Search Term: " blues "
3 Ways to Naturally Beat Wintertime Depression
January 14, 2017 10:59 AM
The winter weather got you down? Here are 3 sure fire ways to help you get out of that funk. Featured in this article are 3 very easy ways to beat the wintertime blues. Even better news, they cost almost nothing. Very informative with real world examples from the author this post is a definite must read to trick our bodies from going into mental hibernation.
"If you suffer from wintertime depression, make sure you are eating two servings of vegetables and one fruit with each meal. Yes, this means two servings of vegetables even with your breakfast. If you can get your nine servings daily of vegetables and fruits hopefully you will be too full to even think about eating sugar or processed foods."
These May Be First Warning Signs for Depression in Kids
December 15, 2016 12:59 PM
Yes. Childhood depression is different from the normal "blues" and everyday emotions that occur as a child develops. Just because a child seems sad doesn't necessarily mean he or she has significant depression. If the sadness becomes persistent, or if disruptive behavior that interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life develops, it may indicate that he or she has a depressive illness.
"It can be hard to study depression in families."
Can Chaste Berry Help With PMS?
August 18, 2012 08:22 AM
Chaste berry is a kind of berry that grows in the Mediterranean region, and has many useful medical applications. Chaste berry is essentially a herb, belongs to the Vitex species, and is characterized by purple colored flowers that grow on it. It is grown widely in many parts of Africa. The plant grows up to 5 meters in height. Chaste berry has been in the mainstream media ever since studies showed that it helped women a lot in dealing with pre menstrual syndrome (PMS). While is has many other uses, both medical and non-medical, this particular functionality of chaste berry has been extensively noticed, as every woman in the world suffers from PMS quite a few times in their lives.
How is chaste berry useful with PMS?
Studies have shown by clinically proving that chaste berry helps women deal with PMS in many ways. A few of them are listed below:
Chaste berry helps keep the pituitary glands in check by acting upon prolactin secretion. Prolactin is a secretion of the pituitary gland that is associated with the breasts becoming tender in women during PMS. Thus by keeping it in check, one of the biggest causes of stress that women go through during PMS is reduced.
Chaste berry consumed in the tablet form has been proven to significantly reduce many of the PMS symptoms and effects that women go through. It has been concluded that most of the effects that chaste berry has with regards to PMS are sub-results of the bigger result, namely reduced prolactin secretion.
Unlike other clinically produced medicine, chaste berry is nature's own medicine to help cure the PMS blues, and it does a great job. As a matter of fact, the exact procedure that happens inside the body after consuming chaste berry is not comprehensible enough to the general audience, but the results speak for themselves.
Chaste berry extracts are available as tablets, and the effective dosage is one 20 mg tablet, up to three times a day. Consult your doctor for the exact prescription; this is just the general estimate. If you choose to take the drops, around forty drops per day will do.
What other uses does chaste berry have?
Chaste berry has many other uses, apart from belong with PMS.
Some of them are:
Chaste berry has been proven to help in prevention and control of prostate cancer. Anti-tumor behavior of chaste berry on the cancerous cells has been observed, thus establishing the fact that chaste berry helps in prostate cancer.
Chaste berry has also successfully helped in breast pain, which is medically called mastalgia. The effects are well researched and documented.
With relation to controlling the prolactin secretion as stated above, chaste berry ultimately helps prevent and control Hyperprolactinaemia, which is essentially the presence of the hormone in large quantities in the blood. This can sometimes lead to problems in breast milk production, and breast feeding.
The best part about chaste berry is that it has absolutely no documented side effects. The only piece of advice associated with chaste berry is that it should not be consumed during pregnancy, as might cause some complications later on. All said and done, chaste berry does help with PMS, no doubt about that.
Phosphatidyl Serine - HEALTHY COGNITION BRAIN FUNCTION
December 21, 2005 11:04 AM
“To the dull mind, nature is leaden. To the illumined mind, the whole world burns and sparkles with light.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
From the moment we rise to the moment we rest, our brain is in a decision-making frenzy. When we’re thirsty, our brain tells us that we need water. When we’re hungry, it reminds us that we have a refrigerator full of food. When we’re tired, it lets us know that we need to sleep, and so on. But despite the thousands of decisions we make everyday, our brain still hasn’t figured out a way to let us know what it needs to func¬tion.
Though ironic, this raises a very serious issue. The human brain, like every other organ in the body, demands nutrition - period. Unfortunately, it leaves that up to us to figure out. Thanks to notable advance¬ments in research, we’re finally learning which nutri¬ents are most important for optimal brain function. Phosphatidyl Serine (PS) is a perfect example. This naturally occurring phospholipid has been the subject of numerous studies regarding its ability to boost cognitive function and delay (or potentially reverse) memory deterioration, and suggests that PS may be able to increase the effectiveness of neural transmissions. Interestingly, PS accounts for roughly 15% of the brain’s phospholipid supply. This is enor¬mous because phospholipids play a significant role in the billions of neurotransmissions that take place every second. Yes, billions.
Brain cells are constantly communicating with one another, and send astonishing amounts of impulses throughout the nervous system. This is accomplished via neurotransmitters - chemical messengers that send and receive impulses over the synapses of the brain and throughout the body. Mentally, we’re function¬ing at our best when these cells are well nourished. We can think more clearly, recall memories with ease and operate with greater efficiency. However, a de¬ficiency in neural-nutrients can prevent these mind messengers from functioning as they should. For¬tunately, PS has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to deliver critical nutrients and remove mind-slowing waste.
Consider this. The brain functions in the same man¬ner that a major airport does around the holidays. There are millions of actions taking place. Impulses departing, nutrients arriving, endless communication, the occasional problem and more reactions than any¬one could possibly count. There’s confusion, delay and emotion, not to mention the endless series of transmissions that take place every second. Imagine PS as that ultra-motivated employee who shows up to work everyday anxious to expedite everything in sight. It helps neural travelers get to and from their respec¬tive gates, ensures that they have everything they need, simplifies processes that could result in breakdown, and clears isles that are cluttered with junk. Simply stated, PS is the brain’s overachieving go-getter.
PS can help us think more clearly.
It’s 3:06 in the afternoon and you’re scrambling to get to a meeting that you’re already late for. That fluster could be the result of poor neurotransmission caused by a deficiency in essential nutrients like PS. Moreover, these innocent brain-bursts can exhaust our PS reserves, leaving us somewhere hovering be¬tween frantic and sluggish. Every impulse, thought, action, reaction, movement, emotion and desire is the end result of neurotransmitters in action. PS is a major supporter of these actions. Therefore, as we increase the amount of PS in our system, we gain the ability to think and act with greater ease.
PS can reduce the adverse impacts of stress on our body and mind.
What do we do when we’re down in the dumps? While plopping down on the sofa with a snack might be an easy solution, it comes with a price. Not only does stress interfere with mood, but it can also inspire inactivity, over-eating and sluggishness. This is due largely in part to cortisol - a catabolic hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to emotional stress. Studies done to determine the effectiveness of PS on cortisol suppression have shown that it works by suppressing the hormones that produce cortisol. As a result, supplementing with PS may be able to help reduce the amount of stress related hormones that ultimately leave us singing the blues.
PS can expedite post workout recovery time.
Endurance athletes who carefully monitor their body’s response levels are increasingly turning to PS. Immediately following strenuous activity, the body responds by releasing adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) – a hormone that discourages testosterone and encourages cortisol. By limiting ACTH pro¬duction, PS reduces the amount of muscle tissue breakdown that occurs during exercise. A common misconception is that muscles grow during exercise - wrong. In fact, muscles are torn down during ex¬ercise and grow in-between workouts – hence the term recovery. During recovery, PS helps prevent the activity of growth-inhibiting hormones. This helps athletes recover faster so their gains are realized more quickly.
In short, Phosphatidyl Serine appears to be a completely safe and beneficial dietary supple¬ment that can offer a wide range of physical and mental health benefits. NOW® Phosphatidyl Serine is derived from soy leci¬thin, and includes Choline and Inositol – two metabolites that work synergistically to help in¬crease circulation and cognitive response.
THE FDA AND STEVIA
July 15, 2005 12:45 PM
THE FDA AND STEVIA
While stevia in no way qualifies as an “artificial sweetener,” it has been subject to rigorous inquiry and unprecedented restraints. In 1986, FDA officials began to investigate herb companies selling stevia and suddenly banned its sale, calling it “an unapproved food additive.” Then in 1991, the FDA unexpectedly announced that all importation of stevia leaves and products must cease, with the exception of certain liquid extracts which are designed for skin care only. They also issued formal warnings to companies and claimed that the herb was illegal. The FDA was unusually aggressive in its goal to eliminate stevia from American markets, utilizing search and seizure tactics, embargoes and import bans. Speculation as to why the FDA intervened in stevia commerce points to the politics of influential sugar marketers and the artificial-sweetener industry.
During the same year, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) began their defense of the herb with the goal of convincing the FDA that stevia is completely safe. They gathered documented literature and research on both stevia and other non-caloric sweeteners. The overwhelming consensus was that stevia is indeed safe, and the AHPA petitioned the FDA to exempt stevia from food additive regulations.
Food Additive vs. Dietary Supplement
FDA regulations of stevia were based on its designation as a food additive. The claim was that scientific study on stevia as a food additive was inadequate. Ironically, extensive Japanese testing of stevia was disregarde—regardless of the fact that this body of documented evidence more than sufficiently supported its safe use. Many experts who have studied stevia and its FDA requirements have commented that the FDA wants far more proof that stevia is safe than they would demand from chemical additives like aspartame.
Stevia advocates point out that stevia not a food additive, but rather, a food. Apparently, foods that have traditionally been consumed do not require laborious and expensive testing for safety under FDA regulations. The fact that so many toxicology studies have been conducted in Japan, coupled with the herb’s long history of safe consumption, makes a strong case for stevia being accepted by the FDA as a safe dietary substance. Still, it was denied the official GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status and designated a food additive by the FDA.
The FDA Reverses Its Position
As a result of the Health Freedom Act passed in September of 1995, stevia leaves, stevia extract, and stevioside can be imported to the United States. However, ingredient labels of products that contain stevia must qualify as dietary supplements.
