8 Hacks To Prolong The Shelf Life Of Your Food

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Hacks Image Design 1 - 8 Hacks To Prolong The Shelf Life Of Your FoodPeople of the past seemed to make their food last if possible. They had to, and they had to do it all without fridges and freezers. Now, our food doesn’t seem to make it through a week without starting to sprout or taste like we’ve left it to rot.

While the treatment of food is partial to blame, there are things that we don’t do that our ancestors had to. Many people on farms and in the countryside, find these hacks useful daily to prevent too much driving around. We’ve just become complacent because of how easy access everything is now.

The problem is we’re wasting more than we should. It’s time to make some changes to the way we look after and store our food. With these top life hacks, you will be able to prolong the shelf life of your food.

Freeze More Food than You Do

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While our ancestors didn’t have freezers, that doesn’t mean we can’t make use of the technology. In fact, we should. One of the easiest ways to prolong the life of your food is to freeze as much as possible. Storing it below -18C will help to prevent the formation of bacteria and organisms. Your food will last weeks and even months.

In some cases, you can completely kill the organisms that do grow your food. You can kill the bacteria that are already there.

You will have to follow safety tips for freezing your food. Once something has defrosted, you will need to use it in your cooking. Defrosted food will start to collect organisms and bacteria. You can’t refreeze them safely. Once you have cooked the food, you can certainly then freeze the creations.

It’s surprising just how much you can buy and store in the freezer. You can get food that is close to the use by date without worrying about getting through it. The freezer will prolong the life naturally and effectively.

There are some foods that freeze better than others. Certain foods do lose some of their consistency and texture when you freeze (well, when you defrost) because of the ice melting. However, most of foods in the freezer will not taste any different afterward. Tomatoes will be goopy when you defrost, so use a container to help collect it all.

You’ll need to be creative with the way you freeze some foods. Peel bananas and wrap them in tin foil or cling film. Store whole or chopped up. You’ll find them much easier to peel afterward! You can add frozen bananas straight to your green smoothies for a cool and creamy taste.

If you buy butter, you’ll want to put it in the freezer. You can freeze it in individual chunks to help make it easier to use it daily. This doesn’t work with margarine and vegetable butter.

Store Inside Glass

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Put your nuts, cereals, and pasta in glass jars for storage. You will taste the difference in the long term.

When these types of foods are stored in the cupboard, air gets to them. Even if you wrap up the packaging as tightly as possible, the air will still get in. They also absorb the moisture. Even the containers will absorb the humidity and moisture in the air. You may notice that the ingredients tend to taste stale and even moldy. This is the humidity that’s collected, causing molecules and some organisms to grow.

If you want to avoid the humidity completely, you’ll need airtight containers that won’t absorb anything. Glass is the best option and something that has been used for centuries for storage. Just look at jams, preserves, and spreads. They all tend to be still sold in glass jars. Look at the labels on your glassed products in the cupboard. Most of them will last for months before their opened and weeks once they are opened.

You will need to make sure the lids fight tightly to keep the air out. Think about the placement of the jars, too. Opt for somewhere that is free from moisture. Avoid cupboards near the stove, sink, and kettle. You’ll be surprised at where some of the moisture comes from!

There’s no need to spend a fortune on jars for storage. Opt for mason jars with screw on lids. You can get them from the dollar store!

Remove the Plastic Bags

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Our ancestors didn’t have fridges, but they also didn’t have plastic. Did you know it’s the plastic that can cause some of the foods to rot or taste off? While you’ll want to use plastic bags to make getting your vegetable home easier, you’ll want to remove them before storing them.

Plastics will pull in and trap the humidity. They cause more organisms and bacteria to grow in the fruit and vegetables, leading to rotting and moldy tastes.

You can avoid plastic bags altogether. There’s nothing wrong with taking reusable bags for carrying your fruits, vegetables, and another produce home. The plastic has just become an ease but is harming the environment and effecting the longevity of your food.

