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Common Painkillers Tied to Kidney Risks for Children: Study

Children taking the common painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be at risk for acute kidney damage, particularly when the kids are dehydrated, a new study finds.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (commonly called NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (brand names Advil and Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) and ketorolac (Toradol) are used to relieve pain and fever.

“The one thing we did see that seemed to be connected to kidney damage was dehydration,” said lead researcher Dr. Jason Misurac, a nephrologist at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

For the study, which was published in the Jan. 25 online edition of the Journal of Pediatrics, Misurac’s team looked at the medical records of children admitted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis from 1999 through mid-2010. Over that time, they identified more than 1,000 cases of children being treated for kidney damage.

In nearly 3 percent of the cases, the damage was related to NSAIDs, the study found. Most kids were teens, but four were under 5 years old. All of them had been given NSAIDs before being hospitalized. Since many other cases involved several causes of kidney damage, it is possible some of those also were related to NSAIDs, the researchers said.

Most children who developed kidney damage had been given the recommended dose and had not been taking NSAIDs for more than a week.

In adults, taking NSAIDs regularly for several years has been tied to kidney problems, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Cases involving children have previously been reported but only rarely.

Misurac noted that most of the children in the study hadn’t been drinking well and also were vomiting and had diarrhea, all of which can lead to dehydration. When someone is dehydrated the kidneys have a way of protecting themselves, which NSAIDs block, resulting in the damage, Misurac explained.

“Certainly in the way NSAIDs affect the kidneys, it’s reasonable to think that dehydration plus an NSAID has more of an effect than just an NSAID by itself,” he said.

Often the signs of kidney problems aren’t apparent, Misurac said. One sign is a decrease in urine; another is stomach pain. “But most kids who have episodes of acute kidney injury have nonspecific symptoms and there’s no one way to tell,” he said.

“If kids are dehydrated and not drinking well, then parents should think twice about using NSAIDs,” Misurac said. Tylenol (acetaminophen), which acts differently than NSAIDs, might be a better choice for children, he said.

For many of the children in the study, the kidney damage was reversed, Misurac said. The damage, however, was permanent for seven patients and they will probably need ongoing monitoring and treatment for declining kidney function, he said.

All the children under age 5 had to undergo dialysis and were more likely to be treated in an intensive-care unit, the researchers said. They also stayed in the hospital longer.

Although the study showed an association between taking NSAIDs and kidney problems in children, it didn’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

One expert agreed that NSAIDs can damage the kidneys.

“This is well known. Unfortunately, it is better known among doctors; the public is not as educated regarding this problem,” said Dr. Felix Ramirez-Seijas, director of pediatric nephrology at Miami Children’s Hospital.

Ramirez-Seijas said NSAIDs are “overused and abused, both by doctors and patients.”

For children, most fevers should not be treated; fever is how the body fights infection, he said. “There is a fear of fever that leads to overtreatment,” Ramirez-Seijas said.

In addition, children who take NSAIDs for aches after vigorous exercise also are at risk, because they may be dehydrated, Ramirez-Seijas said.

His advice to parents is to be sure children are well hydrated if they are going take NSAIDs. In addition, he believes that even these over-the-counter drugs should only be used with the advice of a doctor.

“Most people see taking a couple of Advil like taking a sip of water, but it’s not,” Ramirez-Seijas said.

By Steven Reinberg     HealthDay    Jan. 25
 

 

nsaids

 

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

What are NSAIDs and how do they work?

Prostaglandins are a family of chemicals that are produced by the cells of the body and have several important functions. They promote inflammation that is necessary for healing, but also results in pain, and fever; support the blood clotting function of platelets; and protect the lining of the stomach from the damaging effects of acid.

Prostaglandins are produced within the body’s cells by the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). There are two COX enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. Both enzymes produce prostaglandins that promote inflammation, pain, and fever. However, only COX-1 produces prostaglandins that support platelets and protect the stomach. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) block the COX enzymes and reduce prostaglandins throughout the body. As a consequence, ongoing inflammation, pain, and fever are reduced. Since the prostaglandins that protect the stomach and support platelets and blood clotting also are reduced, NSAIDs can cause ulcers in the stomach and promote bleeding.

What NSAIDs are approved in the United States?

