Fasting diets may boost brain power

Herbs and Helpers

Intermittent fasting led to more neuron growth in mice

In starvation mode, the body switches energy sources from the liver to fat cells

Fat cells contain ketones which stimulate brain cell growth, improving learning, memory and cognition in mice

While the cell growth happens between fasting, the mice were more alert and showed more brain activity than average while they were fasting, too

Intermittent fasting may provide your brain with more energy, improving memory and learning capabilities, according to a new study.

Researchers from the National Institute on Aging found that when mice were fed every other day, they grew more neurons and synaptic connections, improving their cognitive functions.

The new findings support previous research showing the health benefits of fasting for age-related and cardiovascular diseases.

During intermittent fasting, the body switches energy sources from glucose, made in the liver, to fat cells, which stimulate activity and cell growth in the brain, according to the study.

The body runs off of the liver’s energy stores for about 10 to 14 hours in humans, says Mark Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute of Aging.

‘When those stores are out, human, as well as animal bodies switch to fat stores, which are converted into compounds called ketones in the blood.

The principle is essentially the same one behind popular keto diets, which also put the body in a ‘starvation’ state, encouraging it to draw on fat cells – rather than glucose – for energy.

‘Ketones act directly on the nerve cells to stimulate production of BDNF’ – a key protein to neuron growth – ‘and may help optimize cognition, learning and memory building,’ says Dr Mattson.

The result, which he and his team observed in mice, is better mental function, lasting a week or two.

‘It’s a little like exercise,’ he says, ‘if you don’t keep doing it, you lose the effects.’

In fact, the phenomenon is analogous to exercise in number of ways.

‘If you think in terms of aging…say between ages 30 and 40 you did exercise, then, you quit. You still accrue benefits in sort of delaying the onset of age-related disease,’ Dr Mattson says.

The same may be true for regular bouts of intermittent fasting for mental functioning, but research has yet to bear the theory out.

Simply eating less will not have the same effects, however.

We evolved to eat intermittently, and it’s important that the brain function well – perhaps even optimally – when we haven’t been able to eat for an extended time period Dr Mark Mattson, neuroscience laboratory chief at the National Institute on Aging

‘People who eat three meals a day but have an overall relatively low calorie intake – between 1,800 and 2,000 every time they eat a meal – replenish their liver energy stores.

‘So they may go six hours between meals, but that’s not enough to elevate ketones,’ says Dr Mattson.

In animal studies, like his, the benefits of fasting were ‘independent of overall calorie intake,’ he says, but the ‘metabolic switch from glucose use to ketones, we think, is really important to the health benefits.’

The crucial neuron growth happens in the ‘resting’ period between fasting bouts, but there are brain benefits during the scarce times as well.

The mice in the study were more alert and showed more activity in the areas of their brains responsible for learning and memory during the fasting period. This is an important survival function.

‘One would assume that in evolution, individuals whose brains did not function well in fasting state were likely not to survive,’ says Dr Mattson, ‘so, we evolved to eat intermittently, and it’s important that the brain function well – perhaps even optimally – when we haven’t been able to eat for an extended time period.’

Dr Mattson says that the every-other-day fasting his team used for the mice probably wouldn’t work for people, but previous research has shown that subjects adjust relatively easily to the increasingly popular 5:2 fasting regimen, which requires two days of fasting each week.

Another ongoing study is now measuring how intermittent fasting on the 5:2 plan might be beneficial for obese people who are ‘at risk of cognitive impairment because of their ages and metabolic statuses,’ says Dr Mattson.

Source: Daily Mail

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8 Essential Oils to Help with Emotional Healing

Herbs and Helpers

Aromatherapists and natural medicine practitioners know that high quality essential oils can have dramatic effects on the mood of their clients. But, are the mood-enhancing effects of essential oils all in the head? Well, that depends on whether you mean the placebo effect or brain hormone balancers. A growing body of research shows that the mood-improving effects of essential oils is not all in the mind of the person experiencing the transformation, but the result of balancing hormones, particularly brain hormones like serotonin or adrenal hormones like cortisol.

