Category Archives: Mental Health

Could Having a Pet Improve Your Anxiety?

dog, cat, pet, mental health, anxiety, depression, ptsd, bipolar, healthThere’s nothing better than coming home after a long and stressful day of work or school, and having a happy wagging tail waiting at the door for you.  Owning a pet involves a lot of work and cost. However, studies show that a pet may be worth the time and money for the good of your health. A recent study review has shown that having a pet can decrease anxiety and provide overall benefits to anyone suffering from mental health issues.

About Mental Health and Anxiety

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is a “state of well being” in which a person can lead a productive life while being able to deal with the normal daily stresses of life.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that mental illnesses are not just the result of one event. However, such a state of being  involves multiple factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle.

Examples of mental health conditions include:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders. In particular, about 30-percent of adults deal with such a disorder at some point in their life.  Anxiety disorders are not just everyday stress or worry. On the contrary, those with such disorders worry or fear that may be seen as “abnormal” in certain situations. This fear or worry can result in disruption of their daily life.

For example, it may be “normal” to worry about taking a test. However, someone with anxiety disorder may have a similar level of worry and stress when having to talk with someone at the store.  On the other hand, a person with the disorder may lose sleep because they worry that if they leave the house tomorrow that something bad may happen to them. These are just some examples of how anxiety disorder can manifest. However, this condition can come in many forms such as:

  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • panic disorder
  • phobias, or fears, such as agoraphobia (fear of public places)
  • social anxiety disorder
  • separation anxiety disorder

Pets and Mental Health Benefits

An analysis of 17 studies reported in BMC Psychiatry found that having a pet may help those with mental health disorders. Results of this study review found that pets had the following positive impacts on mental health:

  • One study interviewed some people who had depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.  Subjects reported feeling more secure and stable with a pet in their lives.
  • Another study reported that those with a pet had lower levels of anxiety and a lower average body mass index.
  • Pets can provide unconditional love as well as support without judgment. In turn, this can help those with mental health issues cope if they are not getting such support from their family and friends.
  • Pets forced their owners to stay connected with the outside world and be more active.  Besides helping those with mental health issues to connect with others, the act of going outside is also very helpful to overall health.  For one thing, getting outside can help people get sunlight that helps make sure they get enough vitamin D, which can affect mental health. Also, mental health may benefit from the act of exercise.

Researchers suggest that mental health care plans should include asking patients with mental health issues to get a pet. However, more studies need to be done to figure out how pets could play in the lives of patients and in treatment plans.

Other ways to help improve your mental health

Besides having a pet, there are some other things you can do to help your mental health.

  • Be mindful by living in the present moment. Talk with a counselor if you have troubles in your past that are stopping you from living in the moment. Also, take a yoga class, learn relaxing breathing techniques, or get a wellness app to help you find ways to stay calm each day and night.
  • Eat balanced meals since sometimes low levels of certain vitamins or nutrients can make you feel more tired or nervous. Eat plenty of fiber-rich fruits and veggies to help keep your gut healthy. Also, make sure to eat enough protein each day such as meats, beans, low fat dairy products, nuts, and seeds. Low protein intake can cause you to feel tired. This is because protein-rich foods contain dopamine and tyrosine which keep you alert. Finally, make sure to eat some carbohydrate foods such as whole grains and cereals. This is because such foods increase “feel-good” serotonin in the body.
  • Volunteer or help out a friend or loved one since such acts can help you feel better about yourself. Also, such acts can help you connect with others and perhaps help you to see how much you have to be grateful for.
  • Get plenty of sleep since lack of sleep can greatly impact your mood. Set a bed time each night, avoid caffeine in the latter half of the day, and limit screen time at night to help you get more sleep. 
  • Visit your doctor to make sure your vitals are healthy and to get help for any symptoms that may be bothering you or affecting your daily life.
  • Take a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains ingredients such as magnesium, chamomile, and valerian that promotes a boost in serotonin and supports stress and anxiety relief.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

American Psychiatric Association (January 2017) “What are anxiety disorders?”

Greenblatt, M.D., J.M. (November 14, 2011) “Psychological Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency.”  

Medical News Today (February 19, 2018) “It’s official: Pets benefit our mental health.”

National Alliance on Mental Illness (accessed February 20, 2018) ” Mental Health Conditions.”

Psychology Today (October 27, 2015) “9 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health Today.”  

Weir, K. (December 2011) “The exercise effect.”

World Health Organization (August 2014) “Mental health: a state of well-being.”


  • Seven Simple Ways to Keep Your Weight Loss Resolutions This New Year

    exercise, goal, weight loss, new year resolutionEvery new year, many of us make resolutions to be healthier. Whether it be weight loss, exercising more, eating healthier, or managing stress better, such resolutions usually start off strong. However, by early spring, such goals usually lose steam and get pushed off until the next new year. That is why it is important to plan ahead before making any goals so you can make sure they are realistic and backed up with a lasting motivating factor. With such planning, you can make your new year’s goals come true this year and maintain such healthy habits for the long-term.

