Thanksgiving is as much about gratitude is at is about turkey and cranberry sauce. And it turns out feeling thankful has some pretty potent effects on your health.
While more research is needed to strengthen the understanding of the link between gratitude and health, here’s a roundup of some compelling reasons why you will want to be extra thankful this season.
You’ll have a healthier heart: In an April study of 186 men and women with heart damage, researchers rated the people’s levels of gratitude and spiritual well-being. They found that higher gratitude scores were linked to having a better mood, higher quality sleep and less inflammation—which can worsen the symptoms of heart failure. They also found that having high levels of gratitude explained a lot of the benefits of spiritual well-being. In addition, some of the men and women were also asked to write down things they were grateful for over an eight-week period. “We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for those eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote. Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk,” said study author Paul J. Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego in a statement about his research.
You might get more shuteye: If you’re having difficulty sleeping, writing down a few things you are thankful for before bed can help. A 2011 study of college students who struggled to fall asleep due to racing minds and worries found that those who underwent a gratitude intervention (they were asked to spend 15 minutes in the early evening writing about a positive event that occurred recently or one they anticipated in the future) were able to “quiet their minds and sleep better.”
It makes you more optimistic: Being gracious can contribute to a healthier outlook. In a 2003 study, researchers split up a group of people and had some of them write about what they were grateful for during the week, some write about hassles, and a third group write about neutral things that happened to them. After a few weeks, the researchers found that the people who wrote about things they were grateful for were more optimistic and reported feeling better about themselves. They even exercised more than the group that wrote about things that irritated them. “Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits,” the study authors write.
Gratitude helps you make new friends: Expressing gratitude is a great way to build new relationships. In a 2014 study published in the journal Emotion , researchers had 70 college students think they were mentoring a high schooler. They were asked to send comments on a college admissions essay. The students then received a note from their mentee that either expressed gratitude or did not. The students who were thanked by the high schooler were more likely to rate them as having a warmer personality and more likely to provide the younger student with their personal information, like an email address.
Being thankful improves physical health: An analysis of nearly 1,000 Swiss adults published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that higher levels of dispositional gratitude were correlated with better self-reported physical health. The people who felt more gracious had a notable willingness to partake in healthy behaviors and seek help for their health-related concerns. Other research has suggested that people who are grateful are more likely to do physical activity.
For for more information on our therapies please contact Clinic Director Charlie Blaisdell at CBlaisdell@CoreNewEngland.com
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep. You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to get through the day.
Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.
Adrenal fatigue is produced when your adrenal glands cannot adequately meet the demands of stress. The adrenal glands mobilize your body’s responses to every kind of stress, whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological. Whether you have an emotional crisis such as the death of a loved one, a physical crisis such as major surgery, or any type of severe repeated or constant stress in your life, your adrenals have to respond to the stress and maintain homeostasis. If their response is inadequate, you are likely to experience some degree of adrenal fatigue.
You may be experiencing adrenal fatigue if you regularly notice one or more of the following:
You feel tired for no reason. You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour. You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed. You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness. You crave salty and sweet snacks. You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.
Can people experiencing adrenal fatigue feel their best again? Yes, with proper care most people experiencing adrenal fatigue can expect to feel good again.
For detailed information about how you can help support your adrenal glands, promote healthy adrenal function and maintain your health during stressful times, please contact Clinic Director Charlie Blaisdell at CBlaisdell@CoreNewEngland.com
For for more information on our therapies please contact Clinic Director Charlie Blaisdell at CBlaisdell@CoreNewEngland.com
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For the first time, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found that weight loss, in combination with vitamin D supplementation, has a greater effect on reducing chronic inflammation than weight loss alone. Chronic inflammation is known to contribute to the development and progression of several diseases, including some cancers.
Results of the randomized, controlled clinical trial — which involved more than 200 overweight, postmenopausal women who had insufficient levels of vitamin D at the beginning of the study — are published online ahead of the July print issue of Cancer Prevention Research , a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
“We know from our previous studies that by losing weight, people can reduce their overall levels of inflammation, and there is some evidence suggesting that taking vitamin D supplements can have a similar effect if one has insufficient levels of the nutrient,” said lead and corresponding author Catherine Duggan, Ph.D., a principal staff scientist in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch. However, it has not been known whether combining the two — weight loss and vitamin D — would further boost this effect. “It’s the first study to test whether adding vitamin D augments the considerable effect of weight loss on inflammatory biomarkers,” she said.
To explore this question, Duggan and colleagues recruited 218 healthy, overweight older women who had lower-than-recommended levels of vitamin D (less than 32 ng/mL). The women then took part in a 12-month diet and exercise program (including 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise five days a week). Half of the study participants were randomly selected to receive 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily for the duration of the year-long trial, and the other half received an identical-appearing placebo, or dummy vitamin. Biomarkers of inflammation were measured at the beginning and end of the study. The researchers then compared changes in these levels between the two groups.
At the end of the study, all of the participants had reduced levels of inflammation, regardless of whether they took vitamin D, “which highlights the importance of weight loss in reducing inflammation,” Duggan said. However, those who saw the most significant decline in markers of inflammation were those who took vitamin D and lost 5 to 10 percent of their baseline weight. These study participants had a 37 percent reduction in a pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin-6, or IL-6, as compared to those in the placebo group, who saw a 17.2 percent reduction in IL-6. The researchers found similar results among women in the vitamin D group who lost more than 10 percent of their starting weight. While IL-6 has normal functions in the body, elevated levels are associated with an increased risk of developing certain cancers and diabetes and may be implicated as a cause of depression, Duggan said.
“We were quite surprised to see that vitamin D had an effect on an inflammation biomarker only among women who lost at least 5 percent of their baseline weight,” Duggan said. “That suggests vitamin D can augment the effect of weight loss on inflammation.”
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that has multiple functions beyond its widely recognized role in regulating calcium levels and bone metabolism. Vitamin D receptors are found in more than 30 cell types and the research focus around this nutrient recently has shifted from bone health to vitamin D’s effect on cancer, cardiovascular health and weight loss, among other health issues.
Inflammation occurs when the body is exposed to pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses, which puts the immune system in overdrive until the “attack” ceases and the inflammatory response abates. Overweight or obese people, however, exist in a state of chronic inflammation. This sustained upregulation of the inflammatory response occurs because fat tissue continually produces cytokines, molecules that are usually only present for a short time, while the body is fighting infection, for example.
“It is thought that this state of chronic inflammation is pro-tumorigenic, that is, it encourages the growth of cancer cells,” she said. There is also some evidence that increased body mass “dilutes” vitamin D, possibly by sequestering it in fat tissue.
“Weight loss reduces inflammation, and thus represents another mechanism for reducing cancer risk,” Duggan said. “If ensuring that vitamin D levels are replete, or at an optimum level, can decrease inflammation over and above that of weight loss alone, that can be an important addition to the tools people can use to reduce their cancer risk.”
Duggan encourages women to speak to their health care providers about measuring their levels of vitamin D to determine the most appropriate dosage.
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, National Institutes of Health, Seattle Cancer Consortium Breast Cancer Specialized Program in Research Excellence, Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium and Safeway Foundation funded the research.
Editor’s note: To obtain a copy of the Cancer Prevention Research paper, “Effect of vitamin D3 supplementation in combination with weight loss on inflammatory biomarkers in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial,” or to arrange an interview with corresponding author Catherine Duggan, please contact: Kristen Woodward in Fred Hutch media relations, firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-667-5095.
Fred Hutch: 40 years of cures 1975-2015
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first and largest cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Fred Hutch scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information visit fredhutch.org or follow Fred Hutch on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.