Stevia had been redesignated as a dietary supplement by the FDA and consequently can be legally sold in the United States solely as a supplement. Its addition to teas or other packaged foods is still banned. Moreover, stevia cannot, under any circumstances, be marketed as a sweetener or flavor enhancer.
SUGAR, SUGAR EVERYWHERE
Ralph Nader once said, “If God meant us to eat sugar, he wouldn’t have invented dentists.” The average American eats over 125 pounds of white sugar every year. It has been estimated that sugar makes up 25 percent of our daily caloric intake, with soda pop supplying the majority of our sugar ingestion. Desserts and sugar-laden snacks continually tempt us, resulting in an escalated taste for sweets.
The amount of sugar we consume has a profound effect on both our physical and mental well-being. Sugar is a powerful substance which can have drug-like effects and is considered addictive by some nutritional experts. William Duffy, the author of Sugar blues, states,“The difference between sugar addiction and narcotic addition is largely one of degree.” In excess, sugar can be toxic. Sufficient amounts of B-vitamins are actually required to metabolize and detoxify sugar in our bodies. When the body experiences a sugar overload, the assimilation of nutrients from other foods can be inhibited. In other words, our bodies were not designed to cope with the enormous quantity of sugar we routinely ingest. Eating too much sugar can generate a type of nutrient malnutrition, not to mention its contribution to obesity, diabetes, hyperactivity, and other disorders. Sugar can also predispose the body to yeast infections, aggravate some types of arthritis and asthma, cause tooth decay, and may even elevate our blood lipid levels. Eating excess sugar can also contribute to amino acid depletion, which has been linked with depression and other mood disorders. To make matters worse, eating too much sugar can actually compromise our immune systems by lowering white blood cells counts. This makes us more susceptible to colds and other infections. Sugar consumption has also been linked to PMS, osteoporosis and coronary heart disease.
Why Do We Crave Sweets?
Considering the sobering effects of a high sugar diet, why do we eat so much of it? One reason is that sugar gives us a quick infusion of energy. It can also help to raise the level of certain brain neurotransmitters which may temporarily elevate our mood. Sugar cravings stem from a complex mix of physiological and psychological components. Even the most brilliant scientists fail to totally comprehend this intriguing chemical dependence which, for the most part, hurts our overall health.
What we do know is that when sugary foods are consumed, the pancreas must secrete insulin, a hormone which serves to bring blood glucose levels down. This allows sugar to enter our cells where it is either burned off or stored. The constant ups and downs of blood sugar levels can become exaggerated in some individuals and cause all kinds of health problems. Have you ever been around someone who is prone to sudden mood swings characterized by violent verbal attacks or irritability? This type of volatile behavior is typical of people who crave sugar, eat it and then experience sugar highs and lows. Erratic mood swings can be linked to dramatic drops in blood sugar levels.
Hypoglycemia: Sign of Hard Times?
It is rather disturbing to learn that statisticians estimate that almost 20 million Americans suffer from some type of faulty glucose tolerance. Hypoglycemia and diabetes are the two major forms of blood sugar disorders and can deservedly be called modern day plagues. Hypoglycemia is an actual disorder that can cause of number of seemingly unrelated symptoms. More and more studies are pointing to physiological as well as psychological disorders linked to disturbed glucose utilization in brain cells. One study, in particular, showed that depressed people have overall lower glucose metabolism (Slagle, 22). Hypoglycemia occurs when too much insulin is secreted in order to compensate for high blood sugar levels resulting from eating sugary or high carbohydrate foods. To deal with the excess insulin, glucagon, cortisol and adrenalin pour into the system to help raise the blood sugar back to acceptable levels. This can inadvertently result in the secretion of more insulin and the vicious cycle repeats itself.
A hypoglycemic reaction can cause mood swings, fatigue, drowsiness, tremors, headaches, dizziness, panic attacks, indigestion, cold sweats, and fainting. When blood sugar drops too low, an overwhelming craving for carbohydrates results. To satisfy the craving and compensate for feelings of weakness and abnormal hunger, sugary foods are once again consumed in excess.
Unfortunately, great numbers of people suffer from hypoglycemic symptoms. Ironically, a simple switch from a high sugar diet to one that emphasizes protein can help. In addition, because sugar cravings are so hard to control, a product like stevia can be of enormous value in preventing roller coaster blood sugar levels. One Colorado internist states: People who are chronically stressed and are on a roller coaster of blood sugar going up and down are especially prone to dips in energy at certain times of day. Their adrenals are not functioning optimally, and when they hit a real low point, they want sugar. It usually happens in mid-afternoon when the adrenal glands are at their lowest level of functioning. (Janiger, 71) Our craving for sweets in not intrinsically a bad thing; however, what we reach for to satisfy that craving can dramatically determine how we feel. Stevia can help to satisfy the urge to eat something sweet without changing blood sugar levels in a perfectly natural way and without any of the risks associated with other non-nutritive sweeteners.
Diabetes: Pancreas Overload?
Diabetes is a disease typical of western cultures and is evidence of the influence that diet has on the human body. Perhaps more than any other disease, diabetes shuts down the mechanisms which permit proper carbohydrate/sugar metabolism. When the pancreas no longer secretes adequate amounts of insulin to metabolize sugar, that sugar continues to circulate in the bloodstream causing all kinds of health problems. The type of diabetes that comes in later years is almost always related to obesity and involves the inability of sugar to enter cells, even when insulin is present. Diabetes can cause blindness, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, the loss of nerve function, recurring infections, and the inability to heal. Heredity plays a profound role in the incidence of diabetes, but a diet high in white sugar and empty carbohydrates unquestionably contributes to the onset of the disease. It is estimated that over five million Americans are currently undergoing medical treatment for diabetes and studies suggest that there are at least four million Americans with undetected forms of adult onset diabetes. Diabetes is the third cause of death in this country and reflects the devastating results of a diet low in fiber and high in simple carbohydrates. Most of us start our children on diets filled with candy, pop, chips, cookies, doughnuts, sugary juice, etc. Studies have found that diabetes is a disease which usually plagues societies that eat highly refined foods. Because we live in a culture that worships sweets, the availability of a safe sweetener like stevia, which does not cause stress on the pancreas is extremely valuable. If sugar consumption was cut in half by using stevia to
Scents of Balance
June 14, 2005 11:54 AM
Scents of Balance by Rosemary Sage Energy Times, January 5, 2005
Life can feel like an emotional rollercoaster, with the high-stress jitters following the low-mood blues. But aromatherapy-the healing power of scent-can restore equilibrium.
The use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being dates back thousands of years. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used infused oils and herbal preparations for medicinal, fragrant, cosmetic, even spiritual reasons.
During the late 20th century, people started to relearn the benefits of aromatherapy and these days, aromatherapy's reputation as a soothing, healing art continues to grow. Once you've experienced the odiferous power of aromatherapy's essential oils, you'll keep coming back for more: These gently wafting odors have the power to stimulate or calm, invigorate or relax.
When you enter this scented world, "there you will find nature in one of its most powerful forms-aromatic liquid substances known as 'essential oils,'" says Valerie Ann Worwood in The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy (Thorsons). Essential oils form what Worwood refers to as the "fragrant pharmacy," a collection of concentrated substances used in pharmaceuticals, foods and cosmetics.
When you sniff the aromas of essential oils, "they enter and leave the body with great efficiency, leaving no toxins behind," Worwood points out. "The most effective way to use essential oils is...by external application or inhalation. The methods used include body oils, compresses, cosmetic lotions, baths-including sitz, hand and foot baths-hair rinses...perfumes...and a whole range of room [scenting] methods."
As Worwood explains, essential oils are produced in various parts of different plants. As a result, it takes a great deal of specialized work to extract essential oils. About 60,000 rose blossoms are consumed in the production of an ounce (!) of rose oil.
Just as the antioxidant phytonutrients we eat in vegetarian foods link our bodies to the health-promoting chemistry of plants, the penetrating nature of essential oils are thought to connect our souls to the essences of flora. "From inside comes the voice and from inside comes the scent," observed the 19th century German doctor Gustav Fechner, quoted by Robert Tisserand in The Art of Aromatherapy (Healing Arts Press). "Just as one can tell human beings in the dark from the tone of voice, so, in the dark, every flower can be recognized by its scent. Each carries the soul of its progenitor."
Fechner believed that the power of essential oils to stir our deepest emotions derives from their function as a vital means of communication in the plant world. As Tisserand asks, can't we imagine that flowers "communicate with each other by the very perfumes they exude, becoming aware of each other's presence?"
The Science Behind the Scent
While alternative medical practitioners have acknowledged the effectiveness of aromatherapy for thousands of years, only recently have conventional medical researchers begun seriously looking into how this technique works.
For instance, a study of estragole, a chemical found in basil, fennel and tarragon, determined that it could potentially ease back pain by inhibiting inflammation of the sciatic nerve. (The sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body, runs from the back down the leg.) The researchers discovered that estragole is "active on nerves," a conclusion that aromatherapy practitioners, who employ the scent of these oils to soothe pain, already knew. Science is verifying another piece of information long known to practitioners-that while certain essential oils can calm you down, others prod your alertness. In a study performed at the University of Northumbria in England, scientists found that sniffing the scent of lavender lulls the human brain into a comfortable, rather stupefied state, while rosemary, in contrast, can sharpen recall.
As the English researchers noted, lavender "produced a significant decrement in performance of working memory, and impaired reaction times for both memory and attention-based tasks." That's probably why the odor of lavender is noted for enhancing sleep. On the other hand, the scientists found that rosemary "produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors." However, they did point out that under the influence of both of these oils, performance slowed when tackling a battery of memory tests. Apparently, the oils mellowed people so that they had little motivation to rush through the paperwork.
As Frazesca Watson notes in Aromatherapy Blends & Remedies (Thorsons): "The aroma of the oils directly affects our moods and emotions and sometimes our short- and long-term memory. Together with a wide range of physiological benefits, the aroma can help with emotional upsets such as depression, anxiety, nervous tension, anger, apathy, confusion, indecision, fear, grief, hypersensitivity, impatience, irritability, panic and hysteria."
