Author Archives: Dr Colin Holloway

How to prepare and protect your gut health over Christmas and the silly season

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How to prepare and protect your gut health over Christmas and the silly season

December 21, 2020 8.12am AEDT

Author

  1. Claus T. Christophersen Senior Lecturer, Edith Cowan University

Disclosure statement

Claus T. Christophersen receives funding from NHMRC and WA Department of Health. He is a co-author of The Gut Feeling Cookbook linked in this article – all proceeds from sales of this cookbook go directly back into supporting our research, no personal financial interest.

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Edith Cowan University

Edith Cowan University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

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It’s that time of year again, with Christmas parties, end-of-year get-togethers and holiday catch-ups on the horizon for many of us — all COVID-safe, of course. All that party food and takeaway, however, can have consequences for your gut health.

Gut health matters. Your gut is a crucial part your immune system. In fact, 70% of your entire immune system sits around your gut, and an important part of that is what’s known as the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which houses a host of immune cells in your gut.

Good gut health means looking after your gut microbiome — the bacteria, fungi, viruses and tiny organisms that live inside you and help break down your food — but also the cells and function of your gastrointestinal system.

We know gut health can affect mood, thanks to what’s known as the gut-brain axis. But there’s also a gut-lung axis and a gut-liver axis, meaning what happens in your gut can affect your respiratory system or liver, too.

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Here’s what you can do to bolster your gut microbiome in the coming weeks and months. https://www.youtube.com/embed/YB-8JEo_0bI?wmode=transparent&start=0


Read more: Gut health: does exercise change your microbiome?


How do silly season indulgences affect our gut health?

You can change your gut microbiome within a couple of days by changing your diet. And over a longer period of time, such as the Christmas-New Year season, your diet pattern can change significantly, often without you really noticing.

That means we may be changing the organisms that make up our microbiome during this time. Whatever you put in will favour certain bacteria in your microbiome over others.

We know fatty, sugary foods promote bacteria that are not as beneficial for gut health. And if you indulge over days or weeks, you are pushing your microbiome towards an imbalance.

A group of friends clink drinks while wearing Christmas gear.
For many of us, Christmas is a time of indulgence. Shutterstock

Is there anything I can do to prepare my gut health for the coming onslaught?

Yes! If your gut is healthy to begin with, it will take more to knock it out of whack. Prepare yourself now by making choices that feed the beneficial organisms in your gut microbiome and enhance gut health.

That means:

  • eating prebiotic foods such as jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions and a variety of grains and inulin-enhanced yoghurts (inulin is a prebiotic carbohydrate shown to have broad benefits to gut health)
  • eating resistant starches, which are starches that pass undigested through the small intestine and feed the bacteria in the large intestine. That includes grainy wholemeal bread, legumes such as beans and lentils, firm bananas, starchy vegetables like potatoes and some pasta and rice. The trick to increasing resistant starches in potato, pasta and rice is to cook them but eat them cold. So consider serving a cold potato or pasta salad over Christmas
  • choosing fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables
  • steering clear of added sugar where possible. Excessive amounts of added sugar (or fruit sugar from high consumption of fruit) flows quickly to the large intestine, where it gets gobbled up by bacteria. That can cause higher gas production, diarrhoea and potentially upset the balance of the microbiome
  • remembering that if you increase the amount of fibre in your diet (or via a supplement), you’ll need to drink more water — or you can get constipated.

For inspiration on how to increase resistant starch in your diet for improved gut health, you might consider checking out a cookbook I coauthored (all proceeds fund research and I have no personal interest).

Good gut health is hard won and easily lost. Shutterstock

What can I do to limit the damage?

If Christmas and New Year means a higher intake of red meat or processed meat for you, remember some studies have shown that diets higher red meat can introduce DNA damage in the colon, which makes you more susceptible to colorectal cancer.

The good news is other research suggests if you include a certain amount of resistant starch in a higher red meat diet, you can reduce or even eliminate that damage. So consider a helping of cold potato salad along with a steak or sausage from the barbie.

Don’t forget to exercise over your Christmas break. Even going for a brisk walk can get things moving and keep your bowel movements regular, which helps improve your gut health.

Have a look at the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and remember what foods are in the “sometimes” category. Try to keep track of whether you really are only having these foods “sometimes” or if you have slipped into a habit of having them much more frequently.

The best and easiest way to check your gut health is to use the Bristol stool chart. If you’re hitting around a 4, you should be good.

An image of the Bristol stool chart
If you’re hitting around a 4, you should be good. Shutterstock

Remember, there are no quick fixes. Your gut health is like a garden or an ecosystem. If you want the good plants to grow, you need to tend to them — otherwise, the weeds can take over.

