9 Foods that Affect Your Mental Health

The brain works 24/7 to control thoughts, movements, breathing, heartbeat and senses; as a result, it requires constant supply of fuel, which come from the food you eat on a daily basis. However, your brain can only function well if you eat the right kind of food. This post will explore the foods that are likely to affect your brain negatively and positively.

Foods Likely to Affect Your Brain Positively

1. Blueberries

Blueberries contain compounds that protect the brain against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These compounds also improve the function of the part of the brain that controls learning and motor skills.

2. Nuts

Nuts contain vitamin E. High levels of vitamin E reduce the rate of cognitive decline in adults. Suitable nuts include cashews, almonds, filberts, flax seeds, sesame, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.

3. Salmon

Salmon fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, and other mental disorders. This is possible because omega-3s stimulate the production of brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains are the prime source of energy. They provide a steady source of fuel to the brain, enabling it to perform its functions effectively. Healthy whole grains include oats, barley, beans, soy, wheat and bulgur.

5. Leafy Vegetables

Leafy vegetables contain high amounts of folic acid and vitamin B. A deficiency in these nutrients can lead to depression, fatigue and insomnia. Best examples of leafy vegetables include romaine, turnip, broccoli, mustard greens and spinach.

Foods Likely to Affect Your Brain Negatively

6. Tuna

Many people love tuna because of its taste. However, tuna contains high amounts of mercury, which can take a toll on the brain function. A research conducted by the University of South Florida found that high levels of mercury in the blood contribute to a five percent cognitive decline.

7. White Rice

White rice has a high glycemic index that increases the risk of depression. A study conducted in 2015 found out that women who have eaten food high glycemic-index foods were more likely to report new-onset depression than those who ate foods rich in lactose and fiber.

8. Fruit Juice/Sugary Drinks

Fruit juice contains a lot of sugar. Consistent intake of sugar can reduce cognitive flexibility and memory. This is possible because sugar promotes the growth of clostridiales, a gut bacteria that increases gut inflammation and downstream the brain is affected.

9. Cheese

Cheese contains a lot of saturated fats that contribute to memory decline and inflammation in the brain. The saturated fats also damage the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which has many important functions including directing the release of hormones from the pituitary gland vital for regulating weight and metabolism.

Are Acupressure Mats Worth Using?

For over seven years, a buzz has been growing around the so-called “acupressure mats.” Also known as a “bed of nails” or an “acupressure needle stimulation pad,” these mats are the latest trend for at home relaxation, pain relief, and enjoyment.

Featuring thousands of tiny spiking crowns melted onto a non-organic cotton and foam mat, the acupressure mat can seem somewhat troublesome, especially when considering that it is recommended for users to lay on the mat for a minimum of 10 minutes daily to rid the body of toxins, to release endorphins and oxytocin, to stimulate energy, and to break through stress. It is further claimed that use of this mat will result in long-term alleviation of anxiety, headaches, constipation, insomnia, fatigue, tension, back pain, muscle aches, and discomfort.

So how exactly does it work? Well, first it is essential to understand that the idea is far from new. In Ancient India, a healing tradition was practiced that required laying on a legitimate bed of nails. The nails would press firmly into pressure points thus relieving tension and muscle aches. Now, thousands of years later, this tradition has evolved from actual nails to thousands of non-toxic plastic spikes that are harmless to the skin.

To use the mat, one can stand, sit or lie down for approximately 10 to 20 minutes on the floor or bed; however, it is best to start slow and find a position that works best for the individual. If there are specific areas that cause pain or tension, it is recommended to try different positions on the mat.

Claims of the mat’s benefits go far and wide, although many feel wary of trusting celebrity endorsements at this point. However, Dr. Scott Weiss, a licensed physical therapist, believes that regular use of the mats lead to better sleep and improved circulation, as well as reduced stress, anxiety and migraines.

In 2011, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine completed a small study that found people were able to “subjectively relax” meaning their self-rated relaxation gradually increased over time in all conditions. While the study did seem to show that the mats aided in relaxation, it is hard to take anything conclusive from this study alone.

