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 Your Doctor Wishes You Would do These 8 Things

We polled family doctors from across the country, and they laid down the law on eight things they wish we’d do—or stop doing.

According to our panel of general practitioners, Canadians aren’t always doing what they should to make the most of doctor visits—and skipping out on these crucial tactics could lead to a delay in diagnosing serious conditions. Here’s what our experts say you should add to your patient checklist.

1. Stop feeling shy

Many of us hesitate to talk to our physicians about sensitive issues (think substance abuse or sexual health—or even gender identity). But honesty and openness are important, both for fostering a good doctor-patient relationship and for ensuring that you get the best care, says Dr. Laura Pripstein, medical director of the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto and a staff physician on the family health team. That’s why it’s OK to try out a doc before committing. Dr. Pripstein recommends booking an initial visit to see if your potential doctor is a good fit. “You want to see if this person seems like someone you can talk to, someone you feel comfortable with,” she says. And if you don’t think your doctor understands or respects your concerns, don’t be afraid to find someone new. “If you feel you can’t ask questions that might be embarrassing, you don’t have the right provider,” says Dr. Pripstein.

2. Don’t come to your appointments unprepared

Get the most out of your time—and your doc’s—by arriving at your appointment with a clear plan for what you want to discuss, says Dr. David Ross, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “It’s good to have patients think about their problems from when the issue began, then look at it chronologically to the present,” says Dr. Ross. Making a prioritized point-form list in advance helps ensure that you don’t forget anything or mix up the order of events, he says. Then, work with your doctor to address the most serious issues first.

3. Choose your family doc over the walk-in clinic whenever you can

Yes, a clinic is convenient, but what we gain in easy access, we lose in familiarity. “I think it’s really valuable if people can connect with a family physician who they’ll be able to see long term, rather than just looking for the quickest way to access care,” says Dr. Maurianne Reade, a physician with the Manitoulin Central Family Health Team in Mindemoya and M’Chigeeng First Nation, Ont. A family doctor will know your medical history and will keep it in mind when suggesting treatment—so, for example, if you’ve recently taken several courses of antibiotics for a UTI, your physician will likely look for a different course of action if you come in with another infection. According to the most recent statistics, about 4.5 million Canadians don’t have a regular family doctor. If that’s you, contact your provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, or check to see if your region has an online registry (Ontario has Health Care Connect, while Quebec launched a web-based family doctor finder last year). “It’s important to know that we doctors are privileged to share in your stories and to help you through difficult times,” says Dr. Reade.

4. Share what’s happening in your life

There’s a reason your doctor wants to know where you’re working, if you’re dating and how the kids are—and it’s not just because she likes you. (Though she does, we’re sure.) Physicians need a picture of their patients’ lives beyond their specific health symptoms and conditions, especially when they’re first getting to know you, says Dr. Stephen Wetmore, the family medicine chair at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University in London, Ont. “Doctors need to know these things to understand how your lifestyle and habits may be influencing your health,” he says. So when you’re talking about your exercise habits, your health history and whether you smoke, drink or use drugs, mention your employment status, family obligations and intimate relationships, too, says Dr. Wetmore.

doctor

5. Be a better googler

Doctors know you do it (hello, late-night web searches), but they would prefer you to ask about good sources of information, rather than going rogue online. They also want you to be honest about your fears if you’ve read something particularly upsetting. Physicians can’t address your concerns or point you in the right direction if they don’t know what your fingertips have been up to. “The thing we want our patients to do is ask us for the most reliable Canadian websites to go to as resources,” says Dr. Heather Waters, an assistant professor of family medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.

6. Don’t think your symptoms are “no big deal”

If you’ve noticed you are having more headaches than usual or are sleeping more or are eating less, you might not think to tell your doctor—but you should. There’s no set of rules for determining which symptoms are worthy of investigation or discussion, says Dr. Wetmore, but make a note to mention anything that is new or has changed since your last appointment. “You should bring up things like sudden weight loss or fatigue that seems excessive,” he says. “It could be a sign of a larger problem, or the cause of a developing problem.” Evenif it doesn’t end up being serious, seeing your doctor will help ease any anxiety you might be feeling, and that’s worth the visit, too.

