Prolotherapy for Healing Pain


Prolotherapy for Healing Pain

Have you noticed a decrease in your game as an athlete? Are you rehabbing an injury that just doesn’t seem to heal? Many injuries are very overt, they come while playing or training in our sport of choice or from accidents. Some are not so easy to recognize, like ligament laxity or osteoarthritis. This article is dedicated to all the golfers and others experiencing pain, as well as other athletes looking to improve their sport or quality of life. 

Significant athletic injuries that hinder a person in playing their sport are almost always ligamentous or tendonous in nature, not muscular.  Ligaments and tendons are called connective tissue, they’re tissues in our body that connect parts together. Our Ligaments connect bones to other bones and tendons connect muscles to bones. When there is an injury, even a small one, the injured ligament can often not repair itself as fast as we’d like or fully heal, since connective tissue doesn’t have a rich blood supply bringing healing components like oxygen and nutrients. And while some pain is caused by too much activity, some can be caused by too little. Ligament laxity is when our ligaments become to loose from not enough movement and strengthening. When this happens our body’s nerve cells in the ligaments send pain signals to the brain if the ligaments are stretched to far. 

Prolotherapy (sometimes referred to a "prolo") is a method of injection treatment designed to stimulate healing and regenerate tissue.  Many different types of musculoskeletal injuries and pain lend themselves to prolotherapy treatment including low back and neck pain, chronic sprains and/or strains, whiplash injuries, tennis and golfer’s elbow, knee, ankle, shoulder or other joint pain, chronic tendonitis/tendonosis, and musculoskeletal pain related to osteoarthritis. Prolotherapy works by raising growth factor levels or effectiveness in connective tissue ligaments and tendons to promote repair or growth. It works by causing a temporary, low-grade inflammation at the site of ligament or tendon weakness thus “tricking” the body into initialing a new healing cascade. Prolotherapy lends itself very well to sports injury and pain because most sports related injuries involve ligaments and tendons. Prolotherapy can be used years after the initial pain or problem began, as long as the patient is generally healthy.  

prolotherapy/injection

The most common injury reported by the amateur and professional golfer alike is in the low back/lumbar spine/sacroiliac region pain. Second most common site of injury is the wrist and hand, third is shoulder for professionals.  For the amateur, the second most commonly injured area is the elbow, followed by the wrist or hand, and then the shoulder. Knee, ankle, elbow, shoulder, and low back are all common areas of pain related to sport injury, chronic use, exercise. These areas are also the most highly treated areas for prolotherapy. The American Academy of Pain Medicine reports low back pain as the most common type of pain. So not only does prolotherapy treat pain from direct trauma such as sports injuries, automobile accidents, or falls, but it also treats pain from conditions such as age related joint loss and osteoarthritis. 

The most common types of prolotherapy are Dextrose, Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), and Stem-Cell with typically increasing costs and efficacy (sometimes) in that order. Although many practitioners and patients get great results from Dextrose prolo, usually a complete resolution of pain and increased function, PRP is becoming more popular. You may have heard of prolotherapy from back in 2008 when Pittsburgh Steelers  wide receiver Hines Ward received PRP for a medial collateral ligament tear (knee injury) and got him back to playing through the playoffs and Super Bowl. They went on to win the Super Bowl that year. Ward credits the PRP allowing him to be able to return so quickly. Many athletes, including Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, and many others use prolotherapy to recover from injuries, pain, and improve in their sport and stay healthy. 

Check out these prolotherapy before-and-after X-rays:

Go over to the Contact page to reach Dr. Whitney for any questions you may have regarding prolotherapy. Leave a comment if you've have any experience with prolo!

By Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

 

Chinese Medicine for healing and longevity


Chinese Medicine for healing and longevity

Acupuncture is a healing technique of Chinese Medicine over 2,000 years old. Through the insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific anatomical sites, acupuncture improves the body’s functions and promotes the natural self-healing process. Hundreds of clinical studies on the benefits of acupuncture show that it successfully treats conditions ranging from musculoskeletal problems (back pain, neck pain, and others) to nausea, migraine headache, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and infertility. The list goes on. There are even protocols to increase longevity. This could be one reason Asian nations consistently have the highest average life expectancy in the world.