Bergamot

The distinct flavor and aroma that gives Earl Grey tea its uniquely delightful experience can also improve your mental and emotional states. That’s because the oil that gives the tea its characteristic scent, bergamot, has also been found to reduce the hormone that is linked to high stress states, known as cortisone. Research shows that bergamot essential oil can lower anxiety and stress while also balancing cortisol levels, more than what rest alone can achieve.

Cedar

Cedar essential oil won’t just keep the moths away, it may also keep the blues at bay. That’s because research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that inhalation of cedar essential oil during monotonous work reduced the markers of stress and improved hormone balance.

Clary Sage

Frequently used by aromatherapists to balance hormones in women, research in the medical journal Phytotherapy Research validates this traditional use. The study found that exposure to the natural scent clary sage increased the happiness hormone serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) while simultaneously reducing the stress hormone cortisol in menopausal women. The researchers concluded that clary sage essential oil had an anti-depressant-like effect on the women.

Frankincense

The resinous essential oil of frankincense contains a powerful therapeutic substance known as boswellic acid, which has been found in the study Molecular Neurobiology to reduce brain and nerve inflammation. Brain inflammation has been linked to depression.

Geranium

Geranium has been found to be helpful in emotional healing linked to imbalanced hormones during perimenopause. Perimenopause is the time of a woman’s life when she starts experiencing menstrual changes up to 10 years prior to menopause. In a study published in the journal Neuro-Endocrinology Letters, researchers found that the essential oil’s effectiveness may be linked to its ability to restore falling estrogen levels during perimenopause.

Lavender

Lavender essential oil has been used to promote feelings of wellbeing, lift depression and ease anxiety, and plentiful research confirms that these mood-enhancing and emotional balancing effects are at least in part due to lavender’s effects on the brain. According to research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology to bind to serotonin receptor sites in the brain thereby reducing anxiety and improving our feelings of wellbeing.

Orange

Here’s a small but interesting study published in the medical journal Physiology & Behavior. Researchers divided study participants in a dental office into two groups: those who were subjected to orange essential oil prior to dental treatments and those who were not subjected to the smell of any oil before their dental appointments. People were evaluated and those who inhaled orange oil prior to their treatment had lower levels of anxiety, increased calmness and a better mood than the others.

Vetiver

Research in the medical journal Natural Products Research explored the effects of vetiver essential oil compared to the drug diazepam in its ability to reduce anxiety. Inhalation of vetiver essential oil had a comparable effect to the anti-anxiety drug. However, vetiver has not been linked to the lengthy list of side-effects of diazepam, including: lack of muscle coordination, stomach pain, headaches, confusion, blurry vision or the feelings of sadness or discouragement.

When it comes to essential oils, you usually get what you pay for. Cheap oils are often extended with artificial or other ingredients, making them have only negligible therapeutic benefits, if any at all. Worse than that, some cheap oils have been found to contain harmful ingredients and are best avoided.

Diffusing high quality essential oils in the air is one of the best ways to reap the beneficial effects of these powerful natural medicines. Burners are best avoided since the heat can damage the delicate oils, change their molecular structure or cause them to smoke. Add 5 to 8 drops of the oil or oils of your choice to a diffuser and diffuse for up to an hour.

Source: Care2

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Eating bitter leaf good for treating prostate enlargement —Expert

Herbs and Helpers

If you are worried about those frequent dashes or are marked difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate, it is time to include bitter leaf in your diet.

Scientists have identified bitter leaf as one of the many natural recipes for ameliorating mild to moderate lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men with enlarged prostate.

In the laboratory, scientists found that Prostate specific antigen (PSA) concentrations significantly decreased in the group fed diets incorporated with bitter leaf.

The study, which investigated the effect of dietary incorporation of Vernonia amygdalina and Vernonia colorata on prostatic and testicular functions, was carried out in rats.

About 1000 varieties of bitter leaf have been identified including Vernonia amygdalina and Vernonia colorata. Vernonia colorata is commonly called “sweet bitter leaf” in Nigeria.

It is relatively less bitter compared to Vernonia amygdalina and therefore requires less processing methods. In Nigeria, the Edo calls it “Oriwo”, Hausas- “Shiwakar daji”, Igbos -”Onugbu anara” and Yorubas -”ewuro oko”.

