PROBIOTICS MAY LESSEN THE SEVERITY OF UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS IN COLLEGE STUDENTS

probiotics

 

Certain probiotic strains are known to influence immune function and may help improve health-related quality of life (HRQL) during upper respiratory infections.

Recent research published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows that supplementing with the probiotic strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® may help improve health-related quality of life during upper respiratory infections.
The study participants included 231 normally healthy college students living on campus in residence halls at the Framingham State University. The students were randomized to receive either a placebo or a probiotic powder containing a minimum of 1 billion colony forming units each of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12®. The students completed The Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey-21 to assess HRQL during URI. Reporting of HRQL outcomes included self-reported duration, symptom severity and functional impairment of URI.
When compared to the placebo group, the average duration of URI was significantly shorter by 2 days in the probiotic group. The group on the probiotics also reported a 34% lower average severity score compared to placebo. The probiotics group also missed significantly fewer school days, although there was no difference in number of missed work days.
Although more research is needed to determine specific mechanisms involved and the possible cost-benefit of preventive supplementation, the combination of probiotic strains LGG® and BB-12® may be valuable tool in improving the health-related quality of life during exposure to upper respiratory infections.

Smith TJ, Rigassio-radler D, Denmark R, Haley T, Touger-decker R. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. Br J Nutr. 2013;109(11):1999-2007.

 

from : Ask the Scientists

 

Crazy Effects of Caffeine To Your Body

coffee

It’s said that America runs on oil, but if that’s true, then it walks on caffeine. Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee a day, and who knows how much tea, energy drinks, and other caffeine sources on top of that. Caffeine is actually a psychoactive drug—the most widely used in the world—and millions of people depend on it every day to wake up and get going…or simply just to be civil. People have gotten so used to the idea of coffee and tea as a casual pick-me-up when we start to slow down that no one really thinks about what’s actually going on when we slurp down that pint of java three times a day. As it turns out, caffeine can do some pretty crazy stuff to your fragile, puny body.

awake
Awake
Your brain produces a molecule called adenosine, which binds to receptors in your brain and slows down neural activity: it’s a natural process that’s thought to help you get to sleep at night but often makes you drowsy during the day. When you knock back that cup of joe in the morning, the caffeine is quickly absorbed into the blood and makes its way to the brain. There, it makes like a bad house guest and plops itself down in adenosine’s favorite armchair. But where adenosine makes you tired, caffeine doesn’t, and so every brain receptor that binds with caffeine is one that can’t make you tired. In other words, caffeine doesn’t have an agenda, and it called shotgun.

poop-effect

Poop
Caffeine has long been known to affect muscles, increasing activity and speeding contractions. And while that’s useful in an athletic sense, it’s useful in a more sedentary sense when applied to the intestines. Another theory is that caffeine increases the production of a hormone that stimulates the colon, which in turn stimulates the reading of newspapers in a locked room. But since researchers have reproduced the effect using decaffeinated coffee, that’s one theory that could probably use more fiber.

energy
Increased energy
Increased energy is one of many parallel side effects that caffeine has on the body. When adenosine is blocked from making connections in the brain, it just sort of wanders off and tricks the brain into a mild fight or flight response. This inevitably leads to adrenaline being released, which makes your heart beat faster and harder and causes sugar to be released into your bloodstream. A similar effect can be achieved by standing next to a dangerous wild animal, but it’s not quite as convenient.

lower-exertion
Stamina
The next useful side effect of caffeine consumption is achieved as a result of the increased blood flow. As the heart beats faster, more blood moves through your body and through your lungs, leading to increased oxygenation, which is of crucial importance during sustained exertion and allows the muscles to operate more efficiently and with less effort. Caffeine also stimulates the metabolism, which means you’re burning more calories when you’re doing nothing. Don’t get your hopes up for a weight loss shortcut though, because potential caffeine-based weight loss programs are a shaky proposition.

