I love fall, but I haven’t always. It wasn’t that long ago that I dreaded the end of summer. To me, fall felt dark, lonely and draining. I started to feel this way about 4 or 5 years ago, after finishing 3 years of Lyme disease treatment. I thought I was associating the isolation of Lyme with autumn stimuli, but I was wrong.
During this time, I went in for a physical exam and much to my surprise, my doctor found a deficiency in Vitamin D and Calcium. As soon as I began supplementing with Vitamin D, Calcium and Magnesium, I felt worlds better. Science is showing us that many with Seasonal Affect Disorder need more than meds, they need supplements!
Is it Really a Mental Health Disorder is Something Off Balance?
I used to think that mental illness was an “is”. She has schizophrenia. He has bi-polar. My child has ADHD. OK. Everyone, go see a psychiatrist and come back and let me know how you are feeling.
Then something happened. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and other co-infections that impacted my brain and mental health. I unfortunately gave these diseases gestationally to my children and shared them with my husband sexually. About 5 or 6 years of our family life was spent in the darkness of illness.
As we immerged out of this helpless pit, something beautiful happened. My Executive Functioning/ADD symptoms were no longer a part of me. My husband’s mania and debilitating anxiety disappeared. We found gene mutations (MTHFR) that spoke to methylation and detox and eradicated infection that created depression, anxiety and more.
Mental Health Re-Defined/Evaluated in a Mental Health Practice
Let’s take this to my practice. In my experience, young children with Lyme and Co tend to hallucinate until the inflammation in the brain is controlled and many are suicidal. We are talking 6 year olds AND Lyme isn’t the only culprit.
I have had a handful of people experience extreme intrusive thoughts. Thoughts of self-harm and darkness. Could they benefit from an antidepressant? Maybe, but in these cases, their Ammonia levels were so elevated that their brains became impacted.
Low Vitamin D levels, red food dye, gluten and other food intolerances can look like ADHD. Anxiety or panic that comes out of nowhere can be PANDAS (from strep). If gut flora is off or digestive food enzymes are needed, mental health symptoms can arise.
Wait. What?! Why are Americans Popping so Many Pills?
I am a firm believer that when our physical, emotional or social systems are out of balance, our bodies will try to communicate this to us. It would be great if our bodies spoke English, but unfortunately they speak body and it is important for us to learn how to translate.
Ok Body, I am Listening. What Are You Trying To Tell Me?
In my practice I teach clients how listen to the body...
- Are you taking in too much energy from others?
- Maybe someone close to you died or you are walking through a divorce. Are you giving yourself enough time to
grieve or expecting too much too fast?
- What is it costing you to stay in a job that you hate?
- Is your over-eating trying to alert you to an imbalance in your life?
- Could it be Methylation or infection?
Might meds help the above situations? Sure. But if that is the only intervention, the body’s cry for help voice may become muffled or even inaudible. I am not against medications, but I work full time and can count on ONE hand the number of clients I have sent to the doctor for psychiatric medications. In these instances, we knew what the body was communicating, but the symptoms were too intense to address without pharmaceuticals. Learning to listen to the cries of the body can be priceless.
What might your body be trying to say? Can you sit in silence or with a professional and learn to listen? If you are on psychiatric medications, PLEASE stay on your meds. But use this article as a launching pad to increase curiosity and to open up a dialogue of honesty. Could something else be creating your symptoms? This is a great place to start.
Who is the Author?
Gabrielle Anderson, lmft is the owner of the Family Therapy Center in Ashburn as well as a Marriage and Family therapist. She is a married mother of 2 and lives in Loudoun county. Contact Gabrielle here if you would like to schedule an appointment for therapy or if you have questions about the practice.
One of my specialty areas in private practice is chronic illness. I love helping those with prolonged illness find emotional balance during times of stress and turmoil. In this article, I want to talk about the importance of gut health from the perspective of enzyme support and would like to help you explore the connection this could have with anxiety, depression and more. Many of my posts are written from a professional slant; this article is more personal in nature. I hope it speaks to you.
