Scientists discover a new way to treat chronic pain

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In what could be a breakthrough moment for those living with chronic pain, reachers from the University of Oxford have a new understanding of the mechanisms that cause chronic pain

Scientists discover a new way to treat chronic pain

In a study published in BMJ Journals, estimated that chronic pain affects between one-third and a half of the UK population, approximately just under 28 million adults – and that figure is likely to rise in line with the ageing population.

But now, a new study from the University of Oxford has made a discovery that could lead to the development of new treatments for chronic pain.

The researchers started from the understanding that repeated stimulation – for example, a sharp pin prick – can lead to a heightened sensitivity to pain. This is a process called ‘pain wind-up’, and it contributes to clinical pain disorders.

From here, the researchers compared genetic variation in samples from more than 1,000 participants in Colombia, and used these to see whether there were any genetic variants more common in people who experienced greater ‘pain wind-up’. What they found was a significant difference in the variants of one specific gene, NCX3.

The next phase was a series of experiments in mice, which sought to understand how this gene regulates ‘pain wind-up’, and whether it could be a treatment target.

“This is the first time that we have been able to study pain in humans and then to directly demonstrate the mechanism behind it in mice, which provides us with a really broad understanding of the factors involved and how we can begin developing new treatments for it,” says Professor Bennett, professor of neurology and neurobiology of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

“Chronic pain is a global problem, and can be immensely debilitating. We carried out the study in Colombia because of the mixed ancestry of the population there, including Native Indian, African and European populations, which gave us a broad range of genetic diversity to look at. This makes these findings so exciting because of their potential international applications.

“The findings imply that any drugs which can increase activity of NCX3 would be predicted to reduce pain sensitisation in humans.’

Of course, chronic pain affects more than just our physical health, and a study published in the Symposium on Pain Medicine uncovered a bidirectional relationship between chronic pain and mental health disorders. Chronic pain can trigger anxiety, depression, and stress. Furthermore, many can feel isolated by their pain, either because they are not able to be as active as they once were, or because of the social barriers that prevent others from empathising with their experiences.

While pain medication and holistic care currently go some way to support those with chronic pain, this discovery will bring hope to many looking for more answers.

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Strawberry and Blueberry Pretzel Salad

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Crunchy pretzels and a creamy filling are topped with piles of strawberries and blueberries making this Strawberry and Blueberry Pretzel Salad our favorite dessert for summer!

{No-Bake} Berry Pretzel Dessert! get the recipe at

Several years ago, my aunt introduced me to the ever-popular Strawberry Pretzel Salad. I’d never even heard of it before and I fell in love with it from the very first bite.

I think I may have eaten 3 servings that day, including choosing it over pie for dessert!

Strawberry Pretzel “Salad” isn’t a salad at all. It’s a layered dessert that starts with a pretzel crust, then a sweet cream cheese and cool whip layer, and it’s topped with a strawberry jello layer.

Strawberry and Blueberry Pretzel Salad

Aunt Judy’s Strawberry Pretzel Salad is absolutely delicious and no one can ever resist a slice of it. This Berry Pretzel Dessert is my twist on that recipe.

Made without cool whip or jello, this dessert is a much less sweet, but still completely irresistible cousin to the original.

It starts with a pretzel crust that is layered with a lightly sweetened creamy filling. Topped with an abundance of fresh berries, I found myself going back for sliver after sliver all night long.

Crunchy pretzels and a creamy filling are topped with piles of strawberries and blueberries making this Berry Pretzel Dessert a favorite dessert for summer! get the recipe at

No Bake Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Kitchen Tip: I use this spatula and this dish to make this recipe.

  1. Finely crush the pretzels in a food processor, blender, or with a rolling pin in a heavy zip-close bag. Place the crumbs in a medium-size mixing bowl.
  2. Add the melted butter and brown sugar and stir to combine. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar. Beat until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt.
  4. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Pour over the crust and smooth with a spatula.
  5. Top generously with berries. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. 

I loved the crumbling crust with bits of crunchy pretzels throughout, but if you prefer a more traditional crumb crust (that will also be more easily sliced) be sure to grind every bit of the pretzels into fine crumbs.

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Jambalaya Pasta

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Spicy sausage and tender shrimp make this Jambalaya Pasta a dinner that’ll leave everyone asking for seconds. This saucy one-pot pasta is a weeknight dinner you are going to love.

This dish is loaded with fantastic flavor from Cajun spices. Both the kids and the adults in this house agree it’s a hit!

Cajun Jambalaya Pasta

Jambalaya Pasta

The components of jambalaya are so well suited to serving with pasta. We love all kinds of noodle-based dishes, from simple Italian-inspired classics like Spaghetti and Marinara to Mongolian Beef with Noodles, and our beloved Stir-Fry Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables.

