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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Eating Chili Peppers Can Help You Live Longer, Cut Risks For Heart Disease And Cancer


DALLAS, Texas — Previous studies have shown that spicy food can have a positive impact on your health. Now, a study released by the American Heart Association has a “hot” new take on the topic. Researchers say eating chili pepper isn’t just good for your health, it can help you live longer by reducing heart disease and cancer.

The study finds consuming chili peppers cuts the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 26 percent. The odds of dying from cancer decreased by 23 percent compared to people who don’t include peppers in their diet.

One of the key findings is that chili peppers act as a natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and blood-glucose regulator. This is due to the release of capsaicin into an eater’s system. This substance gives a pepper its trademark mild to intense spicy flavor.

The international appeal of chili peppers
Researchers looked at over 4,700 studies from five major health databases to gather their data. Their final report included four large studies on the health of individuals who either did or didn’t eat chili peppers. The data examined more than 570,000 people from the United States, Italy, China, and Iran.

Overall, the report finds a 25-percent drop in all causes of death among people who include chili peppers in their diet.

“We were surprised to find that in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all cause, CVD and cancer mortality. It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health,” says senior author Bo Xu of the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in a media release.

“The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer. More research, especially evidence from randomized controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”

Dr. Xu adds these findings have some limitations because the respondents ate different amount and various types of chili peppers. This makes determining if a specific variety or serving size is better for a patient’s health.

The study is being presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020.

by Chris Melore NOVEMBER 13, 2020

Source: www.studyfinds.org/eat-chili-peppers-live-longer/


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The Fruit That Boosts Weight Loss And Reduces Fat Absorption

A weight loss fruit that makes you feel full, improves your gut health, and reduces absorption of fats.

Having an avocado every day as part of your diet will increase healthy gut bacteria and reduce the absorption of fat.

The fruit is rich in fibre and monounsaturated fat, a healthy fat that lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood.

A study by Ahmed et al. (2019) suggests that avocados contain a fat molecule that could help prevent diabetes and maintain a healthy weight by improving blood glucose levels, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.

A new study has found that people who eat avocados have higher levels of gut microbes responsible for breaking down fibres and producing a number of metabolites (short-chain fatty acids) that improve gut health.

Ms Sharon Thompson, the study’s first author, said:

“We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce.

Microbial metabolites are compounds the microbes produce that influence health.

Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short chain fatty acids.

These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes.”

Bile acids are produced by the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and released into the intestine for breaking down fats from foods we eat.

Western diets are higher in fats causing more production of bile acids which can alert the gut microbiota population and cause intestinal inflammation.

The study recruited 163 overweight or obese participants and divided them into two groups receiving a normal diet.

The only difference was that one ate fresh avocados (175 g for men or 140 g for women) as part of a meal every day for 12 weeks and the other group had a similar diet but no avocados.

avocado-toast

Dr Hannah Holscher, study co-author, said:

“Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fiber in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota.

We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes.

Despite avocados being high in fat, the avocado group absorbed less fat compared to the other group.”

Dr Holscher said:

“Greater fat excretion means the research participants were absorbing less energy from the foods that they were eating.

This was likely because of reductions in bile acids, which are molecules our digestion system secretes that allow us to absorb fat.

We found that the amount of bile acids in stool was lower and the amount of fat in the stool was higher in the avocado group.”

Types of fats found in foods affect the gut microbiome differently, for example, avocados contain monounsaturated fats which are considered heart-healthy.

On top of that, avocados are high in soluble fibre: an average avocado contains 12 g of fibres which is a big portion of the daily recommended fibre intake (28 to 34 g).

Dr Holscher said:

“Less than 5% of Americans eat enough fiber.

Most people consume around 12 to 16 grams of fiber per day.

Thus, incorporating avocados in your diet can help get you closer to meeting the fiber recommendation.

Eating fiber isn’t just good for us; it’s important for the microbiome, too.

We can’t break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can.

When we consume dietary fiber, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and for us.”

People shouldn’t worry that avocados are high in calories as it is more important that it is a nutrient-dense food that contains micronutrients like fibre and potassium that we don’t get enough of.

About the author      Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.

The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition (Thompson et al., 2020).

source: PsyBlog   October 7, 2021


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Which Bread Is Best For You — Whole-Grain, Multigrain or Whole Wheat?

Hint: Check the label first and foremost

Gone are the days of eating white bread. Many people are aware that whole-grain has more nutritional heft than white, fluffy, overly milled breads, but it’s not always easy to pick a good loaf when you’re at the grocery store.

Sometimes, a refined loaf of bread can masquerade as something more nutritious. Patrol the bread aisle and you’ll see terms like whole wheat, multigrain, seven-grain, 12-grain, all-natural, organic and enriched, to name a few. Who wouldn’t throw up their hands trying to decide what to buy?

Dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, helps break down which bread is healthier and what you should stay far away from.

Look for ‘100%’ on labels

When browsing the bread aisle at your grocery store, look for the term “100% whole-grain” or “100% whole-wheat” on the package.

“If you’re wondering which is better, either one works,” says Jeffers. “Whole wheat is a whole grain.”

Although different grains offer different benefits, many whole-grain breads are primarily made with wheat. If you’re looking for a nice mix of grains, check your ingredient label. Primary ingredients should be listed first in order of the amount within the loaf (wheat, oats, flax seeds, barley, buckwheat, etc.).

“Be cautious of terms like ‘wheat’ or ‘multigrain’ that don’t mention a percentage,” she warns. “They sound healthy, but they’re probably made with partially or mostly refined white flour. Wheat flour is 75% white flour and only 25% whole-wheat.”

“Enriched” is another clever term that means the maker of the bread has added nutrients to an otherwise nutrient-free white bread. When you see that word on a label, put it down and look for something else.

Unless you find that 100% on the package and whole-wheat listed as the first ingredient on the label, the bread is simply a refined loaf of bread with synthetic nutrients added to replenish those natural nutrients lost in the milling process.

bread

Good bread makes your body happy

The benefits of eating 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain far surpass just the taste. Eating whole-grain foods within an overall healthy diet helps to lower your risk for many diseases, including:

Whole-grains are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins and many other nutrients that help to lower blood pressure, reduce gum disease, strengthen the immune system and help control weight. The Whole Grains Council reports that benefits are greatest with at least three servings per day, but every whole grain helps.

Say ‘no’ to substandard bread

Most other bread is made with grains that have been finely milled. The resulting flour is whiter and lighter — in more ways than one.

