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Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

nature is powerful medicine copy

Have you ever wondered why a walk in the woods makes you feel so good? While that Zen feeling is partly about “getting away from it all,” studies show time in nature is also powerfully therapeutic for the body and brain. 

More than half of the world’s population lives in an urban setting, and by 2050 that number will increase to a whopping 70 percent. Urbanization disconnects us from nature with measurable effects on our health. For example, city dwellers are at a 40 percent higher risk for mood disorders than rural folk.

Eight reasons nature is powerful medicine for your body and brain 

Spending time in nature is known for its anti-inflammatory effects, and its positive impacts on mood and depression. Here are eight great reasons to spend more time in nature:

1. Vitamin D: Exposure to sunlight enables us to produce this critical hormone. In our increasingly indoor world, many people find they are deficient in Vitamin D. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including depression. Vitamin D is also critical to regulating inflammation.

2. Improved sleep: Sleep patterns are tied to the sun’s schedule. Spending too much time indoors away from natural light can alter this rhythm, which plays a role in many metabolic processes and mental health. Early morning exposure to sunlight has been shown to recalibrate the sleep cycle, and one study found participants were cured of insomnia in one week of camping outdoors with no exposure to electronics or electric light.

3. Increased emotional stability and empathy: People who spend time in nature show increased activity in parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love. In case you were wondering, yes, urban environments, have the opposite effect of promoting fear and anxiety. 

4. Grounding: A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that grounding (bare-skinned contact with the earth) can have an intense anti-inflammatory and energizing effect on the body. 

5. Creativity: A study of backpackers found that after four days in nature, subjects scored 50 percent better on a creativity test. 

6. A breath of fresh air: Outdoor air really is fresher than indoor air! The EPA states that indoor pollutants are 2 to 100 times higher than outdoor pollutants! 

7. Improved mood: A Stanford study showed that participants who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment were less apt to focus on life’s shortcomings compared to subjects who walked along a busy highway. Added bonus: Time in the sun boosts serotonin, a brain hormone responsible for happiness. 

8. Renewed mental focus: Interaction with nature gives your brain a break from everyday stimulation, allowing it to restore your attention levels.  

Hit the hills!

Live in a city with no green space nearby? Try to get out of town into nature as often as you can. But even roaming the green places in your city can bring great benefits. And don’t worry if you aren’t capable of a vigorous hike; even “non-exercise activity” has solid benefits.

What are you planning for your next outdoor excursion?

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5 things that cause depression copy

Do you suffer from depression? People succumb to depression for different reasons. It’s important to look for the underlying cause of your depression. Consider these five:

1. Poor communication between brain cells

Depression happens when neurons in certain areas of the brain don’t communicate well with each other, or “fire.” This causes poor brain function and symptoms of depression.

Many factors cause poor firing in the brain, which I’ll talk about more in this article.

The primary question when you have symptoms of depression is, “What is causing neurons not to fire in areas of the brain associated with mood?”

2. Unstable blood sugar and depression

Blood sugar that is too low or too high can cause depression. Symptoms of low blood sugar include irritability or lightheadedness between meals, cravings for sweets, waking up at 3 or 4 a.m., dependence on coffee or sugar for energy, becoming upset easily, and forgetfulness.

Symptoms of high blood sugar (insulin resistance) include fatigue after meals, constant hunger, cravings for sweets not relieved by eating them, constant thirst, frequent urination, difficulty falling asleep, and a big belly.

Both low and high blood sugar compromise the brain’s ability to stay fueled, with symptoms of depression often resulting.

The most common causes of unstable blood sugar are eating too many processed carbohydrates and sugar, skipping meals, and chronic overeating.

Sometimes relieving depression can be as easy stabilizing your blood sugar with a whole foods diet that consists primarily of produce and healthy fats and proteins, avoiding sweets and processed foods, and eating an appropriate amount of carbohydrates for your body.

3. Unhealthy gut

When gut health is bad, brain health suffers, often causing depression. If you have digestive problems, your gut may be playing a role in your depression.

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestine becomes overly porous, allows undigested food particles, yeast, bacteria, and other undesirable compounds to enter the sterile environment of the bloodstream.

Leaky gut triggers chronic inflammation in the gut, body, and brain, along with other health problems, such as food intolerances, pain, autoimmune disorders, skin issues, joint problems, and, of course, depression.

Also, too much bad gut bacteria (dysbiosis) has been directly linked with depression in studies. Many factors contribute to leaky gut and dysbiosis, including poor diet, alcohol, and chronic stress. Knowing what caused your gut problems will help you resolve them.

