Gut-Brain Health – What Neuroscientists Are Calling “A Paradigm Shift”

4 months, 10 days ago

 

paradigm shiftThe trillions of microbes that inhabit your body are collectively called the microbiome.

They outnumber your own cells ten to one and weigh up to twice weight of the average human brain. Most of them live in your gut and intestines, where they help to digest food, synthesise vitamins and ward off infection.

The microbiome has shown that its influence extends far beyond the gut, all the way to the brain.

I’ve written about this in the blog before: One billions reasons probiotics protect your brain, and it looks like the gut-brain topic is hotting up with David Perlmutter author of Grain Brain set to publish a book in April: ‘Brain Maker – the power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life’. In Brain Maker, Dr. Perlmutter will explain

the potent interplay between intestinal microbes and the brain, describing how the microbiome develops from birth and evolves based on lifestyle choices, how it can become ‘sick’ and how nurturing gut health through a few easy strategies can alter your brain’s destiny for the better.

Not to be outdone, last November members of the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) held a symposium titled Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience. A summary paper of emerging topics covered in the symposium has been published that claims that

“…the discovery and the explosive progress in the characterisation of the gut microbiome have initiated a paradigm shift in medicine and neuroscience.”

Here is a summary of the symposium discussions:

Gut-Brain signalling

A growing body of preclinical literature has demonstrated there is a complex signaling system between the mind, brain, gut, and its microbiome.

These findings have resulted in speculation that alterations in the gut microbiome may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including:

autism spectrum disorder
anxiety
depression
chronic pain.

John Cryan, the irish neuroscientist you met in my previous article, likens communication to Downton Abbey-like upstairs/downstairs communication,

“The upstairs and the downstairs need each other to survive. From a distance, it looks like they are living completely separate and they don’t have much to do with one another. But when things start going wrong downstairs that filters on upstairs. It’s the same with the gut and the brain. If there is something wrong with your microbiome, it’s going to filter on upstairs in the brain, too.”

The microbiome is impacted by stress

Psychological and physical stressors alter the composition and metabolism of the gut microbiota. And experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behaviour and related brain systems.

For example, when mice are given antibiotics researchers see a decrease in BDNF (a key protein involved in neuronal plasticity and cognition) in the hippocampus (a region involved in emotion, learning and memory).

Tracy Bale, Professor of Neuroscience at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and her team have found that stress-induced changes to a mother’s microbiome can be passed to the offspring which in turn might alter the way her baby’s brain develops.

In a recent interview with the Kavli Foundation Bale notes,

“There are key developmental windows when the brain is more vulnerable because it’s setting itself up to respond to the world around it.  So, if mom’s microbial ecosystem changes — due to infection, stress or diet, for example — her newborn’s gut microbiome will change too, and that can have a lifetime effect.”

A role for probiotics

A growing body of evidence from rodent studies further supports a role for probiotics. Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus probiotic treatment shows beneficial effects on anxiety- and depression-like behaviour in rats and mice.

In one human study of chronic fatigue syndrome (another disorder of brain–body interaction) a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a Lactobacillus-containing probiotic decreased anxiety, but not depression symptoms, in the active treatment group. This study, published as a brief report, lacked detail in terms of the reported result and should be interpreted with caution according the SFN symposium attendees.

Probiotics being used widely (and represent a 20 billion dollar industry). Overall, human studies suggest a potential for positive effects on mood, but human work is preliminary and the SFN symposium called for larger, well-designed clinical trials to be conducted.

What’s next for gut-brain research?

Crowd-sourcing fecal samples (yep, The American Gut Project is crowd-sourcing poo!), fecal transplants, mRNA sequencing or proteomics, fMRI … the symposim concluded that it is difficult to predict the trajectory of the next exciting period of discovery.

Will the gut microbiome add paradigm-transforming insights to our existing understanding of human brain function in health and disease, resulting in novel therapies?

Or will it represent an incremental step in understanding the inner workings of our brains?

Certainly, the next few years of research hold the potential of  uncovering intriguing connections between gut bacteria and neurological conditions that may possibly impact human health.

Tim Cryan is very enthusiastic,

“We’re right at the dawn of a whole new way of thinking about brain development and brain heath. And the neuroscientific evidence for the role of the microbiome is just getting stronger and stronger at the basic level.”

 

 

References

Kavli Foundation. (2015, January 8). Could gut microbes help treat brain disorders? Mounting research tightens their connection with the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 8, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150108125953.htm
The Brain–Gut Axis and Neuropsychiatric Disease: A Paradigm Shift, by Kayt Sukel, December 16, 2014.
Mayer et al Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014 Nov 12;34(46):15490-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3299-14.2014.

Image source: Wikicommons

 

 

The post Gut-Brain Health – What Neuroscientists Are Calling “A Paradigm Shift” appeared first on Your Brain Health.

