Chronic Stress Can Lead to Higher Blood Pressure: Here’s How to Reduce It

Chronic Stress Can Lead to Higher Blood Pressure: Here’s How to Reduce It

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
Researchers report that chronic stress can increase your risk for heart health issues, such as high blood pressure.

Experts say there are many ways to reduce stress and anxiety, including going to therapy sessions, meeting with friends, and xercising.

They add that it’s best to try to deal with one source of stress at a time.

Is stress relief even realistic right now?
The obvious answer is to reduce stress, right?
Well, yes and no, according to the experts.

“Of course, we know all those stock, physically oriented methods of reducing stress management, like breathing techniques, minding your eating habits, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising,” said Therese Rosenblatt, PhD, the author of “How Are You: Connection in a Virtual Age – A Therapist, a Pandemic, and Stories about Coping with Life.”

“All of these practices are helpful, but when you are in the grip of that extreme, gnawing anxiety that makes life miserable, it can be hard to even initiate those behaviors,” she explained to Healthline.

According to Akua K. Boateng, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist, stress reduction is all about minimizing your body’s need to manage stressors beyond its capacity.

“There will be stressors in the world, yet when we talk about stress reduction, it comes down to attempting to not personalize all of the stressors at the same time,” Boateng told Healthline.

The bottom line is to take the stressors in doses and know when you need to sideline processing others, she said.

Boateng’s tips for managing stress:

  • Create boundaries for stress intake. If you have more psychological stress happening due to work, the COVID-19 pandemic, or holiday gatherings, minimize the need to have the house perfectly cleaned, getting all your work done on time, or remodeling your home during this time.
  • Set up supportive spaces preemptively. Things, such as therapy, a weekly friend check-in, and journaling, allow you to regulate and mentally “de-steam” the energy held in a stressful issue. Give yourself these spaces regularly to avoid mental backup.
  • Deal with one stressor at a time. When you try to handle multiple stressors all at once, it begins to wear on the body. Sometimes, this is inevitable. Other times, it is not. When possible, process one issue and then take time to recover before talking about the next thing.

Don’t demand stress reduction

“Nothing manages stress better than actively doing something about it,” Rosenblatt said.

However, experts warn that, at a certain point, trying to reduce stress can become counterproductive.

“Stress reduction should relieve the energy within the body, not add to it,” Boateng said. “There are times when a small addition of stress can be beneficial (i.e., talking in therapy) but overall you should feel better afterward.”

Boateng’s signs that stress relief is doing more harm than good:

  • Stress reduction becomes a task with rigid guidelines.
  • There are checkpoints of your progress.
  • You engage in self-blame or guilt.

“You can’t just will away stress and anxiety,” Rosenblatt said.

“Remember that it comes from somewhere. That somewhere may be an external threat, like COVID-19, in which case at least a good deal of that stress is absolutely real,” she added.

In dealing with stress, Rosenblatt said it’s best to stay flexible, due to the current climate.

“Decisions we make today, including our personal, social, and work habits, may have to change tomorrow,” she said. “We must accept what we cannot control and direct our energies toward the things we can control. If we assume the mindset that even the near future is unpredictable, we will be better prepared.”

“Or it may come from some internal, more personal or idiosyncratic source, in which case the stress is real to you, and you still have to deal with it,” Rosenblatt noted. “Understanding this enemy is way more effective than fighting it.”

“Remember that our minds and bodies were designed to give us stress signals when we need to pay attention to a real or perceived threat,” she advised. “You may find that, once you accept that you are stressed and you try to identify what exactly it is about it that is getting to you, you will be able to make a plan, either to take action or simply to go easy on yourself.”


Sure Signs You’re Lacking Magnesium, Say Health Experts

Sure Signs You're Lacking Magnesium, Say Health Experts

Check before you experience these unfavorable outcomes.
Claremont Colonic Newsletter
Magnesium is an essential electrolyte, utilized by every cell in the body. But the highly processed foods that comprise the Western diet are low in magnesium, and it’s possible to become deficient. The condition isn’t very common, and it’s been called “the invisible deficiency,” because it’s easy to miss. These are some of the sure signs you’re lacking magnesium, according to experts.