concentrate
Concentrate
As well as stealing adenosine’s seat, caffeine is something of an enabler to serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters that help the brain talk to itself. Norepinephrine is another neurotransmitter that’s produced in various parts of the body, and is especially good at speeding up brain function and improving concentration and memory retrieval. It also improves muscle function and efficiency. All very useful if you’re running from a sabre toothed tiger, as well as for getting that report finished by the deadline.

relieves-headache
No headache
Caffeine is a bit of a wonder drug, and it wears many hats. One of those hats has the word “vasoconstrictor” written on it (no relation to the boa constrictor). Often when a person is experiencing a headache, the blood vessels in their brain dilate. Caffeine directly counters this by causing blood vessels to constrict, helping to reduce the pain. Caffeine is often added to migraine medication since the combination of caffeine with aspirin and acetaminophen can improve pain relief by up to 40 percent—and increase drug prices by 140 percent.

addiction

Addiction
Unfortunately, for all the positive effects of caffeine on your body, there are a few negatives as well. As with many drugs, dosage is key. Almost anything, even water, can do you harm if taken to extremes, and that goes for caffeine as well. Most of the time, though, it’s not the excessive consumption that causes problems (at least not in the short term), but a sudden drop in consumption.

When someone consistently consumes high doses of caffeine, the brain adapts by creating more receptors for adenosine to bind to, creating a new normal. This effectively produces a kind of addiction (although not true addiction) since that person then becomes more susceptible to withdrawal symptoms if they cut back, including headaches, irritability, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating, to name a few of the more pleasant ones. Raise your hand if that sounds like a your morning before you get your first cup of coffee. Then put your hand down and make a cup of coffee.

belly

Bulging tummy
Drinking too much coffee doesn’t just leave a bad taste in your mouth, it can also have a negative effect on your guts. Caffeine increases acid production in your stomach as well as stimulating the muscles in your bowel. This usually happens when caffeine is ingested on an empty stomach and can lead to rushed bathroom visits—though this seems to be an actual goal for some people, who pay for a coffee enema to achieve the same effective result.

insomia
Insomia
Although it can take as little as 15 minutes for caffeine to get to work after entering your body, it can take as long as six hours for your body to remove it again. And for all that time, you’re under its influence. That’s great if you take it at the beginning of a long shift, but not so good if you’re planning sleep any time soon. Because with all those extra hormones and neurotransmitters floating around your system, you’re unlikely to keep your eyes closed, and when you do finally fall asleep, it messes with your sleep patterns—resulting in less time spent in REM sleep. All this adds up to more fatigue, which equals more coffee, and the whole thing starts again. Caffeine sure picked an effective marketing strategy.

osteoporosis
Osteoporosis
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to spend a year on the international space station, caffeine holds the answer…at least to one of the less pleasant side effects of space travel. That’s because one of the things shared by astronauts and people who consume large quantities of caffeine is a loss of bone density. The people most at risk of this are the elderly of course, but it’s definitely a possibility for someone looking to be extra authentic for their astronaut cosplay

What’s Best Choice? Skipping a Workout or Skimping On Sleep?

dumbells

So you stayed up way too late watching House of Cards and now you’re staring at your alarm clock, wondering if you should still wake up early and drag your butt to the gym. Normally, you’re up and at ‘em like a champ, but sleep-deprived supersets sound like anything but funzies. Should you skip your workout and sleep in—or suck it up and head to the gym?

The answer all depends on whether or not you can nap tomorrow, say experts.

If You Can’t Nap…

Catch up on sleep. We’re officially giving you a sleep expert’s permission to snooze. “Studies show that when people get less than six hours—meaning they were sleep deprived—they’re more prone to athletic injuries,” says Robert Rosenberg, D.O., board-certified sleep medicine physician.

sleeping-in-gymn

In other words, if you want to stay injury-free and maximize your sweat session, you need adequate zzz’s first. Heading to the gym when you’re bleary-eyed can actually work against your fitness goals—and the ill effects can carry into the rest of your day. “Your alertness and performance can suffer,” says Cathy Goldstein, M.D., a sleep specialist at the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center. That’s not so great for things like dominating a work project or, you know, driving. What’s more, because short sleep can alter hunger hormones, you could end up eating more calories than you burned exercising, she says.