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Top 12 Tips to Strengthen Gratitude

5 months, 18 days ago

30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your
Health

This article is included in Dr. Mercola’s All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.

Keeping a written record of the things you’re thankful for is good for your health. That’s the conclusion reached by an ever-growing number of published studies showing a wide range of physical benefits. According to Laurie Santos, a psychologist who teaches a science of well-being and happiness course at Yale, focusing on gratitude has become a growing trend in recent years,1 and for good reason.

There’s an awful lot of stress and unhappiness in the world, and gratitude is an effective remedy that costs nothing. According to the Harris Poll Happiness Index, just 1 in 3 Americans reports being “very happy.”2 Other research suggests nearly 1 in 4 experiences no life enjoyment at all.3

If your joy quotient could use a boost, commit to cultivating gratitude this year. A simple and proven way of doing this is to keep a gratitude journal, in which you document the things you’re grateful for each day.

One 2015 study4 found participants who kept a gratitude diary and reflected on what they were grateful for four times a week for three weeks improved their depression, stress and happiness scores. In a more recent study,5 high school students asked to keep gratitude journals over the course of a month also exhibited healthier eating patterns.

Definition of Gratitude

According to Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts on gratitude6 featured in the video above, gratitude has two key components.7 First of all, it’s an “affirmation of goodness.”

When you feel gratitude, you affirm that you live in a benevolent world. Second, it’s a recognition that the source of benevolence comes from outside of yourself; that other people (or higher powers, if you so like) have provided you with “gifts.” In Emmons’ view, gratitude is “a relationship-strengthening emotion, because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” If you’ve decided to keep a gratitude journal, keep the following guidelines in mind:

Focus on the benevolence of other people — Doing so will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease unnecessary anxiety
Focus on what you have received rather than what’s been withheld
Avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages, more things or “better luck,” as doing so will erode your sense of security. If you’re going to slip into comparisons, contemplate what your life would be like if you didn’t have something you currently enjoy

Health Benefits of Gratitude

As noted by Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy,8 an expert in brain and mind health, gratitude has “a health maintenance indication for every major organ system” in your body.9 For example, research shows that gratitude:10,11

Alters your brain in a number of beneficial ways — Examples include triggering release of mood-regulating neurotransmitters12 such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and oxytocin; inhibiting the stress hormone cortisol; and stimulating your hypothalamus (a brain area involved in the regulation of stress) and your ventral tegmental area (part of your brain’s reward circuitry that produces pleasurable feelings)13

Increases happiness and life satisfaction14,15

Lowers stress and emotional distress

Improves emotional resiliency16

Reduces symptoms of depression17 — According to one study,18 “Correlation analysis showed that gratitude, depression, peace of mind and rumination were interrelated … Results … suggested that gratitude may … counteract the symptoms of depression by enhancing a state of peace of mind and reducing ruminative thinking”

Reduces pain

Lowers inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines

Lowers blood sugar

Improves immune function19

Lowers blood pressure

Improves heart health,20 reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease

Lowers risk for heart disease21,22 — According to the authors, “Efforts to increase gratitude may be a treatment for improving well-being in heart failure patients’ lives and may be of potential clinical value”

Improves general health by encouraging self-care — In one study,23,24 people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more and had fewer visits to the doctor

Improves sleep25

Improves interpersonal relationships

Boosts productivity — In one study,26 managers who expressed gratitude saw a 50 percent increase in the employees’ performance

Reduces materialism27

Increases generosity28

Science and Practice of Gratitude

In 2011, the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, in collaboration with Emmons, launched a project called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. This project aims to:29

Expand the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science
Raise awareness and engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the meaning and significance of gratitude
Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in educational, medical and organizational settings

The organization has a number of resources you can peruse at your leisure, including The Science of Happiness blog and newsletter,30 and Thnx4, a digital gratitude journal31 where you can record and share the things you’re grateful for year-round. There are also many other gratitude journal apps you can download. Last year, Positive Routines rated 11 of the best apps to track your happiness.32 Remember Emmons words:

“Neuroscientist Rick Hanson has said that the brain takes the shape the mind rests upon. Rest your mind upon worry, sadness, annoyance and irritability and it will begin to take the shape neurally of anxiety, depression and anger. Ask your brain to give thanks and it will get better at finding things to be grateful for, and begin to take the shape of gratitude.

Everything we do creates connections within networks of the brain, and the more you repeat something, the stronger those connections get. The mind can change the brain in lasting ways. In other words, what flows through the mind sculpts the brain.”

