Stress May Have Some Important Cognitive Benefits, New Study Suggests

Stress May Have Some Important Cognitive Benefits, New Study Suggests

Claremon Colonic Center

  • In a new study, people who reported feeling no stress experienced better moods and were less likely to have chronic health conditions than people who did face stressors.
  • However, the people who did not experience stress scored lower on cognition tests. They were also less likely to experience positive events and to give or receive emotional support than people who experienced stress.
If accurate, these findings could complicate the seemingly one-sided relationship between stress and health by suggesting that stress may play a positive role in some elements of health and well-being.

More than 75% of adults living in the United States report experiencing emotional or physical symptoms related to stress.

In addition, a recent survey that the American Psychological Association (APA) commissioned found that almost 78% of adults in the U.S. are experiencing significant stress associated with the current pandemic.

The body is equipped to handle small, occasional periods of stress, but researchers have linked excessive or chronic stress with a slew of negative health consequences, ranging from migraine headaches to cardiovascular problems.

Despite this, there has been little research investigating the possible association between experiencing less stress and an increase in health or well-being.

That is why a team of researchers from Penn State set out to explore whether people who experience little to no stress are healthier than people who do become stressed.

“The assumption has always been that stress is bad,” says senior author David M. Almeida, a professor of human development and family studies at Penn State.

“I took a step back and thought: What about the people who report never having stress? My previous work has focused on people who have higher vs. lower levels of stress, but I’d never questioned what it looks like if people experience no stress. Are they the healthiest of all?”

Stress and Health
Stress is a healthy human response that most people experience from time to time.

It can sometimes be helpful. Stress causes a release of epinephrine that makes it easier to do tasks and enhances performance and problem-solving skills.

This rush of epinephrine can also help prepare the body to handle a threat or flee for safety by increasing pulse, breathing rate, and muscle tension. Stress can also act as a source of motivation in everyday situations, such as completing a project or taking a test.

However, research shows that when stress becomes long-term, it can negatively affect every system in the body.

Over time, chronic stress can become debilitating. It can also increase the risk of serious health complications, such as obesity, depression, and heart disease.

Many symptoms of stress are easy to ignore or mistake for symptoms of other common conditions. The symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Headaches
  • digestive problems
  • skin problems
  • pain
  • lack of energy, focus, and interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • being irritable, easy to anger, and forgetful
  • eating too much or too little
  • misuse of alcohol or drugs
  • feeling overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, or out of control
  • feeling depressed
  • insomnia
  • heart palpitations

While there is substantial proof of the negative health impacts of stress, little research has assessed whether experiencing less stress actually improves health. According to the new study’s findings, this connection may be more complicated than experts previously thought.

Stress May Have Cognitive Benefits
In the study, the researchers tracked 2,804 participants for just over a week. Before the study began, all of the participants completed a cognition test.

During the study, the researchers interviewed the participants nightly for 8 consecutive nights, asking questions about their chronic conditions, physical symptoms, mood, and the number of stressors they experienced during the day. They also asked the participants how many positive experiences they had had within the previous 24 hours.

About 10% of the participants did not report experiencing stress during the study period. These individuals were more likely to experience positive moods and less likely to have chronic health conditions.

On the other hand, the participants who did not experience stress scored lower on the cognition test than those who did. The difference in scores equated to the cognitive decline that would occur in approximately 8 years of aging.

Participants who did not report any stress also experienced fewer positive events than those who did, and they were less likely to give or receive emotional support. These participants were also more likely to be older, unmarried men.

“I think there’s an assumption that negative events and positive events are these polar opposites, but in reality, they’re correlated,” says Almeida.

“It’s possible that experiencing stressors creates opportunities for you to solve a problem — for example, maybe fixing your computer that has suddenly broken down before an important Zoom meeting,” Almeida adds.

“Experiencing these stressors may not be pleasant, but they may force you to solve a problem, and this might actually be good for cognitive functioning, especially as we grow older.”

Almedia notes that minor daily stressors might also be a marker of “a busy and maybe full life.” In this case, he says, “having some stress is just an indicator that you are engaged in life.”

More Research Necessary
More research is necessary to define the correlation between stress, health, and emotional well-being.

However, the link is unlikely to be clear and easy to define, given how many factors influence how someone experiences, responds to, and manages stress.

For example, on average, females and males have different mental and physical reactions to stress.

Some groups of people may also be more likely to have exposure to certain stressors. A 2020 study found that in the U.S., some Black and Hispanic people may experience higher rates of stress than white people, due primarily to socioeconomic factors.