4. Poor circulation

If your fingers, toes, and nose are cold to the touch your brain may not be receiving enough oxygen due to poor circulation.

Other symptoms of poor circulation include weak nails, fungal nail infections, low brain endurance, and cramping in the hands and feet.

Low circulation deprives the brain of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients. Factors that cause low circulation include anemia, chronic stress, hypothyroidism, low blood pressure, smoking, and blood sugar imbalances.

5. Autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation

Autoimmune diseases — when the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue — can cause depression. Examples include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Chronic inflammation, such as in chronic joint pain, gut problems, or skin rashes, is also linked with depression.

These disorders inflame the brain, which hampers function and can cause depression.

The brain is also a surprisingly common place for an autoimmune reaction to take place, causing myriad symptoms including depression.

Don’t assume your depression is caused by an antidepressant deficiency. It’s best to discover the underlying causes and address those first. Ask my office for more information.

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446 moody or just female copy

Do you feel you need anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications, or has your doctor said you do? Although true depression or anxiety disorders need management, many women are misled into believing they need treatment for what is actually normal behavior. Women are designed to be sensitive to their environments, emotionally in tune with their children and loved ones, and intuitive — traits that ensure survival. Women are also wired to express emotions and to pick up on the emotions of others.

Unfortunately, emotionality is not socially acceptable despite being a sign of good health in women. What is not so healthy is the constant pressure to apologize for and restrain emotionality for fear of being regarded as weak or hysterical.

Pharmaceutical companies, astute in the psychology of selling, spin this into sales targeted at women. In ads for antidepressants  93 percent feature a woman, usually a lonely single woman or stressed-out single mom. One in four American women take an antidepressant compared to one in seven men.

Women are more likely than men to express negative feelings through sadness and worry, which can be interpreted as a psychiatric disorder requiring medication. Men are more prone to express negative feelings as anger or through substance abuse, which are not as easy to address pharmaceutically.

Furthermore, when we paint depression and anxiety as women’s problems, men truly suffering from these problems are more likely to go overlooked. Women are almost twice as likely than men to receive a diagnosis of depression or anxiety.

Is it a lifestyle issue or a true disorder?

Many women turn to prescription drugs to help them manage feeling that are actually natural responses to unnatural stressors: chronic sleep deprivation, too little time outdoors, unhealthy diets, social isolation, over exposure to toxins and electric light, and over packed schedules. The human animal simply wasn’t designed to live optimally in today’s highly artificial, stressed-out environment.

Again, this is not meant to dismiss or minimize genuine depressive or anxiety disorders. But is your state of mind a reasonable response to your situation or a mental disorder? For instance, crying  which is seen as a sign of weakness, is actually a healthy way for many women to express sadness, frustration, fear, or other strong emotions. Women who take SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) find it’s difficult to cry. They also experience more apathy and indifference.

Natural approaches to sadness and worry

Unfortunately, we can’t wave a magic wand and remove the stressors from life. However, it’s helpful and important to prioritize basic biological needs: plenty of sleep, good nutrition, healthy socialization, physical activity, and time outdoors.

Also, many natural compounds can address brain chemical imbalances to help boost your mental well being and function. Adrenal adaptogens are herbs that help buffer the effects of stress on your body and brain. Dietary strategies that balance blood sugar and tame inflammation can also result in profound improvements in mood.

It’s also important, though, to know that what you’re experiencing may just be a part of being that finely tuned emotional instrument known as a woman.

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gluten depression anxiety brain fog

Do you suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, brain fog, memory loss, or other brain-based issues? While conventional medicine turns to drug treatments, recent research points to poor gut health as the root of mental illness. This is because inflammation in the gut triggers inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain, bringing on depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss and other neurological symptoms. Although many factors affect gut health—and hence brain health—one of the more profound is a sensitivity to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other wheat-like grains. In fact, a gluten sensitivity has been found to affect brain and nerve tissue more than any other tissue in the body.

Gluten sensitivity once was thought to be limited to celiac disease, an autoimmune response to gluten that damages the digestive tract and is linked to depression. However, newer research has confirmed the validity of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, an immune response to gluten that causes many symptoms, including digestive problems, skin rashes, joint pain, and neurological and psychiatric diseases. Recent research shows gluten degenerates brain and nervous tissue in a significant portion of those with gluten sensitivity.

 

How Does Gluten Affect Mental Health?

 

Gluten can affect mental health in a variety of ways.