I know you’re probably sick of hearing the basics — eat fruits and vegetables, exercise and don’t make the treats too frequent — but the fact is good gut health is hard won and easily lost. It’s worth putting in the effort.

A preventative mindset helps. If you do the right thing most of the time and indulge just now and then, your gut health will be OK in the end.

Melatonin.

I have started taking Melatonin 4 mg Sustained release as I have been on it before and it is the right dose for me. However, for those of you requesting a script, it is better I start you on a slightly lower dose of 3 mg sustained release. If you tolerate that well, then I can increase the next script to 4 mg. If you get vivid dreams, or wake up drowsy, then you would be better off on a lower dose of 2 mg. It is just a matter of working out the right dose for each person, to get the maximum benefit.

Melatonin supplementation to improve quality of life for elderly cancer patients

Angeline Ginzac

Université Clermont Auvergne, INSERM, U1240 Imagerie Moléculaire et Stratégies Théranostiques, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France

Délégation Recherche Clinique & Innovation, Centre Jean Perrin, F-63011 Clermont-Ferrand, France

Emilie THIVAT

Université Clermont Auvergne, INSERM, U1240 Imagerie Moléculaire et Stratégies Théranostiques, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France

Délégation Recherche Clinique & Innovation, Centre Jean Perrin, F-63011 Clermont-Ferrand, France

Xavier Durando

Université Clermont Auvergne, INSERM, U1240 Imagerie Moléculaire et Stratégies Théranostiques, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France

Délégation Recherche Clinique & Innovation, Centre Jean Perrin, F-63011 Clermont-Ferrand, France

DOI: 10.15761/ICM.1000148ArticleArticle InfoAuthor InfoFigures & Data

Abstract

The incidence of elderly population living with cancer increases. Maintaining or improving the quality of life (QoL) has become an important goal in the treatment of cancer disease and is even an endpoint in clinical trials. The elderly are underrepresented within these clinical trials and often undertreated. The aged population with cancer is very heterogeneous and has certain characteristics (comorbidities, vulnerability) making the management and assessment of QoL more complex in this population.

Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, regulates various physiological functions and is involved in the initiation of sleep. With age, the secretion of melatonin decreases and thus disrupts circadian rhythm. Circadin® (a prolonged-release form of melatonin) is used in France in the treatment of primary insomnia in person over 55 years old and contributes to improvement of QoL. Melatonin also presents a potential interest in addition to chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer by reducing or preventing certain symptoms (e.g., fatigue, depression) that constitute essential components of QoL. In this context, it seems appropriate to study the impact of supplementation with melatonin during chemotherapy on QoL of elderly patients with metastatic cancer

More on Melatonin.

This is a blog I posted last year about the cancer preventative actions of Melatonin. I have had a very positive response of my blog last week about Melatonin and memory. I have started Melatonin 4 mg SR as well (Follow my own advice).

. Melatonin: An Anti-Tumor Agent in Hormone-Dependent Cancers.

Nov 11

Posted by Dr Colin Holloway

I have discussed the benefits of melatonin many times. One of its major benefits is its anti cancer properties. It is also very safe and natural to the body.

Int J Endocrinol. 2018 Oct 2;2018:3271948. doi: 10.1155/2018/3271948. eCollection 2018.

Melatonin: An Anti-Tumor Agent in Hormone-Dependent Cancers.

Menéndez-Menéndez J1, Martínez-Campa C1.

Author information

Abstract

Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is a hormone synthesized and secreted by the pineal gland mainly during the night, since light exposure suppresses its production. Initially, an implication of this indoleamine in malignant disease was described in endocrine-responsive breast cancer. Data from several clinical trials and multiple experimental studies performed both in vivo and in vitro have documented that the pineal hormone inhibits endocrine-dependent mammary tumors by interfering with the estrogen signaling-mediated transcription, therefore behaving as a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). Additionally, melatonin regulates the production of estradiol through the control of the enzymes involved in its synthesis, acting as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator (SEEM). Many more mechanisms have been proposed during the past few years, including signaling triggered after activation of the membrane melatonin receptors MT-1 and MT-2, or else intracellular actions targeting molecules such as calmodulin, or binding intranuclear receptors. Similar results have been obtained in prostate (regulation of enzymes involved in androgen synthesis and modulation of androgen receptor levels and activity) and ovary cancer. Thus, tumor metabolism, gene expression, or epigenetic modifications are modulated, cell growth is impaired and angiogenesis and metastasis are inhibited. In the last decade, many more reports have demonstrated that melatonin is a promising adjuvant molecule with many potential beneficial consequences when included in chemotherapy or radiotherapy protocols designed to treat endocrine-responsive tumors. Therefore, in this state-of-the-art review, we aim to compile the knowledge about the oncostatic actions of the indoleamine in hormone-dependent tumors, and the latest findings concerning melatonin actions when administered in combination with radio- or chemotherapy in breast, prostate, and ovary cancers.