Essential oils are especially helpful at defusing stress. Watson notes, "Treatments with essential oils are therefore very helpful for all sorts of stress-related problems, so common in our modern life."
As scientific research into the effects of these oils continue, conventional medical practitioners are sure to embrace them in increasing numbers. But before there were scientists around to confirm the effects of these wonderful scents, the ancient medical practitioners in Egypt and Greece attributed the origins of aromatherapy to the gods. For many people in today's overstressed world, the relaxing assurance of essential oils certainly seems heaven-s(c)ent.
Women and Depression!
June 13, 2005 07:48 PM
Women and Depression by Lisa James Energy Times, March 11, 2004
Just as fog veils a beautiful landscape, so depression veils life itself: rendering existence dark and dreary, narrowing the scope of one's dreams. And women are particularly prone to this lingering sadness.
The good news: Depression doesn't have to linger forever. With proper nutrition, lifestyle changes and a revived outlook, you can break through that fog into a sunnier emotional clime. Women are more likely than men to fall prey to depression throughout their lifetimes, with women being twice as likely as men to experience major depression.
While the greatest risk for both sexes falls at midlife, the gender difference appears early; one in ten teenage girls was found to suffer from major depression in one study (International Journal of Behavioral Development 2004; 28:16-25). What's more, childhood depression leaves a person more susceptible to mood problems in adulthood.
One reason for the gender difference in depression, according to researchers, is that women tend to dwell on depressed feelings to a greater degree than men. Some scientists believe a family history of depression carries greater weight for women. Others theorize that the inner fluctuations of a woman's monthly cycle can leave her susceptible to stresses emanating from the outer world. Studies indicate that almost three-quarters of all premenstrual women experience some level of mood difficulties (Summit on Women and Depression, APA, April 02), and a woman's hormonal ebb and flow may even make her more vulnerable to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the kind of depression linked to a lack of natural light.
Warning Signs Not surprisingly, many depressed folks feel sad and lethargic, down on themselves and the world. But in some people, depression is marked by agitation and concentration difficulties, or is accompanied by anxiety. Sleep disturbances-either insomnia or excessive sleepiness-often ensue, and activities that used to provide pleasure lose their appeal.
Breaking depression's grip can do more than just lighten your mood-it may help safeguard your health. Studies suggest depression dampens the immune response and may increase the risks of coronary heart disease and diabetes (Archives of General Psychiatry 2003; 60:1009-14; Circulation 2000; 102:1773; Diabetes Care 2004; 27:129-33).
Origins of Depression
The reasons some people are pulled down by depression's undertow while others are able to stay afloat emotionally are complex, but researchers believe common factors link them all.
One factor that can't be ignored is genetics. "If you are depressed, there is a 25% chance that a first-degree relative-a parent, child or sibling-is also depressed," says Hyla Cass, MD, author of St. John's Wort: Nature's blues Buster (Avery). Other factors are physical problems and medication side effects. That's why your first step should be a consultation with your health care practitioner (if your moods are especially dark, seek professional assistance as soon as possible).
Life's worries and cares also weigh more heavily on some people than on others. " [N]ot only will certain stressors [adverse events] cause depression as a direct response," notes Dr. Cass, "but they may predispose an individual to future episodes of depression." For example, the end of a relationship when you feel you've lost a lover and been humiliated (and been cheated on) raises your risk of depression (Archives of General Psychiatry 2003; 60:789-96).
The Depressed Brain
When depression hits, brain chemistry shifts. As a result, chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which relay messages between brain cells, go awry. For instance, a neurotransmitter called serotonin-critical to mood control-may decrease, leaving you feeling depressed, anxious, craving certain foods and unable to sleep.
Conversely, "high levels of serotonin are associated with emotional and social stability," according to Dr. Cass. She adds that, in addition, sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone "affect brain cells directly."
Lifting the Fog
Because the causes of depression are so complex, leaving the darkness behind generally requires opening up several pathways. Part of feeling better simply lies in believing that you can. Researchers have found that depressed people who feel they have a sense of control over their troubles, do, in fact, have a better chance of recovery (General Hospital Psychiatry 2000; 22(4):242-50). Finding a community of like-minded folks bolsters your capacity to deal with mood problems. In some cases, time spent with a therapist can be a valuable aid in figuring out what's bothering you.
On the physical side, losing weight can lift your spirits. Among women with severe obesity-itself a depression risk factor-losing weight has led to depression relief (Archives of Internal Medicine 2003; 163:2058-65). Research also indicates that exercise helps brighten dark moods.
A change in diet, along with certain supplements, can also help dispel depression. The first step on the road to emotional recovery: eat a lot of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, and stay away from overly refined foods with high levels of sugar.
Omega-3 fatty acids, the kinds found in flax seed and fish, are essential to proper brain function. In several studies, people who took supplemental omega-3s found significant relief from depression.
Key amino acids-the basic units of which proteins are built-serve as starting points for the production of mood-lifting neurotransmitters. In one trial, people who took an amino-acid mix that included tyrosine enjoyed better moods and were happier than people who took amino acids without it (Psychopharmacology (Berlin) Sept 4 2003).
Along with amino acids, the body needs the right vitamins-especially members of the all-important B family-to create depression-fighting brain chemicals. In one study, people with depression who took vitamin B12 improved their chances of recovery (BMC Psychiatry 2003; 3:17).
Another interesting observation: Vitamin B12 and its partners vitamin B6 and folate are essential to keep a protein called homocysteine (known primarily as a cardiovascular hazard) from reaching excessive levels, and people with high homocysteine are twice as likely to be depressed. This has led some researchers to speculate that folate may help keep depression under control (Archives of General Psychiatry 2003; 60:618-26).
Herbs that may help beat back the blues include two that help the body deal with stress, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and schisandra (S. chinensis).
A new diet, a new outlook: With the help of the right nutrients and the right support, you can break the bonds of depression.
June 13, 2005 01:18 PM
by Cal Orey Energy Times, August 2, 1999
Depression plagues the creative and the mundane. The disparate desperate driven to distress by depression include painters, poets, actors and musicians as well as truck drivers, clerks, electricians and physicists. The victim list encompasses Vincent van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Audrey Hepburn, Virginia Woolf and Ludwig von Beethoven, as well as millions of other sharers of melancholy misery.
More than 17 million American men and women experience depression in one form or another every year, according to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) in Alexandria, Virginia. This includes the deeply destructive major, or clinical, depression, the wide mood swings of bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), and dysthymia, a milder, long-lasting form of emotional suffering.
Twice as Many Women In the depression scenario, women suffer twice as much: Two times as many women as men endure clinical depression, reports the NMHA. The mood-deteriorating effects of the hormonal disruptions women are heir to may be partly to blame.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about one of 10 Americans wades through at least one depressive swamp sometime during his or her life.
The good news: Research shows that diet and lifestyle can lower your risk of depression.
Birth of the blues
Nowadays, mounting evidence suggests that depression may result more from physiological factors than psychological woes.
Some of the hidden reasons why you may be depressed include: nutritional deficiencies, exacerbated by overdosing on too much caffeine, sugar, alcohol and high fat foods; allergies; anxiety and chronic stress; and a chemical imbalance in the brain's gray matter. According to the NMHA, people with depression often possess too little or too large a quantity of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Changes in levels of these brain chemicals may cause, or contribute to, clinical depression.
The NMHA also reports that an imbalance of melatonin, a chemical made by the body's pineal gland (located at the base of the brain), contributes to a form of wintertime depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This hormone is made at increased levels in the dark. Therefore, the body may oversupply this hormone during winter's shortened daylight hours.
Since the B vitamins are often involved in the production of energy, and a large component of depression may encompass the inability to get out of bed and deal with the world, experts believe that at least some of the signs of depression are linked to B deficiencies. For instance, studies cited in the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Prima) by Michael Murray, ND and Joseph Pizzorno, ND, demonstrate that folate deficiency and lack of vitamin B12 can compromise mental health (Drugs 45, 1993: 623-36; Lancet 336, 1990: 392-5).
Inositol: This vitamin is also part of the B vitamin complex, and it, too, has shown its ability to lift spirits. Research work in Israel shows that daily inositol given to 28 depressed patients for four weeks produced an overall positive effect. (Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 7:2, May 1997: 147-55). Inositol is found in whole, unprocessed grains, citrus fruits (except lemons) and brewer's yeast.
NADH: Allan Magaziner, DO, in his book The Idiot's Complete Guide To Living Longer & Healthier (Alpha), reports that brain energizing NADH, a metabolite of vitamin B3, enhances the production of the key neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. "In a recent clinical trial," he claims, "nearly all patients given NADH for depression reported improvement in their symptoms and the absence of side effects or adverse reactions."
Another substance winning the spotlight for its effect on mood is SAM-e: S-adenosylmethionine. In New York on February 24, a symposium coordinated by the American Health Foundation met to hear researchers present information from studies of SAM-e's ability to possibly ease depression.
"SAM-e is a natural product. You and I have it but as people age it declines in production in the body. And that's why we believe supplementation in older people is a beneficial means of bringing that back up and helping people that have depression," said the lead symposium researcher, John H. Weisburger, PhD, MD, Director Emeritus, American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York.
Another researcher, Teodoro Bottiglieri, PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Studies and Neurology, Director of Neuropharmacology at Baylor University reported: "SAM-e has been shown to enhance brain dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitter metabolism and receptor function. It may also aid in the repair of myelin that surrounds nerve cells. These mechanisms are likely to be responsible for the antidepressant effect of SAM-e."
(Bottiglieri is co-author with Richard Brown, MD, and Carol Colman of Stop Depression Now, a report on the powers of SAM-e just published by G.P. Putnam's Sons.)
SAM-e was first touted as an antidepressant in Italy in 1973. It's been reported that nearly 40 clinical trials demonstrate its beneficial effects as a natural antidepressant.
For instance, an analysis of more than 1000 people suffering depression showed that the effect of antidepressants in patients taking SAM-e was 17% to 38% better than dummy preparations. Conventional antidepressants show a 20% effectiveness rate (Bressa G. Acta Neurol Scand S154, 1994: 7-14).
