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Massive Study Yields Exciting Findings about Gut Health and the Microbiome

Gut health could be the biggest trend in the health field right now. Everywhere I turn people are discussing the importance of their gut health and how it is linked to their overall health, as well as the benefits of probiotics. And, for good reason: a growing body of research shows that what happens in our gut expands well beyond the gut.

Now new research shows that the health of your gut is significantly influenced by what you eat. A new study assessed 15096 fecal samples provided by 11336 people, published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, found some exciting facts about gut health and the microbiome, which is the total of all the microbes in a living being.

We each have a microbiome and no two microbiomes are alike, although there can be some similarities between them. The microbiome is a sort of microbial fingerprint. And, thanks to the new research, we have greater insight into the effect of diet on our microbiome. Here are some of the findings from this exciting study:

1) Plant-based diets produce the most diverse microbiomes. Diverse microbiomes seem to confer health benefits. Consider people who struggle to lose weight: earlier research in the journal Beneficial Microbes shows that they tend to have less diverse strains of beneficial bacteria and a lower ratio of beneficial microbes to harmful ones.

2) Eating more than 30 types of plant foods weekly yields the most diverse microbiome. In other words, it’s important to eat a plant-based diet but also one that has tremendous diversity. So, expand your horizons when it comes to trying new vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Your microbiome will thank you. And, who knows? You might even discover a new favorite food.

3) There is a lower incidence of bacterial resistance in those who eat the greatest variety of plant foods weekly. This is great news since more and more varieties of harmful bacteria like E. coli and MRSA are, not only becoming more prevalent, they are also becoming resistant to the typical drug treatment: antibiotics. This is an astounding discovery on its own. We tend to assume that all of a certain variety of bacteria have the same level of potency against humans, but the research shows that people who eat a large variety of plant-based foods are less likely to be host to these disease-causing, resistant bacteria. People who ate more than 30 types of plant foods weekly had less resistance to antibiotics.

4) The gut bacteria of people suffering from mental health issues, including: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder were more similar to others suffering from mental disorders than to those who do not suffer from mental disorders. While the scientists conducting the study did not draw any conclusions, there may be a possible connection between gut health and mental health. Certainly other research suggests that is indeed the case. Research in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found a link between gut bacteria and increased activity in brain pathways that improve brain health and reduce depression risk.

microbiome

How can you reap the benefits of this exciting research?

There are endless ways to boost the variety of plant-based foods you consume, but the following ones should help you get started:

  1.    Start by replacing meat in your diet with plant-based options. Start with Meatless Mondays but don’t hesitate to go meatless the rest of the week as well
  2.    The next time you pass by that odd-looking fruit or vegetable in the produce section of your grocery store, add it to your cart. It’s easy enough to find recipes for lesser-known foods using a quick Internet search. And, most importantly, add the food to your diet.
  3.    Instead of just snacking on almonds or another nut, branch out to try Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc. Choose raw, unsalted varieties.
  4.    Rather than just add a can of kidney beans to your soup, stew, or chili, opt for bean varieties you are less familiar with. That could include: chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, Romano beans, black beans, navy beans, etc.
  5.    The next time a snack attack strikes, choose a piece of fruit or a bowl of mixed berries.
  6.    When you have a craving for salty foods, choose traditionally-fermented pickles, pickled green beans, pickled beets or other foods with live cultures. Not only will you be getting a wider variety and a greater quantity of plant-based foods, you’ll also help expand the beneficial microbes you consume. Be sure to choose pickled foods that state “live cultures” or “unpasteurized” on the label.

 

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook May 31, 2018
 Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook
 
source: www.care2.com
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Canada Needs a Comprehensive Mental Health Strategy

Mental illness is the most common illness found in Canada’s children and teens. We all know a young person who struggles with depression, anxiety, an addiction or a behavioural disorder. Mental illness causes high levels of distress in children and can significantly interfere with their lives.

But mental illnesses can often be prevented from developing, or becoming more severe and difficult to treat.

A new report from the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy found that 14 per cent of all children and teens in the province were diagnosed by a doctor with at least one mental disorder during the four-year study. These are diagnosed cases, so if we included all children who experienced a mental disorder, the percentage would be higher.

Other provinces report similar findings. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario found that 34 per cent of high school students had a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress and 12 per cent seriously thought about suicide in the past year. A report prepared for the British Columbia government found that 12.6 per cent of four-to-17-year-old children experienced a clinically significant mental disorder at any given time.

What struck us, in completing the Manitoba report, is that mental illness touches children from all corners of the province and across all socio-economic levels.

