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Vitamin Deficiencies Can Mess With Your Mental Health


There are mood-related signs you’re low on nutrients like vitamin D.
Here’s how to tell and what to do about it.

You’d be hard-pressed not to stumble on a social media #ad for vitamin packs. Trendy supplement brands like Ritual or Care/Of promise their products will help alleviate a series of vitamin deficiencies, which companies warn can cause health issues ― including problems with your mental health.

We know we need proper nutrients in order to function properly. But just how much of an impact do they really have on our minds?

“Optimal mental health requires adequate availability and absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino and fatty acids as essential building blocks for our brain cells and neurotransmitters,” said Dr. Jennifer Kraker, a New York-based psychiatrist who specializes in nutrition and mental health. “When our nutritional biochemistry is imbalanced, our mental health is affected.”

For most people, a healthy diet will take care of that. For others, a doctor may need to prescribe a vitamin supplement if the body doesn’t metabolize nutrients properly. (And they don’t have to come in an aesthetically pleasing glass bottle or Instagram-worthy capsule. Drug store brands will do just fine.)

“Because we’re all unique, one person may tolerate lower levels of a certain nutrient (such as vitamin D) very well, and another might not,” Kraker said. “Rinse and repeat for most all micronutrients.”

Nutritional deficiencies can tinker with your mental health on a sliding scale ― everything from mild to disruptive symptoms, depending on the person. Research has found certain deficiencies can contribute to anxiety and depression, as well as exacerbate symptoms in people with specific mental health disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. A deficiency can also just slightly impact your emotional well-being.

“More commonly, nutrition-related issues are experienced as symptoms like reduced ability to manage stress, increased anxiety or edginess, lower mood, and poorer concentration or focus,” said Nicole Beurkens, licensed psychologist and board-certified nutrition specialist at Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Caledonia, Michigan.

Of course, mental health is complex and nutrients may be a minimal part of the puzzle (or sometimes they don’t influence it at all). That said, there are some cases where they play a role. There’s plenty that scientists are still working to discover and debunk about the food-mood connection and the impact that specific deficiencies can have on our mind, but here are some of the key nutritional players they’ve managed to suss out so far.

Vitamin D
This fat-soluble vitamin influences the expression of over 1,000 genes that regulate mood, sleep, as well as the protection and synthesis of neurons (the cells in our brain and nervous system that run the show).

There are vitamin D receptors throughout the body and brain, some of which are located in regions that influence mood, alertness, motivation, memory and pleasure.

“Vitamin D also regulates genes that make the feel-good brain chemicals serotonin and oxytocin,” Kraker said.

Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency can include depression, anxiety, irritability and fatigue.

Vitamin B12
Besides helping with the formation of those ever-important neurons mentioned above, vitamin B12 plays a role in regulating mood-boosting brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, as well as stress hormones like norepinephrine.

“It also functions on a molecular level to aid in the detoxification of homocysteine, a neurotoxin for the brain that’s associated with depression,” Kraker said.

Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can include fatigue, brain fog, numbness and tingling, shortness of breath and more.

Vitamin B6

“Vitamin B6 concentrations are roughly 100 times higher in the brain than the body as a whole, implying importance in mental health function,” Kraker said. It’s a co-factor in making the brain’s feel-good chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.

And, like B12, vitamin B6 helps the body keep homocysteine levels in check, which helps with mood issues, Kraker said. People with kidney disease or malabsorption problems are the ones who are most likely to be deficient in B6.

Magnesium
In mental health, magnesium helps to regulate the stress response and is considered to be one of nature’s mood stabilizers, Kraker said.

It’s pretty uncommon to be deficient in magnesium, but it does happen. Symptoms that might indicate you’re low can include fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and mood changes.

Zinc
Zinc is a trace mineral with many important roles in brain function, Kraker said. It also helps vitamin B6 do the best job possible of making feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

Most people naturally get enough zinc through their diets. A deficiency can occur in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, vegetarians and people with gastrointestinal disease. Symptoms can include loss of appetite or taste, loss of temper, depression and learning difficulties.

Iron
Besides regulating oxygen delivery throughout the body and brain, iron helps to create and balance mood-regulating chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

“Those most at risk for an iron deficiency are fertile women, the elderly, and vegans who aren’t particularly mindful about how to eat to prevent an iron deficiency,” Kraker said.

Symptoms of an iron deficiency can include fatigue, difficulty concentrating and dizziness.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s contain components called DHA and EPA, both of which play an important role in brain function: “They ward off inflammation, maintain brain cell health, and improve communication between brain cells,” Kraker said. They can also help with mood.

Symptoms of an omega-3 deficiency can include mood issues, often accompanied by dry skin, fatigue, allergies and chronic thirst.

How To Figure Out If You Have A Deficiency — And What To Do About It
Before we go any further, one important note we want to reiterate: This all isn’t to say overhauling your diet or taking vitamin supplements on your own will completely cure any mood-related symptoms. Other interventions like talk therapy and medication are the best-known ways to improve mental health issues.

You should look at nutrition as “an important adjunctive treatment to maintain health and prevent relapse, or use lower doses of pharmaceutical interventions,” Kraker said.

