Easy Peasy Fancy Hot Chocolate

Dairy-free, Vegan, Gluten-Free (it is a drink!)

This hot chocolate is fantastically warming, delicious and flavourful without being too sweet. What a great treat for a cozy winter afternoon!

Easy Peasy Fancy Hot Chocolate

Easy Peasy Fancy Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • ~5 cardamon pods, crushed
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • ~3 cloves
  • 3 chilli flakes (or more, to taste)
  • Water (~1 L)
  • Cocoa powder (~1/4 cup)
  • Non-dairy milk (almond/hemp/rice/soy/coconut)
  • Maple syrup

 

 

Add spices to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 min. Add cocoa powder and whisk. Simmer a bit longer. Ladle into mugs with your choice of non-dairy milk and a tbsp of maple syrup. 


(photo from “overacupofhotchocolate” on tumblr)

Marinating in Gratitude

Feeling good is good for you. More specifically, feeling good emotionally & spiritually is beneficial to your mental AND physical health. While this may seem straightforward, there is a gap between knowing this truth, and being able to actually get there. Right? Without elaborating, it can sound suspiciously like telling someone who is depressed to smile. I assure you I would never say that! One thing that makes a measurable difference to health – that is possible no matter what your current circumstance – is having an active, authentic gratitude practice.

As we approach Thanksgiving here in Canada; and as we celebrate the arrival of our little one in my family; I thought I’d share some new research findings on the health benefits of gratitude. Of course, I’d also like to offer some concrete suggestions for how to incorporate more gratitude into your life.

How can we “marinate in gratitude” more often – and why would we want to?

gratitude-heartWell, both physically and emotionally, “a grateful heart is a healthy heart”. Practicing gratitude is associated with increased well-being, less fatigue, improved sleep, decreased inflammation, and fewer symptoms of stress.

Recent studies to add to the evidence:

Managing Workplace Stress, Depression

Taking stock of thankful events reduces stress and depressive symptoms. In this 2015 study, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers looked at stress and depressive symptoms in health care workers at 5 hospitals. The participants were divided into 3 groups. The gratitude group wrote down something they were thankful for in their work twice a week, the hassle group wrote down hassles, and the control group did not note hassles or good things. Assessing participants’ mental health and stress at the end of the four week study, researchers concluded that a gratitude practice was an effective intervention for managing stress and depression in health care workers.

Heart Health, Inflammation, Fatigue, Sleep, Mood

Another interesting 2015 study found that practicing gratitude – in the form of writing down gratitudes most days for 8 weeks – improved health outcomes in people with stage B heart failure. Not only did a gratitude practice result in better mood, better sleep and better energy, but it led to a measurable decrease in inflammatory markers associated with heart disease progression. And all from an intervention that is free and has no negative side effects!

Gratitude Practices

Writing

gratitude journal paperMany people choose to write down one to three things they are grateful for from their day. Some days it may be that only the snuggles you had with your cat move you to true gratitude. And, that is ok. Other days, you may find your gratitude expands to include helpful strangers and supportive friends, a moment of noticing sunlight filtering through the leaves, or even access to clean drinking water. The important thing is that it is something you are authentically moved by, and feel thankful for. Let yourself feel that. You may choose to start or end your day with this exercise. If you know that you are unlikely to keep it up without encouragement, why not take it to social media, and post your gratitude(s) each day?

Out Loud: Sharing with Loved Ones

1) In bed: Share 3 gratitudes from your day with your partner before you go to sleep. What a nice way to shift into a better headspace at the end of a stressful day! And what a great way to support each other in this health-promoting practice.

2) Over dinner: This is a great way to connect with kids and create a simple family ritual. Some people will frame it as “best thing that happened to you today”, which is more concrete for younger kids. No matter how you label it, going around the table and sharing something positive from your day can be a great way of shifting attention to the good things, and celebrating that. Some days it might open up a conversation about something challenging that is happening, too, and this is also important.

Read more about gratitude’s gifts here.

Gratitude’s Gifts

Gratitude’s gifts are several. It gifts us with a moment or few of heart-uplifting, thankful, good feelings. Psychological studies find that practicing gratitude enhances well-being. If we share that gratitude with another, it makes us feel (measurably!) even better. As well, hearing someone express their gratitude for you is delightfully affirming.

With a nod to the arrival of Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, it feels timely to share inspiring research findings on gratitude and well-being.

Practicing gratitude is good for your mood.