7. Talk about what you’re taking

Tell your physician about any herbal medications and alternative treatments you take, says Dr. Mel Borins, a University of Toronto associate professor and author of A Doctor’s Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. It’s important for patients to share what’s working for them and for doctors to be open-minded about therapies outside their own practice or traditions, he says. This is also a concern when it comes to conventional meds, especially if you’re pregnant; there are only 23 medications specifically approved for use during pregnancy— yes, out of every available drug—which can leave women feeling anxious about taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs when they’re expecting, says Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bridgewater, N.S. But don’t stop taking your meds as soon as your pregnancy test comes back positive. “It’s really important to talk to your doctor instead of stopping cold turkey,” says Dr. MacQuarrie. Physicians can help you determine the risks and benefits of using different drugs, and they can let you know when the effects of not taking a medication while pregnant may be worse than taking it— which is the case with some antidepressants.

8. Avoid diagnosing yourself

You know doctors don’t like it when you come in prepared with a diagnosis you’ve made thanks to the aforementioned Dr. Google. But do you know why? It’s not because they think you’re encroaching on their territory! Rather, they worry that a serious medical problem might get missed or you’ll cause yourself unnecessary anxiety over something not serious. That’s because not everyone has the most common symptoms of a particular condition. Plus, men, women and different ethnicities can have varying symptoms for the same problem. For instance, Dr. Reade’s community has a large proportion of people with diabetes, which can affect the warning signs of cardiac disease, a major killer in Canada. Instead of the usual pain or pressure on the left side of the chest or arm, men and women with diabetes may instead have spells of profuse sweating with weakness. And, of course, women who don’t have diabetes can have differing symptoms, too; sometimes, a heart attack can feel like acid reflux or come with sudden nausea, vomiting and lightheadedness. So always tell your physician if your symptoms are surprising or strange—like a headache that feels different than usual, for example. And if you’re worried about a specific diagnosis, be sure to bring that up, too.

BY: TERRI COLES
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Best Supplement To Improve IQ By 10%

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — an omega-3 fatty acid — can improve IQ by 10%, new research finds.

People in the study, who were aged over 65, were given 2g/day of DHA for a year.

A control group was given a placebo of corn oil.

The high quality study involved 240 Chinese individuals.

Their IQ and other measures of cognitive function were tested after 6 and 12 months.

The study’s authors explain the results:

“…oral DHA supplementation (2 g/d) for 12 months beneficially affected global cognitive function, specifically participants’ performance on the Information and Digit Span tasks.”

Brain scans also revealed changes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain critical for memory.

The study’s authors write:

“The hippocampus is a critical brain region for memory formation and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation.
[…]
Our results suggest that 12-month DHA supplementation significantly increased hippocampus volume.
Notably, we observed a 6.13% volume increase in the left hippocampus, a 1.89% increase in the right hippocampus, and a 0.29% increase in total hippocampus.”

omega3
Best supplement for older adults
with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Best supplement combination?

The use of omega-3 to prevent dementia has provided some mixed results.

B vitamins also seem to be important in warding off cognitive decline.

A recent study found that B vitamins combined with omega-3 can help slow mental decline in older people with memory problems.

The study’s first author, Dr Abderrahim Oulhaj explained the results:

‘We found that for people with low levels of Omega-3, the vitamin supplements had little to no effect.
But for those with high baseline Omega-3 levels, the B vitamins were very effective in preventing cognitive decline compared to the placebo.’

Other studies, though, have been less positive about the benefits of omega-3 for cognitive decline.

It is likely that the combination of nutrients — including both B vitamins and omega-3 will turn out to be the crucial factor.

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Zhang et al., 2016).
OCTOBER 14, 2016
 
source: PsyBlog


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Vitamin Found to Delay Aging Process in Organs

Relaxnews    Published Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An international study, published in the journal Science has led to a promising breakthrough in the field of anti-aging medicine. A vitamin called nicotinamide riboside (NR) — already known to boost metabolism — has been found to restore the body’s ability to regenerate and repair itself.

The regenerative capacity of cells and organs deteriorates with age. The “powerhouses” of cell function — called mitochondria — lose energy over time and prevent cells from regenerating as they once did.

