Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Page 11 of 14

My September 11th Tribute: For the Fallen and Left Behind

September 11th
Through our despair and hurt and pain rises a light that burns brighter than the darkest moment we ever felt, ever saw, ever feared. The light of hope and faith and compassion and love are the strongest forces in the universe that will prevail up against the very worst they try to do.

 

 Photo: Stuart Miles

We will always rise, we will always expand to greater levels, we will always stand in victory, and then — we will smile once again, so loudly that our hearts will drown the sorrow that once shadowed our lives and leave in its healing wake, the glistening drops of peace.  My tribute for September 11th. – Laura O.

Preventing Breast Cancer: Multiple Modality Screening Best Approach

breast cancer, breast cancer screening, mammography, thermography, breast cancer screening options

Breast thermography is accurate, offers early prevention, avoids radiation

 

After reading about some of the negatives of mammography and doing a tremendous amount of research on breast thermography I opted out of getting a mammogram last year (after doing them for 14 years) and had a thermogram with a certified thermographer.

Just recently however, Dr. William Amalu, a chiropractor with 19 years experience in thermal imaging and I had a conversation over the phone after he read an article where I cited him.

Dr. Amalu explained that to prescribe on screening over another is dangerous to the patient.  A mammogram detects 80% of all breast cancers, thermogram 90%.

With 1 in 8 women predicted to develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime and with 10-20% cases missed, the question we have to ask ourselves Dr. Amalu says is:

What number of breast cancer deaths is acceptable?

Given the margin of error with our CURRENT screening guidelines – too many. What number of deaths should be acceptable? NONE. 

“Certain types of cancers, Dr. Amalu writes on his website, “will not be detected (approximately 20%) by mammography for various reasons, but some of these cancers will be discovered by DII (digital infrared imaging – thermography).”

Mammogram is NOT the answer but neither is thermography – by itself.

The ideal, best practices approach to breast cancer screening should be a three prong approach.  In a perfect world this means doctors prescribe the following exams for women:

  1. Physical – Doctor’s exam. Detect observable and structural abnormalities by manual examination.
  2. Functional – Thermogram. Looks at functional, physiological changes. Highly sensitive, detecting 90% of all breast cancers vs mammogram at 80%. Thermography offers the earliest detection, detecting vascular changes, inflammation, and functional abnormalities in the breast caused by the highly dangerous “estrogen dominance,” one of the leading causes behind breast cancer.
  3. Structural – Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Structural imaging examines the anatomic basis of changes caused by disease. Yet, most women don’t have access to this perfect breast screening protocol because the current screening guidelines don’t support this three-pronged approach, unless a woman is high risk, or shows signs of a high risk abnormality in her first line screening.*If and MRI isn’t possible, (most doctors will NOT write a prescription for and MRI even with risk factors), Dr. Nelly Yefet, an IACT (International Academy of Clinical Thermology) Board Certified Medical Thermographer, CTT, specializing in women’s breast health (who did my thermogram),  says try to get an ultrasound in lieu of a mammo.

Best Breast Cancer Screening Approach, For Now

Most doctors are not yet prescribing this three prong approach, or at the very least, the next best protocol, a thermogram as adjunct (in addition to) a mammogram for a woman’s first line breast cancer screening.

“The consensus among health care experts is that no one procedure or method of imaging is solely adequate for breast cancer screening, writes Dr. Amalu. “The false negative and positive rates for currently used examination tests (including Digital Infrared Imaging) are too high for the procedures to be used alone. However, DII may pick up many of the cancers missed by other test.”

Current Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines 

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force revised the long held American Cancer Society’s (ACS) breast cancer screening guidelines, bringing them in line with the European Guidelines which screen women age 50-69 every two years. ACS however, states that “yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.”


After analyzing Norway’s large national database the committee found that breast cancer will sometimes regress and is not always life-threatening. *In response, the task force suggested re-evaluating the use of routine mammography for breast cancer screening.

The dialogue surrounding the new guidelines focused on re-assessing the value of breast self exams, physician breast examinations, and the age and frequency of mammograms.

In the wake of the debate a renewed interest in alternative approaches to breast cancer screening and prevention surfaced, including the use of thermography. Thermography offers advantages over mammography in number of areas, including earlier detection, avoiding r but by itself will not detect 100% of all breast cancers.

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Approved by the FDA in 1982 as an adjunct (done in conjunction with) to mammography and other breast cancer screening tools, proponents of thermography cite large, longitudinal studies to support its use as a highly sensitive, breast cancer detection tool. Advocates say research indicates thermography offers an advantage in early detection over mammography and physician evaluation because it can detect small tumors sooner.

Opponents however, cite high error rates and say thermography can’t pick up deeply imbedded breast tumors, although proponents insist these concerns are based on widespread misinformation as well as a misunderstanding by clinicians of the now highly sophisticated assessment capabilities of thermography.

Breast Thermography Offers Distinct Advantages Over Mammography

Breast thermography uses special infrared-sensitive cameras to digitally record images of the variations in surface temperature of the human breast, recording images of the heat patterns. The recorded images are called thermograms. Its use in cancer screening is based on the concept that cancer gives off more heat than normal tissue.

This technology detects functional changes in the breast tissue before tumors form or before they’re large enough to be detected by other secondary prevention techniques like a clinical breast exam or mammography, say advocates.

“Difficulties in reading mammograms can occur in women who are on hormone replacement, nursing or have fibrocystic, large, dense, or enhanced breasts. These types of breast differences do not cause difficulties in reading digital infrared scans.” Dr. Amalu, Breastthermography.com

Blood vessels, cysts, other benign sources, and metabolic processes such as growing breast tumors all radiate heat from within the breast. A portion of the radiated heat reaches the surface of the breast where it composes a stable thermal pattern.

A breast thermography examination records these thermal patterns and interprets them according to a strict and complex analytical procedure. When analyzed properly by trained individuals, the images disclose various pathological and abnormal processes.

Where a mammogram looks at anatomical changes in the breast and detects masses or lumps in the tissue, a thermogram picks up vascular changes in the breast by detecting blood flow patterns, inflammation and asymmetries. Thermography is used extensively in other countries including Japan, France and Sweden.

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Early Thermography Technology Flawed – Now Highly Accurate 

Dr. Amalu reviewed the history of thermography studies in breast cancer detection in 1995 and concluded in his report that The Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project (BCDDP) formed in the seventies should not have dismissed thermography as a viable breast cancer screening tool.

Many of the studies included in the committee’s review, he writes, suffered from serious methodological errors, unrealistic expectations and flaws, that at the time were the result of infrared technology still in its infancy. Since then, new generations of thermography technology have emerged and the accuracy and sensitivity for breast cancer detection has greatly improved.

