Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Truth About Inflammation


The Fire Inside

The word “inflammation” traces back to the Latin for “set afire.” In some conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, you feel heat, pain, redness, and swelling. But in other cases -- like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes -- it’s not so obvious. If you didn’t go looking for it with tests, you wouldn’t even know it’s there.
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It's Not Always Bad

Inflammation actually is good in the short run. It’s part of your immune system’s natural response to heal an injury or fight an infection. It’s supposed to stop after that. But if it becomes a long-lasting habit in your body, that can be bad for you. Long-term, or “chronic,” inflammation is seen in many diseases and conditions.
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Could It Lead to a Heart Attack?

Inflamed arteries are common among people with heart disease. Some researchers think that when fats build up in the walls of the heart’s coronary arteries, the body fires back with inflammatory chemicals, since it sees this as an “injury” to the heart. That could trigger a blood clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
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Diabetes Connection

Inflammation and type 2 diabetes are linked. Doctors don’t know yet if it causes the disease. Some experts say obesity triggers the inflammation, which makes it harder for the body to use insulin. That may be one reason why losing extra pounds and keeping them off is a key step to lower your chance of getting type 2 diabetes.
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Tied to Alzheimer's

Chronic brain inflammation is often seen in people with this type of dementia. Scientists don’t yet understand exactly how that works, but inflammation may play an active role in the disease. Experts are studying whether anti-inflammatory medicine will curb Alzheimer’s. So far, the results are mixed.
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It Can Hurt Your Gut

Chronic inflammation is tied to ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are types of inflammatory bowel disease. It happens when your body's immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy bacteria in your gut, and causes inflammation that sticks around. You could have symptoms such as belly pain, cramping, and diarrhea.
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In RA, It Does Damage

What many people think of as “arthritis” is osteoarthritis, in which the tissue that cushions joints, cartilage, breaks down, particularly as people age. Rheumatoid arthritis is different. In RA, the immune system attacks your body’s joints, causing inflammation that can harm them -- and even the heart. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and red, warm, swollen joints.
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Is It Part of Fibromyalgia?

This condition can cause pain, tenderness, and fatigue, but not because of inflammation. Unlike in RA, inflammation doesn’t attack the joints in fibromyalgia. Someone who has fibro could have inflammation in their body from another illness. But it's not driving their fibro.
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When It Happens Fast

Sometimes inflammation strikes suddenly when your body is fighting an infection. Maybe it’s cellulitis, a skin infection, or appendicitis, which affects your appendix. You’ll need to see your doctor to get the right treatment quickly.
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Your Diet Matters

The types of food you eat affect how much inflammation you have. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins (like beans and nuts), fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines), and healthier oils, like olive oil. Also eat foods with probiotics, like yogurt (just check that it doesn’t have too much sugar). Limit saturated fats, found in meats, whole-fat dairy products, and processed foods.
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Stay Active

Even if you have a condition like RA, in which inflammation is a problem, exercise is still good for you. If you make it a habit, it pays off in many ways. For instance, it helps you stick to a healthy weight, which is another good way to keep inflammation in check. Ask your doctor what types of activities are best for you.
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Get Some Sleep!

Mom was right: You need to get your rest. Research shows that when healthy people are sleep-deprived, they have more inflammation. Exactly how that works isn’t clear, but it may be related to metabolism. It’s one more reason to make sleep a priority!
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Smoking Makes It Worse

Lighting up is a sure-fire way to raise inflammation. Like most people who try to kick the habit, it may take you several tries before you quit for good -- but keep trying! Tell your doctor it’s a goal and ask for her advice.
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Spices Hold Promise

Ginger root has anti-inflammation perks. So do cinnamon, clove, black pepper, and turmeric (which gives curry powder its orange-yellow color). Scientists are studying how much it takes to make a difference. These spices are safe to enjoy in foods. If you want to try them in supplements, ask your doctor first. She can check on whether they might affect any medicines you take or conditions you have.
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What to Know About NSAIDs

Many people take NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to tame inflammation and ease pain. Some of these meds need a prescription. Others, like ibuprofen and naproxen, are sold over the counter. They work well, but if you take them regularly, tell your doctor, because they can cause stomach problems, like ulcers or bleeding. Some types of NSAIDS may increase the risk for heart attack or stroke, so talk to your doctor about the safest options.
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Do Supplements Help?