I’m always looking for interesting takes on pasta, since I know everyone in my family likes it. Recently, I posted this Cheesy Pizza Pasta Bake and Mexican Baked Pasta.

When I saw this recipe for Jambalaya Pasta in my friend Valerie’s new cookbook, The Foolproof Family Slow Cooker, I marked it to try first. This cookbook is full of both slow-cooker and one-pot recipes that are sure to make your meal planning easier.

And I’m happy to report that this first recipe I tried did not disappoint. I’ve already made it again, just to have more leftovers for my lunches!

What is Jambalaya?

Jambalaya is a classic Cajun dish that consists of chicken, shrimp, and sausage all cooked together in one pot, usually with rice. It’s a little like a stew, thick and completely satisfying with every bite.

Instead of rice, this Jambalaya recipe uses pasta. The version I’m sharing today has been a hit with everyone who’s tried it.

I’ve made it a couple of times now and I’m super happy to tell you it actually tastes even better the next day. I made it the second time, just to have it in the fridge for a few easy reheatable lunches.

Jambalaya Pasta with Kielbasa and ShrimpRead more

Do I need a spiritual coach?

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If you’re feeling lost, detached from your purpose or low on energy, spiritual coaching may be just what you’re looking for

Do I need a spiritual coach?

We live in a time when there is an abundance of supportive professionals available to us. Whether we’re looking to change our relationship with food, heal from past events or update our thinking habits, chances are there’s someone out there who can help us.

But what if you’re not totally sure what you need? Perhaps you’ve just been feeling off lately, like you’re not living to your full potential. You know something needs to change, but you can’t put your finger on what.

This is where spiritual coaching can come in, helping you gain clarity and purpose. The term ‘spirituality’ can make us think of religion, and while some spiritual coaches do work in this space, for many it’s simply about connecting to something outside of ourselves.

What can a spiritual coach help with?

We asked inner peace and abundance coach Joana Calado how spiritual coaches can help and these are the areas she highlighted:  

  • feminine/masculine energy balance for optimal alignment and fulfilment
  • higher life purpose and soul agreements
  • spiritual guidance and intuition
  • how to protect your energy from being drained
  • manifesting with the laws of the universe

If there are some terms in there you don’t recognise, don’t worry - let’s take a closer look at what they mean and how a spiritual coach can support you.

Energy balance for optimal alignment

Many spiritual coaches will work with energy, with a goal of balancing your energy to help you achieve your goals and fulfil your purpose. There are thought to be femine and masculine energies within all of us; the masculine energy typically deals with ‘doing’, with the logical mind and being goal-focussed. The feminine energy is believed to deal more with ‘being’, with creativity, intuition and empathy.

By bringing these energies into balance we can enjoy the best both have to offer, giving us the space to be creative and empathetic while taking action towards our goals. A spiritual coach can look at this balance and help you bring energies into alignment.

Higher life purpose and soul agreements

Your higher purpose can be described as a purpose that is beyond yourself. This often means it benefits others and encourages them to grow along with you. The idea behind soul agreements (also called soul contracts) is that before we’re born, our souls make an agreement with others about what they want to learn in human form.

Essentially, this is about uncovering what you want from life, what your true calling may be and what you want to learn during your time on earth. A spiritual coach can help you navigate this, offering reflections and exercises to bring you closer to your answers.  

Spiritual guidance and intuition


Southwest Ranch Dipping Sauce

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This Southwest Ranch fills my family’s need for a little bit of heat. This quick dipping sauce is fantastic with chicken or fresh vegetables.

Southwest Ranch Dipping Sauce

Southwest Ranch

Homemade Ranch Dressing is a weekly meal prep staple at my house. Followed very closely by this Southwest Ranch. It’s a fun variation on classic ranch dressing.

Having fresh dressings and sauces on hand makes dinner planning easy. It makes healthy snacking easier too. Check out these tips for keeping your refrigerator stocked with fresh produce boxes for your family.

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long at all, you know that I have a thing for homemade condiments. With a stocked pantry, you can make homemade versions of your favorite salad dressings, dips, and marinades.

Even better than them being a fraction of the cost is how much better they taste. I have yet to find a store-bought salad dressing or dip that can compare with what can be made at home in just minutes.

Southwest Ranch Dipping Sauce

I made this sauce to serve with our Southwest Chicken Bites and it was a huge hit. My family liked it so much that they also dipped their vegetables in it and requested more of it the next day. This dip is going to be a regular condiment in our refrigerator for a while.

While the dipping sauce is so good you could put it on anything. It works nicely as a salad dressing too.

To thin the dressing, add a tablespoon of milk or cream at a time until the mixture reaches the consistency you want.

You can also use an oil to thin the dressing (such as vegetable, avocado, or canola) an oil that is neutral in flavor works best. Just remember a little bit of oil will go a long way.

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