    What is a SMART goal?

    SMART goals provide a formula for the greatest success in goal-setting and achieving. SMART stands for:

    • Specific: Being specific requires you to be clear about the goal you want to set. For example, “I want to exercise 30 minutes a day for at least 3 days a week,” or “I want to lose 1 pound a week for the next 12 weeks.” Being specific is more helpful than just saying “I want to lose weight” or “I want to eat healthier.” Such general statements do not provide any concise marker to work towards, therefore they allow for a greater likelihood of non-compliance.
    • Measurable: The marker that a specific goal contains allows your progress to be measured. When you can measure how many days you have been able to exercise each week, or how many cups of water you drink each day, you can have a better idea of what areas of your healthy regimen are doing well, and which need more work. Tracking through an app or food journal can help with keeping track of such progress.
    • Attainable: Perhaps one of the most important parts of a goal is to make sure it is attainable. For example, if you currently consider yourself a couch potato, it would be a stretch to make a goal to run a marathon by the springtime.  A more attainable goal would be “I will train for a summertime 5K race.”
    • Relevant: Another important part of your goal is that it must be relevant to your life. You should never set a goal that someone else may have for you. This type of goal-setting is setting you up for disappointment, especially if you are only working towards that goal to gain approval from others. Set your goals for YOU and YOU only, and you will be sure to be successful.
    • Time-bound: Finally, it is important that your goals include a start and end time. Timing your goal makes it easier to keep track of your progress. For example, “In the next three months, I want to be able to work out for at least three times a week.” In addition, breaking these timed goals into small pieces, like a week or a month at a time, will make them more approachable. So instead of saying, “I want to lose 50 pounds this year,” saying “I want to lose 5 pounds this month” will make this large goal seem more possible.

    What are good motivating factors?

    To keep your motivation level strong, it is important to have some non-scale goals, or goals that have no number attached to them. For example, some non-scale goals may include:

    • Having more energy to play with your kids or grand kids.
    • Moving around with less pain.
    • Being on a reduced number of medications.
    • Fitting in an airplane seat or amusement park ride seat comfortably.

    What is a Realistic Weight Loss Goal?

    If you are one of the many people who wish to lose weight for the new year, it is important  to set healthy expectations. Fad diets may promise 20 pounds lost in 20 days, which may seem great. However, these quick results usually only end up with quick weight regain. This is because such plans end up depriving you of nutrients, make eating healthy feel miserable, and are hard to stick to long-term. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1 to 2 pounds a week is a healthy rate of weight loss.

    More Simple Steps to Getting Healthy This New Year

    • Simplify healthy eating. Instead of getting obsessed with counting every calorie and macronutrient, stick to the basics.  Get out your measuring cups and smaller dinner plates (about 9-inches in diameter) and follow these simple tips:
      • Have at least 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables each day, which do not include corn, peas, and potatoes. With the plate method, fill half of your plate with the non-starchy vegetables at meal time.
      • Limit starchy, refined foods such as rice, potatoes, and pasta. Stick to 1/2 cup at each meal, or with the plate method, 1/4 of your plate. Choose high-fiber starches such as brown rice, quinoa, beans, or sweet potato.
      • Make sure you eat enough protein. Although this may seem easy enough, I find a lot of my patients do not eat enough healthy proteins. To determine your protein needs each day, you can multiply your weight in pounds times 0.3 to give you an estimate in grams.  You may need more protein daily if you workout frequently.
    • Be more mindful. Mindfulness is important for all aspects of life. In eating, mindfulness may include:
      • meal planning and prepping
      • asking yourself if you are eating for hunger or emotions
      • chewing more per bite to really savor and enjoy your food

    Mindfulness in exercise may be choosing exercises you enjoy or listening to your                        body to find ways to move without causing pain. Everyday you can be mindful by                       being present in each moment. You can do this by listening actively to others and using relaxation breathing and meditation to manage stress.

    • Track your progress. Download an app like MyFitnessPal or MyPlate to help you track what you consume and the calories you burn. Some apps, such as Apple Health or Calm, can help you keep track of the number of mindfulness minutes you engage in daily.
    • Fill in the gaps with vitamins and supplements. Even the healthiest diets may be lacking some vitamins. In addition, some climates that may have less days of sunshine may make individuals prone to vitamin D deficiency.  It never hurts to have your healthcare provider check for your levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium, and iron. Low levels of these nutrients may result in such symptoms as low energy, depressed mood, or trouble sleeping.  Zestia by Vita Sciences contains several of these nutrients in addition to probiotics and a SuperFood complex to help promote optimal health inside and out.
    • Reward yourself. Every small goal you achieve should be celebrated. If you went a whole week without any drinking any sugary drinks, then reward yourself with a relaxing hot bath, or by enjoying a relaxing movie night at home.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 15, 2015) “Losing Weight.”