Despite the challenge, these new findings could encourage more researchers to explore and better understand whether reducing stress improves health.

It will probably require substantial supportive research, as well as a total shift in how society and researchers view stress, before people start to see stress as a positive event.

However, Almeida says that the team’s findings may offer new insight into how to interact with and process stress, which is a largely unavoidable event for most people. He notes that the findings suggest it may be better to change the response to stress than to try to avoid it outright.

“Stressors are events that create challenges in our lives. And I think experiencing stressors is part of life,” says Almeida. “I think what’s important is how people respond to stressors. Responding to a stressor by being upset and worried is more unhealthy than the number of stressors you encounter.”

Contributor: Jennifer Huizen, Medical News Today

Sex Addiction Isn’t a Medically Recognized Diagnosis

Sex Addiction Isn't a Medically Recognized Diagnosis

Contrary to cultural belief, psychiatrists don’t consider sex addiction an actual addiction, disorder or diagnosis.
Local law enforcement told reporters that shooting suspect Robert Aaron Long had “made indicators that he has some issues — potentially sexual addiction — and may have frequented some of these places in the past.” Law enforcement also shared that Long had recently been kicked out of his family’s house because of his sex addiction, which included regularly watching pornography for hours. Former rehabilitation facility roommates of Long’s have said sexual addiction was something the suspect was being treated for and was distraught over.

But despite social acceptance of the term — and the pattern of killers claiming it as a motive for their crimes — sex addiction isn’t an accepted psychiatric diagnosis.

That’s because the “gold standard in terms of how we think of addiction” is determined by how substances, behaviors or activities trigger certain brain receptors and responses, said Dr. Ziv Cohen, a forensic and clinical psychiatrist and an adjunct assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. That is neurobiological evidence of addiction, which researchers have observed in people who gamble or consume drugs or alcohol, but largely not in people who have identified as sex or porn addicts.

For this reason, sex addiction has previously been rejected for inclusion in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the handbook used by health care professionals as the authoritative guide to diagnosing mental disorders. People are still treated for or seek support for this issue, but experts have said there are other factors to consider.

Other reasons why ‘sex addiction’ isn’t an addiction
Symptoms of addictions include “impaired control over behavior, social impairment, … risky use that is continuing despite clear physical and other risks to the individual, and the development of, in the case of substances, tolerance and withdrawal,” said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, the chair of the DSM Steering Committee at the APA and a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City. Psychiatrists are also hesitant to characterize levels or brands of sexuality as pathological.

“American psychiatry, for many years, considered homosexuality a psychiatric illness,” Cohen said. “There’s a legacy from that, a very painful legacy.”

Secondly, there are many people “who struggle with healthy sexuality who feel guilty or ashamed of normal sexuality,” Cohen added. “There’s a concern that if you say that there’s something called ‘sex addiction,’ that a lot of people who really don’t have it will start to think that their sexuality, their sexual urges, are not healthy.”

Also, knowing “where to draw the line between healthy and unhealthy sexual urges” is difficult, Cohen said. Sexual urges that violate the rights of other people are easy to classify as pathological. “But if you’re simply saying you have a high sex drive, which leads you to watch a lot of pornography or to pay for sex, it’s harder to just intrinsically label that as pathological because it’s not involved in violating the rights of others.”

Diagnosing and treating issues with sex
The clinical illegitimacy of sex addiction doesn’t mean, however, that people’s personal issues with sex aren’t real. Brain activity isn’t the only way that mental health professionals identify and diagnose disorders. Whether a person’s symptoms interfere with the ability to function in various aspects of life is also a consideration.

Advocates of treating sex addiction as a legitimate disorder “would say, ‘we have subjective distress and functional impairment in individuals with sex addiction, and therefore it should be a diagnosis,'” Cohen said. “You do have clinicians who are out there treating sex addiction, even though it’s not an official diagnosis. So that can seem a little confusing.”

Sex Addicts Anonymous is a 12-step recovery program that provides no scientific or clinical expertise, and therefore doesn’t get involved in clinical discussions “around whether sex addiction is an addiction or not,” said Phillip, the program manager of public information at the International Service Organization of SAA, Inc., in Houston. “I can tell you, however, from our experience, that we can definitely say that for us, sex addiction exists.”

What seems like sex addiction could be hypersexuality, which is sometimes a symptom of bipolar disorder or impulse control disorders, Cohen said.