While many yogis and dancers genuinely believe that the mats are helping their bodies, acupuncturists want to make it understood that these mats are not the same as acupuncture. In fact, Justine Lynch, a licensed acupuncturist in NYC, said, “The difference between seeing an acupuncturist and using a pressure mat would be like the difference between eating a meal and looking at a picture of a meal.” Further that statement, Lynch states that the most crucial part of acupuncture is working with an actual human who can personalize treatment, whereas that can not be replicated with a mat.

While the verdict of the mats effectiveness is still out, many believe that the mats are capable of relieving minor pains and aches, such as muscle tension and discomfort. And since they are far cheaper than other options, they could be worth a shot. However, these mats are not necessary, and should not be used in place of health treatment plans.

If you are unsure of whether you should try remedies such as the acupuncture mat rather than traditional pain treatments, speak with your doctor before making a decision.

The Importance of Mental Health Days and How to Take One

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Mental health day? What is that? A mental health day is a day devoted to your wellbeing. It’s when you take the time to give your mind a break from the common stressors we all face on a daily basis- work, balancing family and social life, financial responsibilities, working out, you name it. We both deserve and need a break from all of it every once in a while!

Did you know that over half of workers in the United States end up skipping out on their vacation days? Taking time to rest is vital when it comes to getting your work done efficiently and effectively. Here’s how you can take a mental health day.

1. Mark it on the calendar

That’s right. Schedule yourself a mental health day and don’t you dare cancel! If you need to, choose a day or time period where your workflow moves more slowly. This can help you stick to it.

2. Commit!

Plan something fun! Something that you are unlikely to cancel on or reschedule. This could be a spa day with a friend, going to see a concert, taking a day trip, whatever you want.

3. Set boundaries

Let everyone know of your plans and who is welcome to reach you and who will have to wait until you get back. It’s hard to have a mental health break with your colleagues breathing down your neck and trying to get a hold of you by phone, email, and/or text. Don’t be afraid to set your boundaries. You deserve a day to yourself.

4. Send out an away message

Piggy-backing off of tip #3, make an extra effort to let the office know that you are away for the day by sending out a message. You can even set an automated response to your texts and emails that explain you will be back in the office the next day and are currently unavailable.

5. Let go and trust your colleagues

A true mental health day is about letting go of stress and taking a break. Trust that your colleagues can handle their jobs (because they can) and any problems can be addressed the following day.

It’s important that we all take mental health days on the regular. When’s the last time you took one yourself?

Greg Burzynski originally posted this article on Medium

 

Integrative Care Affects Healthcare Among Vulnerable Adults

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Low income adults have long struggled with the cost of healthcare. Many have simply lacked access to affordable insurance. Often, this results in an accumulation of health problems and symptoms, which often leads to increased costs. These costs would be reduced if preventative care and early detection tests were performed. Frequently, for the low-income population, the first contact with a healthcare provider occurs at an emergency room, after a medical problem has grown acute and dangerous.

Medicaid expansion has sought to bring affordable coverage to this population. In Minnesota, many non-disabled, low-income adults became eligible for healthcare when the state expanded Medicaid coverage in 2011. This year, two studies published in Medical Care Research and Review revealed that very low-income, adult Medicaid recipients in Hennepin County, MN had drastically increased health outcomes when they received their care through a Medicaid Accountable Care Organization (ACO), https://twin-cities.umn.edu/news-events/study-shows-integrated-care-affects-health-care-use-among-vulnerable-adults, In view of the findings, ACOs may come to play a more active role in managing healthcare for vulnerable adults.

The studies, conducted in the 2012 to 2014 time period, analyzed claims data to determine utilization rates in the given population. One study showed that Medicaid recipients enrolled in ACO Hennepin Health showed an 11-percent increase in primary care physician visits and a 51 percent increase in emergency room visits. They also showed an increase in dental visits. Overall, the recipients have increased utilization but also rely on emergency departments for a large proportion of care. Nathan Shippee, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the division of health policy and management at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, sees the results as encouraging. He stated that the increased utilization should, as other studies indicate, lead to a long-term increase in health outcomes.

An additional study conducted on very low income Hennipen County Medicaid Recipients indicated that integrative care provided by the ACO greatly improved life quality. Of the studies 35 participants, 66 percent reported having a diagnosed mental illness. 46 percent of those with a mental illness reported receiving consistent medical care. This care improved their quality of life.