The following list is an example of NSAIDs available:

  • aspirin
  • celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • diclofenac (Cambia, Cataflam, Voltaren-XR, Zipsor, Zorvolex)
  • diflunisal (Dolobid – discontinued brand)
  • etodolac (Lodine – discontinued brand)
  • ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • indomethacin (Indocin)
  • ketoprofen (Active-Ketoprofen [Orudis – discontinued brand])
  • ketorolac (Toradol – discontinued brand)
  • nabumetone (Relafen – discontinued brand)
  • naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
  • oxaprozin (Daypro)
  • piroxicam (Feldene)
  • salsalate (Disalsate [Amigesic – discontinued brand])
  • sulindac (Clinoril – discontinued brand)
  • tolmetin (Tolectin – discontinued brand)

What are the side effects of NSAIDs?

NSAIDs are associated with several side effects. The frequency of side effects varies among NSAIDs.

Common side effects are

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhea,
  • constipation,
  • decreased appetite,
  • rash,
  • dizziness,
  • headache, and
  • drowsiness.

Other important side effects are:

  • kidney failure (primarily with chronic use),
  • liver failure,
  • ulcers, and
  • prolonged bleeding after injury or surgery.

NSAIDs can cause fluid retention which can lead to edema, which is most commonly manifested by swelling of the ankles.

WARNING: Some individuals are allergic to NSAIDs and may develop shortness of breath when an NSAID is taken. People with asthma are at a higher risk for experiencing serious allergic reaction to NSAIDs. Individuals with a serious allergy to one NSAID are likely to experience a similar reaction to a different NSAID.

Use of aspirin in children and teenagers with chickenpox or influenza has been associated with the development of Reye’s syndrome, a serious and sometimes fatal liver disease. Therefore, aspirin and non-aspirin salicylates (for example, salsalate [Amigesic]) should not be used in children and teenagers with suspected or confirmed chickenpox or influenza.

NSAIDs increase the risk of potentially fatal, stomach and intestinal adverse reactions (for example, bleeding, ulcers, and perforation of the stomach or intestines). These events can occur at any time during treatment and without warning symptoms. Elderly patients are at greater risk for these adverse events. NSAIDs (except low dose aspirin) may increase the risk of potentially fatal heart attacks, stroke, and related conditions. This risk may increase with duration of use and in patients who have underlying risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease. Therefore, NSAIDs should not be used for the treatment of pain resulting from coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

For what conditions are NSAIDs used?

NSAIDs are used primarily to treat inflammation, mild to moderate pain, and fever.

Specific uses include the treatment of:

  • headaches,
  • arthritis,
  • ankylosing spondylitis,
  • sports injuries, and
  • menstrual cramps.
  • Ketorolac (Toradol) is only used for short-term treatment of moderately severe acute pain that otherwise would be treated with narcotics.

Aspirin (also an NSAID) is used to inhibit the clotting of blood and prevent strokes and heart attacks in individuals at high risk for strokes and heart attacks.

NSAIDs also are included in many cold and allergy preparations.

Celecoxib (Celebrex) is used for treating familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) to prevent the formation and growth of colon polyps.

With which drugs do NSAIDs interact?

NSAIDs reduce blood flow to the kidneys and therefore reduce the action of diuretics (“water pills”) and decrease the elimination of lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid) and methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall). As a result, the blood levels of these drugs may increase as may their side effects.

NSAIDs also decrease the ability of the blood to clot and therefore increase bleeding. When used with other drugs that also increase bleeding (for example, warfarin [Coumadin]), there is an increased likelihood of serious bleeding or complications of bleeding. Therefore, individuals who are taking drugs that reduce the ability of blood to clot should avoid prolonged use of NSAIDs.

NSAIDs also may increase blood pressure in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) and therefore antagonize the action of drugs that are used to treat hypertension.

NSAIDs increase the negative effect of cyclosporine on kidney function.

Persons who have more than three alcoholic beverages per day may be at increased risk of developing stomach ulcers when taking NSAIDs.

 

Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD  
Pharmacy Author: Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD 
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Fun Fact Friday

  • The phrase, “Happy wife, happy life,” is scientifically proven; husbands who have happy wives are more satisfied with their lives.

