Mindful Meditation for Brain Health

Meditation is a form of alternative medicine that has been associated with a number of benefits, specifically to the individual’s mental health, such as decreased stress levels and improved mood. Mindfulness, in particular, is a form of meditation that involves intense concentration and focus on the present.

Mindful meditation requires awareness of one’s thoughts and actions in the present, putting aside all thoughts of the past and the future.

Meditation In Holistic Care

No matter who you are, or the stresses you have in your life, mediation is a sure-fire way to improve wellbeing. Those who mediate will attest to its powers and mediation masters can literally detach themselves from any type of chaos and outside noise by simply going into their minds and a meditative state.

Enlightenment is often experienced by those who mediate and is it brings them close to their internal feelings and who they are.

In holistic medicine, meditation is often used to treat those with anxiety, depression, and stress. It can help relax, calm and give a truly 100% natural and effective treatment method that has many health benefits.

Here are some key points to remember when performing mindful meditation:

• Be aware of your own breathing pay attention to the sensation of air entering your nostrils and leaving your mouth, and the rise and fall of your belly.
• Let each thought come and go, without suppressing or ignoring each of them. Stay calm and focus on your breathing.
• If you get distracted, simply follow your thoughts without being too hard on yourself.

Mindful Meditation Evidenced-Based Study

A recent study published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” online journal suggested that a few hours of mindful meditation or integrative body-mind training can help improve mood, self-control, and response to stress.

The study, which was published on June 11, 2012, involved 68 undergraduates from the Dalian University of Technology in China. The students were divided into relaxation training and meditation training groups. Each of the group underwent either a 30-minute relaxation training or integrative body-mind training over a period of two weeks, totaling 5 hours of training for each group.

Researchers of this study have found changes in the brain’s “white matter”- a part of the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex after performing mindful meditation after just a short period. These changes weren’t observed in the brains of those who underwent relaxation training. None of the participants from both groups had any previous meditation training experience.

A non-invasive, MRI-based technology known as diffusion tensor imaging was used to see the white matter in the brains of the students, together with other imaging technology that measures the white matter’s ability to adapt and change.

The researchers focused on certain areas of the brain that were most susceptible to these physical changes, and measured these areas before and after mindful meditation training.

The white matter is an area in the brain that affects how it learns, and coordinates and relays information among the various brain regions. According to the authors, understanding the white matter with training, learning, and human development can potentially prevent various mental conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, depression, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and even addiction, disorders that all involved the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain.

The most common problem with meditation, just like with any other alternative form of medicine is that scientific evidence is often lacking.

People who have practiced meditation may have been “conditioned” to feel positive about the therapy, and thus have responded favorably to the training.

This study, however, offers a quantifiable result that is actually based on scientific evidence. Because the real structural changes that the brain went through were observed and measured, this discovery study opens up a number of new possibilities in the world of alternative medicine.

 

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How Yoga Can Improve Women’s Health

Yoga has been a cultural buzzword for almost a century. Its practices and techniques have made claims to affect everything from blood circulation to insomnia. Whether by a friend’s anecdote or through a new story shared on a Facebook feed, women have heard of this practice. There are benefits to women’s health through the practice of yoga exercises.

What is Yoga?

It is important, however, to define exactly what “yoga” is, as definitions and practices can vary wildly.

The most common exercise practiced in the West is called Hatha Yoga, (though many other disciplines exist), which originated in India 2,000 years ago. Yoga made its first large-scale appearance in the Western world in the late 18th century and since then has become a wide umbrella of techniques from different religious backgrounds.

It wavered in and out of the culture for a few decades but became a permanent fixture in the 1980s, when Dean Ornish popularized the technique for purely physical benefits. While some conservative groups still frown on the practice, it has become a cultural norm since this time.

Today more than 20 million Americans practice yoga and many more millions around the world.

Holistic Benefits of Yoga

Geeta S. Lyengar believes that due to her study of yoga, she was able to overcome a childhood disease without medication, even after spending four days unconscious in a nursing home with severe nephritis.

She also studied the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu holy book, fervently and practiced meditation as well. Iyengar wrote largely of the holistic benefits of yoga.

She stated that it is a culture of:
• External and internal cleanliness
• Dietary control
• Proper exercise of the limbs and organs
• Physical and mental poise
• Rest

However, she also cited its ability to help women specifically, especially in childbirth, menstruation, and menopause. It can be an art, science, and philosophy or depending on the practitioner, none of the above.

More secular sources like the American College of Sports Medicine have called it an inwards and outward transition. How much of it is used in lifestyle versus physical exercise varies widely with each person who practices these poses, but common sense says that changing things like diets and cleanliness will improve lifestyle.

Health Benefits Of Yoga

Yoga has been cited by scholarly sources to show improvement of common ailments for women, including the American College of Sports Medicine.

Many Benefits Of Yoga

• Yoga improves flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance.

• It teaches the practitioner to reduce stress and better cope with stress.

• Yoga teaches mindfulness by shifting awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that naturally go with a particular pose.

• A study from Duke University Medical Center showed that yoga benefits those who suffer from mental disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety

• Yoga promotes good sleep and ease anxiety.

• Practicing yoga in a class setting promotes the production of oxytocin in the brain a feel good hormone that naturally promotes wellness. Something that is especially useful for aging women.

• Yoga along with meditation also results in higher serotonin levels, which is the mood boosting happiness hormone that can boost quality of life and general contentment.”