As melatonin has no toxicity, it may be well deserve to be considered as an endogenously generated agent helpful in cancer prevention and treatment

Finally, a supplement that actually boosts memory

I have been promoting the benefits of Melatonin for a whole range of things, knowing it is safe and virtually devoid of side effects. In the USA it is available over the counter, but is on a prescription in Australia. You may see it on the counter in health food shops, but beware, as it is not the same thing. The Melatonin sold without a script in Australia is in doses of 2 mg, which is too low in my opinion for most of you. The amount needed to be effective varies from person to person, so is best done by a compounding chemist, made to order. It is available commercially on a script under the name Circadin. If any of my patients are interested in getting a script for Melatonin, either wait until you see me next and ask for it, or email me and I will send a script to your pharmacy. There may be a small fee to cover costs for this service.

Melatonin: Finally, a supplement that actually boosts memory

Newswise: Cognition and Learnings|December 10, 2020

Researchers at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) in Japan show that melatonin and its metabolites promote the formation of long-term memories in mice and protect against cognitive decline.

Chiba, Japan — Walk down the supplement aisle in your local drugstore and you’ll find fish oil, ginkgo, vitamin E, and ginseng, all touted as memory boosters that can help you avoid cognitive decline. You’ll also find melatonin, which is sold primarily in the United States as a sleep supplement. It now looks like melatonin marketers might have to do a rethink. In a new study, researchers led by Atsuhiko Hattori at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) in Japan have shown that melatonin and two of its metabolites help memories stick around in the brain and can shield mice, and potentially people, from cognitive decline.

One of the easiest ways to test memory in mice is to rely on their natural tendency to examine unfamiliar objects. Given a choice, they’ll spend more time checking out unfamiliar objects than familiar ones. The trick is that for something to be familiar, it has to be remembered. Like in people, cognitive decline in mice manifests as poor memory, and when tested on this novel object recognition task, they behave as if both objects are new.

The group of researchers at TMDU were curious about melatonin’s metabolites, the molecules that melatonin is broken down into after entering the body. “We know that melatonin is converted into N1-acetyl-N2-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AFMK) and N1-acetyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AMK) in the brain,” explains Hattori, “and we suspected that they might promote cognition.” To test their hypothesis, the researchers familiarized mice to objects and gave them doses of melatonin and the two metabolites 1 hour later. Then, they tested their memory the next day. They found that memory improved after treatment, and that AMK was the most effective. All three accumulated in the hippocampal region of the brain, a region important for turning experiences into memories.

For young mice, exposure to an object three times in a day is enough for it to be remembered the next day on the novel object recognition task. In contrast, older mice behave as if both objects are new and unfamiliar, a sign of cognitive decline. However, one dose of AMK 15 min after a single exposure to an object, and older mice were able to remember the objects up to 4 days later.

Lastly, the researchers found that long-term memory formation could not be enhanced after blocking melatonin from being converted into AMK in the brain. “We have shown that melatonin’s metabolite AMK can facilitate memory formation in all ages of mice,” says Hattori. “Its effect on older mice is particularly encouraging and we are hopeful that future studies will show similar effects in older people. If this happens, AMK therapy could eventually be used to reduce the severity of Mild Cognitive Impairment and its potential conversion to Alzheimer’s disease.”

The article, “The melatonin metabolite N1-acetyl-5-methoxykynuramine facilitates long-term object memory in young and aging mice,” was published in Journal of Pineal Research at DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jpi.12703.

Here is a more detailed information about the study, for those keen to delve into the nitty-gritty of research.

Melatonin: finally, a supplement that actually boosts memory

10-Dec-2020 10:30 AM EST, by Tokyo Medical and Dental UniversityEdit Institutionfavorite_border

Newswise: Melatonin: finally, a supplement that actually boosts memory

Department of Biology,TMDU

Three 1-minute training trials (A) revealed age-associated object memory decline in middle-aged and old mice at 1 day post-training (B). Systemic AMK (1 mg/kg) administered after a single 1-minute training trial enhanced object memory at 1 and 4 days post-training in all age groups (D-F). Data are presented as mean ± standard error. *P < .05 and **P < .01 indicate significantly different than chance performance (50%). Discrimination index (%) = time exploring novel object/ total object exploration time during test X 100

Newswise — Researchers at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) in Japan show that melatonin and its metabolites promote the formation of long-term memories in mice and protect against cognitive decline.