“In bipolar disorder, when you’re having a manic episode, you tend to be very hyper, you have a lot of energy, you become very hedonistic, seeking pleasure,” he explained. “Manic people often end up becoming very sexually impulsive.”

People who feel normal sexual urges but aren’t satisfied with sexual activities — and therefore can’t stop — would be exhibiting compulsive sexual behaviors, which could be in the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum, Cohen said.

The most robust predictor for identifying as a sex addict is coming from a conservative, religious background “where very rigid, heteronormative, monogamy-focused rules about sexuality are promoted,” said David J. Ley, a clinical psychologist and author of the book “The Myth of Sex Addiction.”

“Through the sexual world that we live in, these people … are not prepared to manage these sexual desires that come up for them and the opportunity to pursue them. And so they hate themselves for having these sexual desires.”

Suppressing those desires may make the feelings more powerful and harder to avoid, Ley added, even if they don’t rise to the level of a mental disorder.

“People do struggle with these issues,” Ley said. “But it’s really important for us to understand why they struggle with them, and why certain people struggle with them and others don’t, so that we can help these people.

Contributor: Kristen Rogers, CNN

Energy Shots That Won

Energy Shots That Won’t Land You in the Emergency Room

A four-year study conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration has found a ten-fold increase in hospital-related emergency room visits caused by energy drink consumption. In 2015, energy drink sales in American amounted to 2.8 billion dollars and reached 3.4 billion by 2019.

While persons younger than 24 years seem most at risk, anyone can have an adverse reaction to an energy drink. The good news is that there are healthy and natural alternatives to commercial energy drinks and the more concentrated energy shots that are equally effective at boosting energy without the dangerous side effects.

Side effects of drinking energy drinks and shots

Energy drinks have become a highly common beverage for people of all ages. However, many energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine and sugar to deliver that boost of energy. Although caffeine and sugar in small doses are not dangerous, they can pose substantial health risks if consumed in large quantities.

Energy drinks contain 21 to 34 grams of sugar per each 8-ounce serving, which comes in the form of sucrose, glucose, or even high fructose corn syrup. The big problem arises when users down two or three energy drinks, or 120 mg to 180 mg of sugar, which is 4-6 times the maximum daily recommended intake.

Some studies suggest that even this recommended intake limit may be too high. Mayo Clinic researchers say that healthy young adults who are not used to regular caffeine consumption, experience a concerning rise in resting blood pressure when they consume energy drinks.

In their study, researchers gave a can of a popular energy drink or a placebo drink to adults aged 19 to 40. Changes in heart rate and blood pressure were noted in each group 30 minutes after the consumption of their drink. Results were also compared between participants who drank the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day and those that drank more than one cup of coffee per day.

Not surprisingly, those who consumed the energy drink experienced a marked rise in blood pressure when compared to the placebo group. Here is what really got us: those who consumed less caffeine had almost double the rise in blood pressure compared to those who consumed more than the equivalent of caffeine found in one cup of coffee daily

Additionally, energy drinks and shots may contain ingredients like ginseng and guarana which, when combined with sugar, can enhance the impact of caffeine. Other implications of chemical additives in energy shots and drinks are not totally understood but could cause additional issues.

Here are some common symptoms caused by drinking energy drinks and shots:
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Tooth decay
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • First things first, why are you tired?

Before grabbing an energy drink or shot, hoping for a quick boost, it is a good idea to assess why you are fatigued. Many things can cause fatigue, including chronic insomnia, sickness, lack of vitamins, lack of protein, and stress. If you are feeling run down and have a lack of energy, it is imperative to address the underlying reason for your fatigue, before reaching for a band-aid solution.

Not eating a well balanced, whole food diet can contribute to fatigue as can overeating sugar or junk food. How does your diet look? Try adding in more fruits and vegetables and be sure that you are getting enough protein – whether from plant sources such as beans or freshly caught fish or free-range animals. Keep in mind that a sugar and caffeine-laden energy drink is no replacement for a healthy diet.

How are you sleeping? If you are consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, your body will begin to wear down and slow down. Without proper sleep, your energy tank will run low, and your body will cry for rest. Try to establish a good sleeping routine where you go to bed and get up at the same time each night. Make sleep a priority, and your body will reward you with consistent energy.

Are you stressed, anxious, and feel out of control? If so, stop and take the time necessary to evaluate where the stress is coming from and formulate a plan to deal with the stressors in your life. Great solutions are yoga, walking outdoors in the fresh air, journaling, deep breathing, and exercise.