“Thermography has the unique ability to “map” the individual thermal fingerprint of a woman’s breasts. Any change in this map over the course of months and years can signal an early indication of possible tumors or other abnormalities. In fact, studies have shown that an abnormal infrared image is the single most important indicator of high risk for developing breast cancer.” Dr. Amalu.

In his review Amalu summarizes findings to support thermography’s use for breast cancer screening:

  • Breast thermography has undergone extensive research since the late 1950’s.
  • Over 800 peer-reviewed studies on breast thermography exist in the index-medicus literature.
  • In this database, well over 300,000 women have been included as study participants.
  • The numbers of participants in many studies are very large — 10K, 37K, 60K, 85K …
  • Some of these studies have followed patients up to 12 years.
  • Strict standardized interpretation protocols have been established for over 20 years.
  • Breast thermography has an average sensitivity and specificity of 90%.
  • An abnormal thermogram is 10 times more significant as a future risk indicator for breast cancer than a first order family history of the disease.
  • A persistent abnormal thermogram caries with it a 22x higher risk of future breast cancer.
  • An abnormal infrared image is the single most important marker of high risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Research has shown that breast thermography significantly augments the long-term survival rates of its recipients.
  • When used as part of a multimodal approach (clinical examination + mammography + thermography) 95% of early stage cancers will be detected.

Dr. Mercola and Others Against Mammography

Dr. Joseph Mercola, a leading natural health advocate strongly opposes mammograms.“Unfortunately mammograms use ionizing radiation at a relatively high dose, which in and of itself can contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Mammograms expose your body to radiation that can be 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray, which we know poses a cancer risk. Mammography also compresses your breasts tightly, which could lead to a dangerous spread of cancerous cells, should they exist,“ he writes in his online article, “Stop! Read This BEFORE You Get that Mammogram” (Mercola.com, June 27,2009).

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The Ideal Breast Cancer Prevention Screening Approach: Multi-Modality

In a 2009 review of thermography for breast cancer detection, researcher DA Kennedy and others recommended using thermography in combination with other modalities to increase screening accuracy.

“No single tool provides excellent predictability; however, a combination that incorporates thermography may boost both sensitivity and specificity. In light of technological advances and maturation of the thermographic industry, additional research is required to confirm the potential of this technology to provide an effective non-invasive, low risk adjunctive tool for the early detection of breast cancer,” write the authors.

The American Cancer Society does not endorse thermography to replace mammography, “No study has ever shown that it is an effective screening tool for finding breast cancer early. It should not be used as a substitute for mammograms.”

“There is a great deal of literature concerning the thermal imaging field in medicine. In fact, it is one of the most studied imaging technologies in the past 20 years. Politics, lack of regulation and misuse of the technology have gone a long way in keeping thermography from the mainstream.”  Dr. William Cockburn, Breastthermography.org

Patients interested in pursuing thermography for breast screening need to be aware of unscrupulous practices warns Dr. Cockburn, a pioneer and long time educator in Medical Thermal Imaging.

Patients interested in pursuing thermography should consult with a licensed practitioner who is certified in thermal imaging through a recognized agency (AAT, AMIT, AAMII, AMIA, IACT, ITS). In addition, the rating system the technologist uses to assess the breast readings vary; some producing a higher than average false positive rate.

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Footnote: My experience with a thermogram, cold but tolerable.  

After my thermography I received via email incredibly detailed images and a written risk assessment report. My results were normal, low risk with some mild “mottling” (areas of vascular changes attributed to years of (synthetic) hormone replacement therapy due to a pituitary disorder diagnosed decades back). I remain on hormone replacement but bioidentical vs. synthetic. 

I plan a one year follow-up with the same practitioner, but NOW, after talking to Dr. Amalu, I will also get a mammogram, UNLESS I can convince my doctor to prescribe an MRI instead (not likely with an “all clear” on my thermo.

This is a Catch 22. If you’re not high risk (how do I know, I’m adopted?), you can’t get an MRI. While I have had breast ultrasounds (they were negative) after an abnormal mammo, I’ve never had an MRI and frankly, these are cost prohibitive in many cases.

So what was my thermogram like?

Similar to the immodesty inherent in the mammogram that flat irons your breasts under “plexiglass” while the tech moves them like putty this way and that, during my thermography standing semi in the buff for about 10 minutes (with a woman practitioner) was mildly awkward.

And admittedly, putting my hand in ice water for a full minute (to lower my body temperature for the reading) was more than a bit unpleasant (a six), but it was fast, it was handled very professionally and I’m glad I did it.

Ultimately my credo is that everyone has to make their own informed health decision, but the key is, make it informed.Until today I was hell bent on ditching the mammo and only going with the thermogram, now? I’ll do both until one day I can opt out of the radiation the mammo gives off and go with the MRI.

Sources

Gautherie M, Gros CM.. “Breast thermography and cancer risk prediction.” Pol Arch Med Wewn March 2010.

Jay, Edward, Thermogram Assessment Services, “Winning the Battle Against Breast Cancer.”

Kennedy DA, Lee T, Seely D. “A comparative review of thermography as a breast cancer screening technique.” Integrative Cancer Therapies,2009 Mar;8(1):9-16.

Plotnikoff G, Carolyn T. ”Emerging controversies in breast imaging: is there a place for thermography?” Minnesota Medicine 2009 Dec;92(12):37-9, 56.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

Secrets to Happiness Don’t Change. Timeless Wisdom Prevails.

Philosophers, spiritual leaders, self-help gurus, even scientists profess to know what makes a person happy, yet the core principles remain unchanged.

happiness, joy, dalai lama, secrets to happiness
The theories behind what creates happiness have been dissected, discussed and debated since the beginning of time. New disciplines are blended with ancient philosophies in an attempt to understand the nature of positive emotion. Humans inherently strive to feel good physically and mentally, to seek joy. While the pathway is highly individual, the desire for joy is rooted in universal longings.

As the ideas surrounding individualism emerged throughout history, some philosophers argued that pursuing personal joy was self-centered, non-altruistic and hedonistic. Yet some argue that placing the pursuit of joy as a central goal in one’s life doesn’t necessarily diminish others’ goals. Cultivating joy can, in fact, become the engine that drives a person towards expressing deep, genuine compassion and kindness.

The formula for happiness is dependent upon a person’s beliefs, experiences and cultural, generational and familial expectations. Yet, the core principles appear universal, invulnerable to social trends or to the inherent differences that exist among people.

Happiness as a Choice and Daily Discipline

In the 2007 LiveScience article “The Keys to Happiness, and Why We Don’t Use Them,” Robin Lloyd writes that while psychologists continue to discuss the “keys to happiness” with patients, many continue to adhere to habitual ways of negative or irrational thinking. It’s believed that people can only change chronic patterns of thought when they actively, with intention, decide they want to. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Individuals can begin by adopting a firm, unwavering belief that they deserve to be happy, and not by taking defensive stances like, “That lucky SOB always gets money, girlfriends and promoted. I deserve that, not him.” Happiness can come in addition to others’ good fortune, not in lieu of it.