• Couples often turn to yoga to increase chances of conception. Yoga promotes relaxation and reduces stress in the mother to be, both of which improve chances of conception. Yoga also plays a role in promoting blood flow to the reproductive organs, which improves organ function and hormone function.

• Posture improves because yoga strengthens the core.

• Yoga helps build lean muscle tone.

• Quality time in a class setting allows for social interaction, comradery and an emotional connection to others, which improves a woman emotional health helping to improve her physical health and cut risk for heart disease.

• Being aware of and knowing how to stretch core muscle groups can be beneficial in managing menstrual cramps and childbirth without medication. They are also used in back strengthening techniques in older women at risk of osteoporosis.

• Core strength improves with yoga. Using yoga to strengthen core muscles can increase flexibility in women, which can improve overall health as well as comfort during pregnancy. These techniques are also valuable in sports practiced more often by women such as gymnastics and cheerleading.

• Proper breathing techniques have been used to help women in childbirth for decades. It can also be used to relieve anxiety and help with insomnia.

There is also evidence, though less conclusive, that yoga can benefit those under more severe ailments:

• Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Though yoga cannot change the physical consequences of cancer, many have reported a higher quality of life after practicing these techniques regardless of the severity of their condition.

• Depression: No conclusive evidence has been made, but the physical act of stretching and communicating with others in a class setting can help improve quality of life and ease mild depression.

Yoga can have positive effects on overall health as well as some specific disorders. Injuries are rare, and there is little equipment or training needed. It is easy to find certified yoga instructors at the local gym, or by visiting the site one of the most recognized organizations, Yoga Alliance. It can give women the extra punch they need to be in excellent overall health.

A Beginning Guide To Yoga

 

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The Dangers of Energy Drinks

 

I think we have all had one of those days where it seems no matter what we do we cannot stay awake. Whether you have a new job, new baby, or are battling insomnia, an energy drink can seem like the perfect solution to your drowsy woes.
I am going to stop you right there. Before you reach for that brightly colored can of energy, I urge you to brew yourself a cup of green tea and read this article. The green tea will give you as much caffeine as you can get from a cup of a naturally caffeinated product and has a lot of other health benefits, but back to energy drinks.
Labeling
If you have ever looked at the back of a can of coffee or tea, you will see a nutrition label clearly stating what is contained in the coffee or tea. Now when you turn over an energy drink, the nutrition label is missing, and it is replaced with a supplement facts panel, while these two labels look very similar, and to consumers, there may seem like there is no difference at all.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. U.S. News points out that while nutrition labels are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the supplement industry isn’t. They have little oversight about what they must show about their products. Many energy drinks don’t disclose all the stimulants that go into the product and will often list a “proprietary blend.”
This means that you can be drinking dangerous amounts of stimulants, or even stimulants that interact with your current medications and not even know it.
The Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration reports that emergency room visits connected to energy drinks doubled in numbers from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,783 visits in 2011.
Drug Interactions
While many of the stimulants that make it into energy drinks do so for their caffeine content, don’t let that make you think there won’t be any drug interactions. Caffeineinformer.com is a compact source of information that shows some of the severe interactions that caffeine can have with common prescription medications. If you are drinking energy drinks and taking prescription medication, you want to discuss possible interaction with your pharmacologist or doctor.
In addition to caffeine interactions, unlisted ingredients inside the “proprietary blends” of energy drinks may cause interactions with medications. It is always wise to steer clear of these drinks when taking medications.
Heart Health
The amount of caffeine in most energy drinks can cause heart problems like atrial fibrillation and increased blood pressure. There are warnings on most energy drinks not to consume more than one energy drink a day, and those warnings stem from the increased number of cardiac cases seen due to the consumption of energy drinks. According to Medicaldaily.com when people consume energy drinks in excess physicians who see unexplained altered cardiac patterns should look to energy drinks as the source of the problem.
Prenatal Health
One unfortunate effect of the increase of energy drink consumption is the increased rates of late miscarriages, stillbirths, and low birth-weight babies. According to Express, caffeine in women can be much more serious because they often do not find out they are pregnant until the damage to the fetus has already been done.
Other Adverse Effects
• Alteration of perception of fatigue and pain, which means that a person might push themselves past their natural limits
• Marked hypoglycemia (low calcium levels in the blood serum)
• An increased risk of arterial hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes in adults, which reduces Insulin sensitivity
• High amounts of caffeine can result in negative effects on the neurological and cardiovascular systems in teens and kids, which can cause physical dependence and addiction
• Tachycardia, agitation, irritability, nervousness, and insomnia in doses as little as 50 mg of caffeine are seen. Caffeine toxicity presents in a similar fashion to amphetamine poisoning and can include cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and psychosis.

The World Health Organization reports ample research that links consumption of energy drinks with high-risk behavior, such as combining them with alcohol. One study of US College students discovered that the combination of alcohol and energy drinks resulted in a higher chance of adverse reactions as compared to drinking alcohol only.
Are These Drinks Worth The Risks?
These reasons alone should be enough to get anyone to reconsider their next energy drink buy. Unfortunately, as a society, we may have to put energy drinks into the categories of alcohol and tobacco, as a controlled substance, before anyone decides to do anything about it.
Two states are already trying to control the risks of energy drink damage to minors The State of Illinois and a county in the state of New York proposed legislation in 2013 to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors. The House of Representatives in Illinois let the bill die on the floor in 2014.
We may have a long way to go in order to regulate the sell of energy drinks in our states and local jurisdictions, but one thing is for sure. These drinks do have inherent dangers that should never be taken lightly.

 

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