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The Gut-Brain Connection

digest Jul 09, 2020
 

The Gut-Brain Connection

The brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are intimately connected and communicate constantly. Imbalances that have their origins in the GI tract can dramatically affect brain function and can cause or contribute to depression, anxiety, and inattention.

Studies over the past decade have established that, aside from the brain, the GI tract has more nerve cells than any other organ or system in the body. For this reason, the GI tract is sometimes called the “second brain.” Almost all of the neurotransmitters that are made in the brain are also manufactured in the GI tract, including 90% of the body's serotonin and 50% of its dopamine! The GI tract also houses approximately 70% of the immune system cells in the body. Additionally, our gut is home to billions of bacteria (and other organisms) that are designed to live in harmony with us. This internal world of organisms is called the "microbiome." Our gut bacteria...

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Morning Routine for Better Sleep

sleep Jul 02, 2020

 

Before you begin your routine, it's important that you set a bedtime and wake-up time. Aim to get to bed at about the same time each night. Getting up at the same time each day can also help you keep a regular bedtime. Remember to choose times that are realistic for you and that give you 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Goal: Complete These Practices Within Three Hours after Waking Up.

Wake Up On Time. Get up at the same time every day (or close to it). This is crucial to setting your circadian rhythm. Use alarms if you have to. It’s even more helpful to awaken with the light, either the natural sunrise or a dawn simulator.

Make Your Bed. Making your bed each morning improves the chances of a good night’s sleep by nearly 20% because it keeps you from using your bed for anything but sleep.

Eat Breakfast. Learn more from the Nourish practices in this Sleep section.

Get Some Sun. Get bright light in the morning, preferably within an hour or two of waking. That will...

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Evening Routine for Better Sleep

sleep Jun 25, 2020

Evening Routine for Better Sleep

Before you begin your routine, it's important that you set a bedtime and wake-up time. Aim to get to bed at about the same time each night. Getting up at the same time each day can also help you keep a regular bedtime. Remember to choose times that are realistic for you and that give you 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

1-2 Hours Before Bed

Stop Work, Turn Off Devices, and Stay Away From the Bedroom. Stop any work-related tasks and turn off your electronics including the computer, iPad, and smart-phone. Keep the bedroom for sleep. Remove work-related items, TVs, or other electronic devices. Keep the room simple and uncluttered.

Dim the Lights. Keep your lights as low as you can, or even use candles. Darkness before bed will do amazing things for your natural sleepiness.

Practice at Least One Soothing Activity. Read a book, journal, color listen to light music, or spend time in prayer or meditation. If you like to take a warm bath or shower in the...

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Postpartum Depression in Fathers

Uncategorized Jun 18, 2020

Tim Culbert, MD

 

Important Fact: Up to 25% of fathers experience postpartum depression (PPD) and fathers may have different signs/symptoms than women who experience postpartum depression.

For example, men with PPD may not cry,  but often feel more angry, irritable, or impulsive. They may also have trouble finding anything to do that gives them pleasure (anhedonia), experience relationship stress, and have trouble with sleep.

Studies suggest that dads with depression are at increased risk for substance abuse, domestic violence, and are more likely to discourage the child’s mother from breastfeeding. 

Unfortunately, few dads are screened for PPD. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is starting to be used by professionals, but it's not common. It's an important issue that impacts the whole family when fathers with PPD go undiagnosed and therefore untreated.

For example, men with PPD are more likely to spank their kid(s) and less likely to interact with...

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Create a Sleep-Friendly Space

sleep Jun 11, 2020

Your Sleeping Space Can Help You Sleep 

All of your daily movements and routines should be rewarded with the best sleep you can get. Simple changes to your bedroom can help make that happen.

Keep It for Sleep. Keep the bedroom for sleep. Remove work-related items, TVs, or other electronic devices. Keep the room simple and uncluttered.

Keep It Dark and Tech Free. Even small amounts of light can alter melatonin secretion, so shut out all possible lighting (including alarm clocks, cell phones and night lights). Get room-darkening shades for your windows if needed or consider using an eye mask at night.

Keep It Quiet. When you cycle into a lighter stage of sleep, even the slightest sound can wake you up. If your partner snores, consider using a white noise machine (e.g. a room air cleaner). If need be, consider sleeping in separate rooms—studies show that most couples sleep better in separate bedrooms.

