1. Mind over belly in battle of the bowels

    If you're suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, the problem might not be entirely in your stomach.

    What's locked inside your mind can be just as important as what's going on in your belly -- and a new study confirms the long-suspected link between hidden mental stress and this very physical disorder.

    Researchers from the Mayo Clinic examined 2,623 patients and found that those who had suffered through serious psychological traumas were far more likely to suffer from IBS than patients without those issues.

    Overall, the researchers found evidence of serious mental stress and psychological traumas in half of all IBS patients -- or roughly double the rate of what they found in people without the stomach-wrecking condition.

    Other studies have also made a link between past trauma and IBS -- but most of them have focused on abuse.

    For the new study, researchers found that any deep trauma at all can "trigger" the IBS symptoms -- car accidents, divorce, death of a loved one, house fires and more -- even if it happened years ago, and even if the patient thinks he or she has overcome it.

    In other words, you might be fooling yourself… but you're not fooling your body, and you're certainly not getting one over on your gut.

    That's not to say the problems aren't real -- because as the 10 percent of Americans who battle the stomach pain, cramps, bloating and sudden runs to the bathroom that mark IBS will tell you, it's all too real.

    And that's because stress, trauma and other issues often written off as "mental problems" can have a real and direct impact on the body itself -- and not just for stomach disorders like IBS.

    Pain conditions, including recurring back pain not tied to any specific injury, have strong links to stress and other problems of the mind. The mainstream even acknowledges it -- in its own twisted sort of way: Antidepressants and other "psychological drugs" are often given for pain as well as IBS.

    And they work about as well for those conditions as they do for depression -- in other words, not very well at all… and they can come with horrific side effects to boot.

    Fortunately, you don't need to turn to these dangerous and ineffective meds for stomach relief (or even pain, but that's a story for another day)… because you've got safer, better and far more natural options.

    The researchers behind the new study seem to suggest psychological help, but there are some things you can do on your own, right now, for relief from IBS and other recurring stomach disorders.

  2. Meditation boosts physical health

    Culture is a funny thing: In some places, you're considered a little weird if you meditate... in others, you're weird if you don't.

    Most people here in the West never even consider it at all -- but maybe you should, because a growing body of evidence finds that this practice of the mind can have a major impact on the body, including a serious boost in heart health.

    In fact, it works so well that researchers from Harvard University and Justuc Liebig University say it's time for mainstream docs to start working meditation into their clinical practices as a treatment for some of our most common -- and overmedicated -- conditions, especially hypertension.

    While no one has been able to pinpoint how meditation can accomplish so much with so little, the study in Perspectives on Psychological Science breaks the effects down into four key components: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and sense of self.

    Sounds to me like it's as mysterious as ever, at least to Western science. In any case, I'm more interested in what it does rather than how it does it -- because it's downright astonishing.

    In one recent study on cardiovascular health, the researchers said meditators got so many benefits that it was as if they had been given some powerful new drug.

    In that one, the patients who practiced a popular form of meditation were 50 percent less likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke or even death from any cause during that study period than non-meditators.

    Powerful new drug? Big Pharma can only wish it had a med this safe and effective!

    Another recent study found that meditation can improve concentration and focus, while other studies have found that the practice can slash levels of stress, anxiety, depression and anger while improving memory and cognition and boosting immune system function.

    Learning meditation can get pricey -- there are expensive courses and fancy retreats you can take. But it doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg to get a new look inside your mind.

    In fact, it can even be free. Visit your local library and check out a few books on the subject -- you'll learn everything you need to know to get started.

  3. Olive oil cuts stroke risk

    Years ago, researchers tried using olive oil as a placebo in trials for heart drugs. As it turned out, olive oil -- not widely known at the time for its heart benefits -- protected the patients in placebo groups better than some meds.

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