Author Archives: Megan Brideau

Is crying good for you?

Most people would tend to agree that crying is not a very fun act. But I don’t thing that most people could tell you the first scientific thing about it. First of all, what even are tears? I heard someone say the other day, “it’s like sweat from your eyes.” I am pretty sure that is not true, but in order to know for sure, I wanted to research what tears are made of and try to understand if scientifically crying can make you feel better. First things first, what are tears?

Types of Tears

According to, tears are made of protein, mucus, water, and oil combined to make a salty liquid. Chip Walter writes in his article, there are three types of tears: Basal, Reflex, and Emotional. Basal tears are the ones that coat your eye every time you blink keeping it moist. Reflex tTears1ears clean out the eye when it is poked or something gets in it, like dust or onion fumes. Emotional tears are the third kind, which have a genetic make-up that is entirely original. According to William H. Frey II (Biochemist at the University of Minnesota), emotional tears “carry 20 to 25 percent more types of protein and have four times the amount of potassium than reflex tears.” You may not be surprised to learn that emotional tears carry great amounts of hormones, like ACTH, which is produced when a person is under immense stress or prolactin, which controls the glands that release tears. Women tend to have higher levels of prolactin in their body, which may explain why they tend to cry more then men (Walter).

Why do we cry?

The Good:

Because of the amount of hormones released when emotion tears are discharged, William H. Frey II explained that it is good to cry in order to flush out the chemicals involved with strong feelings of stress or sadness. But it is a controversial topic among many scientists. Some believe that the tear duct is not big enough to release theTears2 amount of hormones needed to bring a persons hormones back to their natural balance. In that case, some believe there is another mechanism that leads to relief after a good, long cry. Some suggest, “perhaps we do not cry because we are upset but because we are tying to get over being upset.” Do we cry because we are trying to settle down to prevent future emotional and hormonal damage from stress? The answer is still unknown to this question, many scientists have tried to explain certain aspects of why we cry (Walter).

Some people in Japan believe in the benefits of crying so much that they go to a crying club, in which they watch sad documentaries in order to feel relief.

The Bad:

But what is the other side of the argument? According to this article, “A “good cry” can make you feel better [but] a bad cry can make you feel worse.” A good or bad cry is measured using many different aspects of the cry. For example, the goodness of the cry can depend on when it happens, who the person is with, and where it happens. If there is support from the audience around the crier, it is much more likely the person will feel better. On the other hand, according to a 5,000 person study complied of men and women, those who felt unsupported or tried to suppress the cry in any way explained that they felt worse after. There have also been studies done on how tears can negatively effect those in a depression

DCF 1.0

state and in those how have difficulty expressing their emotions.

The Ugly:

A few scientists like, Amotz Zahavi (a biologist at Tel Aviv University), Dario Maestipieri (a primatologist at the University of Chicago, and Randolph R. Cornelius (a psychology professor at Vassar College), explain that humans cry because they want to communicate emotions to others. We as humans know that if someone is crying they are usually upset and these scientists believe that we cry to warn other people or to project vulnerability. It is also said that people (especially women) cry for attention or manipulation.

Based on research, most scholars believe that the only downside to crying is not doing it. Trying not to cry can build up any stressful and unfriendly emotions that will almost always come back around later. This act also can effect physical health, with the release of many hormones building up in the body.

The Bottom Line: Researches have found that crying is beneficial to a person’s health and the only harm that can come involving crying is suppressing tears, which can cause physical and emotional harm to the body.

Sources (that don’t work as hyperlinks because they are from the library):

Walter, Chip. “Why Do We Cry?” Scientific American Mind 17.6 (n.d.): 44-51. EBSCO Host. Web. Sept. 2015.

Why do we have tonsils?

When I was three, I woke up every night unable to breath because my tonsils were too big. They were removed that year and I have never missed them. My mom got her tonsils taken out when she was twenty years old and she is fine today too. I met someone the other day who had gotten their tonsils out the week before and although she was in pain from the procedure, she was fine. So, if we can live perfectly fine without tonsils why have we not evolved to get rid of them?

What are tonsils?


                                                             Found here

According to the Dictionary of Nursing 6th Edition, tonsils are the “masses of lymphoid tissue around the pharynx, usually referring to the masses on either side of the oropharynx.” In non-nursing terms, tonsils are two bumps on either side of the throat.