There are several physical signs that can clue you into whether there’s a potential deficiency brewing, Beurkens said. These can include frequent headaches, GI symptoms (think: constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating), weak nails, dry skin or eczema, hair loss and many others.

“High stress levels also often accompany … symptoms and can negatively impact nutrient levels,” Beurkens added.

Similarly, adjusting to a new set of life stressors can impact how you take care of yourself and deplete nutrient stores in the process ― say, a recent move has you eating differently, a new job has upended your go-to lunch habits, or a newly diagnosed autoimmune condition has you adjusting to a whole new way of functioning.

Getting a comprehensive workup of your nutritional status can be helpful in getting to the root cause of what’s going on.

“Physical and mental health are interconnected, so nutrition should always be a part of the discussion when mental health symptoms are raised as a concern,” Beurkens said. “Unfortunately, this rarely happens.”

Start by opening up to your physician or psychiatrist about your suspicions: Share with them the symptoms you’re experiencing, a highlight reel of what your eating habits are like, and anything else you feel might be relevant, such as relatives who have the same deficiency.

Ask your doctor to either order relevant bloodwork that’s consistent with your symptoms or refer you to someone who specializes in both mental health and nutrition. (The Institute for Functional Medicine, Integrative Medicine for Mental Health, and the Walsh Research Institute all list doctors trained in this manner.)

“You know your body and your life best, so if something feels off, it probably is,” Kraker said.

With the right treatment plan ― which can include input from your doctor along with a psychologist or psychiatrist ― you’ll hopefully find a solution that works best for you.

By Krissy Brady     02/17/2020

 

vitamines

Magnesium May Improve Memory

Only 32% of Americans Get Recommended Daily Allowance of Magnesium, Researchers Say

Having trouble remembering where you left your keys? Forgot the name of an acquaintance?

A new study suggests that increasing your intake of magnesium, an essential mineral found in dark leafy vegetables and certain fruits, beans, and nuts, may help combat memory lapses associated with aging.

In the study, published Jan. 28 in Neuron, neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tsinghua University in Beijing found that increasing brain magnesium using a newly developed compound, magnesium-L-threonate (MgT), improves learning abilities, working memory, and short- and-long-term memory in rats. The magnesium also helped older rats perform better on a battery of learning tests.

“This study not only highlights the importance of a diet with sufficient daily magnesium, but also suggests the usefulness of magnesium-based treatments for aging-associated memory decline,” one of the study’s authors, Susumu Tonegawa, says in a news release. Tonegawa works at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

Although the experiments were conducted in rats, the results have implications for humans, the researchers say.

Half of the population of the industrialized world has a magnesium deficiency, researcher Guosong Liu says in the release. “If MgT is shown to be safe and effective in humans, these results may have a significant impact on public health.”

Liu and his colleagues at MIT developed MgT after discovering in 2004 that magnesium might enhance learning and memory. Liu is co-founder of Magceutics, a California-based company that develops drugs for the prevention and treatment of age-related memory decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Magnesium for Better Memory

The researchers examined how MgT stimulates changes in synapses, the junctions between neurons that are important in transmitting nerve signals.

They found that in young and old rats, MgT increased plasticity, or strength, among synapses and promoted the density of synapses in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays important roles in spatial navigation and long-term memory.

Other experiments performed within the study found that MgT treatment boosted memory recall under partial information conditions in older rats but had no effect in young rats. Aging causes dramatic declines in the ability to recollect memories when incomplete information is provided, the authors write.

“Because [magnesium] is an essential ion for normal cellular functions and body health, many physiological functions are impaired with the reduction of body [magnesium],” they write. The researchers cite that only 32% of Americans get the recommended daily allowance of magnesium.

The researchers conclude that the study provides “evidence for a possible causal relationship between high [magnesium] intake and memory enhancements in aged rats.” They also call for further studies to investigate the relationship between dietary magnesium intake, body and brain magnesium levels, and cognitive skills.

The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for adults 19-30 years old is 400 milligrams/day for men and 310 milligrams/day for non-pregnant women. For adults 31 and older, it is 420 milligrams/day for men and 320 milligrams/day for non-pregnant women.

By Joanna Broder        FROM THE WEBMD ARCHIVES
WebMD Health News           Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD         January 27, 2010
 

 

The Best Supplements

Magnesium for Depression

A controlled study of magnesium shows clinically significant improvement.

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body. Years ago, I wrote about the importance of magnesium for the brain; it remains my most read blog post to this day.

We get most of our magnesium from plants (almonds, black beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate are all good sources), but it’s the bacteria in the soils that enable plants to absorb magnesium, so all sorts of environmental influences can deplete magnesium in our food, from pesticides that kill off bacteria to potassium-based fertilizers (can be taken up by plants in lieu of magnesium and calcium). Food processing, antacids, diuretics, caffeine, and alcohol can also decrease magnesium absorption. For these reasons, the modern human tends to need more magnesium and get less, leaving a lot of people chronically depleted. Blood levels remain fairly stable, because without magnesium in a narrow range, the heart can stop beating…every ICU doctor checks magnesium levels on patients pretty much every day, and repletes magnesium levels by the bag full to keep up with a patients’ needs under such intense stress as a critical illness.