Research teams from Switzerland, Canada and Brazil studied how these changes occur over time. The role of mitochondria in metabolism has already been identified, but the scientists were able to demonstrate for the first time that healthy, functioning mitochondria were important for stem cell function.

In younger bodies, these stem cells usually regenerate damaged organs by producing new, specific cells. “We demonstrated that fatigue in stem cells was one of the main causes of poor regeneration or even degeneration in certain tissues or organs,” explains Dr Hongbo Zhang, a PhD student on the team.

The study set out to revitalize stem cells in the muscles of elderly mice by giving them nicotinamide riboside (NR). This substance is close to vitamin B3 and is a precursor of NAD+, a molecule that plays a key role in the activity of mitochondria. NAD+ levels can be diminished by the stress related to aging.

Nicotinamide riboside (NR)
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) could
help stop the ageing process in organs.

The findings, published in the journal Science, proved highly promising. Muscular regeneration was found to be much better in mice that were given NR. These mice also lived longer than those not given NR. As yet, no negative side effects have been observed from NR use, even at high doses.

The NR vitamin has been discovered in milk. It’s also thought to be found in beer, but the nutrient’s presence is very difficult to measure and quantify. In fact, it’s not yet known precisely which foods contain NR or in what quantities, the specialists explain. The compound is currently on sale in the form of dietary supplements, but as yet there are no scientific guidelines recommending their use.

For the researchers, the study represents a major breakthrough for regenerative medicine, highlighting a potential future means of reestablishing the body’s own ability to repair itself with a dietary supplement.

The findings also hold promising possibilities for the treatment of potentially fatal conditions affecting young people, like muscular dystrophy (a form of myopathy).

However, more detailed studies are required to investigate the action of this substance on pathological cells.


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The Natural Dietary Add-On Found To Treat Anxiety and Even Major Depression

Anxiety reduced 20% on average by a common supplement.

Omega-3 supplements reduce anxiety and even lower inflammation in healthy people.

A high quality study has shown that the supplement reduces anxiety by an average of 20%.

On top of this a new review of 13 separate studies containing 1,233 people has shown that omega-3 supplements can reduce symptoms of major depression (Mocking et al., 2016).

Professor Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the anxiety study’s first author, said:

“We hypothesized that giving some students omega-3 supplements would decrease their production of proinflammatory cytokines, compared to other students who only received a placebo.
We thought the omega-3 would reduce the stress-induced increase in cytokines that normally arose from nervousness over the tests.”

The study recruited 68 healthy young medical students who were divided into groups, with half taking the supplement and others receiving a placebo.

Professor Martha Belury, one of the study’s authors, explained:

“The supplement was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you’d get from a daily serving of salmon, for example.”

The researchers had planned to test the effects of omega-3 on stressed people.

But, because of changes to the curriculum, the medical students were relatively relaxed during the study.

omega 3

Professor Janice Kiecolt-Glaser explained:

“These students were not anxious.
They weren’t really stressed.
They were actually sleeping well throughout this period, so we didn’t get the stress effect we had expected.”

Despite this, those taking the supplements saw 20% reductions in anxiety, on average.

Professor Ron Glaser, another of the study’s authors, explained the measures and results:

“We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa).
We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3.
…anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases.”

Professor Belury concluded:

“It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements throughout the public, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil.
People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet.”

The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2011).

source: PsyBlog


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Creative Immune Boosting

Give seasonal colds and flu the (winter) boot

Don’t be at the mercy of winter’s cold and flu season. A little creative immune boosting, such as massage or a daily dose of laughter, might just keep nasty germs at bay.

Winter—the season of snow, skiing, holidays, and maybe even a little hot cider or wine in front of the fireplace with your loved one. Unfortunately, along with fun and passion, it’s also cold and flu time. Because we’re indoors more in winter, we’re likelier to play pass-the-bug with family, friends, and co-workers.

Nevertheless, we don’t have to avoid others or live outside permanently during winter to stay healthy (though a nice brisk walk or engaging in winter sports does wonders for the mind and body). There are many ways to boost your immune system, making it harder for colds and flu to take up residence.