One popular case report is of a 66-year-old woman that suffered from trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve pain syndrome with severe one sided face pain. Pain occurs from touching, talking, eating, and even brushing one’s hair.  It should be noted that pain from this condition often, unfortunately, leads to suicide from the poor quality of life. After trying drugs and nerve blocks she was treated with acupuncture. After the fourth session she was almost pain free, by the sixth week she was completely pain free and remained pain free at the end of six months.

Acupuncture.jpg

 

Other Chinese medicine healing techniques include Chinese herbal medicine, moxibustion, tui na (a form of physical manipulation therapy), meditation techniques, and cupping. You likely remember gearing a lot about cupping during the Olympics when athletes, such as Michael Phelps, were seen with cupping marks all over their body. Cupping involves placing glass, bamboo or plastic jars on the skin and creating a vacuum by suctioning out the air, with an attached pump or by holding some fire in the cup for a few seconds. The underlying tissue is raised, or sucked, partway into the cup. The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, relieve pain, remove excess "heat", and remove toxins that linger in your body's tissues. If cupping is good enough for Olympic athletes to use for their health, that says a lot about it’s efficacy. It's a simple technique that can treat many conditions, from the common cold to injuries. 

Cupping

Cupping

Moxibustion, or Moxa for short, is an ancient form of heat therapy that originated in China. Moxa uses the ground up leaves of the medicinal plant Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). Moxa increases the production of white blood cells, red blood cells, hemoglobin, and improves the circulation of blood and lymph. The folklore surrounding moxa and longevity is that a farmer applied moxa to a certain acupuncture point to increase his life. It’s said he and his ancestors all lived to over 200 years old. In modern times, Doctoer Shimetaro Hara did the same and lived to over 100 years old.

Moxibustion

Moxibustion

If you've never experienced acupuncture, or any other form of Chinese medicine, you should look into it!

Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

Slowing Down Cognitive Decline As We Age


A mild decline in learning and memory is a normal part of aging, and opinions will vary on what’s “normal” or not. But generally as we get older we tend to be a bit more forgetful, or it becomes harder for us to learn new things or concentrate. There are a host of things that can contribute to this besides aging alone. Some things that can effect our cognition are medications, diet, environment, and genetics (which drugs, diet, and environment can influence changes in out genes).

Normal cognitive decline consists of mild changes in the rate of information processing and new learning, as well as mild changes in memory. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a decrease in cognitive function while still being able to function in daily life. Dementia, now called Major Neurocognitive Disorder (MND), is when loss of cognitive function impacts a person’s ability to function independently. Dementia, or MND, is postulated to affect 5% of people 65 years of age, and increases to as high as 50% in people 85 years of age and older.

Drugs that are thought to impair cognition include antihistamines, chemotherapy, anticonvulsants, analgesics, sedative-hypnotics, psychotropics, anticholinergics, muscle relaxants, and statin drugs. That’s a pretty broad list of commonly prescribed drugs.

So what are some ways we can approach slowing down cognitive decline?

I’m currently studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and according to TCM cognitive health is governed by 3 different organs: the heart, the spleen, and the kidneys. The heart nourishes the mind – that part that thinks coherently and remembers long-term events. Many people with MND retain some aspects of long-term memory, even if spotty. The spleen houses the intellect – the ability to concentrate, study, and memorize. Maintaining proper gut function throughout life can strengthen spleen function into the aging years. The kidneys house will-power, and produce bone marrow (which nourishes the brain); short-term memory also stems from the kidneys. Adrenal function is linked to kidney health, and deficient kidney Qi (pronounced as ‘Chee’; in TCM our Qi is essentially our life force) is often linked to MND.

Acupuncture has a profound effect on the brain.

Our diet and lifestyle, of course, can dramatically prevent and treat cognitive decline. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and an active mental and social life are simple approaches to slowing cognitive decline. Our diet can be more difficult due to the wealth of information out there on what a healthy diet should be. I’ll point out some commonly agreed on foods and supplements but I advise speaking with me or another Center for Natural Healing physician before starting any.

Supplements that have been popular and are well researched for healthy brain function include omega-3 fatty acids and lecithin. Both of these come from healthy fat sources such as eggs, seafood, and meat. Speaking of eggs, eggs are high in choline as well. Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with impaired cognitive function, particularly memory loss and Alzheimer disease (AD). Other sources of healthy fats include, fish, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. A general consensus is that diets low in sugar and refined carbohydrates are best. 

Some of the more commonly used amino acids include acetyl-L-carnitine (or L-carnitine), phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylcholine, inositol, N-acetylcysteine, S-adenosylmethionine, L-glutamine, and L-tyrosine. Again, I wouldn’t advise taking these unless you talk to your doctor or me about dosage and interactions.

I’m a huge advocate of herbs! They can be very safe and very effective. And luckily there are lots of herbal options.  Some popular herbs helping with cognitive function include rosemary, ginseng, turmeric, and many, many more. I include these herbs cause they’re easy to add to food dishes, but there are lots that can be added to tincture formulas (I like to call them potions). Herbs can increase neurotransmitters, help grow new brain cells, increase blood flow to the brain, and reduce oxidative stress in the brain. For instance, Bacopa monnieri is an herb fromsouthern India known to prevent aging, reestablish youth, prevent disease, promote health and longevity, and strengthen life, brain, and mind. It increases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is essential for learning and memory. 

Bacopa

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Whitney call the Center for Natural Healing at 480.970.0077 or contact him at www.innatehealthcarellc.com/contact/

By Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

References

Bekinschtein P, Cammarota M, Katche C, et al. BDNF is essential to promote persistence of long-term memory storage. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105(7):2711-2716.

Brondino N, Re S, Boldrini A, et al, Curcumin as a therapeutic agent in dementia: a mini systematic review of human studies. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014;2014:174282.

Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, et al. Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008;14(6):707-713.

Diseases & Conditions: Dementia. Cleveland Clinic Web site. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Types_of_Dementia. Accessed September 15, 2015.

Khalsa KP, Tierra M. The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: A Contemporary Introduction and Useful Manual for the World’s Oldest Healing System. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press; 2008.

Mazza M, Capuano A, Bria P, Mazza S. Ginkgo biloba + donepezil: a comparison in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia in a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Eur J Neurol. 2006;13(9):981-985.

Mishra S, Palanivelu K. The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008;11(1):13-

Poly C., et al. The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011. Dec;94(6):1584-91

Tierra L. Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press; 2003.

Wang R, Yan H, Tang XC. Progress in studies of superzine A, a natural cholinesterase inhibitor from Chinese herbal medicine. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2006;27(1):1-26.

Witte AV, Kerti L, Margulies DS, Floel A. Effects of resveratrol on memory performance, hippocampal functional connectivity, and glucose metabolism in healthy older adults. J Neurosci. 2014;34(23):7862-7870.

Wu A, Ying Z, Gomez-Pinilla F. Dietary curcumin counteracts the outcome of traumatic brain injury on oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity, and cognition. Exp Neurol. 2006;197(2):309-317.

 

Garlic Decreases Risk of Stomach and Colon Cancer


Garlic is an amazing plant, loved in the herbal and nutritional medicine world for it's antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Its ability to neutralize free radicals makes it a great choice for adjunctive cancer care and as a preventative approach. Previous research as shown that the higher intake of garlic decreases the risk of colon cancer considerably.

A recent study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer conducted a meta-analysis that reviewed 145 studies on garlic and stomach cancer and picked the 17 with the best methodology. They found results similar to that of garlic consumption and colon cancer, the more garlic intake the more decreased risk of stomach cancer. Compared to individuals that ate no garlic, people that ate the most garlic had only half the risk of the disease. 

How much garlic is enough though? Is raw, cooked, or supplemental best? These answers are a bit more elusive. Another meta-analysis done on garlic and cancer prevention in 2000 stated the highest garlic consumption was around 18 grams per week, or about 6 cloves of garlic per week. These researchers found similar results in reduction of stomach and colon cancer risk with more consumption of raw and cooked garlic. 

So keep that cancer and those vampires at bay and enjoy your hearty doses of garlic!

By: Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

Kodali, R.T. and Eslick, G.D. Meta-Analysis: Does Garlic Intake Reduce Risk of Gastric Cancer? Nutrition and Cancer

Fleischauer, AT, Poole, C, and Arab, L. Garlic consumption and cancer prevention: meta-analyses of colorectal and stomach cancers. 2000 Oct; 72(4):1047-52.

 

Food As Medicine


We live in a fast, modern society. Just look how much as changed and improved over a decade or two. I can remember having to type in the DOS prompt commands on our Commodore 64 to tell my computer what I wanted it to do, now I click on a little icon and “poof” a calendar pops up. Along with these improvements come expectations for speed and efficiency.

The same expectations are applied to our thoughts on medicine. We want fast results, and if we don’t get them we tend to immediately dispel whatever we’re taking as useless. This especially applies to our nutrition in regards to our health. For some reason the latest, most expensive drug that only treats symptoms is relished over buying organic whole foods due to organics costing to much. A $6.00 fast food “value” meal is way more expensive than a $9.00 organic salad with chicken on it. “Wait, did I read that right. This guy clearly doesn’t know numbers.” The reason it’s cheaper is because in the long run you’re going to be paying so much more in medical care expenses from eating unhealthy ‘cheaper’ foods than if you ate healthy and used your food as medicine.

In this article I picked a couple common conditions that I’m going to highlight research, cases, and evidence supporting how food can address these conditions, relieve symptoms and even prevent diseases. Be sure to consult anything below with your doctor.

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the fastest growing conditions in America, and throughout the world. A couple years ago I was studying public health and infectious disease in Tanzania, on the east coast of Africa. I learned Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) and obesity was becoming more prevalent in third world countries. Why is a disease that’s usually attributed to an excess of food occurring so much in a place where food is scarce? It’s because it’s more about which foods are eaten and how much these certain foods are eaten. I could easily write this entire article food and diabetes, but then you’d miss out on a lot of other cool info!

Although T2D cases continues to rise, it’s actually been known for quite a long time how to prevent and reverse the disease. And it all starts with food.

In 2002 the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group tested 3,234 pre-diabetics to see what effect diet and exercise had compared to Metformin (a drug that lowers the body’s glucose production). Those that changed their diet and exercise lost more weight and had a lower rate of developing diabetes than those on Metformin. Multiple studies have shown that decreasing sugar and refined carbohydrates prevents and can lower a person’s blood sugar to normal levels even after they’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. It’s all about what, when, and how you choose to eat.

Cinnamon has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in T2D, depending on the dosage and duration it’s taken. A study showed that taking 1 gram, less than ½ a teaspoon, for 40 days improved blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels by 20%.

If we’re looking at medicine for T2D, we want to find something that will normalize a person’s blood sugar and there’s been no better track record then doing that than with food.

Heart Disease

The most common cause of death in America is Heart Disease, and it’s also one of the most treatable, preventable conditions that can be addressed through our diet. Diets contributing to heart disease and preventing heart disease are one of the most controversial and confusing issues in healthcare. One nutrient that has gotten a bad rap over many years is dietary fat. Researchers compared 21 different studies that measured if decreasing saturated fat would decrease the risk of heart disease, such as having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.  The results of the analysis showed no significant association between high intake of saturated fatty acids and an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease. 

The PREDIMED study was a landmark study on diet and heart disease. The study had 77,447 persons at high risk for cardiovascular disease assigned to 3 different groups. Two of the groups ate a variety of the Mediterranean Diet, a diet high in healthy fats from extra virgin olive oil and nuts. The other group was advised to decrease dietary fat intake. The researchers noticed a 30% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. There was such a difference between the Mediterranean Diet group and control group that the trial had be stopped, since it could be unethical to keep exposing one group to such a healthy diet and the other group to one that could make them worse (the low-fat group).

Another interesting study was done by Eric Westman from the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University Medical Center. He had 50 patients eat meat and leafy green vegetables for 6 months. The results: improved cholesterol levels and they lost weight.