    Medline Plus (December 28, 2017) “8 Small Changes for a Slimmer You in 2018.” 

    Richardson, H. (December 29, 2017) “Holly Richardson: Resolutions, SMART goals, CLEAR goals and BHAGs.”

    Rossy, L. (April 29, 2016) “How Mindfulness Can Help You Stay Motivated to Exercise.” 

     


  • Could Women’s Hearts be More Sensitive to Stress?

    heart, mind, health, stress

    Stress of the mind can hurt your heart.

    Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweaty. Sometimes you may feel dizzy, disoriented, or nauseous. These are all potential symptoms when you are faced with a stressful situation. However, one of the most dangerous symptoms of stress is constriction of blood vessels. A recent study has found that women may be more at risk for heart-related health problems in response to stress.

    What is stress?

    Stress is a normal reaction to the demands of life that can affect both the body and mind. A little bit can be healthy to remind you to be more alert or more motivated. However, too much can contribute to a variety of health conditions such as:

    • ulcers
    • digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome
    • asthma
    • headaches
    • back pain

    In addition to such conditions, stress can also increase blood pressure, which can in turn increase risk of heart disease. This is due to the body’s response to a perceived threat. The body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode in which the body constricts blood vessels to provide more blood flow to the major organs. Also, digestion slows to keep the body focused on providing blood to the brain and the heart.  However, if anxiety or chronic exposure to the perceived threat(s) occurs, then this response can negatively impact health.

    Women, Stress, and the Heart

    A recent study in the journal Arteriosclerosis looked at 678 people with coronary artery disease, or plaques in the major arteries that affects blood flow. Each person was asked to engage in public speaking, a commonly known fear of many, to see if it triggered myocardial ischemia, or a reduction of blood flow in the heart.

    About 15-percent of study subjects triggered myocardial ischemia. Men and women were affected by this condition at a similar rate, but the cause was different.  In men, blood flow was mostly affected by high blood pressure and increased heart rate. On the other hand, in women it was caused by a constriction of blood vessels, also known as microvascular dysfunction. The difference between the two reactions is that in men, the perceived fear increased workload on the heart. However, in women, the dysfunction of vessels impaired blood flow.  It is not known whether this increased incidence of myocardial ischemia can increase risk of heart disease, but such studies are being planned.

    Healthy Ways to Deal With Stress

    You can help decrease stress, and in turn, lower risk of heart disease in a variety of ways.  The following list includes way you can lower stress on both your body and mind.

    • Limit coffee and caffeine since such constrict blood vessels, thus impacting blood flow. Two to three cups a day is suggested for adequate health benefit.
    • Quit or don’t smoke since smoking can also constrict blood vessels, and in turn blood flow, this increasing heart disease risk.
    • Live a balanced life. It is important to make sure that as hard as you work in your job and in exercising, you should also rest your body just as readily. A good balance of rest and activity is around 30 minutes a day of moderate activity such as walking combined with about 7 hours of sleep each night.  Being both active and resting well each night are important for the regulation of body fluids, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels in the body, among other things.
    • Be mindful in everything you do. When you are more mindful and aware of the choices you make each day, it can eliminate a lot of stress on the body.  The following are a list of small things you can do each day to be more mindful and in turn reduce stress on your body inside and out.
      • Plan and prep meals and snacks ahead of time.
      • Make healthy choices at meal and snack time such as less processed food and more fresh foods.
      • Portion out food choices to prevent excess intake.
      • Set a designated bedtime to help your body get more rest.
      • Make a to-do list to keep track of your weekly tasks and delegate any tasks that you can to others.
      • When you get stressed, give yourself a time-out with relaxation breathing to help you better face the situation at hand.
      • Make time for yourself in your schedule by setting aside 15 minutes a day to meditate, read, or do something your enjoy to give your body and mind a break.
    • Take supplements to help with sleep and managing stress. There are many herbal supplements on the market that claim to help with sleep and stress. However, it is important to do your research. Perhaps the supplement most well-known for its sleep-inducing properties is melatonin. It is actually a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland that affects the sleep/wake cycle and produces drowsiness. Those that may be deficient in this hormone may experience trouble sleeping or insomnia. However, it is important to remember that since it is a hormone, it may not be suitable for everyone, so be sure to check with your doctor first before starting a melatonin regimen.

