The Scoop in your Poop

You are what you eat

The nutrients from our diet impact every cell in our body: their function, structure and integrity. And now we know that the bacteria in our body can turn on and off certain metabolic pathways. Boosting the good bacteria in your colon while limiting the bad bacteria through diet could prevent or improve inflammatory conditions. 

Are we creating some diseases ourselves by the foods we eat?

The cells in our body are constantly dying off and new ones are being made. There’s some indication that the overgrowth of bad bacteria is changing the DNA in this process of cell development and creating  inflammatory conditions which include autoimmune disease like lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. Could the 23.5 million people in the U.S. with these conditions improve their symptoms through their diet?

Improving your gut microbiome

Jeff Leach, from the Human Food Project, states that even though understanding the gut microbiome is in the early stages of research, dietary fiber is very important. Dietary fiber feeds the good gut bacteria. Leach recommends:

  • Eat garlic and leeks. These are high in a prebiotic called inulin which feeds the good gut bacteria. Garlic also may kill some of the bad bacteria.
  • Eat more vegetables. Leach believes that they are the best source of fiber and that they should be eaten as whole as possible.
  • Boost your dietary fiber to as much as 50 gms daily in order to really change the gut microbiome. If you decide to do this, increase it gradually and boost your water intake.
  • Increase your intake of fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and yogurt.

 

An answer to improving and preventing autoimmune and other conditions might lie in dietary choices. 

http://groth.bangordailynews.com/2017/04/29/blog/carbs-and-obesity/the-inside-scoop-on-your-poop/

Bottling up your emotions can affect your immunity

We are no longer teenagers – in body if not spirit. Although this study was done on teens it applies to us SeenAgers because we were once teenagers who suppressed our emotions.  

Read on!

The coping skills teenagers develop by the time they are adolescents have the potential to impact their health later in life.  It’s not that health will be impacted in the short term but over decades could make a difference.

“That may be how small changes in metabolic or inflammatory outcomes may become associated with poorer health or a greater chance of developing a chronic disease later in life.”*.

The study** of 261 adolescents between 13 and 16 years old, explored whether the strategies adolescents used to deal with chronic stress caused by families affected various metabolic and immune processes in the body which included:

  • Cognitive reappraisal — trying to think of the stressor in a more positive way and
  • Suppression — inhibiting the expression of emotions in reaction to a stressor,

Teenagers who suppressed emotions tended to have more inflammation when their immune cells were exposed to a bacterial stimulus in the lab, even in the presence of anti-inflammatory signals.

Conversely, those who used cognitive reappraisal  had better metabolic measures, like blood pressure and waist-to-hip ratio.

Reappraising a situation during times of stress could be beneficial no matter our age.For a mild stressor, this can be as simple as reframing a bad situation by thinking about it as a challenge or an opportunity for growth:

SeenAge reframe: Being a Seenager is indeed a challenge and our expanding waist lines an opportunity for growth?

 

 

Stress – How to activate your own Placebo

We often don’t realize there are many placebo effects depending on what we think a treatment is going to do for us.  Examples:

  • Fake painkillers cause the release of natural painkillers in the brain called endorphins and work through the same biochemical pathway that an opiod painkiller would work through.
  • A Parkinson’s patient takes a placebo that they think is their Parkinson’s drug, they get a flood of dopamine in the brain, which is exactly what you would see with the real drug.
  • Altitude sickness – someone at altitude takes fake oxygen, there’s a reduction in prostaglandins which actually work to dilate blood vessels that cause many of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Placebo is NOT imaginary but creates biological changes in the brain that actually ease our symptoms and are very similar to the biological changes when we take drugs.

Some explanations for the placebo effect 

Stress and anxiety — if we feel that we are in danger or under threat, the brain raises its sensitivity to symptoms like pain. Whereas, if we feel safe and cared for and things are going to get better soon, we relax and are not so alert to symptoms.

Physiological mechanisms like conditioning*.   We can all be conditioned to have physiological responses to a stimulus, even immune responses. For example, take a pill that suppresses your immune system and on another occasion take a similar looking placebo pill, with no active drug, your body will mimic same immune response. Astonishingly, it doesn’t even matter if you know it’s a placebo.

Stress can rewire the brain — and create more stress

Like a muscle, the more you exercise any part the stronger it gets.

Brains are shaped by our thoughts and behaviors. Research shows your brain structure, neurochemical and electrical activity responds to and reflects how you think throughout your life.   For example: If you play a musical instrument, speak a second language, train for athletics for eight hours a day – the parts of your brain responsible for performing those activities gets more active and larger. 