The omega-3s in fish such as salmon and tuna can dial down inflammation. Fish oil can help, too. People who are low on vitamin D also tend to have more inflammation than others. It’s not yet clear if taking more vitamin D fixes that. Remember, it's a good idea to ask your doctor first.
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10 Famous People Who've Dealt With Dyslexia

jennifer aniston

Jennifer Aniston

Who knew one of America’s best TV Friends has dyslexia? Aniston herself didn’t know until she was in her 20s. She says finding out explained why it was so hard to read back in school and why she chose the role of class clown over teacher’s pet. The diagnosis answered a lot of questions. "I felt like all my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas, were explained," she told The Hollywood Reporter.
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steven spielberg
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Steven Spielberg

This movie mogul has had his own close encounter with dyslexia, though he didn’t know until he was 60 that he had the disorder. Bullied as a kid, he struggled through school and dropped out of college in 1968. Since then, the famed filmmaker has fought back using the big screen. The Goonies, a cult classic he co-wrote and produced, reflects Spielberg’s teen years as a self-proclaimed “nerd” and “outsider.”
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whoopi goldberg
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Whoopi Goldberg

You wouldn’t have known this outspoken co-host of The View if you’d met her as a kid. Back then, she was named Caryn, and class bullies called her “stupid.” The multi-talented Goldberg didn’t even find out she had dyslexia until well after she dropped out of school. She’s since earned tons of honors, including one of the rarest combinations of all: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award.
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henry winkler
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Henry Winkler

Best known as “The Fonz” on Happy Days, this actor-turned-author was always one to improvise on the set. Winkler confesses his trouble reading was a big reason for going off-script. He says dyslexia also taught him kindness. You can see that when he talks about Hank Zipzer, “world’s greatest underachiever” and the main character in the children’s books he’s written about dyslexia.
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muhammad ali
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Muhammad Ali

The legendary heavyweight boxing champ may have been able to “float like a butterfly” and “sting like a bee,” but he could barely read. Dyslexia was one of Ali’s first fights. And he proved to be a brilliant wordsmith, quoted around the world. He said, "A man who has no imagination has no wings."
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richard branson
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Richard Branson

The head of his high school predicted this British entrepreneur would end up in prison or become a millionaire. Try billionaire, with a “b,” many times over. Branson says dyslexia and what he describes as “a different way of thinking” have helped him succeed. The Virgin Group founder has launched more than 400 companies, including a recording label and airline. He’s also been knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
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john irving
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John Irving

Wrestling is as much a theme in this author’s life as it is in his novels. Dyslexia has also been a main character. When words were too hard, Irving took to the gym in high school. Wrestling carried him to college, where the writing bug took hold. Since then, book titles have been his claim to fame.
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jay leno
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Jay Leno

The comedian and former host of The Tonight Show says there wasn’t really a name for dyslexia when he was in high school -- everyone just told him to smarten up. It all turned around when a creative writing teacher suggested he put some of the funny stories he was always telling on paper. “That was the first time in my life I really focused on something,” Leno told 60 Minutes.
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danny glover
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Danny Glover

This leading man didn’t get the acting bug until his late 20s, and he didn’t know he was dyslexic until he was 30. Not having a diagnosis back then he felt “unworthy to learn.” But Glover found an escape in acting, which, he says, “gave me a way of expressing some of that inner life that was raging inside of me.”
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keira knightley
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Keira Knightley

Dyslexia was both the carrot and the stick for this British-born Academy Award nominee. Getting good grades earned her time on stage, so she was eager to please. Behind the scenes, though, some classmates were just as eager to tease. “It’s amazing what a child calling you stupid would do to make you read pretty quickly,” Knightley recalls. She says dyslexia has made her the actress she is today.
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dyslexia illustration
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Tough to Diagnose

Dyslexia, a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading, is fairly common. Even so, it was not largely understood until the late 20th century. Even today it can be hard for doctors to diagnose. There are evidence-based treatments which are effective, even for adults with the condition. Given what we know now, many famous people may have had dyslexia, including Leonardo da Vinci, Saint Teresa, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison.
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Inspirational Quote – May 19, 2018

“If you light a light for someone else…it will also brighten your path.”