Looking at the Health of Your Gut
Did you know that 90%+ of Serotonin production occurs in the gut and that the gut is being called our 2nd brain? Healthy gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters like Serotonin, Dopamine and GABA. Shocking, right? When our gut is out of balance and not in a healthy place, it can directly effect our mood. What we eat can impact the balance of the gut and thus directly impact the brain.
GMOs, processed sugars, gluten, dairy, chemicals, preservatives, hormones, pesticides, etc can all help to create an imbalance in the gut and in some cases can cause undigested particles to leak into the blood stream. Not good.
Hippocarates said "All disease begins in the gut". Could this mean that many mental health problems can originate here too? ABSOLUTELY.
Probiotics, Pre-biotics and Enzymes Can Positively Impact the Gut
A couple of weeks ago I was preparing for a workshop at my practice that included a talk about the gut connection with mental health. During the research phase of my preparation, I was coming across article after article that looked at the importance of probiotics, pre-biotics and enzymes. Probiotics and pre-biotics have been on my radar for years (read an article I wrote about good/bad bacteria here), but enzymes? I have used enzymes with my son to help keep his bowels regulated, but have not thought about using them for anything else, especially not mental health. I was intrigued and read on to learn that enzymes can be a HUGE factor in balancing the gut, which (did we mention that 90% of all Serotonin is produced in the gut?) can directly impact mental health. Interesting.
Within proximity of my workshop, I began to have abdominal discomfort and distress. Because of my recent training, my instinct was to grab my son's enzymes. What happened over the course of the next 3 weeks surprised me.
Targeting Mental Health Proactively and Purposefully
I am open about my own tools to improve my own mental health. As I write this, my autumn "happy lamp" (a future post!) is going; I constantly smell of essential oils, utilize yoga as my emotional and chemical detoxer and have many loving people and relationships in my world. I do not pretend to be emotionally symptom free, I just manage my own mental health as proactively as I can. BUT, to get ahead of a symptom, understand the why and target it at the source, now that's worth writing about.
The Voice of the Body. Don't Quiet the Chatter, Listen to it!
Over the past year, I have been working out imbalances in my hormonal system and have noticed this new healthier balance impacting many other systems in my body as well. Although this greatly impacted my emotional health, I still struggled with keeping anxious feelings at bay.
Within a week of taking the enzymes for abdominal discomfort, I noticed a noteworthy change in my own anxious level. Lately, I had been awaking with anxious feelings, going to bed with them and felt emotional distress in my chest waxing and waning during the work day as well.
What I though was an understandable anxious preparation for a difficult day at the office, was actually gut related...NOT work related. My evening jitters were not due to this trigger or that, but was my gut trying to get my attention.
Two weeks into routine enzyme support, I found myself feeling much more calm and balanced throughout the day. My out of the blue anxious feelings were down by 95%! I thought I had reasons for the anxious buzzing and internal chatter. What I didn't know was that this chatter was actually my body trying desperately to be heard. My gut was speaking to me, but I wasn't listening.
Listening to the Words Within the Voice of the Body.
What a beautiful thing. To learn WHY you may feel down or anxious, to get ahead of it and tackle it instead of popping a pill or suffering through is a gift. Scattered, splintered energy, feelings of darkness and despair, anxious chatter can all benefit by looking through the lens of the gut. Neurotransmitters are responsible for balancing more than just anxious feelings. Many other symptoms can be as a result of your body's neurotransmitters not being able to do their job efficiently and effectively.
While researching for this article, I ran across a research study that looked at autism and gut health. In this study, children on the autistic spectrum were given enzymes for 3 months. The children in the non-placebo enzyme group showed significant changes. " ...the parents of this group rated significantly improved emotional response, general impression score, general behavior and gastrointestinal symptoms..." When I read articles like this and I experience the emotional difference myself, I become SO thankful that my gut became distressed a month ago. SO grateful that this ailment was able to bring me down this path to be able to bring this information to my family and to you.
Gut imbalance is more than emotional. Food allergies and sensitivities, itchy patches of skin, blemishes on the face, fatigue, joint pain and imbalances in digestion are examples of physical symptoms that can occur in the body when the gut is swinging out of balance. Learning to listen to what the body is trying to tell you can give vital information.
I Think my Gut is Trying to Get my Attention, Now What?