Blocks to Gratitude

Depending on circumstances, gratitude can sometimes be a struggle. However, according to Emmons and the GGSC, materialism is frequently the greatest stumbling block, and it really need not be. As noted in one of the GGSC’s newsletters:33

“Seen through the lens of buying and selling, relationships as well as things are viewed as disposable, and gratitude cannot survive this materialistic onslaught … Research has proven that gratitude is essential for happiness, but modern times have regressed gratitude into a mere feeling instead of retaining its historic value, a virtue that leads to action …

[G]ratitude is an action of returning a favor and is not just a sentiment. By the same token, ingratitude is the failure to both acknowledge receiving a favor and refusing to return or repay the favor. Just as gratitude is the queen of the virtues, ingratitude is the king of the vices …

If we fail to choose [gratitude], by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day. Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted.

We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt … People who are ungrateful tend to be characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance, arrogance, vanity and an unquenchable need for admiration and approval.

Narcissists reject the ties that bind people into relationships of reciprocity. They expect special favors and feel no need to pay back or pay forward … Without empathy, they cannot appreciate an altruistic gift because they cannot identify with the mental state of the gift-giver.”

If entitlement is the hallmark of narcissism, then humility is the antidote and the answer when you struggle with gratitude. As noted by Emmons, “The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response to life.”34

So, gratitude isn’t a response to receiving “your due,” but rather the recognition that life owes you nothing, yet provided you with everything you have anyway — a place to live, family, friends, work, your eyesight, your breath, indeed your very life. When you start seeing everything as a gift, opposed to things you’ve deserved (for better or worse), your sense of gratitude will begin to swell.

Another way to flex your gratitude muscle when life events leave you uninspired is to identify and express gratitude for seemingly “useless” or insignificant things. It could be a certain smell in the air, the color of a flower, your child’s freckles or the curvature of a stone. Over time, you’ll find that doing this will really home your ability to identify “good” things in your life.

10 Other Practical Strategies to Build and Strengthen Gratitude

Aside from keeping a daily gratitude journal and being grateful for the simple, insignificant things around you, there are many other ways to practice gratitude. I’ve compiled 10 additional suggestions from various experts below. The key is to stay consistent. Find a way to incorporate your chosen method into each week, ideally each day, and stick with it. Place a reminder note on your bathroom mirror if you need to, or schedule it into your calendar along with all of your other important to-do’s.

1. Write thank-you notes35 — When thanking someone, be specific and acknowledge the effort and/or cost involved.

This year, make it a point to write thank-you notes or letters in response to each gift or kind act — or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life. To get you started, consider practicing mindful thank yous for seven days straight.

2. Say grace at each meal — Adopting the ritual of saying grace at each meal is a great way to flex your gratitude muscle on a daily basis,36 and will also foster a deeper connection to your food.

While this can be a perfect opportunity to honor a spiritual connection with the divine, you don’t have to turn it into a religious speech if you don’t want to. You could simply say, “I am grateful for this food, and appreciate all the time and hard work that went into its production, transportation and preparation.”

3. Let go of negativity by changing your perception — Disappointment can be a major source of stress, which is known to have far-reaching effects on your health and longevity. In fact, centenarians overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to avoid if you want to live a long and healthy life. Since stress is virtually unavoidable, the key is to develop and strengthen your ability to manage your stress so that it doesn’t wear you down over time.

Rather than dwelling on negative events, most centenarians figured out how to let things go, and you can do that too. It takes practice, though. It’s a skill that must be honed daily, or however often you’re triggered.

A foundational principle to let go of negativity is the realization that the way you feel has little to do with the event itself, and everything to do with your perception of it. Wisdom of the ancients dictate that events are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. It is your belief about the event that upsets you, not the fact that it happened.

As noted by Ryan Holiday, author of “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living,”37 “The Stoics are saying, ‘This happened to me,’ is not the same as, ‘This happened to me and that’s bad.’ They’re saying if you stop at the first part, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens.” And, once you can see the good, you’re more apt to feel gratitude.

4. Be mindful of your nonverbal actions — Smiling and hugging are both ways of expressing gratitude, encouragement, excitement, empathy and support. These physical actions also help strengthen your inner experience of positive emotions of all kinds.

5. Give praise — Research38 shows using “other-praising” phrases are far more effective than “self-beneficial” phrases. For example, praising a partner saying, “thank you for going out of your way to do this,” is more powerful than a compliment framed in terms of how you benefited, such as “it makes me happy when you do that.”

The former resulted in the partner feeling happier and more loving toward the person giving the praise. Also, be mindful of your delivery — say it like you mean it. Establishing eye contact is another tactic that helps you show your sincerity. 

6. Prayer and/or mindfulness meditation — Expressing thanks during prayer or meditation is another way to cultivate gratitude. Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you’re grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze or a lovely memory.

7. Create a nightly gratitude ritual — One suggestion is to create a gratitude jar,39 into which the entire family can add notes of gratitude on a daily basis. Any jar or container will do. Simply write a quick note on a small slip of paper and put it into the jar.

