Tag Archives: Anxiety

Do It Yourself Brain Improvement

The number of individuals diagnosed with ADD continues to rise.  While the diagnosis rate inflates, as do the pharmaceutical sales of habit forming and side effect laden prescriptions.

Is this is a condition that is being over diagnosed for the sake of big business?  If not entirely, then what is causing this widespread, suboptimal cortical functioning? Chemical exposure? Cultural influences? Horrific nutrition? Or maybe a combination of them all.

Regardless of the answers to these questions, the fact remains that the signs and symptoms that land you under the umbrella of an ADD diagnosis and subsequent prescription are societally prevalent. It’s important to recognize these traits, and do what you can naturally first in order to stave off any chemical intervention.

Let’s first look at some of the issues at hand.  These include short attention span or lack of focus, distractibility, lack of perseverance, impulse control problems, hyperactivity, chronic lateness/poor time management, disorganization, procrastination, unavailability of emotions, misperceptions, poor judgement, trouble learning from experience, short term memory problems, and social and test anxiety.

The handling of these issues is largely governed by an area of your brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is touted as the most evolved part of your brain.  Overall the PFC is the part of the brain that watches, supervises, guides, directs and focuses your behavior, governing “executive functions” such as time management, judgement, impulse control, planning, organization and critical thinking.

This area continues to develop as we age, and doesn’t fully develop until well into adulthood.  This explains why we tend to become more responsible and less reckless as we age, and why youth tends to exemplify the opposite.  It also explains why people’s personalities may change after a concussion or trauma to the dome.

Identifying potential areas of deficit and providing patients with targeted brain based therapies and exercises is a practice we incorporate at Clarke Chiropractic and Wellness.  We may have the patient perform eye exercises or interactive metronome.

If you think you may be dealing with an under functioning PFC based on the descriptions above, feel free to give us a call (321-848-0987) for an evaluation and if warranted, subsequent therapies.

In the meantime, here are a couple of at home remedies to give that PFC a jolt:

THE CLASSICAL STYLINGS OF MOZART

A study published in the International Journal of Arts Medicine found that listening to Mozart actually reduced the slow brain activity (theta brain-wave) that is often excessive in ADD.  Subjects (children ranging from ages 7 – 17) displayed better focus and mood control, diminished impulsivity, and improved social skills after incorporating sessions of Mozart at least three times a week.

DIET AND EXERCISE

(yet another reason to implement these seemingly simple lifestyle changes)
In order to fully appreciate why this suggestion is relevant, we need to understand that it is the neurotransmitter dopamine that helps to prevent the PFC shutdown that happens in ADD.  Drugs like Adderall work by stimulating dopamine.
A diet high in refined carbs (simple sugars: cakes, candies, ice cream, pastries, soda and simple carbs: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes) has a negative impact on dopamine levels in the brain.
Exercise naturally triggers the release of dopamine, and subsequently norepinephrine which is another neurotransmitter that stimulates the PFC.

So as stated, another reason to clean up the diet and get moving with some regular exercise.  This is not just a over-stated, lazy suggestion for wellness.  As explained above, these two suggestions carry actual, natural chemical repercussions similar to the effective ingredients in some of today’s most over prescribed drugs.

Boost Your Health With…Chocolate???

In keeping with the positive, light-hearted spirit of the season, this week’s post serves as a gift.  So often it seems that most healthy recommendations involve cutting out the “good” stuff.  However, some of the traditional “good” stuff can actually be good for you, and that includes almost everyone’s favorite: chocolate.

Now hopefully you didn’t just cut your reading of this article off there and inhale the nearest chocolate bar.  The type of chocolate and accompanying ingredients dictate whether or not its consumption can empower or devour you.  Oh come on, you didn’t think it was going to be that easy.

When we talk about “healthy” chocolate, we are referring to pure, organic dark chocolate.  This type of chocolate is actually quite bitter on its own, which is why if you buy a manufactured dark chocolate product it usually comes to the party with an entourage of sugars, unhealthy artificial sweeteners, soy, etc.

As with any product, you’re going to want to take the time to scan the ingredients and make your decision based upon your knowledge, what’s important to you and what research you believe.  To ensure you reap some of the benefits we are about to go over, you’re going to want to choose a product that lists cacao as the main ingredient.

The cacao tree (aka cocoa tree) is a small tree indigenous to the tropical regions of Central and South America.  Its seeds serve as the source for various forms of cacao such as powder, paste or butter.  All of which can be used to make what we know and love as chocolate.  As with all foods, the less processing before it enters your pie hole, the better.

One of chocolate’s main beneficial properties comes from the presence of a large quantity of antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavonoids.  We throw terms like antioxidants around so much that a brief review will help illustrate the benefits.