Increased stress increases magnesium loss (as described here), and the environment may not readily replace it. Since magnesium is such an important mineral to the brain as a part of almost every part of the stress response, recovery, and repair, it seems self-evident to study magnesium as how it relates to brain function and common stress-related ailments such as clinical depression. Small studies have been found to be helpful for folks with fibromyalgia and major depression and type II diabetes. However, most of the studies that have been done are, admittedly, terrible.

The major flaw in most studies is they used insufficient amounts of magnesium oxide. On the face of it, magnesium oxide is about 60% elemental magnesium, which sounds pretty good. However, it is also a very stable compound, so often doesn’t disassociate into the parent compounds and give you the free magnesium you need.

Therefore, out of a 250mg tablet, you might only absorb 6mg. Magnesium malate is only 6.5% magnesium, but almost all of that is available to be absorbed. Magnesium citrate is also highly absorbable and 16% bioavailable. However, it is more likely than the other formulations to cause diarrhea. For a recent and much improved clinical trial of magnesium for depression, the researchers decided to use magnesium chloride.

The full text of the paper is free online at PLOS One. First the flaws: it was not double blinded, placebo controlled. Folks knew whether they were taking magnesium or not. However, the researchers did employ a crossover design as a control. In the first weeks of the study, half the patients took magnesium chloride (12% elemental magnesium and pretty much 100% bioavailable), and then in the second phase of the study, the first half was switched off magnesium while the other half of the patients took the supplement. The study wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t small either, with 126 depressed participants. The scale used to measure depression is my personal favorite, the PHQ9, and the average score was just over 10, which corresponds to a moderate depression. Some patients were on meds, others in therapy, some in neither, but the main key is that other treatments for depression did not change in the course of the study…magnesium chloride was added.

Participants were given 2000mg (248mg of elemental magnesium) daily for 6 weeks on an immediate or delayed (until week 7, the crossover) schedule. Depression scores on average over the trial dropped by 6 points, which brought the mean from moderately depressed to mild or minimally depressed, a clinically important change. Anxiety scores also improved. Participants reported reduced muscle cramps, aches and pains, constipation, and decreased headaches during the magnesium trial (all of these are known already to improve with magnesium supplementation and are signs of magnesium depletion). When asked after the trial if they would continue magnesium, over 60% said yes. Those that didn’t complained that magnesium didn’t help or it caused diarrhea (n = 8).

The positive effect of magnesium supplementation was gone within 2 weeks of stopping the supplement, indicating a relatively quick clearance.

Important notes:

Although the association between magnesium and depression is well documented, the mechanism is unknown. However, magnesium plays a role in many of the pathways, enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation. It is a calcium antagonist and voltage-dependent blocker of the N-methyl-D-aspartate channel which regulates the flow of calcium into the neuron. In low magnesium states, high levels of calcium and glutamate may deregulate synaptic function, resulting in depression. Depression and magnesium are also both associated with systemic inflammation. The finding that those participants taking an SSRI experienced an even greater positive effect points toward magnesium’s possible role in augmenting the effect of antidepressants.

So…it would have been nice to have a blinded study. However, magnesium supplementation is both inexpensive and pretty safe. The amount of magnesium in this trial was below the recommended daily allowance of elemental magnesium, and as long as you have normal kidneys, it’s difficult to take too much (diarrhea tends to limit outrageous usage). Magnesium can interfere with some medications and vice-versa, so check my old post for that info. For depression and constipation or headaches or restless legs or fibromyalgia, it makes sense to at least try magnesium for a few weeks. Those who prefer not to supplement can be encouraged to add nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate (a palatable and healthy prescription).

In the meantime, keep an eye on PubMed, because the studies are (slowly) getting better!

Emily Deans MD         Jan 28, 2018


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Exercise May Help Ward Off Depression

Even If You’re Genetically Prone to It
An extra 35 minutes of exercise per day was tied to a reduced likelihood of experiencing depression.

Getting a few hours of exercise a week may reduce the risk of depression, even in people who are genetically prone to the condition, a new study suggests.

The authors found that, although certain genes boost a person’s risk of depression, increased levels of exercise essentially canceled out this genetic risk.

Overall, for every 4 hours of exercise per week (about 35 minutes per day), participants saw a 17% reduction in their chances of experiencing bouts of depression over the next two years. This protective effect of exercise held even for those at high genetic risk for depression.

“Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable,” study lead author Karmel Choi, postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a statement.

The study is published today (Nov. 5) in the journal Depression and Anxiety.

Genetic risk

Depression can run in families, which suggests that genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Although research on the genetics of depression is in its infancy, studies suggest that multiple genes, each with a small effect, combine to increase a person’s risk of the disease, according to the NIH.

