Hanging out with friends vital to preventing disease and dementia

3 05 socialization prevents dementia

While we eat well and exercise to prevent disease, studies show one of the best ways to stay healthy is to hang out with friends. Studies have linked socialization with better heart health, warding off depression, and preventing memory loss.

In fact, research shows social isolation carries the same health risks as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity, and that regular social interaction can improve your odds of survival by 50 percent.

More people than ever live alone today, almost one third of the US population. This means people have to make an effort to socialize.

And if you think all those hours on Facebook are a substitute for in-person socialization, think again. Although social media is great for connections, online conversations tend to center around what’s “cool” or socially relevant, while in-person conversations go more in depth into sharing life experiences. Important social cues such as body language, facial expressions, and vocal inflections also go missing online.

Having friends prevents dementia

The more socially active people are the lower their risk for cognitive decline and dementia, especially if they have high risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Although researchers don’t understand exactly how socialization prevents dementia, they have several ideas. Friends and family may offer support in seeking health treatment when necessary. A rich social life also exercises the brain and fosters connections between neurons, which is vital to preventing cognitive decline and dementia. Social activity also inhibits chronic stress  a notorious destroyer of brain function.

Bad socialization is worse than no socialization

Although studies show regular social interaction is good for health, negative and stressful relationships are not good for health. Research shows being in a strained, unsupportive marriage carries a higher risk of depression than being single. One study showed that people in stressful marriages healed from wounds more slowly than those in happy relationships. Women seem to be more negatively impacted by a bad relationship than men.

How to cultivate a healthy social life

Staying socially active doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re interested in improving your health and preserving your brain function, here are some tips to incorporate regular social activity into your life:

  • Don’t wait for others to call or invite you out. Pick up the phone and schedule time with friends.
     
  • Volunteer. This can make a difference in other people’s lives and provide you with healthy social interaction.
     
  • Get a job. If you don’t work or work at home, spending some time working out of the home can expand your social life.
     
  • Find groups of people with similar interests or hobbies through the local paper or meetup.com.
     
  • Take some classes. Learning new things not only provides healthy brain stimulation but also exposes you to more people with similar interests.
     
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Are gut bacteria making you depressed, anxious, and overweight?

3 03 gut bacteria obesity depression anxiety

We all carry trillions of bacteria in our guts, with as many as a thousand different strains. The composition of these strains, or our “bacterial fingerprint,” can influence whether we are prone to depression, anxiety, or obesity.

Some gut bacteria can make you fat

Studies have shown people (and mice) who are overweight have much higher levels of particular strains of bacteria than thinner subjects. When thin mice are inoculated with bacteria from heavy mice, they gain weight. This is because these fat-promoting bacteria have been shown to encourage overeating, promote weight gain, prevent the burning of fat, and make obese people better at deriving calories from food than thin people.

In a nutshell, your “bacterial fingerprint” plays a role in how much fat you carry and how easy or difficult it is for you to lose weight. Although diet and exercise are important, these findings help to explain why solely relying on the “eat less and exercise more” approach to weight loss is outdated.

Effect of gut bacteria on depression and anxiety

The composition of your gut bacteria can also play a role in whether you suffer from depression and anxiety. For instance, having plenty of beneficial bacteria, such as the Bifidobacteria strain, can promote production of serotonin, the “feel-good” chemical that prevents depression.

On the other hand, too much of “bad” bacterial strains can promote depression and anxiety. This is because the gut is linked to the brain by the vagus nerve, a large nerve that sends messages back and forth between the brain and digestive system. The effects of harmful bacteria in the gut travel to the brain, impacting brain function and mood.

In one study, subjects who took probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium reported less anxiety, depression, and anger and an improved ability to solve problems. In another study, mice given a Lactobacillus strain cruised through a maze that normally created high anxiety and showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to their probiotic-deprived counterparts.

Cultivating good gut bacteria

Although researchers are still unsure exactly how to banish obesity, depression, and anxiety with probiotics, it’s clear you need to enhance your bacterial fingerprint for optimal health.

Birthing and baby feeding affect gut bacteria

The balance of good and bad bacteria starts at birth—vaginal deliveries and breastfeeding have been shown to improve a child’s chances of starting off with a healthy bacterial colony compared to C-sections and bottle feeding.

Chronic stress and gut bacteria

Chronic stress can throw your bacterial harmony out of balance, as can diets filled with sweets and sugars, processed foods, and fast foods. These foods damage and inflame the intestinal walls, promoting overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeasts.

Cultured food and fiber promotes good gut bacteria

You can promote bacterial harmony by focusing on an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet that includes cultured and fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented vegetables. If you use store-bought cultured foods, make sure they are the real deal and not simply made with vinegar, or pasteurized, which would kill good bacteria..

A healthy colony of good gut bacteria also relies on plenty of soluble fiber in the diet. Eating plenty of produce will give you just what you need in that respect.

Probiotics for obesity, depression, and anxiety

Fortunately, we have powerful probiotics today that can help you cultivate your inner garden. Probiotics should be stable enough to survive the hot and acidic environment of the stomach and contain ample amounts of beneficial strains. Ask my office for advice on a probiotic that’s right for you.

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Is your brain on fire? Brain fog, memory loss, depression, autism, ADHD…

brain on fire

Do you suffer from brain fog — that spacey, detached feeling like your head is in a fish bowl? Do you suffer from depression, or does your child have autism? Are you concerned about Alzheimer’s? These conditions are signs of possible brain inflammation, or a brain “on fire.”