  • Applying vodka on your face cleanses the skin, tightens pores and can prevent acne breakouts.

 

  • You can have four to seven dreams in one night.

  • Boredom is the single largest contributor to the use of drugs and alcohol among teens.

 

~ Happy Friday!~


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This Mineral Fights Depression — And It Is Cheaper And Safer Than Drugs

The supplement starts to take effect after only two weeks, the researchers found.

Over-the-counter magnesium is a safe and effective way to treat mild to moderate depression, a new study suggests.

The mineral magnesium has already been linked to lower inflammation and improvements in depression.

Now a new randomised controlled trial has tested the effects of magnesium chloride supplements compared with no treatment.

For the research, half of 126 people with mild to moderate depression were given 248 mg of magnesium chloride per day for six weeks.

After just two weeks, some positive effects of the supplement could be seen.

Those taking magnesium had clinically significant improvements over the six weeks.

People did not have any problems taking magnesium and there were no differences based on sex, age, whether people were also taking antidepressants, or other factors.

More than half of the people in the study said they would continue to take magnesium to help them with their depression.

Ms Emily Tarleton, the study’s first author, said:

“This is the first randomized clinical trial looking at the effect of magnesium supplementation on symptoms of depression in U.S. adults.
The results are very encouraging, given the great need for additional treatment options for depression, and our finding that magnesium supplementation provides a safe, fast and inexpensive approach to controlling depressive symptoms.”

Ms Tarleton says that the next stage is to move on to larger populations to see if the results can be replicated.

While many more studies have investigated antidepressant medications, there is also much evidence of their side-effects.

A survey of people taking antidepressants has found higher than expected levels of emotional numbness, sexual problems and even suicidal thoughts associated with the medication.

Of the 20 adverse effects to antidepressants that people were questioned about:

  • 62% said they had ‘sexual difficulties’,
  • 52% said they ‘didn’t feel like themselves’,
  • 42% noticed a ‘reduction in positive feelings’,
  • 39% found themselves ‘caring less about others’,
  • and 55% reported ‘withdrawal effects’.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Tarleton et al., 2017).

 
JULY 12, 2017
source: PsyBlog


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Common Painkillers Linked To Increased Risk Of Heart Attack, Study Says

Story highlights
A new study links common painkillers called to increased risk of heart attacks
Researchers urge doctors and patients to weight the risks and benefits
The drugs are not proved to be a a direct cause of heart attacks

(CNN)Taking even over-the-counter doses of common painkillers known as NSAIDs – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack in a new study.

The likelihood of experiencing a heart attack was calculated to increase by an average of 20% to 50%, compared with someone not taking the drugs, regardless of the dosage and amount of time the medications are taken.

The findings are observational and based on an association, however, with the drugs not proved to be a a direct cause of heart attack.

This group of drugs includes ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib and naproxen, which are available over the counter or by prescription for higher doses, to relieve pain or fever resulting from a range of causes, including flu, headaches, back pain and menstrual cramps. Their range of uses also means they are often taken as needed, for short periods of time.

The level of risk increased as early as one week into the use of any drug in this category and at any dose, and the risk associated with taking higher doses was greatest within the first month.
“We found that all common NSAIDs shared a heightened risk of heart attack,” said Dr. Michèle Bally, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, who led the research. “There is a perception that naproxen has the lowest cardiovascular risk (among the NSAIDs), but that’s not true.”

Researchers’ overall finding was that taking any dosage of these drugs for one week, one month or longer was linked to an increased risk of a heart attack. The risk appeared to decline when these painkillers were no longer taken, with a slight decline one to 30 days after use and a greater decline, falling below 11%, between 30 days and one year after use.

Based on the paper, published Tuesday in the BMJ, Bally’s team suggests that doctors and patients weigh the potential harms and benefits before relying on the drugs as a treatment option.

“People minimize the risks because drugs are over the counter and they don’t read labels,” Bally said. “Why not consider all treatment options? … Every therapeutic decision is a balance of benefits and risk.”

Building on previous research

Cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization, with 80% of all deaths in this category due to heart attacks and strokes. Each year, it’s estimated that 735,000 people in the United States have a heart attack. In the United Kingdom, more than 200,000 hospital visits each year are due to a heart attack.

