Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

alcohol 2In the past few years we have heard about the benefits of having a little alcohol (e.g., red wine), but a new report says the downside of alcohol outweighs the benefits. And certainly we know how easily alcohol can be abused. But you may be surprised to hear about the link of alcohol usage to cancer.

A 2014 World Cancer Report (WCR) issued by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that no amount of alcohol is safe when it comes to cancer risk. In fact, in 1988 the IARC declared alcohol a carcinogen (ethanol being one of the most important carcinogens) because of its relationship to several cancers.

The report further stated that the more alcohol one drinks, the more at risk a person is to develop cancer. Specifically there is a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon-rectum, liver and female breast. Pancreatic cancer and alcohol consumption have a significant relationship as well. And others links have been found with leukemia, multiple myeloma, cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and skin. Those links need more study.

When it comes to light drinking, the conclusions are dismal as well. A meta-analysis of 222 studies that included 92,000 light drinkers and 60,000 nondrinkers showed risk for oropharyngeal cancer, esophageal sqamous cell carcinoma and female breast cancer. But note that these data are  based on peoples’ self-report of drinking, which we know tends to be under reported when asked about alcohol use. This might means that “light” drinkers could actually be moderate drinkers.

Add smoking to the drinking and you have a dangerous combination.

So you might be thinking more about the cardioprotective effect we hear so much about with light and moderate drinking. If you look carefully at those studies, you see that the light to moderate drinking lowers your risk for diabetes, stroke, and heart failure compared to excessive consumption.  And the pattern of light to moderate drinking has to be consistent, not episodic, or “binge” drinking. This is not exactly a pass for light to moderate drinking.

Bottom line: Alcohol has more negative than positive effects. You can lower your risk by drinking less or not at all. The results of the study do not support any guidelines for safe drinking.

 

 

Source: Rehm J, Shield K. Alcohol consumption. In: Stewart BW, Wild CB, eds. World Cancer Report 2014. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014.

anger2We all have that one or two people in our lives that are hard to live with or obnoxious to be around. You know, the person who growls when any little thing goes wrong, or maintains a frown when people are laughing. You just want to shake him/her and say, “Come on, lighten up and be nice!”

Well, there is hope for that person.  He or she can actually become nicer and work on that difficult personality. It isn’t easy but it can happen.

According to researchers, personalities become more positive with age (between 20 and 65). We become more agreeable, conscientious, responsible and even emotionally more stable. Our negativity lessens and our positivity improves.

This is important because we know that even small changes in your personality can improve relationships, your career, health and happiness.

The way to work on this is to begin by intentionally changing your behavior. Choose a behavior like arguing. Make an effort to resist arguing and act more agreeable. Maintain the change and eventually it takes hold. For example,  first become aware of when you are argumentative. Then, decide not to argue and make a change. Stick to that plan until you notice you are less argumentative.

Researchers generally agree that about 50% of personality is ingrained and the other half is learned, so work on the learned part. Start small and practice the change. It takes time. You can even let someone know you are working on a certain behavior so they can help cue you when you revert to the old way and be supportive.

Want to be less difficult? You can. Now get out there and be more agreeable!

ID-10036733In recent months, the debate concerning the harm of marijuana has been in full force. Our own President insisted that smoking pot was no worse than alcohol. But the science, not the opinions of many, of marijuana use is proving otherwise.

Consider a new study conducted at Northwestern University in collaboration with Harvard Medical School and published in the Journal of Neuroscience that looked at the effects of casual use of pot smoking in college students. Casual use was defined as fewer than four times a week on average.

The brains of college students are still forming. A concern has always been about the impact of marijuana on the forming brain, especially now that pot use in legal in some states at the age of 21. The brain is not formed at 21 and is subject to the effects of substances on its formation.

Researchers confirm that smoking pot is not a benign act. Volume, shape and density changes were noted in the parts of the brain associated with motivation and emotions and some types of mental illness. And the smokers’ brains continued to look different from nonsmokers the more they smoked.

So is the casual use of marijuana no big deal.? No, if you are concerned about it altering the physical structures of your brain.

 

ID-100186774The last thing you will hear from me, an eating disorders specialist, is to grab some food when you are angry. This is exactly what I help people NOT do –eat when they are emotional. So many of us channel our emotions into our food and find ourselves medicating those negative emotions with something good to eat. After all, food is soothing and makes you feel good for a moment. This is why a number of people compulsively overeat.

So why am I telling you to eat when you are angry at your spouse?

A new study led by researcher Brad Bushman of Ohio State University concluded that marital hostility is highest when someone’s blood sugar is lowest. The application? Don’t fight or talk about something highly sensitive when your stomach is empty.  Eat something, go to dinner and then discuss the problem and maybe things will go better.

Now, this doesn’t mean that people with diabetes will become hostile when their blood sugar is low. That would be taking the study’s conclusion too far, but it does speak to mood when blood sugar drops. Think about this idea as it relates to young children. How many times did you intuitively know that you just needed to get your child a snack and his/her mood would improve?

So, the take away here is that if you are about to fight or deal with a difficult conflict, make sure your blood sugar is stable. Eat a small snack and see if your mood improves and hostility decreases. It certainly can’t hurt unless you begin to associate food with emotions and calming yourself. The idea in this study is to prevent more problems by not reacting impulsively or in anger because your blood sugar is low.

This one time, I’ll say it–angry at your spouse–go eat!