Keep It Cool. You sleep best when your body is...

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Movements and Routines for Better Sleep

foundations sleep Jun 04, 2020

 

Movements and Routines for Better Sleep

Moving your body in certain ways while you're awake can prepare it for better, longer sleep. Specifically, there are two powerful strategies that can help you sleep better: 

1. Exercise During the Day

Exercise during the day will likely help you sleep better. Just remember to try and finish moderate to high intensity exercise at least three hours before you go to bed to keep your stress hormones down and your body cool at bedtime.

Don't have an exercise plan yet? In order to help you find a movement routine that works for you, we have created three resilient movement plans: the Basic Movement Plan, the Even Better Movement Plan, and the Ideal Movement Plan. Learn more and find the plans here.>>>

2. Create Evening and Morning Routines

Incorporating more meaningful movement throughout your day can play a big role in the quality of your sleep. One way to accomplish this is to create morning and...

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The Relationship Between Allergies and Anxiety

calm May 27, 2020

by Henry Emmons, MD

 

Recent research has shown a correlation between children and adults who have allergies/asthma and also have anxiety disorders. It’s not known if one problem causes the other, or if perhaps they have a similar underlying cause, or if perhaps simply not feeling well adds to one’s stress level. 

Allergies, Anxiety, and Inflammation

In my clinical practice, I have observed this relationship for a long time. I can’t explain it either, but I do have some theories. What I notice is that when the body over-reacts to things (in this case, one over-reacts to an “allergen” like pollen, dust or pets), the mind is often over-reactive as well. It fits with my belief that mind and body are not really separate things, just different facets of the whole. As to what causes this correlation, I think inflammation is a likely culprit. After all, if the body has inflammation, so does the brain, and recent theories suggest that...

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Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Summer

joy May 21, 2020

 

Henry Emmons, MD

Seasonal affective disorder... in the summer?

Most of us in the far north live for summer. After a long winter (and potentially a long quarantine!), we just want to be outdoors, stay up later, be more active—pack in all the things we love that we’ve felt deprived of for nearly half of the year (read about SAD in the winter here.), but for a minority of people it’s the anticipation of summer, not winter, that gives them a feeling of dread.

We tend to associate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with winter, when the days are short and so is our energy supply. You’re probably familiar with what it looks and feels like: Lethargy; sluggishness; struggling to get out of bed in the morning; sleeping too much; and usually feeling depressed, emotionally flat, or both. 

SAD involves recurring episodes of major depression that happen at the same time of year for at least two years. For 10% of people with SAD, that time of year is the...

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Natural Approaches to Help Kids with Impulsive Behavior

focus May 14, 2020

Timothy Culbert, MD, IFMCP

Impulsivity, or acting without thinking, can be a real problem for kids (and yes, for adults too).

What does impulsivity look like? When it happens once in a while, it can look like everyday kid behavior. When it happens a lot, though, it looks like what it actually is: Trouble with self-control. Impulsivity doesn’t appear the same way in every child. And the behaviors can change as kids get older. 

When kids are impulsive, they might:

  • Do silly or inappropriate things to get attention.
  • Have trouble following rules consistently.
  • Be aggressive toward other kids (hitting, kicking, or biting is common in young kids).
  • Have trouble waiting their turn in games and conversation.
  • Grab things from people or push in line.
  • Overreact to frustration, disappointment, mistakes, and criticism.
  • Want to have the last word and the first turn.
  • Not understand how their words or behavior affect other people.
  • Not understand the consequences of their actions....
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Ashwagandha for Anxiousness: An Herb for Our Times

calm May 07, 2020

Henry Emmons, MD

What is Ashwagandha?

In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is thought to be one of the most valued remedies for a variety of conditions. It is one of my favorite herbs, and one of the few that I use personally as part of my daily regimen. It is known as an “adaptogen” or a “tonic” herb. That means that it isn’t considered to be a medicinal herb, per se, but is rather a general health tonic, one that is used to improve the body’s ability to adapt to stress.

At Natural Mental Health, we’re most interested in Ashwagandha’s ability to support the body under stress, reduce anxiousness, and help with sleep. It is one of the rare substances that seems to improve mental focus and alertness, while at the same time toning down the stress response and calming anxiousness. It appears to calm the brain when it is overactive, and stimulate it when it is under-active. Not too much, not too little, but helping us to stay in the right...

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