Natural energy drinks and shots you can enjoy
Once you identify the root of your energy loss, you should start to feel better. For those days when you do need an extra energy boost, turn to these healthy and natural alternatives instead of dangerous energy drinks and shots.

The Hot Boost
This drink is super easy to make, and the lemon not only tastes great but is also alkalinizing, which helps your body maintain a healthy pH level. The cayenne pepper, which gives this drink its kick, raises energy levels and provides heart protection. Raw honey not only provides quick energy but is also full of valuable nutrition and sweet goodness.

  • 1 cup filtered warm water
  • 1 slice of lemon
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp raw honey

Squeeze the lemon and drop it in the water along with the honey and cayenne.

Morning Banana Protein Shake

Enjoy this delicious shake before heading out the door for your busy day. It is loaded with healthy nutrients, and protein to keep your energy meter running high.

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 tsp almond butter
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder
  • Small handful of kale
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 cup almond milk

Blend and enjoy!

Anytime Energy Shot
Not only does this energy shot rev you up, but it also helps to boost immunity. Drink this shot anytime you feel a cold or flu coming on, or you need a little pick-me-up.

  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, scrubbed
  • ½ small green apple without seeds
  • 1 cup packed organic spinach leaves
  • 1 large lemon
  • Small pinch of cayenne pepper

Cut all ingredients in chunks and peel away lemon skin. Push through the juicer and enjoy!

Feeling energized?

Contributor: Susan Patterson, CBHC, Alternative Daily .

How to Avoid Sedentary Behavior, 3-Minutes at a Time

How to Avoid Sedentary Behavior- 3-Minutes at a Time

Claremont Colonic Clinic Newsletter
Stop sitting still and do these 8 activities throughout the workday — 3 minutes at a time
Over the course of the pandemic, many people who previously commuted to office spaces and job sites joined the at-home workforce. Unfortunately, that additional time at home easily equates to more sedentary time.

Whether you work from home or not, if your normal daily schedule has you sitting still for hours at a time, it’s important to make an effort to move throughout your day to avoid the negative health implications of being sedentary, such as an increased risk for cancer. In fact, breaking up long bouts of sitting still with just a little exercise can boost your overall health and fitness.

What if, over the course of an eight-hour day, you got up and moved for three minutes every hour?

That’s 24 minutes of exercise daily. Add another 10 minutes of walking or stair climbing before or after work, and you’d be at 34 minutes daily, or 170 minutes per five-day workweek. That’s well over the weekly threshold of 150 minutes, or two-and-a-half hours, recommended by the World Health Organization — without ever setting foot in a gym.

Read on for a practical plan to integrate three-minute movement intervals into an otherwise sedentary eight-hour workday.

1. Get up. Sit down. Repeat

It’s important to get up from your chair at least once an hour. The simplest way to start moving is to make the act of getting up out of your chair and sitting back down into an exercise.

Coaches and trainers call this a box squat. From standing in front of your chair, slowly sit down, making contact with the seat without putting your full weight on it. Then drive through your feet, legs and hips to stand back up. Repeat this movement, at your own pace, for the full three minutes.

If you’re feeling up to it, after a minute or two, you can progress to body-weight squats without the chair. If your chair has wheels, be sure to lock them before performing box squats.

2. Get your heart pumping

Your body is designed to move through three planes of motion: sagittal (front to back), transverse (rotating) and frontal (side to side) so it’s important to exercise in all of them. Think about it: While sitting at a desk, you’re not doing very much side-to-side movement. Everything tends to be right in front of you.

Jumping jacks are a simple yet effective side-to-side movement that gets your heart pumping. That said, I’m not recommending you hop out of your chair every hour and immediately start doing jumping jacks.

To avoid the potential for injury after prolonged sitting, first prepare your body for any type of higher-impact activity. Prep time counts toward your three minutes, so spend a minute doing some side bends, lateral lunges and jogging in place before moving into jumping jacks. If jumping is too high-impact for you, modify with alternating side steps rather than jumps.

3. Move your hands to relieve tension

Ever consider that the tension in your hands from all that typing might be contributing to the tension in your shoulders?

Muscles work in chains, so tension can creep up and down your body. When you’re tight or immobile in one area, other muscles have to compensate to help you move. Those muscles then become understandably overworked and tight, setting off a chain reaction of muscular compensation and chronic tension.

To perform hand exercises, focus on one hand at a time. Rest the elbow of the hand you’re exercising on your desk to stabilize it. Make a tight fist and then open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as possible. Repeat five times.