A person must also change the commonly held belief that others “make” them happy or unhappy, e.g. “If he would be more attentive,” “If my boss would only give me a raise,” etc. People can’t make another person happy, but they can add to the collective pool of joy that’s available to everyone.

A person can choose to accept with peaceful conviction that they deserve to be happy simply because they do, for no other reason or justification. Some people associate this brand of thinking with being entirely self-serving, and in fact – it is. To joyfully serve self however, means others will be served in the center and the wake of another’s happiness. A joyful parent is more emotionally present, more patient, more fulfilled; children sense this. A joyful spouse is more attentive, loving and appreciative, and as such, more likely to receive the same in return.

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Establishing a daily discipline of journaling, prayer, and/or meditation helps foster a mindset that intuits that joy is natural and deserved, rather than something to be earned. Next, individuals can write a point by point action plan to move towards accomplishing their goals no matter how unrealistic they seem at the moment. Establishing a mindset of deserved joy and expressing the words around what joy means to an individual sets in motion the manifestation of those dreams and goals.

The Dalai Lama on Happiness

The Dalai Lama, in a book he co-authored with psychiatrist Howard Cutler, titled The Art of Happiness, says that transforming one’s mind toward achieving happiness is a gradual process and a lifelong commitment. He says that on a daily basis, individuals should consider and contemplate “reminders of how to speak to others, how to deal with other people, how to deal with problems in your daily life, things like that.” The characteristics of a happy person, he says, include sociability, creativity, flexibility, a loving attitude, and forgiveness.

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The Dalai Lama also believes that showing compassion towards others helps unify the common goal people have of achieving happiness. Cutler gleaned great insight from this new knowledge. “I’m trained in medicine and science,” he says, “I probably wasn’t aware enough to realize the importance of kindness and compassion. And these qualities are critical. I’m now able to see people differently, that they are the same as me, striving to be happy. It’s about human connection, you know?”

And while following a spiritual path is deeply rewarding and some believe essential to create authentic joy, one particular religion is not the key to happiness, says the Dalai Lama. “There are five billion human beings, and in a certain way, I think we need five billion different religions. I believe that each individual should embark upon a spiritual path that is best suited to his or her mental disposition, natural inclination, temperament, belief, family and cultural background.”

Healing, Happiness and Health through People, Nature and Animals

Most people understand the intrinsic value of connecting with others or the feelings of awe and joy that come with appreciating nature’s boundless beauty. Owning a pet it turns out, can also foster emotional and physical well-being.

A growing body of research is showing the benefits of human-animal bonding for child development, elderly care, mental illness, physical impairment, dementia, abuse and trauma recovery, and the rehabilitation of incarcerated youth and adults.

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Dr. Froma Walsh and her colleagues conducted a study that showed bonding with pets strengthened human resilience through crisis, persistent adversity, and disruptive transitions, such as relocation, divorce, widowhood, and adoption. Pets increase well-being and healing through their relational benefits, with stress reduction and playfulness, loyal companionship, affection, comfort, security, and unconditional love.

“The powerful meaning and significance of companion animals is underestimated,” says Walsh. Mental health professionals however, rarely consider the value and implications of human-animal bonds. Deep pet attachments after the loss of a pet are often marginalized, seen as abnormal, or ignored in theory, training, and practice.

Money Boosts Satisfaction But Other Factors Create Daily Happiness

Money can buy happiness, sort of.

Ed Diener PhD and Robert Biswas-Diener, a father-son research team, conducted research on the origins of happiness and found that a large income was more directly related to a strong sense of happiness than any other factor. Overall, people who said they had a great life reported higher income.

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Yet, having a larger salary did not mean people felt happier on a day-to-day basis. Possessing “psychological wealth,” the ability to adapt to both good and bad events in order to move forward in life, was a key factor. “Essentially, we have two forms of prosperity: economic and psychological,” said Diener. “I don’t know if one is better than the other. But what we’ve found is that while money may make people lead more comfortable lives, it won’t necessarily contribute to life’s pleasant moments that come from engaging with people and activities rather than from material goods and luxuries.”

In a follow-up study, the team looked at a long list of attributes of respondents, including their income and standard of living. Participants answered questions about positive or negative emotions they experienced the previous day, whether they felt respected, whether they had family and friends they could count on in an emergency, and how free they felt to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do “what one does best.”

Like previous studies, the researchers found that life satisfaction rises with personal and national income. But positive feelings, which also increase somewhat as income rises, are much more strongly associated with these other factors:

  • Feeling respected
  • Having autonomy
  • Having social support
  • Working at a fulfilling job.

This was the first happiness study to differentiate between life satisfaction, the philosophical belief that one’s life is going well, and the day-to-day positive or negative feelings that one experiences, Diener said. “Everybody has been looking at just life satisfaction and income,” he said. “And while it is true that getting richer will make you more satisfied with your life, it may not have the big impact we thought on enjoying life.”

The “secrets” behind happiness are likely the intersection of psychological, physiological, spiritual and meta-physical occurrences in an individual. Yet, the answers behind feeling positive emotion, behind experiencing daily happiness and joy appear timeless and universal to all humans.

Click here for: Amazon’s Highly Rated Books about Happiness 

Sources

C. J. Boyce, G. D.A. Brown and S. C. Moore. “Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction.” Psychological Science, 2010.

E Diener, Ng Weiting, J. Harter and R. Arora . “Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010.

F. Walsh et al. “Human-Animal Bonds I: The Relational Significance of Companion Animals.” Family Process, 2009.

A.J. Oswald and S. Wu. “Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-Being: Evidence from the U.S.A. Science, 2009.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Low Conflict Marriages Cause Most Divorces. Solutions Are Simple.

marriage, divorce, communication, conflict

Most Divorces Due to "Low Conflict" Marriages

It’s not big explosive conflicts such as a spouse cheating or an addiction that finally comes to head that destroy most marriages.

Pamela Haag, author of Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Under-sexed Spouses and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules (Harper),says it’s “low conflict marriages,” the low simmering erosion of the relationship that leads to couples calling it quits.

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In an article published by Tribune papers, “Till tedium do us part,” (September 1, 2011), Heidi Stevens writes:”Up to 60 percent of divorces in the United States, in fact, stem from “low-conflict” marriages, Haag writes in her book, citing a study by marriage researcher Paul Amato.

