Tag Archive for brain chemistry

The Depressed Brain: Alternative Treatments

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

It is estimated that 25 percent of the American population will experience depression at some point in their lives.  What we do know is that depression is treatable, and a variety approaches have been proven effective for reducing and overcoming symptoms.   Many consumers and those who suffer from depression symptoms are under the impression that medication is the only option.  This is not the case.

A study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and GlaxoSmithKline (a pharmaceutical corporation), indicates that cognitive therapy is at least as effective as medication for long-term treatment of severe depression, and it is less expensive.  This is not to say that medication is not effective, but rather that there are often options, such as talk therapy, that are overlooked by the average consumer.  We are told by commercials, friends, and even our physicians that depression can be treated with medications, but there are other options.

A recent article by Dr. Daniel Amen confirmed that natural supplements are effective in treating the neurological imbalances causing depression symptoms. Dr. Amen, author of Change Your Brain Change Your Life, is a renowned physician, child and adult psychiatrist, and brain imaging specialist.  He discusses the surprising outcomes after speaking to a group of UC Psychiatrists:

As a group, they were very interested in learning about using natural supplements as a way to treat their patients. You have to understand that in most traditional psychiatry programs in the U.S., the use of natural supplements as a treatment option is NOT part of the curriculum. Most psychiatrists get absolutely NO training in this.

And that’s a real shame. Because there are many supplements that have A level (strong) or B level (good) scientific evidence that they are effective in treating a number of mental disorders. Here are some examples:

  • St. John’s wort, SAMe, and sage have A level evidence that they help with depression.
  • 5-HTP, omega-3s, saffron, and DHEA have B level evidence that they reduce symptoms of depression.
  • St. John’s wort, 5-HTP, and inositol have B level evidence that they calm anxiety.
  • 5-HTP has B level evidence that it helps with weight loss.
  • Ginkgo biloba and sage have A level evidence that they enhance memory.
  • Huperzine A, vinpocetine, acetyl-l-carnitine, phosphatidylserine, and omega-3s have B level evidence that they boost memory.
  • Melatonin has A level evidence that it improves sleep.

For more on Dr. Amen Click Here

What has been confirmed by the scientific community is that most forms of depression can be traced to imbalances in neurotransmitter levels, more specifically Serotonin levels.  These levels can be depleted through genetics, or environmental triggers (stress, trauma, and lifestyle).  Serotonin is one of the primary inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.  Serotonin plays a role in so many areas of the body, and is one of the first neurotransmitters to become depleted.  It is involved in balancing mood, apatite, sugar and carbohydrate cravings (due to low Serotonin levels), sleep cycle regulation, pain receptors (including headaches and muscle pain), and many more.  When looking for alternative options to treating depression, testing ones brain chemistry is extremely important in identifying the neurotransmitters that are out of balance, and is another option for treating depression.  For more information on neurotransmitter testing and depression Click Here.

*If you or someone you know is suffering from depression please contact your practitioner immediately.

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Prescription Drug Coupons

For those of you taking prescription medications and struggling with the ever-increasing costs, you might find this website helpful.  Visit www.needymeds.org to get great coupons for medications that you can print out and take to your local pharmacy.  Just thought I’d share this great website with everyone- every little bit of savings helps!  -Nikki Jackson-Drummond, CCN

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MSG: In Your Child’s Lunchbox

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

With back-to-school in full effect, many parents are packing their rouine lunches or giving kid’s money to buy lunch at school, but do you really know what your child is eating?  Interestingly enough, we notice when kids are eating more prepared and prepackaged foods, often times their behavior gets worse.  Why? Monosodium Glutamate or MSG is added to many “kid friendly” and fast foods. In many ingredient lists is hidden as “flavor enhancer” or “natural flavors”.  MSG increases glutamate levels (glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitters) thus increasing aggression, impulsivity, and decrease the ability to focus. This is not only occurring in our children’s brains, but ours as well.  That bag of Barbecue chips is full of MSG, so is that “natural flavored” cereal bar….Just think about it.

