Pregnancy and Diabetes (Pregnancy Health Guru Tip)

May 16, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

Five percent of pregnant women have gestational diabetes. Learn more in this video, or GO TO:

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

Hot Women Are Bad For Your Health (Study)

March 12, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

New TYT Facebook Page(!): Don’t forget to check out Ana’s blog at: Follow us on Twitter: TYT Network (new WTF?! channel): Check Out TYT Interviews Watch more at

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

Stress in your tresses: what your hair can tell about your heart

September 8, 2010 by  

Our hair tells a lot of stories about us. Substances we get in contact with get deposited on our hair and persist there for a long time. Thus, your hair records environmental exposure to substances be it inadvertently (e.g. occupational exposure to certain chemicals) or intentionally (e.g. performance-enhancing and abuse drugs).

In the field of forensic medicine, hair has been invaluable in solving many mysteries and crimes.

A recent study by Israeli researchers indicates that hair can also tell stories about our state of health based on substances our body produce. In particular, the stress hormone cortisol accumulates in our hair and is easy detectable. Thus, our hair actually serves as a “long-term record of chronic stress.” Previous studies on stress relied on interviews, surveys, and questionnaires, with the limitations of relying on people’s long-term memories which are often very subjective. The record on our hair, however, tells a very objective story.

How do the cortisol and other substances get into our hair?

The human hair mainly consists of 3 parts:

  • The shaft forms the curls and tresses that are clearly visible on our head. The shaft consists of non-living hair cells.
  • The root and bulb of the hair are buried under the skin and contain hair stem cells and dermal papillae. It is supplied by tiny blood vessels in the scalp.
  • The follicle is the part that connects the shaft to the root through pores in the skin.

Hair growth is mainly due to production of hair stem cells.  Substances in the blood such as cortisol seep into the root and follicle of the hair. These substances get trapped in the growing hair and become part of the shaft. Our hair grows at a rate of about 1 cm per month. Thus, we have several months or years ‘ record of stress based on cortisol levels in our hair. In fact, cortisol has been found to persist in the hair for a long time, from 6 months to 1,500 years in the case of well-preserved Peruvian mummies.

Chronic stress being closely linked to cardiovascular problems, it is logical to hypothesize that high levels of cortisol in the hair are also associated with cardiac events.

The researchers tested this hypothesis by collecting hair samples from 120 patients of the cardiac unit of the Meir Medical Center in Israel. Half of the patients had heart attack, the other half had other diagnoses. The researchers analyzed hair samples for cortisol, mainly the part of the shaft 3 cm closest to the scalp, representing cortisol record of the last 3 months. They found that cortisol levels were significantly higher in men who had heart attacks compared to those without.

The results need to be confirmed by larger studies before the technique becomes mainstream for testing heart attack, but it has the following advantages:

  • It is non-invasive.
  • It is more reliable than long-term memories of stress.
  • It is not expensive.

The stress-infertility-stress cycle

September 7, 2010 by  

Stress is linked to many health problems, including depression and cardiovascular diseases. Less known is the fact that stress can also cause infertility.

A joint study by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Oxford reports that stress can prevent a woman from becoming pregnant. The researchers identified the substance as alpha-amylase which is an enzyme secreted by the parotid gland via the saliva to help digest starchy food. However, starch is not the only thing that triggers alpha-amylase secretion. It is also secreted in response to the presence of catecholamines, “compounds that initiate a type of stress response.”

The researchers followed up 274 English women of reproductive age (18 to 40 years) who were trying to conceive and charted their ovulation cycles. The women were participants in the Oxford Conception Study that investigated whether daily information from a fertility-monitoring device would increase the chances of conception. The phases of their monthly cycles were tracked using home fertility test kits.

In the current study on alpha-amylase, the participants were asked to collect a saliva sample on the 6th day of their ovulation cycles. The saliva samples were tested for stress-related substances, including alpha-amylase and the stress hormone cortisol. The saliva analyses were performed till the participant conceives or until 6 menstrual cycles were completed.

The results showed that women with high levels of alpha-amylase in their saliva are less likely to conceive compared to those with normal or low levels during the fertile window –e.g. the 6 days of the cycle when conception is likely to occur.