    Another supplement to try is Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains a combination of magnesium, chamomile, and valerian to help promote a feeling of calm by working to help reduce stress and anxiety. Valerian and chamomile have been found to be safe, natural herbal remedies to help induce sleep, while magnesium has been found to help promote reduced anxiety and irritability. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know before starting any new supplement regimen to be sure it does not interact with any of your currently prescribed medications.

    -written  by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (June 2014) “Fight Stress with Healthy Habits”

    American Heart Association (June 2014) “Stress and Heart Health”

    Berkeley Wellness (October 1, 2013) “Can Supplements Help You Sleep?”

    Centers for Disease Control (March 2, 2017) “How Much Sleep Do I Need?”

    Deans, M.D., E. (June 12, 2011) “Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill.” Psychology Today.

    Harvard Medical School: Division of Sleep Medicine (December 18, 2007) “The Characteristics of Sleep”

    Mayo Clinic (March 31, 2017) “Stress Management”

    Medline Plus (December 21, 2017) “Are Women’s Hearts More Vulnerable to Stress?”

    Rodale Wellness (August 25, 2017) “4 Sleep Supplements That Actually Work”

     


  • Could No Sick Leave Cause Poor Health?

    work, sick, paid leave, sick leave, health, wellnessIt’s about that time of year. Cold and flu season is greatly approaching.  Although some employees may have paid sick leave, they may be afraid to use it for risk of ruining their reputation. On the other hand, maybe there is no one to cover their shift. Employees do not have a choice in workplaces where there is no paid sick leave.  If these employees stayed home, they would risk losing pay, or in some cases, their job. A recent study has shown that workplaces without paid sick leave are at risk for harming the health of their employees.

    Paid Sick Leave and Health Statistics

    A 2013 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families looked at the effect of paid sick leave on health outcomes.  They found that four of ten private sector workers and eight of ten low-income workers do not have access to paid sick leave. Also, these workers were 1.5 times more likely to go to work with the flu or a viral infection.  In the fall of 2009, nearly eight million workers went to work with H1N1.  In turn, these people are thought to have infected seven million of their co-workers. This string of events was likely the cause of the peak of the pandemic.

    Furthermore, parents who do not have paid sick leave are more likely to send their sick kids to school or daycare. This is because the parents have no other form of childcare and cannot afford to stay home unpaid. This situation puts care givers, teachers, and classmates of the child at risk. Therefore, paid sick leave is important for the health of not only the worker, but many others as well.

    Recent Research

    A study of nearly 18000 workers between the ages of 18 and 64 years of age looked at the effects of paid sick leave on overall health.  Those without paid sick leave were more likely to have mental distress than those who did. In fact, those without sick leave had nearly 150-percent more mental distress. This distress can disrupt the daily life and activities of those with no paid leave. Young, Hispanic, low-income, and poorly educated groups were at greatest risk. These results suggest that lack of paid sick leave is a social justice and health disparity issue.

    Protect Yourself Against Cold and Flu Season

    Access to paid sick leave may not be under your control. However,  you can take steps to prevent sickness.

    • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of immune-friendly fruits and vegetables.
    • Stay active each day since exercising can boost heart health, keep weight at a healthy level, and in turn protect overall health.
    • Practice good hygiene by washing your hands regularly, especially if you have contact with others in your daily life. Caregivers, healthcare workers, and teachers are just some examples of workers who may be at most risk for exposure to germs. Therefore, these workers will need to be even more diligent about washing hands often and perhaps keeping sanitizer close at hand.
    • Take immune-friendly supplements such as Biovia30 by Vita Sciences. Biovia30 is full of 30 million colony-producing units of probiotic strains to promote health digestive and immune health.

    -written  by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Harvard Health Publishing (September 2014) “How to Boost Your Immune System” 

    National Partnership for Women and Families (April 2013) “Paid Sick Days Improve Our Public Health” 

    Preidt, R. (September 22, 2017) “Workers Without Paid Sick Leave Suffer Ill Effects” 


  • Poor Heart Health Can Increase Stroke and Dementia Risk

    healthy eating, health, food, healthy fats, fish, fruits, vegetables, avocado, olive oilWhen you hear about brain health, you may think of lowering stress and anxiety. However, having a healthy brain also involves reducing risk of stroke as well as memory conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.  A recent report has found that keeping your body healthy is vital to keeping your brain healthy.

    Having a healthy body involves more than just eating healthy and exercising. American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 provides simple guidelines to help you develop a healthy body and healthy brain.

    What are the Life’s Simple 7?