5-HTP: Another popular supplement to boost mood and relieve depression is hydroxytryptophan. "This medication is actually a brain chemical that is metabolized from tryptophan into serotonin," says Magaziner. And since low serotonin levels have been linked with depression, and certain prescribed medications may up serotonin levels, 5-HTP is in demand.
"One of the more impressive studies supporting the efficacy of 5-HTP for depression evaluated 100 people who had previously found conventional antidepressant therapy to be inadequate. Forty-three of these folks reported a complete recovery, and eight showed significant improvement," reports Magaziner. Not only has 5-HTP been shown to work slightly better than drugs known as SSRIs (these include Prozac), he adds, it has fewer side effects than standard antidepressants, too. DHEA: Medical experts also believe that levels of the hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) may influence mood. Ray Sahelian, MD, in his book All About DHEA (Avery) reports an interesting study conducted by Dr. Owen Wolkowitz of the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco. A group of six depressed middle-aged and elderly individuals who took DHEA found that within a month they had better memory and mood. (Biological Psychiatry 41, 1997: 311-18.) "In addition," adds Sahelian, "other studies have also found that DHEA increases energy levels and a sense of well being." But follow package directions: Some people complain of greater irritability and overstimulation with DHEA, when they take large amounts.
St. John's wort: still the most touted natural therapy for defeating depression. In Europe, 23 clinical studies, reviewed in the August 3, 1996 British Medical Journal, found that this herb, also known as Hypericum perforatum, can be helpful in alleviating cases of mild to moderate depression. The work, which included 757 patients, has shown that hypericum produced fewer side effects than conventional anti-depressants.
Although experts have never satisfactorily explained exactly how St. John's wort benefits the brain, some theorize that it boosts serotonin levels. And it can help SAD sufferers.
"In a recent study of 20 people with SAD, four weeks' worth of St. John's wort significantly alleviated feelings of depression. Those people who added full-spectrum lights to the treatment program gained an even greater benefit," notes Dr. Magaziner.
Valerian: Anxiety and stress, which can cause depression and insomnia, may be helped by this herb, says the prolific Dr. Sahelian in his book Kava: The Miracle Antianxiety Herb (St. Martin's). In 101 Medicinal Herbs (Interweave), Steven Foster reports that "Ten controlled clinical studies have been published on valerian...one of which suggests that valerian should be used for two to four weeks before daily mood and sleep patterns improve."
Amino Acid Help
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, may also help improve mood. (For more on protein, see page 65.) These chemicals are used by the body to construct neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that facilitate mental activity.
For instance, the amino acid L-tyrosine is necessary for the formation of transmitters adrenaline and dopamine. This substance, therefore, is given to alleviate depression and anxiety.
The substance L-dopa which is given to victims of Parkinson's disease is concocted from tyrosine. And several antidepressants alleviate bad moods by boosting the interaction of brain chemicals related to tyrosine.
In addition, since tyrosine is used to make adrenaline, this amino acid may be helpful for folks trying to cope with the mood problems related to stress.
Another amino acid that experts believe useful for better moods, L-methionine, is used by the body to make choline, a crucial substance for brain function. (Choline goes into the formation of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter.)
Methionine has been given to people suffering from schizophrenia and depression as well as to those with Parkinson's. Methionine plays a number of crucial roles in the brain and body since it helps form other vital proteins.
For those concerned about preserving a positive mood, researchers are positive that smoking worsens depression. A study at the Department of Behavioral Services at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan found that daily smokers run twice the risk for major depression compared to those who only smoked occasionally.
Unfortunately, the investigators found that not only did smoking seem to lead to depression, depression, in turn, led to more smoking (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2/99).
"Smokers who have depression tend to see their smoking become a daily habit and it may be because they use nicotine to medicate their depressed mood," reported Naomi Breslau, PhD, who headed the research. Over a five year period, the researchers looked at about a thousand young people aged 21 to 30. They found that daily smokers generally start smoking in adolescence, and those who report early depression are three times as likely to eventually become daily smokers.
If you're feeling down, don't give up hope. Although depression can prove to be a depressingly complicated malady, daily, healthy habits can offset its effects. Getting consistent exercise, dousing your cigarettes and turning to herbal and nutritional help to treat mild depression may defeat those blues.
Recognizing the Signs: Roadmap to a Healthy Heart
June 13, 2005 10:06 AM
Recognizing the Signs: Roadmap to a Healthy Heart by Louis McKinley Energy Times, January 2, 2004
From time immemorial, people have tuned into life's lessons that come from the heart. Sadly, times are changing: If you're like most inhabitants of today's harried world, you may be too distracted to detect important clues about your cardiovascular circumstances.
And while heart lessons may be more complicated than simply connecting the physiological dots, understanding those heart messages are imperative for improving and maintaining your heart health.
Every cell in your body relies on heart-powered blood flow to keep it supplied with nutrients, oxygen, hormones and other natural chemicals necessary for survival. Without that supply of life-giving substances, few cells in the body-including those within the heart itself-can survive very long.
And just as damage to a major roadway can cause mayhem with traffic patterns, damage to blood vessels and the heart can wreak a lumpy cardiovascular havoc that blocks the passage of blood and endangers your heart's well-being.
Your Heart Disease Chances
Within the last ten years, scientific research performed by investigators around the world has focused on the specific factors that most strongly influence your chances of developing heart disease and suffering either a heart attack or a stroke.
While much of your risk depends on your genetic inheritance and family history, several factors that determine your heart health are within your control.
The most important factors you can do something about include:
* Smoking: free radicals generated by burning tobacco causes significant damage to blood vessels and other cells
* Lack of exercise: the human body is designed for consistent, moderate physical activity; without exercise, the body slacks off in creating antioxidant protection for arteries
* Diabetes: when excess blood sugar persists, physiological processes begin that endanger the heart and arteries
* Cholesterol: when oxidized (a chemical process that has been compared to a kind of internal rusting), cholesterol can form artery-blocking plaque; antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C and natural vitamin E may help the body limit this process
* High blood pressure: excessive pressure within the blood vessels raises the risk of damage to the heart and arteries; a program of weight loss and exercise can help control blood pressure
* Being overweight: the extra body fat carried around your middle is linked to a greater risk of heart problems
Heart Attack Signs
Do you think you know what a heart attack feels like? Well, if you think it feels like a dramatic pain somewhere in your chest that knocks you to the floor, you're probably wrong. "Most heart attacks do not look at all like what one of my colleagues calls the 'Hollywood' attack-the heart attack you see on television or in the movies," warns Julie Zerwic, MD, professor of surgical nursing who has studied what happens when people develop heart disease and suffer damage to their hearts.
"The symptoms [of heart problems] are not necessarily dramatic. People don't fall down on the floor. They don't always experience a knife-like, very sharp pain. In fact, many people describe the sensation as heaviness and tightness in the chest rather than pain," she says. And, if you're a woman experiencing a heart attack, you may not even feel discomfort specifically in your chest. Instead you may experience a severe shortness of breath. The apparent ambiguity of the discomforts caused by a heart attack lead many people to either ignore them or take hours to realize they need to go to the emergency room at the hospital.
Consequently, much fewer than half of all individuals undergoing a heart attack actually go to a hospital within an hour of the start of the attack. That delay can be a fatal mistake.
"Timing is absolutely critical," laments Dr. Zerwic. "If treatment starts within a hour after the onset of symptoms, drugs that reestablish blood flow through the blocked coronary artery can reduce mortality by as much as 50%. That number drops to 23% if treatment begins three hours later. The goal is to introduce therapy within two hours."
However, in Dr. Zerwic's research, only 35% of non-Hispanic whites go to the hospital within an hour of the start of a heart attack. And among African-Americans, the number of people going to the hospital right away drops to a frighteningly low 13%.
Often, people will lie down or use a heating pad to relieve the tightness they feel in the chest," says Dr. Zerwic. "They may take some medicine and wait to see if that works. All these steps postpone needed treatment."
Signs of a possible heart attack include:
* Chest discomfort: Heart attacks most frequently cause discomfort in the center of the chest that can either go away after a couple of minutes (and come back) or persist. The discomfort may feel like strong pressure, fullness or pain.
* Upper body discomfort: An attack may set off pain or discomfort in either or both arms, and/or the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
* Shortness of breath: Chest discomfort is frequently accompanied by shortness of breath. But it's important to note that shortness of breath can take place even in the absence of chest discomfort.
* Other signs: You can also break out in a cold sweat, or feel nauseated or light-headed.
A Woman's Sleep Signs
If you are a woman who suddenly experiences a marked increase in insomnia and puzzling, intense fatigue, you may be in danger of an imminent heart attack.
In an attempt to understand how women's symptoms of heart problems differ from those of men, researchers talked to more than 500 women in Arkansas, North Carolina and Ohio who had suffered heart attacks. (Technically, what they had experienced is referred to as acute myocardial infarction.)
They found that chest pain prior to a heart attack was only reported by about 30% of the women surveyed.
More common were unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances and shortness of breath (Circulation Rapid Access, 11/3/01).
"Since women reported experiencing early warning signs more than a month prior to the heart attack, this [fatigue and sleep problems] could allow time to treat these symptoms and to possibly delay or prevent the heart attack," says researcher Jean C. McSweeney, PhD, RN, nursing professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. In Dr. McSweeney's study, more than nine out of ten women who had heart attacks reported that they had had new, disturbing physical problems more than a month before they had infarctions.
Almost three in four suffered from unusual fatigue, about half had sleep disturbances, while two in five found themselves short of breath.
Other common signs included indigestion and anxiety.
"Women need to be educated that the appearance of new symptoms may be associated with heart disease and that they need to seek medical care to determine the cause of the symptoms, especially if they have known cardiovascular risks such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, overweight or a family history of heart diseases," says Dr. McSweeney.
Dr. McSweeney warns that, until now, little has been known about signs that women are having heart trouble or heart attacks. The fact that most of Western medicine's past attention has been on heart problems in men has obscured the warning signs in women. As part of Dr. McSweeney's studies, she and her fellow researchers have discovered that more than 40% of all women who suffer a heart attack never feel any chest discomfort before or during the attack.