Being able to “light a light” for someone else is what I love most about reading for people. Many of the people who come to me for a reading are often very troubled souls. They appear weighed down by whatever problems they are experiencing and unable to see any hope in their future. At the beginning of the reading they sit, slouched and slumped before me, shoulders drooping with the cares of the world showing on their faces. Then the reading begins……. As I channel Spirit and the reading unfolds and they receive reassurance that things will improve, problems will be resolved, they will have love in their lives, etc., they begin to bloom again. When the reading ends and they leave me with hugs and a spring in their step for perhaps the first time in a very long while, I am also uplifted and filled with joy.

Restoration: A Conversation with Daniel McCormick & Mary O'Brien

"There's still a bit of misunderstanding about what we do," says Mary O'Brien, "When we meet with site stewards, conservation managers and scientists they're often like, "We're going to meet with an artist? What's that all about?" The work of environmental restoration artists Daniel McCormick and Mary O'Brien is nearly always an uphill struggle, but they're passionate. They've acquired knowledge across several scientific disciplines. "We had a little project in New Orleans on an island that kept disappearing. That's how fast it changed in just one generation. The government said, "You know, there's 130 people in this village. We can't spend 13 million putting up another concrete barrier for them. That's politics. And that's erosion, too. It never sleeps."

Friday, May 18, 2018

How One Gratitude Researcher Practices Thankfulness

Inspired by the conflict and adversity in his life, Giacomo Bono now studies the ways we stay connected.

Giacomo Bono looked into the cold, hardened face of his uncle. Just 12 years old, Bono had gone with his father all the way back to Italy to patch up a dispute with his uncle over a family inheritance. But his uncle wanted nothing to do with either of them. 
“His face stuck in my head, stuck in my mind,” recalls Bono. “Really, you want to die rigid like that, thinking you’re right rather than feeling the love of your own blood?”
A decade later, as a graduate student, Bono gravitated to the topic of apology and forgiveness. The experience with his uncle had left an impression on him, and he wanted to understand how people reconcile and heal their relationships.
“[Unforgiveness] seems like a terrible burden to carry around,” he says. “It’s like you stop living.”
Ultimately, his research uncovered some of the destructive potential of not forgiving. He found that less forgiveness goes hand in hand with rumination, for example, and that people who are more avoidant and vengeful on a given day have lower well-being the next day.
But Bono isn’t known as a forgiveness researcher these days. After receiving his Ph.D., he began to study gratitude, which he sees as the other side of the coin. While forgiveness deals with the difficult side of relationships—when things go wrong—Bono also wanted to explore what happens when things go right.

Finding gratitude outside the lab

Bono’s first intense gratitude experience came in the unlikeliest of places: a hospital bed. At the age of nine, he suffered from a severe case of encephalitis and eventually fell into a coma. Doctors warned his parents that he might never walk again.
But he did walk—and he attributes that to the people around him. During his week-long hospital stay and the physical therapy that followed, they encouraged him and kept him focused on the future. They brought him pizza and his first chocolate shake, which—after days without regular food—were serious cause for gratitude.
With this experience in mind, and gratitude research taking off, Bono eventually turned his eye to studying grateful kids. In the past decade, he has uncovered many benefits of gratitude in youth, including more helpful behavior, less negative emotions and depression, and greater positive emotions, hope, happiness, life satisfaction, and sense of meaning in life. To help students unlock some of these benefits, Bono and his collaborators recently created a whole gratitude curriculum for teachers, including practices like the gratitude journal and gratitude letter.
In gratitude experiments, a gratitude activity is sometimes compared to a “hassles” activity, where participants list daily hassles they experience. Even though he’s well acquainted with this research, Bono admits that he sometimes has trouble seeing past the hassles in his own life.
Earlier this year, for example, Bono’s wife was traveling, his two kids were on vacation from school, and he was preparing for the upcoming semester at California State University, Dominguez Hills, where he is an assistant professor. That week, he was all too aware of his hassles list: dealing with customer service agents, cleaning the garage, sorting through a tornado of office files.
But one morning, Bono found a more grateful perspective. His nine-year-old son was humming as they walked to school together, happy and excited to see his friends after the break. When they arrived, Bono watched him walk away and had that spontaneous feeling of deep gratitude.
“I thought, ‘I’m so grateful for having this loving child who gets the value of friends, who loves his teachers.’ All the sudden, my frustration from the week before just completely fell away in my feeling grateful for my son—and for school starting back up, thank God for that, too!” he recalls, laughing. “That’s how gratitude works.” 
Those spontaneous feelings can be hard to come by, of course. Perhaps that’s why pioneering gratitude researcher Robert Emmons recommends practicing the actions of gratitude—smiling, saying thank you, writing letters—even if the feeling isn’t there yet. “If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered,” he writes.
That’s an approach Bono takes to heart. Gratitude doesn’t exactly come naturally to him, but his research has taught him how to work at it—and how powerful it can be.