Some make an annual (or biannual or even monthly) event out of going through the whole jar, reading each slip out loud. If you have young children, a lovely ritual suggested by Dr. Alison Chen in a Huffington Post article40 is to create a bedtime routine that involves stating what you’re grateful for out loud.

8. Spend money on activities instead of things — According to recent research,41 spending money on experiences not only generates more gratitude than material consumption, it also motivates greater generosity. As noted by co-author Amit Kumar, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago, “People feel fortunate, and because it’s a diffuse, untargeted type of gratitude, they’re motivated to give back to people in general.”42

9. Embrace the idea of having “enough” — According to many who have embraced a more minimalist lifestyle, the key to happiness is learning to appreciate and be grateful for having “enough.”

Financial hardship and work stress are two significant contributors to depression and anxiety. The answer is to buy less and appreciate more. Instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, practice being grateful for the things you already have, and release yourself from the iron grip of advertising, which tells you there’s lack in your life.

Many who have adopted the minimalist lifestyle claim they’ve been able to reduce the amount of time they have to work to pay their bills, freeing up time for volunteer work, creative pursuits and taking care of their personal health, thereby dramatically raising their happiness and life satisfaction. The key here is deciding what “enough” is. Consumption itself is not the problem; unchecked and unnecessary shopping is.

Many times, accumulation of material goods is a symptom that you may be trying to fill a void in your life, yet that void can never be filled by material things. More often than not, the void is silently asking for more love, personal connection, or experiences that bring purpose and passionate engagement. So, make an effort to identify your real, authentic emotional and spiritual needs, and then focus on fulfilling them in ways that does not involve shopping. 

10. Try tapping — The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a helpful tool for a number of emotional challenges, including lack of gratitude. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure based on the energy meridians used in acupuncture that can quickly restore inner balance and healing, and helps rid your mind of negative thoughts and emotions. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for gratitude.

 

Tip #16Clean Up Your Cleaning Products

Tip #18Burn Fat With Intermittent Fasting

Read more: articles.mercola.com

Celebrity Parenting Advice is Meaningless

7 months, 26 days ago

Taking celebrity advice is idiotic. Taking celebrity parenting advice is even worse.

I’m not gonna tell anyone to “shut up and dribble” or to stick to rapping, no matter how ridiculous their comments might be. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and if we’re gonna get mad that a famous person uses their platform to spout theirs, then maybe we shouldn’t have made that person famous to begin with. The fact is, getting parenting advice from almost anyone – other parents, your parents, non-parents, coworkers, that close-minded anti-Trumper with a dad blog – is one of the small tortures of this lifestyle.

But there’s something worse about celebrity parenting advice.

vaccinate, anti-vax, jenny mccarthy, herd immunity, parenthood, risk, parenting, mike julianellle, dad and buried, dad blogger, mommy blogger, health, autismThere are two things worse about celebrity parenting advice, actually: its ubiquity and its irrelevance.

Because these people are famous, whether through talent or looks or happenstance, they have access to more people than most, whether those people actively grant it to them or not. I couldn’t care less about reality stars or television chefs or the royal family or the guy that holds P. Diddy’s umbrella, and yet because they’ve been granted fame, and because so many people do inexplicably care about them, their messages are amplified and spread into every nook and cranny. You’d have to live completely off the grid to avoid much of this stuff, and that’s not a luxury many of us can afford these days.

At the same time, their lifestyles are so far afield from what most of us experience, they way they live and the way they parent – no matter how often they go to Starbucks or take their kids to the park and struggle with the car seat – has no bearing on our lives at all.

But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.

Sometimes a celebrity talks out of school about something on which they have no expertise; think Robert DeNiro or Jenny McCarthy on vaccinations. Sometimes it’s celebrities crowing about work-life balance when they live a lavish lifestyle full of nannies and personal trainers and personal chefs; see Gwyneth Paltrow or Angelina Jolie. And then there are the ones everybody actually likes, who seem like regular people who got lucky, like Chrissy Teigan or Kristen Bell or Ryan Reynolds. They make jokes and they complain about the same stuff and they’re down-to-earth and they’re just like us!

And then – maybe because the media lionizes them through no fault of their own, or maybe because they, like most of us, occasionally forget themselves on social media, and maybe because when you have people recording everything you say, you’re bound to make a misstep or two – they are presented as having cracked the code with their celebrity parenting advice.

Kristen Bell’s Amazing Parenting Hacks!
Chrissy Teigan’s Perfect Parenting Tactic!
Ways Chris Pratt and Anna Faris are Winning at Parenting!

