Medical Insights

Here, find articles from our Kripalu faculty that relate to scientific studies, medical findings, and health research.

Posted on June 21st, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Eating for Good Behavior

What’s really causing your kids’ ADHD?

Here’s some food for thought—literally. About 10 percent of kids in the United States have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), leaving many parents to weigh the pros and cons of treatments that often include behavioral therapy, medication, and dietary modifications like coffee before school (really!). But researchers in the Netherlands argue that 64 percent of those diagnosed kids are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food, and that the key to treating ADHD—and perhaps even preventing it—is as simple as a change in diet.

The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, suggests that with a dietary overhaul—which often calls for an elimination of some combination of sugar, dairy, gluten, and preservatives—kids with ADHD could experience a serious reduction in symptoms like excessive fidgeting, outbursts, and the inability to concentrate. A follow-up study published in the journal Pediatrics reported that a diet rich in fish, vegetables, whole-grain foods, fruits, and legumes seemed to improve symptoms for kids with ADHD, while an Australian study found that kids who typically eat a Western-style diet—often including fast food and high-fat dairy—were significantly more likely to have ADHD than kids who ate a more healthful diet.

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Posted on June 4th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights, Meditation

Meditating for a Better Brain

Aging Gracefully Through Meditation

Meditation has long been believed to be a win-win proposition, carrying certain psychological benefits with zero risk or cost. People who meditate regularly report lower levels of stress, improvements in concentration and memory, and slower reactivity (no more road rage!). The mental relaxation produced by meditation can have physiological benefits, too, in the same way we know that a calmer emotional state is good for our physical body. But a few new studies reveal that the practice may have profound effects on actual brain development—something traditionally believed to peak in our 20s and then begin to decline.

Researchers at the Laboratory of Neuroimaging at UCLA have spent years studying how meditation may affect neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to make physiological changes. In a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the lab reported finding that long-term meditators had brain function that not only did not decline as they aged, but improved, thanks to an increase in brain gyrification—activity that happens in the cerebral cortex, or the outermost part of the brain. The lab also determined that the brains of dedicated meditators have more gray matter, which affects the brain’s ability to process information, and white matter, which helps a person communicate clearly.

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Posted on May 1st, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Sitting Pretty: Not So Much

Forget baseball. Researchers say America has a new favorite pastime: sitting.

Various studies show that Americans spend, on average, eight hours a day on our rear ends, and the effects aren’t good: A study published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine—and corroborated recently by a similar study out of Finland—reported that the longer men and women sat every day, the greater their chance of dying prematurely, even if they spent at least part of that day working out. It’s one reason Dr. David Agus argues in The End of Illness that a sitting habit may be worse than a smoking habit.

“The body is a mechanism of movement, so prolonged sitting without breaks is very hard to sustain without consequence,” says Cristie Newhart, a Senior Faculty member at Kripalu and a Kripalu yoga teacher. Still, says Newhart, it’s not necessarily that we sit, but how we sit. “Most of us slump in our chairs and sit forward of—rather than on top of—the sitting bones,” she says. “That rounds and compresses the spine and brings stress to the low back. Such slumping can also invite shallow breathing, which can create a sort of permanent state of ‘fight or flight’ within the nervous system.”

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Posted on April 3rd, 2012 by in Medical Insights, Nutrition

Vitamins and Antioxidants, with a Grain of Salt

Living in the Information Age means that we’re constantly bombarded with data—much of it contradictory—about our health. A recent example: In a University of Paris study conducted among 2,500 men and women, researchers found that taking fish oil supplements was linked to a higher incidence of cancer in women. But wait: Haven’t we been told for years that fish oil supplements were good for us, acting as antioxidants to reduce the risk of breast cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease?

It’s certainly not the first time a new study has challenged our established way of thinking—and that’s not always a bad thing. But it’s important to keep in mind that many new studies that are released—and reported on—are not complete, says Kripalu’s Healthy Living Director of Medical Education Lisa B. Nelson, MD. A recent study that reported calcium supplements increase the risk of heart disease in women older age 50 had many women eliminating their calcium intake entirely, while other reports about the benefits of certain vitamins or antioxidants, like vitamin D and beta-carotene, have led to dangerous overconsumption.

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Posted on February 29th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights, Nutrition

The End of Illness?

Alyssa Giacobbe, Guest Blogger

In his new book, The End of Illness, California oncologist Dr. David Agus argues for an immediate shift in the way we view healthcare. Americans are losing the war on cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other major illnesses, he writes, and standard Western treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and pharmaceuticals are both misdirected and way too late. Instead, we should be aiming to prevent disease from occurring in the first place. “We have become a country that treats disease but does not prevent it,” he recently told The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart. “Cancer is not from without. It’s from within… [Mine] is a whole different way of thinking about health.”

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