Previous research has showed that this class of painkillers could increase the risk of having a heart attack, known as myocardial infarction. In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration called on drugmakers to update their warnings labels to identify an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.

But the specifics in terms of timing, dosage and treatment durations were less clear.

Bally and her team reviewed all available studies in this area from Canadian and European databases, analyzing the findings from 446,763 people, with 61,460 of them having had a heart attack. Their goal was to calculate the risk, determinants and time course of heart attacks associated with the use of NSAIDs under typical circumstances.

The team looked at very short-term use and at any dose, said Bally. “In real life, people use drugs at low doses and use them on and off,” she said, adding that this is not reflected in many clinical trials, for example, in which people have often been monitored during prolonged use of these drugs.

When using them for one week, the greatest risk was associated with rofecoxib, followed by diclofenac, ibuprofen and then celecoxib, respectively, though all except celecoxib had similar levels of risk, hovering around 50% increased odds of a heart attack, at any dose.

At higher doses, typically needing a prescription, some drugs had an even greater risk of heart attack between one week and one month of use. For example, naproxen showed a 75% increased likelihood of a heart attack within one month with doses of 1200 milligrams per day or more, and naproxen showed an 83% increased likelihood of a heart attack with doses greater than 750 milligrams per day when taken for one week to one month.

But the level of risk declined, on average, when the drugs were used for longer than one month.

“This is relative to not taking these drugs, your baseline risk,” Bally said. “The risk is not 75%. It’s an increase (maybe) from a tiny baseline risk that they have.”
Millions of these pills are sold every year, Bally said. “Therefore the risk, no matter how small or relative, is important to note from a population viewpoint.”
“We already know that these drugs increase your risk of having a heart attack,” said Dr. Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, in a statement. “However this large-scale study worryingly highlights just how quickly you become at risk of having a heart attack after starting NSAIDs.” Knapton was not involved in the research.

Knapton further added that people must be made aware of the risk and that alternative medication or treatment should be considered where appropriate. For example, physical therapy or yoga could be used to alleviate pain from an injury.

nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Association, not causation

The researchers stress that the findings are purely observational, as they used readily available data about certain populations. Not all potentially influential factors could be taken into account, they say.

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, commented that a number of lifestyle factors, such as smoking and body mass index, are not available in the data about the study participants. “It leads to uncertainty,” he said.

Tobacco use, unhealthy diet, obesity, alcohol abuse and hypertension are just a few of many factors that can cause a heart attack.

“This is the largest study of its kind, but it is still observational data based on prescription or dispensing information, rather than whether people were actually taking their medication,” said Dr. Amitava Banerjee, senior clinical lecturer in clinical data science at UCL in the UK. “Although these data reflect real-world use of NSAIDs, it is impossible to control for all the factors which may lead to confounding or bias.”

This uncertainty combined with the overall observational nature of the findings means the cause of the increased risk shown in the analysis cannot be explained, nor can the drugs be directly stated as a cause of heart attacks.

Bally thinks a cause could be changes in blood pressure or effects on kidney function, as these areas are poorly studied. But she stresses that all five drugs studied have individual behaviors. “It will be hard to point to one factor,” she said.

Relative, not absolute risk

“The paper has good evidence that there is some risk of a heart attack for all NSAIDs and suggests that the risk starts immediately on starting them, but is only expressed in relative terms,” said Evans, who was not involved in the research. “There is no clear description of the absolute risk.”

The findings are based on the chances of a heart attack occurring in people taking these drugs, compared with those not taking them. If risk was already low in a person, a 20% to 50% increased risk is not that much cause for concern.

“The risks are relatively small, and for most people who are not at high risk of a heart attack, these findings have minimal implications,” Evans said.

It’s also possible that people taking these drugs are, on average, already at higher risk than people not taking the drugs, he said, commenting that the study did not account for these factors in their calculations. For example, the reason someone is prescribed an NSAID, such as for severe pain, may also be the reason they have a heart attack soon after. So while the study shows that risk of a heart attack increases as soon as a few days into taking NSAIDs, the links may not be as clear as suggested, Evans said.