Chiba, Japan — Walk down the supplement aisle in your local drugstore and you’ll find fish oil, ginkgo, vitamin E, and ginseng, all touted as memory boosters that can help you avoid cognitive decline. You’ll also find melatonin, which is sold primarily in the United States as a sleep supplement. It now looks like melatonin marketers might have to do a rethink. In a new study, researchers led by Atsuhiko Hattori at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) in Japan have shown that melatonin and two of its metabolites help memories stick around in the brain and can shield mice, and potentially people, from cognitive decline.

One of the easiest ways to test memory in mice is to rely on their natural tendency to examine unfamiliar objects. Given a choice, they’ll spend more time checking out unfamiliar objects than familiar ones. The trick is that for something to be familiar, it has to be remembered. Like in people, cognitive decline in mice manifests as poor memory, and when tested on this novel object recognition task, they behave as if both objects are new.

The group of researchers at TMDU were curious about melatonin’s metabolites, the molecules that melatonin is broken down into after entering the body. “We know that melatonin is converted into N1-acetyl-N2-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AFMK) and N1-acetyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AMK) in the brain,” explains Hattori, “and we suspected that they might promote cognition.” To test their hypothesis, the researchers familiarized mice to objects and gave them doses of melatonin and the two metabolites 1 hour later. Then, they tested their memory the next day. They found that memory improved after treatment, and that AMK was the most effective. All three accumulated in the hippocampal region of the brain, a region important for turning experiences into memories.

For young mice, exposure to an object three times in a day is enough for it to be remembered the next day on the novel object recognition task. In contrast, older mice behave as if both objects are new and unfamiliar, a sign of cognitive decline. However, one dose of AMK 15 min after a single exposure to an object, and older mice were able to remember the objects up to 4 days later.

Lastly, the researchers found that long-term memory formation could not be enhanced after blocking melatonin from being converted into AMK in the brain. “We have shown that melatonin’s metabolite AMK can facilitate memory formation in all ages of mice,” says Hattori. “Its effect on older mice is particularly encouraging and we are hopeful that future studies will show similar effects in older people. If this happens, AMK therapy could eventually be used to reduce the severity of Mild Cognitive Impairment and its potential conversion to Alzheimer’s disease.

What is overdiagnosis and why should we take it seriously in cancer screening?

Public Health Res Pract. 2017 Jul 26;27(3). pii: 2731722. doi: 10.17061/phrp2731722.

What is overdiagnosis and why should we take it seriously in cancer screening?

Carter SM1, Barratt A2.

Author information

Abstract

Overdiagnosis occurs in a population when conditions are diagnosed correctly but the diagnosis produces an unfavourable balance between benefits and harms. In cancer screening, overdiagnosed cancers are those that did not need to be found because they would not have produced symptoms or led to premature death. These overdiagnosed cancers can be distinguished from false positives, which occur when an initial screening test suggests that a person is at high risk but follow-up testing shows them to be at normal risk. The cancers most likely to be overdiagnosed through screening are those of the prostate, thyroid, breast and lung. Overdiagnosis in cancer screening arises largely from the paradoxical problem that screening is most likely to find the slow-growing or dormant cancers that are least likely to harm us, and less likely to find the aggressive, fast-growing cancers that cause cancer mortality. This central paradox has become clearer over recent decades. The more overdiagnosis is produced by a screening program, the less likely the program is to serve its ultimate goal of reducing illness and premature death from cancer. Thus, it is vital that health professionals and researchers continue an open, scientific inquiry into the extent and consequences of overdiagnosis, and devise appropriate responses to it.

Low-Dose Naltrexone: An Inexpensive Medicine for Many Ills?

News > Medscape Medical News > Features

We had a severe storm on Tuesday, which damaged our Telecommunications at the Clinic. The result was many of you could not get through by phone, and those that did found the line was very poor. This meant I have had to reschedule my cancelled telephone consults. I apologize for this but it was out of my control.

I finish work tomorrow, and will be back in the middle of January. This has been a very busy week, on thing or another, so I have been slow on answering emails, due to the amount of them I am receiving at present. I will get around to them, but some patience and understanding is required. Very few doctors allow patients to email them and provide assistance in that way. Over the holiday period, i will be available by email for any urgent problems that may arise.

I have been using LDN (see below) for the last 5 years, and found it generally to be safe and effective in many medical conditions, as many of you have found.

Low-Dose Naltrexone: An Inexpensive Medicine for Many Ills?

