Why crying is a good thing

December 18, 2009

“There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.”   –Washington Irving

Biochemist William Frey has spent 15 years studying tears and why we cry.  His team of scientists have found that, although tear production organs were once thought to be unimportant and no longer necessary for survival, tears actually have numerous critical functions.

Tears are an emotional response which only humans have, for only people are known to weep.  While all animals that live in air produce tears to lubricate their eyes, only human beings possess the extensive system that causes us to cry.

Tears are secreted by your lacrimals—tiny, sponge-like glands which rest above the eye against the eye socket. The average person blinks every two to ten seconds. With every blink, the eyelid carries this fluid over your eye’s surface.

One of the most obvious functions of tears is to lubricate your eyeball and eyelid, but they also prevent dehydration of your various mucous membranes, as anyone with ‘dry eye’ problems can attest to.  A severe lack of lubrication produces a condition requiring medication or therapy to save the victim’s eyesight.

Another important function of tears is that they bathe your eyes in lysozyme, one of the most effective antibacterial and antiviral agents known to man.  Amazingly, lysozyme inactivates 90 to 95 per cent of all bacteria in a mere five to 10 minutes. Without it,  eye infections would be much more common and serious.

One amazing discovery is that tear production may actually aid a person in dealing with emotional problems.  Scientific studies have found that after crying, most people do feel better,  and those that suppress their tears do feel worse.

Not unexpectedly, those who suffer from the inherited disease familial dysautonomia not only cannot cry tears, but also have a lesser ability to deal with stressful events in their lives.

In a recent study, tears caused by simple irritants were compared to those brought on by emotion.  Researchers found that stress-induced tears actually remove toxic substances from the body. Volunteers were led to cry first from watching sad movies, and then from freshly cut onions. The researchers found that the tears from the movies contained far more toxic biological byproducts. Weeping, they concluded, is an excretory process which removes toxic substances that normally build up during emotional stress.

The simple act of crying also reduces the body’s manganese level, a mineral which affects mood and is found in up to 30 times greater concentration in tears than in blood serum. They also found that emotional tears contain 24 per cent higher albumin protein concentration than tears caused by eye irritants.

The researchers concluded that chemicals built up by the body during stress were removed by tears, which actually lowered stress. These include the endorphin leucine-enkephalin, which helps to control pain, and prolactin, a hormone which regulates milk production in mammals.

They found that one of the most important of those compounds which removed tears was adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), one of the best indicators of stress.  Suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems and peptic ulcers.

Ashley Montagu concluded that weeping contributes not only to the health of the individual, but also to the group’s sense of community because ‘it tends to deepen involvement in the welfare of others’. Tears are an extremely effective method of communication, and can elicit sympathy much faster than any other means. They effectively relate that you are sincere about a certain concern, and anxious to deal with the problem.

What can we learn from all this? That the seemingly simple and common response of producing tears is enormously complex and, indeed, is an integral and necessary part of being human.  Without tears, life would be drastically different for humans—in the short run enormously uncomfortable, and in the long run our eyesight could be jeopardized.

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More on diet and depression

November 2, 2009

Here’s a new study from England which links eating a lot of processed foods with an increased risk for depression.  Interesting findings!  It seems the Mediterranean diet is the way to go!


Can we transform negative thought patterns?

October 28, 2009

Besides working to maintain ever expanding brain plasticity as we age, I believe it is essential that we keep turning our negative thought patterns into positive ones.

The potential to do ANYTHING you set your mind to, is already present within your own mind right now, but unfortunately so are all those nasty little irritating limiting thoughts and doubts. They are always happy to share with you the many perfectly good reasons why you do not deserve or cannot have whatever it is you want.

If you are anything like me, you constantly struggle to reconcile what you feel like you are supposed to do, with what you want to do.  Or perhaps you don’t even know what you want to do or be, because you’re so busy doing what everyone else around you wants or needs you to do.

Why do we keep re-creating the same realities for ourselves?  Why do we repeat the same mistakes in our relationships with others?  It is because all too often we believe everything we think.

The first step in changing this internal limiting mental pattern is to understand exactly how your brain works.   New discoveries in the brain sciences suggest that you can take control of your mind instead of letting it control you.

It is estimated that the human brain has about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses. Each one of our neurons may be connected to hundreds of other brain cells by as many as 10,000 synapses.  The average person thinks between 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day, most of which we are not even conscious of.

Every thought we think is used by the same network of brain cells and synapses—every single time.  Every thought attracts thoughts of a similar nature because neural electrical branches are capable of growing secondary branches leading to similar thoughts.

So our brains have a tendency to hold on to those thoughts we think most often.  What happens in our brains determines what happens in our lives.  That’s why we need to stop believing everything we think.

Subconscious thoughts come to us effortlessly because the synapses that give life to them are wider and information can pass through them more easily. They usually represent the sights and sounds from our past which we have mentally revisited the most often or have affected us on the deepest emotional level—whether positive or negative.