I like all of those people. In some ways, I envy all of those people. But I don’t care one whit about how they parent their kids, anymore than I care how you parent yours. (And I bet many of them would agree with me.) It’s none of my business, and their lifestyles, no matter how “relatable” their personalities, have almost zero relevance to mine, or, I’m guessing, to yours. I don’t care how they do it. Maybe if they were parenting experts I would care (except there is no such thing), and maybe if I was a rich celebrity juggling movie shoots and dodging paparazzi while my nanny picks my kids up from daycare I’d be more interested. But I doubt it.

I’m not interested in hearing how they’re killing parenting anymore than I’m interested in hearing them get shamed for what they name their kids (or for anything else they do).

parenting, celebrity parenting, dad and buried, parenting, humor, funny, mike julianelle, dad bloggers, mommy bloggers, parenting controversies, judgment The fact that they’re famous doesn’t make them special or better. It just makes them different. If I’m going to take advice from anyone on anything, it’s most likely to be someone with whom I share more than a superficial, practically universal trait. There are parents of every demographic. Listening to a wealthy celebrity’s advice on raising their kids is the same thing as listening to an Alaskan Inuk or a Scientologist from Las Vegas. We may both have kids but that ain’t exactly rare. I’m gonna need more overlap than that before I start enacting your parenting hacks.

Of course, these celebrities are not to blame for any of this. We are.

They set out to be actors or singers or artists, not to be parenting role models. It’s not their fault that we can’t afford or have access to many of the perks their lifestyles provide; they earned it, good for them. And it’s not their fault they have millions of people willing to listen to them expound upon Trump or co-sleeping or screen-time or eating organic or whatever they want to talk about. They “earned” that platform, and I’m sure it’s not all sunshine and lollipops (I don’t think anyone envies Kate Middleton’s obligation to get out of bed and face the press mere hours after giving birth!).

But it’s their prerogative to discuss the things they’re passionate about, and pass along their parenting tips and philosophies to anyone who wants to hear it. Far be it from me to stop them from speaking their minds. God knows I don’t enjoy when other people tell me to shut up.

But we don’t need to assign significance to the things they say, or to agree with them, or even to listen. I sure don’t; I’m too busy raising my kids to bother worrying how anyone else, famous or not, is raising theirs.

The post Celebrity Parenting Advice is Meaningless appeared first on Dad and Buried.

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Anxiety May Be an Inherited Trait

10 months, 29 days ago

By Dr. Mercola

Anxiety has exponentially risen in recent years. Not only do more than half of all American college students report anxiety,1,2 research3 also shows anxiety — characterized by constant and overwhelming worry and fear — is now 800 percent more prevalent than all forms of cancer.

Data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests the prevalence of anxiety disorders in the U.S. may be as high as 40 million, or about 18 percent of the population over the age of 18, making it the most common mental illness in the nation.4,5

Fortunately, there are many treatment options available, and some of the most effective treatments are also among the safest and least expensive, and don’t involve drugs. This is well worth remembering, as doctors are far more likely to prescribe opioids to patients who complain of anxiety than those who do not have any mental health issues.

Anxious and/or depressed patients also receive higher dosages. Remarkably, nearly 19 percent of Americans diagnosed with a mental health disorder use narcotic painkillers, compared to just 5 percent of those without a mental health disorder.6

Opioids are extremely addictive, and if you’re already struggling with anxiety, you may be at even greater risk of addiction and its potentially lethal consequences. What’s more, if you’re concurrently taking benzodiazepines such as Valium, Ativan, Klonopin or Xanax, which are widely prescribed for anxiety, your risk of lethal overdose increases fivefold.7,8,9

Anxiety May Be Inherited From Your Parents

While any number of issues can contribute to anxiety, from diet10 and toxic exposures to sociological conditions,11 recent research suggests you may also inherit a predisposition to anxiety from your parents.

According to this research,12,13 conducted on rhesus monkeys, connectivity between the central nucleus of the amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis — two brain regions involved in the processing of fear — can be passed from parents to their offspring.

Lead author Dr. Ned Kalin, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Newsweek:14

“We are continuing to discover the brain circuits that underlie human anxiety, especially the alterations in circuit function that underlie the early childhood risk to develop anxiety and depressive disorders.

In data from a species closely related to humans, these findings strongly point to alterations in human brain function that contribute to the level of an individual’s anxiety. Most importantly, these findings are highly relevant to children with pathological anxiety, and hold the promise to guide the development of new treatment approaches.”

This inherited brain connectivity is nowhere near the complete story, though. The researchers stress that its contribution to the variance in anxiety measurements is small — probably around 4 percent or so. Still, it’s another part of the puzzle, and researchers hope the findings will eventually lead to better intervention strategies in high-risk children.

A Little-Known Contributor to Anxiety and Depression

Paralleling the rise in anxiety and other mental health disorders such as depression is the chronic exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from cellphones and cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers, baby monitors, smart meters and other Bluetooth devices, and research shows this exposure can have a direct influence on your mental health.