Magic fingers

Remember the old telephone ad, “Let your fingers do the walking,” which encouraged us to use the Yellow Pages? If you don’t already have a massage therapist, now is a good time to look one up and let their magic fingers do the walking—over your body.

Numerous studies have shown that massage boosts your immune system by

  • increasing the number, kind, and distribution of good white blood cells throughout your body, making it less susceptible to disease
  • reducing inflammation and edema, which can lower the body’s immune system
  • stimulating your brain to release endorphins, producing calm, happy feelings
  • decreasing cortisol, a stress hormone that suppresses your immune system

There are many different types of massage, ranging from gentle stroking to deeper tissue kneading. Speak to your health care practitioner before beginning a massage treatment if you have blood, vein, or bone problems.

  • Aromatherapy massage uses plant-based essential oils on the skin to enhance the healing and relaxing effects of the massage.
  • Lymphatic massage concentrates on improving the flow of lymph, a fluid that helps fight off infection and disease.
  • Shiatsu uses gentle finger and hand pressure on specific body points to relieve pain and enhance the flow of energy (qi) through the body.
  • Swedish massage blends a variety of strokes and pressure techniques for all-over body health.

Laughter is the best medicine

Laughing is good exercise for the body, releasing mood-boosting endorphins, decreasing stress hormones, and increasing the type of white blood cells that fight infection. Scientists may not be the funny people of the world, but their research indicates a good laugh could be another tool in your disease-fighting arsenal.

Studies have investigated self-reported sense of humour, exposure to humorous stimuli, and smiling versus laughing. Computer geeks may be right: laughing out loud (LOL) had the most consistently positive immune-enhancing effect.

Find out what tickles your funny bone. Books. Movies. Silly songs. Sign up for a joke-a-day website and get your morning chuckle delivered right to your mailbox. Surround yourself with people who like to laugh and you’ll find yourself laughing with them.

When it comes to preventing colds and flu, let funny be your friend. Laugh, chuckle, or guffaw yourself healthy.

Sleep: Nature’s remedy

While you don’t have to hibernate to escape cold and flu season, getting enough sleep reduces stress, elevates your mood, and gives your immune system the resources to fight off disease.

If you’re sleep-deprived, your body’s cycle is thrown off and your immune system is disrupted. Even mild sleep deprivation—a couple of late nights—can have an adverse effect by overstimulating white blood cells. The greater and longer the deprivation, the more pronounced the effect and the more difficult it is for your immune system to recover its natural balance.

Aim for seven to eight hours. Sleeping fewer than seven hours makes you three times more likely to get a cold. And don’t count on the flu shot to make up for too many late nights; sleep deprivation can cut the effectiveness of the flu vaccine by 50 percent.

Sweet dreams.

Socialize to stay healthy

Strengthening your social network strengthens your immune system. Good friends keep you feeling connected to others, warding off feelings of loneliness. Researchers have known for years that people with strong social ties are more likely to survive serious illnesses.

Newer studies point to the effects of isolation on your immune system. Loneliness actually changes the immune system on a cellular level, decreasing your body’s ability to fight disease.

Colds and flu are not generally life-threatening, but they’re not a lot of laughs either. Family and friends may accidently pass on a virus, but their social support helps your immune system fight it off. They’re also likely to bring you chicken soup if you do get sick.

If you already have a strong social network, don’t take those people for granted. No matter how busy you are, make time to connect, even if it’s only a short phone call or an email. If you want to build up your circle of friends, take action. Volunteer, enrol in a course, take up a winter sport, or join an interest group to give you something to talk about.

cold

Think positive for better health

The mind-body connection is a two-way street. Being unhealthy can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed, while a negative mental state can lessen your immunity, causing illness. So it’s no surprise that research showed positive people fought off both cold and flu viruses better than those who were anxious, hostile, or depressed.

Rose-coloured glasses? Not necessary. Instead, strive for realistic optimism, which accepts that bad things happen but emphasizes keeping negative thoughts and fears at a manageable level. Staying positive allows your body to be its own doctor—releasing endorphins to cope with pain, gamma globulin to fortify your immune system, and interferon to fight viruses. Negative thoughts short-circuit this process.

The good news is that other immune boosters—sleeping, eating properly, social networking—also help keep you more upbeat, creating a positive feedback loop on the highway to health.