Not only does this refined flour look whiter and bake fluffier, but it also falls short of many of the nutrients essential to optimum health. Whole-grains begin as a whole grain kernel: bran, germ, endosperm.

The milling process mechanically removes the bran, which is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain and contains B vitamins and other minerals. Milling also removes the second germ layer, which is rich in Vitamin E and essential fatty acids. In the end, what’s left is the starchy center, which is ground into flour for various baking purposes.

“Refined flour lacks all of those wonderful nutrients and high-starch foods like white bread can quickly raise your blood sugar levels, putting you at risk for diseases like diabetes,” she says. “That’s why you should consider nothing but the best: 100% whole wheat or whole-grain bread.”

 November 4, 2020 / Nutrition

source: health.clevelandclinic.org


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What The Western Diet Does To The Immune System

Diets rich in two nutrients harm immune cells in the gut, putting people at high risk of intestinal infections.

A diet rich in fat and sugar damages particular immune cells named Paneth cells that produce antimicrobial molecules keeping inflammation and microbes under control.

Highly specialised Paneth cells are located in the small intestine where nutrients from food are absorbed and sent to the bloodstream.

Western diets are high in processed foods and fat and sugar, which cause Paneth cells to not work properly.

Paneth cell dysfunction cause abnormalities in the gut immune system which in turn leads to infections (disease-causing microbes) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a study has found.

Dr Ta-Chiang Liu, the study’s first author, said:

“Inflammatory bowel disease has historically been a problem primarily in Western countries such as the U.S., but it’s becoming more common globally as more and more people adopt Western lifestyles.

Our research showed that long-term consumption of a Western-style diet high in fat and sugar impairs the function of immune cells in the gut in ways that could promote inflammatory bowel disease or increase the risk of intestinal infections.”

IBD patients often have defective Paneth cells, which are responsible for setting off inflammation in the small intestine.

For instance, Paneth cells can no longer function in patients with Crohn’s disease, which is a type of IBD and marked by fatigue, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and anaemia.

The research team examined Paneth cells of 400 adults and found that the higher the body mass index (BMI) the worse these cells looked.

Frequent consumption of foods high in sugar and fat causes weight gain and has many health consequences.

These two macronutrients generally make up more than 40 percent of the calories of a typical Western diet.

The scientists fed mice a high sugar, high fat diet and in two months they became obese and had abnormal Paneth cells.

Dr Liu said:

“Eating too much of a healthy diet didn’t affect the Paneth cells.

It was the high-fat, high-sugar diet that was the problem.”

When a healthy diet replaced the Western diet, within four weeks, the Paneth cells were restored to normal.

Dr Liu said:

“This was a short-term experiment, just eight weeks.

In people, obesity doesn’t occur overnight or even in eight weeks.

It’s possible that if you have Western diet for so long, you cross a point of no return and your Paneth cells don’t recover even if you change your diet.

We’d need to do more research before we can say whether this process is reversible in people.”

In addition, deoxycholic acid (a secondary bile acid produce by bacteria in the gut) is involved in carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

Bile acid plays a key role regarding Paneth cell abnormality since it increases the activity of the farnesoid X receptor (involved in sugar and fat metabolism) and type 1 interferon (part of the immune system active in the antiviral responses) thus hindersing Paneth cell from working properly.

The study was published in the Cell Host & Microbe (Liu et al., 2021).

June 11, 2021        source:  Psyblog

fruits-veggies

Is a Plant-Centered Diet Better for Your Heart?

More evidence suggests the long-standing belief that eating low amounts of saturated fats to ward off heart disease may not be entirely correct.

A new study that followed more than 4,800 people over 32 years shows that a plant-centered diet was more likely to be associated with a lower risk of future coronary heart disease and stroke, compared with focusing on fewer saturated fats alone.

“It’s true that low-saturated fat actually lowers LDL [or bad] cholesterol, but it cannot predict cardiovascular disease,” says lead study author Yuni Choi, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. “Our research strongly supports the fact that plant-based diet patterns are good for cardiovascular health.”

To assess diet patterns of study participants, the researchers conducted three detailed diet history interviews over the follow-up period and then calculated scores for each using the A Priori Diet Quality Score (APDQS). Higher APDQS scores were associated with higher intake of nutritionally rich plant foods and less high-fat meats. While those who consumed less saturated fats and plant-centered diets had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, or lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, only the latter diet was also associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke over the long term.

Choi said targeting just single nutrients such as total or saturated fat doesn’t consider those fats found in healthy plant-based foods with cardioprotective properties, such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, and dark chocolate. Based on study results, she recommends those conscious of heart health fill their plates with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes and even a little coffee and tea, which were associated with a low risk of cardiovascular disease.

“More than 80% should be plant-sourced foods and then nonfried fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy in moderation,” she says.

“I think in focusing just on nutrients, we oversimplify the heart [health] diet hypothesis and miss the very important plant component,” says research team leader David Jacobs, PhD, professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. “If you tend to eat a plant-centered diet you will tend to eat less saturated fats because that’s just the way the plant kingdom works.”

Following a plant-centered diet is consistent with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) existing recommendations to minimize saturated fats and emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, professor, and chief of the Department of Preventive Medicine’s Nutrition Division at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and a member of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee.

“There is no question that current intakes of plant-based carbohydrate, protein and fat are below what is recommended and moving in that direction would be a nutritious improvement,” she says, noting, however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone needs to be on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Given that plant-centered diets have been associated with lowering the risk of other diseases, the researchers are now looking to better understand how APDQS scores impact chronic conditions such obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease. They’ll also be researching how diet affects gut bacteria as they expect eating plant-based foods provides more fiber and promotes healthy microbiomes.

“I think that diet patterns provide a really solid base for the public and policy makers to think about what a healthy diet really is,” Jacobs says.

SOURCES

Nutrition 2021: “Which Predicts Incident Cardiovascular Disease Better: A Plant-Centered Diet or a Low-Saturated Fat Diet? The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study.”

Yuni Choi, PhD, postdoctoral researcher, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota.

Linda Van Horn, PhD, professor, chief of the Department of Preventive Medicine’s Nutrition Division, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago.

David Jacobs, PhD, professor of epidemiology and community health, University of Minnesota.7

By Rosalind Stefanac           June 10, 2021         source:   Medscape Medical News    WebMD


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10 Science-Backed Ways To Avoid Depression

Depression is an extremely common experience, which can be hard to escape from once an episode has begun.

