Dr. Janet Tomiyama has been trying to figure out if eating because of stress works for us. Here is a summary of her findings:
- Rats were given access to comfort food — usually Crisco mixed with sugar!
- Researchers then stressed them out
- Over time, the comfort food actually dampened their stress hormones
- Dampened down their brain’s responsivity to stress
- Dampened down the signaling between the brain and the rest of the body, so they didn’t secrete as many stress hormones.”
We tend to be critical of people who eat because of stress BUT “Not just psychologically, but also biologically — people who do a lot of comfort eating tend to show a reduced level of stress hormones and stress.”
What’s happening, according to Tomiyama:
- “When you do anything that’s rewarding to you the reward parts of your brain light up — those parts of the brain can dampen down areas of your brain that are freaking out with negative emotion. And that’s why comfort foods tend to be foods that are high in sugar and fat. They’re really rewarding; they really do light up the reward centers of our brains.
- There’s also some work showing that when you do comfort eating, it builds up fat in your belly region and that fat pad sends a signal to your brain to decrease the amount of stress hormones that you’re producing.
- Then there’s conditioning. If throughout your whole life, you’ve paired stress relief with comfort foods over and over again, then soon enough, your body is going to automatically respond to eating these comfort foods with relaxation.
Many people have had the experience of being given comfort food to cheer us up as kids. Part of the comfort t then came from bing cared for but that became associated with the food, which now gives us comfort on its own.
“in addition to rodents, we also see comfort eating working in some non-human primate species as well. So my main take home from this is self-compassion: You’re not doing the comfort eating because you’re some sort of weak-willed human being; you’re biologically driven to do this. “ says Tomiyama.
What Tomiyama is trying to do now, is to see if healthy foods can also be comforting. Even in rat studies only unhealthy foods were used. Therein some data from surveys that say there are people who do use healthy foods for stress.
“Nobody stress-eats strawberries, do they?”
Actually, strawberries might work she reports. Anything sweet can dampen stress.
We’ll eat to that!
There is an ever-increasing body of research evidence that shows that meditation decreases stress, depression, and anxiety, reduces pain and insomnia, and increases quality of life.
One study looked at long-term meditators (seven to nine years of experience) versus a control group. “The results showed that those with a strong meditation background had increased gray matter in several areas of the brain, including the auditory and sensory cortex, as well as insula and sensory regions.”
“This makes sense, since mindfulness meditation has you slow down and become aware of the present moment, including physical sensations such as your breathing and the sounds around you.”
Neuroscientists also found that the meditators had more gray matter in the brain region, linked to decision-making and working memory: the frontal cortex. In fact, while most people see their cortexes shrink as they age, 50-year-old meditators in the study had the same amount of gray matter as those half their age.
Just to make sure this wasn’t because the long-term meditators had more gray matter to begin with, a second study was conducted in which they put people with no experience with meditation into an eight-week mindfulness program.
“Even just eight weeks of meditation changed people’s brains for the better. There was thickening in several regions of the brain, including the left hippocampus (involved in learning, memory, and emotional regulation); the TPJ (involved in empathy and the ability to take multiple perspectives); and a part of the brainstem called the pons (where regulatory neurotransmitters are generated).”
“Plus, the brains of the new meditators saw shrinkage of the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with fear, anxiety, and aggression. This reduction in size of the amygdala correlated to reduced stress levels in those participants.”
How long do you have to meditate to see such results?
“The study participants were told to meditate for 40 minutes a day, but the average ended up being 27 minutes a day. Several other studies suggest that you can see significant positive changes in just 15 to 20 minutes a day”
In 8 weeks my brain will look and act half its age . . . .if only meditating could do the same for my body . . .
Hot baths can releive pain
Dr. David Burke, head of Emory University’s Center for Rehabilitative Medicine.