Why do we have tonsils?

Children are often the biggest age group to have to go through the surgery or tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils) and in order to reassure them about the procedure, states, “You don’t need your tonsils, so a kid’s body keeps on working just fine even after they’ve been removed.” Well if we don’t need tonsils then what purpose do they have? The answer to this question from a credible source is surprisingly difficult to find. According to, tonsils along with adenoids (which are found in the nose and are usually removed with tonsils) prevent germs from entering through the mouth and nose. So, these two body parts work together to help prevent infections in the body.

Why do some people get them removed? explains that most tonsillectomy’s are done on kids because during this stage their body is still developing. Tonsils help fight germs, but sometimes tonsils can become infected instead of fighting infections. Tonsil removal takes place with the patient contracts tonsillitis many times and has a constant, infected throat. The doctor also recommends it when the patient’s tonsils are enlarged to the point where the patient can’t breath at night. During this procedure the adenoids are also taken out because usually if the tonsils are enlarged, then the adenoids are also blocking air (P.S. I have no idea why we have adenoids, except for the fact that they make us snore).

How can we live without them?

We can live without our tonsils because their main function is to help prevent diseases and when people get them removed it is because the tonsils have gotten infected and are then causing the disease. In a healthy body, tonsils prevent disease but, in an infected body tonsils cause the disease. So, people who don’t have tonsils get sick the same amount as people who do because their tonsils are no longer infecting them.

The evolution of tonsil removing

Victor Maxwell states that physicians are still very divided on the topic of tonsils. There have been two extreme thought processes throughout history regarding tonsils “a) tonsils are useless, toxin-producing germ traps that should be taken out as soon as possible; and b) tonsils are important part of the body’s defense against infection and disease. Since the beginning of the 1900s, tonsil-removing surgery was almost full proof, so it became a common and almost necessary surgery preformed. Many doctors recall stories of tonsillectomy’s being preformed one after another when the specialist dropped into town. The Medical Research Council of Great Britain surveyed 30 children in schools were colds, coughs, sicknesses, and sore throats did not differ between children with tonsils and children without. A 1938 study by Dr. Alber Kaiser found that after 10 years studying 35 children the variation between sicknesses like, bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis, was non-existent between tonsil and tonsil-less children (Maxwell).

However, Dr. Alan Brown explained in his research “diseased tonsils cause more trouble than all other children’s ailments put together.” Throughout the 19th century, there were many reports and arguments about whether or not polio and tonsils share a causal relationship. It is a widely accepted notion that harmful diseases are able to breed in the tonsils. But this article comes to the conclusion that tonsils should only be removed if there is trouble with them (i.e. they are enlarged, patient has constant or frequent sore throats, trouble breathing, or other) because they do have the potential to protect the body from harmful sicknesses (Maxwell).

Conclusion: Will tonsils evolve out of us?

So, do we need tonsils? Obviously not, since I am perfectly healthy living 15 years after they were removed, but tonsils do have a purpose beyond just being “bumps in our mouths.” Overall, people who have trouble breathing because of enlarged tonsils, constantly contract tonsillitis or have soar thoughts often, should consult a doctor who would probably tell them to go through with a tonsillectomy. On the other hand, people who do not suffer from any of the symptoms should keep their tonsils because they can protect them from illness. If tonsils continue to preform this job well, there would be no reason for them to evolve out of our system, so get ready humanity because tonsils are here for the long haul.

Sources (that don’t work as hyperlinks because they are from the library):

Maxwell, Victor. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO ABOUT TONSILS? 66 Vol. Toronto, Canada: Maclean Pub. Co, 1953.

Can people be “bad test takers”?

I was listening to Daniel Tosh the other day and in one of his stand ups he says, “don’t you love it when people in school are like, ‘I’m a bad test taker.’ You mean you’re stupid. Oh, you struggle Test1with that part where we find out what you know?” Are some people just really bad at taking tests or is there a third variable involved? I predict that being a bad test taker is a myth and I think maybe a factor of not knowing how to study or perhaps a brain deficiency may be the true cause of bad test taking.

In April of 2013, Annie Murphy Paul, wrote an article about how to be a better test taker, and she explained that test anxiety is a prominent factor that demonstrates many students inability to preform well on tests. The problem is this anxiety can affect a students working memory capacity and much of their brainpower goes towards the anxiety rather than the answerTests needed for the test. Researchers and their studies commonly accept explaining that test anxiety is the reason for “bad test takers” (Paul).

