Monthly Archives: July 2007

Take a Deep Breath

Yoga provides relief from many of the stresses associated with working in an office.
Working at a desk can be more stressful for your body than you may think. Spending long periods in a chair can cause your circulation to slow down and that often results in muscle tension. And if you have the added stress of a type-A personality boss, you could be on your way to a major ibuprofen moment. This stress can carry over into your personal life as well, resulting in increased anxiety and sleepless nights….click & see

Fortunately, as many have discovered, yoga can offer great relief from many of the stresses associated with working in an office. Certain yoga movements can even be accomplished in just a few minutes, right at your desk.

Yoga stretches and breathing exercises oxygenate the blood, improve blood flow to the muscles and relieve tension,  says Sarah Schain, a certified yoga instructor and the founding director of Little Yoga Studios in Bethesda, Maryland.

Anger management:
Schain says the first step to relaxing in office is learning proper breathing techniques.
When Im having a tough day and I’m ready to blow up at my boss, I take an anger-management breath, says Lori Wiley, a certified yoga instructor at New Generation Yoga in New York City, who also works as an administrative assistant.

Calm of mind:
Schain’s Office Refresher: Breathe deeply into the bottom of your stomach (diaphragm), watching as your belly expands like a balloon. Then breathe out slowly. Repeat this for at least one minute. Close your eyes if you can, and try to take deeper, slower and longer breaths every time. Don’t hold your breath, but keep it moving as you relax your body.

Wiley’s Anger-Management Breath: Breathe in through your nose for a second, and then breathe out through your nose for a second. Repeat this, adding one second to breathe in and one second to breathe out each time. You will feel much calmer by the time you build up to 10 seconds.

Cat pose:
Stretching is one of the best ways to cool down during the workday,” Schain says. “There are therapeutic yoga poses that can be done while sitting in your chair that will work wonders for your posture, your peace of mind and the chronic neck and shoulder tension that happens so easily at a desk job.

Schain recommends the  cat pose in a chair. Sit on the edge of your chair, resting your hands on your knees. Rock your spine forward, squeezing your shoulders forward as you create a slump in your back. Hold the position for a second or two, and then sit up tall bringing your shoulders all the way down. Repeat this process until you feel your back relax.

Pamper yourself:
In addition to breathing and stretching exercises, Wiley recommends bringing a few items that will help.
Aromatherapy: Keep a lavender-scented moisturiser at your desk as it has soothing characteristics. You may also consider bringing in some lavender potpourri. Just be sure the aroma is subtle enough so that it doesn’t  bother your co-workers.

Tea: Instead of taking a midday coffee break, indulge in some chamomile tea. Chamomile can help you calm down after a stressful bout with your manager or co-workers.

Visual aids: Keep a photograph of your favourite place, an inspirational quote or even fresh flowers at your desk    treat yourself.

Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)


All Is Not Lost

Snap out of it,  say friends and relatives if you are feeling down or  having the blues. However, the person soon starts to feel better, with or without such ineffectual advice, as negative thoughts and feelings usually last for about two weeks.
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Several bouts of depression may occur during the course of a lifetime. These may be precipitated by chronic illness, the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties or failures. If the precipitating situation changes for the better, recovery is faster.

Depression becomes a disease when it lasts longer than two weeks. It may occur as repeated attacks with short symptom-free intervals, or it may be present constantly. Sometimes a precipitating factor may not exist. It is a difficult diagnosis for the person and his or her relatives to accept as there are no outward physical signs of illness. There is only an all-pervading sense of gloom and inability to get things done. Everything becomes too much of an effort. The person may also become increasingly isolated as he or she fails to keep social obligations or maintain relationships. Constant talk about death, pacing, agitation and withdrawal are danger signals. It means the depression is severe enough for the sufferer to even attempt suicide. Getting over it  is no longer an option and medical treatment is required.

The changes during a bout of depression are not due to a weak personality. The altered behaviour results from an imbalance in the ratios of three chemical messengers in the brain: serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine. This may be genetic, with the condition running in families. Or it may be a response to a life event, precipitated by medication or hormonal changes.

Women become depressed four times more often than men. This is because the female hormone, estrogen, affects the brain chemicals. Menarche, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause produce sudden marked alterations in a woman’s hormone levels. Sometimes  post delivery” blues may be severe enough to incapacitate the mother and even drive her to suicide.

People of all age groups and communities are prone to depression. Children react differently in such a situation than do adults. They perform poorly in class or may refuse to go school. They may develop vague abdominal symptoms and vomit. Adolescents, who generally have confused and uncontrolled emotions, may respond to an underlying depression with unreasonable anger or substance abuse.