Research evidence has demonstrated the efficacy of Vernonia species in treating and ameliorating various diseases. Traditional herbal medicine has used bitter leaf for the treatment of diabetes, constipation, stomach ache, prevent malaria, treat skin infections and regulate the blood’s cholesterol level, among others.

The study indicated that at 10 per cent of dietary incorporation of these leafy vegetables, Vernonia amygdalina demonstrated a stronger efficacy than Vernonia colorata in lowering blood testosterone concentrations and PSA.

Also, recorded was a reduction in Prostatic acid phosphatase (PACP) concentrations and weight of the testicles, all suggesting that bitter leaf, irrespective of its variety may have beneficial properties in the management of prostatic conditions.

Fifteen male albino rats aged 16 weeks old were involved in the study that lasted for three weeks. Parameters tested for included daily body weight and testosterone level, Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and Prostatic acid phosphatase (PACP) concentrations.

The researchers linked the reduction in testosterone concentrations to the chemical contents in bitter leaf affecting the process by which cholesterol is produced in the body.

The 2016 study, published in the Nigerian Society for Experimental Biology, involved Ifeoma Irene Ijeh; Agatha C. Ekeleme-Egedigwe; Benedict C. Opara; and Udochukwu Ahaiwe.

Testosterone and its derivatives are a class of s3x steroid hormones which in males, stimulate and control the development and ensure the maintenance of male characteristics, including growth and function of the prostate.

The researchers suggested that based on their findings that bitter leaf could be deployed in the prevention and treatment of prostatic dysfunctions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer,

They, however, declared that further studies will still need to be conducted to ascertain how extracts of bitter leaf helps with problems in the prostate.

Previously, experts have also indicated that the inclusion of pumpkin seeds in men’s diet would also serve the purpose of managing enlarged prostate. They found that intake of a diet rich in pumpkin seeds can cause a reduction in the prostate.

The plant’s young shoots and leaves of fluted pumpkin, what is commonly referred to as Ugu (Aporoko in Yoruba), are the main ingredients of a Nigerian soup, edikang ikong.

This was carried out by Chukwunonso C. Ejike and Lawrence Ezeanyika and published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines.

In addition, studies have shown five cups of tea a day can relieve the effects of enlarged prostate as well as delay its symptoms. Green tea has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, helping to defend the bladder against infection.

Other food items protective of the prostate are Dacryodes edulis fruit (local pear), Moringa oleifera, clove, tomatoes, citrus fruits, Soursop (Annona muricata), soya beans and chili pepper.

Moreover, scientists have also identified Pygeum africanum and Urtica dioica to help improve urinary function in men with enlarged prostate.

Pygeum africanum (African plum tree or bitter almond) is called emi or olowomefa in Yoruba, ka’danya in Hausa and osisi in Ibo. Urtica dioica (nettle, big string nettle, common nettle, stinging nettle) is called agbara or akuwa in Igbo and ewe esinsin or esisi in Yoruba.

Source: Nigerian Tribune

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Acupuncture Outmatches Drug For IBS

Herbs and Helpers

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are found effective for the alleviation of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Two independent investigations confirm that acupuncture, as a standalone therapy, or acupuncture combined with the herbal formula Si Shen Wan (Four Miracle Pill) is safe and effective. Additionally, investigators confirm that acupuncture is more effective than loperamide, a synthetic opiate used to control diarrhea by inhibiting peristalsis (wavelike intestinal constriction and relaxation).

Heilongjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital researchers determined that acupuncture, as a standalone therapy, produces a 92.19% total effective rate for the treatment of IBS. A group receiving loperamide plus Si Shen Wan achieved a 72.88% total effective rate. The acupuncture group outperformed the drug plus herbs group by 19.39%. The total effective rate includes all patients that completely recovered or those that had significant relief of symptoms with less frequency of IBS and improved daily life activity functioning.

In an independent investigation, Chongqing Nanchuan Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital researchers determined that acupuncture plus Si Shen Wan is more effective than loperamide plus Si Shen Wan. Acupuncture plus Si Shen Wan was significantly more effective for the reduction of abdominal pain and discomfort and also for controlling bouts of excessive bowel movement frequency than loperamide plus Si Shen Wan. Acupuncture plus herbs was also successful in improving stool consistency and appearance, bloating, and fecal incontinence whereas the drug plus herbs group did not show significant improvements in these areas.

