Health & Wellness


Smoke and Mirrors: Dr Richard Horton and the Wakefield Affair

Managing Editor's Note: The Wakefield family crest bears the latin "Arudua vinco" which translates to "I conquer difficulties." We can't thank Dr. Wakefield enough for his dedication to our children.

Selflessness Has Neuropsychological Connection

© iStockphoto/Dawn Poland
New findings suggests that all individuals, regardless of cultural background or religion, experience the same neuropsychological functions during spiritual experiences, such as transcendence.
All spiritual experiences are based in the brain. That statement is truer than ever before, according to a University of Missouri neuropsychologist. An MU study has data to support a neuropsychological model that proposes spiritual experiences associated with selflessness are related to decreased activity in the right parietal lobe of the brain.

The study is one of the first to use individuals with traumatic brain injury to determine this connection. Researchers say the implication of this connection means people in many disciplines, including peace studies, health care or religion can learn different ways to attain selflessness, to experience transcendence, and to help themselves and others.

This study, along with other recent neuroradiological studies of Buddhist meditators and Francescan nuns, suggests that all individuals, regardless of cultural background or religion, experience the same neuropsychological functions during spiritual experiences, such as transcendence. Transcendence, feelings of universal unity and decreased sense of self, is a core tenet of all major religions. Meditation and prayer are the primary vehicles by which such spiritual transcendence is achieved.

High Carbohydrate Diets Named as a Cause for Candida

The idea that diet is linked to health is becoming mainstream knowledge. Many illnesses are being linked to the food we eat. Candida is yet another medical condition that can often be resolved simply by changing certain eating habits - mainly by reducing intake of carbohydrates.

Candida is the medical term for a microorganism found naturally in the body. The trouble starts when the candida begins multiplying out of control, causing a yeast infection that can be localized to certain parts of the body (commonly the gut, the mouth and the genitals) or the infection could cause systemic problems. This overgrowth and infection is known as Candidiasis, but is often referred to simply as "Candida."

Comment: More information on this topic in our forum threads: Candida - The Silent Epidemic and Anti-Candida, Inflammation, Heavy Metals Detox and Diet.


Art - the key to unlocking dementia

When elderly people develop dementia their short-term memory fails them: new information is no longer being stored. Things as basic as the place they are in and who is present may fade. This scenario appears insurmountably tragic until you hear about the bucketloads of evidence proving that the long-term memories of people with dementia are often wholly intact. Studies using brain scanners prove that, when consulting old memories, the brain works quite normally in those with dementia.

One area where this is already understood to a certain degree is art therapy. Patients with dementia are often exposed to art. Some studies show that, not surprisingly, whether a trained artist or not, abilities in creating art decline with dementia.

Greater Leniency in Assisted Suicide May Soon Be Coming to America

Washington State is busy responding to the call of the voters and crafting a law allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients. Washington is the second state in the nation to adopt such a law which is patterned after Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law allowing a terminally ill person to be prescribed lethal medication which would be self-administered. Approval of the initiative received a resounding 58 percent of the vote. The possibility that other states will awaken from their slumber on this issue and mount similar initiatives has prompted the raising of voices on both sides of the issue to levels not heard since the days of Jack Kevorkian, the physician known as Dr. Death for his role in assisting in the demise of several terminally ill people at their requests.

Inside the Shopping Brain

If the holiday shopping season turns out to be as grim as many forecasters are warning, among the reasons will be a little brain region called the insula. Maxed-out consumers have been heeding the advice to take scissors to their credit cards, since paying with cash controls the eventual cost of a purchase (carrying a credit-card balance can double an item's original price) and limits impulse buys (most of us have less cash on hand than we do a credit limit, so if we have to count out greenbacks for Juicy Couture, we'll pass it up). But there's another, more fundamental reason why we buy less when we pay with cash. When you hand over a stack of 20s, you have less of something tangible: your billfold is lighter. That causes a brain region that registers negative feelings (bad smells, unfairness, social ostracism) to become more active than when you charge a purchase. Humans have evolved to pay attention to the messages the insula sends, with the result that it hurts to pay cash. There is no such feeling of loss when you pay with plastic, so the insula doesn't react. Credit cards anesthetize the otherwise painful act of paying.

"Fat": Understanding Obesity - Reasons for Hope (Part 2)

"Fat prejudice is the primary impediment to understanding - or wanting to understand what obesity is all about," says a public health nurse who appears in "Fat: What No One Is Telling You," a 2007 PBS home video documentary.

In the first installment of this post, I explained how little physicians know about what causes obesity - in part because, as this nurse points out, "blaming the victim has stood in the way of understanding." Here, I am reminded of how, in the past, we blamed patients suffering from depression and other forms of mental illness. For centuries, this prejudice stood in the way of understanding that mood disorders are caused by a flaw in chemistry, not character

"Fat": What the Experts Know (Part 1)

The film opens with a fetching red-head puffing away on a treadmill. She's perspiring, but she's smiling gamely into the camera. "It's not an average work-out, but I wasn't an average weight," she explains. "I have to do above and beyond what any of you guys would have to do. I have to try twice as hard, sometimes three times as hard - just to maintain this level of...chubbiness."

And she is right. She is chubby. By 21st century mainstream (and magazine) standards of beauty this young woman is probably 30 pounds overweight. The dimples, the pony-tail, the strawberries and cream complexion, and the undeniable on-camera charisma make her very appealing. But there is no doubt that most physicians would urge her to lose weight.

Later in the film, we learn that she exercises three hours a day. And when her mother was dying of cancer, this thirty-something nursed her and learned a great deal about nutrition. Dedicated and determined, she eats healthy meals and sticks to a strict exercise regime. Why, then, is she "chubby?"

Inflamed Gums Linked To Heart Disease

The next person who reminds you to floss might be your cardiologist instead of your dentist. Scientists have known for some time that a protein associated with inflammation (called CRP) is elevated in people who are at risk for heart disease. But where's the inflammation coming from?

A new research study by Italian and U.K. scientists shows that infected gums may be one place. Indeed, proper dental hygiene should reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke and heart disease independently of other measures, such as managing cholesterol.

"It has been long suspected that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process, and that periodontal disease plays a role in atherosclerosis," said Mario Clerici, M.D., a senior researcher on the study. "Our study suggests that this is the case, and indicates that something as simple as taking good care of your teeth and gums can greatly reduce your risk of developing serious diseases."

Pain Hurts More If Person Hurting You Means It

Researchers at Harvard University have discovered that our experience of pain depends on whether we think someone caused the pain intentionally. In their study, participants who believed they were getting an electrical shock from another person on purpose, rather than accidentally, rated the very same shock as more painful. Participants seemed to get used to shocks that were delivered unintentionally, but those given on purpose had a fresh sting every time.

The research, published in the current issue of Psychological Science, was led by Kurt Gray, a graduate student in psychology, along with Daniel Wegner, professor of psychology.

It has long been known that our own mental states can alter the experience of pain, but these findings suggest that our perceptions of the mental states of others can also influence how we feel pain.

"This study shows that even if two harmful events are physically identical, the one delivered with the intention to hurt actually hurts more," says Gray. "Compare a slap from a friend as she tries to save us from a mosquito versus the same slap from a jilted lover. The first we shrug off instantly, while the second stings our cheek for the rest of the night."