When you store out of the bag, the food has the chance to breathe. It won’t collect as much humidity as it would in the bag, as nothing is trapped. You’ll get fresher fruit, and that’s without choosing the organic options. Of course, if you want to improve the freshness and life, you’ll want organic fruits and vegetables that don’t have the plastic bags.

Stop Storing Everything in the Fridge

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Now that we have the use of fridges, we have this feeling that everything needs to be stored here. That’s not the case. It’s time to look at other methods of storing for some food.

Sure, there are certainly foods that are better stored in the fridge. Pasteurised milk will need the coolness of the fridge. However, foods like your apples, root vegetables, and other similar ingredients do not need the fridge. It’s the fridge that is causing them to go off! Storing them is also causing the rest of your food to go off.

Foods like apple give off ethylene gas when stored in the fridge. They will wilt while there and then spoil the rest of the food in the fridge. If you store them out of the fridge, you don’t get the gas and the rest of the food in your fridge remains fresh.

Store your apples, carrots, and parsnips in paper bags in a dry and cool cupboard. Opt for one furthest away from any humidity; preferably the same cupboard as your glass jars of cereal and pasta!

If you have a cellar or pantry, this can help you even more. You can store your food here in layers, packing finesandbags around them. The sand will absorb all the moisture, drawing it away from the root vegetables and fruit. You don’t even need the sand to be in bags. Layer a wooden box with fine sand and place your fruit and vegetables in paper bags on the top. The moisture will be pulled from around the bag and into the sand, keeping your fruits and vegetables dry and tasty for months!

For best results, cover your fruit and vegetables with sand. This will help to protect from the moisture completely. You’ll just need to wash your ingredients before use in case sand has gotten through.

Don’t Refrigerate Too Soon

The fruit that you do refrigerate needs to be placed in the fridge at the right time. Don’t put it in the fridge as soon as you get home. Fruits are best stored in the fridge when they’re ripe. If you put the fruit in too soon, it doesn’t ripen anymore as the development process is halted. You’re left with mangoes and papayas that are rock solid and don’t taste that nice at all.

The only fruits that you want to store right away are berries. They already fully ripen when they’re picked. If you leave them out, they will start to deteriorate and go off.

When storing in the fridge, wrap your fruits tightly. If they’re left loosely wrapped, there is more space for bacteria to grow, causing botulism to grow on them. The tight wrapping will keep the oxygen out and prevent the growth of any mold.

However, strawberries, raspberries, and other fruits that give off a lot of moisture will need to be kept loose in wrapping. Wrapping tightly will cause issues with the moisture release. It has nowhere to go and leads to the development of bacteria. Your berries become spoiled and slimy. Leave them in the containers they come in or slight the plastic bags to give them the chance to air a little..

Know How to Use Your Fridge

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Stop overfilling your fridge. This is not going to help with the shelf life of your food. Instead of trying to pack as much into your fridge, think carefully about the items you’re putting in there. Not everything has to be stored, remember! You can get a better life out of foods when they’re stored in cellars, pantries, and cool cupboards.

When you are storing in the fridge, make sure your fridge is at the optimum temperature. There’s no need to put it on the coldest setting. In fact, this can cause food to spoil! You may as well put it in the freezer.

Keep your fridge below 40F but not cold enough to freeze. 38F is considered the best temperature. Anything higher than 40F and your food will spoil. Bacteria can grow, causing your food to go off and illnesses to spread.

When you place items in the fridge, don’t have everything touching. You want space between food to make sure moisture and air can circulate.

Your fridge won’t cool to the same temperature throughout. There will be hot spots and cold spots. You’ll need to find them.

Avoid the door for anything that needs to be kept at a constant temperature, like your eggs. This is the most fluctuating part of the fridge. The coldest spots tend to be at the back and are a good place for eggs. Just avoid anything crystallising and this spoils eggs. The bottom and closer to the walls are also the colder spots. Put your meat and food less likely to freeze around these sections.

Place your meat at the bottom to avoid ruining the rest of your food. The blood from the meat can drip, even if stored well. This blood will drop onto the food underneath it and cause bacteria growth. If you store raw fish for a day, make sure it’s wrapped and use ice on top. This will help to keep it tasting fresher when you pull it out and use it.