Marriages that aren’t marred by abuse, addiction, repeated infidelity or other “high-conflict” issues, in other words, actually account for the majority of divorces.” Edward M. Hallowell, director of the Massachusetts-based Hallowell Centers for Cognitive and Emotional Health and co-author of Married to Distraction: How to Restore Intimacy and Strengthen Your Partnership in an Age of Interruption (Ballantine Books) says there isn’t one tipping point that sends these low conflict marriages spiraling down, it’s a decline fueled, among other things, the perpetual noise, buzz and constant distraction couples face today.

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“The ambient noise of life takes over,” Hallowell says. “There’s no big conflict; couples have just lost touch with each other, lost the fun, lost the moments of sustained attention because we live surrounded by this buzz.” Couples are so busy trying to keep up with their lives, bombarded by electronic, digital and day-to-day stimuli they hardly have the time or energy to notice their marital relationship is fading to the background.

The good news is that because these are low conflict issues the remedies aren’t complicated. Hallowell and his wife list 40 tips in their book, and reading over a few of the standouts Heidi Stevens listed in her article I’m reminded that the most useful solutions for resolving conflict seem to boil down to common sense and courtesy, that is once the issue comes to light.

Tips to tackle low simmering marital conflict

  • Be attentive.  Make an effort to tune in, ask your spouse how he/she is doing. Listening is caring and a sign of intimacy.
  • Avoid eye-rolling and any sign of contempt as this fuels more of the same.
  • Split labor into more “attractive” piles. If the wife doesn’t mind doing laundry (as much as her spouse hates it), but hates cleaning the kitchen to the nth degree, divide duties so she does more laundry and he does more kitchen duty.
  • Take a half hour to talk about general things that don’t agitate. Leave out conversations about work, money, chores and conflicts. Connect with each other with light chatter that amuses or inspires, rather than agitates or stresses.

If you you have to ask, there might be a problem

Halwell recalls thinking after a woman asked him if it was bad that her spouse left his Blackberry next to them while they were having sex, “I don’t know which is odder. That he’s doing it or that you have to ask.” My list in life of “If you really have to ask that, you probably already know the answer” could go on for sometime, and this one clearly makes the cut.

When an electronic device is spooning you, you might need to unplug the device, and plug in yourself.

In truth I see signs I need to monitor in myself but nothing like having my Iphone perched on my pillow. My husband and I sit on the porch each weekend listening to music and drinking coffee and wine into the wee hours, yakking up life from A to Z. This is a ritual we’ve done for decades but without any hand-held devices to distract us from the music or our conversation.

Back B.E.D.D (Before Electronic Diversion Disorder) our entertainment on the porch was our chatter and cassettes, then it became CDs, then the radio, now our Ipod. Somewhere along the way, my Iphone and Ipad made it’s way onto our porch. NOW relaxing into the early part of the evening, we sometimes kick back in our chairs with our Iphones glued to our faces and get silent for up to an hour. I’m not sure how that’s connecting, except that we’re in the same room, listening to the same music, sharing the same air.

Fortunately if I get swept into email, websites or Facebook (which I’m more likely to do than my husband), he pulls me back, unphased that I was mentally disconnected, guilty of his own Iphone app diversion, pages of ESPN or Fantasy football. When I read a book in bed, an actual hand held paper book, he reads sports articles on his Iphone which is fine with us because neither is interested in talking to the other when we’re tired, so the distractions of choice don’t disrespect us.

little mindless digital distraction soothes, too much and in lieu of connecting through personal conversation and I can see symptoms surface for a slow simmering spiral down for a marriage.

Photo credit: Ambro

Can Vitamin D Impact Weight Loss?

Vitamin D continues to make headline news. Findings suggest adequate levels may break barriers with individuals battling excess weight.

Research reveals a relationship between vitamin D levels in the body, vitamin D intake, and body weight. While the exact relationship is not entirely understood, a growing body of evidence suggests an association between obesity/excess body weight and D levels exists.

(Photo credit, Flickr)

vitamin d, weight loss, vitamin d deficiency

In addition, the link is supported by the fact that obesity and low D are co-morbid (occur at the same time) with diseases such as: disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, depression and even periodontal disease.

Vitamin D Levels Predict Weight Loss Success

In a 2010 study researchers found that adequate vitamin D levels in the body improves weight loss success with a diet program.

“Vitamin D deficiency is associated with obesity, but it is not clear if inadequate vitamin D causes obesity or the other way around,” said the study’s lead author, Shalamar Sibley, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

For the study, scientists measured circulating blood levels of vitamin D in 38 overweight men and women before and after the subjects followed a diet plan for 11 weeks consisting of 750 calories a day fewer than their estimated total needs. Subjects also had their fat distribution measured with DXA (bone densitometry) scans.

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While the participants’ vitamin D levels were lower than what many experts consider sufficient, the subjects’ baseline, or pre-diet vitamin D levels predicted weight loss in a linear relationship. For every increase of 1 ng/mL in level of 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, the precursor form of vitamin D and a commonly used indicator of vitamin D status, subjects lost almost a half pound (0.196 kg) more on their calorie-restricted diet. For every 1-ng/mL increase in the active or “hormonal” form of vitamin D (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol), subjects lost nearly one-quarter pound (0.107 kg) more.

In addition, subjects with higher baseline vitamin D levels (both the precursor and active forms) lost more abdominal fat. The implications of these findings, researchers believe, are promising. “Our results suggest the possibility that the addition of vitamin D to a reduced-calorie diet will lead to better weight loss,” Sibley said.  

Obesity and Vitamin D Levels

In another study out of the University of Madrid researchers found that excess body weight was associated with decreasing amounts of vitamin D. Scientists measured the body weight of 61 young, overweight/obese women and randomly assigned them to two different weight control programs: diet V, increased greens and vegetables, or diet C, increased cereals (some of which were enriched with vitamin D).

Taking into account only women with a vitamin D intake below expert-recommended levels, the women who were obese had a significantly lower average serum 25(OH)D concentration than those who weighed less. In addition, group C (increased cereals, some enriched with vitamin D) subjects lost more weight than the Group V subjects.

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In another study out of Spain, researchers gathered the following data on 102 children ages nine to 13: height, body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist and hip measurements (to determine the quantity of visceral or abdominal fat), and the thickness of the tricipital and bicipital skinfold (to determine the quantity of subcutaneous fat). Scientists also analyzed the childrens’ diet with a three-day weighed food record and their vitamin D intake as compared to recommended (expert) levels.

Results showed while there was no significant difference in body weight based on vitamin D intake, children who had insufficient levels of D in their body had higher weight, BMI, waist measurement and waist/height ratio than the children with adequate levels of D in their body.

In addition, results showed that children with a body weight, BMI, bicipital skinfold thickness, waist measurement and waist/height ratio above the 50th percentile for each variable were at a greater risk of having a low serum 25(OH)D concentration.

Obesity and Vitamin D Epidemic: Coincidence? 