Psychological research has found all sorts of ways that the chances of developing depression can be reduced.

From social connection, through building resilience to taking up a hobby, there are many science-backed methods for lowering depression risk.

1. Social connection

Social connection is the strongest protective factor against depression.

People who feel able to tell others about their problems and who visit more often with friends and family have a markedly lower risk of becoming depressed.

The data, derived from over 100,000 people, assessed modifiable factors that could affect depression risk including sleep, diet, physical activity and social interaction.

Dr Jordan Smoller, study co-author, explained the results:

“Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion.”

2. Build resilience

Recalling positive memories helps to build resilience against depression.

Reminiscing about happy events and having a store of these to draw on is one way of building up resilience.

Similarly, getting nostalgic has been found to help fight loneliness and may also protect mental health.

Thinking back to better times, even if they are tinged with some sadness, helps people cope with challenging times.

3. Regulate your mood naturally

Being able to naturally regulate mood is one of the best weapons against depression.

Mood regulation means choosing activities that increase mood, like exercise, when feeling low and doing dull activities like housework when spirits are higher.

Some of the best ways of improving mood are being in nature, taking part in sport, engaging with culture, chatting and playing.

Other mood enhancing activities include listening to music, eating, helping others and childcare.

4. Eat healthily

Eating more fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of depression.

Reducing fat intake and increasing levels of omega-3 are also linked to a lower risk of depression.

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of fruits and vegetables may account for their beneficial effect.

Vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables may also help to lower the markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein.

Similarly, adding more fibre to the diet decreases depression risk.

This is probably why many studies link vegetarian and vegan diets to a lower risk of depression.

5. Stop obsessing about failures

Excessive negative thinking about unfulfilled dreams is linked to depression and anxiety.

When people repeatedly compare a mental vision of their ideal self with the failure to reach it, this can produce psychological distress.

Aspirations can be damaging as well as motivating, depending on how the mind deals with them and what results life happens to serve up.

Thinking obsessively about a perceived failure is psychological damaging.

depression

6. Reduce sedentary activities

Cutting down on screen-time strongly reduces depression risk, whether or not people have previously experienced a depressive episode.

The results come from data covering almost 85,000 people.

The study found that another important lifestyle factor linked to less depression is adequate sleep — around 7 to 9 hours is optimal.

Again, adequate sleep improves mood even in people who have  not experienced depression.

7. Be in nature

Being in nature relaxes the mind, which in turn enhances the immune system.

This may explain why nature has a remarkably beneficial effect on a wide range of diseases including depression, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, obesity and many more.

Dr Ming Kuo, who carried out the research, explained how nature helps:

“When we feel completely safe, our body devotes resources to long-term investments that lead to good health outcomes — growing, reproducing, and building the immune system.

When we are in nature in that relaxed state, and our body knows that it’s safe, it invests resources toward the immune system.”

8. Take up a hobby

People who take up any hobbies reduce their risk of depression by almost one-third.

Pursuing hobbies increases the chance of a depressed person recovering by 272 percent.

Hobbies are usually considered informal leisure activities that are not done for money and do not involve physical activity.

Things like music, drawing, sewing and collecting would be good examples.

To be beneficial to mental health, hobbies do not necessarily need to be social.

However, some studies do find that social hobbies can be particularly beneficial to happiness.

9. Get fit

People high in aerobic and muscular fitness are at half the risk of depression.

Being fit also predicts a 60 percent lower chance of depression.

The study tracked over 150,000 middle-aged people in the UK.

Their aerobic fitness was tested on a stationary bike and muscle strength with a handgrip test.

After seven years, people who were fitter had better mental health.

Those with combined aerobic and muscular fitness had a 98 percent lower risk of depression and 60 percent lower risk of anxiety.

10. Mindfulness

Mindfulness helps to reduce depression, anxiety and stress for many people, new research finds.

However, its effects on depression and anxiety may be relatively small, with the highest quality studies finding little benefit.

The best advice is probably to try and see if it works for you, but do not be surprised if its effects on depression and anxiety are modest.

Here are some common mindfulness exercises that are easy to fit into your day and 10 ways mindfulness benefits the mind.

Want more suggestions? Here are 8 more everyday tools for fighting depression.

May 21, 2021       source: Psyblog


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2 Portions Of Mushrooms Halve Risk Of Memory Loss

Any variety of mushrooms may well have the beneficial effect as they all contain an antioxidant called ergothioneine.

Two portions of mushrooms a week halve the risk of memory loss, research finds.

Mild cognitive impairment, as it is known, is frequently a precursor to dementia.

It involves forgetfulness, along with problems with language and attention.

However, the problems are normally subtle — certainly more so than dementia.

Older people eating around half a plate of mushrooms per week, though, were at half the risk of developing the condition.

Even one small portion of mushrooms a week may be enough to have a meaningful effect, the scientists think.

Dr Lei Feng, the study’s first author, said:

 

“This correlation is surprising and encouraging.

It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline.”

The study involved over 600 people over 60-years-old in Singapore who were followed over six years.

They were tested for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) along with being asked about their dietary habits.

Dr Feng said:

 

“People with MCI are still able to carry out their normal daily activities.

So, what we had to determine in this study is whether these seniors had poorer performance on standard neuropsychologist tests than other people of the same age and education background.”

 

mushrooms

 

The study found that six commonly eaten mushrooms were linked to a 50 percent lower risk of cognitive decline.

These were:

 

  • golden,
  • oyster,
  • shiitake,
  • white button,
  • dried,
  • and canned mushrooms.

However, any variety of mushrooms may well have the beneficial effect as they all contain an antioxidant called ergothioneine.

Dr Irwin Cheah, study co-author, explained:

 

“We’re very interested in a compound called ergothioneine (ET).

ET is a unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which humans are unable to synthesise on their own.

But it can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms.”

The researchers will now conduct a randomised controlled trial of a pure compound of ET.

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Feng et al., 2019).

 

April 30, 2021       source: PsyBlog

 


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One Portion Of These Foods Boosts Mental Health

People who eat more fruit and vegetables have better mental health, research finds.

Indeed, the more fruit and vegetables people eat, the better their state of mind.

Eating just one extra portion of fruit and vegetables per day is enough to measurably improve mental well-being.

Just one portion has the same positive effect as going for a walk on 8 extra days a month.

Only around one-in-ten people in the US eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.

The recommended amount in the US is 1½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables.

Dr Neel Ocean, the study’s first author, said:

“It’s well-established that eating fruit and vegetables can benefit physical health.