Use Whiskey for Your Cheese

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Do you buy a lot of beautifully expensive cheeses? You don’t want them to go off overnight. Sure, some of them can taste strong, and they do have some molds, but they’re not supposed to taste like they’ve gone off. It’s time to use some whiskey.

Yes, really!

Soak a cheesecloth in some whiskey and then wrap that around your cheese. You can then put it in a plastic bag (the only time plastic is useful here) and put that in the fridge. The whiskey helps to prevent the growth of bacteria, while the cloth and bag will help to keep the cheese moist. You get the optimum treatment.

If you don’t have a cheesecloth and whiskey, you can try a slight variation. Opt for some waxed paper instead. This can act similarly to the whiskey and cheesecloth to protect the cheese from drying out. Use some aluminum foil and wrap it tightly to store.

You can do this with any cheese, not just the expensive ones. You’ll find all types of cheese will last much longer when you buy it from the store.

The trick with the whiskey doesn’t quite work as well with other alcohols. The cheese will absorb some of the taste, and other alcohols just don’t work out right. Brandy is the closest, but you want whiskey preferably.

Dry Your Leftover Fruit

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The fruit and vegetables can eventually go off, but that doesn’t mean they need to be thrown out. You can keep them with the right storing method. It’s time to start drying some of your food!

While the drying process isn’t the best for the diet, it’s better than wasting your food and your money. It’s an excellent preservation method and has been used for centuries. You can then use the foods in all your cooking or just as a snack.

There are a few ways that you can dry your food. If you have the money, invest in a dehydrator. This is quick, hygienic, and easy. However, you can also use your oven to suck out the moisture from your food. Make sure you put it on the right setting and keep an eye on it. Did you know you can also use the sun? This is a little trickier, due to pests, but is effective in drying out the fruit and making it taste good.

Store your dried fruits in glass jars, like you would with your pasta and cereals. This will help to prevent the issue with the moisture, as we’ve already considered. Dried fruit can last for a year when it’s stored at around 60F. If it’s stored at 80F, you can keep it for about six months. Vegetables aren’t as good, but you’ll get about three months when stored at 80F. You can freeze for a longer life span!

How Will You Preserve Your Food?

Stop wasting food and money. It’s time to look at some of the best ways to store your food and help prolong the shelf life. Take advantage of the technology we have today, but also look at the ways that our ancestors stored before the use of fridges and freezers.

Make sure you store food in the right places. Not only do you prolong the life of those ingredients, but the rest of the food around them. Everything will taste fresher, and you’ll be excited about everything you pull out for dinner.

9 Tips On How To Prolong The Shelf Life Of Your Smoothie Bags

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Smoothie Bags Image Design 1 - 9 Tips On How To Prolong The Shelf Life Of Your Smoothie BagsWhen you make any juice or smoothie, the recipe guidelines will usually tell you to use up the drink right away or to only store for 24 hours. The aim is to create just enough to make one or two drinks throughout the day.

This is a good guideline, as it will prevent you over-consuming your fruits and vegetables. However, it’s not practical or useful financially. You need to find ways to bulk make your smoothies and juices. It’s time to make your drinks last into the week, creating an efficient way to make your smoothies and then grab your drinks on the go.

Here are nine tips of prolonging the shelf life of your juice and smoothie bags.

Store in a Vacuum Sealed Bag or Tin

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It’s the air that affects the shelf life of your fruits and vegetables. If you can keep air out of your drink, it will last longer. The quickest and easiest way to do that is by vacuum sealing. This is extremely easy with a bag, but that’s not the most efficient way for drinking, right?

If you’re going to store in a vacuum seal tub or mug, try to opt for a tin one. And then store that in the fridge. The metal will get cold, and that coldness spreads inside the tin, so your smoothie or juice stays much colder than it would do in just a bag.

When carrying your smoothies around, the vacuum seal will help to prevent spillages. You end up with the perfect container to move your smoothie around. However, the vacuum seal will be broken when you open it. You’ll have 24 hours to drink your smoothie from that point.

