Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How Much Monosodium Glutamate Did You Have Today?

image by redvisualg, sxc.hu

MSG Is Increasingly Coming Under Scrutiny

It is an established laboratory practice to force-feed or subcutaneously inject Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) to rats when they are to be fattened in order to prepare them to conduct experiments. It has also been known for years that when rats are administered MSG in the early neonatal stage, they go on to develop severe neuro-degeneration in several of their brain regions. Such rats exhibit behavioral abnormalities, stunted growth of the skeleton, propensity to under-eat, concurrently with, of course, high body fat content. They call it the "MSG Obesity Syndrome".

image by juliaf, sxc.hu

Turn around now to look at the dishes laid out on your table. Chances are that, unless they have been prepared at home directly from raw food material, there is a dash of the MSG in every one of the dishes. Where is MSG in our food? That question needs to be changed to "Where isn't MSG in our food?" Ever since this flavor-enhancer was invented, like an invisible, silent dementor it has spread throughout the entire civilized population and entered every one of the foods that we get to eat. So much so, that it is an essential ingredient in pharmacological formulations, and baby foods aren't bereft of it either. Life today without MSG is unimaginable... try tasting any processed food in your favorite restaurant without the additive and you will find it so bland that you will walk out of the restaurant complaining about the joint. After all, MSG provides the fifth taste to our palate - the "Umami" taste, complementing the basic tastes of sour, salty, bitter and sweet that we can so easily relate to.

image by julosstock, sxc.hu

It is an interesting irony that glutamate is the most abundant chemical that drives the entire nervous system, right from the brain and the spinal cord down to the nerves tingling in our finger- and toe-tips. But the body requires only so much of this chemical. At moderate levels, the body has the requisite mechanisms to keep the chemical under control and make effective use of it to keep everything functioning properly. But what happens when you keep gorging on food that contains liberal sprinkling of the additive? The mechanisms break down. And all the disorders we mentioned awhile ago - kick in. If rats get to experience the degeneration - animals whose pathopsychophysiology we study to obtain clues about our own health and well-being - then we too should experience them, right?

image by adris72, sxc.hu

The unexplained headaches, the mysterious pains and cramps in the abdomen, the problems of balance, the disorders of sleep and depression... for which we have tried all sorts of doctors and medications but in vain, might as well have their source in the ubiquitous and innocuous taste-enricher that we took for granted.

image by sufinawaz, sxc.hu

With such a mountain of evidence about the impact Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) has on the brain, one would think that food and drug regulators will look at the additive with askance. The review conducted by an FDA select committee on GRAS substances (SCOGS) has this to say about MSG on their website, and I quote verbatim: "...data showing neuropathological lesions in neonatal animals resulting from subcutaneous or forced oral dosing of MSG has thus far been confirmed only in rodents... There is no evidence in the available information on L-glutamic acid, L-glutamic acid hydrochloride, monosodium L-glutamate, monoammonium L-glutamate, and monopotassium L-glutamate that demonstrates, or suggests reasonable grounds to suspects, a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practices." The website page was last updated on 10/31/2006.

FDA logo, wiki

To balance things, the association of manufacturers, national marketers and processed food users of Glutamic acid (TGA) expends a lot of effort to present their side of the story. To every one of the findings reported from the laboratory, they have their counterpoint. As a self-developer, you might like to make an informed opinion of which side is right?

image from TGA's website - www.msgfacts.com_*

* image from TGA's website - www.msgfacts.com.

[If you are like the rest of us, chances are that after reading this article, you will silently reaffirm your commitment to stay healthy, click on the cross symbol of the web page, move on to the next, and ... forget all about the commitment! The problem with all of us is that we are creatures of inertia. Unless there is an external force or an uncontrollable circumstance, we continue on our auto-pilot. In this respect, we are very much like the frog who realized only when it was too late that the water it was in was boiling and therefore unlivable! Have you read this parable? Here it is: "The Frog That Found Itself In Boiling Water".]

image by tchor1974, sxc.hu
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Binge Drinking Behavior In College Goers

image by dragonaria, sxc.hu

Specific Personality Traits Make One More Susceptible

College goers are not going to like this, but it is an established fact that drinkers who used to binge while in college have been found to go on in life to occupy positions that are considered less prestigious in society, have been found to settle for less income than they normally would have deserved, and even more importantly, have been found to be susceptible to psychiatric disorders later in life. That voluminous drinking sessions which are continued over a period of time actually alter the brain's structure, leading to neurocognitive deficits in frontal lobe processing and working memory operations, is a recorded fact too. Despite this wealth of awareness, it is sad that the kids still get attracted to bingeing.

image by meiteng, sxc.hu

More refined investigation into the personalities of adolescents, who immerse themselves in binge drinking when they should have been immersed in books, has led to the identification of specific traits that have been thought to play a critical role in this risk blowing itself out of hand.

