady, PhD, a Professor of Nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her research focuses on the efficacy of intermittent fasting for weight loss, weight maintenance, and cardio-protection in obese adults. Her work is funded by the NIH, American Heart Association, International Life Sciences Institute, and the University of Illinois. She has published over 70 publications on this topic, and is also the author of a book for the general public, entitled the “Every Other Day Diet”.

Her “book for the general public,” The Every-Other-Day Diet: The Diet That Lets You Eat All You Want (Half the Time) and Keep the Weight Off is a great place to start.

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Tips That May Help You Put Rheumatoid Arthritis Into Remission

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In our modern day world, when something goes awry with our health, we often seek the advice of a medical professional to help understand what is going on and how we can treat it. While becoming aware of our ailments is important, the way in which we treat them is just as much so.

Health begins with prevention. Remaining aware of what is known to deplete our wellbeing is pertinent. And if you are faced with an unfortunate diagnosis, it’s necessary to understand it to the best of your ability, and acknowledge the factors that could have caused it, otherwise you may find yourself in the same situation again later on down the road. You must also know your healing options. There are many medicinal paths out there, and sometimes the one you are presented with is not necessarily the right one.

Here, rheumatoid arthritis is discussed, and you might be surprised at the healing options available to you.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? 

Rheumatoid arthritis is defined as a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the joints, frequently accompanied by marked deformities, and ordinarily associated with manifestations of a general, or systemic, affliction.[1]

This disorder, which often affects the small joints in the hands and feet, is the result of the immune system accidentally attacking the body’s own tissues, damaging the lining of the joints, and causing swelling that can become so severe that it can lead to bone erosion and deformed joints. Other parts of the body that can be affected are the skin, eyes, lungs, and blood vessels.

The Signs and Symptoms

RA can be difficult to diagnose, but knowing the factors involved is crucial. Some of the early signs include: fatigue, dry mouth, loss of appetite, irritated eyes that can even experience discharge, chest pain upon breathing, and hardened tissue in the form of small bumps under the skin on your arms.

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You may then experience inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the fingers, wrists, knees, feet, ankles, or shoulders. Numbness, tingling, and burning are also common as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome, often associated with RA. You might also experience a fever accompanied by other RA symptoms.

The disorder, which can be terminal, can have pain so crippling that half of people who develop it will no longer be able to work within 10 years. Furthermore, within five years, 50 to 70 percent of RA’s victims will experience some form of disability. With such a small number (less than one percent) of people experiencing spontaneous remission, it can feel very defeating to live with.

Traditional Treatments

Many of the doctor-prescribed medications do little to reverse RA, but rather alleviate the symptoms associated with the disorder. To do so, anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and highly toxic drugs are often utilized. Steroids like prednisone can have many side effects, including an increased risk of infection, weight gain, worsening diabetes, cataracts in the eyes, and the thinning of bones.

Furthermore, there is also the concern of  people with RA experiencing relapses while on these toxic medications. “That can happen within months or even many years after a patient has been started on a drug,” explains Dr. Hardin, a professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Bronx, New York. Dr. Hardin notes that this phenomenon is the result of people simply becoming resistant to medications.

“When I was diagnosed with RA, my rheumatologist started me on immuno-suppressants, steroids and methotrexate (a drug commonly used in chemotherapy),” says Rachna Chhachhi, a certified nutritional therapist. “After a while of feeling good, I noticed that my hair had started falling. I tried everything possible to get back my lost hair, but to no avail. Nothing worked. When I asked my immunologist, he told me it was a side effect of the drugs I was taking. I had to choose between balding and being able to walk.” Chhachhi chose alternative methods, changing her lifestyle choices first and foremost.

Lifestyle Changes and Natural Pain Relievers

As with any health concern, it’s much easier to assume this is the unfortunate hand you are dealt with and give in to medications as a means for getting through the day. But a crucial step many people miss when it comes to diagnoses is understanding what might have caused them in the first place.

RA is an immune system disorder, so it makes sense that the buildup of nutritional deficiencies could weaken the body. Chhachhi chose to strengthen her immune system through nutrition and physical practices like yoga and pranayama. Here is a look at similar lifestyle changes that can be made:

Diet

Avoiding or limiting inflammatory foods can be extremely beneficial for reversing RA. These foods include whole-milk products, fatty cuts of meat, empty starches, added sugars, refined flours, and processed foods complete with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Anti-inflammatory foods include wild salmon, avocado, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich fruits. Essentially, you are eating for your joints.

A 2011 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that, over a 15-year- period, men and women who ate a healthful dose of nuts had more than a 50 percent lower risk of dying from inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis as opposed to those who ate little to no nuts.

Olive oil, which is loaded with oleocanthal, hinders inflammation in the body as well as reduces pain, much like the synthetic medications on the market. “This compound inhibits activity of COX enzymes, with a pharmacological action similar to ibuprofen,” explains José M. Ordovás, PhD, who is the Director of Nutrition and Genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

Another natural pain reliever is the curcumin found in turmeric, which is touted for its incredible anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, a study published in 2006 in the Journal of Natural Products discovered that pure curcuminoid extracts are effective in preventing and treating experimental rheumatoid arthritis.