Miriam E. Tucker

March 11, 2020

Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) could represent a low-cost and safe alternative treatment for several chronic neurologic, rheumatologic, psychiatric, and gastrointestinal inflammatory conditions, recent findings suggest.  

The opioid antagonist naltrexone is currently approved in 50 mg tablet doses for the treatment of opioid and alcohol dependence. But at much lower doses — typically 1.5 mg to 12 mg — it appears to operate uniquely as an anti-inflammatory agent in the central nervous system, via action on microglial cells. The low-dose version is not currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, so to be used it must be prescribed off-label and specially compounded.

Given that it’s off-patent and costs only about $25 to $65 a month (at US compounding pharmacies), there’s little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to conduct large randomized clinical trials of LDN.

However, accumulating data from a variety of sources suggest that it’s relieving pain and other symptoms of several different chronic inflammatory conditions, with few side effects other than mild and transient nausea, insomnia, headache, and vivid dreams.

One recent three-patient series published in BMJ Case Reports is the latest to describe successful use of LDN in relieving not just pain, but also fatigue, cognitive impairment, and post-exertional malaise in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a debilitating neuroimmune condition for which there are no currently approved treatments.

Another case series published in November reports similar benefits in ME/CFS, and clinicians who specialize in the illness have endorsed its use based on their cumulative anecdotal experience.

Indirect evidence for LDN’s benefits comes from a unique series of articles published in the last few years from Norway, reporting the impact of a surge in LDN prescribing in that country in 2013 following the airing of a television documentary about LDN.

According to Norway’s nationwide prescribing database, about 15,297 patients, or 0.3% of the country’s population, was prescribed LDN by physicians following the airing of the documentary. Over the next year, there were dramatic drops in prescriptions for high-cost drugs used in the treatment of rheumatoid and seropositive arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy, psychotic conditions, and depression.

Jarred W. Younger, PhD, who has studied LDN in fibromyalgia and is seeking funding to study it in ME/CFS, told Medscape Medical News, “We really need clinical trials to show what it works for [ME/CFS] and how to use it properly.”

“A lot of clinicians are trying it without enough guidance,” added Younger, who is director of the Neuroinflammation, Pain and Fatigue Lab at the University of Alabama, Birmingham

Feeling sore after exercise? Here’s what science suggests helps (and what doesn’t)

Feeling sore after exercise? Here’s what science suggests helps (and what doesn’t)

December 3, 2020 12.55pm AEDT

Authors

  1. Andrea Mosler Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, La Trobe University
  2. Matthew Driller Associate Professor, Sport and Exercise Science, La Trobe University

Disclosure statement

Andrea Mosler is supported by an National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Fellowship

Matthew Driller does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

La Trobe University
CC BY NDWe believe in the free flow of information
Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence.

Have you been hitting the gym again with COVID restrictions easing? Or getting back into running, cycling, or playing team sports?

As many of you might’ve experienced, the inevitable muscle soreness that comes after a break can be a tough barrier to overcome.

Here’s what causes this muscle soreness, and how best to manage it.

What is muscle soreness and why does it occur?

Some muscle soreness after a workout is normal. But it can be debilitating and deter you from further exercise. The scientific term used to describe these aches is delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, which results from mechanical disruption of the muscle fibres, often called “microtears”.

This damage causes swelling and inflammation in the muscle fibres, and the release of substances that sensitise the nerves within the muscle, producing pain when the muscle contracts or is stretched.

This pain usually peaks 24-72 hours after exercise. The type of exercise that causes the most muscle soreness is “eccentric” exercise, which is where force is generated by the muscle as it lengthens — think about walking downhill or the lowering phase of a bicep curl.

Athletic man suffering from shoulder pain
Soreness in the days after exercise is normal, and actually results in stronger muscles. Shutterstock

There’s good news about this pain though. When the muscle cell recovers from this “microtrauma”, it gets stronger and can produce that force again without the same damage occurring. So although this strengthening process is initially painful, it’s essential for our body to adapt to our new training regime.

The inflammatory component of this process is necessary for the muscle tissue to strengthen and adapt, therefore the repeated use of anti-inflammatory medication to manage the associated pain could be detrimental to the training effect.

Will recovery gadgets put me out of my misery? Not necessarily

Before we even think about recovery from exercise, you first need to remember to start slow and progress gradually. The body adapts to physical load, so if this has been minimal during lockdown, your muscles, tendons and joints will need time to get used to resuming physical activity. And don’t forget to warm up by getting your heart rate up and the blood flowing to the muscles before every session, even if it’s a social game of touch footy!


