Irritable Bowel Syndrome linked to emotional shocks

A recent study says that the Irritable Bowel Syndrome is linked to emotional shocks that a person can go through in life, ScienceDaily reports. According to the findings, psychological traumas resulted from the death of a dear one, a divorce, the effects of a natural disaster, several types of abuse – all these are factors that can make someone more prone to develop the disease.

Mayo Clinic researchers presented a study called “A Case-Control Study of Childhood and Adult Trauma in the Development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),” at the Annual Scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology’s, which took place in Washington, DC in late October. The study was led on 2623 volunteers. The results of the study showed that among patients with IBS, the majority reported having had to deal with traumatic events in their lives, prior to the diagnosis. Of these, general life traumas, like deaths, divorces, break-ups, were more common than sexual or emotional abuse.

Dr. Yuri Saito-Loftus, who presented the study, said that even though IBS has previously been linked to stress and childhood abuse – in 50% of the cases, which is double the percent of those who suffered such traumas, but did not have IBS – “most studies of abuse have focused on sexual abuse with sparse detail and also have not looked at other forms of psychological trauma.” This latest study is the first to concentrate on “multiple forms of trauma, the timing of those traumas, and traumas in a family setting.”

In the United States, 5 to 7 percent of the population is diagnosed with IBS, even though it is estimated that up to 10% suffers from the related symptoms. IBS is a chronic disorder that affects the digestive system, manifesting through abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation, diarrhea. Basically, the motility of the bowel is affected, which leads to all the discomfort. Dr. Saito-Loftus explains that the motility of the bowel is influenced by the brain, which deals with the information received from the outside world. The latest study showed that patients with IBS experience or report traumas at a level higher than patients without IBS.

Ethan Zohn’s cancer relapses, spreads in lungs

“Survivor” winner Ethan Zohn recently admitted that his battle with cancer starts again, as it has relapsed and it has spread in his lungs.  Zohn talked to People magazine about his recently learned condition.

“I don’t want fear or cancer to define me” says the winner of the “Survivor” reality show, who has amazed the fans of the series and has gained their hearts. Being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he underwent treatment and for almost 20 months he appeared to have regained his life back. Nevertheless, he confessed that in the back of his mind, he always worried about a relapse.
On September 14, his worst fears came to life when he was told by the doctors that the cancer had returned and it was now in his lungs. Still optimistic, the 37-year-old says that “it’s good that it’s not all over my body”. When receiving the news, he was in the company of his girlfriend of eight years, Jenna Morasca, also a winner of “Survivor”. So the two survivors had to deal with a life challenge never met before. “She’s taking it like the rock star that she is”, Zohn says about his girlfriend and admits that even if they seem tough, inside them and between them, there is a mixture of feelings, from anxiety to anger, to love, to frustration and so on.

Zohn has started a new treatment that aims to hit only the cancerous cells. Named, SGN-35, it is a “smart” type of chemotherapy that is somewhat more selective than the traditional chemo. This will help him keep, among other things, his hair on.
After the treatment, which will last three months, Zohn will undergo a stem cell transplant, from one of his brothers. The doctors did not reveal to him which of his brothers is a better match, as it is likely that he will treat him differently, even if he doesn’t mean to.

Until the surgery, survivor Zohn plans to run the NYC Marathon, on November 6. “The doctors think I’m crazy but they gave me the okay”, he laughed.

The McRib sandwich is back

McDonald’s announced early this week the national comeback of a popular sandwich, the McRib. Until November 14th, the fans of the boneless barbecue sandwich can purchase it in any McDonald’s restaurant in the U.S.

Usually, the local franchises determine whether or not to have the McRib on the menu, except for Germany, where the sandwich is a permanent guest. This fall’s decision was based on both the demand of the sandwich fans as well as the feedback for 2010’s three weeks of having it available throughout the States. Yet, the company refused to make the sales reports from last year available to the press.

The McRib was first served in a McDonald’s dinner in 1982 and was dressed with onions, pickles and barbecue sauce. The sandwich is just a little lighter than the Big Mac, with 540 calories instead of 540 and only 3 grams of fat less. Both sandwiches are equally popular in the U.S.

The customers’ attitude towards the McRib led to several topics and pages on Facebook and Twitter, all reflecting the general wishes for having the sandwich back on the menu.

The person who won $1 million last year in the Monopoly McDonald’s ordered a McRib. Jenny McCarthy used the McRib Locator website to find a place that sold the sandwich in the southern California. And the list of fans goes on.

