The 4-7-8 Method That Could Help You Sleep

The 4-7-8 Method That Could Help You Sleep

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
Falling asleep or coming down from anxiety might never be as easy as 1-2-3, but some experts believe a different set of numbers — 4-7-8 — comes much closer to doing the trick.
The 4-7-8 technique is a relaxation exercise that involves breathing in for four counts, holding that breath for seven counts and exhaling for eight counts, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, via email.

Also known as the “relaxing breath,” 4-7-8 has ancient roots in pranayama, which is the yogic practice of breath regulation, but was popularized by integrative medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Weil in 2015.

“What a lot of sleep difficulties are all about is people who struggle to fall asleep because their mind is buzzing,” said Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate scientist in the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “But exercises like the 4-7-8 technique give you the opportunity to practice being at peace. And that’s exactly what we need to do before we go to bed.”

“It does not ‘put you to sleep,’ but rather it may reduce anxiety to increase likelihood of falling asleep,” said Joshua Tal, a New York state-based clinical psychologist.

How 4-7-8 works

The 4-7-8 method doesn’t require any equipment or specific setting, but when you’re initially learning the exercise, you should sit with your back straight, according to Weil. Practicing in a calm, quiet place could help, said Robbins. Once you get the hang of it, you can use the technique while lying in bed.

During the entire practice, place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth, as you’ll be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue. Then follow these steps, according to Weil:

  • Completely exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and quietly inhale through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for a count of eight.
  • Repeat the process three more times for a total of four breath cycles.


Keeping to the ratio of four, then seven and then eight counts is more important than the time you spend on each phase, according to Weil.

“If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep the ratio (consistent) for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply,” his website advised.

What research shows

When you’re stressed out, your sympathetic nervous system — responsible for your fight-or-flight response — is overly active, which makes you feel overstimulated and not ready to relax and transition into sleep, Dasgupta said. “An active sympathetic nervous system can cause a fast heart rate as well as rapid and shallow breathing.”

The 4-7-8 breathing practice can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system — responsible for resting and digesting — which reduces sympathetic activity, he added, putting the body in a state more conducive to restful sleep. Activating the parasympathetic system also gives an anxious brain something to focus on besides “why am I not sleeping?” Tal said.

While proponents may swear by the method, more research is needed to establish clearer links between 4-7-8 and sleep and other health benefits, he added.

“There is some evidence that 4-7-8 breathing helps reduce anxious, depressive and insomniac symptoms when comparing pre- and post-intervention, however, there are no large randomized control trials specifically on 4-7-8 breathing to my knowledge,” Tal said. “The research on (the effect of) diaphragmatic breathing on these symptoms in general is spotty, with no clear connection due to the poor quality of the studies.”

A team of researchers based in Thailand studied the immediate effects of 4-7-8 breathing on heart rate and blood pressure among 43 healthy young adults. After participants had these health factors and their fasting blood glucose measured, they performed 4-7-8 breathing for six cycles per set for three sets, interspersed with one minute of normal breathing between each set. Researchers found the technique improved participants’ heart rate and blood pressure, according to a study published in July.

When researchers have observed the effects of breathing techniques like 4-7-8 breathing, they have seen an increase in theta and delta brain waves, which indicate someone is in the parasympathetic state, Robbins said. “Slow breathing like the 4-7-8 technique reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and improves pulmonary function.”

What to expect

The 4-7-8 technique is relatively safe, but if you’re a beginner, you could feel a little lightheaded at first, Dasgupta said. “Normal breathing is a balance between breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. When you upset this balance by exhaling more than you inhale, (it) causes a rapid reduction in carbon dioxide in the body,” he said. “Low carbon dioxide levels lead to narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. This reduction in blood supply to the brain leads to symptoms like lightheadedness. This is why it is often recommended to start slowly and practice three to four cycles at a time until you are comfortable with the technique.”

The more you practice the 4-7-8 technique, the better you’ll become, and the more your body and mind will incorporate it into your usual roster of tools for managing stress and anxiety, Dasgupta said. Some people combine this method with other relaxation practices such as progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, mindfulness or meditation.

Unmanaged stress can rear its head in the form of sleep difficulties, Robbins said. “But when we can manage our stress over the course of the day (and) implement some of these breathing techniques, we can put ourselves in the driver’s seat instead of being victim to events that happen in our lives.”