For AROs, providing consistent mental health treatment and the ability of patients to connect with and trust their primary care team emerged as some of the most important benefits. By using an integrative approach that provides patients with access to a trusted primary care physician and access to specialist services when needed, healthcare outcomes have improved for this Medicaid population.

Greg Burzynski originally posted this article on Medium

8 Adaptogens That Can Help With Managing Stress

Stress is a common and often chronic condition many people are facing these days. If you or someone you know is likely to experience stress on a regular basis- you may want to consider the use of adaptogenic herbs to help treat it. The use of adaptogenic herbs in the natural health world is booming right now though it is important to note that the bulk of evidence you will find on its effectiveness is by word of mouth as opposed to scientific fact. However, more research is being done and there are many healthcare practitioners backing the benefits of their use. If you are interested in giving them a try, here is a list of adaptogenic herbs that could potentially help you with managing stress.

1. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is also known as “Indian ginseng”. It is known for helping with a variety of issues from sleep disorders to anxiety, to backaches.

2. Holy Basil

Holy Basil is also used to treat a variety of discomforts. Such discomforts include the common cold, headaches, and migraines. It is also used to treat malaria and even heart disease.

3. Asian Ginseng

This herb improves memory, concentration, and depression. There are many types of ginseng- most of which are touted as natural energy boosters.

4. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is known for treating depression and contribute to more mental clarity. It is a root, known also as the “golden root”, and is said to help improve concentration and ease stress.

5. Licorice Root

Licorice Root can help with all sorts of digestive issues such as ulcers, heartburn, and inflammation. It is also used to treat bodily infections and regulate hormone levels.

6. Siberian Ginseng

Some people use Siberian ginseng to improve athletic performance. It provides a boost to the immune system and combats flu symptoms.

7. Astragalus

This herb is often used in combination with other herbs such as ginseng and licorice to increase its effectiveness. It’s good for strengthening the immune system, easing the symptoms of allergies, and managing diabetes.

8. Schisandra

Schisandra is said to protect against disease, stress, strengthens the immune system and provides one with more energy.

If you are considering the use of adaptogenic herbs to help reduce stress and improve your health, consult your healthcare provider first.

Nutritional Psychiatry Is the Future of Mental Health Care

It’s common knowledge that a diet of nutrient-rich food is essential for keeping one’s body healthy. Perhaps it’s not much of a surprise, then, that research also suggests a strong link between nutrition and mental health as well. But these findings offer more than just another reason to pass up that extra bag of chips. A robust collection of emerging evidence is driving the growth of nutritional psychiatry, i.e. using food and supplements as part of an integrated approach to remedying depression and other forms of mental illness.

Conventional treatment for depression often involves the use of antidepressants, the effects of which are varied and somewhat unpredictable. It’s true that antidepressants have been found more effective at improving mental states than a placebo in adults, but the improvement often comes at the cost of unpleasant side effects and chemical dependency. In addition, a review of 29 clinical pediatric trials by Dr. David Healy, professor of psychiatry at Bangor University, UK, found that antidepressant use in children under 18 produced more harm than benefits.

In contrast, the connection between mental illness and nutritional deficiency has been firmly acknowledged for ages by health experts, and more recently by psychiatrists looking to augment their approach to treatment. Recent data has linked a variety of mental health problems to an inflammatory response that spreads from the gut to the brain, and begins when the body is deprived of essential nutrients.

Multiple studies have associated a diet supplemented with zinc, magnesium, vitamins B and D3, and probiotics with significant mood improvements, as well as decreases in depression and anxiety symptoms. Alzheimer’s patients have also been shown to benefit from increased nutrient consumption. In addition, symptoms such as low mood, cognitive decline and poor comprehension are observable in individuals lacking Omega-3 fatty acids.

No longer can doctors–or patients–afford to brush aside the mounting evidence that supports nutritional intervention as a valid alternative to conventional treatment. Supplements are generally cheap, and available over the counter almost anywhere (though not all brands are equal). Antidepressants are arguably over-prescribed and under-evidenced, not to mention expensive in ways far more insidious than monetary cost. Nutritional psychiatry, on the other hand, boasts a body of research that should afford it a greater role in conventional mental health treatment.

