A recent headline says, “High-fructose corn syrup is as addictive as cocaine.”
The headline is about a study of rats fed high fructose corn syrup. It suggests that, because rats responded to large amounts of high fructose corn syrup in the same way that cocaine addicts respond to the drug, foods with high fructose corn syrup could partly explain the global obesity epidemic.
Okay—rats eating high fructose corn syrup point the way to solving the crisis of obesity in humans all over the world. Hooray for science!
But this isn’t how science works. Science is a process. For a good example of the process, see this article in the June 1 Science News. It mentions an article written in 2004, pointing out that use of high fructose corn syrup and obesity had been increasing at the same rate. (The SN article also says that, since 2004, the use of high fructose corn syrup has been decreasing, while obesity has continued to increase.)
I’m willing to believe that high fructose corn syrup is horrible stuff. I read ingredients, and I avoid “food” that includes it—but then, I avoid most processed food anyway.
And I am fascinated by the way research is illuminating the complex affects of food on the brain. But let’s not forget that nutrition is a young science. It’s certainly not advanced enough to tell us how to live well. Far better to rely on what we already know about living well: eating healthy food that tastes good, getting good exercise that feels good, spending time with people we care about, and doing things that really matter to us. I’m not saying it’s easy to create that kind of lifestyle these days, but if we can do it, there’s no way an occasional encounter with high fructose corn syrup is going to turn us into addicts.
Our next group session of hypnosis for weight control will be September 19th at 6:30 pm. Email me at email@example.com for details.
Need another reason to take a good hard look at your lifestyle?
The New Scientist article, “Eat Your Way to Dementia,” discusses some surprising research into the effect of insulin on the brain. We know that in Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, and/or the liver, fat, and muscle cells fail to respond to the insulin produced (insulin sensitivity).
What some scientists are saying is that insulin system problems also affects its activity in the brain, where it serves as a signalling hormone. Rats fed a diet that included high-fructose corn syrup had “learning and memory problems after just 6 weeks, and their brains became less responsive to insulin.”
The article includes a graph of the rise of Type 2 diabetes over the last 30 years. It shows slow growth between 1980 and 1995, and then a steep curve to the present day. In other words, in 1980, about 2.5 out of 100 people (1 out of 40) people we knew had Type 2 diabetes. In 2010, about 7 out of 100 ( 1 out of 14) had diabetes–and there’s no reason to think the increase will slow any time soon.
Here’s a brief interview with an BMI expert, reminding us of the need for fat–a “beautiful organ.”
Interesting New Scientist article correlating gut bacteria with health for people over 65.
Hypnosis is essentially a self-help skill. When I offer hypnosis for medical support, I am offering clients help in using their own healing ability. Simply, this happens through the power of our minds to affect the functioning of our bodies.
A quick Google search for “hypnosis with surgery” brought up a meta-analysis from 2002, by GH Montgomery et al. “The results indicated that patients in hypnosis treatment groups had better clinical outcomes than 89% of patients in control groups. These data strongly support the use of hypnosis with surgical patients.”
The same Google search brought up a wonderful editorial, The Mind Prepared: Hypnosis in Surgery, by David Spiegel of the Stanford University School of Medicine, published in 2007 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. In it, Spiegel describes work done with cancer patients whose preparation for procedures included hypnosis. He says, “adjunctive hypnosis substantially reduces pain and anxiety during surgical procedures while decreasing medication use, procedure time, and cost. If a drug were to do that, everyone would by now be using it.”
In a group of women undergoing breast biopsy or lumpectomy, a 15-minute pre-procedure hypnosis session “was sufficient to produce a statistically significant reduction in the use of propofol and lidocaine; yet despite this, patients in the intervention group reported less pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset [emphasis added] than did patients in the control group.”
In addition to the hypnotized patients’ better experience, “the use of hypnosis also resulted in a cost savings of $772.71 per patient, due largely to shorter time in the operating room—an average of 10.6 minutes. [emphasis added]”
With these results, why isn’t everyone using hypnosis? It’s a good question, isn’t it, especially now that science is documenting some of the benefits hypnosis can bring.
In getting ready for my next series of weight control classes at Whatcom Community College, which starts next Monday, April 9, I decided to revise the handout I use to introduce participants to hypnosis. When we—meaning hypnotists and hypnotherapists—talk about hypnosis, we usually talk in terms of the conscious mind and the subconscious (or unconscious) mind, borrowing the language from the practice of psychotherapy that originated with Freud.
By the way, Freud learned hypnosis from Charcot, a French neurologist. Early in his career, he used hypnosis (without the use of suggestion) to elicit information from his patients; apparently his success with this method was the basis for his pursuing the “talking cure,” what came to be known as psychoanalysis.
We use the language because it works well to describe what we experience in hypnosis: the conscious mind quiet, the body at rest—and remarkable insights that can emerge from that quiet state. So we go on to talk about hypnosis this way:
Hypnosis allows us to work within our subconscious mind, to explore and release negative thought patterns, to overcome habits, behaviors, symptoms—the subconscious is in charge of these things.