For instance, gluten sensitivity can lead to depression, anxiety, brain fog and other brain symptoms by irritating the lining of the small intestine, resulting in “leaky gut,” a condition in which the intestinal wall becomes overly porous. This allows undigested food, toxins and bacteria into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation throughout the body and brain. Also, certain harmful bacteria that travel through a leaky gut into the bloodstream release toxic molecules (lipopolysaccharides) that are linked to depression and various psychiatric disorders.

Another way gluten can trigger depression is through gluten cross-reactivity. Because gluten is similar in structure to brain tissue, when the immune system attacks gluten in the blood, it can confuse brain tissue with gluten and accidentally attack brain and nerve tissue as well.

Gluten is also known to disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. There is a relationship between gut bacteria and the brain, and an imbalance in gut bacteria has been linked with psychiatric disorders.

The gut damage caused by a gluten sensitivity can also prevent the absorption of nutrients essential for brain health, especially zinc, tryptophan, and B vitamins. These nutrients are critical for the synthesis of brain chemicals that prevent depression, anxiety and other brain-based disorders.

 

What Steps Can You Take?

 

If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, or other unresolved brain-based issues, testing for gluten sensitivity can be a valuable tool in knowing how best to manage it. Addressing leaky gut is also paramount.

Ask my office for more information on leaky gut and the connection between gluten and depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, and other brain-based disorders.

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3 05 socialization prevents dementia

While we eat well and exercise to prevent disease, studies show one of the best ways to stay healthy is to hang out with friends. Studies have linked socialization with better heart health, warding off depression, and preventing memory loss.

In fact, research shows social isolation carries the same health risks as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity, and that regular social interaction can improve your odds of survival by 50 percent.

More people than ever live alone today, almost one third of the US population. This means people have to make an effort to socialize.

And if you think all those hours on Facebook are a substitute for in-person socialization, think again. Although social media is great for connections, online conversations tend to center around what’s “cool” or socially relevant, while in-person conversations go more in depth into sharing life experiences. Important social cues such as body language, facial expressions, and vocal inflections also go missing online.

Having friends prevents dementia

The more socially active people are the lower their risk for cognitive decline and dementia, especially if they have high risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Although researchers don’t understand exactly how socialization prevents dementia, they have several ideas. Friends and family may offer support in seeking health treatment when necessary. A rich social life also exercises the brain and fosters connections between neurons, which is vital to preventing cognitive decline and dementia. Social activity also inhibits chronic stress  a notorious destroyer of brain function.

Bad socialization is worse than no socialization

Although studies show regular social interaction is good for health, negative and stressful relationships are not good for health. Research shows being in a strained, unsupportive marriage carries a higher risk of depression than being single. One study showed that people in stressful marriages healed from wounds more slowly than those in happy relationships. Women seem to be more negatively impacted by a bad relationship than men.

How to cultivate a healthy social life

Staying socially active doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re interested in improving your health and preserving your brain function, here are some tips to incorporate regular social activity into your life:

  • Don’t wait for others to call or invite you out. Pick up the phone and schedule time with friends.
     
  • Volunteer. This can make a difference in other people’s lives and provide you with healthy social interaction.
     
  • Get a job. If you don’t work or work at home, spending some time working out of the home can expand your social life.
     
  • Find groups of people with similar interests or hobbies through the local paper or meetup.com.
     
  • Take some classes. Learning new things not only provides healthy brain stimulation but also exposes you to more people with similar interests.
     

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3 03 gut bacteria obesity depression anxiety

We all carry trillions of bacteria in our guts, with as many as a thousand different strains. The composition of these strains, or our “bacterial fingerprint,” can influence whether we are prone to depression, anxiety, or obesity.

Some gut bacteria can make you fat

Studies have shown people (and mice) who are overweight have much higher levels of particular strains of bacteria than thinner subjects. When thin mice are inoculated with bacteria from heavy mice, they gain weight. This is because these fat-promoting bacteria have been shown to encourage overeating, promote weight gain, prevent the burning of fat, and make obese people better at deriving calories from food than thin people.

In a nutshell, your “bacterial fingerprint” plays a role in how much fat you carry and how easy or difficult it is for you to lose weight. Although diet and exercise are important, these findings help to explain why solely relying on the “eat less and exercise more” approach to weight loss is outdated.

Effect of gut bacteria on depression and anxiety

The composition of your gut bacteria can also play a role in whether you suffer from depression and anxiety. For instance, having plenty of beneficial bacteria, such as the Bifidobacteria strain, can promote production of serotonin, the “feel-good” chemical that prevents depression.

On the other hand, too much of “bad” bacterial strains can promote depression and anxiety. This is because the gut is linked to the brain by the vagus nerve, a large nerve that sends messages back and forth between the brain and digestive system. The effects of harmful bacteria in the gut travel to the brain, impacting brain function and mood.