In one of the first studies ever conducted on the topic of test anxiety, George Mandler and Symour Sarason, grouped 553 boys and girls from third and fourth grades to serve as subjects for the study. To evaluate these children they followed the “Test Anxiety Scale for Children” and compared it to the “General Anxiety Scale for Children.” They found that certain cues on the test cause the children to realize they are in a situation of danger because they are being evaluated by authority figures and should they fail, they would be in even more danger. Because tests in general tend to be an evaluation for students given by authority, the kids with test anxiety tend to not do as well on every test they are given (Sarason).Test2

Over the years many similar studies have come to this same conclusion and even gone further as to say that gender effects test anxiety. In a study done in Bangladore, published in the Indian Streams Research Journal in may 2015, by the Assistant Professor of Psychology at Commerce and Management College, studied male and female college students to find out their degree of test anxiety. The study consisted of 100 college students split 50/50 between boys and girls. His conclusion found that a higher number of females are affected by test anxiety than that of males (Maniling Appa).

So, students are not just genetically bad test takers. In fact, their inability to do well on tests has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with test anxiety. Based on research, 40-60% of students admit to having test anxiety as some point or another and around 38% record having it all the time (Morton). Having test anxiety greatly affects the student’s ability to access the information they studied and need for the test because all of their brainpower is going towards their anxiety. I believe that this is a very probable outcome to my question and think that although more research should be done on the topic, it greatly explains the idea of the “bad test taker.”

Works Cited

Maniling Appa, Hosamani. “A STUDY ON TEST ANXIETY OF STUDENTS.” Indian Streams Research Journal 5.4 (2015): 3-9. May 2015. Web. Sept. 2015.

Morton, Jerome, Ph.D. “American Test Anxieties Association.” American Test Anxieties Association. The Board of Directors, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.

Paul, Annie Murphy. “How to Be a Better Test-Taker.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Apr. 2012. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.

Sarason, Seymour Bernard. “Initial Validity Studies.” Anxiety in Elementary School Children: A Report of Research. New York: Wiley, 1960. 125-60. Print.

Should everyone eat gluten free?

This day in age everyone knows gluten free people and many people go gluten free without even knowing what gluten is. In all honesty, the only thing I know about gluten is that it is in bread-y things and everything without it tastes weird. This blog gives me the opportunity to research the science of celiac disease and to see if everyone would benefit from going gluten free. Because gluten-free diets benefit so many people, I am guessing that it would be healthier for everyone to go gluten free.

Now, if you are like me, then you might be thinking to yourself, what the heck even is gluten? According to this Celiac Disease Foundation article, gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (a grain that is a cross between wheat and rye). Usually gluten is put in things to help it keep its structure and shape (acting as a glue).

A list of important foods/drinks with gluten can be found here.

If you looked at the list, you may have noticed some of a college students favorite foods are on that list (french fries, chocolate milk, BACON, beer, vodka). Many college students could have celiac disease and not even realize it (i.e. the possible stomachache from what is thought to be a hangover, could potentially be something else)

According to the Current Opinion in Gastroenterology Journal article, “Celiac disease is an immune-mediated enteropathy triggered by the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible individuals” (Catassi). In small words: gluten=bad. But what happens when people with celiac disease eat gluten? An article at Celiac Central states, when people with celiac disease eat gluten their immune system responds by damaging villi in the small intestine, which are responsible for absorbing the nutrients into the bloodstream. When these villi become damaged they can no longer preform this task leading to malnourishment. Not being treated for celiac disease or continuing to consume gluten can lead to harmful diseases like autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.

So if gluten has the potential to do major harm to the human body, should the general public adapt a gluten free diet (GFD)?

I wanted to research this topic because of an article I found in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they observed a study where ten healthy subjects went gluten free for a month and their body showed a significant reduction in a number of beneficial bacteria. Obviously this study is not entirely realistic. First, it’s way too small; ten people can in no way completely encompass all the healthy people in the world. Second, a month is a very small time span; for an effective study the subjects would need to be observed over a longer period of time. However, this is one of the only studies I could found that was done on the effects of a GFD on healthy people. There needs to be a significant jump in the research being done in order to fully answer my question.