In addition, previous studies have found that exercise can reduce people’s risk of depression. But it wasn’t clear if this benefit applied to those with certain risk factors, such as a genetic risk for depression, the authors said.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from nearly 8,000 participants in the Partners HealthCare Biobank, a database intended to help researchers better understand how people’s genes, environment and lifestyle affect their health. Participants provided a blood sample, had their genomes analyzed and filled out a survey about their lifestyle behaviors, such as how much exercise they typically get in a week. This information was then linked with people’s electronic health records (EHRs) within Partners HealthCare, a Boston-based health care system.

To be included in the new study, participants could not be currently depressed, and so the researchers excluded people who had visited a medical professional for depression within the past year. The authors then looked to see which of those remaining participants experienced a new episode of depression — based on billing codes from their EHRs — within the next two years.

The researchers also used genomic data to calculate a person’s genetic risk for depression, and gave people a “score” based on their risk. This allowed the researchers to divide participants into three groups: those with low, intermediate and high genetic risk for depression.

Protective effect

The researchers found that, not surprisingly, those with a high genetic risk for depression were 50% more likely to experience a new episode of depression within the next two years, compared with those at low genetic risk.

However, across all risk groups, people who were more physically active were less likely to experience a new episode of depression. For example, among those in the high-risk group, the incidence of depression was nearly 13% for those who didn’t exercise, compared with just 8% for those who exercised for about 3 hours a week.

What’s more, both high-intensity exercises, such as running, and low-intensity exercises, such as yoga, were linked with a decreased risk of depression.

However, the study only found an association and cannot prove that a lack of exercise causes depression (although previous research has suggested that exercise likely helps ward off depression). In addition, the EHRs used in the study do not capture the severity of a depressive episode and do not reflect care outside of the Partners HealthCare system.

Still, the study provides “promising evidence” that doctors can use to counsel patients and “make recommendations to patients that here is something meaningful they can do to lower their risk even if they have a family history of depression,” Choi said.

Of course, in addition to reducing depression risk, regular exercise has a slew of other health benefits, such as reducing people’s risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, less than a quarter Americans meet national exercise guidelines, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

By Rachael Rettner – Senior Writer
 
Originally published on Live Science
 
omega 3 sources

 

Omega-3 fatty Acids in Depression: A Review of Three Studies.


Abstract

We review three studies of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depression that were carried out by our research group at the Beer Sheva Mental Health Center. The first study examined eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) versus placebo as an adjunct to antidepressant treatment in 20 unipolar patients with recurrent major depression. The second study used omega-3 fatty acids in childhood major depression; 28 children aged 6-12 were randomized to omega-3 fatty acids or placebo as pharmacologic monotherapy. The third study was an open-label add-on trial of EPA in bipolar depression. Twelve bipolar outpatients with depressive symptoms were treated with 1.5-2.0 g/day of EPA for up to 6 months. In the adult unipolar depression study, highly significant benefits were found by week 3 of EPA treatment compared with placebo. In the child study, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed highly significant effects of omega-3 on each of the three rating scales. In the bipolar depression study, 8 of the 10 patients who completed at least 1 month of follow-up achieved a 50% or greater reduction in Hamilton depression (Ham-D) scores within 1 month. No significant side effects were reported in any of the studies. Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to be more effective than placebo for depression in both adults and children in small controlled studies and in an open study of bipolar depression. (This review discusses three studies, all from our group, completed before the clinical trial registry was initiated.).

PMID: 19499625 PMCID: PMC6494070 DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00061.x
[Indexed for MEDLINE] Free PMC Article

 
Osher Y1, Belmaker RH.
Ministry of Health Beer Sheva Mental Health Center, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel. yamy@bgu.ac.il


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How to Avoid the Post-Holiday Blues

Simple, healthy choices can decrease the risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, is a marker that the darkest days are behind us and the sun is going to be shining longer each of the coming days as we end one year to begin another. Unfortunately, by the time that we reach this milestone and a promise of a less distant Spring, your body may still be suffering ill effects from the recent weeks of decreasing periods of sunlight as well as exhaustion from all of the pre-holiday preparations that so many of us allow to suck up too much of our time.

Staying “Merry and Bright” Takes a Lot of Energy

It makes sense that the human response to the naturally increasing darkness is to fill it with light and activities to combat the gloominess of the late autumn and early winter days. In November, when we really notice that daylight is shifting its balance with the night sky, we are beginning the preparations for family gatherings and keeping the oven humming and the sideboard groaning with rich and decadent foods. We’re eating more simple carbohydrates, often increasing alcohol intake, and spending less time engaged in outdoor activities. Workout regimens also may be more frequently disrupted by lack of motivation or schedule conflicts. Many find it easier to expend calories baking or reaching for another treat than to show up at the gym. And once motivation starts falling, it can take a lot more energy to build it back up than if it had been maintained all along.

The Winter Doldrums Are a Real Thing

The onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is ushered in as the level of natural sunlight available each day decreases. Many species in the animal world adapt to this change with hibernation periods. In the US, many humans adapt to this change by spending winters as far south as they can to avoid the bitter cold and the darker days.

