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Protect Yourself: Rebalance Cortisol

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first.  

Take the Sting out of Cortisol

Do you long for a stress-free life? Do you wish that your stress hormones would go away and not come back? Actually, you wouldn’t want either of these, any more than you would want a life without pain.

No one wants to be in pain all the time, but to be unable to feel pain at all creates a nightmare of its own. Likewise, if you were unable to mount a stress response, if your body suddenly became unable to produce the stress hormones, your physiology would collapse.

Stress is not the problem. It is unremitting stress and a constantly elevated level of cortisol that create the problems and the consequences can be severe.

The effects of constantly elevated cortisol may include:5

  • Weight gain.
  • Insulin resistance or even type 2 diabetes.
  • Elevated blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
  • Memory problems,...
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What is Adrenal Fatigue?

By Henry Emmons, MD

Signs of Adrenal Fatigue

Perhaps you feel unmotivated, have less interest in things, feel weakness, or an unrelenting achiness in your muscles. Maybe you want to sleep too much, or simply wake feeling unrested. Your mood might be sad or down, or perhaps it’s just flat. But your biggest concern? The one that never seems to go away? It’s this feeling of profound fatigue.

How is Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosed?

The Mainstream Medicine Approach

Adrenal fatigue is not a term accepted by mainstream medicine. Trying to care for symptoms like those above will usually start with routine blood tests that look for adrenal insufficiency (known as Addison’s disease). The result will likely be normal. Most doctors will then look for other causes of the fatigue, doing routine blood tests to rule out things like low iron, low hemoglobin, or a thyroid problem. After this series, symptoms will usually be attributed to untreated...

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GABA Supplements for Anxiousness

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., You've read Part 1 of this series and the introductory article about balancing GABA and glutamate, right? If not, head to those posts first.

GABA and Anxiety | GABA Benefits

As noted in Part 1 of this series, GABA is the neurotransmitter most responsible for calming down an overactive brain... and it's available as a nutritional supplement without a prescription! It has been shown in human studies to help create a relaxed alpha-brain wave pattern, even more effectively than l-theanine (though we still like l-theanine for many reasons). It can also boost immune function in individuals subject to stress.18 

GABA Supplements 

The bad news is that when taken orally, most of it gets broken down before it gets to the brain. However, the amount that does make it can help and there are some forms more likely to be absorbed into the brain. Additionally, some of GABA’s...

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Soothe Yourself: Boost Serotonin

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first. 

Soothe Yourself: Boost Serotonin

Nearly everyone feels better when their serotonin levels are optimal. It has such a wide array of functions, involved with everything from sleep to appetite to impulse control to sexual desire. It's the brain chemical that helps soothe you when you feel stressed or threatened, and it offers considerable protection to the brain against the damaging effects of cortisol. 

Serotonin’s broad benefits may explain why Prozac and the other SSRI’s took the world by storm in the 1990’s. It took a while for the shortcomings of these medications to become clear—problems such as agitation, numbing of emotions and sexual feelings, weight gain, insomnia, fatigue. The SSRI’s are not the cure-all that they initially appeared to be. The problem remains: millions of people are...

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Reward Yourself: Increase Dopamine

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first.

Dopamine 101 & How to Raise It When Deficient

The effects of dopamine are more complex than those of norepinephrine, at least in regards to anxiety. In some ways, they have a similar function.

Both dopamine and norepinephrine:

  • Tend to be energizing and aid in mental focus and concentration.
  • Can aggravate anxiety when levels are way too high.

However, dopamine has some beneficial effects against anxiety.

Dopamine can:

  • Improve motivation and the experience of pleasure.
  • Enhance microcirculation in parts of the brain.3

Unless dopamine becomes really excessive, your anxiety may improve if you gently boost your dopamine levels.

How do you know if dopamine is deficient?

Low dopamine symptoms include:

  • Feel apathetic and fatigued.
  • Difficulty losing weight.
  • Feel unmotivated (as with exercise).
  • Low sex drive.
  • General difficulty getting pleasure from...
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Eat Mindfully to Improve Digestive Health

 

Mindfulness Can Improve Digestive Health

The practice of mindfulness means being aware of what is happening within and around you in the present moment. This practice can be done while eating to enhance enjoyment and support digestive health.

When you practice mindful eating, you avoid distractions (like your phone) so you can fully notice and appreciate the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food. You'll chew more slowly with this practice, which benefits your digestion and satisfaction while eating. Mindful eating may also help you:

  • Reduce overeating and binge eating.
  • Lose weight.
  • Cope with chronic eating problems such as anorexia and bulimia.
  • Reduce anxious thoughts about food and body.
  • Improve symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.

Read more about the practice to learn how it can impact your digestion, which can, in turn, contribute to positive mental health outcomes.

Mindful eating is a simple practice that you can do anytime, anywhere.

Mindful Eating...

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Exercise to Keep Your Digestive Tract Healthy

Move to Keep Your GI Tract Healthy

Exercise can help support digestive health and function in many ways:

  • Exercise improves blood flow throughout your digestive system and the rest of your body.
  • Aerobic exercise like walking, running, and cycling can help to strengthen abdominal muscles. Strong abdominal muscles assist digestion.
  • Regular aerobic activity can also activate your digestive tract and stimulate muscles that propel digestive waste through your intestines.

The good news is that almost any exercise you enjoy can help your digestion. The Resilient Movement Plans  are great a place to start if you don't have an exercise routine. There are also more targeted activities designed specifically to help your gut, wind relieving pose and abdominal self massage.

Two Movement Practices for Better Digestion

1. Wind Relieving Pose: This yoga posture can increase blood flow to the digestive system and facilitate colonic activity. Here's how to do it:

    ...
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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 help us make vitamins,...

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L-Theanine Supplements for Anxiousness

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., You've read Part 1 of this series and the introductory article about balancing GABA and glutamate, right? If not, head to those posts first.

L-theanine Benefits

L-theanine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in green tea. But you'd have to drink a whole lot of it to get a therapeutic dose of theanine. You can get more by taking a green tea extract, but you can also take a supplement containing l-theanine alone, or in combination with other calming agents.

One of the reasons I like l-theanine is because it works on so many neurotransmitters at once: it boosts GABA and dopamine while lowering norepinephrine.10 

L-theanine and Anxiety

Researchers have found that it changes brainwaves as measured on EEG, promoting the relaxed and alert state associated with alpha-brain waves.11 That makes it unusual because it can sharpen mental focus and calm anxiety at the same time. 

L-theanine...

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Disarm Yourself: Reduce Norepinephrine

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first.

With depression, there's often too little NE, but in anxiety it's frequently elevated and needs to be toned down. 

Disarm Yourself: Reduce Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine (NE) raises your level of alertness and arousal. It puts the amygdala on high alert to set off all the alarms in case danger arises.

That alarm system is good if you’re doing something like hunting or evading capture, but not helpful if you're speaking in front of a group or if you've developed panic anxiety for any reason.

How do you know if NE is excessive?

Norepinephrine is the brain’s version of epinephrine, which also goes by the name “adrenaline.” You've probably had the experience of “running on adrenaline.” It's similar to the feeling of drinking too much caffeine, which also elevates norepinephrine’s effects.

Physical...

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