Why Everyone is Talking about EFT aka “Tapping”

Too often, people find themselves caught in a cyclone of negative thinking. When left untreated, mental illness and associated physical conditions tend to rob life of its enjoyment. But treatment isn’t necessarily effective. It can involve a strict regimen of chemicals, each with a hefty price tag, not to mention a plethora of serious side effects–which then require treatment of their own. In this way, the cycle of negativity twists and constricts, threatening happiness and siphoning life’s potential.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT Tapping), also known simply as “tapping,” presents a new method for freeing the body and mind from spiraling negativity. No one should be condemned to an endless loop of feeling discontented with treatment followed by treatment to remedy discontent. By dispensing cutting-edge psychiatry through the medium of 5,000 year old Chinese acupressure treatment, tapping aims to offer relief from life’s accumulated baggage. Chronic pain, depression, anxiety, addictions, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder and more: all of these may be relieved via tapping, a remedy that balances the mind, no pill required.

For how effective tapping can be, the technique behind it is remarkably simple. Over millennia, the Chinese have perfected acupuncture to relieve many forms of stress. Acupuncture involves targeting the body’s nearly 400 “meridian points” to promote healing. Tapping invokes a similar technique. Instead of needles, however, tapping requires only its namesake: a series of 5-7 “taps” along the body’s 12 major meridian points. This is done while a patient concentrates on a particular emotion, thought, or other form of distress, framing it within an ideal resolution. Unlike acupuncture, tapping is physically painless, and can be self-applied anywhere.

Traditional doctors and psychologists are understandably skeptical when it comes to tapping. However, a growing body of evidence supports the fact that tapping actually does produce real, beneficial effects. For example, a double-blind study at Harvard Medical School found that stimulating meridian points through pressure–in other words, tapping–reduces the severity of stress and fear responses. Also, in a randomized controlled trial by researcher Dr. Dawson Church, PhD, it was shown that cortisol (stress hormone) levels decreased an average of 24% after an hour-long tapping session. Some of Dawson’s 83 subjects even exhibited reduction rates as significant as 50%. Among the strongest evidence in support of tapping is a 2016 meta-analysis of 14 studies published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, through which researchers were able to verify that EFT facilitated a substantial drop in anxiety scores among adults experiencing emotional distress.

Tapping has undoubtedly changed thousands of lives for the better, however researchers caution that it shouldn’t be taken as a miracle cure-all. The technique works best when combined with traditional cognitive therapy, as well as healthy eating, daily exercise, and other positive lifestyle changes.

How to practice a mindfulness? – Our Holistic Health — Our Holistic Health

How to practice a mindfulness? Mindfulness. What is it actually? It’s a simple word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often stay away from our actual mind site. Our mind usually […]

via How to practice a mindfulness? – Our Holistic Health — Our Holistic Health

An Act of Deception: How Drugs Hijack Your Brain

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How The Brain Works

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The brain is the most complex and intricate organ in the body. It controls everything from breathing, speaking and eating to the most complicated movements humans are capable of performing. Most people don’t have to think about breathing before they actually take a breath, but how exactly does the brain function and carry out the most basic or complex actions?

The brain is broken up into six different regions (cerebrum, cerebellum, frontal lobe, temporal lobes, occipital lobe, parietal lobe, and the limbic system) all of which communicate via chemicals and neurotransmitters.

  • The cerebrum is the largest and hardest working region and is composed of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
  • The cerebellum controls balance and coordination.
  • The frontal lobe is located at the front of the head and is responsible for personality/behavior, creativity, attention, judgement, smell, physical reactions and coordination.
  • The parietal lobe is located behind the frontal lobe and controls the sensory (touch and pain) and motor (movement) cortexes.
  • Temporal lobes are located near the ears on both sides of the head near the temples. They control language, speech and hearing.
  • The occipital lobe is located at the back of the head and is responsible for vision and facial expressions.
  • The limbic system attaches to the spinal cord and allows the brain to communicate with the rest of the body. It is also in charge of managing basic life support, such as heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. The limbic system also contains the reward system of the brain, which regulates your responses to stimulus such as food, sex, etc. Once stimulated your brain releases dopamine which makes you feel rewarded/happy as a result.