Essential Cycle: Sunlight to Serotonin to Melatonin to Sleep to Peace and Contentment

The shortening of our daylight hours can wreak havoc on our Circadian rhythms. Exposure to sunlight positively influences our brain’s production of neurochemicals that keep our moods balanced. Sunlight cues our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which is often found to be deficient in individuals who suffer from depression (Cuomo, Giordano, Goracci, & Fagiolini, 2017). Serotonin production is helped along by natural light exposure and serotonin leads to melatonin production, which helps ensure our sleep-wake cycle stays organized. When there’s less light, there’s less serotonin, which leads to less melatonin, which leads to less sleep, which can lead to feeling tired, cranky, and depressed. Our brains are amazing machines that do their best to keep up with the rapidly changing world, but when we try to force our brain chemistry to respond to unnatural, controlled environments such as work schedules that don’t shift with the seasons, exposure to non-stop electronic entertainment/bombardment, and other treats/risks of modern life, we can end up having to “treat” problems that might not occur if we were able to follow the natural order of things.

Finding the Right Balance/Light Balance

While sunlight encourages the production of serotonin, it’s also tangentially increasing the production of melatonin, the chemical that regulates healthy sleep. One way to handle SAD is to integrate light therapy (bright natural light; lightboxes; high quality, non-flickering fluorescent light bulbs; sunlight-mimicking bulbs) at the start of your morning. This jumpstarts the brain into producing the feel-good, do-good neurochemical serotonin.

While serotonin production is ramping up through light exposure, the production of natural melatonin is kick-started, too. At the end of the day, when you are preparing for sleep, you can take a melatonin supplement to help re-regulate your Circadian rhythm. As the brain’s chemistry is getting back on schedule, your mood will also reflect the balance and symptoms of depression should ease up.

Eat Healthy to Decrease Depression

Avoid simple carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar. All of these can upset your brain’s delicate neurochemical symphony. Stick to complex carbohydrates that provide better “fuel economy” to your body than junk food can. In fact, a healthy diet has been linked to stronger feelings of optimism (Kargakou, Sachlas, Lyrakos, et al., 2017). Avoiding preservatives and choosing fresh foods will be better for your body and your attitude. Depression is marked by feelings of hopelessness; this suggests that the optimism borne of a healthy diet is worth the effort.

Keep Hydrated with Water, Not Lubricated with Alcohol, or Hopped Up on Caffeine

Dehydration can mimic symptoms of depression, so make sure that you’re taking in an adequate supply of water (Pross, Demazieres, Girard, et al., 2014). Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and other high-sugar or artificially sweetened beverages. These beverages affect sleep, too, which affects mood. No component of our amazing body works independently of any other system – simply being alive is the production of a symphony made up of many players and many well-calibrated movements of every cell.

Out-Run, Out-Stretch, and Outsmart the Winter Doldrums

Physical activity, rather than couch-potato sitting, will help you get through the darkest winter day with as bright a mood possible. Aerobic exercise is especially helpful in getting your brain on track with the production of serotonin and endorphins (Munuswamy, Preetha, & Priya, 2018). Walk the dog, park far away from the grocery store or after-holiday sales, or get on the treadmill. All of these can help stimulate the body’s natural mood-balancing techniques.

Meditation and Yoga balance Moods

Aside from the heavy-duty physical work-outs, you can also exercise your mind and body through more gentle means that can lead to a balanced mood state (Travis, Valosek, Konrad, et al., 2018). Mediation has been proven to enhance well-being and bring calm even in times of catastrophic illness and stress (Lemanne & Maizes, 2018). When your brain is in a meditative state, you’re actually quieting the regions of the brain associated with stress and worry while providing greater opportunities for the work of the regions associated with healthy psychological and physical functioning. Tai Chi is another gentle method for combatting feelings of depression (Zou et al., 2018). Activities that bring a balance between mind and body are highly effective in bringing balance to all aspects of your life.

Hopefulness about the Future

The frenzy of the winter holidays can lead to an overall post-holiday, gloomy January funk for many. Comparing the “blah” of January with the “bling” of December is not a pleasing thought. Add in a couple of quickly failed New Year’s resolutions and the days seem even more depressing. Recognize that what you’re feeling is a normal reaction to what’s going on around you. Also, recognize that you have the tools needed to ensure that you don’t fall too far into a bout of SAD. For protection against SAD, eat right, drink plenty of healthy fluids, and get active. If you are suffering from seasonal depression, research shows that light therapy is as effective as psychotherapy such as CBT might be (Meyerhoff, Young, & Rohan, 2018). Not only that, light therapy provides more rapid relief to symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, hypersomnia, and social withdrawal. Make healthy choices, keep your body moving, and find the light and you’ll be well prepared to tackle the winter blues.
Feeling hopeful about the future is key to feeling better about the now.