The site reflected directly the McRib re-launch, as the traffic went from 150 hits per day to over 4,000, as more and more of the sandwich enthusiasts reported seeing it on the menu in more and more locations. Furthermore, the site owner received photos of variations of the McRib garnish: lettuce and tomato, bacon, even three McRibs stacked on top of each other.

Klein, a meteorologist, runs the website in his spare time. He started it in 2008 at the aid of Google Maps and his wife. “We’ve been spoiled this year and last year with it being around nationwide,” he stated. Yet, he doesn’t endorse the idea of the sandwich making it on the menu long term throughout U.S. since that would deprive his site of its core purpose.

However, McDonald’s marketing director Marta Fearon declared for the press that the food company intends to keep the excitement that comes with finding a place that sells the McRib and doesn’t intend to have it available nationwide indefinitely.

Radiation Therapy Improves Survival Chances

A recent study validated the use of radiation therapy as the best treatment after a lumpectomy as it improves the surviving chances for the women with early stage breast cancer. Furthermore, the scientists consider that at the aid of the therapy these patients can get to keep their breasts.

The study compiles the results of 17 worldwide trial cases that analyzed the effects radiation after lumpectomy had on the patients. The research included an impressive number of 10,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer who were observed for a period of 10 years. The authors are part of an organization of scientists from all over the world, who study the best treatments for breast cancer named Early Breast Cancer Trialists.

The researchers found that women who had the radiation treatment after their lumpectomy presented a reduced risk of dying in the next 15 years as opposed to the women who didn’t. Furthermore, only 19 percent of the women who had the treatment had a recurrence compared to an almost double percentage for the ones who opted out.

The underline of the study sums up to “radiotherapy after breast-conserving surgery not only substantially reduces the risk of recurrence but also moderately reduces the risk of death from breast cancer”, as the authors wrote.

Scientists who didn’t take part in the study recognize its merit of offering proof against the double mastectomies which are nowadays no longer effective in preventing the recurrence but consider that the actual efficiency of radiation therapy after lumpectomy isn’t a new matter. Radiation is a much safer procedure currently, since the actual methods of delivering the treatment have improved.

Dr. Thomas Buchholz, chief of the oncology department at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston considers the research a solid proof that all the stages of breast cancer treatment play an important part in the patient outcome. While, dr. Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, director of the breast cancer program at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center in Durham, N.C. stated for the press that there are slim to none chances that after a lumpectomy the patient can keep their breasts without the radiation therapy.

Sleep paralysis: not so uncommon

Although it sounds terrifying, sleep paralysis is a phenomenon that happens to ordinary people at some point in life. If you had an experience similar to what you are about to read, it doesn’t mean that you have a psychological problem, nor that it was only a dream.

I decided to write about sleep paralysis because I have come across many people who experienced it and didn’t know what it was. Many of them were frightened and tried, over the years, to find some explanation for what had happened. And the truth is there isn’t that much material to explain it and help you deal with such an experience. There are little studies on the subject. One of the psychologists that have been interested in sleep paralysis and have written about it is Dr. David J. Hufford. In his book, “The Terror That Comes in the Night” released in 1982, he explains the phenomenon in detail and adds that is actually experienced by many more people than we believe.

Sleep paralysis is a state of both the body and the mind, in which the body acts like it is sleeping, but the mind awakes. This state is usually experienced either right before we fall asleep, or just before we wake up in the morning. Most of the people feel terror when in the state, as they cannot move, or speak. Many of them report having hallucinations during that time and report that they feel a heavy pressure on the chest that is suffocating them. Some people remain in sleep paralysis state for seconds, but for others, it can last up to 10 – 15 minutes.

Scientists haven’t yet figured out the mechanism of the sleep paralysis. It is not known what triggers it, or how it can be stopped. It is not known if it has something to do with genetics, or what kind of activities in the brain makes it more likely to occur. Still, the folklore of a great number of cultures mentions the phenomenon under different names, but with the same descriptions. In the United States, it is described as “the old hag”. In Northern Europe, the people have the myth of the “mara” spirit. In Hungary, sleep paralysis is called “lidércnyomás”, which means “lidérc pressing”, where the lidérc is an evil spirit. In Eastern Europe the phenomenon is known under the names of “Vrachnas” (Greece) or “Strigoi” (Romania).