Fill to the Very Top of Your Container

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Whether you’re using a vacuum seal container or not, make sure you fill to the very top. You want to get to the point where anymore and you will get an overspill.

Remember it’s the air that causes a problem. By filling up to the very top, you eliminate air getting into your container. This prevents oxidization and you end up with a fresher taste to your drink. However you store.

Once you start drinking, you won’t want to make it last for a few days. You can transfer to a mug that is suitable for drinking straight out of.

If you don’t have enough for your usual container or mug, consider moving down a size. You may find you get one portion of smoothie in two containers that you can then pour into your mug when you’re ready to use it. It’s worth this little extra hassle when you get to prolong the life of your smoothie bags and tubs.

Keep your container in the fridge until you’re ready for it. Even without the air, the heat will cause problems for the crispy taste of the fruit.

Add a Little Lemon to Your Smoothie

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You don’t need a lot of lemons. There’s no need to taste it among the rest of your fruits and vegetables. If you already have lemon as an ingredient, you don’t need to add any more.

Just a few drops of lemon help to keep the rest of the fruits and vegetables fresh. The citric acid in the lemons prevents the oxidization process. In fact, this is also a good tip to help keep chopped apples fresh! Just rub them with a little lemon juice to help prevent the air getting to them!

Vitamin C also helps to play a part in the anti-oxidization. Vitamin C helps to protect the body from oxidative stress, so works on the fruit and vegetables too! You also get a little extra vitamin C in your body to support your immune system and protect your cells from the aging process and free radicals.

Store It in the Freezer

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Put your smoothie in a zip lock back and store it in the freezer. This is one of your best options, especially if you want your smoothie to last throughout the summer. You can make enough to last the whole week or fortnight.

Allow the smoothie to defrost overnight in the fridge, so it’s ready for you the next morning. Alternatively, you can allow it to defrost on the side while you get a shower and drink it with a few bits of the ice when you’re on the way to work. You’ll get an iced smoothie, perfect for the summer heat.

You can store a smoothie in the freezer for up to six months. It’s an excellent way to plan for the summer and get ready for the heat. The longer you store it, the less fresh it will taste when you defrost it.

Don’t leave out in the heat for too long before drinking. It’s tempting to defrost on the side to make it quicker, but it will overheat and taste moldy the next morning. Defrosting overnight in the fridge is your best option.

Opt for BPA-Free Plastic

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When using any tub, make sure it’s BPA-free. If you’re in the EU, you’ll find that everything is BPA-free, as BPA use has been illegalised. However, it is still popular in North American plastic and tubs. Most baby products make a note of stating they are BPA-free because parents are looking out for this more and more now.

BPA is a toxin used in plastic. Research shows that it can seep into food and drinks, whether the food is just placed in it temporarily or for a prolonged period. Even if you plan to drink your smoothie right away, you want to look out for BPA-free mugs. It’s not just plastic either. BPA can be found in tins and metal tubs, so watch out for this toxic resin.

There are links to damage to the brain health, unborn babies, and blood pressure changes. But you don’t just want to skip it because of the health links. There are some suggestions that BPA can affect the length of the food lifespan. It can cause particles to break down and make it harder to make food last longer.

Use a Masticating Juicer when Juicing

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If you’re going to juice rather than blend, opt for a masticating juicer. This is the one that helps to keep some of the pulp. It doesn’t allow as much air into the juice, keeping the oxidization process to a minimum.

When you remove the air from the juice, you reduce the chances of the fruit and vegetables going off. You still want to follow the above tips to keep more air out of your storage containers and bags.

If you have the choice, opt for smoothies over juice. You will instantly keep out most of the oxidative process because of the extra pulp. Smoothies also tend to be healthier. The fiber from the pulp will help to make you feel fuller and prevent the natural sugars metabolizing in the blood stream.

Bulk Make at Once

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When making juices and smoothies for later, bulk make as much as you can at once. Using up the fruits and vegetables right away will help to limit the amount of air that gets to them. If you do them a little at a time, you could end up with chopped up fruits and vegetables on the side that degrade with the air. Just look at your apples—that’s the easiest fruit to see the degrading process happen.

