Science & Spirit: Avocados, Constipation, and Wigging Out
Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash
This week we present good reasons to stock up on avocadoes, an intriguing link between depression and constipation, and people wigging out while meditating. Intrigued? Read to learn more.
The Moody Gut: Constipation and Depression
I’ve heard of moody cats and moody teens, but “moody gut” was a new term for me. A new study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center noted that up to a third of people with depression also have chronic constipation and found an explanation for why depression and gastrointestinal problems are connected. The study found that low serotonin may contribute to both conditions and that fixing that glitch in brain chemistry could likewise fix both.
“The gut is often called the body’s ‘second brain,’” wrote study author Kara Gross Margolis. “It contains more neurons than the spinal cord and uses many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the two conditions could be caused by the same process.” The results suggest that newly developed slow-release 5-HTP (a precursor to serotonin) therapies could treat both the brain and a moody gut at the same time.
Hold the Toast
There’s that great diner scene in the movie Five Easy Pieces where Jack Nicholson is trying to order plain toast and in utter frustration, winds up ordering a chicken salad sandwich, sans chicken salad. I thought of that scene while reading a new study out of Illinois Institute of Technology, which suggests that eating avocados, instead of refined carbohydrates, can reduce hunger and increase meal satisfaction. Swapping in avocados for carbs also limited surges in blood sugar and boosted dietary fiber intake. So go ahead, get onboard the avocado toast trend—but hold that toast.
Have you ever felt fear or an altered sense of self while meditating? A new study from University College London reports that 25 percent of people who regularly meditate have had a particularly unpleasant experience while meditating. The research also found that certain people are more likely to report this: men, slightly more than women; people who had attended a meditation retreat; those who only practiced deconstructive types of meditation, such as Vipassana and Koan practice; and people who had overall higher levels of repetitive negative thinking to begin with.
The study’s lead author, Marco Schlosser, wrote that the findings point to a need for greater scientific understanding of meditation. “Most research on meditation has focused on its benefits,” he wrote. “However, the range of meditative experiences studied by scientists needs to be expanded. It is important at this point not to draw premature conclusions about the potential negative effects of meditation.” But knowing why these experiences arise and who is most likely to experience them could one day inform clinical guidelines, mindfulness manuals, and teacher training.