There are many books on the subjects of gratitude, thankfulness and wellbeing, and there is a whole field of psychology – Positive Psychology – studying this sort of thing. Cool, right? Think yourself into happiness. Easy? Sort of.

Now, don’t swallow the shaming, blaming kool-aide, please. Whenever I talk about this kind of research, in the realm of “thinking positive thoughts is good for you”, I mean AUTHENTIC positive thoughts. Lying to yourself is never good for you. Never. There is even research on that, in women with breast cancer. Realistic thoughts, even if they are negative, are associated with a better prognosis.

I learned the authentic thoughts lesson well some years back, when I was living in a leaky, mouldy, basement apartment, going through a breakup, and broke. Truly, those things all suck (yes, in a first world problems kind of way). I couldn’t summon gratitude for the fact that I had shelter, for instance, though I dutifully tried to be more “positive”. But I hated that apartment. And the mould was making me sick, and the darkness wasn’t helping me heal my heart. In that case, I COULD be, and WAS grateful for the unending support of my family, whose faith in me buoyed me when I didn’t have that faith in myself, and who were solidly there for me when I needed them. This was authentic for me at the time. And you know, changing my thoughts and – with great mental discipline – shifting to more positive thoughts, really helped me get out of that apartment and out of that hard phase in my life. Practicing gratitude was an important part of this process.

In honour of the true spirit of Thanksgiving, of gratitude for the gifts in our lives, I invite you to make space for gratitude more often. What would happen if you shifted from focusing on the daily annoyances, to daily gratitude? This study found that a gratitude intervention measurably improved mood for study participants, as well as improving their sleep. Cool, right? Taking a moment to find something you are authentically grateful for, be it the scattered autumn beauty of coloured leaves on the pavement, or the huge support a friend provides, or the delightful curiosity of your child, taking a moment to bathe in that feeling will make you happier, and it may help you sleep. Isn’t that something to be grateful for? 🙂

This thanksgiving, I hope you will be inspired to intentionally practice gratitude. Write a letter to someone far away, share your gratitude around the table, keep a gratitude journal, or simply be present to gratitude.

I invite you to share your approach and your results over on my Facebook page. May we inspire one another with our stories.

PS: Here is a great short video on the power of sharing your gratitude, from the folks at SoulPancake.

Natural Solutions for Seasonal Allergies

Good news: you can manage your seasonal allergies naturally!

Naturopathic News: there isn’t one natural medicine that works for everyone.

 

What’s good for allergies? Seasonal allergy symptoms occur when the level of inflammation in our car-exhaust590_284x213bodies reaches a certain threshold. For some, this is purely due to extreme sensitivity to pollens, along with dust, animal dander, etc. For others, it relates also to the level of smog they are breathing in, the amount of stress they are currently swimming in, and any foods they might be eating that aren’t a good fit for their systems.

Personally, my “seasonal allergy” symptoms go away when I go camping, as this is a happy, no-stress place for me, and there is way less smog in the back woods. (Luckily, pine pollen is not a trigger for me!). Others notice that when they are in other provinces, even in a city, their symptoms vanish. This can be related to the change in local pollens, the air quality, decreased stress of vacation, or any combination of these things.

 

allergies_flowers&tissueOn a physiological level, seasonal allergy symptoms relate to increased histamine release in the upper respiratory system. Thus, many people find relief by using natural antihistamines such as quercetin and nettles. For others, though, the inflammation needs to be stopped at a different point in the inflammatory pathway. A common intervention point for seasonal allergies is the liver. Using herbs such as milk thistle and antioxidants such as N-acetyl cysteine for liver support can vanish allergy symptoms completely for a subset of people.

Other people’s symptoms respond immediately to a targeted homeopathic remedy, or to gemmotherapy, while still other people find acupuncture gives them the best relief.

While there are some common prescriptions for allergy relief, the right fit for you will be as unique as your life situation, your history, and your current physiology.

My advice? Don’t guess, and don’t suffer needlessly. Book a consult to get your body ready for allergy season, sneeze & sniffle-free.