An SF-6 health survey (a variant of the SF-36), reveals that acupuncture plus herbs produces additional advantages over drugs plus herbs. Acupuncture plus herbs significantly improves the following: vitality, bodily pain levels, role limitations due to physical health, physical functioning, role limitations due to emotional health, mental health, social functioning. The drugs plus herbs group showed more modest improvements that were limited to only two of these areas of health: bodily pain levels, role limitations due to physical health.

An IBS-QOL (disease specific questionnaire) demonstrates additional advantages to acupuncture over drugs. Acupuncture plus herbs produced significant improvements in the following areas: interference with activity, dysphoria, health concern, body image, food avoidance. Drugs plus herbs produced a minor benefit for food avoidance only.

Heilongjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital

Let’s take a closer look at the study from Heilongjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital where acupuncture, as a standalone therapy, produced a 92.19% total effective rate and loperamide plus Si Shen Wan produced a 72.88% total effective rate. A total of 123 IBS patients participated in the clinical trial. They were diagnosed for treatment at Heilongjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital between January 2014 and December 2015. They were randomly divided into two groups: 64 patients in the acupuncture treatment group and 59 patients in the drug control group. The age, gender, and duration of illness for both groups at the inception of the study were equivalent (P > 0.05) to ensure fairness of results. The following primary acupoints were selected for the acupuncture treatment group:

Baihui (GV20)
Taichong (LV3)
Tianshu (ST25)
Zusanli (ST36)
Yintang (MHN3)
Sanyinjiao (SP6)
Shangjuxu (ST37)

Size 0.30 mm x 30 mm acupuncture needles were used for scalp and glabella acupoints and 0.30 mm x 40 mm acupuncture needles were used for all other acupoints. Except for Tianshu, needles were manipulated after insertion and were then retained for 30 minutes. During needle retention, needles were manipulated every 10 minutes. Manipulation techniques differed among acupoints. For Zusanli and Sanyinjiao, rotating and lifting (Ti Cha Nian Zhuan) with reinforcement (bu) was used. For Taichong and Shangjuxu, rotating and lifting with attenuation (xie) was used. For Baihui and Yintang, rotating and lifting with mild reinforcement and attenuation (Ping Bu Ping Xie) was used. The manipulation time was 1 minute each session for each acupoint. For Tianshu, an acupoint nerve stimulator was attached to the needle upon arrival of deqi. The device was set to a constant wave at a frequency of 60 Hz. The needle was also retained for 30 minutes. One acupuncture session was conducted per day, 3–4 days per week. The total treatment period spanned 1 month.

Routine treatment for the control group consisted of loperamide capsules and Sishenwan pills. Loperamide capsules were orally ingested 3 times per day, 1 capsule each time, 30 minutes before meals. Sishenwan pills were orally ingested 2 times per day, 9 g each time. Routine treatment was administered for 1 month. The results indicate that acupuncture is more effective than loperamide plus Si Shen Wan for the treatment of IBS. Notably, Si Shen Wan was provided in pill form in this study whilst the following study provided the herbal formula in a decoction form for patients receiving acupuncture.

Chongqing Nanchuan Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital

The Chongqing Nanchuan Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital research compared two groups of patients taking the herbal formula Si Shen Wan; however, one group received acupuncture and the other group received loperamide for the treatment of IBS. The 28 day clinical trial used a symptom scale plus an SF-6 and IBS-QOL to calculate effective rates. The data supports the conclusion that acupuncture with herbs is significantly more effective than loperamide plus herbs. Notably, the group receiving acupuncture had marked improvements in IBS related scores (including abdominal pain, diarrhea, abnormal bowel movement activity) and holistic recovery scores (quality of life improvements).