A connected life

In the end, Bono’s uncle passed away without reconciling with all of his siblings—a fate that Bono wants to avoid at all costs. “He ended up dying angry, bitter,” he says. “I want to die knowing that I had love and that I gave love and that my influence will live on positively.”
Although his uncle’s actions hurt him, Bono did walk away from the experience with a greater admiration for his father. Looking at the situation now with a researcher’s eyes, he assumes his father—who tried so hard to bring the family back together—must be a highly forgiving person.
Studying uplifting experiences of gratitude and forgiveness also means studying their opposites—the times in life when we feel far from grateful, and the people we can’t bring ourselves to forgive. All this has made Bono more aware of the beauty and fragility of life.
“I’m more sensitive to suffering and how quickly we can grow out of suffering if we can find hope,” says Bono. “I continue to admire resilience more and more.”

Inspirational Quote – May 18, 2018

“Dance like no one is watching. Love like you’ll never be hurt. Sing like no one is listening.

Live like it’s Heaven on Earth.”

I love this and try to adopt this in my life. It’s also inspiring to see that this philosophy is appearing more frequently in the media, especially as it appears to be aimed at those of us who are not ‘er ahem, in the first flush of youth! I do think that more of us of the older generation are taking this advice on board and dancing like no one is watching (or even if they are), love like we’ll never be hurt (even though we may be), and sing like no one is listening (which, trust me, wouldn’t be pleasant if they did listen to me!. In fact, enjoy your life. Do what YOU want to do, what you feel would make YOU happy, and see what happens….go on, you know you want to!

Designed by Masters, Woven with Dignity

Witness the beautiful fabric woven by traditional weavers in Toraja, Indonesia, and learn how their collective is working to bring economic independence to the weavers while preserving weaving as part of their cultural heritage. The social enterprise, Torajamelo, transforms the lives of these weavers, offering scholarships for their children and grandchildren and health insurance for themselves and their families so that they can continue making their beautiful creations while still caring for their families and farms.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

How a Compassionate Caregiver Can Help You Heal

A new book explores the healing potential of caregivers who offer us connection and compassion.

If you’ve been to a health care provider lately, your treatment plan probably looked something like this: Take one pill twice a day with meals, drink plenty of fluids, and get lots of bedrest. But don’t you wish that prescription also included compassion, deep listening, and connection from your provider?

According to a new book, The Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening by David Rakel, this is the unwritten yet essential prescription for healing. As a physician and professor at the University of New Mexico, and founder of the integrative medicine program at the University of Wisconsin, Rakel draws on research and his expertise in the exam room to argue that how doctors interact with their patients can sometimes matter more to healing than what they do.
His book explores why compassionate connections are key to successful caregiving and how they can be established—whether between health care providers and their patients or within any caregiving relationship.

