Category Archives: Nutrition

The Gut and Depression

I am fascinated about all the research in the gut biome and our relationship with the microbes that live inside of us.  I am motivated to figure out how to guide clients in improving their mood through their nutrition.  I am not a professional nutritionist but I try very hard to stay up on the latest research.  Subsequently I ran across this article in Psychology Today, October 2017 issue, pg 31-32 on how the microbes in your gut affect your mood.

There were  2 studies mentioned that as I scanned the information grabbed my attention.  The first one was on the transplanting fecal matter from depressed patients into germ-free rats.  The rats then began to develop symptoms of anxiety and anhedonia (not taking interest in the usual things one finds interesting).  The other study involved giving patients prebiotics (material that enhances the grown of beneficial microbes in the gut.)  The researchers discovered one particular type of prebiotics ( galacto-oligosaccharides – GSOs) to decrease cortisol and increase a patient’s attention to positive events.

However what was most intriguing as I looked deeper into the article was the theory of how important fiber is to our gut biome.  Apparently  fibrous material from plants which are more difficult to digest help feed beneficial microbes.  This fermentation that occurs releases energy, gases, and metabolites called “short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).  These SCFAs are one of the ways our gut communicates with our brain, signaling molecules throughout the body to mobilize hormones and activate nerve pathways to everything from body weight to mood states.  Apparently the material present from these prebiotics in the fiber is extremely important for wellness and something our general Western diet lacks.  Per article our ancestors consumed around 100 grams of fiber while  we consume currently around 15 grams of fiber a day.   This is just another added point toward why nutrition is so important to limiting our stress and increasing well-being.


Brain Health


Research on Alzheimer’s was again in Scientific American this month.  This particular article was reviewing research based on a clinical trial by “FINGER” (the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability) between 2009 and 2011.  The results of the clinical trials and the study show that it is never too early and in this case  never “too late”  to intervene with cognitive decline through changes in the way one lives.

The changes they were referring to were eating a Mediterranean like diet, getting exercise, and challenging the brain through learning new things and memory challenges.  These recommendations are by no means new to the public but just validates even more this life style.  To be clear the exercise that showed positive results in memory and organization was 2-3 times a week of 60 minute periods of exercise like muscle strength training, aerobic exercise and postural balance and the Mediterranean diet was fruits, vegetables, whole grains, rapeseed oil, a fish meal  at least twice a week.  The only supplement given was Vitamin D.

Of course the groups started slow and built up to this goal which is encouraging.  They started at 30 minutes.  The exercise sometimes is the most difficult to work in.  It’s important to note that the time they give is not straight cardio work, it combines strength building, cardio, and posture improvement such as in physical therapy, physiotherapy, and some types of yoga.

Motivation for change can be a slow process but building up reasons to change is one of the steps.  Looks like this study gives us more to add to that list of pros and cons.  Hopefully also  it will also help us to work through the ambivalence.


Are you struggling with food addictions?

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Many of us at times develop unhealthy relationships with food.  A little while of feeling bad after maybe overeating and seeing its effects we are able to reign our behavior in and there’s not much harm.  However sometimes this unhealthy relationship can be ongoing and can start to cause other parts of our lives, relationships and recreations for example, to not function well.  When this happens, a food addiction might have formed and may call for more specific intervention.

Some signs to keep in mind:

  1. Eating more than planned when you eat certain foods.
  2. Keep eating certain foods even if you are not hungry.
  3. Eat until you feel sick.
  4. If unable to get a specific food, go out of your way to obtain that food.
  5. Eat certain foods in such large amounts that you start eating food instead of working, spending time with family or doing recreational activities.
  6. Avoid professional or social situations where certain foods are available.
  7. Have problems function effectively at your school or work because of food and eating.

If you checked a good many and have been experiencing these for over a month, it may be that it is time to seek further support.

Feel free to contact me for a free consultation if you feel this may apply to you.  I have been working for over 10 years  with people that suffer from all types of addictions and can help.

7 Ways to Begin Managing Stress

Stress is something that happens to us daily.  There’s good stress.  You know the type that makes you show up for a meeting on time and also enabled you to prepare the night before.  There’s also not so good stress.  The kind that wears at you and makes you want to run and hide (or eat chocolate, drink a beer, smoke a cigarette, etc… )  It’s the kind that may start out as good stress but then added to all the other little worries morphs into something that is not helpful.

There are a few things you can do when you start to feel this negative stress come on that may help you gain control and not run and hide.  Some such as the first item may seem deceptively simple. We tend to take these for granted but often they are neglected resulting in a low threshold for negative stress and its effects.

1.Take a drink of water.  Many of us stay dehydrated and when we are dehydrated it is more difficult to reduce stress hormones and that feeling of tension.

2. Take a breathing break.   Concentrate on long slow exhales. When we are stressed we hyperventilate (longer inhales than exhales) which signals the body to go into “fight or flight”.

3.Eat well.  Eat meals with a variety of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  Attempt to eat something with protein and fiber at least every 4 hours while awake.  This will keep blood sugar from dropping low enough to signal a stress  response.

4. Walk or do some sort of exercise.  Just 15-20 minutes a day will reduce stress hormones in the blood; 30-60 minutes will optimize this.

5. Shrink your to-do list and focus on only the top 3 tasks.  If that’s too much, shrink it to the most important task you can do right now.   Looking at 20 items can be overwhelming but when you are focusing on just the next step, you feel more in control.