Weight

Excess weight isn’t good for people with rheumatoid arthritis because it adds extra stress and strain on weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips. Low-impact aerobic exercises are the way to go. “While, yoga keeps their joints supple and flexible, pranayama helps in the efficient release of toxins from the body, thereby reducing pain,” explains Chhachhi of her chosen and recommended method.

study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic discovered that obese individuals were 25 percent more at risk for being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis than people with normal body weights. The study’s lead researcher, Eric Matteson, says it’s more than just stress on the joints, however. “The link, we think, has to do with the activity of the fat cells themselves,” says Matteson.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D plays an important role in the strengthening of bones, joints and cartilage, so not getting enough can work to do the opposite — weakening your body and aiding in muscle and skeletal pain. A 2012 study published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism concluded that a deficiency of this vitamin may be linked to the onset of serious diseases for people with RA. The sun is the best source of natural vitamin D. You can also get it through your diet by eating foods like salmon, egg yolks, and fortified milk and yogurts. And to make sure you are absorbing it properly, it’s important to have healthy gut flora. Consuming fermented foods daily is a great place to start.

Get Inspired

If you’re suffering from RA and want to try an alternative method that can alleviate your symptoms and potentially put you in remission, check out how Dr. Mercola helped his patient, Sarah Allen, find her way back to health in this video:

Free: Regenerate Yourself Masterclass

In this free 7-part masterclass, Sayer Ji, founder of GreenMedInfo, explains how revolutionary new developments in biology can be leveraged to help prevent and manage the most common health afflictions of our day: cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and metabolic syndrome.

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Study: Baking Soda Can Remove Large Amounts of Pesticide Residue From Fruits & Vegetables

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Organic foods can often be expensive, luckily there is a simple solution we can easily use to wash our produce and reduce the amount of chemicals we are ingesting into our bodies.

  • Reflect On:

    It's easy to get discouraged with the amount of environmental toxins we are exposed to on a regular basis. Sometimes a little awareness goes a long way and there are simple solutions to some of the issues we face.

By now, many of us are aware of the importance of eating organic produce and other foods. Although we may often try our best, sometimes the organic option can cost an arm and a leg so we opt for conventionally grown foods from time to time. Perhaps we even follow the advice given by the Environmental Working Group’sClean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen” program. While this is a great way to reduce your exposure to chemically laden pesticides known to have many detrimental side effects, not to mention the fact that they are essentially a straight up poison, designed specifically to kill, pests, another simple option also exists. The use of baking soda to wash produce effectively removes up to 96 percent of pesticides from fruit and vegetables.

The Research

Scientists from the University of Massachusetts published a study in the journal, Agricultural and Food Chemistry on the effects of baking soda on gala apples. The apples used in the study were sprayed with two types of pesticides: phosmet, a known insecticide and thiabendazole, which is a fungicide. After the pesticides were given time to penetrate into the apple peels, the apples were rinsed with three different liquid solutions: tap water, a ratio of 1% baking soda to 99% water and a commonly used bleaching solution.

Lead author, Dr Lili He from the University of Massachusetts said, “Pesticide residues may remain on agricultural produce, where they contribute to the total dietary intake of pesticides. Concerns about potential hazards of pesticides to food safety and human health have increased, and therefore, it is desirable to reduce these residues.”

Results Of The Study

After 12 minutes of gentle scrubbing the baking soda solution was able to remove 80% of the thiabendazole and 15 minutes to remove 96% of the phosmet. A type of electromagnetic mapping technology was used to determine the percentage of pesticide residue on the surface and inside the apples.

While this is just one study, there has been plenty of research conducted on the use of baking soda to remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables. So, while organic is usually best, this method can be used safely and effectively to wash your produce and reduce your exposure to harmful, often carcinogenic, chemical pesticides.

According to Dr. He, ‘The use of pesticides in agriculture has led to an increase in farm productivity. However, pesticide residues may remain on agricultural produce, where they contribute to the total dietary intake of pesticides. Concerns about potential hazards of pesticides to food safety and human health have increased, and therefore, it is desirable to reduce these residues.’ The results showed that the baking solution was most effective in removing thiabendazole and phosmet on and in apples. The standard post-harvest washing method with bleach solution and a two-minute wash did not effectively remove these pesticides.’

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As the Legendary Jane Goodall once said, “How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

 Rising Concerns Over Commonly Used Pesticide, Glyphosate

Something has recently come to my attention and sort of shocked me I do my best to avoid genetically modified foods, (GMO’s) whether or not ingesting GMO’s themselves are safe or not, personally I avoid them because I know if something is genetically modified, then it also means that product has been sprayed relentlessly with pesticides, and often glyphosate is one of these pesticides. But, glyphosate is actually commonly used on hundred of different crops regardless of if they are genetically modified or not. To read more about the potential dangers of glyphosate, click here.

Try This Solution For Yourself

Baking soda is not only a great staple to have for so many different uses, your can read ore about some of those uses here, but it is also extremely cost effective as well and readily available at pretty much any grocery store. To use the baking soda method, simply follow the instructions below,

  • Add a few teaspoons of baking soda to a bowl of water
  • Add the produce to be washed to the bowl
  • Soak produce for 15 minutes
  • Rinse well with cold water
  • Enjoy.

Sometimes a little awareness goes a long way, don’t forget, knowledge is power!

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Free: Regenerate Yourself Masterclass

In this free 7-part masterclass, Sayer Ji, founder of GreenMedInfo, explains how revolutionary new developments in biology can be leveraged to help prevent and manage the most common health afflictions of our day: cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and metabolic syndrome.

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