    • Manage blood pressure– A healthy blood pressure is one where the systolic, or top number is 120 or less, and the diastolic, or bottom number, is 80 or less.  The systolic pressure measures the pressure during contraction of your heart, while the diastolic measures the pressure in between heart beats.  You should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year at your annual doctor’s visit.  If you have hypertension, or a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher,  you should see your doctor at least every 6 months to monitor your blood pressure.
    • Control cholesterol– You should keep track of your cholesterol numbers at least once a year to stay healthy. This includes not only total cholesterol, but also your LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.  If you already have high cholesterol or triglycerides, be sure to visit your healthcare provider every 6 months to keep track of your numbers.
    • Keep blood sugar normal– When you visit your health care provider, be sure to take a look at your fasting blood glucose and HgA1C numbers. The fasting blood glucose will give you an idea of your current blood level of glucose. However, your HgA1C will give you a three month average of your blood glucose levels. Your HgA1C provides a long term picture of your blood glucose levels and is a better diagnostic tool. A prediabetes diagnosis would occur at an HgA1C of 5.7 to 6.4.  If your HgA1C is 6.5 or higher, you may have diabetes. Be sure to get your numbers checked every year. Check your numbers more often if you have a family history or diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes.
    • Get physically active– The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week for optimal health. Moderate exercise can include walking, swimming, gardening, biking, or dancing.  You can split this 30 minutes up into five or ten minutes here and there throughout the day.
    • Eat a healthy diet– A healthy diet contains plenty of protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich foods. Protein can come from lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and healthy plant-based proteins such as legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like oats and quinoa. Also, healthy fats from plant-based oils like olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish can improve brain health and improve heart health.
    • Lose extra weight– It is important to maintain a healthy weight to lower risk of chronic conditions. Obesity-related conditions like heart disease and diabetes can increase risk of brain health conditions.  Therefore, losing weight can improve both heart and brain health.
    • Don’t start smoking or quit– Smoking can constrict blood vessels and increase risk of hypertension. Therefore, if you don’t already smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, contact smokefree.gov for resources on how to quit.

    A recent report by the American Heart Association (AHA) has found that brain health is linked to healthy lifestyle factors.  For example, increased blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and high cholesterol can increase risk of atherosclerosis, or narrowed blood vessels. Narrow blood vessels can restrict blood flow to the tissues and organs.  This can lead to increased risk of stroke. Over time, multiple strokes or mini strokes can lead to cognitive impairment, or vascular dementia.

    The risk factors for stroke as listed in the Life’s Simple 7, are the same for Alzheimer’s disease.  The Life’s Simple 7 are risk factors that can be measured, modified, and monitored.  Therefore, healthcare providers can use the knowledge gained from observing such factors to help better treat their patients.  Scientists hope that such data can also lead to expanding research. They hope they may be able to detect genetic or brain markers that could lower the number of people who get dementia.  Nearly 75 million people are expected to have dementia by the year 2030.  However, this number may be lowered if steps are taken now to provide brain health prevention guidelines. Therefore, take steps to improve your lifestyle today to keep a healthy brain for life.

    Other ways to create a healthy life include taking nutrient-rich supplements such as Livrio by Vita Sciences. Livrio contains natural compounds such as milk thistle that have been shown to support a healthy liver.  This supplement helps cleanse and detoxify your liver, in turn providing you with improved energy, glowing skin, and overall well-being.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (September 7, 2017) “Seven Steps to Keep Your Brain Healthy from Childhood to Old Age” http://newsroom.heart.org/news/seven-steps-to-keep-your-brain-healthy-from-childhood-to-old-age


  • Can Skipping Breakfast Impact Your Health?

    breakfast, egg, vegetable, whole grain, fruit, milkDo you skip breakfast? Does your busy schedule make it hard to eat in the morning? Are you just not hungry in the early hours of the day? You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Recent research has found that this may be true. Skipping your morning meal can deprive your body of many important nutrients vital to overall health.

    Health benefits linked with eating a morning meal include better focus, more energy, lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, among other things. However, a 2011 study found that it is not just important that you eat breakfast, but what you eat at breakfast.

    What is a healthy breakfast?

    A 2011 study by the Institute of Health and Society in Worcester, UK found that it is lower glycemic and higher protein foods at breakfast that will provide the most health benefits. Therefore, swap out your coffee cake or sugary cereal for more nutrient-dense foods. Recommended morning breakfast protein sources include eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and poultry. Also, protein from soy, hemp, and pea protein powders can provide a great non-dairy source of protein.  In addition, cottage cheese and protein-rich Greek yogurt are great morning meal options. It is suggested that 30 grams of protein should be eaten at your morning meal to provide an adequate energy source.

    Along with protein, you should balance out your morning meal with complex carbohydrates for fiber.  Such fiber-rich foods may include high-fiber cereals such as bran or oatmeal. Other fiber-rich carbohydrates may include low-glycemic fruits such as berries, grapes, or citrus fruits.  Also, you could add non-starchy vegetables to your breakfast such as peppers, onions, or leafy green vegetables in your omelette. You could also add spinach leaves, kale, or carrots to your morning smoothie with a scoop of plant-based protein powder and some berries.