Dr. John Cannell, Director of the Vitamin D Council in his 2004 Newsletter article, “Obesity and Vitamin D,” writes, “One third of Americans are obese. While much of that epidemic is surely due to playing Nintendo instead of baseball, or the consumption of soft drinks instead of water, does that explain it all? Is it a coincidence that the twin epidemics of obesity and vitamin D deficiency are occurring together?”

A growing body of research suggests more than a coincidence. While there are numerous alternative explanations for the findings notes Dr. Cannell, an overwhelming number of studies suggest a link. The following is an incomplete list, for the full list refer to Dr. Cannell’s September 2004 newsletter.

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  • When aboriginal populations migrate from high altitude (more UV rays to convert to D in the skin) to low altitude, body fat increases.
  • Higher calcium intake is consistently associated with lower body weight, as vitamin D significantly increases calcium absorption.
  • The combination vitamin D and calcium reduced subsequent spontaneous food intake and increased the metabolism of fat.
  • Genetic abnormalities of the vitamin D receptor (called VDR polymorphisms) are associated with body weight and fat mass. Patients with VDR polymorphisms have reduced vitamin D activity at their receptors.
  • Blood parathyroid levels, which are elevated in vitamin D deficiency, predict obesity.
  • Starting since 1981 studies have consistently shown that 25(OH)D levels are lower in obese subjects.
  • Obesity is associated with early death, and low vitamin D levels are more likely in the winter. Scientists have known about and debated the cause of excess winter deaths for years
  • Obese subjects obtain lower 25(OH)D levels when exposed to ultraviolet light or when they take supplemental vitamin D. Subjects appeared to deposit some of their vitamin D in their excessive fatty tissue which impaired their ability to raise their 25(OH)D levels.

Whether excess weight contributes to lower levels of vitamin D in the body or low vitamin D causes excess weight is still unclear. Research indicates however, a relationship exists. The implications for weight management and leveraging the effectiveness of a diet program are promising.

Click here for Vitamin D 

Sources

The Endocrine Society (2009, June 12), “Successful Weight Loss With Dieting Is Linked To Vitamin D Levels,” ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 18, 2010.

Ortega RM, López-Sobaler AM, Aparicio A, Bermejo LM, Rodríguez-Rodríguez E, Perea

JM, Andrés P, “Vitamin D status modification by two slightly hypocaloric diets in young overweight/obese women.”International Journal of Vitamin & Nutritional Research 2009 Mar;79(2):71-8.

Rodríguez-Rodríguez E, Navia-Lombán B, López-Sobaler AM, Ortega RM,

“Associations between abdominal fat and body mass index on vitamin D status in a

group of Spanish schoolchildren,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010 Mar 10.

Cannell, John, MD, The Vitamin D Council, “Obesity and Vitamin D,” The Vitamin D Newsletter, September 17, 2004.

Narcissists Spotted From Facebook Posts and Profile, Find Psychologists


Facebook, narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder, online personality

Who we are on Facebook, online, often mirrors we we are.

Photo credit link: Flickr

Let me disclaim upfront, the findings represented in this article don’t suggest Facebook users are narcissists, rather narcissists can be spotted on Facebook based on certain indicators.  

I’d also like to look at more current research to see if the 2008 findings I reference in my article change over time. As social media, particularly Facebook, becomes increasingly the cultural norm for communication, media and public opinion, the factors used to spot narcissists from Facebook posts/profiles may no longer hold true.

Increasingly these findings may simply represent the majority of online users who are now becoming the populous. For example, many users have lots of “friends” and a flattering photo and are not in any way borderline or full-blown narcissists.

Facebook, like all platforms for expression will eventually blend seamlessly with the population rather than differentiate. Facebook will increasingly, I believe, define, parse and profile people to the same degree all forms of communication offer a form of expressing who we are.

It’s not the communication medium that makes the person, it’s that people are finding new, increasingly more convenient, and in the case of the shy or introverted, more comfortable ways to express who they are anyway.

I will say however, online communication offers a form of emotional protection with its absence of face to face cues and reaction. This form of social connection fosters, I think, a safe camaraderie and an easy kinship that isn’t always gained so fast when people are eyeball to eyeball for the first time at a party, fidgeting with their shyness, pregnant pauses, agendas, or moment to moment social awkwardness.  

Just last night someone told me she’s more outgoing on Facebook than she is in person. Communication outlets don’t turn us into who we are, we use them for how we need them, how they complement or at times, hinder our authentic self.

Facebook Wall Posts and Profile Can Predict Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A 2008 study showed that social media sites may offer a vivid snapshot of a person’s true personality. With the explosive growth of online communities like Facebook, social psychologists are studying how personality traits are expressed in cyberspace. A 2008 study from the University of Georgia found narcissists are likely to have a large number of Facebook friends and wall posts as well as a glamorous, self-promoting profile picture.

 A narcissistic personality disorder is defined as having an inflated sense of one’s own importance and a deep need for admiration. People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they’re superior to others and have little interest in offering empathy. Yet behind their elevated confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Researchers at the University of Georgia administered a personality questionnaire to 130 Facebook users, analyzed the content of their pages and asked untrained observers to view and rate the pages. Results indicated a correlation between the number of Facebook contacts and wall posts and narcissism.

The results of the study don’t suggest people who use Facebook are narcissists, rather narcissists are likely to have these particular traits.

The behavior of narcissists on Facebook is often consistent with their real world behavior. In both arenas they tend to have numerous shallow connections because the disorder influences their ability to form healthy, long-term relationships. “Narcissists might initially be seen as charming, but they end up using people for their own advantage,” said associate professor W. Keith Campbell. “They hurt the people around them and they hurt themselves in the long run.”

Facebook Users Not More Narcissistic, Narcissists Often On Facebook

Researchers found that even untrained observers could detect narcissism in Facebook users. Observers tended to use three characteristics to form an impression of the individual’s personality:

  1. Quantity of social interactions
  2. Attractiveness
  3. Degree of self-promotion in the main photo

And while the observers were not 100% accurate in their assessments, they were able to form a relatively accurate impression.

Campbell notes that there’s no research suggesting that Facebook users are more narcissistic than others. “It seems to be a normal part of people’s social interactions,” he said. Although because narcissists tend to have more contacts on Facebook, a typical Facebook user is likely to have a higher proportion of narcissists in their contact list than in the real world.

Online Profile and Photo Accurately Convey Real-Life Personality

First impressions count, even online. A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found people learn a lot from a person’s appearance. In the study observers looked at 123 photos of strangers and were asked to rate them across ten personality traits.

Ratings were compared to the photo subjects’ self-ratings and those provided by close acquaintances. Results indicated that regardless of whether the person stood in a controlled or neutral pose, observers were able to accurately judge major personality traits including extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity.