The healing power of human connection

According to Rakel, certain traits are shared by healers across history, including hope, trust, wisdom, caring, gratitude, and mutual respect. These common denominators of the caregiving connection have helped people heal for centuries, he argues, and science bears out their importance. For example, research has shown that more empathic physicians help their patients open up about more vulnerable thoughts and adhere better to treatment plans, providing opportunities for better care.
Connection can affect our immune system as well, writes Rakel, stimulating self-healing mechanisms. In one study, patients whose physicians showed compassion and made a personal connection recovered from the common cold more quickly and had higher levels of immune cells than those whose physicians acted more formally and impersonally.
This might happen partly because expressing emotions verbally or nonverbally, rather than bottling them up, improves your immune function. So, it’s important that caregivers can provide a comfortable space for these vulnerable exchanges—both inside and outside of their offices. For example, research has found that cancer patients who participate in peer support groups tend to live longer—likely because the comfort of a sympathetic social group reduces their stress levels, which in turn affects their immune system.
Rakel describes how compassion benefits not only recipients, but also caregivers, by improving their physical and emotional health and strengthening their immune system. Positive feelings from compassion can also help caregivers overcome burnout. Likewise, volunteering has been shown to help buffer the effects of stress on one’s health—at least for those who generally hold positive views of other people.
How do compassionate connections work? We are biologically wired for connection, which is necessary for our survival. Mirror neurons located in our brain, which fire when we perform a task or feel a particular emotion, also fire when we see others perform the same task or express the same emotion, perhaps facilitating empathy. That’s why a caregiver expressing confidence that a patient will get better encourages that patient to synch up with those feelings and believe she can heal, too.
Additionally, our bodies produce oxytocin—a molecule known as the “love hormone”—that promotes bonding and closeness among one another, starting with mothers and their newborn infants. When two people hug, the release of oxytocin can lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormone levels—important for healing, too.
As Rakel convincingly argues, this all points to the importance of using our human propensity to connect for healing.

How to connect as a caregiver

What can physicians and other caregivers do specifically to activate the power of compassionate connection? Rakel suggests these strategies.
Be present while employing mindful, “other-focused” listening. When listening to others, we may find ourselves preparing a response before they even finish—instead of being completely present and listening to their full story without an agenda. Or our minds may wander to other thoughts vying for our attention. What can help is quieting the mind, a skill that we can hone through reflective, contemplative mindfulness practices. This creates a space for others to feel comfortable opening up completely.

Recognize your biases and try to overcome them. Biases are the result of the experiences and perceptions that form our belief system and are not necessarily based on facts. Because biases can lead to assumptions about others, they may prevent us from forming true connections. For example, it may be tempting to cast off a rude and entitled nine year old as a “spoiled only child,” but there may be more to the story.
We can overcome biases with the help of mindfulness, including the practice of “beginner’s mind,” in which we approach a situation with a na├»ve attitude and without prior assumptions. Acknowledging that other people’s unique perspectives are shaped by their history of experiences can deter us from hastily projecting our own biases onto them. When we put aside our biases, we can begin to build trust with others.
Make sure your body language matches your (compassionate) words and tone.  Another way to show compassion is by keeping the conversation at someone’s eye level and appropriately employing friendly touch on the outer edges of their body. Additionally, mirroring another’s body positioning and posture can convey respect and establish trust.
Recognize and address caregiver burnout, which could hinder making connections. Burnout can result from the overexertion of empathy with another’s distress or from lack of self-care. In physicians, burnout can manifest as withdrawing from others and depersonalizing the patient into a “condition” or “case,” as they emotionally distance themselves from their patients as a protective measure. Fighting burnout requires a balance of self-care and care for others. As mentioned earlier, the positive feelings from compassion can help caregivers overcome burnout. Taking time to recharge and prioritize our own health will also help buffer against burnout.
When I was growing up, I did not dread going to my doctor’s no matter how sick I felt. I have lasting impressions of feeling validated and listened to, and I could never tell that my doctors had countless other concerns zipping through their minds. As a health care provider himself, Rakel recognizes that amidst the stresses of caregiving, it is sometimes easy to overlook the advantages of these compassionate interactions. But when caregivers focus on the person beyond the illness and genuinely connect with their patients, they may be engaging a more sustainable form of healing that benefits them both.