Your fix: Stay in bed the extra hour. If you normally wake up at 6 a.m. for your
workout, sleep in until 7 a.m. While it’s important to maintain a consistent wake-up time most days, sleeping in a bit (we’re talking one hour, not three) isn’t a huge deal when you need it, says Rosenberg.

If You Can Nap…

Wake up early and go to the gym. Yes, even if it’s a weekend, says Goldstein. Sure, that sounds harsh, but hear us out. One factor that controls your ability to get to sleep at night is your internal clock (a.k.a your circadian rhythm), which is controlled by your morning light exposure, she explains. When you sleep in, you expose yourself to sunlight later than usual, which tells your body and brain you should go to bed later, too—leaving you stuck in an endless cycle of never being able to rise and shine for the gym. “For that reason, I think morning workouts at the same time each day are great for your sleep,” says Goldstein.

Your fix: Take a quick siesta—for no more than one hour—before 2 p.m., says Goldstein. You’ll wake feeling refreshed, without interrupting your normal circadian rhythm, she says. Set an alarm so you don’t oversleep—anything longer than an hour will cut into your shut-eye later that night.

early
Oh, and if you’re chronically shorting yourself on sleep, change up your priorities. “Make up time for sleep by cutting out NetFlix binges as opposed to cutting out your workout,” says Goldstein. (Easier said than done, but okayyy.)

This Article is originally published  in : Women’s Health

If You Are A Nail Biter You Probably Have This Personality Trait

If You Are A Nail Biter You Probably Have This Personality Trait

Ever wondered exactly why we bite our nails and why it is so darn hard to make it STAHPPP?

Well, researchers from the University of Montreal now have the answers as to why and apparently it’s related to our personalities.

The experiment, which sampled 48 nail biting obsessed peeps revealed that nail biting is more likely to occur in ordinary situations rather than stressful ones. Who would have known…

Dr. Kieron O’Connor, the main author of the study stated, “We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviours may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform task at a ‘normal’ pace.”

Sounds about right don’t it? No wonder why we bite them so much whilst at work! Just trying to be perfect and all.

5 Little-Known Risks to Biting Your Nails

Nail biting may actually be harmful to you beyond the emotional effects. For instance…

1. Disease-Causing Bacteria

Your nails are an ideal location for bacteria to thrive, and that includes potentially pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli (which would love to call the underside of your nail tips home).

As you bite your nails, those bacteria easily transfer into your mouth and the rest of your body, where they may lead to infections. Your fingernails may actually be twice as dirty as your fingers,2 considering they’re difficult to keep clean, making this a prime point of transfer for infectious organisms.

Although I’m not aware of any research on this, it’s often suggested (anecdotally) that people who bite their nails have stronger immune systems, and therefore get sick less often, than those who do not.

One potential explanation for this is that nail biting may help introduce pathogens from your environment to your immune system, helping it to learn and build defenses, similar to what occurs when people eat their boogers.

2. Nail Infections

Nail biters are susceptible to paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms can enter through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness, and pus around your nail.

This painful condition may have to be drained surgically. Bacterial infections caused by nail biting are actually one of the most common nail problems, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).3

3. Warts Due to HPV Infections

Warts on your fingers caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, are common among chronic nail biters. (Here I’m referring to the types of HPV that cause warts on your hands, as opposed to those that lead to genital warts and, rarely, cervical cancer.) These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails.

4. Dental Problems

Nail biting can interfere with proper dental occlusion, or the manner in which your upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth.

Your teeth may shift out of their proper position, become misshapen, wear down prematurely, and become weakened if you bite your nails over time. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that frequent nail biters may rack up $4,000 in additional dental bills over the course of their lifetime.4

5. Impaired Quality of Life

A study published this year found that people who chronically bite their nails report significantly higher quality of life impairment than those who do not.5

The level of impairment rises with time spent on nail biting, the number of involved fingernails and those who report visible nail abnormalities. Tension when trying to resist nail biting, suffering due to nail biting or nail-eating behavior also negatively influenced quality of life.