1. Fatigue
According to the Cleveland Clinic, fatigue is one of the most common first signs of magnesium deficiency. Because magnesium’s main role is to convert food into energy, if you lack magnesium, you might find yourself dragging.

2. Weakness
When a person is deficient in magnesium, the potassium levels inside muscle cells decline, a condition called hypokalemia. This lack of potassium can cause muscle weakness, also known as myasthenia.

3. Muscle Spasms
Another important role of magnesium is helping muscles relax after contracting. If you lack adequate magnesium, you might experience muscle cramping or spasms. Magnesium also aids nerve transmission, so a deficiency can even progress to numbness, tingling and seizures, the National Institutes of Health says.

4. Loss of Appetite
According to the National Institutes of Health, loss of appetite is a common early sign of magnesium deficiency. You might also experience nausea or vomiting.

5. High Blood Pressure
Magnesium relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. If your BP is too high, a magnesium deficiency may be to blame. According to the Mayo Clinic, chronically low levels of magnesium increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

6. How Much Magnesium Is Enough?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, adults need 400 mg of magnesium each day. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocados and beans. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor if you suspect you have a magnesium deficiency, and before you start taking any kind of supplement.

Contributor: Michael Martin-Eat This, Not That!

How Meditation Can Help You Make Fewer Mistakes

How Meditation Can Help You Make Fewer Mistakes

Meditating just once proves to make a difference
Claremont Colonic Center
If you are forgetful or make mistakes when in a hurry, a new study from Michigan State University — the largest of its kind to-date — found that meditation could help you to become less error prone.
The research, published in Brain Sciences, tested how open monitoring meditation — or, meditation that focuses awareness on feelings, thoughts or sensations as they unfold in one’s mind and body — altered brain activity in a way that suggests increased error recognition.

“People’s interest in meditation and mindfulness is outpacing what science can prove in terms of effects and benefits,” said Jeff Lin, MSU psychology doctoral candidate and study co-author. “But it’s amazing to me that we were able to see how one session of a guided meditation can produce changes to brain activity in non-meditators.”

The findings suggest that different forms of meditation can have different neurocognitive effects and Lin explained that there is little research about how open monitoring meditation impacts error recognition.

“Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open monitoring meditation is a bit different,” Lin said. “It has you tune inward and pay attention to everything going on in your mind and body. The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery.”

Lin and his MSU co-authors — William Eckerle, Ling Peng and Jason Moser — recruited more than 200 participants to test how open monitoring meditation affected how people detect and respond to errors.

The participants, who had never meditated before, were taken through a 20-minute open monitoring meditation exercise while the researchers measured brain activity through electroencephalography, or EEG. Then, they completed a computerized distraction test.

“The EEG can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, so we got precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses,” Lin said. “A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls.” While the meditators didn’t have immediate improvements to actual task performance, the researchers’ findings offer a promising window into the potential of sustained meditation.

“These findings are a strong demonstration of what just 20 minutes of meditation can do to enhance the brain’s ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes,” Moser said. “It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment.”

While meditation and mindfulness have gained mainstream interest in recent years, Lin is among a relatively small group of researchers that take a neuroscientific approach to assessing their psychological and performance effects.

Looking ahead, Lin said that the next phase of research will be to include a broader group of participants, test different forms of meditation and determine whether changes in brain activity can translate to behavioral changes with more long-term practice.

“It’s great to see the public’s enthusiasm for mindfulness, but there’s still plenty of work from a scientific perspective to be done to understand the benefits it can have, and equally importantly, how it actually works,” Lin said. “It’s time we start looking at it through a more rigorous lens.”

Contributor: Science Daily-Michigan State University

Your Sense of Smell May Be the Key to a Balanced Diet

Your Sense of Smell May Be the Key to a Balanced Diet

Claremont Colonic Clinic Newsletter
We are less likely to perceive smells of food that relate to a recent meal, helping us make choices about what to eat next
Walking past a corner bakery, you may find yourself drawn in by the fresh smell of sweets wafting from the front door. You’re not alone: The knowledge that humans make decisions based on their nose has led major brands like Cinnabon and Panera Bread to pump the scents of baked goods into their restaurants, leading to big spikes in sales.

But according to a new study, the food you ate just before your walk past the bakery may impact your likelihood of stopping in for a sweet treat — and not just because you’re full.