Eat a rainbow

Is it feed a cold and starve a fever or the other way around? Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables daily, and you’ll be less likely to have either. The pot of gold at this rainbow’s end is a stronger-functioning immune system.

Each colour group tends to be high in particular vitamins, antioxidants, and other disease and inflammation-fighting compounds. In general, the darker the colour, the more nutrients. By regularly eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, you’ll get the widest range of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants—tools your immune system needs to keep running at its best.

Orange and yellow

The orange and yellow family owe their colour to beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Many are also high in vitamin C and folate. Foods in this family include apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, nectarines, butternut squash, carrots, yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, and citrus fruits.

Red

The red family aren’t blushing; they’re just filled with lycopene or anthocyanins, heavy hitters on the keep-healthy team. Good choices include strawberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, red peppers, beets, red cabbage, and cooked tomatoes.

Green

The green family get their eco-friendly shade from chlorophyll and may contain other health-enhancing compounds such as lutein, indoles, folate, and vitamin E. Members to munch on include green apples, grapes, limes, spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens, green peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and avocado.

Blue

The blue and purple family are coloured by anthocyanins, powerful protectors of cells in the body. Grab some blackberries, blueberries, raisins, figs, purple grapes, prunes, or eggplant.

White

The white family may not be found on a real rainbow, but they have a place in your daily diet. They get their colour, which ranges from white to brown, from anthoxanthins. Some also contain allicin and potassium. Members in good standing include bananas, onions, parsnips, turnips, jicama, and potatoes. Garlic has long been known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties, while reishi, maitake, and shiitake mushrooms are believed to directly boost immune function.

Supplements that boost immunity

Great! You’re trying your hardest to get massages, laugh, sleep enough, eat properly, surround yourself with friends, and have a positive attitude. But let’s face it: life can get in the way of even the best intentions.

Adding vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements to your diet can help you this cold and flu season—and all year round for that matter. Many of them do double duty, helping your immune system while protecting you from a wide range of other diseases.

A daily multivitamin, especially one that contains selenium, zinc, and magnesium, is a good way to enhance your immune system. Don’t overdo it, however, particularly with vitamins A and E and zinc: too much of even a good thing can be bad, so enjoy the most immunity-boosting benefits by taking the recommended daily dose of these supplements.

Certain herbs and supplements also look promising for increasing immunity. Garlic, ginseng, milk thistle, and astragalus possess protective properties that have been shown to fight viruses and infections. Probiotics—healthy bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium—may also support immune function.

November 28, 2013        Harriet Cooper


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The 3 Most Important Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that have numerous benefits for health.
But, they’re not all equal.

By Freydi Hjalmarsdottir / Authority Nutrition November 19, 2015

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that have numerous benefits for health.

However, not all omega-3 fatty acids are equal.

There are actually 11 different types. The three most important ones are ALA, EPA and DHA.

ALA is mostly found in plants, while EPA and DHA are mostly found in animal foods like fatty fish.

This article takes a detailed look at these three main types of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A Recap

Like all fatty acids, omega-3s are chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, meaning they have two or more double bonds (poly = many) in their chemical structure.

Just like the omega-6s, omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made by the body and we must get them from the diet. This is why they are termed essential fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are not simply stored and used for energy. They have important roles in all sorts of bodily processes, including inflammation, heart health and brain function.

Being deficient in omega-3s is associated with lower intelligence, depression, heart disease, arthritis, cancer and many other health problems.

Bottom Line: Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats that we must get from the diet. They have numerous benefits for health.

1. ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid)

ALA is short for alpha-linolenic acid. This is the most common omega-3 fatty acid in the diet.

It is 18 carbons long, with three double bonds.

ALA is mostly found in plant foods, and needs to be converted into the EPA or DHA before it can be utilized by the human body.

However, this conversion process is inefficient in humans. Only a small percentage of ALA is converted into EPA, and even less into DHA.

When ALA is not converted to EPA or DHA, it remains inactive and is simply stored or used as energy, like other fats.

Some observational studies have found an association between a diet rich in ALA and a reduced risk of heart disease deaths, while others have found an increased risk of prostate cancer.