Holy Basil

holy_basil

Tulsi, or holy basil, is a great ally for winter, for cold and flu season, for when you are feeling stressed and sad.
Holy Basil is a restorative and tonic herb. It is uplifting, calming, and supports a balanced stress response. It is also antiviral. This is a herb I look to often for clients who are stressed, wired, and having trouble sleeping. As well, I like to include holy basil in mood formulas. I blend it into tinctures, teas. I will share a secret: I think it is an important part of what makes the potions I offer people “magic potions”.
Think of holy basil for stress management, for anxiety & depression, for insomnia, and for fending off winter’s supply of viral infections.
This month, try it as a tea. You can drink it straight, or blend it with other ingredients like lavender, rose petals, hibiscus or chai spices.
Cautions: avoid during pregnancy/if trying to conceive. Monitor your blood sugar if you are on insulin – you may need to lower your dose while using tulsi tea.
For more about this amazing herb, check out this monograph by Rosalee de la Foret.

Tree Medicine: Linden

(Tilia tomentosa, Tilia cordata, T. platyphyllos, T. europea. T. americana)

Aka Lime Blossom, Lime Tree, Basswood, Tilleul

 

These great trees create shade and spread calm on city streets where I live (in Toronto), and for the longest time, I had no idea of the medicine they offered.

I didn’t even know their name.

This knowledge gap is illustrative of the disconnection that plagues us here in the cities. The medicine we need is so often right beside us, but lacking an introduction, we have no idea. By sharing what I have learned thus far, I am aiming to change this. My hope is that you will be inspired to meet some of your plant neighbors, too, and spread the healing potential by sharing what you have learned with those in your circles.

 

Lovely Linden

(with thanks to herbalist Rosalee de la Foret for the alliteration that fits so perfectly)

 

Parts Used: Flowers (and bracts)

 

Form of Use: Tea (steep covered to retain medicinal volatile oils), Tincture, Bath

 

Actions: diaphoretic, antispasmodic, hypotensive, nervine sedative, digestive, demulcent, astringent, pectoral, antioxidant

 

Indications: cold or ‘flu with fever, nervous tension, nervous headache, high blood pressure (usually in combo with other herbs), insomnia (especially in kids), some types of PMS or painful periods

 

In France, linden tea a popular drink in the evenings, served in people’s homes as well as at five-star restaurants. The majestic tree it has long been part of the herbal medicine chest in both Europe and North America. And it turns out that Linden (Tilia spp) grows widely on both continents. Linden is a common choice for planting along city streets, and graces many a park.

 

When Linden blossoms in late June or early July, you can you can find the trees by their sweet scent, as well as by their distinctive lopsided heart-shaped leaf, with flowers attached to what looks like half of a maple key.

 

With a low-hanging branch, permission, confirmation of identity, and thanks to the tree, you may harvest the flowers for use in your household. I encourage you to expand your tea repertoire and get to know this #backyardmedicine this season! (If Linden doesn’t grow near you, you may purchase it from Mountain Rose Herbs or your local herbalist).

 

Harvest on a clear day, and spread flowers to dry on a clean screen or sheet, turning daily. Store in a sealable glass jar.

 

A cup of flowers to uplift you

Preparing and drinking tea is a ritual that many people enjoy. It is not an obligation, or a responsibility. It is a pause, it is nourishment, it is – in some cases – flowers in a cup. And yet, herbal teas – even the gentlest and safest of them, such as linden – can be powerful medicine.

 

 

 

Linden helps to cool and calm

This tree medicine is used to help bring sleep to anxious children (and adults), and to gently lower blood pressure. Linden is also used to decrease fevers during ‘flu. In a study at a Chicago hospital, children on bed rest who received Tilia (along with aspirin, if needed) recovered more quickly, and had fewer cases of ear infections, than children who received antibiotics alone, or antibiotics with Tilia. Note that Aspirin is no longer recommended for children – this study is older.

 

The herb is a great ally in times of stress. Linden calms the nervous system, soothing the nerves for sleep, relieving a tension headache, or easing an upset stomach. The herb is also known to ease menstrual cramps. Further, it is considered a heart medicine, where it protects the heart through its antioxidant actions and ability to dilate & heal blood vessels.

 

Bathe in Flowers

For the ultimate in nourishing self-care, treat yourself to a linden blossom bath:

Option A:

  • Place a few cupfuls of linden blossoms in a piece of muslin or cheesecloth, tied to keep the herbs from escaping into the bath water. Add to bath and fill with hot water.  Steep, enjoy.

Option B:

  • Brew a very strong pot of linden tea, strain, add to bath.

 

 

Safety

Safe for children, safe in pregnancy & during breast feeding, safe for long term use. Consult your naturopathic physician for information on use with your specific health concerns.

References & Further Reading:

Bruton-Seal, Julie & Seal, Matthew. Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: SkyHorse Publishing. 2009.