References
Cuomo, A., Giordano, N., Goracci, A., & Fagiolini, A. (2017). Depression and Vitamin D deficiency: Causality, assessment, and clinical practice implications. Neuropsychiatry, 7(5), 606-614.
Kargakou A., Sachlas A., Lyrakos G., Zyga S., Tsironi M., Rojas Gil A.P. (2017) Does Health Perception, Dietary Habits and Lifestyle Effect Optimism? A Quantitative and Qualitative Study. In: Vlamos P. (eds) GeNeDis 2016. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 988. Springer, Cham.
Lemanne, D., & Maizes, V. (2018). Advising Women Undergoing Treatment for Breast Cancer: A Narrative Review. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 24(9/10), 902–909. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2018.0150
Meyerhoff, J., Young M. A., & Rohan K. J. Patterns of depressive symptom remission during the treatment of seasonal affective disorder with cognitive‐behavioral therapy or light therapy. Depress Anxiety. 2018;35:457–467. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22739
Munuswamy, S., Preetha, S., & Priya, J. (2018). A study on the effects of aerobics on depression. Drug Invention Today, 10(11), 2169–2171. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=132173465&site=ehost-live&scope=site
Pross, N., Demazières, A., Girard, N., Barnouin, R., Metzger, D., Klein, A., Perrier, E., … Guelinckx, I. (2014). Effects of changes in water intake on mood of high and low drinkers. PloS one, 9(4), e94754. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094754
Travis, F., Valosek, L., Konrad, A., Link, J., Salerno, J., Scheller, R., … Konrad, A. 4th. (2018). Effect of meditation on psychological distress and brain functioning: A randomized controlled study. Brain & Cognition, 125, 100–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2018.03.011
Zou, L., Yeung, A., Li, C., Wei, G.-X., Chen, K. W., Kinser, P. A., … Ren, Z. (2018). Effects of Meditative Movements on Major Depressive Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 7(8), N.PAG. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm7080195

Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.         Dec 18, 2018
 

 

winter

How Can You Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Does winter bring you down every year? We give you some tips on how to manage seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the four seasons, typically manifesting during the cold autumn and winter months, when the days are shorter, darker, and chillier.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the main risk factors for SAD are age, sex, distance from the equator (since regions farther to the north and south tend to have shorter days and less sunlight in winter), and a history of depression or other mood disorders.

Studies have shown that “young adults and women are most likely to experience SAD with the reported gender difference ranging from 2:1 to 9:1.”

People with SAD can experience a range of symptoms, but some of the most commonly reported ones include a sense of fatigue paired with oversleeping, chronically low moods, and strong cravings for carbohydrates, which can lead to excessive weight gain.

SAD can seriously impact productivity and day-to-day lifestyle, as the symptoms — if severe — can prevent individuals from going out, seeing other people, and engaging in some of the normal activities that they would otherwise pursue.

So what can you do if the winter months are getting you down? How can you cope with the lack of motivation, feelings of hopelessness, and debilitating fatigue? Here, we give you some tips on how to tackle SAD head-on.

Hunt down that light

Lack of exposure to natural light is one of the apparent reasons behind winter SAD, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that light therapy — also known as “phototherapy” — would be beneficial in keeping the symptoms at bay.
light box for phototherapy

Many studies have indicated that light therapy is usually helpful in treating this seasonal disorder, and for this purpose, you can use one of the many dedicated light boxes that are now available on the market.

But to be effective, you should make sure that the light box generates at least 10,000 lux — 100 times stronger than a normal lightbulb, meaning that a regular desk lamp won’t do — and that it has white or blue (not yellow) light.

Also, check that the light box was especially made to treat SAD, depression, and other mood disorders, and that it’s not made for a different purpose (such as treating psoriasis or other skin conditions).

Light boxes for skin treatments are another kettle of fish altogether, as they emit ultraviolet (UV) B, which is not safe for the retina. Instead, dedicated SAD treatment light boxes filter out UVs, so they’re safe to use.

Dr. Norman Ronsenthal — who first described SAD’s symptoms and pushed for it to be recognized as a valid disorder — offers some advice on how to use light therapy in his book, Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder. He writes:

  1.     Obtain a suitable light box.
  2.     Set the light box up in a convenient place at home or at work, or both.
  3.     Sit in front of the light box […] between 20 and 90 minutes each day.
  4.     Try to get as much of your light therapy as early in the morning as possible.
  5.     Be sure to sit in such a way that the correct amount of light falls on your eyes. [Dr. Marlynn Wei says it should be placed at eye level or higher, 2 feet away from you.]
  6.     Repeat this procedure each day throughout the season of risk.

At the same time, you can add to the beneficial effects of light therapy by making a little extra effort to “hunt down” natural daylight, if possible, and take advantage of it as much as you can.

You could do this by waking up earlier in the morning and going outside where the sunshine is, for as long as it lasts, to allow yourself to feel as though you’re soaking in the light and taking advantage of the whole day.

Eat well, and watch out for the carbs

Research has shown that individuals with SAD tend to eat more carbohydrate-rich foods, especially sweets and starchy foods. They also have a tendency to overeat during these periods of “seasonal lows,” so it’s important that they look after their diets in order to feel more energized.
vegan suitable food

Over the winter months, as we get less and less sunlight, vitamin D is insufficiently produced in our bodies. Research has also suggested that ensuring we get enough vitamin D may help to prevent and manage depression.

To make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin D during autumn and winter, you could take dietary supplements. Vitamin D is also found in a range of foods that you can easily incorporate into your daily meals.

