Tag Archives: depression

Are You Addicted to Carbs?

Are you someone who thinks about food all day long?  Has it gotten to the point that you only feel good when, and for a short stint after you eat?  Do these constantly craved comfort foods considerably consist of concentrated carbohydrates? (Do you also like alliteration?) You know; the breads, pastas, pizza, desserts, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE food and the ritual that goes along with its preparation and consumption.  What I’m referring to here actually comes along with a chemically addictive explanation.  We are speaking of those of you who frequently binge or automatically resort to the aforementioned food items as a way to cope or boost your spirits.  In turn, you may have put on unwanted excess pounds, created a poor self-image, taken a giant step closer to a myriad of health problems headlined by diabetes, and actually even induced depression.

When it comes to our health, we each need to step up and take personal responsibility for our lives and the choices we make, but it always helps to have an actual physiological explanation for the state we find ourselves in.  Provided with this, we can effectively identify the problem and begin to address it with an educated approach.

In our bodies we have chemicals known as neurotransmitters.  These chemicals are derived from the dietary proteins we consume.  Basically, these neurotransmitters can be looked at as chemical messengers that enable the proper communication between nerves.  They are responsible for major physiological responses, including the way we feel, and their presence (or lack thereof) can be at the root of many issues, including binge eating and depression.  Let me explain.

It has long been known that sugary carb-laden foods are the “feel good foods.”  When we are feeling down or sick, we constantly turn to these pro-inflammatory foods which actually perpetuate the problem at hand.  The physiological explanation behind this is that they indirectly increase the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Amongst other things, serotonin is one of the feel good chemicals produced in our bodies.  Its levels are commonly targeted when addressing depression.  We get serotonin from the dietary amino acid tryptophan (smart sources include turkey, chicken, tuna, salmon, spinach, asparagus, nuts, etc.)  If all is working correctly, when we consume food with tryptophan it is eventually converted (with the help of co-factors like oxygen, magnesium and B6) to serotonin in the brain.

(Another interesting fact is that the formation of serotonin is actually facilitated when sun light enters through the eyes.  Hence, we tend to feel uplifted on a sunny day and more melancholic on those rainy days.  To take it a step further, serotonin is the precursor to the sleep chemical melatonin.  Adequate sunlight not only makes us feel good, but actually aids in the proper sleep cycle as well; but back to the serotonin-carbohydrate relationship.)

When we consume carbs, we see a rise in insulin levels to transport the carbs as glucose, to our tissues.  Insulin also sends amino acids out of the blood as well.  Even though tryptophan is an amino acid, it remains relatively unaffected by insulin due to the fact that it is tightly bonded to another protein.  This leaves the tryptophan with a clear path to be converted to serotonin in the brain.

Normally, the various amino acids (including tryptophan) compete to be transported through the blood brain barrier into the brain.  This creates a natural and healthy balance within the brain of the amounts of serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, etc.

The problem arises when we spike our blood sugar and subsequently our insulin levels by way of these carb-heavy meals.  The burst of insulin rushes to clear out the glucose and all the other amino acids (which normally compete with tryptophan as far as uptake into the brain), but not the tryptophan.  The tryptophan now has an unimpeded path to the brain and conversion to serotonin, leading to that temporary high experienced after devouring that meal.

The nasty part occurs when that serotonin spike drops and we lose the food induced euphoria.  Now, just like any addict, we are susceptible to chasing that high, in this case, provided by the carb-heavy meal.

So what does this all mean for you?  Well, first off it provides yet another reason to seriously take a deeper look into the lower carb diet.  Secondly, it provides you with some comfort in knowing that there is a chemical imbalance here taking place that heavily influences your mood and subsequent behavior.  Armed with this knowledge, you can begin to make changes to your lifestyle that created this snowballing imbalance in the first place.

If you or someone you know would benefit from investigating this further, please give me a call and we can begin to get you back on track today.

Slow Down Aging: Preserve Your Telomeres

For this week’s post we are going to change it up and pull excerpts from an intriguing article written by Michael Downey.  It is on the subject of telomeres which can best be described as caps on the end of your DNA, and how important it is to preserve them as long as possible.  The topic has fascinated me for some time now, so I thought I would share.  Enjoy.

“Telomeres are protective DNA molecules. Often compared to the plastic caps on the ends of shoelaces, telomeres are found on the ends of coiled pieces of DNA known as chromosomes. They keep the chromosome material from deteriorating.