This increase in prostate cancer risk was not associated with the other main omega-3 types, EPA and DHA, which actually had a protective effect.

ALA is found in many plant foods, including kale, spinach, purslane, soybeans,walnuts and many seeds such as chia, flax and hemp seeds. ALA is also found in some animal fats.

Some seed oils, such as flaxseed oil and rapeseed (canola) oil are also high in ALA.

Bottom Line: ALA is short for alpha-linolenic acid. It is mostly found in plant foods, and needs to be converted into EPA or DHA in order to become active in the human body.

2. EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)

EPA is short for eicosapentaenoic acid. It is 20 carbons long, with 5 double bonds.

Its main function is to form signaling molecules called eicosanoids, which play numerous physiological roles.

Eicosanoids made from omega-3s reduce inflammation, while those made from omega-6s tend to increase inflammation.

For this reason, a diet high in EPA may reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic, low-level inflammation is known to drive several common diseases.

Several studies have shown that fish oil, which is high in EPA and DHA, may reduce symptoms of depression. There is also some evidence that EPA is superior to DHA in this regard.

One study also found that EPA reduced the number of hot flashes experienced by menopausal women.

Both EPA and DHA are mostly found in seafood, including fatty fish and algae. For this reason, they are often called marine omega-3s.

EPA concentrations are highest in herring, salmon, eel, shrimp and sturgeon. Grass-fed animal products, such as dairy and meats, also contain some EPA.

Bottom Line: EPA is short for eicosapentaenoic acid. It is an omega-3 fatty acid that can reduce symptoms of depression and help fight inflammation in the body.

salmon

3. DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)

DHA is short for docosahexaenoic acid. It is 22 carbons long, with 6 double bonds.

DHA is an important structural component of skin and the retina in the eye.

Fortifying baby formula with DHA leads to improved vision in infants.

DHA is absolutely vital for brain development and function in childhood, as well as brain function in adults.

Early-life DHA deficiency is associated with problems later on, such as learning disabilities, ADHD, aggressive hostility and several other disorders.

A decrease in DHA during aging is also associated with impaired brain function and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

DHA is also reported to have positive effects on diseases such as arthritis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

The role of DHA in heart disease is also well established. It can reduce blood triglycerides, and may lead to fewer harmful LDL particles.

DHA also causes the breakup of so called lipid rafts in membranes, making it more difficult for cancer cells to survive and for inflammation to occur.

As mentioned before, DHA is found in high amounts in seafood, including fatty fish and algae. Grass-fed animal products also contain some DHA.

Bottom Line: DHA is short for docosahexaenoic acid. It is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that is very important for brain development. It may also help protect against heart disease, cancer and other health problems.

Conversion Process: From ALA to EPA to DHA

ALA, the most common omega-3 fat, needs to be converted into EPA or DHA to become “active”.

Unfortunately, this conversion process is inefficient in humans. On average, only 1–10% is converted into EPA and 0.5–5% is converted into DHA.

Furthermore, the conversions are dependent on adequate levels of other nutrients, such as vitamins B6 and B7, copper, calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Many of these are lacking in the modern diet, especially among vegetarians.

The low conversion rate is also because omega-6 fatty acids compete for the same enzymes needed for the conversion process. Therefore, the high amount of omega-6 in the modern diet can reduce the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA.

Bottom Line: ALA is not biologically active in the body. It needs to be converted into EPA and/or DHA in order to become active, but this conversion process is inefficient in humans.

8 Other Omega-3 Fatty Acids

ALA, EPA and DHA are the most abundant omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.

However, at least 8 other omega-3 fatty acids have been discovered:

  1. Hexadecatrienoic acid (HTA).
  2. Stearidonic acid (SDA).
  3. Eicosatrienoic acid (ETE).
  4. Eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA).
  5. Heneicosapentaenoic acid (HPA).
  6. Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA).
  7. Tetracosapentaenoic acid.
  8. Tetracosahexaenoic acid.

These fatty acids are found in some foods, but are not considered essential. However, some of of them do have biological effects.

Bottom Line: At least 8 other omega-3 fatty acids have been discovered. They are found in some foods, and can have biological effects.

Which Omega-3 Fatty Acid is Best?
The most important omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA.