According to study author Germaine Buck Louis, director of the NICHD’s Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research:

“Overall, the 25 percent of women in the study who had the highest alpha-amylase levels had roughly an estimated 12 percent reduction in getting pregnant each cycle in comparison to women with the lowest concentrations.”

Cortisol levels on the other hand were not associated with the chances of conception. Dr. Cecilia Pyper who heads the Oxford Conception Study comments:

“This is the first study to show an association between a biomarker of stress and a reduction in women’s chances of conceiving throughout the fertile window — underscoring the importance of considering stress when attempting to identify the determinants of conception.”

In addition, it also highlights the need for finding ways to alleviate stress in women who are trying to get pregnant. This is especially difficult since each failed attempt brings even more stress that sets off a vicious cycle.

Depression in MS patients

July 7, 2010 by  

As if pain and impaired mobility are not enough, multiple sclerosis (MS) patients are also plagued by another comorbidity – depression. It is estimated that people with MS have up to 50% lifetime risk for developing depressive symptoms. However, very little is known about the causes and influencing factors of MS-related depression. In a way, this type of depression is quite puzzling. It can occur at any stage of the disease and is not related to the severity of the symptoms. Scientists think that depression in MS patients is not simply a normal reaction to the debilitating symptoms but has a neurological reason.

According to lead author Dr. Stefan Gold

“Depression is one of the most common symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis. It impacts cognitive function, quality of life, work performance and treatment compliance. Worst of all, it’s also one of the strongest predictors of suicide.”

Thus, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) decided to investigate the cause(s) of MS-linked depression. Their hypothesis is that it is not a simply psychological problem but rather due to structural changes in the brain, i.e. “atrophy of a specific region of the hippocampus, a critical part of the brain involved in mood and memory, among other functions.”

The researchers used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the MS brain and found three key sub-regions of the hippocampus that were smaller in people with MS when compared to those without MS. This observed atrophy was also linked to the hyperactivity of three interacting glands of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This axis plays a role in the regulation of reactions to stress other physiological processes. In depressed MS patients, the HPA axis released excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.  The researchers believe that this hyperactivity results in dysregulation and atrophy of the hippocampus that leads to the development of depressive symptoms.

The researchers found similarities between MS-linked depression and depression in people without MS but these should be further investigated in future studies.

According to co-author Dr. Nancy Sicotte

“Interestingly, this idea of a link between excessive activity of the HPA axis and reduced brain volume in the hippocampus hasn’t received a lot of attention, despite the fact that the most consistently reproduced findings in psychiatric patients with depression (but without MS) include hyperactivity of the HPA axis and smaller volumes of the hippocampus….So the next step is to compare MS patients with depression to psychiatric patients with depression to see how the disease progresses in each.”

Spot Reducing, Myth or Miracle?

March 11, 2008 by  
Filed under OBESITY

There are no miracles in weight loss, though there are lots of myths. You may have heard a new one making the rounds: cortisol will ‘dissolve’ fat around the waist. Not so.

Whenever you take in more calories than you use, the remaining energy is stored in chemical bonds between adipose tissue (fatty deposits). In adult men those fat deposits are preferentially stored around the waist and abdomen, in women around the hips, thighs and abdomen.

As you take actions that place a demand for energy on your body that is greater than can be supplied by available glucose (its preferred source), it turns to fat to supply the deficit. Fat molecules are broken down and severing those chemical bonds releases the energy needed for maintaining internal temperature, muscle movement, etc.

But, here’s the kicker: you have no control over where the body takes that fat from. Cortisol may aid in releasing those fat deposits and breaking down those bonds, but it isn’t targeted. There is, currently, no technology that will remove local fat deposits from any part of the body except mechanical removal, such as in liposuction.

It’s true that doing abdominal exercises, though, helps reduce fat around the waist, and in two ways.

First, since abdominal exercises typically involve large-scale movement that requires high effort, it naturally requires lots of energy. Once the available free energy is consumed, the body turns to those fat deposits to get more. The result is less fat and weight loss.

