Monthly Archives: April 2016


When it comes to polarizing health topics, few subjects spark more debate than weed (exept maybe CrossFit or the Paleo Diet). The latest marijuana research, from University of Michigan Health System, suggests toking up regularly can dull your emotional response and cause addiction.

Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed 108 people in their early 20s (69 men and 39 women), all of whom were taking part in a larger study of substance use and all had MRI brain scans at three points over four years. In the study, participants played a game while a functional MRI scanned their brains. More specifically, participants played a game in which they pressed a button when they saw a target on a computer screen cross in front of them. Before each round, they were told they could win 20 cents or $5—or they might lose that amount, or have no reward or loss. Scientists assessed the moment of anticipation (a.k.a. when volunteers knew they could get a few dollars richer).

Now, you’d think getting free money would be cause for excitement, but scientists found the more marijuana use volunteers reported, the less their reward centers were activated.

“What we saw was that over time, marijuana use was associated with a lower response to a monetary reward,” study author and neuroscientist Mary Heitzeg, Ph.D, said in a press release. “This means that something that would be rewarding to most people was no longer rewarding to them, suggesting but not proving that their reward system has been ‘hijacked’ by the drug, and that they need the drug to feel reward—or that their emotional response has been dampened.”

That’s not all. Smoking weed might also be more addicting than you think.

“Some people may believe that marijuana is not addictive or that it’s ‘better’ than other drugs that can cause dependence,” Heitzeg said. “But this study provides evidence that it’s affecting the brain in a way that may make it more difficult to stop using it. It changes your brain in a way that may change your behavior, and where you get your sense of reward from.”

The reason your body always hurts in the morning

You know the feeling: You fall asleep feeling fine — feeling good, even — and wake up with the sense that it’ll take a crane to get you out of bed. Everything hurts in the morning, and it’s not just because you slept in a wonky position or on a lousy pillow.

Turns out our bodies seem to suppress inflammation when we sleep, leading to worse pain when we wake up and the inflammation is, so to speak, turned back “on,” according to a new University of Manchester study published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

MORE: 7 reasons you’re tired all the time

The researchers examined human and mice cells with the inflammatory diseaserheumatoid arthritis. Patients with RA have long known that their symptoms can vary throughout the day, with many afflicted with greater joint stiffness upon waking. But little is known about how our circadian rhythms — our inner clocks that tell us when to go to bed and when to get up — control this swinging pendulum of pain. The UK researchers wanted to figure that out. (Heal your whole body with Rodale’s 12-day liver detox for total body health.)

What they found was that when mice were exposed to constant light, their paws were more swollen and there were higher levels of some markers of inflammation in their blood. In darkness, those inflammatory markers decreased. “At nighttime, those inflammatory markers go down but gradually rise up again in the morning,” says University of Manchester researcher and study author Julie Gibbs, PhD. She cautions that this particular study didn’t examine pain, but if you were to assume that with greater inflammation comes more pain, “you would expect more inflammation in the joints and increased pain levels in the morning,” she says.

MORE: 60-second fix for a stiff neck

Very specific proteins in our cells govern the ticking of our circadian clocks, Gibbs explains, and it seems that one of the proteins involved in our inner clockwork, called cryptochrome, also influences inflammation. With more research, she believes experts might be able to predict at what time of day anti-inflammatory meds might be most helpful or even develop treatments that could target this protein to reduce inflammation, although that’s still a long way off, she says.

In the meantime, knowing that your circadian rhythm affects pain, the easiest thing to do is work with yours instead of against it, especially if you already deal with ongoing joint pain. “We know in general having a healthy circadian rhythm is beneficial for health,” Gibbs says. Yep, you guessed it: Get yourself on a regular sleep schedule, and stay there. Keep your bedtime and your wake-up time as consistent as you can, even on weekends.