Thanks to the pioneering work of biochemist Martin Pall, Ph.D., we now know that voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs) are over 7 million times more sensitive to microwave radiation than the charged particles inside and outside our cells. This means that the safety standards for this exposure are off by a factor of 7 million.

When EMFs hit your VGCCs, nearly 1 million calcium ions per second are released into the cell, which then causes the cell to release excessive nitric oxide (NO). When NO is combined with superoxide, peroxynitrites are created, which in turn form dangerous hydroxyl free radicals that causes massive mitochondrial dysfunction.

The reason your mental health is so easily influenced by EMFs is because one of the organs with the greatest density of VGCCs is your brain. When the channels in the brain are activated, it causes a major disruption in neurotransmitter and hormonal balance that can radically increase the risk for not only anxiety and depression, but also autism and Alzheimer’s.

This research reveals the fatal flaw in the argument that microwave radiation is harmless because it cannot cause thermal damage. The way EMF exposure causes biological damage is by activating VGCCs in your cells, especially nerve cells that have a higher density of VGCCs, triggering a cascade effect that results in peroxynitrite being produced and causing oxidative damage. So, the lack of thermal influence is inconsequential.

Failure to realize this and take steps to minimize your exposure will not only damage your DNA and increase your risk of most chronic illness; it will also seriously impair your body’s ability to detoxify, and significantly impair your immune response to address the large variety of pathogenic infectious assaults.

The take-home message is this: If you or someone you love struggles with anxiety or depression, it would be wise to take whatever steps necessary to minimize your exposure to cellphones, portable phones, Wi-Fi routers, smart meters, wireless computers and tablets, especially exposures at night while you are sleeping. It would also be wise to address other sources of dirty electricity in your home.

How Stress Influences Anxiety

While genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events play a role in the development of anxiety disorders, stress is one of the most common triggers. Anxiety is a normal response to stress, but in some people the anxiety becomes overwhelming and difficult to cope with. The National Institute of Mental Health explains how your brain reacts to stress, and how the anxiety response is triggered:15

“Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety … scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.

The amygdala … is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response.

The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders or flying. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories.”

Aside from the hippocampus and amygdala, the thalamus is also involved in anxiety. The stria terminalis is a fibrous band that runs along the lateral margin of the thalamus, and all of these brain areas are involved in the generation and processing of fear and are well-established parts of the “anxiety circuitry” in your brain.16

As noted in the featured monkey study, connectivity between your amygdala and stria terminalis may be inherited from your parents, and if you have this predisposition, then stress may be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Your Breathing Also Has Direct Influence on Anxiety

Your breathing is part of the stress response, and the way you breathe is intricately connected to your mental state. I’ve previously published interviews with Patrick McKeown, a leading expert on the Buteyko Breathing Method, where he explains how breathing affects your mind, body and health.

Here, I’ve chosen a video featuring Robert Litman, where he specifically addresses the relationship between breathing and anxiety. According to Buteyko, the founder of the method, anxiety is triggered by an imbalance between gases in your body, specifically the ratio between carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen.

In this video, Litman explains how your breathing affects the ratio of these gases, and demonstrates how you can literally breathe your way into a calmer state of mind.

A Buteyko breathing exercise that can help quell anxiety is summarized below. This sequence helps retain and gently accumulate CO2, leading to calmer breathing and reduced anxiety. In other words, the urge to breathe will decline as you go into a more relaxed state.

Take a small breath into your nose; a small breath out; hold your nose for five seconds in order to hold your breath; and then release to resume breathing.
Breathe normally for 10 seconds.
Repeat the sequence several more times: small breath in through your nose, small breath out; hold your breath for five seconds, then let go and breathe normally for 10 seconds.

McKeown has also written a book specifically aimed at the treatment of anxiety through optimal breathing, called “Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quieten Your Mind — Featuring the Buteyko Breathing Method and Mindfulness,” which can be found on Amazon.com.17 In addition to the book, ButeykoClinic.com also offers a one-hour online course and an audio version of the book, along with several free chapters18 and accompanying videos.19

Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist, has also written an excellent book called “Breathe.” In it, she details a program that can help improve your physical and mental health. You can learn more about her breathing program in this recent interview.

Other Common Contributing Factors

Aside from stress, improper breathing and excessive exposure to microwave radiation from wireless technology, a number of other situations and underlying issues can also contribute to anxiety. This includes but is not limited to the following, and addressing these issues may be what’s needed to resolve your anxiety disorder:

Food additives, food dyes, artificial sweeteners, GMOs and glyphosate. Food dyes of particular concern include Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and the preservative sodium benzoate
Gut dysfunction caused by imbalanced microflora. This is often a result of eating too much sugar and junk food
Lack of magnesium, vitamin D,20 B vitamins and/or animal-based omega-3. Research has shown a 20 percent reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3s21
Exposure to toxic mold and other toxins. Ask yourself if there’s any kind of pattern; do your symptoms improve when you spend time away from your home or office, for example?