If you’re not going to make a lot in a short space of time, put whole fruits and vegetables back away. Anything that you’ve cut wrap up with plastic wrap or foil tightly to make it harder for the air to get to them.

Depending on the size of your blender, you’ll need to juice or smooth in batches. Pour the batches directly into your tubs and store them in the fridge or freezer immediately. Then move onto your next batches of juices and smoothies.

Storing your smoothies and juices for later will mean the nutrients and enzymes degrade. It doesn’t matter how many fruits and vegetables you put in or how you store them. They won’t be as nutritious, but they will still be delicious. Consider this when it comes to bulk making your smoothies and juices.

Store the Chopped Fruits and Vegetables

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Rather than store your liquidized fruits and vegetables, store the chopped up ingredients. You can put them in one tub together or in separate tubs depending on size. Store them in the freezer to limit the amount of oxygen that gets to your fruits and vegetables.

It’s best to do this at the start of the week. On a morning, you can pull out the portions and tip them straight into your blender or juicer.

Storing like this will help to keep some of the nutrients in your ingredients. You’ll also have a colder drink without the need for ice since you’re blending and juicing from frozen. You can also eliminate some need for water or milk, as you’ll store a little extra water in your ingredients.

The easiest way to store is to put the portion of fruits and vegetables for one smoothie or juice in bags. You can just pull out one bag, tip it all into the blender, and use.

If you’re using root vegetables, store these in your fridge instead of the freezer. You can use a little lemon juice on all the chopped up ingredients to help eliminate some of the oxidization.

Store in Ice Cube Trays

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Pour the excess smoothies into an ice cube tray and freeze as you would normal ice. They will last like this for a few weeks. The downside is there is some oxidization potentially happening, so you can lose some of the nutrients.

You can empty 8-10 ice cubes into a glass the next time you want a smoothie. The ice cubes will melt much quicker than a whole bag of smoothie would, meaning you get access to your drink much sooner. You can put the cubes into a glass before your shower, and they’ll be ready for you at the end!

An ingenious way to turn your smoothie drinks into a healthy snack is to pour the leftovers into an ice lolly tray and add the lolly pop sticks. You can then eat frozen and enjoy.

Don’t Store for Too Long

As mentioned, the smoothies and juices will last for up to six months when in zip lock bags or vacuum seal tubs. If you’re storing in ice cubes, the shelf life is longer. Once chopped up and blended, the fruits and vegetables start to lose their nutrients. They break down relatively quickly, making a smoothie no longer as valuable to your health.

You want to drink your smoothie or juice as soon as possible. Fresh is better, but you can gain benefits from a smoothie that has been in the fridge for up to 24 hours. After that, you will start to lose out on some of the benefits—at least the limit of the benefits.

If you need to bulk make, do it for up to a week or two. After that, you’ll want to consider making new smoothies fresh to make the most of the ingredients.

It doesn’t matter what you do to the fruits and vegetables. The enzymes and nutrients naturally break down. Even vacuum sealed tubs won’t prevent this from happening.

As with normal smoothies and juices, stored smoothies are better for your health than juices. You will get more fiber, which helps to eliminate the natural sugars metabolizing in the blood stream. You’ll also find you feel fuller when you drink smoothies rather than juices, due to the fiber. Thismeans you are less likely to over-consume fruits and vegetables in one sitting. Yes, you can get too much of a good thing.

Now you know how to bulk make your smoothies and make them last longer. Take advantage and enjoy your green smoothies on a daily basis.

Unexpected Double Whammy: Opioids Prolong and Intensify Pain

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Source: decade3d – anatomy online/Shutterstock

Ouch! Just when you thought the headlines about opioids couldn’t get any worse… A study published today reports (for the first time) that even short-term use of opioids may increase and prolong chronic pain.

An international team of researchers has discovered that opioids paradoxically increased chronic pain in lab rats by exacerbating the release of pain signals from specific immune cells in the spinal cord. Although this was an animal study, the findings could have far-reaching implications for humans, too.