Contributor: Kristen Rogers, CNN Health

New Series: Know Your Body – The Endocrine System

New Series: Know Your Body – The Endocrine System

Claremont Colonic Clinic Newsletter
It’s probably been years, even decades since we learned just how our bodies function for optimal health. Our new, Know Your Body series serves as a quick reminder and overview of how they work and what we can do to ensure were doing what we can to support them.
This month: The Endocrine System.

Endocrine System

The hormones created and released by the glands in your body’s endocrine system control nearly all the processes in your body. These chemicals help coordinate your body’s functions, from metabolism to growth and development, emotions, mood, sexual function and even sleep.

Overview

What is the endocrine system?


Your endocrine system is made up of several organs called glands. These glands, located all over your body, create and secrete (release) hormones.

Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues. These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.

Function

What does the endocrine system do and how does it work?


Your endocrine system continuously monitors the amount of hormones in your blood. Hormones deliver their messages by locking into the cells they target so they can relay the message.

The pituitary gland senses when your hormone levels rise, and tells other glands to stop producing and releasing hormones. When hormone levels dip below a certain point, the pituitary gland can instruct other glands to produce and release more. This process, called homeostasis, works similarly to the thermostat in your house. Hormones affect nearly every process in your body, including:

  • Metabolism (the way you break down food and get energy from nutrients).
  • Growth and development.
  • Emotions and mood.
  • Fertility and sexual function.
  • Sleep.
  • Blood pressure.

Sometimes glands produce too much or not enough of a hormone. This imbalance can cause health problems, such as weight gain, high blood pressure and changes in sleep, mood and behavior. Many things can affect how your body creates and releases hormones. Illness, stress and certain medications can cause a hormone imbalance.

Anatomy

What are the parts of the endocrine system?


The endocrine system is made up of organs called glands. Glands produce and release different hormones that target specific things in the body. You have glands all over your body, including in your neck, brain and reproductive organs. Some glands are tiny, about the size of a grain of rice or a pea. The largest gland is the pancreas, which is about 6 inches long.

The main glands that produce hormones include:

  • Hypothalamus: This gland is located in your brain and controls your endocrine system. It uses information from your nervous system to determine when to tell other glands, including the pituitary gland, to produce hormones. The hypothalamus controls many processes in your body, including your mood, hunger and thirst, sleep patterns and sexual function.
  • Pituitary: This little gland is only about the size of a pea, but it has a big job. It makes hormones that control several other glands such as the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries and testicles. The pituitary gland is in charge of many different functions, including how your body grows. It’s located at the base of your brain.
  • Thyroid: Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It’s responsible for your metabolism (how your body uses energy).
  • Parathyroid: These four tiny glands are no larger than a grain of rice. They control the level of calcium in your body. For your heart, kidneys, bones and nervous system to work, you need the right amount of calcium.
  • Adrenal: You have two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney. They control your metabolism, blood pressure, sexual development and response to stress.
  • Pineal: This gland manages your sleep cycle by releasing melatonin, a hormone that causes you to feel sleepy.
  • Pancreas: Your pancreas is part of your endocrine system, and it plays a significant role in your digestive system too. It makes a hormone called insulin that controls the level of sugar in your blood.
  • Ovaries: In women, the ovaries release sex hormones called estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Women have two ovaries in their lower abdomen, one on either side.
  • Testes: In men, the testes (testicles) make sperm and release the hormone testosterone. This hormone affects sperm production, muscle strength and sex drive.



Conditions and Disorders

What conditions and disorders affect the endocrine system?


Dozens of conditions can cause issues in the endocrine system. These conditions can lead to health problems all over the body. Some of the most common disorders are:

  • Diabetes: This endocrine disorder affects the way your body uses the energy from the food you eat. Diabetes develops when the pancreas doesn’t make enough of a hormone called insulin, or insulin doesn’t work as it should.
  • Thyroid disorders: Several conditions can affect the function of the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. Hyperthyroidism occurs when it creates too many hormones.
  • Hypogonadism (low testosterone): In men, hypogonadism can cause erectile dysfunction. It can also cause memory and concentration problems, changes in muscle strength and low sex drive. It happens when the testes do not produce enough of the sex hormone testosterone.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): A hormonal imbalance causes women with PCOS to have irregular periods, abnormal hair growth, excess acne and weight gain. It can lead to diabetes, increased risk of metabolic syndrome and infertility.
  • Osteoporosis: When a woman’s ovaries don’t produce enough estrogen, bones become brittle and weak. Although it is more common in women, men sometimes have osteoporosis when testosterone levels get too low. People with an overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism) may also have weak bones.