While we function throughout the day, millions of cells are constantly performing functions on a microscopic level that enable us to live.  A by-product of this cellular function or oxidation, is what are referred to as free radicals.  Free radicals are a highly reactive chemical species that cause damage to cells throughout the body contributing to everything from  cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts (to name a few).   When functioning properly, our bodies are designed to discard harmful free radicals up to a certain point.  However, things such as stress, poor diet, sickness, strenuous exercise, and smoking can lead to a level of free radicals that exceeds our body’s natural capacity to break them down.

If you are alive, it is impossible to avoid the formation of free radicals.  The trick is to limit the formation AND provide your body with added free radical fighters, or anti-oxidants.  Many foods and supplements possess anti-oxidative properties (measured as ORAC), but pure cacao boosts three to ten times the anti-oxidative properties than foods like blueberries or cranberries.

Many of chocolate’s beneficial properties are mainly a consequence of what was just explained.  Reported benefits include:

Improved glucose metabolism/diabetic control

Controlling blood pressure

Improved heart health and overall cardiovascular system

Anti-inflammatory (ah inflammation, the common denominator in almost every pathology)

Relatively high levels of resveratrol which has been shown to be potently neuro-protective and possibly life extending

Recent research has even found that regular consumption of an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day led to a reduction in stress hormones and anxiety.

Remember, this is not an open invitation to go on a no holds barred, unsensored chocolate binge.  If you do choose to add a mostly pure form of chocolate to your regimen, it should be consumed in moderation (one study noted 6.7 grams of dark chocolate per day, which is about a half a bar a week to be optimal) and in addition to all of the other lifestyle changes we continuously harp on.

Many of these benefits are due to the anti-oxidative properties, which is highest in pure cacao powder and progressively drops off in unsweetened baking chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and milk chocolate (milk can actually prevent the absorption of some anti-oxidants); respectively.  Also, remember the more processed, the longer the list of ingredients and higher sugar content, the higher the collateral damage and diminishing effects on the benefits.

Natural, organic cacao powder, paste, butter can be purchased online or at most health food stores.  You can use this to add a tasty boost to your smoothie or as the main ingredient in your holiday hot chocolate.  With a little bit of preparation, research and experimentation, you can also create your own “healthy” chocolate.  If it’s too bitter, you can use a natural sweetener such as stevia or xylitol.

So go get yourself some cacao powder, a little bit of stevia, mix it with your heated reverse osmosis water and some coconut or almond milk to enjoy a holiday classic that tastes great while also providing a health boosting punch.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

REFERENCES

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19754118

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20442725

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/10/1939.abstract?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=Romina+di+Giuseppe&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT

Sepehr Bahadorani, Arthur J Hilliker. Cocoa confers life span extension in Drosophila melanogaster. Nutr Res. 2008 Jun;28(6):377-82

A Functional Approach: Connecting the Dots

I recently had the opportunity to spend my afternoon as an exhibitor at the Brevard County Women’s Expo.  The reason for my presence was to provide information and an avenue to pursue natural, holistic healthcare.  One of the biggest draws to our booth was the book, “Changer Your Brain, Change Your Life,” by Dr. Daniel Amen.  I highly recommend this book, or at the very least checking out our previous post pertaining to it. (https://clarkechiropracticwellness.com/2013/08/08/mental-health-a-new-perspective/)

Basically, the book provided hope by doing two things.  Number one it illustrated that areas of decreased blood flow and metabolic activity in the brain do exist.  This means that there are portions of the brain not functioning at full capacity. Depending on the location of decreased function, various symptoms will be outwardly exhibited resulting in the diagnosis of conditions like anxiety, ADD/ADHD, depression, anger, obsessive compulsive behavior, sleeping disorders, etc. This is huge because it demonstrates to the individual that there is no inherent character flaw within them, but rather an area of the brain with sluggish function.
The second critical thing this book shows is that therapies can be applied that target the area of decreased function.  Dr. Amen’s clinics have functionally scanned over 80,000 brains from 90 countries showing the affects of brain based therapies pre and post treatment.  The real testament though is the improvement to the patient’s quality of life.  An image showing increased activity is one thing, but it’s pretty much meaningless to the individual if they are still burdened with life altering symptoms.
(It should be noted that when he finds it necessary, Dr. Amen also utilizes pharmaceutical means in conjunction with the therapies to treat his patients.   Other patients have responded simply to the brain based therapies and supplementation.)
The universal optimism to be drawn from Dr. Amen’s work is that it provides more proof that the brain can adapt.  Application of the correct brain based therapies and exercises can positively take advantage of the brain’s plasticity or adaptability and increase function from the brain and beyond.  As we know, the brain serves as the master control center for the entire body, inside and out; making the possibilities endless.
From a functional doctor’s point of view, this ties in phenomenally with what we do and why we do it.  Let me explain:
When you seek treatment, you are more than likely looking to address a symptom that has become bothersome in your life.  Although bothersome, this symptom is actually a good thing as it is our body’s brilliant way of letting us know something isn’t right.  Rather than attempting to silence our body’s inborn alarm system, as a functional doctor, we look to neurologically, nutritionally, and biomechanically analyze the whole picture and discover the breakdown in function that caused the symptom to manifest in the first place.  Being trained to identify areas of potential decreased function in the brain, and then apply specific therapeutic exercises and therapies to target that area and take advantage of the brain’s aforementioned plasticity is what functional neurology is all about.
You see, there is no claim being made to cure those conditions mentioned above.  The approach is to acknowledge the symptoms, but go beyond them attempting to identify and correct the underlying breakdown in function causing the symptom.  The thing about a symptom is that we never know if this is the first identifiable sign of an underlying issue or the 4th or 5th.  And if we simply silent the symptom, the internal derangement more than likely still exists and will manifest itself in other, perhaps more severe ways; kind of like the body screaming even louder for our attention.
This all ties into Dr. Amen’s work in that he has contributed to evidence showing the brain can change through therapies.  Being that the brain controls all function, effective treatment can not only lead to addressing the presenting complaint, but end up having widespread, favorable consequence throughout the body.  Sleep patterns, immune function, digestive issues, blood pressure regulation, name it.
If you’re ready for a change and interested in further exploring the world of natural and holistic healthcare through functional medicine I’d love to talk.
Stay open my friends.