When subjects were in a neutral position, observers accurately predicted nine of the ten personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness, likability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation.

Simine Vazire, an assistant professor of psychology who runs Washington University’s Personality and Self-Knowledge Lab and an author of the study warns that strangers can find out as much about someone’s personality as acquaintances, just by looking them up on the Internet. “It’s another example of how pervasive personality is,” she says. “You can’t outrun your personality. It’s going to follow you everywhere.”

Psychological Science researchers found that online social networking sites don’t convey an “idealized identity.” Instead, these sites often portray a person’s personality quite accurately, a finding that might help explain online sites’ popularity. While online users might believe they’re creating a particular persona, their content, number of online friends, frequency of posts and profile picture are fairly accurate indicators of their actual personality.

Sources:

MayoClinic.com,”Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” November 19, 2009, Retrieved January 15, 2010.

University of Georgia (2008, September 23).”Facebook Profiles Can Be Used To Detect Narcissism,” ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 15, 2010.

Johannah Cornblatt, “Making a Digital First Impression: Why You Can’t Fake Your Facebook Profile,” Newsweek.com. November 10, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Integrative Massage For Chronic Pain – Multi-Disciplinary Approach More Effective

photo of facial massage, integrative massage, therapeutic massage, neuromuscular massage, trigger point therapy, myofascial release, chronic pain

Multiple massage modalities during one session can be very effective to treat chronic pain issues.

Photo, Flickr 

I probably have every massage tool known to mankind at home. I think a good massage is a one of the best physical and mental stress and strain relievers, so I treat myself every few months.

The price is worth the return, times ten.

If I can’t get a massage however, this Homedics chair, a gift from husband and my daughter one Mother’s Day, is the next best thing to hands-on massage. The rollers are strong but not painful, and for the price, I like the flexibility of the easy to use options.

Many people treat their chronic pain due to injury or illness with one kind of massage therapy. Yet, integrative or medical massage may offer a more effective approach.

Medical practitioners often prescribe one type of massage therapy for patient’s with ongoing physical or emotional pain due to injury, trauma or illness. Yet the most effective massage treatment for chronic pain may be a multi-disciplinary or integrative approach, as well massage sessions that engage the patient in the healing process.

Integrative Massage Therapy

Integrative massage offers a more holistic approach to massage therapy, applying a technique according to the kind that will work on various issues in the body (and mind).

During the first session therapists generally gather detailed information about their client’s medical history and past treatments. This lets them tailor the therapy to their patient’s specific physical and emotional needs. They avoid a “one size fits all” massage approach and instead use multiple modalities, borrowing from a wide variety of cultures and practices.

Integrative massage therapists don’t try to diagnose medical conditions, nor do they rely on a client’s current diagnoses to steer the course of treatment. Instead they listen to their client’s symptoms and apply the technique(s) they feel will most effectively address the issues. The therapist serves as a kind of healing “detective,” so to speak, working to pin point the physical and potentially emotional causes behind the patient’s chronic pain.

Integrative Massage Therapy Treats A Number of Chronic Health Conditions

The cause of chronic unexplained pain is complex, yet depending on the condition, integrative massage therapy can effectively treat or alleviate symptoms in a variety of conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel or tendonitis. *(I like Biofreeze for muscle pain. It gives cold therapy when you can’t bother with an ice pack.
  • Poor posture issues
  • Unexplained chronic pain in soft tissue/musculoskeletal system
  • Accident or sports injuries
  • Cancer patient pain management

Integrative Massage Therapy Empowers the Patient

Integrative massage can be very empowering to the patient and a good integrative massage therapist will explain to her patient that she is merely a facilitator to the client’s own ability to heal. Some therapists use positive words and affirmations during sessions to help “re-program” their client’s response to pain and treatment.

In addition, integrative massage therapists often teach their patients an at-home therapy plan that may include cardiovascular and targeted strengthening and stretch exercises, as well as pain and stress management tips. This approach can be quite encouraging for chronic pain sufferers who may been told for years their pain is “all in their head,” were regularly misdiagnosed or have been at the mercy of the traditional medical establishment with no relief.

Integrative Massage Therapies For Chronic Pain

Integrative massage therapists combine any of a number of techniques to relieve chronic pain depending on the patient’s symptoms and the therapist’s certification in a particular massage modality. Some of the common massage modalities used in the treatment of chronic pain include:

  • Neuromuscular therapy
  • CranioSacral therapy
  • Myofascial release
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Lymphatic drainage
  • Orthopedic massage
  • Massage for cancer patients

Integrative Massage Therapy vs. Medical Massage

The term “medical or therapeutic massage” is sometimes used interchangeably with the term integrative massage. Integrative simply implies using a multi-disciplinary massage approach to treat medical conditions. James Waslaskin in his 2004 online article on Massage Today entitled, “Defining Medical Message,” explains that “Medical massage is performed with the intent of improving conditions or pathologies that have been diagnosed by a physician; a wide variety of modalities or procedures are utilized to focus the treatment based on the diagnosed condition.”

Match The Chronic Pain Condition With the Right Kind Of Massage

Any hands on massage work that manipulates soft tissue structures of the body in order to prevent and alleviate pain, discomfort, muscle spasm, stress and promotes health and wellness is beneficial.

If a patient is suffering with from chronic pain the may not want to limit their massage treatments to those that strictly feel good but may not have much healing or long term curative effect. Instead they should find an experienced integrative massage therapist who has the skills to assess which treatments are the most effective for their particular medical conditions.

Additional Reading: 

Vitamin D Deficiency, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety & Depression, Possible Links

Fibromyalgia Pain: Magnesium and Malic Acid Combined More Effective

Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Linked

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Vitamin D Deficiency, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety & Depression: Possible Links

vitamin d, fibromyalgia, depression, chronic pain

The Sunshine Vitamin. Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to fibromyalgia, chronic pain symptoms.

(Photo credit, Maggie Smith)

While researchers have found a relationship between insufficient vitamin D, chronic pain, anxiety and depression, the exact causality is still unknown.

Researchers in a 2007 study reported in Clinical Rheumatology that vitamin D deficiency is common in people with fibromyalgia and also occurs more frequently in those with anxiety and depression. Yet research is also emerging that may dispute the once believed link between Seasonal Affective Disorder, its depressive symptoms and D deficiency.

Regardless of the unanswered questions, patients suffering with mood issues and/or chronic muscle pain may want to consider having their 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels tested.

Fibromyalgia, Vitamin D, Anxiety & Depression May Be Linked

People with fibromyalgia often have symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as low levels of vitamin D. In the 2007 study, researchers tested serum vitamin D levels in 75 patients with fibromyalgia. The subjects completed a Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score (HADS). Results showed that patients with vitamin D deficiency scored higher on the HADS .