Every time chromosomes divide, the telomeres at the ends shorten.  The eventual shortening of telomeres is correlated with aging.  Ultimately, the telomeres become so depleted that the cell can no longer divide, and that cell dies (aka apoptosis).

Scientists have made an alarming discovery: higher stress levels can cause accelerated shortening of telomeres.  In a recently published study, researchers found that depression related stress results in the significant shortening of telomeres (the caps at the ends of chromosomes) an indication of accelerated aging.

The publication of this study emphasizes the importance of minimizing the impact of internal and environmental stress on the body.  An estimated 75-90% of visits to primary care physicians are now related to the effects of stress, and this new study documents how lethal stress can be to our well-being and longevity.

STRESS-INDUCED HOMEOSTATIC IMBALANCE

Homeostasis is the ability and tendency of a body to maintain harmonious equilibrium by constantly readjusting its physiological processes.  Cells and tissues exist in a constantly changing environment—homeostasis steers internal biochemical levels back to near-optimum points.

Physical and emotional stress triggers a cascade of biochemical changes, causing homeostatic imbalance.  This interruption in homeostasis helps us prepare for dangerous external situations. (Essentially it is an activation of the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system which we have discussed numerous times before.)  These changes are supposed to be moderate, infrequent, and short-term.  Ordinarily, after a stressor has passed, our system adjusts—raising and lowering different biochemical levels—returning the body to homeostasis.

In today’s world, our feedback mechanisms become overwhelmed by the extent, duration, intensity, frequency, or multiple layering of stress.  This produces an excessive or prolonged homeostatic imbalance (sympathetic overdrive).  Studies have even found that these harmful effects can persist long after a stressful situation has been normalized.

The result can be a multitude of physical and mental diseases, including permanent organ damage, DNA effects, and the physical changes associated with aging.

Some of the many disease states associated with stress-induced homeostatic imbalance include obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, gastric ulcer, cancer, gastrointestinal complaints, skin issues, neurological disorders, sexual dysfunction, psychological problems, suppressed immunity, decreased memory, predisposition to Alzheimer’s,  and shortened telomeres; and, as a result, accelerated cellular and tissue aging.

PROTECTION FROM THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF STRESS

Adaptogens are a pharmacological group of compounds that metabolically support the ability of an organism to respond appropriately to stress, preserve structure and function from the damaging effects of stress, and hasten recovery of homeostasis.

When combined, adaptogens work together to modulate the multiple pathways of stress.  The multiple benefits include improved mental and physical performance, reduced incidence of chronic disease, and increased longevity.  Scientists investigated numerous extracts—some used for thousands of years to treat various stress-related symptoms.

This research led to four potent adaptogens that can provide a united defense against the multiple cellular pathways of chronic stress:

Holy Basil

Bacopa

Cordyceps

Ashwagandha”

Telomeres, stress, anti-aging; I think you’d agree that this is truly fascinating stuff.  Of course we all know that prolonged stress is a negative thing and ideally we would like to rid ourselves of it.

You can begin to do this by addressing those chronic physical stressors in our bodies.  This involves combatting those nagging injuries and poor posture, as well as cleaning up that inflammatory diet; both of which cause constant physical and chemical stress.

You also want to make sure your nervous system is functioning at an optimal level so that you can deal with stress appropriately when it does inevitably arise.  Being checked by a physician who utilizes functional neurology is a solid way to keep that sympathetic nervous system in check.  In addition, there is various supplemental and herbal support that can assist on an individual basis.

If you have any questions about any of this or would like to take action towards removing the stressors from your life, please call and schedule an appointment today.

 

You can find this article in it’s entirety, as well as all of the associated references at: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2012/jun2012_New-Reason-Avoid-Stress_01.htm.

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.

Why Gluten Free???

It seems that one of the trendiest topics being thrown around the health food arena today is a gluten free diet. However, unlike other diet fads, the reason to eliminate gluten from your diet is backed by a sound scientific explanation and significant positive changes have been seen when the gluten is kicked to the curb. This should be reassuring news to anyone who has heard the negative spin on gluten, but wondered whether or not it is just another excuse for food manufactures and restaurants to up-charge that gluten-free item.

What is Gluten Anyway?