The May 2016 study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was led by Peter M. Grace and Linda R. Watkins of University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Ironically, the ability of opiate-based (narcotic) medications—such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, percocet, and other opioids—to reduce pain appears to backfire by making users more sensitive to pain over time. Also, as people develop a tolerance to these medications, they often take higher doses of painkillers which causes this entire conundrum to snowball out of control.

Opioids Exacerbate Spinal Cord Inflammation and Pain Signals to the Brain

Typically, a peripheral nerve injury in a rat sends signals from the damaged nerve cells to spinal cord immune cells known as glial cells. Once the bugle is sounded by a pain signal, the glial cells kick into a hyper-vigilant alert mode which primes them to act as “housekeepers.” A primary function of glial cells is to ‘clean house’ by getting rid of unwanted debris and microorganisms.

Unfortunately, this new study has identified that when opioids are introduced into this process—and once a peripheral pain signal has been sent—the glial cells go into overdrive. Eventually, this cascades into a chain reaction that increases inflammation of the spinal cord and the activity of pain-responsive nerve cells in the brain.

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Source: University of Colorado

In fact, the researchers found that just five days of opioid treatments could trigger chronic pain that lasted for several months. The ultimate double whammy is that as the pain increases, oftentimes, the use of opioids also increases. This creates a vicious cycle that can lead to opioid addiction. When prescriptions run out, many addicts turn to heroin, which is cheaper and readily available. 

“The results suggest that the recent escalation of opioid prescriptions in humans may be a contributor to chronic pain,” lead author, Peter Grace, said in a statement. Adding, “We are showing for the first time that even a brief exposure to opioids can have long-term negative effects on pain. We found the treatment was contributing to the problem.” Linda Watkins elaborated on the study, 

“The initial pain signals to the spinal cord and the subsequent morphine-induced treatment is a two-hit process . . . you might get away with the first slap, but not the second. This one-two hit causes the glial cells to explode into action, making pain neurons go wild.

The implications for people taking opioids like morphine, oxycodone and methadone are great, since we show the short-term decision to take such opioids can have devastating consequences of making pain worse and longer lasting. This is a very ugly side to opioids that had not been recognized before.”

Millions of Human Lives Are Being Destroyed by Opioids and Heroin

Just now—as I was sitting in a coffee shop writing this blog post—an acquaintance of mine, whom I hadn’t seen in awhile, sat down next to me and asked what I was working on. I told him about the new CU-Boulder opioid study that was released this afternoon. Out of the blue, he confessed to me that ever since back surgery two years ago, he’s been battling opioid addiction. Last winter, he accidentally overdosed and almost died. Clearly, as Prince’s recent death and other statistics show us, he is not alone.

In the past decade, deaths caused by drug overdoses have jumped in almost every county in the United States. In 2014, the number of deaths in the United States from opioid drugs or heroin overdoses totaled 47,055 people. This adds up to about 125 Americans every day. The death rate from drug overdoses jumped to 15 per 100,000 in 2014 from nine per 100,000 in 2003.

According to a March 2016 study by the CDC, among those who died from prescription opiate overdose between 1999 and 2013, most were ages 25 to 54. This age group also had the highest overdose rates compared to all other age groups. Drug overdoses now cause more deaths than car crashes. Opioids, such as OxyContin and other pain medications, kill way too many people every day.

Conclusion: More Research Is Needed to Create Better Pain Relief 

One of the only optimistic aspects of the recent study from CU-Boulder is that future research could lead to medications which break the vicious cycle that causes opioids to increase and prolong chronic pain. The researchers have found ways to block specific receptors on glial cells that respond to opioids and might be able to prevent these cells from kicking into overdrive with targeted pharmaceutical interventions.

For anyone who currently requires opioids for pain management, future medications might be able to optimize opioid-based pain relief without potentially increasing and prolonging your chronic pain… but more research is needed. Stay tuned!

To read more on this topic, check out my Psychology Today blog posts, 

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