Read more: Heading back to the gym? Here’s how to avoid injury after coronavirus isolation


Even if you do start slow, you may still suffer muscle soreness and you might want to know how to reduce it. There are heaps of new recovery gadgets and technologies these days that purport to help. But the jury is still out on some of these methods.

Some studies do show a benefit. There have been analyses and reviews on some of the more common recovery strategies including ice baths, massage, foam rollers and compression garments. These reviews tend to support their use as effective short-term post-exercise recovery strategies.

So, if you have the time or money — go for it! Make sure your ice baths are not too cold though, somewhere around 10-15℃ for ten minutes is probably about right.

And a word of caution on ice baths, don’t become too reliant on them in the long term, especially if you are a strength athlete. Emerging research has shown they may have a negative effect on your muscles, blunting some of the repair and rebuilding processes following resistance training.

A man floating in a float tank
New recovery methods and gadgets are marketed everywhere, but most of them require further research. Shutterstock

But the efficacy of other recovery strategies remain unclear. Techniques like recovery boots or sleeves, float tanks and cryotherapy chambers are newer on the recovery scene. While there have been some promising findings, more studies are required before we can make an accurate judgement.

However, these recovery gadgets all seem to have one thing in common: they make you “feel” better. While the research doesn’t always show physical benefits for these techniques or gadgets, often using them will result in perceived lower levels of muscle soreness, pain and fatigue.

Is this just a placebo effect? Possibly, but the placebo effect is still a very powerful one — so if you believe a product will help you feel better, it probably will, on some level at least.

The ‘big rocks’ of recovery

Some of the above techniques could be classified as the “one-percenters” of recovery. But to properly recover, we need to focus on the “big rocks” of recovery. These include adequate sleep and optimal nutrition.

Sleep is one of the best recovery strategies we have, because this is when most of the muscle repair and recovery takes place. Ensuring a regular sleep routine and aiming for around eight hours of sleep per night is a good idea.

An elderly lady in bed sleeping
Ultimately, adequate sleep and optimal nutrition are the best ways to recover after exercise. Shutterstock

When it comes to nutrition, the exact strategy will vary from person to person and you should always seek out nutrition advice from a qualified professional, but remember the three R’s:

  • refuel (replacing carbohydrates after exercise)
  • rebuild (protein intake will aid in the muscle repair and rebuilding)
  • rehydrate (keep your fluid intake up, especially in these summer months!).

Enjoy your newfound freedom when returning to sport and exercise, but remember to focus on a slow return, and to make sure you’re eating and sleeping healthily before spending your hard-earned cash on the hyped-up recovery tools you may see athletes using on Instagram.

4 things about female orgasms researchers actually study

4 things about female orgasms researchers actually study

December 2, 2020 4.47pm AEDT

Author

  1. Jane Chalmers Senior Lecturer in Pain Sciences, University of South Australia

Disclosure statement

Jane Chalmers does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

University of South Australia

University of South Australia provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

CC BY NDWe believe in the free flow of information
Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence.

Cardi B’s song WAP and the Netflix show Sex Education place female orgasms on centre stage in popular culture.

But female orgasms are also the subject of serious academic research.

Here’s a snapshot of what research tells us about female orgasms, what we don’t know, and what researchers want to find out.


Read more: From reproducers to ‘flutters’ to ‘sluts’: tracing attitudes to women’s pleasure in Australia


1. When women orgasm, what actually happens?

When women orgasm, their pelvic floor muscles contract rhythmically and involuntarily. These contractions are thought to help move blood out of erect tissues of the clitoris and vulva, allowing them to return to their usual flaccid (floppy) state.

During sexual arousal and orgasm, women’s heart rate, respiration rate and blood pressure also rise.


Read more: ‘Is it normal for girls to masturbate?’


Levels of oxytocin, known as the “love hormone”, increase during sexual arousal and are thought to peak during orgasm.

The areas of the brain associated with dopamine, the “happy hormone”, are activated in men and women.

And in women, other areas of the brain are activated further during sexual arousal and peak with orgasm. These include those associated with emotions, the integration of sensory information and emotions, higher-level thinking, and motor areas associated with pelvic floor muscles.

The “right angular gyrus” part of the brain may also be linked with an altered state of consciousness some women say they experience when they orgasm.


Read more: Health Check: does the ‘G-spot’ exist?


What is trickier to determine is how the body and brain relate. We know the frequency and intensity of female orgasms depends on a range of complex psychosocial factors, including a woman’s sexual desires, self-esteem, openness of sexual communication with their partner, and general mental health.

2. Not all women orgasm. Is that a problem?

Orgasms are not a big deal for all women, and that’s completely normal.