Gluten is a protein that is found in grains like wheat, rye oats, millet and barely. Gluten, or wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), is a type of protein called a lectin. (Keep in mind as you read that ALL grains [whole grains, corn, rice, etc.] contain these lectins, so all can wreak the same havoc I am about to describe.) Due to the structure of these lectins, they are not able to be broken down during the digestive process as other more friendly foods would. That leaves large protein structures intact and imbedded in your intestinal lining. Eventually, they make their way through your intestinal lining and this is where the problems begin.

Now that these lectins have entered the blood stream, they have access to your entire body. I’m talking everywhere from your reproductive organs, to your pancreas, to your brain. Once this unfamiliar protein structure is detected by the immune system, anti-bodies are created in order to get rid of the inappropriate foreign invader as it would a bacteria or virus. To understand what happens next, it needs to be understood that everything in your body is made up of a sequence of amino acids strung together to form a protein. Unfortunately these lectins have a remarkably similar amino acid sequence as many of the tissues in your body. So, now as your immune system works properly to destroy the unwanted foreign structure, it also begins to attack your own tissues due to something referred to as micro or molecular mimicry, and thus you have the start of an autoimmune disease. The situation is even further amplified due to the fact that when the large, awkward lectin (in this case WGA) makes its way through the intestinal lining, it also damaged it. This is what is commonly referred to as your “leaky gut.” The cascade continues, and now other proteins pass through the intestinal wall before being adequately broken down by the intestinal digestive enzymes. Immune responses are now generated to otherwise harmless foods. Food allergies and the start of other autoimmune diseases now have the green light to commence.

But Wait, There’s More?

Grains must be looked at as living things. They are a simple people with their objective being to survive long enough to reproduce. To do this, they must receive nourishment and have some sort of defense mechanism. Grains contain these things called phytates (or anti-nutrients) which tightly bind to minerals like calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium in order to nourish the grain and enable germination. All good for the grain, but not so good if that sucker is making a home inside of you. The phytate property of the grain enables it to powerfully bind the above listed essential minerals. This leaves you deficient and the door wide open for osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, reduced immune function and wound healing, and fatigue and heart problems, respectively. For survival, the lectin also comes equipped with protease inhibitors, meaning it actually inhibits some of the enzymes from breaking it down. This means that all food being digested is now subject to your digestive tracts reduction in breakdown capability. Translation: less absorption of the nutrients you need to survive.

Many people suffer from and are diagnosed with celiac disease. This is an autoimmune disease, able to be directly correlated with gluten as the cause. Many people suffer from various conditions and symptoms to which the medical community remains baffled as far as a cause. Often times, people feel completely fine or have minor issues and therefore dismiss their diet as having any effect on their health. Even if there are no external signs and symptoms present, some potentially hazardous, internal destruction could still be taking place. Gluten sensitivity is a lesser version of an outright allergy and is much more common. Conditions such as RA, MS, fibromyalgia, insomnia, depression, Parkinson’s, autism, and hypothyroidism (to name a few) have all benefited from cutting gluten (and other grains) out of the diet.

Do You Have an Issue With Gluten?

Well, if any of the above conditions or mechanisms of internal destruction described above doesn’t sound that pleasant to you, it may be worthwhile to find out. A simple way to do this is to eliminate the grains from your diet for 30-60 days. I know this may seem crazy, especially since another devious characteristic of gluten is that it comes fully loaded with molecules that fit into opiate receptors in your brain. Translation: It is actually addictive. But a simple period of trial and error may actually result in some of those seemingly minor issues disappearing. Upon completion of the gluten free period, you may even notice an instant headache or stomach issue when you attempt to reintroduce the beloved grains. This is your body politely asking you to knock it off before it gets worse. You now have evidence of an otherwise undetectable food sensitivity, and are empowered to make a change before things potentially get worse. Seems like this would be a better solution than taking side-effect carrying medications, or worse, winding up with some debilitating disease in the golden years, all because those cookies were calling your name.

A great read providing further explanation behind the mechanisms and possible destruction that can occur, along with meal plans and recipes to attempt a gluten-free lifestyle is: The Paleo Solution, The Original Human Diet, by Rob Wolf. Much of the above information was referenced from there.

Other References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10884708
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1737870/
http://paleodietlifestyle.com/11-ways-gluten-and-wheat-can-damage-your-health/