    Recent research

    A more recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that those young people who skipped breakfast were more likely to be low in nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron, and iodine. Nearly a third of students who skipped breakfast had low iron intake versus 4-percent who did eat in the morning. Similar findings were found for calcium intake. One-fifth of students who did not eat breakfast had low calcium intake versus 3-percent of those who did eat a morning meal.

    The Centers for Diseases Control have found that students who eat a morning meal have improved performance in school. Students who eat breakfast tend to have better focus, attendance, grades, and memory compared to those who skip.  It is likely that adults would have the same benefits from eating breakfast. However, more studies would need to be done in such age groups to confirm this theory.

    Filling in the Nutrient Gaps

    If you find that you are not getting a morning meal in each day, here are some ways to ensure you are getting all of your nutrients during the day.

    • Have healthy snacks available with you at all times. Fiber-rich nuts and seeds, protein-rich jerky and protein bars, as well as freeze-dried fruit are healthy snacks that do not need refrigeration. Keep these snacks in your car, purse, backpack, or at work to make sure you always have nutritious sources of energy on hand.
    • Carry an emergency protein shake with you on-the-go. Pre-prepared protein shakes and waters can provide portable nutrition.  If you don’t have time to sit down and eat a solid meal in the morning, you can at least sip your meal while sitting in traffic or during your morning class or meeting. There are many non-dairy sources of protein drinks for those who may have a dairy intolerance.
    • Take a multivitamin daily to fill in the nutrition gaps. Ask your doctor to test for such important vitamins as B12, vitamin D, and iron.  If you are low in any of these vitamins, taking supplements may be necessary to get your health up to speed.  In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to take a multivitamin daily. A great multivitamin choice is Zestia by VitaSciences.  Zestia contains a comprehensive vitamin profile, 45 fruits and vegetables, a superfood complex, and probiotics to help support optimal health.

    written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control (May 2014) “Health and Academic Achievement” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017414/

    Kamada, I., et al. (2011) “The impact of breakfast in metabolic and digestive health.” Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Bed to Bench, 4(2):76-85.

    Medline Health News (August 17, 2017) “Young Breakfast Skippers Lack Vital Nutrients” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167879.html


  • Could Estrogen Help Depression?

    Every once in a while, you may feel a bit gloomy, disappointed, or stressed. However, depression is much more than just having a bad day. Depression is a serious mood disorder that can make simple tasks such as eating, working, and sleeping much more sad, anxiety, depression, menopause, mental healthdifficult. A recent study has found that low estrogen levels in some women may be linked to depression.

    According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), depression occurs when you have several of the following symptoms for more than two weeks.

    • persistent sad mood
    • hopelessness
    • loss of interest in things that were once enjoyable
    • decreased energy
    • trouble focusing or making decisions
    • appetite or weight changes
    • thoughts of taking one’s own life
    • aches or pains with no clear cause

    Also, a person may be at higher risk for depression if they have a family history of the condition. Major life changes or chronic health problems may also increase their risk. Most recently, a study in Menopause showed that a lack of estrogen exposure may put women at higher risk for depression.

    The study looked at 1300 women and their level of estradiol exposure related to their depression risk. It was found that those with higher levels of estradiol exposure from the onset of menstruation to menopause had lower levels of depression.  Also, those women who had longer term use of birth control had a lower risk of the condition.  It is important to know that the number of pregnancies and use of breastfeeding did not impact these results.

    There is no cause and effect of low estrogen and depression, but these study results are still important.  This is because those with earlier menopause, more frequent hot flashes, and less frequent periods all were at higher risk for depression.  Hormone changes are likely to blame for this. During such times during and after menopause, women are at much higher risk for depression than others.

    Therefore, if you feel you may be dealing with depression, there are many resources for help.  There is no one treatment that will help everyone. First of all, let your doctor know if you are feeling depressed. Your doctor may be able to provide medicines that may make dealing with your depression easier to deal with. Also, they could test your hormone levels and provide hormone supplements that may reduce symptoms. Other resources for depression are listed below.

    • Talk therapy with a licensed health care provider can help you talk about your feelings. Such counseling can help you manage your stress better and cope with life issues in a healthy way.
    • Being more active through walking, running, gardening, or other exercises. The fresh air from nature and the “feel good” hormones released during exercise can help improve mood.
    • Spending time with other people such as family, friends, or support groups can improve your mood. Talking with others that care about you and your health can help you see that you are not alone in dealing with life’s issues.
    • Setting realistic goals for yourself can make life easier to deal with. Taking small steps towards your goals can make life seem less overwhelming. You should celebrate each small victory and don’t be afraid to ask others for help along the way.
    • Ask your doctor about trying certain supplements such as Estrosa by Vitasciences.  Estrosa contains compounds such as Black Cohosh that have been found to help relieve the hot flashes, weight gain, bloating, and mood swings related to menopause. For both women and men, Elevia by Vitasciences helps boost serotonin levels which can improve mood and calm the mind.