Research has also linked vitamin D deficiency to patients who suffer with chronic pain. While the relationship between fibromyalgia, pain, anxiety, depression and vitamin D deficiency is somewhat complex and the exact relationship remains unclear, evidence is mounting to suggest that vitamin D plays some role in chronic pain and mood imbalance.

Vitamin D Deficiency, Depression With Seasonal Affective Disorder Research Disputed

Vitamin D continues to gain worldwide attention due to emerging research linking it to more than 2,000 gene processes in the body. Yet evidence has surfaced to challenge vitamin D’s once presumed role in Seasonal Affective Disorder and the associated depressive symptoms. Researchers believe Seasonal Affective Disorder manifests during winter months as a result of lack of sunlight exposure on the skin which then results in vitamin D deficiency.

In a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Dr. Oscar Franco, Assistant Clinical Professor in Public Health and his team, recruited more than 3,000 people and tested levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) in the blood. Subjects completed a questionnaire to measure depressive symptoms. Researchers found no clear association between depressive symptoms and the concentration of vitamin D in the blood.

“Few studies have explored the association between blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations and depression in the general population, ” said Dr. Franco. “Previous studies into the effects of vitamin D supplementation have produced mixed results. More studies are still needed to evaluate whether vitamin D is associated with seasonal affective disorders, but our study does raise questions about the effects of taking more vitamin D to combat depressive symptoms.”

A Japanese study conducted in 2009 also found no evidence linking higher blood vitamin D levels with decreased depressive symptoms.

Vitamin D, Mood & The Brain

In a report entitled, “Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence?” researchers concluded that based on the body of research to date, high doses of supplemental vitamin D may improve mild depressive symptoms. Yet questions persist regarding the following critical study areas of mood regulation:

  • how vitamin D affects monoamine function and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to stress
  • whether vitamin D supplementation can improve mood in individuals with moderate-to-severe depression
  • whether vitamin D sufficiency is protective against incident depression and recurrence.

Investigators in the report suggest it is “premature to conclude that vitamin D status is related to the occurrence of depression. Additional prospective studies of this relationship are essential.”

While the exact relationship between mood disorders, chronic muscle pain and vitamin D deficiency has not be clearly established, evidence suggests that patients with chronic muscle pain, anxiety or depression should at least consider testing their vitamin D levels and supplementing if they are deficient.

Additional Reading:

Fibromyalgia Pain: Magnesium and Malic Acid Combined More Effective

Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Linked

Integrative Massage For Chronic Pain: Multi-Disciplinary Approach More Effective

Footnotes:

Armstrong DJ, Meenagh GK, Bickle I, Lee AS, Curran ES, Finch MB, “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia,” Clinical Rheumatology,2007 Apr.

An Pan, Ling Lu, Oscar H. Franco, Zhijie Yu, Huaixing Li, Xu Lin. “Association between depressive symptoms and 25-hydroxyvitamin D in middle-aged and elderly Chinese., “ Journal of Affective Disorders, 2009.

University of Warwick (2009, March 18). Vitamin D May Not Be The Answer To Feeling SAD. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2010.

Bertone-Johnson ER, “Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence?” Nutritional Review, 2009 Aug.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Magnesium and Malic Acid Combination for Fibromyalgia

fibromyalgia, magnesium, malic acid, chronic pain, supplements for fibromyalgia, natural treatments for fibromyalgia

Synergy with both supplements may improve symptoms in FMS.

Photo credit: Flickr

While magnesium can reduce pain in some fibromyalgia patients, not everyone with FMS has low levels of magnesium. Yet research indicates that taking adequate doses of magnesium in combination with malic acid over an extended period of time can significantly reduce the muscle and soft tissue pain associated with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia and Muscle Energy Disruption

It’s unclear how or if these two elements work synergistically, yet magnesium and malic acid are both key components in how energy is produced and transported within the cells of the muscles. Evidence suggests that one cause of fibromyalgia pain is local hypoxia in the muscles (low oxygen) which contributes to muscle tissue breakdown.

Magnesium Deficiency and Fibromyalgia Pain

Magnesium is an essential mineral for good health and is involved in a long list of critical functions in the body including: nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and as a co-factor for 350 enzymes. Some people with fibromyalgia are low in magnesium.

Magnesium activates the most important enzyme in the body, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) an energy molecule produced within a component of cells called the mitochondria, the body’s “energy furnace.” About 20 percent of the body’s production of ATP is located in the brain. As a result, diminished levels can reduce the brain’s cognitive functions, a common problem in people with fibromyalgia.

Magnesium is needed in the production of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter involved in the perception of pain. Serotonin levels have been shown to be significantly lower in people with fibromyalgia. Magnesium is one of the many co-factors needed to release and bind serotonin in the brain to provide balanced mental functioning.

Magnesium deficiency increases a chemical in the body called substance P, a neurotransmitter and protein found in the brain and spinal cord. People with fibromyalgia have abnormally high levels of substance P. Substance P serves as a pain messenger and is associated with inflammatory processes in the joints. Excess levels can cause pain signals to be sent to the brain even when there is no actual injury or illness.

Malic Acid and Fibromyalgia Pain

Malic acid is an organic substance found in fruits (particularly apples) and plants.

Malic acid is involved in the production of energy in the body. It plays a role in the molecules involved in controlling mitochondrial, energy production, within the cells. Malic acid provides greater stamina and endurance in muscle cells.

Malic acid is particularly useful in helping remove aluminum from the body. Aluminum toxicity is thought to be one contributor to fibromyalgia symptoms. While magnesium also helps block the toxic effects of aluminum, malic acid may be even more effective.

Studies On Magnesium and Malic Acid To Reduce Fibromyalgia Pain

In a 1992 study 15 fibromylagia patients received an oral dose of 1200-2400 mg of malate (malic acid) and 300-600 mg of magnesium over a four and 8 week period. Patients reported a reduction in pain across a tender point index (TPI). Six subjects felt an improvement in 48 hours.

During another study conducted in 1995, researchers gave 24 subjects with fibromyalgia a “Supermalic” low tablet with 50 mg magnesium and 200mg malic acid. Scientists measured pain levels through patient self-assessment and the tender point index. Results showed that the low dose, short term trial was not effective to reduce fibromyalgia pain. However, higher doses over an extended duration significantly reduced subjects’ pain.

Magnesium Malate Dosage and Side Effects

Magnesium Malate has been shown to be the most effective form of magnesium to reduce fibromyalgia pain. The recommended dose is 1,500 mg, although people should adjust their dose according to their pain level and side effects.

Side effects with extended use may include headache, muscular pain, and mild gastrointestinal symptoms. The most common side effect is loose stools. Should this occur people should decrease their next dose by 50%.