Is Nail Biting a Mental Disorder?

In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association decided to re-classify nail biting as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), along with other forms of “pathological grooming.”

If nail biting is taken to the extreme that it is significantly interfering with your life and causing you extreme emotional and physical pain, you could, perhaps, make a case for a psychiatric-disorder connection, but in the majority of cases this appears to be another case of disease mongering to sell more psychiatric drugs.

As reported in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, most cases of nail biting in young adults does not appear to be the result of a psychiatric disorder but rather simple boredom or stress:

“Nail biting in young adults occurs as a result of boredom or working on difficult problems, which may reflect a particular emotional state. It occurs least often when people are engaged in social interaction or when they are reprimanded for the behavior.”

tips-biting

Credit: Womens health.com and Dr Mercola articles

 

 

Students: Ten (10) Simple Exercises That Strengthen Willpower!

will power

With regards to meeting educational goals — whether you’re studying for a math test, writing your dissertation or learning a new language — remaining or staying focused can be difficult. In the event that you have a hard time resisting short-term temptations so you can meet long-term goals, you’re not alone. Americans believe that the number one barrier to making positive behavior changes is a lack of willpower.
Being able to call upon your willpower will serve you well in school and beyond. In one study, students who were better able to delay gratification earned better grades and higher test scores, had better attendance records and were more likely to get into a competitive high school program. What is researchers’ conclusion? Self-discipline may be even more important than IQ when it comes to predicting academic success.

Those distinctions last, too. In one groundbreaking study, researchers told preschoolers they could have one marshmallow immediately or two if they could wait for a few minutes. As children, the kids who were able to hold out were more likely to earn higher SAT scores. Plus, their parents reported, they were better ready to plan, handle stress and frustration, and concentrate without getting distracted.

After several studies, we have our answer! With the right practice, willpower can be strengthened just like any other muscle in the body.

Fair warning: like all practice, these workouts can be challenging. After all, you will be exerting your willpower in the same way that you would exert your legs on a run. But they are scientifically proven to get you results.

So although it will be difficult in the short-term, eventually it will be easier to say no to temptations, make it to the gym and stick with your long-term goals!

1. Ten (10) MINUTES OF MEDITATION

Meditation will give you the fastest results of all of the willpower workouts listed. By meditating you are training the brain to focus and resist the urge to wander. Research shows that after just 2-3 days of practicing meditation for 10 minutes, your brain will be able to focus better, you will have more energy, and you will be less stressed.

To get started with 10 minutes of meditation, check out this article. It will provide you with all of the benefits of mediation as well as simple exercise designed specifically for beginners.

2. WORK ON YOUR POSTURE

When testing if willpower could be strengthened, researchers asked a group of participants to work on their posture for a 2-week period. Every time they caught themselves slouching, they were to correct themselves by sitting up straight. This simple practice vastly improved their perseverance on various willpower tests like this one.

To get started, simply correct your posture every time you catch yourself slouching at work or at home. It sounds extremely simple, but it takes willpower to sit up straight. Every time you do, you’re essentially doing “one rep” with your willpower muscle.

3. KEEP A FOOD DIARY

The same study also found that those who kept a food diary improved their willpower. Most of us don’t log all of the food we eat, so it takes willpower to keep track of it all. Any similar logging of information will also work, but I recommend a food diary because of all of its benefits listed here.

To get started, I recommend downloading the MyFitnessPal App. It’s a simple food diary app that has a huge database of foods and nutrition information. Just keep the diary for 2 weeks, and it will increase your ability to resist temptations!

4. USE YOUR OPPOSITE HAND

Using the same methodology as with posture, researchers conducted further studies that tested other corrective actions. One that worked particularly well was to use your opposite hand. Your brain is wired to use your dominant hand, so it takes willpower to use the opposite.