“The most likely mechanisms for action of the drugs would be expected to show a low risk at the start and only have an effect on heart attacks after longer usage. That this wasn’t the case casts some doubt on the findings of an immediate increase in risk,” he said.
“All effective medicines have unwanted effects, and NSAIDs, although easily available, are not without some risks, but this study is no reason to induce anxiety in most users of these drugs,” he said.

But while waiting for more clarity on the true level of risk and its cause, experts still advise caution when prescribing or taking these painkillers.

“The increased risk of heart attack with NSAIDs, regardless of which one, means that both health professionals and the public should weigh up the harm and the benefit when prescribing these medications, especially for more than a day or two,” Banerjee said.
“Despite the over-the-counter availability of the traditional NSAIDs, this caution is still required. The mechanism of this increased risk of heart attack is not at all clear from existing studies.”

By Meera Senthilingam, CNN         May 9, 2017
 source: www.cnn.com


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Why Kids Younger Than 12 Don’t Need OTC Cough And Cold Remedies

The common cold season is here, and if you have children, you will likely feel their suffering from these annoying upper respiratory tract viral infections. Children experience more colds, about six to 10 annually, than adults. With each cold producing symptoms of nasal congestion, runny nose, cough and mild fever lasting up to seven to 10 days, it may seem that children are nearly continuously sick.

Parents certainly want their ill children to feel better, and they, naturally, want to help. A frequent solution is over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, which are heavily advertised to treat many maladies, including colds. A stroll down your local pharmacy OTC drug aisle will highlight the numerous OTC drug products available for adults and children.

It is tempting to buy one or more of these products to help your child. However, for children younger than 12 years of age, it is best not to use commonly advertised OTC cough and cold drug products. These products lack supportive clinical study efficacy and safety data, an issue I’ve studied as a professor of pharmacy practice.

Children are not just small adults

When treating children with OTC or prescription drugs, it is important to understand that young children differ significantly from the adult population with respect to drug efficacy and adverse effects.

Over the past 30 years, we have learned much more about pediatric pharmacology and drug action and behavior, known as pharmacokinetics, and differences compared to adults. Prior to this, and even today to some extent, health care professionals assumed that drugs functioned and behaved similarly in children as in adults.

Based on this assumption, health practitioners often only reduced the amount of a drug to a child based on a proportion of the child’s body weight to an adult. For example, a provider would prescribe 50 percent of an adult drug dose for a child with 50 percent body weight of an adult. The efficacy of OTC cough and cold product active ingredient, as demonstrated in adult studies, was assumed to be similar in children.

However, we have learned, and are continuing to learn, that this strategy is not accurate and can be dangerous. Most drugs are not specifically studied and evaluated in children prior to their labeling by the FDA and availability to the public.

A safe and effective drug dose and dose schedule (how often a drug dose is given) is derived from these formal studies and evaluations. But without these formal studies, pediatric-specific drug pharmacology is not accurately evaluated and determined. In addition, a physician can legally prescribe any drug for a child, even if there aren’t data supporting its efficacy and safety in children.

OTC drugs regulated differently than Rx drugs

FDA regulation of OTC drug products differs from prescription drug regulation. Active ingredients in OTC drug products are evaluated and approved by therapeutic category, such as the cough and cold therapeutic category. In a major undertaking begun in 1972, the FDA has been reviewing OTC drug product categories for safety and efficacy, and it continues to do so.

Pediatric OTC cough and cold products have seen significant regulatory changes in recent years. In 2007, several health care experts petitioned the FDA to carefully review pediatric efficacy and safety data of OTC cough and cold products, requesting that these products be specifically labeled not for use in children younger than six years of age.

sick_kid

In 2008, the FDA recommended that OTC cough and cold products not be given to children younger than two years old. The trade group representing OTC drug product manufacturers, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, additionally announced that these products would be labeled “not for use” in children younger than four years old. The FDA agreed, and this remains the current status of pediatric age labeling for OTC cough and cold products.

In addition, reviews of the medical literature indicates that OTC drug ingredients are actually ineffective in reducing cold symptoms in children. OTC cough and cold products can be dangerous to use as well, with more than 100 deaths of infants and young children described in published reports where these products were the sole cause or important contributive causes.

Although several doses of pediatric OTC cough/cold products are unlikely to be toxic, these reports have described scenarios where the products were used inappropriately, by administration of doses too large, doses given too frequently, measurement of liquid doses inaccurately (too much) or administration of similar active ingredient drugs given from numerous OTC products resulting in accumulative large doses.