image by lockstockb, sxc.hu

One such trait is impulsivity. People who score high on this trait are very sensitive to the rewards that would be theirs for which all they have to do is to rush forward and grab the glass or the bottle. The rush ruthlessly muffles any words of caution being whispered by the conscious mind at that moment of time. That is the way such people are constructed, you see, and it is very hard to stop them in their tracks, once they get going.

image by meiteng, sxc.hu

Another trait is sensation-seeking and excitement. People with a lower threshold for boredom, itch and fidget to seek out whatever novel may be on offer. And if Nature doesn't provide it to them, they go create novelty for themselves! The sensations and stimulations that begin to tingle in the body after a few gulps of the elixir have that touch of unusualness about them which is oh so thrilling. To people who seek novelty and excitement, it is the novelty of the tingle which matters above all else.

image by l_avi, sxc.hu

The influence of alcohol on the brain helps to shed inhibitions that normally shackle you into the limitations of acceptable social etiquette and protocol. Researchers have linked the trait of aggressiveness to disposition towards heavy drinking. Alcohol somehow brings out this particular trait even more forcefully. So people who may not be overtly aggressive and otherwise outwardly appear very meek and timid, but have seething resentment, boiling anger, and raging frustration all mixed up in the simmering cauldron of the psyche, will find the liquid sloshing down the gullet fueling the cauldron. Is it then any surprise to find them explode? If you have come across news in the media of how somebody murdered somebody after a round of boozing, now you know why.

image by idque, sxc.hu

These were the findings of a study conducted on 300+ students from a Canadian University recently. While science continues to work hard on addressing the problem of alcoholism, college goers - especially with the traits we just discussed - might do well to self-reflect and become more aware of what exactly makes them reach out for that inviting glass. After all, all said and done, it is your life!

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Self Hypnosis To Manage Pain

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

Ring In The New Decade With A New Resolution - Include Self Hypnosis In Daily Regimen

Have you stepped into the new decade, carrying forward the pains of the earlier decade? Pains in the body that have defied the most modern of treatments and the latest of interventions? Pains in the mind that refuse to be brought to terms or be reconciled with? These first days of the new decade could be a great time to look at alternative intervention mechanisms to help relieve pain.

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

A typical session of hypnosis begins by an invitation to relax and focus one's attention, and a suggestion to use one's imagination. This first stage is known as "induction" in hypnosis parlance, which may take anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes depending on the skill of the practitioner as well as the response given by the individual undergoing hypnosis. This is followed by suggestions given by the practitioner that are subjective experiences pertaining to alterations in perception, sensation or behavior, including modifications in emotional processing. The final stage is known as "bringing up", where the practitioner suggests that the individual begin becoming aware of their own body and peripheral environs, and return to "normalcy". This is a very concise description, but generally this is all that is involved in hypnosis.

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

Support to the efficacy of this form of therapy in analgesia and pain management has emerged from imaging studies that have established the impact of hypnosis on the supra-spinal sites in the body. Hypnotic suggestions have been found to target specific areas of the brain cortex which are associated with pain.

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

People who have undergone hypnosis sessions with the guidance of a practitioner have been reported to have taken up self-hypnosis sessions at home, because of the immense relief they would experience after each session. These at-home sessions were conducted both with and without audio recordings of the hypnosis session they underwent at the clinic. That hypnosis can alleviate the sensation of pain, there is now no doubt.

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

Can all pain be cured through hypnosis? Research suggests that pain which is associated with neuro-physiological processes are first in the line for treatment through hypnosis. Literature is replete with mixed findings of the efficacy of this line of treatment on pain management: it has not found to be any better for coronary-artery-bypass patients, but on the other hand it has alleviated state anxiety in dental surgery patients, and has been found to be very effective on patients with IBS, breast surgery and maxillofacial surgery.

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

In order to make hypnotic suggestions more effective, virtual reality technology is being deployed. The advantage of this technology is that the patient does not have to exert as much effort to visualize the imagery that the practitioner's verbal cues are aiming to provide, as a rich audiovisual sensory experience that has been already pre-programmed, is in place for the patient to immerse themselves in. Hypnotherapists and other practitioners in the field might consider exploring this technology if they have not already done so; here is a 2006 paper that reports success in applying this technology for alleviating burn pains.

image by gazette.unc.edu

The site which this blog is part of has a huge collection of self-hypnosis CDs aimed at alleviating a diverse range of issues. There could be no better beginning to a new decade than by taking action to improve the quality of one's life. Development of the self: isn't that the larger goal?

image by xymonau, sxc.hu

[Why a string of words from a stranger clinician should have an effect on the psycho-physiology of the body is a mystery. But it does, as surely as somebody's words of insult cause the body to tremble in indignation, or somebody's words of praise make the cheeks go red and the pupils dilate. From our sensory organs, the cues reach in to touch our psyche and hit some vulnerable buttons, which then directs the brain to send out the appropriate commands to cause the body to act accordingly. The psyche has been a largely unexplored phenomenon, as are its powers. On the woolly and subjective conjectures and speculations about what exactly these powers are, this article attempts to put a structure: "The Tiers Of Psychic Powers". ]

image by xymonau, sxc.hu
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