"Lack of significant chest pain may be a major reason why women have more unrecognized heart attacks than men or are mistakenly diagnosed and discharged from emergency departments," she notes. "Many clinicians still consider chest pain as the primary symptom of a heart attack."
Vitamins for Diabetes and Heart Disease
Having diabetes significantly raises your chance of heart disease, which means that keeping your blood sugar levels under control can reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack.
Today, 17 million Americans have diabetes and, as the country's population in general gains weight and fails to exercise, the number of people suffering this problem continues to grow.
The first line of defense against diabetes consists of exercise and weight control. All you have to do is take a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day to drop your chances of diabetes (American Journal of Epidemiology 10/1/03).
"We have found that men and women who incorporate activity into their lifestyles are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who are sedentary. This finding holds no matter what their initial weight," said Andrea Kriska, PhD, professor of epidemiology at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
To help your body fight the development of diabetes, researchers also recommend vitamin C and natural vitamin E.
Researchers working with lab animals at the University of California at Irvine have found that these antioxidant vitamins can help insulin (the hormone-like substance secreted by the pancreas) reduce harmful blood sugar. In addition, these vitamins shrink the chances of organ damage that can be caused by diabetes (Kidney International 1/03).
In this investigation, these vitamins also helped reduce blood pressure, another risk factor that raises heart disease risk.
"Blood pressure was lowered to normal, and free radicals were not in sufficient numbers to degrade the sugars, proteins and nitric oxide," notes Nick Vaziri, MD, professor of medicine at the University of California. "We think this shows that a diet rich in antioxidants may help diabetics prevent the devastating cardiovascular, kidney, neurological and other damage that are common complications of diabetes."
Free Radical blues
Dr. Vaziri and his group of researchers found that untreated diabetes raised blood pressure and increased the production of free radicals, caustic molecules that can damage arteries and the heart. Free radicals can change blood sugar and other proteins into harmful substances, boosting tissue and heart destruction.
In Dr. Vaziri's work with lab animals, he found that treating diabetes with insulin lowered blood pressure and helped keep sugar and protein from changing into dangerous chemicals, but allowed the free radicals to subvert nitric oxide, a chemical the body uses to protect itself from free radicals.
In this investigation, adding vitamins C and E to insulin insulated the body's sugars, proteins and nitric oxide from oxidative assault. This produces a double advantage: Lowering the risk of heart disease and other damage to the body from diabetes.
Maitake, an Oriental mushroom that has been shown to have many health benefits, can also be useful for people with diabetes who are trying to avoid cardiovascular complications. Laboratory studies in Japan demonstrate that maitake may help lower blood pressure while reducing cholesterol (Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin 1997; 20(7):781-5). In producing these effects, the mushroom may also help the body reduce blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of tissue damage.
Tobacco smoke is one of the most notorious causes of heart problems. In the same way a hard frost exerts a death grip on a highway, the smoke from cigarettes can freeze up arteries and hamper their proper function. A healthy artery must stay flexible to comfortably allow adequate circulation.
But "...when blood vessels are exposed to cigarette smoke it causes the vessels to behave like a rigid pipe rather than a flexible tube, thus the vessels can't dilate in response to increased blood flow," says David J. Bouchier-Hayes, MD, professor of surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, who has studied the deleterious effects of tobacco.
This rigidity is called endothelial dysfunction. When arteries are rigid, blockages gum up vessels, clots and other impediments to blood flow appear, and your risk of heart attack and stroke increases (Circulation 2001 Nov 27; 104(22):2673).
This condition can also cause chest pain (angina) similar to that caused by a heart attack, and should be evaluated by a knowledgeable health practitioner.
Although all experts recommend you stop smoking to lower your heart disease risk, some studies have found that Pycnogenol(r), a pine bark extract that helps the body fight inflammation, may ease some of smoking's ill effects.
In a study of platelets, special cells in the blood that can form dangerous blood clots, researchers found that Pycnogenol(r) discouraged platelets from sticking together (American Society for Biochemical and Molecular Biology 5/19/98). By keeping platelets flowing freely, this supplement may alleviate some of the heart-threatening clots that tobacco smoke can cause.
In Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional therapy from India, an herb called guggul has also been used to lower the risk of blockages in arteries. This herb, derived from the resin of the mukul tree, has been shown to reduce cholesterol by about 25%. People taking this herb have also reduced their triglycerides (harmful blood fats) by the same amount (Journal Postgraduate Medicine 1991 37(3):132).
The Female Version of Heart Disease
For one thing, women often don't suffer from the crushing chest pain that for most people characterizes a heart attack; instead, many women experience back pain, sweating, extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, anxiety or indigestion, signs that can be easily misread as digestive troubles, menopausal symptoms or indicators of aging.
The genders also differ in how heart disease poses a threat. While men seem most endangered by the buildup of blockages in arteries, women apparently are more at risk from endothelial dysfunction. But more study needs to be done since, in many cases, researchers have been unable to pin down the precise mechanism that causes many women to die of heart disease.
Scientists have found that the number of women in their 30s and 40s who are dying from sudden cardiac arrest is growing much faster than the number of men of the same age who die of this cause. But research by the Oregon Health & Sciences University and Jesse E. Edwards Cardiovascular Registry in St. Paul, Minnesota, shows that while doctors can pinpoint the coronary blockages that kill men, they can't find specific blockages in half of the female fatalities they have studied (American Heart Journal 10/03).
"This was an unexpected finding. However, the study underscores the need to focus on what is causing these younger women to die unexpectedly because the number of deaths continues to increase," says Sumeet Chugh, MD, a medical professor at Oregon.
Since the failure of arteries to relax probably contributes to heart disease in many women, eating red berries, or consuming supplements from berries such as chokeberry, bilberry or elderberry, may be important in lowering women's heart disease risk. These fruits help arteries expand and allow blood to flow freely.
Red berries are rich sources of flavonoids, polyphenols and anthocynanins. The anthocyanins are strong antioxidants that give the berries their color. Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine have found that these chemicals can interact with nitrous oxide, a chemical produced by the body, to relax blood vessels (Experimental Biology conference 5/20/02).
As researchers work to devise lifestyle roadmaps that can steer you around the perils of heart disease, they are finding that exercise is a key path to avoiding cardiovascular complications.
A 17-year study of about 10,000 Americans found that those who exercised and kept their weight down (or took weight off and kept it off) experienced a significantly lower risk of heart problems (Preventive Medicine 11/03).
"The fact is that those who both exercised more and ate more nevertheless had low cardiovascular mortality," says Jing Fang, MD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. Burning calories in physical activity may be the secret to reducing heart disease risk and living longer, she says.
Dr. Fang's research used information collected from the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 1975 and then computed how much people exercised, how their body mass indices varied and which of these folks died of heart disease during the next two decades.
In the study, more than 1,500 people died of heart disease. Those who worked out and consumed more calories cut their risk of heart disease death in half.
Exercise Is Essential
"Subjects with the lowest caloric intake, least physical activity, and who were overweight or obese had significantly higher cardiovascular mortality rates than those with high caloric intake, most physical activity, and normal weight," Dr. Fang notes. The individuals in the study who were overweight and didn't exercise had a bigger risk of heart disease even if they tried (and succeeded) at eating less.
"This suggests that heart disease outcome was not determined by a single factor, but rather by a compound of behavioral, socioeconomic, genetic and clinical characteristics," according to Dr. Fang.
According to researchers, if your job requires a great deal of physical activity, your health will be better if you get another job. Exercise on the job not only doesn't decrease your risk of heart disease, it may actually raise it. The reason: On-the-job activity is linked to heart-endangering increases in job stress.
Research into this subject, performed at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, found that while recreational exercise slowed hardening of the arteries, workers who had to exert themselves during the workday had arteries that were blocked at a younger age (American Journal of Medicine 7/03).
In this study, researchers examined about 500 middle-aged employees as part of what is called the Los Angeles Atherosclerosis Study.
"We found that atherosclerosis progressed significantly faster in people with greater stress, and people who were under more stress also were the ones who exercised more in their jobs," says James Dwyer, PhD, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School. According to Dr. Dwyer, "This suggests that the apparent harmful effect of physical activity at work on atherosclerosis-and heart disease risk-may be due to the tendency of high-activity jobs to be more stressful in modern workplaces.
"It appears from our findings that the psychological stresses associated with physically active jobs overcomes any biological benefit of the activity itself."
On the other hand, the scientists found that heart disease drops dramatically among those who exercise the most in their spare time. In the study, people who vigorously worked out at least three times a week had the lowest risk. But even those who just took walks enjoyed better heart health than people whose most strenuous activity was working the TV remote. Dr. Dwyer says, "These results are important because they demonstrate the very substantial and almost immediate-within one or two years-cardiovascular benefit of greater physical activity."
Lowering your risk of heart disease is substantially up to you. Listen to what your heart tells you it needs; then, exercise your right to fetch some cardiovascular necessities.
Don't Be Blue - Does winter got you singing the blues?
June 13, 2005 09:49 AM
Don't Be Blue by Phyllis D. Light, RH Energy Times, October 10, 2003
Have the gray skies of winter got you singing the blues? Do you feel tired, lost your creative spark, need extra sleep, can't get control of your appetite? If you nod in agreement to these queries, you may be one of the millions of people affected by SAD (seasonal affective disorder), also known as the "winter blues" or "cabin fever." Time to lighten up, throw off those lowdown winter blues and step up to more enjoyable feelings. Experts who study the winter blahs now acknowledge that you can blame much of winter's crankiness, moodiness and restlessness on short, cloudy days and a lack of sunlight. Low levels of sunlight trigger changes in hormones, increasing levels of melatonin (a hormone that normally helps you go to sleep) and decreasing serotonin (a hormone that improves mood). For many people, this hormonal tumult translates into a craving for sugary foods, a need for more sleep and a reduced sex drive.
Although the exact cause of SAD is not known, researchers believe the pineal gland plays an important role in this disorder. This gland, located beneath the brain, makes melatonin in response to the amount of light that enters your eyes. Melatonin hormone is only produced in darkness. The darker your bedroom, the greater your melatonin production.