    Also, foundations such as Hope for Depression provide valuable resources to help those depression, foundationwith depression learn more about the condition. Also,  this foundation helps support research efforts to find better treatments for those with depression.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Medline Plus (July 21, 2017) “Estrogen May Influence Women’s Depression Risk” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167353.html

    National Institute of Mental Health (October 2016) “Depression” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml


  • Can Meditation Help Those With Anxiety Focus?

    Even after thousands of years since its development, meditation is still used as a way to develop the mind and evolve spiritually.  However, even though the term “meditation” may provoke thoughts of religious context, the exercise itself simply involves a specific, comfortable posture, a focus of attention, and an open attitude. Specifically, this may involve repetition of affirmations, relaxation breathing, and clearing your mind of extraneous thought.  According to the National Institutes of Health, meditation holds significant health benefits.  In particular, research has shown the exercise tomeditation anxiety focus mental health benefit those with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even irritable bowel syndrome. Furthermore, in those with anxiety, meditation helps diffuse worries by improving focus on the present-day.

    A recent study in the journal Consciousness and Cognition looked at a group of 82 people with anxiety. Subjects were asked to perform a computer task and were interrupted frequently to test their focus.  Next, subjects were divided into a meditation group and an audio story group.  Results show that those who meditated had greater focus in the second half of the study then those who listened to the audio story.

    Therefore, it is safe to say that meditation exercises show promise for helping those with anxiety.  Researchers of the study state that mind wandering account for nearly half of a person’s consciousness. Furthermore, when those with anxiety wander off into repetitive off-focus thought, they may have trouble learning, completing tasks, or functioning safely. However, the National Institutes of Health want to remind you that meditation should not replace primary conventional care of health conditions.

    What Are Other Ways to Help Reduce Anxiety?

    Besides meditation, there are various ways you can help reduce anxiety:

    • Visit your healthcare provider for counseling or medication treatment
    • Exercise on a regular basis for at least 30 minutes a day; low impact exercises such as walking will do the job.
    • Schedule “me-time” every day engaging in an activity yo love to do such as reading, painting, watching a movie, or cooking; do something that relaxes your mind.
    • Delegate tasks on your to-do list; get others to help with some tasks or schedule some things for another day.
    • Stay connected with a support system through family, friends, coworkers, or community and religious organizations.
    • Use essential oils such as frankincense and lavender to provide a calming scent when practicing relaxation breathing. You can either place oils in a diffuser, or dab on wrists and neck for a more concentrated scent.
    • Drink herbal teas such as peppermint to calm digestion or chamomile to help soothe the mind and promote sleep.
    • Try a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains natural ingredients such as magnesium, chamomile, and valerian that have been shown to promote a boost in “feel-good” serotonin, relieve anxiety, and calm mind and body.

    Also,  visit websites such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America for more information on anxiety, treatment options, and ways you can support anxiety research.  anxiety depression treatment research

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Dallas, M.E. (May 5, 2017) “Meditation Can Help Improve Focus in People With Anxiety” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_165274.html

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (updated March 17, 2017) “Meditation: In Depth” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm

    National Institute of Mental Health (accessed May 10, 2017) “5 Things You Should Know About Stress” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

    Puff, Ph.D., R. (July 7, 2013) “An Overview of Meditation: Its Origins and Traditions” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/meditation-modern-life/201307/overview-meditation-its-origins-and-traditions


  • Can Exercise Improve Brain Health?

    Staying active is well-known for helping to maintain heart health.  However, did you know that regular exercise may also benefit brain health?  A recent study has found that exercising 2.5 hours a week, or 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week, may help slow progression of Parkinson’s disease.walking, exercise, Parkinson's, brain health

    Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that may worsen over time. Therefore, medication and surgery have currently been used to treat and manage the symptoms of the condition.  This condition involves the progressive death of brain cells, which leads to a decrease in dopamine levels in the blood. Lower dopamine levels result in a lessened ability to move.  Therefore, since those with Parkinson’s disease lose dopamine over time, they may subsequently experience tremors, stiffness, and trouble with walking.

    Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease 

    A recent study in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease looked at the effects of exercise on the progression of Parkinson’s disease. After observing 3400 patients for over two years, those people with Parkinson’s disease who maintained exercise 150 minutes per week had a smaller decline in quality of life and mobility as compared to those who exercised less. The type of exercise that was of most benefit was not apparent. However, it is suggested that finding a type of exercise an individual enjoys will help them to maintain a regular exercise regimen and in turn will benefit them. Furthermore, by empowering those with Parkinson’s disease to engage in more exercise they enjoy, it may improve overall quality of life for these individuals.