Additional Reading:

Vitamin D Deficiency, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety & Depression, Possible Links

Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Linked

Integrative Massage For Chronic Pain: Multi-Disciplinary Approach More Effective

Footnotes:

Abraham GE, Glechas ID. “Management of fibromyalgia: A rationale for the use of magnesium and malic acid.” Journal of Nutritional Medicine,1992;3:49-59.

Russell IJ, et al. “Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study.” Journal of Rheumatology, 1995; 22:953-958.

“The Team Value of Magnesium and Malic Acid,” Marc D. Braunstein, Oralchelation.com. Accessed 11/6/08.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Autism and Insomnia – Melatonin Improves Kids’ Sleep Disorders

Melatonin May Help Children With Autism & Sleep Problems Slumber Better

Photo by: Hepingting, Flickr

A sleep hormone produced by the pineal gland may improve sleep issues in children with autism, resulting in an improvement of the day to day dynamics for the entire family.

Americans are tired. About 40 million suffer from a chronic sleep disorder, with an additional 20-30 million affected by intermittent sleep-related problems. Yet for children with autism the problem is even more common, resulting in an issue that negatively impacts the day to day dynamics of the whole family. Researchers estimate that between 40% and 80% of children with autism have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep.

Autism Associated with Higher Incidence of Sleep Disorders

Dr. Beth Maslow, Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center reports that sleep disorder diaries completed by parents of children with autism revealed that the most common sleep concern is insomnia which may include:

  • Prolonged time to fall asleep/difficulty falling asleep
  • Inconsistent sleep routines
  • Decreased sleep duration and continuity
  • Restlessness or poor sleep quality
  • Increased arousals and awakenings
  • Early morning wake time

In her 2007 presentation, “Promoting Sleep in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” Dr. Maslow outlined other sleep issues children with autism may experience such as sleep disordered breathing, bruxism, arousals from sleep with confusion or wandering, rhythmic movement disorder, leg movements and daytime sleepiness.

While the sleep disorder estimates are high in children with autism, Dr. Maslow reports that only 54% of parents surveyed indicated their child had a sleep problem (Honomichl and Anders 2002). Yet for those families affected by autism who do struggle with nighttime slumber, the cumulative effects of sleep deprivation trickle down, wreaking havoc on the family’s emotional and physical well-being, and exacerbating behavioral issues the child may already exhibit.

“Sleep onset problems at the beginning of the night are very troublesome for children and their families,” says Beth L. Goodlin-Jones of the M.I.N.D Institute at the University of California Davis Health System in Sacramento, “Sometimes children may take one to two hours to fall asleep and often they disrupt the household during this time,” says Goodlin-Jones.

Autism and Sleep Have Neurochemistry Connection

Scientists aren’t quite sure why autistic children tend to have sleep problems, although several theories exist.

Children with autism don’t always pick up on social cues, including those from siblings and parents that signal when it’s time to go to bed; many have increased sensitivity to stimuli such as touch or sound that may keep them awake, and some kids with autism struggle with anxiety issues which disrupt their sleep patterns.

Another theory is the relationship between the biochemistry of sleep and the brain imbalances associated with autism. Dr. Maslow reports that abnormalities in serotonin, GABA and melatonin, (three neurotransmitters involved in the sleep-wake cycle), are associated in people with autism.

Serotonin for example, promotes sleep by dampening cortical arousal systems or by stimulating the accumulation of hypothalamic sleep factors. Research has shown people with autism tend to have problems with serotonin synthesis, metabolism, and transport as well as GABAeric interneuron disruption (Levitt, 2004).

Melatonin Promising for Children with Autism and Insomnia

Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, is a critical factor involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle and to promote sleep.

People with autism, research shows, often have deficiencies in melatonin secretion and excretion (Nir, 1995; Kulman, 2000;Tordjman,2005). Autism’s association with problems with sleep latency (falling asleep) and decreased sleep time, coincides with a disruption in the circadian rhythm regulated by melatonin.

In a study reported in the Journal of Child Neurology, Dr. Malow and her colleagues reviewed the medical records of 107 children with autism, ages 2-18, who tried varying dosages of melatonin for insomnia. The results indicated that 25% of parents reported their children no longer had sleep concerns, 60% reported the sleep problems improved, 13% still had major concerns and only 1 percent (one child) had worse symptoms. Only three of the 107 children studied reported mild side effects.

Researchers in the April 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that melatonin medication decreased the length of time it takes for children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), or both to fall asleep at the beginning of the night.

Children in the study experienced significant improvements in total night sleep durations, sleep latency times, and sleep-onset times. Mean sleep duration was longer on melatonin than placebo by 21 minutes, sleep-onset latency was shorter by 28 minutes and sleep-onset time was earlier by 42 minutes.

In addition, in a June 2010 study involving twenty-two children with autism spectrum disorders, melatonin significantly improved sleep latency (by an average of 47 min) and total sleep (by an average of 52 min) compared to placebo. It did not however, decrease the number of night wakenings.

“Rather than treating them [the kids] with some other drug that would promote sleep, [we could] give them what they’re missing,” said Dr. Malow. She noted that melatonin is very appealing to parents because “it’s something natural that’s already in your child’s body.”

“Although prospective trials will be needed to determine if melatonin is an effective sleep aid in this population, this study does support that it may be a reasonable treatment option in these children when administered under the care of a physician and combined with behavioral therapies for sleep,” Malow said in a 2008 press release for Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Autism Speaks, in conjunction with the Dana Foundation, is contributing funds to a study led by Malow and McGrew. The study is tracking how sleep patterns change in children with autism with the introduction of melatonin. Results are being measured by parent reports and a method called actigraphy which monitors sleep by tracking movements at night via a wristwatch-like device.

So far all children completing the trial have had better sleep, improved daytime behavior, and parents reporting they’re coping better with their child’s autism, said Dr. Malow.

While additional and long term research needs to be conducted, results look promising for the use of melatonin to improve sleep latency and duration in children with autism, and in response, to improving the overall day to day family dynamics.

Footnotes: 

Honomichl RD, Goodlin-Jones BL., Burnham M., Gaylor E.and Anders T F. “Sleep patterns of children with pervasive developmental disorders.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2002.

Guénolé F., Baleyte J. “Effectiveness of melatonin for sleep problems in autism spectrum disorders: Evidence grows but research is still needed.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Sept 24, 2010.

Malow, Beth, M.D. “Melatonin Well-Tolerated Sleep Aid In Children With Autism.” February 8,2008.

Wright B, Sims D, Smart S, Alwazeer A, Alderson-Day B, Allgar V, Whitton C, Tomlinson H, Bennett S, Jardine J, McCaffrey N, Leyland C, Jakeman C, Miles J.”Melatonin Versus Placebo in Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions and Severe Sleep Problems Not Amenable to Behaviour Management Strategies: A Randomised Controlled Crossover Trial.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. June 2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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