If you’re thinking stressful thoughts for the whole day parts of the brain involved in the stress response get larger and other parts of the brain actually deteriorate.  Consequently, the very brain circuits we need to counter stress no longer work as well as they should.  

It’s not as simple as saying, “I’m going to change how I think now. I’m not feeling stressed.”  It takes a long time to change your brain. 

In the middle of your face – your personal placebo “pill” 

When stressed, the brain influences your body AND the body influences your brain.  The stress response speeds up your breathing to pump more oxygen when your brain perceives danger, either real or imaginary.  If you deliberately speed up your breathing when not stressed you’ll start to feel more aroused and on edge.  The opposite is true: Slow your breathing down, forcing your body into a more relaxed state.  Your brain responds with more calming thoughts and feelings.

Condition your own calming response using your breath . . . salivating optional.

* Ivan Pavlov, a physiologist, conditioned dogs so that whenever he gave them food he made a noise, like ring a bell.  Eventually the dogs associated the bell with their food and they would salivate just to the sound of the bell.

 

 

 

https://www.npr.org/

A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant, PhD. in genetics and medical microbiology

 

Pawsitively Tuesday – Catitude from Dr. Seuss

“Don’t cry because it’s over,

be happy because it happened”

Dr. Seuss

How to Help Fix a Broken Heart

Now a University of Colorado Boulder study finds that the placebo effect can reduce the intensity of social pain from a romantic breakup. It turns out that just believing you’re doing something to help yourself get over your ex can influence brain regions associated with emotional regulation and lessen the perception of pain.

(An aside from P & J:  It’s possible that placebo could generalize to any experienced loss.)

In our decades of psychotherapy practice we’ve seen that whether you are the one who wants to break up or the one who has been left is one of the most emotionally negative experiences a person can have. It also can be a trigger for developing psychological problems Social pain is associated with a 20-fold higher risk of developing depression in the coming year.*

Previous studies have shown that the placebo effect alone not only eases depression, but may actually make antidepressants work better.

The Study published in the Journal of Neuroscience:

“Researchers recruited 40 volunteers who had experienced an “unwanted romantic breakup” in the past six months. They were asked to bring a photo of their ex and a photo of a same-gendered good friend to a brain-imaging lab.”

“Inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, the participants were shown images of their former partner and asked to recall the breakup. Then they were shown images of their friend. They were also subjected to physical pain (a hot stimulus on their left forearm).”

“As these stimuli were alternately repeated, the subjects rated how they felt on a scale of one (very bad) to five (very good). Meanwhile, the fMRI machine tracked their brain activity.”

While not identical, the regions that lit up during physical and emotional pain were similar.

Here’s the Placebo:

“The subjects were then taken out of the machine and given a nasal spray. Half were told it was a “powerful analgesic effective in reducing emotional pain.” Half were told it was a simple saline solution.”

“Back inside the machine, the subjects were again shown images of their ex and subjected to pain. The placebo group not only felt less physical pain and felt better emotionally, but their brain responded differently when shown the ex.”  Activity in the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — an area involved with modulating emotions — increased sharply. Across the brain, areas associated with rejection quieted.

“Notably, after the placebo, when participants felt the best they also showed increased activity in an area of the midbrain called the periaqueductal gray (PAG). The PAG plays a key role in modulating levels of painkilling brain chemicals, or opioids, and feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine.  (While the study did not look specifically at whether the placebo prompted the release of such chemicals, the authors suspect this could be what’s happening.)”

“The current view is that you have positive expectations and they influence activity in your prefrontal cortex, which in turn influences systems in your midbrain to generate neurochemical opioid or dopamine responses.”**

“Just the fact that you are doing something for yourself and engaging in something that gives you hope may have an impact. In some cases, the actual chemical in the drug may matter less than we once thought.”**

The authors said the latest study not only helps them better understand how emotional pain plays out in the brain, but can also hint at ways people can use the power of expectation to their advantage.  “What is becoming more and more clear is that expectations and predictions have a very strong influence on basic experiences, on how we feel and what we perceive.”

“Know that your pain is real — neurochemically real.”

Bottom line, if you’ve been dumped (or been the dumpee), “Doing anything that you believe will help you feel better will probably help you feel better.”

 

*Dr. Leonie Koban, first author and postdoctoral research associate .