    Joint Pain and Quality of Life

    Even if you do not have Parkinson’s disease, you may experience joint pain that limits your movement.  Limited movement may in turn reduce quality of life by:

    • affecting heart health
    • making an individual more dependent on others for daily activities
    • reducing the amount of serotonin”feel good” hormone produced

    Therefore, it is important to find effective treatments for joint pain that will help make movement more comfortable.  When movement is more comfortable, you will be more likely to engage in more activity, and in turn will gain the most health benefits. Also, the American Psychological Association has reported that regular exercise may help reduce panic in those with anxiety and improve mood in those with depression. Furthermore, regular exercise has been found to normalize sleep patterns, which in turn can make it easier for the body and mind to handle stress.

    Some effective treatments for joint pain include:

    • CDC Self-management programs
    • Acupuncture
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
    • Water-based exercises such as swimming
    • Supplements such as glucosamine or Flexova

    Furthermore, Flexova contains a blend of B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A, as well as glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate that helps to reduce joint pain and improve joint mobility.  Therefore, for more information on Flexova and other high quality supplements that can help improve your quality of life, visit Vita Sciences.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources :

    Arthritis Foundation (accessed 2017 April 2) “25 Treatments for Hip and Arthritis Pain” http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/pain-management/tips/25-treatments-for-hip-knee-oa.php

    Centers for Disease Control (2017 March 7) “Living with Severe Joint Pain” https://www.cdc.gov/features/arthritis-quality-life/

    Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (accessed 2017 April 2) “What is Parkinson’s Disease?” http://www.pdf.org/about_pd

    Preidt, R. (2017 March 29) “Exercising 2.5 Hours a Week May Slow Parkinson’s Progress” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_164357.html

    Weir, K. (2011 December) “The Exercise Effect” American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx


  • Your depression could be a vitamin deficiency

    You may feel depressed if you have a bad day or an upsetting situation. However, depression is more than just an isolated feeling. For those with depression, daily living can be difficult or nearly impossible.  Depression causes disruption in daily living such as with working, sleeping, eating, and the way you think and feel for at least two weeks. These symptoms include:

    • persistent sad, anxious, or feelings of emptiness
    • decreased energy, loss of appetite or weight changes
    • loss of interest in things you once enjoyed doing
    • irritability
    • thoughts of death or suicide
    • difficulty concentrating or sleeping
    • aches, pains, or digestive problems with no clear physical cause

    What causes depression?

    Family history of the condition, major life changes, and stress or trauma can all lead to depression. Also, certain medicines and illnesses may also lead to depressive symptoms.  Furthermore, vitamin deficiencies can also contribute to some cases of depression.

    Depression has been linked with certain vitamin deficiencies according to a 2013 review in Current Psychiatry.  Depression, irritability, and agitation has been found to develop as a result of vitamin B12 deficiency.  Geriatric patients with low B6 levels had increased risk and severity of depression. Furthermore, marginal levels of vitamin B2 were found more frequently in depressed patients than non-depressed patients.

    What does the research say?

    First of all, a 2016 study in the Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience looked at the effects of vitamin intake on mild cognitive impairment. The study reported decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment in the Chinese elderly due to intake of carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Another 2016 study in the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS care looked at vitamin intake effects on mental health outcomes.  HIV patients had decreased risk of anxiety and depression due to daily dietary intake of zinc, selenium, and vitamin C.   Finally, a 2015 study in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences looked at anxiety and vitamin C intake.  Students had decreased anxiety levels due to increased intake of vitamin C.

    Sereneo can provide all of the vitamins and compounds you need to boost your mood.  As a result of vitamin C and B vitamins, Sereneo works to support anxiety relief and calm your mind.

    Finally, a special thank you to the Hope for Depression Research Foundation.  They work hard every day to raise mental health awareness and to fund related research. Because of this, be sure to visit their site at hopefordepression.org on how you can support their cause.


    -by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    de Oliveira, IJ, et al. (2015 Jan) “Effects of Oral Vitamin C Supplementation on Anxiety in Students: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 18(1):11-8.

    Jamali, F., et al (2016 Nov-Dec) “Correlation Between Daily Dietary Micronutrients Intake and Mental Health Outcomes in Iranians Living With HIV infection, ” Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS care, 27(6): 817-825.

    Lu, Y, et al (2016 Nov 29) “Dietary Intake of Nutrients and Lifestyle Affect the Risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment in the Chinese Elderly Population: A Cross-Sectional Study,” Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10:229. eCollection 2016.

    National Institute of Mental Health (accessed 2017 Jan) “Depression” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

    Ramsey, MD, Drew. (2013 January) “Vitamin Deficiencies and Mental Health: How are they linked?” Current Psychiatry, 12(1):37-44.