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Spicy Tastes Can Prevent Muscle Cramps, New Finding Says

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Spicy Tastes Can Prevent Muscle Cramps, New Finding Says

Muscle cramps can be a huge problem for athletes and for those who try to keep themselves in shape – and athletes of the caliber of Rafael Nadal and LeBron James have been challenged by this problem in recent years. But the Wall Street Journal reports that new findings by a team of award-winning researchers (Nobel-prizing winning neuroscientist Rod Mackinnon and Harvard neurobiology professor Bruce Bean) have found new answers to the puzzle of what causes muscle cramps – and more importantly how they can be stopped in a healthy and natural manner.

Knowledge of Muscle Cramps Evolves

For most of the 20th century, Outside Online (a site dedicated to health and fitness), notes that doctors and researchers believed that muscle cramps happen when an athlete’s fluid or electrolyte levels become unbalanced or too low or when an athlete overuses his or her muscles while performing. However, for researchers that came later, that did not explain why cramps could occur when an athlete is at rest or stretching before or after a workout.

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In the 1990’s, South African physician Martin Schwellnus theorized that muscle cramping is actually a neurological problem: when the muscles get overused, the signals between the brain and the muscles get confused: signals get sent that tell muscles to contract when they should be telling them to relax. As a result, cramping and pain occurs.

Flex Pharma is Born

Bean and Mackinnon were intrigued by the idea that muscle cramping is neurological in nature and began to do research on the subject. In doing so, they came across several studies that showed a connection between the ingestion of spicy or pungent foods (such as mustard and pickle juice) and an easing in muscle cramps.

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The scientists realized that both mustard and pickle juice contain compounds called ion channel activators. These compounds appear to be able to, at the same time, stimulate nerves in the digestive system while relaxing nerves in other parts of the body.  The two men then decided to experiment and see which spicy or pungent foods appeared to be able to ease muscle cramping, sometimes even experimenting on themselves to gauge the effects of the different foods.

What was born of these experiments is a patented supplement which will be available sometime in 2017 by the company Flex Pharma, that Bean and Mackinnon founded together.  And this supplement has possible implications for more than just athletic performance: its creators are now in the process of applying to the FDA to be able to use this product to help treat the painful muscle cramping and spasms associated with serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS. While neither condition is curable, this kind of product could at least bring some relief to patients trying to manage their conditions from day to day and may even be able to improve quality of life.

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The Study in Context

It shouldn’t come as too big a surprise, however, that spices (or rather, the active compounds that these spices contain) should be able to help with cramping or pain. After all, capsaicin, the compound which gives hot peppers their actual heat, is now widely used to treat pain and inflammation in joints and muscles both. It is well-known for both its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Turmeric, too, has an active ingredient called curcumin which has been shown to help reduce pain naturally and is widely used for this particular property.

In short, when the new supplement from Flex Pharma hits the shelves in America some time next year, it should give athletes, bodybuilders and others who stay fit and active a new way to help with the sometimes debilitating pain of muscle cramps. What’s more, it will be a way that is safe, natural and, above all, effective.

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Brian Wu

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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