But children in families with many parenting challenges — like poverty, being a teen mom or being involved with child welfare services — are at greater risk of developing mental illness. Our results also suggest children from rural areas may not have adequate and timely access to mental health services.

Manitoba records over a four-year period show that 74 out of 100,000 teens died by suicide. And these tragic deaths are only a fraction of those with mental illness. For every teen suicide, there are another 200 or more teens who struggle with depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), addictions or schizophrenia.

Suicide most often occurs when mental illness — and the conditions that place children and teens at risk for mental illness — are not addressed. It’s crucial to instil hope in our young people and build awareness of the many solutions to their problems.

mental health

So how can we better support children with mental illness? How do we create hope and better lifelong health and success for this future generation?

It’s essential to develop and invest in a comprehensive child and youth mental health strategy at provincial and national levels. We need strategies to promote positive mental health and provide supports and services early in the illness. Home visiting in early childhood, for example, reduces depression, anxiety and use of substances in children.

Children require a warm, nurturing environment. High levels of stress damage the mental health of children. Prevention programs include positive parenting, home visiting, antibullying initiatives and mental health promotion in schools — all aimed at preventing mental illness from developing.

More than half of mental disorders have their roots in childhood, so increasing resources for children will reduce the burden of mental illness in adulthood.

Our study found that children with mental illnesses are more likely to have lower grades and less likely to graduate. They’re also more likely to be accused of a crime or to be victimized. They’re more likely to be from families living in social housing or receiving income assistance.

Increasing the mental health knowledge and skills of people working with children across education, social services and justice systems would mitigate the untoward effects of mental illness.

Canada spends too little on mental health compared to other developed countries. The Mental Health Commission of Canada recommends that nine per cent of health budgets should go to improving mental health services.

Investments in mental health and wellness for children and teens will go a long way toward creating hope and a brighter future.

Jan 17, 2017        Waterloo Region Record       By Mariette Chartier and Marni Brownell

Mariette J. Chartier, RN, PhD, is a research scientist at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. Chartier has published in the area of population health, mental health and prevention and early intervention programs for children and their parents. Marni Brownell, PhD, is an expert adviser with EvidenceNetwork.ca and professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. She is also a senior research scientist with the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, and a research scientist with the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. © 2017 Distributed by Troy Media


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Omega-3s May Protect Against Schizophrenia

Omega-3 supplements may help keep young people with a high risk of schizophrenia from getting the condition, according to a small study.

Back in 2010, Australian researchers reported that taking the supplements for 12 weeks prevented a first episode of a psychotic disorder for up to a year in high-risk study participants ages 13-25. Now, in a follow-up study, the team checked on how 71 of the 81 volunteers were doing.

They found that:

  • 9.8% of the group given omega-3 supplements (4 of 41) developed psychosis, an episode where you lose touch with reality. It’s a symptom of different illnesses, including schizophrenia.
  • 40% of the group given a fake placebo supplement (16 out of 40) developed psychosis.
  • The group not given omega-3s also developed psychosis more quickly and had a higher overall risk of getting other psychiatric disorders.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

 

fish oil

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are widely seen as “good fats.” They can help improve cholesterol balance and lower the risks of heart and joint disease, among other health perks.

Previous research has pointed to a lack of omega-3s and omega-6s being linked with mental health conditions. Some trials have shown that fatty acid supplements can reduce psychotic symptoms.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in the U.K. says omega-3s have already been linked with improving learning, and may help with mental stability. Doctors sometimes try them as supplements for people with mood problems and schizophrenia, and they may help prevent relapses with bipolar disorder. Talk with your doctor before you start taking any supplement, though.

The college says there is not enough evidence to recommend omega-3s as an alternative to antidepressants or mood-stabilizing medications.

By Tim Locke    WebMD Health News     Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH    Aug. 11, 2015
 
sources : Amminger, G.P. Nature Communications, 2015.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists: “Eating well and mental health.”
Amminger, G.P. Archives of General Psychiatry, February 2010.
 


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Dopamine Deficiency And Your Mental Health

by Deane Alban    ON JULY 11, 2015

If you wake up every morning and feel like “the thrill is gone,” you may have a dopamine deficiency. Dopamine is the main brain chemical responsible for making us feel motivated. Low levels of dopamine can manifest in some very disruptive ways. It can leave you feeling fatigued, apathetic, moody and unable to concentrate. Just as importantly, it plays a role in many mental disorders including depression, addiction of all kinds, Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and schizophrenia. Understanding how dopamine affects your life is a key to taking control of this neurotransmitter — instead of letting it take control of you.

What Is Dopamine?