“It taps out our inhibitory neurotransmitters causing inflammation to the brain.” Says Nikki Jackson-Drummond CCN.  This is a normal reaction to ingesting MSG, even for someone who does not have an allergy to MSG. According to Grocery Warningby Mike Adams,” There is no regulation whatsoever on the use of MSG in school cafeterias despite its possible ill effects.  In fact, current trends allow fast –food pizza and hamburger chains to sell their MSG-laden products during the children lunch hour.” Adams says, ” The sudden increase in glutamic acid within the body is rapidly absorbed an can raise the normal blood level of glutamate to eight or ten or even twenty times its usual amount.”

So what’s in your kid’s lunch box?  Popular children’s soups, macaroni and cheese, even products that are labeled “natural” have “natural flavorings added.”  If you are giving your child these foods, or they are getting them at school, the likelihood is that they are increasing the glutamate enough to disrupt your child’s brain chemistry. We have seen some kiddo’s brain chemistry levels plateau or become worse do to diets heavy in MSG foods, without parents even knowing it was disrupting their neurochemistry!

Common Foods:

  • Hamburger Helper Microwave Singles®  (targeted towards children)
  • Doritos®
  • Campbell’s® soups – all of them – based on their commitment to add “umami” (read – MSG) to their products
  • Pringles® (the flavored varieties)
  • Boar’s Head® cold cuts and most of their hot dogs
  • Progresso® Soups – all of them
  • Lipton® Noodles and Sauce
  • Lipton® Instant soup mix
  • Unilever or Knorr® products – often used in homemade Veggie dips. 
  • Kraft® products nearly all contain some free glutamate
  • Cup-a-soup® or Cup-o-Noodles®
  • Planters® salted nuts – most of them
  • Accent® -this is nearly pure MSG
  • Braggs® Liquid Aminos – sold at Whole Foods
  • Hodgson Mill Kentucky Kernel Seasoned Flour®
  • Tangle extract (seaweed extract) – found in sushi rolls (even at Whole Foods)  Seaweed is what MSG was first isolated from.
  • Fish extract – made from decomposed fish protein – used now in Japanese sushi dishes – very high in free glutamate.
  • flavored ramen noodles
  • boullion – any kind
  • instant soup mixes
  • many salad dressings
  • most salty, powdered dry food mixes – read labels
  • flavored potato chips

This is part of the list from MSG Truth http://www.msgtruth.org/avoid.htm

There are many safe, alternatives to MSG filled foods.  Do an experiment, what is your behavior or your child’s behavior like after avoiding MSG free foods for just a few days?  Check out this mom’s blog post for specific foods and where to buy them for an MSG free diet http://www.latitudes.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=2976

Next time your thinking about grabbing a quick bite, or throwing in that flavored bag of chips into the lunchbox, think about it, do you really want your child eating a flavor enhanced, chemical filled snack?  Think about it….

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The PTSD Brain

By Emily Roberts, MA, LPC

There has been a recent buzz in the media regarding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Iraq veterans. Although anyone who has suffered from a trauma knows, PTSD has been around since the dawn of time (watching your caveman buddy get eaten by a Saber Tooth tiger).  However, it was not recognised by the American Psychological Association until the 1980′s. The media attention and those brave soldiers who speak out about suffering from the disorder, are allowing more soldiers to get help and making it let stigmatized to do so.  

The incidence of PTSD is on the rise as two wars drag on. In April, a Rand Corp. study concluded that 1 out of almost every 5 military service members on combat tours — about 300,000 so far — returns home with symptoms of PTSD or major depression. “Anyone who goes through multiple deployments is going to be affected,” says Dr. Matthew Friedman, director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD. But nearly half of these cases, according to the Rand study, go untreated because of the stigma that the military and civil society attach to mental disorders.
This expert is from  TIME Magazine’s eye-opening article “How One Army Town Copes with Posttramatic Stress” by Tim McGirk. He talks about the rise in suicides and homicidal behavior due to untreated symptoms.  Colorado Springs, AKA Army Town, has the highest suicide rate in the country! This is not ironic, it is also the home to many soldiers who have just come back from war.
 Click Here to read the article in its entirety. 