Conversely, melatonin production usually stops in the morning when you open your eyes to the day's new light. But research shows that the production of melatonin climbs too high in folks who suffer from SAD. That excessive amount of the hormone results in a sedative effect upon the body.
Many people with SAD suffer muscular aches and pains, along with headaches and a faltering immune system. Consequently, they often feel like they have the flu all winter long.
More women than men suffer from SAD (and, apparently, depression in general), though the reason is unclear.
According to Norman Rosenthal, MD, author of Winter blues (Guilford Press), "about 6% of the US population may suffer from SAD, with an additional 14% suffering from subsyndromal [less severe] SAD." Because less sunlight reaches the northern latitudes, folks in Washington state and Alaska suffer the highest rates of SAD. People in sun-soaked Florida suffer the least.
How do you escape SAD? If a winter vacation to the sunny South is out of the question for you, a natural program can brighten the wintry gray days and provide relief.
Turn on the Light
The most common treatment for SAD is light (also called phototherapy), which cuts back the body's manufacture of melatonin. Sitting in front of a special light box for about 30 minutes each morning during the winter months can often offset SAD. But the effects of this treatment vary from individual to individual, and some may be more sensitive to the light therapy than others.
For artificial light treatment, consult an appropriately trained healthcare professional who can design a plan that finds the optimal intensity, length and time of day for the treatment that best works for you. Researchers at Columbia University have found that timing the light therapy with the nuances of a person's biological clock doubles its effectiveness (Archives of General Psychiatry 1/15/01).
On the other hand, walking in natural light can banish these problems, and research finds that natural light frequently offers the best results (Journal of Affective Disorders 1996 Apr 12; 37(2-3):109-20). In this study, people either participated in a daily walk outdoors in natural light or were treated for half an hour in artificial light. At the end of the study, participants were tested for melatonin and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Both were found to be lower after exposure to natural light than artificial light.
Roll up those sleeves when you're outdoors this winter: Curiously enough, studies show that light produces physiological effects by being absorbed through both the eyes and the skin.
Research now shows that light on the skin alters the hemoglobin in the blood. "This research suggests that SAD might be a disorder of the blood rather than a brain disorder," says Dan A. Oren, MD, of the Yale University School of Medicine (Science 1/12/98).
Vitamin D Need
If you suffer from seasonal depression, you may also not be getting enough vitamin D. During the sun-reduced winter months, stores of this fat-soluble vitamin drop, since the skin makes it when exposed to sunlight. When you step out into daylight, the sebaceous glands near the surface of your body produce an oily substance from cholesterol that rises to the skin's surface. Then, ultraviolet B rays from the sun convert this oily substance (7-dehydrocholesterol) into what is called previtamin D3. Finally, body heat converts previtamin D3 into vitamin D3 (a form of vitamin D).
Twenty minutes of daily sunlight exposure on the hands, arms and face can give adequate amounts of vitamin D to light-skinned people. Dark-skinned people may need longer exposure. Supplements can help: In one study, researchers found that people who took vitamin D had significant improvement in depression scale scores (Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 1999; 3(1):5-7).
As far as vitamin D production goes, you can never receive too much sunlight (although overexposure resulting in a burn is never a good idea). The body absorbs vitamin D from the skin as needed and never accepts more than is required. (If you take supplements, follow package directions so you don't get too much of a good thing.) Food sources of vitamin D include eggs, fortified milk, cod liver oil, salmon and other fish.
Walk Away the blues
Research also shows that exercise can chase the winter blues and that a little bit of exertion goes a long way. Exercise physiologists at Duke University found that little as eight minutes of physical activity can improve your mood.
Exercise stimulates the brain to produce endorphins, feel-good hormones that help reduce pain and depression. Physical activity can also increase serotonin levels, those neurotransmitters that brighten emotions. These two hormones work together to make you feel better: Serotonin improves the functioning of your mind while endorphins produce beneficial effects on your body. In one study, researchers reported that exercise increased vitality and improved mood even in cases of prolonged depression (Psychological Medicine 1998 Nov; 28(6):1359-64).
To banish SAD, engage in an outdoor activity in natural light, or get active indoors under bright lights.
As you can see, much of the research into low, wintry moods suggests that sun worshippers may have been right all along: Exposure in winter to our friendly, local neighborhood star offers impressive mood benefits.
Snack Attack - we munch on about 125,000 pounds of pretzels, chips, popcorn and nuts a min
June 12, 2005 02:33 PM
Snack Attack by Chrystle Fiedler Energy Times, August 5, 2003
Americans are snackers. For instance, during the Superbowl, we munch on about 125,000 pounds of pretzels, chips, popcorn and nuts a minute; 30 million pounds by the end of the game. At work about half of us snack two or three times a day. By the end of today, as a group, we'll have eaten $22 million worth of candy-almost a million dollars an hour for every hour of every day.
If you snack unwisely, these munchies can expand your waistline and sabotage your health. But if you snack wisely, you can keep your taste buds fulfilled, your brain working at top capacity and your body satisfied.
When searching for snack satisfaction, think protein. Protein bars and protein shakes keep you feeling fuller longer on fewer calories than sweets.
Second to protein, think fiber, as in fresh fruit, dried fruit, or whole grain breads and crackers.
Unlike carbohydrates that break down into sugars and may be quickly stored as body fat, protein-rich snacks release sugar into your bloodstream at a slow, steady and healthy pace. That keeps you satisfied longer on fewer calories.
"Protein is an important building block (for the body)," says Alicia Gonzalez, ND, a teaching fellow at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. "It breaks down into amino acids as precursors to things like neurotransmitters, hormones and muscle."
Besides eating protein-rich snacks, eat protein with every meal and eat it first. "It will help your body absorb sugar at a slower rate."
"Protein and fiber are the best at helping the body absorb sugar at an optimal rate," says Jon Gordon, author of Become an Energy Addict (Longstreet Press).
"Protein bars release sugar at a slower rate, resulting in more balanced blood sugar levels and greater overall energy," Gordon says. "You'll crave sugar less and will have a more sustained source of energy all day long."
Protein Bars' Power
"The biggest advantage of protein bars, besides their convenience, is the fact that they do have considerably more protein, say 10 grams, than candy bars, which can contain as little as 2 grams," says Dr. Gonzalez. Total fat tends to be much less in a protein bar, too.
When choosing a protein bar, Dr. Gonzalez says, "Look for total protein content, say, between 10 and 12 grams and total fat, no more than 5 grams, and be careful with high sodium content."
"Choose a protein bar closest to nature," says Gordon. "Like one with almonds and cashews. Nuts are full of nutrients and minerals. Nuts are also a source of fiber."
If you exercise, protein bars with whey or soy protein make for quick replacement of necessary nutrients. "Eating a protein bar an hour before exercising helps to maintain that energy boost you need and replenishes minerals you lose when working out," says Dr. Gonzalez.
Some protein bars, though, do a bait n' switch with saturated fats and trans fatty acids, says Dawn Weatherwax, RD, author of The Official Snack Guide for Beleaguered Sports Parents (WellCentered Books). "If the label says hydrolyzed or hydrogenated palm oil, that's as bad as saturated fat. People think they're doing the healthy thing by eating a protein bar but they end up getting the wrong type of fat."
Besides protein bars, other healthy and healthful snacks include whole grain bread with peanut butter and cheese on whole grain, high-fiber crackers. "Mixing fiber and protein will help you sustain your energy," says Gordon. "Yogurt is also very good."
"Smoothies are also wonderful (snacks)," says Weatherwax. "Add protein powder, silken tofu and fruit to them and you can have them as a meal replacement."
"Nuts like cashews, almonds, seeds and dried berries are some of the best snacks that you can eat because you're not getting all that sugar," says Dr. Gonzalez. "Nuts have a good balance of good fat versus bad fat, including essential fatty acids, which are really important for cellular health and overall well-being. A combination of nuts, seeds and dried berries provides you with a good mix of all the vitamins and minerals along with the good fats that you need to be healthy."
When snacking, think about variety. "Mix it up, have a protein bar one day, a protein shake the next," says Gordon. "Combine protein with a healthy carbohydrate and you'll have much more sustained energy throughout the day."
Fuel for Your Fire
"We're like a train, we need to keep the furnace stoked," says Weatherwax, a consulting dietitian for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. "The goal is to eat every three or four hours. You have breakfast and lunch and you need an afternoon snack. That's the hardest one to get. Most people don't want to eat another sandwich; they want snack food. So a protein bar with a carb like a piece of fruit, an apple, orange or banana...is a great combination." "Studies show if you have moderate-size meals plus small between-meal snacks you increase your levels of energy and alertness," says Gordon. "It also optimizes your memory and performance and gives you a steady flow of energy rather than the rises and falls. Without healthy snacks your blood sugar falls and you experience fatigue and tension. Just as we need to constantly feed a fire with moderate-sized pieces of wood, we also need to continually supply our internal furnace with food that can be turned into fuel. This keeps our metabolism going strong and steady."
"You want to stay between one-third and two-thirds full," adds Weatherwax.
"Eating less in an effort to lose weight is actually deleterious in the long run," says Dr. Gonzalez. "When we don't eat our body gets mixed signals; it isn't sure when it's going to get its next meal. This makes the body want to store fat and sugar to save it just in case. On the other hand, if your body becomes accustomed to eating more often, the cells will be more inclined to use the fat up, knowing there is more food on the way."
To program your body this way, don't skip meals. Have protein-filled breakfast like a protein smoothie and eggs. Follow up with healthy snacks like a protein bar or shake and regular meals.
"Ideally, it's best to combine the macronutrients, the protein, carbs and healthy fats," says Weatherwax. "By mixing all three you actually burn more energy. One study shows that you burn an extra 35 calories."
Nibbling on refined sweets can give you the snack blues. So let smart-snack strategies. Shift your mental outlook into high gear and use snacks wisely.
Snacking and Exercising
When you incorporate snacks into a consistent exercise program, you boost your chances of maintaining a healthy weight.
To make a big difference in your day, Gordon says, get up a half an hour early to exercise. Next, eat a breakfast that includes protein and fiber, have a mid-morning snack, a healthy lunch, an afternoon snack and good dinner. Take a walk within 30 minutes of eating dinner and you'll give your body a double dose of get-up-and-go.