In his study, Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and the director of the G.I unit at the Alfred Hospital, in Melbourne, recruited thirty- four people with irritable-bowel syndrome (IBS), who had mentioned that not eating gluten made them feel better. They conducted a double-blind study where half were given muffins with gluten Gluten3and half without. The conclusion was that most who ate the gluten responded with the return of pain. Again, this is still a small study and it only proves that people with IBS could benefit from eating gluten free, not all healthy people.

I predict that many studies are in the process of being conducted because of the popularity of a GFD. Other research that I have found that rejects a GFD for healthy people are as follows. In Michelle Pietzak MD’s article, published in the Journal of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition, she explains many different diseases and the way they react to a gluten free diet. Many of the diseases she studied benefit from a GFD, but she comes to the conclusion that the general public should not all go gluten free. She does note the apparent inability for human’s to digest gluten well, but she believes that there is no reason for the general population to have a gluten-free lifestyle if they don’t currently have the diseases she looked into. Although, she does state that more research needs to be done on the topic.

Dr. Sheila Crowe, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Gastroenterological Association and a professor in the diviGluten 4sion of gastroenterology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, stated here, that although “there’s a modern concern that gluten is somehow not good for us…there is little evidence proving going gluten-free means good health.” Katherine Talllmadge, R.D stated in her article, that adapting a GFD without needing to can be harmful because many gluten-free foods are low in important vitamins and minerals like fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc. Many people also believe that obtaining a GFD directly correlates with weight loss, but according to that article there is no research where people without a gluten allergy who go gluten-free lose weight.

For this being such a big question in today’s society, most of the evidence for this topic is against the general public going gluten free. However, almost every researcher or doctor recognizes the fact that there needs to be more studies and research done on the topic in order to come to a definite conclusion. Based on my Gluten5research, I found that usually the only people that benefit from a GFD are those that have an allergy to gluten or some other disease that has been proven to benefit from the diet change. So, that’s good news for those of us who like to keep our bread, bacon, french-fries and chocolate milk filled diets!


Sources (that don’t work as hyperlinks because they are from the library):

Catassi, Carloa, and Alessio Fasano. “Current Opinion in Gastroenterology.” Current Opinion in Gastroenterology 24.6 (2008): 687-91. Ovid. Web. Sept. 2015.

Is Grief Making Us Sick?

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross said, “the reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it.” Everyone thinks of grieving as an emotional act of losing someone you love, and as a grieving person myself, I can definitely attest to this fact. However, during my grieving period, I (and others around me grieving) have not only felt emotional overwhelmed and hurt, we have also been physically drained and sick. Then, my aunt (a certified Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia nurse) heard how I was feeling and told me that because everything my doctor’s tested for came back normal, my pain was probably my grief. My response: “What? How could me grieving have anything to do with my stomach and headaches?” And that is exactly the question I intend to answer with this blog.

Grieving is in no way agrief1 fun experience and it is different for everyone. The number of mental effects that take their toll on a person who is grieving are uncountable, but over the years psychiatrists have tried to explain an “unexplainable emotion”. They have set up five stages with which they use to as guidelines for the grieving process. In their book, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, state that the five stages of grief are 1) Denial 2) Anger 3) Bargaining 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance. All of these stages sound like they affect the head and that is it, but in reality these grief stages greatly affect physical well-being.

Along with these mental stresses, physical ailments are inevitable. According to an Everyday Health article, whenever emotional overload occurs it is very natural to feel physically exhausted. Feeling all those grieving emotions at once can easily make a person tired and have a loss of energy that the grieving person had never experienced before. Also with these emotions, it can be hard to think clearly. So, it can be difficult to do basic tasks like homework or work functions. Grieving also lowers a person’s immune system to the point where getting sick could become a normal occurrence. Normally after a loss, people go through what Dr. Sanjay Gupta (a practicing neurosurgeon and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital and an assistant professor at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta) calls a “heartache,” which is a basic way of explaining the physical pain the loss brings on a grief2person’s chest. In this case, it may become hard to breath during some moments of great sadness or a person’s heart might physically hurt. It is also stated that during the grieving process the “griever” is much more likely to accumulate cardiac and immune system problems. The stress on a person’s body during times of grief can cause them to be more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, cardiomyopathy, and acute heart attack.