 

Conway, Peter. Tree Medicine: A comprehensive guide to the healing power of over 170 trees. London, UK: Judy Piatkus Publishers Limited. 2001

 

Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science & Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2003.

 

Mase, Guido. The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter and Tonic Plants. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2013.

 

http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2124007#hn-2124007-uses

 

http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/the-linden-tree/268 8900

 

http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2011/09/lovely-linden.html

 

7 Naturopathic Tips For Happy Digestion

1)    Identify and eliminate food triggers

Food allergies and sensitivities commonly cause heartburn, stomach pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea (and many non-digestive symptoms, including effects on skin, mood, and joints, too).

I offer IgG food sensitivity testing in order to speed up the process, take out the guesswork and the human experimental error, and help my clients determine what is the most nourishing diet for them.

Why wouldn’t you want to know what works and what doesn’t for YOUR digestion?

 

2)    Manage stress 

Since the gut is intricately connected to the nervous system, AND has a nervous system of its very own, stress matters. How you feel about your workload is intricately connected to how smoothly your digestion is operating. In fact, if we need to be in a parasympathetic state (the so-called “rest and digest” state) in order to optimally process, absorb and break down our food. The sympathetic state (aka “fight or flight”) is designed to help us escape threats, and prioritizes physiological supports for this. When you are stressed, blood supply is directed to your muscles, away from your digestive tract, to help you move faster. Additionally, digestive enzyme production slows, and peristalsis, the rhythmic contractions in your intestines that help food break down and move along, is also affected.

To simplify: When you are stressed you can’t digest

So, managing stress matters. This may look like setting boundaries with family members re: availability to take care of things. It may involve committing to leaving work on time in order to fit in a workout and prepare a meal. It may be developing a consistent stillness practice. And it may be getting together with a good friend who “gets” you.

 

3)    How you eat (vs what you eat)

Mindful eating.

Taking time to sit down, chew, and ENJOY the food you are consuming will make it much easier to digest. Truly.

Many of us are guilty of eating standing at the kitchen counter, or eating while sitting at our desks, working, or even while commuting from A to B. Ideally, take a conscious break to eat. And sit down. If you are having a treat, savor it. Regret, guilt, and self-recrimination not only feel bad emotionally, but can literally give you a stomach ache.

Finally, note that most people don’t do well with a large meal close to bedtime, particularly those who get heartburn.

 

4)    Exercise

Moving your body helps to regulate your digestion and ensure that your bowels move regularly, too. Enough said.

 

5)    Herbal Support: Soothing and Carminative Teas

Herbs to consider for tea include chamomile, peppermint, meadowsweet, marshmallow root, lemon balm, licorice, ginger, and others.

Note: herbs are best matched to a person’s whole constitution. For someone like me, who tends to be cold and have poor circulation, ginger is an excellent digestive support, with its warming and moving action, whereas for someone who runs hot, ginger could cause a sensation of burning in the gut. For them, peppermint’s cooling carminative capacity would be a better choice. Licorice is soothing and in fact healing for ulcers, but is contraindicated in whole form when blood pressure is elevated. Consult with an herbalist or naturopathic physician to get the right combo for you.

 

6)    Herbal Support: Bitters

“Bitters” refers to any combination of bitter-tasting herbs. Around the world, bitters have been used as digestives or aperitifs, and in many places they still are. Some examples of herbs used as bitters include Dandelion, Gentian, Angelica, Yellow Dock, Yarrow, Centaury, Wormwood, Mugwort and more. One commercially available blend of bitter is Angostura.

Note that the bitter herb(s) must bind to taste receptors on the tongue to be effective. So, no, you can’t take them in a pill and avoid the bitter flavor. Sorry ! 🙂

Bring back the bitters! Bitters for better digestion!

Bitters stimulate the vagus nerve, and the vagus nerve controls the entire digestive tract. Thus, bitters increase salivation, increase peristalsis, increase digestive enzyme production in the pancreas, enhance production of bile for fat digestion, and relieve symptoms of heartburn, gastritis and dyspepsia. Bitters can address both diarrhea and constipation, and through their digestive-enhancing capacity, relieve intestinal pain.

Interestingly, people consume fewer calories when they have bitters before a meal. Bitters help regulate appetite and fullness.

Bitters also improve liver function and enhance detoxification capacity, including reducing allergy symptoms and asthma. Finally, bitters help balance blood sugar.

I regularly use bitters in my clinical practice to help enhance digestion from top to bottom. Sometimes I recommend an existing combination product, but more often I choose 1-3 herbs that best fit for that person’s whole picture.