Recently, newer studies have suggested that it may also benefit psychological well-being.

Our research builds on previous work in Australia and New Zealand by verifying this relationship using a much bigger UK sample.

While further work is needed to demonstrate cause and effect, the results are clear: people who do eat more fruit and vegetables report a higher level of mental well-being and life satisfaction than those who eat less.”

The study followed many thousands of people across seven years.

The study controlled for other factors, like lifestyle, education, health status and other aspects of the diet.

Dr Peter Howley, study co-author, said:

“There appears to be accumulating evidence for the psychological benefits of fruits and vegetables.

Despite this, the data show that the vast majority of people in the UK still consume less than their five-a-day.

Encouraging better dietary habits may not just be beneficial to physical health in the long run but may also improve mental well-being in the shorter term.”

The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine (Ocean et al., 2019).

April 8, 2021

source: PsyBlog

veggies

Link Between Dietary Fiber And Depression
Partially Explained By Gut-Brain Interactions

New study suggests that higher daily dietary fiber intake is linked to lower risk for depression in premenopausal women

Fiber is a commonly recommended part of a healthy diet. That’s because it’s good for your health in so many ways – from weight management to reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. A new study also finds that it might be linked with a reduced risk of depression, especially in premenopausal women. Study results are published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Depression is a common and serious mental health condition that not only affects a person’s ability to perform daily activities but can also lead to suicide. It’s estimated that more than 264 million people worldwide have depression, with numbers increasing over time. This debilitating condition is much more common in women, and there are a number of theories as to why this is the case. Changes in hormone levels in perimenopausal women have been linked to depression.

Because of the serious consequences and prevalence of depression, numerous studies have been undertaken to evaluate treatment options beyond the use of antidepressants. Lifestyle interventions, including diet, exercise, and mindfulness, may help to reduce the risk for depression. In this new study involving more than 5,800 women of various ages, researchers specifically sought to investigate the relationship between dietary fiber intake and depression in women by menopause status. Dietary fiber is found mainly in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Previous studies have already suggested the benefits of fiber for mental health, but this is the first known study to categorize the association in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. It also included a broader range of ages in participants and involved women who underwent natural, as well as surgical, menopause.

The study confirmed an inverse association between dietary-fiber intake and depression in premenopausal women after adjusting for other variables, but no significant difference was documented in postmenopausal women. Research has suggested that estrogen depletion may play a role in explaining why postmenopausal women don’t benefit as much from increased dietary fiber, because estrogen affects the balance of gut microorganisms found in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. The link between dietary fiber and depression may be partially explained by gut-brain interactions, because it is theorized that changes in gut-microbiota composition may affect neurotransmission. Fiber improves the richness and diversity of gut microbiota.

Results are published in the article “Inverse association between dietary fiber intake and depression in premenopausal women: a nationwide population-based survey.”

“This study highlights an important link between dietary fiber intake and depression, but the direction of the association is unclear in this observational study, such that women with better mental health may have had a healthier diet and consumed more fiber, or a higher dietary fiber intake may have contributed to improved brain health by modulating the gut microbiome or some combination. Nonetheless, it has never been more true that ‘you are what you eat,’ given that what we eat has a profound effect on the gut microbiome which appears to play a key role in health and disease,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

Journal Reference:

Yunsun Kim, Minseok Hong, Seonah Kim, Woo-young Shin, Jung-ha Kim. Inverse association between dietary fiber intake and depression in premenopausal women. Menopause, 2020; Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001711

January 6, 2021

Source: The North American Menopause Society (NAMS)        www.sciencedaily.com


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Foods That Can Reduce Stress

Stress levels may be high these days, but did you know that what we choose to eat can help to reduce stress, ultimately allowing us to take charge of our mental health?

“Instead of thinking of food as ‘stress eating’ or ‘guilty pleasures,’ we can think of using food to shape the lens in how we experience stress,” said psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of the upcoming book “Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety.”

Taking control of stress with the foods we eat can help to counter inflammation throughout the body, as well as elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which can otherwise lead to high blood sugar, increased appetite and weight gain, among other symptoms, according to Felicia Porrazza, a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian who helps stressed-out clients find natural ways to improve their overall wellness.

Feeling less stressed already? I hope so! Here are some food suggestions to help you live in a state of calm.

Open your palate to oily fish

Try out anchovies, sardines and herring, in addition to salmon, trout and mackerel. These foods are a rich source of stress-busting omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which play an important role in brain health.

“Increasing omega-3 fatty acids can help to regulate how our bodies handle stress,” Porrazza said. Stress can increase inflammation in the body so if we can reduce inflammation by consuming more omega-3s, we could also potentially reduce cortisol levels, which could improve health and wellness, Porrazza explained. In fact, omega 3s help to blunt the cortisol response after acute stress, some research has shown. On the flip side, low levels of omega 3s may affect the function of the HPA, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, axis, which plays a role in how our bodies respond to stress, according to Porrazza.

Omega-3 fats might help to reduce the symptoms of clinical anxiety, concluded a recent review and meta-analysis of 19 clinical trials involving over 2,200 participants from 11 countries.

Consuming high amounts of these fatty acids in fish may help protect us from depression, too, according to other research.

Need some ideas besides grilled salmon? Try a Caesar salad with an anchovy vinaigrette dressing, or add some herring to your Sunday bagel order.

Mix it up with shellfish

Mussels, clams and oysters are rich in vitamin B12 in addition to omega-3s, which are both prominent nutrients in diets connected with lower anxiety, Ramsey explained.

In fact, B vitamins, including vitamin B12, help to maintain the nervous system, and stress can cause a slight increase in the body’s requirements of these B vitamins, explained Martha McKittrick, a New York City-based registered dietitian who provides nutrition counseling and wellness coaching to many stressed-out New Yorkers.

Vitamin B deficiencies can increase the risk of developing stress-related symptoms such as irritability, lethargy and depression.

Since vitamin B12 is not produced by plants, if you are vegan, you should ensure that you are consuming vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement.

Consume more vitamin C

Foods such as red and green peppers, oranges, grapefruit and kiwi are rich in vitamin C, which in high doses has antidepressant effects and improves mood, and may be helpful in treating stress-related disorders.

Other research has revealed that vitamin C may help reduce anxiety among high school students.

To boost your vitamin C intake, aim to include one vitamin C-rich food with a meal, and another for a snack. You could also try one of my favorites: dark chocolate-dipped kiwis or oranges for dessert!

Bananas

 

Choose healthy carbs

Carbohydrates can help to boost serotonin production in the brain, which is key in influencing our mood. “Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for happiness and well-being,” Porrazza said.

Serotonin has a calming effect and also promotes sleep and relaxation, McKittrick explained. In fact, low levels of brain serotonin, research has suggested, can lead to increased vulnerability to psychosocial stress.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is necessary for the production of serotonin in the brain. Complex carbs including whole grains and vegetables can help boost levels of serotonin because they make tryptophan more available in the brain.

Carbs like soybeans and peas also deliver a small dose of protein, which can help to balance blood glucose levels. This benefit is important, since fluctuations in blood glucose can cause irritability and worsen stress levels.

Additionally, if you eat too many highly processed carbs that are loaded with sugar and lack protein or healthy fats, like cookies and sweets, you can experience blood sugar spikes and crashes, “and that can make you feel more stressed,” McKittrick added.

Fill up on fermented foods

Fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, tempeh and sauerkraut contain friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which have the ability to reduce stress and cortisol levels.

In fact, randomized controlled trials featuring probiotics suggest a causal link between the gut microbiota and stress responding.

Feeling shy? Fermented foods may help reduce symptoms of social anxiety, too, research has shown. These probiotic-rich foods may also help control negative thoughts that are associated with low moods.

How does it all work? Our gut bacteria produce about 95% of our body’s serotonin supply, which can positively affect how we feel, according to Porrazza. On the flip side, stress can increase inflammation and gut dysbiosis, which is basically an imbalance of the gut microbiota, and this can negatively influence mood.

Other fermented foods include sourdough bread, kimchi, miso and pickles.

Ramsey fights stress with a kefir-rich banana smoothie. “I get a good dose of potassium from the banana and I add nuts, cinnamon and cacao for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a great energy and brain boost.”

Bananas are also a source of vitamin B6, which helps in the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin.

Munch on magnesium-rich foods

A lot of times when you are stressed out, your magnesium levels can become depleted, McKittrick explained. “If you have a magnesium-deficient diet, it can raise stress hormones, so it is important to eat magnesium-rich foods, like leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds; legumes; and whole grains,” she said.

Conquer stress with crunchy foods

“A lot of my clients, when they think about crunchy foods, they think of chips, but sometimes you can manage stress with healthier crunchy foods like celery and carrots with hummus,” Porrazza said.

Cutting up an apple and then munching on it can also release stress, as Porrazza has observed with her clients. “Doing something with their hands can help them take themselves out of their head and give them a little bit of a mindful moment, which can take them out of the stress of the moment,” she added.

Take a tea break

Green, black and oolong teas are rich in theanine, an amino acid that helps reduce stress and promote calm feelings.

These teas are also rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which helps protect against disease.

Black tea in particular has been studied for its role in stress recovery and reduction in cortisol levels.

And while there isn’t enough research to show that chamomile reduces stress, the act of sitting and drinking a cup of this herbal tea may be calming for some, Porrazza explained.

Other stress-busting diet tips

Lastly, there are a few diet strategies to avoid, in order to feel less stressed. One is to consume less caffeine.

Caffeine has effects on the brain and nervous system and can elevate cortisol levels and exacerbate the effects of stress on the body,” McKittrick said.

Because of caffeine’s effects, it’s important to pay attention to how your body responds to caffeine. “If I am stressed, I can only have half a cup of coffee,” McKittrick added.

And it’s important to not go too long without eating. Doing so can cause low blood sugar, which can make you feel more irritable and worsen stress. “It’s very individual, but for most I would say don’t go more than four to five hours without food – but pay attention to your own body,” McKittrick said.

By Lisa Drayer, CNN        January 23, 2021

source : CNN


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The Weight Loss Diet That Automatically Stops Overeating

Unlike the Western diet, this diet naturally puts you off overeating.
No matter how much you like to eat, a Mediterranean-style diet can protect you from overeating.
According to a study, a Mediterranean diet stops the feeling of hunger and over-consumption, unlike the Western diet that causes prediabetes, obesity, and liver disease.
However, a Mediterranean diet can have similar amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and protein to other types of diets because what we eat is important.
Generally, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, olive oil, fish, and seafood are plentiful in the Mediterranean diet.
Researchers have found that animals on a Mediterranean diet didn’t eat all the available food and so didn’t put on weight.
Professor Carol Shively, the study’s first author, said:

“By comparison, the animals on a Western diet ate far more than they needed and gained weight.”

The study compared the impact of consuming a Mediterranean diet with a Western diet on monkeys.
The Western diet was mainly from animal sources, whereas the Mediterranean diet was from plant products but with the same amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Professor Shively said:
“What we found was that the group on the Mediterranean diet actually ate fewer calories, had lower body weight and had less body fat than those on the Western diet.”
The results show that in contrast to a Western diet, a Mediterranean diet averted binge eating, prediabetes, and obesity.
Moreover, the Mediterranean diet was shown to protect the subjects from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
The build up of excessive fat in the liver causes this condition which leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
NAFLD is a consequence of obesity and sadly it is predicted that one-third of the United States population will have the disease by 2030.
NAFLD is becoming a more frequent reason for liver transplants in young American adults.
Professor Shively said:
“Diet composition is a critically important contributor to the U.S. public health, and unfortunately those at the greatest risk for obesity and related costly chronic diseases also have the poorest quality diets.
The Western diet was developed and promoted by companies who want us to eat their food, so they make it hyper-palatable, meaning it hits all our buttons so we overconsume.
Eating a Mediterranean diet should allow people to enjoy their food and not overeat, which is such a problem in this country.
We hope our findings will encourage people to eat healthier foods that are also enjoyable, and improve human health.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the journal Obesity (Shively et al., 2020). 
source: Psyblog
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FODMAP Diet: What You Need to Know

You may have heard of the FODMAP diet from a friend or on the internet. When people say “FODMAP diet,” they usually mean a diet low in FODMAP — certain sugars that may cause intestinal distress. This diet is designed to help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) figure out which foods are problematic and which foods reduce symptoms.

“The low FODMAP diet is a temporary eating plan that’s very restrictive,” says Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Hazel Galon Veloso, M.D. “It’s always good to talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, but especially with the low FODMAP diet since it eliminates so many foods — it’s not a diet anyone should follow for long. It’s a short discovery process to determine what foods are troublesome for you.”

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine absorbs poorly. Some people experience digestive distress after eating them. Symptoms include:

  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach bloating
  • Gas and flatulence

How does the low FODMAP diet work?

Low FODMAP is a three-step elimination diet:

  1. First, you stop eating certain foods (high FODMAP foods).
  2. Next, you slowly reintroduce them to see which ones are troublesome.
  3. Once you identify the foods that cause symptoms, you can avoid or limit them while enjoying everything else worry-free.

“We recommend following the elimination portion of the diet for only two to six weeks,” says Veloso. “This reduces your symptoms and if you have SIBO, it can help decrease abnormally high levels of intestinal bacteria. Then every three days, you can add a high FODMAP food back into your diet, one at a time, to see if it causes any symptoms. If a particular high FODMAP food causes symptoms, then avoid this long term.”

What can I eat on the FODMAP diet?

Foods that trigger symptoms vary from person to person.

To ease IBS and SIBO symptoms, it’s essential to avoid high FODMAP foods that aggravate the gut, including:

  • Dairy-based milk, yogurt and ice cream
  • Wheat-based products such as cereal, bread and crackers
  • Beans and lentils
  • Some vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, onions and garlic
  • Some fruits, such as apples, cherries, pears and peaches

Instead, base your meals around low FODMAP foods such as:

  • Eggs and meat
  • Certain cheeses such as brie, Camembert, cheddar and feta
  • Almond milk
  • Grains like rice, quinoa and oats
  • Vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini
  • Fruits such as grapes, oranges, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple

Get a full list of FODMAP food from your doctor or nutritionist.

Who should try it?

The low FODMAP diet is part of the therapy for those with IBS and SIBO. Research has found that it reduces symptoms in up to 86% of people.

Because the diet can be challenging during the first, most restrictive phase, it’s important to work with a doctor or dietitian, who can ensure you’re following the diet correctly — which is crucial to success — and maintaining proper nutrition.

“Anyone who is underweight shouldn’t try this on their own,” says Veloso. “The low FODMAP diet isn’t meant for weight loss, but you can lose weight on it because it eliminates so many foods. For someone at an already too low weight, losing more can be dangerous.”

How a Doctor Can Help

Dietary changes can have a big impact on IBS and SIBO symptoms, but doctors often use other therapies as well. Antibiotics can quickly reduce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, while laxatives and low-dose antidepressants can relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

A combination of dietary changes, medications and stress management techniques is often the best approach. Learn how you can work with a doctor to find the SIBO and IBS treatments that work well for you.

Reviewed By:  Hazel Galon Veloso, M.D.


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How Anxiety and Your Diet are Connected, According to Experts

The baseline existential dread of the pandemic has made me more attuned than ever to my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms. These days, I’m especially mindful about not only checking in with my therapist and refilling my medication on time, but also about my intake of caffeine, booze, and foods I have trouble digesting, all of which seem to worsen my anxiety.
For the past several years, researchers have also been interested in the connection between what we eat and how we feel. Along the way, anti-anxiety diets have emerged, along with lists of foods to eat and avoid to keep anxiety at bay. Ever the skeptical health journalist, though, I wonder whether we have enough evidence to conclude that certain foods can increase or decrease anxiety. Can you really manage your anxiety through diet?
According to the experts I interviewed, the general idea that what you eat can impact your anxiety levels is consistent with the research so far. But they caution that the effects of specific foods on anxiety aren’t entirely clear, and they remain wary of broad recommendations about what to eat and what to avoid in order manage anxiety. Last but certainly not least, remixing your diet can’t replace therapy or medication.
“Quite a bit of research” shows that staying hydrated and following a balanced diet, with minimal caffeine and alcohol, can affect mental health, says Sarah Adler, a clinical associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford Medicine. We know caffeine is a stimulant, while alcohol can cause a rebound in anxiety following the short-term relief it provides, and it disrupts sleep, which “really primes your body to be more anxious.” We also know your body metabolizes the complex carbs in whole foods slower than the simple sugars in processed foods, which helps stabilize your blood sugar, creating an overall sense of calm.
This is consistent with what we know about the trajectory anxiety tends to follow: it feeds on itself, growing until it plateaus, then resolves, says Petros Levounis, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “If you sustain this curve, meaning, if you stay with the anxiety, and your body experiences the plateau and the resolution, it teaches your body little by little, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he explains. “Your anxiety gets a little better.”
Aborting your anxiety, though — not only by physically fleeing the source of it, but chemically, by consuming alcohol or processed sugar, for example — makes this lesson harder for your body to learn, worsening your anxiety in the long run. These ingredients have an immediate, satisfying effect on your central nervous system. Complex carbohydrates that take time to digest allow you to sit with your anxiety.
Beyond healthy eating guidelines, though, a vast amount of literature has surfaced about the gut-brain connection, Adler tells me. Your gut, a.k.a., your intestines, “has something like 100 million neurons, and those neurons help you produce neurotransmitters,” including “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin. “Whether [the neurons are] firing properly is highly influenced by what’s inside your gut.” Specifically, the balance of the bacterial community that inhabits in your gut — your gut microbiome — “plays a really important role in the function of those neurons.”
And now, scientists are just beginning to understand how specific nutrients might directly affect anxiety. An analysis of human studies associated treatment with omega-3 fatty acid, found at high levels in fish and seafood, with reduced anxiety symptoms. Adler cites studies that have demonstrated, for example, that diets low in magnesium increase anxiety-related behaviors in mice, suggesting that magnesium-rich foods like chard, nuts, seeds, and whole grains “can potentially have an impact on anxiety.” Some foods with possibly anxiety-lowering properties have been shown to increase the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. The results are preliminary but promising.
Some anti-anxiety diets are based partly on the theory that links anxiety to inflammation, and call for eliminating supposedly pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, while upping your intake of anti-inflammatory foods like turkey and turmeric, for a few weeks. Indeed, “anxiety is generally thought to be correlated with a lower inflammation state,” Adler says. But “I think I would be really mindful of telling to people to cut out things.” Anxiety is associated with disordered eating behaviors, so heavily restrictive diets might make you more susceptible to them if you already struggle with anxiety.
Levounis is also wary of recommendations of foods based on whether they increase or decrease inflammation. “I’m not sure we’re at the point where we can pinpoint foods and how they relate to pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects,” he says. Suggesting or advising against a pro- or anti-inflammatory food to manage anxiety requires first, proving it’s pro- or anti-inflammatory, and then, whether eating it even translates to alleviating or worsening anxiety. “It’s a two-step process. I’m not sure if we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s on it.”
Adler also cautions against making “blanket recommendations for everyone,” since responses to specific foods vary from person to person. Instead, she advises being mindful of how different foods make you feel, not just in the moment, but the next day, as well. Maybe cut out a category of food, like processed foods, for a period of time, with the intention of noting how you feel. Then, gradually reintroduce them, asking yourself if you feel any differently when doing so. This way, you can identify specific foods within a category that affect your anxiety.
Particularly if you have an anxiety disorder — anxiety that impairs your ability to function as opposed to a healthy response to a stressful situation — you don’t want to address it solely through diet. “It’s concerning to think that somebody may rely on choice of food to treat bona fide psychiatric disorders while we do have treatments that have been scientifically proven to help,” like medication and therapy, Levounis says. If you have an anxiety disorder and want to experiment with your diet, he suggests speaking to a nutritionist or primary care doctor, but without neglecting tried and true treatments.
She believes therapy would ideally include talking about other factors related to emotional well-being, such as diet and exercise. “Managing your diet is a part of managing your anxiety,” she says. After all, any self-sabotaging habits you engage in beyond therapy can undermine the hard work you do within it. Rather than directing you to change your diet in a certain way, it can give you an understanding of “all the levers you can pull to help you reduce your anxiety.”
The idea of diet as one of several tools to manage anxiety really resonates. Personally, I’ll stick to my healthy-ish diet, along with therapy and medication, without getting too caught up in whether I should be eating X or Y and focusing on what makes me feel good.
By Melissa Pandika      Jan. 21, 2021
source: www.mic.com

How To Help A Friend With Anxiety When You’re Struggling Yourself

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to assist a loved one with their mental health, that’s OK. Here’s what therapists recommend.
Anxiety levels are through the roof, which can only be expected in a pandemic – and sadly some friendships are feeling the strain as a result.
Friends are catching up on Zoom, messaging on Whatsapp and in some cases meeting one-on-one to chew the fat over the pandemic, subsequent lockdowns and the huge life – and therefore, mental – impact it’s having.
Anxiety levels appear to remain the same as they were back in April, according to a survey by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is monitoring the social impacts of the coronavirus in Britain.
Its most recent survey revealed 76% of adults are now “very or somewhat” worried about the effect of the coronavirus on their life – this has increased gradually since the end of the summer.
It’s getting to the point where some friendships are feeling increasingly strained, and sometimes one-sided – people are playing host to their friends’ venting sessions while struggling to deal with their own anxieties – and finding it hard to juggle the two.
“My friend unloads her anxiety on me, and now I feel drained,” was the title of a Guardian advice column submission that had heads bobbing in agreement.
“It’s becoming less about having conversations and more about listening to an exhausting monologue,” the advice-seeker wrote of their relationship with an anxious friend in the pandemic. They just didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with all of that anxiety, in addition to their own.
So, how can you support an anxious friend?
It can be hard to know where to begin when supporting someone who is anxious – especially as we all experience anxiety differently, and at varying levels. Not everyone has lots of people they can rely on for support, either.
A good place to start is by stopping and specifically asking your friend (or loved one) what they might want or need, says psychotherapist and member of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, Rakhi Chand.
This could be a distraction – why not chat about something that doesn’t involve the timeframe for a coronavirus vaccine or the state of American politics? – or it could just be offering a listening ear.

Some of the best support you can offer is letting your friend know you’re there to support them, and you can understand and empathize with how they are feeling, says psychotherapist Lucy Fuller. But it can be “very difficult” to be in the presence of someone who is feeling really anxious when you yourself are feeling that way, she adds.

If this resonates with you, it might be helpful to ask yourself what you need in a given moment. Chand says, for example, that sometimes she knows she needs fresh air or exercise to take her mind off concerns, and at other times she needs to sit and dissect the issues with her loved one.
Don’t dismiss your own anxiety in the process, she adds. “I think many of us are good at subtly dismissing ourselves by ending sentences with things like ‘but I’m really lucky, lots of people have it much worse.’ Whilst perspective is good, notice where you are on a spectrum of dismissing yourself. Too much of dismissing your anxiety won’t help it ultimately.”
Be gentle on yourself if you know you just haven’t got the bandwidth at that time, on that particular day, to shoulder someone else’s concerns. And do feel free to let them know that – albeit kindly.
“I would suggest being honest and letting them know that you are sorry it is so difficult for them, but that you are also on a cliff edge and can’t cope with it all right now,” suggests Fuller. “Comfort might be gained from just being together, even not talking.”
One way of doing this might be taking a walk together in natural and beautiful surroundings (a forest perhaps, along the coast, or even around the block or park) so you’re both moving away from the biggest points of stress for an hour.
“Try to share the activity of taking in the surroundings and being in the moment,” says Fuller. “There can be comfort gained from being in the presence of someone you love or have great respect for, without sharing words, but experiencing a parallel sense of calm.”
It’s also worth noting that if you are regularly finding you simply can’t deal with a friend’s anxieties because you feel under a lot of strain, it may be a sign that you too should seek some help. “If you regularly haven’t got space to support or listen to them then maybe it’s time to speak to a professional,” says Chand.
anxiety
What not to do
Therapists generally advise against trying to fix the problem for your friend – unless they specifically ask for your advice. The listening is more important.
“Often the last thing people need when they are feeling wobbly is for someone they rely on to try to fix the problem, or tell them what they ‘should’ be doing in order to make themselves feel better,” says Fuller. “It isn’t always as simple as that, so by coming supportively ‘alongside’ someone who is experiencing emotional difficulties is a very comforting way of supporting them.”
Telling a friend that you know how they feel isn’t usually helpful either, adds Fuller, “as it takes away the seriousness of the emotional condition that they are experiencing”.
Similarly, she cautions against your friendship catch-ups turning into an “anxiety competition” – which can develop, consciously or subconsciously.
“To say or suggest to someone that they don’t feel as bad as you diminishes their experience and can shame them into thinking that it isn’t safe to share their feelings with you,” she says. So best not to go down that route.
While venting is a “very healthy and important way to alleviate stress and anxiety,” ultimately if either of you need to vent more and you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by everything, doing so to a professional in person or using a mental health helpline might be a good solution.
This story originally appeared in HuffPost UK.
By Natasha Hinde        11/12/2020

How To De-clutter Your Life
And Reduce Anxiety In 10 Steps

You don’t need Marie Kondo to save you.

Last summer, mere months after swearing that I wasn’t going to have a second baby, I found out I was having a second baby. Oh, universe.

Of all the varied emotions (most of them happy, for the record) I felt over “li’l surprise,” as we’ve come to call him, one of the most prevalent was panic over how to fit him in our two-bedroom, already overflowing, toddler-dominated townhouse. Like, actually, where is this baby going to go? A drawer? It might be a drawer.

This panic quickly morphed to full-fledged anxiety over the clutter I find myself surrounded by on a daily basis. Toys everywhere. An entirely unusable basement thanks to boxes we never unpacked from our last move. A shame-closet so stuffed with junk we can’t even open the door.

When I was about 12 weeks pregnant, I booked an appointment with my therapist to discuss my feelings about bringing another baby into the world. I spent $160/hour crying to her about the state of my basement.

It was time to to act. For the baby, who deserves more than a drawer to call his own, and for my own mental health.

Clutter really is linked to anxiety
Clutter and anxiety go together like boozy date nights and surprise pregnancies: kind of inevitable.

“Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives,” psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote in Psychology Today.

The negative effect of clutter is especially prevalent among women, the New York Times notes, citing a 2019 study that found a cluttered home is a stressful home. Another study from 2010 found that women who perceived their homes as messy or cluttered had increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) throughout the day.

But, as Carter explains in Psychology Today, clutter is actually one of the easiest sources of life stress to fix — much easier than fixing a stressful job or relationship issues, for instance. You just have to do it.

It took work. It took time. But I am pleased to say I have significantly reduced the clutter in my house and my mind over the last several months. Here’s how I did it, and how you can, too:

1. Pick one project at a time
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by de-cluttering your entire house, so break it up into bite-sized pieces. Pick one project, such as going through your closet and donating everything you never wear. Then bask in the glory of finishing something.

“This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little,” Carter notes.

Even just taking a single night off from Netflix will give you two to three hours, which is plenty of time to tackle that junk drawer full of used batteries and dead pens.

2. Be ruthless
Adopt a stone-cold attitude. Now is not the time to weep over that genius essay you wrote in Grade 4. If you don’t use it, and there’s little sentimental value, give it away or toss it.

Here is a random sample of just some of the crap from my house I either threw out, recycled, or donated over the last few months:

  • About 300 books
  • Two bookshelves
  • Dozens of kitchen appliances I have never used, such as an egg steamer (??)
  • The elliptical machine, nicknamed “El Bastardo” that has doubled as a laundry hanger for at least five years
  • My ex’s guitar (sorry)
  • Dozens of giant photo frames or framed art we were never actually going to hang again.
  • All of my impractical shoes. I’m about to be a mom of two, so let’s get real
  • An entire cupboard full of bath and beauty products I’ve never or barely used
  • An antique steamer trunk from the foot of the bed that my husband tripped over every. single. night.

3. Join a ‘Buy Nothing’ group
As satisfying as it is to drop off car loads of stuff at the Salvation Army or Value Village, chances are your neighbourhood has a “Buy Nothing” group where people will come to your house and take your stuff away, no questions asked!

That antique steamer trunk I mentioned? A mom in my neighbourhood took it, gave it to her pirate-obsessed son, and now he has his own treasure trunk. YARR!

4. Donate books
Yeah, I know. This one can be controversial for book lovers. And I am one, so I get it.

If you have the space, and don’t consider books clutter, great. But if you have a basement overflowing with multiple copies of Memoirs of a Geisha and every psychology textbook from your undergrad, it might be time to let go.

And let go I did. I asked my husband to do the same and we parsed it down to a meaningful collection.

And you know what? It didn’t even hurt. I’m happy thinking about other people finding joy in the books that were just collecting dust in my basement.

5. Invest in furniture that doubles as storage
Out of sight, out of mind. Consider investing in a piece of furniture that doubles as storage. I got this storage ottoman from Ikea, and now all of my son’s toy trains and tracks have a place to live other than my living room floor.

You can also re-purpose existing furniture for storage. One of my (now-empty) square bookshelves is now a handy toy shelf in my son’s playroom.

6. Look critically at the space you do have and how it can be used better
This one was huge for me, and important for anyone living in a small space. Instead of pining for more room (we very nearly moved), look critically at how your current space can be better utilized. For me, that meant tackling the biggest stressor of all … my basement.

After, many, many trips to Value Village and weeks spent sorting, I morphed my previously unusable basement into a playroom for my toddler. This allowed us to move all of his toys cluttering my living room, thus creating usable space (for me!) upstairs.


Suddenly, I could breathe again.

I gave my bedroom a similar makeover. We don’t have a third bedroom to turn into a nursery for this little nugget, but we do have a pretty large master. After giving away the steamer trunk, half my clothes, and moving a few decorative lamps, the back end of our room is now the “nursery.”


We’re ready for you, li’l surprise!

7. Rotate toys
Did you know kids get overwhelmed by having too much “stuff,” too? A 2017 study found that kids with too many toys get easily distracted and have lower-quality playtime. Fewer toys lead to more, focused creative play.

Researchers suggest that parents pack away most of the children’s toys, and rotate them a few at a time.

8. De-clutter your schedule
Congrats, your house is looking more like a house and less like an emporium of crap! But there’s still more de-cluttering you could do.

If you’re anything like me, you spend your weekends shuttling your kids to museums, drop ins, classes … anything to keep busy! But now that I have a house I can actually stand to spend time in, we’ve started embracing slow weekends at home, and everyone is better for it.

Send your kid to the playroom. Do an art project. Make pancakes together. You’ll all feel calmer when you use your down-time to actually relax.

9. De-clutter your socials
While you’re bettering your life, how about cleaning up your social media? Unfollow any accounts you don’t really care about (like all those baby product accounts you followed just to enter free giveaways), so that you’re more likely to see updates from those you do care about.

Take stock of how many online parenting groups you’re in (I’m in about 37, no joke). Mute the ones you don’t really need nor care to see on a daily basis.

Finally, if you’re doing any hate follows (we’re all guilty of this, right?), consider letting go. You live your life, little miss perfect mommy blogger we only follow to hate, and we’ll live ours. Go in peace. Enjoy your home-grown, organic mung beans.

10. De-clutter your mind
Your house, schedule, and social media are all cleaned up. All that’s left to tackle now is your mind (oh, just that?). Embracing mindfulness is a great way to help you roll with the punches, be more present, and control your reactions, parenting expert Alyson Schafer notes.

Here are some great apps to get you started:

  • Dan Harris’s 10% Happier
  • Sam Harris’s Waking Up
  • Meditation Timer
  • Calm
By Natalie Stechyson         01/06/2020