EFT — A Potent Nondrug Treatment Alternative 

In addition to learning proper breathing, another potent treatment alternative that does not involve drugs is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), one of the most well-established forms of energy psychology. Akin to acupuncture, EFT is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians.

By gently tapping on specific energy meridian points in your body and using verbal affirmations, you can reprogram how your body responds to stress, thereby lowering your anxiety.

Research confirms EFT can be a powerful intervention for stress and anxiety,22,23,24 in part because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.25

In the video above, EFT therapist Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for panic attacks and anxiety relief. For serious or complex issues, you may need a qualified EFT therapist to guide you through the process. That said, the more you tap, the more skilled you’ll become. You can also try acupuncture,26 which like EFT bridges the gap between your mind and body.

Other Nondrug Treatment Options

Considering the risks of psychiatric drugs, I would urge you to view them as a last resort rather than a first-line of treatment. In addition to the breathing exercises and EFT already mentioned, other far safer strategies to explore include:

Regular exercise and daily movement. In addition to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress.

Many avid exercisers also feel a sense of euphoria after a workout, sometimes known as the “runner’s high.” It can be quite addictive, in a good way, once you experience just how good it feels to get your heart rate up and your body moving.

Mindfulness training and/or a spiritual practice. Research suggests psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, may be a game changer in the treatment for severe depression and anxiety, and the spiritual intensity of the experience appears to be a key component of the healing.

Magic mushrooms are illegal, so this is not a viable treatment as of yet, but it highlights the importance and relationship between having a spiritual foundation that can provide hope and meaning to your life.

Optimizing your gut microbiome. Gastrointestinal abnormalities have been linked to a variety of psychological problems, including anxiety and depression. It is now well established that the vagus nerve is the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain,27 which helps explain why mental health can be so intricately connected to your gut microbiome.28

For example, fermented foods have been shown to curb social anxiety disorder in young adults.29,30 To learn more about this, please see “Poor Diet, Lack of Sunshine and Spiritual Anemia — Three Potent Contributors to Depression and Anxiety.”

Lowering your sugar and processed food intake. Research shows your diet can have a profound effect on your mental health.31,32 Pay particular attention to nutritional imbalances known to contribute to mental health problems, such as lack of magnesium, vitamin D, B vitamins and animal-based omega-3 such as anchovies, sardines, wild-caught Alaskan salmon and/or krill oil.

Studies33 have demonstrated that diets high in fresh produce and healthy fats significantly reduce and can help prevent depression. Conversely, diets high in refined carbs and processed foods are associated with and increased risk.34

Getting plenty of restorative sleep. Poor sleep is strongly associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety (including post-traumatic stress disorder). In fact, researchers have been unable to find a single psychiatric condition in which the subject’s sleep is normal.

Being mindful of your exposure to EMFs and use of wireless technologies. At bare minimum, avoid keeping any of these gadgets next to you while sleeping

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). They even offer CBT for young children these days.35 A number of universities offer Tao Connect36 to their students, but even if you’re not a student, there are free online programs available that you can use. Some examples include MoodGYM,37 e-couch,38 Learn to Live39 and CBT Online40

Nature therapy and listening to nature sounds. Spending more time in natural environments has been shown to lower anxiety. Nature sounds also have a distinct and powerful effect on your brain, lowering fight-or-flight instincts and activating your rest-and-digest autonomic nervous system.41,42,43

Nature sounds also produce higher rest-digest nervous system activity, which occurs when your body is in a relaxed state. Listening to nature sounds can also help you recover faster after a stressful event.

So, seek out parks, or create a natural sanctuary on your balcony, or indoors using plants and an environmental sound machine. YouTube also has a number of very long videos of natural sounds, such as the one featured above. You could simply turn it on and leave it on while you’re indoors.

Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety can take a significant toll on your quality of life, so it’s well worth it to keep going until you find an effective long-term solution. You may need a combination of several interventions. As a general rule, you’d be wise to begin by addressing your diet, and then experiment with a variety of stress reduction techniques, several of which have been mentioned above.

Last but not least, don’t underestimate the value of social interactions — face-to-face, that is, not via social media, as the latter has actually been shown to trigger and worsen anxiety. In fact, “social media anxiety disorder” is now a recognized mental health condition similar to social anxiety disorder.44

According to Sarah Fader, CEO and founder of Stigma Fighters, about 30 percent of social media users spend more than 15 hours a week online, which significantly diminishes your ability to enjoy real life and can worsen feelings of loneliness and inferiority. So, if you’re in the habit of checking your phone several times an hour, consider a smartphone detox. This will also lessen your exposure to damaging microwaves, as discussed earlier.