And 21% of Australian women aged 20-64 say they cannot climax. From a simplistic biological viewpoint, anorgasmia (the inability to orgasm despite adequate sexual stimulation) is also not a problem. However, women with anorgasmia often report shame, inadequacy, anxiety, distress and detachment surrounding intercourse and orgasm.

These negative emotions might be related to the long history of suppression, and now celebration, of women’s sexual pleasure.

For many women, orgasms represent empowerment. Understandably, then, anorgasmia can leave women feeling as though there is something wrong with them. Some might fake orgasm, which around two-thirds report doing. This is usually to make them feel better about themselves, or to make their partners feel better. https://www.youtube.com/embed/AxqYgjAftc8?wmode=transparent&start=0 Many women say they fake their orgasms, as portrayed in the classic movie When Harry Met Sally.

More than 80% of women won’t orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone. So if anorgasmia is a problem, trying different types of stimulation might help, particularly clitoral stimulation.

When anorgasmia leads to negative feelings or gets in the way of forming or sustaining healthy sexual relationships, it becomes a problem. But certain websites, “sextech” (technology that aims to enhance female sexual experiences), and dedicated health professionals can help.

3. Can you over-orgasm?

No! While a survey run by an online dating site suggests 77% of women have had multiple orgasms, academic research suggests the figure is much lower, at around 14%.

Some women who have multiple orgasms report their second orgasm as the strongest, but ones after that become less intense.

Just make sure you have enough lubrication to last the distance, as prolonged stimulation without sufficient lubrication can lead to pain.

Around 50% of women in one study said they use vibrators to reach orgasm (or multiple orgasms). Some people say vibrators can decrease the sensitivity of the clitoris, making it harder for women to orgasm through clitoral stimulation that doesn’t involve vibration. However, most research finds any desensitisation is mild and transitory.

4. What use is it anyway?

Evolutionists tend to take three views on why the female orgasm has evolved: to increase the success of reproduction; to enhance pair-bonding between women and their sexual partner; or the one I consider the most likely, is that women’s orgasms do not serve any evolutionary purpose at all. They are simply a by-product of evolution, existing because the male and female genitals develop in a similar way as embryos, and only begin to differentiate at about six weeks’ gestation.

Just because women’s orgasms do not serve an evolutionary purpose, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Women’s orgasms are important because for many women, they contribute to healthy relationships and their sexual well-being.


Read more: Oh, oh, oh! The clitoris certainly gives pleasure. But does it also help women conceive?


What’s left to find out?

For a long time, we’ve assumed details about the female orgasm based on its male counterpart. And it’s only since 2011 that we’ve been able to map what happens in women’s brains during sexual stimulation. So there’s plenty about the female brain during orgasm we haven’t yet explored.

We’ve only recently learned about the true size and function of the clitoris. We’re also still debating whether the G-spot exists.

Women’s sexuality, desires, likes and dislikes are also incredibly varied. And in this article, we’ve only talked about, and included research with, cis-gendered females, people whose gender identity and expression matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

So we also need more research with gender-diverse people to better understand the complexity and diversity of orgasm and sexuality.

Whether science can explain all these differences in the complexity of the human being remains to be seen.

Coffee vs tea: Which is best for health?

Coffee vs tea: Which is best for health?

Alistair Gardiner|November 6, 2020

When it comes to hot beverages, there’s a good chance you fall into one of two categories: coffee drinker or tea drinker. Over the years, both have fallen in and out of vogue, and both have been promoted for their apparent health benefits. Young woman holding coffee mug

In recent years, studies have shown there are health benefits to both coffee and tea.

For millennia, tea has been hailed as a tonic for well-being. In recent years, studies have begun to provide a scientific basis for this school of thought. Likewise, while coffee has been consumed for centuries, recent research is shedding new light on the ways it provides us with a physiological boost.

But which has the most health benefits? Does the antioxidant content of tea beat out the cardiovascular benefits of coffee? Here’s what the research says.

Coffee: better for you than you think

You may think of coffee as a guilty pleasure, like alcohol. This is probably due to a number of studies published in the 1970s and 80s, which suggested that coffee consumption is associated with increased risks of cancer, birth defects, and heart disease. However, many researchers now conclude that these early studies didn’t always take into account confounding factors, like the fact that heavy coffee drinkers were also inclined to be heavy smokers and lead a sedentary lifestyle.

More recent studies are beginning to uncover some of coffee’s beneficial properties. An umbrella review of meta-analyses, published in the British Medical Journal in 2017, concluded that coffee consumption is associated with more benefit than harm for a range of health outcomes. 