Your conscious mind is your logical, reasoning mind—that’s its job: logic and reason. It’s not the logical mind that keeps us in old habits that we’d like to change. If it were, all we’d have to do to make significant changes is change our minds—and we all know that’s just not how our minds work.
I’ve mentioned before that I love the analogy of the rider and the elephant that Jonathan Haidt uses in his book The Happiness Hypothesis. He says,
I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him.
I think we can all relate to that. We’ve all had those experiences: reaching for the dessert we don’t really want, or failing to follow through on something we think—we know—we ought to do.
It seems clear that some of these problems are related to the way our brain has evolved, from the first basic hindbrain/midbrain/forebrain (brain stem and sensory organs), then the development of the limbic system, including the hypothalamus (basic drives and motivations), the hippocampus (memory), and the amygdala (emotional learning and responding). And finally, another newcomer, the neo-cortex, a layer over the limbic system. The neo-cortex is all about mental processing—thinking, planning, decision-making. So the evolutionary progress is from the “involuntary” processes to the realm of will. (I put involuntary in quotes because in hypnosis we can influence those involuntary functions.)
I think it’s interesting to see that science is beginning to shed some light on how these regions of the brain communicate. I recently heard an interview with Daniel Seigal, who is working on the premise that the communication between these areas of the brain is essential to healthy functioning of the individual, and ultimately between individuals.
For the brain, integration means that separated areas with their unique functions, in the skull and throughout the body, become linked to each other through synaptic connections. These integrated linkages enable more intricate functions to emerge—such as insight, empathy, intuition, and morality. A result of integration is kindness, resilience, and health. Terms for these three forms of integration are a coherent mind, empathic relationships, and an integrated brain.
He goes on to reflect on the new knowledge that “awareness can shape the connections in the brain toward integration,” and the ways that interpersonal relationships shape our brains throughout our lives. He says, “we can actively ‘inspire each other to rewire’ our internal and interpersonal lives.” And he does mean rewire—he’s talking about our ability to build new synaptic connections within the brain, reshaping our thinking, our awareness—our reality.
I’m inspired! And I believe the new research is revealing some of the mechanisms that underlie the power of hypnosis to make connections between what we’ve called conscious and subconscious parts of our minds, and our selves.
I am just back from an amazing 2 weeks at the Hypnotherapy Academy in Santa Fe. I took an intensive class in medical support hypnotherapy, and I learned so much more about helping people access their own inner ability to heal.
To clarify, medical support hypnosis, or medical hypnotherapy, is not a medical procedure or practice. Instead, it is the use of hypnosis to support medical treatment. (Hypnosis itself is essentially a self-help skill, which it is my privilege to facilitate for my clients.) I’ve spent the last couple of weeks learning and practicing hypnosis techniques to support treatment for a host of conditions–arthritis, diabetes, IBS, to name just a few.
One of the most exciting things was learning about helping people with chronic pain. The power of our minds to control our experience with pain is amazing. In class last week I was able to help people control sensations in their hands, including developing full anesthesia (no sensation at all)! I’m really looking forward to using these techniques with clients.
Here’s an interesting look at some new research–highlights only, but fun to read.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday—all about friends, family, and food. I love a feast! And I kind of overdid it this year, which I guess is partly the point of a feast. High points of the dinner: the eggplant and cornbread stuffing, and the pumpkin pie with homemade cinnamon ice cream. And leftovers—poached eggs over the leftover stuffing for breakfast—oh my! Oh well.
We also had a family birthday just after Thanksgiving. So it will come as no surprise to hear that I ate more than I usually do. And perhaps more to the point, I ate more butter, more cream, more eggs—all that rich, high fat stuff. Looking at the list, I don’t regret one iota of it. However, I am finding myself very aware of all the reasons that I don’t eat like that everyday.
In fact, it’s been nice coming slowly back to our more normal routine (as the leftovers disappear), and nice too to have some new healthy things to enjoy. After listening to the interview with Dr. John LaPuma that I mentioned in my last post, I got ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine from the library. I learned something from his chapter on satiety that I’ve been using over the last few days.
Apparently, our bodies have a different reaction to water than we do to foods that are full of water. When we drink a glass of water, it filters right through our systems. But when we eat a food that is full of water (lettuce, vegetable juice, soup) our bodies treat it like food and digest it more slowly.
One of my challenges is that I tend to munch in the evenings, from the time I start making dinner. The last few days, I’ve been drinking a glass of spicy vegetable juice before I make dinner, and I do notice a difference. It tastes and feels satisfying. It has another benefit, too. I’ve noticed that since I’m not distracted by hunger, it’s easier to pay attention to what I’m doing, and when I sit down to dinner, I’m more relaxed and ready to enjoy the food.