Monsoon days are dull and grey with little or no sunlight. The darkness and enforced physical inactivity may aggravate an underlying depression.

National public health does not consider depression a priority as it is a nebulous condition which is not contagious. But depression does seriously affect the national economy as many patients remain undiagnosed and untreated. Their productivity is affected as they are frequently absent from work, apparently uninterested, inefficient and have poor interpersonal relationships.

Sleep disturbances   excessive sleep or insomnia   may be the first sign of depression. There may be early wakening with an inability to fall asleep again. The weight may increase or decrease as the person experiences appetite swings, eating too much or too little. Alcohol or drugs may be used as an escape mechanism to elevate the mood. After the initial euphoria passes, there is a rebound and this worsens the condition. In older people, depression may manifest itself as vague physical symptoms, aches and pains which defy diagnosis, requiring repeated unsatisfactory visits to the doctor.

Depression may alternate with elation in people with a “bipolar disorder”. Such people may be withdrawn and non-functional or productive and creative depending on their mood swings. They either talk too much or not at all.

Once depression is diagnosed, it needs to be tackled. Taking sleeping tablets (sedatives) purchased without a prescription OTC (over the counter) to correct the sleep disturbances alone is not the answer. A combination of anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy probably works best. The medication corrects the imbalances in the chemicals in the brain. The drugs belong to various groups and subtypes. The response of each person varies; a drug that works for one may not work for another. The medications take around six weeks to start acting. Once the mood becomes stable, the person is able to function normally.

Children and young adults respond paradoxically to some anti-depressants. Drugs like paroxetine may increase the suicidal tendency in persons between 18 and 24 years of age. Treatment in adolescents and young adults thus has to be carefully monitored.

Patients need to be supported by family, friends and psychotherapy during treatment. Otherwise, they may prematurely discontinue the treatment thinking that the drug   does not work.  Also, once the symptoms have disappeared, treatment needs to be continued for 9 to 12 months for complete recovery. This, too, may not be followed as patients may not see the need to continue medication once they start feeling better.


Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

Itch Gene Discovered

Relief may soon be at hand for chronic scratchers:-
Scratch no more. A remedy for that unpleasant itching sensation could be in the offing with researchers spotting the first ever gene responsible for itchiness in the central nervous system.

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Itching is a widespread problem often associated with skin diseases.

The discovery of the itch gene  GRPR (gastrin-releasing peptide receptor) — by two Washington University School of Medicine researchers could lead to treatments that provide relief from chronic and severe scratchiness.

Zhou-Feng Chen and his post-doctoral fellow Yan-Gang Sun reported in Nature last week the GRPR gene codes for a receptor that resides in a very small population of spinal cord nerve cells that relay pain and itch signals. Their tests on mice showed that the animals that lacked this gene scratched much less than those having it when given itchy stimuli.

Chronic itching is a widespread problem and is often associated with skin disorders such as eczema. But sometimes kidney failures or liver disorders too trigger an itching sensation. It can also be a serious side effect of certain cancer therapies or powerful painkillers like morphine. For some, chronic itching can be very disruptive, interfering with sleep or resulting in scarring. Whatever the cause, effective treatment options are limited for itchiness.

Traditionally, scientists regarded itchiness as just a less intense version of the pain sensation. As a result, research on itching has been patchy. Itch research has always lived in the shadow of pain research,….says Chen.

In the beginning, Chen’s team, too, wasn’t actually looking for the itch gene. The scientists stumbled upon it accidentally while trying to figure out the genes associated with the pain stimuli. Among the pain-sensing genes they identified, GRPR stood out because it was present in only a few nerve cells in the spinal cord known to relay pain and/or itch signals to the brain. This prompted them to study some mice that were missing the GRPR gene to find out how they were different from normal mice.

The research was a little disappointing at first,  says Chen.  The knockout mice seemed to have the same reactions to painful stimuli as normal mice.

But the puzzle was resolved when his co-worker, Sun, injected a substance that stimulated GRPR to the spinal cords of normal mice — the rodents started scratching themselves as if they had a severe itch. This tip off led to detailed investigation that resulted in the discovery of the first gene implicated in the urge to itch.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

Kokum to the rescue


A molecule in the popular spice can help prevent the spread of the AIDS virus in the human body.
The fight against the deadly human immuno deficiency virus (HIV) is all set to get a desi flavour. Indian researchers have isolated a compound from kokum  a berry widely used as a flavouring agent in Goan cuisine ” that has a remarkable anti-HIV potential. But the compound may have to cross several hurdles before it becomes a potent weapon in the war against AIDS, an epidemic that has already killed millions and may kill several millions more in the near future.