** Dr. Tor Wager, professor of psychology and neuroscience at University of Colorado, Boulder, senior author

Source: University of Colorado, Boulder/EurekAlert

 

Clues about autism may come from the gut

Bacterial flora inhabiting the human gut have become one of the hottest topics in biological research. Up to a quadrillion (1014) bacteria inhabit the human intestine, contributing to digestion, producing vitamins and promoting GI health.

Genes associated with human intestinal flora are 100 times as plentiful as the body’s human genes, forming what some have referred to as a second genome. Various environmental factors can destabilize the natural microbiome of the gut, including antibiotics and specific diets. Hundreds of species inhabit the gut, and although most are beneficial, some can be very dangerous.  They are implicated in a range of important activities including:

  • Digestion
  • Fine-tuning body weight
  • Regulating immune response
  • Producing neurotransmitters that affect brain and behavior

“The prevalence of Autism in children exceeds juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer and pediatric AIDS combined. In terms of severe developmental ailments affecting children and young adults, autism is one of the most common, striking about 1 in 50 children. The disorder — often pitiless and perplexing — is characterized by an array of physical and behavioral symptoms including anxiety, depression, extreme rigidity, poor social functioning and an overall lack of independence.”

Researchers have been looking at the connection of gut bacteria and many diseases and conditions.  Autism is of interest because autistic children have a lot of gastrointestinal problems that can last into adulthood.  Studies have shown that when these GI problems are managed, autistic behavior dramatically improves.

“The current study confirmed these suspicions, and found that children with autism had significantly fewer types of gut bacteria, probably making them more vulnerable to pathogenic bacteria. Autistic subjects also had significantly lower amounts of three critical bacteria, Prevotella, Coprococcus, and Veillonellaceae.

Controversy surrounds the apparent explosive rise in autism cases. Heightened awareness of autism spectrum disorders and more diligent efforts at diagnosis must account for some of the increase, yet many researchers believe a genuine epidemic is occurring. In addition to hereditary components, Western-style diets and overuse of antibiotics at an early age may be contributing to the problem by lowering the diversity of the gut microflora.

Lower diversity of gut microbes was positively correlated with the presence of autistic symptoms in the study. The authors stress that bacterial richness and diversity are essential for maintaining a robust and adaptable bacterial community capable of fighting off environmental challenges. “We believe that a diverse gut is a healthy gut,” Krajmalnik-Brown says.

 

Clues About Autism May Come from the Gut

Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, Dae-Wook Kang and Jin Gyoon Park are researchers at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4359272/

What Cirque du Soleil can tell us about the neuroscience of awe

“Fans and critics alike have been calling our shows ‘awe-inspiring’ for more than 30 years now, and yet when we asked fans as marketers, ‘How do you feel? How do we connect with you?’ they were not able to explain it,” says Cirque du Soleil’s chief marketing and experience officer Kristina Heney. “We would get the proverbial world cloud of ‘Oh, my god, wow, you have to go, amazing, life-changing,’ but we couldn’t understand that emotional bridge.”

Neuroscience defines awe as: first there is surprise, then comes a sense of wonder and a desire to understand the surprise.

Cirque du Critteres by Peggy

A group of neuroscientists, artists, and technologists at Lab of Misfits, an experimental research lab, looked at what happens in people’s brains as they watched a Cirque du Soleil show. They recruited 282 members of the audience and put EEG caps on 60 of them.

 The caps measured neurological responses during the show.

  • The moment the audience member reported experiencing awe, brain activity in their prefrontal cortexes (The part of the brain that is in charge of “executive function”, which makes plans and decisions.) decreased. They were not focusing, but were taking in what was happening. 
  • Simultaneously, activity increased in the part of the brain that is active when you are daydreaming or imagining. (The part associated with creative thinking).

The audience recruits who did not wear the caps were given several test, some before the show, some after and asked to rate the awe they felt during the show.  Those who experienced awe reported:

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology and director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley who studies awe:

 “We’ve got a lot of findings in that vein. Humans have to fold into social collectives. It’s essential to our survival, and awe helps us with that. Empirically, we find people feeling awe are more humble, and their sense of self diminishes, their sense of network expands, they become more altruistic. They have a quieting of self-interest and a turning to people around them.”

“We define awe as having two key appraisals, which is how we ascribe meaning to what we’re perceiving,” Keltner said. “The first is a sense of vastness that makes you feel small, and then the second is when you don’t understand what’s happening.

cirque-du-soleil-lab-of-misfits-neuroscience-awe

 

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