These mistakes were easily made by parents, considering the difficulty in accurately measuring out small liquid doses and a desire for the drugs to help (more is better).

A word of caution regarding codeine

Recent studies and recommendations have significantly altered our use of another drug historically used to treat cough in children – codeine. It is an opioid, and it is still available over the counter in some cough medicines in some states. It is available in all states as prescription products.

We have learned in recent years that codeine is metabolized differently from subject to subject. Codeine alone has very little useful pharmacologic activity, but the liver chemically alters it into its active form, morphine, and another chemical. Morphine is dangerous, as it suppresses breathing. It must be used cautiously even in adults.

For many years, codeine has been used for treating pain and cough in children and adults. Recent evaluations, however, have determined that its clinical efficacy for these uses is inferior to other available drugs. We have learned that the amount of morphine produced from codeine liver metabolism can vary widely from person to person, a result of genetic differences.

Some individuals may convert codeine to a lot of morphine, while others may convert codeine to much less morphine. Evidence has accumulated over the past 10 years demonstrating that codeine can produce a significant decrease in breathing in some infants and children.

More than 20 cases of fatal respiratory depression have been documented in infants and children. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a warning on the dangers of administering codeine to infants and children, recommending that its use for all purposes in children, including cough and pain, be limited or stopped.

Try these remedies instead

When your child next suffers from a cold, instead of reaching for an OTC cough and cold product, use an OTC nasal saline drop or spray product to help with nasal congestion. You can also run a cold air humidifier in his or her room at night to additionally help loosen nasal congestion. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given as needed for fever.

If your child is coughing enough to be uncomfortable or to prevent nighttime sleep, try giving honey, so long as he or she is one or older. Honey has been recently shown by several clinical studies to be an effective cough suppressant, and is likely to be much safer than codeine and OTC cough and cold products.

These therapies have been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. When using these treatments in infants and young children, it is always wise to speak with your child’s pediatrician first, as several more serious illnesses may initially produce symptoms similar to those of a common cold.

November 23, 2016     Edward Bell       Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Drake University

 


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8 Ways Science Reveals That Hugging Creates a Physiological Response Equivalent To Drugs

JANUARY 22, 2015 by JOSH RICHARDSON

Hugs make you feel good for a reason and it’s not just the loving embrace that gives us that warm feeling in our hearts. It’s much more. It affects the entire body to such an extent that many scientists claim it is equivalent to the effect of many different drugs operating on the body simultaneously. Even seemingly trivial instances of interpersonal touch can help people deal with their emotions with clarity and more effectively.

1. REDUCE WORRY OF MORTALITY

In a study on fears and self-esteem, research published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch significantly reduce worry of mortality. The studies found that hugging – even if it was just an inanimate object like a teddy bear – helps soothe individuals’ existential fears. “Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance,” lead researcher Sander Koole wrote in the study.

2. STIMULATES OXYTOCIN

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. It is the hormone responsible for us all being here today. You see this little gem is released during childbirth, making our mothers forget about all of the excruciating pain they endured expelling us from their bodies and making them want to still love and spend time with us. New research from the University of California suggests that it has a similarly civilizing effect on human males, making them more affectionate and better at forming relationships and social bonding. And it dramatically increased the libido and sexual performance of test subjects. More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate. The chemical has also been linked to social bonding. “Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” DePauw University psychologist Matt Hertenstein told NPR. “It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.” When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

3. LOWERS HEART RATE

Embracing someone may warm your heart, but according to one study a hug can be good medicine for it too: In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill , participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment.

hugs

4. STIMULATES DOPAMINE

Everything everyone does involves protecting and triggering dopamine flow. Many drugs of abuse act through this system. Problems with the system can lead to serious depression and other mental illness. Low dopamine levels also play a role in the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s as well as mood disorders such as depression. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine and hugs are said to adjust those levels. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for motivation! Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. MRI and PET scans reveal that when you hugs people or listen to music that excites you, your brain releases dopamine and even in anticipation of those moments. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target. The presence of a certain kinds of dopamine receptors are also associated with sensation-seeking.

