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Spicy Tastes Can Prevent Muscle Cramps, New Finding Says

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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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