NB: If you have an ulcer, consult with your ND or Herbalist before using bitters.

 

7)    Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria. They are beneficial for our immune system (research finds lower incidence of colds and flus, and faster recovery time, recovery from infection), for our digestion (research supports use for IBS symptoms, crohns, colitis, gastritis), for mood (helpful for decreasing mood lability, and associated with less anxiety and depression), for skin (acne, eczema, and more). Probiotics are found in naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kosher-style pickled cucumbers, yogurt, kefir, and miso. While regularly eating fermented foods is great for maintaining healthy digestion, most of us are far from in balance with respect to our gut bacteria, and we need higher doses of probiotics to regain this healthy flora mix. Professional quality probiotic supplements are invaluable in healing the gut and occasionally in managing symptoms while healing progresses.

Your antacid medication is causing more digestive problems than it solves

Are you taking a drug for your stomach? Chances are, it is a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI), a class of drugs designed to decrease the amount of acid in your stomach. In 2012, 157 million prescriptions were written for PPIs in the US alone, making them the third most commonly prescribed drug. Prevacid, Nexium, and Prilosec are common examples of PPIs. Brilliant, right? Too much acid = pain, so decrease acid, decrease pain. Well… not quite.

You see,

Drugs don’t heal. People heal.

Continue reading

Can Stress Be Healing? Resiliency, Body Wisdom, and Oxytocin

by Dr Mahalia Freed, ND

Yes, I have come to believe that stress can be healing. Your body knows what to do. Even in the midst of true health crisis, we retain the ability heal. The wisdom within our bodies, and our innate capacity to remain in and return to balanced health, is incredible. It deserves highlighting, and celebrating.

 

Have you ever read an article, or been to a lecture about stress and health, and left feeling even more stressed afterwards, as the consequences of stress on your body sound so dire? Yeah. I have given those lectures. It turns out that there was a crucial missing piece in the oft-cited “facts” of stress increasing risk of everything from ulcers to heart attacks, high blood pressure to depression, hives to infertility. I would like to share some of this missing information today, and leave you with an empowering and uplifting message about resilience and connection in response to stress.

 

Oxytocin the Connector

Oxytocin is famous as the hormone of bonding, as it is released in high concentrations when people are breast-feeding. It is also released by the mere presence of a baby, whether you are breast-feeding or not, as well as with hugging, and with regular massage.

Oxytocin is a POSITIVE STRESS HORMONE. It counteracts the effects of cortisol in some incredible ways. Firstly, it is released during the stress response. Oxytocin is so calming, and so important for emotional regulation, that it is being investigated as a treatment for people with difficulty in emotional regulation, such as in borderline personality disorder. It helps us feel more emotionally stable, and eases anxiety. As well, oxytocin is a hormone of connection. It actually encourages us to reach out and ask for help, or reach out and connect with others in our situation.

 

There is body wisdom, building in a way to help us through stress with social support. Importantly, oxytocin is released when you both give and receive support. According to health psychologist and researcher, Dr Kelly McGonigal, people who help others in their community are less likely to die, given the same high amount of stress and its known negative health effects, than people who don’t reach out to others.

 

Oxytocin Heals a Broken Heart

Oxytocin is more than just a feel-good intimacy hormone. It also directly counteracts some of the inflammatory damage associated with stress. It is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and it helps keep our blood vessels relaxed (and our blood pressure normal). It has been shown to have a healing effect on atherosclerotic arteries, and it stimulates stem cells to produce new heart muscle cells, mitigating any heart-related stress effects. Did you catch that? Oxytocin actually helps regenerate damaged heart cells. Wow. How amazing is that? Just when you need it, when you are in the midst of a physiological stress response with its corresponding increased heart rate and increased pressure on the vascular system, there is the wisdom of the body giving you the protection you require.

 

In her June 2013 TEDx talk, Dr Kelly McGonigal puts this way: “Your body has a built in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection”

 

Isn’t that beautiful?

 

Our bodies truly do have the capacity to heal themselves.

 

Immune-Boosting Oxytocin

 

Another area where oxytocin plays a role is in the immune system: Numerous studies have found that wounds take longer to heal in the presence of psychological stress – be it academic pressure as a university student, or the demands of being a caretaker for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. The reason for this is that cortisol selectively suppresses the immune system. In lab studies, anti-inflammatory oxytocin improves wound healing, and decreases ulceration in colitis. Again, here is our innate body wisdom, stepping in to take care of us when we need it.