Read more: articles.mercola.com

Gut-Brain Health – What Neuroscientists Are Calling “A Paradigm Shift”

11 months, 28 days ago

 

paradigm shiftThe trillions of microbes that inhabit your body are collectively called the microbiome.

They outnumber your own cells ten to one and weigh up to twice weight of the average human brain. Most of them live in your gut and intestines, where they help to digest food, synthesise vitamins and ward off infection.

The microbiome has shown that its influence extends far beyond the gut, all the way to the brain.

I’ve written about this in the blog before: One billions reasons probiotics protect your brain, and it looks like the gut-brain topic is hotting up with David Perlmutter author of Grain Brain set to publish a book in April: ‘Brain Maker – the power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life’. In Brain Maker, Dr. Perlmutter will explain

the potent interplay between intestinal microbes and the brain, describing how the microbiome develops from birth and evolves based on lifestyle choices, how it can become ‘sick’ and how nurturing gut health through a few easy strategies can alter your brain’s destiny for the better.

Not to be outdone, last November members of the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) held a symposium titled Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience. A summary paper of emerging topics covered in the symposium has been published that claims that

“…the discovery and the explosive progress in the characterisation of the gut microbiome have initiated a paradigm shift in medicine and neuroscience.”

Here is a summary of the symposium discussions:

Gut-Brain signalling

A growing body of preclinical literature has demonstrated there is a complex signaling system between the mind, brain, gut, and its microbiome.

These findings have resulted in speculation that alterations in the gut microbiome may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including:

autism spectrum disorder
anxiety
depression
chronic pain.

John Cryan, the irish neuroscientist you met in my previous article, likens communication to Downton Abbey-like upstairs/downstairs communication,

“The upstairs and the downstairs need each other to survive. From a distance, it looks like they are living completely separate and they don’t have much to do with one another. But when things start going wrong downstairs that filters on upstairs. It’s the same with the gut and the brain. If there is something wrong with your microbiome, it’s going to filter on upstairs in the brain, too.”

The microbiome is impacted by stress

Psychological and physical stressors alter the composition and metabolism of the gut microbiota. And experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behaviour and related brain systems.

For example, when mice are given antibiotics researchers see a decrease in BDNF (a key protein involved in neuronal plasticity and cognition) in the hippocampus (a region involved in emotion, learning and memory).

Tracy Bale, Professor of Neuroscience at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and her team have found that stress-induced changes to a mother’s microbiome can be passed to the offspring which in turn might alter the way her baby’s brain develops.

In a recent interview with the Kavli Foundation Bale notes,

“There are key developmental windows when the brain is more vulnerable because it’s setting itself up to respond to the world around it.  So, if mom’s microbial ecosystem changes — due to infection, stress or diet, for example — her newborn’s gut microbiome will change too, and that can have a lifetime effect.”

A role for probiotics

A growing body of evidence from rodent studies further supports a role for probiotics. Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus probiotic treatment shows beneficial effects on anxiety- and depression-like behaviour in rats and mice.

In one human study of chronic fatigue syndrome (another disorder of brain–body interaction) a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a Lactobacillus-containing probiotic decreased anxiety, but not depression symptoms, in the active treatment group. This study, published as a brief report, lacked detail in terms of the reported result and should be interpreted with caution according the SFN symposium attendees.

Probiotics being used widely (and represent a 20 billion dollar industry). Overall, human studies suggest a potential for positive effects on mood, but human work is preliminary and the SFN symposium called for larger, well-designed clinical trials to be conducted.

What’s next for gut-brain research?

Crowd-sourcing fecal samples (yep, The American Gut Project is crowd-sourcing poo!), fecal transplants, mRNA sequencing or proteomics, fMRI … the symposim concluded that it is difficult to predict the trajectory of the next exciting period of discovery.

Will the gut microbiome add paradigm-transforming insights to our existing understanding of human brain function in health and disease, resulting in novel therapies?

Or will it represent an incremental step in understanding the inner workings of our brains?

Certainly, the next few years of research hold the potential of  uncovering intriguing connections between gut bacteria and neurological conditions that may possibly impact human health.

Tim Cryan is very enthusiastic,

“We’re right at the dawn of a whole new way of thinking about brain development and brain heath. And the neuroscientific evidence for the role of the microbiome is just getting stronger and stronger at the basic level.”

 

 

References

Kavli Foundation. (2015, January 8). Could gut microbes help treat brain disorders? Mounting research tightens their connection with the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 8, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150108125953.htm
The Brain–Gut Axis and Neuropsychiatric Disease: A Paradigm Shift, by Kayt Sukel, December 16, 2014.
Mayer et al Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014 Nov 12;34(46):15490-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3299-14.2014.

Image source: Wikicommons

 

 

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