Valentine’s Day Pamper Tips!

Dispatch from Dr. Stephani Sutherland for Ageless Bodies….

Avoid Hostile Interactions. Reduce Inflammation:

This Valentine’s Day, Americans will spend millions on heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, diamonds, and roses. As an alternative, let new body-mind research guide you to create an experience-based dream date. The healing power of touch, the magic of our breath, the gift of moving our bodies in space can all be used to pamper your sweetie and support your health.

When it comes to a sweet indulgence, avoid sugar-laden trays of mass-produced candy. Aside from delivering a load of calories, the sugar could disrupt metabolic signaling, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [1]. Long after the candy has left your mouth, your pancreas “tastes” the candy’s fructose sugar using the same molecular sensors that triggered a sweet sensation back at your tongue’s taste buds. The researchers found that the activated taste receptor caused pancreatic beta cells to release more insulin, which controls blood glucose. Disrupted signaling could contribute to diabetes and other metabolic problems. The authors postulated that the receptor might provide a link between high-fructose corn syrup and the health problems now attributed to it. Skip the processed sugar altogether and guide your Valentine through a sensory experience of smelling fresh flowers and tasting luscious fruits—blindfolded.

Afterward, sit comfortably together and breathe deeply through your nose. Perhaps try the yogic breathing technique of pranayama, building energy through the breath. In recent years, scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute [2] have discovered that nasal—but not mouth—breathing actually produces a gas called nitric oxide (NO) in your sinus cavities, providing anti-microbial protection. (This chemical message is in fact the target of the wildly popular drug Viagra, which works to increase blood vessel dilation in a particular anatomic region. No Viagra-like effects have yet been reported with nasal breathing.) Researchers hypothesize that the NO produced by nose breathing improves blood oxygenation by dilating vessels in the lungs, which can be both energizing and relaxing.

Next, use that newfound energy and head out for a hike, bike ride, or whatever outdoor activity suits your fancy. Exercise’s health benefits to body, mind, and brain have been piling up for years. A workout even increases mitochondria—the cell’s tiny powerhouses—in muscle and in brain [3]. Keeping a steady power supply to your brain cells can help keep you sharper and even younger.

Finally, round out your date with a massage. In addition to feeling oh so good, it supports muscle health and reduces inflammation—a key to optimizing health. Research published this month in Science Translational Medicine [4] showed that muscles massaged after exercise-related damage had decreased pro-inflammatory molecules compared to untreated tissues. The authors suggest that massage therapy could relieve muscle pain and protect cells from stress damage much the same way that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) do. Contrary to popular belief, massage had no effect on levels of lactic acid or other metabolites.

After these shared, invigorating body-mind experiences, notice the way that you and your lover connect deeply with one another. This, too, could support bodily health and reduce inflammation, according to a report from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. Volunteers who reported positive social interactions throughout the day had lower levels of systemic inflammation than those who experienced confrontation. Just make sure you don’t get caught up in a love triangle—the stress of competing for romantic attention increased pro-inflammatory markers!

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Posted on February 14th, 2012
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