6. Nurture close relationships.  Contact someone positive whom you want to keep in your life.  Soak in some of their positive energy to help give you more resilience.

7. Get enough sleep.  Work on things that will help you get better sleep like cutting out caffeine after 5pm.  Getting 4-8 hours of sleep a night enables your body to clean up toxins and excess chemicals like the stress hormone cortisol.  Sleep helps to give you a “clean slate” for the next day.

*If still no relief, reach out to a support group or professional assistance through a counselor or other healthcare provider.


Weekly Wellness Topic – Balance and Stress Resiliency

In my clinical practice I always focus on balance with clients, not only so that we are well rounded and resilient to stress but more specifically so that we do not trigger the system that manages stress, our sympathetic nervous system unnecessarily.  Our sympathetic nervous system is important to keep us out of danger and respond quickly to threats.  When our body perceives a threat it activates our stress hormones like cortisol and if enough are released it will turn on our sympathetic nervous system.  When the sympathetic nervous system is on, it’s ON.  It takes control over all major functions, including executive functioning.  More accurately, it limits or stops the majority of executive functioning and goes into the well known fight or flight (or freeze) mode.  This is fine if there is a bear chasing you but when you are sitting at the dinner table with family, not so cool.  We need the other nervous system working when we are sitting at the table with family or friends that love us and support us.  The parasympathetic nervous system is the one we need to promote more. This is the system that helps us prioritize our day, helps us remember where our keys are, helps us learn and retain new information.  It also regulates certain bodily functions like our digestive system…. (Ever wonder why your digestion gets messed up when you are under stress?  It’s because you sympathetic nervous system has decided that you need to prepare yourself to run or fight.  If you don’t do these things quickly then your system has decided you must need to prepare for these things so let’s clean our digestive tract out so we are not be weighed down and will move faster…)

In our modern day culture, stress comes more likely in forms that are not truly life threatening like starvation and predators attacking (although there is still this form of stress as unfortunately we all know).   Most daily stress comes from interpersonal interactions or feeling overwhelmed.  This doesn’t necessarily turn on the sympathetic system directly, it’s what this makes us do or not do that actually will turn the system on.  We have so much at our finger tips with being plugged into our virtual worlds that we have much distraction to ignore important things that our body will interpret as a threat.  This is a double whammy.  Because not only are we dealing with this stress and frustration of all we have to do but we neglect things like eating regularly, drinking enough water, getting regular exercise, and/or getting enough sunlight.  When this happens, our body is more likely to perceive things as a life threatening situation and turn on the sympathetic nervous system.

So it is important to eat regularly.  You need to eat about every 4 hours because no matter what you eat or how much you eat at a sitting, your body has processed it in about 4 hours.  Your blood sugar will drop signaling time to eat again.  If you don’t eat something (preferably fiber and a protein for sustaining level blood sugar) your body will think there’s something wrong with finding food in your environment and perceive this as a threat.  Another problem is that when we are stressed we emotionally eat and many times this is in the form of what is quick and easy and sweet like a donut.  This has very little protein and usually no fiber.  Blood sugar will raise real fast and crash quicker than 4 hours making us hungry, angry, and or spacey.  We may eat again but unless we eat some fiber and protein  our blood sugar will continue to roller coaster.  We will probably either gain weight and/or have stomach issues.

You need to stay hydrated during the day.  Drink the recommended 6-8 glasses of water based fluid thru out a 24 hour period.  Again if your body is dehydrated it will interpret this as well as a threat.  If you are prone to headaches, stomach issues, light headedness, try drinking a glass of water when these symptoms arise as a first line of defense.  (If diabetic obviously sugar will need to be regulated as first line defense.)

When need to exercise 20 minutes (walking like you’re in a hurry  or more) at least 3 times a week.  This is the bare minimum.  To be healthier daily moderate exercise is recommended.  There is a study and I have lost it but will find it again that compared those that did the 20min workout 3 x a week vs a group that took antidepressants.  They discovered that if done regularly both groups had equal results in improving depression.  Of course like an antidepressant, exercise will need to be done regularly over a month before you see the same results.  Why did this happen?  Not only are endorphins (your body’s feel good chemicals)  being released thru exercise, you are also burning off excess stress hormones.   So this will raise your ability to manage stress.  It makes you more resilient.  It makes you healthier.   Cortisol also increases cholesterol, so if you are having trouble with cholesterol, exercise will definitely scientifically help.

You must get 20 minutes of sunshine daily.  This does not mean that you have to have it on your skin although some sun helps with Vitamin D absorbtion which is vital,   Seeing the sunshine (not staring up at the sun itself) but seeing the light around you helps regulate melatonin (necessary for sleep and relaxation) and serotonin (the neurotransmitter that is increased by a majority of antidepressants and helps give you a “duck’s back” where stressful things don’t bother you as much.  Causes you to feel peaceful.) It also helps regulate your biological clock which helps with all kinds of daily bodily functions especially sleep.  And during sleep, guess what happens?  Our body cleans out toxins including excess cortisol.  A recent study I heard on NPR  stated that they have found that people whom get less than 5 hours of sleep have increased cholesterol to those that get at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep.

So if you want to be resilient and not react so much to stress around you, you need to pay attention to these 4 activities in which we actually have some control, which is nice to know we have some say in these things.