Dopamine is considered one of the “feel good” neurotransmitters, along with serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. It has several distinct major functions. It’s been called the “motivation molecule” for providing the drive and focus you need to be productive. It’s also been called the “reward chemical” since it’s in charge of your brain’s pleasure-reward system. Dopamine plays a role in numerous brain functions involving mood, sleep, learning, the ability to focus and concentrate, motor control, and working memory.

What Does Dopamine Do?

Understanding dopamine’s functions is a work in progress. Over 110,000 research papers have been written about it, yet scientists are still trying to determine exactly what it does. Here are some of the known functions of dopamine: Dopamine is crucial to the feeling of motivation you need to work towards both long-term and short-term goals. It delivers a feeling of satisfaction when you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. Dopamine is released when your needs are about to be met .

Dopamine helped our ancestors survive by giving them an energy boost when presented with a great opportunity, such as locating a new source of food. You wouldn’t think we’d need to be motivated to find food, yet alarmingly, lab mice with dopamine deficiency are so unmotivated they starve to death — even when food is readily available. Our modern lifestyle doesn’t provide the same opportunities for dopamine boosts that our ancestors experienced, like hunting down dinner. But we still seek dopamine because of the way it makes us feel — alive and excited.

There are both healthy and unhealthy ways to get a dopamine lift. You can boost your dopamine watching or playing sports, learning something new, finishing a project, or landing a new account at work. Any form of accomplishment that gives you that “Yes, I did it!” feeling will increase dopamine. The unhealthy way to stimulate dopamine production is with addictive substances of all kinds.

Low Dopamine Symptoms

Dopamine deficiency sucks the zest out of life. It can leave you feeling apathetic, hopeless, and joyless. It makes it hard to start things and even harder to finish them. Common low dopamine symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Insomnia
  • Hard time getting going in the morning
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetfulness
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Inability to connect with others
  • Low libido
  • Sugar cravings
  • Caffeine cravings
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Inability to lose weight

 

Dopamine Deficiency Related Disorders

When dopamine levels are out of balance, they can be an important factor in many mental health and other systemic disorders. Here are some of the most common conditions that have a dopamine deficiency connection.

Low Dopamine And Depression

Depression is usually thought of as due to a lack of serotonin, another “feel good” brain chemical. But there’s a growing body of evidence that dopamine deficiency is the underlying cause of depression for many people instead. This explains why selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — depression medications that work by increasing serotonin — work for only 40 percent of those who use them. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is an antidepressant that works by addressing low dopamine for those who have not been helped by SSRIs. There’s a difference in the symptoms of depression experienced by those with serotonin versus dopamine deficiency. Dopamine-based depression expresses itself as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life, while serotonin-based depression tends to be accompanied by anxiety.

happy-chemicals-dopamine-serotonin-endorphin-oxytocin

The Dopamine Addiction Connection

People low in dopamine are more prone to addictions of all kinds. People with dopamine addictions often rely on caffeine, sugar, smoking, or other stimulants to boost their energy, focus, and drive. What they are really doing is self-medicating to increase their dopamine levels. Using self-destructive behaviors to overcome dopamine deficiency can lead to addictions of all kinds — video games, shopping, gambling, sex, money, power, alcohol, and drugs.

Dopamine And Parkinson’s Disease

When dopamine-generating brain cells in one specific part of the brain die, it leads to Parkinson’s, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Parkinson’s usually starts with a slight tremor in one hand. Patients gradually lose their ability to regulate their movements and emotions. There is no cure but so far the most effective treatment is levodopa, a natural compound that converts into dopamine.

ADHD And Dopamine

The underlying cause of ADHD is still unknown. But it is widely accepted that the root cause of ADHD is probably an abnormality in dopamine function. This seems logical since dopamine is critical for maintaining focus. Most ADHD medications are based on the “dopamine deficiency” theory. Prescription medications used to treat ADHD are believed to work by increasing the release of dopamine and norepinephrine while slowing down their rate of reabsorption.

Schizophrenia And Dopamine

The cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors are believed to play a role. One prevailing theory is that it’s caused by an overactive dopamine system . Supporting evidence for this theory is that the best drugs to treat schizophrenia symptoms resemble dopamine and block dopamine receptors. However, these medications can take days to work, which indicates that the exact mechanism is not yet fully understood.

Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms In Fibromyalgia And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Both fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are associated with low dopamine levels. Low dopamine symptoms experienced by FMS and CFS patients include brain fog, achy muscles, poor concentration, tremors, poor balance and coordination, and walking abnormalities.

How To Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

If you experience signs of low dopamine, you don’t have to live with it. There are several lifestyle changes that can increase dopamine naturally.