Although a head injury or infection are commonly associated with severe cases of brain inflammation, many people suffer from milder but chronic brain inflammation, which is linked to a variety of symptoms such as brain fog, depression, autism, or Alzheimer’s.

Brain inflammation and brain fog

Unlike most of the body, the brain does not produce pain when inflamed. Instead, one of the most common symptoms is brain fog, which makes people feel spaced out and disconnected. As Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS explains in his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, this is because brain inflammation slows down the conduction between neurons. As a result, brain function slows, which causes that slowness and dullness of thinking.

Brain inflammation and depression

Studies also show depression is linked with brain inflammation. Inflammation creates immune proteins called cytokines. These cytokines can impair brain function and the brain chemical serotonin; low serotonin is frequently linked with depression. In fact, up to a third of patients with hepatitis C who are given interferon, which increases cytokine activity, develop depression, mania, and hypomania.

Brain inflammation, autism, and ADHD

Brain inflammation has also been linked with autism and other brain development disorders in children. Patients with autism have more inflammatory disorders than average (such as digestive disorders, allergies, ear infections, or skin eruptions) and brain imaging and autopsies show more brain inflammation in individuals of all ages with autism.

Brain inflammation and Alzheimer’s

Research also links brain inflammation with Alzheimer’s. Although tau proteins and amyloid beta have long been the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, studies increasingly show inflammation plays a large role in the disease. Not only does inflammation degenerate brain tissue, it also appears to increase amyloid beta, which in turn increases inflammation in a vicious cycle that chews up brain tissue.

Quench brain inflammation for better brain health

So what can be done about brain inflammation to protect brain function? In his brain book, Dr. Kharrazian outlines a number of approaches:

  • Nutritional therapy. Several natural compounds have been shown to quench brain inflammation—ask my office for more information.
     
  • Keep blood sugar stable. Eating a whole foods diet that does not cause surges or drops in blood sugar is also important. Insulin resistance (high blood sugar), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and diabetes can all increase brain inflammation.
     
  • Food intolerances. It’s important to remove foods that trigger inflammation from your diet. For example, many people have intolerances to gluten grains, dairy, or other foods.
     
  • Balance hormones. Balanced hormones are also important to keep brain inflammation in check. For instance, low estrogen in women, low testosterone in men, or low thyroid hormones can play a role in brain inflammation.
     
  • Glutathione. Sufficient glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, is also necessary to prevent brain inflammation, as are sufficient essential fatty acids and vitamin D.
     
  • Gut health. Also vitally important is to address gut inflammation. There is direct communication between the gut and the brain and gut inflammation has been shown to cause brain inflammation.

Ask my office for more information on how to manage brain inflammation for better brain and body health.

Healthy gifts for Mother’s Day

3 01 Mother s Day health gift ideas

When it comes to Mother’s Day, flowers and brunch are lovely, but what most women need is some time off and help around the house. Catching a break in these areas can go a long way to supporting their health.

Most mothers seem to get the lion’s share of stress these days, and about 70 percent say they find mothering “incredibly stressful.” In addition to shouldering the bulk of the parenting and household duties, the majority of today’s moms work outside of the home, and more women than ever are single mothers.

It’s no wonder women suffer more stress-related diseases than men. More women than men die of heart disease, succumb to Alzheimer’s, and suffer from autoimmune disease. The burdens of being a modern women coupled with a woman’s complex hormonal system increase the risk of breakdowns in health.

Mother’s Day gift ideas to improve Mom’s health

With that in mind, here are some Mother’s Day gift ideas, requested by real-live moms, that can increase well being and help lower her risk of disease. As anyone who has ever lived with a mom can tell you, a happier mom makes for a happier household.

A housecleaner: The top requested Mother’s Day gift

When you have kids, keeping the house clean and tidy is a never-ending chore, yet an uncluttered house helps reduce stress by uncluttering the mind. Just as good as having the house thoroughly cleaned is knowing it’s going to be cleaned, a powerful stress-buster in itself. One cleaning is great, a regular service is heavenly. Cleaning the car, the garage, and outside areas are also great gifts.

Time alone

Another common request from moms is a break from the ones they love the most. It’s not personal, but running a family requires non-stop physical, emotional, and strategic skills. Some mothers would love the house to themselves for a day or even a weekend. Others prefer you send them away to spend a few days alone on the coast or somewhere nice. Time alone on a regular basis, free from daily duties, will help keep the mom batteries charged.

Bodywork

Whether it’s a massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, or some other form of bodywork, moms want the healing touch. Many studies demonstrate the health benefits of various forms of bodywork. A one-time session is great, but a package of regular visits will give mom a regular break from stress and some genuine wellness support.

Help with cooking

Another never-ending chore for moms is cooking. Growing children are always hungry and eating at a fast-food restaurant is a time-saving temptation that does no one good in the end. Progressive personal chefs today can deliver more economical services, such as crockpot ingredients ready to cook. You can also prepare and freeze ingredients for easy meals, or cook a few meals in large batches and stock the freezer for those hectic evenings.

The gift of appreciation

Mothers like to be acknowledged for all they do. If housecleaning, vacations, and bodywork are not in the cards, smaller gestures are still adored. A gift card for some free movies can buy her some time alone here and there. Homemade presents from the children will be treasured, and flowers enjoyed. As any good business leader knows, appreciating people boosts morale and energizes people, something every mom could use in the important and exhausting business of running a family.

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