But it does that in an overall way, with no narrow location getting most of the benefit. Most of the fat may indeed come from the waist, but that’s because that’s where most of it is, as a percentage. But the exercise doesn’t target that fat in any way.

Second, during a vigorous abdominal workout those muscles are being worked harder than others. That’s the whole point of abdominal exercises. As a result, those muscles (along with the back muscles, typically) are being strengthened. Toning and strengthening those muscles helps restore their youthful ability to hold in the internal organs, primarily the stomach.

At the same time there will be a (largely temporary) loss of fluid that contributes to both weight loss and slimming. The net effect is that the waist looks slimmer, the bulge is reduced. That’s definitely a good thing, both for general health and weight loss or fat reduction.

But it’s not the same thing as targeting specific fatty deposits, as the makers of cortisol pills (and other) ‘miracle cures’ would like to sell you. The only effective program for reducing fat deposits – around the waist, on the thighs and buttocks, or anywhere else – is the old-fashioned, high effort, high willpower one.

A program of adequate daily exercise and proper diet is the key to long-term health, safe weight loss and fat reduction. You’ll feel better and your health will be optimized. And, not coincidentally, you’ll reduce those unattractive fat deposits around the middle.

Nutritional Supplements

January 21, 2008 by  
Filed under OBESITY

A supplement, by definition, is something that accompanies something essential. But, in some cases, nutritional supplements can themselves be an essential part of a healthy nutrition regimen.

Whether because of a busy life style, or an individual genetic or physiological condition, there are those who benefit from nutritional supplements. Everyone requires a certain amount of vital biochemicals, with the proportion varying within a narrow range for almost everyone.

But diet doesn’t always supply those amounts, even when a sincere effort is made to eat properly. Some have rigorous exercise routines, others are forced to a more sedentary lifestyle because of work and family life. Most importantly, every individual is unique and therefore requires a particular amount of nutrient that differs slightly from others.

B-complex vitamins, for example, are essential for everyone. But the proper amount will vary depending on weight and unique physiology. For some, an all-purpose daily vitamin pill is enough to supply any needed amount that doesn’t come from a balanced diet. The body has a well-tuned ability, in most cases, to absorb what’s needed and slough off the rest.

For others, added amounts or specialized types are a requirement for good health. Vitamin C is eliminated in the urine when consumed in excess amounts. But what is excess one day may not be enough the next, requiring tomorrow’s deficit to be made up through diet or supplements.

Taking Vitamin C once helped eliminate the dangers of scurvy and rickets. That’s rarely a problem in developed countries today, but there is strong evidence that it helps boost the immune system, leading to fewer colds and infections. Past claims overstated the facts, but Vitamin C remains a needed element.

Many people as they get older consume much less calcium. To an extent, that’s normal and healthy. Young adults don’t require anywhere near the amounts that they did when they were infants or young children.

But the curve picks up again later in life, as bones become less able to manufacture the appropriate amount. For many who are lactose intolerant, or simply don’t care for the taste of cow’s or goat’s milk, getting calcium in the form of a supplement is a great way to get that essential mineral.

Omega-3 are essential fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease, to name only two benefits. But one of the main dietary sources – fish – isn’t to everyone’s taste. It’s also unfortunately the case that sometimes the local fish supply is temporarily unsafe. In those circumstances a nutritional supplement is an excellent alternative.

There are dozens of supplements that can help balance out hormonal deficiencies that many women and some men suffer from. Soy is one that can smooth out imbalances and help reduce PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) or menopause symptoms. Others are helpful for thyroid imbalances.

Cortisol is another example. Naturally produced by most people in the proper amount, some people have a deficiency due to a gland weakened by disease, age or genetic condition. Those low in cortisol can suffer from fatigue, aching joints and other symptoms. Taken in the proper amounts, it can make a huge positive lifestyle difference.

Each person should undergo rigorous testing before taking anything more than an average daily vitamin or one of the more common supplements. Ginko, for example, can lead to excessive bleeding in some. You need to know which are safe for you. But once you have the results, taking nutritional supplements can make the difference between mediocre and optimal health.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.