In one study, subjects who took probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium reported less anxiety, depression, and anger and an improved ability to solve problems. In another study, mice given a Lactobacillus strain cruised through a maze that normally created high anxiety and showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to their probiotic-deprived counterparts.

Cultivating good gut bacteria

Although researchers are still unsure exactly how to banish obesity, depression, and anxiety with probiotics, it’s clear you need to enhance your bacterial fingerprint for optimal health.

Birthing and baby feeding affect gut bacteria

The balance of good and bad bacteria starts at birth—vaginal deliveries and breastfeeding have been shown to improve a child’s chances of starting off with a healthy bacterial colony compared to C-sections and bottle feeding.

Chronic stress and gut bacteria

Chronic stress can throw your bacterial harmony out of balance, as can diets filled with sweets and sugars, processed foods, and fast foods. These foods damage and inflame the intestinal walls, promoting overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeasts.

Cultured food and fiber promotes good gut bacteria

You can promote bacterial harmony by focusing on an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet that includes cultured and fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented vegetables. If you use store-bought cultured foods, make sure they are the real deal and not simply made with vinegar, or pasteurized, which would kill good bacteria..

A healthy colony of good gut bacteria also relies on plenty of soluble fiber in the diet. Eating plenty of produce will give you just what you need in that respect.

Probiotics for obesity, depression, and anxiety

Fortunately, we have powerful probiotics today that can help you cultivate your inner garden. Probiotics should be stable enough to survive the hot and acidic environment of the stomach and contain ample amounts of beneficial strains. Ask my office for advice on a probiotic that’s right for you.

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brain on fire

Do you suffer from brain fog — that spacey, detached feeling like your head is in a fish bowl? Do you suffer from depression, or does your child have autism? Are you concerned about Alzheimer’s? These conditions are signs of possible brain inflammation, or a brain “on fire.”

Although a head injury or infection are commonly associated with severe cases of brain inflammation, many people suffer from milder but chronic brain inflammation, which is linked to a variety of symptoms such as brain fog, depression, autism, or Alzheimer’s.

Brain inflammation and brain fog

Unlike most of the body, the brain does not produce pain when inflamed. Instead, one of the most common symptoms is brain fog, which makes people feel spaced out and disconnected. As Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS explains in his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, this is because brain inflammation slows down the conduction between neurons. As a result, brain function slows, which causes that slowness and dullness of thinking.

Brain inflammation and depression

Studies also show depression is linked with brain inflammation. Inflammation creates immune proteins called cytokines. These cytokines can impair brain function and the brain chemical serotonin; low serotonin is frequently linked with depression. In fact, up to a third of patients with hepatitis C who are given interferon, which increases cytokine activity, develop depression, mania, and hypomania.

Brain inflammation, autism, and ADHD

Brain inflammation has also been linked with autism and other brain development disorders in children. Patients with autism have more inflammatory disorders than average (such as digestive disorders, allergies, ear infections, or skin eruptions) and brain imaging and autopsies show more brain inflammation in individuals of all ages with autism.

Brain inflammation and Alzheimer’s

Research also links brain inflammation with Alzheimer’s. Although tau proteins and amyloid beta have long been the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, studies increasingly show inflammation plays a large role in the disease. Not only does inflammation degenerate brain tissue, it also appears to increase amyloid beta, which in turn increases inflammation in a vicious cycle that chews up brain tissue.

Quench brain inflammation for better brain health

So what can be done about brain inflammation to protect brain function? In his brain book, Dr. Kharrazian outlines a number of approaches:

  • Nutritional therapy. Several natural compounds have been shown to quench brain inflammation—ask my office for more information.
     
  • Keep blood sugar stable. Eating a whole foods diet that does not cause surges or drops in blood sugar is also important. Insulin resistance (high blood sugar), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and diabetes can all increase brain inflammation.
     
  • Food intolerances. It’s important to remove foods that trigger inflammation from your diet. For example, many people have intolerances to gluten grains, dairy, or other foods.
     
  • Balance hormones. Balanced hormones are also important to keep brain inflammation in check. For instance, low estrogen in women, low testosterone in men, or low thyroid hormones can play a role in brain inflammation.
     
  • Glutathione. Sufficient glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, is also necessary to prevent brain inflammation, as are sufficient essential fatty acids and vitamin D.
     
  • Gut health. Also vitally important is to address gut inflammation. There is direct communication between the gut and the brain and gut inflammation has been shown to cause brain inflammation.

Ask my office for more information on how to manage brain inflammation for better brain and body health.

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