5. STIMULATES SEROTONIN

Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression appears when serotonin is absent. It’s perhaps one reason why people fall into gang and criminal activity — the culture brings experiences that facilitate serotonin release. Reaching out and hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels and the released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure and negate pain and sadness and decrease the chances of getting heart problems, helps fight excess weight and prolongs life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Hugging for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

6. WELL-HUGGED BABIES ARE LESS STRESSED AS ADULTS

Want to do something for future generations? Hug them when they’re still little. An Emory University study in rats found a link between touch and relieving stress, particularly in the early stages of life. The research concluded that the same can be said of humans, citing that babies’ development — including how they cope with stress as adults – depends on a combination of nature and nurture.

cuddles

7. PARASYMPATHETIC BALANCE

Hugs balance out the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system – parasympathetic.

8. ENHANCE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Research shows that the hug hormones above are immuno-regulatory. All of this has an even deeper meaning on the way our systems work with each other, including our immune system. his also parallels with the way that hugs promote the relaxation response — they help to change the way your body handles both physical and social stresses, thus boosting your immune system naturally, to do the job it was designed to do!

Josh Richardson is blogger, healer, and a constant pursuer of the natural state of human consciousness.

Sources:   tinyshift.com    dopamineproject.org   brainhq.com    huffingtonpost.com    npr.org    dailymail.co.uk   nih.gov


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How to Improve Digestive Health

Sick? Overweight? Depressed? Blame It on the Bacteria in Your Belly

Many types of bacteria are fighting it out in your digestive tract, and the winners can determine your risk for a range of health problems. Here’s how to get the right mix.

By Celeste Perron

Your belly is a popular place: As many as 100 trillion microbes call it home. Many of them are beneficial bacteria that process hard-to-digest foods, produce nutrients, and—as we’re now learning—guard against disease. “Studies suggest that these bacteria may protect you not just from food-borne pathogens but also from cold-causing germs,” says Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford School of Medicine.

Yet your gut is also filled with “bad” bacteria that release toxins and are increasingly associated with a range of health problems. “If you have an autoimmune disorder, depression, allergies, or any number of other illnesses, the underlying cause may be an unhealthy balance of gut bugs,” says Mark Hyman, MD, founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Having the wrong mix of microbes may even contribute to obesity.

So how do you cultivate beneficial bacteria and force the harmful ones out? Here’s where new research says to start.

Feed the good bugs.

Intestinal bacteria need to eat, and mounting evidence indicates that beneficial bugs prefer nutrients called prebiotics, which are primarily found in high-fiber foods including onions, garlic, bananas, artichokes, and many greens. Bad bacteria, on the other hand, prefer the sugars and fats found in processed foods. “There are indications that a low-fiber, high-fat diet results in more harmful gut microbes,” says Hyman. A 2010 study compared a group of European children who had a diet high in fat, sugar, and starch, with tribal African children who ate high-fiber, plant-based foods, and found that the Africans had more health-promoting bacteria.

Pick the right probiotics.

You can also tilt your balance toward good bugs simply by eating more of them—in the form of probiotics, which are live bacteria contained in foods and supplements. But if you have a specific health goal in mind, check the bacteria a product contains. “There are different species, and different strains within species, and they all have different functions,” says Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD, executive director of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. A 2010 Georgetown University study found that the strain Lactobacillus casei (available in the yogurt drink DanActive) reduced the frequency of ear infections and gastrointestinal infections in children, while a 2006 study found that Bifidobacterium infantis (available in the probiotic supplement Align) relieved the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Avoid bacteria-harming drugs.

The antibiotics we take to kill pathogens also lay waste to the bacteria in our digestive tract. Research from Stanford University published last September found that taking two courses of antibiotics, spaced six months apart, changed the composition of good and bad intestinal bugs, disrupting the overall balance. Hyman recommends avoiding antibiotics when you can—if you have a virus that antibiotics won’t help, don’t ask for a prescription anyway. He also suggests laying off heartburn pills; although less harmful to gut flora than antibiotics, they alter the proportions of intestinal bacteria as well. The upside is, if you’re already getting the right prebiotics and probiotics, you may be less likely to need such meds in the first place.

Celeste Perron is a freelance writer and blogger in San Francisco.