Women Want an Epidural

Epidural anesthesia is the most common form of pain relief used in labor and birth today. It is also the most effective at removing the pain during the birth. It works so well it can even be used for a cesarean birth, allowing the mother to be awake and alert during the birth of her baby, even in the event of surgery. There are a growing number of women who are opting out of using epidurals and choosing to go through labor without them. This means that many women may not understand why others choose to use an epidural. Here are some of the most common reasons I hear when talking to moms about why they actively chose an epidural for their childbirth experience:

  1. Labor hurts and I don’t want to feel it.
    Pain from contractions usually tops the list when it comes to reasons for choosing an epidural. More importantly women know that labor is going to hurt, but they actively do not want to feel the pain of labor and an epidural is the best way to remove or minimize that pain.
  2. I’m afraid of labor.
    Not knowing what labor will bring is often frightening. Having an epidural at least provides some predictability to the process in that you may feel more in control of what is happening, because you’re not busy laboring and using concentration to get through contractions.
  3. I want to enjoy my labor.
    Some women define enjoying labor as working actively with contractions, but if that’s not you, and epidural can help you remove the pain and let your body work while you do something else. While some moms do report feeling a bit bored, because labor is not a fast process for most people, they can live with that and make plans to fill the hours up with various things, including enjoying visiting family and friends.
  4. I don’t want to associate my baby with pain.
    Some people are concerned that if they experience pain in labor that they will transfer those thoughts to the baby. Think the classic: “You did this to me!” or “When I was in labor with you…” The epidural can help these moms separate that for themselves.
  5. I did it before and it worked well for me.
    Having been through labor before and having an epidural removes the fears of using the epidural that some women experience. Particularly if you had a positive experience with previous epidurals, you’ll be willing to try the same thing again now that you have a proven track record.
  6. I’m having a cesarean birth.
    If you know you’re having a cesarean birth, an epidural is a great choice for pain relief. Though your practitioner may recommend a spinal or even a combined spinal epidural (CSE), the basics are the same for you – you are awake and able to participate in the birth of your child.
  7. I don’t know what else to do.
    Some moms felt like they didn’t really have any other options. Maybe they had considered IV medications but decided against them or didn’t feel like natural childbirth was the answer and that left the epidural as the default. Other moms say that this is all that was offered at their place of birth, even if they had previously considered unmedicated birth, with no support it wasn’t going to happen. Going with the flow, so to speak, is how this was described.
  8. My doctor recommended it.
    Some women are going on the recommendation of their doctor or midwife. Being told that it works well and their other patients are happy with the outcomes is enough for many moms to jump on board.
  9. My friends recommended it.
    For some women, a recommendation from a friend trumps all, even the recommendation of the practitioner. You can ask your friends all the nitty gritty details about what works and what doesn’t. You can ask about how it’s done and what it feels like in a way that you can’t necessarily do with your practitioner.

Before Towards Death

The dying process usually begins well before death actually occurs.

Death is a personal journey that each individual approaches in their own unique way. Nothing is concrete, nothing is set in stone. There are many paths one can take on this journey but all lead to the same destination.

As one comes close to death, a process begins; a journey from the known life of this world to the unknown of what lies ahead.

As that process begins, a person starts on a mental path of discovery, comprehending that death will indeed occur and believing in their own mortality. The journey ultimately leads to the physical departure from the body.

There are milestones along this journey. Because everyone experiences death in their own unique way, not everyone will stop at each milestone. Some may hit only a few while another may stop at each one, taking their time along the way. Some may take months to reach their destination, others will take only days. We will discuss what has been found through research to be the journey most take, always keeping in mind that the journey is subject to the individual traveler.

The Journey Begins: One to Three Months Prior to Death

As one begins to accept their mortality and realizes that death is approaching, they may begin to withdraw from their surroundings. They are beginning the process of separating from the world and those in it.

They may decline visits from friends, neighbors, and even family members. When they do accept visitors, they may be difficult to interact with and care for. They are beginning to contemplate their life and revisit old memories. They may be evaluating how they lived their life and sorting through any regrets.

They may also undertake the five tasks of dying.

The dying person may experience reduced appetite and weight loss as the body begins to slow down. The body doesn’t need the energy from food that it once did. The dying person may be sleeping more now, and not engaging in activities they once enjoyed. They no longer need food nourishment. The body does a wonderful thing during this time as altered body chemistry produces a mild sense of euphoria. They are neither hungry nor thirsty and are not suffering in any way by not eating. It is an expected part of the journey they have begun.