But why does the emotional act of grieving affect so much of our physical well-being? When we grieve, chemicals in our brains called Corticotropin-releasing hormone or CRH, release hormones on rapid fire in order to respond to the overwhelming emotional loss the body is experiencing. CHR is in chagrief3rge of the hormones that deal with anxiety and appetite. Normally, CRH (during a non-stressful time period) release hormones on a regular schedule of a natural 24 hour period, in which is at its highest around 8am and its lowest at night. But, during times of stress, more hormones are released and this “leads to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which mobilizes energy resources, needed for dealing with the cause of the stress.” An increase amount of these hormones during a long time, like the grieving period, can hurt the body. When too much CRH hormones are released it can lead to clinical depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and anorexia nervosa, because of the hormones CRH regulates.

Not only can grief affect the physical body months after the loss, there is also research that suggests, traumatic and complicated loss can affect the person later in life. In The American Journal of Psychiatry, Holly G. Prigerson, Andrews J. Bierhals and two other psychiatrists, wrote an article called Traumatic grief as a risk factor for mental and physical morbidity, where they studied 150 future widows and widowers in order to help confirm the authors previous work that, “indicated that symptoms of traumatic grief are predictors of future physical and mental health outcomes.” (This study builds off of many others that state that traumatic grief greatly affects physical and mental well-being, which are explained under the headnote of this journal article). For this study, the scholars examined the group at the time of their spouse’s admission to the hospital and periodically at the 6, 13, and 25 months after. Their conclusion was much like the other studies, in the way that “bereaved individuals with high scores on traumatic grief were found to be at significantly heightened risk for a variety of poor health outcomes.” This study went further as to suggest the symptoms of traumatic grief are important factors that are tied to the long-term physical and mental affects of grief on the body.

However, in a brief report called Complicated grief as a disorder distinct from bereavement-related depression and anxiety: a replication study, involving nine PhD, M.P.D, and M.D scholars explaining this study, it stated:

“It may not be the stress of bereavement, per se, that puts individuals at risk for long-term mental and physical health impairments and adverse health behaviors. Rather, it appears that psychiatric [consequences] such as traumatic grief are of critical importance in determining which bereaved individuals will be at risk for long-term dysfunction.”

In this case, they found that traumatic grief in itself, does not lead to long-term diseases; instead it can be used to predict (along with other symptoms of grief like, bereavement-related depression and bereavement-related anxiety) which patients might be a risk for these diseases. People who go through a time of traumatic grief are more likely to be at risk for long-term physical and mental ailments.

grief4Grieving is a natural process that every person goes through many times in their life, and sometimes it is very hard to deal with the fact that grieving is hurting you physically and mentally. In reality, feeling hurt or getting sick while grieving is one of the worst times for that to happen, but unfortunately, as my research shows, it is one of the more likely occasions that it will happen. And what is even more unfortunate is that we will all go through it in different ways, but at least after reading this we can know that it is not uncommon to feel both physically and emotionally hurt during the grieving process.

I have come to the conclusion that grief is more then just mental suffering or distress. The fact that traumatic grieving affects emotional and physical well being is confirmed by research, but it seems that the contraction of long term diseases involve other grieving factors. Although the traumatic grief itself might not be the direct cause of the physical disease, it does take enough of a toll on the body that chronic grievers are more likely to contract long-term or life threatening illnesses. In conclusion, grieving sucks, but we all go through it, so it is possible to survive all of the emotional and physical suffering.

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!




Hello! Initial Blog Post

Hello everyone! My name is Megan Brideau, and I am a very undecided freshmen. I’m one of the those people who is from outside of Philly and one of the biggest reasons I came to Penn State was because of the rain and the cold weather (which are both my favorite kinds of weather).

I’m taking this course because I have absolutely no idea what I want to major in and I thought this class would be a good overview of a couple science fields and would help me decide if science is something I want to do with my life. The biggest reason why I am not majoring in science is because I had terrible science teachers in high school, which basically means I learned nothing about science, and I probably look like this dog whenever I attempt to do something involving science.


So, I am actually looking forward to this class possibly changing my mind about science and maybe even to the point where it could become my major. I am excited for this class and definitely ready to learn more about science then Bill Nye taught me in third grade.

P.S. If you are ever really stressed out or overwhelmed, try clicking here.