Dopamine Foods

The amino acid tyrosine is a precursor of dopamine. Tyrosine-rich foods provide the basic building blocks for dopamine production. Phenylalanine is an amino acid that converts into tyrosine.

Virtually all animal products are good sources of both tyrosine and phenylalanine. Here are some other foods known to increase dopamine:

  • Legumes
  • Almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • Apples, avocados, bananas, watermelon
  • Beets, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee and green tea
  • Oatmeal
  • Turmeric
  • Wheat germ

Dopamine Supplements

Dopamine is a serious medicine used in emergency situations like heart attacks and shock. So while actual dopamine supplements are not available, there are many dopamine boosting supplements you can try. The most obvious dopamine supplement to consider is l-tyrosine. Without it, you can’t make dopamine. Even if you think you get plenty of l-tyrosine in your diet, you may not be converting it effectively.

There are several forms of tyrosine supplements available. Dopamine used by the brain must be produced in the brain, so it’s important that any dopamine enhancing supplement you take gets into the brain. That’s why we recommend acetyl-l-tyrosine, an absorbable form that can readily cross the blood-brain barrier. Next, look into vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Deficiencies of all three are extremely common, and each can contribute to dopamine deficiency. Lastly, you can look into taking a dopamine enhancing supplement. Here are some supplements proven to increase dopamine:

  • Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean or cowhage)
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • L-theanine
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e)
  • Bacopa monnieri
  • Curcumin

Some dopamine supplements contain phenylethylamine, the precursor of tyrosine, but we don’t recommend them. Phenylethylamine is pretty useless for increasing dopamine levels. Once it reaches your brain it has a half-life of only 30 seconds.

Activities That Boost Dopamine Levels

Any activity that makes you feel happy and relaxed increases dopamine. Physical exercise increases dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters and is responsible for what’s known as “runner’s high”. Get a therapeutic massage. It can boost dopamine by over 30 percent. Meditation increases dopamine. So do mind-focusing hobbies like knitting, home repair, gardening, painting, photography, or woodworking. Playing and listening to music you enjoy releases dopamine . Engage in “seeking and finding” activities. This emulates the hunt that provided our ancestors with their dopamine boosts. Take on new challenges and set small milestones. Accomplishing goals, even small ones, trains your brain to release dopamine.

For more information on increasing your levels of dopamine, read this article “How to Increase Dopamine Naturally.”

Overcoming Dopamine Deficiency: The Bottom Line

Dopamine deficiency can sap the joy from life. It also plays a role in many mental health conditions, including depression and addictive behaviors. Make appropriate lifestyle changes to increase your dopamine levels.

  • Eat a diet high in dopamine boosting foods.
  • Get plenty of physical exercise.
  • Engage in stress-reducing activities.
  • Take appropriate dopamine enhancing supplements.

Deane AlbanThis article was brought to you by Deane Alban, a health information researcher, writer and teacher for over 25 years. For more helpful articles about improving your cognitive and mental health, visit BeBrainFit.com today.


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Vitamin D Benefits Common Mental Illnesses By Regulating Serotonin

Study reveals how vitamin D benefits mental disorders, as do omega-3 fatty acids.

Serotonin regulation could explain why vitamin D benefits many brain disorders, as do marine omega-3 fatty acids, a new study finds.

Depression, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia have all been linked to low levels of vitamin D and omega-3.

Low levels of serotonin have been found to impair memory, planning, social behaviour and increase impulsiveness and aggression.

Supplementation with these essential nutrients has shown promise in improving some of these conditions.

Until now, though, scientists have been unsure of the mechanism of how omega-3 and vitamin D benefits such a wide range of conditions.

 vitamin D

Vitamin D benefits

The new study, published in the FASEB Journal, finds that the link could be how they interact with serotonin, a vital neurotransmitter (Patrick & Ames, 2015).

Dr Rhonda P. Patrick, the study’s first author,

“In this paper we explain how serotonin is a critical modulator of executive function, impulse control, sensory gating, and pro-social behavior.
We link serotonin production and function to vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting one way these important micronutrients help the brain function and affect the way we behave.”

Vitamin D is mostly produced in the body when sun strikes the skin, which is why these levels tend to be much lower in the winter.

Along with low levels of vitamin D, many people do not eat enough fish and so have low levels of two critical marine omega-3 fatty acids — Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Dr Patrick said:

“Vitamin D, which is converted to a steroid hormone that controls about 1,000 genes, many in the brain, is a major deficiency in the US and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies are very common because people don’t eat enough fish,”

The researchers think that the correct intake of both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D benefits many brain disorders.

source: PsyBlog