One of the worst difficulties anyone can cope with is to be haunted by negative thoughts that constantly repeat themselves in our mind seemingly without our conscious control.   Negative thoughts serve no beneficial use to us whatsoever and can even drive us insane.

If you let them, they will take away all of your confidence, all of your happiness, and even your desire to better yourself. The negative unconscious thoughts from our childhoods are particularly brutal because they are the most deeply-ingrained and we have the tendency to believe their messages and then let them define who we are in every life situation.

Fortunately, one of the greatest discoveries ever made about the human mind is the fact that we can choose which thoughts to develop and which to eliminate.

I’ll teach you how next time.


Breast Cancer Awareness

October 20, 2009

breast-cancer-ribbon-stained-glass-alana-schmittLive one day at a time, and make it a masterpiece!

Breast cancer is one of my most insidious worries.  Ever since my Mom got cancer when I was in junior high, I have worried a lot about this!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This disease has touched all of our lives, and it’s time to stop it in it’s tracks!

Here’s a few short but very informative videos about detecting it early and SURVIVING!


Estrogen at menopause, good or bad for you?

October 14, 2009

Researchers seem to go back and forth on this one.  I’m sticking to my low dose bio-identical estrogen patch for now:

Hormones may ward off dementia

By JEFF DONN, Associated Press

BOSTON – New research suggests that hormone therapy taken soon after menopause may help protect against the mental decline of dementia, even though it raises that risk in elderly women.

The study adds yet another frustrating twist to the back-and-forth findings about whether hormone-replacement therapy protects against diseases of aging. Though the accepted answer has been “no” in recent years, the latest evidence suggests that timing of treatments may be key, at least for heart attacks and now for dementia.

“When you give it may be very important,” said Dr. Sam Gandy, an Alzheimer’s disease expert at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

The new findings were released Wednesday in Boston at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. Experts cautioned that they are preliminary.

Lead researcher Dr. Victor Henderson, of Stanford University, agreed that it’s too soon to consider putting younger women back on hormones to forestall dementia.

For decades, women routinely took hormones to treat the hot flashes of menopause and to ward off ailments of aging. Then, in 2002, a milestone study showed higher risks of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer with estrogen-progestin treatments. Estrogen-only pills were later also linked to stroke.

As a result, millions of women gave up the pills, and government experts advised women to use them only for severe menopause symptoms and to take the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.

But in recent weeks, mounting evidence has emerged that women who take such drugs closer to menopause may get more benefit or confront less risk than women who start taking them later. An analysis this month indicated the drugs do not raise the risk of heart attack for women ages 50-to-59, and they seem to survive longer with the drug.

The latest findings focused on 7,153 women in an offshoot study of the huge Women’s Health Initiative that tracked breast cancer and heart disease. The cognitive study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and by Wyeth, which sells hormone treatments.

Previous research showed that women who take hormones after age 65 experience a 75 percent increased risk of dementia over other women.

But this study found the opposite for women who took hormones before age 65: Dementia risk was reduced by nearly half.

Dementia developed in 22 of 2,228 women — or only 1 percent — who took hormones at the earlier time, but in 84 of 4,925 who did not — or 1.7 percent. The apparent protective effect was especially strong for Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia.

“It’s an intriguing and biologically plausible finding … but it needs to be confirmed,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who helped research the Women’s Health Initiative.

She said replacement hormones may preserve blood circulation in the brain.


Amy Ferris shares her confessions from a midlife crisis: Marrying George Clooney

October 12, 2009

One of the BEST benefits of being the Midlife Crisis Queen is being automatically mailed a few of the latest books published about midlife.

MarryingGeorgeClooneyBeing a librarian from way back, I ALWAYS appreciate a good read, and Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a midlife crisis is just that!

Any book about midlife crisis that can make you laugh and cry at the same time, is well worth reading.

From her love affair with Ambien to her midnight musings as she cruises the internet, Amy Ferris captures the deeper turmoil and confusion that only menopause can bring.

At first I thought her book would only be a light and sometimes hilarious romp through Amy’s own version of a midlife crisis with great lines like, “I no longer have a waistline!” and her compulsive need to Google old boyfriends and lovers.  She definitely kept me on my toes and laughing through her discussions about being a control freak even AFTER her own death.

But at the end of the book, Amy graciously shares her last days with her mother before she died.  No more touching words have been written about the passing of a beloved parent.


Diet and Depression

October 6, 2009

I read an amazing book a number of years ago by Laura Frazier called “Losing it.”  She tried all the well-known diet plans like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, and then concluded the best advice she could give to anyone hoping to lose weight and feel better about themselves is:  “Eat your vegetables and go outside and play.” mediterranean diet foodsSimple, but oh so true!

Now a research study in Spain has found the same. In a study of over 10,000 healthy adults over four and a half years, they found that those that adhere to the Mediterranean diet had a 30% reduction in depression.

This diet is high in olive oil, beans, vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts and cereals, and low in red meat, alcohol, and dairy.

Even more interesting is the fact that a diet high in olive oil enhances the amount of serotonin or brain transmitter available to the brain.  Most anti-depression drugs do the same thing!