 

How Drugs Trick Your Brain

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Drugs, whether prescribed or illicit, imitate the the naturally occurring chemicals in the brain and trick the body into acting a certain way. Some drugs cause a relief from pain, while other may help with alleviating disruptive symptoms. All drugs work in different ways depending on their intended effects. There are several categories of drugs which affect your brain differently; they are: stimulants, depressants, opioids, cannabinoids, and hallucinogens. All of these have the ability to impair judgement, reasoning and behavior control as well as impairing memory, learning abilities, impulse control, and setting goals just to name a few.

 

  • Depressants induce relaxation and slow down brain activity. Some side effects can include dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, lack of concentration, fever and depression.
  • Stimulants increase dopamine levels in the brain, which produces a euphoric state as well as several side effects including, but not limited to higher heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure decreased appetite, and trouble sleeping.
  • Opioids are mainly used for pain relief and utilize dopamine to control the brain to create a pain-free, euphoric state.
  • Cannabinoids also produce a euphoric feeling and enhance a person’s sensory perception. Some side effects may include: irregular heartbeat, inability of focus on a task, and memory loss, cellular death, shrinking neurons, and DNA fragmentation.
  • Hallucinogens cause the brain to have false sensations or visions. These drugs interfere with how the brain sends messages to the body and therefore cause hallucinations. Other common side effects are an inability to sleep, numbness, tremors, increased heart rate, increased body temperature, high blood pressure and/or paranoia.

 

Once taken, drugs begin to train your brain to want more of what it perceives as a good feeling. It does this by altering your brain chemistry. Each time a person takes a drug and the brain receives positive information from its pleasure center it learns that the drugs are a good thing, regardless of whether or not they actually are. As a result the brain releases more dopamine when it senses drugs in comparison to natural rewards that the body produces on its own.

At this point drugs have successfully hijacked and retrained the brain to continually crave more. The body gradually builds up a tolerance so more drugs are needed to achieve the same level of euphoria and a vicious cycle continues to escalate. After building up a tolerance and dependence on drugs the body is prevented from experiencing any pleasure without the drugs they have been taking due to low dopamine levels being released in comparison to when they are on drugs. A major side effect other than those listed above is a feeling of lifelessness. Many have reported feeling lifeless while experiencing things that used to bring them joy.

 

Multiple Drug Abuse

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Polydrug abuse, or the abuse of more than one substance is extremely dangerous. Using multiple drugs compounds the risks for the user. Instead of experiencing side effects from one drug they can experience side effects from many at once. The rate of addiction increases and the risk of overdose is significantly higher. The risk of death is much higher than if taking one drug.

 

Reversing The Damage

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Taking steps to end drug abuse is challenging both physically and mentally. While drugs hijack the brain and alter brain chemistry there is hope for those struggling with addiction. After the body goes through withdrawals the brain begins to readjust itself and return to pre-drug normalcy for example the brain is capable of regenerating cells over that were destroyed. While some effects the drug cause may be permanent there are many that will disappear with sobriety depending on the intensity of drug abuse and how the body reacts.

In order to reverse the damage inflicted by drugs the body must go through two steps to begin the recovery process.

  1. The changes the drugs made on the brain’s chemistry and structure that compel drug use to continue need to be reversed.
  2. Restore cognitive function that has been lost or damaged.
  • As drugs change the chemistry of the brain they affect the shape of dopamine receptors and make them harder to read. They need to change back to their original shape before drug abuse.

Once the drugs are out of the system the body immediately begins to try to find a new normal and reset itself. While the brain is working to do this there are many ways in which a person can cope mentally. Therapy or a facility specializing in rehabilitation are great resources as well as a medical professional, especially for withdrawal periods. The absolutely most important step to take in a person’s recovery is removing oneself from any and all exposure to the drugs a person was addicted to. Medical support may be necessary as well depending on the severity of the drug abuse.

According to recent studies on drug abuse in 2016 28.6 million people aged 12 and over used illicit drugs in the past month in the United States alone. That is over 10% of the American population. In the 18-25 age group over 25% used illicit drugs in the past month. Of those people only 1.4% received any sort of treatment. Those numbers are staggering and unbelievably concerning. Knowledge can be a powerful motivator to never use drugs or to cease using them altogether. Knowing just how drugs can hijack your brain could be a matter of life and death. There is hope for the almost 30 million people in the USA and more worldwide engaging in illicit drug use. Encourage others to seek medical and/or psychological help in dealing with their addictions to keep as many people healthy as is possible. Check local facilities’ websites for more information and how to receive help.