EPA and DHA are mainly found in seafood, including fatty fish and algae, meat and dairy from grass-fed animals, and omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs.

If you don’t eat a lot of these foods, then omega-3 supplements can be useful.

Freydis Hjalmarsdottir is a writer for Authority Nutrition. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Iceland, a BSc in Human Nutrition from London Metropolitan University in London and a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from CNM, London.


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How to Increase Dopamine, the Motivation Molecule

By Deane Alban      Contributing Writer for Wake Up World      7th March 2015

Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter for motivation, focus and productivity. Learn the symptoms of dopamine deficiency and natural ways to increase dopamine levels …

There are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain — about as many stars as there are in the Milky Way. These cells communicate with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for providing motivation, drive, and focus. It plays a role in many mental disorders including depression, addictions, ADHD, and schizophrenia.

Let’s take a closer look at dopamine — what it does, symptoms of deficiency, and how to increase it naturally.

Dopamine: The Motivation Molecule

Dopamine has been called our “motivation molecule.” It boosts our drive, focus, and concentration. It enables us to plan ahead and resist impulses so we can achieve our goals. It gives us that “I did it!” lift when we accomplish what we set out to do. It makes us competitive and provides the thrill of the chase in all aspects of life — business, sports, and love.

Dopamine is in charge of our pleasure-reward system. It allows us to have feelings of enjoyment, bliss, and even euphoria. But too little dopamine can leave you unfocused, unmotivated, lethargic, and even depressed.

Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms

People low in dopamine lack a zest for life. They exhibit low energy and motivation, and often rely on caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants to get through the day.

Many common dopamine deficiency symptoms are similar to those of depression:

  • lack of motivation
  • fatigue
  • apathy
  • procrastination
  • inability to feel pleasure
  • low libido
  • sleep problems
  • mood swings
  • hopelessness
  • memory loss
  • inability to concentrate

Dopamine-deficient lab mice become so apathetic and lethargic they lack motivation to eat and starve to death.  Conversely, some people who are low in dopamine compensate with self-destructive behaviors to get their dopamine boost. This can include use and abuse of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, drugs, shopping, video games, sex, power, or gambling.

How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

There are plenty of unhealthy ways to raise dopamine. But you don’t have to resort to “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” to boost your dopamine levels. Here are some healthy, proven ways to increase dopamine levels naturally.

Foods That Increase Dopamine

Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine. Eating a diet high in tyrosine will ensure you’ve got the basic building blocks needed for dopamine production.

Here’s a list of tyrosine-rich foods:

  • all animal products
  • almonds
  • apples
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • beets
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • fava beans
  • green leafy vegetables
  • green tea
  • lima beans
  • oatmeal
  • sea vegetables
  • sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • turmeric
  • watermelon
  • wheat germ

Foods high in natural probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and raw sauerkraut can also increase natural dopamine production. Oddly, the health of your intestinal flora impacts your production of neurotransmitters.

An overabundance of bad bacteria leaves toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which lower levels of dopamine.

Sugar has been found to boost dopamine but this is a temporary boost, more drug-like than food-like.

Dopamine Supplements

There are supplements that can raise dopamine levels naturally.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It’s available in an isolated form as a supplement. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and can boost levels of dopamine.

Curcumin has been found to help alleviate obsessive actions and improve associated memory loss by increasing dopamine.

Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for a variety of brain-related problems — poor concentration, forgetfulness, headaches, fatigue, mental confusion, depression, and anxiety.

One of the mechanisms by which ginkgo works is by raising dopamine.

L-theanine is a component found in green tea. It increases levels of dopamine along with other neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA.  L-theanine improves recall, learning, and positive mood. You can get your dopamine boost by either taking theanine supplements or by drinking 3 cups of green tea per day.

L-tyrosine — the precursor to dopamine — is available as a supplement.

We recommend taking acetyl-l-tyrosine — a more absorbable form that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier.

Phosphatidylserine acts as your brain’s “gatekeeper,” regulating nutrients and waste in and out of your brain. It can increase dopamine levels and improve memory, concentration, learning, and ADHD.

happy-chemicals-dopamine-serotonin-endorphin-oxytocin

Boost Dopamine with Exercise

Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. It boosts production of new brain cells, slows down brain cell aging, and improves the flow of nutrients to the brain. It can also increase your levels of dopamine and the other “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.