Salmon, for instance, is naturally rich in D-3, though some studies suggest that wild-caught salmon contains much larger amounts of the vitamin than farmed salmon.

Eggs are a good source of the vitamins D-2 and D-3, and mushrooms also have a high D-2 content, though research suggests that we should stick to wild mushrooms rather than cultivated ones.

Some studies also suggest that people with mood disorders may have an omega-3 fatty acid deficit, and so supplementation of this nutrient may help to keep symptoms in check.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some good food sources of omega-3 include various types of fish (salmon, herring trout, and mackerel), chia seeds, flaxseed, and soybean.

Also, research published last year in the American Journal of Public Health points to fruit and vegetables as the foods of choice when it comes to increasing happiness and well-being.

“Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human [physical] health,” notes study co-author Prof. Andrew Oswald.

The psychological benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption were confirmed by a recent study, from February this year, which focused on the positive effect of a “green” diet on young adults — one of the groups most at risk of SAD.

Make an effort to stay active

Precisely because some of the main symptoms of SAD are fatigue and lethargy, specialists advise that making an effort to stay physically active can offer a boost of energy and improve mood.

A review of existing studies surrounding SAD and the effects of exercise on this disorder suggests that the low moods and other symptoms involved in it may be caused by disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm regulates our sleep, eating, and activity patterns according to day-night cycles.

Review author Benny Peiser — from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moore University in the United Kingdom — explains that taking part in regular physical exercise during the autumn and winter months can help to maintain an appropriate circadian rhythm, thereby keeping SAD symptoms at bay.

A study recently covered by Medical News Today also demonstrates that even low-intensity exercise done for as little as 1 hour per week can effectively counteract depression.

Don’t give in to reclusiveness

On those dark, cold days, you may be sorely tempted to just stay inside and hide from the weather and world alike. If you have more severe SAD symptoms, going out may seem unachievable, but if you want to keep the low moods and lethargy at bay, then you should do your best to resist these solitary tendencies.

Try not to give up on seeing people and doing things.

Much the same as light exercise, studies show that a leisurely walk in the great outdoors can improve your mood and well-being.

Just taking one moment every day to notice a detail in your natural surroundings, and asking yourself what feelings it elicits, can make you feel happier and more sociable, according to research from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

The American Psychological Association advise that you keep in touch with friends and family, go out with them, and speak to trusted people about what you’re experiencing. Enlisting someone else’s help in keeping you active, and helping you get out of your shell during the cold months, may make it easier to cope with the effects of SAD.

Advice regarding how best to cope with SAD from Johns Hopkins Medicine also includes finding a winter-appropriate hobby that will both keep you busy and give you pleasure, such as a DIY project or a winter sport.

Moreover, don’t forget that there is help available for people who experience SAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be effective in the treatment of this disorder, and a specialist will be able to recommend antidepressants if you find yourself struggling.

Friday 24 November 2017    By Maria Cohut   
Fact checked by Jasmin Collier


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How Your Next Meal Could Help Fight Depression And Stress

Do you find that food deeply affects your mood? Science is beginning to back up such gut feelings.

The link between poor diet and mood disorders has been long known, but what has been less clear is the direction of causality. When we’re depressed, we tend to reach for lower-quality comfort foods, but can more comfort foods contribute to depression? And if we’re depressed, can improving our diets improve our symptoms?

New research is helping to pave the way toward greater clarity. One small but important trial was recently published from Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre (the center’s very name a testament this burgeoning line of research). It involved men and women who were taking antidepressants and/or were in regular psychotherapy.

All of the 67 subjects had unhealthy diets at the start, with low intakes of fruits and vegetables, little daily dietary fiber and lots of sweets, processed meats and salty snacks. Half of the subjects were then placed on a healthy diet focusing on extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, eggs, fruits, vegetables, fatty fish and grass-fed beef. The other half continued eating their usual diets and were required to attend social support sessions.

Before and after the three-month study, the subjects’ symptoms were graded on a common depression scale. After three months of healthier eating, those in the intervention group saw their scores improve on average by about 11 points. Thirty-two percent had achieved scores so low that they no longer met criteria for depression. Meanwhile, people in the social support group with no dietary intervention improved by only about 4 points; only 8% achieved remission.

What this early research demonstrates is that even for patients with major depression, food may be a powerful antidepressant. And with no negative side effects.

One way a healthier diet may improve one’s mood is through our bodies’ immune systems. The same process by which we respond to acute injuries or threats also puts out fires initiated by our diets and lifestyles. That’s why poor diet can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation, a risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. These sorts of illnesses now account for 60% of deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

disease & diet

Though the mechanisms linking inflammation to depression are just beginning to be understood, other studies involving compounds with a known anti-inflammatory effect, such as curcumin (a component of the spice turmeric), have also demonstrated some efficacy in reducing symptoms. Though the studies are small and warrant further research, they strengthen the notion that depression may be the brain’s response to inflammation in the body, at least for some.

Whole, healthy foods also provide micronutrients that help the brain better cope with daily stress. Today, with 90% of Americans deficient in at least one vitamin or mineral, it has left our brains weaponless as it attempts to repair from the damage. Case in point: Nearly 50% of Americans don’t consume enough magnesium, a mineral involved in DNA repair. And yet it is easily found in foods such as almonds, spinach and avocado.

Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, eggs and even properly raised red meat. A large study found that women who consumed less than three to four servings of red meat per week were twice as likely to have a diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorder. The study was performed in Australia, where more of their meat comes from grass-fed cows, a caveat the researchers call out as noteworthy.

What foods should we avoid consuming to maintain a healthy, balanced mood? Sugar and highly refined, processed oils, which include canola, corn and soybean oil (the use of which has skyrocketed up to 1,000% over the past century). These foods have been linked to mental health issues including depression, and both now saturate our food supply, constituting in large part the ultra-processed foods that now make up 60% of our caloric intake. These foods, when consumed chronically, drive inflammation and deplete our bodies’ protective resources, compounding the damage done.

Although the science regarding diet and mood has a long way to go before being settled, there’s little reason to wait given that switching to a healthier diet may help and is definitively better for your overall health. Research suggests that a better diet may even be easier on your wallet.

Max Lugavere is a health and science journalist and the author of “Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life.”

By Max Lugavere     Tuesday, March 20, 2018
 
source: www.cnn.com


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The Type of Probiotic That May Reverse Depression

The probiotic buffered the body against the damaging effects of stress.

Depression has been reversed in mice by feeding them probiotic bacteria, new research reports.

Lactobacillus is a type of ‘good’ bacteria found in yogurt, among other foods.

The role of the gut microbiome — the bacteria which live in our gut — has become a focus of research interest recently.

Dr Alban Gaultier, who led the study, said:

“The big hope for this kind of research is that we won’t need to bother with complex drugs and side effects when we can just play with the microbiome.
It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health — and your mood.”

The scientists found that when mice in the study were put under stress, the bacteria in their gut changed.

The main change was a reduction in Lactobacillus, which was linked to depressed behaviour in the mice.

Feeding them Lactobacillus almost completely stopped their depressive behaviours.

pickles

The researchers found a mechanism for how this change in the gut led to depression (it is through a metabolite called kynurenine).

First author, Ms Ioana Marin said:

“This is the most consistent change we’ve seen across different experiments and different settings we call microbiome profiles.
This is a consistent change.
We see Lactobacillus levels correlate directly with the behavior of these mice.”

The researchers plan to continue investigating kynurenine’s role in depression, Ms Marin said:

“There has been some work in humans and quite a bit in animal models talking about how this metabolite, kynurenine, can influence behavior.
It’s something produced with inflammation that we know is connected with depression.
But the question still remains: How?
How does this molecule affect the brain?
What are the processes?
This is the road we want to take.”

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Marin et al., 2017).
MARCH 15, 2017
source: PsyBlog


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Fun Fact Friday

  • The custom of putting candles on cakes dates back to the ancient Greeks, who believed the smoke carried their thoughts up to the gods.

  • Loners, people who feel like outsiders tend to become more confident over time and are more likely to be great leaders.

 

 

  • Singing helps to reduce depression and anxiety, increases the oxygen flow to your lungs and helps you have better posture.

  • Depressed people tend to speak with longer pauses and fragmented sentences.

 

Happy Friday!
source: @Fact


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The Most Overlooked Factor in Depression Recovery

Only relatively small changes are needed to see benefits to depressive symptoms.

A healthy diet is one of the most overlooked factors in recovering from depression, recent research claims.

The Mediterranean diet in particular provides the vitamins and minerals the body and brain need.

Dr Vicent Balanzá, one of the study’s authors, explained that the brain…

“…needs an adequate intake of key nutrients, such as polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-3, essential amino acids, B-group vitamins (B12 and folate), vitamin D and minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron.
A balanced and high-quality diet, such as the Mediterranean, provides all of these, but in cases of deficiencies, nutritional supplements are advisable.”

The Mediterranean diet is good for both the brain and the body, Dr Balanzá said:

“At the population level, we had scientific evidence that Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cognitive impairment.
Now we also know that it reduces the risk of depression.
These are strong arguments to preserve a cultural -and wholesome- treasure that has been transmitted over time,”

The study explains the best way of getting the required nutrients:

“A traditional whole-food diet, consisting of higher intakes of foods such as vegetables, fruits, seafood, whole grains, lean meat, nuts, and legumes, with avoidance of processed foods, is more likely to provide the nutrients that afford resiliency against the pathogenesis of mental disorders.”

This is far from the first study to highlight the importance of diet in treating depression.

A recent study of 15,093 people who were followed over 10 years, found…

“A Mediterranean diet including fruits, vegetables and legumes can prevent depression, a large new study finds.
People only had to make relatively small changes to see the benefits.
The scientist think that depression could be partly down to a lack of essential nutrients.
People who reported eating more nuts, fruits and vegetables were considered to be following the Mediterranean diet more closely.
Those who ate more meats and sweets were considered to be moving away from the healthy diet.
The benefits of the diet are likely related to higher levels of omega 3 and other essential nutrients.”

The study was published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry (Sarris et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog