If you're comfortable in the kitchen and reach for your spice rack often then you're on the right track. If the opposite is true, and you steer clear of any meal containing spice, you should still take advantage of curcumin (the substance that gives turmeric it's bright yellow colour) because it can dramatically improve your health. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers of curcumin prevent and fight a wide variety of conditions ranging from sleep deprivation to stress, and beyond. Lets learn more about these benefits of this ancient Ayurvedic remedy:
Improve your overall mood: Happiness is one thing you can never get enough of, and curcumin plays a powerful role in getting and keeping your mood high. It's been shown to enhance brain chemicals such as noradrenalin and serotonin, and increase the production of dopamine, which dictates how we experience both pleasure and pain. That which lifts your mood also has a wide influence on everything from sleep and sexual behaviour to memory and learning.
In a 2006 study, the behavioural patterns and elevated cortisol levels in chronically stressed rats were reversed by chronic curcumin administration. It may even reverse or protect hippocampal neurons from further damage in response to chronic stress. Of course, that which lowers cortisol also helps to banish belly fat.
Protect against sleep deprivation: I've written in length on the importance of improving your sleep for hormonal health, not to mention body composition, appetite and aging. However in extenuating circumstances you may find yourself counting sheep well into the night. Scientists discovered that curcumin protected 72 hour sleep-deprived mice from the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Treatment with curcumin extract for five days significantly prevented impairment in locomotor activity, anxiety-like effects and oxidative damage.
Let it fight your (virus) battles: There are some viruses that can't be swayed by an abundance of vitamin C and D (you don't have to look farther than SARS to see this). However researchers have discovered that curcumin shows promise in fighting super-viruses.
Researchers from Virginia's National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases found curcumin stopped the potentially deadly Rift Valley Fever virus from multiplying in infected cells. Lead researcher Aarthi Narayanan found it "may interfere with how the virus manipulates the human cell to stop the cell from responding to the infection." They are taking their findings and applying them to work in AIDs research.
It's no wonder that in India turmeric is revered as a holy powder. It's believed the spice can insert itself into cell membranes and make them more stable in such a way that increases their resistance to infection. Even if you're not a science buff, that's pretty cool.
Ease the pain of tendonitis: If you're plagued by the pain and stiffness of arthritis and tendinitis you're going to love this news: preliminary research shows that curcumin can lift the veil on these inflammatory conditions and may just have you retiring your icepacks. The results showed that introducing curcumin in the culture system inhibits NF-kB, a gene that switches inflammation response 'on' and promotes it further.
Even more promising is that curcumin achieves this without the side effects associated with many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and related medications (like Tylenol and Aspirin). Good news for anyone suffering from this painful joint condition.
Protect against cancer: It's hard to find someone today who hasn't been affected by cancer, whether through a friend, a family member or even a personal battle. Curcumin has been shown to reduce chemo side effects, and even take preventative measures against other cancers.
New evidence from the University of Leicester reveals that curcumin may significantly reduce the painful side effects of bowel cancer in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Other studies show that it suppresses a cell that drives the growth of head and neck cancer and even slows prostate tumour growth. If you have a family history of cancer, adding curcumin to your diet is a must.
From herpes to HPV: Curcumin's virus-killing powers have been shown to extend to both herpes and HPV. In one study curcumin significantly inhibited the herpes simplex virus by interfering with the replication of the virus in laboratory settings. While dabbing this orange powder on your unsightly cold sore may not do the trick, consistent supplementation can shorten the duration and help prevent an outbreak - as a side note, resveratrol has shown promise as well, making this a power duo for sufferers.
Researchers in New Delhi also found curcumin prevented infection and inhibited the growth on the human papilloma virus (HPV), with the potential of preventing cervical cancer.
Bottom line: I recommend taking 400-800 mg of a curcumin supplement on an empty stomach (30 minutes before a meal or two hours after one). If you experience heartburn simply take it with food. If it tempts your tastebuds, add it to entrees as well. It's important to note that turmeric can reduce fertility, so if you are pregnant or trying, we recommend you speak with your doctor first before starting any supplementation.
Sleeping beauty had this one right: regular shuteye alone actually makes you look prettier, according to a 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal. The researchers took photos of 23 people after a normal night's sleep of eight hours and after a period of sleep deprivation. Then, a group of 65 people rated each set of photos for perceived health, attractiveness and tiredness. The sleep deprived group scored lower in all three categories. "We propose that sleep is a cheap and effective beauty treatment, both acutely and in the long-term," John Axelsson, lead researcher on the study, told NBC News. "Sleep should be seen as the body's natural beauty treatment and a clear alternative or complement to other beauty treatments." Sleep can also actually help to keep your skin in top condition. Over the long term, sleep deprivation can cause increased stress-related aging, a decreased ability to stay hydrated and a decreased ability to fight off environmental pollutants, writes Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D. on DoctorOz.com. "The most important thing you can do for your skin may be getting a great night's sleep," dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad told the Los Angeles Times.
Both experts and scientific data have long connected lack of sleep with increased hunger and weight gain -- and now a recent study has quantified the phenomenon. The findings, presented last month at an American Heart Association meeting, suggest that otherwise healthy people may eat more than 500 additional calories a day when they're sleep deprived, the Huffington Post reported when the study first came out.
Stumped? You may want to sleep on it. A study published last year in the Journal of Sleep Research found that people make smarter calls after a good night's sleep. The researchers asked 54 young adults to play a card game aimed to imitate casino gambling. Those who were well-rested made decisions that resulted in greater winnings four times more often than those who were sleep deprived -- and they had a firmer grasp on the rules. "This provides support for what Mom and Dad have always advised," lead author and psychologist Rebecca Spencer, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a statement. "There is something to be gained from taking a night to sleep on it when you're facing an important decision. We found that the fact that you slept makes your decisions better."
If you're sorting through a painful memory, try giving it a rest. One small study last year found that sleep might help to take the edge off difficult emotional experiences that happen during your waking hours. "The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edges from the prior day's emotional experiences," senior author Matthew Walker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley said in a statement. But remember we're talking a solid eight-hours of shuteye -- too much sleep may be a sign of depression.
You may be conditioned to think that the best way to learn is to stay up all night cramming, but the truth is that you'd be better off to get some sleep. Several studies have linked rest with increased performance on learning-related tasks, and now a new study has found that the timing of sleep may matter, too. The researchers asked more than 200 people to memorize related words (such as "fire and smoke") and unrelated words (think: "insect and truth"). When later tested for recall, those who slept just after learning performed better than those who went a whole day before sleeping.
Ever notice how you can read the same paragraph over and over again when you're tired, without ever really retaining anything? That same phenomenon can result in your home or work-space becoming cluttered, explains Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Mo. When humans are sleepy, they can lack the focus and drive to stay on task long enough to keep things orderly. "Sleep-deprived people can't focus very well," he told The Huffington Post. "A lot of things are cluttered in their lives and they find themselves less organized."
It's the oldest excuse in the book: "Honey, I'm too tired." And while there's certainly some truth to being too exhausted to have sex, Oexman believes there's something deeper at work here. Chronic sleep deprivation can take a mental toll that affects how people perceive their own attractiveness and, in turn, sexual desire. "They don't just not feel like it," Oexman says. "They really don't feel like it. They don't feel good about themselves."
Too wiped to hit the gym after work? The culprit may actually be your sleep habits, not the stress of your job. "Work should not wear you out," Oexman says -- you may be mentally exhausted, but, if you're working a desk job, you shouldn't be physically exhausted, as well. So if you feel like you just can't do it, consider upping your hours of shuteye each night. Added bonus: sleep can actually be a boon to your athletic ability. One study published last year found a correlation between increased sleep and improved performance in elite college basketball players. "Intuitively many players and coaches know that rest and sleep are important, but it is often the first to be sacrificed," study author Cheri Mah said in a statement. "Healthy and adequate sleep hasn't had the same focus as other areas of training for peak performance." Some research also suggests that regular rest can aid with muscle memory, Oexman says, which helps you learn how to do all kinds of new tasks, like perfecting your golf swing.
We all know a bad night's sleep can make us grumpy. And over time, that can take a real toll on your personality. "People who don't sleep well tend to over-escalate a problem," Oexman says. In fact, one study even found that sleep deprived people could be more likely to blame other people and plan revenge against them. "Sleepier people seem to engage in counterfactual thinking that is more dissatisfied and perhaps more selfish," study author David Mastin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said in a statement. "It may be that the sleepier you are, the more likely your musings are to be angry thoughts about how others could have done better." So if you can't stop thinking how everyone else is to blame, you might want to pause to consider how many hours you've been clocking in bed each night.
It's pretty much common sense that if you're rundown or exhausted, you'll be more susceptible to picking up a bad cold. But a recent study helped to explain that link further. As The Huffington Post reported when the findings were released: Researchers found that the body's circadian clock controls an essential immune system gene in mice -- a gene that helps the body ward off bacteria and viruses. "People intuitively know that when their sleep patterns are disturbed, they are more likely to get sick," study author Erol Fikrig, professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine, said in a press release. "It does appear that disruptions of the circadian clock influence our susceptibility to pathogens."
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