There are also a multitude of studies demonstrating how a lower carbohydrate diet can result in decreasing the risk or heart disease by improving risk factors related to heart disease, such as LDL and HDL cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and other lab results.

One great food choice for your heart are beans, the darker the better. Beans are high in folate. Folate converts homocysteine, an inflammatory heart diseases risk factor, into a compound called methionine, which is a compound that doesn’t damage our arteries.

The above two conditions are just a glimpse of some of the research out there in preventing and treating diseases with nutrition, and is not nearly an exhaustive example. Each year there are thousands of research papers published on nutrition, and it is up to medical professionals and medical researchers like myself, to interpret the data and apply it clinically. Nutrition can address a wide variety of conditions other then above mentioned, such as prevention and treatment of arthritis, cancer, obesity, skin, neurological, conditions, and many more. I emphasize discussing nutrition and/or taking supplements with your healthcare expert such as a Naturopathic Doctor, this can help your health as well as your pocketbook.

By Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

 

References

Appel, L.J., and Van Horn, L. Did the PREDIMED Trial Test a Mediterranean Diet? N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1353-1354.

Diabetes Prevention Program Group. Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes with Lifestyle Intervention or Metformin. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346:393–403.

Duke JA. The Green Pharmacy Guide To Healing Foods. New York, NY: Rodale; 2008.

Estruch R, et al. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1279-1290.

Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q et al."Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease." Am J Clin Nutr. 2010; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725.

Taubes, G. Why We Get Fat and What to Do about It. Alfred Knopf: 2011.

 

Food Dyes: Are These Colorful Culinary Addition Cancerous?


Food Dyes: Are These Colorful Culinary Addition Cancerous?

Food dyes have been with us in America since the turn of the 20th century. Chemists found out how to synthesize beautiful blues and ravishing reds from coal tar, and later from petroleum, to make certain foods look more appealing.

In Roman civilization people used saffron, beets, flowers, carrots and other natural products to color food. Dyes used in American foods today are mostly made from oil or synthetic materials. 

That's right, that tasty little snack you and your kid just shared is partly made from the same stuff gasoline is made from. Think that strawberry milkshake from a certain popular fast food chain gets its pretty pink hue from strawberries? Nope, that's Red #40. But you don't go to fast food chains, "Haha, medical blog! Me and my fam don't eat fast food, we just had macaroni and cheese with yogurt and a pickle!" Sorry, all are known to have food dyes. Though some companies are moving towards using natural coloring like turmeric and paprika due to the reputation dyes have developed. 

Thousands of foods use food dyes, they can be found in cereals, candy, snacks, beverages, vitamins, pickles, salad dressings, boxed foods, chips, and even cosmetics and health products like tooth paste use dyes. 

Before we get into some of the hard science findings, think about this before you start taking dyes to lightly. There were originally around 80 different dyes being used in foods, soaps, and cosmetics, between 1906 and 1938 fifteen of those were eliminated due to recurrent adverse health effects. Today only 7 are allowed by the FDA. And as you'll see, some of these clinical findings are alarming and makes you wonder why 7 are even allowed. Furthermore, many countries have banned or require warnings on products due to the known effects of these dyes. 

So what is the extent of damage these food dyes can do? A 2012 meta-analysis showed food dyes as being linked to hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder in children. And multiple studies indicate the same results. Food dye and it's effects on children are definitely a serious issue, but I was curious about the big serious "C" word. Cancer. As it turns out there's quite a bit of research on food dyes and cancer. 

In 2010 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) concluded the FDA approved dyes are likely carcinogenic, are inadequately tested for, and cause behavioral problems in children (And in my opinion, probably in adult children too). in their report Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks which you can read here. For those of you that prefer not to read a 40 page scientific article I'll summarize. To be purely objective, it seems some food dyes are at the moment more cancerous than others. They found the dye Red 40, the most commonly used dye, may speed up immune system tumors in mice. Yellow 5 was not found to directly cause cancer, but the authors state the testing wasn't adequate. They did find it may trigger behavioral problems in children. Yellow 6 was found to cause adrenal tumors in animals. Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 account for around 90% of dyes used in food. Blue 2 caused brain tumors, Green 3 increased bladder and testicular tumors in rats. Some of them were not found to cause any cancers, but the researchers point out there's limited testing done on dyes. 