 

We are so supported.

 

No matter what is happening in your life right now, remember that you are being taken care of by your very physiology. And to help maintain good health, choose some fun ways to boost your oxytocin production. See the list below for ideas.

 

Top 10 Ways to Increase Your Oxytocin, Naturally:

1)    Listen to soothing music.

2)    Sing with others

3)    Dance with others

4)    Cuddle, hug, hold a baby

5)    Have sex with yourself and/or others

6)    Treat yourself to some therapeutic massage or shiatsu

7)    Gaze into a loved one’s eyes

8)    Connect with a friend

9)    Participate in a club, charity, or community group

10) Enjoy a delicious & leisurely meal

 

References

 

Carter, CS & Porges SW.The biochemistry of love: an oxytocin hypothesis.

EMBO reports. 2013; 14(1): 12-16

 

Çetinel et al. Oxytocin treatment alleviates stress-aggravated colitis by a

receptor-dependent mechanism. Regulatory Peptides. 2010; 160: 146152

 

Detillion C.E. et al. Social facilitation of wound healing. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2004; 29: 1004–1011

 

Ditzen et al. Effects of different kinds of couple interaction on cortisol and heart rate responses to stress in women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2007; 32: 565574

 

Ebrecht et al. Perceived stress and cortisol levels predict speed of wound healing in healthy male adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2004; 29: 798–809

 

Gamer, M. and Buchel, C. Oxytocin specifically enhances valence-dependent parasympathetic responses.  Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012; 37: 87—93

 

Grewen K and Light K. Plasma oxytocin is related to lower cardiovascular and

sympathetic reactivity to stress. Biol Psychol. 2011 July; 87(3): 340–349

 

Gutkowska, J. and Jankowski, M. Oxytocin Revisited: Its Role in Cardiovascular Regulation. Journal of Neuroendocrinology. 2012; 24: 599–608

 

IsHak et al. Oxytocin role in enhancing well-being: A literature review. Journal of Affective Disorders 2011; 130: 19

 

Lee et al. Oxytocin: The great facilitator of life. Progress in Neurobiology. 2009; 88: 127–151

 

Light et al. More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology. 2005; 69: 5–21

 

McGonigal, K. How to make stress your friend. TED Talk, TED Global, June 2013. Accessed online, Sept 2013 at http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend.html

 

Moghimian, N. et al. The effect of acute stress exposure on ischemia and reperfusion injury in rat heart: Role of oxytocin. Stress. July 2012; 15(4): 385–392

 

Nilson, U. Soothing music can increase oxytocin levels during bed rest after open-heart surgery: a randomised control trial. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2009; 18: 2153–2161.

 

Norman et al. Oxytocin increases autonomic cardiac control: Moderation by loneliness. Biological Psychology. 2011; 86: 174–180

 

Quirin M. et al. Oxytocin buffers cortisol responses to stress in individuals with impaired emotion regulation abilities. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011; 36: 898—904

 

Simeon et al. Oxytocin administration attenuates stress reactivity in borderline personality disorder: A pilot study. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011; 36:s 1418—1421

 

Smith, A.S.  and Wang, Z. Salubrious effects of oxytocin on social stress-induced deficits. Horm Behav. 2012 March; 61(3): 320–330

 

Szeto et al. Oxytocin attenuates NADPH-dependent superoxide activity and IL-6 secretion in macrophages and vascular cells. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008; 295: E1495–E1501

 

Tops et al. Cortisol-induced increases of plasma oxytocin levels predict decreased immediate free recall of unpleasant words. Frontiers in Psychiatry. May 2012; 3(43): 1-5

Why does (chronic) stress make us sick?

Researchers at the National Centre for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States have found that chronic psychological stress impacts our molecular immune system response, increasing likelihood of developing cold symptoms.

 

More stress means more glucocorticoids, like cortisol, the classic stress hormone. Cortisol’s role is to decrease inflammation in short bursts, to allow us to escape the theoretical physical stressor. However with longer term psychological stress, cortisol stays elevated. Our system adapts by becoming less responsive to the stress hormones (this is called glucocorticoid receptor resistance in the study). Researchers have now discovered that the less responsive someone is to glucocorticoids (ie, the more glucocorticoid receptor resistance they have), the more inflammatory molecules they produce in response to a common cold virus, and thus the more likely they are to have symptoms of this cold.

 

Bottom line: we were right. High stress or burning the candle at both ends can make you sick.