1. Lowers High Blood Pressure
3. Treatment of Brain Injury
Another caution: these studies only followed men. Women could be different in their responses. So, if you are a woman, next time you are in pain, go try a hot bath and find out.
Tell everyone you are doing scientific research.
Just three weeks after conception, the embryonic brain generates a quarter of a million neurons every minute.
About 20% of the body’s energy is channelled to the brain, yet it remains staggeringly efficient, consuming less energy than a filament light bulb.
The human brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-twenties – much later than experts once thought.
The internal clock that controls sleepiness runs up to three hours ‘late’ in teenagers, although scientists aren’t quite sure why.
Even into old age neurons are still building new connections and circuits, maintaining our ability to adapt and learn.
Humans don’t learn to become terrified of spiders and snakes — we were hard-wired millions of years ago to fear them!
Apparently, as a scientific study* concludes, the spider/snake specific response conferred an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors- who were able to identify and react to the creatures more quickly.
- I used to be fearful of aliens coming to “get me”. I am pretty sure that the time it would have been useful for them to study me has passed.
- I used to be afraid that my mind would go before my body. Since watching the decline of my own parents I’m now fearful that my mind will NOT go before my body. It may be a blessing not to be aware of what my limitations are.
- I used to be fearful people wouldn’t like me. I now consider it a compliment that certain people don’t like me
I used to be fearful of snakes. I spent hours in my early 20’s watching snakes (behind a glass exhibit) noticing how beautiful their markings were, how incredible it was that they navigated their way with their tongue and how remarkable their ability to move was. I still am afraid of snakes. It’s hard-wired, you know.
- I used to be fearful of not getting good grades in school. I’ve got all the diplomas now I need . . .or want.
- I used to be terrified of dying. I’m not afraid of that since I’ve embraced the Baha’i belief about the celestial realm.
- I used to be fearful of never having a boy ask me to dance at high school dances. Now I fear that if anyone asked they’d find out I can’t dance
- I used to be afraid of heights. I took a Wilderness Course in my 30’s where we had to climb poles, walk across streams on tiny logs and fall backwards off ledges into people’s’ arms. I am still afraid of heights.
Hey! My list of fears has really been whittled down!
All I’m afraid of now is that there are snakes in heaven, I will be a dance instructor for eternity and that heaven is REALLY HIGH up.
What are . . . or were . . . your fears ?
I have little, VERY little, memories of my childhood or adolescence – or adulthood for that matter. It concerned me when a therapist colleague said that was an indication of repressed memory of probably horrible childhood trauma. Ai yiiii yiiiiii. Maybe I was beaten, or worse, and all these years believing I had nice parents.
I told a psychiatrist friend about my memory “affliction” thinking he would suggest decades of psycho-analysis at best and in-patient treatment at worst. He looked passively at me and without the slightest hesitation said, “All that indicates is your childhood was boring.”
This is one of my aha moments that I DO remember and spurred me to investigate the neuro-biology of emotion. What does that have to do with hang-over? Read on!
You already know without a doubt that most of your memories are ones that were highly emotional experiences.
“Emotional experiences can induce physiological and internal brain states that persist for long periods of time after the emotional events have ended, a team of New York University scientists has found. This study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also shows that this emotional “hangover” influences how we attend to and remember future experiences.”
“How we remember events is not just a consequence of the external world we experience, but is also strongly influenced by our internal states–and these internal states can persist and color future experiences,” explains Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and senior author of the study.”
“‘Emotion’ is a state of mind, . . . findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time.”’
” . . . data showed that the brain states associated with emotional experiences carried over for 20 to 30 minutes and influenced the way the subjects processed and remembered future experiences that are not emotional.”
“We see that memory for non-emotional experiences is better if they are encountered after an emotional event,” observes Davachi.
I’m so relieved! Not only wasn’t I beaten . . . or worse . . . the biggest hang-over I’ve experienced was the news I’ve led an exceptionally boring life.
To read the entire article, who the author are and the research behind it click HERE.