Scientists at Northwestern University found that people became less sensitive to food odors based on the meal they had eaten just before. So, if you were snacking on baked goods from a coworker before your walk, for example, you may be less likely to stop into that sweet-smelling bakery.

The study, “Olfactory perceptual decision-making is biased by motivational state,” will be published August 26 in the journal PLOS Biology.

Smell regulates what we eat, and vice versa

The study found that participants who had just eaten a meal of either cinnamon buns or pizza were less likely to perceive “meal-matched” odors, but not non-matched odors. The findings were then corroborated with brain scans that showed brain activity in parts of the brain that process odors was altered in a similar way.

These findings show that just as smell regulates what we eat, what we eat, in turn, regulates our sense of smell.

Feedback between food intake and the olfactory system may have an evolutionary benefit, said senior and corresponding study author Thorsten Kahnt, an assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “If you think about our ancestors roaming the forest trying to find food, they find and eat berries and then aren’t as sensitive to the smell of berries anymore,” Kahnt said. “But maybe they’re still sensitive to the smell of mushrooms, so it could theoretically help facilitate diversity in food and nutrient intake.”

Kahnt said while we don’t see the hunter-gatherer adaptation come out in day-to-day decision-making, the connection between our nose, what we seek out and what we can detect with our nose may still be very important. If the nose isn’t working right, for example, the feedback loop may be disrupted, leading to problems with disordered eating and obesity. There may even be links to disrupted sleep, another tie to the olfactory system the Kahnt lab is researching.

Using brain imaging, behavioral testing and non-invasive brain stimulation, the Kahnt lab studies how the sense of smell guides learning and appetite behavior, particularly as it pertains to psychiatric conditions like obesity, addiction and dementia. In a past study, the team found the brain’s response to smell is altered in sleep-deprived participants, and next wanted to know whether and how food intake changes our ability to perceive food smells.

According to Laura Shanahan, a postdoctoral fellow in the Kahnt lab and the first and co-corresponding author of the study, there’s very little work on how odor perception changes due to different factors. “There’s some research on odor pleasantness,” Shanahan said, “but our work focuses in on how sensitive you are to these odors in different states.”

Pizza and pine; cinnamon and cedar

To conduct the study, the team developed a novel task in which participants were presented with a smell that was a mixture between a food and a non-food odor (either “pizza and pine” or “cinnamon bun and cedar” — odors that “pair well” and are distinct from each other). The ratio of food and non-food odor varied in each mixture, from pure food to pure non-food. After a mixture was presented, participants were asked whether the food or the non-food odor was dominant.

Participants completed the task twice inside an MRI scanner: First, when they were hungry, then, after they’d eaten a meal that matched one of the two odors.

“In parallel with the first part of the experiment running in the MRI scanner, I was preparing the meal in another room,” Shanahan said. “We wanted everything fresh and ready and warm because we wanted the participant to eat as much as they could until they were very full.”

The team then computed how much food odor was required in the mixture in each session for the participant to perceive the food odor as dominant. The team found when participants were hungry, they needed a lower percentage of food odor in a mixture to perceive it as dominant — for example, a hungry participant may require a 50% cinnamon bun to cedar mixture when hungry, but 80% when full of cinnamon buns.

Through brain imaging, the team provided further evidence for the hypothesis. Brain scans from the MRI demonstrated a parallel change occurring in the part of the brain that processes odors after a meal. The brain’s response to a meal-matched odor was less “food-like” than responses to a non-matched meal odor.

Applying findings to future sleep deprivation research

Findings from this study will allow the Kahnt lab to take on more complex projects. Kahnt said with a better understanding of the feedback loop between smell and food intake, he’s hoping to take the project full circle back to sleep deprivation to see if lack of sleep may impair the loop in some way. He added that with brain imaging, there are more questions about how the adaptation may impact sensory and decision-making circuits in the brain.

“After the meal, the olfactory cortex didn’t represent meal-matched food odors as much as food anymore, so the adaptation seems to be happening relatively early on in processing,” Kahnt said. “We’re following up on how that information is changed and how the altered information is used by the rest of the brain to make decisions about food intake.”

Contributor: Science Daily-Northwestern University