Mental Health: A New Perspective

In today’s world of news channels and smart phones providing constant information, it is almost impossible not to be inundated with every little detail of each event.  The ones that receive the most coverage are generally the negative stories, as it seems like one heinous act is committed in an attempt to top its seemingly un-topable predecessor.

With the in-depth coverage, the analyzation of the criminal’s profile becomes a focus.  More specifically and recently, their mental health (and medications) are called in question.  Are all of these people inherently evil or is there something going on with their hard-wiring that makes them see the world the way they do, and ultimately do the things they do?

Along the same lines we have conditions that have traditionally been labeled and treated as psychological problems.  ADD, OCD, addictions, depression, anxiety and a bad temper are conditions that we as society have a hard time understanding.  Often the individual is looked at as weaker, and those on the outside sometimes question the actual legitimacy of the concept of mental illness as a whole.

All of this falls under the category of mental health.  And as stated, traditionally this has fallen into the realm of relying on psychological and/or psychiatric treatment.  However, there is mounting evidence pointing toward physiological deficiencies in the individual’s brain as the potential reason for these issues.  This is promising as research has also shown that you can improve brain function.  This reinforces the theory of changing your brain to change your life.

The basis of this theory has been supported by the use of SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) which allows us to view blood flow and the distribution of activity levels throughout the brain.  The pioneers of this technology utilized it to view functional images of people who had problems with dementia, depression, schizophrenia, drug use and head injuries, and compare them with the images of normal brains.

What they found was various locations of deficient brain activity could be correlated with certain mental conditions or personality flaws.  Even more exciting is that therapies exist to target specific deficient regions, and have been implemented with success throughout the country.  This provides additional understanding and more importantly, hope.

Thanks to the documented results of these imaging studies, patients and their families are able to actually see the underlying brain problem that is essentially driving the emotional and behavioral symptoms.  Rather than blame themselves for having a weak character or mental illness, patients are able to better understand the origin of their issues and receive more targeted, effective treatment.

The following is an excerpt from the book: “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” a New York Times Bestseller written by Dr. Daniel G. Amen:

“Your brain is the hardware of your soul.  It is the hardware of your very essence as a human being.  You cannot be who you really want to be unless your brain works right.  How your brain works determines how happy you are, how effective you feel, and how well you interact with others.  Your brain patterns help you (or hurt you) with your marriage, parenting skills, work, and religious beliefs, along with your experiences of pleasure and pain.  If you are anxious, depressed, obsessive-compulsive, prone to anger, or easily distracted, you probably believe these problems are “all in your head.”  In other words, that you believe your problem is purely psychological.  However, research that I and others have done shows that the problems are related to the physiology of the brain – and the good news is that we have proof that you can change that physiology.”

This is truly powerful stuff.  What this means to all of us on a practical level is that there is hope.  We all don’t have access to the SPECT technology of imaging, but what this research has shown us is that depressed areas of the brain correlated with certain conditions or traits, can have their level of activation increased by way of targeted therapies.

Bridging this to my area of practice, the utilization of functional neurology provides the practitioner with the tools to do just what we described above.  By performing a series of non-invasive tests and observations on a patient, the potential area of brain imbalance can be identified.  In and out of office therapies can then be intentionally directed at that area in attempt to boost the function of the brain and thus the overall capabilities of the individual’s life.

If you have any of the above described conditions or are simply interested in looking into unlocking your full potential, please do not hesitate to contact my office (contact information provided to the upper right), as I’d love to work with you.  If you’re not in my area, look for a chiropractor who utilizes functional neurology and go check it out for yourself.

The research and evidence is mounting.  Help and hope does exist.  The ball is in your court to take the first step.