Dr. John Ratey, renowned psychiatrist and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, has extensively studied the effects of physical exercise on the brain. He found that exercise raises baseline levels of dopamine by promoting the growth of new brain cell receptors.

Dopamine is responsible in part for the high serious runners experience.  But you don’t need to exercise strenuously to enhance your brain. Taking walks, or doing gentle, no-impact exercises like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong all provide powerful mind-body benefits.

Increase Dopamine with Meditation

The benefits of meditation have been proven in over 1,000 studies.  Regular meditators experience enhanced ability to learn, increased creativity, and deep relaxation. It’s been shown that meditation increases dopamine, improving focus and concentration.

Crafting hobbies of all kinds — knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking, and home repair — focus the brain similarly to meditation. These activities increase dopamine, ward off depression, and protect against brain aging.

Listening to music can cause of release of dopamine. Oddly, you don’t even have to hear music to get this neurotransmitter flowing — just the anticipation of listening can do that.

Using Your Brain’s Reward System to Balance Dopamine

Dopamine functions as a survival mechanism by releasing energy when a great opportunity is in front of you. Dopamine rewards us when our needs are met. We love dopamine surges because of the way they make us feel. But according to Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning, author of Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin, we are not designed to experience a non-stop dopamine buzz. The constant hunt for dopamine boosts can turn you into a “Wolf on Wall Street” — driven by addictions, greed, and lust.

Here are some healthy ways to balance your dopamine by working with your brain’s built-in reward system.

Enjoy the Quest

Our ancestors were on a constant quest to survive. They got a dopamine surge every time they spotted a new patch of berries or a better fishing hole because this meant they’d live to seek another day. While you can still pick berries and fish, there are endless other healthy ways you can enjoy the quest in modern life.

You can forage for new music to download, specialty ingredients to cook with, a travel package bargain, a hard-to-find collector’s item, or that perfect gift for a loved one. You can engage in specifically quest-oriented hobbies like geocaching, bird watching, rockhounding, amateur archaeology, and collecting of all kinds.

The act of seeking and finding activates your reward circuits — with no regrets later.

Create Both Long and Short Term Goals

Dopamine is released when we achieve a goal. Having only long term goals gets frustrating, so set both short term and long term goals. Short term goals don’t have to be anything major. They can be as simple as trying a new recipe, getting caught up on emails, cleaning a closet, or finally learning how to use a new app for your phone.

Break up long term goals into small short term goals to give yourself dopamine boosts along the way.

Take on a New Challenge

Getting a promotion is a great dopamine boost, but this doesn’t happen very often! But you can create your own dopamine rewards by setting a goal, then take small steps toward it every day. This can be starting a new exercise program, learning French, or challenging yourself to drive home from work a different way every day, preferably without the use of your GPS.

According to Dr. Graziano Breuning, working on a goal without fail for 45 days will train your brain to stimulate dopamine production in a new way.

Dopamine and Mental Conditions

Dopamine plays such an important role in how we live our lives, it’s no surprise that when the dopamine system is out of balance it can contribute to many mental conditions.

Some of the most common conditions that have a dopamine connection:

Dopamine and ADHD

The underlying cause of ADHD is still unknown. Until recently it was widely accepted that the root cause of ADHD was probably an abnormality in dopamine function. This seems logical since dopamine is critical for maintaining focus. Most ADHD medications are based on this “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.

However, the latest research suggests that the main cause of ADHD lies in a structural difference in the grey matter in the brain and not dopamine.

Dopamine and Depression

Serotonin is the brain chemical most associated with depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro are prescribed for depression and work by increasing brain levels of serotonin. But this only works in about 40% of patients who use them.

What about the other 60%?

There’s a growing body of evidence that shows low dopamine and not low serotonin is the cause of depression for many. Bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin) has proven effective for patients who haven’t been helped by SSRIs by addressing dopamine deficiency.

How to determine if your depression is more likely from serotonin versus dopamine deficiency? Serotonin-based depression is accompanied by anxiety and irritability, while dopamine-based depression expresses itself as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life.