Chemicals called endocrine disrupters can also affect the endocrine system. These chemicals appear everywhere — in pesticides, plastics, cosmetics and even our food and water. Endocrine disrupters cause a wide range of problems throughout the body by changing how hormones send messages.

How common are these conditions?

  • Diabetes: This condition is widespread. Almost 10% of people in the United States have diabetes and 27% have prediabetes.
  • Thyroid disorders: About 20 million Americans have thyroid disease. Women are about five times more likely than men to develop the condition.
  • Hypogonadism: About 40% of men over 45 have low testosterone. Levels of this sex hormone naturally drop as men age. Other factors, such as a man’s diet, weight and other health problems also affect testosterone levels.
  • PCOS: This common condition affects about 5% to 10% of adult women in the U.S. It is a leading cause of infertility.
  • Osteoporosis: More than half of adults over age 50 have osteoporosis. It is more likely to occur in women than in men.


Care

How can I keep my endocrine system healthy?


Your endocrine system needs the same things the rest of your body needs to stay healthy. You should exercise, eat right and see your healthcare provider regularly.

If you have a family history of diabetes, thyroid disorders or PCOS, talk to your provider. Managing these conditions can help you avoid a hormone imbalance that can lead to health problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I call my doctor?


Some symptoms can point to a serious health condition, such as diabetes. Call your provider if you have:

  • The urge to urinate (pee) a lot.
  • Extreme thirst, even after you’ve had plenty of water.
  • Nausea or stomach pain that doesn’t go away.
  • Sudden weight loss or unexplained weight gain.
  • Severe exhaustion or weakness.
  • Problems with sweating too much.
  • Sudden episodes of rapid heart hearts or elevated blood pressure
  • Developmental or growth delays.



Contributor: Clevelandclinic.org

Coconut Oil for Constipation? 8 Natural Laxatives to Get You Going #2

Coconut Oil for Constipation? 8 Natural Laxatives to Get You Going #2

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
Constipation, especially chronic constipation, is one of the most uncomfortable feelings out there. It’s bad enough having unexpected, acute constipation from a lousy meal; when this continues day after day, it’s much worse. I’ve been there (hooray for low-grade chronic digestive issues).
When dealing with constipation, how you eat and what you eat matters a lot. If you pick up junk food on a regular basis, you often eat boxed, processed meals, you consume too much sugar, or you don’t eat fruits and vegetables, you probably experience constipation pretty often. Overall, eating a plant-based, whole food diet, while making sure to include plenty of fiber and healthy fat, is your best bet for a tummy that doesn’t hate you.

Of course, despite our best efforts to eat a healthy diet, constipation may sometimes occur for various other reasons. In these cases, natural laxative foods can be very effective; as effective or more than over-the-counter laxatives. The following are eight to try next time your system is misbehaving:

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a natural, nutrient-rich fat, and getting more into your diet can help to ease chronic constipation over time. This oil may help to soften your stool, thanks to its medium-chain fatty acids. Consuming these types of fatty acids may help to improve your digestion, and help your body get more nutrients from the foods you eat. The many benefits of coconut oil can translate to a healthier metabolism and digestive system.

Dried plums and prune juice

This is one remedy that I personally employ in times of severe blockages. When I was pregnant with my son, prune juice was the only thing that helped the horrible constipation that occurred in my third trimester. Eating prunes, also known as dried plums, may have even more benefits, because they contain more fiber. The age-old prune/constipation remedy may work due to several factors, including the presence of sorbitol and a high concentration of insoluble fiber. Plus, eating dried plums may help to prevent colon cancer.

Yacon

Yacon is a tuber that is native to Peru, and it’s another traditional remedy for constipation. A study performed in 2008 and published in the journal Digestion tested the effects of yacon syrup on the digestion of healthy volunteers. Based on their results, the study authors wrote: “Yacon markedly accelerates colonic transit in healthy individuals. Further studies are needed in constipated patients to confirm this preliminary data. Due to the low caloric content of yacon, the root could be a useful treatment in constipated diabetics or obese patients.”

Flax seeds

Flax seeds are rich in protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a wonderful food for digestion and for overall health. They also contain mucilage, a type of fiber that bulks up your stool and helps food to move through your colon more quickly. Just remember to grind your seeds before you eat them. Try adding some to a smoothie.