If this article speaks to you, you can now be empowered to make a difference. The first step is to seek the advice of a medial professional who understands the importance of good gut health and begin to take steps to create balance. I have a handful of blog posts speaking to the importance of probiotics, diet and other gut health related topics that could help guide you on this path as well.
Finding the link between physical and mental health can be a gift. Learning how to listen to the body and becoming familiar with it's voice is an amazing tool that can help decode a multitude of symptoms and lend its way to empowerment. What is your body saying to you today?
Gabrielle Anderson is a family therapist at the Family Therapy Center of Northern Virginia in Ashburn, Virginia. She enjoys writing about mental health concerns from a natural, health related perspective. This and other posts are NOT to be used to diagnose a problem, but are rather information to be taken to your medical health professional to explore possibilities and options.
Kuhn, Merrily RN, Ph.D. What is in our Food, Institute for Brain Potential: CEU Training
One of my specialty areas in private practice is chronic illness. I love helping those with prolonged illness find emotional balance during times of stress and turmoil. In this article, I want to talk about the importance of gut health from the perspective of pre-biotic and pro-biotic support and would like to help you explore the connection this could have with anxiety, depression and more.
Think of the Gut as a Second Brain
Did you know that 90%+ of Serotonin production occurs in the gut and that the gut is being called our 2nd brain? Healthy gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters like Serotonin, Dopamine and GABA. Shocking, right? When our gut is out of balance and not in a healthy place, it can directly effect our mood. What we eat and the ratio of good vs bad bacteria can impact the balance of the gut and thus directly impact the brain.
Hippocarates said "All disease begins in the gut". Could this mean that many mental health problems can originate here too? ABSOLUTELY. There are many ways to approach gut health. In another post, we discussed the importance of enzymes, in this post, we will look at bacteria's influence.
Good Bacteria Has an Important Role in Overall Health
In the past decade, our culture has become very clean. We like to kill all pathogens and bacteria, thinking this will keep us healthy and free from illness. While killing bad bacteria on a shopping cart or on your little one's hands can be quite helpful, if you are not purposeful in your attempts, you may also be killing the good guys too.
Our bodies have many trillions or up to 3 pounds of good bacteria. Isn't that amazing? This bacteria is very important for maintaing a healthy immune system, the production of vitamins like K and B and for digesting our food. This bacteria is what fights outside pathogenic intruders from invading the body. As you will see below, good bacteria can help us maintain a balanced mental health as well. Increasing this bacteria and protecting it from being killed can be an important first step is establishing balance in the gut.
Too Much Bad Bacteria can Adversely Impact Your Mental Health
When the health of the gut becomes compromised and bad bacteria overtake good healthy bacteria, yeast can grow to unhealthy levels. Sugar can help feed this overgrowth process. The average American consumes 100 pounds of sugar in a year. Think of how much fuel we are giving to the bad bacteria!
An over-population of yeast can impact the lining of the intestine making it permeable and allowing toxins and undigested food particles to leak into the blood stream. But it also can impede the production of Serotonin. An overgrowth of bad bacteria and an unhealthy gut can initiate cloudy thought processing, irritability as well as anxious or low mood feelings.
80% of our immune system lies within our gut. When the intestines chronically leak toxins, the immune system becomes compromised which tends to increase systemic inflammation in the body. Systemic inflammation can impact the body and brain and can lend itself to ailments that span from achy joints to depressive feelings or even feelings of panic. More mental health impact!
We mentioned above that the production of Vitamin B can be impacted with poor gut health. The B vitamins are a wonderful nourisher for the nervous system and an important factor to one's mental health. Sometimes a 50-100mg dose of a multi-B vitamin is recommended for those struggling with mental health symptoms, other times a Methyl version of Folate and B-12 is encouraged. Talking to an informed medical professional about these options is important. BUT helping the body produce what it needs to is a crucial proactive step in maintaining good healthy mental health.
What can be Done to Improve the Health of Your Gut?
We have read what impact an imbalance in good and bad healthy flora can do to one's mental health. Let's look at what a healthy amount of pre-biotics and probiotics can do for one's mood.