The patients were randomly divided into two groups of 63, the acupuncture group and the drug group. To ensure the fairness and objectivity of the treatment results, patients were grouped randomly such that the age, gender and duration of illness for both groups were equivalent (P > 0.05). The following primary acupoints were selected for the acupuncture treatment group (on alternating sides of the body):

Shangjuxu (ST37)
Quchi (LI11)
Dachangshu (BL25)
Tianshu (ST25)

After disinfection, acupuncture needles were inserted into each acupoint with a two-handed insertion technique; based on the position of the acupoint, either nail pressing or skin stretching was used to insert the needle. The needles were then manipulated with rotating and lifting (Ti Cha Nian Zhuan), conforming to the reinforcement and attenuation (Ping Bu Ping Xie) principle. Upon achieving deqi, the needles were retained for 30 minutes without manipulation thereafter. One acupuncture session was administered per day for 28 days. The herbal decoction was comprised the following primary ingredients:

Baizhu (20 g)
Shanyao (15 g)
Baishao (15 g)
Chenpi (10 g)
Huangqin (10 g)
Chaihu (10 g)
Wumei (10 g)
Ganjiang (10 g)
Zhigancao (6 g)
Fangfeng (6 g)

Secondary ingredients were added based on individual symptoms. For severe diarrhea, the following herbs were added:

Baibiandou
Fuling

For severe constipation, the following herbs were added:

Yuliren
Binglang

For severe abdominal pain or bloating, the following herbs were added:

Yanhusuo
Zhiqiao
Foshou
Muxiang

For sticky stools, the following herbs were added:

Houpo
Cangzhu

The ingredients were decocted in water. The herbal medicine was ingested 2 times per day, 200 ml each time, for 28 days. The drug therapy group received loperamide capsules (Xian Janssen Pharmaceutical, Ltd.) and Sishenwan pills (Beijing Tong Ren Tang Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.). Loperamide capsules were orally ingested 3 times per day, 1 capsule each time, 30 minutes before meals. Sishenwan pills were orally ingested 2 times per day, 9 g each time. Treatment was administered for 28 days. During the treatment period, all patients were restricted from consuming raw, cold, greasy, and spicy foods. Regular mealtimes (3 times per day) were established and meal portions were controlled. Patients with constipation were advised to increase fiber intake. The study demonstrates that acupuncture plus herbs significantly outperforms loperamide plus herbs.

Summary

The independent investigations indicate that acupuncture is an important treatment option for patients with IBS. Acupuncture improves digestion, absorption, and regulates elimination. Patients are encouraged to contact local licensed acupuncturists to consult about treatment options.

References:

Bao CH, Huang RJ, Wang SS, et al. Research and future of moxibustion in treating IBS chronic internal pain analgesic effect [J]. China Tissue Engineering Research, 2015, (15): 2431-2435.

Chu HR, Wang ZH, Yang J, et al. Effect of moxibustion on special acupoints in treating IBS-D [J]. China Acupuncture, 2009, 29 (2): 111-113.

Cao XL, Lu M. Clinical research of Changkangfang formula in treating IBS [J]. Nanjing TCM University Newsletter, 2014, 30(3): 232-234.

Zhang BH, Gao X, Li ZH, et al. Specialist experience regarding TCM in treating IBS [J]. China Integrative Medicine Journal, 2013, 33(6): 757-760.

Zhang RH. Effect of acupuncture in treating elderly IBS and effect on blood IL-18, IL-23 and TNF-α [J]. China Geriatrics Journal, 2013, 33(6): 1435-1436.

Bei LX, Sun JH, Xia C, et al. Clinical research acupuncture in treating IBS-D of stagnated liver with deficient spleen [J]. Nanjing TCM University Newsletter, 2012, 28(1): 27-29.

Yao L, Fu L, Zhao SJ. Meta-analysis of effect of Chinese probiotics in treating IBS [J]. China TCM Symptomatic Treatment Journal, 2012, 12(5): 602-607.

Zhao HB, Fan XX, Wu XJ, et al. Clinical research on Jianpihouchang method with acupuncture in treating IBS-D from spleen and stomach dampness [J]. New TCM, 2013, 45(4): 124-127.

Li ZB. Analysis of effect of acupuncture in treating IBS [J]. China Village Health, 2015(12): 95.

Zhao C, Mu JP, Cui YH, et al. Meta-analysis of acupuncture in treating IBS [J]. China TCM Journal, 2010, 1(5): 961-963.

Li M, Zhang SM, Liu H. Overview of clinical research on acupuncture in treating IBS and discussion of acupoint selection [J]. Liaoning TCM University Newsletter, 2013, 15(3): 122-124.

Source: HealthCMI

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