Then make a fist and slowly circle your wrist in one direction five times. Repeat in the opposite direction. Open your hand and use your opposite hand to gently press your fingers back to stretch the inside of your wrist and hand. Hold for three breaths. Repeat pressing your hand forward to stretch the back of your hand and wrist.

Then focus on your fingers. Use your opposite hand to hold and stabilize your wrist as you stick your thumb out and make three circles in one direction and then the other. Repeat this action to the best of your ability with each finger. Repeat all the exercises with your other hand.

Finish by standing up, interlacing your fingers and stretching your arms overhead with your palms facing up. Hold for a few breaths, then repeat with your hands interlaced out in front of you and then behind

you. You may find you struggle with some fingers more than others and that it’s more difficult with your nondominant hand. That’s OK. Do the best you can and you will see improvement over time.

4. Move your feet, too

The same type of muscular chain reaction from tension can happen with your feet. Spending just few minutes a day actively moving your feet and ankles can have a dramatic impact on how you feel throughout your body.

You’ll need to take your shoes off and, if possible, your socks. However, if you work in an actual office, be considerate of co-workers who might not want to see (or smell) your feet!

Cross one leg over the other, focusing on the top foot. Point your toes forward and down, like a ballerina, then flex your foot back to point your toes up, spreading them out as wide as you can. Repeat 10 times. Then slowly circle your ankle in one direction 10 times. Repeat in the opposite direction. Spend a moment focusing on your toes, seeing if you can move your big toe, little toe and other toes independently. Repeat the exercises with your other foot.

Finally, stand up and do 10 repetitions of alternating, shifting your weight evenly to the outsides of your feet, trying to lift the inside edges, then shifting your weight to the insides of your feet while attempting to lift the outside edges. Then do 10 slow, controlled calf raises, lifting your heels and pushing your weight onto the balls of your feet then lowering your heels back down. Place one hand on a chair or wall for balance.

5. Elevate your energy and mood with a dance break

It’s common for both mental and physical energy to wane in the afternoon after lunch. Instead of reaching for that extra cup of coffee or energy drink, why not take an invigorating dance break to one of your favorite beats? Most songs average three to four minutes, so you’ll more than cover your hourly movement quota. Simply turn on a feel-good jam and let your body move to the music.

6. Practice standing meetings with movement

Now that everyone has discovered Zoom, it’s rare to have a workday that doesn’t include at least one virtual meeting. During those meetings, position your screen on a higher surface, like a kitchen island, so you can comfortably stand for your meeting. While standing, spend a few minutes softly marching in place or shifting your weight from one foot to the other to work on your balance.

If you have regular daily meetings with folks you know well, consider asking if they’d like to institute a movement break. Think of it like the seventh inning stretch at a baseball game. Meeting participants could take turns leading the stretch.

7. Build strength with good old-fashioned pushups

There’s a reason the pushup has remained a staple exercise since its origination more than a century ago. You won’t find many other singular exercises that build both upper body and core strength as well as a pushup. Although challenging, there are easy ways to modify it to ensure some variation of pushup is accessible for most anyone.

Traditional pushups are done on the floor from a plank position with your legs straight behind you and wrists under your shoulders. You bend your arms and stabilize your core to lower your body almost to the floor and then straighten your arms to push back up.

To cover three minutes, do as many pushups as you can with good form for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat through six rounds. To modify, you can put your knees on the floor or elevate your hands on a stair or chair seat. You can also do plank holds instead.

8. Take a few minutes to fix your posture and prevent pain

Although you’ve been moving every hour, at the end of the workday, it’s helpful to spend a few minutes proactively recovering from sitting in front of a screen. Focus on movements that open up and unwind that slumped-over posture we tend to take in front of our computers and when looking down at our phones. Do gentle chest and back stretches and twists.

Remember the planes of motion I mentioned earlier? Twisting takes place in the transverse plane, another plane we don’t often move in at our desks. Check out the stretches and twists in this article on movements to offset too much sitting for ideas.

Don’t forget to walk

Walking is one of the most accessible, total-body, fat-burning exercises available to humankind. Every day, try to take at least a 10-minute walk — ideally, outside. If weather or environment are obstacles to walking, consider this simple 11-minute at-home workout as an alternative.

With 24 minutes of movement to break up your workday, adding even a six-minute walk will get you to a nice, round 30-minute mark for daily exercise. After only a week of practicing this plan, you should definitely notice a boost in your overall health and fitness.

Contributor: Dana Santas, CNN Health, .