Daniel Amen, M.D., author of Change Your Brain Change Your Life, who has made brain imagining through of SPECT scans available to the public, has hundreds of brain scans from PTSD brains.  There is a significant difference in looking at the scan, and for many out there seeing the effect trauma has on their brain, may be enough to get them to seek out therapeutic interventions.  His recent blog post follows an Army Snipers battle with PTSD and how changing his brain chemistry helped to relieve him of daunting symptoms http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-amen-md/changing-the-brain-of-an_b_666631.html

The good news is that the brain CAN change, and PTSD symptoms can be reversible.  One has to be willing to seek out treatment for symptoms.  We know that brain chemistry imbalances are treatable through amino acid therapy, pharmacology, talk-therapy, and specialized approaches such as EMDR, EFT, and many others.  If you or someone you know is suffering from these symptoms share the articles listed, it may help normalize their experience and allow them to get well.

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Thirsty? Are You Getting Enough Water?

By Emily Roberts, MA, LPC

Are you getting enough Water? Let’s face it, most of us consume more caffeine then we do water, and with the summer heat, getting hydrated is more important than ever.  Many of us are running on energy drinks and soda, without even thinking about how many glasses of water we have had.  The bottom line is adults and children in the United States are dehydrated, which consequently effects brain chemistry and ones overall health.  Adequate hydration is important for proper brain functioning, as mild dehydration can impair your ability to concentrate, compromise your digestive track, and cause a decrease in energy.

To calculate how much water one needs divide body weight by three to yield the minimum water needed to detoxify the brain daily, if one is exercising heavily divide the body weight by two.  See the table for The Beverage Institute of Health and Wellness recommendations. http://www.thebeverageinstitute.com/

Most children are not getting enough water either, without this we see the same symptoms as we do adults, plus a lot more irritability and focus issues.  It’s important to make sure they are drinking plenty of water when they are outside playing, especially in these warm summer months. Studys show that children will drink up to 50 percent more water if it’s flavored (certainly, adults will too).  Make sure the flavored drinks they consume are all natural, made mostly from water, and do not have added sugars, dyes, or flavors. Here are some other creative ways to get children, and adults, to get their recommended H2o for the day.

  • Sparkling water- this is a favorite among kids and adults I know.  These come in subtle flavors such as mixed berry, lemon, lime, and grapefruit.  I am currently obsessed with the strawberry flavor at Whole Foods, I drank 32oz without even realizing it.
  • Fruit and Vegetable juice- remember many fruits and vegetables are high in water, I suggest diluting juice with 25 percent water to get more with great flavor.
  • Broth based soups and Popsicles- believe it or not, they are high in water content and contribute to your daily fluid intake.
  • Tea- weather its iced tea, green tea, or decaffeinated tea, this is a great way to get flavor and nutrients, as well as hydration.
  • Emergen-C packets- one packet in 8 oz of water gives you 1000 mg of vitamin C, 24 vitamins and minerals, and a great taste to boot.  They make water fizzy, tasty, and full of nutrients; great for kids and adults. http://www.emergenc.com/

Remember, drinking water is the easiest thing you can do to increase hydration, detoxify your body and brain, and help you with optimal health.  By now you are probably reaching for a glass of water (yay). Make sure in these hot summer months, you and your children are getting enough to drink!

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Pear Shaped or Apple Shaped?

Did you know the location of body fat may predict whether or not your brain is affected by the extra weight you carry?  A recent study found just that!

Researchers from Northwestern Medicine found that women who carried excess weight around their hips (pear shape) versus carrying weight around the abdomen (apple shape) were more apt to memory loss and cognitive decline.  The general school of thought in conventional medicine has been that “apple” shapes are more cause for concern since this body shape has been linked to heart disease.  However, we now know that the body fat cells around the hips secrete a hormone (cytokine) that is pro-inflammatory to the brain.  To read this article click here.

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