Science & Spirit: New Lessons for Medicating Back Pain and Losing Weight
Plus: Can Meditation Make You Less Moral?
The painkiller paradox, how meditation inhibits empathy, and why intuitive eating is important for the biggest food lovers.
Becoming Anti Anti-Inflammatory
In an attempt to find pain relief, you may be unintentionally increasing your pain. That’s right, a recent study from Science Translational Medicine has found that everyday use of steroids and anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen for lower back pain may increase the risk of developing chronic pain.
Although these medications provide easy, short-term relief, they may deprive the body of essential cells and functions that treat pain naturally. It all comes down to the utilization of white blood cells, called neutrophils. “Neutrophils dominate the early stages of inflammation and set the stage for repair of tissue damage,” explained study co-author Jeffrey Mogil.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) actually reduce neutrophil accumulation in the body. So, for people who take NSAIDS to reduce recurring pain from inflammation, chronic pain may be on the horizon.
Researchers are still exploring how the body reacts to certain medications. In the meantime, other painkillers that don’t disrupt inflammation can get the job done without bringing on more pain.
The Social Downside of Mindfulness
Is mindfulness meditation making you selfish? Odds are, probably not. However, recent research suggests paying too much attention to your feelings could lead to more frequently discounting the feelings of others. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, engaging in mindfulness meditation may decrease feelings of guilt when one has wronged another, which can also reduce someone’s willingness to remedy any harm they’ve done.
Why? Mindfulness meditation allows us to observe emotions and experiences without judgment. It also allows us to navigate uncomfortable feelings with more ease and acceptance. However, certain uncomfortable feelings are useful. “Guilt can motivate us to apologize when we have hurt someone or to take action to undo some of the damage we’ve done. If meditation reduces that emotion, it could prevent us from doing the right thing,” notes study author Andrew Hafenbrack.
Of course, the benefits of mindfulness meditation are abundant. Just be aware of its effect on your moral compass!
Learning to Ignore Hunger Cues
In a perfect world, we would all listen to our body’s natural hunger cues and eat exactly what we need, when we need it. However, nearly everyone struggles with maintaining a healthy, natural relationship with food. One problem is that the body can send cues telling us to keep eating, even when we've clearly consumed enough food. This is particularly true when it comes to what are called palatable foods, which the study defines as “foods that contain high amounts of sugar or fat with the addition of salt and flavorings.”
A University of California San Diego program, called Regulation of Cues, focuses on training participants to tolerate cravings. “There are individuals who are very food-cue responsive. That is, they cannot resist food and/or stop thinking about food. Behavioral weight-loss skills are not sufficient for these individuals, so we designed an alternative approach to address this need,” says UCSD Professor Kerri Boutelle.
According to the study, it’s all about finding ways to intuitively listen to your body. “The Regulation of Cues intervention did not prescribe participants with a diet. Instead, it trained the use of natural cues of when to eat rather than focusing on calories, it reinforced tolerance of cravings, and focused on inhibiting urges to eat palatable foods when not physically hungry.”