Probitocs are live bacteria that are helpful to the digestive system. Pre-biotics are the fibers in natural whole foods that give probiotics the fuel they need to maintain and reproduce. Both probiotics and pre-biotics can be taken in the form of a pill or can be ingested in certain foods.
Good bacteria like lactobacillus and B. Bifidum for example have been used in research studies with mice. Mice that were given these helpful bacteria had a reduction in their anxious like behavior. Other studies have looked at the link between healthy microbes in the gut and the reduction of depression and anxiety.
What a beautiful thing. To learn WHY you may feel down or anxious, or have cloudy thinking. To get ahead of it and tackle it instead of popping a pill or suffering through is a gift. Scattered, splintered energy, feelings of darkness and despair, anxious chatter can all benefit by looking through the lens of the gut. Many other symptoms can be as a result of your body's neurotransmitters not being able to do their job efficiently and effectively.
Take the Probiotic Challenge
Why not try implementing the addition of daily probiotics into your diet for three weeks to see what changes you feel? Your best angle for success is by introducing a well made multi-strain probiotic that also contains a pre-biotic blend.
Also begin to eat foods that naturally contain probiotics. Fermented food choices such as raw sauerkraut, low sugar yogurt, kefir, kombucha are wonderful ways to introduce probiotics into the body naturally.
Remember. Sugar tends to feed yeast. Reducing sugar and simple carbohydrates while targeting yeast and increasing good healthy flora is an important step to changing the environment of your gut. Adding supplements and natural foods into the diet and reducing sugars can be a nice balance.
Gabrielle Anderson is the a family therapist and the owner of the Family Therapy Center of Northern Virginia in Ashburn, Virginia. Although therapy is her specialty, she loves incorporating natural methods and is constantly searching for biological or environmental explanations for mental health ailments whenever possible. This and other posts is NOT to be a replacement for medical attention or advice. Please talk to your medical professional to see if these ideas could help you or a loved one.
Kuhn, Merrily RN, Ph.D. What is in our Food, Institute for Brain Potential: CEU Training
The holidays are times of parties and family togetherness. That also means lots of food. But that doesn’t mean you have to gain weight. Yes, it’s true a study in 2000 found that 14% of those studied gained 5 pounds or more but that doesn’t mean that you do too. It is important to not make your goal weight loss during the holidays but a goal to prevent weight gain. Changing your mentality will help you change your focus and not add stress to your holiday festivities. Some tips to remember:
1) Always eat meals prior to a party. Don’t skip a meal. Skipping meals will actually make you hungry and eat
2) Snack healthy and make them count. Choose snacks that provide important nutrients and also make you full.
Snacks such as cheese sticks and whole wheat crackers or some trail mix are good options. The key
ingredients here are protein and fiber.
3) Keep exercise in your routine. It can be just a quick run around the block, walking your dog or going to the
gym. If traveling, stay at a hotel with a gym or ask to sample a local new gym.
4) Make sure you get enough sleep. Scientist have proven a link between sleep and the hormones that regulate
hunger and satiety. They found that people who slept fewer than eight hours a night had lower levels of
leptin, a hormone that tells your body it is full, and higher levels of ghrelin an appetite stimulator.
5) When you go to a party, offer to bring something. Doing this will ensure there is at least one healthy item
6) Avoid hanging out near the buffet table. Focus on people and conversation instead of eating.
7) Drink water in between alcohol. Its calorie freeJ
8) Watch portion sizes. Do not cover your plate with food. Remember less is more in this case. Eating double
portions can quickly pile on the calories and add inches to the waistline. A snack can range from 50 calories
for an apple to 100-150 calories for an ounce of trail mix or low fat yogurt.
9) Don’t tell yourself you can’t have something because then you will want it more and most likely eat more than
one portion. So enjoy a small piece of your favorite holiday treat!
10) Track your food intake to encourage you to be more aware of how many calories you are eating. Add apps like
MyFitnessPal to your phone or look up websites that can help you track your calories.
Most of all enjoy the holidays and remember that you can have fun and enjoy food at the same time. Savor the food you do eat while being mindful of your choices.
These blog entries are written by our very own clinicians. When inspiration hits, another entry will be logged.
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