"It exponentially increases your energy production and fat burning," says Gordon. Do all these things and watch your energy soar. "You'll fuel your life with real sustained power sources rather than the quick fix like coffee that's going to give you the rise in energy and then fall."
You don't need to be told to keep on snacking. Just keep to the protein and fiber side of the snack street.
The Blood Sugar Blues - help lower blood sugar
June 12, 2005 08:08 AM
The Blood Sugar blues by Carl Lowe Energy Times, July 10, 2003
The cells in your body run on the sugar they get from blood. Normally, this energy distribution system functions efficiently. When things go awry, however, blood sugar fluctuations can cause serious problems.
If your blood sugar stays too high, your pancreas, heart and other organs suffer. But stabilize your blood sugar and you can stabilize your health.
Problems linked to too much blood sugar are widespread. Diabetes, in which the body becomes increasingly unable to regulate blood sugar levels, is one of the most serious and widespread conditions. Plus, researchers now know that elevated blood sugar, even if you don't suffer diabetes, elevates your risk of heart disease and pancreatic cancer (JAMA 5/17/00).
Researchers at the Northwestern University Medical School have shown that with every bump up in your blood sugar levels, your chances of contracting pancreatic cancer rises significantly.
"Because the prevalence of type 2 (adult onset) diabetes and obesity, including childhood obesity, is steadily increasing, identifying a potential causal association between hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and pancreatic cancer could have important preventive and prognosticative implications for this cancer," notes Susan M. Gapstur, MD, a professor at Northwestern.
In other words, measuring your blood sugar can go a long way towards measuring the odds of developing this devastating condition. In the United States, pancreatic cancer is the fifth most deadly cancer. The disease is difficult to discover, and tumors in the pancreas usually remain hidden until the cancer has spread throughout the body.
Blood Sugar and Heart Problems
A collection of researchers now believes your blood sugar level so closely predicts your heart disease risk that blood sugar may be a more accurate heart disease predictor than cholesterol. According to a study in England (BMJ 2001; 322:15), the higher your blood sugar level, the higher your risk of heart disease and other serious health problems.
In particular, a type of blood sugar called glycated hemoglobin may provide an indication of what kind of trouble your heart and arteries may face in the future.
Glycated hemoglobin is blood glucose (sugar) that has latched onto your red blood cells. The levels of this type of attached sugar climbs when blood sugar levels consistently stay too high. After a while, this sugar not only sticks to blood cells, it also starts sticking to other tissues, an occurrence that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
While about one in twenty people in their late 40s or older has diabetes, experts estimate that almost three out of four have at least some degree of elevated glycated hemoglobin.
Higher and Higher
Men and postmenopausal women are at highest risk for elevated blood sugar. Your blood sugar also generally increases:
You can lower your risk of forming glycated hemoglobin by taking the antioxidant vitamins C and E and drinking three or four alcoholic drinks a week (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000: 71(5)). In addition, losing weight and exercising also drops your glycated hemoglobin.
When glucose enters the bloodstream after a meal, it has a variety of possible destinations. It can be picked up by brain cells, which use glucose as their only source of fuel (this explains why low blood sugar can cause headaches, dizziness and shakiness). Glucose also can enter muscles, which can burn either glucose or fat for energy. Or glucose can enter fat cells for storage-not a desirable option for someone who is already overweight.
One reason blood sugar may rise to unhealthy levels is a condition called glucose resistance or intolerance, which occurs when insulin, the hormone-like substance that shepherds glucose into the body's cells, can't do its job efficiently. That leads to blood which is too rich in both sugar and insulin.
Researchers believe that the element chromium can help the body use insulin more effectively, which, when combined with adequate exercise, allows glucose to more easily enter muscle cells.
"In experiments, chromium supplementation has actually been found to improve glucose tolerance in some diabetics and in people with impaired glucose tolerance," says nutrition researcher and teacher Shari Lieberman, PhD, in The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book (Avery/Penguin).
In a number of investigations, chromium has not only helped improve glucose tolerance, but it has also decreased circulating insulin, glycated hemoglobin and cholesterol levels (Journal of the American College of Nutrition 1998; 17:548-55). (People with elevated glucose levels often suffer from elevations in cholesterol as well. In the search for ways to improve cholesterol levels, Germany's Commission E, an herbal authority respected around the world, has approved the use of garlic to help support healthy cholesterol.)
Ginseng and Blood Sugar
American ginseng, an herb known as an adaptogen (which means it helps the body cope with everyday stress) is another tool for controlling blood sugar. Research at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto shows that taking American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) about 40 minutes before you eat can reduce your blood sugar (Archives of Internal Medicine 4/9/00).
According to Vladimir Vuksan, MD, lead investigator for the research team, these findings may have important implications for the treatment and prevention of diabetes. "Although preliminary, these findings are encouraging and indicate that American ginseng's potential role in diabetes should be taken seriously and investigated further. Controlling after-meal blood sugar levels is recognized as a very important strategy in managing diabetes. It may also be important in the prevention of diabetes in those who have not yet developed the disease," says Dr. Vuksan.
Fat vs Sugar
Supplemental helpings of the fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) have also been shown to control blood sugar and lower your risk of diabetes (Journal of Nutrition 1/03). "In previous work, we found that CLA delayed the onset of diabetes in rats," says Martha Belury, PhD, the senior author of the investigation and an associate professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University. "In (our latest) study, we found that it also helped improve the management of adult-onset diabetes in humans."
Dr. Belury's research shows that CLA may help lower levels of leptin, a hormone believed to regulate fat levels. By reducing leptin, CLA may help reduce body fat, which, in turn, may lower the risk of diabetes and high blood sugar.
A consistent, long-term exercise program is one of the single best ways to convince your body to temper blood sugar levels and lower your risk of developing diabetes (Clinical Exercise Physiology 2/15/02).
"It now appears that there is...a long-term beneficial effect from regular exercise, most likely due to the fact that a significant amount of fat is lost," says exercise physiologist Cris Slentz, PhD. "Long-term exercise leads to loss of fat in the gut (stomach) region, which is especially beneficial since this fat is thought to be directly linked to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease."
Dr, Slentz's study examined how exercise influences the way the body uses sugar in people who have a high risk of diabetes.
In this research, five overweight individuals who had never exercised before engaged in an intensive workout program for nine months. Afterwards, they went back to their couch potato lives.
Dr. Slentz and other investigators measured their blood sugar before they started the exercise program and then remeasured these levels at one day, five days and thirty days after the nine-month regimen ended.
The researchers also looked at these people's insulin sensitivity, a measure of how well their bodies controlled blood sugar.
"Insulin sensitivity, or its ability to stimulate glucose metabolism, was higher after nine months of exercise, and the fasting insulin levels were lower," Slentz said. "Just as importantly, 30 days after stopping exercise, insulin sensitivity was still 24% higher than pre-exercise levels, indicating that beneficial effects of exercise persisted."
In this study, people pedaled exercise bikes, walked on treadmills and climbed stairs. By the end of the research, they were working out about an hour a day.
So if you've put off devoting yourself to an exercise program and taking care of your blood sugar, you now have more reason to start as soon as possible. Paying attention to blood sugar pays off.
June 10, 2005 09:37 PM
Diabetes by , February 5, 2002
Lack of exercise and being overweight boosts your chances of developing diabetes. So, as America's epidemic of obesity grows, the number of people afflicted with the condition called type II diabetes is expected to soar. If you follow the typical US pattern of not getting enough exercise while indulging in a diet of too many calories from cookies, cakes, fast food and saturated fat as your waistline gradually expands, your chances of encountering this health menace grow every day. According to the most recent estimate by health researchers, "more than half of all US adults are considered overweight or obese"(JAMA, 10/27/99).
Those same researchers, who examined the health history and weights of more than 16,000 Americans, confirmed a fact well-understood by health practitioners who understand the chemistry of blood sugar: being overweight greatly increases your chances of not only diabetes but also high blood pressure, gall bladder disease, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol and arthritis. (If you suffer or think you suffer from diabetes, or any of these conditions, consult a knowledgeable health practitioner.)
While Type I diabetes is a relatively infrequent disease that often strikes kids, Type II diabetes is a much more widespread (and increasing) health problem experienced by 9 out of 10 adults with what is now called adult-onset diabetes.
The popular image of someone with diabetes is, ironically, often of someone who is suffering with Type I. In simplistic terms, Type I diabetes occurs when your pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone-like substance that, among its several tasks, helps deliver sugar from the bloodstream into the body's cells. When your body is functioning normally, insulin helps steady blood sugar levels and keeps tissues fed with nutrients.
People with Type I diabetes often have to inject themselves with insulin. Otherwise, a lack of insulin causes dangerously increased blood sugar levels, cellular damage to blood vessels and nerves plus a high risk of heart attack, blindness, kidney failure and serious damage to your extremities that may, in the long-term, lead to amputation.
On the other hand, someone beginning to suffer Type II diabetes usually has plenty of insulin being produced by the pancreas, but may be insulin resistant: for a variety of physiological reasons, the hormone is unable to do its job. That allows blood glucose to reach levels where it can wreak metabolic havoc.
When you gain weight, drastically increase the amount of your bodyfat and lead a sedentary, couch potato existence without engaging in very much exercise, you boost your risk of becoming insulin resistant. Consequently you also boost the chances of eventually suffering Type II diabetes.
However, a consistent exercise program (and losing weight) can alleviate or moderate some of the blood sugar problems brought on by diabetes or insulin resistance. When you exercise, your working muscles may take in more glucose from the bloodstream and stabilize your blood sugar level. That is one reason physical exercise helps to modify your body's response to blood sugar. (Of course, if you have diabetes or have not exercised in a long time, be sure to consult your health practitioner before engaging in strenuous physical activity.)
One of the most useful supplements employed to help control diabetes is chromium, a mineral that plays an integral role in the body's metabolism of sugar.
In the Natural Health Bible, Steven Bratman, MD, and David Kroll, PhD, discuss a study in China of 180 people with Type II diabetes. In that study, those who took chromium enjoyed better blood sugar levels than the people who took no supplements (Diabetes 46(11): 1786-1791, 1997). In addition, a double-blind study of chromium found that the supplement could reduce the necessary oral medication by more than half in many cases (Harefuah 125(5-6): 142-145, 1993). In this study, women seemed to benefit from chromium more than men.
Relief with Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid, an antioxidant nutrient, helps defend nerve cells against painful damage-a condition called neuropathy-that can result from diabetes. Consequently, in Germany, doctors have been prescribing lipoic acid to people with diabetes for more than two decades.
According to Dr. Bratman and Dr. Kroll, studies show that lipoic acid may be particularly helpful when taken with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid found in evening primrose oil and borage oil. Studies of GLA have found that this fat can soothe numbness and pain and slow nerve injuries (Diabetes Care 16(1):8-15, 1993).
Taken together, GLA and lipoic acid may synergistically improve nerve function (Diabetologia 41(4): 390-399, 1998). Blood sugar control may also improve.
Two signs that you may be suffering diabetes are excessive thirst and a dry mouth. This missing liquid, especially in the mouth when the flow of saliva slows, can lead to a lack of lactoferrin, a naturally-occurring protein that fights infection in the mouth by binding iron (Jrnl of Diab Comp 7, 57-62).
Lactoferrin's iron-binding ability destroys harmful micro-organisms like bacteria. In addition, lactoferrin stimulates the body's production of a substance called secretory IgA, which keeps disease-causing organisms out of the body and helps stabilize blood sugar (colostrum also produces this effect).
Fenugreek, a spice, has had long use as a medicine and food ingredient in the Middle East and Asia. And now modern science has begun to accumulate evidence supporting its traditional use: Several studies have shown that this seed can benefit blood sugar levels and keep blood cholesterol down.
In laboratory animals, researchers found that fenugreek kept blood sugar levels under control and also increased HDL (good cholesterol) while dropping triglycerides, blood fats that increase the risk of heart disease (Eur Jrnl Clin Nut 44 (1990):301-306).
Fortuitously, studies on people have supported fenugreek's benefits. In people with Type I diabetes, studies show that fasting blood sugar levels were reduced and glucose tolerance tests (measures of how well the body handles sugar) were closer to normal (Eur Jrnl Clin Nut 42 (1988):51-54). Bilberry for Eye Health
Retinopathy, eye damage resulting from diabetes, is a serious complication of this disease and can cause blindness. Bilberry, a botanical that has been used as a folk treatment for eye health for centuries, may be able to lower the risk of this kind of vision destruction.
Bilberry, a dark berry that grows in Europe, has been shown in a collection of laboratory tests to hold down blood sugar levels (Quart Jrnl Cr Drug Res 17(1979):139-196). Bilberry has traditionally been used to protect eyesight.
According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Prima), natural substances called flavonoids, found in bilberry, "have been shown to increase intracellular vitamin C levels, decrease the leakiness and breakage of small blood vessels, prevent easy bruising and exert potent antioxidant effects."
Apparently, the body uses these flavonoids to protect the eyes' blood vessels and to keep the retina (central part of the eye crucial to preserving sight) functioning normally (Arch Med Int 37 (1985):29-35). Consequently, bilberry has been used by health practitioners in France to treat diabetic retinopathy ever since the 1940s.
As medical researchers look more closely into how insulin functions throughout the body, much more light will be thrown on how supplemental nutrients and your diet interact to promote the healthiest blood sugar levels.
But, today, what we already know about how the body functions can help you: a low-fat, high fiber diet, moderate, consistent exercise and healthy doses of insulin-friendly supplements may help keep your blood sugar under control.
And keep those pounds from accumulating around your waist. That way, you can keep from singing that nasty old, down and dirty, blood sugar, syncopated ragtime blues.
Improove Memory ...
June 09, 2005 05:49 PM
Mesmerizing Memory by Cal Orey Energy Times, January 1, 1999
In the 60s, the same rock 'n' rollers who belted out "One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small," often espoused the belief that certain pills could expand the mind. While counter-culture pill purveyors were pilloried for their pill-popping claims, 90s nutritional research has uncovered a stash of supplements that may amplify mental improvement.
Like a blues singer bending a high note, researchers are now humming with dramatic assertions that certain nutritional supplements can sustain and enhance concentration and memory function. For instance, studies reveal possible benefits for cognitive powers from vitamin C, magnesium and Ginkgo biloba. A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA 278:1327-1332) said that an extract of Ginkgo biloba "can stabilize and, in some cases, improve the cognitive function and social behavior of demented patients."
A researcher in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences noted that a daily dose of vitamin E may "help protect the brain and its memories from the ravages of time." And the beat goes on: other evidence indicates that zinc, iron and boron may pump up short-term memory attention span and cut the time it takes to perform mental tasks.
Lester Packer, PhD, professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley, told a joint 1996 United Nations-World Health Organization conference on Aging that "there is a growing body of evidence indicating that the free radical theory of aging and aging-related disease is valid," and that dietary and supplemental antioxidants can help fight illness and mental deterioration.
Vitamin E and other memory aids are believed to protect brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, "the ferrymen of the brain's communication system," that influence concentration and memory. Experts say that sustaining the level of these nerve chemicals in the brain can potentially improve all mental processes.
Too much alcohol, for example, commonly causes progressive mental decline, according to Secrets of the Superyoung (Villard) by David Weeks and Jamie James. The authors also point out that "the memory tends to worsen noticeably after 15 years of alcohol drinking, and much sooner in people who go on massive binges."
"The effects of cigarette smoke are subtler because the poisonous effects of carbon monoxide in each puff are temporarily offset by the alerting effects of the nicotine," they add. Can't remember the name of that singer cavorting in a music video? Tests have shown that smokers are worse at connecting peoples' names to their faces than nonsmokers.
n Learn something new: A second language, musical instrument, or unique puzzles and games keep neurons working like new.
n Turn off the TV: Read. Studies show that passively watching TV requires less concentration than eating cereal. Mental rejuvenation also requires physical activity. Exercise increases oxygen flow to the brain, which supports memory, concentration and cognition. One study has shown that exercise significantly brightened the moods of middle-aged and older women, regardless of whether they were pre- or post-menopausal, with or without hormone replacement therapy.
Supplemental Brain Help
Antioxidants, including the previously mentioned vitamin E (You haven't forgotten vitamin E already, have you?), provide crucial help for vigorous cerebral function. The free radicals created by tobacco smoke, air pollution, ultraviolet light and certain carcinogenic chemicals deconstruct cell membranes and may foster microscopic brain cell havoc. Antioxidant enzymes convert free radicals to more neutral, benign substances and nutritional antioxidants can neutralize free radicals by linking up with them.
Vitamin C, a brainy antioxidant all star, performs so well that, according to Dr. Khalsa, its levels in the brain are almost 15 times higher than in other parts of the body. This nutrient, he asserts, aids mental and physical longevity. In a UCLA study, people who ingested at least 300 mg of vitamin C daily lived more than six years longer than those who ingested less.
Added to this mix, magnesium also scavenges free-radicals, according to Dr. Khalsa. Plus, experts recommend grape seed extract (phytochemicals that protect a wide range of cellular structures) to safeguard nerve cells and mental capacity.
B Vitamins for the Mind
Boron plays a crucial part in mental function. Scientists at the USDA's Human Nutrition Research Center have linked boron deficiencies to chronic lethargy and fatigue. In brain studies, they found that the electrical activity of the gray matter in the boron deficient indicated increased drowsiness and mental sluggishness.
HupA basically protects the brain from free radical damage (due to low levels of antioxidant defenses) and maintains or enhances crucial neurotransmitter action. More specifically, HupA helps reduce the breakdown of acetylcholine, the vital neurotransmitter, and makes this substance more bioavailable. In addition, HupA helps make choline accessible to the brain for the synthesis of acetylcholine, according to a study in Neuropharmacology (30, 1991: 763-768).
Normally, the brain manufactures sufficient levels of the chemical phosphatidylserine, a lecithin-derivative that helps boost neurotransmitter release, but deficiencies of vitamin B12 and folic acid, or of essential fatty acids, may retard that production. Low levels of phosphatidylserine in the brain are related to impaired mental function and depression in the elderly. Scientists reporting in Aging (5, 1993; 123-33) describe "good results" using phosphatidylserine in the treatment of age-related cognitive ills.
Ginkgo Brain Power
Another ingredient in what seems like an alphabet-soup of brain nourishment is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fat essential for normal brain function. Researchers met recently at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center's Nutrition Information Center to discuss "Keeping Your Brain in Shape: New Insights into DHA." Their findings revealed links between low levels of DHA and Alzheimer's, depression, memory loss, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain behavioral traits including aggression and hostility.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health point out, however, that fish is an excellent dietary source of DHA. In their studies, they discovered that depression rates in Japan and Taiwan, where fish ranks a top spot on the menu, are significantly lower than in North America and Europe.
DHA also is crucial to the neurological development of children, according to findings published in Pediatrics (vol. 101, no. 1, January 1998). Researchers suggest that DHA-rich breast milk should be the model for infant formulas that enhance babies' neurological development. Scientists also have correlated some behavioral problems in children-ADHD, for example-to DHA deficiencies.
If you are a vegetarian, or have other cause for concern about a potential lack of DHA in your diet, you can rely on dietary supplementation of DHA. Bruce J. Holub, PhD, of the University of Guelph in Canada provided vegetarians in his research project with DHA supplements over a 42-day period and substantially increased their DHA blood levels.
The bottom line to enhanced mental performance is to take a balanced approach, says Robert Snider, MD, who specializes in preventive medicine in Massena, New York. "Maintaining brain power includes exercise, stress reduction and good nutrition." The message to keep in mind: Don't lose your nutritional balance or you could lose a piece of your peace of mind.
Recommended Reading: & Brain Builders (Reward Books, 1995), by Richard Leviton.
Brain Longevity (Warner Books, 1997), by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD.
Omega 3 Oils to Improve Mental Health, Fight Degenerative Diseases and Extend Life (Avery, 1996), by Donald Rudin, MD, and Clara Felix.
Successful Aging (Pantheon, 1998), by John W. Rowe, MD, and Robert L. Kahn, PhD.