It seems there's some evidence that dyes may cause cancer. And even though there's not an abundance of peer-reviewd, large clinical human trials, that show it does, why would we need them if there is some evidence it may and there are safer options. Some, if not most, of the evidence on dyes and health is considered anecdotal. 

An issue with studies done on dyes is almost all of the toxicological studies on dyes were commissioned, conducted, and analyzed by the chemical industry and academic consultants. These studies need to be done by independent researchers to so as to avoid any bias. Another issue is testing usually involves one dye, where as many foods combine multiple dyes which may have a synergistic effect. 

One good way to avoid food dyes is to learn to red the label. While it's vital to study the macro nutrients of a food label, the carbohydrates, sugars, protein, ect..., it's also important to check for any additional ingredients and preservatives. Or just don't buy anything that needs to have a label on it. If it has enough extra stuff added to it that it requires a label to list them it's likely not the whole food option you want. 

Dyes found on a food label. 

What do you think about dyes being used in food and cosmetics? Have you had any experience removing dyes from you or your families diet? Know any cool research on dyes and health you want to share? Let us know! 

By Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

References

Kobylewski, S. and Jacobson, M. Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks. Center for Science in the Public Interest. 2010. http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf

Potera, C. DIET AND NUTRITION: The Artificial Food Dye Blues. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Oct; 118(10): A428. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/

Hennessey, R. Living in Color: The Potential Dangers of Artificial Dyes. 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelhennessey/2012/08/27/living-in-color-the-potential-dangers-of-artificial-dyes/#236be0443213

Borrell, B. Where Does Blue Food Dye Come From. Scientific American. 2009. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/where-does-blue-food-dye/

Can meditation help you learn?


Can meditation help you learn?

Can meditation help you learn a new task quicker via increasing a growth factor responsible for nerve cell growth? 
My vote is "definitely!", and that's what my thesis study alluded to as well.

The pilot study examined the effects of a 30-minute meditation intervention on BDNF levels, a protein that is responsible for the growth, survival, and maturation of our nerve cells like the ones in our brain, and cortisol production in a healthy sample of 7 experienced meditators compared to 7 non-experienced meditators.

BDNF levels and cortisol were compared in both groups prior to and following a 30-minute meditation session. Since we were measuring the protein responsible for nerve growth (BDNF), and cortisol, a hormone that can kill nerve cells if it's chronically elevated, we explored whether meditation improves cognitive performance, as measured with a computer application called Lumosity. We used the Lumosity games to introduce a new task to each person, then measured how much their scores improved after 30 minutes of meditation.

So what did we find? On average the experienced meditators had a higher BDNF level before the meditation. Interestingly, the non-experienced meditators had a slightly higher level of BDNF after meditating. So it's possible people that meditate daily, or almost daily, have more of this protein being produced that keeps our brain cells alive and well. And the act of meditating may also promote more BDNF to be made, especially if you're new to meditating.

As for that stress hormone cortisol, both groups experienced a significant decrease in cortisol after meditating.

What about the learning part? Will meditating help me learn something better? It seems that way. The experienced meditators scored higher on almost all their Lumosity brain game scores after meditating, and some of scores were dramatically higher. While not a huge study with glaring results, it has some interesting findings. And can you really argue that meditation is NOT good for you!

Parts of your brain that become more active or less active during meditation. The active areas are associated with attention span, emotions, memory, and learning.

There's other reasons why meditation may help you be able to learn better and faster. It's well researched that meditation activates areas of our brain that help us focus on one particular thing. Which is understandable since many types of meditation call for focusing on a single task such as clearing your mind of thoughts by focusing only on your breathing. This study used a simple Qigong meditation, and I'd be willing to bet that most forms of meditation would get the same or 'bigger' results. Especially moving forms of meditation since exercise is another popular way to increase BDNF levels.

So take a couple minutes to relax your mind and listen to your breath before that next study session, test, or meeting. Your body will love you for it!

- Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc