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22 Simple Habits That Can Relieve Holiday Stress and Anxiety

Are the holidays the season of excitement or a time for anxiety and frustration? 
Here are expert tips to get you past the stress and into the festive spirit.

Get adequate sleep

It’s no secret that our bodies crave rest; fail to get enough, and you’ll have some nasty symptoms. Not only does adequate rest—at least seven to eight hours per night—recharge your body for the day ahead, it also gives your nervous system a chance to wind down and reset as well. For those who suffer from anxiety symptoms, a lack of sleep can make you much more anxious. No one wants that around the holidays, warns Barbara Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the co-author of Teenage As A Second Language. She tells Reader’s Digest, “We must all keep in mind that the holidays can be quite overwhelming as well as exciting. Because we are going to be expending a lot of energy during the holidays we must take care of ourselves. That way, we are less likely to become physically sick and emotionally overwhelmed during the holiday season.” Go ahead and go to bed early—chances are you’ll be better able to handle whatever comes your way in the morning.

Give your body the boosts it needs

The typical American diet can leave you short on nutrients your body needs to function at its fullest potential, and sometimes it needs a boost that food is not providing. During stressful times such as the holidays or busy seasons, it’s important to pay close attention to cues your body is sending about its status. Supplements such as magnesium (almost 80 percent of the population is deficient), zinc, and fish oil can deliver the nutrients your body needs to keep running efficiently. Magnesium helps to relax muscles and decrease anxiety. Zinc will help to boost your immune system during the colder months, and the omega-3 oils in fish oil are powerful anti-inflammatories that provide an overall sense of well-being.

Give yourself the gift of self-care

In the midst of the seasonal rush, it’s easy to forget about your own health. Make time for a daily routine—even if it’s just 15 minutes—of doing something relaxing. Whether that’s pulling out the yoga mat, steeping a cup of your favorite herbal tea, or simply reading a good book, the time you give yourself out of your busy day will make a huge difference in your outlook. Kim Fredrickson, a marriage and family therapist and author of the new book Give Your Kids A Break: Parenting With Compassion For You and Your Children, agrees. She advises, “Treat yourself with compassion. It’s important to treat yourself kindly regarding all the extra pressures and activities you’re dealing with.” She continues, “Come up with a plan to take care of yourself as you head into the holidays. Try getting enough sleep, eat as healthy as possible, take time for a daily walk, and set things aside that can wait until January or February.”

Accept what you can control and release the rest

If you struggle with anxious feelings, you may also have control issues. So when the to-do list becomes overwhelming, that’s the time to step back and assess what is reasonable and what you have to let go of. If you’re hosting a dinner and you know that gluten-free Aunt Martha will complain that she can’t have the stuffing, kindly suggest that she might want to bring a side she’ll be able to enjoy. Fredrickson recommends making a list of the things you feel are top priorities, to keep your focus on what matters most. She says, “What’s important? Think about what is really important as you approach the holidays. Make sure your list includes things that are important to you, rather than only focusing on creating good experiences for your family.”

Do what you can from the comfort of home

There’s never been a better time to get things done without getting out of your pajamas. Sure, the Internet has its drawbacks, but there’s no question it’s made life easier for shopping. Tap the wonders of the web to order your groceries and gifts online. Some grocery services will deliver to your door, while some require that you pick up your order; either way, the time you’ll save is priceless. With online gift-wrapping options, it’s never been easier to have gifts sent directly to the relatives. Consider yourself a tech genius this season and eliminate your to-do list worries.

Delegate the details

If you’re facing a panicked rush to get things done, why not hand off some of the to-do lists to your spouse? If you know you’ll never be able to wrap every gift on time or schedule the carpet cleaning you’ve been putting off, recruit help. The same goes for holiday meals. While it’s true that the host often provides much of the main meal, why not ask people on the guest list to provide a side or dessert? Dr. Greenberg advises, “There are no prizes for doing everything on your own. Delegate. Remember people should come together during the holidays and help each other, right?”

Know your limits and respect them

Do memories of holidays past leave you shuddering with a sense of dread? If so, it’s time to learn from past mistakes, and vow to do things differently this year. If hosting the holiday festivities is simply too much of a strain on you or your family, ask someone else to take it on this year. Stress and anxiety can make even the most well-intentioned hostess less than jolly, and chances are good that there’s someone in your family who would love the chance to show off their culinary skill. Dr. Greenberg tells Reader’s Digest, “Know your limits. If it is difficult to be with your family for too long before you start getting irritable with each other, then set a time limit in advance. Believe me, you will be grateful that you did this! Do not expect that this year your family will get along perfectly and that old grudges will be forgotten. Unfortunately, we tend to regress when we are with our families during the holidays and old issues from years ago rear their heads.”

Make time to move

While it might seem counter-intuitive to add exercise to your daily routine during a time of extra activity, it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Activity reduces blood pressure and stress, and a short walk around the block can really go the distance in making the holiday grind more bearable. If walking isn’t something you enjoy, why not try yoga, and let your breath carry you away from it all? Exercise doesn’t have to produce heavy breathing and sweat to count—so find something that gently allows your body to expend its extra energy, and go with it.

Prep your way to less stress

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fail to plan? Plan to fail.” That’s a little harsh, but there’s no question that having a holiday-prep plan will help ensure the success of your season. Take a look at your seasonal to-do list and make notes about the things that can be taken care of in advance. Can you bake and freeze some dinner or dessert items now? How about sending out the invitations early, with your requests of what others should bring for the meal included? Some things don’t need to wait to be done until the week before the big day. Take advantage of the time you have, and take action now.

gingerbread

 

Maintain realistic expectations of yourself and others

Family relationships are complicated. Add in holiday pressures and heightened expectations for a perfect holiday, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Instead of expecting a perfect holiday staged by Hallmark, keep your vision of the day realistic. That one relative who really knows how to push your buttons will not magically become a joy to be around just because it’s a special day. Accept the likely reality for what it is, and make the best of it. Dr. Greenberg cautions that you should rein in your expectations—especially around the holidays. “It is crucial to keep expectations at a reasonable level. If we set the bar too high and expect family get-togethers or other celebrations to be perfect, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.” Who needs the extra stress of having a perfect day?

Keep healthy boundaries in place

Some of your family or friends may see the holidays as an excuse for excess, indulgence, or rude behavior. Though more family time might lead you to have an extra glass of wine, Dr. Greenberg says this isn’t the best option to soothe frazzled nerves. She warns, “Keep the drinking of alcohol to a minimum. Too much alcohol leads to saying the wrong thing, behaving in a clumsy manner, and unintentionally bruising the feelings of others. It also leads to embarrassing yourself and your family.” Everyone wants an enjoyable day, but it shouldn’t cost you your sanity or healthy limitations.

Make a date with yourself

“The holidays can be a chaotic time with friends and family and it’s OK to schedule some alone time,” says Prakash Masand MD, a psychiatrist from Duke University and founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence. “Ask your spouse to watch the kids for an hour and go to the spa, or go hit a bucket of golf balls. Seeking some solitude is both healthy and necessary to reduce stress.”

Hit “pause” on family arguments

Old tensions, political differences, blended families with ex-spouses and new loves—for a lot of people, getting together with extended family to celebrate holidays is a mixture of good and bad. If tensions and disagreements arise, consider pressing pause, at least for now. “Holidays are not the time to resolve family conflicts,” says Dr. Masand. “Many individuals use the family holidays to try to resolve longstanding conflicts with family members often with disastrous consequences, particularly when alcohol is involved. Leave addressing those issues to a later time in a one-to-one conversation.”

Do your shopping in short bursts

In an interesting 2016 study, researchers strapped emotion-tracking devices to 100 people and sent them holiday shopping for an hour. The findings? People’s heart rates increased by an average of 33 percent while shopping, about the same increase seen in someone who’s running a marathon. A majority became fatigued after just half an hour. “There’s so much to do: buying presents, cooking, decorating and more. Saving it all for the last minute will raise your stress,” says Dr. Masand. “Start a few weeks ahead of time and do a little at a time.”

Do less!

The number-one stressor during the holidays is time, a survey by the American Psychological Association found. A full two-thirds of people surveyed often or sometimes feel worried about having time to fit everything in, including family visits, cooking, shopping, decorating, and working. If you find yourself feeling stretched thin every holiday season, why not plan to do a little bit less this year? Jot down a quick list of all the parties, activities, and traditions you “need” to fit in and then prioritize. The ones that end up near the bottom? They’re optional.

Stick to a budget

Money is the second-biggest source of holiday stress (“time” is number one), according to the American Psychological Association. That’s why Dr. Masand suggests making a holiday budget and sticking to it. “Every parent wants to buy that perfect holiday gift for their child, but big-ticket items can take a toll on your wallet and your stress level,” he says. If you exchange gifts with extended friends and family, “consider a grab bag gift exchange where each person buys only one gift to alleviate the stress of having to get something for everyone.” Of course, gifts aren’t the only expenses of the season—there’s also food. “Let others help,” says Dr. Masand. “Don’t feel like you have to be the hero of the holiday season. Ask each person to bring a dish to dinner, make decorating a family activity where the kids help out.”

Go store-bought instead of homemade

Do you always bring the pie for the holiday meal, always homemade? If this year has you feeling overwhelmed or overworked, consider giving yourself the gift of time and buy one instead. Store-bought or cafe-bought desserts can be just as enjoyable, especially if you’re not stressed out and exhausted when you eat them! Try this top-pick frozen apple pie or check out this Chicago Tribune review of sweet potato, pecan, and apple pies from grocery stores like Walmart, Jewel, and Target.

Expect some bad along with the good

In a recent survey, 41 percent of Americans admitted to working too hard to have a “perfect” holiday season. “Expect things to go wrong,” says Dr. Masand. “Your son may hate his Christmas gift. Your daughter might get sick. You may overcook the ham. The point is things will go wrong. Appreciate the season for the time spent with loved ones and create new memories, and don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Draw firm boundaries between work and family

Many people have to work regular schedules in the days leading up to the holidays—those in the travel industry, retail, hospitality, and food services may have to work even more than usual. Other than requesting time off as far in advance as possible, those work schedules can’t necessarily be controlled. What can be are your boundaries when you’re not at work. Thirty-four percent of people in an American Psychological Association survey say they experience significant stress worrying that work obligations will impede on their holiday celebrations. So when you’re off the clock, stay there. Make it clear that you can’t respond to texts or emails on your days off, and don’t let yourself feel pressured into filling in for co-workers who ask to swap shifts.

Look out for the holiday blues

Those of us who have lost loved ones or are facing other difficult life situations may feel especially sad during this time of year when everyone is supposed to be jolly. Don’t ignore these feelings of grief or sadness, say the mental health experts at the Mayo Clinic. Not only is it OK to express these feelings during this time of “cheer,” it’s healthier to do that than to ignore or suppress them. Learn more about what to look out for when holiday blues go too far.

Remember that ultimately, a holiday is just a day

“The holidays are filled with both joy and stress,” says Ellen Braaten, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital. If you find yourself feeling extremely overwhelmed by emotions, pressures, or obligations this year, try to shift your perspective by deciding what’s most important and what you want the holidays to mean to you. “The holidays are just another time of year, certainly something to mark, but not the end-all, be-all,” she says.

Focus on the good

Yes, the holidays can be stressful and difficult. But they’re also full of joy for many of us. The American Psychological Association found that 78 percent of people report feeling happy, 75 percent feel love, and 60 percent report being in high spirits this time of year. So don’t lose sight of what you enjoy most about this time of year, whether it’s the twinkling lights, music, food, or fellowship.

Jen Babakhan       Sunny Sea Gold
 
source: www.rd.com
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Four Nutrients You Probably Need More Of

Chances are, you need to boost your intake of at least one or two nutrients. Even the most disciplined eaters can be, unknowingly, skipping out on key essentials, which can eventually drain energy and lead to health problems.

According to Health Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), conducted in 2004, many people’s diets don’t provide enough vitamins and minerals. (Results from the 2015 CCHS have yet to be released.)

Haphazard eating and an increased reliance on heavily processed foods can undermine your diet.

Certain eating plans can also shortchange your body of nutrients.

A low-carbohydrate diet (e.g., ketogenic, Atkins-style) can deprive you of gut-friendly fibre, vitamin C and folate, a B-vitamin that repairs DNA in cells. Gluten-free diets can lack fibre and folate, too.

Even if you do eat the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, you might need more. Aging and certain medications can interfere with nutrient absorption.

Sure, you can take a supplement to bridge nutrient gaps. And, in some cases, I recommend that you do.

Adding whole foods to your diet, though, should be your first line of defence. Along with vitamins and minerals, whole foods deliver fibre, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals.

Nutrients to pay attention to

Vitamin A

It’s necessary for normal vision and immune function. Yet, according to Health Canada, more than one-third of Canadians don’t consume enough.

There are two types of vitamin A in foods: retinol, ready for the body to use, and carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A in the body. Foods high in retinol include beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, tuna, milk and cheese.

It’s carotenoids, though, that many people need more of. In addition to providing vitamin A, research suggests that a higher intake can help guard against heart attack, stroke and certain cancers.

Outstanding sources include sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, collards, kale, dandelion greens and cantaloupe. You’ll absorb more carotenoids if you eat your meal with a little fat.

fruits veggies

Vitamin B12

As many as 35 per cent of Canadian adults don’t consume the daily recommended 2.4 mcg of B12, a nutrient needed to make red blood cells, repair DNA and keep our nerves working properly.

B12 is found primarily in animal foods – meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Some foods are fortified with B12, including plant-based “milks” (1 mcg per cup) and soy products. Fortified nutritional yeast, sold in natural-food stores, is also high in B12.

If you’re over 50, you might be getting less B12 than you realize. The absorption of B12 from foods relies on an adequate release of stomach acid. As many as 30 per cent of older adults have atrophic gastritis, a condition that reduces the stomach’s ability to release acid.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), drugs used to treat ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease, interfere with B12 absorption by reducing stomach acid. Metformin, a medication that controls blood sugar, also reduces B12 absorption.

Older adults, vegans and people taking PPIs and metformin long-term should take multivitamin or B-complex supplements to ensure they’re meeting daily B12 requirements.

Vitamin C

More than one-third of our diets fall short of vitamin C, used to make collagen, help the immune system work properly and enhance iron absorption from plant foods. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage.

The recommended daily intake is 75 mg (women) and 90 mg (men). (Smokers need an extra 35 mg.)
Include at least two vitamin C-rich foods in your daily diet such as red and green bell peppers (152 mg and 95 mg per ½ medium, respectively), oranges (70 mg per 1 medium), kiwifruit (64 mg each), strawberries (98 mg per cup), cantaloupe, broccoli, cauliflower and tomato juice.

To prevent chronic disease, some experts recommend a daily intake of 200 mg, an amount you can get by eating at least 5 daily servings (2.5 cups) of fruits and vegetables.

Magnesium

As many as 4 out of 10 Canadians consume too little magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, blood sugar and muscle and nerve function. That’s likely because some of the very best sources – pulses, leafy greens, bran cereal – are not everyday foods for many people.

Eating a diet high in magnesium is also tied to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and colon cancer.

Adults need 310-320 mg (women) and 400-420 mg (men) each day. Excellent sources include oat bran, brown rice, quinoa, spinach, Swiss chard, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, black beans, lentils, tofu and edamame.

People who are likely to take a proton pump inhibitor long-term should take a daily magnesium supplement (200 to 250 mg) in addition to eating magnesium-rich foods.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is Director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan.

November 4, 2018      Leslie Beck


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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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8 Healthy Ways to Boost Energy

Your food and beverage choices can have a big effect on your energy levels throughout the day, an expert says.

As our energy levels decrease because of our overstressed lifestyles, many people look for a quick fix to combat fatigue.

Energy drinks mask the symptoms of fatigue and dehydrate the body. The majority of energy drinks contain excess sugar, high levels of caffeine and other stimulants.

Relying on caffeine and energy drinks makes us feel worse in the long run by causing our system to crash.

Continued fatigue decreases the immune system, making us more susceptible to depression and illness.

So what to do? Exercise, sleep and reducing stress are important in fighting fatigue. But our eating habits also directly affect energy levels. And nutrition can affect energy levels throughout the day.

Here are some tips on healthy ways to boost your energy:

Drink water

The body needs water – multiple glasses a day.

Being hydrated is an easy and inexpensive way to increase energy levels. You don’t need vitamin water or sports drinks; they only add extra unneeded calories. Keep a fresh water source with you at all times and drink throughout the day. Add lemons, limes or oranges for taste variety.

Eat breakfast

This is the meal that sets the stage for the entire day. Studies show that breakfast helps keep you alert, starts your metabolism for the day and keeps you satisfied until lunch.

But a healthy breakfast is the key. Good options include whole-grain cereals, breads, fruit and lean protein instead of doughnuts, pastries and white breads. A hard-boiled egg sliced into a whole wheat pita, oatmeal with fruit, and whole-grain toast with natural peanut butter are all healthy choices.

Don’t forget protein

Not consuming enough protein during the day can be a primary reason for fatigue. Protein-based foods provide the body with fuel to repair and build tissues. Protein takes longer than carbohydrates to break down in the body, providing a longer-lasting energy source. You can find protein in poultry, fish, lean red meat, nuts, milk, yogurt, eggs, yogurt, cheese and tofu.

Keep your carbs smart

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel. Pick whole grains like cereal, brown rice and whole wheat bread, and avoid sweets, which cause energy to plummet. Many processed carbohydrates contain little to no fiber. Always read the nutrition label.

Snacks are important

If you let yourself get too hungry between meals, your blood sugar falls, and you get lethargic. Keep your blood sugar and energy level steady during the day by consuming snacks. Choosing the right snacks prevent peaks and valleys in energy.

Combine complex carbs with a protein and/or fat for lasting energy. The protein and fat slow the breakdown of sugar into the blood, preventing fatigue. Snacks also can prevent overeating at mealtimes. A few examples of smart snack choices are yogurt with fruit, mixed nuts, veggies with hummus, pears with almond butter, whey protein shake or blueberries with a cheese stick. Plan ahead!

Omega-3 fatty acids

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, combat depression and improve mood and memory. Try to focus on omega-3 fats from food rather than supplements. Excellent sources include salmon, tuna, walnuts, flax seeds, leafy greens and hemp seeds.

Magnesium

Almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts are rich in magnesium, a mineral important in converting carbohydrates into energy. Other good sources of magnesium include whole grains and dark green vegetables.

Don’t skimp on calories

Skimping on calories decreases your metabolism and causes you to feel lethargic. Keep your energy levels high and increase metabolism by meeting your caloric needs each day. Whole foods are preferred over supplements to obtain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals instead of one or two single nutrients. Consume a variety of foods for overall health but also to keep your energy levels high.

By Tiffany Barrett, Special to CNN      November 28, 2012
source: www.cnn.com


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This Mineral Fights Depression — And It Is Cheaper And Safer Than Drugs

The supplement starts to take effect after only two weeks, the researchers found.

Over-the-counter magnesium is a safe and effective way to treat mild to moderate depression, a new study suggests.

The mineral magnesium has already been linked to lower inflammation and improvements in depression.

Now a new randomised controlled trial has tested the effects of magnesium chloride supplements compared with no treatment.

For the research, half of 126 people with mild to moderate depression were given 248 mg of magnesium chloride per day for six weeks.

After just two weeks, some positive effects of the supplement could be seen.

Those taking magnesium had clinically significant improvements over the six weeks.

People did not have any problems taking magnesium and there were no differences based on sex, age, whether people were also taking antidepressants, or other factors.

More than half of the people in the study said they would continue to take magnesium to help them with their depression.

Ms Emily Tarleton, the study’s first author, said:

“This is the first randomized clinical trial looking at the effect of magnesium supplementation on symptoms of depression in U.S. adults.
The results are very encouraging, given the great need for additional treatment options for depression, and our finding that magnesium supplementation provides a safe, fast and inexpensive approach to controlling depressive symptoms.”

Ms Tarleton says that the next stage is to move on to larger populations to see if the results can be replicated.

While many more studies have investigated antidepressant medications, there is also much evidence of their side-effects.

A survey of people taking antidepressants has found higher than expected levels of emotional numbness, sexual problems and even suicidal thoughts associated with the medication.

Of the 20 adverse effects to antidepressants that people were questioned about:

  • 62% said they had ‘sexual difficulties’,
  • 52% said they ‘didn’t feel like themselves’,
  • 42% noticed a ‘reduction in positive feelings’,
  • 39% found themselves ‘caring less about others’,
  • and 55% reported ‘withdrawal effects’.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Tarleton et al., 2017).

 
JULY 12, 2017
source: PsyBlog


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7 Nutrients Your Brain Needs To Stay Young

Perhaps you remember hearing your parents or some other authority figures telling you that fish is brain food. What they meant was that fish contains nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to enhance or improve brain function and help it to stay young.

For those of you who don’t care for fish or who don’t consume animal products, there are various supplements you can take to get your omega-3s. But omega-3s are not the only good brain nutrients; there are numerous others that can help your brain stay young and a wide variety of foods in which to find them. For example, the B vitamins (aka, B-complex) are a group of nutrients that work in sync to support and promote brain health.

In fact, the brain needs a constant supply of nutrients to support optimal function, from energy metabolism for its billions of neurons to the synthesis of neurotransmitters, propagation of nerve impulses, and other brain activities.

Here we look beyond the B vitamins to omega-3s and six other nutrients that your brain needs to stay young and functioning at an optimal level. These nutrients, along with a diet rich in these nutrients, regular exercise, avoidance of smoking, stress management, and sufficient sleep all have a role in maintaining a healthy brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids

According to researchers, omega-3 fatty acids have demonstrated an ability to improve cognitive function. A 2017 Brazilian systematic review, for example, found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements in mild Alzheimer’s disease may be helpful when there is slight brain function impairment. A mouse study reported that animals given omega-3 supplements demonstrated an improvement in cognitive function (i.e., object recognition memory, localized and spatial memory) as they got older.

In addition to cold water fish, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and sea vegetables. Omega-3 supplements are available as fish oil, krill oil, and algae-based.

Cocoa flavanols

Dark chocolate is the source of brain-friendly phytonutrients called cocoa flavanols. In a three-month study, researchers discovered that individuals who consumed a high cocoa flavanol diet showed a boost in the area of the brain associated with memory loss and aging.

Cocoa powder is made by fermenting, drying and roasting cacao beans. The flavanols have been shown to lower blood pressure, fight cell damage, prevent blood clots, and improve blood flow to the brain.

To reap the brain-boosting benefits of cocoa flavanols, choose dark chocolate (organic preferred) and enjoy a small amount (about one ounce) several times a week or even daily. A 2012 study of adults with mild cognitive impairment showed that those who consumed cocoa flavanols daily benefits from improved thinking skills as well as lower blood pressure and improved insulin resistance.

Magnesium

The mineral that is associated with more than 300 biochemical activities in the human body plays a key role in cognitive health. Low levels of magnesium have been proposed as having a stake in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but further research is needed. We know from mouse research that an increase in magnesium in the brain provides substantial protection of the synapses in models of Alzheimer’s disease and “hence it might have therapeutic potential for treating Alzheimer’s disease.”

Be sure to include lots of foods rich in magnesium in your diet, including green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

 

Anthocyanins

You may recognize these antioxidants as being especially plentiful in blueberries, but others berries harbor them as well. Anthocyanins are associated with enhanced signalling of neurons in the brain’s memory regions. In one study, adults who consumed wild blueberry juice daily showed improvements in memory; namely, word list recall and paired associate learning, as well as reduced depressive symptoms and glucose levels, both of which can have a negative impact on cognitive function.

In a 2017 study, experts showed that daily blueberry consumption for six weeks by adults with cognitive decline was associated with an improvement in neural response. In addition to blueberries, you can include other foods that provide a good amount of anthocyanins, such as cranberries, black raspberries, blackberries, cherries, eggplant, black rice, red cabbage and muscadine grapes.

EGCG and theanine

The one food that nearly exclusively contains these two ingredients—epigallocatechin gallate and L-theanine–is green tea (Camilla sinensis). Although there are more than 700 compounds in green tea, EGCG and theanine are the ones responsible for improving brain health. Traces of EGCG are also found in apples, carob powder, hazelnuts, onions, pecans, and plums.

EGCG is a potent antioxidant that can pass through the blood-brain barrier and address the free radicals that can destroy brain cells. This polyphenol also has anti-inflammatory powers, which is critical since free radicals trigger brain inflammation, which in turn speeds up brain aging and contributes to memory loss, depression, and anxiety.

The impact of the amino acid L-theanine on cognition also has been shown in various studies. A review of 49 human intervention studies showed that L-theanine has “clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.” The only food sources of L-theanine are black and green teas.

Phosphatidylcholine

This mouthful of a compound is a source of the dietary nutrient choline, which is a member of the B-complex family. Recent research involving phosphatidylcholine explored its impact on brain structure in 72 healthy older adults. The researchers found that higher blood levels of phosphatidylcholine was linked to improved cognitive flexibility.

Although the exact ways phosphatidylcholine benefits the brain and cognitive function are not fully understood, experts suggest it may that the nutrient supports brain membranes, contributes to the production of neurotransmitters that promote and support cognition, or reduce inflammation in the brain. In any event, dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine include egg yolks, raw organic dairy, wheat germ, cruciferous vegetables, and meat.

Be sure to add a lot of these foods to your diet every day to keep your brain young.

 

[Editors Note: When choosing supplements for Omega’s and Magnesium our favorites are Barlean’s and Natural Vitality (respectively).
And when it comes to green or any tea, we love a cup of Bigelow Tea.]

References
Alban D. EGCG and L-theanine: Unique brain boosters in green tea. Be Brain Fit
Boespflug EL et al. Enhanced neural activation with blueberry supplementation in mild cognitive impairment. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 Feb 21:1-9
Brickman AM et al. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nature Neuroscience 2014; 17:1798-1803
Canhada S et al. Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 May 3:1-10
Desideri G et al. Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. Hypertension 2012; 60:794-801
Dietz C, Dekker M. Effect of green tea phytochemicals on mood and cognition. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2017 Jan 5
Krikorian R et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 2010 Apr 14; 58(7): 3996-4000
Li W et al. Elevation of brain magnesium prevents synaptic loss and reverses cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Molecular Brain 2014 Sep 13; 7:65
Veronese N et al. Magnesium status in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. American Journal of Alzheimers Disease and Other Dementias 2016 May; 31(3): 208-13
Yue Y et al TMDB: A literature-curated database for small molecular compounds found from tea. BMC Plant Biology 2014; 14:243
Zamroziewicz MK et al. Inferior prefrontal cortex mediates the relationship between phosphatidylcholine and executive functions in healthy, older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2016 Sep 28; 8:226

By Andrea Donsky
 


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This Mineral May Be Key to Protecting Your Bones (It’s Not Calcium)

Calcium and vitamin D may get the spotlight when it comes to bone health, but there’s another mineral that plays a role in keeping your skeleton strong: It’s magnesium, and 67% of the body’s stores for this mineral are found in your bones. Now, research published in the European Journal of Epidemiology suggests magnesium could help prevent fractures.

While previous research had revealed that magnesium supports bone growth, no study had tied the mineral to risk of bone fractures. Tapping into over 20 years of data on 2,245 men, investigators in Britain and Finland compared the men’s magnesium blood levels to their risk of fracture. They discovered that the higher a man’s magnesium, the lower his risk of fracture.

Magnesium works with bone building cells (aka osteoblasts), and works in conjunction with vitamin D and parathyroid hormone to keep calcium levels normal, and fracture risk low. Medical factors affecting magnesium absorption include inflammatory bowel disease (or other chronic diarrhea problems), kidney insufficiency or certain medications.

So, how much magnesium should you eat? The recommended daily intake for adults over 31 years of age is 320 mg for females and 420 mg for males. Nuts and seeds, especially almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and cashews are rich in magnesium. Other food sources include oatmeal, milk, peanut butter, spinach, broccoli, peas and beets.

However, the Finnish study couldn’t link dietary intake of magnesium to higher blood levels of magnesium, which is strange. Although the study authors aren’t sure why food couldn’t boost levels, previous research suggests an improvement in bone density among menopausal women who took supplements of magnesium hydroxide.

The bottom line is that eating foods high in magnesium still makes sense, since those foods tend to be healthy. If you’re at elevated risk for osteoporosis or fracture talk to your physician or a registered dietitian about taking magnesium supplements.

BY JENNIFER BOWERS, PHD, RD
source: www.rd.com