Tapas Kundu and his team at Bangalores Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) knew for at least three years that the rind of kokum (Garcinia indica, a plant indigenous to the Western Ghats) contains a wonder molecule called garcinol. Kokum is also used as a substitute for tamarind in Konkani cuisine and select dishes in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala. In addition to garnishing curries and soups, it is used for its astringent, cardio-tonic, anti-allergic and digestive properties. Kokum seeds yield a unique fat that is used in making ointments, suppositories, lipsticks and chocolates.

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In 2004, Kundu’s team showed for the first time that garcinol has a unique property of impeding a human enzyme that, incidentally, is marshalled by the HIV virus for its own proliferation in the human body. So if one has a compound that inhibits this protein, called p300, one can substantially curb the multiplication of the dreaded virus to such an extent that the human immune cells can take over from there. Garcinol does possess this capability, but there is one problem: it is toxic to normal human cells which in its presence die in a few hours.

It is here that Kundu’s grounding in biochemistry was of help. Kundu, who has a doctorate in biochemistry from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, chemically tweaked garcinol to create what is known as isogarcinol. Further chemical modification yielded 50 different compounds and one of these   LTK-14   was found to spare human cells but block p300.

“What is remarkable about their work is that they modified this natural molecule in such a way that it has become cell friendly,  says Udaykumar Ranga, a molecular virologist at JNCASR who specialises in HIV. Besides, LTK-14   unlike its parent compound — has the ability to cross the cell membrane with ease, he observes.

According to Kundu, the newly derived molecule was found to reduce the viral load by up to 80 per cent in the infected cells. The work was recently reported in Chemistry & Biology.  We have found that the compound inhibits all p300-mediated gene expressions,  Kundu, who has a basic degree in agriculture from Bidhan Chandra Agricultural University in Nadia, told Know How.

However, Ranga  also a co-author of the paper   thinks it’s too early to be upbeat. The molecule’s action is radically different from that of existing drugs. While anti-viral medicines target the virus itself, this one is trying to destroy a molecule in human cells whose mechanism the virus hijacks to proliferate.  It’s quite like bombing a neighbourhood where enemies are holing up. The bomb has to be dropped in such a way that it kills the maximum number of enemies with bare minimum damage to others,” Ranga explains.

A histone acetyltransferase protein, p300 has several functions in cells. A molecular switch that turns on or off a number of genes inside the cell, it’s pivotal for several key functions such as cell growth, differentiation and its eventual death. “Living cells are remarkable. Our studies have shown that when p300 is absent, others within the cells take over and carry out these tasks,” Kundu observes. On the other hand, the prominent HIV protein — known as TAT — that ensures the virus’ multiplication in the human cells can do so only if p300 is available.

Developing drugs against viruses as wily as HIV is tricky. “They are like volcanoes,” says Ranga. “While some erupt and explode, others lay latent and wait for an opportune time. No weapon in our arsenal today is capable of tackling a dormant virus.

Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)


Honesty Is The Best

The Energy Of Honesty
As children most of us learn that honesty is better than dishonesty, and we may not question this beyond whether or not to do what we  are told. As adults, however, we can go deeper to examine our choices as investments of energy with predictable risks and returns. When we speak the truth, we affirm what already is. This is like using a paddle when the stream is already moving the same direction. We are already supported by the universe and its energy flow, so we don’t need to exert much energy, leaving more for other pursuits. But dishonesty redirects a portion of our energy against the flow, which requires extra effort. In addition, it creates an alternate reality that requires further energetic input to be maintained. So we can easily see that we are best served when we work with the flow of the universe… & see

Life is not always clearly defined, so we may find it useful to follow our choices to their logical conclusions. We may feel that little untruths are harmless, but they can be like small cracks that weaken an overall structure over time. Even giving someone a compliment or trying to protect them can create problems later when the alternate reality we have created becomes the basis for further actions. Even if the actions that follow are honestly done, the underlying unstable foundation of dishonesty will threaten to topple things eventually. This can lead to further energy being spent on keeping things hidden, working to remember the tales we have spun and fearing the consequences of being found out. Life doesnt need to be this draining, but we can make the choice to free ourselves from the bonds of dishonesty at any time.

Speaking and living our truth may involve risking, among other things, the possibility of rejection. But when we allow ourselves to follow the flow of life, we are supported. We can then use our energy to cultivate physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and to create our dreams, rather than leaving ourselves too drained to even maintain our existence. Today we can make honesty our chooives to bring positive, lasting results.

Source:Daily Om