Berries

Berries are great for digestive health for several reasons. They contain soluble and insoluble fiber, the combination of which improves your bowel regularity over time. They also contain vitamin C, which makes food pass through your system more quickly. Try to get a variety for a wealth of antioxidants. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and mulberries all have their own unique health benefits.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are another great food to make a staple in your diet if you frequently experience constipation. They are very gentle on the system, and they’re a great source of fiber, especially if you eat them with the skin. They also contain many other nutrients and antioxidants, including magnesium, which is important for constipation prevention. Try roasting some with the skins on and enjoy them with a bit of coconut oil, a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of Himalayan salt.

Probiotics

Eating probiotic foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, natural yogurt, kefir and certain types of pickles on a regular basis can help you to keep your bowels functioning smoothly. Probiotics help to improve the health of our microbiome, and a healthy microbiome equals healthy digestion, a stronger immune system and much more.

A 2008 study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy tested the effects of probiotics on individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). On their results, the authors wrote:

“Four of five studies of the effects of probiotics on colonic transit time revealed a benefit compared with placebo. As probiotics have shown benefit and possess a favorable adverse-effect profile, their use may represent an option for symptom relief in patients with IBS.”

All in all, eating a healthy, clean diet filled with fiber-rich and probiotic foods, getting plenty of exercise, drinking plenty of water and controlling your stress levels is a good way to keep yourself from getting constipated. When it does happen though, the foods on this list should have you feeling lighter in no time.


Contributor: Tanya Mead-The Alternative Daily

Just 2 Minutes of Walking After Eating Can Help Blood Sugar, Study Says

Just 2 Minutes of Walking After Eating Can Help Blood Sugar, Study Says

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
For centuries, people in the sunny Mediterranean would get up after long, leisurely meals and take a walk, often to the town square to see neighbors and socialize. Walking is so much a part of that lifestyle it is listed as a foundation of the über-healthy Mediterranean diet.
That may be one of the reasons studies have found the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and some cancers — all the while strengthening bones, improving brain health, warding off dementia and depression and helping with healthy weight loss.

Now you can add another reason to take a post-meal stroll — it may lower your blood sugar.

That excursion doesn’t need to take up a huge amount of your time either: Walking as little as two to five minutes after a meal can do the trick, according to a 2022 study in the journal Sports Medicine.

Standing after a meal can help, too, but not as much as putting one foot in front of the other, said study coauthor Aidan Buffey, a doctoral student in the physical education and sport sciences department at the University of Limerick in Ireland.

“Intermittent standing breaks throughout the day and after meals reduced glucose on average by 9.51% compared to prolonged sitting. However, intermittent light-intensity walking throughout the day saw a greater reduction of glucose by an average of 17.01% compared to prolonged sitting,” Buffey told CNN via email.

“This suggests that breaking prolonged sitting with standing and light-walking breaks throughout the day is beneficial for glucose levels,” he added.

Standing is good, but walking is better


The meta-analysis, published in February, analyzed seven studies comparing the impact of sitting, standing and walking on the body’s insulin and blood sugar levels. People in the studies were asked either to stand or walk for two to five minutes every 20 to 30 minutes over the course of a full day.

“Between the seven reviewed studies, the total activity time throughout the observation was roughly 28 minutes with the standing and light walking breaks lasting between 2 to 5 minutes,” Buffey said. Standing was better than heading straight for the desk or the couch to sit when it came to blood sugar levels, but it didn’t help lower insulin in the bloodstream, the analysis found.

However, if people went for a short walk after eating, their blood sugar levels rose and fell more gradually, and their insulin levels were more stable than either standing or sitting, the study noted.

Keeping blood sugars from spiking is good for the body as large spikes and fast falls can raise the risk for diabetes and heart disease, experts say. Studies have shown blood sugar levels will spike within 60 to 90 minutes after eating, so it’s best to get moving soon after finishing a meal.

How does movement help? Muscles need glucose to function, so movement helps clear sugars from the bloodstream — that’s the reason why many runners rely on carbo-loading before a marathon or race, for example.

Want to get more out of your efforts than lower blood sugars? Step up your game to meet the minimum physical activity standards for Americans: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening activity a week.

“People who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes.

Translated, that means if you get up and move for just 21.43 minutes each day of the week, you cut your risk of dying from anything by one-third.

That’s worth the effort, right?


Contributor: Sandee LaMotte, CNN Health