Researchers found that high coffee consumption was associated with an 18% lower risk of overall cancer incidence, as well as a decreased risk of several types of cancer—including melanoma, prostate, endometrial, oral, nonmelanoma skin, and liver cancer. The study also suggested that coffee drinkers may be lowering their risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, compared with people who don’t drink coffee

The authors concluded, “Coffee consumption seems generally safe within usual levels of intake, with summary estimates indicating largest risk reduction for various health outcomes at three to four cups a day, and more likely to benefit health than harm. Robust randomised controlled trials are needed to understand whether the observed associations are causal.”

An even larger study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2018, looked at roughly half a million adults in the United Kingdom and found that regular coffee drinkers had a slightly lower risk of all-cause mortality. The authors wrote, “Coffee drinking was associated inversely with all-cause mortality, including in those drinking at least 8 cups per day, in both slow and fast metabolizers of caffeine, and in consumers of ground, instant, and decaffeinated coffee.”

Various studies have found that coffee may offer some protection against Parkinson disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and others. This is likely due to coffee’s high levels of caffeine, vitamin B2, magnesium, and polyphenols. One study suggested that coffee consumption could reduce risk of mortality by favorably affecting inflammation, lung function, insulin sensitivity, and depression.

Coffee, however, still has its potential risks, which are mostly linked to the caffeine content. Some studies have shown that, for those with hypertension, heavy coffee consumption can lead to an increase in blood pressure. On the other hand, those studies do not suggest a link between general long-term coffee consumption and increased blood pressure or increased risks of cardiovascular disease. 

More recent studies appear to suggest there is a healthy middle ground for coffee drinkers. One study of almost 350,000 individuals concluded that participants who drank 1-2 cups of coffee a day were at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than both those who drink no coffee and those who drink more than 6 cups a day. Another study concluded that 3-4 cups of coffee a day is the perfect level to get the most health benefits while minimizing the risks of coffee.

And, of course, if you’re looking to get the benefits coffee boasts, the science will always point you away from coffee store beverages packed with extra sugar, flavored syrups, or whipped cream.

Should you switch that cup of joe for a mug of tea?

People have been extolling the virtues of tea since ancient times, but it’s only recently that researchers have begun pinpointing the chemical elements that provide a health boost. Chief among these are its polyphenols, which studies suggest reduce the risks of developing a wide range of diseases, from arthritis to cancer. Polyphenols are antioxidants, which help lower blood cholesterol, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and regulate blood sugar levels, which can help combat diabetes.

There is also mounting evidence to suggest that tea acts as a chemopreventive agent against a wide range of cancers. Various studies have found an association between the intake of tea and a reduced risk of certain kinds of cancer, including prostate cancer and breast cancer. While this research is encouraging, further studies are required to strengthen the evidence for this hypothesis. Studies also suggest that drinking tea can help combat conditions like stroke, Parkinson, and Alzheimer disease.  

Of course, some of this may be explained by an overall healthier lifestyle employed by tea drinkers. Some studies have found that any conclusions they may come to regarding the benefits of tea could come down to the socioeconomic or lifestyle factors of their tea-drinking subjects. Likewise, conclusions drawn from tea research on animal subjects, which may suggest the protective effects of tea against diseases like cancer, don’t necessarily translate to humans.

Which offers the best health benefits?

The answer here isn’t simple. There are various studies that suggest both tea and coffee, in moderation, can help prevent cardiovascular diseases. Both contain caffeine, which researchers have demonstrated can temporarily improve physical performance and stimulate the nervous system. Studies have shown that caffeine also helps improve mood, by releasing dopamine and stimulating serotonin neurons.

Thyroid function and osteoporosis in menopause

Abstract

Objective

To investigate the relationship between thyroid function status and bone mineral density (BMD) among women with postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Methods

A retrospective study was performed among 1217 women aged 45–80 years who attended the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey, between August 1, 2009, and June 1, 2013. Eligible participants were grouped according to the presence or absence of osteoporosis as defined by BMD measurements at the lumbar vertebrae (L1–L4), femoral neck, or trochanter of the femur. Serum levels of free tri-iodothyronine, free tetraiodothyronine, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) were assessed.

Results

The 303 women with osteoporosis had a lower mean TSH level (1.8 mIU/L) than did the 914 women without osteoporosis (1.9 mIU/L; P = 0.01). A positive correlation between TSH level and measures of BMD was observed (P = 0.01). The TSH level was associated with a protective effect in a regression model for development of osteoporosis; the odds ratio was 0.68 (95% confidence interval 0.53–0.86).

Conclusion

Osteoporosis appeared to be independently associated with serum TSH level. Maintaining TSH levels within the upper limit of the reference range during treatment of hypothyroidism could be important to prevent osteoporosis among postmenopausal women.