To get started, select a chunk of the day to use your opposite hand. It doesn’t need to be any more than an hour in order to get results. And from personal experience, if you aim for more than an hour, you will unnecessarily tire out your willpower muscle.
5. CORRECT YOUR SPEECH

Another test that the researchers conducted was to change subjects’ natural speech. This includes resisting the urge to use swear words, or to say “hello” instead of “hey”. Again, it takes willpower to consciously go against your instincts. It doesn’t matter how you correct your speech, as long as you change your natural speech habits.

To get started, select a chunk of the day to practice and choose the words you will change. Personally, I tried not using contractions (using “do not” instead of “don’t”, etc.) during work hours and it worked very well. Like all exercises listed above, doing this for just 2 weeks can vastly improve your willpower!

6. CREATE AND MEET SELF-IMPOSED DEADLINES

Anyone who remembers their college days, remembers what it was like cramming for a test or doing a last minute paper. Your willpower gets taxed as you try to tune out distractions and become hyper-productive. Using this same principle, researchers found that by creating self-imposed deadlines you can work your willpower in the same way.

To get started, simply pick a task on your to-do list that you may have been putting off. Set a deadline for accomplishing it, and make sure you adhere to it. The participants who followed this process for 2 weeks not only got their old to-dos done, but also improved their diets, exercised more, and cut back on cigarettes and alcohol.

7. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SPENDING

In the same way most of us don’t track the food that we eat, many of us don’t track our spending either. Even if you don’t cut back on spending – which would also be a willpower workout – researchers found that simply keeping track of where your money went will improve your willpower.

To get stated, try using a budgeting app like Mint. Mint can connect to your bank account, credit cards, etc. and automatically track your purchases. By simply reviewing this on a regular basis, you will see increases in your focus and ability to resist unrelated temptations like sweets.

8. SQUEEZE A HANDGRIP

For the truly determined who want to increase their perseverance, you can squeeze a handgrip until exhaustion. If you’ve ever squeezed one before, you know that it gives you a deep forearm burn. So it takes willpower to keep squeezing.

To get started, simply get a handgrip like this one, and squeeze it with each hand until you’re exhausted. Willing yourself to continue squeezing even when it hurts will increase your perseverance on other challenging tasks.

9. CARRY AROUND SOMETHING TEMPTING

Again, for the truly determined out there, you can increase your ability to say “no” by carrying around something tempting with you all day. Researchers tried this with participants by teaching them how to resist cravings, then giving them a Hershey’s Kiss to carry around with them. Those who resisted the Kiss were much more capable of resisting other temptations in their lives as well!

To get started, first learn how to resist a craving. This will be hard, so your will want to know how to deal with the craving. Then carry something small but tempting with you. It doesn’t need to be for an entire day, but for long enough that you will be truly tempted. By consistently saying “no”, you will increase your ability to resist other temptations and ignore distractions!

10. BE MORE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR AUTOMATIC DECISIONS

A final exercise is to simply be more mindful of your decisions throughout the day. We are often so lost in thought, that our actions become automatic. Taking time to think about why you are making your daily decisions will increase your ability to focus and resist temptations.

To get started, try to catch yourself in an automatic behavior and ask yourself why you are doing it. This may be questioning why you are eating cereal instead of eggs for breakfast, or it may be questioning why exactly you put 2 sugars in your coffee. Any way you can think consciously about a typical automatic behavior will increase your focus and self-control.

CONCLUSION

Like all muscles in the body, willpower can be strengthened with the right practice. Above you will find 10 practical and effective ways to strengthen your self-control, focus and perseverance. Do not try to do all 10 at once.

Think about training your willpower muscle like training for a marathon. Your first training run wouldn’t be the full 26 miles or even close to that. You would start small and gradually build up as your muscles got stronger. So choose just 1 of these workouts to add to your daily routine.

Determine which workout seems practical and effective for the goal you want to achieve and get to work. By simply following the steps laid out, you will be well on your way to becoming more mentally strong!