Dr. Hufford advices that if this is something that you experience, you can try minimizing effects by avoiding sleeping on your back, avoid losing hours of sleep for several days in a row and try to minimize the level of stress you are dealing with on a daily basis.

Most important, sleep paralysis is not a pathological mental condition if not associated with other mental symptoms. In other words, you are not crazy.

The magic list that melts the extra pounds

On October 9, Ellie from New York Wrote:

“Dear Mara,
I can’t seem to lose weight. I am 5 foot 3 and have 160 pounds. I don’t feel comfortable at all, it’s not about how people see me anymore, it’s about how I feel inside. I want to be able and wear tight dresses and don’t feel like I’m about to pop out of the. I have tried, I think, every diet in the world. The problem is I give up eventually, because it feels way too hard. Can you help me?”

Women make a big fuss about their weight no matter how many extra pounds they have. And most of the times, it really isn’t about how other see them, but how they see themselves in the eyes of others and in the mirror, every time they have the chance. If you think of a diet as a way of losing weight, forget about it! Forget about the word “diet!” It’s a corsage that we tighten around our brain and it is only natural that at one point, it would explode.

If you have trouble changing your eating habits, or simply don’t know where to start, here is something that might help: the list that melts the extra pounds. I named it so, because it really helps regaining your ideal weight or slimming down. All you have to do is get into a relaxed state, preferably in a place that you know you won’t be bothered for at least 20 minutes. Get a pen and a piece of paper and write 30 ways that you would recommend someone to lose weight. They can be tricks, they can be exercise ideas, or they can be ways to see the process. I myself made such a list when I wanted to lose 10 pounds. And to get you started, I will give you some of the ideas I wrote down:

• I replace coffee with unsweetened tea
• I do not eat everything on my plate
• I admire myself every morning for something

Write everything that comes to your mind, even those things you believe will never work for you. Make the list like you are making it for your best friend. Then, every week, you pick 5 items that you commit to.

Celebrities have such rules they commit to, as well. Supermodel Tyra Banks avoids fried foods, LeAnn Rymes walks and Kim Cattrall cuts off the foods she craves. “I can’t have a little tiny bit of it because I want it all”, she had told access Hollywood back in May.
Get to work, girls!


If you have a question for Mara, send her an email to

We all have false memories and benefit somehow from them

Having false memories (remembering things slightly or a lot different from how they really happened) is very common for everybody, but recently, scientists have concluded that we all benefit somehow from them. According to Medical News Today, the Association for Psychological Science published in its journal, Current Directions in Psychological Science, a paper on what the benefits of false memories are.

“False memories are a natural outcropping of memory in general”, psychologist Mark L. Howe says. Even though remembering things any other way but the real way they happened might be a trigger of worries, it is not necessarily a sign of an illness. All sane people have false memories and according to the scientists at Lancaster University in England, it is a part of our adaptation skills throughout the history of human kind. The incorrect memories, also referred here [in the paper published] as illusions, may have played a crucial role in our ancestor’s survival. “The animal that goes to a favorite food-foraging location and sees signs that a predator was there – but not the predator itself – may be on guard the next time”, Howe explains and continues: “But the creature that falsely remembers the predator was actually there might be even more cautious”.

Our memory is a psychological process, not a logical one. This means that there will always be errors in the perceiving, encoding and stocking the information we get from the external factors. Its main purpose is “to extract meaning from experience” and the illusions help that process. However, an excess of false memories can raise the suspicion of a mental illness, which must be brought before a doctor in order to examine it and set a diagnosis, if necessary.
The point that the study wants to make is that “just because a memory is false doesn’t make it bad”. False memories have the same impact on our behavior as real memories, as our brain does not distinguish between them. Thus, they could enhance our self-esteem, our level of tolerating some actions that we falsely remember as “not so bad”, our social skills and so on. False memories can also help in problem solving and in getting a better perspective on past events.

Mystery fruit of America revealed:pawpaw

In an age when an  increasing number of people think that there is nothing yet to be discovered, Nature is determined to contradict them. In the forests of Virginia, on the banks of the Potomac River, Nature is keeping one of its most treasured gifts: the pawpaw.  As strange and exotic as this name might be, this mango-like fruit was discovered long ago in the times of Thomas Jefferson, only to be forgotten and then rediscovered. In fact, story has it that pawpaw seeds were sent to Jefferson’s friends in France while he was a minister there.

Despite the fact that throughout history, people have named towns and even lakes after the mysterious fruit, few have had the opportunity to actually taste it. You wonder why? Just because the pawpaw is not available in supermarkets like any other fruits. Got an appetite for a mouth-watering yellow pawpaw? You need to get deep into the woods. For now, this ”exotic fruit” can only be eaten from the tree, in its purest form or can be found in some farmer markets across the region.

Despite of its eary name, this fruit has little secrets for Neal Peterson a plant scientist who has studied it for more than 35 years. Studied and improved that is, because Neal has created different breeds of pawpaw with less seeds and more flesh. The pawpaw fruit is no less tasty or nutritious than the common banana, apple, cherry or plum. It is just that it is much less known to the public. Recent studies have revealed that the pawpaw fruit is actually very high in antioxidants which can help us find a number of diseases including cardiac arrests.

Could it be that a mysterious fruit growing in the deep forests of Virginia hold the key to “never-ending youth”. Will we be able to soon transform the saying of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” into “ A pawpaw can brighten your day”? For sure time will tell. 

Study says coffee intake has antidepressant effect on women

A recent study says that coffee, the second most popular drink in the world, has an antidepressant effect on women, if drunk in certain amounts.

90% of Americans eat or drink caffeine-based products on a daily basis. Known to temporarily improve one’s ability to learn, coffee, the beverage best known for the caffeine compound, can also help comprehension, memory, and clarity of thought. A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine adds a great health benefit to the list, one that could finally surpass tea’s fame: coffee could prevent depression in women.
According to the study, drinking two or three cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of depression in women by 15%.  Four or more cups would mean a reduction of 20%. However, this is available only for plain coffee. The decal one doesn’t do much against depression.
How’s that possible? Researchers suggest that coffee acts in the cells as a defender for neurons prone to neurodegenerative disease. Up until now, coffee has been proven to play an important role in the prevention of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Scientists believe that chemicals from coffee could be used to make new drugs to treat heart disease and insomnia. Moreover, caffeine increases dopamine levels, which are responsible for one’s level of happiness.

These facts have already a good reputation for the hot dark beverage in the past, as they were presumed at some non-scientific level. Now this was studied and proven. However, the researchers are very careful with the results of their recent study, as they don’t assume that coffee directly prevents depression. What they’re certain of is that coffee does work on the mood by having an influence on the brain chemicals, but the way it does that is still somehow a mystery.

The study has been carried through questionnaires on 50,000 middle-aged women, who also drank tea, soft drinks and chocolate [other beverages containing caffeine], but those didn’t show any valuable impact on their mood, mainly because they contain less caffeine than coffee.

Still, the experts pointed out that we shouldn’t carelessly drink too much coffee. High doses lead to irritability, anxiety, tiredness, headaches and decreased energy which could all represent a start for depression. Researchers are even wary in recommending an ideal amount of coffee for everyone, since people drink various doses depending on their mood and for their personal reasons. A satisfying dose for one person may not have the same effect on somebody else.

Lauren Graham reveals her diet secrets

Actress Lauren Graham reveals her diet secrets that kept her in shape for the Self magazine photo shooting. The star revealed to how she managed to look so great for the October issue of the mag.

Lauren Graham is 44 years old. But she doesn’t look that age, doesn’t she? Of course not. Like all the celebrities living in the limelight and having their body still listening to their vanity needs, “The Gilmore Girls” and “Parenthood” star has a few aces in her sleeve. For example, for the Self photo shooting, she turned to a personal fitness trainer in order to get the workout that she personally needs. This is one trick. The second one, however, is not something you would think of doing. In order to eat properly, she turned to a food delivery service that is specialized in healthy pre-made meals. Paleta delivers meals that include the exact amounts of carbs, calories, fiber and nutrients that you need for your personal weight goal.

“One thing I’ve learned is I actually don’t like variety very much”, the actress revealed. “I like having the same thing over and over: assorted lean proteins, arugula salad, quinoa or brown rice with soy sauce, olive oil, lemon, and salt.” She added that these ingredients can satisfy her appetite through the week with no problem.
Graham had five weeks to prepare for the photo shoot which will get her on the cover of the magazine. So, with the help of her personal trainer, Michelle Lovitt, and with the help of the Paleta meals, she succeeded. For those who want to achieve a weight goal and are striving to get there, Lauren has a simple advice that she also followed: “Find what you like and try not to stress about it”.  For her, it worked in just five weeks.